Archive for April, 2016

Josh Harty review…April 12, 2016…

JOSH HARTY

HOLDING ON

INDEPENDENT RELEASE

HOLDING ON–THE KIND–ROUND AND ROUND–WIRED–LEARN TO FIGHT–BALLAD FOR A FRIEND–RUNNING–YOU AND THE ROAD–SHIVER IN THE DARK–ENGLISH RAIN

Josh Harty is a product of the flourishing Americana and roots scene up ’round Madison WI.  He’s been at it long enough to have four albums to his credit, and his fifth, “Holding on,” may just be his best.  Over the last five or so years, he’s literally been like Hank Snow’s mythical character that’s “been everywhere, man,”  touring 41 states, much of Europe, and the UK.  He writes about life’s experiences, both his and the folks he’s met along his many travels.

That’s the cohesive spirit that permeates this album.  Josh’s expressive, evocative vocals and equally-impressive guitar lines bring these songs to life, and we all know folks like the ones he sings about.  Take “Round and Round” for example.  Josh knows what we all know—the world is going to Hell in a hand basket, and if we don’t change, ‘we’ll all fall down in the end.”

The title cut deals with life being spent on the road for an extended period, and features harmonies from Kelley McRae and Matt Castelein, with mandolin from Chris Wagoner and harp from Ben Brookes Belcher.  The set-closer is the opposite of “Holding On,” as Josh uses the backdrop of “English Rain” to convey his thoughts of homesickness after four years on the road.

We had two favorites, too.  “Ballad For A Friend” has a dark, decidedly-bluesy feel, and is based on a true account of three young friends, one of whom is killed by the other two over a girlfriend, going to that dark place where “dying is easier than life,” with Chris Wagoner on that hellhound-on-my-trail dobro.  And, an uptempo look at why we are the way we are is explained by Josh as “apparently, it’s the way i’m Wired,” again with Chris on mandolin and lap steel.

Josh Harty is one of those artists who enjoys interactions with his fans on his many journeys.  He turns those experiences into songs, and “Holding On” is the well-crafted result!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Cornflower Blue review…April 11, 2016…

CORNFLOWER BLUE

INVINCIBLE

CATHERINE–LONG WALK HOME–AROUND MY HEART–SNOWED IN–WAY DOWN TOWN–THE BALLAD OF DON RICH AND BUCK OWENS–COLD SNAP–INVINCIBLE–MARY JOSEPH/MARY JOE–REASON TO SMILE–WRONG–ELMDALE

The folks that are the heart and soul of Cornflower Blue come from Ottawa, Ontario, and, as you listen to their latest album, “Invincible,” you’ll hear elements of classic country, rock, and folk, conjuring up memories of Johnny and June, Gram and Emmylou, and, even Buck and Don.  They use the occurrences of everyday life, along with all its hopes and dreams, heartbreaks and victories, as elements on which to build their original songs, and combine searing guitars right next to the fiddles to achieve their desired sounds.

Cornflower Blue are Theresa McInerney and Trevor May on guitar and vocals, with Deanna McDougall on the fiddle, Dasha Korycan on bass, and Robbie (Vegas) MacLeod on drums.  We can only imagine how cold an Ottawa winter must be, and the band uses that bitter cold  as the backdrop for several of the cuts herein.  Theresa’s poignant lyrics of the homeless who live “Way Down Town” are punctuated by somber guitars and fiddle lines in keeping with the subject matter.  “Cold Snap” rides a freight-train beat, as our heroine bemoans “water frozen in the toilet bowl,” and “a cold cup of coffee that reminds me of you!”

The leadoff cut has Trevor turning to the bottle for help with “Catherine,” realizing his mistakes and asking for “a second chance.”  And, the exuberance and pure joy of youth is addressed thru the eyes of a child with “Pokemon and Picachu cards” in his pocket, and is thus “Invincible on the playground today,” set over an equally-playful arrangement.

We had two favorites, too.  That snowy cold comes back into play as Theresa portrays the lover given the kiss-off from a guy looking to “make the most of his life’s story,” making for a “Long Walk Home.”  And, “fast cars, cowboy boots, loud guitars and Nudie suits” serve as the theme for the ode to Bakersfield’s favorite sons, “The Ballad Of Don Rich And Buck Owens.”  Astute listeners (over 50, probably!) can’t help but notice a chorus of “Buckaroo” at the break!

