Friday, January 29, 2016

Hurricane Ruth LaMaster Blows In With Winds Of Change

The word “hurricane” comes from the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico to describe the most powerful force in their universe. These winds had the ability to destroy an entire village and usually appeared out of nowhere leaving the people to deal with the destruction and to make changes in order to appease the God.
It’s very rare that someone has said, “Thank God that hurricane blew through here,” but in the case of an extraordinary performer know as Hurricane Ruth LaMaster, Thank God she blew through here and brought her amazing talent to share with us!
Her latest CD is an EP called WINDS OF CHANGE that appears to be self-released, but despite its diminutive size (four songs) it is long on talent and you would be better off if you added this hurricane to your collection. LaMaster’s voice is incredible and she deserves a spot next to the best belters in history. She’s expressive and captivating.
I can’t wait to see her live – but for right now, I’m going to have to settle for finding any of her earlier releases.
The four songs on this EP are written by Neil Giraldo and Myron Grombacher; Willie Dixon; Calvin Lee and Andrew Wright; and Delbert McClinton. None of them are exactly slouches in the songwriting department and LaMaster does a terrific job of interpreting them and honoring their legacy while putting her own stamp on the songs.
The band consists of Dick Garretson on trumpet and providing the arrangements; Mick Gillette on tenor sax; Sande Hackel on baritone sax; Doug Wilcox on trombone; Brian Curtis on keyboards; Frank Huston on guitar; Gary Davis on bass; and John Sluzalis on drums. Each song is horn centric showing LaMaster’s love of those big band blues and that’s a style that I happen to enjoy very much and don’t get to hear often enough.
The album kicks off with I Feel Lucky and immediately you know you are hearing something special. It would be right at home as the opening number in The Cotton Club as it showcases both the singer’s amazing pipes and the tightness of the band. The title is prophetic as indeed I do feel lucky listening to the song.
Built For Comfort is just one of Willie Dixon’s many classic compositions and I don’t know that I’ve ever heard it interpreted as well as LaMaster and Company do here. Her voice has plenty of seductive promise and Huston’s guitar takes us out on an extended walk.  Damn, this is a fine song!
She then turns it loose with the classic When A Man Loves A Woman, managing to take a song we’ve all heard a thousand times or more and making it sound brand new. She softens her voice for much of the song setting up her belting for just the right moments.
LaMaster closes out the EP with Delbert McClinton’s Going Back To Louisiana, a little roadhouse boogie that rocks the house.
LaMaster’s voice is confident (to say the least) and the band is strong and tight. The only problem I have with the release is its length. I could easily listen to her all night long and ask for more in the morning. WINDS OF CHANGE serves as a great introduction to this powerful woman, and I want to hear more.
If you are as intrigued as I am by this little sample, head over to her website http://hurricaneruth.com/ and see where she’s traveling to and what she’s released before. And save some for me will ya?


(Image of Winds Of Change taken from the artist's website. If you are the copyright holder and wish for us to take it down, please notify us and we will comply. We won't like it one bit mister, but we'll do it...)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Benny Turner Releases When She's Gone

