Friday, June 30, 2017

The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band ~~ Front Porch Sessions

Photo By Tyler Zoller
Every so often I get in the mood for some down home country blues, the kind of blues that first attracted me to the genre. While I love just about every version of the blues, sometimes I just need them like I need a meal of cornbread and black-eyed peas.
Fortunately I had just picked up a copy of The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band’s latest disc, Front Porch Sessions, and that satisfied those cravings like you wouldn’t believe. Just like the title implies, these songs sound like they were all played on the front porch with a glass of lemonade (or something stronger) sitting next to you.
Peyton’s guitars, both fingerpicking and slide, along with his cigarbox guitar and vocals are strong and carry the brunt of the album. Even with the help of Washboard Breezy Peyton on washboard, tambourine, snaps, claps, and background vocals and Maxwell Senteney on suitcase drums, tambourine, snaps, claps, other percussion, and background vocals, the album still rests primarily on the Good Reverend’s broad shoulders.
It’s a gentler form of the blues, deeply rooted in country rhythms and concerns making this a universal album. The problems of one are the problems of all, and Peyton makes a good case in the six songs he wrote and the five songs he covers on Front Porch Sessions.
Let’s all pile into the rusted work truck with the busted AM radio and head down the road a piece and join the congregation and listen to the Reverend’s sermon.
The album starts off with a little soulful guitar on We Deserve A Happy Ending. The slide picks up and gives it some spice. This is actually the longest song on the album, at just over four minutes long – the songs are very economical – and it sets the mood nicely.
Furry Lewis’ When My Baby Left Me is the next number. The guitar work is beautiful and rich and Peyton’s vocals ring out strong. I get the feeling that Peyton probably pulls this one out when they are playing live just to show that he can do some great solo work.
There’s some cool jazzy riffs and finger popping to open Shakey Shirley. The song has some interesting, almost ethereal guitar running through this Peyton-penned number. Breezy’s backing vocals adds another element to the song.
There’s a quick shuffle to open What You Did To The Boy Ain’t Right and Peyton then opens his voice and sings his vocals to the heavens. His guitar work has been steady throughout the album, and here he pulls out all the stops. He follows up with One Bad Shoe, with some slow slide opening the song. It’s a languid number that pulls you in a bit at a time.
The first of two instrumentals, It’s All Night Long, is next. Written by Miles Pratcher and Bob Pratcher it’s a foot-stomping hoedown of a song. Lots of claps provided by Breezy and Senteney and great cigarbox guitar by Peyton. Can’t help but have some fun with a song like this. Heard many like it in barns all across the South…
The gentle song, One More Thing, follows and Peyton’s voice is deep and pained. It’s one of those numbers that makes you stop and pause and listen to the entire thing with full attention. You can feel the emotion that Peyton brings to the song, and you know that he’s singing for so many people that are feeling the problems of life piling on.
The second instrumental, Flying Squirrels, should be adapted by Richmond Virginia’s baseball team of the same name. This is a quick, almost bluegrass sounding number with some great guitar. Once again, this one would be a great one to play at any barn dance to get those feet moving…
Blind Willie Johnson’s Let Your Light Shine follows and you can feel the emotion in every note of Peyton’s playing. He approaches the song with a strong evangelical feel and Johnson’s words have never rung so true. He has such fervor that it can restore the faith of an unbeliever and make a religious man reach out a helping hand to one who needs it.
Next up is the traditional number, When You Lose Your Money. The story of Stagger Lee has given us many great songs and at least one classic. This is a great version and Peyton’s playing recreates those itinerant blues players who traveled from roadhouse to juke joint looking for a place to play. When they couldn’t find one, they would perch on a street corner or near a work camp and draw a crowd. The song transported me to a different place and time.
Finally, the album ends up with another traditional song, Cornbread And Butterbeans. Aside from being a dinner that I’ve eaten many times, it’s a quick number that really brings the Front Porch Sessions to a close. It’s been a fun time in the country and I can’t wait to take another trip down this road again.
The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band can make a believer out of just about anyone. He is a great evangelist for the blues, and even those who prefer their blues electrified and not sanctified, there is a great deal to love. In my opinion, there are many well-known blues artists who are amazing technicians but who lack the heart to really reach an audience’s soul.
Peyton sings everything with his heart and soul before it ever becomes his voice. So, even if you don’t usually gravitate towards the country sounds, give this one a chance and I think you just might find yourself in the Amen Corner before next Sunday.

Find out more about the Good Reverend and his flock by going to his website, http://www.bigdamnband.com/, to find out more about his earlier releases and his travel plans. I hope to make a pilgrimage to catch him somewhere down the road. In the meantime, I’ll be playing Front Porch Sessions more and more.
Photo by Tyler Zoller

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Megan Flechaus ~~ What We’ve Got ~~ Special Bonus Review


I've never reviewed a single before, but there's a first for everything. Recently I had the privilege of listening to the angelic Megan Flechaus and reviewing her album, New. I was hoping I would hear more but never figured I would hear anything so soon.
Her latest song is called What We've Got, and she has such a clear country voice that rises over a cool shuffle beat. Drummer Nathan Smith does a great job creating a train rhythm and she even employs a flute to soar and give a little counterpoint to her vocals. Kenzie Slottow is her flautist, and what a beautiful sound they make.
You can pick the single up at CD Baby, but first you might want to go by her website http://meganflechaus.com/ to sample some of her other music and see where she’ll be on tour. I happen to think she has a gorgeous voice, and if she comes within 100 miles of me, I’m going to be in the front row to listen to her. She’s got all the tools to break out, and I only pray that she gets heard by the right people. At the same time, I hope she can stay true to her style and not get caught up in the machinery that homogenizes these talented artists.
What We’ve Got is already downloaded into my personal frequent playlist, and every time it pops up, I hit the repeat button. I think you’ll do the same!



