Archive for September, 2014

Ben Rabb EP review…September 10, 2014…

BEN RABB

UNTIL IT’S GONE

SELF-RELEASED

ON THE FENCE–NEW YORK–HERE RIGHT NOW–BILL–RAGGED BLUES–TAKE MY HAND

Ben Rabb grew up in the Midwest, listening to his sister’s folk music collection.  He moved to St. Louis seeking work after graduation, but soon began a city-to-city trek that would eventually land him in New York by his mid-twenties, his stories from that trip filling what would soon become his own repertoire.

Once in NYC, he embraced the Writer’s Nights and “in-the-rounds,” and fit right in.  However, he found the city to be in a constant state of flux.  His latest EP, “Until It’s Gone,” reflects that, as well as his struggles with the “should I stay or should I go?” question.

Ben is a classic fingerpicker with a rich, warm vocal style.  Over the course of the six originals and twenty-three minutes of this set, he exposes some of his most personal feelings and shares them with us.  The opening cut finds him recalling a youth where he “could never stay too long in one place,” but now as maturity sets in, he realizes that love is “two broken hearts On The Fence.”  Eric Law’s cello embellishes “New York,” while “Here Right Now” fnds Ben encouraging a lover to take that “leap of faith,” in the name of love.  “Bill” paints a portrait of a “simple, solemn man,” who’s motto has always been “what’s wrong with wonderin, as long as the ground’s planted under your feet.”

Perhaps the most powerful cut is the closing “Take My Hand,” written after seeing a news account of the Syrian civil war.  It puts a somber spin on “news linked to a world watching pain” and a place where “it’s been three years since the kids went to school.”  He really reaches out in this one, longing for compassion and perhaps some common sense from those who believe that war is the only answer.

Ben Rabb has that rare storyteller’s gift of being able to adapt his own experiences as well as those of others into concise, snapshot-like moments in time that bring listeners into his realm.  “New York” begs to be heard—and to be longer.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow,  The Nashville Blues Society.

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Hurricane Ruth review…September 9, 2014…

HURRICANE RUTH

BORN ON THE RVER

SELF-PRODUCED

BORN ON THE RIVER–MAKE LOVE TO ME–SLOW BURN–THE WALLS–DANCE DANCE NORMA JEAN–MONEY TRAIN–COLD DAY IN HELL–BIG HELEN–WORK IT–WHISKEY CHUTE–REAL GOOD WOMAN

Ruth LaMaster was born in Beardstown, IL, a small town situated along the Illinois River.  She got the moniker “Hurricane Ruth” when fans found it hard to believe that such a powerful voice could come from a woman of such small stature.  The great Willie Dixon summed her up even better–“Ruth, you are the only hurricane I can appreciate!”

Her music is borne of that river, and the stories of the people who live along it and draw their livelihoods from it–honest, hard-working people who enjoy some gritty, tough blues to help them unwind at the end of the day.

On “Born On The River,” Ruth gives ’em just that–eleven originals with a decidedly-hard edge, perpetuated by the fiery guitar stylings of David Lumsden.  Gary Davis and Jim Engel round out the foursome, on bass and drums, rspectively, and they let Ruth’s mighty vocals lead the way.

She starts off with the crunch of the title cut, basically an autobigraphy, as the river was always a part of her dreams as a child and her coming-of-age, and, seemingly always will be.  David has a huge, stinging solo at the turn on this one, too.

There are some hard-lovin’ women in these grooves, too, and Ruth shares their hard-luck stories.  A lover who’s gone for good causes “The Walls of this house to close in on me,” with another hell-bent break from David.  Ruth comes on strong in the passionate punch of “Make Love To Me,” and, in the set-closer, reminds everyone that she’s “A Real Good Woman,” lookin’ for that special someone to “share the love you save!”

There are some good times to be had on that river, too.  The working men are all familiar with “Big Helen” and her stable of “charmers,” set over a danceably-funky groove.  And, a trip down to the “Whiskey Chute” is a sure way to drown your pain!

Our favorite was easy.  A safe way to let off steam in this small town is to put on some records or the radio for some cleansing music.  “Mama ” danced to ’em all—Little Richard, Fats, Chuck, Muddy, and many more—while “Daddy was at the tavern!”  This is the serious, boogie-chillen thump of “Dance Dance Norma Jean,” one huge slice of fun!

Well, let’s “fire one up and knock back a few”  and celebrate the great blues of Hurricane Ruth and “Born On The River!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

Rob Stone review…September 5, 2014…

ROB STONE

GOTTA KEEP ROLLIN

VIZZTONE LABEL GROUP  VTMQ 10013

WAIT BABY–WONDERFUL TIME–LUCKY 13–ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN–SHE BELONGS TO ME–MOVE BABY MOVE–STROLLIN’ WITH SASQUATCH–WIRED AND TIRED–COLD WINTER DAY–IT’S EASY WHEN YOU KNOW HOW–NOT NO MO’

A new album from harmonica ace Rob Stone is always welcomed, as he stays so busy touring all over the world that he hardly can find the time to hit the studios.  But, Vizztone Records has just released “Gotta Keep Rollin,” and it is more of the high-octane combo blues that Rob has been layin’ down since his first album, “No Worries,” back in 1998.

Rob is a Boston native, but honed his craft in the ultra-competitive Chicago club scene, and even spent some time playing in Colorado biker bars before Sam Lay called in the early Nineties.  Sam considered Rob as “the best harp player I ever worked with”—heady stuff, indeed, from a man who drummed for Paul Butterfield!  Chris James and Patrick Rynn were in Sam’s band back then, too, and they contribute guitar and bass, respectively.  Willie Hayes is on drums, and several special guests make this a powerful set, for sure.

The party kicks off with a cool cover of Chicago pianist Johnny Jones’ “Wait Baby,” a swingin’ groove that sets the tone for everything else that follows.  Rob’s harp takes on a “country blues” tone on the jump-blues of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Wonderful Time,” and this theme is revisited on “Move Baby Move,” with a cool sax break from legend Eddie Shaw.

Rob knows a bluesman’s life is a gamble, but his promise to “keep on rollin’ the dice” is found in the rockin’ blues of “Lucky 13,” featuring guitar from John Primer, and piano from David Maxwell.  A cool song about livin’ on a steady diet of caffeine is “Wired And Tired,” with Henry Gray on piano.  And, a lover who is given her walkin’ papers is told, “you’ll need me on some old Cold Winter Day,” a sweet slow blues again with John Primer on guitar.

We had two favorites, too, one cover and one original.  “She Belongs To Me” is sparsely-arranged, with brush-stroked drums and Chris’ leads set over a menacing, echo-effect vocal from Rob, telling anyone who’s listening that “if you fool with my woman, I’ll cut you, 1-2-3.”  And, the title cut is a cool band original that chronicles the travails and tribulations of a life on the road, as we all know “The Blues Keep Rollin’ On!”

Yep, those blues “Gotta Keep Rollin,” and we’ve gotta have guys such as Rob Stone to keep bringing ’em to us.  He’s got the whole package–a tremendous vocalist and harp man, with a keen ear for insightful, clever lyrics.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society

Sena Ehrhardt review…September 2, 2014…

SENA EHRHARDT

LIVE MY LIFE

BLIND PIG RECORDS  BPCD 5161

STAKES HAVE GONE UP–THINGS YOU SHOULDN’T NEED TO KNOW–SLOW DOWN–HELP ME THROUGH THE DAY–LIVE MY LIFE–CHILLED TO THE BONE–TOO LATE TO ASK–EVERYBODY IS YOU–IF TROUBLE WAS MONEY–DID YOU EVER LOVE ME AT ALL–COME CLOSER

For her latest album for Blind Pig, Sena Ehrhardt has embraced some big changes as far as production and band personnel.  Of course, her big, soulful, passionate voice is the star,  but her bandmates and producer are different.  The set is entitled “Live My life,” and is produced by Jimmy Z, who has had great success with the likes of Prince, Buddy Guy, and Jonny Lang, just to name a few.  Sena’s father, who had been on guitar on her previous albums, has stepped aside for this one, in favor of Cole Allen.  Together, these changes give this album an overall harder edge.

Over the course of the album, Sena takes some hard looks at love and relationships, some good, some not so much.  A hard lesson is learned when you find out some “Things You Shouldn’t Need To Know,” altho it may be too late to save things.  This one features a great slide break from Smokin’ oe Kubek, too.  Cole’s hard-charging leads roll over Sena’s vocals on her powerful look at independence, “Live My Life.”  Cole’s guitar takes on a snarling, grunge-like persona as a doubting Sena begs the question, “Did You Ever Love Me At All?”  Sena and Cole  portray battling-then-apologetic lovers each wondering if it is “Too Late To Ask” for that mythical second chance.

Sena does manage to find some silver linings deep down, tho.  An ode to true love is “Help Me Make It Through The Day,” while a love affair borne of wartime in 1951 survives for a lifetime, weathering all the storms life can throw at the lovers, as each urges the other one to “Come Closer” for eternal safety.

We had two favorites, too.  Sena and the fellows break off into a very danceable, funky groove in “Everybody Is You,” and Sena stretches out vocally on a smokin’ read of Albert Collins’ “If Trouble Was Money, you know I’d be a millionaire!”

Sena Ehrhardt’s voice is a powerful instrument unto itself, and she sings from a place deep down in her soul with zealous conviction.  Her new band has given her a harder edge, and “Live My Life” is a very rewarding listen!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.