Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Professor's Honor Roll ~~ The Best Of 2017

Welcome to what will be the last blog entry of 2017. In some ways it’s been a very good year, in other ways not so much. We’ve had a lot o great music come our way, and we’ve said goodbye to some old friends. It’s all part of that great wheel that just keeps rolling. Come on, Proud Mary, take us all down the river one more time.

Personally, I feel a little down. I started off the year with great enthusiasm, making a promise to myself to put in a review or a preview of an upcoming show every day. I didn’t quite make it as I had a little health issue that put me on the sidelines for a little bit.

**If you’re not interested in personal reflection, skip ahead to the next paragraph. I won’t mind.** No, it wasn’t another heart attack, I’ve had quite enough of those for one lifetime, but it was heart related. Since the issue was in a difficult area to access, my great docs switched around some meds, and while that left me a little out of it, they have since stabilized the problem and I’m back and better than ever. So, I do plan on doing more reviews, interviews, and previews in 2018. Count on it

Anyway, thanks for sticking around during the boring part. Below is a collection of 50 albums that will form my list of the Best Of 2017. I’ve provided a link to the review that I posted for each, just click on the name and the magical computer should take you right to it. If I haven’t yet reviewed it, I will say so, but when I do review it, I will go ahead and update the link.

Check back often.

Oh, these aren’t ranked 1-50. Even I am not crazy enough to do that by myself. I’ve grouped them into categories to make it a little easier.


First up are The Guys and The Groups.
Stompin' Ground       Tommy Castro And The Painkillers  Review of the album is coming soon. In the meantime, here is a review I did of one of Castro’s killer live shows
Blues With Horns Vol 1  Chris Daniels And The Kings With Freddi Gowdy  No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way.
Dream Train Alastair Greene        No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way. 
Signs Jonny Lang        No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way.
Approved By Snakes Jason Ricci & The Bad Kind     And while you’re at, here’s an interview I did with Ricci when the album was released. 
Lay It On Down         Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band          No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way.
My Brother's Blues    Benny Turner      No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way.
Blues And Boogie Vol. 1     Kim Wilson          No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way.

Next up are the Women In The Blues
The Eastwest Sessions Mindi Abair And The Boneshakers          No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way.
The Beat Of My Heart Lisa Biales                
Meeting My Shadow Vanessa Collier                
Let The Demons Out  Ghalia & Mama's Boys           No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way.
Down Hearted Blues Eilen Jewell          No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way. But if you are interested, here’s a look at one of her great live shows.                    
Blue Again Janiva Magness           
Lady Of The Blues Miss Freddye            No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way.
10,000 Feet Below Eliza Neals                  

Let’s take a look at some unusual combinations. Team Ups
Tajmo       Tah Mahal & Keb' Mo'                     
Right Place, Right Time     Monster Mike Welch And Mike Ledbetter              Friends Along The Way        Mitch Woods        No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way. 

And just because I’m proud of the work done by the artists in my commonwealth, here’s a look at some great Virginia Artists.
Been A Long Time Baby     Tom Dikon & The Jukes Revival      No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way.

And one last title that I absolutely loved. It’s not strictly a blues album, in fact, really only one song is likely to get played on Time For The Blues, but the rest of it showcases a monumental talent continue to play with his approach to music.

On A Distant Shore  Leon Russell          No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way. I can tell you that it’s a beautiful album from a beautiful soul.  

There you go, my 50 Best Of 2017 list. Remember, I didn’t get copies of everything that was released this year so there are more than a few titles that would have made this list had I gotten them. Feel free to add some of your choices in the comments below. Heck, I might even go looking for them and play a song or two.

If you will indulge me just a little, I would like to offer one last thought about 2017. Just before Christmas, Henry and I lost a friend and colleague that we have known for about 20 years. His name was George Maida and he produced The Electric Croude, the show that preceded ours for the entire 11 years that our show has aired. It was a sudden loss and all of us are devastated by what happened.

