Wednesday, June 19, 2019

BK Music To Close Doors June 20, 2019

Mgr Renato Walthew and Bill Kennedy
It’s the end of an era for some of us as BK Music closes its doors for good on June 20th. The independent record/CD/DVD store has been a mainstay for the Richmond music community for many years, first at its Midlothian Turnpike location and lately in the Stratford Hills Shopping Center.
Proprietor Bill Kennedy and his wife Gina have decided that it was time to retire and to start a new chapter in their lives. I can only wish them well as they move on to their next adventures.
For me personally, BK Music has been a haven for me as I search for older titles that I need in order to produce Time For The Blues. But it goes back much further than that, growing up as a music-obsessed kid, I spent many hours in various record stores – back in the day when there WERE various record stores – checking out new releases, older releases of favorite artists, and generally just reading liner notes and seeing where that would take me.
While I was rarely a top-40 guy, I did listen to what was on the radio and eventually discovered the eclectic stations like WGOE that played all kinds of music and exposed me to a more radical view of what was available. I had to find out more about these different artists, and that inevitably led me back to the record stores.
They even had great names: Gary’s, Harmony Hut, The Gramophone, Peaches. They all had their styles – some were like pristine department stores, others more like head shops complete with burning incense and strange paraphernalia at the counters. I loved them all.
I discovered BK Music because of their old television ads of people going on and on about their favorite artists. I specifically remember one person who loved KISS and another who loved The Grateful Dead, but I believe there were others. Shortly after those commercials started airing, I stopped in to see what they had and discovered well stocked shelves and friendly employees that were enthusiastic about a variety of styles and artists.
Even other customers got into the act, asking about what I was listening to and telling me about what they had discovered. It was like a great well-stocked bar where everyone knew one another but could occasionally slip into their own world for a while without any outside demands.
It was kind of heavenly…
When Henry and I started producing Time For The Blues in 2006, we were woefully short on material. The station had very few quality blues albums for us to use, and pretty much nothing from newer artists. We dipped into our own personal collections for many of those early shows, and knew that if we were to survive, we would need a lot more.
BK Music became my go-to place to fill in some of those gaps. Not only did they stock new artists, but they also had a deep pool of blues from which to pull. And pull we did. Over the next several months, my collection more than tripled as the vast majority of my paycheck went to BK every month. Fortunately, Mrs. Professor understood as we stretched our already thin budget a little further.
Even after getting through that initial crisis, I continued to haunt BK Music. I was always on the hunt for something new and unusual. I rarely came away empty handed, and many times I came away extremely happy. With their collection of used CDs, I was able to discover artists I might not otherwise have encountered, and with their bargain titles, I was even able to produce entire shows of quality music for almost no cost.
Being thrifty appeals tremendously to my Scottish heart and soul.
Now it’s time for owners Bill and Gina Kennedy to retire from the retail world. Plans include helping out their son with his business in Colorado. Bill and Gina plan to stay in Richmond, although several trips west are already being planned.
The rest of the staff will continue to work closing up the store as they must vacate by June 30 and will no doubt find new adventures of their own.
I know I will miss the place very much. It was an oasis for me and many other music lovers. I knew I could always count on good musical advice from the staff, and well, it just felt like home. Mom and Pop stores built America, and I’m afraid we are losing so many of them now to chain stores and online shopping. Many of my favorite places, bookstores, record stores, and even video stores are nearly extinct.
I have nothing against online shopping, it’s often the only way I can find some obscure material, but I will always prefer the human experience to click and submit. BK Music truly defined the human experience. Good luck to Bill and Gina, and to all of the staff of the store, and thank you for welcoming me, and all the others into your hearts.

