Archive for September, 2016

Duke Robillard And His All-Star Combo review…September 11, 2016…

DUKE ROBILLARD

AND HIS ALL-STAR COMBO

BLUES FULL CIRCLE

STONY PLAIN RECORDS  SPCD 1392

LAY A LITTLE LOVIN’ ON ME–RAIN KEEPS FALLING–MOURNING DOVE–NO MORE TEARS–LAST NIGHT–FOOL ABOUT MY MONEY–THE MOOD ROOM–I’VE GOT A FEELIN’ THAT YOU’RE FOOLIN’–SHUFFLIN’ AND SCUFFLIN’–BLUES FOR EDDIE JONES–YOU USED TO BE SUGAR–WORTH WAITIN’ ON–COME WITH ME BABY

Duke Robillard’s last album, “The Acoustic Blues And Roots Of Duke Robillard,” won the BMA for Acoustic Blues Album Of The Year back in May in Memphis.  His latest set, “Blues Full Circle,” for Stony Plain Records, is a “return” of sorts, to his Roomful Of Blues roots, with ten originals and three songs from other folks all written with a small combo in mind, without a full horn section.  Duke is on guitar and vocals, Bruce Bears is on keys, Brad Hallen is on bass, and Mark Teixeira is on drums.  Rounding out the All-Star combo are special guests Kelley Hunt, Sugar Ray Norcia, and Jimmie Vaughan.

Shortly after about half of this set was completed, Duke suffered a rotator cuff injury that kept him from playing guitar at all for almost a year.  During this recovery, he explored his other artistic endeavors, photography and painting, and a fine example of the latter is the cover art for this album!

First up is the loping beat of “Lay A Little Lovin’ On Me,” with Duke getting in some fine, extended solos.  “Mourning Dove” is slow blues at its best, this the story of that lonesome dove flying deep down in Texas to “find that little girl for me!”

Three excellent cuts from the special guests add an extra dimension to this affair, making it a real blues party!  “Last Night” is a swingin,’ jump-blues cut that features Sugar Ray Norcia on vocals, with Sax Gordon Beadle on the horn.  Kelley Hunt is on the boogie-woogie  piano and vocal on her tribute to the Duke’s home studio, “The Mood Room.”  And, Doug James adds sax joining Jimmie Vaughan on guitar on the Texas-meets-New England instrumental, “Shufflin’ And Scufflin,”

We had two favorites, too.  Duke and the fellows cash in on a cool  second-line rhythm pattern on the humorous tale of “workin’ for myself, ’cause I’m a Fool About My Money!”  And, the somber “Blues For Eddie Jones” is a stark reminder that   “everybody knew him as Guitar Slim,  until the booze got the best of him.”

Duke Robillard And His All-Star Combo get as close as possible to achieving a “live” feel for this set in the studio.  Duke has really brought the “Blues Full Circle” with this fine collection!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Paul Mark single review…September 10, 2016…

PAUL MARK

HEART FULL OF SOUL

RADIATION RECORDS

CD SINGLE

The latest offering from avant-garde bluesman Paul Mark is a cool re-vamping of the Yardbirds 1965 single, “Heart Full Of Soul.”  As a young man, Paul was intrigued and inspired by the high-energy guitar parts of Jeff Beck  in the original, and, after a friend gave him a vintage Contessa guitar, he turned the original into this sweet, fuzz-toned version.  Add in his burnished vocal delivery, and this one becomes new all over again!  In the liner notes, he explains the nuances of the equipment and the arrangements that make this a “blues-meets-Ennio-Morricone,” and a must-hear for his fans!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Little Mike review…September 9, 2016….

LITTLE MIKE

HOW LONG?

ELROB RECORDS

COTTON MOUTH–HOW LONG–SMOKIN’–MOANIN’–WHEN MY BABY LEFT–SLAM HAMMER–WHATCHA GONNA DO–SAM’S BLUES–BAD BOY–NOT WHAT MAMA PLANNED–TRYNA FIND MY BABY–SITTIN’ HERE BABY

Little Mike (Markowitz) was raised in New York City, and had the opportunity to meet the legends who came to town to play the blues.  As such, he forged a lot of friendships with some of those greats that have lasted a lifetime.  A powerful harp man, pianist, composer, and singer, he’s had recent highly-acclaimed sets reviewed within the pages of this humble forum with Zora Young, and a long-lost, rare live show with Jimmy Rogers and Pinetop.

His latest is entitled “How Long?” and it combines his love for blues from back in the day with some fine, original, contemporary blues written and played in the old-school style.  When you hear Mike’s harp, you’ll hear nuances from Cotton to Carey, and his piano playing brings to mind Rosco Gordon and ol’ Joe Willie Perkins himself.

