Monday, July 30, 2018

Waydown Wailers ~~ Backland Blues

It was like Christmas again at my house. Several packages of CDs arrived and instead of sifting through all of them to see what special goodies might await, I opened one at random and pulled out the first disc I found.
Today’s winner is the Waydown Wailers, a group from near the New York-Canadian border that have just released a new album, Backland Blues. The band is made up of two guitar playing brothers, David and Christian Parker, Conner Pelkey on bass, and Michael Scriminger on drums.
The album starts off with a good blues rocker, Back Door Woman Blues. It’s a tried and true blues trope and the guys work the well worked theme and get a song that makes the listener’s ears perk up. I like them already and want to see what else they are going to do.
The follow up with some heavy electrics on I Want Your Soul. For a bunch of guys from up north, they do a pretty good of recreating a full force version of that Southern Delta sound. It’s energetic and packed with power. If you like your blues on the heavy rock side, this one is for you.
The first cover on the album is Elmore James’ Done Somebody Wrong. They catch the spirit of the song without being a slavish imitation. So far, I get the feeling these guys are going to go their own way when it comes to interpretations. I’m not sure which of the Packers is playing lead on the song, but he does a heck of a job.
Another Bump In The Road is a great song with a strong shuffle beat and Scriminger’s driving drums taking the lead. There’s also some great piano work from Professor Louie (of The Crowmatix fame). It’s a great honkytonk style song that should make a grumpy man happy. Nice!

Still rocking, but at a more deliberate pace, No Mercy follows. It’s not a bad song, a little more rock than blues, but give the guys credit, they are not locking in to the same exact sound on each song – for example there’s a sweet guitar break that combines a little more of that Delta sound, and the Professor’s keyboards offer up a little gospel pie.
The second cover is that great rocker, Dizzy Miss Lizzy. Although written and recorded by Larry Williams in 1958, it’s the cover by The Beatles in 1965 that most people remember. That version relied heavily on overdubs whereas the original was more of a twelve-bar boogie. This version is sort of a cross with some heavy guitar resembling the Beatles version, even with some of the high pitched wails in the background. Not a bad cover, but not as good as some of the other songs on the album.
The Waydown Wailers get back to their originals with the next song, Every Passing Mile. This one has a nice driving beat and a completely different sound than any of the other songs on the album, and some excellent guitar work and vocal harmonies. Kind of laid back and mellow. They stay in the land of the mellow for the country tinged Somewhere In The Middle. With a title like that, you know this is not a song of revolution or even rocking the boat, but it is the middle path that will get you through life more peacefully.
The next song features some gravelly vocals, I’m On The Hunt. This one is pure attitude with a dangerous edge. The lyrics are fairly simple but they are sung over keys and heavy bass that drive the song home. They go backwoods country on the follow up number, State Of The Union – Remix, that again delivers a lot of attitude and it’s the complete opposite of Somewhere In The Middle. This one is all about taking action to take back the country.
The last song on the album is also their last cover, Roger McGuinn and Jacques Levy’s Lover Of The Bayou. Originally performed by the Byrds and recently covered by Mudcrutch, the Waydown Wailers add their own juju to the song. It’s a decent cover although more for the Americana/Roots fans than blues fans.
I enjoyed listening to the Waydown Wailers very much and will be playing several of their songs on upcoming shows. Backland Blues is a solid addition to any blues lover’s library, especially those that like their blues with a side of rock. Be sure to look for them on their website where you can find out more about this release and their live shows. If you catch them on the road, be sure to drop me a line and tell me how you liked it.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sunday Round Up ~~ July 29, 2018

I actually like working Saturdays at the station. For one thing, it’s rare when anyone else is around, so it’s quiet and I can get things done that allow me to relax some during the week. When I arrived this Saturday however, there was a gaggle of Canadian Geese walking back and forth by the front door almost daring me to try to enter the building.
I could tell they were Canadian by their accent, but unlike most Canadians I’ve met, they were definitely NOT polite. In fact, the Drake darted his head at me in an aggressive manner telling me to stay the flock away from his wives.
Fortunately, there’s more than one way to skin a goose and I was able to go to a secret side door, known only to humans and get inside in time to make sure the opera was running smoothly. After I had that done, I began to wonder if the universe was sending me a sign that I needed to goose up my reporting on several Canadian Artists whose CDs were languishing in my “To Be Reviewed” pile.
So universe, here’s my take on five (5) newer Canadian CDs and I promise to be more diligent in the future. Unless the geese come back and threaten me again. Then I just might have to cut a sucker…

Myles Goodwyn And Friends Of The Blues – Self Titled
This is a fine traditional Chicago style blues album with an occasional full blown band style. There are several good flat out rocking numbers including I Hate To See You Go (But I Love To Watch You Walk Away), Good Man In A Bad Place, Brand New Cardboard Belt, and Last Time I’ll Ever Sing The Blues. There are also slow, powerful tunes like It’ll Take Time To Get Used To, I’ll Hate You (Till Death Do Us Part), Weeping Willow Tree Blues, and Nobody Lies (About Having The Blues). Goodwyn wrote all but one of the twelve tracks and the album will be appearing frequently on upcoming Time For The Blues shows and should satisfy any lover of the blues.

Sons Of Rhythm – Self Titled EP
Here are six songs from this power trio and a handful of guests that are very enjoyable. There’s some hard rocking with the first couple of songs, a couple of ballads, and they close with a great swinging number. Five of the songs are original and there is a cover of Allen Toussaint’s Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky. The two ballads, You’ve Got A Friend and Will I Ever See You Again? are very effective. It’s a very good collection that just makes me hungry for a full album.

