Archive for April, 2016

Sugar Blue review..April 29, 2016…

SUGAR BLUE

VOYAGE

MC RECORDS  0079

ON MY WAY (SARAH’S SONG)–ONE–SUGAR BLUE BOOGIE–NEW YORK CITY–12 STEPS–LOVE IS EVERYWHERE–MERCEDES BLUES–SUNSHINE–CYBER BLUES–MARY ANN–LIFE ON THE RUN–TIME

If you are familiar with this Blog at all, you know that Sugar Blue—born James Whiting and raised in Harlem–blows that killer harp riff that rocks the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You,” and also appears on “Emotional Rescue” and “Tattoo You.”  We really love his blues and jazz works, and he’s just released his latest set for MC Records, “Voyage.”  It’s his first set in some five years, with eleven originals written either solely or in part by Sugar.

He’s got serious harp chops, and his influences run thru all the blues greats, but, for us, what makes him so unique is his ability to incorporate the jazz styles of the likes of Lester Young, Dexter Gordon, and Brother Ray in his music.  That breezy, jazzy feel sets the tone on the leadoff  “On My Way (Sarah’s Song),” with its powerful message of love and learning that “life is a journey, not a race,” and is meant to be savored.  His passion for the lovely Ilaria Lantieri, who adds bass on several cuts, and their young son continues that trend with “Love Is Everywhere,” with Rico McFarland’s guitar riding sort of a modified reggae beat.  The subject of spiritual rebirth is the theme of the gospel-infused “12 Steps to the future.”

Blue pays tribute to his homeland with a spirited acoustic, country-blues entitled “New York City,’ where he recounts clubs such as The Bottom Line, and meeting Victoria Spivey, Muddy, and Memphis Slim, who “gave me the chance to play in France,” and, subsequently, team up with the Stones.

We had several favorites.  Blue takes a good-natured stab at being an “analog man in a digital age,” his harp blasting all over the fun of “Cyber Blues.”  “Sugar Blue Boogie” is a jaw-breaking, mile-a-minute, how-the-heck-does-he-DO-that instrumental, while sax great Eddie Shaw guests on a cool stop-time tune about a love affair that “Benz” and finally breaks, “Mercedes Blues.”

Blue’s socially-conscious side shows up in the form of “Life On The Run.”  With the help of Maya Azucena and Sonix The Mad Scientist, they duet on the sad state of the world today, where vigilante justice seems to be the norm, while real justice is denied.

Sugar Blue is an artist with a lot to say, and a lot to be thankful for.  His most powerful communication tool is thru his music, and his latest is a mighty sweet blues “Voyage,” indeed!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Advertisements

Tweed Funk review…April 28, 2016…

TWEED FUNK

COME TOGETHER

TWEED TONE RECORDS

LIGHT UP THE NIGHT–DON’T GIVE UP–MUSE–SWEET MUSIC–COME TOGETHER–EMBRACE–WHO IS THIS–LOVE AIN’T EASY–BULLET–SOUL ROCKIN’

The six-piece blues and soul revue known as Tweed Funk hail from Wisconsin, and are one of the bands that have a true grasp of what honest R & B is meant to sound like.  Their lead singer, Smokey Holman, so impressed Curtis Mayfield that Curtis signed Smokey and his group, Love’s Children, to the Curtom label back in the mid-Seventies.  Smokey’s still got that soul-man energy and vitality, and brings it all to the table on their latest set, “Come Together.”  This one is ten prime cuts of vintage soul-blues from a group that’s sho’ nuff got it all together!

Aside from Smokey on vocals, we have the venerable veteran, JD Optekar, on guitar, Eric Madanic on bass and keys, Dave Schoepke on drums, and the horn section of Andrew Spadafora on sax, and Rommful Of Blues alum Doug Woolverton on trumpet.  They get right down to the gittin’ down with the opening funk of “Light Up The Night,” which features backing vocals from Chrissy Dzioba and Sara Moilanen.  JD’s sweet guitar lines play over Smokey’s affirmation of the power of “Sweet Music,” “that filled this hole in my soul.”  “Embrace” is a beautiful love song that, with the horns doin’ their thing, give this one a Sixties, Solomon Burke feel.  The set closes on another “Soul Rockin” note, this one a definite dance floor strutter.

