New Blues News – 11/10/2017
Jim Byrnes – Long Hot Summer Days (Black Hen Music): Jim Byrnes singer/songwriter/guitarist and former television actor (“Wiseguy”, “Highlander” series) releases his ninth release and it is a tantalizing set. His partnership with Steve Dawson (guitars, producer) seems to be a perfect mix. Dawson wrote one song and co-wrote two more with Byrnes and their instrumental union is fundamental to the success of this disc. The main idea is to perform songs in a blues or gospel style. The overall style is straight forward and laid-back, so that the lyrics are center stage and the style is blues drenched in front porch gospel. The soulful sound works for standards like Willie Dixon’s “Weak Brain, Narrow Mind” and Elmore James’ “Something Inside Me” or chestnuts like Big Jay McNeely’s “There Is Something on Your Mind” or soul gem “Ninety-nine And A Half (Won’t Do)” or folksy rock songs like Jesse Winchester’s “Step By Step” and Robbie Robertson and the Band’s “The Shape I’m In”. Musicians supporting Byrnes and Dawson include Geoff Hicks (drums, percussion), Jeremy Holmes (bass, mandolin), Chris Gestrin (piano, organ), Steve Marriner (harmonica), with occasional horns by Malcolm Aiken (trumpet), Jerry Cook (bari sax), and Dominic Conway (tenor sax) and occasional vocal backing by the Sojourners (Marcus Mosely, Will Sanders, and Khari McClelland. A certified Professor Bebop “Wax Devoid of Cracks!” Click here and scroll down to listen to samples of the songs on this disc.
Al Corte – Mojo (Self-produced): Singer Al Corte’ began his career in the 1960’s and has opened for numerous acts over the years. He eventually gave up his singing career until 2015 when he decided to begin singing as a front man again. This appears to be his second release. All the stops were pulled on this one. The supporting musicians include the “High” Rhythm Section – Leroy Hodges Jr (bass), Michael Toles (guitar), Charles Hodges (B3 organ), and Steve Potts (drums) on all songs and additional players include Brad Webb (guitar), Ron Miller (guitar, keys), John Nemeth (harmonica), and the Royal Horns. Corte also adds percussion. The songs were written by Ron Miller and two were co-written with Corte. Click here to listen to samples of the songs on this disc.
Downchild – Something I’ve Done (Linus): Originally known as the Downchild Blues Band, this Canadian band has a storied past, first having been discovered by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd who were preparing for the Blues Brothers shows and now being one of the longest running blues bands on earth since they started in 1969. In fact, even though this is a new disc, it still sounds like the old days. This is their nineteenth release. Donnie “Mr. Downchild” Walsh (guitar, harmonica) founded the band which includes Chuck Jackson (lead vocals, harmonica), Pat Carey (tenor & bari sax), Michael Fonfara (piano, organ, dobro), Gary Kendall (bass), and Mike Fitzpatrick (drums), with Peter Jeffrey adding trumpet on several tracks. They’re a solid bar band who will hip you to the old days or remind you of how great it can be. Click here and scroll down to listen to samples of the songs on this disc.
Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters – The Luckiest Man (Stony Plain): “I’m the luckiest man you know – and I don’t even know who you know.” (Jim Mouradian) Bassist Jim Mouradian played with Ronnie Earl from 2003 – 2016 and passed away this year. He wasn’t able to contribute to this release, but Earl dedicated it to his musical partner. Fittingly, Earl’s playing is as beautiful and spiritual as any he has ever done. This is as truly beautiful and engaging a disc as Earl has recorded in a good while and it’s purity and sweetness is as good as it gets. Earl’s Broadcaasters are Dave Limina (piano, B3), Diane Blue (vocals), Forrest Padgett (drums) and Paul Kochanski (bass), with guests Nicholas Tabarias and Peter Ward (guitar), Mark Early (bari sax), Mario Perrett (tenor sax), and Michael “Mudcat” Ward (bass). The line-up on “Lost Long Conversation” includes Sugar Ray Norcia (vocal, harmonica), Anthony Geraci (piano), Mike Welch (guitar), Neil Gouvin (drums), Michael “Mudcat” Ward (bass). This is a certified Professor Bebop “Wax Devoid of Cracks!” Click here for a brief teaser, but take my word, this is one of his best!!!
Casey Hensley – Live (VizzTone): BIG voiced singer/shouter Casey Hensley offers what appears to be her second release, a live gig demonstrating her powerhouse command of the blues. While she’s obviously influenced by a number of shouters like Koko Taylor, Big Mama Thornton, and Janis Joplin, she also expresses thanks to Candye Kane for “showing us the way”. She certainly has the vocal power of any of these greats. The band members are Laura Chavez (guitar), best known for her career co-producing / touring the world with The Candye Kane Band; Evan Caleb Yearsley, son of Candye Kane and King Thomas Yearsley of The Paladins, on drums; Marcos C on bass; and Jonny Viau (sax). Hensley is the newest shouter on the scene and she is ready to take her place on center stage! Just check out her version of “Ball And Chain” and you’ll believe Janis Joplin is back on the planet. In any case, Alexis P. Suter certainly has some serious competition! Click here to listen to the songs on this disc.
Lara & The Bluz Dawgz – Out Here In The Blue (Self-produced): This is the third release by Lara & the Bluz Dawgz and it features eleven original numbers written by the husband and wife team, Lara & Gregg Germony and members of the band. The group includes Lara Germony (vocals), Gregg Germony (bass), Al Rowe (guitar), Carlos Ruiz (drums) Reggie Murray (sax, B3), and Dan Nadasdi (keys). There is a blues inflection in all of the tunes with a countrified or old timey stylistic tinge to the songs. At the same time, it seems a bit more uptown than their previous discs. Click here to listen to samples of the songs on this disc.
Willie May – Haunted House (Self-produced): “Willie May has performed in basements, barns, garages, street corners, speak-easies, house trailers, preschool, high school, colleges, radio, television, bars, county fairs, carnivals, grocery stores, a pigeon coop, concert halls, outdoor festival arenas, and inside Attica prison.” (http://rckblscntrzz.blogspot.com/2017/10/willie-may-haunted-house.html) He also wrote or transformed all of the songs on this disc. While it’s mostly blues or folk based, the musical style and supporting musicians shift a good bit from one song to the next. May has a raspy voice and humor is a regular aspect of his music. He plays guitar, ukulele, kalimba and bass. The most famous musicians on this disc are Mary Ramsey of Ten Thousand Maniacs (viola) and harmonica virtuoso Mark Hummel one song each. My favorites are “Hey Big Fannie”, “Damn That Gubmint” and a new dance song, “Do Maiuke”. Click here to decide which songs would be yours!
The McKee Brothers – Moon Over Montgomery (Self-produced): The McKee Brothers have been in the music business for nearly 20 years and they have played a wide variety of styles and backed up numerous artists over the years. This is their third release as a band and it covers a lot of ground: blues, soul, a touch of country, pop and jump blues. It’s a huge group when everyone who was been a part of it gets together, but it starts with Denis (guitar, keys, bass, vocals) and Ralph McKee (bass, vocals, lap steel) and Melissa Mei McKee (vocals). The other musicians include guitarists Larry McCray (guitar and vocals), Stan Budzynski (slide guitar, vocals), Laith Al-Saadi (guitar, vocals), Kirk Fletcher, Alan Schwartz (slide guitar) and Andy Georges (acoustic guitar); Jim Alfredson (Hammond organ), Bobby West (keys), and Mike Young (keys); bass players Bobby Watson, J.V. Collier, and Al Threats (and vocal); drummers Gerald Painia (and vocal), Chris Stevens, Peter Buck, Jerome Edmonson (vocals too), and Michael Barsimanto; horns: Bob Schultz (bari sax, vocals), Doug Webb (all saxes), John Fumo (trumpet); Lee Thornburg (trumpet, trombone, flugelhorn), and George McMullen (trombone); Andy Wilson (chromatic harmonica), Mike Rose (harmonica); and numerous backing singers. My guess is that these recordings cover a large span of time. The overall sound is really good – great ensemble playing, strong vocals and song styles ranging from blues, to soul, to jazzy soul. It’s a very entertaining disc. Click here to listen to samples of the songs on this disc.
Johnny Nicholas & Friends – Too Many Bad Habits (Self-produced): Here’s a treat: a reissue of one of the early Blind Pig releases, originally recording Nicholas and Walter Horton, Johnny Shines and Boogie Woogie Red in the early 70s in Ann Arbor. “Too Many Bad Habits” was released 1977, but was withdrawn in 1978 when Nicholas joined Asleep At The Wheel, even though some group members had been on the original recording. The master tapes have been found recently and there is a second disc featuring previously unreleased performances and a few alternate takes. This was a great recording at the time and it still is! Nicholas was charged up and the Horton, Shines and Boogie Woogie Red sides are quite fine! I regret I am unable to find a sample from this set, but if you call WTJU when you see this list posted, I’m certain any of the blues deejays will be happy to play you a sample!
Peter Ward – Blues On My Shoulders (Self-produced): Singer/guitarist Peter Ward is a veteran blues player. His brother Michael “Mudcat” Ward has played with Kim Wilson and Ronnie Earl among others for many years. This is Peter’s first release as a player and he was able to bring in quite a line-up to play on it: brother Mudcat Ward plays bass on six songs and Bob Berry and Joe Delia fill in on the rest; while Peter Ward is the main guitarist, Ronnie Earl and Monster Mike Welch sit in on a couple of cuts each; the remaining players are Sax Gordon Beadle (sax); Sugar Ray Norcia (harmonica, vocal); Anthony Geraci (piano); Neil Gouvin and George Dellomo (drums), Rusty Scott (organ) and Eric Kilburn adding mandolin on one song. There are some good moments as you would expect from this list, but regrettably Ward’s singing isn’t at the level of these greats. Click here to listen to samples of the songs on this disc.