Archive for November, 2017

Mama Spanx review…November 24, 2017….

MAMA SPANX

STATE OF GROOVE

IDEAL SCENE MUSIC

ROCKET–WILD EMOTION–CRAWL–BEING BEAUTIFUL–WRONG SIDE OF THE GARDEN–ALLIGATOR BOOGALOO–THINKIN–ANYWHERE YOU ARE–STATE OF GROOVE

New York Blues Hall Of Fame inductee Nikki Armstrong loves a good groove and folks who know how to play it just right.  She’s assembled a seven-piece, bi-coastal funk band to back her, and they call themselves Mama Spanx.  Their debut set is called “State Of Groove,” nine cuts of classic, old-school funk and soul the way it was meant to be played.

Nikki collaborated with soul/jazz guitarist Melvin Sparks for several years prior to his passing in 2011, and it was he that coined the band’s moniker, and to whom the set is dedicated.  Nikki wields her supple vocal style to easily bring the funk to life on these nine cuts.  The set starts (and concludes) with the sound of a needle dropping onto a slab of vinyl, and Nikki draws the comparison of being in love to “a Rocket, and I’m never gonna stop.”  But, when things go south,  rock-bottom is often hard to “Crawl” away from.  “Thinkin” has overtones of vintage James Brown, with the horn section getting in a fine funk workout, and  Steve Johnson’s guitar scratchin’ it just like ol’ Jimmy Nolen used to.

Nikki’s got a softer side, too.  Through the use of only Harlan Spector’s piano and her vocal, she gets in that torchy, “quarter to three” mood for the tender “Anywhere You Are.”

Our favorite was easy.  A cool cover of Lou Donaldson’s “Alligator Boogaloo” has Nikki hittin’ just the right amount of sass, brass, and class for this red-hot  dance floor funk bomb.

The set closes with the band’s credo of spreading the funk and good times with each member contributing their individuality to create the whole package.  Hey–you can’t lose in this “State Of Groove,” and, spank you for listening, from Mama Spanx!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

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Jangling Sparrows review…November 23, 2017…..

JANGLING SPARROWS

140 NICKELS

PALACE/FLOPHOUSE RECORDS

THE PARTY AIN’T OVER–LOOK AWAY TWICE–BURNIN’ A HOLE–TAKE HOME YOUR COAT–AIN’T WAITING FOR THE PAINT TO DRY–ONE GOOD PIECE OF ADVICE–GREAT AMERICAN LIMBO–CHEAPER DOWN THE ROAD–EYES OF A STRANGER–CATCH THAT RIDE–POPS IS COMIN’ UP

Americana-roots band Jangling Sparrows is the brainchild of guitarist/songwriter/singer Paul Edelman, and the latest set from this eclectic, North Carolina-based group is entitled “140 Nickels,” and, really, when you get down to it, is a look at all of us thru the eyes of a road warrior who’s learned a lot of life’s lessons over the course of his career, and  is more than willing to share them with us.  Toss in his wickedly-keen sense of humor and over-the-top guitar skills, and you can easily see how this album evolved.  Check out the leadoff,”The Party Ain’t Over ’til the roses die,” working in a clever lyric regarding “Hemingway and (Charles) Bukowski walked into a bar,” adding to the party-time groove  of this one.  “Look Away Twice” features a nice, second-line rhythm pattern, with NOLA-flavored accordion, and deals with the end of a love affair, where sometimes it’s best to walk away and make a clean break.  “Ain’t Waiting For The Paint To Dry” features sweet country-blues harp as it details the life of a traveling musician.  “Catch That Ride” continues that troubadour’s quest and zest to follow one’s dreams, and “One Good Piece Of Advice,” one of the set’s most uptempo cuts, might well be a good autobiography for Paul, as, during his formative years, he was always seeking something he could build upon and “take it on down the line!”

The set’s closing cut served as our favorite.  Sung from the perspective of the Lord Himself, “Pops Is Comin’ Up”takes a reflective look at mortality, and serves as a reminder to celebrate life to the fullest.

