Friday, May 31, 2019

Kelly’s Lot ~~ Can’t Take My Soul


Okay, I feel a little ashamed of admitting that I have not heard of a band that is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year by releasing their 15th album. Of course, the fact that there is an entire country between us should come into play, but I was stumped when I received a copy of Can’t Take My Soul by Los Angeles based Kelly’s Lot.

The Kelly in question is Kelly Zirbes, a singer songwriter who started out in the folk and independent scene and moved more towards her love of the blues. Zirbes has a great voice and is a very strong songwriter, co-writing all 12 of the albums song with guitarist Perry Robertson.

The other members of The Lot include Matt McFadden on bass and Mike Sauer on drums. They are joined by several quest artists scattered over the songs including: Michael Mason on drums; Bobby Orgel on keys; Rob Zucca on lead guitar; Frank Hinojosa on harp; Jean Paul Monshe on accordion; and Eddie Baytos on accordion and washboard.

Backing vocals are provided by Jeri Goldenhar, Andrew Mushin, Jenna Mushin, and Aviva Maloney. Jean-François Thomas provides specialized vocals for one song.

The album starts off with a rousing number, All I Ever Want Is The Blues, that should be on every blues lovers’ playlist. We’ve already played this one on Time For The Blues, and you can bet you’ll be hearing it again sometime soon. It’s lively with a strong shuffle beat and Zirbes unleashes a sexy growl to deliver the lyrics.

They slow things down for the follow up song, All Hope Ain’t Lost. It’s a universal song about the things humanity faces on a daily basis. I love the subtle keys and Robertson’s guitar work. One thing the band quickly establishes is that they are not just going to perform traditional blues, they are going to add some funky rhythms and blend elements in from other genres to make their own sound.

The next track, Alyssa, starts off low and smoky. Zirbes does a good job with the ballad, and gives the lyrics a punch. Backing vocals are good with this one. Wasn’t as crazy about the song when I first heard it, but the lyrics, delivery, and guitar have grown considerably on me. 

Got to love that Zydeco sound and once you hear that accordion and washboard on Woe Is Me, you know you’re in a different territory. Good dancing number, good drinking number, just plain good. Might not be everyone’s cup of jambalaya, but it sure works for me.   

Safe And Warm is a tender ballad that would easily be at home in any roadhouse or honkytonk to give the patrons a chance to hold their partner tight and swirl around the dance floor, or just stare into each other’s eyes. A very different sound from what they’ve been playing.

Jean-François Thomas adds his distinctive vocals to Rise Up (Lève-Toi), singing his part in French. I’ve always had a soft spot for French lyrics and actually have a pretty fair collection of French pop that I listen to when I have some time late at night. I really like this song a lot – the vocal arrangement is tight and the lead guitar from Rob Zucca is sweet.

Nice harp work from Frank Hinojosa opens the next song, Broke Myself. Zirbes gets down and gritty with her vocals and this song drives. She screams and Hinojosa’s harp answers. It’s a nice juxtaposition. She then slows things down for Let It Breathe, a breathy number that reminds me of Dylan’s work on Nashville Skyline. This would make a hell of a country song and Zirbes really stretches her vocals.

Zirbes starts the song Dirt a cappella and the bass and drum come in slowly. The song blurs the lines between blues and country but Zirbes seems comfortable in both genres. The next number, Little Bit Of This, is another gentle ballad that blurs lines between country and pop. It’s a sweet song.

Next up is the title track, Can’t Take My Soul which also starts a cappella. She then turns it into a not so subtle growl and gets down and dirty. This one will probably end up getting the second most airplay (behind All I Ever Want Is The Blues).

The accordion is back for Mon Ami, and Zirbes shows off her bilingual skills singing in both French and English. It’s a surprise ending to an intriguing album. And for me, at least, a sweet croissant to bring the curtain down.

Kelly’s Lot is a fascinating group; they can appear as a duo, trio, or full band with ease. I don’t hit the West Coast very often, but I’m going to charge some friends of mine who live there to go check out the band and report back about their live shows.

Be sure to check out their website and find out the whens and wheres for their playdates. If you live in France, they’re coming your way this summer! Wish I could join them.


Previous Albums
1998   Test Drive   
2000   Stop                      
2003   Trio                       
2003   Come to This                   
2006   The Music of Kelly's Lot                        
2008   The Light                          
????   Plain Simple Me
????   Live in Brussels                           
????   Bitter Sweet


