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!