New Blues Review 7-11-23
William Lee Ellis – Ghost Hymns (Yellow Dog)– This is one of those CDs that has great cover art, great title, cool artist name and first song that is killer and gets you so excited to listen to the rest and then falls flat. William Lee Ellis was raised in the deep roots of American music. Named after his godfather, legendary bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe, Ellis grew up in a musical family – his father, Tony Ellis, was one of Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys. This is Ellis’s 4th album and had potential written all over it. The first song “Cony Catch The Sun” is an amazing finger picking fretless banjo that gives a super authentic feel to the tune. The second tune is “Flood Tale” hand has a nice 12 string guitar but the singing isn’t to the level of the instrumentation. The rest of album doesn’t seem to fit in the Blues Genre for me. Overall Ellis can play different instruments very well but the album seems very lack lustered, I think my favorite is “Cony Catch The Sun”, listen here. I will probably give this a 4 on Blues Content and a 5 on Music Content.
Samantha Fish & Jesse Dayton – Death Wish Blues (Rounder) – Samantha Fish has been an upcoming star in the Blues World since she hit the scene with her great attack on the guitar and her tributes to the greats in her playing style. In 2009, Fish recorded and produced Live Bait, her first live album and created a lot of talk about her strong guitar ability and her amazing stage presence. “Death Wish” is her 12th recording and she teams up with Jesse Dayton, a great guitarist out of Nashville who has recorded with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. Dayton is best know for his music scores for Zombie Movies and you can hear this in this new release. This is something different than I have heard from Samantha in her career, almost White Stripe feeling in here songs. Tons of guitar effects, voice effects and lots of over producing but it actually sounds great!! The first song “Death Wish” has a great Mississippi call and response with the guitar. “Riders” really shows how Jesse and Samantha can split up the vocals on a song and both steal the show. This may not be your tradition Blues album but I think it has a lot to offer. I think my favorite is “Rippin’ and Runnin'”, listen here. I will probably give this a 7 on Blues Content and a 7 on Music Content.
Mike Guldin – The Franklin Sessions (Blue Heart) – Guldin and The Tumblers are two-time finalists in the International Blues Challenge, an annual event sponsored by The Blues Foundation and held each year in Memphis, TN. Band members are Mike Guldin, guitar and vocals; Tim Hooper, keyboards and vocals; Bill Sharrow, bass and vocals; and Billy Wear, drums. A journeyman of the blues, Guldin has opened for and shared billing with a wide range of artists including Sam Moore, Delbert McClinton, Levon Helm, EG Kight, Tab Benoit, Tommy Castro, Teresa James, The Nighthawks, Little Milton, Shemekia Copeland, Debbie Davies, Saffire The Uppity Blues Women, Michael Hill and his Blues Mob, John Sebastian and Jimmy Vivino. Guldin’s most recent release, “The Franklin Sessions” was born out of the desire to get back to a more organic approach to recording. In addition to Mike and The Tumblers, special guests include Grammy Winners Kevin McKendree, Yates McKendree and James Pennbaker, along with David Santos, The McCrary Sisters (Regina, Ann & Alfreda), Mikey Junior and The Philly Funk Horns. This is a very good album created by a great guitar player with a great voice with an amazing band to back him up, what can get better than that? Guldin covers shuffles like “The Franklin Shuffle” , Gospel as with “The Right Thing” featuring the McCrary Sisters and Yates McKendree. Two covers that stand out are “Killin’ Floor” and Muddy’s “Blow Wing Blow”. Overall this is a pretty good album with just the right amount diversity in the genre of the Blues, I think my favorite is “Divin’ Duck Blues” featuring Mikey Junior on harmonica, listen here. I will probably give this a 9 on Blues Content and a 9 on Music Content.
Bettye LaVette – LaVette! (Jay-Vee) – Bettye LaVette is a true legend in the world of R&B and Blues, she has been singing professionally since she was 16 years old. The greatest thing that I read about her early influences is “Her parents sold corn liquor and her living room was oft-times visited by The Soul Stirrers, The Blind Boys of Mississippi, and many other traveling gospel groups of the day”. That’s being in the right place at the right time. She recorded a few singles in Detroit for a few different labels without too much success, but her first successful single was “My Man – He’s a Loving Man”, in the fall of 1962. The record was quickly picked up by Atlantic for national distribution. The record charted #7 R&B and put her on her first national tour, with Ben E. King, Clyde McPhatter, and another newcomer, Otis Redding. In 1979 she was asked to appear in the touring company of the Tony Award winning Broadway musical, Bubbling Brown Sugar in the role of Sweet Georgia Brown. She learned to tap dance and was hired. She worked with both Charles “Honi” Coles, and Cab Calloway while with the show. Bettye then went on to many years of Soul and Blues winning multiple awards including multiple Grammy Nominations and She has appeared on Shindig, Upbeat, SOUL!, Soul Train, National Public Radio’s World Cafe, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, and performed a Tiny Desk Concert. She has appeared in a Mississippi Public Broadcasting series, Blues Divas, and is in a film of the same name, both produced by award winning film maker, Robert Mugge. She has appeared several times on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with David Letterman, and The Tavis Smiley Show. She has also made appearances on Late Night With Conan O’Brien, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Lopez Tonight, Austin City Limits, The Prairie Home Companion, The Artist’s Den, Good Morning America, and The Today Show. But back to the album, her latest release is called simply “LaVette! and really shows her many years of singing on the road. Such a great voice, mostly Soul or even Pop songs. “In The Meantime” is a slow ballad featuring John Mayer on guitar and could have been a hit from the 70’s. Probably the most bluesy song is “Plan B”, listen here. I will probably give this a 7 on Blues Content and a 9 on Music Content.
Tony Joe White – The Beginning (New West) – The Beginning is a remastered recording of Tony Joe White’s hit album from 2001. Tony passed away in 2018 and was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist, best known for his 1969 hit “Polk Salad Annie” and for “Rainy Night in Georgia”, which he wrote but which was first made popular by Brook Benton in 1970. He also wrote “Steamy Windows” and “Undercover Agent for the Blues”, both hits for Tina Turner in 1989; those two songs came by way of Turner’s producer at the time, Mark Knopfler, who was a friend of White. “Polk Salad Annie” was also recorded by Joe Dassin, Elvis Presley, Joe Bonamassa and Tom Jones. At the time that “The Beginning” was recorded, Tony was considered at his best musically. All great singer songwriter stuff, whimsical lyrics, great guitar playing, kind of a Tom Wait feel throughout. “Who You Going To Hoo-Doo Now” and “Ice Cream Man” are classics but I think my favorite is “Rebellion”, listen here. I will probably give this a 5 on Blues Content and a 9 on Music Content.