Spencer MacKenzie – Cold November
I’m not sure if this young Canadian is related to Bob and Doug MacKenzie of SCTV fame, but I can tell you that he is one hell of a blues player. And not a bad writer either. Eight of the ten songs on the album are written by him along with Richard MacKenzie and the two covers are by Robert Cray and Gary Clark Jr. MacKenzie plays a good shuffle style and let me tell you, the title track is moody and haunting. There are good keyboards from Miles Evans and MacKenzie’s guitar sings. His playing is fresh, crisp, and shows great promise for what lies ahead. I need to track down his previous release, Infected With The Blues, to see how much his approach has grown. He is definitely a rising star who has all the tools to break out in a big way.

Dan McKinnon – The Cleaner
Dan McKinnon fronts this blues rock power trio that straddles both genres while creating their own sound. All ten songs are written by McKinnon, but he owes a credit to wrestler Ric Flair for the inspiration (and many of the lyrics) of Walk That Aisle. Even though these are all originals and almost all of the tracks are recorded live straight to disc (one contains some overdubs), you can hear respectful influences from the likes of Albert King and Junior Kimbrough. Another young musician with a great future I look forward to seeing how his fortunes increase from here.

Justin Saladino Band – A Fool’s Heart.
This one starts out quietly and really has more of a California pop sound that a blues album. Saladino wrote eleven of the twelve songs by himself and collaborated on one with Jessica Spilak. While it’s not a big blues album, it is a pleasant relaxing collection. Saladino is a good songwriter and he has a nice delivery. If you’re not looking for a hardcore blues album, this one just may be right for you. I’m certainly going to put several selections on my folk/Americana playlist.
(As a service to our French Speaking Canadian friends, and to my French Speaking Readers around the world, here is my feeble attempt at translating the above article for your amusement. Any mistakes are mine, so have a good laugh.)

(En tant que service à nos amis canadiens francophones, et à mes lecteurs francophones du monde entier, voici ma faible tentative de traduction de l'article ci-dessus pour votre plaisir.Toutes les erreurs sont à moi, alors amusez-vous bien.)

Sunday Round Up ~~ 29 juillet 2018

J'aime vraiment travailler les samedis à la gare. Pour une chose, c'est rare quand quelqu'un d'autre est autour, donc c'est calme et je peux faire bouger les choses qui me permettent de me détendre pendant la semaine. Quand je suis arrivé ce samedi, cependant, il y avait un troupeau de bernaches du Canada qui marchaient d'avant en arrière près de la porte d'entrée, me défiant presque d'essayer d'entrer dans le bâtiment.
Je pourrais dire qu'ils étaient Canadiens par leur accent, mais contrairement à la plupart des Canadiens que j'ai rencontrés, ils n'étaient certainement pas polis. En fait, le Drake me lança la tête d'une manière agressive me disant d'éloigner le troupeau de ses femmes.
Heureusement, il y a plus d'une façon de peler une oie et j'ai été capable d'aller à une porte secrète, connue seulement des humains et de rentrer à temps pour m'assurer que l'opéra fonctionnait bien. Après avoir fait cela, j'ai commencé à me demander si l'univers m'envoyait un signe indiquant que j'avais besoin d'écrire des rapports sur plusieurs artistes canadiens dont les CD languissaient dans ma pile «À revoir».
Donc univers, voici mon avis sur cinq (5) nouveaux CD canadiens et je promets d'être plus diligent à l'avenir. A moins que les oies ne reviennent et ne me menacent à nouveau. Alors je pourrais juste devoir couper un ventouse ...
Myles Goodwyn et ses amis des blues
C'est un bon album de blues traditionnel de style Chicago avec un style de groupe occasionnel. Il y a plusieurs bons numéros à bascule, y compris je déteste te voir aller (mais j'aime te regarder partir), bon homme dans un mauvais endroit, ceinture en carton flambant neuf, et la dernière fois que je chanterai jamais les bleus. Il y a aussi des mélodies lentes et puissantes comme Il va falloir du temps pour s'habituer, je vais te haïr (jusqu'à ce que la mort nous sépare), Weeping Willow Tree Blues, et personne ne ment (About Having The Blues). Goodwyn a écrit tous les morceaux, sauf un, et l'album apparaîtra fréquemment dans les prochains concerts de Time For The Blues et devrait satisfaire tout amateur de blues.

Sons Of Rhythm - EP intitulé
Voici six chansons de ce trio de puissance et une poignée d'invités qui sont très agréables. Il y a du hard rocking avec les premières chansons, quelques ballades, et elles se terminent par un grand nombre de swing. Cinq des chansons sont originales et il y a une reprise de Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky d'Allen Toussaint. Les deux ballades, tu as un ami et vais-je te revoir? sont très efficaces. C'est une très bonne collection qui me donne juste envie d'un album complet.

Spencer MacKenzie - Novembre froid
Je ne sais pas si ce jeune Canadien est apparenté à Bob et Doug MacKenzie de SCTV, mais je peux vous dire qu'il est un joueur de blues. Et pas un mauvais écrivain non plus. Huit des dix chansons de l'album sont écrites par lui avec Richard MacKenzie et les deux reprises sont de Robert Cray et Gary Clark Jr. MacKenzie joue un bon style de shuffle et laissez-moi vous dire, la chanson-titre est morose et obsédante. Il y a de bons claviers de Miles Evans et des chants de guitare de MacKenzie. Son jeu est frais, vif et montre beaucoup de promesses pour ce qui nous attend. J'ai besoin de retrouver sa version précédente, Infected With The Blues, pour voir à quel point son approche a grandi. Il est définitivement une étoile montante qui a tous les outils pour se démarquer.

