Eddie Taylor Sr, a master guitarist and VeeJay recording artist, and his wife, singer Vera Taylor, were leaders in the Great Migration generation which brought the blues from Mississippi to the West Side of Chicago in the 1950's. Five of their eight children grew up to be professional musicians. Out of the relentless chaos of urban poverty, violence, and racial injustice in the Taylor's home community rises the beauty of this music of survival. The blues is in their blood.
In 2015, Larry invited his brothers and sisters - Brenda, Demetria, Eddie Jr. and Tim - to record songs from their parents' generation. Larry's son Dullah "Liljet2x" added a rap song dedicated to his mother, the late Janice Myles. So, three Taylor generations shine on this album- in body or in spirit. Larry's group, the Soul Blues Healers, includes West and South Side musicians he's known for a lifetime. Since this recording, Sleepy Riley and Killer Ray Allison have gone on to Soul Heaven.
This album, Generations of Blues: West Side Legacy is dedicated to Eddie and Vera Taylor for Eddie Sr.'s 100th birthday anniversary Jan. 29, 2023.
The members of The Taylor Family appearing on Generations of Blues: West Side Legacy include: Larry Taylor on vocals and drums; Eddie Taylor Jr. (R.I.P.) on vocals and guitar; Brenda and Demetria Taylor on vocals; Tim Taylor on drums; and Liljet2x (Abdullah Al Shabazz) on lead and background vocals. Other musicians on the project include: Joe B. Brinson, Jerry-O Mansfield, Killer Ray Allison and Ice Mike Thomas on guitar; Abraham Avery and Michael "Sleepy" Riley on bass; Matthew Skoller on harmonica; Barrelhouse Bonni (also on BGV), Stanley Banks, Duke Harris and Kevin Stovall (also on BGV) on keys; B.J. Emery on trombone; and Ronnie G. on sax. Of the disc's thirteen tracks, eleven are Taylor Family originals.
"Take Your Hand Down", isn't just out of the Eddie Taylor songbook, it's out of the Eddie Taylor style book, as well. Just like Eddie did it back in the day, the guys kept it real with a solid straight up Chicago blues delivery. Listening to brothers Larry and Eddie Jr. on the vocals and the guitar respectively, it's obvious that those leaves didn't fall far from the tree. Also, being one of several tracks where he does double duty, Larry - on the drums and Michael Riley - on the bass, are all over the tight foot tappin, body bobbin' rhythm; and as you might expect from Eddie Sr.'s long-time involvement with Jimmy Reed, the track does indeed feature some killer harp blowin', and that comes from master Chicago blues harmonicist, Matthew Skoller.
Another of Pop's originals, titled "Bad Girl", features daughter Demetria, with a little bit of that Koko Taylor patented kind of growl, belting the hell out of the blues. Musically, the lineup is almost entirely different but it's that same bad ass Chicago blues. This time it is brother Tim on the drums hooking up with Michael on the bass, for the pocket rhythm; Jerry-O on the rhythm and guitar leads; smokin' horn blowin' from B.J. and Ronnie on the trombone and sax; and lots of good ol' barrelhouse piano runs from Duke.
An original of Mama's, titled "I Found Out", features daughter Brenda plotting revenge for the things she 'found out' her man was up to and, from what I'm hearing, she's gonna have fun doing it. With the same ensemble who backed up her sister above, the musical highlights are smoking sax and blues guitar leads from Ronnie and Jerry-O respectively.
As great as Eddie Taylor Sr. was, there were only a couple of his songs that actually achieved commercial success. Coincidentally, since Eddie was known as "Playboy Eddie", one of those that he did have a hit with was "Big Town Playboy". It's another Chicago blues style shuffle that not only features Eddie Jr. on the smokin' blues guitar leads but sounding real smooth on his only vocal performance as well. Another highlight is Matthew nailing the Jimmy Reed thing as he blows some of the disc's best harmonica.
On a song he wrote - with a raspy, gravely tone to his voice - Larry belts the blues right out of the park on "I Paid My Dues". Along with the usually great rhythm groove - this time with Abraham on the bass joining Larry on the drums - the track features Joe B., on only his second appearance, nailing the blues guitar leads; and also, on only her second appearance, Barrelhouse Bonni on the barrelhouse piano runs.
The disc closes with a laid back instrumental titled "Larry & Eddie Jr. Groove (Blues In The Rain)". It's four-and-a-half minutes of slow, foot tappin', knee slappin', body swayin', slow blues bliss, with Larry (drums), Michael (bass) and Stanley (piano) trippin' out in a lazy rhythm groove; Eddie Jr. finessing out some wonderfully soft blues guitar licks; and Matthew - literally from opening to closing notes - putting on a most amazing low key, yet absolutely phenomenal harmonica performance. Yeah, this one got replayed many times.
Other tracks on this outstanding, old school Chicago blues release include: "She Treats Me Just The Same"; "I Feel So Bad"; "Talk To Your Son" (J.B. Lenoir/A. Atkins); "You Belong To Me" (S. Maghett); "Penitentiary Blues"; "No Shine" (Liljet2x); and "Jump Down American Queen".
If you've not yet received a copy of Generations Of Blues: West Side Legacy for airplay, please contact Betsie Brown at - www.blindraccoon.com - and should you like to find out more about Larry Taylor And The Taylor Family, just go to - www.larrytaylorchicagoblues.com. Remember, wherever you go and whomever you speak with, please tell them their friend the Blewzzman sent you.
For the last twenty-five years, Mike Bourne has been playing in many of the best clubs and festivals all over the world and recording with some of the world's most famous artists. Now that he's settled in back home in Kansas City, he titled his new album Cruisin' Kansas City, and it's a tribute to the players and mentors from his early days playing clubs at the so called "Intersection that will change you" - Kansas City's famous "18th and Vine District".
The Mike Bourne Band, a.k.a. Mike Bourne & Kansas City Boogie are: Mike Bourne on guitar and vocals; Patrick Recob on bass; Adam Hagerman on drums; and Sam Treinen on sax. Special guests and friends joining in on this project include: Johnny Burgin on guitar; Dave Creighton organ; John Paul Drum and Big D Ericson (R.I.P.) on harmonica; Timothy Earle Osburn Mickey Munoz, Rob Lorenz on drums; Greg Hopkins on trumpet; Johnny Iguana on piano; and Mike Grinns on bass. Cruisin' Kansas City contains thirteen tracks that were all composed and arranged by Mike Bourne.
The disc opens with "Cruisin' Kansas City", its swingin' title track. Led by some smokin' organ runs by Dave Creighton, it's a rhythm fueled, instrumental dance floor filler, which establishes that it's going to be a lot of fun listening to Mike and Johnny bouncing off of each other on guitar.
While lamenting over losing all his belongings, on a song titled "Lose Your Rings, Keep Your Fingers", Mike's dad did what fathers do and offered some comforting thoughts to his son. The words the elder Bourne used went something like this: "You may have lost all that fancy stuff, but there are ten good reasons to reconsider. Don't let that materialism linger, you may have lost your rings but you kept your fingers." He then held up his hands and gave them a shake while saying "If you got these, you can always make." Well said Mr. Bourne. On top of these well written and very well sung lyrics, the band's kicking some musical ass. Right from the get go, Sam sets the smokin' pace with a killer sax intro, and as that flame spreads, the rest of the rhythm section burns up with burning bass lines from Patrick; smoldering drumming from Adam; blazing organ leads from Dave; and all this is sandwiched between alternating scorching guitar runs from Mike and Johnny on guitar. All that's left for me to say is "WOW"!
If the spiritualism created by Dave's organ intro on "Help Somebody" spoke words, it would have said 'this song is going to be quite inspirational". The full paragraph that includes the title words is:
"You gotta help somebody who can't help you back,
Open your arms with no strings attached.
You gotta help somebody who can't help you back,
Live in the circle of love."
As with all the dozen other tracks, the players are all over the music but this one's pretty much all about the lyrics and Mike's heartfelt presentation of them. That said, just wait till you hear the song's last fifty seconds. Whoa!
How old is "Too Young To Be Old"? Well, Mike never does mention a number but he does claim to be "too young to be old and too old to be young". Hearing that line had me thinking, "yeah, me too" and then he knocked me out of the loop when he continued with "but I like it Right here in the middle".....nope, 75 is not the middle. Doing all the guitar work himself, the track afforded Mike to get into a lengthy guitar run resulting in it being some of his best work.
