New Blues Review – 8-14-23
Joel Astley –Seattle to Greaseland (Blue Heart)– Joel Astley is fairly new to the Blues Scene but has been creating a lot of interests in his song writing and his harmonica playing. Joel Astley came to music after many years of working as a visual artist. Since forming his first band in 2014, he has been recognized by the Washington Blues Society with multiple Best of the Blues Awards including Best Harmonica (2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2023), Best Male Vocalist (2019, 2021, 2022), Best Songwriter (2020, 2021, 2023), and Best Performer (2023). This is Joel’s first full length filled with songs written and arranged by Joel. It’s hard to pigeon hole Joel’s music but it is a blend of West Coast Blues and early Rock N’ Roll. Joel has Johnny Burgin on Guitar, Kid Anderson on Keys and Electric guitar, June Core on Drums, Randy Bermudes on Bass and Jill Dineer and Marina Crouse on backing vocals. Joel’s song writing is probably his strongest talent, singing is pretty good also and Harmonica is decent. Lyrics are well thought out and funny in some of the songs like “Secondhand Kid” and “Hot As Hell”. I think my favorite is the last song on this CD “No Brighter Gold”. listen here. I will probably give this a 9 on Blues Content and a 9 on Music Content.
Willie J. Campbell –Be Cool (Blue Heart)– Ok this is a special album, kind of a celebration of life for the long time bassist, Willie J Campbell. Willie passed away on Dec. 18th, 2022 from his long term struggles with ALS. Campbell has an extraordinary musical career. He performed as the regular bass player for The Fabulous Thunderbirds, The James Harman Band, The Mannish Boys, and more recently The Proven Ones. He was nominated several times for the Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Awards. Before the end had arrived, his friend and partner Kid Ramos put together a recording session with an all-star list of musicians to put out an incredible blues album. The core group for the session were Willie on bass; Kid Ramos on guitar; Brian Templeton on lead and backing vocals, and harmonica; Jimi Bott on drums, percussion and tympani; and Brooks Milgate on keyboards. In addition, a vast array of guest performers joined in for an expression of love and appreciation for Willie. Guitarists Anson Funderburg, Mike Morgan and Shawn Pittman joined Ramos trading runs on multiple songs. The recording was finished just 8 weeks before Willie passed away. Some other notables is Jason Ricci on the song “Drone” a cool old Mississippi feel tune with Brian Templeton singing, feels like Muddy Waters!! Joe Louis Walker even makes an appearance doing the solo work on ‘Standby Me”. Every song is special, Kim Wilson’s vocals on ‘You Can’t Stop Her” and “This Time” to Anson Funderburgh’s guitar work on “No More” and “My Fault”. Hard to pick favorites but since I am such a big Joe Louis Walker fan, I will go with “Standby Me”. listen here. I will probably give this a 9 on Blues Content and a 10+ on Music Content.
Nat Myers –Yellow Peril (Easy Eye)– Ok, here is another special one if you like prewar or old Country Blues. Nat Myers is a Korean-American Poet that has found his love for old time blues and his poetry to coexist, he sings and plays old country, front-porch blues. He describes himself as “a young Asian cat playing old Black music.” The music sounds like it could have been recorded in the 1930’s, such a great voice and his guitar playing feels so genuine. This CD was produced by Dan Auerbach and you can tell in the quality of the recording. “Yellow Peril” is suppose to be about the negative feeling towards the Asian population during the Covid Pandemic Many of his songs are very traditional, with some of the melodies borrowed from some of the greats of the past. Like “Yellow Peril” is very similar to “Boll Weevil Blues”. “Ramble No More” is very RL Burnside like tune. Lots of great stuff that is so refreshing to see someone so young with an old soul and his appreciation of the great Country Blues of our past. I think my favorite is the first track “75-71” . listen here. I will probably give this a 10+ on Blues Content and a 10+ on Music Content.
Marina Rocks –Texcentric (Self Produced) Marina Rocks is guitarist /singer that grew up in Austin Texas and was inspired by so many great bands that came through that area. This is her first attempt at recording and writing. A six song EP to get things going I guess, Marina seems to float between Rock and some weird musical place, like this was going to be a rock opera or something. I can not express how much I dislike her voice or maybe its the way that she presents her voice (Maybe some will like it). Her guitar lead work is actually pretty good but not done enough of it. I don’t have a favorite, but the only one that I would ever listen to again is the last song on the CD, “Blue Skies” as it is just an instrumental. listen here. I will probably give this a 0 on Blues Content and a 2 (Maybe) on Music Content.
Mikey Junior –Blues In The Barn Volume 2 (8th Train Records)– Ok Mikey Junior did so well with “Blues In The Barn Volume 1” that he went back through all the recordings and found 11 more to share in a second volume. Usually this is a bad idea, 2nd tiered music, but actually I like this CD better than the first. Stuff like the cover of SRV’s “Dirty Pool” is done so well, guitar work is so good. The next song on the CD is a cover of the Atlanta-based Shadows “Kill the Ice Cream Man.” Other musical curve balls are the band’s funky spin on Junior Parker’s “Mystery Train” which was further popularized by Elvis Presley and by Paul Butterfield and the moody jazz-tinged slow blues of “Evening” recorded by guitar great T-Bone Walker in 1945. The lone original is the guitar instrumental “Rooster Strut,” penned by Mikey Junior and Matt Daniels, featuring the formidable tandem of Matt and Filthy Rich’s deft pin-pricking picking. Great cover of Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen” and the Junior Parker’s “Mystery Train”. I think my favorite is “Rooster Strut” a great guitar instrumental. I couldn’t find it online, but here is the Amazon website that you can listen to a little of each song, listen here. I will probably give this a 10 on Blues Content and a 9 on Music Content.