This is a first for both Big Harp George and me. For George, it's his first ever Christmas release, and in twenty plus years of doing reviews, it is my first ever review of a Christmas release. Furthermore, Big Harp George Does Christmas is George's sixth release, and the second within six months.
Unlike any other Christmas album you've heard in the last hundred or so years, Big Harp George Does Christmas contains eleven all original songs by George Bisharat, or as we know him, Big Harp George. How refreshing! However, with that said, George himself is even shocked about it. Here, in his own words, are his thoughts: "No one in their right mind sets out to record an album of Christmas originals. Neither did I. People often want to hear the standards, and the listening window for a holiday album is barely more than a month each year. But sometimes we yield to creative urges whether they make sense or not....... Our goal in recording these decidedly non-standard tunes was to make good music that people would be tempted to listen to all year-round. Hopefully we achieved that goal..... Please don't let me do this again. It's been a strain on my mental health and hell on my wallet."
For this project, Big Harp George - on lead vocals and harmonica - is joined by: Aaron Lington and Doug Rowan on baritone saxophone; Alexander Petterson and June Core on drums; Ben Torres on flute; Chris Burns, the album's producer, on keyboards: Derrick D'Mar Martin on drums and percussion; Ed Morrison on trumpet; Joe Kyle Jr. on bass; Kid Andersen on guitar, bass and horn arrangements; Little Charlie Baty on guitar; Michael Peloquin on tenor and baritone saxophone, and horn arrangements; Mike Rinta on trombone and horn arrangements; James, Dwayne and Walter Morgan - aka Sons Of the Soul Revivers - on backing vocals; and Tia Carroll on lead vocals.
The opening track is titled "Bad Santa" and it sheds some light on Santa's ulterior motives for sneaking around people's homes. As George tells it, he believes Mrs. Claus has cut Santa off and that he's hoping to find someone willing to give him a bit more than some milk and cookies during his wee morning hour visits to their homes. Musically, with the whole horn and rhythm section in full action, the track has a wonderful big band feel.
Having had to Google the word Carioca, I now know that "Carioca Christmas" is related to celebrating Christmas in Rio de Janeiro. According to George, "If you want a white Christmas, stay away from here" but on the other hand "You just might see Mrs. Claus in a thong". Yikes! As if a child seeing his/her mommy kissing Santa Claus isn't enough trauma. With the band in a smokin' rumba groove, the track is highlighted by strong harmonica and flute leads by George and Ben; and the Sons Of The Soul Revivers adding a fabulous old-school Doo-Wop vibe to the vocals.
As with any other organization with a large staff, that Amazon location at the North Pole has its share of disgruntled employees. Although the scab elves are still busy at work, it appears there are "Reindeer On Strike". According to Rudolph and the herd, they just don't get enough credit for "making a sleigh fly that's loaded with presents and a real hefty guy". As for Santa "Down in the mall he's making nice, but up in the sky the dude is as cold as ice." Musically, while repeatedly hitting those high-end Jimmy Reed notes, the track features some of George's best harmonica work; fiery and thunderous rhythm from the horn and rhythm sections; and comical backing vocals from the disgruntled reindeer - aka the Sons Of the Soul Revivers.
If you've ever heard a Christmas song that was an instrumental, it was obviously a standard being performed by an orchestra without any use of vocals. Still, the chances are very good that you were still able to sing-a-long with it. That said, I now present you with this question: Is an original Christmas instrumental really a Christmas song if no one knows the words? My take, after hearing "Snow Shuffle", is yes. Give it a listen and decide for yourselves. This foot tappin, knee slapper features Joe laying down some of the disc's most profound bass lines; Chris at disc's best on piano leads; and the guy with the big harp performing magic on his melodic runs.
This song was George's first Christmas song and it appeared on a 2018 release of his that featured the late, great "Little Charlie" Baty. Lyrically, it tells the melancholy tale of a down and out George - who has no parents, a family that's turned their backs on him, uncaring friends, and a girlfriend whose family won't accept him - wondering "Where'll I Be For Christmas?"; and musically, between Charlie's patented guitar licks and George's smoking harmonica leads, it's by far the best blues Christmas song these ears have ever heard.
