Archive for July, 2012

Meena review July 27 2012…

MEENA

TRY ME

RUF RECORDS 1156

TRY ME–NOTHING LEFT–SEND ME A DOCTOR–PUT YOUR HANDS OUT OF MY POCKET–SORRY–I’M LEAVING YOU–THIS SONG IS FOR YOU–I’D RATHER GO BLIND–LOVE WON’T FALL APART–LET YOUR SWEET LOVE SHINE ON ME–I SHOOT YOU DOWN–JUST AS I AM

 

Meena was born in a Catholic village in upper Austria in 1977.  As a child, she was immersed into the music of the church thru her family, where everyone played an instrument.  Writing her first songs at age seven, it was almost as if it were pre-ordained that she’d be a singer.  Others tried to pigeonhole her into the “next Big Thing,” but Thomas Ruf decided to just let her be herself.  Under the production tutelage of Jim Gaines, she has just released “Try Me,”  twelve cuts that not only allow her natural vocal gifts to shine, but she is also paired with some of the most exciting guitarists and singers in contemporary blues today.

 

The set kicks off with the James Brown classic title cut, and Meena’s love for harmonies and polyphonic singing comes thru in spades, with help from backing singers Vickie Atkins, Sandy Carroll, and Amyee Bragg.  Also of note on this cut is the strong backing guitar from labelmate Joanne Shaw Taylor, who’ll have a new release of her own to tout in a scant few weeks.  Slide master Eric Sardinas adds punch to the gritty vocal from Meena on “Send Me A Doctor,” while an ode to a lover turns into the most powerful ballad on the set,  the minor-key masterpiece, “This Song Is For You.’  Meena is very comfortable with other genres’, too.  “Let Your Sweet Love Shine On Me” is a cool shot of zydeco, while “Sorry” would be right at home down on Music Row.

 

We had three favorites, too.  Eric Sardinas and Erja Lyytinen play dueling guitars over Meena’s ominous-toned vocal in “I Shoot You Down.”  “Love Won’t Fall Apart” is a stone roadhouse rocker, and the set closes with a sweet three-part “duet”, as it were, featurng Meena, Shakira S’Aida, and Coco Montoya on “Just As I Am.”  After Meena’s solo intro, the song gradually builds to a rousing, gospel-infused climax.

 

The sky is indeed the limit for Meena.  Thomas Ruf took her from a raw singer and helped her to find the blueswoman inside her, and “Try Me” is an excellent opening salvo!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

 

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Albert Castiglia at B. B. King’s, Nashville, July 22 2012…

On this warm midsummer’s Sunday evening at B. B. King’s in downtown Nashville, Albert Castiglia and his band left no notes unplayed during an incendiary set in front of a very appreciative crowd hungry for the dazzling fretwork of this great young bluesman.

 

Several of us hardcore fans sat right down front, urging him on, but he needed no help from us.  Starting off with two fiery instrumentals, he then broke  into the slow blues of “Somebody Loan Me A Dime,” which was more in line with Boz Scaggs’  version than Fenton Robinson’s original.  After that, he sped things up with “Just A Little Bit,” and, at our request, broke out the slide for a rousing “Bad Year Blues.”  He then paid tribute to his old boss, Junior Wells, with an amped-up “Messin’ With The Kid,” and then smoked the joint with our favorite, a slow-burning “somebody done hoodooed the Hoodoo Man.”  A request from another fan down front, “Big Toe,’ closed the first set.

 

Those of us who stuck around were treated to more brilliant guitar work with Albert “going to Detroit Michigan” on the “Cadillac Assembly Line,” and another cut from his latest album, “Living The Dream,’  Little Milton’s “Walkin’ The Backstreets And Cryin.’

 

Albert Castiglia can stand toe-to-toe with any guitarist in contemporary blues today.  This blazing evening of blues was a fine testament to the his boundless energy and talent!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow

Cee Cee James review July 16 2012…..

CEE CEE JAMES

BLOOD RED BLUES

FUNKY WHITE GIRL MUSIC  FWG 2012

BLOOD RED BLUES–LET’S ALL GET LOOSE–FEEL MY LOVE COME DOWN–COMFORT OF A GOOD HEART–THICK LIKE BLOOD–I GOT A RIGHT TO SING THE BLUES–WORN OUT SINS–WALK ON–WOUNDS–COVER ME WITH LOVE–100 WAYS TO MAKE LOVE–I’M TAKIN’ MINE

 

 

Nicknamed “The Vocal Volcano” by the Washington Blues Society’s Robert Horn, Cee Cee James does indeed invoke the inevitable comparisons to singers such as Janis Joplin and Bonnie Bramlett.  She’s got a ton of soul in her voice, and just that right touch of gritty gruffness that gets your total attention.  She has just released “Blood Red Blues,” which features twelve originals co-written with guitarist Rob “Slideboy” Andrews.  They tackle subjects of love, life, pain, and redemption with well-crafted songs that take full advantage  of Cee Cee’s vocal talents.