Thursday, May 30, 2019

Lazer Lloyd Focused On Great Show at Buz & Ned’s



International bluesman Lazer Lloyd may have looked relaxed for his appearance last night at Buz & Ned’s Real Barbecue last night, but he was sharp and polished and delivered a great performance. Before his roughly two-hour set even started, both he and his manager walked the crowd introducing themselves and shaking hands with each audience member, several of whom who traveled from other cities just to see him again.
Lloyd took the stage wearing a pair of well worn slacks, a relaxed shirt, sandals, and his customary traveling hat and 12-inch beard. Picture a wandering bard from days of old who slightly resemble a younger Walt Whitman and you get the idea.
Standing alone behind the microphone, Lloyd was armed only with his guitars, effects pedals, a sparsely used harmonica, and his enormous charm. And charm he did. With his warm voice, he interspersed occasional stories in between songs as he fiddled with the tuning pegs on his guitar.
He started the show with a rich number appropriately titled Out Here Singing The Blues. It was a lovely way to welcome the audience in to his world and it signaled that this would be a relaxed evening to sit and listen to a master entertainer. After that, he slipped on a harp rack – not an easy task to put one over his prodigious beard – and talked about driving up from his previous stop in Lynchburg wondering if tornadoes were chasing him or he was changing them. That led in to a funky acoustic intro to Lost In The Highway, the title track from his 2013 release.
Next up, he made good use of his effects pedals to loop his rhythm line and play lead over it to make it sound like he was an entire band. He played a sweet number, Hey Hey, before moving on to a brand new song, See You Smile. Smile has been recorded for his next album that should be released soon.
After that, Lloyd teased the audience with his statement that, “the best blues are Jamaican blues,” and then performed a great version of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song. While it may seem like a strange song for a bluesman to perform, reggae, like blues and to an extent, early country are all styles created by oppressed peoples and as such reflect trying to heal from pain and suffering. And he did a fine job with the song.
Next were a couple of covers, Before You Accuse Me and R.L. Burnside’s Shake ‘Em On Down, before playing another new song, Miracle. I’m not sure if Miracle will be on the next release, but I do hope it will be released soon. We could all use a miracle these days…
From there, Lloyd got rocking with Full Tank, and countrified with World Falling. The crowd was very enthusiastic for both and then he talked a little bit about the fact that as a traveler, he got to stop in just about every town along the way and hear what concerns real people. That led into Back Streets, a search for the real America. After that, he stepped a little out of his comfort zone to try his hand and some bluegrass. (“I play the blues and smoke a lot of grass, just decided to put ‘em together…) The song, One More Reason, has some beautiful lyrics and Lloyd played some great guitar. Just add a mandolin or banjo along with some dogbone bass and you’ve got some serious crossover.
Asking the audience for tips on how to simplify his life, Lloyd used the opportunity to play Simple Life. With a couple of members of the audience yelling for some electric guitar, he obliged by picking up his Cigar Box guitar and played a slow moving song called Winston-Salem Blues. He ended up the set with an extended instrumental jam that mixed picking with some stellar slide work.
As an encore, he played a Willie Nelson-esque Lord Knows I’ve Been Tried. I’m going to have to hunt that one down and add it to my playlist. Finally, he ended with a magical rendition of All Along The Watchtower. I do not use that description lightly; Lloyd captured nuances in the song like no other performer that I’ve heard. No slight against the late great Jimi Hendrix nor Noble Prize winner Bob Dylan, but watching Lloyd take on this classic song gave me a deep respect for the work he’s doing and the way he’s performing.
Michi - Remember the name
Opening for Lloyd was a new performer in the area who goes by the name of Michi. She was working the door for the restaurant and mentioned she had her guitar with her for another gig. So, Buz put her up on stage and without blinking an eye she charmed the crowd.
Unfortunately, I was only able to hear three songs – covers of Come To My Window and Sweet Home Alabama, and one original Turn It Off. She may be new to me, but she’s not new to performing. Michi worked the crowd very well, and her original song is as strong as any I heard that night. Keep her on your radar as she is a delightful singer/songwriter who has enormous potential for now and in the future.
There you have it, an incredible night of live performances in an intimate setting. In the back room of Buz & Ned’s there are no bad seats, especially when you have a plate full of barbecue, ribs, or in my case, brisket in front of you. He’s attracted some big names in the past but Buz is always after quality, and last night he truly delivered.


Two of the biggest beards in the bizness!



Time For The Blues ~~ June 1, 2019


Henry Cook and I hope you will join us this Saturday night, June 1st, at 10:00 as we bring you another death defying journey into the world of great music and really bad jokes. We’re walking a tightrope this evening without a net or common sense as we try to entertain you with some red hot blues!

We are full on into summer now and Richmond has the heat and humidity to prove it. This is the time of year I try to hibernate in my air conditioned office and meat locker. It’s strange that for nine months out of the year, no one comes near my office. Yes, I keep the thermostat very low, like see your breath fog up low. But three months out of the year, just about everyone drops by to cool off and shoot the breeze.

Makes it hard to get my work done.

Fortunately, nobody seems to know what I actually do around here, so I can get away with a reduced schedule. Instead however, I seem to be trying extra hard to catch up with what we’ve gotten in and want to share with you,

First up is our old pal Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin and his latest album. Apparently Bob was stuck as to what to call the album, so he just called it Bob Margolin. Bob is having an amazing career that features several years of being Muddy Waters’ guitarist, being a blues journalist, heading up the guitar program at the Pinetop Perkins Master Camp, and outstanding solo artist.

His latest album is on VizzTone, and he’s out on the road supporting it and doing a number of gigs with friends. I understand he’s heading to Richmond in late July and we’re working on setting up an interview with him for a future show. If you ever get a chance to catch him live, the music is amazing and the stories are truly one of a kind. Don’t miss him!

We’ve got three sides from the new album and just for fun we’ve got one from his previous release, My Road.

Another one of our favorites is Vin Mott, out of the great state of New Jersey. I can think of a couple of other great musicians who have called The Garden State home, and while Vin may not have achieved that household name status, around here we eagerly await his album releases.

The newest album, Rogue Hunter, is a lot of fun and he’s got some great high energy tracks just waiting to bust onto the airwaves. We’ve got three for you including one with one of the most unusual titles we’ve ever played. Want to find out what that is? Be sure to tune in Saturday night.