George was consumed by his passion for music. His show really had no boundaries, and his curiosity took him into several different worlds. As we move into 2018, please keep in mind that the candle of life can be snuffed out in an instant and the only thing we really leave behind are the memories that other people have of us.

If you’re a person who makes resolutions, let’s all make one to be better toward each other, to share our passions, and to create great memories for the people we love. Let’s live in the moment while respecting the past and anticipating the future.

Much love and respect to George Maida, to my long suffering co-host Henry Cook, and of course to each and every one of you who read my words or listen to the show.

Here’s to 2018!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Fast Eddie And The Slowpokes Kick It Into High Gear at The Tin Pan

Yeah, it was a cold night. My grandfather used to have descriptions for nights like this that involved anatomical references to either witches or welldiggers, but as this is somewhat of a family blog, I’ll leave those for your imagination. Fortunately, The Tin Pan was a hot place to be as the band Fast Eddie And The Slowpokes drove down from the Metro DC area to play what I believe is their first show in Richmond.
The five-piece band consists of Ed Crowley on harp and vocals, Dave Gorozdos on keys, James “Cookie” Cooke on bass, and a pair of Scotts – Mattern and Chadwick on guitar and drums respectively. It’s a tight group with the rhythm section setting up a deep groove and Gorozdos and Mattern providing the leads. Crowley’s harp is solid and his vocals are strong.
They kicked off their 90-minute set that mixed blues with high energy rock with Reelin’ and Rockin’ before moving on to versions of I Don’t Play, the funky Dresses Too Short, and even their version of Frankie Ford’s Sea Cruise with nary a break in between. While Crowley was certainly responsive to the audience and engaged them in spots, Fast Eddie is about the music and keeping the show rolling.
The guys have a good mix of covers and some very strong originals. I’m searching through my notes looking for some of the titles, but honestly, I was enjoying myself too much as an audience member to fully note which titles were originals. I do remember liking It’s Impossible and Don’t Matter Watcha Call It, but I’m going to reach out to the band and see if I can note the others.

They had some fun demonstrating their versatility by inviting local bluesman supreme, Li’l Ronnie, up on stage to perform a song with them. Now, they had only met just prior to going on stage and had not prearranged any kind of a song. Ronnie just told them to perform a slow blues groove in A and together they improvised a performance that would have been right at home at just about any show.
Getting back into the swing of things – and let me tell you bothers and sisters – these cats can swing! They can also jump, boogie, and their slow blues stand with the best of ‘em. Other highlights of their performance include There Was A Party Goin’ On, Dressing Like You Don’t Dress For Me, Rack ‘Em Up, and their closing number, First I Look In The Purse.
Audience reaction? One gentleman was so moved that he stood and danced by his chair for much of the show. I know the low temperature caused some people to stay home, but the next time Fast Eddie And The Slowpokes play, I hope more of you will come out and enjoy this group. I know I will, and if I get wind that they are coming to town, I’ll be shouting it from rooftops.
In other words, unless you’re allergic to having a good time, catch these guys every chance you get!
(Photos by Anita Schlank. Used by permission.)


Friday, December 8, 2017

Time For The Blues ~~ December 9, 2017

Has it been a week already? Henry and I hope you will make a little time in your schedule, specifically at 11:00 PM this Saturday night, December 9th, as we dive headfirst into the swirling maelstrom we like to call Time For The Blues.

It’s hard to believe that this year is rapidly coming to a close. It seems like it was just yesterday that we were making and breaking our annual New Year’s Resolutions. For Henry and I, the year has been filled with good news and more than a few distractions, but we have endeavored to continue to bring you the best music in our price range each and every week.

This week we have an almost all-new music show including a special set from the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band! Shepherd is one of those performers that it took us a while to play on the show. Not because he didn’t deserve it – he’s one of the great guitarists working today – we just had so much to play and for some reason he kept getting shuttled to the back of the line.

Our bad. Our very bad. Now that we’ve played him once or twice, we are eager to jump on any of his new recordings and get him on the air pronto! His latest Concord Records release, Lay It On Down, smokes from the first note to the last and then bounces around in you subconscious for a long time after.

