Archive for April, 2014

Josh Hoyer review…April 13, 2014…

JOSH HOYER AND THE SHADOWBOXERS

JOSH HOYER AND THE SHADOWBOXERS

SELF-RELEASED

SHADOWBOXER–CLOSE YOUR EYES–ILLUSION–EVERYDAY AND EVERYNIGHT–JUST CALL ME (I’LL BE SURE TO LET YOU DOWN AGAIN)–TILL SHE’S LOVIN’ SOMEONE ELSE–MAKE TIME FOR LOVE–DIRTY WORLD

Multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer, and arranger Josh Hoyer formed The Shadowboxers late in 2012, and, since then, they have represented his home base of Lincoln, Nebraska, in the IBC’s and have won the Best Soul/R & B Band at the Omaha Entertainment Awards.  But, the proof for this band is in the listening.  Hoyer and the Shadowboxers consist of immensely-talented musicians that either teach music or have toured nationally, or both.

That’s why their self-titled debut is so doggone hot!  Josh’s eight original tunes are augmented by a smokin’ horn and rhythm section, and hearken back to the glory days of Atlantic and Stax while maintaining a firm grip on today’s contemporary sounds.

Josh jumps right out at you with that soulful delivery of his on the opener, “Shadowboxer,” then on “Close Your Eyes,” he takes a jab at a world “moving so fast there’s no time to look back.”  “Illusion,” where crooked politicians are “all about the money” and “what is and what you see is not the same thing” serves as a warning to us all about whom to trust.  The set closes on another topical note with the percussion-heavy vibe of “Dirty World,” featuring great solos from drummer Justin G. Jones and guitarist Benny Kushner.

We had two favorites, too.  Josh plays the lover vwho’s had enough of being used and plainly tells his soon-to-be-ex to “Just Call Me (And I’ll Be Sure To Let You Down Again).  And, “Till She’s Lovin’ Someone Else” follows a sweet Crescent City pattern that’ll remind many of Dr. John and the Meters with its funky beat, punchy horns, and Josh’s outstanding piano.

These guys bring a lot to the table on this set.  Experienced players who know a thing or two about soul and blues with a fantastic bandleader make this a group to definitely watch.  Fans of local artist Charles Walker and the Dynamites will love Josh Hoyer And The Shadowboxers!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Albert Castiglia review…April 12, 2014…

ALBERT CASTIGLIA

SOLID GROUND

RUF RECORDS  RUF 1201

TRIFLIN’–KEEP YOU AROUND TOO LONG–SEARCHING THE DESERT FOR THE BLUES–HAVE YOU NO SHAME–PUT SOME STANK ON IT–LOVE ONE ANOTHER–SLEEPLESS NIGHTS–GOING DOWN SLOW–CELEBRATION–HARD TIME–BAD AVENUE–SWAY–LITTLE HAVANA BLUES (ARROZ CON MANGO)–JUST LIKE JESUS

Albert Castiglia (pronounced “ka-STEEL-ya”) continues to turn out one great album after another.  His latest is no exception, and it just happens to be his debut for Ruf Records, “Solid Ground.”  It consists of fourteen cuts of Albert’s trademark swingin’-from-the-hip blues guitar and original songs that share stories we can all relate to, dealing with love, loss, hope, and redemption.

Albert was born in New York and raised in Miami to an Italian father and a Cuban mother, and these eclectic influences permeate his playing and composing.  He toured with Junior Wells for several years until Junior passed in 1998, but those experiences seasoned him well for his own career as a bandleader, and he ppossesses a hugely-charismatic stage presence.

On “Solid Ground,” Albert keeps on improving as a contemporary bluesman.  He uses a Hill-country beat propelled by the stomping percussion of Bob Amsel to tell the tale of people we can all do without, even including some of his own “flesh and blood,” who are nothin’ but “Triflin”   Bob’s drums again play a major role in the blues-rock of “Searching The Desert For The Blues,” while Albert offers up a couple of soulfully-strong messages of hope in “Love One Another,” and “Celebration.”