Monday, June 17, 2019

River City Blues Challenge ~~June 16, 2019

The Battle for Memphis has begun. Every year, the city of Memphis, Tennessee hosts blues artists and fans from all over the world for a week of intense showdowns to determine who are the best bands working today. Winners of this prestigious event have gone on to sign with major labels, tour the world spreading the magic of the blues, and long and influential careers.
Success is not guaranteed, but many doors open when an artist or band is able to put the prefix “IBC Winner” in front of their name.
The River City Blues Society, Richmond’s blues society, starts their search earlier than many such groups, to ensure that they get some of the best acts entered for their competition.
Let me rant about the word “competition” for a minute. I do not feel that this is a competition, even though the act that comes out on top definitely receives some rewards. It’s a challenge, a celebration even, for the best of the best to raise their game and perform to the absolute best of their abilities. In a competition, only one person or group emerges victorious. In a challenge, everyone who enters it in the spirit of elevating their performance wins.
So does the audience members who are treated to amazing performances.
The River City Blues Challenge took place at the Capital Ale House in downtown Richmond on Sunday. There were eight acts entered in two categories: Solo/Duo and Group/Band, four in each.
The Solo/Duo Category consisted of Daniel “Mojo” Parker; James Lester and Gary Ford; Cole & Mary Ann; and Paul The Resonator and Vince “Fireball” Farabaugh. Only Parker and the tandem of Paul and Farabaugh had been entered in the challenge in prior years.
The performers in the Group/Band Category were Dan Schutt Band; Sorrento; Burn The Batteau; and Joe The Spy. None of these acts had taken part in any of the previous Blues Challenges.
The way the Challenge is decided is by a panel of judges who have a great deal of experience in the blues field, evaluating each act on a series of criteria that include blues content, originality, stage presence, and overall execution. This is to ensure that any act advancing to the IBCs will represent their area with the highest level of professionalism.
The judges for this challenge consisted of long time club owner and talent booker Randall Plaxa; musician, past IBC Finalist and current IBC Memphis judge Bobby BlackHat Walters; and the manager of the three-time IBC Semi-Finalists The Bush League, Kenya Watkins. One could really not hope for better judges of talent.
To make sure everyone had the same advantage, all performers used the same sound set up, which was controlled by the sound engineer, Bobby Phillips. Each act had a 30-minute window in which to perform and was allowed a 10-minute period to change out and reset the stage for their act.
It was a ballet of some precision to make sure that everything flowed smoothly, and for the most part, Phillips and the band members made that happen.
Unfortunately, due to my emcee duties, I was unable to take extensive notes about what each band played, but I was able to catch many of the performances from the back or side of the stage. Here are a few impressions, please forgive the quick sketches, much of their time on stage went by me like a speeding train.
Mojo Parker started things off, and I’ve known Parker for several years now and know him to be the consummate performer. He quickly got the audience involved with his high energy singing, playing, and foot stomping. He also engaged the audience, talking to them like old friends and by the time he left, anyone who didn’t know him before was a quick convert to new fan.
James Lester and Gary Ford were old friends who have recently reunited to play blues and roots music. They were very good, but somehow seemed like they were searching to find that groove that would ignite the audience. Still, I enjoyed their set, but Parker set the bar high.
Cole And Mary Ann, who came up from Nags Head were next, and they brought a great deal of energy to their performance. They traded off licks from Cole’s left-handed slide and Mary Ann’s soulful harp. I heard more than one person go crazy for her playing and with good reason, she’s damn good! In fact, this duo could very easily represent any blues society proudly in Memphis. They have a good chance of winning, and I’m keeping my eye on them for future CD releases.
Paul The Resonator and Vince Fireball Farabaugh were back again this year with some serious old-school style gospel tinged blues. I didn’t get much of a chance to listen this year, but am familiar with their work from the CD Soul Of A Man. Good act, but a little low-key in my opinion, they’re going to have an uphill battle if they’re going to take the challenge.
The Group/Band category started off with the Dan Shutt Band who were high energy, but not very bluesy. They are a local rock band who plays some bluesy rootsy numbers, but they were not as blues oriented as they could have been. A good band, I would love to hear them do a full set, but rock is more their specialty.
Sorrento was next, and they were a jazz-blues trio that was very good musically, but not as heavy on the blues side as they needed to be for the challenge. Plus, they had the disadvantage of calling out numbers rather than having a tight set planned. Again, I would love to hear them in their environment, but I don’t think they would be ready to represent in Memphis.
Next up was Burn The Batteau from Halifax, Virginia, which is near the North Carolina border. These guys were polished, sharp as a tack, and ready to play. They had a horn section of trumpet/flugelhorn and sax that set them apart from the other groups. I liked their sound a lot and with a little more seasoning think they could become a force to be reckoned with in the area.
The last act was Joe The Spy, a group that included a sax player, a conga drum percussionist, and a smoking lead singer in Apollonia Morris. I have very high hopes for the band and as performers, they did not disappoint. They were very entertaining and Morris has an enormous wealth of talent. I did not find them to be as blues centric as I would like, but they are high energy soul and I would love to see them do a full set sometime.
In the end, the judges decided on the top three acts for the day and they were: Number 3) Burn The Batteau; Number 2) Cole & Mary Ann; and Number 1) and the representative for this year’s IBC in Memphis – Mojo Parker.
Congratulations to all of the participants, and here’s looking ahead to next year. Good luck to Daniel Mojo Parker in Memphis – go for the glory my friend, you have the talent, you have the drive, and I hope you get the luck of the draw going forward.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