Time For The Blues ~~ July 1. 2017

My Show, John. Go Get a Soda...
Henry and I hope you will join us this Saturday Night, July 1, at 11:00 Eastern for another thrilling and exciting journey with Time For The Blues!
Well, the music is good anyway…
It’s July in Richmond and that means it’s hot enough outside to boil lead. For those of you who live outside of the Richmond area, when a baby is born, his first complete sentence is usually, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” After a handful of beautiful days, our weather turned hot and sticky, so what better time is there to snuggle up to the air conditioner and listen to some soothing blues?
Fortunately, Henry has gotten some very cool music to share with you. This is one of his shows, so you know there’s going to be some very strong musical selections and maybe a few surprises as well.
Let’s take a look at what he’s got up his sleeve for this week.
Recently we visited a very cool Alligator release from Selwyn Birchwood, Pick Your Poison. Selwyn is a great performer. He’s a past winner of the International Blues Challenge and his first album, Don’t Call No Ambulance, also on Alligator, pretty much blew us away. On this album, he continues with some very solid blues, but he plays around with the form and utilizes some jazz elements which gives him an exciting new direction in which to take the music.
On his recent appearance, we concentrated on his blues, so it’s only fair that on this episode, we’re going to sample his blues-jazz hybrid. Trust me, you are going to enjoy this approach, and I want to go on record, again, saying that Birchwood has all of the elements to be a major force in the world of the blues for years to come.
Come enjoy the selections from Pick Your Poison, and we’re even playing one from Don’t Call No Ambulance that we didn’t have a chance to play before. We think you’ll really enjoy them.
Another performer that we recently featured is one of our favorites, Janiva Magness, who recently released a six-song EP, Blue Again. The disc was released on Blue Elan, her new label, and it has a great selection of songs and the recording itself is pristine.
We’ve picked some great tracks from Blue Again, including one written by the great Al Kooper. Her interpretation of that song is unique, and one that’ll be hard to forget. Just for fun, Henry has reached way back to one of her Alligator releases, The Devil Is An Angel Too, for her version of a great Joe Tex song.
**BREAKING NEWS – We’ve just received word that Janiva Magness is coming to town to play The Tin Pan on August 18, 2017. This is a rare opportunity for us to catch one of the all-time greats up close and personal. We’re going to be there, you better get your tickets early, because I’m predicting a sellout. Contact The Tin Pan at http://www.tinpanrva.com/**
A while back we did a few segments that explored the Chief Records Label that existed from 1957-1964. It was the brainchild of Mel London, known for his contributions to the blues and R&B worlds. While the label only existed for seven short years, it fostered a lot of very talented artists and even spawned a few hits.
Their roster included people like Junior Wells, Magic Sam, Elmore James, A.C. Reed, Earl Hooker, Jackie Brenston, and Lillian Offitt. Unfortunately, like many small labels, money was tight and eventually it ran out completely. But for a while, these singles allowed great artists to develop and find their own way in the business.
Henry and I have long been fascinated with small labels and their place in the musical world. We spent several weeks on the Memphis label Goldwax and the artists they fostered and when I stumbled on a collection of Chief releases, I just knew we would have to visit them.
Henry has chosen some heavy hitters for this week’s look back; Junior Wells, Magic Sam, and Lillian Offitt. Please feel free to let us know if you enjoy these explorations of smaller labels, and we’ll be happy to continue finding more. You can always reach us at timefortheblues@gmail.com.
You know we’ve always got new releases as well, and this week we’ve got one of our favorites, Ana Popovic, from her recent release, Trilogy. And if that wasn’t enough, we’re taking a sneak peek at Linsey Alexander’s new release Two Cats. We’ll be revisiting that album in a future show.
**EVEN MORE BREAKING NEWS – We’ve just learned of another great show coming to town. Joe Louis Walker is coming to Buz & Ned's Real Barbecue on Broad Street on July 20. Walker is another blues heavyweight that doesn’t come around here very often. We’re working on getting an interview with him now. Make your plans, visit https://buzandneds.com/ for the details. This is another show that will sellout. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door. Showtime is 9:00 p.m. and come early and get some great barbecue for dinner!**
In the meantime, 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, June 28, 2017

