Archive for March, 2019

The Rev. Shawn Amos review…March 7, 2019….

THE REV. SHAWN AMOS

KITCHEN TABLE BLUES, VOL. 1

PUT TOGETHER MUSIC

OOH LA LA–HOLD ON–WHIP IT–HAVE LOVE WILL TRAVEL–JESUS GONNA BE HERE

California bluesman Rev. Shawn Amos first grabbed our attention a few years back with a monster version of one of our GOAT’s—those “Hoodoo Man Blues.”  A gritty harp style and passionate vocal delivery is his forte’, and he parlayed it all into a cool YouTube series that ran for some 90 Sundays back in 2016-2017.  During this time, every Sunday, the ordained minister within the Universal Life Church, whose father, Wally Amos, was the founder of those Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookies, would invite guests into his kitchen, and he’d cook and play music, and generally have a bluesy good time.  He has graced us with a five-song EP of selections from the goings-on during those festivities, entitled “Kitchen Table Blues, Vol. 1.”

The five cuts are all staples from the canon of popular music, and all are done with the Rev’s special touch.  Banjo and accordion are the main instruments in the leadoff tale of a man looking back and wishing “I knew then what I know now,” from the Faces, “Ooh La La.”  Alabama Shakes are represented by an acoustic guitar, horn-fueled read of “Hold On,” while the Rev. gets down ‘n’ dirty on the harp on a gotta-hear-it-to-believe-it read of Devo’s “Whip It,” and a grungy version of a Sixties’ garage-rock staple from the Sonics, “Have Love, Will Travel.”  The set closes on a note of positivity with a nod to better days a-comin’, with a blues-gospel take on Tom Waits’ “Jesus Gonna Be Here,,” as the Rev. gets increasingly fired-up as the song progresses!

The Rev. Shawn Amos can take virtually any song and make it his own personal statement, as evidenced by the five cuts from, literally, his kitchen table.  Enjoy “Kitchen Table Blues Vol. 1,” and hang on ’til May for Volume 2.  Rev, just like with your daddy’s cookies, five sho’ nuff just ain’t enough!! Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Leroy Ellington review…March 6, 2019….

LEROY ELLINGTON’S

SACRED HEARTS

SANCTIFIED

INFINITI GROUP RECORDS  IGR 190101

GOOD TIME BLUES–GOTTA KEEP MOVIN ON–LET’S MAKE LOVE–WHAT WOULD YOU DO–DOGHOUSE–FAMILY THING–SOMETHIN FUNKY GOIN ON–UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN–TWO TONS OF FUN–LOOKING IN THE MIRROR–STONE COLD BAD

For some 30 years, saxman, showman, shaman, and singer Leroy Ellington has been pleasing crowds in the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky region, doin’ it to death as the leader of an eight-piece funk firestorm.  His latest project, with a band affectionately named Sacred Hearts, is called “Sanctified,” and is eleven original cuts that pairs Leroy with some of the cream of the crop of players from that Kentucky-Ohio area, including Max Gise and Marcos Sastre on guitars, Bam Powell on drums and vocals, Charlie Fletcher on keys,  Mike Grosser on bass, and a brilliant horn section.

The cuts draw on Leroy’s career of crowd-watching and crowd-pleasing from the bandstand  and everything is geared for the dancers.  The sermon tarts as Leroy blasts outta the gate sounding like a Hellfire-and brimstone Baptist preacher, testifyin’ and lockin’ into the groove of “Good Time Blues.”  “Gotta Keep Movin’ On” deals with gettin’ out of a bad relationship while the gettin’s good, while all things N’ Awlins, including “gris gris” and “gumbo ya ya” are the theme “Something Funky Goin’ On,” with Charlie on the squeezebox.  The set closes with a burnin’ blast of Famous Flames-flavored funk, and is the tale of our legendary hero with a fetish for all ladies of all kinds–he’s just “Stone Cold Bad.”