JJ Appleton and Jason Ricci ~~ Beautiful Slop ~~

Way back in 2015, guitarist-singer-songwriter JJ Appleton teamed up with punk-rock blues harpist Jason Ricci for the album Dirty Memory. I managed to snag a copy a couple of years later at one of Ricci’s shows and I was immediately impressed by this acoustic gem.
I wasn’t very familiar with Appleton at that time, but I was getting to know Ricci fairly well. Ricci, a two-time instrumentalist of the year for the harmonica, is well known for his darkly flamboyant style to match his multi-colored hair. Sometimes though, Ricci is better known for his style and we tend to forget just how good of a harp player he is.
On his follow up record with Appleton, Beautiful Slop, the two have once again gone to their acoustic roots, and delivered a fun album that plays ten tracks of acoustic Piedmont style blues. They are joined by Derek Nievergelt on acoustic bass and no other musicians are credited.
Both Appleton and Ricci write several songs with Appleton writing four and Ricci penning three.
Ricci is out on the road again with his band, The Bad Kind, playing their lively brand of swamp rock blues. Catch them where you can, from all reports from my friends along the tour route, he is burning up the stages wherever he plays.
Appleton has some fun with his Resonator on the opening song, Don’t Take Advantage Of Me. Ricci adds some old school harp and Nievergelt’s bass ties it all together. Radio producers and parents beware, there is a GD expletive that shouldn’t affect too many folks. The FCC may frown on its use, but it certainly fits the lyrics of the song.
They follow up with Ricci’s Hurt Myself, a slow emotional number that screams from the pain that Ricci was in as he wrote this song. If you remember John Lennon’s scream therapy songs, this is along that same vein. Ricci is raw, untamed, seething from the pain. The acoustic rendering of the song makes the pain even more palpable. Damn, this song is amazing, but not for the faint of heart.
Appleton wrote the next track, I Got The Feeling. It’s a peppy, happy song a much lighter touch than the previous song. This is some sweet front porch music that should make just about every blues fan happy. It should receive a good share of airplay, especially on the acoustic shows.
The guys perform another Appleton song, Distraction, which is a little darker than the previous number. It’s still quiet but the lower register adds another layer to the song. Ricci’s harp swings in and out like a bird in flight. When Appleton slips into his head voice, the song becomes somewhat ethereal. An interesting song that I’m going to have to think about for a while.
The next two songs are by Ricci. After the raw nerve of Hurt Myself, I’m not sure what to expect. The first, Geaux Nuts Kids, is an old school New Orleans instrumental that should make just about anyone get out of their chair and head towards the dance floor. It will wake you up and get you going.
The second, Don’t Badger The Witness, makes more great use of Ricci’s harp playing on this slow number delivered with a faux New Orleans accent. Ricci trades off with Appleton and the two drop a song that has little in the way of lyrics, but you can feel the frustration in every line. Good one.
Appleton takes over the vocals on Standing In The Safety Zone, and drops another peppy upbeat song. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a great front porch song that sounds at home in front of a crowd of 10,000. It’s a Piedmont style blues number that really sounds sweet.
The next two songs are written by Appleton. The first is Brighter Days, a slower darker number. It’s got an edge to it and Ricci’s harp sharpens it into a razor sharp blade. The second, For The Very Last Time, let’s Appleton cut loose and Ricci turns his harp into a staccato machine gun. It’s a bit of a rocker and when Ricci takes his break, it’s hard to fathom someone playing so fast and so controlled. Pretty good tune for my money!
They close the album with Stay. The bass leads them in and Appleton’s vocals take over with a determined croon. Ricci’s harp is distant, an observer setting the mood with a few jazzy riffs. A very interesting choice to bring this energetic album to its end.
JJ Appleton and Jason Ricci are two great artists, and it’s fascinating to me to watch Ricci eschew his normal harmonica pyrotechnics in order to serve the world of each acoustic song. The Blues started out that way; little or no instrumentation, just playing loud enough to catch the attention of a raucous crowd.
Beautiful Slop has taken a lot of ingredients: good songs, strong lyrics, good guitar, excellent harmonica playing, a strong bass, and have thrown them into the stew pot. That’s how the make Jambalaya in Louisiana, and Mulligan Stew by hobos on the road. Apparently, that’s how they made this tasty album as well. Add it to your collection and enjoy the deliciousness.  

JJ Appleton website           
Jason Ricci website           

Saturday, June 8, 2019

The Forty Fours ~~ Twist The Knife ~~

An intriguing album arrived recently from a Los Angeles-based band that I had never heard of before. You probably get tired of reading that opening sentence, but it just goes to show how many great bands are out there and may not be on any of our radars.
The band is the Forty Fours, and for this album, their fourth, they have titled it Twist The Knife. The group consists of Johnny Main on guitar and vocals; Eric Von Herzen on harmonica; Mike Hightower on bass; Gary Ferguson on drums; and Junior Watson on guitar.
It’s available on Rip Cat and it’s going to appeal to just about everyone. They play one original and have selected seven others from major artists to cover. But these are not just slavish note-for-note covers, they put their own imprint on the songs.
The band gets rolling on the first song, Cuttin’ Deep, a funky gritty instrumental that gives everybody a chance to show off a little bit. Sweet guitar runs lay over an infectious groove. It’s obvious that the band members are strong musicians. My interest is already piqued.
They follow up with Sugar You, a slower blues groove that’s the kind of song that starts some serious grinding on the dance floor. If the previous song was gritty, this one is downright dirty. I like this one a lot and am already looking for a place to share it with you.
Next up is a cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s song, Howlin’, complete with an attempt at Wolf’s unique voice. It’s a nice homage, but actually a little softer, gentler, than the original. Still, it’s one of the songs that nearly every band performs and The Forty Fours do a damn fine version.
If you’re going to cover Wolf, you may as well cover Muddy Waters. The guys deliver a strong version of Champagne And Reefer. Nobody can pull off Wolf and Waters completely but they do a good job on both. I would love to catch them live as both songs have got to go over well.
Von Herzen’s harp kicks off Lightnin’ Hopkins’ Too Many Drivers. This is a great interpretation that’s a real crowd pleaser. I’ll be adding it to an upcoming show and talking up the guys. I suspect that they have got to be an amazing live band and hope they’ll have a chance to get out on the road.
Doyle Bramhall II’s Rosie is next with some rock blues on the edgy side. By now the band has shown that they are adept at several different styles of blues. No matter what style you prefer, these guys deliver.
Some more great harp opens their cover of Helsinki Blues. This is a fun one, a bit of a shouter and gets the blood pumping. This is one that should be receiving some serious airplay on every blues show around the world. Count it playing on one in our area.
They close out the album with T-Bone Walker’s 44’s Shuffle. Perfectly named for the group and perfectly delivered by the group. Great cover and they have some fun while playing it.
I know I’m late to the party as this is the Forty Fours’ fourth album (that’s a lot of fours to type) and the first one in my collection. I can guarantee it won’t be the last. Twist The Knife is a good album to have, it covers most of the bases, and is a pleasure to listen to. I only wish it were a little longer, at 33 minutes, it merely whets my appetite for more!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Mary Lane ~~ Travelin’ Woman ~~