It seems like it was just the other day when I was reviewing Benny Turner’s album Journey, and in actuality it was. No, Turner doesn’t turn out albums every week, it was just that I received the last album a little late, and the newest one, WHEN SHE’S GONE, a little early.
It’s one I’ve been waiting for – I really enjoyed Journey a lot and wanted to hear a little more from Turner. I found his bass lines to be smooth and his vocals warm so my anticipation was running a little high. I’ve learned to guard that anticipation, as sometimes things don’t go according to plan.
Thank goodness I can report that Turner has lived up to all my expectations and then some. This ten song disc contains seven original songs from Turner, plus selections written by Bill Withers, Lowell Fulson, and Jessie Mae Robinson. He has assembled a strong backing band including Derwin “Big D” Perkins and Mark Stone on guitar; Samuel “The Bishop” Berfect, Keiko Komaki, and Josh Paxton on keyboards; Alonzo Johnson and Turner himself on bass; Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander, Herman Ernest, and Larry Williams on drums; Davell Crawford on organ and Fender Rhodes; Marc Adams on clavinet; Sean Lewis on harp; Jason Mingledorff on sax; Barney Floyd on trumpet; and Marva Wright, Diane Lotny, Yvonne Washington, Tanya Jarvis, Davell Crawford, Craig Adams, Carla Davis, Yvette Whittler, and Charles “Chucky C” Elam providing backup vocals.
The album also has more than a few surprises including special guests Bob Margolin and a rare appearance of Dr. John playing guitar and what is believed to be the last recordings of the late great Charles Brown on piano.
These were recordings that were thought to be lost in Katrina’s aftermath that have been discovered and cleaned and are an important part of Brown’s legacy. We are very lucky to have them as part of this album.
I Can’t Leave starts off the album with a little gospel fervor crossed with soulful blues. You can tell immediately that you are in assured hands as Turner tells the story of a man who wants to leave, but just can’t find the strength.
Turner gets a little funky with Pity On This Lovesick Fool, with what sounds a little like the Philadelphia soul sound but with a slightly different edge. Turner’s vocals are sharp and Marva Wright matches him note for note.
He slows things down with Because Of You, exposing his more tender side. Berfect’s keys work well and Dr. John adds a little guitar to the song. This one reminds me a little of a Johnny Adams number with its deep soulful longings. A beautiful song.
Turner follows up with the Bill Withers classic, Ain’t No Sunshine while still putting his own stamp on the song. Turner’s voice is so well controlled and mixes perfectly with Margolin’s guitar and Komaki’s keys.
Turner continues his mellow approach with So Deep, a southern flavored gospel tinged number. He builds on a wall of backup vocalists who provide a very effective choir for him to bounce his vocals off. His voice reaches deep in order to wring out every emotion.
He puts a little more funk in the bassline of If I Can’t Have You. But it’s a funky slow number, the kind that makes you want to get your lover close – either on the dance floor or someplace more intimate – and just hold each other. All night long. Turner’s voice is at its most seductive on this number, so be careful when you turn the volume up; you just never know what unsuspecting people you are affecting.
You can feel the heartache in Turner’s voice in Have You Ever Been So Lonesome. This is a powerful song of loving and loss and can make a statue weep real tears. I can’t wait to play this number on Time For The Blues.
Margolin’s guitar gives Reconsider Baby more than a little punch. Plus, the double keyboards of Paxton and Komaki gives the song more depth.
By this point, Turner has gone through all of the darker emotions and arrived at acceptance with That’s Alright – I’ll Get Over You. He’s worked through the pain and is now wondering who is loving his woman tonight. It’s a rough stage, but the beginning of healing – or ammunition for the blues.
The album wraps up with Back Night, a stormy beginning that slides into some extended keyboard work by Charles Brown adding to the poignancy of the song. This is a dark album of the blues – Turner is obviously working through some of the great losses and tragedies in his life. It’s a tribute to everything he has gone through to be able to create such remarkable art as a result.
If you require further proof how good this album is, I invite you to come out to the Capital Ale House Downtown on February 13 to see Turner live at his CD release party. He will be joined by the one and only Bob Margolin along with The Nighthawks. If you get there early in the evening (and why wouldn’t you, you don’t want to miss a note of this throwdown) you might just see yours truly The Professor emceeing the show.
It will be a great time and I hope to see you all there. You can find out more details at Turner’s website: http://www.bennyturner.com/ or at the River City Blues Society website: http://www.rivercityblues.org.

(Picture of When She's Gone borrowed from the artist's website. If you are the copyright holder and want it to be removed, please contact us and we will comply.)


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Mississippi Bigfoot Unleashes Population Unknown

