Fresh Biscuits! New CD Reviews

There were a lot of great Blues albums that came out so far this year and unfortunately some that aren’t so great. I’ve been away from reviews for a while and focusing on other things but we’re back and our upcoming reviews will sort through the junk so you don’t have to. Let’s hit it!

JaneLeeHookerNoBJane Lee Hooker
No B!
Released on April 15, 2016

If Sass Jordan formed a blues band called AC/DC it would sound like Jane Lee Hooker and she’d make us all believers. The real Jane Lee Hooker is a no-nonsense, no frills, no-fucking-chance-of-hearing-anything-pretty street fighting New York City bunch of Rock & Rollers high on Blues power and Hell bent on riding on Howlin’ Wolf’s God damned shoulders out into the shadowy alleys of your soul. With their debut album No B! on Ruf Records they bring along tough original songs like “In The Valley” and high octane covers like “Mean Town Blues” and “Shake For Me,” and their version of “Mannish Boy” will have the North Carolina potty police checking their hardware, if you know what I mean.

Guitarists High Top and Tina ‘T Bone’ Gorin played together in Helldorado from 1997-2001 before a host of personnel issues killed that band. In 2013 they reconvened and have been bringing their raucous guitar sparring to the masses ever since with Jane Lee Hooker. Singer Dana “Danger” Athens earns her name on every track on No B! as the band courageously occupies an improbable space where Punk, Blues, and Rock & Roll collide. You can’t fake this music and anyone who tries will probably get run over by a biker with a Jane Lee Hooker tattoo. And it would serve them right.
AlbertCastigliaBigDogAlbert Castiglia
Big Dog
Released on May 20, 2016

Big Dog continues the upward march of Albert Castiglia’s career and reputation as a hard hitting singer and guitarist. Big Dog has all the blazing guitars you come you expect but every song is a keeper which is a high-water mark for any artist. The album blasts off with a solid punch in your slick, pop-blues loving face. “Let The Big Dog Eat” is strutting, grunting, fighting, biting, no-punches-pulled back alley dog fight with the leader of the pack coming to claim what has been rightfully surrendered. Much of Big Dog falls into the realm of funky, gritty, dirty, and stanky. From the grooves to the guitar tones and snarl in his voice Albert infects the music with a nasty South Side Trojan horse virus that will actually cure your Blues.

Harp maestro Johnny Sansone sits in on two tracks, getting mean and evil on “Where The Devil Makes His Deals.” Producer Mike Zito wrote and performs on “Don’t Let Them Fool Ya” and together they tag team that track like a college Lacrosse team on Saturday night. Zito has been a common thread in many of the best blues albums of the last few years including a few of his own. He certainly inspired to Albert to play his best and sing from the soul. Albert is clearly hitting his stride as a well-rounded musician. Albert’s voice sounds great on Big Dog. It is strong, deep, and authoritative. He sings with conviction and his emotions sell the songs regardless of the words. As for the guitar playing, this is is my kind of album. From gutbucket slide to razor sharp Albert King licks and all points in between Big Dog has it. if Albert Castiglia comes near your town, do not hesitate; just “Get Your Ass In The Van” and go.

 

MorelandArbucklePromisedLandOrBustMoreland & Arbuckle
Promised Land Or Bust
Released on May 6, 2016

Promised Land Or Bust is a return to the hard blues by this workhorse band from Kansas. They are ready to rumble and the rumble in these grooves is deep and wide. Once again this trio presents the Blues in a familiar yet fresh fashion which blends everything from Little Walter to Soundgarden into a denim and sweat smoothie that will put boots on your feet and hair on your face. The band eschews cliches of classic and modern blues and even though songs like “Mean And Evil” touch on common themes they are addressed from new perspectives. The lyrics examine loneliness, desperation, atonement, and redemption. Even their brilliant choice of covers like Mike Hosty’s murder ballad “Hannah” and Ryan Taylor’s bleak “Why’d She Have To Go (and Let Me Down)” blend seamlessly with their own meditations on the heart of darkness. Few bands can walk the tightrope between visceral and cerebral and even fewer can capture us in that nexus like Moreland & Arbuckle. Their songs will punch you in the gut, explain to you why it had to be done and by the way, it’s for your own good!

Drummer Kendall Newby is the unsung and un-named secret weapon of Moreland & Arbuckle. His powerful yet nuanced drumming makes him the John Bonham of Roots and Blues. He drives “Mean & Evil” to the precipice of Hell, lays down a full court press on “I’m A King Bee” and underscores the melancholic majesty of “Mount Comfort.” Since joining the band about five years ago he has put his stamp on their whole catalog but his contributions to the new music cannot be overlooked. Elsewhere, Promised Land Or Bust offers delicate beauty on “Waco Avenue,” and the raucous shuffle they have perfected is represented by “Woman Down In Arkansas” and the marauding “Long Way Home.”

