Archive for April, 2013

Jason Elmore review,,,April 16, 2013…

JASON ELMORE AND HOODOO WITCH

TELL YOU WHAT

UNDERWORLD RECORDS

SHARECROPPER SHUFFLE–SOUTHBOUND–COLD LONELY DAWN–BOTTOM FEEDER–DIRT AIN’T ENOUGH–BUCKAROO–COUNTRY MILE–DON’T PASS ME BY–GOOD FOOT–SHE FINE–YOU DON’T MISS YOUR WATER

Jason Elmore is a Dallas-based blues-rocker whose influences included his grandmother, who turned him on to Elvis, and his father, who enjoyed AC/DC and SRV.  He has just released his second  CD, entitled “Tell You What,” and it not only has music inspired by his heroes, but bits of roots, soul, and country to boot.  Backed by the Hoodoo Witch, which is Chris Waw on bass and Mike Talbot on drums, they blast thru twelve dazzlers that show off Jason’s fiery fretwork and deep-down-to-earth vocals.

 

The Jell-o starts jigglin’ with the opening salvos of “Sharecropper Shuffle,” an instrumental that brings to mind Freddie King.  His “metal’ prowess comes thru on the wailing and gnashing of strings on “Bottom Feeder,” and the rapid-fire rock of Rory Gallagher’s “Country Mile,” which also features a fine slide break from Jim Suhler.  “Good Foot” follows a jazzy trail to tell its decadent story of love and betrayal, while Jason turns in a stirring read of William Bell’s “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” with a sweet lap steel solo  from Kirby Kelley.  The whole ambience of this one lends itself to a touch of country.

Speaking of country, another popular country tune leads off our spate of favorites.  Jason pays tribute to the late Don Rich with a truly authentic “Buckaroo.”  The scintillating grunge of “Southbound” has Jason trying to stay one step ahead of the hellhounds on his trail, and believes that “the future is so much clearer when you leave the past behind!”  And, in the true tradition of Johnny Guitar Watson and Gatemouth Brown, “Cold Lonely Dawn” is as sweet an R & B ballad that’s come down the pike in a while.

 

Pound for pound, Jason Elmore and Hoodoo Witch are layin’ down some of the best blues around.  No matter what your poison, “Tell You What” has something for you!!!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Duke Robillard review April 14, 2013…

THE DUKE ROBILLARD BAND

INDEPENDENTLY BLUE

STONY PLAIN RECORDS  SPCD 1364

I WOULDN’T-A DONE THAT–BELOW ZERO–STAPLED TO THE CHICKEN’S BACK–PATROL WAGON BLUES–LAURENE–MOONGATE–I’M STILL LAUGHING–STROLLIN’ WITH LOWELL AND B. B.–YOU WON’T EVER–THIS MAN, THIS MONSTER–GROOVIN’ SLOW–IF THIS IS LOVE

Duke Robillard founded the seminal jump-blues group Roomful Of Blues back in 1967.  Since that time, he has become one of the most respected guitarists, vocalists, composers, and producers of any genre’, and has recorded several highly-acclaimed albums under his own name.  The latest of these, for his long-time label, Stony Plain, is “Independently Blue,” a dozen cuts that were either Duke and/or guest guitarist Monster Mike Welch originals, or penned by old friend Al Basile.  And, there is one sweet cover of a Red Allen tune from the 1920’s!

Over the course of this set, one can see from where its title evolved.  Duke’s solo career has always taken turns toward old-school R & B, Fifties-inspired rock, and even forays into jazz.  On this album, we are treated to several fine examples of his varied taste in blues.

Everything gets going with the mid-tempo “I Wouldn’t-A Done That,” followed by a clever, country-blues look at today’s sorry economy, where it is easy to find oneself  “Below Zero.”  Both of these cuts are Al Basile originals, and Duke unleashes some fine lead work throughout.  The Red Allen cover is a decidedly Dixieland affair, complete with banjo and clarinet, and is a minor-key ode to that ol’ Black Mariah, “Patrol Wagon Blues.” “You Won’t Ever” is a Motown-ish shot of neo-soul, while Duke does his share of blues braggin’ in “Groovin’ Slow.”

