Archive for July, 2019

Gracie Curran review…July 29, 2019….

GRACIE CURRAN

AND FRIENDS

COME UNDONE

VIZZTONE RECORDS  VT-GC01

COME UNDONE–ERNESTINE–STAY UP!–THE THINGS WE LOVE–SWEET SATIVA–IF MAMA AIN’T HAPPY–LOVE IS THE CRUELEST THING I KNOW–CHASING SUNSETS

Hard to believe it has been five years since Gracie Curran broke into the national spotlight with her debut album, “Proof Of Love,” which garnered a Blues Award nomination in the Best New Artist category.  Since that time, she has taken that big, soul-drenched, bluesy voice on the road, packin’ ’em in at clubs and festivals everywhere.  She has found the time, thankfully for us fans, to release a follow-up, and she and a band of her good friends have just given us “Come Undone,” for the Vizztone label.

These original songs are virtually a musical diary of sorts, chronicling her ups and downs during the last five years.  It was recorded in her adopted hometown of Memphis, with guitarist Damon Fowler producing.  Her other friends on board are some of the cream of today’s contemporary crop, with Matt Walker and Pat Harrington on guitar, Victor Wainwright and Jeremy Powell on keys, and Reba Russell on backing vocals.

This material is poignant and powerful, and can best be described as using music as a healing poultice, after you’ve lost everything and are trying to stay upright until you get your life back together.  That soulfully-intense voice is the glue that holds everything together, and the cuts show her vulnerable side as well as her blues-beltin’-mama style.  The side of her that’s been sufferin’ leads off, as a love affair that’s imploded leads her to “Come Undone,” set over a classic-soul arrangement fired by the horn section.  She revisits that tough aspect of pain-then-recovery with the somber “Love Is The Cruelest Thing I Know.”  “Ernestine,” tho, pulls her back into reality.  It is done acoustically, and conjures up thoughts of a happier place and time.

This set has more light moments, and two of those served as our favorites.  “Stay Up!” is a rollicking rocker that involves good friends, good times, and “a bottle of Bacardi,” ’cause “it’s too late to go to bed!”  Next up, Victor Wainwright gets us all into a boogie woogie groove on the 88’s as our girl unloads on a lover who “came home late, drunk again,” and we all know the rest–“If Mama Ain’t Happy, ain’t nobody happy!”

Gracie Curran took her life experiences over the last five years of near-constant touring and set them to music, to help her cope.  With “Come Undone,” Gracie said it best–“this is life, through music.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

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Billy Price review…July 28, 2019….

BILLY PRICE

DOG EAT DOG

GULF COAST RECORDS

ALL NIGHT LONG CAFE–DOG EAT DOG–LOSE MY NUMBER–MORE THAN I NEEDED–MY LOVE WILL NEVER DIE–REMNANTS–SAME OLD HEARTACHES–TOXICITY–WALK BACK IN–WE’RE IN LOVE–WORKING ON YOUR CHAIN GANG–YOU GOTTA LEAVE

Billy Price is not only a Pittsburgh legend, he is one of our favorite singers from the soul-blues category.  His latest album is entitled “Dog Eat Dog,” for Mike Zito’s Gulf Coast label,  Billy’s voice draws you in with that soulful grit, and these twelve cuts feature eight originals, and everything was laid down out at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios.

There were several noteworthy favorites.  Excellent West Side guitar lines from Kid play over Billy’s plaintive, pleading vocals on a brilliant cover of Otis Rush’s iconic “My Love Will Never Die,” with Billy easily reaching his upper registers on this Chi-town classic.  Cheaters get called on the carpet, too, especially the little girl who leaves behind all the clues–a “$400 bar tab at Annie Mae’s Cafe,” and all the other “Remnants” that “busted you.” People who are full of themselves and offer nothing but a negative attitude are the theme of the funked-up, danceable groove of “Toxicity,” while our hero owns up to his past transgressions, and begs for another chance to “Walk Back Into your life,” and “wipe the slate clean.”

