Bobby “Hurricane” Spencer review…November 11, 2014

 

BOBBY “HURRICANE” SPENCER

HURRICANE UNLEASHED

R MUSIC, INC.

GOTTA GET BACK TO CHICAGO–YOU’RE ALL I NEED–CAMARILLO–HONKY TONK-LOVER’S HILL–LITTLE MAMA–YOU MAKE ME CRAZY–MR. MAGIC–I GOT THE BLUES–BIG MAYBELLE–HOLLER’N AND WALLOW’N–CALL YOUR DOGS OFF

Bobby “Hurricane” Spencer began his career blowing his sax  in the rough-and-tumble Bay Area “chitlin circuit,” playing just about anything that was asked of him.  He now lives in L. A., and his latest release is titled “Hurricane Unleashed,” shows the various styles and genres’ that this seasoned veteran cut his teeth on.

Talk about a fun set.  This one kicks off with a shot of funky blues that bemoans Californa women—yep, “I Gotta Get Back To Chicago to find a woman whose love is true!”  A humorous request by Bobby to a no-good lover is to “check me in to Camarillo, baby, ’cause loving you has made me lose my mind,” Camarillo being a noted mental institution.

Bobby and guitarist Lester Lunds get back to their roots on the guitar-and-sax call-and-response reprise of Bill Doggett’s “Honky Tonk,” while there is a  definite gospel feel to the tale of forlorn lovers who go to “Lover’s Hill” to rekindle passion with a different person.

Mostly over this set, tho, Bobby is all about a good time.  Check out his ode to “Little Mama’s skinny jeans,” set over a rhumba-fied beat, which makes her “queen of the dance floor!”  At the other end of the spectrum is Bobby’s love for a plus-sized woman named “Big Maybelle,” and “when she squeezes me, she’s gonna break me in two!”  And, the set closes with a New Orleans-style rocker, “Call Your Dogs Off, baby!”

Our favorite was really easy.  For those of us who came of age in the Seventies, it  didn’t matter if you called it “mackin,” ‘making out,” or just plain “hookin’ up,” there wasn’t a better song to do it to than one of the baddest-@@@ lover’s jams of all time, Grover Washington, Jr.s instrumental classic, “Mr. Magic.”  Bobby recreates it here in a more uptempo version, and, as he says, “puts some dirt on it!”

Bobby “Hurricane” Spencer keeps that sax blowin’ and shows no sign of slowing down.  He covers both contemporary music and the music of his roots in this highly-energetic set, “Hurricane Unleashed!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Georgie Bonds review…November 10, 2014…

GEORGIE BONDS

STEPPING INTO TIME

8TH TRAIN RECORDS

ST JAMES INFIRMARY–THE BLACKSMITH–WHAT MORE–LORD OH LORD–DAILY NEWS–DYIN’ IS THE EASY WAY–CALLING YOUR NAME–GOING SHOPPING–OUT OF THE FRYIN’ PAN–I NEED SOMEBODY–HURRICANE BLUES–DIMPLES

Georgie Bonds grew up in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, finding a fascination with horses who were ridden by folks in a nearby park, so much so that he purchased his own horse at age twenty-one.  He even took up blacksmithing as a trade, becoming, indeed, a modern-day “urban cowboy.”

He also learned to play guitar and sing for his own entertainment, until life got in the way, as it always does.  A near-fatal reaction to some prescription drugs nearly did him in, but he persevered, even thru some subsequent jail time.  This man has some serious “street cred,” (as if he needed any!), and his practice has paid off with the release of “Stepping Into Time,” ten originals and wo covers that find him expounding on love, life, his livelihood, and topical looks at the decay of today’s society, his powerful vocals and tasteful backing musicians bringing it all home.

You gotta love the double-entendres’ that ride over the slide of Neil Taylor and Buddy Cleveland’s harp as Georgie’s swagger lets us know that his tongs are in one hand and his hammer will find the spot!  A jazzy riff crafted by Dave Renz’ sax has Georgie admitting that he had some past transgressions, but once you get “three rooms and a good woman, What More does a poor man need?”

The brooding, minor-key slow-blues of “Daily News” tells a sad tale of our own moral decay, on display each night on TV.  “Hurricane Blues” can be added to that same metaphorical list, as Georgie warns of those “storm clouds comin’ and the skies are getting dark!”  The set closes with Georgie taking an adventurous romp thru the stop-time endless boogie of the Hook’s “Dimples.”  (Please continue to listen after it’s over for a bonus cut…).

We had two favorites, too.  Hard-core funk rocks the tale of poor Georgie, who has all the money he needs, but “still can’t find nothing to fix my heart.”  And, curiously, Georgie opens with perhaps the most poignant cut on the set,  an a cappella version of “St. James Infirmary.  This is a maudlin song indeed, and Georgie’s sparse, jaw-dropping vocal read only adds to the power of the performance.

Georgie Bonds has lived to realize two dreams—to be a cowboy and a singer.Add to that the fact that he’s overcome more adversity than most people can imagine, making “Stepping Into Time” a highly-personal statement and an excellent set of blues!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

Whitey Johnson review…November 9, 2014…

WHITEY JOHNSON

WHITEY JOHNSON

SLOW MOVING RECORDS

MEMPHIS WOMEN AND CHICKEN–LIVIN’ IT DOWN–BRILLIANT CONVERSATIONALIST–EVERY TIME I SING THE BLUES–BLUES IN BLACK AND WHITE–DEVIL GOIN’ FISHIN’–JACKSBORO HIGHWAY–WORRY B GONE–I NEED TO KNOW–LIE NO BETTER–HOUSE IS ROCKIN–YES WE CAN

Gary Nicholson, Whitey Johnson’s alter-ego, has been responsible for some of the best-known and most-played songs over the last thirty years.  He’s had songs recorded by Delbert, T. Graham Brown, and Lee Roy Parnell, to name just a few.

As he tells it, Whitey Johnson was borne from a short story that Gary wrote about a guitar player from his home in Garland, TX.  He was a black albino that  everyone called “Whitey,” who came to a tragic end at the hands of the Klan.  When Gary performs as Whitey, he plays with the passion for the blues that Whitey had, and that is the premise behind the twelve cuts that make up Whitey’s self-titled album.

Along with Whitey on guitar and vocals, he  is joined by some of Music City’s premier sidemen, including Steve Cropper, Anson Funderburgh, and Colin Linden on guitars, Willie Weeks and Dave Roe on bass, Kevin McKendree on keys,  Jim Hoke on harp, and Bryan Owings and Tom Hambridge on drums.

The party starts with Whitey needing some food and a little lovin, and nothin’s better than “Memphis Women And Chicken.”  A very well-built woman who always “lets her walkin’ do the talkin’ is the hot subject of “Brilliant Conversationalist,” while Whitey tells his cheatin’ woman that “If you can’t Lie No Better than that, you might as well tell the truth!”

Our favorites leaned more toward the Delta-flavored, acoustic-themed cuts.  Check out getting just “one more sip of that Worry Be Gone” to see things in a much clearer light!  “Devil Goin’ Fishin” is a cool song about the many traps you can fall into, and “he’s done caught his limit, but he’s always lookin’ for more!”  And, that “endless boogie” of “Jacksboro Highway” takes you down to a foreboding place where “there’s always something goin’ on,” and it might be “murder in the first degree!”

Whitey Johnson has a seemingly-infinite wellspring of tales to tell over his rich, resonant guitar playing. We can attest that he is awesome in a live setting, and this album is the next best thing to being there!!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

 

Stacy Mitchhart review…November 9, 2014…

STACY MITCHHART

LIVE MY LIFE

DR SAM RECORDS  DSR 012

I DRINK WHISKEY–COME TOGETHER–SHE KNOWS WHAT TO DO–VOODOO DOLL–SOUL STROLL–BETTER OFF DEAD–LIVE MY LIFE–I’M THE REASON (SHE WALKS THAT WAY)–LEGEND IN HIS OWN MIND–BOOGIE BAR AND BBQ–CAT BOWL BLUES–WORRIED MIND BLUES

For those of us who have been fortunate enough to see Stacy Mitchhart live, then you know he is the consummate showman, always bringing the crowd everything he’s got, every night.  But, for those of us who have known him for a while, there’s a Delta soul hiding out under those silk suits, one who enjoys the power and passion of the region that brought the blues to life in the first place.

For his latest album, “Live My Life,” it is Stacy’s return to his roots that makes this set a special one.  There are twelve cuts, and he does keep one foot in the soul-blues genre’ for several cuts, but it is the cuts that Stacy plays  with his cigar-box guitars and other traditional instruments that give this set its unique flavor.

Stacy is a fantastic guitarist and singer, and he wrote or co-wrote six of the songs herein.  He kicks off the festivities with a powerhouse ode to his favorite libation, “I Drink Whiskey.”  This one features harp from Jacob Tipton and the horn section of Corey Distefano and Jules Caldarera.  This one ends with Stacy name-checking everyone from Jim Beam to Evan Williams as Stacy “drinks to remember all the reasons I’m not with you!”  “Soul Stroll” is one of those good-time, old-school instrumentals with Stacy’s guitar leading the way over the horns and B-3.  Stacy even explores a jazzy vibe on his cover of Gil Scott-Heron’s story of the man who “had more women than Detroit had cars,” the self-proclaimed “Legend In His Own Mind.”

The title cut is a killer Hill-Country stomper, fueled by Stacy’s three-stringed cigar box guitar, Jacob’s country-blues harp, and the freight-train pounding of Darin James’ drums.  “Cat Bowl Blues” is anotherexcellent instrumental, and the set closes with Stacy’s original “Worried Mind,” done here by Stacy on ukelele and dobro.

We had two favorites, too. Stacy chooses a four-stringed cigar box guitar to catch that “flattop, groovin’ up slowly,” in a brilliant acoustic read of “Come Together.”  And, one of his soul-blues cuts describes his woman and her long legs, and the fact that “I’m The Reason (She Walks That Way!)

Stacy Mitchhart has found his hoodoo man’s soul deep in the grooves of “Live My Life.”  He’s loving what he’s doing, and is comfortable in doing it. This set is his defining moment!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow,  The Nashville Blues Society.

Devon Allman review…November 8, 2014…

DEVON ALLMAN

RAGGED AND DIRTY

RUF RECORDS  1205

HALF THE TRUTH–CAN’T LOSE ‘EM ALL–LEAVIN–I’LL BE AROUND–TRAVELING–MIDNIGHT LAKE MICHIGAN–TEN MILLION SLAVES–BLACKJACK HEARTATTACK–BACK TO YOU–TIMES  HAVE CHANGED–RAGGED AND DIRTY–LEAVE THE CITY

Devon Allman has been working virtually non-stop since the 2012 self-titled debut of the Royal Southern Brotherhood.  Around that same time, Devon released his dazzling solo debut, “Turquoise,” as well.  The RSB released theid second album earlier this spring, “heartsoulblood,” and now Devon has released his second solo offering, the highly-adventurous “Ragged And Dirty.”  For this set, Devon ventured away from his “comfort zone” of the South, opting for Chicago, to get a bluesier sound.  Tom Hambridge serves as producer and drummer, while Devon is on guitar and vocals, Felton Crews is on bass, Giles Corey is also on guitar, and  Marty Sammon handles the keyboards.

Devon has worked diligently to establish his own identity, and this set, along with his work with RSB has done much to make him his own man, altho he is well-aware of his famous family’s heritage in the Southern-Rock genre.’

Devon leads off with the super-charged boogie that drives a classic cheatin’ tale, where “Half The Truth is still a lie!”  “Can’t Lose “Em All” has Devon on a losing streak, but keeps on pressing because he knows “the tables will turn someday.”  Devon and Wendy Moten give an authentic read to The Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around,” while, at the other end of the spectrum, trance-like guitars and percussion drive this ultra-rare cover of an Otis Taylor song, “Ten Million Slaves,” reminding us of centuries of social injustices.  Devon’s deep-blues solos coupled with Marty’s keyboard work make “Back To You” an excellent ballad, while the set closes with the poignant “Leave The City,” very sparsely-arranged with only Tom’s beats over Devon’s resonator guitar and vocal pleas to return to a simpler way of life.

We had two favorites, too.  Devon breaks off some seriously-funky blues over cool echo-effect vocals as he recounts the thrill of “chasin’ that twenty-one,” “Blackjack Heartattack.”  And, Devon shows a softer side with the wistful story of life and its myriad of choices, “Leavin, but I don’t know where!”

Devon Allman has grasped a solid writer’s mentality over the course of the cuts that comprise “Ragged And Dirty.”  He’s learned to convey the story of the song in the simplest way possible, and he has done so while forging his own identity as a musician.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The  Nashville Blues Society.

