Big Dave McLean review…March 5, 2015…

BIG DAVE MCLEAN

FADED BUT NOT GONE

BLACK HEN CD  0075

TOUGH TIMES–I BEST CHOOSE TO PICK THE BLUES–DEAD CAT ON THE LINE–THE FALLEN–SITTIN’ ON A FENCE–DON’T GET MAD GET EVEN–DEVIL’S IN THE JUKEBOX–ONE MORE DAY–MR. SIEGAL–SHADES OF GRACE–OH-MR. CHARLIE-OH–DEVIL GOT MY WOMAN

Big Dave McLean has been a fixture on the Winnipeg, Canada, scene for decades, winning Juno and Western Canadian Music Awards along the way.  He recently ventured down to the friendly confines of our own Music City to team up with producer/guitarist Steve Dawson to release “Faded But Not Gone,” twelve traditional-sounding tracks that combine Dave’s originals with choice covers from the likes of Tampa Red, Tom Waits, and Skip James.

Joining Dave, who is on vocals, harp, and guitar throughout, is Steve Dawson on guitar, Kevin McKendree on keys, John Dymond on bass, and Gary Craig on drums.  These musicians are well-versed in this traditional, Delta-meets-contemporary sound, and all of Dave’s originals are conceived and written within that same style.

Check out his autobiography, where we learn his “father was a minister in the Presbyterian church,” and his “mother was a pianist.”  But, for Dave, it was a case of  “I Best Choose To Pick The Blues.”  And, when “all your good luck ain’t gone but it’s leavin,” then “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even!”  Kevin McKendree gets in some fine acoustic piano on this one, too.  “One More Day” follows a second-line rhythm pattern, while Steve Dawson adds banjo on Dave’s cover of Tom Waits’ curious tale of “Mexican whorehouses and a Catholic church,” “Mr. Siegal.”

There are some somber moments, too.  “The Fallen” is a tribute to his late brother who passed a week before this song was recorded, and “Shades Of Grace,” dedicated to his late mother who sang “Amazing Grace” to him as a child, also features backing vocals from Ann and Regina McCrary.

We had two favorites, too.  Another member of the “Nashville Connection” present on this album is Colin Linden, who adds some mighty fine eight-stringin’ on Dave’s cover of the humorous “Dead Cat On The Line.”  And, the set begins with Dave’s clever use of “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms” as an intro to “Tough Times,” a song as meaningful in today’s world as when it was written.

Big Dave McLean set out initially to make a great record, and, coupled with his own immense talents as well as those of his sidemen, “Faded But Not Gone” has accomplished this goal!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Brandon Santini review…March 3, 2015…

BRANDON SANTINI

LIVE AND EXTENDED

VIZZTONE VTOLM 005

ONE MORE MILE–THIS TIME ANOTHER YEAR–ELEVATE ME MAMA–EVIL WOMAN–HAVE A GOOD TIME–HELP ME WITH THE BLUES–GOT LOVE IF YOU WANT IT–NO MATTER WHAT I DO–WHAT YOU DOING TO ME–MY BACKSCRATCHER–I WANNA BOOGIE WITH YOU–COME ON EVERYBODY

Brandon Santini moved from North Carolina to Memphis in 2003 and quickly gained a strong foothold in the Beale Street scene.  Since then, he and his blazing harp have received a Blues Music Award nomination for Best New Artist in 2009, and another nomination in 2014 in two categories–Instrumentalist-Harp and Contemporary Blues Album.  For his latest release, he journeyed to the prestigious Festival D’ ete’ de Quebec in Canada and recorded “Live And Extended,” twelve cuts of originals and covers that showed the Canadian audience just what this young man is all about.

They were an enthusiastic bunch, too, something which Brandon and the band–Timo Arthur on guitar, Nick Hern on bass, and Chad Wirl on drums–all fed off of during the night.  He jumpstarts the party with a killer take on Muddy and Cotton’s “One More Mile,” while on “Evil Woman,” Brandon and Tim trade off some hot solos as the crowd exhorts its appreciation.