Our favorite sums up what this group is all about.  Eric’s organ over Smokey’s church-y, testifyin’ vocal urges us all, “Don’t Give Up on your dreams–walk with purpose to your destiny.”

This set from Tweed Funk contains perhaps their strongest material thus far.  Add in  musicianship of the highest order and a dynamite soul man fronting the band, and everything is bound to “Come Together!”   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

The Mighty Mojo Prophets review…April 25, 2016…

THE MIGHTY MOJO PROPHETS

RECORD STORE

MOJO KING MUSIC

CRAZY LOVE–RECORD STORE–DEVIL AT YOUR DOOR–THINGS DON’T CHANGE–STRONG TOGETHER–WORKIN MAN–WEST COAST GIRL–CHERRY RED–GOOD GIRL TRAIN–SPIDER AND THE FLY–BRING IT ON HOME–WONDERING–ALL THUMBS

We’ve all got stories about the good times that could always be had down at your friendly neighborhood “Record Store!”—hey, we worked in one after school back in the day!  That’s the name of the latest set of original, primal, West Coast jump-blues and boogie from one of our favorite bands, The Mighty Mojo Prophets.

They consist of Tom “Big Son” Eliff on vocals, Mitch Dow on guitars, Dave Deforest on bass, Tom Richmond on all the harps, Mike Malone on keys, and Al Ricci on skins.  These thirteen tunes are more of what this band has been puttin’ down since they were nominated for a BMA in 2012 following their self-titled Rip Cat Records debut, and this set is their tightest and strongest to date.

Leadin’ off is a dyno-mite little boogie shuffle about that funny feeling you get when you know she ain’t doin’ you right–you get out that “Night Train wine and a fifth of JD, too,” to beat that “Crazy Love.”  Mitch cranks up the wah-wah action on the loping beat of the title cut, where Lamar Duarte’s store changed many a young life forever.  Tom takes a stroll on the big ol’ chromatic over Tom’s ode to those we can all identify with, the “Workin’ Man, workin’ for your next payday!”

There are plenty of good gals to go around, too!  There’s that swingin’ “West Coast Girl” who’s always waiting when you get home.  There’s the one that got away at first, but is coming home on that funky “Good Girl Train.”  Then, there’s the one we all wish we had—the one who can “turn the day into night,” and “turns me Cherry Red!”  The set closes with a blistering boogie-fied instrumental, “All Thumbs,” featuring sweet guitar-and-chromatic interplay between Mitch and Tom.

Our favorite had a topical, socially-conscious message behind it.  No matter what, you can’t watch TV or read the paper without knowing that “Things Don’t Change, no matter where you turn!”

We never had Big William Clarke or Snooky Pryor at the Sound Shop where we worked, but “Lamar’s Record Store” and The Mighty Mojo Prophets, thru their most excellent blues sound, sho’ nuff have some stories to tell!    Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

The Record Company review…April 24, 2016…

THE RECORD COMPANY

GIVE IT BACK TO YOU

CONCORD RECORDS  CRE 3844-02

OFF THE GROUND–DON’T LET ME GET LONELY–RITA MAE YOUNG–ON THE MOVE–HARD DAY COMING DOWN-FEELS SO GOOD–TURN ME LOOSE–GIVE IT BACK TO YOU–THIS CROOKED CITY–IN THE MOOD FOR YOU

The Los Angeles-based trio, The Record Company, (yep–that’s their name!), features Chris Vos on guitar, harp, and vocals, Alex Stiff on bass and vocals, and Mark Cazorla on drums, keys and vocals.  These guys play a bluesy amalgam of roots-rock that owes as much to the Stones and Stooges as to Muddy and Hooker.  Their debut is creating a huge buzz everywhere, and is ten originals entitled “Give It Back To You.”  They’ve had music featured in ads for Miller Lite, Subaru, and, even ABC-TV’s “Nashville,” to name just a few.

