The McKee Brothers review…October 22, 2017….

THE MCKEE BROTHERS

MOON OVER MONTGOMERY

MBE-2017-2

PIG FEET–CONFIDENTIAL–I FEEL LIKE DYNAMITE–WORRIED ABOUT TOMORROW–YOU KNOW HOW I LIE–MOON OVER MONTGOMERY–KICKS–BAYOU MAN–GO 2 WORK–WHERE YOU GETTIN IT–RUNAWAY LOVE–LATE AT NIGHT–REMEMBER WHEN–FLAT, BLACK, AND CIRCULAR–BLUES OF THE MONTH CLUB–CELEBRATE ME HOME

The McKee Brothers, Dennis and Ralph, are back with their second high-powered release, “Moon Over Montgomery.”  No sophomore slump here, as this is another strong, eclectic set that’s sure to have something for everybody.  This set teams the brothers with some of the best vocalists and session players from L. A. and Michigan.  The brothers are highly-skilled multi-instrumentalists, and they are joined by thirty-plus musicians and a revolving corps of lead vocalists,  giving this set a full, “big band” sound!

There are various genres’ represented, too–soul/blues, funk, gospel, even some cool NOLA sounds.  Those Big Easy grooves kick things off, with a story of fine “New Orleans cuisine,” with one caveat–“we don’t serve no Pig Feet up in here!”  Reggie Brown is the featured vocalist on the stone funk of “I Feel Like Dynamite,” while Reggie Gonzales keeps the funk hittin’ the fan, with “Go 2 Work,” and the smoky, sly tale of two exes trying to reconnect, “Where You Gettin’ It?”  Bob Schultz takes the lead on a jazz-inflected tune about gettin’ down to your favorite vinyl, back to the good ole days when music was “Flat, Black, And Circular.”   And, Melissa McKee closes the set with a brilliant, just-in-time-for-the-holidays take on “Celebrate Me Home.”

The band hits home on a couple of hard-hitting, societal hot-button topics, and they served as our favorites.  A jobless vet sounds off with a genuine fear for this country, and is “Worried About Tomorrow,” with Laith Al-Saadi on lead vocal and Larry McCray on guitar.  Ari Teitel and the backing chorus add the gospel fire to the lively story of that “Moon Over Montgomery, hangin’ in  a purple sky” that guided the Freedom Marchers and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King on their march from Selma to Montgomery, AL, in 1965 during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

The McKee Brothers are not only world-class players in their own right, but they have joined forces with an incredible group of their friends to bring “Moon Over Montgomery” to vivid life.  This is truly an excellent offering from a band rapidly making a big splash in contemporary blues!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

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Likho Duo review…October 21, 2017….

LIKHO DUO

NOE’ SOCHA AND CLIFF SCHMITT

BLUES AND THE WORLD BEYOND

LIKHO RECORDS

DERBY STREET BLUES–SPOONFUL–THE DOWNTOWNER–I CAN’T BE SATISFIED–ROMANCE AMONG THIEVES–I’D SAY–BLACK DOG–YOU SHOOK ME–HIDEAWAY–ALMERE–GEORGIA–GOOD MORNING LITTLE SCHOOLGIRL–TU VUO FA L’AMERICANO–WALTZ FOR KATJA

Likho Duo hail from NYC now, even tho the guitarist-harpist Noe’ Socha was originally from Carpi, Italy, while doghouse bass man Cliff Schmitt was from north Texas.  The two transplanted New Yorkers will represent the Long Island Blues Society during the upcoming IBC’s behind their debut release, the all-acoustic, all-instrumental set entitled “Blues And The World Beyond.”  There are six originals and eight covers over this well-crafted album, and the two players are, literally, “beyond this world” good!

Noe’ was a classically-trained guitarist who fell in love with the blues thru a guitar teacher, while Cliff started on electric bass, switching to acoustic at age 18.  He found the blues thru his dad’s 8-track collection of Clapton and Zep.

The music is really refreshing, fans.  The guitar-harp-bass arrangements, for us, brought to mind the guitar stylings of Django Reinhardt, with Cliff’s bass supplying the work done by Grappelli’s fiddle during their Hot Club days.  Noe’ draws from the influences of Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, and, even Hendrix, and his harp has that good, country-blues, Delta feel.