Dan McKinnon - Le nettoyeur
Dan McKinnon dirige ce trio de puissance blues rock qui chevauche les deux genres tout en créant leur propre son. Toutes les dix chansons sont écrites par McKinnon, mais il doit un crédit au lutteur Ric Flair pour l'inspiration (et beaucoup de paroles) de Walk That Aisle. Même si ce sont tous des originaux et presque tous les morceaux sont enregistrés directement sur disque (l'un contient des overdubs), vous pouvez entendre des influences respectueuses de Albert King et Junior Kimbrough. Un autre jeune musicien avec un bel avenir, j'ai hâte de voir comment ses fortunes augmentent d'ici.

Justin Saladino Band - Un coeur de fou.

Celui-ci commence tranquillement et a vraiment plus d'un son pop californien qu'un album de blues. Saladino a écrit lui-même onze des douze chansons et a collaboré avec Jessica Spilak. Bien que ce ne soit pas un gros album de blues, c'est une collection relaxante agréable. Saladino est un bon compositeur et il a une bonne livraison. Si vous n'êtes pas à la recherche d'un album de blues hardcore, celui-ci pourrait bien vous convenir. Je vais certainement mettre plusieurs sélections sur ma playlist folk / americana.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Jon Spear Band ~~ Live At The Tin Pan

Virginia is rich with many strong blues bands and among the very best is a four-piece group based out of Charlottesville. The Jon Spear Band is named for its founder and one of the two outstanding guitarists in the band – the other being Dara James who delivers most of the vocals. The remaining two members are bass player Andy Burdetsky and drummer John Stubblefield.
The band is extremely tight. They’ve performed hundreds of shows together and recorded three albums and like long time friends they can tell with a mere nod of the head what the other players are thinking and they can turn a song on a dime (or a quarter, but more about that later) and take an audience from cold to red hot in a matter of seconds.
Even with a light crowd in attendance at Richmond’s Tin Pan, the JSB pulled out all the stops from their opening number and before long had people dancing in the aisles and were the recipient of a couple of standing ovations.
They started off with Bullets which got the crowd excited before moving into Too Much Family which featured the first time that Spear and James traded off hot guitar licks. This is a trademark of the JSB and the two switched back and forth from rhythm to lead guitar without missing a beat.
Spear and James were able to take such risks because of the rhythm section of Burdetsky and Stubblefield. Simply put, John Stubblefield is the most underrated blues drummer working in Virginia. Not only does he play well, he does so without drawing focus but still creates exciting sounds. His performance may seem low key, but his playing is high energy.
Burdetsky is an entertainer through and through. He only steps up to the microphone to add occasional harmony vocals or to address the audience. However, while playing, he is incredibly animated, moving his body with the grace of a Cirque de Soliel contortionist. Together these two create such a deep pocket that James and Spear are able to go off on flights of fancy that electrify the crowd.
The band next moved into Up The Line and then Noah’s Blues, an original song about the blues surrounding the environment.  From there they jammed on Beginner At The Blues.
While it may be blues music that brought them their following, the JSB is adept at other genres as well. Sometimes they slip into the rock category, but for Geographical Cure, they became more of a Caribbean band. I swear, if they had congas and a steel drum, this would become a Jimmy Buffet style hit.
From there, they returned to the blues with a smoking version of Wintertime and some blistering guitar work that had the audience screaming their appreciation. They received their first standing ovation after the number.
After that came a song Burdetsky wrote that became the title track on their most recent album, Hot Sauce. Speaking of Hot Sauce, they delivered an up tempo dance number that started out as an off-color joke, Hit The Quarter. No, I’m not going to tell it to you now, this is a family blog. You can still enjoy their version as it has nothing to do with the joke and it’s fun to boogie to.
One more song from that recent album, Bottom Of The Bottle, followed. With a title like that, you know it’s pure blues all the way. Next up was Mean Mean Woman, a song Spear wrote back in 1974. Gerald Ford was President and we were going to work our way out of economic malaise by wearing buttons that reminded us to Whip Inflation Now. I don’t remember what those buttons cost, but I probably couldn’t afford one back then.
Mean Mean Woman is a great song and one of my favorites from the JSB. On the surface it’s about a bad relationship and how many of us have endured one of those. If you listen a little deeper however, it becomes a song about trying to come out from under the thumb of addiction. That’s never easy to do, and this song really drives that point home.
Just to give you a chance to hear it for yourself, I’ve put in a link to a version of the song the band recorded live in Charlottesville. Take a few minutes and see if you agree with my assessment. 
From there the band invited some audience participation with Too Much Stuff and then James channeled the late Stevie Ray Vaughan on a blistering version of Tin Pan Alley. They closed with a funky version of Black Cat Bone to another standing ovation before dropping an encore of Yellow Moon.
The audience milled around the guys for about 20 minutes talking to them about their experience seeing the band, many for the first time. The Jon Spear Band left everything they had on the stage and everyone who saw it, appreciated their effort.

