Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Nighthawks Hold a Back Porch Party

As R. Keith Owens observes in his brief notes for The Nighthawks new album "Back Porch Party" (Eller Soul Records), it is sort of a follow-up to the group's "Last Train To Bluesville," being an acoustic, unplugged session recorded before a studio audience. This edition of the The Nighthawks has been pretty stable personnel wise since Mark Stutso replaced Pete Raguso on drums, joining original member Mark Wenner (harmonica), guitarist Paul Bell (guitar) and Johnny Castle (bass). There is choice selection of material including songs from Jimmy Rogers, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Lightnin' Slim and Ike Turner mixed in with originals from band members.

There really isn't much new to say about the music here. The Nighthawks are a terrific working band which can be heard in these unplugged performance whether Wenner's lead off on a brisk-paced take on Jimmy Roger's "Rock This House," followed by some back porch twang on the old patsy Cline classic "Walkin' After Midnight." Bell's chording and single note fills are marvelous embellishments as Castle and Stutso keep a relaxed groove. It is fascinating to listen to Bell play acoustically on the Ike Turner and Rhythm Kings' "Matchbox," which features some nice singing from Stutso who also delivers a nice original with a swamp pop tinge, "Down To My Last Million Tears."

Bell's guitar supplies a rockabilly touch to the rendition of a Willie Dixon song recorded by Muddy Waters' "Tiger In Your Tank," while a similar feel is heard on Castle's "Jana Lee" whose melody evokes the cajun-rock hit "Sugar Bee." Muddy Waters' classic take on the "Catfish Blues" theme, "Rollin' Stone" receives a straight interpretation while Wenner also plays homage to Lightnin' Slim on an easy rocking cover of "Rooster Blues." There is more fine guitar and harmonica throughout along with the clean, crisp rhythm. "Back Porch Party" is another welcome addition to The Nighthawks body of recordings and a worthy successor to their previous unplugged recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the May-June 2015 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 360). Here is a video of The Nighthawks. It is not unplugged but is of a song associated with Muddy Waters.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Johnny Jones and Charles Walker Are In the House

Johnny Jones and Charles Walker
In the House
Crosscut ccd 11066

I Can’t Do That -1/ The Drifter -2/ Slave to Love -2/ Gypsy Woman -2/ Finger Lickin’/
They All Look Better in Green -2/ Can I Get an Amen-1/ Chicken Scratch -2/ Storming and Raining Blues-2/ Strain on MY Heart-2, -3/ 99,000 Watts of Soul Power -2, -3/ Nothing a Little Girl Can Do -1,-3. 57:39.

Johnny Jones, g, vcl-1; Charles Walker, v-2; Fred James, rh g, bkg vcl -3; Mary-Ann Brandon, bkg vc-3; Billy Earheart, Hammond or; Jeff Davis, b; Andy Arrow, d. Lucerne, Switzerland, Nov. 10 & 12, 1999.

In The House is a live recording from the 1999 Lucerne Blues Festival by two members of Nashville’s soul and blues community, singer-guitarist Johnny Jones, and singer Charlie Walker, backed by a small band led by Fed James who has played such an important role in revitalizing not only the careers of Jones and Walker, but also Roscoe Shelton and Earl Gaines. 

Jones spent many years on the road with Bobby Bland, as well as was guitarist for Nashville’s Jimmy Beck Band and was bandleader for the acclaimed sixties’s rhythm and blues show, The Beat! that was hosted by legendary deejay Bill ‘Hoss’ Allen (some may be familiar with this show from the video of Freddy King, The Beat!) Walker is a veteran vocalist who first recorded Slave to Love for the Champion label backed by the Jimmy Beck band. later he moved to New York recording for Fire/Fury, Chess and other labels, living in Europe before moving back stateside in the nineties. 

Guitarist Jones is a fleet player and strong singer with a tinge of soul in his delivery on “Can I Get an Amen” his strongest vocal, but he also does a nice job on Don Covay’s “Nothing a Young Girl Can Do.” Good as Jones is, he can’t send chills down your spine like Walker’s deep soul delivery can. He reprises his “Slave to Love” with Jones adding some nimble guitar fills and solo, but really gets down on “Strain on My Heart.” pouring everything into his delivery. “Finger Lickin’” is an instrumental that puts guitars up front. I would have preferred some horns in the band, and perhaps a slight bit more soul feel to some of the arrangements, but it does not diminish the performances. 

Having seen Walker and Jones at the 2000 Pocono Blues Festival, this disc reaffirms my impression of their excellent performance there, and if these two come to your town, do not miss them. 

This review was written in 2001 for Cadence. I made some minor edits for the format of this blog. I likely received my review copy from the publication. While Johnny Jones passed away a couple years back, Charlie Walker is still with us and thrilling us with his singing as heard in this video.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Pat Bianchi Seeks a Higher Standrad

One of today's top practitioners of the Hammond B-3 organ, Pat Bianchi has a new release, "A Higher Standard" (21H Records). The release has Bianchi with his current trio of Byron Landham (drums) and Craig Ebner (guitar). This writer saw and was impressed by Bianchi as part of a group backing tenor saxophonist Paul Carr at the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival (and he recorded with Carr) and he is known for working with Lou Donaldson. This recording features him and his working band.

