Friday, March 31, 2017

Anthony Rosano And The Conqueroos

Yeah, this one’s going to be tough. I’ve been fortunate enough to become friends with Anthony Rosano and the merry band of misfits that make up his band, The Conqueroos. I had heard about them for several months before I had the chance to catch them at a festival where I was immediately struck by their high energy and their ability to work a crowd.
While they were obviously having a great deal of fun, what was more important to me was that they made sure the audience was having even more fun. I remember the stories of The Beatles when they were playing Hamburg and the audience shouting, “Mak Show!” They were being told to put on a show, not just stand behind their instruments.
That’s what these guys do, in their own way of course. For them, the phrase is, “Get Roo’d!” And let me tell you something, once you’ve experienced getting roo’d, you never forget the feeling.
I caught Rosano and Company recently at the 1st Annual RVA Brews and Blues Festival that was held under the sunniest of skies in the back parking lot of Steam Bell Beer Works, a local brewery. I was the emcee, and they were in the sweet spot of being just under the headliner, Albert Castiglia.
By the time they took the stage, much of the audience was tired from the length of the show, the heat, and the effects of some wonderful adult beverages. Within the first couple of songs, all that was forgotten and the audience was up on its collective feet, dancing, and having an amazing time.
Rosano has been teasing this new album for months. The whole group – that is Rosano and his multitude of guitars; Paul Warren and his “Funk Box,” aka bass; Scott Smith and his drums; and Jeremy “JB: Bustillos with his sax and collection of harmonicas – were heading to New Orleans to work with producer/guitarist extraordinaire Mike Zito.  
Zito has plenty of high profile friends and a few of them stopped by to lend a hand. Joining Rosano were Zito himself adding guitar on six songs and backing vocals on three; Anders Osborne playing slide guitar on one song; Johnny Sansone played accordion on one number; and Michael Harvey played fiddle on one song.
Normally I would listen to the album before writing a review, but in the sense of total impartiality and fairness, what has been written below are my initial thoughts as I hear the self-titled album for the very first time.
The album starts off with a very raucous number, 28 Days. Guitars and harps set the stage and Rosano’s vocals kick it up a notch. Those 28 Day “vacations” are getting more widespread and it’s interesting to me to hear it worked into a kick ass party song. Listen for the guitar breaks as Rosano and Zito have fun challenging each other to a higher performance level.
The band follows up with Give Me Strength. The song has a swinging beat and it gives Rosano a chance to utilize his vocals more. It’s a fun number that works well on the audience. All of these songs are designed for live performance, and not just as a static stand-alone song that only gets played on your CD player. That may sound like an obvious thing to say, but once you catch these guys you can hear it in their playing that they want to be on that stage cutting loose.
The only song on the album not written by Rosano is You Don’t Know Me, written by Scott Smith. It’s funky and definitely driven by the rhythm section. Smith and Warren form a formidable rhythm section and that allows Bustillo’s harp work to soar and Rosano’s guitar to attack the song. Very cool number, and I would like to hear more of Smith’s songwriting.
Next up is the autobiographical Long Island Sound. Rosano is originally from New York and he brings that upbringing with him and it shows in his music. This is a real break in the album, a gentle song with acoustic guitar and accordion opening the number. The song paints a picture of innocence and trying to bust out of that into adulthood, then looking back at it years later to discover the joy was in the innocence. Lovely song.
The Conqueroos pick up the pace on Wicked Grin, and it sounds like Rosano is playing one of his cigar box guitars for part of the song. This is a fun, hard-driving number; something that definitely signals that there’s a party going on, and it’s going on right here!
Next, they up the funk factor with the opening of Revolve. But they pull a switch and change the emphasis, turning it more into a rock oriented number. It’s hard to put a label on this one, the sound is different but the lyrics are very strong. Bustillo’s sax work is among the best on the album thus far.
The band launches into a little soul for Love Got A Hold On Me, using the sax for emphasis in the opening. Rosano’s vocals are very good and the song builds nicely. I think this one could get some decent airplay and help the band find some new fans.
Shaken In The Veins kicks off with some high energy picking. But don’t let that fool you, make sure you listen to the lyrics. It has some dark poetry that will make you shake your head. Bustillo once again plays some very cool harp – I don’t think I’m too far off the mark to say that he’s one of the best that you’ve never heard of, for now.
Some old-school blues is next with Bound To You. Some stellar guitar work opens the song and the vocals are deep and emotional. It’s not a hard-driving song or a hold your partner close song, it’s primarily a good singer opening himself up in the most vulnerable way possible.
Blackbird opens whisper soft and slowly builds. The guitar work is excellent and it sounds like something that could have sung by any of the Delta Masters. Then it goes electric and the song has an infusion of power. I like the juxtaposition.
The album ends with some New Orleans style sounds, Proud Of My Sins. This is a very cool song, and a great way to end the album. And it articulates a philosophy that I dearly wish I could embrace. Great song, and you now that this one and several others will be appearing on Time For The Blues.
There’s a reason why I have become a fan of Anthony Rosano And The Conqueroos. It’s simple, they are that damn good. I fully believe the band is just a heartbeat away from being the next big thing. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone disappointed at one of their shows, and they have become the go-to band to open up for any major star that comes through this part of the world.

