Archive for May, 2013

Pam Taylor Band review…May 30, 2013…

PAM TAYLOR BAND

HOT MESS

SELF-RELEASED

SMILE AGAIN–HOT MESS–WHATCHA DOIN–IT’S SO EASY–NOT THE ONLY ONE–ALL THE SAME TO ME–NEXT TIME YOU THINK OF CHEATING–I’D RATHER GO BLIND–I AIN’T THE ONE–ALL I GOT LEFT

As soon as you hear Pam Taylor, you know she’s got one of those take-no-prisoners voices with the attitude to match.  But, the more you listen to her, you can see that she goes waay deeper than her tough-chick exterior, with a softer side that’ll draw you in along with her.  Such is the case with her latest release, “Hot Mess,” which includes nine originals and a smoldering cover of “I’d Rather Go Blind.”

 

Pam, who handles vocals and guitar, is backed by a tremendous core of players.  Mike Taylor is on sax, Rusty Gilreath is on bass, Kyle Phillips is on second guitar, Ryan Christ Winters is on keys, and L A Freeman and Gerry Hagstedt are on drums.  These songs are well-arranged by Pam, making sure each member gets to stretch out on most cuts.  And, she has a way with a lyric in her songs that deal with love, loss, revenge, and redemption.

 

The party starts with the driving, riff-heavy “Smile Again.”  A lover that just can’t seem to take no for an answer is the protagonist of the midtempo “Whatcha Doin,” then makes the tough choice to tell a good man that, sadly, “you’re Not The Only One.”  Pam’s sly tale of endless come-ons from guys in a bar has her telling them they’re “All The Same To Me.”  The slide guitar and sax interplay is in top form here, a perfect slice of roadhouse-rockin’ blues.  And, potential cheaters beware–Hell hath no fury like Pam Taylor scorned, as evidenced in the slow-burn of “Next Time You Think About Cheating,” and the wah-wah ride that is “I Ain’t The One.”

 

We had two favorites, too.  She shows her playful, coquettish side in the walking beat of “It’s So Easy.”  The title cut refers to the type we’ve all seen—dressing waaaay too young, stayin’ out all night and hooking up with Mr. Wrong.  In short, she’s a “Hot Mess,” punctuated by a scratchin’ guitar and wailin’ sax, and “Taylor-made” for the dance floor

 

Pam Taylor is a true Southern woman of the blues who knows what she wants and how to get it.  Her voice has that fire and passion that it takes to be a star in today’s blues scene, and “Hot Mess” is sho’ nuff a hot debut! Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

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True Blues review…May 29, 2013…

VARIOUS ARTISTS

TRUE BLUES

TELARC 33815-02

HOOCHIE COOCHIE MAN–MOTHERLESS CHILDREN HAVE A HARD TIME–EVERYBODY OUGHT TO MAKE A CHANGE–DONE CHANGED MY WAY OF LIVING–SATURDAY BLUES–BRING YOUR FINE SELF HOME–ROBERTA–C.C. PILL BLUES–PRAYERS AND PRAISES–GALLOWS POLE–THAT’S NO WAY TO GET ALONG–MAILBOX BLUES–RAMBLIN’ ON MY MIND

 

     “True Blues” finds several of the finest players on today’s contemporary blues scene live in notable venues throughout the country doing what they do best–telling stories thru the use of their music.  Taj Mahal, Guy Davis, Corey Harris, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Phil Wiggins, and Shemekia Copeland have all played the blues for most of their lives, but for this collection, they wanted listeners to experience what they feel as they play–that the blues is much more than just music, but a celebration of life, from its most exhilarating joys to its deepest pains.  Their music, and the way they deliver it, speaks volumes for the blues as a way to heal one’s pain or just talk about the good times.

 

     An extended intro leads into Alvin’s brooding look at the hard times of “Motherless Children,” while the traditional “Gallows Pole” finds him describing ways to escape the hangman’s noose of a Jim Crow south. Both of these were recorded at the Howard Theatre in Washington, D. C. 

 

     Taj Mahal, perhaps this group’s “elder statesman,” lightens things up a bit, adding humor to his original tales of L. A. and its “wild women” and dense smog, with electric versions of “Done Changed My Way Of Living,” and “Mailbox Blues,” recorded at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis, Maryland.  Phil Wiggins does lead vocals and harp and is backed by Alvin on the rousing “Roberta,” while Shemekia Copeland turns in a sultry, sexy read of her father Johnny’s “Bring Your Fine Self Home,” done at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York.

 

     Two other tunes from that venue served as our favorites, and bookend the album.  the opening ‘Hoochie Coochie Man” finds Guy, Corey, and Alvin trading the swagger-filled verses of this Willie Dixon gem, as Phil blows sweet fills all over it.  Add in Shemekia for the finale’, a cool mix of “Ramblin’ On My mind” and “That’s All Right,” and this portion brought down the house!

 

     “True Blues” accomplished what it set out to do–show how the blues of today evolved from its African roots, thru the Mississippi Delta and the cotton fields, before turning northward after WWII to the Big Shoulders of Chicago.  And, with some of today’s best talents as ambassadors for this music, this is a set that should not be missed.  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

Mike Eldred Trio review…May 26, 2013…

THE MIKE ELDRED TRIO

ELVIS UNLEADED

RIP CAT RECORDS

BURNING LOVE–I FEEL SO BAD–RIP IT UP–DON’T–BOSSA NOVA BABY–LITTLE EGYPT–YOU’RE SO SQUARE–LOVE ME–LAWDY MISS CLAWDY–TREAT ME NICE–GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS–JAILHOUSE ROCK–SHE’S NOT YOU–LONG TALL SALLY–BIG BOSS MAN–ONE NIGHT OF SN–WITCHCRAFT–HEARTBREAK HOTEL–KING CREOLE–T-R-O-U-B-L-E

     Elvis Presley changed the face of American popular music, and polarized a nation in so doing.  As a result, many people loathed him, and condemned his music as purely a product of the devil.  Others, such as many of our parents, openly embraced his music, made it their own, and anointed Presley as its King.  

 

     For his third album, West Coast guitar man Mike Eldred and his band have taken twenty songs made famous by Presley, all the way from some of the building blocks of rock and roll, to some of the more obscure cuts from his films.  (Extra credit if you know that “Little Egypt” was from “Roustabout!”)  It is entitled “Elvis Unleaded,” and again teams Mike with John Bazz on the bass, and Jerry Angel on drums.  Joining this fun-filled trip down Memory Lane is Gene Taylor on piano, Jerry Donato on tenor sax, and Scott Yandell on trumpet.

 

     t was impossible for us to listen to Mike’s versions of these songs without having the originals spinning inside our heads.  These songs were ingrained in our brains at an early age, and are literally part of the “soundtrack of our lives.’  However, Mike just doesn’t re-create them note-for-note.  On the contrary, his deft guitar skills coupled with a vocal delivery that fits these songs surprisingly well, give them an added dimension that even Presley could not deliver.  (Presley once told “LOOK” magazine that his guitar playing was akin to “someone banging on a trash can lid with a stick.”)  Just check out the bluesy “Feel So Bad.”  Gene’s piano rides over the whole thing, and Mike breaks off a torrid guitar solo at the bridge, in lieu of the sax solo of the original.  “Rip It Up” and “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” each allow more great interplay between Mike and Gene, and, on “Love Me,” Mike’s vocal sounds eerily like the real deal.  The JOBS Quartet make themselves heard on several cuts, most notably on “Don’t,” “Girls Girls Girls,” and “Treat Me Nice,” for no Elvis tribute would be complete without those spot-on backing vocals.  

 

     All these cuts rock with the same passion and wild abandon that Elvis gave to them, but, again, Mike’s guitar parts push them over the top.  He absolutely nails the intricate solo of “Jailhouse Rock,” as well as that seemingly-impossible-to-reproduce rat-a-tat-tat of “King Creole,” making these stand out as our favorites.

 

     It is highly likely that many of us were conceived either as a direct result of the sheer power of this music, or, as we prefer to surmise, as many of these 45 RPM records actually spun on the antiquated turntables of our parents.   Hats off to Scott Abeyta and the good folks at Rip Cat Records for encouraging The Mike Eldred Trio to cut “Elvis Unleaded,” which is an unabashed joy to rock out to!!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

 

Frank Bang review…May 21, 2013…

FRANK BANG AND THE SECRET STASH

DOUBLE DARE

BLUE HOSS 1001

DOUBLE DARE–BURNIN’ UP IN THE WIND–LOSE CONTROL–GOD FEARIN’ MAN–WONDER WOMAN–THIS IS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT–ALL’S WELL–MY OWN COUNTRY WAY–18 WHEELS OF HELL–ALL I NEED–MATTIE’S GIRL

Guitarist Frank Bang is a native of Chicago, and spent five years as Buddy Guy’s backing guitar player, literally learning at the feet of the master.  He states that his fifth album is “driving music,” and, it is true that there are several put-the-top-down anthems herein, but there are also some  departures from this vein on the remainder of “Double Dare.”  Frank Blinkal got the nickname “Bang” from fellow bluesman Larry McCray (for the speed in which Frank gets a job done), and wanted to do some material that struck a deeper chord with his fans, many of whom had expressed how much his music had helped them cope during tough times.

 

That said, the leadoff title cut hits you like a punch in the gut, Frank’s slide sounding like an unleashed hellhound, reminding us that “no one’s promised tomorrow/life’s nothin’ but a Double Dare.”  “Burnin’ Up In The Wind” was inspired by a poem by Sterling Plump, and has a mean solo from Frank and harp from Russ Green.  “Lose Control” is another blistering blues-rocker, with jazzy organ from Daryl Coutts, and a tripped-out sax break from Greg Ward.   Searing slide in the vein of Aubrey Ghent and Robert Randolph permeates “God Fearin’ Man,” while “All’s Well” draws from vintage Southern rock with a John Hiatt twist.

His somber, more poignant side proved to be the album’s most intriguing entries.  An acoustic dobro intro segues’ into the powerful tale of his “Wonder Woman” and her unconditional love and ability to “bring out the best in me.”  Similar themes are touched on in the set-closing “Mattie’s Girl” and “That’s What It’s All About,” extolling the virtues of the simpler aspects of life.

 

All of which leads us to our favorites, unusually-diverse as they are.  “18 Wheels Of Hell” weaves a foreboding story of redemption over a chugging beat, about a troubled man chased and eventually caught by a truck with “Death behind the wheel and the Devil by his side.”  And, a corn-likker-fueled mythical meeting between Frank and ol’ Luke The Drifter himself finds both men bemoaning the soulless music coming from Music Row these days.  Luke reassures Frank that the blues will be country’s savior, as long as he keeps on singing “Country My Way.”

 

Frank Bang hits all the right notes with “Double Dare.”  It has equal parts slide-driven boogie blues, and deep, thought-provoking songs taken from his life’s experiences and writers he has admired.  Until next time—Sheryl and Don Crow.

Marshall Lawrence review…May 20, 2013…

MARSHALL LAWRENCE

HOUSE CALL

ML 10400

MEAN MOMMA BLUES–I GOT TO RAMBLE–FACTORY CLOSING BLUES–PLEASE HELP ME FIND MY WAY HOME–BALLAD OF MOLLY BROWN–BISCUIT ROLLING DADDY–RICH MAN CAN’T GET THE BLUES–CANNED HEAT BLUES–I WANNA LOVE YOU–ANOTHER SATURDAY NIGHT–LONG WAY BACK HOME–HEY GIRL (TIRED OF YOUR LYING)–DEATH’S BLACK TRAIN

Marshall Lawrence is a native of Edmonton, Alberta, and is a pure “Prairie bluesman,” but, as one listens to his music, he could’ve easily grown up in the juke joints arund Clarksdale, MS.  Known as the “Doctor Of The Blues,” this man, who owns a Ph.D. in Psychology, has just released his fourth album, this one entitled “House Call.”  A truly all-acoustic affair with just Marshall and his National guitars, he lays down the genuine article over the course of eleven originals and two covers.  He is backed predominantly by Russell Jackson on doghouse bass and Dave Hoerl on harp, with a few special guests along the way.

 

The set opens with “Mean Momma Blues” and “I Got To Ramble,” with Marshall’s deft fingerpicking skills and Dave’s countrified harp indicating a strong Piedmont, Cephas and Wiggins influence.  The “Ballad Of Molly Brown” chugs with a freight train intensity, and Dwayne Hrinkiw’s marching drum beats ride over Marshall’s vocals that remind us to “get our house in order,” as “Death’s Black Train will be here tonight.”

 

There are several examples of straight, no chaser Delta blues, too.  The swagger of “I Wanna Love You” and “Biscuit Rolling Daddy” is peppered with the braggadocio and sly double-entendres’ that make them a playful joy to listen to.  And, hittin’ the juke joint for a red-hot weekend is the theme of “Another Saturday Night,” this one featuring lusty layered guitars over Dave’s muted harp.

 

We had two favorites, too, both of which leaned toward the gospel side of Marshall’s repertoire.  “Please Help Me Find My Way Home” finds Marshal as a lost soul seeking redemption and salvation following a life of excesses, perfectly complemented by Dave’s call-and-response harp, and a downright sanctified organ from David Aide.  And, the mighty Holmes Brothers add their special blend of harmony to the sad tale of today’s economic woes, the “Factory Closing Blues,” and the chain reaction of misfortunes that follow.

 

Marshall Lawrence, like our uncle used to say, can play a National steel “like nobody’s bidness,” and “House Call” is sure to please long-time Delta blues fans and win over many new converts along the way!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Ruff Kutt Blues Band review May 16, 2013….

RUFF KUTT BLUES BAND

THAT’S WHEN THE BLUES BEGINS

VIZZTONE   VTRK 2013

DEEP ELAM BLUES–BLUES IN MY BLOOD–DON’T IT MAKE YOU CRY–OH WOMAN–DOWN SO LOW–BARE FOOT BLUES–BLUES AIN’T A COLOR–THAT’S WHEN THE BLUES BEGINS–THAT WOMAN GIVES ME FEVER–GONG TO BLUESVILLE–TOUCHED BY HER FLAME–LET’S DANCE–WHEN A BLUESMAN GOES TO HEAVEN

 

“…And that was another good ‘un from the Ruff Kutt boys.  This is ol’ Bill “The Hossman” Allen, coming at you from deep in the heart of Dixie on the 50,000 watts of WLAC.  Now, I gotta go sell some Hadacol and some baby chicks, but I’ll be right back with more of the best in today’s blues…”

 

That’s the feeling we got while listening to the latest from the Ruff Kutt Blues Band, “That’s When The Blues Begins.”  Any of these fourteen original band cuts would have been right at home on WLAC back in the day, with a deep, bluesy R & B groove that literally drips from each song.

 

The cast of players are All-Star caliber, as well.  The band is the brainchild of bassist James Goode, himself an inductee in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, and he brings together Finis Tasby and Zac Harmon on vocals, the sweet blues guitar of Anson Funderburgh, Wes Starr on drums, Ron Jones on sax, and John Street on keys.

 

These two dynamite singers split lead duties on the album.  Sadly, Finis would suffer a stroke in December of 2012, and these serve, at least for now, as his last works.  He really lets loose on these, tho, and especially on the slow blues of the leadoff “Deep Elam Blues” and the tale of “bein’ Down So Low my belly’s on the ground.’ The piano and Anson’s guitar lends a New Orleans feel to Finis’ story of a night of drinking which leads to “waking up with no money and no shoes,” and, thus, “The Bare Foot Blues.”

