New Jazz & Blues – 10/11/2022
New Jazz & Blues:
JD Allen – Americana, Vol. 2 (Savant): “Tenor saxist JD Allen goes rural and rootsy, evoking sonic images of Rev. Gary Davis with his team of guitarist Charlie Hunter, drummer Rudy Royston and bassist Gregg August on an album that is filled with red clay under the fingernails. Hunter sounds like he’s standing at the crossroads of some dusty roads, sweltering under the sun with Royston before Allen finally wheezes in like an emphysemic 58 Ford Truck on “Up South” . Gospel folk tunes are never fare away her as on “This World Is A Mean World” and the gutbucket of “The Battle of Blair Mountain”. Allen blows in a dustbowl of a storm on his intro of the informal take of “Jackie and Johnny” and hovers like a morning fog for the earthy “The Werk Song”. Theres’s a bit of R&B on the country road of “Irene (Mother) while the band mourns around August’s strums on “Mickey and Mallory”. Farmer John overalls in blue.” (https://www.jazzweekly.com/2022/10/jd-allen-americana-volume-2/) Click here for a taste of the sound.
Richard Baratta – Music in Film: The Sequel (Savant): “Richard Baratta has produced some of the most famous – and infamous – movies in the last couple of decades, from The Wolf of Wall Street to The Irishman to Joker. Before he entrenched himself in Hollywood, however, he was a jazz drummer in 1970s New York, and he returned to his first love with 2020’s Music in Film: The Reel Deel, a tribute to movie music both in and out of his sphere of influence. It’s the Hollywood rule that every success gets a sequel, and sure enough, we have Music in Film: The Sequel. Baratta and his crack band (including pianist/arranger Richard Baratta has produced some of the most famous – and infamous – movies in the last couple of decades, from The Wolf of Wall Street to The Irishman to Joker. Before he entrenched himself in Hollywood, however, he was a jazz drummer in 1970s New York, and he returned to his first love with 2020’s Music in Film: The Reel Deel, a tribute to movie music both in and out of his sphere of influence. It’s the Hollywood rule that every success gets a sequel, and sure enough, we have Music in Film: The Sequel. Baratta and his crack band (including pianist/arranger Bill O’Connell, saxophonist Vincent Herring and guitarist/MVP Paul Bollenback) cast a pretty wide net here, taking on “Pure Imagination” from Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, “Soul Bossa Nova,” a Quincy Jones tune relaunched into public consciousness via the Austin Powers movies, Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story, Henry Mancini’s theme from The Pink Panther, Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” included due to its use in Joker, and even the Cantina Band song from the first Star Wars movie. This could have easily devolved into an easy listening cheese fest, but never does. Barbatta and company manage the challenging task of keeping the melodies recognizable while stamping their own swinging identity on the arrangements – rarely does anything sound like the original version, but with solos. That application of effort, combined with the sound of a gang of musicians clearly enjoying themselves, makes Music in Film: The Sequel as much fun to hear as it likely was to make.” (https://bigtakeover.com/recordings/RichardBarattaMusicinFilmTheSequelSavant) Click here to listen today’s current version of the “Man Of Constant Sorrow”.
