New Blues News – 5/7/2018
John Clifton – Nightlife (Rip Cat): Singer / songwriter / harp player John Clifton has been a popular artist on the left coast, but he is now starting to gain a following in an ever-increasing slice of geography. He and his brother Bill formed The MoFo Party Band in Fresno and lit up that area for some time before covering wider territory. This appears to be the first release by Clifton without his brother or the group. Instead, he is accompanied by Rip Cat owner Scott Abeyta (lead and rhythm guitar), Matt Moulton (bass), John Shafer and Roman Rivera (taking turns on drums), and Batrtek Szopinski (piano, organ) with Pater Wolf (percussion) and David Aus (piano) on one cut each. Abeyta’s guitar is really fine and the players out things together so well, but the spotlight is definitely on the Clifton’s straightforward, declarative vocals and harp virtuosity. There are many fine moments and blues fans can celebrate yet another bright light from the West Coast blues scene. Clifton has recorded and toured with Mud Morganfield and wrote five of the twelve songs on this disc. I regret I am unable to find any samples from this disc, but click here to listen to some samples from earlier recordings featuring John Clifton.
Ry Cooder – The Prodigal Son (Fantasy): Ry Cooder is back with one of the most haunting discs of his career. He vocals are perhaps the best of his entire career and what would appear as extremely bare instrumentation creates just terrific enhancement for each song. Cooder plays guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass, and keys weaving things together in a fashion reminiscent of his earlier recordings but with shifting mixes that makes each song fresh. The disc is also enriched by Joachim Cooder (drums, percussion), backing vocals by Arnold McCuller and long-term accompanists Bobby King and the late Terry Evans. There is a distinctly religious theme, perhaps triggered by the loss of Evans and perhaps as a personal reflection on the loss of friends and life itself. On the larger scale, Cooder explained the disc is “…”a deft commentary on our ailing moral state… I do connect the political/economic dimensions with the inner life of people, since people are at risk and oppressed on all sides in our world today….” (https://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/ry-cooder-details-new-lp-the-prodigal-son-w517235) Four of the eleven songs here are new Cooder originals and the remainder are traditional songs composed by Blind Willie Johnson, Alfred Reed, Blind Roosevelt Graves, Carter Stanley and William Dawson. The program is compelling and mesmerizing. A certified “Professor Bebop Wax Devoid of Cracks”! Click here and scroll down to listen to the songs on this disc.
Dom Flemons – Black Cowboys (Smithsonian Folkways): Dom Flemons, originally from Phoenix, Arizona and now living in the Washington, D.C. area, is a scholar of the many contributions and accomplishments of Black citizens in America. He has performed many songs created by or about Black Americans on his own and as a member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. The notes booklet gives extensive information about old time performers and about the Black cowboys and pioneers themselves. Songs such as “Black Woman”, “One Dollar Bill”, “He’s A Lone Ranger”, “Little Joe The Wrangler” and the “Old Chisholm Trail” help to complete the story of these pioneers who helped to create the “Old West”. In addition to Flemons (vocal, quills, banjo, resonator guitar, cow “resonator” bones), the performers on this recording are Alvin “Youngblood” Hart (various guitars), Fraulini Angelina (guitar, banjo), Jimbo Mathus (mandolin, harmonica), Stu Cole (bass), Brian Farrow (fiddle, vocal), Dante Pope (cow “rhythm” bones, vocals, snare drum), Dan Sheehy (guitarron), and Deering Sierra (banjo). A terrific history lesson and celebration of our too often overlooked and un-celebrated Black pioneers. Click here to listen to samples of the songs on this disc.
Dany Franchi – Problem Child (Station House): Dany Franchi, born in Italy less the 30 years ago, is releasing his third disc with the help of Anson Funderburgh, who says Franchi is one of his favorite young blues artists, adding “He has an exciting fresh approach to the music while keeping it honest.” (https://www.danyfranchi.com/about-me/). In addition to Funderburgh, who performs on two of the songs, Franchi is joined by Jim Pugh (piano, organ), Nate Rowe (bass, backing vocals), Wes Star (drums), Andy T (rhythm guitar), the Texas Horns, featuring Kaz Kazanoff, John Mills and Jimmie Shortel, and Greg Izor (harmonica). Franchi composed ten of the thirteen songs on offer. He has a fine style and plays within the blues like a veteran. Blues lovers should definitely check him out and keep him on your radar. Click here to listen to the title song on this disc and to check out some live performances.
Dana Fuchs – Love Lives On (Get Along): Singer / songwriter Dana Fuchs gathered quite a lot of attention with her performances as Janis Joplin in “Love, Janis” (Off Broadway) and a similar role in the movie “Across The Universe”. She has a gravely or raspy voice and enough power to sound somewhat like Joplin without ripping the roof off. The material on this disc, her fifth, features several originals and some covers. The overall sound shifts from powerful blue soul to classic Southern soul to her adopted Southern country sound. Fuchs is supported by Jon Diamond (guitar, harmonica), Reverend Charles Hodges (organ), Jack Daley (bass), Steve Potts (drums), Kirk Smothers and Marc Franklin (horns), Reba Russell and Susan Marshall (backing vocals), Eric Lewis (pedal steel, lap steel, mandolin) and Felix Hernandez (congas). There is a lot here to enjoy! Click here to listen to an introduction and sample of a song from the disc.