Monday, July 31, 2006

The Mannish Boys at 2006 Pocono Blues Festival

The Mannish Boys IMG_2154.JPG, originally uploaded by NoVARon.

The Mannish Boys, featuring Finis Tasby, Johnny Dyer and Leon Blues were among Sunday highlights at the Pocono Blues Festival. Rusty Zinn and Kid Ramos were the featured guitarists for a wonderful show. Other highlights that day was the sacred steel of Aubrey Ghent, Mem Shannon's unique music, John Lee Hooker's soulful performance, Zac Harmon's personal adaptation of traditional and soul blues, Mighty Sam McLain and John Hammond, who I did not see. Oh how could I forget a terrific set by Koko Taylor.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Pocono Blues Saturday

Mel Waiters IMG_1533, originally uploaded by NoVARon.

Some of the best performances I have seen were Saturday at the Pocono Blues Festival. Mel waiters was exceptional with some deep southern blues backed by a great band. Other highlights included Kenny 'Blues Boss" Wayne's boogie blues piano and the great Joe Louis Walker. Big James Montgomery was a pleasant surprise and it was nice to see Diunna Greenleaf from Houston again.

Those in the Washington DC area, Mel Waiters will be at Lamont's in PoMonkey (Charles County) MD tomorrow, July 30. He will not disapppoint.

2006 Pocono Blues Festival Opens

Wanda JohnsonIMG_1017, originally uploaded by NoVARon.

The 15th Pocono Blues Festival opened Friday night July 28 on Big Boulder Mountain in Lake Harmony PA. Eddie Taylor did a set of older blues from a variety of sources including BB King, Muddy, Jimmy Rogers, Freddie King and of course his dad. Nothing remarkable except he played wonderfully in the manner of his legendary father with an unassuming, straightforward style. He has a new CD on Wolf. His first CD is a wonderful tribute to his father.
Second up was Wanda Johnson who I had not heard before and is vivacious as well as a soulful performer that Gary Erwin discovered in South Carolina. She quickly became an audience favorite with her peroonality, lively snging and soul band that included Erwin on keyboards. They were selling her CDs and they were selling briskly as left. I purchased her "Call Me Miss Wanda." She is someone you are going to hear more about in the future.
After a long day of travelling I left prior to Maurice John Vaughan, but it was a fine evening of blues to open the festival.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Language of The Blues

Here is a review of the above-titled book by Debra DeSalvo (Billboard Books 2006) that I have submitted for publication (Jazz and Blues Report out of Cleveland). Sorry It is kinda longish. I have also posted this at

This is self-described as an anecdotal dictionary of the blues, but it suffers some serious flaws and while there is some useful information, it is far from authoritative or comprehensive and while it has some usefulness, it can be improved in so many ways. There are some 150 words and phrases which Ms. DeSalvo, former Blues Revue editor, focuses on, in a volume that emphasizes the African roots of the blues, but at times does not focus on other meanings the terms have. One review in Blues & Rhythm notes the focus on sex and hoodoo, but oddly enough very little on traveling which is a significant theme of the blues.

Much is made of the fact she interviewed a number of blues performers and included the material with various entries. However much if not most of the interview material is irrelevant to understanding the language of the blues, or the entry. For example she briefly discusses crossroads focusing on the African conception which leads to a discussion of the Robert Johnson meeting the devil at the crossroad myth and notes that some believe it. Then she included a discussion of Robert Lockwood, Johnson’s stepson which bears very little relationship to the discussion of the term. This would have been better included in a sidebar about Johnson and Lockwood. It would have also been instructive to include lyrics of several songs for specific terms to show contrasting meanings. As an example, Elmore James’ Standing at the Crossroads, clearly does not have the connotation that some impute to Johnson.

Also some of her sources are not exactly scholarly. In an entry on the Delta, she discussed Charlie Patton working for Will Dockery. She provides as her reference correspondence with Stephen Lavere. There are lengthy published biographies on Patton by John Fahey, and Stephen Calt and Gayle Dean Wardlow that should have been cited. There is no excuse to not citing these sources while citing private correspondence. Then there is this statement "In '34 Blues', Patton nails the desperation and anxiety of unemployment, but something good came out of leaving the plantation this time-Patton went to New York and recorded twenty-nine songs for the American Record Company. When these recordings were reissued in the mid-1960s, they sparked great interest in this Delta cropper who came to be known as the father of the blues." On the same page there is Patton's picture which noted he recorded for Paramount and became that label's biggest selling artist. It was the reissue of Patton’s recordings by Yazoo, which presented mostly the Paramount recordings that led to this recognition of Patton's music.

Discussing Canned Heat which some strained to drink the alcohol from, DeSalvo notes that Canned Heat adopted their name from the Tommy Johnson recording and that the members of Canned Heat used their fame to help their blues heroes citing their collaboration in John Lee Hooker's The Healer. Hmm, I would think that it was the classic double album, Hooker and Heat, recorded when Alan Wilson, the Blind Owl, was still alive that not only was the recording that led to Hooker's crossover but it stands up with the best recordings Hooker ever made. It was an album the ghost band that is Canned Heat is today would be incapable of producing. Sorry for perhaps going off topic, but so many entries here go off topic. (Again sidebars would have been useful). However the fact she is so imprecise with this, makes me suspect the accuracy of some other entries.