I forget which album they said it on, but it’s still true today, Live Music IS Better. Especially when it’s being played by the Jon Spear Band.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Rory Block ~~ A Woman’s Soul

Aside from Singer-Guitarist Rory Block turning out her own music, she has made a large part of her career, tributes and reinterpretations of some of the greats of the Blues. In the past she has released albums of the music of Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Robert Johnson, Reverend Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, and Skip James.
Recently Block has started a new series, one that has been percolating in her soul for many years, a look at the women pioneers of the blues. She calls the series, Power Women Of The Blues, and her first release, A Woman’s Soul, is a look at the great Bessie Smith.
Smith, also known as “The Empress of the Blues” was an extremely popular performer during the 1920’s and ‘30’s and a prolific recording artist prior to her untimely early death at the age of 43.
Block went all out on this recording, reworking all of Smith’s arrangements (originally more of an orchestral backing) into simplified works, and then played all guitar parts, bass, and percussion while supplying all of the vocals as well. This really is Rory Block’s passionate vision that we are experiencing on this album.
The album starts off strongly with Do Your Duty. The country style guitar perfectly backs Block’s vocals. She’s got that beautiful growl and her guitar work is absolutely stellar. She follows up with Kitchen Man, a purring celebration of the man that stirs things up and gets cooking in the kitchen. It’s a fun song, not as innocent as the music may suggest; just listen to the lyrics and smile knowingly to yourself.
Next is a song, Jazzbo Brown From Memphis Town, that I had had little exposure to but found myself liking very much. It’s a jazzy number with some fun rhythms and Block’s delivery is great. I can picture Block or Smith on a bandstand belting this one out in a crowded nightclub. Sweet number.
She then launches into the song that seems to be receiving the most airplay, Gimme A Pigfoot And A Bottle Of Beer. It’s a fun tune that’s been covered by a number of other artists, so there is a certain recognizability factor with it. Her voice turns inward and sounds small and far away. It’s a voice of innocence that turns to experience when she reaches the chorus. Another great nightclub number. Yeah, I’ll be playing this one on Time For The Blues.
Another well-known song from Smith is Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl, and by placing these two in consecutive order, Block delivers a little present to more casual blues fans. Of course, it’s a present that every listener can share. She’s jazzy with a sultry attitude. Smith was forthright and sexy in her delivery, very ahead of her time, and Block conveys that very well on this song.
You know a title like I’m Down In The Dumps is not going to be at all roses and sunshine. Great artists don’t necessarily need flowery language, they just cut to the chase and lay their emotions out for the world to see. That’s what happens here and it’s a strong track.
Block’s stripped down style of country blues perfectly suits Black Mountain. It’s not a sophisticated song and works off the same rhythms and rhyme schemes of Delta work songs. Still, her voice is haunting and the song is very effective. With lyrics like these, how could it be anything else?

Got the devil in my soul, and I'm full of bad booze
Got the devil in my soul, and I'm full of bad booze
I'm out here for trouble, I've got the Black Mountain blues
Following up with another well-known Smith recording, Weeping Willow Blues keeps the mood going. Block just opens up her emotions to recreate Smith’s approach and it’s another strong song. If at all possible, I would love to sample some of the original recordings on the show before playing Block’s versions. I think the compare and contrast style of play would give a deeper appreciation to both artists.
She picks up the tempo with the next song, On Revival Day, adding some gospel fervor to her delivery. So many blues artists were accused of playing the devil’s music, so they would stick one or two more religious numbers in their repertoire to keep on the good side of the God-fearing community. Also, so many got their start singing in church, so it was an easy transition to add a song for the audience. This is a good one and it’s hard to believe that it’s Block singing all the choir parts.
She closes the album with the longest song on the record, Empty Bed Blues. It’s also one of the most direct songs, no hiding its meaning from anyone, just the pure emotion of being alone. I love this song, and I will bet you that it will be appearing on the show very soon.
Rory Block is more than an interpreter of other artists’ songs. However, she should be commended for bringing these songs to new audiences. I’ve long maintained that a deeper knowledge of the music will enhance your appreciation of what’s coming out today. Block conveys more than the notes and inflections, she finds the soul that is deep within the music.
A Woman’s Soul is a great opening salvo for this series. So many women faced mistreatment in order to sing the devil’s music for crowds. It was tough enough for the men, the women had to be even tougher in order to survive. That’s one of the things that has always attracted me to women who sing the blues.
Don’t take my word for it, even though I absolutely loved this Stony Plain release. And by the way, thank you Stony Plain for your continued support of this style of blues. It’s good to know that you’re out there working hard to give these artists a place to release their music. Check out Rory Block at her website, listen to a couple of songs, and pick up her albums while you’re there. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Stone Stanley ~~ The Mudstomp Tapes