On this track Mike tells tales of how he was taken advantage of by a woman, a businessman, a politician and a preacher; all of whom had noses like Pinocchio. Mike's way of politely calling them lying S.O.B.s was to say that they were "Loose With The Truth". Musically, on his only appearance, Greg Hopkins absolutely blows the hell out of a trumpet; and on the only tack he has to himself, Johnny Burgin - as he lays down his best guitar work on the disc - makes it very clear why he was brought as second guitar.
Regardless of how many songs are on an album I'm reviewing, or what styles of blues that album is, "The One" type of song I will say something about 100% of the times it appears are these classic old school, slow dancing, R&B songs of the fifties. I was eight years old when I started watching Dick Clark on American Bandstand back in 1956, and although rock 'n' roll was king, it's these old, soulful, rhythm and blues style songs that remind me more of the show than anything else. They immediately paint a picture of those innocent teenagers slowly swayin' to the smooth rhythm and the sensuous sax leads. Wow, talk about transcendental meditation! Thanks, guys!
With Chicago being one of the other music cities Mike Bourne ran in, "Kansas City Grease" is a recording that was done with some of that cities finest musicians. It's a very slow, very bluesy number with Mike leading the way with extended scorching blues guitar runs; outstanding high end blues piano leads from Johnny Iguana; a lazy but deep rhythm from Mike Grinns on bass and Rob Lorenz on drums; and moody harmonica blowing from the Big D. Ericson.
Other tracks on this absolutely fabulous album are: "Humpty Dumpty"; "Golden Rule"; "Hollow Man"; "Missouri Boy; "Running Song"; and "Dangerous Game.
If you've not yet received a copy of Cruisin Kansas City for airplay, please contact Betsie Brown at - www.blindraccoon.com - and should like to find out more about Mike Bourne & Kansas City Boogie, just go to - www.myppk.com/get/mikebourneband. Remember, wherever you go and whomever you speak with, please tell them their friend the Blewzzman sent you.
I've got to admit that immediately upon seeing this album's title - The Franklin Sessions - my interest immediately peaked. Could this be that Franklin it's referring to and would there be some of the best damn musicians from the Nashville area on it? The answer was a big yes, and I'll let Mike Guldin explain: "The Franklin Sessions were born out of the desire to get back to a more organic approach in recording. I really wanted to cut as much of this album live in the studio as possible with minimal overdubs. All of the rhythm tracks included here were cut from one take live. My first call was to Kevin McKendree. I headed to his Rock House Studio in Franklin, TN on December 7, 2021. Kevin put a great band together for the sessions and we cut 4 tracks. I was so pleased with the sound, the vibe and Kevin's guidance at the recording desk I brought my Rollin' & Tumblin' bandmates back down to The Rock House on August 30 & 31, 2022 and recorded 9 tracks over two days. 11 of those tracks are featured here.........." Mike Guldin.
For the project, Mike Guldin on guitar, vocals and tambourine; Bill Sharrow bass, guitar and tambourine; Tim Hooper on piano and organ, and Billy Wear on drums and tambourine; a.k.a. Rollin' & Tumblin are joined by: Kevin McKendree on piano and organ; Yates McKendree on drums, guitar and lap steel; James Pennebaker on guitar; David Santos on bass; Mikey Junior on harp; Su Teears on duet and background vocals; The McCrary Sisters on background vocals; and The Philadelphia Funk Authority Horns made up of: Dale Gerheart on trombone; Kyle Hummel on baritone sax; Neil Wetzel on tenor sax; and Andrew Kowal on trumpet. As you already know, The Franklin Sessions contains eleven tracks and eight of those are originals.
The disc opens with an original straight up twelve bar shuffle appropriately titled "The Franklin Shuffle", and the guys waste exactly zero time getting into quite the groove. It's one of half a dozen tracks that feature the McKendree's joining forces on various instruments, and this time it's Kevin laying down the barrelhouse piano rolls and son Yates - whom you've probably been hearing a lot about lately - leading the pocket groove on the drums, while David Santos fills out the rest of the rhythm on bass. In front of all of this, besides sparring on smoking guitar leads with James Pennebaker - the go to sessions player in the greater Nashville area - the boss man is growling out about going down to Franklin lookin' for a groove.....which he indeed did find. Great opening track.
This original track is called "The Right Thing" but it's the words that precede it that give it its clout; the full opening line states that "There is no wrong time to do the right thing". Strong statement indeed! With Mike's heartfelt vocals on this very inspirational track being backed up by the angelic voices of The McCrary Sisters (Ann/Regina/Alfreda), just take your seat in a pew and pay close attention to these wonderfully inspirational lyrics. Musically it features all of Rollin' & Tumblin' in a soulful groove with Kevin and Yates respectively adding to the hymnal effects on the organ and lap steel.
With it being the only track that features all three guitarists, and one of only two that features the horns, there's a lot going on on the very soulful "Prisoner Of Love", another Mike Guldin original. Guitar wise, James' fabulous fills are nicely sandwiched between hot solos from Mike and Yates; rhythm wise, the Philadelphia Funk Authority, with a fabulous tenor solo from Neil, are taking things up a notch while adding some of that music style referenced in their name; and vocally, Mike is showcasing his versatility on this soulfully sung ballad.
Aside from Kevin joining in on piano, another of Mike's originals, "Smokin Woman" features all of Rollin' & Tumblin' testifying as to why these guys have been band mates for approximately twenty-five years. Turn this shuffle up loud and let Mike's rumblin' & tumblin' guitar leads, Tim's smokin' & tumblin' organ highlights, and the thunderin' and tumblin rhythm from Bill (bass) and Billy (drums), allow you to spend the next six-plus minutes with a smile on your face while your feet and fingers are tappin' and tumblin'.
Sticking with the originals, there are a lot of disc's bests happening right here on the clever and witty "Gettin' Over You Is Workin' Over Me". Once again, it's the 'Rollers and the Tumblers' hard at work, and with him having all of the guitar work to himself, Mike's scorching leads are some of the best on the disc; with monster bass lines from Bill, it features some of the disc's best rhythm; and Tim (piano) and Kevin (organ) are teaming up for some of the disc's best keyboard work.
Admittedly, I have never been a big fan of this song. Yes, I really said that. However, I will also say that taking that into consideration, performing "Divin' Duck Blues" (John Estes) and having me say nice things about it is truly a compliment. Some, but not all, of that has to do with Mikey Junior blowin' the hell out of the harmonica. Even if the song was "Hava Nagila", if it was the only song he played on, I'd write about it - he's truly one of the best. Additionally, with Rollin' and Tumblin' rockin' it out on rhythm and guitar, and Kevin wailing on the piano, there is nothing not to like about this rendition.
Other tracks on this outstanding release are: "Killin' Floor" (Chester Burnett); "Blow Wind Blow" (McKinley Morganfield); and three more originals of Mike's: "Sometimes You Gotta Roll The Dice"; "Two Hearts"; and "Sad And Lonely."
If you've not yet received a copy of The Franklin Sessions for airplay, please contact Betsie Brown at - www.blindraccoon.com - and should like to find out more about Mike Guldin And Rollin' & Tumblin', just go to - www.mikeguldin.com. Remember, wherever you go and whomever you speak with, please tell them their friend the Blewzzman sent you.
Since 2009, when I first reviewed her Livin' The Blues CD, I'm Coming Home will be the tenth release by Shaun Murphy that we have had the honor and privilege of working with. By the way, over these fourteen years, that averages out to a very impressive, and possibly unprecedented, release every seventeen months. Wow!
On I'm Coming Home, vocalist extraordinaire Shaun Murphy is joined by: Tom DelRossi on drums and vocals; John Marcus on bass; Kenne Cramer on guitars and vocals; Tommy Stillwell on guitars and vocals; the albums producer, Kevin McKendree on all keyboards; Dana Robbins on saxophone; and Austin Hoke on cello. The recording contains a dozen tracks, of which three are originals.
I'm going to kick things off with "I'm Coming Home", the disc's title track and the first of its three originals. Penned by Shaun and Kevin, it's an absolutely beautifully done ballad that showcases both of their extraordinary talents: Shaun's always flawless and mesmerizing vocals and Kevin's always flawless and mesmerizing piano playing. Speaking of extraordinary talent, the accompanying cello performance by Austin Hoke gives the conversation Shaun is having with God that perfect heavenly feel.