You know we’ve got more for you. In our new release set, we’ve got cuts from Kenny Parker, Cara Being Blue, and Tony Holiday teaming up with James Harman from Holiday’s Porch Sessions.

There’s still more for you, we’re going that extra mile and a half on this show, bringing you some great music from Jeremiah Johnson, Deb Rhymer, and the latest from Damon Fowler on Tab Benoit’s new label.

***PLAN YOUR CALENDAR NOW***

Great events coming up that you don’t want to miss include the River City Blues Society’s Blues Challenge June 16 at Richmond’s Capital Ale House from 1-6. This is where the RCBS will choose who will represent us at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis next January. Usually they choose for two categories: solo/duo competition and band/group. It’s always a great time and I know I’ll be there doing something. We’ve discovered a lot of talent that we otherwise wouldn’t know and look forward to doing the same this year. Details here. And this is just in, I will once again be honored to be the emcee for the event.

Another awesome event is the Central Virginia Blues Society Blues Festival in Afton, Virginia on Saturday June 22nd. That will go from 3:00 – 10:00 p.m. rain or shine and will feature a great line up including Eli Cook, The Jon Spear Band, Mike Goudreau, The Billy Price Charm City Band, and The Nighthawks. Ticket prices are $15 for members of the CVBS and The River City Blues Society. That’s right, in a show of solidarity, the board of CVBS is inviting members of the RCBS to come party with their family in a gorgeous setting at the Rockfish Valley Community Center. Details here

If you’re a regular listener, we know you’re going to do whatever you need to do to join us at 10:00. If you’re new to Time For The Blues, drop by and find out what everybody is talking about.

We’ve got everything all laid out and ready to go, all we need is you and a few hundred of your closest friends. You know how to find us, point yourbrowser here, or join us on one of the Idea Stations: 89.1 WCVN, Northern Neck; 90.1 WMVE, Chase City; and the flagships, 93.1 and 107.3 WCVE-Music, Richmond, where it’s always Time For The Blues!

 





         
                                                                                                             


                   


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Mighty Mike Schermer ~~ Bad Tattoo

I first met Mighty Mike Schermer a few years ago when I was lucky enough to catch a live Marcia Ball concert in an intimate venue. Schermer was – and still is, I believe – playing lead and rhythm for Ball. Prior to his long standing gig with her, Schermer shared the stand with the likes of Elvin Bishop, Maria Muldaur, Angela Strehli, Bonnie Raitt, Howard Tate, Charlie Musselwhite, Sista Monica, Shana Morrison and many, many more.
You know, a bunch of wannabe players…
Anyway, Schermer impressed the hell out of me that night, and after talking with him after the show, we started a friendship that has continued to this day. I’ve got him on tour with Ball a couple of times since that initial meeting and I’ve gotten copies of his last couple of albums (plus some previous ones) and look forward to seeing what direction his music takes.
His latest, Bad Tattoo, is available through VizzTone, and has gotten good reviews and some consistent airplay on Sirius XM’s Bluesville. Schermer wrote or co-wrote all 12 of the songs the album and he’s backed by a number of top musicians including guest turns by Nancy Wright on sax; Kid Andersen on bass, organ, and backing vocals; Billy Price on backing vocals; Chris Cain on guitar and electric piano; Bob Welsh on piano; and Aki Kumar and Rick Estrin on harmonica.
The album starts off in high gear with She Won’t Be Coming Back. One of the most frequent themes of the blues, “I love her but she’s gone,” and Schermer gives it a nice spin. There’s a bouncy rhythm and the use of a baritone sax alongside a tenor sax gives this song a solid backbone and Schermer’s guitar gives it a great groove.
On the next song, Schermer teams up with Dennis Dove on congas and vocals. Lover’s Hall Of Fame stays funky and may not get much airplay on strict blues shows. Schermer’s voice is good and his guitar work is steady. Cool song and I always like to hear artists try different directions.
He follows up with a swinging number, How Much Longer, which blends the blues with a Zydeco tune. Austin Delone takes on the keys and farfissa to great effect. This one’ll make you want to get up and dance a hole in the floor!
Billy Price adds his great voice to the next track, I Can’t Let It Go. He brings the tempo down and the song develops a noir feel. Jim Pugh plays a great sustaining organ that helps create the canvas for Schermer’s guitar.
The title track, Bad Tattoo, follows. It swings and the lyrics are clever and I can’t wait to see him do this one live. I have a feeling it’s a real crowd pleaser. I also love the great sax work provided by Eric Bernhardt and Nancy Wright. Great tune, probably going to play this one soon.
Schermer slows the tempo down for Ain’t That The Way Love Goes. It’s a heartfelt ballad that straddles the blurry line between blues and R&B. It’s a sweet song. One Thing Every Day follows and it follows a similar style of the previous song. The two blend well together and give the album a different dimension. I want to mention the female backing vocalist, L’il Baby (aka Lisa Lueschmer Andersen) whose sweet tones add a lot to every song on which she sings.
The next song is about as country as a jar of moonshine on a summer night. Hey Francine is a lot of fun and while I enjoy it immensely, it’s a little further away from the world of the blues than I would normally go. Schermer gets back to the blues with Baby Down The Well. The all star line up that includes Andersen on bass, Welsh on piano, and Kumar on harp is as strong as it gets and the lyrics are cynical and dark, just the way I like ‘em…
Chris Cain adds his distinctive guitar to Suffocating Love. It’s a jazzy number that would have been a perfect addition to the soul stations I used to listen to back in the ‘70’s. Paul Revelli’s drums and percussion have their turn in the spotlight and sets up a great guitar break.
Rick Estrin brings along his massive harmonica talents for Stop Looking For Love. It’s a song that finds that intersection between country and blues. As Schermer lives in Austin, a great area for the crosspollination of musical styles, it’s not out of the question for him to find influences in different places.
The album comes to a close with Up All Night, it’s a swinging tune and a great return to the blues. Yeah, he’s got a cool shuffle going on, and there’s a few country licks to boot. Just enjoy it, music genres cross over and if you like the song, just enjoy it and try to worry about labels.
Mighty Mike Schermer is having a great time making music with his friends and traveling around the world while doing so. His albums are good and he’s a terrific songwriter already and getting stronger. His guitar work is impeccable and he’s capable of delivering just about any kind of music an audience wants to hear.
Bad Tattoo is fun and will be a welcome addition to just about any library. Pick it up and see where Schermer’s going to be playing by checking out his website here

