Sunday, February 24, 2013

RIP Magic Slim

PICT2125 Magic Slim by NoVARon
PICT2125 Magic Slim, a photo by NoVARon on Flickr. Taken at the 2004 Pocono Blues Festival by Ron Weinstock
RIP Magic Slim who passed away on February 21. What can one say about him other than he simply played some straight-ahead stomping, no holds barred Chicago Blues. A performer with a repertoire of who knows how many tunes, there was no pretense to his music as he would grind out his blues, singing in his gravelly voice while laying down some stinging guitar fills and solos. While his band members changed over the years, Slim and his band never deviated from his sound, which was one reason for his considerable appeal.

And he made numerous albums that at worst were simply good. A few CDs of Slim that I particularly recommend include Rough Dried Woman, which is compiled from various albums Slim recorded for Wolf; Spider In My Stew/the Zoo Bar Collection Volume 4 also on Wolf; Grand Slam on Rooster Blues; Raw Magic on Alligator: The Essential Magic Slim on Blind Pig; and Snakebite also on Blind Pig. He last album, Bad Boy, on Blind Pig  was a typically solid effort.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Larry Willis at Mid Atlantic Jazz Fest Day 2

What a great set by pianist Larry Willis during the second day of the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival in Rockville, Maryland. Willis led a group that included trombonist Steve Davis, saxophonist Joe Ford, bassist Steve Novosel and drummer Billy Williams. This was music that was multidimensional, full of passion and imagination. This certainly was one of the Festival's highlights.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Joey DeFrancesco at the 2013 Mid Atlantic Jazz Fest Day 3-2170738

Capping a Festival that spotlighted the Hammond B-3, this year's Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival concluded with a burning performance from Joey DeFrancesco with his trio that included guitarist Paul Bollenback. In addition to his deep funky organ, Joey DeFrancesco also treated us to a bit of trumpet. It was hard bop, deep fried blues and some ballads with deep soul tinges,

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sharon Clark at the 2013 Mid Atlantic Jazz Fest Day 2

Part of The Vocal Summit that took place Saturday Afternoon, February 16 at the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, Sharon Clark displayed during her songs as well as that evening as part of a stellar Women in Jazz group why she is a true local treasure and among the finest jazz singers anywhere (the NY Times had a rave review of her recent appearance in the Big Apple). Along with singers Carmen Bradford (ex-Count Basie) and Lynette Washington, she treated the afternoon audience in Rockville, Maryland to some wonderful singing. The three were backed by the wonderful Chris Grasso and his trio.

Later that night Sharon's rich voice was part of the marvelous Women In Jazz group (pictured below).

Sharon Clark at the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival as part of Women In J with Sharel Cassity on saxophone, Amy Shook on bass and Allison Miller on drums. Not pictured, pianist Helen Sung.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Elijah Jamal Balbed at the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival

One of the DC area's finest young saxophonists, Elijah Jamal Balbed was one of the first acts to perform at the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival with a group that included Alex Brown on piano, Zach Brown on bass and drummer Quincy Phillips. Here they are in the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Club room.

Gregory Porter at the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival

I finally had a chance to see Gregory Porter who sang with the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Orchestra under Paul Carr's direction. One of the finest performances I recently had an opportunity to witness. He sang a number of songs from his recent album "Be Good" encoring with "My Funny Valentine." Special Kudos to the rhythm section of Pianist Allyn Johnson, Bassist James King and drummer Nasar Abadey who anchored the terrific backing for Porter.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Few Blues Shows Coming to DC of Note

