Archive for May, 2012

Paul Mark and the Van Dorens rreview 05-28-12…

PAUL MARK AND THE VAN DORENS

SMARTEST MAN IN THE ROOM

RADIATION RECORDS  RDTN 5029

SMARTEST MAN IN THE ROOM–TIME WILL TELL–WHEN GOD FINDS THE TIME–ONE MORE COAT OF PAINT–BARRIO STROLL–U MUST COME 2–WRIST ROCKET–CAN’T REMEMBER NOTHING–DON’T YA TELL HENRY–CHOKE HOLD–40 FT. OF ROPE–THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US

 

Paul Mark and the Van Dorens have just released their ninth CD for Radiation Records, entitled “Smartest Man In The Room.”  It is more of what we have come to expect from this purveyor of bombastic, over-the-top, industrial, blues-rock that stands out among today’s cookie-cutter, reality-show wannabes.

 

Yes, this is not your typical , three-chords-and-a-cloud-of-dust blues.  Paul Mark is on guitar and vocals throughout, and the set was recorded in Memphis and New Orleans, and, if you listen closely, you’ll hear the influences of these cities herein.  Check out the leadoff title cut, that tells the tale of a man who “works, but the D A calls it breakin’ the law!”  An acoustic guitar kicks off a story of mortgage foreclosures and love gone bad in today’s economy, “One More Coat Of Paint.”  A barrelhouse piano and more acoustic guitar over Paul’s vocal casts a film-noir-ish feel to the story of a man who “Can’t Remember Nothin,” but is “gettin’ wiser every day.”  The set-closer uses police sirens, 911 calls, and newscast snippets to create the chaos that ensues when “The Creature Walks Among Us.”

 

There are several cool instrumentals in this set, too.  “Barrio Stroll” has a Latin feel, while “Choke Hold” is a nod to the days of Lonnie Mack and the great Fifties instrumentals.

 

We had two favorites, too.  “Time Will Tell” evokes the Texas roadhouse boogie of Stevie Ray Vaughn, while a Doomsday percussion pattern drives the apocalyptic “When God Finds The Time,” where “He’ll see you when He sees you!”

 

An album by Paul Mark is more than a CD release–it’s more like a musical event.  He’s always full of surprises, each one seemingly outdoing the last.  Strap in and get ready for a blues roller-coaster ride from “The Smartest Man In The Room!”   Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

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Rory Block review 05-28-12…..

RORY BLOCK

I BELONG TO THE BAND

A TRIBUTE TO REV. GARY DAVIS

STONY PLAIN RECORDS  SPCD 1359

 

SAMSON AND DELILAH–GOIN TO SIT DOWN ON THE BANKS OF THE RIVER–LET US GET TOGETHER RIGHT DOWN HERE–I BELONG TO THE BAND–LORD, I FEEL JUST LIKE GOIN ON–LO, I BE WITH YOU ALWAYS–PURE RELIGION–TWELVE GATES TO THE CITY–GREAT CHANGE SINCE I BEEN BORN–I AM THE LIGHT OF THIS WORLD–DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY

 

Rory Block, considered to be the foremost female authority on playing pre-WWII country blues, has just released her latest CD in her “mentor series,” tributes to those from whom she learned first-hand, as well as those who influenced her style.  This one is entitled “I Belong To The Band,” and features Rory on lead vocal and all guitars in tribute to the Rev. Gary Davis.

 

While living in New York in 1964, Rory and Stefan Grossman would take the long subway ride into the Bronx to take guitar lessons with Rev. Davis, one-on-one, in his home.  Rory learned her lessons well, as can be heard on her authentic interpretations of Rev. Davis’ many classic tunes.

 

For those unfamiliar with Rev. Davis’ music, he was a brilliant guitarist who employed dazzling finger-picking and slide techniques, with unique syncopations within the melody lines.  In the liner notes, Rory laments her difficulty in getting the finger picks to stay in place, finally opting for the use of duct tape to keep them on, at the painful expense of her first layer of skin!

 

However, she plays these songs with unbridled passion and emotion.  Listen as she runs thru the changes of “Samson And Deliliah” with ease.  The title cut finds Rory on slide and the gospel-infused backing  voices lending the “Hallelujah” chorus.  She becomes a modern-day Biblical storyteller in “Great Changes Since I Been Born,” and “Twelve Gates To The City.’  The set closes with the chilling “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” and the poignant lyrics that remind us “when Death comes to your house, it won’t stay long,” but “someone in your family will be gone.”