Moreland & Arbuckle have been together under their own moniker for over ten years and they continue to move from strength to strength. For me, their last album 7 Cities was perfect in every way but it stepped away from the blues farther than any of their previous efforts. Promised Land Or Bust returns the band to the Blues. It is a crowd-funded effort through a Kickstarter campaign and their persistence and dedication to the music and the dedication of their fans paid off when Alligator Records picked them up. Their ten years of toils have landed them on the premier Blues label in the world. The Promised Land is on the horizon and closing fast. You owe it to yourself to join them for the journey.

 

JimSuhlerLiveAtTheKesslerJim Suhler & Monkey Beat
Live At The Kessler
Released On June 17, 2016

I love a good live album and Live At The Kessler doesn’t let me down. Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat are red hot, tight, and rocking. They blend Rock & Roll, Zydeco, Blues, Boogie Woogie, and more into a concert experience full of highlights and plenty of music that will make you dance. From the opening classic Texas Shuffle of “I Declare” to the new song “Doin’ The Best I Can” the tone is set to good times, big grooves, and deep rhythm pockets. About midway, they take it down for a bit to let you catch your breath. “Texassippi” is a sweet tea sipping back porch hymn, “Reverie” offer elegiac repose before the swirling storm of “Sunday Drunk.” The set is closed by a slide guitar tour de force called “Restless Soul” which interpolates “Bullfrog Blues” wherein Suhler name-drops Rory Gallagher and lets it rip for a Rory style rave up.

Suhler is a tasteful and skilled guitar player. He plays things that fit the songs but he unleashes the big guns at all the right times too. His licks can bring you in close and tight or knock the Stetson right off your head and pin it to the roadhouse rafters. The band is locked in like a fine Swiss watch. Each piece fits and elements like accordion blend to make a deceptively spicy gumbo. Altogether Live At The Kessler is rip roaring fun and an excellent overview of Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat’s catalog of tunes and styles. It’s a brilliant primer for those unfamiliar with their work. Be sure to check out Jim Suhler’s website where he is offering fans two special digital downloads: “Lipstick Pickup,” co-written by Jim with Ray Wylie Hubbard and performed by Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat and “Chasin’ Down the Devil,” written and recorded by Jim with the Tejas Brothers. For more live action from Jim Suhler, you can catch him and the band live in person or see Jim as a member of George Thorogood & The Destroyers.

 

AnniPiperMoreGuitarsThanFriendsAnni Piper
More Guitars Than Friends
Released on February 17, 2016

Anni Piper is a lovely woman and based on her album covers, she know it. All too often, if an artist is showing T&A on an album cover it’s to distract you from the music contained therein. Sadly that is again the case with More Guitars Than Friends. Truly, her songs are not bad but they are just too blah for the Blues. They take a rocket ship to the lowest common denominator and for music lovers looking for that elusive X-factor, it won’t be found here. We’ve heard all this before. After hearing this album for the first time I was surprised to learn Anni Piper won the Best New Talent award at the 2005 Australian Blues Music Awards. Australia gave us the Blues of Dave Hole and Fiona Boyes. The music on More Guitars Than Friends is far, far removed from what I imagine, at my peril apparently, all Australians worth their salt would like. I imagine rough and tumble rabblerousers with booming amps and wicked riffs but then again I probably listen to too much AC/DC.

Anni Piper sings in a sultry style and she is a capable singer. She would probably have a great career if she moved to Nashville. She has the look and voice that could make her a huge star of Pop Country. I don’t like writing reviews like this. I know artists put a lot of work into their music and they are rightfully proud of their success. I’ve never put out an album and I truly respect everyone who has taken the gamble and made it to that point. But this is Blues. This is the music of Son House, Charley Patton, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Bessie Smith, and Koko Taylor. I get countless discs from Blues musicians, some established and some weekend warriors hoping to quit the day jobs. Recently there have been too many albums with formulaic blues, slick production, vapid lyrics, and guitar soloists hitting me over the head with Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Albert King licks. Sometimes I have to wonder if they ever even heard Albert. I suppose I decided to take a stand on this one because of the cover. Anni flaunts her curves on other album covers and her promotional materials. When so much skin is uncovered you have to wonder what is being covered up, like bad music.

