Archive for November, 2015

Micke Bjorklof and Blue Strip review…November 30, 2015…

MICKE BJORKLOF

AND BLUE STRIP

AIN’T BAD YET

HOKAHEY RECORDS  HHR 1501

LAST TRAIN TO MEMPHIS–TROUBLEMAKER–RAIN IN JERUSALEM–GET YA IN DA MOOD–HOLD YOUR FIRE BABY–IT AIN’T BAD YET–RAT CHASE–SWEET DREAM’S A SWEET DREAM–TODAY–BLAME IT ON THE BRIGHT LIGHTS–IN CHAINS

Micke Bjorklof and Blue Strip have been tearin’ up the blues in Finland for over twenty years.  They started out as an acoustic cover band, and, after a few personnel changes, turned into their current lineup, and began to write their own material and work on their now-legendary live shows.  Their latest album, and sixth overall, is entitled “Ain’t Bad Yet,” and combines elements of Delta blues, rockabilly, and good ole straight-up combo blues.

At the helm is singer and harp blaster Micke Bjorklof, with Lefty Leppanen on guitars throughout.  On bass is Seppo Nuolikoski, with Teemu Vuorela on drums.  This one comes roarin’ out of the station with the chugging boogie of “Last Train To Memphis,” as Micke’s goin’ to see “Carl Perkins and a young Elvis in his blue suede shoes!”  Lefty’s slide is on fire on this one, and, a few cuts later, they make a stop down at 706 Union for a cool shot of rockabilly-infused blues, “Blame It On The Bright Lights.”

Micke gets his harp greased up and ready in “Hold Your Fire, Baby,” then takes a look at today’s world of instant gratification with the frenetic pace of winnin’ the “Rat Chase.”  The band shows off a definite Delta connection with Lefty’s powerful acoustic slide over Micke’s reassuring vocals that “It Ain’t Bad Yet, everything’ll be all right.”  The set closes with another Delta gem, a story-in-song of a man on trial for robbing a bank and giving the money to a poor woman.  Micke and the band beg the judge, “don’t put the man In Chains.”

We had two favorites, too.  Micke hits the nail on the head with the slide-heavy funk of “Get Ya In Da Mood,” because everybody knows that “you gotta go down South, if you wanna have some fun!”  The set’s most topical piece follows a Doomsday beat, as Micke warns us all that “this killing game” among each other is only gonna lead to a bitter “Rain In Jerusalem.”

The blues is a global form of entertainment, and we have had the great fortune to hear many of the world’s best players.  Add to those numbers the extremely-talented Micke Bjorklof and Blue Strip with “Ain’t Bad Yet!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow

Randy McAllister review…November 28, 2015…

RANDY MCALLISTER

AND THE SCRAPPIEST BAND IN THE MOTHERLAND

GRISTLE TO GOLD

REACTION RECORDS

THE KID WITH THE REALLY OLD SOUL–THE PUSH–SOMETHING THAT DON’T COST A DIME–CRAPPY FOOD, NO SLEEP, A VAN AND A BUNCH OF SONGS–I’M LIKE A BOOMERANG–YOU LIT THE DYNAMITE–SOMEONE’S BEEN THERE–BOWLING PIN–GLASS HALF FULL–A WHOLE LOT OF NOTHING–HEY HOOKER–NINJA BOUT CHA

Randy McAllister is a fifth-generation Texan who got the drumming bug from his father, who, besides being a firefighter, drummed in a local rock band.  And, when Randy was stationed in Massachusetts in the Air Force, he learned to blow a mean blues harp.  When he returned to Texas in 1992, he’d developed his razor-sharp wit for writing songs, too.  He’s released several albums for JSP, Severn, and Reaction, (check out his fine 2007 effort, “Dope Slap Soup,” for more of this man’s talents!) and Reaction has just released his latest, “Gristle To Gold.”  It is twelve cuts that trace Randy’s many and varied influences, as well as his unique looks at life, love, and being a blues man.

Leading off is “The Kid With The Really Old Soul.”  It’s a good autobiography for Randy, set over a driving shuffle with slide from Rob Dewan.  It details a young man wise beyond his years, who digs “Dylan, Otis Redding, and Rev. Gary,” and everyone in between.  Andrea Wallace adds backing vocals on the sanctified feel of “Something That Don’t Cost A Dime,” and has that good ole Delaney and Bonnie groove.

Randy gets in a sweet, reflective mood on the soul-infused “Like A Boomerang,” and again on Someone’s Been There.”  He takes a couple of different looks at relationships with “Whole Lot Of Nothing but trouble with you,” but finds a measure of redemption with a lover who makes him realize he drinks from a “Glass Half Full” when he’s with her, “no matter how far I fall down.”

