Archive for August, 2015

Mick Kolassa review…August 6, 2015…

MICK KOLASSA

GHOSTS OF THE RIVERSIDE HOTEL

SWINGSUIT RECORDS  MMK 022015

RAMBLIN MAN–GRAPES AND GREENS–ONE MEAT BALL–I ALWAYS MEANT TO LOVE YOU–TROUBLE–NOTHIN LEFT TO LOSE (ROBIN’S BLUES)–IF I AIN’T FISHIN–MAMA TOLD ME NOT TO COME–WHISKEY WOMAN–WALKIN (DEAD) BLUES–MAMA’S GOT A MOJO–DELTA TOWN

For Mick Kolassa’s latest album, “Ghosts Of The Riverside Hotel,” he blends his own original songs with some cleverly-done covers that all end up being quite an entertaining set of blues.  Along with Mick, who is on vocals and guitars, there is Jeff Jensen on lead guitar, Bill Ruffino on bass, Robinson Bridgeforth on drums, and Chris Stephenson on organ.  And, there is a veritable “Memphis Who’s Who” as guests, including Annika Chambers, Reba Russell, Victor Wainwright, Eric Hughes, and Brandon Santini.  Why, there’s even an appearance by that ole “Mensa Man,” Watermelon Slim.

Mick gets right down to bidness with a high lonesome vocal delivery on Luke The Drifter’s “Ramblin’ Man,” set over a marching drumbeat.  The Depression-era tale of a man with only fifteen cents to spare can only afford “One Meatball,” and the rhythm pattern is a reggae-fied delight!  Mick takes a clever look at the “Trouble” one can encounter in a bar, and morphs into the “only zombie on the planet playin’ the blues” in “Walkin’ (Dead) Blues.”  The set closes as Mick invites us all “down to the Crossroads” to that little “Delta Town” known as Clarksdale, MS.  You can stay at the Riverside Hotel,” where Miss Bessie (Smith) died!”  This one has Watermelon Slim on harp and dobro.

We had three favorites, too.  Mick strips the Three Dog Night classic, “Mama Told Me Not To Come,” down to its base elements, turning it into a blues rave-up, with harp from Brandon Santini.  We all know Muddy enjoyed the occasional “Champagne and Reefer,” and Eric Hughes’ slide guitar compliments Mick’s own potions for his pain, “Grapes And Greens,” with a side order of “Tennessee corn” for good measure!  And, it ain’t every day that your publicist gets name-checked in a song, but, Mick is wantin’ a little time with just his “fishin’ pole,” so he warns “Frank (Roszak), don’t be callin’ me with your funk.  If I Ain’t Fishin’, I’ll be sleepin’, and if I ain’t sleepin’, I’ll be drunk!!”

Mick Kolassa treats us all to a good mix of several styles of blues on “Ghosts Of The Riverside Hotel.”  And, as with his debut, all the proceeds from the sale of this album go to the Blues Foundation, and, specifically, the HART Fund and Generation Blues.  A philanthropic bluesman—what a cool combination!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

Smith And Wesley review…August 3, 2015…

SMITH AND WESLEY

CHOICES AND CHANCES

GARAGE DOOR RECORDS  GDR 7212015

THIRTY PIECES–WHISKEY–BOTTLE’S HALF FULL–NEED SOMEBODY BAD–ROLL ON SMOOTHLY–SAVE ME–PROVE MY LOVE–YOU’RE THE ONE–I LOVE LOVING YOU–SWEET LIFE–COUNTRY DREAMS

Country music group Smith And Wesley hail from the Chattanooga, TN–Northern Georgia area, what we think of as “Tritt Country,” as ole Travis Tritt also hails from nearby Kennesaw, GA.  And, you can hear a lot of Tritt’s swagger in their debut album, “Choices And Chances.”  It’s eleven band originals that encompass Southern rock, contemporary and traditional country, and even a bit of blues.

The band derives its name from the singing Smith brothers, Scott on lead vocals and Todd on harp and harmony vocals.  Wesley was the name of their father, who recently passed away, and the band now uses his name in a fitting tribute.  This album is meant to be enjoyed in a “start to finish” fashion, as well.  The first half of the set is peppered with “choices,” most of which come with hefty consequences.  The leadoff cut is a Southern-rock-influenced tale of the fellows’ grandfather, who crossed a coal mine picket line “to keep his family fed,” and his so-called friends sold him out for that biblical “Thirty Pieces.”  One is not likely to find an answer to life’s problems by “swimmin’ in a Whiskey river,” but you know the price is steep if you try.  And, if you find the pain of loss too much to bear and you need something stronger than liquor, you might just “Need Somebody Bad tonight, because I just lost somebody good.”

The second half of the set deals with making more mature choices, finding true love, and eventual redemption.  “Prove My Love,” “I Love Loving You,” and “You’re The One” are excellent examples of the band’s softer side.

We had two favorites, too.  One of the “choices” songs is a stone traditional honky-tonker where you know there’s trouble comin’ when “The Bottle’s Half Full.”  And, Danny Shirley of Confederate Railroad fame guests on vocals as the fellows vow to keep “chasin’ those Country Dreams ’til the day I die,” just as Haggard, Jones, and a host of others before them did.

Smith And Wesley are as good or better than a lot of acts drawin’ a fat check down on Music Row.  Excellent musicianship, strong songs, and tight harmonies that only brothers could produce make “Choices And Chances” a set that begs to be heard.  And, if their July 28th show at Nashville’s City Winery was any indication, these guys are ready to bust out in a big way!  Best of luck, guys!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Andra Faye and Scott Ballantine review…August 1, 2015…

ANDRA FAYE AND SCOTT BALLANTINE

COULDA WOULDA SHOULDA

VIZZTONE  VT-AFSB-01

WALKIN HOME TO YOU–CRACKHEADED MAN–IT’S A NEW DAY–TAKE IT SLOW–BLUES FOR A CRAPPY DAY–TOO MUCH BUTT (FOR ONE PAIR OF JEANS)–ONE DREAM AT A TIME–COULDA WOULDA SHOULDA–STANDING IN THE NEED OF PRAYER–WORKIN MAMA IS GONE–FEELS LIKE RAIN–WHEN YOU GONNA STOP YOUR DRINKIN?–CLYDE

Andra Faye gained notoriety as a member of Saffire–The Uppity Blues Women, known for her brilliant blues mandolin and violin stylings.  Scott Ballantine made his mark as a guitarist who embraces all genres’, and plays them all exceedingly well.  For their second collaboration, entitled “Coulda Woulda Shoulda,”  for Vizztone, they combine their talents for eight originals and five covers that showcases not only their stringed and vocal abilities, but their strong songwriting as well.

Andra and Scott play all the instruments on this predominantly-acoustic set (save for a few cuts with Andra on amplified bass), and they kick things off with Andra’s fiddle paired with Scott’s guitar on the lively “Walkin’ Home To You.”  Scott adds duet vocals on the tale of “layin’ down your troubles” because “It’s A New Day!”  That feeling of redemption resurfaces a few cuts later with “One Dream At A Time,” and Andra goes into torch-song mode for a request for her lover to “turn on the stereo” and just “Take It Slow.”  Scott takes the lead vocal with Andra backing him at the chorus on the traditional gospel of “Standing In The Need Of Prayer.”

The set had plenty of light-hearted moments, too.  The title cut takes a humorous look at life’s chances and consequences, while Andra is asked “When You Gonna Quit Your Drinkin,” and her answer is simple—“when there’s a better way to get that good whiskey down!”

We had two favorites, too.  Scott’s shimmering guitar leads are reminiscent of a brewing storm on the John Hiatt classic, “Feels Like Rain.”  And, be it Valenti or Calvin Klein or whoever the designer might be, Andra just has “Too Much Butt (For One Pair Of Jeans)!”  This one is playful, flirty, and a heckuva lot of fun!

“Coulda Woulda Shoulda” brings together two great talents in the blues world—Andra Faye and Scott Ballantine.  Their music fits as easily as a hand in a glove, and this set’s vintage vibe makes it special, indeed!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.