New Blues & Gospel News – 8/9/2017
Eli Cook – High-Dollar Gospel (Self-produced): Nelson County resident Eli Cook offers his seventh disc and it is both intriguing and captivating. Eight of the eleven songs are originals and the remainder are covers of Muddy Waters’ “Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had”, Roosevelt Sykes’ “44 Blues” and Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight”. Stylistically, Cook covers a lot of ground though the predominant set is a forceful and acoustic style that suits his raspy voice quite well. He also adds occasional electric highlights to transport songs like “Mixing My Medicine” into twisted, updated Mississippi Hill Country blues. Cook sings, plays guitar, mandolin, banjo, lap-steel, electric bass and percussion. He is supported by Peter Spaar (bass), Nathan Brown (drums) and Zach Samel (percussion, drum loops). Cook’s original compositions capture the sound and feel of older folk blues and they mix terrifically with his fiery electric blues. A “Certified Professor Bebop ‘Wax Devoid Of Cracks’”! Click here and scroll down to listen to the songs on this disc.
The Sherman Holmes Project- The Richmond Sessions (MC Recordings, Virginia Foundation for The Humanities): The Holmes Brothers were a signature performing gospel/blues/folk group that featured brothers Wendell and Sherman and Popsy Dixon and they were a true Virginia treasure for several decades. Both Wendell and Popsy have passed on now and though Sherman continued on his own supporting the 11-year old Whitney Nelson for a time, it was not until VFH’s Jon Lohman persuaded him to sing lead in a live performance that eventually led to this recording. They gathered numerous musicians to perform on this set, including Holmes (vocals, bass, keyboards), Rob Ickes (dobro), Jared Pool (mandolin, Telecaster guitar), Sammy Shelor (banjo), Jacob Eller (upright bass), David Van Deventer (fiddle), Brandon Davis (guitar), DJ Harrison (B-3, drums), Calvin “Kool Aid” Curry (bass), Stuart Hamlin (piano), Randall Cord and Clarence Walters (drums), Almeta Ingram-Miller, Cheryl Marcia Maroney and Ann Cunningham of the Ingramettes (vocals), special guest Joan Osborne (vocal on “Dark End Of The Street”) and Jon Lohman (harmonica). Like the musical variety favored by the Holmes Brothers, this performance includes such as traditional songs “Rock Of Ages” and “I Want Jesus”, Motown’s Holland-Dozier-Holland’s “Don’t Do It”, soul blues “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” and “Dark End Of The Street”, Jim Lauderdale’s “Lonesome Pines”, John Fogerty’s “Green River”, Carter Stanley’s “White Dove” and Ben Harper’s “Homeless Child”. This release is a treasure and also a “Certified ‘Professor Bebop Wax Devoid Of Cracks”! Click here for a terrific introduction to this disc.
The Nighthawks – All You Gotta Do (EllerSoul): DC’s Nighthawks are now in year 45 of some serious partying and bluesifying the nation. Leader Mark Wenner (harmonica) has been out front the entire time sharing the blues and the party spirit and some tough enough to get you and your mama out on the dance floor! The remaining Nighthawks are Paul Bell (guitar), Johnny Castle (bass) and Mark Stutso (drums) and everybody sings. Castle, Stutso and Wenner each contributed some new material and the covers span a range that includes such writers as Jerry Reed, Willie Dixon, Randy Newman, Sonny Boy Williamson, Jesse Winchester, and RL Burnside. Front to back, I would rate this as their best release in some time and that means mighty good. Great energy! Click here to listen to samples of the songs on this disc.
Phil Wiggins – A Black & Tan Ball (Tantamount): Blues veteran Phil Wiggins (harmonica, vocal) joins forces with Ben Hunter (violin, mandolin, guitar) and Joe Seamons (guitar, banjo) from a generation or so later to participate in their drive to reintroduce and rejuvenate the classic blues from the twenties and thirties. This live performance was recorded some months back and features the trio performing such classics as “Do You Call That A Buddy?”, “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue”, “Do Nothin’ Til You Hear From Me” and “Stop & Listen Blues”. No one is credited with singing, but Wiggins’ voice is recognizable and regrettably not in it’s finest form. His harmonica playing is, however, and that certainly makes a strong contribution. His spoken pieces are okay. The songs sung by the younger, but unidentified singer(s) is decidedly better and their playing is catchy and quite old timey. It will be nice to watch these two build their careers. Click here and scroll down looking on the left to listen to two songs from this disc.
Various Artists – Jesus Rocked The Jukebox: Small Group Black Gospel (1951-1965): Gospel fans or prospective students of the history of small gospel groups, search this set out immediately! This 40 song set focuses on gospel recordings released by Vee-Jay and Specialty, the two most active recording companies between 1951 and 1965. There is a preference for more upbeat and “sanctifying” styles, but not exclusively. The groups on the collection include the Original Blind Boys, The Staple Singers (pre Stax), Swan Silvertones, Highway QC’s, Harmonizing Four and others who recorded for Vee-Jay and The Soul Stirrers, Chosen Gospel Singers, and the Happyland Singers (aka Original Five Blind Boys Of Alabama) from Specialty Records. Some rarities and unreleased material is included as well. Some of the material is familiar, but there are a few wonderful and less exposed performances. Dynamite! Click here to listen to a song on this collection, but note the fidelity on this new release is much more crisp and dynamic.