Archive for the ‘Blues’ Tag

Favourite Blues Albums of 2018   Leave a comment


I don’t listen to a lot of blues, and almost all that does come my way is via a small handful of supportive PR houses. To their credit, they are discriminating. Still, a lot of the (mostly) electric blues that I encounter leaves me cold. My preferred style of blues is (usually) of the acoustic-based, singer-songwriter type. That and blues that comes with a heavy dose of rhythm ‘n’ soul. These are the finest of the forty or fifty blues (and blues-ish) albums that came my way during 2018. Take it for what it is:

1. Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar- Run To Me reviewed here

2. Rory Block- A Woman’s Soul: A Tribute to Bessie Smith reviewed here

3. Sue Foley- The Ice Queen reviewed here

4. Joyann Parker- Hard to Love reviewed here

 5. John Akapo- Paradise Blues reviewed here

6. Brandon Isaak- Rise ‘n’ Shine Gritty and groovy folk-blues with just a touch of grease. Atmospheric and engaging, Brandon Isaak is a terrific songwriter and performer. Enjoyed this one immensely.

7. Emily Burgess- Are We In Love? reviewed here

8. Trudy Lynn- Blues Keep Knockin’ reviewed here

9. Kat Danser- Goin’ Gone reviewed here

10. Suzie Vinnick- Shake The Love Around reviewed here

Advertisements

John Akapo- Paradise Blues review   1 comment

 John Akapo Paradise Blues Mensch House Records

I like the blues. I don’t love the blues. There are contemporary blues artists whose music I do love, RoryBlock, Eric Bibb, and Crystal Shawanda among them, but I will never love the blues the way I love bluegrass, southern country soul, and much of the “singer-songwriterAmericana almost-country” set.  

But, I do love the debut album from John Akapo.

Taumei “Big John” Akapois a resident of Hawaii, Maui-born I believe. His Samoan heritage echoes in his interpretation of classic blues sounds, an appealing breezy openness offering something just a little bit different. Paradise Blues is a 35-minute blues journey across well-traveled tradition with invigorating originality.

Three blues classics ground the album, including a lively opening slice of Robert Johnson, “Ramblin’ On MyMind.” One of the album’s centerpiece songs— “Hindsight (Missionary Blues)”—leaves no doubt about the impact colonization had on Akapo’s ancestors.  “Little Lani,” and “Maui Drive” also place Akapo’s Island environs at the fore,  incorporating regional moods, events, and locations over hard-driving blues beats.

Darkness permeates Muddy Waters'”I Can’t Be Satisfied,” with “Caramac Blues” (“Life is like a box full of Caramacs, we take all we want but we can’t put nothin’back”) offering more uplifting aspirations (“Be the light, be thechange you want to see.”) Growling through “Big Road Blues,” one realizes the breadth of Akapo’s vocal range.

“Fighting for Love”offers a plaintive take on an imperfect relationship (“We had a good run, it wasn’t all bad times,”) but one senses a situation of ‘too little, too late;’ here and elsewhere, Akapo’s voice reveals an elegant, soulful maturity often missing in blues presentations. Perhaps “Don’t Believe Her” offers up this dude’s story when he finally recognizes his reality.

Largely acoustic, Paradise Blues offers, as Akapo aptly describes it, “a tree rooted in traditional blues, sprinkled with Pacific salt water.” Good stuff. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted 2018 December 1 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

Kat Danser- Goin’ Gone review   1 comment

KatKat Danser Goin’ Gone Black Hen Music KatDanser.com

“Jumpin’ on the IV and II, hanging on the voodoo groove,” Dr. Kat Danser sings just a few moments into Goin’ Gone, her fifth album and second in a row in partnership with Steve Dawson—and first for his Black Hen label.

With the declaration made within “Voodoo Groove,” Alberta’s undisputed Swamp Blues Queen puts forth her road hewn CV: she is grindin’ it smooth and castin’ a juju spell…whatever that exactly means. To me, it is an assurance of razor-sharp, unabashed southern-influenced blues.

Individual credits are not provided, but between Danser and Dawson, the pair float their guitars over and through deep grooves established by Jeremy Holmes (bass and mandolin) and Gary Craig (drums and percussion) with substantial accoutrement from Jim Hoke (saxophone and harmonica) and Matt Combs (fiddle and mandolin). One can lose oneself in this meaty gumbo, overcome with the variety of aural flavours spicing their collaborative concoction.

Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Train I Ride” is transformed, with Hoke’s brass notes playing off extended slide phrases and Danser’s sultry, yearning vocal. “Memphis, Tennessee” is a challenge, the city defending itself despite troubled history: “I made the blues on Beale Street when cowards covered their heads in sheets, and I do as I please because I am Memphis, Tennessee.”

