Joyann Parker review…April 9, 2018….

JOYANN PARKER

HARD TO LOVE

HOPELESS ROMANTIC  HRR 1001

MEMPHIS–ENVY–HOME–DIZZY–JIGSAW HEART–WHO WHAT WHEN WHERE WHY–BLUER THAN YOU–RAY–EVIL HEARTED–TAKE MY HEART AND RUN–YOUR MAMA–WHAT HAPPENED TO ME–HARD TO LOVE

It’s hard to believe, when you listen to Joyann Parker sing, that she’d never thought about singing the blues until about four years ago.  She sang Aretha’s “Chain Of Fools” in a contest, and the rest is blues history.  Already a classically-trained pianist,  Joyann believed being a blues singer was her calling.  Add to this mix being a part of the competitions in the IBC in 2015, and a trip to that famous museum down at 926 E. McLemore, and a true woman of the blues was born!   She’s set to release her second album on April 13, 2018, this one entitled “Hard To Love,” thirteen cuts written by Joyann and guitarist Mark Lemoine.  Fans, they don’t write just any blues songs–this duo creates soulful, passionate trips into the listener’s heart, just the way they wrote ’em back in the days of Sam, Dave, Aretha, Dan, and Spooner.

She gives a no-good lover the ultimate heave-ho, and Joyann puts the whole thing in her rear-view mirror, and “bu the time I get to Memphis, you’ll be gone!”  Snarling slide adds to the dark groove of this one, too.  “Envy” is an organ-heavy, testifyin’ ode to “goin’ home, when your work on Earth is done,”  while “Dizzy” is at the opposite ends of the spectrum, drawing on the up and down relationship with a non-committal lover, this one with serious Motown overtures.  “Take My Heart And Run” drives that “my baby left me” train, with Delta-fied slide as its fuel.  Joyann closes the set with the torchy title cut, featuring only her piano, vocal, and the bass, as her lover is described as a “beautiful mess,” but for whom the attraction is too strong to deny.

Our favorite was easy.  This one hearkens back to the duckwalkin’ heyday of Chuck And Johnnie, in the rockin’ tale of a woman totally smitten by a “bad boy,” “What Happened To Me?”

Joyann Parker writes stories in song to which we can all relate.  For sure, nothing on this set will ever be “Hard To Love!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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Ghost Town Blues Band review…April 8, 2018….

GHOST TOWN BLUES BAND

BACKSTAGE PASS

COME TOGETHER–TIP OF MY HAT–SHINE–GIVIN’ IT ALL AWAY–BIG SHIRLEY–WHIPPING POST–I GET HIGH–ONE MORE WHISKEY–I NEED MORE LOVE

We have reviewed more than 1100 albums within the pages of this humble forum, and the latest from one of our favorite groups, Memphis, Tennessee’s own Ghost Town Blues Band, “Backstage Pass,” has to be one of the most unique, good-time sets we’ve had the privilege to write about, recorded live in front of an amped-to-the-gills crowd at Lafayette’s Music Room in Memphis.

This band has many facets, and their live shows are legendary, and you get a taste of all of it over the course of this 65-minute program.  Matt Isbell not only makes cigar-box guitars, but he wields a mean one, and uses his whole arsenal herein. He’s on vocals and harp as well, with Taylor Orr on guitar and vocals, Suavo Jones and Kevin Houston on trombone and sax, respectively, Tim Stanek on keys, Matt Karner on bass, and Preston McEwen on drums.

You’ll get a good idea about what Ghost Town is all about from the opening salvo of Lennon’s “Come Together,” a slide-filled boogie romp with the horns gettin’ in on the fun.  It segues’ into a cool break of “Norwegian Wood,” before buckling down full-throttle into classic Zep with “Whole Lotta Love,” all in the span of six-and-a-half minutes!   Matt and Taylor’s original is next, where “Tip Of My Hat” blends cool, rhumba-rockin’ beats and killer piano over lyrics heavy with sly-and-sexy double-entendres’, where “you can play my organ and slide my big trombone.”  “Shine” pays tribute to the glory days of Stax in Memphis, while Tim has a good time with one of our favorites, beatin’ the keys eight to the bar with the lusty, busty tale of that rump-shakin’ “Big Shirley,” with a cool shout-out to Blind Mississippi Morris.  “One More Whiskey” is an ode to Matt’s whiskey-laden past, and is a definite crowd-pleaser, with Matt’s harp the guitars, and Suavo’s big long slidin’ thing riding this singalong for all it’s worth.