Sometimes chemistry is just right to combust. No, I’m not talking about failed high school experiments – I’m talking about a tight quintet that went from performing their first show together in 2014 to producing a tight hard-driving album in 2015. Mississippi Bigfoot seemed to come out of nowhere to produce a notable CD POPULATION UNKNOWN on Silver Tongue Records.
Christina Vierra’s vocals are outstanding – at once she has mastered the deep throated growl and the sweet caress. She has a great approach that commands attention and holds a room in the palm of her hand. Lead guitarist Johnny Holiday is assured and controlled while the remainder of the band, Ashley Bishop on rhythm and cigar box guitars; Doug McMinn doing double duty on drums and harp; and Cade Moore on bass are solid performers.
Bishop and McMinn also serve as the Executive Producers. Members of the band have written eight of the nine songs on the album, the one exception being their version of The Hunter, that was written by the tandem of Booker T. Jones, Dunn, Wells, Jackson, and Cropper. With that great STAX pedigree, you know it’s got to be good.
There are a lot of influences on this record – a real rock sensibility on top of some serious blues that is guaranteed to keep you coming back for more.
The album starts off with a Vierra/Bigfoot written number, Burn That Woman Down, and immediately you feel that swampy delta vibe that slips into a country blues feel. It’s also our first inkling of the power behind Vierra’s vocals – it immediately hooked me.
Vierra adds her ukulele to the next tune, Mighty River, a tribute to the Mississippi river – the powerful place that gave birth to the blues and still holds us in its power.
Wag The Dog starts off with a strong rockabilly flavor before settling down more in the blues. It has an intense, infectious energy that pulls you into the song. I can only imagine this song lighting up a dance floor.
I never thought I would find a blues song called, No Flesh In Outerspace, but leave it to these unique entertainers to come up with this funk infused song. It’s an interesting experiment and might be a little too out there for some, but hell, pushing envelopes is what artists do!
We keep going with some funk with Who’s Gonna Run This Town, a driving number that would feel right at home in an ‘80’s action movie. That’s not a slam, it tells a story and hooks you in with its pulsing bass and drums combo. I like this one a lot, even if it falls more into rock than blues territory.
Both Vierra and Holiday split the vocals on Clarksdale, a song written mostly by Holiday. McMinn’s harp adds that Delta sound that sets this song smack in the middle of where things started. It’s a great song and one that should receive quite a bit of airplay.
You Did is a gospel flavored ballad and Vierra is in great voice. If you haven’t figured it out before now, this woman can really sing! She electrifies and finds every emotion in this heart breaking number. It’s the longest song on the album and I still want to hear more. This is a terrific number.
The STAX fueled The Hunter picks the pace back up with McMinn adding some nice harp licks to the proceedings. Listening to this you can easily imagine that Mississippi Bigfoot could hold up very well against the very best of that era. They leave their own mark on the classic number without robbing it of its original soul. Not an easy task.
Tree Knockin takes us out of the album with a nice swampy feel. You can feel the long shadows of the delta encroaching and that’s when things are going to get loud and funky. It’s a nice touch to take us out.
Oh yeah, this band can tear it up! My one objection to this album is its length. Nine songs – even great ones like these are not enough to capture their energy. They mix and match genres and somehow make them all work. I can’t wait to hear more of their work and hopefully we won’t have to wait too long.
I’m not sure if the creature Mississippi Bigfoot exists, and I doubt that I’ll ever know – unless it turns up on a reality show somewhere, but I can tell you the band that adopted its name is not only real, it’s the real deal.
You can find out more about the band at their website http://www.mississippibigfoot.com/ and be sure to check out where they are going to be playing live around you. And if are lucky enough to cross their paths, tell ‘em the Professor sent you!

(Photo of the CD cover to POPULATION UNKNOWN taken from the band’s website. If you are the copyright holder and want it removed, let us know and we’ll do it. We’ll tell Bigfoot on you, but we’ll do it…)




Friday, January 22, 2016

Marcia Ball and Company Rocks The Tin Pan


Why is it that the day before a hurricane, or a blizzard in this case, is often beautiful and sunny? I’m no meteorologist, but there has to be something to that whole “calm before the storm” thing.
So it’s no surprise that the day before the first big blizzard of 2016, an amazing ray of sunshine in the form of Marcia Ball rode in to Richmond’s Tin Pan restaurant and music venue with a hot band and they chased the blues for an appreciative sold out crowd.
If you’ve never seen Ball perform, check out her schedule and get tickets as soon as you can, because she puts on one helluva show from start to finish and her brand of swamp boogie blues is infectious and just about the most fun a person could have.
On this night, in front of a packed house, she and her band (Mighty Mike Schermer on guitar; Don Bennett on Bass; Thad Scott sax; and Damien Llanes drums) ripped through a fast-paced two hours featuring some cuts from her latest album, The Tattooed Lady And The Alligator Man as well as some of her best known songs.
That’s one thing about Ball, while she sounds fine on a record, she’s meant to be experienced live. She’s a great performer and as such, it’s more than just her music that excites her audience – it’s her presence. She’s confident but not ostentatious, the kind of performer that can do with a wave of her hand or lighting up her killer smile than many can do with extended choreography.
While her fast numbers got the crowd excited (you could see more than a few wanted to dance, but the Tin Pan was so crowded, that was impossible) it was her ballads that truly touched our hearts. Her version of Randy Newman’s Louisiana 1927 or her own This Used To Be Paradise moved more than one fan to tears.
She was without a doubt the star of the evening, but she graciously shared the spotlight with all of her band. Schermer and Scott both took extended leads, and Ball even sang backup when Schermer sang a song off of his latest CD, Blues In Good Hands.
Mighty Mike Schermer  hanging with The Professor
Despite the eminent storm warnings, Ball and Company even stayed after the show was over talking to anyone who wanted to spend some time with her or the band. They may have been eager to get out of town to avoid being stranded in the close to two feet of snow that was expected to fall, but you would never have known it.
In short, the performance was so good that it reminded me of why I got into this in the first place – to share the magic of a live performance. Any chance you get to catch live music; you should take it. Even the bands and artists you don’t know may surprise you and you just might find yourself on a beautiful evening in roomful of like-minded people.
And let’s hope Marcia Ball will make another appearance soon. She’s definitely one of a kind. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Prodigal Returns Strong Debut for Keith Stone

