Archive for August, 2019

J.P. Soars review…August 17, 2019….

J. P. SOARS

LET GO OF THE REINS

WHISKEY BAYOU RECORDS   WSK 1003

BEEN DOWN SO LONG–IF YOU WANNA GET TO HEAVEN–FREDDIE KING THING–LET GO OF THE REINS–CROWS NEST–LONELY FIRE–HAVE MERCY ON MY SOUL–LET IT RIDE–MINOR BLUES–TIME TO BE DONE–OLD SILVER BRIDGE

J. P. Soars has been a force in contemporary blues since his two-way victory in the 2009 IBC’s in Memphis—the Band competition, with his group, The Red Hots, plus his Albert King Flying V Award for Best Guitarist throughout the week-long competition.  In the ensuing ten years, he has played numerous festivals and even the Legendary Rhythm And Blues Cruise.  His good friend Tab Benoit has been a part of many of these gigs, and, over a week’s session at Tab’s Whiskey Bayou Studios in Houma, Louisiana, , J. P. laid down the seven originals and four covers that make up “Let Go Of The Reins.”  Tab produced the set, and most of the originals were composed on the spot during the loose, jam-oriented atmosphere created in-studio.  J. P. is on guitars, Chris Peet is on bass, Tillis Verdin is on B-3, and Tab is on drums and pedal steel!

Our gravelly-voiced hero opens the set with a true bluesman’s tale, “Been Down So Long, bein’ down don’t worry me.”  The title cut is a swampadelic cautionary tale, where J. P. teaches a valuable life lesson–“you don’t get somethin’ for nothin,” and, sometimes, you just gotta “Let Go Of The Reins.”  The Hooker-esque boogie of “Lord Have Mercy On My Soul” reminds us that “the Devil will trick you every time,” and served as one of our favorites.  Django’s “Minor Blues” and J. P.’s original, “Crows Nest,” show the fun these guys had with a jammin’ instrumental, and our other favorite was one of the set’s covers.  Everybody has a rockin’ good time on the guitar-driven boogie of the Ozark Mountain Daredevil’s classic, “If You Wanna Get To Heaven, you got to raise a little Hell!”

Y’all know that every time J. P. Soars and Tab Benoit get involved, it’s gon’ be one helluva jam.  And, after you listen to this set, you’ll be impressed with Tab, one sho’ nuff funky drummer!  So, pour yourself a drink, “Let Go Of The Reins,” and party offa these great down-home blues!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

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The Charlie Wooton Project review…August 16, 2019…..

THE CHARLIE WOOTON PROJECT

BLUE BASSO

WILD HEART RECORDS  WH 1003

JACEAUX–REFLECTIONS–I DON’T KNOW–COME ON COME OVER–DIMENOTE–ONE NIGHT–FULTON ALLEY–TELL ME A STORY–FRONT PORCH–MISS YOU

Fans of the Royal Southern Brotherhood and New Orleans Suspects already know the fact that Charlie Wooton is a world-class bassist.  His latest set, for Wild Heart Records, is entitled “Blue Basso,” named for his favorite blue-hued bass guitar.  Charlie is a musical visionary, and he has surrounded himself with like-minded players who create a cohesive sound with the bass at the forefront.

The set opens with just such eclecticism.  The whole set is done as a tribute to one of Charlie’s musical heroes, world-renowned bassist Jaco Pastorius.  “Jaceaux” opens the program, as Charlie and Living Colour bassist Doug Wimbish engage in a brilliant “bass-off” instrumental, where us fans are the true winners.  Slide master Sonny Landreth is featured on two cuts.  First up, the rapid-fire “Tell Me A Story” is a mythical account of a famous bluesman, featuring New Orleans chanteuse Arsene’ Delay on vocals, while the Delta-fied slide instrumental could have been played on anyone’s “Front Porch” from Como to Itta Bena, to Clarksdale!  “I Don’t Know” is a bit of a jazzy ride, again with Arsene’ on vocal and Damon Fowler on guitar, while Anders Osborne adds guitar over Arsene’s vocals on “One Night,” a story of two friends about to take their relationship to the next level.