I can’t figure out what the hell “Kansas City Blues” is about—a city ill-prepared for a snowstorm? Hattie McDaniel? A lover crushed by heartbreak? No matter, Danser’s voice is in top form on this crooning blues, as she is on the more straightforward title track and the light yet feisty “Chevrolet Car.”

Nothing is left to interpretation within “Hol’ Up Baby;” Danser ain’t done with her lover quite yet: “Maybe I ain’t always been true, but I ain’t over you.” Danser comes home on “My Town,” capturing the dichotomy of knowing (and loving) a place so well that it hurts to see its truths.

Reflecting the current political and social climate, “Light the Flame” is as close to rock ‘n’ roll as I think Danser comfortably ventures, and it is a compelling call to action —neither myopic nor ham-fisted. A coda of sorts, “Time For Me To Go” eases her listeners into the night, a farewell until we next hear from this northern master of the natch’l blues.

With Baptized By The Mud of 2013 establishing her bone fides to a more prominent degree, Kat Danser had a high mark to achieve with its follow-up recording. She has met and exceeded any expectations with Goin’ Gone, a testament to her maturity as a vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist. Teaming with the likes of Steve Dawson is seldom a regretful decision; together they have created a unified and convincing argument that further elevates Danser within the crowded blues field.

 

Barbara Blue- Fish in Dirty H2O review   Leave a comment

FishInDirtyH20Barbara Blue Fish in Dirty H2O Big Blue Records www.BarbaraBlue.com

Barbara Blue’s music simmers: she isn’t flashing, and she sure as hell isn’t going to allow wailing guitars to overwhelm the mood she establishes with each song. Rather, Barbara Blue does a slow burn across this hour-long testament to the power of soulful Memphis blues.

A 21-year residence at Beale Street’s Silky O’Sullivan’s has provided Blue with an authenticity grounded in plain truth: folks ain’t comin’ back if you don’t give them something to keep them comin’ back. With Fish in Dirty H2O, the Reigning Queen of Beale Street grabs us by the ear and pulls us into her house.

Sultry and passionate, Blue doesn’t just growl and roar, although she does some of that on “Accidental Theft” and “My Heart Belongs to the Blues”. She may sing of “Wild Women,” but hers is a more nuanced, experienced approach. With the spiritual-sounding “Walk Away,” one of several songs co-written with Mark Narmore, she takes us to a place where there is no choice but to recognize truth: “there’s not enough money or time, to spend this life unhappy.” Al Green couldn’t express things with more clarity than Blue.

Not everything is heavy. She sings the praises of her “BBQ Man”—he’s “got the rotisserie rollin’,” she claims—with more than a little sauce drippin’ within her innuendo, and embraces life by “soppin’ up” the “Gravy Train.” Plenty of horns, keys, and B3 add flavour with a heap of the familiar Memphis feel. “Meet Me in Memphis,” indeed: with her voice alone, Blue could carry a song, but augmented as she is by a stellar band, including a rhythm section that never loses their groove—Bernard “Pretty” Purdie (drums) and Dave Smith (bass)—one is essentially forced to just hold on.

Songs like “That’s Working For Me” and “Johnny Lee” reveal a confident, powerful performer who isn’t about to allow herself to be limited: Barbara Blue presents herself with a commanding authority that will brook no argument to the contrary.

With recent releases from Rory Block, Trudy Lynn, Joyann Parker, and Suzie Vinnick, Barbara Blue further supports my assertion: the ladies are where one should look to find the most emotionally charged, exciting, and soulful blues being created today.

Her amazing rendition of “Drunken Angel,” not included on this album:

 

 

Posted 2018 October 1 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

Trudy Lynn- Blues Keep Knockin’ review   2 comments

trudy-lynn-blues-keep-knockin-hi-res-coverTrudy Lynn Blues Keep Rockin’ Conner Ray Music www.TrudyLynn.com

In the last six months, an abundance of blues have been sent my way. Most of it has left me cold: with all due respect to the PR folks, labels, and musicians—I don’t need to hear any more guitar noodlers. Each and every one leaves me bored.

What doesn’t? Albums produced by singers like Trudy Lynn.

I have heard and written about some great blues singers this year: Suzie Vinnick, Rory Block, Joyann Parker, Samantha Martin, Sue Foley, Crystal Shawanda…and I am guessing you are seeing what they have in common: they groove, they get deep, and they sing with soul. Beautiful recordings all.

Add Houston legend Trudy Lynn’s latest to the list. A member of the Houston Music Hall of Fame, Trudy Lynn knows her stuff. There is no little bit of R&B in her music, and she twists her one-of-a-kind voice around each and every song included on Blues Keep Knockin’.