 

The title cut finds Zac and the backing chorus in a near-gospel mode, describing the feeling when love has walked out the door.  His autobiography is the uptown swing of “Going To Bluesville,” where “B. B. is the King,” and he closes the set with “When A Bluesman Gets To Heaven.”  It works over a Jimmy Reed-ish riff and mentions many legends one might expect to jam with in Heaven’s blues band.

 

Our favorite was one of Zac’s tunes.  “Blues Ain’t A Color” is a life lesson that shows when bad luck hits and you’re left on your own, it doesn’t matter who you are, the feeling is the same for us all.

 

The Ruff Kutt Blues Band melds the vintage R & B of WLAC with today’s contemporary sounds with a classic line-up.  And, most importantly, “That’s When The Blues Begins” is a set that’s definitely keepin’ the faith!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Tail Dragger review…May 11, 2013…

TAIL DRAGGER

STOP LYIN’

DELMARK RECORDS   DE 828

SO EZEE–WHERE DID YOU GO–AIN’T GONNA CRY NO MO–DON’T YOU WANT A GOOD MAN–MY HEAD IS BALD–ALABAMA BOUND–DON’T TRUST YO WOMAN–PLEASE MR. JAILER–STOP LYIN’–TAIL’S TALE

 

Born James Yancy Jones, Tail Dragger was given that nickname by the legend Howlin’ Wolf himself, when Jones worked for the Wolf in clubs all over Chicago, and who would invariably show up late for work.  As the years passed by, and many of the greats had passed on, Wolf’s prediction that “one day this boy is gonna take my place” may well have come true.  Tail Dragger is still a viable force on the contemporary blues scene, and his latest release for Delmark, “Stop Lyin,’ was recorded around 1980, and is just now seeing the light of day.  It is a veritable time capsule of the West Side scene during that time.  Tail Dragger had been using a truck bed as a stage while playing at the Delta Fishmarket, and the backing players on this set came together at this venue.  Johnny B. Moore and little-known Jesse Williams are on guitar, Larry Taylor is on drums, Willie Kent is on bass, and Little Mack Simmons and Eddie “JewTown” Burks are on harp.  Of the nine original cuts, two of them appeared on a 45 RPM for Jimmy Dawkins’ Leric label, “So Ezee” and “My Head Is Bald,” featuring Simmons on harp and an overdubbed Lafayette Leake on piano.  The other cuts show Tail Dragger doing what he does best–entertaining us with songs that deal with life, love, and making the morally-correct choice, often while poking good-natured fun at himself.

“Ain’t Gonna Cry No Mo” and “Please Mr. Jailer” are sweet slow-blues numbers, and he would revisit the latter on one of his more recent sets.  “Stop Lyin’ and “Don’t You Want a Good Man” are straight-up shuffles, and the band is on fire behind him.  They even tackle a few of the Wolf’s songs, done up Tail Dragger style, “Where Did You Go,” and “Don’t Trust Your Woman.”

 

Perhaps the most intriguing cut of all is “Tail’s Tale,” an interview of sorts about this album.  In it, Tail Dragger speaks of characters such as Necktie Nate and Iron Jaw Harris, and clubs such as Pepper’s, The Golden Slipper, and The Rat Trap.  Tail’s played with all the best, too, such as Big Mojo Ellem, Lucky Lopez, Left Hand Frank, and Jimmy Dawkins, just to name a few.  This is a humorous yet poignant piece about the state of Chicago blues in the early 80’s.

 

Tail Dragger has persevered thru good times and bad, remaining not only an active player in today’s blues world, but one of the last links to the halcyon heyday of Chicago blues.  “Stop Lyin” is a timeless set from a dynamic performer!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.