Heather Newman review….July 6, 2019….

HEATHER NEWMAN

RISE FROM THE FLAMES

VIZZTONE RECORDS  VTHN-002

I’M COMING FOR YOU–ZAKARY–SHE SURE LOOKS A LOT LIKE ME–YOU MEAN TO TELL ME–RISE FROM THE FLAMES–WATER AND WINE–LONELY ON BEALE–HIS SOUL–TAKE IT SLOW–COMING HOME–WHAT GOES AROUND–CHEAPSHOT–THAT’S ALL

Heather Newman, bassist/singer/composer extraordinaire, won two Blues Blast Music Awards following her 2017 debut, “Burn Me Alive,” and received a 2019 Blues Music Award nomination for Best Emerging Artist.  She has just released her much-anticipated follow-up, thirteen originals that make up “Rise From The Flames,” playing out as her own personal diary of sorts, following the difficult break-up of a relationship, and coming to grips with the aftermath.  She’s on  bass and vocals, along with her KC-based backing crew, Ryan Matthew on keys and percussion, Keith Ladd on guitar, and Alan Watson on drums.

Leading off, Heather urges us all to “rise, to meet my music,” in “I’m Coming For You.”  She’s had her share of losers, it seems, and calls out several of them herein.  The first guy has the stones to show off his new lover in front of our girl, in the bump ‘n’ grind of “She Sure Looks A Lot Like Me!”  Another no-good lover likes “to kick me when I’m down,” but, “What Goes Around comes around,” this one set over a Latin-esque groove.  Perhaps the unkindest cut of all, tho, served as one of our favorites.  With “Alfred’s front door” serving as the backdrop, her latest cad up and left her, “Lonely On Beale.”  Our other favorite closed the set.  Heather lets her blues light shine in the upbeat, redemptive tale of hope for her future, “That’s All.”

Heather Newman has taken a big bag of lemons and made a lifetime supply of lemonade.  She indeed proved that, given a bad situation, she could and did “Rise From The Flames!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Kate Lush review…July 5, 2019….

KATE LUSH

HEADLINE

HEADLINE–IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT–JACKSON–GOODBYE TO THE RAIN–ROCK THAT WON’T ROLL–WEAKNESS–YOU ALREADY KNOW–FALL DOWN SEVEN TIMES–ONE HEART TO BREAK–HOW WILL I HOLD OUT–SANCTUARY

We first fell in love with Kate Lush and her beautiful voice about a month ago, while listening to Tommy Z’s Sunday Night Blues Show that streams live each Sunday night over at WBFO.org out of Buffalo, NY, from 7 PM to Midnight, EDT (6 PM to 11 PM at our house!).   He featured her latest CD, “Headline,” on his show, and we reached out to Kate via Facebook, and she graciously sent us a copy for review.  It was a considerable “reach,” too—Kate and her band are based in the Newport Beach area of Australia!

This set is all over the musical map, too.  Kate’s voice lends itself well to a variety of genres’, and, over these eleven originals, we are treated to blues, classic soul and R & B, and even a nod to N’Awlins!

The upbeat positivity of the title cut leads off and sets the tone for what is to come as our heroine finds that special one who “makes me feel so whole,” “Headline.”  An ode to life on the road as a traveling musician is the message of “Rock That Won’t Roll,” while she steps into the role of soulful siren,  channeling her inner Shirley Brown as she confronts “the other woman,” with “you don’t know how it feels with One Heart To Break.”  The set closes with a scathing shot aimed at the powers-that-be “building a concrete jungle,” the spot-on “Sanctuary.”

We had three favorites, too.  “If You Don’t Like It” follows a sweet second-line rhythm pattern on the way down to the Big Easy, driven along by fine slide and piano work.  “Jackson” is a stone shot of Delta-fied blues, featuring fellow Aussie and blues legend Dave Hole on the slide guitar.  Our final favorite was a mighty song of empowerment, as our girl seemingly has her heart broken at every turn, but she gallantly will “Fall Down Seven Times, and stand up eight!!”

In today’s fast-paced world of social media, it was a relatively simple task to reach around the world to Kate Lush for a copy of her brilliant “Headline.”  Fans, she’s got vocal chops to handle any song in any setting, and the evidence is in the grooves of this serious “Thunder From Down Under!!”   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Eliza Neals review…July 3, 2019….