Cornflower Blue are extremely talented musicians and writers.  They have a sweet grasp of classic sounds, and know how to bring a contemporary spin to everything, making “Invincible” a set to which we can all relate!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Blind Lemon Peel review…April 9, 2016…

BLIND LEMON PEEL

DON’T TEAR MY CLOTHES

WEAR WHAT I PLEASE–MY DOG–NO TIME OFF (FOR GOOD BEHAVIOR)–I’M SO HORNY (THE CRACK OF DAWN AIN’T SAFE!)–DON’T TEAR MY CLOTHES–SHAKE YOUR LOVE THANG–CAN’T GET UP (OFFA THAT MUCH LOVE)–MARRY MY MONEY–BOOGIE MAN OF LOVE–!!!! EVERYBODY

Blind Lemon Peel is the alter-ego of vocalist David Hale, and the band also features Steve Burgh on guitars, Joel Diamond on keys, Hugh McDonald on bass, and Richard Crooks on drums.  To describe their sound, you gotta think outta the box.  Add in some funk from James Brown and Johnny Guitar  Watson, some country-fied blues from Elvin Bishop, the humor and vocal delivery of Rick Estrin, and, shall we say, the irreverence of Wynonie Harris, and you’ll get a fairly good idea of what’s going on in the ten cuts that comprise “Don’t Tear My Clothes.”  One thing is for sure—it’s a stone party from the git-go!

Peel plays the slacker part to the hilt on the leadoff cut, wanting to “live the life of ease, and Wear What I Please,” built around a sweet midtempo groove with Joel offering up a fine N’Awlins-style piano solo.  Peel name-checks just ’bout every breed of dog on a cool cover of Elvin’s “My Dog,” who “don’t chase chickens, cats, or other women!”  A good slow-blues is the story of a lover with a few screws loose,  who gives our hero “No Time Off (For Good Behavior),” because “she wants me when I want her, and even when I don’t!”  Speaking of slow-blues, the title cut is as good as it gets, with Steve’s lead lines gettin’ down ‘n’ dirty, while the females in the backing chorus really have a good time with this one, too!

Peel has some “divorce issues” with an ex in the swingin’ stop-time boogie woogie of  “Marry My Money again,” and closes the set with the ultimate kiss-off to all his naysayers, “!!!! Everybody,” and, trust us, it is NOT for the faint of heart or conservatives!

Our favorites were easy.  Mark Granville’s harp over Steve’s deep slide give a Delta-fied vibe to Peel’s declaration that he’s “The Boogie Man Of Love!”  And, you can’t deny the danceable groove of “Shake Your Love Thang,” with a cool “Saturday Night Fish Fry” stamp on it!

Blind Lemon Peel and “Don’t Tear My Clothes” keeps things fun, funky, and real.  Infectious grooves, good slow-bluesers and a party attitude make this one not to be missed!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Debbie Bond review…April 7, 2016…

DEBBIE BOND

ENJOY THE RIDE

BLUES ROOT PRODUCTIONS  BRP–1601

ENJOY THE RIDE–RAINBOW–LOVE VIBRATION–LEFT ME IN THE DARK–FIND A WAY–I AM THE BLUES–HUMBLE PIE–WISHBONE–REMEDY–START WITH LOVE–TRAIN SONG

Debbie Bond has been a major force on the Alabama blues scene for some thirty years, mentoring with that state’s legends, including Johnny Shines, Willie King, and Jody Williams, among others.  Completely immersed in the soulful sounds of the Muscle Shoals region, her latest album is a reflection of her career as a ‘Bama blueswoman, entitled “Enjoy The Ride,” featuring eleven tracks, six written by Debbie and her musical and life partner, Rick Asherson.

Adding to the festivities are a long list of Debbie’s friends, including Will McFarlane on guitar, Spooner Oldham on organ, and Rachel and Carla Edwards on backing vocals.  Throughout, we are treated to Debbie’s soulful, lilting vocals and guitar, and Rick’s fiery harp and keyboard bass.

