Archive for February, 2014

Bluesmasters review…February 27, 2014…

THE BLUESMASTERS

VOLUME THREE

DIRECT MUSIC DISTRIBUTION

LOVING MAN–CAN’T LET YOU GO–UP THE LINE–COLORADO BOOGIE–SUSPICIOUS–GOOD TIME WOMAN–BABY WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO–COME BACK BABY–ONE I NEED–BABY HOLD ON

The latest installment of Mickey Thomas’ Bluesmasters projects is aptly-entitled “Volume Three,” and these ten cuts show just how far they have evolved as a powerhouse blues outfit.  For this go-round, the  guitar talents of Tim Tucker and the awesome vocal chops of Hazel Miller are on full display.  There are seven originals penned by Craig Ericson, one boogie-fried instrumental, and two cool covers.

Mickey Thomas is not totally invisible on this set.  In fact, he turns in a boisterous read of Little Walter’s “Up The Line,” and closes the set with a sweet R & B-infused take of Eddie Money’s “Baby Hold On.”  That song also  sadly serves as the last recording from Sir Elton John’s bassist, Bob Birch, who passed shortly after this recording was finished.

The remaining emphasis is on Miller and Tucker, tho.  They kick things off with the minor-key “Loving Man,” where Hazel exhorts to her lover that “she can’t love you like I can.”  She kicks a no-good cheatin’ lover to the curb in the slow-burn of “Suspicious,” tthen finds that one great love that “sticks around when push comes to a shove,” “One I Need.”  Both of these slow-blues gems feature the dazzling chemistry between Miller’s voice and Tucker’s guitar, as they playfully cajole one another to one high point after another.

We had two favorites, too.  The chugging drive of “Good Time Woman” has some tasty harp from Doug Lynn, and Hazel turns “Baby What You Want Me To Do” into a down-home juke joint romp with Mr. Lynn adding more fine harp.

With each successive release, The Bluesmasters have become a more explosive force on the contemporary blues scene.  “Volume Three” turns up the heat considerably, and definitely gets a “Like” from us!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

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Blue Lunch review…February 24, 2014…

BLUE LUNCH

BLUE LUNCH SPECIAL

30TH ANNIVERSARY

RIP CAT RECORDS  RIC  1114

SIDESWIPED–COLD DAY DOWN BELOW–SKIN BONES AND HAIR–CUTTIN OUT–THE FIDGET–IC BOOGIE–WHICH WAY TO GO–LEO THE LOUSE-BEST I CAN–SIXTY MINUTE MAN–LITTLE BOY BLUE–TENOR MADNESS–THE LONELY ONE–CLEVELAND OHIO BLUES–MONKEY HIPS AND RICE–MOTHER-IN-LAW

If you try to classify Cleveland, Ohio’s Blue Lunch as strictly a blues band, you would not only be missing part of the band’s heritage, but you’d also be missing out on a helluva lot of fun, too!  Blue Lunch has been together since 1984, and, to celebrate this milestone, they have compiled sixteen cuts that span their entire career, and it serves as their debut for Rip Cat Records.  It is entitled “Blue Lunch Special,” and is an excellent overview of this outfit’s six previous albums.

This eight-piece group includes three horns, and is “led,” if you will, by guitarist/vocalist Bob Frank, who handles most of the writing duties.  Also on vocals are harpman Pete London, and bassist Raymond DeForest, giving this crew a very well-rounded sound.

The set kicks off with a riffin’ instrumental, “Sideswiped,” (also the title of their 2011 album), which sounds like a long-lost gem from the Mar-Keys.  There are excellent examples of Fifties’-inspired jump-blues that showcases everyone’s talents on cuts such as “Skin, Bones, and Hair,” and “Leo The Louse,” and instrumentals guaranteed to fill a dance floor, including “Tenor Madness,” and the harp-tinged “The Fidget.”

The guys are also well-versed in doo-wop from the early days of rock and roll and R & B, too.  Check ’em out in a positively shagalicious take on Billy Ward and the Dominoes’ “Sixty Minute Man,” and on the set-closing “Mother-In Law.”

