New Blues Review 2-27-24

Mike Zito – Life Is Hard (Gulf Coast Records)  “Naturally, patience and perseverance have been Zito’s stock and trade since the beginning. He began playing guitar at the age of five, and by the time he reached his late teens, he was already a fixture on the local St. Louis music scene. He initially released his music independently and then signed with Eclecto Groove Records in 2008. “Pearl River,” the title track of his 2009 album for the label, won Song of the Year at the Blues Music Awards and marked his first collaboration with Cyril Neville, with whom he’d later work in the Royal Southern Brotherhood. A steady succession of critically acclaimed albums followed, culminating in 2011’s Greyhound, which was nominated for Best Rock Blues Album at that year’s Blue Music Awards ceremony in Memphis. Two years later, he signed with Ruf Records and released Gone to Texas, the story of how he gained his sobriety, offered an emotional homage to the state that left an indelible imprint on his entire life. It also marked the debut of his band, The Wheel.” Mike has always been a monster on guitar and gravely vocals, this newest CD “Life Is Hard”, Mike brings in some heavy hitter friends to back him up including Joe Bonamassa on guitar, Josh Smith on guitar, Reese Wynans on Keys, Calvin Turner on Bass , Lemar Carter on Drums and a few others rounding out the band. The whole CD is solid Blues runs the gamet of Driving Rock Blues like “Lonely Man” to the slow blues like “Life Is Hard”. Other notable tunes is “Darkkness” and “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” but I think my favorite on this CD is “Nobody Moves Me Like You Do”, listen here. I will probably give this a 10 on Blues Content and a 10 on Music Content.

Lone Star Mojo – A Shot Of The Blues (Self Produced)  “It was meant to be. Five musicians with decades of experience between them. All contributing their unique style to this album of NOS {new old songs}. From heart and soul rock and blues to quirky off beat humorous numbers, Lone Star Mojo crafts a niche in todays musical landscape. The band is not perfect and a little rough around the edges. This is what makes these tunes stand out. They are real and sincere. Listening to these songs over a period of time will grow on you. Crank up the volume and indulge your musical senses. It is meant to be.” Overall the music isn’t bad, but I could tell it was Self produced just by listening to the CD but I bet this is a great live band. Band consist of Joe Splawn on B3 and Vocals, Mark Snyder on Guitar and Vocals, Time Maloney on Bass and Barry Sloan on Drums. There are a couple of guest musicians included on this recording also. I think my favorite on this CD is “Corner Boogie”, listen here. I will probably give this a 10 on Blues Content and a 7 on Music Content.

Jennifer Porter – Yes, I Do! (Cougar Moon Music)  “Jennifer Porter is an award-winning singer, actor and screenwriter. A musician’s musician blessed with a beautiful voice, Jennifer has performed a repertoire that spans from Jazz and Blues to Country and Opera. She has sung with Classical and Jazz Orchestras, including the world-famous Glenn Miller Orchestra.  Though trained as an opera singer and classical pianist, she considers herself a Roots Musician at heart, as she began playing piano at age five after sneaking out of bed to watch a boogie-woogie piano-player named Maxine perform at one of her grand-parents notorious cocktail parties.  Jennifer is still most at home sitting at the piano and singing while banging out an old Blues tune in a red-hot 88 style. Jennifer’s previous album, These Years, which received international critical-acclaim, was recorded with Grammy-winning producer Jay Newland and included special guests C.J. Chenier and Country Music Hall Of Famer, Charlie McCoy. These Years earned Jennifer a 2020 We Are The Music Makers award for Best Roots/Americana/Blues Album and a 2019 Independent Music Network award for Best Female Crossover Artist. She was also nominated for four other Independent Music Network awards including Favorite Country Female Artist, and Favorite Female Mainstream Artist.  Her song from These Years, “Road To Redemption”, hit #1 on National Indie Radio and the Independent Music Network’s, New Music Weekly’s, and National Radio Hits’ Country Charts.  The title track from These Years hit #2 On the Independent Music Network’s Mainstream Charts. ” Although Jennifer has a very pleasant voice for Jazz singing, this does not translate over to Blues to my ear. Most of the songs are very much Pop, leaning on Jazz. I think my favorite on this CD is “Lucky Dust”, listen here. I will probably give this a 7 on Blues Content and a 9 on Music Content.

Various – Breakin’ News (Nola Blue Records)  “Nola Blue Records imprint began with the 2014 release of ‘Journey’ by Benny Turner. In the ensuing years, the catalog has grown to 25 titles, including Turner’s homage to his brother, the late Freddie King, ‘My Brother’s Blues,’ as well as albums from blues legacy artists Cash McCall (RIP) and Frank Bey (RIP). ‘All My Dues Are Paid,’ the label’s second release by Bey, received a posthumous GRAMMY nomination for traditional blues album of the year (2020). Artists and projects that have received Blues Music Awards and nominations include Benny Turner, Frank Bey, John Németh, Clarence Spady, Trudy Lynn, and The Love Light Orchestra. Nola Blue Records was named “Record Label of the Year” by The Josie Awards in September 2020. This album is a soulful selection of milestones from the past ten years, but is only a portion of the many sounds of Nola Blue Records.” So this was an real unexpected treat to my ears. Some great “hometown Blues” in all of these recordings with artist like Benny Turner, Frank Bey, Cash McCall, Clarence Spady, Trudy Lynn, The Love Light Orchestra, John Nemeth and Lil’ Jimmy Reed. Some of the highlights for me was “Breakin’ News” by Benny Turner, Elmore James’ “It Hurts Me Too” and “They Call Me Lil’ Jimmy”. I think my favorite on this CD is “The Last Time” with John Nemeth, Elvin Bishop, Bob Welsh and Kid Anderson, listen here. I will probably give this a 10+ on Blues Content and a 10+ on Music Content.

Tinsley Ellis – Naked Truth (Alligator Records)  “Alligator Records will release Naked Truth, the first-ever solo acoustic album from world-renowned Atlanta-based guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Tinsley Ellis. The  new album is steeped in the folk blues traditions of Muddy Waters, Skip  James, Son House, Robert Johnson and even Leo Kottke. To the casual  fan, this might seem to be a new direction, but for Ellis, it’s an  extension of his music, as he taps into the raw essence of the blues. Tinsley Ellis has been immersed in music his whole life. Born in Atlanta 1957 and raised in southern Florida, he acquired his first guitar at age seven, inspired by seeing The Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. He took to guitar instantly, developing and sharpening his skills as he grew up. Like many kids his age, Ellis discovered the blues through the back door of British Invasion bands like The Yardbirds, The Animals, Cream and The Rolling Stones as well as Southern rockers like The Allman Brothers. One afternoon after high school in 1972, he and a friend were listening to Al Kooper and Michael Bloomfield’s Super Session record when his friend’s older brother told them that, if they liked Super Session, they should go see B.B. King, who was in town that week. Tinsley saw that show from the very front row. As fate would have it, King broke a guitar string while playing, and after changing it without missing a beat, he handed the broken string to young Tinsley. And yes, Tinsley still has that string. Less than three years later, Ellis, already an accomplished teenaged musician, left Florida and moved to Atlanta. He soon joined a hard-driving local blues band, the Alley Cats. In 1981, along with veteran blues singer and harpist Chicago Bob Nelson, Tinsley formed The Heartfixers, a group that would become Atlanta’s top-drawing blues band. After cutting four Heartfixers albums (three for the Landslide label), Ellis was ready to step out on his own.” This was such a treat of a CD to hear from Tinsley, I have been a big fan of his over the years. Having him step back from the electric full band to a solo and resonator guitar on some of the tracks was a pleasant side of Tinsley. Some of the highlights are Son House’s “Death Letter Blues”, “Hoochie Mama” and “Grown Ass Man”. I think my favorite on this CD is “Devil In The Room”, listen here. I will probably give this a 10 on Blues Content and a 10 on Music Content.



Become a Sponsor

Underwriting WTJU is a way to broadly share information about your business. It’s also a way for your business or organization to gain community-wide recognition for your support of WTJU’s community mission.

Underwrite a Program


Your gift nourishes our community and helps bring people together through music.

Underwrite a Program