Our favorite simply could not be denied.  Matt’s pattern-switching bass lines, Tim’s B-3, and Taylor’s reverential guitar parts make the sixteen-minute tribute to The Allman Brothers and Southern rock history, “Whipping Post,” itself worth the price of admission.

Folks, the fellows in  Ghost Town Blues Band are sho’ nuff some mojo filters, and “Backstage Pass” blends all their elements, from the ABB to the Beatles, the Dead, to Phish, Stax, and virtually everything in between into one helluva good time!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Teresa James And The Rhythm Tramps review….April 6, 2018….

TERESA JAMES AND THE RHYTHM TRAMPS

HERE IN BABYLON

JESI-LU RECORDS

I KNOW I AIN’T BEEN SO PERFECT–HERE IN BABYLON–GIVE ME A HOLLER–HEAD UP, HEART OPEN–I KEEP DRIFTING AWAY–GROUND ZERO–HOLD ON–YOU HAD TO BRING THAT UP–THE DAY THE BLUES CAME TO CALL–I GOTTA ROLL–21ST CENTURY MAN–FIND ME A BAR

With a voice that’s sexy, sultry, soulful, and anything you want it to be, Teresa James, a native Texan, transplanted herself to L. A. ’bout twenty years ago.  She got hold of some of the best session men that town has to offer and made them her backing band, The Rhythm Tramps.  Recently, they all got together to lay down the tracks for what turned out to be her tenth album, “Here In Babylon.”  It was done as a “live in the studio” project, and the originals herein are predominantly composed wholly or in part by Teresa and her long-time bassman and partner in crime, Terry Wilson.

There are a plethora of highlights and favorites, with various genres’ represented.  The set leads off with the story of everyone’s flaws and how a relationship always brings them to the surface, “I Know I Ain’t Been So Perfect,” with a double dose of keyboards, with Teresa winning the Wurlitzer prize, and venerable Mike Finnegan on the B-3.  A sweet horn arrangement adds the New Orleans spice to the tale of digging these good blues to help you thru tough times, “Give Me A Holler,” featuring a fine guitar solo from Billy Watts.  Teresa has a humorous streak too, evidenced by the jazzy, Pink-Panther-esque fo’ day creep of “just when I thought we were doin’ all right, You Had To Bring That Up,” with trumpet from Darrell Leonard.

We had three favorites, too.  The set closes with that good ol’ shave-and-a-haircut Diddley-beat that drives the story of “turnin’ off the TV,” “I’m Gonna Find Me A Bar, with a real good band!”  The title cut has a Doomsday backbeat and Teresa gets in some cool veiled jabs at the stuff goin’ on in society today, “Here In Babylon.”  And, you can’t have a complete blues album without a trip down to “the birth place of the blues,” those ol’ Crossroads at “Ground Zero,” where “you’ll always have the Devil to pay!”

Teresa James And The Rhythm Tramps make the whole thing sound so easy—effortlessly going from roadhouse rock to N’ Awlins funk, to Memphis grit with stops everywhere in between!  Its always fun, down “Here In Babylon!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Ben Vaughn review…April 5, 2018….

BEN VAUGHN

INSTRUMENTAL STYLINGS

BAR NONE RECORDS

AQUA BLUE–GUMPSTUMPER–ENFERMO–PIPE BOMB–ALDENTE–BATTERY ACID–HEAVEN ABOVE–TOESTUBBER–SNAKE PIT–DREADNAUGHT–HYDROPLANE–TAROT READER–DESCAFEINADO–CONSTELLATION DRIVE–ILLUSION–STRETCH LIMO (BONUS VOCAL TRACK WITH DEAN WEEN)

Ben Vaughn’s CD from 1995, “Instrumental Stylings,” ended up serving as his “screen test,” if you will, for future employment endeavors, and influenced his career in ways he never imagined.  This CD now finally sees its release on vinyl, with a download card featuring some cool bonus tracks.