There is a nice of mix of material from the opening "With Out a Song" and Horace Silver's "Blue Silver" to Oscar Pettiford's "Bohemia After Dark," John Coltrane's "Satellite," and Stevie Wonder's "From the The Bottom Of My Heart," along with a couple of Bianchi originals. Bianchi certainly is an impressive playing and his greasy, sometimes orchestral, playing contrasts with the lean and clean chords and single note lines of Ebner, while Landham (celebrated on Bianchi's "The Will of Landham") pushes the performance with considerable swing. "Blue Silver" is certainly a good selection to observe the trio's considerable strengths and empathic ensemble playing.

Ebner opens "So Many Stars" with some Spanish laced guitar before Bianchi lays down some low-key organ on a performance that showcases Ebner acoustic playing. The groove on the greasy "The Will of Landham" brings a bit more heat to the surface while "Bohemia After Dark" has some of Bianchi's most explosive playing. Landham kicks off Bianchi's "Blues Minus One," a marvelous blues performance, before the disc closes on a nice adaptation of the Stevie Wonder number.

Bianchi is a terrific player who leads a strong band and the mix of material exhibits the trio's considerable talents. As a result, "A Higher Standard" is a wonderful organ trio recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist.  This review appeared in slightly different form in the July-August 2015 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 361). Here a slightly different incarnation of Pat Bianchi's trio performs Monk's "Trinkle, Tinkle."

Sunday, September 27, 2015

J.B. Hutto and the Hawks Squat

The latest classic Delmark blues CD to received an expanded, deluxe treatment is J.B. Hutto & His Hawks, "Hawk Squat." Hawk Squat is perhaps my favorite J.B. Hutto album and one I have been listening to since it was initially released back in the later sixties. Backing J.B. were Sunnyland Slim on keyboards; Herman Haskell on guitar for one track; Lee Jackson on guitar for six songs (8 tracks); Junior Pettis or Dave Myers on bass; Frank Kirkland on drums; and Maurice McIntyre on saxophone for one session. The original twelve tracks are supplemented by one new song and alternates of four selections (one song has two alternates).

J.B. Hutto was an Elmore James disciple, yet only on "Speak Your Mind," does he employ the familiar "Dust My Broom" lick, but in the context of his own song. His forceful vocals and take no prisoner slide guitar are strongly supported by Sunnyland's organ which also provides some additional musical coloring. Their are two alternates to this track, the more interesting one is a slowed down rendition that closes this reissue. In contrast, with  typical Sunnyland Slim piano, "If You Change Your Mind," has Hutto playing  tough slide to support his powerful singing. It should not be lost that J.B.'s was a first-rate songwriter as heard on "Too Much Pride." Here J.B. sings about having too much pride to beg his woman to stay. This is the first track to have McIntyre's saxophone and it is fascinating to listen to how responsive his playing, behind J.B.'s vocals, was.

The declamatory vocal delivery on "Too Much Alcohol" is followed by the slide guitar boogie "Hip Shakin'," and then the "The Feeling is Gone"  about "feeling like crying but the tears would not come down," as his keen slide complements his vocal. They do not simply write or play blues like this anymore. "Hawk Squat" is a raucous number as J.B. introduces everybody who take short solos. It is almost a blues equivalent of Louis Armstrong's "Gut Bucket Blues." "I'll Cry Tomorrow" is the one new selection, and is a slow blues with nice interplay between Hutto and Lee Jackson and followed by the alternate takes.

In addition to the previously unissued material, Bob Koester provides new notes in the accompanying booklet that supplement the original liner notes. The booklet are contains a number of previously unissued photos from Turner's, then J.B. Hutto's home base, and the recording sessions. The original recording was selected for the Blues Hall of Fame in 2013, and the music still resonates strongly over forty-five years after first listening to it. J.B. Hutto's music was direct, not fancy, and full of heart and "Hawk Squat" was one of his finest recordings.

I received my review copy from Delmark and a review appeared in Jazz & Blues Report Issue 361. Here is a clip of J.B. Hutto from the film Chicago Blues.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Etta Jones Sings Lady Day

Etta Jones
Sings Lady Day
High Note HCD 7078

That Ole Devil Called Love/ All of Me/ But Beautiful/ You’ve Changed/ I Cried For you/ Fine and Mellow/ God Bless the Child/ Them There Eyes/ You Better Go Now.

Jones, vcl; Houston Person, ts; Richard Wyands, p; Peter Bernstein, g; John Webber, b; Chip White, d. New York, NY, June 21, 2001.

