Saturday, August 31, 2013

Happy Birthday Bobby Parker

Two DC Music Icons - Bobby Parker (on left) and the late Chuck Brown (on right)
Photo © Ron Weinstock
One of this city's true icons, Bobby Parker, turns 76 today. He was born in Lafayette, Louisiana August 31, 1937. If you are in the Washington DC area today and want a double dose of great blues, catch Chris Thomas King's early set at Blues Alley and then head out to Madam's Organ for Bobby's last Saturday of the month show.  For more on Bobby you can check out his All Music biography. Here is the link to Bobby's own website,

Here is Bobby doing one of his earliest recordings, Blues Get Off My Shoulder from the 1990's at Fleetwood's in Alexandria.

Here is Bobby from this past June at the Silver Spring (MD) blues festival.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Barbara Morrison - A Sunday Kind of Love

Scott Yanow suggests that vocalist Barbara Morrison is one of those singers that transcend categories by simply being herself. Perhaps best known for the 21 years she spent with Johnny Otis, Ms. Morrison certainly demonstrates her way with a song on a new Savant Records release, A Sunday Kind of Love. A stated on the cover, this recording features the tenor saxophone of Houston Person with a rhythm section of Stuart Elster on piano, Richard Simon on bass and Lee Spath on drums, that has been backing her for seven years.

From the opening moments of Duke Ellington's I'm Just a Lucky So and So, to the closing notes of the Al Green classic Let's Stay Together, Morrison brings displays her roots in classic blues and rhythm music (as on the opening title track), as well as her ability to caress a lyric, displayed on the Billie Holiday classic Good Morning Heartache. The moods swing from romantic on the title track (and her rendition joins Etta James' recording as among my favorites of this song) to being playful on The Green Door. Tinges of her maturity may be heard in her voice, but it lends character to her singing. 

And then there is Houston Person. Is he ever not superb backing a singer? Throughout this recording, Person is marvelous. With the combination of the veteran song stylist, swinging trio and the terrific Houston Person, A Sunday Kind of Love is simply superb.

I received my review copy from the record company. Here is Barbara singing Let's Stay Together.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chris Thomas King at Blues Alley

Chris Thomas King at the 2009 Pocono Blues Festival. Photo © Ron Weinstock

Just a heads up that Chris Thomas King, a forward looking blues artist is at Blues Alley in Washington DC starting tonight, August 29. He will be there through Sunday, September 1.  Thomas' music is rooted in the deep Baton Rouge blues scene epitomized by his father the legendary Tabby Thomas, but brings a whole range of elements to his music including Jimi Hendrix, New Orleans jazz and hip hop. While he may be known for his acting (he played "Tommy Johnson" in the acclaimed movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"), he is a true blues treasure. 

Here is a video of Chris Thomas King in performance doing Baptized in Dirty Water. It is from his marvelous post-Katrina album Rise which to my mind is among the best blues albums of the past decade. My review of it is here.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Little G Weevil Moving

Winner of the 2013 International Blues Challenge for solo/duo, Little G Weevil obviously impressed Richard Rosenblatt of VizzTone, not simply winning but also the fact that he bested the duo of Erin Harpe and Rosenblatt on his way to winning. The result is his Apic/VizzTone release, Moving. Weevil is an impressive, traditionally rooted blues artist who was born overseas, but has immersed himself in playing the blues in Memphis and Atlanta. He impressed many with his prior recordings where he displayed his mastery of older blues traditions including marvelous originals that evoked early John Lee Hooker.

The present release will certainly cause additional fans of blues to take notice of his talents. This is apparent on the original Shook It and Broke It, that opens this. His slide guitar accompaniment suggests Fred McDowell and Bukka White on a song that sounds like it was from the thirties. He adroit use of repetition and riffs is exhibited on On My Way To Memphis, with some nifty guitar lines set against a repeated riff, while a small group provides him with an insistent pulse on Mean and Dirty. Within these three songs we get quite a varied look at  Lil G Weevil's approach that is manifested throughout this collection. Other selections include the North Mississippi Hills groove on Deep Bow and the title track with hints of swamp pop with a lazy walking groove and some Slim Harpo styled harmonica. Another highpoint is his deliberative, reflective interpretation of Walter Davis' classic Let's Talk It Over (Come Back Baby).

Moving is another substantial recording by Lil G Weevil who demonstrates an uncanny ability to cast original down-home blues styled in the manner played decades ago by blues legends and perform with authority and soul. He is a most impressive talent.

I received my review copy from VizzTone. Here is a video of Little G Weevil.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

David Weiss' Endangered Species: The Music of Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter's 80th Birthday (which was two days prior to this review being posted) has led to  world-wide celebrations of Shorter's music. For example, in Washington DC, there have been several groups leading retrospectives of Shorter's compositions from different stages of his career. In a similar vein, trumpeter David Weiss arranged and orchestrated several Shorter compositions and then assembled an All-Star, twelve member big band. This band performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center where they were recorded. Endangered Species: The Music of Wayne Shorter (Motéma Music) is collected from those performances.

Its quite a band that Weiss assembled. The saxophone section included Tim Green on alto sax; Marcus Strickland on tenor and soprano sax; Ravi Coltrane on tenor saxophone and Norbert Stachel on baritone sax and bass clarinet. Diego Urcola and Jeremy Pelt along with Weiss are the trumpet section while Joe Fiedler and Steve Davis are on trombone. The rhythm section has Geri Allen on piano, Dwayne Burno on bass and E.J. Strickland on drums. This large group provides for a different take on these compositions than generally were initially heard when first recorded with smaller groups. Also, it does result with a certain similarity between the performances whereas Shorter's performance of a composition such as Nellie Bly with Art Blakey would have a different flavor than Fall with Miles Davis.

With that in mind, there are plenty of pleasures. Weiss' arrangements provided a rich backdrop along with the marvelous full ensemble playing to set the mood and frame the solos. The rhythm section sparkles with Geri Allen stunning both as part of the rhythm and as soloist . Throughout there are plenty of brilliant playing including trombonist Davis at the beginning of Nellie Bly; trumpeter Pelt and saxophonist Coltrane on Fall; Tim Green on "Mr. Jin"; Marcus Strickland on soprano sax on Weiss' The Turning Gate (the one non-Shorter composition but based on one of Shorter's works); Pelt and Allen on the lovely ballad Eva; and Pelt and Strickland on the closing Prometheus Unbound.

Whether one agrees with annotator Bill Milkowski that Wayne Shorter is jazz's greatest living composer, there is little question that he is amongst the greatest and has produced one of the most significant body of compositions over six decades. By investing the compositions with his own musical vision and assembling a terrific band, David Weiss has produced this substantial salute to Wayne Shorter that shows how fresh and contemporary the music of Wayne Shorter remains as it continues to inspire so many musicians and listeners.

I received my review copy from a publicist for this release.  

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pascal Le Boeuf and Pascal's Triangle

Known equally for his use of electronics, Pascal Le Boeuf has an intriguing acoustic release, Pascal’s Triangle (Nineteen Eight Records). Le Boeuf leads a trio with bassist Linda Oh and drummer Justin Brown on a collection of originals that reflect influences as diverse as Radiohead, Herbie Hancock and Brad Mehldau. About the recording, he said, “This album is a collection of original music meant to highlight the conversational voices of the individuals in the band. We trust each other's choices and share an orientation towards self-expression through group improvisation.”

Le Boeuf originally conceived the recording session for Pascal's Triangle as a jazz/electronic cross-over project. The compositions the trio recorded were connected to a larger vision involving layered recording techniques and replacing electronic instruments in beats that were sequenced in Le Boeuf's computer prior to the session. While he believed this conception was successfully realized (and will be issued in the future), he found he “enjoyed the spontaneity of the more acoustic songs, and when I took the electronics away, the compositions all had an intimate conversational feeling.” The result is the present release.

The leader’s piano opens wistfully on the first selection, Home in Strange Places, before Oh and Brown enter with with a fervent passage followed another plaintive solo passage. Variations on a Mood is aptly titled with the performance moving from relatively quiet passages to more energetic ones (suggesting The Bad Plus at times). The leader exhibits a precise, fluid attack with bassist Oh anchoring the trio as Brown drives the performance forward with a mix of precision and energy. Song For Ben Van Gelder is a lovely lyrical performance with embellishments added from Roberts with his restrained use of brushes. The energetic gist of What Your Teacher … is built on a spicy latin underpinning while the short solo performance, Jesse Loves Louise, exhibits a pastoral mood with LaBoeuf precise, uncluttered playing here. Oh is especially outstanding on Revisiting a Past Self where she sets up the performance and takes a strong solo.

In the CD era, this is a relatively short recording of 33 minutes for its 8 tracks, but that might be the only quibble about the playing of Pascal LaBoeuf and his trio. LaBoeuf’s imaginative compositions and playing, with their shifting moods and tempos, are complemented throughout by the marvelous playing of Oh and Roberts resulting in this fine piano trio recording. When he adds the electronics of his original conception, it will be interesting to hear the result but Pascal’s Triangle is marvelous as is.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Pascal LeBouef leading a quintet performing Variations on a Mood.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

All Purpose Blues Band Likes Cornbread & Cadillacs

Led by Willie Lockett, the All Purpose Blues Band asserts to be Bourbon Street's top Blues Soul Band. This Crescent City aggregation has a new CD Cornbread & Cadillacs, on Catbone Music & Film, part of that label's Jukin' wit the Blues series. Lockett is a veteran of the New Orleans scene, having played trumpet with Professor Longhair in the sixties, shared the stage with many greats, and led The Blues Krewe with whom he had his first album in 1995. Others in the group include bassist Paul R. Boudreaux who played with Irma Thomas, the Nevilles and others; drummer Tony D'Alessandro who is another Crescent City veteran having worked with Frankie Ford, Roland Stone and Rockie Charles; and guitarist Billy Gregory, who toured with Professor Longhair, Johnny Adams, Ernie K-Doe, Lee Dorsey,d others. Greg Villafranco guests on organ to fill out the sound on this.

I can see this be a popular band in the French Quarter based on this set of shuffles, blues and soul. It is a solid band, although nothing stands out. They are tight and Gregory is an explosive guitarists with a bit of blues-rock pyrotechnics mixed in with some jazz-laced playing. Lockett is a gruff vocalist who certainly might ignite a party on Bourbon Street as on the opening Going Back to New Orleans. He also can get a bit down and bawdy as he tells his woman I'm Your Hambone Baby. Subtlety ain't his strong suit.

I assume it is bassist Boudreaux who takes the soulful vocal on Sweet Disposition, a number that is similar to some of Zac Harmon's recordings. It sounds like he also takes the lead on the Stax-styled soul-ballad From Memphis. Boudreaux and Lockett share the vocal on I Got Everything. The rocker V-8 Ford has plenty hot guitar and I wonder if its Gregory who takes the lead vocal before channeling Alvin Lee of Ten Years After in his solo, with the speed and cleanness of his delivery notable. Lockett's trumpet provides a nice foil for Boudreaux's prime vocal on Sam Cooke's classic A Change Is Gonna Come. It ends an album of some entertaining blues and soul.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a video of the All Purpose Blues Band.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Jason Elmore & Hoodoo Switch -Tell You What

According to his website, Jason Elmore is a Dallas, TX-based guitarist/singer/songwriter who leads Hoodoo Witch, a high-energy trio that blends jump blues, Texas rock, vintage soul/r&b, and country chicken pickin'. Hoodoo Witch is comprised of Chris Waw on bass and Mike Talbot on drums and provide solid support for Elmore. On some of the performances, the trio is augmented by keyboards and horns. Overall, I found his new release with Hoodoo Witch Tell You What (Underworld Records) to be an engaging set of blues-rock and blues infused performances. 

The opening Sharecropper Shuffle, is a rocking instrumental where he gets to display a nice tone and crisp attack (one can detect a Freddie King influence mixed in with some country boogie) with Hoodoo Witch providing a supple shuffle groove. It is followed by a bit more of a hard rock feel for Southbound, as he sings about being born to move and being southbound and never looking back. Cold Lonely Dawn is a heartfelt blues performance with horns and keyboards adding to the performance's tone. He sings with plenty of heart and pulls out all the stops with guitar here. When The Sun Goes Down is a likable southern country-flavored rocker with more nice horns in backing. 

