The 44’s review…June 17, 2019….

THE 44’S

TWIST THE KNIFE

RIP CAT RECORDS   RIC 1902

CUTTIN DEEP–SUGAR YOU–HOWLIN–CHAMPAGNE AND REEFER–TOO MANY DRIVERS–ROSIE–HELSINKI BLUES–44’S SHUFFLE

It has been seven (long) years since we last heard anything from California-based bluesers The 44’s.  Johnny Main’s guitar and vocals are still the driving force behind the band, and the all- new lineup consists of Eric Von Herzen on harp, Mike Hightower on bass, Gary Ferguson on drums, and special guest Junior Watson on guitar.  For “Twist The Knife,” the title of their latest set, Johnny enjoyed the freedom to stretch out a bit on the tunes, and that “loose” groove runs throughout the set.

“Cuttin Deep,” a band original, is a sizzling instrumental slab of blues-funk that sets the tone for the rest of the album.  They get into a low-down groove on Muddy’s “Champagne And Reefer,” with Eric blowin’ long and strong over Johnny’s vocals.  It’s Chicago blues all the way for that little girl that has “a fine little car, baby, but you got Too Many Drivers at the wheel!”  A fine cover of Doyle Bramhall II’s “Rosie” shows the band’s versatility with a shot of “blues psychedelia,” and the set closes with the butt-rockin’ “44’s Shuffle,” straight outta T-Bone’s or The Iceman’s playbook!

We had two favorites.  One of James Harman’s most famous cuts serves as the catalyst for the cool slow-and-greasy groove of love in a laundromat, “Helsinki Blues!” And, “Howlin” had the most unique vocal.  Johnny sings this Chess classic in a voice that sounds like the harmonic convergence of Howlin Wolf and Dr. John!

“Twist The Knife” is a jumpin’ little record you want your jockey to play.  Johnny and The 44’s intend for it to be a tribute to their heroes, the legends from whom they gained inspiration, and it is a shot of hot West Coast  blues at its best!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Diana Rein review…June 15, 2019…..

DIANA REIN

QUEEN OF MY CASTLE

GULF COAST RECORDS

YES I SING THE BLUES–WORTH–WALKING ALONG–THE MIDNIGHT LINE–TIME’S TICKING AWAY–QUEEN OF MY CASTLE–PURE SOUL–ONE FOOT IN–MY LOVE–IT’S YOU–IN THE CHILL OF THE NIGHT–I CAN’T QUIT YOU–GET DOWN–HEAT–ZOE

Diana Rein has been into the blues since the age of eight, when her folks took her to a Chicago blues club and arranged for her to sing on stage!  She’s never looked back, moving to Southern California to pursue her life’s passion.  Her latest is entitled “Queen Of My Castle,” recorded for Mike Zito’s Gulf Coast label, and produced by her long-time friend, Walter Trout’s drummer, Michael Leasure.  Clocking in at a robust fifteen cuts, Diana tackles life, love, wins, losses, and everything in between, and offers up some sweet tributes to one of her true guitar heroes, SRV.

She opens with the autobiographical “Yes I Sing The Blues,” a shufflin’ groove that defines who she is, “the feeling you give me, that I give right back to you!”  “Worth” is her anthem of empowerment, standing her ground in a “big man’s world,” refusing to believe those who say she doesn’t belong.  “The Midnight Line” follows two lovers and their torrid affair on a train, while the title cut is a drivin’ boogie that finds our heroine telling a lover, “you ain’t got the magic touch,” and she’s the “Queen Of My Castle, and you’ll never be king!”

We had two favorites.  Set over a rhumba beat, Diana pours her heart out to everyone’s hero, Stevie Ray Vaughan, in a poignant “love letter” format  “Pure Soul”.  She closes the set with a brilliant instrumental tribute to a lost loved one, perhaps destined to become her own personal “Little Wing,” “Zoe.”

Diana Rein is a hard-working woman of the blues who stands strong behind her own convictions.  A powerful singer, composer, and guitarist, please enjoy “Queen Of My Castle.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

OddsLane review…June 15, 2019….