The release of "Sings Lady Day" occurred almost simultaneously with Etta Jones’ passing. It is obviously a tribute to Billie Holiday and succeeds not simply as such, but also a reminder of just how marvelous Ms. Jones herself was for all these years. The liner notes observe Jones’ stylistic debt to Holiday but asserts she was not an imitator. Still, there are times when listening to this that I almost felt that I was hearing Holiday more in the tone of Jones’ voice than her phrasing. There is short segment in “Fine and Mellow“ where she briefly shows us “Ms Billie Holiday did it a little bit like this” and does a brief vocal impersonation.

There is a nice choice of material ranging from a numbers most identified associated with Holiday, “God Bless the Child” and “Fine and Mellow,” along with standards such as “All of Me,” and “Then There Eyes.” The supporting band led by her long-time musical collaborator Houston Person is superb. Person’s tenor solo is a highlight on “All of Me,” and his solo on “Fine and Mellow,” is a marvelous example of Person’s deep blues roots. Both pianist Wyands and guitarist Bernstein are prominent on the performance of the ballad, “But Beautiful,” with Jones’ expressiveness here rivaling that of Holiday. Everything about this recording is exquisite.

This review was written for Cadence Magazine in early 2002 as part of a review that included the review of Houston Person's "Blue Velvet" that I posted this past Wednesday. Given that this is the centenary of Billie Holiday, this wonderful tribute from some years back should not be overlooked and stands along the wonderful recent Cassandra Wilson and Jose James tributes. It is still in print I believe and available as downloads. I likely received my review copy from Cadence. Here is Etta Jones in performance.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Billy Price & Otis Clay This Time For Real

This writer remembers listening to the legendary Washington DC radio programmer, Jerry "The Bama" Washington, in the 1980s playing some deep soul along with blues on his Saturday afternoon WPFW program. It is where I first became introduced to the remarkable blues-eyed deep soul singer, Billy Price. Price grew up and modeled his music on the Hi Records great like O.V. Wright, Al Green, Syl Johnson and Otis Clay. On his first album, the title track was his take on Clay's "Is It Over?" On the basis of that recording, Clay joined Price, in the early eighties, on stage to sing it as a duet in a Washington DC club. And the two have been doing it together for years on stage, but finally Price and Clay have an album together, "This Time For Real" on the VizzTone distributed Bonedog Records.

Duke Robillard produced this and brings his guitar along with his band of Brice Bears on keyboards, Brad Hallen on bass, Mark Teixara on drums, Mark Earley on saxophones and Doug Woolverton on trumpet (Earley did the horn arrangements), with Theresa Davis, Dianne Madison and Diana Simon adding backing vocals. Together they produce some strong idiomatic backing modeled after the classic Stax and Hi recordings that provides a solid foundation for Price and Clay.

Otis Clay is a remarkable singer, although one might detect slight aging in his voice. However, it is not reflected in the character or phrasing here. Price's urgent style complements Clay so they come off quite well, like a modern Sam and Dave or Bobby and James Purifoy. The album kicks off on a strong note with the driving "Somebody's Changing My Baby's Sweet Mind," with the two taking things down on the ballad "I'm Afraid of Losing You." Clay did the classic Spinners classic "Love Don't Love Nobody" on his "Live in Japan" recording, and the two interpret in a manner that captures a bit more of the Philly Soul feel of the Spinners original.

"Going to the Shack" captures the classic Stax sound while the two reprise a Joe Tex ballad "I'll Never Do You Wrong." The funk of "Broadway Walk," with a choice Robillard solo, is followed with the country soul feel of "Book of Memories." This disc closes with a ripping rendition of Sam and Dave's "You Got Me Hummin'," that closes wonderful deep soul collaboration. It took three decades but finally Price and Clay got it done on "This Time For Real."

I received a review copy from VizzTone. Here is Otis Clay performing an O.V. Wright classic that has become a staple of Clay's repertoire as well as tune Billy price has also handled.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Late Clark Terry Kept On Keepin' On

"Keep On Keepin' On" is a remarkable documentary about the late Clark Terry and his relationship with a young blind pianist, Justin Kauflin. The documentary captures Terry, who was suffering severe health issues related to diabetes and young Kauflin, in several different episodes interspersed with clips of Terry from throughout his legendary musical career. Also caught are some moments with the late Quincy Jones, who Terry mentored when Jones was a teenager and who takes Justin on the road with him towards the film's end. Interspersed are clips of Terry playing with Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, and various big bands along with Justin performing at the Monk competition and later being featured with Quincy Jones in Europe where he performs his composition dedicated to Terry, "For Clark."

Ashley Kahn notes that the soundtrack is not simply an encapsulation of the film, but an overview of Terry's career interspersed with dialog by Terry, Kauflin and Quincy Jones, and some solo performances from young Kauflin. There are some excerpts of Terry's playing although there are full performances with Duke Ellington (a very fresh take on "Harlem Air Shaft"), Oscar Peterson (including "Mumbles"); a terrific "Stardust" with his Quintet as part of jazz at the Philharmonic; Count Basie (a blistering "Blee Blop Blues"); a marvelous orchestral rendition of "Misty;" and "I Remember Clifford" with Quincy Jones." Young Kauflin displays his wonderful touch and imagination on his solo piano that is heard under Terry's narration of "Letter to Justin #1," and the closing "For Clark" that closes this soundtrack.

