Archive for June, 2019

Michael Lee review…June 30, 2019….

MICHAEL LEE

MICHAEL LEE

RUF RECORDS  RUF 1274

HEART OF STONE–DON’T LEAVE ME–WEEDS–PRAYING FOR RAIN–LOVE HER–THIS IS–CAN’T KICK YOU–THE THRILL IS GONE–FOOL OF OZ–HERE I AM–GO YOUR OWN WAY

Many fans will remember Michael Lee’s run on “The Voice” from a while back, anchored by his mesmerizing version of B. B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone,” during those broadcasts.  He has just released his, er, “thrilling” self-titled debut for Ruf Records.

Oh yeah, his cover of B. B.’s classic is included–the folks in his home base of Dallas/Ft. Worth would’ve likely run him outta town if he hadn’t added it–but there’s much more to this young guitar-slinging bluesman than what we saw on TV.  He’s already sang on Ruf Records’ “B. B. King Blues Band” album, (reviewed elsewhere within this forum), and, with producers Nick Choate and Nick Jay, this album shows a young man with unlimited potential.

There were highlights aplenty.  “Don’t Leave Me” finds our hero at a low point in a relationship, knowing he’s made some mistakes, but is willing to own them for a second chance.  Michael’s impassioned vocal over Anthony Farrell’s B3 gives this one a good, sanctified feel.  “Weeds” is an upbeat, positive tale inspired by Michael’s moving into his new home with his wife, and envisioning their yet-to-be-born children.  That brilliant, organ-drenched, “Thrill Is Gone” was one of our favorites, as was Michael’s Delbert-inspired, roadhouse-rockin’ story of the pull of a lover.  Hey–“I can kick the alcohol, I can kick the nicotine, but I Can’t Kick You!”  The set closed with our final favorite.  “Go Your Own Way” has a definite Crossroads-ish vibe, but, this time, no deals go down, as a wise man offers sage advice to our young hero, to “follow your song, for these words won’t lead you astray!”

As are the rest of his legion of fans,  the eyes of Michael Lee are firmly fixed upon his future.  With a set as powerful as this debut, expect great things from this mighty young bluesman!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

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The Jersey Swamp Cats review…June 29, 2019….

JERSEY SWAMP CATS

GO CAT GO!

JUMP JIVE AND WAIL–CUPCAKE!-BLUE MONDAY–I DON’T MIND–TOO TIRED–DANCE ALL NIGHT–TOOTIE MA IS A BIG FINE THING–I GET EVIL–SHINY GRAY CORVETTE

The Jersey Swamp Cats are a good-time quartet based outta Orange, New Jersey.  Gerry Gladston is on keys, Don Leich is on guitars, Larry Ghiorsi is on bass, and Chris Reardon is on drums.  Everyone shares the vocals, and their latest set, entitled “Go Cat Go!,”  blends elements of Sun, Imperial, Chess, New Orleans boogie, and jump-blues for s sweet, highly-danceable mix of revved-up rockabilly blues!

Their retro sound is a perfect match for the set’s opener, a cool play on Louis Prima’s classic “Jump, Jive, And Wail,” guaranteed to fill dance floors all over Jersey!  The band’s original, “Cupcake!,” is a neat call-and-response tale of that “crazy little girl” who’s as irresistible as the dessert she’s named for!  Next up, we go on down to Cosimo’s for a bluesy shot of “Blue Monday,” and stay in the Big Easy for the horn-fueled, second-line, good-time PAAR-TAY of “Tootie Ma Is A Big Fine Thing!”

Our favorites closed things up.  First, “I Get Evil” is the name, and rhumba’s the game on this tune with that iconic chorus, “don’t you lie to me,” as Don channels his inner Albert King to add a bluesy spark.  The set proper closes with another band original, a sho’ nuff classic “car song,” which finds the fellows “drivin’ down the highway doin’ one-twenty-five,” in their “Shiny Little Gray Corvette!”

