November/December 2008

music by Jimmy Copley

i.V. F.P.Gold-usa

Artist: Super Chikan
Sum’Mo’ Chikan
Label: Chikan Howse Records CH001

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James ‘Super Chikan’ Johnson was born on the sixteenth of February, nineteen fifty-one in Darling Mississippi. As a young boy he had two compelling fascinations; chickens and blues music, the interest in chickens began as a young child when he was too young to work in the cotton fields with the rest of his family. He would spend his days attempting to understand the language of the chickens, he even spent time trying to communicate with the small collection of chickens that his family owned, after spending a good deal of time with these birds his friends and family eventually gave him the moniker ‘Chikan Boy;’ his family also encouraged his interest in music particularly so, his uncle ‘Big’ Jack Johnson.

Due to the extreme poverty in the Delta area that his and other families suffered he was forced by the reality of life in those times to pick cotton at the tender age of eight years old with the rest of his family.

The only instrument available to him at the time was a ‘Diddly Bo’ a creation which consisted of a  length of timber two nails and a length of baling wire, he would eventually go on to create his now famous custom made guitars from five gallon petrol cans. He eventually bought his first guitar aged thirteen from a Salvation Army shop in Clarksdale; it only had two strings but that was of no importance to James, for he finally had the means to create his own unique sound which he could use to not only play the blues but imitate and communicate to his beloved chickens.

In his youth he gained vital musical experience by working with such artists as; Frank Frost, Sam Carr, Wesley Jefferson and Jackie Brenston. It was Whilst working as a tractor driver and then later as lorry driver for twenty plus years that he found the time to incorporate his influences which consisted of Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry, Jimmy Reed, Elmore James, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Slim Harpo to create the ideas in his head some of the numbers that now can be found on some of his intriguing previous albums.

Joining James, who takes lead vocals and guitar, is Daddy Rich; bass, Jameisa “Pinky” Turner; drums and Laura “Lala” Craig, on keyboards for this, his fifth album, a superb collection of twelve numbers which display the dexterity and complexity of James’s rich, mellow compelling and intricate guitarwork. He casually switches from the swinging Texas Blues of Freddy king on “Freddy’s Thang,” to the foot-stomping enticing John Lee Hooker inspired “Hookin’ up,” later, on the album we are treated to sweetly rich slide on the stunning Elmore James influenced “Peter Truck,” sometimes the lyrics are at times suggestive, saucy and even somewhat bawdy, but, you have to listen closely.

Throughout the album James’s voice is sweetly satisfyingly mellow. His chicken picking guitar when the mood takes him is fresh and inviting, it has to be said though that the simplicity of this picking belies the depth of skill that this man possesses. his tight, faultless backing band the Fighting Cocks never miss a beat and I feel that a special mention should be given to the excellent keyboard skills of  Laura “ Lara” Craig.


----- Brian Harman

Artist: Paul Mark & The Van Dorens
Blood & Treasure
Label: Radiation Records RDTN 5901

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As with Paul’s’ last album “Trick Fiction” this new album has been recorded and produced at the world famous Ardent studios in Memphis. Joining Mark again in the producers chair is the highly experienced Jeff Powell; together they continue to infuse the numbers with the goodtime spirit that inhabits these famous studios.

The twelve original numbers are a raucous and vibrant cross-section of styles and genres including Stax influenced soul, vintage rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly, combined with a healthy dose of energised roots music and Americana. All the numbers robustly burst out of the speakers with a fresh confident brashness; whether they are powerful guitar and Hammond B3 organ delivered stormers or plaintive slowburners, all are delivered with the very highest level of professionalism and bags of enthusiasm and fun.

Paul’s stark confident and strident vocals towers above the music driving the numbers forward like a man on a mission. Paul also plays guitar, harmonica and piano, joining him are; James Strain; bass, Harry Peel; drums and congas, Rick Steff; hammondb3 with Susan Marshall and Jackie Johnson providing essential and stalwart backing vocals.

 To some listener’s ears Paul and the band may veer somewhat to closely to the rocky side, but, if in so doing, he may well bring a fresher younger audience to the blues.

A splendid album!

----- Brian Harman

Artist: Fontaine Brown
Title: Tales From The Fence Line
Label: Manatee Records

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Once and awhile  an artist seems to apparently appear from nowhere with an album  that adheres to no specified genre, type or classification it simply is just  out there all on its own, in fact the music on the album  crosses so many boundaries that it should have its’ own passport!

Fontaine Brown has eloquently recorded such an album, Douglas Fontaine Brown was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in nineteen forty-two, but did not stop there long; two weeks in fact; then his father ‘got the wanderlust’  bought a trailer and the family set of for a trip around America stopping of at places that took his fathers’ fancy, they stayed in each place until the novelty wore off.

By the age of nineteen Fontaine was back in Ann Arbor and firmly committed to make and perform music in the same vein as his Rock’n’Roll idols; Little Richard, Elvis Presley and ‘Fats’ Domino. Whilst playing in a band with friends it came to Fontaines’ notice that local D.J Ollie McLaughlin (who at the time was also managing Dell Shannon) was looking for new talent, after meeting him and being impressed with his writing talents. Fontaine was invited to record his number “Blue Night” as single for the Checker Label an offshoot of the famous Chess Label in nineteen sixty-two. Thus the career of Fontaine Brown was started.

He went on to learn the art of song writing under the auspices of Motowns Mickey Stevenson, practising and honing his skills to a fine commercial edge. He also has been part of bands such as; Doug Brown & the Omens and Southwind. Shortly after, he and his band went on their own wanderlust journey for a period of five years. After the novelty of that episode had finally worn off, he settled down to a song writing career which has over the years seen such artists as; Dave Edmunds, Emmylou Harris, John Mayall Dave Alvin Percy Sledge and Joe Louis Walker to name but a few achieve a measure of success after recording a number of his two hundred plus compositions.

Now the wanderlust has returned in the form of perfuming and recording, the album that Fontaine has created with Don Dixon (of R.E.M. fame) sharing the playing and production duties; has fashioned a piece of music that evokes fond memories of hoppin’ n boppin’ and Saturday night jives; mystical apparitions appear from the swampy rock world of John Forgerty; A plethora of sumptuous numbers have been culled from such styles as Rumba, R& B, Esoteric Indian, blues and soul. They all rhythmically compete for your fingers and foot attention. Haunting echoes of Little Walters harp playing pleasantly linger long in the mind. Overall, the album possesses an eerie yet satisfying otherworldly quality that entices you in and charms you to stay within its warm grooving lair as each number smoothly changes to the next.

Stunningly original and moresome!

----- Brian Harman

Artist: Blues4u
Title: In the Mood
Label: Cee PeeVee Records CPVCD 1401

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When you take into consideration the fact that Blues4u are from and reside in Sweden their recordings become all the more impressive and their music more rewarding when you hear the quality of their performance. For, all the artists that record for the CeePeeVee label share an affinity and obvious love for the classic period of the fifties and sixties.

The deep, warmly enveloping chocolaty sound that pours from the speakers like treacle seems to be of a rich and exquisitely inventive mixture of Chicago and Louisiana blues which is all wrapped up in a gorgeous languid production technique that is greatly reminiscent of the wonderful music that was created by the late great Jay Miller.

The members of the band are Mathias Andersen; vocals and harmonica, Thomas Hammarlund; Vocals and guitars, Stefan Lindell; upright bass, and Michael Johansson; drums, with special guests, Fedrick Von Werder; piano, CLaes Parmland; guitar.

Of the fourteen succulent and juicy numbers on the album eight are originals, not that you would notice because the high quality of writing and musicianship seamlessly merges the old with the new.

Mathias and Thomas each have suitably alluring vocals that appear to have been ravaged and scarred over the years by copious imbibing of whiskey and cigarettes.

The insistently twisting and turning hypnotic harmonica which contains definite echoes of Lazy Lester and Slim Harpo throughout the album; is impeccably matched with the urging and enticing but, seemingly reluctant Jazz tinged spine-tingling guitar twangin’ that pervades throughout the proceedings; this is all held together by a wonderfully understated piano, upright bass and drum combination. Whether the numbers are slowburners, shuffles or irresistible footappers, the quality of the music, enthusiasm and effort are guaranteed for your enjoyment.

Simply essential!

----- Brian Harman

Artist: Freeworld
Title: From the Bluff
Label: Swirldisc SD 78453 630

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Just From hearing the opening number, an insistent, pulsating horn and guitar driven sixties styled soul stomper; you feel like you have been completely blown away like some dust encrusted cobweb.

The other ten compositions are band written, highly original and totally mesmerising; each consecutive number merely increases the intensity of mood and emotion felt by the band.

FreeWorld began life in nineteen eighty-seven in Memphis; Created by the veteran and now seventy-eight year old tenor saxophonist Dr. Herman Green with the aim of creating an all inclusive sound which was to reflect the influences of places such as; Memphis, New Orleans and other areas that also have the same freewheeling ethos; places such as that multi-cultural musical hot-bed San Francisco.

This horn driven band sometimes becomes more of an ensemble due in part to the large and varied number of guest musicians who have appeared at one time or another in the past either live onstage or on a recording.

As it is the case on this, their fifth album. the core band members which are; Richard Cushing; lead vocals, bass, sitar and shaker, Dr. Herman Green; tenor saxophone, David Skypeck; drums, E.J.Dyce; trumpet and maracas, Captain Phil McGee; alto, and tenor saxophone. The guest contributions on the album are by; Luther Dickinson; slide guitar, Cody Dickinson; electric washboard, East Memphis Slim; keyboards, Art Edmaiston; tenor and baritone saxophone, William ‘Nokie’ Taylor; trumpet, Richard Thompson; cello, Rick Steff; Hammond b3, Steve Dolan; trumpet Hope Clayburn; alto and baritone saxophone. Harold ‘Sundance’ Thomas and James Govan also provide guest lead vocals.

The music which bursts out from the speakers blasting its way forward like a supercharged screaming steamroller, encompasses the hard strutting funk of the seventies combined with sweat stained, searing urban Jazz infused compact guitarwork that is very reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield.

The horn section which is led by the marvellous seventy-eight year old Herman is just simply relentless the range of styles move smoothly from urban sweetly soft soul into Tower of Power and Weather Report without missing a beat.

At various points on the album you are reminded of those wonderful intense and roaring film scores that were composed for the Blaxpliotation films of the Seventies.

A stunning and mind blowing album!

----- Brian Harman

Arctic ARCD56789

Norwegian four piece Blues Basement (not to be confused with the UK outfit of the same name) have been playing the blues since 1985, and though this is a self-produced release, in the past they have enlisted the help of such luminaries as Alligator’s Bruce Iglauer and Blue Horizon’s Mike Vernon.
Having listened to this CD, it is not difficult to hear what interested these illustrious producers. Blues Basement have a unique sound that is midway between the Blues and Blues-rock, with some subtle rhythms and some screaming guitar work on a programme of 12 originals that often reflect life within the Arctic circle (!) or, on ‘Hellenic Blue’, ancient Greek myths (!!!) There are influences from the likes of John Mayall, Fleetwood Mac, Chicken Shack, Savoy Brown and other late sixties English blues-rockers, but the tracks don’t really sound like anyone else and in the blues world bands like this don’t come along too often – so do try to check them out.