Eye catching covers are important but the music has to live up to the promise of a great album cover. When your cover is the singer in a sensual pose showing off her curves it seems you’re counting on sexual arousal for album sales. And if you look like a 10 your album better not be a 2. Sure, Blues has a glorious history of sexuality but it’s also about passion. Outer beauty invokes a response but inner beauty builds passion. There is no inner beauty here. If this slick pabulum fuels your passion then you may be a soulless, hollow cyborg ready-programmed for Clear Channel’s homogenized corporate radio. But you’re a Blues fan right? You deserve better than this.

 

Thanks for checking out our reviews. Here is a sampler of the music covered in this post. Let us know what you think on Facebook and Twitter!

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases For June 17, 2016

At long last our weekly roundup of new releases is back. This a great week to return, with amazing new live releases from Walter Trout and Omar Coleman, a terrific new studio album from the powerful Alexis P. Suter Band, new music from Sammy Eubanks, and at last an album that features John Primer with his road band.

Walter Trout drops the new Alive In Amsterdam while still out on the road for the Battle Scars Tour in the US and Europe, but the disc contains songs pulled from every era of Walter’s five-decade career. Walter has mesmerized guitar fans around the globe with his masterful phrases and unique style and is a three-time winner of the Overseas Artist Of The Year title at the British Blues Awards, and is also a three-time Blues Music Awards nominee. Walter is back and feeling strong after his major health issues almost ended not just his career but his life. He’s back out there ripping up on the road and now you can sample what you’ll get when you see him live.

Alexis P. Suter has been nominated twice for Blues Music Awards in the KoKo Taylor Vocalist of the year and Soul/Blues Vocalist categories. The Alexis P. Suter Band started winning fans as regular performers at Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble and have been wowing audiences at North American Roots and Blues festivals, events, and venues ever since. The intensity of this powerhouse band will continue to capture attention with All For Loving You, the follow-up to the critically acclaimed Love The Way You Roll CD.

Jim Suhler ranks among the best of Texas’ guitar slingers like Johnny Winter, Billy Gibbons and Stevie Ray Vaughan and is also a member of George Thorogood’s Destroyers. His previous Underworld Releases have been nominated for Blues Blast Music Awards. Live At The Kessler showcases Jim’s ferocious guitar skills, songwriting and his smooth vocals.

That Will Never Do is a live recording from May 2015 and is the first in long time to include John Primer’s own Real Deal Blues Band. The band features Melvin Smith on bass who played with both Koko Taylor and Lurrie Bell, Bill Lupkin on harmonica who played with all the Chicago greats, and Lenny Media on drums who played with the one and only Magic Slim.

Omar Coleman’s Live At Rosa’s Lounge showcases one of the funkiest Chicago Blues bands you’ll ever hear. If Willie Dixon wrote songs for the Meters it might get this funky. The rock and roll with intensity too and Omar’s powerful vocals and harp bring it all together.

Last this week is Sugar Me from Northwest sensation Sammy Eubanks. Sammy has won the Best Male Vocalist award 10 times in the state of Washington. He and the band have won multiple NW music awards and recognition including advancing to the semi-finals at the 2013 International Blues Challenge. Recorded in Nashville, Sugar Me highlights Sammy Eubanks vocal talents and includes guest appearance by Reese Wynans of Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble and Guitarist Bob Britt who has played with Delbert McClinton.

Lots of great new releases this week; be sure to collect them all!

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter

 

Walter Trout

Walter Trout Alive In Amsterdam

The Alexis P. Suter Band

The Alexis P. Suter Band All For Loving You

Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat

Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat Live At The Kessler

John Primer and Real Deal Blues Band

John Primer and Real Deal Blues Band That Will Never Do

Omar Coleman

Omar Coleman Live At Rosa’s Lounge

Sammy Eubanks

Sammy Eubanks Sugar Me

Check out a few tracks from these new releases with our latest Spotify Playlist

Lonnie Mack Has Passed

Lonnie Mack, July 18, 1941 – April 21, 2016

LonnieMackThe following is a press release from Alligator Records. Here at Blues Biscuits we are crushed at this news. Lonnie is one of my favorite musicians and one of a long list of players I found through Stevie Ray Vaughan. I came to appreciate Lonnie for his breadth of talent and styles. He is in the pantheon of the blues Gods for sure. Rest easy Lonnie, we’re glad you were in the band…

Groundbreaking guitarist and vocalist Lonnie Mack, known as one of rock’s first true guitar heroes, died on April 21, 2016 of natural causes at Centennial Medical Center near his home in Smithville, Tennessee. His early instrumental recordings – among them Wham! and Memphis — influenced many of rock’s greatest players, including Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and especially Stevie Ray Vaughan. He was 74.