"Keep Your Head Above Water" is another original penned by Shaun and her two outstanding guitarists, Tommy Stillwell and Kenne Cramer. It's a most interestingly produced track in which the rhythm and the lyrics combine to give it a chain gang feel, while the vocals create a hymnal effect. It's a song that addresses the ever-increasing struggles people encounter as new obstacles confront them at every turn - something Shaun thought she'd never see, in this land of opportunity. That said, the best thing any of us can do is to follow Shaun's goal of keeping her head above water and the rest of herself above ground. In addition to their excellent tandem guitar leads, Kenne and Tommy, along with Tom DelRossi, are nailing their somber sounding backing vocals.
On this track, Shaun challenges her man to a duel, and she states, he'd be a fool not to take the dare. It's called "Lover Take All" (S. Jones, J. Silbar) and it's an obvious win/win situation. I mean c'mon how do you not say yes when Shaun Murphy says, "I just want to nail you to a wall"? Exactly! It's a smokin' dance floor filler led by the thunderous rhythm that Tom and John are hammering out on the drums and bass being taken up a notch by Kevin's ferocious organ and piano leads. Then there's that wonderful luxury Shaun is so lucky to have - not one, but two of the best guitarists in the business - Tommy and Kenne just totally rockin' out.
So, while listening to the thirty second scorching blues guitar intro and knowing that "High Price To Pay" (P. Warren) was five minutes long, I found myself thinking "Damn! I can listen to just that for the next four-and-a-half minutes". Then the powerhouse came in with that patented dominating, attention commanding, attitude slinging, vocal style of hers, on a line that went "I don't care what you say or do........." and I came to my senses. I have been very fortunate to have seen Shaun Murphy more times than I can actually remember and yet, every time I hear her pull stuff like this off, I still shake my head in awe. That said, that killer guitar intro was not the last of the scorching blues licks and the track may very well be Tommy and Kenne's best effort on the disc.
Other than being a bit toned down - and I only mean pace wise - a ballad titled "If You Still Love Me" (P. Warren) is pretty much more of the same. When Shaun lights a torch, there are none that burn hotter. If I were to go back and reread all my prior reviews of her work, I'm sure I'll find a sentence - or more - where I said I can listen to her sing songs like this all day long. Between both of these last two songs being five minutes long, this was by far the best ten minutes of my day.
Shaun's association with Meat Loaf (R.I.P.) certainly had to influence how "I'm Not Made That Way" (K. Greenberg, G. Nicholson, W. Wilson) was performed. From its opening raucous guitars, to the frenzied pounding of the drums, to the clamorous organ chords, to Shaun attempting to shatter any nearby glass, this one is an out-of-control downhill train. Whoa!
"Evil Memory" (T. W. Stillwell, L. W. Grisham) is the last of the three originals. Being written by her guitarist, you'd probably expect to hear some monster ax work and you'd be right. On his own song Tommy is all over that. Also, all over it is Shaun, as she showcases her unmatched vocal range and note holding abilities. As a matter of fact, while singing the word "eviilllllllllllll", she held the note for over ten seconds. Yes, I replayed and timed it.
If there was ever anyone who excelled in being blunt in songs.....especially the one's about men, it was the late and great Denise LaSalle. That woman flat out told it like it was, and on this song of her's titled "Too Many Lovers", Shaun is indeed up to that task. According to the ladies, there are too many people trying to be a star, when they don't actually know who they are; too many men thinking they're the best but too many fools will make a big mess; there are too many machos and not enough men; and too many lovers and not enough love. While Shaun's dishing out the attitude, the rest of the band is dishing out a whole lot of funk.
Other tracks on an album I know you'll all want to get your hands on are: "One More Last Time" (J. Paris); "Linger A Little Longer" (C. Jacobs, C. Pearman); "If I Knew" (T. Castro, J. Paris); and "When Is This Rain Gonna End" (K. Greenberg, G. Barnhill).
If you've not yet received a copy of I'm Coming Home for airplay, it can be uploaded at Airplay Direct or you can email T. C. Davis at email@example.com. Of course, if you want to find out more about Shaun Murphy, just go to her website - www.shaunmurphyband.com. Additionally, be it Shaun or T. C. you contact, please tell them their good friend the Blewzzman sent you.
I don't like to say too much in my reviews that can be found at websites, and I try hard to not get too biographical, as well. On the other hand, sometimes a release is so unique that it mandates doing so. That said, since my friend, blues writer Rick J. Bowen, so perfectly laid it out in the one sheet accompanying the disc, I'm going to take the liberty of quoting him:
"It is such a gift and hard-won privilege when an artist reaches the point in their career when they can make art for art's sake. The new album "Super Soul Session!" from Arlen Roth and Jerry Jemmott reflects that joy and status. Guitar hero and music education pioneer Roth, aka "Master of the Telecaster" and Grammy winning bassist, Jerry Jemmott, aka "The Groovemaster", were both chief session and touring musicians of the late 1960's and early 1970's, working with many of the periods well-known Rock, Pop, Soul, Blues and Jazz artists. The longtime friends join forces on a baker's dozen of iconic tracks from their career discography in celebration of over 50 years of making great music. The pair invited A-list players to join them for the New York sessions enlisting the talents of keyboardists Bruce Katz & Alex Salzman, rhythm guitarist Tom Gage, drummer Chris Parker, The Uptown Horns and special guests Joe Lewis Walker and African vocalist Mukamuri. The collection of cover songs is not only a trip down memory lane, but also a loving exploration and deep dive into some of the duo's favorite songs, many of which they had a hand in creating originally."
Thank you, Rick.
Although this performance of the song is an instrumental, you'll still be singing along anyway. C'mon, join me....."Calling out around the world, are you ready for a brand new beat? Summer's here and the time is right, for "Dancing In The Street" (M. Gaye, I. Hunter, W. Stevenson).....Can't you just hear Martha and the Vandellas belting out the rest? Of course, you can. So, stand up, grab your air mic and have yourself a ball as Arlen's fabulous lead and slide guitar runs; along with the thunderous rhythm and percussion (which will have you dancin' as well) from the rest of the guys - including the five-piece horn section; provide you with the vehicle to rock out with. That was fun, right? Of course it was, let's play it again.
Arguably, I doubt I'll ever hear a cover of a song made famous by B. B. King that will ever sound better than the king's version. However, on his rendition of "The Thrill Is Gone" (R. Darnell, R. Hawkins), Joe Louis Walker, may have just joined the argument. It's no secret he can belt the hell out of a blues song, but I personally don't know that I've ever heard Joe sound this good. I guess a song of this caliber causes even the greats to be greater. Along those same lines, Arlen may not call his guitar "Lucille", but I don't know if the guitar knows that. Add with the heartbeat the song's being given from Jerry (bass), Chris (drums) and Bruce (organ), if B. B. is listening, he'd be 'thrilled'.
Another 'super soulful' classic the guys more than do justice to is Jackie Wilson's "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" (G. Jackson, R. Miner, C. Smith). It features Mukamari - an artist I've not yet heard of but will be looking into - putting on quite the powerful, soulful and range roving vocal performance. Musically, it's like the Daytona 500 of rhythm instrumentalists, with the lead cars being the roaring drumming of Chris and the thundery bass lines of Jerry. On the other hand, Crispin Cioe and Arno Hecht, on saxophones; Bob Funk, on the trombone; and Larry Etkin & Tony Gorusso, on trumpets; all have no intentions of losing this race while leaving a trail of dust of their own. Kudos to Lexie Roth as well - she took a song sung so well it didn't need backup vocals and made it better by adding them. This one's an all-out SMOKER!
More of Mukamuri's fabulous vocals can be heard on Dobie Gray's biggest hit, "Drift Away". The dual keyboard work of Bruce on the organ and Alex on the piano are just two of the tracks' many musical highlights.
As horrible as the opening lyrics of: "Lord I swear the perfume you wear, was made out of turnip greens; And every time I kiss you girl, It tastes like pork and beans;" sounds quite unappetizing, Arlen Roth does quite a tasteful job singing them. Of course, you probably now know that the song is The Rolling Stones' "Down Home Girl" (J. Leiber, A. Butler). Also tasteful is his killer slide work and his partners' deep bass lines. Indeed, another of the disc's many bests.