We had two favorites, too.  A stomping, freight-train beat drives the tale of a man who “keeps coming back when I should’ve had enough,” just like that proverbial “Bowling Pin.”  And, he shouts out to John Lee Hooker on the piano-heavy rocker, “Hey Hooker,” thanking the legend for that “endless boogie” on cuts such as “Boom Boom,” “I’m Bad Like Jesse James,” and “Want Ad Blues,” to name a few.

Randy McAllister tells it like it is—yep, he “don’t need validation from any outside source,” because the deep, delicious grooves of “Gristle To Gold” speak volumes!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Mississippi Bigfoot review…November 24, 2015…

MISSISSIPPI BIGFOOT

POPULATION UNKNOWN

SILVER TONGUE RECORDS

BURN THAT WOMAN DOWN–MIGHTY RIVER–WAG THE DOG–NO FLESH IN OUTERSPACE–WHO’S GONNA RUN THIS TOWN–CLARKSDALE–YOU DID–THE HUNTER–TREE KNOCKIN’

Mississippi Bigfoot was formed in May of 2015 after a show at Ground Zero in Clarksdale.  They combine elements of blues, rockabilly, punk, and the sounds of the Delta and all things in between and run it all up thru North Mississippi, on up to Memphis, then to Chicago.  The result is the sparkling debut, “Population Unknown,” eight band originals and a too-cool cover that shows off their “hold nothin’ back” attitude.

Christina Vierra has one of those voices that’s powerful enough to tear the head off of one of Robert Johnson’s mythical hellhounds, and she makes this material come to life.  She starts the set with the tale of the proverbial “woman scorned,” set over a burning slide guitar as she shoots her lover and “left him lyin’ in the drain,” “Burn That Woman Down.”  “Wag The Dog” follows the stompin’ beat of the Hill Country, while Christina pours her heart out in the poignant, piano-driven ballad, “You Did.”

The slide-and-harp “endless boogie” rides that hellacious groove as Christina brings the heat on a cover of “The Hunter,” where “there won’t be no missin, when I get you in the sights of my love gun!”  This one also features some fine twin-guitar interplay.  That boogie groove stays steady in the set-closer, the swampy, spooky “Tree Knockin,” and its story of Mississippi Bigfoot, on the hunt for some good ole “blueberry moonshine!”

We had two favorites, too.  A quirky, wah-wah guitar part fuels the story of “No Flesh In Outer Space,” ’cause “God made us from earth and mud.”  And, “Clarksdale” is that place where, when the moon comes up, the deal goes down, and Johnny Holiday and Christina do a sweet duet as Johnny goes to “see that man in the middle of the road and give the devil his due!”

Mississippi Bigfoot takes the sounds of the South and neatly blends them together to make “Population Unknown” one of the most eclectic, varied, and enjoyable sets you’re likely to hear for quite some time!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Cousin Harley review…November 23, 2015…

COUSIN HARLEY

THE DUTCH SESSIONS

LITTLE PIG RECORDS  LPR 008

I’M COMING HOME–GLAD ALL OVER–TEARDROPS FROM MY EYES–I’M FEELIN’ BAD–MER MORTE–ROCK THERAPY–YONDER COMES A SUCKER–WHATCHA GONNA DO WHEN THERE AIN’T NO SWING–RHYTHM AND BOOZE–JEANIE JEANIE JEANIE

Straight outta Vancouver, BC, roars one of the finest rockabilly trios on the scene today.  Yep–Cousin Harley is back with their latest set, “The Dutch Sessions,” recorded live-to-tape in the Netherlands during a break from their 2013 touring schedule.  At the helm once again is Gretsch spokesman and guitarist extraordinaire Paul Pigat, also on vocals, with Keith Picot on slapback bass and Jesse Cahill on drums.

These fellows have a passion for the rockabilly era of the early- and mid-Fifties, and they are known for tearin’ it up in their live shows.  These ten cuts are some of their favorites, that one would hear at one of those shows.

The Set starts with a classic “truckers anthem,” where Paul declares “I’m Coming Home, I’m dockin’ it in, to make sweet love to you!”  They give an authentic read to that “real cool pappy” who’s “Glad All Over,” and give a nod to vintage country with the Jim Reeves chestnut, “Yonder Comes A Sucker.”  “Mer Morte” is a twang-filled instrumental, and Jesse adds brush-stroked drums to the jazzy, light-hearted, “Whatcha Gonna Do When There Ain’t No Swing and you can’t get swung?”

We had two favorites, too.  Paul strikes some cool stop-time chords with “I don’t need a doctor/I don’t need a nurse/I need Rock Therapy!”  And, they close the set with the mile-a-minute “Jeanie Jeanie Jeanie,” where they vow to “rock around the clock in our blue suede shoes!”