Nothing compared to the biting social commentary of the title cut, tho. It’s a sho’ nuff spit in the eye to the “one percent,” who “get the cake, poor folks settle for the crumbs,” ’cause, nowadays, it’s “Dog Eat Dog out there!”  Alabama Mike is the duet vocalist here, and Rick Estrin is on the harp.

Billy Price is a master at bringing the old-school soul into today’s contemporary arena.  A vocalist with chops to die for who writes topical, socially-conscious material, makes his “Dog Eat Dog” a sweet listen!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Zac Harmon review…July 27, 2019…

ZAC HARMON

MISSISSIPPI BAR B Q

CATFOOD RECORDS  CFR 028

GYPSY ROAD–SO COLD–SMOKE AND MIRRORS–MISSISSIPPI BAR BQ–DESPERATE LOVE–HONEY PLEEZE–MAKE A DOLLAR OUT OF FIFTEEN CENTS–SUNDAY MORNING AFTER SATURDAY NIGHT–LORD SAVE ME FROM L A–SINCE YOU BEEN GONE–KNOCKING ON HEAVEN’S DOOR

We’ve been fans of Zac Harmon since that night in January of 2004 when he won the IBC’s in Memphis, sponsored by the SoCal Blues Society.  Zac got his start, tho, in his hometown of Jackson, MS, playing alongside the likes of Z. Z. Hill and Dorothy Moore as a teen.  At 21, he made that move to Cali to write music for TV commercials, and to write R & B-oriented songs that would be recorded by The Whispers, The O’Jays, and other popular groups of the day.  Zac always believed, tho, that his true calling was the blues of his homeland, and has teamed with Catfood Records to release his latest, and, perhaps, most powerful, set to date, “Mississippi Bar BQ.”  Herein, he’s backed by Bob Trenchard and The Rays, the “house band,” if you will, of Catfood Records. Add in producer Jim Gaines, and the ten originals, all written wholly or in part by Zac,, and this is a sweet blues ride, indeed.

One of our favorites was the sweet, summery, Southern-soul salute to breaking out the dominoes and a deck of cards, throwing some ribs on the grill with some collard greens for an old-school “Mississippi Bar BQ!”  Zac revisits classic Stax-era soul with “So Cold,” when “a love worth more than silver and gold” goes sour.  Some killer, Lucille-ish guitar drives a shout-out to B. B. with “Sunday Morning After Saturday Night,” as our two lovers just can’t seem to get a thing right!  Our other favorite used a fuzzed-out, repetitive guitar riff as our hero preaches the Gospel according to Zacariah with a tale of hard times in the country today, where you sho’ nuff just cannot “Make A Dollar Out Of Fifteen Cents!”

Zac Harmon relished working with Jim Gaines on “Mississippi Bar BQ.”  Add in the excellent backing of The Rays and Zac’s spot-on, topical material, and this one will be your go-to album of the summer!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Griff Hamlin review…July 26, 2019…..

GRIFF HAMLIN

AND THE SINGLE BARREL BLUES BAND

I’LL DRINK TO THAT

ALMOST LEVEL WITH THE GROUND–SAME TO YOU–DOWN AND OUT–SOMEONE–NOTHING BETTER–LOUISIANA HOLIDAY–DON’T LIE–WHERE WOULD I BEGIN–GOT TO END–BOURBON AND A PISTOL

Many folks are familiar with Griff Hamlin thru his Blues Guitar Unleashed instructional website, and a legion of followers via social media and YouTube.  With all these fans clamoring for a release, he has obliged them with ten original songs from Griff Hamlin And The Single Barrel Blues Band, entitled, “I’ll Drink To That.”  The cuts show Griff’s guitar versatility within the realm of blues-rock, slow-blues, with even a nod to The Big Easy.

