Gina Sicilia EP review…September 29, 2016…

GINA SICILIA

SUNSET AVENUE

BLUE ELAN’ RECORDS   BER 1028

ABANDONED–NEVER GONNA END–I CRIED–TELL HIM–THEY NEVER PAY ME

Gina Sicilia has been a Nashville resident for the last few years, but for her latest EP on the Blue Elan’ label, “Sunset Avenue,” she returned to her native Philly  to work with Grammy-winning producer Glenn Barratt.  Over these five cuts, Gina gives us more of her powerhouse vocals and songwriting that has become her trademark since she burst onto the contemporary scene ’bout ten years ago with her debut, “Allow Me To Confess.”

The leadoff cut woulda been right at home on any Nashville stage last week  during the Americana Music Fest, with Gina’s vocals riding over guitars from Glenn and Ron Jennings as she sings of a love that “took me, then Abandoned me!”  Two lovers who’ve dug such a deep chasm of resentment between themselves are the subject of the soulfully-bittersweet “Never Gonna End,” with piano from Walter Runge.  “I Cried” finds our heroine goin’ down to the river to pour her heart out when life gets too tough to bear, trying desperately to “wash the fear off my shoulders and the worry off my mind.”  The set closes with a rallying cry aimed at the fickle nature of the music biz, “I work, I work, but They Never Pay Me,” and swears redemption with “they ain’t seen the last of me yet!”

“Sunset Avenue” is a prime example of Gina Sicilia’s vow to never let her music become stale or formulaic.  She’s always striving to improve, and she’s raised the bar, indeed, with this set!  Until next time..Sheryl and Don Crow.

The Bob Lanza Blues Band review…September 26, 2016…

THE BOB LANZA BLUES BAND

TIME TO LET GO

CONNOR RAY MUSIC

MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS–TIME TO LET GO–WHEN THE SUN COMES UP–YOUR TURN TO CRY–RUSH’N’ THE BLUES–FOLLOW YOUR HEART–DON’T GO NO FURTHER–LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME–YOU’RE NOT IN TEXAS–JOHNNY SMITH–WALKIN’ THRU THE PARK

The good folks at Connor Ray Music have turned out some mighty fine blues this year, including a June release of Bob Lanza’s “From Hero To Zero,” reviewed elsewhere within this forum.  Guitar man Bob’s latest set is also courtesy of Connor Ray, and is entitled  “Time To Let Go,” and the New Jersey native plays these eleven cuts with a sense of urgency mixed with his deep passion for the blues.  During his formative years, Bob traveled to New York to listen to guys like Johnny Copeland and Floyd Phillips, and you can hear their influence all over Bob’s blues.

For this set, Bob is playing with more emotion and power than usual.  He lost both his mother and his brother during the sessions for this album, and that pain of loss comes thru in these songs.  He sums up his feelings in two poignant originals.  First up is his tribute to “mama,” where he tells her that it’s “Time To Let Go,” thanking her for always having his back, “even when I was bad!”  Next up is “When The Sun Comes Up,” and it’s a song of redemption.   For Bob, after his losses,  he picks up his guitar, “puts my head down and pushes on thru,” determined to make the best of a “brand new day!”  Steve Krause adds harp to this fiery shot of blues-rock.

There’s also a healthy dose of good-time blues, too.  Bob’s telling us that, after grieving, you gotta go on with life.  He busts out some of our favorite covers to help in the healing process.  The leadoff  “Mind Your Own Business” is an all-out rocker, and we must admit, we’ve never heard it done with a horn section, courtesy of  The Cranberry Lake Horns!  And, Steve’s harp blows the heck outta that cha-cha-cha groove that drives Muddy’s “Walkin’ Thru The Park!”

We had two stone favorites, too.  Bob’s guitar goes into full-on Berry-licious mode on the stop-time houserockin’ tale of “Johnny Smith,” with more cool harp from Steve.  And, a dazzling instrumental, “Rush “N” The Blues,” again features the horns, as Bob plays this one in true, West Side, Otis Rush style!