If frankincense, myrrh and gold don't impress you, then you've got the wrong three kings bringing you gifts. On the other hand, if straight up, ass kickin', string bending blues is what floats your boat, "Thee Three Kings" you want stopping by your manger are Freddie, Albert and B. B. On this very cleverly written track, just by the mention of those three Kings you've got to know this one is all about the blues guitar, and as George mentions each one, Kid nails all of their styles. Bye-bye "Little Drummer Boy", this just became my favorite Christmas song.
Style wise, "That Grinch Is Me" is my favorite track of the lot. It oozes old school, fifties style R&B - the kind of number that immediately upon its start, sends all the slow dancers out onto the dance floor. Although the lyrics aren't very self-flattering, George is at disc's best singing them. Using lines like: "You see pretty presents wrapped in ribbons and bows. I see recycling and the landfill where it goes"; and "Kids whine for decorations, who am I to say no. Come time to pack them up, I'll be alone out in the snow"; George has no problem owning up to being a Grinch.
Other tracks on what could very well become a cult type Christmas album include: "War On Christmas"; "Coquito Girl"; "Fireside Waltz" (a second instrumental); and "It's New Years Eve."
If you've not yet received a copy of Big Harp George Does Christmas for airplay, please contact Betsie Brown at - www.blindraccoon.com - and should like to find out more about Big Harp George, just go to - www.bigharpgeorge.com. Remember, wherever you go and whomever you speak with, please tell them their friend the Blewzzman sent you.
Since 2023 marks their tenth year together, I'd like to start off by wishing Peter Veteska & Blues Train a very "Happy Silver Anniversary". I'd also like to congratulate them on the accomplishment of a feat not that often achieved, with Full Tilt being their seventh release in eight years.
Looking back at my reviews of the band's last three releases, other than the songs, not a lot has changed. Peter seems to have quite the stable full of talented musicians he regularly turns to, and if you're familiar with some of the band's past work, you're about to read some very recognizable names. For Full Tilt, the nucleus of the band, which is: Peter Veteska on vocals and guitar; Alex D'Agnese on drums; and Coo Moe Jhee on bass; are joined by; Jeff Levine - who I jokingly refer to as the fourth member of the trio, on Hammond B3 and piano; Jen Barnes on vocals; Mikey Jr. on vocals and harmonica; Chuck Hearne and Rick Prince on bass; Mike Scott on saxophone; and Tony Perruso on trumpet. Of the disc's twelve tracks, eight are originals.
The disc opens with one of Peter's originals titled "Go Find Another Man". This smoker doesn't need more than the thirty second instrumental intro to feature the whole band. Right out of the gate, Peter slips into a scorching guitar run that pretty much never relents; seconds later Jeff, Coo Moe and Alex release a similarly relentless rhythm on the B3, bass and drums respectively; and as all that comes together, Mikey Jr. jumps in on harp and like just about every time that happens, all hell breaks loose. With this line: "If you don't like what you hear, go find another man. If you don't like what you see, go find another man. You don't have to tolerate it, or try to understand"; the song sends a clear message. However, with it not being clear who it's being sent to, Peter's leaving it all to interpretation.
As I listed the credits earlier in this review, I said something about recognizing some of the names. One that I immediately recognized - and happily so - was Jen Barnes. In one of my previous reviews of a Blues Train release, when I said, "This woman can sing!", "I Wasn't Wrong" - which, BTW - also happens to be the title of this original track. With a fierce and funky rhythm - highlighted by crazy good B3 (Jeff) leads; mind blowing harmonica blowing (Mikey); and dazzling guitar leads (Peter); all going on behind her, Jen takes her powerhouse vocals, sassy singing style and flawless range and just runs with this one.
That "Sad And Blue" organ lead in by Jeff, leaves absolutely no doubt that this original is going to be a good ol', straight up, slow blues number. Then, with the rhythm section in an easygoing groove behind him, Peter emotionally emits the melancholic lyrics so common to these slow blues burners along with just the right accompanying slow blues guitar licks, and there you have it - slow blues bliss. Since I needed at least fifteen more minutes of this, I replayed it five times.
