Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Walter Trout Lights Up Richmond’s Tin Pan

It really wasn’t that long ago that it seemed like Walter Trout’s considerable talents would be silenced forever. A debilitating liver condition put him on his back for over eight months, and it was only a last second liver transplant that put him on the road to recovery. It was another year of hard therapy, in which he had to relearn how to talk, walk, and eventually play the guitar.
After seeing his performance at Richmond’s intimate Tin Pan along with a sold out crowd of very enthusiastic audience members, there’s no doubt that Trout is back and has a renewed love for the music.
On this rainy evening, Trout and company connected with the crowd by playing some incredible blues from his last couple of albums plus a few from previous releases, and all mixed in with extended jams that electrified the audience. It was rare when there wasn’t appreciative applause for their work during the songs themselves.
After a solid instrumental open, the band moved into I Can Tell that featured some impressive keyboard work from Sammy Avila. Avila was one of the trio that backed Trout’s monster guitar work, the others being Avila’s son Danny on bass and Michael Leasure on drums. At various points, Trout’s son Jon would join them on stage and add some hot guitar. More on that later.
Without even pausing, the band segued into Walking In The Rain before Trout began to talk directly to the audience between songs. He commented that he believed this to be his first time in Richmond, unless it was during his Canned Heat days. He wasn’t sure as that was five years he couldn’t remember.
(Later, in a private conversation after the show, Trout recollected that he had played Richmond once before about thirty years prior when he was playing with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.)
From there he called for some “nasty slow blues,” and the band obliged by playing the blistering As The Year’s Go Passing By. One look at Trout’s face during this song and it was obvious just how transformative the music was to him. He had a look of pure peace during his playing and it was easy to see just how happy he was to be able to perform at this level.
Then, he talked a little bit about what he went through and how those struggles lead to the creation of his album, Battle Scars. He wrote that album as therapy during his battle – and it was a long time before he could actually create art from it. He said at one point, he wrote “17 or 18 songs in one day.” While this received a good laugh, I suspect it wasn’t too far removed from the truth as when creative urges are bottled up for that long, it can eventually lead to an explosion of art.
Trout then played two songs from the album, the opening tract, I’m Almost Gone, and then I Ain’t Ready For The Cold Cold Ground. After finishing those very emotional songs, he brought out his son Jon to join him on a couple from his latest album, We’re All In This Together.
This is an album that Trout created with a number of his friends that included such heavyweights as Mayall, Joe Bonamassa, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Warren Haynes, Eric Gales, Charlie Musselwhite and so many more. He said he wanted something a little lighter than Battle Scars, and this album is still in the Top Ten after nine months of release.
Jon Trout stepped up and played the two songs that Shepherd and Bonamassa played on and didn’t miss a lick. It’s very clear that the guitar playing gene did not skip a generation and that Jon Trout could hold his own in any band should he so choose. It was evident that his father was proud of his work and derived a lot of pleasure from having the chance to play together in front of an appreciative audience.
After Jon Trout stepped off the stage, Trout called for some more slow blues and they delivered Got The Blues For My Baby, with Trout stepping away from the microphone at one point and belting out the lyrics unamplified and still filling the room.
Trout then told the most poignant story of the night, of the times when he wanted to give up and die and his wife holding him and having the strength for both of them. The song he wrote for her, Take Me Home, brought up a lot of emotion and there were many of us in the audience that were crying from its power. Son Jon returned to add acoustic guitar to the number.
As the show was nearly over, the band moved into Serve Me Right To Suffer and some jamming from bassist Danny Avila and drummer Michael Leasure. Trout then used his platform to encourage people to become organ donors, that he was only there because someone had decided to become one. Honestly, to me, it’s a no brainer. If you can help someone when you are no longer on this earth, please take the opportunity.
After sustained applause, Trout and company came back for an encore and then spent a good deal of time talking with fans like we were old friends.
I love live music, and it wasn’t so long ago that I thought I would never get to add Trout’s name to my concert list. His playing is truly phenomenal and I can say without fear of contradiction that he is one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of catching live. I hope you will do the same. You can find him at and you can see who the Tin Pan has coming in at

(Photos by Anita Schlank and used by permission.)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Time For The Blues ~~ April 21, 2018

Henry and I hope you will join us this Saturday Night, April 21st, for another fun filled exciting adventure of Time For The Blues! We’ve got the return of one of our favorite performers, a team up from two hot players, and a tribute to the King Of The Slide Guitar.

