Archive for April, 2013

Janet Ryan review…April 28, 2013…

JANET RYAN

MAMA SOUL

CSP RECORDS  1056

HE BURNED THAT BRIDGE–WHAT I LIKE BEST–TIRED OF TALKING–MR. MISERY–WHAT WAS I THINKING–THIS HEART OF MINE–FIRST TO SAY GOODBYE–LOVE HAS LEFT THE BUILDING–SAY GOODBYE–LEARN TO LET IT GO–WOMEN BE WISE–DESTINATION ANYWHERE–TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF

Altho her home is in the hills of Conway, MA, Janet Ryan traveled to Chicago as a young blueswoman, soaking up the sounds of Koko Taylor and Etta James, among others.  She struck out on her own with The Straight Up Band, making a living playing festivals and clubs up and down the East Coast.  After hearing her sing as a part of a documentary in 2012, CSP Records owner Jimmy Rogers couldn’t wait to sign her and release “Mama Soul,” thirteen tracks that let her big, brassy, soulful voice shine through.

 

As one listens to these cuts, the set comes at you like an old-school R & B revue.  Janet’s voice will remind you of Janis Joplin or Etta James, mixing blues with the R & B of the Stax and Motown eras.  The arrangements all feature wailing blues guitar, horns, and keys that all complement Janet beautifully, honed thru years of playing as a unit.

 

The material is predominantly band-composed originals, save for one ultra-cool cover.  The cuts let Janet’s powerhouse vocals weave tales of love in all shapes and shades.  Check out the opening cut, a soulful burner that spins a tale of a lover so cold that “He Burned That Bridge while I was standing on it,” featuring red-hot slide from Jerry Sartain and roadhouse piano from Chuck Mabrey.  She gets to the heart of the matter with another no-good lover, and she’s “Tired Of Talking,” preferring to hit the road instead.  Another tune set over a funky backbeat finds two lovers who “know it’s about to end,” just waitin’ to see who’ll be “The First To Say Goodbye.”  And, gettin’ out of a bad-news town has Janet headin’ to “Destination Anywhere,” featuring Jerry Sartain’s wah-wah workouts on the guitar.

 

We had two favorites, too.  A song of unrequited love is the minor-key, sax-and-organ-heavy “Love Has Left The Building.”  The set’s lone cover is a good one, as Janet lends a sultry touch to a sexy take of Sippie Wallace’s “Women Be Wise, and don’t advertise your man!”  Joe Elliot’s piano is a real hoot, and keeps this one authentic to the era in which it was written.

 

Janet’s vocals make you feel that she’s singing just for you.  She’s in total command of all the material on “Mama Soul,’ and is a brilliantly-captivating entertainer!     Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow

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Austin Young review…April 26, 2013…

AUSTIN YOUNG AND NO DIFFERENCE

BLUE AS CAN BE

VIZZTONE RECORDS  VTAY–003

THUNDERHEAD–BLUE AS CAN BE–DISAPPEARING RAILROAD BLUES–SIGNAL–SPRINGTIME SNOW–MAGDALENA–NOT AS STRONG–WHO’S COMING OUT?–BORROWED TIME–THAT’S IT–GIVE ME ONE GOOD REASON–WALKING THROUGH–MISS YOU MOORE

 

Most seventeen-year-olds are obsessed with the opposite sex, driver’s licenses, and school activities.  For Colorado native Austin Young, we are sure he finds time for these diversions whenever he’s not playing some of the hottest blues guitar you’ll ever hear.  He has just released his latest album for Vizztone, entitled “Blue As Can Be,” containing thirteen band originals that cover several shades of blues and blues-rock.

 

A self-taught guitarist since the age of twelve, he can handle the intricacies of Robert Johnson all the way up to the power grooves of Hendrix and SRV, and do so with ease.  He’s backed by his band, No Difference, which has eighteen-year old Noah Mast on bass, and Austin’s father, Tim, on drums.

 

With the excellent choices of material on this album, the inevitable comparisons to guys like SRV and Joe Bonamassa are going to occur.  However, be assured that Austin is his own man, and plays with scope and passion.  Blues-rock anthems such as the opening “Thunderhead,” “Signal,” and “Not As Strong” show the powerful side of his repertoire, while “Magdalena,” played on an acoustic National steel, and “Disappearing Railroad Blues” both look at love from different perspectives, and show a softer, more Dylan-esque side to the band.