We had some favorites, too.  One of Bob’s original tales follows a rhumba-fied, Big Easy groove, and is titled “Cold Day Down Below,” with fine piano from Mike Sands.  A man “leavin’ Chicago” and “headin’ back down South where the women treat you better” is the theme of the rail-ridin’ “IC (Illinois Central) Boogie,” which absolutely rocks from start to finish! And, Blue Lunch does play traditional blues, and they give a very authentic read of Robert Jr. Lockwood’s “Little Boy Blue,” easily the most straight-up blues cut on the set, and a damn fine one at that!

Blue Lunch is currently touring the Midwest, backing the likes of Candye Kane, Laura Chavez, and Long Tall Deb.  Give a listen to “Blue Lunch Special—30th Anniversary” for one swingin’ good time!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Solomon King review…February 20, 2014…

SOLOMON KING

TRAIN

BABY DOES ME GOOD–BAD TO ME–COFFEE SONG–SLO BLUES–GREAT WALL–COUNTRY SONG–MY BABY’S LOVE–TRAIN–BLUE ANGEL

Bluesman Solomon King has seen the ups and downs of life, and has stared them down and kept on strokin’.  Hailing from Detroit, he was a victim of massive downsizing in the auto industry in his hometown, and, in 2008, he moved to Los Angeles to make his name as a bluesman.  He set up residence, if you will, in the rough-and-tumble South Central district, in clubs such as Babe And Ricky’s.

Over the course of the nine cuts that comprise Solomon’s latest release, “Train,’ he has channeled the energy of those South Central days into a set that listeners will note no two cuts are the same, and they all tell a story from the soul of a man who’s stood tall thru tough times.

The majority of the songs deal with life, love, loss, and redemption, told in a way only Solomon could tell.  He starts off with his slide wailing in the Diddley-shuffle of “Baby Done Me Good.”  He revisits his gritty South Central days with the scorching funk of “Bad To Me,” and again with the thundering tones of the title cut.  With its locomotive percussion, psychedelic vocals and organ, this one definitely has a Doors-like vibe goin’ on.

Solomon finds redemption, tho, with his proclamation that he’d gladly trade in all his worldly possessions for “My Baby’s Love,” and closes the set by declaring his very existence being due to the love of his “Blue Angel.”

We had two favorites, too.   A cold-hearted woman who is “made of stone” is the subject of “Great Wall,” and it’s a barn-burner, set over a traditional Delta arrangement with cool harp set over Solomon’s Elmore James-styled licks.  And, he takes a good-natured jab at the boys down on Music Row with “them songs you can’t forget,” that always have a “train, truck, or car,” and, ultimately, everyone’s heart gets broken, aptly-entitled “Country Song.”

Solomon King’s diversity makes “Train” a special set, indeed.  It follows pretty much the pattern of his live shows, where cover songs are rarely heard, and everything stands on its own merit.  Our only wish was that this one coulda been about twice as long!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

James Armstrong review…February 17, 2014…

JAMES ARMSTRONG

GUITAR ANGELS

CATFOOD RECORDS   CFR-20

GRANDMA’S GOT A NEW FRIEND–HEALING TIME–TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT–GUITAR ANGELS–MOVING TO NASHVILLE–GOODBYE KISS–BANK OF LOVE–SATURDAY NIGHT WOMEN–BLUES AIN’T NOTHIN–RUNAWAY TRAIN–GUITAR ANGEL (RADIO VERSION)

James Armstrong’s mother was a blues singer and his father a jazz guitarist, so music is a huge part of his DNA.  He possesses a sweet, fat tone in his guitar playing, and his original songs have equal parts poignancy and humor while staying in step with his blues roots.  His latest release from Catfood Records is entitled “Guitar Angels,” with nine originals and two covers that play out as James’ most intense and personal album thus far.

A violent home invasion in 1996 severely limited James’ ability to use his left hand and arm, but, thru intense rehabbing and the support of the blues community, he has perservered and, with this strong set, continues to thrive.