Opening the show is the title cut–Debbie’s childhood memories of advice given her by her father, that “it ain’t about the destination–you’ve got to Enjoy The Ride!”  She turns up the heat in this one with some killer slide playing, also.  A couple of different looks at love follow, with the tale of a lover who can’t commit.  Debbie lets him go, hoping he’ll find his “Rainbow.”  Another cool minor-key cut was written by Jody Williams and is an ode to cheatin’ lovers everywhere, as Debbie wonders why “You Left Me In The Dark.”

There’s plenty more good times, too.  A good ol’  punchy horn section adds to that famous “Muscle Shoals Sound” in the gospel-inflected “Find A Way to love again,” while Rick’s Excello-riffic harp riffs give a swampy vibe to Debbie’s proclamation that “I Am The Blues.”  She and Rick close the set on a country-blues note, as his harp lines add to the ambience of Debbie’s moanin’, lost-lover vocals on “Train Song.”

Our favorite was easy.  The good-time combo of piano and harp give “I got a Wishbone where my backbone should be” a sweet New Orleans feel, as Debbie laments another questionable choice of lovers!

Debbie Bond continues to serve up some mighty fine Southern soul and blues, and all us fans are much the richer for it.  Everybody come along, and let’s all “Enjoy The Ride!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Steve Dawson review…April 6, 2016…

STEVE DAWSON

SOLID STATES AND LOOSE ENDS

BLACK HEN MUSIC  BHCD  0078

LOOSE END–BROKEN FUTURE BLUES–LEAVE MY NAME BEHIND–CALIFORNIA SAVIOUR–ON TOP OF THE WORLD–LITTLE SILVER–RILEY’S HENHOUSE DOOR–FINAL WORDS–CAN’T PUT THAT MONKEY ON MY BACK–EARLY WARNING–YOU GOT WHAT IT TAKES–DRIVER’S WHEEL–DELIA–ROSE’S BLUES

We’ve been fans of Steve Dawson long before he moved from his native Vancouver, BC, to Nashville a few years ago.  Always a consummate picker with a wide array of vintage amps and instruments in his arsenal, his songwriting runs the gamut from pre-WWII blues, gospel, folk, and roots.  All his myriad of influences are on display on his latest Black Hen release, “Solid States And Loose Ends.”  He recorded this set at his Hen House studio down in Brentwood, and brought in some homeboys from Canada as well as some from ’round these parts to make this album the  most well-written, well-played, and well-conceived of his career.  Along with Steve on all the guitars, he imported John Dymond and Gary Craig from north of the border to add bass and drums, respectively.  Add in Kevin McKendree on keys, Fats Kaplin on the fiddle and mandolin, Jim Hoke on saxes, with Keri Latimer and Regina and Ann McCrary  on backing vocals,  and this is one big blues party!

Leading off is a song about things gettin’ in your way no matter how you try to avoid those “Loose Ends.”  Fats is on the fiddle and Steve is on lap steel,  giving “On Top Of The World” a swingin’ vintage vibe, while Fats adds mandolin over Steve’s electric slide guitar on the traditional tale of cheatin’ lovers, “Can’t Put That Monkey On My Back!”  “Final Words” has elements of both blues and soul, and Steve’s over-the-top playing does give this one a sweet Little Feat feel.

Every cut is a monster, and we’d ;like to mention a couple of Steve’s traditional blues covers.  He and Keri Latimer make the sad story of “Delia” into a  plaintive country-blues duet while Steve reaches deep down into the Wayback Machine for a killer version of Gid Tanner And The Skillet Lickers’ hilarious “Riley’s Hen House!”  This one features some fine fingerpicking that’ll sho’ nuff flat git it!

Steve Dawson is a Juno Award winner (the Canadian Grammy, if you will), and we are lucky to have him living here in Music City.   Catch him around town in support of “Solid States And Loose Ends,” and be prepared to be blown away by his incredible talents!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Ivor S. K. review…April 6, 2016….

IVOR S. K.

DELTA PINES

HELP POOR ME–MISSUS GREEN–PELICAN–I LIKE THE WAY–DELTA PINES

Ivor Simpson-Kennedy hails from Sydney, Australia, and is one of a new generation of blues players from “down under.”  He now claims New Orleans as his “second home,” primarily because of the spiritual connection between his music and that of the Big Easy.