Bob Lanza has had a tough year, personally, to say the least.  But, he’s turned to the healing power of music to make his losses the blues world’s gain, and we all benefit from the fine messages in “Time To Let Go.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Eric Sommer review…September 23, 2016…

ERIC SOMMER

BROOKLYN BOLERO

CLYDE IS THINKING RECORDS

RED DRESS–CEREAL SONG–BEST FOOT FORWARD–DOIN’ WRONG–COVER MY SOUL–WHAT A DAY I HAD–DEATH RAY CATACLYSM–HOLD YOUR HAND

Eric Sommer is an astounding guitar player, a virtuoso on acoustic and electric, and is a killer slide player and master of the finger-picking style. popularized by many of the Delta blues legends.  His songwriting might best be described as “out of the box,” to say the least, and his deep well of musical experience is the thread that runs through his latest album, “Brooklyn Bolero.”  These eight cuts are all-originals, and finds Eric on guitars, stomp box, and harp, with Jim Oakley on percussion, and Zach Smith on bass.

Eric has worked with everybody who is anybody–Dr. John, Mayall, David Bromberg, and even logged a stint in Europe with Nick Lowe.  His resume’  reads like a musical encyclopedia, and this set finds him in a true comfort zone within the trio setting, and they just rare back and let the bon temps commence to roulet-ing.

His slide cuts a wide swath thru the Mississippi  Hill Country on the stomping burn of the leadoff track, with “honey, put that Red Dress on!”  “Doin’ Wrong” has a jangly, Sixties-pop feel, as does perhaps the set’s quirkiest cut.  It’s the story of a man lost in “a black-and-white movie that got outta hand,” “Death Ray Cataclysm.”

Our favorite was easy.  Eric busts out his harp and blows a mean stop-time blues that name-checks virtually every menu item from the Kellogg’s and General Mills breakfast list, “Cereal Song!”  Yep–he tastes ’em all, from Froot Loops to Chocula to Frankenberry!

If you want to get a good grip on the style and sound of Eric Sommer, you gotta use your imagination and picture Son House and Dylan at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge playing for tips and bouncing song threads off each other.  Excellent guitar work and material make “Brooklyn Bolero” a must-listen!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

Liz Mandeville review…September 22, 2016…

LIZ MANDEVILLE

THE STARS MOTEL

BLUE KITTY RECORDS

TOO HOT FOR LOVE–BLUES IS MY BOSS–EVERYBODY KNEW BUT ME–ONE DANCE–TRY ME–TRUTH–REEFER AND A GLASS OF WINE–WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN–BAD BLUES HABIT–RIVER OF BLOOD–WHAT DO BLUES MEN LIKE?

Chicago lady of the blues Liz Mandeville has a heart as big as her talents.  A perfect example of this is the chain of events that led to the release of her latest album for Blue Kitty Records, “The Stars Motel.”  The whole thing took three years to craft, and here’s how it went down.  First, guitar man Scott Ellison found himself in Chicago with no hotel room, so Liz stepped in and let him stay in her studio, with the caveat that they write three songs together.  A year later, Italian bluesman Dario Lombardo found himself in the same boat, and Liz rescued him under the same conditions.  Last fall, Rachelle Coba was in town for  the Blues Blast Awards, and she and Liz wrapped up three more.  The final pieces were composed by Liz and her long-time guitarist, Minoru Maruyama.

The results are a fine, varied, eclectic set of blues that’s bound to have broad appeal.  Liz is on vocals and guitar, and the co-writers are also on board, as well as a Who’s Who of Chicago-based backing players.  Scott kicks things off on guitar as Liz proclaims “It’s Too Hot For Love here in ol’ Chi-town!”  A poignant biography of sorts was one of Dario’s contributions, as Liz lets us all know that “the Blues Is My Boss, my health plan, and my stock and trade!”  Rachelle and Liz look at things thru the eyes of a woman as a playfully-mature Liz prods a lover to “Try Me,” set over a walkin’-blues beat, where “the riper berry has got more juice!”  Another collaboration with Rachelle led to the set’s most unique cut.  A quirky tremolo guitar line and echo-effect vocals detail the haunting story of levee camp workers on the “River Of Blood” and “ghosts of the people who never got free!”

