WEntus Blues Band review…September 21, 2019….

WENTUS BLUES BAND

WITH DUKE ROBILLARD

TOO MUCH MUSTARD

RAMASOUND 1419

STAYED AT THE PARTY–2:19–JUDGMENT DAY–FIRST WE TAKE MANHATTAN–SHE’S A KILLER HOT BLONDE–RIGHT IN YOUR ARMS–TOO MUCH MUSTARD–SHE MADE MY MIND–I HEAR YOU KNOCKIN’–MIRANDA–YOU GOT MY LOVE–SELMA–FEELS SO BAD–WHERE HAVE ALL THE SONGBIRDS GONE–PASSIONATE KISS

Duke Robillard first met the young men of the Wentus Blues Band during a Scandinavian tour back in 1987.  Then, they were so young that their parents had to act as chaperones.  Fast-forward some thirty years, and Wentus is one of the most solid, in-demand groups all over Europe and Scandinavia.  When they asked the Duke to produce and play on their latest album, his answer was a resounding “YES!!”  Thus, they all headed up to the Lakewest Recording in West Greenwich, RI, and the results are astounding, with “Too Much Mustard!”  The fellows mix some of their own material with some of Duke’s, and some well-known standards.

Our hero knows he did her wrong, and now all he’s got left is “the whistle and the steam,” ’cause “my baby’s leavin on the 2:19!”  Duke puts his Berry-pickin’ licks to good use on the Fifties’-inspired band original, “She’s A Killer Hot Blonde and she loves the blues!”  Pekka Grohn is all over the 88’s in the scaldin’-hot boogie instrumental that is the title cut, with dueling guitars from Duke and Niko Rippa, and they do a killer job on one of Duke’s originals, the minor-key, voodoo-vibe of “You Made My Mind, and now I’m walkin’ in circles just thinkin’ about you!”

Our favorite was a sweet, pastoral shot of soul. It’s a universal call for peace as our hero begs for “help from the sky” in “Where Have All The Songbirds Gone?”

The thing that impressed Duke about these young fellows back in 1987 was their deep respect for the vintage blues and R & B and its players, and that reverence carries over into today.  Duke’s friendship and his guidance as producer and fellow musician has made the Wentus Blues Band and “Too Much Mustard,” a joyous listen, indeed!!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

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Giles Robson review…September 20, 2019…..

GILES ROBSON

DON’T GIVE UP ON THE BLUES

AMERICAN SHOWPLACE MUSIC   ASM 7890

LAND TO LAND–DON’T GIVE UP ON THE BLUES–DAMN FOOL WAY–YOUR DIRTY LOOK AND YOUR SNEAKY GRIN–SHOW A LITTLE MERCY–BOOGIE AT THE SHOWPLACE–FEARLESS LEADERS–HEY HEY NOW–GILES THEME–LIFE WITH ALL IT’S CHARMS–THAT OL HEARTBREAK SOUND–WAY PAST MIDNIGHT

We have been excited about this release for some time now, since Tommy Z featured it on his Sunday nite blues show on WBFO.org (from 7-midnite EDT), a few weeks ago.  Giles Robson was the first European player to appear on an Alligator record, and his harp skills are nothing short of phenomenal.  His USA debut is courtesy of American Showplace Music, and is entitled “Don’t Give Up On The Blues.”  There are twelve all-original Giles tunes, a cool collection of boogies, topical tunes, and sweaty slow blues that’ll open your ears as to just how good a player he is.  Playing behind him is labelmate Bruce Katz on keys, Aaron Leiberman on guitar, Antar Goodwin on bass, and Ray Hangen on drums.

The set opens on a powerful note, with the speaker-blasting groove of “my true love, shout her name from Land To Land.”  Ray kicks off the stompin’ groove of our hero, who, due to his own “Damn Fool Way,” has his “mojo workin’, but it just won’t work on you.”  The band hits a Muddy/Walter/Chess groove on the foreboding, topical, “Fearless Leaders,” who’s “playin’ by the Devil’s rule,” and then a Junior Wells, South Side, let’s-go-to-Theresa’s vibe as he “conquers this city” on “Hey Hey Now!”

We had three favorites. The title cut, with Bruce on acoustic 88’s, sweats pure Chicago blues, as we learn, “Don’t Give Up On The Blues,” ’cause “the blues ain’t gon’ give up on you!”  If you dig slow blues, Giles has got ’em, thanks to a low-down lover and “Your Dirty Look And Your Sneaky Grin!”  The set closes with a sho’ nuff, straight-up tribute to Little Walter Jacobs with the blistering, slow-burnin’ instrumental, “Way Past Midnight,” featuring B-3 from Bruce.

It’s a great time to be a harp fan, given recent excellent sets from Corritore, Branch, Santini, Gruenling, and plenty more.  Giles Robson throws his hat into the ring with his chicken soup for a blues-lover’s soul, “Don’t Give Up On The Blues!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Tad Robinson review…September 19, 2019….

TAD ROBINSON

REAL STREET

SEVERN RECORDS CD 0076

CHANGES–FULL GROWN WOMAN–SEARCH YOUR HEART–LOVE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD–WISHING WELL BLUES–YOU GOT IT–YOU ARE MY DREAM–MAKE IT WITH YOU–REAL STREET–LONG WAY HOME

Tad Robinson has long been one of our favorite singers in any genre’, and the eight-time Blues Music Award nominee has hit on a winning formula for his latest set, “Real Street.”  Not only did Tad venture to Memphis for this recording, (at the Electrophonic Studios), but he is backed by the iconic Hi Rhythm Section–Charles Hodges on B-3, Leroy Hodges on bass, and Howard Grimes on drums–and they give this set a downright regal air throughout.  A fairly equal mix of covers and originals, plus the overall ambience and vibe of the Bluff City and the Hi players brings out the absolute best in the velvet-voiced Tad.

The set begins with the shufflin’ groove of “Changes,” an anthem of empowerment that shows “only love can bring about the Changes,” co-written by Tad, Kevin Anker, and Tad’s long-time friend and collaborator, keyboard master Ken Saydak.  Tad learns the hard way as a lover leaves, ’cause “she’s got a made-up mind,” and is sho’ nuff a “Full Grown Woman.”  A similarly-themed song closes the set, with Tad always “taking The Long Way Home, when there’s no one there to hold!”

We had two favorites, too. Tad shows off his harp skills in the story of a man who owned his mistakes and their subsequent consequences, with “Love In The Neighborhood,” as, now, “our love is a memory.”  And, Joe Restivo’s shimmering guitar lines add an authentic touch to Tad’s brilliant cover of the David Gates/Bread classic, love song, “Make It With You.”

Tad Robinson’s vocals have always been emotion-packed, and pairing him with the Hi legends seemed to give him an extra edge and shot of adrenaline throughout.  This stroll down “Real Street” is sweet, indeed!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Al Basile review…September 19, 2019….

AL BASILE

B’S HOT HOUSE

SWEETSPOT RECORDS  9922

SO-CALLED STORYTELLER–FIVE ROADS–RAZOR WIRE–TRY ONE–DON’T FOOL WITH THE TRUTH–GIVE ME THAT LOOK–LOOKING FOR A COOKIE–CAN’T KEEP ME FROM DREAMING–I SEE YOU THERE–I AIN’T CHANGING–YOU DON’T KNOW LONESOME–WHAT DOGS WANNA DO–TALKING IN A ROOM–TIME HAS MADE A FOOL OF ME

Al Basile had an impressive resume’ way before his solo career began in 1998.  He was the first trumpet player for Duke Robillard’s Roomful Of Blues back in the day, and he continues to be a published poet.  Al’s an eight-time Blues Music Award nominee, and his latest set for his own Sweetspot label, combines his musical chops with his poetry skills, resulting in “B’s Hot House.”  Herein, this set, produced by old friend Duke Robillard, who also doubles on guitar, is a blend of Memphis, Excello, and straight-blues grooves, with lyrics, as per usual in an Al Basile album, dealing with topical subjects throughout.

The set positively brims with highlights.  Elements of Booker T. Jones can be heard in Duke’s guitar lines over a tune about a cheatin’ lover who’s always feedin’ Al that piece of “Razor Wire.”  A cha-cha beat leads the story of our hero at the county fair seeking a sweet treat, but the girl with the tray of cookies disappears into thin air, leaving him still “Looking For A Cookie.”  A fine trumpet break mid-song is augmented by some of Duke’s spot-on chicken-pickin!

You do not have to be a Phi Beta Kappa to figure out the subject of “Don’t Fool With The Truth,” as this person “lies faster than a hummingbird’s wings,” and who touts “what’s true is fake!”  The set closes with a cautionary tale for us all to ponder.  With a slow groove set over Bruce Bears’ organ, Al comes to grips with his own mortality, realizing that one can never be young always, the poignant “Time Has Made A Fool Of Me.”

A new set from Al Basile is always thoroughly enjoyed in our house.  We know we are going to get a cool shot of vintage-styled blues with a contemporary twist from an excellent musician and master storyteller.  The cool thing about “B’s Hot House” is sticking around to see how all the stories end!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

The McNaMarr Project review…September 18, 2019…..

THE MC NA MARR PROJECT

HOLLA AND MOAN

BAHOOL RECORDS

HOLLA AND MOAN–MISSING YOU–THROWING DOWN A LITTLE LOVE–HISTORY–CRY WITH ME–KEEP IT ROLLIN–CAN YOU TAKE THE HEAT–NO MORE CHAINS–SOMETHING THAT’S REAL–BLUES BROUGHT ME HERE

The McNaMarr Project is the brainchild of two of Australia’s most-beloved blues artists, Andrea Marr and John McNamara.  Their latest collabo is called “Holla And Moan,” and, when one listens to it, it is almost as if Chess, Stax, and Hi Records all packed up and moved Down Under.  Andrea Marr is as soulful a vocalist as they come, evoking comparisons to Tina Turner and Sharon Jones.  Toss in John’s guitar lines and his own bluesy vocals, and these two make a dynamite pair!

The ten originals are mixtures of Memphis grease and Chicago grit, and the festivities begin with our lusty pair trying not to argue with each other, but, rather, to re-focus the energy of “Holla And Moan” for when “we burn up the sheets in the heat of the night!”  This one is pure old-school, call-and-response soul. They keep the pot boilin’ with another tale of “when the lights go down,” “Throwing Down A Little Love.”  They both get into full-on ballad mode with one of our favorites. Our two lovers are kept from reaching the heights they once had, but, “time broke us down” in the lovelorn “History.”  Another favorite is a cool throwback to the glory days of Tina Turner, as Andrea and John are looking for real love, in the punchy grooves of “Can You Take The Heat?”  The set closes as our duo take us all down to Blues Church with a testifyin’ shout-out to many blues legends with “Blues Brought Me Here.”

Fans, records such as The McNaMarr Project’s “Holla And Moan” are a rare find these days.  Andrea Marr and John McNamara are household names in Australia’s contemporary scene, and this set is about to make a big splash stateside!!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

Michael Bloom review…September 16, 2019…

MICHAEL BLOOM

AND THE BLUES PROPHECY

WHISPER IN THE WIND

TIME ON MY HANDS–WHISPER IN THE WIND–JUST CAN’T WIN–I REMEMBER LOVE–BROWNSVILLE–OLD MAN BLUES–TILL I MET YOU–NO LUCK AT ALL–LISA–I AIN’T GOT THE BLUES–DUST MY BROOM

Michael Bloom is a native Chicagoan who is a classically-trained guitarist.  He found his calling, tho,  in the blues of his home base, thru Muddy, Milton, Jimmy Reed, and others.  For his latest set, “Whisper In The Wind,” Michael combines eight originals, written in the “traditional” styles of the aforementioned masters, and three covers that pay tribute to them and the influences they had upon him.

The party begins with a slide-fueled, topical tune that teaches a good blues lesson–“if trouble was money, I’d be fine, but I ain’t got money–just Time On My Hands!”  Another Chicago legend, Mary Lane, joins in on the title cut, a look at the frailties of love, which is described as nothing more than a “Whisper In The Wind,” where, “you can build yourself a castle, but you can’t go in.”  Piano on this one is from yet another Chicago icon, Ariyo Ariyoshi.  “Brownsville,” from the pen of Furry Lewis, is a great vehicle to show how Michael adapts the songs of the pre-WWII masters to today’s contemporary sound.

Our two favorites closed the set.  A man who seemingly has it all still  has that troubling “hole in my soul,” ’cause, “I Ain’t Got The Blues.”  Mary Lane offers a playful vocal over Michael’s dobro and Michael Damian’s 88’s on a fun read of blues at its best,  Robert Johnson’s “Dust My Broom!”

Michael Bloom believes, as do we, that the blues is more than just notes and words.  The blues is a feeling that begins in your soul, and comes out thru the words and music.  Judge for yourself after you listen to “Whisper In The Wind.”  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Sparky Parker review…September 5, 2019….

SPARKY PARKER

IN THE DARK

SP0002

IN THE DARK–THIS OLD THING–8 DAYS IN THE DOG HOUSE–GAMES–SLEEPY TOWN–GOOD MAN–TREAT A DOG–DEAD FLOWERS–ESCAPE TO QUINTANA–SHAKE YOUR HIPS

Houston-based Sparky Parker started out playing guitar straight outta high school, playing for local bands such as Bayou Master and Funky Mustard, (a gig he still holds!), and national luminaries such as Diunna Greenleaf and sax lady Vanessa Collier.  He has really found his calling, tho, as the frontman for the power trio that includes Sparky on vocals and guitar, Phillip Lock on bass, Kevin Berry on drums, and additional keys from William Gorman.  Sparky’s latest set combines seven blues-rock-flavored originals and three monster covers for “In The Dark.”

The tunes herein offer up several surprises from such a young player.  He begins with a throwback to the days of disco balls and Blaxploitation soundtracks, the wah-wah-infused title cut of two lovers who can’t quite decide in which direction they are heading, muddling along “In The Dark.”  He has sho’ nuff done his homework regarding his guitar heroes, too.  Check out the slow lope of the Guitar Slim-inspired “Games–all the games that we play!”  He gets his Dick Dale groove on with the surf-twang instrumental, “Escape To Quintana,” and closes the set with the frenetic-paced, rapid-fire Harpo-meets-Hooker down where you go to “Shake Your Hips”

We had two favorites, too—one cover and one original.  “8 Days In The Doghouse” is pure roadhouse bliss, as our hero, on the outs with a lover, is beggin’ her to “throw me a bone!”  The cover is a damn good one, too, as Sparky captures the feel of vintage, “Sticky Fingers”- era Stones by way of a brilliant read of “Dead Flowers.”

Somewhat shy and unassuming when not performing, Sparky Parker has given fans a Texas-sized reason to dig his style of blues with the release of “In The Dark!”  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.