We’re going to kick off the show with a song from that album and feature a couple of others later. Then, just for grins, we’ve also got a release from an earlier album just so you can compare and contrast his sound to see how he’s grown as an artist.

Another special set ifeatures Steve Cropper and Lou Marini, who put together the Original Blues Brothers Band. Okay, there were some members missing, but the musicians that surround them are all top notch, and they even bring back Matt “Guitar” Murphy and Paul Shaffer, among others. The album is a Severn Records release and is titled The Last Shade Of Blue Before Black. For anyone who grew up enjoying Jake and Elwood outwit the police, Illinois Nazis, and members of a country band in a tricked out Winnebago, the music was the binding factor – and this is a fun over-the-top album that jump blues fans will enjoy.

But there’s still more new releases just for you. Speaking of jump blues, we’ve got a great new release from Chris Daniels and the Kings with Freddi Gowdy. They do a great cover of an Elvin Bishop tune. We’ve also got a sweet cover of a Screamin’ Jay Hawkins song from Casey Hensley’s new CD, Live Featuring Laura Chavez. If you aren’t familiar with Laura Chavez, well, you’re in for a treat. I think she’s a great guitarist and love listening to her work.

We’ve also got a cool number from Canadian blues artist André Bisson. I was not familiar with him prior to receiving a copy of the album from his publicist, and really enjoying it. We’re glad to be able to share it with you this weekend.

Remember how I said it took us a while to get around to Kenny Wayne Shepherd? Well, the same could be said about Ronnie Earl. Earl is an amazing player in both the blues and jazz arenas and he often combines the two on his albums. His latest release, The Luckiest Man on Stony Plain Records, is killer.

You think that’s enough? We don’t. We’ve got a couple more great new releases for you: Bobby Kyle from his release It’s My Life and Dave Keyes covering a Sister Rosetta Tharpe classic on The Healing.

While you’re making plans to join us at 11, make sure to make some plans to join the River City Blues Society at their annual Holiday Party! The RCBS Holiday Party is Sunday, December 10, from 3 P.M. to 7 P.M., at The Camel. Admission is $5 for members, $10 for non-members. Parker & Gray and the Tom Euler Band will host the open jam.  You’ve heard both of these bands on Time For The Blues, and I can guarantee you’re going to hear a lot more from both of them in the future!

The host and emcee for the event is a certain long-haired Professor who doesn’t know when to shut up. I’m told there will be prizes – I know that there will be the drawing to see who wins the tickets to the next Blues Cruise – and I’ve heard that Santa Blues himself might show up to check to see who has been naughty and who has been nice!

We know that you’ll be kicking yourself all week if you miss all this on Saturday night, so do what you have to do to join us at 11. Sleep late, take a nap, grab that caffeine, just be sure to join us. We’re going to have a great time and we sure would love for you to come along for the ride. You know where we’re going to be, point your browser to http://ideastations.org/radio or join us on one of the Idea Stations: 89.1 WCVN, Northern Neck; 90.1 WMVE, Chase City; and the flagship, 88.9 WCVE-FM, Richmond, where it’s always Time For The Blues!




                   


Friday, December 1, 2017

Time For The Blues ~~ December 2, 2017

Henry and I hope you will join us this Saturday Night, December 2 – HEY, THAT’S TONIGHT!!! – at 11 as we unleash the latest edition of that Willy Wonka’s Public Radio program that we like to call Time For The Blues!

We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves and plenty of great music to make up for whatever mischief we’re going to get in to! Do you remember what would happen in the elementary school classroom when the teacher stepped outside for a few minutes? Well, that’s how we like to live our lives – and that kind of chaos has become the philosophy of our show.

