Sunday, April 30, 2017

Eli Cook ~~ Primitive Son

I’ve mentioned on several occasions how much I enjoy discovering a new artist or group. For purely selfish reasons, I’m always looking for great music and a story to share with you and our listeners. On a hot day, not terribly long ago, I made the acquaintance of a good bunch of guys who called themselves The Eli Cook Group that was headed by, who else, Eli Cook.
It was a warm sunny day and the good-sized audience had come to hear several bands that included Cook and company as the first of three headliners. I was familiar with the other two headliners, Anthony Rosano and the Conqueroos and Albert Castiglia, but for some reason Cook had escaped my blues radar.
Sad thing is, he’s only an hour or so up the road in a town I used to visit regularly, so I really don’t have any excuse.
And now that I’ve seen him, there will be no more excuses, because let me tell you, this cat can play a guitar! Their high-energy performance as the sun was starting to slip towards the horizon was a highlight of the festival for me. So much so, that as “thrifty” as I am, I ponied up my own money to pick up three of his six albums (he only brought three titles or I would have bought them all) to share with you.
The most recent release, Primitive Son, came out in 2014 on Cleopatra Records. Cook had some heavy hitters helping out on this album, and I’ll mention them when we get to their songs. Trust me, this is an all-star group of special guests that joined in the fun.
Cook wrote 13 of the album’s songs solo and co-wrote the remaining number with Greg Hampton. His core musicians include Rob Richmond on bass and Wade Warfield on drums. As a power trio, this group stands among the best in the business and with these special guests you’re going to hear, I think this just might be a great album.
It’s appropriate that the album kicks off with a strong guitar lead on the song War Horse. This track features just Cook, Richmond, and Hampton working hard. They have a punk rock approach in their intensity and the stripped down sound is very cool. Good beginning, I’m looking forward to what’s coming up.
The next song, Revelator features Vinny Appice who has played drums for some heavy hitters, including Black Sabbath, and Jorgan Carlsson who handles the bass for Gov’t Mule. As you might expect, this is blues with some heavy overtones. It’s a strong song with a good hook. It’s definitely modern blues, one more evolution and heads down its own branch on the blues tree.
Cook and company follow up with Sweet Thang, which features one of my favorite performers, Tinsley Ellis, adding some of his trademark guitar licks to the song. There is some soaring guitar work and Warfield’s drums get a real workout. So far, Cook has maintained a high level of energy in his approach, and if you are looking for acoustic, Delta style blues, this is probably not going to do it for you. But, if you like your blues honed to a sharp edge, this is one to check out.
More guests show up on High In The Morning; Sonny Landreth lays down some wicked slide guitar and Reese Wynans plays the B3. Cook’s vocals are a driving growl but you can still hear some gospel roots there. Very cool song.
Cook and Warfield are the only two performers on Won’t Be Long. This is a more traditional blues tune that opens softly with a touch of swamp in the guitar. Cook proves that he can handle various styles of blues and he does so here with grace and beauty.
The amazing guitarist Leslie West guests on Motor Queen. West, who is known for his hard rock and blues adds his style to the number. Cook and company pick up the tempo and drive and deliver a solid blues rock song.
One of my favorite harpists, Rod Piazza, lends his skills on the instrument to Be Your Fool. It starts out as a power trio anthem with a heavy rock influence. Piazza’s harp work stays in the background for the most part until it’s time to bust out a run.
Swing A Little Harder is another song that features only Cook and Warfield. It’s more old-school than most of the other songs, but still experiments with the sound. Considering that Cook is a curious student of music, I expect and respect his experimentations. They become signposts for his art. Some succeed more than others, but I enjoy what he’s doing.
I’ve been a fan of Harvey Mandel and his guitar work ever since he recorded Stand Back with Charlie Musselwhite. Having him play on the next song, Shake The Devil Down, adds even more luster to the album. This is a very cool song that showcases some of Cook’s best vocals and you can count on hearing it on Time For The Blues on an upcoming show.
Tall & Twisted is the Eli Cook Band doing some more traditional blues. Cook’s steel guitar has a nice sound and he still manages to keep an edge on his vocals. It’s a good interlude after some of his more hard rock oriented numbers.
The next song features the hard rocking bluesman, Pat Travers on guitar and former Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle. As you might expect, The Great Southern Love Kill starts off on a blistering pace. It’s another song that can be classified as hard rock.
With a title like Amphetamine Saint, I wasn’t expecting a quiet introspective number, however I was pleasantly surprised by the song. It has a lot of swamp blues in it, and Cook’s vocals seemed strained as if he’s trying to create the atmosphere of someone who as at the end of their dreams. Eric Gales adds his guitar to the mix. Very cool song…
He’s saved the title track, Primitive Son, until the album is near its end. It’s the trio working and they are very tight. These appear to be some of the most personal lyrics on the album, along with the previous song.
The final song on the album, Burying Ground, is just Cook and Warfield one more time. There’s a quiet finality to the song, a dirge of sorts, which just goes with the lyrics. These sacred grounds honor those who have passed before whether real or metaphorically, and afterwards our new lives have to begin. Powerful number, very powerful.
I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Cook by seeing him live. I found him to be an entertaining and energetic performer backed by two very good musicians. Their playing energized the crowd and the band poured every ounce of its enthusiasm into each song.
Following up with this album later on, I can see that Cook is one talented singer songwriter who is still exploring for new ways to express his thoughts. I’ve always been drawn to artists who continually question and experiment with new ideas. This album might not be for the blues purists, but I liked it very much and look forward to more.  
If you like your blues with a rock edge, this just might be the guy for you. Check out his website at http://elicook.com/ and be sure to look to see where The Eli Cook Band will be playing near you. It’s worth the extra effort to catch them live. I know I’ll be back to see them again.