Staying with the originals, this one is titled "2:00 In The Morning". It's a rocker that features Peter and Jen taking turns belting out their disappointment as another lonely night works itself into the wee hours of tomorrow. Before you know it, it's 5 o'clock in the morning and their search for romance remains fruitless. Musically, as the title comes into play, the band is totally at full tilt.
Although you'll find this song mostly associated with Bessie Smith, it wasn't until 1929 - six years after it was written by James Cox, that she recorded it. It's called "Nobody Knows You (When You're Down And Out)" and on this duet, Peter - with a masterful vocal performance, and Jeff - with fabulously beautiful piano playing, are doing a classic rendition of the classic.
On another of his own songs, "Slow Down You Crazy Fool", Peter doesn't at all follow his own advice. Being one of the more traditional blues songs of the lot, the song features some of his best guitar work and his most powerful vocal presentations. Real good stuff!
"Man About Town" is a scorching instrumental of Peter's that features Peter, Jeff and Mike passing around fiery leads on the guitar, organ and sax while Alex and Coo Moe are pounding out the fiercest of rhythms behind them.
Other tracks on Full Tilt - an album Peter describes as being "recorded live with minimal overdubs, so that a finely tuned studio album could be produced without sacrificing the vitality and spontaneity of our live performances" - include: "I Get Evil" (Albert King); "One After 909" (Lennon & McCartney); "Merry Christmas Baby" (Johnny Moore); and two other originals titled "Pack Of Lies" and "Take Back What You Own".
To find out more about Peter Veteska & Blues Train, just go to - www.peterveteskabluestrain.com - and should you have not yet received your copy of "Full Tilt" for airplay, please contact Betsie Brown at www.blindraccoon.com. Remember, wherever you go and whoever you contact, please let them know The Blewzzman sent you.
Interestingly, the last review I did of a CD that Ronnie Owens, a.k.a. Li'l Ronnie, was a part of was in April of 2014. The group recording the project was called Li'l Ronnie And The BlueBeats featuring Claudia Carawan, and it was titled Unfinished Business. Since it was originally supposed to be released in 1991, it was indeed unfinished business. Now, here it is very close to ten years later and I'm working on his latest release titled Got It 'Live' From '05. It's a recording of a Li'l Ronnie And The Grand Dukes show that was performed back in 2005. Alas, more unfinished business.
Back then, The Grand Dukes consisted of Ronnie Owens, of course, on vocals & harmonica; George Sheppard on drums; Bryan Smith on bass; Robert Frahm on guitar; and John Fralin on piano & organ. Got It 'Live' From '05 is the eight-song set - four originals and four covers - that was recorded live at an undisclosed venue somewhere 'on the road'. Additionally, the disc contains three bonus tracks from the bands' yet to be named up-coming studio release. Now there's something to look forward to, right? Joining Ronnie on that release will be John Fralin on piano; Gordon Harrower on guitar; Michael Gallagher on drums; and John Coppenger on bass.
The band opened the show with a dance floor filling original track titled "Mellow Chick" and from there, I'm sure there was no looking back. Right out of the gate they got into a groove that would have you betting they were from Southern California and not Central Virginia. I say that because the guys have - what I like to call - that 'So Cool SoCal' sound. Rod Piazza And The Mighty Flyers may have patented it, but Li'l Ronnie And The Grand Dukes have that slick, smooth and swinging swagger totally down pat. With everyone in full swing mode behind him, when Ronnie's not blowin' the hell out of the harp, he's telling us about all of the characteristics the perfect woman for him must have. Good luck with that Ronnie.
Another of his originals finds Ronnie in damage control mode as he's begging his woman not to leave. The song is titled "Bettin' On My Baby" and the gambling related lines he's using to get her back - like "I love you baby like a gambler loves the track", could very well be the reason she wants to leave. Musically, it's another rhythm fueled swinger led by the fabulous drumming from George and the deep bass lines from Bryan on the big bass; and killer guitar and harp work from Robert and Ronnie - both on solo runs or the very cool cord sparring they get into.
On another of the original tracks titled "Life Changes', so does the music. This one has the guys laying down a shuffle with lots of piano highlights from John and a whole bunch of my all-time favorite harmonic sounds - those high-end Jimmy Reed notes - from Ronnie.
