Archive for September, 2012

Bopcats review September 27 2012….

THE BOPCATS

25 YEARS OF ROCK N ROLL

ELLERSOUL RECORDS  ELL 91201

I DON’T WANT TO BE ALONE–DARK TRAIN–WHO DRANK MY BEER–BROKE DOWN–ALL I NEED–WHEELS OF MINE–THAT’S RIGHT–CRAZY LI’L BABY–RED CADILLAC–VENTILATOR BLUES–MARIE MARIE–SWEET THING–LIFE OF CRIME–JENNY JENNY–GET RHYTHM–ON A ROLL–THE RACE IS ON

 

The Bopcats have been playing bars, clubs, and any place good rockin’ blues are welcomed since the Seventies.  When the late-70’s–early-80’s rockabilly “revival” hit, they were right in the thick of it, and they are still blasting away today.  The core of the band has always been guitarist Lindy Fralin, with Jon and Gary Fralin on keyboards.  They have recorded most of their material for promotional purposes, but they have just compiled and released seventeen career-spanning tracks that date back to 1984, and it’s entitled “25 Years Of Rock ‘n’ Roll.”  Eleven of these cuts are band originals, and the fellows pay tribute to not only the rockabilly cats of the Fifties, but roots-rock and blues heroes as well.  Take the leadoff “Don’t Want To Be Alone,” which sounds as if it could’ve been a long-lost Springsteen nugget.  The pay homage to one of Americana’s best-loved groups, The Blasters, with a sweet read of “Marie Marie.”  “Wheels Of Mine” and “Dark Train” are vintage rockabilly, as is their nod to the boys down at 706 Union in Memphis, “Get Rhythm.”

 

No Bopcats compilation would be complete without a ‘twangin” song, a la Duane Eddy, and “Jenny Jenny” fills the bill perfectly, while “On A Roll” has some cool whorehouse piano that’d make the Killer proud.  The set closes with an amped-up version of an early George Jones classic, “The Race Is On.”

 

We had several favorites, too.  There’s some cool two-part harmony in a song that addresses the age-old question of “why buy the cow,” entitled “All I Need.”  “Sweet Thing” is just plain decadently shagalicious, while it takes a unique band to pull off “Ventilator Blues,” but the Bopcats make this “Exile-era” Stones gem memorable with Gary’s stripped-down guitar arrangement.

 

The Bopcats keep alive a tradition that’s been around since the blues had that baby.  Grab a copy of “25 Years Of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” pull back the rugs, and …..”Let’s Rock!!”   Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

 

Hans Theesink and Terry Evans review, September 22 2012…

HANS THEESINK AND TERRY EVANS

FEATURING RY COODER

DELTA TIME

BLUE GROOVE RECORDS  BGO 2220 CD

 

DELTA TIME–BLUES STAY AWAY FROM ME–IT HURTS ME TOO–HOW COME PEOPLE ACT LIKE THAT–THE BIRDS AND THE BEES–BUILD MYSELF A HOME–DOWN IN MISSISSIPPI–SHELTER FROM THE STORM–I NEED MONEY–HEAVEN’S AIRPLANE–POURING WATER ON A DROWNING MAN–HONEST I DO–MISSISSIPPI

 

Hans Theesink is one of Europe’s best-known and most respected bluesmen, with some twenty albums to his credit and forty years “on the road.”  Vicksburg, MS, native Terry Evans remembers his first “paying gig” well.  As a member of The Turnarounds they cut the original version of “The Birds And The Bees.”  He’s done several albums under his own name, and one other album with Hans, “Visions,” from 2008.  They have just released their second set, “Delta Time,” (which does include  a cool cover of “The Birds And The Bees.”) for Blue Groove Records.  Behind Hans’ stoic baritone and flawless flat-picking and Terry’s gospel-fueled voice and spot-on rhythm playing, the two men flourish as duet partners over thirteen cuts.  Also joining in the fun is guitarist Ry Cooder for three cuts, and additional harmony vocals are provided by two of Terry’s closest gospel colleagues, Willie Greene, Jr., and Arnold McCuller.

 

The set begins with Hans “packing his bags” to leave all the “big-city fighting” behind, to catch a southbound freight to a place where things run a little smoother, on “Delta Time.”  Terry and the gospel chorus give this one a real shot of fire and brimstone, too.  Terry sings the poignant and powerful “Down In Mississippi” as if it could have been his autobiography, from picking cotton and growing up a young black man in the Jim Crow south.  His gospel background adds perfect authenticity to this cut, and Hans’ call-and-response vocals and slide are right on the money.  There’s more great gospel-flavored blues, too, with “Build Myself A Home,” and “Shelter From The Storm,” which features Ry Cooder on guitar.  Hans takes us on a journey from Memphis down Highway 61 along the Blues Trail to close the set in a tune called “Mississippi,” where he name-checks darn near everyone associated with that trail, from Peetie Wheatstraw, “the devil’s son-in-law,” to Memphis Minnie, and even Aretha.  The sound of his National Steel brings it all home, while Terry and the backing chorus add the perfect touch.

 

We had two favorites, too.  Another cool gospel tune has Hans singing of the Second Coming on “Heaven’s Airplane.”  And, the harmonies that Terry and Hans create on the Delmore Brothers classic, “Blues Stay Away From Me.” are breathtakingly brilliant, and perfectly complemented by Ry Cooder’s guitar.

 

Altho Hans and Terry are an ocean apart, their souls are united by the music that they share with us.  “Delta Time” creates a  stripped-down, powerful vibe that is both mesmerizing and extremely entertaining!    Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

John Lee Jooker, Jr. review September 15, 2012…

JOHN LEE HOOKER, JR.

ALL HOOKED UP

STEPPIN STONE RECORDS

TIRED OF BEING A HOUSEWIFE–YOU BE MY HERO–LISTEN TO THE MUSIC–I SURRENDER–HARD TIMES–LET ME BE–IT MUST BE THE MEDS–ALL HOOKED UP–I KNOW THAT’S RIGHT–TELL IT LIKE IT IS–PAY THE RENT–TEARS IN MY EYES

 

John Lee Hooker, Jr. has been a multiple Grammy and Blues Award nominee, and, for his fifth album, he’s teamed up with some of California’s Bay Area best to make “All Hooked Up” a definite pleasure to listen to!  He’s on fire with these twelve originals, touching on blues, jazz, and soul, with a contemporary sound all his own.  Check out the gritty, harp-driven funk of “Tell t Like It Is,” reminding us all what are the wages of sin.  This one has a sweet backing chorus that gives it a gospel feel, adding to the message of the song.  Then there’s the leadoff tale of an urban “desperate housewife” who leaves an indifferent husband, on the prowl for a “little love and affection,” aptly-titled “Tired Of Being A Housewife.’  The slow blues of “Hard Times” shows how far someone will go just to survive, while “Let Me Be” finds John Lee just wanting to left alone to keep a low profile!

 

There is a cool companion DVD to this set, also.  It’s an animated, black-and-white, film-noir-ish video for the song “Dear John.”  It finds John jailed for attempting to satisfy one of his many late-night “cravings,” and, while incarcerated, he receives that dreaded “letter” from his soon-to-be-ex-wife!

 

There were several favorites, too.  “Pay The Rent” has a jazzy, Louis Jordan feel, while Lucky Peterson adds guitar to John’s tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces in “You Be My Hero.’  John is joined by the original “Clean Up Woman” herself, Betty Wright, on an old-school soul throwdown duet, “I Surrender.”  And, the title cut could well serve as John’s autobiography.  Being the son of a legend sometimes made it a bit too easy to get “All Hooked Up” with things that aren’t necessarily good for you.  But, now, he’s turned his life around and this one sends out a positive vibe.

 

John Lee Hooker’s amazing story of recovery and redemption  has put him on “The 700 Club” and on the cover of “Healthy Living” magazine.  And, he can lay down some mean blues in the grand tradition of his Pops to which “All Hooked Up’ can readily attest!!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Mighty Sam McClain review September 15, 2012…

MIGHTY SAM MCCLAIN

TOO MUCH JESUS (NOT ENOUGH WHISKEY)

MIGHTY MUSIC 103

WISH YOU WELL–MISSING YOU–CAN YOU FEEL IT?–FEEL SO GOOD–FEEL SO RIGHT–TEARS–STAND UP–REAL THING–USE ME–ROCK MY SOUL–HEY BABY–SO INTO YOU–WAKE UP CALL–TOO MUCH JESUS (NOT ENOUGH WHISKEY)–DANCE

 

Mighty Sam McClain began as did many of the great soul men of our generation–singing in church and gospel groups.  Sam’s voice ranks among the likes of Otis Redding, Solomon Burke, and O. V. Wright. His latest release, “Too Much Jesus (Not Enough Whiskey),” finds him in top form on fourteen cuts that mix blues, old-school soul, funk, and gospel.  In fact, on each one of the songs on this set, Sam’s deeply-rooted vibe of hope mixed with his love for spirituality shines thru like a beacon in the night.  This set also marks seventeen years that Sam and guitarist Pat Herlehy have shared the stage and written together.

 

The set starts off with a poignant “goodbye” song after the love affair is over,  “I Wish You Well.”  “Can You Feel It?” is an ultra-funky call for peace, while Pat’s call-and-response guitar over Sam’s vocals adds spice to “Stand Up”‘   “Wake Up Call” is Sam’s message to everyone that the Second Coming may be closer than we think.  And, the title cut could be Sam’s autobiography.  Once he swore off drinking and accepted Jesus, all his good-time buddies seem to have disappeared.

 

We had two favorites, too.  The powerful   “Missing You” finds another love coming to an end, and Sam tells his ex that his feelings are still strong, and he puts everything in God’s hands to “please make things clear,” especially since there are children involved.  And, Sam goes into deep-soul mode in a plea to keep his relationship intact with a lover, which, inevitably, leads to “Tears.”

 

Mighty Sam McClain has created an album that is a triumph of the human spirit and redemption, with his brilliant voice bringing it all home.  “Too Much  Jesus (Not Enough Whiskey) is not to be missed!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

 

Big Walker review Sepember 9, 2012…

BIG WALKER

ROOT WALKING

AMERICAN BLUES AND ROOTS

BWK RECORDS  BWK 2

IT’S HARD–RAISE A RUCKUS–WILD BLACK BILL–RUN NIGRI RUN–THE HYPOCRITE BLUES–CAN’T TAKE NO TRAIN–MIDNIGHT SPECIAL–YOU GOT A HOME IN THAT ROCK–PAPA GUEDE–DEVIL’S CLOTH–THIRTEENTH FULL MOON–SLAVE (PLUS HIDDEN TRACK)

 

Derrick “Big” Walker has played the blues in San Francisco in the Sixties with the likes of Lowell Fulson and Mike Bloomfield, and for his latest release, “Root Walking,” he has taken the blues back to its very origins, with poems that date back to the 1700’s ans 1800’s that were handed down thru the generations and put them to music.  Most of the subjects deal with the oppression that blacks who were sold into slavery have had to endure throughout history, using music as a way to heal the wounds.  And, Walker mixes these poems with his own originals to create twelve tracks that make for quite an interesting history lesson.

 

Walker’s vocal delivery is reminiscent of the traveling troubadours that hopped freight trains and spread the word of the blues from town to town.  The set kicks off with “It’s Hard,” a midtempo look at life’s daily struggles.  There are two songs that deal with runaway slaves.  “Wild Black Bill” was a bad man who “killed the Boss and knocked down the hoss,” while “Run Nigri Run” is a country-blues number about a slave who, when ‘the sheriff shot, that Nigri ran faster!”  Walker, who’s a big Leadbelly fan, recounts “Midnight Special” herein, with lyrics not generally heard in other more “mainstream” versions of this song, keeping to Leadbelly’s original intent.  There are two “spirituals” of sorts, also.  “You Got A Home In That Rock’ traces Lazarus’ path to Heaven, and the rich man’s road to Hell.  And, we are warned not to let our thoughts and actions help to weave “The Devil’s Cloth.’

 

Our favorites were easy.  “Thirteenth full Moon” is a 21ST Century revamping of “Born Under A Bad Sign,” while the set closes with the poignant, brooding, “Slave.”  It is an account of slave trading from Africa into the New World in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries and the rampant oppression that followed.  It clocks in at about five minutes, and the other four minutes are a “hidden” track that is pure, unabashed joy.  “She Hoodooed Me’ is a swingin’ tale of a voodoo woman with more mojos, jujus, and goofer dust than you can shake a black cat bone at.  Walker plays a wailin’ sax on this one, with a vocal that sounds like a cross between Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Louis Jordan!

 

Big Walker takes a storyteller’s view of life’s ups and downs and sets it all to music, and “Root Walking” is a highly entertaining listen!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

Les Paul Tribute September 8, 2012…

LOU PALLO OF LES PAUL’S TRIO

WITH SPECIAL GUESTS

THANK YOU LES

AVALON–MR. DAY\TELL ME WHAT’S THE REASON–CARAVAN–TENNESSEE WALTZ–SEPTEMBER SONG–IT’S BEEN A LONG, LONG TIME–I’M CONFESSIN’ THAT I LOVE YOU–MISTER SANDMAN–BESAME MUCHO–BRAZIL–VAYA CON DIOS–DEEP IN THE BLUES–NATURE BOY–MEMORIES OF YOU–SMILE–CARIOCA–JUST ONE MORE CHANCE–ST. LOUIS BLUES–SWEET GEORGIA BROWN–OUT OF NOWHERE–OVER THE RAINBOW

