Archive for February, 2019

Mark Feldman’s LEVEL5 review…February 18, 2019…

MARK FELDMAN’S LEVEL5

THE SYBIL EP

MUTANT CAT RECORDS

SYBIL–SWAGGER–JABBER JAW

Mark Feldman’s LEVEL5 is an evolving, All-Star collaborative of some of New York’s top-echelon musicians.  For “The Sybil EP,” on Mutant Cat Records, the lineup features Oz Noy on guitars, Will Lee on bass, Adam Klipple on keys, and Feldman on drums.  Oz wrote the three instrumentals that make up the set, and Mark named them, based on the vibe he got after listening to each one.  For instance, the title cut, “Sybil,” alternates back and forth between a Herbie Hancock-ish jazz groove and a blastin’, thrash-metal break before settling down at the bridge.  “Swagger” is just that—it has a guitar-driven strut that brings to mind models hittin’ the catwalk.  “Jabber Jaw” closes the proceedings, and, for me, anyways, it brought to mind the arguing couple played out in Albert Collins’ legendary “Conversation With Collins.”

Amazingly,  Mark Feldman used these songs as therapy (something many of us do!) to aid in letting go of his past.  He also, as are we, is a huge fan of the classic instrumental sets from Jeff Beck, “Wired,” and “Blow By Blow,” and the way the songs were geared for the rock-fusion of guitar, bass, keys, and drums.  Thus, he surrounded himself with some of the world’s best musicians to pull it all together.  Hopefully, “The Sybil EP” is the beginning of more stellar releases!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Big Joe And The Dynaflows review…February 17, 2019….

BIG JOE AND THE DYNAFLOWS

ROCKHOUSE PARTY

SEVERN RECORDS  0074

DRIVING WHEEL–SO MEAN TO ME–8 MEN 4 WOMEN–GO ON FOOL–WORLD GONE WRONG–IF YOU NEED SOME LOVIN–OVERDRIVE–TENNESSEE WOMAN–GO WITH THE FLOW–I’M A COUNTRY BOY–VIBRATE–SLEEPY JOE–TWO YEARS OF TORTURE

Big Joe Maher is one of the classic R & B/blues drummers and vocalists on the contemporary scene.  Steeped in truly “old-school” traditions, his latest album was recorded ’bout thirty miles from my house, at Kevin McKendree’s Rockhouse Studios in Franklin, TN.  That also serves as this album’s title, because it is sho’  nuff a “Rockhouse Party!”  Four of the cuts are Joe’s originals, and he writes them all in that vintage R & B groove.  Aside from Joe on drums and vocals, we have Kevin McKendree on keys, his 17-year old (!) son Yates on guitar, along with 16-year old female pheenom Erin Coburn and Robert Frahm on guitars as well.  Mookie Brill is on bass, and we’ve known him since his days with Bob Margolin back ’round 2003, and this set offers up his first recorded vocals!  All the players have that seasoned-veteran feel that Joe was looking for, and this whole thing is a hi-octane hoot!

Highlights are everywhere, beginning with Joe’s vocal on a trip down to that place where you “get your steak, potatoes, and tea,” Roosevelt Sykes’ iconic “Driving Wheel!”  Mookie’s first vocal is next, and it’s a good ‘un—an amped-up tale of “usin’ me ’til the real thing comes along,” Little Milton’s “So Mean To Me.”  He keeps that soulful groove going with one of our favorites, a plaintive read of Don Robey’s classic made famous by O. V. Wright,, where “8 Men, 4 Women found me guilty of loving you!”  He goes “uptown” with the swingin’ boogie of Fenton Robinson’s “Tennessee Woman,” with solid piano from Kevin.

One of Big Joe’s originals served as our other favorite.  It’s a killer shot of minor-key slow blues that deals with the anger and divisiveness in today’s society, leading to a “World Gone Wrong.”

Big Joe And The Dynaflows can always be counted upon for solid, highly-danceable R & B-flavored blues.  “Rockhouse Party” marks his return to Severn Records, and the musicianship from the veterans and the young ‘uns is exemplary.  Roll back the rug, put on your dancin’ shoes, and go with the flow!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Peter Rogan review….February 16, 2019….