If you were ever gonna have the blues, "Early Monday Morning" (George Smith) is a very likely time. Showcasing his versatile style, both on the vocals and the harmonica, Ronnie puts the swag aside and belts out a masterful Chicago blues style performance on this slow blues number. Did someone say slow blues? Yes, Robert, the kind that needs some scorching note bending leads and smoking solo runs - go for it.
The last of Ronnie's four originals is a track called "Love Trance". It's an awesome mix of some swampy voodoo style blues, and a little bit of funk and soul. Musically, The Grand Dukes could all very well be at disc's best; the rhythm and percussion groove George, Bryan and John are in on the drums, bass and organ is mesmerizing; and Robert is doing the kind of things on the guitar that probably had everyone in the audience looking at their friends with one of those "are you hearing this stuff?" looks. Wow!
As live shows should, Ronnie and the guys are making sure they "Rock This House" (Jimmy Rogers) on the closing number. It is indeed a smoker that in addition to featuring everyone in full tilt jam mode, it also highlights them individually.
Because I'm hoping to tell you a whole lot more about them when the new release comes out, I'm going to do what Ronnie did by putting them on here - he teased us with them. That said, here's a nibble: "V's Boogie" is an original by Ronnie's four band mates on the upcoming disc (see the credits above) and it features them on one heck of a N'awlins style instrumental romp; "Need Your Love So Bad" (Merit & Willie John) is over six minutes of slow, low down gut wrenching blues with emotional vocals from Gordon Harrower, relaxed rhythm, and stinging guitar and piano leads; and "Same Thing Can Happen To You" is a frolickin', up tempo rendition of a Lazy Lester tune.
Other tracks from the live show include: "Cross Eyed Susie Lee" (George Smith) and "Hey Little Girl" (Zuzu Bolin).
To find out more about Li'L Ronnie And The Grand Dukes just go to - lilronnieandthegranddukes.com/- and should you have not yet received your copy of Got It 'Live' From '05 for airplay, please email Ronnie at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, when you contact him, please tell Ronnie his friend The Blewzzman sent you.
Although each release - be it a recording, a movie, or any other production where awards are given - needs to be judged on its own individual merit, not on the track record of the artist, the actor, the producer, etc; there are certain ones that are just too easy to assume will be acknowledged with some type of a nomination. That's pretty much how I feel about a new Johnny Rawls album. With the Blues Music Awards (even going as far back as when they were called the W.C. Handy Awards), the Blues Blast Awards, and the Living Blues Awards, consistently acknowledging Johnny with many nominations and wins, he not only has the track record, but his products consistently deliver the goods.
Johnny's latest release is titled Walking Heart Attack and, since he's back on Catfood Records, Johnny - on vocals and guitars - is once again being backed up by the 'Cats at Catfood', a.k.a. The Rays. They are: Dan Ferguson on keyboards; Richy Puga on drums; Johnny McGhee on guitar; Bob Trenchard on bass; Andy Roman on sax solos; Nick Flood on baritone, tenor and alto saxes; Mike Middleton on trumpet; and Frank Otero on trombone. Other performers include: Jon Olazabal on percussion; Janelle Thompson and Shakara Weston on background vocals. Six of the disc's ten tracks are originals or collaborations of Johnny, and/or the 'top cat' himself, Bob Trenchard.
The opening and title track - "Walking Heart Attack" - is one of the three collaborations between Johnny and Bob, and a simple look at the picture on the front of the jacket pretty much tells it all. But just in case you need more details, here's Johnny take: "Every mother's nightmare, every man's dream; Sexy long legs and skintight jeans. Built like an angel, eyes like a cat; Way too hot, ain't got no thermostat. She looks good from the front, and better from the back; That girl's a walking heart attack." And yet, as deadly as she very well may be, why do I think Johnny just might not care? Musically, the Rays are in a very funky, dance floor filling groove - and if she's out there, and Johnny's watching, his palpitations could already be starting.