When you listen to Ivor play the blues, you immediately get a mental image of the pre-WWII Delta masters such as Son House, Bukka White, and those raw plantation recordings the Lomax family did of Muddy.  His debut EP, “Delta Pines,” is five original songs that show an old-school soul in a contemporary bluesman’s body!  He has a uniquely-burnished vocal style, perfectly suited for these tunes.  His guitar playing is crisp, clean, and clear, and you can hear a fine example of this in the laid-back instrumental, “Pelican.”

All the masters used a touch of topical humor in their blues, and Ivor is no different.  Fact is, he’d rather have a drag from his favorite “herb,” “Missus Green,”  than get caught up in the drama of “Miss Beer,” “Miss Rum,” and “Miss Absinthe!”

The highlight for us was the closing title cut.  A percussive ode to all things Mississippi, it takes you on a mystical musical journey from Vicksburg to Indianola, up to Helena, Clarksdale, and “where Johnson sang his song” and made that infamous deal.

The “Delta Pines” are calling, and Ivor S. K. is heeding the call.  He has a firm grasp on the styles of the masters, and this is a mesmerizing, powerful, debut indeed!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Ken Valdez review… April 4, 2016…

KEN VALDEZ

SOUL RENEGADE

SOUL RENEGADE–RIO GRANDE BLUES–SUGAR SHAKIN BOOGALOO–MAKE IT–SOMETIMES–FAR FROM GONE–DETROIT IRON–FINAL SEASON-WHISKEY AND WATER–ANGELS–WANG DANG DOODLE

Ken Valdez was born in Santa Fe, NM, and now resides in Minneapolis.  Often referred to as “The Best-Kept Secret In The Blues,” this mighty guitarist, vocalist, and composer has been releasing albums off and on since his well-received 2000 debut, “Approach.”  An EP written for his friend and mentor, T-Model Ford, in 2012 gave him the itch to not only get back in the studio, but to hit the road again.

That brings us to his latest release, “Soul Renegade,” eleven cuts that offer up a musical journey that takes you thru all Ken’s influences—from Chicago to the Delta, up thru T-Model’s Hill Country, and back down to his native Southwest.  He takes a vivid look thru this material at life, love, and coping on a daily basis.

The set kicks off with the grit and emotion of the title cut, where the defiant “outlaw rides again, stronger than I was before!”  A chooglin’ shot of roadhouse boogie blues is “Sugar Shakin’ Boogaloo,” with Chris Duarte on guitar.  Two of those looks at love are polar opposites.  A cool, Delta-styled intro with country-blues harp from Kevin B. F. Burt and Ken’s guitar lines drive “Make It,” Ken’s promise to a lover to “keep pushing on” no matter what.   But,  often the best-laid plans go belly up, and “Sometimes you feel like you are on a lonely road to nowhere” and it’s time to throw in the towel.  This one features guitar from Eric Gales.

“Detroit Iron” pays a rockin’ tribute to the glory days of “cruisin’ in a Cadillac,” and Ken closes with a snarling take on Koko’s “Wang Dang Doodle,” with Adam Daniel supplying fine keyboard work.

Our favorites were easy, and followed each other in the set as sure as Sunday morning follows Saturday night.  “Whiskey And Water” is an ode to Saturday nights spent down at “The Waterin’ Hole,” where everybody knows your name and your credit is always good with the bartender.  As it fades, the sureties and sanctifications of Sunday morning sinks in, and Ken gladly gives thanks to his “Angels,” for “one more day above the ground!”  Ken’s vocal is strong, and Brant Leeper’s piano is testifyin’ all the way thru!

