Archive for February, 2018

The Reverend Shawn Amos review…February 14, 2018…..

THE REVEREND SHAWN AMOS

BREAKS IT DOWN

PUT TOGETHER MUSIC  PTM  00007

MOVED–2017–HOLD HANDS==THE JEAN GENIE–UNCLE TOM’S PRAYER–DOES MY LIFE MATTER–(WE’VE GOT TO) COME TOGETHER–AIN’T GONNA NAME NAMES–(WHAT’S SO FUNNY ‘BOUT) PEACE LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING

For the uninitiated, Rev. Shawn Amos is indeed an ordained minister, within the Universal Life Church.  He is the son of Wally Amos, founder of the “Famous Amos” chocolate chip cookie franchise.  And, as Los Angeles’ “soul brother Number One,” he is an outstanding singer, composer, and harp man, who may remind some folks of another “famous Amos”—Blakemore, better-known to millions as Junior Wells.

Rev. Shawn’s latest album finds him preachin’ the blues to a society in a world of hurt, while simultaneously dealing with some of his own personal demons.  The set starts with the haunting, sparsely-arranged, “Moved,” featuring Chris “Doctor” Roberts on guitar and Rev. on the harp.  It deals with those personal struggles, and “all those burdens pilin’ up on me.”  “2017” recalls the halcyon heyday of the Staples Singers, urging us to “open up our hearts and brains,” to put hate aside for the sake of our children, and follows it with “why can’t we all Hold Hands.”

The Rev. offers up a stripped-down version of Bowie’s “Jean Genie” and the uptempo love story, “Ain’t Gonna Name Names,” as a change of pace, to prepare us for what’s to come.  The three cuts that comprise the “Freedom Suite” are the Rock on which this set stands.  Rev. Shawn sings the Civil Rights anthem, “Uncle Tom’s Prayer,” championed by Cordell Hull Reagon, asking for Divine intervention to fight segregation. Next is the haunting original, “Does My Life Matter, or does it matter less,” with “three small children waitin’ at home.”  Finishing out this trinity is (We’ve Got To) Come Together,” drawing from Dr. King’s words that “hate’s too big a burden to bear!”  He closes the set by taking us all to church, with a spiritually-themed  version of Nick Lowe’s (What’s So Funny) About Peace, Love, And Understanding).”

Is all hope lost?  We don’t think so, as long as there lives a voice such as the Rev. Shawn Amos to “Break It Down” and keep us all on a positive course!  Love you, Rev., and thanks for this uplifting offering!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

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Oscar Wilson review…February 12, 2018…

OSCAR WILSON

ONE ROOM COUNTRY BLUES

AIRWAY RECORDS

WHEN I WAS YOUNG–LOST MIND–FOUND LOVE–BLACKJACK–RECONSIDER BABY–TEXAS TURNAROUND–THE RIVER[‘S INVITATION–I’M LOST WITHOUT YOU–FURTHER UP THE ROAD–YOUR LETTER–EVERY DAY I HAVE THE BLUES–ONE ROOM COUNTRY SHACK–HAPPY REUNION

Many fans will readily recognize that bold baritone from Oscar Wilson as the voice of The Cash Box Kings.  He’s sho’ nuff one of Chicago’s “OG’s,” growing up on 43rd Street, right in the heart of the Windy City.  For a hot minute,  he’s stepped away from the Kings to release a great solo project entitled, “One Room Country Blues” for Airway Records.  These eleven cuts, (plus two sweet band instrumentals), showcase a side of Oscar that is more jazz-oriented, with a groove more like Brother Ray or Bobby Bland, and it makes for quite a unique listen, indeed.

Joining Oscar is guitarist Joel Patterson, who you will also recognize as one of the Cash Box Kings,.  Sam Burckhardt is on tenor sax, Beau Sample is on bass, Pat Benson is on keys, and Alex Hall on drums.  They start things off with the rhumba-rockin jump of “When I Was Young,” and they keep that groove going with an unusual, funk-filled arrangement of Brother Ray’s iconic “Blackjack.”  Oscar gets into a sweet jazzy mode on the stop-time “Lost Mind,” and stays in it for a tale of love gone bad, “Your Letter,” with fine keys from Pete.

Oscar and the fellows really shine on some of the more well-known cuts, too.  “Reconsider Baby” is presented here with an uptown swing, as does “Every Day I Have The Blues.”  Nothing, however, was as well done as our favorite, the album’s title cut.  Joel’s slide and Oscar’s vocal give that serious country-blues edge to “One Room Country Shack,” and “my old, ‘leven foot cotton sack!”

The purpose of “One Room Country Blues” was to have something to sell off the bandstand during their appearance at the 2017 Basel Blues Festival in Switzerland.  It ended up, tho, as a brilliant vehicle for Oscar Wilson and some of the best sidemen on the planet to bring out Oscar’s ease at switching from blues to soul to jazz.  More, please!!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Jane Lee Hooker review…February 11, 2018….

JANE LEE HOOKER

SPIRITUS

RUF RECORDS 1245

HOW YA DOIN–GIMME THAT–MAMA SAID–BE MY BABY–LATER ON–BLACK RAT–ENDS MEET–HOW BRIGHT THE MOON–TURN ON YOUR LOVE LIGHT–THE BREEZE

The blues and rock landscape has been peppered with them throughout the decades—big-voiced women such as Joplin, Suzi Quatro, Ann Wilson, Janiva Magness, and countless others who have all had not only tremendous musical abilities, but that intangible “it” that sets them apart from everybody else.  Maybe it’s a certain swagger, or just that “take no prisoners and don’t take no mess” attitude that gives their music that extra edge.  Enter Jane Lee Hooker, a dazzling all-girl quintet from Ruf Records who have just released their latest set, “Spiritus.”  It follows their highly-acclaimed 2017 debut, “No B!,” with that same spit-in-your-eye , high-voltage blues-rock that has wowed the crowds at festivals all over the globe.  Dana “Danger” Athens still brings the heat  on the vocals, and there are songs about love, good times, and, most importantly, empowerment.

A butt-rockin’ shout-out to one of the most famous blues clubs in the Midwest, Knucklehead’s, in Kansas City, is the theme of the leadoff “How Ya Doin?”, while “Mama Said” is one of those anthems of empowerment, as Mama passes on sage advice, such as don’t “fall in line,” but “forge your own way.”  “How Bright The Moon” features Dana on piano and is a strong ode to true love, and how it changes your perception on everything.

We had two favorites, too.  “Gimme That” is a struttin’ tale of jealousy, with “eyes as green as envy itself,” and a Stones-y swagger throughout.  And, a song we first heard several years ago from Koko Taylor is rocked-up in double-time, as a cheatin’ lover gets a “shoe right near your shirttail, ’cause you is one Black Rat!”

Jane Lee Hooker and “Spiritus” hit you hard, fast, and often with a non-stop blitzkreig of blues-rock that fuses the traditional with with a hard-nosed nod to today’s contemporary sounds!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

A J Ghent review…February 10, 2018…

A J GHENT

THE NEO BLUES PROJECT

ROPEDOPE RECORDS

DO THE RUMP!–WASH YA HAIR–POWER–MERCY–LONG LOST FRIEND–GONNA ROCK

AJ Ghent (pronounce it “J-ent”)  is a member of blues royalty. His uncle, Willie Eason, and his grandfather, Henry Nelson, were virtually the creators of the “sacred steel” tradition and guitar styles, implemented today by players such as the Campbell Brothers, Sam Butler, Robert Randolph Family Band, and many others.  An expressive, powerful vocalist, AJ is a wizard on all things guitar, especially his Jackson Steel Slide King. or his custom 33:3 8-string.  All his myriad of sounds are on display on his latest outing, “The Neo Blues Project,” a six-cut EP on Ropedope Records.

The set starts with the lusty romp made famous by Junior Kimbrough, “Do The Rump! ’til the broad daylight!”  This one has AJ on both slide and pedal steel guitars.  “Wash Ya Hair” is a fine taste of contemporary funk that preaches lettin’ your light shine for everyone.  “Mercy” finds our hero asking an indifferent lover for “just a little bit of Mercy on my soul.”  This one is done in the vein of the soul classics, with backing vocals from MarLa and Tiffany Ghent.  He closes the set on a fervent, uptempo note, with “Gonna Rock,” finding redemption in finally getting out of a soured love affair.  This one has elements of gospel and Sixties-era soul,  punctuated by a dazzling slide break st the bridge.

Our favorite was the highlight of the set.  “Power’ rides a killer riff over Doomsday  percussion, as AJ preaches ’bout “a revolution comin,’ to empower people to stand up against racial and social injustice and intolerance, no matter how tough times get.  This one will bring to mind the protest anthems of James Brown mixed with the passion, power, and emotion of Lenny Kravitz.

In his formative years, AJ spent some time playing with Col. Bruce Hampton, from whom he learned the importance of time, tone, and space, and those qualities resonate throughout the grooves of “The Neo Blues Project.”  It combines all his family influences from blues to gospel and everything in between, making for a unique and most excellent listen!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Tyler Morris Band review…February 9, 2018….

TYLER MORRIS BAND

NEXT IN LINE

VIZZTONE   VTTM-01

READY TO SHOVE–LIVIN’ THE LIFE–WILLIE THE WIMP–DOWN ON MY LUCK–CHOPPIN’–TALKIN’ TO ME–THUNDER–THIS AIN’T NO FUN–TRUTH IS THE QUESTION–KEEP ON DRIVING

Tyler Morris is one of those guitar players that the young’uns now refer to as “shredders,” playing at a professional level since the age of eleven(!).  Now a whopping 19 years old, he has just released his third album overall, “Next In Line,” for Vizztone Records.  His blues and rock influences are stamped all over this set, from B. B. to Benson to Bonamassa,  Jimi to Jimmie, to SRV.  Add in  powerhouse vocalist Morten Fredheim to breathe life into this material, and this is indeed a fun road trip down the blues-rock highway.

Leading off is the powerful “Ready To Shove,” and all us old-schoolers will pick up on the nod to Tom Scholz and Boston as the song climaxes.  “Livin’ The Life” is a monster anthem of empowerment, urging us all to follow our dreams and “stand your ground.”  Tyler gets his Hendrix groove on in the wah-wah workout that roars like “Thunder,” and closes with a jazz-rockin’ ode to perseverance, “Keep On Driving, ’tilI I get to you.”

We had two favorites, too.  A punchy horn section sweetens the pot for the B. B.-inspired uptown swing of the set’s lone instrumental, “Choppin.”  And, ol’ Joe Louis Walker drops by for vocals on the bouncin’ story popularized by SRV about “Willie The Wimp,” laid to rest in “his Cadillac coffin!”

The sky’s the limit for young Tyler Morris.  One of his heroes, Joe Bonamassa, is the reigning Guitar Player of the Year from the Blues Awards last May.  It won’t be long until Mr. Morris is “Next In Line.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Mick Kolassa review…February 7, 2018….

MICK KOLASSA

DOUBLE STANDARDS

SWING SUIT RECORDS

600 POUNDS OF HEAVENLY JOY WITH SUGARAY RAYFORD–I JUST WANT TO MAKE LOVE TO YOU WITH HEATHER CROSSE–IT’S TIGHT LIKE  THAT WITH VICTOR WAINWRIGHT–FEVER WITH ANNIKA CHAMBERS–NOBODY KNOWS YOU WHEN YOU’RE DOWN AND OUT WITH TAS CRU–ROCK ME BABY WITH TULLIE BRAE–KEY TO THE HIGHWAY WITH ERIC HUGHES–SPOONFUL WITH ERICA BROWN–IT HURTS ME TOO WITH PATTI PARKS–EARLY IN THE MORNING WITH DAVID DUNAVENT–DON’T YOU LIE TO ME (EVIL) WITH GRACIE CURRAN–OUTSIDE WOMAN BLUES WITH JEFF JENSEN–AIN’T NOBODY’S BUSINESS WITH THE ENTIRE ENSEMBLE

Over the last few years, bluesman Mick Kolassa has become one of our favorite performers.  Never afraid to express what’s on his mind, that attitude carries over into his music, and it always leads to some fresh, old-school, down-home blues.  For his latest project, he enlisted the services of a dozen of his contemporaries for an album of duets, quite aptly-titled, “Double Standards,” for the Swing Suit  label.   Mick has taken some of the best-known songs in the blues canon and paired them with duet partners who give each song its own unique style.

The core band finds Mick on vocals and guitar (on three cuts), Jeff Jensen on guitar, Bill Ruffino on bass, Eric Hughes on the harp, and James Cunningham on drums.  The party starts with “Hoy hoy, we’re the boys,” the “600 Pounds Of Heavenly Joy,” featuring Mick and Sugaray Rayford.  Heather Crosse’s vocal belies her youth on “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” while Gracie Curran and Mick turn “Don’t You Lie To Me” into an all-out funkfest.  Victor Wainwright has a lot of fun with the countrified blues of the hilarious “Tight Like That,” while Mick and Tas Cru, with Alice Hasan on fiddle, tell the sad tale many of us already know–“Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out.”  Everybody gets into the act on the seven-minute slow blues closer,  “Ain’t Nobody’s Business if I do!”

Every cut is a winner, but our favorite featured Mick and harpman Eric Hughes on Big Bill Broonzy’s “Key To The Highway.”  In fact, in the liner notes,  Mick praises the songwriters of these classics, most notably Willie Dixon and Tampa Red (Hudson Whittaker), accounting for six of the thirteen cuts.

Mick Kolassa continues to be a major player on today’s scene.  Factor in the talents of his duet partners,  and “Double Standards” becomes a whole lot of fun!

Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Muddy Gurdy review…February 5,2018…..

MUDDY GURDY

VIZZTONE VT HW 001

TIA IN THE ROCKING CHAIR–GOIN’ DOWN SOUTH–THAT GIRL IS BAD–SEE MY JUMPER HANGING ON THE LINE–STATION BLUES–SHAWTY BLUES–GLORY GLORY HALLELUJAH–LEAVE HER ALONE–GONNA LOVE YOU–DREAM–SHE WOLF–SHAKE EM ON DOWN–HELP THE POOR–HIGHWAY 61

Three French musicians–Tia Gouttebel on vocals and guitar, Marc Glomeau on percussion, and Gilles Chabenet on the hudy gurdy (a traditional French instrument)–had a unique vision to combine the sounds of French music with the thumping drone of the music of the North Mississippi Hill Country.  And what better way to pull that off than to spend some time in that region and immerse yourself in the music, played by some of the descendants of the Hill Country legends.  After a year of preparation, the trio made it to Mississippi, in blues hotbeds such as Leland, Como, and B. B.’s birthplace, Indianola.  The resulting recording is titled “Muddy Gurdy,” and shows how the blues has become a world-wide genre.’  Along for this joyous ride, we have Cedric Burnside, Sharde’ Thomas, Cameron Kimbrough, and Pat Thomas, adding to the air of authenticity due to their heralded lineage.

We were wholly unfamiliar with the hurdy-gurdy, but, in the skilled hands of Gilles, it sounds like a fusion of an accordion and a fiddle.  Within the context of this material, it acts as a second guitar.  The set opens with Cedric Burnside on guitar with a tune written by R. L. Burnside, “Goin’ Down South, where the chilly wind don’t blow.”  He continues with a contemporary shout-out to his late brother with  the good-time rap of “That Girl Is Bad.”

Sharde’ Thomas brings her fife to the party with a nod to grandfather Otha Turner  in “Station Blues,” a minor-key, dirge-like re-working of “Sittin’ On Top Of The World.” She becomes that “young woman chasin’ that big dream” on “Shawty Blues,” and closes her set with a traditional gospel read of “Glory Glory Hallelujah,” with Gilles’ hurdy-gurdy the perfect foil for her fife.  Cameron Kimbrough captures the energy and power of this music with the grungy  “Gonna Love You,” as does Pat Thomas with our favorite.  The set closes amid traffic noise in the background as Thomas’ eerie vocal takes you right down to the source of the mystery and myths of this region with his version of the crossroads tale, “Highway 61.”

With the addition of the French trio to the music of North Mississippi, “Muddy Gurdy” truly becomes a global affair.  It further proves that two societies, as far apart in miles as they are in culture, can find common ground through the power of the blues!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.