For this show we’ve got a good friend of ours, Albert Castiglia, who has a hot new album out on Ruf Records. Albert is a wicked guitar player and I’m really proud that we’ve become friends this past year. The album is called Up All Night and it’s produced by triple threat performer Mike Zito. Big Z – not to be confused with former major league pitcher Carlos Zambrano – is a great guitar player himself and he coaxes out some amazing sounds from Castiglia and Company.

We’ve already sampled one track from the album, so tonight we’re going all in and dropping three more for you. Then, just for grins, we’ve got one from his previous release Big Dog.

If it’s guitars that you like, we’ve got another great player for you on the show – Alastair Greene. Greene has been turning in some superior blues albums and has just released a new one called Dream Train on Rip Cat Records. Greene used to be the guitarist for the Alan Parsons Project but it seems like his first love is the blues.

On top of that, we’ve got more great new releases for you to enjoy. We’ve got a soulful new song from the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band from his latest release, Lay It On Down on Concord Records. Plus, there’s a great song from Al Corte’ from his new album, Mojo, and a sweet cover of a Sam Cooke classic from Chris Daniels and the Kings with Freddi Gowdy.

Since this is a show I put together, I’m delighted to share the talents of some fine women players. We’ve got two great new performers from the VizzTone label (Hello, Richard – thanks for the great CDs): Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers from Big Road and Casey Hensley from her Live Featuring Laura Chavez album. If you are not familiar with Chavez’ amazing guitar playing, you are in for a rare treat. She’s one of the best working today and she improves every album and live performance where she appears.

Then, we’ve got some very soulful blues from a performer that wasn’t on my radar, Miss Freddye, and once you hear her voice, I think you’re going to fall under her spell the same way I fell. The name of her album is Lady of the Blues, and I think you’re really going to like her style.  

While you’re making plans to join us at 11, make sure to make some plans to join the River City Blues Society at their annual Holiday Party! The RCBS Holiday Party is Sunday, December 10, from 3 P.M. to 7 P.M., at The Camel. Admission is $5 for members, $10 for non-members. Parker & Gray and the Tom Euler Band will host the open jam.  You’ve heard both of these bands on Time For The Blues, and I can guarantee you’re going to hear a lot more from both of them in the future!



The host and emcee for the event is a certain long-haired Professor who doesn’t know when to shut up. I’m told there will be prizes – I know that there will be the drawing to see who wins the tickets to the next Blues Cruise – and I’ve heard that Santa Blues himself might show up to check to see who has been naughty and who has been nice!

We know that you’ll be kicking yourself all week if you miss all this on Saturday night, so do what you have to do to join us at 11. Sleep late, take a nap, grab that caffeine, just be sure to join us. We’re going to have a great time and we sure would love for you to come along for the ride. You know where we’re going to be, point your browser to http://ideastations.org/radio or join us on one of the Idea Stations: 89.1 WCVN, Northern Neck; 90.1 WMVE, Chase City; and the flagship, 88.9 WCVE-FM, Richmond, where it’s always Time For The Blues!





                                                                     


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Samantha Fish ~~ Belle Of The West