We had two favorites.  In a song that rings as true as it did fifty years ago when it was inspired, Leroy spreads a message of hope and harmony as he recounts the tale of seeing a race riot as a child, “Let’s Make Love, let’s kill the pain that hate can bring.”  And, ol’ Leroy puts on his slow-blues philosophical shoes as he ponders the question, “What Would You Do if you knew today was your last day?”

A great man once said, “ALL ABOARD—The Night Train,” and Leroy Ellington and Sacred Hearts beckon you to the dance floor to get yo’self “Sanctified!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Ari and Mia review…March 4, 2019….

ARI AND MIA

SEW THE CITY

COME ON HOME–APPLES–SWEET MORNING–NOSTALGIA–ROLL AWAY–UNQUIET GRAVE–LITTLE BIT LIKE ME–TILL I DIE–SEW THE CITY–THE FIDDLE AND THE DRUM

Sisters Ari and Mia (Friedman) each possess a unique voice that, when blended together, makes a beautiful foray into authentic folk, roots, and Americana music.   Their latest album, “Sew The City,” was created in a rural farmhouse in Parsonsfield, Maine, The Great North Sound Society.  The harmonies, musicianship, and overall ambience of the album greatly benefited from being in the near-isolation of that studio.  The set references the old-time Southern and Northeasters fiddle music, as well as what the sisters referred to as a “full sound,” built around two vocals and two instruments.

The set begins with our heroines beckoning a lover to “Come On Home, like a bird to its tree,” with skillful use of cello and banjo.  “Roll Away” playfully recalls the once-carpeted kitchen in Mia’s home, and the generations that have come after “that carpet so dear.”

Strong and empowered women are also prominently featured, both directly and indirectly.  “Till I Die” and “Sew The City” are dedicated to the women who would be both the grandmothers to our heroines, and the unique set of skills they possessed growing up in a post-WWII America.  The set closes with one of Joni Mitchell’s most iconic songs, written fifty years ago in protest to Vietnam.  “Fiddle And The Drum” rings as true today, with its question of when did we “trade the handshake for the fist?”

The style of folk-Americana created by Ari And Mia is some of the most beautiful music you’d ever want to hear.  They take the traditional sounds and expound upon them, in a manner that stays true to the rich traditions of this music, yet makes it appealing to today’s audiences.  “Sew The City” is simply gorgeous!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Tiffany Pollack And Eric Johanson review…

TIFFANY POLLACK AND ERIC JOHANSON

BLUES IN MY BLOOD

NOLA BLUE RECORDS  NB 008

BLUES IN MY BLOOD–MEMORIES TO FORGET–KEEP IT SIMPLE–MICHAEL–DIAMONDS ON THE CROWN–NO EXPECTATIONS–DO I MOVE YOU?–SLAVE OF TOMORROW–GET LOST WITH ME–RIVER–IF I HAD A HAMMER

As long as there has been folk and country music, there have been brilliant male-female duets.  New Orleans-based duo Tiffany Pollack and Eric Johanson bring a Shovels And Rope grit and intensity to their debut for Nola Blue Records, “Blues In My Blood.”  The eleven cuts herein lend themselves to a “passion play,” of sorts.  Tiffany was born in New Orleans, yet was adopted at birth.  She spent her formative musical years playing in other’s bands, or in those of her own creation.  She ran a mortuary, got married and had children along the way, but, after her third child, she er, um, buried the mortuary thing to concentrate fully on her music.

At the age of 25, Tiffany discovered her bio family and all their musical connections, plus the fact that she is related to Eric Johanson, which brings this album full-circle.  She starts the proceedings with that title cut, that serves as her biography, having led her to where she is today.  Eric’s slide, coupled with the Doomsday percussion from Brentt Arcement and keys from Papa John Gros, adds to the goth vibe of this one.  Eric takes the lead vocal on “Memories To Forget,” as our hero manages to mangle everything good in his life, and features harp from Jumpin Johnny Sansone.  Eric’s slide prowess shows thru again as Tiffany begs a petulant lover to just :Keep It Simple, baby,” while a nod to her days as an undertaker play out in the form of a somber tribute to “Michael,” a fallen soldier, where, “that Death is done.”