One expression my father used to use on his children when he was feeling particularly angry at something we had done was, “I’m going to stomp a mudhole in you and walk it dry.” That description always confused me, although there was no mistaking his intent at that particular moment. Fortunately, the new Stone Stanley album, The Mudstomp Tapes seems to take a very different approach.
Stone Stanley is the brainchild of Jason Robert, a singer songwriter from California who is exploring music in the Roots/Americana/Blues/Rock vein. He straddles the various genres with the grace of a tightrope walker. He picks bits and pieces from each and rearranges them into a new a musically delightful pattern.
The musicians Robert is working with include, but are not limited to Scott Longnecker on bass, Jim McComas and Ralph Gilbert on guitar, and Pat Lucca on harp.
The album starts off with the electric delta sound of Bitter End.  It’s an effective crossing of the traditional sound of the crossroads kind of song that which focuses on pleasure over burden, longevity over burnout.  However, it incorporates that tight heavier instrumentation of later blues. It’s an auspicious beginning that promises so much more.
They follow up with Drop It. It’s a song of warning not to covet things. As Hannibal Lecter reminded us, “We covet what we see,” no matter what it is. So keep your hands to yourself. In the meantime, the song has a nice rocking rhythm and the lyrics are clever. A little more rock than blues, but there’s some cool percussive string plucks that stand out.
After that is So Glad. It’s very much a Southern Rock song with some guitar distortions, and the lyrics are strong. To me, it’s a freeing kind of song, a celebration of escape. Whatever it is that you may need to get away from, this completes that feeling.
For all of us with a well-developed self-destruction gene, Beast Inside is the song for us. No matter what it is, so many of us have that within us and have to fight to keep it in its cage on a daily basis. Very cool blues song, that I think just might be appearing on an upcoming episode of Time For The Blues.
Cobble Hill is the next song, a story of an old residence of Robert’s with some very cool guitar work. He writes that it’s his version of Roadhouse Blues and he captures a feel of a dark place with friends and “outlaw music.”
Like so many artists, Robert feels a need to comment on the political activities of today. On Iroquois Chant, he stands with those who stood tall at the Dakota Pipeline battleground. He incorporates a driving rhythm into chants to create the song. While there are no lyrics in the modern traditional sense (itself an oxymoron), there is no mistaking the power of the track.
The next song, Be With Me, details those tricky waters that monogamous relationships navigate. There are tricky currents and dangerous rocks everywhere. Musically we’re in that blues-rock hybrid that recalls some of those great groups, so for those who enjoy that genre, this is a solid song that you will enjoy.
An instrumental, Unfaithful Woman, follows. It seems that I’m writing more about instrumentals lately, and I’m not sure if this is becoming more of a trend with artists or I’m just taking note more of them. This one is dark and moody; with a title like Unfaithful Woman, I can only guess what pain Robert may have been working through or empathizing with. It’s a powerful number.
The second song to utilize the word “chant” in its title, Freedom Chant tells the story of triumph over adversity. Like the previous Iroquois Chant, he reduces the lyrics to soundbites and overlays them on a steady percussive drumbeat. It’s a good song but a little hard to classify at the moment.
There’s a sweet electric opening on My Shame. Like he did on Beast Inside, Robert explores what it’s like to hit bottom either personally and by extension as a country or species. No matter what side of the aisle you come down on, there is a general lack of conversation and as a result, we are all sliding down.
Next up is a cover of Warren Hanes’ Soulshine. After listening to Robert's take on hitting bottom, it’s nice to be reminded that there is always the light of hope if we just look up in the darkness. This is a sweet quiet rendition that comes at just the right time. Love this version.
Stone Stanley ends the album with one more collection of personal memories with Bottled. Anything that opens with a soundbite from Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory has got to be an unusual song. There are references to all sorts of things from the 1980’s and they jumble together nicely. As Dylan Thomas reminds us, “The memories of childhood know no order.” These do give us a framework to better understand Robert and his take on the world. Even though we all grew up at different times and in different places, I feel that there were more things that united us in childhood than divided us. Nice song.
All in all, I enjoyed listening to Stone Stanley and find Robert to be a songwriter that finds new ways to explore old themes. The music runs the gamut from ethereal to rocking. Robert also has heart and soul and is certainly not afraid to put them out on display.
Find out more about the group, the album, and their touring dates at their website. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Kat Riggins ~~ In The Boys’ Club

It was just a couple of years ago that a Kat Riggins CD landed on my desk and I loved her voice. She could go from smoky to diamond edged and her phrasing was sweet and soulful. I liked that album, Blues Revival, very much, but when it hit we really couldn’t feature more than a couple of tracks due to time.
When her newest album, In The Boys’ Club, finally got played, I was blown away. The twelve songs on this album in turn are soulful, sweet, sassy, edgy, and downright explosive. She’s surrounded herself with great musicians including Darrell Raines on guitars and keyboards; George Caldwell on bass, Johnnie Hicks on drums; Josh Rowand on lead guitar for the first two songs; Albert Castiglia on lead guitar and duet vocals on one song; and Clay Goldstein on harp for three songs.
The album starts out with the soulful Try Try Again and right out of the gate Riggins rocks with her vocals. She shows her edgier side to start off and it’s an exciting way to kick it off.
The second song starts out with the sound of a record needle hitting vinyl. Troubles Away has got a nice old school feel to it and Riggins shows her versatility. Josh Rowand plays some nice guitar and the song would be at home on a front porch or a stage. Just might have to play this one on the show.
Riggins slows things down on Hear Me and delivers a smoldering burn of a song. I absolutely love these kinds of songs and will definitely be putting it on my personal playlist. This is the kind of song that can make an entire album worthwhile. So far, so do all of the other songs…
She and the band get back to swinging on the follow up song, Second To None. It’s got a nice Chicago feel to it and the sound is thick and boisterous. This is a fun one to play and I think I’ll be sharing it soon. She keeps the fun going with Tightrope. It’s funky and fun to listen to. These two back to back are a great combination.
Master guitar slinger Albert Castiglia guests on Kitty Won’t Scratch, playing lead guitar and supplying the male vocals. The two trade lyrics and the energy is high. Great song and I can’t wait to share this fun team up!
Next up is a cool shuffle blues, Cheat Or Lose. The lyrics are good and the song should satisfy just about any blues lover. We’re past the halfway point of the album and Riggins is showing no signs of letting up. This album is great and I’m certain that it will be showing up on my “best of” list at the end of the year.
The next song, Johnnie Walker, starts out with some heavy duty vocals that stretch the blues through rock and get close to metal sounds. If you’re looking for a quiet front porch delta style song, keep looking. This one is for the rockers and if you like your blues with a rock edge, check this one out pdq.
She’s back with some sass and attitude on Don’t Throw Me Away. It’s the kind of song that Ruth Brown could deliver with such aplomb and Riggins ain’t too shabby with her delivery either. The more I listen to this album, the more I’m inclined to pull her previous album off the shelf and really get into her music.
Next up is a rocking number, Fistful Of Water, that strains Riggins’ vocals right to the breaking point. This one may not be for the blues purists, but if you enjoy a heavy rocker sound to your tunes, this is the kind of song you will like. Drummer Johnny Hicks gets a good workout and the guitar work is exemplary.
There’s an interlude that follows that features Riggins doing an acapella testimony. It’s not listed on the album but it shows the beautiful depth that Riggins has. She handles the testimony very well and it’s obvious that she grew up singing gospel. A lovely 1:12.
She gets back to the songs listed on the CD cover with Live On. There’s some nice harp work from Clay Goldstein and the song has a rocking feel to it even with the harp. Good song, fun to listen to, but it’s a little overshadowed by some of the stronger songs on the album.
She finishes up with the title track, A Girl In The Boys’ Club, which features some studio chatter as they start up the song. This is a solid women’s empowerment song and long overdue in my opinion. Great harp work from Goldstein gives the song some backbone along with Riggins’ vocals. Listen for it on the show, it’s coming soon.
If you are not already a fan of Kat Riggins, this just might be the album that changes your mind. She displays her versatility and delivers songs that rock and can make you cry. On her last album, we only got to feature one or two songs on Time For The Blues, but In The Boys Club is so strong, we could play just about any song from it and be happy with the result.

