Archive for June, 2012

Willie McBlind review 06-28-12….

WILLIE MCBLIND

LIVE LONG DAY

FREE NOTE RECORDS

SITTIN IN THE TRAIN STATION–LIVE LONG DAY–ANYWHERE–SLOW MOVING TRAIN–ONE THING–MIGHTY LONG TIME–DOWN THE ROAD–LOVE IN VAIN–BOOGIE TRAIN–THE TRAIN THAT NEVER CAME–TRAIN CLOUD

 

For their third CD, Willie McBlind pay tribute to the train with “Live Long Day,” ten cuts that take the listener on a unique journey that starts out deep in the Delta, then travels northward, coinciding with the Great Migration of the post-WWII years, finally culminating in a literal trip thru the clouds.  Released on May 12 to coincide with National Train Day, these cuts fuse the music of the Delta masters with jazz and elements of electronic music.

 

A definitive exercise in one possible direction the future of the blues could be headed, Willie McBlind are Jon Catler on guitar and vocals, Meredith “Babe” Borden (who trained at the New England Conservatory) on vocals and autoharp, Mat Fieldes on bass, and Lorne Watson on drums.  They bring an element of “Harmonic” blues to this set, with the use of fretless instruments, and a sixty-four note scale to create a sonic palette that not only stays true to the origins of the blues, but puts out a futuristic vibe that will appeal to many fans.  Check out Babe Borden’s upper-register vocals that are the perfect complement to Jon’s growling, almost-spoken word on “Slow Moving Train,” which can “crush a man to death,” or “take you far away” if you stay on long enough.  The leadoff “Sittin’ In TheTrain Station” has an early-Allman Brothers feel, while “Down The Road” and “Love In Vain” are rooted in the spirit of the Delta, and the latter features an outstanding vocal from Babe.  The set closes with the duet of “The Train That Never Came,” which segues’ into an electronic exercise of fusion-blues entitled “Train Cloud,” that sounds as if it were the train whistle that called Muddy, Junior, Pinetop, and countless others up home to blues heaven.

 

Willie McBlind are not afraid to delve into and explore the boundaries of the blues, and experiment with sounds that are not necessarily run-of-the-mill.  Plus, their extensive musical backgrounds give them a fresh perspective, and “Live Long Day” makes for an interesting, eclectic listen!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

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Omar And The Howlers review…06-21-12…

OMAR AND THE HOWLERS

I’M GONE

BIG GUITAR MUSIC  1201

I’M GONE–ALL ABOUT THE MONEY–DRUNKARD’S PARADISE–WILD AND FREE–DOWN TO THE STATION–LONE STAR BLUES–OMAR’S BOOGIE–GOIN’ BACK TO TEXAS–LET ME HOLD YOU–MOVE UP TO MEMPHIS–I’M MAD AGAIN–TAKE ME BACK

 

 

Omar Kent Dykes grew up in McComb, MS, in the Sixties in a racially-divided South.  He picked up his guitar at age twelve, and, luckily for us blues fans, never put it down.  He’d sneak out at night and go into black neighborhoods to absorb the blues being played there, and became accepted into that musical fraternity.  To mark his 50TH anniversary of making music, he has just released “I’m Gone,” eleven originals and one cool John Lee Hooker cover.

 

As Omar improved and matured on the guitar, his father would drive him to nearby towns to immerse him into all genres’ of music, and that’s the common thread on this collection–any of these cuts would’ve been right at home on the Hossman’s  late-night WLAC playlist from back in the day.

 

Omar’s larger-than-life, Howlin’ Wolf-like vocal delivery and that huge, fat-toned guitar sound leads the charge on this set, and he holds nothin’ back.  Check out the shufflin’, Diddley beat of “Wild And Free,” while “All About The Money” takes a tough look at TV evangelists who are obsessed with “the root of all evil.’  “Lone Star Blues” and “Omar’s Boogie” are standout instrumentals, while the sad tale of a man who got fired from his job and now finds solace in the bottom of a bottle is “Drunkard’s Paradise,” with its definitive country twang.  And, the Fifties-inspired slow-drag of “Let Me Hold You” is perhaps Omar’s best ballad, ever.