ODDSLANE

LOST AND FOUND

GULF COAST RECORDS

BLOOD ON THE VAN–DON’T GIVE IT AWAY–HARD RAIN–I AIN’T MISSING YOU– LITTLE TOO LATE–LOST AND FOUND–MOTH–SEVEN STATES–SPARE CHANGE–WHAT’S YOUR NAME–WHITE CASTLE BLUES

Friends since the eighth grade, Doug Birkit and Brian Zielie are the musical backbone of OddsLane.  They hooked up with Mike Zito, who was looking for a rhythm section, and began playing in and around the St. Louis area in the late Nineties.  OddsLane was formed in 2003, and have just released their latest, “Lost And Found,” for Zito’s Gulf Coast Records.

The eleven originals herein are a little bit of everything.  There’s plenty of the blues they grew up playing, but on this set, there are elements of rock, pop, and, even some heavy metal!

Opening up, there’s a taste of that grunge-flavored blues, sage advice given to the fellows from a lady who’s “been around the block,” and, an old man who’s been “hard-liviin’ since 1942,”  Both of ’em say, “you got to make that money, so Don’t Give It Away!”  In “I Ain’t Missing You,” our hero is just whistlin’ in the dark with his proclamation after a lover leaves.  In the process of trying to figure it all out, he comes to grips with the title cut, “If I can get Lost, I can get Found!”

We had three favorites, too.  Set over a chunka-chunka groove, our “road scholars” bemoan “Five Days And Seven Cities” as they travel the globe playin’ these blues.  The slide’s the rule on the Canned Heat-ish boogie of hard times in the land of plenty, “Spare Change.”  The set closes with another tale from the road.  Seems there’s nothin’ else that’ll do other than “10 of those little square things,” when you got a serious burger Jones, those “White Castle Blues!”

Doug and Brian were featured on Zito’s Ruf Records re-issue from 1998, “Blue Room,” and it was this set and Zito’s encouragement that led them into making “Lost And Found.”  It’s varied, eclectic, and full of what they’ve been playing for over 20 years–good ole bvutt-rockin’ blues!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

 

Tom Euler review…June 15, 2019….

TOM EULER

BLUES GOT MY BACK

BLUES GOT MY BACK–BRIDGE YOU AIN’T BURNT–PLAYED YOUR PART–ROCK ‘N’ ROLL THESE DAYS–BROKEN SOUL–FORGIVE ME–TRICKY BUSINESS–TOUGH GUY–MORE TO LIFE–THOUGHTS OF YOU

Tom Euler put a vicious band together, from some of the best players in the Coastal Virginia area.  They’ve opened for Delbert, and parlayed their skillset into a Semi-Finalist finish at the 2018 IBC’s down in Memphis.  Soon as they got home, they were hot to trot and hit the Soul Haven Studios in Virginia Beach, where they put together the ten originals that make up “Blues Got My Back.”  It’s a sho’ nuff groovy little record that is full of everything the IBC judges fawn over–straight blues, a touch of rock, some slow-blues, and even a monster shout-out to the likes of Brother Ray.

Tom is on vocals and all manner of guitars, with Von Jose’ Roberts on bass, Michael Behlmer on drums, and the lovely Lucy Lawrence Kilpatrick on keys.  The title cut leads off, bustin’ outta the gate as Tom rocks the shuffle and tells the story where “it don’t matter if you’re young, it don’t matter if you’re old, just sing your troubles away,” ’cause the “Blues Got My Back!”  Tom name-checks all the juke joints up and down Beale to bemoan “what passes for Rock “N” Roll These Days,” with light-fingers Lucy all over some Killer piano.  He shuffles out a message to all the sad folks addicted to their phones and social media, as “there’s More To Life than likes, views, and vanity!”

Our favorite was the most unique cut on the set.  Lucy’s sanctified piano plays over Tom’s plea to the Lord above to “please Forgive Me, for I have sinned,” channeling vintage Percy Mayfield and Ray Charles at their testifyin’ best.

Tom Euler has a mixed bag of influences, and all are on display in the soulful songs he composed for this set.  Yep—the “Blues Got My Back,” and it’ll have yours too!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Lucy Isabel review…June 14, 2019…..

