Archive for June, 2017

The Sherman Holmes Project review…June 30, 2017….

THE SHERMAN HOLMES PROJECT

THE RICHMOND SESSIONS

FEATURING ROB ICKES, SAMMY SHELOR, AND THE LEGENDARY INGRAMETTES

M C RECORDS  MC 0082

ROCK OF AGES–LIZA JANE–DON’T DO IT–I WANT JESUS–BREAKING UP SOMEBODY’S HOME–DARK END OF THE STREET (WITH SPECIAL GUEST JOAN OSBORNE)–LONESOME PINES–GREEN RIVER–WIDE RIVER–WHITE DOVE–HOMELESS CHILD

The Holmes Brothers–Wendell and Sherman, along with drummer Popsy Dixon–all Virginians–were one of the most versatile groups ever to record, beginning with “In The Spirit,” from 1980.  They had a predominantly-gospel background, but infused it with a bit of everything, from blues to bluegrass, to Americana, and folk music, making records of just plain great music that always defied categorization.  In 2015 guitarist Wendell Holmes and Popsy Dixon both passed, and Sherman, originally the bassist and keyboard player for the band, pondered ever recording again.  However, thanks to the efforts of producer Jon Lohman, himself a Virginia State Folklorist, Sherman will release “The Richmond Sessions” for M. C. Records on July 21.

There are several special guests that make this album a real treat, too.  They include Rob Ickes on dobro, Jared Pool on mandolin and Fender Telecaster, Jon Lohman on harp, Joan Osborne on vocal on one cut, and The Ingramettes on backing vocals throughout.  This set is varied and eclectic in nature, with the sacred cuts standing right alongside the secular ones.

Our favorites numbered several from both camps.  On the sacred side, the leadoff “Rock Of Ages,” and a song that Sherman learned as a child, “I Want Jesus to walk with me” each feature The Ingramettes–“Richmond’s First Family of Gospel,” led by the incomparable voice of Almeta Ingram-Miller.  On the secular side, Rob’s dobro plays that always-familiar lick that drives John Fogerty’s tune about that place “where cool water flows,” “come on home to Green River.”  And Joan Osborne and Sherman give an absolutely spellbinding performance of the two shamed lovers doomed forever to meet “At The Dark End Of The Street.”

Those who have always been fans of the Holmes Brothers will love The Sherman Holmes Project and “The Richmond Sessions,”  an all-Virginia affair.  If you’ve never listened to them before, let this set, which, frankly, has Grammy written all over it, be an excellent introduction!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Karen Lovely review…June 26, 2017….

KAREN LOVELY

FISH OUTTA WATER

SELF-RELEASED

FISH OUTTA WATER–UNDER THE MIDNIGHT SUN–TWIST MY FATE–WAKING UP THE DEAD–BIG BLACK CADILLAC–EVERYTHING MEANS NOTHING–HADES’ BRIDE (THERE WAS A TIME)–MOLOTOV COCKTAILS–NEXT TIME–NICE AND EASY–PUNK ROCK JOHNNY CASH–THE RIVER’S WIDE

Karen Lovely hails from the Pacific Northwest, and represented that region well with a second-place finish at the 2010 IBC’s in Memphis, which ultimately led to three Blues Award nominations in 2011.  She has just released her fourth album, “Fish Outta Water,” produced by Eric Corne, who wrote or co-wrote, along with Karen, the twelve cuts herein.

She leads off with the swampy grooves of the title cut, where she’s “nobody’s daughter/ain’t got to pass no test.”  This one has cool guitar courtesy of Rick “L. A. Holmes” Holmstrom, and a campy Farfisa from Skip Edwards.  Eric Corne is on the harp on a tune about choices in lovers, good or bad, and is “Twist My Fate.” And, to Karen, “Everything Means Nothing” when a love goes sour.  This one features dobro from Ben Rice.  Staying in the “love gone bad” vein, one of the set’s most uniquely-eclectic cuts rides a brooding groove as Karen realizes, in “Hades’ Bride,” that, once, “There Was A Time,” but that time has long since passed.  Eric Gorfain is on the fiddle, adding to the overall vibe of this one.