Covering a Hoyt Axton/Three Dog Night song is always a fine way to get my attention, and Trudy Lynn’s mid-set, organ-embellished rendition of “I’ve Never Been to Spain” did the trick. Sultry and intimate, without over-reaching, this version is one to remember. “Blues Ain’t Nothin” and “Blues Keep Knocking” are powerful showpieces for this veteran of the circuit who has been nominated for Living Blues awards.

I sure don’t want to get on the wrong side of a woman declaring her devotion, “It’s tit-for-tit, tat-for-tat: you kill by dog, I’ll kill your cat…” as she does on “It’s Alright,” a sharp piano-based song that is as scary as it is powerful. Steve Krase’s harmonica is prominently positioned on this number, as well as throughout the album. “When I Been Drinkin'” is a no-nonsense declaration of a woman’s needs, and Dan Carpenter’s sax is just the punctuation the song requires, while Trudy Lynn lays things plain within “I Sing the Blues.” “Pitiful” features some fiery guitar from Bob Lanza, but it doesn’t detract from Ms Trudy’s  soul-drenched performance.

The album closes with a guitar-rich interpretation of Etta James’ “Would It Make Any Difference to You,” which features Carolyn Wonderland laying out lively, nuanced notes.

Trudy Lynn has been making music for a long time, and Blues Keep Knockin’ is her thirteenth album. This is a damn fine blues record. Seek it out.

 

Posted 2018 September 16 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

Rory Block- A Woman’s Soul: A Tribute to Bessie Smith review   3 comments

Rory Block

Rory Block A Woman’s Soul: A Tribute to Bessie Smith Stony Plain Records

What was the name of the Maria Muldaur album a decade or so ago? Naughty, Bawdy, & Blue, that’s it.

That would also work for this new set from Rory Block, the latest in her ongoing mission tracing the historical importance and continuing influence of the blues masters.

While the previous six volumes of her Mentor Series honoured “founding fathers of the blues” she encountered as a teenager, Block has now turned her vision to the ladies with the “Power Women of the Blues.” No better singer to feature on the initial set than Bessie Smith, the Empress of the Blues.

This is how I like my blues. Entirely acoustic with multi-tracked accompaniment (Block also offers unconventional percussion from hat boxes, guitar bongos, plastic tubs, and wooden spoons to go along with her gorgeous, masterful guitar playing) allowing the character of the music to reverberate internally. Stripped of any finery, we are left with the essentials: guitar, bass, voice, and fervent passion.

There is no shortage of double entendre across these ten songs including “Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl,” “Do Your Duty,” and “Kitchen Man.” Other songs offer additional vital relationship insight. “Black Mountain Blues” suggests a razor and a gun, while advising “the bullet will get you if you start your dodging too late.” Little highbrow here with “Gimme a Pigfoot and A Bottle of Beer” and an extended and groovy “Empty Bed Blues” receiving relaxed but riveting, powerful performances. Within “Empty Bed Blues,” Block reveals the ache and hunger of the protagonist in every note she sings.

As appealing as those songs are, and Block’s execution is stellar, I find greater interest in songs like “Weeping Willow Blues” and “I’m Down In The Dumps.” While there is much to dissect within the ‘naughty, bawdy, and blue’ songs—culturally, socially, even politically—when Block presents a more nuanced song, she is at her strongest. Of course, no one advocates wrapping chains around oneself and jumping into the river over the loss of a man, but Block plums the emotional depths of these songs so effectively they sound inspirational. Naturally, Block’s “On Revival Day” is uplifting and heartening.

Bessie Smith was a prolific artist, and volumes have been written of her influence on twentieth century music. That continues today with prominent performers like Rory Block (and Bonnie Raitt and Muldaur) doing their duty in keeping this vibrant music relevant ninety-five years after Smith’s first recording session.

 

Favourite Roots Albums of 2018, so far   2 comments

It’s July 1. The year is half over and during the past six months some terrific music has been released. While I have heard my share of the roots music that has come out, I haven’t heard it all. I do have my favourites and that is what I share today: Fervor Coulee’s Favourite Roots releases of 2018, so far. In no particular order…

GauthierMary Gauthier- Rifles & Rosary Beads An ambitious undertaking that has received its fair share of attention. Co-writing with American veterans and their families, Gauthier has created a piece of art greater than its parts. Of course, none of it would be as significant if the songs themselves were weak or if Gauthier faltered in their delivery. No worries. Gauthier’s indomitable performances bridge the gap between those of us who have never considered serving in the military, and those whose lives have inalterably changed because of their sacrifices. Key tracks: “Got Your Six” “The War After the War” “Brothers” (purchased download)