Miles Davis – The Bootleg Series, Vol. 7 – That’s What Happened, 1982-1985 (Columbia/Legacy): “The seventh volume in Miles Davis’ award-winning Bootleg Series is comprised of unreleased material from the sessions for his final Columbia studio albums — Star People, Decoy, and You’re Under Arrest — that appeared annually from 1983 to 1985. They reveal the profound influence that era’s pop music and MTV had on the trumpeter. The three-disc box assembles 19 alternates and outtakes, alongside the live What It Is: Montreal 7/7/83, issued for Record Store Day. The booklet includes interviews with the musicians and producer. Eight of disc one’s ten tracks are drawn from 1983’s Star People sessions, the last Davis recording. It opens with his bleating synth intro to the 13-minute “Santana.” A rumbling Marcus Miller bassline is framed by Al Foster‘s drums, Mino Cinelu’s urgent percussion, and the funky, dissonant electric guitars of Mike Stern and John Scofield. The interplay between Davis’ muted horn and keyboards introduces Bill Evans’ fluid soprano sax halfway through. The choppy, repetitive horn vamps amid the jagged group interplay recall Ornette Coleman & Prime Time in places. The other highlight on disc one is the three-part “Celestial Blues.” It’s lithe and funky, bathed in steamy grooves. Davis — with and without mute — freely engages the guitarists as the rhythm section lays a deep cut. Evans’ tenor solo in part one is saturated in the influence of Ben Webster. It closes with two unremarkable alternates of Decoy‘s “Freaky Deaky.” Disc’s two’s highlights include two wonderful alternates of Cyndi Lauper‘s “Time After Time” (from 1985’s You’re Under Arrest). The first is uptempo and funky; the latter is three minutes longer with a slow, dubby, reggae processional. A jagged, muscular read of “Theme from Jack Johnson (Right Off)/Intro” offers a killer break from Scofield and punchy, athletic bass from Darryl Jones. In addition to an emotionally poignant version of Michael Jackson‘s “Human Nature,” the disc includes a warm, lyrical, moving read of Tina Turner‘s “What’s Love Got to Do with It” that never made the album. The disc closes with a smoking version of “Katia” featuring an incendiary performance by guitarist John McLaughlin. Both discs are peppered with Davis’ studio banter. The live disc is riveting. The band — Davis, Scofield, Jones, Evans, Foster, and Cinelu — open with a ramped-up, driving, 13-minute “Speak (That’s What Happened)” that sometimes recalls, the unruly voodoo funk on Agharta, albeit in more polished form. Here, “Star People” is loose and airy, offering great solos by guitarist, trumpeter, and saxophonist. “What It Is” offers fiery, interlocking funk as, Foster, and Jones go head to head. Closer “Code 3″ is an excellent showcase for Evans and Cinelu. There is no question that The Bootleg Series, Vol. 7: That’s What Happened 1982-1985 will cause controversy among jazz fans. But it isn’t for them. It’s for Miles Davis fans and presents an unvarnished taste of him — from the cutting room floor no less — attempting to reinvent himself one last time….” (Liner notes). Click here to hear segments of these powerful performances!
Steve Gadd / Eddie Gomez / Ronnie Cuber & the WDR Big Band – Center Stage (Leopard): “For the first time in a very long time super drummer STEVE GADD joins up with his friends from Gadd Gang times, EDDIE GOMEZ and RONNIE CUBER for a production with the WDR Big Band. Under the direction of Michael Abene, a heavenly groovy album emerges, with Steve Gadd and his friends taking center stage. Recorded in January & February of 2022! The cooperation between Steve’s Gadd Gang and the WDR Big Band was hanging in the air for quite some time. Already back in 2011 there was talk about a potential collaboration with the Big Band under the leadership of Michael Abene (the chief conductor of that orchestra from 2004 to 2014). I love Michael and highly esteem his work”, says Gadd, “his arrangements as well as his piano playing. It is just a matter of trying to get the schedule together, but I am sure at some point we will be able to get it together”. (http://www.drummingnewsnetwork.com/?p=10161)…. “As big band leader and rising star Olivia Murphy has lamented, the UK lacks standing bands like the Danish Radio Big Band, or as here, The WDR Big Band. What a treat it would be for the likes of Gadd or Gomez to record with a British radio band, under the baton of someone like Murphy or Iles. This set is no game changer: it was never meant to be, but the presence of jazz royalty like the aforementioned and Ronnie Cuber’s bluff baritone make this an enjoyable, bluesy, post bop run out with a funk edge as per the opening Wonder-tune ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’. And of course the WDR aren’t only a passive platform for the imported ‘talent’: under Michael Abene’s baton Bruno Muller gets to do his BB King thang on the good time shuffle of ‘Watching the River Flow’, and although Gomez goes for the limelight on ‘Che Ore So’ it’s Ludwig Nuss’s sweet trombone that steals the show. Gadd himself plays distinctly within himself but evidently enjoys the session.” (https://www.jazzwise.com/reviews/review?slug=steve-gadd-eddie-gomez-ronnie-cuber-the-wdr-big-band-center-stage) Click here to listen to samples of the songs on this disc.