“Have A Good Time” follows a freight-train beat as Brandon sings that you really “don’t need no money and don’t need no clothes to let those good times roll!”  Timo gets in some fine Berry-fied pickin’ on this one, too.  Brandon rocks hard on another original, “No Matter What I Do, I can’t get along with you,” and then gets everybody amped up with the funky, staccato backbeat of “My Backscratcher.”

He turns his harp loose for hot, extended soloing on “I Wanna Boogie With You” and gets the crowd fired up for the set-closer, an original titled “Come On Everybody.”

All these cuts are strong, but we had one favorite.  We couldn’t get enough of Brandon’s slow-burnin’ take on Sonny Boy’s “Elevate Me Mama, ’bout five or six floors on down!”

Brandon Santini continues to be one of the most impressive young harpslingers on the contemporary scene.  “Live And Extended” puts you front-row-center for a set that’s not to be missed!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Jeff Chaz review… March 2, 2015…

JEFF CHAZ

CHRONICLES

JCP RECORDS  JCPX 62606

TIRED OF BEING LONELY–INSTRUMENT OF PLEASURE–I SMELL SOMETHIN’ FUNKY–MORNING COFFEE–DREAMS DON’T LIE–DON’T GO MONKEYIN’ AROUND (DUET WITH TOMATO)–SEAFOOD DEPT. BLUES–THE SCENT OF A WOMAN–HELLO BLUES–I’VE GOT TO BE CLEAN

Jeff Chaz has been a bluesman for most of his adult life, spreading the good word of the blues from Memphis to New Orleans and everywhere in between.  His latest release is a ten-cut compilation entitled “Chronicles,” which is a “best of” from his previous albums for Select-O-Hits and Icehouse Records, which are now, sadly, out of print at this time.

Jeff was mentored by Little Milton, and that gritty soul is evident throughout these cuts.  His guitar playing has a decided bite to it, with elements of Delta blues as well as uptown soul.  You gotta love that wah-wah guitar line running thru the leadoff “Tired Of Being Lonely.”  He realizes that his lover is just using him as her “Instrument Of Pleasure” on the slow-burn of this one, while “Dreams Don’t Lie, baby, and you’ve been talking in your sleep” conveys the same love-on-the-rocks message.  And, another lover thinks somethin’ is sho’ nuff “fishy goin’ on” with Jeff working in the “Seafood Dept. at Kroger all day long!”  This is another great slow-blues with a decided touch of humor, much like Little Milton had in many of his songs.  He closes the set with the rockin’ tale of a man who loves fine clothes, “I Got To Be Clean.”

One thing is prevalent throughout this set—you can dance your ass off to most of these cuts, and our favorites were no exception.  Check out that scratch ‘n’ sniff backbeat of “I Smell Somethin’ Funky,” while another clever play on words is a rocked-up duet with a female vocalist tabbed only as Tomato, “Don’t Go Monkeyin’ Around.”

Jeff Chaz is a bluesman bent on having a helluva good time while bringing great blues to his fans.  His career-spanning “Chronicles” has something for everyone!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

JP Blues review…February 26, 2015…

JP BLUES

LIVE AT DARWIN’S

MIDNIGHT CIRCUS RECORDS   MCP 1004

KEEP ON WALKING–YOU UPSET ME BABY–AIN’T GONNA LOSE YOU YET–OLD MAN JOE–MEET ME HALFWAY–AMERICAN BOY–GOOD ENOUGH–DAY BY DAY–99 PROBLEMS–ANOTHER TIME ANOTHER PLACE–GOOD MORNING LITTLE SCHOOLGIRL

There’s nothing like spending your birthday bringing the best in live blues to an appreciative crowd, but that’s exactly what happened to John Pagano, “JP Blues.”  JP spent his twenty-fifth birthday in Marietta, GA, at Darwin’s Burgers And Blues, and the result is his first live set, “JP Blues: Live At Darwin’s.”

JP has already released two critically-acclaimed albums, “I Will Not Go Quietly,” and “Make Room At The Table.”  “Live At Darwin’s” has the unique distinction of being distributed primarily thru online digital retailers.  On this one, JP is joined by Shiloh Bloodworth on drums and Tony Hossri on bass.