(Photo of Eli Cook by Alan Grossman. He's a pretty damn good photographer, you should check out his work. Used by permission.)

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Vintage #18 ~~ Grit

I’m not a wine snob by any means, but the first thing I heard of when I encountered the name of this band, Vintage #18, was a rare wine of exceptional taste. In actuality, it refers to a vintage guitar owned by lead guitarist Bill Holter.
I was also confused at first by the title of the album, Grit, as I once had a neighbor who sold a magazine by the same name to all of the children in the neighborhood. Never liked the guy and I just bought it to send him on his merry way.
No, this Grit refers to what it takes to survive as a blues band these days. We’ve all heard about the dwindling numbers of people who are drawn to the blues as their primary source of music, and with the recording industry changing almost daily, it takes a great deal of determination to succeed as a band.
After listening to the album, their first, I believe that if anyone can make it in this business, it’s a band with a unique sound and a whole pile of determination. They mix blues with soul, funk, and rock to create their own place in the world and vocalist, Robbin Kapsalis has got a set of pipes on her that rock your world.
All that remains is to see if this band that plays primarily in the Northern Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland areas will have that grit to break out. I certainly hope they will.
Like that fine wine, this is a rare group that goes down smooth and just seems to get better.
James Bond said, “Diamonds are forever.” Marilyn Monroe sang, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Geena Davis was Dottie Hinson, “The Queen of Diamonds” in the great movie, A League Of Their Own. Okay, that last one was a stretch. Vintage #18 kicks off their album with a touch of jazzy funk with Diamonds Are Optional. Robbin Kapsalis’ vocals have a nice touch of sass and enough of an edge to be dangerous. This is going to be a fun ride.
Next up is a question every pessimist asks daily, Is This Too Good? Bill Holter lays down a cool guitar line and Alex Kuldell does some interesting metronome ticking on the drums. It makes an interesting canvas for Kapsalis’ vocals. It’s a quiet number and the way this album sounds seems very much like a stage performance done in the studio. I like that approach as it really gives a good sense of how the band will sound live.
They follow up with a cool swampy number, Love Hangover. The first three songs show distinctly different styles. Some bands seem happy to play the same type of song over and over. Sometimes you can’t even distinguish one song from another, but Vintage #18 seems to enjoy the challenge that finding new approaches brings.
Bob Dylan’s Million Miles is the first of two covers on the album. This is one of his songs that is often overlooked, and that’s a shame as it covers some of the most fundamental of blues subjects, loss. While it’s the longest song on the album at about 8:25, it covers a lot of ground. It starts off from nothing and builds slowly. Kapsalis’ vocals are low and mysterious and wring every piece of emotion from the lyrics. It’s a highlight of the album for me, and I hope that more people will get a chance to hear it for themselves.
Circles follows with a swinging music line. The music is upbeat and happy and the vocals seem to roll with it. It’s got a good beat and it kind of has that good tent meeting gospel feel at times. I could see this one going over well with a crowd.
The tempo slows down on the next tune, Pieces. This is a gorgeous piece with Kapsalis doing her best torch singer vocals. At times she purrs, other times she cuts, but she performs the song beautifully. Mark Chandler does some good bass work to tie the song together, along with drummer Kuldell.
The second cover comes from the ZZ Top catalog, Just Got Back From Baby’s. The bass opens up and sets the table for the guitar. It’s a solid interchange before Kapsalis comes in. It’s a strong blues number that should appeal to just about any fan of the genre. Listen for the guitar break…
The blues keep coming with the next song, Poor Me. Another number that any blues fan would like to hear. It’s got an interesting rhythm and the vocals are strong as they have been throughout the album. Once again, Holter makes his guitar talk and sing the blues.
The smoking hot guitar work of Holter takes us in to the next song, Remember. This mixes the blues with rock and creates a very cool sound. It’s always good to remember the good parts of our lives, although with the blues we’re often dealing with the darkest parts of our lives. This is a good song.
Next up is a song I can guarantee will be appearing on an episode of Time For The Blues. Good Eye starts off with some very strong guitar runs and Kapsalis has a lot of fun with the vocals. The guitar work is almost surf music in its intensity. Yeah, you’re going to like this one.
The album comes to a close with Circles Down Home. It’s a good closer and recalls the earlier song Circles. Circles have no beginnings, no endings, and we always come back to the place where we started from. It’s a geometry lesson it takes a lifetime to realize and the song brings it all home.
It’s safe to say that Vintage #18 is an eclectic group that doesn’t mind branching out and exploring how other genres, primarily soul, but also rock and funk mix with the blues. They are all solid musicians and they have a great vocalist in Kapsalis.
I haven’t seen them venture down to my area, even though they represented the Central Virginia Blues Society in Memphis in 2016. I guess that gives me a good excuse to head up the highway and catch them in their natural environment.

If you are in the Northern Virginia-DC-Maryland corridor, make sure you catch them live and pick up a copy of Grit. It’s a cool album and shows that the band has enormous promise. Find out where they’re going to be from their website: https://www.vintage18.net/, and keep an eye out for a certain long-haired Professor who just might be sitting at the bar.