The album drops April 11, 2017. You can preorder it at their website https://www.conqueroos.com/ as well as sample the songs from it. Give it a listen, and if you think as highly of what you hear as I do, get yourself a copy and anything else they’ve done. And catch ‘em live, you know you want to Get Roo’d!

(Photo of Anthony Rosano by Alan Grossman, photographer to the stars. Check out his work on his Facebook page sometime and you'll see the work of an amazing artist. Used by permission.)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Time For The Blues ~~ April 1, 2017

Henry and I hope you will join us this Saturday Night, April 1st – April Fool’s Day – at 11 as we get together for our weekly escape into the world of the blues. And bad jokes, can’t forget the bad jokes.

This week, we’ve got a lot of fun for you with one high-powered woman who is grabbing the blues world by its collective lapels and shaking it for all she’s worth. Plus we’ve got a hard working blue collar harp player that may be the best thing to come out of New Jersey since that other guy.

You know the one I’m talking about. Not Chris Christie either…

Plus we’ve got some soul and more wonderful women – just for your listening pleasure.

Intrigued, well read on and see if I can tempt you with just a little bit more.

Our first powerful lady is none other than Sharon Lewis, who is joined by Texas Fire for a high energy set off of their new Delmark release, Grown Ass Woman. I guess we’ll find out if the FCC will be listening after I announce THAT title…We first heard Lewis a couple of years ago when she released The Real Deal, also on Delmark. You could tell that she was – and is – the real deal, and we are delighted to be able to drop her latest on you.
If you want to get a sample of what I thought of her when I first got it from Delmark, be sure to check out my review here.
Our next big set of the evening is the Bob Lanza Band out of the Garden State itself, New Jersey. I’ve been following Lanza’s career for a few years now, and he’s doing some great work for Connor Ray Music out of Texas. We’ve got a few selections from his latest CD, Time To Let Go, and you can read more about it here.
Long time listeners and readers know that I like some sweet soul music. It’s one of the genres of music that I love the best, and a soulful interpretation of any song can often elevate it from being good to being a classic. Sometimes I can sneak some soul music past Henry and I think I’ve done so for this show.

You’re going to hear some great performers including Jack Mack & The Heart Attack Horns from their recent release, Back To The Shack. There’s also Biscuit Miller from his recent CD, Wishbone, and one last song from the tandem of Billy Price and Otis Clay from their duo album, This Time For Real.

Okay that last one came out a couple of years ago, but I just got a copy recently so I’m putting it my new soul section. Price has just released a new album, and you’ll be hearing selections from it very soon.

Last, but never least, I have a couple from two amazing women with different styles and who both send shivers up my spine. Thornetta Davis released a killer album earlier this year, Honest Woman, and we’ve got a song for you. And from the nearby DC-Baltimore corridor, Patty Reese is going to share a song from her Let In The Sun album.

If you need more for your blues fix, may I suggest tuning in to WCVE-TV’s Virginia Currents show this weekend for a look at the life of Cole and Logan Layman. This brother and sister duo is collectively known as In Layman Terms, and they have been tearing up the blues world for several years, even releasing their first album, Tangled not long ago.

After the producers heard them when they were guests on Time For The Blues, they knew they had to book the Laymans and tell their family’s story in more depth. It’s a great story and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Just make sure you’re in front of, or beside, or just near your radio or computer on Saturday Night at 11 Eastern time, because we are going to have a lot of fun and it just won’t be the same if you’re not there to enjoy it with us.

You know where we’ll be, on the internet at http://ideastations.org/radio and on the radio at 89.1 WCNV, Northern Neck; 90.1 WMVE, Chase City; and good old 88.9 WCVE-FM, Richmond, where it’s always Time For The Blues!









Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Delta Moon ~~ Cabbagetown

The Atlanta quartet that goes by the poetic name, Delta Moon, has been playing together for a number of years. While they have crisscrossed the country, and taken Europe by storm (they’ll be there until early May, before returning to the States), they’ve also found time to record its eighth studio album. Cabbagetown is a worthy follow up to the 2015 release Low Down and the mix of serious blues with gritty rock should make this title a favorite.
The four musicians who make up Delta Moon are Tom Gray on vocals, lap steel guitar, guitar, keyboards, and he even plays harp on one song; Mark Johnson also supplies vocals as well as guitar, mandoguitar, and lap steel guitar on the first song; Franher Joseph adds vocals as well as bass and upright bass; and Marlon Patton plays drums and percussion. Special guests include Jon Liebman on harp for one song and backing vocals from Kyshona Armstrong and Susannah Masarie.
In addition, Gray writes four songs solo and co-writes another five with all of the members of the band.  There is one cover which we will get to shortly.
First up is Rock And Roll Girl, an autobiographical song of the hold music can have on us. For many, we are content to watch from the audience, but others are driven to pick up instruments, learn how to play them, and the life takes them out on the road. It’s a fun song with some country blues overtones laid over a rock beat. I like the sound, the energy is manic, but be prepared, Delta Moon will not be shoehorned into one category exclusively.
They follow up with The Day Before Tomorrow, a philosophical song with what I believe is Gray’s raspy voice delivering a solid performance over some very good guitar licks. Again, it’s not necessarily everyone’s idea of the blues, but the song has a solid base and the rock is very much roots oriented. It’s stripped down and really delivers.
Just Lucky I Guess is much more in the traditional blues vein. Steel guitars and a steady drum beat bring us in to the world of the song. I like the lyrics a lot and the song will be getting airplay on Time For The Blues as well as most every other blues show around.  They follow up with another quick song with a solid beat, Coolest Fools. It’s a good pairing of these songs together. Both are crowd pleasers with some good guitar work.
Delta Moon gets a little political with Refugee. Political in the sense of a social conscience. They explore the lives of several different refugees from all over the world. It’s a powerful song and the first that is credited to all four of the members of the band. It’s hard to listen to this song and not be moved by the plight of so many people.
The mood lightens considerably on Mad About You. The song is much more rock based, it has that feel of “California Cool” about it, but it is infinitely likeable and I caught a couple of blues purists nodding their head to the beat. That’s one great thing about Delta Moon, they can belt the blues with the best of ‘em, but they don’t shy away from exploring other sounds. This is a good example of that philosophy.
Son House’s Death Letter is the longest cut on the album, clocking in at just about six minutes while all the others fit comfortably in the three-and-a-half-minute neighborhood. For my money, it’s the best song on the album. They capture the pain in House’s classic and still manage to put their own stamp on it. While I tend to shy away from putting most longer songs on the show, I have no problem finding space for this one. It’s a great cover.
I like the song, 21st Century Man, a lot but I won’t be able to play it on the show as it contains one four-letter word that the FCC frowns on going out over the airwaves. Still, if you get this album, give it a listen as the lyrics are very strong and the song has a crazy beat to it. I would never consider censoring an artist’s right to free expression, but there are rules by which we have to abide. It’s brief and an integral part of the rhyme scheme. Just listen to it and make up your own mind. Personally, I liked the song…
The follow up with the instrumental Cabbagetown Shuffle. Apparently, the band began referring to the studio where they were recording the album as “Cabbagetown” due to the high number of vegetarian meals that they consumed during the process. For myself, I have no problems with vegetarians, hell, I’ve been known to consume my fair share as well. If that was the starting point for this lively number, I hope more artists will feast on those same vegetables.
They close the album with Sing Together, a small lesson in shared humanity. Why is it, even with common ancestry, we just can’t seem to get along. Maybe it’s just as simple as coming together and lifting our voices in song. It’s a great song to pair with Refugee, showing the darkest points of humanity with the light that just might get us through.
Delta Moon is a hard-working rocking blues band. You don’t get this good by just practicing in your garage once a week. They are constantly out on the road. If you take a look at their schedule on their website: http://deltamoon.com/ , you’ll see that they are all over the place. As of this writing they are touring Europe but should be back in time for the major festivals.
I even see one in North Carolina, so it may be time for a little road trip to check them out personally. If I get to do it, I’ll be sure to send you a report on how they do live.
In the meantime, please keep supporting blues and roots music and any live show that you come across. The world needs the music, and so do our souls.
 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Jon Zeeman ~~ Blue Room

Jon Zeeman has a cool sound. His previous release, Down On My Luck, dropped back in 2013. I know this because it’s still on the front page of his website. Fortunately, now, he’s got a reason to update that page with his new release on Membrane Records, Blue Room.
Blue Room has all the ingredients that most blues lovers crave: solid guitar work, good vocals, tight rhythm section, and fun lyrics. Zeeman contributed most of the lyrics, writing seven of the 10 songs by himself and co-writing one more. The only two covers are of a Robert Johnson song, and one by Jimi Hendrix.
The album also features the late great Butch Trucks drumming on two numbers. I cannot say for certain that these were the last recordings that Trucks worked on, but if not, they are among the last. He does an amazing job on each of the two songs (All I Want Is You and Next To You) and as a memorial gesture to his friend, Zeeman is donating half of the proceeds of those two songs to benefit Trucks’ family and his charity, The Big House Museum in Macon, Georgia.
Aside from Zeeman on guitars and vocals and Trucks on drums for those two songs, he is joined by Tom Regis and Bob Taylor on keyboards; Phil MacArthur on bass; and George Lilly on drums. Zoe Zeeman plays bass on two songs, Taylor adds congas, and Regis adds percussion.
The album kicks off in high gear with All I Want Is You, one of two songs to feature the late Butch Trucks on drums. Considering Zeeman was a great friend of Trucks, it’s only fitting that two of their last collaborations end up on the album. Zeeman’s guitars are hot and the keyboards by either Taylor or Regis add a deeper dimension to the song. Quick, fun, and fast paced. A winner to start the album.
Next up is Hold On, a slower number that allows Zeeman to play a little more extended guitar. I like the song, but wish they had pumped up the volume on the lyrics a little more. The orchestrations are fine and I can tell the song is good, I just miss some of the lyrics.
One of two songs not written or co-written by Zeeman, Robert Johnson’s Love In Vain follows. It’s so difficult to capture the spirit of a myth, but Zeeman gives it his best effort. His voice is more ethereal here and at the beginning the music is simplified, trying to catch Johnson’s approach. After just a little bit, he starts to move into a style that’s closer to his own. The guitar work is excellent as are the keys and the drums by George Lilly add a different dimension to the song.
Next To You is the second song to feature Butch Trucks on drums. Like their previous collaboration, this is a swinging number and I will be featuring both of them on Time For The Blues. Zeeman’s vocals are playful and Trucks’ drums add a touch of something extra to the song. Listen for Zeeman’s guitar break before he hands it off to the keys, it soars, and you can tell that the band is in the middle of a special moment.
The only other song not written or co-written by Zeeman is Jimi Hendrix’ Still Rainin’, Still Dreamin’. He’s putting his stamp on Robert Johnson and Jimi Hendrix, that really takes a pair, but Zeeman gives it his all. This one is funky, freaky, and as psychedelic as it can be. He makes it work, not by slavishly covering Hendrix, but by finding the things that work for his style of music. There may be detractors out there, but I like this version and think he’s found a good mix of rock, blues, and jazz.
He follows that with If I Could Make You Love Me, a power ballad that lets him stretch out on guitar as well as the vocals. On this number, Zeeman is more focused and more vulnerable – for much of the song he’s crooning the blues old-school style and the effect is so very good. This is another song that should be getting a lot of airplay.
All Alone kicks in with a nice swing beat. The keys carry much of the song building on the rhythm section. Zeeman’s vocals are good, although this is more rock and jazz oriented than the previous song. Nothing wrong with that, just be prepared if you are looking for some serious old-school blues. Zeeman’s experimenting with his sound and taking a journey down a few different musical roads.
He follows up with a little bit of funk on Talking ‘Bout My Baby. This has that late ‘60’s to early ‘70’s groove while still keeping its blues roots. Zeeman is definitely shaking things up a little bit with these last few numbers, maybe trying to prove that he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve. Whatever the motivation, don’t worry about it, just enjoy the approach.
The title track, Blue Room, clocks in at under a minute. It’s a beautiful instrumental, just some solo guitar work that adds more depth to the album. Lovely. Bass player Phil MacArthur co-wrote the closing song, Nothing In The World, with Zeeman. It’s some funky blues that will get you moving and grooving. The lyrics are pure blues and the music is a lot of fun and more indicative of the latter half of the album, rather than the first half. I think it’s kind of a STAX-y and yeah, I’m going to play it as well.
Zeeman is one of those artists that shouldn’t be pigeonholed. Yes, he plays blues, and he plays them very well, but he also explores, rock, jazz, and funk. I always appreciate those artists that like to travel down different roads, but realize that not everybody appreciates those efforts.