Sometimes you just get a craving for a certain style of music. Maybe it’s Chicago hard style blues, or West Coast swing, or even a trip to the Delta for that stripped down back to basics sound. Lately I’ve been desirous of a little New Orleans Gumbo. You know that music – a sweet mélange of boogie mixed with blistering runs on guitar or piano, the kind of music that you know will trigger a night to remember.
Fortunately, I just received a copy of Keith Stone’s CD THE PRODIGAL RETURNS which satisfies my musical cravings, and then some. Stone is a guitar virtuoso with a solid voice and a backing band that can take him into just about any corner of The Crescent City with gusto. Whether he’s blowing out the walls with solid boogie or breaking your heart with a power ballad, you feel his emotion and skill.
Stone has written eight of the eleven songs on the album, another was written by his bandmate and producer David Hyde, and two are Public Domain songs that bracket the CD. Aside from Stone handling the guitar and vocals on the album, his band consists of Hyde on bass; Nelson Blanchard on drums,  organ, and piano; Lacy Blackledge on trumpet; Mike Broussard on saxophone; Bobby Henderson on alto sax; and special guests include Dr. John on piano; Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes on accordion; Andy J. Forest on frottoir and cow bell; Joe Krown on organ; and vocals by Elaine Foster.
Stone opens with a Prelude of Just A Closer Walk With Thee to give us the feel of walking a body to its final resting place complete with a dirge-like tempo and horses’ hoof beats on pavement, this quick sample raises the question “who are we putting to rest?” Hopefully we’ll find out.
Things get going with Better Things To Do mixing the hot horn section with Stone’s guitar. We’re quickly into a more festive mood with a solid number that can get people to move around. This is a good opening song and I’m sure it gets a great response live.
He slows things down considerably with First Love, an aching power ballad fueled by Stone’s guitar work. His voice is a deep growl here as he searches for his first love and he is crying out to the heavens to help him find it. This is a powerful song.
Cindi Leigh is a fun bouncy song with a nice accordion in the background. This is obviously an homage to the most important woman in Stone’s life. It has some decent lyrics and solid guitar fills. We’ll be playing this on Time For The Blues.
Next up is perhaps my favorite song on the album, Take Me Home. It’s hard not to love this tribute to his home of New Orleans. If you have never longed to be back in the place where you grew up, count yourself lucky. This is the kind of place that once it gets into your soul, it never leaves.
There’s a little Doo Wop feel to New Orleans Moonlight, a late night close-the-place down kind of song. It has some nice backing vocals and understated instrumentation. It’s a good song to follow Take Me Home.
Stone picks up the pace with Time To Move On. He tells the story of how it’s time for him to pick himself up, read the writing on the wall, and get to stepping. Sometimes we just can’t see the signs and act on them, but he’s got a clear look at the future. The band is tight and the groove is solid.
The pace increases even more with Make Me Feel Alright. This is dance territory and the song has an infectious hook that makes you want to jump up and shake whatever you got. This has got to be a great song when performed live – you can just hear the places where you know the band launches into some extended solos.
Buster’s Place takes us into a mythical nightclub with its ambient noise and extended horn opening and musical riffs. This instrumental was written by Hyde and he’s got a good ear for tone. I like the song and it has some nice jazz flavors mixed in with the blues.
The final original track, the title song The Prodigal Returns tells Stone’s story from his birth in New Orleans to his return and his desire to plant his feet and sample all the elements of the city’s music. It’s a good number and his guitar sings loudest on this song.
He closes the album with a great jam on Just A Closer Walk With Thee. The gospel is sincere, voices soar and the musicians pour their heart and soul into the number. Dr. John’s piano rings out and drives the song while Stone’s guitar provides the pyro. You can feel yourself lost in the music and immediately want to listen again. Go ahead, it’s a terrific album and just hits the spot.
For more information about Keith Stone and where you can catch him live, be sure to check out http://www.keithstonemusic.com/. If you can’t make it to Mardi Gras, this is a great way to get your New Orleans fix.

(Picture of Keith Stone was borrowed from his website. If you are the copyright holder and want it removed, please contact us and we'll do it. We might say bad things about Po' Boy Sandwiches, but we'll do it...) 


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Been Around A While - Outstanding Debut for Dalannah and Owen


It’s the kind of success story that seems so improbable that if it were a Hollywood movie, nobody would believe it.  A couple of musicians get together shortly before a big competition, rehearse a couple of times, win the competition and go on to the big international finals where they place second. Yeah, that pretty much only happens in fiction.
Trouble is, it also happened to the duo of Dalannah and Owen, and they have parlayed that success into a quiet and thoughtful first album that plays into their strength of gospel (Dalannah) and jazz (Owen). There are no pyrotechnics, just an incredible voice and a seven-string bass and two artists with many years of technique behind them.
Dalannah Gail Bowen has a voice that should be declared a national treasure in her native country of Canada. It’s the voice of experience; the kind of voice that can soar to heaven after having explored the depths of hell. It’s the real deal the way so many singers dream of being, but so very few ever achieve.
I could listen to this voice for the rest of my life and still not peel away all the layers.

