Mark Cameron review…July 21, 2019….

MARK CAMERON

ON A ROLL

COP RECORDS

TROUBLE BREWIN–ON YOUR WAY TO THE TOP–DIRTY BISCUIT–RIDIN THE RAILS–ON A ROLL–DICEY–NEXT STOP IS THE BLUES–WHERE I GOT YOU FROM–MOVIN OUT–BACK SEAT BOOGIE–HERE WE GO–WHAT LUCY SAYS–MOJO SHUFFLE–DREAMS

Minnesota-based singer/composer/guitarist Mark Cameron has been in the music biz for over thirty years.  On his latest album, he and his incredible backing crew bring an eclectic mix to the table with the robust fourteen originals that make up “On A Roll.”  In keeping with the band’s tradition of being able to play anything in any style, these cuts are full of jump blues, Delta blues, and nods to Chicago blues and even Louis Jordan.

Mark’s good-timey baritone delivery makes everything all right, too, as does the unique peaceful coexistence between harp man Rick Miller and the sax/flute combo from Sheri Cameron.  Witness the leadoff cut, “Trouble Brewin”  which deals with two lovers headin’ for a fall.  A bit later, we are treated to some sage advice about a girl with questionable morals, “don’t mess with a Dirty Biscuit–leave it where you found it!”

“Movin Out,” one of our favorites, draws its inspiration from Rosco Gordon’s “Just A Little Bit.”  Our other favorite is a Fifties-ish rocker again dealing with those little girls who just won’t stay put.  This chick continually plots behind our hero’s back to “do the Back Seat Boogie” wherever she can!

With a plethora of original material and crowd-pleasing showmanship, it is easy to see why the IBC judges love Mark Cameron and his band.  That enthusiasm carries over into the excellent grooves of “On A Roll.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

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Ben Levin review….July 20, 2019….

BEN LEVIN

BEFORE ME

VIZZTONE RECORDS  VT  BL002

I FEEL SO GOOD–PAPPY–THIS MORNING–CONFESSIN THE BLUES–BEFORE ME–CREOLE KITCHEN–LONESOME WHISTLE BLUES–SO SOON–LOAD OFF MY BACK–LIGHTNIN–I WANNA HUG YA KISS YA SQUEEZE YA–OPEN LATE

Ben Levin, a Cincinnati-based blues piano man, has not only just released his second album, this one entitled “Before Me,” for the VizzTone label, but, he has also just completed his FIRST YEAR of college!!  Yes indeed, they are starting out very young these days, but this brilliant young singer/composer is a blessing to listen to.  His enthusiasm for this project, consisting of six originals and six covers, is infectious, and runs throughout this set.  He gets a little help from some of his good friends herein, too.

Two of those friends help get things started, as Ben swings thru one of Muddy’s classics, written by Big Bill Broonzy, “I Feel So Good, I feel like ballin’ the jack,” this one featuring Bob Corritore on harp, and former Muddy sideman, the legendary Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin on guitar!  They return a bit later as Ben gets into a Kansas City groove by way of a jazzed-up take on Jay McShann’s “Confessin The Blues,” and the young virtuoso offers up an original tune that sounds as if it could’ve easily been a long-lost Fats Domino cut from his Imperial days, “Before Me, who held your hand?”

Our favorite was easy.  Way back in the day, Freddie King cut “Lonesome Whistle Blues” for Syd Nathan’s Cincinnati-based King Records.  Ben brings the piano and vocal on this version, and Bob is on guitar, but the unique thing is that the original drummer from Freddie’s 1961 session, 93-year-old Philip Paul, recreates his role on this cut!  With a 75-year difference in their ages, this truly shows that the blues has no limits and no boundaries!

It is a pure joy to hear Ben Levin capture the passion and spirit of his blues forefathers with “Before Me.”  Muddy once opined, “who’s gon’ carry this bidness on?”  Well, Ben is off to a great start!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

 

Karen Jonas review…July 19, 2019…..

KAREN JONAS

LUCKY, REVISITED

OPHELIA–LOVESICK BLUES–OKLAHOMA LOTTERY–LUCKY–IT TAKES A LOT TO LAUGH, IT TAKES A TRAIN TO CRY–BUTTER–COUNTRY SONGS–WASTING TIME–RIVER SONG–MONEY–GOSPEL OF THE ROAD

The last time we heard from Virginia-based Americana songstress Karen Jonas, it was early summer of 2018 with her release of “Butter.”  That project found her successfully, albeit with her share of difficulties, jugging the challenges of young motherhood and a career in the music business.  For the last five years, she’s been constantly touring, along with guitarist and musical partner Tim Bray.  During the course of numerous live shows, they discovered that many of the songs from her previous albums had taken on new meanings when performed in front of a crowd.  That set the stage for these new versions of some old friends that comprise “Lucky, Revisited.”  Herein, the guitar parts are more diverse and become an even more of an integral part of the arrangements, and Karen’s vocals are allowed to soar.

