Friday, July 31, 2020

Kat Riggins ~~ CRY OUT

If the universe were fair, Robert Johnson would have recorded more sides, the great master blues artists would have received their fair share of royalties and Kat Riggins would be mentioned alongside the great voices. Since the universe isn’t, there’s nothing we can do about the first two, but we have plenty of time to rectify the third.

Don’t kick yourself if you’re not familiar with Riggins’ work. I wouldn’t be either if a persistent publicist hadn’t sent me some of her early independent work. Now that Riggins has joined the Gulf Coast family, she’s got a great studio behind her. The studio can give her that certain oomph that will push her higher.

Her new album, Cry Out, produced by Riggins and Mike Zito who co-wrote all the 13 tracks. On a few songs they added Steve Van Der Nat and Andreas Carre.

I wish I had a breakdown of the musicians on the album, although I’m willing to bet that Zito’s guitar is well represented. There are other great moments on other songs, and I would like to give credit where credit is due.

The album kicks things off in high gear with Son Of A Gun. Some sweet drum and guitars set the stage for Riggins to step up to the microphone. Once she lets loose, she pins your ears back with her power. There’s a funky backbeat and there’s no mistaking her take no prisoners attitude. Riggins’ rocks with the best of them and I can’t wait to hear what she has next. (3:31)

What she has next is the title track, Cry Out. I wish I knew who was playing harp and B3 because they help set up the mood. Right now, there are a lot of people who need to cry out for justice, for peace, for basic humanity. Riggins captures that desire beautifully. Don’t be silent, please, cry out. (3:28)

There’s a horn section on Meet Your Maker that gives the song a Chicago style feel. There’s more than a touch of funk in the song that might make you get up and shake your parts for a while. Fun song. (2:37)

If you like your guitars on the heavy side, Catching Up is a song you will like. She’s pushing the energy and attitude and the band is rocking hard. Even when she mixes in elements of other genres – like rock – you can hear the blues in her voice and lyrics. It might not be for the blues purists, but she has a great sound. (3:44)

Riggins drops the tempo down a few notches for Truth. The lyrics tell the story of wanting to know the actual person. Too often, many of us hide behind a mask for relationships. It’s an intense number. (2:51)

Out of nowhere, Riggins drops a short, acapella cover of Ocean’s Hand In The Hand (Interlude). I don’t know how many people remember that song, if you don’t, it’s covered by a few singers, including Elvis Presley. Stripped down to her voice and her emotion, this song has a strong gospel feel. Strike that, it’s much more of a spiritual feel. You can feel her deep connection in this very short song. Delightful. (0:35)

There’s a country feel to Heavy with steel guitars and the way she sings the song. It’s no secret that country and blues are kissing cousins, and she handles this well. The song is more like old school country than the more modern approach and that pleases me very much. Her voice is honey and she does a great job on this one. (5:27)

The funk is back in Wicked Tongue. Along with several other songs, this one is going to appear on Time For The Blues as soon as I can schedule it. Guys, if your lady talks to you this way, turn around and head out that door. Leave the clothes, leave your stuff, and get out quick. And listen to that distorted guitar that underscores the lyrics. (3:09)

Riggins and her band pull out all the stops on Can You See Me Now. This is not a cell phone advertisement. This is a woman who is taking a stand and it makes a perfect connection to the previous song. She’s got the sass, she’s got the attitude, let’s hope she’s doesn’t have a gun. (3:21)

She’s back to rocking on Burn It All Down. The title reminds me of the late sixties, but the lyrics tie in with the previous two songs. This is a trilogy of an angry woman and I hope she keeps these together in concert. In fact, I hope she goes from one to the next without a break. This time the rhythm section gets a workout that lets the guitar soar. (5:01)

Riggins keeps the rocking going on with the next song, On Its Way. She also brings in the horn section to make it even more festive. After the previous three songs, this is an upbeat number. Love the sax break, but I love most sax breaks. Keep ‘em coming, I’m having fun with this one. (2:53)

No Sale starts off with one of the most famous lyrics of the blues. She then heads in an different direction. There’s some cool harmonica to give it a little more flavor. The rhythm section is working overtime and this is a song of great empowerment. Love this one! (3:50)