Country Mile is a blistering rocker with plenty of hot guitar and there is a tribute to Buck Owens in the instrumental Buckaroo. She's Fine is a relaxed shuffle that is represents a nice change of pace on this varied album.The album closes with a nice cover of William Bell's classic You Don't Miss Your Water, with a heartfelt vocal and atmospheric guitar supported by effective, restrained backing. This concludes a varied recording that even this blues traditionalist found quite entertaining.

A publicist provided my review copy. Here is a video of him performing When The Sun Goes Down.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sherri Roberts and Bliss Rodriguez Share Lovely Days

San Francisco vocalist Sherri Roberts is joined by pianist Bliss Rodriguez for a delightful recording of jazz-laced pop vocals from the American songbook, show tunes and Brazilian bossa nova, Lovely Days (Blue House). 

Roberts has a lovely voice whose intonation and phrasing captures the longing of the ballad What I'll Do, as well as the innocence of the Irvin Berlin lyric of It's a Lovely Day Today, which segues into another Berlin song, Isn't It a Lovely Day. Rodriguez's accompaniments complement Roberts' vocals and the under recorded pianist gets to display his deft lyricism in the solos he crafts throughout.

Its a charming program from the understated rendition of Nice and Easy (one of two songs done as a homage to Shirley Horn), the appealing Soon It's Gonna Rain from the Off-Broadway perennial The Fantasticks, along with the romanticism of Heart and Soul, Dave Frishberg's Our Love Rolls On, and Mancini classic Moon River.

Lovely Days showcases Sherri Roberts' engaging singing and Bliss Rodriguez's splendid piano resulting in a very entertaining recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Art Hodes Remembered Bessie

Born in Russia, but having emigrated to the US as a young boy, Art Hodes established himself as a blues and jazz pianist of note as well as a chronicler of the music. He produced an extensive discography over his life and now Delmark has reissued Hodes' 1970s Euphonic album I Remember Bessie with five additional selections. Hodes grew up in Chicago and had the opportunity as a young person to see King Oliver, Louis Armstrong and Jelly roll Morton as well as Bessie Smith. The Empress of the Blues left a particularly deep impression on his music and the present album is comprised of solo piano interpretations of songs associated with Ms. Smith and also Ma Rainey as the cover of the original Euphonic LP noted.

As is noted in the liner booklet (which reproduces the original liner notes), Hodes plays in a two handed orchestral approach mixed with some ragtime and stride elements. He displayed a hard touch, but also restraint. He takes from the low-key Baby Won’t You Go Home to the stomp attack on Alexander’s Ragtime Band. There is a wistfulness to his rendition of Ma Rainey’s Yonder Comes The Blues, along with the tempered enthusiasm on Cake Walkin’ Babies From Home, which is also heard here on an alternate take. The restraint shown on blues like You’ve Been a Gold Ole Wagon, and Yellow Dog Blues is a substantial reason for the appeal of these performances. There is also a lovely performance of St. Louis Blues here, a number he would record on a number of occasions. This specific recording is intriguing in its own manner, starting wistfully before Hodes gets to barrel housing. 

Listening to these decades old recordings is a chance to listen to a master of blues and jazz piano whose playing is rooted in the early days of jazz, yet remains fresh and accessible to contemporary listeners. Art Hodes' I Remember Bessie is a delight.

I received a review copy from Delmark.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

New Vintage Jazz & Wine Fest Coming August 24

Kris Funn performing with Corner Store  
Kris Funn and the Corner Store are amongst the bands playing the New Vintage Jazz & Wine Fest at the DC Fairgrounds near Nationals Park in Washington DC. This takes place Saturday August 24 starting at 2:00PM

Curated by the folks at Capital Bop ( here is the full line-up

The artists will perform at the following times:
2:30 – Tarus Mateen
3:15 – Kris Funn & Corner Store
4:15 – Todd Marcus Quartet
5:15 – Christie Dashiell Quartet
6:15 – Donvonte McCoy Quartet, Feat. Heidi Martin
7:15 – The Funk Ark
8:30 – Rafiq Bhatia

I have enjoyed Tarus Mateen (he is bassist with Jason Moran and The Bandwagon amongst other groups); Funn, bass clarinetist Marcus and trumpeter McCoy and they are exceptional artists. Vocalists Dashiell and Martin are performers I am really looking forward to see. Capitol Bop's website has much more information on what looks like an amazing event, including more information on the performers. 