At nine cuts, what this set lacks in length, it more than makes up for in the wallop it packs.  Take a nod from the Jersey Swamp Cats and put your cat clothes on with your blue suede shoes and “Go Cat Go!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Mindi Abair And The Boneshakers review…June 28, 2019….

MINDI ABAIR

AND THE BONESHAKERS

NO GOOD DEED

SEVEN DAY FOOL–NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED–YOU BETTER RUN–SWEETEST LIES–GOOD DAY FOR THE BLUES–MESS I’M IN–BAD NEWS–MOVIN ON–WHO’S GONNA SAVE MY SOUL–BABY GET IT ON

Our favorite “sax machine,” Mindi Abair, and her brilliant band, The Boneshakers, are back and in prime form with their new album, out today, “No Good Deed.”  Mindi is on vocals and wailin’ sax, and this set, in our humble opinion, is their best to date!  Along with Mindi, there is Randy Jacobs on guitar and vocals, Rodney Lee on keys, Ben White on bass, and Third Richardson on drums.  Recorded over five days, this is a cool mix of five originals and five well-chosen, somewhat-rare covers, and the wide range of material herein indicates just how far this band has come, and gives a glimpse of their unlimited potential.

Leading off is the band’s version of Etta James’ “Seven Day Fool,” as Mindi sings of a woman’s constant pull to please her man.  The title cut is a percussion-heavy tale of Mindi, workin’ night and day to make a living, while her no-good lover is at home, cheating away, and, as always, “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.”  A cool story of how some folks in love can be drawn in by another is “cause you tell the Sweetest Lies.”  Our girl is “Movin’ On,” and is determined to “get my feet up off the ground,” offering a great message of female empowerment.

The set closed with our favorites.  A slow-burning, gritty tale of a woman who’s “seen what could have been, and it cuts me to the bone,” and begs her question, “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul?”  It is at once powerful, poignant, and thought-provoking.  The set’s final cut was a real barn-burner, as Randy and Mindi trade vocals on a scorching take of Ike And Tina’s, “Baby Get It On,” with enough fireworks to light up the Fourth Of July!

Mindi Abair And The Boneshakers continue to create some of the best blues-based R & B on the contemporary scene.  “No Good Deed” is full of energy and great songs from a hi-octane band!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Gov’t Mule review….June 27, 2019….

GOV’T MULE

BRING ON THE MUSIC

LIVE FROM THE CAPITOL THEATRE

PROVOGUE  PRD 593

DISC ONE:  LARGER THAN LIFE–BROKE DOWN ON THE BRAZOS–ENDLESS PARADE–LOLA LEAVE YOUR LIGHT ON–RAVEN BLACK NIGHT–TRAVELING TUNE–LITTLE TOY BRAIN–PRESSURE UNDER FIRE–BRING ON THE MUSIC–RAILROAD BOY–BEAUTIFULLY BROKEN

DISC TWO:  THE MAN I WANT TO BE–SIN’S A GOOD MAN’S BROTHER–MR. MAN–LIFE BEFORE INSANITY–NO NEED TO SUFFER–COMEBACK–WORLD BOSS–BLIND MAN IN THE DARK–WHISPER IN YOUR SOUL–REVOLUTION COME, REVOLUTION GO

Southern rock titans Gov’t Mule never play the same show twice, feeding off the crowd and more than 300 songs in their vast repertoire to keep things fresh and upbeat.  Their latest set was recorded in a venue that has hosted them many times over the years, and, with the crowd ready to rumble, the band has released a most excellent recording, entitled “Bring On The Music:  Live From The Capitol Theatre,” for Provogue Records, from that historic venue in Port Chester, NY, on April 27 and 28, 2018.  (The Deluxe Edition of this set includes a companion DVD directed by Danny Clinch, but our review is on the music on the two CD’s.)

