Archive for June, 2013

Grand Marquis review…June 30, 2013….

GRAND MARQUIS

BLUES AND TROUBLE

GMCD  0008

BED OF NAILS–EVERY DAY’S THE SAME–REPUTATION–EMPIRE OF DIRT–BLUES AND TROUBLE–THE JUNGLE–YOU’RE STILL MY BABY–IRONCLAD ALIBI–TWO BY TWO–EASY TO BE THE DEVIL–WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN’ GOIN’ ON–MR. WILLIAMS–HALF THE MONEY

 

Kansas City is known as the birthplace of swing, and during the late-Nineties’ resurgence of this Big Band-sounding, highly-danceable music, Grand Marquis was formed.  Fifteen years down the road, they are still packin’ ’em in and knockin’ ’em dead, and their fifth album, “Blues And Trouble,” continues in their successful vein of combining that KC swing with a hefty shot of today’s contemporary blues.  And, this fivesome lays down some high-octane grooves on this one.  Bryan Redmond possesses that sophisticated, ultra-hip, “crooner’s” voice that lends itself so well to this material.  He also adds sax, and is backed by Ryan Wurtz on guitar, Chad Boydston on trumpet, Ben Ruth on doghouse bass, and Lisa McKenzie on percussion.

 

The set starts with Bryan bemoaning a failed relationship, leaving him to “sleep on a “Bed Of Nails,” that he himself built, “one nail at a time,” corresponding to each one of his transgressions.  Ryan’s slide cuts like a knife during the instrumental bridge, too.  Another ‘my baby’s gone” cut is “Every Day’s The Same,” and it’s reminiscent of those classic Fats Domino/Dave Bartholomew Imperial sides.  Muted trumpet, brush-stroked drums, and Ben’s brooding bottom wash over Bryan’s subtly-nuanced vocal on the title cut, while “Mr. Williams” is an honest-to-goodness New Orleans funeral march done in honor of noted Beale Street trumpeter Rudy Williams, “ridin’ off like Ezekiel in a chariot!”  Dancers will fill the floor for the swingin’ jump of “Two By Two” and the set-closing homage to doing what you love and “earning Half The Money for havin’ twice the fun!”

 

Our favorite was the lone cover.  Bryan and the band pull out all the stops on “Whole Lotra Shakin’ Goin’ On,” with some mighty fine rockabilly licks courtesy of Ryan.

 

They’ve been in the IBC finals, and they’ve recorded at Sun Records.  Bryan Redmond and the rest of Grand Marquis have successfully blended the jazz of Kansas City swing with the lowdown blues of the Delta, and “Blues And Trouble” makes for their best set yet!!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Mike Zito review…June 28, 2013…

MIKE ZITO

GONE TO TEXAS

RUF RECORDS

GONE TO TEXAS–RAINBOW BRIDGE–I NEVER KNEW A HURRICANE–DON’T THINK ‘CAUSE YOU’RE PRETTY–DEATH ROW–DON’T BREAK A LEG–TAKE IT EASY–THE ROAD NEVER ENDS–SUBTRACTION BLUES–HELL ON ME–VOICES IN DALLAS–WINGS OF FREEDOM–LET YOUR LOVE SHINE ON ME

 

In the old days, if a person was “gone to Texas,” it meant they were on the run from something, and looking for a redemptive fresh start.  Mike Zito literally and figuratively went to Texas several years ago (southeast Texas, to be exact), to leave his personal demons in the dust and get his career in order.  For his Ruf Records debut, aptly-entitled “Gone To Texas,” Zito and his band, The Wheel–Jimmy Carpenter on sax and guitars, Rob Lee on drums, and Scot Sutherland on bass–are joined by a few special guests that add an extra dimension to these nine originals and two covers.

 

Mike’s autobiography of sorts is the leadoff title cut, and is reminiscent of vintage Allman Brothers.  This musical journey not only goes thru the many Texas influences in Mike’s music, but also includes elements of Hill Country and Delta blues, and a shot of New Orleans-styled soul.

 

Check out the grungy, echo-effect slide guitar that permeates “Just ‘Cause You’re Pretty,” and the haunting acoustic admissions of a guilty man on “Death Row.”  “Subtraction Blues” uses that second-line pattern to explain a lover who, “when she leaves, she takes a little piece of me along with her.”  “Voices In Dallas” and “Hell On Me” deal with excesses and addictions, but they lead to redemption found by learning to fly on “Wings Of Freedom.”  The set closes with Mike’s brilliant take on Blind Boy Fuller’s “Let Your Love Shine On Me.’

 

Our favorites included the cuts with the special guests.  “Rainbow Bridge” details the trials of a long-haul trucker trying to make it home to a lover, and features duet vocals from Susan Cowsill and fiery slide from Sonny Landreth.  And, the life of a traveling bluesman is documented in “The Road Never Ends,” and pairs Mike with Delbert McClinton on this Elmore James-ish, good-time slab of slide and harp-driven blues.

 

With Mike Zito’s Ruf debut, “Gone To Texas,” he has crafted his most blues-oriented album to date.  This one has it all—great musicianship and clever songwriting, from one of the rising young stars of contemporary blues.   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Candye Kane Featuring Laura Chavez review…June 25, 2013…

CANDYE KANE

FEATURING LAURA CHAVEZ

COMING OUT SWINGIN’

SISTER CYNIC/VIZZTONE  VTSC-001

COMING OUT SWINGIN–ROCK ME TO SLEEP–I’M THE REASON WHY YOU DRINK–WHEN TOMORROW COMES–RISE UP!–INVISIBLE WOMAN–YOU AIN’T ALL THAT–I WANTED YOU TO WWALK RIGHT THRU THAT DOOR–DARLING BABY–BARBED WIRE MOUTH–WHAT LOVE CAN DO–AU REVOIR Y’ALL–MARIJUANA BOOGIE

 

Candye Kane, aside from actually being “The Toughest Girl Alive” that we know of, has come a long way since her days of pinup and nude modeling as a teen mom growing up in East Los Angeles.  She’s a world-renowned blueswoman now, with a voice as big as they come and a heart to match.  And, there’s always been another side to her, the one that’s never been ashamed of who she is or where she came from, always “tellin’ it like it is.’  That’s the side that shows up on her latest album for Vizztone (and her twelfth overall), entitled “Coming Out Swingin.”  Alongside Candye’s mighty vocal powers is Laura Chavez, a thrilling guitarist who’s worked on Candye’s last two albums, as well as being her advocate during Candye’s recent surgeries and monthly injections that combat her rare form of neuroendocrine cancer.  These two lovely women of the blues wrote the originals on this set, and it is, indeed, an ultra-hip affair!

 

The set literally “comes out swingin” with the leadoff title cut, as Candye’s big voice blasts over the horn section and the tom-tom-toming drum beats (reminiscent of Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing!”) in this Big-Band raveup.  Candye openly admits “I’m The Reason Why You Drink” over Laura’s Chicago-blues style licks and Billy Watson’s muted harp.  Candye visits classic Stax and Motown soul with “Rise Up!,” “What Love Can Do,” and the positively uplifting “When Tomorrow Comes.’  Her autobiography is done up as a minor-key jab at society’s ideals and the pressures put upon women to be “thin or young or rich enough,” as Laura’s guitar cries over Candye’s pained vocals in “Invisible Woman.”   Both Candye and Laura channel their inner Wanda Jackson on the Fifties’-inspired “You Ain’t All That” and “Barbed Wire Mouth.”  The set closes with two vastly different cuts that really show the fun Candye had in making this album.  The Mardi Gras-themed “Au Revoir Y’All” is sung partly in French, while the buzzin’ “Marijuana Boogie” is done entirely en Espanol, no doubt a nod to Candye’s East L. A. days.  Laura swings like a woman possessed on both of these, and pianist Sue Palmer, herself a cancer survivor, pounds the 88’s into near submission.

 

You lookin’ for a good time?  Just roll back the rug, grab your baby, and spin “Coming Out Swingin”—it’s definitely Candye Kane’s most fun album yet!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Too Slim And The Taildraggers review…June 21, 2013…

TOO SLIM AND THE TAILDRAGGERS

BLUE HEART

UNDERWORLD RECORDS   UND  0022

WASH MY HANDS–MINUTES SEEM LIKE HOURS–BLUE HEART–MAKE IT SOUND HAPPY–GOOD TO SEE YOU SMILE AGAIN–WHEN WHISKEY WAS MY FRIEND–IF YOU BROKE MY HEART–NEW YEARS BLUES–SHAPE OF BLUES TO COME–PREACHER–ANGELS ARE BACK

 

Tim “Too Slim” Langford is a native of Spokane, but for the last year or so, Washington’s loss is our gain, as he now resides in Nashville.  And, for his sixteenth album overall, he’s assembled some great local talent to go along with the Taildraggers.  They’ve combined their talents to create “Blue Heart,” for Underworld Records, and it’s a stomp-down good ‘un, with nine originals and two covers that takes the listener on a guided tour of love, life, and the pursuits thereof, led by Slim’s undeniable guitar and vocal talents.

 

Joining Tim are producer Tom Hambridge on drums and backing vocals, Rob McNelley on second guitar, and Tommy McDonald on bass, with a few special guests along for the ride.  A man who’s led a lofe of sin seeks redemption and tries to “Wash My Hands in the muddy Mississippi,” but finds these lifelong stains hard to shed.  “Make It Sound Happy” gives a nod to vintage Stones, while Tim uses the grunge-y guitar sounds of his homeland in the rapid-fire assault of “If You Broke My Heart,” and again on Dave Duncan’s “The Shape Of Blues To Come,” featuring Reese Wynans on B-3.  “New Years Blues” looks at helping those less fortunate, while another tale of excesses brought on by bouts of loneliness is “When Whiskey Was My Friend.”

 

Favorites and notable cuts abound, too.  A unique, Ennio Morricone-meets-Mickey Spillane guitar pattern washes over “Minutes Seem Like Hours since you went away.”  The title cut is done in classic Chicago-blues style, and refers to a trusting-yet-pensive lover who feels safe in giving Tim her “big Blue Heart made of glass.”  Jimmy Hall adds the harp on this one, and the vocals on the slow-burn of “Good To See You Smile Again,” about a lover who’s just a wee bit crazy, but who’s fightin’ the good fight to gain control in her life.  This one again features the smooth keys work of Reese Wynans.

 

The set closes with two powerful tunes.  “Preacher” has Tim layin’ down some devilish slide as he sings of a “preacher man comin’ not with a Bible, but a bottle in his hand.”  And, the ethereal, percussion-heavy “Angels Are Back” brings the album full-circle, as the sinner in the opening cut gets final redemption from the angels who call him home.

 

The cool thing about “Blue Heart” is that each time you listen to it, you are likely to hear a subtle nuance or a little something you missed on last listen.  Tim “Too Slim” Langford is a master at his blues craft, and this set is a sweet listen indeed!   Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Paul Gabriel review…June 18, 2013…

PAUL GABRIEL

WHAT’S THE CHANCE…

SHINING STONE RECORDS  SSC 0003

OLD TIME BALL–RIDE RIDE RIDE–WHAT’S THE CHANCE–328 CHAUNCY STREET–BABY I WISH–DEVIL’S DAUGHTER–ALL THAT TIME GONE–C M C–ROOMFUL OF BLUES–MAGIC–SOMETHING YOU GOT–FINE AT’TIRE–SPODABE

Guitarist Paul Gabriel has been somewhat of a “hidden treasure” in the New England area for over four decades.   He can be heard on albums by the late Harry Chapin, on Rory Block’s “Mama’s Blues” album, and with various bands of his own.  He’s also been friends with Duke Robillard since the early days of Roomful Of Blues, so it’s no surprise that the Duke is on board for Paul’s latest release for Shining Stone Records, entitled “What’s The Chance…”, an exuberant collection of twelve originals and one cover that showcases Paul’s rich history of guitar playing and songcrafting, as well as his mastery of several distinctive musical genres’.

Duke is the album’s producer, and guests on guitar on several cuts.  Paul is also joined by Mark Naftalin (o the Paul Butterfield Blues Band) on keys on two cuts, as well as the Roomful Of Blues horn section.

The whole set has that vintage sound and feel that it seems like all the players on the New England scene are comfortable with playing and well-versed in.  Check out the T-Bone Walker-inspired leadoff “Old Time Ball,” featuring  Duke on both electric and acoustic guitars.  The title cut is a sweet slab of neo-soul, and finds Paul seeking to rekindle an old flame.  Mark Naftalin adds piano to the torch-y “Devil’s Daughter,” and Paul delves deeply into his jazz roots for two swingin’ instrumentals, “C M C,” and “328 Chauncy Street.’  The lone cover has a decidedly New Orleans flavor, and the horn section adds that extra punch over Paul’s vocals on “Something You Got.”

We had two favorites, too.  “Fine At’Tire” recalls the days of Fifties’ cool-jazz, and features only Paul’s vocal and Mark’s acoustic piano.  And, a man who’s reached a crossroads with a lover first asks himself “what to do,’ then asks “the Lord to take me from this Roomful Of Blues.”  This one is a poignant, minor-key centerpiece of the set.

One can feel the chemistry between Paul Gabriel and the other players on this album.  As strong as the material is on “What’s The Chance,” it’s a good bet that he is poised for a national breakout!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

 

RB Stone review…June 16, 2013…

RB STONE

LOOSEN UP!

MIDDLE MOUNTAIN MUSIC   MMM 51313

In RB Stone’s corner of the blues universe, every night’s a Saturday night, and every juke joint pours the coldest brew in town.  On his latest album, “Loosen Up!,” he takes the listener down every foot of back road and every mile of railroad track on a true blues-rock journey from an honest-to-goodness renegade spirit.

 

The cowboys that ride along with him aren’t bad, either.  RB is on vocal and harp, Bob Britt is on guitar, Tommy McDonald is on bass, and Jefferson Jarvis is on keys.  Drummer Tom Hambridge, who co-wrote a couple of the cuts, is also producer, and his guidance gives this one the raw, powerful feel of a Harley ready for a good, hard ride!

You want some swagger?  Take a listen to the opener, where RB tells a snooty-but-oh-so-lovable chick to”get off your High Horse and get down and get dirty with me!’  Then, check out another lover who’s full of lies, and gets told “I Ain’t Buyin’ That Bull today.”  This one might remind folks of Smokin’ Joe Kubek and B’nois King.  Too much “Jim and Jack” will get you to singin’ those “Texas Drunk Tank Blues,” while another lyin’ lover has RB “Gone As Gone Can Be.”  Both of these have Bob Britt burnin’ up the fretboard.  Every man’s dream is the girl who’s “Too Hot To Handle,’ and a man that gets a letter from his girl saying she’s “anywhere but here” has a “Bad Case Of Blues Goin’ On!”

 

We had two favorites that, on this album, were at the total opposite ends of the blues spectrum.  The loneliness of the long-distance trucker is the subject of the freight-train boogie of “Long Gone Lonesome Blues,” with all the fellows wailin’ like a pack of hellhounds in the frenzied climax of this one.  And, the most somber cut, perhaps of RB’s career, is the poignant “God Heals You When You Cry,” for the times in one’s life when “sorrow meets surrender.”

 

The only drawback to this set is the same thing that’s wrong with a lotta things in a man’s life–it’s just a wee bit on the short side.  We coulda easily enjoyed an album twice this long, because RB Stone has a way with a lyric and a lick that lets you know he’s feeling your pain or enjoying your highs right along with you.  So, “Loosen Up!” and rock on!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

 

 

Eliane Elias review…June 14, 2013….

ELIANE ELIAS

I THOUGHT ABOUT YOU:

A TRIBUTE TO CHET BAKER

CONCORD JAZZ  CJA 34191-02

I THOUGHT ABOUT YOU–THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER YOU–THIS CAN’T BE LOVE–EMBRACEABLE YOU–THAT OLD FEELING–EVERYTHING DEPENDS ON YOU–I’VE NEVER BEEN IN LOVE BEFORE–LET’S GET LOST–YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT LOVE IS–BLUE ROOM–JUST FRIENDS–GIRL TALK–JUST IN TIME–I GET ALONG WITHOUT YOU VERY WELL

Eliane Elias has made her mark in the world of contemporary jazz thru her stylish interpretations of her native Brazilian and bossa nova sounds.  Her latest album for Concord Jazz is a bit of a departure, altho the results are very impressive.  She chose to pay tribute to the great Chesney Henry Baker, Jr., affectionately known as “Chet,” a tremendously influential trumpeter whose improvisations and swingin’ style made him the epitome’ of Fifties’ cool jazz.

 

Eliane also felt a sense of history in the making of “I Thought About You,” fourteen classics from the Great American Songbook that were closely associated with Chet.  Many of her countrymen, such as Joao Gilberto, and Antonio Carlos Jobim, were also influenced by Baker’s works.  Eliane’s seductive, charismatic vocal style, as well as her piano and arranging skills, give each of these nuggets a life of their own, without diluting the contexts in which Chet originally performed them.  Add to that her exquisite choice of sidemen, and this becomes an intoxicating homage, indeed.  Oscar Castro-Neves is on guitar along with drummer Rafael Barata and percussionist Marivaldo dos Santos teaming with Eliane’s husband,  bassist Marc Johnson on the bossa tracks, while Steve Cardenas is on guitar along with Victor Lewis on drums and Johnson on bass on the traditional cuts.

 

Eliane is a true romantic at heart, and that passion shows in her reads of the leadoff title track, as well as “Ive Never Been In Love Before,” “Let’s Get Lost,”  and the Neil Hefti-Bobby Troup chestnut, “Girl Talk.”  She gets downright bluesy on the late-night torch song that tells us that “until you’ve met each dawn with sleepless eyes, You Don’t Know What Love Is.”  An elongated intro leads to a rapid-fire version of “Just In Time,” with only Eliane on vocal and piano, with Marc on bass.  She strips it down to only her voice and piano on the bittersweet set-closer, Hoagy’s “I Get Along Without You Very Well.”

 

We had two favorites, too.   Perhaps her bluesiest reading is “Everything Depends On You,” with subtly-understated guitar from Steve Cardenas.  The other is another playful romp between Eliane and Marc, Rodgers’ and Hart’s “Blue Room.”

 

It’s a sure bet that ol’ Chet would enjoy the treatment given some of his best-known works by Eliane Elias.  So, pour the wine, and curl up on the sofa with that someone special, and let “I Thought About You” stir your passions!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.