New Blues Review 6-25-24

The Fabulous Thunderbirds – Struck Down (Stoney Plain) 

Bio – “Their first two albums were released in 1979 and 1980, with Kim Wilson’s lead vocals and harmonica, Jimmie Vaughan as lead guitarist, and Keith Ferguson on bass guitar. Mike Buck was on drums for the first album but left the band and was replaced by Fran Christina on the second. Both albums initially sold through the small number printed (about 3000 units) and are now regarded as significant blues recordings. The Thunderbirds’ blues style mixed Texas blues with the harmonica-laced swamp blues sounds of Slim Harpo and Lazy Lester—both of whom the Thunderbirds covered. The band’s third album, Butt-Rockin’, released in 1981, took the band closer to old rhythm and blues and added additional musicians playing piano and brass. Although the Fabulous Thunderbirds had become favorites of fellow musicians—opening shows for the likes of the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton—and had been critically well-received, the band’s records did not sell well. Chrysalis dropped the band following the release of T-Bird Rhythm, leaving the band without a contract for four years. While still in limbo, the Fabulous Thunderbirds continued to play concerts across the US. During this time, bassist Keith Ferguson left the band and was replaced by Preston Hubbard, a former member of Roomful of Blues. Also during this time, the band was featured on the 1983 Carlos Santana album Havana Moon. In 1985, the band landed another recording contract with Epic/Associated. The newest version of Thunderbirds’ catalyst for the recording sessions happened when blues guitarist Steve Strongman hooked up with Kim Wilson on a trial basis to write some songs. Thunderbirds manager Glen Parrish had convinced an at-first hesitant Kim Wilson to give it a try by co-writing with Strongman, who flew down to California from Canada. As a songwriting team, they clicked immediately. “In the first three days, we wrote five songs,” recalled Wilson. “He came back for another three days, and we wrote 12 songs. I would say there was chemistry there.” Together, Wilson and Strongman wrote 17 songs. They selected nine originals and one cover tune for Struck Down. “Working with Kim Wilson and the Thunderbirds was a very organic process,” added Steve Strongman. “I snuck into a club to see Kim play with Mel Brown in Canada when I was 16 years old, so I have always held him in the highest regard. I could tell we had a mutual respect for each other after the initial writing sessions in California. The songs just seemed to flow naturally, we both had very open minds during the process, and there was great energy in the room while we wrote these songs. He is a true living legend, and it has been an incredible experience to co-write this record with Kim, and to produce this album with Kim and Glen Parrish.”

Review – Alright, The Thunderbirds!! So excite, only Kim as the original member but Bob Welsh on Keys, Rudy Petschauer on Drums, Steven Kirsty on Bass, Johnny Moeller on Guitar and Steve Strongman brought in for guitar and producing skills for the excellent album. It’s got a lot of the Thunderbird’s old feel but just some modern twists. A very well thought out album, not just thrown together. Cd starts off with a Kick Ass tune, “Struck Down By The Blues”, so good. Kim’s voice is still super strong and pleasant. Other notables were “Don’t Make No Sense” with Terrance Simien, “Whatch Do To Me” with Elvin Bishop and “That’s Cold” but I think my favorite on this CD is “Nothing In Rambling” with Bonnie Raitt, Keb Mo, Taj Mahal and Mick Fleetwood but could not find that online so here is “Payback Time” with Billy Gibbons on guitar and background vocals ,  listen here. I will give this a 10++ on Blues Content and a 10++ on Music Content.

Rory Block – Positively 4th Street (Stoney Plain) 

Bio – “Aurora Block was born in Princeton and grew up in Manhattan. Her father, Allan Block, ran a sandal shop in Greenwich Village in the 1960s, and the Greenwich Village folk music scene, such as Peter Rowan, Maria Muldaur, and John Sebastian influenced Block to study classical guitar.  At the age of 14, she met guitarist Stefan Grossman, who introduced her to the music of Mississippi Delta blues guitarists. Block began listening to old albums, transcribing them, and learning to play the songs. At age 15, she left home to seek out the remaining blues giants, such as Mississippi John Hurt, Reverend Gary Davis, and Son House, and hone her craft in the traditional manner of blues musicians; then she traveled to Berkeley, California, where she played in clubs and coffeehouses. After retiring temporarily to raise a family, Block returned to the music industry in the 1970s with middling success until signing with Rounder Records in 1981, who encouraged her to return to her love for the classical blues form. Since then she has carved out her own niche, releasing numerous critically acclaimed albums of original and traditional songs, including many Robert Johnson covers, such as “Terraplane Blues” and “Come on in My Kitchen”. Her 1986 album, I’ve Got a Rock in My Sock, included contributions from Taj Mahal and David Bromberg. The same year, Block’s 19 year old son, Thiele, died in an automobile accident. Her tribute to him, House of Hearts, contained mostly Block penned tracks.”

