Archive for the ‘Blues CD Review’ Tag

Andy T Band- Double Strike review   Leave a comment

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Andy T Band Double Strike  American Showplace Music

I love receiving albums from groups I’ve never previously heard. Thanks to a growing network of publicists who send me material to review, this has been happening a bit more often recently as when Double Strike showed up in my mailbox a week ago.

I don’t know where the group is based, but the publicity material tells me it is fronted by Andy Talamantez, a blues guitar vet who has had the band going for three albums and a number of years. Previously the group’s lead singer was Nick Nixon, a soulful vocalist who contributes to half of the songs on this current recording. More recently, Alabama Mike Benjamin from the San Francisco Bay area signed on with the group to replace the retired Nixon. That’s where the Double Strike comes in, I suppose—two distinctive and powerful lead singers fronting an electric blues combo that matches them blow-by-blow.

Nick Nixon has a voice. Man, he sings! While the instrumentalists boogie and swing, Nixon just goes deep with a distinctive style that refuses to compromise. A pair of Chuck Willis songs—”Juanita” and “I Feel So Bad”—showcase Nixon’s plaintive manner, as does a take of Goree Carter’s “Drunk or Sober.” Nixon’s most robust performance comes on his final appearance on the album, “I Was Gonna Leave You,” an Andy T original. Not to be outdone, Alabama Mike takes control from the top, wailing “I Want You Bad” and Larry Van Loon’s simmering “Somebody Like You.” When he sings, “Baby since you left me, my life has been so sad” (“Sad Times”) I smile, not because I don’t feel his emotion, but because he sounds so damn good singing of his heartbreak.

A collaboratively written number from Talamantez, Benjamin, and album co-producer Anson Funderburgh (who’s “One Woman I Need” is covered on the Kozak album reviewed above) “Doin’ Hard Time” is another deep blues track, one that features solos from both Andy T and Funderburgh, but also some steppin’ horns. At other times the band swings, as on the closing track “Where Did Our Love Go Wrong” and “Deep Inside.” Mid-set, the Funderburgh instrumental “Mudslide” allows the core band including Van Loon on Hammond B3 and the rhythm section of Johnny Bradley and Jim Klinger additional space to shine.

Double Strike is worth searching out, and apparently the Andy T Band featuring Alabama Mike will be making an appearance at the Calgary Blues Festival in August, as well as a one-nighter at Lorenzo’s Cafe in Enderby, BC August 4; good for the fine folks of the north Okanogan community, bad news for the group’s tour router.

Rory Block- Keepin’ Outta Trouble review   2 comments

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Rory Block Keepin’ Outta Trouble: A Tribute to Bukka White Stony Plain Records

Indisputably, Rory Block is one of the most impressive contemporary blues artists. Rooted so deeply in country blues traditions, Block can’t be anything but authentic. Unfortunately, I’ve not caught every installment of her Mentor Series, which started with her tribute to Son House in 2008 and now stands at six volumes, but I’ve heard enough to know that she does nothing in half-measures.

As Block writes in her liner notes, “More than any artist in my Mentor Series, Bukka inspired me to write new songs.” With that, one shouldn’t be surprised that Block has done a true tribute here; not only has she crafted five Booker T. Washington “Bukka” White songs in her own individual, immitigable style, but she has created a further five originals capturing the time and mythologies of White’s life and career.

An exciting album from start to finish, Block—who plays everything on this disc, including percussive Quaker Oats boxes—and co-producer Rob Davis establish a sparse, natural sound.

Opening with a pair of originals setting the table as a frame of reference for both the uninitiated and the connoisseur, in short order Block nails standards including “Aberdeen Mississippi Blues,” “Fixin’ To Die Blues,” and “Parchman Farm Blues.” With attention to detail, but an even greater sense of purpose, Block enlivens these performances with a balance of passion and precision that breathes life into oft-encountered numbers.

Masterfully, she closes the set with the album’s most significant performances. Built upon “Bukka’s Jitterbug Swing,” Block’s “Gonna Be Some Walkin’ Done” captures not only the reality of White’s circumstance, but envelopes the traditions of finding something new in what has come before. “Back to Memphis” pulls everything together, encapsulating eighty years of blues history and development in five minutes.

As someone who doesn’t have much patience for raucous noisy blues, Rory Block’s interpretation of the music’s foundation is always welcome. Her voice is magic, and her approach to blues guitar is clean, restrained, and just damn fine beautiful. Keepin’ Outta Trouble: A Tribute to Bukka White is an excellent album.