There are several other noteworthy cuts, also.  “Laurene,” written for Duke’s wife, follows a Chuck Berry riff pattern to extol her many virtues.  “This Man, This Monster’ and “Stapled To The Chicken’s Back” find Duke in some good-natured “dueling” with Mike Welch on two fine instrumentals.

For us, there were two outstanding cuts.  The wistful, ethereal “Moongate” was inspired by a trip Duke took to a 19TH Century mansion in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts.  And, “Strollin’ With Lowell And B. B.” is a quite impressive instrumental.  It showcases the Duke’s ability to authentically recreate the style of a particular artist, in this case the West-Coast swing of Lowell Fulson and the Lucille-styled leads of B. B. King.

 

Duke Robillard has always followed his own Muse when it comes to making music.  “Independently Blue” is no exception, and gives fans an exciting listening experience!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

Ronnie Earl review…April 12, 2013…

RONNIE EARL AND THE BROADCASTERS

JUST FOR TODAY

STONY PLAIN RECORDS  SPCD 1363

THE BIG TRAIN–BLUES FOR CELIE–MIRACLE–HEART OF GLASS–RUSH HOUR–VERNICE’S BOOGIE–BLUES FOR HUBERT SUMLIN-EQUINOX–AIN’T NOBODY’S BUSINESS–ROBERT NIGHTHAWK STOMP–JUKEIN’–I’D RATHER GO BLIND–PASTORALE

 

To celebrate twenty-five years as a band, Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters have just released their seventh album for Stony Plain, entitled “Just For Today.”  It encompasses thirteen cuts, ten of which are band originals, and was recorded live at three venues in Ronnie’s home state of Massachusetts, namely The Regent Theater, The Natick Center For The Arts, and The Narrows Center For The Arts.  Joining Ronnie are long-time bandmates Lorne Entress on drums, Dave Limina on keys, and Jim Mouradian on bass.  Nicholas Tabarias adds guitar on two cuts, and vocalist Diane Blue gives a brilliant read of “I’d Rather Go Blind.”

 

This set is, however, predominantly an instrumental exercise, showcasing the talents of Ronnie and his band.  The audiences are appreciative, and tuned in to what these guys are all about, and, as one listens and absorbs the music herein, it is readily evident that Ronnie’s guitar IS the vocalist.  He pulls so much soul, passion, and energy from each note that a true vocal presence is unnecessary.  Just check out the slow-burn of “Ain’t Nobody’s Business”–if you know the words, you can sing right along with Ronnie’s guitar and never miss a beat.

He also has an uncanny musical knack for capturing the styles of his mentors and turning them into his own creations.  Listen to the country-blues shuffle of the “Robert Nighthawk Stomp,” and the West Side groove of a tribute to Otis Rush, “Rush Hour.”  It features guitar from Nicholas Tabarias, and just gets to swingin’ before ending way too soon.  Ronnie’s affinity for jazz progreassions are also duly noted in a sophisticated take on John Coltrane’s “Equinox.”  Both “Miracle” and the set-closing “Pastorale” remind us that we live in a world of harsh realities, and we should never give up hope.

With “Just For Today,” Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters remain a competitive, vital force in contemporary blues, cementing their past while forging what promises to be a fantastic future!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Matt Baxter and Jake Sampson review April 11, 2013…

MATT BAXTER AND JAKE SAMPSON

HAUNTED

AUBURN SKY RECORDS

SOMEDAY–DUSTY MULE–HAUNTED–JAMIE LYNN–SAME OLD PAIN–SOUL–DON’T IT MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD–LITTLE GIRL GONE–TAKE ME BACK HOME–HIGHWAY 54

For “Haunted,” vocalist/bassist Jake Sampson and guitarist Matt Baxter evoke the spirits, power and memories of pre-WWII bluesmen such as Son House and Bukka White on these ten originals, and the results are fairly astounding.  Detroit native Jake Sampson has a voice that sounds like a mix of Taj Mahal, Guy Davis, and John Lee Hooker, and Baxter’s dobro work makes the perfect statement on every cut, every time.

The themes of many of the songs are authentic, too.  Check out the leadoff ode to a lover who finds out that “Someday, your good thing will be gone.”  The antithesis of this is “Little Girl Gone,” where, fellows, if you don’t take care of your homework, somebody else will!  The hardscrabble times of the pre-war Delta are documented in songs like “Dusty Mule,” where, at the end of a long day working the fields, a man seeks solace in “a big-legged woman and a jug of corn likker from Mr. Tompkins’ juke joint!”

