Archive for December, 2015

Berdon Kirksaether review…December 31, 2015….

BERDON KIRKSAETHER

AND THE TWANG BAR KINGS

THE VOODOO SESSIONS

ROLLER RECORDS  RRCD 13

MAMA ROLL OVER–SOME KIND OF VOODOO–MAD HOUSE–WHEN THE MOON IS ON THE RISE

Berdon Kirksaether is a Norwegian guitarist, vocalist, composer, and producer who fronted one of Norway’s finest contemporary blues bands during the Nineties, CIA.  He has reunited three of the four original members of CIA on their latest release, a four-song EP entitled “The Voodoo Sessions,” on the Roller Records label.  This one is pretty much a straight-ahead blues-rock set, but it does feature some of the same sonic experiments that made their 2013 release, “Latenight Under A Full Moon” such a well-received set.

Berdon is joined by Stein Turnert on bass, Roy Hanssen on drums, and band newcomer Erik Gabrielsen on guitar, who gives these cuts a decidedly-edgy tone.  Leading off is the pounding, lusty, “Mama Roll Over, I need your love tonight!”  Capturing the feel of vintage SRV and Double Trouble is the freight-train chug of the evils of today’s society, the “web of lies” that makes up a “Mad House.”  The set closes with the story of the consequences of the aforementioned mad house, where “a change is gonna come “When The Moon Is On The Rise.”

For us, the centerpiece was the cut the title is based upon.  Set over a modified Diddley beat, the tremolo and echo-effect guitars add to the swampy vibe of those “spooky fingers” and “something strange in the air,” “Some Kind Of Voodoo.”

Berdon Kirksaether And The Twang Bar Kings continue to think outside the box when it comes to their interpretations of the blues.  “The Voodoo Sessions” continues in that vein, and all us blues fans are the real winners!  Happy New Year, everyone!  Sheryl and Don Crow.

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Joyann Parker And Sweet Tea review….December 28, 2015….

JOYANN PARKER AND SWEET TEA

ON THE ROCKS

SELF-RELEASED

YOU–WHAT’S GOOD FOR YOU–AIN’T GOT TIME TO CRY–WHAT HAPPENED TO ME–JIGSAW HEART–HIT ME LIKE A TRAIN–FOOL FOR YOU–EVIL HEARTED–CLOSING SOMEONE ELSE’S BLINDS–GO FOR THE MONEY–EITHER WAY

Sweet Tea have been a staple on the Minnesota blues scene since 2012, comprised of four premier musicians.  In August, 2015, they added powerhouse vocalist, composer, and pianist Joyann Parker to front the band, making this now quite a formidable quintet.  They have just released their all-original debut, “On The Rocks.”  It’s a dynamite blend of blues and soul that’s full of bad girls, bad boys, and the things that bring them together, and, ultimately, break them apart.

Joyann is on vocals, piano, and guitar, and is joined by Mark Lamoine on guitar, David Harris on bass, Mick Zampogna on keys and accordion, and Nick Zwack on drums.  Comparisons to Joyann and Ann Wilson of Heart are inevitable, and rightfully so.  Check out her defiant take on the leadoff cut, “You,” where a “silver-tongued” cheatin’ lover gets his walkin’ papers, featuring some fine keyboard work.  She takes the opposite route on “What’s Good For You,” as she tells a lover that “baby, it ain’t me!”

She plays the part of the pained lover, trying to figure out “how a heart chooses its mate” in the poignant ballad, “Jigsaw Heart”  Her stilettos tread the path of the “bad girl,” too, as she states in the jazzy, keyboard-driven tale of a girl who’s “never been no good,” “Evil Hearted.”

We had two favorites, too.  Joyann is the scorned lover waitin’ at home alone while he’s out “Closing Someone Else’s Blinds.”  And, the band goes into full-on Chuck mode in the Berry-riffic tale of Joyann burnin’ her candle at both ends, thanks to “such a bad boy!”  It’s a joyous rocker aptly-titled “What Happened To Me.”