Blasting off like a V-8 motor made of modern design is the blistering leadoff instrumental, “Cotton Mouth.”  He has some more good instrumentals, too, with the rhum-boogie beat of a song identified with Johnny Young, “Slam Hammer,” and an original that is seven minutes of deep, slow-blues bliss, the soul-satisfying groove of  ” Sam’s Blues.”

Mike’s original vocal tunes are mighty strong, too.  Check out the soul-blues tune dealing with Karma and “biting the hand that puts food on your plate,” “Whatcha Gonna Do?”  The life of a bluesman is well-documented, too.  A jazzy groove defines the story of a man who follows his heart, and is definitely “Not What Mama Planned.”  The set closes on a similar note.  “Sittin’ Here Baby, a thousand miles away from you” deals with loneliness on the road as only a man who’s been there can tell.

Our favorite was easy.  Mike’s harp is all over the double-time, rat-a-tat-tat beat of a tale dealing with his worst habit, “I just can’t stop Smokin,’ no matter how hard I try.”

In the liner notes of “How Long?” there is an excerpt from an interview Little Mike did with Blues @ Greece.  When asked to describe his sound,  Mike shared what his fans already know–it’s deep, hard-hitting, and raw, and goes straight from his heart into your soul!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Ronnie Earl And The Broadcasters review…September 8, 2016…

RONNIE EARL AND THE BROADCASTERS

MAXWELL STREET

STONY PLAIN RECORDS  SPCD 1391

MOTHER ANGEL–ELEGY FOR A BLUESMAN–IN MEMORY OF T-BONE–KISMET–DOUBLE TROUBLE-(I’VE GOT TO USE MY) IMAGINATION–BLUES FOR DAVID MAXWELL–YOU DON’T KNOW ME–BROJOE–AS THE YEARS GO PASSING BY

On February 13, 2015, the music world lost one of its most innovative and inspiring pianists to ever grace a stage or a recording with the passing of David Maxwell.  He was a member of Ronnie Earl’s Broadcasters, and Ronnie has paid his colleague the ultimate compliment by dedicating his latest set for Stony Plain, “Maxwell Street,” not only to honor David’s vast contributions to blues piano, but also as a tribute to the famed outdoor market in Chicago where all the legends played.

There are six originals and four covers herein, with Ronnie on guitar, Dave Limina on keys, Lorne Entress on drums, Jim Mouradian on bass, Diane Blue on vocals, and special guest Nichols Tabarias on guitar.  The original instrumentals, save for the uptempo swing of “Brojoe,” take on a slow-blues, reverential–even elegiacal–tone in tribute to the man Ronnie described as having “become Otis Spann” in his later career. Highlights for us were Ronnie’s “Blues For David Maxwell,” and Dave Limina’s piano-driven “Elegy For A Bluesman.”

Diane Blue offers up some fine vocals, also.  She and Ronnie co-wrote a philosophical tune about doing unto others, “Kismet,”  spreading the gospel that “it’s a God thing” and also “a good thing.”  And, she turns the Eddy Arnold-Cindy Walker classic, “You Don’t Know Me,” into a smoldering torch song augmented by brush-stroked drums and clever interplay between Ronnie and Dave.

It has often been said that music has the power to heal.  If that is the case, then “Maxwell Street” will go a long way in consoling fans for the loss of David Maxwell.  Ronnie Earl knew him well, and this is a stirring tribute from his fellow bluesmen.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Bruce Katz review…September 4, 2016…

THE BRUCE KATZ BAND

FEATURING CHRIS VITARELLO

OUT FROM THE CENTER

AMERICAN SHOWPLACE MUSIC  ASM  7330

DON’T FEEL SO GOOD TODAY–SCHNAPPS MAN–THE STRUGGLE INSIDE–BLUES FROM HIGH POINT MOUNTAIN–OUT FROM THE CENTER (HIPPIE TUNE)–ALL TORN UP–BESSIE’S BOUNCE–DIS-FUNKSHUNAL–ANOTHER SHOW–THINK FAST–YOU GOT IT

Bruce Katz is a four-time Blues Music Award nominee for the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year , and spent fourteen years as an Associate Professor at the Berklee School Of Music, so he knows his way around a keyboard!  He’s played on countless records for many of the greats, including Delbert, Ronnie Earl, Duke Robillard, and many others.

He is a fine bandleader in his own right, and his latest CD for American Showplace Music is entitled “Out From The Center.”  It’s eleven band originals that branch out into what Bruce himself calls “the wide world of blues.”  So, fans are treated to plenty of blues, boogie, soul,  funk, and jazz, and even some “jam-band” songs, offshoots from the time Bruce spent playing with Gregg Allman.