We had several favorites, too.  Liz vows not to “wreck four people’s lives,” but finds it hard when she longs for that “One Dance” with the “other man.”  A horn section makes this one classic soul at its  best.  The Mardi Gras second-line pattern of “Everybody Knew But Me” is what you get when “two plus one equals three!”  And, Scott’s guitar closes the set as it opened, this time backing Liz on a humorous, swingin’ jump-blues tale of “What Do Blues Men Like” when it comes to women!

Liz Mandeville will tell you that a true classic never goes out of style, and this is one fine blues mama that’s flat-out havin’ a ball doing what she loves.  She’s  as classy and talented as they come!  Hey Liz–got room for two more down at “The Stars Motel?”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Nancy Wright review…September 21, 2016…

NANCY WRIGHT

PLAYDATE!

DIRECT HIT/VIZZTONE RECORDS  VTH 111

WHY YOU WANNA DO IT–I GOT WHAT IT TAKES–YES HE DO–BLUES FOR THE WESTSIDE–BEEN WAITING THAT LONG–TRAMPLED–SATISFIED–WARRANTY–CHERRY WINE–THERE IS SOMETHING ON YOUR MIND–BACK ROOM ROCK–GOOD LOVING DADDY–SOUL BLUE

Nancy Wright is one of the most-respected sax players in any genre’ on the contemporary scene today.  A san Fran Bay area resident, Nancy plays festivals and clubs everywhere, and will release her latest album for Vizztone Records on September 30.  it is entitled “Playdate!,” and features her wailin’ sax and soulful vocals mixed in with some mighty special guests spread over these thirteen cuts.

Her goal on this set was to have a lot of fun , and that attitude comes thru within these grooves.  The party starts with Wee Willie Walker on vocal on the funky tale of the Devil and his temptation, “Why You Wanna Do It?”  Elvin Bishop joins in on slide guitar as Nancy blows her horn in tandem on a sweet read of “There Is Something On Your Mind.”  She gets down ‘n’ dirty with Joe Louis Walker on guitar on another instrumental that shows how versatile her sax work is, as you feel just like you are sitting in Rosa’s Lounge as they trade licks on “Blues For The Westside.”  Jim Pugh gets in on the fun with his organ work supplying the fire as Nancy blows strong like Jr. Walker doin’ the Shotgun on “Trampled.’  Producer Kid Andersen’s chicken-pickin’ pulls it all together!

Nancy’s no slouch on vocals, either.  She’s joined by Victor Wainwright on piano on the call-and-response jump-blues of “Yes He Do,” and asks a lover to choose between “me and that Cherry Wine,” set over a cha-cha stop-time groove.

We had three favorites, too.  Nancy blows a sultry, Pink Panther groove over Terrie Odabi’s vocal on the story of a lady of the evening who’s services come with a “Warranty.”  Frank Bey adds vocals on “Been Waiting That Long,” an unreleased song written by Nancy’s friend and mentor, Lonnie Mack, who passed earlier this year.  And, Nancy takes us all straight to Sunday mornin’ down South with the spirited gospel fervor of Martha Carson’s “Satisfied,” featuring the Plymouth Church Of Jazz And Justice Choir from Oakland backing her.

Talk about having fun with an album—Nancy Wright’s “Playdate!” comes at you just like one of Louis Jordan’s legendary Saturday night fish fries, and it’s sho’ nuff funkier than that proverbial mosquito’s tweeter!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Brian Langlinais review…September 19, 2016…

BRIAN LANGLINAIS

RIGHT HAND ROAD

PATOUTVILLE RECORDS

YOU CAN’T SAY I DIDN’T LOVE YOU–DON’T LET THE GREEN GRASS FOOL YOU–RIGHT HAND ROAD–LOUISIANA LOVE–EVERY DAY WILL BE LIKE A HOLIDAY–ONE DESIRE–DON’T GO NO FURTHER–TUCUMCARI TONIGHT–IT’S THE WHISKEY THAT EASES THE PAIN–OUR LOVE IS SLIPPING AWAY

The Gulf Coast region stretches east-to-west along I-10, and musicians there play a little bit of everything—blues, country, soul, jazz, New Orleans-style, and anything else you can name.  If you gig in that area that is full of resort spots and vacation destinations, it’s your job to keep the customers happy and drinking, and play stuff they’re familiar with!  Guys like Brian Langlinais have been doing it for years, and is well-versed in everything from Stax to Toussaint to Pickett to Delbert, and you get that feeling of good ole Southern soul and blues with his latest release from Patoutville Records, “Right Hand Road.”  Brian and D. L. (Dave) Duncan are the producers, and some of this region’s best-known players are along for the ride.  They include folks such as Steve Conn, James Pennebaker, Jonell Mosser, Patterson Barrett, and, even ol’ “Harmonica Lewinsky” himself, the aforementioned Mr. Duncan on a couple of cuts.

