WTJU Folk: Dave Rogers Best of 2016

Dave Rogers hosts Professor Bebop each Tuesday morning from 9 til noon (est).

This list is in alphabetical order.

(Artist – Album – Label) followed by comments
Susan Alcorn – Soledad – Relative Pitch
This has to be one of the most unique steel guitar discs of all time. Inundated with styles of music from classical to country as a child, she was taken with the steel, and eventually joined a country band. She recalls learning her lessons the hard way: on slide in Chicago and on steel in Houston. Alcon mostly performs solo and all of her influences are evident. The music herein is free, beautiful, and often outside the mold.

Big Jon Atkinson & Bob Corritore – House Party At Big Jon’s – Delta Groove
Fans of the older style of electric blues, stop reading and go buy this disc! Big Jon Atkinson plays guitar and sings in the style most prevalent in the 1950’s – metallic, not too “fancy”, cut to the bone, totally captivating. When he’s not singing, he’s replaced by Dave Riley, Willie Buck, Alabama Mike or Tomcat Courtney (all veteran bluesmen). Then consider Bob Corritore, a blues harp master who studied and learned from greats like Big Walter Horton, Junior Wells, and Carey Bell. Supporting musicians include Danny Michel (guitar), Troy Sandow (bass), and drummers Malachi Johnson, Brian Fahey, and Marty Dodson sharing the drum kit from song to song. This performance is straight blues at the heart of the original electric sound and it will shake you to the core.

Eric Bibb & North Country Fair – The Happiest Man In The World – Stony Plain
Singer/songwriter, guitarist, banjo player Eric Bibb returns with another folk / blues / Americana disc of mostly original material and the help of several friends, including Danny Thompson (bass), Olli Haavisto (dobro, guitar, pedal steel); Petri Hakala (mandolin, manual, fiddle, guitar); Janne Haavista (drums, percussion); Ulrika Ponten Bibb (basking vocals); Mary Murphy (Irish whistle); and, on the final cut, Michael Jerome Browne (slide and 12-string guitar) and Pepe Ahlquist (harmonica). The entire disc just flows from one song to the next with warmth and beauty. To me, this is one of Bibb’s best.

Rory Block – Keepin’ Outta Trouble: A Tribute To Bukka White – Stony Plain
This is Block’s sixth disc honoring a Mississippi blues legend. One would think that White would a very difficult singer / guitarist to cover, but Block’s performance succeeds so terrifically because she doesn’t try to mimic his singing but instead concentrates on his timing. Combined with her command on the guitar, the disc is at once her own quite formidable work and an acknowledgment of White’s considerable mastery.
https://continentalrecordservices.bandcamp.com/album/keepin-outta-trouble

Fiona Boyes – Professin’ The Blues – Reference Recordings
Aussie blues woman Fiona Boyes seems to have begun her career doing Piedmont style blues and her own compositions and has settled into those styles quite wonderfully over the years, whether she’s playing acoustic or electric. All but one of the sixteen songs here were composed or co-written by her. She shifts across guitars from 4-string cigar box guitar and National Reso-phonic to standard acoustic. Some of her songs are sassy and some reflective.

Steve Dawson – Solid States & Loose Ends – Black Hen Music
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Dawson has been a fixture in the Canadian music community for some time both for his own musical skills and his work as a producer and sideman. This disc is reminiscent of the best of Ry Cooder, perhaps mixed with a dash of Arlo Guthrie. He has a declarative, sometimes plaintive singing style and enough guitar skill (acoustic and electric) to drop your jaw – not overly busy but just exactly what the song needs. Dawson’s repertoire draws on traditional folk songs and originals. There is a revolving set of backing musicians including Gary Craig (drums), John Dymond and Mike Bub (bass), Kevin McKendree (organ), Jim Hoke (sax), Steve Herrman (trumpet), Fats Kaplan (viola, fiddle), and the McCrary Sisters and Keri Latimer (background vocals). You can hear samples of the album here.

Corey Dennison Band – Corey Dennison Band – Delmark
Corey Dennison not only co-wrote all but two of the songs on this disc, but he plays solid guitar and has a voice big enough to fill any room. This is a blues band, but Dennison injects some country funk to most of the songs here and the party is ready to start! The rest of the band includes Gerry Hundt (guitar, organ, and writer/co-writer of all of the songs on the disc); Nik Skilnik (bass); and Joel Baer (drums). That’s it: BIG voice, some attitude, a big sense of humor, and a grand desire to party on.

Swamp Cabbage – Jive – Chicken Head Knob
Swamp blues trio currently based in New Jersey though guitarist/singer/group leader Walter Parks is originally from Jacksonville, FL, where “swamp cabbage” – the stewed heart of a Florida Sabal palm tree – is a local food tradition as well as the source of the band’s name. Parks played backup and toured with Richie Havens for a number of years prior to forming this band along with drummer Jagoda and bass player Jim DeVito. Guests Eric Brigmond (organ) and Peter Sparacino (bari sax) add to the brew. The disc’s title may say it all. Any group that opens its disc with a song called “Butta” (that’s how it’s said in the Deep South) is bound to take you for a ride. Certainly worth checking out if you like the swamp sound. You can hear a sample of the songs here.

Various Artists – Classic Chicago Blues – Live & Unreleased – Wolf
The performers here include blues shouter Bonnie Lee (in TOP form), bassist/vocalist Nick Holt (younger brother of Morris “Magic Slim” Holt), drummer/vocalist Earl Howell (who played with many blues greats, including being a member of Magic Slim & The Teardrops), and guitarist John Primer, who played with numerous Chicago greats, including Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, before joining Magic Slim and then starting his own band. Many musicians and critics considered the Teardrops to be THE best live blues band in the world for a number of years. Amazing that these recordings were unreleased until now! This is a killer release from top to bottom!

Various Artists – God Don’t Never Change: The Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson – Alligator
An interesting tribute to Blind Willie Johnson, Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, Cowboy Junkies, Luther Dickinson & the Rising Star Fife & Drum Band, Rickie Lee Jones, Sinead O’Connor, and Maria McKee. For the most part, this is not the mellow folky remembrance of an exceptional old folk-blues performer, but is instead an uncanny and fitting modernization of the “shock and awe” of the message of God’s wrath. You can hear songs from the album here.

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