Owen Veber must have been born with an extra-soul chromosome in his DNA, the way he just effortlessly makes his bass guitar sing. In his capable hands, the bass steps out of the background and takes center stage and provides beautiful counterpoint to Bowen’s vocals.
The album, BEEN AROUND A WHILE, released on Quest Records, features five self-penned numbers and others written by the likes of Billy Eckstine, Marvin Gaye, Robert Johnson, B.B. King, and Son House. Pretty good company.
The album starts off with the title track. Been Around A While is their story, but also the story of those folks who have dedicated their life to pursuing a dream and are now realizing it, and appreciating it even more for the journey.
A nice bass run kicks off the next song, Early In The Morning. It’s one of those days after a fight when you wake up with the blues and what can you do but play it all over again and again.
The jazz tinged That Ain’t It is a great smoky song that would be right at home in a dark nightclub with a blue spotlight. It’s one of those songs that grabs you with its quiet approach that makes you listen closely.
The Billy Eckstine/Sid Kuller number, Blues Mother of Sin, is adapted by the duo where it becomes a powerful blues tune. For those who once railed that the blues is “the devil’s music” would feel right at home with the sentiments this song shares. If it’s the blues that led us all astray, then I say Thank God for the Blues!
The next couple of numbers, Already Gone and Queen Bee are originals by the duo. Already Gone is an up-tempo song of a woman who has finally become fed up with her man and is telling him you don’t have to worry about leaving, because she’s “already gone.” Queen Bee is the story of a woman who knows what she wants and she know how she’s going to get it. It’s a song of empowerment and taking control of her life. The two songs together make a strong statement that people would be smart to heed.
Marvin Gaye and James Nyx’s Inner City Blues gets a new interpretation that lands squarely in the jazz-blues field. From the opening ghostly echoes of the opening, the spirit of Gaye’s song is there but this interpretation will make you really sit up and listen to the message. It stays with you for a long time.
The last original number on the album is Heaven’s Right Here, a meditation on the fact that we are living in our own heaven right here on earth. It’s the blues with a twist – looking at our lives and thinking that maybe, just maybe, we can make the most of the chance we’ve been given.  
Robert Johnson’s Come On In My Kitchen gets a new interpretation by the duo. Bowen’s voice aches while Veber’s quiet guitar work strips the song down to its barest essentials. It’s haunting, and gets into your soul and on a dark night, just might give you a little chill.
Why I Sing The Blues picks up the pace just a bit while maintaining their overarching control. Veber drives the song and Bowen’s vocals soar and belt out the lyrics. Veber takes a nice break but doesn’t overpower the song.
Son House’s Walkin’ Blues closes out the album perfectly. Bowen sings like her soul is on fire and you can’t help but fall under her spell. This is one of the best interpretations of this classic that I have ever heard.

I admit that I made a big mistake not including this album on my Best of 2015 Show on Time For The Blues. It’s simply because BEEN AROUND A WHILE got buried behind some other CDs and I didn’t get around to listening to it sooner. Let me assure you, I’ll be singing its praises along with the praises of its creators for some time to come.
Dalannah and Owen are performers I would love to see anytime, anywhere – I am attracted to their quiet power and total dedication to their art. If you get a chance to check them out, be sure to tell them The Professor sent ya! And send me your thoughts afterwards.
You can find out all things related to the duo at www.dalannahandowen.com
Until next time, aloha from the Juke Joint.


(Pictures are from the artists' website. If you are the copyright holder and want them removed, please contact us and we will comply.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Bob Lanza Blues Band Goes From Hero To Zero