In the meantime, look her up on her website, and be sure to catch her live whenever you get the chance. I, for one, can’t wait to see her perform, these songs are electric! 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Brigitte Purdy ~~ Still I Rise

I love to see my postal person heading my way with a large stack of envelopes. As long as there are no bills among those envelopes. A large stack of envelopes usually means a fair number of new CDs to listen to and that, my friends, is one of my favorite things in the world.

Recently I received a copy of an album from an artist with whom I have no knowledge. Those albums quickly work their way to the top of my review stack and today, I took the plunge and opened up Still I Rise by a wonderful new (to me, anyway) artist, Brigitte Purdy.

A wicked harp sets up the opening song, Hoodoo. Purdy’s voice is honed to a fine edge and the song has a sweet dark side to it. I love the keys that Drake Shining plays and they mix so well with Kenny Neal’s harp. It’s a nice slice of Louisiana on what I imagine a night with a full moon. More of this, please.

Almost without a break, Purdy and the band slide into a calm, quiet number, Be The Light. Purdy’s voice softens and becomes angelic. Ayeasha Jones’ backing vocals add depth to the song. Shining’s organ playing gives it a real gospel flavor and this is the kind of uplifting song we can all use from time to time. Especially now.

They follow up with a rocking number, Home Is In My Heart. It’s a moving song that could easily get an audience up on its collective feet and head to the dance floor. They keep the tempo up and moving with My Kinda Blues. This is one fun song that boogies hard and gives everyone in the band a chance to play their heart out. Love this one and you better believe it’s going to be on a Time For The Blues very soon.

We hit the half way point of the album with the country flavored Last Time. Purdy’s voice is at her most plaintive, most expressive, and so emotional. It can cause all sorts of heartache if you’re not careful. Love the song.

Purdy gets soulful with the funky Get It Understood. This is for all those men who think they have the right to press their luck on a woman who does not want anything to do with them. Fellows, get the message, learn to take a hint, and if you can’t take a hint, take the no and move on. This is a strong addition to the #MeToo songs that are long overdue.

Her soul continues in a softer vein on If I Could. I can’t decide which incarnation of her voice I prefer, one with an edge or one with the soft purr. Fortunately, the point is moot because she’s great either way and each gets a showcase on the album.

Next up is the very emotional Lucille Don’t You Weep. Everything about this song clicks. It’s emotional, the backing vocals give it depth, and the melancholy keys build nicely over the rhythm section. The lyrics are smart and heartbreaking and the guitar work is stellar. It also sounds as if there are strings added, but those might be synthesized. Either way, it’s a good effect. Powerful number.

Next up is the aptly titled Blues Angel. On this album, Purdy has shown she certainly can sing like an angel and she handles the blues nicely without getting herself locked completely in the genre. She dabbles in a few others successfully and makes them all seem easy.

She wraps up the album with the title track, Still I Rise. Beautiful keys usher in the song and Purdy’s voice drops into an emotional whisper. The song is stripped down to the basics and that adds to the force of the song. I like this one very much.

Brigitte Purdy is a great example of discovering new talent and having them quickly become a favorite. I was unaware of her prior to receiving this album from her publicist. And I have to say, I’m glad Still I Rise arrived. She’s exploring her sound and I expect she will continue to show her versatility.

Give her a listen and I think you’ll find out why I liked this album so much, and you just might become a fan as well. You can find her website here.  

Monday, July 23, 2018

Big Apple Blues ~~ Manhattan Alley

The second release for Big Apple Blues, Manhattan Alley, builds on the musical foundation the band laid out on their first album, Energy. That 2015 album was a great collection of instrumentals that combined elements of blues, soul, funk, and rock into a sweet sound.
Manhattan Alley continues and adds a side of jazz to the mix. The quintet is made up of Admir “Dr. Blues” Hadzic on bass, Barry “The Baron Of The Blues” Harrison on drums, Zach Zunis or guitar, Jim Alfredson on Hammond B3 and keys, and Anthony Kane on harmonica. Guest musicians include Chris Eminizer on saxophone, Bill Vits and Kevin Jones on percussion, and Louis Rudner on acoustic bass.
Rather than go through every song for today’s review, since that would get to be monotonous, and you would get tired of reading great sound, tight band, very cool and I can’t wait to catch them live.
I love instrumentals when they are performed by a great band that seems to have one mind while playing, and Big Alley Blues has all of that and then some. They convey great emotion, happy and joyous to dark and foreboding and sometimes to all of those in a single song.
This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, I get that, but if you like to hear a great band playing at their peak, you could do a lot worse than to check them out.
The ten tracks on this album are among the best instrumentals I’ve heard all year. Recorded live without any studio tricks, this is a great group that shows they can handle pretty much any genre. I definitely want to catch them live, and for any of you that live in or near NYC, send me a report if you catch them in a club somewhere.

