Archive for August, 2013

Jon Zeeman review…August 26, 2013…

JON ZEEMAN

DOWN ON MY LUCK

MEMBRANE RECORDS

YOU’RE RIGHT, I’M WRONG–DOWN ON MY LUCK–HANGMAN’S BRIDGE–I LOVE EVERYBODY–WAITIN’ FOR THE STORM–I GOT NEWS–MONEY–GOT THE GUN–CAN’T YOU HEAR ME–SO BAD–BETTER OFF DEAD

     It didn’t take long for a young Jon Zeeman to realize that being a typical “nine-to-fiver” wasn’t for him.  Already trained in classical piano as a teen, he turned his passion for the music of Johnny Winter and B. B. King into his life’s work.  He studied music for two years at Ithaca University before returning to the club scene in NYC and also to concentrate on session work, producing, and songwriting. 

     Now splitting his time between Martha’s Vineyard and West Palm Beach, FL, Jon has just released “Down On My Luck,” featuring ten of Jon’s blues-rock-inspired originals and one cool cover.  Jon is a monster guitarist and vocalist, and is ably backed on this project by George Lilly on drums, Tom Regis and Bob Taylor on keys, and Phil McArthur and Jon’s daughter, Zoe, on the bass.  Jon’s tunes deal with everyday life, love, and just trying to hang on in today’s world.  He’s crafted some good “social commentary” cuts that really hit home, too.  He wears his heart on his sleeve and lets his emotions run free on several songs, too.  Take the opening shuffle, for example.  It takes a real man to admit “You’re Right, I’m Wrong,” but she’s just been gone waay too  long.  He’s also been in enough relationships to see the writing on the wall, too, as evidenced by the slash and slow-burn of a man “just Waitin’ On The Storm.”  And, in “I Got News,” the lover in question is told “I’d rather be alone!”  This one has a funky, danceable groove, too.  “Hangman’s Bridge” has a dark, brooding, voodoo-ish vibe, and Jon closes the set with some very intricate, jazzy lead lines in the tale of a man who feels he’d be “Better Off Dead” than alone. 

     We had three favorites, too.  We are always partial to an artists’ social commentaries, and, on the minor-key blues of the title cut, Jon feels overwhelmed by the sorry state of today’s economy.  In the rapid-fire rock of “Money,” that’s exactly what he needs a ton of to cover his debts!  It features not only some fine guitar, but also some notable acoustic piano as well.  On “Got The Gun,” Jon tells an autobiographical tale of some bad choices regarding lovers during his youth, with some absolutely brilliant guitar work, that proves our theory that every guitar-slingin’ bluesman has a little of Chuck Berry’s DNA in him.

     In one of Jon Zeeman’s website photos, there is a pic of him jammin’ away with the Allman Brothers Band at the legendary Beacon Theater, proving that he has the respect of  his peers.  With a set as good as “Down On My Luck” in his resume’, he’s carved out a sweet niche’ for himself in the world of contemporary blues!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

John Ginty review…August 24, 2013…

JOHN GINTY

BAD NEWS TRAVELS

AMERICAN SHOWPLACE MUSIC  ASM  3008

THE QUIRK–BLACK CAT–PEANUT BUTTER–SEVEN AND THE SPIRIT–MIRRORS–SWITCH–DAMAGE CONTROL–ROCK RIDGE–ELVIS PRESLEY–TRINITY

 

New Jersey native John Ginty’s colorful keyboard stylings have graced the grooves of albums by Jewel, The Dixie Chicks, The Court Yard Hounds, Todd Wolfe, and Santana, just to scratch the surface.  And, he received two Grammy nominations as an original member of Robert Randolph’s Family Band.  Many of John’s musical friends have joined him on his latest CD for American Showplace Music, entitled “Bad News Travels,” which consists of ten of John’s originals that showcase his genre’-bending, unique sounds on all types of keyboards.

The cuts also show the eclectic nature of John’s talents.  As we listened, there is the obvious Allman Brothers influence, but one can also hear elements of Chuck Leavell, Reese Wynans, Ray Charles, and jazz giant Jimmy Smith in John’s playing.  The set opens with old friend Albert Castiglia adding guitar to “The Quirk,” a fine, bluesy jam.  A sweet, acoustic piano intro gives way to a fiery organ assault in “Mirrors,” with Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule adding the guitar that gives this jam a cool, Santana-esque vibe throughout.  Brooklyn’s Alecia Chakour turns in a very soulful vocal on “Seven And The Spirit,” and, coupled with John’s spirited playing, turns the whole thing into an old-school, Southern-rock throwdown.  Martie Maguire adds a jazzy fiddle to the tripped-out hoedown that is “Rock Ridge,” while John closes the set with a sanctified, soul-stirring return to his Family Band days with the rousing “Trinity,” featuring guitar from Cris Jacobs.

