Archive for July, 2013

Dana Fuchs review…July 8, 2013…

DANA FUCHS

BLISS AVENUE

RUF RECORDS

BLISS AVENUE–HOW DID THINGS GET THIS WAY–HANDFUL TOO MANY–LIVIN’ ON SUNDAY–SO HARD TO MOVE–DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL–RODENTS IN THE ATTIC–BABY LOVES THE LIFE–NOTHIN’ ON MY MIND–KEEP ON WALKIN’–VAGABOND WIND–LONG, LONG GAME

 

Dana Fuchs was born into a musical family in rural Florida, leaving for New York City at nineteen to pursue her singing dream.  She quickly fell in with the blues scene on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and soon met up with guitarist Jon Diamond.  Her magnificent vocal delivery elicits immediate comparisons to Janis Joplin, and she did indeed play the off-Broadway lead in “Love, Janis,” as well as Sadie in the Beatles’ film, “Across The Universe.”  On her latest album for Ruf Records, “Bliss Avenue,” Dana literally lays bare her soul for listeners over the course of these twelve originals, all written by Dana and Jon, offering an intimate glimpse into areas that, although personal to her, can appeal to us all.

The set opens with the brooding, pulse-pounding percussiveness of the title cut, finding Dana at the depths of despair over the loss of a loved one.  “Rodents In The Attic” also uses that powerhouse, locomotive-like backbeat to drive home its message, while Dana seeks redemption with the gospel fervor of “Livin’ On Sunday.”

There are several fine examples of blues-rock on this set, too.  The heroine of “Daddy’s Little Girl” has an addiction to finding Mr. Right, yet finds herself “scared of the dark but running from the light,” while another story of excesses is “Baby Loves The Life.”

 

We had three favorites, too.  Dana’s Joplin influences are evident on the ultimate kiss-off song, “I’m thinkin’ of you, but I’ve got Nothin’ On My Mind.”  Another lover who just can’t commit seems to blow in and out of Dana’s life like a “Vagabond Wind.’  And, the slashing guitar work along with the killer acoustic piano takes “How Did Things Get This Way” into vintage Faces territory.

Although much of the material of “Bliss Avenue”  seems dark and foreboding, Dana assures us she was in a very good place while recording this album.  As she herself put it, “sometimes one has to explore the darkness in order to see the light.”  This is an excellent collection from Dana Fuchs, and will definitely keep her star on the rise in contemporary blues!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Omar Dykes review…July 6, 2013…

OMAR DYKES

RUNNIN WITH THE WOLF

PROVOGUE PRD 74042

RUNNIN’ WITH THE WOLF–KILLIN’ FLOOR–THE RED ROOSTER–HOWLIN’ FOR MY BABY–SPOONFUL–OOH BABY, HOLD ME–RIDING IN THE MOONLIGHT–WHO’S BEEN TALKIN’–BACK DOOR MAN–WORRIED ALL THE TIME–SMOKESTACK LIGHTNING–DO THE DO–I’M LEAVIN’ YOU–TELL ME WHAT I’VE DONE–WANG DANG DOODLE

 

Sam Phillips recorded Howlin’ Wolf, born Chester Arthur Burnett, at the Sun Studios in Memphis, subsequently leasing the masters to the Chess brothers in Chicago,  which eventually placed  the Wolf into blues immortality.  However,Phillips saw more in the Wolf than just dollar signs, stating that the power, emotion, and substance of his gravelly vocal delivery was akin to “a place where the soul of man never dies.”  In listening to Omar Dykes, he, too, possesses that same raspy, gargled-with-Drano vocal style, and it is only fitting that Omar do a tribute to the Wolf.  It’s entitled “Runnin’ With The Wolf,” and is fourteen of the Wolf’s best, and one original that fits in beautifully.

Omar is joined on this stellar effort by some of the best backing players in the business, and they all have the same reverence for Wolf’s music that Omar does.  The party starts with the Omar original, dedicated to the Wolf’s memory, which is the driving title cut.  It name-checks most of the titles of Wolf’s best-known works, and has fine harp from Ted Roddy.  Omar lays down some fierce rockabilly-style licks on “Howlin’ For My Baby,” and again on the Texas twang of “Worried All The Time.”  “I’m Leavin’ You” follows a sweet, call-and-response, stop-time pattern, while the unmistakable riff of “Smokestack Lightnin” is again embellished by Omar’s vocal inflections and Roddy’s harp.

Willie Dixon wrote several cuts for the Wolf, and they give the uptown “spit and polish” to Wolf’s recording of them.  Omar does “Do The Do” with a rhumba beat (and Kaz Kazanoff’s sax), and “Wang Dang Doodle” is done in tribute to Hubert Sumlin to close the set.

Favorites were obviously hard to choose, but we had two that we’ve always enjoyed, and Omar leaves his special stamp on each of them.  The minor-key classic “leavin’ song” is “Who’s Been Talkin,” and has Omar realizing all too late that he’s “the causin’ of it all,” with that catchy riff  embellished by Kaz’s sax, and Nick Connolly’s organ.  And, Omar has the most fun with a spirited “The Red Rooster,” which shifts between clever bits of single-note “chicken-pickin” to an all-out fiery solo at the bridge.

As omar sings in the title cut, Howlin’ Wolf was “a tail dragger,” “a po’ boy,” and, the quintessential “back door man,” and Omar Dykes is the only singer on the planet that could pull off a tribute as cool as this one.  This set is one of those that you wish was about an hour longer, so—-Omar, is there a Volume Two of “Runnin’ With The Wolf” up your sleeve somewhere?   Un til next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Earl Poole Ball review…July 6, 2013…

EARL POOLE BALL

PIANOGRAPHY

TIN TUBE TUNES

WALL TO WALL MUSIC GROUP

STANDING AT THE END OF THE WORLD–PIANOGRAPHY (AND THEN SOME)–THE REAL ME–SAY YOU LOVE ME–ONE OF THOSE OLD THINGS (WE ALL GO THROUGH)–SING IT BOY–SOMETHING’S GONNA GET US ALL–IMPRESARIO: ROWDY TIMES RADIO SHOW–BIG RIVER–DOWN THE LINE–WILL THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN–MEAN WOMAN BLUES–SECOND AND SAN ANTONE–FLOWERS ON PAPA’S GRAVE

 

Earl Poole Ball (Jr.) is indeed his family and birth name (and, yes, his father did run a pool hall!).  He learned piano from his aunt in Mississippi as a teen, going off to Houston with his father’s blessing in 1961 to answer his musical calling.  Since that time, he has affectionately been dubbed “Mr. Honky Tonk Piano,” and is perhaps best known as Johnny Cash’s piano player for the last twenty years of Cash’s career.  His latest album is entitled “Pianography,” and showcases not only his talents as a first-call pianist, but his writing skills as well.  He writes songs from the heart, that deal with the ups and downs of everyday life.  Also, there are cuts done in tribute to Johnny Cash, and two vintage cuts from 1967 and 1977.

The set starts with Earl “Standing On The Edge Of The World,” pondering “the secrets of a broken heart that are written on a worried mind.”  Earl and Julieann Banks revisit the classic country duets of Conway and Loretta on a song written by Earl and Jo-El Sonnier, “Say You Love Me.”  This one features some cool tuba-as-bass from Jon Blondell.  A man coping with the blows dealt him by life is the poignant subject of “Just One Of Those Old Things (We All Go Through),” and has a distinctive Mickey Gilley vibe, who was one of Earl’s early mentors.  The title cut is Earl’s autobiography, that finds him coming full-circle, from Mississippi to Texas to California to Tennessee and back to Texas, with its signature line, “and then some.”  Another cut that could’ve been his life story is “Sing It Boy,” about a honky-tonk singer who’s “helping me to remember what I came here to forget.”