The cuts also employ a fine horn section throughout, along with a brilliant crew of backing musicians, as the set opens with a scalding tale of struggling just to make it day by day, and finding oneself “Almost Level With The Ground.”  “Down And Out,” one of our favorites, is a rockin’ tale about what the old folks used to say when your money ran out, “nobody loves you when you’re down and out,” featuring some mighty sweet piano from Ty Bailie.  “Don’t Lie” rocks out over a cool SRV-Double Trouble groove, while “Louisiana Holiday” practically begs for Mardi Gras to hurry up and get here!

We had two other favorites.  “Someone” is a deep-down-in-your-soul slow-blueser, with Ty getting in some extended organ passages.  The set closes with a Brother Ray-inspired groover, as our hero’s looking for a cheatin’ lover with “A Bourbon in my left hand, And A Pistol in my right!”

With his vast number of fans and followers, Griff Hamlin And The Singe Barrel Blues Band hit #1 on the ITunes Chart hours after it was released, and #9 on the Billboard Top Blues Album chart the following week.  “I’ll Drink To That” has it all—excellent musicians playing various styles of blues that will satisfy every soul!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Delbert McClinton review….July 25, 2019…..

DELBERT MCCLINTON

AN on the D SELF-MADE MEN PLUS DANA

TALL DARK AND HANDSOME

HOT SHOT RECORDS

MR. SMITH–IF I HOCK MY GUITAR–NO CHICKEN ON THE BONE–LET’S GET DOWN LIKE WE USED TO–GONE TO MEXICO–LULU–LOUD MOUTH–DOWN IN THE MOUTH–RUBY AND JULES–ANY OTHER WAY–A FOOL LIKE ME–CAN’T GET UP–TEMPORARILY INSANE–A POEM

It is an incredible honor, pleasure, and privilege to offer this review for one of our favorite artists of all time, Delbert McClinton.  The three-time Grammy winner is back with his latest collection, entitled, “Tall, Dark, And Handsome,” for Hot Shot Records.  It was recorded at piano man Kevin McKendree’s Rock House in Franklin, TN, and the whole shootin’ match was co-produced by Delbert, Kevin, and our neighbor down the block, guitarist Bob Britt.

The fourteen cuts were all written or co-written by Delbert, and all embody his spirit of always lettin the good times roll. Witness the leadoff cut, one of our favorites, a Kansas City-styled, horn-fueled shouter called “Mr. Smith is back in town!”  Dana Robbins is all over the sax, and so is Quentin Ware on trumpet!  Next up, our hero is in a quandary, as he’s down on his luck, but, “If I Hock My Guitar, how in the Hell can I play my blues?”  A strong Latin beat drives the tale of our man who’s wanting to “get away from the telephone,” chuck it all, and be “Gone To Mexico!”  Kevin’s piano and the horns have a lotta fun with this one, too.  “Loud Mouth” is one of those butt-rockin’ shuffles Delbert has been playing for years, and our other favorite was another good-timer, as Delbert tells a long-time lover to turn off the phones and TV, and “Let’s Get Down Like We Used To!”

The set closes on a couple of unusual notes.  “Temporarily Insane” is set over a thunderstorm-in-progress, and finds Delbert delving into the darker corners of his psyche’, while “A Poem” is a short shout-out to pure acoustic Delta blues!

From “Genuine Cowhide” back in the Seventies, to “Tall, Dark, And Handsome,” today, it’s been a damn-near 45-year ride for us as fans of “The Godfather Of Americana,” Delbert McClinton.  This set is another addition to his incredible legacy, and, Delbert, we love you, man!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Jeff Dale review…July 24, 2019….

JEFF DALE

AND THE SOUTH WOODLAWNERS

BLUES POWER

PRO SHO BIDNESS PSB 4716

TOXIC STEW–GOOD LUCK WOMAN–BLUES POWER–MIDDLE CLASS MOAN–ONE STEP FROM A BROKEN MAN–BEST KIND OF TROUBLE–STONE COLD–LET’S BUZZ–UNDERCOVER MAN–BLACK CROW–CAN I BOOGIE

Jeff Dale has been in this bidness for some forty years.  He’s a product of the legendary, rough-and-tumble South Side of Chicago scene, and plays his blues just like the legends showed him how as he was growing up–with plenty of spit and swagger.  Witness the eleven originals that make up his sixth album in the last nine years, entitled “Blues Power.”  Along with Jeff, who is on guitar and vocals, we have Derek Phillips on keys, Glen Doll on the harp, and a host of other excellent backing players.