Our favorite was easy.  Albert Castiglia is on vocal and guitar on the sly, mythical tale of “Elvis Presley,” who’s seen “washing the windows of a neighborhood liquor store,” and who “thinks all the kids today could use some style.”  The greasy groove on this one is as smooth as a peanut butter-and-banana sandwich, and shows an ultra-funky, Booker T side of John’s talents.

John Ginty is not only one of the premier keyboard players of his generation, but he is raising the bar for players to come.  With a set as strong as “Bad News Travels,” he is definitely a player to watch!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

 

Hank Mowery review…August 21, 2013…

HANK MOWERY

ACCOUNT TO ME

OLD PAL RECORDS 102

SPEND A LITTLE TIME–ACCOUNT TO ME–PUT THE HAMMER DOWN–IF I KNEW WHAT I KNOW–BANANA OIL–TRICKY GAME–MY HOME–PRAY FOR A CLOUDY DAY–TARGET–THAT’S NO WAY TO GET ALONG

Harp virtuoso Hank Mowery was a great friend to another outstanding harp man, Gary Primich, who, sadly, passed away in 2007.  Hank operated a club in Grand Rapids, MI, and Gary guested at the club any time he was in town, and their friendship flourished right up until Gary’s death.  When Gary’s sister, Darsha, discovered some of Gary’s lyrics that had never been recorded, she contacted Hank to set them to music.  So, for his latest album,, Hank Mowery has just released “Account To Me.” It is not done as a tribute album, but rather as a celebration of the late harpman’s life, and his contributions to the world of contemporary blues.

 

Hank puts his own spin on five of Gary’s tunes, a few of his own, and a couple of choice covers.  Hank also surrounded himself with backing musicians who either knew Gary or realized the scope of this undertaking.  As a result, there are barroom rockers, slow burners, and even a jazzy instrumental.

The set kicks off with one of those blistering stompers, the rocked-up Hank and bassist Patrick Recob original, “Spend A Little Time.”  It features a cool, fuzz-toned Wurlitzer over an acoustic piano that gives this one a double-barreled punch.  A unique guitar riff from Troy Amaro fuels one of Gary’s originals, the tale of a bluesman headin’ home after a too-long stint on the road, “Put The Hammer Down.’  “Banana Oil” is what you’d have if Gary had played with the Mar-Keys, as Hank blows some jazzy swing in this trippy instrumental, over a rhumba-fied beat.  “Tricky Game” is another of Gary’s originals, this one taking a tongue-in-cheek lpok at love, comparing it to, among other things, a course in calculus.  The set closes with Jimmie Stagger’s vocal and National steel on “That’s No Way To Get Along,” with Hank blowing a sweet, country-blues harp in accompaniment.

We had two favorites, too.  The title cut is one of Gary’s also, a Fifties-styled ballad where Hank encourages a lover to be open and honest with him in their relationship, and, to “Account To Me.”  The dark, brooding, “If I Knew What I Know” asks the rhetorical question, “If I had known, could I have perhaps made a difference?” whenever tragedy strikes a friend.  It is characterized by Hank’s mournful harp over a booming, if somewhat verboten, bass drum.

Gary Primich was not only a great player, but an astute student of the harp as well.  And, on “Account To Me,” Hank Mowery has captured the essence of Gary’s style thru his own originals and those that Gary has left behind.   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow

JC CRossfire review…August 18, 2013….

JC CROSSFIRE

WHEN IT COMES TO THE BLUES

BLUZPIK MEDIA GROUP

WHEN IT COMES TO THE BLUES–DELIZA–GRAND OLE GIRL–BLUES BLUES BLUES–TELL ME WHY–ONE MORE TIME–AMERICAN WAY–CHOSEN ONE–I WONDER

 

JC Crossfire and his band hail from the Ft. Lauderdale, FL, area, and their latest release is entitled “When It Comes To The Blues,” and consists of nine strong originals, either written wholly by JC or Bernie Rose and Tony Calabria.  JC handles the guitars and vocals, Bernie is on keys and vocals, Tony is on bass and vocals, with Guido Marciano on drums and Niles Blaize on the harp.