PETER ROGAN

STILL TRYIN’ TO BELIEVE

MELT SHOP RECORDS

STILL TRYIN’ TO BELIEVE–THE ONLY ONE–KICKIN THE CAN–RIVER MAN–THE ROLLING MILL BLUES–MERCY–THE START OF SOMETHING EASY–SWEET BABY BLUES–BEAUTIFUL HONEY–BIG GREEN RAMBLER–SONG FOR KEITH–REPRISE

Peter Rogan sho’ nuff is a blue-collar blues man.  Clocking in at least five days a week as an electrician in a Pennsylvania steel mill  for the last eighteen years or so to feed his family, he always had a desire to follow his musical Muse.  He’s been a professional musician on the Philly scene for some thirty years, but only immersed himself into writing his own material over the last few years.  He worked for eighteen months on his debut release, with tracks laid down in Nashville, that resulted in “Still Tryin’ To Believe,” which hits the streets March 1.  It consists of twelve originals written in whole or in part by Peter, with a little help from friends such as Will Kimbrough and old friend Phil Madeira, who plays multiple instruments throughout the set.  Peter is on guitars and vocals throughout, with a cadre’ of seventeen backing musicians to round out this ensemble.

The set blends blues, Americana, a touch of country, and Peter’s love for Stones-inspired rock.  The title cut leads off, as our hero touches on his feelings of wanderlust, where, “to those who can dream, no place is far away!”  Baltimore siren Allison Dietz adds duet vocals on the set’s most country-themed song, “The Only One,” as Peter “flies too close to the sun” in lamenting his broken dreams, only to find redemption in the end.  A nod to his steel mill “hard hat and steel-toed shoes” churns with a Mississippi Hill Country fire as he tries to beat “The Rolling Mill Blues,” while “Sweet Baby Blues” has that “Exile-era” Stones feel, as our hero is mesmerized by the “bomb with the real long fuse” and those incredible eyes, with a downright psychedelic guitar solo at the break.

Two songs served as our favorites, each spiced with a touch of humor.  Peter channels more Jagger on the playfully-sexy “Big Green Rambler-I got plenty of room for you,” co-written by Phil.  Peter told us one cut was the most fun of all, and it served as our other favorite.  He gets his Philly rap on in a funky ode to procrastinators everywhere, with cars as the metaphorical subject of “Kickin The Can down the road,” where the signpost up ahead reads “deeper in debt, and a bleak existence!”

At the urging of Phil Madeira, Peter Rogan was encouraged to produce “Still Tryin’ To Believe” by himself.  It serves as a fine testimony to his perseverance, his faith in himself, and his willingness to pursue his dreams!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Katarina Pejak review…February 15, 2019….

KATARINA PEJAK

ROADS THAT CROSS

RUF RECORDS 1266

NATURE OF MY BLUES–SEX KILLS–COOL DRIFTER–MOONLIGHT RIDER–OLD PAIN–CHASING SUMMER–TURTLE BLUES–DOWN WITH ME–SHE’S CO,MING AFTER YOU–ROADS THAT CROSS–THE HARDER YOU KICK

Born in Belgrade, Katarina Pejak has traveled the world over during her musical career.  For her latest album, and debut for Ruf Records, Katarina journeyed to Marz Studios in Texas, for “Roads That Cross,” with the Hon. Mike Zito producing.  Theses eleven songs represent not only the many roads she has been down, but also the crossing of genres’ throughout the album.  Herein, Katarina taps into straight blues, torchy jazz, rock, and even country–simply wherever her Muse takes her.

Katarina is a skilled pianist and is on keys and vocals, with Laura Chavez on guitar, and Zito adds guitar and backing vocals on one cut.  The party starts on a James Bond-ish, Sixties-inspired groove, with our heroine layin’ down the law to a lover, and she “ain’t afraid to show the Nature Of My Blues,” with her funky Farfisa-ish organ driving the whole thing.  Laura gets in some solid, Jimmy Nolen-style “chicken scratchin” licks on the soulful, piano-driven “Cool Drifter,” while Katrina gets down ‘n’ dirty on the bump-and-grind tale of treatin’ a man “like I want to, never like I should,” the ultra-cool “Turtle Blues,” obviously one of our favorites!

We had three others, too.  Zito’s slide rides over the tale of “Moonlight Rider,” where our lovelorn girl begs him to “think of me when you’re alone.”  The title cut is another poignant song where, seemingly, “love always fades,” and “Roads That Cross have a way of parting, else they wouldn’t have crossed at all.”  And, Katarina sings over a cool Latin arrangement and plays the femme fatale to the hilt on the slyly-sexy “She’s Coming After You.”

