Archive for December, 2019

11 Guys Quartet review…December 30, 2019…..

11 GUYS QUARTET

SMALL BLUES AND GROOVES

VIZZTONE RECORDS   VT-1141

ROAD TRIPPIN–JACKRABBIT–SWEET TASTE–DOGGIN’ IT–SLEEPLESS–EAST CAMBRIDGE CANNONBALL–SPEAKEASY SERENADE–FOUR MAYPOPS–DOWN AND DIRTY–SWING LOW–HEY DADDYO–MIDNIGHT STREETVCAR–RHUMBA BOGALOO–SWAMP RIDE

Back in the early Eighties, guitarist Paul Lenart, bassist Coach Mather, drummer Chuck Purro, and harpman (and Vizztone Records president) Richard “Rosy” Rosenblatt were one helluva blues quartet, tearin’ up clubs all over the Boston area.  They also hold the distinction of having the debut release (on vinyl, of course), of the Tone-Cool label.  They were known back then as the 11TH Hour Band.  Time changes everything, and the fellows all pursued other musical avenues, but, they always had that “chemistry” as a group.  In 2008, the fellows decided to record an album of all-original instrumentals, but they put the whole thing on ice for yet another decade.  Finally, “Small Blues And Grooves” from the 11 Guys Quartet is available for blues fans everywhere to enjoy!

The party starts with “Road Trippin’, a smooth groove set over a Freddie King-ish arrangement.  “Jackrabbit” rocks along at a frenetic pace, and whether the guys intended to or not, we heard an element of old-time gospel down that rabbit hole!  “Sleepless” is an excellent foray into slow blues, while Paul’s guitar takes on a grungy tone in the push-and-pull between guitar and harp that is “Down And Dirty.”  “Hey Daddyo” will get you in a Mardi Gras mood, as will the strut of “Rhumba Boogaloo.”

The set closed with our favorite.  “Swamp Ride” will sho’ nuff take you right into Ernie Young’s Excello recording booth, and that back-scratchin’ riff makes this one a cool take on a vintage style.

The 11 Guys Quartet haven’t missed a beat since their mid-Eighties’ heyday.  “Small Blues And Grooves”  are instrumentals the way they ought to be–nothing real fancy, and every song clocks in at no more than four minutes or so.  Guys, this is the stuff that never gets old, and thanks for sharing these with us blues fans all over the whole round world!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Mark Hummel review…December 28, 2019……

MARK HUMMEL

WAYBACK MACHINE

ELECTRO-FI RECORDS 3459

FLIM FLAM–HELLO STRANGER–SO MUCH TROUBLE–CUT THAT OUT–ROAD DOG–PLAY WITH YOUR POODLE–BREATHTAKING BLUES–CRAZY ABOUT YOU–PEPPER MAMA–GILLUM’S WINDY BLUES–RAG MAMA RAG–GOOD GAL–REEFER HEAD WOMAN–FIVE LONG YEARS–SAY YOU WILL–MEAN OLD FRISCO

Mark Hummel is a Grammy-nominated harpblaster, singer, composer, and bandleader.  He was born in New Haven, CT, but his family soon relocated to L. A.  Growing up, he found a passion for blues harp, and has never looked back.

On each new album, Mark looks for a different, fresh angle, and “Wayback Machine” is no different.  On this set of sixteen mixed originals and covers,  Mark takes us back to the days of the “country blues” era of the Bluebird record label, doing everything in a stripped-down manner.  Mark produced the set at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios in San Jose, and all these cuts have that vintage feel and sound.

Up first, Mark is on vocal on the cautionary, topical tale of  “the chief Denier,” and three guesses as to whom “Flim Flam” is referring.  This one has Aaron Hammerman on keys and Dave Eagle on percussion, better known as the Deep Basement Shakers.  Mark has a lot of fun with “Cut That Out,” with fine guitar from Billy Flynn, “Play With Your Poodle,” and “Rag Mama Rag,” this one featuring Aaron on vocals.

Joe Beard, one of the last remaining true Mississippi bluesmen, and a great personal friend to Mark, is on vocals and guitar on the three acoustic cuts that close the set.   First up is the pleading slow-blues read of “Five Long Years,” giving way to Mark’s original, “Say You Will,” which has a good ol’ Lightnin’ Hopkins feel.  Closing the set, we all get a ride on that “Mean Old Frisco, and that lowdown Santa Fe!”