JC and the fellows lay down some serious, roadhouse-rockin, good-time blues on this set.  It kicks off with the loping, acoustic “biography” of sorts for JC, name-checking all his likes and many of his guitar heroes in “When It Comes To The Blues,” which features a cool, ‘lectrified solo at the bridge.  “Deliza” and “Grand Ole Girl” are both fine exampleas of rockin’ blues, while JC closes the set with another acoustic-electric hybrid, entitled “I Wonder.”  It weaves a tale of a love affair compared to “stormy weather, and follows a sweet, mid-tempo groove, but, sadly, ends just as it starts gettin’ good .

We had two favorites, too.  “One More Time” is a piano-and-harp-driven rocker that’s geared for JC’s fans to heat up the dance floor.  And, an extended intro that gets everyone involved then kicks into high gear with JC’s vocals over a funky beat is a rather stinging piece of social commentary, “American Way.”  With its tales of “television politicians” and “everybody I know is broke,” the “American Way has become a big joke!”  This one oughta be required listening for all the powers-that-be on Capitol Hill!

JC Crossfire is a soulful vocalist and a proven guitarist who has surrounded himself with some top-notch talent as his backing crew.  And, “When It Comes To The Blues,” he sho’ nuff knows what he’s talking about!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

Phil Gates Live review…August 16, 2013…

PHIL GATES

LIVE AT THE HERMOSA SALOON

DCT BPRODUCTIONS   PGCD BBY7

ADDICTED TO THE BLUES–MESSIN WITH THE KID–AWAY I GO–USED ME UP–OLD SCHOOL–SUMMER IN THE CITY–END OF TIME–EVENING TRAIN–TAKE IT OUT–I’M LOST–GET AROUND TO ME

 

Phil Gates is a very well-respected, Los Angeles-based bluesman, who is one of a select few performers who have not only played in the IBC’s, but judged the competition as well.  For his eighth release, he uses the “home court advantage” to its fullest for “Phil Gates Live At The Hermosa Saloon” in Hermosa Beach, CA.  The crowd was up for an evening of rockin’ blues, and this Chicago-born guitar-slinger did not disappoint.  He also had Ron Battle on bass, Keith Williams on drums, and keyboard whiz Morris Beeks to back him up.

Phil kicked off the show in high gear, telling everyone he is Addicted To The Blues,” but his “Jones” is a healthy one, indeed–he “gets higher than a whole fifth of booze” just by bringing the fans the best blues he can, night in and night out.  Ron holds down the funky bottom while Phil runs a rap about a red-hot lover in “Away I Go.”  He conjures up some vintage soul sounds on “Take It Out” and the Motown-Philly sweetness of “Old School,” while giving a reggae tinge to the Lovin’ Spoonful classic, “Summer In The City.”  It also features a great solo by Morris on the B-3.

That was another cool thing about the songs on this set.  Whether intentional or not, at times when Phil and Morris get locked in on an extended jam, you can hear a definite Allman Brothers vibe goin’ on.

We had two favorites, too.  “Evening Train” spotlights the interplay between all three musicians, with Keith’s locomotive beat riding over Phil’s tale of using that mode of transportation to get to and from “another day working on the factory line.”  And, a song “for everyone who’s ever been used in a relationship” is the theme of the loping, 8-bar blues of “Used Me Up,” and features Phil’s crying slide at its searing, absolute, most intense.

Phil Gates writes ’em from the heart and plays ’em from the soul, and he’s handled a bluesman’s greatest challenge–satisfying a hometown crowd hungry for some of the best in contemporary blues with “Live At The Hermosa Saloon.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Jeff Jensen review…August 14, 2013…

JEFF JENSEN

ROAD WORN AND RAGGD

SWINGSUIT RECORDS

BRUNETTE WOMAN–GOOD BYE PORTLAND–HEART ATTACK AND VINE–PEPPER–GEE BABY–LITTLE RED ROOSTER–CROSSEYED CAT–RAGGEDY ANN–RIVER RUNS DRY–THANKFUL

 

Jeff Jensen had already recorded two albums while living in Portland, Oregon, when, in 2011, he up and moved to Memphis.  As soon as he got to Tennessee, he teamed up with Beale Street harp master Brandon Santini.  Add in the help of composer and 2013 BMA winner for piano, Victor Wainwright, and Jeff’s latest release, “Road Worn And Ragged,” is a sure-fire winner, indeed!  It consists of ten cuts that combine Jeff’s love for blues, jazz, and roots music.