As he did on his I Miss Otis Clay release back in 2019, Johnny once again pays homage to his longtime friend and music associate, with a masterful vocal performance of "Trying To Live My Life Without You" (E. F. Williams), a song made famous by Otis. When it comes to great rhythm sections, names like Layton & Shannon; Baker & Bruce; Watts & Wyman; and so many others come to mind; and when it comes to great horn sections, some of them that have a city or state, and a whole bunch of others who have the name of the band they were with in front of the word horns, all come to mind. Then you have The Rays - with the keys, the drums, the bass, the guitar, and half a dozen various horns - who are unquestionably as good as all of the above rhythm and horn sections put together. That said, they brought all that to this, and pretty much all of these tracks.
On one of his originals, Johnny thanks God for being "Free" and he sings of the many blessings that come along with that. His emotional vocals, the angelic backing support from Janelle and Shakara, and the heavenly organ vibe Dan's got going on, all give the song a soothing spiritualistic feel.
Another of the compilations is one called "Tell Me The Truth". Sadly, while asking for it, Johnny might not actually want to hear it. You see, from the picture he's painting about his woman's wanton ways, the answer will be an obvious "Yes!" when he asks, "Tell me baby are we through?". The song gets its blues edge with a handful of stinging guitar leads from Johnny McGhee; while the always outstanding horns of Andy, Nick, Mike and Otto and the smokin' rhythm and percussion groove that Richy, Bob and Jon are in, all add the funk. Another musical gem.
The disc closes with "Mississippi Dreams", a beautiful song written for Johnny by his writing partner Bob. The song offers Johnny a platform to honor his home state and the fond memories associated with it. Speaking of Mississippi, Johnny - as far as I know - is the only person to be mentioned on two markers along the famed "Mississippi Blues Trail". More great vocals and vocal harmony and a scorching sax solo from Andy are just a part of this one's many highlights.
Other tracks on Walking Heart Attack - an album I'm predicting you'll see listed on several blues award programs, in several categories, include: "Born All Over" (D. Malone & J Copeland); "Heal Me" (D. Procell); "One More Sin" and "Lies" (two more compilations); and "Hungry Heart" (B. Springsteen).
To find out more about Johnny Rawls just go to - www.johnnyrawlsblues.com - and should you have not yet received your copy of Walking Heart Attack for airplay, please contact Betsie Brown at www.blindraccoon.com. Remember, wherever you go and whomever you contact, please let them know The Blewzzman sent you.
After twenty-six years on the road, the popular soul blues band The Boneshakers are celebrating their legacy with a deluxe re-issue of their studio album One Foot In The Groove. The re-release includes five live bonus tracks and by the time you read this, it will be available digitally, worldwide on Take It To The Bridge Records - https://www.takeittothebridgerecords.com/
Led by celebrity guitarist Randy Jacobs of Was (Not Was), The Boneshakers have ushered in a new era welcoming vocalist Jenny Langer (of Moonshine Society) for a full-length album of no-holds barred funk, blues, and rock that marries the sound and spirits of Detroit, Memphis, and Muscle Shoals.
For this project, Randy and Jenny are joined by: Nathan Brown on bass; John Gilutin on keys; Sergio Gonzalez on drums; and the Texacali Horns who are Joe Sublett on trumpet and Mark Pender on sax. Other guests include: Sir Harry Bowens and Bernard Fowler on vocals; Oliver Leiber on guitar; with Arthur Thompson and Lessly Fisher on percussion and vocals. Of the disc's fifteen tracks, there are three originals and eight covers (with four of the covers repeated as part of the live bonus tracks).
As the titled should indicate, "I Am The Blues" (Julian Burdock) is very blues forward. With a mighty rhythm from the hands of Sergio (drums), Nathan (bass), and Jon (organ) going on behind them, Randy and Jenny are all over this one. From beginning to end - including a nearly minute long, mid-song solo - Randy is stretching notes, bending strings and sliding all over his ax; while Jenny is using that patented sassy style of hers to belt the hell out of the blues with a most impressive powerful and range defying vocal performance. One need not listen much further to realize these two were a match made in heaven.
I honestly can't recall if I've ever heard Steven Van Zandt's original version of this song, and I'm not even going to do so because The Boneshakers are nailing their rendition of "Ain't Got The Fever No More". Once again: more good rhythm - this time with highlights from the Texacali cats; more great lead and slide guitar; and with some extra support from Sir Harry, more good vocals.
