Archive for July, 2017

The Nighthawks review…July 26, 2017…

THE NIGHTHAWKS

ALL YOU GOTTA DO

ELLERSOUL RECORDS ER 1707-29

THAT’S ALL YOU GOTTA DO–WHEN I GO AWAY–BABY, I WANT TO BE LOVED–LET’S BURN DOWN THE CORNFIELD–ANOTHER DAY–VOODOO DOLL–NINETY NINE–THREE TIMES YOUR FOOL–ISN’T THAT SO–SNAKE DRIVE–BLUES FOR BROTHER JOHN–DIRTY WATER

It’s hard to believe, but we’ve been listening to The Nighthawks since the early 1980’s, and their vinyl LP’s from that era were some of our very first exposure to contemporary blues.  A lotta blue have been played since that time, and the fellows are still bringing their fans the best in blues and roots-rock.  So, let’s cue up their latest release for EllerSoul Records, “All You Gotta Do,” and get ready to party!  On this set,  four cuts are band originals, and they put their own unique stamp on eight varied covers.

Mark Wenner is on harp, Paul Bell is on guitar, Johnny Castle is on bass, and Mark Stutso is the drummer.  And, EVERYBODY sings!  The music draws from a myriad of influences, and always follows the credo of having fun while bringing this music to the masses.

It wasn’t that long ago that these guys cut a killer version of “Walkin’ After Midnight,” so it’s no stretch of the imagination for them to lead off with the title cut, a rompin’ Fifties-rocker penned by Jerry Reed  Hubbard and made popular by Brenda Lee.  They revisit that Fifties groove a bit later, this time with a ballad, “Three Times Your Fool,” with a soulful vocal from Mark Stutso.

They pay tribute to Chicago blues and Chess Records with the waaay-cool stop-time stutter-step of “Baby, I Want To Be Loved,”  and Rice Miller’s Ninety Nine,” this one with Mark Wenner on that big ‘ol twelve-holed Marine Band harp to hit that deep, lower register.

We had two favorites, too, both at opposite ends of the musical spectrum.  First up, Mark Stutso is again on vocal on a heartfelt performance of a song most closely associated with Levon Helm, as he finally lays his burdens down in the poignant farewell of “When I Go Away.”  And, the set closes with the rock-and-roll fervor Johnny Castle brings to the Standells’ chestnut, “Dirty Water,” augmented by Mark’s harp and that familiar guitar riff from Paul Bell.

The Nighthawks epitomize a hard-working blues band whose vast repertoire and ability to cross genres’ keep them fresh, relevant, and in-demand with their world-wide fan base.  And, as one can hear on “All You Gotta Do,” they intend to have some fun along the Blues Highway!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

Paradise Kings review…July 24, 2017….

PARADISE KINGS

CONTROLLED BURN

’69 CHEVY–I’D SING THE BLUES IF I HAD ‘EM–THREE STRIKES–SLOW DOWN–BUTTER ME UP (JAN INGRAM ON VOCAL)–PATIENCE–POOR ME, POOR ME, POUR ME ANOTHER DRINK–MONEY AIN’T MY FRIEND (LIVE FROM SOHO MUSIC CLUB, SANTA BARBARA)

Santa Barbara, CA, is not only a beautiful city in Southern California, it also features a vibrant live-music scene.  The Paradise Kings are a part of that club mix, and they have just released “Controlled Burn” to give fans a taste of what they are all about.  The set is predominantly highly-danceable blues-rock, and all the songs were written by drummer George Lambert, save for “Three Strikes,” penned by Gordon Jennings.  Along with George, Henry Garrett is lead vocalist, with Jeff Gring on guitar, Michael Robertson on bass, and Chris Ulep on keys.