Review – Alright, first of all I am a huge fan of Rory. She captured the blues very early in life and her percussive finger picking guitar licks were different from most other players. But I don’t get this album from her. I understand the fascination of Bob Dylan, but she is suppose to be a Blues Woman. Her voice fits very well in classic blues songs of Son House, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters but not for Bob Dylan. I don’t think she changed the songs enough to make them her own, so it was just covering Dylan. I think you could here this quality of music at any open mic around the country. Not a fan of this one, I hope she will reconnect with her Blues Roots because she as been missed for quite a while. She does cover some classics, “Everything is Broken”, “Like A Rolling Stone”, “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” but I think my favorite on this CD is “Ring Them Bells” ,  listen here. I will give this a 6 on Blues Content and an 8 on Music Content.

Black Cate Bones – Troublemaker (Codacopina) 

Bio – “This Five piece Blues/Rock Band Formed in 2004, with core members Charles Pitts and Jeff Daniels. We set out to form a band that would stand the test of time and enable us to grow as songwriters and performers. The Band has matured over the years and released four albums which incorporate musical elements like Blues, Rock, Jazz, and Soul. Our influences include Blues greats B.B. King, Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters and the like. Plus Blues/Rock kings Johnny Winter, Savoy Brown, and ZZ Top. Our stage experience includes many festivals, club dates, and mid sized venues in the Southwest region and club dates on the east coast. Our dual lead guitars, soulful vocal stylings, and tight rhythm section make up Black Cat Bones. We are committed to bringing our fans Modern Blues/Rock that is on the cutting edge, for years to come!”

Review – Rocking Blues album of pretty good quality. Charles Pitts’ voice is ok but it does seem to be the hole in the album, the band is really tight with some great musicians including Jeff Daniels on Bass, Richard Rivera on guitar, Bill Greenberg on Drums and Kid Dynamite on Guitar. All the songs were written by the band, with Charles writing most of them. Notable songs to me were the first song on the CD “Bad Enough”, “Come Down” and “What I Should” but I think my favorite on this CD is “Soul To Save” with Billy Yates as a guest guitarist, really good,  listen here. I will give this a 9 on Blues Content and a 9 on Music Content.

Big Dave McLean – This Old Life (Cordova Bay) 

Bio – “McLean was born in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, Canada, to a concert pianist mother, and a Presbyterian minister father. They later lived in Moose Jaw, before relocating to Winnipeg, Manitoba when Dave was at the age of 10. Introduced to the blues as a teenager via his older brother’s record collection, the two siblings travelled to the Mariposa Folk Festival in Toronto in 1969. While there, John P. Hammond gave McLean an impromptu lesson on guitar playing, to supplement the latter’s rudimentary efforts thus far at playing the harmonica. This meeting saw McLean learning how to play Bo Diddley’s, “I’m a Man”. McLean much later recalled the incident stating that Hammond was “one of the most courteous gentlemen on this planet, you know, totally helpful, inspiring”. McLean starting playing at the Regina Folk Club, and at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, where he gained experience before releasing his debut album, Muddy Waters For President (1989), which was recorded at the Bud’s On Broadway club in Saskatoon.  McLean had previously opened for his musical hero, Muddy Waters. The follow-up was For The Blues… Always (1998), an attempt to spread his music to a wider audience.  The album was produced by Colin James and recorded in Vancouver, with musicians James (guitar), Norm Fisher (bass), Eric Webster (piano) and Chris Norquiest (drums), all augmenting McLean’s work. The track listing included McLean’s cover versions of “Little Red Rooster” (Willie Dixon), “Just Your Fool” (Little Walter), “Dust My Broom” (Elmore James), “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” (Muddy Waters) and “Cakewalk Into Town” (Taj Mahal). The three-day recording’s budget was only $1,600.  In addition to performing and recording, McLean spent around 20 years regularly doing odd jobs, such as construction work, to supplement his income.”

Review – This Cd was a treat, some old school feel, good solid guitar and some great guest harmonica players. Dave’s voice is gravely as a Blues voice should be. “Doug’s got a couple of originals on this album, but most are a nod to the greats Like “Young Fashioned Ways” by Will Dixon, “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” by Blind Lemon Jefferson and “This Old Life” by Rice Miller but I think my favorite on this CD is the Muddy Waters tune “Honey Bee”,  listen here. I will give this a 10 on Blues Content and a 9 on Music Content.

Jimi Fiano – Sweat and Pray (Self Produced) 

Bio – “Jimi Fiano has been playing guitar professionally in South Florida for over 30 years. You can catch him performing live throughout South Florida with an array of bands, artists and music projects he has going on, including the popular Big Rock Band with front-man Alex Lencina. Throughout the years Jimi has worked with members of Foghat, Bad Company, Night Ranger, Cameo, Aaron Hall, Mitch Ryder and Mark Stein of Vanilla Fudge, just to name a few. As well as having a tasking live performance schedule, Jimi is also called in for studio session work with various composers and artists.”

Review – This one surprised me, not judge a book by it’s cover I guess. Self Produced, only 5 songs so I wasn’t hoping for much, but this guy has a great voice, lots of energy and Jimi can play some guitar. “Talkin’ Blues, Jimi shows his slide guitar skills and humorous song writing. His version of “Hey Joe” is pretty good with some great guitar but I think my favorite on this CD is “As The Years Go Passing By” a live performance showcasing Jimi’s guitar licks,  listen here. I will give this an 8 on Blues Content and an 8 on Music Content.

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