Listening to Cousin Harley is like ridin’ shotgun with Robert Mitchum down Thunder Road as he hauls those 200-gallon tanks of Tennesee corn thru the Southern nights.  “The Dutch Sessions” delivers classic rockabilly in spades!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Steve Howell and the Mighty Men review…November 22, 2015..

STEVE HOWELL

AND THE MIGHTY MEN

FRIEND LIKE ME

OUT OF THE PAST MUSIC  OOTP 007

ANOTHER FRIEND LIKE ME–ABERDEEN, MISSISSIPPI BLUES–ELDER GREEN IS GONE–OH LORD, SEARCH MY HEART–LITTLE SADIE–ROUSTABOUT–THIS OLD HAMMER–VIOLA LEE BLUES–ME AND MY UNCLE–PRETTY FLAMINGO

Texan Steve Howell is not only a top-tier fingerpicking wizard and over-the-top vocalist, he’s also a formidable historian regarding the pre-WWII masters that traveled and recorded throughout the South.  On his latest release, he takes ten of these bluesmen’s songs and puts his own indelible stamp upon them.  “Friend Like Me” also features his core backing band of Mighty Men, namely Chris Michaels on electric guitar, Dave Hoffpauir on drums, and Jason Weinhamer on bass.

Steve grew up in a time where the song and its message were the most important things, and he and the Mighty Men make sure this is what the listener hears as well.  Check out the chugging beat of one of Bukka White’s classics, the tale of “those Aberdeen, Mississippi, women” who’ll “buy my gasoline on my way to New Orleans!” This one has a strong country-blues feel with fine electric guitar throughout.  Steve gives a great read on Charley Patton’s ode to a religious man who’s “gone ramblin,” “Elder Green Is Gone down to New Orleans!”  An adaptation of a 19th century narrative written for African claw hammer banjo is the eerie, echo-laden “Roustabout,” and its tales of “young women who led me astray!” Steve closes the set with a more contemporary tune, originally a hit for Manfred Mann, featuring Spanish and tremolo guitar from Michael, the wistful “Pretty Flamingo.”

Favorites abounded, too.  What would a true troubadour’s set be without a little murder to spice things up a bit?  Check out the story of “Little Sadie,” shot by her lover, who was sentenced to “41 days, 41 nights, and 41 years” for the crime.  “Me And My Uncle,” a staple of Grateful Dead shows for years,  deals with illicit gold and “shooting my uncle and leaving him by the side of the road.”  And, the other “Dead song” is from Noah Lewis of Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers, playfully done by Steve herein, “Viola Lee Blues.”  At the total opposite end of the spectrum is Steve’s prayer for salvation during troubled times, a pleading, “Oh Lord, Search My Heart, so I’ll know right from wrong,” from the pen of Rev. Gary Davis.

Steve Howell refers to the music he loves as the “root of the True Vine.”  As one listens to “Friend Like Me,” one can easily see how this music of the American South would influence blues, and give birth to rock and roll.  This one is highly recommended listening!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Bad News Barnes review…November 19, 2015…

CHRIS “BAD NEWS” BARNES

AND THE BRETHREN OF BLUES BAND

90 PROOF TRUTH

UNDER THE RADAR MUSIC GROUP

FLAMING SADDLES RECORDS

AMERICA NEEDS A QUEEN–SALT SUGAR AND FAT–POST OP TRANSGENDER–HUNGRY AND HORNY–WESTBORO BAPTIST BLUES–90 PROOF TRUTH–CIA–LAWYER RIDING SHOTGUN–GOING DOWN–BOOM BOOM (OUT GO THE LIGHTS)–RAISE YOUR HAND–MY DING-A-LING

DVD:  AMERICA NEEDS A QUEEN–WESTBORO BAPTIST BLUES–GOING DOWN–90 PROOF TRUTH–SOMEDAY BABY W/FELICIA COLLINS

“LIVE FROM NEW YORK, IT’S….”  Well, that’s a whole ‘nother show, but Chris “Bad News” Barnes isn’t that far-removed from the SNL scene.  A brilliant satirist, he’s written for Jim Belushi, and appeared on “30 Rock,” “Seinfeld,” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and many more.  Plus, he’s a helluva blues singer and harp man, with an affinity for good ole hokum blues–written with lyrics that deal with hot-button societal topics, and are full of double-entendres’ and sexually-charged innuendos.  As such, Chris wrote eight of these hilarious tunes for his latest album, “90 Proof Truth,”  The set closes with Chris doing four live songs in The Cutting Room, allowing us to hear more of his versatility on harp and vocals.

