Archive for February, 2016

Dennis Jones review…February 11, 2016…

DENNIS JONES

BOTH SIDES OF THE TRACK

BLUE ROCK RECORDS

ENJOY THE RIDE–IT ALL DEPENDS–BETTER THAN HIM–NOBODY’S SLAVE–MR. RIGHT–THE MACHINE–NUMBER TWO–SKIN AND BONE–WHEN YOU’RE NOT AROUND–WHAT–SHINES ON YOU–I CAN’T STOP–LONELY JOINT

We’ve been fans of Dennis Jones since his days of playing with Zac Harmon, when they won the 2004 IBC’s.  He’s a first-rate guitarist and vocalist with a raw, cutting-edge, take-no-prisoners sound, and, he’s not afraid to tackle tough societal topics in his writing.

That’s the basis for his fifth album, “Both Sides Of The Track.”  It’s thirteen cuts that mix hard-rocking blues with touches of funk, soul, and R & B guaranteed to please.  Joining Dennis on this set are the rock-solid rhythm section of Dale Black on bass and Raymond Johnson on drums.

Dennis and his hi-octane guitar get their collective swagger on as he tells a potential lover that “you wanted a tree, but you got a limb,” and “I can love you Better Than Him.”  Another lover is “my favorite drug,” and “I Can’t Stop making love to you!”

Dennis also adds a couple of clever twists on this record in the form of two sweet acoustic numbers.  First up is the fun rhyme pattern of “What,” with harp from Jimmy “Z” Zavala, which gives this one a good ole Sonny and Brownie feel.  Then there’s the set-closer.  It’s written from the perspective of a “Lonely Joint,” a rolled spliff that falls out of Dennis’ pocket, and whose sole purpose is “dying to get you high!”

Dennis has been based in Los Angeles for some time now, and several of his songs are quite topical, containing powerful, socially-charged lyrics, and these served as our favorites.  Check out “Skin And Bone,” which begs the question, “do you see race or just see a face?”  You can feel the snarl in Dennis’ guitar lines as he encourages those who are in abusive or dead-end relationships to strike back, because “you’re Nobody’s Slave.”  And, a true crowd-pleaser at his live shows is aimed at “The Machine,’ as Dennis unloads a clip point-blank into Big Brother and the government as a whole, which seemingly is only interested in our money.

Dennis Jones starts off “Both Sides Of The Track” with sound advice for us all—“life is short–Enjoy The Ride” and we’d like to say “Thanks, DJ, for a fine set of blues!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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Tommy Z review…February 6, 2016…

TOMMY Z

BLIZZARD OF BLUES

SOUTH BLOSSOM RECORDS

LOVERGIRL–GOING TO A PARTY–MEMORY OF LOVE–BLUES FOR KP–BAGS OF COOL–BLIZZARD OF BLUES–MIRACLE–MY EYES (KEEP ME IN TROUBLE)–AL’S GROOVE

Guitarist Tommy Z is based in Buffalo, NY, and has won more awards in the Western New York area than you can count.  He is also a renowned composer and guitar instructor, and has just released his fourth album.  During a particularly-brutal ride down New York’s 219 Expressway in blizzard conditions, he came up with the idea for his latest set.  He got home unscathed, and “Blizzard Of Blues” is the result!  It is nine cuts, eight of which are originals, that pull together many of Tommy’s vast and varied influences to bring forth this most excellent set.

He’s already getting a good buzz from the album’s first single, the house-rockin’ ‘Going To A Party,” which is pure dance floor magic.  His guitar speaks volumes in the slow-blues tale of coping with the pain of the tragic loss of a close friend, “Blues For KP.”  Tommy kicks it off with something we all have to come to grips with–“I’ve done my crying, but it’s time for moving on.”  At the other end of that spectrum is a song for all us survivors and walking “Miracles” out there–reminding us that “by the grace of love, we’re here today,” and we’re all here for a reason.

There are also two really sweet instrumentals herein.  “Bags Of Cool” goes down frosty-smooth as a good Collins mix should, while the set closes on rather a jazzy note, eight minutes of swingin’ bliss, “Al’s Groove.”

We had two favorites.  The title cut is another fretburner with a touch of funk, as Tommy takes a tongue-in-cheek look at that Buffalo weather, where  it’s “two feet high and rising, trying to bury me alive!”  And, the leadoff cut, featuring Jeremy Keyes on the harp, is a stone, butt-rockin’ slab of Chicago blues, an ode to that special “Lovergirl,” who “gives eyesight to the blind.”

In the aforementioned “Going To A Party,” Tommy Z asks “Where’s the party?”  We can emphatically say it’s right in the grooves of “Blizzard Of Blues!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Lauren Anderson review…February 5, 2016…

LAUREN ANDERSON

TRULY ME

ONE DAY–SHAME–MY REMINDER–CAN’T YOU SEE–I DON’T NEED–NO REGRETS–LADY JANE–HOLE IN THE BOAT–MINE–NO GOOD–WINTER WALTZ–WHERE ARE YOU NOW–CLOSE–STOP

One really does have to wonder just what it is about the Kansas City area that makes it so rich in talented young blues players.  Along with the Schnebelen family that once comprised Trampled Under Foot, as well as many others, we are proud to bring you the debut from a startlingly-soulful young woman from that fertile area, Lauren Anderson.  She is a fantastic guitarist, composer, and singer who recently won a Midwest Music Award for Female Vocalist of the Year, and, when you listen to her album of fourteen originals, “Truly Me,” you’ll get a good glimpse of who she is, what she’s about, and where she’s headed.

Joining Lauren on this set are Adam Stuber on guitar, Dylan Reiter on bass, and Kris Schnebelen on drums.  Lauren writes these songs from her soul, many dealing with love and its many pitfalls.  You gotta love that rolling Delta slide that drives the opening cut, which might well serve as Lauren’s autobiography.  “One Day” details her life “wishing I was someone else, until One Day I found the blues!”  The lustful longings of youth are spelled out in the on-again, off-again lovers of “Shame,” while she begs a balking paramour to commit with “Can’t You See I can’t let go of this feeling you give to me!”  This one is done acoustically, and has a sweet touch of funk.  And, those “bad girls” we are all drawn to, with those “crimson lips”and that “deceitful grin,” are, really, “just No Good.”  “Where Are You Now” rocks from the opening piano riff from Shinetop, while “My Reminder” is a vintage shot of soul, with Shinetop’s testifyin’ organ lines over Lauren’s vocal, looking to find that place that is “really and Truly Me.”

Our favorite was easy. Lauren has the perfect voice for a “torch song”–sultry and sexy–and “No Regrets” is a good one.  Brush-stroked drums and Shinetop’s jazzy piano trace the tale of two lovers tasting that “forbidden fruit,” with “No Regrets ’til we’re through!”

It is always a pleasure to be able to introduce to our readers fresh new blues talent.  With “Truly Me,” Lauren Anderson is sho’ nuff ready to blast off!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

Balkun Brothers review…February 4, 2016…

BALKUN BROTHERS

BALKUN BROTHERS

DIXIEFROG RECORDS

BEEN DRIVIN’–I KNOW WHAT YA DID–SHE GOT IT ALL–CONTROL YOURSELF–COLD HEART–PAWN SHOP–MEAN TOWN BLUES–THE PAINKILLERS–BAPADUBAP–JAIL BIRD–STORM FOR THE DEVIL–RAINY DAY FRONT PORCH BLUES

The Balkun Brothers are no strangers to success in the blues world, with a lengthy list of accomplishments that include being named the Best Band In Connecticut in 2015, and being Grand Finalists in the 2013 IBC’s.  Steve, on guitar and vocals, and brother Nick on drums and vocals, have just released their second full-length album, and first as a duo, a self-titled twelve-cut affair on the Dixiefrog label.

Steve’s outstanding guitar skills and Nick’s stomping percussion showcase their influences, from the Delta masters, funk, rock, and metal, and bring them all into full view and easily show why these guys have such a following.  The ace in the hole on this set is producer Popa Chubby, whose biting, blues-rock stamp is all over this one.

The fellows don’t waste any time, blasting off with the freight-train boogie of “Been Drivin’ all nite to get home to my baby!”  A cheatin’ lover is caught “down to the river, down by the bridge,” doin’ the do with another man on “I Know What Ya Did,” while Steve’s driving, “walkin’ blues” guitar lines ride the sad tale of a woman who “took all my money, then she took my soul—She Got It All!”  “Cold Heart” bristles and boils over a voodoo chile vibe, while the guys literally funk up the joint with the uptown swagger of “Bapadubap!”

We had two favorites, too.  The set’s lone cover, Johnny Winter’s “Mean Town Blues,” has lightning-fast runs from Steve that give this one the feel of a Mississippi Hill Country stomp.  The set closes on a sweet, Delta-fied note.  With a rain falling in the background throughout, Steve’s dobro weaves a classic “my baby left me” story, the “Rainy Day Front Porch Blues.”

From Muddy to Motorhead, down thru Son House and Jimi’s “Red House,” the Balkun Brothers put all their myriad influences in their hats, shake ’em on down for ya, and come up with a dazzling set of blues that continues to explore fresh, exciting new boundaries!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

The Ruff Riders review…February 1, 2016…

RUFF RIDERS

HIT THE ROAD

POWER WAGGIN’ RECORDS

HIT THE ROAD–BOUNCE BACK–BACK DOOR KENNY–CUT ME DOWN (12.5 BAR BLUES)–RUMORS–OPEN DOOR–TROUBLE–MY ’65–ROLLIN’–LEAVE ME ALONE–RICH SONG–STUCK ON YOU

The Ruff Riders are a gritty, blue-collar band from Erie, PA, and they’ve played their tough brand of blues throughout that northwestern Pennsylvania area.  This five-piece band is led by the powerfully-soulful vocal stylings of Amy “Shally” Shallenberger, and they have just released their debut, “Hit The Road,” on Power Waggin’ records.

Backing Shally on this fine project are Sean Seth on all guitars, Otis James on the harp, Tony LaPaglia on bass, and Joe Capara on drums.  They all utilize vintage instruments throughout, which adds to the overall cool ambience of the grooves.

Shally starts things off over a driving shuffle, trying to convince a lover to chuck the “old ball and chain,  and Hit The Road, just you and me, baby, and the road below!”  Sean’s vintage Gretsch goes into full-on twang mode in an ode to gamblers everywhere, “Back Door Kenny,” giving it a Sun rockabilly feel, while “My ’65” is a rockin’ guitar-and-harp-fueled tale of a 1965 “blue and white, dual exhaust” Harley-Davidson bike.  A more somber tone pervades the passionate story of the pain, “the kind you just can’t bear,” of the loss of a close friend, and is entitled “Rich Song.”  The set closes on an uptempo, rumba-rockin’ note as Shally vows to remain her own woman, regardless of the advances of a paramour, “that don’t mean that I’m Stuck On You!”

We had two favorites, too.  “Cut Me Down (12.5 Bar Blues) is a stone slab of slow-blues dealing with that scorned woman after the love has gone, who “takes my ride outta town!”  And, Seth’s four-stringed cigar box guitar wails like that proverbial hellhound on the Delta-inspired, minimalist arrangement of “Rollin,” where Shally defiantly vows that “I’m standing on this ground ’til it swallows my soul!”

The Ruff Riders are full of high-energy, good-time blues with a show-stopping singer and killer backing band.  What say we “Hit The Road” with ’em, for one helluva blues ride!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.