Archive for March, 2019

Atomic Radio Kings review…March 20, 2019….

ATOMIC ROAD KINGS

CLEAN UP THE BLOOD

BIGTONE RECORDS

I’VE GOT TIME–RUMORS–IN ARMS REACH–HAVE YOUR WAY–MY WAY BACK HOME–CLEAN UP THE BLOOD–CANDY MAN–AIN’T FOR ME–YOU GOT TO CHANGE–TWO SIDED STORY–VIBRATIONS–BACK DOWN SOUTH

The Atomic Road Kings combine the talents of guitarist/vocalist/composer/producer Big Jon Atkinson and Eric Von Herzen on the harp.  Along with a smokin’ cadre’ of backing musicians, the band laid down the tracks for their latest album, “Clean Up The Blood,” at Big Jon’s Bigtone Studios, all done on vintage analog equipment, giving this set a cool, old-school vibe.  Natch’l fact is, if it weren’t for the contemporary message in the lyrics of these ten originals and one cover, you’d swear they were tracked in ’54 at 2120 Michigan Avenue.

The party starts with a stop-time groove, finding Big Jon in a pensive mood, reflecting on the four walls that hold him in, and now, “I Got Time to be alone.”  “Have Your Way” plays out over a rhumba-fied beat, while the influence of the Delta is all over “that train down South, goin’ My Way Back Home.”  The set closes in a similar manner, as our hero calls out a lover for “all my troubles, I got you to thank,” “Back Down South.”

We had three favorites, too.  Jon’s grungy, stinging lead lines over Eric’s muted harp make a huge statement in the title cut, while both the fellows get down ‘n’ dirty on the tale of lusty lovers, “I’m your Candy Man, and I like to get lowdown!”  And, a veiled shot at the going’s on in social media and society’s penchant for believing what they hear over what they see, Jon’s distortion-driven guitar “gon’ bring the Devil outta me,” in “Rumors.”

Don’t know which part of the Atomic Road Kings and “Clean Up The Blood” was the most fun—the throwback, Chess-styled sound, or the way Big Jon and Eric play out as a modern-day Muddy and Walter on a cool set of tunes with topical themes that fans of vintage or more contemporary blues will enjoy!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Brandon Santini review…March 18, 2019…..

BRANDON SANTINI

THE LONGSHOT

AMERICAN SHOWPLACE MUSIC  ASM  7610

DON’T COME AROUND HERE–BEGGIN’ BABY–ONE MORE DAY–DRIVE YOU OFF MY MIND–HEARTBREAKER–BROKEN BONES–BACK TO YOU–MY WORRIED MIND–GOING HOME–EVIL (IS GOING ON)–SOMEBODY’S GOTTA GO

Brandon Santini was raised up right in the Piedmont Region of North Carolina before making Memphis his home in 2003.  A triple-threat artist–vocalist, composer, and monster harpoon man–Brandon’s sound incorporates not only those of the Delta and the North Mississippi Hill Country, but also a rock element.  Regularly playing 250 shows a year, he has just released his latest set, “The Longshot,” for American Showplace Music.  Herein, he focuses on his blues and rock roots, with ten originals and one unique cover.  Brandon fields several guitarists for this project, including Jed Potts, Timo Arthur, Jimmy Bennett and Greg Gumpel.  Michael Bram  (when you get finished here, go check out his version of Kristofferson’s “Nobody Wins.”) is on percussion, Reid Muchow is on drums, Chuck Combs is on bass, and the venerable John Ginty is on anything with a keyboard.

That stompin’ percussion-heavy vibe from the Hill Country leads off, on “Don’t Come Around Here,” with Brandon’s wailin’ solo at about the 2:30 mark.  An acoustic intro gives way to Brandon’s appeal to the Highest Power for “One More Day,” when “the load gets too heavy.”   “Drive You Off My Mind” is a cool Delta footstomper as the harp-heavy tune details our hero with “a heart so heavy,” and “a troubled mind and a burnin’ soul.”