We are gonna start with those first.  Chris has a big, booming bluesman’s voice, and puts it all out there on the Don Nix classic, “Going Down,” and a crowd-pleasing rendition of Little Walter’s “Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights).  These were our favorites from the live portion of the program.

The eight originals are priceless looks at our society and its obsession for social media and CNN.  Chris abandons all manner of “political correctness,” and “don’t hold nothin’ back,” appearing to be like Elwood Blues on that mission from God to spread his message!  He leads off by saying that “America Needs A Queen,” to add a little “fashion and pomp” to today’s scene!  This one has fine sax from Albert Collins alum, Crispin Cioe.  “Salt Sugar And Fat” is set over a “Shake Rattle And Roll” arrangement, and is the reason he’s “dyin’ from heart disease!”  The title cut warns all us guys to be leery of opening up to our women when we have too much of “the spirits,” and “90 Proof Truth” takes over!  And, he tackles a sho’ nuff’ shot of twang in the tale of an impending divorce with “my Lawyer Riding Shotgun!”

Our favorites were easy.  Set over a smoky groove, Chris recounts the story of his latest lover, as soon as “she” becomes his favorite “Post Op Transgender!”  And, the set’s most powerful cut is set over the melody of “Ode To Billie Joe” from Bobbie Gentry.  It deals with gay rights and the short-sightedness of the church, and is entitled “Westboro Baptist Blues.”  Chris is joined on this one by Dana Fuchs and Late Show alum Felicia Collins on vocals.

The companion DVD features the video for “Westboro Baptist Blues,” and live versions of “America Needs A Queen,” “Going Down,” “90 Proof Truth,” and a DVD-only version of Felicia and Chris on “Someday Baby.”

If you are easily offended, lace up your conservative wing-tips and keep walkin.’  Otherwise, enjoy a fine comedic talent with a nose for blues from Chris “Bad News” Barnes and “90 Proof Truth!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Blue Largo review…November 18, 2015…

ERIC LEIBERMAN AND

ALICIA ARAGON

BLUE LARGO

SING YOUR OWN SONG

COFFEEGRINDS MUSIC

WALKIN’ ON A TIGHTROPE–KINDNESS LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING–SING YOUR OWN SONG–TEARS OF JOY–GUITAR RHUMBA–PRISONER OF THE NIGHT–EVENING–NOTHIN TO PROVE–YOU KNOW MY LOVE–OKIE DOKIE STOMP–ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS–I NEED YOU SO BAD–REMINGTON RIDE–SITTING ON TOP OF THE WORLD

California-based Blue Largo consists of vocalist Alicia Aragon and guitarist Eric Leiberman, and they’ve been rockin’ up and down the West Coast since they started playing together in 1999.  They also released a couple of well-received albums in 2000 and 2002, but had to cease touring and recording after Eric contracted a rare neurological disorder in 2006, which affected his coordination in his right hand.  It took him nearly nine years, but he battled his affliction, and, like a whole lot of us, overcame it, and was playing well enough in May and July of this year to record “Sing Your Own Song”

Blue Largo has always preferred to spread the sounds of Louis Jordan, Billie Holiday, and others from the Forties and Fifties, as opposed to creating their own material.  However, during Eric’s recovery, he used his music as a healing poultice, and wrote several originals, seven of which show up on this fine set, produced by Nathan James, who adds guitar on a few cuts.  Check out Alicia’s torch-y, jazzy vocals on one of Eric’s originals, where “I don’t need no money nor accolades, all I need is your “Kindness, Love and Understanding!” It features an extended solo from Eric as well.

During his recovery stint, Eric had to “re-learn” how to play guitar, virtually one note at a time.  On this set, his perseverance pays off in the form of three difficult instrumentals, Earl Hooker’s “Guitar Rhumba,” Gatemouth’s signature “Okie Dokie Stomp,” and one of our favorite instrumentals of all-time that we first heard by Freddie King, the rolling “Remington Ride,”  which Eric blazes thru with ease and authority.

We had several other favorites as well.  Alicia gets right down to brass tacks and is “Going down to Louisiana to get me a mojo hand” in “Prisoner Of The Night.”  Her spirit-filled vocal turns the title cut into a full-on gospel shouter, and she and Eric close the set on a joyous, Delta-riffic acoustic note, with a playful read of the Sheikhs’ “Sittin On Top Of The World.”

We suppose that Eric Leiberman must feel that he, too, is sitting on top of the world after his physical struggles.  He and the extremely-talented Alicia Aragon, as Blue Largo, bring a feeling of hope and redemption to this material, making “Sing Your Own Song” a set to be savored, as a fine wine!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.