 

We had two favorites, too, and they bookend the album.  Leading off is the stop-time blaast of rockabilly boogie, “I’m Gone,” while the set closes with “Take Me Back,” also done in rockabilly fashion.  It serves as Omar’s autobiography, and is also written in honor of his father.

 

Omar and the Howlers have stood the test of time, continuing to bring the best of rockin’ blues to crowds as small as five and as large as a full stadium.  Celebrate his golden anniversary as a bluesman with “I’m Gone!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

 

Johnny Rawls review…06-18-12…

JOHNNY RAWLS

SOUL SURVIVOR

CATFOOD RECORDS  CFR-15

SOUL SURVIVOR–HAND ME DOWNS–EIGHT MEN, FOUR WOMEN–KING OF HEARTS–LONG WAY FROM HOME–BAD LITTLE GIRL–DROWNING–DON’T NEED A GUN TO STEAL–J. R.’S GROOVE–YES

By the time Johnny Rawls was in his twenties, he was hired as band director for soul legend O. V. Wright, keeping the band touring with other lead singers even after Wright’s untimely passing in 1979.  In 1985, Johnny began his solo career, and, just like a fine wine, has only improved with age.

His latest set for Catfood Records is entitled “Soul Survivor,” and contains nine originals, either penned in whole or in part by Johnny and band members Bob  Trenchard and Sandy Carroll.  They are all deeply-rooted in the classic soul-blues style that Johnny’s mentors such as Wright, Arzell Hill, and Joe Tex were famous for.  The horns and keyboard arrangements add the spice, while Johnny’s soulful delivery brings the goods.  Johnny McGhee, former guitarist for the group LTD,  plays some mean lead licks on the dazzling instrumental, J. R.’s Groove,” with Johnny Rawls on bass!

Check out Johnny’s lament of everything being passed down to him, and “growing tired of these Hand Me Downs.”  “Long Way From Home” finds the road-weary bluesman anxious to return to his loved ones.  He pays tribute to O. V. Wright on each one of his albums, and herein it is the classic “Eight Men, Four Women,” who “found me guilty of loving you.”

We had two favorites, too.  Johnny takes a hard look at corruption in today’s society, from politicians, to bankers, and even to TV evangelists, who “Don’t Need A Gun To Steal.”  And, the set closes with the most “traditional” blues cut on the album, “Yes,” set over a swaying, gently-loping beat and featuring Michael Kakuk’s dobro and harp, which gives  this one an authentic, “down-home-blues” feel.

Over the course of Johnny’s last four albums, he has received eight Blues Award nominations, and won in 2010 for Best Soul Blues Album for “Ace Of Spades.”  Expect more kudos and awards for a man who truly is “the last of his breed,” “Soul Survivor” Johnny Rawls!   Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Albert Castiglia review 06-13-12…

ALBERT CASTIGLIA

LIVING THE DREAM

BLUES LEAF RECORDS

LIVING THE DREAM–THE MAN–FREDDIE’S BOOGIE–DIRECTLY FROM MY HEART TO YOU–SOMETIMES YOU WIN–PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER NINE–LOVIN’ CUP–FAT CAT–I WANT HER FOR MYSELF–WALK THE BACKSTREETS–CALL ME WHEN YOU NEED ME–PARCHMAN FARM

 

It doesn’t seem like  ten years have passed since Albert Castiglia began his solo career.  For several years, he was a guitarist with the great Junior Wells until Junior’s passing.  In 2002, he released his debut, “Burn,” and, in 2008, his CD “These Are The Days”  featured a tune nominated for a Blues Award, “Bad Year Blues.”

 

New York-born and Miami-raised, Albert has a streetwise savvy to his songwriting that is a perfect complement to his dazzling guitar skills and gritty, soulful vocals, honed over his years working with Junior.  His latest set brings us more of what he’s best-known for, entitled “Living The Dream.”  It features five Albert originals and one cut written by long-time friend and collaborator Graham Wood Drout, and six sweet covers.

