New Blues News – 5/11/2021
Reverend Shawn Amos – The Cause Of It All (Put Together Music): “We brought the ancestors into the room,” says The Reverend Shawn Amos, likening himself to the griots of West Africa, a class of traveling poets, musicians, and storytellers who keep oral tradition alive, binding the people together with song. The Rev is talking about The Cause of It All, his new stripped-down collection of blues classics, forged in quarantine with longtime guitarist Chris “Doctor” Roberts. The timing couldn’t be better. Pared down to their essence, these songs speak to our shared sense of vulnerability and isolation, but with the joyful, contagious swagger that has long borne bluesmen – and their listeners – through trouble, into the light. The Cause of It All, the Reverend’s 4th studio album (Shawn Amos’ 8th), arrives a year after Blue Sky, his full-band outing with the Brotherhood – including drummer Brady Blade and bassist Christopher Thomas. The Cause of It All harkens back to historic pairings like Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and Junior Wells & Buddy Guy. The Rev and the Doctor deliver standards and lesser-known chestnuts, all bracingly intimate, every word hanging unencumbered in the air like an incantation. Just as they have on stages throughout the world, these men leave a lot on the floor: the breath into the bullet microphone, the laughter, the fret buzz, the defiant foot stomp – everything reverberating in a spirit-filled space, offering soul sustenance as only a well-crafted song can.“There’s a bravery I wanted to capture,” the Rev says of the platters that inspired The Cause of It All — masterworks from icons like Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, and Little Walter. “I wanted to bring back a spontaneity that’s been lost.” Sure enough, with no rhythm section to mask the occasional reckless moment, the bare bones tunes evoke the rickety front porches and smoky back rooms in which they were born, places of both refuge and unabashed celebration. The Rev executes his most assured vocals and harp playing yet, radiating within spartan arrangements that percolate with Dr. Roberts’ unique, deeply sympathetic, snaky electric and acoustic stylings.” ( https://www.shawnamos.com/cause-of-it-all#the-cause-of-it-all-story2-section) Straight ahead and stripped down to the core. This is a certified Professor Bebop “Wax Devoid of Cracks”! Click here for an introduction from Reverend Shawn Amos.
Donna Herula – Bang At The Door (Self-produced): “Donna Herula is a Chicago-born blues singer, songwriter, and slide guitarist that has a passion for playing traditional Delta and Country Blues, early Chicago Blues, folk, Americana, and roots music. Using electrified resonator guitars, her sound combines her love for the music of the Deep South and Chicago with her love of blues guitar improvisation. Her songwriting tips the hat to the tradition while creating fresh, contemporary perspectives on blues and roots music.” (https://donnaherula.com/) This is her third release and all but two songs are originals. She is accompanied by FJ Ventre (resonator, vocals), Dana Thalheimer (drums), Tony Pons (trumpet), Rebecca Toon (backing vocal), Tony Nardielle (acoustic guitar), Jon Shain (mandolin), Doug Hammer (piano), Bill Newton (harmonica) and Ann Harris (fiddle). The songs are original and expressive and straight and solid acoustic blues. Ten terrific original songs and four others that blend beautiful with them: “Fixin’ To Die”(Booker White), Lucinda Williams’ “Jackson”, Willie Johnson’s “The Soul Of A Man” and “Got What I Deserve” by Herula andJon Shain. Refreshing and solid from end to end! Click here to listen to Donna Herula’s introduce this new release.
Johnny Rawls – Best Of Johnny Rawls, Volume 1 (Catfood): This release offers 14 songs recorded and performed between 1966’s “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted” and 2017’s “Waiting For The Train”. Rawls has a mellow and straight ahead style that encourages medium to slow dancing just right for the mood. Click here to listen to “Memphis Still Got Soul” from this disc.
Clarence Spady – Surrender (NOLA Blue): “Clarence Spady is thoroughly motivated when it comes to his career. “Here we are in the saddle,” says the veteran blues guitarist. “I’ve got both hands on the reins right now. So I don’t plan on letting go.” Excellent news for contemporary blues fans who are well aware of Spady’s acclaimed 1996 album Nature of the Beast and his equally impressive 2008 followup Just Between Us….By the mid-‘90s, the success of Nature of the Beast helped influence his nomination for a 1997 W.C. Handy Award for Best New Blues Artist. The record had legs, and Clarence toured for six years behind that release….His sophomore release, Just Between Us, garnered a 2009 Blues Music Award nomination for Soul Blues Album of the year….But apart from an in-concert CD, Live at Greco’s, that was never officially released, he had to wait until 2008 to release his next high-profile album, Just Between Us, on David Earl’s Severn label. Funkier than its predecessor, it consisted entirely of originals apart from a closing instrumental treatment of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.” And once again, blues aficionados took notice: Just Between Us was nominated for a 2009 Blues Music Award as Soul Blues Album of the Year….Spady makes no secret of his intermittent battles with drugs and alcohol, now in the past…. One thing we can all look forward to when the pandemic ends is a new Clarence Spady album, already in the works. “I want to be energized with this one, but you’re gonna hear a maturity of writing more with what we’re getting ready to do, even though it’s gonna have energy,” he says. “But it’s just gonna have the energy that somebody over half a century would have that’s still hanging on.” (Bill Dahl, Music Journalist) The Spady intensity, style and guitar work place him in the top blues players of all times. This disc is certified Professor Bebop “Wax Devoid of Cracks”! Click here to listen to two songs on this release.
Ron Stone featuring Elena Keto & Hiroshi Eguchi – Trio In Tokyo (Blue Heart): This is Rob Stone’s fifth release and he blows his harmonica just fine. He also sings several songs. Elena Keto (piano) and Hihoshi Eguchi (bass) complete the trio and the group offers a fine set. The setlist ranges from standards like “Got To Get You Out Of My Mind” and “Goodnight Irene” to “Poison Ivy” and “What Am I Living For?”. Stone also offers an original of his own – “Blow Fish Blow!” Click here to listen to “Got To Get You Off My Mind” from this disc.