There’s plenty of blues for the blues lover, and plenty of hints as to what else Zeeman might play live. I have the feeling that a live show of his would be quite the experience. Check out Blue Room, his other releases, and any possibilities of a tour at his website: http://www.jonzeeman.com/

Monday, March 27, 2017

Jim Gustin & Truth Jones ~~ Memphis

The second album for the team of Jim Gustin and Truth Jones, Memphis is a strong album that not only uses strong blues, but also mixes in a little soul, a smidgen of gospel, and even an adult contemporary number. Their first album, Can’t Shed A Tear, was released in 2013 and received a lot of air play and wound up on a number of charts.
Gustin has been working the West Coast Blues scene for better than 30 years and you can tell it in every lick of his guitar and every note of his gravel voiced vocals. On top of all that, he’s a damn good songwriter, penning six of the album's ten songs by himself and co-writing the remainder with Jeri Goldenhar, aka Truth Jones.
Let me mention Jones’ voice. Oh, my God, what a tremendous voice. She can do just about anything with it – she handles edginess as well as softer tones that invite you into her world. It’s no secret that I am a big fan of the female voice, but I’m often very demanding about what I listen to, and Jones is the real deal. I could listen to her all night and into the next morning.
Gustin and Jones are joined by some very good musicians: Steve Alterman on piano, organ, and keyboards; Terry Wilson on bass, guitar, percussion, and backing vocals; and Herman Matthews on drums and percussion. Teresa James added backing vocals.
A note about Teresa James. Aside from recording a great album herself recently, Bonafide, she’s provided backing vocals on Coco Montoya’s latest album, Hard Truth. She even did the vocal arranging for this album. James is a force to watch.
Some nice shuffle rhythms kick off the album on Half Past Ten. Gustin has one of those great growling voices and the song has some very clever lyrics. It’s some cool blue collar blues and Alterman’s piano carries a lot of the song. Great way to start the album.
The first of four songwriting collaborations between Goldenhar and Gustin is next. Live With Yourself starts off with a good dose of funk and some very cool guitar. Jones’ vocals are as sweet as sunshine on this number. She’s got more than a little country in that voice – and I mean the good kind of country that comes from the heart and soul. Love this one, and I love her voice!
The title track, Memphis, follows with some gospel thrown in to set the mood. Gustin’s voice is perfect for the blues, it has a great deal of character and sounds like it has been through hell and somehow made it back. He also picks a pretty mean guitar.
The second Goldenhar-Gustin collaboration, You Know Me Too Well, is a slow powerful tune. Jones’ voice sways and lures you in with the wiles of a siren. This is blues noir, dark music that has thinly veiled danger lurking behind the notes. I really like this song a lot. I think most men listening to this song would fall under her spell quickly. I know I did…
Matthews’ drums open up I Love What I Got, and along with Alterman’s keyboards, provide the backing for Gustin’s vocals. This one has a lot of soul and it has a slightly different flavor than most of the songs on the album. It’s still got those growls and some killer guitar feels, but the percussion really sets it apart.
Jones lets loose on the personal anthem, Big Hearted Woman. She’s got a sharp edge to her voice for this song and it turns the lyrics into a warning. If I were you, I would pay attention, take notes, and refer to them often. This is a woman who is not feeling like having someone take advantage of her big heart. You have been warned…
They follow up the Big Hearted Woman with a Crazy Little Woman. Two sides of the same coin? Nah, this one is a fun number with a guy who loves his crazy little woman – after all crazy can take on a few different meanings. It’s a good musical double feature.
The third Goldenhar-Gustin collaboration, I Ain’t Playing, follows and this is a fun number. It’s straight forward, a real workingman’s honkytonk blues. I think this one would be a big hit when done live, there’s plenty of room for extended keyboards and guitars. And hell, I would listen to Jones sing just about anything!
Slipping Away starts off with a different sound. It’s more California Rock, a softer song than any of the ones Gustin has sung previously. While his vocals still growl, he somehow comes across more vulnerable than before. I like to hear artists explore different sounds, and this is a good song for that.
One last Goldenhar-Gustin collaboration ends the album. Right Time For Good-Bye has some gospel feel to the keys and guitar and Jones’ voice is angelic in her approach. The song has so much sadness in it, it’s beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.
As this is an independent release, you might not have as much luck finding it at your local record store (still my preferred way of finding CDs when I’m not fortunate enough to have them sent to me), but you can find it at all the usual places. I think it’s a great album that will almost certainly end up on my Best Of list at the end of the year.
You’ll be hearing selections from it on some upcoming shows and once I get my hands of the first CD, you’ll hear several from that one as well. In the meantime, I couldn’t find a dedicated website for Gustin and Jones, but there are plenty of links that should be able to get you any of the information that you might need.