Friday, April 28, 2017

RC And The Moonpie Band ~~ Individually Wrapped

It must be a Southern thing. Very few of my Northern friends understand the joy of an RC Cola and a Moonpie as a snack. Those that do invariably disclose that they either spent a great deal of time in the South or had a Southern relative that brought the delicacy with them when they relocated.
So who could resist a band with a name like RC And The Moonpie Band? You know they’ve got southern blood running through their veins. This quintet, who indeed have roots that run through Virginia and North Carolina is a hard driving bar band that sent me a copy of their 2015 independently released album, Individually Wrapped.
Having a fondness for both bar bands and Virginia-based artists, I quickly devoured the album and found it to be a fun effort that shows a lot of promise. They deliver a mix of original tunes mixed with a few covers from the likes of Prince, Tommy Castro, and Willie Dixon.
Why don’t we unwrap a fresh box of Moonpies and settle back for a fun time? Does RC make a diet soda? If so, I’ll take two…
The album starts off with a solid blues riff on F In Funk. I would have thought that it would have been a different style, but it’s old-school with some good guitar and harp work. Lead singer Robert “RC” Christian has a good growl in his voice. They’ve definitely got my attention, let’s see what develops.
Next up is Country Girl, a swinging tune with some nice guitar. The song is kind of sweet and has to be a hit when done live. You can’t go wrong with the subject matter and the song is very catchy. These first two should be popping up on Time For The Blues.
Now, the following number, Squeeze Play Blues by Russel Pleasants, is a series of double entendres around America’s Pasttime, the great sport of baseball. I like the song very much, it’s playful with a good beat.
After some good clean, slightly dirty fun, the Moonpies follow up with a Pop Staples tune, Hope In A Hopeless World. If you need a little churching, this is the song that can give it to you. Robert Marlowe plays some wicked fills on guitar and the song is a very strong cover of a great song.
To my fellow radio producers who are looking for songs to play, keep in mind that Sweet Tooth, the next song, has a certain word in the lyrics that the FCC frowns upon. I may not be able to play it, but it’s certainly available for you to enjoy in your own home or car. It’s far less offensive than some of the music that folks share with me from their own cars… It’s got some funk in it, and the guitar work is pretty cool.
What follows is, I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog, an intense slower number that you can hear being done by any number of the greats. The singer standing alone behind a thin spotlight opening up to the crowd. This is one of my favorite numbers. Very soulful and satisfying, a loving tribute to the memory of Bobby “Blue” Bland.
After that gorgeous number, The Moonpies rock up Jimmy Vaughan’s Hey Yeah! And they tinker with the lyrics somewhat (they don’t recommend this one for airplay either) and play around with the whole number. Yeah, this one’s a killer on a live show, but I can’t play it on the air. Oh well. Still a good song.
Tommy Castro’s Lonesome And Then Some is next up. It features guest guitarist Jeff Cochran who tears it up righteously. Christian’s voice is very strong on this song, mournful and low – full of the loneliness you hear in the lyrics. It’s a solid offering and I hope this one gets some play.
Staying with covers, RC and The Moonpie Band take on Prince’s immortal song, Kiss. A number of artists have put their spin on Prince’s catalog, including several blues artists. They step away from the blues and funk and move into a different arena. The guitar work is flamenco styled and the vocals take an unusual approach. It might not be for everyone but I applaud the effort for taking on an iconic number.
With a title like Viagra, you can probably tell you’re not going to get an old Delta blues cover. The blues have to keep moving with the world and explore all of those issues that can get you down. (Sorry, had to get one joke in there…) The song deals with adult situations and uses adult language, so you’ll have to catch this one live or on the album because I won’t be able to play it.
There’s been a lot of fascination of late about women who like younger men. They’ve been called cougars. So, where does that leave the lady who is the star of the next song, Like A Puma? This one rocks hard and you know it’s got to be a big crowd pleaser when it’s done live.
Next is a Willie Dixon classic, Wang Dang Doodle. Maybe it’s to prove they can do straight blues, but they don’t have to prove anything to me. They’ve got a strong sound and I know they can work a crowd. They blend their blues with some rock and funk and forge their own style.
The last song on the album is Funky Carolina. I’ve heard the Tarheel State described many ways, but “funky” is a first for me. Still it’s a fun closer that’s got to be a decent audience rouser when they play in North Carolina. Maybe even South Carolina…
RC And The Moonpie Band is a real find. I enjoyed their album very much and despite a few lapses in language, they produced several songs that I can’t wait to share with you. I was remiss in not introducing the band earlier, so let me correct that now.
The band consists of: Robert Marlowe on guitar T Bone Betourney on drums; Robert “RC” Christian on lead vocals; Mike Logiovino on bass; and Russell Pleasants on backing vocals. Special guests on the album include: Debby Gore and Mike Provenzano on keyboards; Gary Pope on slide guitar; Dale MacPherson on harp and backing vocals; Lorette Christian on backing vocals; David Hood on sax; and Jeff Cochran on guitar and backing vocals.
I couldn’t find a dedicated website for the group, but they do have an electronic presence on Facebook and also on Reverb Nation where you can find Individually Wrapped. If you see they’re playing near you, check ‘em out, and tell them to hightail it to Richmond so I can check them out as well. Go to https://www.reverbnation.com/rcandthemoonpieband for more information. 
RC And The Moonpie Band


Just RC Cola and Moonpies

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Time For The Blues ~~ April 29, 2017

This is MY show! Get that Death Star out of here...
Henry and I hope you will join us for Time For The Blues this Saturday night, April 29, 2017 at 11:00 because we are planning to get wild. Or at lease semi-wild. It’s hard to say with guys our age on the prowl that late at night.
I’m looking forward to it because it’s a Henry show. That’s right, he came to me one day and said he was going to do everything for the show. Except write the blog, post it on Facebook, or go on Twitter.
Other than that, he was going to do everything.
It reminds me of when my father would announce he was going to do the cooking that night. Of course, my mother had to prepare the side dishes, dad wasn’t going to do that. Oh, and she needed to do the salad, because dad would be too busy cooking the dinner. And she would have to set the table, because that wasn’t part of cooking dinner, nor was clearing the table and doing the dishes.
Nope, not part of the plan at all.
Eventually dad would burn the dinner (he claimed to have invented “Blackened Food” as that was the way everything turned out) and we would trundle off to whatever fast food joint was nearby.
Oh well, at least the table was set for the next night.
Yes sir and ma’am, Henry is cooking up the show tonight, so we should be ready for anything.
**Don’t tell Henry any of this part! Pinky swear and I’ll tell you why Henry is doing all the show. See, someone, ahem, Henry, ahem, is always complaining about my desk being too messy and extolling the virtues of his clean desk. And it is clean, mainly because Henry is always fixing things in other parts of the station.
I stay at my desk and go through piles of CDs since I handle all the new music. Lately, Mr. Clean Desk has been collecting a number of CDs on his own and instead of listening, planning, and filing; he’s stacked them up like a tower on one corner of the desk.
You know that famous tower in Pisa? The one that goes off on about a 75-degree angle? Well, let me tell you that if it was made from a stack of CDs, someone would be yelling “Timber” in Italian.
Henry’s stack fell off of his clean desk and landed on the clean floor. He picked them all up and said, “Hey John, I’ve got a show!”**
That’s how we ended up with a show we like to call, Henry’s Bag Of Blues!
The good thing is, he did pick some great material, including with a selection from our friend and multiple award winner, Lisa Mann from her latest album, Hard Times, Bad Decisions. When Lisa is not out winning awards as the Bass Player of the Year, she’s out touring the world and we are hoping that maybe one day that tour will bring her closer to Virginia so we can get in her the studio to talk with us. C’mon Lisa, we’ll even introduce you to Big Bird!
A couple of new albums that Henry’s attention were Moreland & Arbuckle’s Promised Land or Bust and Stax legend William Bell’s This Is Where I Live. We played a little from each, although not recently, so it’s time we revisit them for another dose. We think you will like both of them.
A very cool album from 2016 was Anthony Geraci and the Boston Blue All-Stars with the release Fifty Shades of Blue. One of those All-Stars was Monster Mike Welch, and Geraci returned the favor by playing keys on Welch’s new album with Mike Ledbetter, Right Place, Right Time, that we will be featuring shortly. The track we'll feature this weekend has Darrell Nullisch on vocals and harp and I think we’re going to have to feature some of his other work in the near future.
John Mayall, John Mayall. Also in 2016, Henry and I got a chance to catch a true blues legend--John Mayall in concert at the Tin Pan and let me tell you, that man can still rock the house. He was out supporting his latest album Find a Way to Care, so we’re going to hear a selection from that as well as one of his more – well, different songs from the 1971 classic Back to the Roots. Henry tells me that this was the first Mayall album he bought as a kid—and he still considers it a great investment, even it did cost him all of his hard earned chore money!
We’ve also got a nice number from Fiona Boyes from her 2015 album Box & Dice. If you have never heard her, you are in for a real treat – she can play with the best of them and sing circles around most.
You know if Henry is picking the show, we’re going to have classics and for one whole set we’re going to visit that crunchy Memphis sound that started with Stax and spread over to other labels. We’ve got a song from Booker T. and the MGs that I can’t believe we have only played once in the nearly elevin years we’ve been doing this show! And we’ve got some Albert King and the Goldwax label's James Carr who should have been a much bigger star.
Speaking of classics, we can’t wait to sample a song from The Paul Butterfield Blues Band from their second album East-West. Their music is still powerful and relevant and I love introducing new blues fan to this hard driving band.
Remember, once you’ve seen Henry dance, it can’t be unseen. There’s a reason I’m always teasing him about the way he moves on the dance floor. Be that as it may, we’re going out with a song from The Lyrics (with a little help from the Topnotes) that should have ignited a dance craze but didn’t.
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!


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

John Németh ~~ Feelin’ Freaky

After listening to John Németh’s latest album on his Memphis Grease label, Feelin’ Freaky, you can’t doubt for a second that this is a guy who knows how to have a good time. And if he’s having a good time, he wants you to have one right along with him.
Back in 2016, Németh scored two reviews, one for his album Memphis Grease, and one for a concert he gave at The Tin Pan. Then, if that wasn’t enough, he went and got a nod for having one of the best albums of the year. Plus, we played some of his material on not one, but two shows of Time For The Blues.
It’s safe to say we think pretty highly of the man’s talents and were eager to hear what he’s been up to since then. That amounts to his current album, which covers a lot of territory, both personal and global, and manages to do it all with his signature blend of blues, rock, soul, and funk.
Németh took an interesting approach to the album, bringing in an entire group to work on the material. That group, the Blue Dreamers, consists of Danny Banks on drums; Matthew Wilson on bass and guitar; and Johnny Rhoades on guitar. By working as a group, they achieved a tightness that is sometimes missing otherwise.
Guests included Marc Franklin on trumpet and flugelhorn; Art Edmaiston on temor and baritone sax; Charles Hodges on organ; and J. Kirkscey, B. Luscombe, J. Munson, and P. Tsai on strings.
Németh handled the lead vocals, harp, and wrote all of the songs on the album.
The album starts out with some happy music on Under The Gun, that masks the darker side of the lyrics. One thing that we’ve been facing for some time is finding an answer to the proliferation of guns in this country. Whatever side you may come down on, at least Németh is using his position to state his opinion and maybe we can one day get past the talking stage.
The next song is a celebration of marijuana, S.T.O.N.E.D. Let’s also face some facts, opinions of the substance have undergone a dramatic change in the last 40 years or so, with several states legalizing it and seeing changes in their economy and society. The song itself is downright funky and the band is having a good time. Must be 4:20 somewhere…
Next up is the title track, Feelin’ Freaky, and like I said, this cat has got a wild side. If you don’t believe me, just listen to this track and he’ll tell you himself. He’s celebrating a more hedonistic lifestyle with some funky music. Until now, I haven’t even mentioned that Németh has a deep soulful voice and he plays a mean harp. He does both with style on this song.
Rainy Day is a beautiful song that adds horns and strings to the mix giving the song a full lush feeling. This is Németh at his soulful best, using his voice to paint a picture of his life’s situations. Very nice. I’m sure this one will be played on Time For The Blues soon.
He follows up with You Really Do Want That Woman, another funky tune that uses the horn section to punctuate the number and add some spice. It’s a cool song, and one that I’ve seen go over well with an audience. Németh really gets into the song and his vocals are sharp.
The mellow soul number My Sweet Love, utilizes Németh’s sweet harp and focused vocals to good effect. I really like the song although it is not a blues number, so I may not get a chance to share it. It’s a song that will be on my relaxing playlist for some time to come. I’m amazed at his songwriting versatility, moving from funk to this quiet number.
Despite being a pretty good song, I’m afraid I won’t be able to play the next song, Gave Up On You, because it contains one of George Carlin’s Seven Words briefly at the end of the song. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this song in the privacy of your own home or car. I like the fat horn section and the more ethereal approach in his vocals. The guitar break is very nice.
Now if you want a quiet Delta influenced number, you might want to skip the next song. However, if you want to get up on the dance floor and move what you got, I suggest you crank up Get Offa That Butt to maximum volume. And when you do, don’t care who might see you – just get up and enjoy the most from your life.
I’m Funkin’ Out starts out with some funky harp and horns before Németh’s vocals take over. It’s a good song, although not my favorite on the album. He plays with the music however and there’s some good work there.
Talking about playing with the language, I’m not sure how he came up with the title, Kool Aid Pickle, for the next song. This is another one that contains one of those four-letter words that the FCC frowns upon, so, I’m sorry to say, I won’t be playing this one either. However, his harp is solid and his delivery reminds me of some of my favorite alternative songs.
He brings the album to a close with Long Black Cadillac. It’s a strong number that combines soul with blues which is Németh’s strongest talent. It’s a number of great pain and loss, one that stays with you for the rest of your life. I can feel the emptiness in every note. A very emotional song and a great ending for the album.
In my estimation, Németh is the Merry Prankster of the Blues and Soul. He is the mythological shape-shifting trickster who pushes us into unusual situations just to see what we will do. He knows where our buttons lie and knows how to push them all.

I’ve been fortunate enough to catch him live and I had a great time at his show. If you find yourself with a similar opportunity, grab it and see what he’s going to unleash next. Whatever he does, it will be done with his whole heart and plenty of soul. You can find his website at http://johnnemeth.com/.  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Eric Bibb ~~ Migration Blues

I’ve actually put off writing about this album. It’s not because I don’t like the artist; Eric Bibb is a wonderful and eclectic performer who works in a quiet style that appeals to me very much.
It’s not because I didn’t like the album; I actually enjoyed Migration Blues a lot and found it to be thought provoking while also moving and entertaining.
Honestly, I was so moved by it that I started off writing this pages long dissertation about the use of music as an instrument of social change that just about any grad student would have been proud to turn in. Along about page seven, I realized that that particular essay would most likely never see the light of day as no one in their right mind would ever want to read it.
Bibb has continually used his music as something a little more than mere entertainment. He’s one of those singer-songwriters who is tuned into certain social realities and he uses his talents to shine a light on them and hopefully by calling attention to them, changes can be addressed. Or at least discussed in a civil manner.
Many of the songs on the album deal with displacement. Bibb writes in his liner notes, “I want to encourage us all to keep our minds and hearts wide open to the ongoing plight of refugees everywhere. As history shows, we all come from people who, at one time or another, had to move.”
Bibb is joined by Michael Jerome Browne on guitars, vocals, banjos, mandolin, and triangle; JJ Milteau on harmonica; Olle Linder on drums, percussion, and even bass for one song. Big Daddy Wilson provided vocals on Prayin’ For Shore, and Ulrika Bibb added vocals on Mornin’ Train.  
Bibb provided the vocals and played guitars, six-string banjo, and contrabass guitar. Bibb, Milteau, and Browne handled most of the writing chores except for covers of one song from Bob Dylan, another from Woodiy Guthrie, and a traditional number that Bibb arranged for this album.
The opening song, Refugee Moan, sets the mood with its sparse guitar and harp behind some plaintive vocals by Bibb. You’ll find that most of the songs will follow a similar pattern – blues in a folk vein. There are no horn sections blaring and inviting people to dance. This is a sipping whiskey kind of an album, not one that you gulp down without tasting.
He follows up with the low and beautiful Delta Getaway. The lyrics are dark with images of hangings, of having to fight off men with a razor for defense. The singer is just trying to get out of town without being caught and lynched. Damn, this is a powerful song.
The next number, Diego’s Blues, actually has a little bounce to it. It’s the story of a man born between two cultures and what difficulties he has to face as someone not accepted into either culture and always treated with suspicion.
How many stories have we heard about refugees trying to get into the country on makeshift rafts or broken down boats? It’s not just this country, many others have dealt with refugees fleeing war. The next song gives them a voice. Prayin’ For Shore is their prayer. And a beautiful song, due primarily to Bibb’s vocals and Milteau’s harp.
The next song is the title track, Migration Blues. An instrumental, it features the three artists, Bibb, Milteau, and Browne combining on a number that is pure emotion. No words grace the number or detract from the simple beauty of their playing.
The song, Four Years, No Rain, was written by the tandem of B.A. Markus and Michael Jerome Browne especially for Migration Blues. It just emphasizes that not everyone becomes a refugee from war, there are plenty of natural disasters that cause whole populations to move from their homes.
We Had To Move has some of the happiest music on the album with more lyrics of pain. When governments claim land, towns have to pick up and relocate. It’s always the people without the means that have to pay for the whims of the government.
Bob Dylan’s Masters Of War gets covered by Bibb. Dylan is no stranger to the use of music to reflect the goings on of the world. A folk artist who learned from the bluesmen and women from an earlier era, he knows how to tell stories that can change minds. Bibb does a good job interpreting the song.
Using the metaphor of humanity as a ship, Brotherly Love is a fairly optimistic song. Bibb expresses his hope and belief that love for one another can right our ship and get us through the storm.
The instrumental, La Vie C’est Comme Un Oignon, is a look at the displacement of some 14,000 people of French descent from Nova Scotia. Eventually many of them made their way to the Louisiana bayou country where they became known as “Cajuns” and influenced the culture of that great state. Enjoy the music, mes amis…
With A Dolla’ In My Pocket is another powerful story reflected in Bibb’s love of country blues. The story is of a young man who couldn’t take life in the south and had to get away – quickly. With only a dollar to his name, how is he going to make it to the promised land. One nice touch is the use of Highway 61 in the lyrics. A very powerful allusion for any blues fan.
Woody Guthrie’s immortal classic, This Land Is Your Land, is a perfect fit for this album. What can I say about this song that hasn’t been said before by better historians than I can ever hope to be? I learned this song in the fourth grade and it’s stayed with me ever since. Bibb starts out a cappella and brings in the musicians later. Haunting and unforgettable.
Postcard From Booker is a love letter to the great Booker White. Bibb actually plays White’s guitar on this song. It’s a gorgeous instrumental and shows off Bibb’s incredible playing.
One of the purest blues songs on the album, Blacktop is dark and brooding. The simple arrangement belies the power in the strings and Bibb’s voice carries all the emotion of a man caught in a situation that he’ll most likely never be able to escape from.
The traditional song, Mornin’ Train, closes the album. At the end of our lives is hope for something better to come. This African-American folk song bears that out and the optimism that ends the album is our dream of new lives. For the refugees of the world, that dream is ongoing, and in the end, we are all refugees.
Bibb is an artist who could take an easier route to get his music played, but he continues to explore acoustic country blues in an era of blistering guitar solos and pedal effects. I, for one, applaud him for his dedication to keeping this form of music alive.
We need artists who are committed to all aspects of the blues. We also need labels that will support them, and for that I show my respect to Canadian label Stony Plain and the work they have done supporting all the different facets of the blues.
Be sure to check Eric Bibb out whenever you get the chance. I can tell you that if you go in expecting a loud over the top persona, you might be disappointed. Please slow down and listen – really listen to the beauty of his strong voice and simple orchestrations.
You might just find yourself amazed. I know I did.