With Bruce’s other albums,  Chris Vitarello was not nearly as active as he is on this one, but he’s all over this one, on vocals, guitar, and writing some of the material.  Joining Bruce and Chris are Ralph Rosen on drums, Jimmy Bennett on lap steel, and Peter Bennett on bass for five cuts.  Bruce handles the bass duties on the other six cuts!

Check out the spacey funk of the “Schnapps Man,” with Bruce and Chris trading off each other with one blistering solo after another!  The title cut is aptly-subtitled “The Hippie Tune,” and it does take some nice detours into jam-band territory, with Bruce’s B-3 leading the way.  And, Chris busts out his best Jimmy Nolen-inspired scratchin’ licks on a very cool shot of soul-jazz, “Dis Funkshunal!”

We have to admit, we love Bruce playing the straight-up 88’s, and there are several good ‘uns up in here.  “Don’t Feel So Good Today” is jumpin’ boogie-woogie all the way, with Chris on vocal on the story of a lover who “done him wrong!”  Brush-stroked drums add to the laid-back vibe of Bruce’s piano on the last-call swing of “Blues From High Point Mountain,”, and “Bessie’s Bounce” recalls vintage ragtime.

The venerable Joe Willie “Pinetop” Perkins said it best when describing Bruce Katz–“now, THAT’S a piano player!”  We think you’ll whole-heartedly agree after you get a listen to the Bruce Katz Band and “Out From The Center!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Lurrie Bell review…September 2, 2016…

LURRIE BELL

CAN’T SHAKE THIS FEELING

DELMARK RECORDS  DE-847

BLUES IS TRYING TO KEEP UP WITH ME–DRIFTING–I GET SO WEARY–ONE-EYED WOMAN–THIS WORRISOME FEELING IN MY HEART–SIT DOWN BABY–HOLD ME TIGHT–SINNER’S PRAYER–I CAN’T SHAKE THIS FEELING–BORN WITH THE BLUES–DO YOU HEAR?–HIDDEN CHARMS–FAITH AND MUSIC

Lurrie Bell never ceases to amaze us.  No matter what tribulations life throws at him, he always takes the bad and turns it into some of the purest, deepest, from-the-soul blues you’d ever want to hear.  He’s done it again with his latest set for Delmark, “Can’t Shake This Feeling.”  He wrote or co-wrote five of the thirteen cuts herein, and this set has some of his most inspired playing and singing over his illustrious career.

Lurrie has always remained positive, even tho he lost his iconic dad, Carey, and his life partner as well, both within a matter of months a few years back.  And, his music has always been his rock, and it pours out of him on this set.  His usual suspects are also along for the ride, with Matthew Skoller on harp, Roosevelt Purifoy on keys, Melvin Smith on bass, and Willie “The Touch” Hayes on drums.  Lurrie busts outta the gate with an original shuffle, “Blues Is Trying To Keep Up With Me,” with everybody getting to jam a little.  The stop-time of Eddie Boyd’s “my baby left me Drifting” is next, and Lurrie’s vocal is over-the-top here, too.

Nobody in contemporary blues can express the pain of loss and hard luck thru his playing quite like Lurrie Bell.  There are several fine examples of his deep, slow-burning blues that simply reach out and grab you.  Check out his strong take on “Sinner’s Prayer,” T-Bone Walker’s  “I Get So Weary,” and his own minor-key classic, “This Worrisome Feeling In My Heart.”  Throughout these and several others on the set, Lurrie visits some of the deepest, darkest shades of blues that exist, with vocals to match.

We had two favorites, too.  Lurrie and Matthew get down on a sho’ nuff shot of country-blues, on the humorous acoustic tale of “the tears of a One-Eyed-Woman that only come outta one eye!”  This one sounds as if it could have been a lost gem from “Second Nature,” the Alligator set from Lurrie and his legendary father.  And, the set closes on a powerful, spiritually-charged note.  This time it is just Lurrie’s vocal and his electric guitar on a tune he wrote with Dick Shurman.  It tells us all what keeps him going thru the tough times—“Faith And Music.”

Lurrie Bell is as honest and as passionate as they come.  We echo the sentiments of Tom Marker in the liner notes of “Can’t Shake This Feeling”–Lurrie, we love you, man!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

The Squares review…September 2, 2016…

THE SQUARES

SECOND ACT

HORNEPAYNE RECORDS

SPEED OF THE SOUND OF LONELINESS–BABY BLUES–SHE LOVES YOU–LAST HARD MAN–COUNTRY SONG–CRYSTAL WATERS–STAY WITH ME–DRIVER–MY SOUL IN YOUR HANDS–BLUE STAR–FAITHLESS LOVE–RUNNING OUT OF LINE (LIVE)

The Squares are based in Cape May, a resort town on the southern tip of New Jersey.  They are Debra Donahue on vocals and nose flute, M. Q. Murphy on vocals and lead electric guitar, and J. M. Kearns on vocals and acoustic guitar.  They have a sound built around strong harmonies and equally-strong lyrics in their original songs.  Their debut  CD for Hornepayne Records is called “Second Act,” and features seven originals  and five classic covers.

