Archive for March, 2013

Alan Wilson review…March 23, 2013…

ALAN WILSON

THE BLIND OWL

SEVERN RECORDS CD  0057

DISC ONE: ON THE ROAD AGAIN–HELP ME–AN OWL SONG–GOING UP THE COUNTRY–MY MISTAKE–CHANGE MY WAYS–GET OFF MY BACK–TIME WAS–DO NOT ENTER–SHAKE IT AND BREAK IT–NEBULOSITY/ROLLIN AND TUMBLIN/FIVE OWLS

DISC TWO:  ALAN’S INTRO–MY TIME AIN’T LONG–SKAT–LONDON BLUES–POOR MOON–PULLING HAIR BLUES–MEAN OLD WORLD–HUMAN CONDITION–CHILDHOOD’S END

 

Canned Heat played in two of the most important rock concerts of the Sixties–the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock in 1969.  Alan Wilson was a founding member of the group in 1965, possessing one of the most instantly-recognizable upper-register vocals in all of rock and blues.  Aside from the vocals, Alan also played rhythm and bottleneck slide guitar, and harp.  The band’s performances in these two concerts, (and especially their Woodstock rendition of “Going Up The Country,” which served as the unofficial “theme” of the concert), set the tone not only for that entire August weekend, but for generations of blues-rock lovers to come.

 

Severn Records has just released a two-CD overview of Alan’s work with Canned Heat, entitled “The Blind Owl.”  It encompasses twenty tracks covering his seminal recordings with the band, as well as some of his more obscure works.

 

The group’s most vital and best-known songs are included, such as “On The Road Again” and the aforementioned “Going Up The Country,” which became a huge anti-war song during the Vietnam era.  The backing band was unparalleled during this era, including Henry Vestine and Harvey Mandel on guitar, Larry Taylor and Tony de la Barreda on bass, and Frank Cook and Fito de la Parra on drums.

 

Wilson was nearsighted almost to the point of blindness and was nicknamed “The Blind Owl” by his good friend and fellow bluesman John Fahey.  Also, Wilson was extremely shy and introverted in his private life, which, sadly, led to his untimely death due to a drug overdose on September 3, 1970.  In the few short years that he performed, however, he was responsible for music that set the standard for future blues-rock groups.

 

Skip James was one of Alan’s heroes, as his signature high-pitched vocals attest.  And, he was always an avid voice for protection of the Earth’s natural resources, as the lyrics to “Poor Moon” allude to.  His almost-scholarly reverence for the blues is evident in his renditions of “Help Me” and “Mean Old World,” while Dr. John adds piano to “An Owl Song,” the band’s first recording with a horn section.  The band’s forays into psychedelia are annotated in “Nebulosity/Rollin And Tumblin/Five Owls” and the set-closing “Childhood’s End.”

 

Perhaps the set’s most intriguing songs are those written by Alan as his depression and anxiety became more severe.  They include “My Mistake,” Hair Pulling Blues,” London Blues,” and the poignant “My Time Ain’t Long,” which would serve as an eerie premonition of his death one year later.

 

Canned Heat were pioneers of today’s blues-rock movement, and founder Alan Wilson was one of the most innovative and dynamic players of his time.  Enjoy “The Blind Owl” and see how his incredible talents have virtually defined a generation of blues-rockers!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

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Sena Ehrhardt review…March 27, 2013…

SENA EHRHARDT

ALL IN

BLIND PIG CD  BPCD  5151

BURIED ALIVE–CRY TO ME–ALL IN–I WANT TO GET YOU BACK–COLD COLD FEELING–LIVE AND LEARN–MAN UP–STORM’S COMING–BABY VALENTINE–SO EXCITED–DREAMIN’ OR DYIN’

Sena Ehrhardt burst on the contemporary blues scene with her Blind Pig debut, “Leave The Light On,” which garnered her a nomination for Best New Artist of 2012.  Add to that her growing reputation as one of the most exciting performers on any stage, anywhere, and it’s no surprise she’s headed for blues stardom.

Which brings us to her sophomore release for Blind Pig, entitled “All In.”  This one found Sena, her father Ed on lead guitar, Harold Smith on rhythm guitar, Dave Smith on bass, and Steve Potts on drums, all journeying to the solitude of southwestern Tennessee to the Bessie Blue Studios to work with legendary producer Jim Gaines.  As has become the norm, the quiet surroundings of our fair state brought out not only their  creative juices, but eleven fiery performances that show Sena’s growing confidence and maturity as a writer and performer.  There are eight originals, co-written by Sena and her father, and three choice covers.

