The Bennett Brothers review…July 18, 2018…

THE BENNETT BROTHERS

NOT MADE FOR HIRE

AMERICAN SHOWPLACE MUSIC

JUNKYARD DOG–HOLD ON TIGHT–I JUST DON’T WANT THE BLUES TODAY–BLUES #9–WHAT’D I DO–ROCKING CHAIR–HOW LONG–THE ONLY WAY TO BE–WALK WITH THE DEVIL–NOT MADE FOR HIRE–I GOT A WOMAN

In the early days of their career, the Bennett Brothers–Jimmy on guitar and vocals, and Peter on bass and vocals–were frequent invitees to Levon Helm’s storied “Midnight Rambles” in his upstate New York home in Woodstock.  Later, they formed the band that would back Alexis P. Suter on more than one hundred of these “Rambles,” and they have just released their debut album, “Not Made For Hire,” for American Showplace Music.  Joining them on this mighty sweet ride, we have Lee Falco on drums, and the incomparable John Ginty on keys.  All eleven cuts are originals, and you can hear a myriad of influences within these grooves, including Southern rock mixed with a little Santana, and some good ole juke-joint stompers.

This party starts with the in-your-face snarl of Jimmy’s guitar, as his lover “treats me like a Junkyard Dog.”  Linda Pino is on the haunting backing vocals  as our hero is down to “nothin’ left in my heart for you to take,” the plaintive, slow-burn of “I Just Don’t Want The Blues Today.”  “Blues #9” is one of those cool, you-can’t-sit-down instrumentals with plenty of B-3 from Mr. Ginty.  That Latin influence surfaces in “The Only Way To Be,” as our hero sees the handwritin’ on the wall, asking his soon-to-be-ex, “how long till the end?”  They close the set with “I Got A Woman,” another cool song about questionable choices in females, but this one bristles with a jam-ish flair, with everyone getting in some tasty licks, and John is in impeccable Gregg Allman-esque form.

Our favorite was perhaps the most unique of all the cuts.  After an extended intro that sounds as if Elmore rode in a pickup truck with ZZ Top down to the Crossroads to drink some ‘shine with that dude that hangs around down there.  That gives way to Ginty’s mighty left-hand boogie over wailin’ slide and the vocal shout-out to “get me a Rockin’ Chair and rock ’till the end of the end of time!”

The Bennett Brothers cut their musical teeth on stage with one of history’s greatest drummers, and those “Rambles” featured music of all kinds.  They are sho’ nuff “Not Made For Hire,” and this set is contemporary blues-rock at its fiery best!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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Blue And Lonesome Duo review…July 17, 2018….

BLUE AND LONESOME DUO

LI’L RONNIE AND GORDON HARROWER

PACING THE FLOOR

ELLERSOUL RECORDS  ELL 1804

DROP DOWN MAMA–WINE HEADED WOMAN–MEAN RED SPIDER–ACT LIKE YOU LOVE ME–CARELESS LOVE–TOO FAST FOR CONDITIONS–NEEDED TIME–PACING THE FLOOR–TRY ME–COUNTRY BOY–OUT ON THE ROAD–CAN’T BUY MY LOVE–RAINING IN MY HEART–MORE THAN EYE CANDY

In the tradition of great duos in the history of the blues such as Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, and John Cephas and Phil Wiggins,  Ellersoul Records proudly presents the Blue And Lonesome Duo, featuring Li’l Ronnie (Owens) on vocals, harp, and foot drums, and Gordon Harrower on guitar and vocals, They have just released “Pacing The Floor,” five cool originals and nine covers that git down’n’ dirty, just like they’d do if they came and played on our front porch.  Both players are seasoned vets of Li’l Ronnie And The Grand Dukes, and Gordon is also part of a band known as Rattlesnake Shake.

These cuts have a sweet, Delta-fied vibe, and the fellows make sure to have a boatload of fun along the way.    We’re off and running with the Hooker-styled, slow-groove of “Drop Down Mama, let yo’ daddy see,” with Gordon on the vocal and Ronnie on the harp.  They put on their rockin’ shoes with Jimmy Rogers’ “Act Like You Love Me,” and again a bit later on a band original, this one with Ronnie on vocal and call-and-response harp, lamenting the fact that “it’s 4 AM and I’m sittin’ here waitin’ on you,” literally “Pacing The Floor.”  This one was one of our favorites.