As I get more info, I’ll be sure to pass it along.

(I do not own the copyright to either picture used in this review. If you are the copyright owner and wish for them to be removed, please contact me for compliance.)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

RVA Blues and Brews Fest Is A Huge Success

What a show! What a line up of stellar performers! What a rare opportunity to sit in the sun and listen to amazing music and hang with fellow blues lovers.
It was a rare privilege to be at the 1st Annual RVA Blues and Brews Fest that was held at Steam Bell Beer Works yesterday, March 25th. Starting at 1:00 p.m. and running until just past 10:30, seven top groups ripped through electrifying sets that had the audience enraptured.
Along the way, they tried out several of the brewery’s best beers, including the launching of an Old Salt Gose (pronounced “GO-za” I learned the hard way), that by all accounts was the alcoholic star of the event. Not being much of a beer connoisseur, I didn’t get a chance to sample it myself, but I did hear from a number of very satisfied enthusiasts that absolutely loved it!
With so many blues festivals experiencing financial difficulty these days – more and more are taking extended hiatuses or just giving up the ghost – it was great to see one here in Richmond that exceeded all expectations and has planted seeds that should bloom year after year. Kudos to the organizers of the event, Karen Haab, Sandra Faulkner, and the owners of Steam Bell Beer Works for having the vision and the gumption to make it happen.
Of the seven acts, the first four were some of the best Richmond has to offer: The Mike Lucci Band, Band of Brothers, Blues Flash, and Andrew Alli and The Mainline. Of these groups, I’ve had the pleasure of catching Mike Lucci and company and Blues Flash on several occasions and was very much looking forward to seeing them again.
Trust me, they did not disappoint. Lucci’s band has a great line-up that includes Mark Saurs on guitar and vocals, Rich Manson on harp and vocals, Bob Stufflebeam on drums, Lucci on bass, and Shelly Thiss on vocals. They started the show by setting the musical bar pretty high and challenging the other bands to reach it.
Band of Brothers was a new band for me and I liked their sound very much. They have a high energy approach and drove through their set winning over a number of new fans, myself included. They unleashed a dynamite cover of Whipping Post that left me wanting to see them do a full set.
Blues Flash is one of the great secret weapons of the Richmond Blues Scene. John Howe is a very good harp player and a real entertainer. He makes it his mission to get his audience up on their feet dancing and moving around. He’ll even take a stroll through the audience, playing his harp through a wireless mic and getting the audience involved in the performance.
Speaking of harp players, Andrew Alli is quickly getting a reputation as one of the best around. While still young in years, he’s got an old soul and knows how to play like a demon. He’s finding his way as a performer and has really grown in that department. I could very easily see the group take that next step and gain a big following.
While every one of these groups could headline a show, here they set the table for the next three groups to follow: Eli Cook, Anthony Rosano And The Conqueroos, and Albert Castiglia.
Cook, who is based out of Charlottesville and who has played with the likes of BB King, The Robert Cray Band, and Johnny Winter, fronts an amazing power trio. Together they cranked up the volume and the attitude whipping the crowd into a frenzy. The sun, which had been shining so brightly all day, began to sink lower in the west throwing some beautiful shadows on the stage area and cooling off the audience that had been sitting in the sun for most of the day.
How good is Cook? He brought three different CDs with him and I bought every one of ‘em. Yeah, you’ll be hearing a lot more from this man and his band.
Next up was one of my favorites, Anthony Rosano And The Conqueroos from the Tidewater area. Rosano is one of the highest energy performers around and there is a reason why the group is in such high demand to open for a number of the A-list groups that play in Virginia. Fortunately J.B. Bustillos who doubles on sax and harp, tripled tonight and brought out some LED lights he had in the van for emergency.
Under the glow from these four sets of lights, The Conqueroos got ROO’D and conquered the few members of the audience who had not already been converted.
A highlight of their set was bringing up Albert Castiglia for an amazing jam version of the Rolling Stones’ classic “Sympathy For The Devil.”
Finally, under dark skies and the glow of Bustillos’ LEDs, Albert Castiglia (and thank you to the lovely people who tried to correct my pronunciation of Albert’s last name, but I have it straight from the man himself that I was correct, it is pronounced “Ka-STEEL-ya”) took the stage with his drummer and bass player and proceeded to explode.
While the audience had been tired out from the long day under the bright sun, few if any left and they all crowded the stage feeding off Castiglia’s energy. He ripped through songs from his most recent release, Big Dog, on Ruf Records as well as many from previous releases, or just songs he loves to play.
Along the way he connected with several audience members who shouted out questions or comments, and Castiglia was very personal. He wished one young woman a happy birthday, and renamed his drummer “Paisley” for the night as the crowd had already done so.
Castiglia returned the favor and invited Rosano back on the stage to join him for the last couple of songs of the night.
I hope you were there for the event, and if you were, I invite you to leave your comments below. Personally, I had a wonderful time, and even though running this kind of operation takes a lot of time and effort – and volunteers – I’m already looking forward to next year.
Let’s make the 1st annual only the beginning of many more to come!   

