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Ellen Starski review…May 10, 2018….

ELLEN STARSKI

WHEN PEONIES PRAYED FOR THE ANTS

ODE TO NANNY AND COOKIE–HONEY, I’M NOT HIM–MISSING YOU–SLIP OF PAPER–SEPARATED BY TIME–TAKEN BY THE BREEZE–MISS YOU MARY–DAUGHTER OF THE SEA–FAIRWEATHER FRIEND–CHASING THE SUN–WHEN PEONIES PRAYED FOR THE ANTS

Ellen Starski was born in the coal country of rural Western Pennsylvania, but her love of music soon drew her to Tennessee–first to Knoxville, then to her home here in Nashville, with husband and fellow musician, Shawn.  Her solo debut, “When Peonies Prayed For The Ants,” is an album that was, literally, 12 years in the making, as these songs were written over that span of time during her journeys as a traveling musician.  In fact, Ellen and Shawn did play in a blues band, Elle And The Fine Lines, back in the day!.  A Nashvillian since 2008, the material on this album is autobiographical in nature, dealing with family and friends and the struggles of everyday life that we all encounter, as seen thru the eyes of a young woman from Reynoldsville, PA.

You can hear the influences of Dylan and Leonard Cohen throughout, and her evocative, expressive upper-register vocals fit this material well.  Evidence the leadoff cut, an “Ode To Nanny And Cookie,” which shouts-out to not only her two grandmothers, but also to those struggling with loved ones ravaged by Alzheimer’s Disease.   “Miss You Mary” is a somber tune dealing with the loss of one’s mother, and coping with that loss.  It is set over a reverential, strings-and-flamenco-ish guitar arrangement, adding to the song’s sincerity.  May-December relationships are explored by the “definitely doe-eyed” young lass in a relationship with a man fourteen years her senior, “Separated By Time,” yet “nobody felt it more than him,” especially after the baby arrives!  This one has some hot fiddle from Deanie Richardson, too.

Our favorite was easy.  Doesn’t matter if you play blues, folk, bluegrass, country or whatever, for me, nothing beats a good ole “murder song.”  Producer Anne McCue is all over that haunting, “cjheatin’ banjo” that lurks all thru the story of that “other woman.”  Our heroine tells her, with both a gun and a bottle of whiskey at the ready, to “find yourself a lily-white church” and “perhaps God will forgive you of your sin,” but “Honey, I’m Not Him!”

Ellen Starski has come a long way since that twelve-year odyssey that led her to Tennessee.  She’s always good with a story, and,  Ellen, if you stay in this town long enough, you’ll never be at a loss for songwriting material!  Fans, please enjoy “When Peonies Prayed For The Ants.”  Until next time…Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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Little Boys Blue review…May 9, 2018….

LITTLE BOYS BLUE

W/KID MEMPHIS

HARD BLUE SPACE

VIZZTONE RECORDS  VT-LBB-18

SIX FOOT DOWN–LOVING KIND–BLUES BUG–HARD BLUE SPACE–MORNING TRAIN–COLD INSIDE–MIGHT AS WELL–GOT A MIND OF YOUR OWN–IF THE BLUES START CALLING–GOING BACK TO MEMPJHIS

Little Boys Blue have long been one of our favorite bands, hailing from the Jackson area in West Tennessee.  They already had a rock-solid lineup featuring drummer Mark Brooks, bassman Dave Mallard, vocalist and harp man JD Taylor, and guitarist Alex Taylor.  Ol’ JD blew some harp back in the day with Jackson’s favorite son, Carl Perkins.   On their latest album, the fellows bring another famous player into the mix with guitarist John Holiday, a/k/a Kid Memphis.  The Kid played the role of Perkins in “Walk The Line,” so this ensemble has definitely got some of that Sun mojo working!  The ten band originals on which they collaborate is entitled “Hard Blue Space,” for Vizztone Records.

Leading off is a song that sounds as if it rose straight up from the Crossroads, as JD and his mournful harp vow to “call Mr. Funeral Man” and “dig my grave, Six Feet Down, since my woman ran off with another man!”  “Loving Kind” follows a more traditional blues path, while Dave Thomas and that rockin’ boogie piano will light up every juke joint dance floor from Bartlett to Beale on the classic drinking song, “Might As Well drink my blues away!”  Dave brings the B-3 to the party on “Got A Mind Of Your Own,” as JD continually asks a lover who’s actin’ mighty strange, “what in the world’s goin’ on?”  This one has a really cool riff supplied by Kid, too.  Kid’s slide over JD’s harp and vocal pushes our hero to beg his lover to come back home, as she’s got him between a “rock and a Hard Blue Place!”

