Archive for March, 2019

Katie Knipp review…March 31, 2019…..

KATIE KNIPP

TAKE IT WITH YOU

YA MAKE IT SO HARD TO SING THE BLUES–I DON’T SING FOR YOU–LETTERS–METRO IN PARIS–I WILL STICK AROUND–COME BACK–GET OUTTA MY DREAM–SANTA CRUZ BLUES–ANOTHER ROUND–LAST MAN OUT

One of Northern California’s finest blues-beltin’ mamas is Katie Knipp.  She possesses a huge Joplin-esque vocal style that easily gets down ‘n’ dirty with the blues, and just as easily goes into playful mode on more jazz-styled offerings.  If that ain’t enough, she plays slide guitar strong enough to make Son House get off that coolin’ board, and blues piano that’d make Pinetop smile.  She blows some mean harp, too, and is just one fine all-around artist.  You get a taste of everything she does on her latest set, entitled “Take It With You,” ten cuts of deep blues and good-time jazz-flavored offerings.

Up first, that dobro is on fire on the tale of a ten-year love affair with a man who, as she will eagerly tell everyone, “Ya Make It So Hard To Sing The Blues,” done over a foot-stomping, Delta-fied arrangement.  “Letters” is a somber look at the  challenges of life and knowing that there’s always that someone, and, even tho “we still need time,” in the end, “we belong together.”  A piano-based variation on that theme is the woman who declares that, no matter what, “I Will Stick Around.”  She busts out the harp on the Hooker-styled “endless boogie” of “Santa Cruz Blues,” and gets into some of that good ole ragtimey jazz with “Another Round,” featuring a cool, New Orleans-styled horn section.

Our favorite followed that jazzy theme.  Our girl goes into full-on cougar mode, as she does her best sultry, come-hither approach to a lover who, “by the end of the night, you’re gonna have to want to be mine,” jazzily punctuated by her piano and brush-stroked drums, entitled “Metro In Paris.”

Katie Knipp is a wife, a mother, and one helluva woman of the blues!  The Sacramento Area Musicians bestowed upon her the 2019 SAMMIE Award for Best Blues Artist, and it is no wonder, with a set as big, bold, and brassy as “Take It With You.”  Until net time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

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Tony Holiday’s Porch Sessions review…March 30, 2019….

TONY HOLIDAY

PORCH SESSIONS

VIZZTONE RECORDS  VT-THPS01

PICK-POCKET FINGERS–THEY CALL ME JOHN PRIMER–WOMAN NAMED TROUBLE–BECKY ANN–THAT’S ALRIGHT–THREE-WAY PARTY–SPECIAL FRIEND–HIP TO IT (FREIGHT TRAIN’S LAST RIDE)–BLUES HIT BIG TOWN–TELL ME BABY–GOIN TO COURT–COIN OPERATED WOMAN–THIS TIME I’M GONE FOR GOOD

Tony Holiday is a premier harp man and vocalist hailing from Memphis, TN.  He and his guitar-playing partner in crime, Landon Stone, recently embarked upon a unique project.  They traveled around the country, teaming up with some of the nation’s most renowned players, making 21st Century versions of field recordings, literally on the porches of these great legends.  Thus, the title of their latest set for Vizztone Records is “Porch Sessions,” and it is a tremendous undertaking with equally-impressive results!

James Harman leads off on vocals and harp, talkin’ ’bout that Bonifay Springs woman with “Pick-Pocket Fingers and a Buster Keaton smile,” featuring Kid Ramos on guitar.  They come back a bit later for one of our favorites, the hot-button boogie of “Goin’ To Court,” where that “prosecutin’ attorney gave me the third degree!”  John Primer lays down a Muddy groove on the loping, slide-fueled “Call Me John Primer,” this one with Bob Corritore on the harp.  John Nemeth gives an all-too-short reprise of a song from one of his earliest albums, Little Walter’s “Blues Hit Big Town, Tennessee here I come!”  Tony is on vocals on another of our favorites, this time the lovelorn tale of that “Three-Way Party–me, Jim Beam, and yo’ picture sittin’ on the table!”  Our final favorite was one helluva lot of fun.  The vibe is loose and informal with Aki Kumar on harp and vocal, along with harp from Charlie Musselwhite, and guitar from good friend Rockin’ Johnny Burgin for Jimmy Rogers’ iconic “That’s All Right!”

Tony Holiday’s “Porch Sessions” brings the field recording technique of Alan Lomax’ days squarely into today’s contemporary arena.  It brings together some of the best players in the world to likely pass around some of that good Jim Beam and make this a set that is a must-hear!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

 

Tony Lucca review…March 29, 2019….

TONY LUCCA

AIN’T NO STORM

EVERYTHING’S CHANGING–COME AROUND–ONE LESS YOU–FRAME BY FRAME–RESTLESS HEART–EMPTY HANDED BLUES–ROOM WITH A VIEW–OTHER SIDE OF THE CLOUDS–FRAME BY FRAME (RADIO EDIT)

New to Nashville,  singer/songwriter Tony Lucca makes a powerful statement within the roots/Americana genre’ with his latest set, “Ain’t No Storm,” tracked over in East Nashville at Cartoon Moon Studio, with Ken Coomer producing, while veteran players Michael Webb, Ted Pecchio, Joe Garcia, and even Patrick Sweany (on “Room With A View”) lent their support.