The set starts with an interesting look at a pair of lovers who try to keep it “just friends,” but end up consumed by love and a feeling of being “Buried Alive.”  Dad gets in some great wah-wah licks as blistering punctuation, too.  Sena bares her claws in a story of all-out revenge on a no-good lover in “I Want To Get You Back,” then rides the roadhouse boogie shuffle of “Man Up,” trying to get a waffling lover to make a choice.  She gives a very sultry slash-and-slow-burnin’ read of “Cold Cold Feeling,” which includes sweet call-and-response interplay between her vocals and Ed’s leads.  And, the set closes with a powerful ballad showing Sena’s most tender side, “Dreamin’ Or Dyin.”

Our two favorites both dealt with a hot-button topic that Sena was unafraid to tackle headfirst.  “Baby Valentine” and “Storm’s Coming” each deal with alcohol addictions and the consequences that those addicted must deal with in regard to the ones who love them.

Sena Ehrhardt has everything–excellent vocal chops, a budding maturity as a writer and performer, and drop-dead-gorgeous good looks.  “All In” is indeed the mark of a young star on the rise!   Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Tinsley Ellis review…March 25, 2013…

TINSLEY ELLIS

GET IT!

HEARTFIXER RECORDS  HFM 1010

FRONT STREET FREEZE–SASSY STRAT–THE MILKY WAY–DETOUR–ANTHEM FOR A FALLEN HERO–GET IT!–FUZZBUSTER–FREDDY’S MIDNITE DREAM–BERRY TOSSIN’–CATALUNYA

 

Blues guitar master Tinsley Ellis has a lengthy discography that goes back to 1983 and his early days with harpman Chicago Bob Nelson and the Heartfixers.  He’s recorded for Alligator, Capricorn, and Telarc, and, for the first time in thirty years, he has released an all-instrumental album.  This one is entitled “Get It!,” and finds Tinsley in fine “voice” thru the use of various axes, and he also plays bass on five cuts.  Rounding out the ensemble, we also have Lynn Williams on percussion, Ted Pecchio on bass (on the other five cuts), and the unparalleled Kevin McKendree on keys.

Tinsley grew up in southern Florida and listened to the British Invasion bands, as well as B. B., Freddy, and Albert King.  Throughout these eight originals and two tantalizing covers on this set, Tinsley expounds on his love for the blues and his uncanny ability to bring the sounds of many of his guitar heroes to life thru his own compositions.

An excellent case in point is the leadoff  “Front Street Freeze.”  Along with some cool backing by Kevin on a vintage Leslie, Tinsley uses a Strat to pay a sweet tribute to Albert Collins.  The ethereal, other-worldly “Milky Way” uses a bit of twang from Duane Eddy, with more great Leslie from Kevin, while Kevin bangs away on an acoustic piano over Tinsley’s wah-wah leads on “Fuzzbuster.”  The title cut swings down thru the Texas roadhouses by way of SRV, while the set closes with a Latin tinge, Tinsley’s tribute to the Catalonia region of Spain.  It is entitled “Catalunya,” and has a sweet, Santana-ish vibe.

We had two favorites, too.  “Anthem For A Fallen Hero” is perhaps the set’s most powerful piece, done on a Les Paul as an homage to another of his heroes, the late Roy Buchanan.  And, on a considerably lighter note, is “Berry Tossin,” which brings the feel of Chuck Berry’s classic riffs over a bluesy backbeat, and features Kevin doing his best Johnnie Johnson/Lafayette Leake impression!

As one can easily ascertain from listening to Tinsley Ellis on “Get It!,” his versatility is boundless.  And, luckily for us blues fans, he has put his heart, body, and soul into these ten instrumentals, to create a magical set, indeed!   Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

 

 

Big Papa And The TCB review…March 24, 2013…

BIG PAPA AND THE TCB

SIX PACK OF COOL

INLAND BLUE RECORDS  IBR  001018

PAPA’S IN DA HOUSE–A THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE–BIG BAD BLUES–200 POUNDS OF TROUBLE–DRINK DRANK DRUNK–BABY’S GOT A NEW FRIEND–A LIL BIT O’ SOMETHIN–MURDER IN THE FIRST DEGREE–WAIT TILL YO DADDY GETZ HOME–CRAZY ‘BOUT THE GIRL–SHOWTIME–MY WAY BACK HOME

It’s not every blues band that has a song licensed to be used in the Super Bowl, but Big Papa And The TCB have done just that–their song, “Go Big Papa,” is tied in with Papa John’s Pizza and has brought them quite a spot of notoriety.  And, Their latest release, ” Six Pack Of Cool,” takes them back to their  jump-blues roots thanks in part to the addition of a swingin’ new horn section.  This one features twelve band originals and a great Rod Piazza cover, and, believe us when we tell you, this one is a high-octane blues rush from the first note to the last!

