Friday, November 29, 2019

Time For The Blues ~~ November 30, 2019

Henry and I Can't Believe We Ate The Whooooooole Thing

I don’t know about you, but Henry Cook and I are stuffed. Thanksgiving and its aftermath have that effect on our waistlines, and yes, even on a diet I’m full from turkey and greens, and I saw a mountain of potatoes this morning in the fridge that Henry’s name on ‘em, so I imagine he’s more than a little full today…

Be that as it may, our traditional Leftovers Show follows along those same lines. Every month, heck, every week, we receive or I buy so many good blues albums and with only an hour every week to get together, there’s no way we can share all of the songs we want to play. Just can’t happen.

We play what we can, but there’s never going to be enough time to catch every one. 

Once a year, we go back and review some of the great music we meant to play but for whatever reason, weren’t able to put on the air.

It’s by no means a complete list. If we did similar shows every week until the new year, we still wouldn’t be able to play every one of them.

Rest up after all that tryptophan and kick back with an extra helping of Time For The Blues. Who are we playing you ask? Well, how about Dee Miller Band along with Peter Frampton and Friends?

Plus, we’ve got friends as well. How about something from them? Rockin’ Johnny teaming up with Quique Gomez, Tommy Castro and the Painkillers, and Bob Corritore joining forces with Sugaray Rayford, they’ll all be here.

How about some Grammy Award nominations from Delbert McClinton and Self-Made Men + Dana, Jontavious Willis (tip of the old pork pie hat to Superfriend Scott Nugent for turning me on to this talented young man), and Christone “Kingfish” Ingram teaming up with the immortal Buddy Guy.

You know if I'm preparing a show, the women will get the spotlight at some point, so here are some of the best albums by female artists from this past year including Mary Lane and Debra Power plus a sample of a great one to come, Ghalia.

If you're still hungry, I hope you saved room for another trip down memory lane with the underrated group Chicken Shack. Who wants a drumstick?          
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, (http://vpm.org/radio) 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!

Santa Blues wants to remind you that music makes a great gift for the holidays. He's working on a list of naughty and nice albums from the past year. Any suggestions can be sent here
Live shows are also terrific to give as gifts and you can always find out what's coming to town here.
And don't forget New Year's Eve! The Professor will be hosting a show in Williamsburg starring Bobby BlackHat Walters!