(Photos coming soon. I need to download them first!)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Mr. Sipp ~~ Knock A Hole In It

It was just a couple of years ago, 2014 to be exact, that Mr. Sipp, aka Castro Coleman, set the world of the IBC on fire. Along the way, he took top honors in the band category and was named the top guitarist. Not too shabby a performance and he left Memphis with a string of new admirers.
I wasn’t there, but I got an earful from a number of friends who were, and every man, woman, and child of them raved about this guy and said he was going to be the next big thing. When that many people whose opinion matters to me tell me the same thing, I tend to listen very closely.
He released an album in 2015 entitled, The Mississippi Blues Child, and again from all concerned I heard it was fantastic. I didn’t get a copy at the time, but just ordered one so I could produce a feature on him for Time For The Blues. Y’all know I’m pretty thrifty, right?
I did receive a copy of his next album, Knock A Hole In It, just the other day. It’s scheduled to release in early April but I wanted to jump on it right away to give you my thoughts before it hits the stores.
Needless to say, it’s a fine album, chock full of great tunes, some tasty guitar work, and very strong vocals. Coleman/Sipp wrote all of the songs solo, except for on that he co-wrote with Cara Graham Hogan and Steven Dean.
Coleman/Sipp played guitar, bass, strings, percussion, arranged the horns along with The Late Great Harrison Calloway, and provided all the lead vocals. He was joined by Jeffrey Flanagan on bass; Carrol McLaughlin on piano and organ; and Stanley Dixon and Murph Caicedo on drums. The horn section was made up of The Jackson Horns which consisted of Kimble Funches on trumpet; Jessie Primer III on tenor sax; and Robert Lamkin on trombone.
Coleman and Flanagan provided all of the backing vocals.
Coleman kicks off the album with the title track, Knock A Hole In It. The song is a crunchy number with more than a little funk in the backbeat. It’s a strong story of living a life playing the blues. Sometimes you come up against a wall – an obstacle that needs addressing, and the best way to approach the problem is to just knock a hole in it. Great advice and a very good song.
He follows up with Bad Feeling, another driving number that has a gospel tinge thanks to McLaughlin’s keyboards. Coleman’s vocals have a very sharp edge and the lyrics are pointed. Solid blues number that should get some heavy air play on all the blues shows.
Things slow down just a bit on Stalking Me, but he keeps the intensity in place. This is a song with a dangerous feel and has a warning to keep an eye for all the strange people that live in our world. It’s a very cool number, and all of the first three songs are going to end up on Time For The Blues and just about every other blues show around.
Next up is the gentle Sea Of Love, which sounds more like California Rock than anything else on the album. It’s a real departure, and I enjoyed the song very much, but blues purists may not like it as much. His vocals are really amazing.
He gets back to the blues on Gotta Let Her Go. His guitar is gritty and his vocals are pointed. It’s down and dirty and just about everything that makes a blues song. I like it a lot and think it’s got to be a killer song when he does it live.
Funky and electric are the best ways to describe Going Down. It’s a blues song in its subject matter, but it’s something else musically. The soul of this song is in the lyrics and the funk is the central nervous system. It’s an unusual approach but one that I like a lot. The purists may not get into it, but the experimentation in it reminds me of what Hendrix started when he was exploring pushing the boundaries of music. Very cool work.
The one song that Coleman collaborated on with other writers, Baby You’re Mine, is next. It’s a gentler song and Coleman’s vocals are softer and more vulnerable. The orchestration is simpler, relying on piano and muted drums to kick off the song. There’s some nice harmony and even as the song gains intensity, it remains a softer approach, even after the guitar break. Very nice.
With a title like Juke Joint, do you really think I’m not going to like the song? This one has a great backbone and McLaughlin’s keys set the mood. Listening to the song I was immediately transported back to those Juke Joints that used to be the places to go to hear real blues. Long before the music became commercialized, these were the places to catch all the greats. Coleman does a great job capturing that feeling and history. Oh yeah, you’ll be hearing this one.
Coleman’s guitar leads us into the next song, Strings Attached. It’s a slow, powerful number that calls on his extensive gospel background to reach those deeper emotions. It’s a strong song in the evangelical shouting style. He mixes in several instances of slower, controlled vocals and the effect is very good.
He follows up with the more energetic Turn Up. This is some sweet Southern Soul that he’s playing here. Love the horns, love the arrangement, this is the kind of song that I used to hear on my AM Radio back in the day, and the joyous nature of those songs always made me smile. Love this one.
He keeps that Southern Soul going with the ballad, Love Don’t Live Here Anymore. With that title, you know this is a done-me-wrong song and Coleman’s voice just aches from the pain. For my money, Coleman could be at home with several different styles of music. He’s got so much soul that he can’t be contained in any one genre – so let’s just kick back and let his talent work his magic.
More Southern Soul is on tap with a song for the ladies, Love Yourself. Coleman’s voice reminds me of the great Sam Cooke and the approach of the last few songs just summons up the comparison even more. He’s got so much going for him in the last few songs – they’re not exactly blues, but they are beautiful numbers and the kind of rhythm and blues numbers that I loved when I was younger – and still do, it’s just been hard to find them until now.
Coleman concludes the album with the longest number on the album, Little Wing. It’s an unusual number that mixes in different styles. He uses the softer California Rock from earlier along with his soaring guitar. The imagery of his lyrics are unique and the song makes an interesting ending point for the album.
I can’t really find a website purely dedicated to Coleman, but there are lots of places to find out more information about him. I suggest you start with his label at https://www.malaco.com/artists/blues-r-b/mr-sipp/. And if you like great soul music, you could do a lot worse than to peruse their catalog of artists and pick up some more CDs.
Yeah, I know, I’m cheap. But I just may have to unlimber my wallet a little bit after seeing their roster. And keep your eyes open for the Kick A Hole In It tour. I understand they have already kicked a hole in Europe and are planning to do the same to the states. I can’t wait.