We had two favorites, too.  Furious percussion and echo-effect vocals drive the unique arrangement on Brandon’s read of “Evil (Is Going On),” featuring a serious harp solo at the break, while, at the opposite end of the blues rainbow, Brandon’s acoustic-themed ode to “troubled times,” where “solitude seems to be the only remedy” is “Broken Bones.”  Greg’s slide and John Ginty’s  gospel-ish keys work play an integral part here, too.

Brandon Santini cut his musical teeth in the clubs down on Beale Street, and has solidified himself as one of the excellent crop of young guns on the contemporary scene.  With his latest set, he is sho’ nuff not a “Longshot” in the blues!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Susan Williams And The Wright Groove review…March 17, 2019….

SUSAN WILLIAMS AND THE WRIGHT GROOVE BAND

IT’S ABOUT TIME

TELL ME YOU LOVE ME–I LOVE WHAT YOU DO–LOVING YOU FROM A DISTANCE–SHAME ON YOU–I’M SORRY–MEET ME IN THE MIDDLE–YOU’VE GOT ANOTHER THINK COMING–ONE WAY STREET–PLEASE COME BACK TO ME–KEEP MOVING ON–TOO LITTLE TOO LATE

Susan Williams And The Wright Groove Band have been together for three years now, as a part of the Chicago blues scene.  Chosen to participate in the 2018 IBC’s in Memphis, this, their debut CD, entitled “It’s About Time” was selected to compete in the 2019 Best-Self-Produced CD category.

Perhaps the coolest feature of this set is the band’s unique approach to their overall sound, incorporating two basses in the lineup!  Susan is the vocalist, and is on one bass, with Darryl Wright on lead bass, Rob Davis on drums, Mike Cruse on keys, and Mike Gallemore on guitar and backing vocals.

The IBC judges also love original material, and Susan and Mike Gallemore collaborated to write all eleven.  The material deals with “songs so close to love you can touch it,” but the love comes with a cost.  Witness the leadoff cut,, as our heroine is in a constant state of flux, with a “heart broken from words unspoken,” begging her lover to just “Tell Me You Love Me.”  Mike’s guitar break at the break is cool, too.  Mike’s rocked-up slide is prominent in one of our favorites, where Susan praises a good man in “I Love What You Do when you do what you do to me,” but falls right back into the trap of poor choices in the Fifties-sounding slow-blues of that man who’s shut her out, but she can’t let go, preferring “Loving You From A Distance” than saying goodbye.  This one features Susan’s sultry vocals and Mike Cruse’s acoustic piano in perfect tandem.

We had two other favorites, too.  “Meet Me In The Middle” has a sweet, stop-time groove over Susan’s vocal, bemoaning yet another selfish lover.  Susan’s crisp, clear singing voice really lends itself well to the more ballad-like songs, and “Please Come Back To Me”  hits home.  The guitar and piano hold things together, and Susan gives this one a good ole B. B. King-styled reading, telling the “stories only time can tell.”

Susan Williams And The Wright Groove Band lay down some fine and funky grooves on this set.  Sho’ nuff, “It’s About Time” they get some well-deserved props!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

Tim Gartland review….March 16, 2019….

TIM GARTLAND

SATISFIED

TASTE GOOD MUSIC 041219

DRINKING FOR TWO–DON’T MAKE MORE TROUBLE–BLUES FOR FREE–CAN’T PAINT A PRETTIER PICTURE–YOU BEST THINK TWICE–SATISFIED–WALK ON–WHY DOES THE ROOM BEGIN TO SWAY?–ARTIFACTS–DON’T JUDGE ME