 

Chris Thayer is Big Papa, who handles the vocals and guitar.  Steve Brown is on bass, Ray Wilson is on drums, with “Johnny Reb” Mila De La Rosa on keys.  The horn section is Maurice Oliva on sax and Marques Crews on trumpet, which adds some serious depth to their already huge sound.

 

Big Papa takes us down to The Big Easy with the second-line pace of  “there’s not a lot you can do when those Big Bad Blues come for you!”  Papa feels trouble in the air when “Baby’s Got A New Friend” and things just don’t seem the way they oughta be!  Another swingin’ tune is the story of a girl who has “A Thin Line Between Love And Hate,” so don’t “drink and gamble away your bread, or she’ll kick you right outta your own bed!”  Maurice and Marques each get in lengthy solos in this one.  Gino Matteo adds vocals on a cool homage to a lover, “Crazy “Bout The Girl,” while the set closes with just Papa’s vocal over Johnny Reb’s piano and Marques’ muted trumpet on “My Way Back Home.”

 

Our favorite was an easy choice.  The in-your-face swagger of the title cut sets the tone for the rest of the album, and Big Papa And The TCB bring a “Six Pack Of Cool” to this blues party!  So, “lock up your daughters and hide your wives–Big Papa’s In The House” tonite!!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Cash Box Kings review…March 23, 2013…

CASH BOX KINGS

BLACK TOPPIN

BLIND PG RECORDS   BPCD 5150

BLUES FALLING DOWN ON ME–BLACK TOPPIN–TRYING REALLY HARD (TO TRY AND GET ALONG WITH YOU)–OSCAR’S JUMP–MONEY, MARBLES, AND CHALK–MY TINAI–WALKING BLUES–I DON’T WANNA FIGHT–TOM CAT BLUES–HOT BISCUIT BABY–GIMME SOME OF THAT–RUN RUN RUN

 

On their 2011 debut, “Holler And Stomp,’ The Cash Box Kings introduced themselves as one of the premier purveyors of that classic Chicago blues sound brought to the world by the likes of Muddy, Walter, and Buddy, and made household names of record labels such as Chess and Vee-Jay.  On their latest release, entitled “Black Toppin,” the fellows treat us to eight solid originals and five very well-chosen, and perhaps a bit unusual covers.

 

The core of the band remains Joe Nosek on harp and vocals, Oscar Wilson on vocals, Beau Sample on bass, Joel Paterson on guitar, and Kenny Smith on the drums.  There are a few very special surprise guests that round out the program, making this one a cool ride, for sure!

 

The hilarious title cut revisits the Junior Parker days at Sun Records as Oscar tells the tale of “forbidden love across the tracks.”  The young’uns might say it’s a “booty call,” and us old-schoolers called it “midnight creepin,” but it’s really just plan ole “Black Toppin!”  Oscar’s vocal on “Oscar’s Jump” jives and wails all over thee place, and he does an incredible job on a tribute to Chess Records, “Too Late” and Jimmy Rogers’ “Money, Marbles, And Chalk,” which features fine lead work from Billy Flynn and Barrelhouse Chuck’s authentic piano.  The set closes with a raucous cover of Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground gem, “Run Run Run,’ with a cool echo-effect vocal from Joe.

 

Three cuts stood out for us, too.  “Trying Really Hard” is a sweet slab of Fifties-inspired rock that combines the use of Joe’s harp alongside Jerry Devivo’s sax within the arrangement.  Joel Paterson’s howlin’ slide evokes the ghost of Robert Johnson over Oscar’s vocal in “Walking Blues,” while Beau has a goodtime vibe goin’ on with the slapback bass on the tongue-in-cheek, slide-driven story of a girlfriend who just won’t “Gimme Some Of That.”