The fellows laid into some mighty fine slow-blues, too, including the traditional “Careless Love,” Slim Harpo’s “Raining In My Heart,” and, perhaps the most unique, Gordon’s plaintive take on James Brown’s iconic “Try Me.”  The set closes with a cut that really captures the spirit of what the fellows were trying to accomplish, with Ronnie rockin’ out over a swampy groove on the story of a man who, now that he’s got a little gray goin’ on, wants to be remembered for “the man inside,” and who is considerably “More Than Eye Candy.”

Our other favorite took us way down South on any given Sunday morning.  Gordon is on vocal on the quietly-reverential song written by Lightnin’ Hopkins that we first learned as “Jesus, Won’t You Come By Here,” presented as “now is The Needed Time.”

Li’l Ronnie and Gordon Harrower are true statesmen of the blues, who take it back to its very essence in the duos format of “Pacing The Floor!”  This one sho’ nuff is a welcomed treat, and gets two big thumbs up!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Big Joe Shelton review…July 15, 2018….

BIG JOE SHELTON

AND THE BLACK PRAIRIE BLUES AMBASSADORS

RIDIN’ A CHICKEN

ALT 45 RECORDS

PUT THE CHAIRS IN THE WAGON–RIDIN’ A CHICKEN–GOT SO HOT–DONE GOT TIRED–JUST LET ME BLEED–INHALE BLESSINGS–NO MAN’S LAND–POOL HALL RED–LORRAINE–TOO WET TO PLOW–TIME TO GO HOME–MY FUTURE LIES BEHIND ME NOW

Big Joe Shelton was born in the Black Prairie Region of northeast Mississippi.  This is the same fertile ground that also served as home to Big Joe Williams, Bukka White, and Chester Arthur Burnett, ol’ Howlin’ Wolf himself.  As a result, Big Joe was always exposed to the blues, and he forged a friendship with Joe Williams that shaped his musical career.  His latest release, for ALT 45 Records,  is entitled “Ridin’ A Chicken.”  It was laid down in January of 2017, with twelve originals that also feature one of the coolest names for a backing band you’ll ever hear, The Black Prairie Blues Ambassadors.  They are:  Ben Ferrell on guitar, Ed Swan on bass, Bob Damm on percussion, Bobby Shannon on keys, Doug Thomas on sax, and Susan Alcorn Lobato on the pedal steel.

The fun starts as our hero finds that, after two years busking in Memphis, “the money I make don’t go very far,” and “nobody knows my name,” so it’s time to “Put The Chairs In The Wagon, it’s time to go home!”  This one has some biting guitar licks from Ben that further fuel our hero’s angst.  Amazingly, near the end of the set, Joe and the fellows turn this same tune inside-out, and into a cool shot of “reggae, mon,” to tell that same story, this time with a much lighter groove, but it’s still “Time To Go Home!”  This version was one of our favorites.   Ben gives the wah-wah pedal a workout on the title cut, the story of a woman so skinny, “is that her legs, or is she Ridin’ A Chicken?”  Joe’s on the harp of the likely-true story  of a character from his youth who taught him his appreciation for the blues, the soulful, slow-groove of “Pool Hall Red.”

Our other favorite closed the set.  Fans, you gotta give this one a close listen, for if it doesn’t apply to you now, Lord willin’ it will down the road.  It is both poignant and on-point, for, when our race is nearly run, “My Future Lies Behind Me Now.”  It is accentuated by sweet pedal steel from Susan Alcorn Lobato.

Folks, Big Joe Shelton has trod some mighty sacred ground in the blues world, given where he was raised.  He effectively carries on the traditions of the Mississippi legends, and he and the Black Prairie Blues Ambassadors, with “Ridin’ A Chicken,” offer up something for everyone!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Kat Riggins review….July 14, 2018…..

KAT RIGGINS

IN THE BOYS CLUB

BLUZPIK MEDIA GROUP

TRY TRY AGAIN–TROUBLES AWAY–HEAR ME–SECOND TO NONE–TIGHTROPE–KITTY WON’T SCRATCH–CHEAT OR LOSE–JOHNNIE WALKER–DON’T THROW ME WAY–FISTFUL O’ WATER–LIVE ON–A GIRL IN THE BOYS CLUB

Blues shouter Kat Riggins has busted thru the door and is now firmly-ensconced “In The Boys Club,” with her new album of the same name.  If it sho’ nuff is “a man’s world,” Kat is here to tell everybody she’s in this thing for the long haul, as evidenced by her twelve originals, all arranged by Kat and her most excellent band.  Backing down to no one on this fiery and passionate set, Kat leads off with the primal, percussive pounding of “Try Try Again,” sage advice passed down to her by her ancestors, to always strive for your dreams, no matter how big.  It’s Josh Rowland all over that slide solo at the break.  Josh’s single-note leads permeate the Delta-fied “Troubles Away,” where Kat tries drinking, crying, and running from her problems, before realizing it’s time to pray them away! She offers up praise to our Lord and Savior with “Live On,” where “I thank the Lord I am still alive,” as “Lord. you let me live on!”  “Second To None” is a breezy ode to that one true love, while, at the opposite end of the spectrum, is the downright-evil, impossible-to-please lover that has our heroine “tip-toeing on eggshells” and, even worse, “walking a Tightrope!”  She closes the set with the scratchy funk of the title cut, and a shout-out to any naysayers, “A Girl In The Boys Club!

We had two favorites, too.  Feeling particularly low, Kat gets plenty of help from a “real smooth talker,” none other than ol’ “Johnnie Walker.”  And, a really playful duet features a man who sho’ nuff gets around, Albert Castiglia, on vocals and guitar.  Our two lovers stand their own ground, and as long as “the dog don’t bark,  The Kitty Won’t Scratch!”

She may be small in stature, but Kat Riggins is no damsel-in-distress.  Nope–she’s tough as nails, and rocks the house down as the new girl ” In The Boys Club!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Cyril Neville review…July 13, 2018…

CYRIL NEVILLE

ENDANGERED SPECIES

THE ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS

WORLD ORDER ENTERTAINMENT/LOUISIANA RED HOT RECORDS

LOVE HAS GOT TO WIN–AYITI–SECOND LINE SOCA–NEW ORLEANS COOKIN–FUNKALISCIOUS–CALLING ALL SOULS–MORE PROFESSOR LONGHAIR–RUNNING WITH THE SECOND LINE–LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING–THE ROAD TO UNITY–CAN’T STOP A DREAMER

The youngest member in the first family of New Orleans music royalty is Cyril Neville.  After some fifty years of recording and performing, Cyril now owns all his music outright, and is the first artist to appear on the World Order Entertainment label, started by his son, Omari Neville.  Fans will be delighted to hear of the release of both “The Complete Recordings,” a five-CD box set of his entire Endangered Species offerings, as well as the abbreviated version, to be reviewed herein, “The Essential Recordings,” eleven cuts that capture the spirit and offer a unique glimpse of the man who is part of a city and its world-wide heritage created thru his music.

Highlights abound, even on this “short version.” Of note is the “Second Line Soca,” recalling the history of that fabled term, coming from, literally, the “second line” of mourners at any New Orleans funeral, those who feel the drums and respond to the music.  This one is lively, steppin’ high with strong percussion.  The horn-fueled “Funkaliscious” is a way of life, reminding us that “telling the truth will set you free,” with a furious rap chorus at the bridge.  “Running With The Second Line” follows a similar theme, this one with tuba-as-bass thumping the good times with the Uptown Rulers.  Cyril also pays a sweet tribute to one of the most influential artists in all of New Orleans’ rich history.  Yep–“More Professor Longhair” preaches the gospel of just how much Henry Roeland Byrd and his “gumbo sound” meant to that town!

The “good times” tunes are excellent, but we were most closely drawn to Cyril’s “message” songs.  Gaynielle Neville, Diane Wilson, and Yadonna Wise add their considerable vocal talents to “Lift Every Voice And Sing,” interspersed with sound bytes from the Rev. Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, which also reappears in the set-closing, “Can’t Stop A Dreamer,” for, “if a dreamer dies, another rises up to keep the dream alive!”  And, we all know “we got to turn this thing around,” for, “Love Has Got To Win.”

Fans, this is one of the most important reissues in recent history.  No, there aren’t a ton of Top Ten hits, but the music of Cyril Neville is captivating, moving, and relevant to not only the history of  New Orleans, but to popular music as a whole.  Eh, la bas!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Steve Howell And The Mighty Men review…July 12, 2018….