Rolling Stone called him “a pioneer in rock guitar soloing.” Guitar World said, “Mack attacked the strings with fast, aggressive single-string phrasing and a seamless rhythm style that significantly raised the guitar virtuoso bar and foreshadowed the arena-sized tones of guitar heroes to come.” The Chicago Tribune wrote, “With the wiggle of a whammy bar and a blinding run of notes up and down the neck of his classic Gibson Flying V, Lonnie Mack launched the modern guitar era.”

Drawing from influences as diverse as rhythm and blues, country, gospel and rockabilly, Mack’s guitar work continues to be revered by generation after generation of musicians. He recorded a number of singles and a total of 11 albums for labels including Fraternity, Elektra, Alligator, Epic and Capitol.

Mack was born Lonnie McIntosh on July 18, 1941 in Harrison, Indiana, twenty miles west of Cincinnati. Growing up in rural Indiana, Mack fell in love with music as a child. From family sing-alongs he developed a deep appreciation of country music, while he absorbed rhythm and blues from the late-night R&B radio stations and gospel from his local church. Starting off with a few chords that he learned from his mother, Lonnie gradually blended all the sounds he heard around him into his own individual style. He named Merle Travis and Robert Ward (of the Ohio Untouchables) as his main guitar influences, and George Jones and Bobby Bland as vocal inspirations.

He began playing professionally in his early teens (he quit school after a fight with his sixth-grade teacher), working clubs and roadhouses around the tri-state border area of Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. In 1958, he bought the guitar he would become best known for, a Gibson Flying V, serial number 7, which he equipped with a Bigsby tremolo bar. (After the release of Wham!, the tremolo bar became known worldwide as a “whammy bar”.) In addition to his live gigs, Lonnie began playing sessions for the King and Fraternity labels in Cincinnati. He recorded with blues and R&B greats like Hank Ballard, Freddie King and James Brown.

In 1963, at the end of another artist’s session, Lonnie cut an instrumental version of Chuck Berry’s Memphis. He didn’t even know that Fraternity had issued the single until he heard it on the radio, and within a few weeks Memphis had hit the national Top Five. Lonnie Mack went from being a talented regional roadhouse player to a national star virtually overnight.

Suddenly, he was booked for hundreds of gigs a year, crisscrossing the country in his Cadillac and rushing back to Cincinnati or Nashville to cut new singles. Wham!, Where There’s A Will There’s A Way, Chicken Pickin’ and a dozen other records followed Memphis. None sold as well as his first hit (though Where There’s A Will earned extensive black radio airplay before the DJs found out Lonnie was white), but there was enough reaction to keep him on the road for another five years of grueling one-nighters.

Fraternity Records went bust, but Lonnie kept on gigging, and in 1968 a Rolling Stone article stimulated new interest in his music. He signed with Elektra Records and cut three albums. Elektra also reissued his original Fraternity LP, The Wham Of That Memphis Man!. He began playing all the major rock venues, from Fillmore East to Fillmore West. Lonnie also made a guest appearance on the Doors’ Morrison Hotel album. You can hear Lonnie’s guitar solo on Roadhouse Blues preceded by Jim Morrison’s urgent ‘Do it, Lonnie! Do it!’ He even worked in Elektra’s A&R department. When the label merged with giant Warner Brothers, Lonnie grew disgusted with the new bureaucracy and walked out of his job.

Mack headed back to rural Indiana, playing back-country bars, going fishing and laying low. After six years of relative obscurity, Lonnie signed with Capitol and cut two albums that featured his country influences. He played on the West Coast for a while and even flew to Japan for a “Save The Whales” benefit. Then he headed to New York to team up with an old friend named Ed Labunski. Labunski was a wealthy jingle writer that wrote “This Bud’s For You” who was tired of commercials and wanted to write and play for pleasure. He and Lonnie built a studio in rural Pennsylvania and spent three years organizing and recording a country-rock band called South, which included Buffalo-based keyboardist Stan Szelest, who later played on Lonnie’s Alligator debut. Ed and Lonnie had big plans for their partnership, including producing an album by a then-obscure Texas guitarist named Stevie Ray Vaughan. But the plans evaporated when Labunski died in an auto accident, and the South album was never commercially released. Lonnie next headed for Canada and joined the band of veteran rocker Ronnie Hawkins for a summer. After a brief stay in Florida, he returned to Indiana in 1982, playing clubs in Cincinnati and the surrounding area.

