A J Ghent review…February 10, 2018…

A J GHENT

THE NEO BLUES PROJECT

ROPEDOPE RECORDS

DO THE RUMP!–WASH YA HAIR–POWER–MERCY–LONG LOST FRIEND–GONNA ROCK

AJ Ghent (pronounce it “J-ent”)  is a member of blues royalty. His uncle, Willie Eason, and his grandfather, Henry Nelson, were virtually the creators of the “sacred steel” tradition and guitar styles, implemented today by players such as the Campbell Brothers, Sam Butler, Robert Randolph Family Band, and many others.  An expressive, powerful vocalist, AJ is a wizard on all things guitar, especially his Jackson Steel Slide King. or his custom 33:3 8-string.  All his myriad of sounds are on display on his latest outing, “The Neo Blues Project,” a six-cut EP on Ropedope Records.

The set starts with the lusty romp made famous by Junior Kimbrough, “Do The Rump! ’til the broad daylight!”  This one has AJ on both slide and pedal steel guitars.  “Wash Ya Hair” is a fine taste of contemporary funk that preaches lettin’ your light shine for everyone.  “Mercy” finds our hero asking an indifferent lover for “just a little bit of Mercy on my soul.”  This one is done in the vein of the soul classics, with backing vocals from MarLa and Tiffany Ghent.  He closes the set on a fervent, uptempo note, with “Gonna Rock,” finding redemption in finally getting out of a soured love affair.  This one has elements of gospel and Sixties-era soul,  punctuated by a dazzling slide break st the bridge.

Our favorite was the highlight of the set.  “Power’ rides a killer riff over Doomsday  percussion, as AJ preaches ’bout “a revolution comin,’ to empower people to stand up against racial and social injustice and intolerance, no matter how tough times get.  This one will bring to mind the protest anthems of James Brown mixed with the passion, power, and emotion of Lenny Kravitz.

In his formative years, AJ spent some time playing with Col. Bruce Hampton, from whom he learned the importance of time, tone, and space, and those qualities resonate throughout the grooves of “The Neo Blues Project.”  It combines all his family influences from blues to gospel and everything in between, making for a unique and most excellent listen!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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Tyler Morris Band review…February 9, 2018….

TYLER MORRIS BAND

NEXT IN LINE

VIZZTONE   VTTM-01

READY TO SHOVE–LIVIN’ THE LIFE–WILLIE THE WIMP–DOWN ON MY LUCK–CHOPPIN’–TALKIN’ TO ME–THUNDER–THIS AIN’T NO FUN–TRUTH IS THE QUESTION–KEEP ON DRIVING

Tyler Morris is one of those guitar players that the young’uns now refer to as “shredders,” playing at a professional level since the age of eleven(!).  Now a whopping 19 years old, he has just released his third album overall, “Next In Line,” for Vizztone Records.  His blues and rock influences are stamped all over this set, from B. B. to Benson to Bonamassa,  Jimi to Jimmie, to SRV.  Add in  powerhouse vocalist Morten Fredheim to breathe life into this material, and this is indeed a fun road trip down the blues-rock highway.

Leading off is the powerful “Ready To Shove,” and all us old-schoolers will pick up on the nod to Tom Scholz and Boston as the song climaxes.  “Livin’ The Life” is a monster anthem of empowerment, urging us all to follow our dreams and “stand your ground.”  Tyler gets his Hendrix groove on in the wah-wah workout that roars like “Thunder,” and closes with a jazz-rockin’ ode to perseverance, “Keep On Driving, ’tilI I get to you.”

We had two favorites, too.  A punchy horn section sweetens the pot for the B. B.-inspired uptown swing of the set’s lone instrumental, “Choppin.”  And, ol’ Joe Louis Walker drops by for vocals on the bouncin’ story popularized by SRV about “Willie The Wimp,” laid to rest in “his Cadillac coffin!”

The sky’s the limit for young Tyler Morris.  One of his heroes, Joe Bonamassa, is the reigning Guitar Player of the Year from the Blues Awards last May.  It won’t be long until Mr. Morris is “Next In Line.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Mick Kolassa review…February 7, 2018….