Don’t feel too bad if the name Mary Lane doesn’t ring any bells. Lane is one of the great generation of blues artists who moved from the South to Chicago, bringing with them their takes on that Delta sound that gave birth to the blues. Unlike many of these artists, Lane stayed put in Chicago, appearing all over town and in local festivals, and at 83 years young, she’s only now recording her second release.
Prior to her new release, Travelin’ Woman, on the Women Of The Blues label, Lane last recorded two decades ago. With this ten-song disc, Lane shows that she’s one of the greats, and I, for one, am sorry for all of the albums that might have enhanced the genre for all these years.
Since I started grading albums several years back, something that I use to determine the Best Of selections for each year, only one other artist has scored as high as I graded Lane on this album. For the record, her score was 3.7 out of 4.0 (same grade scale as most colleges) which would make it damn near perfect.
Starting out with the title track, Travelin’ Woman, Lane establishes that she is the real deal mixing her spirited vocals with the slide guitar of Louie Zagoras and the Hammond B-3 of Chris “Hambone” Cameron. This take sounds like it was recorded straight of the bandstand, all it needs is the crowd noise of enthusiastic fans. I love when she takes a step back and tells the band, “Somebody play some blues.” If they play more blues like this, I will be a fan for life!
Cameron’s piano leads us into Ain’t Gonna Cry No More. Another great pure blues number dealing with a simple theme and solid backing music. Lane even has Eddie Shaw playing a little harp for the song. Lane gets saucy and the guitar of Jim Tullio answers in kind. Very sweet.
Next up is a rocking song, Leave That Wine Alone. It can’t be a real blues set unless there’s at least one song about drinking, right? Well, this is that song and you’re going to find your head bopping and your toes tapping to go along with it. Of the first three songs I’ve heard, I would like to play all three on Time For The Blues. If this keeps up, I’m going to have to play most – if not all – of her songs.
Lane follows up with another great song, Some People Say I’m Crazy. This is pure blues with strong percussion, piercing harp, and some wicked piano. Lane herself tears up the vocals and you better believe this one will be getting some airplay. Mary Lane, where have you been all my life?  
The fifth track, Raining In My Heart, is a cool shuffle that lets Lane croon a while. She keeps her vocals toned down to a relative purr and lets the guitar take a little more of the spotlight.
Lane takes us to church with the gospel tinged Let Me Into Your Heart. Her vocals are pure emotional and the background voices for a perfect choir. Cameron’s keys ring and the bass takes a stronger place in the band. Sweet number.
After church, it’s time to party hard with the next track, Ain’t Nobody Else. Lane rocks and rolls with the best of them and shows that a soul does not age. Billy Branch lays down some solid harp and Travis Bernard’s drums set a quick pace. Another winner for Ms. Lane!
Lane adds a little funk to her blues with Blues Give Me A Feeling. Indiara Sfair adds some great harp work and Lane throws herself into the vocals with a great deal of gusto.
Land and the band are back to swinging Chicago style with Bad Luck And Trouble. There’s a title that describes most of my life choices. The song has a good shuffle beat and deals with some normal blues topics. She just delivers them in such a way that you can’t resist getting up and dancing a little bit.
She ends with a fascinating song, Make Up Your Mind. It’s Lane on vocals and Colin Linden on the acoustic slide dobro and is the most Delta sounding song on the album. It’s a plaintive number that breaks your heart and would be beautiful on the front porch or in front of 10,000 people.
Mary Lane brings the past of blues to life, but doesn’t deliver a museum piece. Every song is alive, crackling with energy, using the lightning that is her voice to deliver one powerful song after another. She may not have recorded for 20 years, but I pray to whatever forces that control the universe, that she records as much as she can for as long as she wants to.
Travelin’ Woman is a treasure and should grace every blues lover’s collection. Lane does not seem to have a dedicated website, but you can find out more about her at the website for the documentary about her, I Can Only Be Mary Lane. The nearly hour-long documentary by Jesseca Ynez Simmons tells the story of her life and the efforts it took to create this album. While I have not seen it myself, I am looking forward to doing so at my first opportunity.
God bless Mary Lane and all of her work. I do not say such things lightly. I think she is one of the people who connect our past and present with our future. Do yourself a favor and check her out as fast as you can.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Time For The Blues ~~ June 8, 2019 ~~

Henry and I hope you will join us this Saturday night, June 8, at 10:00 as once again the Kraken known as Time For The Blues is released! We have spared no expense to bring you the finest entertainment we can and can’t wait to share it with you…
There are hot times and big doin’s going on around Time For The Blues World Headquarters © these days. Big big doin’s! Unfortunately we can’t tell you everything at this time, but promise that we will spill the beans as soon as we can. Just keep listening in and we’ll be able to discuss everything soon. In the meantime, we’ve got another hot hot show heading your way.
How hot, you say? How about as hot as ten dumpster fires, which is how people often describe out shows…

Seriously, this show is smokin’ as we’ve got a favorite group, The Cash Box Kings, in our first big feature. The CBKs are a great Mid-West Band (based in Milwaukee) that deliver amazing Chicago-style blues. We’ve featured them before and have become big fans of their energetic sound.
They’ve got a brand new album out on Alligator (thanks guys for sending us such great music) called Hail To The Kings! and when you listen to it before you’re a fan, you’ll be one as soon as the music starts.
Before you go and invest your hard earned money, we’ll let you sample three songs for free. We have full confidence that you’ll like them as much as we do. And if you happened to be visiting the home of Arthur Fonzarelli, Harley Davidson, and The Brewers – or anywhere the guys are playing, be sure to catch them live. I guarantee that you will have a great time.

But that’s not enough for us, no-no-no! We’ve got even more for you, including the man with the coolest name in the bizness – the one, the only Harpdog Brown! Yes, that is his real name (no word yet if he’s related to world famous detective Encyclopedia Brown), perhaps not the name he was born with, but honest-to-God legal name now.
Harpdog is a West Coast-based Canadian performer and we got ahold of his last album and really loved the guy. I was getting ready to feature him in one of my “All Canada” shows when we got his latest album, For Love & Money. Now he gets a feature all his own and we think you’re going to like him a lot!
There’s still more for you! In our new release segment, we’ve got music from the Texas Horns, Sugaray Rayford, and Watermelon Slim. I definitely think you’re going to have a good time listening to these new selections.
Speaking of new releases, I’m not naming names here, but recently a certain radio partner of mine was – I don’t want to say complaining, maybe kvetching – to me about how I tend to focus on new material and rarely visit classic songs that built the blues. I know that I tend to focus on a lot of new material, because in the hour long format, it’s often difficult to mix and match songs the way that I would like.
Taking the constructive criticism to heart, I’ve decided this week to include some classic material to this show from Janis Joplin, Koko Taylor, and Vaneese Thomas. Okay, Thomas’ song is relatively new, but I really like her voice… What can I say? Old habits die hard.
Great events coming up that you don’t want to miss include the River City Blues Society’s Blues Challenge June 16 at Richmond’s Capital Ale House from 1-6. This is where the RCBS will choose who will represent us at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis next January. Usually they choose for two categories: solo/duo competition and band/group. It’s always a great time and I know I’ll be there doing something. We’ve discovered a lot of talent that we otherwise wouldn’t know and look forward to doing the same this year. Details here
Another awesome event is the Central Virginia Blues Society Blues Festival in Afton, Virginia on Saturday June 22nd. That will go from 3:00 – 10:00 p.m. rain or shine and will feature a great line up including Eli Cook, The Jon Spear Band, Mike Goudreau, The Billy Price Charm City Band, and The Nighthawks. Ticket prices are $15 for members of the CVBS and The River City Blues Society. That’s right, in a show of solidarity, the board of CVBS is inviting members of the RCBS to come party with their family in a gorgeous setting at the Rockfish Valley Community Center. Details here
If you’re a regular listener, we know you’re going to do whatever you need to do to join us at 10:00. If you’re new to Time For The Blues, drop by and find out what everybody is talking about.
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 here,  or join us on one of the Idea Stations: 89.1 WCVN, Northern Neck; 90.1 WMVE, Chase City; and the flagships, 93.1 and 107.3 WCVE-Music, Richmond, where it’s always Time For The Blues!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Odds Lane ~~ Lost And Found

Trust is very important to me. Over the years that we’ve done Time For The Blues on WCVE-Music, Henry and I have built up relationships with various artists and publicists who reach out to us in the hopes we will play their music. In my case, they also want one of my reviews, and I’m flattered that they believe in us so much that they want our help to reach the audience.
Those that we’ve gotten to know well, often send us surprise groups, many that we’ve never heard before. None of those ever go on the air without us checking them. You never know who is going to say a non-FCC approved word or put out a song that is about as close to the blues as was Tiny Tim’s rendition of Tiptoe Through The Tulips.
The same rules generally apply to this review blog as I hate to write bad things about people’s albums. If I don’t care for something, I just don’t want to write about it. I want to find something that excites me, especially if it’s a new (to me) artist.
Today is a little different, I’m going to listen to a new CD from Odds Lane called Lost And Found. It’s the latest release from Gulf Coast Records, the new label that Mike Zito is heading up. I’m trusting two people, one the publicist who sent it to me and the second the label itself. So far, I’ve liked the first three albums they’ve released. Will we like the next?
Odds Lane doesn’t waste any time and opens the album with crashing chords on Don’t Give It Away. The blues rock gauntlet has been thrown down and these guys have rooted the song in a dirty gritty backbeat that crawls under your skin. Good promise guys, let’s see where this goes.  
They don’t slow down much for the next song, Seven States. They are in a strong guitar driven groove. I can see why Mike Zito signed this group, they abandon all pretense when they play and just go straight for the primal reaction. Very cool for the ones who like their blues mixed with hard rock.
They bring things down a smidge for I Ain’t Missing You. One broken heart can equal at least a dozen good songs. This is a ballad that’s a little more mainstream and has a nice little guitar run. I could see this one getting some airplay.
The follow up with the title track, Lost And Found. It has a good kick and is fairly straight ahead in its pop-rock-blues delivery. A good choice to follow the previous song as the two together form a mental story. After that is Moth To A Flame, a quick tune that when taken with the previous couple complete the picture. Sometimes we’re just drawn to the light that’s going to burn us. Could have been worse, it might have been flypaper…
Hard Rain is a unique sounding song for the album. It’s dark, and the vocals are softer than usual which makes one sit up a little taller just to see what they are up to. There is a concept that is as old as literature; nature reflects the moods of man, so a hard rain is crushing to most. Very good song. They save the pyro until about the halfway mark which makes it stand out even more.
I would be curious about any song titled Blood On The Van, but somehow I know these guys are going to provide a wild carnival ride of a song. They do, and the juxtaposition with the last song and this one is a great effect. I’m not sure where I’m going to play it, but you better believe it’s getting played.
There have been several songs told from a panhandler’s point of view: Brother Can You Spare A Dime, Somebody Loan Me a Dime, etc. Odds Lane has added Spare Change to the cannon with some wicked slide and crashing cymbals. It’s a hard driving number and will definitely be getting some airplay. Of course, what they’re looking for will cost more than a little spare change.
The band gets a little psychedelic with What’s Your Name. They seem to exploring different iterations of blues rock, and here, they’ve added some of that late ‘60’s West Coast trip style. Not my usual cut of tea, but I give them respect for pushing their boundaries.
They add a little funk to the next song, Little Too Late. It’s a stripped down sound from the previous number but still strays heavily on the rock side. There are some nice guitar runs and the song is solid enough.
They close the album with the song I’ve been waiting for, White Castle Blues. Yes, I will admit that there was a time not so long ago when I would develop cravings for that special White Castle food that no one else can duplicate. Unfortunately, the closest one to me is a state and a half away, so those cravings went unfulfilled. The song sums up the longing and the intense desire I had. Think I’m going to play this? You better believe it brothers and sisters…
So, what’s the verdict on Odds Lane? I like their sound, although it can be a little heavy at times. I’m not always in the mood to listen to a hard rocking blues sound, but when I am, I will reach for Lost And Found. Several of the songs will end up on our playlist and we’ll be sharing them with you soon.
Taking a few minutes to look at their website reveals that they are based in St. Louis and is comprised of Doug Byrkit and Brian Zielie. I very much like the way they blend different styles – they don’t just stick with one groove or one sound. I think the way Mike Zito produces album will make them an unbeatable combination.
I would definitely keep them on your radar and catch them live if you can.

Odds Lane website            

Previous Albums
2012   Dark Matters
2016   Last Night On Cherokee

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Jon Gindick ~~ Love At The All Night Café

I first heard Jon Gindick on his previous album, When We Die, We All Come Back As Music, but I had known his writing for many years. Like many other beginning harp players, I stumbled onto one of his instruction books on how to play the harmonica, and almost immediately, my playing improved to the point where my family no longer threw things at me when I practiced.
I used several of his books to cover the basics and then started taking other lessons, always trying to get better. I sort of plateaued, but can still work my way through a few easy tunes.
Anyway, I digress. Gindick is back with a brand new independent release, Love At The All Night Café. Inspired by the great American artist Edward Hopper’s well known painting, Nighthawks, Gindick and three other musicians have recorded 12 songs that range from toe-tapping lightness, to cry in your beer sentimentality. All of the songs are written by Gindick who also plays harp, guitars, and sings lead.
He is joined by Ralph Carter on bass keyboards, percussion, classical guitar, cigar box guitar and background vocals; Franck Goldwasser on electric and acoustic guitars, and Pete Gallagher on drums and background vocals. Carter also handled all the production and recording aspects.
Gindick opens the album with some great wailing harp on I Was Born To Wail. His opening salvo is so long that I lost my breath listening to it. It’s the story of some of the great harp masters of the post-World War II, the artists that influenced him to play the harp. I love the song, and you know you’ll be hearing it on Time For The Blues.
He gets sentimental on the next song, Feeling Her Gone. It’s a nice ballad and he gets a little emotional in his delivery. His harp playing is exquisite, he breaths so much life into each note he plays. While his name may not come up as much as some other performers, Gindick deserves a ton of respect.
He takes traditional blues and squeezes a little rock into it for Baby’s Got The Blues. This is one that just about every blues fan is going to like, especially those of us who are particularly attached to the harp. Another great one for airplay.                                                                                                        
Gindick follows up with the de facto title track, The All Night Café. The painting that inspired the cover, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, is one of my favorite painting, and I think the artwork is a great homage, putting two members of the band busking outside of the diner. It starts out jazzy, kind of a bossa nova flavor and Gindick’s harp takes on a life of its own. Gindick’s lyrics are story like, poetic, and dreamlike. Might not be everyone’s cup of espresso, but the next time I put together a jazz program, this one’s going in.
He follows up with a swinging blues number, Load Me Up Baby. A straight ahead shuffle that blends his vocals and harp into a call and response technique for the most part. As Gindick is performing both parts, he has to keep his energy up to make it all flow and he does it successfully. Gindick is not only technically a good player, but his harp exudes passion.  
Next up is a sweet languid number, Mississippi Moods, that slows down the pace to match that of a sleepy summer day. I’ve listened to some of Gindick’s work, not nearly enough, and I’ve never found his lyrics to be at this level before. We’re half way through the album, and I am impressed by the entire package!
I think every married man has heard the phrase Happy Wife, Happy Life, Happy Home, and guys, take it to heart. This is a fun uptempo track with a great shuffle beat. I wasn’t going to play this one on the show, but since my wife heard it, well, it’s coming up soon! Thank you, honey…
After the light hearted previous song, Gindick gets serious with The Song I Couldn’t Write. This one walks on the edge of old school country and blues. It’s soft and plaintive and tugs at your heart for all it’s worth. Sweet and sentimental.
Gendick’s at his saucy best with I Love The Feminine Girl. The longest song on the album is also the wickedest. Clever and has to be a killer when perform it live. Hope I get the chance to see it for myself soon.
The guys slow things down on Hand Holding Man. Gindick croons a ballad about as well as anyone in the business, and he manages to create some vivid images just by listening to his interpretations.  
A little bit of that bossa nova beat returns on Can’t Get That Girl Off My Mind. I’ve always had a soft place in my heart for that cool Brazilian jazz, and this one is no different. But listen to the harp, Gindick makes it sound so cool. Really nice, but a little off the beaten blues track. Kick back and enjoy.
He ends the album with one more ballad, In The Land Of You. Gindick gets into crooner mode as he brings things to a close. He’s creating a memory for us to share and in doing so, paints one last picture for us to take with us.
Jon Gindick is a great harp player and a solid vocalist. This is best I’ve heard his lyrics and the delivery of them. Love At The All Night Café is a strong solid effort that I enjoyed greatly. True, I always have a soft spot for harp work, but I can also be very critical when it’s played badly.
Fortunately for us, Gindick is a master.

Jon Gindick website           

Actual Painting of Nighthawks 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Michi ~~ Turn It Off

Recently, I had the extreme pleasure of meeting a wonderful new artist named Michi. While she’s originally from Richmond, she’s been working and playing in Spain for the last few years. She’s not a blues singer per se, but I have the feeling she could get down and dirty should she so choose.
She did a surprise opening performance in front of Lazer Lloyd before his recent appearance at Buz & Ned’s Real Barbecue and delighted the small but very enthusiastic audience. I was one member of that audience and found her short folk pop set to set the table perfectly for the rest of the night.
Her last song was an original, Turn It Off, and I thought it was (and still is) a great song that reflected her poet’s touch with the lyrics. We talked a little after the show and she told me how she was inches away from being featured on the Spanish version of The Voice, but left Spain to come home for a while. There were approximately 16,000 applicants for a position, so that’s not too shabby. Maybe she’ll do it again next year.
She also told me how she uses her talents to bring attention to LGBTQIA causes and to raise money for organizations supporting the community. As June is PRIDE month, I would like to take this moment to celebrate her efforts and thank her for her hard work to win over the hearts and minds of people.
In fact, working with her band, Michi opened for Miley Cyrus at the Washington D.C. Pride Festival. Again, not too shabby. She’s also opened for Carly Rae Jepsen, Meghan Trainor, Alessia Cara, Betty Who, Troye Sivan, Kelly Rowland, Chely Wright, and Icona Pop.
Now that I’ve introduced you to her, it’s time to get really acquainted with her and pick up your own copy of Turn It Off.
Michi hanging out
She’s just released it today, June 3, 2019, and it’s available at all of the regular downloading services. I’ve also posted other connections so you can check out the rest of her story.

Social Links:

Sample TURN IT OFF for yourself               

Full Band:

Recientemente, tuve el placer extremo de conocer a una maravillosa artista nueva llamada Michi. Aunque es originaria de Richmond, ha estado trabajando y jugando en España durante los últimos años. Ella no es una cantante de blues en sí misma, pero tengo la sensación de que podría bajar y ensuciarse si ella así lo decide.

Hizo una presentación de apertura sorpresa frente a Lazer Lloyd antes de su reciente aparición en Real Barbecue de Buz & Ned y deleitó a la pequeña pero muy entusiasta audiencia. Fui uno de los miembros de esa audiencia y encontré su corto conjunto de folk pop para poner la mesa a la perfección por el resto de la noche.