Earl pays tribute to Johnny Cash with three rockin’ tunes, “Big River,” “Down The Line,” and “Mean Woman Blues,” along with a very bluesy read of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” all recorded live at Austin’s Emo’s club in 2010.  The two vintage cuts are a 1967 slice of rockabilly swing, “Second And San Antone,” and Earl’s somber tribute to his great-grandfather, “Flowers On Papa’s Grave.”  This one features an arrangement heavy with strings and backing vocals, done in the “countrypolitan” style popular back in 1977 when this one was cut.

Our favorite was easy.  Earl takes a tongue-in-cheek look at our own mortality with the minor-key lope of “Something’s Gonna Get Us All,” because “we’ll never get out of this world alive.”

We are officially “putting out an EPB” to all the fans of good ole rockin’ honky-tonk piano and down-to-earth lyrics that we can all relate to, and encourage everyone to grab a copy of Earl Poole Ball’s “Pianography” and…ENJOY!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

Storm Cellar review…July 4, 2013…

STORM CELLAR

HIRED GUNS AND BORROWED GLORY

BLACK CROW–TEXAS ROSIE–SAME OLD BLUES–SUIT YOURSELF–EVEN IN A LIFETIME–WINE TO WATER–ROAD RISE UP–COUNTRY RADIO–LIGHT IN THE DISTANCE–HARD TIMES–SHEE KEEPS YOU MOVING ON–SWEET AS PIE

 

Storm Cellar is a group of lads from the inner west side of Sydney, Australia, who began their musical careers as a result of the burgeoning folk/blues/roots scene going on in that part of the country.  Their latest album is entitled “Hired Guns And Borrowed Glory,” and is a soulful and scintillating amalgam of twelve cuts that encompasses a little bit of all their various influences.

 

Storm Cellar features Michael Barry on vocals and harp, Paul Read on slide, mandolin, and bass, Michael Rosenblatt on additional guitars, and Theo Wandlers on drums.

 

This album is a real musical journey thru several genres’.  The curtain opens with a brooding, slide-and-wah-wah-guitar-driven tale of “every glory” that comes “with a price,” with the omen of the “Black Crow” always lurking nearby.  A love affair headed for the rocks finds Michael’s paramour begging him to stop “givin’ me those Same Old Blues,” with a fine slide barrage at the bridge.  “Suit Yourself” and “Even In A Lifetime” are guitar-filled slabs of pop that recall the early-Seventies heyday of The Eagles  and James Taylor.  “Road Rise Up” and “Texas Rosie” are delightful tales of traditional folk, and “Country Radio” uses an echo-effect vocal and traditional instrumentation to elaborate on how the fellows wind down after a long day.

 

There were several cuts that exposed a darker, bluesier side of the band.  “Wine To Water” features a fine male-female duet, reminiscent of the Buckingham/Nicks collaborations of their pre-Fleetwood Mac days.  “Light In The Distance” and “Feel So Blue” channels the blues-rock of Jeff Healey or Luther Allison, while what has to be the band’s autobiography is “She Keeps You Moving On,” alluding to the lure and the power of the music, “walking beside you on a road that never ends.”

 

The fellows didn’t forget their Delta roots, either.  “Hard Times” exist in every society nowadays, and this harp-and-guitar tale of “the future I’m choosin” sounds as if they’ve listened to a lot of the works of the Mississippi masters.  The set closes along the same vein, with “Sweet As Pie” being a bittersweet reminder of the music of John Cephas and Phil Wiggins, as Michael spins the tale of a lover with a wandering eye, who “doesn’t tell me what she don’t want me to know.”

 

Storm Cellar are planning a stateside tour in the coming months, and it’s a sure bet they’ll pick up the best of both worlds.  Their Americana influences will appeal to fans of the Avett Brothers, Mumford And Sons, and Zac Brown, while their blues background will carry a lot of clout with older fans.  “Hired Guns And Borrowed Glory” makes for an excellent start for their U. S. shows!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.