The set closes with our favorite.  P-Funk guitarist Eric McFadden and Charlie square off toe-to-toe and bass-to-guitar with the Stones classic “Miss You,” with that unmistakable bass riff throughout, making this one a shot of pure fun.

The Charlie Wooton Project pay a beautiful tribute to Jaco Pastorius with “Blue Basso,”  Focusing on his bass skills while allowing his guest players to stretch out, this is a set that motorvates from start to finish!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Vaneese Thomas review…August 15, 2019….

VANEESE THOMAS

DOWN YONDER

SEGUE RECORDS   SRVT2019

EBONY MAN–I TRIED–HIGHWAY OF REGRET–MAKE ME–SECOND CHANCE–MAMA HE LOVES ME–LIES–HANDLE ME GENTLY–LEGACY OF PAIN (FEAT. KEVIN BACON)–LAST KISS–GONE–DOWN YONDER

Memphis blues royalty is IN DA HOUSE following the release of the latest set from Vaneese Thomas, “Down Yonder,” from Segue Records.  Yep–she’s the daughter of the ol’ Funky Chicken and Funky Robot himself, Mr. Rufus Thomas, and she’s the sister to “Gee Whiz” Carla Thomas and keyboard master Marvell.  Some of the most renowned backing players in all of blues are on hand, too, including Shawn Pelton on drums, Will Lee on bass,  Charles Hodges on organ, and big sis Carla on backing vocals.  Trumpeter Marc Franklin and uber-producer Boo Mitchell did additional recording work at Royal Studios as well.

These original writes and co-writes from Vaneese deal with hope, heartache, injustice, and redemption, and the set opens with the field holler story of a Delta sharecropper who worked the fields hard, altho “his body and his soul was scarred,” that “Ebony Man.”  A sweet shot of STAX-ified summer soul has our girl coming to grips with the fact that it’s over, but realizing that “I Tried” to save things.  A bit later she’s looking back a bit too longingly, traveling down that “Highway Of Regret,”  augmented by violin from Katie Jacoby.

We had several favorites.  A breezy, uplifting romp has Vaneese telling us that “everybody needs a Second Chance, when it comes to love and romance,” with big sis Carla on backing vocals.  The set closes with two powerful, gospel-themed offerings.  “Gone” is a sparsely-arranged look at being headed “for my permanent home,” while the title cut has our heroine headed “where the air is sweet” and “where I can sing my song.”  Perhaps the set’s most intriguing cut is Vaneese’s duet with Kevin Bacon.  Based on racially-motivated Mississippi murders that remain unsolved after decades have passed, the singers pray for “justice, truth, and right,” to “break the chain of this Legacy Of Pain.”

Vaneese Thomas has performed all over the globe, and she helped to found the Swarthmore College Gospel Choir.  With “Down Yonder,” she makes a triumphant return to her Southern gospel, blues, and soul roots, for what is her most statement-making set to date!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Carolyn Gaines review….August 14, 2019….

CAROLYN GAINES

THE THRILL IS GONE

POLKA DOT RECORDS

DAMN RIGHT I GOT THE BLUES–DEEP MOANIN BLUES–I GOT DREAMS TO REMEMBER–GOD BLESS THE CHILD–GUESS WHAT–HEY JOE–I GOT MY MOJO WORKING–I’D RATHER GO BLIND–RED HOUSE–STORMY MONDAY–SWEET HOME CHICAGO–THE THRILL IS GONE

Over the last few weeks, we have had the great pleasure to review new releases from some absolute blues royalty.  These include new sets from Bobby Rush, Delbert McClinton, and Vaneese Thomas, and now we have the latest from Carolyn Gaines, “The Thrill Is Gone,” for Polka Dot Records, the label name a cool nod to one of her mentors, Buddy Guy.

The cuts herein are songs that pretty much all blues fans know by heart, and Carolyn sings ’em all with a sincere, down-home passion and conviction.  Her vocal style, oft compared to Big Mama Thornton, is full of bobs and weaves, twists and turns, and snarls and growls, just like the greats such as Big Mama and Ma Rainey did.  She also does a bit of jazzy scat-singing, reminiscent of Billie Holiday.  Carolyn’s uncle, the legendary Grady Gaines, Sr. is on sax, as is his son, Grady Jr.  Buddy Guy’s guitarist, Ric Jaz, is here, as is Gino Baronelli, with Curtis Sherman on piano, Glen Doll on harp, and Moe Bleek on organ.

One of the cool things about this set is the fact that the arrangements are sparse, and the backing players step back and let her incredible voice just do its thang!  She so admires Buddy Guy that she covers two of his songs, the opening “Damn Right I Got The Blues,” and a classic “I smell a rat” tune,  “Guess What,” with Gino’s guitar holding things together.  The set closes with her ode to another mentor, B. B.’s iconic “The Thrill Is Gone.”

We had three other favorites, too.  Glen Doll’s harp adds the spice as our girl confronts “Hey Joe, where you goin’ with that gun in your hand?”  She gets downright sanctified with the testifyin’ “I Got Dreams To Remember,” and again on a soul-stirring take on Billie’s “God Bless The Child,” with Grady, Jr., on sax and Ric Jaz on guitar.

Carolyn Gaines’ tireless work within the Los Angeles Public School System, with her Blues In The Schools program, has been recognized by the Los Angeles City Council, members of the U. S. Congress, and First Lady Michelle Obama.  She gives of herself to keep the blues alive, and pays a great tribute to many of her inspirations  with “The Thrill Is Gone.”   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Whitey Johnson review…August 12, 2019….

WHITEY JOHNSON

MORE DAYS LIKE THIS

BLUE CORN MUSIC  BCM 1910

MORE DAYS LIKE THIS–STARTING A RUMOR–SOUL SHINE–FRICTION–IF IT’S REALLY GOTTA BE THIS WAY–THE BLUES IS ALIVE AND WELL–SKIN DEEP–UPSIDE OF LONELY–HOLD WHAT I GOT–HIGH TIME

Whitey Johnson is the blues-playin’, dues-payin’ alter ego of Texas native and Nashville resident (since 1980) Gary Nicholson.  No matter by what name, the man is a songwriting legend, and is a member of the Texas Heritage Songwriters Association Hall Of Fame.  He’s written songs for Garth, Trisha, Reba, Delbert, Buddy, and so many others it would fill up the Greater Nashville phone directory to list ’em all.  His latest set is entitled “More Days Like This,” for Blue Corn Music, ten cuts written in whole or in part by Whitey and some of  popular music’s best writers.

On this set, Whitey is on vocals and guitar, along with Colin Linden on guitar, Dana Robbins on sax, Quentin Ware on trumpet, Kevin McKendree on keys, Delbert on harp, and a host of other Music City notables as backing contributors.  Throughout these cuts, Whitey looks at falling in love, falling out of love, and how to cope with the in-betweens.  He leads off with the title cut, a sweet shot of summery soul, as he finds that one special lover, and longs for “More Days Like This, more nights like that.”  A song written by Whitey, Donnie Fritts and the great Arthur Alexander is another shot of Sixties-inspired soul, a classic “goodbye” song, “If It’s Really Gotta Be This Way.”  Tremolo guitar adds to its authenticity, and it served as one of our favorites,

We had two other favorites, both co-written by Tom Hambridge.  Racial inequality is addressed thru a song brought to national attention by Buddy Guy, “Skin Deep.”  Then, a man reaping the benefits of the single life again, such as “never having to hear from that mother-in-law,” is the slide-guitar lope of the definitive “Upside Of Lonely,”  which features Delbert on harp!

Whitey Johnson is an incredible writer and performer, and his legacy is as big as Texas.  Grab that bottle of wine and that good ol’ West Coast Smoke and sit back, relax, and enjoy “More Days Like This.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Professor Louie And The Crowmatix review…August 11, 2019….

PROFESSOR LOUIE AND THE CROWMATIX

MILES OF BLUES

WOODSTOCK RECORDS  WR 61

L-50 BLUES–FUNKY STEAMPUNK BLUES–LOVE BOUND–PASSION IN MY LIFE–RAIN 40 DAYS–EXIT ZERO–PLEASE SEND SOMEONE TO LOVE–ORANGE JUICE BLUES–OH MY LADY–BULL FROG JAM BLUES (LIVE)

Professor Louie, whose real name is Aaron L. Hurwitz, got his nom de plume from Rick Danko when the Professor was working with The Band on their induction ceremony into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  He and The Crowmatix are based outta Woodstock, NY, and their latest release, the band’s fifteenth, is “Miles Of Blues,” eight band originals and two cool covers that show this band’s versatility and passion for blues and roots music in all forms.

Louie’s on vocals and keys, Miss Marie is the female vocalist and pianist, while John Platania is on guitar, with Gary Burke on drums, and Frank Campbell on bass.

The function at the junction starts with the Delta-meets-rock “L-50 Blues,” a shout-out to the vintage Gibson archtop acoustic that has been a mainstay in blues and rock.  Up next is the stone-cold grunge of the “Funky Steampunk Blues.”  A second-line pattern drives a tune with a rather somber subject matter, as Miss Marie is on lead vocal on a story dealing with the spate of hurricanes and floods across this country, the poignant, “Rain 40 Days, rain 40 nights.”  The set closes with a ten-minute good-time jam, featuring Miss Marie a’ whistling, a live “Bull Frog Jam Blues.”

We had two favorites, too.  The Professor sho’ nuff loves Miss Marie, and he tells the whole round world about his “passion in the light, passion in the dark,” on the stop-time “Passion In My Life.”  Miss Marie takes the lead vocal on a sanctified read of a song that is as viable and relevant as when Percy Mayfield wanted to “show the world how to get along” in the beautiful “Please Send Me Someone To Love.”

Professor Louie And The Crowmatix have been nominated for a Grammy, and the actual title of this album shows their love for all forms of music.  Enjoy “Miles Of Blues–From L-50 To Steampunk And Miles Of Blues In Between”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Annika Chambers review…August 10, 2019….

ANNIKA CHAMBERS

KISS MY SASS

VIZZTONE RECORDS VT-AC-01

LET THAT SASS OUT–THAT’S WHAT YOU MADE ME–YOU CAN’T WIN–WHAT’S YOUR THING–BRAND NEW DAY–WORLD OF HURT–STAY–TWO BIT TEXAS TOWN–IN THE BASEMENT–I FEEL THE SAME

Annika Chambers is sho’ nuff ridin’ the wave after her win at the Blues Awards back in May for Soul Blues Female Artist Of The Year.  She’s bent on keeping that streak going with the release of her third overall album, “Kiss My Sass,” for Vizztone.  The Lone Star native has a Texas-sized voice that leads the way, and the triad of producers–Larry Fulcher, Richard Cagle, and Tony Braunagel–bring out the best in this young singer, and the whole thing snaps, crackles, and pops with enough energy to light up Titans Stadium!

The set opens with a bang!  Our girl is a good girl at heart, but, when the work day is done, she can’t wait to “Let That Sass Out!”  Sparkling percussion from Brannon McLeod holds things steady as our heroine calls out a useless lover after “slippin’ out and sneakin’ in” for five years, and kicks him to the curb with “That’s What You Made Me.”  She preaches a positive message of “love, freedom, and peace,” in the socially-conscious duet with Ruthie Foster, “What’s Your Thing.”  The seemingly-endless daily accounts of murder in the streets of our society prompts Annika to hope for a “Brand New Day” where “do unto others” once again becomes the rule, featuring the Mighty Orq on guitar.  These were two of our favorites.  Our third favorite was a good, old-school shout-out to soul queen Sugar Pie De Santo with the funk of “where can you dance to any music you choose,” “down In The Basement!”

It has been a banner year for this Texas tornado, and Annika Chambers has no intention of slowing down.  Enjoy some down-home blues from a stone award-winner with “Kiss My Sass!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.