Americana Kitchen review…December 7, 2018….

VARIOUS ARTISTS

AMERICANA KITCHEN

COME AND GET IT

JUNK RECORDS

CD ONE:  HARD LOVE–JUMPIN JACK BENNY CORTEZ   NEW WORLD–MICHAEL SANCHEZ  YOU BETTER THINK TWICE–FRANCESCA CAPASSO  BLOOD OF THE BLUES–JUMPIN JACK BENNY CORTEZ  RUN LITTLE RED–FRANCESCA CAPASSO  IN REAL LIFE–MICHAEL SANCHEZ  LIVING OUT LOUD–FRANCESCA CAPASSO  THE CHRISTMAS SONG–ANDEE AVILA  CATCH THAT TRAIN–JUMPIN JACK BENNY CORTEZ  BLOOD OF THE BLUES–FRANCESCA CAPASSO

CD TWO:  ALL DRESSED UP–FRANCESCA CAPASSO  HARD LOVE–JUMPIN JACK BENNY CORTEZ  LIVING OUT LOUD–FRANCESCA CAPASSO  JUST FINE FOR NOW–BIG MIKE VASQUEZ  THE CHRISTMAS SONG–FRANCESCA CAPASSO  SO TIRED OF RUNNING–MICHELLE SANCHEZ  YOU BETTER THINK TWICE–JUMPIN JACK BENNY CORTEZ  JESUS I’VE GOT A FRIEND IN YOU–MICHELLE SANCHEZ  CATCH THAT TRAIN–MICHAEL SANCHEZ  BLOOD OF THE BLUES–FRANCESCA CAPASSO

Americana has become a genre’ of its own, even spawning a week-long celebration and its own awards show, in mid-September at the Mother Church, the Ryman.  It is a curious genre’, encompassing “American-born” musical styles, including folk, blues, bluegrass, zydeco, and countless others.  The fine musicians that live in the San Gabriel and greater Los Angeles areas of California have combined their immense talents on a two-CD compilation entitled, “Come And Get It.”  Over these two sets, you get a good taste of what’s goin’ on out in Cali.  CD One is more ‘lectrified, while CD Two is predominantly acoustic and leans more toward the country side of the dial.

Highlights include Jumpin’ Jack Benny Cortez on CD One doing a cool, twang-rockin’ “Hard Love,” which shows up on CD Two as a pure country version, including fiddle.  Francesca Capasso offers up some sage, jazz-influenced advice to potential ,lovers, “before you burn me once, You Better Think Twice!”  She stays in that rocked-up vein, with a name-check of all the fairy tale characters you can think of, with  a cool look at Little Red Riding Hood all grown up, “Run Little Red!”

CD Two offered up some cool grooves in the acoustic arena.  Accordion spices up Big Mike Vasquez’ “Just Fine For Now,” the story of a late-night tryst and a dance called the Tulsa Time!  Francesca is back on CD Two with a plaintive “Christmas Song,” asking Santa not for presents, but, rather, her lover’s return home.

Jumpin’ Jack Benny Cortez and Michael Sanchez offered up our two favorites—two decidedly-different looks at a song entitled “Catch That Train.”  On CD One, Jack makes it a driving, Chicago-styled shuffle, while, over on CD Two, Michael adds more of a Delta-swing, with slide dobro and cool, echo-effect vocals!

“Come And Get It” is a fine cross-section of the Americana genre’, presented by some of the West Coast’s most excellent players.  Rumors are that there is a second volume in the works, and this one will be much anticipated.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

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Paul Oscher review…December 7, 2018…..

PAUL OSCHER

COOL CAT

BLUES FIDELITY RECORDINGS  VJM CD 1005

MONEY MAKIN’ WOMAN–BLUES AND TROUBLE–HIDE OUT BABY–WORK THAT STUFF–ROLLIN’ AND TUMBLIN’–COOL CAT (R & b) PROLOGUE–COOL CAT (JAZZ QUARTET)–MISSISSIPPI POEM–AIN’T THAT A MAN (DEDICATED TO MR. COTTON)–DIRTY DEALIN’ MAMA–ON THE EDGE (JAZZ QUARTET)–POOR MAN BLUES–COOL CAT (R & b) LONG VERSION

Blues fans who are familiar with Paul Oscher only as harp man for Muddy’s later bands may be pleasantly surprised upon hearing his latest release, “Cool Cat.”  Over the course of these thirteen cuts, a mix of covers and originals, we get not only Paul’s unique looks at Delta and Chicago blues, but also forays into small-combo jazz as well.  Paul is on vocals and harp as usual, and also is featured on piano and guitar throughout.  A slew of special guests, including Kid Andersen on bass on one cut, June Core on drums, and guest vocalists Miss Lavelle White and Lisa Leuschner round out the program.