Joyann Parker And Sweet Tea are poised for a serious run at the 2016 IBC’s in Memphis in a few weeks.  They’ll be a part of the Blind Raccoon Showcase during that week, and we wish them well.  We’ll take a double shot of this one, “On The Rocks,” if you please!  Until next time..Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

Tim Williams review…December 23, 2015

TIM WILLIAMS

SO LOW

LOWDEN PROUD RECORDS LTD LDWD 2052

IF YOU LIVE–MORE PEPPERS IN YOUR CHILI–MY BIG MONEY–ANYWHERE C/O THE BLUES–PISTOL SNAPPER–THE WITCHING HOUR–THE GRIZZLY BEAR–BIG RIVER–MIDNIGHT AFTER MIDNIGHT–LIGHTNIN’

As we listened to Tim Williams on his first completely-solo effort, aptly-titled “So Low,” we felt as if Tim had dropped by our humble home and took a seat on our front porch swing (yes, we do have one!), and started picking and singing.  Tim has that feel of a vintage bluesman, when blues consisted of one man, one instrument, and one voice.  He’s a consummate fingerpicker and a storyteller par excellence.  On these ten cuts, he weaves some of his own yarns in with some classics he’s learned over the course of his career.

Leading off, Tim plays a song he learned from his days working with Mose Allison, where, “If You Live” long enough, “your time will come!”  “Pistol Snapper” is Tim’s tribute to Blind Boy Fuller’s ultimate “done me wrong” song.  He breaks down Johnny Cash’s “Big River” into its most base elements, and makes the “my baby left me and she’s solid gone” song, “Grizzly Bear,” (an early-20th Century dance craze), into a sprightly, lively romp.

We had some favorites, too.  Tim urges us all to spice up our food (and our love lives, too!) by bein’ sure to “Put More Peppers In Your Chili bowl!”  A song written by Big Bill Broonzy deals with “My Big Money,” a payment owed African-American WWI vets that was not fully satisfied until well after the war ended.  In the tradition of Yank Rachell and Johnny Young, it is played here on a mandolin.  Another of Tim’s originals is his ode to the evils of today’s society, where people will “offer you a diamond and leave you a rhinestone,” and, as such, “you can forward my mail Anywhere C/O The Blues!”

Pack up your leavin’ trunk and lace up your walkin’ shoes and head on down to your local record emporium, and tell ’em you want a copy of Tim Williams’ “So Low.’  It’s an excellent debut from a man who plays the blues the way they were meant to be played!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Hurricane Ruth LaMaster EP review…December 20, 2015….

HURRICANE RUTH LAMASTER

WINDS OF CHANGE

HURRICANE RUTH PUBLISHING LLC

I FEEL LUCKY–BUILT FOR COMFORT–WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN–GOING BACK TO LOUISIANA

Hurricane Ruth LaMaster is petite in stature, but a dynamo of a vocalist.  Her father owned the Glendale Tavern in Beardstown, IL, and was the resident drummer for the many jam sessions held there.  A young Ruth recalled sitting on her father’s lap at age three, keeping time on the ride cymbal as he drummed.  All types of music were played at these sessions, but Ruth was always drawn to the Big Band, horn-heavy soul-infused R & B, along the lines of Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, and “Kozmic Blues”-era Janis Joplin.  As such, her latest release, “Winds Of Change,” reflects this love of R & B, set over the course of the four cuts that comprise this EP.

She blasts outta the gate with a rousing version of a song from another “little lady with a big voice,” Pat Benatar’s “I Feel Lucky,”  which features a blistering boogie-woogie piano break from Brian Curtis.   The humorous lope of Willie Dixon’s “Built For Comfort” is Ruth’s favorite of Dixon’s vast catalog, and she lets all us fellows know that “I got everything a good woman needs.”  The set closes with the bon temps roulet of Delbert’s swingin’ “Going Back To Louisiana,” a cut tailor-made for the dance floor!

Our favorite was easy.  Since our wedding on October 25, 1978, (for those of y’all keeping score!), the Percy Sledge classic “When A Man Loves A Woman” was “our song.”  It takes a special breed of artist to sing it, because, to us, you don’t just sing this song–you have to FEEL it as well.  Ruth’s powerful, soulful delivery really hit home with us, very effectively capturing this song’s deep message of love and devotion.

Hurrican Ruth LaMaster is one of those rare artists who can sing whatever she puts her mind to.  With “Winds Of Change,” she goes quite successfully back to her roots!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Blues Harp Women review…December 18, 2015…

VARIOUS ARTISTS

BLUES HARP WOMEN

RUF RECORDS 1222

CD 1:  HARMONICA GIRL–PAULA RANGELL  ROADMASTER–ROXY PERRY  HEAVY WATER–STACY JONES BAND  DOWN HOME SHAKEDOWN–BIG MAMA THORNTON  32-20 BLUES–LYNNANN HYDE  DOWN TO THE HOLLOW–TRINA HAMLIN  STOP! WAIT A MINUTE–TRACY K  ONE MORE LIE–TERESA “T-BIRD” LYNNE  NAUGHTY GIRL–OCTAVIA  WHY YOU SO MEAN TO ME–KAT BALOUN  AIN’T EASY–BETH KOHNEN  STUCK ON YOU–JANE GILLMAN  MECHANICAL BEAST–ZOLA MOON  PLEASE CALL DADDY–MATTIE PHIFER  SADDER THAN SAD–DOROTHY JANE “DJ” GOSPER