Albert can really let loose on guitar on some slow-blues tunes, and there are a few excellent examples of these on a wild trip down to “Bad Avenue,” where even “the women carry pistols, too,’ and perhaps the most poignant ballad he has recorded, “Have You No Shame.”  It’s the sad story of a man seeing the end of a love affair, and his vocal and guitar are full of emotion throughout.

We had several favorites, too.  One of Albert’s originals begs the question, “Did I Keep You Around Too Long,” played out over a rockin’ roadhouse beat with piano from Jeremy Baum.  He adds a touch of funk to the St. Louis Jimmy Oden classic, “Goin’ Down Slow,” and turns in a great Latin-flavored instrumental with “Little Havana Blues” (Arroz Con Mango.)  Debbie Davies joins in the fun on guitar and backing vocals as Albert encourages us all to seize the world by the horns and “Put Some Stank On It.”

Albert Castiglia confesses that “Solid Ground” is his best album thus far, and we have to agree.  Fine musicianship with strong original material and choice covers make this one that blues fans will not want to miss!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Brent Johnson review…April 10, 2014…

BRENT JOHNSON

SET THE WORLD ON FIRE

JUSTIN TIME RECORDS  JUST -253-2

DON’T MAKE A SOUND–MEET ME IN THE MORNING–THE TICKET–DON’T TAKE IT WITH YOU–SO GLAD YOU’RE MINE–LONG WAY BACK TO NEW ORLEANS–GLASS CEILING–MEET ME IN THE BOTTOM–AS THE YEARS GO PASSING BY–THE HUCKLEBUCK–SET THE WORLD ON FIRE

For New Orleans-based guitarist Brent Johnson, the emphasis has always been on his feeling for the music, regardless of any particular genre’, altho he does have an affinity for the blues.  New Orleans’  “Blues Daddy” himself, Bryan Lee, found that out not long after hearing Brent, and hired him for his band on the spot.

Playing with Lee gave Brent even a better perspective on music, and alloed his scope to broaden.  He began writing his own material, and, when not touring with Lee, Brent took drummer John Perkins and bassist Bill Blok on a tour of his own, to see how his originals would play to an audience.  With the addition of Wayne Lohr on keys, these four men have recorded and released Brent’s debut, “Set The World On Fire,” for Canadian label Justin Time Records.  There are seven originals and four covers, which utilize special guests Alvin Youngblood Hart and Sonny Landreth on guitars.

The set starts with a funky blast of riff-heavy blues-rock, “Don’t Make A Sound,” the tale of too many nights on the road that culminates with a one-night stand with “the Devil drinkin’ at the end of the bar.”  “Don’t Take It With You” is a plea for everyone to realize that “all your anger just weighs you down,” while Brent closes with the title cut, as he ponders a crumbling love affair, asking her not to leave, and not to “Set The World On Fire.’

The album has several light-hearted moments, too.  Perhaps the antithesis of the title cut is “So Glad You’re Mine,” which focuses on a relationship that has seen hard times, but, thru love, has persevered.  The keys and guitar here are breezy and light, in keeping with the song’s tone of hope.  And, Brent takes the venerable classic, “The Hucklebuck,” and turns it inside-out and upside-down as a brilliant instrumental.

Brent is joined by Alvin Youngblood Hart on slide guitar on Dylan’s “Meet Me In The Morning,” on the roadhouse rock of “The Ticket,” and on the Delta chug of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Meet Me In The Bottom.”  Sonny Landreth also drops in with his signature slide on Brent’s yearning-for-home tale of missing those “Louisiana pines and second lines,” “Long Way Back To New Orleans!”

With “Set The World On Fire,” Brent Johnson had full creative control over the material and production.  The results are a resounding success, and we look forward to hearing more from him in the future!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Arthur Migliazza review…April 9, 2014…

ARTHUR MIGLIAZZA

LAYING IT DOWN

HOBEMIAN RECORDS  HB 0017

OVERTURE–I’M READY–ROCKIN’ PNEUMONIA AND THE BOOGIE WOOGIE FLU–BOOGIE WOOGIE STOMP–LOVE YOU MAMA–SING SING SING/BUMBLE BOOGIE–BOURBON STREET PARADE–THANK YOU BLUES–HONKY TONK TRAIN BLUES–SUITCASE BLUES–ST. LOUIS BLUES–PROFESSOR CALLING ME–THE BOOGIE ROCKS

Along with making the Finals a few months back at the IBC’s representing Washington state, Arthur Migliazza also can be heard on keys on fellow “northwesterner” Polly O’ Keary’s “Compass” CD.  He learned piano as a child, and mentored with Ann Rabson, even playing with the other members of Saffire at Ann’s memorial when she passed away.

On his latest release, “Laying It Down,” Arthur makes his intentions clear—he wants to bring the boogie woogie piano back to the forefront of blues, since it was such an integral part of not only blues, but rock and roll in its early days.  As such, he and his band have, well, “layed down” thirteen tracks that showcase Arthur’s incredible piano abilities while concentrating on the left-hand dominating boogie beat.  There are four of Arthur’s originals mixed among covers that keep the left hand pounding the rhythm while the right hand adds color and flair.

The set starts with the original “Overture,” with its notes of things to come as it builds to a New Orleans-ish climax, with Jeff Fielder on the wah-wah guitar.  He rocks two of Albert Ammons’ classic pieces, “Boogie Woogie Stomp,” and the set-closing left-hand brilliance of “The Boogie Rocks.’

Arthur also pays tribute to some of the Crescent City’s best boogiemen, with a fine read of the Fat Man’s “I’m Ready,” Huey Smith’s “Rockin’ Pneumonia,” and, perhaps the best of these, as Arthur adds his own personal touch to Henry Roeland Byrd’s “Tipitina” entitled “Professor Calling Me.”

We had three favorites, too.  This is the Centennial anniversary of the publishing of W. C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues,” and Arthur rocks it for all it’s worth, with plenty of tricky time and signature changes, while staying true to the melody.  Perhaps the most “traditional” blues cut is a Chicago-styled  number that features Grant Dermody on harp as Arthur lovingly shuffles over a tribute to his mother, “Love You Mama.”  And, his medley of “Sing Sing Sing/Bumble Boogie” is the true show-stopper.  He fires off run after run on these two chestnuts over the course of six blistering minutes, showing off a plethora of his moves with ease.

If Arthur Migliazza wants to bring back the boogie to the blues, then “Laying It Down” is a great start.  An irresistible groove runs throughout from a brilliant young musician!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Bad Brad and the Fat Cats review…April 6, 2014…

BAD BRAD AND THE FAT CATS

TAKE A WALK WITH ME

FAT CATS ENTERTAINMENT

TAKE A WALK WITH ME–LEGHOUND–EGO TRIP–TAKE IT EASY–GOING TO THE COUNTRY–HEADIN’ OUT–LUCKY MAN–OTHER SIDE–RUNNIN’ ME DOWN–SEE MY WAY–MAN ON THE MOVE–TRAIN DOWN SOUTH–UMA

We simply cannot say enough good things about this album.  Bad Brad and the Fat Cats are Brad Stivers on vocals and guitar, Alec Stivers on drums, and Nic Clark on harp.  These three guys bring more energy to the table than you can imagine to this set, and reminded us of the days of Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers.

Brad attended Northern Colorado University and has played that state’s major festivals, sharing the stage with the likes of Rick Estrin and Tommy Castro.  Brad’s been playing guitar since he was ten, and throughout this album you can hear evidence of his many influences, including SRV, B B and Robin Trower.

Check out the Hill Country stomp of “Ego Trip,” where Brad chastises a lover for “talkin’ trash from a run-down, one-room country shack,” and that stone Texas roadhouse boogie of “Man On The Move.”  “Other Side” follows a second-line rhythm pattern, and guest Matthew Young’s guitar really hits the mark on this one, while  Dwight Carrier adds the Creole spice with squeeze-box on “See My Way.”  And, there are two too-cool-for-school tributes to Jimmy Reed and Elmore James, with the loping stride of “Runnin’ Me Down” and that blistering title cut where Brad begs his lover to “Take A Walk With Me, down to Memphis, Tennessee!”

Even after all these great sounds, we had two favorites.  Brad’s a self-professed Leghound” lookin’ for some action in this fine shot of guitar-and-harp-driven blues, while the slow-blues of “Lucky Man”is a six-minute treasure of Brad’s trademark blues guitar, which gets ample room to stretch out and cut loose.

You could run a Prius all the way from Nashville to Memphis and back off the energy that Bad Brad and the Fat Cats cook up on “Take A Walk With Me.”  This one is guaranteed to have something for every blues lover’s taste!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

Jim Byrnes review…April 5, 2014…

JIM BYRNES

ST. LOUIS TIMES

BLACK HEN MUSIC  BHCD 0073

I GET EVIL–SOMEBODY LIED–NADINE–OLD DOG, NEW TRICKS–YOU’LL MISS ME (WHEN I’M GONE)–THE DUCK’S YAS YAS YAS–THE JOURNEY HOME–ST. LOUIS BLUES–CAKE ALLEY–I NEED A CHANGE–THAT WILL NEVER DO–ANOTHER NIGHT TO CRY

A recent triumvirate of once-in-a-lifetime events occurred that led to the development of the latest release from Jim Byrnes.  First, 2014 marked the 250TH anniversary of the founding of the city of St. Louis, which just happens to be where Jim spent his childhood.  It also marks the Centennial anniversary of the publishing of perhaps the most well-known tune from the pen of W. C. Handy, “St. Louis Blues.”  Lastly, this year marks the tenth anniversary of Jim’s musical partnership with guitarist extraordinaire Steve Dawson.  Their collaborations have resulted in six albums, including this one, “St. Louis Times,” which serves as one of Jim’s most personal albums.  He not only has taken songs identified with the Gateway city or its most famous citizens, but also includes four original works from Jim and Steve, whose vintage guitar style shines throughout.

Jim’s vocals still go down as smoothly as your favorite bourbon as you listen to this history lesson in the blues.  Also, some of the planet’s best sidemen join in for the occasion, making this truly a fun listen.  Jim spins a spoken-word tale of the St. Louis of his youth in “The Journey Home.”  And, “Cake Alley” may have cheap cakes, but the hoodlums that inhabit “Blair Avenue on down to 15TH Street”  may be a bit more than you bargain for!  This one features John Hammond, Jr. on National slide guitar, and a sweet Dixieland-style horn section.

Jim shows a soulful side also, on the somber, churchy, “I Need A Change,” one of the original compositions penned by Jim and Steve.  And, the playful Fontella Bass chestnut, “You’ll Miss Me (When I’m Gone), has Jim in a duet with No Sinner’s Colleen Rennison that captures the spirit of the “quarrelsome” lovers.

We had two favorites, too.  We’ve always loved native son Chuck Berry’s storied “Nadine” in her “coffee-colored Cadillac,” and Jim’s take is spot-on while Steve’s pedal steel gives it a special touch.  And, the hilarious ” The Duck’s Yas YasYas” has Jim in another duet setting, this time with John Hammond, Jr., who also adds harp in this slice of vintage blues.

With “St. Louis Times,” Jim Byrnes offers a unique look at the musical history of one of the most important cities in blues.  And, he does it in his own inimitable, very personal style, making this one his best set to date!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Johnny Cox review…April 3, 2014…

JOHNNY COX

THIN BLUE LINE

SELF-RELEASED

YOUR LOVE–HIGH PRICE TO PAY–RUNAWAY TRAIN–NEW WAY–SOMETHING FOR ME–THIN BLUE LINE–MY DESTINATION–I’M FINE–ALL THESE TEARS–LONG DAY–DIDN’T COMMIT THE CRIME

Guitar man Johnny Cox comes to us from Canada by way of Scotland.  As a youth, he absorbed all he could of the likes of Clapton, Hendrix, SRV, and all the other legends of our generation.  He left the British Isles in 1985, and continued to hone his chops, eventually writing and performing his own material.