On the eight cuts herein, Tony writes for the Everyman in all of us looking for that special relationship, and the cuts deal with growing up, making mistakes, and learning from it all.  Give a listen to the leadoff “Everything’s Changing,” as our hero discovers the intricacies in not only his emotions but those of others during the process of growing up.  A one-time lover who now never seems to “Come Around” even tho Tony offers to start anew is another fine cut, while realizing that a relationship just isn’t gonna work makes it much easier to deal with “One Less You.”

We had two favorites, too.  A jangly, Byrds-ish tale of fickle lovers on both sides of the fence are each blessed/cursed with “a reckless mind and a Restless Heart!”  And, a film-noir-ish look at youthful, unrequited love with its seeds planted at the now-defunct neighborhood drive-in has Tony reliving the whole bittersweet affair “flashing before me, Frame By Frame.”  The song is reprised as a radio edit to close the set.

Tony Lucca found his move to our fair city to be a win-win situation, as he was met by the songwriting community here with open arms.  His “daily and diligently” writing regimen has certainly paid off, with the strong material in “Ain’t No Storm.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Bill Toms And Hard Rain review….March 28, 2019…..

BILL TOMS AND HARD RAIN

FEATURING THE SOULVILLE HORNS

LIVE

TERRAPLANE RECORDS

WORKIN’ (INTRO BY ROB O’FRIEL)–I GOT NO USE FOR WHAT YOU’RE SELLING ME–YOUR LOVE IS GOOD FOR MY SOUL–THE BALLAD OF JIMMY JONES–DARKEST SIDE OF TOWN–PAYING THESE DUES–NOTHING LIKE MY BABY–DEVIL’S TRAIN–I WON’T GO TO MEMPHIS NO MORE–INTO THE STORM–I AIN’T WORRIED–SOMEBODY HELP ME–I’M SAD NO MORE

Bill Toms has been payin’ his dues for some thirty years, ever since he broke into this bidness as guitarist for Pittsburgh’s Joe Grushecky And The Houserockers waaayyy back in 1987.  His last album, “Good For My Soul,” from 2017, established him and his band, Hard Rain, as major players on the Americana/roots scene.  During the recording process for that record, Bill knew, deep down, that this was a group that did its best work in a live setting.  The result is their latest for Terraplane Records, aptly-titled, “Live,” from Pittsburgh’s famed Club Cafe on May 5, 2018.

Bill and the band, along with the Soulville Horns, start things off with an ode to the blue-collar folks in SteelTown, where they’re “Workin’ every day, workin’ every night, I’m workin.  A lover offering nothing but lies is the backbone of the STAX-worthy soul of “I Got No Use For What You’re Selling Me,” while Bill calls out for a “Wilson Pickett and a Sam and Dave groove,” on a tune that could well serve as Bill’s biography, the funky-up-to-your-neck, “Paying These Dues!”  A song inspired by true events surrounding the death of a Pittsburgh bank robber from 1911 and those last five minutes of his ill-fated life play out in the somber “Ballad Of Jimmy Jones,” while the set closes with a song that sounds just like any given Sunday at Freedom Baptist down in Dickson, TN, where there’s “no more cryin’, no more tears, I’m Sad No More,” featuring Wil Kondrich on guitar on this beautiful, spiritually-uplifting finale!

Bill Toms and Hard Rain, along with the Soulville Horns, know how to move an audience thru their strong performances.  They are, indeed, a band that are at their best when they are “Live!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Kenny Smith review…March 27, 2019…

KENNY “BEEDY EYES” SMITH

DROP THE HAMMER

BIG EYE RECORDS  BER 005

HEAD POUNDER–HEY DADDY–DROP THE HAMMER–SCRATCHIN YOUR HEAD–WHAT IN THE WORLD–NO NEED BROTHA–PUPPET ON A STRING–KEEP ON PRETENDING–LIVING FAST–SECOND HAND WOMAN–ONE BIG FROWN–MOMENT OF SILENCE

Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith is a consummate drummer and vocalist who learned the blues from a seat that most of us can only imagine.  His dad was the legendary Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, and Kenny grew up in a home where Muddy was a frequent visitor.  Kenny also follows the mantra that the blues, much as everything else in life, was created to change, grow, and adapt to its surroundings.  Kenny and his All-Star band, The House Bumpers, pull all this together thru the use of contemporary sounds while staying firmly rooted in the blues of his father.  The set is entitled “Drop The Hammer,” and is one Pops would definitely be proud of!

Depression-era Delta blues crashes headlong into the 21st Century on the leadoff “Head Pounder,” with Billy Flynn on sitar and guitar, and Omar Coleman on the harp.  “What In The World” uses more contemporary sounds, including clavinet and organ, as well as guitars from Ari Seder and Buddy’s son, Greg Guy, to tell the sad tale of today’s society and its addiction to cell phones.  And, our hero is trying to dodge a cougar on the prowl on the biting commentary of “Puppet On A String,” featuring the mighty Sugar Blue on harp.

OK–full disclosure here.  We are as “old-school” as Kenny’s dad was, and we gravitated toward those cuts that had that “Chicago blues” feel, just like Muddy and Willie played back in the day.  As such, our favorites included “Hey Daddy,” with Kenny’s kids gettin’ in on the fun, his anthem of empowerment, “Keep On Pretending,” and the poignant instrumental, “Moment Of Silence,” that pays tribute not only to Pops, but to all those greats who ever played a note.

Kenny Smith has successfully combined the sounds of today with those played by his famous father, from the perspective that only Willie’s son could do.  He’s sho’ nuff gonna “Drop The Hammer” on contemporary blues!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Vegas Strip Kings review…March 25, 2019….

VEGAS STRIP KINGS

JACKPOT

SELECT-O-HITS DISTRIBUTION

ROTGUT RUN–IT AIN’T–JESUS ON THE DASH–LATELY–SCREECHING HALT–TAKE IT EASY–BACK TO YOU–V 8 FORD–HOLD ON–PAWNBROKER–LIFE OF ME–SAME THING–SHARP AS A RAZOR

Back in the day, the group known as Contino rocked out for the Blind Pig label.  They always had a unique sound and a rootsy style, forging an incorporation of rockabilly and zydeco influences, set against a predominantly-blues base.  Well, Contino is no mas, but the band has re-invigorated itself into The Vegas Strip Kings, with Al Ek on vocals, guitar, and harp, Billy Truitt on keys, squeezebox, and vocals, Rob Edwards on the doghouse bass, Justin Truitt on drums, and Jimmy Carpenter on sax.  They’ve just released their latest, “Jackpot,” a clever, butt-rockin mix of originals and covers, playing out like a roller-coaster on the downhill run–fast-paced, exhilarating, and a helluva lot of fun.

This varied and eclectic set is full of highlights.  Leading off, the fellows come bustin’ outta the gate just like Robert Mitchum goin’ down Thunder Road, lookin’ for that “moonshine man, makin’ a Rotgut Run!”  Billy’s piano work is an added attraction to the Fifties’-inspired authenticity of this one!  They all have a lot of fun with the traditional, stop-time blues of Big Boy Hogan and that ol’ “V-8 Ford,” while straight-ahead Chicago blues is the theme of the echo effects and rockin’ groove of “Take It Easy, baby,” serving as one of our three favorites.  Another was a good ol’ “tragedy song,” the Tex-Mex-flavored tale of a hard-working trucker who meets his Fate in a fiery crash, even with “Jesus On The Dashboard.”  Our final favorite closed the set.  In another fine example of this band’s versatility, they run Willie Dixon’s “Sharp As A Razor” straight down to 706 Union with some Sun-splashed rockabilly twang!

With the Vegas Strip Kings, you simply can’t help but have a good time!  On their latest set, blues fans are guaranteed to hit the “Jackpot!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Matt Andersen review…March 24, 2019

MATT ANDERSEN

HALFWAY HOME BY MORNING

TRUE NORTH RECORDS

WHAT WOULD YOUR MAMA SAY–FREE MAN–SOMETHING TO LOSE (FEAT. AMY HELM)–THE BED I MADE–GIVE ME SOME LIGHT–BETTER THAN YOU WANT–GASOLINE–OVER ME–HELP YOURS ELF–LONG RIDER–TAKE ME BACK–BEEN MY LAST–QUARTER ON THE GROUND (A SONG FOR UNCLE JOE)

Award-winning Canadian bluesman Matt Andersen chose wisely for his latest release for True North Records, “Halfway Home By Morning.”  He made the trek all the way to Music City to team up with our friend Steve Dawson, who produced this gem down at the Southern Ground Studio.  Steve captured Matt at his soul-baring, blues-rocking best over these thirteen originals.  Also on board for this musical journey were Steve Dawson on a myriad of instruments, Jim Hoke on sax, Amy Helm, The McCrary Sisters, and a host of more of the best players this town has to offer.

The set begins with Matt telling a tale of backslidin’ and doing things we know we ought not to, and The McCrary Sisters add a Sunday-morning spiritual fervor to “What Would Your Mama Say?”  A soulful slide-drenched ballad featuring Amy Helm on the duet vocals gives a STAX feel to the story of a man who’s “gonna love you like I’ve got Something To Lose.”  He brings that same fire and passion to an acoustic story of finding that one true love–“If you were my first love, you would have Been My Last,” with Steve on the pedal steel.

Our favorite was a biting, horn-fueled shout-out to society as a whole, and “how long can we last, fighting fire with Gasoline,?” and our seeming penchant for self-destruction.

That burnished, rough-hewn vocal delivery, plus his dazzling fretwork and uniquely-clever lyrics is what makes Matt Andersen such a force on the contemporary scene on both sides of the border,  “Halfway Home By Morning” takes you to that place where the lights are always on and the door is always open whenever you need a good friend!  Be sure to check him out in a love setting on Tuesday, June 4, 2019, at Nashville’s City Winery!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.