LUCY ISABEL

RAMBLING STRANGER

HOW IT GOES–SOMETHING NEW–THE ROAD AHEAD–RAMBLING STRANGER–CALIFORNIA COMING DOWN–FALSE PROPHET–LITTLE BIRD–LUCKY STARS–THE BETWEEN–I DON’T KNOW WHY

Lucy Isabel is a fantastic songwriter with an angelic voice who was born in New Jersey but now calls Music City home.  The flourishing roots/Americana scene in this town so stirred her creative juices that she has just released her latest album, “Rambling Stranger.”  Astute listeners to these ten originals will grasp her “wandering soul” spirit who is also intent on using that wanderlust to spread her music, one show at a time, to as many fans as possible, and thus is unlike another Jersey native, one Mr. Springsteen.

These songs are built around images in her life that helped shape who she has become, and things lead off with taking that leap of faith with a lover, “hold my hand, just see How It Goes.”  That wanderlust is the theme of our restless heroine’s need to “keep my senses tuned to Something New.”  “Little Bird” plays out  as a song of empowerment, urging us all to “put on your brave face” and follow the breezes of life, while the set closes with a tune that describes the theme to this album, entitled “I Don’t Know Why,” where she explains the reason she ultimately followed her musical Muse, for “some folks are born to play, some folks are born to see the show,”  It is powerfully-sung, over a keys-and-strings arrangement.

Lucy Isabel has always described herself as a “Rambling Stranger,” even tho living in this town seems to be a good place for her.  It certainly spawned the creation of an excellent set of Americana, indeed!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

 

Rod Picott review…June 13, 2019….

ROD PICOTT

TELL THE TRUTH AND SHAME THE DEVIL

WELDING ROD RECORDS

GHOST–BAILING–MAMA’S BOY–MARK–SPARTAN HOTEL–TOO MUCH RAIN–A BEAUTIFUL LIGHT–A 38 SPECIAL AND A HERMES PURSE–80 JOHN WALLACE–A GUILTY MAN–SUNDAY BEST–FOLDS OF YOUR DRESS

Folks, when the “heart doctor” says “you got some issues we need to address,” you damn well better listen.  Lucky for me, when I got that call, I had an understanding wife that compelled me to listen, else you’d be reading the words of a dead man.  I’ve survived open-heart surgery two times since 2007, and I know the feeling Rod Picott had when he got that call.  That’s why his original songs that comprise “Tell The Truth And Shame The Devil,” are so important to him.  These songs play out as his memoir, because it is by the grace of God he got to finish them, and, for that matter, allowed me to write about ’em.  Recorded at his home, it is simply Rod, his vocals, his guitar, and his harp.  He gave the finished songs over to Neilson Hubbard to mix, and all twelve are raw, bare-bones looks at life and playin the hand you are dealt.

Just like me and you, these twelve songs are far from perfect, but they make a powerful statement about life.  “Ghost” leads off, as Rod confronts his own mortality by referring to himself as “the punch line to my own joke,” as he ponders what has been, what is now, and what is yet to be.  “Mark” traces the tragic story of one of Rod’s childhood fiends, who committed suicide at seventeen.  It served as one of his earliest memories of the harsh realities of life.  “Mama’s Boy” looks at life thru the eyes of a family of boxers whose rite of passage for all the young men is to enter a makeshift ring and mix it up ’til they “turned that boy into a man.”

“Too Much Rain” was a favorite.  It chronicles the abusive relationship between a father and daughter, until she’s finally had enough and exacts the ultimate revenge.  Other favorites were “Sunday Best,” as Rod recalls herein a happier time, going back to his childhood, where “everyone stopped cussing” for a while, dressed up, and went to church.  Every musician has a favorite “dive bar” story to tell, and Rod regales us with the vast array of “losers and boozers and shoe-shop workers” who make that weekly trek to drown their collective sorrows at the “Spartan Hotel.”

Not everybody gets a second chance to walk this rock.  I got one, and so did Rid Picott.  Natch’l fact is, he spelled out his story thru these twelve poignant, true-to-life songs that make “Tell The Truth And Shame The Devil” such a compelling listen.  Peace, Rod….Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Grant Farm review…June 12, 2019…..

GRANT FARM

BROKE IN TWO

GRANT CENTRAL RECORDS

MORNING TRAIN–THE GOLDEN CHARIOTEER:–ARJUNA THE BELIEVER–FORWARD ON–RIVER STYX–NESTER–LOVE AND PAIN–TUMBLEWEED–LIVE OF RILEY–SALMON SONG–BROKE IN TWO

Grant Farm was founded in 2010 by Tyler “The Champ” Grant, a National Flatpicking champion with a knack for turning a lyric.  Joining him on this latest set, “Broke In Two,” we have Adam Engfer on bass, Sean Macaulay on drums, and Kevin McHugh on keys.  All share the vocal duties, as this set explores a number of unique characters who seem to be a mainstay of this group’s prior works.

As one listens, especially if you are old-school as I am, you’ll hear elements of vintage Allman Brothers and Southern rock, and some jam band-ish nods to the Grateful Dead.  Tyler’s pickin’ prowess leads things off with the gospel-tinged clarion call to board that “Morning Train” bound for Glory!  This one was one of our favorites.  Another was the tale of the “River Styx,” told from the viewpoint of a father who believes his time ain’t long, passing on to his offspring the credo that “nothing comes without a fight,” and this is an excellent example of how this band successfully blends bluegrass and high harmonies with rock music.  “Love And Pain” fires up over a pounding blues groove, as our hero realizes he is the burden that holds down a relationship, as “she is the love, and I am the pain.”  The set closes with the ten-minute opus that is the title cut.  All the elements this band is known for are here–thought-provoking lyrics, excellent harmonies, and cohesive instrumentation that lends itself to those Dead comparisons.

With “Broke In Two,” Grant Farm delivers a dazzling, energetic set of just what the term “Americana” has come to mean.  It’s a smooth-as-a-shot-of-Jack blend of bluegrass, rock, blues and gospel that fans of all genres’ of music can enjoy!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

J. P. Reali review…June 12, 2019…..

J. P. REALI

A HIGHWAY CRUISE

REALI RECORDS

MY BABY LOVES TO BOOGIE–THE BALLAD OF A BURGLAR–A HIGHWAY CRUISE–BLUES FOR CASEY–WHISKEY FOR BLOOD

J. P. Reali has been a mainstay on the Washington, D. C., blues scene for some thirty years, and a favorite of ours for many years as well.  There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned road trip to see some old friends and cleanse your soul.  If you hit that road, you’ve got to have some powerful tunes along for the ride, and that’s what you get with the cross-country EP from J. P., “A Highway Cruise.”

On this scintillating five-song set, J. P. teams up with his old friend, New Englander Duke Levine.  Herein, J. P. is on vocals and guitars, and Duke is on electric guitar and some cool mandolin.  The set is literally a musical jaunt across the heart of the USA.  The first stop might as well be 706 Union Avenue in Memphis, with the Sun-splashed, rockabilly rave-up that is “My Baby Loves To Boogie.”  Then, it’s not all that far, just down the road apiece, to old Saint Loo for the Berry-licious “Ballad Of A Burglar,” who’s “tired of stealin’ for my wife,” who tells him daily, “you don’t need a credit card, just don’t forget your .44!”  The Southern rock vibe of the title cut is what this set is all about, as J. P. flatly says, “we open up the doors for all–we don’t need another Berlin Wall.”  The set closes with a hard left turn back down to the Delta, on the Robert Johnson-inspired tale of a man who drinks so much, he’s got “Whiskey For Blood.”

That leaves our favorite.  You can’t live in the DC area for 30 years and not know when something is just not right.  That said, J. P. presents one of the best shots at the current administration we have heard to date,  The acoustic “Blues For Casey” finds our hero with a bad case of “workin’ at the White House blues.”  Herein, it becomes a daily struggle to deal with “all the lies,” stay out of jail, and deal with the daily B S that accompanies “the Clampett clan!!”

J. P. Reali dedicates “A Highway Cruise” to his immigrant grandfather, Michael, who came here in 1922.  J. P. embodies that spirit and lays it all on the line on this excellent “road trip” companion!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

 

 

Mark Cline Bates review…June 12, 2019….

MARK CLINE BATES

KING OF THE CROWS

ANIMALS–MISSISSIPPI–SELF CONTROL–BABY DON’T LIKE–CAGED UP BULL–DEVIL–I DON’T KNOW WHY–APATHETIC MOON–HIGHWAY SIGNS–DON’T WORRY–GINGER–MY HEART IS GOOD

Mark Cline Bates is a consummate songwriter whose material is always honest, thought-provoking, and shared straight from his soul.  The twelve originals that make up his latest, “King Of The Crows,” is exactly that–songs for Everyman of good times, hard times, and the ever-present pull of Man and his myriad of choices, and their subsequent consequences.  This was pretty much a three-man affair, with Mark on vocals and piano, Don Dixon on bass, and Jim Brock on drums, with guest guitar from Michael Lipton.

One of our favorites led off. “Animals” not only looks at the cycle of the four seasons, but, perhaps on a deeper, more intimate level, the cycle of life itself.  “Caged Bull” deals with poor choices from a man who runs from the law, while “Tom Waits is barkin’ on my stereo,” and feels ‘”stuck in between the push and the pull,” awaiting his fate.  “Highway Signs” follows a similar path, as our hero’s lifetime of poor choices is slowly catching up to him, as he readily professes, “I ain’t too good at learnin’ quick.”

We had two more favorites.  “Don’t Worry” was the set’s most upbeat tune, as Mark gets his piano in a rollicking, New Orleans-at-Mardi Gras groove.  And, “Ginger” deals with the plight of many of America’s aging seniors,   It’s the somber story of an 83-year-old woman who lives on Social Security confined to her double wide and a “Chevy Cavalier that I can’ft drive,” eventually throwing herself on the mercy of the never-ending stream of “debt collectors.”

Mark Cline Bates will draw you in with his collection of characters, many of whom we can relate to, and, realistically, save for the grace of God,  go we.  His voice may remind many of Jason Isbell, and “King Of The Crows” shows a young songwriter at the absolute top of his game!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

The Truehearts review…June 12, 2019…..

THE TRUEHEARTS

SONGS FOR SPIKE

WON’T IT BE SOMETHING–SUNSHINE AND VIOLETS–PFC FRANKIE WALKER–MAMZELLE MARIE–HEY HEY–LET IT SING–32ND STREET–LATE JULY–MILKY WAY–GOODBYE

The Truehearts–Steve McWilliams and Debra Buonaccorsi–originally hailed from the Baltimore/DC area, but came to Music City a few years ago as The Hummingbyrds.  Their latest set, and first as The Truehearts, is “Songs For Spike,” with Dave Coleman producing, at Howard’s Apartment in East Nashville.

This set is full of highlights.  Leading off, Steve sings of “what could’ve been, if I’d only played the game,” “Won’t It Be Something,” with a definitive Petty vibe.  “PFC Frankie Walker” is one of our favorites, and perhaps is the set’s tour de force.  It is a banjo-driven tale of an 18-year old Pennsylvania soldier who meets with tragedy after the June 1944 Normandy Invasion, with the somber lyric, “Mama, I don’t want to die this way.”  “Hey Hey” is by far the most unique cut on the album.  Debra is on lead vocal, and this song is damn near “reggae-punk(!)”  Here, mankind is described as “specks of cosmic dust,” and she sings the verse over a reggae-fied beat before the sonic blast of grungy guitars drive the chorus!  Debra offers up a quieter anthem of empowerment with “don’t let the Devil steal your song—Let It Sing,” while Steve is on vocal on the time-jumping swing of a “honeymoon beyond the Milky Way,” featuring celestial pedal steel from Paul Niehaus.  These two were our other favorites.

“Songs For Spike” is an excellent slice of Americana from start to finish from The Truehearts.  It’s full of clever, compelling stories, set over a quite varied menu of musical styles!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.