----- Norman Darwen

The Blues Rolls On
Delta Groove DGPCD126

2 Man Wreckin' Crew
Delta Groove DGPCD127

Live At Labatt
Delta Groove DGPCD128

The Delta Groove label has established a strong reputation for high quality modern blues recordings over the last few years and this trio of releases will only add to that reputation.

Elvin Bishop is of course the veteran in this company. Since making his name with The Butterfield Blues Band in the sixties, he has enjoyed a successful solo career, and over the last decade or so he has once again been embraced by the blues audience and released some excellent albums. That this is another is obvious just from looking a the list of guests on the sleeve: BB King, James Cotton, Derek Trucks, George Thorogood, Warren Haynes, Kim Wilson, Tommy Castro, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Angela Strehli, John Nemeth, Homemade Jamz Blues Band and zydecoists R.C. Carrier and Andre Thierry. That lot couldn't fail, but it needs a strong leader to keep the music coherent, and Elvin is indeed a strong leader. This album is a reflection over his lengthy career and a nod to the future of the blues – take a listen to his history on the raucous solo track ‘Oklahoma’. He ranges across his early Ray Charles inspirations with 'Night Time Is The Right Time' (John Nemeth as Ray, Angela Strehli as The Raelettes! It works beautifully), recreations of material he played with Butterfield ('Yonders Wall' and the Howling Wolf-ish 'Who's The Fool',), material he picked up in Chicago, jams with The Allman Brothers in the seventies and the zydeco he recorded with Clifton Chenier (the raw, bluesy ’Black Gal’ could almost be Cliff reincarnated). This CD couldn't fail - and it doesn't. This is a set to return to again and again.

Singer/ drummer Cedric Burnside, the grandson of, and former drummer for, RL, of course, and singer/ guitarist Lightnin’ Malcolm (though both men can and do swap instruments) represent part of the younger up-and-coming blues generation. This is their second CD – their first, ‘Juke Joint Duo’ was an independent release – and it is a perfect showcase for these two young men (Cedric born in 1978, Malcolm in 1974) who both grew up with the North Mississippi blues tradition, though coming to it from opposite directions, and both also brought their own different influences and approaches to it. On three numbers harmonica player Jason Ricci guests – and he fits right in, as you would expect from a former member of Junior Kimbrough’s band. You will hear elements of Jimi Hendrix, a little contemporary rap, some soul (take a listen to ‘Stay Here In Your Arms’) and funk, but mostly you’ll hear a groove, perfect for dancing in a Mississippi juke-joint – try ‘My Sweetheart’ for a good example. Listen to the traditional sounding melody of ‘Nobody Else, set to a backing track that incorporates plenty of those aforementioned outside influences, and then ‘Don’t Just Sing About The Blues’ hits a John Lee Hooker styled groove and just stays there – beautifully! ‘That’s My Girl’ has elements of rap in the vocal, but again a Mississippi styled guitar powering it along. And so this album continues: down-home and traditionally-rooted (hear Cedric’s fife and drum band styled playing on ‘World Full Of Trouble’) but undeniably contemporary, this is a real delight and a concrete answer to those who say the Blues is dead.

Falling between these two generations is harpman and singer Mitch Kashmar, who works with funk group War (filling Lee Oskar’s shoes!) when not pursuing his own career. ‘Live At Labatt’ was recorded in Western Canada and has this dynamic musician stretching out on a variety of blues material, drawn mainly from his previous two releases for the label. He is accompanied by a hot little band comprising former William Clarke’s old guitarist John Marx, pianist Jimmy Calire, bassist Steve Nelson and drummer Tom Lackner, and the results are as hot and swinging as any other California harpmeister you care to name - and hotter and swinginger than many others you can probably think of; the opening two numbers, a swing-blues and a Jimmy Reed styled number should convince you. The playing by all concerned is stupendous throughout, and some of the excitement of the show definitely communicates itself across the laser light. The only thing that is missing are the visuals, as on ‘Dirty Deal’ the crowd can be heard applauding and good though Mitch’s playing is here, I don’t think it is just for that.  However, it’s the music that matters, and yet again, Delta Groove have chalked up another winner.

----- Norman Darwen

Kitchen Table
House Of Mercy HOM001

This is a fine, rootsy and generally very bluesy set from young singer and guitarist (usually a resonator guitar) Bex Marshall – and it isn’t every album that comes complete with a recipe to counteract the munchies! The accompaniments on the ten all-original numbers on this album range from solo items to out-and-out rock band, and the material is similarly varied in approach, from a gentle singer-songwriter styled ‘Here Is My Heart’ (with the lines “I feel like an actress in a real life TV show” – which is in fact autobiographical, and indeed the album title and that recipe mentioned earlier reflect her culinary skills, so I’m told) to a powerful, driving rocker like ‘Hot Headed Man’. ‘Red Light’ is a straightforward blues and the slightly soul-inflected ‘Little Bird’ would be one for radio play if the radio played decent music any more. Occasionally there is also a hint of Ry Cooder and definitely ‘Americana’, particularly when special guests Don Wayne Reno and/ or Dale Reno from The Hayseed Dixies are involved.

Bex has a strong, gritty voice somewhat akin to Tina Turner, Janis Joplin or maybe Bonnie Tyler or Joan Armatrading, and her songs are equally intelligent and interesting. She plays all the guitars on this set – from the deep, Delta drone of ‘Too Much Rock & Roll’ to the occasional hint of heavy psychedelia. Definitely a name to watch for – but while you’re waiting, do take a listen to this CD.

----- Norman Darwen

Keepin' Good Folks Joyful
Plan-It PPCD 0019

Dan Treanor is one of the more interesting characters around on today's blues scene. He makes contemporary blues by going back to the roots - both African roots and Mississippi, as here he plays the West African khalam, the 'primitive' cane flute and diddley bow, and a mean blues harmonica. The opening track, 'Tumblin' Blues', also manages to make musical reference to Africa, twenties Mississippi, fifties Muddy Waters, and blues-rockers The North Mississippi All-Stars. Of course, it helps that he has Richard Ray Farrell along, the versatile singer and guitarist himself no stranger to this type of blues - the first time I saw him he was opening for and backing RL Burnside back in the early nineties (check out the track here entitled 'Mr. Burnside'). The results are indeed intriguing - try Little Walter's 'Just Keep Lovin' Her', which makes plain Walter's roots in Sonny Boy Williamson I, or the Howling Wolf into psychedelia approach of the mighty 'Rock Me'. Jimmy Rogers' 'You're The One' is given a lovely straightahead Chicago treatment with plenty of wailing harp, and T-Bone Walker's 'Blue Mood' is very aptly named! And those who know me know you can't fail to please me with a Hound Dog Taylor cover, as long as it is at least half-decent - and this cover of 'She's Gone' is much more than that. If you want contemporary, I guess that the rap on 'Mississippi Fred's Dream' covers that - especially when it is set over a Bo Diddley beat and sports a cane flute introduction! Throughout, the Afrosippi Blues Band - Jodie Woodward on bass and Kyle Roberts drums and percussion - contribute tight, driving grooves. This is an intriguing CD, as I said - and thoroughly enjoyable listening.

----- Norman Darwen

Livin’ It
IBF Records IBFR 1003

Young singer and guitarist Guy is probably best known for his stint with the late and much missed Chicago blues stalwart Willie Kent. His own music is a little smoother than Willie’s, but the mentor obviously taught his student well as Guy is thoroughly steeped in the blues. There is a strong influence from BB King to be heard in Guy’s clean, precise and concise guitar work and excellent vocals (try the original ‘My Pretty Baby’). For the most part this is small combo blues centred around the rhythm section of Patrick William on bass and drummer Isaiah Spencer, with Ben Paterson adding distinctive textures on electric piano and organ. There are some excellent horns in places and a subtly effective use of backing singers too. The majority of the material consists of notable original compositions (do take a listen to ‘The Story’) but there are also excellent covers such as T-Bone Walker’s ‘I’m Still In Love With You’ which has a rather fine soul-ballad influence, Percy Mayfield’s Ray Charles-ish ‘Stranger In My Own Hometown’ and Little Johnny Taylor’s brassy rhythm & blues number, ‘If You Love Me Like You Say’ (with some Albert Collins styled guitar) – plus Willie Kent’s ‘Countdown’ coupled with Jimmy McCracklin’s ‘Think’. And I think Willie would be proud of the firmly blues-rooted but individual music of his protégé.

----- Norman Darwen

Lester’s Legendary Last Gig
Moulin Blues Ospel

There is a warning at the beginning of this DVD that this material was never intended for release and an apology for the poor visual and sound quality. It is not really necessary, as there are many releases around these days that offer far less quality without any advance notice – and these are historic recordings anyway.

Lester Butler was the singer and harmonica player with the Red Devils, forerunners perhaps of the current wave of young blues punks. There are three titles from The Red Devils’ 1993 appearance at the Moulin Blues Ospel in Holland, though the main part of this DVD is Lester’s appearance with the band 13 (Alex Schultz on guitar, Mike Hightower on bass and drummer Eddie Clark) along with some fascinating studio footage. Lester was a non-stop, high-energy player and some of his (and the band’s) raw sound is akin to that of the early, earthy days of the British blues boom – think The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds and the like. But then again, Lester could – and here he did - attract guests of the calibre of Joe Louis Walker, James Harman, and Billy Branch to back up his blues credentials. Towards the end a couple of tracks take on the nature of an inspired jam session.

Lester died on 9th May 1998 at the age of 38 – seven days after this show. This release marks the tenth anniversary of the death of a widely respected musician, whose influence is perhaps greater now than it was during his lifetime. As the modern blues evolves, Lester’s role in its development is becoming more and more pronounced.

----- Norman Darwen

Boogie Portraits
Swing Alley sa 012

This Spanish pianist – who is also one of the prime movers behind the Barcelona Blues Festival – has an excellent release here. He opens with a fine example of his own piano playing, and the remaining eleven titles then find him working alongside equally impressive boogie-woogie and blues players from across Europe and America, with the styles ranging from out-and-out boogie such as the Albert Ammons styled ‘Swanee River Boogie’ with Bob Seeley to low-down blues (try ‘School Days On My Mind’ with Barrelhouse Chuck, who also turns in an excellent vocal). Along the way are such items as ‘CC Rider’ in duet with Carl Sonny Leyland, the New Orleans-ish ‘Red Beans’ with Mitch Woods, and the cool and hip early sixties styled ‘Stick With It’ with Philippe LeJeune. Better to listen to the whole CD though - every track is a gem!

----- Norman Darwen

Dusty Records 002

Singer/ guitarist/ various other string instruments-alist Emily Druce has created a stir on the UK blues scene, alongside her musical partner Steve Jones on guitar/ vocals and harmonica. The Whys And Wherefores is a new band the two of them have formed, bringing in a drummer, Marc Layton-Bennett, lap steel and regular guitarist John Barker, and sousaphonist Martin Wydell reflecting the northern brass band roots of the founders. Emily has a fine, swinging voice, whilst Steve sings the blues smoothly but with grit – and the blues is certainly one of the ingredients on offer on this excellent recording. Present too are rockabilly, honky-tonk country, southern soul (don’t be surprised if a big name picks up on ‘Rough Diamond’), Cab Calloway styled jazz, blues-rock on ‘I Thought I Loved Someone Else’, and even reggae with a version of Bob Marley’s ‘Lively Up Yourself’ where the sousaphone really comes into its own! A lovely set – not for the purists maybe but everyone else will enjoy this.

