Blues CD Reviews – 9-5-23

Johnny Rawl –Walking Heart Attack (Catfood Records) – Johnny Rawls is a soul blues legend. With a career spanning more than 50 years, he’s done it all. He’s an internationally recognized recording artist, music producer, and songwriter who tours extensively throughout North America and overseas. Johnny has brought together some of his long time supporting musicians in for his newest album, Johnny McGhee – guitar; Bob Trenchard – bass; Richy Puga – drums; Dan Ferguson – keyboards; Andy Roman – sax solos; Mike Middleton – trumpet; Nick Flood – baritone/tenor/alto sax; Frank Otero – trombone; with Jon Olazabal – percussion; and backing vocals by Janelle Thompson and Shakara Weston. This CD is filled with great Soul/Blues. Johnny is the real deal and can tell a story like the title song “Walking Heart Attack” , a great funky tune with amazing background singers and Sax! ” Tell Me The Truth” starts off with some great bluesy guitar licks and then goes into Johnny’s fabulous voice! Lots of great stuff, Johnny even tries to cover Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart”, tries…. but I think my favorite on this CD is “Heal Me” listen here. I will probably give this an 8 on Blues Content and a 8 on Music Content.

Bobby Rush –All My Love For You (Deep Rush) – Bobby Rush is a Two-time Grammy winner, Blues Hall of Famer and 16-time Blues Music Award winner and releases his newest album at the age of 89! Rush has led a fascinating life from being The King of the Chitlin Circuit, performing with Elmore James and B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, to winning his first Grammy Award at age 83 for his album Porcupine Meat. Since then he’s only gotten better, more popular. His last album Rawer Than Raw also won a Grammy Award, followed by the re-recording of his 1971 hit Chicken Heads with Buddy Guy, Gov’t Mule and Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram. Bobby’s music is always story telling/Soul Blues. First tune is ” I’m Free”, a commentary on today’s world as compared to our recent past. Lyrics are always great from Mr. Rush like in the “I Want To”, “I want to play with your poodle and you play with mine”!! Every song is well thought out and the music is solid, I think my favorite on this CD is “TV Mama”, listen here. I will probably give this a 9 on Blues Content and a 9 on Music Content.

Big Frank & Mike Smith –Outskirts Of Town (JOJO Records) – Deep blues guitar grooves, heartfelt and genuinely expressive vocals from Big Frank Mirra and the tastiest evocative harmonica fills and solos from Mike Smith come together seamlessly. The effect is one of being transported where time stands still while soothing the soul endlessly. The duo covers 12 classics from Willie Dixon, Howlin Wolf, Son House, Charley Patton and other legends. I really like this duo, really do great justice to many of our Blues Favorites. Harmonica is super slinky a tasteful licks like on Charlie Patton’s “Pony Blues”. Great renditions of John Brim ‘Ice Cream Man”, Rossevelt Sykes’ “Casual Friend”. I think my favorite on this CD is “Smokestack Lightning”, listen here. I will probably give this a 9 on Blues Content and a 9 on Music Content.

Gov’t Mule – Peace Like A River (Fantasy/ Concord)– Peace…Like A River is Gov’t Mule’s 12th studio album and follow-up to their chart-topping, Grammy-nominated blues album, Heavy Load Blues. The 12-song rock collection also features guest appearances from Billy Bob Thornton, Celisse, and Billy F Gibbons. In addition, the Peace…Like A River Deluxe Edition (available on CD only) includes the original 12-track album plus the special 5-track Time Of The Signs Bonus EP, which features four brand-new, unreleased tracks and an alternate version of the album track “The River Only Flows One Way,” with Warren taking lead vocals. Band includes Haynes on guitar, vocals, Matt Abts on drums, Danny Louis on keyboards, guitar, and backing vocals, and Jorgen Carlsson on bass. Billy F Gibbons’ trademark vocals underscore the tasty ZZ Top textures that inform the humor-infused “Shake Our Way Out,” while Billy Bob Thornton adds his distinctive vocals to “The River Only Flows One Way.” For introductory track “Dreaming Out Loud,” Haynes wanted a Sly and the Family Stone vocal style where different singers take different sections of the song, so he called upon previous collaborators blues great Ruthie Foster, whose backing vocals graced Mule’s 2006 album High & Mighty, and longtime friend, New Orleans soul legend, Ivan Neville. Lastly, rising soul artist Celisse adds her incredible vocals to “Just Across The River.”  This is such a sophisticated album of music, so well thought out and produced. Strong guitar riffs, great vocals and long jams make this so special, feels like an album from the late 60’s or 70’s! This is one you need to listen to the whole thing, many times to try to find which ones stick with you. I think my favorite on this CD is “Peace I need”, listen here. I will probably give this an 8 on Blues Content and a 10+ on Music Content.

Tracy Nelson –Life Don’t Miss Nobody (BMG)– Tracy Nelson, a Nashville Singer Songwriter who has been in the business for decades, this is her first album in 12 years and kind of tells a story of the history of R&B covering many songs from the great bands of the past, as one statement read that Tracy was trying to connect the 1960’s to 2023. Life Don’t Miss Nobody is Tracy Nelson’s own Great American Songbook, featuring iconic composers like Hank Williams, Ma Rainey, Willie Dixon, Allen Toussaint, Chuck Berry, Doc Pomus, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the Founding Father of  American Song, Stephen Foster. Foster’s “Hard Times” in here in two settings, both featuring Tracy on 12 string, the first time she’s recorded on guitar since her 1964 debut, Deep Are The Roots. Willie Nelson, Tracy’s duet partner on their GRAMMY-nominated 1974 hit “After The Fire Is Gone” returns for a jaunty take on Hank Williams’ “Honky Tonkin’.” Mickey Raphael, whose soulful harmonica played an essential role in so many Willie classics, is here on “Honky Tonkin’” as well as Doc Pomus’ There Is Always One More Time.”  New Orleans music giants Irma Thomas and Marcia Ball, Tracy’s partners on their GRAMMY nominated Sing It! album reunite for Allen Toussaint’s “I Did My Part,” and join the other ladies on “Brown Eyed Handsome Man.” The long-time friend’s collaboration extends to Tracy’s solo version of “Where Do You Go When You Can’t Go Home.” I think my favorite on this CD is “You’re Funeral, My Trial”, listen here. I will probably give this a 7 on Blues Content and an 8 on Music Content.

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