Saturday, August 30, 2008

Wax Poetics Rocks

Just a heads up that issue 30 of the genre-spanning hip hop journal, waxpoetics is out and it is titled The Rock Issue. The two covers are of the Bad Brains and Elvis and there are stories on both (Elvis in Memphis is the subject of that article. There is a rediscovery of the Johnny Jenkins album, Ton-Ton Macoute!, obits for Jimmy McGriff, Buddy Miles, Bo Diddley and Ike Turner, and other articles on Dave Bartholomew (by Andra Lisle who also contributed the Ike Turner obituary, the Black Rock Coalition, The Rascals, and Ernie Isley (the article is titled "Guitar Hero"recalling Hendrix among other things). Some good writers here including John Kruth who authored the fine Roland Kirk Biography, Bright Moments and Jon Kirby, who penned the Bad Brains story. I picked this up at the magazine section of Barnes & Noble, and the website is I mentioned this publication before and bring this to your attention once more.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Blind Pig Signs Big James Montgomery, appearing in Baltimore area August 31

One of the real pleasant surprises of the 2006 Pocono Blues Festival was the performance by Big James and the Chicago Playboys. James Montgomery is a big man and he has a presence as a singer and when playing his trombone as well as is backed by his fine band which adds a heafty dose of soul and funk to his blues stew. At the festival I purchased Now You Know, which was his third CD (self-released and included nice recordings of some of the songs he performed including the title track, "Chicago Is Da' Home 4 Da' Blues", "Hustler's Paradise," and Albert King's "Angel of Mercy." What a nice soulful vocal delivery he has, and his trombone along with the guitarist and other bandmembers play some interesting and funky stuff. More recently he issued Thank God I Got the Blues, that is a similarly fine effort, celebrating the blues with plenty of heart of soul.

Yesterday (August 25), I got an email from Blind Pig announcing they signed Big James. "Blind Pig Records has announced the signing of Big James & the Chicago Playboys, a brass band that combines blues, soul, R&B and funk into a rollicking, horn-drenched stage party.

The bandleader and trombone player, Big James Montgomery, who also serves as singer, songwriter, and producer for the group, sports a voice as big as his girth. This year he received his second Blues Music Award nomination as “Horn Instrumentalist” and the title track from his last solo effort, Thank God I Got The Blues, will be featured in the upcoming movie Cleaner, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Eva Mendes."

The press release also notes that Big James Montgomery is a three time winner of Living Blues magazine’s Critic’s Choice Award for “Most Outstanding Horn Player and that he will start working ona new album in November.

While I would not use the term brass band to describe his sound, I agree his horn-led band mixes blues, soul and funk for a rollicking, horn-drenched stage party that is unique in the blues today. For those in the Baltimore-Washington area he is appearing at the Baltimore Blues Society's Alonzo Memorial Picnic on Sunday August 31 at the Rosedale MD American Legion Hall. For information on that event visit the BBS website. His CDs, Thank God I Got The Blues and Thank God I Got The Blues are available at

Monday, August 25, 2008

Michael Burks' Rocking Blues

Arkansas native Michael Burks muscular new Alligator album, “Iron Man,” should readily appeal to fans of modern hard rocking blues. Burks forceful string-bending on his Flying V will appeal to those who like their blues with a heavy dose of hard-rock tinged guitar, but that oversimplifies his forceful playing. Playing the Flying V, some comparisons are inevitable with Albert King, and while King is obviously an influence, Burks is a more active player. His vocals with a welcome downhome flavor in his voice actually evoke King more. The take of Jimmy Johnson’s “Ashes in My Ashtray,” is a particularly welcome performance but little fault can be found with the solid idiomatic originals such as the driving “Love Disease” that opens this set or his soulful blues-ballad “Empty Promises.” His band of keyboardist Wayne Sharp, bassist Don Garrett and drummer Chuck ‘Popcorn’ Louden are a tight and hard-hitting. While this is not the most subtle blues, they avoid heavy-handedness and complement, not overwhelm, Burks singing. Listen to his delivery on “Icepick Through My Heart” that he co-wrote and then dig his nice guitar break, and the album closes with a rocking "Changed Man," set to the Dust My Broom melody which the band swings hard. While Burks' fiery guitar will obviously be a prominent reason for his appeal, his delivery of the songs sets him apart from most of his contemporaries, as evidenced by this fine recording.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Detroit's Blues Queen is A True Blues Treasure

Alberta Adams is truly Detroit’s Blues Queen. A dancer who became a singer when the vocalist did not show up, she has become the grande dame of the Motor City’s blues scene. She toured extensively with Louis Jordan, Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson, T-Bone Walker, James Moody and Duke Ellington and recorded extensively particularly in the jump type blues style that is her repertoire today. Her latest disc is Detroit Is My Home (Eastlawn Records), and brings her together with some marvelous musicians including that swinging drummer, R.J. Spangler who produced this. Certainly the album can’t get off to a hotter start than the opening boogie woogie, Keep On Keepin’ On, with Mark Braun (aka Mr. B.) coming off like Pete Johnson while the tempo slows down on for the evocative Tired of Being Alone,” with some strong gutbucket piano from Mr. B.,, solid horn playing and nice use of brushes by Spangler. More boogie styled piano is contributed by Al Hill for Hello Little Boy, which reverses the gender on a classic jump blues that Jimmy Rushing and others have sung. Her voice may have developed some rough edges but she still puts so much heart in her vocals with Paul Carey taking a terrific solo here. Mr. B is back on piano on I’m So Worried, which also sports some terrific trumpet from James O’Donnell on this moody performance. The title track has a strutting tempo with a touch of a rumba in the rhythm with Alberta reciting the places she has been and having been on the road forever but no matter how far she roams, “Detroit is My Home.” Saffire’s Ann Rabson handles the piano on a duet of Alberta and CeeCee Collins on Lucille Bogan’s sassy Struttin’ My Stuff. Rabson also is heard behind Adams on a medley of I'm On The Move / Every Day, on which CeeCee Collins and Thornetta Davis add backing vocals, and also on Rabson’s blues ballad Hopin’ It Will Be Alright. A bonus live track has Collins joining her for a lively rendition, from the club Sushi Blues, of Rosco Gordon’s Just a Little Bit. Anyone who has been fortunate to see Alberta Adams perform know that she is a national treasure and this latest labor of love on Eastlawn will be highly welcomed by anyone who has seen her and give a sense to others what they have been missing. This should be available on as well as from

Wolfman Washington's Blues Masterpiece

Wolfman Washington is one of my favorite artists and when he was signed to Point Blank there was hope his career would reach new heights. Unfortunately there was a management issue and the album, Blue Moon Risin, was never issued in the US. I am not sure if it still can be obtained anymore byt the Louisiana Music Factory had copies a few years ago. IMHO, it was the best blues album of the 1990s. I believe it was also the last time the J.B. Horns recorded together. Here is my review as it appeared in Jazz & Blues Report back in July/August 1995.

After years working with Johnny Adams and making some recordings for small New Orleans labels, Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington emerged as an important blues voice in his own right with several albums for Rounder, and then one for PointBlank that evidenced his emergence as one of the true major voices in contemporary blues. Now with Blue Moon Risin’ (4 Tunes Records), currently only available as an import, he has produced an absolutely stunning album that seamlessly integrates soul and funk elements into Washington’s blues gumbo. Washington’s band, the Roadmasters (not to be confused with Ronnie Earl’s band of the same name), has a rhythm section of Jack Cruz on bass, Wilbert Arnold on drums and Brian Mitchel on keyboards that is as good as they get. While the regular Roadmasters horns are only present on two tracks, ten of the twelve tracks have the J.B. Horns (Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley and Pee Wee Ellis). Wolfman’s mix of funk and blues is perfect for the J.B. Horns, whose crisp playing matches up with the hard funk groove of the Roadmasters on the strutting remake of Bill Withers’ Using Me and showcase Wolfman’s solo on Fever. Still the disc’s highest points are the originals by Wolfman and Jack Cruz, such as the opening Stop and Think (to which keyboard player Mitchel also contributed), the title track (with its opening line “There’s a blue moon risin’, in my heart & in my soul, passion and pain lying on everything I known”), and Can’t Stop Lovin’ You, a terrific driving updating on Otis Redding’s Can’t Cut You Loose. Cadillac Woman may be the closest thing to a straight blues shuffle, but it has an interesting turn in the melody. And while his guitar is showcased, mixing in bits of George Benson and Kenny Burrell to the gulf coast blues guitar stew, his fervid singing is just as central to these performances. He’ll employ a strangulated falsetto for emphasis, or stretch out a syllable as necessary before cutting loose with a concise guitar solo as the horns riff in support. I’ve listened to this repeatedly since buying it at the Louisiana Music Factory in New Orleans. Wolfman has made fine records before, but this is one of the best new albums in a very long time.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Homemade Jamz Blues Band at Surf Club Live

Saturday evening, August 9, The Perry clan made their way to Surf Club Live in Prince George's County, Maryland for a show presented by the D.C. Blues Society. The Perry siblings, Tara, Ryan and Kyle constitute the Homemade Jamz Blues Band, who created a sensation when they finished second at the Blues Foundation's International Blues Challenge in 2007. Since then they have played at a variety of festivals, been on CBS' Sunday Morning and had a debut recording,Pay Me No Mind on Northern Blues Music, which I have reviewed previously here.

Accompanied by their parents and others, the trio certainly displays a considerable amount of talent and exuberance. Musically, the set was a mixed deal. Mixing in covers of songs from B.B. King, Albert King, Little Milton and others along with originals penned by father Renaud (who played harmonica for several tracks), they are talented and Ryan is a particularly promising vocalist. Him and Kyle play home made guitars and bass respectively, fashioned from car mufflers.

Obviously there youth is a basis for their appeal and they certainly are entertaining, but if one did not know that they were 9, 15, and 13, one would not pay particular attention to them. Their youthfulness was perhaps felt by the relatively simple backings they had and problems they had in ending songs which sometimes reached an abrupt conclusion. It will be interesting to see what the future has for them as they and their musical skills grow and mature and whether they become distinctive and persuasive musical voices.

Lil' Dave Thompson's Blues

Playing with Booba Barnes as a teenager, and later recording for Fat Possum, while touring with R.l. Burnside, Jr. Kimbrough and others, Mississippi blues man Lil’ Dave Thompson may not be 40, but he has developed into a terrific modern bluesman. Thompson had an impressive debut album on Fat Possum followed by an excellent recording on the British JSP label. Despite his hill country roots, his stinging guitar and forceful vocals owes much to the legendary Albert King, joining such other significant blues artists as the late Son Seals and Larry Davis as well as the muscular blues of Michael Burks who display King's influence . Thompson’s new album, Got to Get Over You Electro-Fi), displays that he has developed his own blues style. He is a fiery guitarist, whose tone evokes King, although like others he has a busier style. Tied to this is soulful, expressive singing and a program of strong blues originals including the title track and rocking shuffles like Out in the Cold, and Hard Headed Woman. Need For Speed, the lone instrumental, is a showcase for his searing fretwork. Recorded in Toronto, Electro-Fi backed Thompson with a tight band with organist John Lee and saxophonist Pat Carey impressively adding their voices, but the spotlight remains most impressively on Thompson and with this recording and his striking, intense performances (this writer just saw him at the Pocono Blues Festival), his stature in the blues world should be growing.

Lil' Dave will be appearing at the free 20th DC Blues Festival put on by the D.C. Blues Society on Saturday August 30 at the Carter Barron Amphitheatre in NW Washington DC. He will also appear at the Festival After Party at Surf Club Live that evening. For more information visit the D.C. Blues Society's website.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Gilbert-Carter Will Jazz the Blues at DC Blues Festival

Here is a review of a very talented Washington DC based vocalist, Janine Gilbert-Carter that is of note. I also selected this as an outstanding recording of 2007. I found out that she and Sandra Y. Johnson will be appearing at the DC Blues Society's 20th DC Blues Festival as The Jazzy Blues Women, and be backed by a band that includes Vince Smith on keyboards and the legendary Dohn Nunley on saxophone. They are scheduled to appear at around 3:30PM

Originally from Pennsylvania, but a resident of the Washington D.C. area since 1988, vocalist Janine Gilbert-Carter has distinguished herself both as a gospel and jazz singer. Jazz Karma has just issued her new album, A Song For You, Live at the 15th Annual FMJS East Jazz Festival that should hopefully make her better known outside of the Nation’s Capital. The February 2006 appearance at the East Coast Jazz Festival captured here has her backed by a wonderful band featuring saxophonist Paul Carr, guitarist Steve Abshire, pianist Chris Grasps, bassist Gavin Fallow and drummer Clyde Adams. And while Carr gets a number of strong solos here, with his Texas-based tenor playing being especially nice, Ms. Gilbert-Carter is front and center possessing a delivery that swings along with the band over a wonderful range of material that includes songs associated with Dinah Washington (What a Difference a Day Makes); Big Maybelle (Candy); Shirley Horn (Here’s to Life); Percy Mayfield (Please Send Me Someone to Love); Etta James (At Last); and Denise LaSalle (Someone Else is Steppin’ In). And then there are the standards like All of Me, and When I Fall In Love. No matter how familiar a song is, Janine Gilbert-Carter brings a breath of fresh air in her interpretations, with her phrasing and the sophisticated bluesy inflections she adds. I was familiar with Leon Russell’s A Song For You, from Donny Hathaway’s recording. The rendition here does evoke Hathaway’s prior recording but she provides an equally stirring performance. She transforms Denise LaSalle’s soul-blues classic, Someone Else is Steppin’ In, into a swinging blues as she belts out the lyric on a stunning performance (Carr’s tenor solo also deserves note). It must have been quite a night to see Janine Carter-Gilbert at the East Coast jazz Festival when this was recorded. The proof is this terrific album that that is available at