New Blues Review – 6-5-24

Tom Craig – Get To Work (8th Train Records) 

Bio – “From Miami to Maine, Tom Craig has shared his brand of original Blues, Soul and R&B, impressing critics and fans along the way.  Tom got his first guitar for his eleventh birthday.  With over 40 years of guitar playing, formal training as a jazz vocalist and his passion for the Blues, he gives you all the ingredients for a memorable live performance.  Tom’s debut CD of all original songs, ‘Get Ready for Me’, received worldwide radio airplay and critical acclaim.  In January 2017 he represented the Central Delaware Blues Society in Memphis, Tennessee at the 33rd International Blues Challenge.  His song, ‘She Did It to Me (She’ll Do It to You)’ was a semi-finalist in the 2017 International Songwriting Competition.   Tom’s second CD, ‘Good Man Gone Bad’ consists of 13 original songs and was released on April 20, 2021.  It has received rave reviews and continual radio airplay, debuting at #19 on the Roots Music Report Radio Chart!  Since 2021 Tom has toured extensively through Florida, New England and Texas impressing audiences with each performance.  In May of 2022 Tom received three Independent Blues Awards nominations, Best Contemporary Blues CD of ‘Good Man Gone Bad’, Best Contemporary Blues song for ‘You Made a Good Man Go Bad’ and Best Contemporary Blues Band. ”

Review – This is a nice blend of Blues and New Orleans sound, great album for a drive or working around the house. First song, “As Sure As I Can Raise My Hand”, is a fun upbeat New Orleans tune. “Get To Work” is a slow, almost spooky tune which shows his patience as a musician and his writing skills. All songs were written by Craig except for “I Showed My Hand Too Soon” which was written by Craig and Mikey Junior which Mikey sang on this CD. One of the Highlights for me was the song “Geneva Avenue” which featured Kat Riggins on vocals, what a voice. Other notables were “Deal Breaker” and “What A Fool” but I think my favorite on this CD is “Making Coffee” but could not find this online so here is a live performance “Captain Funk”,  listen here. I will give this a 10 on Blues Content and a 10 on Music Content.

Harry Orlove – Mildly Popular (River Lark Music) 

Bio – “Harry Orlove started playing guitar at age 10 and did his first paying gig at age 11, where he made an astonishing $2.00. Needless to say, he was hooked. By 17, he was on the road playing and recording with brilliant songwriter Tom Rapp, in the band ‘Pearls Before Swine’, one of the great ‘underground’ groups of the 60s. By 1973, Harry’s interest in the 5-string banjo and bluegrass music had become an obsession, and he worked in several groundbreaking ‘new acoustic music’ bands including, ‘Bottle Hill’ and ‘The Monroe Doctrine’. This led him to a gig with Vassar Clements playing guitar on two of Vassar’s records and touring for a short time. During this period, Harry also played guitar on records by Tony Trischka and Stacy Phillips amongst others. Moving to Los Angeles in 1979, Harry landed a job in the house band of the World Famous Palomino Club where he got to work with music legends like James Burton, Jimmy Bryant, Thumbs Carlisle, ‘Sneaky Pete’ Kleinow and Jay Dee Maness. In his twenty years on the West Coast, Harry has recorded with a wide range of artists like Billy Swan, Lee Greenwood, Robin Zander (Cheap Trick), Felix Cavalieri (The Rascals), and has also done a great deal of commercial studio work including spots for Coca-Cola and Gateway Computers, and TV and film work for ‘Deep Impact’, ‘Delta Force’, ‘The Promised Land’, ‘Murder She Wrote’ and many others. Along with appearances on ‘The Tonight Show with Jay Leno’, Harry was a member of the live, on camera house band for the NBC/Dick Clark Productions show, ‘Hot Country Nights’, during which he played with Joe Diffie, Steve Wariner, Suzy Boggus, and other great country artists. His recent live shows include gigs with Leann Rimes, Rosie Flores, Albert Lee, Mac Davis, David Grisman, Ray Campi, Peter Rowan, James Intveld, John Hartford, Big Jay McNeely, Jerry Douglas and on and on and on.”

Review – Decent album with a diverse song range on this CD. Starts off with a creole feeling songs, “Down South In New Orleans” featuring Harry’s unusual voice and solid simple guitar licks. Covering songs from the Dead, to Willie Nelson, to Brian Wilson, Taj Mahal and John Lennon to name a few. Overall an ok album, music is pretty good, voice I am having troubles with the inflections but that is just my problem, hopefully other will like it better. I think my favorite on this CD is a cover of Robert Johnson’s “Hellhound On My Trail”,  listen here. I will give this a 9 on Blues Content and an 8 on Music Content mainly because of his voice.

Steve And The Blue Flames – Destination: Blues (Little Village) 

Bio – “Stevie and the Blue Flames is a band of veteran musicians who still perform with a lot of positive energy. With a tight rhythm section and dynamic soloists they are a well-oiled machine. Each of the band members enjoys what they are doing–and it shows. All have extensive experience in music as performers and teachers. The band is available 7 days a week, and will work with you to provide a great all-ages show. We would rather not play “Mustang Sally” though. Ha! Steve Bailey is a veteran of the Northwest music scene. He fronted bands in Seattle beginning in the early 70’s and then joined forces with the great Isaac Scott for 7 years. In the early 80’s he formed Stevie and the Blue Flames and tore it up on the local Pioneer Square blues scene. He has recorded many LPs and CDs, written many songs, and continues to play gigs in the northwest and overseas. Recently he played numerous gigs in London, Madrid, and Colombia. He has received numerous awards from the Washington Blues Society, including “Best Harmonica”, “Best Band” and in 2015 the “Hall of Fame” award. Besides playing harp, he doubles on slide and rhythm guitar. His trademark is intensity on stage and he still has a ball playing.”