 

Austin can pitch a boogie that’ll fill up the dance floor, too, as evidenced by the roadhouse rock of “Who’s Coming Out?” and the uptown swing of “That’s It.”  And, he reminds us all that no one is guaranteed a tomorrow, and we should live each day to the fullest, because it’s all “Borrowed Time.”

 

We had two favorites, too.  Austin borrows from some of the most popular blues cliches’ to do a down-and-dirty tribute to Muddy, which serves as the set’s title cut.  And, the set closes with a soaring instrumental, “Miss You Moore,” done not only in tribute to the late British bluesman Gary Moore, but to all the greats who have come and gone.

 

Anyone who thinks that the blues is just “old folks music” need only to take a listen to recent releases from Trampled Under Foot, Andy Poxon, Cassie Taylor, and Samantha Fish.  You can sho’ nuff add Austin Young to that list, too, because “Blue As Can Be” marks the beginning of a budding blues superstar!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Linda Valori review April 25, 2013…

LINDA VALORI

DAYS LIKE THIS

RAISIN MUSIC RECORDS  RM 1014

DAYS LIKE THIS–PAIN–I IDOLIZE YOU–SO DOGGONE GOOD–MY TURN MY TIME–THE WAY YOU LOVE ME–DON’T GET ME WRONG–JEALOUS KIND–AFTER LAUGHTER–MOVE OVER–I SMELL TROUBLE–IF I CAN’T HAVE YOU

Linda Valori is one of Europe’s most respected female vocalists, having performed for both Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict XVI.  Eager to introduce herself to American audiences, she has just released “Days Like This,” twelve tunes recorded in Chicago at the JoyRide Studio, and produced by guitarist Larry Skoller.

These cuts run the gamut from pop standards from established artists, as well as old-school blues done in an R & B-inspired vein.  The arrangements are crisp, with the material pretty evenly split, with the horn parts dominating the R & B grooves, and Vincent Bucher’s harp snaking thru the blues cuts.

The backbone of it all, tho, is Linda and her serious vocal abilities.  She can reach the high notes with ease, and she has that deep, sultry, resonant growl that plays well within the blues songs.

The set opens with the blue-eyed soul of Van Morrison’s “Days Like This,” and continues with the sly-and-sexy “Your Love Is So Doggone Good.”  “My Turn My Time” has Linda’s vocal set over an interesting rhumba beat, while her take on Chrissie Hynde’s “Don’t Get Me Wrong” follows a reggae groove.

You can’t deny her prowess as she easily handles the Joplin classic, “Move Over,” and we loved her deeply-touching take of Bobby Charles’ “The Jealous Kind.”  And, the set closes with Linda in a fine duet with Mike Avery on “If I Can’t Have You,” reminiscent of the great Brook Benton and Dinah Washington days.

We had three favorites, too.  Mike Wheeler’s stinging leads crackle all over Linda’s down-and-dirty read of “I Smell Trouble,” while she does her best Tina Turner imitation on “I Idolize You” and a swingin’ “The Way You Love Me.”

The rest of the world already knows the power, scope, and range of Linda Valori’s voice, and now it’s our turn here in the States to find out.  “Days Like This” is destined to make her an international star!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Hans Theessink review…April 22, 2013…

HANS THEESSINK

WISHING WELL

BLUE GROOVE   BG2320

NEW HOME UPON THE HILL–WISHING WELL–WAYFARING STRANGER–TAKE YOUR PICTURE–SNOWIN’ ON RATON–MAKE ME DOWN A PALLET ON YOUR FLOOR–ALBERTA LET YOUR HAIR HANG DOWN LOW–LIVING WITH THE BLUES–HELLBOUND–KATHMANDU–BALLAD OF HOLLIS BROWN–DIDN’T WE TRY–EARLY THIS MORNING BLUES

 

Hans Theessink (pronounced TAY-sink) is perhaps one of Europe’s most outstanding bluesmen.  He’s traveled the world for over forty years, and has released two dozen albums and instrumental videos to teach blues guitar.  Just in time for his 65th birthday, he has just released his latest album for Blue Groove, entitled “Wishing Well.”  It is a Duke’s mixture of originals and traditional songs adapted to Hans’ inimitable style.