I’ve always had kind of a weak spot for bar bands. I guess I spent too many years working with different ones, so when I hear that crunchy sound that is honed over years of playing on small stages over the roar of crowds clanking beer bottles in time to the music, I get a little misty eyed. It’s a tough existence, but that’s the way everybody learns how to make that crossover from performer to entertainer.
Sometimes it’s just not enough to be a good or even a great player, you have to give the audience that something extra to make them want to keep coming back to see you. I can name off a number of bands that made that transition and I bet if you think about it, you could add another few dozen to the list.
On their second album, FROM HERO TO ZERO, The Bob Lanza Blues Band is in the process of making that transition. They’re very loyal to their roots and I bet that they rock any club or festival that has them play. Heck, I would love to see them live – they have a terrific sound; Lanza’s guitar and vocals are good and Steve Krase rocks the harp like nobody’s business and I know they can whip a crowd into a frenzy.
Besides Lanza and Krase, the musicians on the album include the wonderful Trudy Lynn providing background vocals; Jake O’Handley on drums; “Mild” Bill Lagreca playing bass; Dan Skye playing bass on one song and adding background vocals; Ed “Doc” Wall and Randy Wall on keys; Jimmy Smith on banter; and Mike V on Rubboard.
 The album starts off with a solid groove on For Loving You. This is the kind of song that gets the audience moving right away. Lanza’s guitar work is on display and the song sounds a bit like a George Thorogood number with the driving beat.
The band goes a little honkytonk with All Over Again. How many times have we all made that same mistake – the one we swore we would never do again? This is Lanza’s response and Krase has a few bars to add some stellar harp work.
Lanza slows things down nicely with Love And Kindness, a song designed to let the dance floor calm down with just a chance to hold tightly onto your partner. His guitar and vocals are strong. This is a good tune and should find some airplay with those of us who get the chance to share great music with radio and internet audiences.  
The title track, Hero To Zero, is a bouncy number that has some clever lyrics and a zydeco feel. Aside from the washboard percussion, Krase has a very nice extended harp break that feeds directly into the piano. You just have to have fun while listening to this one!
The band then launches into a power rendition of Ain’t Nobody’s Business with a soaring guitar over a gospel fueled organ.
Lanza ups the tempo for I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog, the story of a painful relationship. That’s one of the great themes of the blues and here Lanza digs deep to expose the hurt he’s gone through. The band drives this number and I would love to see this one live.
 My Home Is A Prison starts out with a screaming guitar – is it an alarm or just the anguish being suffered while living in a prison environment? This is more of a traditional style blues song and the power and pain is palpable.
We’re swinging again with It Ain’t About Me. Lanza is in a better place after the previous two songs. Even Krase’s harp takes on a happier tone and the band provides a solid driving beat to help our narrator “take care of business.”
The album ends with Evil World, a slower, kind of swampy number that helps show just how versatile this band has become. They can play with the best of ‘em and give a great show at the same time. This band deserves to be on the radar of all blues lovers everywhere.
You can find out more about The Bob Lanza Blues Band by checking out their website at www.boblanzabluesband.com. Despite recording in Texas, he’s east coast based, but I have the distinct feeling he’s going to be doing more traveling in the future. I can’t wait to catch the band myself, they have a great sound and obvious energy. That makes for a potent show!
Lanza’s label, Connor Ray Music is based out of Houston, which has a long tradition of supporting great blues acts. The label has been looking for more independent artists and this is the second album of theirs I’ve had the pleasure to listen to. As they continue to grow their roster of artists, I’m looking forward to see how they develop and evolve – keeping the music alive takes dedication, hard work, and more than a little bit of luck.
Discover their work for yourself at www.connorraymusic.com. They’ve got some great artists signed, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from them on a regular basis.



Monday, January 11, 2016

Trudy Lynn Sings Everything Comes With A Price

Houston native Trudy Lynn has been singing since the ‘60’s working with blues and rhythm and blues while building up a loyal local and national following. Her approach to the blues quickly reminds you of those great shouters and belters that were never shy about making their emotions known. Let some of the others sing quietly and whisper to the audience, women like Lynn bounce their voice off the back of the auditorium and hit you with their power going past you and coming back.
No stranger to recording, she’s recorded something like ten albums and appeared on four more compilations, her latest, EVERYTHING COMES WITH A PRICE, now available on Connor Ray Music, is strong on the blues and makes you feel like you are in an intimate club and somehow Lynn is singing just to you.
Lynn is backed by several strong musicians, including Steve Krase on harp; Randy Wall on keyboards; Terry Dry playing bass on most tracks with Rock Romano playing on one; and the trio of The Mighty Orq, Paul “Lil Buck” Senegal, and James Henry sharing the lead and rhythm guitar work.  Lynn has written four of the ten songs on the album and recorded others written by Marie Adams, Lucille Bogan, Alberta Adams, Hattie Hart, Ella Johnson, and Clara Smith. She manages to mix them all seamlessly into a beautiful cohesive album that brings the past into the present and makes the present feel universal.
The overarching connector on all of the songs chosen is the power, the confidence of Trudy Lynn in her voice, her presence, and her ability to sway the listener. To listen to her is to revel in a resonant and delightful experience. If you are a new listener to this great performer, you have so many more CDs to sample to further your discovery.

While mixing her blues past and present, Lynn ends the album on a beautiful gospel number Living Humble. She may be living humble, but her voice is a glorious instrument well played and it has the power to convert the unknowing to the beauty of the blues.
For more information, be sure to check out her website at www.trudylynnblues.com. 

