Archive for June, 2014

Janiva Magness review…June 28, 2014…

JANIVA MAGNESS

ORIGINAL

FATHEAD RECORDS  FH 1005

LET ME BREATHE–TWICE AS STRONG–WHEN YOU WERE MY KING–I NEED A MAN–EVERYTHING IS ALRIGHT–WITH LOVE (FEAT. DAN NAVARRO)–MOUNTAIN–WHO AM I–BADASS–THE HARD WAY–STANDING

For some artists, a period of drastic personal tragedy is often followed by a period of unmatched creativity.  Witness the latest album from Chris Martin and Coldplay, (“Ghost Stories”), borne from his recent break-up with Gwyneth Paltrow.  And, even “Layla” herself was the result of Clapton’s despondency after being spurned by Patti Boyd, who chose George Harrison instead.

In Janiva’s case, tho, since 2010 she has undergone a tremendous amount of life-altering events that would leave the average person overwhelmed.  Janiva, tho, is no ordinary blueswoman, and, even following the dissolution of her seventeen-year marriage, the deaths of several close friends and relatives, and a neck operation that could have ended her career, Janiva has done what she’s always done best–come back, and come back strong.  Her latest album is entitled “Original,” and there are indeed eleven originals herein that trace her journey through the pain of loss to the triumphs of the human spirit and redemption.

The leadoff cut, “Let Me Breathe,” looks back over the aftermath of a broken love, as “I can’t catch my breath since the day he left.”  “Everything Is Alright” and “The Hard Way” remind us of the importance of a great circle of friends to help thru the tough times, realizing “this is not the end.”

Janiva gets in her share of defiance, too.  A thumping backbeat drives “Who Am I,” as she lets her lover know that “when anyone else would’ve said goodbye, I was the one who loved you.”  A funky backbeat over slide guitar and a backing chorus drives Badass,” Janiva’s stiletto-to-the-scrotum  to future Mr. Wrongs that  lets them all know that “I’m doin’ my own thing—I don’t need nobody!”

In the end, tho, the human spirit triumphs, as Janiva and the backing chorus of sistahs give “Twice As Strong” a gospel energy, while tthe set-closing “Standing” finds her admitting that “even tho I’m scared I’m standing and my heart’s still beating.”

Thanks to the effort of producer Dave Darling, Janiva pushed her already-incredible two-and-a-half octave range to its limits, more so on this album than on any of her others.  And, it marks the first time that Janiva has written the majority of songs for an album.  The place from which these songs came  is one of the deepest, darkest corners of the blues, but Janiva Magness made these songs some of the most soulful she has ever recorded.  Girl, you are truly an “Original.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

Deanna Bogart review…June 26, 2014…

DEANNA BOGART

JUST A WISH AWAY

BLIND PIG CD  BPCD 5159

IF IT’S GONNA BE LIKE THIS–FINE BY ME GOOD BAYOU–IF YOU HAVE CRYING EYES–BACK AND FORTH KID–COLLARBONE–TIGHTROPE–WHAT IS LOVE SUPPOSED TO DO–MAYBE I WON’T–CONVERSING WITH LINCOLN–HOT FUN IN THE SUMMERTIME–BYE BYE BLACKBIRD

Deanna Bogart is one of those rare individuals who can play virtually any instrument in any style that is called for, writes her own arrangements, and her songwriting has reached a deep level of maturity and continues to improve.  For her latest Blind Pig release, “Just A Wish Away,” Deanna has teamed up with a core of unbelieveably-talented musicians who make this definitely her most varied and exciting set to date.  Not afraid to take chances, she takes the listener on a musical journey not unlike the one she herself took not long ago, that carried her from the Chesapeake Bay down thru Nashville, out to the desert of SoCal, and, finally, down to the Louisiana bayou, where this set was recorded.

That “big sound”leads things off with the locomotive clackety-clack of “If It’s Gonna Be Like This,”  where Deanna realizes it’s “runaway time, but am I too late or too soon?” and begs the question of what might have been.  This one features pedal and lap steel from Marty Rifkin.  “Tightrope” follows a a funky New Orleans-style rhythm pattern, as Deanna sings of always being faced with tough choices in life, and “walking the tightrope day and night!”  “Collarbone”  is a horn-and-percussion-driven instrumental, and Deanna closes the set with her sax blowing a jazzy “Bye Bye Blackbird,” set over a curious marching-time beat, with acoustic guitar from Cris Jacobs.

We had two favorites, too.  Deanna  uses a clever play on words in the tale of developing love “down by the levee with that sweet magnolia wine,” and it’s “Fine By Me If It’s Good Bayou!”  And, perhaps one of Deanna’s most poignant pieces ever is the heart-rending tale of the “Back And Forth Kid,”  those displaced children forced to split their time between divorced parents, and never really grasping a life with either.  It is only Deanna and her piano, and is indeed a powerful and emotion-packed song.