Markus James review…November 6, 2014…

MARKUS JAMES

HEAD FOR THE HILLS

FIRENZE RECORDS  014

JUST SAY YES–GOIN’ DOWN SOUTH–HEAD FOR THE HILLS–SHAKE–SUIT OF GOLDEN CLOTHES–FOR BLIND WILLIE–GONE LIKE TOMORROW–FALLIN FROM THE SKY–NOMO–HEAD FOR THE HILLS–ON A MISSISSIPPI PORCH–SLEEPYHEAD–CANDYLAND REFUGEE–DIDDLEY BOW AND BUCKETS–GREEN

Markus James has been playing his slide guitar, one-stringed cigar box guitar, gourd banjo, as well as many other stringed instruments, with West African musicians since 1994, when he made a pilgrimage to Mali and the home of Ali Farka Toure.  He was also friends with Jessie Mae Hemphill, those two often reminiscing over how much the sounds of West Africa had in common with the North Mississippi Hill Country that Jessie called home.  That is the theme of Markus’ latest album, aptly-titled “Head For The Hills.”  Over the course of these sixteen cuts, Markus and his array of stringed instruments, brings the Hill Country literally to life, with the aid of five renowned drummers from that region.  Each drummer brings a distinct sound and feel to Markus’ guitar playing and singing.  They are Kinney Kimbrough, son of Junior Kimbrough, Calvin Jackson, Bill Turner, R. L. Boyce, and Marlon Green.  The recordings took place where the juke joints rule, in Como, Luxahoma, Holly Springs, and Senatobia, MS.

Markus comes out like the proverbial wampus cat, with his slide blazing, the echo-effect vocals of “Just Say Yes in a world of no,” driven along by Kinney”s powerhouse skin-pounding.  “Shake” features Calvin Jackson riding the freight-train boogie of this one, augmented by Markus’ wailing harp.  Calvin’s unique “hamboning” skills, a method of drumming with only the hands,  are put to use on “Fallin’ From The Sky” and the slide-heavy instrumental, “On A Mississippi Porch,” which is precisely where it was recorded!  Bill Turner, long-associated with the fife-and-drum bands of Otha Turner,  adds drums on the tale of  a world that can change without warning, the ethereal Candyland Refugee.”

We had two favorites, sort of.  Markus and Kinney lay down a monster groove on the ‘lectrified version of the title cut, while Calvin’s hamboning is irresistible on the acoustic version of this one, dealing with the consequences of life’s excesses, sometimes making it necessary to “Head For The Hills!”

Markus James has an unbridled passion for the music of West Africa and the Hill Country.  His choice of drummers has added to the eclecticism of this set, which will definitely lift your spirits and cleanse your soul!  Until next time…Don and Sheryl Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

The Sackville All-Star Christmas Record review…November, 4, 2014…

THE SACKVILLE ALL-STARS

THE SACKVILLE ALL-STAR CHRISTMAS ALBUM

SACKVILLE SK 3038

SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN–WE THREE KINGS–AT THE CHRISTMAS BALL–WINTER WONDERLAND–GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN–GOOD KING WENCESLAUS–SANTA CLAUS CAME IN THE SPRING–SILENT NIGHT–LET IT SNOW–OLD TIME RELIGION

The Sackville label was started in Toronto, Canada, in 1968, by John Norris and Bill Smith, and is predominantly a jazz label.  Many of the greats have recorded for this imprint,  and, indeed, an All-Star caliber cast of players came together for “The Sackville All-Star Christmas Album,” released on vinyl in 1986, and every bit the classic it was back then.  Thanks to the folks at Delmark for making this one available to us.

For this set, Ralph Sutton, one of the great stride pianists of all time is on keys.  Milt Hinton, known for “slapping” his bass, is one of the most prolifically-recorded bassists, having appeared on over a thousand sessions, is on bass, with Gus Johnson on drums and Scottish-born Jim Galloway on soprano sax.  They perform several well-known Christmas classics, as well as a few tunes that are in keeping with the spirit and themes of the holidays.

If traditional Christmas is what you are seeking, then you can’t go wrong with this album.  The sax and piano call-and-response is excellent throughout “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” and again on the somber “Silent Night.”  Check out  Milt’s waaay-cool solo in “We Three Kings,”  and Jim’s snazzy sax work on “Winter Wonderland,” and on the rhumba-fied beat of “Let It Snow.”

If the traditional is not your thing, no worries.  These fellows do an excellent job on Bessie Smith’s “At The Christmas Ball,” and  they close the set with an outright swingin’ version of “Old Time Religion.”

“The Sackville All-Star Christmas Album” will work for you with just about anything you have planned.  You can easily play it in the office, while you are trimming the tree, or opening packages on the big day.  This is a great holiday collection from an All-Star cast, indeed!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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