When I was a kid and first mastering the art of coloring, for some reason I could never keep the crayons in the lines where they were supposed to be. My green grass and blue skies ended up joining together and to me that seemed perfectly natural.
I have to wonder if Samantha Fish did the same thing. Earlier this year, she released an album, Chills & Fever, that delved more into gritty rock and roll and R&B than blues. It caught a number of her fans by surprise, but they gave it a chance and the album was a big hit with audiences and critics alike.
Now she has come back with a second album for the year, not an easy feat by any means, her latest effort on RUF Records, Belle Of The West, explores her more country and roots side. Will her audience embrace the effort? It’s too early to tell, but sales have been strong and she’s delivered enough blues material to whet the appetite of longtime fans while creating a new sound that will most likely deliver new fans to her camp.
It’s not out of the question for an artist to explore these new sounds, especially as Fish came out of the Kansas City music scene. Kansas City is a major crossroads artistically, and it would have been difficult for Fish, or any artist for that matter, to remain isolated against all those influences.
Belle Of The West starts off quietly with a drumstick countdown and acoustic guitar joined with a fife played by Sharde Thomas. American Dream signals a totally different approach for Fish who has been known for her hard rocking blues and her last album was a salute to gritty R&B – this one is indelibly stamped as an exploration of the country roots of the American sound.
Fish and company use some beautifully realized vocals to introduce the next track, Blood In The Water. It’s a darker edged song filled with mystery and Lillie Mae’s violin sets the mood. This is a great song and is layered nicely with each instrument dovetailed into the others. It’s finely crafted and is the kind of song that can lodge itself into the listener’s soul.
Need You More follows with some sweet country guitar and a touch of violin. It’s a song of longing for establishing contact with a loved one – both the joys and frustration of life on the road. Fish’s lyrics are poetic and she captures the traveling performer’s life succinctly. Her emotions are strong and she shows her vulnerable side.
The next song, Cowtown, picks up the tempo and tells the story of someone longing to catch the first thing smoking and get out of town. It’s a nice companion piece to the previous song about being tired from the road to capturing the dreams of someone who has hung around just a little too long.  
Daughters follows with a slower, more deliberate pace and adds the next chapter to the previous song. The story picks up after the singer has left the Cowtown and moved on down the road. Fish’s vocals are very emotional and the almost marching beat of the drums propel the song forward in search of that American dream.
Fish’s next number, Don’t Say You Love Me, starts out low and slow with some strong attitude. This is one the blues fans will gravitate towards, but Fish isn’t going back all the way, just exploring a little blues fusion. It’s a very cool song and just demonstrates how well she can deliver a song from the heart.
The title track is next, Belle Of The West is the first song on the album not written by Fish. James Mathus penned the number, and it is about as country as fried catfish. Samantha Fish has a great voice and this song reminds me of the traditional country that I listened to when I was much younger. Fish obviously loves the music and delivers a sweet melancholy song here.
Poor Black Mattie features Lightnin’ Malcolm and is the strongest blues song so far. The percussion drives the song and the guitar adds the spice. Malcolm adds his vocals and (I assume) his harp to the mix. The blend is very satisfying and this is one that will be popping up on Time For The Blues.
The next track, No Angels, has a solid bluesy approach and is one that Fish’s longtime fans will enjoy. The song is gritty and manages to combine the blues with the roots sound she’s exploring on this album.
Nearing Home features violinist Lillie Mae who wrote the song and it is an uplifting sweet song with some beautiful harmony. This is one of my favorite numbers on the album and to me anyway, shows that Fish can operate in just about any genre.
The album closes with Gone For Good, and the song opens with a little studio camaraderie. Fish then swings into the number that delivers a very strong country roots song. It’s a good way to take the album out with some energy and leaves the listener wanting to hear more.
Samantha Fish has truly delivered a surprising album with Belle Of The West. Not content to make the same album over and over, she has listened to the siren call of the music and explored different genres twice this year. It will ultimately be up to her audience to see how many of her longtime fans will respond positively and how many of her newer ones will go back and search her catalog to discover what she’s already released.
Personally, I love an artist who is not afraid to stretch her boundaries into new areas. I believe that music doesn’t need to be confined to labels, and if you happen to find something that speaks to you, you should listen and genre labels be damned. Blues, country, Americana, roots, and good old rock and roll are all just variations on a theme, so to me, it’s only natural that a real artist would want to blur the distinctions between them and just make the music she wants to perform.
Check it out for yourself. If you want to see what Fish can do with country sounds, this is a great album. If you just want to hear her sing the blues, there are a few songs on here for you as well. Be sure to catch her live wherever you can – saw her earlier this year and she really rocked the joint! I can’t wait until she comes back around in the future.

More information can be found at her website: http://www.samanthafish.com/.  

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Time For The Blues ~~ November 25, 2017

Henry and I hope that you all have (or had, depending on when you see this) a great Thanksgiving and found yourself surrounded by people you love. And who are good cooks. We also hope you saved a little room for the dessert we call Time For The Blues, which you can hear Saturday night, November 25, at 11.

