New Blues News – 2/13/2018
The Reverend Shawn Amos – Breaks It Down (Self-produced): The Reverend Shawn Amos (harmonica, vocals) presents a sermon on the state of race relations in the US with straight forward lyrics and an evolving music setting that helps focus the various messages he created while traveling through the south. Topics include the state of the union in 2017, learning to trust and love one another, and in his Freedom Suite, two stark blues: “Uncle Tom’s Prayer” and “Does My Life Matter” and a plea entitled “(We’ve Got To) Come Together”. He closes the disc with a dark remake of Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding”. There is mostly a blues and soul setting on this disc. Supporting musicians include Chris “Doctor” Roberts, James Saez and Michael Toles (guitar); Leroy Hodges Jr, Larry Taylor, Alex Al and Hannah Dexter (bass); Steve Potts and Mike Smirnoff (drums); Charles Hodges and Peter Adams (keys): with horns added on a couple of songs and supporting vocals by Harold Thomas, Robert “Tex” Wrightsel, Lester Lands, Bill Pittman, Charlotte Gibson, Kenya Hathaway and Phileman Young, among others. There is a lot of stylistic variety on the disc and some very strong songs. Click here and scroll down to listen to the song “2017”.
Carolyn Gaines – Beware Of My Dog (Polk Dot): Singer Carolyn Gaines, daughter of blues guitarist Roy Gaines and niece of sax wizard Grady Gaines, offers what appears to be her first release on disc. She has a large voice and a unique style of shouting and growling, reminiscent of Big Mama Thornton with a slightly muted growl. This is down-home gritty blues singing. Her supporting band includes Big Jay McNeeley and Grady Gaines, Jr (saxes); Del Atkins (growling bass); Fred Clark (guitar); Chad Wright (drums); Glen Doll (harmonica); and Rudy Copeland (organ). The vocals are so strong that the mic distorts and partially mutes the sound. The bass is the dominant instrument. This is down in the ally or way out behind the born blues singing and playing. The sound quality may not appeal to everyone, but Carolyn Gaines is a singer to hear and pay attention to. Click here to listen to samples of the songs on this disc.
Janiva Magness – Love Is An Army (Blue Elan): Janiva Magness describes this disc as “…all here…Songs of empowerment, protest, hope and sweet regret.” (liner notes) Her performance is all there too, even when the rough spots in her voice stand out. Those rough spots emphasize the emotion of the songs and perseverance in the face of difficulty, whether personal or ideological. She wrote or co-wrote four of the songs and several others were written by Dave Darling, who played guitar and produced the disc. Other participating musicians are Stephen Hodges (drums), Davey Faragher (bass), Arlan Schierbaum (keys), Doug Livingston (pedal steel, dobro), Phil Parlapiano (piano), Darrell Leonard, Joe Sublet and Alfredo Ballesteros (horns) and special guests Rusty Young (pedal steel), Delbert McClinton (vocal), Charlie Musselwhite (harmonica), Yourtney Hartman (guitar, banjo), Cedric Burnside (guitar) and Bryan Stephens (vocal). Even if you don’t like bumpy roads, I would certainly recommend taking this trip. It’s not officially released for another week or two, but click here and scroll down to listen to three samples.
John Mayall – Three For The Road (Forty Below): John Mayall stays out on the road playing for live audiences and he still sounds as vibrant as ever. He was 83 when he gave this performance but you wouldn’t guess it. Though his vocals have never been his strongest asset, Mayall sings and plays keyboards and harmonica with authority. He is backed up by Greg Rzab (bass) and Jay Davenport (drums). The program features two Mayall compositions and includes classics like “Big Town Playboy” (Eddie Taylor) and “I Feel So Bad” (Lightnin’ Hopkins); lesser known classics like “Tears Came Rollin’ Down” (Henry Townsend) and Lionel Hampton and Dan Burley’s “Ridin’ On The L & N”; more recent songs like Sonny Landreth’s “Congo Square” and Curtis Salgado’s “The Sum Of Something”; and a couple of his own compositions. Mayall is in great form throughout and the rhythm section is as tight as can be. The only thing missing is being there when these performances were recorded. Click here to check out a short clip of Mayall and the group live playing “Ridin’ On The L & N” around the time of the recording.
