Smith And Wesley review…August 3, 2015…

SMITH AND WESLEY

CHOICES AND CHANCES

GARAGE DOOR RECORDS  GDR 7212015

THIRTY PIECES–WHISKEY–BOTTLE’S HALF FULL–NEED SOMEBODY BAD–ROLL ON SMOOTHLY–SAVE ME–PROVE MY LOVE–YOU’RE THE ONE–I LOVE LOVING YOU–SWEET LIFE–COUNTRY DREAMS

Country music group Smith And Wesley hail from the Chattanooga, TN–Northern Georgia area, what we think of as “Tritt Country,” as ole Travis Tritt also hails from nearby Kennesaw, GA.  And, you can hear a lot of Tritt’s swagger in their debut album, “Choices And Chances.”  It’s eleven band originals that encompass Southern rock, contemporary and traditional country, and even a bit of blues.

The band derives its name from the singing Smith brothers, Scott on lead vocals and Todd on harp and harmony vocals.  Wesley was the name of their father, who recently passed away, and the band now uses his name in a fitting tribute.  This album is meant to be enjoyed in a “start to finish” fashion, as well.  The first half of the set is peppered with “choices,” most of which come with hefty consequences.  The leadoff cut is a Southern-rock-influenced tale of the fellows’ grandfather, who crossed a coal mine picket line “to keep his family fed,” and his so-called friends sold him out for that biblical “Thirty Pieces.”  One is not likely to find an answer to life’s problems by “swimmin’ in a Whiskey river,” but you know the price is steep if you try.  And, if you find the pain of loss too much to bear and you need something stronger than liquor, you might just “Need Somebody Bad tonight, because I just lost somebody good.”

The second half of the set deals with making more mature choices, finding true love, and eventual redemption.  “Prove My Love,” “I Love Loving You,” and “You’re The One” are excellent examples of the band’s softer side.

We had two favorites, too.  One of the “choices” songs is a stone traditional honky-tonker where you know there’s trouble comin’ when “The Bottle’s Half Full.”  And, Danny Shirley of Confederate Railroad fame guests on vocals as the fellows vow to keep “chasin’ those Country Dreams ’til the day I die,” just as Haggard, Jones, and a host of others before them did.

Smith And Wesley are as good or better than a lot of acts drawin’ a fat check down on Music Row.  Excellent musicianship, strong songs, and tight harmonies that only brothers could produce make “Choices And Chances” a set that begs to be heard.  And, if their July 28th show at Nashville’s City Winery was any indication, these guys are ready to bust out in a big way!  Best of luck, guys!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Andra Faye and Scott Ballantine review…August 1, 2015…

ANDRA FAYE AND SCOTT BALLANTINE

COULDA WOULDA SHOULDA

VIZZTONE  VT-AFSB-01

WALKIN HOME TO YOU–CRACKHEADED MAN–IT’S A NEW DAY–TAKE IT SLOW–BLUES FOR A CRAPPY DAY–TOO MUCH BUTT (FOR ONE PAIR OF JEANS)–ONE DREAM AT A TIME–COULDA WOULDA SHOULDA–STANDING IN THE NEED OF PRAYER–WORKIN MAMA IS GONE–FEELS LIKE RAIN–WHEN YOU GONNA STOP YOUR DRINKIN?–CLYDE

Andra Faye gained notoriety as a member of Saffire–The Uppity Blues Women, known for her brilliant blues mandolin and violin stylings.  Scott Ballantine made his mark as a guitarist who embraces all genres’, and plays them all exceedingly well.  For their second collaboration, entitled “Coulda Woulda Shoulda,”  for Vizztone, they combine their talents for eight originals and five covers that showcases not only their stringed and vocal abilities, but their strong songwriting as well.

Andra and Scott play all the instruments on this predominantly-acoustic set (save for a few cuts with Andra on amplified bass), and they kick things off with Andra’s fiddle paired with Scott’s guitar on the lively “Walkin’ Home To You.”  Scott adds duet vocals on the tale of “layin’ down your troubles” because “It’s A New Day!”  That feeling of redemption resurfaces a few cuts later with “One Dream At A Time,” and Andra goes into torch-song mode for a request for her lover to “turn on the stereo” and just “Take It Slow.”  Scott takes the lead vocal with Andra backing him at the chorus on the traditional gospel of “Standing In The Need Of Prayer.”

