Archive for April, 2013

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.

Andy Poxon review April 4, 2013,,,

ANDY POXON

TOMORROW

ELLERSOUL RECORDS  ER031301

TOO BAD–YOU LIED–COLLEGE BOY–WHY–DON’T COME HOME–TOMORROW–ALL BY MYSELF–WITHOUT ME–YOU DON’T LOVE ME–PLEASE COME HOME–FOOLING AROUND–CAROL ANNE–ONE MORE TIME–JAMMIN AT LAKEWEST (INST.)

 

Andy Poxon’s parents are both classical musicians, and one can easily see how the musical gene was passed on to him.  He has become an unbelieveably-talented student of blues, roots, jazz, and, yes, even a touch of country on his sophomore album for EllerSoul, this one entitled “Tomorrow.”  It is produced by Duke Robillard, who adds guitar on several cuts and brings along his old friends,  the Roomful Of Blues horn section,  to add just the right amount of punch to these fourteen originals.

Andy wrote all the songs (save for the set-closer, co-penned by the Duke), and he handles guitar duties throughout.  The songs all show Andy easily transitioning into young adulthood, with lyrics that show him to be wise well beyond his eighteen (!) years.  And, he touches on several genres’ within the scope of these cuts, all of which he pulls off with ease and aplomb.

 

On the love songs, Andy plays the part of the poor soul who always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  “Too Bad” and “You Lied” have a sweet, neo-soul groove, while “Don’t Come Home” borrows a page from Duke’s old Roomful days with its jazzy arrangement.  “All By Myself” rocks out in a Fifties-mode Fats Domino style, while “Why” and “Without Me” explore Andy’s softer side.

 

We had three favorites, too. “Fooling Around” follows a chugging, rockabilly beat and chronicles a young man’s favorite pastime.  “One More Time” is vintage Music Row at its twangy best, complete with crying steel guitar from Frankie Blandino, while the aforementioned “Jammin At Lakewest” is the set-closing instrumental that allows young Andy to go toe-to-toe with the Duke in a call-and-response guitar duel for the ages!

 

Whoever said “Oh, to be young again” sho’ nuff had to be talking about Andy Poxon.  With two well-received albums already at the age of eighteen, Andy has let everyone know that the future of the blues is in great hands, and “Tomorrow” is a highly-entertaining set!   Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Sterling Koch review April 1, 2013…

STERLING KOCH

LET IT SLIDE

FULL FORCE MUSIC  FFM 118

SHAPE I’M IN PT 1–SHAPE I’M IN PT 2–WRONG SIDE OF THE BLUES–MERCURY BLUES–BLOW MY MIND–IT HURTS ME TOO–I DON’T KNOW WHY–LONELY AVENUE–MY BABY’S HOT–I WANNA BE YOUR DRIVER–I ONLY WANT TO BE WITH YOU–WORKING MAN’S BLUES

Sterling Koch (pronounced COOK) played the conventional six-string guitar for some thirty-five years, until a herniated disk injury in 2004 left him only able to play in the form of the lap steel.  But, he has a brilliant talent for this instrument, and now counts among his mentors and friends Slide Brothers alumni Aubrey Ghent and Darick Campbell, and Freddy Roulette.  He has just released his fifth solo CD of slide guitar blues, this one entitled “Let It Slide.”  It consists of eight blistering originals and five covers that showcase Sterling’s boogie-fied approach to slide guitar and his rocked-out vocal style.

Sterling is backed on this one by Gene Babula on bass and John Goba on drums, making this a solid blues power trio, indeed.  Sterling uses a conventional guitar laid across his lap, much the way that the late CeDell Davis used to.  And, he gets a ferocious, huge tone out of this instrument.  Check him out on the slash and slow-burn of “It Hurts Me Too,” and the jumpin’ boogie of Rick Vito’s “My Baby’s Hot,” and “sharp as the fins on a Cadillac car!”

The set kicks off with a cool intro to “The Shape I’m In,” then shifts into the high-octane roadhouse romp of this Doyle Bramhall chestnut.  The covers are great, but it was Sterling’s originals that we enjoyed the most.  The instrumental “Lonely Avenue” sounds as if it could have been the soundtrack to a long-lost Fifties’ film-noir, while “I Wanna Be Your Driver” and the set-closing “Working Man’s Blues” are tailor-made for dancin’ your blues away.  Our favorite was Sterling’s tale of waking up “drownin’ in bad news,” on “The Wrong Side Of The Blues!”

Sterling Koch has crafted an interesting set of rockin’, good-time blues that, as the label says, hit you full force.  So, pop this one in your player, turn it up, and—“Let It Slide!”   Until next time…..Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

 

Fabulous Thunderbirds review March 31, 2013…

THE FABULOUS THUNDERBIRDS

ON THE VERGE

SEVERN RECORDS CD 0058

I WANT TO BELIEVE–LOVIN’ TIME–TOO MUCH WATER–HOLD ME–RUNNIN’ FROM THE BLUES–DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?–GOT TO BRING IT WITH YOU–THAT’S THE WAY WE ROLL–DIAMONDS WON’T KISS YOU BACK–LONELY HIGHWAY

 

For their first studio album since “Painted On” in 2005, The Fabulous Thunderbirds ushered in a new beginning of sorts.  The ten originals that comprise “On The Verge” show a more soulful side of the band, with more emphasis on leader Kim Wilson’s  vocals and expanded arrangements, with Wilson declaring the group to be “defining it’s own genre.”

 

Recorded at Severn Studios, Wilson is backed by Johnny Moeller and Mike Keller on guitar, Jason Moeller on drums, Randy Bermudes on bass, and Kevin Anker on keys.  Kim is in fine voice throughout, and draws not only from his own forty-odd years in the business, but from the styles f the great soul men of the Hi and Stax era.

 

Check out the staccato guitar over Kim’s vocal on “Lovin’ Time,” and the reggae feel of “Hold Me.”  The horns, keys, and guitars punch up the funky groove of “If you want love, You Got To Bring It With You,” while Kim tells a lover fixated on material things that “Diamonds Won’t Kiss You Back.”

 

Kim didn’t holster his harp for the whole project, thankfully.  “That’s The Way We Roll’ has that swampy, Excello-like vibe and includes a unique echo-effect vocal.  And, “Too Much Water” tells the tale of a lover who just “couldn’t take it any more,” and is done in vintage O. V. Wright style, with Kim’s harp adding that mellow touch.

 

We had two favorites, too.  “Runnin’ From The Blues” finds Kim going from “Detroit to New York to Chicago” to escape his demons, and has a sweet, mid-tempo, “uptown” swing.  And, perhaps the set’s most poignant piece is one of Kim’s originals, a somber look at the problems of today’s society regarding poverty, violence, and injustice, entitled “Do You Know Who I Am?”

 

With “On The Verge,” The fabulous Thunderbirds have embarked on an adventurous chapter in their illustrious career.  This set has the potential to bring in a whole new crop of fans with enough firepower to please us old-timers, and gets two big thumbs up from us!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.