Saturday, September 28, 2019

Janiva Magness ~~ Change In The Weather - Janiva Magness Sings John Fogerty

First things first blues fans, Janiva Magness puts her own spin on everything she sings. She’s spent most of her career creating great blues music, but I don’t think that genre can hold her any more. Her last couple of albums have seen her moving away from the confines of blues and more into a different, unique territory. At the last concert I caught her, she referred to this new direction as, “Pure Americana. That is, real musicians playing real music on real instruments, live.”
Have no fear, there’s no way she can leave all of her blues roots behind. She approaches every note with all of her heart and soul and delivers it with verve. For her latest album, Change In The Weather – Janiva Magness Sings John Fogerty on BlueElan Records, she has chosen twelve songs written by one of America’s best songwriters of the 20th Century.
Fogerty was the driving force behind Creedence Clearwater Revival before stepping out on his own and carving out a significant solo career. Many of his best known songs still receive airplay on classic rock stations and every so often you can even catch one of his deep tracks.
Fogerty is another artist that creates his own style of music. CCR played a pivotal part of ‘60’s and ‘70’s music playing a brand a swamp rock that lit up the airwaves. Their raw power and approach blended rock with folk, and yes, some blues, and they put their mark on some exciting sounds.
I still remember the first time I heard songs like Bad Moon Rising, Have You Ever Seen The Rain, and Fortunate Son on the radio. It was a time when music was exciting and often experimental, and Fogerty’s words were powerful and often like a smack in the face against many of the formulaic bubblegum and overly saccharine love songs. Protest songs were no longer the sole domain of the folk crowd. CCR turned in one of the most powerful protest songs, Fortunate Son, that still gives me (and I suspect others) chills when I hear it.
The twelve songs that Magness has chosen for this album are a mix of hits and deep tracks. Magness delivers each number with passion, and despite their familiarity to many listeners of a certain age, they all seem fresh and new. I can’t wait to see Magness in concert when she will take on some of these songs live.
For eleven of the twelve songs Magness was joined by Gary Davenport on bass; Steve Wilson on drums and percussion; Zachary Ross on guitar and dobro; Dave Darling on guitar; and Arlan Oscar on Hammond Organ, piano, and Wurlitzer. Backing vocals were by Bernie Barlow, Magness, Darling, and Ross. For the last song Rusty Young was on dobro and guitar; Jesse Dayton and Darling on guitar; Aubrey Richmond on fiddle; with additional vocals by Young, Darling, Dayton, and Richmond.
Magness and Company start the album with the title track, Change In The Weather. Originally a Grammy Award-winner song from Fogerty’s 1986 album, Eye Of The Zombie. It was also covered by Buddy Guy in the mid-90’s. A song perfectly chosen to show that an artist is at a crossroad, looking to grow, but perhaps reluctant to let go of what was worked in the past. Originally a protest song, Magness turns it into a gorgeous personal statement.
For the next track, Magness teams with Sam Morrow for a powerful duet on Fogerty’s  Lodi. Originally the song was a CCR B-side with Bad Moon Rising, and it went on to receive airplay on a number of album rock stations. This is the first of two duets that Magness performs on the album and she gets down and gritty on the number.
Originally released in 2013, Someday Never Comes is a powerful song whose lyrics are beautiful blues poetry. Magness reaches deep into her soul to pull out this song. Wrote A Song For Everyone wasis best known as the title track from a solo album also in 2013. It was a collection of CCR songs and deep tracks (and a couple of new tunes) that Fogerty recorded with his friends. Miranda Lambert and Tom Morello joined Fogerty on the 2013 release. Magness does a good version of the song, but it’s never been one of my favorites.
Magness then teams up with the great Taj Mahal to drop an outstanding version of Don’t You Wish It Was True. Originally released in 2007 on Revival, Fogerty’s song is a vision of all the good things one could possibly wish for. Magness and Mahal have great chemistry together and this is easily one of my favorite songs on the album. I’m definitely scheduling this one for airplay on Time For The Blues, and I think you’ll be hearing it on other shows as well.
