Archive for August, 2014

Grady Champion review…August 30, 2014…

GRADY CHAMPION

BOOTLEG WHISKEY

MALACO RECORDS 7546

BEG, BORROW, STEAL–BOOTLEG WHISKEY–DON’T WASTE MY TIME–HOME ALONE–TEN DOLLARS–SOUTH SIDE–WHO DAT–HERE WE GO Y’ALL–I TRIPPED AND FELL IN LOVE–MR. RIGHT–WHITE BOY WITH THE BLUES

If you are a blues fan, likely you are familiar with Malaco Records, especially if you have lived ’round these parts for very long.  The storied “Last Soul Company” has been home to some of the greats of the genre’–Dorothy Moore, Little Milton, Z. Z. Hill, and that’s just a few.

Growing up in rural Canton, MS, Grady Champion was exposed to those Malaco legends via his family’s record collection.  Young Grady embraced those sounds to such an extent that he chose that as a career.  He won the IBC in Memphis in 2010, and now finds himself a part of that iconic label.  He has just released “Bootleg Whiskey” on Malaco, and the set was produced by label chief Tommy Couch, Jr.  Grady wrote or co-wrote five of the eleven cuts, and this set shows off his maturity as a vocalist, harpman, storyteller, and creator of songs for the dancers!

Grady is a master of making everybody feel good with some straight-up, down-home blues.  He rides that “endless boogie” for all it’s worth on the autobiographical “Here We Go Y’all”—“give me a harp and watch me blow, and give me a guitar and watch me roll!”  The title cut is a smooth slab of Southern soul, with fine sax from Micah Brown and Clayton Ivey’s unmistakable keyboards.  “Home Alone” takes a hard look at a lover who’s “always in the streets, and never at home,” and Grady really lets loose on the harp on this one.  “South Side” is the current single, and it rides a smooth groove as Grady explains the side of town in every famous city where “there’s a party on every block!”

We had two favorites, too.  Grady gets down-and-dirty to tell a lover that he’s had enough in the stop-time patter of “Don’t Waste My Time.”  And, the set-closer also serves as the most somber cut on the album.  The tragic ending to a childhood friendship shows Grady’s gospel upbringing as “Amazing Grace” and “Precious Memories” are interspersed throughout the poignant tale of a “White Boy With The Blues,” featuring soaring backup from the Crowns Of Joy.”

Grady Champion has made it “home” to Malaco Records, where he always wanted to be.  He’ll tell you right up front, too, that “the blues ain’t nothin’ but people havin’ fun, so get out on the dance floor and get ya some,” and let “Bootleg Whiskey” be your soundtrack!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

Linsey Alexander review…August 29, 2014…

LINSEY ALEXANDER

COME BACK BABY

DELMARK RECORDS  DE 838

LITTLE BIT OF SOAP–BOOZE AND BLUES–I GOT A WOMAN–COME BACK BABY–CALL MY WIFE–THINGS DONE CHANGED–CAN’T DRINK, CAN’T SLEEP, CAN’T EAT–BOOTY CALL–TOO OLD TO BE A NEW FOOL–SNOWING IN CHICAGO–I CAN’T QUIT YOU BABY–FUNKY FEELING–GOIN’ OUT WALKIN’

Linsey Alexander continues to be one of the hardest-working bluesmen in that very competitive Windy City club scene.  An accomplished guitarist, and vocalist, his witty, humorous, and thought-provoking original lyrics are becoming more prevalent as his career continues to flourish.  His latest CD for Delmark is “Come Back Baby,” and is thirteen cuts, eleven of which are Linsey originals.

Born in Holly Springs, MS, his family moved to Memphis when he was twelve or so, and he took up the guitar shortly thereafter.  He took off for Chicago around 1960, not to play music or to seek work, but to follow a woman he was in love with.  That “love affair” is documented in song on this set, thru the gritty, hard-biting “Snowing In Chicago.”

When he first came into Chicago and got involved in the music scene, he prided himself on being a “soul man” of sorts–he could sing and play all the hits of the day by guys such as James Brown and Tyrone Davis, and crowds appreciated it all over town.  That is why that about half of the cuts on this set follow that soul-blues vibe, and are augmented by his killer horn section.

Let’s get to the songs, tho.  If you dig yo’self some slow blues, don’t go no further than the deep, scorching “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” and the humorous “Too Old To Be A New Fool,” where Linsey tells his lover that she’d be better off with one of those “low-pants-wearing young dudes,” and the story of “more woman than I’ll ever need,” “I Got A Woman.”  Both of these feature Billy Branch on the harp.

Linsey offers up a blues history lesson of sorts with the topical “Things Done Changed” from the days of painful segregation in the pre-Civil-Rights era.  And, the set closes with a cool shuffle, “Goin’ Out Walkin,” “till I get my baby back home!”

We had two favorites, too, one of the soul-blues cuts, and one of the more traditional-sounding ones.  First up, you just can’t beat Linsey for good-time, down-home lyrics on subjects that we are all familiar with, and he lets it all hang out with a seriously “well-rounded” young lady who’s the subject of his “Booty Call.”  Another cut with Billy Branch on harp is the hilarious tale of a man too drunk to get home, so somebody needs to “Call My Wife so she can come down to my girlfriend’s house to get me!”

Linsey Alexander is a real crowd-pleaser no matter where he plays, because he’s been around long enough to know what the people want, and he gives it to ’em.  “Come Back Baby” is just that—a clever mix of soul-flavored blues and traditional blues from one of Chicago’s premier players!    Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Generation Blues Experience review…August 28, 2014…

GENERATION BLUES EXPERIENCE

PRIVATE ANGEL

R MUSIC INC

LITTLE MAMA–PRIVATE ANGEL–CRAZY–RAININ–KATRINA–SUGAR MOMMA–PUT LOVE ON YOUR GUEST LIST–AIN’T NO SUNSHINE

Ray Goren is a child prodigy who began on jazz piano, but migrated to blues guitar around the ripe old age of eight.  At twelve, a family friend arranged for Ray to meet some of South Central L. A.’s best bluesmen.  Ray ventured down to Bell’s Blues Workshop, a converted garage now serving as a juke joint.  The young man struck up an instant friendship with eighty-year old Jamie “Bluesboy” Powell, a guitarist, and harp man Sammy Lee, himself past seventy.  The ‘generation gap” was closed thru their love of the blues, as Ray’s unbelieveable guitar and vocal skills meshed perfectly with the wisdom and experience of Jamie and Sammy.  They quickly released a couple of albums, but wanted a set of original material.  Thus, The Generation Blues Experience has just released “Private Angel,” with everyone contributing on the original cuts.  Lester Lands adds bass, Tadg Galleran is on keys, and Albert Trepagnier, Jr., is on drums, along with the aforementioned trio of frontmen.

Ray Goren has to be heard to be appreciated, and, to be believed.  His prowess is on display throughout the set, but nowhere is it more prominent and powerful than on the eight-minute set-closing live version of “Ain’t No Sunshine,” which is literallyone dazzling solo after another, each reaching a more rousing height of fire and fury.

The whole set plays out for exactly what it is–a group of bluesmen having a helluva good time and putting it all down on tape.  It just happens that one of ’em is now all of fourteen years old, and possesses jaw-dropping abilities.  Check out Sammy’s soulfully-struttin’ vocal on the leadoff “Little Mama,”  and Lester Lands’ clarion call for us all to get along and “Put Love On Your Guest List and take hate off your mind!”  Ray’s guitar lines herein lean toward the jazzy side, in tandem with Tadgs’s piano.

We had several favorites, too.  Ray and the fellows have opened for B. B. King, and the title cut is a deep, minor-key blues where Ray’s vocals belie his youth as he sings of a “Private Angel,” where “love is all I see.”  His vocals and phrasings reminded us of Fenton Robinson.  Sammy’s harp-filled original, the swingin’ “Katrina” becomes an ode to the strength of the people affected by that storm.  And, Ray wrote a song specifically for Jamie, and it’s done up Muddy style with a stop-time pattern entitled “Crazy,” with Ray taking off into more uncharted regions on his solo.

The exuberance of youth combined with the savvy and wisdom of the long-in-the-tooth veterans is what pulls you into the Generation Blues Experience.  And, the past, present, and future of the blues can be found throughout the grooves of “Private Angel!”   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

Chris O’Leary review…August 26, 2014…

THE CHRIS O’ LEARY BAND

LIVE AT BLUES NOW!

VIZZTONE LABEL GROUP

GIVE IT–TROUBLE–LOUISIANA WOMAN–WALK THE WALK–WATER’S RISIN’–WISH YOU WOULD–MR. USED TO BE–BLUES IS A WOMAN–KING OF THE JUNGLE–THCOUPATOULIAS–WAITING FOR THE PHONE TO RING–HISTORY

Harpman and vocalist Chris O Leary spent six years in the Marines, and also six years as a bandleader for Levon Helm in the Woodstock, NY, area as a part of those legendary Midnight Ramble sessions.  Chris learned a lot from Helm in those days, and parlayed that work into two very well-received prior albums, “Mr. Used To Be,” and “Waiting For The Phone To Ring.”  His latest album for Vizztone is one that his fans (including us!) have been waiting for–a live set.  As such, “Live At Blues Now!” has just been released, with Chris and the band blasting thru twelve of his best crowd-pleasers, in front of an enthusiastic group of fans at this historic venue in Basel, Switzerland.

Chris O’ leary’s music is rooted in the traditions of the blues, but he’s not afraid to switch gears just a little to keep things fresh.  He is joined by Andy Stahl and Chris DiFrancesco on horns, Matt Raymond on bass, and Jason Devlin on drums.  Guitar duties are shared by Chris Vitarello and special guest Alex Schultz.

“Trouble” is a swingin’ shot of jump-blues with an extended solo and some cool call-and-response from Alex and Chris.  “Walk The Walk”  and the set-closing “History,” (which cleverly name-checks famous female lovers and the spells they cast over their menfolk!) are both stone-cold slabs of blues-funk tailor-made for the dancers!  Chris and Levon co-wrote “Water’s Risin,’ another clever look at the demise of a love affair, where, “I hope you can swim, baby, because our relationship might sink!”

Chris loves to dig deep into those swampy, voodoo-rich blues of Louisiana, and those cuts served as our favorites.  A way-cool segue’ into “Low Rider” during Billy Boy Arnold’s “Wish You Would” is a real crowd-pleaser, while Chris blows over that brooding beat in the tale of a “Louisiana Woman” with a “’65 LeSabre, the back seat reeks of sex.”  And, on a lighter note, everybody gets in a Mardi Gras mood down in “Tchoupatoulias,” where “that second-line is calling you!”

Chris O “Leary continues to hone his skills as a frontman on this most excellent live set.  Everyone gets a chance to shine, the crowd is into it, and “Live At Blues Now!” is everything a good live set oughta be!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

JP Soars review…August 25, 2014…

JP SOARS

FULL MOON NIGHT IN MEMPHIS

SOARS HIGH PRODUCTIONS

FULL MOON NIGHT IN MEMPHIS–BACK TO BROKE–MAKES NO SENSE–SOMETHIN AIN’T RIGHT–MEAN OLD WORLD–SAVIN’ ALL MY LOVIN’–REEFER MAN–WAY BACK HOME–THE BACK ROOM–THORN IN MY SIDE–VIPER–THE ROAD HAS GOT ME DOWN–LIL’ MAMA CITA–MISSIN’ YOUR KISSIN’

In 2009, JP Soars pulled off a rare feat.  He and his band, The Red Hots, not only won the IBC Band competition in Memphis, but JP won the prestigious Albert King award as the Challenge’s most promising guitarist.  Since that magical “Full Moon Night In Memphis,” JP’s career has certainly taken off.

That also serves as the title of his latest album, on the Soars High Productions label, and shows off more of JP’s brilliant talents, not only as a guitarist, but as a singer and composer as well.  As one listens to this collection, that’s the thing that’ll stay with you.  JP has a background in playing with jazz ensembles and even metal  bands along with his blues repertoire.  And, the ease with which he handles the different genres’ is readily apparent throughout these cuts.  He predominantly uses a hollow-body Epiphone, a dobro, a lap teel, and a homemade, two-string cigar-box guitar throughout, and the varying tones he coaxes out of them all adds to the vibe of this set, and it’s something for everyone to listen for.

That cigar box contraption kicks off the celebration with the autobiographical title cut, which also features harp from Brandon Santini.  These two giants team up again on “The Road Has Got Me Down,” a decidedly country-fied blues that has Teresa James on duet vocals.  JP goes for a bit of a wah-wah sound on the funky “Back To Broke,” where “all my money went up in smoke,” but is still a rich man “as long as I’ve got you.”  JP has some real fun with a full horn section and the rapid-fire fretwork that goes along with the tale of the “man who sells dimes for nickels,” that funny “Reefer Man.”  Terry Hanck is on sax as the set closes with another fine jump-blues cut, “Missin’ Your Kissin.”

We had several favorites, too. “The Back Room” follows a low-down-and-dirty Memphis Stax groove, while “Viper” is a perfect example of  JP’s affinity for Django Reinhardt-era jazz stylings.  And, that huge, T-Bone Walker-like tone that flows thru “Makes No Sense” really plays into JP’s versatility.

Since that “Full Moon Night In Memphis,” JP Soars has gotten better with each successive project,  This is truly a set that fans do not want to miss!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Jeff Ellis review…August 22, 2014…

JEFF ELLIS

LEARNING HOW TO LIVE

WHERE YOUR MEMORY CAN’T BE FOUND–NO ONE GOES HOME (TILL IT’S ALL GONE)–LOVERS WERE MADE FOR DAYS LIKE THIS–WHEN SHE COMES A’ KNOCKIN–ALREADY MADE UP YOUR MIND–MINING TOWN–HANGING AROUND–ALWAYS HARD TO SAY GOODBYE–NICKEL AND DIME–LEARNING HOW TO LIVE–LULLABY

For Jeff Ellis’ latest release, “Learning How To Live,” he took a couple of years to write and hone the songs to get the “feel” for them he was seeking.  And, during that time, he also did a lot of growing up himself.  The twelve originals that make up this set takes the listener literally down life’s (sometimes rocky) road along with Jeff.  He is the vocalist and guitarist throughout, altho many guests appear, as these tracks were recorded over the aforementioned span of a few years, and were done in the home studio of Jeff’s longtime friend, Eddie Ashworth, himself a veteran of the alternative and indie rock scene.  These songs grip you with their opennes and honesty as Jeff looks at life, love, and redemption thru the eyes of a young man coming-of-age.

Scathing guitars blast right out at you in the leadoff rocker, the tale of a broken love affair that has Jeff seeking that place “Where Your Memory Can’t Be Found.”  At the other end of love’s spectrum, beautiful days that are meant to be savored and not wasted is the theme of the tender “Lovers Were Made For Days Like This.”

Lovers and their constant struggles to stay together are a recurring theme of this set.  A girl with a penchant for coming and going has a true friend in Jeff, who’ll “always let her in, When She Comes A’ Knockin.”  Another song that looks at the power of friendship is the one that has Jeff’s spirits being lifted with “a bottle in tow, and an extra cup,” and “No One Goes Home, ’till it’s all gone.”

We had several favorites, too.  A soldier being deployed who has only his dreams to get him thru until he gets home finds it “Hard To Say Goodbye.”  A very cool song about living within one’s means is the poignant “Nickel And Dime,” teaching the lesson that “happy is the man who needs less than he’s got.”  And, corporate greed with no regard for the consequences is the story behind the demise of many a “Mining Town” across America’s heartland.

Jeff Ellis really shoots straight from the heart on “Learning How To Live.”  The lessons of life imparted within this set will have you wishing, as did we, that this set could’ve been longer….Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

Jeff Dale review…August 21, 2014….

JEFF DALE

AND THE SOUTH WOODLAWNERS

GOOD MUSIC

PRO SHO BIDNESS   PSB 4080

TOWN LINE ROAD–NAKED WOMAN IN MY BED–GOOD MUSIC–LETTER FROM THE BIRMINGHAM JAIL–FINAL DESTINATION–SHE LOVE ME–WAGON WHEEL–COLD WIND–BLACK AND WHITE–THE DEVIL I KNOW–MURDER–MY BRAIN TOOK THE WHOLE NIGHT OFF

Jeff Dale was indeed “born in Chicago,” and was immersed into the blues thru the music that permeated his neighborhood.  He was a quick study on the guitar, and, by his teens, he was accompanying the likes of Etta James and Pee Wee Crayton, to name just a few.  His band of South Woodlawners conain alumni from great bands all over the Windy City, and his third album since 2009 is his latest, “Good Music.”  It is twelve original cuts that draw from the wellspring of the foundation laid down by the Chicago masters, but Jeff “does his own thing,” and brings everything into today’s perspective to please today’s contemporary audiences.

The title cut sums up a famous quote by Satchmo Armstrong–“There are two kinds of music–good and bad–and I only play the good kind!”  Jeff has that feel for the blues down in his soul, and it comes out all over this set.  His looks at life and love are filled with wit, humor, pathos and life’s experiences.  The set starts with a chugging “endless boogie,” “Town Line Road,” which literally separates the rich from the poor on either side of it.  A series of life-altering misfortunes leaves Jeff with that “Cold Wind blowing thru my life again,” on ths minor-key classic slow-blueser.  “The Devil I Know” deals with the reasons people who stay in bad relationships because “there can always be a worse Devil “several levels below this one.”  A broken affair is perhaps the set’s most poignant moment, as Jeff checks the signpost up ahead, which reads, “your Final Destination is the blues!”

We had several favorites, too.  “Naked Woman In My Bed” has a driving horn section and harp from Glen Doll, with Jeff realizing, sadly, that, even tho she’s naked, “I had to go to work!”  Another humor-filled cut is a jump-blues number called “My Brain Took The Whole Night Off,” where a bevy of beautiful women has Jeff thinking, not with his brain, but with his….well, you get the picture!

On a more serious note, Jeff uses quotes from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter From The Birmingham Jail” to try and teach everyone the evils of social injustices.

Jeff Dale strikes a happy medium between serious looks at life interspersed with things to make you laugh, or at least say “hmmmm.”  He hit the nail on the head with the title of this set, too, ’cause Jeff Dale don’t play nothin’ but “Good Music!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.