The cover tunes are brilliant, as well.  Eric’s guitar rides softly over his duet vocal on the Stones’ “No Expectations,” one of our favorites,  as is Tiffany’s smoky, sultry play on Nina Simone’s “Do I Move You?”  They close the set with our other favorite, a slowed-tempo version of Pete Seeger’s  ode to freedom “all over this land,” the iconic “If I Had A Hammer,” making it just as relevant today as it was when it was conceived back in 1949.

With “Blues In My Blood,” both Tiffany Pollack and Eric Johanson bring that rootsy, New Orleans vibe to their originals and pay a sweet tribute to their mixed, extended musical family in the process!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Sugaray Rayford review…March 2, 2019….

SUGARAY RAYFORD

SOMEBODY SAVE ME

FORTY BELOW RECORDS

THE REVELATOR–TIME TO GET MOVIN–YOU AND I–MY CARDS ARE ON THE TABLE–I’D KILL FOR YOU, HONEY–ANGELS AND DEVILS–SOMETIMES YOU GET THE BEAR AND SOMETIMES THE BEAR GETS YOU–SOMEBODY SAVE ME–IS IT JUST ME–DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL

Sugaray Rayford would command attention under any set of circumstances, as he stands a robust six-feet-five and weighs in at about three hundred pounds of heavenly joy!  And, the moment he opens his mouth to sing, one cannot help but recall memories of Muddy, Wolf, even Otis and Teddy Pendergrass.  For his latest album, written and produced by Eric Corne for Forty Below, “Somebody Save Me,” the big-voiced bear of a bluesman combines the sounds of traditional blues with the newer sounds of artists such as Grammy-winner Fantastic Negrito, Gary Clark, Jr., and the neo-soul sounds of such players as Charles Bradley and the Daptone crew.  The backing players include a “Who’s Who” of Forty Below alumni, including guitarists Eamon Ryland and Rick “L. A. Holmes” Holmstrom, keys from Sasha Smith, and that spot-on horn section from “Late Night With Conan O’ Brien,” as well as a host of others.

Leading off, the big man is “the unknown creature,” “your favorite flavor,” “straight-no chaser,’ and, most of all, “The Revelator,” fired up by the horn section!  “You And I” is a classic soul love story, and Sugaray professes his undying love by saying “My Cards Are On The Table,” in the true tradition of O. V. Wright.

We had three favorites, too.  A funky tale about growing up “back in the day” and turning into our (hopefully) more mature selves of today is “Sometimes You Get The Bear And Sometimes The Bear Gets You,” while a beat-down shout-out to all the haters with an agenda is the Howlin’ Wolf-ish “Time To Get Movin.”  The title cut is pure soul, sweet as honey in the rock, as our hero struggles with loneliness, and asks, “Somebody Save Me, I can’t make it on my own!”

We’ve known Sugaray Rayford since his days with the Mannish Boys.  On “Somebody Save Me,” he sings of the maturing process, and he’s livin’ it, and keeps gettin’ better with each album!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Jane Kramer review…March 1, 2019…..

JANE KRAMER

VALLEY OF THE BONES

HYMN–WAFFLE HOUSE SONG–MACON COUNTY–CHILD–SAINT CARRIE OF THE STORMS–TWO BROKE KIDS–I’LL SEE YOUR CRAZY AND RAISE YOU MINE–SINGIN’S ENOUGH–VALLEY OF THE BONES–WEDDING VOWS

Jane Kramer has been honing her songwriting craft for some 20 years now, and her third full-length album, “Valley Of The Bones,” makes a powerful statement, indeed.  The ten originals herein tackle love and all its problems, permutations, and vulnerabilities, and do so with honesty, humor, and poetic grace.

