Archive for February, 2013

Big Bill Morganfield review…February 27, 2013…

BIG BILL MORGANFIELD

BLUES WITH A MOOD

BLACK SHACK RECORDS   BSR 002

LOOK WHAT YOU DONE–HAVIN’ FUN–MONEY’S GETTIN’ CHEAPER–OOH WEE–NO BUTTER FOR MY GRITS–TIGHT THINGS–DEVIL AT MY DOOR–I FEEL ALRIGHT AGAIN–ANOTHER LONELY NIGHT–HOT LOVE–SON OF THE BLUES

 

Muddy Waters was born McKinley Morganfield, and left the plantation life in Rolling Fork, MS, and headed to Chicago during the Great Migration following WWII, becoming arguably the greatest of the postwar bluesmen.  His son, Bg Bill Morganfield, was literally born to sing the blues, and “carry this bidness on” for his father.  His latest release, on the Black Shack label, is called “Blues With A Mood,” and is eleven cuts that Bill does to serve as a tribute to his father.

Bill doesn’t just rest on his dad’s laurels, tho, as seven of these cuts are his own compositions, and they are all done up in that Chess Records style that shows what a consummate performer Big Bill has become.  He’s joined by some more blues luminaries, including Colin Linden, Eddie Taylor, Jr., and another Muddy alumnus, Bob Margolin (on two cuts), on guitars, Mookie Brill on bass, Chuck Cotton on drums, and Augie Meyers on piano.

 

With that huge, deep baritone vocal delivery, there are times on this set that you’d swear you were listening to Muddy.  Check out the midtempo lope of “Hot Love” and the swampy, Delta-infused, “Devil At My Door,” with its tales of “the Devil’s many disguises” to use to get to you!  “Tight Things” uses a hot rhumba beat and slide guitar to give this one a Mardi Gras feel, while “Look What You Done” and “Ooh Wee” both feature Bob Margolin on guitar and Steve Guyger on harp and serve as a fine tribute to Muddy.

 

All those cuts are good, but three of Bill’s originals stood out for us.  A trip to his refrigerator, the Seven-Eleven, and even his neighbor’s yields “No Butter For My Grits!”  Another humorous look at today’s economy has some fine pickin’ from Eddie Taylor, Jr., and is called “Money’s Gettin’ Cheaper.”  And, the set closes with perhaps the most powerful cut of all, the brooding, deeply-personal “Son Of The Blues,” where “the blues came calling my name, straight from my daddy’s grave.”

Big Bill Morganfield continues to carve his legacy in the blues world with strong original tunes such as the ones found on “Blues With a Mood.”  Enjoy these deep grooves and the musicians that bring them to life.   Just close your eyes, and let these blues wash over your soul.  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

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Etta Britt review….February 24, 2013…

ETTA BRITT

OUT OF THE SHADOWS

WRINKLED RECORDS  WR-1674

DOG WANTS IN–HIGH–THE CHOKIN KIND–LEAP OF FAITH (FEAT. DELBERT MCCLINTON)–IN THE TEARS–I BELIEVE–QUIET HOUSE–THE LONG HAUL–MAKE IT FAST–FALLIN’–THE BIGGER THE LOVE (THE HARDER THE FALL)–SHE’S EIGHTEEN

Locally, Etta Britt is known as one of our premier female vocalists, is one-third of the trio Kentucky Thunder, and who could fill up the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the folks she has appeared as a backing vocalist.  For her debut, “Out Of The Shadows,” she utilizes her fantastic vocal talents on twelve cuts that include her own originals as well as cuts from some of the best writers in the biz.  It is produced by her husband, Bob Britt, who adds guitar throughout, and includes a stellar surrounding cast of backing musicians.

She gets things off on the good foot with a soulful look at the eternal pull of the yin and the yang in a relationship, “The Dog Wants In, and the cat wants out!”  The McCrary Sisters add a testifyin’ touch to a tale of striving “to make someone else’s life worthwhile,” entitled “I Believe,” and they show up again on one of the album’s highlights, Etta’s stirring read of Harlan Howard’s story of a “love that scares me to death,” “The Chokin’ Kind.”

All of these songs deal with everyday struggles to keep your head above water, both physically and emotionally, and Etta is at her goose-bump-inducing best when she lets her emotions come thru unchecked, and really hits you deep down in your soul.  Check out the sparsely-arranged, somber story of a woman who realizes, perhaps a little too late, that “the silence is deafening when you’re all alone in a Quiet House,” and the prayer-like “She’s Eighteen,” which closes the set.  Here, Etta seeks protection from a higher power for a daughter leaving the nest, and her vocal prowess is at its most heartfelt and sincere.