Brian plays the part of the “homegrown fool” who never saw the break-up coming in the bittersweetly-soulful  leadoff cut, “You Can’t Say I Didn’t Love You,” with a fine backing from The Inglewood Horns.  The second-line is the thing in the molasses-sweet ode to “walkin’ hand-in-hand down by the Ponchartrain,” “Louisiana Love.”  This one features James on lap steel and Jonell as the duet voice.  Charlene Howard is the duet vocal and Steve Conn is all over the 88’s  in the roadhouse boogie of a man who’s “got them Highway 40 blues” and is headin’ down to “Tucumcari Tonight!”

We had three favorites, too.  It wouldn’t be a Gulf Coast party without a Pickett tune, and Brian does a fine job on “Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You,” punctuated by a unique re-working of the bass line and squeeze-box (!) from Steve Conn.  Both the title cut and the set-closing “Our Love Is Slipping Away” are all-acoustic affairs that have Mr. Duncan on Resonator and Patterson on mandolin.  Brian’s vocals make both of ’em as pure as a Mason jar of Delta ‘shine!

Honky-tonkin?  It’s safe to say that Brian Langlinais has done him some.  His efforts pay off big-time with the great songs along the “Right Hand Road!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Holly Hyatt and Jon Burden review…September 18, 2016…

HOLLY HYATT AND JON BURDEN

SHUFFLIN’ THE BLUES

FLOOD PLANE RECORDS  FPR 3584

BLOW WIND BLOW–MOTHER EARTH BLUES–LET’S BOOGIE–LOWDOWN BLUES–COME ON IN MY KITCHEN–GET YOUR OWN MAN–LEFT HANDED SOUL–BLACK CROW–SLUSHY BLUES

Holly Hyatt and Jon Burden hail from British Columbia, and they were  known a a predominantly-acoustic duo until their latest set for Flood Plane Records, “Shufflin’ The Blues.”  This one is a live set from the Silverton, BC, Gallery, and finds them “plugged in” for roughly half of these cuts.  Also, they add a drummer herein, Marvin Walker, to make a fuller sound.  There are three acoustic tunes to please their long-time fans, five amped-up blues, and a cool slide guitar piece.  Jon’s on guitars and vocals, and Holly holds down the bottom and shares vocals.

A few things jump right out at you as you listen to this set.  First is the incredible clarity of the sound, with crowd noise at a minimum, and keeping the musicians at the fore.  Jon, the record’s producer, and his team did an exemplary job to give this one a “you were there” feel.  And, his guitar playing is impeccable, ringin’ like the proverbial bell throughout.

They kick off with a “back at the Chicken Shack” intro that gives way to a spirited duet on Muddy’s “Blow Wind Blow my baby back to me,” followed by the loping drone of “Mother Earth Blues,” featuring a dazzling solo from Jon mid-song.

Holly takes lead vocal on her original, “Let’s Boogie,” and Jon busts out his best Berry-fied licks in accompaniment.  She resurfaces a bit later on another of her compositions, telling all the competition to “Get Your Own Man, ’cause this one’s mine!”  The set closes with two more of Holly’s originals.  The lilting “Black Crow” highlights her vocal versatility as she hits the upper-register high notes with ease.  And, our favorite was the uptempo swing of the set-closer, an ode to climes warmer than BC where there’s beaches instead of snow, the aptly-titled “Slushy Blues!”  Holly’s scat-singing at the chorus is a  pure delight as well!

Holly Hyatt and Jon Burden hit on a winning formula with exactly what a live set oughta be.  “Shufflin’ The Blues” combines sweet originals with hip covers performed by two very special musicians par excellence!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.