There are cuts that find both men struggling with the eternal battle between good and evil, such as the brooding title cut, where Jake is “Haunted by the cold dark night,” and searching for his lost “Soul,” seeing “only hard times ahead.”  Matt’s call-and-response leads add to the anguish in Jake’s plaintive vocals as well.

No doubt Robert Johnson heard songs like these in his head when he went down to the Crossroads, made that infamous deal, and then created the 29 songs that would eventually birth rock and roll.  Matt Baxter and Jake Sampson have captured that lightning-in-a-bottle feel, and “Haunted” is one of the best country-blues duo albums that it has been our pleasure to hear in quite some time.  Great guitar work coupled with gritty, soulfully-heartfelt vocals make this one a sweet ride down thru the Delta, indeed!   Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Brad Vickers review April 10, 2013…

BRAD VICKERS AND HIS VESTAPOLITANS

GREAT DAY IN THE MORNING

MAN HAT TONE RECORDS   MHT 1080

INTRO–LITTLE GEM–TRAIN GOIN WESTWARD BOUND–SAVING STRING RAG–SIT DOWN AND TALK–GREAT DAY IN THE MORNING–SATURDAY BLUES–CHAPTER AND VERSE–IT’S A GOOD LIFE–FRISCO TOWN–THIS MIGHT BE YOUR DAY-ANNA LOU BLUES–THE WAY IT’S GOT TO BE–TOGETHER FOR GOOD–DALLAS BLUES

For his fourth CD as leader of the Vestapolitans, guitarist-vocalist Brad Vickers goes waaaay back, old-school style, to the days of bands such as The Mississippi Sheiks and Jim Kweskin’s Jug Band.  “Great Day In The Morning” is filled with his stellar bottleneck slide, as well as fiddles and mandolins.  And, to add to the good-time nature of this record, there is some fabulous horn and keyboard interplay as well.  Brad, along with bassist/fiddler Margey Peters, wrote most of the cuts herein, following that roots, folk-ish, Depression-era sound that was played back in the day to make listeners feel good.

The set opens with one of Brad’s originals, that compares his lover to a “precious stone,” entitled “Little Gem.’  The fiddle and guitar are complemented perfectly by sax from Jim Davis and Matt Cowan.  Another cool original is a good country blues called “Sit Down And Talk,” while Charlie Burnham adds fiddle on the jumpin’ “Saving String Rag,” which also features V. D. King on the banjolele.  “It’s A Good Life, only if you’re with me,’ looks at life from a lover’s point of view, with piano from Jeremy Baum.  And, a clever “I don’t know if it’s true, but it happened to me,” story  is the Biblically-referenced theme of tales from the road, told in “Chapter And Verse.”

We had three favorites, too.  Brad plays more sweet bottleneck on “Anna Lou Blues,” while Gina Sicilia and Christine Santelli add vocals to the gospel flavor of “Together For Good,” which begs the question, “What kind of a difference can I make?”  And, Charlie Burnham’s fiddle again graces the set-closing “Dallas Blues,” celebrating the Centennial anniversary of the first published blues song.

 

The title cut reminds us to enjoy life, as it “comes at you without a warning.”  It’s easy to enjoy this set of old-time blues from Brad Vickers And His Vestapolitans, and we give this one two big thumbs up!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Clay Swafford review…April 7, 2013…

CLAY SWAFFORD

ROOSTER

LOST CAUSE RECORDS  LC 120

ROOSTER’S BOOGIE–29 WAYS–OLYMPIA STRUT–SOMETIMES I HAVE A HEARTACHE–MESSIN’ AROUND DAVENPORT–HOLE IN THE WALL–BIRMINGHAM AFTER MIDNIGHT–YOU BETTER WATCH YOURSELF–BIG JOE’S STOMP–ROCK THIS HOUSE–AMAZING GRACE

BONUS TRACKS–MEAN DISPOSITION–FINE LITTLE MAMA–TIN PAN ALLEY

Clay Swafford was born on October 6, 1983, and was immediately nicknamed “Rooster”  that very day, after his grandfather saw the shock of red hair on the newborn.  His family introduced him to the piano, and at fifteen, he heard B. B. and Bobby Bland and got hooked on the blues.  For his debut album, aptly-titled “Rooster,” Clay goes back to the days of house rent parties and Saturday night fish frys.  He lays down five originals and nine covers in a style all his own that draws from his mentors, including Jerry Lee Lewis, David Maxwell, and Pinetop.  He’s joined by big-voiced Diunna Greenleaf on five cuts, and Bob Margolin and Bob Corritore on three others.

