Archive for May, 2013

Dudley Taft review…May 7, 2013…

DUDLEY TAFT

DEEP DEEP BLUES

AMERICAN BLUES ARTIST GROUP

MEET ME IN THE MORNING–THE WAITING–GOD FORBID–SALLY CAN’T DANCE–DEEP DEEP BLUE–FEELING GOOD NOW–WISHING WELL–SATISFY YOU–BANDIT QUEEN–PALACE OF THE KING–SHANKS AKIMBO

Guitarist Dudley Taft’s roots are in the Midwest, altho his suitcase is probably covered in stickers from all the places he’s been.  His latest album, on his own American Blues Artist Group imprint, is entitled “Deep Deep Blues,” and he began work on it soon after moving to Chapel Hill, NC.  He’d already spent time in L. A. and Seattle, forming Space Antelope with Trey Anastasio, and immersing himself in the grunge-rock scene of the Pacific Northwest during the Nineties.

That’s the kicker on all the songs on “Deep Deep Blues.”  He’s taken his love for the blues and Southern rock and melded it with the crunching fretwork of the Seattle players, giving it a decided edge and attitude.  Check out the leadoff “Meet Me In The Morning,” a sweet Dylan cover, and “The Waiting,” with a chugging, freight-train-a-comin’ beat that recants Dudley’s tale of giving up on a lover who “kept me waiting for too long,” after “we once had it all.”

A horn section adds punch to “Feeling Good Now,” about a man who’s not afraid to be alone after being dumped, and he takes that swagger to the next level with the tale of a man whose soul purpose is to “make you forget all your troubles,” entitled “Satisfy You.”  He totally nails two more covers, with a rocked-out read of “Sally Can’t Dance,” and a tribute to Freddie King with “Palace Of The King.”

His originals also encompass a unique  cast of characters, too.  “Bandit Queen” is a blues-rock ode to stagecoach robber Pearl Hart.  “God Forbid” traces a “Union soldier in love with a Southern belle,” and the family who’d “send him straight to Hell.”   “Wishing Well” starts and ends as an acoustic tale of hope, while the title cut is a minor-key slow-blues ode to pulling oneself together after love has long gone.

Dudley Taft has put together a brilliant set of blues-rock for the 21st Century.  Never one to be something he’s not, he lets his songs and fret skills speak for themselves, and the material on “Deep Deep Blue” easily stands on its own merits.  He’s certainly discovered his blues roots, and this is a highly-entertaining listen!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Remembering Little Walter review May 7, 2013…

VARIOUS ARTISTS

REMEMBERING LITTLE WALTER

BLIND PIG RECORDS  BPCD  5154

I GOT TO GO–MARK HUMMEL  JUST A FEELING–CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE  YOU’RE SO FINE–BILLY BOY ARNOLD  IT’S TOO LATE BROTHER–JAMES HARMAN  MEAN OLD WORLD–SUGAR RAY NORCIA  ONE OF THESE MORNINGS–CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE  BLUE LIGHT–MARK HUMMEL  CRAZY MIXED UP WORLD–JAMES HARMAN  UP THE LINE–SUGAR RAY NORCIA  CAN’T HOLD OUT MUCH LONGER–BILLY BOY ARNOLD  MY BABE (FINALE)

There is not one post-WWII blues harp player that doesn’t owe a huge debt of gratitude to the legenday Marion “Little Walter” Jacobs.  His incredible tone, power, and phrasing fused the country blues of his native Mississippi with the uptown swing of the jazz saxophone players, taking the harp to new heights.  His seminal sides for Chess with Muddy and on his own set the standard that all harpmen aspire to attain.

West Coast harp master Mark Hummel has hosted what has become known as “Blues Harmonica Blowouts,” in which today’s best players get together for a harp-fueled good time.  In the past, Mark has brought together the likes of Cotton, Carey Bell, Lazy Lester, and just about all the greats that are still out there blowin’ the blues.

 

This year, Mark got four more harp heavyweights to join him in a tribute to Little Walter, recorded at Anthology in San Diego.  The set has just been released by Blind Pig as “Remembering Little Walter.”  Along with Mark, we also have James Harman, Sugar Ray Norcia, Billy Boy Arnold, and Charlie Musselwhite.  All these greats were influenced by Walter, and Billy Boy and Charlie both played with him and called him friend.

The music is outstanding, as one would imagine.  They are all backed by Little Charlie Baty and Nathan James on guitar, June Core on drums, and R. W. Grigsby on bass.  Every cut is a classic, and each man plays with the intensity and verve ol’ Walter would’ve been proud of.  Check out the emotion in Charlie’s voice as he brings home the slow-burn of “Just A Feeling,” and Mark’s phrasing and tone on the minor-key instrumental, “Blue Light.”  James Harman’s swingin’ vocals drive “Crazy Mixed Up World,” and the rather obscure “It’s Too Late Brother.”  Billy Boy Arnold gives an authentic read of “You’re So Fine,” then plays one of his personal Walter favorites, “Can’t Hold Out Much Longer.”  Sugar Ray’s years with Ronnie Earl and also with Roomful Of Blues show up in his jumped-up “Up The Line,” while all of ’em take passionate solos in the finale, “My Babe.”