 

The show starts off with the swampy, slide-heavy title cut, where “Blood Red Blues came on when my heart got broke.”  A country-blues riff over Cee Cee’s testifyin’, upper-register vocal defines “Feel My Love Come Down,” where “two rivers disappear into one, rollin’ to the open sea.”

 

Periods of painful times during her adolescence bring her to declare “I Got A Right To Sing The Blues,” ’cause “I done paid my 100 % dues!”  Learning to cope with that pain is the theme of her ballad, “Wounds,” featuring a Latin-tinged guitar break at the bridge.  The set closes with her powerful statement of redemption and victory, “I’m Takin’ Mine,” a hard-hitting slab of blues-rock where she declares “you can take my money, but you can’t take my will.”

 

We had two favorites, too.  Trying to deal with the problems in today’s society is the story of “Walk On,” ’cause “what can you do?”  And, when she starts coyly cooing about the “!00 Ways To Make Love,” it’ll make you wish she could show you every one!  This one has some cool, albeit muted, backing tremolo guitar.

 

Cee Cee James has taken her brilliant talents to the next level with the vocal performances and deep, passion-filled lyrics that are contained in “Blood Red Blues.”  Grab a copy and be prepared to be blown away!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

Marion James review July 14 2012…

MARION JAMES

NORTHSIDE SOUL

ELLERSOUL RECORDS  ER 61201

I FELL–SMOKIN HOT–CORRUPTED WORLD–CRUSHING MY HEART–I’M JUST WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR–NEXT TIME YOU SEE ME–BLUES RECIPE–MR. BLUES–I KNOW A GOOD THING–I BELIEVE TO MY SOUL–CANDY–MAN SIZE JOB–I JUST WANT TO MAKE LOVE TO YOU

 

Marion James has been Nashville’s “Queen of the Blues” since the mid-Sixties heyday of the Jefferson Street blues and R & B scene of which she was a vital part.  She scored big with her 1966 bExcello hit, “That’s My Man,” and has just released “Northside Soul” for EllerSoul Records.  It is thirteen cuts that revisit that classic soul and blues era, and pairs Marion with some of the best sidemen in contemporary blues.  Joining her are Steve Bassett on keys, Ivan Applerouth on guitar, Tod Ellsworth on bass, and Dusty Simmons, Brad Ellsworth, and George Sheppard on drums.  Add in a full horn section, and this one smokes from start to finish!

 

She kicks things off with a tale of a lousy lover about to get the heave-ho, “I Fell flat on my face when I fell for you!”  Everybody’s favorite juke joint is “Mr. Blues,” while Marion’s breathy vocal over the punched-up horns defines “Smokin Hot.”  She tackles social injustices in today’s society with “Corrupted World,” then turns in a fine read of “Candy” as a torchy love song.  She closes the set with another blast of funk, “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” which is sandwiched between an old-school intro and outro from way back in the day!

 

Our favorite was easy.  Marion takes us back to the Club Baron and Club Del Morocco days with a swingin’ arrangement of Ted Jarrett’s “I’m Just What You’re Looking For,” featuring a blistering solo from Ivan at the bridge.

 

Marion James tops a very short list of performers from the “Night Train” era that are still working.  After her, there is Charles Walker, Clifford Curry, Frank Howard and the Commanders,  James Nixon, and, sadly, very few others left.  So, let’s rejoice and enjoy “Northside Soul” from our own “Queen of the Blues!!”  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Johnny Mastro review July 7 2012…

JOHNNY MASTRO AND MAMA’S BOYS

LUKE’S DREAM

RIP CAT RECORDS  RIC 1109

LUKE’S STOMP–THUNDER ROLL–KNEE HIGH–JUNKER’S BLUES–MR JJ’S MAN–HURT–TONIGHT WE RIDE–THE LIGHT–FRANCINE–SPIDER–ROLLER COASTER–MY ROCKET–TEMPERATURE

 

Johnny Mastro and Mama’s Boys have been heavily involved in the southern California blues scene since the early Nineties, plus, they’ve toured Europe an astonishing twenty-two times!  For their debut for Rip Cat Records, “Luke’s Dream,” they offer up ten originals and three choice covers of a very eclectic nature, indeed.

 

Johnny Mastro is on vocals and harp, Smokehouse Brown is on guitar, Mike Hightower is on bass, and Jim Goodall is on drums.  Special guest guitarists are Kirk Fletcher and Peter Atanasoff, and Max Bangwell adds percussion.  This set was initially intended to be a more traditional-sounding album, and the four acoustic numbers bear that out.  It is the nine electric numbers that take the listener on a musical journey that literally starts as a Delta-fueled dream, runs down thru the Excello-fied swampps of Louisiana, then churns north to Chicago, and finally ends up in a psychedelic place that few other than Hendrix have trod.