Eric Gales ~~ Middle Of The Road

Middle Of The Road is a return for Eric Gales to the music that established him as a master from the time he was 16 and cutting his first record. It’s also a new philosophy for him helping to overcome some if the downs in his personal life over the years.
The new 11-song disc, available from Provogue is mostly originals – some co-written with various partners, and only one cover, the Leon Russell – Charles Blackwell penned Boogie Man. Musicians include Gales on all lead vocals, guitars, and bass guitar; Aaron Haggerty on drums; Dylan Wiggins on B3 Organ; and wife LaDonna Gales provides all of the backing vocals and accessories. Maxwell (Wizard) Drummey plays the Mellotron on Repetition.
Special guests Gary Clark, Jr., Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, and brother Eugene Gales all contribute to one song apiece.
The album opens with a wink and a smile before sliding into the gospel fueled call and response of Good Time. Immediately I am drawn to the energy of the song as well as LaDonna Gales’ backing vocals. She’s got a voice that is perfect for soul gospel and I can’t wait to hear what the rest of the album is going to bring.
The very autobiographical Change In Me (The Rebirth) follows. I alluded to the troubles that Gales faced, but not the specifics. He did time for drug and weapon possession and used that time to develop his spiritual side. For many, that only lasts until they walk away from the prison yard, but it seems to have taken a hold of Gales and he’s turned his life around. This is a powerful song.
Gales slows things down and adds some funk to Carry Yourself. He doesn’t abandon the blues (listen to the lyrics), but he expands his musical approach with this song. He handles R&B, funk, and soul throughout the album, but the base is always the blues.
The only cover on the album, Boogie Man features Gary Clark Jr. I know the song has been covered by a few artists, but it still seems fresh and alive in Gales’ hands. It’s a fun song with just a hint of mystery behind to voices. Yeah, I’ll be playing this on at some point in the next few weeks…
Another autobiographical number is Been So Long. It’s the story of what he’s done and the struggles he’s faced because of those things. More than that is the fact that he is owning those things and being accountable for them. It’s a powerful number and while he wrote it about what he’s faced, it’s empowering for so many who also have those struggles and it offers hope. And isn’t that what the blues is all about? Overcoming obstacles and finding hope. The lilting reggae rhythm is different, but it works with this song.
The next song is Help Yourself, and it features Christopher “Kingfish” Ingram. It’s a solid blues number that draws from the Delta before adding a little blistering guitar. It’s an examination of what each of us have to do in order to keep our lives on track. Or stay in the middle of the road…
There is screaming pain in the song, I’ve Been Deceived. This is Gales at his most vulnerable. He is dealing with some fairly heavy issues with this song and by including them on this album, he’s not hiding any of it from his audience. Radio producers and parents playing this one with small kids in the car, there is one instance of one of the famous “Seven Words You Can’t Say On Television” being sung. It’s not gratuitous, but it may give you pause. You decide. I think it’s an amazing, earthy, and visceral number.
The next song, Repetition, features brother Eugene Gales joining in the fun. It also features Drummey on the Mellotron. It’s got some funk in it and more than a little darkness behind the music. It’s an interesting look at the cycles and spirals that we often face in life. It’s great to hear the two Gales Brothers tear it up. I can only hope we hear it more often…
Gales follows it up with a beautiful number, Help Me Let Go. It’s an amazing spiritual journey with some very lovely lyrics. Wiggins’ B3 adds to the church feel to this song. They say the spirit is all around us, this is a case of Gales acknowledging it and passing it along.
Some jazzy scatting opens the next track, I Don’t Know. Could be more like beatboxing, but whatever label you want to hang on it, it jump starts the song and Gales gets funky one more time. He’s exploring several different avenues to see where the music takes him, but if you think he’s left the blues behind, listen for his guitar break and tell me that…
Gales closes the album with the instrumental, Swamp. It’s a high energy attack that lets his band show off one last time, with drummer Haggerty really going to town on his break. Gales does some fine six-string pyrotechnics when it’s his turn and the jam session extends the fun.
Eric Gales is a superstar in the field of blues that got sidetracked along the way. Since that time, he has returned with an amazing album, this one, Middle Of The Road, and it is racking up lots of airplay and has been a fixture on the Blues And Roots Chart for some time.

He’s been out on the road promoting the album steadily, and will continue to do so, so if you play your cards right, you just might be in a place where he is heading. I suggest you point your browser to http://www.ericgalesband.com/ in order to see where he’s headed next. If you get that chance to see him, you’re in for a great performance. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Delta Wires ~~ Born In Oakland

Every area in which the blues has taken root has a different sound. Chicago blues is different from Memphis blues and St. Louis blues sounds different than Texas blues. West Coast Blues is distinct from all the others with its jump rhythms and different instrumentation. Once you hear it, you know it, and you pretty much know what to expect.
San Francisco is its own world, even within the West Coast sound. The band Delta Wires has been one of its best practitioners for the past three decades and have just released their latest disc, Born In Oakland on Mud Slide Records.
The band is an over the top seven-piece band that relies heavily on harmonica and horns. The harmonica is supplied by founding member and band leader Ernie Pinata, who also handles the lead vocals. The horns are Gerry Jonutz on temor, alto, and baritone sax, David Bowman on trombone, and John Christensen on trumpet.
The rest of the band is Tom Gerrits on bass and vocals, Richard Healey on guitar, and Tony Huszar on drums, congas, and tambourine.
Most of the ten songs on Born In Oakland are originals, with the band performing covers of Billy “The Kid” Emerson’s Little Fine Healthy Thing, here titled Fine And Healthy Thing, and I Don’t Care by Pete Shaw. I’ve found a listing for the song by The Spyders, but I must confess that I am not that familiar with the song.
The horns open the door for some funky guitar and bass on the first song, Sunny Day. Pinata has a good voice, here more mellow than edgy but that works perfectly for this kind of song. It’s got plenty of swing and promises that this will be a very cool album.
Billy “The Kid” Emerson is probably best known for his song, Red Hot, which was a big hit for Billy Lee Riley. Another of Emerson’s songs, Fine And Healthy Thing, is next, and that big band swing sounds exciting. Pinata croons his way through the song with just a little touch of attitude to really sell the number.
The band gets to rocking on the next track, Vacation. They turn the guitar loose and the horns step in when they need to in order to provide just the right emphasis. Pinata has a lot of fun just being the cool California rocker and you just can’t help but get into the song.
Your Eyes starts off with some nice guitar work from Healy and the song has that very laid back California cool sound. They lyrics are very nice and the trumpet break adds a nice touch. It may not be the song that blues purists love, but I really like it a lot.
The follow up song, Days Of The Week, picks up the pace and adds a little more bounce to the proceedings. The horn section packs a punch on this number. Pinata really does a great job on the harp break, playing off of Healy’s guitar. Solid playing all around.
Next up is my favorite song on the album, Devil’s In My Headset. There’s some smoking guitar and good lyrics. It made me look twice at my own headset as they are on my head every evening listening and evaluating blues albums. The horns and guitar take on a jazzy break and change the tone of the song, and it’s sweet. Very sweet.
Next up is my favorite time of the day, Fun Time. It’s a bouncy number with a little bit of jump added to make it a fun song. Pinata swings as he sings, and I would love to see the guys do this one live, I bet they rock the crowd.
Now comes the mysterious I Don’t Care. It’s credited on the album to “Byrd” but thanks to a couple of emails from the band, I have found that there was a mix up and the song was actually written by Pete Shaw. I can’t find a recording of it, but I found the flip side of the 45 on YouTube and listened to a pretty funky number. This one is also pretty funky with some great percussion and horns that attack. It’s a big time dance number and Pinata rocks his vocals. It may have been obscure, but it’s a lot of fun!
More funk follows with In The Middle. The band trades licks in a very cool jam – the horns take the lead while the rhythm section lays down the beat. It’s a solid instrumental that gives Pinata a chance to rest his voice and pick up his harp for some serious wailing. This is a very cool song that shows the band at their musical best.
The album closes with All I Have To Give. It seems to me that the band has given us all that they have on this album. It’s a bluesy love song with that distinctive West Coast flavor. It’s a good way to conclude the album.
Delta Wires is a very cool band that I wish I had discovered earlier. I haven’t been out the West Coast in many years and so they haven’t been on my radar. You better believe they are on it now and I plan on getting a few more of their previous albums so I can build a few segments for Time For The Blues to feature them.
If you aren’t familiar with them, Born In Oakland is a great place to start. You can pick up the album – and others – at their website, https://deltawires.com/, and check out their touring schedule. I see they will be primarily on the West Coast, no surprise there, but they are also heading over to Italy for a big appearance.
If you catch the live any place, please send us a report here and let us know how they did. In the meantime, be sure to check out Born In Oakland asap!