His thirty-odd year odyssey along the blues highway comes full-circle with the release of his electrifying debut, “Thin Blue Line.’  On this set, he takes the listener down many of the same roads he’s traveled to get where he is today.  There are fine examples of different genres’ that Johnny has learned to appreciate during his career.  And, yes, all eleven cuts are originals, taking a look at life and love thru the eyes of a true, world-traveling troubadour.

Johnny leads off in a wistful way with the dreamy ode to his true love, exhorting proudly that “Your Love drives me crazy!”  Perhaps her antithesis was the inspiration for “Runaway Train,” with its snarling wah-wah lines reminiscent of mid-Seventies Curtis Mayfield and lyrics such as “I love you, but you terrify me!”  “New Way” follows a Latin beat, with Ansgar Schroer on the big ol’ chromatic for effect.  “All These Tears” is another profession of love, this time set over a reggae pattern.  And, “My Destination” is a mighty funky slab of dance floor blues, driven by Johnny’s gritty lead work and  punchy horn section.

We had two favorites, too.  The title cut begs for peace and understanding in a difficult world, done predominantly as an acoustic affair.  And, the set closes with the bluesiest cut on the set.  “Didn’t Commit The Crime” has Johnny on all guitars, including the scorching lead as well as the tremolo backup.  There are echo-chamber vocals and Ian De Souza’s slap-back bass over Johnny’s proclamation of innocence, as “I was home all night, playin’ my guitar!”

For Johnny Cox, it may seem like a long, strange trip, indeed.  But, blues fans are much the better off with him and his excellent debut, “Thin Blue Line!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Tweed Funk review…March 31, 2014…

TWEED FUNK

FIRST NAME LUCKY

TWEED TONE RECORDS

BLUES IN MY SOUL–TIME TO BURN–LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL–HOODOO POWER–DIVIDED–SUGARFOOT–DEED IS DONE–I GOT LOADED–SIPPIN’ MISERY–KNOCK ON WOOD–GET IT ON

Recently, the members of Tweed Funk took a trip down to Memphis to soak up a little bit of the ambience that town has to offer.  When they returned home to begin recording their third CD, they were so stoked from being in Memphis that they wanted to transfer that vibe onto the record.  And, with “First Name Lucky,” the results are in, and this one is a rousing success!  There are seven originals and four covers that positively drip with that Bluff City vibe.

Smokey Holman again holds down the majority of lead vocal duties, and kicks things off with his biography of sorts, the story of his coming-of-age with “Blues In My Soul.”  The horn section and JD Optekar’s wah-wah guitar drive Smokey’s tale of a serious woman with some “Voodoo Power” and a “mojo that’s workin’ night and day!”   “Divided” is a fine example of Smokey’s ability to bring a ballad to life, and make you feel as if you’re one of the forlorn lovers in that song who’ve forgotten “what made us great!”

The whole band gets in on the call-and-response of “Let The Good Times Roll” and a curiously-rockin’ tale of a young man’s paternity, “Deed Is Done.”  And, Bryan “Looper” Lucas gets in some cool harp in the set-closing traditional blues of a song that’s always lookin’ toward Friday nights, “Get It On.”

We had two favorites, too.  Brush-stroked drums and a muted trumpet back Smokey’s jazzy vocal, as he weaves a tale of one too many nights in a bar just “Sippin’ Misery.”  And, bass man Eric Madunic takes the vocal on a tribute to the late Donald “Duck” Dunn with his in-the-pocket read of the classic “Knock On Wood.”

Tweed Funk have carved out a sweet niche’ for themselves in a relatively short time.  They have competed in the IBC (in 2012) and have won just about every award conceivable from their home base Wisconsin Area Music Industry.  Now, with the release of “First Name Lucky,” they have a trifrecta of killer albums!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.