New Blues Review 4-30-24

Rick Estrin and the Night Cats – The Hits Keep Coming (Alligator)  “Rick Estrin was born in San Francisco, California in 1949, and grew up fiercely independent. As a 10-year-old boy, he made his way to the tough Market Street area and befriended many of the neighborhood characters. When he was 12, his older sister gave him a copy of Ray Charles’ The Genius Sings The Blues, and he became infatuated with the music. Albums from Jimmy Reed, Champion Jack Dupree, Mose Allison, Nina Simone and others soon followed. By the time he was a teenager, Estrin had immersed himself in the urban, African-American culture surrounding him. He got his first harmonica at age 15, and by age 18 was proficient enough to begin sitting in at black clubs around the city. He first jammed with blues master Lowell Fulson and immediately was hired to open five shows for R&B giant Z.Z. Hill. He worked five nights a week for almost a year with guitar legend Travis Phillips in a band fronted by famed pimp/bluesman Fillmore Slim (who was the centerpiece of the acclaimed Hughes Brothers documentary American Pimp). Slim introduced Estrin to singer Rodger Collins, the man who would become Rick’s first real musical mentor. Collins schooled Rick on the finer points of songwriting and show business. At 19, Estrin relocated to Chicago and worked with some of the city’s best bluesmen. He met and jammed with the legendary Muddy Waters, who told Rick, “You outta sight, boy! You got that sound! You play like a man!” Muddy wanted Estrin to go on the road with him, but Estrin missed Muddy’s phone call and it never happened. Estrin eventually moved back to the Bay Area, met guitarist Charlie Baty and formed Little Charlie & The Nightcats. With Charlie’s retirement from touring in 2008, Rick brought in guitar virtuoso Kid Andersen and formed Rick Estrin & The Nightcats.” Another great album from Rick with a great band including Kid Anderson on Guitar, Torenzo Farrell on Organ and Bass, Derrick Martin on Drums with guest Jerry Emmott on Bass, Charlie Musselwhite, Marty Dodson, Bob Welsh and Boopsy Callinz. Nice old school Blues sounds, starting with the first song “Somewhere Else”, a driving Blues Tune that captures what this band is all about. “Everybody Knows” is a cool cover of Leonard Cohen song. Other stand outs are Muddy Waters’ “Diamonds At Your Feet”, “911” and “Sack O’ Kools”. I think my favorite on this CD is “The Circus Is Still In Town”,  listen here. I will give this a 10 on Blues Content and a 10 on Music Content.

Anthony Geraci – Tears In My Eyes (Blue Heart Records)  “Pianist, Hammond organist and composer Anthony Geraci was born in New Haven, CT in 1954.  His interest in playing piano began at age four when he told his parents “I want a piano!”  Kind of an odd request when most kids want a new baseball glove or bicycle. His parents weren’t musical-not even a record player at their house- but they always supported his undeniable passion for music. They soon bought a Kimball Grand Piano that his mother paid $4 a week to own. Lessons at the Neighborhood School of Music, affiliated with Yale University, soon followed. At around the age of sixteen he befriended a fellow musician, Ed Cherry, at high school. They began listening to music together after school and one day Ed played a Jimmy Rogers recording, Chicago Bound, that literally changed his life. Ed went on to be Dizzy Gillespie’s guitarist for many years. His critically-acclaimed 2015 release, Fifty Shades of Blue, (Delta Groove Records) earned multiple Blues Music Award nominations from the Blues Foundation in Memphis.  Nominations include: Best Song-for the title track, Best Album, and Best Traditional Blues Album.  Anthony also received an individual nomination for the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year Award. Fifty Shades of Blue was also nominated for Traditional Blues Album of the year by Blues Blast Magazine, and was ranked as one of the top 50 Blues recordings of 2015 by Living Blues Magazine, and earned a 4 Star Review in Downbeat Magazine.” I am not a huge fan of Piano Blues, but this a great album with some great Blues. Starting the album off with “Broken Mirror, Broken Mirror”, straight ahead Blues standard with some great slide guitar mixed in by Barrett Anderson. “Blues For Willie J. is a tribute to Willie Campbell long time bassist for James Harman, Kid Ramos, Mannish Boys and the Rabulous Thunderbirds. Other notables for me are “Witchy Ways” and “Lonely Country Roads Blues” but I think my favorite on this CD is “Oh Judge, Oh Judge”,  listen here. I will give this a 10 on Blues Content and a 9 on Music Content.

