The Freeway Revival review…October 7, 2017….

THE FREEWAY REVIVAL

REVOLUTION ROAD

GOODBYE–SOUL SURVIVOR–RISE–WISE UP–PEACE–WANDERIN’–SENSE OF WONDER–EVEN IF IT RAINS–ANGEL IN RHYMES–WHEN IT BREAKS–CRICKETS

As one listens to Asheville-based The Freeway Revival,  especially folks from our g-g-g-generation, you’re gonna hear a little bit of everything we’ve grown up with–the Allmans, Garcia-era Dead,  Dylan, on up thru the likes of Gov’t Mule, the CRB, and Tedeschi-Trucks on today’s scene.  We don’t want to call them “Southern rock,” because, altho they have Southern roots, this music is much, much more.  The band consists of twin brothers Adam (on keys) and Jonathan Clayton, (on guitar), coupled with second guitarist Tim Husk, bassist Kenny Crowley, and, uber-drummer Cartwright Brandon.  This brotherhood, if you will, released a self-titled EP in 2016, and have basically toured non-stop since then, barely having the time to lay down the tracks for this set, their first full-length effort, entitled “Revolution Road.”

Their incredible musicianship, collaborative songwriting and spot-on harmony arrangements make this set special.  The set opens with guitars blazing on “Goodbye,” a song that teaches us to get rid of all the negatives in life, and features a fine psychedelic-ish solo at the halfway point.  “Peace” has some haunting harp in the foreground, and the fellows use this song to try and offer up a resolution to the current insanity throughout the world today, where “we all blame each other, but we’ve all got dirty hands.”  Cartwright Brandon kicks off the muscle of “Soul Survivor” with some percussion right outta Woodstock-era Santana, set over a groove with a cool New Orleans vibe.

Those golden harmonies “keep these wheels rollin” on “Wanderin,” while “Sense Of Wonder” follows a Doomsday beat over the vocal lead urging us to “break down those walls of animosity,” before giving way to a blistering solo.   The set closes on perhaps its most upbeat vibe, with “Crickets”  again driven by stutter-step guitar and fierce percussion, before another mighty solo.

With “Revolution Road,” The Freeway Revival are not out to reinvent the wheel–they just want to make sure those wheels roll in a positive direction.  Their mission is to bring their message to as many new fans as they can, and they’ve just gotten two more with us.  These young men spread peace, love, and great music wherever they go!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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Ilana Katz Katz review…October 6, 2017….

ILANA KATZ KATZ

SUBWAY STORIES

VIZZTONE VT-IKK-111

DON’T FORGET–RILEY AND SPENCER–SUBWAY BLUES–MOTHERLESS CHILD–POISON DAYS–LIKE A WINO–ICE CREAM FREEZER BLUES–REQUIEM–TRIBUTE TO SLIM HARPO–THE EXCUSE–ROAD TO NOWHERE–DON’T CROSS THAT LINE–JOHN BROWN’S DREAM/SUBWAY LIGHT OF MINE

Ilana Katz Katz got her start in 2008 as a busker, playing her fiddle and singing on Boston’s crowded subway platforms.  A chance meeting with Ronnie Earl led to her “discovery,” if you will, as he took her under his wing, playing on her debut album.  Her fiddle and lilting, bluesy voice have served her well since her salad days, and she has just completed her third overall release, aptly-entitled “Subway Stories,” for VizzTone.  The set consists of thirteen songs, several written by Ilana solely or with producer/guitarist Barry Levenson, he of Canned Heat fame.  The rest are well-played covers that showcase her affinity for traditional fiddle tunes, old-time blues, and jazzy scat-singing.

One of those originals leads off, as Barry hits and “endless boogie” groove over Ilana’s vocal, name-checking many of our blues heroes, imploring us, “Don’t Forget their names.”  “Riley And Spencer,” a traditional tune about two hard-drinking ramblers,  and “Motherless Child,” shows the ease with which she handles this type of material.

Barry does some mighty fine Berry-pickin’ over piano supplied by Mr. Fifty Shades Of Blue himself, Anthony Geraci, as Ilana plays the part of the somewhat schizophrenic lover who, “after all this time, still loves you Like A Wino loves his wine!”  Ilana and the fellows have a lot of fun with the slow-blues of her autobiography of sorts, “Subway Blues,” and again with the swampy, good-times of “Tribute To Slim Harpo,” both featuring harp from Sugar Ray Norcia.