MICK KOLASSA

DOUBLE STANDARDS

SWING SUIT RECORDS

600 POUNDS OF HEAVENLY JOY WITH SUGARAY RAYFORD–I JUST WANT TO MAKE LOVE TO YOU WITH HEATHER CROSSE–IT’S TIGHT LIKE  THAT WITH VICTOR WAINWRIGHT–FEVER WITH ANNIKA CHAMBERS–NOBODY KNOWS YOU WHEN YOU’RE DOWN AND OUT WITH TAS CRU–ROCK ME BABY WITH TULLIE BRAE–KEY TO THE HIGHWAY WITH ERIC HUGHES–SPOONFUL WITH ERICA BROWN–IT HURTS ME TOO WITH PATTI PARKS–EARLY IN THE MORNING WITH DAVID DUNAVENT–DON’T YOU LIE TO ME (EVIL) WITH GRACIE CURRAN–OUTSIDE WOMAN BLUES WITH JEFF JENSEN–AIN’T NOBODY’S BUSINESS WITH THE ENTIRE ENSEMBLE

Over the last few years, bluesman Mick Kolassa has become one of our favorite performers.  Never afraid to express what’s on his mind, that attitude carries over into his music, and it always leads to some fresh, old-school, down-home blues.  For his latest project, he enlisted the services of a dozen of his contemporaries for an album of duets, quite aptly-titled, “Double Standards,” for the Swing Suit  label.   Mick has taken some of the best-known songs in the blues canon and paired them with duet partners who give each song its own unique style.

The core band finds Mick on vocals and guitar (on three cuts), Jeff Jensen on guitar, Bill Ruffino on bass, Eric Hughes on the harp, and James Cunningham on drums.  The party starts with “Hoy hoy, we’re the boys,” the “600 Pounds Of Heavenly Joy,” featuring Mick and Sugaray Rayford.  Heather Crosse’s vocal belies her youth on “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” while Gracie Curran and Mick turn “Don’t You Lie To Me” into an all-out funkfest.  Victor Wainwright has a lot of fun with the countrified blues of the hilarious “Tight Like That,” while Mick and Tas Cru, with Alice Hasan on fiddle, tell the sad tale many of us already know–“Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out.”  Everybody gets into the act on the seven-minute slow blues closer,  “Ain’t Nobody’s Business if I do!”

Every cut is a winner, but our favorite featured Mick and harpman Eric Hughes on Big Bill Broonzy’s “Key To The Highway.”  In fact, in the liner notes,  Mick praises the songwriters of these classics, most notably Willie Dixon and Tampa Red (Hudson Whittaker), accounting for six of the thirteen cuts.

Mick Kolassa continues to be a major player on today’s scene.  Factor in the talents of his duet partners,  and “Double Standards” becomes a whole lot of fun!

Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Muddy Gurdy review…February 5,2018…..

MUDDY GURDY

VIZZTONE VT HW 001

TIA IN THE ROCKING CHAIR–GOIN’ DOWN SOUTH–THAT GIRL IS BAD–SEE MY JUMPER HANGING ON THE LINE–STATION BLUES–SHAWTY BLUES–GLORY GLORY HALLELUJAH–LEAVE HER ALONE–GONNA LOVE YOU–DREAM–SHE WOLF–SHAKE EM ON DOWN–HELP THE POOR–HIGHWAY 61

Three French musicians–Tia Gouttebel on vocals and guitar, Marc Glomeau on percussion, and Gilles Chabenet on the hudy gurdy (a traditional French instrument)–had a unique vision to combine the sounds of French music with the thumping drone of the music of the North Mississippi Hill Country.  And what better way to pull that off than to spend some time in that region and immerse yourself in the music, played by some of the descendants of the Hill Country legends.  After a year of preparation, the trio made it to Mississippi, in blues hotbeds such as Leland, Como, and B. B.’s birthplace, Indianola.  The resulting recording is titled “Muddy Gurdy,” and shows how the blues has become a world-wide genre.’  Along for this joyous ride, we have Cedric Burnside, Sharde’ Thomas, Cameron Kimbrough, and Pat Thomas, adding to the air of authenticity due to their heralded lineage.

We were wholly unfamiliar with the hurdy-gurdy, but, in the skilled hands of Gilles, it sounds like a fusion of an accordion and a fiddle.  Within the context of this material, it acts as a second guitar.  The set opens with Cedric Burnside on guitar with a tune written by R. L. Burnside, “Goin’ Down South, where the chilly wind don’t blow.”  He continues with a contemporary shout-out to his late brother with  the good-time rap of “That Girl Is Bad.”

Sharde’ Thomas brings her fife to the party with a nod to grandfather Otha Turner  in “Station Blues,” a minor-key, dirge-like re-working of “Sittin’ On Top Of The World.” She becomes that “young woman chasin’ that big dream” on “Shawty Blues,” and closes her set with a traditional gospel read of “Glory Glory Hallelujah,” with Gilles’ hurdy-gurdy the perfect foil for her fife.  Cameron Kimbrough captures the energy and power of this music with the grungy  “Gonna Love You,” as does Pat Thomas with our favorite.  The set closes amid traffic noise in the background as Thomas’ eerie vocal takes you right down to the source of the mystery and myths of this region with his version of the crossroads tale, “Highway 61.”

With the addition of the French trio to the music of North Mississippi, “Muddy Gurdy” truly becomes a global affair.  It further proves that two societies, as far apart in miles as they are in culture, can find common ground through the power of the blues!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

The Rex Granite Band review…February 3, 2018….

THE REX GRANITE BAND

FEATURING SARAH BENCK

SPIRIT  MATTER  TRUTH  LIES

STOP DOING WHAT YOU WANT–WHAT YOU’RE MISSING–CADILLAC CAR–PLEASE SEND ME SOMEONE TO LOVE–SAIL AWAY (PT. 1)–STEAMROLLER– MOVE ALONG–SPIRIT/MATTER/TRUTH/LIES–TWO TRAINS–SAIL AWAY (PT.2)

Rex Granite is one of the premier slide guitarists on the contemporary scene.  He and singer-guitarist Sarah Benck  just finished representing Nebraska at the IBC’s, hot on the heels of their November, 2017, release of “Spirit Matter Truth Lies,” nine band originals and one sweet cover that make this outfit definitely one to watch in the future.  The cuts run the gamut from Canned Heat-ish boogies  to tripped-out, extended jams and back again to some sweet soul music, all done with Sarah’s powerhouse vocals and Rex’s @$$-kickin’ slide.

A metaphor for good versus evil is the tale of “Two Trains gonna leave the station–which one are you goin’ on?” which has a Delta feel that is almost spiritual in nature, conjuring up the Crossroads at its most devilish.  Hell hath no fury like Sarah Benck scorned, and she plays the part of the lover waiting on that “Cadillac Car” that never comes to the hilt, while a punched-up horn /harp section drives the gospel-inflected story of repenting, ’cause “there’s a SteamRollr coming, and ain’t nothing you can do!”  Sarah’s incredible vocals are on full display here, as they are on our favorite.  It is a stripped-down-to-the-base-elements, sparsely-arranged read of Percy Mayfield’s classic, “Please Send Me Someone To Love.”  Here, she is sharp, soaring, and spot-on in this timeless interpretation, urging us to “show the world how to get along.”

Fans, the Rex Granite Band and Sarah Benck ask us to “stop doin’ what you want, and start doin’ what you should,” which is to grab a copy of “Spirit Matter Truth Lies,” and drink freely from its bountifully-deep grooves!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

Backtrack Blues Band review…February 1, 2018….

BACKTRACK BLUES BAND

MAKE MY HOME IN FLORIDA

HARPO RECORDS

CHECKIN ON MY BABY–WOKE UP THIS MORNING–MAKE MY HOME IN FLORIDA–T-BONE SHUFFLE–NOBODY BUT YOU–YOUR FUNERAL AND MY TRIAL–HEAVY BUILT WOMAN–SHOOT MY ROOSTER–TELL YOUR DADDY

Paraphrasing ol’ Elwood Blues, no pharmaceutical drug can re-create the high you get when the band is hittin’ on all 8, the crowd is into it, and everything  comes together for a truly unique and magical performance.  That’s the feeling you get as you listen to and watch the CD/DVD combo  from the Florida-based Backtrack Blues Band, “Make My Home In Florida.”  These guys—Sonny Charles on harp and vocals, Kid Royal on guitar and vocals, Stick Davis on bass, Little Johnny Walter on rhythm guitar, and Joe Bencomo on drums—have been on that Florida scene since the 80’s, being one of the first blues bands in the Tampa Bay area.    This red-hot set was recorded at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg on January 6, 2017, and the hometown crowd knew something special was about to happen.

They lead off with a couple of barn-burners, Rice Miller’s “Checking On My Baby,” and B. B.’s rhumba-rockin’ “Woke Up This Morning,” this one with Kid on vocals.  Next up is a sweet original that serves as not only the title cut, but the mantra for this band, the slash-and-slow-burn of “Make My Home In Florida, no place I’d rather go.”  The crowd gets into it on the hi-energy tale of many a man’s dream, that “Heavy Built Woman,” and a humorous, true story of a fowl that took up refuge in Sonny’s home in St. John, “Shoot My Rooster.”  The set closes with another dazzling original,  this one built around “honesty and integrity,” “Tell Your Daddy, ’cause you know he’s watching you!”

The DVD brings it all to life in vivid high-definition, using five cameras to show just how impressive these guys are.  For old-school blues the way they were intended to be played, you can’t beat the Backtrack Blues Band and “Make My Home In Florida.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

Johnny Tucker review…January 31, 2018…

JOHNNY TUCKER

SEVEN DAY BLUES

HIGHJOHN 007

TALKIN BOUT YOU BABY–TIRED OF DOING NOTHING–WHY DO YOU LET ME DOWN SO HARD?–LOVE AND APPRECIATION (TO GEORGIA)–SEVEN DAY BLUES–COME ON HOME WITH ME–TELL YOU ALL–SOMETHING I WANT TO TELL YOU–GONNA GIVE YOU ONE MORE CHANCE–I WANNA DO IT–DO RIGHT MAN–ONE OF THESE DAYS–I CAN’T WAIT–LISTEN EVERYBODY–YOU CAN LEAVE MY HOUSE

Johnny Tucker grew up listening to his father play guitar.  Later in life, he learned James Brown’s hits of the day, coming to Los Angeles in 1964 and working with Phillip Walker in a cover band, playing top ten hits.  A bold, brash, and big-voiced singer, that voice leads the charge on his second album for HighJohn Records, “Seven Day Blues.”  All fifteen cuts were written by Johnny, and West Coast stalwarts Big Jon Atkinson, Bob Corritore, Troy Sandow, Kid Ramos and several others serve as the backing band.  If that ain’t enough to get you interested, the whole shootin’ match was laid down in Hayward, CA, at Big Tone Studios, with Big Jon producing.  They used retro tube amps, with all the players in the same room working their incredible magic.

Johnny’s vocal has that big, Howlin’ Wolf growl, altho it is somewhat more polished.  It’s all over the opening cut, a tale of a lover who’s a bit of tease, “Talkin’ “Bout You, Baby,” with Big Jon on guitar.  “Love And Appreciation (To Georgia)”  literally “Cooke’s” with a swingin’ soul beat, ramped up by Bob Corritore’s harp.  And, this set sho’ nuff leads the league in pompadours, as the similarly-coiffed David “Kid” Ramos, brings his mighty axe to the party on Johnny’s greasy groove of “Tell You All what’s going on with me!”  Bob Welch is behind that jazzy organ work, also.

We had more favorites than Henry VIII had ex-wives, too, and, oddly enough, several were the slow-bluesers, where Johnny and the band really get to stretch out.  “Gonna Give You One More Chance,” “Why Do You Let Me Down So Hard,” and “One Of These Days”  all have that deep, smoldering touch that is such a pleasure to listen to.  And, Johnny gets his South Side funk on with a couple of Amos Blakemore-inspired cuts,  the struttin’ “I Can’t Wait,” with Big Jon on slide guitar, and “I Wanna Do It.”

Folks, Johnny Tucker is one BAD motor scooter, and the backing band is as good as it gets.  “Seven Day Blues” will rock your soul!  Hey Johnny–don’t wait so long to do this again, ok?  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.