Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue….January 11, 2019…..

RUZZ GUITAR’S BLUES REVUE

THE HEIST

RHYTHM BOMB RECORDS

THE HEIST–BACK HOME TO STAY– ROCK WITH YOU– I USED TO LOVE YOU–SAINTS AND SINNERS–JUKE JOINT SHAKEDOWN–MINE ALL MINE–HOME TO ME–HIGH STAKES HUSTLE–GIRL FOR ME

Ruzz Guitar (Evans) is a mighty player from across the pond in the UK.  Steeped in rockabilly tradition and history, Ruzz drew his inspiration from folks such as Brian Setzer and Jimmie Lee Vaughan, among a host of others.  As such, Ruzz, along with drummer Mike Hoddinott and bassist Joe Allen from Bristol have combined forces to become Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue, and to release “The Heist” for Rhythm Bomb Records.  With the addition of the three-piece horn section a few years back, this marks their first release with that “big band” sound!

Ruzz gasses up that big ol’ ’59 Caddy with a couple of hi-test instrumentals, rumblin’ outta the gate with the sax-fueled twang of the title cut, then again a bit later with the good-time rockabilly of “Juke Joint Shakedown.”  “Rock With You” has a cool vocal, vowing, “I ain’t never gonna let you go,” and then expounds upon that theme with the red-hot, Gene Vincent-styled, “she’s Mine All Mine,” featuring exceptional acoustic piano.

We had two favorites, too.  That left-hand, boogie-fied piano drives “I Used To Love You,” ’til “you done me wrong, I’m leavin’ you for sure!”  And, another furious and fast-paced instrumental has some wicked tom-tom drumming to carry the backbeat, as our hero’s guitar comes at you straight from the floor of a casino, “High Stakes Hustle!”

Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue is a strong UK outfit brimming with enough rockabilly rocket fuel for the 21st Century to keep you dancin’ for days!  Hey y’all–“The Heist” is on, and no dance card shall go unfilled!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

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Willa Vincitore review…January 10, 2019…

WILLA VINCITORE

CHOICES

JUST AIN’T THE SAME–CHOICES–NEED A LITTLE HELP–TRUST–I LOVE YOU BABY–EVERYTHING HURTS–BITE ME–IT IS WHAT IT IS–THESE DAYS–MONEY CAN’T BUY IT

Willa Vincitore is a brilliant singer/composer based out of the Holston Valley region of New York.  Prior to 2013, she was a member of Chris O’Leary’s band, but has forged her own solo career since that time.  Her debut was one of our favorites from 2017, entitled “Better Days,” with our heroine providing an album of all-original material that was met with universal praise in all of the major blogs and media outlets.  She’s back, this time with “Choices,” that is all-original save for one ultra-cool cover, of Annie Lenox’ “Money Can’t Buy It.”

Willa kept virtually the same successful team from 2017 on this set, including co-producers Lee Falco and Brandon Morrison, and many of the backing musicians.  This set runs the gamut from pop-rock, blues, to gospel, once again showcasing the versatility within Willa’s voice.

The set begins with a look at how, sometimes, in the game of love, hindsight is always 20/20, “Just Ain’t The Same.”  The poignant title cut teaches that, in life, we all have “Choices, for right and wrong,” and “you make choices and do the best you can,” but declares a bit later that “I Need A Little Help this time,” with the daily struggles of life.  Both of these cuts have a strong gospel feel.

Willa takes a hard line with lovers who judge others with a stern warning, “Bite Me, I just don’t care!”  The guitar here from Karl Allweier gives this one a cool Seventies appeal.

Our two favorites closed the set.  We all know it’s true, but Willa spells it out with “These Days, everybody’s terrified” of the tragic events that fill the daily news.  The sole cover rather sums up the theme of the whole set.  “Money Can’t Buy It” teaches a lesson that love is the only true answer, and “all the money in the world won’t buy you peace of mind!”  She reaches the upper register of her range several times in this one, with incredible ease,  on this funky, soulfully-uplifting cut.

Willa Vincitore was recently enshrined into the New York State Blues Hall Of Fame, and rightfully so.  With a voice suited to any material, plus strong originals in “Choices,” this lady of the blues really delivers the goods!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

Blues Caravan 2018 CD/DVD review…January 8, 2019…..