Muddy Gurdy – Muddy Gurdy (Chantilly Negra): Muddy Gurdy is a French trio including singer/guitarist Tia Gouttebel, percussionist Marc Glomeau, and Gilles Chabenat on the coil-on-strings hurdy-gurdy (thus, the band’s name). They are quite earnest in their attraction and performance. Their first release was completed in 2014 and after that they decided they really wanted to visit the North Mississippi Hill Country and record there, picking up additional skills from the performers who did it best. They were warmly received by several of the younger members of the North Hill Country stars, who joined in on various songs and commentary: Cedric Burnside (guitar, vocal), Cameron Kimbrough (guitar, vocal), Pat Thomas (guitar, vocal), and Sharde Thomas (fife, vocal). The production and performances are not at the level reached by the older players, but the spirit is certainly there. Click here and scroll down to listen to samples of the songs on this disc.
Revelator Hill w/ Ron Holloway – Live By The Creek (Root Nine): Here’s the most recent release by Revelator Hill featuring Bobby Thompson (guitar, vocals), Seth Morrissey (bass, vocals), Wes launch (keys), and Gary Crockett (drums) with special guest Ron Holloway (sax) live at Lubber Run Amphitheater in Arlington, VA. They cut this roughly a year ago and performed a few weeks ago on Lambeth Live courtesy of WTJU! The band is based in the DC area and they sizzle! Smokin’ blues rock with a jazzy soulful slant that will put a glide in your slide. Click here to catch their live performance of “Bad Luck Goodbye” opening this disc. If that doesn’t grab you, check your pulse!
Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys- My Life, Twentieth Anniversary (Nevermore): Reverend Raven and his band have been partying for 20 years and they certainly know how! They are a rockin’ roadhouse band in the Skip Castro family of bands that rock you and bluz you until you can’t stand up anymore! They shuffle boogies and rock the blues with the best of them. Unlike Skip, Raven has had a rotating group of players over the years, though the musical quality has remained strong. Raven sings and plays guitar or slide on all tracks. The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys include Cadillac Pete Rahn, Madison Slim, Benny Rickun, and Westside Andy Linderman trading off on harmonica; Andre Maritato, Brad Bill and PT Pedersen (bass); Vic Spann, Spencer Panosh, Bobby Lee Sellers, Jr, and Craig Panosh on drums; Ron Kovach and Jimmy Voegeli (organ); Mickey Larson (piano); Danny Moore (piano, organ); Jeff Roberts (rhythm guitar) and Big Al Groth (saxophone). Jim, jam jumping and could teach a green man something! Click here and scroll down to listen to “She’s Moving On”, a performance from this disc.
Johnny Tucker – Seven Day Blues (Highjohn): Veteran blues drummer and singer Johnny Tucker got his first big break in the mid sixties when he became a drummer with Phillip Walker’s band. This is his second release as a leader and singer. This disc features fifteen original compositions by Tucker and he sings with a large shouting style throughout. The supporting musicians include Big Jon Atkinson (guitar), Scot Smart (second guitar except when Atkinson switches to bass), Kid Ramos (guitar), Troy Sandow (harmonica, bass), Malachi Johnson or Marty Dodson (drums), Bob Corritone (harmonica), Bob Welch (organ), and Kedar Roy (harmonica). This is truly classic Chicago style electric blues and everyone is in solid form. A certified Professor Bebop “Wax Devoid of Cracks”! Click here to listen to samples of the songs on this disc.
Victor Wainwright & The Train – Victor Wainwright & The Train (Ruf): Victor Wainwright has a new label but he hasn’t lost any of his wackiness or his keyboard skills. He also plays lap steel and belly tambourine. The Train includes Billy Dean (drums, percussion, vocal), Terrence Grayson (bass, vocal), and Pat Harrington (guitar, vocal) and there are numerous guests: Mark Early (bari, tenor sax, flute), Doug Woolverton (trumpet), Reba Russell, Nick Black and Patricia Ann Dees (vocals), Dave Gross (guitars, percussion), and Greg Gumpel, Josh Roberts, Monster Mike Welch and Jeff Jensen (guitar guests). A dozen new songs and everybody is having a rocking time, even if Wainwright had one bout of “Boogie Depression”. I’m afraid there are no samples yet, but click here to catch a live song from last November.
Billy Walton Band – Soul Of A Man (Vizztone): Guitarist / singer Billy Walton offers the fifth release by his band in the past decade. The group also features William Paris (bass, vocal) and Johnny D’Angelo (drums). All but two of the eleven songs are originals by one or more members of the band. The sound is augmented at times by horns, keyboards and by Jack Gist (harmonica). The band is basically a rock band with occasional nods to the blues. In fact, they describe themselves as an old school rock and soul band. They do play quite well together and offer a variety of sounds. Click here to listen to samples of the songs on this disc.