No, this is not a song from Archie Bell and the Drells, but it's definitely gonna tighten you up. It's called "Memphis Soul Stew" and it is a reproduction of a song of his called "Cookin' Memphis Soul Stew" that Jerry originally did back in the day with Bernard Purdie, Cornell Dupree, Truman Thomas, Warren Smith and King Curtis. It features Jerry narrating the recipe of necessary musical ingredients to create the most perfect batch of Memphis soul stew. Then, for the next nine minutes, as he introduces the many players, each one adds their music to the mix. Ultimately, one of the tastiest, funkiest, dance floor fillers that has been created. Bon Appetit!
The disc closes with another instrumental that I sure do hope you all know the words to, it is the beautiful "America The Beautiful" (K. L. Bates, S. Ward). Although there's no questioning that these days, "God needs to shed a lot more grace on thee" and "Mend a whole lot more of thine every flaws", but there is still no greater country in the world and I personally thank Arlen and Alex Salzman (Producers) for not only including this wonderful and patriotic song but for dedicating it to "every veteran who has ever served", as well. Magically using his guitar to perfectly sing, and articulately pronounce the missing words, Arlen Roth was absolutely masterful. You guys owe me a box of Kleenex.
Other tracks on Super Soul Session, a disc that should surely draw some attention in the soul categories of various awards ceremonies, include: "I'm Just A Mortal Man" (B. Miller); "Sweet Sweet Baby, Since You've Been Gone" (A. Franklin, T. White); "Chain Of Fools" (D. Covay); "Shake" (S. Cooke); "The Weight" (R. Robertson) and "Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues" (D. O'keefe).
If you've not yet received a copy of Super Soul Session for airplay, please contact Betsie Brown at - www.blindraccoon.com - and should like to find out more about the guys just go to - www.arlenroth.com. Remember, wherever you go and whomever you speak with, please tell them their friend the Blewzzman sent you.
When Chicago bluesman Nigel Mack isn't gigging in clubs around the windy city, he's most likely off headlining shows somewhere around the United States, Europe or his homeland of Canada, with his killer band - The Blues Attack.
Nigel's fourth release is titled Back In Style and it contains twelve original tracks. For the project, Nigel - on vocals, harmonica, electric/acoustic/steel guitar, foot stomps and horn arrangements - used no less than eight keyboardists; six drummers; four bassists; and several other instrumentalists; as he assembled an all star cast of Chicago's finest blues musicians.
Being nearly as famous as Highways 41 and 69, a.k.a. the crossroads, there have been many blues songs about "Highway 69", with several actually sharing the same title. That said, with Nigel belting the hell out of the vocals and nailing the slide guitar that's so pivotal to the song, this is indeed a worthy tribute to that well-traveled, oft sung about road. Of course, the rhythm guitar support from JR Wydra, the smokin' keyboard leads from Brian James and the perfect traveling rhythm from Andrew "Blaze" Thomas and Vic Jackson on the drums and bass, also have a lot to do with that.
"Cold Comfort" tells a tale of a short, yet long enough to become rocky, romance between a singer in a band going to Vegas for a three week stand, and a dancer in a chorus line. It features great guitar work from Nigel, thunderous rhythm from Andrew "Blaze" Thomas and Andre Howard on the drums and bass; and monster piano and organ leads on what I am told is the last song the late and great Marty Sammon would ever play on. R.I.P Marty!
Contrary to its title, "Graveyard Gate" is actually a love song. It's a story about the loneliness a man and woman struggle with from their time apart. Their concern is reuniting before ultimately heading to the graveyard gate. It's a wind driven smoker with Nigel blowing the hell out of the harmonica; Lise Gilly and Victor Garcia also blowing the hell out of the sax and trumpet; and on its only appearance, as it is getting closed by the blowing of the wind - an actual graveyard gate in a cemetery in Bédoin, France, on rusty squeaks and loud slams.
Those of us who have seen his live shows already know this, but for those who haven't and might be wondering if Nigel Mack is a harmonica player who can also play guitar or a guitar player who can also play harmonica, "Back In Style" - the title track - will clearly answer that question. Excelling on both, his first instrument is the harmonica, and his other first instrument is the guitar. This time, with Malcom Banks on on the drums and Derwin Davis on the keyboards joining Andre Howard (who sadly, is also no longer with us) on the bass, the fast and furious rhythm makes this one a sure dance floor filler.
"Blues Enough For You" is an acoustic track that offers a small sample of what you might expect to experience at one of Nigel's solo shows. It features him blowin', pickin', strummin', and singing the hell out of the song.
As I was listening to this track, I misread the song listing and thought its title was "Jalapeño Peppers". Then I realized that was the name of the next track, not this one. The interesting part of all this is that this track is titled "Shangri-la Girl", and it's hotter than a whole bunch of jalapeño peppers could ever be. It's a flat out pedal to the metal smoker with everyone in jam mode. Lise Gilly and Neal O'Hara are in a race on the sax and piano that no one is losing; Andre Howard and Larry Beers are creating a joyful ruckus on the rhythm; and Nigel is totally tearing it up on both of his first instruments.
Other tracks on this fabulous release include: "Travellin' Heavy"; "Damn You Mr. Bluesman"; "Redemption"; "A Place To Call Home"; "Just One Man"; and of course, "Jalapeño Peppers".
If you've not yet received a copy of Back In Style for airplay, please email Nigel Mack at firstname.lastname@example.org - and should like to find out more about Nigel Mack, and info on booking the band as well, just go to - www.nigelmack.com. Remember, when you do this, please tell him his friend, the Blewzzman, sent you.
Groove Me Baby is the first full length studio album from Lady J Huston and quite frankly, after reading about her very impressive list of accomplishments; musical affiliations; and skills and talents; with a bio like this, I'm actually shocked to hear that. Lady J is a singer, songwriter, trumpeter, music director, arranger, producer, and she even dances, as well. She sang in Johnnie Johnson's band; she was the lead trumpeter, who ultimately became the music director, in Albert King's band; and she's played with Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Koko Taylor, and many others. There's a lot more that can be told but later on I'll just give you a link to where you can read it all for yourself, because I want to tell you about the music.
For the project - and trust me, it is a project - Lady J used the musical talents of well over thirty performers of which there were a handful of guitarists and drummers; several keyboardists and bassists; a lot of background vocalists; a bunch of horns; with eighteen of this list appearing as the Jazz Edge Orchestra. Of Groove Me Baby's twelve tracks, there are nine originals and three covers, and on them, you may very well hear many styles of music that include blues, jazz, swing, soul, R&B, funk, pop, and even a bit of disco.
This is going to sound strange but roll with it, please. The name of this song is called "Mean Stud Lover's Blues" and for now (you'll understand why later), all I'm going to say is it is one of the bluesiest tracks of the lot and Lady J, with a whole lot of sass and range, is reaching deep down and belting the hell out of some serious down-home blues.
As she's telling the girls "I Want A Man Like That" (C. Finney, L. Lutour), just some of "that" includes him being a man to love her day and night; to treat her nice and kind; to have a way of loving that will thrill her all the time; to be a man who never likes to roam and brings all the money home. All reasonable expectations, for sure. This is a swinging, jazzy number featuring fabulous tenor sax leads from Ben Shafer; a lot of bottom from the baritone of M. Lew Winer III; a dance inducing rhythm from Charles Smotherson, Jr. and Frank Dunbar,on the drums and bass respectively; and - while being supported by melodic backing vocals from Adrea Rohlehr and Bwayne Smotherson - the boss, Lady J, putting on a vocals 101 lesson.
On the very next track, "Tearing Me Apart" It sounds like Lady J hasn't quite found that 'man like that' just yet. On this soulful and emotional ballad, she laments over having to repeatedly face her lover leaving her to go home to his wife.
This jazzed up version of "Born Under A Bad Sign" (B. T. Jones, W. Bell) pays homage to Lady J's former boss, and my all-time favorite bluesman, the late, and very great, Albert King. Just as Albert always liked to have, the track features a smokin' horn section with Lady J blasting out the trumpet leads, Ben on the tenor sax and M. Lew on the baritone; the usual powerful rhythm coming from Charles (drums) and Frank (bass), this time with strong organ and piano support from Wade Long. Of course, on a song by arguably the best blues guitarist ever, there's got to be a lot of stinging blues guitar licks, and Jason Cooper is definitely all over that. Then there are the vocals, on which Lady J is serving notice that although this may be her debut release, she could very well be deserving of some 'vocalist of the year' awards. She's got my vote!
