Thursday, July 2, 2020

Jeff Fetterman ~~ Southern Son


Well well well. Here’s another album from an artist I don’t know. His name is Jeff Fetterman and the title of his CD is Southern Son. Now, the email came from a publicist whom I like and trust, so sure I’m going to give it a listen – but it’s the title that has me intrigued.
See, I’m from the South. Lived here pretty much my entire life. I’ve watched my area of the world grow up and change its attitudes and approaches to its collective soul. Change doesn’t come easy here, but finally, changes are a-coming, and I, for one, am truly happy they are.
Since I don’t have any biographical information about Mr. Fetterman, I’ll have to take him at his word. It may be that he grew up listening to the same southern artists that I listened to. Giants like the Allman Brothers Band and those that came after them. Let’s check it out and see what he’s got.
Drums and B3 open I Don’t Want To and the horns add a slice of funk on the side. Fetterman’s guitar and vocals add a nasty touch to the proceedings and the whole work serves to pull you in quickly. I get the feeling I’m sitting in my favorite dive listening to a group I’ve known for years kicks it into high gear. The actual group may in fact be a stranger to me now, but they are as comfortable as family. Can’t wait to hear the rest.
Fetterman and company keep things cooking while they visit the crossroads in 49-61. If you’re reading this blog, you know all about the legend of what went down there. Turn it into a kick ass tune complete with a great horn section and some wicked devil voices and you’ve got this song. Can’t forget that great bass line. I need to find out the names of the members of Fetterman’s band, they rock. I like this one a lot!
Next up is Memphis Sky and the band mellows out a little bit, painting a picture of a great slice of America. Fetterman’s vocals are softer (slightly) and the growl is gone as he takes a different approach to the song. I like it, and will be adding it to my driving playlist. Memphis is a town of great memories for me – lots of times at lots of shows, fantastic barbecue, and quiet nights by the Mississippi River. This song evokes all those memories for me.
There’s another great town for musicians in Tennessee, and Going Down To Nashville covers it. And trust me, it swings! It’s got that great rockabilly soul and a blues heart. This is one that will most likely pop up on Time For The Blues, and it’s going on my exercise playlist. Love it!
The band slows everything down for Living With The Blues, and really gets into the emotion of the song. Following the previous bouncy number, this seems like a big drop, but oh, my great Blues God, it’s one of those songs that will resonate with just about every blues fan. I’ll definitely be playing this one sooner than later. Listen to the lyrics and then listen to the way Fetterman makes his guitar sing. This guy is the real thing!
Then thew switch gears and drop another kick ass track, Ain’t Got You. If you like your blues mixed with rock, this is the song for you. It reminds me of the great southern rockers I grew up listening to, and I’m sure that Fetterman is influenced by them as well. After all, the title of the album is Southern Son, and he shows a lot of pride in that moniker.
Fetterman then moves into Feels Like Rain, another deep south inspired number. It’s not as hard a rocker as the previous song, but it’s got the ingredients for a memorable tune – good lyrics, a strong hook, and solid music. Rain has always had a special place in blues and rock songs, and this is a good addition to that long list of titles.
The band gets to rocking hard with Tell Me Baby. The rhythm section gets a heavy workout and the guitar hangs back in the mix waiting for a chance to break out big. Definitely one for the blues rock lovers, maybe not so much for the purists. Fetterman seems happy to stay in his own niche, neither straight blues nor straight rock. Why not?
Having said that, he returns with Blues For Charlie, another powerful slow blues burn. The keys have a haunting effect and the horn section adds some spice. Fetterman’s guitar then takes center stage and wails mournfully. It’s a beautiful instrumental and I would love to hear it live just to hear the band jam.
Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower has had so many interpretations from psychedelic to folky. Fetterman uses some different drums, congas I believe, along with some bass and guitar to set the mood. The bass sets the mood and the guitar weaves through the tapestry of the song. Then maybe 1:30 into the song it kicks into high gear and takes a straight on rock approach. Very cool to tease one direction them quickly whip into another. Depending on your thoughts on the song will dictate how you feel about the interpretation.
There are a couple of Bonus Tracks listed on the disc. The first is Voodoo Funk and “funk” is the operational word. This is 6:29 of some funky grooves that would have been at home in the era of bell bottom pants and shiny shirts. In other words, my era. I could very easily picture this song playing out while my high school girlfriend (Hi Anne-Françoise!) and I did the Bump, the Hustle or any of those other dances that I’ve forgotten. Good work guys, and another fun jam song!
The second Bonus Track and final song on the album is Southside Blues, a great slow blues burn with some heavy keyboards taking the opening. His third instrumental (both bonus tracks are instrumentals) showcases all the members of the band and shows just how strong they are.
Southern Son is a very cool album, one that I’m going to enjoy sharing with our audience. Jeff Fetterman has a number of songs on YouTube and I suggest you check him out to see if you feel he’s your cup of tea.
Now that I’ve had a chance to look him up, I find that Fetterman is from Pennsylvania and not the South. Well, he’s got a Southern Spirit and Soul, so we’ll claim him anyway. Check himout at his website. 

Friday, June 19, 2020

Sean Ardoin Reminds Us He CAME THRU PULLIN’


Two-time Grammy © Award nominee Sean Ardoin is a descendent of zydeco royalty. A member of the Ardoin family who claim Amédé Ardoin, the Father of Zydeco as a relative as well as Alphonse “Bois Sec” Ardoin and Lawrence “Black” Ardoin. In fact, Lawrence is Sean’s father and Sean could not have had a better musical education.
As I’ve opined before, each generation takes the music it inherits and makes it their own. No music exists solely to be a museum piece. Music is meant to be played and played with. Blues, country, jazz, rock, and just about every other musical genre you can name evolves, so why shouldn’t zydeco?
If you can keep a secret, I actually love zydeco, even if I don’t get much of a chance to listen to it. I have a handful of albums and I tend to pull them out when I’m thinking about Louisiana, or when it gets near Mardi Gras. The sound of an accordion fires me up, and I bought two washboards to play along when I can.
So, lets’ get to Ardoin’s latest album, Came Thru Pullin’. If that title sounds familiar, it’s because Ardoin has chosen ten songs he’s recorded previously to put a new spin on them with his new band. Grab yourself a Po’ Boy and a café au lait and let’s get to listening.
He starts off the album with the title track, Came Thru Pullin’, and if I thought this was going to not have any blues on it, let me tell you that I was very much mistaken. This song opens up with a hard-edged bark before Ardoin rocks out with his accordion. I was moving all around in my chair bouncing to this song. Yeah, I’m going to slip this one into an episode of Time For The Blues toot suite!
Ardoin follows up with Bounce, and if this song doesn’t make you put down your Po’ Boy and dance, you better check your pulse mon chere! Every note, every syllable gets into your soul and transports themselves into your feet and you can’t help getting up and shaking what you got!
Ardoin’s accordion gets a real workout on the next number, No That Ain’t Right. It’s not quite a mellow song (real understatement), but it’s not quite as raucous as the previous song. Don’t let that stop you, the lyrics could easily make a great blues tune. Another strong song.
If there is such a thing as Psychedelic Zydeco, then Get Right Girl definitely falls into that category. Mix that cool accordion with some electronic whooses, a nasty hook, some processed vocals and a little ‘70’s soul thrown in and you get this song. It’s fun, it’s freaky, and it makes you sit right up.
I’m Not Gonna Wait utilizes keys and strings to open up the song. That’s quickly followed by a haunting melody and more processed vocals. It’s a sad song of lost love and could easily be an R&B number. It’s a little unexpected, but I love to hear artists take chances. My guess is you’ll like this one a lot, or scratch your head wondering what the heck is going on?
With a title like Gumbo Time, I definitely had a style of song in mind and Ardoin took me in a different direction. Yeah, his accordion was there, but it was more hip hop than what I thought it would be. This one’s more for a younger audience than I represent, but he’s really shaken up expectations. Not a bad thing.
A little more R&B Zydeco follows with It’s Love. Ardoin is pushing boundaries on this album and I will confess that while I find his approach interesting, sometimes I have to play a song a couple of times to really get into it. This song has great harmonies, and it’s reminiscent of some of the ‘70’s Soul I used to listen to late at night.
Creole Rock and Soul opens up Kool Rolling, and this is a rocking track that’s going to get you up and moving. The lyrics are alive and delivered in a rapid-fire manner. I think this one is a true crowd pleaser and I hope to catch Ardoin live some day so I can see the audience’s reaction.
Some more keyboards open Nothing Like Our Love, and the song takes a pleading style before picking up the tempo. Ardoin’s accordion is a background instrument, adding just a touch of spice to the song, not taking so much of the spotlight. An interesting choice.
He brings the album to a close with a hard rocking Shut Them Down. The song’s got a lot of energy and makes a great closing number, getting the listener up and moving one more time. I think this one could pop up on Roots Americana Shows easily and I, for one, will enjoy it on my own personal playlist.
I’m not an expert on Zydeco by any means, so please take these opinions for what they are, just my thoughts on a very cool artist whom I want to hear more from. I’ll be looking for some of Sean Ardoin’s earlier albums, but in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the heck out of Came Thru Pullin’. I hope you will as well.

**HOLD THE PRESSES**
Sean Ardoin has released a beautiful song called What Do You See. Simply put, it’s the most gorgeous and emotional song I have heard all year. If this song doesn’t melt your heart, you really need to examine your beliefs. Please go to the link below and spend four minutes and change listening to his voice and some lovely piano.

Sean Ardoin Discography
1991 Lawrence Ardoin and Lanniappe - Maison de Soul
1994 Chris Ardoin and Double Clutchin "That's the Lick!" (Maison de Soul)
1995 Chris Ardoin and Double Clutchin "Lick it up" (Maison de Soul)
1997 Chris Ardoin and Double Clutchin "Gon be Jus Fine" (Rounder Records)
1998 Chris Ardoin and Double Clutchin "Turn the Page" (Rounder Records)
1999 Sean Ardoin-n-Zydekool (self titled) (Zydekool Records)
2001 Sean Ardoin-n-Zydekool "Pullin" (Tomorrow Records)
2003 Sean Ardoin-n-Zydekool "Home Brew" (Tomorrow Records)
2004 Sean Ardoin-n-Zydekool "Strictly for the Dancers" (Zydekool Records)
2009 Sean Ardoin and R.O.G.K. "How Great is Your Love" (Zydekool Records)
2010 Sean Ardoin-n-Zydekool "Final Chapter: New Beginning" (Zydekool Records)
2013 Sean Ardoin-n-Zydekool "RETURN OF THE KOOL" (Zydekool Records)
2013 Creole United "Non Jamais Fait" (Creole United Records)
2016 Sean Ardoin-n-Zydekool “Live at the Chicken Run”
2018 Creole United “Tu Kekkchause a Korrek”
2018 Sean Ardoin “Kreole Rock and Soul”
2020 Sean Ardoin “Came Thru Pullin’


