Sunday, December 31, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Check back often.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s to 2018!

Friday, December 29, 2017

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

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

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


Friday, December 8, 2017

Time For The Blues ~~ December 9, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




                   


Friday, December 1, 2017

Time For The Blues ~~ December 2, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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