Archive for October, 2013

Brad Wilson review…October 8, 2013…

BRAD WILSON

HANDS ON THE WHEEL

BLUES BOULEVARD RECORDS  250353

HANDS ON THE WHEEL–ROCKET–NOBODY BUT YOU–ALL KINDS OF A FOOL–THE ROAD BACK TO YOU–CRUISIN THE COAST–THE BALLAD OF JOHN LEE–BLUES MAGIC–LAST CALL–SLIDE ON OVER–HOT STUFF–I’M STILL BREATHING–MY ONE DESIRE–ROLL WITH ME

Hailing from California, Brad Wilson plays an incendiary brand of blues-rock that is perfect for your  next road trip, either with the top down, or, if you are so inclined, astride your Harley.  On his latest set for Blues Boulevard Records, “Hands On The Wheel,” Brad covers a lot of ground over the course of these fourteen originals, and holds absolutely nothin’ back as far as the guitar goes.  Along with his blistering guitar attack, he’s got one of those gritty, rough-hewn vocal deliveries that just begs for bluesy material such as this.

This set leads off with the title cut, a stone cold ode to the open road, where “I feel free.”  “Rocket” is another hot rocker that pays tribute to those machines of “American steel” and “Detroit wheels.”  Brad breaks off a cool slide solo at the bridge on this one.  He finds himself asking for another chance with a lover, as he realizes he’d be “All Kinds Of A Fool for losing you,” while Francesca Capasso adds duet vocals and promises to help see him thru the night after “blues and Last Call.”   “Cruisin The Coast” is a breezy, dueling-guitars, Southern-rock-influenced instrumental, while the set closes with Brad’s request to another lover to “Roll With Me” thru life’s long journey.

We had two favorites, too.  Brad’s lookin’ for a shot of “Hot Stuff on a restless night” to cure his ills, set over a very danceable groove with scratchin’ guitar fills.  And, Brad plays the “end;ess boogie” for all it’s worth in the roadhouse-rockin’, freight-train-a-comin’  “Ballad Of John Lee.”   He unleashes wave after wave of scalding-hot staccato notes as he describes “Boogie Chillen” and “a man and the blues.”

Brad Wilson has crafted a red-hot set of blues-rock that plays well alongside his recent works featured in two John Carpenter films, “Vampire” and “Ghosts Of Mars.”  With “Hands On The Wheel,” he casts his lot as one of the baddest and boldest players in contemporary blues!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

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Chris James and Patrick Rynn review…October 6, 2013…

CHRIS JAMES AND PATRICK RYNN

BARRELHOUSE STOMP

EARWIG RECORDS  4968

GOODBYE LATER FOR YOU–JUST ANOTHER KICK IN THE TEETH–I FEEL SO GOOD–MESSIN WITH WHITE LIGHTNIN–BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE–A FACT IS A FACT–IT ALWAYS CAN BE WORSE–I’M GONNA STOP FOOLING MYSELF–VICKSBURG BLUES–BOBBY’S ROCK–TAKE IT EASY (A TRIBUTE TO PINETOP PERKINS)–LAST CALL WOOGIE

 

The first time we met Chris James and Patrick Rynn was in the summer of 1994, backing the ole Shuffle Master himself, Sam Lay, at the now-defunct (and sorely missed) south Nashville venue, The Boardwalk Cafe.   (The CD “Feelin’ Good” documented this performance, and, yes, we were in the audience.)   They have come a long way since those days, having two previous albums for the Earwig lable, with 2008’s “Stop And Think About It” nominated for a Blues Award for Best New Artist Debut.

Their third album for Earwig is entitled “Barrelhouse Stomp,” and it continues their deep affinity for genuine Chicago-styled combo blues.  This set, however, is sho’ nuff a great big blues party with a slew of special guests that all perfectly complement Chris’ colorful singing and playing, and Patrick’s stone-cold backbeat.

The set starts with a swingin’ original tune that finds Chris throwin’ in the towel on a soured affair and bidding her “Goodbye Later For You.”  Rob Stone guests on harp, and David Maxwell rocks the 88’s.  Legendary sax man Eddie Shaw joins Howlin’ Wolf’s guitarist, Jody Williams, on another original cut that deals with disappointments in everyday life, “Just Another Kick In The Teeth.”  Patrick is also called upon here for a rare, but exquisitely cool, bass solo.  And, Chris breaks out his harp on the brooding story of no matter how hard times might seem, “It Always Could Be Worse.”  Jody again adds guitar on the Diddley-esque instrumental, “Messin’ With White Lightnin,” and Henry Gray is the piano man in another slide-infused instrumental reminiscent of the fellows’ days with Sam Lay, “Bobby’s Rock.”  The set closes with the rhumba-fied rock of closing time, “Last Call Woogie.”

We had three favorites, too.  “Vicksburg Blues” follows a more traditional, Delta-inspired rhythm pattern, but the guests on it are amazing.  Rob Stone is on harp, Eddie is on sax, Max is on piano, and Jody re-creates his riff from the Wolf’s “Forty-Four” to round this one out.  David and Chris rock the joint on the rapid-fire assault of “Take It Easy (A Tribute To Pinetop Perkins),” and Chris reminds us all how short life is, urging us to “live right now, Before It’s Too Late.”   This one has two notable features–an extended solo from pianist Aaron Moore, and, since the cut was recorded in August of 2009,  some of tha last works of Willie “Big Eyes” Smith on drums.