Monday, June 15, 2020

Eric Hughes Sends Us a POSTCARD FROM BEALE STREET


I first encountered harmonica player and guitarist Eric Hughes when he read one of my reviews and contacted me. We have a number of mutual friends and one of those friends actually started his own record company, Endless Blues, and wouldn’t you know it, he signed Hughes up pretty quickly.
Hughes has backed a good number of musicians before stepping out on his own, going from talented sideman to talented front man. He has just released a new album, Postcard From Beale Street, an apropos title for him since he’s spent much of his career playing in pretty much every venue on that fabled stretch of land.
Hughes wrote all ten songs on the album, handled all the lead vocals, and played harmonica, guitar, jug, and percussion. You don’t hear too many good jug players anymore, but they used to be a staple for many of the early blues groups. Joining Hughes are Walter Hughes on guitar and backing vocals; Leo Goff on bass; Brian Aylor on drums and percussion; Rick Steff on keyboards; Marc Franklin on trumpet; Kirk Smothers on saxophone; and Executive Producer Mick Kolassa on tussolin, spoons, and backing exclamations.
I’m not afraid to admit that I had no idea what tussolin is, so, we’ll both learn something today – it’s a cough syrup. I can only imagine what was going on during the recording of this album…
The album starts off with Ain’t Whipped Yet, which is a great philosophy for anyone facing life to have. It’s a quick song, a little over 2:30 and bouncy as hell. I plan on dropping this one into a Time For The Blues show soon, add it to my personal playlist, and even listen to it every morning I wake up above dirt. Great way to start an album with the optimism this country is sorely lacking at the moment.
A New Orleans style marching band opens the next song, Oh, Booze!. It’s the autobiographical story of a man’s personal relationship with that elusive elixir. I’ve gone more than a few rounds with that liquid fire myself and have felt this way on many a morning after. Another quick song and shows a 180 degrees attitude from the opening tune. Love it…
If you like your blues a little heavier, then He’s Just An Alley Cat is a song just for you. Hughes injects a lot of humor into the number and to me anyway, the lyrics could be delivered by a stripped down front porch style as well as this Hendrix influenced manner. It works that well. Any of you ladies out there ever had an Alley Cat in your life? Here’s his anthem.
Follow Your Stupid Little Dreams is some good advice for anyone who wants to follow an artistic lifestyle. I think I’ll add it right behind I Ain’t Whipped Yet. It’s upbeat, optimistic, and nicely points out how there will always be people who want to knock you off your dream so you can be just like them. There’s nothing wrong with being normal, but if that’s not the direction for you, be you. Don’t worry about having a Plan B, just dedicate yourself to making Plan A work. End of sermon. Enjoy the song.
Next up is Homesick Angel, a lovely song that’s more Americana than blues. Hughes’ vocals are beautiful and the harmonies are transcendent. It’s a real departure from all of the previous songs and shows that he’s not just a one style pony. Very nice.
He follows up with a Chicago style Fair Weather Friends, using a horn section to punctuate the number. This could easily slip over into an R&B number – I certainly wouldn’t mind – and Hughes’ voice pulls just back from being hard edged. The guitar work is great as are the steady percussion. I probably won’t play it this time, but I sure like it.
Anyone of us who grew up in a rural setting will quickly fall under the spell of Blackberry Patch. This is some fine swampy playing and the story is one that we all know all too well. Hot days with not much to do, and that tantalizing fruit waiting for us to come bearing pails to take our fill and then some. I’m feeling very nostalgic right now to head back to the hills where I come from, even if that patch is long gone and now part of parking lot. Can’t beat progress, right?
Nice harp work opens the next song, Come See About Me. This is another that’s more Americana but blues, but shows off Hughes’ songwriting skills. He’s got a number of different styles and this one is evocative without being overly sentimental. Like it very much.
Up next is the wailing Waiting For That Day. It’s a good driving rocker that tells the story of anyone who wants to have that day when they can tell the boss to take this job and shove it. It’s an anthem for many, and this song encapsulates that dream. If you ever get discouraged, go back and play Follow Your Stupid Little Dreams. These two make a great double feature!
I’ve been told that the phrase 4:20 refers to an activity that’s still illegal in my state. I wouldn’t know. So, closing with It’s 4:20 Somewhere makes a great close for an album that espouses the philosophy of following dreams, being true to yourself, and not letting the so-called real world get you down. Yeah, this is a fun song and makes you feel good. This must be where Kolassa added his barking vocals!
Okay, Eric Hughes and friends have produced an album that is seriously fun while not skimping on lyrics. Sometimes when an artist goes for fun, the result turns silly after a few listens. That doesn’t happen with Postcard From Beale Street as Hughes runs a little more backbone in his songs.
The feel-good style mixes with a couple of laid back songs that fall just outside of the genre we might be expecting. I enjoy artists who refuse to write or play the same song over and over. Hughes is proving to be one of those artists and I truly look forward to hearing more from him soon.
Find out more information at his website here.  



Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Shawn Pittman ~~ Make It Right!


