Archive for March, 2014

Mick Kolassa review…March 12, 2014…

MICK KOLASSA

MICHISSIPPI MICK

MMK 012014

NEW BEALE STREET BLUES–BLUES ARE ALL AROUND YOU–THE LETTER–REEFER MAN–BLUES IN THE NIGHT–BURNED THAT BRIDGE–LAND OF THE CROSSROADS–BABY’S GOT ANOTHER LOVER–BLOWTORCH LOVE–WPD–TIME AIN’T ON MY SIDE–MISSISSIPPI RIVER BLUES

Mick Kolassa was born in Michigan, but has lived in Mississippi for the last twenty years or so.  He’s also a vital player in the Memphis/Beale Street blues scene, and is a member of the Board Of Directors of the Blues Foundation.  An accomplished guitarist and vocalist, he has gathered together several of his Beale Street friends to help him in the release of “Michissippi Mick,” twelve cuts of both original, traditional-sounding and contemporary blues that literally traces the history of that fertile region, going back to the days when W. C. Handy wrote many of the staples of the blues canon.

And if that, in and of itself, wasn’t enough, Mick is donating the entire proceeds garnered from the sale of this album to the Foundation’s HART Fund and Generation Blues.  The Handy Artists Relief Fund aids blues musicians with dental and health care issues, while Generation Blues provides scholarships to artists under the age of twenty-one to continue their studies in various workshop programs.

Mick has a rich, expressive voice that fits this material well, and his many friends that join in make this a set that will appeal to a wide range of fans.  He opens the set with a traditional re-working of Handy’s “New Beale Street Blues,” where “If Beale Street could talk, married men would have to pack up their bags and walk!”  It features some nice harp from Beale Street busker Eric Hughes.  The set closes also on a traditional note, with a yodelin’ tribute to the Singing Brakeman, “Mississippi River Blues.”

Electric contemporary blues is well-represented by the scorching guitar of Jeff Jensen on “Blues Are All Around You” and the slow-drag of “Baby’s Got Another Lover,” while the Memphis classic “The Letter” is revamped as a slow blues, and “Blues In The Night” features tremendous trumpet trills from Dedrick Davis and harp from Brandon Santini.

Mick has quite a humorous side, too, and those cuts served as our favorites.  He has a fun time explaining why it’s sometimes tough watching “White People Dance!”  The traditional jug band tune, “Reefer Man,” has Victor Wainwright on piano, and again on Mick’s original tale of “not being half the man I used to be,’, “Time Ain’t On My Side!”

Mick Kolassa has created a set that has something for everyone, and, along with his version of the “Memphis Mafia,” he and his backing players are giving back to the blues community that has built their careers thru the philanthropic donation of the proceeds from this recording.  Two big thumbs up for “Michissippi Mick!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

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The Smoke Wagon Blues Band Live review….March 9, 2014….

THE SMOKE WAGON BLUES BAND

LIVE IN HAMILTON

INDIE POOL  SMBBCD05

AIN’T NO SUNSHINE–HEN HOUSE HOPPING–INTRO JOSEPHINE–JOSEPHINE–WRONG SIDE GIRL–I CAN’T CHANGE–FINE FURRED MOMMA–INTRO BARTON STREET–BARTON STREET BLUES–SMOKE WAGON BOOGIE–LONESOME WHISTLE BLUES–LAWYER INTRO–FEELING OF THE WITCH–BLOW WIND BLOW

The Smoke Wagon Blues Band formed in 1997, in hamilton, Ontario, and, since then, have been nominated for a Hamilton Music Award three times for Blues Album of the Year  and by the Toronto Blues Society and the Maple Blues Society for Best New Blues Artist, so they are no strangers to some serious accolades.  Add in world-wide airplay and rave reviews everywhere, and you can see these fellows can bring the heat to some fine blues.  And, even tho they are a great studio outfit, they pack an even bigger punch onstage.

And so it is with their latest album, “Live In Hamilton,” which finds them rockin’ the house at Hamilton’s Stonewalls Music Hall on May 4, 2013, in front of a very-appreciative crowd that obviously knows good blues when they hear it!

Smoke Wagon consists of Corey Lueck on harp and vocals,  Mike Stubbs on guitar, Nick Succi on keys, Gordon Aiechele on sax, Jason Colavecchia on bass, and Tibor Lukacs on drums.  They start the party with a sax-heavy eight-minute romp of “Ain’t No Sunshine,” where virtually everyone gets a chance to solo, and sets the tone for the rest of the night.  In this intimate setting,  the fellows get relaxed and in the groove, trading solo after solo throughout this seventy-plus-minute set.

They sprinkle familiar songs that everyone knows with their own fantastic material.  Absolutely nothin’ beats the barnyard shuffle of “Hen House Hopping,” or the gold-fever funk of “Josephine.”  The crowd gets into the call-and-response of the “Smoke Wagon Boogie,” and they offer up a cool “country” song with “Barton Street Blues,” a tale of Abel, a “lady of the evening” and her various charms!  They close the set with the piano-heavy “Feeling Of The Witch,” (instantly-recognizable by that killer riff), and a sweet “Blow Wind Blow.”

The Smoke Wagon Blues Band find ample room amidst their arrangements for both Corey’s harp and Gordon’s sax, often in the same song,  one of the many things we enjoy about this band.  “Live In Hamilton” is everything a live album should be–excellent material and musicianship, with everyone–onstage and off–having a great time!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Back Pack Jones review…March 8, 2014…

BACK PACK JONES

BETSY’S KITCHEN

SELF-RELEASED

RIPTIDE BABY–I’M JUST A MAN–FIXIN’ TO LEAVE–BAGGAGE–THE END–EVEN GOD SINGS THE BLUES–HEY DIDDLE RIDDLE–HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT–I GOT A GIRLFRIEND

Back Pack Jones are five extremely talented musicians from Springfield, IL, who combined forces to spread their love of the blues.  “Big Mike” Wallace is on vocals and percussion, Kirk Lonbom is the highly-expressive guitarist, Michael Baier is on bass and vocals, Wendell Day is on keys, and Harvey Horton is on drums and vocals.  Toss in a cool five-piece horn section, and, all together they have created a killer debut, nine originals that comprise “Betsy’s Kitchen,” which swings with quite a soulful sophistication, and is guaranteed to have you reaching for your dancin’ shoes!!

Keeping a relationship afloat nowadays is a tough exercise at best, and this band looks at various ways things can go right or implode.  Check out the swingin’ opener, the tale of a girlfriend who is always bringin’ Big Mike down, and making things “all about her.”  Sho’ nuff, she’s a “Riptide Baby, makin’ me drown!”    “I’m Just A Man” has our hero realizing his shortcomings, and asks his lover for a little compassion, set over a rhumba-ish beat and featuring a sweet B-3 and guitar solo at the bridge.

A deep slow blues spins a somber story of the trials and tribulations of today’s societal decay, so much so that “Even God Sings The Blues.”  “The End” follows a jazzy path, while the set closes with a rollicking ode to one of those truly “good girls,” “I Got a Girlfriend, who raises my temperature to 103!”

We had two favorites, too.  “Hey Diddle Riddle” quotes many favorite nursery rhymes over a minor-key riff that utilizes cool fiddle from Chenoa Alamu.  And,”Baggage,”  a hot shot of funk, again finds our hero admitting to his misgivings, but, he cleverly reminds his  paramour that, “my dear, you’ve got a closet, too!”

For five gyus who started out by just looking to have a good time playing the blues, Back Pack Jones have hit on a really good thing.  Do yourself a favor and go see what’s cookin’ in “Betsy’s Kitchen!”  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Lisa Biales review…March 5, 2014…

LISA BIALES

BELLE OF THE BLUES

BIG SONG MUSIC  BSM2-2013

BELLE OF THE BLUES–SAD SAD SUNDAY–BAD THINGS–MASK–GRAVEYARD DEAD BLUES–BABY WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME–IN MY GIRLISH DAYS–PEACH PICKIN’ MAMA–BLACK AND WHITE BLUES–TROUBLE–BAD GIRL

Lisa Biales has been writing and playing good blues for over two decades, and came into her own in a big way with the release in 2012 of “Just Like Honey,” produced by E. G. Kight.  Her latest set again was produced by E. G. and, this time, Paul Hornsby, at Paul’s Muscadine Studio in Macon, GA.  It is entitled “Belle Of The Blues,” and has Lisa wrapping her golden voice around eleven songs that simply drip that Southern goodness that only Lisa and E. G. could create.

Joining Lisa are E. G. on guitar and harmony vocals, Paul Hornsby on keys, Southern rock icon Tommy Talton on guitars, Randall Bramblett on B-3,  and Bill Stewart on drums.  They kick things off with the story of “The Belle Of The Blues,” who “likes champagne in a cup” and “looks real cool in her high-heeled shoes,” with country-blues harp from Paul Bergeson.  And, she rocks out on “the Devil’s scared to death of me,” because “I’m Trouble with a capital T!”

Lisa also has a penchant for singing melancholy songs.  She feels the emotions involved, and wants to empathize with those to whom she is singing.  Two excellent examples of this are  her poignant take of a lover who has to leave for the week each Sunday, leading to many a “Sad Sad Sunday.”  And, another minor-key ode to the lovelorn has Lisa hiding her broken heart behind a “full glass” and her “Mask.”

She’s a big fan of strong, independent women such as Bessie Smith and Ann Rabson, and gives a soulful read of “Black And White Blues” in honor of Bessie,  then closes the set with the blues-rock bite of a song written by Rabson, E. G., and Tom Horner, the anthemic “Bad Girl.”

We had two favorites, too.  Tommy’s dobro sets the tone for the tale of a “simple woman” who won’t take any abuse from any man, promising to make him “Graveyard Dead” if he tries to talk to her by hand!  And, Lisa and E. G. duet on a cool song from the Memphis Minnie catalog about coming-of-age, “In My Girlish Days.”

With her crystal-clear vocals, it is easy to see why Lisa Biales has been dubbed the “Belle Of The Blues.”  With excellent material and an A-list of backing players, this set is a “can’t miss!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow

Jim Suhler review…March 3, 2014…

JIM SUHLER

PANTHER BURN

UNDERWORLD RECORDS  UNDO  0023

PANTHER BURN–I DECLARE–ACROSS THE BRAZOS–LEAVE MY BLUES BEHIND–I SEE YOU–REMEMBER MAMA–TEXASSIPPI–SKY’S FULL OF CROWS–BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND DAY–DINOSAUR WINE–AMEN CORNER–ALL GOD’S CHILDREN GET THE BLUES SOMETIME–JUMP UP SISTER–WORLDWIDE HOODOO

Jim Suhler perhaps gained his widest notoriety alongside George Thorogood as a member of the vaunted Destroyers since 1999, altho, for hard-core fans, he and his band, Monkey Beat, have cranked out tough Texas blues since the mid-Nineties.  Their lates release, “Panther Burn,” consists of thirteen of Jim’s originals, and one perhaps unexpected cover.  His guitar prowess is on display throughout, and he successfully melds the Texas swing-influenced blues with the murky silt of the Delta to make this set quite a diverse one, indeed.

The ride starts with Jim’s slide dobro leads as he encourages his paramour to “leave your garter on the dash, ’cause we’re goin’ back to Panther Burn.”  “Across The Brazos” and “Texassippi” both utilize accordion to fortify their country-blues themes, while Tim Alexander’s organ over Jim’s lead in “Amen Corner” takes a neat turn into the gospel theme of “All God’s Children Get The Blues Sometimes,’ with guest vocals from Carolyn Wonderland and Ray Benson.

In 2002, Jim lost his daughter, Brittany, in a tragic auto accident, and the haunting “I See You” serves as a tribute to her memory.  The lyrics show his pain, as “I see you every place I go.’  This song segues’ into Jim’s ethereal instrumental read of “Remember Mama” from the classic film, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” a connection that perhaps only Jim and his memories could make.

We had two favorites, too.  Jim closes the set by dropping some serious blues-rock full of “bad bad juju” as he sends out a “Worldwide Hoodoo comin’ for you!”  And, he rocks out a smokin’ roadhouse boogie with “I Declare,” featuring  Kim Wilson on the harp, and Tim’s barrelhouse piano.

Jim Suhler continues to expand his musical boundaries with albums the caliber of “Panther Burn.”  His playing is exemplary, and his original songs shake you down to your soul!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Patti Parks review…February 28, 2014…

PATTI PARKS

CHEAT ‘N MAN

INDEPENDENT RELEASE

BABY DON’T YOU KNOW–HAPPY YOU’RE MINE–BACK OFF–IT AIN’T RIGHT–MAMA–CHEAT ‘N MAN–EVERYDAY–WHAT I HAD TO BE–WHATCHA GONNA DO

Patti Parks has won the Best Female Blues Vocalst from the Buffalo blues society in both 2012 and 2013, and it is very easy to see why.  She’s a dynamite package of talent and beauty, and has one of those voices that simply commands your attention.  She has just released her debut, “Cheat ‘N Man,” and these nine originals show not only the scope of her voice but her ability to handle different styles with ease.

Patti was always encouraged by her parents to explore her musical side, which started when she was a mere six years old, wandering off from a family event to sing and dance for a group of complete strangers at a wedding.  She has come a long way with her music, and this set is bound to get her noticed everywhere!

Patti is joined by a high-energy group of backing players, including a full horn section that gives these cuts a boost that dancers will love.  The party starts off with the jump of “Baby Don’t You Know,” and then she segues’ into a sultry-smooth, torchy cut, “Happy You’re Mine.”  Her autobiography plays out over the minor-key “What I Had To Do,” name-checking Ol’ Blue Eyes and Sammy Davis, Jr., as influences.  And, she turns in one of the album’s most powerful performances of a song that is a departure from the jump and blues of the rest of the set.  It is a touching tribute not only to her late “Mama,” but to all the moms everywhere.  She poignantly  describes her mother’s soothing words of encouragement throughout her life, especially, “don’t forget to pray” and “don’t be afraid.”

We had two other favorites, too, both in the bluesier vein.  She engages in a way-cool “discussion” with Charles Buffamonte’s guitar in the story of a man who just keeps on doing her wrong, “It Ain’t Right.”  And, the title cut bumps and grinds over Patti’s rowdy, partly spoken-word vocal as she flat out tells her “Cheat  ‘N Man” that  “I’m not gonna put up with you!”

Bold and brassy, sultry and sexy are just a few of the adjectives one can use to ddescribe Patti Parks’ explosive voice, and she’s teamed up with session cats that bring out all her best qualities.  “Cheat ‘N Man” is an excellent debut from a definite up-and-coming talent!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.