Leading off, Jeff plays out his autobiography as he details the “gray skies, black dust” of his neighborhood, and surviving and thriving in that “Toxic Stew.”  Hellhound guitar and Pat Zicari’s sax add to the biting commentary herein.  “Blues Power” takes us down to Blues Church with its sanctified groove, while Glen’s mournful harp is the perfect complement to Jeff’s tale of hard times in the land of plenty, “Middle Class Moan.”

Jeff traces his blues heritage thru shout-outs to Honeyboy Edwards, Muddy, and B. B., in “Best Kind Of Trouble,” his slide wailin’ over a cool Diddley beat.  “Undercover Man” is a tongue-in-cheek look at a man who holds nothin’ back in the love department, and Jeff goes deep down to the Crossroads to the very roots of the blues’ creation with a cigar-box guitar-fueled tale of that “Black Crow, back on the wire.”

The set closed with our favorite.  Jeff captures the feel of Theresa’s on a Saturday nite with the stop-time piano romp that is “Can I Boogie,” full of Derek’s red-hot 88’s and Pat’s sax!

Jeff Dale has lived the life of a bluesman, growing up and honing his chops smack dab in the middle of the South Side.  His mentors always told him to “keep on doin’ what you’re doin,” and “Blues Power” keeps that promise!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Bruce Katz review…July 22, 2019….

BRUCE KATZ

SOLO RIDE

AMERICAN SHOWPLACE MUSIC  ASM 7766

DOWN AT THE BARRELHOUSE–CRESCENT CRAWL–IT HURTS ME TOO–PRAISE HOUSE–RED SNEAKERS–DREAMS OF YESTERDAY–MIDNIGHT PLANS–EASY LIVING–GOING PLACES–THE WAY TO YOUR HEART–WATERMELON THUMP–REDEMPTION

Piano master Bruce Katz took home the 2019 Blues Music Award for Best Acoustic Album this past May down in Memphis, and is positioning himself to do it again next year. His latest album for American Showplace Music is not only his tenth overall, but is his first truly solo performance–no vocals, no backing players, just the man and his piano.  It is aptly-titled “Solo Ride,” and features eleven originals and one cover, and is a unique fusion of blues, jazz, gospel, classical, and country.

As one absorbs these performances, Bruce’s ability to convey a musical message thru just his keys is evident.  Witness the set’s lone cover, Tampa Red’s “It Hurts Me Too.”  Bruce captures the lovelorn spirit of the original with some cool left-hand artistry.  Speaking of capturing a feeling, Bruce hits it outta the park on two gospel-influenced numbers, “Praise House,” and “Redemption.”  Here, the cascading flurries of notes echo the hallelujahs of the congregation!

We loved the whole set, but picked some favorites.  “Crescent Crawl” is just that–it takes you down to South Rampart and Canal with its nods to Dr. John, and a tasty shout-out that astute listeners will pick up on from Huey “Piano” Smith, about mid-song.  Bruce’s stride and boogie-woogie works are exemplary, also.  Bruce’s daughter gave him a pair of “Red Sneakers,” and the original he wrote echoes perfectly the ragtime era.  “Down At The Barrelhouse” is strong left-hand boogie, and perhaps is a nod to Barrelhouse Chuck, and, both Pinetops, Mr. Smith and Mr. Perkins.

The most beautiful piece on the program is Bruce’s take on classic country.  Aside from being the final three words of Don Gibson’s legendary “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Dreams Of Yesterday” is peaceful, serene, and ethereal in its essence and powerful in its presentation.

On “Solo Ride,” Bruce Katz becomes the “Picasso of the Piano.”  Each song is a blank canvas, and Bruce paints vivid images in song thru just his incredible skills.  Bruce, we love you, man!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.