The title cut proves this out, indeed.  Since his injury, James believes those “Guitar Angels” have been looking out for him, and he name-checks them all, both living and dead, from “Hendrix to SRV” to “Collins and the Kings,” on thru the current angels, producer Mike Ross, Coco Montoya, and Joe Louis Walker.  He also pays tribute to  Michael Ross’ late brother, Norman, himself an accomplished guitarist, with nthe uplifting “Healing Time,” and its message of “time to lose the pain.”

James takes a hard look at alcoholism with the minor-key “Runaway Train,” comparing himself to a “backsliding sinner headed straight to Hell,” then drops a funky slide number on his promise to “get away from the cold” by “Moving To Nashville!”

James brings a humorous touch to several cuts, too.  “Saturday Night Women” is a red-hot shuffle that deals with those women on the prowl for a no-strings good time, tryin’to find that “Saturday night man.”  And, another stone cold rocker has James finding romance behind the teller window in the “Bank f Love.”

We had two favorites, too.  The set leads off with another of James’ contemporary looks at life, love, and the pursuit of a good time, no matter what your age, the stop-time “Grandma’s Got A New Friend.”  And, James totally reinvents Glenn Frey’s “Take It To The Limit,” into a boogie-fied strut that swings with unabashed abandon!

James Armstrong has overcome all types of adversity and continues to be able to see the humor thru the pain.  Most importantly, tho, for us blues fans, is that he’s able to translate these thoughts into the great music that comprises “Guitar Angels.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Daunielle review…February 15, 2014…

DAUNIELLE

DAUNIELLE

CATFOOD RECORDS  CFR 019

Daunielle Hill has spent the majority of her career literally “twenty feet from stardom,” as she has served as a background singer for the likes of Solomon Burke and Huey Lewis and the News.  She proudly steps out on her own, tho, for her sizzling debut, “Daunielle,” on the Catfood Records label, ten cuts that showcase her powerful voice and her songwriting skills, as well as those of the Catfood stable of talent, such as Sandy Carroll and Bob Trenchard.

The set starts with the strong-voiced Daunielle launching into a loved one who can’t stop drinking, comparing them to a “Runaway Train, on the wrong track.”  The ways of a cheating lover who’ll never change are going to send Daunielle to an “Early Grave,” which also details others who left us waaay too soon, namely Elvis, Robert Johnson, Amy Winehouse, and Janis Joplim.  “I Got A  Voice” is a touching tribute to her adopted son and daughter, both born medically-challenged, and their ability to overcome their difficulties.

Daunielle’s background work with other artists has made her a very stylish interpreter of vintage soul, and there are several fine examples of this.  She turns in a sexy, smoldering take of Etta James’ “Damn Your Eyes,” and incorporates both the midtempo groove of the Rita Coolidge version as well as the upbeat swing of Jackie Wilson’s “Higher And Higher,” nailing the vocal in one take.

Two more contemporary examples of classic soul close the set, and served as our favorites.  The tragic tale of “Romeo And Juliet” is the metaphor for the adolescent, hit-and-miss fallability of young love, while this theme is magnified in the somber story of the young woman who was never able to forget that first “Goodbye Kiss.”

Daunielle ably steps into the spotlight with this excellent debut of soul-stirring cuts.  She is comfortable and perfectly at ease with this material, and brings the goods straight from her heart!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Dixie Peach review…February 13, 2014…

DIXIE PEACH

BLUES WITH FRIENDS

BIG SHEW RECORDS

TOO MUCH TROUBLE–PORK CHOP BLUES–NIGHT RIDE–COMING HOME TODAY–DON’T WANT TO WAIT–BOTTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC–TROUBLE WITH LOVE–IT’S CRYING TIME–WAIT A MINUTE–RICK’S SHUFFLE

Dixie Peach—Ira Stanley on guitar and vocals, Steve Williams on keys, Roscoe Rousculp on bass, Tony Paulus on guitar and keys, and Jerry Barnhart on drums—were there at the very beginning of the Southern rock movement, forming in 1972 and releasing one album before calling it quits in 1975.  However, a sound as good as theirs can’t be denied, and they reformed in 1998 with new drummer Steve Benson.