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Harpdog Brown ~~ For Love & Money

First things first, the Canadian artist known as Harpdog Brown’s real name is…Harpdog Brown. No, it wasn’t the name he was given by his adoptive family, but it is now his legal name, and believe me, it’s fitting. I was not familiar with his work until I received a copy of his previous album, and frankly it knocked my socks off.
I must confess, since I have made contact with a couple of top notch Canadian publicists, I have been blessed with all sorts of talent from north of the border. Canada is about as far away from a Mississippi farm as you can get, but as we know, blues is universal. We all have hard times and this music is what makes some of those times tolerable. And now that these great artists are getting expanded representation in the USA, their work should be more accessible.
Brown is a workhorse of an entertainer, high energy, damn good harp player and the kind of person who will pull out all the stops to make sure everybody has a great time. If he works this hard on an album, I can only imagine what he does for a live show. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to see him if and when he travels outside of his native land to charm us in festivals and clubs in the States.
The new album, For Love & Money, is a fun one and I’ve already plotted several of his songs for Time For The Blues. Take a chance and you’ll discover a new favorite.
If you like your blues swinging, you’re going to love No Eyes For Me. Great keyboards and a wild horn section puts you right smack in the middle of some great Chicago style blues with more than a dash of West Coast Bravado. This is a great opening tune and will get you moving and whet your appetite for what comes next!
Next up is a New Orleans influenced Blue Light Boogie. Think Dr. John attitude with clarinet for good measure. The first couple of songs out of the shoot should give you an idea of the level of musicianship you’re about to experience.
Memphis Slim’s The Comeback follows. It’s a solid interpretation with the horn section punctuating the lines with verve. Brown’s growling vocals gives this song a darker feel to it, and his shouts remind me of some of the better howlers of the ‘40’s and ‘50’s. Good song.
A Brown original, Reefer Lovin’ Woman, is next and I’ll give you three guesses to what he is referring. Remember cannabis is legal in Canada, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise. I know this is one of the songs I’ve programmed for the show, so enjoy it and turn that volume up just a smidge. Listen for that great roadhouse interplay between the piano and horn section. Love this song!
While I loved the raucous nature of the previous song, the follow up, A New Day Is Dawning, was a little heavy handed for my taste. It might have been better received if it had been placed in a different spot. It’s well played, but it just didn’t affect me like the other tracks had.
The next song, Vicious Vodka, restored my mood quickly. It still has that New Orleans flavor and the lyrics are clever and the beat is infectious. Love the piano work and Brown’s vocals are perfectly suited to them. This has got to be a great number when done live. If I would compare this to anything, it would be to Oscar Brown Jr with the bright music and the slightly dark lyrics. Good work.
Some cool clarinet leads us in to I’ll Make It Up To You. How many of us far too often plead this to our significant others? Especially when we make a lot of our living on the road. We always seem to miss the important stuff and think we’ll be able to make it up later.
One Step Forward kind of sums up my current philosophy, “One step forward, three steps back.” It’s a fun song that many of us can relate to and the horn section adds a great deal to the song. Great pairing with the previous track. Next up is another Brown original, Stiff. Brown is really working the New Orleans sound to great effect. This is a great double entendre number that I would love to see performed live.
The title track, For Love And Money, follows and it’s a fun bar song. I keep bringing up how good the piano player is, and I should tell you that his name is Dave Webb. Put it in your mental file, and I would love to hear his sound on even more records.
Wynonie Harris’ Buzzard Luck is next and Brown and company do a great job with the song. For whatever reason, I don’t seem to hear as many of Harris’ songs being recorded, and that’s a shame. I always enjoyed them, and this one is no exception. Give it a listen and crack a smile.
Next up is a song titled Thinkin’ And Drinkin’, which has also summed up my philosophy in the past. Written O.O. Merritt, who wrote a number of songs for Amos Milburn, this is one you should sit and think about. Preferably while drinking something.
The album winds down with Sasha’s Lullaby, and with Webb’s gentle piano cascading the intro, it sounds like a lullaby delivered by Tom Waits. Of course, Brown’s growl has a great deal of charm and the orchestration on the number gives it a late night bandstand feel. Great way to end this fun album.
If any of this intrigues you, please follow up by giving Harpdog Brown a listen. I can’t recommend him highly enough, and For Love & Money is a great place to start your collection. I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll want even more.

Find out more and find out where he’s going to be by checking out his website

Monday, May 27, 2019

The Cash Box Kings ~~ Hail To The Kings

Without a doubt, I can tell you that The Cash Box Kings is one of the best bands working and recording today. I can even amend that to say that they would be one of the best bands of any previous era. There work can stand with the best Chicago Blues Bands of the last 60 years, and I suspect, for the next 60 as well.
With every new album I receive, and every older one that I track down and buy, I relish the opportunity to drop them into my player and have great anticipation for those first few thrilling notes. When their latest Alligator album, Hail To The Kings! arrived in my station mailbox, I couldn’t wait to give it a listen.
I was not disappointed.
The 13 songs are all solid numbers, some of which have already appeared on Time For The Blues, and others certainly will. The heart and soul of the band continues to be harpist Joe Nosek and vocalist Oscar Wilson, and they have surrounded themselves with guitar wizard Billy Flynn, bass player John W. Lauler, and drummer Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith.
Smith, the son of blues great Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, has also released a good solo album this year. More on that on a future post.
The album kicks off with the intriguingly titled, Ain’t No Fun (When The Rabbit Got The Gun). Flynn’s guitar makes it sound like classic Chuck Berry before the swinging starts and Wilson’s vocals take over the song. Love it, it’s got a great beat and if it doesn’t get you moving, better check your pulse, because something’s wrong!
Guest co-vocalist Shemekia Copeland steps out to the mic and belts out The Wine Talkin’. The tempo is a cool shuffle and Nosek’s harp honks and dips like a hot sax. Great song, and a lot of fun.
Since they already paid homage to Chuck Berry, the opening of Take Anything I Can actually has a Beatlesque sound. But once Wilson starts singing, his distinctive voice takes over everything. It’s a good number and is another one that’s going to get people off their butts and on the floor.
The first slow blues tune is next. Smoked Jowl Blues is straight up blues, a nod to the early Chess days and the Cash Box Kings play this kind of blues as well as anyone working today. Definitely recommended.
The Kings follow up with Back Off, a rousing number written by Nosek alone. He often collaborates with Wilson, but writes a few on his own. It’s also one of three songs where Nosek takes over the vocals. Good shuffle and one that’s been played on Time For The Blues and ought to get a lot of air play around the world.
Jimmy Reed’s I’m The Man Down There is next. It’s a solid interpretation and a good one for the purists who want their blues to fit into a certain box. It’s not a slavish reproduction, but it sure sounds good! They follow up with Poison In My Whiskey, a song that sounds like it would be at home in any era of the blues. It could be a front porch Delta number, or electrified by Muddy, or even vamped up with a horn section. Great tune, I love it.
Nosek adds vocals to the next track, the humorous Joe, You Ain’t From Chicago. Don’t try to fool the natives, it’s not going to work. Learned that one the hard way. In the meantime, take this one to heart. Oh, guys, make that check out to Bo Diddley for the backbeat!
A little slice of real life is next with Bluesman Next Door. It’s part history lesson, part memory lesson, part look at current attitudes filtered by personal expectations. Good follow up to the previous song as it serves to remind us – all of us – to stop being afraid of each other and to just relax and sing some blues. Please…
Nosek takes over some vocals on another song he wrote solo, Hunchin’ On My Baby. I must confess I’ve never heard the word “hunch” used as anything but a description of possible insight to a situation, but hey, I was kind of sheltered out in the country. I have a good idea how Nosek is using it – he’s using it in a cool song!
A story about a bad Chicago cop, Jon Burge Blues, is a scary lesson of the city back in the day. Was it Cedric Burnside who said, “In the blues, you can sing about the most awful things as long as you give them something to dance to”? The quote may be misattributed, but the sentiment is there – and this song is a great example.
Another cover, Sugar Daddy by Mercy Dee Walton is next. It’s a smoking slow blues tune with some great piano work by Queen Lee Kanehira. This has got to be a great hit when they play it live – actually, that can be said about every one of the songs on the album. Damn, these guys are good!
The finish up the album with one last Nosek & Wilson collaboration, The Wrong Number. It’s a great way to go out, with a lighthearted swinging number about a really bad experience. Will the men ever learn? Somehow I doubt it, but we can all get a laugh at this man’s predicament.
All in all, Hail To The Kings! is a strong album that will be a great addition to any library. The Cash Box Kings are a strong band and their albums just keep getting better and better. I’m glad that Alligator is getting more of their work out in the marketplace. If you like a good time, and somehow I don’t imagine too many people turning down a good time, get yourself a dose of The Cash Box Kings!

Be sure to check out their website here

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Texas Horns ~~ Get Here Quick


I make no apologies for my love of Chicago style jump or swing blues. I love that fat horn sound layered on top of high energy guitars, pianos, drums, and harp. I love when vocals rise up with lightning like precision to sweep across a room (or through a set of headphones) unleashing electricity like few other sounds.
One of the first shows that Henry Cook and I put together when we started Time For The Blues, was a tribute show to The Memphis Horns, Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love. The trumpet and saxophone playing duo have played on so many hit songs they’ve lost count. Originally Jackson and Love were playing for STAX but moved out as horns for hire later.
When I received a copy of a new album from The Texas Horns titled Get Here Quick, I was excited, and when I saw that one of the members of the group was Mark “Kaz” Kazanoff, I couldn’t wait to open it and put it in my CD player and turned the volume up just a little higher.
Aside from Kazanoff on tenor sax, the other two members of The Texas Horns are John Mills on baritone sax and Al Gomez on trumpet. The trio are also prolific songwriters, penning 10 out of the 12 songs, with the remaining two being written by Gary Nicholson. Some of the special guests include old friends for who the trio have backed before and include Nicholson, Anson Funderburgh, Ronnie Earl, John Németh, Curtis Salgado, and Jon Del Toro Richardson.
The start the album off with Guitar Town, which ultimately became my favorite song on the album. Written by Mills with vocals by Guy Forsyth and Carolyn Wonderland, it tells the story of looking for that great sax sound in “this guitar town.” We’ve already played this one on Time For The Blues, but don’t be surprised when we play it again.
They follow up with a song from Kazanoff, I’m Doin’ Alright, At Least For Tonight, and the title alone should give you an idea as to how the song goes. Wonderland does a great job on the vocals and plays a mean lead guitar. She is definitely a talent that needs to be on our radars.
The first of five instrumentals, Feelin’ No Pain, is next. I must confess that while I generally like instrumentals, I don’t play very many on the show. It’s not deliberate, I just seem to give preference to songs with vocals. Maybe I can change that with a song or two from this album.
Gary Nicholson’s Fix Your Face follows and teams Nicholson up with Ronnie Earl for a one-two guitar punch. Immediately afterward is the title track, Better Get Here Quick, the second instrumental.         
Németh steps behind the mic for Love Is Gone. Németh is one of those performers whose approach is perfectly suited to a large band with a top horn section. He really does a great job with this one, and the more I hear from him, the more he impresses.  
The third instrumental, and the only song written by Gomez is 2018. From here to the end of the album, they will mostly alternate instrumentals with vocals. I love the way this trio infuses their songs with jazz sensibilities.
Next up is another vocalist whose approach is perfect for The Texas Horns, Curtis Salgado, who sings Sundown Talkin’. Salgado, as has been widely reported was the basis for John Belushi’s character Jake Blues. The two met when Belushi was filming Animal House, and the characterization brought many new fans to the blues.
The instrumental, Funky Ape, follows with Kazanoff trading his sax for a keyboard synthesizer. Then the second Nicholson composition, Soulshine, in which Nicholson teams up with Anson Funderburgh.
The last song with vocals is You Can’t Be Serious, that features Jon Del Toro Richardson on lead guitar. They close the album with one last instrumental, Truckload Of Trouble that features Ronnie Earl.
Get Here Quick is a solid effort and mixes and matches the guest players very well. I’m impressed by the level of musicianship and hope that we’ll get a chance to see The Texas Horns in action at festivals soon. I’m not seeing a dedicated website for them, but you can find more information at Severn Records’

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Michele D’Amour And The Love Dealers ~~ Heart Of Memphis


This is the third album I’ve received from Michele D’Amour And The Love Dealers and they continue to grow and impress me with their work. D’Amour’s vocals have always been strong, and while her songwriting was good in the previous works, I feel she has stepped up her game considerably on this disc, writing or co-writing seven out of the eight tracks.
Yes, Heart Of Memphis is only eight tracks long and comes in at about 34 minutes from start to finish, but the work is quality all the way. The title track comes from their latest visit to Memphis and finding themselves energized by just being in the city. There’s a reason that Memphis is in the title of more songs than any other city, and the song will give you several reasons as to why.
The album starts out with the slow sultry Another Sleepless Night and D’Amour is at her smoky best. I’ve always enjoyed her work, and this one sets a great mood. There’s a great guitar break and D’Amour wrings just about every emotion from her lyrics. I’m not sure about the spoken word section, but can overlook it for the rest of the song.
She keeps it slow and smoky for Dirty Pool. It’s the story of that man who says, “Trust me baby,” and then proceeds to demonstrate that he’s not worthy of your time or attention. The first couple of songs establish D’Amour’s nuanced voice and you can feel her aloneness standing behind the microphone.
Following that song with Come On Over, D’Amour and the Love Dealers stay mellow. It’s a song of longing, pleading, for her lover to join her. She beckons with her voice and I doubt many would be able to resist her siren song. I love the trumpet and think this would appeal not only to blues fans, but jazz fans as well. It reminds me of some of my favorite soul numbers from back in the day.
D’Amour adds some oomph to Cradle To The Hearse. The guitar is distorted, but the horns add a brightness to the song. The juxtaposition is nice and gives the song a layered feel. I have a feeling that this is well received when performed live, I can hear several places where longer breaks would fit and work the audience into a frenzy.
They crank up the tempo on No Time, and D’Amour delivers an almost breathless vocal. I love this one and you can feel the band coming together to perform their fastest song yet. The sax adds a nice touch and elevates the song nicely. Yeah, you’ll be hearing this one – and a few others – on Time For The Blues. Careful woman, you may be too fast…
They follow with the title track Heart Of Memphis, a love song to one of the holiest of cities if you worship in the church of the blues. It captures the spirit of many artists and makes my poor soul feel at home. I love this song and will definitely be playing it on the show. Every blues lover should make their pilgrimage to this great city, especially during the International Blues Challenge or the Blues Music Awards. See you there next year!
The only song D’Amour didn’t write or co-write, King Curtis’ Memphis Soul Stew may be the perfect song to follow that title track. D’Amour and the Love Dealers get funky with this classic. I can’t imagine anyone sitting still while the band plays this infectious number. D’Amour handles the intro then turns everyone lose and they cook up a fabulous musical mélange! Very well done…
D’Amour ends the album with the powerful ballad Strange Angels. Her voice is still in fine form and the backing vocals take on the role of her choir complete with church style piano accompaniment. It’s a nice way to end the album and a great addition to the collection.
Michele D’Amour is a good songwriter, her lyrics are often poetic and always engaging, but it’s her voice that truly shines. She’s got a good range and can vary her delivery from down and dirty growl to gospel fervor believer to soft come hither purr. I’ve never seen her perform live, but listening to all three of her albums has given me an appreciation for her work.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Gary Clark Jr ~~ This Land


One of the best guitarists around, Gary Clark Jr is an artist that can’t be pigeonholed. He burst on the scene years ago with a fresh approach to the blues and he’s now crossed over into more mainstream coverage and has invigorated a number of converts to his mix of rock, blues, and psychedelia.
His latest album, This Land, gives you a warning from the moment you pick it up. A shadowy representation of a man with a guitar stands dead center against a mostly white background. Is the man Clark? Could it be a nod to all of the black pioneers who created this sound against all odds? Inside, there are stark black and white photos mixed in with collaged art pieces suggesting that Clark’s music will run the gamut from solo-style work, to tracks that have come together through intense collaboration.
Electronic beeps intro the postmodern funky, This Land. Derived from the Woody Guthrie classic, This Land Is Your Land, Clark updates the song to include the struggles that people still face today. There is language in this that seems perfectly at home in hip hop works, but may face some scrutiny by terrestrial radio stations. Powerful and electric, it’s not going to be for everyone, but there is no denying the emotion Clark puts into his vocals and guitar playing.
With barely a pause, Clark moves into What About Us. Again, he’s using some heavy rock distortion on the vocals, but there is no missing the attitude in his vocals and guitar playing. This is blues influenced by the energy of punk rock, and remember the blues were used as a way of dealing with oppressive regimes and so was punk. The difference is in the language; mostly blues was cloaked in a subversive language that only the initiated understood while punk just put everything out there.
Clark brings the tempo down for I Got My Eyes On You (Locked & Loaded). It starts off gently, a strong contrast to the previous two songs. He uses his upper register on his vocals for various phrases making him sound more vulnerable. It moves into a stronger beat and the guitars add layers to the song. It’s a surprising number and shows me that Clark can channel his anger and emotions into different directions.
He follows up with I Walk Alone continuing the slower tempo and upper register vocals of the previous song. It is rock edged and psychedelic. Clark is pushing every boundary he can find to create a sound that is uniquely his. I’ve mentioned before that not every blues fan is going to be drawn to his work, but I find it exciting and fresh.
More electronica opens Feelin’ Like A Million, and it actually seems to have a reggae flavor to it, which makes sense as reggae, like blues and punk, is music made for an oppressed society. It has a driving beat and should be a hit when performed live. Clark is playing bigger venues that most and getting exposure on national television, and this is the type of song that can grab a wider audience.
Talk about punk, Get Into Something could have very easily have been delivered by The Ruts, Black Flag, or any number of socially conscious acts. I really like this one a lot, but it strays pretty from the usual blues we play on the show. It will be on my personal playlist though, so if I’m giving you a ride somewhere, you can count on hearing it!
Clark takes a softer approach on the next track, Got To Get Up. When I saw a title like this, I immediately thought it might be some kind of homage to Bob Marley, but it’s a call to revolution. Sometimes things have to be torn down before they can be built back up. This is Clark calling for the tear down, now.
Feed The Babies deals with the harsh realities of life and the things we need to do in order to continue the human race. I like the jazz feel of the music, and while the roots may be in blues, it’s pushed into a different category by the time it’s finished. Very soulful.
The next song starts out with some gospel tinged organ before drums and guitars come in. Pearl Cadillac is an unusual song in its softness, but that softness quickly gives way to a sharper edge. The song is a coming of age and leaving home story, one that nearly everyone can relate to as they try to make their way in the world while still trying to pay back the people who believed in us during that crucial time.
Clark kicks it up a notch with the ballsy When I’m Gone. The filtered guitars lay down a strong steady beat and his vocals are confident and precise. This is one that just might have enough blues flavor to find some airplay on Time For The Blues. Good song!
Some sweet soul and R&B mark The Guitar Man as a great sweet song. Clark’s styles have a lot of variety and this one could have graced any soul radio station in the ‘70’s. I really like this one a lot – it’s gentle but persistent and emotional. Electronic blues takes over on Low Down Rolling Stone. This is one that rock blues fans are going to gravitate towards and feel satisfied. I can see this picking up more airplay on blues outlets than most of the previous songs, but with Clark, anything can happen!
Clark stays more in blues territory with The Governor. Musically, the song is stripped down to three elements: vocals, guitar, and drums. This one could be performed on the front porch or amped up for a large stadium. The subject matter is pure blues and it’s delivered by a seasoned professional.
The next number, Don’t Wait Til Tomorrow, starts out in the soul and R&B category even though the songwriting credits list Elmore James as a co-writer with Clark. It’s a good song, much like The Guitar Man. I like it a lot. In the blink of an eye however, Clark moves on to the incredibly bluesy Dirty Dishes Blues. Stripped down to vocals, guitar, and drums, Clark channels the voices of long lost generations to deliver this number. Love this one so much, and would love to hear him do more like this on upcoming albums.
There’s some electronics that take us out to Highway 71. Like jazz material that uses a similar technique, you experience the road in all of its glory. The only instrumental on the album, it gives Clark and his band the chance to demonstrate more of their versatility, and this is a great work song that will be playing on a loop when I write future posts…
Clark closes out the album with Did Dat. It’s a soulful number that serves as a good cap to an eclectic album that mixes styles and rhythms in unusual ways. Clark is an artist who is always exploring the limits of his music and finding ways to step past them. I love experimentation, and even when I may not be able to play every song on the show, I appreciate the fact that he’s stretching in new directions.
Come along for Clark’s journey by checking out his website here

