Archive for January, 2016

Van Wilks review…January 30, 2016….

VAN WILKS

21ST CENTURY BLUES

TEXAS 51 RECORDS

STRANGE GIRL–DRIVE BY LOVER–GOLDDIGGER–JUST WALK AWAY–THERE’S A SIN IN THERE SOMEWHERE–21ST CENTURY BLUES–WHO’S FOOLIN’ WHO–SHE MAKES ME CRAZY–IF I WAS A RICH MAN–CAN’T STOP THINKIN’–LIVIN’ ON BORROWED TIME–MIDNIGHT CROSSING

Van Wilks is pretty much an Austin, TX, guitar legend.  He’s won multiple awards in that neck of the woods for both his acoustic and electric string-bending prowess, and goes all in with his first album in ten years, “21ST Century Blues,” on the Texas 51 label.  It’s twelve shots of blistering blues-rock that allows Van to honor his deep respect for the American masters, with the common thread tying it all together being his killer chops.

Van warns us about several types of females to watch out for throughout the album.  First up is the staccato bursts of fiery fretwork that accompany that “Strange Girl,” who’ll “leave you tongue-tied and talking to yourself,” because, as for her, “words always get in the way!”  There’s a bit of a Double Trouble vibe running thru “Golddigger,” too—“she’ll turn your dollars back into dimes!”  It features some fine slide at the bridge, too.  “Who’s Foolin’ Who” is a slashy splash of funk, with Van telling his cheatin’ lover that “I’ve been foolin’ around, too!”  And, the tale of the one that you just can’t live without, “She Makes Me Crazy,” has guest vocals from Malford Milligan, and guest guitar from the song’s composer, Christopher Cross.

We had two favorites, too.  Van’s tribute to Leadbelly begins with the scratchy sound of a 78 RPM record being played, with Van using his vintage National Duolian Dobro to get just the right feel on :There’s A Sin In There Somewhere,” with the song blasting off into the stratosphere after the intro.  Billy Gibbons and Van co-wrote our other favorite, a song that appeared on ZZ Top’s “La Futura” album.  It’s a squankin’ blues-rocker about a “Drive By Lover” who’s so fine, she’ll make you “turn around and drive by again!”

Van Wilks states that the guitar’s the thing for him, and that it’s a natural extension of his soul, and those points are inarguable.  He’s got that sho’ nuff, low down, wound up, rockin’ Texas blues on full display with “21ST Century Blues!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

The Mike Farley Band review…January 27, 2016…

THE MIKE FARLEY BAND

WHERE WE STAND

SELF-RELEASED

REWRITE HISTORY–SUBTLE NO MORE–HELPLESS–PAY YOUR DUES–I DON’T KNOW–BACK TO BEFORE–EVIL WOMAN–WEIGHT OF THE WORLD–RAIN

Around the turn of the century, the Mike Farley Band was one of Cleveland, Ohio’s hottest commodities, sharing the stage with the likes of Thorogood, The Pretenders, and Huey Lewis, to name a few.  The “Cleveland Free Times” named them the city’s Best Rock Band two years running.  But, “life is a circle, not always perfectly round,” and the band members moved to other towns to follow other pursuits.  Mike even moved here to Nashville for a time, before settling in Madison, WI, and starting his own successful enterprise, Michael J. Media.  The music never left their souls, tho, and they have reunited and just released “Where We Stand.”

They’ve not missed a beat since their heyday, and this album is stone proof.  The set starts with a wistful, midtempo slice of roots-rock where Mike and the fellows ponder what might have been if they had a chance to “Rewrite History.”  It has a cool, REM vibe.  “I Don’t Know” has some sweet harmonies from everyone in the story of a couple coming to grips with love and its constant flux.  When that “seven-year affair busts at the seams,” you can always go “Back To Before,” because “all it takes is time.”  Scott Martin’s keyboard riff floats throughout this one, and it has a vintage Cars feel.

We had two favorites, too.  “Pay Your Dues” blasts right outta the speakers as Mike takes a shot at corporate greed, where “hypocrites and fools are changing all the rules!”  And, it takes a strong band to cover an Electric Light Orchestra staple, but the fellows really knock “Evil Woman” outta the park, with excellent guitar re-creations of that classic riff.

It wasn’t that long ago that Drew Carey told everybody that would listen that “Cleveland Rocks!”  Then, they got the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, and now there is a triumphant return of some of their favorite sons, The Mike Farley Band with “Where We Stand!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

 

 

Jason Vivone And The Billy Bats review…January 25, 2016…

JASON VIVONE

AND THE BILLY BATS

THE AVENUE

SELF-RELEASED

THE VIVONE SONG (PRONOUNCED VIV-O-NEE)–KANSAS CITY BLUES–THE AVENUE–HELLO MRS. RADZINSKY–TRAIN MUSTA JUMPED THE TRACK–CALENDAR–MY HEART IS IN THE RIGHT PLACE–HIS HONOR, THE MAYOR

Jason Vivone is a master slide guitarist with a big, booming, “let’s have a party ” vocal style.  He and his band—The Billy Bats—pay tribute to his Kansas City homeland with his latest release, seven originals and one cover that comprise “The Avenue.”

The title cut is a nod to the rough-and-tumble neighborhood along Independence Avenue where Jason lived.  Home to the homeless, prostitutes, drug dealers, and anyone else looking for a place to get into some trouble, Billy’s guitar lines shimmer in the spartan arrangement of this cut, and the backing chorus is allegedly the ghosts of those who met their sad demise along “The Avenue.”

The set kicks off with Jason’s ode to his proud Italian heritage.  Set over that shave-and-a-haircut, Diddley beat, we quickly learn that Jason’s name is “pronounced Viv-O-Nee,” and sho’ nuff  “don’t rhyme with Al Capone!”    “Hey Mrs. Radzinsky” is a rockin’ band rave-up that has Jason “calling everyone to tell you about this girl that’s pleasin’ me!”  The riff is a killer, with Jason’s slide riding the boogie for all it’s worth!  The set closes with Jason and his cigar box guitar, aptly named Nicotina, on a sweet, ethereal instrumental ode to “His Honor, The Mayor,” of that Independence Avenue neighborhood, Kendall Kohr.  An injury as a child left his brain underdeveloped, but his heart and spirit more than made up for it to everyone who lived there.

We had two favorites, too.  The lone cover on the set is “Kansas City Blues.”  It’s a party from the jump, with Jason’s slide lines done in tribute to KC slide legend Casey Bill Weldon.  And, “Calendar” is a real hoot–a slow-blues, stop-time, bump-and-grinder that finds Jason extolling the virtues of a red-hot lover on a month-to-month basis, with plenty of groovin’ slide!

Jason Vivone And The Billy Bats will be representin’ KC in the IBC’s in Memphis this week, and will be featured on the Blind Raccoon Showcase during the week.  Be sure to getcha a copy of “The Avenue” from Jason off the bandstand, and get ready for a good ole Kansas City blues stomp!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

The Westies review…January 24, 2016…

THE WESTIES

SIX ON THE OUT

PAUPER SKY MUSIC

IF I HAD A GUN–PAUPER’S SKY–PAROLEE–THE GANG’S ALL HERE–LIKE YOU USED TO–EVERYTHING IS ALL I WANT FOR YOU–HENRY MCCARTY–SANTA FE–ONCE UPON A TIME–THIS I KNOW–SIRENS

Back in 2015, the folk-Americana duo The Westies, consisting of husband-and-wife Michael McDermott and Heather Horton, released their critically-acclaimed debut, “West Side Stories,” which dealt with the resolve of urban city dwellers in dealing with the rigors of daily life.  The follow-up is here, and is entitled “Six On The Out.”  It is the natural progression from the first album, with what happens next to those characters.

They are a varied and troubled set of characters, indeed.  There are those who are trying to fit into society once again after release from incarceration, there are the homeless, and the down-on-their-luck hustlers, and there are those who inhabit not only the streets where we live, but also the corners of our own minds.

That’s how the set kicks off.  Just released and back on the streets, the hero of “If I Had A Gun” realizes that he’s just one “hookup from Lucky Leo” from being back in the joint.  The title cut traces those who are “slaves to those neon dreams and back-alley schemes,” and has a definite Springsteen vibe. Heather takes the lead vocal on a lover’s poignant plea for a little less drinking and a little more love, “Like You Used To.”

“Henry McCarty” plays out like a movie out of the Old West, as we learn that Henry is an outlaw “with a pistol you stole from your stepdad, and the ghost of your mother at your side.”

We had two favorites, too, and they were pretty much polar opposites.  Mandolin from Lee Price and Will Kimbrough’s guitar trace the story of the down-and-outers who make up “Hail Hail The Gang’s All Here,” a modern-day “Piano Man.”  And, the set closes on a somber note, with the dark tale of a five-year-old boy who sees his mother murdered by his father.  For all the rest of his life, the young man is haunted by the “Sirens” he hears in his mind.

The human condition is flawed, frail, and full of shortcomings, but, somehow, we persevere.  That’s the message The Westies are getting across to us with “Six On The Out.”  This is a brilliant set of songs that show how the human spirit can indeed overcome long odds.  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

Keith Stone review…January 21, 2016…

KEITH STONE

THE PRODIGAL RETURNS

KEITH STONE MUSIC

PRELUDE–BETTER THINGS TO DO–FIRST LOVE–CINDI LEIGH–TAKE ME HOME–NEW ORLEANS MOONLIGHT–TIME TO MOVE ON–MAKE ME FEEL ALRIGHT–BUSTER’S PLACE–THE PRODIGAL RETURNS–JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE

Keith Stone is a true son of New Orleans, born in the heart of the Crescent City.  A passionate guitarist, singer, and composer, he has been influenced by all the rich heritage of that great city, and shares its vast wealth with all us blues fans thru his first solo album, “The Prodigal Returns.”

It is eleven cuts that are as versatile as the city itself, and Keith immerses us in that good gumbo with hot guitar lines full of fire, funk, and passion.  He epitomizes the good times of life with a sweet ode to his lover, “Cindi Leigh,” with fine accordion from Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes.

The set starts with a horn-fueled shot of soul-blues, and is the story of a no-good woman on the prowl, and Keith tells her “I Got Better Things To Do than fool around with you!”  “Take Me Home” is Keith’s slow-groovin’ autobiography, with “sweet music everywhere, from New Orleans to Houma!”  The title cut has some serious wah-wah guitar, as Keith vows to “play your blues away,” with the help of “the gris-gris man with the mojo hand!”

We had three favorites, too.  Love is sho’ nuff in bloom under that “New Orleans Moonlight,” featuring Elaine Foster on background vocals.  “Buster’s Place” is a jazzy instrumental with a slinky, Pink-Panther-ish groove, and the set closes with a stunning, eight-minute version of “Just A Closer Walk With Thee,” done up N’Awlins style and with piano from Dr. John himself!

There is something for every musical taste on this set.  We don’t know if there will be any “fatted calves” killed, but one thing we do know is that Keith Stone, with “The Prodigal Returns,” is a sweet southern blues stew!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Jordy Searcy review…January 18, 2016…

JORDY SEARCY

SEASONS

SELF-RELEASED

DON’T TALK TO ME–BIRDIE–SEASONS–REAL LOVE–SEASONS (LIVE)

Many fans will recall Jody Searcy’s very successful run on Season 7 of NBC-TV’s “The Voice.”  He was a member of Team Pharrell, and one of the highlights of his run was a duet with fellow contestant Taylor Phelan on the Sctript’s “Breakeven.”  Since his “Voice” appearances, he’s relocated to Nashville and is continuing his career as a fine singer-songwriter.

His latest endeavor is a five-song EP entitled “Seasons,” which showcases his captivating voice and maturing songcrafting.  The four originals are written either by Jordy alone or in collaboration with Brett Burcham or Mckenzie Lockhart.  These songs are exercises in love and its ever-evolving kaleidoscope and are characterized by arrangements using acoustic guitar, piano, strings, and layered harmonies.

Leading off is a cool, pop-flavored “kiss off” song.  Perhaps the two lovers just weren’t ready to commit, but Jordy’s got “scars from my brain to my heart and back again” as a reason to tell her “Don’t Talk To Me.”  The harmonies jumpstart the tale of a man who’ll take a “quick fix” for the night, but, deep down, he’s looking for “Real Love,” as opposed to those “shots in the dark.”

The centerpiece, tho, is “Seasons,” presented also in a live version that closes the set.  It’s Jordy’s proclamation of undying love, wanting to spend all four seasons and forever with his true love in matrimony.  This one is destined to be a wedding favorite for years to come, with its simple, piano-strings-guitar arrangement over Jordy’s emotive, intimate vocal.

With “Seasons,” Jordy Searcy grows up, literally right before our eyes.  He has that innate ability to keep things fresh and exciting, and learned much during his “Voice” experience.  Best of luck, young man!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Jefferson Grizzard review…January 16, 2016…

JEFFERSON GRIZZARD

DAYDREAM OF HOPE

BACK PORCH SYNDICATE RECORDS

GIVE ME A SIGN–WE’RE JUST KIDS, BABE–ADELAIDE–LONELY SENORITA–SINNERS LIKE ME (CAN’T BE SAVED)–FALLOUT FRENZY–ALL THAT WE CAN DO IS TRY–HONEY, YOU CAN TREAT ME WRONG–DAYDREAM OF HOPE

Jefferson Grizzard is one of those songwriters that draw you into his world as you listen to his stories.  His latest effort, for Back Porch Syndicate Records, is a nine-originals set entitled “Daydream Of Hope.”  Herein, he’s looking out for all of us and the world as well with tales of love, loss, hope, pain, and ultimate (hopeful) redemption.

That sentiment kicks off the set with the tale of a broken man, asking the Lord to “Give Me A Sign” as he contemplates leaving the town he grew up in.  “We’re Just Kids, Babe,” traces a pair of mistake-prone lovers who are on the run, becoming a 21ST Century Bonnie and Clyde in the process.  Both these cuts will bring to mind early Springsteen or Tom Petty with the song structures and instrumentation.  That same vibe also runs strong thru the story of a man who knows “All We Can Do Is Try,” when “everybody’s sinking down low.”

“Lonely Senorita” is a wistful tune dealing with a one-night stand with this young lady, as Jefferson longs to “catch your sunrise smile.”  This one has pedal steel from the venerable Dan Dugmore, also.

Our favorite was easy.  It’s set over a lively calypso beat that belies the intense subject matter, as Jefferson realizes that redemption seems futile, as “Sinners Like Me (Can’t Be Saved).

With “Daydream Of Hope,” Jefferson Grizzard takes a look at the world, with all its good and bad, thru the eyes of Everyman.  His deft use of carefully-chosen words gives his characters a life of their own, and this set is just begging to be heard!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.