Thank you for your interest in Fervor Coulee. Donald

 

 

MonkeyJunk- Time to Roll review   Leave a comment

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MonkeyJunk Time to Roll Stony Plain Records

There is an American band starting to make a bit of noise south of the border with an aggressive, swampy blend of rhythm & blues that is as deeply entrenched in tradition as it is forward looking. They are called The Blue Shadows (Canadian readers pause—they have nothing to do with our Blue Shadows, natch) and if I didn’t know better I would suspect they’ve spent their time cribbing from MonkeyJunk.

MonkeyJunk, the preeminent Canadian power trio not named Rush, never have messed around. Give them a stack of amps and a stage, and the Ottawa-based group are happy to deliver their spirited blues-rock to whomever is willing to listen. Time to Roll is their fifth set of music, and to me it sounds their most accomplished to date.

Adding bass to the mix for the first time, MonkeyJunk’s approach hasn’t dramatically changed—lively party music with lyrics more impressive than frequently encountered within this segment of the blues. For generations raised on early J. Geils Band, Foghat, and the Allman Brothers, MonkeyJunk slips smoothly into a familiar groove.

Recorded over a concise series of sessions, the immediacy of the process may be part of the reason Time to Roll sounds so fresh and invigorating. “Blue Lights Go Down” aches with palatable passion; I’m not sure what it is about Tom Wilson, but one didn’t need to refer to the credits to immediately identify his signature touch on this co-written number.

With a throbbing introduction reminiscent of both Russ Ballard’s “On The Rebound” and “Can I Get a Witness,” the title track is a rallying exhortation for moving on from the constraints of the predictable. Three songs are co-written with fellow Canadian bluesman Paul Reddick, the most vibrant of which is “Pray for Rain,” an incantation of mesmerizing eyes and dramatic rhythms.

As strong as the first half of Time to Roll is, the band busts it to pieces within a blistering second act.

Fittingly paying tribute to Albert King by updating “The Hunter,” MonkeyJunk also offers a plaintive “Can’t Call You Baby” to add considerable intensity to this ten-track album. Delving a bit further south with the call and response rhythms of “Undertaken Blues” and the positively peppy “Gone,” a staggering Booker T-influenced instrumental “Fuzzy Poodle” closes the disc.

MonkeyJunk has become one of the most awarded bands in Canadian blues history. Time to Roll won’t change that: it is an electric collection of tradition-rich, rollicking modern blues.

Thank you for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

Matthew Skoller- Blues Immigrant review   Leave a comment

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Matthew Skoller Blues Immigrant Tongue ‘N Groove Records

Veteran Chicago harp player and bandleader Matthew Skoller has released an engaging, passionate collection of tasteful, groove-laden blues.

There is so much going on in these songs that one may be tempted to over-think things. Better to just relax into the propulsive rhythms and absorb their medicine. Most of the tracks are co-written by Skoller and producer Vincent Bucher.

“My Get It Done Woman” is about what you expect—nasty and base, just as we like it. A hard-trodden man faces his future in “Tear Collector” and the “Greyhound runs too slow” for the woman moving on in “747.” Skoller rails against the industry’s self-serving nature in “Only In the Blues,” a tune that some enterprising band will arrange as “Only in Bluegrass.” “The Devil Ain’t Got No Music” is like going to church—there’s a message there, if only it is heard.

One suspects Skoller is most proud of his “Blues Immigrant,” a wide-ranging opus of social (in)justice and circumstance. Over a foundation of guitar (Giles Corey,) bass (Felton Crews,) and drums (Marc Wilson) Skoller laments the obstacles that are placed in the way of those motivated to move forward. It’s a gentle number, one that belies the frustrations expressed.

Inexplicably, the album kicks off with its weakest song. “Big Box Store Blues” rails against the corporate monoliths that have destroyed local businesses, but sounds about a decade late. Similar ground is covered more successfully in the “Story of Greed.” Skoller connects everything nicely, closing the album with Luther Johnson’s “Down to the Nitty Gritty” and Papa Lightfoot’s down-trodden “Blue Lights.”

Blues immigrant is a terrific album from a fella who gets it!

Posted 2016 October 2 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters- Maxwell Street review   Leave a comment

Still catching up on summer…

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Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters

Maxwell Street

Stony Plain Records www.RonnieEarl.com

Ronnie Earl has been around. Twenty-plus albums, the last ten on Canada’s venerable Stony Plain Records, has found the master guitarist one of the most revered guitarists producing the blues. At times a little jazzy, often late-night right, Earl and the Broadcasters has consistently released albums of high quality. With Maxwell Street, Earl pays tribute to a past member of the Broadcasters David Maxwell as well as Chicago’s Maxwell Street. As always, this is a largely instrumental collection of evocative music that draws in the listener with exquisite timing and interplay. Soulful vocalist Diane Blue appears—as she has in recent recordings—breaking things up with her sensitive offerings on a few numbers including the album closing “As The Years Go Passing By.” A near-12 minute reading of Otis Rush’s “Double Trouble” is a workout. Key cuts: those mentioned as well as “(I’ve Got to Use My) Imagination” and “Elegy for a Bluesman.”