(Photo of Trudy Lynn's album comes from her website. If you are the copyright holder and wish for us to remove it, please notify us and we will comply. We'll be disappointed, but what else is new...)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Willie May Releases Blues Mona

Any regular reader of this little slice of the world should know by now how much I love the blues. The blues speak to me with a sexy seductive voice luring me into the blissful darkness. She’s wicked and sly and she knows all of your special weaknesses that always make you come back begging for more.
But every so often she shows up and she’s just a little different than she was before. She’s still wicked, but now she has a slightly different look that you know you can’t resist.
Oh yeah, the blues make us all a little weak in the knees.
That’s how I feel about listening to veteran bluesman Willie May’s new release BLUES MONA. It’s definitely the blues, but with a few other genres mixed in to make a unique and wonderful sound. There are mixes of country, Caribbean, surf, and a little zydeco layered on top of a tight blues song that excites me.
May has a lot of help on the album with Chris Panfil on fiddle; Evan Laedke on organ, piano, and keytar; Harvey Murello, Tom Corsi and Robert Parker on bass; Hayden Fogle and Ron Kain on guitar; Jim Whitford on the upright bass; Ken Parker and Larry Cheeley on saxophone; Kevin Espinosa on harmonica; Owen Eichensehr, Tom Lafferty Randy Corsi, Ray Hangen and Randy Bolan on drums; and the versatile Mark Panfil on accordion, banjo, dobro, piano, harmonica and backing vocals; other vocals are provided by Dwane Hall and Sharon Bailey.
But it is May himself who is the heart and definitely the soul of BLUES MONA. Besides playing guitar and suppling the vocals, he also plays bass, dobro, baritone guitar, ukulele, kalimba, and jaw harp. If you’ve never heard a kalimba on a blues album, you’re not alone – neither have I. It’s an African-Caribbean instrument (also called a M’bira or a thumb piano) and is perhaps most famous for being used in an old Seven Up commercial.
May designed the album cover and also wrote nine out of the ten songs on the album, so start to finish – top to bottom, this is his vision and the album has a lot to say and May takes us down several different roads to get there. And speaking of the album cover, Neil deGrasse Tyson, if you are reading this, don’t be upset that it shows an astronomical impossibility of a star or planet being seen behind the moon’s penumbra. Remember, it’s art – it’s not an issue of Sky & Telescope.
The first song on the album, Lock It Up, is a solid medium tempo he said-she said kind of song. I’ve always enjoyed that style of duet and this is a fun number with a very nice piano break. The interplay between May and Sharon Bailey (I’m assuming) is clever and they have real chemistry.
Big Legged Woman picks up the tempo and the song has a real country feel. I’m not talking about what passes for country now, more old school than that. The kind of country that edges into blues territory and doesn’t apologize for it. May’s lyrics are good and the song is lively.
The third selection, Mona’s Watching Eye, starts off with a slow tempo swampy feel then quickly morphs into a kick ass party song that should get everybody out of their seats and onto the dance floor. Everybody in the band gets a workout with this hard driving song. The party is still going on with Stop Hurting Me, and the music belies the lyrics. It’s more country in its approach and since both genres rely heavily on the “somebody done me wrong” type of song, this one fits in nicely.
The instrumental, Surf Mona Blues, is the most unusual song on the album as I swear I thought was listening to some of Dick Dale’s best recordings. It’s rare to find someone who truly appreciates surf music to the point of putting it on an album, but here it is, and I for one am glad.
The next song, Children Be Free, is the only one on the album not written by May himself. This one has the feel and spirit of a protest song from the ‘60’s – another genre not generally represented today, but one that has strong roots in the blues. Oppression in any form gives rise to music that strikes back. An interesting choice for the album.
Not Gonna Love Ya’ is more of a straightforward rock blues song with a strong driving tempo and growled vocals. It’s a fun number and should be a crowd pleaser when performed live.
The accordion gives You Don’t Know Much a down-home feel and the lyrics are good. It strays slightly into zydeco territory, but doesn’t go all the way, letting it fall somewhere in between. Who needs labels, let’s dance!
There’s almost a feel like the Doors started playing with country and Spanish rhythms with Gloria. The background fiddle gives the song an ethereal feeling and it just pulls you in. I like this song a lot
The album ends with In My Dreams, a slow number that pulls everything together with a slight psychedelic rock feel. It’s definitely different, but hypnotic and May sings deeply from his soul on the song.
What can I say? I enjoyed BLUES MONA very much and thought that the experimentation was great. Did all of it work? Not for me, but most of it did. It’s up to artists to push envelopes and see just how elastic their art really is. Sometimes the efforts will work, maybe some other times it won’t. The important part is to experiment and evolve while honoring the classic blues of the past.
For blues purists, this may not be their cup of tea, but with the country flavors, it’s definitely a good cup of moonshine. And it has a kick like moonshine and delivers on a lot of fronts. Since this falls somewhat under other genres, I’m going to cross post this review on washboardtimes.blogspot.com for the Americana fans.
In the meantime, be sure to check out Willie May’s BLUES MONA at your first chance and check him out at www.williemaymusic.com.


