Rory Block review…October 22, 2014….

RORY BLOCK

HARD LUCK CHILD

A TRIBUTE TO SKIP JAMES

STONY PLAIN RECORDS  SPCD 1373

NEHEMIAH JAMES–SPECIAL RIDER BLUES–CYPRESS GROVE BLUES–IF YOU HAVEN’T ANY HAY, GET ON DOWN THE ROAD–LITTLE COW AND CALF IS GONNA DIE BLUES–DEVIL GOT MY WOMAN–JESUS IS A MIGHTY GOOD LEADER–HARD TIME KILLING FLOOR BLUES–I’M SO GLAD–HARD LUCK CHILD

Rory Block is not only one of the most talented blueswomen on the planet, but she shares a connection no one else can lay claim to.  As a young girl eager to absorb everything she could about blues guitar, she had the good fortune to mentor with some of the Delta masters.  Her latest installment of this series is dedicated to Skip James, and is entitled “Hard Luck Child.”

Over the course of these ten songs, Rory gives us a glimpse thru her own stylings of the incredible talents of James.  She leads off with an original composition, “Nehemiah James,” which serves as a mythical biography of sorts, showing how, back in James’ day, the lines between life and death and blues and gospel were blurred, to say the least.  Rory sings that a young “Nehemiah Curtis James” was called upon by the Holy Spirit to “preach the blues.”

Rory’s take on “Cypress Grove Blues” shows the melancholy side of James’ personality, which appeared in varying degrees on many of his songs.  Lyrics such as “I’d rather be six feet in my grave” and “you gotta reap what you sow” show his predilection for the stark differences between life and death.  Then, with a cut such as “Little Cow And Calf Is Gonna Die Blues,” he deals with the same subject, yet this one follows a livelier, jazzy progression, further attesting James’ talents.

James always kept an ear to his gospel roots, and Rory shows this side of him thru “Jesus Is A Mighty Good Leader” and “I’m So Glad,” layering her guitar and vocal parts to give these a full band sound.

Our favorite was easy.  Skip James was as expressive on piano as he was on guitar.  Rory’s expertise allowed her to play Skip’s piano leads on her guitar.  As such, “If You Haven’t Any Hay, Get On Down The Road” turns into a good-natured, jazzy affair punctuated by Rory’s playful yelps, scat-singing, and deft slide runs.

Rory Block continues to solidify her place in the blues pantheon as she brings a brilliant tribute to Skip James, “Hard Luck Child.”  She faithfully captures his ebullient and eclectic spirit thru the eyes and ears of a woman fortunate enough to have known and mentored with him!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Fo’ Reel review….October 20, 2014…

FO’ REEL

HEAVY WATER

FO’ REEL BAND RECORDS

BREAKING UP SOMEBODY’S HOME–HEAVY WATER–LEAVE YOUR LOVE ALONE–BLUES–GATE–WHAT I CAN DO–WHAT’S GOING ON IN MY HOME–JUST AS I AM–SHAKE ‘N’ BAKE–OUTSIDE LOVE–TATER

Fo’ Reel is a New Orleans-based blues and funk band that is the brainchild of guitarist Mark Domizio.  The fellows bring to the table a serious groove that says a lot about the sounds coming out of the Crescent City. These cats have all been around, and have some serious resumes’, and it is a pleasure to hear them on this collaboration, entitled “Heavy Water.”  Joining Mark on this collection are ex-Allman Brother Johnny Neel on B-3 and keys, C. P. Love and Rick Lawson on vocals David Hyde on bass, and Daryl Burgess and Allyn Robinson on drums.  Also along for the ride is a full-blown horn section, too!

This set is as eclectic as it is energetic.  C. P.’s Delta-infused vocals kick things off with “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home,” while Mark’s expressive lead lines blend well with Rick’s vocals on the minor-key “Blues,” that lets us all know that, eventually, the blues gets us all.

“What I Can Do”  is characterized by Mark’s slide playing and C. P.’s vocals set over a Latin beat.  Johnny Neel’s B-3 adds a churchy, testifyin’ feel to C. P.’s “soul man” vocal read of “Just As I Am.”  “Shake ‘N’ Bake” is a super-cool shot of dance floor funk, while Mark’s slide keeps the deep blues groove of “Outside Love” moving over Rick’s impassioned vocals as he laments giving in to temptation and his “bad habits.”

We had two favorites, too.  The instrumental track, “Gate,” swings along a jazzy groove, and is done in tribute to the style of Gatemouth Brown.  And, the title cut is as cool as it gets,  about that place we all know, where you can “get a swig of Heavy Water,” to help “bring out the blues in me!!”

If you enjoy danceable, soul-drenched blues and funk, then “Heavy Water” is a set you will appreciate.  The musicianship is spot-on, and the fellows keep the groove alive throughout.  Fo’ Reel is for real, indeed!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Scott Ainslie review…October 19, 2014….

SCOTT AINSLIE

THE LAST SHOT GOT HIM

CATTAIL 2014

THE FIRST SHOT MISSED HIM–AVALON BLUES–LOVE IN VAIN–SAY IT ISN’T SO–LET THE MERMAIDS FLIRT WITH ME–GOT THE BLUES, CAN’T BE SATISFIED–WHEN I SEE AN ELEPHANT FLY–SALLY WHISKEY–HONEY RIGHT AWAY–AIN’T MISBEHAVIN–MONDAY MORNIN BLUES–LATE LAST NIGHT–CROSS ROAD BLUES–OVER THE RAINBOW

First off, Scott Ainslie’s release of “The Last Shot Got Him” is a brilliantly-conceiced  acoustic “concept album” of sorts.  Scott plays all these songs on an eighty-year old Gibson L-50 archtop with a large open sound hole.  And, all the cuts presented herein are a variety of songs that show the differences within popular music from the Thirties and Forties when this Gibson guitar was young.

A majority of the blues songs Scott sings are from the catalogue of Mississippi John Hurt.  The set leads off with Hurt’s title cut, where “the first shot missed him, but The Last Shot Got Him!”  It is done with Scott also playing a fretless gourd banjo.  Another John Hurt song is presented by Scott in a semi-light-hearted mood, even tho the song deals with death.  Hurt and W. E. Myers collaborated on the tale fo “saving all the undertaker’s bills, and Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me!”

The Rev. Gary Davis is represented by “Sally Whiskey,” while Scott’s original “Late Last Night” fits right in, done in the jazzy style of Django Reinhardt, and is a tribute to the 2008 invasion by Russia of the Republic Of Georgia.

There are several examples of what would be considered “pop standards” from this era, including “Ain’t Misbehavin,” “When I See An Elephant Fly,” (from Walt Disney’s “Dumbo”), and a brilliant rendition of “Over The Rainbow” that closes the set.

We had two favorites, too, both from the pen of Robert Johnson.  Scott gives a sweet rendition of Johnson’s tale of unrequited passion, the sparse “Love In Vain.”  And, Scott brings the chilling tale of “goin’ down to the cross roads,” to life with nary a mention of the Devil, in “Cross Roads Blues.”

Scott Ainslie has given us an excellent overview of blues and popular music from the Thirties and Forties.  He also shows the power of one voice, two hands, and one instrument over the course of “The Last Shot Got Him!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Soul Brothers review…October 18, 2014…

OTIS CLAY AND JOHNNY RAWLS

SOUL BROTHERS

CATFOOD RECORDS   CFR 021

ONLY YOU KNOW AND I KNOW–MOMMA DIDN’T RAISE NO FOOL–VOODOO QUEEN–WHAT BECOMES OF THE BROKENHEARTED–LIVING ON BORROWED TIME–TURN BACK THE HANDS OF TIME–ROAD DOG–POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL–HALLELUJAH LORD–WAITING ON DREAMS

Whenever two of the greatest living “soul men” of our generation come together, it is a sure bet that sparks will fly and there’ll be some fantastic music to be enjoyed.  We got a brief sample of what this album was going to sound like when Otis Clay guested on Johnny Rawls’ tribute to O. V. Wright, “Remembering O. V.,” and this collaboration is one of the year’s best.

It is entitled “Soul Brothers,” and showcases these two giants of R & B over ten cuts that are a Duke’s mixture of originals and covers.  Backed by a brilliant band, The Rays, these two icons hold nothing back in the performance of these songs.

We have always heard a touch of gospel in the Delaney, Bonnie, and Clapton classic, “Only You Know And I Know,” and Johnny and Otis bring that aspect of this song to the forefront.  Both men’s extensive gospel background is on full display as they give thanks for one more day in “Hallelujah Lord,” with excellent backup from Arlen, Jessica, and Jillian Ivey.

Their Southern soul roots blend in well on some fine cuts, too.  On the minor-key “Momma Didn’t Raise No Fool,” both men realize that the woman they are seeing is going to lead them down the road to ruin.  And, they do a memorable job on Al Basile’s tale of “money can’t buy happiness,” in “Poor Little Rich Girl.”

We had two favorites, too.  Even tho they are both covers, Johnny and Otis capture the spirit and the passion of the soul classics of the past, and none compared to their renditions of “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted,” and Tyrone Davis’  “Turn Back The Hands Of Time.”