The set had plenty of light-hearted moments, too.  The title cut takes a humorous look at life’s chances and consequences, while Andra is asked “When You Gonna Quit Your Drinkin,” and her answer is simple—“when there’s a better way to get that good whiskey down!”

We had two favorites, too.  Scott’s shimmering guitar leads are reminiscent of a brewing storm on the John Hiatt classic, “Feels Like Rain.”  And, be it Valenti or Calvin Klein or whoever the designer might be, Andra just has “Too Much Butt (For One Pair Of Jeans)!”  This one is playful, flirty, and a heckuva lot of fun!

“Coulda Woulda Shoulda” brings together two great talents in the blues world—Andra Faye and Scott Ballantine.  Their music fits as easily as a hand in a glove, and this set’s vintage vibe makes it special, indeed!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Joel Zoss review…July 30, 2015…

JOEL ZOSS

FLORIDA BLUES

BLUZPIK RECORDS 2015

HAVE YOU SEEN MY RIDER–PAPERS OF LIGHT–VODKA AND RED BULL–THE RIDDLE SONG–STREET VET CHANT–KEY TO THE HIGHWAY–TWO FISH–ALBERT’S SONG–GOODNIGHT IRENE–FOLLOW ME I’LL TURN YOUR MONEY GREEN

Guitarist Joel Zoss began his career in Chicago, working with many blues legends, opening shows for Etta James and B. B.  His stock as a composer took off after Bonnie Raitt cut two of his songs, “Too Long At The Fair” and “I Gave My Love A Candle.”  His latest set, recorded with his acoustic trio, is “Florida Blues.”  Recorded and mixed by Grammy winner Ron Taylor at Echo Beach Studios in Jupiter, FL, Joel combines his own compositions with a few classics that showcase his brilliant fingerpicking skills.  His trio consists of Jeff Adkins on bass, Matt Calderin on drums, and Jeff Harding, the set’s producer, on guitar on one cut.

The set starts with the easy groove of “Have You Seen My Rider,” with its tales of a “bad moon rising” and “hoodoo you,” with a fine solo at the bridge.  “Papers Of Light” follows a samba-esque pattern, while the old-time feel of “Albert’s Song” takes a tongue-in-cheek look at life in The Sunshine State, full of “pythons in my back yard” and where it’s “too damn hot to contemplate.”

He does two fine covers also.  “Key To The Highway” has that sweet solo from Jeff Harding, while “Goodnight Irene” has a rolling rhythm pattern repeated throughout.

We had two favorites, too.  If “Vodka And Red Bull” doesn’t cause your heart to blow outta your chest, you are bound to “get a good buzz on!”  And, perhaps the set’s most intriguing cut is an ode to homeless vets, “Street Vet Chant.”  Many of them suffer in silence, admittedly “disenfranchised and scary as Hell,” and whose best friends are “my forty-four and my three-five-seven!”

Joel Zoss, on “Florida Blues,” plays these blues they way the Delta masters intended–straight from the soul, and just as natural as puttin’ on your walkin’ shoes!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Small Blues Trap review…July 28, 2015…

SMALL BLUES TRAP

TIME THRICKS

ANAZITISI RECORDS

GAMBLIN–THIS LITTLE TUNE–TIME TRICKS–I WISH I COULD FLY–A STRONG SHADE OF RED–I’M LEAVIN’ THIS TOWN–JESSE JAMES

Probably, one would not immediately think of blues when one thinks of Greece.  But, the trio known as Small Blues Trap have been carryin’ that blues bidness on way over in Greece for some eleven years now.  Their fifth set, recorded at the Shelter Home Studio in the city of Malesina is entitled “Time Tricks.” seven of the unique originals that this band has become noted for.

With an unmistakable vocal delivery that sounds like a cross between Joe Cocker and Hans Theesink, Paul Karapiperis also plays guitar and harp.  On bass is Lefteris Besios, and on second guitar, violin, and percussion is Panagiotis Daras.   There’s a lot of good blues over this set, and the band is not afraid to push the envelope and use modern technology to create their desired sound.

“Gamblin” opens the set, using layered guitars to convey a message reminiscent of the days of the Old West here in the States, along with Paul’s mournful harp on this sly story of “snake eyes,’ a “rabbit’s foot,” and “holding the Queen in my arms last night.”  The set closes in a similar vein with a two-part instrumental.  It seems that “Jesse James” came back from the dead to take care of some unfinished busness.  The beginning follows a marching beat over guitar lines, then gives way to a strong, acoustic guitar, Delta-inspired climax.

