Archive for January, 2014

San Pedro Slim review…January 29, 2013…

SAN PEDRO SLIM

ONE ROOM UTILITIES PAID NO PETS

BARROOM BLUES MUSIC

I AIN’T NEVER CHEATED NOBODY–EVERYTHING’S PAST DUE–THE APARTMENT SONG–TALKIN’ ABOUT MY NEIGHBORS–YOU’LL HAVE TO WAIT–SOMEDAY I WON’T CARE–MY BABY’S COMING HOME–WHY IS YOUR WOMAN ALWAYS DRUNK?–A TUNE FOR EARL (ACROSS THE WAY)–’85 CHRYSLER LEBARON–PAY OR QUIT (LETTER FROM THE LANDLORD)–CRYIN’ HARD LUCK

San Pedro Slim is the nom-de-plume of one David Kiefer, vocalist and harpman for this band, which is one of the hottest outfits in that fertile SoCal blues region.  His latest set of all originals is entitled “One Room Utilities Paid No Pets,” and the twelve jumpin’ cuts have that underlying theme of living in a one-room apartment and the daily scuffle to stay one step ahead of the landlord!

Joining Slim on this set are more of the best in California blues players.  Delta Groove artist Nathan James is on the homemade washtar gitboard, and the Bari-tar guitars.  Rick “L. A. Holmes” Holmstrom  is also on guitars, Troy Sandow is on the slapback and electric bass, Marty Dodson is on drums, Johnny Viau on saxes, and Taryn Donath is on piano.  Together, they conjure up some mighty fine blues that combines that West Coast swing with the vintage sounds of Chess and Vee-Jay.

The set kicks off with the midtempo “I Ain’t Never Cheated Nobody,” as Slim professes to always “Live my life by the Golden Rule,” over stabbing guitar lines and Johnny’s honkin’ sax.  Slim goes into Rice Miller mode on the amped-up acoustic “Everything’s Past Due,” recalling those days of Chess.  Taryn and Johnny hold the melody together in the loping “My Baby’s Coming Home,” then Slim gives her the boot in “Someday I Won’t Care,’ built over a killer riff.

Favorites?  Hells yeah, and they all deal with the ups and downs of apartment living.  “Pay Or Quit” finds Slim telling a down-and-out tenant to “pitch yo’self a tent!”  The slow-blues of the set-closing “Cryin’ Hard Luck” has Slim speaking out a “little girl who’s never known hard times.”  This one features extended solos throughout.  “The Apartment Song” follows a funky backbeat and explains the woes of living in an apartment with “walls so thin I can hear my neighbor change his mind!”  And, “Talkin’ About My Neighbors” bemoans the fact that they never “start hootin’ and hollerin ’til my head hits the pillow of my bed!”

“One Room Utilities Paid No Pets” is one of those albums that you wish could be about another hour longer.  Fellow Californians The Mighty Mojo Prophets praise San Pedro Slim as a player “who may have never been down south, but he sho’ nuff knows what these blues is all about!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

 

Annika Chambers review…January 27, 2014….

ANNIKA CHAMBERS

AND THE HOUSTON ALL-STARS

MAKING MY MARK

MONTROSE RECORDS

MOVE–BARNYARD BLUES–JEALOUS KIND–LICK ‘ER–TRUST ME–DOWN SOUTH–THAT FEEL GOOD–PUT IT WHERE YOU WANT IT–GUITAR BOY–LOVE’S SWEET SENSATION–IT HURTS ME TO MY HEART–LET’S GET DOWN TO BUSINESS

Houston-based Annika Chambers is a tremendously-gifted singer that is poised for stardom in the blues world.  She served an eight-year stint in the US Army, with deployments to both Iraq and Kosovo, and has attained the rank of sergeant.  However, her desire to utilize her God-given talents to spread her love for music is the reason her military career is now on hiatus.  Her debut album, “Making My Mark,” is the result of her work with bassist Larry Fulcher and Montrose Records label head Richard Cagle.

Such was their faith in her talent, they surrounded her with an A-list team of Houston’s best musicians and arrangers, most of ’em with “Grammy winner” preceding their names.  Annika lends her amazing voice to originals penned with Dominique Fulcher and other band members, and tackles some scintillating covers.  A slow, funky tempo with plenty of wah-wah guitar plays over Annika’a biography of sorts, urging you to “use the music to Move.”  “Way Down South” is a gospel-rooted plea for help, and allows her to show off her outstanding vocal range.  She goes into a sweet, New Orleans-styled Irma Thomas groove with the stop-time tale of telling a lover she’s in love with someone else, “It Hurts Me To My Heart,” while she closes the set with the sassy strut of B. B.’s “Let’s Get Down To Business.”