Photo © Ron Weinstock
Jody Williams, pictured above at the 2007 Pocono Blues Festival, is one of the treasures of real deal blues artists who are still with us. A member of Bo Diddley's Band for a period, as well as making some pioneering recordings, we are fortunate that he resumed playing after several decades away from music in part because of the bitterness relating the song Love Is Strange. He has two truly wonderful blues albums out on Evidence that blues fans need to own. Anyway Jody is part of a tour, Blues At The Crossroads II: Muddy & The Wolf which also will include the Fabulous Thunderbirds featuring Kim Wilson, Tinsley Ellis, James Cotton and Bob Margolin. It is at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Monday February 18. Visit for more information.
Memphis Gold and Charlie Sayles will each be performing at JVs this week. Photo © Ron Weinstock
JV's in Annandale, Virginia is celebrating its anniversary and has some great shows this week. Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 12, Charlie Sayles will be leading a band with Clarence 'The Bluesman' Turner on guitar while on Wednesday, February 13, Memphis Gold will have a special show with some special guests including keyboards and saxophone. Friday, February 15 The Mac Arnold Band will be appearing. Mac Arnold is a former bass player who worked with John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters while on Sunday, February 17, the early afternoon show will be a great group including Big Joe Maher, Marty Baumann and Bill Heid. Catfish Hodge  will be coming to JVs on Saturday March 2.

Incidentally, Memphis Gold is at the Westminster Presbyterian Church (401 I Street SW, Washington DC), as part of its Blue Monday series tonight, February 11, and next Monday (February 18), Little Royal will perform. There is a shuttle from the Waterfront Metro stop.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday Feb 17 Promises More Great Mid-Atlantic Jazz

Today is the final installment of  my daily previews of this year's Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival for which I had a preview on January 15.  One week from when this is first posted is the final full day of music for this year's Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival.

Standing out on Sunday afternoon is a performance by The Cookers (video clip above), a terrific ensemble comprised of jazz legends pianist George Cables; tenor saxophonist Billy Harper; drummer Billy Hart; bassist Cecil McBee; trumpeter and flugelhorn player Eddie Henderson; flautist and alto saxophonist Craig Handy; and trumpeter David Weiss. Also Sunday afternoon on the main stage will be saxophonist Bruce Williams leading a group with Pat Bianchi on organ. Williams, a Washington DC native, is a member of Ben Riley’s Thelonious Monk Legacy Septet as well as being the newest and youngest member of the World Saxophone Quartet in addition to leading several ensembles on his own. There will also be a performance by San Francisco area saxophonist William O’Neill will lead a group that also features vocalist Kenny Washington.

Sunday evening opens with saxophonist Bobby Watson, and followed by New Orleans vocalist Stephanie Jordan who will be singing a Tribute to Lena Horne. The Ronnie Wells Main Stage will conclude with the multi-award winning organist Joey DeFrancesco (Video clip above) with more hot Hammond B-3 grooves. 

Other highlights of Sunday's program includes Janine Gilbert Carter doing a gospel brunch (and here is a video clip from that). Janine's performance at last year's festival has just been issued on DVD (she used photos of mine for the cover) and it will be a heart-warming time. Performances in the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Club includes Darius Scott, Ivy Ambush and Cloudburst. There will be workshops (for example Stephanie Jordan and Kenny Washington will conduct one on scatting) with a number of performers and interviews with The Cookers and Joey DeFrancesco. And in the JukeJoint, Linwood Taylor, one of the Washington area's finest blues guitarists will be holding forth with some powerful music. Taylor, long a local favorite was recently a member of Joe Louis Walker's Band and certainly during the breaks in the Main Stage, he is someone to check out (and a sample of him can be seen in the clip below). Of course, Sunday night will conclude with the Midnight Jam.

Monday morning as some will be checking out, the keyboards of Jackie Hairston, one-time member of Otis Redding's Band and a local favorite who has played with everybody in DC's blues, soul and jazz scene will be playing. Again for more information on the festival, check out

Saturday, February 09, 2013

One Week From Today - Full Day of Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival

This is the second of my daily previews of this year's Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival for which I had a preview on January 15.  Today I am focusing on the programs that are scheduled to take place next Saturday, February 16.

Today's headliner is one of the legends of the Hammond B-3, Dr. Lonnie Smith (in the clip above),  who will be coming on at 10:PM after a full day of jazz. The main stage starts at noon with bass clarinetist Todd Marcus leading a group which will have as special guest, clarinet master Don Byron. Then there is a vocal summit with Sharon Clark, Lynette Washington and former Count Basie singer Carmen Bradford, backed by the Chris Grasso Trio. Saturday afternoon concludes with the Akira Tsuruga Quartet, featuring the Japanese born organist who is a mainstay on the NYC scene. In  addition to her performance, she will also be interviewed. Other interviews on saturday include Orrin Evans and Tim Warfield being interviewed.

Saturday Night’s on the Main Stage opens with the Larry Willis Quintet (in the clip above) with trombonist Steve Davis, saxophonist Joe Ford, bassist Steve Novosel and Billy Williams on drums. This is quite an impressive grouping including former McCoy Tyner saxophonist Ford and Rashaan Roland Kirk bassist Novosel in addition to the leader. It will be followed by a supergroup, Women In Jazz, which includes vocalist Sharon Clark, saxophonist Sharel Cassity, pianist Helen Sung, bassist Amy Shook and drummer Allison Miller.

Other performances at the Festival on Saturday include saxophonist Marshall Keys, vocalist Janine Gilbert-Carter (seen in the clip above) with a group that includes saxophonist Brian Settles and saxophonist Bruce Swaim.  In the Juke Joint, Clarence 'The Bluesman' Turner will be performing. Turner is a past winner of the DC Blues Society's Battle of the Bands, and played the DC Blues Festival and other regional blues events. Like the other nights at the festival, Wes Biles conducts a jam at Midnight.

This promises to be another spectacular program for jazz lovers.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Friday February 15 Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival Kicks Off

I am getting really stroked about this year's Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival and have previously did a preview of it which appeared on January 15 and which is linked here. For me the highlight will finally be seeing Gregory Porter performing backed by the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Orchestra directed by Paul Carr. As a taste of what we might expect here is a clip of him with a big band led by Jools Holland doing a Louis Jordan classic that has become a standard done by the likes of B.B. King, Koko Taylor, Clifton Chenier and others, Let the Good Times Roll. This has become my favorite rendition of this song and I am hopeful that this might be included in the repertoire he sings that night.

Gregory Porter will be interviewed by Miyuki Williams at 6:00PM and his performance with the Orchestra is scheduled at 8:30PM. He is also teaching a Vocal Master Class at 11:30AM on Saturday as part of the Festival. As much as I would love to attend the interview, it is at the same time time as a performance by Elijah Jamal Balbed, one of the Washington area's most acclaimed young saxophonists.   He recently had a wonderful show at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History perforing the pre-Miles Davis music of Wayne Shorter. Here is a video clip of Elijah performing Wayne Shorter's Neferiti.

I am also really looking forward to seeing the terrific pianist Orrin Evans performing with a group featuring saxophonist Tim Warfield, and Paul Carr leading a terrific group with organist Pat Bianchi, guitarist Bobby Broom and drummer Byron Landham.  Others performing include vocalist Chad Carter.

As my preview indicated, one new aspect of this year's festival with be the Juke Joint with some of the DC area's finest blues talent in the MAJF Juke Joint. This night, David Cole and Main Street Blues will be performing. David has been performing with some of the DC area's most celebrated blues and rhythm talent for some time. When not leading Main Street Blues with his fleet guitar and soulful singing he might be heard backing the local legend, Little Royal.  Here is a clip of David Cole and Main Street Blues doing the Roy Hawkins classic most know from B.B. King's monster remake, The Thrill Is Gone.

Anyway it promises to be some incredible music and hope to see some of you there. It takes place at the Hilton Washington DC/Rockville Hotel & Executive Meeting Center, 1750 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland 20852. For more information visit

Thursday, February 07, 2013

They All Played For Chris Strachwitz

Today, I received a package from Arhoolie Records that included a variety of CDs that I had purchased. The centerpiece of my order was They All Played For Us: Arhoolie Records 50th Anniversary Celebration. This is a coffee-table sized book with 4 CDs of a weekend of music at the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley, California that was held to celebrate 50 years of Arhoolie Records that Chris Strachwitz started in 1960, The concerts were a benefit for The Arhoolie Foundation.