Katarina Pejak, with “Roads That Cross,” grabs the listener by the soul and holds on.  You can feel her pain when she loses, and her joy when she wins, and this set is destined to put her in the blues fast lane!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Bloodest Saxophone review…February 13, 2019….

BLOODEST SAXOPHONE

TEXAS QUEENS 5

DIALTONE/VIZZTONE VT-DT0030

I’VE GOT A FEELING–I JUST WANT TO MAKE LOVE TO YOU–LOSING BATTLE–WALKING THE DOG–PORK CHOP CHICK–RUN JOE–IT’S YOUR VOODOO WORKING–DON’T MOVE ME–DON’T HIT ME NO MORE–I DONE DONE IT–THE GRAPE VINE–COCKROACH RUN

Formed in Tokyo, Bloodest Saxophone, behind their leader, “Young Corn” Shintaro, are bent on ruling the world with the saxophone!  They specialize in vintage swing and jump blues, and have played with Big Jay McNeely, as well as on many international stages.  Austin record guru and Dialtone label  chief Eddie Stout, had a unique vision of the young saxmen teaming up with five of Texas’ finest female vocalists.  As such, this set is entitled “Texas Queens 5,” for Dialtone/Vizztone.

The women, powerhouses all, are Diunna Greenleaf, Angela Miller, Lauren Cervantes, Jai Malano, and the one lone non-Texan, Shreveport’s Crystal Thomas.  The women have a lot of fun with this material, and the band drives everything home with their syncopatin’ rhythms and vast knowledge of how jump blues is supposed to sound!

Diunna Greenleaf starts the party with the bold and brassy “I’ve Got A Feelin,’ somebody’s tryin’ to steal my man,” while Jai Malano keeps that torchy vibe grooving with the rhumba-rockin’ “It’s Your Voodoo Workin,’ and I can’t get enough!”  The fellows bust out a couple of fine, jivin’ instrumentals, with “Pork Chop Chick,” and the set-closing “Cockroach Run,” before the ladies return for our favorites.  Crystal Thomas lends a soulful touch to the lovelorn tale of “Fighting a Losing Battle, but I have so much fun tryin’ to win.”  Lauren Cervantes rocks, rolls, and cajoles with a tune dedicated to the enjoyment of wine, “The Grape Vine,” and the band gets into some serious soloing behind Jai Malano and her take on Rufus’ iconic “Walkin’ The Dog.”

Kudos to Eddie Stout for taking an excellent, hard-hitting ensemble of jump and swing masters and pairing them with a full house of the cream of the Southwest’s blues-beltin’ mamas.  Boodest Saxophone and “Texas Queens 5” sho’ nuff jumps, jives, and wails!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Blue Muse review…February 11, 2019…..

VARIOUS ARTISTS

BLUE MUSE

MUSIC MAKER RELIEF FOUNDATION  MMCD 198

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE GROTTO SESSIONS-LA COLLEGIALE  SPIKE DRIVER BLUES–TAJ MAHAL  CAPTAIN LUKE–OLD BLACK BUCK  EDDIE TIGNER–ROUTE 66  I GOT THE BLUES–ALABAMA SLIM  ROBERT FINLEY–AGE DON’T MEAN A THING  POLLY PUT THE KETTLE ON–DOM FLEMONS  HAMBONE–JOHN DEE HOLEMAN  SNAP YOUR FINGERS–ALGIA MAE HINTON  I AM THE LIGHTNIN–WILLIE FARMER  D O C MAN–DAVE MCGREW  SWEET VALENTINE–MARTHA SPENCER AND KELLEY BREIDING  I WANNA BOOGIE–BOOT HANKS AND DOM FLEMONS  MISSISSIPPI BLUES–ERIC CLAPTON AND TIM DUFFY  LANDLORD BLUES–GUITAR GABRIEL  WIDOW WOMAN–DRINK SMALL  CABBAGE MAN–SAM FRAZIER JR.–SING IT LOUDER–CARY MORIN  LOOSE DIAMONDS–IRONING BOARD SAM  I KNOW I’VE BEEN CHANGED–THE BRANCHETTES  SOMETHING WITHIN ME–THEOTIS TAYLOR

The Music Maker Relief Foundation was formed in 1994 as a means to ensure that the heritage and music of the blues, gospel, and folk communities are passed along to future generations.  As such, it is both an honor and a privilege for us to review “Blue Muse,” a CD compilation of a robust twenty-one cuts that cover blues, folk, Americana, and gospel courtesy of a unique group of artists.