Produced by Warren Haynes, who is on guitars and vocals, the remainder of this venerable outfit is Matt Abts on drums, Jorgen Carlsson on bass, and Danny Louis on keys, second guitar, and trombone.  Powerful, Doomsday percussion sets the tone for the set with the opening scorcher, “Larger Than Life,” while the band visits the Allman Brothers branch of the “family tree” via “Endless Parade.”  “Traveling Tune” might well be the band’s autobiography, as “we gotta keep spreading the word!”  This tune, along with the dark, brooding, Southern-Gothic, slide-driven story of the tragedy that befalls the heroine of “Railroad Boy,” served a our favorites on Disc One.

Disc Two opens with Warren’s soulful look at “gettin’ older and wiser,” and being “The Man I Want To Be.”  It wouldn’t be a Mule show without some social commentary, and Warren and Co. provide our other favorite by landing a roundhouse right squarely on the jaw of the current administration and the “one percent” with “how much longer can we keep our heads in the sand,” “Mr. Man.”  That sentiment hits home again a bit later with a blistering “Blind Man In The Dark,” before closing the festivities with the rousing, “Revolution Come, Revolution Go,” with Danny on trombone.

“Bring On The Music: Live At The Capitol Theatre,” is a dazzling look at one of the finest bands on the planet doin’ what they do best–spreading the word to an appreciative crowd with a slew of favorite songs.  Y’all, the ‘Mule is still sho’nuff kickin’ with this monster set!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

 

Alice Howe review…June 24, 2019….

ALICE HOWE

VISIONS

TWILIGHT–LOVIN’ IN MY BABY’S EYES–STILL ON MY MIND–WHAT WE GOT IS GOLD–BRING IT ON HOME TO ME–TOO LONG AT THE FAIR–HONEY BEE–GETAWAY CAR–YOU JUST NEVER KNOW–DON’T THINK TWICE IT’S ALRIGHT

Alice Howe is another in a recent spate of tremendous female singers whom we have had the privilege to listen, and she possesses a beautiful, lilting, mezzo-soprano voice.  She uses that voice to convey a wonderful mix of originals and covers on her debut album, “Visions.”  It is an eclectic group of traditional folk music that cleverly morphs into blues and R & B as the album progresses.  The album was recorded in Bakersfield, CA, with legendary bassist Freebo producing.  The vibe in that town provided a cool creative “opposite” from her New England roots.

The set opens with the lush “Twilight,” as she uses personal metaphors and experiences to evoke a feeling of wanderlust to the listener.  “Lovin In My Baby’s Eyes” is the first foray into the blues on this set, and is a loving tribute to one of her musical heroes, Taj Mahal.  “Still On My Mind” is a folk-inspired song that uses the wonders of nature to stir the memory of an old flame.

She puts on her R & B shoes for a sweet-as-honey-in-the-rock read of Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me,” and pays a cool homage to Celtic music with “Too Long At The Fair.”  Those gave way to our two favorites, both in the bluesy vein.  First, a horn-and-organ-fueled romp, “Getaway Car,” finds our heroine waaaay too overworked, and, thus, “ready to ride,” and “listen to Muddy and Taj!”  The set closes with our other favorite.  That beautiful voice is the perfect foil for the lover to whom she gave her heart, but “you wanted my soul,” Bob Zimmerman’s iconic “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.”

Alice Howe is a powerful up-and-coming artist who has a lot going for her.  An expressive songwriter who draws you in with her metaphors of the beauty of nature and personal experiences,  with that voice serving as the glue holding everything together.  “Visions” is an impressive debut, indeed!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Blind Lemon Jazz review…June 24, 2019…

BLIND LEMON JAZZ

AFTER HOURS

AFTER HOURS–IF BEALE STREET WAS A WOMAN–RICH PEOPLE IN LOVE–HOW CAN I STILL LOVE YOU–BOBBY’S BLUES–LIVIN MY LIFE WITH THE BLUES–YOU CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE–MOON OVER MEMPHIS–KETCHUP SPAGHETTI–YOU HAD ME AT GOODBYE–BUDDY BOLDEN’S SONG–LIGHTS OUT–BLUE HEARTBREAK