Deanna Bogart continues to expand her musical boundaries and is always challenging herself to defeat complacency by trying new and exciting sounds.  Enjoy that special place where all your dreams are “Just a Wish Away.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

Rod Piazza And The Mighty Flyers review…June 25, 2014….

ROD PIAZZA AND THE MIGHTY FLYERS

EMERGENCY SITUATION

BLIND PIG CD  BPCD 5160

NEIGHBOR, NEIGHBOR–EMERGENCY SITUATION–MILK AND WATER–FRANKENBOP–BAD WEATHER BLUES–GAMBLING WOMAN–SLEEPING ON THE GROUND–TRICKY WOMAN–THE CLOCK–YA YA–COLORED SALT

For their latest release for Blind Pig, Rod Piazza And The Mighty Flyers warn us all about the tough times of being on the road as a bluesman in today’s economy.  It’s so bad that Rod has declared an “Emergency Situation,” because “I can’t meet my obligations!”  All’s not gloom-and-doom, tho, as this clever mix of covers and originals let you know that this group is still one of the longest-tenured, most powerful bands on the scene today.

Rod is on harp and vocals and Miss Honey still rocks the 88’s.  Henry Carvajal is on guitar, David Kida is on drums, and Norm Gonzalez is on bass.  Saxes are prevalent on just about every cut, courtesy of Jim Jedeikin and Ron Dzuibla.

Rod busts out the big ole chromatic on the leadoff West Coast swing of “Neighbor Neighbor,” who needs to sho’ nuff mind his own business!  Miss Honey’s jazzy piano lines drive the melody of “Milk And Water,” where the doc has taken Rod off of “scotch, bourbon, beer, and good good whisky if I wanna stay around here,” severely limiting his drink choices!  Honey and the saxes really set a hot tone on “Gambling Woman,” and she gets an extended, rolling solo at the bridge.  Rod bends some deep, slow blues on “Sleeping In The Ground,” and even lays his harp down for one cut, the Fifties-inspired doo-wop of “The Clock,” which seems to be this forlorn lover’s only friend.  And, it wouldn’t be a Mighty Flyers album without a couple of jaw-breaking instrumentals, “Frankenbop,” and the set-closing “Colored Salt.”

We had two favorites, too.  Henry Carvajal takes the vocal on a very authentic read of Lee Dorsey’s “Ya Ya,” with Honey’s keys and the saxes bringin’ that vintage vibe.  And, a waay-cool rhumba intro segues’ into the stompin’ groove of “Tricky Woman,” a one-night stand that tries to go a little further than Rod’s willing to bite for!

Rod, PLEASE do not “change your occupation,” even tho it might be an “Emergency Situation.”  You would deprive those of us who will always enjoy your music from hearing one of the true modern harp masters!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

Joe Louis Walker review…June 24, 2014…

JOE LOUIS WALKER

THE BEST OF THE STONY PLAIN YEARS

STONY PLAIN CD  SPCD 1375

EYES LIKE A CAT–HIGHVIEW–HUSTLIN–BLACK WIDOW SPIDER–I’M TIDE–SUGAR MAMA–SLOW DOWN GTO–AIN’T THAT COLD–YOU’RE GONNA MAKE ME CRY–SEND YOU BACK–WITNESS

Joe Louis Walker’s career as a bluesman  began in the Eighties, with several releases on the Hightone label.    Prior to that, Joe was a gospel singer for the Spiritual Corinthians, giving his voice that fire and passion that has served him well all the way thru his election into the Blues Hall Of Fame in 2013.   An international star of the highest order, Joe recorded three albums for Stony Plain Records from 2008-2010, and “The  Best Of The Stony Plain Years” celebrates the cream of those three sets, and Holger Petersen has done a  fantastic job of pleasing those who prefer his vocals or his guitar work, with buge helpings of each.

Leading off is  “Eyes Like A Cat,” a  swingin’ affair with keys from Bruce Katz  and harp from Sugar Ray Norcia.  “I’m Tide” follows a similar vein, with a propulsive beat and structure that lends itself to another Bay Area legend, Huey Lewis, with whom Joe recorded back in those Hightone days.  Johnny Winter guests on “Ain’t That Cold,” the tale of a woman addicted to that “midnight creepin,”  and both giants burn up the frets for all they are worth on this one.

That gospel-trained voice shines through for Joe on a scintillating live version of “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry” with Curtis Salgado and Mike Finnigan.  And, the set closes with a message of affirmation and hope, as “Witness” reminds us that altho we may feel alone, there’s always one who will listen.

We had two favorites, too.  “Slow Down GTO” is an all-out rocker regarding Joe’s penchant for driving his “black-on-black Pontiac” just a little too fast!  And, Joe not only plays guitar but blows his own harp on the killer mid-tempo groove of “Sugar Mama.”

With his election into the Blues Hall Of Fame, Joe Louis Walker has solidified his legacy.   “Best Of The Stony Plain Years”  serves as a fine overview of his tenure with one of the most respected labels in the world today.  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Long John Baldry review…June 22, 2014…

LONG JOHN BALDRY

THE BEST OF THE STONY PLAIN YEARS

STONY PLAIN CD   SPCD 1376

GOOD MORNING BLUES–I”M SHAKIN–EASY STREET–MIDNIGHT SPECIAL–GALLOWS POLE–MIDNIGHT HOUR BLUES–DIMPLES–INSANE ASYLUM–MIDNIGHT IN NEW ORLEANS–BLACK GIRL–TIMES GETTIN TOUGHER THAN TOUGH

At an imposing six-feet, seven-inches tall, Long John Baldry was literally an entertainer who was larger than life.  He established himself as a club performer doing acoustic blues in the late Fifties and early Sixties, eventually working with fellow Brits Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies.  As well as a tremendous vocalist, he always had a keen sense of humor, and, the first time we heard him was on his seminal 1971 LP produced by Rod Stewart and Elton John, “It Ain’t Easy,” which included that hilarious, over-the-top proto-rap patter that was “Don’t Try To Lay No Boo-gie Woo-gie On The King Of Rock And Roll!”  Baldry moved to Canada in 1978, and Stony Plain’s Holger Petersen recorded him over the course of five albums between 1991 and 2001.  The collection,  “The Best Of The Stony Plain Years,”  draws from that period, along with two previously-unreleased cuts and a duet with Jimmy Witherspoon on vocal and Duke Robillard on guitar.

A brief example of his early acoustic work from 1958 leads things off, as the stripped-down “Good Morning Blues” cleverly segues’ into his 2001 version, from his album, “Remembering Leadbelly.”  “I’m Shakin” is full of that big voice and humorous inflections set over a stop-time, rhumba beat.  The traditional “Midnight Special” is given a REALLY traditional read, featuring clarinet and tuba that give it a ragtime feel.  “Dimples” was recorded at the Edmonton Folk Festival in 1978, and is a fine example of Baldry’s reverence for John Lee Hooker’s “endless boogie.”   “Insane Asylum” is a sweet, minor-key, slow-blues that pairs John wth the equally-big-voiced Kathi McDonald, while “Midnight Hour Blues” pays its respects to the smooth, sophisticated blues of Charles Brown and Jimmy Witherspoon.

And, the John and “Spoon” duet was our favorite.  Taken from the CD “Jimmy Witherspoon With The Duke Robillard Band,” (SPCD 1252), “Times Gettin Tougher Than Tough” finds both men bringing the humor to today’s economic woes, where “the undertaker’s got a union and it costs too much to die!”  Duke’s smooth guitar blends easily amongst these two old friends, who go back as far as the Sixties, when “Spoon” toured England.

Long John Baldry was one of the great voices of the British blues explosion during the Sixties, influencing the Stones, Clapton, and countless others.  “The Best Of The Stony Plain Years” is a fine introduction to his works!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

Thorbjorn Risager And The Black Tornado review…June 21, 2014…

THORBJORN RISAGER AND THE BLACK TORNADO

TOO MAY ROADS

RUF RECORDS  RUF CD 1200

IF YOU WANNA LEAVE–TOO MANY ROADS–CHINA GATE–PARADISE–DROWNING–BACKSEAT DRIVER–THROUGH THE TEARS–HIGH ROLLING–LONG FORGOTTEN TRACK–RED HOT AND BLUE–RICH MAN–PLAY ON

Guitarist, composer, and singer Thorbjorn Risager has a name we are not exactly sure how to pronounce, but, as we’ve been preaching on here for years, good blues don’t care how you say it or spell it, as long as there’s that little thing called “soul,” and Risager has got it by the boxcar-loads.  The dapper Dane already has seven albums under his belt in Europe, but, thanks to Ruf Records, his eighth, released along with his band, The Black Tornado,is entitled “Too Many Roads,” and will reach a world-wide audience.

Growing up in Denmark, Risager got the blues bug through the recordings of B. B. King, deciding that he needed that full-band horn section to bring out the authenticity of his sound.  As such, the eight-man band has been intact virtually since the beginning some ten years ago.

Risager has a huge vocal presence with an unforgettable voice.  And, the thing we admired thru repeated listenings was the fact that he and the band play to mainly European audiences, many of whom have probably never been to Memphis, the Delta, or Chicago.  Given that, he has to appeal to fans of straight-blues, blues-rock, and the James Hunter-ish soul-blues fans.  On “Too Many Roads,”  he does one helluva job closing the gap of the miles between his homeland and the sweet homeland of the blues.  The party starts with rolling-thunder guitar and hand-claps, with that big voice comin’ at you like the Wolf himself, before giving way to the punch of the full band on “If You Wanna Leave.”  “Too Many Roads” and “China Gate” are stone shots of pure Delta blues, as Risager grasps the very roots of his sound.

As the set continues, the sounds become more varied and eclectic.  A lover who’s “walked out that door” has left him “Drowning in tears,” as the arrangement layers the instruments atop each other as the song progresses.  “Through The Tears” is vintage Stax, while “Rich Man” adds to the fun of the whole affair, with its Sousaphone-bass lines and nod to Dixieland.

We had two favorites, too.  You know what’s on his mind as he begs his lover with “a sad look on your pretty face” to “let me be your Backseat Driver, and take you to the places I know.”  And, the set closes with Emil Balsgaard blastin’ the 88’s just like Fats and Little Richard possessed over Thorbjorn’s vocal  on “Play On, ’cause I don’t need nothin’ but these rhythm and blues!”

Heineken Brewing Company, if you are listening, please give Thorbjorn Risager And The Black Tornado their own commercial, and let “Red Hot And Blue” or “High Rolling” play in the background.  With those hip, killer horns and beats and that huge vocal presence, you could make him into a household name much like what happened with Clairy Brown.  In the meantime, enjoy “Too Many Roads”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

 

Too Slim And The Taildraggers review…June 19, 2014….

TOO SLIM AND THE TAILDRAGGERS

ANTHOLOGY

UNDERWORLD RECORDS   UND 0024

DISC 1:–WISHING WELL–MISSISSIPPI MOON–LAST TRAIN–STONED AGAIN–WASH MY HANDS–THE FORTUNE TELLER–LITTLE GUN MOTEL–WHEN WHISKEY WAS MY FRIEND–WALK ON WATER–GIVERS AND TAKERS–COWBOY BOOT–MEXICO–WHEN YOU LOVE SOMEBODY–DEVIL IN A DOUBLEWIDE–BEEN THROUGH HELL–WISH I WAS FISHIN–SHE SEES GHOSTS

DISC 2:–EVERYBODY’S GOT SOMETHING–BLUE HEART–SHAKING A CUP–DADDIES BONES–LA LLORONA–INSIDE OF ME–GOOD TO SEE YOU SMILE AGAIN–DOLLAR GIRL–THREE CHORDS–LONESOME ALONE–BIG OLE HOUSE–PEACE WITH THE MAKER–THROW ME A ROPE–THE LIGHT–TOO COOL–BUCERIUS–PRINCEVILLE SERENADE

Tim “Too Slim” Langford And The Taildraggers busted onto the scene in a big way from Spokane, WA, back in 1986, and, since that time, they have released eighteen albums and won more awards than you can shake the proverbial stick at, finding themselves in the Halls Of Fame for three different Northwest blues societies.  To celebrate nearly thirty years in the business, he has just released his “Anthology,” a two-disc affair that offers up a generous thirty-four cuts that traces the band from its beginnings to Tim’s current collaborations with some of Nashville’s brest writers and players from the city he now calls home.   Three of the cuts are new, two written by Tim and drummer-producer Tom Hambridge, while the third is written bu Hambridge and Texas bluesman Jim Suhler.

First up is “Wishing Well,” where Tim warns against those false prophets, who offer you a chance to “pay for Heaven, but you go to Hell.”  This one has some cool solos traded off between Tim and one of Nashville’s best, Bob Britt.  “Big Ole House” has Jon Coleman’s haunting piano lines painting a somber picture of “an empty box” since Tim’s lover departed.  And, “Little Gun Motel,” is pure roadhouse boogie about a mythical house of ill repute down on Elvis Presley Boulevard, where, “by the night or by the day, the desk clerk looks the other way!”  Slim’s slide drives this one all the way from Beale to Sixteenth Avenue and back again!

The deep cuts are still as awesome as when we first heard them back in the day.  Check out Slim’s  ode to strippers with the humorous “Dollar Girls,” and the “scary woman with two teeth and two black eyes,” “The Devil Lives In A Double Wide.”  And, two cuts show Slim’s passion for deep, cathartic, guitar-driven  slow-blues, with help from Jimmy Hall y’all on vocals on “Good To See You Smile Again,” and Lauren Evans on a classic plea for for forgiveness and redemption, “The Light.”

Tim “Too Slim” Langford’s current lineup of Taildraggers now includes Stretch Hanson on bass, and Shakey Fowlkes on drums.  Tim is also featured in a photo exhibit at the Nashville International Airport and at the Country Music Hall Of Fame.  His “Anthology” is simply the icing on the cake!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society…