The set starts with the song in the Miller ad.  It’s a bottom-heavy groove entitled “Off The Ground,” featuring cool lap steel from Chris over his vocal, with a sweet “field-holler”-like backing chorus.  The acoustic, stop-time of “Don’t Let Me Get Lonely” has an early-Sun Records  rockabilly vibe,  while Chris’ harp and vocals tell the tale of a woman who can’t be satisfied–“my baby’s got me On The Move.”  “Feels So Good” throbs with the chooglin’ endless boogie of John Lee Hooker, and is a lustful tale of “doin’ what you want when you know that you shouldn’t,” while the twangy guitar adds a sweet touch to “Turn Me Loose,” as Chris begs a lover, “why don’t you do what’s right instead of doin’ what’s wrong?”

Want a stunning example of how these guys fuse the Delta with the Brityish Invasion guys?  Check out our favorite, which closed the set.  “In The Mood For You” kicks off with echo-effect vocals that conjure up an Excello vibe, before building to a shattering climax reminiscent of  “G-L-O-R-I-A”-era Van Morrison.

Given that the band was basically formed in Alex’s living room, The Record Company has come a long way.  They love playing live, and have already played Canada’s Harvest Festival and the Montreal Jazz Festival.  “Give It Back To You”  is full of the band’s trademark no-frills, honest, butt-rockin’ blues that we know fans are gonna enjoy!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Mike Wheeler Band review…April 22, 2016…

MIKE WHEELER BAND

TURN UP!

DELMARK RECORDS  DE 845

SWEET GIRL–YOU WON’T DO RIGHT–YEAH!–BRAND NEW CADILLAC–TALKING TO MYSELF–TURN UP!–NOTHING LASTS FOREVER–I CAN’T DO THAT–LIVING MY DREAM–A BLIND MAN CAN SEE–THAT’S WHAT LOVE WILL MAKE YOU DO–I’M HOOKED–SAD STATE OF THE WORLD

Mike Wheeler continues to front one of the tightest, hardest-working bands on the Windy City scene, and he’s back and better than ever with his second release for Delmark, “Turn Up!”  A mighty guitarist for more than thirty years, he’s played with all the greats, including Demetria Taylor and Jimmy Johnson.  This set showcases not only his playing and singing, but his composing prowess as well, with twelve of the thirteen cuts being band originals.  Mike’s on vocals and guitar, and Brian James is on keys.  Larry Williams on bass and Cleo Cole on drums hold down the bottom, and the Chicago Horns, Kenny Anderson on trumpet and Hank Ford on sax round things out.

Mike’s influences are much akin to ours—straight-blues, R & B, funk and rock, and he gives you a little taste of ’em all.  He really lets loose on the cuts that blend the R & B with the blues.  Dig the leadoff “Sweet Girl” and the title cut, where Mike tells a lover that “I Turn Up when I’m with you–you turn me on, that’s what you do!”  He gets down’n’ dirty with the grungy buzzsaw guitar of “Brand New Cadillac,” and flashes seven minutes of slow-blues bliss with “Even A Blind Man Can See you no longer love me!”  The set closes on a hopeful note of positivity, with the “Sad State Of The World today.”  Mike’s impassioned vocals, asking for “love, not hate,” and Brian’s piano work give this one a gospel-infused, sanctified vibe,

We had plenty of favorites, too.  A stone shot of pure Chicago blues  deals with the lack of communication between lovers—“ta;king to you, baby, is like Talking To Myself.”  This one rides a sweet, danceable groove all the way thru.  And, “Yeah!” chronicles a funky story of missed opportunities for romance on the dance floor, and the JB-styled horns make it irresistible!

If you are gonna play the blues in Chi-Town, you better come hard or get back on the porch.  The Mike Wheeler Band, with “Turn Up!,” has done just that, as he continues to live his dream of being not only one of the best players in Chicago, but on the whole planet!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Tasha Taylor review….April 20, 2016…

TASHA TAYLOR

HONEY FOR THE BISCUIT

RUF RECORDS  1225

FEELS SO GOOD–WEDDING BELLS–FAMILY TREE–WEATHERMAN–ONE AND ONLY–LITTLE MISS SUZIE–I KNEW–HOW LONG–THAT MAN–LEAVE THAT DOG ALONE–PLACES I MISS–DON’T RUSH OFF–SAME OLD THING

Altho she was raised in Dallas, Tasha Taylor’s childhood was unlike most anyone else’s.  She spent a lot of her youth on the tour bus alongside her father, R & B and blues legend Johnnie Taylor, learning what it takes to become a world-class entertainer.  She is a champion of the blues-infused soul that Pops was famous for, and her latest set for Ruf Records “Honey or The Biscuit,” proudly carries on that tradition.