First out of the shoot is the one and only Delbert McClinton who is teaming up with the Self-Made Men on an album that came out right at the end of 2017, and I finally saved up enough allowance to buy a copy.

Go on, say it, I’m cheap. I prefer ultra-thrifty, but why quibble about words among friends?

Anyway, as I was saying, both Henry and I are big fans of McClinton, and this was a fun album to check out. It’s called Prick Of The Litter (no phone calls or emails please, it’s the actual name of the album) and we think you’re going to like it a lot. We’ve got a few songs from it plus a selection from one of his earlier albums so you can hear how his sound has evolved over the years.

Right behind McClinton is the duo of Curtis Salgado and Alan Hager from their new Alligator release, Rough Cut. We’ve featured Salgado in the past, and normally he’s one high-energy cat (after all, he was the basis for the character of Jake Blues), but here he’s more laid back. This is a different side of Salgado and we really like it a lot.

We’re going to close out the program with some amazing covers of the late great Elmore James. James is, without a doubt, one of the most influential blues songwriters, players, and performers. Recently Sylvan Songs released a compilation of James’ songs recorded by some of today’s artists. We’re going to feature one from Elayna Boynton, one from the trio of Warren Hanes, Billy Gibbons, and Mickey Raphael, and one from someone I want to classify as one of our “Unusual Suspects.”

Trouble is, this performer might answer with, “It’s not unusual…”

Was that enough of a hint? The album is called Strange Angels: In Flight with Elmore James, and I highly recommend it for your library.

Hold the presses! There’s still more for you. Our New Releases this week will feature three great artists that you need to hear: Johnny Fink And The Intrusion, Al Basile, and the Rex Granite Band Featuring Sarah Benck.

We’ve got everything all laid out and ready to go, all we need is you and a few hundred of your closest friends. You know how to find us, point your browser to 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!

Oh My Gosh, this is some hot off the presses news! Our friends at the River City Blues Society are putting on the 14th Annual Blues Challenge on June 10 at the Capital Ale House Downtown. The winners in both the solo/duo and band category will represent Richmond at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. I don’t know yet who the judges will be, but once again it will be my honor to act as the emcee of the event. If you or your band would like to compete, please contact the Legendary Greg Willard at either 804 743-8237 or via email at

Even without knowing who the participants are this year, I can guarantee a great time. I’ve been involved as the emcee or judge for several years now, and it’s always been a blast, and we’ve even featured many of the contestants on episodes of Time For The Blues.

Be there!



Saturday, April 14, 2018

Janiva Magness Brings Her Americana Soul To The Tin Pan

There are certain performers that cross genres and need to be seen by the widest possible audience. Janiva Magness is one such artist. Her latest album, Love Is An Army, has enough blues to satisfy her loyal audience, but she also moves more to a sound that she describes as “Americana Soul.”
Her definition of Americana Soul is, “real music played by real musicians that contains elements of folk, blues, country, and soul.” In her hands, and those of her backing band, she brings these beautiful songs to life. On a recent appearance at The Tin Pan she delivered an hour and a half set of classics mixed with songs from her recent album.
Her tight four-piece ensemble was made up of Randy Malibu on drums, Steve Dawson on guitar and lap steel guitar, Gary Davenport on bass and Josh Smith on guitar. Both Dawson and Smith were adept at trading off on lead and rhythm, and Dawson’s lap steel added a new and deeper dimension to the songs.
Magness opened the show with a strong version of Hammer that immediately got the audience into the event. Before the applause could even die down she and the band moved into the next songs, Back To Blue and On And On.
With three songs performed in rapid succession, Magness took some time to connect with the audience. From here on out, she would use the opportunities between songs to talk to the audience, recognize friends in the audience and gush about how much she loved the venue.
She next performed Tell Me, before telling the audience that in her mind, an army is made up of those people who support you and that could be “one person, ten thousand, or ten.” She then delivered a great version of Love Is An Army to drive home the point.
Magness then sang one more song from the new album, Down Below, before talking about how, when she was growing up listening to AM radio, she could often hear songs from Muddy Waters, Etta James, Hank Williams, Elvis, and a whole host of others in the same show. That radio offered diversity and not the same few songs from the same few artists over and over.
She used that to segue into a couple of songs from her EP, Blue Again, that featured great covers of songs she sang early in her career but hadn’t recorded, What’s That Say About You and a blistering version of Michael Bloomberg’s I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know. She even worked in a performance of a great Bessie Smith number, Send Me To The ‘Lectric Chair.
From there it was back to the new album with Home, and about this time a member of the audience began to yell out a request. Magness was gracious but firm in commenting that this band hadn’t rehearsed that particular song, even though she loved it. They were concentrating on newer material and she hoped the audience understood.
She received solid applause backing that and she moved on to a very cool song, Love To A Gunfight, and then told the story about how she had to be talked into recording When It Rains, and its now one of her favorite songs.
From there it was back to Blue Again for two more songs, I Can Tell and If I Can’t Have You. As she was nearing the end of time for her performance, she moved into a couple of audience favorites, I Won’t Cry and Walkin’ In The Sun.
The audience had built into a particular high moment and she thanked the audience with her last song of the evening, Love Wins Again and left the stage to heavy applause.
Afterwards, most of the audience took some time to talk with the band, and especially Magness herself as she posed with fans for pictures, and graciously signed CDs for anyone who asked. When I finally worked my way to the front of the line, she greeted me with the biggest smile, hug, thanks for conducting an interview with her, and assurances that I would bring my co-host, Henry Cook, to the show next time.
Aside from being an incredible performer, Janiva Magness is a class act. Be sure to see her whenever you can.