With “Soul Renegade,” Ken Valdez proves he has sho’ nuff paid his dues.  This is a powerful, eclectic set that shows Ken’s talents in multiple genres’, while staying rooted in the blues-rock traditions!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

The Steepwater Band review…April 3, 2016…

THE STEEPWATER BAND

SHAKE YOUR FAITH

DIAMOND DAY RECORDS

SHAKE YOUR FAITH–MAMA GOT TO RAMBLE–BE AS IT MAY–BREAK–BRING ON THE LOVE–JEALOUS OF YOUR WAY–I WILL NEVER KNOW–WALK IN THE LIGHT–GONE GOODBYE–LAST SECOND CHANCE–AIN’T GOT LOVE

The Steepwater Band mixes a strong dose of classic blues-rock with British Invasion swagger–at their recent live shows, it was not unheard of for them to play the Stones’ “Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out” in its entirety before playing their own material.  That hard-rockin’ attitude is the backbone of their sixth studio album, eleven originals that will “Shake Your Faith!”  Jeff Massey is on vocals and guitar, Todd Bowers is on bass, Joe Winters is on drums,  Jim Wirt is on keys, and the band’s newest member, Eric Saylors, is on lead and rhythm guitars.

The party starts with the midtempo title cut, urging us to all stand up and let nothing “Shake Your Faith,” featuring two bristling solos.  A song reminiscent of vintage Faces is another stone rocker, where “Mama Got To Ramble, her man don’t understand,” because, sometimes, “after all you’ve done, you’ve done all you can.”

The fellows mellow things out a bit, with the guitar-stoked ballad, “Bring On The Love,” and get downright bluesy thru the use of mandolin and lap steel from Eric on a tune dealing with love lost and found anew, “I Will Never Know.”

The set closes with our favorite.  A killer six-note riff permeates the Muddy Waters-inspired rockin’ blues of “If you Ain’t Got Love, you ain’t got nothing to lay down on the line!”  Vicious solos from Eric and Jeff, as well as Jim’s underlying keyboards, make this one a real blues party!

The Steepwater Band recorded “Shake Your Faith” as a set meant to be experienced straight thru, from first cut to last.  We found this to be the case, as the whole thing is a sweet sonic journey, full of excellent musicians on top of their game, and soulful, emotion-packed songwriting!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Jeff Plankenhorn review…April 2, 2016…

JEFF PLANKENHORN

SOULSLIDE

LOUNGE SIDE RECORDS  LSR 0012

LOSE MY MIND–YOU GOT ME HUMMIN’–TROUBLE FIND ME–LIKE FLOWERS–DIRTY FLOOR–KANSAS CITY NOCTURNE–BORN TO WIN–VAGABOND MOONLIGHT–MOCKINGBIRD BLUES–HEADSTRONG–LIVE TODAY–WALKING IN THE SUN

Jeff Plankenhorn is a highly-acclaimed and very versatile guitarist who went to college at the University of Michigan before moving to Nashville for a while, “woodshedding” by absorbing all he could from the likes of Uncle Josh Graves and Jerry Douglas.  He finally settled in Austin, TX, at the behest of Ray Wylie Hubbard.  He’s just released his dazzling debut for Lounge Side Records, “SoulSlide,” that shows why he is such an in-demand player for a host of Texas music royalty!

Jeff is affectionately-known as “Plank,” as is the stand-up lap steel that he designed.  This album has Jeff using “The Plank” to create unique sounds that bring to mind the sacred steel of Robert Randolph, the dobro of Uncle Josh, and blues from the Texas masters.

The party starts with a gospel-shoutin’ cut co-written with Gary Nicholson, “I want to Lose My Mind, but I don’t want to go crazy,” punctuated profoundly by that sanctified-steel sound.  A bluesier, soulful slide drives the good-time proclamation to a lover that “I’ll be your Superfly, and we’ll go dancin’ on the Dirty Floor.”  This one features backing vocals from Ruthie Foster.  “Born To Win” pushes us to always do the best we can, to “get on up and never give in,” while “Mockingbird Blues” is done with acoustic guitar in one channel and the Plank in the other, lending to its laid-back, front-porch vibe.

We had two favorites, both duets.  An original Texas soul man, Malford Milligan, joins Jeff on the Sam and Dave soul party, “You Got Me Hummin”  Ruthie Foster returns as Jeff’s partner for a song of redemption co-written with Michael O’Connor, where “all the people look Like Flowers.”  This one has an early-era Stones or Small Faces feel,  and Jeff and Ruthie have a lotta fun with it.

Jeff Plankenhorn possesses a myriad of talent when it comes to the guitar—he can play any style or genre’, and “SoulSlide” is a great testimony to this fact.  We’re all about to find out what Austin folks have known all along—he’s one mighty fine player!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.