His website can be found at: http://www.ericbibb.com/ and I hope you will explore his entire body of work. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Bobby Messano ~~ Bad Movie

Bobby Messano is one talented man. If you look at his previous albums, you’ll see a track record that includes multiple award nominations, sessions and tours with some of the best known names in the industry, and the respect of his peers and colleagues. That’s if you look at the albums.
If you listen to the albums, you’ll find an artist who is deeply committed to exploring his world, both on a personal and global level, and finding the intersection where those two meet. His latest album, Bad Movie, continues that exploration, and the result is an immensely enjoyable album that features some of the best lyrics of the year.
Most of the words and music on the album were written by Messano and his writing partner Jon Tiven. Tiven is another master whose work has been performed by such luminaries as Rick Derringer, Barrence Whitfield & the Savages, The Symptoms, Huey Lewis and the News, The Jeff Healey Band, B.B. King, Don Covay, Syl Johnson, Donnie Fritts, Freddie Scott, Mack Rice, Wilson Pickett, Robert Cray, Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy, Shemekia Copeland, and Irma Thomas.  
Not too bad of company to be in.
Messano also worked with Larry Weiss and Steve Kallnich, while Tiven turned in a collaboration with Queen co-founder Brian May.
The musicians on the album include Messano who plays guitar and sings lead vocals; Ed Canova on bass and background vocals; Nioshi Jackson on drums, percussion and backing vocals; Tiven on saxophone; and Pete Gallinari on organ and piano. Alecia Elliott Fisher supplies vocals for two duets and provides additional backing vocals.
The album starts out with the title track, Bad Movie, which can either make or break an album. Sometimes it’s best to let the album develop before unleashing the title track, but here Messano opens with it, much like the credits of a movie. Is his life, and by extension, our lives nothing but a bad movie? Like I said earlier, the lyrics are pretty wild throughout. It’s a blistering number that is thought provoking and illuminating at the same time. And good. Damn good.
The next song, Come To Your Senses, is slower and just as intense. Messano’s vocals are smoother and the song is lush. This is the song written by May and Tiven and there are several May touches on the guitar parts. The lyrics are dark, many of them are on the album. This one will be making the rounds of the blues shows.
With a title that sounds like it belongs on a country album, Why Water A Dead Rose is anything but a country tune. It does start out low and slow, and while it builds into the longest song on the album (only about 5:15, so not that long), it has a slightly different approach. It’s very poetic and the dark lyrics fit the blues beautifully.
Messano follows with Road To Oblivion, a straight up blues song. Traveling on roads with a guitar, it doesn’t get more blues than that. This is one of my favorite songs on the album and I know it will be appearing on Time For The Blues very soon. I don’t know about you, but this song speaks to me on so many levels.
The blistering Unconventional Wisdom follows. The guitar intro has an evil feel to it and the heavy percussion adds to the overpowering feeling of the song. This one has a serious look at the world, and it’s not at all a flattering reflection. It’s got some serious rock edges to it, but it’s a strong song through and through.
Next up is Too Good To Be True, a funky song with some cool guitar licks. The lyrics are razor sharp and Messano’s vocals are honed to a sharp edge. The drums really make the song, keeping that beat and allowing Messano’s choppy guitar to take over.
Messano follows up with what is probably my favorite song on the album, If The Phone Ain’t Ringin, It’s Me Not Callin’. Got to love that title, it’s clever and the song is played at a very fast pace. It’s the shortest song on the album, right at 2:20 and it packs a lot into a short time. This is punk rock fueled blues with a Bo Diddley beat.
He then segues into a good advice song, Never Too Late To Break A Bad Habit. It’s a lesson I never learned, but it sure makes for a good song. The rhythm section does a great job laying down the track and Messano uses his guitar as much as a weapon as an instrument.
The first song to feature Alecia Elliot’s vocals in a duet with Messano is Water Under The Bridge. Their voices blend nicely and the song takes on a much different feel. It’s a sweet pop/country song with some good lyrics. The second duet, You Left Me No Choice, has a reggae feel to it and the combination of the two songs reinforces my belief that Messano has the ability to take on many different genres. I also think his choice of Elliot as a singing partner was a wise one. She has a sweet but powerful voice.
A slow seductive number follows. The Girl That Got Away is a sad song of loss and continuing to go on afterwards. Messano is vulnerable on this number, opening up all of his emotion, while the song has a little bounce to it. It’s a good song and one that definitely catches your imagination.
I Thought We Had This starts off with a swinging rhythm, but the lyrics reveal a darker side. I’ve always enjoyed those songwriters that can get you thinking one way and then put in a big twist that takes it in a different direction. The music doesn’t match the lyrics, and that’s a very cool thing. The surprise makes the song more memorable to me.
The drums start off We Need A Blessing, and lay down a solid beat for the guitar and vocals. It’s another look at the state of America. This goes beyond political leanings, this is about what Americans face on a daily basis, and the fact that we could use some divine intervention to help the situation. Good song addressing social issues in the way the folk movement and even some of the ‘60’s rock songs addressed their social issues in order to raise our consciences.
The song, Is It Too Much To Hope For A Miracle, is a perfect bookend to the previous number. If we need a blessing, is it too much to hope for one? I’m glad to see more musicians using their voices to speak out for those that don’t have a voice. Good number.
Messano concludes the album with American Spring. It’s a rocking number that completes the trilogy of songs about the condition of the country and the issues it faces. “Let’s put our hearts together/We’ve got to take control,” is one helluva lyric that sums up what many feel about our current situation. I’m not taking sides here, I think both the left and right are part of the problem, but maybe, just maybe we can find a way to meet in the middle and find solutions.
If you’re not already a fan of Bobby Messano, this is a good album to start. He’s really poured himself into this one and left everything on stage. The songs are tight, well written, and I think you just might find several that speak to you. Be sure to check him out. I know that he performs often in the Northern Virginia, DC, and Maryland areas because I checked out his website: http://www.bobbymessano.com/ .
In fact, one of his upcoming shows is in Deltaville, the location of one of his previous albums, and a place unlike any other on earth. Situated on the Chesapeake Bay, Deltaville is a peaceful oasis in a troubled time. When you go to visit, there’s a different mindset, and a host of troubles can disappear while watching the sun set.
That’s the show I’m going to try to catch. Hope you’ll join me.  