(Picture of the artist taken from his website. If you are the copyright holder and wish for it the be removed, let us know and we'll take it down. But next time we see you, we'll stick out tongue out...)






Sunday, January 3, 2016

Tim William's SO LOW is So Good

You have to admire anyone brave enough to stand (or sit) in front of an audience armed only with an instrument, a voice, and talent. There’s nothing to hide behind, no way to take the spotlight off of you and put it on the band for 12 bars. There are no pyrotechnics, no special effects, no overdubs, nothing but you and the audience.
Frightening for some, exhilarating for others.
California-born but living in Canada Tim Williams, the 2014 IBC winner in the solo-duo category obviously feels that for him, it’s the latter. He’s just released his first solo album, SO LOW, on Lowden Proud Records and for those of us who love the true old school feel of just a man and his guitar singing the blues (as well as some ragtime, and even some early country) this is a great album to add to your collection.
Williams has recorded ten songs on the album and has written four which fit seamlessly alongside numbers written by the likes of Mose Allison, Big Bill Broonzy, Blind Boy Fuller, and Johnny Cash. That’s not too shabby of company to keep.
Williams does everything on the album; he plays, he sings, he taps out the rhythm with his wingtips, and even produces it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he catered the recording session and made the coffee as well, but you have to admire an artist who has a vision and he’s doing everything he can to translate the sound as he hears it for his audience.
The Mose Allison song If You Live kicks off the CD with a nice guitar lead and vocals with a clear intensity that announces we are listening to an unusual album. It’s got an intimacy that often is lost behind over amplified leads and screaming vocals. If you really want someone’s attention, start out low as that forces your audience to come to you.
The first Williams original, More Peppers In Your Chili, may have started out because Williams has a ton of spices in his home, but the lyrics take it into a different double entendre laden area. It’s quirky and humorous and a ton of fun.
My Big Money is one of Big Bill Broonzy’s classic. The title refers to a bonus that was promised to African-American soldiers in World War I that was quickly denied. The government even won a lawsuit against it (what a surprise) and this is Broonzy’s take on the situation. Williams sings it like it was his own story.
The next Williams penned number, Anywhere c/o The Blues, tells the story of his obsession with the blues. His lyrics are strong and the rhythm pulls you deeply into the song. It’s a strong song and one that many of us have lived.
The Blind Boy Fuller tune, Pistol Snapper receives a bit of an update with Williams’ approach. That’s part of the story of the blues (or most music for that matter) as one artist builds on another and creates a new approach to a song. Williams’ guitar work is very good and once again you get the feeling that the song is part of his DNA.
Next up is the longest song (at 4:05) on the album, The Witching Hour. This is a quiet song with some haunting musical turns. This is an old Tampa Red number which allows Williams to feature a little slide work.
Next up is an old song that I was not familiar with, The Grizzly Bear, about a dance craze in the ‘20’s where people imitated the actions of a grizzly bear. It probably looked fairly ridiculous, but the song is fun, and quick paced. I liked this one a lot. But I won’t dance The Grizzly Bear anytime soon.
Johnny Cash’s Big River is a powerful song and Williams shows how closely country and the blues are related. Usually anytime you hear a Cash song, it’s hard not to hear it sung in his distinctive voice, but here Williams does his best to leave his own imprint on the number. But you can still feel the pain.
Next up is another original, Midnight After Midnight, which has a slow-downed country blues feel and makes for a great follow up to Big River. This is the story of anyone who has ever worried about a lover and feared the worst was about to happen. His voice again reflects deep pain and the song just pulls you in.
Williams ends the album with another original song, Lightnin’, which is an homage to the great Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins, one of the great influences on Williams. It’s a great story song that paints a picture of the life Hopkins led while playing his music. We can only hope that others will be inspired by this approach and work on keeping the solo blues alive as well.
There is an unmistakable strength in Williams’ quiet. His phrasing is fresh and there is no separation between guitar and voice, no additional instruments to cut into his performance. After all, sometimes enhancements get in the way of the beauty of the song. Williams is an extraordinary talent.
You can find out more about Williams at http://www.cayusemusic.com/ and once you’ve discovered this talented musician, you’ll be sure to want to hear more of his work and catch him live any chance you get.


(The photo of Williams is from his web site. If you are the copyright holder and want it removed, we can do that, but we'll put up another one that is really bad in its place.)