Chris James and Patrick Rynn try to write original songs based on their own personal experiences and from things they see in today’s society.  With over twenty years in the business, they are experts in conveying their thoughts in a blues format that listeners can readily  relate to.  And, they never forget the masters from whom they learned, which is what makes “Barrelhouse Stomp” such a fine listen!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Planetary Blues Band review…October 4, 2013…

PLANETARY BLUES BAND

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE SOUTH LOOP

SELF-PRODUCED

SEE THAT MY GRAVE IS KEPT CLEAN–THE THORNS WILL SHOW YOU–THIS PRECIOUS EXISTENCE–THAT’S NO WAY TO GET ALONG–SACRED AND PROFANE BLUES–BLUES RESURRECTION–CRAZY CRYIN’ BLUES–IN A BLUE STUDY–WHEN I SAY I LOVE YOU–THE SHILLELAGH

The Planetary Blues Band are a family blues band based in Valparaiso, IN.  They are Martin Schaefer-Murray on guitar and vocals, Michael Schaefer-Murray on guitar and vocals, Bobby Schaefer-Murray on bass, and longtime friend Nick Evans on drums.  For a group of young fellows, they bring a surprisingly strong set of blues-rock to the table with their release of “Once Upon A Time In The South Loop.”  The seven originals and three covers   show their versatility and the fact that they have taken care of their blues homework, as the covers have that authentic spirit, and the originals evoke the memories of the masters from whom they learned the blues.

Both “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” and “That’s No Way To Get Along” are steeped in the Delta traditions, of course, but the fellows, whether intentionally or not, add a touch of gospel fervor from which the core of this music sprang.  In fact, they tackle that eternal struggle of good vs. evil in the twin-guitar attack of “Sacred And Profane Blues,” with the guitars firing faster as the song progresses.   Memphis Minnie’s “Crazy Cryin’ Blues” is presented here as a driving rocker, with guitar lines that might remind listeners of early Allman Brothers, while “In A Blue Study” has an upbeat, Pigpen-era Grateful Dead vibe within the vocals and instrumentation.  The set closes with a blistering instrumental, “The Shillelagh,” which recalls the glory days of Chess Records.

We had two favorites, too.  The fellows get down and dirty on the sweaty, scorching slow-drag of “Blues Resurrection,” and tackle the age-old question of “why can’t we all just get along” in “This Precious Existence,” done in an odd 6/8 time signature.  The twin leads, tho, are reminiscent of Clapton and Duane Allman from the Derek and the Dominoes era.

The Planetary Blues Band are listed as a rock band on their website, but they sure have one foot planted firmly in the blues genre’.  “Once Upon A Time In The South Loop,”  is at once refreshing, viable, and exciting from a hugely-talented group of players!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow

Samantha Fish review…September 30, 2013…

SAMANTHA FISH

BLACK WIND HOWLIN’

RUF RECORDS 1195

MILES TO GO–KICK AROUND–GO TO HELL–SUCKER BORN–OVER YOU–WHO’S BEEN TALKING–LAY IT DOWN–LET’S HAVE SOME FUN–HEARTBREAKER–FOOLIN ME–BLACK WIND HOWLIN’–LAST SEPTEMBER

After winning the Best New Artist Debut at the 2012 Blues Awards, Samantha Fish proudly proclaimed, “I can hardly wait to make album number two!”  “Runaway,” her stirring 2011 debut, now has ts follow-up, and it is a real barn-burner.  Entitled “Black Wind Howlin,” it is eleven original cuts and one cover that show not only the depths of Samantha’s maturity as a player, singer, and composer, but a harder-edged, rawer side of her as well.

Since her breakout 2011 season, Samantha has been touring virtually non-stop, and most of the material on this album was borne from the sights and sounds she encountered during this time.  That’s the subject of the leadoff cut, with “mouths to feed, my word to keep, and Miles To Go” before the next show.  It is set over a furious locomotive beat, literally taking the listener along for the ride.  She breaks out a nasty slide guitar attack over Johnny Sansone’s harp in the too-true tale of being a female in a cut-throat business, “Sucker Born every minute,” while “Lay It Down” is a blues-rock tune full of characters you’re likely to encounter on “just another Saturday night.” “Heartbreaker” is another tune with some down-and-dirty licks that find Samantha dealing with a lover full of nothing but lies, and the brooding title cut pounds with dark, percussion-heavy undertones, and a rolling guitar that seems to rise up right out of the Mississippi mists.

There are two lighter moments on the album, too.  “Over You” finds Samantha telling an ex that “you won’t get the best of me,” and the set-closing twang of “Last September” features fiddle from Bo Thomas.  Both of these cuts nowadays would be right at home on either of the soundtracks released for the “Nashville” TV show.

The set had two excellent standouts, too.  Johnny Sansone blows that immortal riff that defines “Who’s Been Talking” on his harp, and Samantha rocks that rhumba beat, fading to black with the lyric that makes her realize that she’s “the causin’ of it all.”  And, nowhere does the attitude and vitriolic venom fly faster than on Samantha and Paul Thorn’s ode to two lovers who aren’t buying what the other is selling, and tell each other plainly to “Go To Hell,”—at least until they decide to give each other one more try.  The guitar is as grungy and full of fuzztone and feedback as one would imagine on a cut of this magnitude.

Samantha Fish has accomplished a rare feat in contemporary blues.  She has taken an award-winning album and improved upon it, with an excellent sophomore release, “Black Wind Howlin.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow