Saturday, August 24, 2019

Bob Corritore & Friends Do the Hip-Shake Baby!

Bob Corritore & Friends
Do the Hip-Shake Baby!
Vizztone/SWMAF Records

"Do the Hip-Shake Baby!" is Bob Corritore's latest blues party recording with a variety of artists including vocalists Mighty Joe Mislap, Alabama Mike, Oscar Wilson, Henry Gray, John Primer, Bill 'Howl-N-Madd' Perry, and Jimi 'Primetime' Smith. Backing musicians include Corritore on harmonica throughout, Gray on piano, Primer on guitar, Andy T and Anson Funderburgh on guitar, LA jones, on guitar, Fred Kaplan on keyboards, and Kedar Roy on bass. There are many others, and the poor layout makes getting some details like songwriting credits hard to read.

Those familiar with the previous recordings Corritore has produced will not be surprised by the solid revivalist Chicago and swamp blues performances heard here. It opens up with a solid rendition by Mighty Joe Mislap of Slim Harpo's "Do the Hip-Shake Baby!" that allows Corritore to display his harp skills over a swampy, trebly foundation. Milsap, who is also backed by the Fremonts, also ably sings another Slim Harpo song, "I'm Gonna Keep What I've Got." Alabama Mike, with LA Jones guitar and Corritore on unamplified harp, rock Jimmy McCracklin's jump blues, "Gonna Tell Your Mama." His performances include two Sam Cooke styled performances, "Worried Blues" and Junior Parker's "Stand By Me," both ably backed by the Andy T Band. Henry Gray sounds pretty vigorous for a pleasant revival of "The Twist."

Oscar Wilson does a nice Jimmy Reed cover, "Bitter Seed," with Corritore emulating Reed's harp style and Fred Kaplan lays down some nice piano in the backing. Jimi 'Primetime' Smith also does a solid Jimmy Reed shuffle, "I Got The World In A Jug," with Corritore on amplified harp, Fred Kaplan on piano, Bob Stroger on bass and Brian Fahey on drums.

Bill 'Howl-N-Madd' Perry wrote and delivers a solid down-home vocal on "You Better Slow Down," that sounds like an unissued Excello recording as Corritore wails in his backing, while John Primer does a homage to his former boss Muddy Waters on "Love Deep As The Ocean," with Bob Welsh channeling Otis Spann. With Junior Watson swinging on guitar, Sugaray Rayford energetically (perhaps a bit over the top) revives Bobby Saxton "Trying to Make a Living" with a fresh arrangement. His other performance is a Howlin' Wolf styled original, "Keep The Lord On With You!" with Kid Ramos on guitar that is the closing track.

With a variety of performers and consistently solid, idiomatic blues performances, Bob Corritore has delivered another winning collection of traditionally oriented blues.

I received my review copy from Vizztone Records. This review originally appeared in the May-June 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 384). Here is "Do the Hip-Shake Baby!"

Friday, August 23, 2019

Rockin' Johnny & Quiqué Gomez Dos Hombres Wanted

Rockin' Johnny & Quiqué Gomez
Dos Hombres Wanted

Singer-guitarist Rockin' Johnny Burgin has unquestionably established himself as a practitioner of old school Chicago style blues through his work with the likes of Taildragger, Eddie Taylor Jr, Mary lane, Little Arthur Duncan, Mary Lane, Jimmy Lee Robinson and Willie Buck as well as on his idiomatic recordings. Hailing from Madrid, Spain, singer-harmonica player Quiqué Gomez has a reputation as a jazz-influenced blues singer who also is a Sinatra stylist with a Spanish Big Band. They have joined forces on an album of 11 originals, and three choice covers backed by Eric Przygocki on bass and Stephen Dougherty on drums with Christian Dozzler on piano or accordion, Josh Fulero on guitar on three tracks, Greg Izor on harp for one track, and Farris on trombone on one track.

This recording will appeal to Chicago blues fans as this is a tight band led by two strong singers and players evident from Rockin' Johnny's opening shuffle "Your Charm Won't Help You," with a short fiery solo. Gomez establishes himself as a most capable singer on "Take It Like It Is" with his full-bodied harp solo following solos from Fulero and Burgin. He also sings on Burgin's "You Can't Steal My Sugar," although the performance is a bit too frenzied. A real surprise is a cover of Robert Lockwood Jr.'s "Funny But True" with a strong vocal by Gomez and Rockin' Johnny evoking Lockwood's unique guitar style.

With Dozzler adding accordion, Rockin' Johnny delivers a clever lyric using gambling analogies on 'Ain't No High Roller," the performance of which includes a particularly strong harmonica solo, followed by a stinging guitar solo. There is also an outstanding slow blues sung by Burgin, "Coffee Can Blues." Kudos to Przygocki and Dougherty who throughout provide steady and firm support. "Livin' Day to Day" is a topical blues played with against a Jimmy Reed shuffle groove on which Gomez delivers a fine vocal. More Jimmy Reed shuffle flavor is evident on Gomez's "Otro Hombre," a jaunty performance sung in Spanish.

With trombone and accordion, Burgin's "Step it Up Bro," is a change of pace that is more in the vein of a Nat King Cole jive blues. It sports exceptional harmonica that owes as much to Toots Thielemans as Little Walter and a jazzy guitar solo. "Are You Ever" is a first-rate Louisiana styled swamp blues-rocker in the manner of the late Lazy Lester with perhaps Burgin's best vocal on this recording. Gomez takes the lead vocal on a relaxed reworking of Tampa Red's "Don't Blame Shorty," which again has marvelous and imaginative harmonica along with Burgin's evocative classic Chicago blues guitar. It is a splendid close to a marvelously entertaining Chicago styled blues album.

I received my review copy from VizzTone. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 383). Here the two perform Little Walter's "Rocker."

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Moonshine Society Sweet Thing

Moonshine Society
Sweet Thing
Mojo Music Group

"Sweet Thing" is the second album by the DC area band, Moonshine Society. The core of the band is guitarist Joe Poppen and vocalist Black Betty (Jenny Langer), along with bassist Chris Brown and drummer Rodney Dutton and they have developed their blues and roots music stew. Lending support on some of the tracks are keyboardists Wes Lanich and Benjie Porecki, bassist Tod Ellsworth, and the horns of the great Ron Holloway, Vince McCool and Ken Wenzel. Jason Ricci's harmonica was added onto two tracks. Black Betty and Poppen, when not fronting Moonshine Society, are members of The Ron Holloway Band.

There is a fascinating mix of blues, blues-rock, and soul starting with the opening title track that was penned by Langer. It might be viewed as an answer song to Muddy Water's "Mannish Boy," with Ricci providing some energetic harmonica behind Langer's insistent vocal as she tells her man not to play games with her. "Shake" has a nice groove with a riff that evokes Nick Gravenites "Born in Chicago." Langer sings about going out and dancing the night away with Poppen laying down some fiery single note runs while Holloway has a booting solo. A particular standout selection is the reworking of the Ruth Brown hit, "Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean." It is set to a New Orleans second-line groove with Porecki on piano laying down some Crescent City styled piano. Vince McCool takes a brief, fiery trumpet solo, and Holloway on tenor sax and Wenzel on baritone sax take robust solos with the three horns leading the second line until performance fade out. Langer's "Come On Home" is a stunning performance in a Memphis soul style with Porecki channeling Booker T and Poppen evoking Steve Cropper.

There is a tribute to Johnny Winter on "Southern Road," which is more in a blues-rock vein with Ricci adding to this wide-open performance. Another highlight is a mash-up of Bill Withers' "Use Me" and Dr. John's "On Gilded Splinters," with her striking vocal backed by Poppen's explosive blues-rock guitar. Langer ably covers Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind," with a nicely shaped guitar solo and backing Langer whose vocal builds with passion as the performance unfolds. "Deal the Devil Made" contrasts with a more restrained vocal and backing. Poppen takes a solo on acoustic guitar on this selection.

A bonus track, "The One Who Got Away," is included. It was recorded in cooperation with "Cancer Can Rock," with a different backing band but also serves as another example of Langer's powerful, focused singing. It adds to the pleasures of an impressive recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a video of a recent live performance of "Sweet Thing."


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Mighty Sam McClain A Diamond in the Rough

Mighty Sam McClain
A Diamond in the Rough
Sledgehammer Blues

I miss Mighty Sam McClain. One of the finest of the deep soul singers who recorded a bunch of classic 45s, his career blossomed after he started recording albums and crossing over to the blues audience. "A Diamond in the Rough" contains his final recordings made shortly before his passing in 2015, which are stripped-down recordings on which the only accompaniment is by Pat Herlehy's acoustic guitars with saxophones or flute added to some.