----- Norman Darwen

Luck In A Hurry
Vizztone BK 003

Based around singer/ wild electric slide guitarist Ted Drozdowski and a drummer - usually Rob Hulsman or Larry Dersch on this CD - and augmented with guests such as the late pianist Teo Leyasmeyer (a familiar name to followers of modern blues), singer Dickie Barrett of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Devil Gods, former employees of Ted's, Scissormen purvey a powerful, punky and challenging form of blues-rock. That they can play the music (kind of) straight is demonstrated on 'Mattie Sweet Mattie' (with Leyasmeyer and fiddler Dan Kellar) and a cover of Son House's 'Preachin' The Blues' (again with Teo). Elsewhere there are shades of experimental rock and the droning North Mississippi hill country blues. This is music for the kids who have grown up with the likes of Jon Spencer's Blues Explosion, RL Burnside's Fat Possum recordings, the North Mississippi All-Stars, The White Stripes and The Black Keys - but some older readers do enjoy them as well, you know.

----- Norman Darwen

The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band
Fairfield Halls, Croydon. 2nd November 2008.

The last time Mick Fleetwood appeared at the Fairfield Halls was on 27th May 1973 with the then new Fleetwood Mac line-up; now in 2008 Mick has dusted himself off from his wine cellars and felt the urge to re-visit his first love, the blues. His new band features Rick Vito on Vocals and guitar with Mark Johnstone; keyboards and Lenny Castellanos; bass.

The evening began rather ominously with all ticket holders having to change their tickets from the smaller Ashcroft Theatre for tickets to the main concert hall; one can only assume that this was due to an unexpected demand for tickets. Nevertheless once inside the hushed surroundings of the main hall we were introduced to Todd Wolf a one time member of Sheryl Crowe’s band. Prior to this evening his band would have been with him onstage with him, but, for one reason or another they had returned to America sometime earlier during the tour; this situation actually became a bonus for all concerned because it gave Todd a great opportunity to display his dexterity and ingenuity on the acoustic guitar and also his blistering slide skills on the electric guitar. His solo performance was as completely engrossing as it was enjoyable.

It must be said that as the material being played by Mick and his band was a mixture of Peter green and Rick Vito numbers comparisons between the guitarists would be inevitable so Rick stated at start of the proceedings that he would playing interpretations of the originals and would not try to copy the singular talents of the now almost legendary Peter Green. The set kicked-off with a rousing version of Red Hot Girl, which set the mood and pace for the evening. Numbers such as; “Oh Well!” “Rattlesnake Shake” “Black Magic Woman,” were mixed with “Fleetwood Boogie,” and “I Got A Hole In My Shoe.” and Elmore James’ “Shake Your Moneymaker.” The level of musicianship throughout the set was of the highest order, the bands’ sound was crisp, sharp and crunching and oh, so tight.

Ricks’ guitar playing and especially his slide work, was as sharp and deadly as an ice pick. All his crowd pleasing showmanship came to the fore but it was evident to all that it was the music that was most important here.

Mick’s obvious enthusiasm for the music that he was once again playing, translated into an animated drum performance that can only be described as that of “Animal, (from the Muppet Show) on speed” with his ever rolling eyes manically bulging out staring into space, while his head bobbed every which way and the sticks in his hands remorselessly pummelling the drum kit with the accuracy of a well drilled sniper hitting his target every time.

After a performance of nearly two hours of solid blues a surprisingly satisfyingly rendition of “Albatross” was played as part of the encore which sent everyone home happy!

----- Brian Harman

Artist: Liz Mandeville
Title: Red Top
Label: Earwig CD 4954

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During the eighties and early nineties Liz toured across America and Canada, performing her very upfront and very contemporary style of blues at various blues venues and events. A chance meeting with Aron Burton in nineteen ninety-four ultimately led to an appearance with him at the Chicago Blues Festival later that year.

A subsequent guest appearance on Arons’ nineteen ninety-six Earwig release led to Liz being signed to the Earwig label.

Whilst studying for her music degree in Jazz Improvisation and Musicianship at Columbia University Liz obtained a residency at Blue Chicago Club which was to last for over five years. In two thousand and six as the artist in residence she hosted The Blue Monday show from the Kingston Mines Nightclub in Chicago; the City that she has made her home for the last twenty years.

On this the fourth album from Liz on the Earwig Label, there have been very fine contributions from over fifteen stalwart musicians, sadly, far too many to mention here although there is room to praise the stonkin’ honkin’; from Tenor Sax wizard Eddie Shaw. The fifteen original compositions from Liz are varied to say the least, ranging from sweet soulful late night crooning to downright risqué, raunchy and bawdy belters placed alongside pulsating floor filling shufflers and table rattling stompers.

The overall sound of the album is of a combination of ‘Honky Tonk’ piano lurking in the background while an insistent ever-present twangin guitar is pleasantly riffing away. Liz belts out the lyrics in a fine blues shouting tradition. The rhythm and horn section together meanwhile, create a loose but nevertheless, all-embracing Jazz inspired smoke-filled late night club feel to the whole enterprise.

Liz’s vocal delivery follows in the long line of strong-willed and highly emotive women singers who you fully believe mean every word that they utter; a good number of female singers are available as comparisons, but I would suggest a combination of the talents of; Maggie Bell and Bette Midler are a fair and reasonable description of Liz’s vocal talents.

A very interesting album!

----- Brian Harman

Artist: Travis “Moonchild “Haddix
Title: Daylight at Midnight
Label: Earwig CD4955

For more information go to or

Travis was born on the twenty-sixth of November, nineteen-thirty-eight, in the little known Hatchie Bottom in Mississippi. His Parents were sharecroppers as most people in the area, his life would have been one of unremitting drudgery and poverty if were not for three events which would changed his whole future. Firstly, his family moved to nearby the nearby town of Walnut; this move placed the family closer to the city and the nearest city was Memphis. Secondly Travis’s father Chalmus “Rooster” Haddix was also an accomplished musician proficient on a number of instruments who with his brother would play at Saturday night fish fries. His third life changing event was the meeting of B.B, King at the Memphis radio station W.D.I.A. After this meeting Travis promptly changed from learning to play the piano to learning to play the guitar.

After leaving high school in nineteen sixty-one Travis was drafted in to the army and was given a simple choice, play his guitar for the troops or enjoy the benefits of guard duty, as you can imagine the choice was not difficult.

Not wishing to abandon his day job (he worked for General Motors for twenty-two years and for the Postal Service another twenty-two years) he decided to play at weekends and in the evenings only, so forcing him to refuse an invitation to tour with Johnny Taylor after being seen opening for Johnny at the Plush Entertainment Centre, one of Cleveland’s more high profile music clubs.

Travis eventually gained a contract with Ichiban Records after supporting Clarence Carter also at the Plush Entertainment Centre. He released his first album in nineteen eighty-eight and followed it with four more albums. With the demise of the Ichiban label in the nineties Travis simply created his own label Wann-Sonn records. It was upon hearing Daylight at Midnight that the Earwig label owner Michael Frank signed Travis for future recordings.

It is at some point during the first few numbers that you realise that the talents of Travis are something special; for although we are hearing the blues, the vocal delivery from Travis smoothly changes as the number demands from a commanding gruff no-nonsense blues shouter to a sublime crooning soulman. His band consists of; Travis; vocals & solo guitar, Greg Nicholson and Ray DeForest; bass, Mike Calhoun; lead guitar, Bob Frank; lead guitar & harmonica, Gil Zachary; keyboards, Jeremy Sullivan; drums and Robert ‘Red Top’ Young; Hammond B3.

   Throughout the ten original numbers Travis and the band weave a magical aural thread that deftly encompasses genres such as; stax, deep soul, funk and rockin’ blues. Underpinning Travis’s sound is a rock solid horn section supplied by Jeff Hager; trumpet,  David Ruffin; tenor sax, Gus Hawkins; alto sax, and T. J. Fortunato; baritone sax. This gives the whole proceedings a feeling of timelessness.

Well worth a listen!

----- Brian Harman


Acoustics CDACS041

Hilary James plays bass and sings in a pure, folky voice, and here she is backed by a small, acoustic based combo. She is best known as a folk singer in Britain, but on  this set originally released in 1999, she presents various shades of blues, from the opening Western swing styled cover of Jimmie Rodgers ‘Travellin’ Blues’ to Hoagy Carmichael’s ‘Hong Kong Blues’, a couple of Memphis Minnie’s (‘Me And My Chauffeur’ and ‘One Black Rat’) and Blind Blake’s ‘Fightin The Jug’ to Louis Jordan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens’. Some excellent fiddle from multi-instrumentalist Simon Mayor enlivens an attractive and generally mellow set that is certainly different from the norm, but very, very enjoyable and eminently listenable.

----- Norman Darwen

Rich Man Falling

Nugene NUG804

Simon McBride is a young Irish blues-rock guitarist working within the power trio format, so the comparisons with Rory Gallagher are inevitable. However, Simon’s music is even further to the rock side than Rory’s, and Jimi Hendrix is an obvious influence – and not just on the excellent cover of Jimi’s ‘Power Of Soul’ that concludes this CD. Only ‘Standing Still’ is out and out rock though and as there is also a cover version of UK blues-rock outfit Free’s ‘Be My Friend’, it seems not unreasonable to assume a healthy dose of late sixties/ early seventies blues-rock stylings too – try Led Zeppelin as well, maybe. So yes, Simon is a more than accomplished guitarist – he won Guitarist Magazine’s ‘Young Guitarist Of The Year’ 13 years ago, and has only improved since then – but he is also a strong vocalist, with a voice that suits his material. If you like the UK Blues-rock scene and go for music that is muscular, hot, loud and rocky, this CD is definitely for you.

----- Norman Darwen

Passion Flower 1940 - 46
SPV/ Blue 305822 CD

Alto and soprano saxophonist Johnny Hodges (1907 – 1970) was indisputably one of jazz’s greats, with a distinctive and easily recognisable tone and approach. He was long associated with Duke Ellington, and indeed the final 13 tracks (out of 22) are recordings he made as a member of that illustrious jazz orchestra. So what is he doing here? Well, the clue lies in the recording dates, as the theory that rhythm & blues came about when the big bands slimmed down for economic reasons is fairly well-established – but it is not the whole story. Take a listen to the closing ‘Rockabye River (Hop, Skip, Jump)’ which certainly does do the latter – and although there is little blues content as such, it does permeate much of the band’s work here. Ivy Anderson has a fine vocal on ‘I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)’, a song not unlikely to crop up in the repertoire of female jazz and blues singers even nowadays. It might also be worth pointing out the presence in Ellington’s band of pioneer rhythm & blues man Cootie Williams, and meaty tenor saxist Al Sears (who later recorded the mighty R&B number ‘Castle Rock’ with Hodges). Even if this does not convince of Johnny’s justified inclusion on this website, then the first nine titles will. Recorded with a smaller unit under his own name (and including Ellington on piano), many of these titles could slip unnoticed onto an R&B release, based as they are on blues structures and using blues techniques. Try such numbers as ‘Good Queen Bess’ (here in two different takes), ‘That’s The Blues, Old Man’, ‘Junior Hop’, ‘Squatty Roo’, ‘Goin’ Out The Back Way’ and especially ‘Things Ain’t What They Used To Be’, and see if you don’t agree. Of far more than mere historical interest, this is an excellent, entertaining and educative release.

----- Norman Darwen

JON LORD With The Hoochie Coochie Men
Live At The Basement
Edel 0186222ERE

This triple CD is an Australian recorded blues set from the keyboards man with heavy rockers Deep Purple – but those who are expecting some kind of heavy metal blues will be disappointed, as the music is fine and surprisingly straightforward blues for the most part. The Hoochie Coochie Men are an accomplished Australian outfit and guest vocalist Jimmy Barnes is a rock legend down under, but the tracks (plenty of standards with a sprinkling of originals) have a strong UK blues feel to them – Jon started his musical career in the British R&B boom, so maybe that’s only to be expected. Many of these numbers have been issued before – though they may not always have been easily available in Europe – and the DVD containing most of the songs here was reviewed in Blues Art Journal of January/ February 2008, but this release also contains previously unissued television, rehearsal and interview material. It is also a limited edition of 5000, so if you want a copy, it would be best to pick one up as quickly as possible.

----- Norman Darwen

Artist: Jimmy Copley & Friends
Title: Slap My Hand
Label: Self produced

For more information go to

Although Jimmy started his drumming career in a band named ‘Spread Eagle’ who had supported bands such as Genesis and Lindisfarne he did not really make his mark in the music world until he teamed up with Andy Clarke and Stephen Amazing to form UPP. It has now gone into legend that whilst the band were rehearsing for their debut album Jeff Beck wandered into the studio and was so impressed with that which he was hearing that he promptly took them under his wing and not only produced their debut album but he also played on it as well. Their second and last album also featured Jeff Beck, it was released in nineteen seventy-six, also during that time UPP toured England and Europe with Beck Bogart & Appice.

Shortly afterwards the band members went their separate ways and throughout the following two decades Jimmy focused his attention mainly on session work and touring. During that time he has played with such diverse artists as Tina Turner and Tears for Fears. Over the last ten or so years Jimmy has been a vital member of many bands and musical partnerships, but now devotes his time between the Manfred Mann Earthband and his solo career.

Throughout Jimmy’s career he has had the good fortune to work with a number of extremely talented guitarists, from Jeff Beck through to his current collaborator the Japanese guitarist Char.

Usually any album with the phrase ‘and friends’ in the title should invariably be avoided as they are normally an excuse for a glorified karaoke session which in turn becomes a contract filler. Happily I can without a shadow of a doubt state that this album is light years away from my initial fears.

The fifteen numbers found on this album are all bursting with a surging vitality which translates into lightning strikes of sound that explode out of the speakers with spine tightening crispness, coupled with a clarity of freshness and originality that shakes the senses and focuses the mind.

The guitarists featured on the album are, in no particular order; Jeff Beck, Char, Micky Moody, Bernie Marsden and Steve Evans together they raise the tone of the album to a higher level.

Peter Cox’s soft, relaxed voice is certainly attuned to the almost whimsical goodtime approach to the numbers.

Obviously, with the lead instrument being the drums one could be expecting an ear-bashing, but no, Jimmy has infused his playing with a jaunty, roaming spirit, whether it be a happy go lucky second line strut or a loose played blues standard.

The whole emphasis is on fun, fizzing guitars and delectable drumming.

Not only is this album funtime but it also absorbing and richly rewarding, especially the cutting-torch guitar solo accompaniments which jostle for elbow room in an overflowing musical feast.

Well! I think it’s essential!

>>>>> Brian Harman

Artist: Scott Ellison
Title: Ice Storm
Label: EARWIG CD4956

For more information go to: or

Scott was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in nineteen, fifty-four; a city that was not only made famous in song, but was, in the seventies the musical base of Freddy Kings’ and Eric Clapton’s bands, Leon Russell’s Shelter Records was also based there. In his youth Scott absorbed any and all possible musical influences he could find to improve his knowledge and skills in his desire to become a blues guitarist. After starting his first band in his youth he performed assiduously for a number of years as a regular feature on the local club circuit.

In nineteen seventy-seven he was invited to tour with Jessica James (the daughter of Conway Twitty) in nineteen eighty-one he came to the attention of Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Brown promptly invited him to play rhythm in his band. He later re-located to Los Angeles and backed artists and bands such as; The Coasters, The Shirelles and the Box Tops; by the nineteen nineties he was supporting major artists such as; Roy Orbison, Buddy Guy, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell and The Fabulous Thunderbirds to name but a few.

Over the years Scott has been a prolific performer and recording artist with a good number of  solid albums to his name and with this his latest, we are treated to a suitably enticing piece of music with an urgent loping shuffling backbeat layered with prowling keyboard work, led by a relentless axe; as if charging towards a mythical beast. Scott’s slow wailing chainsaw/grinding guitar work is very much accentuated by a sweetly lyrically loping slide which encompasses the albums whole sound like a trawling net. His vocals are suitably hoarse and throaty definitely in need of a soothing lozenge!

The urgency of all the numbers never lessens; Scott and his band have somewhere fast to go and nothing is going to stop them; even on the extremely pleasant slowburners the illusion of never-ending forward motion is always lurking around.

There are lovely hints and tinges of Albert Collins and Freddy King throughout the twelve numbers on the album which are wholly Scott originals, some of the numbers incorporate the utilisation on of a highly talented and flexible horn section which is used to great effect, but especially so on the instrumental number “Ice Storm,” these deft touches merely accentuates Scott’s expanding musical talents and maturity.

A very nice album indeed!

>>>>> Brian Harman

I’m Here Baby
Blue Witch BWR 102

House Rockin’ And Blues Shoutin’!
Blue Witch BWR 103

Travelin’ The Dirt Road
Blue Witch BWR 104

Downsville Blues
Blue Witch BWR 105

During ‘Family Meeting’ (Ruf), the excellent movie focussing on Finland’s Wentus Blues Band, Kim Wilson is talking to Louisiana Red and mentions an album Red made in Phoenix, Arizona with “Bob” – “it’s a killer, man”, opines Kim. Well, Bob is Bob Corritore, harmonica ace, record producer, tireless champion of the Blues and boss of the Rhythm Room in Phoenix. He is also responsible for these four albums, all very different from each other but all real blues.

Singer Big Pete Pearson has a fine, big blues voice; he is of a generation old enough not to be influenced by ‘soul-blues’ and those kind of singers are hard to find nowadays. His major influence seems to be BB King and his very sympathetic backing band is the Rhythm Room All-Stars (Bob on harmonica, Chris James and Johnny Rapp guitars Patrick Rynn on bass, and Brian Fahey on drums), augmented by such high calibre guest as guitarists W.C. Clark (who also duets on vocals on two numbers), Ike Turner and Kid Ramos, harpman Johnny Dyer, pianist Leon Blue and drummers Chico Chism and Richard Innes (that is not to denigrate those I have overlooked, just that these names are more likely to be known to many readers). This is a straightforward, classy album of gritty, impassioned blues singing.

The Various Artists set next. I could just list the artists, but that would be the easy way out.
This set has the subtitle ‘Celebrating 15 Years Of The Rhythm Room’ and some party it is. The Fabulous Thunderbirds open with a lovely down-home stomper (the first of three offerings they have here) and we’re off - through offerings from the likes of local artists such as Chief Schabuttie Gilliame (with harpman Johnny Dyer and pianist Henry Gray) through well-known and highly respected blues acts such as Louisiana Red, Long John Hunter (solo and revealing his Lightnin’ Hopkins roots), Sonny Rhodes and his wailing lap steel turning in a soulful Elmore James cover, a solo Robert Lockwood Jr., the romping jump-blues of Floyd Dixon, and Chicago’s Billy Boy Arnold as impressive as always, and on to the wonderful mixture of blues originals and revivalists as The Mannish Boys with Finis Tasby (and I haven’t mentioned Big Pete Pearson or Paul Oscher yet, whilst Henry Gray also has a fine boogie-woogie, in which Kid Ramos takes a memorable guitar solo). Again, the collective backing includes such talented musicians as the renowned Bay Area bassist Henry Oden, pianist Leon Blue and the Rhythm Room All-Stars again. This CD should be sold by the Phoenix, Arizona tourist board – it’s enough to make me want to buy a plane ticket there right now!

Bob’s set with Dave Riley has won all kinds of acclaim and it is all deserved. Dave is on guitar and vocals with Bob on harp, plus Johnny Rapp on guitar on eight titles, Matt Bishop piano on three and bass duties shared between Dave Riley Jr. and Paul Thomas. Tom Coulson drums on the eight tracks on which Rapp appears. The guys work through a programme of numbers that reflect Dave’s Hattiesburg, Mississippi background, and are all Riley-penned originals apart from ‘I’m Not Your Junkman’ and ‘Doggone Blues’,  which Dave learned his blues from his friend and mentor, the late John ‘So Blue’ Weston; other influences on Dave include Sam Carr and Frank Frost. It goes without saying of course that he has a no nonsense approach to his music, reflected in the down-home concerns and musical approach of much of the material. Bob himself grew up in Chicago and studied the likes of Walter Horton, Louis Myers, Little Willie Anderson and others; he certainly learned well if his rich, varied and always appropriate playing on this set is any indicator (and it is!). If you don’t enjoy this set, chances are you don’t like the blues.

Finally to Tomcat Courtney’s album then – I remember reading about him in Living Blues many, many years back and actually heard him on Advent’s ‘San Diego Blues Jam’ LP from 1974, but he is hardly a household name. Maybe this set will help to change that, at least bringing him recognition on the wider blues scene – he deserves it. Tomcat was born in Texas in 1929 and grew up in the town of Downsville, where his father ran a juke-joint. Later he worked on a minstrel show, where he began singing the blues, and later was inspired to take up the guitar after hearing John Lee Hooker’s ‘Boogie Chillen’. In 1951 he married the niece of bluesman Smoky Hogg, and picked up his stage name in Albuquerque some time in the same decade.After some time in Los Angeles, he settled in San Diego and became a mention to up-and-coming guitarist Chris James (yes, he of the house band at The Rhythm Room) – which is how this CD came about. With support from Bob Corritore, Chris James, Patrick Rynn and drum duties split between Brian Fahey and former Muddy Waters employee Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith’, this is a very fine album with Tomcat’s vocals and guitar offering strong hints of those early post-war Texas country blues, perhaps leaning a little more towards the Chicago sound when Bob blows. Some of the songs are topical but all are undeniably traditional in execution – and not just such venerable items as ‘Meet Me In The Bottom’ and ‘Bottle Up And Go’. Please Bob, let’s have more from the Tomcat soon – very soon.

Yes, Kim Wilson is right – Bob Corritore does make killer albums!