Tim Gartland’s harp and vocal style have often been compared to those of Charlie Musselwhite and Willie Dixon, but he’s got his own way of doing things, and draws from it very well.  After college, he moved to Chicago and fell right in with that bustling blues scene.  He mentored under Jerry Portnoy before moving to Boston in 1989, becoming a major player in clubs and festivals in the New England area.  His final move was to Nashville in 2015, and he’s well-known within this town’s vast songwriting community.  All his many talents are on full display on his latest release, “Satisfied,” coming out on April 12.  The whole thing was laid down in Franklin at Kevin McKendree’s Rock House Studios, and the ten cuts were all written by Tim, either in whole or in part.  He’s got that brilliantly-deep, aged-in-the-wood baritone that is perfect for the blues, and his backing crew are excellent players all around.  They include Kevin McKendree and Tom West on keys, Tom Britt and Robert Frahm on guitars, and Steve Mackey on bass, among others.

Leading off, our hero knows she’s gone and she ain’t comin’ back, so “Mr. Bartender, I’m a party of one, but I’m Drinking For Two.”  Tom’s slide is all over this one, too.  Tim’s chromatic harp leads the way on a prayer for non-violence, “Don’t Make Any More Trouble, this old world’s got enough right now,” while a beautiful woman is the Berry-licious theme of “Can’t Paint A Prettier Picture,” with Tom West gettin’ in his best Johnnie Johnson-inspired licks!  That big ol’ chromatic again takes center stage for the title cut, one of our favorites, where Tim looks at life’s simpler pleasures, as “we all gotta meet the Grim Reaper someday,” and “all I want to be is Satisfied!”  He closes the set with our other favorite, the scathing groove that tackles hypocrisy in others, “you ain’t no judge, so Don’t Judge Me!”

Tim Gartland is one of our favorite artists on the local contemporary scene.  Listen to “Satisfied,” as it is sho’ nuff funky, funny, hip, sexy, and strong, from a mighty entertaining harpoon man!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

The Cave Twins review…March 14, 2019….

THE CAVE TWINS

BEST FRIENDS FOR NOW

TIGER SPA  TST 01

BUDDY I”LL BE THERE–KEEP ON SINGING–WALK TOGETHER–HAPPY ANYWHERE–BFFN–WITH YOU–A LITTLE LONGER–THE YOU AND THE ME–TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES–THAT’S YOURS MY DEAR–WILD LOVES–GRANDMA SONG–LEAVE IT ALL BEHIND

Abby Rose and David Mayfield, The Cave Twins, have each forged their own individual careers, David as a guitarist and mandolin man behind The Avett Brothers, The Black Keys, and Mumford and Sons, and Abby with northeast Ohio’s The Speedbumps.  During all this, life, as it always seems to do, took an unusual turn for them.  Separated at birth, and long after their individual careers were established, they discovered that they are indeed brother and sister, and identical twins, at that.  As fate would have it, they have just recorded this album, “Best Friends For Now,” with a new-found look at their musical careers and directions.  The harmonies herein can only be described as mesmerizing, as only the telepathic communication of siblings can create.

That harmony leads off as our duo offers a light-hearted ode to BFF’s everywhere, “Buddy I’ll Be There!”  Keeping that vibe intact, David takes the lead vocal on “I’m Dancin, every day with you!”  The duo plays a pair of lusty lovers in need of a fix and the bearskin rug on which it occurs, the playful, “Take Off Your Shoes,” while both urge us all to “Keep On Singing, when life gets tough and you’ve had enough!”

We had two favorites, too.  Abby is on vocal on the set-closing “Leave It All Behind,” perhaps a nod to their discovery of one another as siblings, albeit later in life.  And, for us, there’s nothing better than pure old-school mountain gospel, with David on mandolin on the sweet ode to that “Walk Together, all the way home, where no one stands alone!”

The Cave Twins embody a credo of endorsing science and friendship, and the good cheer and light-hearted material in “Best Friends For Now” expertly blends their tight harmonies, musicianship, and songwriting skills into a delicious foray into Americana!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Dennis Brennan and the White Owls review…March 13, 2019….

DENNIS BRENNAN

AND THE WHITE OWLS

LIVE AT ELECTRIC ANDYLAND

VIZZTONE RECORDS  VT-DB01

CUTTIN IN–NOTHIN BUT LOVE–YES I’M LOVING YOU–THE (NEW) CALL OF THE FREAKS-TANGLE–THREE KIND OF BLUES–I LIVE THE LIFE I LOVE–FOOLKILLER–I’M ON MY LAST GO ROUND–NO EXPECTATIONS

Dennis Brennan has been one of Boston’s unsung heroes of the blues for a number of years.  A consummate vocalist, harpman, and songwriter, you can listen to his music and derive that his influences are heavily blues- and soul-oriented.  Dennis and his band, The White Owls, have been holding down a weekly gig at a local bar, and wanted to record a live album in this familiar setting, and “Live At Electric Andyland” fills that bill.  It features band originals and some obscure, well-played covers from Willie Dixon, Johnny Guitar Watson, Big Al Downing, and, even the Stones.

Dennis puts on his soul man shoes for the opener, Johnny Guitar Watson’s tale of reconciliation with an estranged lover, “I’m Cuttin’ In on you!”  He shows off his harp chops on the rocked-up blues of “it ain’t Nothin But Love that makes me feel this way!  Guitarist Tim Gearan penned the beautiful tale of unrequited love, looking for  “The End Of The Blues,”  Stephen Sadler is all over the lap steel guitar in the humorous tale of “The (New) Call Of The Freaks,” with a great “team” vocal!  Stephen penned one of our favorites, a haunting, percussion-heavy trip down to the Crossroads, introducing Dennis to “Three Kinds Of Blues,” while another favorite was the slide-heavy, amped-up read of Mose Allison’s “Foolkiller, comin’ closer day by day!”  Our final favorite closed the set, on a bit of a pensive note, with Dennis giving a deeply-soulful read of the Jagger/Richards lovelorn tale of “No Expectations.”

With a vibe reminiscent of Dyke And The Blazers and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Dennis Brennan and the White Owls have sho’ nuff paid some dues to play these blues.  His fans have been begging for an album, and “Live At Electric Andyland” will sate them for a while, but, Dennis, please bring us more, and soon!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Reese Wynans review…March 11, 2019….

REESE WYNANS AND FRIENDS

SWEET RELEASE

J AND R ADVENTURES JRA 61072

CROSSFIRE–SAY WHAT?–THAT DRIVING BEAT–YOU’RE KILLING MY LOVE–SWEET RELEASE–SHAPE I’M IN–HARD TO BE–RIVIERA PARADISE–TAKE THE TIME–SO MUCH TROUBLE–I’VE GOT A RIGHT TO BE BLUE–SOUL ISLAND–BLACKBIRD

If you’ve been a fan of great music sometime within the last 40 or so years, then you’ve heard Rock And Roll Hall of Famer Reese Wynans whether you knew it or not.  The consummate keyboard man, able to play anything for anybody in any style, he’s played behind Boz Scaggs, Mike Farris, Doyle Bramhall and Doyle Bramhall II, Jimmy Hall, and countless others, but gained perhaps his biggest notoriety playing with SRV and Double Trouble.  Hard to believe that this iconic musician has never released a solo album, but, “Sweet Release” becomes his first.  Also, it marks a first time for someone else–this marks Joe Bonamassa’s first time as an album producer, and features co-producers, guitarist Josh Smith, and horn man Paulie Cerra.

This album is a celebration of Reese and his many contributions to music over the years.  The love and good times are in abundant supply throughout.  Of the thirteen cuts several are readily identifiable with Reese’s work behind SRV and Double Trouble, while others hearken back to his days with Boz Scaggs, and his penchant for the music of pioneers such as Tampa Red and Otis Rush.  And, you can always count on some brilliant instrumentals, too.

The set begins with a SRV staple, “Crossfire,” this time with the mighty Sam Moore on vocals, and the Double Trouble rhythm section, Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon.  Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jack Pearson are on guitars, along with the Texicali Horns.  Mike Farris and Paulie Cerra brew up a Memphis soul stew with Willie Mitchell’s “That Driving Beat,” with Reese’s B-3 the perfect complement.  The set closes with two instrumentals.  First, the breezy, sax-and-B-3-fueled, “Soul Island,”  followed by Reese sitting at the grand piano for the finale, a message of both freedom and sadness, Lennon and McCartney’s “Blackbird.”

We had a slew of favorites.  Reese and the fellows give a spirited read of Tampa Red’s “So Much Trouble,” with Joe Bonamassa on vocals and guitar and the venerable Mike Henderson on harp!  The other Tampa Red tune is done up “old-school,” as it was written, with Reese on piano and Keb’ Mo’ on guitar and vocals, “I Got A Right To Be Blue!”  Lastly, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Josh Smith share guitar and vocals on a song from the 1990’s Doyle Bramhall project, the Arc Angels, a rockhouse blueser entitled “The Shape I’m In,” with an extended piano break from Reese.

Damn, y’all.  For a debut solo set, “Sweet Release” rocks the house from the jump.  Reese Wynans’ place in rock history is secured, but this album puts the cherry on top of the sundae, and having the opportunity to review an album from an artist of Reese’s stature has been a pleasure and a privilege.  Thank you, Reese, for a lifetime of great blues!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Cara Being Blue review…March 10, 2019….

CARA BEING BLUE

GRIT

GRIT–CROCODILE MAN–LEAVE ME IN FLAMES–ONE DAY–YOU DON’T WANNA–SKIPPIN STONE–OLD FEELIN–KIND KINDA MAN–MY DOGGIE–SOME FUN

Cara Being Blue (Cara Lippman) has been a friend of ours since moving here from Boston ’bout ten years ago.  While in New England, she mentored with Shirley Lewis,  honing her vocal chops and live performing skills, but folks ’round these parts know already that she’s got it goin’ on!  She’s just released “Grit,” ten  originals that, along with her jam session  hostess duties around town, has solidified her reputation as a hard-workin, big-voiced woman of the blues who’s equally at home rockin’ the house or layin’ down a slow-and-sultry groove.

The set opens with the title cut, an ode to those who are “fighters” and “all-nighters,” all loaded with “Grit!”  New York Blues Hall Of Famer Dave Fields is on guitar for “Crocodile Man,” that “hoodoo man” who’ll “take your heart, prowlin’ around like a howlin’ stray!”  Trapped in an abusive relationship, our heroine vows that “One Day, you’ll never find me again.”  It’s embellished by another Music City legend, Tim Gonzalez, on the harp.  Speaking of legends, Jack Pearson appears on guitar as Cara bemoans an uncaring lover in the minor-key blues of “You Don’t Wanna.”

We had two favorites, too.  “Kind Kinda Man” is a swingin, horn-driven smooth blues tale of that special man who has that “twinkle in his eye when we kiss goodnight,” while Tim’s harp drives Cara’s fun-filled, funky romp about “My Doggie,” who’s always “chasin’ other kitties in town!”

Cara Being Blue is on the cusp of bustin’ loose into the big time with a set as powerful as “Grit.”  She’s been honored by the Tennessee Jazz And Blues Society for her contributions to the blues, and she’s got sass and soul to spare!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Glen Clark review…March 9, 2019….

GLEN CLARK

YOU TELL ME

GLENCO RECORDS 1001

YOU TELL ME–ACCEPT MY LOVE–I CAN TELL BY LOOKING–THIS OLD ROAD–WALK ON–WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT–I’M NEVER GONNA STOP LOVING YOU–DREAMER–IN SEARCH OF–THAT’S WHERE YOU COME IN

Texas-born piano man Glen Clark is one of the consummate storytellers of our generation.  He’s played with Willie, Kris, Bonnie Raitt, and, our favorite, his works with Delbert under the collective name of “Delbert And Glen.”  His songs have been recorded by legions of artists, and you can find his works in movies and TV, and on virtually all media platforms.  His move to L. A. led to the formation of The Glen Clark Band, and his first album in 25 years is entitled “You Tell Me.”  It is a continuation of the mix of blues, country, rock, gospel and soul that he has been bringing to fans over his entire musical life.

The party begins with a bad honky-tonker really layin’ it down, as our hero is, once again, “alone at the Motel 6,” as he ponders why “we keep making the same mistakes” in love, and the answer is, sadly, “You Tell Me and we’ll both know!”  “I Can Tell By Looking” is a soul-drenched ode to that one special lover, while, sometimes, “when you’ve given your best” with someone, finally you have to just “Walk On.”  Both these cuts evoke a strong Southern-rock vibe, with vocals that will bring to mind Gregg Allman.

We had two favorites, too.  Our hero is layin’ low for a lover who’s gonna need him one day, “When The Time Is Right!”  This one is stone funky thru and thru, and was co-written by Steve Cropper.  The set closes with an E Street Band-ish groove of a tale of a man who’s all but given up, but, “That’s Where You Come In, to save me with your love!”

Getting a chance to review a set from an artist the magnitude of Glen Clark has been an honor, a privilege, and, above all, a helluva lot of fun!  “You Tell Me” continues the gigantic legacy of this brilliant composer!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Willie Buck review…March 8, 2019….

WILLIE BUCK

WILLIE BUCK WAY

DELMARK RECORDS  DE 857

YOU WANT ME TO TRUST YOU–ALL I’M DOIN’ IS THINKING OF YOU–BOTTOM OF THE HILL–I GOT YOU AND YOU GOT ME–CAN’T SAY SOMETHING GOOD ABOUT ME–THERE’S A WOMAN–MY MIND FROZE UP–CRAWLIN KING SNAKE–I GIVE SO MUCH TO YOU–HECK OF A TIME–THE MEN OUGHT TO LEARN TO TREAT THE WOMEN RIGHT–PLEASE HAVE MERCY–LOOK WHAT YOU’VE DONE–WILLIE BUCK WAY–TWENTY-FOUR SEVEN–BLUES BEFORE SUNRISE–I’D RATHER LOVE YOU

Everybody’s favorite “Cell Phone Man,” Chicago blues legend Willie Buck, is back with his first set since 2012, a robust seventeen cuts that add up to “Willie Buck Way” for Delmark Records.  There are twelve originals and well-done covers from Muddy, Leroy Carr, and others.  The backing crew is just as stellar, including Billy Flynn and Thaddeus Krolicki on guitars, Johnny Iguana and Big Spider Back on keys, Bob Stroger on bass, Jimmi Maye on drums, and three killer harpoon men–Scott Dirks, Mervyn “Harmonica” Hinds, and the aforementioned Big Spider Back.

Willie has a surprisingly-powerful upper-register vocal delivery, and he’s been bringing these blues to his fans ever since he hit big town back in ’53.  There are plenty of highlights, too, starting off with Willie’s original, “You Want Me To Trust You, but I don’t know what you want me to do!”  It’s embellished by Scott’s harp and Johnny’s piano, too!  Willie’s “women problems’ continue with “I Give So Much To You, why don’t you act right?”  “Meet me at the Bottom Of The Hill” revisits the “Cell Phone Man” theme, while Willie offers up some sage advice over Billy’s cool guitar, “The Men Ought To Learn To Treat The Women Right.”  The band cooks with gas on one of our favorites,  Willie’s ode to the honorary street named for him, “Willie Buck Way,” while our other favorite is a nod to his Delta roots.  Willie was born near Tupelo, MS, in Houston, MS,  and Thaddeus’ acoustic guitar and harp from Harmonica Hinds take Willie back down home with “My Mind Froze Up.”

Willie Buck is one of the scant few remaining bluesmen who got their careers started during the heyday of the Fifties who is still standing, performing, and relevant today.  Take a spin down “Willie Buck Way” and hear this legend for yourself!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.