JohnnyCash-ForeverWordsVarious Artists- Johnny Cash Forever Words: The Music Excepting the typically overwrought Elvis Costello track (When he sang—prior to about 2000—there were few who had greater regard for him, but he lost me a long time ago—his voice is shot, he mistakes emoting for expression, and has completely lost the plot on what even sounds ‘good’) this collection provides an hour of entertainment and contemplation. Comprised of unrecorded Cash ‘songs’—lyrics, poems, or musings, depending—that were—for the most part—fleshed out by the various performers, one is transported into a series of ethereal collaborations that is very affecting. Again, like the Gauthier album, what matters is more than the process, it’s the music: this album enhances the Cash legacy, unlike some other more exploitive sets that have been released. Key tracks:    Alison Krauss & Union Station’s interpretation of Robert Lee Castleman’s “The Captain’s Daughter” Rosanne Cash’s “The Walking Wounded” Carlene Carter’s “June’s Sundown” Jamey Johnson “Spirit Rider” (purchased CD)

GebtryBobbie Gentry- Live At The BBC A Record Store Day release, this 12-track compilation of cuts from 1968 and 1969 are simply a fan’s greatest attainable wish. Performances—excepting “Ode to Billie Joe”—unheard since their original broadcast (so, brand new to most of us) that add to Gentry’s legacy. Her voice is huskier on these numbers, the arrangements sparser, the mood slightly playful: the effect is  even greater intimacy that that expressed through the album versions of the songs. Key tracks: “Papa Won’t You Let Me Go To Town With You” “Recollection” “Nikki Hokey” in a medley with Robert Parker’s “Barefootin'” name-checking Long John Baldry. (purchased vinyl)

Motel MirrorsMotel Mirrors- In The Meantime The second collaboration between Amy LaVere and John Paul Keith is every bit as satisfying as their first, with the added bonus of having folded Will Sexton and Shawn Zorn into the mix to become a genuine band. Americana with a heavy dose of Memphis heart, this is a country-rock album that owes much to the music that influenced it. Key tracks: “Things I Learned” “Do With Me What You Want” “The Man Who Comes Around” (purchased download)

MarielMariel Buckley- Driving In The Dark I would have felt bad had I not been able to include an Alberta artist on this list, and Mariel Buckley doesn’t place out of any obligation. I wasn’t familiar with her until late last year, but she has quickly become a Fervor Coulee favourite. Produced by Leeroy Stagger, these ten songs contain lyrical and instrumental nuances that make them individually appealing and collectively stout. There isn’t much polish herein, just as it should be. I avoid using the word ‘authentic,’ but that is what works here. Straight-forward, modern country (think Kelly Willis) for those of us who live in the past. Key tracks: “Rose Coloured Frames” “Heart Is On Fire” “Pride” (purchased download)

David DavisDavid Davis & the Warrior River Boys- Didn’t He Ramble: The Songs of Charlie Poole A welcome return for one of bluegrass music’s most consistently satisfying bands with a traditional bent (serviced with CD). My full review here. 

DuffeyVarious Artists- Epilogue: A Tribute to John Duffey A bluegrass legend and innovator gets his due, more than two decades after his passing (Serviced with download). My full review here.

JoyannJoyann Parker- Hard To Love Soulful and blue (serviced with CD). My full review here.

dancing500Gretchen Peters- Dancing With the Beast Americana/folk doesn’t get better than this, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member’s ninth album of original material (purchased CD). My full review here.

HMT-Cover-862x785Hadley McCall Thackston- Hadley McCall Thackston A beautiful, stunning debut: like Venus, she emerges fully realized (serviced with CD). My full review here.

marewakefieldnomad_largeMare Wakefield & Nomad- Time to Fly There is so much good music, we can only hope that the best of it finds its way to us. Sometimes it is up to us to do the work. Search out this Nashville-based duo: they are worth it (serviced with CD). My full review here.

smds-album-cover-768x767Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar- Run To Me Southern Ontario’s soul revue gift to the world- lively, bright, and brassy (serviced with CD). My full review here.

DocWatson_LiveAtClub47_COVER-494x494Doc Watson Live at Club 47 There is no end to the live Doc Watson albums available, and some (Doc Watson On Stage, for one) are definitely more well-rounded than this set. However, this 1963 set recorded in Massachusetts is a welcome and indispensable addition for those of us who just can’t get enough of the deft, affable roots legend. Several of the songs contained here would remain staples of his live and recorded repertoire for the next five decades (“Little Sadie,” “Deep River Blues,” “Sittin’ On Top Of The World”) while others are less frequently encountered (“Little Margaret,” “Hop High Ladies The Cake’s All Dough,” and “Blue Smoke, for example.”) Watson’s connection to his audience would not waver throughout his career, and this early archival recording- coming in at almost 80 minutes- is riveting. (Purchased download)

 I limited myself to a  baker’s dozen albums. Look around Fervor Coulee- I have reviewed a lot of great roots music since January, and many wonderful albums just wouldn’t fit on this list: the latest from Peter Rowan, Sylvia, John Prine, Bob Rea, Sue Foley, The Lynnes, John Paul Keith, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Travelin’ McCourys…

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald