Pete Anderson

Birds Above Guitarland

Little Dog Records LDCD201331

The former force behind Dwight Yoakum, for the past ten years Pete Anderson has been doing his own thing…and what a wondrous thing that is. A master of Americana, Anderson is one of the finest guitarists on the scene worldwide. Birds Above Guitarland, is slated for release on September 17th and is one of those pieces that you will not want to miss. A blend of musical styles that includes everything under the sun, this release focuses on his first musical love – the Blues. To call him a master on the guitar is almost a slap in the face. He has appeared on in excess of 100 recordings in his career, many of which have been major hits on someone’s scorecard. Pete Anderson is a multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning Producer and groundbreaking guitarist, who is considered among his peers as one of the best hands down. He has a way of knowing just what the situation calls for and playing just that. He could go head to head with any guitarist is the world, match them note for note when it comes to sheer speed and technical ability and leave then in the dust when it comes to reaching that tonal quality that is so crucial when it comes to music that will cut through all the bull, get straight to the heart of the matter and move his listeners from the heart. Pete’s music is right on the money from a technical standpoint and so emotionally charged even that the hardest heart will be touched. If you can listen to this and not feel moved it is too late to call the doctor. It should be noted that Pete Anderson either wrote or co-wrote every tune on this album. He is surrounded by some of the greatest musicians in the business and the results are obvious. Birds Above Guitarland is a work of art, a modern masterpiece. - Bill Wilson

J.T. Lauritsen & Friends

Playing By the Rules

Hunters Records HRC 0012013

The opening track, “Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday” by William Bell, was all it took to win me over. Lauritsen has what it takes to pull it off, and to do it justice. That, in my book, says it all. This cat has some chops. This disc is equally divided between original tunes and well-chosen covers and between Lauritsen and his regular touring band, the Buckshot Hunters; it is hard to tell which tunes are which. Then you have the addition of a number of special guests culled from among the best in the business. Lauritsen is hanging out with some good company. Among the list of “Friends” on the album are Anson Funderburgh, Victor Wainwright, Teresa James, Reba Russell, Larry McCray, Billy Gibson, Willie J. Campbell and more. This is some of the most soulful stuff I have heard in ages. The fine mixture of R&B and Blues is enough to bring smiles to the faces of the legends. There were quite a few things on the disc that took me by surprise simply by the fact that they were so absolutely beautiful. From the opening number by William Bell the surprises just kept coming. The very next track, one of the band’s originals titled “Next Time” was reminiscent of Professor Longhair. Track five, “Memphis Boogie” by Victor Wainwright was boogie-woogie piano that just would not quit…and, quite frankly, I didn’t want it to. In all honesty, I would be hard put to pick even a single tune that was not exceptional. The band’s rendition of Gillian Welch’s “Valley of Tears” was another personal favorite. “Eye Candy”, another of the band’s originals was reminiscent of very early Savoy Brown. In a word, WOW! This one comes highly recommended. It should be issued with a money back guarantee. – Bill Wilson


Jim Allchin

Q.E.D.

Sandy Key Music JA003

Over the years I have stated that blues has two major schools of thought or of playing…there is the technical school where music is played with technical perfection, the second school has more to do with emotional content, playing directly from the heart. Allchin is one of those performers who are equally adept at either style and his latest release proves that point extremely well. Citing Jimi Hendrix as an early and major influence he was also inspired by Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers and other southern rock bands who melded rock and blues. His influences may well be many but it is what he did with them that set him apart from the multitudes. He has spent years in the woodshed, honing his skills. The result is nothing short of amazing. He has undoubtedly secured a spot for himself among the world’s greatest guitarists. He burns up the fret board with lightning fast leads but can do equally well at heating up the night with passionate solos played straight from the heart and with such a burning emotional power that they leave the listener changed long-term. This is a tight band that knows what it means to play as a single unit. This is where we find true power. A band can only be as good as its weakest link and in this case trying to find a weakness would be a real waste of time and energy, so just kick back, relax and enjoy contemporary blues at its finest. This is music that has a timeless quality. It will remain strong over the years. During my years in an independent record store, I realized that there were some albums that never got old. Jim Allchin reached deep into wells of personal experience and used those experiences to help create an object of incredible beauty. Q.E.D. is superb on so many levels. Many artists master one or two of those levels but Allchin is a phenomenal guitarist, singer, songwriter band leader, overall performer and more. To find an artist who excels in so many areas is rare indeed. I had listened to the album three times from start to finish before I realize that it had repeated. My only question is “What’s next?” This is an inspirational album. You will be inspired to either hit the woodshed yourself to hone your own skills or to throw your gear from the nearest bridge. I highly recommend the first alternative and am certain that Jim would suggest the same. Here are those who would say the man is gifted but it should be pointed out that a gift without the working out of the details is simply a gift. There are many gifted artists in the world but there are a very few who reach this level. – Bill Wilson


Little G. Weevil

Moving

VizzTone Label Group VTLG 01

Some might say that Little G Weevil is an enigma. With absolutely no formal training either on guitar or vocal he is one of the hottest rising stars in the blues world today. To be honest, Little G Weevil is no different than so many of the early bluesmen who had little more than a deep love for the music that burned in their souls and had to be expressed. I guess that means that Little G Weevil is the real deal in the highest order and in good company. Now, on to important matters… Growing up on the outskirts of Budapest, Hungary, G fell in love with blues from American blues albums, particularly John Lee Hooker, Albert Collins and more. He came to the States, living in Alabama before moving to Memphis where he washed dishes for a year and played in the streets developing his own unique style. Eventually he landed in Atlanta, Georgia where he lives to this day. Moving, his third album in the U.S. is a work of absolute beauty. Recorded in a small room with just a few musicians all playing acoustically, he managed to pull off a sound not unlike that of earlier blues musicians before recording techniques got so refined. With the exception of “Let’s Talk it Over”, a traditional tune which he arranged, Little G Weevil wrote all the album’s songs. Moving has an almost primitive quality about it but it also has a heartfelt honesty that sets it apart from the majority of other players on the contemporary blues scene. Powerful and dripping with passion, these tunes cut straight through to the hearts of the audience. This is blues through and through, no pretense, just blues, raw and unrefined straight from his heart to yours. It doesn’t get any better than this. – Bill Wilson


