Archive for December, 2016

Biscuit Miller review…December 16, 2016…

BISCUIT MILLER

WISHBONE

BLUEBASS MUSIC

WISHBONE–SHE LIKES TO BOOGIE–DOWN AT THE MISSISSIPPI–MR DJ–LAY IT ON DOWN–SHAKE IT LIKE JELLO–BOTTLE OF WHISKEY, BOTTLE OF WINE–USE TO LOVE ME–ONE MORE MILE–MONDAY MORNING BLUES–LET’S GO FISHING–GOING HOME (WITH UNCLE JESSE HUTSON)

Biscuit Miller is known for his killer live shows and that million-jiggawatts smile.  He and his band, The Mix, have just released “Wishbone,” a collection of twelve of Biscuit’s originals, that are equal parts juke joint  down-home blues and uptown funk.  The core of the band has Biscuit on vocals and bass, with Myron Robinson on drums, and Bobby Wilson and Alex Smith on guitars.

They get off on the good foot with the opening, funky salvo of of a lover with a “figure sweet as Candye Kane,” “She’s my Wishbone!”  It has fine horn-and-organ backing, and is made for the dancers!  And, once you get her home, you know “She Likes To Boogie,” and “shake her hips just right!”  This one has some fine Delta-fied slide, and, if you are familiar with Larry Garner, it brings to mind some of his works.  “Lay It On Down” hearkens back to a simpler time, when people enjoyed “kinfolks gettin’ together, everybody having a good laugh,” and follows a pulsating, “endless boogie” groove, while the good-time tale of being on the road just a little to long has Biscuit going “One More Mile to see my baby’s smile!”  And, the set closes with Biscuit and Uncle Jesse Hutson kickin’ it old-school on the gospel-fired “Going Home.”

Biscuit spent some time playing with Ronnie Baker Brooks, and Brooks returns the favor in a big way on a cut that served as one of our favorites.  It’s a brooding, minor-key slow-blueser that has Biscuit asking “Mr. DJ” for “another blues song,  ’cause I got trouble in my home.”  Our other favorite also has a “Saturday night-meets Sunday morning” vibe, as Biscuit goes “Down To The Mississippi, everybody singing the blues!”

Biscuit Miller has that innate “feel” for mingling the blues of the Delta with the sounds of the city.  Catch him live if you can, but, until then, the next best thing is a  “Wishbone!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

 

Stevie J. Blues review…December 15, 2016…

STEVIE J. BLUES

BACK 2 BLUES

MISSISSIPPI DELTA RECORDS/PK MUSIC

LI’L MO LOVE–I AIN’T GETTIN’ THAT–CRADLE ROBBER–COME SEE ME–THAT PARTY SONG–LIGHTS OUT–GOOD GOOD–ANOTHER JODY SONG–SON OF A SANCTIFIED PREACHER (FEAT. KASHIAH HUNTER)–STRANGER IN THE CITY (FEAT. DWAYNE WATKINS AND DR. M. J. JOHNSON)–BLUES BY THE BAY

Guitarist/vocalist/composer Stevie J. Blues (Stephen Johnson) is the son of a pastor, based out of Jackson, MS.  The cool thing about Stevie  is that he can feel equally at home in either a blues or gospel setting, and he uses his music to show that the two have always been closely related.  His latest set, “Back 2 Blues,” shows that the blues is the “baby brother” of gospel, and he wrote or co-wrote nine of the eleven cuts herein.

Stevie has some fine background on his resume’, too.  He was a part of Bobby Rush’s band on the 2004 “Folk Funk” album and tour, and has represented the Central Mississippi Blues Society in the IBC’s.

There are plenty of good times to go around, too.  Check out the Southern-fried soul on a tale that makes a lot of us guys envious, trying to keep up with a girlfriend half his age.  Yep, he might be a “Cradle Robber, but the cradle is robbin’ me!”  “Come See Me” employs some Hill-Country stompin’ percussion, and harp from Scott Albert Johnson, as Stevie reminds a lover that “the lies that you’re tryin’ to tell, first-class trip one way to Hell!”  “Another Jody Song” is just that–Stevie’s lover takes off “with my friend Tyrone” in this minor-key classic ode to “the other guy!”  The set closes with a killer instrumental, “Blue By The Bay,” that embraces all of Stevie’s influences.

We had three favorites.  The set kicks off with a powerful message, almost a 21st Century update of Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues.” Thru the use of actual sound bytes, we are reminded of the trigger-happy policemen in Baltimore, the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, and Kanye’s rant against George W. Bush following the Katrina disaster.  Stevie’s telling us all to “lend a hand, give a hug, and show a Li’l Mo’ Love!”  Stevie rides the “endless boogie” groove of John Lee Hooker in his autobiographical story of learning blues licks from his dad–as long as Mom doesn’t find out!  It’s entitled “Son Of A Sanctified Preacher,” and is followed by a testifyin’ tune about the miracles and healing powers of Jesus.  It is entitled “Stranger In The City,” and features a verse by Dwayne Watkins, and a sanctified piece of old-school  ministry from Dr. M. J. Johnson.

Stevie J. Blues does something  on “Back 2 Blues” that a lot of artists might be afraid to try–he blends the secular with the sacred, and does so seamlessly and without  pretension.    This one sho’ nuff gets an “AMEN!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Randy McAllister review…December 12, 2016…

RANDY MCALLISTER

AND THE SCRAPPIEST BAND IN THE MOTHERLAND

FISTFUL OF GUMPTION

REACTION RECORDS

C’MON BROTHERS AND SISTERS–TIME FOR THE SUN TO RISE–RIDE TO GET RIGHT (TRIBUTE TO OTIS REDDING AND EARL KING)–ROLL WITH THE FLOW–MY STRIDE–BACKGROUND SINGER–THE OPPRESSOR–LEAVE A FEW WRONG NOTES–BAND WITH THE BEAUTIFUL BUS–EAST TEXAS SCRAPPER

Fifth-generation Texan Randy McAllister is a tough, no-frills blues man with a burnished, rough-hewn vocal delivery that practically oozes soul.  A drummer by nature, he lays down a mean groove with a little help from his friends on his latest set for Reaction Records, “Fistful Of Gumption.”  Those friends that back Randy on these nine originals are collectively referred to as “The Scrappiest Band In The Motherland,” but all are accomplished players in their own right.  They kick off in high gear with a song of empowerment, urging us to “C’Mon Brothers And Sisters, and lend a hand to your fellow man.”   Cool “dual” slide guitar from Rob Dewan makes this one sparkle and grabs your attention.  Randy gets into a Louisiana swing in “Ride To Get It Right,” in tribute to Otis Redding and Earl King.  It includes sprightly fiddle from Maya Van Nuys, and Randy himself on the frottoir.  Maya’s fiddle returns, along with Randy on harp and Rob on deep-slide guitar on the Southern-rock vibe of “My Stride,” while he takes us on a funky trip down to the roadhouses of East Texas with the tale of today’s music bizness that’s more worried about Auto Tune than the real soul of the music,  “Leave A Few Wrong Notes!”  Carson Wagner’s honky-tonkin’ piano is the right touch here, too.

We had two favorites, too.  We really enjoy Randy’s vocals when he tackles a sweet soul song, and he hits on a killer Johnnie Taylor-esque groove on a cover of Earl King’s  “Time For The Sun To Rise.”  And, a tribute of sorts to those “unsung heroes” of the blues, the “Background Singer,” name-checks all the great ones from Merry Clayton to the Raelettes and the Ikettes, to bring the “helpers” to the forefront!

Randy McAllister continues to bring us fans the best in Texas blues, having done so for nearly thirty years and thirteen albums.  Want to hear the real deal?  Check out “Fistful Of Gumption!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

 

Jeff Chaz review…December 8, 2016…

JEFF CHAZ

THIS SILENCE IS KILLING ME

JCPX 1082

SAVIN’ EVERYTHING FOR YOU–THIS SILENCE IS KILLING ME–I AIN’T NOTHIN’ NICE–I’M NOT ALL THERE–THE BLUES IS MY DRUG–MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU–ONCOMING TRAIN–FRIED CHICKEN STORE–SELF INFLICTED WOUND–THE BACKWASH BLUES–CREOLE MUSTARD SWING

One can never get too much of a good thing, especially when it comes to the blues.  Jeff Chaz, a staple on the New Orleans scene, has just released his second album of 2016, entitled “This Silence Is Killing Me.”  (His previous album, “Sounds Like The Blues To Me,” was reviewed within this humble forum on March 18, 2016).