----- Norman Darwen

Le Blues Hot
ManHatTone 1050


Brad Vickers may be known to some from his recordings with Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin or Little Mike & The Tornadoes; or maybe you’ve been lucky enough to catch his shows. He tunes his guitar in ‘Vestapol’, hence the band name – and what a band.
Sax and clarinet master Jim Davis (Hubert Sumlin, Paul Oscher) adds an old-fashioned jazzy feel, drummer Barry Harrison is best known for his work with Johnnie and Shemekia Copeland – which speaks for itself – and bassist and sometime fiddler and singer Margey Peters is a familiar name to New York blues watchers (both she and Barry play with Big Frank & The Healers). Special guest the up-and-coming Dave Gross supplies guitar and upright bass too, but this is Brad’s album, as he turns in excellent slide guitar numbers (occasionally tending towards the Hawaiian, or on ‘I’m Homesick’, guess who?), skiffle, hokum and/ or ragtime styled tunes, or fine down-home blues.
A very distinctive and appealing sound.

----- Norman Darwen

In Your Own Time
(Own label)

This New York singer/ conga player/ bandleader is certainly an interesting character. It would be difficult to pigeonhole this CD. There is plenty of jazz, much of it with a bebop flavour, though a couple have a strong blue tinge; there’s a little blues, R’n’B and soul music, influenced by the jazz-blues great Lou Rawls; there’s some Latin jazz and salsa too. Most of the tracks – the ones that have vocals anyway - are in English, though there is some Spanish too.  It is a highly energetic release, with a good feeling and sense of enthusiasm that is infectious. His band is with him all the way. Don’t let the brevity of this review deter you – if what you have read interests you, then do check this out, chances are you’ll enjoy it a lot.

----- Norman Darwen

Poorman Blues

It is all too easy these days to forget that there was a time when the Blues was more than someone who owned a Stratocaster and never plays it below the twelfth fret. Back in the sixties it was a prerequisite that a bluesman kept his tracks to three and a half minutes – maximum – on record at least, which meant the instrumental break had to be concise, to the point, and meaningful. Alternatively, you could go the instrumental route – as Freddy King did, and how long is it since you heard a really good blues guitar instrumental, as opposed to a jam. Well, on this evidence, Italian Guitar Ray (Scona) remembers, as on this set he demonstrates a strong feel for the music, as do his band.
Take ‘The Conspiracy Boogie’ for example – yes, it is indeed a piano feature – ‘nuff said, in one sense, Ray doesn’t hog the limelight. But do listen to the dynamics – as on several numbers, this is an old fashion sense of dynamics, keeping something in reserve, a facet too often overlooked these days. Or try maybe ‘A Poor Man (Like Me)’, largely a slab of Mexican flavoured pop-rock, recalling the days when a bluesman was not averse to incorporating seemingly different elements. And I mentioned instrumentals, didn’t I? If you nodded your head to my earlier question, lend an ear to the Ike & Tina inspired ‘Everything Is Gonna Be Alright/ Cry For Jerusalem. Yes, there are very few around these days with the taste, class and ability to pull off such a satisfying set as this. International blues ace Otis Grand could do it maybe. Oh, did I mention that Otis produced, arranged (and do listen to some of those arrangements) and provided a lot of the material? No? – well, you might have guessed it anyway, and Ray certainly deserves our thanks for bringing it to fruition.

----- Norman Darwen

See The Light
SPV/ Blue 305742 CD

Hell To Pay
SPV/ Blue 305732 CD

Feel This
SPV/ Blue 305722 CD

(Please note that the above are in chronological, not numerical order)

Released in October 1988, Jeff Healey’s ‘See The Light’ was one of the earliest successes of the current Blues revival. Back at that time, Robert Cray was still young and still having to convince everyone of his worth, and Stevie Ray Vaughn was heading for blues-rock stardom. Jeff Healey burst onto a scene ready to accept him, a young blind guitarist with a different way of playing (flat on his lap) and rock sensibilities. ‘See The Light’ quickly became a hit album; even its cover became something approaching iconic in the blues-rock scene, and Healey went on to enjoy popularity with heard-rock audiences too. It is often stated that the band peaked too soon, this debut album being a peak from which they could only go downhill, and there is some justification to this viewpoint. There are many highlights to the set: ‘Don’t Let Your Chance Go By’ is a boogying outing with screaming guitar work and Jeff’s harmonica playing, Freddy King’s instrumental ‘Hideaway’ was nominated for a Grammy award, whilst another instrumental, ‘Nice Problem To Have’, approaches a down-home sound, and Jeff’s cover of ZZ Top’s slow ‘Blue Jean Blues’ and the more up tempo, searing title track are the very definition of blues-rock. The John Hiatt-penned Eagles-ish ballad ‘Angel Eyes’ reached the Top 5 of the American charts when released as a single, and ‘River Of No Return’ is akin to Creedence Clearwater Revival. With hindsight the influence of this album on the present blues-rock scene is quite easy to hear.

‘Hell To Pay’ was not quite as popular as its predecessor – though some enthusiasts rate it as Jeff’s best. It depends on your taste; there is little blues per se on this sophomore set, even if Healey’s playing is shot through with the blues. Much of it sounds like American rock of the time, though interestingly a couple of numbers sound like The Yardbirds circa 1966, and the cover of The Beatles ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ (which has George Harrison as guest) has ensured that it is fondly remembered. 1992’s ‘Feel This’ is certainly bluesier, right from the boogie based opener, and many of the tracks fit quite comfortably into a (loud) blues-rock bag – except for the cover of Tom Petty’s ‘Lost In Your Eyes’. However, that may be quickly forgotten as it is immediately followed by the bulldozing ‘House That Love Built’, the heavy blues ‘Evil And Here To Stay’, the rocking ‘My Kinda Lover’ and the excellent blues-flavoured ‘It Could All get Blown Away’. This bluesy groove then stops unfortunately with the ballad ‘You’re Coming Home’ and the strange rap-metal of ‘If You Can’t Feel Anything Else’. The two final numbers opt more for a traditional rock approach. For this set, the basically trio sound of the previous two albums is augmented by keyboards, which does provide a slightly different sound overall.

Jeff Healey died tragically young on 21st March 2008, just before his first blues-rock album for eight years was due to be released. These albums, and particularly ‘See The Light’ indicate what a loss this was; Jeff could certainly turn in excellent blues-rock when he wanted.

----- Norman Darwen

Mister Eclectic
Start It Up TLDC08

This is the fourth CD from Ontario, Canada based singer and guitarist Lou, and as with its predecessors, it definitely gets the thumbs up. Lou is a blues guitarist, but equally, he is unafraid to ‘mix it up'. The opener is a fine example; is it blues or is it jazz? It is accomplished enough to please fans of both genres, I guess. Next up is a tough piece of funk-blues, then some more or less straight blues, with Lou’s cool singing throughout. ‘Drivin’ Down The Line’ is a blues, though with a curious riff that owes a lot to jazz and rock. As the CD title indicates, the set continues in this eclectic vein with blues, soul ballads, funk and even some country-rock. As the backing musicians include two horns, the famed blues harpman Carlos Del Junco and Bob Taillefer on pedal steel guitar, Lou always has the band to pull it off. How come no big label has signed this guy up yet? Buy this and be one step ahead.

----- Norman Darwen

Blood & Treasure
Radiation Records RDTN 5901

Recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee in 2008 for Radiation Records, the label Paul founded in 1995, this is multi-instrumentalist Paul Mark’s seventh CD. Checking out his website, it appears that Paul specializes in American roots music – of numerous kinds – though the predominant vibes on this set are, unsurprisingly given the recording location maybe, the Stax sound and vintage rock ‘n’ roll. It is not purely unadulterated either, as the opener is a modern sounding rocker, but then try ‘Raise The Roof’ (Rick Steff’s Hammond organ is a real stand-out here). ‘Lotta Things To Say’ is a bopping slab of ‘neo-rockabilly meets Bob Dylan’ (Dylan influences crop up elsewhere too) and ‘Let Them Talk’ a relatively conventional cover of Little Willie John’s proto-soul hit, but many of the songs switch naturally and imperceptibly from rock to blues to soul – and do take a listen to the storming, supercharged instrumental ‘Ruff House’. There’s rather a fine sense of humour to be found in places too, both lyrically and musically. The result is a very interesting release indeed.

Nice to see too that “Paul Mark endorses no products of any kind” – that’s pretty refreshing!

----- Norman Darwen

Blue-Eyed Devil

Blonde On Blonde JGCD-01

The Shakedown Blues gigs in the east of England regularly present obscure blues acts such Shorty Billups and Joe Jonas, and enjoy a formidable reputation among lovers of the hardcore blues sound. James Goodwin is the pianist of choice for the band backing these visitors and this solo blues piano set demonstrates just why.
All the tracks are originals, though occasionally influences surface – though you may have to listen carefully to pick them out, just a riff here or the inflection of a bass line there. James is aware of the blues tradition from its earliest days (both ragtime and vaudeville) and here there are plenty of slower, thoughtful blues, plus the odd boogie-woogie or two, of course, and even on to the New Orleans R&B tradition.
Some are pure improvisations whilst others are the result of years of playing. There are few releases of solo blues instrumental piano albums these days, but even if there was a lot of competition, this would still be worthy of your attention.

----- Norman Darwen

To The Rescue
Chueffa CD60010-2

This is the kind of CD that comes along too infrequently these days - grass-roots blues by a guy who certainly knows and enjoys what he is doing.
Singer Sammy Six was born in Mississippi, raised in Saint Louis, Missouri and spent his teens in Detroit. He has a light, confident singing voice, sounding a little like Little Milton in places, and here he is backed by the excellent little band of label boss Frank Ace, including some excellent sax work from Orlando Zuniga and guitar work again akin to Little Milton's clean playing, or the more subtle side of Albert King.
The numbers range from straight blues - though Jimmy Reed's 'Big Boss Man' is given an unusually imaginative arrangement - to some old school R&B numbers and some soul inflected material - there is a fine version of the deep soul of 'Members Only'. I enjoyed this unpretentious CD a lot.....

----- Norman Darwen

Artist: Chris James and Patrick Ryan
Stop and Think about It
Label: Earwig CD 4957

For more information go to:

In one way or another Chris and Patrick have been involved with the blues before their early teens; growing up in San Diego Chris was first introduced to the blues by his stepfather. The music of Chuck Berry was an early influence and he was playing the blues on piano at the age of eleven Patrick meanwhile in his home of Toledo was receiving a classical music education on the bass.

They met each other in Chicago in the early nineties when Chris went to the Guitar Centre where Patrick was working, to invest in some picks and a harmonica.

After a less than wonderful beginning they formed a partnership that would lead to the formation of the band The Blue Four, during the eighteen years in which they have been playing together a strong musical bond has been created between them and has now evolved into them striking out on their own and performing under their own names.

The album is a twelve number strong collection of covers and original compositions which seamlessly merge together to establish a genuine post-war Chicago sound which lifts you up and draws you closer to the rough and tumble musical world of the period. I hasten to add that the music found on the album is no well intentioned and affectionate tribute but a no holds barred sweaty, hoarse, hard as iron Chicago session relying on serious musical know-how and invigoratingly muscular playing.

Some of the numbers that recklessly grab you by the throat are the likes of; Elmore James’s “Hawaiian Boogie” “Got to Move,”  “Early One Morning” and “My Kind of Woman,” together with a rollicking version Bo Diddleys’ “Mona.”  Self penned numbers such as;    “You’re Gone” and “Mr Coffee,” are equally stunning.

If you are a lover of classic period Chicago Blues then this is an album for you!