Mack began his re-emergence on the national scene in November of 1983. At Stevie Ray Vaughan’s urging, he relocated from southern Indiana to Texas, where he settled in Spicewood. He began jamming with Stevie Ray (who proudly named Wham! as the first single he owned) in local clubs and flying to New York for gigs at the Lone Star and the Ritz. When Alligator Records approached Lonnie to do an album, Vaughan immediately volunteered to help him out. The result was 1985’s Strike Like Lightning, co-produced by Lonnie and Stevie Ray and featuring Stevie’s guitar on several tracks.

Mack’s re-emergence was a major music industry event. Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Ry Cooder and Stevie Ray Vaughan all joined Lonnie on stage during his 1985 tour. The New York Times said, “Although Mr. Mack can play every finger-twisting blues guitar lick, he doesn’t show off; he comes up with sustained melodies and uses fast licks only at an emotional peak. Mr. Mack is also a thoroughly convincing singer.”  Other celebrities — Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Paul Simon, Eddie Van Halen, Dwight Yoakam and actor Matt Dillon — attended shows during the Strike Like Lightning tour. The year was capped off with a stellar performance at New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall with Albert Collins and the late Roy Buchanan. That show was released commercially on DVD as Further On Down The Road.

Mack recorded two more albums for Alligator, 1986’s Second Sight and 1990’s Live! Attack Of the Killer V. In between he signed with Epic Records and released Roadhouses And Dancehalls in 1988. Mack continued to tour into the 2000s. He relocated to Smithville, Tennessee where he continued writing songs but ceased active touring. In 2001 he was inducted into the International Guitar Hall Of Fame and in 2005 into the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame.

He is survived by five children and multitudes of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Check out Lonnie’s extraordinary musicianship with this Spotify playlist:

Moonshine & Mojo Hands – Blues Reality Show Coming In April

World’s First Blues Music Reality Show To Launch in April

Moonshine & Mojo Hands reunites creators of award-winning documentaries M for Mississippi and We Juke Up in Here

MoonshineMojoHands-1
(CLARKSDALE, MS) – The long-awaited premiere of the world’s first blues music reality show will take place this spring. The first episode of Moonshine & Mojo Hands: The Mississippi Blues Series will begin streaming online on Thursday, April 21 with additional episodes to debut each week. The entire 10-episode series will stream exclusively online at www.moonshineandmojohands.com.

The web series was created by Roger Stolle and Jeff Konkel, who previously teamed up on the award-winning blues documentaries M for Mississippi: A Road Trip Through the Birthplace of the Blues and We Juke Up in Here: Mississippi’s Juke Joint Culture at the Crossroads.

For the new project, the duo traveled Mississippi’s back roads in search of juke joints, house parties, barbecue, soul food, folk artists, moonshiners and – of course – the men who keep the uniquely American music form of the blues alive in the land of its birth. The show will feature a wide range of musicians both celebrated and obscure. Featured artists include James “Super Chikan” Johnson, Leo Bud Welch, Jimbo Mathus, Robert “Bilbo” Walker, Mark “Muleman” Massey, Terry “Harmonica” Bean, Lucious Spiller, Louis “Gearshifter” Youngblood and many more.

“There’s no denying that many of the towering figures in traditional blues have passed on in recent years, but there are still incredible blues musicians living and working in Mississippi if you know where to look,” Konkel said. “And we know where to look.”

Each episode of Moonshine & Mojo Hands will take viewers on a wild ride through the Mississippi Delta and Hill Country to meet the region’s most fascinating characters in truly unforgettable settings.

“There’s truly no place else on Earth quite like Mississippi,” Stolle said. “We can’t wait to introduce viewers to all of the great music, food, culture and characters that the state has to offer.”

MoonshineMojoHands-2

The series reunites Stolle and Konkel with Damien Blaylock and Lou Bopp, both of whom figured prominently in the duo’s earlier film projects. Blaylock, who served as cinematographer and editor for both M for Mississippi and We Juke Up in Here, is serving as chief editor for the new series. Bopp is reprising his role behind the camera from We Juke Up in Here.

The web series also features cinematography by Jon Michael Ryan of Tangent Mind, Inc., audio engineering by Fred Early, editing support from Jeff Brierly, graphic design support from Joey Grisham and website support from Anne Willis.

The show was made possible through support from Coahoma County Tourism, The Lofts at the Fime & Dime, Travel for Fans, Yazoo Pass Espresso Bar, Bistro & Bakery and the generous contributions of hundreds of Kickstarter supporters.

Moonshine & Mojo Hands is a joint production of Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art and Broke & Hungry Records.

MoonshineMojoHandsLogo

For more information, contact
Roger Stolle at roger@cathead.biz or
Jeff Konkel at jeff@brokeandhungryrecords.com
Photos by Lou Bopp:
1. Gospel-bluesman Leo “Bud” Welch during filming, near Calhoun City, MS.
2. RL Boyce yard party in Como, MS, with show hosts Roger Stolle (L) and Jeff Konkel (R).

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Blast Furnace Blues Festival Coming This Weekend

Robert Randolph, Charlie Musselwhite, Coco Montoya & More Headline 2016 Blast Furnace Blues Festival at SteelStacks in Bethlehem

Festival, presented by Highmark Blue Shield, set for March 11-13

CharlieMusselwhiteBlastFurnaceBETHLEHEM, PARobert Randolph & the Family Band, GRAMMY winner Charlie Musselwhite, Johnny Winter’s All Star Band, Coco Montoya and the Royal Southern Brotherhood headline the fifth Blast Furnace Blues Festival presented by Highmark Blue Shield March 11-13, 2016 at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem. Three-day festival passes and single-day tickets for the event, which features 18 national and local blues artists are available at www.steelstacks.org and 610-332-3378.

On Sat., March 12, Blast Furnace Blues welcomes dynamic funk and soul group Robert Randolph & the Family Band. Named one of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” by Rolling Stone, Robert Randolph and his band first gained national attention with the release of the album Live at the Wetlands in 2002. The group has performed at festivals ranging from Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits, to Gathering of the Vibes and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, while Randolph’s guitar work has resulted in collaborations with icons such as Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana.

Prior to Robert Randolph’s set, guests will enjoy a scorchin’ performance by the Royal Southern Brotherhood featuring Cyril Neville of The Neville Brothers. Also performing is Coco Montoya, a former member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers who’s been called “the hottest southpaw in the blues” by Guitar One Magazine.

Headlining the festival on Sun., March 13, is the one and only Charlie Musselwhite. A Blues Hall of Famer and a 2013 GRAMMY winner for Get Up!, his collaboration with Ben Harper, Musselwhite has been recording and performing for more than five decades. During his career, the legendary harmonica player has recorded and shared the stage with a who’s who of the music world including blues legends like Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf, as well as Mick Jagger, INXS, Tom Waits and the Blind Boys of Alabama.

Earlier in the day, attendees will also enjoy a special tribute to Johnny Winter as the Johnny Winter All Star Band rocks the ArtsQuest Center. This high-energy ensemble features former Johnny Winter Band members Paul Nelson on guitar and James Montgomery on vocals, performing the music of the late blues-rock guitarist. Among the other artists who will take the stage March 13 is Janiva Magness, the 2009 Blues Foundation B.B. King Entertainer of the Year and 2015 Contemporary Female Artist of the Year.

”Highmark Blue Shield is proud to once again sponsor the Blast Furnace Blues Festival, a wonderful musical event that draws blues-lovers far beyond the Lehigh Valley,” says Susan Hubley, director of community affairs at Highmark. “This year’s lineup of musicians looks as incredible as the setting at SteelStacks. We’re grateful for the opportunity to show our support for this showcase of blues talent.”

The 2016 Blast Furnace Blues Festival kicks off Fri., March 11, with an incredible night of music by some of the region’s top blues acts. Set to take the stage are Friar’s Point, Sarah Ayers Band and the Craig Thatcher Band. The festival will also offer a special blues brunch, with music by the BC Combo, March 13 at 11 a.m.

Looking for the ultimate experience at Blast Furnace Blues? The festival offers three-day VIP Packages, which include admission to the entire festival, as well as a Sunday Blues Brunch ticket, meet & greets with select headliners, commemorative poster, valet parking and more. VIP Packages, which are available in limited quantities, are only $199.

BLAST FURNACE BLUES PRESENTED BY HIGHMARK BLUE SHIELD LINEUP:
March 11
Musikfest Café presented by Yuengling
6:30 p.m. Friar’s Point
8:00 p.m. Sarah Ayers Band
9:45 p.m. Craig Thatcher Band

March 12
Musikfest Café presented by Yuengling
12:30 p.m. Ursula Ricks
1:45 p.m. Darrell Nulisch
3:15 p.m. James Armstrong
5:00 p.m. Coco Montoya
6:45 p.m. Royal Southern Brotherhood
8:30 p.m. Robert Randolph & the Family Band
Fowler Blast Furnace Room Stage
1:00 p.m. Maria Woodford Band
2:30 p.m. Toby Walker
4:15 p.m. Ursula Ricks
6:00 p.m. Darrell Nulisch
7:45 p.m. James Armstrong