Ira’s slide and vocals are as sharp as ever, and the band has just released “Blues With Friends” on the Big Shew label.  The many friends that join the band on this set include Jack Pearson and Lee Roy Parnell on guitars, and Nashville stalwart Etta Britt on vocals on a few cuts.  The compilation of talent makes this set more than just a trip down memory lane for those of us old enough to remember the glory days of Southern rock, but, rather, turns it into a celebration of good ole boogie-infused blues.

Ira’s slide attack starts things off in the swampy, foreboding groove of “Too Much Trouble,” while a nod to the Allman Brothers lies hidden in the sounds of “Night Ride,” which features a fine solo from Jack Pearson, an ABB alumnus.

And, it wouldn’t be a true Southern rock album without some cool instrumental jams, and there are two tasty ones herein.  Ira’s acoustic opening of “Amazing Grace” gives way to blistering slide runs from both Jack Pearson and Lee Roy Parnell on the humorously-titled “Bottle Hymn Of The Republic,” while the set closes with the loping stride of “Rick’s Shuffle,” as Ira swaps licks with Lee Swisher.

We had two favorites, too.  There’s nothing meaner than a lover who “packs up and walks out,” but also takes my last “Pork Chop!”  This one is a real dance floor burner set over a rhum-boogie groove guaranteed to get you moving!  And, Etta Britt is one of our all-time favorite singers of any genre’, and she and Ira turn in a feisty, gospel-flavored duet in “I Don’t Want To Wait,” over Lee Roy’s testifyin’ slide.

Good music such as this is timeless and will never go out of style.  It’s good to see Ira Stanley and Dixie Peach back on the scene, and “Blues With Friends” will grab you right down to your soul!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Adrianna Marie And Her Groovecutters review…February 10, 2014…

ADRIANNA MARIE AND HER GROOVECUTTERS

DOUBLE CROSSING BLUES

MIDNIGHT OWL RECORDS

I WANT A TALL SKINNY PAPA–I AIN’T  IN THE MOOD–IS YOU IS OR IS YOU AIN’T MY BABY–CHERRY WINE–SUGAR–HANDS OFF–DOUBLE CROSSING BLUES–THAT’S A PRETTY GOOD LOVE–I WON’T SELL MY LOVE–HE MAY BE YOUR MAN–SAD NIGHT OWL

Her parents were part of the Sixties’ folk group known as the Carolee Singers, and Adrianna Marie has been exposed to all types of music virtually her whole life.  By the age of ten she was singing in summer stock productions throughout New England, but left for the greener pastures of California at seventeen.

Her voice is a beautiful instrument unto itself, hearkening back to the days of the elegant female blues and jazz singers such as Little Esther, Dinah Washington, and Helen Humes, backed by swinging big bands with arrangements to fit the material.  And, the songs popular during that era make up her latest release, “Double Crossing Blues,” eleven cuts full of swingin’ jump blues and torchy ballads straight out of a 40’s or 50’s supper club.  Adrianna’s musical training serves her well on these cuts, and she is backed by guitarist LA Jones, whose fat tones effectively re-create the sounds of the era, and saxman Ron Dzuibla, among other fine sidemen, to complete the big-band ensemble.

She starts the party with the sassy “I Want A Tall Skinny Papa,” one who’ll “do as he’s told and bring Mama the gold,” with cool call-and-response from the fellows.  Suspicions mount and she finally confronts her lover and begs the question, “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” a jazzy, minor-key classic from Louis Jordan.  She rocks the joint with a spirited read of Helen Humes’ “He May Be Your Man but he comes to see me sometimes,” and gets in a spunky slow-blues, love-hate “duel” of sorts with Jones in the title cut.  The set closes with a sweet, after-hours-ish instrumental, “Sad Night Owl.”

We had two favorites, too.  Ron’s sax gives that vintage feel to the rhumba-fied tale of a man who prefers alcohol to lovin’, and is given the ultimatum, “it’s me or that Cherry Wine!”  And, another song associated with Helen Humes is the slow-blues of “I Ain’t In The Mood,” done up in vintage Chess combo-style, with Larry David Cohen on the harp.

Adrianna Marie And Her Groovecutters have been nominated for a Blues Award for Best New Artist Debut on the strength of “Double Crossing Blues.  She is a natural talent surrounded by players who know the material, and everyone has a great time while bringing it to us fans!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.