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Time For The Blues ~~ May 25, 2019


Henry Cook and I certainly hope you will join us this Saturday night, May 25th, at 10 on WCVE-Music as we pull back the curtain on the latest episode of Time For The Blues. We’ve got great music, such music you won’t believe, and more bad jokes than any one listener should have to endure.

We’re getting closer to the start of summer which means more heat, more humidity, and both Henry and I watch our baseball teams start to fade. Oh sure, summer’s got a lot going for it: plenty of blockbuster movies for us to avoid (we tend to watch the movies that most people hate), several great concerts coming to town (Albert Castiglia at the Capital Ale House), the trio of A-listers Jonny Lang, JJ Grey & Mofro, and The Mississippi Allstars at Innsbrook, and if you want to join me in Afton, Virginia, I’ll be co-hosting the Central Virginia Blues Society Festival featuring The Nighthawks, Billy Price and the Charm City Band, The Jon Spear Band, Eli Cook and others. It’s a beautiful drive for a great time nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Trust me, those Central Virginia Blues folks put on a great show!

I mean check out the poster at the bottom of this post with all the details. And while you're at it, feel free to join their society as well as the River City Blues Society and the Natchel Blues Network. You can be a valuable asset to all of the Blues Societies in Virginia!

Staying with the idea of great music, Henry and I have some great music lined up for you this Saturday night. Who, you ask? This is where my grandmother would say, “Stop sounding like an owl, child. Now hush up I’m watching my stories…”

Sorry, obligatory side note there. But we do have some great music for you including Billy F. Gibbons from his latest album, The Big Bad Blues. You know Billy Gibbons from his time with ZZ Top, and I know him as my latest challenger for the “Biggest Beard In The Blues” contest.
Billy Gibbons & Guitar
Professor & Winged Friends
 We’ve got a handful of sides from the new album and one from his previous album, Perfectamundo. Gibbons has long been a proponent of mixing rock and blues to create an exciting sound. Listen closely to our opening theme music and see if you can pick out the ZZ Top riff. Henry and I have been on the air for almost 13 years and I’m still not sure of all of those clips!

We’ve also got tracks from the most recent album from our friend Benny Turner. Turner’s album, the aptly named Going Back Home, features the last recorded appearance of Cash McCall. You might not recognize his name, but McCall appeared on a lot of R&B and Gospel hits. He’s a great guitarist and when he teamed up with Turner, they released one of the best albums of the year.

But you know that’s not all we’ve got planned. (By the way, we tend to only plan the music, the rest is willy nilly which is why we fly of the rails so much.) We’ve got new releases from Big Al and the Heavyweights, the tandem of Bob Corritore and Alabama Mike, and because Henry asked if we had any more from the Atomic Road Kings, we’re dropping another side from them.

We’ve got some more great sides for you from some great albums that I’ve had a little trouble featuring in shows. We have received so many wonderful CDs that it’s difficult to listen to them all, evaluate them and find the best ones to mix together. I know, it’s a tough job, but we both love it and pledge to keep giving you the best music we can.

Jokes, on the other hand, will probably always be awful.

The other artists we’re featuring are Big Harp George, Vanja Sky, and Whitney Shay. All three are great and deserve their own feature, but there’s only so much time every week. Big news for Whitney Shay that we just learned, she has been signed by Ruf and I can’t wait to hear what she’s going to do next.  

Speaking of great shows coming to town, I would like to recommend that you check out Lazer Lloyd at Buz & Ned’s Real Barbecue on May 29. It was postponed from an earlier date and you can get advance tickets for $15 and day of the show for $20. Make it a night out, get dinner, drinks, and watch a great entertainer all at once. I’ll see you there! 

If you’re a regular listener, we know you’re going to do whatever you need to do to join us at 10:00. If you’re new to Time For The Blues, drop by and find out what everybody is talking about.

We’ve got everything all laid out and ready to go, all we need is you and a few hundred of your closest friends. You know how to find us, point your browser here,  or join us on one of the Idea Stations: 89.1 WCVN, Northern Neck; 90.1 WMVE, Chase City; and the flagships, 93.1 and 107.3 WCVE-Music, Richmond, where it’s always Time For The Blues!

The only thing it doesn't mention is the emcees!