March 13
Musikfest Café presented by Yuengling
11:00 a.m. The BC Combo
1:15 p.m. The Revelers
2:30 p.m. Janiva Magness
4:15 p.m. Johnny Winter All Star Band
6:00 p.m. Charlie Musselwhite
Fowler Blast Furnace Room Stage
12:30 p.m. Matt Anderson
2:00 p.m. James Supra
3:45 p.m. Matt Anderson
5:15 p.m. The Revelers

Long John Hunter Playlist

In honor of Long John Hunter, we’ve put together a playlist. Yes, of course we did. We love playlists! If you’re not familiar with Long John Hunter, this is a great way to get familiar with his music. There are some tracks from his early singles on Peacock to his critically acclaimed work for Alligator Records, including a few tracks from the terrific Lone Star Shootout album with his pals Lonnie Brooks and Phillip Walker.long_john_hunter2

Long John Hunter grew up in Arkansas and Texas. As a young man, he was working in Beaumont, TX when B.B. King came to the Raven Club. Hunter took notice of the way women were charmed by Mr. King. Inspired by the lovely ladies, Hunter bought a guitar, started a band, and soon found himself headlining at the Raven Club. However, it was his famous 13 year stint headlining at the Lobby Bar in Juarez that brought him early acclaim. He gigged regularly with Little Joe Washington and both performers were regularly found swinging from the rafters while playing their guitars. Even with this early acclaim, Long John Hunter only got to record a handful of singles until the late 80’s resurgence of interest in Blues. He went on to record half a dozen new albums over the remainder of his career. The CD age also found many of his singles reissued and repackaged as well. Finally the public knew what the folks of Texas already did – Long John Hunter was a living legend.

We hope you enjoy the tracks we picked out and be sure to explore more of this talented man’s music.

Thanks again for checking out our playlists. They are a great way to hear new music and revisit some classics, but please keep in mind that artists and/or their estates get very little money from streaming media. If you hear something you like, please buy it and support them.

Long John Hunter Dies At 84

LongJohnHunterAlligator Records has released the following press release regarding Long John Hunter’s death on Monday:

Internationally known Texas guitar legend Long John Hunter, 84, died in his sleep at his home in Phoenix, Arizona on Monday, January 4. His signature Texas blues were fueled by his single-note solos and melodic, drawling vocals. The Los Angeles Times called him “a top notch singer, guitarist and unbridled wildman performer…a raw, feral talent bursting with energy.” During a 60-year career, he recorded seven solo albums and a number of 45s.

Long before Hunter became a world-renowned recording artist, he was already a major draw in the Beaumont/Port Arthur, Texas region, where he cut his first 45. In 1957 he headed to Juarez, Mexico where he led the house band at the rough and tumble Lobby Bar for the next 13 years. There he played for locals, cowboys, soldiers, tourists and touring musicians, including Buddy Holly, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Etta James, Albert Collins and many others. He became a mentor to a young Bobby Fuller (I Fought The Law). Twice James Brown brought his band to witness Hunter in action. The second time Brown surprisingly took the stage during a set break. Unfazed, the audience screamed for Brown and company to move on and clear the way for the return of their hero, Long John Hunter.

Hunter became regionally famous not only for his musicianship, but for his showmanship. One of his favorite tricks was to hold his guitar by the neck in one hand while continuing to play. With his free hand, he’d reach up, grab a rafter above the stage and start to swing, never missing a beat. The Lobby Bar crowd delighted in Long John’s antics, and they inspired the title of his 1997 album, Swingin’ From The Rafters.

John T. Hunter, Jr. was born in Ringgold, Louisiana on July 13, 1931 and grew up in Arkansas and Texas. He had no interest in being a professional musician until, when he was 22, co-workers at the Beaumont, Texas box factory where he worked took him to see B.B. King perform at the Raven Club. Hunter later said he was amazed at the reception King got from the crowd, especially the frenzy of the women in the audience. The next day Hunter went out and bought a guitar. That very week he put a band together and before long developed his own style, mixing swinging blues and razor sharp guitar playing reminiscent of fellow Texans Albert Collins and Gatemouth Brown, with a definite nod towards B.B. King. Less than a year later, Hunter was headlining at the Raven Club, the very same place he first saw B.B.