We grew up in an era when instrumentals ruled the airwaves, from “Rumble,” to “Green Onions,” on thru “Little Wing” and beyond.  Ben, on this set, played all the instruments himself, and the varied sounds and styles he puts on this album was just what Caryn Mandbach was looking for the first time she heard some of these cuts on the radio.  Ben was hired by Mandbach to create instrumentals for a sitcom in development at the time, which would become “Third Rock From The Sun,” seeking a sound akin to “rock and roll as played by aliens!”

On this varied collection, Ben touches on pop, surf, twang, blues and even the “spaghetti western” sound implemented by Ennio Morricone.  Leading off is one of those cuts, the spaced-out, trance-like, “Aqua Blue,” and, on “Enfermo,” one might expect a visit from the cigar-chomping Man With No Name.  “Toestubber” is an amped-up slice of rockabilly twang, while “Descafeinado” uses samba-esque Latin rhythms as its theme.  Our favorite was “Gumpstumper,” a wild, harp-driven country-blues shuffle with a zydeco background, and the set closes with the lone vocal cut from Dean Ween, the Doomsday-ish, “I don’t need no Stretch Limo to play no rock and roll!”

The really cool thing about Ben Vaughn’s “Instrumental Stylings” is that, as you listen, you’ll swear you’ve heard some of these songs before.  That might well be the case, as Ben not only worked on music for “Third Rock,” but also “That 70’s Show,” and other Carsey-Werner projects as well.  This group of instrumentals, unbeknownst to him at its 1995 inception, set him on a lifetime journey of brilliant composing and musicianship!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Tim Woods review…April 4, 2018….

TIM WOODS

HUMAN RACE

CAN YOU FEEL IT–EVERY DAY–STEP–TAKE A MINUTE–HUMAN RACE–BLACK MARIA–TW FUNK–IMAGE IS CLEAR–TRIXIE–HAVE MERCY–WHERE DID SHE GO–LEAVE THE EARTH ALONE

Tim Woods is not only an expressive, soulful guitarist, but he’s also quite the creative songwriter, too.  Patriarch of the Woods Family Band, the Pittsburgh native has just released his second album, entitled “Human Race.”  Tim grew up in a family that included older brothers, who exposed him to rock, blues, jazz, and even bluegrass, all of which helped to shape his future as an artist.  As a teen, his blues apprenticeship took hold, as his family moved to Macon, GA.  There, he got involved in that heavy blues and Southern rock scene, working as a club promoter, which gave him lifelong connections in the music business.

This album embodies all his experiences, and then some.  On the leadoff cut,  his good friend and producer, Bobby Lee Rodgers, adds organ to the grungy, pounding anthem of knowing when something is right for you, “Can You Feel It?”  Tim grabs up his acoustic guitar on a song of empowerment, “I’m not gonna live my life in fear,” “Every Day.”  The fellows step into some serious funk on the down-in-the-alley “Have Mercy On Me,” and close the set with our favorite, a warning to all those who continue to “build your bombs,”  urging them to “Leave This Earth Alone,” for the good of mankind.

Tim can pick it like Dickie, and he can pick it like Garcia, and everyone in between.  You can hear it for yo’self on the three too-cool-for-school instrumentals included herein, the fiery stomp of “Step,” and a couple inspired by the Dead and the Allman Brothers, “Trixie,” and “TW Funk.”

Tim Woods’ dedication to the preservation of the blues as an art form is readily apparent on the material in “Human Race.”  These songs evoke a spirit of positivity, done with the intent to spread peace and love thru this music!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Gus Spenos review…April 3, 2018…..

GUS SPENOS

IT’S LOVIN’ I GUARANTEE

IT’S LOVIN’ I GUARANTEE–SHE WALKED RIGHT IN–HUSH BABY DON’T YOU CRY–FOOL’S BLUES–EVERY TIC’S GOT A TOC–THE BLIND BOY–LIVIN’ IS A CRIME–LIL’ DOG–I’M GONE–HAVE MERCY BABY–HEY GIRL–KIND LOVING DADDY–GOT MYSELF A DIAMOND

Imagine this if you will.  A mild-mannered Indianapolis neurologist by day punts his scrubs by night and  puts on his zoot suit, grabs his sax, and becomes one of the best purveyors of jump blues you’ll find on either side of the Mississippi.  His latest album is entitled “It’s Lovin’ I Guarantee,” and consists of nine cool covers and four Gus originals that sound as tho they were written from the era when Louis Jordan and Wynonie Harris ruled the airwaves.

Gus has a full big band, and they jump and jive all over this set.  and the whole thing just makes you wanna put on yer dancin’ shoes and rock your blues away!  He kicks off with the bold prediction to any potential lovers to “see what your life can be, it’s Lovin’ I Guarantee!”  Brandon McCune offers up some fine keys work, as Gus bids fare the well to a no-good lover in “Fool’s Blues,” and shows up a bit later on B-3 for a swingin’ version of Bobby Elvin’s “The Blind Boy.”  And, a couple of former Raelettes add backing vocals to Gus’ sax-heavy romp thru “Have Mercy Baby.’

We had two favorites, too.  “She Walks Right In, she walks right out” is Gus’ take on that classic “I know you don’t love me no more” lament, again featuring those sweet Raelettes on backing vocals.  And, Gus offers some sage advice to us all in his original, “Don’t run to your future, it’s gon’ get here anyhow,” ’cause “Every Tick’s Got A Tock.”

The great thing about Gus Spenos and “It’s Lovin’ I Guarantee’ is his incredible sax chops and his desire to keep a great genre’ of the blues alive, vibrant, and like new.  Gus, long may your sax jump, jive, and wail!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Janiva Magness review…April 2, 2018….

JANIVA MAGNESS

LOVE IS AN ARMY

BLUE ELAN RECORDS  BER  1072

BACK TO BLUE–HAMMER (FEAT. CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE)–ON AND ON (FEAT. RUSTY YOUNG)–TELL ME–LOVE IS AN ARMY (FEAT. BRYAN STEPHENS)–DOWN BELOW (FEAT. COURTNEY HARTMAN)–WHAT’S THAT SAY ABOUT YOU–WHAT I COULD DO (FEAT. DELBERT MCCLINTON)–HOME (FEAT. CEDRIC BURNSIDE)–LOVE TO A GUNFIGHT–WHEN IT RAINS–SOME KIND OF LOVE

For blues fans, her name is synonymous with excellence within the genre.’  She’s won seven Blues Music awards, and was a Grammy nominee in 2016.  Of course, she is Janiva Magness, one of the most powerful and innovative vocalists and composers on the scene today, and she is back with her latest set for Blue Elan Records, “Love Is An Army.”  In this collection, there are songs of empowerment, songs about love and its victories, defeats, and near-misses, and some damn good songs of protest for a troubled society.  She’s got some mighty strong special guests along for the ride, too, to bring these songs to their full fruition.

Leading off is one of those love-gone-wrong songs, a soulful shout-out to the glory days of Stax and Hi Records, “you turn away, and I’m turning Back To Blue.”  Charlie Musselwhite is on the harp on a song reminding us to stay true to our dreams, “keep on swinging the Hammer every single day, and watch the walls come down!”  Poco’s Rusty Young adds pedal steel to “On And On,” and Cedric Burnside is on guitar on the topical “Home,” where “peace of mind is hard to find here in the world today.’  Bryan Stephens is on the duet vocal on the powerful title cut, and the poignant message of ending gun violence has Janiva begging us to “Bring Love To A Gunfight.”

Our favorite was another of those “near-misses” in the love department.  The iconic Delbert McClinton is her duet partner on the story of a love full of regrets and broken hearts, “What I Could Do, if I didn’t love you.”

Janiva Magness uses her beautiful voice as an instrument of hope for better days to come with “Love Is An Army.”  Herein, she follows her life mantra of always telling the truth and standing strong for her convictions, making this one of the strongest albums of her storied career.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.