ELIZA NEALS

SWEET OR MEAN

E-H RECORDS LLC

PAWN SHOP BLUES–BLACKISH GRAY–BITTEN BY THE BLUES–LIVIN’ WITH YO MAMA–KNOCK KNOCK KNOCKIN–PAWN SHOP BLUES (ROADHOUSE)

Eliza Neals is sho’ nuff my “Detroit blues sister,” as she and I both share the same hometown.  For those not in the know, Eliza possesses one of the most powerful, raw, and bluesy voices in all of contemporary blues.  She has a mesmerizing quality in everything she sings, We got hooked on her a few years back with her sexy, sizzling “Breaking And Entering” set, and she’s never sounded better than on her latest set.  a six-originals EP entitled “Sweet Or Mean.”  The cool thing about this set is where it was recorded, and the baking musicians.  She ventured to the Big Apple and GB’s Juke Joint.  Along with her, we have the iconic Popa Chubby (Ted Horowitz) on guitars, and our friend Dave Keyes on the, well, keys.  The rhythm section is rock-solid, with Chris Gambaro-Vega on bass, and John Medeiros, Jr., on drums.  Ian Hendrickson adds sax to round things out.

Eliza struts outta the gate with a rapid-fire, stop-time story of bein’ so broke she’s ready to part with her “Givenchy pantyhose and Gucci shoes,” the rousing, good-time “Pawn Shop Blues!”  The set closes with a “roadhouse” version of this tune, just without the horns.  But, Eliza’s vocals and Popa’s HellHound slide keep everything loose!  Eliza lays her life story on the line with the tale of a girl who grew up in Detroit as “a rock and roll girl who’s been Bitten By The Blues!”

Nobody works a good ole bump’n’grind better than Eliza Neals, and she slows down the groove here for the tale of lovin’ a stone loser, who’s still “Livin’ With Yo Mama,” and “never graduated from high school!”  Popa’s all over the fiery leads, and Dave’s keys are awesome here, as well.

Our favorite, tho, was the set’s most unique cut.  You’d be more likely to find a picture of Popa with hair than hear him on acoustic guitar.  But, Popa and Eliza take us all down to the Delta with the all-acoustic story of Eliza lookin’ for love, and she’s “Knock Knock Knockin’ on your door!”

Eliza Neals just keeps getting better with each album.  Toss in the extra-added-attractions of Popa Chubby and Dave Keyes,  and “Sweet Or Mean” is one fine set of rockin’ blues!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Billie Williams review…July 3, 2019….

BILLIE WILLIAMS

HELL TO PAY

DAMN–COLD NOVEMBER–START ALL OVER–HELL TO PAY–HOUR BY HOUR–DRINK FROM MY CUP–LOST IN THE WILDERNESS–MY EVERYTHING–TAKE THESE DREAMS–TEN MILLION SISTERS

Billie Williams once again teams with Grammy-winning producer Danny Blume, this time for a brilliant blues-roots set entitled “Hell To Pay.”  Billie wrote or co-wrote all the material herein, and she leaves everything on the table over the course of these eleven cuts that deal with love, despair, hope, and, in the end, eventual redemption.  Witness “Cold November,” as our girl is suddenly jilted by a lover to  “take a gig in L. A.”  “You,” tho, is the polar opposite, as, set over a breezy, STAX-like arrangement, she finds that special someone who is always “there to guide me!”   She follows up on that theme a bit later with the story of a lover whom she hopes will turn out to be “My Everything!”  “Drink From My Cup” has an almost-gospel fire, as she declares, “you are my nectar, and I am your honey bee!”

The set closes on a powerful, empowering note with our favorite.  Set over foot-stomping, hand-clapping, bass-drum percussion, Billie and her female backing chorus proudly proclaim, “you can’t shut me away,” for “Ten Million Sisters will take my place!”

Billie Williams is a proud member of the New York Blues Hall Of Fame, and she has taken her songwriting and vocal skills to a higher plane.  Enjoy her latest  set, or there’ll be “Hell To Pay!”   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Michael Lee review…June 30, 2019….

MICHAEL LEE

MICHAEL LEE

RUF RECORDS  RUF 1274

HEART OF STONE–DON’T LEAVE ME–WEEDS–PRAYING FOR RAIN–LOVE HER–THIS IS–CAN’T KICK YOU–THE THRILL IS GONE–FOOL OF OZ–HERE I AM–GO YOUR OWN WAY

Many fans will remember Michael Lee’s run on “The Voice” from a while back, anchored by his mesmerizing version of B. B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone,” during those broadcasts.  He has just released his, er, “thrilling” self-titled debut for Ruf Records.

Oh yeah, his cover of B. B.’s classic is included–the folks in his home base of Dallas/Ft. Worth would’ve likely run him outta town if he hadn’t added it–but there’s much more to this young guitar-slinging bluesman than what we saw on TV.  He’s already sang on Ruf Records’ “B. B. King Blues Band” album, (reviewed elsewhere within this forum), and, with producers Nick Choate and Nick Jay, this album shows a young man with unlimited potential.

There were highlights aplenty.  “Don’t Leave Me” finds our hero at a low point in a relationship, knowing he’s made some mistakes, but is willing to own them for a second chance.  Michael’s impassioned vocal over Anthony Farrell’s B3 gives this one a good, sanctified feel.  “Weeds” is an upbeat, positive tale inspired by Michael’s moving into his new home with his wife, and envisioning their yet-to-be-born children.  That brilliant, organ-drenched, “Thrill Is Gone” was one of our favorites, as was Michael’s Delbert-inspired, roadhouse-rockin’ story of the pull of a lover.  Hey–“I can kick the alcohol, I can kick the nicotine, but I Can’t Kick You!”  The set closed with our final favorite.  “Go Your Own Way” has a definite Crossroads-ish vibe, but, this time, no deals go down, as a wise man offers sage advice to our young hero, to “follow your song, for these words won’t lead you astray!”

As are the rest of his legion of fans,  the eyes of Michael Lee are firmly fixed upon his future.  With a set as powerful as this debut, expect great things from this mighty young bluesman!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

The Jersey Swamp Cats review…June 29, 2019….

JERSEY SWAMP CATS

GO CAT GO!

JUMP JIVE AND WAIL–CUPCAKE!-BLUE MONDAY–I DON’T MIND–TOO TIRED–DANCE ALL NIGHT–TOOTIE MA IS A BIG FINE THING–I GET EVIL–SHINY GRAY CORVETTE

The Jersey Swamp Cats are a good-time quartet based outta Orange, New Jersey.  Gerry Gladston is on keys, Don Leich is on guitars, Larry Ghiorsi is on bass, and Chris Reardon is on drums.  Everyone shares the vocals, and their latest set, entitled “Go Cat Go!,”  blends elements of Sun, Imperial, Chess, New Orleans boogie, and jump-blues for s sweet, highly-danceable mix of revved-up rockabilly blues!

Their retro sound is a perfect match for the set’s opener, a cool play on Louis Prima’s classic “Jump, Jive, And Wail,” guaranteed to fill dance floors all over Jersey!  The band’s original, “Cupcake!,” is a neat call-and-response tale of that “crazy little girl” who’s as irresistible as the dessert she’s named for!  Next up, we go on down to Cosimo’s for a bluesy shot of “Blue Monday,” and stay in the Big Easy for the horn-fueled, second-line, good-time PAAR-TAY of “Tootie Ma Is A Big Fine Thing!”

Our favorites closed things up.  First, “I Get Evil” is the name, and rhumba’s the game on this tune with that iconic chorus, “don’t you lie to me,” as Don channels his inner Albert King to add a bluesy spark.  The set proper closes with another band original, a sho’ nuff classic “car song,” which finds the fellows “drivin’ down the highway doin’ one-twenty-five,” in their “Shiny Little Gray Corvette!”

At nine cuts, what this set lacks in length, it more than makes up for in the wallop it packs.  Take a nod from the Jersey Swamp Cats and put your cat clothes on with your blue suede shoes and “Go Cat Go!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Mindi Abair And The Boneshakers review…June 28, 2019….

MINDI ABAIR

AND THE BONESHAKERS

NO GOOD DEED

SEVEN DAY FOOL–NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED–YOU BETTER RUN–SWEETEST LIES–GOOD DAY FOR THE BLUES–MESS I’M IN–BAD NEWS–MOVIN ON–WHO’S GONNA SAVE MY SOUL–BABY GET IT ON

Our favorite “sax machine,” Mindi Abair, and her brilliant band, The Boneshakers, are back and in prime form with their new album, out today, “No Good Deed.”  Mindi is on vocals and wailin’ sax, and this set, in our humble opinion, is their best to date!  Along with Mindi, there is Randy Jacobs on guitar and vocals, Rodney Lee on keys, Ben White on bass, and Third Richardson on drums.  Recorded over five days, this is a cool mix of five originals and five well-chosen, somewhat-rare covers, and the wide range of material herein indicates just how far this band has come, and gives a glimpse of their unlimited potential.

Leading off is the band’s version of Etta James’ “Seven Day Fool,” as Mindi sings of a woman’s constant pull to please her man.  The title cut is a percussion-heavy tale of Mindi, workin’ night and day to make a living, while her no-good lover is at home, cheating away, and, as always, “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.”  A cool story of how some folks in love can be drawn in by another is “cause you tell the Sweetest Lies.”  Our girl is “Movin’ On,” and is determined to “get my feet up off the ground,” offering a great message of female empowerment.

The set closed with our favorites.  A slow-burning, gritty tale of a woman who’s “seen what could have been, and it cuts me to the bone,” and begs her question, “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul?”  It is at once powerful, poignant, and thought-provoking.  The set’s final cut was a real barn-burner, as Randy and Mindi trade vocals on a scorching take of Ike And Tina’s, “Baby Get It On,” with enough fireworks to light up the Fourth Of July!

Mindi Abair And The Boneshakers continue to create some of the best blues-based R & B on the contemporary scene.  “No Good Deed” is full of energy and great songs from a hi-octane band!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.