“I Wish I Could Fly” is a good shot of funk, over a stuttering backbeat and echo-ey harp reminiscent of Bobby Rush.  The fellows use guitars, violin, and a unique percussion pattern to convey “A Strange Shade Of Red,” while our favorite, fellas, was just too short.  It’s a Robert Johnson-inspired, Chicago blues tune with biting guitar and harp, with Paul “puttin’ on my walkin’ shoes and Leavin’ This Town!”

Small Blues Trap scores big again with “Time Tricks.”  The future of Grecian blues is sho’ nuff in good hands with this well-rounded trio!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The nashville Blues Society.

 

 

Albert Cummings review…July 24, 2015….

ALBERT CUMMINGS

SOMEONE LIKE YOU

BLIND PIG RECORDS   BPCD 5166

NO DOUBT–I FOUND YOU–UP YOUR SLEEVE–MOVIN’ ON–SO STRONG–FINALLY IN LOVE–MAKE UP YOUR MIND–MEATLOCKER–I’M IN LOVE WITH YOU–OLD DOG–STAY AWAY FROM MY SISTER

For his latest set, which also marks his return to Blind Pig Records, blues-rock Stratocaster blaster Albert Cummings looks at love, life, and relationships thru his own eyes, as well as thru the eyes of old dogs, little birds, and protective siblings.  It all comes together in the twelve original cuts that comprise “Someone Like You.”  This set was produced by David Z, and a stellar cast of backing musicians includes Mike Finnigan on keys, Tony Braunagel on drums, Reggie McBride on bass, and Jimmy Vivino guesting on guitar on three cuts.

The rock-fest kicks off with Albert’s tale of a lover doin’ a little midnite creepin’.  And, “when there’s a doubt, there’s No Doubt” what’s going down!  Another lover who thinks she’s foolin’ Albert finds out “I know what you got Up Your Sleeve” with his Strat blazin’ on this uptempo groover.  He shows a “ballad” side with the title cut, featuring Jimmy Vivino on guitar, and a cut that deals with things that hold a relationship together, “what makes us So Strong.”

The longer this set goes, the harder Albert rocks it, leading to our three favorites.  That “Old Dog”  we alluded to earlier wonders aloud “how I ever dug up a bone like you!”  This one rocks from the git-go as does the set-closer, with that protective brother warning a bad-news suitor to “Stay Away From My Sister.”  This one has Mike really laying down some fine roadhouse piano, over Albert’s burnin’ fretwork.  Our other favorite is seven minutes of slow-blues bliss, as Albert and Jimmy Vivino trade licks on the sly tale of that “Little Bird” that tells everything she knows, consequences be damned!

Just like the houses that master carpenter Albert Cummings builds from the ground up, his blues are built to last.  Add to that the fact that on “Someone Like You,” all the cuts were virtually done in one take, showing why Albert loves the spontaneity of his music!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Jay Stollman review…July, 24, 2015…

JAY STOLLMAN

ROOM FOR ONE MORE

FEATURING DEBBIE DAVIES

NUMBER 7 RECORDS

RIDE ‘TIL I’M SATISFIED–I’M DONE–TIRED OF TRYIN–LONESOME IN MY BEDROOM–I’D RATHER DRINK MUDDY WATER–A CHANGE IS GONNA COME–PUCKER UP BUTTERCUP–BACK TO MEMPHIS–TUMBLE–CAN’T SLOW DOWN–ANOTHER NIGHT TO CRY–DEVIL IN DISGUISE–LOVE ME AND LEAVE ME–ROOM FOR ONE MORE

Jay Stollman is a fire-and-brimstone vocalist from the East Coast who has one of those gravelly, Jack Daniels-burnished voices that is simply perfect for the blues.  He recently guested on vocals on Debbie Davies’ “Love Spin” album, and she returns the favor on Jay’s latest, “Room For One More.”  It is a good mix of covers and originals which showcase his incredible vocal chops.  Those chops will soon be on display everywhere, as the family and band of the late Johnny Winter just tabbed Jay to fill the vocal role on the upcoming Johnny Winter Remembrance Tour.

This album is full of the things that one is likely to hear on this upcoming tour.  Jay and Debbie kick off the proceedings with Walter Trout’s rousing ode to life as a bluesman, “Ride ‘Til I’m Satisfied.”  Everyone gets in a funkified mood for the soulful “Pucker Up Buttercup,” with Debbie on backing vocal, and Matt Zeiner’s piano.