Tasha originally studied drama at Boston University, and has had recurring roles on “Ugly Betty” and “House.”  But, music is her passion, and she has scored for “Lipstick Jungle” and “Men In Trees.”  On this set, she tackles things we all face in everyday life–love, relationships, and the pitfalls along the way.  Through it all, she bares to us her soul in these life-lessons in song.

The set starts with Tasha moving on from a soured relationship, in the uptempo groove of “It Feels So Good when it’s over!”  Her strong ties with Pops and her extended musical family is the theme of “Family Ties,” and has Keb’ Mo’ guesting on guitar and vocals, while a song co-written with Richard Fleming and Tom Hambridge is “Weatherman”—“no matter what the weather, he’s the man I want around!”  This one features excellent keys work from Don Wyatt.  She gets downright wistful in longing for the “Places I Miss,”  and closes the set with the soulful story of cutting your losses to live your own dreams, “Same Old Thing.”  Tommy Castro is her duet partner on this sweet cut.

We had two favorites, too.  Get your dancin’ shoes laced up for “How Long,” a good-rockin’ tale of barroom lust, while in the time-honored tradition of “Take Care Of Your Homework, a no-good lover whose “back ain’t got no bone” gets the heave-ho in “Leave That Dog Alone!”

Tasha Taylor, with “Honey For The Biscuit,” feels that this is her most blues-oriented effort to date.  We know you’ll have that same feeling after listening to one of the most exciting voices on the contemporary scene today!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Jane Lee Hooker review…April 19, 2016…

JANE LEE HOOKER

NO B!

RUF RECORDS  1229

WADE IN THE WATER–MEAN TOWN BLUES–I BELIEVE TO MY SOUL–BUMBLE BEE–IN THE VALLEY–FREE ME–THE HUNTER–CHAMPAGNE AND REEFER–DIDN’T IT RAIN–MANNISH BOY–SHAKE FOR ME

With five female members from avant-garde bands as varied as Nashville Pussy, The Wives, and Bad Wizard, Jane Lee Hooker is ready to literally kick ass and take names with their raw, raucous debut, “No B!,” on Ruf Records.  Doin’ it to death on this set is Danger Athens on vocals, Cool Whip Houston on drums, High Top on guitar, T-Bone Gorin on guitar and Hail Mary Z on bass, these women bring the attitude of their native New York and the energy of classic punk and garage rock to this collection that will sho’ nuff get your attention!

This is take-no-prisoners, punch-in-the-face, stone cold rockin’ blues all the way thru.  The ladies intended to create an album in the spirit of Muddy’s “Hard Again” album from the mid-Seventies, on which Johnny Winter played, and damned if they didn’t succeed!  The party starts, if you can believe it, sorta “in the church,” with the sanctified and testifyin’ grooves of “Wade In The Water.”  That vibe is revisited a little later with the spirited “Didn’t It Rain,” each done with guitars fully ablaze and Cool Whip poundin’ her heart out.  You can allmost feel the ghost of John Dawson Winter III on the mile-a-minute frenzy of “Mean Town Blues,” while the band original, “In The Valley,”  updates the Crossroads tale and spits in the face of ol’ Satan himself, keepin’ him from making another “deal.”

They pay tribute to Muddy with fiery takes of “Champagne And Reefer,” and absolutely rock the hell outta the stop-time smoke and fire of the title cut, “Mannish Boy!”

Our favorite captured the vibe the ladies are after.  You can almost feel the sex sweat drippin’ off Danger’s forehead as she sings a tune popularized by Memphis Minnie, boasting of the prowess of her “Bumble Bee,” with that “stinger as long as my right arm!”

If Jane Lee Hooker ever drives up to your front door in a drop-top Camaro, do yourself a favor—jump in and hang on for the ride of a lifetime, with “No B!” blastin’ from the speakers!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.