Kern Pratt review…July 1, 2015…

KERN PRATT

BROKEN CHAINS

GIGTIME RECORDS

DELTA MOURN–GREENVILLE MISSISSIPPI BLUES–LIGHTS ARE ON, BUT NOBODY’S HOME–SOMEWHERE SOUTH OF MEMPHIS–BLACK HANNAH–COTTON PICKIN–DON’T LEAVE ME BABY–IT HURTS ME TOO–HANDCUFFED TO THE BLUES–SMOKIN’ GUN–SOULSHAKE–BROKEN CHAINS

Kern Pratt is living out his dream as a bluesman.  Playing guitar since the age of eight, at sixteen he was good enough to be asked by Joe Frank Carollo of Hamilton, Joe Frank, and Reynolds fame, to come to Vegas to play with him.  He’s never looked back, altho he did fulfill a promise to his dad to complete his GED.

As a young man growing up in the Delta, Kern was exposed to all kinds of blues and blues players, from the raw power of T-Model Ford to the funk of Bobby Rush, and everything in between.  He’s put all his influences together to create his own unique sound with the release of “Broken Chains,” a clever mix of covers and originals that show his incredible guitar chops and that soulful, well-seasoned vocal delivery that sounds as if it were aged and mellowed in a Jack Daniels barrel.

There’s something for everyone on this set, so we are going to break from our usual tradition and discuss each track individually.  Here we go…..

The set opens and closes with the Resonator slide work of Wes Lee on two instrumentals, “Delta Mourn,” and the title cut.  Kern kicks off his portion with a blistering, Elmore James-styled boogie, “Greenville Mississippi Blues,” documenting a mythical trip “down the Blues Highway” from Greenville down to Indianola and Yazoo City and everywhere in between.  Eden Brent is on that firecracker piano, too!

Kern pours us an icy-cool Collins Mix on the hilarious “Lights Are On, But Nobody’s Home,” then gets serious with the minor-key tale of the sad lengths some will go to just for “thirteen silver dollars,’ “Somewhere South Of Memphis.”  The story of T-Model’s guitar is the theme of “Black Hannah,” while “Cotton Pickin” is another cool Albert Collins-styled instrumental set over an awesome horn arrangement.  “Don’t Leave Me Baby” follows a second-line groove with Kenny Neal on second guitar, and Kern and harpman Luc Borms give a sweet, acoustic, country-blues read of “It Hurts Me Too.”  “Handcuffed To The Blues” has that down-home Bobby Rush groove, and Denise Owen is the featured vocalist on a classic, southern-soul “cheatin’ song,” catchin’ her lover red-handed with that “Smokin’ Gun.”

By far our favorite cut was a duet with Kern and Denise on a song cut right here in Music City back in our younger days.  They capture that good-time vibe of Peggy Scott and Jo Jo Benson, “dancin’ with your baby really turns the Soulshake on!”

We can’t say enough good things about Kern Pratt and “Broken Chains.”  He’s had his ups and downs just like we all have, but the music has brought him through it all.  This is sho’ nuff one helluva set!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Royal Southern Brotherhood review…July 1, 2015….

ROYAL SOUTHERN BROTHERHOOD

DON’T LOOK BACK–THE MUSCLE SHOALS SESSIONS

RUF RECORDS 1215

I WANNA BE FREE–REACH MY GOAL–DON’T LOOK BACK–HIT ME ONCE–THE BIG GREASY–HARD BLUES–BETTER HALF–PENZI–IT’S TIME FOR LOVE–BAYOU BABY–POOR BOY–THEY DON’T MAKE ‘EM LIKE YOU ANY MORE–COME HELL OR HIGH WATER–ANCHOR ME

The Royal Southern Brotherhood have undergone some notable changes since their last album.  Cyril Neville is still at the heart of the group, but gone are guitarists Devon Allman and Mike Zito, each pursuing their own solo careers.  Fear not, tho, blues fans–Nashville vocalist and guitarist Bart Walker now holds down one vacated spot, while the other belongs to Tyrone Vaughan, Jimmie’s son and SRV’s nephew.  They have just released fourteen original tracks laid down at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL, entitled “Don’t Look Back.”

