Archive for November, 2015

Charlie Musselwhite review..November 16, 2015…

CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE

I AIN’T LYIN’

UNDER THE RADAR MUSIC GROUP

GOOD BLUES TONIGHT–DONE SOMEBODY WRONG–LONG LEAN LANKY MAMA–ALWAYS BEEN YOUR FRIEND–IF I SHOULD HAVE BAD LUCK–MY KINDA GAL–BLUES, WHY DO YOU WORRY ME?–300 MILES TO GO–LONG LEG WOMAN–CRISTO REDENTOR–GOOD BLUES TONIGHT (UNEDITED)

A new album from harp master Charlie Musselwhite is always a cause for celebration, and his latest, “I Ain’t Lyin,” is an anniversary of sorts.  Charlie’s very first album, “Stand Back!–Here Comes Charlie Musselwhite’s South Side Band” was released in 1966, and he’s still goin’ strong, some fifty years further on up the road.

On “I Ain’t Lyin,” Charlie recorded part of it live, at the Valley Of The Moon Festival in Sonoma, CA, in September, 2014, and the rest at the Clarksdale Soundstage studio in December, 2014.  He touts this band as one of his strongest ever, with June Core on drums, Steve Froberg on bass, and Matt Stubbs on guitar.

They kick off with a rhum-boogie invitation to “Come on in, we got Good blues Tonight,” which also closes the set in a slightly longer (and a bit more risque’!) version.  Charlie blows that killer riff from “Done Somebody Wrong” for all it’s worth, as “my baby done caught that train and gone!”  He gets into a deep slow-blues groove on the poignant “Always BeenYour Friend,” and simply nails one of our favorites of his many instrumentals, the quietly-pastoral “Cristo Redentor,” translated as “Christ The Redeemer.”

The freight-train-rolling-outta-the-Delta-night backbeat of “My Kinda Gal” has Charlie bustin’ out many of his signature licks, and Matt gets in some fine solos, also.  They do it again a bit later on the funky groove of “Long Leg woman,” with “legs as long as a summer day.”

Our favorite was from one of Charlie’s earlier albums, and it’s a monster.  He blows a hard-driving, traveling boogie shuffle on “If I Should Have Bad Luck,” singing that “since I know you love me, your love will keep me going,” from Memphis on down to Clarksdale!

Charlie Musselwhite has won a Grammy, with Ben Harper on “Get Up!” from a few years back.  He’s played at the Great Wall Of China, and he’s played with all the greats, from Muddy to Buddy and Walter to Wolf.  As he proudly sings in “I Ain’t Lyin,” he’s “gonna play these blues ’til the last deal goes down!”  Amen, Charlie!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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The Knickerbocker All-Stars review…November 16, 2015….

THE KNICKERBOCKER ALL-STARS

GO BACK HOME TO THE BLUES

JP CADILLAC RECORDS  JPS 1002

36-22-36–YOU KNOW THAT YOU LOVE ME–CADILLAC BABY–BRAND NEW FOOL–SOMETHING TO REMEMBER YOU BY–TAKE IT LIKE A MAN–HOKIN’–DON’T YOU EVER GET TIRED OF BEING RIGHT–HE WAS A FRIEND OF MINE–GO BACK HOME TO THE BLUES–BLOCKBUSTER BOOGIE–ANNIE GET YOUR THING ON–I TRIED

The Knickerbocker Club was built just after Prohibition.  It’s where Duke Robillard founded Roomful Of Blues, and nowadays, it’s a non-profit center for the preservation and continuance of that horn-driven, jump blues that Roomful popularized.  For the follow-up to “Open Mic At The Knick,” the players who helped define that sound have just released “Go Back Home To The Blues,” thirteen cuts of hard-rockin’ blues that mix cool covers with originals written within  that jump-blues style.  Many of the original Roomful players are in the horn section herein, and Monster Mike Welch is on guitar, with Al Copley  on keys.  The vocals are handled by Sugar Ray Norcia, Willie J. Laws, Brian Templeton, and Al Basile.

The show starts with Sugar Ray on vocal in a cool call-and-response shout-out to his well-endowed lover, “36-22-36.”  Brian Templeton swings on the tale of that “hydramatic Cadillac Baby,” and comes back a bit later to tell us that, “when you’re down, Go Back Home To The Blues.”  Al Basile adds one of his tunes from his latest album,”B’s Expression,” (reviewed elsewhere in this forum), the tale of his somewhat-overbearing lover, to whom he asks, “Don’t You Ever Get Tired Of Being Right?”  Willie J. Laws gives it up and turns it-a-loose on the groovy stop-time “He Was A Friend Of Mine,” then closes the set with the fast-paced, Larry Davis-penned, “I Tried to treat you right.”