Somewhere in the back of my addled brain, the name Shawn Pittman rings a bell. But a man who has released a dozen albums since the 1990’s better ring a bell. I only had one of those previous albums in my library (1998’s Burnin’ Up), but it’s a good one, so I became interested to hear what he was doing now.
His new album, Make It Right! released in early March on Continental Blue Heaven, and I wish I had given it a listen earlier. He’s put together a power trio of Shawn Pittman on guitar and vocals; Erkan Özdimer on bass; and Levent Özdimer on drums. Like many trios, there’s a stripping down of the sound to its most basic elements.
I don’t have much information about the CD in front of me, so what you’ll be reading is my unvarnished take on it while listening to it for the first time. Pay the price, take the ride…
Done Tole You So starts the album with a nice gritty beat (I must confess that I do love a down and dirty sound) that relies on the Özdimers to set the mood while Pittman provides the vocals and rhythm guitar, but waits to unleash his guitar. The song is heavy and makes for a great opening.
After that, they slow down for the next song, Finger On The Trigger. This song gives Pittman a chance to show some pyrotechnics on the guitar. His vocals seem like they’re a little more processed, not as gritty as the previous song. It’s good, I could play it on Time For The Blues, but I really want to see what else he’s got up his sleeve.
They follow up with the title track, Make It Right. The drums get a good workout on this song as it has a driving beat. Again, Pittman’s vocals seem processed, but his guitar cuts through the song and makes the song.
Even though the title reminds us of James Brown, I Feel Good is its own song. This one is grittier, a song delivered by a simple rhythm and the sounds of a vocalist who is cutting through the poetry some lyrics contain. This one lays it out and the music is infectious.
There Will Be A Day rocks old school. I could hear this one on just about any Chicago bandstand anytime day or night. This is a great song, and the trio is in rare form. I would play this and get requests for an encore! Pittman is in good voice and plays a mean guitar.
The follow up with the slow blues burn How Long?. Now this is the one-two punch I’ve been waiting for. No offense to the first four songs, they were good, but this one and the preceding song are great! The guitar and vocals are in top form, as Pittman reaches deep into his soul to pull the emotion out. I think I’ll be playing both of these songs post haste.
The follow up song, For Right Now, is a little more light rock than blues, but a guy has to experiment. It’s a good song, it just doesn’t elicit the same emotion the previous two songs did. If you like some Americana or rock with your blues, this is a good one. They quicken the pace with Cold Sweat and this is much more my speed. It’s an instrumental that showcases Pittman’s guitar and it definitely has that Chicago feel. Many bands in the Windy City like to start and end sets with an instrumental, and this number would be right at home in either spot.
Serious speed kicks off Woke Up Screaming, it’s got that psychobilly feel, but the guys reign it in and it becomes a mid-tempo number with some crooning vocals. This is a fun song that I will enjoy sharing with my audience and maybe it will even end up on my personal playlist. I love the twang in Pittman’s guitar on this song.
No, it’s not from Frozen. Let It Go has a Jimmy Reed feel to it. It’s a good shuffle, and it seems like the vocals are processed some. I really do prefer Pittman’s voice natural, and I may be wrong about describing it as I have. It could be my speakers, but his natural voice has more power, but that’s just my take.
Fair Weather Friends kicks off with some swampy delta sounds. His guitar answers his vocals in a call and response style. It’s a slower paced song but the vocals back a punch. The drop some heavy rocking on the final song, I’m Done. It’s the shortest song on the album but a ton of fun and pairs nicely with the previous song.
Shawn Pittman is a multi-instrumentalist with enormous talent. This latest disc has something for just about every taste and if this is the album that opens the door to exploring all of his other works, then kick that door down and let’s all check out his catalog.  
You can check out Make It Right! and all of his other CDs and tour information (that is, when artists can tour again) on his website

Friday, May 15, 2020

Time For The Blues ~~ May 16, 2020


I don’t know about you, but thanks to this Covid 19 situation, neither Henry nor I really know what day it is sometimes. The only thing I do know is that we are bringing you the latest installment of our long running musical comedy effort, Time For The Blues, this Saturday night, May 16 at 10 o’clock. We’ll be in our usual spot, VPM-Music or VPM.org, and we hope you will join us for a fast-paced hour of great blues. 
This is going to be our most unusual show to date as we are adhering to VPM-Music’s rules (I know that’s a shock to some of you – us too) of not having more than one person in a room at any given time. For us, that means that Henry is in one studio and I am in a different studio. We have no way to read what the other person is up to (not that we’ve ever been that good at figuring out what the other person was doing).
At least we’ve got some great music to share with you. We’re featuring music from our friends the Nick Moss Band featuring Dennis Gruenling as well as Virginia’s first IBC Winner, Moonshine Society. 
Let’s start off with Nick Moss and Company. We’ve been listening to Moss’ work for several years and this is the second album he’s released with harmonica virtuoso Dennis Gruenling by his side. Either of these men by themselves are excellent performers, but together they are unstoppable. This latest album, Lucky Guy!, took home three Blues Music Awards this year: Band Of The Year, Song of the Year (Lucky Guy!), and Traditional Blues Album Of The Year. 
You’ll hear three tracks from this great Alligator release including the award-winning title track plus one from their previous album. Caught these guys at the Tin Pan back when we could go to shows, and trust me, these guys rock. Had a chance to talk with Dennis about music, harmonicas, radio, and fashion tips. Don’t miss these guys any chance you get to hear them play.
Speaking of award-winning, I mentioned that Moonshine Society won the International Blues Challenge this year. Their award was for Best Self-Produced Album for their sophomore effort, Sweet Thing. Their lead singer, who goes by the name of Black Betty, has got a great voice and her band is well seasoned and sharp. They are from the Northern Virginia area but come down to Richmond every so often to perform. I’ve seen them a couple of times now, and I am hooked on their powerful approach to the blues.
We’ve got two songs from Sweet Thing, plus one from their first album, Live In Shanghai. By the way, how many American blues bands can actually cut their first album at a live performance in one of the wildest cities in China? They can.
We’re taking a trip down the road with one of the great superstars of the blues, Chester Burnett – aka Howlin’ Wolf. Wolf, along with Muddy Waters, is one of the post war bluesmen that made the music come alive. I’d listened to a number of Wolf’s best known songs, but had never dug down deep into his earliest Chess works.
Thankfully, Superfan Scott Nugent brought me an amazing package of his late father’s blues collection and one of the records was a collection of Wolf’s Chess sides. On one of the earliest days of lockdown, I dug it out and didn’t stop until I had listened to all 75 of the tracks collected.
I was transfixed by the power in the tracks and knew that we would have to sample these works on the show. This is our first steps in the Howlin’ Wolf journey. I don’t know how many episodes there will be, but I can guarantee no matter how much we play, there will be so much more to hear. If you like these sets, we could do the same with so many other blues artists. We love the new stuff, but you need to have the founders of the sound as well.
Speaking of new stuff, we’ve got it for you as well. We’re going to hear great sides from Alex Lopez, the Charlie Wootton Project, and Cheyenne James. Don’t miss out on these talented artists. 
All this can be yours if you tune in Saturday night, May 16th at 10:00. Henry and I will be in two separate studios so there’s no chance of you or anyone else catching something from us. I can’t swear that the jokes will be any good or that we’ll stay on topic, but I can vouch for the fact, that every single song we’re spinning is going to be great.
We’ve got everything all laid out and ready to go, all we need is you and a few hundred of your closest friends, all in separate places of course. You know how to find us, point your browser here, (http://vpm.org/radio or join us on one of these great VPM 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!