Remember that classic song titled 'Big Legged Woman' that along with some from other genres, just about every soul blues artist covered? Well, this original by Randy and Jenny titled "Big Legged Man" has absolutely no connection whatsoever. This one is a rocked out, funk filled, rhythm fueled dance floor filler with a catchy sing-a-long chorus line. FYI, with what Jenny has planned for him, should she find him, that big legged guy is going to be one happy man.
The title track, "One Foot In The Groove" (Donnie Fritts), has a lot going on instrumentally. Of course, Jenny has her footprint all over the song with her usual blues belting, but the thunderous rhythm and toe to toe battling of Randy and Jon, on the guitar and organ, all take center stage on this one.
One of the disc's slower and most soulful tracks is a duet between Jenny and Bernard titled "I Forgot To Be Your Lover" (William Bell/Booker T. Jones). If you're going to go toe to toe with Jenny on a powerful, high range vocal run, you'd better be up to the task and wow, Bernard certainly was. That said, along with pulling that off, where the song called for silky soft harmonies, that was nailed as well. I'd like to go on record as saying I could listen to a lot more of these two together.
Anyone who has ever read my reviews knows that I am a sucker for a ballad sung by a good female vocalist. Backed by a masterful rhythm highlighted by soft piano and guitar leads, Jenny runs away with it on "Ice Cream And Cigarettes" (Sophie Baudry). Brilliantly performed songs like this always make my job longer - I know I spent at least thirty minutes listening to this slightly over three-minute song.
This is the first of the five bonus tracks that were recorded live in a studio. All of them are stripped down giving them a relaxing, acoustic vibe. It's a beautiful original love song titled "Teach Me How To Stay". Showcasing her versatility, Jenny eases into a somber mood over possibly having to leave another relationship. Instead, by hoping to avoid it from happening, she makes a heartfelt plea to her man for him to show her another way and teach her how to stay. Musically it features fabulous guitar picking from Randy and great percussion from Arthur.
Other tracks on the re-release of One Foot in The Groove include: "Mr. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" (Bob Dylan/Don Was/David Was); "Let's Spend The Night Together" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards); "More, More, More" (Clarence Reid); "Powerful Notions" (Randy Jacobs"; and the live versions of "I Am The Blues", "Big Legged Man", "Let's Spend The Night Together" and "Ice Cream & Cigarettes".
If you've not yet received a copy of The Deluxe Edition of One Foot In The Groove for airplay, please email Jennifer Shinn of Take It To The Bridge Records at email@example.com; and should you like to find out more about The Boneshakers, just go to the bands website - www.officialboneshakers.com. As usual, wherever you go and whomever you speak with, please tell them the Blewzzman sent you.
Every once in a while, I'll read something on the liner notes or the one sheet that accompanies an album, and I feel like I should share it as stated. That said, here are a few lines from Jim White, a former writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette who now writes for Blues Roadhouse: "When you have a musical career as a singer and drummer that includes writing over 1000 songs, producing 100 albums, and working with everyone from Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley to Buddy Guy - two things come to mind. You must be exceptionally talented. You must be Tom Hambridge." BTW, he's also worked with: Mick Jagger, Gregg Allman, B.B. King, Carlos Santana, Van Morrison, Keith Urban, Johnny Winter (whom you'll hear more about later), and on, and on, and on.
If the saying about time flying being associated with having fun holds water, then I must be having a ball, because I cannot believe it has been over five years since I reviewed The NOLA Sessions, Tom's last release.
Just like that last release, Tom's ninth - Blu Ja Vu - also features thirteen original tracks and gang of great musicians. Joining Tom - on drums, percussion and vocals - are: Buddy Guy, Christone "Kingfish" Ingram, and Joe Bonamassa on guitar and vocals; Josh Smith on guitar; James Cotton on harmonica; Chuck Leavell, Kevin McKendree and Jon Coleman on keyboards; Glenn Worf and Tommy MacDonald on bass; Rob McNelley on lead and rhythm guitars; Bob Britt on guitars; and Emil Justin on background vocals.