Friday, November 15, 2019

Vanessa Collier Blows Through The Tin Pan

Proof Vanessa Collier Will Take Pictures With Anyone
Richmonders have a reputation for not attending shows during the school/work week nor in bad weather, so when the Tin Pan announced a Wednesday show during the first cold snap of the year, I was definitely worried about the turnout. However, saxophonist and singer Vanessa Collier, along with her backing band took to the stage with a high energy show that left the hundred or so souls in attendance feeling warm, happy, and enthusiastic enough to take on the coldest winter.
Collier has released three albums so far, and I pray that there will be many more to come; each has been a solid effort and has found a place on the Time For The Blues playlists. Collier was certainly the star of the show and she was backed by a very capable trio: Nick Tabarias on guitar, Scott Sutherland on bass, and Nick Stevens on drums.
Things got started with a good boogie shuffle, Whiskey & Women that featured a wonderful duel between Collier’s sax and Tabarias’ guitar. This set the tone for many of the songs Collier and the band performed – her sax taking most of the breaks, but by no means all of them. Everybody on stage got at least one chance to grab the spotlight, and were greeted with appreciative applause and shouts from the audience.
Moving quickly into the next song with hardly a pause in between, Tabarias laid down some funky guitar as the lead in to Runaround. It was smart for Collier to keep things fast and tight in the beginning to make sure the audience was truly into the performance, but in my opinion, she had them from the opening notes.
She took the same approach with her next song, Can’t Stand The Rain, and anyone who hadn’t already been converted into a fan, probably never would be as the audience gave her more applause.
After that song, she finally addressed the crowd, and would do so pretty much on every song from this point on. She told the story of her playing her first big gig as a bandleader, which took place in the middle of summer, outdoors, and in South Carolina. Make up was ruined in the heat, and at one point she exclaimed, “I’m Sweating Like A Pig,” to which an audience member piped up, “But you’re singing like an angel.”
The audience had a good laugh over the anecdote and she delivered the song that received a ton of airplay on Bluesville, Sweating Like A Pig, Singing Like An Angel. After that she gave her rendition of U2’s homage to BB King, When Love Comes To Town. She followed with another cover, this time written by Chris Smither and made famous by Bonnie Raitt, Love Me Like A Man.
This was a beautiful slow burn of a blues song and Collier took her time, strolling out into the audience and visiting with a few of the audience members. For her efforts, she received her first standing ovation.
For a change of pace, Collier next picked up her guitar for the swamp blues number When It Don’t Come Easy. She’s not bad on the guitar, but let’s face it, she’s a wizard on the sax.
For her next number, bassist Sutherland left the stage and drummer Stevens came out from behind the drum set to play a relatively new instrument called a “Shitar.” It’s a guitar that has been outfitted with some percussion instruments to make a strange sound not unlike a street performer’s one man band. I like weird instruments and immediately wanted one, but was overruled by my wife’s withering look.
The song they performed next with the Shitar was from her new record. Icarus combined the mythological story of Icarus and Daedalus in which Icarus flew too close to the sun with the story of Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird. The result is a jazzy number that featured beautiful poetry. For some it may present a challenging song, but for me, it was a glorious treatment that combined elements of two life changing stories into a fresh and new story. It’s powerful and I love it a lot, Shitar or no…
Ah, back to the show. After that sublime roadtrip, Collier dropped T-Bone Walker’s T-Bone Shuffle and the crowd was back in the groove. Good thing too, as the band went into a prolonged jam called Percolating, during which each member of the band took a turn into the spotlight.
For her closing number she rolled off the raucous number Two Parts Sugar and One Part Lime. She received another Standing Ovation for her efforts that seemed to go on forever. She and the band didn’t even leave the stage as they knew they were going to give us at least one encore, which turned out to be her first record, the New Orleans flavored Bad News Bears. She dedicated the song to a friend who began taking sax lessons at the same time she did (4th Grade), and whose cheerful and loving approach to life influenced her greatly.
After one more standing ovation, she thanked the crowd and then talked with everyone who went by her on the way out. Most had CDs, T-shirts, or some other souvenir for the evening. I doubt that anyone will soon forget this evening, I know I won’t and I’m already working on getting her into my studio the next time she’s in town.
Speaking of next time, don’t miss any chance to see Vanessa Collier, like Icarus she flies close to the sun, and like Atticus Finch, she speaks the truth. Keep your eyes and ears open for her, because she’s a great performer!


Monday, November 4, 2019

Brad Heller & The Fustics ~~ The Sentence


It seems like I’m frequently starting off these reviews by admitting my ignorance of the artist I’ve been asked to review. Hope you don’t mind, I certainly don’t, because so many performers of which I was totally ignorant end up becoming new favorites, and more than a few have become good friends and I feel fortunate to be able to watch their growth.

So once again, I come to you with my earphones in my hand to admit I was not familiar with Americana Artist Brad Heller, or the band that backs him, The Fustics. Yes, I said Americana, this CD does not incorporate too much from the blues, but since I’ve never actually committed to covering any one genre, please allow me to blather on.

Heller and company have been honing their chops in Wilmington, North Carolina, a town with I do have a passing familiarity. Relatives live there, my pal David Burgin is just down the road apiece, and during the Golan-Globus years, a number of movies got made there.

It ain’t exactly New York or Los Angeles, but it is a great down that has attracted a number of artists to the area, and frequently I have discovered (at least for myself) a number of performers that have chosen to lead quiet lives while making their music their way. Heller has released four previous albums (details on his website) and after listening to this album, The Sentence, it looks like I’ll be unlimbering my wallet and grabbing the previous four.

What’s my opinion? Money well spent!