 

Joining Albert are his usual suspects, A. J. Kelly on bass, and Bob Amsel on drums.  Special guests include John Ginty on keys, Sandy Mack on harp, and Johnny Rizzo on slide on one cut.  Albert gets his motor revved with the hard-charging leadoff title cut, where he’s “Living The Dream,” even tho sometimes the world is full of “crooks and haters,” and sleeping in one’s car is sometimes a necessity, but,  in the end it’s all worth it.  A scratchy guitar and funky, New Orleans-styled rhythm pattern drives the tale of a man who always seems to be on the wrong end of the law, “Public Enemy Number Nine.”  The chugging, flying-fret instrumental, “Freddie’s Boogie,” is a tribute to Freddie King, while “Fat Cat” is a more swingin’ affair.  Albert gets down Delta style in the acoustic “Call Me When You Need Me,” and he hits the slow grooves perfectly in “Directly From My Heart To You,” punctuated by John Ginty’s tinkling piano work.

 

Hands down, tho, one of Albert’s originals was our favorite.  “The Man,” set over a rhumba-fied beat, is a tongue-in-cheek tale of corruption from “a hand fulla suits that held up the country without using aa gun,” leading to “five-dollar-a-gallon gas” and the resulting economic chaos.

 

Four years was a long time between sets, and, Albert, we’ve missed you.  He’s truly “Living The Dream,” so catch him live if you can for a shot of one of the best players on the contemporary scene today!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Royal Southern Brotherhood review….06-12-11…

ROYAL SOUTHERN BROTHERHOOD

ROYAL SOUTHERN BROTHERHOOD

RUF RECORDS 1180

NEW HORIZONS–FIRED UP!–LEFT MY HEART IN MEMPHIS–MOONLIGHT OVER THE MISSISSIPPI–FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN–WAYS ABOUT YOU–GOTTA KEEP ROCKIN–NOWHERE TO HIDE–HURTS MY HEART–SWEET JELLY DONUT–ALL AROUND THE WORLD–BROTHERHOOD

 

What started as a few informal jams at various clubs in New Orleans has led to the fusion of two legendary “families” known for some of the finest blues, funk, and Southern rock of our generation, creating a literal supergroup that continues the music of their heralded bloodlines.

 

With their self-titled album released by Ruf Records, the Royal Southern Brotherhood, consisting of Cyril Neville on vocals and percussion, Devon Allman and Mike Zito on guitar and vocals, Charlie Wooton on bass, and Yonrico Scott on drums, successfully blend the blues-rock borne of the Allman Brothers with the polyrhythmic funk of the “first family” of New Orleans roots, the Meters.  Add to the mix St. Louis native Mike Zito, winner of a Blues Award along with Cyril for their collaboration on “Pearl River,” giving this set a truly “royal” air before even a note is struck!

 

The music herein is fantastic, folks.  The set starts with the brooding, percussive, “New Horizons,” where the “world is at the crossroads where truth and time collide,” and it’s time to “make a stand and choose peace over politics.”  The dueling guitars of Devon and Mike permeate “I Left My Heart In Memphis,” while you can hear the anguish in Cyril’s voice in “Ways About You,” where he sadly realizes “I know I’m in the past”  with his lover.   “All Around The World” sees hope for the future, while no album of this stature would be complete without a jammin’ instrumental, as the set closes with “Brotherhood.”

 

We had two favorites, too.  Cyril travels “through muddy water and runs thru icy rain” to get back to his beloved home, using only the “Moonlight Over The Mississippi” to travel from St. Louis to New Orleans.  And, Cyril takes his paramour to Tipitina’s, Vaughn’s, and darn near every place in the French Quarter, trying desperately to get a slice of her “Sweet Jelly Donut!”  This one is full of gritty slide guitar and Meters-style funk that rocks from start to finish!

 

The bands from whence the members of Royal Southern Brotherhood draw their heritage are more than just a group of musicians–they are icons whose souls are the very origins of Southern rock and roots.  With this album, they carry on the bloodline into the next generation.  If you listen to anything else this year, by all means make it “Royal Southern Brotherhood!”   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

The Jimmy Bowskill Band review…06-09-12

THE JIMMY BOWSKILL BAND

BACK NUMBER

RUF RECORDS  1175

TAKE A RIDE–LINGER ON THE SWEET TIME–SALTY DOG–LITTLE BIRD–SPIRIT OF THE TOWN–SIN’S A GOOD MAN’S BROTHER–SINKING DOWN–DOWN THE ROAD–SEASONS CHANGE–BROKE DOWN ENGINE–LEAST OF MY WORRIES

 

 

Toronto-based Jimmy Bowskill recently turned all of twenty-one years old, and has just released his fifth album, “Back Number,” for Ruf Records.  Jimmy’s a killer guitarist, and, as he’s gottn older, he’s matured as a singer.  Joining Jimmy is Ian McKeown on bass and Daniel Reiff on drums.  For this set, Jimmy also  got the band members involved in the writing process.