The album ends up with The Storm. It’s a soulful number and Riggins digs deep to wring out ever piece of emotion she’s got. It’s a powerful song of empowerment, but she’s not using the light approach she uses on the previous song. No, Riggins herself becomes the storm, breaking everything in her path. She's a creature that no one can control or stopped by any man. It’s a chilling way to end the album. A bold choice and one that I applaud. (5:21)

Kat Riggins is getting ready to start climbing the ladder of success. Once we’re able to have shows and festivals again, I expect she will be in demand. I know I can’t wait to catch her live and see how she works a crowd. I hope Gulf Coast will take some of their great talent and send them out on the road to showcase their talents.

Until then, be sure to pick up Cry Out, and check out herwebsite here

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Pete Thelen ~~ Save The Best For Last

If you ask my radio partner, the legendary Henry Cook, he’ll be glad to tell you that my desk is a symphony of chaos. He’s not really wrong, and it stays that way because I respond to visual cues – if I see a good album that I like, I am far more likely to program some of its music into one of our shows.
If I don’t see something, or don’t have something to remind me about its existence, I’m more likely to forget it and thus forget to play anything. However, with the cost of producing CDs, and the cost of mailing them out, I better learn the ways of internet downloads PDQ before all the labels go bankrupt or the Post Office ceases to exist.
All this is my long winded way of coming around to introduce Pete Thelen, a bluesman who has traveled the world in both the business world and the musical world. At 71-years young, Thelen has said this will be his last album, and it is perfectly titled, Save The Best For Last.
The album features six tunes from Thelen and six from other artists. A very generous way to wrap up his recording career. Let’s give it a listen.
The album starts off with the slow low and easy You Make It Easy. It’s a smoky number that would be perfect to close out an evening or to give you an excuse to squeeze that special person a little more. I can’t wait to play this one on Time For The Blues. The horn section is sweet as molasses and as soon as I find the name of the sax player, I’ll let you know. A great way to start an album.
Next up is Some Kind Of Sign that features Annie Dekom on vocals. She has a strong voice, the kind that is perfect for old school blues. The bass and piano carry much of the music, and the drums get a little bit of a workout. I’m assuming Thelen is on guitar (forgive me, I don’t have any notes at this point) and his break is very nice. I really want to hear more of Dekom’s vocals.
They follow that up with Wind Up From Mexico sung by Lester Chambers. The song starts out with some lonesome harp over acoustic guitar and Chambers’ voice is the voice of a dark stranger telling us of his pain. This is the story of the man who has lost his woman and his entire world is shattered. Sometimes all that’s left is that hot wind blowing through you. Love this one and it’s going on my driving playlist right now.
Rena Haus steps behind the microphone for Part Time Love. A bouncy saloon style blues delivered by a beautiful voice makes this one of those songs that just makes you feel good. It’s a good follow up to the previous song, a jaunty little number that makes you smile into your drink, and you just might want to get up and shuffle your bones for a bit.
Thelen’s back on vocals for Getting Down To Business, a quick song, under three minutes and features some wicked accordion to frame his strong vocals. This is a swampy number and just a fine song that cuts through any pretenses and gets down to business. Funny how that title fits the song perfectly…
Thelen sticks around to provide the vocals for the next song, Voodoo King. The tempo gets dark and the congas and phased vocals give the song an otherworldly feel. This one plays like a movie in the mind. Makes me want to pull out my juju bag for protection. If you like your music a little on the psychedelic side, you will definitely gravitate towards this one.
Thelen steps back and Linda Moss takes his place for Storm ‘A Brewing. Oh my great blues goddess, can this woman sing! She possesses an amazing voice and soars over the band that is working hard and loud. The organ and piano set the stage for a solid guitar run and you can just feel the energy coming out in this song!
Taking a small break here as the three women who have sung so far have truly impressed the hell out of me. Annie Dekom, Rena Haus, and Linda Moss – remember their names, because you will be hearing more from them.
Pete Thelen rolls back in for Lost And Found. A slow number with some great sax number that could be right at home in a jazz club as much as a blues joint. It’s the story of a painful parting and the emotion that Thelen puts into the song is heartbreaking. What was it Shakespeare said in Romeo & Juliet, “Parting is such sweet sorrow…”
Thelen stays behind for the next few songs. He may be spent from the previous one, but now he’s singing Move On. This is a more powerful rocking song with some heavy guitar, drum, and bass. It wasn’t the style of song I expected to follow the previous song, but I enjoyed the surprise.
He follows it with a song with one of the strangest titles in the blues, Spiderlake Woman. Again, he creates more of a mood than he does on most of his other, more straightforward songs. This one also plays like a movie in your mind. It’s kind of freaky and just might end up in our Halloween show. It’s funky and leaves you looking over your shoulder on a dark night.
One last special guest, Chico Chism, takes the next to the last song on the album, New Pain. The song is a cool number and brings the listener back to the fun blues stuff after the intensity of the previous song. There’s some good guitar work and Chism’s vocals are good.
The album ends with the song Thought Passing Through and Thelen bookends the album by taking the vocals on this last song. The piano is beautiful and the lyrics are autobiographical as Thelen pours his heart into them. Listen with your heart as well as your ears and you will find depth in this musical stranger. The strings add a nice touch and I’m truly sorry that this album is ending. I would like for Thelen and his friends to keep on going.
I’m sad to have finally heard this wonderful talent on an album he says is his last. Pete Thelen is a great vocalist and songwriter. With the right exposure, we would be talking about him in the same way we talk about some of the greats. He has fulfilled his promise to Save The Best For Last.
For more about Pete Thelen, visit his website here

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Mark May Band ~~ DEEP DARK DEMON

It’s always fun to receive a CD from an artist that I like. Mark May is one of the hottest guitar slingers around and over the years I’ve picked up a couple of CDs from his time with Connor Ray Music. If you’re not familiar with that label, they are out of Texas and have a stellar reputation for fostering talent, but as they are smaller and pretty much a one or two person label, some of that talent they develop move along to other labels.
One of these artists is Ally Venable who released a couple of CDs on Connor Ray and has since been signed to Ruf. Now Mark May has moved on to Gulf Coast and has just dropped his first album, Deep Dark Demon, for them.
By the way, I should mention that the head honcho of Connor Ray is harp master Steve Krase, and he is proud of the work his charges have put out and encourages them to find that next brass ring in order to further their career. Krase is an unusual man in the music business, and I admire him greatly.
Anyway, I digress, but what else is new?
For this album, May had a large contingent of musicians joining him. May handled the vocals as well as lead and rhythm guitars and the other musicians were Billy Wells on lead and rhythm guitars and background vocals; Darrell Lacy on bass and background vocals; Brandon Jackson and Geronimo Calderon on drums; and Barry Seelen and Shawn Allen on B3. Guests include Eric Demmer on saxophone; Al Pagliuso on percussion; and Mike Zito on lead guitar.
May wrote all the songs on the album, collaborating with Charles Darrell Lacy on one song.
The album starts with Harvey's Dirty Side, and the pyrotechnics start right off. The guitars keep it on the greasy side and unfortunately some of the lyrics get lost in the shuffle. However, the music keeps you interested in seeing where the song goes. I love the B3 playing against the guitar. About halfway through the song, May’s guitar work takes on a Progressive sound and the fretboard gets a real workout.
Two of my favorite things in the world are barbecue and blues music. With a title like Barbecue And Blues, I’m already halfway to loving it. May and Company do the rest. It’s a lively song and it evokes many great afternoons and evenings I’ve spent with friends eating fantastic barbecue cooked up by Pitmaster Buz and listening to great classic blues. This one’s not quite a classic, but it’s a lot of fun, and you better believe I’ll be playing it on Time For The Blues!
They follow up with a very cool slightly laid back song, Back. I love the structure of the song and the congas in the mix. This one has a real Latin expression in it and it shows that May can stretch his talent in other directions. The next song is the title track, Deep Dark Demon, and it features Zito on lead guitar. This is a great shouter in the Chicago style and Zito shows why he’s simply one of the best on a guitar. May reaches deep to pull out the vocals and delivers them in a wonderfully expressive manner.
They crank it up hard for Sweet Music. The guitars kick it into high gear, as does the B3 and it adds a little soul to the number. This is one I would really like to see done live as I know the band would have a great time extending it beyond the 6:01 it clocks in on the album. It’s designed for some great solos.
Next up is Rolling Me Down, and features some faux Caribbean rhythms with some gospel tinged vocals. It makes for a very interesting take. Going to have to listen to this one a few more times to figure out where it fits in with May’s style, but it’s fun.
They follow up with some more solid blues with My Last Ride. The guitar work is very good, and once again May infuses his vocals with deeper emotion. There are more congas in the background that gives the song more of a sense of urgency. This is one that grabbed me right away and will definitely end up on my driving around playlist.
May changes things up for the next track, For Your Love. This one is more rhythm and blues complete with a jazzy saxophone in the back. I like this one a lot and wouldn’t be surprised to see it get some crossover airplay. Give this one a shot late at night and see where things lead…
Drums, guitar, and B3 add to the soul of Walking Out That Door. This one kicks more than a little ass and the music drives while the lyrics are pure blues. There’s plenty of funk to get you up and on the dance floor and while it may not be for blues purists, this is one I can definitely get behind. The bass and cowbell get a nice workout.
May moves from funky to slow almost country sounds with Something Good. The song tones down the heavy music in favor of showcasing May’s vocals. It’s a nice touch and makes the song stand out on the album. There’s plenty of room for more experimentation.
The album closes out with the one collaboration between May and Lacy, Invisible Man. It’s another touch of funky blues and an interesting take on the tale of a man who desperately wants to be with the object of his desire but finds that she just looks right through him. It’s a sad story, but one a lot of us can relate to at one time or another.
Mark May displays his versatility on Deep Dark Demon and it’s impressive to see how he smoothly moves from style to style within 11 songs. He’s already proven that he’s a monster guitar player and now he’s going to spread his wings a little bit.
I hope to catch him somewhere on the road sometime in the future to see how he handles a live audience. If you’re interested in checking him out, might I suggest you start with hiswebsite here. 

Time For The Blues ~~ July 18, 2020

For all of you who have followed Time For The Blues at our different times – 1:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. – were able to find us at our NEW time at 9:00 p.m. If you missed us last week, we hope you will join us this week as we once again raid our piggy banks to bring you the best blues in our price range!
Seriously, VPM has given us this great opportunity to continue to unleash our brand of madness upon the world, and Henry Cook and I sincerely hope you will continue to give us the gift of your listenership as we spread the word of the blues around the world. So, this July 18th, please be sure to set your alarms to join us at 9:00 p.m.
What are we going to play? Well, I’m glad you asked, because we’ve got a fun show lined up for you. First off, we’ve got one of the hardest working blues bands out of the Midwest, The Jimmy’s! We were blown away from their live recording from Dracula’s Castle (not kidding here!) and this latest studio album, Gotta Have It just continued that tradition, minus the fangs of course.
We’ll start the show off with a track from that album, then add a couple of more plus a track from that live album just to remind you of how cool these guys are. Trust me, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. 
If that wasn’t enough, we’ve got a player so deep in tradition that you could say he was fried in Chicken Grease! See, that’s the name of Biscuit Miller’s new release and we’ve got three sides from it along with one from his previous album, Wishbone. Trust me, you are going to enjoy this guy a lot. 
If you’re still hungry for the blues, we’ve got more for you. How about the next heaping helping of the one and only Howlin’ Wolf? Henry and I have had a great time diving deep into Wolf’s library of classic blues and sharing some of his earlier work with you. This time we’ve tossed in one or two of his better known songs so you can see how everything fits in with how he was recording in the early 1950’s.
Even with all that, we’re still not through! How can they fit all of this goodness into one hour you ask? Simple, we add soundbites and bad jokes that make the hour seem longer so we can fit in songs from Beth Hart from her recent album War In My Mind, Brad Vickers And His Vestpolitans from Twice As Nice, and our pal Bob Margolin from This Guitar And Tonight.
Hopefully this will be enough to entice you to join us on the VPM-Music Network this
Saturday night at 9:00 p.m. either on the web here or on one of these great 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, 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.