New Blues Review 2/20/2024

JJ Grey & Mofro – Olustee (Alligator Records)  “The early days of Mofro can be traced back to the mid-1990s when John Higginbotham, aka “JJ Grey,” and Daryl Hance signed with a United Kingdom label and played shows in Europe as Mofro Magic. Grey and Hance met in their hometown of Jacksonville, Florida while working for an air conditioning company and developed a friendship through music. Their first band together was a rock band called Faith Nation followed by a funk band called Alma Zuma.  The deal with the record label in London fell through, and Grey and Hance returned to their native Jacksonville and formed Mofro, then signed with Fog City Records in 2001. The name “Mofro” was coined by JJ Grey as an explanation of the sound that the band made.[2] Grey says the word was originally a nickname that a co-worker gave him, and Grey adopted it as the band’s name because it “sounded southern.” Grey later changed the band’s name to “JJ Grey & Mofro” when his grandmother asked him if he was ashamed to use his own name. Their newest CD is titled Olustee, and while I would not say this is a “Blues” album, it is killer!! If you like the Jam, Blues based music, this might be your cup of tea. “Top Of The World” reminds me “Feeling Alright” by Joe Cocker, just a little funkier. “Olustee” is a cool tune with some deep reverbed harmonica leads. A bunch of slower songs on this album, but I think my favorite on this CD is “Rooster”, listen here. I will probably give this a 7 on Blues Content and a 10 on Music Content.

Steve Shanahan – Blue Ranchero (8th Train Records)  “Altered Five smokes, smolders and burns like a swig of good whiskey. The hip Milwaukee quintet is known for its strong brew of tough, original blues and hard-hitting live shows. Blues Blast raves that barrel-chested front man Jeff Taylor possesses a “smooth, warm-toned voice as monumental and undeniable as Howlin’ Wolf with the finish and flourish of B.B. King.” Downbeat declares stealth guitarist Jeff Schroedl “reaches the high bar of mixed invention and fluidity.” Fueled by a rhythm section laying down the deepest grooves this side of the MGs, the five blues blasters hit the ground running 22 years ago and show no sign of easing up. Their seventh studio recording, Testifyin’, is set to be released on Blind Pig Records March 22, 2024″. Band consists of Steve on vocals and lead guitar, Matt Daniels on Guitar, Mikey Junior on Harmonica, Jimmy Pritchard on Bass, Scott Stump on Drums, Judd Nielsen on Piano and Organ and Steve Kirsty on Sax. This is a great Cd of covers of Blues Greats Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Freddie King and Elmore James. Two Originals, one by Steve Shanahan, “Blue Ranchero” and one by Mikey Junior, “Speedway Shuffle”. Some of my favorites are “Train Kept Rollin'”, “Hideaway”, and “Shake Your Money Maker” but I think my favorite on this CD is “Driftin’ Blues”, listen here. I will probably give this a 10 on Blues Content and a 9 on Music Content.

Albert Cummings – Strong (Ivy Records)  “Cummings first picked up guitar at 15. But his priority was to be a builder, a business he has since won awards for. Seeing Stevie Ray Vaughan live inspired the contractor to turn professional as a guitarist, releasing his debut recording in 1999 at the relatively late age of 32. Vaughan’s bassist (Tommy Shannon) and drummer (Chris Layton) were impressed enough to produce, help compose and play on his next album, 2001’s From the Heart. Since then he has recorded nine studio sets and a live one for a variety of high profile labels (Blind Pig, Provogue), produced by some of the top names in his roots blues/rocking genre (David Z., Jim Gaines), toured the world as a festival headliner and seen his albums notch the upper reaches of the blues charts. Not bad for what was once a side gig. For Strong, Cummings’ new studio release number 11, he collaborates with award winning producer/drummer/songwriter Tom Hambridge on a dozen songs (ten originals/two covers) displaying the guitarist/singer/songwriter’s multiple talents. Unlike others in his genre, Cummings’ style is diverse enough to include more than the roof-raising rockers with rugged, raging guitar solos that wow ‘em on those large stages.”. This newest CD “Strong” is a super strong Blues album with a little country influences thrown in. Albert’s guitar playing is world class, I can hear BB, Freddie and Albert Collins in his presentation of the blues. All the songs on this CD are amazing with my highlights being “Live Strong”, “Let it Burn” and “Going Down Slow” and the only non original is the Beatles’ “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road” but I think my favorite on this CD is “Get Busy”, listen here. I will probably give this a 10 on Blues Content and a 10 on Music Content.

Danielle Nicole – You Love You Bleed (Forty Below Records)  “Bassist, singer, songwriter Danielle Nicole is pleased to announce the upcoming release of her new album, The Love Your Bleed, out January 26, 2024 via Forty Below Records. Nicole shares new video and single “Make Love”. This stunning new album is comprised of twelve heartfelt tracks exploring themes of love, loss, and perseverance. The Love You Bleed was produced by Tony Braunagel (Taj Mahal, Eric Burdon, Robert Cray) and co-produced by Nicole, with John Porter (B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Bryan Ferry) mixing. The tight-knit quartet on the songs features Danielle on bass guitar and vocals; Brandon Miller (electric, acoustic, pedal steel, mandolin, and 12-string guitar), Damon Parker (keyboards); Go-Go Ray (drums), and Stevie Blacke (violin and cello).”. Danielle has such a clear and strong voice that fits the music she writes and performs. She tackles some great musical moments on this CD like “Right By Your Side” going from soft verses to powerful vocals on the choruses. I would probably put her in the Genre of either Pop or even Country but you can tell she has some amazing Blues roots in her music and voice. Some other notables are “Fool’s Gold” and “Head Down Low” (has a cool Hill Country Feel). I think my favorite on this CD is “Fireproof”, listen here. I will probably give this a 7 on Blues Content and a 9 on Music Content.

The Wayne Riker Gathering – Alphabetical Blues Bash Volume 2 (Fretfull Records)  “Wayne Riker is a long time guitar teacher and author of music books from Southern California. Here he demonstrates his guitar prowess with a dozen blues standards with vocal assistance from nine San Diego area singers. His career has entered his sixth decade and he’s a master of the six string.” This is Vol 2 of the Alphabet of Wayne’s favorites blues standards, the first CD had music from A-M, This tackles the songs from M-Z. Wayne has such a great touch on guitar and one of the cleanest tones that you can hear. With Wayne’s amazing catalog of songs, he has brought together some of the best voices out of San Diego to cover these Blues Greats. “Nobody Knows You When Your Down And Out” is outstanding with Sandi King on vocals, “One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer was sung by Stacy Antonel and has sort of a country feel with Wayne playing slide guitar. “Your Time Is Gonna Come” is another great tune sung by the amazing voice of Lauren Leigh. I think my favorite on this CD is “Unchain My Heart with Rebecca Jade killing the vocals, listen here. I will probably give this a 9 on Blues Content and a 9 on Music Content.



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