They do things the way they were meant to be done, using their voices to convey the songs and the stories within, along the lines of groups such as The Weavers and Peter, Paul, and Mary, and have a classic blues, country, and folk sound.

The set starts with Debra on lead vocal on John Prine’s tale of a woebegone lover, her man “out there runnin’ just to be on the run,” breaking the “Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness.”  She also turns in a fine performance of Davis Raines’ ode to “ole Jawbone,” A black-and-tan who’s relentless in tracking down outlaws on the run, entitled “The Last Hard Man in Elmore County.”  J. M. Kearns tells the story of a man who never thought he’d “find summer again,” but finds love late in life, “My Soul In Your Hands.”  He also turns the Lennon-McCartney chestnut, “She Loves You” into a downright tender acoustic ballad.

We had two favorites, too.  Using virtually every hard-core country cliche’ ever written, M. Q. Murphy finds it difficult to write a good “Country Song,” since, among many other things, he’s never “shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die!”  And, J. M. closes the set with help from everyone, telling a bittersweetly-humorous  story of getting older, as “the fishin’s no fun when you’re Running Out Of Line.”  This one features Debra on that nose flute, and a really fine acoustic country blues, performed in a live setting.

The Squares predominantly play in a resort town, so they have a luxury of sorts of playing to a new audience fairly often.  We feel that “Second Act” represents what you’d likely hear if you saw one of their shows–beautiful harmonies and excellent musicianship, all mixed with a touch of humor and a whole lot of looking at Everyman’s daily life struggles thru their music.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Johnny Nicholas review…September 1, 2016…

JOHNNY NICHOLAS

FRESH AIR

MOONLIGHT TRAIN–KID MAN BLUES–BLUES TIME–RED LIGHT–SWEET KATRINA–PLAY ME (LIKE YOU PLAY YOUR GUITAR)–HOW DO YOU FOLLOW A BROKEN HEART–BAYOU BLUES–ROLL ON MISSISSIPPI–BACK DOOR MAN–WAKE UP BOBBY–WORKIN IN THE GARDEN–FRESH AIR

Johnny Nicholas, born in Rhode Island, is one of the finest blues/roots players on the scene today.  It’s a tough task to name someone Johnny HASN’T played with over his illustrious career as a harpman/vocalist/guitarist/composer, as he’s played with virtually every legend you can name.  He’s played with Howlin’ Wolf, Clapton, even Asleep At The Wheel.  That’s where we first heard him—waaay back in the day on a slab of Blind Pig vinyl entitled “Too Many Bad Habits.”  That title cut, about a man with a serious lack of self-control, has become one of our all-time favorites.

Fast-forward some four decades later, and Johnny’s still rockin,’ his latest set entitled “Fresh Air.”  There are eleven originals or collaborations with other writers and two covers herein.  Johnny had a desire to lay down these tracks for quite some time, to let his fans know that these were “the blues as I know it,” in all its various permutations.

Leading off is a pure shot of Delta, country-blues, as that “Moonlight Train took my baby away!”  His take on Sleepy John Estes’ “Kid Man Blues” has a lover begging him “don’t let my main man catch you here!”  The jump-blues tale of an uptight lover who keeps throwing up a “Red Light” features the venerable Cindy Cashdollar on the lap steel,  and button accordion from Steve Riley.

Johnny co-wrote two fine cuts with Gary Nicholson.  the first one has him asking a lover to “Play Me (Like You Play Your Guitar) and is set over a mid-tempo groove.  The other is a clever tune about a “night owl” who has no time for working or loving, “Wake Up Bobby,” with a definite New Orleans vibe throughout.

We had two favorites, too.  Brush-stroked drums and a sparse arrangement turn “How Do You Follow A Broken Heart” into a crooner’s delight, with Cindy again on guitar.  The set closes as it began, only this time, instead of taking his lover away, that train is taking Johnny to a better place, where he can get a breath of “Fresh Air.”  It is a peaceful, pastoral song that brings this collection full-circle.

It is always an event for us when Johnny Nicholas has a new album.  A talented multi-instrumentalist and engaging singer, his latest is truly a shot of “Fresh Air!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.