 

Sure enough, the set leads off with an acoustic, country-blues tale entitled “Luke’s Stomp,’ based on a dream about the late bluesman Robert Lucas.  “Thunder Roll,” “Knee High,” and “Hurt” all might fall into the category of Alternative Blues, with the use of screaming, fuzzed-out guitars over Johnny’s vocals.  “Tonight We Ride” has an almost gospel-like intro and outro, with a sweet Chicago-styled shuffle sandwiched in between.  And, the set closes with a totally-psychedelic arrangement over the lyrics of Little Walter’s “Temperature” that would make Jimi proud.

 

We had two favorites, too.  The dangers of substance abuse are addressed in “Junker’s Blues,” with Johnny wailin’ away on a big ol’ chromatic.  And, “My Rocket” blasts off like a Saturn V on its way to Mars and holds nothin’ back.

 

Once again, Scott Abeyta of Rip Cat Records has scored with a sharp collection  from one of the pioneer bands of the SoCal scene.  With “Luke’s Dream,” Johnny Mastro and Mama’s Boys have let their creative juices flow on a powerhouse set of blues!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Blasters review July 4 2012…

THE BLASTERS

FUN ON SATURDAY NIGHT

RIP CAT RECORDS  RIC 1108

WELL OH WELL–JACKSON–BREATH OF MY LOVE–FUN ON SATURDAY NIGHT–NO NIGHTS BY MYSELF–LOVE ME WITH A FEELING–I DON’T WANT CHA–PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE–ROCK MY BLUES AWAY–PENNY–THE YODELING MOUNTAINEER–MARIA MARIA

 

We’ve been fans of the Southern-California based band The Blasters almost since their Eighties inception.  They helped define the roots-rock and Americana genres’, effectively blending rockabilly, blues, jump, swing, R & B and even a touch of country in a career that has spanned some thirty-plus years.   Now, Scott Abeyta and the good folks at Rip Cat Records have released “Fun On Saturday Night,” reuniting several of the original members.

 

 

Phil Alvin is on guitar, harp, piano, and vocals, John Bazz on bass, and Bill Bateman on drums.  All are original members, and they have added Keith Wyatt on guitar, and there are a couple of special guests also on this twelve-cut ensemble.

 

Check out Phil and Exene Cervenka in a sweet duet of “Jackson.”  The title cut is a jumpin’ slab of stop-time blues, with Phil’s hi-test vocal leading the charge, while his plaintive harp over a sparse arrangement highlight “No Nights By Myself.”  Phil revisits his Americana roots with a cool yodel on “The Yodeling Mountaineer,” while the set closes with a Spanish-language version of “Marie Marie,” with our good friend Kid Ramos on that big ol’ fat-toned baja sexto.

 

Our favorite was easy.  “Breath Of My Love” has Phil singing over a Fifties’ doo-wop arrangement in a rather grisly tale of a lover who’s “probably bipolar” and comes after him  with a butcher knife!

 

The Blasters were the face of the Eighties rock scene in SoCal, and they show no signs of slowing down.  They are touring extensively in support of this set, so catch ’em if you can.  It’ll sho’ nuff be a big dose of “Fun On Saturday Night!!”   Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Oli Brown rview…07-01-12…

OLI BROWN

HERE I AM

RUF RECORDS 1178

HERE I AM–THINKING ABOUT YOU–MANIC BLOOM–ALL WE HAD TO GIVE–YOU CAN ONLY BLAME YOURSELF–START IT AGAIN–DEVIL IN ME–I LOVE YOU MORE THAN YOU’LL EVER KNOW–REMEDY–MR. WILSON–LIKE A FEATHER–SOLID GROUND

 

For his latest album for Ruf Records, “Here I Am,” twenty-two year old Oli Brown begs his audience to accept him for who he is, and stop the inevitable comparisons.  In fact, he boldly sings on the leadoff title cut, “I’m not trying to be Jimi, not trying to be Stevie, I’m just trying to be myself!”

 

Even tho those comparisons will always exist, Oli has achieved the maturation with this set that Thomas Ruf no doubt saw inside him as a teen.  His guitar prowess is undeniable, and the time he spent in the States mentoring under Buddy Guy has aided the young man from Norwich tremendously.  He’s also found an honesty and openness in his writing, bringing these ten originals and two covers to life on what is his best effort to date.

 

Joined by drummer-producer Wayne Proctor and bassist Scott Barnes, Oli  rides his red-hot guitar and soulful vocals thru one highlight after another.  Check out the funky groove of “Thinking About Her,” where a groupie turns into nothing more than a tease.  “Mr. Wilson” deals with a mid-life adultery crisis, as poor “Mrs Wilson says he’s working late.”  A true love feels like a “Remedy,” while the pain of a break-up is addressed in “All We Had To Give.”  The set closes with a shot of countrified blues, “Solid Ground,” with harp from guest Paul Jones.

 

We had two favorities, too.  Giving in to “the apple of temptation” is the premise behind “The Devil In Me,” while Oli’s maturation comes full-circle in the slow-blues of his cover of Donny Hathaway’s “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know.”  His pained vocal and blistering solos on this one, over a sparse arrangement really shows off his blues roots.

 

Oli Brown is asking only for a little respect with “Here I Am.”  Trust us, he’s gotten that and a whole lot more with this one!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.