New Blues Review 4-1-24

Eric Bibb – Live At The Scala Theatre Stockholm (Stoney Plain)  “Born into a lineage of activism, Eric’s father, the late Leon Bibb, was a key figure in the civil rights movement, marching alongside Dr. Martin Luther King. Immersed in the Village folk scene during his youth, Eric found inspiration in the visits of luminaries like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Pete Seeger. Influenced deeply by the sounds of Odetta, Richie Havens, and Taj Mahal, he synthesized these elements into a style uniquely his own. Beyond conventional genres, Bibb is labeled a bluesman, but he defies categorization, seamlessly sliding between musical realms. Grounded in the folk and blues tradition with contemporary sensibilities, Bibb’s music reflects his thoughts on current world events and his own lived experiences, whilst remaining entertaining, uplifting, inspirational and relevant. Bibb’s catalogue is now over 40 albums strong, with his ethos exemplified in 2023’s Grammy nominated Ridin’, which drew inspiration from the painting “A Ride for Liberty” by Eastman Johnson, depicting a Black family fleeing enslavement during the Civil War.  As Eric reflects on his musical journey, gratitude pervades. Evolution is evident in his voice and guitar playing, with his words providing grounding in truth and fostering a vision of unity amid a world filled with divisive rhetoric. Eric Bibb is more than a blues troubadour; he is a storyteller and philosopher. His legacy is not just in the notes he plays or the stages he graces but in the questions he poses and the hope he instills.” If you like your Blues Smooooooth, Eric Bibb is your man. His voice is so calming and real, such a great story teller. The whole album is fantastic, but songs that stood out for me were “Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad”, “Silver Spoon” and “Mole in the Ground” but my favorite on this CD is “Things Is ‘Bout Comin’ My Way”,  listen here. I will give this a 10 on Blues Content and a 10 on Music Content.

JP Soars – Brick By Brick (Little Village)  “Playing the blues not only requires diligence and dedication, but also an inherent sense of purpose and passion. Guitarist and vocalist J.P. Soars knows those instincts all too well, having been imbued with absolute enthusiasm for the form. It’s not only steered his muse ever since, but also brought him to the heights of success and wide recognition. A first place winner of the Blues Foundation 2009 International Blues Challenge, the Albert King Best Guitarist Award, any number of Blues Music nominations as Best Contemporary Male Blues Artist, and a nod for Best Blues Album, he’s been the recipient of continuing critical kudos, extensive worldwide airplay and sales that have elevated him to the uppermost rungs of every major Blues chart. Of course, Soars and his powerhouse trio the Red Hots — including drummer Chris Peet and bassist Cleveland Fredrick — are no strangers to live performance either. Soars and Peet have played together for the past 16 years, while Fredrick, “the new guy,” has been with the band since 2016. They’ve proven their mettle on stages both nationally and internationally, played blues festivals from Belgium to Brazil, and shared stages with the likes of Buddy Guy, Joe Bonamassa. Brian Setzer and Larry Graham.” This is another great CD by JP, such a great vocalist and guitarist and this CD shows his range as a musician. From the strong riffed “Brick by Brick” and “Keep Good Company” to the boss nova feel of “Jezebel” to the banjo tune “Can’t Keep Her Off My Mind” to the Dobro tune “The Good Lord Will provide”, JB shows his ability make great music in many forms. On this CD JP does Vocals and plays Guitar, Dobro, Banjo, Bass, Lap Steel Cigarbox guitar, Dulcimer and Jaw Harp!! I think my favorite on this CD is “Things Ain’t Working Out” , listen here. I will give this a 10 on Blues Content and a 10 on Music Content.

Cryin’ Out Loud – Play Loud & Smoke Often (Pilot Light)  “Brandon Stallard is a man that appreciates the finest quality in three things: cigars, whiskey and the blues. To understand that is to understand the man who is the singer-songwriter, guitarist and voice behind Cryin’ Out Loud, a Maine-based blues and classic rock band. You see, Stallard doesn’t merely smoke a cigar. He takes his sweet time; he meticulously chooses each cigar, which he cuts precisely and burns slowly. So much like the way he appreciates every moment of a fine musical performance. When he relocated to the Bar Harbor area from his native Fredericksburg, VA, Stallard had decided to radically simplify his life, making music his number one professional priority. So far, it’s been five years, and he is not looking back. His band Cryin’ Out Loud will release its first full album, “Play Loud & Smoke Often,” in March of 2024, produced by Grammy Award-winning guitarist Paul Nelson (Johnny Winter).” Overall this is an OK Blues Album, not crazy about Brandon Stallard’s voice and that is the center of the band’s sound. Guitars are decent and the Harmonica by Mark “Bluesboy” Kanter is probably the strongest member of the band (doesn’t play too much though). I think my favorite on this CD is “You Can Dance To The Blues”, listen here. I will give this an 8 on Blues Content and an 8 on Music Content.

Sean Riley & The Water – Stone Cold Hands (Pugnacious)  “Based in New Orleans, Riley is a familiar face in the New Orleans music world, playing frequently throughout the city, from the Bywater to the French Quarter and Uptown, as well as regional shows in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Riley also tours extensively in Europe and Australia. Sean Riley plays solo and with his backing band The Water, aptly named for the fluidity of different musicians joining him on stage. ” Sean Riley has a great voice and is a great writer of music. Some of my favorite tunes are “Dance me One More Time” (reminds me of Jack Johnson), the Fingerpicking tune “Go Easy On Me”, the very cool jump blues of “Out All Night” and the slide guitar tune of “Rosie’s Rag”. Plus Sean wins the best CD packaging of the year, nice little slot for the CD and a corresponding slot for the lyrics book for all the songs on this CD!! I think my favorite on this CD is “High and Lonesome”, listen here. I will give this a 9 on Blues Content and a 10 on Music Content.

Cedric Burnside – Hill Country Love (Provogue)  “Certainly, plenty of things have happened in Cedric Burnside’s life since he went on the road at age 13, drumming for his grandfather, the pioneering bluesman R.L. Burnside. His two albums before I Be Trying – 2015’s Descendants of Hill Country and 2018’s Benton County Relic – were both nominated for Grammys. He has also appeared in several films, including Tempted and Big Bad Love (both released in 2001) and the 2006 hit Black Snake Moan, and he played the title character in 2021’s Texas Red. Burnside is a recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship, the country’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts and was recently recognized with the 2024 Mississippi Governor’s Art Award for Excellence in Music. He has performed and recorded with such diverse musicians as Jimmy Buffett, Bobby Rush, and Widespread Panic. Yet as the title of the new album indicates, Burnside has never strayed far from the distinctive blues style introduced to the world by his “Big Daddy” R.L. and such other greats as Junior Kimbrough, Jessie Mae Hemphill, and Otha Turner. “I’ve been traveling my whole life, and the song ‘Hill Country Love’ gave me a chance to let people know that I love what I do and give a sense of how we do it in Mississippi – like, the house party is a tradition here, Big Daddy threw a lot of them. So that’s what I was thinking about as I was writing that song – where I come from and also where I’m going, and how my journey has been to get to where I’m at now. ” You got to love Cedric, he has stayed in his lane as far as the Hill Country Blues with his syncopated rhythms and voicings. He doesn’t have the best singing voice, but man it works for this type of music. Cedric covers many of the classic North Mississippi Hill Country tunes like “Poor Black Mattie”, “Shake Em On Down” and “You Got To Move On” but then he translate this rhythm, this feel to some of his own lyrics like “Juke Joint”, “Smile” and “Coming Real To Ya”. If you worship this type of music, this is gold!! I think my favorite on this CD is “Hill Country Love”, listen here. I will give this a 10++ on Blues Content and a 10++ on Music Content (Mainly because I have to give this to any music from the Burnsides!).



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