Archive for June, 2014

Ronnie Earl And The Broadcasters review…June 13, 2014…

RONNIE EARL AND THE BROADCASTERS

GOOD NEWS

STONY PLAIN CD  SPCD 1372

I MET HER ON THAT TRAIN–CHANGE IS GONNA COME–TIME TO REMEMBER–IN THE WEE HOURS–GOOD NEWS–SIX STRING BLESSING–MARJE’S MELODY–BLUES FOR HENRY–PUDDIN’ PIE–RUNNIN’ IN PEACE

On May 8, 2014, at the 35TH Blues Awards, Ronnie Earl was named Best Guitarst.  June 17 will usher in more “Good News,” which just happens to be the title of his eighth set for Stony Plain.  it consists of ten predominantly-instrumental cuts that explore Ronnie’s love for the blues–in fact, he refers to it as his “mother music,” and, as such, tries to reach into the soul of the listener to help them feel what he’s feeling as he plays, which is yet another reason why that Best Guitarist award was so well-deserved.

Joining Ronnie are the Broadcasters, who have been with him since the late Eighties.  Dave Limina is on keys, Jim Mouradian on bass, and Lorne Entress on drums.  Also, Diane Blue adds vocals on a few cuts, and guest guitarists Nicholas Tabarias and Zach Zunis round things out.

Ronnie’s guitar literally speaks volumes on this set.  “Time To Remember” is a breezy, samba-styled jazz groove, while “Puddin’ Pie” has a mellow, mid-tempo swing thing goin’ on.  Dave Limina’s original piece serves as the title cut, and his B-3 work gives this one a decidedly good-time gospel feel.  “Blues For Henry,” co-written with Hubert Sumlin, is a perfect “3AM and it’s last call” song, where you can immerse yourself in that slow, deep groove and just let it wash your troubles away.  And, the set closes on a somewhat somber note, with the tribute to those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings from April, 2013,  as “Runnin’ In Peace” features  lyrics written by Ilana Katz Katz, who was near the finish line when the first bomb exploded.  Diane Blue’s vocal mixed withRonnie’s guitar and Dave’s B-3 really convey the deep emotions associated with this song.

We had two favorites, too.  The set’s leadoff cut is “I Met Her On That Train,” and the vintage sounds he brings out of his guitar will transport you back to a time when Elvis and Junior Parker rode that train that was always “sixteen coaches long.”  And, the inspiration for the album itself is tied in historically with the 50TH annicversary of the release of Sam Cooke’s album, “Ain’t That Good News.”  It featured a song that would become the anthem for the Civil Rights movement, “A Change Is Gonna Come,” and Diane Blue’s fever-pitch vocal captures the passion and spirit that was Cooke’s original intent.

Ronnie Earl has that innate ability as an artist to create things of beauty out of one’s deepest pain, using just the strings on his guitar.  “Good News” adds more luster to his legacy as one of the finest guitarists of our generation.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Forrest McDonald Band review…June 11, 2014…

FORREST MCDONALD BAND

TURNAROUND BLUES

WORLD TALENT RECORDS

TURNAROUND BLUES–CHECKING ON MY BABY–RIVER OF TEARS–CROSS MY HEART–I’M A FOOL–V-8 FORD–R &  R BYE BYE BYE–ONLY LOVE–WOMAN ACROSS THE OCEAN–FUNNY THING BABY–NOW I KNOW–STAY OR WALK AWAY–TWO FOR THE MONEY, PARTS 1 & 2 (INST.)

Yes sir, buddy.  That indeed is Austin native Forrest McDonald’s guitar all over one of the most recognizable songs of the entire rock era, Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock And Roll.”  It’s been used to sell cat food and Tom  Cruise immortalized it in film in “Risky Business.”   (You can read all about how it came to pass on Forrest’s website, and also over at  http://www.songfacts.com–it is a very cool story!)   Forrest has a bluesman’s soul, tho, and he has just released his twelfth set for World Talent Records, “Turnaround Blues,”  fourteen cuts that show why Forrest McDonald has had a career that covers some fifty years—he’s a helluva guitar player who can bring a crowd to its feet with a driving boogie shuffle, or bring ’em to their knees with a slow-burner, and even get a bit tripped-out on the spacey jam that he shares with Tony Carey that closes the set, “Two or The Money.”

Along with Forrest on guitars and Tony on keys, there is Andrew Black on vocals, Lee Gammon on bass, John McKnight on drums, and Jon Liebman on vocals and harp.  They really lay down a tight groove over the whole set, starting with the rockin’ funk of the title cut, a song that Forrest has been playing since 1972.  Jon Liebman’s harp drives Junior Wells’ “Checking On My Baby,” and he and Tony do some serious wailing on “Cross My Heart.”

As the set progresses, the music turns a deeper, darker shade of blue, and the fellows get into some ferocious jamming.  “Woman Across The Ocean” is Forrest’s and Andrew’s “answer” to Freddie King’s “Woman Across The River,” and this one has a happier ending, and Andrew sho’ nuff kicks ass on the vocal, too. He shines on another slow blues, too, Forrest’s tribute to the classic sounds of the 40’s and 50’s, “Only Love.”

We had two favorites, too.  Jon Liebman burns up the reeds on his harp and the grooves on the record on the Chicago blues classic, Cotton’s kinda-morbidly-funny tale of “ridin’ down to your burial in my V-8 Ford!”  Presented here as a slow blues, it’s a killer.  And, Andrew Black turns in perhaps the set’s most outstanding vocal performance, reminiscent of Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes, on the soulful “I’m A Fool,” another good ‘un that Forrest has had in his back pocket since 1970.

Forrest McDonald pulls no punches.  Everything he plays is “Certified Blue” all  the way through.  With “Turnaround Blues,’ he and the band have cooked up another sure-fire winner!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

 

Steve Freund and Gloria Hardiman review…June 10, 2014….

STEVE FREUND AND GLORIA HARDIMAN

SET ME FREE

DELMARK RECORDS  DE 837

YOU GOT ME (WHERE YOU WANT ME)–THAT’S ALL RIGHT–JAMMIN’ WITH SAM–THE WAY YOU LOVE ME–LET ME DOWN EASY–DR FEELGOOD–WELL I DONE GOT OVER IT–NEW ORLEANS HOP SCOP BLUES–THE THINGS I USED TO DO–KIDNEY STEW BLUES–HOMEWORK–KIDDIO–SHOPPIN’ AND SNACKIN’–SWANEE RIVER BOOGIE

The good folks over at Delmark Records have done it again!  Hot on the heels of their re-issue of Queen Sylvia and John Embry’s “Troubles” earlier this year from the Razor label, they have just released “Set Me Free” (also originally on the Razor imprint), the very first recordings of guitarist Steve Freund, keyboard whiz Ken Saydak, and the unbelieveable vocal stylings of Gloria Hardiman!

Steve Freund was born in Brooklyn,  but became a true Chicagoan thru his guitar work on several of his own sets for Delmark, as well as numerous guest spots for other artists.  Gloria Hardiman was literally an unknown when this set was recorded.  All that was for sure was that she possessed one of the toughest, most passionate voices in any genre’, honed thru a lifetime of gospel influences from her family’s church worship.  She was “discovered,” as it were, by the set’s producers at one of Steve’s after-hours gigs, and the seeds for this set were sown.

The music is classic Chicago soul and blues at its grittiest, down-home best.  Gloria’s lead vocals grace nine cuts, while there are two outstanding instrumentals, and Steve takes a turn on lead vocal on “The Things I Used To Do,” with Ken’s barrelhouse piano and Sam Burckhardt’s sax backing.  The set closes on a somewhat unusual note, but it is well worth mentioning for us.  A rare 45 RPM of Ken Saydak ends the set.  He has long been one of our favorites, and is one of those genuine unsung heroes of the Chicago scene.  His “Shoppin’ And Snackin” is ne of the funniest, most politically-incorrect songs we’ve ever heard!  And, Fats Domino’s “Swanee River Boogie” has always been a favorite of ours, and Ken matches its fire and intensty with just him and his 88’s.

Steve and Gloria really turn up the heat, tho.  She sings Jimmy Rogers’ “That’s All Right” from the woman’s point of view, with Steve’s blistering runs and Sunnyland Slim’s piano adding emphasis.  Ron Sorin adds harp on the classic minor-key read of “I can’t do my Homework any more,” and a jazzy version of Brook Benton’s “Kiddio.”

Her gospel influences fired up her two best performances, tho.  She downright testifies as the pleading lover in “Let Me Down Easy,” then gets her groove on over Steve’s West-Side sounding guitar on Aretha’s ode to the ultimate lover, “Dr. Feelgood!”

Obviously, this is a set that we cannot say enough good things about.  Steve Freund has since relocated to the Bay area, but one could tell from this debut he would be a great player, and Gloria Hardiman’s dazzling vocals led to the title of this project, as the power of the blues presented herein will sho’ nuff “Set Me Free!!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

The Reverend Shawn Amos review…June 9, 2014…

THE REVEREND SHAWN AMOS

TELLS IT

PUT TOGETHER RECORDS

HOODOO MAN BLUES–(THE GIRL IS) HEAVY–I’M THE FACE–SOMETHING INSIDE OF ME–GOOD MORNING, SCHOOL GIRL–SOMETIMES I WONDER

Bluesman Shawn Amos is the son of former William Morris agent Wally “Famous” Amos, (yes, the cookie mogul!), and R & B vocalist Shirlee May.  He cites his biggest influence was just being around the L. A. scene as a young man which led to him producing and performing with Solomon Burke.  As such, he has dedicated his lsatest release, a six-song EP entitled “Tells It” to Burke’s memory.

Shawn is also an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church, and his ability to “testify” translates well onto the groovres of these four covers and two originals.  Shawn is on harp and vocals, with Don Medina on drums, Chris Roberts on guitar, Ed Terrio on bass, and Anthony Marinelli on keys.

And, testify he does, about his amazing lover, “(The Girl Is) Heavy,” not in the “kilogrammatical” sense, but, let’s just say that everything she does, she sho’ nuff does it good!  Cool accompaniment comes in the form of Chris’ vibrato guitar and funky B-3 from Anthony.  Shawn’s harp takes center stage on a swampy, Excello-fied take on the Who’s “I’m The Face,” as Shawn turns up the swagger over Don’s pounding backbeat.  And, Shawn treats us to a bit of upper-register falsetto on his vocal in the stripped-down slow-burn of Elmore James’ “Something Inside Of Me,'” with Chris’ guitar ringin’ like a bell over the whole thang.

As for favorites, we gravitated toward the first and the last.  Shawn again channels that braggadocio of Jumior Wells in a burnin’ read of “Hoodoo Man Blues,” with his harp unleashed and Chris doin’ his best Buddy Guy-amped-thru-the-Leslie interpretation.  And, the set-closing original, “Sometimes I Wonder,” is a perfect example of Shawn’s R & B influences.  When he sings tthis one, he digs deeply into his soul, telling his lover that “you’re gonna see what my love can do!!”   For us, this one ended much too soon…..

The Reverend Shawn Amos had a literay “blues Epiphany,” and the strong, testifyin’ vocals in this set are honest, sincere, and full of the passion he brings to all his endeavors.  Sho’ nuff, Shawn Amos “Tells It” like it is!!  Until next time…sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

Dave Specter review…June 4, 2014…

DAVE SPECTER

WITH OTIS CLAY

MESSAGE IN BLUE

DELMARK RECORDS  DE 836

NEW WEST SIDE STROLL–GOT TO FIND A WAY–THIS TIME I’M GONE FOR GOOD–MESSAGE IN BLUE–CHICAGO STYLE–I FOUND A LOVE–FUNKIFIED OUTTA SPACE–SAME OLD BLUES–THE STINGER–JEFFERSON STOMP–WATCHDOG–THE SPECTIFYIN SAMBA–OPUS DE SWAMP

Dave Specter is a man of many moods when it comes to blues guitar.  The Chicago native is equally at home blasting out a funky, West Side-flavored number as he is in playing vintage R & B, and even a taste of jazz.  His ability to draw from all these sources is why he is such a pleasure to listen to, and it’s what makes his latest album for Delmark, “Message In Blue,” so irresistibly good.

Dave knows the importance of the backing crew, and he’s got some fine ones behind him.  The core band is Dave on guitar, Harlan Terson on bas, Marty Binder on drums, and local hero Brother John Kattke on keys and on lead vocal on three cuts.  There are a few special guests, also, as Bob Corritore adds harp to two cuts, and the mighty mighty soul man himself, Otis Clay, takes lead vocal on three classic cuts.

Dave will be the first to say that he’s not afraid to sing, but would rather play behind a singer, as, to him, his guitar is his voice.  On this set, he lays down seven instrumentals, all of which take a varied path down the blues highway.  Check out “Funkified Outta Space,” which features a Meters-style groove, and “The Spectified Samba,” a Latin-tinged piece that has Dave’s guitar in lock-step with Boom Brumbach’s sax, as they follow one another, note for note!  The country-blues of “Jefferson Stomp” features Bob Corritore’s harp, and the driving beat gives the illusion of being on a freight train headin’ south to the Delta!  And, the set closes with “Opus De Swamp,” with Dave’s tremolo guitar and Bob’s harp layin’ down a deep Bayou groove.

The vocal cuts brought forth some truly amazing performances.  Brother John Kattke gives a fine read of the swingin’ Lonnie Brooks shuffle, “Watchdog,” and sizzles on the too-cool-for-school “Chicago Style,” which name-checks all the Windy City legends from “the South Side to the Magnificent Mile!”

Soul great Otis Clay is in rare form herein, also. Dave’s affinity for classic soul plays well behind Otis’ fiery take on “Got To Find A Way,” and again on the minor-key slow-burn tribute to Bobby Bland, “This Time I’m Gone For Good.”  And, Dave nails that vibrato guitar lick that is prevalent throughout Pickett’s “I Found A Love,” while Otis flat knocks this one outta the park with his down-on-bended-knee-styled testifyin’ vocal.

Dave Specter has been a torch-bearer  for the classic Chicago blues guitar sound throughout his career, adding his own flairs to give things that persnal touch that differentiates him from the rest of the pack.  “Message In Blue” is Dave’s most impressive set thus far!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

 

Dave Fields review…June 3, 2014…

DAVE FIELDS

ALL IN

FMI RECORDS

CHANGES IN MY LIFE–VOODOO EYES–LET’S GO DOWNTOWN–BLACK WIDOW–CROSS ROAD–WAKE UP JASPER–BLACK DOG–NOT GONNA LET YOU GET AWAY–GOT A  HOLD ON ME–THAT’S ALL RIGHT–LOVER’S HOLIDAY

Dave Fields is one of the most dazzling, cutting-edge guitarists on the scene today.  He grew up in NYC, the son of famed composer Sammy Fields, and it wasn’t unusual for him to see  guys such as Stevie Wonder and Rupert Holmes in his father’s studio.  A nanny from Waycross, GA, introduced him to the soul of Southern culture, and these varied influences are evident throughout his music.

His latest release, entitled “All In,” is simply a guitar-lover’s dream.  He incorporates nine originals with two unusual covers herein, each showcasing a different shade of Dave’s blues.  The opening cut is a sweet taste of things to come, as Dave wrings out an ethereal solo before breaking into a tale of perserverance and “rollin’ with the Changes In My Life,” which features another hot solo mid-song.  Vladimir Barsky’s organ augments Dave’s soulful vocal on the story of the kind of girl we’ve all known–the one where “one look and you’re hooked” with those “Voodoo Eyes.”  He revisits this theme later on in a cool song done in stop-time, SRV-style, the staccato strut of “that girl’, She Got A Hold On Me.”

Let’s get to the favorites.  “Cross Road” is indeed the Robert Johnson classic, and Dave delivers it here as a near-Hill-Country stomp, with his guitar setting up a trance-like “wall of sound” over Kenny Soule’s stompin’ beats.  Next is a live recording from Norway, as Dave strips down Led Zep’s “Black Dog” to its base, bare-bones elements, and we simply couldn’t get enough of it done this way!  At the opposite end of Dave’s blues spectrum is the highly-contagious groove of “Let’s Go Downtown, where they play the blues,’ as he name-checks landmarks all over his hometown, “from Harlem south to Union Square!”  Another great tune for the dancers is the Elmore James-inspired rocker, “Wake Up Jasper,” where Dave literally plays his guitar like ringin’ a bell!”  And, the set closes with Dave’s nod to the doo-wop history of New York, with the street corner serenade of “Lover’s Holiday.”

Dave Fields is one of those rare bluesmen who never ceases to amaze with his deep passions for rock, blues, and soul.  With “All In,” we will close with this—somewhere out there, Jimi and Stevie Ray are smiling their approval….Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

David Vest review…June 1, 2014….

DAVID VEST

ROADHOUSE REVELATION

CORDOVA BAY RECORDS  CBR 1182

FREIGHT TRAIN ROLLING–STAND YOUR GROUND–RAMBLIN’ MAN–YOU CAME THROUGH–STREETCAR–GONE TOO FAR–CROOKED POLITICIAN–SANTA FE STEAMER–THAT HAPPENED TO ME–HEART FULL OF ROCK AND ROLL–PRETTY THINGS FOR ANNE

Lately, we have been privy to a veritable plethora of works from brilliant pianists who strive to keep the boogi-woogie rolling and at the forefront of contemporary blues.  Recent releases include sets from Jumpin Jack Strobel, Arthur Migliazza, and Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne, all rockin’ with a steady roll.  Add to that list one David Vest, and “Roadhouse Revelation,” ten originals and one cool cover that show David as not only a fine barrellhouse player, but a master of other sounds and styles as well.

David was born in Birmingham, AL, altho he now calls Canada home.  By the time he was seventeen, he was playing juke joints all over the Gulf Coast, and, at twenty-one, was backing Big Joe Turner.

On these cuts, we are treated to all of David’s influences.  He’s backed by Teddy Leonard on guitar, Gary Kendall on bass, and Mike Fitzpatrick on drums.  They start the party with the rollicking “Freight Train Rolling,” and revisit the R & B and rock and roll of his youth with the poignant love story, “You Came Through,” and “Heart Full Of Rock And Roll,”  a rare live recording from a house concert at DarLyn Studios near Edmonton, AB.  “Santa Fe Steamer” is a left-hand-heavy tribute to all the greats, from Ammons to Domino to Pinetops Smith and Perkins.  A killer beat runs thru David’s version of Luke The Drifter’s “Ramblin’ Man,” with Terry’s slide beckoning you to join them down that Lost Highway.

We had several favorites, too.  “That Happened To Me” has David reminding us that hard times can hit anybody, but the blues can be used to lift up your spirits.  From 2002 to 2006, David was vocalist for the Paul deLay band, and “Crooked Politician” was a cool song on which the two collaborated.  It follows a second-line pattern, where we learn something we should already know—“a crooked politician is only interested in his own condition!”  “Gone Too Far” would’ve been a great vehicle for the Killer back in the day, and has that Sun Records vibe all thru it.  And, “Stand Your Ground” is a kick-ass blues-rocker with Terry’s guitar lines giving it a vintage Stones sound.

David Vest has come a long way down the blues highway since opening for Roy Orbison on New Year’s Day in 1962.  He’s got that old-school feel down in his soul, which makes “Roadhouse Revelation” such a delightful listen!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.