The party starts on a NOLA, rumba-rockin’ groove about that “Money-Makin’ Woman, makin’ money all the time,” while “Hide Out Baby” features South Side guitar from Mick Schermer.  Speaking of the South Side of Chicago, Paul spent some time living in Muddy’s house in that area, sharing the basement with piano man Sunnyland Slim.  Each day, a street musician would come by that house, leading a cat on a rope around his waist!  He called the cat “Cool Cat,” which gave Paul the idea for the instrumental that serves as the album title.  It’s one part soulful strut, and one part Guaraldi-inspired jazz.”  A longer, more R & B-centered version closes the program, as Paul’s piano chops are on full and fine display.

Paul revisits some of Muddy’s Delta blues offerings, playing slide on “Rollin’ And Tumblin,” and on his own original, “Blues And Trouble.”  Our two favorites, tho, were a blistering ode to Mr. Superharp, “Ain’t That A Man (Dedicated To Mr. Cotton),” and a simply hilarious stop-time groove featuring Miss Lavelle White on vocals, spelling out all her low-down-and-dirty ways in “Dirty Dealin’ Mama.”

Paul Oscher is a fantastic musician with a tie to the history of the blues that can never be severed.  His days with Muddy honed his storytelling, and one can hear in the songs of “Cool Cat,” that this skill is one of the most unique traits of this legendary bluesman!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

Peter V Blues Train review…..December 5, 2018…..

PETER V  BLUES TRAIN

SHAKEN BUT NOT DETERRED

DON’T WANNA LEAVE MEMPHIS–BLUE MONDAY–BY THE RIVER–FOR ALL WE KNOW–IN DEMAND–T BONE SHUFFLE–ALIBI–DON’T CHEAT ON MY LADY–RODEO (NO BS)–GETTING CLOSER NOW–BEEN SO LONG–SHAKEN BUT NOT DETERRED–BONUS TRACK—WORRIED LIFE BLUES (LIVE)

Long-time vets of the New York and New Jersey blues scene, the Peter V Blues Train offer up their second (!) full-length album of 2018 with a clever play on the old 007 theme, “Shaken But Not Deterred,” thirteen cuts of their trademark blues, er, shaken with flourishes of jazz and funk mixed in to create a highly-contagious fusion of grooves for the contemporary listener.  “Peter V” Veteska is on vocals and guitar, and is a native of the “roughneck,” (as my dear departed auntie used to say), projects of Bushwick, Brooklyn.  Alex D’Agnese is on drums, Gravey Graverson is on bass, Alan Gornish is on keys, Danny Walsh on sax, and Jeff Levine is on B-3 to fatten up the overall sound.

The Train pulls outta the station with a boogie-blues number serving as a huge shout-out to  the Three Kings, and the blues’ most famous street, “Don’t Wanna Leave Memphis!”  Peter’s jazz roots show thru with a nice B-3, sax, and guitar slow jam entitled “For All We Know,” describing a dreamy love affair as “the ripples in a stream.”  “In Demand” has the horns funked-up to ten, as our hero begs a lover to “give me some of your time.”  Wanna dance?  Cue up the roadhouse boogie and Little Richard pace of “Don’t Cheat On My Lady,” and just keep on struttin’ thru the uber-funk of the title cut, as our hero vows his “voice will still be heard,” “Shaken But Not Deterred,” with undertones of the blues-rock of fellow Noo Yawker, Popa Chubby.  Peter closes the set with a brilliant unplugged read of Big Maceo’s “Worried Life Blues,” this one featuring only Pete’s vocal and guitar, and Danny’s sax.

People get ready, there’s a train a-comin’–well, maybe not THAT one, but, with a powerful set such as “Shaken But Not Deterred,” the Peter V Blues Train is determined to spread the word of the blues everywhere he goes!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Erin Harpe And The Delta Swingers Holiday CD review….December 3, 2018….

ERIN HARPE

AND THE DELTA SWINGERS

THE CHRISTMAS SWING

VIZZTONE/JUICY JUJU  VT–JJ003

JINGLE BELL BLUES–MERRY CHRISTMAS–THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS–AT THE CHRISTMAS BALL–MERRY CHRISTMAS (HERE I COME)–THE CHRISTMAS SWING–CHRISTMAS IS A-COMIN–DRINK AND GET DRUNK–RUN RUN RUDOLPH–AULD LANG SYNE

We are really just like two little kids at this time of year, waiting to see what kind of cool holiday releases are in Santa’s bag.  The first one out of his sack this year comes from Amy, Rosy, and Bob, the good folks at Vizztone Records.  They bring us Erin Harpe And The Delta Swingers and ten cuts of original tunes and swingin’ covers entitled “The Christmas Swing.”  As always, Erin is on vocals and guitars, Jim Countryman on bass, Chris Anzalone on drums, and Matt Prozialek on harps.

Leading off, “Jingle Bell Blues” is a slowed-down-and-bluesed-up version of the traditional “Jingle Bells,” and Erin does the same thing a bit later with Clement Clarke Moore’s “Twas The Night Before Christmas,” setting this classic visit from Saint Nick over a swingin’ arrangement.  Her guitar takes on a Lightnin’ Hopkins tone in “Merry Christmas,” where “we won’t even pick up a phone!”  Our heroine gives Bessie Smith’s “At The Christmas Ball” an acoustic treatment, complete with her kazoo and piano from john Juxo.  This one served as one of our favorites.  “The Christmas Swing” is a holiday-themed re-working of their “Delta Swing” from 2014, co-written by Rosy Rosenblatt, who blows some mean harp on it, too.  “Drink And Get Drunk,” written by Bo Carter, might not necessarily be a Christmas song, but it does help keep everyone’s “spirits” high, as Erin does the “rub rub rub” on the frottoir, and busts out her kazoo again!  That kazoo closes the set with our other favorite, an a capella version of “Auld Lang Syne.”

Erin Harpe And The Delta Swingers wanted to create a totally “un-traditional”  set for folks who don’t really care for holiday music,   Fans, “The Christmas Swing” ain’t Der Bingle or the Rat Pack, but it sho’ nuff goes down easy with your favorite cup of kindness!  Happy Holidays, and until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Niecie review…December 2, 2018…..

NIECIE

TROUBLE WITH A CAPITAL T

THANK GOD FOR FOOLS–MEMPHIS STOMP–TWO CAN PLAY THAT GAME–WAITING FOR THE NEXT SHOE TO DROP–TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY–SWEAT–TROUBLE WITH A CAPITAL T–BABY IT’S WORKING–RISE UP–LIGHTER SHADE OF BLUE–JUST THIS SIDE OF MEMPHIS

Niecie was born and raised in Detroit, and she’s been singin’ these blues throughout a career that spans some twenty years.  Her last album, “Wanted Woman,’ was produced by Allman Brothers alum Johnny Neel, and it was such a success, they decided “let’s do it again” for the follow-up, this time layin’ down “Trouble With A Capital T.”  Over the course of these eleven cuts, all her varied influences are on display, but, at least for us, we detected a strong, soulful Memphis vibe.

Over the last twenty years, you KNOW Niecie has seen her share of stuff to inspire a good blues song.  The set kicks off with the tale of a late-night tryst, “Thank God For Fools,” teaching us “the kind of things you don’t learn in school!”  A stone-cool shuffle finds our girl calling out a lover “doin’ the dirty deed with every girl in town,” but, “Two Can Play That Game.”  She easily segues’ into “torch mode” for the minor-key slow burn of “Waiting For The Other Shoe To Drop,” with a too-good-to-be-true lover.  This one served as one of our favorites.

Our remaining favorites all had that funky-good, Southern-soul-by-way-of-Memphis groove.  Check out the dance floor burner that is the title cut, where Niecie proudly proclaims, “I put the Wild in the Wild Wild West!”  “Memphis Stomp” channels Rufus Thomas with a new dance step down on Beale, fueled by hot horns and some strong Jimmy Nolen-inspired staccato guitar licks.   She closes the party with another blast of call-and-response funk, as she’s lookin’ for that elusive lover “Just This Side Off Memphis!”

Niecie is a dynamite vocalist who easily blends her blues with a heavy dose of fun as she brings the heat for her fans.  Guess that’s why she’s sho’ nuff “Trouble With A Capital T!”  Until next time…Sheryl and don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Big Al And The Heavyweights review…December 2, 2018….

BIG AL AND THE HEAVYWEIGHTS

WORLD FULL OF TROUBLE

ELLERSOUL RECORDS  ELL 1811

WORLD FULL OF TROUBLE–FOOL FOR YOU–LOVE SO FINE–TESTIFY–BAYOU LIFE–BIG OLD RUSTY CAR–SPANISH MOSS–MOTHER TRUCKER–MILLIONAIRE BABY–CRAZY ABOUT YOU BABY–TWO WRONGS DON’T MAKE A RIGHT–SOMETHING GOT TO CHANGE

We’ve been fans of drummer extraordinaire Big Al (Lauro) And The Heavyweights virtually since their inception as the Unknown Band back in 1993.  Then, we were the old Music City Blues Society, and we were just beginning to write reviews.  Twenty-five years further on up the road, we’re all still doin’ what we love best, and Big Al And The Heavyweights have just released their seventh CD overall, the very-aptly-titled “World Full Of Trouble,” for EllerSoul Records.

That’s where the set begins–with that title cut that hopes “one day love will conquer hate,” but, at least for now, we are all in a “World Full Of Trouble.”  This one features guitar from another good friend of ours, Steady Rollin’ Mister Bob Margolin.  Bob returns on guitar a bit later for one of our favorites, the shufflin’ boogie of “my baby gives me Love So Fine,” with additional guitar from John Lisi, and piano and vocals from Wayne Lohr.  The fellows get into an early Mardi Gras groove with “Bayou Life,” featuring Lance Younger on vocals, Jason Ricci on harp, and Greg Shatz on accordion.  Dwight Brelnad adds pedal steel to another of our favorites, the country-tinged tale of “that thin white line,” “Mother Trucker,” with Lance on vocals.  They close the set with our last favorite, Wayne’s plaintive vocal and keys work on a story of today’s less-than-stellar economy, where, “the more I work, the less money I see,” “Something Got To Change.”  This one has killer sax from Dean Galatas, too.

Big Al And The Heavyweights have been partyin’ long and strong for 25 years now, and just keep on gettin’ better the more blues they bring to us fans.  If you want some great boogie-blues with a Southern-styled groove, get on down with “World Full Of Trouble.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Bryan Lee review…November 30, 2018….

BRYAN LEE

SANCTUARY

EARRELEVANT RECORDS

FIGHT FOR THE LIGHT–THE GIFT–JESUS GAVE ME THE BLUES–U-HAUL–SANCTUARY–MR. BIG–ONLY IF YOU PRAISE THE LORD–DON’T TAKE MY BLINDNESS FOR A WEAKNESS–I AIN’T GONNA STOP–THE LORD’S PRAYER–JESUS IS MY LORD AND SAVIOR

Ever since the night Robert Johnson went down to the Crossroads and tried to flag a ride, there has been a constant pull of Good vs. Evil in the souls and hearts of bluesmen everywhere.  Bryan Lee has been blind since age eight, but has been playin’ that blues guitar all over the world since he was fifteen.  Not long ago, at a festival in Norway, he had a dream in which a full arrangement of “The Lord’s Prayer” came to him in his sleep. He got up the next day and laid it down note-for-note, but it would be some seven years before the song would make it onto wax, thanks to producer Steve Hamilton.  During this period, Bryan found eternal salvation thru our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and professes that love and the change it has made within him thru the eleven originals that make up his brilliant “Sanctuary.’

Bryan leads off with “a little New Orleans groove,” proclaiming “Satan is a liar,” and vows to “Fight For The Light, Jesus is gonna take you higher!”  In “The Gift,” he knows from whom his musical talent comes, and, in this musical autobiography, tells us that, as far as the blues, “that’s all I know,” and willingly shares his gift with us fans.  He keeps that NOLA vibe flowing with a true statement regarding our mortality and worldly things, “I ain’t never saw no U-Haul behind a hearse,” with Jimmy Voegli on piano.

Bryan has completely turned his life around, spiritually and musically, and, as you can hear on these cuts, he does so without sounding pretentious or holier-than-thou.  Two great examples of this close the set, and serve as our favorites.  Up first is the soulful, sanctified read of “The Lord’s Prayer” that inspired this set, as Bryan begs to be worthy enough to bring forth “the words that Jesus said.”  The set closes on a stone message of positivity where every band member takes a solo.  Yes, yes—“Jesus is my superstar,” and sho’ nuff, “Jesus Is My Lord And Savior!”  This one swings right on up to St. Peter’s gate!

Bryan Lee’s been to those Crossroads, but he’s come out on the other side as a better man.  Dig the righteous blues from the “Sanctuary!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.