 

Rev. Gary Davis took predominantly spiritual music and played it in a country-blues style, successfully melding the secular with “the Devil’s music.”  Rory Block has shown us the deep respect she has for his music, and the difficulty that went along with mastering his styles and techniques.  “I Belong To The Band’ is one of her crowning achievements!   Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Nighthawks review…05-18-12

THE NIGHTHAWKS

DAMN GOOD TIME

SEVERN RECORDS  0056

TOO MUCH–WHO YOU’RE WORKIN’ FOR–DAMN GOOD TIME–BRING YOUR SISTER–SEND FOR ME–MINIMUM WAGE–GEORGIA SLOP–NIGHT WORK–LET’S WORK TOGETHER–SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE–DOWN TO MY LAST MILLION TEARS–HEARTBREAK SHAKE

 

The last time we saw the Nighthawks, we were shaking hands with them in Memphis during the 2011 Blues Awards, where their “Last Train To Bluesville” CD took home the honors for Best Traditional CD.  Severn Records has just released the follow-up to that set, entitled “Damn Good Time.”  This one features the venerable Mark Wenner on harp and vocals, (kicking off his 41st year as a Nighthawk!), Paul Bell on guitar, Johnny Castle on bass, and Mark Stutso on drums.  Mark and Johnny also add vocals on several cuts, making this one a true whole-band effort.

 

Things get started with Mark taking the vocal over a loping backbeat on Presley’s “Too Much.”  Drummer Mark Stutso takes the lead on the album’s jazzy title cut, showing a mellow side to the band.  Johnny Castle brings a rockin’ vocal to the roadhouse boogie of “Bring Your Sister” and “Georgia Slop.”  Mark turns Nat King Cole’s “Send For Me” into a sweet, bluesy, stop-time shout-out to all the lovers in the house, then rocks the joint on a cut that could easily serve as his autobiography, “Night Work.”

 

We had two favorites, too.  There is some cool two-part harmony on the fellows’ cover of Wilbert Harrison’s “Let’s Work Together,” featuring a dazzling slide solo from Paul at the bridge.  And, Mark reaches back into the band’s deep catalog for a song we never get tired of, the Fifties’-inspired call-and-response of “Smack Dab In The Middle.”

 

It just doesn’t seem like it has been forty years since The Nighthawks first took flight.  And, the band may have undergone some personnel changes, but Mark Wenner remains a constant.  And, with “Damn Good Time,” the band’s legacy just grows stronger!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

 

 

Lisa Biales review 05-15-12…

LISA BIALES

JUST LIKE HONEY

23 SKIDOO RECORDS

BIG SONG MUSIC

CALL THE FIRE WAGON–JUST LIKE HONEY–SUGAR–GIFTED IN THE WAYS OF LOVE–WHEN YOU WERE MINE–YONDER COME THE BLUES–GYPSY WOMAN BLUES–DAMN YOUR EYES–COME TO ME–PEACHES–GIVE IT UP–BLUES STAY AWAY FROM ME–WATCH OUT BABY DON’T CRY–THROUGH THE EYES OF A CHILD

 

Lisa Biales has been making music most all her life.  She possesses one of those pure, crystal-clear voices that comes at you, well, “Just Like Honey,’ which just happens to be the title of her latest CD!  This set finds her exploring both contemporary and traditional, old-time blues, interpreting songs written and inspired by the likes of Memphis Minnie, Guy Davis, Bonnie Raitt, and E. G. Kight, as well as her own dazzling originals.

 

Producer E. G. Kight wanted Lisa to get out of her native Ohio for this project, settling on the Muscadine Studio down in Macon, GA.  Her backing band is a veritable “who’s who” of the Capricorn Records heyday, including Tommy Talton, Bill Stewart, Marshall Coats, and Paul Hornsby.

 

The set kicks off with a Western-swingin’ version of Memphis Minnie’s  “Call The Fire Wagon,” complete with a jazzy clarinet and fiddle solo.  Ken Wynn’s dobro and Pat Bergeson’s harp add just the right touch to the sly-and-sexy “Sugar,” while Tommy Talton’s acoustic slide work brings a touch of the Delta to the double-entendre’-filled “Peaches.”  E. G. duets with Lisa on the Delmore Brothers’  “Blues Stay away From Me,” punctuated by Paul Hornsby’s piano.

 

We had two favorites, too.  Lisa was introduced to blues music thru a Bonnie Raitt album, and offers up a rockin’ version of “Give It Up” in tribute.  And, Lisa’s vocal is simply stunning on her read of the E. G. Kight/Tom Hamer talle of how the world would change if everyone saw everything “Through The Eyes Of A Child.”