Our favorite closed the set.  The loping beat of “Going Back To Memphis” finds JD lookin’ for a little girl down on Beale wearing her red high heels, but they stop off at 706 Union Avenue first, making this one sho’ nuff a Sun-drenched, Sun-blessed, Sun-of-a-gun!

For Little Boys Blue, it’s always been about the authenticity of their sound, and, to borrow a cliche’, “keep things real.”  With the addition of Kid Memphis, “Hard Blue Space” is that place where Beale Street intersects with the Crossroads!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Too Slim And The Taildraggers review…May 8, 2018….

TOO SLIM AND THE TAILDRAGGERS

HIGH DESERT HEAT

UNDERWORLD/VIZZTONE RECORDS  VT-UW-01

TIME HAS COME TODAY–TROUBLE–BROKEN WHITE LINE–STORIES TO TELL–ONE STEP AT A TIME–WHAT YOU SAID–RUN AWAY–A LITTLE MORE TRUE–LAY DOWN YOUR GUN–HIGH DESERT HEAT

We’ve been fans of Too Slim (Tim Langford) And The Taildraggers since the beginning of their career, and they never disappoint us for a fiery set of no-frills blues-rock.  “High Desert Heat” is their latest, from Vizztone Records.  This set of all-original material, save for one outstanding cover, was laid down over at The Switchyard in Music City, with Tim and wife Nancy serving as executive producers.  Along with Too Slim on vocals and guitar we have Shakey Fowlkes on drums, Zach Kasik on bass and vocals, and special guest, and another of our long-time blues acquaintances, Sheldon “Bent Reed” Ziro on the harp.

Life is always full of choices and subsequent consequences, and those are spelled out in the “one hit for pleasure, two hits for pain” story of “every wrong turn,” and “every lie told,” that “Broken White Line.”  It is full of enticing wah-wah for authenticity, too.  “One Step At A Time” visits the opposite view of the previous song, as Slim urges us all to realize that we’re “doin’ the best we can,” and, “everybody gets the blues sometimes,” but you gotta stay on an even keel.   “A Little More True” finds our hero in a reflective mood, realizing that “I’m gonna pay for every heart I break,” but vows to “come back wiser, and A Little More True.”  The set closes with one of Slim’s signature waaay-cool instrumentals, this one the title cut, a twangler-fest that’s just begging for The Man With No Name to step out from behind a tombstone and restore order to the Old West.

We had two favorites, and they opened the set.  You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better, bluesier remake of the Chambers Brothers’ iconic “Time Has Come Today,” with its legendary lyric, “I might get burned up by the sun, but I’ve had my fun!”  And, the fellows lay down a plumb nasty South Side, Jr. Wells-ish  funk groove on “Trouble is my shadow,” this one featuring  Spring Hill, TN’s most outstanding harp blaster, Sheldon Ziro!

Too Slim And The Taildraggers take classic blues themes and give them a rocked-out,  edgy bite.  Add in killer songs that will give listeners many points to ponder, and you can see that they bring that “High Desert Heat” to this set!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Breezy Rodio review…May 7, 2018….

BREEZY RODIO

SOMETIMES THE BLUES GOT ME

DELMARK RECORDS  DE  853

DON’T LOOK NOW, BUT I’VE GOT THE BLUES–CHANGE YOUR WAYS–WRAPPED UP IN LOVE AGAIN–I WALKED AWAY–MAKE ME BLUE–LET ME TELL YOU WHAT’S UP–SOMETIMES THE BLUES GOT ME–I LOVE YOU SO–YOU DON’T DRINK ENOUGH–THE POWER OF THE BLUES–A COOL BREEZE IN HELL–DOCTOR FROM THE HOOD–FALL IN BRITISH COLUMBIA–NOT GOING TO WORRY–ONE OF A KIND–CHICAGO IS LOADED WITH THE BLUES

Breezy Rodio has been a globe-trotting ambassador for authentic, guitar-driven Chicago blues since his last album, the self-released “So Close To It.”  Playing festivals everywhere, he also spent nearly ten years working with another Chicago legend, Linsey Alexander.  Bob Koester signed Breezy to Delmark, and he has just released his debut for them, “Sometimes The Blues Got Me.”  Eleven of the seventeen cuts are originals, and Billy Branch adds harp and vocals on  a few tracks.  Breezy worked up all the arrangements, using a horn section in several places that gives out a strong, B. B. King, T-Bone Walker, “uptown” sound.  When questioned by Billy about including seventeen tracks, Breezy stated that writing was his passion, and always had plenty of material in the works.