Thursday, May 14, 2020

Kat Riggins ~~ Cry Out (Single)

Another bad thing that's been happening since Covid 19 shut the world down is that so much great music has been stifled. It makes sense, artists are able to tour and perform, so there is little chance to get in front of people and promote their albums. I'm not minimizing anything else that has happened as a result of this pandemic, just bemoaning the fact that so many great artists have had to change their approach to their art.

When things change, artists change as well. Take Kat Riggins for example. She's been on my radar for the last couple of albums and I was delighted to hear that she signed with Gulf Coast Records. This new label is pulling out all stops to sign solid acts and not just sticking to one niche of the blues. Riggins is a strong vocalist who puts every ounce of her heart and soul into each song.

There's no phoning it in with this lady; she belts, she growls, she makes love to the song. She has a new album due soon and she is releasing her first single on May 22nd. The song is called Cry Out and aside from the pure power she unleashes in the quick 3:25 long number, she draws heavily from the history of protest songs.

I don't think any person in the country would say that everything is fine. We're losing people to violence, we're losing people to bullying, we're losing people and most of us are damn tired of it. Riggins adds her voice to those who are trying to wake us up to what is going on.

This is not a subtle song. Thank God. This is an in-your-face assault and one that should be getting airplay as soon as it hits. I don't have a breakdown of the musicians or songwriters, but I will be glad to update this review as soon as I get the information.

Put it on preorder, and the same with the album. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, wear a mask when you go outside, but don't let it muffle your voice when you see something wrong. Just Cry Out!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Mike Zito Live Streams New Show


There is no doubt that Coronavirus, aka Covid 19, has disrupted all of our lives. I’m not getting into any politics, just stating a fact. A few states are starting to allow some business openings, including bowling alleys so you might finally be able to pick up that 7-10 split. If you do go, BUY YOUR OWN SHOES and bring your own ball.
You can thank me later.
Bowling alleys aside (and I have spent many hours displaying my unerring accuracy in tossing gutterballs with either hand), no one is opening up clubs or festivals. For artists, this means they are still locked out of a large chunk of their income.
But artists are nothing if not creative and resilient. So many have taken to the internet to
play concerts with information up as to where to make donations to the band. The average blues fan can, on any given night, find great shows with top artists who otherwise might not make it to their towns.
Even after the virus restrictions lift, it’s impossible to tell what venues will still be operating (we hope all of them). Artists are going to have to do a lot of rebooking and hope that their audience will feel comfortable attending shows.
With most of these on-line shows currently, the band plays and hopes that people will do the right thing and contribute a few bucks. This is basically the same model that National Public Radio uses. The entertainment is out there, and if you find that it’s important to you, please send in your pledge of support.
But as Nobel Prize Winner Bob Dylan said, “The times they are a-changing.”
Coming up this Saturday, April 25th, at 3:00 p.m. Central Time (that’s 4:00 p.m. for us Eastcosters), the sensational blues-rock guitarist Mike Zito will present a Live Streaming Electric Band Blues Concert on his website. In case said website is not in your address book, you can find it here
This is not going to be the usual web show. Zito explains, "This will be a two-camera, pro sound event," Zito says. "It's easy to buy the ticket ($10.) and watch - just join my website and pay for the ticket. The show will air at 3:00 p.m. Central Time on Saturday. It'll stay up on the website for 72 hours, so folks that miss viewing it initially can still see the show."
Take it from me, ten bucks is not much to catch a show of this magnitude. Zito will be joined by Carl Richardson on bass and Tod Stark on drums. All of this is going to be broadcast from Zito’s home studio in Texas.
Zito and company have already been helping out during this time by recording an album titled Quarantine Blues, which is available for free download here.  Zito recorded the album with his touring band of Matt Johnson, Doug Byrkit, and Lewis Stephens when their 30-city European Tour was scuttled by the Coronavirus Pandemic.
There are so many shows one can check out, but this is the one that’s going to get my sawbuck. While you’re there on his website, you might want to pick up a few of his other albums. My collection isn’t complete, so I’ll be doing the same thing!
PS-please let me know if you or your band will be doing any web shows, as I am trying to keep up with all of them. I would like to start keeping a calendar so send me the info: Who, What, When, Where, and Website! Drop a line to timefortheblues@gmail.com

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Deltaphonic ~~ The Funk, The Soul & The Holy Groove


If you asked someone to describe New Orleans in just a few words, you would be hard pressed to come up with a better description than the title of this new album from Deltaphonic. Indeed, The Funk, The Soul & The Holy Groove is a collection of different sounds that one wouldn’t think would mix well, but somehow do creating the musical equivalent of jambalaya. Those three words summon up the spirits of past and present to create a unique flavor that once sampled, will be difficult to forget.
This is the third album for the group, the first that has come across my desk, and the ten original songs bring together the sounds of funk, soul, rock tinged country-blues into music that occupies a place that defies description.
We’ll have to put this under the heading of Americana, although each song has its own style. In fact, the songs vary widely from track to track, so if you’re a fan of adventurous music and don’t mind different styles within the same album (I certainly am one of those people) this could be a sleeper album for you.
If you like albums that sound the same from track to track, you might want to keep looking, there’s nothing wrong with that, and the shelves are pretty well stocked with those.
Deltaphonic is a four-man trio. By that I mean that Andrew T. Weekes plays guitar and handles the vocals; Paul Provosty supplies the lead guitar, and the drumming is split between Trenton O’Neal and Ciaran Brennan. There are a few guests on the album including backing vocals from Josh Kagler, bass from Jerry “Jblakk” Henderson, and Andriu Yanovski on keys.
The group kicks off the album with Liars, and they shout their way into a multilayered song with some very cool lyrics. They paraphrase a quote from gonzo journalist and gun nut Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, “[It’s] a cruel and shallow money trench/Where thieves and pimps run free.” They use it as a reference to the music business, and while it’s certainly true, Thompson actually said that about television journalism. It’s nitpicky on my part, and just for the Thompson purists, if such a thing exists. Don’t let my shallow aside pull you away from a great song with tight harmonies, and some damn fine orchestrations. Don’t take my word for it, checkout the video here. 
The band follows up with Ghosts with a cool rock vibe. Listen for the subtle keyboards in the opening and enjoy the way they change tempos just a little way into the song. The second song on the album, and I am fascinated by Weeks’ songwriting. He tells some great stories and Provosty’s guitar answers beautifully. This band is showing that they really have a solid approach to both music and words.
Next up is Bad People and the slow funk factor is upped. Organ riffs punctuate the song and the drums carry out an interesting beat. There’s a gospel fervor in the vocals and Provosty lands a solid guitar break that takes the song in another direction.  
The slow, sweet, Starlit follows with its soulful jazz approach. This one is going onto my personal playlist. It won’t be the right fit for Time For The Blues, but I am sure I am going to hit repeat several times around the house. Might even get a little emotional on the third or fourth listen…
Just when you think you know what the guys are going to do next, they unleash New Mexican Rockstar. It’s got an early rock and roll vibe, kind of a Ricky Nelson feel and tells a great sad story. I love the song, even if I can’t put it on the blues show, but if I ever get an Americana program, it’s going to be on quick and fairly often.
Things get swampy on the next song, If It Don’t Bleed. This one has that North Mississippi by way of Cajun Country feel and it is very cool. This one could make it onto Time For The Blues and probably will. I’m not sure what that Theremin sound is part of the way through, but I like it a lot!
With a title like Don’t Have To Be Good, that could fairly well sum up my personal philosophy. No matter what you do, no matter what art you create, put your heart into it and put it out in the world. Some will like it, some won’t. This is a kick ass song, full of punch and one that’s going to stay with you.
Next up is the slow, luxurious Mississippi. A lovely guitar intro establishes the song and Weeks’ voice does the rest. You can almost feel the heat, smell the dirt and the river as the song places you in a different world. Once again Weeks and Provosty deliver a surprise with the song. At this point it’s obvious that I’m going to have to give the album a few more listens to unlock all of the little moments the group has put into each song. Mr. Weeks, this ex-philosophy major appreciates your use of my favorite Heraclitus quote, “No man ever stands in the same river twice.”
It has been a long time since high school English where I learned about story elements: rising action, climax, and denouement. That last one is what happens after the climax, the falling action or the wrap up. I mention this, because the next song is The Denouement. It really does feel like the band is wrapping up their own stories and the use of keys and strings adds to the dreamy quality of the track. I know this one is going to end up on my personal playlist. You might feel the same way.
The group winds up the album with See Red, a faster paced song with some heavy bass and drums driving it. The band definitely wants the listener to go out on a high note, and they have chosen wisely.
I’m no prognosticator, if I were, I might have won a few lotteries. I can’t predict the future for Deltaphonic, but I can appreciate the work that has gone into The Funk, The Soul & The Holy Groove. The lyrics read like poetry and tell wonderful and sad stories while the music is surprising and exciting in a way that is rare in many albums.
While they are in a great musical city, one of the best actually, being in New Orleans, even that city may not be enough to contain their talent. Check them out at their website.  Pick up their albums and keep an eye peeled to see when they hit the road!

Previous Albums
Texas, Texas
See Red               

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

John Blues Boyd ~~ What My Eyes Have Seen...