Another favorite song, Have You Ever Seen The Rain, becomes a haunting ballad of loss and sadness. Magness delivers the song and wrings out every bit of emotion that the lyrics demand. It’s gorgeous and ever Fogerty/CCR fan will hear this song in a new way.
Perhaps the best known CCR song after Proud Mary, and the one whom nearly everyone sings the wrong lyrics to, Bad Moon Rising, and Magness is deep into her blues roots for it. Here, she goes deep into the swamp to bring out the darkness of the song (which has been covered by something like 20 musical artists and has been used in about the same number of movies). It’s one that most fans have loved since it was released in 1969 on Green River. It comes with great expectations and Magness delivers a great version here. Look for this one to get some serious airplay.
Originally on 1997’s album Blue Moon Swamp, Blueboy is the only song I can find that features both Fogerty and bass player extraordinaire, Donald “Duck” Dunn. Magness has a lot of fun with the song, and it serves as a nice transition from Bad Moon Rising to the next song, Fortunate Son. Fortunate Son is without a doubt my favorite song in the Fogerty Canon. Originally a CCR song released in 1969, it became one of the greatest protest songs against the Vietnam War. It wasn’t explicit in its condemnation of the war, but it did cover the unfairness of it. For those of us who lived through that time, we constantly heard about this son of a Congressman, or the son of a rich man getting out of going to Vietnam and the rest of the country being drafted to find themselves in combat that they wanted no part of. I approached the song cautiously as it did mean so much to me, but I didn’t have to worry, Magness delivers a knockout performance of the song, and it’s the closest I’ve ever come to hearing Janis Joplin sing it. Her voice is rough and emotional, her screams are piercing and the piano work by Arlan Oscar is superior. It was the first song I had to hit the repeat button on and one I had to share with friends and family. Even though it’s not strictly blues, I guarantee you’re going to hear it on Time For The Blues. Stick around for it.
Okay, since I’m talking about Vietnam, please let me speak to the service men and women who were so badly treated when they returned home. I wish I could apologize for every single member of my generation who took out the anger on the people who deserved our compassion. It was not their fault that they were sent to fight that war, and we should have been able to care for them when they returned broken and destroyed. I lost several friends to that war, and their death still haunts me. So, from me, thank you for your service, and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive those who turned their back on you.
Back to the music. Following the power of Fortunate Son, Magness stays with protest, but in a softer style for Déjà Vu (All Over Again). This song was the title track from a 2004 release and takes a look at what was going on in Iraq and how it appears to be similar to what happened in Vietnam.
The gospel tinged A Hundred And Ten In The Shade tells the story of African American slaves who were forced to work in the hot sun all day in the south. Originally from 1997’s Blue Moon Swamp, Magness tells the story with her own power and passion. This is another song that is definitely at the heart of the blues.
Going out with everybody kicking back and having fun, Magness and friends drop a raucous Lookin’ Out My Back Door to end the album. I always loved the joy contained in the song and you just can’t help getting swept up in the fun. It’s a perfect ending to a great album.
It’s no secret that I am a fanboy for Janiva Magness and I have gladly followed her through the past several years of her career even as she explores new musical choices. Maybe especially as she explores new horizons. I know I won’t like every single thing she does, but I do appreciate that she is growing and changing and still goes out on the road performing great music.
Oh, she’s also a great writer. If you haven’t gotten a copy of her book, Weeds Like Us, may I suggest you get a copy pdq. You’ll get a look at her early years, her family, and her music, all written in an honest and straightforward way. I recommend it highly and will be dropping a review of it shortly.
In the meantime, check her outat her website.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records Part 1

By all accounts the man born Narvel Eatmon was an ambitious and hardworking man. Almost no one knew him by that name, rather everyone knew the flashy serial entrepreneur Cadillac Baby, the proprietor of Cadillac Baby’s Show Lounge located at 47th and Dearborn on the South Side of Chicago.
