Archive for November, 2015

Eric Bibb and J. J. Milteau review…November 9, 2015…

ERIC BIBB AND J. J. MILTEAU

LEAD BELLY’S GOLD

LIVE AT THE SUNSET AND MORE…

GREY GOOSE–WHEN THAT TRAIN COMES ALONG/SWING LOW SWEET CHARIOT–ON A MONDAY–THE HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN–MIDNIGHT SPECIAL–BRING A LITTLE WATER, SYLVIE–WHERE DID YOU SLEEP LAST NIGHT–WHEN I GET TO DALLAS–PICK A BALE OF COTTON–GOODNIGHT, IRENE–ROCK ISLAND LINE–BOURGEOIS BLUES–CHAUFFEUR BLUES–STEWBALL–TITANIC–SWIMMIN’ IN A RIVER OF SONGS

Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter was one of the most influential folk and blues artists ever recorded.  Discovered by John and Alan Lomax in the Angola Prison farm, they cut a deal with prison officials to record Ledbetter and find him gainful employment in return for parole.  The resulting recordings became the basis for the folk boom of the Sixties, and his songs have been recorded by artists as diverse as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Nirvana.

Eric Bibb’s father Leon introduced Lead Belly’s music to Eric as a child, and Eric and French harmonica master Jean-Jacques (J. J.) Milteau have crafted a set of “Lead Belly’s Gold,” their latest album for Stony Plain.  It includes a live set of eleven of Lead Belly’s most-recognizable tunes, as well as five studio cuts either penned by Lead Belly or new songs by Eric and J. J. done for this tribute.  The live set was recorded at the Paris jazz venue, The Sunset, and is predominantly an acoustic affair.  They lead off with “Grey Goose,” a parable of social outcasts that still rings true today.  They also do a stark, minor-key reading of a song recorded by many regarding that infamous “House Of The Rising Sun,” with plaintive harp from J. J.

Lead Belly was known for his “prison songs,” and two of his prominent ones are represented by “On A Monday” and the iconic “Midnight Special.”  On the prison farm is likely where Lead Belly crafted the field hollers that would evolve into “Bring A Little Water, Sylvie,” and “Pick A Bale Of Cotton,” a spirited version of which appears on YouTube.  The live portion closes with two of his best-loved songs that defy genres’, “Goodnight, Irene,” and “Rock Island Line,” the latter popularized by Lonnie Donegan and Johnny Cash.

The in-studio cuts include a fine read of Lead Belly’s tale of the sinking of the Titanic, and the mythical racehorse, “Stewball,” who “never drunk water, but he always drunk wine!”  Our favorite also was done in-studio, a Lead Belly original that deals with segregation in Washington, D. C., the “Bourgeois Blues.”

Eric Bibb and J. J. Milteau effectively convey the power, passion, and far-ahead-of-his-time philosophies of Huddie Ledbetter.  “Lead Belly’s Gold” pays great tribute to a musician who was larger than life and the traditions he embodied.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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Georgie Bonds review…November 7, 2015…

GEORGIE BONDS

HIT IT HARD

ROADHOUSE REDEMPTION RECORDS

PICKIN’ YOUR BONES–LET’S GET DOWN–SENTENCED TO THE BLUES–NOT TIRED OF LIVING–COME BACK BABY–THE SOUL OF A MAN–BUTTER YOUR BISCUIT–DEADLY POISON–PAID VACATION–BLUES JOB–ANOTHER YEAR

We can attest to the fact that sometimes a lengthy hospital stay is a necessary evil to return you to some measure of good health and get you back into things you love to do.  Thus, it is great to see singer Georgie Bonds recovered sufficiently from his recent hip surgeries to be back onstage to follow his credo to “Hit It Hard,” which just happens to be the title of his latest album.

It’s a look at life, love, trips down to the Crossroads and back, and the ultimate redemption that follows, all thru the eyes of a man that’s been there and has a story to tell us all.  He leads this one off with a boisterous shuffle done as a tribute to his mentor, Sonny Rhodes.  Neil Taylor lays down the guitar over Buddy Cleveland’s harp in the story of a no-good woman who’ll end up “Pickin’ Your Bones ’til Kingdom Come!”  Sometimes we all get that feeling that our lives are a mundane grind, and we might be stuck in a “Blues Job,” but we all “gotta make some dough!”  This one features some punchy sax from Dave Renz and Vanessa Collier.  And, every worker looks forward to Friday at 5 PM, where we can all ‘get down with the gettin’ down,” a solid shot of dancefloor funk that is “Let’s Get Down.”