Paul derives the title of this album from his days as a struggling musician,  literally looking for loose change to buy something to eat.  The songs are well-crafted and reach out and grab you at first listen, and the Jangling Sparrows’ “140 Nickels” is a clarion call to never give up on a dream!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Sweet Pea Atkinson review….November 22, 2017….

SWEET PEA ATKINSON

GET WHAT YOU DESERVE

BLUE NOTE RECORDS

ARE YOU LONELY FOR ME BABY–SLOW DOWN–AM I GROOVIN YOU–AIN’T NO LOVE IN THE HEART OF THE CITY–YOU CAN HAVE WAYTERGATE (FEAT. MINDI ABAIR)–YOU’RE WELCOME, STOP ON BY–JUST LOOKIN’–JUST ANOTHER LONELY NIGHT-LAST TWO DOLLARS–GET WHAT YOU DESERVE

We’ve been fans of Sweet Pea Atkinson from the beginning of his tenure with soul/blues outfit The Boneshakers.  For Sweet Pea’s latest album, he employs the services of guitarist and long-time collaborator Randy Jacobs for “Get What You Deserve” on Blue Note Records.  Seven of the ten cuts were produced by Keb’ Mo’, while the remaining three were done by Don Was, and Sweet Pea’s soul-man’s vocals carry the day.

Leading off is a cut from the Freddie Scott canon, “Are You Lonely For Me Baby,” and brings another Scott hit to life later in the set, a funky one for the ladies in the house, “Am I Groovin’ You.”  Speaking of songs for the ladies, Sweet Pea gets his smooth groove on, explaining to his lover that he’s “tired of being the second guy,” and urges her to “Stop On By, You’re Welcome.”

He pays tribute to some of the best in the bidness on our three favorites.  He shows some love to Johnnie Taylor with the iconic tale of the “lady at the casino,” and her “Last Two Dollars,” and comes out swinging on the hard-hitting, gritty story of “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City.”  The funk sho’ nuff hits the fan as Sweet Pea and Mindi Abair, our favorite “Sax Machine,” get down’n’dirty on a vintage cut from Fred Wesley And The JB’s, the Seventies’ throwback throwdown, “You Can Have Watergate!”

Sweet Pea Atkinson has always loved the soul/blues greats, and that love is all over the cuts that make up “Get What You Deserve.”  His unique voice and delivery puts him in their category, as he can be a crooner or a testifier, doing whatever the occasion calls for.  Fans, enjoy a fine set from a classic soul man!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Ronnie Earl And The Broadcasters review….November 19, 2017..

RONNIE EARL AND THE BROADCASTERS

THE LUCKIEST MAN

STONY PLAIN RECORDS   SPCD 1396

AIN’T THAT LOVING YOU–SOUTHSIDE STOMP–DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY–JIM’S SONG–HEARTBREAK (IT’S HURTIN’ ME)–HOWLIN’ BLUES–NEVER GONNA BREAK MY FAITH–LONG LOST CONVERSATION–SWEET MISS VEE–BLUES FOR MAGIC SAM–SO MANY ROADS–YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT LOVE IS

As a guitarist, Ronnie Earl is one of the most versatile and well-respected on the planet.  Since 1983, he has released a total of 25 albums,  11 for Holger Petersen’s Stony Plain Records.  The latest, “The Luckiest Man,” continues Ronnie’s penchant for albums that include his love for his “mother music,” which is traditional blues, along with forays into gospel, soul, and jazz.  With this album also comes a touch of sadness, as the long-time, beloved bass player for this band, Jim Mouradian,  passed away after a show back in January.  It’s one of Jim’s fond sayings that serves as the album’s title.  He’d always say, “I’m the luckiest man you know—and I don’t even know who you know!”

That spirit runs through this album, and there are numerous highlights.  Leading off is Diane Blue’s jazzy vocal over a swingin’ arrangement of  the Don Robey/Bobby Bland chestnut, “Ain’t That Loving You.”  She keeps that jazzy groove rollin’ with “Heartbreak (It’s Hurtin’ Me),” this one featuring fine keys work from Dave Limina.