Su última canción fue original, Turn It Off, y pensé que era (y sigue siendo) una gran canción que reflejaba el toque de su poeta con las letras. Hablamos un poco después del show y ella me contó cómo estaba a unos centímetros de aparecer en la versión en español de The Voice, pero dejó a España para volver a casa por un tiempo. Había aproximadamente 16,000 solicitantes para un puesto, por lo que no está tan mal. Tal vez lo haga de nuevo el próximo año.

También me dijo cómo usa su talento para llamar la atención sobre las causas LGBTQIA y para recaudar fondos para organizaciones que apoyan a la comunidad. Como junio es el mes del ORGULLO, me gustaría aprovechar este momento para celebrar sus esfuerzos y agradecerle su arduo trabajo para conquistar los corazones y las mentes de las personas.

De hecho, trabajando con su banda, Michi abrió para Miley Cyrus en el Festival de Orgullo de Washington D.C. Una vez más, no está tan mal. También ha abierto para Carly Rae Jepsen, Meghan Trainor, Alessia Cara, Betty Who, Troye Sivan, Kelly Rowland, Chely Wright e Icona Pop.

Ahora que te la he presentado, es hora de conocerla realmente y recoger tu propia copia de Turn It Off.

Acaba de lanzarlo hoy, 3 de junio de 2019, y está disponible en todos los servicios de descarga habituales. También he publicado otras conexiones para que puedas revisar el resto de su historia.

Big Daddy Wilson ~~ Deep In My Soul

A North Carolina native now making his home in Europe, Big Daddy Wilson had one of the quintessential upbringings for a blues artist. Small town, raised by mom and grandmother, not much money, life revolved around school and church, sang in the Sunday choir, left school early and joined the Army.
Even with all that, Wilson didn’t discover the blues until he was stationed in Germany and saw his first blues show. That was his defining moment as he found something that he didn’t know his life was missing. Taking the path that other blues artists had paved for him, Wilson stayed in Germany, married, and began to make a name for himself in clubs and festivals throughout Europe.
He released several albums (listed below) and EPs and eventually came to the notice of the German-based label, Ruf, that is distributing his albums throughout the world. His latest, Deep In My Soul, is a very soulful blues album, and to make things even sweeter, he teams up with the guitarist Laura Chavez, who in my opinion is one of the best guitar slingers working today.
I always love horns and here Wilson uses them to intro the opening song, I Know. His voice is as smooth as honey and he cruises through the song with ease and some lovely backing vocals. Great pure soul number and it whets my appetite for more.
Is there anything more blues than a title like Ain’t Got No Money? I love this song and will most likely be playing it on Time For The Blues soon. The song has a throwback sound and it sounds great.
Wilson slows things down for Mississippi Me and breathes life and emotion into every note. The use of the piano is gorgeous and then moves into some gospel touches. Really like this song and will be listening to it for a long time.
He follows that up with the funky Tripping On You. The song reminds me of the classic soul music of the ‘70’s that I used to devour. It’s lighthearted and you can hear the smile on Wilson’s face. I Got Plenty starts off with some soulful country honkytonk. It’s a sweet, low key song and has some lyrics we should all take to heart.
It’s more soul on Hold On To Our Love, as Wilson straddles the line of blues and R&B. So far, he’s established that he has a great voice and is very comfortable letting it drive the record, not a lot of fancy pyro.
Next up is the title track, Deep In My Soul. The lyrics are strong and speak to what he faces as an artist creating his work. Wilson was a poet before becoming a singer, and here, his lyrics are poetic and cut right to the bone. Great song.
He follows that by teaming up with Chavez on I’m Walking. Great soulful blues with a funky beat. I can see this one getting the most airplay on our show, and any others around the globe. Damn, he’s got one expressive voice, and Chavez’ guitar answers him note for note.
He keeps the mood going, but slows down the tempo for Crazy World. Once again, Wilson’s voice is the star of the song, building the emotions of the story. The backing vocals are subtle and add a lot of color.
Wilson gets a little darker with Redhead Stepchild. He takes on a more forceful tone as he asserts himself in the relationship the song creates. Cool and a little menacing.
Speaking of darker, he gets very dark and very funky on Voodoo. The choppy guitar mixes with the keyboards to create a great background. Great production by Jim Gaines.
Wilson closes the album with Couldn’t Keep It To Myself, a traditional song that uses the same tune as Down By The Riverside, and other gospel tunes. It’s a nod back to his church roots and a sweet way to end the album.
Big Daddy Wilson is a fine soulful artist who brings an old school energy to his work. Deep In My Soul is a great place to start your appreciation of him, and let’s hope that he finds his way into more venues in our part of the world.

Big Daddy Wilson website            

Big Daddy Wilson Selected Discography
2008   ...Doin' It Right
2009   Love Is The Key
2011   Thumb A Ride         Ruf Records           
????   Time
2013   Live In Luxembourg at L'Inoui
2013   I'm Your Man
2014   Live In Europe - From Bremen To Paris                     
2015   Neckbone Stew                          
????   Getting Personal    
2017   Songs From The Road
2017   Blues Caravan 2017         
2019   Deep in My Soul      Ruf Records