Friday, March 24, 2017

Coco Montoya ~~ Hard Truth

Coco Montoya is one of the hardest working men in the blues industry. His brand of blues rock has proven to be a crowd favorite wherever he plays – and he plays just about everywhere. His latest Alligator release, Hard Truth, is just hitting the stores now and it’s already generating good buzz and getting some major air play.
I’m glad to see him back on Alligator. That’s a label that seems tailor made for his kind of music. Plus, they’ve got the people that really know how to get the word out. We’re already planning shows that will feature several songs from this album, and I’ve got a few older titles up my sleeve that I would love to trot out for your listening pleasure.
Montoya has assembled a talented group of players for this one. Aside from him taking lead guitar and vocals, he’s surrounded by Mike Finnigan on keys; Billy Watts and Johnny Lee Schell on rhythm guitar and Schell on slide for one song; Bob Glaub on bass; and producer Tony Braunagel on drums.  Special guest Lee Roy Parnell adds slide guitar for one song.
Backing vocalists are Teresa James, Deb Ryder, Billy Watts, and Mike Finnigan.
Montoya’s initial track, Before The Bullets Fly, jumps right in with his trademark staccato guitar work. His vocals are good, with enough edge to pull the song together. It’s a solid opening and it’s obvious that Montoya is in good form. Listen for Mike Finnegan’s keyboard break.
He follows up with the swinging I Want To Shout About It. It’s a fun number with a good rhythm from the band and decent vocals. Listen to Montoya’s guitar work, it mixes extremely well with Finnegan’s keys giving the song a jazzy feel to the blues. This is one of Henry’s favorites on the album and he’s chosen it for an appearance on Time For The Blues.
The band gets crunchy with the powerful rock blues song Lost In The Bottle. That’s a title that belongs to a blues song! He delivers the message loud and clear. It’s the story so many of us have told at one time or another and Montoya comes through in a strong way.
He slows things down, but keeps the intensity high on Old Habits Are Hard To Break. This is another dark song and he reaches deep in order to pull out the emotions. It’s an excellent song and one that should get a lot of air play. I guarantee that if I can find a spot on an upcoming show, I will use it gladly.
Next up is the rocking I’ll Find Someone Who Will. Braunagel’s drums drive the song forward providing the canvas on which the other musicians paint. It’s a good straight ahead song, easily at home in both the blues and rock worlds.
You know a title like Devil Don’t Sleep isn’t going to belong to a tender love ballad. This one is strictly blues and it has a solid swamp feel to it. The lyrics are poetic and paint a dark picture that doesn’t let go of you. I really like this one a lot and Montoya makes it a song to remember. Yeah, I’ve got to play this one.
Everybody gets a little funky on The Moon Is Full, and Montoya whips out a very cool run right at the start. This one give me a BB King vibe, and that’s never a bad thing. I like Montoya’s voice, he’s got the shout down well and he’s got a strong edge to his vocals. Good song.
Another song that’s going to appear on Time For The Blues is Hard As Hell. The band is in great form and Montoya throws in some serious guitar licks in between vocals. There’s strong rock mixed with the blues and it creates a very cool effect. More great guitar work opens up ‘Bout To Make Me Leave Home. This is most definitely a blues song, both in lyrics and attitude.
Montoya slows things down some with Where Can A Man Go From Here? This is a terrific song, and Montoya is at his most vulnerable standing behind the microphone. Finnigan and Braunagel provide most of the instrumentation and Montoya adds his six-string pyrotechnics every few bars, but it’s his powerful vocals that make this song so great.
Lastly, Montoya brings the album to a close with Truth Be Told. It’s a rocking blues number that sums up his philosophy on this album nicely. It plays to everyone’s strength and the music is strong and Montoya’s vocals are well delivered. Good ending.
Lately it seems like I’ve been talking a lot about the importance of a good producer on an album. A good producer can make a good album sound great, and a great album a classic. Tony Braunagel is just such a producer. He’s worked with so many of the greats and has a perfectly tuned ear for what makes a song work.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s starting out with one of the great players and singers in the business. Hard Truth is a great album and a good investment to your album collection. I would listen to just about anything Montoya released, and this is one I will listen to frequently.

