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The Promise Is Hope review…April 22, 2018….

THE PROMISE IS HOPE

EVERY SEED MUST DIE

RIVER–BROTHER–HOME–LOST AND FOUND–ALWAYS I–EVERY SEED MUST DIE–ALWAYS II–MARY ANN–JE VOUS SALUE, MARIE–GRATEFUL–LULLABY

The Promise Is Hope is the collective talents of the husband-and-wife duo of Ashley and Eric L’Esperance, who met at a song swap and rapidly became the talk of the New England folk scene.  Prior to their third album, the couple had suffered through their fair share of the “downs” side of life’s ups and downs.  Losing four family members to different tragedies as well as dealing with the disintegration of their local community faith, they turned to their only true means of comfort, their music.  They wrote a batch of songs, and were looking for an intimate sound.  They headed to Batavia, NY, and, specifically, to the Old Bear Studio, and producer Chris Hoisington, known for his excellence in the “less is more” approach they were seeking.  The results are breathtakingly stunning.  “Every Seed Must Die” features eleven original songs of love, life, loss, despair, hope, and, ultimately, redemption.  Their voices blend so well together that lovers of exquisite harmonies will relish these cuts.  Aside from the vocals, both are on acoustic guitar and Mellotron, and Ashley is the pianist.

The material is somber, reverent, and intended to soothe the souls of listeners going thru life’s harshest times, another reason why their natural, blended harmonies were so vital to this project.  The set begins with Eric taking the opening vocal on “River,” where that body of water is compared to the love of his life, and, as Ashley’s vocal and Daniel Zambrano’s cello come in, that love begins to “caress your weary heart.”  “Home” deals with being grateful for life’s many blessings, while the theme of “Lost And Found” is finding that one true love, both emotionally and spiritually.  Ashley gives an authentic French reading of the traditional prayer, “Je Vous Salue, Marie,” and closes the set with a beautiful ode to a mother’s love for her children, “Lullaby.”

Our favorite was the title cut.  Both lend their vocals to the tale of life, death, and rebirth, where “Every Seed Must Die for a new life to grow,” and is “the signpost for a world I will one day see!”

Given the recent tragic shootings in Parkland, FL, and now, two more in Antioch, TN within the last seven months, this world is indeed in need of comfort and healing.  We urge you to find solace in the living water found within the lyrics of “Every Seed Must Die” from The Promise Is Hope.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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J. J. Vicars review…April 21, 2018…..

J. J. VICARS

IRREVERENT DISSIDENT

ANNIE GATOR RECORDS  AGRCD  106

LOS VATOS IN A–LONG WAY FROM HOME–WANG DANG DOODLE–CAN’T GET ALONG WITH YOU–OUTSKIRTS OF TOWN–STINKY TWINKY–DOWNHOME–DEGUELLO–THINGS I NEED–THAT AIN’T ME–WHAT DO I TELL MY HEART  CD BONUS TRACKS:  THREE TOED MIDGET–STINKY TWINKY (ALT. VERSION)

For the last ten years or so, vocalist and guitar-monster J. J. Vicars has been playing abroad, literally spreading the gospel of his blues all over the planet.  In honor of this Earth Day and Record Store Day, we proudly present our review for his latest release, “Irreverent Dissident.”

This set is unique in several ways, especially in the way it is presented to the listener.  For its full effect, it behooves us to state that it is best enjoyed in the order originally intended, one thru eleven.  As you enjoy this set, you’ll notice J. J.’s many influences, from Muddy to Chuck to Cash to Hank Sr. and on thru to guys like Steve Earle, and it’s all in here.

It is presented in three separate “stages,” if you will, each reflecting a different set of influences.  An ethereal, spaced-out intro, “Los Vatos In A,” opens the proceedings, then the gloes come off.  A modern-day, Berrylicious romp is next, the autobiographical documentary of his European tour, “Long Way From Home.”  Up next, he really throws a mess with a frenetically-paced read of “Wang Dang Doodle,” before giving way to the rockabilly tinge of “Can’t Get Along With You.”

Stage Two opens with a jazzy, slow-blues version of “Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town,” before the instrumentals kick in.  “Stinky Twinky,” (and its alternate version which closes the set) features sax from 90-year old legend Big Jay McNeely, and “Downhome” is full of Double-Troubled bluster.  Stage Three opens with another spacey intro, “Deguello,” and then the blues-meets-Western-swing takes over.  One of our favorites opens that segment, as J. J.takes a humorous and, yes, irreverent look at “Things I Need,” with dobro from Hugh Ashton.  (DJ’s beware…this one ain’t FCC clean!).  He shouts-out to alt-country with Todd Moore’s “It Ain’t Me” and again with Wayne Willem’s “What Do I Tell My Heart.”

One of the bonus tracks served as our other favorite.  A shout-out to guys like Ray Stevens and another “Ir-Reverend,” Billy C. Wirtz,  is the hilarious, banjo-riffic, “Three-Toed Midget named Bridget!”

Fans, this thing rocks and rolls, twangs and strolls, and J. J. Vicars makes it all work.  That makes him one sho’ nuff “Irreverent Dissident!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Rockwell Avenue Blues Band review…April 20, 2018…..

ROCKWELL AVENUE BLUES BAND

BACK TO CHICAGO

DELMARK RECORDS  DE 854

BLUES FOR HARD TIMES–BOOGIE IN THE RAIN–THAT FACE–FREE TO LOVE AGAIN–LONESOME FLIGHT–CHARIOT GATE–WE BELIEVE–STRANGER BLUES–FOR A REASON–RICH MAN–HEY BIG BILL–LOVE POLICE–BACK TO CHICAGO–HAVE YOU EVER TOLD YOURSELF A LIE–DREAM

For the uninitiated, the Delmark Riverside Studio is located on North Rockwell Avenue.  Ken Saydak, now a Colorado resident, shaped his forty-plus year career as a keyboard whiz, vocalist, and composer in the Windy City, playing on albums under his own name, as well as playing  on more than sixty albums for many other Chicago legends.  It was his idea to return to Chi-town and Riverside in October of 2017, and have a “reunion” of sorts,  tagging four other great bluesmen with which Ken shares a long history.  The aptly-named Rockwell Avenue Blues Band features Ken on keys and vocals, Tad Robinson on vocals and harp, Steve Freund on guitar and vocals, Marty Binder on drums, and Harlan Terson, “that blues person,” on bass.  These five giants convened to record “Back To Chicago,” fifteen cuts of traditional-sounding primo Chicago blues  from the guys who know it best.

Ken and Tad go way back, to the days of the band named Big Shoulders, taken from the poem by Carl Sandburg.  The original cuts were written in whole or in part by most of the band members.  The set begins with Tad on vocals for the minor-key ode to today’s economic struggles,  “Blues For Hard Times, but we got love to see us through.”  Steve is on vocal with Tad on harp for the endless boogie choogle of the Hooker-esque groove of “Boogie In The Rain,” and shows up a bit later on the shout-out to Brother Ray on Bobby Robinson’s  “Stranger Blues.”

The fellows take a cool look at our own mortality with our  favorites.   First up is a deep, slow-burning, slide-heavy blues dealing with the death of one’s father, “Lonesome Flight,” with Steve on guitar, and Tad on harp.  Ken’s original cut is the opposite, “Chariot Gate,” a lively shuffle , where  he proclaims, “my bag’s not packed, I ain’t ready to go!”  Ken then closes the set with his reverential, poignant, “Dream.”

Fans, this is authentic Chicago blues the way it was meant to be played and heard.  The five players in the Rockwell Avenue Blues Band have decades of service in the blues, and legions of fans all over the world.  Guys, how about another trip “Back To Chicago” real soon, ok?  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Ally Venable review….April 16, 2018….

ALLY VENABLE BAND

PUPPET SHOW

CONNOR RAY MUSIC  CRM  1701

DEVIL’S SON–BRIDGES TO BURN–CAST THEIR STONES–BACKWATER BLUES–HE CAUGHT THE KATY–PUPPET SHOW–COMFORT IN MY SORROWS–SURVIVE–WASTE IT ON YOU–SLEEPING THROUGH THE STORM

The younger generation is sho’ nuff making a big splash in the blues world, and one of the most exciting of them all is the triple-threat guitarist/vocalist/composer Ally Venable.  Her latest set, for Connor Ray Music, is a blistering ten cuts of tough-as-nails blues-rock entitled “Puppet Show.”  Along with Ally, there is Bobby Wallace on bass, Elijah Owings on drums, and some cool special guests to round out the program.

Plenty wise beyond her youth, Ally uses her snarling guitar lines and barbed lyrics to take a huge bite out of the egos of many a would-be lover throughout these cuts, starting with the brooding tale of the “angel when I met you,” who turns out to be the “Devil’s Son,” featuring Gary Hoey on the lead guitar.  Next up Ally and one of her mentors, Lance Lopez, get into some spirited guitar “dueling” as well as some sweet tandem playing in “Bridges To Burn.”  The title cut finds her bristling at another lover who “pulls my strings,” but she stands up and declares, “I ain’t the Puppet in your Show!”  She closes the set on another note of empowerment, urging us to conquer our struggles by “Sleeping Through The Storm.”

We had two favorites, too, both of which featured harp blaster Steve Krase.  First up, Ally and Steve open “Backwater Blues” in a simplistic, Delta-style before the band breaks into a full-on blues assault!  Then, Eric Steckel on keys joins the fun for a sassy, struttin’ “He Caught The Katy and left me a mule to ride!”

We’ve been following Ally Venable’s career since the beginning, and she continues to impress with each successive release.  “Puppet Show” has this senorita of the blues in excellent form!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

Meg Williams review…April 14, 2018….

MEG WILLIAMS

MAYBE SOMEDAY

NOT MY PROBLEM–BAD LOVIN–LITTLE BIT OF THE DEVIL–MAYBE SOMEDAY–YOU LET ME DOWN–I FEEL A HEARTACHE COMING

Meg Williams is a transplanted New Yorker who now calls Music City her home.  She’s wasted precious little time in making a name for herself, within the various writer’s nights and songwriter showcases all over town.  She’s released an excellent EP of six originals, entitled “Maybe Someday.”  This easy on the ears and the eyes young lass is on guitar and vocals throughout, and brings along Dan Wecht on slide guitar, Greggory Garner on bass, and Kyle Law on drums.

That slide of Dan’s is prominently featured on the title cut, as “Maybe Someday, we’re all  gonna get it right,” looking for brighter days ahead for a troubled world.  She cranks out some serious New York swagger with the grunge-worthy punch of the tale of a less-than-worthy lover, “You Let Me Down,” the album’s first single, and closes the set with the story of another bum who’s “tearin’ me apart,” “I Feel A Heartache Coming,” a guitar-heavy shot of blues-rock at its best.  This young’uns potential was spelled out early on, with the first three cuts serving as our favorites.  Ol’ Elmore James would be proud of the licks laid down by our heroine, with a bit of a masochistic streak, as she’s addicted to that “Bad Lovin,” but keeps on “coming back for more!”  She settles into a swampy groove as she lays down some funk over the tale of every man’s favorite, “bad girls,” who all have a “Little Bit Of The Devil” in them, fueled by Dan’s hell-hound slide.  The opening cut really got our attention, tho.  The story of two lovers with looming issues has Megs giving the ultimatum here, “stay if you wanna, leave if you wanna, it’s Not My Problem!”  Aside from being pure unbridled funk, the true key to this cut lies in Meg’s guitar lines, which are positively Prince-ly!

Lawd, what these young folks can do with the blues nowadays.  It’s no wonder she’s made waves in the Summer NAMM Showcase, and been in the last two IBC’s.  Y’all take heed–“Maybe Someday” we’ll be seeing Meg Williams on the biggest stages in the blues, and we’re betting that day won’t be far off!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Freddie Pate review…April 13, 2018….

FREDDIE PATE

I GOT THE BLUES

LET THE JUKE JOINT JUMP–SHO NUFF I DO–HAVE YOU EVER LOVED A WOMAN–HEY GOOD LOOKIN–NOTHIN TAKES THE PLACE OF YOU–I GOT THE BLUES–HELLO JOSEPHINE–MY BABE–JOLIE BLOND–DANCE WITH ME BABY–BEER DRINKIN DOG

Freddie Pate is living the dream that many of us would love to try.  A topnotch guitarist and vocalist, he moved from L. A. to Houston in 1975 and quickly became a hot, in-demand session player.  Later, he moved to Louisiana, pulling two different stints with Wayne Toups.  He always had a flair for country music, and even cut a country album in 2016.  But, Mike Zito always believed that Freddie had the blues deep down in his soul.  Zito built Marz Studio down in Nederland, TX, and, lo and behold, the very first release from that studio is Freddie’s blues debut, “I Got The Blues!”  He mixes two of his own originals in with nine wildman covers tailor-made for the dance floor.

We got Freddie on guitar and vocals, Terry Dry on bass, Matt Johnson on drums, Lewis Stephens on keys, and Zito on rhythm guitar.  Freddie leads off pitchin’ a wang dang doodle with the bouncin’ boogie blues of “Let The Juke Joint Jump,” where everybody gets “happy feet!”  He adds some bluesy funk to the iconic “Hey Good Lookin,” and “Hello Josephine,” while Wayne Toups shows up to bring the hot sauce to the traditional “Jolie Blond,” and they all tear it up with the piano-rockin’ cover of B. B.’s “Dance With Me Baby, I’m doin’ the best I can!”

We had three favorites, too.  Freddie’s got a soulful side that shows thru with a belly-rubbin’ good read of “Nothing Takes The Place Of You,” and again on a sho’ nuff hot take on Elmo’s “Sho’ Nuff I Do!”  And, the set closes on a hilarious boogie groove, as Freddie’s “Beed Drinkin’ Dog” loves him some Schlitz!

Freddie Pate has paid hisself some dues, and wanted to put out an authentic blues album.  He’s spent some time on Delbert’s annual cruises, and, added to all his other experiences, “I Got The Blues” begs the question—“Are y’all ready for Freddie???”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Frank Viele review…April 11, 2018…

FRANK VIELE

WHAT’S HIS NAME?

DROP YOUR GUN–HONEY–‘TILL THE BOURBON’S ALL GONE–WHAT’S HIS NAME–POMEGRANATE–IF YOU COULD ONLY READ MY MIND–NEON LIGHTS–IT (FEAT. CHRISTINE OHLMAN)–TURN AROUND–AIN’T IT FUNNY–FINDING MY OWN WAY–CIGARETTES, THROWING STONES, AND LIES

We first became acquainted with Frank Viele thru the NoiseTrade music-sharing website, and were immediately captivated by his powerful storytelling and intense characters within his songs.  There’s plenty of that readily available on his latest disc, “What’s His Name?”  Already a mainstay on the New England scene, the rest of the world is about to hear what an amazing talent he is.  He’s featured on these original cuts on vocals and guitars, with a distinct, burnished delivery.  He’s also got a bluesman’s soul that shines all over this set.

Frank’s been down the same roads that many of us have, and this material reflects such. Check out the Resonator slide and punchy horn section on a story of longing for a lover’s “sugar sweet, gypsy soul,”  “all I want is a bit of yo’ Honey!”  He’s the odd man out in a love triangle in the title cut, demanding “if you’re gonna walk out that door, What’s His Name?,” punctuated by a heavy, funked-up groove.  “Pomegranate” is fueled by the cello stylings of Dave Eggar, while another cut heavy on the slide guitar finds Frank as the lover full of regret, looking to hear those “same four words–darling, I forgive you,” and features duet vocals from Chrisine Ohlman, entitled “It.”

The set closes with our favorite,  as Frank again wishes he could “turn back the time,” the soulful and bluesy “Cigarettes, Throwing Stones, And Lies.”

Within the music of Frank Viele, you can find bits and pieces of all of us who have ever been sucker-punched by love.  So, all us “lovers, losers, and boozers” can enjoy this one, and, before long, you won’t have to ask “What’s His Name?”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.