New Blues Review – 8-8-23

Steve Howell –Gallery of Echoes (Out Of The Past)– Steve Howell is a Blues Journeyman and has been playing the blues since the late 60’s. He was first drawn towards the country blues of Mississippi John Hurt and his fingerpicking technique. Ever since Steve has devoted much of his music to traditional blues with periods of time in rock and roll bands. Steve’s newest album is a dedication to his favorite old time tunes and artists, ones, as he states “stood on their shoulders” over his years of performances. Although I am not a big fan of Steve’s voice, it does seem to carry decades of music with it. His approach to fingerpicking these tunes is very smooth, almost too smooth at times. Definitely a relaxing album of covers from the Masters of the Blues. Steve covers a couple of Blind Lemon Jefferson including “Stocking Feet Blues” and “Easy Rider Blues”. He also covers two from Rev. Gary Davis, “Sit Down On The Banks Of The River” and “Sally, Where’d You Get Your Liquor From?”. I think my favorite is “Cluck Old Hen” which is a traditional fiddle and Banjo Tune. listen here. I will probably give this a 10 on Blues Content and a 6 on Music Content.

Soulful Femme – Attitude (Self Produced)– Stevee Wellons and Cheryl Rinovato are the backbone of the band Soulful Femme that met at a Blues Society Meeting and were soulful friends ever since. A year later they competed together at the International Blues Competition in Memphis. Each has had their own successful music ventures that they now bring together and double the threat. Wellons has been performing since the late 1970’s in a variety of bands, among them any number of accomplished outfits, including the Rhythm Machine, Jumpstreet, Shaker, the Cruisers, the Elmonics, The Real Deal Band, and The Stevee Wellons Band. Over the course of her career, she shared stages with the Dazz Band, Cameo, Peaches and Herb, and Howard Hewett, among many others. She’s released two solo albums — Stevee Wellons -All Natural Ingredients and one simply titled Stevee. In addition, she recently co-wrote and performed background vocals for the artist known as Sun King Rising, A.K.A John Blangero. She previously taught at the Afro-American Music Institute and is currently an adjunct professor at the Community College of Allegheny County. Cheryl brings an equally impressive resume to the table. She’s been a student of guitar since the age of nine and later became a graduate of the prestigious Berklee School of Music. A three-time recipient of the prestigious Jim Weber Award accorded to the blues guitarist of the year, she claims extensive studio experience while citing such early influences as Jimi Hendrix, Duane Allman, Tower of Power, and Burt Bacharach. In addition, she’s a Delaney Guitars-endorsed artist who has two signature models that were designed with her in mind. Their newest album is “Attitude” and has some great musicians backing them up including Tommy Castro, Albert Castiglia and David Gross to just name a few. The whole CD is very well produced and is packed with high energy Blues Rock. “Not Like You” is a hard rocking tune with Albert Castiglia shredding on guitar. “Insane Asylum” has the incredible vocalist Kevin Burt trading licks with the Soulful Femme on this slow blues ballad. “Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Nothing” is a funky Delbert McClinton type tune with Tommy Castro helping with vocals. Overall, I think this a great album of Soul, Funk and Blues!! I think my favorite is “Loser’s Game” a very cool funky song. listen here. I will probably give this a 7 on Blues Content and a 9 on Music Content.

The Christopher Dean Band – Need A Friend (Lost World Music)– Christopher Dean has been playing guitar since High School and got his first big break as a guitarist for Big Jack Johnson (Damn what a way to start a career!!) Dean toured with Big Jack for 3 years and then created the Christopher Dean Band and has been going every since. Christopher on Guitar and Vocals, Dave Hollingsworth on Drums, Mike McMillan on guitar, Steve Lombardelli on Horns and Nate Meyers on Harmonica and vocals. I can definitely hear some of Big Jack Johnson’s guitar licks when listening to Dean playing guitar. This CD also includes Chicago Carl Snyder on Piano (Carl has a very impressive resume such as playing with Junior Wells, Otis Rush, Son Seals and Jimmy Johnson). I like the way Dean goes from a big electric blues band sound of the first song “What Have I Don Wrong” to a cool old school juke joint tune “Need a Friend” Right back to a cover of Otis Rush tune, “It Takes Time”. His Guitar skills and lead work is top shelf and his voice is strong and on point. Dean does a great job covering many of the greats like Willie McTell, Snooks Eaglin, BB King and Robert Lockwood. I think my favorite is “Appalachian Woman” which is the only original and features Carl Snyder on this CD. listen here. I will probably give this a 9 on Blues Content and a 9 on Music Content.

Shaun Murphy – I’m Coming Home (Vision Wall)– Well now, we are now in the presence of a Rock and Roll legend! Shaun Murphy (Stoney) has quite the resume that leaves your jaw wide open. She was signed by Motown in late 60’s and she played the first Ann Arbor Blues Festival!! She then put together a music duo with Meatloaf, yes Meatloaf! Although this did not last very long, Shaun’s greatness continued. Her next venture would be to work with Bob Seger and continued working and touring with him for years. Shaun then went on to work with Eric Clapton on the “Behind The Sun” Album (great album). Murphy’s career in vocals has been both as band lead singer and session singer. She has sung, toured, and recorded with such acts as the Moody Blues, Bob Seger, Herbie Hancock, Phil Collins, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, Maria Muldaur, Bruce Hornsby, Michael Bolton, Coco Montoya, Alice Cooper, Little Feat and rock musicals, Hair and Sgt. Pepper’s, etc. Then for the next 15 years she became a full time member of Little Feat!!! It was time for Murphy to take her own path and she then put out her first two solo albums where she was nominated for 3 Grammy Awards. Murphy was nominated for the 2020 Independent Blues Award in five categories: Contemporary Blues CD, Female Artist, Traditional Blues Song, RNB Song, and Road Warrior. Her latest CD, “I’m Coming Home” has a great variety of music including Blues, Soul and Pop. Her voice incredible and show her decades of continued practice and touring. The CD is filled with great tunes including the slide guitar tune “Lover Takes All”, then the in your face tune “One More Last Time” with blazing guitar through out to the slow piano/cello ballad “I’m Coming Home”. I think my favorite is “Evil Memory”, a killer slow blues tune. listen here. I will probably give this a 9 on Blues Content and a 10 on Music Content.

Mario Rossi – Smoke Burst (Self Produced)– The Brazilian Blue/Rock band has released their 4th CD and it’s a great one that shows Mario’s maturity over his short career. This Album has a lot of great stuff in it including the first song “Smoke Burst”, a great power guitar instrumental with lots of changes to the flow of music. The core of the band is Mario Rossi on Guitar and Vocals, Ede Boy on Keys, Marcelo Rocha on Bass and Rafael Cacavallo on Drums. Included through out are guests like Harmonica great Steve Bell on the tune “There’s No Hope For Willie Brown” with a gospel choir in the background. Lu Vitti on main vocals on the slow blues tune “It Means Blues”, a fabulous tune that really showcases her voice. Overall this is a pretty good album, only 8 songs though, but a good variety of blues that showcases Mario’s amazing guitar skills. I think my favorite is “Jammin’ For Jimi”.  listen here. I will probably give this a 7 on Blues Content and a 9 on Music Content.

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