Archive for April, 2015

Greg Nagy review…April 20, 2015…

GREG NAGY

STRANDED

BIG O RECORDS 2421

STRANDED–WALK OUT THAT DOOR–AIN’T NO LOVE ON THE HEART OF THE CITY–I WON’T GIVE UP–RUN AWAY WITH YOU–LONG WAY TO MEMPHIS–STILL DOING FINE–BEEN SUCH A LONG TIME–SOMETIMES–WELCOME HOME

Most of the material on Greg Nagy’s latest album, “Stranded,”  was created during the dissolution of his twenty-five year marriage.  But, instead of wallowing in self-pity, he uses this music as a form of pain-relieving catharsis.  “Stranded” is indeed eight originals and two fine covers that allows him to rise above his personal tragedies thru his guitar, vocals, and this material.

The title cut puts it all in perspective—“I’m Stranded in a sea of tears on an island of broken hearts.”  His pride stands tall even tho “I knew the day would come when you’d leave me for another one, but I Won’t Give Up.”  His guitar takes a funky turn on the echo-effect vocals of “Long Way To Memphis,” and he keeps up that groove in “Been Such A Long Time,” with cool organ from Jim Alfredson.

We enjoyed his two choice covers, also, which fit in well with the overall theme of the set.  First up, Scott Veenstra’s pounding percussion sets the tone for Greg’s take on Bobby Bland’s “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City,” while the Kevin McKendree-Steve Bassett-penned “Welcome Home” closes the set on a positive, upbeat note of redemption.

If the blues can be used to heal pain as well as express it, then Greg Nagy’s “Stranded” is a set that reminds us that healing, no matter how great the pain or loss, is always possible.  His vocals and guitar are both evocative and passionate, making this a fine set of powerful blues!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

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Jon Spear Band review…April 20, 2015…

JON SPEAR BAND

OLD SOUL

SELF-RELEASED

I CAN’T HELP MYSELF–DEVIL’S HIGHWAY–THE SECOND MOUSE GETS THE CHEESE–OLD SOUL–I LOVE MY SKIN–FOREVER HOME–MEAN MEAN WOMAN–PAID IN FULL–LIVE MUSIC IS BETTER–TIN PAN ALLEY

The Jon Spear Band hails from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and all the players are active in the Central Virginia Blues Society.  Their latest release, “Old Soul,” is a fine set of predominantly original tunes that combine elements of blues, rock, and soul into one great listen!  The lyrics are witty, they make you think, and listeners can easily relate to their content.

Jon is on guitar, Andy Burdetsky is on bass, John Stubblefield is on drums, and the young ‘un of the group is the phenomenal Dara James, on guitar, harp, and vocals, with a huge tone and sound well-beyond his youth.  In fact, he qualifies as one of the characters in the title cut, an “Old Soul who conveys that youthful passion with a mature feel.  This song also features a fine sax solo from Ron Halloway.  “I Love My Skin” is a slide guitar-fueled story of loving yourself no matter what others may think.  “Mean Mean Woman” is a Latin-influenced shot of blues-rock that tells the story of a man drawn to a lover that he knows is no good, but he just can’t leave her alone.  “Live Music Is Better” takes a humorous look at the pros and cons of recorded music versus a show at a club, because, there you can “hear the mistakes!”  They close the set with an eight-minute slow-jam of “Tin Pan Alley,” that “roughest place in town,” with Dara on vocals with his guitar blazing away.

We had two favorites, too.  Dara’s harp and dobro add to the good-time feel of a cute story as told thru the eyes of a dog about to be adopted and taken to his “Forever Home.”  And, a trip down the dark, brooding “Devil’s Highway” has a surprise ending, and is complete with that good ole “gypsy woman” and her “magic powder,” and a wrasslin’ match with ol’ Beelzebub himself!

The Jon Spear Band bring excellent musicianship, strong lyrics, and a rising star in young Dara James.  “Old Soul” is a fine debut from some of Virginia’s finest!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Ghost Town Blues Band review…April 19, 2015…

GHOST TOWN BLUES BAND

HARD ROAD TO HOE

GTBB 2014

HARD ROAD TO HOE–BIG SHIRLEY–TIP OF MY HAT–MY DOGGY–MR. HANDY MAN–HATE TO SEE HER GO–TIED MY WORRIES TO A STONE–DEAD SEA–NOTHIN  BUT TIME–DIME IN THE WELL–SEVENTEEN–ROAD STILL DRIVES THE SAME

The Ghost Town Blues Band are known for their second-line entrances into their gigs, especially the one that led to their second-place finish in last year’s IBC’s.  Their live shows are the stuff of legend, and they ably transfer that energy onto their latest release, “Hard Road To Hoe.”  Matt Isbell is on guitar, Preston McEwen is on drums, Jeremy Powell is on keys, and Alex Piazza is on bass.  Everyone shares vocal duties, and they utilize a horn section that gives this set a strong Memphis vibe.

The leadoff title cut is powerful and compelling, beginning with Preston on push broom and Matt on shovel, actually digging a hole, as they spin a tale of overcoming all of life’s obstacles.  Matt is also featured on a guitar made from his grandmother’s silverware chest.  Home cookin”as a metaphor for good lovin’ is the second-line theme of “Tip Of My Hat,” with fellow Memphian Brandon Santini on harp.  Brandon sticks around for another tune, a humorous look at man’s best friend, “My Doggy,” who “don’t talk back!”

They pay tribute to W. C. Handy with an all-horn instrumental, “Mr. Handy Man,” then show how far the blues has come with the rockin’ “Hate To See You Go.”  “Tied My Worries To A Stone” is a shot of blues-rock that compares the mighty Mississippi River to a pillar of strength you can call on during tough times.  “Dime In The Well” is a driving, Hill-Country stomper with Matt on cigar-box guitar.  “Seventeen” has a vintage soul feel, and the set closes with Matt’s slide carrying the load on “The Road Still Drives The Same Without You,” a somber tale of lost love, featuring downright sanctified organ from Jeremy Powell.

Our favorite was an all-out rocker, the story of “Big Shirley,” who “needs a wreckin’ ball to keep her satisfied!”

The Ghost Town Blues Band bring a unique and fresh approach to their music, and they are a band who sho’ nuff love what they do. “Hard Road To Hoe” is a fine set from a band to be reckoned with!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

J. B. Hutto review…April 17, 2015….

J. B. HUTTO

AND THE HAWKS

WITH SUNNYLAND SLIM

HAWK SQUAT

DELMARK RECORDS  DE 617

SPEAK MY MIND–IF YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND–TOO MUCH PRIDE–WHAT CAN YOU GET OUTSIDE THAT YOU CAN’T GET AT HOME–THE SAME MISTAKE TWICE–20% ALCOHOL–HIP SHAKIN–THE FEELING IS GONE–NOTORIETY WOMAN–TOO LATE–SEND HER HOME TO ME–HAWK SQUAT  BONUS TRACKS–I’LL CRY TOMORROW–SPEAK MY MIND–TOO MUCH PRIDE–HAWK SQUAT–THE SAME MISTAKE TWICE–SPEAK MY MIND (ALT 2)

The impact that Delmark Records has had on the contemporary blues scene is immeasurable.  Bob Koester has had his finger on the pulse of American blues and jazz for nearly sixty years, and many albums released on this label have been lauded by the music industry as timeless and historic.

Joseph Benjamin Hutto And His Hawks regularly played Turner’s Lounge at 39TH and Indiana in the heart of Chicago’s South Side.  After witnessing the raw power and unbridled passion of J. B.’s slide guitar, Bob Koester knew there would be a market for his unique sound.  The resulting recording is entitled “Hawk Squat,” which was originally recorded in May and August 1968, at the Sound Studio and at Ter-Mar studio, with the exception of “Hip Shakin,” which was recorded at Mother Blues on December 17, 1966.

In addition to the original twelve cuts, Bob has graciously opened his vaults to add six previously-unissued tracks to the expanded edition of this classic set.  J. B. is backed by some of Chicago’s finest, including Lee Jackson on second guitar, Junior Pettis and Dave Myers predominantly on bass, Frank Kirkland on drums, Maurice McIntyre on sax, and Sunnyland Slim on piano and organ.

These guys know how to bring the heat and have a good time doing it.  Our favorites included the scorching opener, “Speak My Mind,” the slow-groove of “Too Much Pride,” the houserockin’ “Hip Shakin,” and “Too Late,” with a great solo from Lee Jackson.  The unissued tracks present two alternate versions of “Speak My Mind,” a stripped-down “Too Much Pride,” and a cool alternate of the title cut, with Dave Myers on bass.

J. B. Hutto’s “Hawk Squat” was Delmark’s second modern blues recording, behind “Hoodoo Man Blues.”  With this expanded edition, fans can appreciate the power and energy J. B. brought to the crowds at Turner’s, and to all his recorded works.  Thanks again to Bob Koester for sharing these great slices of blues history!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers review…April 16, 2015…

JOHN MAYALL’S BLUESBREAKERS

LIVE IN 1967

NEVER-BEFORE-HEARD LIVE PERFORMANCES

FORTY BELOW RECORDS   FBR 008

ALL YOUR LOVE–BRAND NEW START–DOUBLE TROUBLE–STREAMLINE–HAVE YOU EVER LOVED A WOMAN–LOOKING BACK–SO MANY ROADS–HI HEEL SNEAKERS–I CAN’T QUIT YOU BABY–THE STUMBLE–SOMEDAY AFTER AWHILE–SAN-HO-ZAY–STORMY MONDAY

John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers have always been synonymous with the best in British blues.  John’s powerful vocals were augmented by some of the world’s best players, with lineups that included at one time or another Eric Clapton and Mick Taylor on guitar, and Aynsley Dunbar (later of Journey fame) on drums.

For a scant three months in 1967, the Bluesbreakers consisted of Mayall on vocals, keys, and harp, with Peter Green on guitar, Jon McVie on bass, and Mick Fleetwood on drums.  Of course, the latter three would go on to greater fame as Fleetwood Mac, but their time spent with Mayall has a historic backstory involving this recording.

A zealous fan from Holland, Tom Huissen, snuck a one-reel recorder into five London clubs in early 1967 to capture this quartet on tape.  The tapes lay dormant for nearly 50 years until Tom’s decision to release this slice of blues history.  With much painstaking effort, Eric Corne of Forty Below Records restored the crude tapes into what is now “Live In 1967–Never-Before-Heard Live Performances.”  Yes, the sound is raw, but even the most jaded fans cannot deny the power of the blues presented herein.

Clapton’s tenure with the band brought also his passion for Otis Rush and Freddie King, and several of these legends’ songs became a part of the Bluesbreakers repertoire.  From the Otis Rush catalog are the leadoff “All Your Love,” “Double Trouble,” “So Many Roads,” and “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” all of which feature some of Peter green’s most spirited playing ever.  He shows off his incredible tone on two of Freddie’s instrumentals, “The Stumble” and “San-Ho-Zay.”

We had two favorites, too.  “Streamline” is a Mayall original with a cool stop-time groove.  Another song associated with King (and, later, Clapton and Duane Allman) is a great “love song” of sorts, “Have You Ever Loved A Woman.”  The slow-burn guitar of Peter set over John’s impassioned vocals make this one a real show-stopper.

All blues fans owe a debt of gratitude to Tom Huissen and his little one-reel recorder that set the stage for this set.  “Live In 1967–Never-Before-Heard Live Performances” is a brilliant piece of blues history from one of the premier bands of the day, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Jeff Jensen review…April 15, 2015…

JEFF JENSEN

MOROSE ELEPHANT

SWINGSUIT RECORDS

MAKE IT THROUGH–GET ALONG–FALL APART–GOING HOME–PAPER WALLS–WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH THE MILL–ASH AND BONE–ELEPHANT BLUE–BAD BAD WHISKEY–ALWAYS BE IN LOVE WITH YOU–EMPTY BOTTLES (BONUS TRACK)

For Jeff Jensen’s fourth studio album, “Morose Elephant,” he showcases a diverse grouping of seven originals and four standards, using the Ardent Studios in Memphis as well as a host of the Bluff City’s finest musicians to augment his spot-on vocals and passionate, inventive guitar stylings.

This set has a true Memphis feel throughout.  The party starts with Jeff’s chicken-pickin over the horn section’s groove as he and Reba Russell spin an uplifting tale about hard times, with the feeling that you’ll always be able to “Make It Through.” Victor Wainwright adds Wurlitzer on this one, too.  “Paper Walls” follows a quirky rhythm pattern, and Chris Stephenson’s toy piano adds to the ambience.  “Fall Apart” and “Ash And Bone” show Jeff’s softer side with fiddle from Anne Harris on the latter, while the instrumental, “Elephant Blue,” plays to Jeff’s tenacity and versatility on guitar.  Eric Hughes’ harp lends a country-blues feel to “Bad Bad Whiskey,” while it’s Gary Allegretto on harp on the set-closing, acoustic, “Empty Bottles,”  where Jeff takes a humorous look at life thru the eyes of a man who’s spent one too many nights at “the payday lender down by the interstate–the one with the weekly interest rates!”

We had two favorites–one cover and one original.  Jeff and Victor get into a spirited, old-school duet lettin’ the good times roll on “What’s The Matter With The Mill.” And, “I’ll Always Be In Love With You” is a fine jump-blues tune with a solo from darn near everyone in the band.

Jeff Jensen never fails to please his fans, and “Morose Elephant” is no different.  Excellent musicianship, solid songs, and a soulful vocalist makes this one sho’ nuff a fine listen!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Arlen Roth review…April 14, 2015…

ARLEN ROTH

SLIDE GUITAR SUMMIT

AQUINNAH RECORDS

DO WHAT’S RIGHT–DUST MY BROOM–STRANGER ON THE SHORE–SONNY SKIES–ROCKET 88–DIXIE CHICKEN–POOR BOY BLUES–AND WHEN I DIE (ONE CHILD BORN)–PEACH PICKIN TIME IN GEORGIA–PARADISE BLUES–STEEL GUITAR RAG–YOU REALLY GOT A HOLD ON ME–HER MIND IS GONE–AMAZING GRACE

Upon listening to this collection of songs from some of the finest slide guitar players on the planet, all we can say is–“WOW!”  Arlen Roth is one of the most influential guitarists of our lifetime, having played with literally hundreds of artists, including Simon And Garfunkel, Janis Ian, John Prine, and countless others.  Heck–he even sat down front at Woodstock in 1969 to see Johnny Winter.  He’s a noted instructor as well, with many well-known manuals and on-line tutorials.  Johnny was Arlen’s first choice for this album, “Slide Guitar Summit,” and it would sadly serve as his last recorded works prior to his untimely passing in 2014.

This set has it all—brilliant guitar playing, a topnotch lineup of songs, and diversified talents, each of whom brought something unique to the proceedings.  Jack Pearson starts the action with one of his original works, a Fifties-inspired rocker, “Do What’s Right,” with he and Arlen trading smoldering licks throughout.  Arlen and Lee Roy Parnell have more fun than the law will allow on “Dust My Broom,” and a tribute to Lowell George, “Dixie Chicken,” both with killer piano from one of the South’s finest, Kevin McKendree.  The latter also features backup vocals from the Britts, Etta and Bob.

Arlen and Jimmy Vivino give two powerful acoustic performances, with Jimmy’s vocal leading the way on “Poor Boy Blues,” and a spirited “And When I Die.”  Arlen takes the lead vocal (and yodel!) on “Peach Pickin Time In Georgia,” his slide backed by Kentucky Headhunter Greg Martin.  They team up again to close the set offering a somber instrumental version of “Amazing Grace,” in tribute to loved ones lost by the families of Arlen and Greg.

Cindy Cashdollar, a tremendous steel guitar player, added a unique dimension to two instrumentals.  One has always been a favorite of ours, Mr. Acker Bilk’s “Stranger On The Shore.”  This one has Arlen adding some Duane Eddy “twangin” guitar, while the other is the timeless “Steel Guitar Rag.”  Johnny Winter’s performance on “Rocket 88” with Arlen bring to mind those vintage sides from Jimmy Bryant and Speedy West, and served as our favorite from a set that has absolutely no weak points.

With Arlen Roth’s “Slide Guitar Summit,” he brought together not only some of the world’s greatest players, but, through them, paid tribute to many greats who have passed on.  This is a tremendous set that every listener can appreciate!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.