They kick things off with “Keep On Walking,” featuring a fiery solo from JP, while “Ain’t Gonna Lose You Yet” sets up a cool, funky, danceable groove, as does “Meet Me Halfway.”  JP’s plea to his lover begs the question “am I Good Enough for you,” and utilizes a bit of a reggae-fied vibe, while the raw power of his playing is on full display with tunes such as “Day By Day” and “Another Time Another Place.”

We had two favorites, too.  JP turns B. B.’s “You Upset Me Baby” into a full-on, blues-rockin’ guitar tour-de-force.  And, JP busts out his slide for a touch of thumpin’ Mississippi Hill country blues with “Old Man Joe.”

JP Blues is now endorsed by Epiphone guitars, and rightfully so.  He brings fierce,  deep passion and power into the mix, drawing from that same wellspring that Magic Sam drew from.  One listen to “JP Blues: Live At Darwin’s” and you’ll be a believer, too!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Steve Earle review…February 22, 2015…

STEVE EARLE AND THE DUKES

TERRAPLANE

NEW WEST RECORDS  NW 6328

BABY BABY BABY (BABY)–YOU’RE THE BEST LOVER THAT I EVER HAD–THE TENNESSEE KID–AIN’T NOBODY’S DADDY NOW–BETTER OFF ALONE–THE USUAL TIME–GO GO BOOTS ARE BACK–ACQUAINTED WITH THE WIND–BABY’S JUST AS MEAN AS ME–GAMBLIN BLUES–KING OF THE BLUES

It’s hard to fathom the near thirty-year passge of time since Steve Earle’s debut, “Guitar Town.”  Since that time, he’s won multiple Grammys and has become one of the most respected roots-rock and Americana artists on the scene today.  In his own words, it was only a matter of time before he made a blues album, and “Terraplane” is the amazing result.  Steve captures the spirit of Mance Lipscomb, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Jimmy Reed, and even some early-era Stones, and dedicates this album to the late Johnny Winter.  This set was produced by R. S. Field, and recorded at Nashville’s House Of Blues Studio D.

Steve wrote roughly one-third of this album while touring Europe with only a guitar, harp, and a backpack.  As such, the arrangements are predominantly sparse, with Steve on vocals, harp mandolin, and guitar, Chris Masterson on guitar, Eleanor Whitmore on fiddle, Kelly Loone on bass, and Will Rigby on drums.

The party starts with the loping beat of “Baby Baby Baby (Baby),” a cool tale ’bout a girl down South, “from a town called Shut My Mouth.”  Eleanor’s fiddle is the perfect complement to Steve’s fingerpicking on the lively country-blues of “Ain’t Nobody’s Daddy Now.”  Steve captures that early-Stones vibe in “Better Off Alone,” while a late-night booty call finds Steve waiting for that “Usual Time of the night,” with its Buster Brown-meets-Jimmy Reed backbeat.  Steve breaks out his eight-string for the stop-tme of “a travelin’ man” who’s always been  “Acquainted With The Wind.”  The set closes with the mojo-licious tale of a man who’s the “direct descendant of John The Conqueroo,” “The King Of The Blues.”

We had three favorites, too.  Steve and Eleanor duet in another country-blues tale of two lovers whose passion thrives on ‘fussin’ and fightin,” “My Baby’s Just As Mean As Me.”  An adolescent’s memory of his sister’s choice of footwear conjures up the rockin’ “Go Go Boots Are Back,” while the haunting “Tennessee Kid” invokes Beelzebub and those deals down at the Crossroads, wheer we all know “the balance comes due someday.”

Steve Earle also states in the liner notes to “Terraplane” that the blues are the one thing we all have at one time or another.  This set also captures the spirit of his fellow Texas bluesmen, as well as delving deeper into the endless wellspring of great songwriting that has been Steve’s penchant throughout his timeless career.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King review…February 19, 2015…

SMOKIN’ JOE KUBEK AND BNOIS KING

FAT MAN’S SHINE PARLOR

BLIND PIG CD  BPCD  5163

GOT MY HEART BROKEN–CORNBREAD–DIAMOND EYES–CRASH AND BURN–RIVER OF WHISKEY–DON’T WANT TO BE ALONE–BROWN BOMBA MOJO–HOW MUCH–ONE GIRL BY MY SIDE–LONE STAR LAP DANCE–DONE GOT CAUGHT BLUES–HEADED FOR RUIN

Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King have been playing together for some twenty-five years.  Their fire-and-ice tandem playing style has thrilled fans all over the world, and for their triumphant return to the Blind Pig label, they have just released “Fat Man’s Shine Parlor.”

The party gets goin’ with the “endless boogie” drive of “Got My Heart Broken,’ as Bnois sings of an affair with “another man’s wife” that he just can’t seem to turn loose of.  Every Southern food staple from ribs to hoghead cheese all go better with “Cornbread,” while, sometimes, when your love life hits the skids, just call the “Brown Bomba Mojo!”  Both players get in some great fretwork on this one.

The high cost of traveling is the theme of “How Much”‘ as Bnois bemoans expensive cab rides and airport security checks. Jjoe coaxes some funky, echo-effect sounds out of his guitar on “One Girl By My Side,” and both fellows sho’ nuff let their hair down in the swingin’ instrumental, “Lone Star Lap Dance.”

We had three favortes, too.  A superficial woman who “looks like a million but ain’t worth a dime” is ready to “Crash And Burn.”  Joe busts out his slide over Bnois’ vocal on a story of life’s various temptations, “River Of Whiskey,” and Bnois literally “got caught with my pants down” on the slyly-humorous slow-burn of “Done Got Caught Blues!”

Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King can always be counted on to bring us fans the very best in roadhouse-rockin’ blues  Take a trip down to the “Fat Man’s Shine Parlor” for a red-hot good time!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

Tinsley Ellis review…February 18, 2015…

TINSLEY ELLIS

TOUGH LOVE

HEARTFIXER MUSIC  HFM 1012

SEVEN YEARS–MIDNIGHT RIDE–GIVE IT AWAY–HARD WORK–ALL IN THE NAME OF LOVE–SHOULD I HAVE LIED–LEAVE ME–THE KING MUST DIE–EVERYTHING–IN FROM THE COLD

We had the great fortune to see Tinsley Ellis in Atlanta several years back, when he was a vital part of Chicago Bob Nelson and the Heartfixers, and we knew he was something special, even back then.  Since those days, Tinsley has released seventeen albums, all showcasing his dazzling guitar abilities and clever, mature songcrafting.  His latest set is entitled “Tough Love,” ten originals that show why he’s been able to stay on top of his game for some thirty-five years.  He’s joined by some fine session men, too.  There’s Kevin McKendree on keys, Lynn Williams on drums, and Steve Mackey on bass.  This one was recorded at the Rock House in Franklin, TN, and Tinsley produced.  As such, the listener gets that “live in the studio” feel, as the band laid down a helluva tight groove on these cuts.

Leading off is a minor-key story of a love affair that crashes and burns after “Seven Years,” done in by a “one-night stand.”  “Midnight Ride” and “Hard Work” show Tinsley’s allegiance to the classic Southern rock sounds, while “All In The Name Of Love” creates a Stax vibe that features Jim Hoke on sax and Steve Herman on trumpet.

Tinsley’s slide guitar and his passion for Albert King come into play in the haunting, eerie, “The King Must Die,” while he revisits the good ole Heartfixer days, and also adds harp on the juke-joint blues of “Everything.”

We had two favorites, too.  Another affair that was “over a long time ago” has Tinsley begging his lover to just “Leave Me, if that’s what your heart wants to do.”  And, the slow-burn of “Should I Have Lied” has a great B. B. King vibe in Tinsley’s guitar work, as he ponders that question after his lover “spent all night crying.”  This one is embellished by great solo work from Tinsley and strong piano from Kevin.

Tinsley Ellis is a literal “road warrior” with his nearly-non-stop touring.  He’s played in all fifty states as well as Europe, Canada, Australia, and South America.  He wanted to make “Tough Love” for his fans, and we all can embrace and enjoy it!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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