Review – I think this is a good one, Steve Bailey is a great harmonic player and his voice reminds me of Charlie Musselwhite. The album falls into the west coast Swing/Blues genre. All original songs with some great writing, CD starts off with “Blue Flames Bar-B-Que”, great tune. All of the tunes have some great qualities including “Every Dog Has His Day”, “Blues Comes A Callin”, “Down And Out” and “Tell me When” but I think my favorite on this CD is the instrumental “Slim And Love Dealers” really shows off Steve’s Harmonica chops,  listen here. I will give this a 10 on Blues Content and a 10 on Music Content.

Blind Lemon Pledge – Oh So Good (Ofeh Records) 

Bio – “In 2021, Blind Lemon Pledge (aka Bay Area bluesman James Byfield) released “A Satchel Full of Blues”, an eclectic and wide ranging collection of original American Roots based songs set to a stripped down combo sound with drums, bass, guitar and harmonica. Garnering a slew of rave reviews, the album went to the top of the Blues charts, landing the #9 spot on the Roots Music Report’s Acoustic Blues Album Chart for 2021, and #85 on the RMR Top 200 Blues Albums.  One critic in Britain hailed it as one of the top 25 blues albums of the year. “Oh So Good”, Pledge’s 10th album of originals and covers displays Pledge’s impressive compositional range with tunes ranging from Blues to Folk to Jazz to Cajun, with a startling and original take on the folk and blues classic “House of the Risin’ Sun”. Byfield has a lifelong love of music and penned his first song at age eight, launching his ongoing fascination with the magic synergy between melody and lyrics. In his early teens, he discovered a world of great music through the twist of his radio dial. The pre-WWII Country Blues, including the great recordings of his stage-namesake Blind Lemon Jefferson, Son House, Skip James and others had a huge influence on his early musical development; at the same time he also absorbed an influencing mix of Rock, Folk, Country, Jug Band, Zydeco and other genres, sometimes called Americana and Roots Music. In high school, the young musician joined his boomer contemporaries in the 60’s Rock explosion. Over the years, he played in a variety of bands, as well as finding time to explore more exotic forms of music including jazz, a 5-year stint studying Chinese Classical Music and an abiding interest in electronic music and computer recording techniques. At one point, testing his compositional skills, he created the first ever Rock Music Mass under the aegis of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Ushering in the use of modern Rock Music in a liturgical setting, it received national press and was performed throughout California. In 2008, following a long and honored career as a graphics designer and media producer, Byfield reconnected with his Blues and Americana roots, created the musical persona Blind Lemon Pledge, and began performing and recording under that name. The first BLP album, “Livin’ My Life With the Blues”, a mixture of original songs and blues classics, was self-recorded. Byfield soon found a market through the power of the Internet, allowing him to gain international radio play and a warm critical reception in the blues community. While fronting an eponymously named acoustic blues quintet, Byfield continues to maintain a two front musical career with public performance and solo records that often feature guest musicians. His albums have received international airplay and many critical raves. His original songs have won several awards and nominations in the Blues, Folk, Jazz and Gospel categories.”

Review – First off, this is probably the best Blues Name I have heard of in quite a while and was hoping for an amazing album, but I was disappointed. After listening a few time, this reminds me of a children’s album like Raffi. I know that is rough, but most of the songs are super simple and the music seems almost an after thought. No favorites, I am moving on to the next CD, I will give this a 7 on Blues Content and a 6 on Music Content.

Jubu Smith – Jubu (Little Village) 

Bio – “John “Jubu” Smith has worked as a sideman for 41 of his 45 years, beginning as a harmony vocalist in his father’s Oakland gospel quartet before adding bass, then guitar, to his responsibilities in the group. At 19, he began playing guitar for the Oakland R&B band Tony Toni Toné, whose front man, Raphael Saadiq, he’d known since both were kids playing on the local quartet circuit. Smith spent a decade with the Tonies before going on the road for a year and a half with Whitney Houston. For the past 15 years, he’s been touring internationally eight months per year, primarily on weekends, with Maze, featuring Frankie Beverly. Those credits don’t include countless recording sessions with the likes of Luther Vandross, Mary J. Blige, Boyz II Men, Toni Braxton, George Duke and George Benson.
Jubu, who moved from Los Angeles to Atlanta two years ago with his wife and three children, is establishing himself as the front man of his own soul-blues band, Legally Blynd, a sextet that includes his brother Eric “Pik Funk” Smith (Rihanna’s bassist for the past eight years) and others who work as sidemen for Stevie Wonder and Saadiq. He’s cut way back on doing sessions, although he has recorded during the past year with Eric Benet, K. Michelle.”

Review – Alright, as a Guitar Player, I am blown away from this all instrumental album. Maybe as a music lover, not so much but still a great album. Jubu’s staccato picking and funky guitar skill makes this very exciting to listen to and I bet in concert it is even better. Charlie Hunter playing Hybrid Guitar making a nice road to funky bass lines. Rounding out with Calvin Napper on Drums, maybe one of my favorite drummers this year. While not a Blues Album, there are a lot of Blues Flavors in this CD. Some notables are “Hamster Wheel”, “Extreme Pleasure” and “McLeansville Blues” but I think my favorite on this CD is “EG is Here” with Eric Gales on guitar, I could not find this online so here is a live performance by Jubu with Eric Gales “I Want My Crown”,  listen here. I will give this an 8 on Blues Content and a 10 on Music Content.



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