Jeff wrote all eleven cuts on this one, too.  And, he still possesses that powerful, clear-as-a-bell vocal delivery, and a huge, fat guitar tone that recalls B. B. and Lucille.  On this set, there are danceable grooves mixed with tough, slow-blues, and even a funky, New-Orleans-styled Christmas song!

The party starts on a hi-octane note, as Jeff is workin’ so much, he “don’t even have the time to spend the money I make,” so, “I’m Savin’ Everything For You!”  This one is punched up by the sweet horn arrangements from A. J. Pittman, too.  Jeff revs up the cha-cha beat on a tune that is a really clever turn of a lyric, as he tells a lover, “I may be here, but I’m Not All There.”   Another cool tune offers up a humorous look at life’s situations, where, sometimes, the “light at the end of the tunnel” might just be from an “Oncoming Train.”  The set closes with an all-out, no-holds-barred rockin’ instrumental, that ole “Creole Mustard Swing.”

We had two favorites, too, both on the slow-blues side, one humorous, and one decidedly not so much.  First up is the horn-fueled story of the sly-and-sexy goings-on down at the “Fried Chicken Store,” with double-entendres’ the order of the day!   On the serious side, Jeff is the lover who can read the handwriting on the wall as he and his girl “made love with no reply,” and now,  all that’s left is the dark, minor-key blues of “This Silence Is Killing Me.”

Jeff Chaz continues to prove why he is one of the hardest-working players on the Big Easy scene.  The swingin’, soulful grooves of “This Silence Is Killing Me” are a fine testimony to his immense talents!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Rory Block review…December 7, 2016…

RORY BLOCK

KEEPIN OUTTA TROUBLE

A TRIBUTE TO BUKKA WHITE

STONY PLAIN RECORDS  SPCD 1393

KEEPIN’ OUTTA TROUBLE–BUKKA’S DAY–ABERDEEN MISSISSIPPI BLUES–FIXIN’ TO DIE BLUES–PANAMA LIMITED–PARCHMAN FARM BLUES–SPOOKY RHYTHM–NEW FRISCO TRAIN–GONNA BE SOME WALKIN’ DONE–BACK TO MEMPHIS

For the sixth album in her “Mentor” series, Rory Block presents “Keepin’ Outta Trouble–A Tribute To Bukka White,” on the Stony Plain label.  The other five in the series, tributes to Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Rev. Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, and Skip James, are all available on Stony Plain and are all well worth checking out.  On this set, Rory intersperses five of her songs with five of Bukka’s, and cites his forceful guitar playing–much like Paul Bunyan wielding his axe–as her inspiration.  Also of note is Rory’s use of plastic tubs, Quaker Oats boxes, and various plastic cutlery as percussion, all of which she plays herself, as well as her trusty Martin flattop.

She leads off with a couple of her tunes done in Bukka’s style, as a lead-in to his material.  The second one, the lively “Bukka’s Day,” recalls the story of working all week and going to church on Sunday.  Rory utilizes several Biblical references, making Bukka a “deacon in the church of the blues, and includes a visit from “cousin B. B.,”(yes, Bukka and Riley King were indeed cousins!) who assures Bukka that “God is a blues man!”

She captures the poignancy and urgency of Bukka’s “Fixin’ To Die Blues,” where he “hates to hear my children cry.,” and his autobiographical “Parchman Farm Blues,” where he was sentenced to life after killing a man in a brawl, and only his musical skills got him released.  Rory’s slide and upper-register vocals bring out the authenticity of this one.

Our favorite was a “team effort,” so to speak.  Rory built “Gonna Be Some Walkin’ Done” from Bukka’s guitar riffs in “Jitterbug Swing.”  This one details what happens when you “miss that train to my girl’s house!”  It’s another lively  cut, with Rory’s vibrant playing and playful vocals adding to the spirit Bukka intended.

Rory Block is a national treasure.  Aside from being a world-class musician and singer, she has had the great fortune to not only meet, but to play the blues with some of the most fabled icons of pre-WWII blues.  And, she puts it all in perspective as, to Rory, all their music is the foundation of all the musical genres’ that exist today.  She has scored another excellent tribute with “Keepin’ Outta Trouble.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

MonkeyJunk review…December 5, 2016…

MONKEYJUNK

TIME TO ROLL

STONY PLAIN RECORDS SPCD 1394

BEST KEPT SECRET–TIME TO ROLL–SEE THE SIGN–BLUE LIGHTS GO DOWN–PRAY FOR RAIN–THE HUNTER–CAN’T CALL YOU BABY–UNDERTAKER BLUES–GONE–FUZZY POODLE

For their latest album, “Time To Roll,” Ottawa-based power trio MonkeyJunk added a bass for the first time in their history.  Tony D remains on guitar and Matt Sobb on drums, while vocalist/harpoon man/guitarist Steve Marriner adds the bass parts.

There are nine originals and one mighty cool cover herein.  They lead off with a tune that sounds as if it was born down at the Crossroads, behind the brooding beat, hoodoo harp, and hellhound-slide of  “Best Kept Secret.”  They revisit that swampy groove on the percussion-heavy rhumba beat of “Blue Lights Go Down,” while the fellows pay a nice tribute to classic soul with the ode to a love affair losing ground fast, as Steve sings, “I Can’t Call You Baby forever,” with strong backing vocals from Kelly Prescott.  The roadhouse boogie of “Gone” details a man who’s had all he can take and then some, and is pure joy, while Steve “gets you in the sight if his love gun” for a sweet take on Albert King’s “The Hunter.”

Our favorite marked another “first” for the band.  “Undertaker Blues” is the first all-acoustic song to appear on one of their albums.  It features stomping percussion, Steve’s harp, and a guitar part reminiscent of Lightnin’ Hopkins, as Steve sings of a “heart breakin’ down when your baby ain’t around,” and a plea for “sweet whiskey”  to “take the trouble from my mind.”

MonkeyJunk has won a Blues Music Award here in the States, as well as 20 Maple Blues Awards.  Strong sets such as “Time To Roll” give blues fans and “MonkeyJunkies” the world over  some solid grooves to really enjoy!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Tas Cru review…December 3, 2016…

TAS CRU

SIMMERED AND STEWED

VIZZTONE  VTCT-1603

DAT MAYBE–GRIZZLE ‘N BONE–FEEL I’M FALLING–TIME AND TIME–ROAD TO MY OBSESSION–BISCUIT–COVER MY LOVE–WOMAN WON’T YOU LOVE ME–JUST LET IT HAPPEN–TIRED OF BLUESMEN CRYIN’–HIGHER AND HIGHER

The clever and unique way Tas Cru has with a lyric is well-known and enjoyed by fans all over the globe.  His last album, “You Keep The Money,” from 2015, stayed at or near the top of all the major charts for virtually the entire year.  His latest is entitled “Simmered And Stewed,” on the Vizztone/Crustee Tees label.  The success of his previous album led to this one, in a roundabout way.  Tas has always envisioned some of the songs from his prior albums with different arrangements, backing vocals, and, in some cases, a total re-tooling.  The eleven songs on this album are a return for Tas to a more acoustic sound, with Tas on all guitars, including Resonator and cigar box guitars, and backed by a brilliant host of players that make this one delicious blues stew!

Leading off is a rousing tune that finds Tas telling a lover, “don’t gimme Dat Maybe when your heart says no!”  A heavy dose of honky-tonk piano from Chip Lamson and harp from Dick Earl Ericksen adds to the tale of a lover down on his luck, going from “biscuits and gravy” to “Grizzle “N Bone!”  Tas strikes a mellow chord with the poignant story of a long-departed lover who comes to him only in his dreams, “Time And Time,” and closes the set with a heartfelt read of Jackie Wilson’s  “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher.”  He documents his life as a bluesman as he travels the “Road To My Obsession,” vowing to “play them blues, anytime, and most anywhere!”

We had two favorites.  “Feel I’m Falling” rises up out of the Hill Country mists, with Tas calling out to the Lord to pull him from a “life of misery.”  It’s  a slide-heavy plea for redemption, sho’ nuff.  And, “Tired Of Bluesmen Cryin” takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the various cliches’ that permeate this wonderful genre,’ including “breaking up a happy home” and “just ’cause my woman is gone!”