What better way could there be to kick things off than with a song that features your long-time good friend, band mate and client? Absolutely none! That's exactly why Blu Ja Vu opens with the great Buddy Guy joining Tom on a song titled "Ain't It Just Like Love". The duet features Tom and Buddy taking turns sharing barbs that relate to the pros and cons of love. Musically, it goes without saying - as will the rest of the tracks, as well - that the rhythm Tom and Tommy (bass) are banging out is nothing short of thunderous; and where there's Buddy there's always gritty guitar licks and they don't get much grittier than what he's laying down right here. Additionally, as he was on that NOLA Sessions release, Kevin McKendree is all over the Barrelhouse, honky-tonk piano runs. Fabulous opening track.
Other than changing the guitarist from Buddy to Joe Bonamassa - therefore making the runs a bit edgier, not much changes on the very next track titled "That's My Home". With the lyrics centering around the subject of life on the road as a traveling musician - or as they say "our address keeps on changing", Tom's point of view is that where he lays down his suitcase is his home, while Joe's is wherever he lays down his guitar is his home.
The third of three vocal duets, has Tom hooking up with a young man who is surely doing his part to keep the blues alive, Christone "Kingfish" Ingram. Lyrically, the guys take their turns making points as to why the "Blues Don't Care". Just a few are: "It makes no difference if you're wrong or right".....; "You can try to run but there's no escape, it's the middle finger on the hand of fate.....; "You can buy insurance to ease your mind, lock up your woman and hide your wine".....; none of which will matter because "the blues is gonna get you some way somehow, the blues don't care and the blues don't play fair". Music wise, with "Kingfish" keeping it real, this is the most traditional of the 'Guitar Guru' tracks.
So when Tom was going over the pre-recording instructions for "Brother John Boogie", it wouldn't shock me if he told the guy to give this one all they've got and then give it some more. It's a raucous instrumental with everyone in full throttle mode, with the late and great James Cotton providing the runaway train vibe on his smokin' chromatic harp blowin'.
This one should cause you to want do one of two things: get up and start dancing or packing a bag and hitting the road - and with many of the places and things Tom addresses on "Get Out Of Town", the second of those choices may be hard to resist. This is 'Route Sixty-Six' taken up several notches - lyrically, vocally and musically.
"Smarter Than I Was" is about learning something the hard way. It's a gloomy tale about a woman who took Tom's soul to a darker side. As he tells it, "Halfway there, I got wise... I may not look it but I'm smarter than I was." The intense rhythm and percussion create a strong supernatural vibe with stunningly perfect guitar accompaniments by former Ft. Lauderdale homie, Josh Smith.
As I approach seventy-five years of age, I've lived through my share of eras that were the cause for many protest songs to be written, but "Johnny Winter" is by far the most unique of these types of songs. What's that you say, Pete? A song titled Johnny Winter is a protest song? "Yep, it sure is!" On this song, Tom is downright pissed off as to why Johnny Winter is not in the "Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame". As a matter of fact, on a trip to Cleveland, Tom actually wanted to know who was in charge, because he actually wanted to kick this person's...... I mean give this person a piece of his mind. Also, with some very Johnny like guitar licks, Rob McNelley pays homage to him in his own special way. Fun, and very true song.
Other tracks on this killer project include: "Wear You Out"; "Sick With Love"; "Automatic"; "Symptoms Of Love"; "Meet Me In Chicago"; and "End Of the Line".
On a side note, should you be submitting a contemporary blues release to any of the various award associations, this is the one to beat!
To find out more about Tom Hambridge just go to - www.tomhambridge.com - and should you have not yet received your copy of "Blu Ja Vu" for airplay, please contact Betsie Brown at www.blindraccoon.com. Remember, wherever you go and whomever you contact, please let them know The Blewzzman sent you.
It's always cool when you listen to a release filled with great music and the words "Vol. 1" appear in its title. That pretty much tells you that more of what you're enjoying will one day be on its way. That said, exactly two years ago to the month, with the release of Rose-Colored Glasses Vol. 2 from Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps, that day has arrived.