Connie Han – Secrets Of Inanna (Mack Avenue): “Dressing and posing on her album covers like something from a graphic comic, but playing like Blue Note period Herbie Hancock, Connie Han brings vintage sounds with modern ideas to the fore with her team of Bill Wysaske/dr, John Patitucci/b, Katisse Buckingham/wwinds and Rich Perry/ts in a clever mix and match of moods. She even ventures into the sounds of the Fender Rhodes on a soulful and pretty “Prima Materia” with Buckingham’s flute and piccolo and the trio jam of “Young Moon” , with Patitucci digging in deep on his electric bass for “Enki’s Gift”. On the acoustic side, Han does a gorgeous duet with Perry on the intimate “Vesica Piscis” , taps into her inner Bud Powell for a bopping trio of “The Gallu Pursuit” and is Tyner-modal on “Wind Rose Goddess”. There’s an intricate post bopping trio of “Ereshkigal of the Underworld” and a man a mano meeting with Wysaske on “Gilgamesh and the Celestial Bull” with the drummer even getting a solo outing on “Ninshubur’s Lament”. In case you didn’t know, Inanna was the legendary Mesopotamian goddess of war, love and fertility, with each of these songs hinting at various stories of the time. A mighty Aphrodite!” (https://www.jazzweekly.com/2022/09/con-nie-han-secrets-of-inannia/) Click here to listen to several songs from this this release.
The Ron Kraemer Trio – Sarasota Swing (Poquois Publishing): “At the outset of this year, 2022, this writer in another outlet penned 2022 as “the year of the organ-oriented bands.” While the Ron Kraemer Trio is centered around the leader’s guitar, the addition of Reggie Murray on Hammond B-3 and tenor saxophone puts Sarasota Swing directly into this category, inspired by the likes of Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Smith, Kenny Burrell, and Grant Green. Kraemer moved from New Jersey to South Florida, thus the trio title,” where he tapped upright bassist Gregg Germony and drummer Michael Finley to form his new unit. Together the trio plus one deliver a greasy, throwback soul-jazz set, music that sounds as fresh now as it did sixty or seventy years ago when the sub-genre originated. Along the way Kraemer and these cats nod to bebop, hard bop, blues, and early R&B, the song titles providing not so subtle hints. The opener, “Junior Steps,” nod to Coltrane’s iconic “Giant Steps” but seems to incorporate Bird’s bebop classic “Billie’s Bounce” with Murray’s tenor statement on the head and exchanges with Kraemer. Murray’s first turn on the B-3 comes with “Siesta Afternoon” as he doubles on tenor for a breezy strut. The simmering blues of “The Craw” finds Kraemer hitting chilling bluesy notes as Finley stays insistent with light snares as Murray lays down a soft organ bed before entering with his Turrentine-like tenor, building intensity with Kraemer as his solo develops. “In Walked Wilbo” runs to an infectious boogaloo beat, stoked by Germony’s bass and inspired playing from all, including a few Chuck Berry riffs from Kraemer for extra umph. The deceptive title of “At the Blasé Café” disguise a swinging jazz tune, a la Charlie Christian guitar style with some unison and feisty guitar-organ exchanges with Murray’s tenor on top. The unmistakable Bo Diddley best, let the alone the title, “Bo Knows” has Murray blowing fat over Germony and Finley before Kraemer weighs in with his ringing statement. The four lock into an unrelenting groove for seven minutes. The lift the tempo slightly for the swinging “Reggie No. 2” with the guitar and tenor trading choruses once again, swinging again. “Fred’s Bop” is more in the straight-ahead jazz vein, as evidenced by smoother, lyrical playing by Murray on the head and Kraemer’s guitar lines, but it’s the unison passages of guitar and organ, and sax and organ that shine most brightly.The sweet grooving “Gone Gulfing” clearly evokes the sound of Jimmy Smith as Kraemer and Murray’s tenor ride the walking rhythms. “Hampton Roads” brings us back to deep, smoldering blues with Kraemer’s familiar chords seemingly beckoning someone to step up and testify. Of course, there are no vocalists here so Murray fills that void with growling, crunchy tenor solo, followed by a melodic sweeps of his B-3 and soaring tenor, Kraemer content to be in a supportive role. The closer, “Who’s Knockin?” also seems prime territory for a vocal part in the chorus, but instead this one’s mostly Kraemer’s chance to step out on the melody, underpinned by the organ before Murray enters on a tenor, getting deep into a classic 50s like R&B groove. These cats know how to bring the hooks and grooves – they remain “in the pocket” throughout the entire CD. Soul-jazz just never gets old, and it seems that we’re hearing more of it in 2022 than in recent years.” (https://www.makingascene.org/the-ron-kraemer-trio-sarasota-swing/) Jim Hynes – Click here to listen to the songs on Sarasota Swing.