Over my twenty-plus years of doing this, I've reviewed a countless number of blues society compilations CDs and I cannot ever recall hearing such a major production like this on any of them. The song is called "Hide-Away (Remix)" and it first appeared on a disc titled 18 in 18, that was released by the St. Louis Blues Society. The song made it to the semifinals of the 2019 International Songwriting Competition. It's a jazz and funk infused blues ballad that features Lady J singing her heart out while being backed up by The Jazz Edge Orchestra, with: band leader Thomas Moore on rhythm guitar; Alexis Adams on electronic keyboards; Theodore B. Terry II on bass; Eddie L. Brown on drums; Larry M. Edwards on percussion; Bill Simpson, Charles E. Rose and Brady Lewis on trumpet; William Jeffries and Andy Schiefelbein on trombone; Charles T. Staton, Jr. and Anthony Hill on alto sax; Errol M. Belt on tenor sax; and Dr. Don Cook, Sr. on baritone sax. Although I've not heard the other songs in the competition, I still must wonder how this one didn't win.
"Groove Me Baby" - the title track - is a time machine back to seventies and eighties, and maybe even earlier, soul music. The opening intro - featuring Lady J on the synthesizer and muted trumpet, combined with the groovy rhythm Frank and Charles have going on bass and drums - had me thinking that any second now, the likes of Al Green, Luther Vandross, Evelyn Champagne King, Teddy Pendergrass, or even Barry White would be joining in on vocals. However, it was the Lady herself who stepped up to the mic and flat out belted the hell out of the song.
Traditionally, background singers provide vocals and harmonies to compliment the lead singer. That said, if a song was an instrumental but featured only backup harmonies, would the vocalists still be called background singers? I don't know and of course, I don't really care, all that matters is on the instrumental version of an earlier track, where all I did was allude to Lady J's vocal prowess - "Mean Street Lover's Blues (Background)" - that's what's happening and it's happening fabulously. What is traditional about the track is its style of blues. It's got: Frank and Charles, in a good ol' foot tappin' rhythm groove on the bass and drums; Jason Cooper and Darryl Bassett combining to make a formidable lead and rhythm guitar team; Lady J - with Ben and M. Lew blowin' lots of support through the tenor and baritone saxes - leading the horn section with sharp and hot trumpet leads; and last but certainly not least, Adrea, Wade Long, and the Lady herself, softly and soulfully laying down absolutely beautiful background... or maybe in this case, foreground... harmonies. I can't even take a guess as to how many times I replayed this one.
The disc closes with the Etta James classic "At Last" (H. Warren, M. Gordon). Lady J eases into the song by introducing "the couple of the hour for their first dance" giving the impression that the song is being recorded live at a wedding. In actuality, it was indeed recorded live at the mega entertainment complex in Chesterfield, MO, called The Factory, and the recording was to be used in their wedding ads. That said, the song is a commercial.....but OMG, what a great commercial! Frank on bass, Gerald "Pocket King" Warren on drums, Wade on piano, and Darryl on guitar, are masterfully locked into that slow rhythm the song requires; M. Lew is encouraging the couple to make that slow dance a bit sultry with his tenor sax leads; and with killer conviction, unyielding range, seductive scat, and so much soul, Lady J is "selling" the hell out of this product.
Other tracks on this debut, and what I believe will be the first of many discs by Lady J Huston include: "Your Call"; "Corona You Make Me Sick (Remix)"; "Messin' 'Round In The Bayou"; and "500 Pounds Of Good Gizzay".
If you've not yet received a copy of Groove Me Baby for airplay, please contact Betsie Brown at - www.blindraccoon.com - and should like to find out more about Lady J Huston, just go to - www.ladyjhuston.com. Remember, wherever you go and whomever you speak with, please tell them their friend the Blewzzman sent you.
Having just learned that Lil' Jimmy Reed - or as his military ID would have read, Leon Atkins - spent twenty years of his life serving this great country of ours, regardless of if his military rank merits the use of this word or not, I'm throwing it out there and saying, "Thank You, Sir!".
On Back To Baton Rouge, what I believe is his fifth release, 84-year-old Lil' Jimmy Reed joined forces with a young man who literally could be his great grandson, 23-year-old Ben Levin. That said, with Jimmy having played nearly twice as many years as Ben has lived, and having played in nearly twice as many countries than Ben has had birthdays, by no means should this young talent be considered wet behind the ears or, to use a military term, a "boot". You see, having four releases of his own, Ben also has two Blues Music Award nominations actually making this a collaboration between two music veterans - one old and one young.
The rest of the band joining Lil' Jimmy Reed on guitar, harmonica and vocals; and Ben Levin, the disc's producer, on piano are: Aron Levin, who Ben calls "Dad", on second guitar; Walter Cash on bass; with Ricky Nye and Shorty Star on drums. The disc contains ten tracks with five each being covers and five being originals penned by various combinations of Atkins and/or the Levins.
Since Lil' Jimmy Reed proudly boasts "I loved Jimmy Reed music, so I fell in love with his music. I wouldn't play nobody's music but Jimmy Reed. I used to imitate him.......I don't care who had a record out. I wouldn't play nothing but Jimmy Reed"; it's only fitting that the opener is a cover of his "Down In Virginia" recording. This is classic Jimmy Reed stuff done exactly like he'd do it himself. With Walter and Ricky laying down a smooth shuffle rhythm behind him and Ben shining on several smooth piano leads, Lil' Jimmy is killing it on the vocals and guitar and sounding every bit as good as his idol on those very high-end harp leads. He doesn't just imitate Jimmy Reed and his music, he's mastered it. For the record, Jimmy Reed was by far my all-time favorite, harmonica player.
One of the originals, "They Call Me Lil' Jimmy" tells the true story of how Leon Atkins became Lil' Jimmy Reed. As the story goes, in 1958, on the night Jimmy Reed was scheduled to perform in Louisiana, he got drunk and couldn't perform. With the parties involved knowing Leon - who was in the right place at the right time - had pretty much mastered Jimmy's style of play, they slipped him in the front door while sneaking drunken Jimmy out the back. After that, there was no looking back, that night, as everyone referred to him, Leon Atkins became Lil' Jimmy Reed. It's a great story that incorporates tales of his world travels and his thirty-seven grandchildren that Lil' Jimmy is very proud to tell.
On another original, Lil' Jimmy sings of returning "Back To Baton Rouge". This is the kind of stuff I listened to as a kid and never knew I was listening to the blues. It features such a soft rhythm on which Shorty may even be using brushes and not sticks; that Fats Domino style of soft and repetitive high end piano chords; slow and soulful vocals that are closer to being spoken than being sung; and precision blues guitar leads that soothe rather than sting. It's the kind of song that the slow dancers love because it's even too slow to dance to, so they just stand, squeeze and sway. So simply, yet so masterfully done.
On this clever original track, the "Engine Light" being on is causing Lil' Jimmy lots of concern. His oil is leaking, his tires have no thread, he's running out of gas and he's sure he's gonna break down. Sadly, none of this is happening to his car, it's all happening in his relationship.
The disc closes with "Mailbox Blues" (J. Moore/R. Stuart), which features Lil' Jimmy paying homage to his homie, the late, great, Slim Harpo. This is the second of two tracks pairing Miss Shorty on drums with Walter Cash, Jr. on bass, and this time they've kicked the rhythm up a notch and have a cool rumba vibe going on. In the meantime, the big boss man...pun intended, and his young associate are working wonders proving there's no generation gap in music. The Lil' one laying down some of the disc's best guitar work and the 'little one' is laying down some slick piano leads.
Other tracks on Back To Baton Rouge include: "Wish You Wouldn't" and "Cincinnati's The Place To Be", both originals; "In The Wee Wee Hours" (J. C. Liggins); I'm The Man Down There" and "A String In Your Heart", two more Jimmy Reed songs.
If you've not yet received a copy of Back To Baton Rouge for airplay, please contact Betsie Brown at - www.blindraccoon.com - and should like to find out more about Lil' Jimmy Reed with Ben Levin, just go to - www.liljimmyreed.com/. Remember, wherever you go and whomever you speak with, please tell them their friend the Blewzzman sent you.
Jimmie Bratcher is a singer, songwriter, storyteller, guitarist, cookbook writer, preacher and author.....and those are just the things I know about. Keeping the "Many a truth is spoken in jest" and "Laughter is the best medicine" proverbs in mind, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if he took his many life's experiences and spun them into a stand-up act to add to his repertoire. After all, he is a healer of sorts.