The set is virtually all-acoustic, filled with Hans’ almost-whispered, warm-and-welcoming baritone and deft fingerpicking.  The title cut explores two lovers who realize that the end of their relationship is nigh, and features Hans on mando-guitar.  It was written on a trip to Nepal, which also brought about “Kathmandu,” a raga featuring sweet guitar and Gyan Singh on tablas.  “Take Your Picture” is a lively country-blues with some unusual vocal inflections, while “Make Me Down A Pallet On Your Floor,” and “Alberta Let Your Hair Hang Down Low” show Hans’ deep affinity for traditional roots music.

There were several highlights for us, too.  The leadoff  “New Home Upon The Hill” is Hans’ ode to the recent plethora of worldwide flooding, while “Snowin’ On Raton” is his tribute to good friend Townes van Zandt.  “Delia” is the well-known tale of a murdered woman, done, perhaps most famously, by Johnny Cash.  Here, Hans adds his own bits and pieces, while staying true to the story.  And, perhaps the most powerful cut on the set is “Hellbound,” inspired by van Zandt’s love for gambling.  On this original,  brooding, spooky tale of a card game with eternal stakes, Hans employs pedal steel virtuoso Dave Pearlman to add authenticity.

A new album by Hans Theessink is always a welcomed event, and “Wishing Well” pulls together many of his influences and shows why he is one of the most respected bluesmen in the world.  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Lisa Biales review April 21, 2013…

LISA BIALES

SINGING IN MY SOUL

BIG SONG MUSIC  PBBI-2013

A LITTLE BIRD TOLD ME–STRANGE THINGS HAPPENING EVERY DAY–LET THE MERMAIDS FLIRT WITH ME–YOU GOT TO KNOW HOW–MAGIC GARDEN–CARELESS LOVE–I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU–WAITING FOR THE TRAIN TO COME IN–WRITE ME IN CARE OF THE BLUES–SINGING IN MY SOUL

All great singers have that rare trait of putting their own imprint on the material they choose, giving it a unique feel and making it their own.  Lisa Biales is one such singer, with a rich, pure voice that fits any genre’ like a glove.  On her latest release, “Singing In My Soul,” she touches on jazz, ragtime, old-time blues, gospel, and even a touch of country over these nine covers and one original.

Lisa’s vocal prowess is such that she has previously released seven albums, and was tagged for the lead role in the Oxford, Ohio, Community Theater production of “Always Patsy Cline,” and the classic songs that went along with it.

On this set, Lisa is backed by Cincinnati-based pianist Ricky Nye, and the remaining members are the Paris Blues Band, who are indeed from Paris, France.  They are brilliant players within Lisa’s system of jazzy, minimalist arrangements, never getting in the way of her vocals.  Check out the leadoff “A Little Bird Told Me.” It is an old Blu Lu Barker pop standard, and the fellows get into a nice call-and-response sing-along with her, adding to the authenticity of the performance.  Lisa’s original “Magic Garden” also follows in this playful vein, done up in a Piedmont, fingerpicking style.

Her country experiences show up in her read of “Careless Love,” and her voice literally soars in her gospel renditions of Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Strange Things Happening Every Day,” and the set-closing title cut.

We had three favorites, too.  She breathes new life into a smoldering “I Only Have Eyes For You,” while Sippie Wallace’s “You Got To Know How” is full of sexy, flirtatious double-entendres’.  And, a cut Lisa discovered while researching Cline’s music, “Write Me In Care Of The Blues,” has that plaintive, sultry feel of Patsy herself, with Ricky’s piano and Andrew Stelmaszack’s guitar in perfect step.

Lisa Biales has garnered the nickname “The Belle Of The Blues,” and she’s spent her career making great music.  With “Singing In My Soul,” her incredible vocal skills are again on brilliant display!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Mighty Mojo Prophets review April 19, 2013…

THE MIGHTY MOJO PROPHETS

FLYIN’ HOME FROM MEMPHIS

DELTA GROOVE MUSIC  DGPCD  160

SWEETNESS–THE GAMBLER–LUCKY MAN–I CAN’T BELIEVE–THE .45–CALIFORNIA–REMEMBER ME–ONE FOR ME–STRONG MEDICINE–JO’S JIVE–SHE’S GONE–STREET CORNER PREACHER–WHACHULOOKINFOR

In the grand tradition of California players such as T-Bone Walker, Hollywood Fats, and Johnny Guitar Watson, the serious West Coast strut of the Long Beach-based Mighty Mojo Prophets is well-represented with their debut for Delta Groove, “Flyin’ Home From Memphis.”  It’s thirteen original shots of stone blues penned by  two founding members, vocalist Tom “Big Son” Eliff, and guitarist Mitch “Da Switch” Dow.