Along with some long-time Rhythm Tramps, Vol. 2 features a few returning members from the Vol. 1 ensemble and some other special guests as well. Those responsible for this fabulous music are: Teresa James, of course, on lead and background vocals, piano and Wurlitzer; long time band mate, life mate and co-producer, Terry Wilson on bass, percussion, B3, Clavinet, rhythm guitar and background vocals; Billy Watts on lead guitar; Brannen Temple and Richard Millsap on drums and percussion; Tony Braunagel, Herman Matthews and Jay Bellerose on drums; Kevin McKendree on piano; Bennett Salvay on B3; Vince Melamed on keys; Matthew Quave on strings; Gregg Sutton on guitars and background vocals; Paulie Cerra on sax; and Matt Lomeo on harmonica. With eleven penned by Terry and/or Terry and Teresa, and one penned by bandmates Gregg Sutton and Vince Melamed, all of the twelve tracks on Rose-Colored Glasses Vol 2 are originals.
The opening track, titled "I'd Do It For You", features exactly four artists but if you listen closely, you'll hear at least twice that many instruments. As a matter of fact, combining his bass and percussion work with the many different sounds he's creating on the B3, Terry Wilson sounds like at least six himself. Add to that Brannen Temple, on drums and some of his own percussion as well, and you now have the largest two-piece rhythm section ever assembled. As good as it is, all that smokin' rhythm needs is a few smokin' guitar runs and Billy Watts is all over those. Then there's the boss lady laying down her patented sultry and always soulful vocals. Using lines like.....
"I wouldn't do it for money, but I'd do it for love";
"I'd wake up early in the morning and bring you breakfast in bed, stay up all night long just to hear what you said";
"If you ever get sick I'd cure your ills, I'd bring you medication and take care of all your bills";
"I'd do it for you!"
.....Teresa is putting together a nice resume as 'a keeper'.
It is pretty hard to wonder if someone you know was born in a different era would still be in the same profession or not, especially with the way technology has changed over the decades. That said, give one listen to "The Idea Of You" (Gregg Sutton & Vince Melamed) and I think you'll agree with me that had Teresa been born one hundred years ago, come the nineteen forties and fifties, she'd be singing to sold out jazz clubs all around the country. Regardless of the era she was born in, Teresa James was born to sing. Musically, the soft and soulful ballad features Tony Braunagel (drums) and Terry (bass) in a hushed rhythm vibe; ditto for the songs composers, Gregg (guitar) and Vince (keys); and Matthew Quave, on his only appearance, giving the song its pulse with an absolutely beautiful performance on the strings.
When a woman alluringly tells you "I want to get to know you better. I want to get to know what it's like to get to hold you all night and squeeze you just right", "That's What I'm Talking About". Actually, that's what Teresa is talking about on another song that has me thinking what a lucky guy Terry is. Along with the usual great rhythm, Billy and Paulie put on a fabulous mid-song run where the guitar lead perfectly melds into the sax lead. Another great track.
Continuing with the feel good, love song vibe, Teresa proudly claims "I Don't Need Another Reason To Fall In Love". From there she segues into several flattering similes about why her man is enough. Just like Terry being a lucky guy, Teresa's apparently a lucky lady as well. With Kevin on the piano and Bennett on the B3, it's the keyboards lighting this one up.
"The Heart Wants What It Wants" is another wonderfully written, wonderfully sung and wonderfully performed love song. With a relaxed and laid-back rhythm - featuring Jay on drums and Terry on bass, guitar and keys - behind her, Teresa totally shines on this one.
As she so often does, Teresa is once again making herself totally irresistible. Should you be looking for a "Brand New Flame" she'll confidently tell you "I'm a hot one". And although she doesn't want to have your kid, she's certainly up for doing some practicing... if you get my drift. This one has Richard on the drums, hooking up with Terry on the bass, for a different rendition of the always strong rhythm; and with Terry on clavinet, Teresa on piano, and Bennett on the B3, it is indeed another keyboard forward production.
Other tracks on another fabulous effort from Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps include: "Better Angels"; "Lean On Love"; "Flip Flop"; "Ain't Nothing For Certain"; "Just Don't Think About It"; and "Second Chances".
To find out more about Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps just go to - www.teresajames.com, and should you have not yet received your copy of "Rose-Colored Glasses Vol. 2" for airplay, please contact Betsie Brown at www.blindraccoon.com. Remember, wherever you go and whomever you contact, please let them know The Blewzzman sent you and that he's hoping there'll be a Rose-Colored Glasses Vol. 3.