On his thirteenth album, Far Enough, Jimmie Bratcher - on guitars and vocals - is joined by: Eric Stark - his co-producer and writing partner - on keys, lap steel, Irish whistle, background vocals and strings & horn arrangements; Craig Kew on bass; Brandon Draper on drums and percussion; Aaron Mayfield on organ; Charity Von Mozafari and Charmelle Cofield on vocals; Rod Lincoln on drums; Micah Burdick on acoustic guitar; Judah Earl on strings, and the horn section of: Bob Harvey and Steve Molloy on trumpet; Mark Cohick on baritone sax; Brett Jackson on tenor sax; and last but certainly not least, Sherri Bratcher on encouragement.
With all of the disc's eleven songs being originals, many of them are original originals - that's my way of saying songs that are written out of having lived the story being told vs songs written from creativity and imagination. Non-fiction vs fiction being the proper term, I guess.
The album opens up with the title track, which is actually Far Enough (The Story Of Mike & Clark). It's a story about finding sobriety - through the welcoming help of a caring friend, of course - told as only Jimmie can tell it. Musically, between the lyrics, Jimmie's heartfelt presentation of them, the melodic and angelic voices of Charity and Charmelle on the harmonies, and the mighty organ and piano leads from Aaron and Eric, the song takes on a certain hymnal quality.
From every perspective, including its title, "My Name Is Sinner" is an absolutely powerful production. Giving what could very well be one of the most attention commanding vocal performances I've ever heard; Jimmie leaves his heart out there on this one. That said, the songs captivating lyrics and accompanying compelling musicianship all help take it to a whole other level. Let me throw this out there right now; if you are reading this and you happen to be someone who is on one of those 'awards nominating committees', if this one isn't on your 'Song Of the Year' list, get off the damn committee!
Giving everyone a chance to catch their breath, me included, the next track is a relaxed acoustic ballad titled "The Road Leads Home". It features Jimmie showcasing his sensitive side on an emotional and beautifully done duet with Charity, and pleasing acoustic guitar work from Micah.
The road to recovery is a process and taking ownership is a part of that process. On "Chains", ownership doesn't get any more real than this:
"I made this prison that I live in, I built it stone by stone.
I forged these chains that I'm wearing, link by link, my sin, my own.
I've made some bad decisions, choices that made no sense.
Don't ask me any questions, denial is my defense......
If you think those are some powerful lyrics, and they indeed are, just wait till you hear them - and more - sung by Jimmie and Charmelle on another emotional track. Musically, it's a heartwarming ballad on which Jimmie and Eric showcase masterful guitar and piano skills.
Oddly enough, the song titled "Why Is It We Don't Dance Anymore" is actually one that unquestionably fills the dance floor. It's a rocker led by thunderous rhythm coming from Brandon's (drums) and Craig (bass), with level raising support from Aaron on the keys, and the full horn section - led by a killer tenor standout from Brett - all raising pure hell. Lyrically, the song is symbolic of Jimmie missing some of what life gets in the way of allowing to still happen.
Jimmie is far enough into this righteous journey of his to no longer be making excuses, but it is indeed the truth he speaks as he addresses the constant temptations that exist from "Living Here In Babylon".....where it's hard to know right from wrong. With a roaring rhythm behind him, Jimmie's rocking out some of the disc's best guitar work on this one.
As I listen to the disc's final track, "Save Me, From Myself", I'm doing so in disbelief. After "My Name Is Sinner" led me to believe nothing else I'd hear for a very long time would move me like it did, that very long time wound up being about thirty short minutes. Jimmie's gut-wrenching presentation of the songs melancholic lyrics are spine tingling; his scorching blues guitar licks totally enhance his pain; the rhythm and percussion just reek of gloom; and making all of this sound unworldly, Eric magically turns the organ into a full string section. I can't recall if there was ever a release that featured two songs getting "Song Of the Year" nominations, but I'm liking the chances of it happening here.
Other songs on this must have release include: "Memphis Slim"; "Don't Count Me Out"; "When He Dreams"; and "Don't Bring That Evil Around Here".
It's been some years since I last gave out "The Blewzzy" - a symbolic award I used give to my personal favorite of all the albums I reviewed for the year - but with that said, with eight months still to go, this would have been the one to beat in 2023.
If you've not yet received a copy of Far Enough for airplay, please contact Betsie Brown at - www.blindraccoon.com - and should like to find out more about Jimmie Bratcher, just go to - www.jimmiebratcher.com. Remember, wherever you go and whomever you speak with, please tell them their friend the Blewzzman sent you.
My review of Brad "Guitar" Wilson's last release started off with these exact words....."This self titled, self produced release is the fourth for Brad "Guitar" Wilson and if it follows in the footsteps of his first three, then this will be his fourth consecutive album charting on worldwide radio. Having already given this one several listens, with a release date of June, 17, 2022, I'm sure it will be just a matter of time before that happens." .....With that having happened, I'm happy to say I told you so. Now, just ten short months later, as I get ready to tell you about Brad's fifth release, let me start out with saying I'll be expecting more of the same from Lovers Before Sunrise.
Lovers Before Sunrise features singer, guitarist and songwriter Brad "Guitar" Wilson being joined by: Brian Beal, Hal Cragin, Jeff Covell, Zach Andrews and Oscar Huget on bass; Grammy winner Francis Buckley, the disc's producer, on percussion; Fred Forney on flugelhorn; Adam Gust, Peter Wolf and Dillion Diaz on drums; Deb Jacobs, Kiki Wow and Amber Guzman on vocals; Chris Rhyme on keyboards; Timothy Jones on piano; and Daniel Levin on horns. Of the album's fourteen tracks, there are eleven originals and three covers.
The smooth Latin vibe on the rhythm drenched "Blues Magic" just screams 'DANCE'! Brian, Francis, Adam and Chris are indeed putting on magical performances on the bass, percussion, drums and organ. Speaking of smooth, in between a few quick, stinging guitar chords, the vibe Brad's giving out on the vocals has me thinking he might be bustin' some moves himself.
Since Leroy Carr first recorded "Blues Before Sunrise", approximately a century ago, it's been done in many different ways, by countless numbers of artists. That said, this well-done rendition - with Brad all over the gritty and gutsy vocals; and validating having the instrument in his name with mind-blowing lead and slide guitar runs - will most likely remind you more of the Elmore James version.
Since it would be blasphemous for a baby boomer and former hippie to review a CD with a song by Cream and not mention it, I'll now pay my respects. The song is "Sunshine Of Your Love" (Bruce/Brown/Clapton), and it features Brad, Hal and Adam giving the song some respect of their own as they showcase their inner Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker on the vocals, guitar, bass and drums. Well done guys and thanks for the flashbacks.
This is an original of Brad's producer and band mate, Francis Buckley, and it's titled "When You Get To My House". What's interesting is it actually tells the tale of the odd happenings that go on along the way. One in particular is "You were on your way to my house, on the way to hear my blues, but on the way to my house, you wore out your brand new shoes".....just how far was that walk? Musically, it's another rhythm fueled smoker, with a mostly different ensemble. This time it's Zach and Dillion bangin' on the drums and laying down the deep bass lines and they're getting lots of help from the rockin' piano of Timothy and the smokin' horn blowin' from Daniel and Fred.
"I'm Still Breathing" is one the traditionalists will love. It's slow blues with a hefty bass (Brian) led rhythm that features Brad strongly and soulfully belting out the blues, while putting on what this slow blues enthusiast feels is his disc's best guitar work.
On a track called "Black Coffee At Sunrise" it sounds to me like Brad and the guys drank a whole pot of it before recording it. This swingin' dance floor filler features the usual hard drivin' rhythm with Brad rockin' out on some of that jumpin' hometown 'so cool So Cal' style of blues.
One of the most beautiful tracks of the bunch is a love song titled "Words I Want To Say With You". On a song they co-wrote, Brad and Deb Jacobs melodically and charismatically take turns happily and lovingly praising each other.
The disc closes with a bonus track that first appeared on an earlier release of Brad's, it's a live version of a rocker titled "Slide On Over". As it comes on, and all you guitar heads reach for your air guitars, make sure you get down the Trower or Hendrix models because as Rick J. Bowen states on the one sheet, this one's done is the style of "Robin Trower meets (Jimi) Hendrix bravado" .
Other tracks on Lovers Before Sunrise include: "More Than I Do"; "Big Fish"; "Goin' Fishin' In The Rain"; "I'm Ready" (W. Dixon); "Rollin Thunder"; and "Down To The Twist And Shout".
