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.

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.

Pascal Bokar review…August 9, 2019….

PASCAL BOKAR

AMERICAN TRAILS

THE BLUES DON’T LIKE NOBODY–I WANNA  SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS–I CAN TELL–YOU SMILE INSIDE MY NIGHTS–LET IT GROOVE ALL NIGHT LONG–EVERY TIME I SEE YOU THERE

Pascal Bokar is an incredible blues/jazz guitarist who hails originally from the Mali/Senegal region of West Africa.  He has been awarded the ultra-prestigious Jim Hall Jazz Master Award For Guitar from the Berklee School Of Music, as well as the Outstanding Jazz Soloist Award.  For his latest EP, he has incorporated the sounds of his homeland with both traditional and Delta blues, with the unusual addition of fiddle and banjo all stirred together in the melting pot that is “American Trails.”  It is five originals and one cover, and one of the coolest features of the whole shootin’ match is the way Pascal tunes his guitar in sync with his singing voice.  With his penchant for scat-singing throughout these cuts, his style is reminiscent of late-Seventies George Benson.

He leads off with the set’s lone cover, Otis Spann’s “The Blues Don’t Like Nobody,” showing exactly how the banjo and fiddle adapt so easily within this material, courtesy of Avram Siegel and Jim Purat, respectively.  He taps into that Benson-ish, sweet-and-soulful groove with “I Wanna See You In My Dreams,” then does it Hill Country-style with the stone stomp of “Let It Groove All Night Long.”  The set closes with our favorite, a chooglin, all-out blues hoedown throwdown with the whole band blastin’ the straight-outta-Clarksdale boogie of “Every Time I See You There.”

A dazzling, fiery combination of traditional, Delta, and West African roots music, award-winning guitarist Pascal Bokar offers a captivating and unique foray into contemporary blues with “American Trails.”   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Polly O’Keary review…August 8, 2019….

POLLY O’KEARY

AND THE RHYTHM METHOD

AS LIVE AS IT GETS

RED LIGHT–A MAN WHO CAN STAND–I WISH YOU COULD SEE ME NOW–IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE–HARD ACT TO FOLLOW–BLACK CROW CALLIN–IT’S MY SOUL–STOP TRAIN–GATHER ‘ROUND ME ANGELS–I DON’T UNDERSTAND–OLD LOVE–SUGAR DADDY–WHO NEEDS THE BLUES

Polly O’Keary and the Rhythm Method have been on our radar ever since their 2017 set, “Black Crow Callin,” was a finalist in the IBC category of Best Self-Produced CD.  That success has propelled them to fulfill a long-time dream of releasing a live set, and, as such, have just put out “As Live As It Gets.”  There are thirteen cuts, a clever mix of their own works with some cool covers, done at three venues–The Village Taphouse And Grill, Peabo’s Sports Bar, and the Kamiah Hotel Bar And Grill.

Polly is an excellent bassist, and, as a vocalist, she is unparalleled, having won the Washington Blues Society’s Best Female Vocalist a whopping six times.  Her husband is the drummer, Tommy Cook, and guitarist David “The Revelation” Miller, rounds out the trio.

Polly calls out to any potential lovers that she’s “lookin’ for A Man Who Can Stand on his own,” and also “stand by me!”  She takes us all down to Blues Church with a stirring, sanctifyin’ take of Eric Bibb’s, “no matter what you’ve done, you’ll always find shelter in My Father’s House.”  David’s guitar work here utilizes some unique sound effects for good measure, also.  He continues in that fired-up vein for a blistering, ten-minute take on the Clapton/Cray classic, “Old Love,” with some sweet, extended jamming.  Plus, he is also on the lead vocal!

Polly closes the set with two of our favorites.  She’s the girl who’s not into material things–“if you wanna be my Sugar Daddy, be sweet to me!”  David’s guitar lines give this one a solid, jump-blues flavor.  In closing, the funk hits the fan as Polly gives new meaning to “keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” because “with friends like you, Who Needs The Blues?”

A monstrous, energetic vocalist backed by an equally-impressive backing core is one thing, but add in a crowd that’s into every song, and it shows why Polly O’Keary And The Rhythm Method’s “As Live As It Gets,” is such a sweet listen!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

David G. Smith review…August 7, 2019…..

DAVID G SMITH

WHO CARES

HEY DAVE MUSIC  007

WHERE IS THE MEDICINE–I WON’T REMEMBER YOU–JESSE JAMES–RIGHT AMOUNT OF WRONG–MI FAMILIA–MARY ALICE–SAY DIE–SHINE (FEAT. MARY GAUTHIER)–STRAW HOUSES–JUST TO FEEL THE WIND–WITHOUT WATER–WHO CARES

David G Smith is a brilliant singer/songwriter/guitarist now calls Music City home.  He writes songs from the heart, and that speak the truth.  He learned that lesson in his songwriting career thru his general disdain for “the music industry” as a whole, with its “hit machine” tendencies.  On his latest set for Hey Dave Music, “Who Cares,” the twelve originals herein were either written in whole or part by David and some of this town’s finest fellow writers.  These originals speak for those who have no voice.

The set was produced by Blue Miller, who is also on guitars and percussion.  Sadly, he has since passed away, and this album is dedicated to his memory.  There are numerous highlights.  The opening cut tackles dealing with depression, as David ponders “Where Is The Medicine for that kind of pain?”  “Mi Familia” is a true story based on missionary work at the U. S./Mexico border, and the current administration’s apparent disdain for humanitarian aid.  Flint, Michigan, and other cities suffering from the lack of clean water is the theme of “what leaks into the water seeps into our souls,” entitled, “Without Water.”  The title cut shouts-out to the plight of the hungry, homeless, and abused, with “Who Cares, as long as somebody does.”

Our favorite recalled the classic Curtis Mayfield tune, “People Get Ready, there’s a train a’ comin.”  It is entitled “Shine,” and is done as a duet with Mary Gauthier.  Herein, we are all encouraged to let our own lights shine, and be a beacon unto others, to spread a message of hope and peace.

Marcus Hummon pretty much summed up the career of David G Smith earlier today upon his induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.  He urged all writers to “find your own voice,” and write what you feel.  David G. Smith has done just that, with the most excellent “Who Cares.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.