Ally Venable review…March 23, 2019….

ALLY VENABLE

TEXAS HONEY

RUF RECORDS  RUF 1267

NOWHERE TO HIDE–BROKEN–TEXAS HONEY–BLIND TO BAD LOVE–COME AND TAKE IT–LOVE STRUCK BABY–ONE SIDED MISUNDERSTANDING–WHITE FLAG–LONG WAY HOME–RUNNING AFTER YOU–CARELESS LOVE

Ruf Records entrepreneur Thomas Ruf has a keen eye for those young’ uns who intend to carry this bidness on deep into the 21 ST Century.  Texan Ally Venable, one of those fresh faces from the 2019 Blues Caravan, hits her career-defining stride with her latest, and Ruf debut, “Texas Honey.”  Produced by Mike Zito at his Nederland, TX, MARZ Studios.  Ally sho’ nuff holds nothing back with her guitar, and concentrated on her songwiting this go-round, writing songs from her own experiences that relate to everyone’s life., and that they can find a release from within them.  The power trio is completed by Elijah Owings on drums, and Bobby Wallace on bass.  They come at you hard, fast, and repeatedly!!

Ally pays tribute to Texas and its many musical heroes, with butt-rockin’ blues and plenty of stinging, gritty odes to bad love.  She and her stiletto-heeled boots kick things off with the snarling “nowhere to run, Nowhere To Hide,” while the title cut issues a warning to lovers with agendas, don’t mess with the sting of that “Texas Honey!”  Elijah’s pounding, Doomsday drums set the tone as our heroine always seems to “keep going back” to the jerks, making her seemingly “Blind To Bad Love.”

Those cuts are outstanding, but we chose three favorites.  She pays a sweet tribute to her native Texas with a powerful take on that “Love Struck Baby,”  from SRV,  and she has a lot of fun showing off her upper register vocals in the traditional sounds of “Careless Love.”  Hands down, tho, the guitars come out blazing as Ally and fellow six-string shredded Eric Gales go toe-to-toe with one solo after another, to see who’s strong enough to “Come And Take It!”

Another great Texan once said that, “sometimes you get the honey, sometimes all you get is the sting,” With Ally Venable and “Texas Honey,” you get a taste of both, from our favorite sweetheart of Texas blues!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

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Taylor Scott Band review…March 22, 2019….

TAYLOR SCOTT BAND

ALL WE HAVE

OPENING (ALL WE HAVE)–SOMEBODY TOLD ME–CURIOSITY–CLEARANCE BIN–SALTED WATERMELON–HAIR OF INDIGO–CARRY ME AWAY–WISHING WELL–SURROUNDED–WHERE THIS IS GOING–THE WALK–GOOD THINGS

The Taylor Scott Band blend a little bit of everything into their sound, pulling in blues, soul, funk and rock into their latest release, “All We Have.”  The twelve cuts feature eleven originals and one cover, and was produced by sax man Steve Berlin of Los Lobos.  Also of note is an appearance on guitar by Henry Garza from Los Lonely Boys, actually the first concert that Taylor attended as a voungster.

Guitarist Scott, while compiling the songs for this album, realized that they all shared a common thread, in that all we have is today, and to make the most of each one.  As such, there were several highlights.  The freight-train beat of “Curiosity” comes across as almost a gospel song, teaching a lesson of “how many things you miss for everything you see!”  “Surrounded” takes an acoustic-themed look at the whole of society today, with its obsession with social media, and begging the question, “where did it go,” as we’ve all seemingly “forgotten how to feel.”

The set had two very powerful pieces.  First up is “Clearance Bin,” where our hero is “shopping around for a new dream,” as “the things I want weren’t meant to last, anyways,” featuring a dazzling solo at about the 2:15 mark.  The other outstanding cut has guitar from Henry Garza of Los Lonely Boys,” the quirky “Hair Of Indigo.”

Taylor Scott has taken all his myriad of influences and melded them into a unique sound that is centered around rock and blues, but is ever-evolving to keep today’s audiences begging for more.  As Taylor teaches, today is “All We Have,” so enjoy this set to the fullest!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

 

 

Kenny Parker review…March 21, 2019….

KENNY PARKER

HELLFIRE

ROCK-A-WHILE RECORDS

I’VE GOT MY EYE ON YOU–BABY COME BACK TO ME–BLIND AND PARALYZED–BYE BYE BABY–HELLFIRE–GOIN IN CIRCLES–DANCE WITH ME–I’M MISSING YOU–BUT THEN WE DANCED–HALF CRAZY–BACK UP PLAN–HARD TIMES IN THE LAND OF PLENTY

Kenny Parker is a firestorm of a guitar player who hails from Don’s town of birth, Detroit.  On his latest set for Rock-A-While Records, he joins forces with another powerhouse fretburner, Jim McCarty, who honed his chops with, among others, Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels and The Buddy Miles Experience.  They wanted another A-lister on vocals so they could concentrate on six-stringin’, and made a wise choice in Dan Devins, who doubles down on harp.  With three of the five pieces firmly in place, the fivesome is completed by Mike Marshall on bass, and Dave Marcaccio on drums.  These guys crank out blues the same way Kenny cranked out Caddys on that Cadillac assembly line back in the day, playing in the clubs at night.

Bustin’ outta the gate and hittin’ on all 8,  Bill Heid’s piano embellishes Dan’s vocal on the ode to that one special lover, “I’ve Got My Eye On You.,” full of the fellows trading one solo after another!  Memories of the classic sound of Sam Moore and Dave Prater come to mind in “Baby Come Back To Me,” and that soulful stride carries on with the plaintive feel of “I’m Missing You.”

Good times are the order of the day, tho, and those comprised our favorites.  Firstly, a cool slow-blueser, “Blind And Paralyzed,” finds our hero callin’ out a cheatin’ lover who “took advantage of my pleasant disposition!”  The title cut is the spicy tale of “Red-head Ruby,” who’s “like a jolt from a lightning bolt–that girl is Hellfire.” The set closes with a barnburner—a live cut, from the Gem Theater in St. Louis, Michigan, and is one of the best versions of Omar Dykes’ “Hard Times In The Land Of Plenty” that we’ve ever heard!  This 1987 classic lamented even back then that “some got a little, some got a lot,”  which rings even more true today.

If you live down South for very long, you’ll know what “Hellfire” is.  Kenny Parker, tho, has made it a good thing–a rockin’ set of blues everyone can enjoy!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Atomic Radio Kings review…March 20, 2019….

ATOMIC ROAD KINGS

CLEAN UP THE BLOOD

BIGTONE RECORDS

I’VE GOT TIME–RUMORS–IN ARMS REACH–HAVE YOUR WAY–MY WAY BACK HOME–CLEAN UP THE BLOOD–CANDY MAN–AIN’T FOR ME–YOU GOT TO CHANGE–TWO SIDED STORY–VIBRATIONS–BACK DOWN SOUTH

The Atomic Road Kings combine the talents of guitarist/vocalist/composer/producer Big Jon Atkinson and Eric Von Herzen on the harp.  Along with a smokin’ cadre’ of backing musicians, the band laid down the tracks for their latest album, “Clean Up The Blood,” at Big Jon’s Bigtone Studios, all done on vintage analog equipment, giving this set a cool, old-school vibe.  Natch’l fact is, if it weren’t for the contemporary message in the lyrics of these ten originals and one cover, you’d swear they were tracked in ’54 at 2120 Michigan Avenue.

The party starts with a stop-time groove, finding Big Jon in a pensive mood, reflecting on the four walls that hold him in, and now, “I Got Time to be alone.”  “Have Your Way” plays out over a rhumba-fied beat, while the influence of the Delta is all over “that train down South, goin’ My Way Back Home.”  The set closes in a similar manner, as our hero calls out a lover for “all my troubles, I got you to thank,” “Back Down South.”