BERNARD ALLISON  VANJA SKY  MIKE ZITO

BLUES CARAVAN 2018

RUF RECORDS  CD/DVD 1260

CD: LOW DOWN AND DIRTY–ALL NIGHT–DO YOU WANNA–MARRIED MAN–KEEP COMING BACK–WASTED TIME–MAKE BLUES NOT WAR–IN THE OPEN (INST.)–ROCKET 88–THE WAY LOVE WAS MEANT TO BE–LIFE IS A BITCH–SERIOUS AS A HEART ATTACK

BONUS DVD FEATURES (ASIDE FROM THE ABOVE-MENTIONED)–CROSSROADS OF LIFE–BAD PENNY (VANJA SKY)–ONE MORE TRAIN (ZITO)–TESTIFY (INST.) (BERNARD)–MEDLEY: BAD NEWS IS COMING/BAD LOVE(BERNARD AND ZITO)  MOVE FROM THE HOOD–AMAZING GRACE/GIVE ME BACK MY WIG (VANJA, BERNARD, ZITO)

For Blues Caravan 2018, Ruf Records founder Thomas Ruf chose three of his hottest players–all three are brilliant guitarists, vocalists, and composers in their own right, and, on the night of January 27, 2018, at the Cafe Hahn in Koblenz, Germany, the world got to see them all on one stage!  They are, of course, Bernard Allison, Mike Zito, and Vanja Sky, and Mr. Ruf warmly introduced them to this packed and enthusiastic house for the performances that would become the Live CD/DVD set of “Blues Caravan 2018.”

We must admit, we watched the DVD first, to grasp the camaraderie of the players and for the solos and breaks, and who played what, when and where.  Along with the trio of principle players, special mention must be made to Roger Innisson on bass, and Mario Dawson on drums, doing yeoman’s work throughout.

OK y’all—this trio drops a big “f” bomb right outta the gate–no, not THAT kind–but an absolute favorite of all time of ours with the leadoff “Low Down And Dirty,” made popular by Bernard’s famous dad Luther (from his “Reckless” CD from back in the day!), and each of the three takes a vocal and gives a sample of guitar fireworks to come.  Vanja is next up, the comely lass with that delightful native brogue in her vocals, and she takes us back to the lusty, busty days of our youth with some booty-shakin’ rock and blues.  First up is that age-old “weekend marriage” arrangement, “doin’ things that lovers do, All Night!”  That vein continues as our sexily-confident babe begs the question, “Do You Wanna,” before finishing up by calling out all the cheatin’ dogs whose heads get turned by the first PYT that comes along, the sad-but-too-often-true, “Married Man.”

Zito’s up next, rockin’ the blues as only this Texan-by-way-of-St. Louis can do, with the bristling shuffle of “Keep Coming Back,” followed by a kiss-off to a long-gone lover, “Wasted Time,” before closing with another bluesy anthem that begs us to “Make Blues Not War!” Bernard is next, opening with a cool instrumental, “Into The Open,” with a sweet nod to “Harlem Shuffle” in the mix, before settling down behind the wheel of that ol’ reliable “Rocket 88.”  He closes his CD set with a soulful, poignant, “The Way Love Was Meant To Be.”  At this time, the trio re-formed to close the show.  Bernard opened by relating to the crowd that this city and particular venue was one of his dad’s favorites, and was the reason for recording there.  The trio plays off on some of Luther’s favorite songs, “Life Is A Bitch,” and “Serious As A Heart Attack.”

The DVD has all these performances, with a few extras that are equally as impressive.  Vanja adds “Crossroads Of Life” along with one of our favorites of hers, “Bad Penny.”  Zito opens his portion of the program with a cool shot of Texas blues “One More Train,” while Bernard closes his set with another driving instrumental, “Testifyin.”

When the trio reconvenes to close, the DVD features some powerful stuff.  First, Bernard and Zito duet on Luther’s “Bad News Is Coming/Bad Love,” and Vanja joins the fellows for “Move From The Hood.”  The DVD and concert closes with Bernard’s intro of “Amazing Grace,” which barrels headlong into the Chicago-styled finale of “Gimme Back My Wig!”