If you've not yet received a copy of Lovers Before Sunrise for airplay, please contact Betsie Brown at - www.blindraccoon.com - and should like to find out more about Brad "Guitar" Wilson, just go to - www.bradwilsonlive.com. Remember, wherever you go and whomever you speak with, please tell them their friend the Blewzzman sent you.
Gypsy Soul is the fourth release from Jennifer Lyn & The Groove Revival, and the first that I've had the pleasure of getting to hear. The band consists of the disc's co-producers and song composers Jennifer Lyn on guitar, vocals and backing vocals; and Richard Torrance on guitar and backing vocals; along with Barb Jiskra on keys; Chris Addison on bass; and Jim Anderson on drums. The band is said to be blues rockers and the title of the album contains the word soul, but I've got to tell you, these five original tracks contain one heck of a lot of old school blues.
As opening tracks should, "Gypsy Soul" - the title track as well - features everyone in the band being highlighted, making it a great introduction to the players. Right from her opening line, with a strong but not overpowering vocal style that features quite a nice range, Jennifer quickly lets the listener know she will be a pleasure to listen to; with killer leads and some impressive string bending tactics, it's obvious Richard knows his way around the blues; Barb's boogieing piano standout is outstanding; and last but certainly not least, this vehicle is being perfectly driven by the fabulous rhythm of Chris and Jim. Excellent first impression.
"Lowdown Dirty Shame" features the band in a fast and funky groove behind them while Jennifer and Richard take center stage on the lead and harmony vocals and tandem lead and rhythm guitar runs.
Whatever volume level you happen to be listening to your copy of Gypsy Soul at, raise it a few notches when "Going Round In Circles" comes on. Then stop what the heck ever it is you were doing and sit back and allow yourself to get blown away by absolutely perfectly done slow blues. This could very well be the best sung ballad and best played slow blues I've heard all year. Wow, wow, wow!
Remember the smokin' way The Spencer Davis Group opened "Gimmee Some Lovin'? With somewhat of a similar name and a whole lot of that same high energy, "Give Me All Of Your Lovin'" will surely give you flashbacks of Stevie Winwood and the guys. As a matter of fact, the band calls this all out rocker "a playful mix of blues and classic rock".
If you've ever been to a singer/songwriter showcase, "You Can Take It All" is the type of song you'd most likely hear a female/male duet do. It's also likely that the two people in the story who come from broken romances to find each other, may actually be them. Jennifer and Richard have me sold. This softly and beautifully done ballad kind of reminded me of Van Morrison's "Crazy Love".....yes, it's that good.
If you've not yet received a copy of Gypsy Soul for airplay, please contact Betsie Brown at - www.blindraccoon.com - and should like to find out more about Jennifer Lyn & The Groove Revival, just go to - www.jlynandthegrooverevival.com. Remember, wherever you go and whomever you speak with, please tell them their friend the Blewzzman sent you.
With Cut My Spirit Loose being his fifth release since 2014, when his first release earned him a "Best New Artist" nomination at the Blues Music Awards, Big Harp George has been staying quite busy. Taking into consideration all the down time due to the pandemic, putting out five releases in nine years is indeed an admirable accomplishment.
Playing harmonica and singing all the lead vocals, Cut My Spirit Loose features Big Harp George being joined by: Ben Torres on flute; Chris Burns, the disc's producer, on keyboards; Derrick D'Mar Martin on drums and percussion; Doug Rowan on baritone saxophone; Ed Morrison and Jeff Lewis on trumpet; Joe Kyle Jr. on bass; June Core on drums; Kid Andersen on guitar, banjo, clown horn, guiro, drum and vibraphone; Lisa Leuschner Andersen and Loralee Christensen on backing vocals; Michael Peloquin on tenor and baritone saxophones; Mike Rinta on trombone and tuba; James, Dwayne and Walter Morgan - a.k.a. Sons of the Soul Revivers - on backing vocals; and on her debut as a recording artist, Lulu Bisharat, the Bisharat family dog.....on barking.
Having realized that assortment of instruments, you'd be correct in assuming these may not be typical blues harmonica songs you're about to hear. Then again, Big Harp George is not your typical blues harmonicas player. Of these thirteen very interesting and varied styles of songs, one is a cover of a Beatles hit, and twelve are original Big Harp George Bisharat compositions.
On the opening track titled "It's Tuesday", George pokes fun at what sadly became a highlight of his - and apparently his neighbors, as well - during the pandemic. Yep, the weekend came and went with absolutely no fanfare at all but taking out the garbage on trash day turned Tuesdays into a hilarious block party. With George doing comical play by play on how the rest of the people on the block throw out their trash, and members of the band having simulated "neighborly" conversations, the lyrics are an absolute riot. Musically, it's a swingin' dance floor filler with the Morgan brothers killing the sing-a-long style chorus line and Doo-wop style background vocals. I absolutely loved this song!
On another great story telling track George candidly spins the yarn about "Pile Driving Sam", who the men can't figure out, but the ladies seem to understand all too well. Nuff said 'bout Sam, I think you got the drift. Deep bass lines on what sounds like an upright by Joe; intense drum and percussion work from Derrick; and a whole lot more bottom from the baritone sax of Doug; all combine for what may be the disc's most rhythmically profound track. Throw in more heat coming from the trumpet and trombone of Ed and Mike, some smokin' piano from the hands of Chris, and a fiery minute long mid-song run from Kid on the guitar, and it all adds up to another smoker.
If it's been a while since you've partied on Bourbon Street, just put this one on and you'll quickly be "Bustin' Out" your beads and Mardi Gras garb - and before you even realize it, this instrumental will have you dancin' around your house like you're partying with a brass band in the French Quarter. With a funky and boogieing rhythm going on behind them, George, Mike, Doug and Jeff are flat out raising hell on the harmonica, tuba, saxophone and trumpet.
As George points out some...make that many...not so wonderful characteristics of humans, I'm betting that many - if not all - dog owners will agree with him when he says, "My Dog Is Better Than You". As a matter of fact, George thinks "that's true of every other dog too" and that we should "turn it over to the dogs and let them run the show". Lulu apparently agrees, 'cause right on cue, she barks in and voices her approval. It's another rhythm fueled smoker with monster harmonic leads from George, tenor leads by Michael and guitar leads from Chris.
Speaking of Lulu, this track titled "Jump Abu Lulu" was written in her honor. Other than the Sons of the Soul Revivers repeatedly chanting "Jump Abu Lulu" the song is an instrumental on which Big Harp George pretty much puts on a chromatic harmonica 101 class. A must listen for anyone wanting to hone their harp skills.
After getting himself into some trouble at the age of seventeen, George swore he'd never again put himself in that situation. That said, it was just four short years later when, once again, he found himself "Behind The Eight Ball". On this slow blues number, you can clearly feel the remorse in George's vocals and in his piercing harp leads.
Containing compelling lyrics; captivating vocals; and alluring instrumentation; "Captain Jack" is a quite complex composition. After hearing it the first time I went back a second time and focused on the tragic story of Captain Jack, the fallen warrior who was the chief of the Modoc people; a third time to be get carried away by the hymnal qualities of the lead, backing and harmony vocals; and a fourth time to be entranced by the magnificently magical music, highlighted by masterful harp (George), flute (Ben) and vibraphone (Kid) performances. Kudos to Kid Andersen for the engineering, Joe Taratino for the mastering and Chris Burns for the production work on this masterpiece.
Other tracks on Cut My Spirit Loose, a disc that just might get Big Harp George more Blues Music Award nominations, are: "Give Me The Dark", "She's A Woman" (Lennon & McCartney); "Prince Of Downward Mobility"; "Ranty Town"; "Take A Knee"; and "Sunrise Stroll".
If you've not yet received a copy of Cut My Spirit Loose 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.
When the people you hire to work for you prove to be a dedicated and caring bunch, who create a strong support system around you, tools that otherwise might not be available to you, suddenly are. For Skylar Rogers, one such tool was label co-owner Sallie Bengtson introducing her to Terry Wilson. In Skylar's own words: ".....Thank you for the introduction...... I really loved working with Terry Wilson on this project! As a writing partner he is the best and his knowledge as a producer took this project where I wanted it to go....."