CD 2:  CASH IS KING–JENNY KERR  BLeES GOT ME–CHERYL ARENA  LOOKIN’ GOOD–ANNIE RAINES  HE’S GONE–MARION TURNER  MEET ME WHERE THEY PLAY THE BLUES–TERRY LEONINO  CRAZY MAISIE–DANA DIXON  EVERYBODY’S DANCING–BEATA KOSSOWSKA  TAKE THE LEAD–JILL FROMEWICK  NEVER LEAVE ME HOME–DIANA REDLIN  SUMMERTIME–CHRISTELLE BERTHON  HIT THE ROAD–JUDY RUDIN  DOCTOR C–CECILIA LOFORTI  RIKERS ISLAND–MARIA COYOTE  FAST FOOD MAMA–JACKIE MERRITT  BRING IT ON HOME (TO ME)–BIG NANCY  RHONDA ALLA BLUE–RHONDA RUCKER

This set came to fruition thanks to the efforts of producer Norman Davis, who played Big Mama Thornton’s “Down Home Shakedown” on his radio show.  Big Mama played the whole instrumental on her harp, and Davis began to ponder just how many women harp players were out there.  As such, the website hermonicas.com came about, and 200 women players were contacted.  Thomas Ruf backed the project, which is this double-CD, “Blues Harp Women.”  It showcases thirty-one of the best women harp players on the planet.

The first CD kicks off with the mantra of many a player.  Paula Rangell of New Orleans is that “Harmonica Girl,” with “a bag fulla harps and a soul fulla blues!”  Cheatin’ men are given their due, also, with the playful “Why You So Mean To Me,” from Kat Baloun, who now resides in Berlin, and Portland, Oregon’s Lynnann Hyde, whose country-blues acoustic version of Mr. Johnson’s “32-20 Blues” is a real beaut.  Octavia, from Pennsylvania, gives a cool read of her original, a nod to those women who “always gets what she wants,” a “Naughty Girl with her kinky spice!”

There were a couple that stood out to us, tho.  Trina Hamlin’s sanctified “Down To The Hollow” is another fine example of acoustic Delta blues, “goin’ down where the trees meet the soul.”  And, CD One closes with Dorothy Jane Gosper wondering why a love ended, leaving her “Sadder Than Sad,” her plaintive, heartfelt vocals as powerful as her harp lines.

CD Two takes a more varied and eclectic look at the players, and their styles and techniques.  It is highlighted by three dazzling instrumentals–a live version of “Lookin’ Good” from Annie Raines on harp, with Paul Rishell on call-and-response guitar.  Christelle Berthon offers up a breezy “Summertime,” while the CD closes with the country-blues of Rhonda Rucker with “Rhonda Alla Blue.”

Our two favorites were polar opposites.  Sweden’s Maria Coyote has a quirky vocal style that is as equally potent as her harp tone, both of which are on full display on a colorful read of Leadbelly’s “Rikers Island.”  And, Big Nancy Swarbrick, little known outside her New Jersey home area, really hit a soulful note with a powerhouse take on the Sam Cooke-Lou Rawls classic, “Bring It On Home (To Me).”

Thomas Ruf continues to be one of the most forward-thinking entrepreneurs in contemporary blues with his backing of this well-thought-out project, and producer Norman Davis’ efforts were tireless in the creation of “Blues Harp Women.”  Harp fans and blues fans everywhere will love it!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Pinetop Perkins and Jimmy Rogers review…December 13, 2015…

PINETOP PERKINS AND JIMMY ROGERS

GENUINE BLUES LEGENDS

WITH LITTLE MIKE AND THE TORNADOES

ELROB RECORDS  ER 15235

KIDNEY STEW–HIGH HEEL SNEAKERS–HAD MY FUN–FOR YOU MY LOVE–BIG BOSS MAN–ALL IN MY SLEEP–THE LAST TIME–WHEN I LOST MY BABY–PINETOP’S BOOGIE WOOGIE–PINE AND JIMMY’S JUMP

We have the highest regard for Little Mike And The Tornadoes.  Not only have they stood the test of time as a fantastic blues band over the last forty years or so, but they’ve also had the great fortune to play alongside some of the best blues players who ever lived.  (Go back a few weeks on this Blog and check out our review for Little Mike And The Tornadoes with Zora Young for a good example!).

