Archive for February, 2014

Will Kimbrough advance review….February 9, 2014…

WILL KIMBROUGH

SIDESHOW LOVE

DAPHNE RECORDS

WHEN YOUR LOVING COMES AROUND–LET THE BIG WORLD SPIN–SIDESHOW LOVE–SOULFULLY–HOME ECONOMICS–I WANT TOO MUCH–DANCE LIKE GROWNUPS DANCE–HAS ANYBODY SEEN MY HEART–I CAN COUNT ON YOU–ALL WE CAN DO IS LOVE–WHO BELIEVES IN YOU–EMOTION SICKNESS

We have been Will Kimbrough fans since the beginning and his Will and the Bushmen days.  His collaboration with Tommy Womack and Mike Grimes as The Bis-Quits featured a brilliant rocker that rolled over Beethoven, Chuck Berry, and the world-renowned cellist whose name serves as the song’s title, “Yo Yo Ma.”  The DADDY live album also produced a great anthem for the Eighties, “I Miss Ronald Reagan.’

It has been a while since Will’s last solo effort, but  February 18 will mark the release of his eighth solo album, “Sideshow Love,” and we were more than eager to review this fine set.  As a man who prides himself in writing at least one song every day to stay sharp,  when it came time to pull material for this album there was a plethora of things to choose from.  And, this album also has a recurring theme of love running thru it, literally taking a relationship full circle, during the course of the twelve songs, from its infancy to, sometimes, the bitter end.

Blues fans will appreciate Will’s dobro and slide work in addition to all other things stringed herein.  The set starts at that “empty magic moment when Your Loving Comes Around,” which features Lisa Oliver Gray on backing vocals.  The title cut traces “a man like me loving a woman like you” until the whole thing morphs into a circus sideshow, punctuated by Will’s fluid slide runs.  The beautiful “I Want Too Much” traces a man’s desire for love that is unattainable, while those who have loved and lost are encouraged to never give up, and to “Dance Like Grownups Dance.”

We had two favorites, too.  “Home Economics” takes a look at just what passes for alluring to the opposite sexes.  It is set over a ragtimey, banjo-and-guitar arrangement with a marching beat.  The set closes with an affirmation of better days ahead after love has “sunk like a rocket” and you’re finally able to “kiss that Emotion Sickness goodbye.”

Will Kimbrough continues to turn out well-crafted albums of stories-in-song that not only touch your soul, but make you think as well.  “Sideshow Love” brings Will’s musicianship and songwriting squarely into the spotlight!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

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Eddie Cotton review…February 6, 2014…

EDDIE COTTON

HERE I COME

DECHAMP RECORDS  DC 100114

HERE I COME–A WOMAN’S LOVE–PAY TO PLAY–FRIEND TO THE END–GET  YOUR OWN–MY BOO–LEAVE LOVE ALONE–BACK IN A BIT–NO LOVE BACK–BERRY SO BLACK

Eddie Cotton is a triple-threat blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist from Clinton, MS.  He studied music at Jackson State, then returned home to minister in his father’s church.  As strange as it may seem, Eddie harnesses that gospel fire in his blues as the ten original cuts in his latest release,  “Here I Come,”  on the Dechamp label, will attest.

He’s got a great down-home guitar style, tuned to match his upper-register vocal delivery, the same way Jimmy Johnson does it.  And, these cuts are guaranteed to have you ready to get up and boogie!

The leadoff title cut is a minor-key classic, done in the vein of B. B. King, as Eddie uses this song as his biography of sorts, who, even when he “gets knocked down” will “still be around when the dust clears.”  A fiery solo completes the package at mid-song.  He jumps all over the funk on the driving “Get Your Own,” which revisits classic soul, then tackles a bit of reggae in “No Love Back,” reminding us that love has no guarantee.  In a similar vein is his sweet ballad that proves a good friend is invaluable, “Friend To The End,” with sweeping, jazzy guitar lines as emphasis.

We had three favorites, too.  Carlos Russell lays down some funky harp on a humorous, loping story of a man who’s just a little too late with a lover, who promises she’ll be “Back In A Bit.”  The set closes with another funk exercise, a take on the age-old adage of “the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice,” as Eddie just can’t stay away from those “Berries So Black.”  And, a rockin’ rapid-fire encounter with a “lady of the evening” sets the table for the hilarious response from her—-“you got to Pay To Play!”  This one rocks from the git-go, and is sho’ nuff a dance floor burner!

Eddie Cotton keeps the down-home, soul-blues fires burning brightly with his vocal and guitar talents, and has that “feel” for his music that is sincere and keeps things real.  “Play the blues, Eddie,” on “Here I Come!!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Damon Fowler review…February 5, 2014…

DAMON FOWLER

SOUNDS OF HOME

BLIND PIG RECORDS  BPCD 5157

I THOUGHT I HAD IT ALL–SOUNDS OF HOME–TROUBLE– SPARK–OLD FOOLS, BAR STOOLS, AND ME–WHERE I BELONG–GRIT MY TEETH–ALISON–TV MAMA–DO IT FOR THE LOVE–I SHALL NOT BE MOVED

Damon Fowler has been a busy young man of late.  As well as spending much of last year touring with JP Soars and Victor Wainwright in the band Southern Hospitality, he did find time to record his third solo project for Blind Pig.  This one is entitled “Sounds Of Home,’ and it pulls together eleven cuts that mix fiery originals with eclectic covers that you might not connect with a bluesman, but Damon pulls it all off with flair.

This set was recorded at Tab Benoit’s home studio, with Tab producing.  The laid-back atmosphere brought out some of Damon’s best playing, and his original tunes herein can stand alongside anyone in contemporary blues.  The leadoff cut is a prime example.  Damon’s slide is at the forefront of the tale of living one’s life to excess, where “I Thought I Had It All, but All had me.”  Big Chief Monk Boudreaux adds vocals on the swampy funk of the title cut, and it’s a safe bet that Damon and Tab have rocked a roadhouse or two in their day, and they join forces to bring that live-show energy to the rockin’ blues of “Spark.”

Damon also changes gears just a bit to give a smooth cover of the Declan McManus chestnut, “Alison, my aim is true,” and closes the set with a breath-taking fingerpicked version of a traditional gospel tune, “I Shall Not Be Moved.”

Damon’s guitar virtuosity is unparalleled on this set, and two quite diverse cuts served as our favorites.  Something that’d be right at home down at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge is the reverb-drenched story of those “green and blue bottles that came between you and me,” “Old Fools, Bar Stools, And Me.”  And, Damon’s lap steel prowess is on full display with the gospel fire of “Where I Belong,” effectively  capturing that Allman Brothers ‘love is everywhere” vibe.

Damon Fowler continues to impress with his killer guitar chops and his spot-on, maturing songcrafting.  “Sounds Of Home” serves as his best set to date!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Billy Branch review…February 2, 2014…

BILLY BRANCH AND THE SONS OF BLUES

BLUES SHOCK

BLIND PIG RECORDS  BPCD  5158

SONS OF BLUES–CRAZY MIXED UP WORLD–BLUES SHOCK–DOG HOUSE–FUNCTION AT THE JUNCTION–GOING TO SEE MISS GERRI ONE MORE TIME–BACK ALLEY CAT (INST.)–BOOM BOOM–SLOW MOE–BABY LET ME BUTTER YOUR CORN–SONG FOR MY MOTHER (INST.)

Altho he has appeared on some 200 albums for other artists, it has been nearly fifteen years since harp ace Billy Branch has released a project on his own.  He explained that his wait was dictated by his desire to bring something different to the table with some sparkling new material dotted with a few covers that are favorites at his live shows.  And so, Blind Pig Records is proud to release “Blues Shock,” his debut for that label.  The eleven cuts herein explain why he is one of the most respected writers and players on the contemporary scene today.

Another thing Billy is extremely proud of was his long-time relationship with Willie Dixon, writer of many classic blues tunes and a tremendous mentor to Billy during his formative years.  You can feel Willie’s influence throughout this album on Billy’s originals that all have that storyteller’s feel that Willie had.

Billy attended the University of Illinois at Chicago, and one of his professors, Sterling Plumpp, co-wrote the leadoff “Sons Of Blues,” where Billy raps over a boisterous horn section and recalls the birth of the modern bluesman.  Ronnie Baker Brooks joins the fun on guitar and vocals as he and Billy bemoan the fact that their women have put them “back in the Dog House again!” Bbilly revisits some of his favorite cuts from others, with a rompin’ read of “Crazy Mixed Up World,” andd “Boom Boom,” where Billy uses his harp to recreate John Lee Hooker’s guitar lines on this classic.  Billy and piano man Ariyo Ariyoshi pair up for a jazzy instrumental entitled “Back Alley Cat,” and Billy closes the set with a warm, ethereal instrumental “Song For My Mother.”

The album’s highlight, tho, served as our favorite.  Long a student of black history, Billy’s ode to a great lady of Chicago’s entertainment district is “Going To See Miss Gerri One More Time.”  It is the poignant story of Gerri Oliver, whose 47TH Street Palm Tavern served as the meeting place of entertainers as diverse as Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and, even “Ol’ Blue Eyes.’  Sadly, the “city of big shoulders”  ordered its destruction and razed this memory-filled building.  Using cello and violin as embellishments over Billy’s vocal, this is a powerful piece, indeed.

Playing at the demolition of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Billy Branch has gone from one of Chicago’s young guns to one of its elder statesmen of the blues.  But, he shows no signs of slowing down, with the excellent “Blues Shock.”  It’s another set that is definitely “keepin’ the faith!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

JJ Thames review…January 31, 2014…

JJ THAMES

TELL YOU WHAT I KNOW

DECHAMP RECORDS  DC 100214

SOULED OUT–HEY YOU–I GOT WHAT YOU NEED–MY KINDA MAN–NO TURNING BACK–CAN YOU LET SOMEBODY ELSE BE STRONG–I’M A MAKE IT–I BELIEVE–JUST ENOUGH–RHINESTONES–TELL YOU WHAT I KNOW

JJ Thames has all the ingredients—killer good looks and a voice to match,  and the passion for her music that keeps everything real.  Raised in a Detroit, blue-collar, General Motors-driven household, she began singing early on, and is trained in classical, jazz, and blues.  She took her first leap of faith at eighteen by moving to Jackson, MS, honing her chops by traveling with the likes of Marvin Sease and Denise LaSalle, and further broadened her horizons by singing back-up for rock and reggae bands such as 311 and The (English) Beat.

That’s the impressive thing about her debut for Dechamp Records, “Tell You What I Know.”  Her diversity coupled with her outstanding vocal abilities make this ten originals and one cover set a delightful mix of down-home blues, soul, and a touch of gospel that is reminiscent of Seventies Stax

Check out “My Kinda Man.”  Over a midtempo groove, she tells everyone that, even tho he might not be rich, he “works hard with his hands, loves his mama, and takes good care of me.”  She offers a slice of comforting blues for “when you’re feeling tired and uninspired,” with the sweeping balladry of “Can You Let Somebody Else Be Strong?”

Her days on the chitlin circuit taught her plenty about bringin’ the sass and the funk, too.  Label head Grady Champion adds a mean harp over the grindin’ beat of “Hey You,” and she blows the lid off the stop-time Ray Charles classic, “I Believe To My Soul.”  The set closes with her autobiographical title cut of the long path she has taken to get to where she’s at today.

We had two favorites, too.  The gospel call-and-response inflections of “Souled Out” show both the power and depth of her voice, while she plays the part of a tough woman who gives a dog of a lover the boot and swears “I’m A Make It,” with a funky harp chorus from Grady.

With the title cut already creating a buzz on the Billboard charts, JJ Thames and “Tell You What I Know” is as funky as a ride in that big ‘ol deuce and a quarter!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.