At a recent performance at Third And Lindsley, Etta told the crowd that the horn-driven “High” was her favorite, and we agree.  It’s the story of a lover who knows now that “I had to be stoned out of my mind to let you walk away.” And, we had one other–the irresistible, sprightly, “Leap Of Faith,” which is a duet with Delbert about two lovers itchin’ to get back in the game who have to learn to trust that first step!

With this set, Etta Britt is a sure bet to step “Out Of The Shadows” and into the spotlight in a big way!   Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

James Montgomery Band review…Feb. 23, 2013…

JAMES MONTGOMERY BAND

FROM DETROIT…TO THE DELTA

VIZZTONE OPEN E RECORDS  OEO63

INTOXICATED–SAME THING–LITTLE JOHNNY–THE MOTOR CITY IS BURNING–I DON’T WANT TO HAVE A HEART–DELTA STORM–WHO DO YOU LOVE–PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS–HIT THE ROAD JACK–RIVERS EDGE–CHANGING OF THE GUARD–BLACK CADILLAC

 

James Montgomery is a Detroit-born harpman who, while growing up, was mentored by some of the legends, such as John Lee Hooker, James Cotton, and Jr. Wells.  He moved to Boston in the late Sixties, and, even Aerosmith opened a few shows for him back in the day.  He’s also worked for Johnny Winter, and has lent his skills to the likes of contemporary rockers Uncle Kracker and Kid Rock, adding his bluesy touch everywhere he’s been.  And, many of them return the favor on his latest set for Vizztone, “From Detroit….To The Delta.”  This set features twelve cuts that take the listener on sort of a “reverse journey,” guiding us back from the uptown sounds of the city, only to return to the fertile grounds of the Delta from whence the blues originated.

As well as James on harp and vocals, George McCann is on guitar, David Hull is on bass, and Seth Pappas is on drums.  And, sure enough, Johnny Winter, James Cotton, rapper Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, the Uptown Horns, and Aerosmith’s Joey Kramer and Brad Whitford all make cameos, showing just how full-circle James’ career has progressed.

The horns punch up the leadoff  “Intoxicated,” and you can hear James telling everybody “I’m movin’ to Boston” at the end of the Hooker-inspired “The Motor City Is Burning.”  There’s also a cool, jazzy take on “Hit The Road Jack,” with Charise White taking the female lead.  “Delta Storm” finds James “headin’ south on 61, tryin’ to find the light” after a woman did him wrong.  Sadly, it happens again on another love gone wrong song, this time referring to “The Changing Of The Guard.”

We had several favorites, too.  “Who Do You Love” kicks off with a funky, danceable groove, then a rapped chorus, courtesy of DMC himself, takes that “47 miles of barbwire” to a place it’s never been before.  “Little Johnny” teams up Johnny Winter’s slide and James’ harp on an autobiographical tune that also features Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford and Joey Kramer.  James Cotton helps close out this musical journey deep down in the Delta with the acoustic, stop-time swing of “Black Cadillac.”

James Montgomery has used “From Detroit…To The Delta” to bridge the gap from the Great Migration following WWII up thru today’s contemporary blues.  He’s used the things he’s learned over his career, and, in Cotton’s case, makes great use of a player who was a part of the early days of the blues, and is still a viable force today.  James Montgomery has shown us the staying power of the blues!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society

Kevin Selfe review…02-20-13…

KEVIN SELFE

LONG WALK HOME

DELTA GROOVE MUSIC   DGPCD  157

DUCT TAPE ON MY SOUL–MAMA DIDN’T RAISE NO FOOL–MOVING DAY BLUES–LAST CROSSROAD–DANCING GIRL–MIDNIGHT CREEPER–WALKING FUNNY–TOO MUCH VOODOO–SECOND BOX ON THE LEFT–THE BLUES IS MY HOME–PUT ME BACK IN JAIL

 

Kevin Selfe learned to play the guitar while studying meteorology at NC State.  A roommate turned him on to the blues, and the career as a weatherman ended and one as a bluesman began.  He was a finalist in Memphis at the 2002 IBC’s, and he formed his own group, Kevin Selfe and the Tornadoes, eventually relocating to Portland, OR, in 2007.

 

Over the last few years, Kevin and his band have become one of the hardest-working bands in the Northwest, and he’s parlayed that activity into his debut release for Delta Groove, “Long Walk Home.”  There are eleven original cuts herein that give listeners the lowdown on just why Kevin is so popular.  His knowledge of various styles of blues is what makes this set appealing to a wide spectrum of fans.

 

Check out the deep Delta slide work on “Midnight Creeper,” as well as the hellhound-on-my-tail boogie of “this is the Last Crossroad I’ll ever see,” and the haunting “Blues Is My Home.”  Then, without missing a beat, the fellows shift gears into a serious T-Bone Walker mode with the uptown swing of “Walking Funny” and the tale of a man whose years of livin’ the blues have taken a hard toll, “Duct Tape On My Soul.’