The four discs feature over 70 musicians and over 5 hours and 20 minutes of music. Some of the better known performers include Santiago Jimenez, Jr; Ry Cooder, David Doucet, Peter Rowan, Laurie Lewis, Barbara Dane, The Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band, The Treme Brass Band, Eric & Suzy Thompson, Country Joe McDonald; The Campbell Brothers; Savoy Family Band and Taj Mahal. As can be seen there is plenty of cajun, some blues, some New Orleans Brass Band, Tex-Mex, string-band and blue grass, and more to be heard on this. Nick Spitzer, host of the public radio program, American Routes, served as emcee for the performance.

In addition to the music, the four discs come in a large, coffee table sized hardback 192 page book which contains over 200 photos by Mike Melnyk and commentary by Chris Strachwitz as well as many of the performers who reflect on how they met Chris and what Chris and Arhoolie Records has meant to them. This isn't a formal review, but rather a first impression on what appears to be a truly remarkable package that will be of great appeal to lovers of roots music of all types. This set is dedicated to the late Uncle Lionel Batiste of the Treme Brass Band, who passed away last July, just several months before this was released.

You can order this direct from Arhoolie (at a discount off list-price) and the following web link has more details that I have included here. Arhoolie is also running an internet special if you order three or more items (with some exclusions such as They All Played For Us). Arhoolie's website is which will also contain the link to this book-4CD set. The following you tube video has some sample music and pages (and is also at the website).

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Murali Coryell Is Very Live

I have been aware of guitarist-vocalist Murali Coryell since he signed to the now defunct independent label Big Mo. The son of pioneering jazz and fusion guitarist Larry Coryell, in recent years he has also played with Joe Louis Walker. Coryell has a new CD/DVD Live on (Shake-It-Sugar Records). The CD was recorded in May 2012 at Club Helsinki in Hudson NY while the DVD was captured for video at the The Roots and Blues Festival in Salmon Arms, British Columbia with Joe Louis Walker’s bassist Henry Oden and drummer Dorian Randolph along with John Nemeth’s keyboard player, Dave Fleschner, providing the backing. The band on the Club Helsinki recording includes Randolph on drums, bassist Vince Leggiere, Stacey Waterous on saxophone, Bill Foster on guitar and Cameron Melville for a couple selections on organ.

While there is some overlap in the songs on the CD and DVD, the performances are quite different (a saxophonist on the Club Helsinki performance certainly lends a different tenor (pun intended) to the performances as he rips a nice solo with  Coryell chording behind him on Tampa Red’s classic Love Her With A Feeling before Coryell launches into a nicely structured, yet fiery blues-rock solo. 

Coryell is an amiable singer and songwriter who has a way for putting words together as on his his originals Sugar Lips, as In the Room With Jimi. The latter number opens the CD and is heard in a different performance and is a bluesy-rock with a lengthy guitar jam with effects centered about the fact that as a 3 month year old kid Jimi Hendrix backstage at the Fillmore East. The performances on the live CD are quite varied ranging from the funky and soulful I Can’t Give You Up; the slow reflective bluesy ballad I Could've Had You, and the down in the alley blues, Softly Let Me Kiss Your Lips (with excellent organ from Cameron Melville and saxophone from Stacey Waterous, as well as Coryell’s searing guitar to complement his vocal). The afore-mentioned Sugar Lips. is a boogie-based rocker followed by a lengthy take on Tampa Red’s Love Her With a Feeling, with Coryell playing slide for a steamy rendition of this classic blues with some nice raspy saxophone as part of the mix. 

Its a nice and varied mix of originals and covers that is played in a lively fashion with straight blues mixed with some soul and rock in a manner that might be compared to Tommy Castro. The DVD performances cover some of the same musical territory and provide a sense of his live festival performance. If the performances are occasionally a bit lengthy, overall that is a minor point. Coryell is a solid singer and guitarist who has produced this solid and most enjoyable CD/DVD combination.

I received my review copy from a publicist. H ere is a video of Murali with Joe Louis Walker performing In the Room With Jimi.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Al Miller's In Between Time

Harmonica player and singer, Al Miller, is a contemporary of Paul Butterfield, Charlie Musselwhite and Mike Bloomfield who was among the first wave of white Chicago bluesmen. He worked with Chicago Slim and Johnny Young, was in a band The Wurds which was the first white blues band signed by Chess, spent a couple years in San Francisco working with Bloomfield, and returned to the Windy City. In the early 1990s he recorded a debut CD, “Wild Cards” for Delmark which featured Willie Kent, Dave Spector, Tad Robinson and Steve Freund. In 1999 and 2000 he assembled some of Chicago’s finest talent including John Primer, Dave Spector, Willie Smith, Ken Saydak, Billy Flynn, Harlan Terson and Kenny Smith, which Delmark has just released as … In Between Time.

This album is one of straight-ahead Chicago blues. As Scott Dirks says in the liner booklet, “Al Miller isn’t out to reinvent the wheel, or shoehorn disparate genres into an ill-fitting blues hybrid and call it “original … .” He mixes in a few idiomatic originals with covers of songs by Johnny Young, Jimmy McCracklin, Percy Mayfield, Elmore James, and Eddie Taylor. The varying line-ups share one thing in common, and that is playing old school blues, whether a slow blues and rocking shuffle. 

Whether listening to Miller reprise Johnny Young’s My Baby Walked Out with Barrelhouse Chuck contributing two-fisted piano; or John Primer channeling Magic Sam (on vocal as well as guitar) for a strong rendition of B.B. King’s I Need You So Bad, this recording shines. Miller is an able vocalist, but his harp really shines such as his original Old Friends, with a nice latin groove. The title track is a Muddy Waters flavored original with Billy Flynn on slide followed by a rollicking take of Johnny Young’s instrumental I Got It, with more tough harmonica from Miller. 

On A Better Day, Flynn channels Earl Hooker’s wah-wah slide guitar on a recording that evokes Hooker’s recording, You Gotta Lose. Another Johnny Young cover, Tighten Up On It, has more explosive harmonica. It is followed by John Primer taking the vocal on Elmore James’ 1839 Blues, on an accompaniment (Ken Saydak on piano) suggesting Otis Spann’s Hungry Country Woman. Billy’s Boogie is a lively feature for Flynn’s fretwork followed by Flynn channeling Bo Diddley on Miller’s cover of Little Walter’s Make It Alright. Rob Waters adds organ as Miller imaginatively reworks Percy Mayfield’s uptown Bachelor Blues into a Chicago blues, while Primer is featured in a tribute to one of his mentors, Sammy Lawhorn, on Primer’s Lawhorn Special.

Al Miller is a capable singer and an excellent harmonica player. He is complemented by some excellent players on a mix of originals and covers of songs that have not been over-recorded. With a generous helping of over an hour of music, … In Between Time is an exceptional, straight-ahead, Chicago blues recording.

Delmark sent me a review copy of this.  

Monday, February 04, 2013

Devil's Music - Soundtrack to BBC TV History of the Blues

The Devil’s Music was the title of a 1976 BBC 5-part documentary series that resulted from Giles Oakley’s travels to the United States. It was accompanied by a nice history of the blues by Oakley also titled The Devil’s Music as well as some lps on the Red Lightnin’ label. While this writer has never seen the BBC television series, he has read Oakley’s book (which I believe De Capo may have republished) and had the original recordings, a double lp set The Devils Music, and a single lp, More Devil’s Music. Those ops are reissued on CD by the British Indigo label along with some live recordings by Memphis Slim and Sonny Boy Williamson from the 1963 American Folk Blues Festival Tour in Indigo Records 3 cd box, The Devils Music.

The first two volumes contain recordings made during by Oakley and his BBC crew while visiting the Us and range from the legendary Mississippi bluesmen, Sam Chatmon doing Stop and Listen Blues, Big Joe Williams performing Highway 49, and Bukka White’s powerful Aberdeen Mississippi. Some of the performers around Memphis and Helena Arkansas are also featured as two former King Biscuit Time guitarists; Houston Stackhouse and Joe Willie Wilkins are heard. Stackhouse’s performances include Tommy Johnson’s Cool Drink of Water while Wilkins does Mr. Downchild, a tune associated with Sonny Boy Williamson. 

Harmonica player Sonny Blake is heard on Sonny Boy’s Bring It On Home. Also heard are Laura Dukes, once a singer with the Memphis Jug Band, and pianist Mose Vinson. Chicago blues are represented with performances by The Aces, Fenton Robinson (on which Bill Heid can be heard on keyboards), Good Rockin’ Charles, Elmore James imitator Joe Carter and Billy Boy Arnold. Pianist Little Brother Montgomery and singer Edith Wilson provide a nod to early blues recordings in the performances. 

St. Louis is represented by the final twelve performances including six by James De Shay, whose recordings of Pony Blues, Mistake in Life, Hold That Train and Elmore James’ Crossroads are live club recordings, that are not hi-fi. These are is only recordings DeShay made. Other recordings include some more Big Joe Williams (including a raucous Sloppy Drunk) and Henry Townsend (with the bittersweet Tears Come Fallin’ Down being outstanding). The late blues queen Victoria Spivey closes the field recordings with a remake of her hit, T.B. Blues

This is a fascinating collection of field recordings with some really exceptional performances interspersed with other entertaining ones. Add to this some live recordings of Memphis Slim and Sonny Boy Williamson in Europe in 1963 and one had a rather attractive box set, which I believe is bargain priced. Now if someone would only make the BBC-TV series available on dvd.

This review originally appeared in the April 2004 DC Blues Calendar, the DC Blues Society newsletter  I edited for many years. I have made a few minor revisions. Amazon lists this as available from various sellers. I purchased this.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Nap Turner Singing the Blues At Cafe Vez

I do miss Nap Turner. The following review appeared in the May 2002 DC Blues Calendar, the newsletter of The DC Blues Society I edited for almost 20 years. I received my review copy from Wayne Kahn who runs Right on Rhythm and still champions the DC music scene.

DC area music lovers should be grateful for Wayne Kahn’s enterprise in going out and making location recordings of local blues, jazz, and roots performers for his Right on Rhythm label and other labels (The new Nighthawks album on Ruf is taken from Wayne’s recordings of the group). 

The latest Right on Rhythm release is the second by Nap “Don’t Forget the Blues” Turner, Live at Cafe Vez. Backed by Gary Jenkins Quartet which features the saxophone of Arnold Sterling, this disc captures Nap doing a trio of Percy Mayfield numbers, some blues standards and ballads, two recitations from Langston Hughes’ Best of Simple and a closing blues medley with DC’s blues diva Mary Jefferson. This duet is also the first issued recording by her. It certainly is a nice showcase for Nap who puts his heart into his vocals as the Jenkins band swings behind him. 
Nap Turner & Mary Jefferson at Bluebird Blues Festival. Photo © Ron Weinstock
There are a couple places where he has intonation problems, but overall he sings strongly and persuasively in the uptown blues vein. Kudos to organist Joe Kaplowitz (superb whether comping behind Nap’s vocals and the other soloists, or soloing himself) and guitarist Rick Hanna in addition to saxophonist Sterling (who particularly outstanding on an uptempo adaptation of T-Bone Walker’s Stormy Monday).

Leader Jenkins drumming keeps the swinging groove. In addition to the bawdy duet with Mary Jefferson on If You See Kay/Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On, highpoints include Curtis Lewis’ Deadly Nightshade (The Great City) and a lesser known Percy Mayfield tune, Country (nice Rick Hanna guitar solo here). The Simple recitations might not be for everyone’s tastes, but anyone familiar to Nap know how central it is to his performances, whether live or on the radio. Kudos to Right on Rhythm for another wonderful disc documenting a true treasure of the DC music scene. 

Saturday, February 02, 2013

No Teasing the Blues From Little G Weevil

Based currently in Georgia, Little G Weevil released at the end of 2011 his second album as a leader, The Teaser, although the release only recently started receiving promotion. He has been leading bands since he was 21, established himself in Europe, as well as shared stages with numerous major blues names. Born in 1977, his press biography notes that he started playing drums at 7 and guitar at 17, and “was introduced and captivated by the music scene through listening to legendary musicians such as John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins, Albert Collins, B.B. King and Chuck Berry. Hooker particular had a deep influence on him as he states, “John Lee Hooker and his blues was for me, like my grandfather and the tales he use to tell. When I first heard the songs Hobo Blues and Never Get Out of These Blues Alive, I thought to myself, God, I am part of this, I feel it, I belong to this.” 

The years of playing show up on this terrific recording which launches with a hot rocking boogie Real Men Don’t Dance, which in addition to the leader’s gritty singing (“let me see you shake, shake, shake”) and stinging guitar sports some tough harmonica from Maurice Nazzaro and piano from Bob Page. After Page's piano solo, Weevil comes back in singing just backed by John V. McKnight on drums, before the rest of the band joins him for the coda. It is just one example of the terrific interplay between Little G Weevil and his band. The title track slows down just a bit as he delivers the lyric “don’t try to tease the big teaser,” again with a tight groove before Weevil launches some tough slide guitar.

 Highway 78 is a John Lee Hooker styled boogie with a half-spoken vocal against a vamping bass figure that captures Hooker’s classic style while avoiding being an ‘endless boogie’ in the manner of so many Hooker imitators while Back Porch is another Hooker-influenced styled performance, here modeled after some of the slow stomps and dirges that Hooker recorded in the late 40s and early 50’s. Another Hooker styled blues is the solo Losing Cool. These are not simply impressive in Weevil’s evocation of Hooker’s style, but are first-rate originals.

Other audible influence on Weevil is Albert King and Otis Rush, Apple Picker is one of several tunes that he conjures up these influential guitar players. The lyric itself is a fresh one employing a double entendre as he has “everything that a woman needs,” with an explosive guitar solo. Dad’s Story is a nice low-key down home solo blues, while 8.47 is a strutting number with some searing fretwork. She Used To Call Me, is a post-war Texas Blues in the manner of Lightnin’ Hopkins. The closing, Which Way Shall I Go, is a solo hills country styled blues with exhilarating slide guitar.

As mentioned the band (which also includes Bill Burke on bass) plays wonderfully throughout supporting Little G Weevil. Weevil plays in crisp, imaginative, and idiomatic fashion while his vocals are unforced, slightly raspy, and thoroughly convincing in his performances of fresh originals. The Teaser is a terrific album of compelling blues.

A publicist provided my review copy.  Little G Weevil was just announced as the winner of the solo-duo competition of The Blues Foundation's 2013 International Blues Competition in Memphis. Here he is performing at a release party for the CD.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Joanne Shaw Taylor Almost Always Never

Joanne Shaw Taylor’s newest album (her 3rd), Almost Always Never (Ruf Records), has been quietly making an impression on me for some time. The CD was recorded and produced in Austin, Texas by Mike McCarthy (Producer of Patti Griffith and others) and features the British singer-songwriter and guitarist backed by David Garza (keyboards), Billy White (bass/slide guitar) and J.J. Johnson (drums). With the exception of Frankie Miller’s Jealousy, Taylor penned the songs on this.

Her smokey, soulful vocals have the strongest appeal with a simmering intensity which is displayed on Beautifully Broken, with the crisp backing (Garza’s organ really helps frame her vocal) and Taylor’s rocking solo. At spots, her guitar is too much in a rock vein for my taste (the opening Soul Station), but her vocals never disappoint here as she moans and never screams her blues-laced performances. Furthermore, her lyrical takes on standard themes are fresh such as her take on a break-up, You Should Go, I Should Stay, where she tells her ex on her leaving that “you’ve got nothing to be sorry for.” Miller’s Jealousy might be the highlight as she wears her heart on her sleeve with passionate singing with smoldering backing and crisp, searing blues-rock guitar. 

With the performances ranging from the hard rock of Soul Station and Tied and Bound, to the buoyant, rocking ”A hand In Love” and the low-key, acoustic country blues flavor of Army of One, there is plenty to sustain a listener’s interest throughout Almost Always Never. The solid production, and Joanne Shaw Taylor’s strong blues and soul infused performances contribute to a very memorable recording.

I received this from a publicist. Here is a video of her performing Piece of the Sky.