The positive messages of love and hope ring loud and proud throughout this set.  Along with the three major players, the rhythm section of Yonrico Scott and Charlie Wooton keep things groovin’ along nicely.  Bart Walker, with a voice trained in opera and classical music, kicks things off with the grungy, powerful crunch of “I Wanna Be Free from the trials and struggles” of everyday life, as each man takes a verse.  Cyril reminds us in “Reach My Goal,” to “keep your eye on the donut, and not just the hole,” while Bart’s country-blues banjo leads the way on the title cut, as he “knows there is a better way—I just ain’t found it yet!”  A message to show “every child is a love child,” entitled “Penzi,” follows a near-tribal rhythm pattern over Bart’s mandolin.  “Hit Me Once” and “Bayou Baby” are good-time shots of funky soul, and Cyril pays a sweet tribute to “my wife, my lover, and my best friend” in “Better Half,” and closes the set by asking her to “Anchor Me with your precious love for all eternity,” done with Cyril backed only by acoustic guitar.

Given the direction our society has been headed lately, a set of positive vibes to give hope for a better future is a great salve.  The Royal Southern Brotherhood, with “Don’t Look Back,” show us that love, indeed, is the answer!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

The Betty Fox Band review…June 27, 2015….

THE BETTY FOX BAND

SLOW BURN

SELF-RELEASED

THINK ABOUT IT–SWEET MEMORIES–SLOW BURN–SOLID GROUND–PLEASE COME HOME–OUR LOVE–REMEMBER ME–TAKE A WALK WITH ME–LET THE LIGHT SHINE–BABY PLEASE–WHO’S HOLDIN’–GOODBYE–ANGEL FLYIN’ TOO CLOSE TO THE GROUND

There must be something in the water or the sunshine down in Central Florida, because the Suncoast Blues Society has produced another winner for blues fans everywhere.  She is vocalist and composer extraordinaire Betty Fox, a finalist in the 2015 IBC’s.  She has an extensive gospel background, and a feel for classic soul deep down in her heart which translates well on her latest CD, “Slow Burn.”  For this set, she is joined by Kid Royal on guitar, Barry Williams on bass, Shawn Brown on keys, and Sam Farmer on drums.

Betty’s sassy, strutting style fits this material well, as the band originals are written with that vintage Stax/Hi sound in mind.  Leading off is “Think About It,” with Kid riffing on a James Brown-styled groove.  The chance discovery of an old photo brings back those “Sweet Memories of a love that was never mine,” while “Our Love” is a feel-good cut about making that love “a little stronger every day.”  “Baby Please” is a plaintive, soulful plea to a lover that has Betty reachng down into the literal depths of her soul to get her point across, while she closes the set accompanied only by her acoustic guitar on a somber “Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground.”

“Solid Ground” and “Let The Light Shine,” with their messages of faith, hope, and redemption, recall Betty’s gospel days.  The playful, jazzy nature of “Please Come Home” and “Who’s Holdin,” complete with some snazzy scat-singing, show us her lighter side.  Thus, these four served as our favorites.

A fantastic singer with an excellent corps of backing musicians, “Slow Burn” from The Betty Fox Band sets her up for much future success!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Mitch Mann review…June 26, 2015…

MITCH MANN

BLACKWATER CREEK

CRAZY CHESTER RECORDS  CCR 001

GOING DOWN THE ROAD FEELING BAD–BABY DON’T FORGET–CROWS INTRO–CROWS–ST. LOUIS BLUES–MAKE THIS LAST MINUTE LAST–MORE THAN I COULD EVER SHOW–SOMETIMES A ROCK–BLACKWATER CREEK–DETOUR YOU–HOLD HER WHILE YOU GOT HER–TOM CLARK–IT’S TIME–GOOD THINGS

Modern-day acoustic bluesmen have to depend on their musicianship and storytelling to get their messages across, just like the old-school masters. Mitch Mann, of Fiddleworms and Yellowhammer fame, is up to that acoustical challenge, as his latest set, “Blackwater Creek,” will attest.  It’s seven originals and four covers that are enhanced not only by Mitch’s talents, but by several special guests sprinkled throughout.

The luminaries come out early–on the leadoff “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad,” Andreas Werner is on lead guitar as Mitch handles vocals and rhythm.  Backing harmony is provided by Russell Mefford and none other than Grateful Dead member and Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame songstress, Donna Godchaux, who reappears as co-writer and vocalist on the set-closing reminder to us all to stay positive and hopeful, and always seek life’s “Good Things.”