Jeff handles the guitars and vocals, and the “road worn and ragged band” features Victor on piano, Brandon on harp, Bill Ruffino on bass, James Cunningham on drums, and Chris Stephenson on B-3 and Wurlitzer.  Recorded at Ardent tudios, the fellows kick things off with the mojo-fied boogie of the “Brunette Woman” who seems fine until “the preacher said we were one,” leaving Jeff with “heartache for a full-time career!”  The Rev. Billy C. Wirtz co-wrote the ragtimey lope of Jeff’s “autobiography” of sorts, “Good Bye Portland,” while the sparse, understated arrangement of “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You” has a strong, soulful vocal.  Brandon channels his inner James Cotton to blow that funky riff that defines Muddy’s “Crosseyed Cat,” and Jeff creates the album’s centerpiece with the sweet ballad, “River Runs Dry.”

We had three favorites, too.  Jeff’s version of “Little Red Rooster” is totally different from the Wolf’s original, presented herein as an amped-up, West-Coast-style, jump blues.  Fans of “The Andy Griffith Show” will recall Jim Lindsay, the mythical guitarist who was supposedly the hottest picker Mayberry ever produced.  Well, if ol’ Jim had a theme song, it would no doubt be Jeff’s rockabilly-tinged instrumental, “Pepper.”  And, we’ve always been fans of Tom Waits, and the fellows get their midnight creep on, headin’ down to “Heart Attack And Vine.”  Chris’ organ work is the perfect foil for the late-night walk thru the cemetery that this song brings to mind.

Jeff Jensen has certainly used his time in Tennessee to stimulate his creative juices, as the material in “Road Worn And Ragged” will attest to.  His A-list of band mates is another positive, and we look forward to hearing more from Jeff in the future!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

 

J. T. Lauritsen review…August 11, 2013…

J. T. LAURITSEN AND FRIENDS

PLAY BY THE RULES

HUNTERS RECORDS  HRC  0012013

EVERY DAY WILL BE LIKE A HOLIDAY–NEXT TIME–PLAY BY THE RULES–NEED MY BABE–MEMPHIS BOOGIE–I’LL NEVER GET OVER YOU–EVER SINCE THE WORLD BEGAN–MATHILDA–FIND MY LITTLE GIRL–VALLEY OF TEARS–EYE CANDY–THE BLUES GOT ME

 

J. T. Lauritsen has been a vital part of the bustling Scandinavian blues scene for some twenty years.  But, for his seventh album, he trekked to Memphis to the legendary Ardent Studios to lay down five tracks.  He returned home to Oslo, Norway to finish the remaining seven tracks, and the result is a tremendous mixed bag of goodies entitled “Play By The Rules,” which touches on J. T.’s deep affinity for blues, zydeco, rock, and soul.  He is a very soulful, captivating vocalist, and also shines throughout the set on harp, accordion, and B-3.  The Oslo cuts feature his regular band, The Buckshot Hunters, while the Memphis cuts feature several of the Bluff City’s finest in guest spots.

The party starts with a beautiful rendition of William Bell’s “Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday,” and has Larry McCray and Kelly Clarke on backing vocals, all of them helping to capture that elusive “Memphis feel” of this ballad.  “Ever Since The World Began” and “Next Time” follow a sweet, swingin’ New Orleans second-line pattern, and both have Reba Russel and Debbie Jamison on harmony vocals.  There is also impressive guitar work on each of these as well.   “Mathilda” is a down-home, old-school zydeco love song, and guest Victor Wainwright pounds the 88’s in the amped-up instrumental, “Memphis Boogie,” with J. T. on the squeeze box.   J. T. gets down to the blues of the matter in a red-hot take of Big Walter’s “Need My Babe.”  This one features a spirited harp “duel” between J. T. and Billy Gibson, a fine young man we have known since waaay before he won the Blues Award for Best Harp Player a few years back.  The set closes with another rockin’ shuffle, “The Blues Got Me,” with the backing chorus of the “Memphis Misfits.”

We had two favorites, too.  Josh Roberts’ crying slide helps J. T. paint the picture of a “two-timin’ fool” who could never win at love due to his inability to “Play By The Rules.”  And, “Find My Little Girl” has got a backbeat that you just can’t resist, and a blistering guitar solo from Anson Funderburgh.

Add “Play By The Rules” from J. T. Lauritsen and friends to that list of albums you wish could last about another hour longer.  The good times roll all over this one from start to finish!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.