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, I hope you are staying safe. If you don’t have to be out and about, don’t! I’m using my time away from the studio to catch up on some long overdue listening to new CDs and reviewing some of them.
Normally, when I write these, I try to listen to the album first then read the notes sent to me by the label, publicist, or artist to learn a little backstory for the introduction. For today’s review, however, I want to shake things up and give you my first impression of the artist and album.
So, when I reached my hand into my overflowing collection of music, I pulled out What My Eyes Have Seen by the artist John Blues Boyd. I’m not familiar with Boyd, but as the album is released through Gulf Coast Records, I have high hopes for it. It’s a relatively new album started by Mike Zito and Guy Hale.
A couple of powerhouses who have really been turning out great work. Opening up the flap, I see Chris “Kid’ Andersen’s name everywhere – another good sign. I’m starting to get excited about this. I see a number of names I recognize from other albums, including Jim Pugh on keys and Nancy Wright on sax.
On the cover, it’s obvious that Boyd is just another young punk trying to make it in the get rich quick blues industry. Must have been the lure of easy fortune and fame. Boyd looks like a well seasoned artist, and I’ve had a lot of luck with people who have lived a long life and have some perspective on things.
Let’s see how this goes…
Kid Andersen’s sweet guitar announces the opening song, In My Blood. It’s a biography song for Boyd and should get plenty of airplay. This will kick off a show for Time For The Blues just as soon as I can play it. Boyd’s voice is wise with experience but is not jaded or world weary. It’s a refreshing take on the blues.
After that, Boyd takes a minute (1:11 actually) to reach back into his life with a story. He calls it My Memory Takes Me There. Accompanied by Kid Andersen on guitar and organ, I believe this one serves as a set up for the remaining four.
Next up is the title track, What My Eyes Have Seen, a meditative take and soulful look back on some of his experiences over the years. “I’ve been with you in the shadows,” he sings at one point, underlying the changes he has born witness to over the years. I really like this one a lot.
The next song, I Heard The Blues, also uses the past tense as he looks back. It seems obvious that Boyd has a lot to share if we will only listen. It’s lovely and sweet with a touch of gospel organ. It’s another song that I really enjoy and I can see why Boyd has been nominated for a Blues Music Award. This is the first song on the album written by Boyd. He honestly conveys the way the music made him feel. Too many times those of us who only write about music, as opposed to living it, tend to talk from our heads rather than our hearts. Myself included. This one gets into your soul and reminds you why you got into music in the first place.
Boyd and friends transition into On The Run. This is a swinging number that Boyd co-wrote with Andersen and Hale. It is a quick musical lesson that reminds us where the sparks of the Civil Rights Movement became a roaring flame. The powerful lyrics set against the lively music makes for quite the contrast and catches our attention right away.
My Memory Takes Me There Pt 2 is a melancholy moment, a snatch of lyric in which Boyd describes that will he was often mistreated, there were others who appreciated him and his memory is absolutely clear of the events that happened to him.
After that comes Her Name Was Dona Mae. The spoken introduction brings up the “best thing that ever happened to John Blues Boyd.” This is an homage to his late wife, and his voice conveys the great affection he still has for her. With so many blues songs highlighting the roughest patches of life, it’s refreshing to hear a song about a love that transcends time and distance. Got to love the horn section weaving in and out of the song.
His next My Memory Takes Me There, (Part 3) takes a serious tone. He remembers that “some are gone and some are forgotten” and he’s “sad that some are still here.” I like these short connecting pieces, but after I finish this review, I plan on programming my disc player to play only these short pieces and see what kind of a full song they might make.
Dealing with the horrible 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr, Why Did You Take That Shot? uses simple rhymes to relive the tragedy. Boyd asks the question over and over looking for reasons, and he even leaves the door open that it might not have actually been James Earl Ray who fired the fatal shot. The organ brings in a little church feel to the proceedings and once again Boyd captures the feeling of those times. Listening to the song for the first time, my stomach dropped and I remember then tension and violence that erupted after the assassination.
Next up is My Memory Takes Me There Pt 4, and it starts off with the low building fervor of a preacher in his pulpit. This album has been a revelation, Boyd has been kicking around the blues for a long time, and none of his previous albums have crossed my path. His voice is incredible: rich, vibrant, and stunning in his approach. His vocals command attention and his delivery is among the best I’ve ever heard. I would stack up this album with the best of any performer from any era and it would stand up well. There are five more tracks on What My Eyes Have Seen, and unless they drop off in quality mightily, this will easily be on my Best Of 2020 list.
He follows with the story of his coming to the West Coast in Oh, California. He’s talked about his having to leave home in 1963, his marriage, his feelings from some of the events in his life, and now he brings us to sunny California. The song is light and fun and a whole different approach to the blues.
Next up is the bouncy, swinging That Singing Roofer, about his day job while getting himself established. You can feel the shift in attitude in his approach. It’s an amazing musical autobiography. Putting on my theatre critic hat, I would absolutely love to see this get developed into a play incorporating the music in with some stories. It would be killer!
Things slow down for the next song, Forty Nine Years. You can feel the time passing as he tells the story of his life with his wife. The mournful sax, the light percussion, and the keyboards make for a beautiful collaboration. Boyd’s voice is full of emotion as he recounts those days. It just might make you well up a little bit as well.
Time to get a little funky with I Got To Leave My Mark. Nearly every human wants to leave an indelible mark on their world. This album is Boyd’s mark, and it’s chiseled in stone. That voice, that story, one doesn’t just sing the blues, one has to live them and John Blues Boyd has certainly done that!
Appropriately enough, the album ends with the last My Memory Takes Me There Pt 5. With a sparse musical background, somewhat reminiscent of portions of The Doors’ The End but without the buildup, the song finally gives Boyd a chance to rest from his labors. It’s a gorgeous coda to this amazing album!
Okay, if you’ve read this far, is there anything else I need to say? John Blues Boyd is a great treasure and his name should be on every blues lover’s lips. His voice is exquisite and Kid Andersen has produced a beautiful album what will only grow over time. No, it doesn’t have a whole bunch of quickly manufactured songs that sound like every other formula song – each song has its own soul, its own life, and by listening to these songs, we all become a part of his life.
Don’t hesitate, order your copy of What My Eyes Have Seen now. Stores, Online services, or heck, just go right to the people who made it, Gulf Coast Records. You can findtheir website here
While you’re at it, if you find any of the albums below, grab ‘em up, because I’m looking for them too!

Previous Albums by John Blues Boyd
Sing A Happy Song
The Real Deal
John, The Blues Is Calling You
Can’t See The Forest For The Trees
Born To Sing The Blues

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Time For The Blues ~~ March 28, 2020


Avoid crowds, listen to Time For The Blues! Henry Cook and I hope you will join us this Saturday night, March 28, at 10 for yet another slam bam throw it to the mat and make it say “uncle” episode of Time For The Bues!
Trust me, we are not making fun of this scary situation we all find ourselves in, but Mr. Cook and I have always seen our job as Court Jesters or Rodeo Clowns that get to distract our audience for 59 minutes a week using the two tools we have at our disposal – great music and bad jokes.
This will be a fun show, Henry planned it from stem to stern and he swears it’s chock full of great music, so you know the jokes are going to be awful. Sorry about that. Let’s see what he’s got up his sleeve.
Hmmm, it looks like we’re going to visit with the legendary McKinley Morganfield, aka Muddy Waters. He’s got one lined up that features Waters with two other legends, Johnny Winter and James Cotton. He’s got a couple from Waters’ comeback album, Hard Again and one more from the album that caused him to need a comeback, Electric Mud.
Yeah, wouldn’t you have liked to be in the meeting where somebody said, “You know what would be great? Let’s get the world’s most famous bluesman and get him to make a psychedelic rock-blues album, and let’s make a far out cover on the album.” You can pretty much guess that Waters himself wasn’t in that meeting…
Henry’s also got some Unusual Suspects for us. In case you haven’t heard one of those segments yet, that’s where we find artists who don’t normally perform blues let loose and drop a blues song. Some are more blues than others, but every one of them is cool in its own way. I won’t spoil the fun, mainly because Henry leaves their names off of my show sheet so I have to guess who it is he’s playing. He even claims he’s found an artist who is the most unusual of them all.
Want some new stuff? Well, we got it for you. We have new releases from Roomful Of Blues – a band that’s been together for 50 years! That’s only about half as old as our best joke! We’ve also got a track from the Grammy ® Nominated Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, as well as one from one of our favorite people walking the planet, Janiva Magness!
Just for a little throwback, we’re going to head to one of our favorite cities, Memphis, TN. We won’t have time for barbecue (of course we would get take out), but instead of sampling culinary delights, we’re going to sample the sounds of the city. How about two from Sam And Dave and Otis Redding? We’ll also visit with Goldwax, that tiny studio with a lot of talent and almost no budget.
We’re still working on the logistics, but you know where to find us – point your browser here, or join us on one of these great VPM 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!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Albert Castiglia ~~ Wild And Free


Live records are often a gamble. On the one hand (pro), a live album can capture an artist’s energy better than a studio album which is usually cut in a controlled, no audience manner. On the other hand (con) shoddy recording can muddy the sound to the point where you would just rather go back to the studio albums.
Guitar slinger Albert Castiglia’s newest album, Wild And Free, on Gulf Coast Records, is thankfully a case of the former. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing Castiglia live, you already know what I’m talking about and are most likely nodding your head in agreement. If you haven’t had that opportunity, as soon as this nation-wide quarantine is over, find out where Castiglia is paying and get tickets pdq.
Castiglia may have been born in the Big Apple, but he grew up in Florida, another hot bed for musical influences. He was exposed to rock, blues, and Latin music on the radio and in local musical establishments. He worked a day job for years while honing his skills with bar bands before joining Junior Wells’ band.
From there he has gone on to release 11 albums, and has now finally released his first live album. The 11 songs on the album include several originals, three covers, and a few written by friends. Castiglia plays guitar and handles vocals and he is joined by Justine Tompkins on bass and vocals; Ephraim Lowell on drums; and Lewis Stephens on piano and B3. Guests include producer Mike Zito adding guitar to one song and keyboard wizard John Ginty playing B3 on two.
Recorded at The Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton, the album starts off with one of Castiglia’s signature songs, Let The Big Dog Eat. Castiglia’s blistering guitar takes the first spotlight, setting the tone for the rest of the album. His voice is a growl, and his powerful presence can easily be felt through your speakers.
He follows up with the Mike Zito written Hoodoo On Me. Zito, aside from being the producer of the album is also one of the co-founders of Gulf Coast Records and worked extensively with Castiglia on his previous release, Masterpiece. The fireworks continue as if Castiglia plans to blow the roof off the joint, and he just might do it!
Just when you think he might take a break he immediately launches into I Been Up All Night. The guitar cuts like a blowtorch on a dark night and his vocals have the sound of a wired man who is both worried and running on fumes. It’s another cool number and one that has proven to be a hit with live audiences.
The first song on the album written by Castiglia is Heavy. It’s also the first one where the tempo has been slowed. The previous three songs were delivered with the intensity of pure punk rock, but this one takes a more mellow approach. Castiglia’s vocals are up to the task as he pours his heart into the number.
In concert, Castiglia often introduces Get Your Ass In The Van as a “tender love story.” Instead it is a fun look at what it takes to get noticed as an artist. How many great performers started off going from gig to gig in a beat up car, truck, or fan? Hauling instruments and equipment that were worth more than the money they would make that night. Putting their souls on the line for audiences who couldn’t care less about the artistry of these performers, but just wanted cheap beer and a place to land. Damn, sometimes I really miss those days…not very often mind you.
One thing I’ve noticed now that we’re at about the half way point is the recording doesn’t include very much of the audience’s reactions. For my money, I would like to hear what must have been enthusiastic applause, and also Castiglia’s banter with the audience. I’ve seen him several times and have always enjoyed his interactions with everyone. I want to hear the transitions from song to song! Okay, sermon over.
Searching The Desert For The Blues is a cool song and one that stands out as different than the other songs on the album. The lyrics by Graham Wood Drout are poetic and Tompkins adds some very good backing vocals. Castiglia adds his trademark guitar and Stephens’ B3 gets quite a workout.
The next song, Keep On Swinging, takes a heavier approach to the music. It is very much driven by the bass and drums and takes more than a minute to get to the vocals. I love the sentiment of not letting anyone take away your dream, just be ready when something good comes along. It’s an easy lesson to say, but a hard one to learn. Still a very cool song.
Johnny Winter’s Too Much Seconal follows with Zito and Ginty joining the fun. I would have like to hear them introduced, but their playing is so good, I’ll get over it. This is a gritty sound (in a good way) and serves as a great tribute to one of the guitar masters that obviously influenced both Castiglia and Zito. It’s a lot of fun listening to them trade licks.
Ginty sticks around for Paul Butterfield’s Lovin’ Cup. On this song and the previous one, you actually get to hear the band jam for a bit. Despite the strain that singing for as long as he has, Castiglia’s voice is holding up well. He’s still full of energy and the band is truly working hard but having fun.
Castiglia follows up with another original, I Tried To Tell Ya. The first minute belongs to his guitar and then the menacing growl comes back to life. Several of the songs on this album are destined for airplay on Time For The Blues, I just haven’t decided which ones. Wild And Free is an album with backbone – a strong, powerful collection of songs where any single song deserves play, but finding the best ones to play will be difficult.
Freddie King’s Boogie Funk closes out the show and the album. King has been a big influence on Castiglia and it shows in the reverential way he preserves the spirit of the song without it becoming a note-for-note reproduction. I’ve recently been watching a number of live performers who start and end a set with instrumentals. A couple of friends clued me in that is a Chicago thing. I’ve never noticed it before, but Castiglia often closes with an instrumental (or does one as an encore) which would make sense given the time he spent playing in the Windy City. Great way to give the band one last dance in the spotlight and to end the show.
Wild And Free is an exceptional live album containing some of Albert Castiglia’s best known songs. He seems to be hitting his stride with his writing and playing. He’s more assured and while he’s always been willing to take chances musically, he’s making bold choices and turning in great songs.
You can find more information at Castiglia’s website and while you’re at it, be sure to check out the Gulf Coast Records website

Discography
Burn                                    2004  
The Bittersweet Sessions   2006  
A Stone's Throw                 2006
These Are the Days            2008  
Keepin On                          2010  
Living the Dream                2012  
Solid Ground                      2014  
Blues Caravan 2014          2015  
Big Dog                              2016
Up All Night                        2017  
Masterpiece                       2019