Charles Lloyd Trios – Ocean (Blues Note): “Charles Lloyd has long been a free spirit, master musician, and visionary. For more than six decades the legendary saxophonist and composer has loomed large over the music world, and at 84 years old he remains both at the height of his powers and as prolific as ever. Early on Lloyd saw how placing the improvised solo in interesting and original contexts could provoke greater freedom of expression and inspire creativity. As a sound seeker, Lloyd’s restless creativity has perhaps found no greater manifestation than on his latest masterwork, an expansive project that encompasses three individual albums each presenting him in a different trio setting—a Trio of Trios. The first, Trios: Chapel, features Lloyd with guitarist Bill Frisell and bassist Thomas Morgan. The second, Trios: Ocean, with guitarist Anthony Wilson and pianist Gerald Clayton. The third, Trios: Sacred Thread, with guitarist Julian Lage and percussionist Zakir Hussain.
Lloyd once pointed out that his playing was a reflection of his life in real time. Perhaps this explains the emotional power of his playing, a soulful cry from the heart that argues for peace and beauty in a world becoming increasingly impatient with both. It’s why his saxophone tone, his signature in sound, is central to his art. “I’m trying to get a great sound, because when I think of all the great masters that went before, this kid in me still sees areas where I come up short and I continue to work on it,” he says. Unique and expressive, it’s what draws listeners into his music, shaping the emotive elements of his performances, from passionate intensity to sotto voce subtones, from which we construe meaning.
With good reason Lloyd’s playing has been described as lyrical, a style that is evocative of singing, expressing a subjective, personal point of view. Indeed, as a child he wanted to train as a singer, and today, when he plays a ballad, such as his recent recording of ‘Anthem’ by Leonard Cohen on Tone Poem, he has spoken of how knowing a song’s lyrics helps him add greater expressive weight to his playing. It is a reminder of music’s ancient connection with words and how melody frequently follows the meter and rhythm of speech patterns. Formalized a thousand years ago with the diatonicism of plainsong, music’s evolution through chromaticism to what has been called “the crisis in tonality” precipitated by Arnold Schoenberg, was mirrored in jazz in the space of just fifty years. So much has been accomplished in music that today, the search for the “always new” that propelled jazz through the twentieth century has given way to the realization to the once witty riposte by arch-modernist and surrealist Man Ray in the 1920s — “I can’t do something better than the old masters did, my only justification is to do something different….” (https://www.bluenote.com/spotlight/charles-lloyd-trios-ocean/) Click here to listen to “The Lonely One” from “Trios: Ocean”.
Joshua Redman/Brad Mehldau/Christian McBride/Brian Blade – LongGone (Nonesuch): “The jazz equivalent of old soulmates finishing each other’s sentences is a risk run by almost all bands with long lifespans. Saxophonist Joshua Redman’s A-list quartet with pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade have solved that problem by meeting with tantalisingly rare frequency since their acclaimed 1994 debut. That year, they were all rising stars rounded up by Redman – then the charismatic new tenor-sax kid on the block – united by devotion to the classic jazz tradition, but also by a collective spirit of adventure to stretch it. The quartet’s mid-90s rapport was enthralling, but burgeoning solo careers separated them until 2020’s RoundAgain reunion showed that their individual experiences since had only sharpened their intuition as a foursome. Now 2022’s LongGone takes the story forward. The set’s coaxingly soulful title track is unfurled by Redman’s tenor, which is surrounded by Blade’s bustling brushwork, Mehldau’s nudging chords, and McBride’s springy countermelodies. Disco Ears is a vivacious but harmonically deceptive soprano sax springboard for Redman, Statuesque a sombrely hymnal deep-tenor meditation that becomes a choppy, improv-sparking groove, Ship to Shore a slinky, bluesy walk. But it’s the gospel-charged 12-minute live take, Rejoice, that stuns: a collective jam opened on a beckoning bass hook and driven to a rampant finale with the band locked into an almost choral unified voice, it really tells you why, after all these years, this group can still sell out the world’s concert halls in a blink….