We couldn’t say enough good things about their Rip Cat Records debut in 2011, and they parlayed that success into a Best New Artist nomination for the 2012 Blues Music Awards.  They even scored that coveted spot of opening act at the pre-Awards party at the Memphis Cook Convention Center, to let all the attendees see what the buzz was all about.

 

On this set, the fellows bring that  tight, jump-blues sound on the majority of the cuts, and even do a bit of “experimenting” on a few tracks.  The party jumps right out at ya with the swagger of “Sweetness,” a good-lovin’ woman that you better watch out for, because “she’ll play your heart just like a game!”  Mitch’s guitar is perfectly in time with “Li’l A” Woodson’s harp.  Another good gal is enough to make Big Son “walk a canyon on a high wire,” and it’s called “Lucky Man.”  A punchy horn section adds the spice to the minor-key “I Can’t Believe,” and the chicken-scratchin’ good-time instrumental, “Jo’s Jive.”

 

The fellows even pay a sweet tribute to the Bluff City, with the acoustic, slide-driven Diddley-beat of “Strong Medicine,” and the tongue-in-cheek humor of a man who lost a wife AND a lover, “She’s Gone.”  Add to these the set-closing “Whachulookinfor,” and you’ve got three tunes that would fill up any tip jar down on Beale Street!

 

We had some favorites, too.  Mike Malone’s organ adds to the funk of the “Street Corner Preacher,” who’ll “hustle your change to keep his buzz goin!”  And, “California” is the title cut, where the fellows are “Flyin’ home from Memphis,” and, even tho they’ve had some successes in Tennessee, their hearts will always be out west.  With the horn section blastin’ all over this one, it comes across as a 21ST Century  “Promised Land!”

The Mighty Mojo Prophets are the real deal, the whole package, the Big Ragoos, or any other descriptive term you want to pin on them.  But, above all, they are one of the freshest, most impressive bands to come along in quite some time.  Great, original lyrics, and musicianship that’s tighter than a rib tip from the Rendezvous  makes “Flyin’ Home From Memphis” a cool listen, indeed!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow

John Primer and Bob Corritore review April 17, 2013…

JOHN PRIMER AND BOB CORRITORE

KNOCKIN AROUND THESE BLUES

DELTA GROOVE MUSIC   DGPCD  159

THE CLOCK–BLUE AND LONESOME–WHEN I GET LONELY–CAIRO BLUES–LEANIN’ TREE–HARMONICA JOYRIDE–LITTLE BOY BLUE–JUST LIKE I TREAT YOU–MAN OR MOUSE–GOING BACK HOME

The good folks at Delta Groove have been on quite a roll of late.  They have released excellent, successful collaborations from Nashville’s own Andy Talamantez/Nick Nixon Band, and have paired harmonica ace Bob Corritore with Tail Dragger and Mud Morganfield.  Bob’s on tap again, this time teamed with long-time Muddy sideman and South Side legend John Primer for “Knockin’ Around These Blues,”  ten tracks that show two veterans of the contemporary blues scene at their finest.

This is some classic Chicago blues.  Primer, whom we feel has been vastly under-recorded in his career, spent time with Junior Wells, Magic Slim, and James Cotton before leading his own band.  A young Bob Corritore, growing up in Chicago, was absorbing all the blues he could in local clubs, and has parlayed that into two Harp Player of the Year Blues Awards.

 

The set leads off with the loping stride of Jimmy Reed’s “The Clock,” and features Chris James and Patrick Rynn on guitar and bass, respectively.  Bob can play a country blues with the best of ’em, (as evidenced by his fine work with Dave Riley) and he and John give the acoustic Primer original, “When I Get Lonely,” an authentic, early-Sun Records feel.  Bob lets his harp take the lead on the swingin’ instrumental, “Harmonica Joyride,” and the set closes with John’s plaintive vocal over the slow-burning groove of “Going Back Home.”

 

We had two favorites, too.  John turns in another spectacular vocal on “Leanin’ Tree,” and bemoans the fact that he and his “cold, chilly woman fight every night” in the humorous shuffle, “Man Or Mouse.”

 

This album could have easily been waxed way back in the day at the Chess Studios, but contemporary blues fans are fortunate to still have these two powerhouse bluesmen “Knockin’ Around These Blues” in 2013!  Kudos to Delta Groove for bringing together John Primer and Bob Corritore for this classic recording.   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.