Eternal Season kicks off the album with a smooth sound that flows very nicely with Heller’s lyrics. This blend of gentle folk rock is pleasing to the ears and stimulating to the mind. It’s just the first song, so there’s no telling what direction Heller and The Fustics will take going forward, but it’s a nice invitation to come on over, sit a while, and listen to what they have to say.

Thousand Days continues the mellow laid back vibe that the first song created, but with a funky bass line. Heller is delivering some good Americana style music that is great for an intimate setting, if you get a chance to do so, catch him out on tour, he’s currently working the Carolinas and Virginia. One thing for parents and my fellow radio producers, there is some language in the song that won’t be appropriate for younger ears, but it’s your call.

These first two songs are not the kind that will blow the roof off of a concert hall, but if you enjoy a quieter style of evening, these first two songs show a lot of promise. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good raucous night of wild debauchery and heavy blues, but every so often, I want to have a nice evening listening to quiet music and heartfelt lyrics.

The Sentence, the title track is next, and Heller performs this beautiful song with very light accompaniment, making the number sound very much like his folksy roots. That’s not a slight, some of the best music I’ve ever heard is quiet with meaningful lyrics. Quiet songs demand attention, especially in these days of over the top production numbers. Heller’s lyrics are absolutely riveting in this song.

Next up is Gone, and it too has a strong backbeat that sets the mood. It has a longer than average intro and once the vocals start, it’s easy to hear the pain in Heller’s voice and words. The imagery is one of desolation and despair. I love this one. While I doubt I will ever be able to play any of these on Time For The Blues, I’m dropping this album into my personal jukebox, and if I ever get a chance at an Americana/Roots show in addition to TFTB, several of these songs are going in.

Heller follows up with The Runner, with the drums having fun mixing a military style march with the folk/roots approach of the song. Once again, his lyrics are evocative and I look forward to hearing his previous work to see how he’s grown over the years. His voice is pleasant and it’s a terrible shame that music this good rarely finds itself on the airwaves.

There’s a bit of rocking going on with The Greatest Crime. Here he and The Fustics have given their audience to dance along in their seats or just tap a foot and bob their heads in time. Listen to his lyrics, there’s a little more going on in the song than just the surface interpretation. Also, a nice guitar break.

Bound For Nothing is next. This is one that echoes in your headphones. I like the rhythm section’s contribution leading to the other instruments coming in to add their power to the piece, but I also want to hear it done acoustically. Cool song and I’ll be playing this one in my head for the next few weeks.

He follows with Time’s The Enemy, and let me tell you brothers and sisters, there are fewer things truer than that. We all fight time, and unfortunately for us, he’s undefeated. Heller captures his feelings beautifully and puts together a song that rocks. Nice backing vocals and a distinctive guitar break.

Chasing Wolves starts off with a beautiful intro with guitar and vocals. I love the feel of the song so much, it pains me to not have a chance to share it with you. It quickly picks up a strong gospel flavor with keys and a stray tambourine. So far, this is my favorite track on the album. Nice understated harp work.

Continuing the gospel theme, Heller and company move on to Eucharist. More great lyrics come into play with sweet backing. That includes a back up singer who comes in here and there, I’ll have to find out her name, because that little touch greatly improves the presentation.
Comes A Time comes out of the gate with a great percussive shuffle. After ten songs of mostly mellow music, Heller cuts loose with one to get the blood pumping. It’s a very cool song and does its very best to give all the band members a workout.

I love the drums in the closing song, The Garden Tree. The guitar adds its color to the rhythm section and Heller’s words and voice do the rest. More tinges of gospel come from the keys and percussion, it seems to create a spirit – one of hope.

Okay, it’s fair to say that I enjoyed Brad Heller and The Fustics delivery on The Sentence. Sometimes one just has to be in a receptive mood, and I have to tell you, I’ve greatly enjoyed his work at this time.

I grew up on folk music before discovering the blues and I still have a great affinity for it. From time to time, I will probably explore different forms of music. Remember, I don’t claim to be any kind of an expert, I just a guy who loves music and loves writing about it. I loved this album and hope that I’ll be able to catch Heller while he’s on tour. If you would like to check him out, and I hope you do, the best place to start is at his website