Archive for October, 2017

Lara And The Bluz Dawgs review….October 28, 2017…

LARA AND THE BLUZ DAWGS

OUT HERE IN THE BLUE

LOCK ALLEY MUSIC

EASY COME, EASY GO–DO WHAT YOU DO–OUT HERE IN THE BLUE–CATCH ME IF YOU CAN–WALK AWAY–SMOKE BREAK–LOVE SLIPS AWAY–WHERE YOU BEEN–CUSTOM MADE–MOONLIGHT–WRONG QUESTION

Lara And The Bluz Dawgs are headed up by the husband-wife duo of vocalist Laura and bassist Gregg Germony.  The other Dawgs are Al Rowe on guitar, Carlos Ruiz on drums, Reggie Murray on sax and B-3, with Dan Nadasdi on all other keys.  Their latest set for Lock Alley Music is “Out Here In The Blue,” eleven band originals led by Lara’s powerfully-soulful vocal delivery honed thru not only classical training, but also thru her passion for jazz, rock, country, and, especially, the blues.  This set has a strong Nashville Connection, as most all the players are local residents, with Gregg and Jim Schacher producing, over at the Song Closet here in town.

Lara certainly has a beautifully-pure voice that evokes all manner of emotions throughout these cuts.  They kick off on a swingin’ note, with a wishy-washy lover who won’t “let your feelings show,” “Easy Come, Easy Go.”  A slow, sax-and-keys intro gets the pot boiling for the title cut, as a lonely Laura wears her heart on her sleeve and begs the question, “how can I go on without you, lost Out Here In The Blue?”  Lara stays in that “torch-y” mode for the story of a thrill that is sho’ nuff gone, as our lovers are “looking back to yesterday,” when “Love Slips Away.”  Al gets in a sweet, long, Lucille-like solo at the bridge, too.

They have a lot of fun, too.  An endless boogie, roadhouse rocker,  with Dan’s piano ridin’ the groove set up by Lara as she extols the virtues of her man is the ultra-cool “he’s Custom Made for me!”  That good-time vibe was all over a cool instrumental, too.  Everyone plays their collective buns off on a tune co-written by sax man Reggie Murray that pretty much sums itself up within its title—“Smoke Break!”  These two riveting rockers served as our favorites.

It’s always a stone gas to see a new set from Lara And The Bluz Dawgs.  You know you’re gonna get the blues, the whole blues, and nothin’ but the (very well-played) blues from “Out Here In The Blue!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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Alastair Greene review…October 28, 2017….

ALASTAIR GREENE

DREAM TRAIN

RIP CAT RECORDS  RIC 1702

DREAM TRAIN–BIG BAD WOLF–NOME ZAYNE–ANOTHER LIE–SONG FOR RUFUS–I’M THE TAKER–DAREDEVIL–GRATEFUL SWAGGER–RAIN STOMP–DEMONS DOWN–IOWA–DOWN TO MEMPHIS–LUCKY 13

Alastair Greene spent seven years as the vocalist and guitarist for the Alan Parsons Project.   After stepping down to pursue his own musical dreams, his latest set for Rip Cat Records is entitled “Dream Train.”  Twelve originals and one song written by Billy Gibbons make up this most eclectic effort.  Alastair is on vocals and guitar, and the power trio is completed by the rhythm section of Austin Beede on drums and Jim Rankin on bass.  He also has some very special guests on board, including guitarists Debbie Davies, Walter Trout, and Mike Zito, harpman Dennis Gruenling, and keys man Mike Finnigan.

The blues-rock comes at you hard and fast with the slide-driven slash-and-burn of the leadoff title cut, and keeps on chooglin’ over the “endless boogie” of that “girl that lives across town,” and the “Big Bad Wolf” knockin’ at her door!  The relentless groove of “Daredevil” is doctored up by Dennis Gruenling’s harp, while the instrumental, “Grateful Swagger,” features Alastair and Debbie Davies goin’ toe to toe on guitars, and laying down an old-school Albert Collins groove.  And, on an autobiographical road trip “Down To Memphis,” where Alastair discovered his calling, also features Mike Zito on guitar.

Alastair strikes some socially-conscious chords on two cuts, and they served as our favorites.  “Nome Zayne,” ( (Know what I’m sayin?”), was written by Billy Gibbons, and Alastair’s guitar and biting vocals are a clarion call for unity and peace “before it’s too late.”  A slow-blues beatdown of politicians everywhere prone to  repeated falsifications is the message of “some believed you, but I don’t know why,” aptly-titled, “Another Lie,”  with Walter Trout on second guitar.