Tas Cru has had the idea idea for re-working these songs for “Simmered And Stewed” in the back of his  mind for quite some time.  And, just like a great food dish, taking the time to do ’em up right makes it all worthwhile!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Levee Town review…December 2, 2016…

LEVEE TOWN

TAKIN’ AND GIVIN’

LT 016006

TAKIN’ AND GIVIN’–HIGH FLYIN’ MAMA–KANSAS CITY WOMEN–MR. JAMESON–WALKIN’ DOWN THE ROAD–YOU’RE SO HIP–I’M A DAMN GOOD TIME–CHARLIE BROWN–I’M GONE–SUNDAY AFTERNOON–LETTER TO MY BABY–DO-SI-DO–EVERY DAY AND EVERY NIGHT–EL GRAPE

Levee Town is based out of Kansas City, and are the house band at the iconic Knucklehead’s Saloon.  Touring strong over the last fourteen years,  “Takin’ And Givin” is their twelfth album, and it’s a sho’ nuff hi-energy set throughout!

The usual suspects are all over this one.  Brandon Hudspeth is on guitar and vocals, Jacque Garrett is on vocals, bass, harp, and slide guitar, Adam Hagerman is on drums,  and special guests include Annie Walser on piano, Chris Hazelton on B-3, Jimmie Meade on harp, and Jaisson Taylor on vocals on two cuts.

The set starts with the twang of the title cut,  a story of a one-sided love affair, where “you do all the Takin’, and I do all the Givin!”  A tribute to their time spent at Knucklehead’s is the gentle lope of “Kansas City Women, workin’ both sides of the line!”  The Jimmy Reed groove is just plain irresistible!  They go off on a Texas tangent with a shot of the good ole “endless boogie” that drives “You’re So Hip,” while “I’m Gone” has the feel of Sun-splashed rockabilly with a touch of gospel.

Jump-blues lovers will dig the the frenetic pace of “Letter To My Baby” and a humorous song about one of the band’s favorite libations–nothin’ like a shot of “Mr. Jameson” to conjure up a good time!  And, that “High Flyin’ Mama” is a stone slab of funk, as she’s the girl who “keeps the liquor store open–single-handed!”  The guitar part is reminiscent of vintage Albert Collins, and gives way to a killer extended  organ solo from Chris.

Our favorite featured a vocal from Jaisson Taylor.  Everybody gets in a slow-blues groove for Jaisson, who is testifyin’ to all of us that “I like  my blues slow on Sunday,” entitled “Sunday Afternoon,” and featuring hot harp licks from Jimmie Meade.

Levee Town prided themselves with this album to have something that all fans would enjoy, and they’ve succeeded in spades!  Enjoy the versatility of one of our favorite bands with “Takin’ And Givin!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Bravo Max review…December 1, 2016…

BRAVO MAX

BULLFIHTER BLUES

PRELUDE TO CLEAN SLATE–CLEAN SLATE–SALT STONES–RAISE A TOAST–BULLFIGHTER BLUES–LAY LOW–BEE AND THE BOXER–LET IT GO–BLACK SUGAR–GOLDEN GLOVES–MI-5’S ALIVE–NO MEMORY–SHAKE LOOSE PARANOIA–SHINE A LIGHT–SEIZURE GIRL

For Dallas-based Bravo Max–frontman and bassist Johnny Beauford, Garrett Padgett, and Jonathan Jackson–their latest album, “Bullfighter Blues” offers up a radical departure from their past works. On this set of fifteen originals, the band pays a collective nod to several styles, genres’, and eras, and visit several of the bands they were listening to at the time these tracks were laid down over six days in the spring of 2015, namely groups such as The Kinks, Black Sabbath, Tame Impala and Kurt Vile, to name just a few.  That quirky vibrance is one of the cool things about this set.

Check out the opening cut, a 90-second instrumental entitled “Prelude To Clean Slate,” that sounds as if Ennio Morricone met Marshall Tucker on the way to the Allmans house.  It segues’ into “Clean Slate,” a tale of a man looking to “start over” in a relationship.  It utilizes a unique horn section over wah-wah guitars, and those odd arrangements are all over this set.

The title cut, “Bullfighter Blues,” might remind long-time Middle Tennesseeans of our own Webb Wilder, with the twangy guitars over the brash vocals, as well as the dark humor of the set-closing “Seizure Girl.”  Our favorites, tho, leaned more toward the British Invasion guys.  The guitars in “Lay Low” start out quietly enough before giving way to a full-on aural assault by song’s end.  And, the roadhouse rock of “Bee And  The Boxer” owes a nod to both Chuck Berry and The Replacements.

To properly appreciate Bravo Max and “Bullfighter Blues,” one needs only to turn it up loud, sit back, smoke a Camel, and raise a toast to one of the Big D’s best bands!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.