We had three favorites, too.  One of Annika’s originals has her comparing herself to various kinds of booze, telling her lover “I got what Jack ain’t got,” and “I wanna be your Lick ‘Er!”  She epitomizes southern soul at its best with her read of the classic “Jealous Kind,” then teaches us all a lesson with the slightly-naughty “Barnyard Blues,”  when “the hens get quiet when the cock comes around!”

Annika Chambers has not only the vocal chops to succeed, but also that deep passion for entertaining and spreading her love of music to everyone she touches.  She is “Making My Mark”  in the music business, much to the delight of blues lovers everywhere!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Jason Vivone And The Billy Bats review…January 25, 2014…

JASON VIVONE AND THE BILLY BATS

EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE

SELF-RELEASED

CUT THOSE APRON STRINGS–PLACEBO–MEAN–EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE–ANALOG–THE BLUES AND THE GREYS–METHINKS THE LADY DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH–WHERE DID THE DAY GO?–I CAN NEVER SAY GOODBYE

Jason Vivone first got our attention in 2013 with his dazzling debut, “Lather, Rinse, Repeat,” and he and The Billy Bats have done it again with their latest, “Eddie Ate Dynamite.”  Often called the “Orson Welles of the blues,” Jason takes the compliment seriously, and, over the course of the nine originals that comprise the set, it’s easy for listeners to insert themselves into the context of the songs.  Take the slide guitar romp that is the title cut.  Seems that “Eddie Ate Dynamite” at a church picnic at the urging of some cousins, then “asked me for a light!”  You can almost picture yourself in the background somewhere, watching as this deal goes down.

The other cuts also have Jason’s trademark quirks that make this album so refreshingly infectious.  He’s not afraid to let everyone know he’s a bit “old-school,” as “the tapes inside my head are Analog,” and “I’m at home with the crackle and hiss!”  It’s set over a too-cool-for-school, loping, Jimmy Reed beat.  Jason’s penchant foe Shakespearean theater shows up on “Methinks The Lady Doth Protest Too Much,” a six-minute partly spoken-word shout-out to the Bard’s most recognizable quotes.

There’s some fine traditional blues, too.  The leadoff “Cut Those Apron Strings” jumps, jives, and wails as Jason begs his paramour to stop asking Mommy dearest’s permission for everything.

We had three favorites, too.  “Mean” deals with domestic abuse, and Jason’s vocal is done in Curtis Mayfield-like falsetto, and the porn-flick guitars give this one a decidedly  “Superfly” vibe.  The set-closing “I Can Never Say Goodbye,” finds Jason backed only by Rick MacIvor on piano, as he says “adieu, adios, ta-ta, and cheerio,” but, never goodbye!  And, if Jason is Orson Welles, then his “War Of The Worlds” is the blues-operetta-themed “The Blues And The Greys.”  Set over a galloping beat, it also is partly spoken-word as Jason recounts a tale of aliens landing on the White House lawn after listening to WDIA in outer space, prompting a bartender in the song to exclaim that a “Grey man can sing the blues!”

Just like that proverbial box of chocolates, “Eddie Ate Dynamite” is full of surprises.  With tongue planted firmly in cheek, and one foot in the Delta and the other one wherever he needs it to be, Jason Vivone And The Billy Bats create quirky, interesting music that makes for a highly-enjoyable listening experience, indeed!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

Mark T. Small review…January 23, 2014…

MARK T. SMALL

SMOKIN’ BLUES

LEAD FOOT MUSIC

STEP IT UP AND GO–SELL MY MONKEY–MY DADDY WAS A JOCKEY–GOIN’ DOWN SLOW–BUCK RAG–WALKIN’ THE DOG–MOANIN’ AT MIDNIGHT–LAMP TRIMMED AND BURNING–EARLY IN THE MORNING–RAILROAD BLUES–STONE PONY BLUES–AMERICA MEDLEY

Mark T. Small has been playing guitar for more than forty years.  He began as a youth by playing old-time fiddle tunes on a flattop guitar in the style of Doc Watson, later graduating to blues after listening to the likes of Johnny Winter and Roy Buchanan.  After 2000, Mark combined his bluegrass and blues knowledge and constructed a one-man acoustic-themed show, allowing him to play varying styles with only a few guitar changes.  His latest CD, “Smokin’ Blues,” incorporates his love of bluegrass flat-picking with his piano-like fingerpicking blues style, which works well with his choice of material.