For Among The Insanity, her third release, Skylar Rogers - the fire breathing vocalist - went into the studio with a whole new killer band. Supplying her with some tools of his own, bassist, vocalist, songwriter, producer and Grammy nominee Terry Wilson reached deep into his talent pool of fine musicians and assembled quite the A-list band for Skylar to work with. Those very recognizable artists include: multi-award winner W. G. Snuffy Walden on lead guitar; Grammy nominee Billy Watts on rhythm guitar; Bennett Salvay on keys; Grammy winner Brannen Temple on drums & percussion; Grammy winner Darrell Leonard on horns; and Grammy nominee Teresa James on background vocals. The disc features twelve tracks of original music with one being a solo composition of Terry's and the other eleven being co-written with Skylar.
Sadly, when it comes to insanity, these days one needs not to look any further than the front page of any newspaper, the first segment of any news program or the pop ups that appear every time you go on the Internet....it's all around us and in too damn many ways. However, on the disc's title track - "Among The Insanity" - the insanity Skylar's lamenting over is the insanity related to a bad relationship. Musically, the penetrating rhythm and stinging guitar leads are the perfect backdrop to accent the pain and sorrow exuding from Skylar's emotional and heartfelt vocals.
According to Skylar, there's some truth to us being told that we were listening to "the devil's music" while listening to Rock & Roll. Rather than making excuses for some of her early life decisions she's chosen to just "Blame It On Rock & Roll". The smoker features hard rockin' rhythm led by the thunderous drum work of Brannen, and the killer tandem guitar work of Snuffy and Billy.
Along with the title of her last CD - Firebreather - most of the songs Skylar sings will attest to her being able to belt the hell out of a song. On the other hand, her ability to finesse the heck out of a ballad is equally impressive. "When It's Broken" is one of those songs where her softer side, along with a fabulous range, excels. Led by soft piano and faint organ highlights from Bennett, the whole band is simply silky, as well.
Although it wasn't the band Skylar was addressing on a track titled "Step It Up", that's just what everyone did anyway. Leaving the soft and silky stuff for the ballads, the guys are on fire on this honky-tonk rocker. Terry and Brannen have the rhythm in hard driving mode; while jumping back and forth from romping piano leads to pulsatory organ leads, Bennett is all over the keyboards. BTW, should you want to know who the song is actually addressed to, here's a hint....."If you want to be my man, I want to see your plan. Step it up".
"Between Friends" is a steamy ballad about a steamy love triangle. Once again, it features Skylar wearing her heart on her sleeve with an emotional yet sultry, jazz lounge singer style of delivery. As if using his trumpet to perform a duet with her, Darrell does a masterful job of mimicking Skylar's vocals with his trumpet. Outstanding to say the least.
On yet another gentle-woman-like performance of another relaxed ballad Skylar absolutely shines on the vocals. The song is titled "Apology Not Accepted" and it's basically her way of telling some loser she knows he'll never change. As melancholic as it is, the song is quite beautifully done.
Other tracks on this fabulous new release from Skylar Rogers include: "Love In The Left Lane"; "One Last Kiss"; "Ride That Lightning"; "Both Sides Of The Tale"; "Femininity"; and "The Water".
If you've not yet received a copy of Among The Insanity for airplay, please contact Betsie Brown at - www.blindraccoon.com - and should like to find out more about Skylar Rogers, just go to - www.skylarrogers.com. Remember, wherever you go and whomever you speak with, please tell them their friend the Blewzzman sent you and, above all, tell them that he wants some of those cream cheese pastries (they'll know what you mean).
With the liner notes and the one sheet both making mention of the facts that Tell The World, the second release by Sister Lucille, comes to us from a mighty team of women, I'd feel left out if I didn't show the ladies some love of my own. Right from the get go, fifty percent of the disc's songs were female written; the album was recorded, engineered and co-produced by Dawn Hopkins and Reba Russell - affectionately known as the "Blue Eyed Bitches"; the recording is released on Blue Heart Records, a female run label co-owned by Sallie Bengtson and Betsie Brown; with publicity and radio managed by Betsie; the CD design was done by Debra Clark Graphics; and since the opportunity for some shameless self-promotion is throwing itself at me, I will take the liberty of saying the disc is being reviewed by Mary4Music, a website developed by my partner Mary Roby.
Sister Lucille consists of Kimberly Dill on lead & background vocals; Jamie Holdren on guitar and lead & background vocals; Reed Smith Heron on bass; and Kevin Lyons on drums. For this project they were joined by Chris Stephenson on B3 and keys; Peter Climie on saxophone & horn arrangements; Will Paladino on trumpet; Freedman Steorts on trombone; Al Gamble on organ; Shawn Zorn on percussion; and Reba Russell on background vocals. Tell The World contains ten tracks of "Memphunk" - a very cool term the band coined to describe their style of play - with six of them being band originals.
For those of you who may not exactly get what type of music "Memphunk" refers to, the opening and title track - "Tell The World" (T. Adams/B. Webb) - should quickly clear that up for you - It's a perfect blend of Memphis soul and downright funk. The track finds Kimberly anxiously wanting to 'tell the world' how excited she is about finding love. Helping raise that excitement to a much higher level, it features the nucleus of the band in a frantically funky groove led by some wickedly wild whammy bar antics from Jamie; and an equally savage performance from Al (on his only appearance) on the organ, as he leads the fabulous horn section through the soulful contribution. Opening with this one, makes me think it was the band's way of saying "Okay, now that we have your attention.........".
On a song she wrote, - "Why Not You" - Reba Russell joins Kimberly on the vocals and the duet puts on a powerful presentation of a powerful song. With lyrics centering around the idea of "anything he can do, you can too" Reba and Kimberly repeatedly challenge each other to step up to the task with the chorus line of "Why not me, why not you?". In the meantime, with scorching slide guitar, thunderous rhythm, and profound percussion going on behind the ladies, Jamie, Reed, Kevin and Shawn have their own powerful thing going on.
On an original ballad titled "My Name Is Lucille", Kimberly emotionally takes on the alter ego of B.B. King's guitar.
....."My name is Lucille, and I love the King,
He knew just how to touch me, and how to make me feel.
He was gentle and soft, he did all the right things,
He knew just how to bend my strings.
My name is Lucille and, and I Love the King"........
describes the love that existed between them, and
....."He saved my life one night, in a fiery blaze,
He ran into the building, he pulled me from the haze.
We've never been apart since that night,
Until the day he went to the light.
My name is Lucille, and I love the King".....
tells of that night B.B. ran back into a burning club to fetch Lucille. (FYI, that fire took place in a club in Twist, AK and it was started by a woman named Lucille. You can hear B.B. tell the whole story - as only B.B. can - on his 1967 recording titled "Lucille").
I often hear an A cappella intro to a song that sounds so beautiful that it makes me think I could thoroughly enjoy the whole song being sung that way. Then what usually happens once the music kicks in, I wind up being quite happy it wasn't. "Ready For The Times To Get Better" (A. Reynolds) is both of those situations. Interestingly, Kimberly and the band did nothing to change the song and it sounds just as beautiful as it did when it was originally sung by Crystal Gayle close to fifty years ago. With her slight country accent and the band nailing the cool country groove they've got going on, I could easily see, and happily hear, Sister Lucille doing some real good cross genre stuff.
On another band original titled "My New Lovers', Kimberly boasts about not being a one-man woman, then she proceeds to mention some of those men by name while sassily rhyming some of their abilities and characteristics with their names. Now I'm wondering what the heck happened to guy she couldn't wait to 'tell the world' about?
The disc closes with a smoking shuffle titled "Soulful Dress" (M. McAllister/T. Vail). It's a dance floor filler with the hopping rhythm being kicked up a few notches with frolickin' piano leads from Chris; hot horn blowin' from Peter, Will and Freedman; and lively blues guitar licks from Jamie. In the meantime, Kimberly's flat out putting all the ladies on call 'cause when she struts into the party in her dress "that's cut way above her knees, with the V-cut back and spaghetti straps instead of sleeves", their men will most certainly fall to their knees. My addition to that is "if you don't think she can pull it off, look no further than the album's cover".
Other tracks on this excellent recording are four more originals titled: "Everytime (sic) I Leave", "Breaking My Heart", "Montezuma Red" and "Devil In A Red Suit".
If you've not yet received a copy of Tell The World for airplay, please contact Betsie Brown at - www.blindraccoon.com - and should like to find out more about Sister Lucille, just go to - www.sisterlucilleband.com. Remember, wherever you go and whomever you speak with, please tell them their friend the Blewzzman sent you.