Jeff Jensen

Road Worn and Ragged

Swingsuit Records 3802

Jeff Jensen is not about playing the “look at me, I’m a bluesman” game, donning the ever popular black hat and jacket for that Jake & Elwood look. He may indeed dress that way from time to time but it has nothing to do with any sort of game. When it comes to the music, Jensen and all those associated with his band are all business. In the case of the “Road Worn & Ragged” Band, the core members are, of course Jensen on Guitar and vocals, Bill Ruffino on bass, James Cunningham ondrums and Chris Stephenson on organ. They are joined by special guests Victor Wainwright on piano and Brandon Santini on harmonica. Jeff and a friend founded the Santa Clarita Blues Society in 2003 and traveled to Memphis for the 2004 IBC. He came home fired up to the max and the Jeff Jensen Band was formed in May of 2004. The band’s “self-titled” was released in 2007. Their debut release was met with great reviews by some great sources. It hit both the Living Blues and the Roots Music charts that year. The band’s second album, I’m Coming Home was released in 2009, hitting the Roots Music charts that same year. Jensen has since moved to Memphis and tours almost non-stop. Road Worn and Ragged is a solid blues album, about equally divided between covers and originals. The musicianship is flawless and the delivery is powerful and extremely passionate, making for an album that cuts straight through to the heart. When it comes to his music, Jensen is 100% serious. The band is solid as bands get. It is obvious that this is not just something they do for kicks on the weekend. The addition of Santini on harp and Victor Wainwright on piano is a nice touch, adding that little extra touch from time to time. When it comes to my favorite tune I lean strongly toward the original tunes. While “Little Red Rooster” and “Crosseyed Cat” are all-time favorites I found myself going back time after time to “River Runs Dry,” a passionate Jensen original. This one is solid, well-orchestrated, played to perfection and delivered straight from the heart. I think this one is a winner. – Bill Wilson


Grand Marquis

Blues & Trouble

Grand Marquis GMCD008

When this album hit my desk I was, to say the least, intrigued. The cover had a vintage look. The liner notes caught my eye as well and all of this took place before putting it on the player. Blues and Trouble has a sound that, quite frankly, could easily have been on 78s except for the lack of crackle and hiss found on the vintage discs. Prohibition era jazz and blues was how the liner notes described it and that was about as close to the facts as you’re going to get. Even though all but one of the albums tunes is an original, it has the sound and feel of something from a much earlier time. The musicianship, vocals and arrangements on this album have a timeless sound and feel that will be every bit as fresh twenty years down the road as they are today. The musicianship is flawless and totally in line with the music of the era. It is easy on the ear and equally as easy to dance to. Blues and Trouble is the work of musicians who not only love the music of that era but have spent time working on the music, not only getting down the style but nailing the spirit of the era as well. To say that the band loves the music of that time period would be an understatement. Grand Marquis does so much more than simply copy the style played in an early age…they capture the spirit of the era and play the music straight from their hearts, making their sound so much more powerful that those bands that emerged in the modern swing era a few years back. I began listening to blues and jazz about 50 years ago and this is as close to the original in sound, style and general feel as you will find anywhere. If your taste runs that direction, Grand Marquis’ Blues and Trouble should definitely be added to your collection. It doesn’t get any better than this without taking a trip through time and since that is not a practical solution, buying this album is the next best choice. – Bill Wilson


Gino Matteo

Sweet Revival

Rip Cat Records RIC 1111

Matteo is a diverse artist. The band is right on the money; technically about as good as it gets yet straight from the heart and overflowing with emotional power. Blend rock, blues, jazz and gospel, every one taking its place in turn and you have an album that is passionate and powerful beyond measure. The band is superb, experienced enough to know when to pull out all the stops and when to hold back. The result is reminiscent of early blues/rockers. From powerhouse numbers that are just about enough to blow the shoes off your feet are followed by sweet and sultry ballads. Any way you look at it there is room for everyone to take their shot at the dance floor. All of the disc’s nine tunes are Matteo’s originals, written from his own personal experience, which gives them power that they would not even approach if that were not the case. Tuned in to the state the world is in he plays material that we can all relate to on one level or another. Aside from a first-rate band, Matteo gets an assist from harmonica wizard Jason Ricci, adding the icing to what is already a sweet treat. Gino Matteo knows how to turn a phrase, giving his lyrics a unique freshness. That along with his powerful vocal delivery and the fact that he issinging what he knows gives him an edge over most performers in this business that is filled to overflowing with guys just trying to make a mark in an already overflowing industry. He is a man with something to say and he has the tools to get his message across not only with power but with finesse. I can’t say where he’s going from here but he is off to a strong start. This is not your average run of the mill blues/rock artist. Give his work a listen…there are samples galore out there for anyone who wants to check it out in advance. If you like what you hear, buy the album. It is as simple as that. – Bill Wilson


Candye Kane

Coming Out Swinging

VizzTone Label Group VTSC-001

Candye Kane is back, again with the assistance of Laura Chavez. This is a pairing that has what it takes to get the job done and done extremely well. A woman who has paid her dues in spades, Candye Kane approaches everything she does with zeal that few even come close to. This band does whatever it takes to get their point across to their crowd. There is no doubt that this woman is playing from wells of experience. These are not songs written by a room full of songwriters with the intention of catching the ear of someone in the crowd…these are stories from the life of Candye Kane. Even the covers were chosen for the fact that she can fully relate to the lyrics. Between the power that comes through Kane’s voice and the emotional power in the guitar work of Laura Chavez This is one of those releases that is destined to make its mark on the blues community. This band blends multiple styles from blues and jazz, swing, rockabilly, rock and R&B making certain that there is something here for everyone regardless of what you like as far as style. This is her third release with Chavez and may well be the best to date. It has been stated that hard times make for powerful blues. That said, there is good reason why Candye Kane’s blues come through like a locomotive with a full head of steam. Kick back and give it a good listen but be prepared to hit the dance floor. Kane is in rare form and the band is without exception one of the hottest ensembles I’ve heard in some time. The musicianship is flawless, the arrangements are great and there is not so much as a single note out of place. This is top-notch no matter what your likes or dislikes. I recommend it highly. – Bill Wilson


Cassie Taylor

Out Of My Mind

Yellow Dog Records YDR2026

I spotted the raw talent when I saw Cassie perform with her father, Otis Taylor, years ago at the Billtown Blues Festival. Even then I knew that there was more to come from that striking redheaded fireball of a bass player. Now, at age 26 she is a seasoned veteran. Predominantly a bass player but proficient on just about anything she lays her hand to, Cassie is not only a great musician…she is an accomplished songwriter, writing all the tunes on her most recent release. Strongly rooted in the blues, Cassie is well-versed in many genres. From straight-ahead blues to a very soulful and seductive soul/R&B she delivers the goods with a power and passion that cuts through anything in its way to reach straight to the heart of even the most hardcore blues enthusiast in the crowd. With a style that blends elements of blues, gospel, jazz, pop, rock, soul and anything else she may have encountered over the years. I guess if I had to put a label on it I would call this Americana but it is very deeply rooted in the blues and dripping with pure raw emotional power. Cassie Taylor is probably the perfect package…a superb musician backed by a great band, a first-rate songwriter, well-versed in many musical styles and stunning enough to take her place on the catwalk. Simply put, Cassie Taylor has the talent, the passion and the drive to succeed at anything she sets out to do. Out of My Mind is the kind of album that I would have picked up in my youth based solely on the cover only to be blown away when I gave it a listen. Be forewarned, this is not her father's blues but you can bet your bottom dollar that he's beaming from ear to ear as he listens to it. With a style that defies definition Cassie Taylor has more than a few tricks up her sleeve. We have not seen the last of this one. What she will do next is anyone's guess but you can be sure that whatever she opts to do, she will excel at it. - Bill Wilson


Gina Sicilia

It Wasn't Real

Swingnation Records 388013

Gina Sicilia is a woman of many talents. On her latest release she showcases her talents as a songwriter among other things. All but one of the disc's ten tunes were written by Gina and the one cover was "Don't Cry Baby" which Etta James had a hit with in 1961. This is her fourth studio album to date and is by far her best work. This is powerful! From tunes reminiscent of Billie Holiday, Etta James and more, Gina shows that she is not the stuff that American Idol winners are made of, but the real deal. The power and passion in her voice cuts through even the hardest of hearts getting a response from each and every listener. I often have problems with releases from female vocalists with every joker with a pen or a computer wanting to draw comparisons to Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt, Etta James and every other great vocalist who has ever taken the stage. While the comparisons may indeed have some merit, I feel that they can somehow cheapen the many years of hard work put in by the artist at hand. I know they mean well but Gina Sicilia's work stands on its own merits. She, like the rest of us, has had many influences over the years. I hear elements from many each time I listen to It Wasn't Real but she has taken them all, blended what she likes into a style distinctly her own…powerful, emotionally charged and worthy of her own place among the greats to whom she is so often compared. I hear elements of blues, jazz, country, folk and soul…the end result being one of those recordings that will find itself being played repeatedly. This is one woman who will not be put into a box. Her work has a timeless quality. She has grown so much over the course of those years from her first release until now. I have watched her grow into a powerhouse singer whose ballads have the ability to bring the crowd to tears. While she still has all those qualities she shows me so much more. Gina Sicilia is not a one-trick pony…today she takes the listening audience on a journey, not being afraid to bare her soul. This is just one of the things that make her a great artist. She could easily coast through, doing a mediocre job and letting the fact that she is a beautiful woman take care of the rest. Gina Sicilia is the real deal, pouring herself heart and soul into every performance. She is not content with coasting through but gives 100% every time she takes the stage. Keep up the good work. - Bill Wilson


Hans Theessink

Wishing Well

Blue Groove BG2320

With all but three tunes either written or arranged by Theessink, Hans's skills as a songwriter are beautifully showcased here. The remaining tunes were penned by Townes Van Zandt, Brownie McGhee and Bob Dylan. That out of the way, all songs are played solo predominantly by Theessink with the rare but appreciated assistance of friends. Hans is a singer/songwriter in the tradition of the travelling minstrel. An exceptional player with a real talent when it comes to his use of words, he is a storyteller of the highest order…telling his own life story. When a piece is written from deep wells of experience it is undoubtedly powerful as the truth carries more weight than something that comes from the imagination. Without question it is this factor that gives his work such emotional power. Elements of blues, soul and folk blend beautifully for an album with that timeless quality that will ensure that it will be equally as powerful twenty years down the road as they are today. It is becoming more and more a rarity to hear musicians face an audience with just a guitar, laying his or her soul bare for the world to see. I applaud any artist with the strength and willingness to open himself for the world to see and hear. These are the true heroes in this world of "one hit wonders." This is one of those releases that goes so much farther than the one-hit wonders of "American Idol" and such. Those of us who saw the coming and going of the LP, the tape, (both 8-Track and cassette) and so much more have witnessed the restructuring of the music industry over all. Now tunes can be purchased individually, selecting just the songs you prefer. Some would call this a step forward but gone are the days of the large format cover, extensive liner notes and even the need for a band as artists can now simply send in their particular part. If a single note needs tweaked it is easily done. Artists of the quality heard here come out, sit down and play. What you hear is what you get. Whether a good night or one that is not so good, the artist goes out, gives 100% and the audience gets what they paid for. In the case of Hans Theessink there is only 100%, nothing less. Wishing Well is a recording that shows the performer as he is on any given night. You will not be disappointed. This is a traditional blues style played at its best. Sit back, pop the top on a few bottles of your favorite brew and enjoy. - Bill Wilson


Mark Robinson

Have Axe - Will Groove

Blind Chihuahua BC-002

This is about as good as bands get on the contemporary Blues scene. Well rooted in the history of the blues, Robinson mixes it up, delivering an absolutely delightful set of music on his latest that speaks volumes for the resident of Nashville. He manages to hit on so many different blues styles over the course of the eleven tunes on the CD that critics will find it difficult, if not impossible, to put this into a box. Prepared for any situation that might arise, Robinson's musical arsenal contains Chicago blues, West Coast jump, blues/rock, Memphis soul, Mississippi hill country blues, soulful R&B and more. Equally proficient in all those styles and more, Robinson is somewhat of a walking blues "jukebox". An exceptionally technical and yet passionate guitarist and vocalist, Mark Robinson walks that tightrope between the two schools of thought, switching back and forth between styles without missing so much as a single note. It helps to have a band that is also well-versed in so many blues styles to be sure. Have Axe - Will Groove also showcases Robinson's songwriting capabilities with eight of the disc's eleven tunes his own originals. His 2010 release, Quit Your Job Play Guitar, was an exceptional piece of work but his most recent release shows me that Robinson has been working hard and expanding his horizons. My suggestion would be to buy both releases but, if you have to chose one; Have Axe - Will Groove is a safe bet. Given an opportunity, get out to see the band live. This is a good band to keep an eye on. It's a safe bet that we have not heard the last from them. I see a marked improvement between their releases in 2010 and 2012. Today's Mark Robinson is a man who seems to have found his place in this ever changing world. Any way you slice it, this is a good album and well worth a good listen. - Bill Wilson


Mickey Carroll & Old Dogs in the Hood

Old Dogs

Vision Records 3359

Mickey Carroll is one of those guys that should quite honestly be known by us all…a true living legend in so many respects. He has worked with the greatest names in the business and done so many memorable things that a movie might be the better option but music is what he does and he does it so very well. Old Dogs, his latest release is dedicated to all his listeners fifty and over. Mickey, himself is 70 years old but you'd never know it to look at him or to hear him play. Blend a big dose of blues and jazz with a lot of that New Orleans flavor; add a twist of old-time rock & roll, maybe a hint of some show tunes, the flair and finesse of the Rat Pack, throw in a touch of scat and you get a fair picture if what you are in for. This recording has that timeless feel that will sound just as good and be every bit as relevant 20 years down the road as it is today. Having spent a good many years in retail, selling music I noticed that there were some bands that never went out of style. Carroll is one of those artists. When he sings, regardless of the subject matter, it hits that spot in your heart. A connection is made and you get the impression he's singing directly to you. I get the distinct impression that Mickey would rather be down on the floor with his fans that being up on the stage. He has a deep personal concern about the members of his audience, and they know it. Essentially, Old Dogs contains songs about love and the hope for a brighter day. The disc showcases his songwriting capabilities with 10 of the 12 tunes penned by Carroll. This is a kick-ass band, capable of doing anything they are called on to do, without question and they do it all very well. Mickey is an exceptional guitarist and he delivers his vocals like a master storyteller. From the sounds of this CD, it was as much a party as it was a show. You will not be disappointed with this album but, given the opportunity, check the band out in concert. I believe you might just leave a changed man (or woman as the case may be). There is power in music, the power to heal old wounds and to restore those who are lost. Mickey Carroll and the band tap into that power and their audiences love them for it. Is it the music or is it the fact that this audience knows that they are an essential part of what is going on that makes it special? Whatever the case may be, I felt better after having heard the performance. That alone speaks volumes. - Bill Wilson


Andy T - Nick Nixon Band

Drink Drank Drunk

Delta Groove Music DGPCD158

A nice collection of original tunes and much loved covers done with style, flair and respect for the original artists, Drink Drank Drunk is one of those pieces that in a word is fun. This is a tight band that plays well, as a unit rather than a bunch of guys giving everything they've got in what could best be described as a head-cutting contest. Produced by Anson Funderburgh, who also plays guitar on four of the disc's twelve tunes, this disc is phenomenal in so many respects. Diverse in style, it offers a bit of something for everybody but my guess is that there's not a tune in the bunch that will not get the feet of each and every listener moving. As good as this CD is I can only imagine what they would do in a small club. The info that came with the disc calls it an old-school barn-burner. They'll get no argument from me. The musicianship is flawless and packed with emotional power, the arrangements are superb and Nixon's vocals are powerful and soulful, second to none. This is another one of those disc's that is a joy to listen to, the kind of thing I could imagine playing for the sheer pleasure of it. Pulling CDs at random and all too often writing reviews without ever hearing the artists can be an adventure. In this case, I was pleasantly surprised. This is one piece I could recommend without reservation to anyone and everyone. It is solid blues through and through. This one is definitely a keeper. - Bill Wilson


4 Jacks

Deal With It

Eller Soul Records ER121201

This is quite a collection of musicians, some of the best in the world to be sure. With Big Joe Maher on drums and vocals, Anson Funderburgh on guitar, Kevin McKendree on piano and B3 and Steve Mackey on bass, the bases are all solidly covered, no doubt about it. The tunes are predominantly all originals written by various band members, either alone or in various combinations. Any way you slice it, this one is a fine piece of work. This disc is heavy on the swing but has some slow burning numbers that are exceptional to say the least. From a musical standpoint, I don't know if it gets any better. Four of the genre's finest musicians doing what they like best and having a good time doing it, the result has got to be, and is, infectious. It is hard to listen to this one and not fall into the groove. Deal With It is a nice mix of swing, down in the alley hardcore blues, soulful ballads and a couple instrumentals thrown in for good measure. There's a little bit of something here for everybody and I believe that no one will walk away dissatisfied. These are musicians who could pull something like this off in their sleep, but take my word; they were definitely not sleeping on the job when this one was done. This is a solid blues album no matter what your definition of blues. While there can be no replacement for "Sweet Sam" Myers this is a combo that, should they choose to continue working together, will have no trouble finding gigs even in the toughest of times. - Bill Wilson


Mighty Mississippi

Deja Blues

Self Produced

Based in the San Francisco area Mighty Mississippi is an acoustic trio. The core group of harmonica, guitar and upright bass have been doing their thing since 2007…and doing it quite well. For their most recent release they called upon a number of friends to fill out their sound on several of the disc's dozen tunes. Consisting of a mixture of covers and several very well written originals, Deja Blues is a nice collection that harkens to a simpler time. Well played, well written and beautifully arranged this collection is easy on the ears and, quite frankly, fun to listen to. Done very much like things were done in the 30s and 40s I found this one refreshing to say the least. No thousand notes a minute guitar runs and no high-tech pyrotechnics, Deja Blues is blues pure and simple…very well done and very refreshing. There would be those in the supposed blues community that would just put this one on the shelf. Personally, I believe that these guys deserve if nothing else, our heartfelt appreciation. Every year that passes I hear this style less and less as bands are looking for something dynamic, something to blow the socks off the crowd. This is as sweet as the morning dew or the smile of a long lost love. Well-chosen classics and a few very well written originals show this is a band with deep roots and an unending love for the music. This would go over well in a coffeehouse or in your local neighborhood watering hole. Reminiscent in some ways of our old friend Ben Andrews, this is the kind of stuff I could listen to repeatedly without getting tired of it. If you like the older more traditional styles, Deja Blues will be a perfect fit. This is that one time that I wish I had more arms because two thumbs up are just not quite enough. I have no idea how you stumbled across me but I am sure glad you did. - Bill Wilson


The McCrary Sisters

All the Way

McCrary Sisters Productions 27196

Singing from their youths The McCrary Sisters sing songs of praise with touches of soul, funk and R&B…so says the press release and I agree. Ten of the disc's dozen tunes are McCrary originals. Beautifully orchestrated and sung with all the passion and power that a group of true believers can muster, All the Way is like a scalpel in the hands of a practiced surgeon, cutting through to the heart of the listener. Good gospel in the Southern tradition has always had elements of blues included and this one is no exception. I have always claimed that blues and gospel are separate sides of the same coin. All the Way drives that point home beautifully. The sisters never give it less than 100% and this recording shows no less. They give their all, opening their hearts to the world and the results are beautiful beyond compare. This release will touch your heart, making you examine your life and decisions. Most of all, it will lift you up and give you hope. Listening to this one will lighten your burdens and make even the darkest situations seem far less daunting. They deliver their message of hope and joy in such a manner that the most hardcore blues enthusiast will find it a pill easy to swallow. Having been an ordained minister I can say that from a gospel standpoint it is powerful and effective. From the blues lover in me I can say that this one is incredibly powerful, life changing and easy to listen to. For the skeptics in the crowd one look at their credentials should blow the clouds of doubt away. The sisters sang with Dr. John on his Grammy winning "Locked Down" CD and sang with Bob Dylan at his August 26, 2012 show in Cincinnati. Regina toured with Dylan for six years, appearing on "Slow Train Coming," "Saved" and "Shot of Love." She also sang with Elvis and Stevie Wonder. Deborah performed "Everything is Beautiful" with Ray Stevens, sang with Elvis and performed with Isaac Hayes on The Dinah Shore Show. Their credentials speak loud and clear…these women are the best in the business. If you are looking for something a bit inspirational this one may well be the ticket. Their blending of gospel, blues, funk, soul and R&B are, if nothing else, easy on the ears. It is easy to see why they are in such great demand. What they bring to the table is the difference between a good album and a great album. - Bill Wilson


Kelly Richey

Sweet Spirit

Sweet Lucy Records KRB 1141

Kelly Richey's latest release has been described as "Sweet Spirit packs a potent knock-out punch that leaves Richey standing her ground as a serious, balls-to-the-wall, unapologetic rocker." In a world that tends to like comparing apples to oranges she is described as "Stevie Ray Vaughan trapped in a woman's body with Janis Joplin screaming to get out." While I can understand what they are trying to say I would prefer to point out that while Kelly has had numerous influences, she has melded it all into her own unique style. Anything less would be more of an insult to her and the band and, quite frankly, not make a lot of sense. Sweet Spirit does pack quite a punch. The pendulum has swung both ways. Kelly Richey has nothing to prove. She has demonstrated that she can play traditional blues with passion, power and finesse; now she has shown the world that she can hold her own against any guitar player out there. While Sweet Spirit is for the most part hard-driving there are those moments of tenderness. Any way you slice it, Kelly Richey is a first-rate guitarist and a bonafide blues woman. While this one may be a little heavy for some listener's taste, it shows another side of an incredible artist and drives home the point that Kelly can hold her own and then some. While I personally like my blues a little more on the traditional side I understand her style and have to admit that when it comes to powerhouse blues/rock, this band can blow the socks off most of the bands playing this style without losing sight of the blues. I've heard bands that play with a vengeance but somehow the blues gets lost in the shuffle. Kelly Richey and her band walk that fine line, reminiscent in many respects of Stevie Ray Vaughan or Jimi Hendrix. - Bill Wilson


Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite

Get Up!

Stax Records STX33874

Ben Harper is one of those artists I have had my eye and an ear on for quite some time. He has always been hanging close to the blues scene, never straying very far from the real deal. Add Charlie Musselwhite to the mix and Ben Harper gets thrown into the deep end of the pool so to speak. He was ready for it to be sure. The combination of the two along with a tight backing band makes for a sound that blues lovers, lovers of Americana and those who go in for good old-fashioned rock & roll will all enjoy. This one has got enough blues in the mix to keep even the most hardcore blues fan happy while maintaining his regular following. If nothing else, this one may broaden Ben Harper's base which is already formidable. In Harper's opinion, Get Up! is his best work to date and who am I to argue with Ben Harper. Harper and Musselwhite have worked together on numerous occasions but never to this extent. All original material written by Ben Harper either solo or in combination with other band members, Get Up! is a solid piece of work no matter what you chose to call it. From a musical standpoint, this one is right on the money and solidly rooted in the blues. I can and do recommend it highly. When the best of the young lions meets the best of the old guard the results have got to be worth a good listen and then some. - Bill Wilson


John Primer & Bob Corritore

Knockin' Around These Blues

Delta Groove Music DGPCD159

One quick glimpse at this CD is all it takes to know that this one is a keeper. The combination of guitar and harmonica is a classic setup in traditional Chicago Blues and when it comes to John Primer and Bob Corritore blues enthusiasts know that we are talking about the cream of the crop. After digging just a bit deeper I found that the band was equally impressive. Barrelhouse Chuck, Chris James, Patrick Rynn, Bob Stroger, Billy Flynn, Brian Fahey and Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith are all headliners in their own right. Bring them together for a recording session and the result has got to be nothing less than mind-blowing. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Chicago in the 1950s. To recreate a sound like this in this day and age you would nearly have to resurrect the dead. Turn it up, close your eyes and it would be easy to imagine yourself sitting in Theresa's Lounge. This is an all-star cast of players, each among the top in his field. The song selection reflects what might well have been heard during that era as well. Even the originals gave the sound and feel of that time period. This is Chicago Blues at its best. It is obvious that the band is not only enjoying themselves but giving 100%. This is traditional style blues played from the heart with passion, fire and finesse. If you are a lover of blues in the traditional style, Knockin' Around These Blues is one of those pieces you should add to your collection. You will not be disappointed. I found it to be a rare treat. Having been writing reviews for going on twenty years it is not often that something like this crosses my desk. - Bill Wilson


Duke Robillard Band

Independently Blue

Stony Plain Records SPCD1364

When it comes to guitarists, Duke Robillard is one of those guys who has done it all, played with everybody and is rated universally as one of the finest players in the world. An absolutely wonderful recording, nearly everything is original, penned either by Duke, by Monster Mike Welch who plays throughout the album or by Al Basile, cornet player and long-time friend of Robillard. Independently Blue winds its way through various blues styles effortlessly, taking the listeners on a ride from the Delta to Chicago and all points beyond. Honestly, there is nothing I can say that has not already been said numerous times before. A man whose work speaks for him, Duke Robillard has played for virtually everyone. That list stretches from Bob Dylan with whom he has just signed, to Tom Waits, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Roomful of Blues and Dr. John. Then there are the legends that have already passed like Jay McShann, Ruth Brown, Jimmy Witherspoon, Johnny Adams, Rosco Gordon and more. I have pointed out many times that in blues there appears to be two major schools of thought, those who play technically, every note carefully chosen and played to perfection and there are those who take it as it comes pouring every ounce of soul possible into every single note. Duke Robillard is one of those players who walks that fine line playing both with a technical perfection and pouring himself into every note, making every song an emotionally powerful experience. You might call it the best of both worlds. Truth be told it is Duke Robillard. He gives his all every time he picks up a guitar. He is currently playing with Bob Dylan and touring in promotion of his latest release when he has the opportunity to do so. Whether you are simply a blues fan or a guitar virtuoso, Duke Robillard's Independently Blue is one of those things you will want to add to your collection. Played fiercely, seemingly with reckless abandon, yet with finesse and a style that is recognized worldwide Independently Blue is a thing of beauty…dripping with emotional power from the opening notes to the album's close. -Bill Wilson


Doug MacLeod

There's A Time

Reference Recordings RR-130

Doug MacLeod is a Bluesman who hearkens to the days of the traveling minstrel, a storyteller who writes his own material based on his personal life experiences. This gives his material a power not found in the works of those who sit down and make songs up, out of the clear blue sky because they think the story sounds bluesy. MacLeod is a master of Americana, writing and singing what he knows. His career spans over 30 years in which time he has recorded 19 studio albums, several live albums and a couple DVDs. His songs have been recorded by many great artists and have been nominated for a couple of Grammys. There's A Time sees him accompanied by Denny Croy on bass and Jimi Bott on drums. The album was recorded live in the studio with a bit of improvisation when the artists thought it was called for. The result is a recording that is heart-felt, emotionally powerful and, as is often the case with artists of this nature, timeless. This recording could easily have been written and recorded in the 40s or 50s and will, quite frankly, still be in demand 20 years down the road or more. These musicians love what they do and that love is evident in every note. There is honesty and a passion in Doug MacLeod's work. This is more than a job; Doug is opening his heart and baring his soul. While there are a few artists of this nature left, Doug MacLeod is a master. Top it all off with the fact that the recording of this disc was held to the highest standards and that it will also be released on vinyl as a two LP set. This is one of the finest recordings I have heard, though, truth be told I am partial to my 78's played on a vintage Silvertone. There's A Time is an incredible piece of work any way you look at it. I honestly got the impression that I was sitting in the room with the band. If it gets any better that that I have yet to hear it. This is a good buy at any price and worthy of any award the powers that be might distribute for works of this nature. This is another piece that I will consider purchasing multiple copies of to give as gifts to friends and family. - Bill Wilson


Jesse Dee

On My Mind/In My Heart

Alligator Records 4952

Jesse Dee breathes new life into soul music…or, perhaps the better way to look at it is that he has revived the old life that soul music brought to us all. Somehow in the early days of soul the world was made to seem like a brighter, more beautiful place. Love was the rule of the day and all was, if not right in the world, at least full of hope for a brighter day tomorrow. His music hearkens back to the days of Wilson Pickett, Joe Tex and Sam Cooke. Call him the "Love Doctor" if it tickles your fancy. Jesse Dee sings songs of love and it is not something that he woke one day and decided to do. All of the songs contained on On My Mind/In My Heart flow from the heart of Jesse Dee, just as the songs sung by the soul singers of old were fresh, full of life and flowing from their hearts. I put this piece in my player and before I knew what was happening, the stress of the day had lifted much like the fog when the morning sun breaks through. Out of nowhere I felt a newfound hope…and if there is one thing this world needs now it is hope. It could be said that anyone can sing a good cover but all tunes on Jesse Dee's album are his own originals. The more I listened to this one, the better I felt. Strange as it might seem, On My Mind/In My Heart left me with a newfound hope. All those old clichés we were bombarded with in our youth…things like "All you need is Love" made more sense than ever. Out of the darkness that is the current state of world affairs there shines a beacon. The musicianship on this CD is exceptional, the arrangements are flawless and Jesse's vocals are the stuff legends are made of. This is a powerful piece of work to be sure. If anything or anybody can brighten your day given the world we live in, it certainly deserves a listen. - Bill Wilson


George Kilby Jr.

Six Pack

Top Frog Music Group

Kilby is a man of many talents and a deep love for the music in all forms. All things considered this makes him impossible to put onto a box. He blends his many loves and the styles of his musical heroes into his own style which he calls "rough-cut American Music." Six Pack consists of six tunes, each in a different style, five of which are the band's originals and the remaining tune is a cover of Cream's Sunshine of Your Love. The six pack of tunes consists of styles ranging from "jamgrass" to Delta Blues, singer/songwriter, roots-rock and folk music. Kilby has worked with numerous musical legends including Pinetop Perkins, with whom he had developed a strong relationship and a lasting emotional bond. He has been performing his unique style of music for better than 30 years, all the while adding to his arsenal of songs based on his wells of experience and those of his friends who make up an extended family. The result is a solid following of dedicated fans who, like George and the band, cannot be put into a single box when it comes to their love of music. This is a very diverse CD based on personal experience which gives it a raw emotional power that cuts through to the hearts of his fans. Through it all he has given a voice to his worldwide fan base. From a musical standpoint, Six Pack is as solid as anything I've heard. Like minstrels of old they tell the stories of their fans, giving a voice to those of us who have shared similar stories. With an assist of his regular touring band, The Road Dogs, harmonica virtuoso Phil Wiggins and members of roots rockers, Railroad Earth they do what they love, beautifully weaving a tapestry in song that expresses what mere words could not hope to express. The end product is an album that is well orchestrated, immaculately played, easy on the ears and has a timeless quality that will be every bit as strong and beautiful ten years down the road as it is today. I put this in my player and let it go, swept away in song, never noticing, never tiring as the disc played through multiple times. While it might be short in length, Six Pack said everything it needed to say. Whatever your musical preference, I feel confident in recommending it to all our readers. You will not be disappointed. - Bill Wilson


Lucky Peterson

Live at the 55 Arts Club Berlin

Blackbird Music BR201210

This is one of the finest, most comprehensive packages I have ever seen. Released in a couple of formats, the fan has an opportunity to choose what they want to spend and just what they want from the experience. Live At The 55 Club Berlin has been released as a two CD set with just the musical content and as a five disc package which contains both the music and three DVDs which contain the video of the entire show plus some special features. From a musical standpoint, this one is an emotionally charged show that grabs the listener from the opening notes and holds them throughout the entire recording. Peterson is working with his touring band and the show features Tamara Peterson, his wife, as well. This band is tight and has worked together long enough that they can anticipate Lucky's every move…and the interaction between husband and wife is as passionate as it can possibly get. Raw blues, immaculately played and emotionally charged to the absolute max, Live at the 55 Arts Club Berlin runs from hard rocking to slow and sensual, funky and as real as it gets. The recording is so beautifully done that the listeners need only to close their eyes to be transported through time and space to feel as if they were at the show personally. Then, there is the DVD aspect…the fans can experience every element of one of the greatest, most passionate shows I have ever heard. This is a package deserving of a Blues Music Award for both the audio and the video portions. I have listened to this one multiple times and watched the DVDs as well and, quite frankly, I cannot find words to adequately describe the contents of this collection. All I can say is "Wow!" This one has got to be heard and seen to be believed. Add to its musical greatness the fact that the entire package is very well priced, well within reach of anyone wanting to have the full experience. This one is priced low enough that it is feasible to buy several copies and give them as gifts. Lucky Peterson and company cover all their bases, delivering a full 100% to assure their audience's satisfaction. See it and hear it for yourself, you will not be disappointed. -Bill Wilson


Murali Coryell

Live

Shake It Sugar Records SSR-01

The son of jazz/rock fusion guitarist Larry Coryell is proof positive that the apple does not fall far from the tree. When it comes to blues I tend to love it more on the traditional side. From time to time a blues/rock guitarist comes along who, while playing like there is no tomorrow and his ass is on fire, stays close to his roots and plays with a passion that says loud and clear "This is Blues through and through." Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Murali Coryell. With several award winning CDs to his credit and the experience of playing with many greats including Duke Robillard, Joe Louis Walker, his father, and more, Coryell shows that he has nothing to prove. While he came up in a musical family and was surrounded from birth by legends, he came by his talent honestly. The latest release, Live contains not only a CD but a DVD recorded at the Roots & Blues Festival in Salmon Arm, BC. From a musical standpoint, this one is tight, packed with raw emotional power and right on the money…blues through and through. The recording was done extremely well, capturing the show with all the power and grit of the moment. Blues/rock of this caliber is a rare and glorious find. Too many artists tend to wander off into the heat of the moment, rocking it out to the point where the blues is left somewhere in the dust. Coryell, while he has surely got the ability to do that and so much more, remains focused and delivers blues with power and finesse… and the band is tight as they can get, everyone playing his part with no need for the needless showboating that happens all too often. This one is a keeper. The DVD is an absolutely beautiful bonus, giving the watcher even more of the feeling of having been there. Guitar lovers and just plain pure blues lovers alike will love this release…I sure did. - Bill Wilson


Scott Ramminger

Advice from a Father to a Son

Arbor Lane Music ALM918

Ten original tunes by Scott Ramminger showcase his incredibly diverse songwriting capabilities. This one covers a number of styles but sticks close to the New Orleans funky groove and this band plays it like there is no tomorrow. With a strong band of veteran players who, without exception, know the music inside and out, Ramminger has plenty of room to fit in some tasty sax licks. Ramminger is playing it close to his heart and a good many of the performers are veterans of the New Orleans scene. Also well represented are Muscle Shoals, Nashville, Memphis and more. Advice from a Father to a Son is a delightful piece of work that appears to have been as much fun for the artists involved as it is for the listener. Ramminger is a top-notch sax man whose roots are planted deep in the blues. Put on your dancing shoes, hold your partner tight and get ready to kick up some dust. There are so many veteran players involved in this project that naming them all would be out of the question…just know that they give their all, every step of the way. This is one of those pieces that could easily play through two or three times before you realize how much time has gone by. If I had to describe this disc in a single word, that word would be fun. The album deals with some serious issues but does it in such a way that it becomes clear that you are not alone with your problems and there is hope for a brighter tomorrow. Blues, being the music of the people, allows us to share the good times as well as the bad. A burden shared is not nearly so heavy and the good times shared are a party for us all. Advice from a Father to a Son shines a light into the deepest, darkest corners of the soul and when all is said and done, there is indeed "Magic in the Music." I walked away from this disc feeling much better than I did when I first put it in the player. - Bill Wilson