It wouldn’t be a Ronnie Earl And The Broadcasters album without some cool, bluesy instrumentals.  Dave’s on acoustic piano this time as Ronnie’s guitar rides the rails for “Howlin’ Blues,” and everyone, including the horn section, gets their collective West Side groove on with “Blues For Magic Sam.”

The set’s most poignant moments served as our favorites.  Ronnie wrote the reverent, pastoral instrumental,  “Song For Jim,”  for his fallen comrade, and he uses a  layered, acoustic/electric guitar arrangement over Diane’s heartfelt-yet-chilling vocals in Rev. Gary Davis’ “Death Don’t Have No Mercy in this land.”  And, a slew of former Broadcasters from those early-80’s recordings, including Sugar Ray Norcia, (on vocal and harp), Anthony Geraci, Monster Mike Welch, Neil Gouvin, and Mudcat Ward guest on the ten-minute, slow-blues of “Long Lost Conversation.”

Ronnie Earl And The Broadcasters have more shades of blue in “The Luckiest Man” than Tom Noll used in his painting of Ronnie that serves as the album’s cover art.  This set serves as a loving tribute to Jim Mouradian, and fortifies Ronnie’s resolve to live with faith and gratitude,  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Samantha Fish review…November 18, 2017…

SAMANTHA FISH

BELLE OF THE WEST

RUF RECORDS  1248

AMERICAN DREAM–BLOOD IN THE WATER–NEED YOU MORE–COWTOWN–DAUGHTERS–DON’T SAY YOU LOVE ME–BELLE OF THE WEST–POOR BLACK MATTIE (FEAT. LIGHTNIN MALCOLM)–NO ANGELS–NEARING HOME (FEAT. LILLIE MAE)–GONE FOR GOOD

Earlier this year, Midwest-raised woman of the blues Samantha Fish released “Chills And Fever,” a collection of R & B-infused songs with the help of the Detroit Cobras.  Not long after that one came out, she headed down to the Mississippi Hill Country to the Zebra Ranch Studios to get to work on its follow-up.  In an unprecedented move for this day and age, she has just released her second album during 2017 with “Belle Of The West.”  It was produced by Luther Dickinson, who worked with her on “Wild Heart” from 2015.   This set also features some of the best players associated with this region along for the ride, including Jimbo Mathus, Lightnin’ Malcolm Lillie Mae, Sharde Thomas and several others steeped in this music’s tradition.

These young folks sure let their passion for this music run wild on this collection.  Leading off, Samantha fires a salvo at the so-called “American Dream,” where there’s a “hand on the Bible, and a foot on your neck,” punctuated by Sharde’s signature fife work and Lillie’s fiddle.  Loss of a loved one leads to “nothing’s right, but nothing’s wrong,” the poignant “Need You More than you’ll ever know.”  The problem of broken families and teen runaways is addressed in “Daughters,” and, at the other end of the spectrum, Samantha is our woman of questionable moral fiber in “there ain’t No Angels ’round here.”

We had two favorites, too.  Samantha empowers herself by taking a stand and leaving “this Cowtown” for good, this one with a decided Southern-rock vibe.  And, she closes the set with the slide-heavy romp of a young lady sho’ nuff glad a no-good lover is “Gone For Good.”

Samantha Fish is not one to rest on past accomplishments, and is not afraid to push the envelope when it comes to her music.  That’s the cool thing about  her latest album.  She embraced the swagger, sounds, and passion of the Hill Country, and “Belle Of The West” just sounds natural!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Downchild review…November 17, 2017….

DOWNCHILD

SOMETHING I’VE DONE

LINUS 270325

ALBANY, ALBANY–WORRIED ABOUT THE WORLD–CAN’T GET MAD AT YOU–MISSISSIPPI WOMAN, MISSISSAUGA MAN–TAKE A PIECE OF MY HEART–MAILBOX MONEY–SHE THINKS I DO–SOMETHING I’VE DONE–INTO THE FIRE–EVELYN

We suppose many fans out there are like us, as we sought out albums back in the late-Seventies and early-Eighties of the Downchild Blues Band, after two of their songs, “Shotgun Blues,” and “I Got Everything I Need (Almost),” were included on Aykroyd and Belushi’s “Briefcase Full Of Blues” album from back in the day.  Now known as simply Downchild, harp and guitar man Donnie Walsh, the only original member from the band’s beginnings in 1969, continues to carry this bidness on, as the band has just wrapped up their 18th studio album, this one entitled, “Something I’ve Done.”   The members of the band’s current lineup have all logged at least 20 years of service, and that innate tightness is excellent throughout, as is the fact that several different members of the sextet had a hand in writing the ten originals herein.