Monday, June 26, 2017

Joseph Veloz ~~ Offerings

Joseph Veloz is a renaissance bassist. I don’t mean that he plays the bass like it’s the 14th Century, I mean he is adaptable to so many different styles. He seems just at home with jazz as he does the blues, and if you want to toss in soul, funk, or Americana, Veloz is cool with it.
He has played with and supported a lot of great acts including Matt "Guitar" Murphy, Lucky Peterson, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Shawn Kellerman, Eddie Kirkland, James Armstrong, Sherman Robertson, Debra Coleman, Jason Ricci, Carl Weathersby, Greg Nagy, and Drew Abbott. There are a lotmore names I could add, but you get the idea. Veloz is no lightweight performer, he’s in demand for session work as well as tours.
With his first album, Offerings, he finally places himself a little closer to the spotlight. Like the supportive man that he is, he still manages to put that light on some of his friends and fellow musicians while he adds his excellent bass to their performance.
Veloz has recruited some well-known vocalists to get behind the mic and he’s also written some beautiful instrumentals to showcase some of his guitar and keyboard friends as well.
The vocalists on the album include Biscuit Miler on Good Good Day; Lucky Peterson on Jukin’ And Shakin’; Greg Nagy on I Like Me Better When I’m With You; Jennifer Westwood on Jolene; and Joey Spina on Kiss.
Other musicians include Veloz on bass; Jim Alfredson and Jim David on keys; Shawn Kellerman, Dylan Dunbar, Erich Goebel, and Greg Nagy on guitars; John Lee on piano; Ray Podhornik on trumpet, David Rodenburg on sax; Andrew “Blaze” Thomas and Scott Veenstra on drums; and the backing vocals of Le Chœur des Offrandes which is made up of Jim Alfredson, Andrew “Blaze” Thomas, Shawn Kellerman, and Veloz.
The album kicks off with the jazzy instrumental Just Jammin’. Veloz is so comfortable in different arenas and this catchy number lays out much of his musical philosophy – his ability to elevate and showcase other musicians and his desire to show that the blues don’t belong in a museum, that it can continue to grow in different directions.
The award-winning Biscuit Miller takes the vocals on Good Good Day. This song is straight up blues and Miller is in good form. This is the song that features the guys providing the backing vocals and it sounds like they had a lot of fun doing it.
If you are a jazz musician, it would be hard not to be inspired by the great Miles Davis. The next song, Mules For Biles (Blues For Miles), is a lovely jazz instrumental. Alfredson does a remarkable job on the keys. This may be my favorite song on the album, and I will have to pass it along to our jazz host so that he can share it with his audience.
Jukin’ And Shakin’ showcases the vocals of Lucky Peterson. I always enjoy Peterson and realize it’s been too long since I featured him on Time For The Blues. This will be a great song to play to show off the talents of both men. It’s a seriously cool blues song in the Chicago style and there’s enough energy generated from it to light up the entire West Side!
Veloz feels the spirit that guides the universe in everything he does. The next instrumental, He Loves Me (God’s Promise), taps into that belief. It’s a lovely song that explores wonderment, joy, and the peaceful feelings that faith can bring to a person who is open to those gifts.
Greg Nagy handles both the guitar and vocals for I Like Me Better When I’m With You. That’s a title with which many of us can identify. Nagy has a great soul voice and it’s put to the test here. This is a fun song and it adds a lot to the album.
Friend and bandmate Jennifer Westwood delivers the vocals on Dolly Parton’s Jolene, and delivers a beautiful blend of Country and the Blues. Of the songs that include vocals, this is my favorite, and the use of a female singer makes this song stand out. It’s a familiar tune but Veloz and Company make it seem original.
Prince’s Kiss, as delivered by Joey Spina, closes out the album. Since his passing, a lot of blues musicians have been covering some of his better known songs. At their heart, many of Prince’s best works were blues songs, and these new interpretations really bear that out. This version retains the soul and funk elements and adds a few twists and turns of their own.
Joseph Veloz is a great bass player and if this album is any indication, a very strong songwriter as well. I don’t know if this album will lead to more or if Veloz will continue to focus on his side work or his teaching. Offerings is a solid addition to the blues-jazz genre and for those of us who get excited by this form a music, a must have for our libraries.
Check him out for yourself. You can find his corner of cyberspace at http://jmveloz.com/, and you can read his fascinating biography, hear some samples of his music and even order this one.