That country feel leads off, with Noe’s original, “Derby Street Blues,”  done in the style of his heroes, and  Cliff gets in  a bass solo!  Cliff’s original, “The Downtowner,” has some “lonesome” harp from Noe’, while “Romance Among The Thieves” has a jazzy, gypsy vibe.  \

The covers are brilliantly done as well.  You’ve never heard “Black Dog” presented the way these fellows do it, with Noe’s harp echoing Plant’s iconic vocals, and they have a lotta fun with “Hideaway,” and another fine country-blues take on “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl.”  The set closes with Cliff’s quiet original, “Blues For Katja,” named in the liner notes as a major source of inspiration.

The classical training both of these fellows had as young’uns pays off big with the material in “Blues And The World Beyond.”  As for the duo’s name, Noe’ is legally blind, and Cliff has a vision issue in one eye,  So, with one good eye between the two of ’em, they chose the name Likho, a Slavic mythological Cyclops-like creature.  If you’re at the IBC’s early in 2018, be sure and check ’em out at the Blind Raccoon Showcase!  Until next time…..Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

James Armstrong review…October 21, 2017….

JAMES ARMSTRONG

BLUES BEEN GOOD TO ME

CATFOOD RECORDS   CFR -025

BLUES BEEN GOOD TO ME–SECOND TIME AROUND–ADDICTED TO LOVE–EARLY GRAVE–OLD MAN IN THE MORNING (YOUNG MAN AT NIGHT)–CHANGE IN THE WEATHER–HOW SWEET IT IS TO BE LOVED BY YOU–AIN’T ANOTHER LOVE SONG–SLEEPING WITH A STRANGER–SHOT GUN WEDDING

For his latest set for Catfood Records, James Armstrong surrounded himself with a group of backing musicians that he’d played with in his live shows, giving him a good “comfort zone.”  This formula proved to be a real winner with the ten cuts that make up “Blues Been Good To Me.”  Recorded at Sawhorse Studio in St. Louis and Jim Gaines’ Bessie Blue Studio here in Tennessee, James is on vocals and guitar, with Matt Murdick on keys and vocals, Johnny McGhee on rhythm guitar, Darryl Wright on bass, and Andrew Blaze Thomas on drums.

The material consists of eight of James’ originals and two stellar covers.  The set starts with James’ autobiography of sorts, the tale of a world traveler fueled by the music he loves, “Blues Been Good To Me.”  He name-checks Robert Johnson, Elvis, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, and several others who all fell victim to that “Early Grave.”  Co-producer, labelmate, and living legend Johnny Rawls adds backing vocals here, along with Mary Jo Curry on this poignant tale of life in the fast lane.  James closes the set with a good, old-fashioned “murder ballad,” if you will.  A “Shotgun Wedding, doomed from the start,” finds the young groom with the ever-roving eye meeting a most tragic ending.

Our favorites were the two covers, and here’s why.  James Armstrong has a unique way with songs most of us are familiar with.  He changes the tempos, time signatures, and basically turns ’em inside-out, making almost a brand-new song.  Check out his re-worked version  of “Take It To The Limit” from his 2014 album, “Guitar Angels,” and compare it to his versions herein of  Robert Palmer’s “Addicted To Love,” and the Motown classic, “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You,” this one featuring James on slide guitar, heretofore unheard on this song!

That’s the cool thing about James Armstrong.  He’s always good for some mighty fine guitar-driven blues with a few nice surprises along the way.  We suppose that’s one of the  many reasons he says “Blues Been Good To Me!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Kim Wilson review…October 20, 2017….

KIM WILSON

BLUES AND BOOGIE, VOL. 1

SEVERN RECORDS CD 0070

BONUS BOOGIE–NO LOVE IN MY HEART–NINETY-NINE–WORRIED LIFE BLUES–YOU UPSET MY MIND–TEENAGE BEAT–SAME OLD BLUES–SEARCHED ALL OVER–FROM THE BOTTOM–LOOK WHATCHA DONE–BLUE AND LONESOME–SHO NUFF I DO–LEARN TO TREAT ME RIGHT–EDGIER–MEAN OLD FRISCO–YOU’RE THE ONE

For his latest album for Severn Records, Kim Wilson has gone back to the basics of good-time, old-school blues that served him well as a founding member of The Fabulous Thunderbirds and his brilliant solo career.  This one is entitled “Blues And Boogie, Vol. 1,” and, at a robust sixteen cuts, it is comprised of Kim’s originals and several well-played covers from some of his heroes, such as Little Walter, Rice Miller, and James Cotton.  He’s joined by some of the best session men on the planet, too.  Along for this sweet ride are, among others, Billy Flynn, Big Jon Atkinson, Bob Welsh, Richard Innes, and Barrelhouse Chuck.