STEVE HOWELL AND THE MIGHTY MEN

FEAT. KATY HOBGOOD RAY

GOOD AS I BEEN TO YOU

OUT OF THE PAST MUSIC  OOTP 009

BACON FAT–WHEN I WAS A COWBOY (OUT IN THE WESTERN PLAINS)–NEW DIRTY DOZENS–IT HURTS TO BE IN LOVE–COME BACK BABY–BLUES IN THE BOTTLE–EASY RIDER–THE SUN AIN’T GONNA SHINE (ANY MORE)–BAD LUCK BLUES–LINING TRACK–YOU GONNA QUIT ME BABY

Steve Howell is one of the classic guitarist/storytellers on the scene today.  With his quartet, The Mighty Men, they specialize in traditional blues from their native home base of the tri-state area known as “Texarkana,”  preferring melody and lyrics over flash and panache.’  Their latest outing, and third overall, is entitled, “Good As I Been To You,” this one featuring the added vocals from Katy Hobgood Ray.  The eleven cuts on this one are varied, unique, rare gems that have always been favorites of Steve.  They include contributions from Leadbelly, Blind Blake, Memphis Minnie, and Steve’s favorite of all the Texas blues men, Blind Lemon Jefferson.  Let’s get into it all….

The set opens on a humorous note, with an Andre’ Williams chestnut, and “that sound that’s sweepin’ the South,” the “diddley-wop” chorus of “Bacon Fat.”  Steve and Katy make excellent duet partners on Leadbelly’s ode to a legendary run-in with Jesse James, “When I Was A Cowboy (Out In The Western Plains).  Katy, herself a noted children’s authoress, tackles the playfully-naughty Memphis Minnie blues of the “New Dirty Dozens,” including the tale of the tomcat and the sewing machine!  She returns a bit later for a mesmerizing, reverential read of Leadbelly’s country-blues of “Easy Rider.”

Steve offers up a couple of nice takes on two songs that helped define Sixties’ pop music, first with Gene Pitney’s “It Hurts To Be In Love,” and Frankie Valli’s “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Any More), a sad tale of a love seemingly lost forever.

Our favorites closed the proceedings.  First, Steve and all the Mighty Men take the field recording, “Lining Track,” (a railroad term), to dazzling heights, presenting it here as it likely was written, in a totally a cappella performance.  The set proper ends with what plays out to be the title track, “You Gonna Quit Me Baby, good as I been to you,” originally done by Arthur “Blind” Blake.  This one has a “loose” feel, likely from Blake’s affinity for the ragtime piano playing he incorporated in his guitar lines.  Steve captures that essence and spirit perfectly!

Steve Howell And The Mighty Men continue to bring fans the best in stories-in-songs from the masters of the blues.  “Good As I Been To You” carries on this most excellent tradition!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

Big Apple Blues review…July 11, 2018…

BIG APPLE BLUES

MANHATTAN ALLEY

STONE TONE RECORDS  STR 20181

YOU GOTTA START SOMEWHERE–HAPPY-TAKE TWO–SDW–DEEP TALKIN–HUDSON BREEZE–STEAMROLLER–SUBWAY RUMBLE–LOVE AS I KNOW IT–ROCK ON

In 2015, the quintet that comprise Big Apple Blues set the blues world on its collective ear with their all-instrumental release, “Energy,” fusing blues, jazz, soul, and funk into an album that chronicled one single day in New York City.  Well-received by fans and critics everywhere, they have just released its highly-anticipated follow-up, this one called “Manhattan Alley.”  The premise herein is similar, as the band continues to expound upon the energy and vibe that drives the city that never sleeps.  Admir Hadzic is on bass, Barry Harrison is on drums, Zach Zunis is on guitar, Jim Alfredson is on keys, and Anthony Kane is on harp,  the principle core of players.

Many of these cuts would’ve been right at home back in the Sixties and Seventies, when it was not uncommon to have cool instrumentals all over the airwaves.  Leading off is the in-your-face-funk of “You Gotta Start Somewhere,” with Chris Eminizer bringing his hi-octane sax to the party.  “Take Two” could’ve easily been named “Brother Ray’s Bounce.”  with Jim’s B-3 laying down a solid, jazzy, Ray Charles-ish greasy groove.  “Hudson Breeze” is perfect for these hot summer days, while Zach’s spaced-out guitar lines define the uptown funk of “Steamroller.”  Jim’s big-toned B-3 is at it again on the underground groove of “Subway Rumble,” and the whole things rides a born to be wild finish with the rousing “Rock On.”

The guys in Big Apple Blues continue to draw off the history and heat of NYC, giving a nod to that town’s hit-makers and movers and shakers, from Tin Pan Alley and beyond.  “Manhattan Alley” takes those elements from the past to create a set with a keen eye on the future of contemporary blues!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.