----- Brian Harman

Artist: Tim Lothar
Title: In it for the Ride
Label: TLPCD02

For more information go to

Tim ‘Lothar’ Petersen to give him his full name; is with this, his second album proving to be a very able and extremely adept acoustic blues player who has the ability to instantly attract the listener to his warmly presented music. Coming as he does from Denmark some people might presume that he may not possess credible Mississippi Delta credentials but I can assure you that Tim follows the same path of truth and honesty towards his music that can also be found in the performances of such artists as Doug McLeod.

Using only a 1939 Gibson Kalamazoo acoustic guitar and so we are informed a rusty Dobro and slide we are treated to twelve hugely toe-tappingly enjoyable numbers on this album seven of which are originals the others being affectionate versions of numbers such as; an extremely vibrant rendition of “Careless Love,” and a refreshing performance of Robert Johnson’s “Stones in My Pathway.”

The fresh new numbers are so well developed and I should add are played with such convincing style and aplomb that one is not aware that they are new for they seamlessly merge with the other standards so well.

Tim displays his complete understanding of the music by infusing his music with a wonderful authentic rolling and tumbling late twenties, early Prohibition era sound. At some points during the album Tim subtly makes use of his voice to create an air of fragility and perhaps a touch of melancholy so that when it is matched with his dexterous guitar work you are transported back in time.

A very fine album indeed!

----- Brian Harman

Artist: Los Fabulocos, Featuring Kid Ramos
Title: Los Fabulocos
Label: Delta Groove Music DGPCD 1278

For more information go to:

The newly formed Los Fabulocos which includes the combined ’hot to trot’ talents of Jesus Cuevas on vocals and Hohner button accordion, James Barrio; bass, Mike Molina; drums and the featured artist Kid Ramos; is enthusiastically supplying, vocals and playing, baritone, Spanish and bajo sexto guitars. Together they have created an infectious foot-tapping sound which uses a mixture of traditional Spanish music whilst also incorporating other styles and genres such as; blues rockabilly country and cali-mex (the west coast equivalent of tex- mex). The use of a traditional button accordion as the lead instrument is truly inspired and successfully creates wonderful images of happy go lucky people tightly packed into a hot ‘n’ sweaty feelgood cantina and when the numbers are sung in Spanish the music has an even greater emotional resonance and air of authenticity.

Throughout the album one can hear in the vocals echoes of the sadness of Roy Orbison and the stoic pragmatism of Marty Robbins.

The thirteen numbers all contain a truly buoying effervescent spirit which is maintained by the happy insistence of the button accordion, the hard edged, powerful twangin’ guitars of Kids Ramos are a perfect match for the wheezing squeeze box.

All the way through the music never deviates from the uplifting, lively rollercoaster assortment of sticky swamp, country and blues, the rockin’ power driven numbers nestle happily alongside mellow lovelorn slowburners.

A stonkingly, goodtime, bouncing toe-tapper. Essential!  Not just for accordion lovers but for all!

----- Brian Harman

Artist: Various Artists
Title: Sinner’s Prayer
Label: Rounder/Decca Records

For more information go to

Rounder is a label that has for the last thirty seven or so years sought out recorded, and subsequently released some of the most culturally enriching and aurally satisfying music that has inhabited this world. Music that virtually all the global conglomerate labels happily ignore simply on the profit margin basis alone, regardless of the stimulus the music may possibly provide for other artists and not withstanding the huge listening enjoyment potential for the rest of us.

Well, rounder have given us a timely reminder of that fact with this compilation which lasts for an enthralling seventy nine minutes, it captures within its twenty two numbers only a fraction of the vast roots, country, soul, folk, bluegrass, blues and Cajun music that has been recorded. As this CD is a showcase for the labels’ vast back catalogue all but three numbers are blasts from the past but nonetheless enlightening and satisfying for that.

The new numbers are from; Dan Tyminiski, Sierra Haull and Sam Roberts. Other artists featured are; the high profile Alison Krauss and Irma Thomas, the albums title is provided by Slaid Cleaves which sets the tone perfectly for the whole proceedings understated, intense, and totally compulsive.

Listening to the intricacies of each number as they spill out from the speakers, one becomes aware of how differing genres and styles can be so enthralling and completely captivating. It is only through compilations such as this that we fully realise how completely unaware we are of many types of music, glimpsing through this album only a fraction of the abundant musical riches that surrounds us; if we only knew where to look. Well, rounder have kindly opened the door for us.

Some of the highlights and other little gems that can also be found are performed by Linda Thompson, Loudon Wainwright lll, Solomon Burke and Sierra Hull.

An essential introduction the wider world of music.

----- Brian Harman


Blind Pig Records, BPCD 5125

TRACKS: Let Me Love You; You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had; Give Me Back My Wig; Lonely Man; Spider In My Stew; Going Down The Road Feeling Bad; Full Load Boogie; Crosseyed Cat; House Cat Blues; Carla; Cryin’ Won’t Let You Stay; What Is That You Got; Loving You Is The Best Thing That Happened To Me

Magic Slim, a.k.a. Morris Holt, and The Teardrops, are often regarded as “the last real Chicago blues band,” and rightly so. It is very refreshing to hear their CD of genuine real blues, without a big mix of rock, funk, and roots music. The shuffles and slow blues personify the intense, electrified Mississippi-to-Chicago blues style. It is not surprising that several of the songs have that Hound Dog Taylor sound, since Slim filled in and finally took over the regular gig of Hound Dog in a South Side Club called Florence’s back in the seventies. Some of the tunes are classic blues by Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Little Milton Campbell. Slim claims to have written five out of the thirteen tracks, even though some melodies have a familiar sound. One of his tunes, “Full Load Boogie,” is a bouncy instrumental, not the incessant Hooker boogie style. There is also a touch of country and soul on this CD.

The group has become an international figure and is in much demand as headliner at many festivals and venues, both here and overseas. In 2003, they won the highest honor in the blues field, the Blues Music Award for “Blues Band of the Year.” Slim’s earthy vocals are strong and clear, and his guitar playing is melodic and emotional, and there are several long guitar solos on the album.Not bad for someone who is 70. Several well-known blues musicians, like James Cotton with his tasty harmonica playing, Lil’ Ed Williams with his slide guitar, Lonnie Brooks and Elvin Bishop with their guitar playing add pleasant dimensions to a few of the songs on the CD. The Chicago Rhythm and Blues Kings horn section strut their stuff and spiff up the last song.

This meaningful album is well done. If you want a dose of authentic, downhome Chicago blues, this is the CD for you.

----- Maria Bainer

American Blues Roots Duo
Bill Sims, Jr. and Mark LaVoie

Delta Groove Productions DGPCD124

Bill Sims, Jr., Guitar and Vocals and Mark LaVoie, Harmonica and Vocals

Sims and LaVoie have been plying the local northeast circuit as an acoustic duo for the last fifteen years but individually each has had an illustrious career.  Sims has long been associated with theatre productions, starring in the play “Lackawanna Blues” and writing the music for “Seven Guitars.”  His commercials for major corporations have aired on TV and in 1999 a ten-hour PBS documentary explored his music and interracial marriage.  He successfully experimented with R&B and jazz and returned to blues in 1988.  LaVoie has been performing for over thirty years and in the ‘70s served as the driver for Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee as well as performing with the duo.  He conducts workshops and is an activist in preserving and promoting the harmonica.

This CD consists of thirteen tracks of acoustic country blues—imagine a small gathering around a front porch somewhere in Mississippi with two blues troubadours entertaining and you get the picture.  There is no gloss in this production—it is seasoned maturity stripped down to the bone.

The first track, “Hesitation Blues” sets the mood with Sims in an impish vocal mode and LaVoie mimicking the melody on harmonica.  “Going Down That Road Feeling Bad” features a spirited finger picking guitar exercise by Sims and jaunty vocal delivery.  “Go Down Hannah” is a short (one minute and fifty-five seconds) field holler with Sims slapping the guitar and LaVoie punctuating the melody on harmonica.

Must Have Been The Devil” is spooky with Sims evoking a high-pitched devilish vocal delivery.  “Telephone Blues” has Sims pleading for a call from his loved one with LaVoie’s harmonica solo lending emotional intensity.

A highlight is “Diggin’ My Potatoes” with LaVoie exuberantly vocalizing on this amusing tune with a catchy melody.  “Blues For Breakfast” is another gem that displays luxuriant phrasing by Sims in a melancholy vocal exercise.  “Gotta Go Down” is the only track which touches on social issues and it is a lively plea for a more loving society.

Every cut on this CD is excellent and the intuitive musical connection of this duo is compelling.  Sims and LaVoie fit each other with a flair that is unusual.  They have put together a first rate product that transcends the heartbreak or sexual suggestiveness of too many blues standards.

----- Dorothy L. Hill

Bobby Charles
Homemade Songs

Rice ‘N’ Gravy  RICO515

When I last talked to legendary Cajun songsmith Bobby Charles, he was still recovering from being displaced by hurricane Rita, which in 2005 followed quickly on the heels of Katrina and wreaked much havoc on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, including the town of Holly Beach where he had resided. Although among the evacuees, this author of such classics as “Later Alligator” and “Walking to New Orleans” had lost not only his house but also most of his possessions. Basically starting over, he acquired a trailer in his hometown of Abbeville while he, like so many others, haggled with insurance companies about just compensation for his damages. In his case this tragedy seemed to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, which included a bout with kidney cancer and a fire which completely destroyed his former domicile near the hamlet of Milton. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that he had not only contributed several songs to Dr. John’s newest album, The City That Care Forgot (including the often sampled “Time for A Change”), but also released his own, Homemade Songs, which is aptly named since Bobby not only writes all the songs chez lui but also, for the most part, records them close by at Dockside Studio in Maurice. Evidently, what didn’t kill Bobby made him stronger, because he managed to produce yet another masterpiece (following his 2003 magnificent Last Train to Memphis) under the most trying of circumstances.

As usual, Bobby as a writer (and singer) defies classification and the selections of Homemade Songs are like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, the soundtrack of which contains his million selling composition, “But I Do,” which Bobby reprises in a breezy, cocktail jazz fashion for this project. The other fourteen tracks range from straight ahead blues like “Queen Bee” (reminiscent of Slim Harpo) to just songs about having the blues like “Too Blue” or the haunting “Tennessee Blues,” a rendition which hearkens back to his Woodstock/Bearsville days. As always, there’s a second line tempo tribute to his beloved New Orleans—“The Mardi Gras Song.” Not ever shy about expressing his politics (he’s anti-war and anti-Bush), he also sees fit to include two “message” songs, “Cowboys and Indians” and “The Truth Will Set You Free,” the latter with a march beat rhythm decrying the promises broken by the White House. Bobby even adds a couple of funky, infectious sports related ditties and a catchy Tex-Mex flavored number, “Pick of the Litter,” which could prove to be a winner. Over all though, this undertaking, including the title track, has a bitter-sweet sensibility about it which is underscored by several other intensely introspective songs dealing with the aching regret of not being able to either recapture or undo the past—“Always Been A Gambler,” “Here I Go Again,” and even the poignant, unabashed love ballad, “Rose.”

Bobby’s smoky baritone of a voice at seventy isn’t what it used to be and often falls short of reaching certain notes but what it lacks in range it seems to have gained in expressiveness. If indeed, like the late, noted filmmaker Ingmar Bergman asserts, aging is like climbing a mountain wherein the breath gets shorter but the vistas become broader, then Bobby’s current vocal instrument is still adequate to the task of painting this panorama of a mature perspective.