"Thanks Santa, for bringing me this great dress..."

(All photos by Anita Schlank and used by permission.)

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Time For The Blues ~~ April 14, 2018

Henry and I hope you will join us this Saturday Night at 11 for a very special episode of Time For The Blues. Regular listeners know that every so often we like to check out the amazing talent that you can find almost any night in Virginia, and tonight is going to feature some of our favorites!

From the Atlantic Ocean to the Appalachian Mountains and all points in between and from north to south, there are great solo artists and bands around every bend in the road and we’re on a mission to find ‘em and play ‘em for your pleasure.

Our two main features this week will feature the new independent release from our pals The Bush League. The new album is called James RiVAh, which of course, is the proper Richmond pronunciation for the word “river.” I don’t like to brag, but I was honored to be the first person and pseudo-journalist to review the album, and you can find that review here. When an artist, or in this case, the artist’s management (thank you, Kenya Watkins) respects my opinions to the point where they let me at a new work first, it’s not something that I take lightly.

The new album completely knocked me out, and the band is doing phenomenal live work as well. We’ve got three songs from this album and we think you are going to love them as much as we do!

Photo By Ellen Foster
The Bush League has a deep connection to Gaye Todd Adebalola, one of the founding members of Saffire The Uppity Blues Women. They lovingly refer to Adegbalola as “the band’s mother” due to their closeness. Adegbalola has been making great music for many years and was recently honored by the State Library Of Virginia during their celebration of Women In History Month.

Thanks to the efforts of Adegbalola’s longtime friend and kick ass Blues Woman herself, Ellen Foster, I was able to spend a delightful afternoon interviewing Adegbalola about the award, Saffire, her post-Saffire career, and some of her recent activist activities. Virginia Currents Radio ran the interview, (mega thanks to Catherine Komp for her help and amazing editing skills – it’s safe to say it never would have happened without her guidance).

If you missed it when it ran live, the interview has been archived on the station’s website, and you can listen to it here

To celebrate this wonderful artist, we’re featuring a couple of songs from Saffire, and two more from her later career, one from a collaboration she recorded with pianist Roddy Barnes, and one that she recorded with her semi-acapella group The Wild Rutz.

In our new release segment, we have songs from Virginia artists Patrick Coman and the man I call “Mr. Ambassador” Bobby “BlackHat” Walters. If you know Walters, you know why I call him that, if you don’t know Bobby, well, you should. He has several albums out, and you can find him and his top flight band playing at just about every major show in the Commonwealth.
He’s written and recorded a brand new song titled Run Baby Run that deals with the frightening situation that faces so many of our schools and the children that have become the targets of gunmen. I’m not initiating debate here, but I do want to introduce you to Bobby’s great song, and tell you how you can get it.

We’ll also sample some new work from Breezy Rodio from his new Delmark release. Trust me, this is a guy you’re going to like a lot.

Last, but certainly not least, I’m introducing a new segment made up of members of back up bands, in this case two of the guys from Marcia Ball’s touring group, guitarist Mighty Mike Schermer and drummer Corey Keller. Both of these players have side gigs going and they are damn good musicians.

We’ve got everything all laid out and ready to go, all we need is you and a few hundred of your closest friends. You know how to find us, point your browser to 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!


Monday, April 9, 2018

Marcia Ball ~~ SHINE BRIGHT

I have been a fan of Marcia Ball’s music for longer than I care to admit. She is equally at home with a rollicking barrelhouse style piano as she is with a tender ballad and can change your mood by switching gears from one to the other. In all the times I have seen her perform live, she has always been surrounded by top drawer musicians, and on her most recent release, SHINE BRIGHT, on Alligator Records, she continues that tradition.
Aside from Ball herself on piano and vocals, the album features several members of her touring band including Don Bennett on bass, “Mighty” Mike Schermer on guitar, Eric Bernhardt on tenor sax, and Corey Keller on drums. Other musicians on the album include Lee Allen Zeno and Bruce Hughes on bass; Jermaine Prejean on drums and percussion; Conrad Choucroun on drums; Roddie Romero on guitar, accordion, and background vocals; Eric Adcock and Red Young on Hammond B-3 organ; Steve Berlin and Dan Bechdolt on baritone sax; Enrique Chi on tres; Justin Vasquez on alto sax; and Steve Butts and Al Gomez Jr on trumpet.
Backing vocals were provided by Yvette Landry, Shelley King, Carolyn Wonderland, Eric Bernhardt, Don Bennett, Mike Schermer, Kimmie Rhodes, and Jolie Goodnight.
Ball kicks off the album with the title track, Shine Bright, an up-tempo number that offers a touch of optimism with a gospel tinge. It’s a solid quick number and sets the table for what will most likely be a fun album. It’s one that calls the roll of a number of people who have positively affected the world and it will be appearing on Time For The Blues, probably starting the show!
She follows up with another upbeat number, I Got To Find Somebody. It’s a longing for someone that Ball would like to stay home with and just be herself. It’s a sweet sentiment, and Ball has some fun with the song.
Next up is a song written by Ball and Gary Nicholson, They Don’t Make ‘Em Like That. It’s got a nice shuffle and takes a nostalgic look at life. It’s easy to look back with rose colored glasses and Ball recreates the sounds she’s describing. She also makes a strong point of creating strong foundations for the future.
Ball co-writes the next song, Life Of The Party, with Mike Schermer. It’s a bit of a departure for two artists so deeply steeped in the blues, much more of a Caribbean rhythm than a 12-bar shuffle. As both Ball and Schermer are influenced by New Orleans sounds, (which include Caribbean and Mexican influences among others) it’s fun to hear what they do with this song.
Ball then covers the Ray Charles number, What Would I Do Without You. It’s a solid R&B cover and should be appearing on an upcoming episode of Time For The Blues. Ball co-wrote the next song, When The Mardi Gras Is Over, with singer Shelley King and Tim Cook. It’s a joyous party song that throws in lots of great ingredients like a tasty musical gumbo.
Once In A Lifetime Thing is a sweet ode to domestic love. It’s a fun song that should find its way onto the airwaves. I know it’ll be on our show. Ball gets soulful as well as philosophical on the next song, Pots And Pans. Politics be damned, it’s time to make noise and be counted. Here’s your chance.
She slows things down for the lovely World Full Of Love. Marcia Ball delivers a ballad like few others can, and she’s at the top of her game on this song. It’s the kind of soft song that can silence an audience and make them pay closer attention and maybe even shed a tear while listening.
Before you can get too melancholy, Ball follows up with the rocking, I’m Glad I Did What I Did. This is a fun over the top stomping number that will get ‘em up and moving around. I love this song, and you better believe it will be making an appearance soon on the show.
She keeps the tempo lively with the next song, Too Much For Me. It wouldn’t be a Marcia Ball album without a few party songs that keep you moving and this is definitely one of the best on the album.
Ball brings the album to a close with Jesse Winchester’s Take A Little Louisiana. She rocks it Cajun style, complete with accordion and some solid orchestrations, and you just can’t help but move to the song. It conjured up a little bayou dive I fondly remembered for its great music and spicy food. What a delightful way to end the album, and make me want to hit the repeat button a couple more times.
Chances are that if you are a blues fan, you just might be a Marcia Ball fan as well. Her music is too big and too boisterous to fit under one label, even blues, so if you like New Orleans flavored songs, or sweet unapologetic ballads, this album is one you’ll enjoy. Catch her while she’s on tour and find any of her albums that are not currently in your collection by visiting her web site:

Ball just rolled through town a couple of months ago, so we’ve probably got to wait close to a year to catch her again. But you better believe, whenever she comes through, I’ll be there. Hope you’ll join me!