We had two favorites, too.  Willie J. Laws does the vocal, and Monster Mike handles the plaintive, pleading guitar licks on the classic good-bye song, “Please give me Something To Remember You By.”  Sugar Ray is on vocal on a song we recalled from one of Roomful’s early vinyl LP’s, the jumpin’ Chick Willis cut, “Take It Like A Man.”

“Go Back Home To The Blues” from the Knickerbocker All-Stars plays out just like one of those R & B “package” shows from back in the day.  Great vocalists working with excellent material, and a backing band that has defined the sound of a generation, make this one a set not to miss!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Crooked Eye Tommy review…November 15, 2015…

CROOKED EYE TOMMY

BUTTERFLIES AND SNAKES

SELF-RELEASED

CROOKED EYE TOMMY–COME ON IN–I STOLE THE BLUES–TIME WILL TELL–TIDE POOL–SOMEBODY’S GOT TO PAY–LOVE DIVINE–AFTER THE BURN–MAD AND DISGUSTED–OVER AND OVER–SOUTHERN HEART

Crooked Eye Tommy is the brainchild of brothers, guitarists, and vocalists Tommy and Paddy Marsh.  They hail from the Santa Barbara, CA, area, and represented that scene in the 2014 IBC’s in Memphis.  We don’t know how much time the fellows have spent “down South,” but they sure have a feel for the Delta, the deals that go down at the Crossroads, and good ole Southern rock.  They are joined by Glade Rasmussen on bass, Tony Cicero on drums, and Jimmy Calire on sax and keys.

Their debut set is entitled “Butterflies And Snakes,” and is one of the more varied and eclectic sets we’ve had the pleasure of hearing in quite some time, featuring eleven band originals.  “Crooked Eye Tommy” leads off, and comes out swingin.’  it’s Tommy’s autobiography of sorts, as he was born with two “lazy” eyes, but the raging, Delta-fied slide guitar and lyrics that show Tommy as a lover “like a sabre-toothed tiger with the homecoming queen” turn him into a 21st century hoochie coochie man!  “Time Will Tell’ differentiates the sexes, as “women are made of butterflies and snakes, and trying to please one is enough to give a good man the shakes!”

“Tide Pool” and “Love Divine” have a strong Southern-rock vibe and includes some deep guitar interplay that only a brother-to-brother connection can create.  Continuing in that vein, the set closes with a wistful, breezy ode to Skynyrd, Sea Level, Elvin Bishop and all the rest, “I’ve always had a Southern Heart.”

We had three favorites, too.  Paddy wrote the stone-cold shot of “I Stole The Blues,” and name-checks everyone from Muddy to Jerry Garcia as he realizes “it’s time to give ’em back.”  A man who gets the shaft from the government in general is “Mad And Disgusted,” but “they can’t take my music!”  And, another true story from Tommy’s pen deals with the IRS, and, as we all know, whoever has the most money has the power, and “Somebody’s Got To Pay!”

Crooked Eye Tommy successfully bring together the blues of the Delta with the sounds of Southern-fried boogie!  “Butterflies And Snakes” is an excellent debut!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Chris Yakopcic review…November 13, 2015…

CHRIS YAKOPCIC

THE NEXT PLACE I LEAVE

YAKO RECORDS 701

THE NEXT PLACE I LEAVE–PREACHIN’ BLUES–SWEET TIME BLUES–SMALLMAN STREET–PHONOGRAPH BLUES–SOUNDS OF THE HIGHWAY–WRITE ME A FEW LINES–TOWER OF SONG–TIME TO GO–ADDICTED–MY LAST THREE STRINGS

Chris Yakopcic (think yah-COP-sick) is an accomplished guitarist and composer who made it all the way to the Finals of the 2015 IBC in Memphis, and has just released his second album, “The Next Place I Leave,” on his own Yako Records.  On this set, he’s joined by bassist Leo Smith and drummer Brian Hoeflich, over the course of eight originals and three covers.