Alastair Greene combines the soul of the blues with an amped-up rock background to bring us this most excellent set.  To paraphrase a great man, “All aboard—the Dream Train!”  and enjoy the ride!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Peter Ward review…October 27, 2017….

PETER WARD

BLUES ON MY SHOULDERS

GANDY DANCER RECORDS

SHE TOOK IT ALL–WHICH HAZEL–BLUES ON MY SHOULDERS–COLLABORATE–SHIPROCK–WHAT CAN I DO TO YOU–IT’S ON ME–SOUTHPAW–A LITTLE MORE–ON THE ROPES–COLLETTA–KANSAS CITY BLUES–DRUMMIN’ WILLIE

Growing up in Lewiston, Maine, guitarist Peter “Hi-Fi” Ward, and his bass-playing brother, Michael “Mudcat” Ward, absorbed all the blues recordings they could find, learning the licks and chord structures that would serve them thru a lifetime of music.  Peter often sat in with Ronnie Earl, and later toured with the Legendary Blues Band of Pinetop, Fuzz Jones,  Jerry Portnoy, and the backbeat of it all, Willie Smith.  They instilled in Peter an unhurried appreciation for the blues, as well as giving him some life experiences that could never be equaled.  Those influences are all over his latest for Gandy Dancer Records, “Blues On My Shoulders.”  Many of Peter’s old friends drop by for this party, including Monster Mike Welch, Sax Gordon Beadle, Ronnie Earl, Sugar Ray Norcia, Anthony Geraci, Neal Gouvin, and brother Michael.

The twelve original songs and one cover on this set capture the feeling Peter and Michael undoubtedly had during their formative  years listening to their heroes, and several styles are represented.  The set starts with a humorous ode to a lover who departed, and, sho’ nuff, “She Took It All,” even down to “my records, my CD’s, and my MP3’s!”  Sugar Ray lays down some cool harp, too.  Sugar takes the lead vocal on the jazzy “Collaborate,” with Gordon on sax, and features virtually every possible combination of words that rhyme with the song’s title.  “Shiprock” is a pastoral instrumental done in tribute to a region in Navajo country that Peter and his wife visited prior to her untimely passing from breast cancer in 2002.  Another jazzy instrumental is dedicated to swing guitarist Dickie Thompson, and is entitled “Southpaw.”  It features some mighty fine B-3 work from Rusty Scott, too.

We had two favorites, too.  Peter always enjoyed the music of Chuck Berry, and pays the ol’ duck-walker a nice tribute with the clever tale of twin sisters with the same first name but vastly different agendas, begging the musical question, “Which Hazel should I choose?”  And, Peter closes the set with the deep, slow-blues story of one of the greatest blues drummers ever, “Drummin’ Willie.”  This one details Peter’s time spent with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and the other members of the Legendary Blues Band, sung from the heart of a man who obviously had a lot of fun during this time in his life.

Peter “Hi-Fi” Ward has been concentrating on his songwriting of late, and the results are in the fine material that makes up “Blues On My Shoulders.” Add in excellent musicianship from all the players, and this is one fine collection, indeed!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Little Freddie King review…October 26, 2017….

LITTLE FREDDIE KING

YOU MADE MY NIGHT

MADEWRIGHT RECORDS   MWR 72

HOBO–CAN’T DO NOTHING BABE–TOUGH FROG–BUS STATION–BABY PLEASE DON’T GO–CHICKEN DANCE–BIG BOSS MAN–WANG DANG DOODLE–STANDING AT THE DOOR–HELLO JOSEPHINE–SING SANG SUNG

Little Freddie King is one of the last links to a group of black bluesmen who, rather than migrate northward to Chicago and Detroit, went south down to New Orleans.  Freddie’s sound was borne of the juke joints in Mississippi, with that Big Easy undercurrent in all his blues.  His latest release for MadeWright Records was recorded live at the “World-Famous D B A Music Club” in New Orleans, and is done as both a shout-out and a thank-you to all his fans everywhere.  Yep—“You Made My Night” is as raw, raucous, and as much fun as you’d imagine.  The home-court fans are stoked, and their energy plays right into Freddie’s wheelhouse.  He mixes his own originals with some of his favorites over these eleven cuts.

The party starts with one of those originals, which, one could say, was Freddie’s autobiography.  It recalls his younger days, “when I first started to Hobo,” augmented by Freddie’s guitar and a backing harp.  “Tough Frog” rides the blinds of that “endless boogie,” while he and the crowd have a lotta fun with the chicken-scratch guitar that aptly accompanies the barnyard hustle of the “Chicken Dance.”  He draws from many influences on “Wang Dang Doodle,” “Baby Please Don’t Go,” and “Josephine,” before closing the set with a rollicking instrumental, “Sing Sang Sung.”

Our favorite was easy.  A spoken intro gives way to “Bus Station,” where his “main squeeze” leaves him sittin’ at that ‘Hound station with no lover in sight!

Little Freddie King is a cousin to Lightnin’ Hopkins, and those raw, powerful blues mixed with everyday emotions are what the crowd came for.  They got a hearty dose, too, with “You Made My Night!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

The McKee Brothers review…October 22, 2017….

THE MCKEE BROTHERS

MOON OVER MONTGOMERY

MBE-2017-2

PIG FEET–CONFIDENTIAL–I FEEL LIKE DYNAMITE–WORRIED ABOUT TOMORROW–YOU KNOW HOW I LIE–MOON OVER MONTGOMERY–KICKS–BAYOU MAN–GO 2 WORK–WHERE YOU GETTIN IT–RUNAWAY LOVE–LATE AT NIGHT–REMEMBER WHEN–FLAT, BLACK, AND CIRCULAR–BLUES OF THE MONTH CLUB–CELEBRATE ME HOME

The McKee Brothers, Dennis and Ralph, are back with their second high-powered release, “Moon Over Montgomery.”  No sophomore slump here, as this is another strong, eclectic set that’s sure to have something for everybody.  This set teams the brothers with some of the best vocalists and session players from L. A. and Michigan.  The brothers are highly-skilled multi-instrumentalists, and they are joined by thirty-plus musicians and a revolving corps of lead vocalists,  giving this set a full, “big band” sound!

There are various genres’ represented, too–soul/blues, funk, gospel, even some cool NOLA sounds.  Those Big Easy grooves kick things off, with a story of fine “New Orleans cuisine,” with one caveat–“we don’t serve no Pig Feet up in here!”  Reggie Brown is the featured vocalist on the stone funk of “I Feel Like Dynamite,” while Reggie Gonzales keeps the funk hittin’ the fan, with “Go 2 Work,” and the smoky, sly tale of two exes trying to reconnect, “Where You Gettin’ It?”  Bob Schultz takes the lead on a jazz-inflected tune about gettin’ down to your favorite vinyl, back to the good ole days when music was “Flat, Black, And Circular.”   And, Melissa McKee closes the set with a brilliant, just-in-time-for-the-holidays take on “Celebrate Me Home.”

The band hits home on a couple of hard-hitting, societal hot-button topics, and they served as our favorites.  A jobless vet sounds off with a genuine fear for this country, and is “Worried About Tomorrow,” with Laith Al-Saadi on lead vocal and Larry McCray on guitar.  Ari Teitel and the backing chorus add the gospel fire to the lively story of that “Moon Over Montgomery, hangin’ in  a purple sky” that guided the Freedom Marchers and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King on their march from Selma to Montgomery, AL, in 1965 during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

The McKee Brothers are not only world-class players in their own right, but they have joined forces with an incredible group of their friends to bring “Moon Over Montgomery” to vivid life.  This is truly an excellent offering from a band rapidly making a big splash in contemporary blues!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

Likho Duo review…October 21, 2017….

LIKHO DUO

NOE’ SOCHA AND CLIFF SCHMITT

BLUES AND THE WORLD BEYOND

LIKHO RECORDS

DERBY STREET BLUES–SPOONFUL–THE DOWNTOWNER–I CAN’T BE SATISFIED–ROMANCE AMONG THIEVES–I’D SAY–BLACK DOG–YOU SHOOK ME–HIDEAWAY–ALMERE–GEORGIA–GOOD MORNING LITTLE SCHOOLGIRL–TU VUO FA L’AMERICANO–WALTZ FOR KATJA

Likho Duo hail from NYC now, even tho the guitarist-harpist Noe’ Socha was originally from Carpi, Italy, while doghouse bass man Cliff Schmitt was from north Texas.  The two transplanted New Yorkers will represent the Long Island Blues Society during the upcoming IBC’s behind their debut release, the all-acoustic, all-instrumental set entitled “Blues And The World Beyond.”  There are six originals and eight covers over this well-crafted album, and the two players are, literally, “beyond this world” good!