This young man is an unstoppable force on the 88’s.  Recorded with no frills, on an old upright Weber, he can pitch a boogie with the best of ’em, as evidenced in the leadoff “Rooster’s Boogie,” “Messin’ Around Davenport,” (a tribute to Ray Charles), and “Big Joe’s Stomp,” in honor of Cincinnati’s boogie-man, Big Joe Duskin.

Diunna lends her exquisite talents on several cuts, the best of which were her rockin’ take on “29 Ways to make it to my baby’s door,” and the slow-blues of Big Mama Thornton’s “Sometimes I Have A Heartache.”  The set closes with a sweet take of Clay going back to his gospel roots with “Amazing Grace.”

 

The bonus tracks bring together Clay and Bob Margolin as Bob’s wailing slide evokes memories of Muddy during the Centennial celebration of his birth with “Mean Disposition”‘ and switches gears to rock the house with “Fine Little Mama.”  Bob Corritore’s harp and Big Pete Pearson’s vocals carry “Tin Pan Alley,” as Clay lays down a solid rhythm pattern.

With a left hand that hits like thunder and a right like lightning, Clay  Swafford was paid perhaps the ultimate compliment by none other than Pinetop Perkins, who said, “I have ten fingers, but Clay plays like he has twenty!”  And, with a set such as “Rooster,” this young fireball has a bright future, indeed!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

Ron Dziubla review…April 6, 2013…

RON DZIUBLA

NASTY HABIT

RIP CAT RECORDS  RIC 1110

FINE TIME–LOOSE–MOAN–SLAPPED–SHAKEN AND STIRRED–LEMON DROP MARTINI–HARLEM NOCTURNE–SPY STEP–NIGHT TRAIN–BORDELLO

 

Tenor and baritone sax blaster Ron Dziubla honed his considerable chops by backing the legendary twang-master, Duane Eddy.  With a huge, fat tone reminiscent of Fifties’ sax icons such as Lee Allen and Gene “Daddy G” Barge, Ron also counts as his contemporaries current players like Sax Gordon Beadle and Elvin Bishop alumnus Terry Hanck.   Ron has just released his latest, all-instrumental album for Rip Cat, entitled “Nasty Habit.”  He penned or co-penned nine originals, and picked two unbelievable covers to round out the package.

 

Recorded at the Pow Wow Fun Room in Los Angeles, Ron turned that facility into a “Mad Men”-era playroom of sorts, and you can feel that vibe throughout the album, hearkening back to a time when instrumentals ruled the airwaves.  “Fine Time”  leads off, swingin’ a slow groove with background handclaps, and Farfisa organ.  Ron lets “Loose” with some staccato blowing on this cut, and Pete Curry pounds away on the skins, giving this one a decidedly “surf” groove.  Ron pays tribute to Mickey Spillane and Detective Mike Hammer with an authentic rendition of “Harlem Nocturne,” while his version of “Night Train” was, for us anyways, a bit more jazz-oriented.

 

We had three favorites, too.  “Spy Step” again uses rapid-fire, staccato leads and backing organ to give the illusion of Austin Powers on speed.  And, you can almost envision “Mad Men’s” Don Draper character sizing up his next conquest as “Moan” plays in the background.  The opposite of that cut is the one that deals with the kind of woman we’ve all seen—stiletto heels, and a skirt short enough to get your attention.  When you ask her what she’s drinking, she coyly coos, “a Lemon Drop Martini, and YOU for dessert!”

 

The good folks at Rip Cat pride themselves on their mantra of total artistic creativity for all the artists on their roster.  With “Nasty Habit,” Ron Dziubla takes us back to a time that, if you’re old enough to remember, will bring back some great memories.  And, for the young’uns, sit back and enjoy a true sax master lettin’ the good times roll!!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.