One of the album’s many highlights leads off.  “My hippie mama didn’t make me go to church,” so our heroine sought God and inspiration thru other, simpler pleasures, vowing, “before I meet my Maker,” to “make something of this mess!”  It’s called “Hymn,” and was inspired by Jane’s mentor, Mary Gauthier.  Billy Cardine’s dobro adds an extra dimension, as do backing vocals from Allison Hall.  Two lovers who’ve been doing things spontaneously for “23 damn years” including buying an RV, where, always, “I’ll See Your Crazy And Raise You Mine” keeps them young, happy, and, somehow, in love!  Nicky Sanders of the Steep Canyon Rangers is on cool fiddle here, too.  Our heroine “took back my busted heart in a busted seat at the Waffle House,” and now seeks a “smothered, scattered, covered all the way,” grown-up kind of love!  It’s the humorous look at love from the eyes of an interstate traveler entitled, “Waffle House Song.”  Jane finds her ultimate redemption thru the true love described in “Wedding Vows,” where “finding you means I was never lost.”  The song’s ambience is enhanced by cello from Franklin Keel.

Using the material in “Valley Of The Bones” to grab your attention, Jane Kramer holds it throughout this set as she incorporates the range of human emotions to celebrate life, its struggles, and eventual, tho hard-won triumphs!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Nick Schnebelen review…February 28, 2019….

NICK SCHNEBELEN

CRAZY ALL BY MYSELF

VIZZTONE VT-NSB03

LI’L DEATH–IT AIN’T ME–AIN’T GOT TIME FOR THE BLUES–CRAZY ALL BY MYSELF–ALTAR OF LOVE–BAD DISPOSITION WITH THE BLUES–BAD DREAM–SOUL MAGIC–I’M A FATBOY–I LEANED MY HEART ON YOU–OUT OF BAD LUCK–MONKEY AROUND–HOLDING ON

We’ve known Nick Schnebelen since his younger days as a member of the Schnebelen family’s previous band, Trampled Under Foot, based out of the Kansas City area.  On his own for some time now, he’s teamed with Grammy and Blues Award winner Tony Braunagel , who produced Nick’s latest set, “Crazy All By Myself,” for Vizztone Records.  After two well-received live albums, this set serves as Nick’s first solo outing, and it is a strong one, indeed.  It features Nick on guitars and vocals, with several of the “usual suspects” from the Phantom Blues Band, including Tony Braunagel on drums, Johnny Lee Schell on rhythm guitar and vocals, Mike Finnigan on keys, and a literal host of other excellent players.

Leading off is the lusty, busty, “Li’l Death,” where his lover has carte blanche to “roll me, baby, till my eyes roll back!”  Mike’s whorehouse piano rides the boogie of “Ain’t Got Time For The Blues,” as Nick’s on his way to seein’ that special lover, while “Soul Magic” plays out smoothly as our hero attests that “this ain’t no ordinary love, when you put your Soul Magic on me!”

Nick pays a soulful tribute to one of his heroes (and ours, too!), Magic Sam Maghett, with the West Side whoop of “Out Of Bad Luck,” with Mike’s piano again prominently featured.

We had three favorites, too.  The title cut is a sweet shot of stop-time bump-and-grind, as Nick realizes that, with a wishy-washy woman “I can go Crazy All By Myself!”  Everybody has a good time with the old Delbert stomper, “if you turn a man into a monkey, that monkey’s gonna Monkey Around,” and Nick’s deep slide playing drives his ode to all things Harley-Davidson, as he’s gonna “live to ride and ride to live” on “I’m A Fatboy lookin’ for a soft tail to ride!”

Nick Schnebelen has been responsible for great music his entire life,  As such, we’d expect nothing less on his solo debut, “Crazy All By Myself,” which solidifies him as one of the premier artists in all of contemporary blues!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.