Go back with us now to May 21, 1988, at the Grand Auditorium in Ellsworth, Maine.  On that night, Little Mike backed two of the greats–Joe Willie “Pinetop” Perkins and Muddy’s original rhythm man, Jimmy Rogers. (born James A. Lane, for you historians!).  Their set that night has been preserved for all blues fans with the release of “Pinetop Perkins And Jimmy Rogers: Genuine Blues Legends With Little Mike And The Tornadoes,” on the ELROB label.

Fans, it “just don’t get no better than this,” as far as real-deal blues goes.  Pinetop and Jimmy were on the absolute top of their game during this time, and Mike and the Tornadoes brought out the best in them.  There are ten cuts, roughly divided into three sections.  The recording is raw, given the era in which it was recorded, but that’s part of what makes it so much fun.

Pinetop leads the first four cuts with his good-time piano standards such as “Kidney Stew,” which features an extended harp solo from Mike, and one of our favorites of Pinetop’s slow-blues, “Had My Fun.” Cuts five thru seven feature Jimmy on vocals and guitar, and he and Mike give a great read of one of Jimmy’s tough, slow blues, “All In My Sleep.”  Our favorite of Jimmy’s cuts, tho, was one of his Chess classics, “It’s The Last Time I’ll ever fool around with you!”

Jimmy and Pine close the set, with Pinetop’s signature theme song, “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie,” and a smokin’ instrumental that gets everyone involved, “Pine And Jimmy’s Jump!”

Little Mike, we sincerely hope that Santa brings you everything you want this Christmas, because you’ve made the holidays a lot brighter for us as well as blues fans everywhere with the historic recording of “Pinetop Perkins And Jimmy Rogers: Genuine Blues Legends With Little Mike And The Tornadoes,” live from 1988!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Walkin’ Cane Mark review…December 9, 2015…

WALKIN CANE MARK

TRYIN’ TO MAKE YOU UNDERSTAND :REMASTERED

ENABLE RECORDS  1001

SOMEBODY’S WALKING/SOMEBODY’S IN MY HOME–TRYIN’ TO MAKE YOU UNDERSTAND–ARIZONA WOMAN–ROCK AND ROLL RECORDS–ELLADA ELLADA–THAT’S HOW I GOT TO MEMPHIS–LET ME IN WHILE YOU CAN–(I’M) A FREIGHT TRAIN–TAKE ME BACK TO BERGEN–THE DEVIL’S AT MY DOOR(2015 VERSION)–OCEAN FULL OF WOMEN–EDDIE’S BOOGIE

Talk about a sho’ nuff impressive resume’—Walkin’ Cane Mark got his nickname from Willie Dixon, after an injury left Mark needing the stick to get around.  He’s written songs with Junior Wells, and honed his showmanship with a little help from Chico Chism and Snooky Pryor.  He’s put it all together on his debut album, “Tryin’ To Make You Understand: Remastered,” for Enable Records.  It’s eleven shots of originals and covers that show the good-time spirit of Mark, who’s on vocals and harp throughout.

Mark was always a fan of Howlin’ Wolf, and his gravelly, burnished baritone fits the bill perfectly.  Joining in on the fun are Kirk Hawley on guitar and mandolin, Brenden McBride and Gordon Lynde, Jr., on bass, and John Rumbaugh on drums.  They capture that Chester Arthur Burnett vibe with the leadoff drone of “Somebody’s Walking/Somebody’s In My Home,” while the more traditional “Ellada Ellada” is written as a tribute to his beautiful Russian wife who vowed to follow Mark wherever life took them.

Mark has a cool way with a story, too.  Check out the chugging boogie of the swagger-filled “(I’m) A Freight Train,” and the Chicago blues of “Ocean Full Of Women,” both of which extoll the virtues of women of all types, and Mark’s vow to “lay tracks” with all of ’em!  He channels his inner Son House on the brooding tale of man’s eternal temptations, “It’s hard to be a good man when the Devil’s At Your Door!”

We had two favorites, too.  A song from Chico Chism is “Arizona Woman,” and features sweet harp and guitar call-and-response from Mark and Kirk Hawley.  And, written with Junior Wells, is Mark’s struttin’, uptown funk of a man “Tryin’ To Make You Understand I’m in love with your sister, so find yourself another man!”

Walkin’ Cane Mark epitomizes the good times and hard times of being a bluesman, but we’d be willing to bet he wouldn’t trade it for anything.  One listen to “Tryin’ To Make You Understand; Remastered” and you’ll know just what we mean!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.