Big Harp George – Cooking With Gas (Blue Mountain)  “George Bisharat/Big Harp George is a San Francisco Bay Area blues singer, songwriter, and chromatic harmonica player. The chromatic, compared to the 10-hole diatonic more common to blues, has a distinctive voice, giving Big Harp George a jazzy and sophisticated sound. To date, George has released six critically-acclaimed blues albums. His fifth album, Cut My Spirit Loose (2023), earned him a highly-sought after Blues Blast Magazine nomination for Harmonica Player of the Year and his first album, Chromaticism (2014), was nominated for Best New Artist awards from the Blues Foundation and Blues Blast Magazine. He similarly received multiple Independent Blues Music Award nominations for his fourth release, Living in the City (2020), including Best Traditional Blues Band, Best Male Artist, and Best Traditional Blues CD.” This is a fun album, great lyrics and incredible musicians including Kid Andersen on Guitar, Aaron Lington on Sax, Chris Burns on Keys, Derrick Martin on Drums, Doug Rowan on Sax, Jerry Jemmott on Bass and others. I would call this sophisticated Blues Genre, reminds me of music you might hear at the Copa in 40’s with a Blues leaning for sure. Notables that really stood out, not only for whimsical lyrics but the song arrangements include “Cellphone Hater”, “Wine is My Friend”, “What The Missus Misses” and “DIY Mama”. I think my favorite on this CD is “Cookin With Gas” with background singers Sons of the Soul Revivers,  listen here. I will give this a 10 on Blues Content and a 10 on Music Content.

The Reverend Shawn Amos – Soul Brother No. 1 (Immediate Family)  “Amos was born in New York. He is the youngest son of Famous Amos chocolate chip cookie founder Wally Amos and the only son of Shirley Ellis Amos, (professionally known as Shirl-ee May in the early 1960s). Throughout Amos’ childhood and adulthood, his mother suffered from schizoaffective disorder and ultimately committed suicide in 2003. The trauma of the event and his subsequent discovery of her early singing career were the inspiration behind his 2005 album release Thank You Shirl-ee May. Like his father, Amos worked in the William Morris Agency mailroom. Amos attended New York University Tisch School of the Arts. He left in the middle of his senior year to pursue a “first-look” deal with A&M Films as a screenwriter. In 2011, The Huffington Post published a four-part series chronicling his childhood in 1970s Los Angeles. Amos married actress Marta Martin in 1999. The couple divorced in 2018. They have three children. Amos’ half-sister, Sarah Amos, is an executive at Marvel Entertainment.” First I really like this album, not totally a Blues album but Shawn has a good Rocking voice. “Back To The Beginning” is a cool song that starts very small, minimum vocals but ends up turning in to this choir/church romp. “Soul Brother No. 1” is this Funky tune that feels like it right from a George Clinton album. Lots of social justice song, but the music feels great and authentic so it works on this CD. “Hammer” is also another songs that sticks out to me. I think my favorite on this CD is “Revelation”,  listen here. I will give this a 9 on Blues Content and a 10 on Music Content.

Jennifer Lyn and the Groove Revival – Live From The Norther Plains (J & R Collective)  “The North Dakota based vocalist, guitarist, songwriter, engineer, and producer showcases the fiery soul of a woman immersed in the baptismal waters of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Her band, Jennifer Lyn and The Groove Revival, launched their first official album release which was an EP titled ‘Nothing Holding Me Down’ earning them four Independent Blues Music Awards nominations including “Best Blues Rock Band” and “Best Blues Rock Album” during 2022. In 2023, the band released their second official release, an EP titled “Gypsy Soul”, which spent 16 weeks on the Roots Music Report charts, peaking at the #2 Blues Rock spot. The band also launched their first regional tour which consisted of several sold out shows in the upper mid-West. Born and raised in a suburb of Minneapolis, MN, Jennifer Lyn was shaped by the music she absorbed from her parents’ vinyl collection during her childhood. She and her bands music draw inspiration from various genres including Rock, Blues, R&B, and a touch of roots music. With a blend of classic rock undertones, the nostalgic songwriting spirit of the 70s, and an abundance of reverb-drenched guitar solos accompanied by dual guitar moments, her bands music promises to deliver that authentic old-school sound with a contemporary Blues-Rock twist.” Jennifer has such a classic Blues voice, powerful, soulful and soft in the appropriate spots in a song. The band is great with Richard Torrance on guitar, Barb Jiskra on Keys, Nolyn Falcon on bass and Jim Anderson on drums. About half of the songs are original and the other half are covers like Chris Smither’s “Love Me Like A Man”, “Midnight Rider” and “Whipping Post” by Greg Allman. Over all a great Blues Album but I think my favorite on this CD is “Going Around In Circles”,  listen here. I will give this a 9 on Blues Content and a 9 on Music Content.

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