Mark Hummel’s vision to create a “country blues” album built around his harp and the excellent talents of the special guests who are accompanying him makes “Wayback Machine” a killer set of traditional blues with a cool contemporary twist!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Bushmaster review…December 27, 2019

BUSHMASTER

FEAT. GARY BROWN

DANCING IN THE BELLY OF THE BEAST

PROFILE–AJAX AND HOT WAX–A SONG FOR FREDDIE GRAY–THE BLUES–NOWHERE TO STAND–MUSHROOM–MISS SEXYFINE–FORTY ACRES AND A MULE–ARMY OF TWO–THE ELEVATOR–PRESSURE COOKER–JEKYLL AND HYDE–PROFIT FROM PAIN–THING BACK HOME

Gary Brown grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D. C., and the varied nature of his parents’ record collection exposed him to blues, funk, rock, and a lot more.  He fell in love with the blues, but, after forming his band, Bushmaster, in 1992, they came with more of a funkier, blues-rock sound.  They’ve released four albums, and their latest is entitled “Dancing In The Belly Of The Beast.”  Laid down in Nashville at The Sound Emporium, Gary is on guitar and vocals.  Two Music City legends are also on board, Tracy Nelson and Vickie Carrico, on backing vocals.

Gary’s versatility in composing is outstanding.  Witness the “Song For Freddie Gray,” dedicated to those oppressed, and a stern lesson to those who “weren’t in my shoes.”  A scathing wah-wah attack is the mid-song solo.  “Nowhere To Stand” is a slow-blues ode to the Black Lives Matter movement and the senseless loss of life thru gun violence on both sides of the badge.

Gary strikes a lighter mode for a love song dedicated to that special one, “Army Of Two.”  He then goes the polar opposite route with the story of a changed lover.  It’s the slow-blues, “long journey” that chronicles living with a “Jekyll And Hyde.”

We had two favorites, that bookend the album.  It’s been nearly fifty years since Marvin Gaye asked “What’s Goin’ On,” and it seems that the nation has returned to Square One in the arena of civil rights.  Gary addresses this symptom of society in the leadoff cut, a spit in the eye to racial profiling, the socially-conscious “Profile.”  The set ends on an acoustic note, firing a roundhouse right into the corpulent belly of the beast himself, and, yeah, we may be “winning bigly,” but, “the SOB is cray!”

Bushmaster featuring Gary Brown and “Dancing In The Belly Of The Beast” is a powerful statement of contemporary blues that takes dead aim at the ills in society today.  This is a brilliant set from one of the most unique players on the scene today!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Oliver Sean single review..Christmas Day, 2019…..

OLIVER SEAN

FEAT. THE REAL INDIE PROJECT

EVERY DAY WILL BE LIKE A HOLIDAY

What better way to convey the spirit of the season than thru music?  That is exactly what Billboard Top Ten artist Oliver Sean has done, with the release of his holiday rendition of the William Bell classic, “Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday, when my baby comes home!”  Sean also enlists the aid of the Real Indie Project, a literal “Who’s who” in the indie rock and blues arena, including Tomiko Dixon, Suzanne Grzanna, Nicki Kris, Damien Wyldes, Christine Gaudet, Devin Leigh, Trevor Sewell, and Syreeta Thompson.  The full-length album will be released in summer, 2020, but, for now, make your holidays just a bit brighter with Oliver Sean’s take on of a true Christmas classic!  Happy Holidays…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Black Cat Bones review…December 21, 2019….

BLACK CAT BONES

TATTERED AND TORN

MANSLAUGHTER–WHEN I GET THAT FEELING–DEAD BROKE BLUES–THE RACE–LED TO BELIEVE–LOWDOWN–LONE LOBO–PAY YOU BACK WITH INTEREST–JUST AROUND THE CORNER–LAYING IN WAIT–NOT SO FUNNY–I DON’T CARE

Black Cat Bones are based out of Tucson, AZ, and formed in 2004, building around founding members Charles Pitts on vocals, and Jeff Daniels on bass, and on occasion, drums.  The band is now a five-piece, with dual lead guitars from Richard Rivera and Gary Davis, and now features Jerry Sommers on drums. They have released four albums, with influences from B B to Muddy and Wolf, and, on the rock side, Savoy Brown and Z Z Top.

Their latest is “Tattered And Torn,” twelve cuts of prime blues all written by the various band members.  The guitar playing lends itself more to a more biting, contemporary sound, and Charles can lay plenty of soul on you thru his vocals.  He gets the party started by taking care of a cheatin’ lover, and, now, he’s “goin’ down on a charge of Manslaughter!”  The sax section–Clay Brown, Carla Brownlee, and Amochip Dabney–spice up the minor-key tale of getting old, with the same sad results–“Father Time always wins The Race!”  “Lowdown” is one of our favorites.  Roadhouse rock at its best, Charles is hooked on a lady who’s got “the Devil inside,” but, he’s “gotta have her!”  This song had one flaw–fellows, it was just too short!  Everybody’s had ’em–the wind blows thru your wallet” when you got them “Dead Broke Blues,” and, sho’ nuff, no matter what you do, “life will Pay You Back With Interest!”  The guitars go into serious wah-wah mode on this one, too!!

Our final favorite closed the set.  “I Don’t Care” settles into a soulful, acoustic groove and the whole thing has a sweet, Tom Petty feel!

Over the course of the last fifteen years, Black Cat Bones have remained true to their original credo–to continue to bring cutting-edge blues to their fans, and “Tattered And Torn” fills the bill!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Jim Roberts And The Resonants review…December 20, 2019….

JIM ROBERTS AND THE RESONANTS

A MONTH OF SUNDAYS

SKEETERS–WHAT HER EVIL DO–BELLE OF THE BALL–A MONTH OF SUNDAYS–MADE A PROMISE–LONG HAIRED MISSISSIPPI HIPPIE–MISS HER LOVE–PAY THE PRICE–MOONSHINE MAIDEN–MISS MOTOR CITY 1963–I’M WALKIN’ ON–STEPPIN’ OUT

It’s been two years since slide guitar master, singer, and composer Jim Roberts And The Resonants last released an album. As such, this latest set from this L. A. -based group is titled “A Month Of Sundays!”  The twelve cuts are all written or co-written by Jim and bassist Rick Hollander, who co-wrote six cuts, and doubles down on mandolin and banjolele on two cuts.  These songs take the listener all along the Blues Highway, out west to up north, ending deep down in the Delta.  The Resonants are some of the West Coast’s finest backing musicians also, all veterans of bands led by such stalwarts as Walter Trout, Philip Sayce, and Jack Roberts Harvey.

Opening the proceedings is the horn-driven, Southern soul of those pesky “Skeeters,” and, er, “hidin’ beneath the covers” to escape them!  Everybody gets in a grungy, Southern-rock flavored groove in the story of the unwanted “Long Haired Mississippi Hippies” in Jim’s town, while his slide goes into full-on revenge mode after a lover does him wrong, because, “when you cut me deep, you’re gonna Pay The Price!”  “Moonshine Maiden ” is pure, home-brewed acoustic Delta bliss, while our hero, as a teen, falls in love with a picture on his dad’s wall calendar, the irresistible “Miss Motor City 1963!”

Our favorite was easy.  A Crossroads-ish, acoustic cautionary tale of cheatin’ women is described in “don’t let that red dress fool you,” fellows.  It’s entitled What Her Evil Do,” and features, along with Jim on the slide, Joey Gomez on harp, and Rick Hollander on mandolin.

Jim Roberts And The Resonants are back with a bristling set of blues that crosses several musical boundaries.  Yeah, it’s sho’ nuff been “A Month Of Sundays,” but, good stuff is always worth the wait!    Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Jay Gordon review…December 19, 2019…..

JAY GORDON’S BLUES VENOM

SLIDE RULES!

DRIPPING BLUES–PAIN–LOST IN TIME–LUCKY 13–DOCKERY’S PLANTATION–STRANGER BLUES–VOODOO BOOGIE–EL DIABLO BLUES–TRAVELIN RIVERSIDE BLUES–PURE GRAIN ALCOHOL–SIX STRING OUTLAW–SWEETHEART BLUES–TRAIN TRAIN

Jay Gordon’s Blues Venom consists of Jay on slide guitar and vocals, Sharon Butcher on vocals and bass, and the power trio is rounded out by Tom “Mr. Groove” Parham on drums.  Jay’s slide plying is ferocious, raw, and powerful, plus he’s a helluva lot of fun to listen to.  Ten originals and three covers comprise his latest exercise in the blues, aptly-titled “Slide Rules!”

The boogie’s the thing throughout, and, leading off, is the Delta-inspired slow burn of “Dripping Blues,” where, “sittin’ in this juke joint, I could see the blues drippin’ from the walls!”  The rapid-fire “Lost In Time in the temple of the king” is a cool roadhouse rocker, as is the tale of mojos, boogie, and ol’ “Lucky 13!”  Another cut inspired by Elmore James  features Jay and his lover “doin’ the Voodoo Boogie all night long,” He takes those “wimmen in Vicksburg, clean up to Tennessee” in a sweet acoustic read of Robert Johnson’s “Travelin Riverside Blues,” This one served as one of our favorites.  Another fave was the 200 proof boogie of “Pure Grain Alcohol,” and Jay close the set with our final favorite.  J. Blackfoot cut it back in the Seventies’, but Jay’s slide is fast and furious on his cool read of “Train, Train, take me on out of this town!”

Jay Gordon’s Blues Venom takes the traditional stylings of Elmore James and Robert Nighthawk and combines them with the mile-a-minute fervor of contemporaries such as Johnny Winter. It all comes together to make “Slide Rules!” a guitar-lover’s dream!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.