New Blues News – 1/13/2016

New Blues News – 1/13/2016

Steve Howell & The Mighty Men – Friend Like Me (Self-produced): Singer/guitarist Howell leads the group through selected old folk blues songs, ranging from traditional folk songs like “Little Sadie” to selections written and performed by Charley Patton and Rev. Gary Davis wrapping up with John Phillips’ “Me And My Uncle” and “Pretty Flamingo” most closely associated with Manfred Mann. The sound is that of a few old friends sitting around a stove or fireplace playing some of their favorites. Instrumentally, the sound is laid back and homey, with quietly electrified guitars from Howell and Chris Michaels, bass by Jason Weinheimer and Dave Hoffpauir on drums. Howell has a narrow range but a basically pleasant voice. Click here to listen to the opening and certainly one of the strongest performances on this disc.

Berdon Kirksaether & The Twang Bar Kings – The Voodoo Sessions, Live at Down Under (Roller): Watch out for the voodoo, which has now spread to Norway in the form of the Twang Bar Kings, fronted by guitarist/singer Berdon Kirksaether. Other players include Erik Gabrielsen (guitar), Roy Hanssen (drums), and Stein Tumert (bass). Everyone shares vocals on these four songs, three of which are originals.  The overall sound is rock with some eery effects and foreboding lyrics and vocals. The group have been a part of the Norwegian blues scene for some time.  Click here to listen to a sample from this EP.

Joyann Parker & Sweet Tea – On The Rocks (Self-produced): Formed a little more than two years ago, Ms Joyann & Sweet Tea have been stirring things up in Minneapolis and won the main honors in the state in the International Blues Challenge. Next stop is Memphis, where Ms Parker will share her big voice and soul/blues style to turn some serious heads there. She wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on this disc (guitarist Mark Lamoine was the co-writer on three) and she also plays guitar and piano.  The remainder of the group includes David Harris (bass), Mick Zampogna (keys, accordion), and Nick Zack (drums).  Parker really handles the vocals with command. She has a full voice, but isn’t really a shouter. She is, however, quite expressive and takes full advantage of the tightness of the band. Click here to listen to a live version of a song on this disc.

Benny Turner – When She’s Gone (Nola Blue): Soulful blues singer and bassist, Benny Turner has a mellow and sophisticated vocal style that places him solidly in the soul blues category. This disc presents six songs from his first recording (1997), which was never “officially” released on a proper label and features a terrific duet with soul singer Marva Wright.  Several songs do not feature any guitar work, a decision that Benny made at the time in tribute to his deceased brother Freddy King and his former band mate Mighty Joe Young. On the newer recordings where there is guitar, it is provided by Dr. John, Bob Margolin, Derwin “Big D” Perkins, Marc Stone and Benny himself. Other instrumentalists present on various cuts are Samuel “The Bishop” Berfect, Davell Crawford, Keiko Komaki and Marc Adams (keys), Alonzo Johnson and Benny Turner (bass & lead bass), Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander, Larry Williams and Herman Ernest III (drums). Two songs feature what may be the last recordings featuring Charles Brown. There is some distortion on one of them due to damage from Katrina, but the rarity of the piece carried the day. Fans of soul blues check it out!  Click here for a live performance featuring Benny Turner. Note that neither this song nor performance is on the above disc.  

Jason Vivone & The Billy Bats – The Avenue (Self-produced): Here’s an interesting and fairly crazy disc: Vivone starts the disc making it clear exactly how one says V-i-v-o-n-e (I won’t spoil it – you’ll have to listen for yourself). BTW, he is a solid slide player and the main drift on this release is hip swing and boogie coming off of the blues side. He also composed all but one of the songs. The “Billy Bats” are six strong and feature Ben Hoppes (banjo, percussion), Rick MacIvor (various keys, percussion), Joanna Berkebile (percussion), Paula Crawford (guitar, percussion), Matt Bustamante (drums, percussion) and Jeremy Clark (bass). Everyone but Clark provides backing vocals. The lone cover, “Kansas City Blues”, is handled with aplomb. They are a few steps on the outside of regular and looking to have some fun, meaning they could find a place on my show. Click here to listen to a live version of the opening track on this disc.


Professor Bebop


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