Every year at this time Henry and I celebrate our favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, as we can do most of the things we love to do – eat, watch football (Henry), eat, watch the annual Mystery Science Theatre 300 Marathon (John), eat, listen to blues, and eat. Our large extended families are populated by a number of good cooks, and our feasts include such delights as turkey, ham, mashed potatoes (thank you Henry’s sister), corn pudding (thank you Mrs. Professor), greens (thank you John’s sister), sweet potato casserole with tiny little marshmallows sprinkled on top, real cranberry sauce – not that stuff that comes out of a can, dressing, rolls, and lots of things for dessert.

Personally, I draw the line at pumpkin pie. As my good friend, comedian Brett Leake says, “Dessert should take the taste of vegetables out of your mouth.”

It’s also the time of year when we put together our signature show – Hot Leftovers! This is Henry’s idea – and his baby – as every year we look at the best material from our shows and find some of those great tunes we somehow never got around to playing. For whatever reason, whether it was time or just the sheer number of good songs on an album, so many of these songs go unplayed and this is our chance to rectify that mistake.

Want to know who’s dropping by to get those leftover sandwiches? Well, we’re going to fix you a plate of some of the best around. Would you like a slice of the Cash Box Kings from their great CD, Royal Mint? We’ve got that and there’s enough for everybody.

How about a heaping helping of the Knickerbocker All-Stars? You can’t go wrong with them. In fact, you’ll probably like that so much that you’ll ask for seconds. We just might be able to indulge you on that.

We’ve also got music from several people with whom we've become friends with this past year. That includes Tommy Castro and the Painkillers performing a killer song from the great drummer Buddy Miles, the wonderful Janiva Magness (and yes Janiva, we are sending you that package of cool music very soon – right, Henry?), the ever delightful Ana Popovic, and our favorite new swing band, Eight O'Five Jive.

You know Henry loves his classics, and we enjoy bringing you music that has stood the test of time, so we’ve got some great artists including Gary Moore, Etta James, Al Kooper, and from an amazing concert from the Land Down Under, Jon Lord with the Hoochie Coochie Men.

And there’s still more in our cornucopia of cool tunes. We’ve got a terrific number from Rick Estrin & the Nightcats from their great new album, Groovin' In Greaseland. Usually when we ask for requests, we are greeted with silence, but our Special Live Music Correspondent, Anita Schlank, said it has been a while since we played anything from Beth Hart, so for her we’ve got a selection from Hart and Joe Bonamassa from their amazing album Live in Amsterdam.

We know you’re going to be fighting that tryptophan haze, so do what you have to do to join us at 11. Sleep late, take a nap, grab that caffeine, just be sure to join us. We’re going to have a great time and we sure would love for you to come along for the ride. You know where we’re going to be, point your browser to http://ideastations.org/radio or join us on one of the Idea Stations: 89.1 WCVN, Northern Neck; 90.1 WMVE, Chase City; and the flagship, 88.9 WCVE-FM, Richmond, where it’s always Time For The Blues!








                                                                                                                       
                                                                     
                                                                                                   