 

That clever way with a lyric that Kevin has is what fueled our choice of favorites.  Another swingin’ affair is a tongue-in-cheek look at the sorry state of today’s economy, “Second Box On The Left.”  The slow burn of “Moving Day Blues” has piano from Gene Taylor while the set-closing “Put Me Back In Jail’ is an all-out rocker, with Kevin’s slide and Steve Kerin’s piano  locked in together throughout.

 

With “Long Walk Home,’ Kevin Selfe is poised for the national recognition he so richly deserves, especially with his winning trifecta of great musicianship, clever lyrics, and a bluesy  vocal style!    Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

The Slide Brothers review…Feb. 19, 2013…

ROBERT RANDOLPH PRESENTS:

THE SLIDE BROTHERS

CONCORD RECORDS  CRE  34262-02

DON’T KEEP ME WONDERIN’–MY SWEET LORD–SUNDAY SCHOOL BLUES–WADE IN THE WATER–PRAISE YOU (feat. Shemekia Copeland)–IT HURTS ME TOO–CATCH THAT TRAIN–MOTHERLESS  CHILDREN–HELP ME MAKE IT THROUGH–THE SKY IS CRYING–NO CHEAP SEATS IN HEAVEN

 

Robert Randolph and the Family Band burst on the scene in 2003 with their album “Unclassified,” presenting the “sacred steel” guitar to the secular world.   Born of the church, the sacred steel has been used in services in the House Of God Church since the 1930’s, and, thru the efforts of players such as Randolph, has brought this music to the world.

 

Besides Randolph, there are several well-known sacred steel players, and, with “Robert Randolph Presents The Slide Brothers,” on the Concord label, he brings together four of the very best.  They are Calvin Cooke, Aubrey Ghent, and brothers Chuck and Darick Campbell, each of whom brings a unique perspective to this time-honored tradition.

There are eleven cuts on this set, a mix of songs that are traditional gospel spirituals as well as songs that are identified with blues artists.  The players are a literal “who’s who” in the field of sacred steel.  Calvin Cooke has earned the nickname, “the B. B. King of gospel steel guitar” for his prowess, while the Campbell brothers take a more contemporary approach to their playing.  As evidence, check out the leadoff “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin,” with their searing twin lead lines over Calvin’s vocals.  Aubrey Ghent has been preaching since the age of twenty, thru both his words and music, and maintains a more traditional approach to his playing.

 

This collection crosses several boundaries, and the players segue’ into both gospel and blues with ease.  On “My Sweet Lord,” Aubrey Ghent adds a fine bit of spoken-word “testifyin’ over the Campbell’s lead work, with lead vocals from Jimmy Carter of the Blind Boys Of Alabama.  Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” features not only Robert and Marcus Randolph on some spaced-out steel, but Marcus adds dobro over Shemekia Copeland’s feverish vocals.

 

Calvin Cooke handles lead vocals on two straight-on blues cuts, “It Hurts Me Too” and “The Sky Is Crying,” featuring Robert Randolph and Chuck Campbell on the deep slide runs, Chris Layton on drums, and Nashville legend Billy Cox on bass.

 

We had two favorites, too.  All these great players play with the intent that the steel guitar becomes like a second “voice,” and this is particularly evident on the traditional “Motherless Children,” and the all-instrumental “Wade In The Water,” with the Campbells again sharing guitar duties and bringing to mind an old-fashioned tent revival or camp meeting.

 

It is not only wonderful to see these greats of the sacred steel tradition, spanning several generations, coming together in a “summit meeting,” of sorts, but also to show how, in their skilled hands, the gospel and the blues can indeed peacefully coexist.  Enjoy the brilliance of “Robert Randolph Presents: The Slide Brothers!”  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Andy T and Nick Nixon review….Feb. 17, 2013….

ANDY T—NICK NIXON BAND

FEAT. ANSON FUNDERBURGH

DRINK DRANK DRUNK

DELTA GROOVE MUSIC  DGPCD 158

MIDNIGHT HOUR–DON’T TOUCH ME–DRINK DRANK DRUNK–NO USE KNOCKIN–HAVE YOU SEEN MY MONKEY–DOS DANOS–NO END TO THE BLUES–ON MY WAY TO TEXAS–HI-HEEL SNEAKERS–LIFE IS TOO SHORT–YOU LOOK SO GOOD–I’VE GOT A WOMAN

 