Duke Robillard & His All-Star Combo- Blues Full Circle review   Leave a comment

Still catching up on summer…

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Duke Robillard & His All-Star Combo

Blues Full Circle

Stony Plain Records  www.DukeRobillard.com

It is a fool’s errand attempting to enumerate Duke Robillard’s albums: his Wikipedia page lists over fifty projects of which he has been a part, some forty of which carry his name and over twenty with Stony Plain.

Coming off the award-winning The Acoustic Blues & Roots of Duke Robillard, the quartet (bass, keys, drums, guitar) returned to the studio to layout some fiery electric jams only to be curtailed by Robillard’s rotator cuff surgery and rehabilitation. Among those initial tracks, “Mourning Dove” and “I Got the Feelin’ That You’re Foolin'” offer different shades of blues heartache, while “Blues for Eddie Jones” achingly traces the blues journey of Guitar Slim. Replete with flights of instrumental fancy, the All-Star Combo prove themselves to be a tight posse, with Robillard’s growly vocals providing character and depth. Guests include Kelley Hunt who provides additional swing on her composition, “The Mood Room.” The highlight of this robust, multi-dimensional examination of the blues is six and a half minute instrumental “Shufflin’ and Scufflin'” featuring blistering interplay between Robillard and Jimmie Vaughn over an epic bed of organ from Bruce Bears with Doug James painting waves of baritone sax.

Blues Full Circle gives credibility to the adage that one is born to the blues: Duke Robillard continues to create music that draws folks toward this realization.

David Gogo and Jeff Healey   Leave a comment

Originally published in The Red Deer Advocate, September 4, 2009

In today’s column in the Red Deer Advocate I was very pleased to review two outstanding Canadian blues albums. For me, it is a fine line between blues wankering and music that resonates with me. Of late, I’ve been listening to several blues albums and have reviewed a handful. I’ve also been exploring some older material, stuff like Johnny Winter, Son House, and even The Mississippi Sheiks. I picked up Joe Bonamassa’s The Ballad of John Henry and couldn’t even listen to it all. Yet, I put on some Alligator-era Johnny Winter- music that isn’t all that different from Bonamassa’s- and I’m entirely engaged. Please read my reviews of David Gogo’s Different Views and the latest live- and I believe only family authorized- posthumous Jeff Healey disc, Songs from the Road. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. I hope you find something of interest, not just in my words but in exploring the music I’m recommending. Donald 

David Gogo Different Views (Cordova Bay)

Nanaimo-based David Gogo is a veteran on the Canadian blues circuit, and he returns this fall with his tenth album of electric guitar-oriented shuffles and R&B boogie dance tunes.

The originals are power blues-rockers of the finest sort, with changes of tempo that encourage air-guitar miming from listeners and vocal arrangements that recall Tom Wilson (Where the Devil Won’t Go) and Carlos Santana (Lies). Different Views is soaring voices, power chords, and waves of organ, tightly arranged for maximum impact.

A pair of crack covers- Don’t Bring Me Down, owing as much to David Johansen as it does Eric Burden, and John Stewart’s Gold– serve as recognizable anchors.  The 1979 hit receives a vital update, with Gogo’s whammy bar altering the familiar melody and Carolyn Mark holding her own in Stevie Nicks’ harmony spot.

Different Views is a blues album that holds up to repeated listens.

 Jeff Healey Songs from the Road (Stony Plain)

 During his life I largely ignored Jeff Healey, the Toronto blues and jazz guitarist who died in early 2008. While friends were grooving to his radio hits, I was busy with John Hiatt, Dave Alvin, and the Razorbacks.

This seamless set, collated from festival and club appearances during the last two years of his life, serves as a solid introduction to the bluesy side of Healey while providing long-time followers much to savour.

Showcasing the breadth of Healey’s gifts, most tracks clock in at over five minutes allowing these roadhouse jams to evolve. I Think I Love You Too Much and Angel Eyes represent Healey hits, while the catalogues of Cream, Willie Dixon, The Beatles, and The Allmans are expressively mined by Healey’s impressive band of blues brothers.

Songs from the Road is a fine addition to the Jeff Healey legacy.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee.