Archive for December, 2014

Empire Roots Band review…Dec. 28, 2014…

THE EMPIRE ROOTS BAND

MUSIC FROM THE FILM

HARLEM STREET SINGER

ACOUSTIC SESSION RECORDS  ASC 220

KEEP YOUR LAMP TRIMMED AND BURNING–SEARCH MY HEART–MEAN OLD WORLD–THERE’S DESTRUCTION IN THIS LAND–SOON MY WORK WILL BE ALL DONE–TRYING TO GET HOME–SUNDAY CHURCH MEDLEY/BANKS OF THE RIVER/LET US GET TOGETHER–HESITATION–TWELVE GATES TO THE CITY–I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD/I BELONG TO THE BAND–ORANGITANG RAG

The Empire Roots Band is a quartet of some of New York’s finest blues musicians.  They consist of Dave Keyes on piano, Bill Sims, Jr., on vocals, Brian Glassman on bass, and Woody Mann on guitar, who learned guitar from the Rev. Gary Davis himself, which forms the premise for this set.  It is the soundtrack of the film “Harlem Street Singer,” of which Woody was one of the producers, which celebrates the life and times and spirit of Rev. Davis, and his immense contributions to the blues and gospel world.

Bill’s rich, resonant vocals bring the soul and spirit of the Reverend and his music to life, and the acoustic arrangements remain authentic to the era in which this music was created.  Anyone familiar with the Reverend’s music probably already have their own favorites, but this band really mixes the blues and gospel very effectively.

They lead off with the soul-stirring “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning,” while Dave’s acoustic piano brings out the blues in “Mean Old World,” and Bill’s vocal evokes the gospel feel of the song.  The somber “Soon My Work Will Be All Done” is another highlight, as was our personal favorite, “There’s Desruction In This Land,” with its stark reminder to “keep your ticket in your hand!” This one has some sweet call-and-response and a fine break at the bridge featuring Dave’s piano, then Woody’s guitar.

The Empire Roots Band do a faithful job of bringing the sounds of the Rev. Gary Davis to vibrant life, and the soundtrack to “Harlem Street Singer” showcases their talent fo giving this music the spirit needed to be appreciated!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Junior Wells review…Dec. 27, 2014…

JUNIOR WELLS

SOUTHSIDE BLUES JAM

DELMARK RECORDS  DE 628

STOP BREAKING DOWN–I COULD HAVE HAD RELIGION–JUST MAKE LOVE TO ME–LEND ME YOUR LOVE–LONG DISTANCE CALL–BLUES FOR MAYOR DALEY–IN MY YOUNGER DAYS–TROUBLE DON’T LAST

BONUS TRACKS–IT’S TOO LATE BROTHER–WARMIN’ UP–LOVE MY BABY–I COULD HAVE HAD RELIGION (ALT)–ROCK ME–LEXINGTON MOVIES–GOT TO PLAY THE BLUES

The fine folks at Delmark have done it again, this time with a reissue of Junior Wells’ “Southside Blues Jam.”  After the success of “Hoodoo Man Blues” a few years before, Junior got into deals with some other labels that ultimately led to a series of lackluster efforts that lasted for three years.  After he was free from those deals, he headed straight back “home” to Delmark, and the result was another gem in the annals of Chicago blues, “Southside Blues Jam.’  This reissue contains seven unreleased tracks as well.

This set also features Buddy Guy and Louis Myers on guitars, Fred Below on drums, Earnest Johnson on bass, and Otis Spann on piano.  This would serve, sadly, as the last recordings from Otis.  On this set, Junior is cool and relaxed, giving a performance almost like you’d hear at one of his live shows.  He starts off with “Stop Breaking Down,” with Junior and Otis playing off each other perfectly.  “Just Make Love To Me” and “Long Distance Call” are reminiscent of Junior’s days with Muddy, while “Lend Me Your Love” has Junior going toe-to-toe with his mother-in-law!  “Blues or Mayor Daley” becomes a “who’s who” in the annals of Chicago blues, and the original set closes with Buddy on vocal on the slow-blueser, “Trouble Don’t Last.”

The unreleased tracks yield some interesting stuff.  “Lexington Movies” is a humrous spoken-word tale that Junior tells on Louis Myers!  “Love My Baby” is a killer stop-time story of his “big-hipped woman,” and Rock Me” is done in tribute to Muddy.

This set is as loose, raw, and powerful as anything Junior ever waxed.  With this expanded edition of “Southside Blues Jam,” we get an even more intimate glimpse of the talents of this great harp man.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Robin Banks review…Dec. 25, 2014….