The five men present on this album represent an aggregate of more than two hundred years combined of playing the blues harp professionally.  Each had his own unique connection to Jacobs, and “Remembering Little Walter”  is not only a great blues history lesson, but a stirring tribute to a legend.  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Jimmy Vivino review May 7, 2013…

JIMMY VIVINO AND THE BLACK ITALIANS

13 LIVE

BLIND PIG CD  BPCD 5153

FAT MAN–SOULFUL DRESS–FROM A BUICK 6–FAST LIFE RIDER–FOOL’S GOLD–HEAVEN IN A PONTIAC–ANIMALISM–LIGHT UP OR LEAVE ME ALONE–WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO (TO PROVE MY LOVE TO YOU)–MISS MONA–MAGGIE’S FARM–SONG FOR LEVON–SHAPE I’M IN

 

Guitarist, writer and vocalist Jimmy Vivino has been Conan O’ Brien’s musical director since Day One waay back in 1993.  Aside from his nightly gig, tho, Jimmy has recorded sets under his own name and has guested on countless others.  He also played with The Black Italians, a highly-diverse group of musicians who originally played behind Johnnie Johnson, and also at the legendary NYC watering hole, Downtime.  Jimmy re-assembled this cast of characters for two shows at Levon Helm’s fabled Woodstock barn studio, on November 30, 2012.  The result is this CD, “13 Live,” which covers a wide spectrum of music and genres’, and also gives these special players a chance to strut their considerable stuff.

With a revolving group of lead vocalists, this whole thing comes at you like one of the old R & B “package shows” from back in the day.  And, there’s a definite New Orleans influence in several of the cuts, too.  Check out the leadoff “Fat Man,” “Light Up Or Leave Me Alone,” and the sweetly-soulful “Miss Mona.”  Catherine Russell jumps the joint with a rollicking “Soulful Dress,” then does her best James Brown git-down on “What Do I Have To Do,” before turning in a deep, bluesy read of a woman who had it all, but traded it in for some “Fool’s Gold.”  Felix Cabrera blasts thru the supercharged funk of “Animalism,” reminiscent of Lee Oskar and War, while Jimmy’s blues guitar is at its fiery, blazing best on Johnny Winter’s “Fast Life Rider.”  The set closes with everyone joining in on a sweet read of The Band’s “The Shape I’m In.”

We had two favorites, too.  Jimmy’s poignant “Song For Levon” reminds us that “It’s not what you take with you, but what you leave behind.”  And, there’s a little bit of Chuck Berry in all of us, and Jimmy’s shines thru in the wailin’ “Heaven In A Pontiac.”  With Felix’s harp honkin’ in the background, this one rocks like a 21ST Century “Tulane.”

With “13 Live,” Jimmy Vivino And The Black Italians brought this music to an appreciative crowd on that November day, and now for all of us to enjoy.  Truly, this is a set that is keepin’ the faith!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Gina Sicilia review May 1, 2013…

GINA SICILIA

IT WASN’T REAL

VIZZTONE/SWINGNATION RECORDS  SNCD  388013

IT WASN’T REAL–DON’T CRY BABY–PLEASE DON’T STOP–WAKE UP NEXT TO YOU–WALKIN’ ALONG THE AVENUE–CITY BY THE WATER–WRITE A LITTLE SONG WITH YOU–DON’T WANNA BE NO MOTHER–OH ME OH MY–WALKIN’ SHOES

 

Philadelphia native Gina Sicilia broke onto the national scene with her 2007 debut, “Allow Me To Confess.”  Since that time, she has recorded a total of three albums, all produced by her bandleader, guitarist Dave Gross, and all showcase her soulful, sometimes-sultry-but-always-powerful vocals, which cover soul, R & B, rock, and roots, as well as the blues.  She got her love for all types of music from her parents, and took to the stage for the first time in 2005 at Philly’s famous blues and jazz club, Warmdaddy’s, where she met Dave Gross.

For her latest album for the Vizztone/SwingNation imprint, entitled “It Wasn’t Real,” she wrote nine of the ten cuts, all dealing with the highs and lows of life, love, relationships, and responsibilities.  It also marks her debut with Grammy-winning producer Glenn Barratt, who pushed her out of the friendly confines of working with Gross, urging her to explore varied musical boundaries, and take better advantage of her flexible vocal range.   She’s also backed by a fine group of local musicians very familiar with her choice of material and her abilities, making this an impressive showcase, indeed.

 

She gets down to brass tacks on the set’s only cover, a bluesy take of Etta James’ “Don’t Cry Baby.”  She asks a lover to help her beat her own lonely blues by “going home with me,” in “Wake Up Next To You.”  In “City By The Water,” she paints a wistful picture of reminiscing over an old flame, revisiting every place “Where We Used To Kiss.”

 

There were two highlights for us, too.  Gina loses a lover and finds another in the same night while “Walkin’ Along The Avenue.”  This one features Dennis Gruenling on harp and is done in a jazzy, torch-song mode.  And, a woman trapped in a loveless marriage ponders what might have been in the poignant and powerful “Don’t Wanna Be No Mother.”  This one is perhaps the album’s centerpiece, and, were it ever put in the hands of the boys down on Music Row, they’d tweak the arrangement a little, and it’d be one damn good country song!

Gina Sicilia shows her maturity and evolution as a writer with the outstanding songs on “It Wasn’t Real.”  This one is her best and most diverse set to date!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.