WTJU Best of 2019 – Dave Rogers (Blues & Soul)

Dave Rogers, aka Professor Bebop, has been hosting a program on WTJU for over four decades.  He is also the Jazz, Blues, and Soul reviewer.

Artist – Album (Label)
Big Daddy Wilson – Deep In My Soul (Ruf): Big Daddy Wilson was born and grew up in Edenton, NC. “… the bluesman still remembers his earliest years as a “real country boy”, whose family urged him to sing in church to avoid the temptations of drugs and gangs. But the epiphany came in 1979, when he enlisted in the US Army, travelled to Germany and discovered the power of live blues in the local clubs. “It was here,” he says, “that I found part of me that was missing for so long in my life.” As a rising artist, Wilson was quickly embraced on the European circuit for his unforgettable smoked-honey voice, alongside original songwriting that took in blues, funk, soul and reggae on albums like Love Is The Key (2009) Thumb A Ride (2011), I’m Your Man (2013), Time (2015) and 2017’s Neck Bone Stew….” (https://rufrecords-shop.de/BigDaddy-Wilson-Deep-In-My-Soul) This is his first release in the US. The songs were recorded at Fame Studios and they offer a mix of old soul with gospel with lyrics that work just fine with those of the old power that framed the sixties and early seventies. Back-up is provided by Laura Chavez (guitar), Dave Smith (bass), Steve Potts(drums), Will McFarlane (guitar, backing vocal), Mark Narmore (keys), Brad Guin (sax), Ken Waters (trumpet), Rick Steff (organ) and backing vocals by Mitch Mann, Ken Waters, Trinecia Butler and Kimberlie Helton. A certified “Professor Bebop Wax Devoid Of Cracks”!

Black Pumas – Black Pumas (ATO/Coleman): “Black Pumas is led by the creative partnership between Grammy Award-winning guitarist / producer Adrian Quesada and 27-year-old songwriter Eric Burton. Burton is a relative newcomer who arrived in Austin in 2015 after busking his way across the country from Los Angeles, while Quesada has a storied reputation for playing in bands like Grupo Fantasma and Brownout while also producing acclaimed projects like 2018’s ‘Look At My Soul: The Latin Shade Of Texas Soul.’ After the two connected via friends in the Austin scene, they began to collaborate on a new sound that transmutes soul into something idiosyncratically modern. Reminiscent of Ghostface Killah and Motown in equal measure, this original sound ensured that Black Pumas’ weekly residency at C-Boys quickly became “the hottest party in town” (Austin-American Statesman). They sound somewhat like a close neighbor of the Black Keys or Dan Auerbach with a somewhat softer side a sweet dose of soul. A certified Professor Bebop “Wax Devoid of Cracks”!

Johnny Burgin – Live (Delmark): Here’s a live set from Johnny Burgin and he is right in the groove! He wrote or co-wrote all but four of the fourteen songs on offer and his bandmates and guests are among the best you could find anywhere. He has been around for several years, but where was I? The rhythm section players are Chris Matheos (bass) and Steve Dougherty (drums) and Burgin also has Kid Andersen (guitar, piano) in top form. Aki Kumar plays harp on two songs and percussion on two. Special guests are Rae Gordon (burning vocals), Charlie Musselwhite (harmonica on two songs) and Nancy Wright (sax on 5 songs). This is a certified Professor Bebop “Wax Devoid Of Cracks”!

Galactic – Already Ready Already (Tchoup-Zilla): When Galactic returns with something new, they do NOT mess around! This is the group’s tenth release and they offer up their raging, funky, soul hybrid party festival with no holds barred! The players are certainly who we’d expect: Ben Ellman (sax, harmonica), Robert Mercurio (bass, guitar, percussion), Stanton Moore (drums, percussion), Jeffrey Raines (guitar) and Robert Vogel (keys) with guests Shamarr Allen (trumpet), Corey Henry (trombone), Andrew Campanelli (whistle) and guest appearances from vocalists Erica Falls, Princess Shaw, Miss Charm Taylor, David Shaw and Nahko (The Revivalists),  and Boyfriend (backing vocal). It swings, it jumps, it reminds of just how magical the music of New Orleans can be! This slice is a certified Professor Bebop “Wax Devoid of Cracks”!

Keb’ Mo’ – Oklahoma (Concord): Keb’ Mo’ is back with one of the most energetic and delightful discs of his career! There are ballads and blues and songs of delight and energy, but the heart of this set is a series of thoughtful topics like “Put A Woman In Charge” or “This Is My Home” or “Don’t Throw It Away”. The energy and joy in this disc is fantastic! It is soulful and wonderfully magnetic as the best of his works have been. He co-wrote each of the songs with one of the other players on the disc. The company was just as right whether they were playing or composing! The line-up includes allstars Rosanne Cash, Jaci Velasquez, Taj Mahal and Robert Randolph (lap steel) with the backing players being Colin Linden (electric guitar, mandolin, also produced), David Rodgers (keys), Jim Hoke (Wurlitzer, accordion), Marcus Finnie, Keio Straud and Chester Thompson (drums), Samuel Alexander (keys), DeMarco Johnson (Wurlitzer), Eric Ramey (bass), Andy Leftwich, Michael O’Gieblyn and Carrie Covell (violin), Scotty Huff (trumpet), Joshua Scalf (trombone), Jevan Quallo, Dara Tucker, Robbie Brooks Moore and Carter Moore (backing vocals), Emily Kohavi (viola), Cremaine Booker and Emily Nelson (cello). This is a certified Professor Bebop “Wax Devoid Of Cracks”!

Mary Lane – Travelin’ Woman (Women Of The Blues): “A longtime staple of Chicago’s West Side blues circuit, singer Mary Lane was born November 23, 1935 in Clarendon, Arkansas. After honing her skills in local juke joints in the company of Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Nighthawk, Little Junior Parker and James Cotton, Lane relocated to Chicago in 1957; backed by Morris Pejoe, she soon cut her debut single “You Don’t Want My Lovin’ No More” for the Friendly Five label. A favorite among peers for her dulcet tones, she nevertheless did not record again for several decades, remaining virtually unknown outside of the Chicago blues faithful; finally, in the early 1990s, Lane recorded a handful of tracks for the Wolf label, leading to 1997’s full-length Appointment with the Blues.” (https://www.allmusic.com/artist/mary-lane-mn0000319087/ biography) “This recording seems to be a follow up recorded in 2017. Apart from one selection, Travelin’ Woman is a 50/50 collaboration between Lane and Tullio—he created the sumptuous, marvelously evocative musical backdrops with a skin-tight group of studio musicians, and she supplied the deeply moving lyrics and vocals. Special guests include Gene “Daddy G” Barge, Billy Branch, Dave Specter, Corky Siegel, and the late Eddie Shaw.” (https://store.cdbaby.com/ cd/marylane) This IS the BLUES! A certified Professor Bebop “Wax Devoid Of Cracks”!

The Lee Boys – Live On The East Coast (M.C.): “This family group consists of three brothers, Alvin Lee (guitar), Derrick Lee and Keith Lee (vocals) along with their three nephews, Roosevelt Collier (pedal steel guitar), Alvin Cordy Jr. (7-string bass) and Earl Walker (drums). Each member began making music at the ages of 7 and 8 in the House of God church they attended in Perrine, FL. Here they underwent a rigorous course of training in a variety of musical instruments, including lap and pedal steel guitars. Born and raised in Miami, each of The Lee Boys grew up in the church where their father and grandfather, Rev. Robert E. Lee, was the pastor and a steel player himself. ‘Sacred steel’ is a type of music described as an inspired, unique form of Gospel music with a hard-driving, blues-based beat. The musical genre is rooted in Gospel, but infused with rhythm and blues, jazz, rock, funk, hip-hop, country and ideas from other nations.” (http://oneddl.org/music/98717-the-lee-boys-live-on-the-east-coast-2019.html) This disc includes a wide array of songs including four originals and several drawn from the public domain and some re-imagined versions of songs like “Don’t Let The Devil Ride”, “I’ll Take You There”, “Turn On Your Love Light” and “You Got To Move”. As funky and rockin’ as it can be! This is a certified Professor Bebop “Wax Devoid of Cracks”!

Moonshine Society – Sweet Thing (Mojo): “When three young scholars fresh out of Berklee College of Music united under the stars one night in 2009, they sealed a pact to craft their own brand of soulful blues, roots rock and old-school R&B defying the confines of traditional music labels. On that moonlit night in Washington, D.C., their name was suddenly written in the stars — Moonshine Society…. “Sweet Thing” is the first single and title track of Moonshine Society’s second album, released 2019. The song was written by band leader Black Betty and features blistering solos by BMA award-winning harmonica player Jason Ricci and Blues Hall of Fame guitarist Joe Poppen.” (https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/moonshinesociety3) The band members are Black Betty (vocals), Joe Poppen (guitar), Jason Ricci (harmonica), Wes Lanich (keys), Tod Ellsworth (bass) and Rodney Dunton (drums). It appears that songwriter Jenny Langer who wrote five of the songs on this disc and co-wrote two others and she shares the name Black Betty. Several songs have horns thanks to Ron Holloway (tenor sax), Vince McCool (trumpet) and Ken Wenzel (bari sax). This appears to be the group’s second release. This is also a certified Professor Bebop “Wax Devoid of Cracks”! Earth shaking!

Giles Robson – Don’t Give Up On The Blues (American Showplace): Harmonicat Giles Robson offers his second release after serving as a harp player and singer about a year ago on his first disc with Joe Louis Walker and Bruce Katz. Well, Katz is back smacking those elephants’ teeth like crazy, while Aaron Lieberman’s melting down his guitar and a rhythm section with Antar Goodwin on bass and Ray Hangen on drums are as solid as granite. Robson is positively blowing down the walls! All of the songs are Robson originals. This IS a certified Professor Bebop “Wax Devoid Of Cracks”! Click here to listen to the opening song on this disc. Screamin’ John & TD Lind – Mr. Little Big Man (Down In The Alley): This band takes us back to the time when the blues was helping to shape country and rock’n’roll into the wonderful blend that rocked the house without needing 50 million kilowatt amps to kick up a fuss and keep you jumping right at the heart of the matter. The songs include Jimmy Reed’s “Shame, Shame, Shame”, Magic Sam’s “All Your Love”, Taj Mahal’s ‘Jelly Roll” and Leadbelly’s “Goodnight Irene with originals by “Screamin’ John Hawkins (guitar), Tim Arlon (vocal, guitar, piano), Jeff Crane (bass, backing vocal), Paul Culligan (drums, percussion) and Joel Pinkerton (harmonica). Straight on playing – worts and all – but reaching for the great nexus! A certified Professor Bebop “Wax Devoid of Cracks”! They apparently like to open with the sound of New Orleans before going back in the alley!

The Suffers  – Everything Here (Shanachie): “The Suffers are a ten-piece band from Houston, TX who are redefining the sound of Gulf Coast Soul, intertwining elements of Classic American Soul with Rock & Roll.” They have a smooth sound that jumps at times, but doesn’t reflect the sounds of iconic Memphis soul. In fact, it often reflects what Motown might be doing if they were looking for a new mix to reach those old fans with a current blend. It’s a new blend and it’s about time! Mellow and determined – smooth and sure. They are clearly in their own class. “The Suffers’ ten-piece line up was curated by bassist Adam Castaneda and keyboardist/songwriter/ vocalist Pat Kelly in 2011. The pair brought on trumpet player Jon Durbin, trombonist Michael Razo, guitarist Kevin Bernier, and percussionist Jose “Chapy” Luna, all band mates from earlier projects. Filling out the rhythm section are accomplished jazz saxophonist Cory Wilson and songwriting/producing duo Alex Zamora on guitar/vocals and Nick Zamora on drums/vocals. Vocalist/songwriter Kam Franklin, having recently completed a tour with London-based group The Very Best, was recruited to front the band.” (http://thesuffers.tumblr.com/bio) A certified Professor Bebop “Wax Devoid of Cracks!”!

Tedeschi Trucks Band – Signs (Fantasy): Tedeshi Trucks Band is back with a disc that is as strong as any they have done. First of all, most of the band is back together: Susan Tedeschi (vocals, guitar), Derek Trucks (guitar), Kofi Burbridge (Wurlitzer, piano, Hammond organ), Tim Lefebvre (bass), JJ Johnson and Tyler Greenwell (drums, percussion),Kebbi Williams (sax), Ephraim Owens (trumpet), Elizabeth Lea (trombone) and Mike Mattison, Mark Rivers and Alicia Chakour (vocals) with guests Doyle Bramhall II and Warren Haynes (vocals) and Jonathan Kuo, Gabriela Pena-Kim (violins), Jorge Pena (viola) and Alexei Romanenko (cello). The performances are as tight and varied as can be and everyone is right on. They acknowledge their super focus was a determination to offer their best to bring the strongest positive energy they could independently and as the entire group. This is a certified Professor Bebop “Wax Devoid of Cracks”! Find it and relish every note!

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