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Megan Flechaus ~~ New

New York born but now Austin based after stints in Hawaii and North Carolina, singer-songwriter Megan Flechaus has just come out with her new album, called surprisingly New. It’s independently released, so your best bet to find it will be at her shows or via the internet.
I can honestly say that I was unaware of her or her angelic voice prior to receiving a copy of the new album. She does have one other title available, and I think I will have to pick up a copy just to see if her voice was as good on that one as it is on the new album.
I don’t have all the info I usually like to impart here, but I do think that Flechaus wrote all of the songs on the album as she is a prolific songwriter.
Southbound-81 starts the album off quietly. I’ve been listening to a number of harder edged blues albums lately, so finding a more sedate roots-Americana album is a nice change of pace. Already I can hear influences from the world of jazz and even some of my favorite Celtic singers. This is going to be an interesting journey.
Some sweet harmonica opens the next song, Open Road. A title like that is pure America – the road that lays open before us, the journey that takes us through the country and through our own life. I like her approach, and her lyrics are solid.
Don't Forget Tonight follows up and stays low key. She works primarily with guitar, and of course harmonica on the previous song, and they frame her voice beautifully. The lightness in her voice (I mean the tone, she has a strong, expressive voice) is a delight to hear, and any fans of folk will find her to be a great addition to their library.
The next song Muse, explores those persons in our life that we can’t get along without. Whether they are benefactors, lovers, or whatever, they belong to our life and inspire us to do the things we do.
There’s a nice piano introduction to Humble Me, and her voice soars beautifully over it. Flechaus has kept her orchestrations simple and easy to reproduce and that has been to her benefit. It keeps the focus on the real star of the album, her voice.
The Expanse opens with some very strong imagery in the lyrics. This one has a stronger beat to it, adding a new dimension to her songs. It’s a good song and shows that she’s got a few more tricks up her sleeve.
She brings the piano back for When Lost. She reminds me of Sara Bareilles when she uses the piano. Both have soft voices that can become sharp when necessary and both use pointed lyrics to express themselves. Bareilles is more tuned in to what the public will buy, but give Flechaus a little time and she’ll be right there.
The guitar is back for Consequences. While she sounds good with either instrument as the lead, I think I am responding more to the ones in which she employs the piano. To me it seems it adds a deeper richness to the performance. However, she does use the guitar nicely and it is good for a very intimate setting when she’s playing live.
She’s got a little playful beat behind Cat And Mouse. I don’t think this is a Tom and Jerry kind of thing, but she uses the song to put her foot down in a nice way. It’s a quick number and gets her point across with no room for question.
She uses the piano to set the mood for Seek And Pay. Her voice trembles slightly and she is exposed, vulnerable as she shares her pain through song. It’s a lush song that just could be my favorite on the album.
Another quick number, Life Is Not Glass, follows. It’s poetic, lyrical, and her voice is wonderful to hear. The title track, New, is next. The piano opens the song so sweetly, her voice is almost a lullaby. The simple music works so well, and her voice is especially emotive and expressive on this number. Beautiful.
She concludes the album with Crumble. Unfortunately, I only got to hear a small portion of the song due to a glitch in my computer that cut the song off prematurely. What I heard before it cut off sounded consistent with the excellent music on the previous tracts. I’ll have to get a new copy and update this portion of the review later…
Digging a little deeper into Flechaus’ life story, I see that she was an astronomy student in Hilo, Hawaii. I, too, was a student of the celestial sciences and have had the chance to work with a number of well-known astronomers. Let me tell you, I have yet to meet any that could sing like she does.