Cadillac Baby was always hustling. First, he ran a small convenience store like enterprise but decided he wanted to get into the entertainment business and opened a Veteran’s Hall in order to skirt the demands for a tavern license and he was able to operate under the radar for about three years. Along the way he began to attract blues acts hungry for places to work.
He used Little Mack Simmons and his band as the house band backing various headliners, and the word quickly got out that this was a hot spot to catch the blues. Cadillac Baby became a man to know and as reputation grew among the wheels that turn Chicago, he began to dress and act like the important man he had become.
From the club, it was a natural progression for him to start his own label, which he named after his wife, Bertha “Bea” Eatmon, and himself (“Baby” was a childhood nickname growing up in Mississippi, the “Cadillac” came much later). Cadillac Baby had a good eye and ear for music and managed to find artists who were not signed, in between contracts, or just used a different name to launch the label on a shoestring budget.
The first act he attracted, Eddie Boyd, had had a top hit a few years back and his name lent a certain cache to the fledgling group. Little Mack Simmons jumped at the chance to record and he appeared under several different names, Earl Hooker cut one side, and well-known performers like Sunnyland Slim, Hound Dog Taylor, Homesick James, and James Cotton cut sides as well.
It is strongly rumored that Roosevelt Sykes recorded, but unfortunately to date, no actual physical recordings have been discovered and authenticated.
While Blues and R&B were the main focus of Cadillac Baby’s output, he faced financial difficulties getting his records out past Chicago. While there were certain independent record distributors available, they tended to put their efforts into supplying vendors with material that was in demand. Outside of the Windy City, there wasn’t as much demand for little known blues artists.
Several of Cadillac Baby’s acts never achieved fame. Some disappeared forever, and I for one, sincerely hope that more information will surface about acts such as Bobby Saxton who performed Bea & Baby’s Biggest Seller, Trying To Make A Living, before stepping out of the spotlight and disappearing into the night. A young woman named Faith Taylor cut a couple of singles for Bea & Baby with her vocal group The Sweet Teens. She was eleven years old at the time and was out of the business by the time she turned thirteen.
Faith, where did you go?
And who is Singing Sam? We have their music, but their lives are a large blank that needs to be filled in.
There’s no way for me to go through this entire beautiful collection. This Definitive Collection (it says so right on the packaging) is a four-CD set that includes not only the blues and R&B cuts, but also the series of spiritual vanity records that several groups made in order to sell at their concerts, some comedy in the Pigmeat Markham vein, and even two hip hop songs that were the last things Cadillac Baby ever recorded.
If that wasn’t enough there’s a 100-plus page book on heavy paper that details as much of the Bea & Baby Records and Cadillac Baby story as one could hope for. The pictures alone are worth it to a blues collector. Speaking as a blues collector myself, I’ve never even seen an original Bea & Baby 45, so to have all of these songs on CDs means not only can I hear the music, but I can share it with the listeners of Time For The Blues.
This has been a multi-year labor of love for Michael Frank, the founder and president of Earwig Records. Earwig has always been a quality producer, relying on great material instead of a breakneck schedule. Honestly, I only have a few of their works in my collection, but that is going to change very soon. I’ve already earmarked several to pick up on my next buying spree and look forward to sharing those with you as well.
While Frank is obviously a very busy man, he and several associates have gone through years of business records, photos, and tracked down leads for any and all surviving members of the Bea & Baby family. Master tapes were found scattered all across the globe, and when no master tapes were available, the best copies were found and duplicated. Many of the stories that are contained in this package have never seen the light of day and are now here for everyone to discover.
I have a passion for small labels. To me, they represent a great dream, a service to the music more than the money. When you find art that moves you so much that you want to share it with the world and you don’t let things like finance control you, that is the true American Spirit. I am on a quest to find as many of these companies as I can and bring their ambitions to light. Please help me by letting me know who you recommend.
In the meantime, if you haven’t picked up this collection yet, do it now. Don’t wait. I don’t know how many were made of the first pressing, and I would hate for anyone to lose out on this great treasure. And be sure to listen to Time For The Blues for our six-part exploration of Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records The Definitive Collection.
And once again, thank you Michael Frank, Earwig, and all the people who worked so hard on this project. It is greatly appreciated.
Part 2 – A Conversation with Michael Frank is coming soon! Stay tuned…

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Sunday TAKE FIVE ~~ September 15, 2019

Artwork by the immortal John Dimes!

Sundays are kind of quiet around the old juke joint and I am kind of a lazy guy. Here’s a quick take on some recent arrivals that I want to tell you about, but can’t sit behind the computer long enough to deliver one of my long-winded missives. Enjoy these, and let me know if you like this new format, and tell your friends to drop by for a visit. A fellow can get kind of lonely on a Sunday…
Charlie Wooton Project ~~ Blue Basso featuring Vocals By Arséne Delay
Wooton, the former bassist for the Royal Southern Brotherhood, is a man of many talents. He’s a world class musician who has put together a tight album of blues flavored jazz that I absolutely love. He’s backed by some like-minded musicians including Daniel Groover on guitar, Jermal Watson on drums, and Keiko Komaki on keys. Some special guests are Sonny Landreth on two tracks, Anders Osborne on one and Damon Fowler on one. Arséne Delay handles the vocals. These are mostly originals with a couple of covers including one from the Rolling Stones, Miss You. Blues lovers might gravitate towards Tell Me A Story and Front Porch, but if you enjoy jazzy blues this entire album is great!
Alex Lopez ~~ Yours Truly, Me
Lopez has been doing some good work for a number of years, but Your Truly, Me is the first CD of his that I’ve been able to snag. From what I can tell this is a good place to start as Lopez wrote ten of the twelve songs on the disc, co-wrote one other, and the last is a good cover of ZZ Top’s Tush. Five of the songs here have been reimagined from previous releases, but I can’t really judge one against the other at this time. In the meantime, he not only rocks out, but also lays down some thoughtful and moving ballads. It’s a little uneven at times, but I think there’s plenty of good work to encourage me to keep him on my radar to see what comes next.
Cheyenne James ~~ Burn It Up
This is one I regretfully missed when it hit my desk in June. I say regretfully because James has a powerhouse voice that hooked me from the opening track, Grits Ain’t Groceries. Taking on a classic right out of the gate takes nerve, and James seems to have that – and then some. Backed by some serious Texas musicians, including Rock Romano and Steve Krase on guitar and harp respectively, James delivers ten solid numbers that run the gamut from a beautiful cover of Van Morrison’s Steal My Heart Away to flat out blues rock on her original, I Didn’t Know. Definitely a talent to watch!
Nancy Wright ~~ Alive & Blue
Saxophonist and vocalist Wright and The Rhythm and Roots Band have put together a kick-ass album recorded live at San Francisco’s The Saloon. I’m always intrigued by live albums – capturing that elusive feeling of anything goes can be intimidating to the artists and audience as well. No such worries with this collection of twelve songs, featuring a good mix of originals and covers. There are five instrumentals on the album that showcase Wright’s sweet sax and gives us the flavor of the R&B, especially Tony Lufrano’s keys, and Karl Sevareid’s bass. It’s jazzy, and for pure music lovers, a delight. If you like your music quick tempoed and anthem like, you might be disappointed. If you like to luxuriate into the sound, pick this one up asap!
Arsen Shomakhov ~~ Rain City Blues
A delightful introduction to a Canadian Artist, Shomakhov, who recorded this CD in Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studio. Shomakhov handles the guitars and vocals while Andersen takes on the upright and electric bass as well as keys and background vocals. Alexander Pettersen and June Core split the drumming duties and Aki Kumar adds his stellar harp to one song. All original compositions, Rain City Blues features three instrumentals and several songs worthy of airplay. A good investment, and a good artist to watch!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Time For The Blues ~~ September 14, 2019

Henry Cook and I certainly hope you will join us on Time For The Blues this Saturday night, September 14th at 10:00, as we unleash yet another untamed episode and deliver it right to your ears!
Seriously, this is going to be a fun evening as we are delighted to present sets from a couple of our personal favorites – Billy Branch and The Sons of Blues paying tribute to the late great Little Walter, and Albert Castiglia releasing his unquestionable Masterpiece.
There is absolutely no way to dispute the importance Marion Walter Jacobs plays in the history of the blues. Born on May 1, most likely in 1930, he is credited with changing the way the harmonica was used in recording and live on stage. The flamboyant performer not only played on most of  Muddy Waters’ best work of the 1950’s, he also led his own band and his innovative style quickly became the standard by which all other harp players were judged.
Little Walter was the first – and so far, only – person to have a harmonica instrumental make it to the top of the charts, and during his career he accumulated three more harp instrumentals in the top ten. For much of his career, he released singles that featured him singing on one side, and playing an instrumental on the flip side.
His influence on the next several generations of harp players cannot be measured and he has been the focus of several tribute albums over the years as he passed away at a young age in 1967.
One of today’s best proponents of Jacobs’ harp style is Billy Branch, and he has recently released an album on Alligator titled Roots and Branches: The Story of Little Walter. We’ve got three tracks from this album, including one written by Little Walter himself (he was a prolific songwriter). Just to give you a little perspective, we’re also going to play on side from a different album so you can hear Branch team up with another great harp player, Sugar Ray Norcia.
Another feature will focus on our pal, Albert Castigila. To say that Castiglia has gone through a few upheavals in his life the past year or so would be a major understatement. In a nutshell, not only discover that he had a previously unknown daughter making him a father, but said daughter was grown and has a bambino of her own, making him a grandfather as well!
Castiglia was over the moon, and his wife and family fully support him in establishing this relationship, and his approach to life has undergone a real change. The work he produced as a result of this happening formed the basis for his recent album, Masterpiece. He left his long time label, Ruf, and signed on with Mike Zito and Guy Hall’s new company, Gulf Coast Records.
We’ve got three sides from this new CD, but probably won’t have enough time to add any more to the show. That is, if we want to get to the rest of the goodies we have in store for you.
What goodies might they be, you asked yourself out loud. Well, the kind of chewy morals that you can sink your teeth into, but not have to worry about dislodging a filling. Such ooey gooey goodness that Willy Wonka himself will be jealous.
I’m going to introduce you to Twist Turner and his friends. Don’t worry, I had to learn about him myself, and I’m glad I did. See, Turner is an excellent drummer who has worked with many of the big names in the blues world. Normally based out of Chicago, Turner came down with a case of wanderlust and spent time in New Orleans and his native Seattle, before taking up an extended stay in the Oakland/San Francisco region.
While there, he made friends and played with a number of people. He recorded several of them – different vocalists singing his songs – before returning to Chicago. He recorded more of his friends doing the same and then had the brilliant idea to put a bunch of these together on one album.
That’s how Battle of the Bands: Chicago vs Oakland on Delta Roots was born. Each city has great talent and distinct sound. We’re going to sample some and let you make the decision who wins for yourself.
One word of caution, some of the tracks on the album have some recording issues, something like low volumes and occasional distortions. We’ve tried to work a little magic on our end to make it all come together, but there are certain limits even Henry can’t overcome.
But we’ve still got more for you! Our New Release feature presents new work from the Kerry Kearney Band, Ben Levin, and Jeff Dale!   
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 these great VPN Stations: 89.1 WCVN, Northern Neck; 90.1 WMVE, Chase City; and the flagships, 93.1 and 107.3 VPM-Music, Richmond, where it’s always Time For The Blues!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Jimmy Carpenter ~~ Soul Doctor

Jimmy Carpenter is best known to me as a great sideman, lending his solid saxophone to albums from the likes of Tab Benoit, Mike Zito, Jimmy Thackery, Eric Lindell, and Maria Muldaur. I didn’t have any of his solo releases in my collection, but thankfully that drought has stopped as Gulf Coast Records, the label Mike Zito and Guy Hale recently started.