A long-time student of the Delta masters, he is adept at incorporating their styles into his songs.  We loved the stop-time groove of “Sell My Monkey,” a Tampa Red tune that Mark adapts to play the piano parts on his guitar.  He uses echo-effect reverb to enhance the “endless boogie” of John Lee Hooker’s “My Daddy Was A Jockey,” while he is joined by Shor’ty Billups, former drummer for Rufus Thomas, on a spirited, bluesy read of “Walkin’ The Dog.”

Mark’s speedy playing that he learned as a young man are showcased, too.  Rev. Gary Davis’ “Buck Rag” has Mark playing the bass, harmony, and melody lines all at once.  And, in the grand tradition of Merle Travis and Chet Atkins, Mark closes the set with a fingerpicked tribute to their mentor, Blind Arthur Blake.  It is called “America Medley,” and incorporates “America The Beautiful,” “Take Me Out To The Ball Game,” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

As good as these were, we had two favorites.  His versions  of Elmore James’ “Early In The Morning” and Sam McGee’s “Railroad Blues” both utilize Mark’s penchant for fluid, speedy runs to keep the groove going.

“Smokin’ Blues” is the album that Mark T. Small’s fans have been clamoring for.  It showcases his guitar and vocal prowess in an intimate, solo setting, and allows his bluegrass and blues abilities to intermingle on some of his favorite tunes from the blues and R & B canon.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Sky King review…January 22, 2014…

SKY KING

MOROSE TALES FROM THE LEFT COAST

BLOWIN SMOKE RECORDS   SKCD-201

POOR HOUSE–INSIDE OUT–HOLLYWOOD–CAN’T SEE NOTHING GOOD–OXNARD/CAHUENGA–BLUE SKIES–WAITIN FOR MY BABY–LIVING THE BLUES–FOREVER–GET ALONG LOST GIRL–I’M GONE–LATE NIGHT PHONE CALL–ALONE

Out of the clear blue San Fernando Valley of Southern California comes Sky King, a band that will remind many of groups such as Pacific Gas and Electric and Tower Of Power, who combine a struttin’ horn section along with the standard guitars, bass, and drums.  Their debut is entitled “Morose Tales From The Left Coast”‘ and it’s a real barn-burner!

There are thirteen original cuts herein, all written by lead guitarist Walter Morosko.  Joining him are lifelong friend Garth Farkas on rhythm guitar, with Fuzzy Knight on bass, Chris Ross on drums, Lee Thornberg on trombone Jimmy Z on sax and harp, and JT Thomas on keys.  These songs all deal with the trials and tribulations of everyday living and “just gettin’ by,” with that thread of eternal hope that things have got to get better in a little while.

Walter has one of those growling, blues-perfect voices, and the arrangements on these cuts run down the blues-rock path, with touches of soul and funk for good measure.  Leading off is the tale of a man so far down that his house “has no ceiling, no floors, no walls and no doors,” making him one of the many victims of today’s ecomomy who feel they are trapped in the “Poor House.”  The horns ride over Walter and Garth’s guitar lines, keeping this one grooving along.  “Hollywood” paints a picture of a city so big that it merely has a population instead of people, who are all just “part of the crowd.”  A surreal guitar, flute, and keys intro and outro seeks out a brighter day, where the answer lies “up above, in the Blue Skies.”    The set closes with the poignancy of “Alone,” where Walter  laments “I’m just a broken man lookin’ for a place,” and seeks divine direction.

We had two favorites, too.  A hellhound-on-my-tail slide permeates Walter’s story of choices and their subsequent consequences in “I’m Gone”‘  Brush-stroked drums and muted trumpet kick off the band’s foray into the jazzy swing of another hard-luck story brought on be the challenges of life, aptly-titled, “Living The Blues.”

Sky King strives to bring the feel of their live shows into the studio, so listeners can enjoy the music the way it was created.  “Morose Tales From The Left Coast” does just that, thru the band’s passion for their music and their consummate musicianship!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

 

Steve Dawson review…January 20, 2014…

STEVE DAWSON

RATTLESNAKE CAGE

BLACK HEN MUSIC  BHCD 0072

BLIND THOMAS AT THE CRIME SCENE–FLOPHOUSE ORATORY–THE MEDICINE SHOW COMES TO AVALON–RATTLESNAKE CAGE–LIGHTHOUSE AVENUE–BUTTERFLY STUNT–WHILE THE WEST WAS WON, THE EARTH DIDN’T KNOW IT–J. R. LOCKLEY’S DILEMMA–THE FLAGPOLE SKATER LAUGHS FROM ABOVE–CHUNKY–THE ALTAR AT CENTER RAVEN

Steve Dawson has won  seven Juno awards (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys) as both an artist and producer, and it has been our pleasure to review his projects with The Sojourners, Jim Byrnes, and a tribute to the Mississippi Sheiks, among others.  A lifelong student of the guitar, his latest release finds him playing in a solo acoustic setting, with just his guitar being played thru a single vintage microphone.  The results are astounding, to which the eleven originals of “Rattlesnake Cage” will attest.  Steve’s picking on these cuts is exemplary, and reminiscent of the Sixties works of John Fahey and Ry Cooder, and also shows what a tremendous talent Steve has for the old-time feel of these tunes.

Throughout the set, he uses several different guitars, including both six-and twelve-string acoustics, a National Tricone, and even a Weissenborn Hawaiian guitar to convey these musical messages.  He has studied the great Delta masters all through his career, and, as one listens to these instrumentals, you can pick up his subtle nods to their influences.  “Chunky,” for example, creates a dark, brooding undertone of slide notes, almost giving the feeling that one is nearing those mythical “crossroads.”  “The Medicine Show Comes To Avalon” is a sprightly, light-hearted tribute to Mississippi John Hurt, while “The Altar At Center Raven” recalls the fire of Rev. Gary Davis.

“Rattlesnake Cage” finds Steve Dawson effectively bringing to life an era in American musical culture when less was indeed more.  His contemporary guitar techniques combined with his extensive knowledge of the Delta bluesmen makes this collection a must for blues fams everywhere!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Terry Gillespie review…January 19, 2014…

TERRY GILLESPIE

BLUESOUL

TEK 1303-01

THE DEVIL LIKES TO WIN–WHAT WOULD BO DIDDLEY DO–EARLY IN THE MORNIN–MY TIPITINA–YOU’RE GONNA MAKE ME CRY–LET’S GET TOGETHER–MY MAMA–IT WASN’T ME–HER MIND LEFT FIRST–16 DAYS–SHE WALKS RIGHT IN–MAGNOLIA TREE–THE DEVIL LIKES TO WIN (REPRISE)

As a youth, a tall, lanky, (underaged)  Terry Gillespie would sneak into bars in Michigan to be able to immerse himself in the blues, the music he loved.  In the process, he played with some of the greats, such as Buddy Guy, Howlin’ Wolf, and John Lee Hooker.  In 1968, he returned to his native Canada, and formed Heaven’s Radio, one of the best blues outfits to ever come from north of the border.  Some forty years down the road, Terry is still playing his vintage brand of blues-roots music.  His latest release, “Bluesoul,” is a live set from the 2012 Maxville Musicfest, at the St. andrew’s Presbyterian Church.  He is joined by Peter Measroch on keys, Lyndell Montgomery on bass and violin, and Wayne Stoute on drums.

Terry’s music is indeed vintage, as he strives to break down his songs into their base elements, to allow the listener to experience literally each note, and to better appreciate the subtle nuances that Terry blends into his amalgam of African rhythms, blues, rock, and jazz.  As such, the arrangements on these thirteen cuts are sparse, further allowing the listener the opportunity to enjoy each song to the fullest.

Terry is also a master of the unexpected, as evidenced by his trumpet lines mixed alongside his harp in the Elmore James-inspired set-opening (and closing) cut, “The Devil Likes To Win.’  The trumpets return as Terry sings of “My Tipitina,” a love story of sorts about a “little girl ’bout ten feet tall,” augmented by Peter’s organ work.  “Early In The Mornin” is an excellent slow-blues, and Terry reaches into his trick bag for the vintage soul of “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry.”

We had two favorites, too.  The trademark “shave and a haircut” beat is prominent throughout the shufflin’ “What Would Bo Diddley Do?,” while Peter rocks the 88’s eight to the bar on the amped-up story of Susan Brown, who “wobbles when she Walks Right In!”

Terry Gillespie continues to thrive as a bluesman because he has incredible musical chops, and he’s not afraid to push the envelope with his material.   He’s got one of those blues-worthy voices that is a cross between Dylan and Mark Knopfler, and “Bluesoul” is just that–a shot of blues that’s good for your soul.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.