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Popa Chubby ~~ Two Dogs

He may have been given the name Ted Horowitz, but he has recreated himself as the larger than life Popa Chubby – an oversized heavily tattooed guitar slinger of the first order. If you ever get the chance to catch a live performance, get those tickets and strap yourself in for a wild ride.
Chubby just released his second killer album of 2017 (the first was The Catfish), Two Dogs, and it is eleven studio and two live tracks of pure fun and amazing musicianship. Chubby wrote almost all of the songs on the studio portion by himself just co-writing one track.  The two live songs are covers of well-known classics, one by the Rolling Stones, the other by Leonard Cohen.
Two Dogs is strictly Chubby’s baby. Aside from writing the vast majority of songs and handling the guitars and vocals, he also added percussion to each number and played bass on five songs and drums on two. He was joined by longtime keyboard collaborator Dave Keyes on all tracks, and when Chubby wasn’t playing bass or drums, those duties were covered by Andy Paladino and Sam “Freightrain” Bryant respectively. Daughter Tipitina added trumpet and composed the horn section. Andrew Garrison played tenor sax.
The album starts out with a bang with It’s Alright, a driving, yet somehow thoughtful number that reflects Chubby’s love for hard rocking music with softer, reassuring lyrics. Not only is the guitar work stellar, if you enjoy soaring breaks (and who doesn’t), but Keye’s keyboard work adds strength to the supporting music.
He follows up with Rescue Me, with its attacking choppy guitar licks. It’s another strong rocking blues song that showcases his virtuosity on the guitar.
With all the talk about health coverage, it was only a matter of time before they worked their way into a song. Chubby delivers the extremely clever Preexisting Conditions next. The lyrics are sharp and the music has a solid groove, it’s a great combination.
After the giddy fun of the previous song, Sam Lay’s Pistol is a love song to the great drummer who was best known for his work with Howlin’ Wolf, The Paul Butterfield Band, and even backed Bob Dylan at that infamous appearance at the Newport Festival. As you might expect, the drumming on the song is inventive and the story is very cool. It’s blues noir at its finest.
The title track, Two Dogs, follows. Chubby keeps the dark mood from the previous song going, but slides back into his soaring guitar mode. Here he’s exploring a little psychedelic blues, both in the music and the lyrics.
The next number, Dirty Old Blues, is a straight ahead rock blues song that has a driving beat and takes a hard look at the world around us. Bryant and Paladino create a rhythm section that sets up Chubby’s guitars beautifully.
Shakedown follows with an intense, somewhat softer number. Chubby rarely lets up on the power he exudes in his music, and this song is no exception. It’s got a different take on the music but doesn’t slack on Chubby’s playing. Very cool song.
The net track, Wound Up Getting High, is a softer ballad that relies on guitar and piano to set the mood. Chubby’s vocals are gentle but with an edge as the man describes his intentions, and what was the actual result. Just when you think you’ve got him pegged as this hardass character, he surprises you with this melancholy number.
He gets a little funky on the jazzy Cayophus Dupree. Chubby played guitars, bass, and drums on the song and acquits himself very well. He knows how to put together an instrumental as well as anyone and here he delivers a lovely number that builds around his solid fretwork. Dave Keyes adds some solid keyboard work that fleshes out the song.
After that is the anthem like Me Won’t Back Down. Chubby employs a choppy guitar with driving drums and bass. The lyrics are defiant and delivered in a protesting chant style. Given all that seems to be going on in the word today, this song could support just about any side in the struggle.
Chubby’s Boogie is a fun southern rock instrumental that lets his supporting players get one more chance to strut their stuff in the spotlight. Keyes especially takes advantage of the opportunity. I love instrumentals and this is one that I greatly enjoyed.
That’s the end of the studio segment of the album. Chubby drops a couple of live tracks in as a bonus, starting with a killer version of the Rolling Stones classic, Sympathy For The Devil. Recorded in France with bassist Francesco Beccaro and drummer Andrea Beccaro, he strips the song down to its barest components and lets his vocals carry the song. Damn, this is a good version!
He ends the album with Cohen’s Hallelujah, one of the most covered songs in history. It’s a lovely rendition that’s made more powerful by the simple orchestration and the chorus of people that sweeten the number. Chubby delivers the song with gospel fervor, and while you can hear some distracted crowd noise, it still can’t undercut the beauty of the song.
Popa Chubby is a true character. The world needs those people who aren’t afraid to get on the stage and unleash wild and powerful music. As I’ve mentioned before, he plays like a demon but he has the soul of an angel and delivers some of the best music around.
Two Dogs is just his latest of what I hope will be many more excellent albums. It’s a highlight of the latest releases and one that I highly recommend, especially if you like your blues with a rock sensibility.

You can find out more about his work and any travels that might be heading your way by hitting his website: https://www.popachubby.com/

Independent Release  68 minutes