One of those good ‘ol horn-leavened tunes leads off, from the pen of Lee Hazelwood.  Breezy is the down-on-his-luck dude that’s “got more worries than I can use,” “Don’t Look Now, But I’ve Got The Blues.”  The title cut is a fine slow-blueser from our hero, who knows that, even tho some might think he’s cool because he plays the blues, he tells it like it is—“sometimes I got the blues, and Sometimes The Blues Got Me!”  “A Cool Breeze In Hell,” with piano from the iconic Ariyo Ariyoshi, (who’s on keys throughout), is an instrumental shout-out to West Cide heroes such as Magic Sam, Otis Rush, and Jimmy Dawkins, while Breezy briefly takes a turn from the norm with the wistful, jazzy love song, “Fall In British Columbia.”

We had more favorites than Trump has porn-star girlfriends, too.  Breezy hits a rapid-fire groove and tells a lover that “if I drink too much, You Don’t Drink Enough!”  Billy Branch guests on our other favorites.  He backs Breezy on harp on “Change Your Ways,” and joins in on vocals on the hilarious tale of a lover who’s not feeling up to par, and needs a visit from everybody’s favorite guy from down on 46th Avenue, “Doctor From The Hood!”  Breezy and Billy then close the set on a tune we first heard from Lurrie Bell several years ago, where “newspapers are loaded with news, but Chicago Is Loaded With The Blues,” this one with Luca Chiellini on piano.

Breezy Rodio is a brilliant student of the blues.  An excellent player, singer, composer and arranger, fans sho’ nuff are gonna get their money’s worth with “Sometimes The Blues Got Me!”   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Victoria Ginty review…May 5, 2018…

VICTORIA GINTY

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

BLUE DOOR RECORDS

UNFINISHED BUSINESS–TAKE ME DOWN–HARD TO MOVE ON–YOU DON’T LOVE ME NO MORE–EVERY NIGHT AND EVERY DAY–GIVE IT UP–WATER–SIGN YOUR NAME–LYING (IN EACH OTHER’S ARMS)–DO ME RIGHT–THE BLUES FOUND ME

Victoria Ginty is a fixture on the bustling blues scene down along the west coast of Florida.  Based out of that Tampa Bay area,  she has just released her latest album of predominantly-original material, “Unfinished Business,” for Blue Door Records. Victoria combines blues,R & B, jazz, and a touch of gospel on these cool eleven cuts, all dealing with how we cope with the ups and downs of life’s myriad of journeys.

The party starts on a rocked-up note, as Victoria recounts the tale of a past lover who left her wanting just a touch more, thus leaving some “Unfinished Business to finish sometime!”  The pounding intro to “Take Me Down” soon gives way to Victoria’s gospel-infused story of a woman who needs both a cleansing and a rebirth from her sins, “down in the water.”  “Water” also revisits that gospel theme, on the somber tale of finally connecting with a lover, akin not only to giving a drink to a thirsty person, but also to receiving a spiritual “drink” of the Living Water from our Savior.

Victoria has a sweet way with a ballad, too.  A perfect example is the poignant tale of our Mr. and Mrs. Untrue illicit lovers in a torrid affair, each afraid to tell their respective partners the truth, always ending up “Lying (In Each Other’s Arms).  She also turns Jimmy McCracklin’s “Every Night And Every Day” into a bristling, torchy, eight-minute slow-burnin’ opus, where all us men would enjoy hearing her tell us, “ain’t it nice to be loved that way!”

Our favorite, one of Victoria’s originals, closed the set.  Another fie slow-blueser,  she realizes that we’ve all got to eventually own our choices and their respective consequences–“I wasn’t looking for the blues, but The Blues Found Me.”

Great singers bring great material to life.  That’s what makes Victoria Ginty and “Unfinished Business” such a joy to listen to!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Carlo Ditta review…May 4, 2018…..

CARLO DITTA

WHAT I’M TALKIN’ ABOUT

ORLEANS RECORDS OR 2914

WHAT I’M TALKIN’ ABOUT–GO ON FOOL–AS THE WORLD TURNS–BEATING LIKE A TOM TOM–PRETTY ACRES–TELL IT LIKE IT IS–TRY A LITTLE LOVE–I’M LEAVING YOU–WALK THAT WALK–MANY RIVERS TO CROSS

Aside from being a brilliant guitarist, composer, singer, and producer, Carlo Ditta has played a huge role in keeping the New Orleans music scene afloat over the last 30 years, especially in his role as head of the Orleans Records label.  Among all his many irons in the fire down in the Big Easy, he has finally gotten around to releasing an album of some of his own material.  “What I’m Talkin’ About” is the result, and shows why Jerry Wexler referred to him as “keeper of the flame of funk!

With a vocal delivery reminiscent of the place Tom Waits, Dylan, and Springsteen stop for coffee, Carlo begins the set with some of that funk, on the proto-rap, “Dozens-ish” title cut.  It’s an effort to coax a tryst out of “an ugly girl,” and it’s complete with porn-flick flute from Steve Allen.  Carlo gives us all some sage advice with “Go On Fool,” where “a lover is a fool, until he dies.”  It’s set over his acoustic guitar and a sweet-as-syrup horn arrangement.  David Rebeck adds accordion to “As The World Turns,” a cool look at love which, for some, “is for eternity,” while, at other times, just “until maternity!”  Carlo shouts out to one of his father’s favorite musicians, Louis Prima, with the heartfelt “Pretty Acres,” and does the same for Aaron Neville with a quiet, reverential read of “Tell It Like It Is.”

We had two favorites, too. He gives a  poignant, from-the-heart read of  the classic break-up song,  “I’m Leaving You.”  He closes  the set with a waaay-cool cover of Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers To Cross,” done up Big Easy style with guitars and horns.

Carlo Ditta strives to keep the sounds of New Orleans alive, fresh, and relevant.  His connections in the business and his production skills have served him well over the years, and now, with the release of “What I’m Talkin’ About,” fans get a taste of his own musical talents!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Tim Mahoney review…May 3, 2018….

TIM MAHONEY

STRIPPED, HONEST REMAKES AND OTHER STUFF

DON’T WANT TO MISS A THING–CLOSER TO THE HEART–EVERYTIME YOU GO AWAY–LONG DECEMBER–GREATEST LOVE STORY–LUCKY ONES–JOSIE–I WOULD DIE FOR YOU–THINKING OUT LOUD–SOMEBODY’S BABY–THAT’S WHERE IT’S AT–DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME–DRIVE HUMAN NATURE–MIRACLES–BROKEN ROAD–DISAPPEAR–I MEANT IT–WEDDING SONG–EVERYTHING I DO–TIMING IS EVERYTHING

Tim Mahoney’s name is always in the mix when it comes to who the best players are in the bustling Minneapolis scene.  He’s been playing, singing, and composing for nigh onto twenty years now, and he is just as comfortable fronting a full band as he is in a solo acoustic setting.  He’s always wanted to record an album of his favorite songs done by other artists, and present them in  a stripped-down mode.  As such, he has just released “Stripped, Honest Remakes And Other Stuff,” an astounding twenty-one cuts, three of which are his own originals.  The whole thing was laid down at River Rock Studios , with Eric Blomquist, who co-produced, along with Tim.

Most of the tunes feature only Tim’s vocals and his piano, altho a few do have guitar and strings in the arrangements.  Over the course of this set, listeners will realize that Tim has taken a cross-section of popular music, not only from his generation, but from ours as well. He sets the tone for what is to come with a  powerful take on Steven Tyler’s “Don’t Want To Miss A Thing.”  Two lovers who take different paths to eventually reunite is the theme of “The Greatest Love Story this town has ever seen.”  The Outfield’s “Josie” is given a spirited read, with its iconic lyric, “I don’t want to lose your love tonight,” and Tim  uses acoustic guitar as the accompanying instrument on Bryan Adams’ poignant “don’t tell me it’s not worth dying for–Everything I Do, I do for you.”

We had two favorites, too.  First up, Tim is on piano for the wistful tale of that “girl with the lights coming up in her eyes–she’s got to be Somebody’s Baby.”  With only Tim and his piano, this is likely how Jackson Browne penned it, back in the day.  And, our other favorite opens with a spoken intro from Tim, “This is for Sam,” leading into a soulful take on Sam Cooke’s song for lovers everywhere, “That’s Where It’s At.”  This version from Tim had an underlying, gospel-ish feel, and, for us, owed as much to Cooke’s time spent with the Soul Stirrers, as to his secular music.

Tim Mahoney’s love affair with these songs is obvious.  He brings it from the heart, and gives fans an insight into his soul by taking songs from the last fifty years of popular music and giving them all his own personal, heartfelt stamp, with “Stripped, Honest Remakes And Other Stuff.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.