Fans of Kim’s older catalog and T’Birds stuff are going to love this one, as did we.  The fellows lead off with one of Kim’s originals, a cool instrumental with that vintage swagger, “Bonus Boogie,” and they revisit that groove a little later with another original, “Edgier.”  Kim pays a cool tribute to Little Walter by busting out the big ‘ol chromatic for “Teenage Beat,” and again on the slash and slow-burn of “Blue And Lonesome.”  They get in a West Side mood with Bob and Big Jon on guitars for Magic Sam’s “Look Whatcha Done,” and hit that loping Jimmy Reed stride with Billy Flynn on guitar for “You Upset My Mind.”

We picked two favorites, but everything is great.  We’ve always been partial to Rice Miller, and Kim gets into the swing of that tale “last year about this time,” when “you asked me for one hundred dollars, and I didn’t have but Ninety-Nine.”  He closes the set on a killer note, with a bass-heavy, echo-laden arrangement of Jimmy Rogers’ “You’re The One.”

Folks, all you have to do is listen to Kim Wilson and “Blues And Boogie, Vol. 1,” to hear what a labor of love this set was for him to create.  He promises there’ll be more to come, and we, frankly, can’t wait!  He intends to make this a part of his recorded legacy, and dedicates  this set to his “big brother,” James Cotton.  More, please!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Monocle Band review…October 18, 2017….

MONOCLE BAND

THE CLEARING

MEDICINE–NOT IF I HAVE MY WAY–SOLACE–ALL THIS DARK–ON THE BANKS OF THE STREAM–WATER SONG–LORA LEE–CLEAR MUD–SAD-EYED GIRL–THE CLEARING

The Boulder, Colorado-based Monocle Band features the golden voice of Monica Marie and songwriter/guitarist Bill Huston, a man with a keen way around a lyric.  Their second full-length album is set for an October 20, 2017, release, and is entitled “The Clearing.”  This set differs from their 2013 debut, as it has more electric guitar and piano, while staying true to the band’s roots in folk, bluegrass, and even pre-WWII blues.

For the most part, the pair alternate the lead vocal throughout the set on each song, but, when they do sing together, their voices mesh quite well.  Their characters have the same ups, downs, flaws, and little victories as do we all.  Our heroine’s introduction to love leads off the set, where Dusty Rider’s banjo adds the spice to “Medicine,” as our lovers “move the wind with hips and soul.”  Monica tackles dealing with depression in “Solace” and “Clear Mud,” where she yearns for “a brighter day” as redemption.  It also features producer John McVey on electric guitar.  Bill looks at our own mortality and the loss of a child in the poignant “All This Dark,” while the pair duets on a story of unrequited love, courtesy of “Lora Lee,”

Our favorite was Bill’s good ole “murder ballad.”  A bank robbery goes as wrong as wrong can be, and our hero “still may hang,” but “Not If I Have My Way.”  This one features Sam Parks on mandolin.

A set full of eye-opening characters over clever folk/bluegrass arrangements drives “The Clearing” from Monocle Band.  Monica Marie and Bill Huston bring a varied, fresh sound to these ten originals that is bound to please their long-time fans, while bringing new ones,  including us, into the fold!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

Duke Robillard review…October 16, 2017….

DUKE ROBILLARD

DUKE AND HIS DAMES OF RHYTHM

M. C. RECORDS  MC–0083

FROM MONDAY ON–GOT THE SOUTH IN MY SOUL–PLEASE DON’T TALK ABOUT ME WHEN I’M GONE–SQUEEZE ME–WALKING STICK–BLUES IN MY HEART–LOTUS BLOSSOM–MY HEART BELONGS TO DADDY–WHAT’S THE REASON (I’M NOT PLEASIN’ YOU)–ME, MYSELF, AND I–EASY LIVING–WAS THAT THE HUMAN THING TO DO–IF I COULD BE WITH YOU (ONE HOUR TONIGHT)–READY FOR THE RIVER–CALL OF THE FREAKS

For his latest project, Duke Robillard wanted to cross another item off his bucket list.  Mark Carpentieri of M. C. Records had long wanted to record Duke, and they hatched a plan to team Duke with his long-time rhythm section, a full horn section, and six of the classiest female singers in all of contemporary blues.  They would all perform vintage Tin Pan Alley-era songs from the 20’s and 30’s, so,  “Duke And The Dames Of Rhythm” fires up Duke’s passion for this music, and gives the listener a unique perspective on this world-renowned musician.

