Archive for October, 2015

Andy Santana review…October 31, 2015…

ANDY SANTANA

WATCH YOUR STEP!

DELTA GROOVE RECORDS  DGPCD 170

KNOCK KNOCK–WATCH YOUR STEP–PLAYGIRL–ONE WAY LOVE AFFAIR–LOVE SICKNESS–YOU MAY NOT KNOW–NO DOUBLE TALK–CAN’T YOU SEE–TAKE ME BACK–GREASELAND–YOU SMELL LIKE COOKIES–WHAT’S WRONG–GO ON FOOL

West Coast bluesmen have always had a thing for the sounds of the Delta mixed with a jumpin’, uptown R & B vibe.  Northern California, and more specifically Santa Cruz, has been the stomping grounds for Andy Santana, and few folks east of the Sierras know who he is.  That is sho’ nuff about to change, tho, thanks to the good folks at Delta Groove.  They have just released Andy’s major-label debut, “Watch Your Step!”  For the uninitiated, Andy Santana is a true quad threat–a soulful vocalist with a deep baritone, mighty guitar chops, fat harp tone, and a knack for writing songs that fit in with his vintage, Louis Jordan-esque style.  Some of Andy’s best friends are along for the ride, too–namely Kid Andersen, Mighty Mike Schermer, Bob Welsh, Anthony Paule, and Rusty Zinn.

The set starts off on a humorous note, with “Knock Knock,” featuring cool Fifties’-ish sax from Frankie Ramos and Bob Welsh on piano.    The title cut is a rumba-fied romper with Andy telling a no-good lover that “you’ll get yours someday.”  Andy stretches out on some deep, slow blues with the plaintive Chick Willis chestnut, “Can’t You See,” with Anthony Paule on guitar.  “Greaseland” is just that–a funky, struttin’ downright greasy instrumental, with all the guitar players on the set gettin’ a piece.  The set closes with “Go On Fool,” a Mardi Gras favorite, because “a lover is a fool, and be a fool until he dies!”

We had two favorites, too.  Kid Andersen has lead guitar and Farfisa organ duties on the tale of a woman who only “thinks about M-O-N-E-Y,” entitled “No Double Talk.”  And, one of Andy’s originals defines what he’s all about–it’s a harp-filled swingin’ tale of those ladies we just can’t help but love, because “You Smell Like Cookies.”

Andy Santana carries the torch high for those West Coast bluesmen with an R & B soul.  With “Watch Your Step!,” he’s ready for a big breakout!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tommy McCoy review….October 30, 2015….

TOMMY MCOY

25 YEAR RETROSPECT

EARWIG MUSIC CD 4971

CD 1: THE KING IS GONE–I GOT A REASON–THE CHANGE IS IN–NO LOVE WITHOUT ANY GREEN–TROPICAL DEPRESSION–LUDELLA–LOVE ‘N’ MONEY–THEY KILLED THAT MAN–BLUES THING–A MAN WHO CRIED–BITTER SOUL TO HEAL–TALKIN’ TO MYSELF–ACE IN THE HOLE–ANGELS SERENADE

CD 2: SPANISH MOON–POVERTY–ANGEL ON MY SHOULDER, DEVIL ON MY BACK–BLACK ELDORADO RED–LAY MY DEMONS DOWN–LATE IN THE LONELY NIGHT–MONEY–BROKE, YOU’RE A JOKE–SUGAR CANE–LANGUAGE OF LOVE–MY GUITAR DON’T PLAY NOTHING BUT THE BLUES–JIVE DIVE–CARS, BARS, AND GUITARS–SPACE MASTER–HEY NOW–BLUE WATER RUNS DEEP

Tommy McCoy is a native of Warren, OH, and was playing guitar in his own band in the sixth grade.  By the mid-Seventies, the other band members were bitten by the disco bug, so Tommy bade ’em all a fond adieu and headed south to Florida to pursue his love for blues.  Over seven albums recorded since 1992, Michael Frank and Earwig Music has compiled the “25 Year Retrospect” collection, a whopping thirty cuts over two CD’s of every shade of blue one can imagine.  Tommy’s on guitar and vocals throughout, and features him playing with the Double Trouble rhythm section, B-3 master Lucky Peterson, and Levon Helm and Garth Hudson.

There is so much good music on these two discs that we are going to hit our favorites, and let listeners decide for themselves what they like.  A chugging shot of SRV-inspired boogie finds Tommy Shannon on bass and Chris Layton on drums, where every man knows that there’s “No Love Without Any Green,” and the fellows do a spot-on read of Pink Floyd’s “Money,” from that same session, with Hall and Oates alum Charlie DeChant on sax.

Switching gears, Tommy gets down with an icy-cool “Blues Thing,” where Lucky holds down the B-3 and Tommy name-checks all the greats, Albert Collins included, on this swingin’ blues history lesson.  They slow that groove down and dig into some deep, slow blues on one of Tommy’s originals about a lover who “hurt the only thing you couldn’t steal,” “A Bitter Soul To Heal.”

Tommy joins forces with ole Commander Cody on a cool Sun-kissed rockabilly tune, where the body shop “painted my Black Eldorado Red!”  He tells it like it is on his autobiographical story of his “big ole Gibson guitar that Don’t Play Nothing But The Blues.”  For us, tho, the set’s most powerful cut led the whole thing off.  It is one of three new songs recorded for this compilation.  Tommy was in Athens, Greece, in July when he heard of B. B.’s passing, and “The King Is Gone” is a monster tribute.  Tommy reworks that classic minor-key riff of “The Thrill Is Gone,” and uses the titles of many of King’s most revered songs to great effect.  And, plaintive harp can be heard in the background, courtesy of Kostas Tenezos.

Thirty songs from a deeply-soulful guitarist and singer makes “25 Year Retrospective” from Tommy McCoy one of the best sets we’ve had the pleasure of hearing this year!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Brad Vickers and his Vestapolitans review….October 27, 2015…

BRAD VICKERS

AND HIS VESTAPOLITANS

THAT’S WHAT THEY SAY

MAN HAT TONE RECORDS  1090

SEMINOLE BLUES–DON’T YOU LOVE YOUR DADDY NO MORE–IF YOU LEAVE ME NOW–EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU IS BLUE–ANOTHER LONESOME ROAD–THAT’S WHAT THEY SAY–MOUNTAIN SPARROW–FIGHTIN’–DON’T YOU CHANGE A THING–WISHING WELL–MAMA’S COOKIN–TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY RAG–THE SECRET–HAVING A BALL–IN FOR A PENNY

Brad Vickers has been a busy man lately.  He’s on bass on the recent release from Zora Young with Little Mike and the Tornadoes, reviewed elsewhere in this forum.  And, he steps up as bandleader of The Vestapolitans with their latest release, done up in a vintage, predominantly-acoustic setting.  This one is entitled “That’s What They Say,” with Brad on guitar, joined once again by Margey Peters on fiddle and vocals, along with master fiddler Charles Burnham and drummer Bill Rankin.  Adding to the old-time feel is Dave Gross, who adds strings, bass,  and piano on several cuts.

The music jumps and swings just like an old-time string or jug band, with elements of Django and Grappelli interspersed throughout.  The set starts with the only two covers out of the fifteen songs.  First up is a poppin’ version of Tampa Red’s “my baby’s gone” song, “Seminole Blues.”  Next up is a song Brad learned thru Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter, “Don’t You Love Your Daddy No More.”  On this version, Jim Davis’ clarinet and Dave Gross’ mandolin give it a ragtime feel.  Speaking of ragtime, both Margey and Charles add fiddle to the “Twenty-First Century Rag,” where “your watch is a computer,” and “you can take a “robotic car” wherever you wanna go!

One of the most powerful cuts ion the set is done a capella, save for Dave on percussion.  It is “Fightin, in the name of the Lord,” a brooding tale of greed and the sordid direction this country seems to be heading, and features some deep gospel shoutin’ from Mikey Junior.

We had three favorites, too.  Brad knows his love affair is coming to an end, due to the constant “ringside fights,” because “Everything About You Is Blue.”  Margey takes the lead vocal on a jumpin’ little tune about every conceivable ethnic food delight one can imagine, “Mama’s Cookin.”  Early in his career, Brad worked with Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry.  You can hear that influence in one of the first songs Brad wrote.  It’s done as a duet with Margey, but with those fluid guitar lines and punchy sax, all that’s lacking in “Another Lonesome Road” is Nadine in that coffee-colored Cadillac!

Brad Vickers and his Vestapolitans continue to create great music that is both stimulating and entertaining, done in a style that is indeed timeless.  “That’s What They Say”  continues his growing legacy!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

Stolen Hearts review…October 25, 2015…

STOLEN HEARTS

DIRTY SOUTHERN SOUL

INDEPENDENT RELEASE

THE DREAM–CAROLINA DAYS (BOOTSIE’S SONG)–DO YOU NO HARM–ALL I GOT LEFT–WEREWOLVES (MAKE LOUSY BOYFRIENDS)–BRING YOUR LOVE–MY JOHNNY–C’MON BABY (I GOT YOUR SHOES)–AIN’T NO MAN–BOY THEY GONNA OWN YA–ALREADY ALRIGHT–I’D RATHER GO BLIND

Guitarist, vocalist, and composer Pam Taylor was mentored by none other than Debbie Davies, and she has a deeply-soulful voice you can’t help but love.  The ability to play stringed instruments came naturally to Robert Johnson, Jr., and when their respective bands broke up in 2014, they combined their considerable talents to form Stolen Hearts.  They proudly present some good ole “Dirty Southern Soul,” eleven originals and one blow-you-away cover that show why these two amazing individuals work seamlessly together.

The set starts with Pam’s rockin’ tale of “breaking hearts and guitar strings,” “The Dream.”  This one hits you like a long-lost Delaney And Bonnie cut, especially with that sax from Mike Taylor.  Robert takes a mellow approach with a couple of songs that hearken back to the days when “you were hotter than a firecracker,” “Carolina Days.”  And, the country-blues of “Do You No Harm” has him hoping “her daddy don’t find out” about his love affair!

One of the reasons this set is such fun is Robert’s “love song” about “the way the moon shines in your eyes!”  It’s called “Werewolves (Make Lousy Boyfriends), and, with all the wah-wah going on, it has a definite Hendrix vibe!

Pam has some good moments, too.  A straight, no-chaser slow blues finds Pam singing “you took my money and my dog, too, and All I Got Left is the blues.”  And, with one of the coolest love songs we’ve heard in quite some time , Pam proudly tells everyone about her lover—“you’re My Johnny, and I’m your June,” featuring Robert on mandolin.

Two of Robert’s vocals sound as if they were borne of the Crossroads of his namesake, where that infamous deal sho’ nuff went down.  The defiance of “Ain’t No Man” stands tall with Southern pride, while a warning to those who “don’t walk right” is “Boy They Gonna Own Ya.”

Our favorite closed the set.  Pam’s vocal is powerful and emotive on an eight-minutes-of-bliss read of “I’d Rather Go Blind.”

Now engaged, Pam Taylor and Robert Johnson, Jr, are having a lot of fun with “Dirty Southern Soul.”  Both are giving back to the community, too, thru raising money for various charitable causes.  But, above all, they feel their music has the power to heal, and we wholeheartedly agree!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Randall Bramblett review…October 24, 2015…

RANDALL BRAMBLETT

DEVIL MUSIC

NEW WEST RECORDS  NW6440

DEAD IN THE WATER–DEVIL MUSIC–BOTTOM OF THE OCEAN–ANGEL CHILD–PRIDE IN PLACE–REPTILE PILOT–WHISKY HEADED WOMAN–STRONG LOVE–RIDE–THING FOR YOU–MISSING LINK

We’ve been fans of Randall Bramblett since his days with Southern-rock torch-bearers Chuck Leavell and Sea Level.  Growing up in Jesup, GA, Randall absorbed the field hollers and gospel music of that region, as well as the soul music that we also heard as youths, blasting outta those 50000 watts of WLAC.  Randall took up piano at age four, soon followed by guitar and sax.  His songwriting has always had that common thread running thru it where we are all being constantly pulled by good against evil, and sin versus salvation.  His latest set for New West, “Devil Music,” further explores those themes more in depth.

Randall also writes songs that contain unique characters that embody this constant pull against themselves.  Check out the OCD wife in the leadoff cut, “Dead In The Water,” who “drinks that Benzedrine,” and “scrubs the floor with a toothbrush, but just can’t seem to get it clean.”  This one features fine guitar from Mark Knopfler, too.  “Bottom Of The Ocean” deals with escaping one’s demons, while “Whisky Headed Woman” is built around a simple riff with trance-like piano and sax as complements.

There were several more highlights, also.  Randall teams with Derek Trucks on slide guitar to conjure up the spirit of Duane Allman on the Southern-rock gem that is “Angel Child.”  Chuck Leavell guests on piano on the uniquely-quirky jazz of “Reptile Pilot,” and the set closes with a stone shot of classic soul, a deep groove that has Randall singing that he’s “your Missing Link” with that “soul connection when you call my name!”

Perhaps the set’s most powerful song is the dark, brooding title cut.  Set over a foreboding beat, it tells the sad story of Howlin’ Wolf, who was rejected by his own mother all because he had that “Devil Music in his soul.”

Randall Bramblett’s singing on “Devil Music” is powerful and intense, purposely conveying the pressures we all face to continually do the right thing.  The beats are strong, and the groove is rock-solid, exactly what you’d expect from a Southern-rock legend!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Ebony Jo-Ann review…October 24, 2015…

EBONY JO-ANN

PLEASE SAVE YOUR LOVE FOR ME

INDEPENDENT RELEASE

JUST RAIN–IS IT BECAUSE I’M BLACK–YO LOVE–NOSYBODY–SEND ME SOMEONE TO LOVE–GLAD I WAITED FOR LOVE–BURNIN WORLD–PLEASE SAVE YOUR LOVE FOR ME–MUDDY WATER–SITTIN ON TOP OF THE WORLD

Ebony Jo-Ann is a supremely-gifted and talented singer and actress.  She has graced the Lincoln Center stage, and has portrayed both Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey in stage productions.  She has one of those voices that “they just don’t make any more,” and she is a consummate performer regardless of the material.

Jo-Ann chose the blues for its truth and purity, and because it can be expressed in so many ways.  On her latest release, “Please Save Your Love For Me,” she gives ten outstanding performances that show love in all its different permutations, as well as the good and not-so-good in today’s society.

Leading off is “Just Rain,” written by Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, which shows that, when your lover isn’t there, something as simple as rain against the window triggers many emotions.  “Yo Love” is an ode to that “sweet sweet love” that is good for everyone, and has some fine backing harp from Guy Davis.  The consequences of “minding somebody else’s business more than you mind your own” is the humorous theme of “Nosybody,” with great sax fills from Bill Easley.

Jo-Ann goes into full-on “torch” mode over brush-stroked drums and gentle piano on the Percy Mayfield classic, “Please Send Me Someone To Love,”  with duet vocals from her good friend and the set’s producer, Danny Kean.  And, she revisits classic Seventies’ soul with a horn-drenched read of the title cut.

She touches on some hot-button societal topics, also.  First up is a song from our youth made popular by Syl Johnson as an ode to those long-suffering from oppression, “Is It Because I’m Black,” as Jo-Ann sings the lyrics with the passion of the original.  And, she uses “Burnin’ World” as a call for unity thru the “enlightenment of our young men and the empowerment of our young women.”  The set closes with our favorite, a sho’ nuff, “didn’t-see-that-coming” cut.  It’s an all-acoustic, Delta-rific, spot-on read by Jo-Ann of the Mississippi Sheiks’ “Sittin’ On Top Of The World,” with authentic harp, guitar, and banjo from Guy Davis.

Ebony Jo-Ann melds vintage blues and jazz sounds with today’s contemporary canon with style and sophistication.  With a voice that’s in a class all by itself, “Please Save Your Love For Me” is a very entertaining listen!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Mighty Mike Schermer review…October 22, 2015…

MIGHTY MIKE SCHERMER

BLUES IN GOOD HANDS

FINEDOG/VIZZTONE RECORDS

VT-FD61040

BABY DON’T STOP–HEAVEN’S ON THE OTHER SIDE–IT’S A PLEASURE–ONE TEAR AT A TIME–WORLD GONE CRAZY–BLUES IN GOOD HANDS–WAIT-ON-ME WOMAN–MOST PEOPLE–BARKIN’ UP THE WRONG TREE–TAKE MY HAND–STOP CRYING–BABY BE KIND–HEAR YOU CALL HIM BABY

Guitarist extraordinaire Mighty Mike Schermer has been a fixture on the contemporary blues scene for over twenty years.  He’s been a sideman for luminaries such as Marcia Ball, Elvin Bishop, Angela Strehli, and scores of others.  For his sixth overall CD, he’s proud to be keeping the “Blues In Good Hands” for all us fans.  The thirteen originals also go all around the musical map, showing just how versatile an artist Mike really is.  There is straight blues, soul blues, funk, and even a shot of reggae throughout these cuts, all of which deal with the struggles of everyday life.  Oh, and some of his best friends are along for the ride!

Leading off is the rockin’ blues love story of “Baby Don’t Stop giving me real love,” with a cool sax break from Terry Hanck.  Always remembering those we love is the theme of the sweet blues of “It’s A Pleasure,” while “Baby Be Kind” has that good ole deep, Jimmy Reed vibe, and that’s John Nemeth on the harp.

“Wait-On-Me Woman” has Mike layin’ down some fine Chicago-styled blues licks, with harp from Greg Izor, while “Take My Hand” is a rhumba romp that has Mike telling a lady that “I don’t want your number–all I want to do is dance with you.”

We had so many favorites, we are gonna get started on them.  “Most People” has a New Orleans flavor, with a so-true tale of those people who “get fat while I get lean.”  A no-good dog of a man is “Barkin’ Up The Wrong Tree” in Mike’s yard, and this one has a ton of good-time piano from Marcia Ball, with Angela Strehli and Vicki Randle on backing vocals.  Slow blues is well-represented, too.  It’s downright hot on “Baby Stop Crying,” as Mike and Tommy Castro go toe-to-toe with brilliant “dueling solos” at the bridge on this one.

Two cuts were really poignant.  Actual sound bytes from news reports of the various tragedies from recent months dot the sad story  of this “World Gone Crazy.” And, the title cut pays tribute to Albert Collins, Hubert Sumlin, and Junior Walker, as Mike and Terry Hanck on sax strive to “say something we can all feel” thru the power of the blues.

Mighty Mike Schermer has come out swingin’ with a strong set of tunes that really hit you in your soul.  Well-conceived lyrics, excellent musicianship, and a “who’s who” of guest stars make “Blues In Good Hands” a set not to be missed!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.