If you can catch him live, grab the chance. I am pretty sure you won’t be disappointed by whatever direction he is headed at the time! 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Cash Box Kings ~~ Royal Mint

In many ways, The Cash Box Kings are a throwback band. They recapture that wild, over-the-top attitude of the great Chess recordings, but they aren’t interested in just reproducing what other people have done, they bring their own compositions to the table and they rock out with whatever they do. The two mainstays of The Cash Box Kings are harpist and occasional lead vocalist Joe Nosek and his partner in crime, vocalist Oscar Wilson.
The rest of the band is what Nosek calls a “collective,” that is performers who come together in different configurations to play on an album or a live performance. No matter who shows up on disc or in person, you are treated to world class bluesmen or women.
For example, on their latest album, the Alligator Records release, Royal Mint, you might get either Billy Flynn or Joel Paterson on guitar. But you just might get them both at the same time. Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith or Mark Haines might be sitting behind the drum set. Brad Ber handles the upright and electric bass; and the newest member, Lee Kanehira steps in to take over the piano after the loss of longtime keyboardist Barrelhouse Chuck.
Special guests include Mel Ford on rhythm guitar; Alex Hall on drums; and The C-Note Horns which consist of Al Falaschi on tenor and baritone sax, Darren Sterud on trombone, and Jim Doherty on trumpet.    
The opening track, House Party, doesn’t so much start as it’s just there. It’s a wild party song that gives Flynn and Paterson a chance to really rip into their guitars. Can’t beat this one for sheer fun! Listen for Nosek’s harp to really light up the joint.
The band slows the tempo a little for Jimmy Reed’s I’m Gonna Get My Baby. While they are faithful to the original, they still manage to make it sound as if the song were written exclusively for them. Nosek does a great job on the harp on this number.
The next song, Flood, was originally a Muddy Waters tune. It’s a slow burn of a number and Wilson and Nosek are in complete control. Wilson has an uncanny ability to channel these great singers and still sound like it’s him in control. His vocals are solid and the music is pitch perfect.
The first of a couple of songs dealing with contemporary issues, Build That Wall, follows. Nosek wrote and sings the song and it follows their “bluesabilly” format mixing blues with Memphis style rockabilly. I don’t know what your take is on this polarizing issue, but I can tell you that it’s a killer song!
The next song, also ripped from the headlines is Blues For Chi-Raq. It’s a blistering look at the violence that has plagued Chicago for some time. Wilson digs deep to bring out some of the strongest soul blues around. Both Flynn and Paterson play guitar and it adds to the depth of the song and the staccato playing drives the atmosphere home.
Robert Johnson’s Traveling Riverside Blues follows. Paterson’s guitar sounds otherworldly and Wilson does a great job on the vocals. Following up the previous couple of songs with one of Johnson’s classics is a gutsy move and the band pulls it off nicely.
What follows is a song with the greatest title, If You Got A Jealous Woman Facebook Ain’t Your Friend. Trust me brothers, truer words were never spoken. This is a fun song with a lot of bounce and more than a little tongue in the old cheek. I can guarantee that this is a big hit when they play it live. It’ll put a smile on your face and have a shiver run up your spine at the same time…
Nosek wrote the next song, Daddy Bear Blues, an old-school piano blues song. He also steps behind the mic to take over the vocals. It’s a good slow number that sounds great now, and would not have been out of place in the ‘40’s or ‘50’s.
The Mel London penned Sugar Sweet follows. Nosek’s harp swings us into the song and Wilson’s vocals take it from there. It’s a good Chicago sound number that relies heavily on the piano and harp. You can’t help but get excited by this number.
I’m A Stranger starts out with a blistering intro before Wilson’s vocals come in. The three words in the title sum up some of the best blues songs ever, and we’ve all been strangers at some point in our lives. It’s a great tune and I’m sure I’ll be playing it on Time For The Blues soon.
Wilson wrote the next song, I Come All The Way From Chi-Town. Wilson was born and raised in the blues – many of the greats made their way through his house and he made his professional debut at a house party alongside David “Honeyboy” Edwards. Now he’s singing around the world and he delivers on this slow, controlled number.
Need a party song? You can’t go wrong with Chenier’s All Night Long. Here, the Cash Box Kings let loose with a raucous good time and Wilson shouts to the high heavens throughout the song. This is one that should be played anytime there’s a party somewhere…
They end the album on its shortest song, Don’t Let Life Tether You Down. Written by Nosek, who also sings the number, it’s a bouncy tune in a ragtime vibe. It’s a fun song and some great advice. Hope we all take it.
The Cash Box Kings are a welcome addition to the Alligator family. After all, that’s a label that owes its continued success to finding new artists, as well as established ones, that can take their blues audiences to new levels. Nosek and Wilson, along with their collective, can play the blues like nobody’s business and they will continue to create new sounds for older music while remaining true to the genre. I think they are a great band and I can’t wiat for more albums from them.