There’s a jigger of Django in the gypsy-fied guitar lines of “Baby Don’t Forget,” while Mitch shows his country-blues roots on “Crows,” with harp from Jimmy Hall.  Mitch shows a softer side on the ballads that bolster the idea that love conquers all, “More Than I Could Ever Show,” and the poignant “Hold Her While You Got Her,” because “that come and go girl may never be here again.”

We had some favorites, too.  A very bluesy “leavin’ song” has Mitch singing “I’m searching for a better road so I can Detour You.”  Two “death ballads,” if you will,  (always popular down South!), round out our faves.  Music City icon Buzz Cason adds harmony on “It’s Time.”  and, the story of “Old Tom Clark” deals with the “Jesse James of Muscle Shoals,” a man with “a lust for gold” and “a heart as cold as the grave.”

Mitch Mann offers up a very eclectic set of roots and blues with “Blackwater Creek.”  His excellent troubadour-ish stylings along with the stellar cast of backing players make this a set you won’t want to miss!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Rick Vito review…June 24, 2015….

RICK VITO

MOJO ON MY SIDE

DELTA GROOVE RECORDS  DGPCD 168

MOJO ON MY SIDE–EASY BABY–PRETTY WOMEN–MY HOUSE–MISSY BROWN–LIFE WAS JUST A STRUGGLE–FEMME FATALE–WHO WERE YOU THINKING OF–HOUSE PARTY–LET A WOMAN BE A WOMAN–SHE’S GOT IT ALL–HELP ME LORD–YOU CAN RUN–RIVER OF BLUES

Guitarist Rick Vito spent four years as a member of Fleetwood Mac, from 1987-1991, during their “Tango In The Night” period.  He’s played on over a hundred recordings for other people, perhaps best-known for his brilliant solo on Bob Seger’s “Like A Rock.” He’s also recorded several solo projects, including our favorite from 1998, “Pink And Black,” containing a searing version of “I Wouldn’t Lay My Guitar Down.”

His latest release is on the Delta Groove label, entitled “Mojo On My Side,” with eleven originals and three covers that let his immeasurable slide guitar talents run wild.  You can almost feel the spirits of giants such as Son House and Fred McDowell rising from the Delta mists as Rick’s slide wails to put a spell on a lover, knowing he’s got that good “Mojo On My Side.”  Mojo Johnson’s percussion casts another swampy spell on the story of “Missy Brown,” she who “walks like a cool breeze!”  Jim Hoke’s sax adds to the soulful strut of Rick’s cover of “doing the best I can,”  “Life Was Just A Struggle.”  Rick gets that sinking feeling with a lover that “something just ain’t right” in “Who Were You Thinking Of last night?,” as his slide seems to be seeking the answer on its own.  “House Party” recalls his “Pink And Black” days, with rockin’ slide a la Theodore Roosevelt “Hound Dog” Taylor, while “Let A Woman Be A Woman” is a stone shot of horn-struttin” funk.  “You Can Run but you can’t hide” is the message from a lover bound and determined to keep a hold on Rick.  The handclap percussion and almost-sanctified slide give this one a cool gospel vibe.

We had three favorites, too.  The West Side rules as Rick lays down that unmistakable riff of Magic Sam Maghett’s “Easy Baby,” with the help of Jim Hoke’s sax.  “Pretty Women on my mind” has Rick rockin’ his slide for all it’s worth in this tale of “blondes, brunettes, and redheads, too!”  On a serious note, Rick’s acoustic original, “Help Me Lord,” is a poignant plea with guitar as pure as the Delta soil from whence it originated.