Y’all, this was an incredible night of music from three of the best in contemporary blues.  Bernard, Mike, and Vanja not only showcased their talents and material, but they paid a loving tribute to one of Ruf Records most famous “citizens,” the mighty Luther Allison.  Please enjoy “Blues Caravan 2018.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don “Mr. Mojo” Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

 

Watermelon Slim review…January 6, 2019…

WATERMELON SLIM

CHURCH OF THE BLUES

NORTHERN BLUES MUSIC  NBM  065

ST. PETER’S LEDGER–TAX MAN BLUES–GYPSY WOMAN–POST-MODERN BLUES–GET OUT OF MY LIFE WOMAN–MNI WICONI THE WATER SONG–ME AND MY WOMAN–SMOKESTACK LIGHTNING–THAT OLE 1-4-5–HOLLER # 4–61 HIGHWAY BLUES–TOO MUCH ALCOHOL–CHARLOTTESVILLE (BLUES FOR MY NATION)–HALLOWEEN MAMA

Born in Boston as William Homans III, Watermelon Slim has enjoyed a long, illustrious career as one of the most unique bluesmen on this planet.  He learned to play slide guitar by listening to Mississippi Fred McDowell records and using his Government Issue Zippo lighter as a slide on a balsa wood guitar.  He’s come a long way since then, and will release his thirteenth album overall on January 25, 2019, entitled “Church Of The Blues,” for the Northern Blues label.  There are seven Slim originals mixed in with seven covers, and Slim pulls it all together with a little help from several of his friends.

Bob Margolin adds guitar on the set opener, as Slim knows his “books are way behind,” as far as “St. Peter’s Ledger” is concerned.  Next up, Slim laments “what the Tax Man has done to me,” before he and Bob team up again on one of Muddy’s chestnuts, “Gypsy Woman,” and what happens when you “peep thru your keyhole!”  Nick Schnebelen guests on guitar as Slim bemoans his obsolescence and inability to cope in this century, “Post Modern Blues.”

Slim shouts out to the sounds of the Delta with a slide-fueled take on “Smokestack Lightning,” while nobody can do a “Holler # 4” quite like Slim can!  And, since he learned from the records of Fred McDowell, he returns the favor with a brilliant “61 Highway Blues!”

We had two favorites, too. Slim calls out to ol’ J. B. Hutto on his original tune, the slidin,’ fish-fried boogie of “Too Much Alcohol.”  At the other end of the spectrum, “Charlottesville (Blues For My Nation)” calls for peace and love “no matter who may be our president.”

Watermelon Slim is a bona fide Mensa member, he’s been a watermelon farmer, and, yeah, a “wheel man.”  Over and above it all, tho, he’s a great bluesman, and “Church Of The Blues” continues to add to his outstanding legacy!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Dee Miller Band review…January 5, 2019….

DEE MILLER BAND

LEOPARD PRINT DRESS

HOT AND SWEATY–STRONGEST WEAKNESS–TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT–LEOPARD PRINT DRESS–BACK IN THE SADDLE–LAST TWO DOLLARS–I SING THE BLUES–MIDNIGHT IN HARLEM–BLACK CAT BONE–STEPPIN

Dee Miller grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, and her powerful singing voice drew her into the fold of several local-area bands, where she earned her nickname of “Duchess Of The Blues.”  Her tireless work within the Minnesota blues community also got her elected into the Minnesota Blues Hall Of Fame in 2018.

The Dee Miller Band has just released their third album, “Leopard Print Dress,” which features ten cuts of originals and covers all of which are full of the hi-octane,  soul-drenched R & B she’s been playing throughout her career.  Joining Dee on this excursion, we have Craig Clark on guitars and vocals, Eric Meyer on bass, Jesse Mueller on keys, and Mike DuBois on drums.

The dance floor’s gonna fill up fast, with the jump of the leadoff cut, “come on, baby, let’s get Hot And Sweaty!”  Craig turns up the wah-wah and Dee turns up the heat as she channels her funkiest Etta James in the story of giving up all her vices except for her lover, that one “Strongest Weakness.”  The pace slows, but the soulfulness stays strong on a beautiful, nearly-sanctified version of “Take It To The Limit,” while Craig takes the vocal turn on a smokin’ read of Johnnie Taylor’s iconic “Last Two Dollars!”

Favorites were everywhere, but we settled on two.  Mr. Mueller lets his left hand do the talkin’ over Dee’s vocal on the boogie-woogie romp of “Back In The Saddle,” then Dee and Craig playfully spar on the title cut, where “nothin’ says “COUGAR” like a Leopard Print Dress and high-heeled shoes!”

The holidays are over, and the IBC’s are on the horizon.  The Dee Miller Band will be there, reppin’ for the Minnesota Blues Society.  Go up to ’em and say hey, and that you read about ’em from us, and buy a copy of “Leopard Print Dress” from the “Duchess Of The Blues!”   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

 

 

Gaye Adegbalola review…January 4, 2019….

GAYE ADEGBALOLA

THE GRIOT

VIZZTONE/HOT TODDY VT-HTM-2420

NOTHING’S CHANGED–THE GRIOT–LIEARRHEA–FGM (FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION)–DIRTY SHEETS–{YOU’RE) FLINT WATER–KAEPERNICKED–AIN’T TECHNOLOGY GRAND?–GON’ BE ALRIGHT–DON’T CRITICIZE ME–NOTHING LEFT–(THERE IS ALWAYS) ONE MORE TIME–NEED A LITTLE SUGAR IN MY BOWL–TEA CAKE KIND OF LOVE–3 HOUR SHOES (STYLIN’ FOR THE LORD)–SORRY, BUT….NO SHAME–JELLY BEAN BLUES

In West African lore, the Griot (GREE-oh) was a walking archive of oral history who also served as an entertainer and story-teller.  Gaye Adegbalola brings that tribal lore into the 21st Century with her latest album for the Vizztone label, aptly entitled “The Griot.”  She sees herself (as do we) as a modern-times griot who uses the robust seventeen cuts provided herein to deliver a strong message to today’s society, holding nothin’ back while unloading on the powers that be, hypocrisy, vanity,  pollution, and a whole host of other wrongs that need to be righted.

There are so many highlights, fans, so let’s get busy!  It doesn’t take a Phi Beta Kappa to figure out who the subject of “Liearrhea” is, with all his “lies of omission, commission, too.”  This one is set over an acoustic, country-blues groove.  “Kaepernicked” uses a furiously-funky, Famous Flames-type arrangement to “thank him for taking a knee for me!”  Female vanity is addressed by suffering thru church and “stylin’ and profilin’ for the Lord” in those “3 Hour Shoes.”  Anyone not familiar with the way it was when the Jim Crow laws were in effect would learn much from a listen to the Diddley-beat of how, sadly, “Nothing’s Changed,” calling out the names of Emmitt Till and James Byrd, Jr., senselessly murdered because of the color of their skin.

Gaye does present some lighter moments, tho.  She shouts-out to some of the “pioneer women of the blues,” if you will, such as Memphis Minn[e, Ma Rainey, and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston with “Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl,” and “Tea Cake Kind Of Love,” respectively.  Both are done up in vintage-styled arrangements, in keeping with the era in which they were written.

All things considered, tho, Gaye Adegbalola, with “The Griot,” is at her best when she’s using these lyrics to stand up for the oppressed and fire back at all the haters!  These are sho’ nuff some topical blues for topical times!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

Eric Schenkman review…January 3, 2019….

ERIC SCHENKMAN

WHO SHOT JOHN?

VIZZTONE RECORDS   VT-1263

I’M ALRIGHT–LOCKED IN THE HOUSE ALL DAY–LINCOLN’S FEAT–WHO SHOT JOHN?–NO PAIN–SIGN OF THE TIMES–FAR AWAY–ONLY A FOOL–FORTUNE TELLER–AGENT ORANGE BLUES

If you’ve ever heard “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” or “Pocket Full Of Kryptonite” from the Spin Doctors, then you’re familiar with the guitar stylings of Eric Schenkman, as he co-wrote all five of their Top Ten hits.  Eric has a lot of bluesman in his soul, tho, and it shows thru proudly on his third solo set, “Who Shot John?,” for Vizztone Records.  It’s equal parts butt-rockin’ blues and the pop-flavored things his old band was noted for.  Along with Eric on guitar and vocals, Van Romaine and Cody Dickinson are on drums, and co-producer Shawn Kellerman is on bass.

The fellows split time in studios in Newark, NJ, Kitchener, NY, and Memphis, and the groove is hot throughout.  Eric kicks off in a blues-rock vein with “I’m Alright,” where “you get what you get, and I got what I got!”  He gets in a John The Revelator groove on “Lincoln’s Feat,” a country-fied number ’bout “Salvation–get it free/temptation, pay to see!”  He gets everybody ready for Mardi Gras in the title cut, as “Who Shot John” definitely has a strong New Orleans feel, and served as one of our favorites.  “Far Away” hearkens back to the halcyon days of the Spin Doctors, with this infectious boogie serving as our other favorite, and Eric closes the set with the grungy, fuzzed-out endless boogie of “Agent Orange Blues.”

Eric Schenkman and the fellows strove for a “live” feel on “Who Shot John?,” and, as one listens, that spontaneity shows thru in the grooves!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.