 

The Cash Box Kings easily wear the crown of “carryin’ this bidness on” as far as real-deal Chicago blues is concerned.  And, “Black Toppin” is sho ’nuff one that is keepin’ the faith!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

 

Kelly Richey review…March 21, 2013…

KELLY RICHEY

SWEET SPIRIT

SWEET LUCY RECORDS  KRB  1141

FEELIN UNDER–I WENT DOWN EASY–LEAVIN IT ALL BEHIND–SOMETHING’S GOING ON–EVERYBODY NEEDS A CHANGE–FAST DRIVIN MAMA–ONE WAY TICKET–RISIN SUN–DYIN–HARD WORKIN WOMAN

 

For Kelly Richey’s latest album, producer Duane Lundy wanted to get the feel of her live performances down in a studio setting.  With “Sweet Spirit,” she has achieved perhaps her hardest-hitting album to date.  This set contains ten original tracks that allow Kelly’s snarling, Led Zep-influenced guitar leads and her husky, gravelly alto to take the center stage.  The songs are concisely arranged for a power trip, and, on most tracks, Kelly is joined by Freekbass on bass, and Robby Cosenza on drums.

 

As Kelly sings these powerful blues-rock anthems of love, pain, and redemption, one can sense that her voice is a cool cross between contemporary blueswoman Rory Block and Heart’s Ann Wilson.  The leadoff “Feelin Under” hits like a jackhammer, while “I Went Down Easy” has a Delta-fied, hellhound-on-my-tail feel.  “Something’s Going On” is a blast of blues-rock that hints for a cleansing and a new beginning as Kelly goes “down to the river to wash my fears away.”  “Everybody Needs A Change” is a trippy, slow jam that features Bernie Worrell on keys, and is a somber look at finding peace and forgiveness in a seemingly-lost society.

 

We had two favorites, too, and both of ’em rock with a steady roll.  “Fast Drivin Mama” has that rapid-fire, crosstown-traffic vibe, while the set closes with “Hard Working Woman,” full of stinging leads and keys from Robert Lee Carroll, over Kelly’s proclamation that she is what she is, a no-frills “workin’ hard woman, tryin’ to make a fool outta you.”

 

As one listens to “Sweet Spirit,” one can grasp what Kelly and Lundy were trying to achieve–a woman who sings of overcoming past demons and emerging intact, while making no excuses.  And, “Sweet Spirit” captures her at her most raw and powerful best!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Southern Hospitality review March 21, 2013…

SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY

EASY LIVIN’

BLIND PIG RECORDS  BPCD  5152

SOUTHERN LIVIN’–LONG WAY HOME–KIND LIES AND WHISKEY–MILE AFTER MILE–CERTIFIED LOVER–FRIED NECK BONES AND HOME FRIES–SHOESTRING BUDGET–DON’T FEEL LIKE GOING THERE TODAY–COME BACK HOME–POWERED FOR THE MOUNTAIN–DON’T BOOGIE WOOGIE–SKY IS WHAT I BREATHE

Southern Hospitality was formed when guitar virtuosos Damon Fowler and JP Soars teamed with boogie piano man Victor Wainwright for an impromptu jam during a festival in Florida in July, 2011.  The seeds had been planted, and, when producer Tab Benoit joined the team, the result is this album, “Easy Livin.”  as well as the three founders of the group, Chuck Riley from Damon’s band is on bass, and Chris Peet, JP’s drummer, round out the band.

 

If you remember the Southern rock scene of the Seventies (our coming-of-age era), then you know what these guys are all about.  They are everything that was good about the Allman Brothers, Wet Willie, Sea Level, and all the greats from that time.  Each of the members bring their own songs into the mix, also.  Damon has a lengthy blues background as does JP, who spent some time in a heavy metal band.  Victor brings the funk up from New Orleans and Memphis, making this one a fun romp, indeed.

 

Everyone gets involved in the laid-back vibe of the opening “Southern Livin,” mentioning everything great about “Memphis to Savannah” and everywhere in between!  “Long Way Home” snarls with JP’s rock guitar influences, while his “Mile After Mile” evokes the Texas swing of Bob Wills.  Victor’s mean left hand powers the tale of today’s crappy economy in “Shoestring Budget,” and drives the beat home over JP’s vocals in the Fifties-styled rocker, “Come Back Home.”  Damon walks the reggae walk in “Don’t Feel Like Going There Today,’ and the set closes with the dobro-heavy tale of more good things to love about this part of the country, “Sky Is What I Breathe.”

 

One of our dearest friends in the blues community here was the late Phil Earhart of the Jefferson Street Bluesmen, who sang proudly that “I grew up in the South, y’all, the Sweet Homeland of the Blues,” and the men that comprise Southern Hospitality bring that same zest for life and bringin’ the music we all love to life in “Easy Livin!”   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.