These guys are known for their hi-octane live shows, and they bring that energy into Santa Barbara’s Orange Whip Studios for the first seven cuts.  They lead off with an extended, rockabilly-infused intro that gives way to a song about a man’s favorite car, that “69 Chevy!”  (We had one, and it’s still the best car we ever had!)  These guys have a wicked-cool sense of humor in their songs, too.  The story of a guy who always seems to end up on “Easy Street” is the man who says, “I’d Sing The Blues If I Had ‘Em,” set over a walking-beat groove.  “Slow Down” traces the pitfalls of an older guy trying to keep up with a young chick,  while “Patience” follows a similar theme, as our hero is always rarin’ to rock, but his lover’s “name is Patience,” and she sho’ nuff believes in taking her sweet time!

Our favorite closed the set.  We get a taste of what goes down at one of their live shows, this one courtesy of the good folks at the Soho Music Club in Santa Barbara.  The humorous story of a man stretchin’ himself waaay too thin to make a few bucks is “Money Ain’t My Friend,” and features a killer vocal from Henry, and two monster solos from Jeff.

Fans, the Paradise Kings play a mojo-filled brand of old-school blues with a modern feel, and deserve wider recognition.  Here’s hoping “Controlled Burn” will bring them that richly-deserved acclaim!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

The Jon Spear Band review…July 23, 2017….

THE JON SPEAR BAND

HOT SAUCE

BOTTOM OF THE BOTTLE–GEOGRAPHICAL CURE–REALLY GREAT GIG–HOT SAUCE–NOAH’S BLUES–PIERRE JOURDAN–HIT THE QUARTER–BUTT-DIAL KYLE–WINTERTIME–BLUES FOR A SOLDIER–CHEAP WHISKEY AND STALE CIGARETTES–NATCHEZ BURNING

Just about any food served down South comes with a side of “Hot Sauce,” intent on bringing out the flavor of most any dish you’d care to eat.  And, for a lotta folks, the hotter the better.  If that’s how you like your blues, then you’ll love the latest offering  from the Jon Spear Band, with that flavorful title.  Like a good hot sauce, this set of twelve strong cuts offers up blues, party songs, and a good dose of socially-topical cuts, served up as only this band can do.

Dara James is on vocals, lead guitar, and harp, Jon Spear is on guitars and vocals, and the rhythm section of drummer John Stubblefield and bassist Andy Burdetsky add backing vocals throughout.  Dara is on the slide guitar and vocal on the leadoff  story that deals with the exuberance of youth, and the relative ease in which one can find trouble at “The Bottom Of The Bottle.”  Ron Holloway’s sax gives the spicy flavor to the title cut, as Dara asks a potential paramour for “a little shake from your bottle, baby,” and to be his “Hot Sauce for tonight!”

Two cuts hit home on the socially-conscious front.  “Wintertime” is a torch-blues song sung by Dara regarding the plight of the homeless and those down on their luck, while the stinging guitar lines of “Blues For A Soldier” pull no punches in going all-in to support those who give all in defense of our freedoms.

The set has some lighter moments, too.  “Really Great Gig” is the story of a gig that ends up with cops everywhere, and follows a jumpin’ blues-a-billy beat.  And, everyone knows a “Butt-Dial Kyle” who hasn’t quite mastered the art of working a cell phone!

Our favorites were two of the band’s signature “stories-in-songs” and their respective characters.  First up is the story of a New Orleans gambler named “Pierre Jourdan” who “bet it all, but the other guy won,” and  his subsequent sad end.  The set closes on a somber, almost dirge-like note, with the story of “Natchez Burning,” a dobro-laden acoustic account of the deaths of 209 club patrons and all but two of the band, Walter Barnes And His Royal Creolians, trapped inside the burning Rhythm Club after owners sealed off the exits to prevent gate-crashing on April 23, 1940.  Following the acoustic portion of the song, there is a short pause, then 100 seconds or so of pure electric guitar fury in remembrance of this tragedy.

With the Jon Spear Band, you can always bet your last money that the music will be excellent, and the songs built either for the dance floor or to make you think.  Everything goes good with “Hot Sauce!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Stacy Jones review…July 22, 2017…

STACY JONES

LOVE IS EVERYWHERE

MOJO POTION 61 AND 49–WAIT FOR HEAVEN–CAN’T FIND LOVE–STOMP JUMP BOOGIE–CAN’T YOU BE MINE–I FELL IN LOVE–LOVE IS EVERYWHERE–ONE STOP LIGHT–GOTTA GET OVER YOU–TOUGH GIRLS NEVER CRY–I’LL BE ON MY WAY

Stacy Jones set out to make a blues-and-roots-themed album with “Love Is Everywhere,” and she did just that.  With her many accolades as a songwriter in her home state of Washington, this set will likely add to those kudos.  And, it also shows a side of her that many may not know exists—her multi-instrumentalist talents are all over this one, as she is on vocals, guitar, piano, B-3, and even the harp!

The set begins, literally, down at the Crossroads, as a second-line beat propels the ghostly story of a woman “who was a looker,” but who took the advice of the Hoodoo Man, and drank of the “Mojo Potion 61 And 49,” and “never was the same again!”  “Wait For Heaven” is a powerful, guitar-laden message of hope following the death of a friend in a house fire, while Mike Marinig’s sax and flute add an ethereal vibe to the Stax-soul flavor of “Can’t You Be Mine.”

Her nods to the Americana genre’ are evident in the tale of “Tough Girls Never Cry,” evoking memories of Lucinda Williams, and the humorous tale of going to any lengths to forget a lover, “Gotta Get Over You.”  And, the incomparable War veteran, Lee Oskar, adds his mighty harp to the fervent instrumental, “Stomp Jump Boogie.”

We had three favorites, all different, showcasing Stacy’s exemplary writing talents.  The mile-a-minute, call-and-response  of “One Stop Light” is straight-up dance floor boogie.  The set closes almost in the same place that it began, with the Delta-by-way-of-706-Union, Sun-splashed choogle of “I’ll Be On My Way.”  And, perhaps the set’s most powerful cut is the title track,  written after the Orlando tragedy, as a tribute to the fallen and an empowerment to those left behind to carry on.

Stacy Jones comes at you straight from her soul.  She blends the blues easily with other genres,’ and crafts a heartfelt set of songs that will add to her ever-expanding fan base.  As another great band once said, “People can you feel it—Love Is Everywhere!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Johnny Ray Jones review…July 20, 2017….

JOHNNY RAY JONES

FEET BACK IN THE DOOR

MOONDOG RECORDS

FEET BACK IN THE DOOR–HOLE IN YOUR SOUL–COME UP AND SEE ME SOMETIME–HIGH COST OF LOVING–HARD TIMES WON–LOVE-ITIS–I’M A BLUES MAN–A CERTAIN GIRL–IN THE HEART OF THE CITY–HEARTS HAVE TURNED TO STONE

Veteran Southern California blues man Johnny Ray Jones has been called “The Godson Of Soul,” and for good reason.  His vocals coach and mentor was the great Sam Taylor, while the wife of Percy Mayfield was his godmother.  His debut album’s title is apt, indeed,  as “Feet Back In The Door” actually had its beginnings back in 1995.  The ten cuts herein include one of Johnny’s originals, and all have that good ole Southern soul of Muscle Shoals by way of New Orleans, done in Johnny’s deep, soaked-in-a-barrel-of-Jack voice.

Joining Johnny are some of the most successful and famous players on the planet, both with instruments and behind the boards.  Along with Johnny Ray, the set is also produced by guitarist Johnny Lee Schell, and drummer man Tony Braunagel,  with Mike Finnigan on keys,  and Hutch Hutchinson on bass.

The set begins with the title cut, penned by Arthur Adams, and finds Johnny singing over a slow-cooked groove and asking a lover for a second chance, to get his “Feet Back In The Door.”  Everybody sets up a swampy groove for Johnny’s good advice to all of us–“you got a Hole In Your Soul if you can’t feel rhythm and blues,” this one  written by Sam Taylor, and featuring Coco Montoya on guitar.

Johnny gets in that Big Easy swing with a killer version of Allen Toussaint’s “A Certain Girl,” and the set’s closer, Leon Russell’s “Hearts Have Turned To Stone,” with some testifyin’ piano from Mike.  Johnny’s original, “In The Heart Of The City,” is an ode to the loneliness one can feel amidst the bustle of a big town such as L. A., especially when your lover’s not around.

As good as all these are, we had two favorites, too.  “The High Cost Of Loving” is sho’ nuff gettin’ higher every day—“the less I make, the more I have to pay.”  And, Johnny gets all over the greasy swagger of Arzell Hill’s “I’m A Blues Man–I’m an original/one of a kind!”

Johnny Ray Jones sings these songs directly from his soul to yours.  He’s paid his dues, and now, he’s got his “Feet Back In The Door.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

The Halley DeVestern Band review….July, 18, 2017…

THE HALLEY DEVESTERN BAND

KEEP ON PLAYIN’

KEEP ON PLAYIN–TIME FOR YOU TO LIGHT THINGS–BANGIN–SONG IN YOU–HIT TWICE

The Halley DeVestern Band has been away for much too long.  It was January 3, 2014, when we last posted a review for their works, the brilliant EP, “Fabbo! Boffo! Smasho!”   This vastly-under-recorded crew is back with their latest, a five-song EP entitled, “Keep On Playin,” consisting of four songs written by Halley and bassist Tom Heinig, and the closing cut, written by the band as a collective unit.

A lotta women have a big voice, but not too many can match both the power and the versatility of Halley,  and she wraps those boffo  pipes  around these tunes as if they were clay and she the sculptress.  Along with her on vocals and Heinig’s bass, Rich Kulsar is on drums, David Patterson is on guitars, and Steve Jabas is on guitars and keys.

Over these five songs, there are elements of blues, jazz, soul, funk, and, even a smattering of hip-hop!  Leading off is a song of empowerment, urging us to “Keep On Playin,” and reach for the sky, which turns into a full-on call-and-response with the rest of the band.  Halley even breaks off a rapped verse prior to the guitar solo at ’bout the 2:00 mark.  Next up is the bristling funk of “Time for You To Light Things,” which has an even more impressive mile-a-minute rap at the bridge of this one!  “Song In You” deals with finding love on the road during a stream of seemingly-endless “shotgun shows,” while the set closes with Halley’s vocals goin’ down to Memphis Minnie’s juke joint over some sweet slide.  She’s got some serious mojo workin, as she’s  “been hit by lightning, babe—I been Hit Twice!”

The Halley DeVestern Band always keep things interesting, thru their eclectic, varied looks at  all things blues.,  There’s also always one unwavering constant—the mighty pipes of this fine lead vocalist!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society,

Ben Rabb review…July 16, 2017….

BEN RABB

FEEL ME FALL

ALONE WITH YOU–THE FIGHT–ANYDAY–WORKING TO MY BONE–TAKE ME BACK

For Ben Rabb’s second outing, “Feel Me Fall,” he takes a look at loneliness while living amongst the sprawl and bustle of his new home in Los Angeles.   Literally, he got married one day and moved to L. A. the next, and the five songs on this EP were written to help cope with that feeling of isolation, and to offer the same message of positivity to listeners.  Also, this set marks a different side of Ben musically, in that the arrangements herein utilize a more complex formula, including electric guitar, bass, drums, piano, and a flugelhorn, as  opposed to strictly Ben, his voice, and his acoustic guitar.

We had three favorites.  The leadoff cut, “Alone With You,” has Ben realizing he’s been played for a fool by a lover, after finding out she “gladly shared my wealth, but not my fame.”  “Anyday” is a powerful cut that speaks for those who cannot always speak for themselves, as he sings, “I’ll take hope any day when it hurts,” reminding us that, no matter how strong or independent we are, we can all use a helping hand on occasion.  The set closes with somewhat of a retrospective tune,  “Take Me Back,” as Ben yearns for a simpler time and place, without “strings or restraints,”  and with “dreams I could chase.”

The material in “Feel Me Fall” is meant to challenge the listener to make changes in their lives wherever needed, and to do so without  being afraid to move on with life.  Ben Rabb has taken his Midwestern and Northeastern upbringing and successfully melded it with his life experiences as a transplanted Los Angeleno.  Until next time..Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.