Rick Vito is a consummate slide player, and his passion for the blues is as deep as it is wide.  If that ain’t enough, he’s got some good “Mojo On My Side” to bring it all home!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Diane Durrett review…June 23, 2015…

DIANE DURRETT

SOUL SUGA AND DIANE DURRETT

BLOOMING TUNES MUSIC

SHOW UP SEXY–BUTTER’S IN THE SKILLET–ALL IS WELL–BE SOMEBODY’S ANGEL–PUSH THE PUSH BACK–LET GO AND LET GROOVE–SASSY LARUE–WOO HOO–I KNOW YOUR NOTHINGS–BRIGHT SIDE–LET IT BE

Diane Durrett is one of those rare female singers that you’ll always remember as soon as you hear her for the first time.  She has just released her seventh set, on Blooming Tunes music, and entitled “Soul Suga.”  There are eleven cuts herein, which show a sexy, sultry, danceable side coupled with a softer, more vulnerable Diane, all of which is enhanced by her incredible pipes.  She has beaucoups of friends, too, most of whom contributed to this set in some way, including Yonrico Scott, Charlie Wooton, Randall Bramblett, and Tinsley Ellis, to name just a few.

Ladies, would you like to dance?  Then, don your highest stilettos and those slinky fishnet hose, you know, cut kinda low at the top and high at the bottom, so you’ll be sure to “Show Up Sexy,” because, as Diane will tell you, “you still got that fire way down below!”  When a woman really needs some “attention,” fellows be ready, and “don’t walk away when The Butter’s In The Skillet!”  This one’s set over a cool, midtempo, horn-driven, funk-filled groove.

Diane shows her compassionate side on several ballads, too.  Dealing with the pain of the loss of a loved one is laid bare in “All Is Well,” and she encourages us all to “Be Somebody’s Angel,” and spread some love, because “it don’t take wings to lift somebody’s spirits!”  The set closes with Randall’s piano and sax leading the way as Diane seeks comfort for us all in the words to “Let it Be.”

We had two favorites, too.  A righteous, Mardi Gras party groove drives the story of “Sassy Larue,” a great singer “right up there with Billie Holliday.”  And, you just gotta love the sexy, sly, double-entendres’ of “I got a little Woo Hoo in my hoo hoo,” which is well-lubed by the guitar stylings of guest Tinsley Ellis.

A member of the Atlanta Chapter of NARAS, the Grammy folks obviously know a good ‘un when they hear her.  You will, too, after you get a little taste of “Soul Suga” from Diane Durrett!   until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Mississippi Fever review…June 19, 2015…

MISSISSIPPI FEVER

300 MILES TO MEMPHIS

SELF-RELEASED

I FEEL LIKE SUPERMAN–TRAVELING RIVERSIDE BLUES–STEAL AWAY YOUR LOVE–DOWNTOWN TRAIN–‘TIL THE SUNRISE–BLACK DRESS–OUT ALL NIGHT–300 MILES TO MEMPHIS–THE DEVIL’S GOT YOU NOW–JESUS JUST LEFT CHICAGO

Being the guitarist in a blues power trio is a tough gig.  He has to have the chops to vary things night after night to keep things “fresh” and “real,” to quote the popular vernacular.  Mississippi Fever, outta St. Louis, has a stomp-down good ‘un at the helm in Brent Barker, along with bassist Ted May and his brother Tom on drums.  They have just released “300 Miles From Memphis,” a blistering set of eight originals and two covers that give Brent and the fellows room to lay down a hot groove.

You gotta love that wah-wah-infused guitar that leads off Brent’s Saturday-night-and-I’m-ready-to-rock anthem, “I Feel Like Superman, partyin’ from the bottom to the top!”  “Steal Away Your Love” has Brent lookin’ for a “partner in crime” to “break and enter your heart,” with piano from Rick Steff.  Brent gets his swagger on with the chunka-chunka strut of “I’m your Downtown Train,” and busts out the wah-wah again for a session from “the love doctor,” with a lady wearin’ that hot-lookin’ “Black Dress.”

Brandon Santini’s harp drives the freight-train beat of the title cut, referring to the distance between Memphis and St. Louis, and the fellows close the set with a buzzsaw cover of “Jesus Just Left Chicago.”

We had two favorites, too.  A lover who’s long gone is the subject of “Out All Night,” and Brent’s slow-burnin’ lead lines on this one make you feel his pain.  And, at the opposite end of the spectrum is Brent kicking off “Traveling Riverside Blues” with sweet acoustic work before blasting off into the stratosphere and singing ’bout those “women in Vicksburg, clean on up to Tennessee!”

Today the temperature in Music City was a robust 92 degrees, but that ain’t nothin’ compared tyo the heat laid down in “300 Miles To Memphis” from Mississippi Fever!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

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