Here is a link to their post that announced this event:

One footnote. I met Kris Funn at the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival and he is the nephew of a former colleague of mine at the government agency I worked at. I kidded Kris that his uncle made the best pound cake I ever had. Kris is on a number of recordings of the brilliant young trumpeter, Christian Scott, in whose band he has been in for several years. His group was a highlight of a DC Jazz Loft show that was part of the DC Jazz Festival a couple years ago from which the picture at the top of this entry was taken.

Here is the exceptional bassist, Tarus Mateen playing with saxophonist Brian Settles as part of a group led by drummer Lenny Robinson. Mateen will be leading his own group this day.

Donvonte McCoy is one of the Washington DC's premier trumpeters. My picture of him was taken during a salute to the music of Lee Morgan he performed at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. 

Todd Marcus is among the few who focus on playing bass clarinet exclusively. here he is at the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Omar Dykes Runnin’ With The Wolf

Omar Dykes has been pretty busy with new releases lately and with his band, The Howlers, he has another new release Runnin’ With The Wolf (Provogue Records). As the title suggests, this is a tribute to Howlin’ Wolf. Given Omar’s gravelly, gruff vocals, an album of Wolf songs would seem a natural and Dykes approaches the material not to copy Wolf’s recordings, “but to stay close to the spirit. … I tried to modernize the songs … Why copy something not for note … when it’s already available in the original form. … I wanted to have fun with songs that I’ve loved ever since I was a kid.” 

Those backing Omar on his journey through the Wolf’s music include Derek O’Brien, Casper Rawls, or Eve Monsees on guitar, Ronnie James or Bruce Jones on bass, Wes Starr or Mike Buck on drums, Ted Roddy on harmonica, Nick Connolly on keyboards and Kaz Kazanoff and Lex Ismore on saxophones. Settings range from a trio (as on the tough renditions of Killing Floor, and Little Red Rooster, as well as the rollicking interpretation of Riding in the Moonlight) to a larger band with horns (as on the latin groove of Who’s Been Talkin’, the uptown urban funk groove of Do The Do (admittedly a pretty trite Willie Dixon lyric) and the all night party vibe of Wang Dang Doodle). Even on these sides with a larger band, the backing is supple, never heavy handed.

There are plenty of delights to be savored here including the title track that Omar penned with his imaginative incorporation of titles and phrases from Wolf’s recordings in his lyrics. A particular highlight for these ears is the rendition of Worried All The Time, which comes across as if Hank Williams had recorded a Wolf number. Its hard to find fault with the take on Spoonful, which is structured similarly to Wolf’s original recording and includes some short Sumlin-like guitar accents. In contrast, there is a country boogie guitar line used in the backing for Back Door Man, which is imaginatively reinvented here.

Marvelously played and sung, Runnin’ With the Wolf is a tribute to one of the greatest of all blues artists and another fine release from Omar Dykes.

I received my copy from a publicist for the record label.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Kara Grainger Shiver & Sigh

Born in Australia and now living in Australia, Kara Grainger is described by Randy Chortkoff as “a triple threat … Singer, Guitar Player and Songwriter.” She impressed him enough to have Chortkoff record her for his Eclecto Groove label. David Z, who produced the late Etta James amongst others, produced this recording Shiver & Sigh that has a stellar group of players backing her including Mike Finnigan, Jimi Bott, Kirk Fletcher and the Pacific Coast Horns. 

Musically there is plenty to like of her mix of pop, soul and blues and this is certainly a recording that fans of Bonnie Raitt, Susan Tedeschi and the like will enjoy. Both as a vocalist and guitarist she shines with her naturally flowing soulful singing and her sharply focused fretwork whether employing a slide or displaying her nimble single note work. Her songs include the opening Little Pack of Lies where she spins a story about her fast-talking ex and his little pack of lies. Her stinging slide guitar provides another voice to her wonderful, heartfelt vocals. 

Mixed in originals is a nice cover of Robert Johnson’s Come On In My Kitchen, titled here C’Mon In My Kitchen, with some very nice slide and her brother Mitch’s harmonica supporting her fine singing. Her take on Breaking Up Somebody’s Home benefits from not only a terrific nuanced vocal and short guitar breaks, but the backing as Finnigan is exceptional here and the horns add the right amount of punch. 

She has come a long-way from playing in a blues band in Sydney, Australia and matured to a marvelous performer of the splendid blues and soul-infused sounds heard on Shiver 7 Sigh

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a video of her doing Come On In My Kitchen.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

For today, a few questions on the blues

Can someone explain to me why as someone deep into the blues I would want to see Marshall Tucker headline a Blues Festival? There are plenty of rock festivals that Marshall Tucker plays at. How many of those go out of their way to feature some real deal blues? 

Today I gave another listen to the CD by Austin Young & No Difference. Another supposed blue prodigy. Wouldn't it be nice if he showed signs of channeling Eddie Taylor and Matt Murphy, as opposed to SRV. If I call this a rock record, can anyone explain why it isn't? I did not like this recording but that is immaterial to the point I am asking about,

Related to these is another question. How is music, that can readily be classified as rock, keeping the blues alive? Here are someone else's astute thoughts on this.

Here is a terrific quote from David's editorial:

"When I ask someone in any town in America who is the best up and coming blues musician is their community, if it is not some kid whose parents think he is going to be the next Stevie Ray Vaughan, it is this, “incredible female vocalist who can really belt.” These “singers,” by the way, come in all races, ages, creeds and colors. Typically their interpretation of blues sounds like Janis Joplin trying to pass a pine cone while riding on a roller coaster at high altitude." (Italics added).

This brings me to the Willie Dixon quote, "The Blues is the roots, everything else is the fruits." While perhaps true a few decades ago, on what basis can anyone claim this is true of the blues today?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Walter Davis Project

The Walter Davis Project is an important new album on Electro-Fi Records that brings together new performances by several blues artists that celebrate the music of the pioneering blues pianist-vocalist-songwriter. Davis was one of the most recorded blues artists (over 200 sides in a 22 year old span), an indication of his popularity amongst African- American record buyers, although his name is probably not well known among many who listen to blues today. Davis' music was what producer, and pianist, Christian Rennenberg termed one of the "citified down home Blues singers" that included Tampa Red, Bumble Bee Slim and Big Bill Broonzy, although he music was a bit more sober and reserved than others were capable of. His songs were 

German pianist Christian Rennenberg put together The Walter Davis Project. In the booklet he explains how he was first introduced to the music of Walter Davis. Then when he was driving various blues musicians from town to town he became educated about Davis. There was Willie Mabon who had a love-hate relationship since back in the States he had to play Davis' songs all the time. As ambivalent as Mabon was, Sunnyland Slim was a Davis fanatic and this led to his immersion in the music of Davis. Besides other pianists like Blind John Davis and Henry Gray, Billy Boy Arnold and Jimmy Rogers were others that helped feed the passion for Davis. 

I will not summarize every detail about what led to this CD as his liner notes does that superbly. It did lead to him recording with Billy Boy Arnold, Jimmy McCracklin, Keith Dunn and Charlie Musselwhite as well as secured a track from Bob Corritore of Henry Townsend. Arnold, Dunn and Musselwhite were fans of Walter Davis' music, but Townsend and McCracklin had deep personal ties to Davis. Townsend played guitar with Davis, being on many recordings particularly those after World War 11, while McCracklin (as revealed during an interview appended after the 17 selections of music) was Davis' godson and deeply influenced musically by Davis.

Rennenberg has a nice two-page analysis of Davis' music noting in certain respects its similarity to certain Delta blues guitarists. His playing built upon licks, phrases and riffs and was very modal in his approach. Davis almost rarely soloed and rarely played uptempo, with the focus on supporting his own lyrics which were focused on relationships and only rarely full of the bragging and swagger of some blues artists. 

Henry Townsend opens this collection up with a recording Nothin' But the Blues, that is pretty close to Davis' style of music. Townsend's piano recordings over the past couple decades of his life will give some a sense of Davis' sound. Rennenberg himself has attempted to channel Davis' approach as well and provides accompaniment on the other selections while the various singers so justice to a variety of Davis' compositions. The lyrics certainly are striking today as sixty years ago. For example not only did they put Ashes In My Whiskey, they also put strychnine in his glass as Keith Dunn sings so ably. Davis was amongst the earliest to record a cover of Robert Johnson's Sweet Home Chicago, which McCracklin reprises here against Rennenberg's rolling piano and Steve Gannon's guitar. Rennenberg himself does his take on Davis playing the dozens. Other choice performances include Charlie Musselwhite's world weary vocal on Friends We Must Part, and we may never see each other anymore and Billy Boy Arnold's Please Remember Me, with some really nice playing from Rennenberg.

Walter Davis was an important and influential individual in the history of the blues who has been overlooked in recent years. Honestly his music will not be for everybody's tastes. There are always artists that one simply may not get or like. Some of this is listening and some is what one's listening background is. For those into 'rocking blues,' Walter Davis' music may be something that are not ready for or simply that does not have appeal for. For others, the substance and depth in Davis' blues will reward close listening. The excellent performances on The Walter Davis Project hopefully will provide an introduction for many into this significant body of blues and hopefully lead them to explore Davis' substantial recorded legacy. Electro-Fi is to be thanked for this important and exceptional release.

I received my review copy from Electro-Fi. For those wanting a good sample of Walter Davis's recordings, check out Please Remember Me which is available as a CD on Amazon from third-party sellers as well as a download (also available as a download on itunes).

Here is Henry Townsend on piano playing in a fashion influenced by Walter Davis.

Here is Walter Davis' original recording of "Ashes in My Whiskey."

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Studebaker John's Maxwell Street Kings Kingsville Jukin'

Studebaker John's Maxwell Street Kings is back with his gritty, grungy blues on a new CD on Delmark, Kingsville Jukin'. John Grimaldi on vocals, guitars and harmonica, is joined here by guitarist Rick Kreher, bassist Bob Halaj and drummer Steve Cushing on 16 songs that range from driving rockers like the opening Mississippi Blues to the closing evocation of Elmore James (and Hound Dog Taylor and J.B. Hutto) Bad Gasoline, performed without band.

There is some Jimmy Reed styled harmonica against a lazy shuffle groove on When They Played The Real Blues in which he proclaims "doesn't it make feel good when you hear that simple low-down groove." There is some tough harp on She's Allright, with its insistent beat, although the lyric is not much more than him proclaim she's all right with him. The Rest Is Up To You is a hot shuffle with hot amplified harp followed by an affectionate salute to one of his inspirations, Hound Dog Taylor on I Am the Houserocker, with some grungy sounding slide that would make Hound Dog smile. It in turn is followed by an evocation of Howlin' Wolf on Howlin' in the Moonlight

Kingsville Jukin'is a showcase for John's harmonica and might be viewed as a slower musical cousin to Little Walter's Roller Coaster, with the Kings providing somewhat skeletal backing on this although it seems to end somewhat suddenly. Cold Black Night is a nice, moody atmospherical slow blues where he proclaims he follows this road to the end and if he had it to do over he would travel it again. Stop-time is effectively employed on Mojo Hand, an original of him wanting to find a mojo because she is a voodoo woman and he wants to be her man with him playing another solid harmonica solo.

John's gravelly vocals are supported throughout by dirty, fuzzy toned backing. I did find enjoying this more by listening to several selections at a time as opposed to listening to this album in one sitting. At the same time, I have no fault with any specific performance. The result is the simple, direct house rocking blues found on Kingsville Jukin'.

I received my review copy from Delmark. Here is a short clip of Studebaker John.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Trampled Under Foot Badlands

I had been aware of Trampled Under Foot, a trio of siblings, but had not heard their music until the new Telarc CD, Badlands. Comprised on Denise Schnebelen on bass and vocals) and brothers Nick (guitar and vocals) and Kris (drums and vocals), the present release is produced by Tony Braunagel of The Phanton Blues Band (who also adds percussion), recorded by Johnny Lee Schell and Mike Finnigan of The Phantom Blues Band plays keyboards. 

I won't say that the songs on Badlands are stunningly original (though there is nothing poor about them (or that this sibling trio are innovators). However, listening to Danielle on the opening Bad Bad Feeling, I became impressed by not simply the strength and authority of her singing but the strong support her brothers and Finnigan provide as she sings about her lover's infidelity. Her brothers are pretty able singers as well, if not quite as striking as Danielle who credibly covers James Brown's It's a Man's Man's Man's World, along with other originals. The songs are solid, intelligent and well constructed, and the performances are focused and robust.

The name Trampled Under Foot may be inspired by Led Zeppelin, but the music on Badlands is a strong dose of blues with some soul seasoning with no heavy metal trappings. I definitely will check out their prior recordings and look forward to hearing more by them.

This was a purchase.  Here is the official video for Bad Bad Feeling.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Ruthie Foster Let it Burn

Ruthie Foster is one of the signature voices today. I really enjoyed her performance at the Pennsylvania Blues Festival and her latest album Let it Burn (Blue Corn Music) is a gem. 

Recorded in New Orleans with George Porter, Jr., and Russell Batiste amongst others it has some terrific material as well as performances. There are several wonderful collaborations with the Blind Boys of Alabama including Lord Remember Me that are chilling. They back her on her rendition of Steven Stills' A Long Time Coming that make these four decades old lyrics come across as contemporary. The riff from Miles Davis' All Blues (laid down by organist Ike Stubblefield) is incorporated into the arrangement of  William Bell You Don't Miss Your Water that is a soulful duet by Foster and Bell. James Rivers is outstanding on tenor sax here. I enjoyed her interpretation of the Johnny Cash hit Ring of Fire, as a ballad (I also recommend folks check out the classic rendition by deep soul legend, James Carr). One last track to mention is the classic from The Band, It Makes No Difference, that Ruthie places her stamp on. 

Simply a marvelous recording.

Ruthie Foster at the 2013 Pennsylvania Blues Festival
This was a purchase.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Some Bluesin' By The Bayou

Pictured on the cover is Lazy Lester
The English Ace label has just issued one of a series of anthologies of recordings from legendary Louisiana record producers J.D. Miller and Eddie Shuler, Bluesin' By The Bayou. Half of the 28 selections previously were not released and the remainder were issued on small Louisiana labels like Rocko, Zynn, and Folk Star as well as Flyright LPs from the 1970s. 

There is a fair amount of what is now known as "Swamp Blues" along with several selections of zydeco. The performers range from the more famous swamp blues performers such as Slim Harpo, Lightnin' Slim, Lazy Lester, Lonesome Sundown, Silas Hogan and Whispering Smith as well as zydeco legends Clifton Chenier and Boozoo Chavis to obscure artists such as lies Boy Dorsey, Thaddeus Declouret, Talbot Miller and Joe Rich. 

There are some exception blues here including Lightnin' Slim's doomy, Stranger In Your Town, Lazy Lester's moody Late in The Evening, Silas Hogan's Sitting Here Wondering Jimmy Anderson's channelling of Jimmy Reed on I Want You, I Need You. There is an alternate of Slim Harpo's Excello recording That's Alright, as well as Clifton Chenier's Worried Life Blues, with somewhat chaotic backing. 

As usual with Ace reissues there are copious liner notes in the wonderfully illustrated accompanying booklet, with an overview and comments on the various performances by Ian Saddler.  It does have one incredible gaffe in the comments. He mentions that he thought that Big Fat Woman was previously unissued gem by Lightnin' Slim, but in fact had been issued on a Flyright vinyl LP as I'm Him. One minor point is that the vocal is clearly not that of Lightnin' Slim as it bears no relate ship to the voice on the two other tracks credited to him. Probably the singer on this tracks was Schoolboy Cleve.

The music on Bluesin' By The Bayou is at never less entertaining and there are, as indicated above, a number of exceptional examples of swamp blues that is readily recommended to anyone who loves fifties and sixties, southern down-home blues.

I purchased this CD.