Archive for September, 2016

Austin Young Band review…September 17, 2016…

AUSTIN YOUNG BAND

NOT SO SIMPLE

VIZZTONE RECORDS  VTAY-004

TAKE ME AWAY–BARREN ROAD BLUES–SOMETHING MORE–NOT SO SIMPLE–SETS ME FREE–HEAL MY HEART–LETTING GO–MOVING ON–MOUNTAINS ON FIRE–FREE–WHIRLWIND–ANGEL FLYING HOME

The Austin Young Band broke outta the gate hard and fast with their 2013 debut, “Blue As Can Be,” which was well-received by fans and bloggers everywhere.  They are back with their latest, “Not So Simple,” for Vizztone Records.  Austin is on guitars and vocals, with Alex Goldberg on bass, and Forrest Raup on drums.

This collection features more of their power-trio blues-rock with the emphasis on Austin’s guitar wizardry and maturing, soulful vocals.  All the songs herein are band originals, and Austin’s contributions show a more personal side to him as a composer.

Kicking off is the powerful story of a man who has that “stranger in my own hometown”  feeling, looking for “an angel to Take Me Away!”  “Something More” grooves with a strong New Orleans feel, over a punched-up horn section with the emphasis on more love and “lending a helping hand” where you can!  A couple more fine examples of this band’s grasp on the contemporary sound is the story of a lover who’s “the cure for all my blues” as she “Sets Me Free,” followed by a pure shot of Texas blues that would sho’ nuff make ol’ Delbert smile, “Heal My Heart.”

“Whirlwind” is a dazzling instrumental that straddles the line between blues and jazz, and bristles with the fire and passion that makes this band such a pleasure to listen to.  The set-closer served as our favorite.  This entire album was dedicated by Austin to his late father, Tim, who taught him the guitar as a youngster.  This last tune,  a somber, acoustic piece,  is both poignant and fitting, as Austin “just can’t let go of this Angel Flying Home.”

The Austin Young Band have crafted a set that will have broad appeal among blues fans.  Austin himself hopes this album  will bring joy in times of pain, and hope in times of despair.  “Not So Simple” is a highly-personal and well-written set of originals from a trio of young men on the rise in the blues stratosphere!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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Vaneese Thomas review…September 15, 2016…

VANEESE THOMAS

THE LONG JOURNEY HOME

SEGUE RECORDS  SRVT  2016

SWEET TALK ME–LONELY NO MORE–SAT’DAY NIGHT ON THE RIVER–MYSTIFIED–COUNTRY FUNK–THE MORE THINGS CHANGE–PRINCE OF FOOLS–I GOT A MAN IN TN–ROCKIN’ AWAY THE BLUES–REVELATION–MEAN WORLD–THE CHAIN

To paraphrase her legendary father, Rufus—“Hey everybody–Vaneese Thomas is back–she’s got another set we know you’re gonna like!”  It’s entitled  “The Long Journey Home,” for Segue Records, a very eclectic collection of blues, soul, and funk that shows off not only her vocal prowess, but her songwriting also ,  which draws from the deep wellspring of things she was exposed to while growing up as part of Memphis music royalty!

Kicking things off is the soulfully-strutting story of that one special over who’s “wearin’ me down, when you Sweet Talk me!”  Paul Mariconda’s piano is as sweet as honey in the rock on this one, too.  “Lonely No More” is set over a “walkin’-down-Beale” beat as Vaneese’s new lover makes her feel exactly that way, while the “Prince Of Fools” does her wrong for the last time, in this classic-soul, minor-key gem.

There were so many more highlights, we favorited  them all.  She touches on topical social issues in the gospel-themed “Mean World,” while she name-checks Sam Cooke and her iconic father in “The More Things Change, the more they stay the same,” ’cause we all know that “the world is round, but it’s crooked just the same!”

Other lovers might try, but Vaneese gives ’em all the message that “I Got A Man In Tennessee” who does the job just fine!  And, a cut that jumps just like Daddy used to do it is the stone party anthem of “Sat’Day Night On The River!”  “Country Funk” uses acoustic dobro and even a banjo and fiddle  to convey the story of using music to wash all your troubles away!  The set closes on a powerful note, as Vaneese gives a chilling performance of Stevie Nicks’ tale of the woebegone heroine of “The Chain!”

Lawd, what it must have been like growing up in the Thomas house.  You had brother Marvell on the keys, with sisters Carla and Vaneese harmonizing, and Daddy watching over it all.  With “The Long Journey Home,”  Vaneese continues the family heritage of bringing the best in Memphis blues to the fans!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Grady Champion review…September 14, 2016…

GRADY CHAMPION

ONE OF A KIND

MALACO RECORDS MCD 7549

BUMP AND GRIND–HEELS AND HIPS–HOUSE PARTY–LIFE SUPPORT–LEAVE HERE RUNNING–MOVE SOMETHING–ONE OF A KIND–STONE IN MY PATH–THIN LINE–WHAT A WOMAN–WHEN I’M GONE–GC BOOGIE

“The Champ” of good-ole down-home, house-party Mississippi blues, Grady Champion, is back in the game with a twelve-pack of grooves that will be a sure cure for whatever’s ailing you!  He’s sho’ nuff “One Of A Kind,” and these cuts capture and embody the soul and spirit of guys like Bobby Rush, Little Milton, and Arzell “Z. Z.” Hill. Grady is on vocals and harp, and the guitar crew is downright amazing—sharing the duties throughout are Eddie Cotton, Mr. Sipp, and, the ol’ “Stand Up In It” man himself, Theo Ealey, and Elvin Bishop on one cut.

That’s how the party starts–Grady gets his “Bump And Grind” on, “just the way Z Z did it back in 1984,” as a sweet tribute to the late Mr. Hill.  The line dancers and the booty poppers will love gettin’ down to “Heels And Hips,” and “Move Something,” while you can turn the lights down low and snuggle to “One Of A Kind.”

A cool cha-cha harp line drives Grady’s plea to a lover that “I’m on Life Support, baby–all I need is your love!”  The piano from Carroll McLaughlin is mighty tasty on this one, too!  Grady runs into some wishy-washy women on this collection, as well.  One of them is just a “Stone In My Path,” while the other continues to straddle that “Thin Line between love and hate–one day she will, next day she won’t!”  This one is set over a bittersweet, minor-key groove.

Favorites??  Lawd A’mighty yes!  Elvin’s Wolf-like slide helps Grady tell the slow-blues story of “What A Woman,” the kind that’ll make you call your own momma a liar!”  On the uptempo side, Theo’s guitar rocks “Leave Here Running,” as Grady sadly finds out that his girlfriend’s got a girlfriend, too!  And, you can sho’ nuff do the twerk between shots of Crown Royal on the stone git-down of the “House Party down at Etta Jean’s house from dusk ’til dawn!”

Grady Champion makes it easy to connect the traditions of Mississippi blues with the tastes of today’s fans.  That takes a “One Of A Kind” performer, indeed!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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.