There is the celebratory feel of "My Everything" where his performance evokes Solomon Burke and followed by a slow blues, "When the Hurt is Over," that he soulfully sings over Herlehy's simple backing while Herlehy adds some single note runs. "Grooving" is a mid-tempo song on which Herlehy adds tenor sax over his guitar backing as he pleads for his woman to hold him and groove him as he growls, shouts and scats the lyrics. Charles Neville collaborated with McClain on "Love's Gonna Find," another soulful song with a gospel flavor, with McClain's fervent singing enlivened by some gutbucket tenor sax.

"Love Me If You Want To" has another solid blues vocal on a theme related to the James Cotton classic "Love Me or Leave Me," where he tells his woman he's tired of waiting on her, so make up your mind. One has to be impressed by the vigor and the virtuosity if McClain's singing throughout, but kudos go out to Herlehy with his solo on "Question" particularly impressive. Herlehy is on flute on "Believe" where Sam sings we can make it if we try, and let's get together to set us free. Perhaps he was aware of his mortality when singing "Southern Land" and reflecting about "going back to where it all started from" and how he misses it.

"Holy Ghost Fever" is a stirring, gospel lyric set to a blues groove and recollections of Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf and others. The acoustic nature of these performances lend them an intimacy but also these performances sound as if not completely finished. A full horn section and a rhythm section would have provided a fuller backing to frame the vocals. For this reason, this atypical recording will most appeal to those already fans of Mighty Sam McClain. For those not familiar with his music, one might suggest "Sledgehammer Soul and Down Home Blues," "Sweet Dreams," or "Too Much Jesus (Not Enough Whiskey)" over this recording.

I received my review copy from the record company. This review originally appeared in the May-June 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 384), although a couple of minor stylistic changes have been made. Here he is heard on "When the Hurt is Over."

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Fruteland Jackson Good As Your Last Dollar

Fruteland Jackson
Good As Your Last Dollar

Blues advocate, educator and acoustic blues artist Fruteland Jackson returns with this new album. He is heard singing as well playing acoustic guitar, National Resonator guitar, and mandolin. Fruteland is supported by Harrison Kennedy, who supplies backing vocals on three selections; guitarist Jack de Keyzer; pianist Julian Fauth; bassist Alex Fraser and drummer Bucky Berger. These four also provide backing vocals where heard.

There are some interpretations of classic blues as well as original, sometimes topical songs. Discussing the title track, Fruteland says "I learned during the Great Recession, that no matter how long you've had a relationship with a utility or cable company, if you are late or unable to pay, you become only as "Good As Your Last Dollar." Nothing more, nothing less. Living through the Great Recession was a time of Economic and Psychological depression. For some an unscripted test of survival." The songs and the performances resonate with Fruteland having lived much of the music.

It has been several years since Fruteland's last recording. It has been worth the wait as he sings with authority, while forcefully playing resonator slide guitar on "Two Steps To Hell." It is a blues about the hard times while also being two steps to hell and one step from his baby's door. The delta blues approach of that number contrasts to the small group backing (Fauth's piano is impressive too to the gospel performance of "Death Creep." Here there is a blend of fingerstyle guitar and slide guitar, and an uncredited harmonica player (Harrison Kennedy?). The title track is a haunting performance as he remembers when one's word was bond, but now cash in hand beats a payment plan. Fruteland's interpretation of "Careless Love" uses a fresh arrangement for a heartfelt vocal. Harrison Kennedy adds vocal asides on a standout performance.

Fruteland observes that "It's odd isn't it that so many Blues songs are written about a spouse or lover breaking one's heart, while so few Blues songs are written about our parents." "All the Daddy I Had," set against a Muddy Waters styled backing is a song about a father breaking his heart. It is a moving performance with Fruteland wondering if Daddy loved Fruteland recalling that his daddy never said a kind word to Fruteland. "All Pain No Gain." is another engaging performance as he sings of trying to survive during a bad economy. "Damaged Goods" is a relaxed shuffle about having his heart and self broken by an ex, but noting that we are all damaged goods. Also of note is Fruteland's performance of "Love in Vain," where he pays tribute to Robert Johnson and playing original instrumental touches as well as a terrific vocal. Again there is some fine harmonica heard here.

"Good As Your Last Dollar" is a gem of acoustic blues with compelling performances of intriguing original blues songs and fresh, choice interpretations of classic blues songs. It has been way too long since Fruteland Jackson's last album, and this is a more than welcome addition to his body of recordings.

I received a digital download from Fruteland Jackson. Here is Fruteland performing "Midnight Special."

Monday, August 19, 2019

Carol Sudhalter Quartet Live At Saint Peter’s Church

Carol Sudhalter Quartet
Live At Saint Peter’s Church
Alfa Music

A pioneering woman in jazz, Carol Sudhalter since the early 1970s been advancing the cause of women in jazz as a musician (she is among the finest baritone saxophonists of the past several decades but also quite accomplished on tenor sax and flute), big band and combo leader, producer, and educator. She played with the first female Latin band and founded the Astoria Big Band (still active for 33 years). She had a discography of over ten albums which this new release, recorded at a performance at New York’s famed St. Peters Church is a welcome addition.

She is backed by a tight quartet that includes Patrick Poladian-Piano, Kevin Hailey-Upright Bass, and Mike Campenni-Drums and they perform fresh renditions of songs by Jobim, Sonny Rollins, Benny Golson,  Tadd Dameron, Bill Evans, Hank Mobley, Don Redman, and two originals. The opening rendition of Tadd Dameron’s “On a Misty Night” quickly establishes the authority and inventiveness she brings to the baritone sax with her robust, brawny attack while the backing trio provides strong support throughout this swinging, modern jazz set. There is a haunting Benny Golson ballad “Park Avenue Petite,” that exhibits her emotional range on the baritone sax while Hailey contributes a melodically grounded solo. There is a lovely flute solo on Bill Evans’ “Time Remembered.” There is a bit of swagger to her playing on Hank Mobley’s “Funk in Deep Freeze” along with some stunning piano which leads into a crisp drum solo.

She sings with a certain charm on “Colin Blues” which is dedicated to one of her students. It should be noted that the vocal, along with spoken announcements, is not well miked. Poladian is terrific here as is the leader on flute. There is a strong rendition of Sonny Rollins’ “Valse Hot” along with Poladian‘s swinging “Fun in the Alley” with the leader’s playful flute. Bassist Hailey is featured on “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You,” set against some excellent piano while Campenni varies his stick work to complement the two. A short melodic reading of Jobim’s “Luiza” closes this strong live recording by a woman who should be much better known.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 383). Here is Park Avenue Petite,” from this album.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Kenny Parker Hellfire

Kenny Parker

Albert King may have sung about the "Cadillac Assembly Line," but Kenny Parker worked at the Cadillac Factory during the day while playing in the bands of Detroit blues artists Mr. Bo (Louis Bo Collins) and The Butler Twins at night. While touring Europe with the Butler Twins in 1996, he caught the attention of John Stedman of JSP Records who recorded his debut recording "Raise the Dead" with The Butler Twins along with harmonica master Darrell Nulisch.

Parker is not the most prolific recording artist as the present album is only his third album. He is backed by his band that includes vocalist and harmonica player Dave Devins, bassist Mike Marshall and drummer James Marcaccio on drums with former Mitch Ryder guitarist Jim McCarty added on six of the 12 tracks). Among others present are keyboardists Bill Heid (who recorded decades ago with Koko Taylor and Fenton Robinson on Alligator) and Chris Codish (who graced the late Johnny Bassett's band). Parker is not a singer but wrote 11 of the 12 songs with the other contributed by Omar Dykes.

This recording is a straight-ahead modern blues date with occasional rock and roll touches. Things get off with a nicely played, relaxed shuffle "I Got My Eye on You" with not only a solid vocal from Devins but a nice harmonica solo with parker and McCarty swapping solos while Heid lays down some rollicking piano. Some funky organ and slashing guitar is present on the funky "Baby Come Back To Me," while there is a deep blues feel to the slow "Blind and Paralyzed," and then some hot rock and roll on "Bye Bye Baby," with Leonard Moon's buoyant piano and McCarty's sizzling slide guitar. The title track is a tough cautionary take of this woman Ruby whose kiss might blow your mind but be the death of one.

"Goin' In Circles," has a lazy, loping Jimmy Reed shuffle groove as Devins sings about going in circles over this woman with Heid pounding the 88s in support, although "Dance With Me" is less convincing in part because of its hypersonic tempo. "I'm Missing You" is a nicely done southern soul lament in the vein of Percy Sledge, while "Half Crazy" is a marvelous rocking blues shuffle. Another slow blues, "Backup Plan" may be the top performance here with Devins' best vocal and some superb playing from both guitarists standing out.

A hard rock, blazing interpretation of Omar & the Howlers topical "Hard Times in the Land of Plenty" robustly closes out Parker's very memorable new recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 383). Here is a video of The Kenny Parker Band.