Ashley Kahn notes that is the first collection of Terry's music although it  only provides a sample of his remarkable legacy It is a document of more than simply Clark Terry's music with the dialogue and advice presented here. One cannot recommend the movie "Keep On Keepin' On" highly enough as well as this soundtrack. While probably enjoyed most by those who have seen the movie, it certainly stands up well on its own. Recommended, and perhaps may we get a fuller career retrospective on CD of Clark Terry's music.

I received a download from a  publicist. Here is the movie trailer for "Keep On Keepin' On."

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Houston Person Blue Velvet


Houston Person
Blue Velvet
High Note HCD 7090

Everything I Have Is Yours/ Wonder Why/ Blame It On My Youth/ Too Late Now/ There’s No You/ Be My Love/ I Want To Talk About You/ I Hadn’t Anyone Till You/ Blue Velvet

"Blue Velvet" is Person's latest High Note recording with Ray Drummond on bass and Grady Tate on drums joining Person and pianist Wyands for a disc of ballads and mid-tempoed swingers. Person is as marvelous here as on the Etta Jones’ date [this review originally appeared with a review of an Etta Jones recording] as he exhibits that warm, robust tone. The rhythm section also plays at a high level in complementing Person, whether Wyands lightly comping behind Person or  nice cymbal work from Tate. 
Houston Person on The 2015 Jazz Cruise 

Person’s solos are wonderfully developed, melodic, and do overstay there welcome. His playing is romantic without any overuse of vibrato or other devices. Person takes to heart Lester Young’s advice as to knowing the lyrics of the songs performed. “Blame It On My Youth” is typical as he opens having the horn “sing” the lyrics before adding more melodic embellishments. One also appreciates the unhurried and thoughtful character of Person’s playing throughout. Wyands’ own solos echo Person’s lyricism with his solo one on “Be My Love” being exceptional. It is followed by a short Drummond solo on bass, before Person reenters to take the song to its conclusion. This is an exceptional release that along with his playing on the Etta Jones disc shows Person to be among the premiere tenor saxophone stylists today.

This review was written in early 2002 for publication in Cadence, although I split this into two paragraphs.  The Etta Jones disc reviewed to is "Sings Lady Day." I likely received my review copy from Cadence. Photo of Houston Person on The 2015 Jazz Cruise © Ron Weinstock.  Here is Houston Person in live performance.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Texas Horns Blues Gotta Holda Me


Mark ‘Kaz’ Kazanoff may be the best known of The Texas Horns, a trio of horn players who have contributed to numerous fine recordings. Kaz brings his tenor sax and harmonica along with John Mills who plays baritone and tenor saxophones and Adalberto Gomez on trumpet to “Blues Gotta Holda Me” (VizzTone). Recorded in Austin in 2014 the three are joined by guitarist Derek O’Brien, and drummer Barry Frosty Smith along with a variety of guests who include Nick Connolly, Marcia Ball, Ronnie James, Johnny Nicholas, W.C. Clark, and Anson Funderburgh.

There is a mix of instrumentals and vocals (most of which are taken by Kazanoff) on a recording that breaks no new grounds perhaps, but makes for enjoyable listening and likely to be a favorite for dancers. The music is well played and there are plenty of strong horns solos. The standout vocal is a soulful one from W.C. Clark on Kazanoff’s original “Cold Blooded Lover,” while Marcia Ball does a credible cover of the Smiley Lewis classic recording “Go On Fool,” with the horns providing an unusual Mariachi tint to the performance.

Musically, the rendition of “You’re Driving Me Crazy” is better than Kazanoff’s bland vocal. The performance sounds like it was based on the Big Joe Turner rendition from classic “The Boss of the Blues” album on Atlantic. He takes a terrific tenor sax solo on this. Also his vocal on the Percy Mayfield classic “Lost Mind” lacks the grit of Mayfield’s original as well as the brilliance of the late Johnny Adams’ rendition. Finally, as much as he tries, he can’t bring the ebullience needed on a rendition of Louis Jordan’s “Caldonia.” Here he is company with others like Muddy Waters and Gatemouth Brown who have faltered on this.

The instrumentals are fun, finger popping tunes with the exception of a terrific rendition of “People Get Ready.” The opening “Soul Stroll” kicks this off with a nice shuffle groove while Mills’ “Kick Me Again” has a march like feel with some robust playing from Mills on the baritone and O’Brien on guitar. “Rippin’ and Trippin‘“ is a hot number for the jitterbuggers while the funking rendition of Hilton Ruiz’s ”Home Cookin’” has soulful grease from Connolly on the B–3 along with some tough playing from each of horns.

Blues Gotta Holda Me” may not be a compelling recording, but it certainly is a fun and entertaining recording that is a welcome change of pace for blues listeners.

I received my review copy from Vizz-Tone. Here is a video of them performing.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Henry Gray/ Bob Corritore Sessions Vol. 1

Bob Corritore has been championing the greats of blues, especially Chicago blues, for several decades. Host of a terrific blues radio program in Phoenix where he also operates the Rhythm Room, he also has produced a variety of blues recordings. His latest production celebrates pianist Henry Gray who turned 90 in January 2015. The Henry Gray/ Bob Corritore Sessions comes our way with “Vol. 1 Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest” (Delta Groove). Included are 14 selections featuring the pianist perhaps best known for his 14 years with Howlin’ Wolf as well as session work with a variety of artists for Chess and other labels. Its been about 45 years since Gray left Chicago and moved to Louisiana where he has played, playing festivals and clubs.

For “Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest”, Corritore has put together 14 selections from 12 sessions over a 19 year period (including one on Henry’s 90th Birthday) with Gray and Corritore joined by a wide range of blues legends and players including Robert Lockwood, Jr.; John Brim; Willie ‘Big’ Eyes Smith; Nappy Brown; Tail Dragger; Chico Chism; Dave Riley; Bob Margolin; Bob Stroger; Chris James; Patrick Rynn; Kirk Fletcher; Kid Ramos; and June Core.

Gray has been overshadowed by Pinetop Perkins amongst his contemporaries in general recognition, and while folks might argue on who is the stronger pianist, Gray, although an untrained singer, is more forceful and displays more personality, as reflected on his impassioned singing on the title track (most associated with Jimmy Rogers). But he certain captures the spirit of shouter Grant Jones’ “Let’s Get High” and Hot Lips Page “They Raided The Joint.” On several tracks he provides strong support behind some legendary figures including Robert Lockwood, Jr. on “Ramblin’ On My Mind,” and Nappy Brown on a superb rendition of “Worried Life Blues” that was a signature song of Gray’s major piano influence, Big Maceo. Dave Riley tackled “Ride With Your Daddy Tonight” while John Brim sings “That Ain’t Right.” Lowell Fulson’s “Trouble Blues” features one of Gray’s top vocals here with Bob Margolin adding slide guitar while Tail Dragger adds some color commentary to the rollicking “Boogie Woogie Ball.”

After a credible Jimmy Reed cover, “Honey Don’t Let Me Go,” this CD concludes with a moody swamp blues flavored rendition of B.B. King’s “She Don’t Move Me No More,” with Corritore (outstanding throughout) heard here in a Walter Horton vein. This is a solid and delightful collection of classic Chicago blues with a touch Louisiana swamp blues mixed in. Given that this is labeled Vol. 1, one looks forward to a further release of Henry Gray’s blues sessions with Bob Corritore.

I received my review copy from Delta Groove and this review originally appeared in the July-August Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 361). Here is Henry in performance.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Henry Gray Plays Chicago Blues

Since he moved back to Louisiana a few decades ago, former Howlin Wolf pianist Henry Gray has kept playing but has never enjoyed the level of recognition that contemporaries, such as Pinetop Perkins, have received. Besides being in Wolf's band for an extended period, Gray did a fair amount of session work, recording with Jimmy Rogers, Little Walter, Billy Boy Arnold and Jimmy Reed, as well as making his own recording for Chess. The biggest influence on Grays style is Big Maceo, and like that great master, he is a strong, two-handed player and he certainly sings with a definite sense of urgency.

Gray did record some swamp-blues flavored sides for an Arhoolie anthology, and some singles for small Louisiana labels, an album for Antone's which I believe is long out-of-print, and a live album for Lucky Cat which would have been better if some of the performances had been edited to be tighter. Hightone has issued a new cd by him, Plays Chicago Blues , which has him backed by guitarists Bob Margolin and Kid Ramos, fellow Wolf alumni Chico Chism on drums and Bob Corritore on harmonica.

My promo cd does not provide any more detailed information, but these are from various sessions that Corritore produced over several years. Its a nice mix of material including covers of classic Chicago blues including a couple songs associated with Elmore James, It Hurts Me Too and I Held My Baby Last Night, as well as Wolf's How Many More Years , The Maceo influence is quite evident on the slow moody Trouble Blues and It Hurts Me Too, while Henry’s Houserocker is a strong, rollicking instrumental. There is nothing fancy about this music but it strikes this writer as the best currently available disc of Henry Gray's music available.

Henry Gray had a recent album issued under Bob Corritore's direction, The Henry Gray/ Bob Corritore Sessions Vol. 1 that I will post my review of tomorrow. This review was written in  mid-2001 and likely was published in Jazz & Blues Report and the DC Blues Calendar. I likely received a review copy from Hightone and this may be still available.

Here is Henry in performance in 2009 at the Louisiana Music Factory.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Johnny Jones Blues Is In The House

Johnny Jones
Blues Is In The House
NorthernBlues Music NBM 0007

A Fool Never Learns/ Girlfriend Blues/ I’m Gonna Love You/ Stacked in the Back/ I Could Be Dangerous/ I’ll Be the Judge of That/ Love Recession/ Good Idea At the Time/ Your Stuff Is Rough/ Farm Boy/ Why Can’t We Be Alone/ Really/ A Rock and a Hard Case/ The Blues Is In the House -1.