That year, they were all rising stars rounded up by Redman – then the charismatic new tenor-sax kid on the block – united by devotion to the classic jazz tradition, but also by a collective spirit of adventure to stretch it. The quartet’s mid-90s rapport was enthralling, but burgeoning solo careers separated them until 2020’s RoundAgain reunion showed that their individual experiences since had only sharpened their intuition as a foursome. Now 2022’s LongGone takes the story forward…. “These two releases [RoundAgain and LongGone] pose the question of whether there has ever been such a reunion of elevated pedigree in the jazz oeuvre,” says Glide magazine: “John Coltrane’s come-and-go with Miles Davis’ in the Sixties comes to mind, but this four-way regrouping would appear to be a phenomenon unto itself.” “T record is very much akin to the occasion wherein old friends meet up again after a prolonged interval apart and … find out that the traits that first brought them together not only remain in plentiful supply but have grown all the more abiding with the passage of time.” Click here for a quick listen!
Steve Turre – Generations (Smoke Sessions): “Trombonist/composer Steve Turre was passed the jazz torch early in his career by some of the music’s greatest masters – Art Blakey, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Woody Shaw, and Ray Charles, among others. In recent years he’s kindled the same flame in a younger crop of rising stars. On his new album, Generations, Turre brings the eras together, inviting still-vital legends to join a gifted band of fresh blood while paying tribute to the elders who have helped shape his sound. Available now via Smoke Sessions Records, Generations features literal second-generation players including the trombonist’s own son, drummer Orion Turre, as well as trumpeter Wallace Roney Jr., whose late father was a close friend and collaborator of Turre’s. In addition, the core band includes young pianist Isaiah J. Thompson and the more tenured Corcoran Holt on bass, who has been working with Turre for more than a decade. Over the course of the album this stellar group is joined by the likes of saxophonist James Carter, guitarists Ed Cherry and Andy Bassford, keyboardist Trevor Watkis, bassists Buster Williams and Derrick Barnett, drummers Lenny White and Karl Wright, and percussionist Pedrito Martinez.
“There’s a balance between youth and age,” Turre says, “Age brings wisdom and knowledge, and youth brings enthusiasm and energy. Playing with each of them stretches me in a different way. The elders stretch me in ways of wisdom, but the youngsters fire it up. All of that is inspiring.” That inspiration bears fruit in one of the most scintillating and eclectic recordings of Turre’s storied career, ranging from burning modal jazz to tender ballads, sophisticated swing to reggae grooves to Latin rhythms, and of course, at the root of everything is the blues. “The blues don’t never get old,” Turre declares. “I like playing the blues. To me, it’s quintessential to American music.” The most straightforward blues on the album comes in the form of “Blue Smoke,” a tip of the horn to Turre’s home label for his past four releases and its namesake club, where he’s a regular performer. The tune pairs the trombonist with guitar great Ed Cherry, a fellow alumnus of the Dizzy Gillespie band.
Many blues singers mentioned are either dead, retired, or not performing actively. So, there’s plenty of room for Lauren Anderson to belt out her songs with her 16-cylinder high-octane voice. What she may need down the road is finesse. What Karen Lawrence possessed with her amazing pipes with both her band 1994 (“Once Again,” “Bring It Home”) & Blue By Nature. She at least appealed commercially without being commercial. This 42-minute, 12-cut was produced by the Lauren Anderson Band with Taylor Lonardo Burn It All Down (Drops Sept 9–Independent) fits everything perfectly. The attitude on Lauren’s face & her mannerisms keeps it elevated at Janis’ peak persona. Lauren’s voice does communicate for herself through her music with an expressive soundscape & she rocks.
There’s no doubt she understands the blues genre. She has a tight full-tilt blues band to flesh out the dominant fibers. What’s lacking is pain. Hopefully, Lauren won’t need to draw on that element too much to be realistic. But that’s what Bessie Smith & Janis drew on. This is what sets those women apart from all the others. “I Know,” brings Lauren closer to Janis & it’s impressive. There’s that soulfulness & angst that personifies what’s rugged & true just short of suffering. Lauren finds a way to be authentic. There’s more blues in her voice than entertainment. That’s the key. If entertainment flows into the repertoire that’s when it will become pretentious & pompous. Diluted. Many fall into this trap. Still, she has plenty of power! Click here for the proof!