Andy “T” Talamantez played guitar for several years with greats such as Guitar Shorty and Smokey Wilson, out in California,  developing a huge, mellow tone that resonates thru every note he plays.  He and his lovely wife, Kathy Bolmer, relocated to Nashville a few years ago, and, thru their efforts, completely rejuvenated our blues society.  James “Nick” Nixon, is virtually a Nashville institution, even recording a single for Chess Records in 1974 with his group, Past, Present, and Future.  Andy and Nick have been jamming regularly all over town, and, when they played a benefit in Phoenix, AZ, for Kid Ramos last fall, they were signed by Delta Groove.  They have just released “Drink Drank Drunk,” twelve cuts that hearken back to Nick’s storied Jefferson Street heyday.  With swingin’ horn arrangements on just about every song, this s a strong set of R & B that could have easily been heard down on Jefferson during the mid-Fifties thru the mid-Sixties, when artists such as Nick, Marion James, Earl Gaines, Roscoe Shelton, and even a young Hendrix could be heard in various venues every night in the week.

 

Gatemouth’s “Midnight Hour Blues” opens the set in a jumpin’ way, with Andy’s leads locking in perfectly with Nick’s lustrous vocals.  Kevin McKendree adds that barroom piano on the jazzy lope of the title cut,  and Anson Funderburgh adds rhythm guitar, where “there’s no such thing as last call.”  Christian Dozzler plays squeeze box on Andy’s humorous original tale of love, “Have You Seen My Monkey.’  And, the set closes with a sizzling take on “I Got A Woman.”

 

We had two favorites, too.  Another Andy and Nick original is “On My Way To Texas,” where Nick name-checks all the greats from the Lone Star State, from Gate to T-Bone to Freddie to Albert Collins, over a rhumba-fied beat.  And, one of our all-time favorites in any genre’ was written by Nick and Scotty Moore, and is called “No End To The Blues.”  It also features backing vocals and B-3 from two of our very best friends, Jill Markey and Larry van Loon, respectively.

 

Andy T has hit on a winning formula with Nick Nixon, and they share a common commitment to bring audiences the absolute best in the blues.  “Drink Drank Drunk” serves as an excellent debut from these two titans of the blues!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Robert ‘Top’Thomas review…Feb 16 2013…

ROBERT  ‘TOP’ THOMAS

THE TOWN CRIER

WILDROOTS RECORDS LLC  CD 2013

MISSISSIPPI QUICKIE–BLUES GRASS–THE SAME THING COULD HAPPEN TO YOU–LAZY LITTLE DAISY–KING SNAKE CRAWL–BAD SEED–WHAT’S THE MATTER MA–SUGAR SHOP–YEEHAW JUNCTION–I’M A FREIGHT TRAIN–DADDY’S GONE–THE TOWN CRIER–IT AIN’T EASY

 

During the mid-Nineties down here deep in the heart of Dixie, the King Snake label was bringing the best in Southern-fried blues, from artists such as Ace Moreland, the great sax player, Noble “Thin Man” Watts, and Smokehouse.  The guitarist behind Smokehouse is still rockin’ those blues, and Robert ‘Top’ Thomas has just released “The Town Crier,” on the WildRoots label.  Drawing from his influences such as Lazy Lester, Jimmy Reed, and all the greats that recorded for King Snake back in the day, the New Smyrna Beach native brings together twelve band originals and one scintillating cover that lets everyone know that the blues are still goin’ strong deep down in Florida.

 

Produced and arranged by Stephen Dees, who also adds bass and backing vocals, Top is joined by Billy Dean on drums, and Stephen Kampa on harp, the winner of the 2012 Florida Harmonica Championships.  Top and the fellows visit several genres’ on this set, and do so very well.  Check out the leadoff slab of chugging roadhouse boogie, finding the Top lookin’ for a “Mississippi Quickie!!”  They sound as if they are on our front porch havin’ a cold one on the acoustic gems, “What’s The Matter Ma,” and a clever ode to taking your mind off your troubles by lighting up a shot of “Blues Grass!”  Victor Wainwright gets in some great piano work on the N’Awlins-flavored trip down to the “Sugar Shop,” while Top and guest Damon Fowler on dobro bring a touch of the Delta to everything on “I’m A Freight Train.”  There’s even a bit of “Sunday morning” to close the set, as everyone joins in on “It Ain’t Easy, gettin’ thru Heaven’s door.”

 

We had three favorites, too.  On the hilarious title cut, a cool horn section adds spice to Top’s tale of a woman who done him wrong, and turned him into “The Town Crier.”  The slow burn of “King Snake Crawl” name-checks virtually everyone from that storied roster, and they all “had their mojo workin” back in the day.  And, we’ve always been partial to Lazy Lester, and Top’s vocal on “The Same Thing Could Happen To You” sounds so much like Lester that it’s downright spooky!  Beth McKee spices it up with some cool squeeze box, too.

 

Robert ‘Top’ Thomas has served notice that the blues is alive and well in the deep South, and “The Town Crier” will sho’ nuff tell you all about it!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.