Be sure to browse his website at https://www.cocomontoyaband.com/ for more information about the album, his previous work, and his tour plans. The album is just hitting stores now, so you know he’ll be out promoting it. Of course, he’s almost always on the road somewhere, so if you get the chance to catch him live, grab it!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Time For The Blues ` March 25, 2017

Henry and I hope you will make the time to join us on Time For The Blues this Saturday Night, March 25, at 11 Eastern as we get ready for another exciting trip to the land of the Blues! We’ve got a Grammy-nominated album for your listening pleasure, some swing, and a lot of new music to make your night easier.

That’s right, an actual by-God Grammy-nominated album from this past year, Kenny Neal’s amazing recording, Bloodline, will be featured on the show. As you probably know, Neal is one of the members of the great Neal family of blues musicians, and he really knows how to deliver the goods.

We’re going to feature several tracks from that album, just so you can see how good Neal is. For a little bit of fun, we’re going back to sample a track from an earlier album, Deluxe Edition, just so you can hear what he sounded like back in the day.

**Self Promotion Alert**

If you would like to find out more about Bloodline, which is available on Cleopatra, be sure to check out my blog to read my review. You can find it here. In fact, most of the CDs we’ll be playing this week have been reviewed, and I would love it if you would take a look back at some of the things I’ve written about them.

Another big feature on this week’s show is a look at Eight O’Five Jive, an exciting swing band out of Nashville. I found this band while looking through some featured albums on our service. The album cover featured their lead singer, Lee Shropshire, in vintage clothes, cat eye sunglasses and a modified B-52 hairdo.

Be still my heart.

Needless to say, I was intrigued, listened to their first album, Too Many Men, and was immediately a big fan of their sound. I got in touch with them through their website and we began to correspond. I found out that they had a new CD about to drop, Swing Set, so I waited until I could get it and reviewed it very quickly.


In the meantime, I’ve been trying to get them on the show, but something always seemed to block my good intentions. Now, I get to finally bring them out and play their songs for you. If you like your blues with a bit of swing and a whole lot of attitude and irreverent fun – you’re going to love Eight O’Five Jive!

We’ve got three songs from the new album, plus their take on a Ruth Brown classic from their first. Let me know what you think.

But you know that’s not all. We’ve got plenty of recent releases that we’re a little behind in bringing to you. My fault, not Henry’s. We’ve even got a selection of songs that came with my copy of The Blues Magazine. If you aren’t reading that magazine, you might want to snag a copy. Very good articles and it comes packaged with a sampler disc that always has some very good music on it.

We’re going to play a song from Apocalypse Blues Revue, that features two members from the group Godsmack. You can read their review here. Also from the sampler is Gary Hoey, and you can read his review here. The last selection from the sampler is by Laurence Jones, and as good of a player as this guy is, I haven’t gotten my hands on his CD just yet. But I will, and will definitely be reviewing it and featuring more from this talented guitarist.

We’ve also got new music from Peter Karp, from his new CD Alabama Town; John Latini from The Blues Makes Me Feel Good – you can read his review here; and Vin Mott from his recent release Quit The Women For The Blues, and his review is here.

While you’re in a blues loving mood, and really, why would you not be in a blues loving mood, let me direct your attention to a couple of shows happening this weekend. Our live music correspondent, Anita Schlank, does a great job of listing all of the shows going on in the area, and you can find her reports on our Facebook page every week.

The two I want to point out are the shows at Steam Bell Beer Works on March 25th, that’s an all day affair with doors opening at 12 noon and the music starting at 1 p.m. Look at this line-up: Mike Lucci Band; Blues Flash; Band of Brothers; Andrew Ali and Mainline; Eli Cook; Anthony Rosanno & Conqueroos; and headlining will be the great Albert Castilgia. I have the distinct honor of emceeing the event, and will try to come up with one or two fresh jokes for the occasion. Steam Bell Beer Works is located at 1717 Oak Lake Boulevard, Midlothian, VA, 23112. Aside from the great music they are debuting a new beer. I’m not much of a beer connoisseur, but the friends of mine who are heavily into beer are very much excited. Doors open at 12, and the music runs from 1 to 10 p.m.

The second show is Sunday night at The Camel when The Bush League and The Charles Walker Band will join forces for a powerful evening of blues, soul, and funk. I’ve followed both bands for some time and can tell you that these two are capable of tearing the joint down brick by brick. You don’t want to miss this one!

That’s all there is, there ain’t no more. So plan on staying up late on Saturday night, March 25th to join us for our next adventure into great music and bad jokes. You can find us online at http://ideastations.org/radio or on the air at 89.1 WCNV Northern Neck, 90.1 WMVE Chase City, and 88.9 WCVE Richmond, where it’s always Time For The Blues!