Ron Levy's Wild Kingdom

Funky Fiesta

Levtron.com

   Ron Levy is an odd duck in so many respects but I guess one would have to think outside of the box to accomplish work so intricately beautiful, well put together, fluid and inspirational. Levy has never been one of those guys who played it safe or by the rules. On the other hand, no one ever accomplished great things by staying inside the acceptable lines. It has always been my opinion that good musicians are a dime a dozen…even great musicians are not that uncommon, but those musicians who chose to think outside the box, challenging contemporary trains of thought are the ones who ultimately end up changing the rules and accomplishing great things. Ron Levy is one of a small handful who fits in that category…and he does it without compromising his values or, even wandering too far from his roots. Funky Fiesta finds him blending R&B, Soul, Funk, Jazz, Jazz/Blues Fusion and Calypso for a sound that is uniquely Ron Levy. Another instrumental piece, Levy manages to paint a picture in music that stays with the listener, taking his audience on a trip through time and space in a way that only a master storyteller can do. From old-school and traditional to out of this world and funky enough to make James Brown sit up and take notice, Levy and company leave no stone unturned, playing what sounds like it was completely off the cuff. The result is nothing short of astounding. The musicianship is meticulous, everything falling into place as if by some sort of divine plan.
    Funky Fiesta! is being released in conjunction with Ron's Web book, Tales of a Road Dog. Included in your lifetime online web-based subscription (as long as there is an Internet) are: 26 engrossing chapters, over 500 handpicked rare photos and over 250 (downloadable) music video links. This web book will be updated every six months and is available on any two of your current (and future) devices that have access to the internet, with no download or memory used! A wonderful sample can be found on Ron's website at http://www.levtron.com/. Tales of a Road Dog defies all previous rules, taking the readers on a voyage of sight and sound. Ron Levy was there through so much of modern Blues History and the master storyteller that he is, paints pictures with his words that are vivid enough to allow the readers to feel as if they were there, on the scene, experiencing the events as they occurred. Never one to take the beaten path, Ron Levy, once again, blazes new territory and invites us one and all to come along for the ride. If you're looking for a traditional Blues experience, look elsewhere. If you are feeling adventurous give Ron Levy's Wild Kingdom a try. Both Funky Fiesta and the web book, Tales of a Road Dog are worth examining. If you are looking for something a bit out of the ordinary, this may be just what you are looking for. - Bill Wilson


Stevie Dupree & the Delta Flyers

Doctor Dupree's Love Shop

Soulbilly Music Group 8714

This is "feel-good" music if I've ever heard such a thing. Steve Dupree is a great storyteller, delivering the goods with a passion and power that could only come from deep wells of experience and more than his fair share of hard work. Any way you slice it, this band is tight, and knowledgeable about the music and love what they are doing. They are having fun and that fun is infectious, spreading through their audience like wildfire. This is exactly what the hard-working folks need and love after a week at the job. That was essentially the purpose of the roadhouses and juke joints throughout the country…give the people an avenue to release their pent up frustrations through. If Doctor Dupree's Love Shop won't accomplish that, you have no need for a doctor…you are too far gone. Dupree and the Delta Flyers get in the groove and ride it through until there is nowhere else to go. You will find your frustrations falling away and the next thing you know, you're cutting a rug out on the dancefloor. In a word, this album is fun from start to finish. This is a great band who has acquired the assistance of a handful of special guests, essentially adding the cherry to the top of an already sweet treat. The Delta Flyers consist of Stevie Dupree on vocals, Travis Stephenson on guitars, Quentin "Q" Calva on bass and Steve Bundrick on drums. Add an assist from Marcia Ball, Mark Kazanoff, Nick Connelly, Nick O'Brien, The Texas Horns, Alice Stewart and Lisa Tingle and the result is delightful to say the least. This one's a keeper, no doubt about it. - Bill Wilson


Buddy Guy

Live at Legends

RCA 54376

The latest from the legendary Buddy Guy features eight numbers recorded live in his original Chicago club and three previously unreleased tunes from his Living Proof album sessions. This is raw, emotionally charged and absolutely live. A number of the tunes are not suitable for radio airplay due to the language used, but that only adds to the power and reality of the live session. Buddy has been known for the fierceness of his playing for some time. His career has spanned nearly 50 years and he has over 50 albums to his credit. His honors are too numerous to mention including the fact that he was among the 2012 Kennedy Center Honorees. Live at Legends is one of those albums that will go down in history as one of the most powerful albums ever recorded. Guy cuts loose from the album's start to its finish going from hard driving rocking tunes to tender ballads without missing so much as a single note. He has done many powerful recordings over the course of his career but this one tops the lot. Live at Legends is typical of what would have been played in juke joints and roadhouses on any given weekend when people would gather to let loose after a hard week at work. Not only is this recording emotionally charged, easy on the ears and powerful, it was extremely well recorded. Live recordings can be difficult, often not capturing the excitement of the moment. In the case of the first eight cuts on Live at Legends, the listener gets the full power of the actual performance. Close your eyes and it would be easy to honestly relive the experience. It goes without saying that the musicianship is superb. This is Buddy Guy and the band at their absolute best. Buddy is one of those musicians who, like a fine wine, got better with age. While it is likely that you may have heard most of these songs before, this is one album you do not want to miss. This is as close to actually going to his show as you can get without making a trip to Chicago. Buddy was at home, feeling good, in top form and totally enjoying himself…and it shows. This one is well worth the price and then some. - Bill Wilson


Colin Linden

Still Live

Yellow Dog Records YDR 1912

There is nothing that can be said about Colin Linden that has not been said 100 times before or at least, far better by someone else. Linden is a gifted singer/songwriter, musician, producer and more. Now 50, he has released another live album. Thirty years ago he released his first album, simply titled Colin Linden Live. Now he has released Still Live, a delightful collection of all new, all original tunes, with the exception of Howlin' Wolf's "Who's Been Talkin'?". His hope is to still be here in another 30 years when he will release another album titled "Barely Alive." I, for one, hope that he is around far longer and still active but I am a selfish old man who sees the world a better place with Colin Linden in it. Still Alive is a delightful piece of work, recorded absolutely live with no overdubs and very few fixes. My hat's off to Linden and the crew…this recording delivers all the passion and power of the live performance, a feat seldom accomplished when doing live recordings. Usually in the case of live albums the music is intact but all too often the energy is missing. Pure Americana, Still Live has a timeless quality about it that makes it one of those pieces that will be every bit as noteworthy twenty years down the road as it is today. I've heard it said that if God created anything better He kept it for himself. In this case I would have to say that between the grace of God and countless hours of hard work and practice, Colin Linden has produced yet another work of nearly indescribable beauty. Considering the source it comes as no surprise that this CD is as great as it is. Frankly, I would consider nothing less from the man who has attained the status of Living Legend. He has played on approximately 300 albums and produced 60 albums, still finding time to pursue a solo career. I'd like to take just a moment to thank the folks at Yellow Dog Records and to suggest that if you like this piece of work, look into the remainder of their catalog. You won't be disappointed. Needless to say, I recommend Still Live highly. This one is a keeper. - Bill Wilson


…First Came Memphis Minnie (Various Artists)

A Loving Tribute

Stony Plain Records SPCD1358

Maria Muldaur came together with a host of friends to pay tribute to a woman who was, beyond a shadow of a doubt one of the greatest female blues players of her day or any other. An accomplished guitarist, singer, songwriter and all the stuff that blues players were made of, Memphis Minnie was a legend in her own day and that legend has continued to grow as the years progressed. She has been a major influence on probably every woman who ever had the desire to play and sing the blues. The list of women on this tribute includes Rory Block, Ruthie Foster, Bonnie Raitt, Phoebe Snow, and Koko Taylor. Also lending their talents and paying tribute are Del Rey, David Bromberg, Steve Freund, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Steve James and Roy Rogers. By virtue of the sheer talent involved, this CD would be well worth the purchase price. All the tunes on the collection were written by either Memphis Minnie, her husband Ernest Lawler or a collaboration of the two. Memphis Minnie was known as a woman who could hold her own, no matter what the circumstances. Her music filled in that critical gap in history. The history of women was almost never recorded, save in the lyrics of blues songs. Her work is every bit as valid today as it was the day she wrote it. Not normally a fan of compilations, I found this one exceptional. The performers gave their all, allowing the brilliance of Memphis Minnie to shine through. The love of the participating artists was clearly evident and every effort was made to honor the legendary figure to the best of their abilities. I would recommend this recording without reservation to anyone and everyone regardless of the preference when it comes to style. There's not a bad cut on the disc. - Bill Wilson


Harpdog Brown

…Naturally

Dog Breath Records DB-1002

Harpdog Brown is one of those guys who has dedicated his life to the blues and has done it seriously. With 30 years or better under his belt, this dog is no stranger to hard times and life on the road. Another one of those fine musicians from Canada, Brown has played with the best and pulled his weight the whole way. It should come as no surprise that he is a harmonica player. I once told an old friend that good harmonica players are a dime a dozen…hell, great harmonica players are a dime a dozen. Brown is one of those guys who takes traditional blues to the limit and holds on for dear life as he jumps off the edge. Yes, this is traditional blues but it is not often that one comes across a player who embraces the old styles and plays them with such fire and passion. If there's anything that can describe Harpdog Brown and the Bloodhounds it would be passion. Naturally consists of ten tunes primarily played in the Jump Blues style, with a dedication comparable to Louis Jordan and Louis Armstrong. The band is tight, working as a single unit and Brown's vocals are reminiscent of Satchmo, himself. His harp work is minimal on this disc, but when it is used, it is in the hands of a Master. Unlike so many harp players who tend to blow every lick they know in the first few minutes of the first tune, Harpdog Brown understands the concept that less, quite often is more. A lover of harmonica in any format, I applaud Brown for his restraint. This is a top-notch piece of work and I would recommend it to any and all without reservation. Naturally shows clearly that this is a man who has many talents. I've been told many times that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. I think this old dog still has more than a few tricks up his sleeve. This one is sweet any way you slice it. -Bill Wilson


Joice Walton

Texas Heat

Pinnacle Records PR0013

Joice Walton delivers pure Americana and does it with power, passion and finesse. Blues, jazz, R&B, country, gospel, rock and whatever else it might take to make a song go over right with any particular audience meld into Joice Walton's style…one of those sounds that will not be put into a box. About the time you think you've got her pegged, she pulls something new and completely unexpected out of her hat. Walton sings from deep wells of experience, giving her material that emotional power that cuts through all the crap and reaches straight through to the heart of each and every listener. From the voice of a roaring Mama lion to sweet, sultry and downright sensual, this woman covers the full range, leaving no stone unturned when it comes to satisfying her fans. A master of the double entendre, this is one woman who knows how to get her meaning across. The musicianship on this recording is immaculate, everyone doing their jobs with no showboating. The arrangements are beautiful and everything is done to perfection, the band playing like a well-oiled machine. I find myself hearing more each time I play this piece and, the more I hear, the more I like it. Regardless of whether she's doing a heart-felt love song or crying over love lost, Joice does it well. This is a performer and a band that delivers 100% every time they take the stage. I don't know how she managed to fall through the cracks earlier but I am glad that the situation has been remedied. Blues and Americana played well and Ms. Walton's voice has a quality that paints vivid pictures on the canvas of your mind. This one comes highly recommended. Adding the cherry to the already sweet piece of work, she gets an assist on the recording from the late, great Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. - Bill Wilson


Mitch Woods

Blues Beyond Borders

Club 88 Records 8812

In October 2010, Mitch Woods & the Rocket 88's toured Turkey with the Efes Blues Festival, playing 26 shows in 20 cities over 5 weeks. The resulting CD and DVD are powerful examples of Boogie Woogie that spans borders and cultures, making it evident that while we might be half a world apart in reference to distance, that the Blues is a universal language that transcends all that. Blues is the music of the common man, whether he is in New Orleans or Istanbul. Essentially, beneath the skin, we are all the same. We share the same troubles and take joy in the same things as well. Mitch Woods and his band proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that under the influence of good old-fashioned Boogie Woogie, we all tend to take to the floor and dance. All political differences aside, Blues shows us that we are much closer than we would have thought possible. The CD/DVD combo gives a great representation of not only the music but also the reaction of the audience…offering proof that Blues transcends all borders, bringing people of all nationalities together. In short, this is a great collection. Woods and company play what would be considered a great festival set anywhere in the world and the audience reacted much the same as they would anywhere. Blues truly is a universal language. Blues Beyond Borders is an upbeat set that would even drag me to my feet. I recommend this piece wholeheartedly. The fact that much of the music is included on the DVD is an added bonus. This one would have sold well had they divided it and sold CD and DVD separately. The fact that the two are combined in a single package is an added bonus. Kick back, relax and enjoy what would be considered a good show anywhere in the world. - Bill Wilson


Stephen Foster & Howler

Swingin' the Blues

Self-Produced

I almost never buy a CD with the intention of reviewing it. There was something about this one that intrigued me enough that I did just that. Maybe it was as simple as the name Stephen Foster. Regardless of why, I purchased the album and I have no regrets whatsoever. Stephen Foster is one of those guys who writes the stuff that we all relate to on one level or another. His blend of blues with a touch of country has has a sound that will never grow old. Like those old boots that you just keep having resoled because they are just so damned comfortable. I remember listening to the radio with my Mama when I was just a sprout. Swingin' the Blues has that same feel. There is nothing here that will make your head spin like a top, no high-tech gadgets or pyrotechnics, just a bunch of guys playing what they like and having a good time doing it. This stuff is infectious. Like a cross between Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers and The Band with a touch of something from south of the border, Stephen Foster and the Howlers deliver the music that makes their hearts sing and they do it with a passion that reaches the heart of every man, woman and child in the audience. Is this blues in the purest form…not by a long shot. Tune number four, "Giving My Heart Away" is a heartwarming love song and tune six sounds like it was penned in the Caribbean. For the most part, the rest of the disc is blues or blues related. This is Americana, plain and simple…guys writing and singing what they know, what they live on a daily basis. This is the music of the people. It is easy on the ears and one of those albums that could be put on shuffle and left to play for the day. There's not a bad tune in the bunch. It is one of those pieces that left me with a smile on my face…not once, but every time I put it in the player. - Bill Wilson


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