Jones, v, g; Fred James, g; Jeff Davis, b; Billy Earnheart, kybds; Dennis Taylor, s; Bryan Owings, d; Mary-Ann Brandon, Charles Walker, bckg vcl; Charles Walker, vcl-1. Nashville, TN. January 2000.

Nashville is not known as a blues and soul town, but it was home for several classic R&B labels including Excello. Johnny Jones is among the performers that have long been at the root of this scene. He has had several recent recordings for a variety of labels including a live European recording with deep soul singer Charles Walker. Blues Is In The House is Jones’ new disc on NorthernBlues Music, and includes a number of originals. Most of these are from the pen of Fred James who has been a driving force in the revival of the careers of Jones, Walker and others.

Walker is a solid soul-blues performer with a style akin to the late Fenton Robinson. The songs include some clever lyrics built, sometimes built around some everyday phrases like “A Rock & A Hard Place,” and “A Good Idea At the Time.” The latter number sounds familiar and may have been previously recorded by Jones and/or one of the other performers that James has worked with such as Roscoe Shelton or Earl Gaines. Jones is a pretty fair guitarist guitar and sings with plenty of heart and authority throughout. The studio band provides solid support with horns effectively employed on several tracks and a strong, swinging rhythm section. This is a notable recording of soul-infused blues.

This review was written in 2002 for Cadence Magazine and likely appeared there, and possibly also in the DC Blues Calendar. Note that I did not mention of the fact that Jimi Hendrix played with him nor his being part of the studio ban for the legendary The Beat!!! tv show. I likely received a review copy from Cadence of this item. Here is a you tube clip (sound only)  of him from one of his other recordings. This is out of print and may be hard to find.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Joe “Guitar” Hughes' Stuff Like That

Joe “Guitar” Hughes
Stuff Like That
Blues Express BEI-0002-1

Stuff Like That/ A Blues Song/ Ouchie Baby/ My Baby Told Me/ Pit Bull/ Going to San Francisco/ Bad Dreams/ When a Man Loves a Woman/ If You Want to See the Blues/ Bonus Track - Interview with Joe. 56:25.

Hughes, g, v; Bobby Murray, g; Leonard Gill, b; Tim Brockett, org; Dave Matthews, kybds; Tony Coleman, d; George Brooks; s; Mic Gillette, tbn, Marvin McFadden, tpt. San Francisco CA.

Part of Houston’s vibrant blues scene of the past five decades, Joe Hughes may not be as celebrated as his good friend, the late Johnny Copeland. This fact that hopefully will change with the release of "Stuff Like That" on Blues Express. Hughes played around the various Houston clubs, toured with a variety of R&B giants, and spent some time as a session musician for Duke before he decided he wanted to stay at home rather than deal with the road life. A trip to Europe with Copeland helped reinvigorate his career and this is the latest of several albums he has recorded, the first this reviewer has heard.

It is a terrific live recording with a brassy band backing up Hughes strong, jazzy guitar leads and smooth, soulful singing that is reminiscent of the legendary Junior Parker. There is variety in material that is performed at a high level. “My Baby Told Me” is a solid slow blues about his woman telling him not to do as she does, but do as she tell him to do so that they are making love she get exactly what she wants. Melodically, it is suggestive of “Going to Chicago” and there is some call and response between the guitars of Hughes and Bobby Murray. An instrumental version of “When A Man Loves A Woman” is nicely delivered. Hughes other originals are fresh lyrically, his musicianship exemplary and the band is wonderful specially given the fact that they avoid playing classic blues tunes. This strong release makes one why Hughes’ name is not better known among blues fans.

This review was written for Cadence Magazine and appeared there in 2002. I likely received a review copy from the publication. Below is a video of him performing from a DVD "Texas Bluesman." Both "Stuff Like That"and "Texas Bluesman" are still available.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Etta Britt Does Delbert

Nashville singer Etta Britt may be familiar to some through her association with Delbert McClinton, but her musical career goes back quite a bit as she toured as part of the CMA nominated vocal trio Dave & Sugar. While she put her musical career on the back-burner while raising a family, her dreams of a solo career were reignited when signing a record deal when she was in her early fifties, resulting in an album Out of the Shadows, and touring with Delbert and Paul Thorn. She has a follow-up recording produced by her husband Bob Britt, Etta Does Delbert (Brittunes Music) that is a mix of honky tonk, southern soul, rock and roll with a dash of blues. In order words it is some honky tonking rock and roll in the vein of Delbert and others.

She is backed by a band of her husband on guitar, Kevin McKendree on keyboards, Steve MacKay bass, Lynn Williams drums and Dana Robbins on sax with background vocals from her husband, the McCrary Sisters, and others. The strong mostly come from Delbert's songbook, and the performances are first rate. She is a terrific singer whether delivering the rock and roll of Somebody To Love Me and the southern soul of You Were Never Mine. This latter number evokes the classic Memphis soul of James Carr and Goldwax records. Another superb vocal is her interpretation of Bobby Charles' classic The Jealous Kind. There are also two duets with McClinton, Boy You Better Move On and the rollicking Best of Me.

Bob Britt's short guitar breaks and McKendree's piano are additional musical ingredients on these terrific performances while the rhythm lays down a relaxed solid groove throughout. The album closes with an original she wrote with McKendree, the strutting When I Was With You, which again displays the gritty, textured and nuanced singing that makes Etta Does Delbert such a marvelous recording that should appeal to a wide spectrum of listeners.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here she sings a duet with Delbert.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Marty Grosz and the Fat Babies Diga Diga Doo - Hot Music From Chicago

In an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, guitarist and vocalist Marty Grosz proudly states that "proudly that his art has always sought to entertain rather than lull audiences into a stupor with what he calls "egghead jazz."" Grosz, who is 85, has a new album on Delmark with the traditional Chicago Jazz band The Fat Babies entitled Diga Diga Doo - Hot Music From Chicago. As Grosz notes in the liner notes for the CD, he last recorded for Delmark in 1959 as a sideman for an Albert Nicholas and Art Hodes session. Matching him with string bassist Beau Sample's "Fat Babies" made sense although he already had pianist Jim Dapogny, while at the time of recording tenor saxophonist Jonathan Doyle was in town and his pal Panic Slim played on the 2014 session (the album was recorded in 2013 and 2014).

Grosz brought his guitar and banjo for these sessions and the presence of Doyle along with the reeds of John Otto make for some fascinating and fun listening. Cornetist Andy Schumm impresses throughout as does Doyle's robust old-school sax. Grosz is primarily a chordal acoustic player and his solos are really more in the nature of short breaks. There are plenty of musical delights, and fans of hot Chicago-styled jazz will find so much to enjoy. While Grosz may be limited as a vocalist, he does have a Fats Waller-ish charm on Sweet Sue. A delight is Prince of Wails, a number I am familiar with from the incendiary Benny Moten Band version (at the session that also included Moten Swing). This is a marvelous rendition with pianist Dapogny putting this together and contributing some fine piano while Doyle and Schumm excel. The title track by McHugh and Fields was a staple of Duke Ellington's Cotton Club revue and Schumm opens playing a comb wrapped in newspaper while pianist Asaro shows some stride influence with Otto on clarinet. Plenty of fun.

A couple of numbers include Grosz's vocals including The Lady of Red, as he scats and conjures a club with these lovely exotic ladies before the Hot Babies add their spirited playing. There is the charm and humor of Rose of Washington Square, a feature for Fanny Brice from the 1920 Ziegfeld Follies and a lovely rendition of Irving Berlin's How Deep Is The Ocean. There are tunes from the repertoire of the Louisiana Five, Red McKenzie and Eddie Lang as well as the chestnut, A Good Man Is Hard To Find.

After The Lady in Red, this CD concludes with Marty Talks as he reminiscences and indicates his preferences for hot music. Tagged on at the end, folks can easily skip if they choose. There is nothing deep, or "egghead" about the music on "Diga Diga Doo," just highly entertaining and well played hot Chicago jazz that will delight those who love "traditional" jazz.

I received my review copy from Delmark. Here is a video of Marty Grosz in performance.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Music Maker's John Henry anthology

A neat idea was collecting ten renditions of the ballad John Henry (Music Heritage Relief Foundation) with the renditions representing different genre and stylistic approaches from Delta blues, to Piedmont blues to old-time string band making for fascinating listening.

Big Boy Henry, with Lightnin' Wells on guitar, opens this CD with a rendition that comes off like a Bukka White recording. Cootie Stark and Neal Pattman lend a more East Coast style rendition, slide guitar and all. Is Dom Flemons playing quills on a rendition that musically evokes Henry 'Ragtime Texas" Thomas while Carl Rutherford's finger-style guitar instrumental rendition is akin to the legendary Doc Watson while Benton Flippen leads an old time string band rendition.

Guitar Gabriel (aka Nyles Jones) rendition is more in a Piedmont vein with Tim Duffy adding guitar and Michael Parrish piano to support Gabriel's marvelous Blind Boy Fuller influenced picking, while John Lee Ziegler high pitched singing and spare slide guitar (is he using a knife) is an affecting performance, the longest one here. With Tim Duffy on rhythm guitar, the legendary Etta Baker does a marvelous instrumental version with he finger-picked slide playing while a small group backs John Dee Holeman's juke joint and drink house rendition.

Samuel Turner Stevens closes this CD with a rendition performed on a banjo with slide. It concludes a very interesting and captivating compilation that can be obtained from Music Maker Relief Foundation on their website,

I received this for donations to the Music Maker Foundation. Here John Dee Holeman performs John Henry.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Bobby Blue Bland Live & Righteous 1992

Among recent blues and rhythm recordings issued on the Rock Beat label is a nineties live recording of Bobby Blue Bland, Live & Righteous 1992. The CD contains 13 selections from the Hotel Meridien in Paris from 1992 and four selections from a performance in Indianapolis in 1992. Mark Humphrey provides a concise overview of Bland's life and career but no specific dates are provided or personnel listed. These are likely air checks as indicated from some French narration over the performance from Paris. During the track entitled "I Don't Know," (actually the song known as Grits Ain't Groceries or 24 Hours a Day), the personnel are introduced although guitarist Mark Lee's named is mentioned several times.

The 1992 selections are particularly nice representatives of the "World's Greatest Blues Singer" as one might have heard in the early 1990s. The repertoire is fairly representative including Today I Started Loving You Again, Share Your Love With Me, Bill Withers' Ain't No Sunshine. You've Got To Hurt Before You Heal, and Members Only. A high point is the medley entitled Sunday Morning Love/Stormy Monday that also segues into Drifting Blues at the end. Bland's voice is typical. If he no longer possessed the range of his younger days and his squeals became squawks, his phrasing and intonation still invested his performances with real depth.

The Indianapolis selections include briefs renditions of That's The Way Love Is, Further On Up the Road, and I Pity The Fool, along with a workout on Soon As the Weather Breaks. Audio throughout is acceptable and certainly this  will appeal to Bobby's fans, even if it is not essential.

I purchased this. Here is Bobby and B.B. King on Soul Train from the seventies.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Omar Coleman Born and Raised

On his initial Delmark release Born and Raised, Omar Coleman impresses with soul-infused vocals, and harp playing that perhaps evokes both the folk-funk of Bobby Rush, and the soul-blues fusion of the late Junior Wells (both who he admits are influences). He is backed by a solid band of Pete Galanis on guitar; Neal O'Hara on keyboards; Ari Seder on bass and Marty Binder on drums and percussion with guitarists Toronzo Cannon, Mike Wheeler and David Herrero each guesting on two selections. Coleman wrote (or co-wrote) 12 of the 14 songs here.

Its a varied mix of material starting with the opening rocker Tryin' to Do Right where he sings about trying to do right by his lady even though he wants to do wrong through the closing Raspberry Wine with its jazzy accents. His songs and his performances convey a man who is sensitive and strong. He sings you don't need a man like him, you need a Man Like Me, (with Cannon adding some guitar fire). Coleman is a strong, yet nuanced, singer convincing whether delivered with soulful blues of Man Like Me; the funk of Sit Down Baby and the topical title track; the wistful ballad, I Was a Fool; the driving rocker Slow Down Baby; the shuffle You Got a Hold On Me, as well as the afore-mentioned Raspberry Wine," which suggests that he could do a solid job as a blues shouter.

Besides Coleman's persuasive vocals, his straight-forward harp playing has much appeal with its fluidity and voice-like character. He also has written some fresh new songs that is crisply played resulting in some marvelous performances making Omar Coleman's Born and Raised one of the most striking blues albums of 2015 so far.

I received my review copy from Delmark. Here he is performing the title track live at Rosa's Lounge.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Andy Poxon Must Not Be Crazy

Must Be Crazy (EllerSoul Records) by Washington area guitarist-vocalist Andy Poxon is the latest by a young phenom that certainly has attracted the praises of many like Duke Robillard (who produced his previous CD) and Mark Wenner of The Nighthawks who is quoted on the back cover. For this, Poxon travelled to the Nashville area where he recorded at Kevin McKendree's Rock House Studio. McKendree (himself once a young DC area phenom) handles the keyboards and co-wrote 4 of the 13 Poxon originals (and his son Yates co-wrote the last track as well as plays organ).

Poxon's continual growth and maturity as a guitarist and a singer is established right away. here is someone who has listened to vintage B.B. King, Pee Wee Crayton, Tiny Grimes, T-Bone Walker and the like and brings a lot of heart and personality to his vocals as this recording starts off with a B.B. King styled bluesYou Must Be Crazy, with some explosive guitar. There's the appealing New Orleans groove of Living Alone, and the sizzling jump blues Next to You, with his fleet, clean, uncluttered guitar standing out. There is terrific slow blues, "Cold Weather" where Poxon evokes classic T-Bone Walker, and he is equally comfortable with the sophisticated jazzy feel of Too Late. The closing instrumental, Rebound, with Yates McKendree, has a nice relaxed groove that evokes classic Memphis soul instrumentals of the sixties.

The performances here are uniformly first-rate. Kudos to McKendree, bassist Steve Mackey, drummer Kenneth Blevins and saxophonist Jim Hoke for the terrific backing. The McCrary Sisters and Chloe Kohanski add backing vocals. But Andy Poxon is the star here and as a singer, as a songwriter and as a guitarist, he has hit a grand slam with the fabulous music on Must Be Crazy.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared in the September-October 2014 Jazz & Blues Report.  Here is Andy performing with Mark Wenner & His Blues Warriors.