 

Lisa Biales has had her songs featured on TV and movie scores, and with a set as strong as “Just Like Honey,” she’s poised for a major breakout!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Tweedfunk review 05-05-12…

TWEEDFUNK

LOVE IS

SELF-RELEASED

FINE WINE–A REAL MOTHER FOR YA–GETTIN HOME–DANCEMAKER–PICK EM EARLY–FRAGILE SMOOTH TASTE–WHAT HAVE I DONE WRONG–ALL OVER YOU–SEX MACHINE

 

Milwaukee, WI-based Tweedfunk has only been together for slightly less than two years, but they have already made quite the splash in the blues world.  2011 saw their first release, “Bringin’ It,” garner national attention, and now, they’ve unleashed a sophomore slab o’ soul entitled “Love Is.”  This one is seven originals and three dynamite covers that show why they pack every dance floor throughout the Midwest.

 

Smokey is on vocals, and is a natch’l-born soul man.  JD Optekar is on guitar, Jimmy Voegell is on keys, Donnie Mac is on bass, and Marcus Gibbons is on drums.  The set’s co-producer, Greg Koch, adds guitar on two cuts.

 

These guys have one foot in the deep traditions of Chicago blues, and the other one, “the good foot,’ one might say, rooted in the funk of James Brown and Johnny Guitar Watson.   Check out the leadoff tribute to hot ladies everywhere, “Fine Wine,” that is punched up nicely by the horn section.  “Dancemaker” uses the horns and B-3 to make the funk hit the fan, while Smokey shows us he knows his way around a ballad with “Fragile,” and the poignant tale of “the road less traveled,”  “Gettin Home.”

 

We had two favorites, too.  If you’re in the club and on the prowl, it’s best to “Pick ‘Em Early in the night!”  And, their incendiary tribute to James Brown, “Sex Machine,” gets on up off its bad self and segues’ nicely into “Talkin’ Loud And Sayin’ Nothin!,” and is guaranteed to get you on your feet!

 

In fact, we can sum up Tweedfunk and “Love Is” just like this—you can get on up and you can get on down, but you sho’ nuff can’t sit down when Tweedfunk rolls thru your town!!!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Brad Hatfield review…04-30-12…

BRAD HATFIELD

UPHILL FROM ANYWHERE

SELF-RELEASED

WITNESS TO MY MISERY–FIT TO BE THE FOOL–ONE MORE NIGHT–SHE GOT TIME–SOMEBODY’S GOT TO LOSE–END OF TIME–LIVIN’ OUT THE LIE–DEATH LETTER–HEADSTRONG BABY–TOO GOOD TO GIVE AWAY–JOHN THE REVELATOR

 

 

Since being paralyzed some sixteen years ago in a construction accident, singer, songwriter, and guitarist-turned-harpman extraordinaire Brad Hatfield has turned his tragedy into triumph.  Forced to give up the guitar, Brad discovered the harp, and never looked back.  He has become one of Cincinnati’s premier bluesmen, and his latest CD, “Uphill From Anywhere,”  is a testament not only to his immense talents, but to his perserverance as well.   There are eleven cuts in all, with mainly originals interspersed with a few choice covers.

 

The backing band has some serious chops, too.  Producer Jon Justice is on guitar, Bernie Hatfield is on keys, Scot Hornick is on bass, and Michael Bram is on drums.

 

Brad pours his heart and soul into all these soulful performances.  Check out the catchy riff that drives the leadoff cut, where he tells everyone to kiss ff that are getting their kicks just by bein’ a “Witness To My Misery.”  The wailing slide guitar and backing B-3 give both “Livin’ Out The Lie” and “One More Night” a decidedly Allman-esque vibe, while Dennis Greunling adds the harp over Brad’s vocal on the tale of a girl who’s just “Too Good To Give Away.”  And, at the other end of the spectrum, we all know that type of girl who’s got time “to check her Facebook,” but seems like “She’s Got Time for everyone but me!”

 

We had two favorites, too.  Jon’s acoustic slide work over a walking beat defines Brad’s cool story about those who predict the end of the world.  Brad reminds us in “End Of Time” that “the world will end in its own time,” and people need to look in the mirror instead of studying on when it’s all gonna end.  And, the set closes with a chilling a cappella “John The Revelator,” with only Bram’s percussion in the background.

 

Brad Hatfield has crafted a solid set of songs that has something for everyone’s taste.  “Uphill From Anywhere” is indeed a sweet listen!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.