We had two favorites, too.  Ilana closes the set with a sho’ nuff hoedown throwdown, with an extended fiddle break on the traditional “John Brown’s Dream,” which segues’ into “Subway Light Of Mine,” featuring just her fiddle and vocal.  And, we can only imagine the response she gets in the subway when she breaks into Roosevelt Sykes’ bawdy-riffic “Ice Cream Freezer Blues!”

Ilana Katz Katz takes the listener on a sweet journey from the traditional up thru the contemporary with her fiddle skills and ethereal voice.  When she’s not on the road, you can still catch her bringing fun to the folks on Boston’s underground lines, and “Subway Stories” has some tales to tell!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Leonard Griffie review….October 5, 2017….

LEONARD GRIFFIE

BETTER LATE THAN NO TIME SOON

PANGOBOY  PRODUCTIONS

LOOK ME IN THE EYE–I’M NOT LIKE THAT–I GOT NEWS–WHAT’S A MAN TO DO–WHAT YOU GOT IS WHAT YOU GET–LEAVE THIS TOWN–I DO LOVE YOU–YOU DONE STEPPED IN IT NOW–GOIN DOWNHILL–AIN’T NO HAPPY HOME–UP AND AT ‘EM–BETTER LATE THAN NO TIME SOON–A DOLLAR OR TWO–I’M GOOD WHERE I AM–

One thing you will notice when you listen to Leonard Griffie and his latest album, “Better Late Than No Time Soon,” is his incredible versatility within various shades of the blues.  Aptly described as The Guitar Monster by Steve Spoulos of KRVM Radio in Eugene, OR, Leonard takes us on a journey filled with horn-filled soul/blues, Fifties-inspired songs, traditional shuffles, and, even a few forays into the blues’ jazzier side.

All the cuts were written or co-written by Leonard, and of the set’s fourteen cuts, there are highlights all over the place.  The party kicks off with a cool song about a relationship on the skids, as Leonard begs a lover to “Look Me In The Eye and try and tell the truth,” set over a funky horn arrangement, bringing to mind vintage Albert King.  He pledges allegiance to a new lover, assuring her “I ain’t no alley cat–I’m Not Like That,” then finds out a few cuts later that she might be a big tease, and asks all us guys, “What’s A  Man To Do–no time to make love–all she wants to do is run around.”

The band breaks breaks off a couple of sweet, jazz-themed instrumentals, with “Up And At “Em,” and the set-closing, “I’m Good Where I Am,” each featuring exemplary keys work from Michael Vannice behind Leonard’s expressive guitar work.  And, our favorite was a song about a place we’ve all been to on occasion, where nothin’ goes right, and, no matter what you do, “You Done Stepped In It Now!”  Leonard lays down some mean slide on this more traditional, straight-blues cut.

Leonard Griffie found the winning combination for a great blues album with “Better Late Than No Time Soon.”  A great mix of songs that will appeal to a wide base of fans, stellar guitar work with a fine team of backing musicians,  and strong, soulful vocals are all present and accounted for on this fine set!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Val Starr And The Blues Rocket review….October 4, 2017….

VAL STARR

AND THE BLUES ROCKET

I ALWAYS TURN THE BLUES ON

SANDWICH FACTORY RECORDS

HIGH TIME TO GO–I ALWAYS TURN THE BLUES ON–WHAT HAPPENS AFTER MIDNIGHT (NOTHIN GOOD)–WHETHER BLUES–YOU BETTER STOP–PLEASE DON’T GO AWAY MAD–BAD LUCK AND THE BLUES–OUT WITH THE OLD–THE BABY MAMA SONG–BLIND EYE–BYE BYE–IT’S ALWAYS SOMETHIN’

Sacramento-based woman of the blues, Val Starr, has one of those special, easy-on-the-ears voices, tailor-made for the twelve original cuts that comprise her latest album with her band, The Blues Rocket, “I Always Turn The Blues On,” for Sandwich Factory Records.   On this set, Val is on lead vocals and plays the  rhythm guitar parts.  The other members of The Blues Rocket are John Ellis on bass, Frankie Soul on lead guitar, and Paul Farman on drums.  The songs, all written by Val, deal with some of life’s trickiest situations–falling in love, and then knowing when to get out, with everything that happens in between.

A great man once told us you gotta know when to fold ’em,  and that’s the theme of the leadoff shuffle, “it’s High Time for that man To Go!”  Special guest Todd Morgan adds a jazzy piano, and Tim Barron’s harp sweetens the ambience of the title cut,    as “there ain’t no other music that makes my body whole.”  A funked-up number written for her teenagers might well serve some of us older folks, as we all know, “What Happens After Midnight ain’t Nothin Good!”  Val bumps and grinds her way thru a story about her seemingly-endless hard times, as “there’s nothing bothering me except Bad Luck And The Blues.”   She closes the set on a similar note with the Chicago-styled romp reminding us that from a flat tire to just plain forgetting important stuff, “It’s Always Somethin’ to screw up your day!”

We had two favorites, too.  Val gets in a playful mood as she’s got that “one thing” on her mind, wanting to “lock the doors and turn out the lights” with “The Baby Mama Song.”  And,  given the recent events in the news, she offers up a poignant ode to today’s  totally messed up society.  “Whether Blues”—“whether you’re black, whether you’re white,” or whatever your lot in life,  Val uses this song as a clarion call for the insanity to stop.

We like to think that we follow Val’s sage advice with the cuts on this album.  “I Always Turn The Blues On” to get uplifted, and, so will you when you give this one a spin!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Jack Tempchin review….October 2, 2017….

JACK TEMPCHIN

PEACEFUL EASY FEELING

THE SONGS OF JACK TEMPCHIN

BLUE ELAN RECORDS   BER 1049

PEACEFUL EASY FEELING–PART OF ME, PART OF YOU–SLOW DANCING–THE ONE YOU LOVE–SOUL SEARCHIN’–ALREADY GONE–PRIVACY–EVERYBODY’S GONNA LOVE SOMEBODY TONIGHT–PARTYTOWN–IT’S YOUR WORLD NOW

We must admit, we were a bit awestruck when we first found out we had the opportunity to review the latest set from Jack Tempchin.  It is entitled “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” and, that title is part of what makes Jack so special.  For the few who may not know, nine of the ten cuts on this set were all recorded by or written with his friend of 46 years, Glenn Frey.  Two of the cuts are a part of the best-selling album of the 20TH Century, “The Eagles Greatest Hits, 1971-1975.”  The remainder, save for “Slow Dancing,” itself a hit for Johnny Rivers, were either recorded by the Eagles or by Glenn Frey during his successful solo career.

We didn’t know what more could be said about these songs that hasn’t already been said, but Jack made it easy.  He takes the guitar solo on the title cut, and, on “Already Gone” and “It’s Your World Now,” Jack is joined by Chris Hillman on mandolin, and Herb Pedersen on dobro, giving  those songs a new dimension.

Jack is joined by labelmate and Blues Award winner Janiva Magness on “Soul Searchin,” and by Rita Coolidge on the song that was a hit for Johnny Rivers, “Slow Dancing (Swayin’ To The Music).”  There’s one cut that was penned by Jack and Glenn that was previously unreleased, a cool song about Big Brother always watching, “I want my Privacy.”  It’s got some grungy, porn-flick guitar to add to its paranoid ambience!  Our favorite was from Glenn’s solo effort, “No Fun Aloud.”  Jack keeps the debauchery flowin’ right along with the shooters down at “Partytown,” with the only thing missing being the “Monstertones”–Jimmy Buffett, Jimmy Connors, and John McEnroe on the backing chorus–from the original!

With “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” Jack Tempchin lays out a heartfelt tribute to his great friend and fellow composer, Glenn Frey.  Fans, this is a set to be savored….Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Howlin’ At Greaseland review…October 1, 2017…

VARIOUS ARTISTS

HOWLIN AT GREASELAND

WEST TONE RECORDS   WTR CD-1708

MEET ME IN THE BOTTOM–SMOKESTACK LIGHTNIN–TERRY HANCK SPEAKS–HOWLIN FOR MY DARLIN–TAIL DRAGGER SPEAKS I–I’M LEAVING YOU–WORRIED LIFE BLUES–JOHN BLUES BOYD SPEAKS–RIDING IN THE MOONLIGHT–FORTY FOUR–TAIL DRAGGER SPEAKS II–DON’T TRUST NO WOMAN–LITTLE RED ROOSTER–SPOONFUL

Most fans know that Chester Arthur Burnett was best-known as blues man Howlin’ Wolf.  Discovered by Sam Phillips of Sun Records, Sam would describe Wolf’s guttural, moaning voice as a place “where the soul of man never dies.”  A huge, barrel-chested man adept on guitar and harp, he recorded sides in the Fifties that are still considered classics.   Some of his biggest fans in the music world, and a few that even played behind him, have pooled their talents to serve up ten of the Wolf’s most famous cuts for West Tone Records,  entitled “Howlin’ At Greaseland,’ and recorded at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios in San Jose, CA.

The players are a veritable “who’s who” in contemporary West Coast blues.  Terry Hanck, Rick Estrin, and a wealth of others, plus two very special guests who played with Wolf–Henry Gray and Tail Dragger.   The music stands on its own, and it is really fun to hear these guys layin’ it down.   Leading off is Alabama Mike, with a cool, country-blues read of “Meet Me In The Bottom,” with Rick Estrin on harp, Kid Andersen on guitar, and Lorenzo Farrell on piano.  John Blues Boyd is on vocal on the iconic “Smokestack Lightning,” and returns a bit later for “Riding In The Moonlight,” and again to close the proceedings with that “Spoonful of diamonds!”

Two men who had the great privilege to play with Wolf back in the day take two cuts each.  Tail Dragger, with his own Wolf-like growl, is all over “I’m Leaving You,” and “Don’t Want No Woman,” each with Rockin’ Johnny Burgin on guitar, Aki Kumar on harp, Chris James on guitar, Patrick Rynn on bass, and June Core on drums.  Henry Gray played piano on many of the Wolf’s songs, and does so here, along with the vocals, on “Worried Life Blues,” and”Little Red Rooster,” featuring only Henry on vocal and piano and Kid’s guitar.

Between cuts, Kid let the tapes keep rolling, and, as such, there are several gems among the between-song banter, regaling us with tales of how Wolf’s music not only shaped their lives, but, literally, the landscape of popular music as well.  Fans, you simply cannot go wrong with the solid sounds of “Howlin’ At Greaseland,’ a mighty tribute to a mighty player—Howlin’ Wolf!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Cassie Keenum and Rick Randlett review….September 30, 2017….

CASSIE KEENUM AND RICK RANDLETT

HAUNTINGS

FR 1017

SEVENTH DAY–ONE MORE LAST TIME–WON’T MAKE THAT MISTAKE AGAIN–ALL ALONG–HALLELUJAH–SHE’S GONE–EARLY IN THE MORNING–GET LIT–MINUTE MAN–BORN WITH WINGS–HOW LONG

The blues, as an art form, lends itself to varied forms of expression.  With their latest release, “Hauntings,”  Florida-based duo Cassie Keenum and Rick Randlett are the principle players, and their arrangements on the majority of these eleven originals and covers take a “less is more” approach.  Cassie is on acoustic guitar and vocals, with Rick on lap steel, electric, slide, and acoustic guitars.   Also featured is Little Mike (always one of our favorites!) on the harp, Nicole Wagner on bass, Rusty Valentine on drums, and Mitch Rogers on keys.

Cassie has one of those deep, sultry, sexy voices that you can’t help but enjoy, and Rick gets a huge, fat tone out of all his guitars, and their styles mesh well.  They lead things off with a brooding, Doomsday tune dealing with the eternal pull between the Devil, Woman, and her “Holy flower,” entitled “Seventh Day.”   Little Mike adds harp to the Chicago-flavored blues of the heated story of two ill-fated lovers who can never have it all, with our heroine always looking for that “One More Last Time before you go.”

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and Cassie plays her to the hilt, asking her no-good lover “why weren’t you there for me, All Along.”  Mike’s back on harp for the Hill-Country stomp of “Early In The Morning,” with Rick laying down some mean slide, while, a bit later, Cassie vows to just “Get Lit” as fast as she can to put yet another cheatin’ dog in her rear-view mirror,  “cause I just can’t do it sober!”

We had two favorites, too, about as different as two songs on the same album can be.  A long time ago, Billy Ward and the Dominoes extolled the virtues of “Lovin’ Dan, The Sixty-Minute Man,” but our poor heroine can’t find anybody other than a “Minute Man,” where “what part of ladies first do you just not understand?”  Cassie’s playfully-sexy double-entendres’ make this one a fun listen.  At the other end of the spectrum, an extended lap steel intro from Rick kicks off Cassie’s heartfelt read of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” with the arrangement from Spencer Bohren.

The music contained within the grooves of “Hauntings” from Cassie Keenum and Rick Randlett show what magic can happen when two special musicians get together to do what they do best.  They complement each other perfectly, and the interpretations are at once uplifting while remaining intimate between the two players.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.