We had three favorites, too.  “Punk Rock Johnny Cash” indeed follows that chicka-chicka groove first laid down by Cash himself at Sun, as Karen weaves the poignant tale of a troubled street corner singer who ultimately turns his own hand.  “The Next Time” is a humorous look at today’s world thru the eyes of its Creator, vowing to have more love and less hate next time ’round.  And, “Waking Up The Dead” is a right-between-the-eyes shot at His Orangeness, as he’s sold us nothin’ but a pack of lies. proving that “hook, line, and sinker, we bought the con man’s game.”

As most of our readers know, we can’t resist a good play on words, but we are not going to call this a “Lovely” set.  Nope–Karen Lovely is sometimes biting, sometimes mysterious, even sometimes playful throughout “Fish Outta Water.”  She looks at life thru the eyes of a woman who’s never lost hope nor given up on herself, and she is a beautiful, passionate composer and performer.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Delta Wires review…June 25, 2017….

DELTA WIRES

BORN IN OAKLAND

MUDSLIDE RECORDS  MSCD 1706

SUNNY DAY–FINE AND HEALTHY THING–VACATION–YOUR EYES–DAYS OF THE WEEK–DEVIL’S IN MY HEADSET–FUN TIME–I DON’T CARE–IN THE MIDDLE–ALL I HAVE TO GIVE

Delta Wires is a high-energy band from the Bay Area that successfully melds contemporary blues with its origins down deep in the Delta.  The band was, literally, like the title of their latest album, “Born In Oakland,” some thirty years ago, as a direct result of a collegiate exercise.  Leader, harpman, and vocalist Ernie Pinata did a college project to show how the blues originated in the mists of Mississippi, and eventually made its way northward into Chicago and Detroit, and, ultimately, out to the West Coast.  The horn section in this seven-piece group brings the energy, while Ernie’s harp is the soul and the authenticity.  Seven of the ten cuts are band originals, with three swingin’ covers.

Everybody has a lot of fun on the opener, a cool ode to the long, hot summer, “Sunny Day,” especially the drummer and the horns.  Ernie tells it like it is on a cut we can all relate to—traffic jams everywhere, spendin’ more than you make just to get by, and everything else that ultimately has us all needing a “Vacation.”  He breaks off some fine harp at the bridge, too.

A hope for a future with a lover where “we lifted a glass, and know it can last” is seen in “Your Eyes,” while “Days Of The Week” and “I Don’t Care” bring a gospel fervor to a couple of cuts that recall the energetic glory days of classic Stax.

Our favorite was easy.  “Little Fine Healthy Thing” is what this band is all about.  It swings like nobody’s bizness, and Ernie’s harp fits right in alongside the horns, and the whole thing brings to mind the Atlantic sides of Big Joe Turner.

A veritable living history of West Coast blues, Delta Wires have been bringing the heat for over thirty years.  They definitely know the origins of the blues, and have a finger on the pulse of its future, as evidenced by the soul-blues stew that was “Born In Oakland.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Lightnin’ Willie review…June 24, 2017….

LIGHTNIN WILLIE

NO BLACK NO WHITE JUST BLUES

LITTLE DOG RECORDS

CAN’T GET THAT STUFF–EYES IN THE BACK OF MY HEAD–LOCKED IN A PRISON–SAD ‘N BLUE–NOTE ON MY DOOR–HEARTACHE–FUSS AND FIGHT–PHONE STOPPED RINGING–THINKING OF YOU–SHAKE MY SNAKE

Bluesman and all-around gentleman Lightnin Willie plays a mean brand of blues that is ultra-heavy on the groove, and his fans are moved to dance wherever he plays.  And, he’s sho’ nuff played in some fancy places, too.  He’s performed at Willie Nelson’s Fourth Of July Picnic, alongside Willie,  Dylan, and Leon Russell.  Also, he’s been part of the Ignite Series at the Royal Albert Hall over across the pond!  His latest album’s title sums up his outlook on music–“No Black No White Just Blues,” for Little Dog Records.

Willie wrote the ten cuts herein, with enough cool blues and solid grooves to fill up his big ole black hat and then some.  “Locked In A Prison”  details the sad story of a man with a warden for a woman,  and he knows “my jailer by the sound of her shoes.”  Michael Murphy is on the piano, with sax from the mighty Ron Dzuibla.  You gotta love the humor in the tale of a man who can feel that his lover is cheatin’, so much so that “I got Eyes In The Back Of My Head,” with the chromatic harp courtesy of Pete Anderson.

Willie experiments with various styles herein, too.  “Note On My Door” explores the blues in a jazzy vein, while the classic cha-cha  backbeat drives “Heartache” and “Phone Stopped Ringing,” the latter of which finds our hero alone again, save for “sitting next to lonesome, here by the door.”  And, “Thinking Of You” is a beautiful ballad done in the style of those epic Fifties’ love songs.

Our favorites bookended the set.  In closing, there is the amped-up, jacked-up, slide-ridin’, just-a-little-bit-naughty endless boogie of “Shake My Snake.”  And, leading off is a humorous look at society’s many taboos, “Can’t Get That Stuff no more.”  This one features another one of our favorite piano players, Dona Oxford.

The blues needs more characters, y’all, and Lightnin’ Willie is one of the good ‘uns.  A great man once said the blues is color blind, and “No Black No White Just Blues” backs up that statement in spades!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Jim Allchin review…June 22, 2017…

JIM ALLCHIN

DECISIONS

SANDY KEY MUSIC  CD-JA004

ARTIFICIAL LIFE–THE MEXICAN END–BAD DECISIONS–HEALING GROUND–BLEW ME AWAY–SHE IS IT–JUST PLAIN SICK–FRIENDS–YOU MIGHT BE WRONG–AFTER HOURS–DON’T CARE–STOP HURTING ME–MY FATHER’S EYES–DESTINY

Guitarist/composer/vocalist Jim Allchin is livin’ the dream, y’all.  He grew up on a farm deep down in Florida before graduating from Stanford and becoming a well-respected Microsoft executive.  All the while, he honed his musical chops, retiring in 2007 to pursue his dream to be a bluesman.  As such, “Decisions” marks his third solo album.  Produced by drummer Tom Hambridge, Jim is on guitar and vocals, and uses a myriad of special guests  that make this set such a fun listen.  Leading off is a tune that could only happen in today’s society.  “Artificial Life” finds Jim telling himself “things couldn’t be sweller” as he “dreams of being Captain Kirk!”  Reese Wynans is all over the B-3 here, too.  An amped-up trip south of the border is the perfect cure for a love affair that literally comes to a “Mexican End,” featuring a punchy horn section for effect.  Keb’ Mo’ is the duet vocalist on a song written by Jim, Tom, and Richard Fleming, as the wonders of nature set the backdrop to bring peace of mind in the “Healing Ground.”

Jim pays tribute to two special folks here, too.  First up, the aforementioned trio of writers create a forever ode to the love of Jim’s life, “She Is It,” and “wears colors that never fade.”  And, the pain of losing his father as a youth is the somber, reflective mood of “My Father’s Eyes.”

There is plenty of fun to be had, too.  An all-acoustic affair with Reese on piano takes a look at why can’t we all just get along with “You Might Be Wrong.”   There are also three fine instrumentals, two with a cool common thread.  First up, “Just Plain Sick” has one blistering guitar run after another fueled by the honky-tonkin’ piano from Reese.  And, each of the other two follow a spacey, ethereal, quietly-civil groove, “Destiny” and “After Hours.”  Their other commonality?  Each one has guitar courtesy of  our old friend Kenny Greenberg.  Raise your hands, all you old-school ballers who remember when Kenny was the guitarist for the Bobby Bradford Blues Band, which held court down at Cantrell’s on 18th and Broadway, circa 1980, our first exposure to live blues.

Jim Allchin reminds us that the choices we make in life–good, bad, or ugly–all define who we are and how we function in today’s society.  The fact that he does it with a fine flair for contemporary blues makes the “Decisions” to enjoy this set a no-brainer!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

John McNamara review…June 21, 2017….

JOHN MCNAMARA

ROLLIN WITH IT

BLACK MARKET MUSIC/BAHOOL RECORDS  BMM 3942

ONE TWO OF A KIND–BAD REPUTATION–ASK ME NOTHING (BUT ABOUT THE BLUES)–WILD OUT THERE–UNDER THE WEIGHT OF THE MOON–ONE IMPOSSIBLE NIGHT–SECURITY–BLIND MAN–YOU WOULDN’T WANNA KNOW–SUFFERING WITH THE BLUES

Australian soul/blues man John McNamara has parlayed his high-energy sound into a semi-finalist spot in the 2015 IBC’s, as well as having toured virtually all over the globe.  He returned to Memphis for his latest set, recording “Rollin’ With It” at the legendary Ardent Studios, recruiting some of the Bluff City’s finest as backing players.

This set features six of John’s originals, and six songs made famous by the likes of Otis Redding, Bobby Bland, and Little Willie John.  We have Steve Potts on drums, Michael Toles on guitar, and Lester Snell on keys and arrangements, all veterans from the glory days of Stax Records.

Fans, the great musicianship on this album does not disappoint.  John gets right in the pocket with the soulful leadoff cut about a love affair going to pieces, “One, Two Of A Kind,” who, “truth be told, may not make it through this time.”  Later, he begs that lover for a second chance, because “It’s Wild Out There,” and professes that his wild days are through in “Bad Reputation,” as “everything I’m seeing is you!.”

He explores a hip, jazzy side to his sound through two cuts. “One Impossible Night” uses scat-singing over a stinging guitar to get its message across, while a cool B-3 riff runs thru the cat-like creep of “Under The Weight Of The Moon.”

He pays tribute to his heroes, also, with a killer read of Otis’ “Security,” and plays the lovelorn hero to the hilt on three others.–Bobby Bland’s “Ask Me Nothing (But About The Blues),” “Blind Man standing on the corner,” and, our personal favorite, the poignant tale of the lover trying to figure out what went wrong, a sweet read of Little Willie John’s “Suffering With The Blues.”

Just like a Mason jar of cold iced tea. the longer you partake of these grooves, the sweeter they get.  Enjoy John McNamara’s most excellent tribute to Southern soul the way it’s supposed to be done, “Rollin’ With It.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

The Gordon Meier Blues Experience review…June 20, 2017….

THE GORDON MEIER BLUES EXPERIENCE

MAGIC KINGDOM

REVERBEROCKET RECORDS

HOWLIN FOR MY DARLIN–STOP DRAGGIN THAT CHAIN AROUND–BUDDY BUDDY FRIENDS–JUST KEEP RIDIN–IN THE OPEN–RED HEADED WOMAN–GOLD TAIL BIRD–SIGNIFYIN MONKEY–SHE BELONGS TO ME–SOMEDAY BABY–GYPSY WOMAN–THE STUMBLE

Let’s suppose that an alien spacecraft landed in your back yard, and the little green men inside wanted to hear an example of good contemporary blues.  One could take the obvious route and present some Muddy or Freddie, B B or Buddy, or one could bust out some grooves by a man who’s studied them all and assimilated it into his own unique sound, which leads directly to The Gordon Meier Blues Experience.  His latest album, “Magic Kingdom,” for Reverberocket Records, takes the listener on a cool “road trip” of sorts, going back to where it all began, with two smokin’ originals and ten covers.

Folks, this one was an absolute pleasure to listen to.  Gordon is on guitar throughout, and his gravelly vocal delivery owes as much to Chester Arthur Burnett as to anyone.  He kicks off with one of Wolf’s finest, “Howlin For My Darlin,” with Dean Shot doing his best Hubert Sumlin guitar interpretation herein.  Dennis Gruenling adds the harp on the Chicago blues of John Primer’s “Stop Draggin That Chain around,”  then comes back ’round again later as Gordon ramps up the slow-burn of Jimmy Rogers’ “Gold Tail Bird.”

Gordon’s two originals are written in that same groove, too.  He vows to “Just Keep Ridin, to drive my blues away,” when a love affair sours, with Joe Taino on the slide guitar.  A bit later we are treated to “Someday Baby,” where “I keep lookin’ for my baby, but that woman can’t be found.”

Gordon played alongside Magic Slim (Morris Holt) many years before Slim’s untimely passing in 2013.  He pays tribute here with a rock-solid read of one of Slim’s best-known songs, “My Buddy Buddy Friends,” effectively capturing that chugging rhythm that was Slim’s trademark.

Favorites?? All of ’em–from the hilariously-irreverent “Signifyin Monkey” to the set-closing “Stumble” instrumental.  You know you’ve been to the “Magic Kingdom” when you hear the blues as played by The Gordon Meier Blues Experience!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.