We only had one complaint with Johnny Rawls and Otis Clay’s “Soul Brothers.”  We wished it could have about twice as long, because we simply cannot get enough of these two great singers plying their craft!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

Skyla Burrell review…October 17, 2014…

SKYLA BURRELL BAND

BLUES SCARS

GREENBROKE/VIZZTONE  VTSB22

BLUES SCARS–BLUESIN FOR YOUR LOVIN–TROUBLE–STUCK IN A STRUGGLE–LOVE LETTER IN BLUE–LIVIN FOR THE BLUES–SHUT YOU DOWN–LIFE STORMS–WORLD WIDE BLUES–FULL TIME GAMBLER–JACE–JUKE JOINTIN’ TONIGHT–6 MILE CEMETERY ROAD–21ST CENTURY BLUES–BAD BUSINESS

Skyla Burrell is not only an easy-on-the-eyes blues-shouting mama with incredible chops, she is just as impressive a guitarist as well.  She and co-founding guitarist Mark Tomlinson formed the Skyla Burrell Band in 2004, and they have been tearing up the club circuit all over the U. S., Europe, and Canada.  They pride themselves in their all-original material, and their current album, and fifth overall, is entitled “Blues Scars,” with nods to the ups and downs of traveling on the road as a blues combo.  Ezell Jones, Jr., adds drums, while Michelle Lucas is on bass, to round out the foursome.

Skyla has one of those perfect, whisky-soaked-with-honey voices that is full of the passion and conviction that it takes to be a great blueswoman.  They start things rockin’ with the funky backbeat of the title cut, and Skyla’s pronunciation of “temp-a-ture” is just as sexy-cool as it can be!  “Love Letter In Blue” is her ode to a lover, reassuring him that “no matter where you go is where I’ll be!”    “Life Storms” is a red-hot shot of roadhouse rock,  while her homage to the sorry state of world affairs is presented samba-ish style as “World Wide Blues.”

She takes a shot at a lover who’s always too busy with social media to pay attention to her, literally giving herr the “21ST Century Blues!” They close the set with a cool, stop-time rocker that has Skyla telling another cheatin’ lover that it’s “Bad Business, baby–always creepin’ around on me!”

We had three favorites, too.  Skyla’s ready for a night on the town, “movin’ and groovin’, Juke Jointin’ tonite!”  The band’s autobiography shows that “the blues ain’t easylivin’ life on the road,” and is entitled “Livin’ For The Blues,” and features some killer slide work.  And, “Trouble” is the story of a “bad boy” that Skyla just can’t resist, admitting that “he’s just what I had in mind!”  This one is set over a rockabilly beat, and Skyla has a lot of fun with the vocal!

With five albums to their credit, here’s hoping “Blues Scars” will bring the Skyla Burrell Band the breakout recognition they deserve!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society…

Annika Chambers update…October 14, 2014…

Annika Chambers has had a very busy career since the release of “Making My Mark” on the Montrose Records label.  Not only has this album exceeded all expectations, it has also afforded her other excellent career opportunities.

First off, she has successfully completed her degree in Communications from the University of Houston Downtown.  Musically speaking, she’s played with Memphis harp-blaster Brandon Santini at the 2014 IBC’s, and with Jeff Jensen at the BMA’s annual “Mess Around” prior to the awards show.

Festival-wise, Annika has played at the Springboard South Festival in Houston, as well as the Tall City Festival in Midland, TX.

It’s easy to see why Annika Chambers was nominated for a Best Blues in Houston award from the Free Press Houston, and has opened for Shemekia Copeland.  She’s a big-voiced lady with a talent to match!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

 

The John Weeks Band review…October 5, 2014…

JOHN WEEK BAND

JOHN WEEKS BAND

SELF-RELEASED

ALL  NIGHT–DEVIL IN MY HOUSE–WHY DON’T WE SLEEP ON IT–HOW CAN YOU LOVE ME–I WANT TO GET BACK HOME–YOU NEVER SAY WHAT YOU MEAN–MOVING ON

For their debut CD, the John Weeks Band blend all their influences over the last twenty years or so into the brash, bold blues that comprise the seven originals on this set.  John Weeks was born in France, and cut his teeth playing in the clubs around Paris in the 1990’s.  His guitar styles embody classic Delta and Chicago sounds, with a nod to modern contemporary as well.  Andras Csapo (AC) hails from Hungary, and his harp and B-3 work give nods to Muddy and Charlie Musselwhite.  Add in Curtis Hawkins on bass and Chooch Molinario on drums, and they lay down a deep groove that comes along with years of playing together.

John’s Texas influence is heard in the leadoff cut, “All Night,” with his lead work trading off over AC’s keyboard lines.  The deep, dark mud of the Delta is all over the acoustic-and-harp-driven tale of excesses, be they “heroin, hatred, jealousy, or spite,” entitled “Devil In My House.”  “Why Don’t We Sleep On It” is a rocked-out instrumental along the classic vein of Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, with stellar harp and guitar interplay.  The fellows get into a slow groove on the minor-key story of a love gone South in “How Can You Love Me?”  “I Want To Get Back Home” rocks along with funky staccato guitar leads and more big harp from AC.   “You Never Say What You Mean” has a jazzy, contemporary groove, while the set closes with perhaps its  most unusual cut.  “Moving On” chronicles the end of another love affair gone bad, this one set over a bouncing groove and AC’s killer B-3 riff.  John gets in some wild, spaced-out guitar work to close this one out.

Now based out of Denver, CO, The John Weeks Band has come full-circle.  Their eclectic, breakthrough sound of this  self-titled debut is a welcomed shot of good blues, indeed!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.