Archive for December, 2016

Jim Koeppel review…December 19, 2016…

JIM KOEPPEL

RSVP TO PARADISE

JANGLEUR RECORDS

JOHNNY’S IN THE DOGHOUSE–HURRY SUNDOWN–RSVP TO PARADISE–EVERY NIGHT WITHOUT WARNING–LET ME TELL YOU

Jim Koeppel has played everywhere from Buddy Guy’s Legends to the Bluebird Cafe, and with just about anyone you can name, including Taj Mahal, Doc Watson, and Bilbo Walker.  Quite the accomplished guitarist, he has just released a five-song EP showcasing material he wrote by himself and Cash McCall.  It is entitled “RSVP To Paradise,” and is his third recording since 1998.

Up first is a tune that was the title cut to his 1998 project, a loping blues called “Johnny’s In The Doghouse,” and the harp is courtesy of Billy Branch.  Given Jim’s propensity for also playing some of New York’s best-known venues, astute listeners may find, as did we, that this one has a cool Levon Helm vibe going on.  Jim finds the old adage to be true that “love comes when you least expect it,”  and he punches his “RSVP To Paradise,” with the help of legendary sax man Gene “Daddy G” Barge, and John Christy on B-3.

“Every Night Without Warning at 3 o’clock in the morning my mind drifts back to” a lover that is long gone, and this one uses brush-stroked drums and piano to create a jazzy vibe.  The set closes with our favorite.  “Let Me Tell You” chronicles a love affair that’s seen its share of ups and downs, but Jim’s in it for the long haul.  It rides a driving  “endless boogie” groove, and again features Billy Branch on harp.

Jim Koeppel has quite an impressive resume’, with his solo, acoustic, and electric works.  Our only wish was that this one could’ve been a little longer.  He has a firm grasp of different shades of blues herein, and “RSVP To Paradise” will definitely take you on a sweet journey!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

 

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Tim Gartland review…December 18, 2016….

TIM GARTLAND

IF YOU WANT A GOOD WOMAN

A BRATGIRL/VIZZABLE PROMOTION

WHAT THE BLUES LOOKS LIKE–HOUR’S WORTH–I HAD IT ALL–IF YOU WANT A GOOD WOMAN–I COME WHEN YOU CALL–EIGHT BALL–IF THAT’S WHAT YOU CALL LOVE–INTRODUCE ME TO YOUR HAT–TOO MANY GROCERIES–WHERE’S THE CURE FOR YOU–WILLIE THAT’S WHO–GO WEST!

Tim Gartland is quite the musical “triple threat”–an emotive, versatile harpman, soulful vocalist, and writer with a keen ear for everyday life experiences set in song.  He began his career in Chicago, then moved to Boston for a while, and now calls Nashville his home.  His latest set, and third overall, is called “If You Want A Good Woman,” and it is twelve cuts of serious blues, all written or co-written by Tim and the keyboard man on the album, Tom West.

Along with Tim on harp and Tom on keys, we have Lynn Williams on drums, Steve Mackey on bass, Wendy Moten on backing vocals,  Tom Britt is on guitar, and uber-producer Kevin McKendree on keys on three cuts.

The party starts with one of Tim’s songs that use everyday metaphors to show us “What The Blues Looks Like,” including the “alcoholic reachin’ for a drink,” or “a new dent in your Cadillac!”  Tom gets in a deep slide solo on this one, too.  The title cut follows kind of a quasi-reggae groove in the story of “If You Want A Good Woman, you gotta learn to be a good man!”  He shows off his huge harp chops on a couple of cool instrumentals, too.  “Eight Ball” struts with soulful funkiness, and the set-closing, romp, “Go West,” features honky-tonk piano from co-writer Tom West.

We had three favorites, too.  Everybody gets down in a Chess mood as Tim sings about the original “back door man”—“Willie (Dixon) That’s Who!”  Tom’s slide is on fire on the sly and wry tale of a woman who’s “bout as subtle as a train wreck,” and has “Too Many Groceries for one basket!”  And, Kevin adds keys over Tim’s chromatic harp on a poignant tale of a man who had it all in a relationship.  Trouble is, “I Had It All wrong.”

Tim Gartland plays the blues from the heart and soul.  His insightful lyrics will draw you in, and that burnished baritone delivery is undeniable.  “If You Want A Good Woman” has something for every taste!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Rev. Billy C. Wirtz review…December 17, 2016…

REV. BILLY C. WIRTZ

FULL CIRCLE

ELLERSOUL RECORDS  ELL 1609

TOO OLD–SMOKIE PART 2–ONE POINT FIVE–MAMA WAS A DEADHEAD–ROCKIN’ UP TO GLORYLAND–YOUR LAST GOODBYE–DADDY PASSED AWAY–BREAKUP–WHO DAT? (THE REV’S THEME)–I’M A SENIOR–DADDY WAS A SENSITIVE MAN–WINE SPO-DEE-O-DEE–MENNONITE SURF PARTY–THE HAND OF THE ALMIGHTY–REPRISE (SMOKIE 2.5)

We’ve been fans of Rev. Billy C. Wirtz for as long as we can remember.  His wit, wisdom, and “preaching of the gospel of rock and roll” is built around his mighty left hand that drives that boogie-woogie piano, in the time-honored traditions of his main influences, Albert Luandrew, (go Google him, if you MUST), and the ol’ Killer hisself.  His over-the-top, bombastic vocals draw you in to this  man who’s part fire-and-brimstone preacher and part carnival barker, and his original songs are as funny as hell.  Such is the case on his latest album for EllerSoul Records, “Full Circle.”  Billy’s all over the 88’s and vocals, with Bob Driver on guitar and vocals, Steve Riggs on bass, and Li’l Ronnie Owens on the harp.  Also joining in on the fun are special guests The Nighthawks on several cuts.

We said Billy is a helluva pianist, and he rocks thru several piano-driven classics, from Bill Black’s “Smokie,” and a couple of Sun-ripened gems, Charlie Rich’s “Breakup,” and a, well, “killer” version of “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee,” with harp from Li’l Ronnie.  But, Billy’s at his best on his raucous, bawdy originals.  Check out the leadoff cut, which has Billy consigned to the fact that he’s  “Too Old to rock and roll, but just right to sing the blues!”  A song he got the idea for from a waitress at a diner is the hilarious “Daddy Passed Away–and mama turned gay,” dealing with “pitchin’ for the other team!”  And, FCC regulations be damned, Billy warns us all in no uncertain terms what’ll happen if you don’t obey “The Hand Of The Almighty,” this one with backing from The Nighthawks.

Our favorite was easy.  It’s one of Billy’s earliest-written songs, and one of his most well-liked.  Yes, “Mama Was A Deadhead” name-checks everything from “tie-Dyed Pampers” to  “Dark Star” to naming your child  “Casey Jones!”

He’s been deep-fried and sanctified, he’s been known to get it on with the “Teenie Weenie Meanies” on the lady midget rasslin’ circuit, and the things he used to do all night now take him all night to do.  Yep–you might say the REv. Billy C. Wirtz has come “Full Circle!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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.