Zito and Hale have been busy signing some great talent and now they’ve released Carpenter’s fourth solo work, Soul Doctor. Carpenter rises to the occasion, delivering a solid record that delivers blues, rhythm and blues, soul, and rock and roll to the listener. Carpenter’s sax is ever present, along with his guitar and vocals and he’s joined by a strong lineup that includes Cameron Tyler on drums, percussion, and backing vocals; Jason Langley on bass; Trevor Johnson on guitar; Chris Tofield on guitar and backing vocals; Red Young on Hammond B3, piano, and Wurlitzer piano; Al Ek on harp and backing vocals and Carrie Stowers and Queen Aries on backing vocals.
Joining Carpenter to create a powerful horn section is The Bender Brass: Doug Woolverton on trumpet and Mark Earley on baritone sax. Mike Zito and Nick Schnebelen each add their guitar wizardry to one song. Carpenter also displays his songwriting chops, writing or co-writing seven of the ten songs on the album.
The album gets funky right off the bat with the title track, Soul Doctor, utilizing Nick Schnebelen’s blistering guitar. The song is fun and completely danceable. This is a good way to open up what promises to be an impressive album. Carpenter’s sax is spot on and helps me remember exactly why I love the instrument so much.
Carpenter slows things down a little with When I Met You. It has a sweet Sam Cooke groove to it, the kind of song that makes you want to hold that someone special just a little closer.
Next up is Wild Streak, a fun rocker in the sense of Carpenter and company capture the joy of early rock. It swings and has that feeling of innocence that is often lacking in lyrics at times. When Carpenter breaks out his sax, it lifts the song even higher. You can’t help but feel better while listening to this song.
Mike Zito lends his guitar to Love It So Much. When Zito’s guitar mixes with this bright horn section, the song jumps to life. This should make Chicago blues lovers happy. This one will definitely be getting some airplay. The presence of the Bender Brass truly elevates the song!
Carpenter follows up with a slow burning blues number, Need Your Love So Bad. It’s a great love song that would be at home in any era. Can’t wait to see him do this one live!
Carpenter gets back to the funk for Wanna Be Right. The lyrics are pure blues, but the music moves it into different territory. This reminds me of a lot of the best blue-eyed soul that I listened to while growing up. As I mentioned earlier, Carpenter is one of those musicians you can’t just pigeonhole into one genre. Just kick back and enjoy the ride.
The first of two instrumentals, One Mint Julep, is a solid rocking number that really lets Carpenter’s sax shine. It’s good to get at least one instrumental in with a band that’s this hot. This is the kind of jam I expect to catch at a live show.
Next up is Wrong Turn, that has a funky twang and it sounds like the singer is delivering his vocals through a distorted mic, like a harp mic. However, the lead guitar smokes and makes up for all that.
The second instrumental, LoFi Roulette, cements the group’s talent. Carpenter’s sax soars over all the instruments like a bird of prey. It swoops and climbs and just when you think it’s moved on; it shoots out of the sun to catch us off guard. Really cool song.
Carpenter closes the album with Yeah Man, another sweet old school soul tune. I knew Carpenter’s playing from a couple of albums where he worked as a sideman, but this is the first time, I’ve had the chance to hear one of his solo efforts. I’ll be hunting down the previous three PDQ.
Gulf Coast Records has shown that they have invested in solid performers that deliver great music. With Zito and Hale at the helm, I doubt very much that it’s beginner’s luck. If you’re looking for some great music that might be just outside your comfort zone, I haven’t heard anything bad on the label yet.
Jimmy Carpenter has shown that he’s a quadruple threat (guitar, sax, vocals, and songwriting) and I, for one, am glad to see him getting a chance to strut his stuff in the spotlight!