Georgie made some mistakes in his youth, owned up to them, and paid his debt.  That period in his life is detailed in two songs.  First up is a humorous look at his “Paid Vacation, at the State Penitentiary!”  Neil’s slide runs are all over this one, too.  The set closes with the first song Georgie wrote, a somber look at spending “Another Year” behind bars, with Buddy adding a mournful harp.

We had two favorites, too.  “Renting space in your soul to haters is just like drinking Deadly Poison, wanting someone else to die,” is a stark reminder that holding a grudge leads only to trouble.  And, a nothin-but-a-good-time shuffle is more of Georgie’s words to live by—“you gotta Butter Your Biscuit if you want that dough!”

Georgie Bonds does a great read on Blind Willie Johnson’s gospellish-blues that begs the musical question, “What is The Soul Of A Man?”  We feel that listeners can find the answer to that elusive question within the depth and breadth of the grooves in “Hit It Hard!”  Thanks for a great set, Georgie!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Wendy DeWitt with Kirk Harwood review…November 7, 2015…

WENDY DEWITT WITH KIRK HARWOOD

GETAWAY

WETTE MUSIC  WM 5809

SONOMA COUNTY–TREAT A WOMAN–SOMETIMES I WONDER–BUILT TO LAST–FEEL SO BAD–29 WAYS–FOLKS LIKE YOU–I WANT TO BELIEVE YOU–NEVER BE TOO MUCH–TROUBLE–EVERYBODY’S CRYING FOR SOMETHING

Wendy DeWitt is a powerhouse piano player, who, along with jazz-trained drummer Kirk Harwood, have been finalists in the IBC, and have two regional wins on their resume’.  They have just released a fine debut set of piano-heavy blues entitled “Getaway,” featuring eight originals and three covers, and also features the guitar stylings of Chicago legend Steve Freund.

This party starts off on a Mardi Gras note, with the New Orleans-styled grooves of Wendy’s autobiography of sorts, as she pounds out the boogie in the story of “Sonoma County, that’s where I’m from, up ole Highway 101.”  She revisits that boogie shuffle a little later on with a nice read of Willie Dixon’s “29 Ways just to make it to my baby’s door,” with Steve’s guitar playing perfect call-and-response licks.

Wendy and Kirk are featured in a playful, loping duet of one of Steve’s originals, “good things come to Folks Like You,” with a stuttering solo from Steve at the break.  “I Want To Believe You” is a fine slow-blueser, and she closes the set with a nod to the troubles in today’s society—“there’s war in the east, and half the world needs shoes, and Everybody’s Crying About Something.”

We had two favorites, too, and they are vastly different, showing Wendy and Kirk’s unique versatility.  First up is a frenzied shot of old-school boogie-woogie as Wendy (and her mighty left hand) realize that “Trouble is out to get me!”  At the opposite end of the spectrum is “Sometimes I Wonder,” a classic tale of a lover who “lied and cheated and didn’t even blink an eye.”  The cool thing is that it’s just Wendy’s vocal and piano, with Kirk’s percussion following a “marching” beat.

Wendy DeWitt and Kirk Harwood can hold their own with anybody in contemporary blues, and it’s no surprise that they have fared so well at the IBC and other competitions.  “Getaway” is a fine beginning for them!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Lara Price review…November 6, 2015…

LARA PRICE

I MEAN BUSINESS

LMP/VIZZTONE VTLMP-006

GET IT WHERE I WANT IT–CRYIN’ OVER YOU–UNDONE–MOON IN THE MIRROR–CRAZY LUCY–HAPPY BLUE YEAR–SLIPPED TRIPPED FELL IN LOVE–PACK IT UP–TIME–I MEAN BUSINESS–ONE TEAR AT A TIME–LOVE LOST

Lara Price was born in war-ravaged Vietnam in 1975, and was abandoned at birth.  She became one of the many orphans involved in Operation Baby Lift, of which nine out of every ten sadly did not survive the trip stateside.  But, Lara was one of those fortunate ones who made it out, ending up in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1997.  She met up with Candi Staton and Ann Peebles, and her latest release for Vizztone Records follows in the grand tradition of those great ladies of soul, and is entitled “I Mean Business.”  She’s backed by a full band and horn section, and uses her beautiful voice to explore blues, R & B, and gospel over the course of twelve cuts.