Aiding Bobby Charles in this superb endeavor is a whole host of illustrious musicians including Dr. John (Mac Rebbenack) on piano, the inimitable Sonny Landreth on lead guitar, Ben Keith on steel guitar, ex-Boogie King stalwart, Jon Smith, on tenor, Mickey Raphael on harp, ex-Bayou Rhythm star, David Ranson on bass, and famed soul composer (“At the Dark End of the Street,” “Cry Like A Baby,” “I’m Your Puppet”) Spooner Oldham on organ. Last, but not least, of this stellar supporting cast is renowned engineer, David Farrell, who for so many years oversaw the Black Top sessions at Ultrasonic Studio in New Orleans.

For some reason, many of the great songwriters have stopped writing after a certain stage of their career—Paul Simon, Neil Diamond, Smokey Robinson, Billy Joel, and even, to some extent, Bob Dylan (who, along with Dr. John and Landreth, endorses this album). But one thing I’ve learned over the years is to never count Bobby Charles out. And if you don’t believe me, pick up this CD. And when you do, you won’t be able to put it down.

----- Larry Benicewicz


Evans / Rockwerk EVA CD 0002

J. Evans is a London based British singer/ guitarist/ songwriter and bandleader, and his website informs the visitor that he and his band purvey “classic retro English-American rock and blues”.
That’s fair enough from the evidence of this, his second album, which opens with a rabble-rousing slab of er, rockin’ blues-rock. ‘City Of Lights (All Of My Life)’ betrays a slight influence from late sixties UK blues-rockers Free in the guitar and drum sound – not a bad thing in my book, and ‘Take Care Of Your Business’, with its strutting rhythm and whining slide, recalls early Dire Straits. ‘Love Just Dies’ is another bluesy piece, but most of the remainder of the CD falls into a straight-ahead gutsy rock bag, plus a couple of big rock ballads.
Not a bad set at all but you certainly need a strong interest in seventies UK rock for this – if that’s you, then go for it.

----- Norman Darwen

RITA CHIARELLI With The Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra
Uptown Goes Downtown
Mad Iris Music MIM005

This set grew from a guest spot that Canadian singer Rita (once dubbed ‘The Goddess Of Canadian blues”) did with this Symphony Orchestra a couple of years ago.
It is certainly an ambitious project, recorded in 2007 and including mostly original numbers by Rita, two Italian songs and a cover of Roy Hawkins’ ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ (which was notable for its use of strings when BB King hit with it in 1969, of course). Does it work? Actually, it does, as Rita is a versatile singer and this is very much a singer’s album, benefiting from the lush orchestral sound. It opens with an excellent slow blues, moves on to a country-flavoured piece, and then continues with an out-and-out jazz number.
There’s also sassy rhythm & blues with ‘Serves You Right’. ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ works extremely well and incidentally has the set’s only guitar solo. ‘If You Were Crying Over Me’ is a beautiful ballad performance which reminds me a little of the Bee Gees ‘To Love Somebody’ (which has been cut by several soul singers, most notably James Carr) and I can’t really comment on the Italian songs except to say that they do fit with the rest of the material. Although there might not be enough blues content for some, as I said this is a singer’s album and Rita is indeed a fantastic singer!

----- Norman Darwen

SPV/ Blue 49992 CD

Savoy Brown – in this 2008 incarnation, at least – consists of founder member, singer and guitarist Kim Simmonds and a rhythm section with a floating line-up. Though recorded in Kim’s home studio in Oswega, New York State, the results are undeniably unadulterated British blues. Even though he only really began singing recently, Kim’s vocals throughout are confident and strong, and the tracks themselves bear traces of influences as diverse as The Rolling Stones, vintage Fleetwood Mac, Memphis Slim, Jimmie Rodgers (The Singing Brakeman) and BB King.
A couple of live tracks ensure that the CD ends in true hell-for-leather fashion. Nothing new then, but a fine blues-rock set overall.

----- Norman Darwen

The Natch’l Blues
SPV/ Blue 42942 CD

Originally released in 1968, this was Taj’s second album and the title is pretty accurate. Having scored with his first set, mixing rock with the blues in a manner guaranteed to appeal to the burgeoning hippie market whilst also keeping one foot in the folk-blues camp, on this set he maintains the blues focus. Much of the material is based on the rural blues sound, many tracks opening with Taj and his guitar for a couple of bars before the band kicks in, though never overwhelmingly so (Howling Wolf is one obvious influence).

Over the years I have seen Taj perform most of these songs live, not surprisingly as they are strong and well-crafted, and unlike some other material from around this time, they have not dated. This is much more an album of Taj the blues singer; he also tackles a couple of soul numbers, coming on like William Bell and Otis Redding respectively, and although the three bonus numbers do not really add much to our knowledge of Mr Mahal, they are nice to have – particularly the funkier version of ‘The Cuckoo’.

----- Norman Darwen

Artist: Irma Thomas
Simply Grand
Rounder 11661-2202-2 (U.S. Release)
Decca / Rounder 478 1068 DH (U.K. Release)

For more information go to

It should not be a surprise to people that the music coming from New Orleans artists nowadays seems to contain themes or possible subliminal messages, perceived or otherwise; relating to hurricane Katrina and its disastrous long term after-effects; whether this is true or not, remains to be seen but, one fact is undeniable; the recovery of damaged souls takes a lot longer than buildings.

“Simply Grand,” continues the thread that was running through “After the Rain.” A thread that is presented with almost regal stoicism without any semblance of self-pity; simply dignity coupled with an optimistic defiance for a better future.

As you may have gathered from the title Irma sings most of the numbers with only the musical accompaniment of a grand piano;

The fourteen numbers feature twelve different pianists. Dr. John; plays on “If I Had Any Sense I’d Go Back Home” and “Be You” both numbers contain  that wonderfully irrepressible ‘loose as a goose’ New Orleans swing; also, two other New Orleans locals make  their presence felt, firstly; Henry Butler, whose interweaving of textures and animation of depth is in direct response to Irma’s exuberant vocal urging on “River is Waiting” and Tom McDermott; who backs her on “Early In The Morning,” together they conjure-up sparkling musical images of Professor Longhair.

Irma’s deep, strongly emotive almost gospel inflected voice has not changed very much over the years; in fact, one could say that her voice has benefited immeasurably from her long term association with The First African Baptist Choir.

The stark images of “Cold Rain,” epitomises Irma’s own and many others heartfelt loss for the old city they once knew and loved so well.

The closing “I Think Its Going To Rain Today” has Randy Newman pointedly restraining from any grandiose displays of emotion; which allows Irma to imbue the number with a striking sense of vulnerability, innocence and tenderness.    Unfortunately the clunking “What Can I Do,” mars a peerless performance and strong song selection.

Irma Thomas has demonstrated once again why she is uniquely the undisputed Soul Queen of New Orleans.

Simply Grand! Simply Essential!

----- Brian Harman

Artist: Mhmm
Title: Do Not Disturb
Label: Banksville Records

For more information go to:

This album is mostly Blues-Rock based so purists, you can look away now. With the exception of the Joni Mitchell composition “Woodstock” the remaining seven numbers are original compositions. The band is made up of; Paolo Baltaro; lead vocals, bass, drums, & keyboards, Gianni Salvador Opezzo; lead vocals, electric, acoustic, slide guitar & upright piano, Sandro Marinoni; tenor saxophone, flute & trombone, and Boris Savoldelli; lead vocals, they previously have worked together in  Arcansiel and Sado; also featured, supplying a fine trumpet is Mitch “The Fridge” Maloney.

The creation of the album is, by and large Italian, from performers to performance, through to production, although some of the album was recorded in London.

As bizarre as it may seem, the album is set in the fictional confines of a rather murky and possibly sweat stained London drinking club via the between number murmurings of London D.J. Rodger “the bodger” Balfour. Whether this idea works or not remains to be seen.

As to the music well, you have a strangely appealing mixture of crunching blues and rock, interspersed with a wonderfully evocative soul driven horn section which unerringly follows uplifting and sweepingly  creamy vocals; then the music floatingly veers into air stepping flute based slowburners which are accompanied by soaring and reassuringly relaxing harmonies.

I would say that if you think of an unlikely combination of the Blues Brothers, AC/DC and the wistful musings of 1970’s Joni Mitchell, then you will not be far off the mark.

Strange fruit indeed but, nonetheless, very appealing. Well worth investigation!

----- Brian Harman

All Odds Against Me
Jazzhaus Records JHR015

The title certainly has significance as anyone who has read John’s life story will be aware. This is his third album and it’s a good one. John is an excellent, good old-fashioned blues singer, with a jazzy tinge to his songs every now and then – try ‘I Miss You So’ or ‘I’ve Got Your Back’ or he can be a little funky and slide into soul territory occasionally.
He excels at conjuring up tough urban landscapes and situations, particularly the ravages of drug abuse – see the animated video track here for ‘Blues Ain’t Nothing But A Pimp’ (also present as an album track). John is backed by an excellent band which includes guitarist John Garcia Jr., who worked with his father.
John Junior does actually sound like the Boogie Man on the appropriately titled ‘Old School’, which is just John and Jeff Horan’s Mississippi-styled (but not John Lee Hooker Sr. styled) guitar work – more like this would be nice! The son, like the father, is becoming one of those blues artists always worth hearing.

----- Norman Darwen

Eyes Of The City
2008 Vince Agwada

Singer and guitarist Vince is from Chicago where he was born in 1959 and got his start playing at Theresa’s and The Checkerboard; he jammed with such esteemed figures as Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Lefty Dizz, Sammy Lawhorn and others. He has contributed to numerous albums and videos, either as a musician or composer, in his 25 years on the Windy City blues scene, but this is his debut CD under his own name. He describes his music as ‘new millennium blues’ and I won’t argue with that. This is generally loud and brash, post-Alligator ‘high energy blues’, guitar based and often using funky rhythms behind Vince’s muscular vocals on a programme of 13 original numbers – some of which are quite notable and stay long in the memory.

There is a variety of modern styles too – ‘Blooze’ and ‘Tubed Out’ are heavy, ‘Does It Really Matter?’ is a jazzy strut, ‘Bottle’ is a fairly traditional slide guitar shuffle, the title track is a moody, jazzy, spacey, sax-led piece, and ‘Had To Cry’ is Albert King styled; ‘Come On In’ has an unusual rhythm and slide guitar – the nearest (but not that close) comparison I can come up with is the Beatles’ ‘Come Together’! Working from a promo, I cannot tell you just who plays what on this album, but rest assured, they are all top-notch musicians – as is Vince.

Any lover of modern blues will find plenty to enjoy here.

----- Norman Darwen

& The Neptune Blues Club
Provogue PRD 7262 2

Not to be confused with harmonica player and member of the Ford Blues Band Mark Ford, Marc is a highly-respected guitarist who has worked with such outfits as Burning Tree, southern rockers The Black Crowes, and the unclassifiable but usually bluesy Ben Harper.