We had three favorites, too.  Jon’s grungy, stinging lead lines over Eric’s muted harp make a huge statement in the title cut, while both the fellows get down ‘n’ dirty on the tale of lusty lovers, “I’m your Candy Man, and I like to get lowdown!”  And, a veiled shot at the going’s on in social media and society’s penchant for believing what they hear over what they see, Jon’s distortion-driven guitar “gon’ bring the Devil outta me,” in “Rumors.”

Don’t know which part of the Atomic Road Kings and “Clean Up The Blood” was the most fun—the throwback, Chess-styled sound, or the way Big Jon and Eric play out as a modern-day Muddy and Walter on a cool set of tunes with topical themes that fans of vintage or more contemporary blues will enjoy!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Brandon Santini review…March 18, 2019…..

BRANDON SANTINI

THE LONGSHOT

AMERICAN SHOWPLACE MUSIC  ASM  7610

DON’T COME AROUND HERE–BEGGIN’ BABY–ONE MORE DAY–DRIVE YOU OFF MY MIND–HEARTBREAKER–BROKEN BONES–BACK TO YOU–MY WORRIED MIND–GOING HOME–EVIL (IS GOING ON)–SOMEBODY’S GOTTA GO

Brandon Santini was raised up right in the Piedmont Region of North Carolina before making Memphis his home in 2003.  A triple-threat artist–vocalist, composer, and monster harpoon man–Brandon’s sound incorporates not only those of the Delta and the North Mississippi Hill Country, but also a rock element.  Regularly playing 250 shows a year, he has just released his latest set, “The Longshot,” for American Showplace Music.  Herein, he focuses on his blues and rock roots, with ten originals and one unique cover.  Brandon fields several guitarists for this project, including Jed Potts, Timo Arthur, Jimmy Bennett and Greg Gumpel.  Michael Bram  (when you get finished here, go check out his version of Kristofferson’s “Nobody Wins.”) is on percussion, Reid Muchow is on drums, Chuck Combs is on bass, and the venerable John Ginty is on anything with a keyboard.

That stompin’ percussion-heavy vibe from the Hill Country leads off, on “Don’t Come Around Here,” with Brandon’s wailin’ solo at about the 2:30 mark.  An acoustic intro gives way to Brandon’s appeal to the Highest Power for “One More Day,” when “the load gets too heavy.”   “Drive You Off My Mind” is a cool Delta footstomper as the harp-heavy tune details our hero with “a heart so heavy,” and “a troubled mind and a burnin’ soul.”

We had two favorites, too.  Furious percussion and echo-effect vocals drive the unique arrangement on Brandon’s read of “Evil (Is Going On),” featuring a serious harp solo at the break, while, at the opposite end of the blues rainbow, Brandon’s acoustic-themed ode to “troubled times,” where “solitude seems to be the only remedy” is “Broken Bones.”  Greg’s slide and John Ginty’s  gospel-ish keys work play an integral part here, too.

Brandon Santini cut his musical teeth in the clubs down on Beale Street, and has solidified himself as one of the excellent crop of young guns on the contemporary scene.  With his latest set, he is sho’ nuff not a “Longshot” in the blues!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Susan Williams And The Wright Groove review…March 17, 2019….

SUSAN WILLIAMS AND THE WRIGHT GROOVE BAND

IT’S ABOUT TIME

TELL ME YOU LOVE ME–I LOVE WHAT YOU DO–LOVING YOU FROM A DISTANCE–SHAME ON YOU–I’M SORRY–MEET ME IN THE MIDDLE–YOU’VE GOT ANOTHER THINK COMING–ONE WAY STREET–PLEASE COME BACK TO ME–KEEP MOVING ON–TOO LITTLE TOO LATE

Susan Williams And The Wright Groove Band have been together for three years now, as a part of the Chicago blues scene.  Chosen to participate in the 2018 IBC’s in Memphis, this, their debut CD, entitled “It’s About Time” was selected to compete in the 2019 Best-Self-Produced CD category.

Perhaps the coolest feature of this set is the band’s unique approach to their overall sound, incorporating two basses in the lineup!  Susan is the vocalist, and is on one bass, with Darryl Wright on lead bass, Rob Davis on drums, Mike Cruse on keys, and Mike Gallemore on guitar and backing vocals.

The IBC judges also love original material, and Susan and Mike Gallemore collaborated to write all eleven.  The material deals with “songs so close to love you can touch it,” but the love comes with a cost.  Witness the leadoff cut,, as our heroine is in a constant state of flux, with a “heart broken from words unspoken,” begging her lover to just “Tell Me You Love Me.”  Mike’s guitar break at the break is cool, too.  Mike’s rocked-up slide is prominent in one of our favorites, where Susan praises a good man in “I Love What You Do when you do what you do to me,” but falls right back into the trap of poor choices in the Fifties-sounding slow-blues of that man who’s shut her out, but she can’t let go, preferring “Loving You From A Distance” than saying goodbye.  This one features Susan’s sultry vocals and Mike Cruse’s acoustic piano in perfect tandem.

We had two other favorites, too.  “Meet Me In The Middle” has a sweet, stop-time groove over Susan’s vocal, bemoaning yet another selfish lover.  Susan’s crisp, clear singing voice really lends itself well to the more ballad-like songs, and “Please Come Back To Me”  hits home.  The guitar and piano hold things together, and Susan gives this one a good ole B. B. King-styled reading, telling the “stories only time can tell.”

Susan Williams And The Wright Groove Band lay down some fine and funky grooves on this set.  Sho’ nuff, “It’s About Time” they get some well-deserved props!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

Tim Gartland review….March 16, 2019….

TIM GARTLAND

SATISFIED

TASTE GOOD MUSIC 041219

DRINKING FOR TWO–DON’T MAKE MORE TROUBLE–BLUES FOR FREE–CAN’T PAINT A PRETTIER PICTURE–YOU BEST THINK TWICE–SATISFIED–WALK ON–WHY DOES THE ROOM BEGIN TO SWAY?–ARTIFACTS–DON’T JUDGE ME

Tim Gartland’s harp and vocal style have often been compared to those of Charlie Musselwhite and Willie Dixon, but he’s got his own way of doing things, and draws from it very well.  After college, he moved to Chicago and fell right in with that bustling blues scene.  He mentored under Jerry Portnoy before moving to Boston in 1989, becoming a major player in clubs and festivals in the New England area.  His final move was to Nashville in 2015, and he’s well-known within this town’s vast songwriting community.  All his many talents are on full display on his latest release, “Satisfied,” coming out on April 12.  The whole thing was laid down in Franklin at Kevin McKendree’s Rock House Studios, and the ten cuts were all written by Tim, either in whole or in part.  He’s got that brilliantly-deep, aged-in-the-wood baritone that is perfect for the blues, and his backing crew are excellent players all around.  They include Kevin McKendree and Tom West on keys, Tom Britt and Robert Frahm on guitars, and Steve Mackey on bass, among others.

Leading off, our hero knows she’s gone and she ain’t comin’ back, so “Mr. Bartender, I’m a party of one, but I’m Drinking For Two.”  Tom’s slide is all over this one, too.  Tim’s chromatic harp leads the way on a prayer for non-violence, “Don’t Make Any More Trouble, this old world’s got enough right now,” while a beautiful woman is the Berry-licious theme of “Can’t Paint A Prettier Picture,” with Tom West gettin’ in his best Johnnie Johnson-inspired licks!  That big ol’ chromatic again takes center stage for the title cut, one of our favorites, where Tim looks at life’s simpler pleasures, as “we all gotta meet the Grim Reaper someday,” and “all I want to be is Satisfied!”  He closes the set with our other favorite, the scathing groove that tackles hypocrisy in others, “you ain’t no judge, so Don’t Judge Me!”

Tim Gartland is one of our favorite artists on the local contemporary scene.  Listen to “Satisfied,” as it is sho’ nuff funky, funny, hip, sexy, and strong, from a mighty entertaining harpoon man!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.