Archive for April, 2014

Tom Letizia review…April 28, 2014…

GAETANO LETIZIA AND THE UNDERWORLD BLUES BAND

VOODOO DOLL AND OTHER BLUES LESSONS

TOM LETIZIA  RECORDS

BIG FOOT–VOODOO DOLL–KILL MY CONSCIENCE–THE DEVIL IS A NICE GUY–SOLD MY SOUL–HURT MYSELF–BLEED–ALL I NEED–BLOW THE BLUES AWAY–TORTURE ME–ORANGE SUNGLASSES–BIG SECRET

Singer, composer, and guitar man extraordinaire Gaetano Letizia, better known as “Tom” to everyone in the music world, is based in the Cleveland, OH, area.  His latest release, “Voodoo Doll And Other Blues Lessons,” showcases not only his guitar wizardry as far as the blues is concerned, but also shows his eclecticism and affinity for soul, funk, and heavy shots of jazz.  He’s got a strong team behind him, too, including Larry Keller on bass, Steve Renko on drums, Jake Tijerina on keys, and Bobby Huszar and Ro Brown on vocals.

As a young man, Tom mentored directly with both Pat Martino and George Benson, which gave him a broader scope in his playing and writing, and this set bears that out.  Things start off with a funky instrumental, “Big Foot,” which allows everyone to limber up for the festivities to follow.  The title cut is a minor-key shot of funky soul, and teaches one of those “Blues Lessons” in the album’s title—if you are gonna cheat, don’t let your woman get ahold of a “Voodoo Doll,” or you’ll be beset by “hair loss, hearing loss, ED” and a myriad of other maladies!  Tom’s guitar leads the way on another jazz-based tune, spreading the gospel to “make someone happy today” and “Blow The Blues Away!”  This one is reminiscent of the glory days of Tom Scott And The L. A. Express.  “Sold My Soul” takes a hard look at the consequences of excesses, finishing with some cool scat-singing in the vein of the aforementioned George Benson.

We had three favorites, too.  The fellows let loose on some serious straight blues on “Hurt Myself,” where our hero bemoans his tendency to shoot himself in the foot at the absolute worst of times!  The set closes with Tom’s “conversation” with hhis guitar, as he takes offense to excessive media jokes about his homebase of Cleveland, “Big Secret!”  And, “The Devil Is A Nice Guy” warns us to “dress for warm weather” as “he smiles in your face while he takes you to his place!”  This one has Tom working the wah-wah and fuzzbox to the hilt, giving this one a vintage Seventies’ feel.

Tom Letizia tells it best in his autobiographical tune, “Torture Me,” where “I’ve been playing this guitar for fifty years,” and he just keeps getting better.  Grab a copy of “Voodoo Doll and Other Blues Lessons” and prepare to be blown away!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don C row.

Suit Ty Thurrsty review…April 27, 2014…

SUIT TY THURRSTY

PEOPLE IN THE STREET

SELF-RELEASED

I’M NEVER GONNA LEAVE YOU–DIAMONDS–PEOPLE IN THE STREET–SAME OLD SONG–DARKEST BEFORE DAWN–I GOT THE BLUES–YOU MAKE ME REAL–DRAWERS–MAMA (WHAT’S A MAN?)–I’M ALREADY AGAINST THE NEXT WAR–I SEE YOUR FUTURE–SAME OLD SONG–(REMIX)–(BONUS TRACK)

Suit Ty Thurrsty is the curious name of a strong blues trio out of the Northeast that is compiled from the nicknames of the gents who comprise it.  We have Tom “The Suit” Forst on vocals and guitars, Ty Pope on bass and vocals, and Pedro “Big Thurrsty” Johnson on percussion and vocals, and, their debut set, “People In The Street,” mixes elements of blues, vintage R & B and soul, funk, and even some hip hop.  There are eleven originals included, and the beats are powerful, propelling  the heavy doses of topical and social commentaries that perpetuate the lyrics.

Leading off is a serious shot of old-school soul, “I’m Never Gonna Leave You, til’ death do us part, but don’t make me prove it to you!”  Tom Forst’s vocals take on the persona of a heavy metal singer over the crunching riffs in the sly-and-sexy “Drawers,”  where he tells a lover that “of all the things I’d like to be, is the drawers on your behind!”

Social commentary is all over this set, tho.  Johnson and Pope trade raps on the title cut, urging leaders to lead in the right direction, instead of “leading us astray,” as Tom’s guitar provides a scintillating backdrop.  And, “I’m Already Against The Next War” has all three men taking totally bipartisan shots at the system as a whole, all in the name of oil.  Tom literally shreds his strings making a statement in this tale of “ugly war machines” and hypocrisy.  Of a similar vein is Ty Pope’s warning to “”be careful what you wish for, because you just might regret it,” as “I See Your Future, and it’s black and blue!”

The fellows do play some straight-up blues, and those served as our favorites.  “Darkest Before Dawn” has Tom’s brooding lyrics proclaiming “I own the darkness when you’re not here,” in a proclamation to a lover.  And, Tom takes a tongue-in-cheek look at blues lyrics in general, as he has a good job, a hot wife, a nice home and a sweet ride, so, “I Got The Blues ’cause I don’t have the blues!”

Suit Ty Thurrsty has come outta the gate with a very eclectic, contemporary-themed set that will likely appeal to a wide fan base.  “People In The Street” comes with heavy doses of passion as well as some serious  musicianship!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Elvin Killerbee review…April 26, 2014…

ELVIN KILLERBEE

STRAIGHT LINES/CURVES/AND/ANGLES

EK RECORDS

TOMBSTONE–CLOSER–TO GO AWAY–LOVER MAN–WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM–YOU COULD LEAN–ALONE–BE MY LOVER

When our good friend Shannon Williford told us that fellow Louisiana native, guitarist Elvin Killerbee, had put out a new album, we jumped at the chance to review it.   it is entitled “Straight Lines/Curves/And/Angles” on EK Records.  It is eight of Elvin’s originals, and, if you love good blues guitar along the lines of SRV and Hendrix, and a vocal style that is richly-reminiscent of his homeland, then you will love  this set.  And, the title of the album gives a hint of things to come, as several of the cuts have tricky time signatures and chord changes, often in mid-song.

Joining Elvin on this album is the core band of Willy B. Lowe on bass, and Kevin Ellerbee on drums.  Those drums play a big role in the acoustic set-opener, “Tombstone,” pounding out a dark and stormy rhythm pattern over Elvin’s lonesome lyrics about a man whose “heart is like a Tombstone,’ and “loneliness is all I know.”  “Closer” is an all-electric love song, with Elvin declaring that “you take more than my breath away!”  Midway thru, his guitar goes into dream-space territory, before coming back to the melody hittin’ on all 8.  “What’s Your Problem” deals with a woman who has some serious commitment issues, and the chugging beat and solo might remind some of SRV’s “Cold Shot.”  “You Could Lean” is another tale of a wild woman who likes to throw her weight around the relationship, leading Elvin to tell her “you ain’t nothing but a big ol’ bucket of disgrace!”  This one is augmented by some cool harp from “The Colonel” John Fuhrman.

We had two favorites, too.  Elvin plays a sweet ballad in “To Go Away,”  the story of a love affair sinking fast.  He does all he can to save things, even vowing to “swallow my pride and let the pieces fall where they lay.’  And, he does a bit of braggin’ and struttin’ on the rockin’ song about a man who THINKS he’s a lover, but Elvin is a REAL “Lover Man,” vowing to “take your world and rock it twice!”

Fans, it’s great to see “Straight Lines/Curves/And/Angles”  from Elvin Killerbee.  It’s an excellent blues-rock album with subtle, intricate, and powerful cuts guaranteed to please blues fans everywhere!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne review…April 24, 2014…

KENNY “BLUES BOSS” WAYNE

ROLLIN WITH THE BLUES BOSS

STONY PLAIN RECORDS   SPCD  1371

LEAVIN’ IN THE MORNIN’–YOU BRING THE JUNGLE OUT IN ME–HOOTENANNY BOOGIE-WOOGIE–ROADRUNNER–BABY, IT AIN’T YOU (WITH DIUNNA GREENLEAF)–I CAN’T BELIEVE IT–TWO SIDES (WITH ERIC BIBB)–SLOW DOWN–OGOPOGO BOOGIE–KEEP ON ROCKIN’–OUT LIKE A BULLET

Pianist Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne was born in Spokane, WA, but soon moved with his family to Los Angeles, San Fran, and, later, New Orleans.  He was a child prodigy on the piano, and his father, a minister, aimed him in the direction of gospel music, but an uncle introduced him to the lure of boogie-woogie piano.  For us blues fans, it was a fortunate move, as Kenny has just released his latest album for Stony Plain, “Rollin’ With The Blues Boss.”

Moving for good in the early 1980’s, Kenny has called Kelowna, British Columbia, his home for the last several years.  He’s never lost his drive or his passion to keep the piano as a vital instrument in blues, just as it was a seminal part of the days when rock was young.

This set is comprised of eleven of Kenny’s originals, all centered around his left-hand-heavy boogie beat, and features two very special guests.  The set starts with Kenny on both acoustic and electric piano on the story of a man gettin’ while the gettin’s good, “Leavin’ In The Mornin!”  A strong percussive backdrop plus Kenny’s Fender Rhodes and Hammond organ work propel “You Bring Out The Jungle In Me,” where his lover has him “feelin’ like Tarzan, swingin’ from tree to tree!!”

The special guests make excellent contributions, too.  Kenny is the scorned lover in a very soulful, minor-key duet with Diunna Greenleaf, who tells him plainly what she’s after, and, “Baby, It Ain’t You!”  And, Eric Bibb has the vocal and an acoustic guitar solo on the swingin’ tale of a woman with some serious split-personality issues, “Two Sides.”

We had two favorites, too.  The “Ogopogo Boogie” utilizes a horn section to drive the melody as Kenny keeps the N’Awlins groove locked in.  And, “Keep On Rockin” is a testimony not only to Kenny’s longevity on the scene, but his indomitable spirit to keep the piano prevalent in the blues.

Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne has the total package—insane piano chops, a great vocal delivery, excellent composing skills and a killer stage presence.  “Rollin’ With The Blues Boss” is another fine testament to his myriad of  talents!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Duncan Street review…April 23, 2014…

DUNCAN STREET

BAPTIZED BY THE BLUES–15 SOUTH RECORDS

WATERMELON, BBQ, AND BEER–COME TO MISSISSIPPI–COLOR ME BLUE–SHARPEST MARBLE IN THE DRAWER–I BE’S TROUBLED–LOVE ME TONITE–BAPTIZED BY THE BLUES–SHAKIN’ THE BACON DOWN–TATER SALAD WOMAN–GO RIGHT BACK TO BED–THE BLUES COMES IN ALL COLORS

For many, the concept of the blues is best played out over a “less is more” approach.  That is the premise behind the new collaboration between guitarist Dave Duncan and harmonica man and percussionist Stan Street, as their “Duncan Street” album allows the true passions of the players to be at the forefront.

Dave Duncan has been on the Nashville blues radar for over twenty years.  (Get a copy of his “Don’t Know If It’s True, But It Happened To Me”  album with its classic ode to the Clinton White House, “Harmonica Lewinsky—man that girl could blow!”)  On this set, he is the master of all things stringed, and his vocals and playing recall the Delta greats.  Stan Street, who wrote two of the cuts and adds vocals on two more, is a folk artist and also owns the Hambone Gallery in Clarksdale, MS.  A chance meeting of the two led to the creation of this album, and their sound is one that is sure to please fans of all types of blues.

The party starts with Dave’s dobro howlin’ at the moon and backed by Stan’s harp as they tout the three basic Southern food groups–“Watermelon, BBQ, and Beer!”  Stan’s vocal and bass drum keep the groove of “Come To Mississippi” as he extolls the virtues of more great culinary delights, including “cornbread and collard greens, ham hock, and fried chicken, please!”  Dave nails that killer riff that pushes Muddy’s “I Be’s Troubled,” the set’s only cover, as Stan takes the vocal turn, wailing “I just can’t be satisfied’ for all it’s worth!  Dave’s lead is just a tad faster than the original, giving it a cool, down-home groove.  Stan adds “hambone” percussion on “Love Me Tonite,” and sax on the set-closing “The Blues Comes In All Colors,” that Dave explains to us all as you travel just south of that “Willie Dixon line!”

We had two favorites, too.  The title cut is a chooglin’ shot of Hill-Country boogie, with Stan singing of the life-affirming revelation that grabbed him the first time he “found  Muddy Waters, it gave me cold chills.”  And, Dave’s wry, witty sense of humor is on display with the tale of a man who’s simply a “natch’l born lover man,” and “not the Sharpest Marble In The Drawer!”

In a world of uncertainty, there’s one thing you can sho’ nuff count on.  When two great bluesmen such as Dave Duncan and Stan Street get together, you know there’ll be a helluva party, and “Duncan Street” is the real deal!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Shane Dwight review…April 20, 2014…

SHANE DWIGHT

THIS HOUSE

ECLECTO GROOVE RECORDS   EGRCD  515

THIS HOUSE–WE CAN DO THIS–FOOL–SING FOR ME (SEARCH FOR SIERRA)–IT’S GONNA BE BEAUTIFUL–DEVIL’S NOOSE–STEPPING STONE–NEVER BEFORE–I’M A BAD MAN–LOSING GROUND–BAD FOR YOU–CRAZY TODAY

In 2009, guitarist-singer-composer Shane Dwight relocated from his native California down to Nashville, to surround himself with all the varied musical influences around this area.  Shane’s Cali roots run deep, tho, and he still splits his time between here and his childhood ranch in Morgan Hill, CA.  And, with eight albums and two live DVD’s already under his belt, this guitar slinger has just released his Eclecto Groove Records debut, “This House.”  It is eleven of Shane’s originals and one dynamite collaboration with his favorite backing singer, Bekka Bramlett.

This set is also produced by Grammy winner Kevin McKendree, who adds keyboards throughout.  Shane starts the proceedings with the haunting title cut, where “This House” feels the emptiness and darkness as Shane’s lover is, sadly, “long gone.”  “We Can Do This” is a sweet, danceable shot of funky blues, while “Never Before” has Shane singing the praises of his latest lover over a chugging beat, telling us that he “never begged before, like I’m begging you!”

“Fool” and “Losing Ground” show us a softer, soulful side of Shane, while he and Bekka close the set in  a gospel fervor, on the all-acoustic “Crazy Today.’

We had two favorites, too.  Bekka Bramlett takes the lead vocal  on a song of perpetual hope and “never having to be alone,” entitled “It’s Gonna Be Beautiful,” punctuated by Shane’s backing slide.  And, “I’m A Bad Man” is as lowdown-and-dirty as it gets, and is one of the most raucous pure-blues cuts that Shane has ever committed to wax!

With “THis House,” Shane Dwight shows that he can peacefully coexist between California and Nashville, as there are elements of both his environs over the course of this set.  As such, his Eclecto Groove debut is a smashing success!!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow

Li’l Ronnie and the Bluebeats review…April 19, 2014…

LI’L RONNIE AND THE BLUEBEATS

FEATURING CLAUDIA CARAWAN

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

ELLERSOUL RECORDS  ELL 1404

BRING YOUR FINE SELF HOME–TOO FAST FOR CONDITIONS–GET TOUGH–I FEEL A HEARTACHE COMING ON–JUMP, JIVE, THEN YOU WAIL–UNFINISHED BUSINESS–HARD TIMES–COLD HARD CASH–THICK AND THIN–STOP CHEATIN’ ME BLIND–YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO HOME–THAT’S WHAT A GIRL WANTS TO HEAR–I JUST MET A MAN–I HAD A WARDEN FOR A WOMAN

The Bluebeats were a top-notch blues-roots band in the late-80’s and early 90’s.  Their current album is also their second album, which, unbelieveably, was started in 1991.  They had all the songs written, and, even had eight “in the can” when, as the band puts it, “life just got in the way,”  For various reasons, the album remained incomplete until now.  Leader Li’l Ronnie Owens got everyone back together, and “Unfinished Business” is now complete!  It’s the band’s twelve originals and two covers that were intended for release back in ’91.

The set features the amazing vocal talents of Claudia Carawan, who also plays alto sax.  Her voice is a unique blend of jazz, blues, gospel, and torchy balladry.  She starts the proceedings by testing her upper register in the swingin’  “Bring Your Fine Self Home.’  She plays the “best friend”  as she advises another woman to “Get Tough” in order to keep a lover in line, then goes into that sweet, sultry torch song mode on the lilting “I Feel A Heartache Coming On.”  Jim Wark’s muted guitar speaks volumes as he keeps the passion flowing in this one.

Claudia shows a playful, sassy side, too.   She gives a no-good lover the heave-ho in a cool duet with Ronnie, the stop-time spunk of “You Don’t Have To Go Home but you can’t stay here!”  And, Jim’s mellow tones are in perfect step with Claudia and Ronnie’s vocal, where we learn that “love comes when you least expect it” in “I Just Met A Man.”

Ronnie gets in a couple of good vocal turns, too.  Ericson Holt’s piano drives a Fifties’-styled rocker that has Ronnie beggin’ his lover to come clean and “Stop Cheatin’ Me Blind.”  And, on the other side of the coin, Ronnie believes that love is ok, but that “Cold Hard Cash” is even better, set over a funky, Mardi Gras-ish beat.

We had two favorites, too.  Claudia and Ronnie duet again on the album’s title cut, reminding us fans that even tho it’s been twenty years, it’s never too late to clear up your “Unfinished Business!”  and, the set closes with one of the fiercest rockers Ronnie has ever laid down—the harp-fueled blast o’blues that is “I Had A Warden For A Woman and my home is a penetentiary!”

For an album that literally took two centuries to complete, Li’l Ronnie And The Bluebeats and “Unfinished Business” was well worth the wait.  And, as an added bonus, this set will appeal to a wide base of fans, and especially those, such as us, who have a fondness for that vintage soul, blues and R & B sound that was popularized on Jefferson Street in the Fifties and Sixties right here in Nashville, and still played today by EllerSoul labelmate Marion James.  This one is well-played, indeed!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow