Archive for May, 2018

The County Well review…May 24, 2018….

THE COUNTY WELL

FUTURE COUNTRY

FLOATING RECORDS

WHISKEY BEFORE NOON–MEZZANINE–MRS. SOUL–BABY–SHIP YOU CAN’T STEER–LIGHT–ALABAMA–EXTRA HEAVY–EMPTY HALL–HOLLYWOOD–SUBTLE AND SERENE

The County Well is the collaborative artistic effort of some of the best musicians and composers associated with the Marin County and Northern California region.  For their album, “Future Country,” co-producer and guitarist Don Zimmer stated that the goal of the album was to connect both local and traveling musicians in the studio, creating a loose, jam-friendly atmosphere that carried over into the songs.  Graham Guest, of Houston band Moses Guest, collaborated with Zimmer on all the songwriting, and the cuts are as varied, (and as much fun!) as the myriad of players that appear here.

Leading off, we have Michael Blumenstein on vocals and guitar on a Zimmer-penned cut, pondering the musical question, is “Whiskey Before Noon” a good idea?  It’s punctuated by fiddle and backing vocals from Alyssa Joy Claffey.  “Mrs. Soul” features Don and Graham on guitars, with Graham’s soulful vocals and flute from Eric Yates giving this one a good ole Dead vibe.  Our favorite, “Empty Hall,” recounts the tale of a young mother in Oregon, with her son lamenting that, from her, he learned “nothin’, ‘cept nothin’ at all,” with pedal steel from Joel Jaffee.

The premise behind “Future Country” was, first of all, to have some fun experimenting with different sounds and textures. and, in the spirit of The County Well, the artists involved wanted to grow and cultivate the talents of the varied musicians working with the project.  As for the material itself, the band members said it best–it’s subtle and serene, and whatever lies between!  Until next time..Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Markey Blue Ric Latina Project review…May 23, 2018….

MARKEY BLUE RIC LATINA PROJECT

RAISED IN MUDDY WATER

ELLERSOUL RECORDS  ER 1803-031

RAISED IN MUDDY WATER–CORRINA SHINE (TAJ MAHAL TRIBUTE)–A LITTLE MORE I DIE (ODE TO JOHN PRINE)–RED ROOM (RONNIE OWENS ON HARP)–MISSISSIPPI SOUL–WALKING OVER THIS LINE–I LIKE IT LIKE THIS (GUEST: EDDY “THE CHIEF” CLEARWATER)–TEARS ALL OVER THE WORLD–WHEN I CLOSE MY EYES–COME AND GO (DELBERT TRIBUTE)–DROWNING IN HIS OCEAN (LIVE)

It has been our pleasure to know both Markey Blue and Ric Latina for several years, and they can always be counted upon to deliver some of the most passionate and exciting sounds in all of contemporary blues.  Their latest set, this one for EllerSoul Records, continues that tradition with the release of “Raised In Muddy Water,” eleven originals that combine elements of the Delta with uptown soul, fueled by the playful, sultry and soulful vocals from Markey, and Ric’s dazzling guitar work.

That Delta influence kicks things off, as Markey pays a sweet tribute to the original “rollin’ stone,” proclaiming that, “after the rain, things would never be the same,” as she was sho’ nuff “Raised In Muddy Water” upon hearing those blues!  A bit later, she re-affirms the fact that this sweet blues lady has “Mississippi water goin’ thru my veins,” with a stone “Mississippi Soul.”  A brilliant slow-blues about a love affair that has fallen prey to constant lying and cheating finds our heroine “Walking Over This Line” on her way out the door, while “Come And Go” features the horn section and Ric’s slide guitar on a smokin’ tribute to ol’ Delbert.

We had two favorites, too.  Closing the set is a rollicking live cut, an ode to that “special one,” the “Cecil to my de Mille,” “Drowning In His Ocean.”  And, on another playful note, Markey joins forces with duet partner and Blues Hall Of Famer Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater, as both singers tell exactly what they enjoy in a relationship with “I Like It Like This.”  Another special treat occurs mid-song, as Ric and Eddy get in a cool call-and-response guitar “duel!”

The Markey Blue Ric Latina Project has hit on a winning formula with their recurring trend of great material, powerful vocals, and stellar guitar work, and they just keep on gettin’ better with “Raised In Muddy Water!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

The Lucky Losers review…May, 22, 2018…

THE LUCKY LOSERS

WITH CATHY LEMONS AND PHIL BERKOWITZ

DIRTY CAT RECORDS  DCR 1507

IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY–TAKE THE LONG ROAD–ALLIGATOR BAPTISM–THE RIVER–SUPERNATURAL BLUES–MAKE A RIGHT TURN–BULLDOGS AND ANGELS (BRING IT ON OUT)–LAST RIDE–DON’T TAKE TOO MUCH–LOVE IS BLIND–YOU LEFT IT BEHIND

One of San Francisco’s finest blues outfits is headed by two major vocal talents, Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz, and Phil doubles down as a harpblaster extraordinaire.  On their third set for Dirty Cat Records, The Lucky Losers, as they are affectionately known, once again ventured out to Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios to lay down “Blind Spot,” eleven cuts written as a team effort, either by Cathy, Phil, or Danny Caron, in whole or in part.

Over the course of this set, we are treated to blues, R & B, and a touch of jazz, as the duo takes a hard look into what society has become, realizing that a lot of it ain’t pretty, but their talents bring it all into sharp focus for the listener.  Cathy and Phil are tremendous duet partners, playing effortlessly off one another, and there are highlights galore on this album.

On one of the few cuts where Cathy goes it alone, she gets into a cool soul-diva groove over a funky, Hi Records-Memphis arrangement, reminding us that, in order to stay on one’s true path, sometimes you gotta skip the shortcuts and “Take The Long Road.”  This one also features Laura Chavez on guitar.  Kid Andersen is on guitar as both Cathy and Phil show how society’s grasp on human dignity is slowly “circling the drain” on the horn-fueled “Alligator Baptism.”  Laura’s back on guitar for the downright Santana-esque “Supernatural Blues,” and they strike a loping, Dr. John-styled groove fired up by piano from Chris Burns in “Bulldogs And Angels (Bring It On Out).”

We had two favorites, too, at polar opposite ends of the musical spectrum.  Amidst the sounds of gunfire, police sirens, news reports, and 45 blathering in the background, Cathy bemoans the “bullets on Highway 91” in Las Vegas and other references to the seemingly-endless barrage of bad news.  It’s called “Last Ride,” and it hits home—hard, and has Phil on the big ol’ chromatic.  The pair close the set on a playful note with “You Left It Behind.”  It’s a humorous, almost Sonny and Cher-like look at the pitfalls, pratfalls and backslidin’ of two musicians obviously in love with each other!

The Lucky Losers have traveled all over this country to bring their music to the masses, and, virtually everywhere they go, there is a feeling of desperation from the fallout of the daily news.  They offer us “Blind Spot” as a poultice, and it’s a sweet ride down the blues highway!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Kathy And The Kilowatts review…May 19, 2018….

KATHY AND THE KILOWATTS

PREMONITION OF LOVE

NOLA BLUE RECORDS  NB 005

FIRST DO NO HARM–PREMONITION OF LOVE–BEGGARS CAN’T BE CHOOSERS–ALWAYS FOOLING ME–GROW SOME–BLACK NIGHTS–WHAT HAVE I DONE WRONG–FINAL VERDICT–SUGAR BEE–ANSWER YES–ALL THESE QUESTIONS–I GOT THIS–THE BIGGER PICTURE

Texan blues queen Kathy (Murray) and her band, The Kilowatts, continue to serve up blues just the way they learned ’em.  There are influences from just about anyone that has ever played Austin, Antone’s,The Armadillo World Headquarters, or any other Texas landmark.  Heck–Kathy, as a youngster, shared the stage with the likes of The T-Birds, SRV, and W. C. Clark.  With such a background, it’s no wonder her latest album, and first for Nola Blue Records, “Premonition Of Love,” is such a winner!  Her husband, Bill “Monster” Jones, is on guitar throughout, and she has plenty of special guests along for the ride.

Fans, Kathy has a voice that positively DRIPS with honey-coated sex appeal throughout this set, and, as a great man once said, “the girl can’t help it!”  Check out the leadoff cut–Bill’s stinging leads and a funky backbeat drive Kathy’s tip of the ol’ chapeau to Hippocrates, sending vibes of love with “First Do No Harm.”  She lets her hair and her guard down on the title cut, with the statement that, “the moment I saw you, I pictured myself in your arms,” a sultry “Premonition Of Love.”  Labelmate Benny Turner is on bass on another smoldering cut, where “Beggars Can’t Be Choosers, so you can do what you choose with me!

Need a cold shower yet, guys?  There’s plenty more good stuff to come.  She pays a cool tribute to South Side legend Magic Sam Maghett with “What Have I Done Wrong.” with killer leads from Bill, who picks up the squeeze box for a playful, Cajun-flavored, “Sugar Bee.”  Kathy asks another lover a series of questions with only one good response, the Diddley-beat of “Answer Yes,” and she closes the set with a pina-colada-flavored reminder to always keep your eyes on the prize, and on “The Bigger Picture.”

We had two favorites, too.  Bill’s guitar and Floyd Domino’s piano recall the halcyon days of Chuck and Left-Hand Johnnie with “All These Questions.” And, the iconic “Black Nights” is presented here in a horn-fueled slow-blues grind, as Kathy bemoans the fact that “you must have someone new.”

Thru the music in “Premonition Of Love,” Kathy And The Kilowatts ask us all to open up our hearts and give love a try, for a society that is in dire need of some healing vibes!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

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Keats review…May 18, 2018….

KEATS

RADIO SOUNDS

RADIO SOUNDS–LOVE AND AFFECTION–SOMETHING CHANGED–CLEANING WINDOWS–EAST NASHVILLE FIREFLIES–THE GETAWAY–THE ONLY WAY I KNOW HOW–TO BE HAPPY–RAINING IN NEW ORLEANS–UNA CERVEZA–THE DREAM

(Tony) Keats has been on a musical journey for most of his life, whether it be as a sideman, or hustling gigs and waiting tables to keep his dreams moving forward.  Now a Nashville resident, his latest release, “Radio Sounds,” is quite the lyrical ride, with ten original cuts and one sweet cover, that shows how Keats’ life has changed thru his music.

Every journey has a definitive beginning and end, and on this set, Keats allows us to follow him as he explores the twists, turns, and changes that crop up along the road of life.  For Keats, tho, he encourages us to explore, embrace, and empower ourselves throughout these adventures.  Laid down at Nashville’s Howard’s Apartment Studios, with Keats and Dave Coleman producing, Keats is on vocals and guitar throughout.

Leading off is the plaintive, “Running On Empty”-ish title cut, where it’s painfully obvious that we’re all getting longer in the tooth, and we’ve all paid some dues, hopefully gaining a measure of maturity along the way.  “Something Changed” is a cool love song that finds our hero seemingly doomed as far as love goes, until “I know that love can find you.”  “To Be Happy” is done in a vintage fashion, a sweet trip back to the sounds of the Fifties, while Keats gets in a Hi Records-Memphis groove for the walking strut of “Love And Affection–and you!”  This one has a souled-out horn section and Don Eanes on organ, hearkening back to the glory days of Rev. Charles Hodges.

Our favorite, “The Dream,”  closed the set.  In a well-said finish, Tony Keats reminds us of one of life’s most important aspects–“If you can’t dream, there’s no point in doing anything at all.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Kris Lager Band review…May 17, 2018….

KRIS LAGER BAND

LOVE SONGS AND LIFE LINES

AURORA BOREALIS–THE HEART WANTS WHAT THE HEART WANTS–SWEET MAGNOLIA–I WANNA HOLD YOU IN MY ARMS–SAN FRANCISCO BOUND–YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU–PICKIN’ UP THE PIECES–YOU AND I–WHERE THE GREEN GRASS GROWS TALL–GUIDING LIGHT–I’M STILL HERE AND I AIN’T LETTING GO–I’LL BE THINKING OF YOU–THAT’S WHAT LOVE IS–JOURNEY’S SONATA

The Kris Lager Band has been touring all over the country for the last fifteen years or so, literally since Kris was sixteen years old!  Along his journey up and down the blues highway, he’s reaped some gains and suffered some losses, as have we all, but the music is his calling, and he feels it his duty to spread a message of love everywhere he goes.  His latest album is a reflection of that, full of good times, hard times, scars, and healing, and is entitled, “Love Songs And Life Lines.”  All fourteen cuts are originals, and all celebrate the joys and pain of love and being loved.  The material is soulful and from-the-heart, with a taste of jam-friendly vibes throughout.

The set opens and closes with the traveling troubadour, gypsy soul of two instrumentals, “Aurora Borealis,” and the excellent but oh-so-short “Journey’s Sonata.”  A song about finding that one true love that “opens up your heart” is “The Heart Wants What The Heart Wants,” set over an almost reggae-like groove, with Kris’ slide guitar leading the charge.  You can tell this young man has some Dead in his DNA, as evidenced by his jammin’ ode to not only a rebirth from the ravages of winter when spring comes, but a re-awakening of the spirit as well, “Sweet Magnolia.”  Speaking of the Dead, Kris takes us all on a top-down trip along the Pacific Coast Highway, for the funky groove of “San Francisco Bound,” where “I never felt so free!”

Kris has a deeply-personal side, too.  “I Wanna Hold You In My Arms,” “You Know I Love You,” and “You are my Guiding Light,” all with Lefever’s sax blowing hard and strong throughout, are odes to love and his family, and they all have a good ‘ol Van Morrison soul groove goin’ on.

A song that fairly well sums up Kris’ look at life and music serves as our favorite.  “I’m Still Here And I Ain’t Letting Go” shouts-out to his late father, and the thrill he gets by “taking refuge in the notes.”

The Kris Lager Band happily and proudly celebrates life thru music, and the unbridled pursuit of one’s dreams.  Get on this peace train and enjoy “Love Songs And Life Lines!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Blind Lemon Pledge review…May 16, 2018….

BLIND LEMON PLEDGE

EVANGELINE

OFEH RECORDS

BULEY’S FARM–JENNIE BELL–BRIMSTONE JOE–MIDNIGHT ASSIGNATION–GO JUMP THE WILLIE–THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE–HAM AND EGGS–HOW CAN I STILL LOVE YOU–YOU HAD ME AT GOODBYE–EVANGELINE

Blind Lemon Pledge is the alter-ego of James Byfield, who took this nickname from one of his blues heroes, Blind Lemon Jefferson.  His latest set is ten original cuts of blues, roots, and a touch of jazz, in which each and every cut is totally different.  The title is “Evangeline,” and it just keeps on gettin’ better when you realize that Blind Lemon Pledge plays all the instruments and handles all the vocals!

Blind Lemon Pledge, as did many of us, found his musical calling at a young age, and it didn’t hurt that he grew up in the San Fran Bay Area, and soon became a part of that vibrant scene.  Finding more intrigue with the blues of the pre-WWII Delta masters, (thus his nickname’s sake!), but listened to just about anything played on the radio.  As such, these ten cuts could each, individually, stand on their own merits.  Now it’s time for us to shut up, and get on with the gettin’ on….

Remember the chilling opening to the Coen Brothers,’ “O Brother,” with the chain-gang rendition of “Po’ Lazarus?”  Well, Blind Lemon does ’em one better—he backs himself on cigar-box guitar, and layers the backing chorus, proclaiming, “I ain’t stayin’ down on Buley’s Farm” no more!  Next up is a more traditional folk song, our hero “catchin’ that 6:03 to New Orleans,” to make his mark in the music world, while his lover, “Jennie Lee” is the one he leaves behind.  And, if you need a fix to get yo’ kicks down on Canal Street, just listen for that “cat blowin’ blues,” ol’ “Mr. Hi De Ho, Brimstone Joe!”  Linguistic drawbacks might keep our hero from gettin’ it on with a pretty senorita, until he begins speaking that universal “Language Of Love!  Blind Lemon uses a Latin, merengue’ flavored arrangement here, too, for authenticity.  “Ham And Eggs and a flapjack stack” strikes a jazzy groove, and ol’ Blind Lemon brings the whole thing full-circle as he returns to the Delta to close the set, with the haunting tale of lost love, the title cut, “Evangeline.”

Speaking of a haunting tale, our favorite takes place at a very familiar address.  Down we go to where “the 61 ‘cross the 49,” and everybody knows the deal that went down there.  Blind Lemon uses rapid-fire slide leads (kinda like Duane’s in “One Way Out”), to proclaim that “the Devil is my only friend,” thanks to that fateful “Midnight Assignation.”

If you are a friend or a follower of James Byfield on Facebook, you already know he is as unique an individual as he is an artist.  Grab your porkpie hat or your red fedora with the skinny black tie, and let’s all go down to the Crossroads and help Blind Lemon Pledge find the elusive “Evangeline!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.