If you’re in another part of the country, head to their website and be sure to check out both of their albums.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Sunday Round Up ~~ July 22, 2018

It’s Sunday, a little rainy outside and I’m trying to catch up with a number of good albums that have been landing on my desk. No fancy writing, none of my usual track by track discourses, but lots of quick impressions. Let’s rock…
Dennis Jones Band – WE3
This power trio, Jones on guitar and vocals, Sam Correa on bass and backing vocals, and Raymond Johnson on drums recorded fifteen tracks live, all but one originals. The recording is pristine, I can hear every drum stroke, every bass thump, and all of Jones’ sweet guitar breaks. There’s a lot of rock and plenty of soul in their music, but everything is deeply rooted in the blues and I have to tell you, they sound great in a live environment. Loved the soulful delivery on Passion For The Blues and Enjoy The Ride.They are definitely on my list to catch if we’re ever in the same vicinity. As they are out of New York, I’m thinking a road trip might be in order. First, I’m going to take a trip and check out their website
John Clifton – Nightlife
This album is pure energy from beginning to end. Clifton sings and plays harp and a little acoustic and lead guitar. Scott Albeyta handles most of the guitar chores and Matt Moulton plays bass. John Shafer and Roman Rivera split the drums. The album is a mix of originals and covers and Clifton sings them like he owns them. I hadn’t heard the Leiber/Stoller song Last Clean Shirt in a while and his version is a lot of fun. And how can you go wrong with an original titled Swamp Dump? That one has plenty of atmosphere. Be sure to see what they're up to at their website
Elliott And The Audio Kings - Long Live The King
Another Power Trio, seems to be a theme today, this time from the great country of Canada, where they make some amazing music that the rest of us don’t always hear. You should look for this album because these guys swing hard. Mike Elliott plays guitar, harp, and sings; Jonny Sauder plays drums, percussion, and sings back up while Scott Fitzpatric plays bass and sings back up. All twelve songs are written by Elliott and they have a fresh sound. From the opening track, Zim Zam Zoom through titles like Pringles And Perrier and Day Drinking, they guys infuse a great deal of humor into their work. Yes, they are seriously fun. If they ever head your way, be sure to go see them. More information and tour dates at their website
Carolyn Fe – Sugat Ko
This one came completely out of left field, but it is a beautiful album with rich lyrics delivered by a luscious voice. Fe explores boundaries and surpasses them with her approach. The title of the album, Sugat Ko, means “my wound” in her native Tagalog, so you know you’re not going to hear the same covers of the same song. Make no mistake, she can drop a great cover of blues classics as well as anyone in the business, but this is a personal album that covers the myriad facets of her life. Having discovered her now, I’m making it a mission to find her previous releases. So, I’m heading to her website and I urge you to do the same.
As always, thank you for your company and be sure to drop by on a daily basis to see new reviews of albums and live shows. If you have music you would like to submit for me to check out and possibly air on Time For The Blues, feel free to submit them to the address below.

23 Sesame Street
Richmond, VA 23235
Attn: Time For The Blues / John Porter

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Various Artists ~~ Tribute: Delmark’s 65th Anniversary

Leave it to Delmark to come up with a very cool way to celebrate their 65th Anniversary of releasing great blues and jazz records. They have gathered various artists to re-record some classic tracks by their historic roster. The eleven songs on the album showcase some well-known songs as well as a few that are a little more obscure.
There’s not really a bad one in the bunch so let’s get started and see where this journey takes us.
Omar Coleman takes on Junior Wells’ Train I Ride to kick off the album and delivers a smoking version of Wells’ classic. Wells is one of the artists that helped Delmark achieve success, so it’s only natural to start things off with one of his best known songs. Coleman has a great voice and delivery. Yeah, this is going to be good.
Next up is Lurrie Bell And The Bell Dynasty covering One Day You’re Gonna Get Lucky originally done by Carey Bell. It makes sense given the familial connection and Steve Bell really does a great job on the harp. It’s a sweet sound, very old school, and this one should please any fan of the blues.
I always liked Jimmy Dawkins, and Linsey Alexander & Billy Flynn team up for their take on his song, All For Business. It’s a nice smoldering number with nice guitar work and some cool tenor sax from Hank Ford. The longest song on the album at six-plus minutes, it’s a gorgeous late night tune that will definitely be going on my playlist – along with pretty much every other song on the album.
Demetria Taylor delivers a great version of Big Time Sarah’s Riverboat. She’s got a perfect growl for the song and doesn’t hold back one little bit. Very cool song that you can bet will be showing up on Time For The Blues shortly. Big Joe Williams’ She Left Me A Mule To Ride is covered by Jimmy Burns next. This is about as old school as you can get with just vocals and a guitar, just like Williams would often do for shows.  
It’s only natural that Lil’ Ed and Dave Weld would team up for J.B. Hutto’s Speak My Mind. Hutto was Lil’ Ed’s uncle and Weld’s mentor. Ed is actually not under contract to Delmark, but to Alligator. However, since Alligator founder and president Bruce Iglauer got started working with Delmark founder Bob Koester, I doubt that was a difficult negotiation. By the way, the song rocks big time!
Jimmy Johnson and Dave Specter get together for their version of Magic Sam’s Out Of Bad Luck. Sam left us way too early and it’s so good to hear these two great players restore some of Sam’s magic. It’s very good, and honestly the first song on the album that made me want to go and pull out the original. Great cover.
Corey Dennison and Gerry Hundt then team up on the title track of Sleepy John Estes’ Broke And Hungry. Nice harp and mandolin combination and a fine vocal interpretation. Like I mentioned early, there hasn’t been a bad cover so far. I could play any of these songs on the show and be happy with the outcome.
After that, Mike Wheeler follows up with a killer version of Otis Rush’s So Many Roads. This is a great soul blues song that just has all the right ingredients, pure emotional vocals and a singing guitar that answers every phrase the singer puts out. Excellent cover that captures Rush’s spirit while not imitating his work.
Bonnie Lee’s Need Your Love So Bad is interpreted by Shirley Johnson. It’s a slow tempo number with edge. There’s plenty of great guitar and Roosevelt Purifoy’s piano adds a nice side. The album closes out with Ken Saydak taking on Roosevelt Sykes’ Boot That Thing. It’s the quintessential boogie number that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face and make your feet start to move.
Tribute: Delmark’s 65th Anniversary has been a great experience from the first note to the last. It’s helped me remember several of their past great artists and I’m looking for more greatness in the years to come. I can’t wait to share these new versions on the show, and also go back into Delmark’s extensive history to rediscover the originals.
Find out more about their history and be sure to check out their jazz selections as well. You can find them at Well, what are you waiting for?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Shemekia Copeland ~~ America’s Child