This is his second CD under his own name for Provogue, recorded with a bunch of top musicians from southern California. It is a guitar-laden feast for those who love bluesy rock, the kind of thing purveyed by the likes of Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix, often funky, always bluesy and unfailingly interesting. Marc sounds a little like mid-sixties Bob Dylan vocally, although once or twice he brought Mick Jagger to mind (and ‘Shame On Me’ has that Rolling Stones’ swagger). ‘Mother’s Day’ shows that he can play the straight blues when he wants to, whilst ‘Go Too Soon’ is a Chuck Berry flavoured rock ‘n ‘roller.

As I say, bluesy rather than a blues set, but certainly worth a listen – particularly for guitar players.

----- Norman Darwen

This review has been complimentary written for your newsletter by Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro, a contributing writer for BLUESWAX, BluesART and the Blues Editor at
where you can read many more CD and live show reviews, view lots of blues photographs and find an abundance of blues material.
I can be reached at


This is going to be an absolutely enjoyable and extremely easy review to compose.  Being a good friend of JOEY'S and having seen him perform live at least 100 times, I could easily do this from memory and admiration.  However, because most of the tracks on JOEY GILMORE'S newest disc, "BLUESMAN", are new, I will delve into several of my favorites.

On this project, JOEY GILMORE on Guitar and Vocals, is joined by: GEORGE CALDWELL on Bass, RAUL D. HERNANDEZ on Drums, BOB ABERNATHY on Hammond Organ, Piano and Keyboards and REGI OLIVER on Tenor & Alto Saxophones - all of whom are regular members in his current band.  Additional musicians appearing are: JEAN EZELL on Background Vocals; JOE BEARD, JR. on Rhythm Guitar; BOB "BLUESBOBBY" WEINBERG on Harmonica.

After a short little intro, "BLUESMAN" opens with "BLUES ALL OVER YOU" - which is sort of the title track.  It's a comparison of how people in various occupations may come home from work.  Whereas the junk man's never clean and the car repair man smells like gasoline, the fireman's face is full of soot and the soldier's got blisters on his foot, when the blues man comes home from work he'll get his blues all over you.

If enough of the right people get to hear this disc, GRAHAM DROUT may just have himself a "song of the year" nomination for this very well penned track.  The lyrics, the way JOEY delivers them, and some great sax work from REGI make this one of the discs absolute best.

JOEY sings his heart out on "BIT OFF MORE THAN I CAN CHEW", an eight minute scorching and soulful ballad.  It's stuff like this that gives him the credentials to claim, as he did in the previous track, that "I am a bluesman".  More smoking sax from REGI and great keyboards from BOB help make this another impressive track.

When you only wear black shoes, and you're a size ten, finding a pair of size fourteen "WHITE SHOES" in your closet is never a good thing.  Hot rhythm from GEORGE and RAUL, heat this funky JOEY GILMORE original.

Interestingly, one of the best versions of "LAST TWO DOLLARS" that I ever recall hearing was from one of JOEY'S counterparts - another South Florida bluesman named JUNIOR DRINKWATER.  However JOEY, as he pretty much does on covers, nails it on his version.  His intense vocals and blues guitar work, along with steady Hammond and piano plying by BOB, highlight this one.

Hearing JOEY sing "I GOT THE BLUES" makes you want to actually respond by saying "You sure do JOEY, you sure do".  With some good rhythm going on behind him, and some worthy assistance from JEAN on the background vocals, this one's pretty much all JOEY.  Unquestionably, this one features him at discs best on guitar.


At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I honestly feel that with the knowledge I have of JOEY GILMORE'S music and the many ensembles his bands have consisted of, I can confidently say that this is one of his strongest supporting casts and that "BLUESMAN" is - by far - his best effort yet.

Ya gotta go to and pick up a copy.  And while you're there, tell the Bluesman that this Blewzzman sent you.

----- Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro

Name Of The Game

Black & Tan B&T CD 033

Mississippi-born, Saint Louis based singer, harmonica player and sometimes (but not on this album) drummer BooBoo Davis has recorded several albums for Black & Tan, and this set, recorded in Holland, presents elements from its predecessors, which have all had distinctive characters of their own. As the notes point out, BooBoo “belongs to one of the last generations of musicians that write and play the blues based on first hand experience of a hard life in the Mississippi Delta”.
Certainly BooBoo has a big voice reminiscent of Howling Wolf, and there are some raw blues numbers on this set, owing something to the likes of Wolf and Jimmy Reed as reinterpreted by a down-home juke-joint band. But BooBoo also lives for today and there can be soul stylings in his music – try the (relatively) mellow ‘Why You Wanna Do It’ for a good example. Then again, BooBoo is canny enough to realise that the blues does need to change, if it and its audience are not to die of stagnation, and as this set was recorded without a bass guitar – besides BooBoo there’s just guitarist Jan Mittendoorp and drummer John Gerritse – there is a tendency to go for the tough rock influenced sound of the likes of young up-and-coming blues popularisers such as The White Stripes or The Black Keys, with some furious guitar work. Nonetheless, though purists may be less than keen, BooBoo’s own sound is not compromised.
As a result, this set presents a rounded portrait of an artist with deep roots and a contemporary sensibility. 

----- Norman Darwen

Blue Groove 1720

Obviously, this is a dream combination and how could it fail? It doesn’t! Dutch-born Hans has long enjoyed a formidable reputation for making intelligent, soulful blues and roots music, and those – and there still seem to be some around - who only know Mississippian Terry for his sublime contributions to Ry Cooder’s music have been missing out on some of the most soulful music of the last couple of decades! In December 2007 the two men recorded this CD of soul and blues classics plus some originals, just the two of them on vocals and guitars (plus Hans’ harmonica).

They did have a helping hand from percussionist Phil Bloch on eight of the thirteen titles, British guitarist Richard Thompson on two numbers and Bo Diddley’s spoken commentary on this version of his own ‘You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover’ (though actually a Willie Dixon composition of course). Other composers represented here include JB Lenoir with ‘Talk To Your Daughter’, Memphis Slim and ‘Mother Earth’, Fats Domino via ‘Let The Four Winds Blow’, Dan Penn’s wonderful southern classic ‘At The Dark End Of The Street’ and Richard M. Jones’ blues standard – all oh so beautifully performed.

There is also ‘Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You’ from Wilson Pickett’s repertoire and the old standard ‘Glory Of Love’ owes a debt to Big Bill Broonzy’s adaptation (probably also the source for ‘Trouble In Mind’ too).

If you enjoy acoustic blues, soul-blues, or just good blues, this is for you.

----- Norman Darwen

Orange Blossoms
Alligator ALCD 4925

JJ’s second Alligator album and fourth overall is a fine southern affair, nicely rootsy but otherwise unclassifiable.
There’s certainly the Florida swamp sound of Tony Joe White in there, Doctor John maybe, people like Dale Hawkins and Bobby Charles, plus a whole host of R&B singers from the likes of Ray Charles, Arthur Alexander, and Otis Redding on up to Bill Withers, Bobby Bland, Latimore and seventies Stevie Wonder.
It is most definitely an attractive and very listenable approach. There are those hot, funky, sticky rhythms where you can feel the mud between your toes, and lyrics about sneaking around or chock-full of the folk wisdom and figures of speech that only come from way south of the Mason – Dixon Line.

People talk a lot these days about ‘Americana’; even more specifically, this, I guess, is ‘Floridana’.

----- Norman Darwen

This review has been complimentary written for your newsletter by Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro, a contributing writer for BLUESWAX, BluesART and the Blues Editor at
where you can read many more CD and live show reviews, view lots of blues photographs and find an abundance of blues material.
I can be reached at


The resemblances are absolutely uncanny. Although there would be a small degree of uncertainty involved, looking at JACK LEAR'S picture - while listening to his music, would surely have me thinking that I might be listening to BOB DYLAN.....on steroids!   It's kinda like BOB DYLAN singing the blues while playing like CHUCK BERRY.  In spite of never having been a really big fan of BOB'S folksy style, I always did appreciate his musicianship and songwriting.
JACK LEAR possesses all those talents with an abundant supply of exuberance.

On his debut CD - "LOVE AND CHARM" - JAKE LEAR, on vocals and guitar, is joined by CARLOS ARIAS on bass, BRAD GORDON on drums, and PETE RUDDLE on harmonica.  The disc contains thirteen tracks, of which nine are originals, with a cover of ROBERT JOHNSON, ELMORE JAMES, RICHARD RABBIT BROWN and, of course, BOB DYLAN.

The opening track, an original called "KISS ME", already has me thinking I may be listening to the discs best track.  It's a smoker that could even get Beethoven to roll over.  With the rhythm section absolutely wild behind him, JAKE is even wilder on lead guitar.  It doesn't get any hotter than this one.

"CRY, CRY, CRY" is just what PETE'S making the harmonica do on this one.  I guess he wanted to get in the licks he missed on the opening burner.  His doing so, along with more great rhythm, highlight this one.

"DUST MY BROOM" is a classy rendition of a classic song.  CARLOS and BRAD, on bass and drums, are on top of their game here, and some of JAKE'S best guitar work is heard on this one as well.

"SURE ENOUGH I DO" mean it when I say this less than three minute track is way too short.  I could have taken a few more minutes of JAKE'S soulful vocals and the hot guitar licks he put out on this ELMORE JAMES cover.

"LEAVE THIS TOWN" is another smoker.  JAKE, CARLOS and BRAD are unbelievably tight together.  This is one rhythm section that JAKE needs to keep together.  This listener would hate to hear that these guys would ever want to 'leave this town'.


Now that you're done reading this, take yourself over to and grab a copy of "LOVE AND CHARM".  Jake's got a heck of an offer going on that includes shipping.  I'm sure you'll tell him the Blewzzman sent ya.

----- Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro

Kill These Blues
(Own label)

Kolvane is a highly-respected singer/ guitarist/ bandleader fronting a four-piece band (keyboards, bass and drums). He previously headed Portland, Oregon’s acclaimed Rose City Kings. His single ‘They Called Me Evil’ was favourably reviewed in Blues Art in the January/ February 2008 issue, but this CD naturally offers a wider variety of music – much of it blues-based.
About half of this CD can be described as ‘blues-rock’, tending towards the heavier side of the music, but distinctive and sometimes thought-provoking. There are a couple of out-and-out rock numbers, a bit of country, a helping of funk (‘Cards’, written and sung by keyboards man Steve Kerin) and even a rap!

Kolvane puts a lot of thought into his music and the results are refreshingly cliché free – so that this CD is certainly worth a listen if you like your music on the rockier side of things.

----- Norman Darwen

Full Tilt
Alligator ALCD4926

This is Alligator’s seventh album by Lil’ Ed and the formula doesn’t really change, does it? Now for some that might be a criticism, but for the kind of rough-house slide guitar blues that Ed offers, that’s a real compliment. Too many might be tempted to ‘progress’, and although some of the rhythms may be a little funky, for the most part the fourteen tracks consist of great swathes of over-amplified slide guitar and Ed’s declamatory vocals over a cooking little band.

The influence of JB Hutto, Hound Dog Taylor and Elmore James are evident, but a little variety comes from Michael Garrett’s guitar work (sometimes Brewer Phillips to Ed’s Hound Dog), from Johnny Iguana’s guest keyboards appearances, and the occasional horns. For rocking slide guitar, Ed is still the king, and this album presents the genuine full tilt boogie band. 

----- Norman Darwen

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