She does include some suggested recordings, but more lyric quotes for the entries
would have been very helpful. Also there should have been more cross entries, such as in her discussion of policy numbers, cross references back to that entry should have been provided for some of the policy combinations. And there are numerous terms that are not discussed here. This is a really rough first effort and this work needs some serious reworking if it is going to be a useful tool, which probably also means she should find herself a collaborator and take into account the serious criticisms if she wants to put together a work that will stand up as scholarly and a reference.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Theodis Ealey at Lamont's

Theodis Ealey IMG_0559, originally uploaded by NoVARon.

Theodis Ealey has been a veteran on the blues and southern soul circuit. In the nineties he had some wonderful recordings for the Ichiban label. I saw him open for and accompany the terrific Trudy Lynn at the Poconos over a decade ago but with the demise of Ichiban, Ealey's profile was less visible. A couple years ago, he had a smash soul-blues hit, "Stand Up in It" which has produced numerous reply songs as Theodis explains what this woman told him about making a woman never want to elave you. He continues to write great songs whether soulful party dance songs like "Don' tcha Wanna Party" as well as delivers his old blues like "Going Back to Hurtsville." HE protests that he isn't a southern soul singer but rather a blues singer and lays down some mean licks that partly refelect his Mississippi origins, but based around Atlant, he sings so soulfully and can get a crowd ip onj its feet and moving with his music. There are more photos of this perfromance as well as others on this show from June 17 on my blog,

Monday, July 17, 2006

Sam Myers RIP

Sam Myers 00024, originally uploaded by NoVARon.

Just received word that Sam Myers passed away today (I believe he was 70). The Jackson, Mississippi bluesman is today best known for his association with Texas blues guitarist and bandleader Anson Funderburgh with whom he toured for over a decade. Prior to that he was associated with Elmore James, with whom he played harmonica on some recordings. Sam had recorded the deep south downhome blues "Sleepin' in the Ground" for Ace.

I first saw Sam Myers when he was drummer playing with Robert Lockwood, Jr., at a Washington DC club. Sam was late but it was a treat to see him arrive and get to sing with the authority he invested his songs with. Teaming up with Anspon Funderburgh certainly helped expand his recognition and gave him opportunities to record as he fronted the band with his singing and harp while Funderburgh and the Rockets played crisply and strongly behind him.

Sammy mentored numkerous perfomers. 2006 Blues Music Award winner for Best New Artist, Zac Harmon, knew Sammy growing up in Jackson, MS, and cites Sam as a major personal influence on his music influence. I could list countless otyhers like Hash Brown from the Dallas area and numerous other performers who will say the same thing about him.

Sam had been receiving treatment from throat cancer for the past year and recently had returned to his home and seemed to be making great progress when he died relatively suddenly, He will be missed for his music and his warmth and friendship he extended to so many. Hopefully we will continue learning from those lessons he taught us, and not simply the ones dealing with playing the blues.

Here he is seen at the 2002 National Capital BBQ Battle in Washington DC

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Big G Delivers the Blues

Big G IMG_0069, originally uploaded by NoVARon.

June 10 I had a chance to catch a southern soul and blues review at the Charles County MD club, Lamont’s. Among the performers was one Big G (pictured above) from the Richmond, Virginia area who I had heard of and had purchased one of his CDs on Besides his own set on which he displayed a soulful singing style, he played guitar later to back up Roy C, a popular performer on this circuit. I purchased two more of his CDs at the show and reviewed one in the July-August 2006 DC Blues Calendar which I reproduce below.

Big G
Based on his performance at a recent southern soul show at Lamont’s, this writer understands why Richmond’s Big G has developed a following among fans of the soul-blues in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. He has produced a number of CDs on his own which are typical of such efforts in that there is considerable use of overdubbing and the employment of a rhythm track as opposed to a live drummer. Big G is a more than capable guitarist and keyboard player and a very soulful singer.
Despite the self-imposed limitations, his newest CD, Broken Hearted, will appeal to his fans and even more casual fans of the music. The title track is a nice ballad evoking the swamp pop era with Big G’s tear-in-the-throat vocal aided by the sparse production. Freaky Groove is a seductive song as he tells his woman how much she means to him and how he wants to get freaky with her that night. Two Step (on which rapper 100 Proof appears) is a party dance song, presented in a radio version and a longer club mix. One number, Family Reunion Slide, is an instrumental whereas the remainder are standard soul-blues that are well written and sung. The material and Big G’s own singing deserves a bit more time and production effort so that it would be easier for him to have broader appeal. You can get this and his other recordings from or

Howard Johnson, Putting a Deep Bottom on the Blues

Howard Johnson DSC01343, originally uploaded by NoVARon.

Howard Johnson, seen on the 2006 Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise where he led Gravity, his all tuba brass section, as part of Taj Mahal's Band on the trip, which gave a fresh persoective for some of Taj's songs. The terrific jazz guitarist Calvin Keys was also part of the band. Its been a couple decades since Gravity performed with Mahal, although Taj as returned the favor, and in fact the eclectic bluesman can be heard on a live European Gravity album. Johnson, of course, does more than play tuba and plays baritone sax on the most recent Half Note CD by David 'Fathead' Newman.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Memphis Gold and I

Memphis Gold and I IMG_9903, originally uploaded by NoVARon.

It has been a good year for my friend Chster Chandler who performs under the name Memphis Gold. His self-produced CD "Prodigal Son" has been picked up by Jim O'Neal for his Stackhouse Drop Top Records, Jefferson, the wrold's oldest blues publication had a cover story on him, Blues & Rhythm, the fine British publication raved about this CD and he will be one of the main performers at this year's DC Blues Festival. Here Chester and I are just enjoying a sunny June day attending the Columbia Pike Blues Festival, June 11 in Arlington Virginia.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Fiona Boyes at the Surf Club

Fiona Boyes IMG_0889, originally uploaded by NoVARon.

I first had the opportunity to see Fiona Boyes on the 2005 Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. More recently she was Chick Hall’s Surf Club where she gave a wonderful performance of acoustic blues although the show was sparsely attended. She has a really ebullient (I like this word) personality and enjoys performing. She writes plenty of original material but really is rooted in older styles of blues as opposed to some acoustic artists. She sings wonderfully and can handle a Memphis Minnie number as good as almost anyone alive today. Here is the link to my flckr photoset with several pictures of her, all from this show.

Originally posted on July 9, the photo was added on July 12

Little Milton at 2005 North Atlantic Blues Festival

Little Milton 025_27, originally uploaded by NoVARon.

An image of the Late Little Milton, taken at last year's 2005 North Atlantic Blues Festival. It turned out to be his final performance. This weekend, a I type this, the North Atlantic Blues Festival takes place. It was a typically fine set of music of a person who always retained a loyal audience but never was able to cross-over and gain the larger audience his talent deserved. A great songwriter and performer, over five decades he made some timeless and influential recordings and thrilled audiences over the world.

I have posted four Black & White pictures from that performance on my site,

The pictures were likely taken using a Leica M6 or a Bessa R2 and a Leica 90/2.8 Tele-elmarit and 35/2 or 50/2 Summaron lenses.

Here is a link to my set of pictures from that Festival which will be augmented.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Public Radio drops Jazz & Blues- Ask for your donations back

Below from is a story on Chicago’s WBEZ dropping jazz and blues programming for all news programming. I suggest that members who had contributed to such stations request their contributions back if such a change is recent, not simply stop making contributions in future campaigns and support local publicly supported stations that play jazz and blues regularly as well as stations on the net like WWOZ in new Orleans, WKCR in NY and WBGO in the New York area

Here is the link

Henry Qualls

Chuck Nevitt of the Dallas area placed a story from the Washington Morning news about an artists he recorded for his Dallas Blues Society Records, Henry Qualls, arguably the last of the real Texas country bluesmen. Qualls recording an album on Dallas Blues Society Records as well as four tracks on the Cannonball album, Blues Across America, The Dallas Scene are wonderful roadhouse jukin’ down blues. Its amazing what he does to the oldie but goodie, Bread and Butter, and this is one artist I would have loved to see. The Cannonball collection may be available as a used or bargain and I believe you can still get copies of the Dallas Blues Society one from Chuck and perhaps some internet blues mail order places like

Here is link for Dallas Blues Society Records:

Here is a teaser:

“”Last True Texas Bluesman;
How a farmer and mechanic from tiny Elmo, Texas, wound up on a road
to the recording studio, nightclubs and European music festivals

BYLINE: Bill Minutaglio

Dallas music promoter felt sure that he had come across one of the most important discoveries in recent
Texas history. Now, alone in his two-room garage apartment, he placed a call to Holland.

Waiting on the other end was the producer of a prestigious European music festival.

The promoter pushed the Start button on his tape player and placed his phone near the speakers. Over
the wires moved a slow, naked sound from somewhere long ago. Spider-web whispers of a rough backwoods East Texas guitar rhythm rarely heard in the last quarter-century. Open-wound sighs of an instrument—bottle, knife, shard of glass—hitting steel strings. And most of all, a proud but weary working
man's voice. A broken, graveyard voice singing I about the train, the phantom, that might take you away if
only someone would let you on board I about a thing so cold it could only be death I about the cruel way a
child _ of any age _ can lose a mother.>>

The full message is in the message archive of North Texas Blues Group on Yahoo where the full piece can be read. I am not sure whether you need to join this group or not to read the message. The Archives may be visible to all. I tried posting the link to the message but it did not work so here is a link to the North Texas Blues Group and the message was posted saturday, July 8. If it does not work, you may have to join the group.