Jay brings classic blues to the table, with the slow-burn of “Lonesome In My Bedroom” and Lonnie Johnson’s “Another Night To Cry over you.”  Jay gives a great read on a couple of iconic tunes, “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water,” with cool stop-time guitar from Debbie, and again with a sanctified-and-soulful, “A Change Is Gonna Come.”  He close the set on another powerful note, with a song written along with Andy Abel, who adds the chilling acoustic slide guitar on “Room For One More.”

We had two favorites, too.  Another original from Jay and Scott Spray is the sly, second-line strut of a man who’s only interested in a woman who’ll “Love Me And Leave Me!”  And, Jay captures the spirit of Johnny Winter with “Tired Of Tryin,” from Johnny’s “Nothin But The Blues” album.  Kevin Totoian’s harp also is spot-on, as he makes everything click by nailing an extra-long solo at the bridge, much like James Cotton’s original.

Jay Stollman’s stock is bound to rise on the strength of the upcoming Johnny Winter tributes, and with killer sets such as “Room For One More!”  He’s a great singer, making this a “don’t miss” set!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

Ted Drozdowski’s Scissormen review…July 21, 2015…

TED DROZDOWSKI’S SCISSORMEN

LOVE AND LIFE

DOLLY SEZ WOOF RECORDS   DSW 002

BEGGIN’ JESUS–LETTER FROM HELL–THE RIVER–WATERMELON KID–LET’S GO TO MEMPHIS–R. L. BURNSIDE (SLEIGHT RETURN)–CAN’T BE SATISFIED–BLACK LUNG FEVER–DREAMING ON THE ROAD–LIVED TO TELL–UNWANTED MAN (FOR WEEPIN WILLIE ROBINSON)

For the latest set from Ted Drozdowski’s Scissormen, “Love And Life,’ the duo of guitarist-vocalist Ted Drozdowski and drummer Matt Snow becomes a trio with the addition of bassists Marshall Dunn and Robert E. McClain, Jr., and enlist special guests Paul Brown, from Bobby Rush’s outfit, on keys, and Mighty Sam McClain on a guest vocal.

Before moving to Nashville, Ted spent a lot of time in the North Mississippi Hill Country, and he is doing a great job in “carryin’ that bidness on” of the sounds of the legends from that region, including Jessie Mae Hemphill, Junior Kimbrough, and R. L. Burnside.  Ted also wanted each song to tell a story, all the while incorporating his “anything goes” approach to blues guitar.  If you want a good example of his uniqueness, check out his old group, The Devil Gods, and their burnin’ version of “V-8 Ford Blues!”  Ted uses modern technology to effectively layer the sounds of his guitars to give this music his desired sound.  The party starts with a tune laying bare man’s constant battle between good and evil, “Beggin’ Jesus,” because “on the road to perdition, I’m payin’ every toll.”  It has a killer slide solo, also.  Ted uses echo-effects, and Matt’s drumming lead the way in a cool tribute to the “man with the superior mind,” bluesman and Mensa member Bill Homans, ol’ Watermelon Slim himself.  It’s presented here as “Watermelon Kid,” and “you can write a book about all the things he’s did!”

Ted busts out his homemade one-string diddley bow for a psycho-blues read of Muddy’s “Can’t Be Satisfied,” and pays tribute to “two grandpas I never knew,” both of whom died from “Black Lung Fever” before he was born.

We had three favorites, too.  First up is a sweet Stax-like soul tune with vocals from Mighty Sam McClain, pleading with a lover to “Let’s Go To Memphis, and paint Beale Street red!”  Paul Brown’s organ work, coupled with Sam’s vocal read gives this one a real churchy, sanctified feel.  Ted recounts a dream in “R. L. Burnside (Sleight Return)” over an ultra-funky groove where R. L. comes back to “drink some whiskey and watch Amos ‘N’ Andy on TV!”  And, proof that Ted really wanted to get weird and have some fun on this set, is Ted’s echo-soaked Letter From Hell,” where “it’s kinda warm, but the Devil treats me well!!”  Matt’s stompin’ beats and Ted’s hellhound slide make this one as eerie as a moonlight trip to the Crossroads on Friday The 13th.

Ted graciously sent us an autographed review copy of “Love And Life,” with an inscription that reads, “It’s Alive!”  It’s that Colin Clive, mad-scientist mantra that makes his music so unique, and with his love for the blues and the spirit of the Hill Country legends as a backdrop, this set is an avant-garde blues gem!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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