It was a great pleasure and privilege to have been asked by James Byfield, the brains behind Blind Lemon Pledge, and now, Blind Lemon Jazz, to give him our thoughts,  as decidedly non-musicians, regarding his recent foray into American jazz.  We were made privy to the raw versions of the cuts that comprise his latest, “After Hours,” long before the final mixes were sent off, or the finished product readied.  James wrote ’em all, and he is on guitar and is the male vocal, with the lovely and talented Marisa Malvino on the female lead.  In the original mixes of these songs, the rhythm section was barely audible, but the finished product brings Peter Greenell on bass and Joe Kelner on drums into vivid focus.

These cuts are predominantly for and about lovers, either on the make, on the mend, or on the outs.  The title cut leads off, with Ben Flint’s piano swaying over Marisa’s vocal, “After Hours, the time is right for love.”  She revisits that theme toward the end of the set, with the Latin-tinged “Lights Out, and every lover wants to love the blues away.”

Lovers on the outs are the theme of “You Had Me At Goodbye,” while a light-hearted romp that looks at lifestyles of the rich and famous is “Rich People In Love,” again revved-up by Ben’s spritely keys work.  Marisa takes a long, hard look at some folks’ situations in their lives with her lovelorn “Livin My Life With The Blues.”  The set closes with our favorite.  It is done by ol’ Blind Lemon Jazz himself, with only his vocal and his acoustic guitar.  She’s gone and she ain’t comin’ back, and “Blue Heartbreak” becomes “just another name for blues!”  His poignant vocal is dead-on within the theme of this set, and gives it a perfect closure.

We literally have known these songs since their creation, and, now, thru the finished product.  James Byfield, as Blind Lemon Jazz in this case, expounds upon the Great American Songbook with this most-excellent offering, “After Hours.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Nancy Wright review…June 22, 2019…

NANCY WRIGHT

ALIVE AND BLUE

VIZZTONE RECORDS/DIRECT HIT  VTDH-112

BUGALU–BEEN WAITING THAT LONG–I DON’T WANT NO MAN–IN BETWEEN TEARS–JO-JO–SUGAR COATED LOVE–WARRANTY–BERNIE’S BLUES–KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF HIM–SOUL SERENADE–WHAT DO YOU WANT THE GIRL TO DO–RUTABAGAS

Nancy Wright is one of the most respected and called-upon sax players in any genre’–blues, Americana, R & B, you name it, she can play it!  Her backing outfit, The Rhythm And Roots Band, consists of Paul Revelli on drums, Jeff Tamelier on guitar, Tony Lufrano on keys, and Karl Sevareid on bass.  With Nancy on sax and vocals, she always knew the band meshed well behind her, and always wanted to do a live recording.  She reached out to Robby Yamilov at Greaseland Studios, and the good folks at San Francisco’s oldest bar, The Saloon, to create “Alive And Blue.”  It’s five of Nancy’s originals and seven covers that encompass all the varied style she is so well-versed in.

Leading off, and setting the tone for the rest of the evening, is one of Nancy’s originals, the nearly-seven-minute funkfest that is “Bugalu,” which also gives the fellows ample opportunity to show off.  She gives  fun-filled, soulful reads of “I Don’t Want No Man,” “Sugar Coated Love,” and hits home again with the powerful story of a woman who promises “the customer’s always right,” “my love’s got a Warranty.”  She closes the vocal portion of the evening’s festivities with one of our favorites, a lovelorn take on Allen Toussaint’s “What Do You Want The Girl To Do,”  Our other favorite was a cool, stretched-out-for-comfort, eight-minutes-of-smooth, “Soul Serenade,” originally done by King Curtis.

Nancy Wright picked a great venue for “Alive And Blue” with The Saloon in Frisco.  The crowd was energetic and into it, and Nancy and the fellows gave ’em their money’s worth.  It’s a fine set, and a perfect mix of vocals and instrumentals, from one of the premier players on the planet!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.