If you like the folk, roots, Americana style of music (and I do), you just might enjoy New a lot. Check her out at her website: http://meganflechaus.com/ and you too, might just discover a star.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Godboogie ~~ Play Music & Dance

About the name of the group, Godboogie. It’s not any sort of slight on a Supreme Being as we might conceive Him of Her. (I’m kind of having to hedge my bet a little here as it’s an incredibly sensitive subject.) The artist who put the group together is a Toronto based bandleader named Jerome Godboo, and he’s been kicking around the music world for some three decades.
He has assembled one kick-ass supergroup to play some of the grittiest blues, funk, and rock in some time. The album, Play Music & Dance on VizzTone is available now. Aside from Godboo taking on the lead vocals and the harp, he’s added accordion and percussion to his resume. He’s added Eric Schenkman, one of the founding members of The Spin Doctors on guitar; guitarist and bassy sounds are by Shawn Kellerman, a Blues Music Award-winner who has recently been out on tour with the Lucky Peterson Band; and drummer Gary Craig who is an in-demand session player who has toured with Bruce Cockburn as well as the stars from the ABC series Nashville.
Now that’s a line-up you can hang your hat on.
The album starts off with the title track, Play Music & Dance, a celebration of life. When it’s our time it’s too late to be joyous, so while we are on this Earth, we should play music and dance. Love the Zydeco feel of the accordion, I may have to pull out my washboard and play along next time. It’s a very cool song and an even better philosophy.
They follow up with the blistering Honey Badger, which features some stellar guitar work. This is a straight up old-time blues number with some killer vocals to go along with the guitars, and Godboo’s harp that just ties it all together. I look forward to playing this one on Time For The Blues.
A slow burning song, Wounded, is next, showing that the band is truly versatile as it has gone from joyous Zydeco to old-school blues, and finally ended up with a song of pure emotion. So far, this is the most vulnerable that the singer has gotten, and the harp adds to that feeling.
The band then moves to the longest song on the album, It’s A Party, which clocks in at about 7:30 on the clock and 6.8 on the Richter Scale. Godboo’s harp is smoking on the intro and the band kicks it into a funky high gear. It’s not straight blues, much more on the rock-funk side of the street, but I like it and think it’s a great dance tune.
The get back to the blues with the delicious number, Kitty. It’s a slow building song with some outstanding guitar work and some clever lyrics. I could hear this one being performed by a number of the classic Chicago performers in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s.
The raucous song, So Far Away, follows and this a good hard-driving number. This is another one that will be appearing on the show shortly and will probably be making the rounds of just about every blues show.
Next up is Sign Of The Times, a solid slow building number that lets the singer step into the spotlight and open himself up to the audience. This is a great emotional song that blends guitar, harp, and voice beautifully. Craig’s drums keep a very steady heartbeat time that adds to the effect.
Dragon King starts off like a 1970’s funk tune, but Godboo’s harp gives it a strong blues bent. The lyrics are more mystical, more poetic than the others so far on the album. It’s a different kind of story, but pretty cool nonetheless. Hey, if Jim Morrison can be the Lizard King, why can’t Godboo be the Dragon King?
Next is The Way To Heaven, a song with a great deal of story in the lyrics. It continues the deeper feel of the previous song and has some lovely poetic imagery. The music is thinned down in comparison to most of the rest of the album, but that doesn’t detract from its emotion.
The mysticism and poetry gives way to a good time on Real Dude. It’s a lively party song with some funky guitar work laid over a rock beat. There’s even some scat singing involved during the dance break. I want to say it reminds me a little of Commander Cody, but that just might be me. Still, it’s a lot of fun.
The following song, Call On My Love, is a more soulful number than the others on the album. It’s not a bad song, they lyrics are very good, but something about this one just doesn’t click for me the way the others have so far.
Workshop gives Craig’s drums their best work out on the album. Godboo’s harp is sharp and the music is there, but lyrically I think it falls a little flat. I can see where it’s heading, but it just doesn’t seem to get there.
The band brings the album to a close with Tigers, Horses, Kings & Queens. It starts out low and lonely and shows great promise. I like the lyrics and the sparseness of the song is very appealing. Any song that quotes William Blake is one I’m going to enjoy. It shows to me that Godboo has a great deal of poetry inside of him and a spiritual side that comes out through his music. The song won’t be for everyone, but I’m glad I gave it a chance to grow on me.
This is another outstanding album from Canada. We’ve received so many of late that I might have to put together and entire show of artists from the Land of the Maple Leaf. The four guys that make up this supergroup wrote all of the material on the album with Godboo penning eight songs solo and collaborated on another three. Schenkman wrote two solo and co-wrote another two, and Kellerman collaborated on three.
The guys all have fairly busy schedules so I haven’t been able to zero in on any dates they might all come together, but I’m hopeful that they’ll pop up on a few festivals this year or next. In the meantime, I’m keeping my eyes peeled and my fingers crossed and hope we’ll see another record from them at some point in the future.