Noe’ was a classically-trained guitarist who fell in love with the blues thru a guitar teacher, while Cliff started on electric bass, switching to acoustic at age 18.  He found the blues thru his dad’s 8-track collection of Clapton and Zep.

The music is really refreshing, fans.  The guitar-harp-bass arrangements, for us, brought to mind the guitar stylings of Django Reinhardt, with Cliff’s bass supplying the work done by Grappelli’s fiddle during their Hot Club days.  Noe’ draws from the influences of Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, and, even Hendrix, and his harp has that good, country-blues, Delta feel.

That country feel leads off, with Noe’s original, “Derby Street Blues,”  done in the style of his heroes, and  Cliff gets in  a bass solo!  Cliff’s original, “The Downtowner,” has some “lonesome” harp from Noe’, while “Romance Among The Thieves” has a jazzy, gypsy vibe.  \

The covers are brilliantly done as well.  You’ve never heard “Black Dog” presented the way these fellows do it, with Noe’s harp echoing Plant’s iconic vocals, and they have a lotta fun with “Hideaway,” and another fine country-blues take on “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl.”  The set closes with Cliff’s quiet original, “Blues For Katja,” named in the liner notes as a major source of inspiration.

The classical training both of these fellows had as young’uns pays off big with the material in “Blues And The World Beyond.”  As for the duo’s name, Noe’ is legally blind, and Cliff has a vision issue in one eye,  So, with one good eye between the two of ’em, they chose the name Likho, a Slavic mythological Cyclops-like creature.  If you’re at the IBC’s early in 2018, be sure and check ’em out at the Blind Raccoon Showcase!  Until next time…..Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

James Armstrong review…October 21, 2017….

JAMES ARMSTRONG

BLUES BEEN GOOD TO ME

CATFOOD RECORDS   CFR -025

BLUES BEEN GOOD TO ME–SECOND TIME AROUND–ADDICTED TO LOVE–EARLY GRAVE–OLD MAN IN THE MORNING (YOUNG MAN AT NIGHT)–CHANGE IN THE WEATHER–HOW SWEET IT IS TO BE LOVED BY YOU–AIN’T ANOTHER LOVE SONG–SLEEPING WITH A STRANGER–SHOT GUN WEDDING

For his latest set for Catfood Records, James Armstrong surrounded himself with a group of backing musicians that he’d played with in his live shows, giving him a good “comfort zone.”  This formula proved to be a real winner with the ten cuts that make up “Blues Been Good To Me.”  Recorded at Sawhorse Studio in St. Louis and Jim Gaines’ Bessie Blue Studio here in Tennessee, James is on vocals and guitar, with Matt Murdick on keys and vocals, Johnny McGhee on rhythm guitar, Darryl Wright on bass, and Andrew Blaze Thomas on drums.

The material consists of eight of James’ originals and two stellar covers.  The set starts with James’ autobiography of sorts, the tale of a world traveler fueled by the music he loves, “Blues Been Good To Me.”  He name-checks Robert Johnson, Elvis, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, and several others who all fell victim to that “Early Grave.”  Co-producer, labelmate, and living legend Johnny Rawls adds backing vocals here, along with Mary Jo Curry on this poignant tale of life in the fast lane.  James closes the set with a good, old-fashioned “murder ballad,” if you will.  A “Shotgun Wedding, doomed from the start,” finds the young groom with the ever-roving eye meeting a most tragic ending.

Our favorites were the two covers, and here’s why.  James Armstrong has a unique way with songs most of us are familiar with.  He changes the tempos, time signatures, and basically turns ’em inside-out, making almost a brand-new song.  Check out his re-worked version  of “Take It To The Limit” from his 2014 album, “Guitar Angels,” and compare it to his versions herein of  Robert Palmer’s “Addicted To Love,” and the Motown classic, “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You,” this one featuring James on slide guitar, heretofore unheard on this song!

That’s the cool thing about James Armstrong.  He’s always good for some mighty fine guitar-driven blues with a few nice surprises along the way.  We suppose that’s one of the  many reasons he says “Blues Been Good To Me!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.