She leads off with her stilettos clicking, in the swagger of “Get It When I Want It,” and visits classic soul in a great take of “things gettin’ outta hand,” when “I Slipped Tripped Fell In Love.”  “Pack It Up” is a horn-fueled shot of funk that finds Lara “tryin’ to put you right outta my mind.”

She has a decidedly-softer side, too, as evidenced by the sweetly-soulful “Cryin’ Over You,” and the plaintive set-closer, “Love Lost.”  There are some strong gospel roots showing, too, especially on the punchy tale of ultimate redemption, even if it takes “one drop, one breath, One Tear At A Time.”  And, the feverish title cut finds Lara testifyin’ that “my spirit comes from where I’ve been,” featuring Chris Cain on guitar.

Our favorite was one of Lara’s slow jams, and it’s a real winner.  Over a breathy, sultry vocal, she wishes an ex who’s hooked up with another woman on New Year’s Eve a “Happy Blue Year,” co-written with guitarist Mighty Mike Schermer.

Lara Price is a true soul survivor.  Her talents are immense, and she has mentored with some of the greatest singers in all of R & B.  “I Mean Business” does exactly that!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Ric Todd review…November 4, 2015…

RIC TODD

DRAWING LINES

HOMESLICE ARTIST MANAGEMENT

RED LETTER–SOMETHING REAL–NEW RELIGION–WHEN IT COMES AROUND–END OF MY ROPE

Fargo, ND, resident Ric Todd picked up a guitar and began playing and writing at age thirteen, using the cathartic power of music to deal with the pain and confusion of an adolescent confronting his parents’ divorce.  His music has always been his way of airing his emotions, and his latest five-song EP, “Drawing Lines,” is no different.  He gained notoriety as a multi-instrumentalist with rockers Dirty Word, and takes his composing to the next level with this one.

Ric states that this album came about after the end of the long, cold winter of 2015.  The affair is dark and brooding at times, as one can hear in his groove and the material.  Leading off is the pounding, punch-in-the-gut defiance of “Red Letter,” while a lover brings about feelings of a “New Religion, every time you put your hands on me,” featuring layered vocals and a quirky guitar fill.  A lover who is a constant source of lies is told that “you’ll be sleeping in this bed you made, When It Comes Around.”  This one has a biting, early-Tom Petty feel.  He closes the set with a heartfelt plea to “lay my burden down,” “End Of My Rope,” with sparse, single-note runs on guitar, and a foreboding, percussive rhythm.

“Drawing Lines” was produced by J. Hall, with a guest appearance by Shane Ochsner of Everything In Slow Motion fame.  With this set, Ric Todd has created a fine set of bluesy, from-the-soul baring of his deepest emotions.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Kevin Selfe review…November 2, 2015…

KEVIN SELFE

BUY MY SOUL BACK

VIZZTONE RECORDS  VT-KEV-01

PICKING EMPTY POCKETS–FIXED IT TILL IT’S BROKE–BUY MY SOUL BACK–DIGGING MY OWN GRAVE–ALL PARTIED OUT–KEEP PUSHING OR DIE TRYING–BLUESMAN WITHOUT THE BLUES–I’M ON FIRE–DON’T TEAR ME DOWN–DOUBLE DIPPING–VIRGINIA FARM–PIG PICKIN–STARING UP AT THE BOTTOM

For those who feel that the blues is a stale art form, we would like to invite your attention to guitarist/singer/composer Kevin Selfe.  An artist with uncanny guitar chops inside a storyteller’s soul, he has crafted a fine set of blues for the masses.  On his latest Vizztone release, “Buy My Soul Back,” he and his guitar explore a myriad of styles that is sure to please even the most jaded critics.

The proceedings start with an ode to today’s sorry economy, where many are living the American dream “in the back of my beat-up van,” “Picking Empty Pockets.”  A deep, born-of-the-Crossroads slide guitar drives the story of a man who “works my fingers to the bone, but I can’t pay my rent,” and feels as if he is “Digging My Own Grave.”  Steve Kerin adds piano on a driving tale of survival, “Keep Pushing Or Die Trying,” while guest vocalist Sugaray Rayford spins a sho’ nuff funky tale of a man who’s got plenty of money and everything he wants–he’s a “Bluesman Without The Blues!”  He goes into a sweet T-Bone Walker mode on the jazzy swing of “Don’t Tear Me Down,”  and closes the set with a stone shot of Sunday morning fervor, with Steve Kerin and James Pace letting their respective piano and organ do some serious testifyin’ over Kevin’s sanctified shoutin, entitled “Staring Up At The Bottom.”

We had two favorites, too.  Mitch Kashmar adds mighty fine harp on the Chicago blues of “messin’ up my good thing,” “Fixed It Till It’s Broke.”  And, the title cut is a minor-key shot of soul-blues, as Kevin recounts the tale of an infamous “deal” that went down in exchange for “music, money, and fame,” and now tries to find a way to “Buy My Soul Back.”

Kevin Selfe lives in Portland, OR, and plays wherever the road leads him.  As one can hear over the course of “Buy My Soul Back,” Kevin’s material is full of energy, and his grooves are irresistible!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

Thorbjorn Risager review..November 1, 2015…

THORBJORN RISAGER

AND THE BLACK TORNADO

SONGS FROM THE ROAD

RUF RECORDS 1219

IF YOU WANNA LEAVE–PARADISE–DROWNING–BABY PLEASE DON’T GO–TOO MANY ROADS–CHINA GATE–ROCK ‘N’ ROLL RIDE–THROUGH THE YEARS–LONG FORGOTTEN TRACK–ON MY WAY–ALL I WANT–HIGH ROLLING–LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL–I WON’T LET YOU DOWN–OPENER

DVD–THE DVD HAS THREE ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCES:  I’M TIRED–GET UP, GET HIGHER–THE STRAIGHT AND NARROW LINE

That sound you hear rumblin’ outta Eastern Europe is nothing to fear–it’s just Thorbjorn Risager and his band, The Black Tornado, taking the blues world by storm!  The accolades started pouring in shortly after his 2014 breakout, “Too Many Roads,” including awards from Germany and Denmark.  On April 16, 2015, Risager and the band, expanded to ten pieces, performed at the Harmonie in Bonn, and the result is the latest installment in Ruf Records’ “Songs From The Road” series.

This one is introduced by the bossman, Thomas Ruf himself.  Then Thorbjorn rips into the Hound Dog Taylor-ific boogie of “If You Wanna Leave,” with the caveat to his lover that “I’m gonna miss you when the night time comes.”  The horn section and Emil Balsgaard’s keys ride this boogie for all it’s worth!  “Paradise” funks up the joint, as does a struttin’ read of “Baby Please Don’t Go.”

Thorbjorn has really taken care of his homework on the classic soul men, too.  Case in point is the story of a man who just can’t get over a lover, even after seventeen years, as he plaintively looks “Through The Tears.”

The set closes with a couple of our favorites.  Thorbjorn and Peter Skjerning get into some spirited “dueling guitars” on an eleven-minute party, “Let The Good Times Roll.”  After that workout, Thorbjorn slows things down with a sweet duet with Lisa Lystam, “I Won’t Let You Down.”

The best way to enjoy this band is live, and, luckily for us fans, the whole shootin’ match was recorded on the companion DVD.  Check out the Stones-y guitar work on “High Rollin,” as well as three cuts not on the CD–“The Straight and Narrow Line,” “I’m Tired,” and the anthemic “Get Up, Get Higher.”

Thorbjorn Risager and the Black Tornado have already got a leg up as one of the strongest outfits out there in contemporary blues, after a relatively short time on the scene.  If you can’t see ’em live, do the next best thing and get this CD/DVD combo of “Songs From The Road!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.