ROBIN BANKS

MODERN CLASSIC

RB 2014

A MAN IS JUST A MAN–SUPERHERO–I REALLY DIG YOU–CRAZY–MY BABY LOVES ME–A LITTLE BIT OF HEAVEN–I’LL MEET YOU THERE–TONIGHT–BITE YOUR TONGUE–YOU BOOGIE TOO FAST FOR ME–A PLACE IN THE CITY–SOME DAY SOON

Robin Banks is one of Canada’s best-kept secrets, but let’s hope not for much longer.  She is based out of Toronto, but she has played all over the world.  Her latest album, “Modern Classic,” teams her with producer Duke Robillard, who adds guitar throughout.  The Duke also brought along his “usual suspects” to back her, including Bruce Bears on keys, Mark Teixeira on drums, Brad Hallen on bass, and the horn section of Doug James, Doug Woolverton, and Mark Early.

This is one of those, well, modern classic sets where the singer is perfectly matched with the material, and the album is intended to be listened to as a whole in its entirety, just like back in the good ole days of vinyl LP’s.  All the songs are written by Robin, and she touches on several genres’ along the way.  She has a smooth, even-keeled tone in her vocals, making this one enjoyable set.  The leadoff “A Man Is Just A Man”  and “I’ll Meet You There in my dreams” are smooth and soulful, while “Tonight” and “I Really Dig You” feature Bruce’s piano and brush-stroked drums to evoke a jazzy feel.  “Crazy” is a true torch song, and “A Place In The City” even has a touch of twang.

We had two favorites, too, that explored  her bluesier side.  She tells a potential suitor that she’s no cougar, and makes it plain “you’re too young for me” in the soulful strut of “Bite Your Tongue,”  and another paramour with an agenda gets told “You Boogie Too Fast For Me!”

The comparisons to Diana Krall will be inevitable, but Robin has an edge with her versatility and ease of handling various genres’.  She truly deserves a broader audience, and “Modern Classic” may just be the jumpstart she’s looking for!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

No Refund Band review…Dec. 24, 2014…

NO REFUND BAND

CURRENT STATE OF BLUE

INDEPENDENT RELEASE

BUY THE BLUES–CURRENT STATE OF BLUE–ST. LOUIS BOUND–FAVORITE FOOL–LOVE UNMADE–BELL BOTTOM BLUES–MISSISSIPPI QUEEN–I GOTTA PLAY–BOUGHT AND SOLD–BLUES MAN DYING–STILL GOT THE BLUES–SHE TAKE ME

The sophomore release from the No Refund Band is entitled “Current State Of Blue,” and includes nine outstanding originals and three covers that showcases a maturity in the band’s overall sound, buoyed by their clever songwriting.  There are virtually no two grooves alike herein, making this a varied, versatile, and eclectic set.

Check out the slow-groove of the leadoff cut, where you can “have a lot of money, but you can’t buy peace of mind,” aptly-titled “Buy The Blues.”  The horn section and B-3 are prevalent throughout, over Ricky Jackson’s vocal and guitar.  The title cut and “Favorite Fool” blend a touch of jazz in with the blue notes, while the guitars and horns of “don’t leave our Love Unmade” follow a Latin groove.  “Bought And Sold” is a stone shot of funk, complete with punched-up horns and wah-wah galore, while the set closes in similar fashion with the scratchy-cool soul of “She Take Me,’ about that perfect woman who “take me high, then take me low.”

We had two favorites, too.  Randy’s vocal is dead-on and knocks “Mississippi Queen” outta the park, and one of the band originals takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the plight of today’s blues players, as the “Blues Man Dying, trying to make a living!”

There is something for every taste on “Current State Of Blue,” and you will not want your money back after you listen to the No Refund Band!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Eric Bibb review….Dec. 21, 2014…

ERIC BIBB

BLUES PEOPLE

STONY PLAIN CD  SPCD 1379

SILVER SPOON–DRIFTIN DOOR TO DOOR–GOD’S MOJO–TURNER STATION–PINK DREAM CADILLAC–CHOCOLATE MAN–ROSEWOOD–I HEARD THE ANGELS SINGIN–DREAM CATCHERS–CHAIN REACTION–NEEDED TIME–OUT WALKIN–REMEMBER THE ONES–HOME–WHERE DO WE GO

Eric Bibb describes his latest album, “Blues People,” as a tribute to the “rainbow tribe” of artists from all cultures and backgrounds who travel all over the globe to spread the gospel of the blues.  As for Eric, he’s one of the most visible of these artists, and this set brings him together with some of his best friends, including Taj Mahal, Ruthie Foster, Guy Davis, and The Blind Boys Of Alabama, just to name a few.

Eric’s “mission,” as it were, for this album was to link the history of the blues from slavery times thru the days of the Freedom March thru current times.  This set offered up so many outsanding cuts, favorites were hard to choose.  “Rosewood” deals with “ships with human cargo, chained down below,” and the centuries of subsequent hardships, while “payin’ dues while playin’ these blues” is the theme of the leadoff “Silver Spoon,’ featuring Popa Chubby on guitar.  The Blind Boys Of Alabama join Eric and J. J. Milteau  on “I Heard The Angels Singin”  and they return with Taj Mahal and Ruthie Foster on “Needed Time.”

There are a few light-hearted cuts, too.  “Pink Dream Cadillac” and a duet with Guy Davis, “Chocolate Man,” are both full of sly double-entendres’.

Some of the album’s most powerful moments deal directly with the struggles during the civil rights movement.  These include “Out Walkin,” and “Remember The Ones,” a duet with Linda Tillery.  The set closes with a banjo-filled duet with Eric and Linda McCalla, “Where Do We Go,’ pondering the afterlife.

With an almost-daily barrage of news dealing with racial strife across America, Eric Bibb’s “Blues People” is as relevant and powerful as any set he has ever crafted.  This one is not to be missed.  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers review…Dec. 17, 2014…

ERIN HARPE AND THE DELTA SWINGERS

LOVE WHIP BLUES

JUICY JUJU–VIZZTONE RECORDS  VTJJ001

DELTA SWING–LOVE WHIP BLUES–FUTURE BLUES–GOOD LUCK BABY–M AND O BLUES–ONE WAY MAN–PICK POOR ROBIN CLEAN–VIRTUAL BOOTY BLUES–CHARLES RIVER DELTA BLUES–ANGEL FROM MONTGOMERY

Erin Harpe And The Delta Swingers combine Depression-era juke joint blues with a more modern, contemporary sound that makes for a highly-danceable ride with that vintage feel.  That’s what you get from “Love Whip blues,” their latest set for the Vizztone label.

Erin, who now resides in the Boston area after growing up in Washington, D. C., possesses one of those sexy, sultry, just-made-for-blues voices that you just can’t resist.  She’s also joined by some of Vizztone’s most “vizzable” players, including Richard Rosenblatt on harp, and Bob Margolin on guitar.  Dave Gross also brings his expertise to this music, adding various instrumentation throughout.

The set starts with the acoustic theme of “The Delta Swing,” setting the tone for the rest of the album.  Erin describes herself as a “little booty machine” in the saucy title cut, then adds a gem of funky soul with “Good Luck Baby.”  And, that sultry side shows on the slow-drag of “Charles River Delta Blues.”

We had two favorites, too.  Bob’s slide and Rosy’s harp lay down a sweet groove as Erin bemoans that “train that took my baby away,’ “M and O Blues.”  The set closes with a harp-filled romp thru John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery,” showing Erin’s versatility at adapting songs to make them her own.

Erin Harpe And The Delta Swingers are one more reason that the blues stays interesting and viable.  “Love Whip Blues” is fun, irreverent, and a fine showcase for an outstanding singer!  Until next time…Sheryl ad Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Bruce Katz review…Dec. 15, 2014…

BRUCE KATZ

HOMECOMING

AMERICAN SHOWPLACE MUSIC  ASM 1114

HOMECOMING–KING OF DECATUR–SANTA FE BLUES–NO BRAINER–AMELIA–WILD ABOUT YOU BABY–THE CZAR–BLUES BEFORE SUNRISE–TIME FLIES–THE SKY’S THE LIMIT–JUST AN EXPRESSION–WON’T LAST TIL TUESDAY–IT’S A BAD TIME

Bruce Katz is one of the most versatile and eclectic keyboard men on the scene today, and has been a sideman for just about everyone, including Delbert and Gregg Allman.  For his latest set, “Homecoming,” tho, Bruce returns to his bluesy roots, and, with the help of some good friends, brings forth twelve cuts to show his incredible chops.

A clever mix of vocals and instrumentals, the show starts with the funky feel of the title cut.  “The King Of Decatur” has vocals by Randy Ciarlante, and follows a second-line rhythm pattern, as does the acoustic-piano  stylings of the instrumental, “Amelia.”  “Czar” and “Time Flies” both have jazzy overtones,  and Bruce visits vintage 70’s soul and funk with the scratch-and-sniff of “Just An Expression.”

Bruce can get down on some blues, too, and those served as our favorites.  Bruce’s piano over John Hammond’s vocal swings a ragtime feel to “Santa Fe Blues,” then John returns for a Delta-flavored “Blues Before Sunrise,” with John also on acoustic guitar.  And, the houserockin’ never stops when the fellows break into Elmore James’  “Wild About You Baby,” with vocal from Jimmy Bennett.

Bruce Katz’ talents on all things with keys are immense, and he can mesh with anyone’s style or create one all his own.  “Homecoming” brings his unique stylings and emotions full-circle!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.