Archive for June, 2017

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.

Michael Packer review…June 18, 2017….

MICHAEL PACKER

I AM THE BLUES

MY STORY VOLUME 3

IRIS MUSIC GROUP

BLUES FOR PEACE–FIELDS OF SORROW–YO STATEN ISLAND–FLASH FLAME–CHICAGO–DO IT ALL OVER–MR PACKER

Native New Yorker and renowned bluesman Michael Packer sadly passed from this Earth on May 6, 2017, following complications from liver cancer.  Luckily, for us fans, his trilogy of  “I Am The Blues” recordings was completed with the finish of “Volume 3” shortly before his passing.  It finalizes his wish to be remembered as simply a bluesman.  The seven cuts herein are each prefaced by a narration regarding each song’s origins, and are as priceless as the music itself.  Michael recounts tales of trials and victories in his “Blues For Peace” world-wide concerts, his love for Chicago, “the blues capital of the world,” and sadly, his worsening health.

Leading off is his request-thru-song for “Blues For Peace,” alluding to the Paris attacks and other recent tragedies.  “Fields Of Sorrow” deals with Michael’s trip to the Hopson Plantation in 2011 and the feelings that overcame him and the band when they thought about what the slaves that worked those fields had to endure.  Ed Jackson and Irving Lattin supply the heartfelt vocals.  “Flash Flame” is a rapid-fire account of a true story about how one’s life can change in an instant after a freak explosion nearly claimed drummer Guy Powell, this one featuring Alexis P. Suter on vocals.  “Do It All Over” is Michael’s somber dedication to the one great love in his life, done over a peaceful, acoustic setting.

One of the most powerful cuts on the set is “Yo Staten Island.”  Set to the tune of “Born Under A Bad Sign,” it is a fiery, topical, in-your-face look today’s society and the seemingly daily ritual of a violent act happening somewhere in the world.  An urgent rap-verse climax is a call for an end to the foolishness of violence and adds to its authenticity.

“Chicago” and “Mr. Packer” were the most fun to listen to.  They were recorded live at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago.  The former is Michael’s shout-out to that city’s blues icons, while the latter is a rockin’ spit in the eye of Death as “Mr. Packer” proudly “has them white boy blues!”   These live cuts feature Mike Wheeler on guitar, “Touch” Hayes on drums, Melvin Smith on bass, and Mad Hatter Purifoy on the keys, and is a stone-cold Chicago way to close things out.

Michael Packer has always been a champion for the rights of the homeless, refugees, and others who just needed a voice to speak for them.  With “My Story, Volume 3,” he seems to have finally found those blues for peace he spent his life searching for.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

The Forrest McDonald Band review…June 17, 2017….

THE FORREST MCDONALD BAND

STAND MY GROUND

WORLD TALENT RECORDS

GUITAR STRING BLUES–CHICKEN SCRATCH BOOGIE–I PUT A SPELL ON YOU–STAND MY GROUND–TURNAROUND BLUES–CERTIFIED BLUE–I AM A STONE–THE FEELING IS GONE–PINEY BROWN–RIVER OF TEARS–TAKE IT TO THE TOP–TILL THE MORNING LIGHT–RIDING ON THE BLUES TRAIN

Whether realizing it or not, most of the readers of these pages have heard Forrest McDonald literally thousands of times.  Yup–that’s his guitar on Seger’s anthemic “Old Time Rock And Roll,” and also on Bobby Womack’s “Roads Of Life,” among countless other classics.  He’s got a bluesman’s soul, too, and you can get a fine taste of what The Forrest McDonald Band is all about on his latest for World Talent Records, “Stand My Ground.”  It’s eleven originals and two ballsy covers that show why his songs about the wins and losses in everyday life are so popular with his fans.  Along with Forrest’s guitar work, which is some of the best anywhere and in any genre’, you simply can’t go wrong with Becky Wright, the band’s dynamite lead singer.

The party starts with the scratchin’ funk of “Guitar String Blues,” where Becky sings “my baby left me last night/took everything but the wallpaper on the wall,” and “my guitar strings, too!”  Pix Ensign is all over the harp, too.  Next up is some of that old-time rock and roll with a bluesy twist,  a downhome barnyard shuffle ’bout that “Chicken Scratch Boogie,” with red-hot piano and  cool horns adding to the fun.

The title cut takes a turn waaaay down south to N’Awlins, where a second-line pattern drives Becky’s vocal about a no-good lover and her determination to “Stand My Ground.”  Another dog who “played me and mislaid me” gives her the “Turnaround Blues,” while the band riffs on a jazzy, slow-blues, walkin’-beat tale of a lover who “put your guilt upon me” and “walked out the door,” leaving Becky “Certified Blue.”  A driving, fiery shuffle kicks off Becky’s tale of redemption and “a little lovin’ to get me through the night”—“Take It To The Top and leave my blues behind!”

We had two favorites, too.  Forrest, Pix, and the whole band get their collective mojo workin’ on a Chicago-styled throwdown all about ol’ “Piney Brown!”  And, “Till The Morning Light” is exactly what this band is all about, y’all.  This one practically jumps outta the grooves as Becky sings about “bumpin’ and grindin’ till that morning light!”  It also features solos from heavy hitters Barry Richman and Valery Lunichkin on guitar, plus Little Ronnie Owens on the harp!  What a helluva party!

That’s the groove throughout this set.  Forrest McDonald cut “Stand My Ground” with a nod to songs that his fans love, and that are a part of his current live show sets.  He dedicates this one to his fans, and we say, “keep on rockin!!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.