Anytime I get news that Shemekia Copeland is coming out with a new album, I start counting down the days until its release. Fortunately for me, the good folks at Alligator Records shipped me an advance copy of her next release, America’s Child.
This is a great title for an album that incorporates different sounds to support that amazing voice of Copeland’s. John Prine and Emmy Lou Harris make guest appearances as do Rhiannon Giddens and Steve Cropper. There are songs with country flavors as well as straight ahead blues. Plenty of rock, too. Don’t get locked into anticipating just one style of music, this is America, and we’re a melting pot, so it only makes sense that our music is as well.
The album starts off with an anthem for our times, Ain’t Got Time For Hate. This song has been one of, if not the most, added songs to playlists lately for good reason. It’s certainly an uplifting number for these troubled times. It’s got a strong rock beat, so it’s good for crossover audiences, but doesn’t leave her blues fans behind. Great opening.
Copeland’s next song, Americans, starts off with a cool funky beat. The lyrics try to run the gamut of all sorts of people living here. Paul Franklin plays a sweet slide guitar that adds a nice touch to the song. Yes, America is made up of great contradictions, and that’s one thing that makes us great unique.
She follows up with a darker number, Would You Take My Blood?. Copeland is not shying away from taking on some of the issues that divide us as people. She’s using different ideas to present these questions and turning them into great songs. Entertainment that makes you think.
Co-writer John Prine also adds vocals to the song Great Rain. I’ve long considered Prine one of the best songwriters this country has produced and any chance to hear a new song that he’s worked on is a pleasure. His own unmistakable voice is raw and emotional and creates a remarkable sound. The song is moody and it adds a new flavor to the album. Great cut.
The wonderful Rhiannon Giddens adds the sound of the African banjo to the next track, Smoked Ham And Peaches. The low key Americana style song is beautifully performed and quickly casts a spell on the listener. I could listen to this song all day. I’m truly tempted to say that this song is delicious, because, well, it is. I would like a second helping, please.
Copeland rocks out on The Wrong Idea. This could easily become one of the theme songs for the #MeToo movement as the women are not backing down from unwanted male attention. Will Kimbrough’s guitar and keys give the song a ton of energy and Copeland’s vocals are pure attitude that’s long overdue.
Legendary artist Steve Cropper plays lead guitar on the sweet blues song, Promised Myself. Copeland’s voice runs scales beautifully and I know she will be tearing this one up during a live show. Have I mentioned she’s an amazing performer? Really can’t mention that enough. Don’t miss a chance to catch her live. And while you’re at it, don’t miss Cropper’s bridge!
In The Blood Of The Blues is an amazing song that runs down the list of atrocities that have contributed to the creation of oppressed people, specifically the African American population. Copeland’s vocals are strong and emotionally charged. Great song.
The next number, Such A Pretty Flame, is a slow burn smoldering song that gives Copeland’s vocals a chance to purr. She’s explored some rougher styles and this song is a nice change. She gets back to rocking with the next song, One I Love. She handles the Americana style so well, blending elements of traditional country music into more rock style. It’s a good twist.
If there was ever truth in a title, it’s Shemekia Copeland singing I’m Not Like Everybody Else. She is a one-of-a-kind performer who can mesmerize a crowd with her powerful voice and striking presence. This is a cool dark song written by Ray Davies and delivered to near perfection.
Copeland brings the album to a close with the traditional song, Go To Sleepy Little Baby utilizing just her vocals and Kimbrough’s guitar. This is a gorgeous lullaby that I have to think she’s sung to her own child on several occasions. Beautiful voice, beautiful mother.
Shemekia Copeland is a national treasure. Her voice can run the gamut from a quiet purr to a diamond edge. Her song selection is masterful and she assembles a great collection of musicians to join her. She also has the courage to stand up for what she believes during a time when more people are interested in shouting sound bites than calmly listening and discussing the issues.

Be sure to check her out at to get all the information about her new album America’s Child and see where she’s going to be touring. Don’t miss her.