 

Les Paul was more than just a fantastic guitar player.  He was an inventor, an innovator, and a technician, always looking to improve the sounds and tones of the electric guitar.  He influenced more players than you can count, and a group of his closest friends have just released “Thank You Les,” a twenty-one track “love letter” of sorts, paying tribute to the man and his music.  It was the brain-child of Les’ long-time friend and literal “right-hand man,” Lou Pallo, who played rhythm guitar alongside Les for many years, and especially those legendary gigs in New York, first at Fat Tuesday’s, then later at the Iridium on Broadway.

 

The lineup includes a virtual “who’s who” in jazz, rock, and blues guitar, and perhaps only Lou Pallo could get them all together.  They perform well-known standards from the Great American Songbook, all done in that inimitable style Les popularized.

 

This set is full of nothing but highlights.  Les Paul was Steve Miller’s godfather, and Miller pays tribute by writing the set’s liner notes, and with two tunes, the minor-key classic, “Nature Boy,” and a jumpin’  “Mr. Day\Tell Me What’s The Reason,” featuring excellent piano from John Colianni.  Lou never misses a beat backing Arlen Roth on “Mister Sandman” and Frank Vignola on “Avalon.”  Les’ love of Latin rhythms are represented by “Carioca” and “brazil” with Frank Vignola, and a brilliant “Besame Mucho” with vocal from Jose Feliciano.  Billy F. Gibbons turns “September Song” into a blues rave-up, while Slash and Lou do some serious down-home pickin’ on “Deep In The Blues.”  A cool horn intro leads off Jon Paris’ take on “St. Louis Blues,” complete with backing  harp.  The playful banter between Keith Richards and Lou on “It’s Been A Long, Long Time” is priceless, while American Idol finalist Melinda Doolittle closes the show with a soaring “Over The Rainbow.”

 

This was more than just a tribute album.  Everyone knew that Les loved playing the guitar perhaps more than anything, and the players herein return that love in kind on “Thank You Les,”  a set that will appeal to anyone who loves good guitar-based music.  We know Les would be proud…. Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

 

Joanne Shaw Taylor review September 8 2012…

JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR

ALMOST ALWAYS NEVER

RUF RECORDS 1181

SOUL STATION–BEAUTIFULLY BROKEN–YOU SHOULD STAY, I SHOULD GO–PIECE OF THE SKY–ARMY OF ONE–JEALOUSY ALMOST ALWAYS NEVER–TIED AND BOUND–A HAND IN LOVE–STANDING TO FALL–MAYBE TOMORROW–LOSE MYSELF TO LOVING YOU

 

For her latest album for Ruf  Records, label prez Thomas Ruf took Joanne Shaw Taylor somewhat out of her “comfort zone” from her first two albums, this time pairing her with producer Mike McCarthy and recording “Almost Always Never” in Austin, TX, as opposed to Jim Gaines’ Memphis studios.   As a result, these twelve cuts find her experimenting with some very funky, edgier grooves without losing any of the power and emotion supplied in her first two sets.

For this set, composed of eleven originals and one really cool Frankie Miller cover, she is joined by David Garza on keys, Billy White on bass and acoustic slide, and J. J. Johnson on drums.

The set kicks off with a sweet riff that propels “Soul Station,” a tale dealing with battling one’s addictions, where “the new trend is to depend on a head held high to reason.”  It segues’ into a near-Hendrixian guitar assault from Joanne in its fiery climax.   A lover locked in a battle with his own “emotional pride” in a “place where persist and prevail collide” is the theme of “Tied And Bound,” with a great sultry-to-growling vocal.  “Standing To Fall” is another sweet slab of blues-rock that lets Joanne show off her guitar chops in its jam-like, Allman-esque finish.  The set closes with the tender “Lose Myself To Loving You,” which finds Joanne at love’s crossroads, finally deciding to cut her losses rather than stay and fight.

 

We had two favorites, too.  Joanne and Billy White play “dueling” acoustic guitars in “Army Of One,” while Frankie Miller’s “Jealousy” is given a dazzling minor-key treatment here, with David Garza’s B-3 swirling over Joanne’s snarling guitar lines and angst-ridden vocals.

 

Joanne Shaw Taylor just keeps getting better and more mature with each release.  She was tabbed by Annie Lennox to play guitar in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebration, and “Almost Always Never” solidifies her place as one of the best in contemporary blues!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.