At a robust fifteen cuts, there are highlights aplenty.  Sunny Crownover and the Duke lead things off with a spirited duet on Bing Crosby’s “From Monday On,” with the arrangement and clarinet by Billy Novick, also Duke’s go-to licorice stick man.  Sunny returns a bit later for the sultry-and-sexy story of a girl who knows where her sugar comes from, “My Heart Belongs To Daddy.” Madeleine Peyroux keeps that sultry vibe cookin’, begging for her “daddy” to “Squeeze Me, and squeeze me again!”  Maria Muldaur, herself no stranger to this music, lends her one-of-a-kind voice to the honey drippin’ “Got The South In My Soul,” and the playful “Was That The Human Thing To Do?”  Elizabeth McGovern has a swingin’ good time with “Me, Myself, And I,” featuring the only electric guitar appearance, from Andy Stein, while Catherine Russell lays down a torchy read of “Blues In My Heart,” with a horn of plenty from Jon Erik Kellso.  Kelley Hunt offered up our personal favorite, “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone.”  Duke’s subdued guitar is Kelley’s perfect foil for the opening verses, before giving way to the full band at mid-song.

With “Duke And His Dames Of Rhythm,” one can be sure of two things.  First, there is top notch musicianship from all involved, and then there is the eclectic mix of songs bound to bring joy to his legion of fans!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

Albert Castiglia review…October 14, 2017….

ALBERT CASTIGLIA

UP ALL NIGHT

RUF RECORDS  CD 1249

HOODOO ON ME–I BEEN UP ALL NIGHT–THREE LEGGED DOG–95 SOUTH–KNOCKED DOWN LOADED–QUIT YOUR BITCHING–WOMAN DON’T LIE–UNHAPPY HOUSE OF BLUES–DELILAH–CHASE HER AROUND THE HOUSE–YOU GOT ME TO THAT PLACE

Over the course of his storied career, South Florida-based bluesman Albert Castiglia has hoodooed on stage with the ol’ Hoodoo Man himself, Junior Wells, gone waaay past those “Bad Year Blues,” and, on his last album, told all of us to “Get Yer @$$ In The Van” for the next gig!  A perennial road dog, he’s back with what will likely prove to be his strongest album to date.  Yup–“Up All Night” has got everything his fans love best about him–blistering solos, that soul-man’s vocal delivery, tunes about life on the road, relationships, both good and bad, with everything aided and abetted by that keen sense of humor.

Want some pure Sixties’ psychedelia?  Then, get yer wah-wah’s out for the title cut, where Albert, in trouble with a lover, sings, “I Been Up All Night, rollin’ joints as big ’round as my thumb!”  “Knocked Down Loaded” will take many of us back to our youth, when we all believed we were ten feet tall and bulletproof, especially when “Jack, black,” and “wine spo-de-o-de” gets involved!  Albert closes the set on a quieter, acoustic note, a cool ode to that special lover who “Got Me To That Place where I want to be!”

Not all the girls herein are on the up and up, tho.  Check out the pure evil of the leadoff lady who “Put The Hoodoo On Me,” and the constant fussing and fighting has him ready to blow an “Unhappy House Of Blues.”  Written by Cyril Neville, Albert relates to the “graveyard love” therein, and it also features harp from Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone.

We had two favorites, too.  Sonny Landreth adds his signature slide licks to the roadhouse boogie of  “95 South,” tracing Albert’s road trip from “DC to SoFlo” and trying to outrun a hurricane!  And, when you’ve been on the road for “a month and 14 days,” when you get home, you want to grab your lover and “Chase Her Around The House,” where the only real choice is whether it’s “the bedroom or the kitchen floor.”

Albert Castiglia has done it again with “Up All Night.”  He left everything the same from his last album, as this one also was laid down at Dockside Studios with the honorable Mike Zito producing.  The only changes were the band members, this time with Jimmy Pritchard on bass, and Brian Menendez on drums.  Everybody played their collective butts off, too.  Mama Esther, you gotta be proud of your son Albert and this stellar set of contemporary blues!  Love to all…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.