Chris’ musical soul lies in the music of the pre-WWII Delta masters, and he is well-versed in the fingerpicking styles of Son House, Robert Johnson, and several others.  He’s a natural storyteller, and his originals attest to this fact.  Check out his autobiographical trip down on “Smallman Street,” as “the sounds shook me like a V-8 engine” in getting bitten by the blues bug.  Playing regularly throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania, Chris doesn’t have a problem going out on the road, as the swingin’ “Sounds Of The Highway” tells us, as “I’d rather die by the roadside than spend a lifetime gettin’ old.”  He closes the set with a somewhat-reverent original, as he recounts the story of his life as a bluesman and his love for his guitar, “My Last Three Strings.”

He pays a strong tribute to some of his heroes, too.  There’s some deep slide in Robert Johnson’s “Preachin’ Blues,” and you gotta love the double-entendres’ hidden throughout Johnson’s “Phonograph Blues”—“My baby’s got a phonograph, but my needle’s rusted and it won’t play at all!”  And, Fred McDowell’s “Write Me A Few Of Your Lines” features a cool “freight train” break at the bridge, before slowing back down for the climax.

We had two favorites, too, both originals.  Chris isn’t “Addicted” to nicotine, booze, or wimmen, just to “that smokin guitar!”  And, the set leads off with the title cut, as Chris weaves a tale of going to the Crossroads for “dinner with the Devil,” and “tearing up the deal with my teeth,” because Hell is just “The Next Place I Leave!”

Chris Yakopcic is set to play the Blind Raccoon Showcase during IBC Week on January 27-29, 2016.  His fingerpicking style is ebullient and captivating, and his originals invoke the feel of the old masters.  “The Next Place I Leave” is a fine listen, indeed!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Josh Smith review…November 12, 2015…

JOSH SMITH

OVER YOUR HEAD

SELF-RELEASED

HOW LONG–OVER YOUR HEAD–WHEN I GET MINE–STILL SEARCHING–FIRST HAND LOOK (AT DOWN AND OUT)–…AND WHAT–INTRO–SMOKE AND MIRRORS–PUSHER–BETTER OFF–YOU’LL FIND LOVE–HOW LONG (REPRISE)

Josh Smith is a well-known guitar slinger from Los Angeles, moving west from Florida in 2002.  At 36, he has already released seven albums, and spent some time as the leader of American Idol winner Taylor Hicks’ band.  In listening to his eighth CD of all-original material, entitled “Over Your Head,” one can hear Josh’s many influences.  There’s Hendrix, British Invasion, and SRV DNA all over the blues-rock grooves contained herein, as well as some mighty fine special guests.

The core band in this power trio is Josh on vocals and guitar, Calvin Turner on bass, and Lemar Carter on drums.  The songs dig deep into love and relationships, and the snags one encounters along the way.  The show starts with the rolling riff of “How Long,” as Josh compares his love affair as a “mine field,” wondering “How Long ’til I blow!”  The subject of the title cut is told that “my love is Over Your Head,” and features guitar from Joe Bonamassa.  A girl who’s looking for only what she’s got coming gets the sobering news that “you’ll get yours When I Get Mine.”  This one has a good Albert King vibe goin’ on.  Josh and Kirk fletcher get into a spirited guitar duel on the tasty instrumental, ‘…And What,” while “Smoke And Mirrors” takes a hard look at people you know you just can’t trust.

At the other end of the relationship spectrum, Josh’s guitar lines take on a smoother, jazzy feel over Charles Jones’ vocals in the tale of an affair that finds the lady told that “I’m not what you asked for, not what you need,” and “you’ll be Better Off without me.”  That ideal comes full-circle in the next cut, which served as our favorite.  It’s a solid shot of Muddy-ish Chess blues, “You’ll Find Love,” with harp from Charlie Musselwhite.

Lately, Josh Smith has been touring with Raphael Saadiq, and has backed Mick Jagger at the Grammys, and played the Kennedy Center stage as well.  “Over Your Head” continues his reputation as one of the best young artists on the contemporary blues scene today!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Mike Zito and the Wheel review…November 11, 2015…

MIKE ZITO AND THE WHEEL

KEEP COMING BACK

RUF RECORDS CD  1221

KEEP COMING BACK–CHIN UP–GET BUSY LIVING–EARLY IN THE MORNING–I WAS DRUNK (WITH ANDERS OSBORNE)–LONELY HEART–GIRL FROM LIBERTY–GET OUT OF DENVER–NOTHIN’ BUT THE TRUTH–CROSS THE BORDER–WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND–BOOTLEG

Guitarist Mike Zito has won a Blues Award, he was a founding member of Royal Southern Brotherhood, and he’s had several critically-acclaimed solo sets with his band, The Wheel.  His latest is for Ruf Records, and, for us, it serves as one of his best.  The title is “Keep Coming Back,” seven cuts of Mike’s originals, three written with Anders Osborne, and two rarely-offered covers.

Mike’s battled a lot of personal demons throughout his life, but he’s persevered to become one of the best contemporary bluesmen, and he never lacks for material to write about.  The leadoff title cut is a great testimony to this fact–Mike’s blistering slide, coupled with Jimmy Carpenter’s sax, is a stark reminder for us all to remember that, when you get knocked down, just “Keep Coming Back to the blues.”  The challenges of daily struggles in today’s society just to make ends meet is the subject of “Chin Up,” while a lover hiding behind a web of deceit is asked for “Nothin’ But The Truth, to set you free.”

Both “Get Busy Living” and “Early In The Morning” are lighter fare, and are a nod to Southern rock and Mike’s RSB days, and small-town life and love is chronicled in the “street fights, Friday nights,” of the rockin’ “Girl From Liberty.”  The set closes with a John Fogerty-CCR classic, the stuttering choogle of “Bootleg.”

We had two favorites, too. Zito absolutely nails the mile-a-minute, Chuck-Berry-fied Seger classic, “Get Out Of Denver.”  And, one of the set’s most powerful pieces is a page from Mike’s life, where one’s choices are often met with less-than-desirable consequences, “I Was Drunk,” done as a duet with Anders Osborne.

Mike Zito continues to live out the songs he’s written.  This album is at once defiant and passionate, subtle and raw, and his musicianship on “Keep Coming Back” is as impeccable as ever!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

 

Heather Crosse review…November 9, 2015…

HEATHER CROSSE

GROOVING AT THE CROSSE ROADS

RUF RECORDS 1217

MY MAN CALLED ME–WHY DOES A WOMAN NEED A BASS GUITAR–ROCKIN’ CHAIR–CLARKSDALE SHUFFLE–HURRYIN’ UP TO RELAX–WALKIN’ IN THEIR SHOES–DAMN YOUR EYES–STEPPIN’ UP STRONG–BAD BOY KISS–CALL ON ME–YOU DON’T MOVE ME NO MORE

Vocalist/bassist Heather Crosse originally hails from Louisiana, but she adopted Clarksdale, MS as her musical hometown.  She was a part of the Ruf Records 2015 “Girls With Guitars” caravan tour, but the blues-rock slant of that tour wasn’t the direction she wanted to go.  Heather listened to a lot of Motown and Etta James and Big Mama Thornton growing up, thus preferring her blues with a shot of soul.  That’s the formula for her latest Ruf release, “Grooving At The Crosse Roads,” featuring five originals and a good mix of covers that pay tribute to her heroes.

This set was produced by the iconic Jim Gaines, and Heather used her regular band, known as Heavy Suga And The SweeTones, to get a good feel for the songs.  We have Lee Williams on drums, Mark Yacavone on keys, and Dan Smith on guitars.

She leads off with a Don Robey-penned shuffle, “My Man Called Me This Morning,” then goes into her autobiography with “Why Does A Woman Need A Bass Guitar?”  The answers, at least for Heather, are simple–“It don’t talk back, it don’t give me no flak, and “is still here after all the men are gone!”  She gives a shout-out to classic soul with a sweet take on Gwen McCrae’s “Rockin Chair,” and with one of her originals, “Hurryin Up To Relax,” with excellent organ from Mark.

She tackles love and relationships and “no longer bein’ a fool for you” with Etta’s “Damn Your Eyes,” then falls hard for that “Bad Boy Kiss, with a little tenderness” on this funky groove.  The power of music to heal us when we are down is spelled out in “Steppin’ Up Strong,” and she closes the set with a rhumba romp, the ultimate kiss-off song, “Daddy, You Don’t Move Me No More!”

We had two favorites, too, perhaps the most “straight blues” cuts herein.  Dan Smith’s slide wails the blues as Heather sings of “my mentors, now long gone,” those who “taught my soul to sing,” and she’s “Walkin’ In Their Shoes.”  And, all the music that is part of her adopted hometown is in the rockin’ “Clarksdale Shuffle.”

“Grooving At The Crosse Roads” is the culmination of Heather Crosse’s blues journey that has taken her from the deep South of Louisiana to, literally, Ground Zero of the blues.  This one is a blast from start to finish!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.