If you want to check them out, please start at their website, https://www.cashboxkings.com/, to get caught up on their previous work and to see where they will be playing next. And remember, Royal Mint releases on June 30, so you can preorder your copy now! 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Doug MacLeod ~~ Break The Chain

Even though Doug MacLeod has been playing blues for years, it was only a couple of years ago that I was able to get copies of his first two album on Reference Recordings. There's a Time came out in 2013 Exactly Like This was released in 2015, and now Break The Chain was released this year.
From the first time I heard his music I was entranced. I find so few artists who work in the old-school country blues tradition, and even fewer who do it well, that after hearing his approach I knew that I was listening to a master performer.
Break The Chain continues his list of strong recordings. Working with a spare group – MacLeod on guitar and vocals; Jimi Bott on drums; Denny Crow on bass; Oliver Brown on percussions; and son Jesse MacLeod on guitar as well. MacLeod has once again written all of the material on this album, as is his normal approach, although Jesse MacLeod did contribute to the title track.
MacLeod and company start off with a cool shuffle on Goin’ Down To The Roadhouse. It’s a good introduction and the tight playing gives it the feeling of a live recording – musicians actually playing music instead of running everything through the computer. It’s music the way most of us like it.
Next up is Mr Bloozeman, and it takes on a deep slow groove that should strike fear in the hearts of the blues posers that make a living pretending to play the blues. Does one actually “play” the blues or does one live the blues? MacLeod has earned his place with years of playing on his own, and backing some of the legends prior to that. I love this song and want to send it anonymously to a number of folks…
A plaintive guitar intros Lonesome Feeling, giving the song a truly lonesome sound. This is the essence of the blues, a voice that aches with emotion and a guitar that has an ethereal sound combining to create a unique experience. The blues is often about mistakes, and this song really drives that point home. Beautiful number.
Some wild percussion and a shuffle rhythm kick off Travel On, a song that exhorts us to travel on despite any hardships. Life can’t all be good – but as rain falls on the unjust the same as the just, all you can do is pick up and keep on. It’s a joyous song with a great country blues feel.
MacLeod then drops LA – The Siren In The West. If you remember the story of the sirens, they sang beautiful songs that lured sailors to crash on the rocks. LA is a lot like that, offering promises and whispering sweet things in your ear to get you closer where many will crash as well. I wish everyone who ventures there the absolute best, and maybe one day I’ll join you there as well…
One of the most influential blues artists was Hudson Whittaker who became better known by the moniker “Tampa Red.” One For Tampa Red is an homage to the great performer who developed a very interesting style of playing slide guitar. This instrumental beautifully captures Red’s style of playing. If you call yourself a blues fan and don’t know his work, you have some homework to do. And trust me, you’re going to love doing that homework.
MacLeod delivers a spoken word story as the autobiographical number, What The Blues Means To Me. If you’ve ever wondered what I mean by old-school when I talk about the blues, or you wonder why I treat the music so reverentially, listen to this track, it sums up my thoughts through his experiences.
Oh yeah, This Road I’m Walking, is a great song. The rhythm is cool and it’s the kind of song you expect to hear in any roadhouse or juke joint around the country. MacLeod has a lot of fun with this number and you better believe I’ll be playing it soon.
Next up is a question I ask every week on the radio, Who’s Driving This Bus? I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to jump onto anything without knowing who’s in charge. Even if I don’t like their agenda, at least I know what to expect. MacLeod’s lyrics definitely put his philosophy of laughing to deal with the blues to the test.
A beautiful slow, memory song, Church Street Serenade follows. It has some of the most gorgeous solo guitar on the album. For those in the Virginia area, the song is a look back at the time MacLeod spent in Norfolk. As a side note, I spent several years in the same town and often think along similar lines. This is a lovely number.
A quick song, Going Home, follows. It is delivered in the manner of a field holler. There is no instrumentation and it has all the emotion of those early Alan Lomax recordings of field hands or prisoners who sang a cappella with the strength of emotion guiding them.
The only song not entirely written by MacLeod is the title track, Break The Chain, which he co-wrote with his son Jesse. The song confronts the threat of continued family abuse and looks for a way to keep the abused from becoming the next abuser. This is a chain that needs to be broken, but all too often just grows longer and stronger.
Doug MacLeod is the real deal. He makes real music and doesn’t feel the need to cover up his words and emotions with a number of empty notes that sound great but don’t really convey the essence of blues. A prolific songwriter, he creates great songs and interprets them beautifully.
Look for him on tour – he has an extensive schedule ahead in both North America and Europe, so check out http://www.doug-macleod.com/ to see where you might be able to catch him. And be sure to pick up Break The Chain as soon as you can.





Friday, June 23, 2017

Lucy Kilpatrick ~~ InnerMission

First things to get out of the way, while Lucy Kilpatrick plays some great blues, after all she plays with both the Bobby “BlackHat” Walters Band, and the Tom Euler Band (who recently won the group competition for the River City Blues Society’s Blues Challenge), she is primarily a jazz artist.
To add to the confusion, I first met her when we were both working for country artist and Broadway actress Julie Johnson. Truth is, I’ve heard Kilpatrick play just about every genre of music under the sun with the possible exception of heavy metal. And I bet she could rock out with the best of them if she had too…
But her most recent album, InnerMission, which came out in 2015, is pure jazz. Sitting behind her electric piano she unleashes some of the best instrumental jazz that has come across my desk in a long time. Normally I defer to my friend Peter Solomon who is WCVE-FM’s daily jazz host, as I think he is very knowledgeable about this great form of music, but heck, Kilpatrick sent her CD to me, so I’m going to write it up for my blog.
So, if you are looking for a blues fix, come back tomorrow when I should have something for you, but if you are an adventurous soul who likes their jazz on the mellow side, stick around, let’s have some fun.
Kilpatrick shares her musical journey with us and uses some great musicians to help her find her vision. Aside from Kilpatrick on the keys, she is joined by Jason Jenkins, Lefty Handsbury, and Juan Nelson on bass; Kevin Gaines and Brian Johnson on drums; Lance Koelher on tambourine; and Keith Anderson on sax.
Kilpatrick starts the album with her version of Billy Joel’s And So It Goes. It’s low and sweet with several nice piano fills. She has a ton of soul in her heart and it comes through on the notes. The rest of the combo comes in after she’s established the mood. Nice opening.
After that she tackles Hip Hug Her, a song made famous by Booker T & The MG’s. Here Kilpatrick is able to unleash her inner STAX funk girl as she whips through the song with plenty of soul and verve. This could easily have been a part of that great label’s releases.
The first of her own releases, Just Chillin’, follows. It’s not atypical of Kilpatrick to open up with great covers before stepping out with one of her own songs. Check the title, that pretty much gives it away, it’s a very mellow number so just kick back and enjoy…
Vince Youngman’s It’s Gonna Be A Great Day is next and it’s a great mellow follow up to the previous song. Taken together they make for a nice pleasant interlude.
Kilpatrick follows up with a medley of Gifts/Higher Ground, one song by her, the other by Stevie Wonder. Not too shabby a collaborator to build upon. Her trio is in good form as they explore the combination, and her song slides nicely into Wonder’s. A lullaby gives way to funk and the songs create a different vibe entirely.
Kilpatrick stays funky with Everyday People Express Themselves. Of course, with songwriters like Sly Stone and Charles Wright, it would hard to be anything else. Sax player Keith Anderson makes his first appearance on the album and it adds to the fun…and the funk!
The second shortest song on the album, Lament For Lola, is next. Clocking in at a mere 2:26, it packs a lot of music into a short space. Kilpatrick plays with great emotion, as much as any singer, and it’s a heartrending song to hear.
The shortest song, Pristine Journey, is next. It’s only 2:20 long and it uses a brisk tempo to create the world of the song. Both of these are written by Kilpatrick and they form a great interlude in the album.
Another Kilpatrick composition, Saturday’s Child, follows. This is a touch of swinging jazz to pick things up after the previous interlude. Anderson’s sax carries much of the song soaring above Kilpatrick’s wicked keys. It’s a fun song and one I would love to play. Maybe someday…
The album closes with my favorite song on the album, Sweet Sweet Spirit, which just features Kilpatrick on piano. It’s a beautiful spiritual number where she connects with that spirit that guides her and interprets those impulses through her fingers. It’s gorgeous and the perfect way to end the album.
If you live in the Central Virginia area and see a jazz show advertised, it’s a pretty good bet that you will find Lucy Kilpatrick there. She is in great demand as a side artist and her playing has complemented many a performer. So many have counted on her confident and strident playing and she’s branched out now into more blues and is reaching a larger audience.
InnerMission is a lovely album, one that I am glad to now own as I will pull it out often while I am working on writing that I perform on a number of subjects. I found myself pulled into her web of music and surrounded by some delightful sounds.
Jazz fans, especially those who are mellow jazz fans, should get a copy for their collection. You can find out more about her at her website, https://lucykilpatrick.com/, and I hope you check her out soon. And look for me somewhere in the first couple of rows, I don’t like to miss her shows…



Thursday, June 22, 2017

Time For The Blues ~~ June 24, 2017

We hope you will join us this Saturday night, June 24, at 11 Eastern for Time For The Blues as Henry and I have put together an auditory feast for you this week with some of the tastiest blues around! I don’t want to start writing overly purple prose here, but this is going to be one delicious dish and we can’t wait to share it with you.
We’re barely into summer, and it’s been a series of very hot days and nights and let’s face it, sometimes that heat can just sap your energy and leave you feeling like you’re just dragging through the week. We’ve got a long way to go and Henry and I plan on staying near the air conditioner as much as possible. I’m thinking of investing in one of those astronaut suits that have the built in fans to keep me cool…
In order to get ahead of the heat Henry has selected some very cool music for us to enjoy, including an album that came to us via a rather circuitous route. But I’ll let Mr. Cook describe how he found Eric Krasno for us. If you’re not familiar with Krasno’s work (and believe me, I wasn’t), he’s mostly noted for his jazz work. Like so many other forms of music, jazz is closely related to the blues and Krasno has explored some very interesting blues in his latest album, Blood From A Stone.
I have to tell you, I was very impressed by his music and look forward to discovering more about him and his work. I understand that Krasno will be appearing at this year’s Lockn’ Festival as will our good friends Anthony Rosano and the Conqueroos. Rosano is not on this show, but we just featured him and I want to point out his success. Congratulations to both Krasno and The Conqueroos!
It wasn’t long ago that we featured a few selections from Joanna Connor’s latest album, Six String Stories. If you didn’t, well, you missed some great work. Not by us, by her…
Fortunately, we’re going to sample a few more songs from that album, and you won’t want to miss that. Welcome back to making albums Ms. Connor, we are so glad to have you back.
Long time listeners know how much we enjoy the latest releases from Alligator Records. This label has carved a niche for itself by discovering talent and bringing it to the forefront of the blues world. In the 45 years of its existence, they have recorded and released some of the greatest artists in the genre.
They could easily rest on their laurels, but they are not a museum label. They are always pushing boundaries and finding new talent to explore. Every five years or so they bring out a compilation of some of their best music and this year’s release is an exceptional album. It’s a terrific sampler of some amazing music – from classics to contemporary – and should be in every blues lover’s household.
In other words, go get yourself a copy.
If you need further persuading, tune in and listen to the samples we’re going to play. How can you pass up Lee Rocker from the Stray Cats playing some rockabilly blues? Or Son Seals, the man with the black guitar ripping his way through one of his originals? Or Hound Dog Taylor & The House Rockers tearing down the joint?
And there’s still more music! We’ve also got a double shot of the Iron Man himself, Michael Burks. We definitely lost this major talent too soon, but we do have his music, and we’re going to hear a couple of selections from his album Make It Rain.
Don’t forget our pal Eden Brent, we’ve got one more from her 2014 release on Yellow Dog Records, Jigsaw Heart.
If I may add a moment of self-promotion here, if you haven’t visited my little blog lately (or ever), please drop by http://professorjohnnyp.blogspot.com/ and see what’s new. I’ve recently posted some reviews of albums we’ve played or are about to play, and keep your eyes peeled for a new feature that I am about to unveil. Can’t talk about it just yet, but it’s happening soon. Let me know what you think.
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, June 21, 2017

Linsey Alexander ~~ Two Cats

There are so many great blues artists who have spent a large portion of their careers as a player supporting other artists. Some never step into the spotlight, while others do, but often later in their career. Linsey Alexander is one such performer. Over the years, he’s stood beside the likes of B.B.King, Bobby Rush, Buddy Guy, Little Milton, Magic Slim, Johnnie Taylor, A.C.Reed, Larry McCray, Bither Smith, John Primer, Otis Clay, Eddie Clearwater, among other great blues performers.
He is well known in Chicago, and that’s the perfect place to be a blues artist, but I didn’t know him until he released his first album on Delmark, Been There, Done That. That disc came out in 2012 and he released Come Back Baby in 2014.
Now he seems poised to build on the great reception that those albums enjoyed. Two Cats is his latest album, and he mixes his trademark guitar runs with one of the most soulful voices working today. Joining him on the album are Anthony Palmer and Breezy Rodio on guitar; Roosevelt Purifoy on piano, organ, and Rhodes; EG McDaniel on bass; Bryant Parker ad James Wilson on drums; and a horn section made up of Kenny Anderson on trumpet and arrangements, Hank Ford on tenor sax, and Norman Palm on trombone. Special guests include Paul Hanover on harp on three songs and J. Parker providing some spoken word rap on one song.
Alexander opens the album with I’m Not Your Problem, a fun song with a good horn arrangement and Alexander’s mellow vocals taking center stage. Alexander is definitely old-school and entertaining is high on his list of how to put on a show. Good lyrics, excellent delivery, and a very sweet guitar run.
With a title like Where Did You Take Your Clothes Off Last Night, you know you should expect something a little different. Alexander’s guitar is buffeted by Hanover’s harp and McDaniel’s bass. It’s a suspected cheating song that is chock full of great blues – both in the subject matter and the musical arrangement. This will be a great one to play on Time For The Blues.
After the phrase appeared in the chorus of the previous song, That Ain’t Right becomes the title of the next one. It’s got more of an up-tempo approach and the horn section is bright and responsive. Alexander’s vocals have a smooth approach and there’s definitely a funky beat to the song.
The follow up song is the autobiographical Why I Sing The Blues. Alexander has a great quote on his website, "Blues is not hard - it's just a documentary about life." Like most artists, he pulls from his own life, elevating the personal to a higher plain. And since many of us have variations of these things happening, it’s easy to put ourselves into the situations – or if we can’t identify with them, we can thank our lucky stars…
Next up is the title track, Two Cats, and while I’m not crazy about some of the double entendre lyrics, I can still appreciate the song for what it is. Purifoy’s organ playing is very strong and the horns add a lot to the number. I’m probably in the minority and I bet this song kills when Alexander performs it live...
The longest song on the album at just about eight minutes, Facebook Woman follows. It starts off slow and smoldering with Purifoy taking control of the keys and Alexander delivering a smoking guitar run. Once he starts in with the vocals, he does a great job delivering an old-school shouter about a new world problem.
User starts off with a bang after the slow burning previous track. Alexander delivers the goods on this one – good lyrics, tight orchestrations, and great vocals. He keeps it up on I’m In Love With A Woman. It’s a perfect companion to the previous song as the User continues to make his life miserable…
Parker’s drums open the next song, ‘Til I Kissed You, and it starts out slower and more controlled. Purifoy’s electric piano is solid and Alexander sings in a soulful and plaintive manner. He’s vulnerable and this is a good slow song to have on your playlist.
How Could You Do Me Like You Done Me is a strong blistering song – low and slow and full of the blues. Hanover’s harp gives it an extra dimension of the blues, but it’s Alexander’s vocals that really make this song such a strong entry. Despite its six-minute length, I think this one will be appearing on most of the blues shows around the country.
The band starts swinging on Reefer And Blow. Slow down, that’s the name of the song. It’s a look at another problem that’s common with many, not just musicians. He turns it into a cautionary tale of dealing with people who are doing said reefer and blow. And you know, it’s a pretty damn good song.
The horns and organ work with the drums to set up the anthem like Thinking About Me. It’s a quick number, under three minutes and it contains some great guitar work. He follows with another slower pure blues number, Starting Monday. It’s the story of a man who has more week than take home pay and what he’s got to do to turn his life around. Well written number and I’ll be playing this one on the show soon.
Got to love a title like Comb Over Blues. Not that a guy with the hair like I have would ever experience these kind of blues, but you have to feel for the guys that do. Alexander lumps these in with all of the things that are in the news today and turns it into a political dissertation about one of our leaders who happens to have a large mop on his head. At least that’s my opinion…
He ends the album on Kiss Revisited. The rhythm section opens the track and with the addition of the keys and Alexander’s most soulful delivery, the song becomes a great example of R&B at its finest. Great number, one you want to play late at night when you have a private moment with the one you love.
Linsey Alexander is a real treat and I greatly enjoyed Two Cats. He has supreme confidence in what he’s producing and trust me, his vocals are great and when combined with his guitar, you have the makings of a great entertainer.

Don’t take my word for it. Check him out, starting with his website at http://www.linseyalexander.com/, to check out his previous releases and maybe even catch him live. If you live in the Chicago area, you have a better chance of catching him, and if you want to send your favorite professor a plane or train ticket so I can join you, well that would be great too!