These artists come from ll walks of life, many with humble beginnings such as sharecroppers, would-be comedians, street performers, even a turpentine harvester!  And, there are also some of the most famous names in all the blues community herein, too.  But, they all have a sound and a feel for the deepest blues and the purest gospel, and share it freely on this set.

Highlights permeate this entire set.  Taj Mahal chimes in with the traditional sounds of “Spike Driver Blues,” where “this hammer shines like silver and rings like Klondike gold!”  The brilliantly-deep baritone of Captain Luke drives “Old Black Buck,” while Robert Finley channels his days as a street musician from Helena, AR,  into the deep-soul of “Age Don’t Mean A Thing,” with Jimbo Mathus on guitar.

It doesn’t get much deeper or primitive than John Dee Holeman, from Durham, NC, and his a capella, hand-clap-percussion-backed duet of “Hambone,” with Taj Mahal.  You can add Algia Mae Hinton to the cuts that embody raw, pure emotion, thru her original, made popular by Brook Benton, “Snap Your Fingers.”

We had two favorites, too.  Eric Clapton and Tim Duffy join forces for “Mississippi Blues,” an acoustic instrumental written by Willie Brown, while Eddie Tigner, former leader of The Ink Spots, is on vocal and piano on a “big band”-ish, Nat King Cole-inspired take on one of our all-time favorites, a swingin’  “Route 66,” with Paul Linden on harp.

The CD “Blue Muse” is intended to be the “soundtrack,” if you will, to the upcoming book, “Tim Duffy’s Southern Photographs,” featuring photos of many of these artists and the places they live and perform.  The music is strong, powerful, and emotion-packed, and a perfect complement to these iconic photos.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Steve Conn review…February 11, 2019…

STEVE CONN

FLESH AND BONE

NOT REALLY RECORDS   NRR 1922

FAMOUS–FLESH AND BONE–DOING THE BEST I CAN–YOU DON’T KNOW–ANNALEE–LET ME CRY–AROUND AND AROUND–SING ME TO THE OTHER SIDE–SATISFIED–FOREVER SEVENTEEN–GOOD TIMES ARE COMING–WITHOUT A TRACE

Many ascribe to the credo that God has a sense of humor, and music is His way of expressing it.  That makes Steve Conn one of His finest messengers.  We first heard of Steve several years back, with his “River Of Madness” album, and its nods to New Orleans and Fat Tuesday.  That theme runs thru his latest set, “Flesh And Bone,” twelve originals that show him as a master teller of tales.  With an inviting voice that begs you to come along for the ride and dance with the Zulu Queen, these songs celebrate good times, sorrow, hopes, dreams, and the relative fragility of life.

Steve is on vocals, keys, accordion, and alto sax, and is joined by a host of the best session players on the planet.  We got Joe V. McMahan and Sonny Landreth on guitars, Bryan Owings on percussion, Dave Francis on bass, and a slew of others. Steve rides that Mardi Gras groove on the leadoff cut, as our hero wants to smell the roses while he’s living, but has resigned himself to the fact that “I’ll be Famous when I’m dead!”  This one has Sonny Landreth on slide guitar, too.  The title cut has a jazzy feel, as Steve knows that,”sooner or later, we all gotta go home,” and “I’m just borrowing this Flesh And Bone.”  Sonny appears on slide and Steve is on accordion on a tongue-in-cheek look at the many varied world religions on “Around And Around,” while Steve details the story of a child who, despite various letdowns throughout his childhood, is always told “Good Times Are Coming,” whether true or not.

We had two favorites, too.  First love lost and the pain that goes with it is documented by a saved picture that shows her as “Forever Seventeen.”  The set closes with perhaps its most powerful piece, a somber look at taking one’s own life, where “no one noticed Jesse’s tears,” “Without A Trace.”

Steve Conn lives in Tennessee, with his head in Colorado, and a heart that belongs in New Orleans.  Enjoy the music of a true national treasure with “Flesh And Bone.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.