We had a slew of favorites.  Oh yeah, our slightly-naughty little Siren still “cooks with Butter,” and she still “drinks straight whiskey,” too!  Our lovelorn heroine laments just “Wasting Time” in a relationship, pondering whether to stay or punt the whole thing.  That no-good lover did leave her with one redeeming quality, tho–the ability to appreciate those good ole “Country Songs,” so she can “dance all over my broken heart!”  This one showcases Tim’s guitar in a cool, two-steppin’ arrangement.  I’m jumpin’ right up to show my age here, but Karen really captures that “feelin’ called the blues, since my baby said goodbye,” on a flawlessly-lovely read of Hank’s iconic “Lovesick Blues,” made all the more unique by the use of clippity-clop percussion throughout!

The re-imagining of these songs only adds to the growing legacy of Karen Jonas’ and Tim Bray’s contributions to the American genre.’   Sit back, relax, and allow her beautiful voice to go from sultry to powerful as you bask in the grooves of “Lucky, Revisited.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Blue Moon Marquee review….July 17, 2019….

BLUE MOON MARQUEE

BARE KNUCKLES AND BRAWN

BLUE MOON MARQUEE MUSIC

BIG BLACK MAMBA–SMOKE RINGS FOR MY RIDER–FEVER FLICKERING FLAME–HARD TIMES HIT PARADE–AS I LAY DYING–HIGH NOON–THE RED DEVIL HIMSELF–BIG SMOKE–52ND STREET STRUT–WAYWARD–LOST AND WILD

Blue Moon Marquee is a British Columbia-based blues-jazz duo that really play a melting pot of varied styles.  They hearken back to the days of Louis Armstrong, Louis Jordan, and even some Western swing in the mix for good measure.  Usually, the band consists of A. W. Cardinal on vocals and guitar, with Jasmine Colette on upright bass, vocals, and percussion, but, for their latest release, “Bare Knuckles And Brawn,” they employ a full band to create a more robust sound.  All the cuts are band originals, and the backing crew plus the use of old-school two-inch tape gives the whole thing a vintage sound.

Leading off, with a voice that is somewhere between the Wolf, Tom Waits, and Joe Cocker, A. W. preaches a Native legend about that “Big Black Mamba” that comes from the ground, and guides “the stars of Texaco,” of course referring to Big Oil.  Jasmine takes the lead vocal on one of our favorites,, “Hard Times Hit Parade,” a jazzy, muted-trumpet ode to the 99% of us that comprise the nation’s wealth gap.  Paul Pigat adds hopped-up guitar to another favorite, this one dealing with “how long will this trouble last” in a nation where there’s “everything goin’ on wrong around here,” “The Red Devil Himself.”  “Big Smoke” is a swingin’ tune with a somber theme,, that of the seemingly-endless cycle of weather extremes  plaguing the country, while Jasmine sings our final favorite, a sweet, horn-fueled shout-out to Billie Holiday, doin’ that “52ND Street Strut.”

Blue Moon Marquee keeps things loose, unique, and interesting with “Bare Knuckles And Brawn,” With ultra-cool nods to Django, Memphis Minnie, Howlin’ Wolf and a whole lot more, it’s a set tailor-made for the dance floor!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Chris and Adam Carroll review…July 15, 2019…..

CHRIS AND ADAM CARROLL

GOOD FARMER

HI-FI LOVE–CITY BY THE SEA–GOOD FARMER–TOUGH AS NAILS–ANGEL IN GOD’S COUNTRY–LOUISE–THE OLD WILTED ROSE–LOVE YOU ALREADY–OCEAN OF PEACE–TAKE ME AWAY

Chris and Adam Carroll, husband-and-wife since 2013, have developed a natural chemistry that comes not only from the obvious of being married, but having sung as a duo for an even longer time.  Their live shows have become the stuff of legend, and their intent was to capture that “live feel” in studio.  They accomplished this feat at The Zone, with Adam’s long-time producer, Lloyd Maines, as producer.  He also plays a number of stringed instruments on this project.  It is entitled “Good Farmer,” ten original songs penned either in whole or in part by the couple.

The title cut, sung by Chris, is a shout-out to all the strong, empowered women she has encountered throughout her life, augmented by acoustic guitar and mandolin.  Another tribute to a powerful woman, this one sung by Adam, is “daddy’s little girl” who was always “Tough As Nails,” growing into a “rock and roll angel they called Queen Red.”

We had two favorites, too.  A king, a warrior, a priest, and a lover are the proponents who all end up in an “Ocean Of Peace,” a sho’ nuff “message tune” that encourages us all to be a beacon to others to one day, perhaps find that ocean within ourselves.  The other was the opening cut.  One of the reasons their live shows are so electric is  the air pf playfulness they exude in their performances.  It’s all over this cut, as our lovers offer to us some of that good ‘ol, doobie-sharin,’ Free Bird-rockin,’ fig-leaf wearin,’ “Hi Fi Love.”

Their fans pretty much mandated that this album become a reality, so Chris and Adam Carroll have given the people what they want.  Sparkling dynamics, and sweet harmonies drive “Good Farmer!”   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Chuck Hawthorne review…July 13, 2019…..

CHUCK HAWTHORNE

FIRE OUT OF STONE

3 NOTCHES MUSIC

SUCH IS LIFE (C’EST LA VIE)–AMARILLO WIND–ARROWHEAD AND A PORCUPINE CLAW–SARA’S ALL THE WAY–NEW LOST GENERATION–WORTHY OF THE SEA–BROKEN WIRE–BROKEN GOOD–STANDING ALONE–I WILL FIGHT NO MORE FOREVER

Austin, TX-based singer/songwriter Chuck Hawthorne draws inspiration for his characters from folks he met during his military career, or from his everyday observations.  His subjects could easily be you, me, or anyone in our circle of friends and co-workers, and he breathes life into each and every one of them.  You can meet ’em all on Chuck’s upcoming release, “Fire Out Of Stone,’ hittin’ the streets on July 26.

One of those memorable individuals leads off.  A lifelong biker with a penchant for his unpredictability takes his last ride on the poignant “Such Is Life (C’est La Vie)”   Lonesome Jim is another one.  A lovable Vietnam vet likely suffering from PTSD, he was prescribed “little pills,” then “bigger pills” to ease his pain.  This one features mournful harp from Ray Bonneville.  Then, there’s “the damnedest thing you ever saw,” the tale of a wide-eyed adolescent with a few pennies to spare who attended an Indian PowWow and discovered the gift of life thru an “arrowhead and a porcupine claw,” the song which inspired the album’s title.

The set closes on its most powerful note.  An original song bequeathed to Chuck by his late friend, Richard Dobson, is an ode to one’s own mortality, and is based on the speech delivered by Chief Joseph to the Nez Perce tribe in 1877.  Here, we find that place where “we sever all ties that bind, as I Will Fight No More Forever.”

Folks, let’s raise a glass, sing one for Jimmy Martin, and get so high we get lost between the moon and Mars to celebrate this most excellent offering from Chuck Hawthorne, “Fire Out Of Stone.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

3 Pairs Of Boots review…July 12, 2019….

3 PAIRS OF BOOTS

GONE SOUTH

HEY I’M ON MY WAY–ANYTHING FOR YOU–IT AIN’T EASY–GONE SOUTH–DOLLAR STORE–WASH AWAY THE BLUES–ONE MORE RIDE–SLIPPING AWAY–HE LOST MY NUMBER–LOUSY WEEK–LIBERTY–ALWAYS LOVED COWBOYS

The San-Fran-based, husband-and-wife duo of Andrew Stern and Laura Arias are 3 Pairs Of Boots, and their latest set, “Gone South,” is steeped in classic country, with a touch of Bakersfield, a little rock and roll via The Byrds and Tom Petty, and empowered women of contemporary country such as Kacey Musgraves and Margo Price.  The songs, penned by Andrew with Laura in mind to sing them, are simple by nature, but complex in the feelings they evoke within the listener.  Our heroine, throughout this set, always seemed to be one step behind that one true love she seeks to set her free.

Witness the guy who set off “the rockets red glare” inside her during their one night of lust.  Fer sure, HE was THE one, but, alas, “He Lost My Number.”  Then there’s the girl who finds it easier to “cheat on him,” but, we all know, as far as life is concerned, “It Ain’t Easy.”

We had two favorites.  With “honesty in short supply” on “One More Ride,” our girl opines on whether to dump a cheater, or, lustily take him on that “one more ride.”  The set closes on a light-hearted note, as Laura name-checks everyone from Gary Cooper to Butch Cassidy to The Man With No Name, on a love story that “goes together like chili and beans,” “I Always Loved Cowboys.”

3 Pairs Of Boots. with “Gone South,” have crafted a set of two-steppin’, high-steppin, and side-steppin’ tunes that prove California is a major player in the Americana game.  Characterized by brilliant harmonies and musicianship, this is a set not to be missed!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.