Donnie’s on guitar and harp (on two cuts), and Chuck Jackson’s big, booming delivery carries the vocals.  Up first is the rollicking “Albany, Albany,” the story of that red-hot lover with a little “somethin’ special.”  They keep that party groove going with a cool re-imagining of the Conway and Loretta chestnut, this one entitled “Mississippi Woman, Mississauga Man,” featuring Chuck on the harp on a cut that sho’ nuff lets “everybody party and everybody dance!”  Michael Fonfara’s piano work, reminiscent of Jane Veasey’s work  with the Seventies’ lineup, is in fine, testifyin’ form over the poignant breakup ballad, “just before you go, Take A Piece Of My Heart.”  Michael’s at it again on the bristling boogie of the title cut, which also has Chuck on harp and vocals, for the jumpin’, call-and-response of “must’ve been Something I’ve Done.”  The set closes with Donnie showing off his considerable harp chops, on the instrumental boogie of “Evelyn.”

Our favorite was easy.  This band has long been noted for their way around some jump-blues  that often incorporates a touch of humor, and the tale of a man “waitin’ on Mailbox Money so I can spread it around” fits the bill perfectly!

Downchild and Donnie Walsh are bent on keeping that jump-blues tradition moving forward, as they have done for close to fifty years.  Get yer dancin’ shoes spit-shined for “Something I’ve Done,” and, Donnie….we love you, man—thanks for a lifetime of great blues!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Davide Pannozzo review…November 16, 2017….

DAVIDE PANNOZZO

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

SIX WIRES–LIVING, LOVING, AND GIVING–I HEARD YOU–BRING ME TO THE LIGHT–ONE AND ONLY–CHASING ILLUSIONS–WAH WAH–THE PUREST THING–STRATUS–LORD KNOWS WHAT’S IN MY HEART

Davide Pannozzo is one of the most exciting members of the younger generation of blues guitarists.  He recently made it to the semi-finals of the IBC’s, and he has headlined shows  all over the world, from the USA, UK, Italy, and all points in between.  He sent, unsolicited, the material that would ultimately become his latest album,  to drummer Steve Jordan.  Steve was highly impressed, and, along with Will Lee, started to work on the eight originals and two covers that comprise “Unconditional Love.”

Davide’s influences include most all the greats in blues, rock, and jazz, but he is his own man, and a true bluesman for the 21st Century.  He also believes that each individual can offer a viable solution in making the world a better place, and draws on these beliefs throughout this album.

A fine bit of funk starts things off,  as Davide sings of using music to help lighten one’s load in life, “Six Wires.”  “I Heard You” deals with the positive changes one undergoes when true love comes along, while his dazzling slide work pushes “Bring Me To The Light.”

Some brilliant instrumentals close the set.  A cool cover of Billy Cobham’s “Stratus,” and Davide’s own “The Purest Thing,” and Lord Knows What’s In My Heart” shows how effortlessly he can move from  blues-oriented fare into more jazz-rooted territory.

We had two favorites, too.  A tune written by Davide and Federica Piacentini sounds as if it were borne in the heart of the Delta, with its Doomsday beat pounding over Davide’s vocal and guitar, as he recalls stern life lessons passed from his mother in “Chasing Illusions.”  And, a song that’s a good poultice for today’s troubled society is the  strong, positive message of “Living, Loving, And Giving–that’s all we need to change the world!”

Davide Pannozzo has crafted an excellent set full of strong lyrics and fiery, passionate playing.  “Unconditional Love” is a powerful set of contemporary blues bent on using music as a force of healing!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.