 

A true power trio, the fellows delve deeply into blues-rock territory, and several of these cuts might remind some listeners of vintage Black Crowes.  Check out the acoustic opening of “Sin’s A Good Man’s Brother,” which gives way to Jimmy’s blistering leads, and builds to a frenzied, crashing climax.  Jimmy loses first his love, then his pride as his woman takes off with another man in the rapid-fire “Down The Road,” while Jimmy wrote the slow blues of “Spirit Of The Town,”  which pays tribute to his hometown of Baillieboro, Ontario, and the changes he’s seen there as he’s grown.  The set closes with a swingin’, acoustic number written by Ron Sexsmith, “Least Of My Worries,” this one featuring Jimmy on piano.

 

We had two favorites, too.  Nautical references abound in the funky, ribald, double-entendre’-filled “Salty Dog,” and its story of “rockin’ the boat tonite!!”  And, Ron Sexsmith also shared writing credits with Jimmy on “Little Bird,” a cool story where today’s trend of social networking catches a cheatin’ lover red-handed thru a series of “tweets!”

 

With recent sets from Samantha Fish, Oli Brown, and now, Jimmy Bowskill, label founder Thomas Ruf has his fingers on the pulse of the future of the blues!”Back Number” is Jimmy’s hardest-rockin’ set yet!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Li’l Ronnie And The Grand Dukes review…06-04-12…

LI’L RONNIE AND THE GRAND DUKES

GOTTA STRANGE FEELING

ELLER SOUL RECORDS  ER51201

CAN’T BUY MY LOVE–COLD HARD CASH–LOVE NEVER DIES–SWEET SUE–SCREAMING AND CRYING–SHE’S BAD BAD NEWS–BUZZ ME–FAT CITY–CAN’T PLEASE YOUR WIFE–GOTTA STRANGE FEELING–I WON’T TAKE IT ANY MORE–LATE NITE BLUES–BRING YOUR LOVE HOME–C’EST LA VIE

 

 

Harpmaster Li’l Ronnie Owens and the Grand Dukes have recorded with and shared the stage with many of the greats, including James Cotton, Taj Mahal, and Gatemouth Brown, to name just a few.  They play a mean hybrid of jump-blues, swing, and good old rock and roll, and have just released their latest effort on the Eller Soul label, entitled “Gotta Strange Feeling.”  It showcases the songwriting skills of Ronnie and guitarist Ivan Appelrouth, with twelve originals that captutre the feel of  traditional combo blues, as well as two jazzy covers to round out a truly rockin’ set.

 

Joining Ronnie and Ivan are John Sheppard on bass, John Fralin on keys, and Mark Young on drums.  Check out the N’awlins feel of “Cold Hard Cash,” punctuated by North Side Slim’s big bass drum and maracas.  “Love Never Dies” is a sweet nod to classic Fifties’ doo-wop, while their cover on Louis Jordan’s “Buzz Me” shows their jazzier side, with an extended solo from Ivan.  Ronnie digs down deep into some real Delta blues with “Screaming And Crying,” blowing a wailing harp over Ivan’s acoustic leads.  And, the jumpin’ title cut warns that when “her friends won’t look me in the eye,” then you know she’s got another man!

 

We had two favortes, too.  The greasy, slow-drag of the instrumental “Late Nite Blues” gives everyone a chance to stretch out and show off a little.  The set closes with a brilliant tribute to Chuck Berry, “C’est La Vie,” which rocks with pure joy and abandon.

 

Li’l Ronnie And The Grand Dukes are seasoned veterans of the contemporary blues scene with one foot firmly planted in the roots of traditional blues, with the emphasis on everybody having a good time!  Grab a copy of “Gotta Strange Feeling” and….Enjoy!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.