Jimmy Carpenter – Lousiana Record (Gulf Coast): “Two-time Blues Music Award-winning sax player Jimmy Carpenter relives the impact his years in New Orleans had on him on his new solo effort The Louisiana Record. The album hits the streets September 16th, 2022 on Gulf Coast Records and brings us the wonderful sound of Carpenter and a great studio band exploring cover songs with Louisiana roots and themes. Carpenter lived and gigged in New Orleans from early 2004 until 2016, a period that left its mark on him and his music. “When Mike Zito, my old friend and co-owner of Gulf Coast Records, called to say it was time for me to make another record, I was super excited,” Carpenter recalls. “When he told me about his idea for a Louisiana-themed cover album, I admit I was skeptical but the longer I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. As Mike pointed out, there is no doubt that my time in New Orleans redefined me as a musician, and changed me forever on many levels.” The Louisiana Record is filled with tunes by some of the most revered artists in the New Orleans firmament including Allen Toussaint, Fats Domino, and Dr. John. Carpenter handles sax and vocal duties and is backed up by a muscular session band made up of Mike Zito (guitars), Casandra Faulconer (bass guitar), John Gros (piano, organ), and Wayne Maureau (drums). Carpenter is a respected saxophonist, singer-songwriter, and arranger who has been on a musical journey for over 35 years. He’s toured with major artists like Tinsley Ellis, Jimmy Thackery, Walter Wolfman Washington, Eric Lindell, and many others. He’s also well-known as an arranger and has written horn parts for many performers. He lives in Las Vegas these days and is the Musical Director for the Big Blues Bender and leader of the Bender Brass, The Bender’s amazing house band.Jimmy starts his party with Fats Domino’s eternal “I Hear You Knocking” and the good times just begin to roll. His vocals and sax lines are right where they should be and the band gives this classic a tight, dynamic reading. No one involved pushes too hard or tries to make the song anything but what it is. They make it feel so good you’ll want to play it twice, that’s for sure. Carpenter and friends do an equally cool job on Camille Bob’s 1965 hit “I Got Loaded.” Casandra Faulconer and Wayne Maureau put down a pocket that’s an instant dance party while John Gros plays sweet organ lines. Jimmy, himself, is in fine form here and you can tell how much fun he’s having giving this standard a workout. Mike Zito’s always-excellent guitar playing completes the picture and the room goes up for grabs. Dr. John’s “Travelin’ Mood” is an outstanding example of blues in the Louisiana style. Mike Zito lays down a slide solo that’ll bring you to the edge without ever breaking a sweat over a Gulf Coast groove that’s one of life’s perfect things. Of course, Jimmy rolls right through this one on sax and you’ll wish you were perched on a barstool by the stage taking it all in. The ballad “All These Things,” written by the one-and-only Allen Toussaint, shows Jimmy’s smooth and romantic side on both sax and vocals. It’s a beautiful song that thrives in Carpenter’s able hands and his take on it shines from end to end. Be sure to also spin “Bring It On Home To Me” and “Barefootin’.” The Louisiana Record is the kind of set that will get your whole neighborhood dancing if played loud enough. Get it and get going! This proof will keep your body moving!
Most artists of his ilk begin in the blues and gradually move to American, to embrace more musical forms and to build a wider audience. In a real sense, Golden took the opposite approach, beginning in the indie realm before “discovering” that he could play blues too. The word is in quotes because rather surprisingly, Golden claims to have learned to play the blues in a dream. Sleeping late at Bonnaroo a few years back, he woke up with a blues fingerpicking pattern in his head. Later he played this pattern to blues elder Phil Wiggins who told him he’s unconsciously been playing Piedmont blues, the traditional form from his region. His relationship with Wiggins connected him with the Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Humanities and thus this album was born.Upon the loss of his job, a breakup, and the onset of the pandemic, Golden shelved the original album, reworked the songs, and imbued them with some new themes, aiming for some optimism amidst the turmoil. Golden wanted to put together a full band for the album, making use of Hale’s ear for arrangements and background in indie rock. He and Hale recruited artists from Richmond’s rich musical scene including guitarists Nate and Eli Hubbard, drummer Drew Barnocky, backing vocalist Tyler Meacham, and organist Tommy Booker. Fellow blues phenom Andrew Alli brought his harmonica, and Golden asked Seattle fiddler Ben Hunter to join remotely, eager to support other Black blues musicians with deep ties to the tradition. Golden plays acoustic and electric guitars, resonator guitar, and banjo. Adrian Olsen (Lucy Dacus, Natalie Prass) at Montrose Recording in Richmond mixed the album. While the album begins with the easy rolling indie sounds of “Can’t Get Right” with fingerpicking blues emerging on “Ain’t Just Luck.” Golden’s take on the blues is refreshing, acknowledging that it doesn’t belong in a dusty museum as many would prefer, nor does it need to be imitative – “It’s so popular these days to think you’re BB King,” Golden explains, “and it’s cool if you can play like that, but sometimes it’s what you’re not playing that’s interesting.” Golden does, however, parlay many of the usual blues music topics such as heartbreak in “Call Me When the Bed Gets Cold,” feeling lovestruck as in the blissful, repetitive “Lightning When She Smiles,” and even a deal with the devil in the aforementioned “Ain’t Just Luck.” A key track is “Gator,” which addresses racism from the perspective of a young Black man, using the analogy of gators seemingly always lying unperturbed but seeking that right moment to attack. This is the ongoing fear that his people constantly have, never feeling safe in this country, exacerbated by the Trump years and post-Trump years. Over a rolling, trance-like rhythm, Golden sings “When I see blue lights, sometimes I wanna run.” Struggling to find an optimistic outcome, he ends with “So where do I look when hard times’ bringing me down / I turn to my brother with both of my arms stretched out.”Tunes such as “Moon Far Away” and “If I Keep It Together” fall right into the acoustic Piedmont blues mode while the deceptively bouncy “When the Sun Goes Down” directly addresses the global pandemics. Golden best displays his finger-picking technique in the hypnotic “Call Me When the Bed Gets Cold” and “No Riches,” basically an acoustic duet with harmonicist Alli, and then turns to the banjo on the closing gospel “Oh Lord, Oh LordBlues is everywhere and Golden refreshingly proves it can take on many forms, whether rendered acoustically in its basic form or fleshed out with these terrific players and solid songs.
The Hungry Williams – Let’s Go (Rochelle): “You might not think that New Orleans and Milwaukee have much in common. Once you’ve heard the band Hungry Williams, however, you’ll change your mind. That’s because bandleader and drummer John Carr heard the New Orleans Chess Anthology in 1995 and was completely transformed. Yet, he played all over town, not fully capturing the ’50s-60s R&B sound he loved until a decade later when he recruited bassist Mike Sieger with whom Carr had been playing since 1991, lead vocalist Kelli Gonzalez, and former bandmates guitarist/vocalist Joe Vent and keyboardist Jack Stewart. For this album, Let’s Go, Carr added his favorite sax players – Jason Goldsmith on tenor and Casimir Riley on baritone sax. So, yes, this is a retro trip to music from sixty- seventy years ago.“Mardi Gras Day’ is not the Professor Longhair or Dr. John song you may be familiar with but an original. It retains that second line feel however, punctuated by guest trumpeter Lech Wierzynski in his only appearance. Keyboardist Stewart penned “Movin’ On” in tribute to Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew. All of the core band members except Carr go full-throated on LaVern Baker’s “You’d Better Find Yourself Another Fool.”
The band has a penchant for the vintage female belters, electing to cover three of Big Maybelle’s tunes – “One Monkey Don’t Stop the Show,” “Gee Baby,” and “Then I’ll Believe.” Gonzalez begins the former in a purring spoken word style, but the band comes in to frame her defiant words, imbued by Goldsmith’s tenor solo. “Gee Baby” is a NOLA staple, and the band captures its classic jukebox sound, we associate with Ron Records. The same can be said for the strolling piano driven “Then I’ll Believe.” “Oooh Wow” is another NOLA classic and was written by Fats’ guitarist Roy Montrell. The band’s guitarist, Jow Vent, takes the lead vocal and the unmistakable Fats sound rolls out with especially strong turns from the two horns.
The others are all originals. “Boss Man,” from Carr shows Gonzalez at her belting best, framed by strong sax turns from both players, as Stewart continues to show his authentic Crescent City feel. Gonzalez delivers her story song, “Big Mouth Betty,” which echoes the kind of melodies we associate with doo-wop groups like the Coasters, underpinned with Riley’s bari sax. Carr, Gonzalez, collaborated on the closer, “660 (Across the Street from the Beast”) which doesn’t adhere to the two-three-minute format of the other vintage radio-like songs. It allows Riley to stretch out in his honking style as the band shuffles along, with their sense of humor intact, all singing as Carr slyly mimics the voice of the devil underneath.
This is all about fun. Summer isn’t over yet – The Hungry Williams will undoubtedly get your next party into full swinging motion. Jim Hynes can offer these!