Hunter’s growing reputation spread to Houston, where Don Robey of Duke Records (home of Gatemouth Brown, Bobby Bland and Junior Parker) released Hunter’s first single, Crazy Baby b/w She Used To Be My Woman, in 1954. The record didn’t win Hunter a national audience, but it did generate enough interest to keep him working full time as a musician. Hunter headed for Houston in 1955 to try and capitalize on his Duke single. He played shows with Little Milton, Johnny Copeland and many others. Two years later, he moved west to El Paso. The very night Hunter arrived, he crossed the border into Juarez, Mexico and found work at the Lobby Bar where he stayed for the next 13 years. “If it didn’t happen at the Lobby Bar,” Long John often said, “it just didn’t happen in life.”

Releasing only a small number of 45s, Hunter didn’t record a full album until 1993’s Ride With Me (Spindletop, reissued by Alligator). He signed with Alligator in 1996. His label debut, Border Town Legend, brought his music and his story to the masses. With his 1997 follow-up Swingin’ From The Rafters, Hunter went from being a locally revered Texas bluesman to being an internationally touring festival headliner. In 1999 he joined his old Beaumont friends Lonnie Brooks and Phillip Walker for the Texas rave-up CD, Lone Star Shootout. The Chicago Tribune said, “Hunter embodies Texas blues in all its varied, roustabout glory like no one on the scene today.”

As his stature grew, so did his tour calendar. He played numerous high-profile concerts including The Chicago Blues Festival, South By Southwest, San Antonio Cultural Festival, Long Beach Blues Festival, as well as multiple tours of the U.S and Europe. Hunter continued to perform and record, releasing independent CDs in 2003 and 2009.

Hunter is survived by his wife Gayle and brother Tom.

Funeral information is pending.
www.ALLIGATOR.com

Fall New Releases For Your Christmas List

It’s the holiday season again and that mean gift giving. This fall there has been a treasure trove of Blues new releases and you’re sure to find something for all the Blues lovers on your shopping list and maybe even something for yourself.  Guitar fans will find Mike Zito, Walter Trout, Todd Wolfe, Tommy McCoy, Popa Chubby, Gary Clark Jr., Dave Weld, Jay Willie, Leslie West, Tommy Castro, and Arlen Roth‘s Slide Guitar Summit. Legends like Robert Cray and John Mayall have new releases. Harp fans can dig into new releases from Chris O’Leary, Harmonica Shah, Charlie Musselwhite, and an expansive collection from Ruf called Blues Harp Women. If a blues fan on your list has been very good this year you might consider getting them the omnibus 14 disc Paul Butterfield complete albums box set. You’ve been good this year right? Get yourself one too.

There’s a mess o’ blues this year so grab an eggnog, dig in deep and check out these hot new items from the last few months. Check your list twice, there’s a lot you don’t want to miss!

Andy Santana

Andy Santana & The West Coast Playboys Watch Your Step!

Anthony Geraci

Anthony Geraci & The Boston Blues All-Stars Fifty Shades Of Blue

Arlen Roth

Arlen Roth Slide Guitar Summit

Joe Bonamassa

Joe Bonamassa Live At Radio City Music Hall

Walter Trout

Walter Trout Battle Scars

Leslie West

Leslie West Soundcheck

Tommy Castro

Tommy Castro Method To My Madness

Kim Simmonds & Savoy Brown

Kim Simmonds & Savoy Brown The Devil To Pay

John Mayall

John Mayall Find A Way To Care

Mike Zito & The Wheel

Mike Zito & The Wheel Keep Coming Back

Paul Butterfield

Paul Butterfield Complete Albums: 1965-1980 14 Disc Box set

Shemekia Copeland

Shemekia Copeland Outskirts Of Love

Danielle Nicole

Danielle Nicole Wolf Den

Duke Robillard

Duke Robillard The Acoustic Blues & Roots of Duke Robillard

Joe Louis Walker

Joe Louis Walker Everybody Wants A Piece

Guy Davis

Guy Davis Kokomo Kidd

MonkeyJunk

MonkeyJunk Moon Turn Red

Various Artists

Various Artists Blues Harp Women

Jonn Del Toro Richardson

Jonn Del Toro Richardson Tengo Blues

Steve Howell & The Mighty Men

Steve Howell & The Mighty Men Friend Like Me

The  Jimmys

The Jimmys Hot Dish

Colin Linden

Colin Linden Rich In Love

King Louie & LaRhonda Steele

King Louie & LaRhonda Steele King Louie & LaRhonda Steele

Lara Price

Lara Price I Mean Business

Eric Bibb and JJ Milteau

Eric Bibb and JJ Milteau Lead Belly’s Gold

Kevin Selfe

Kevin Selfe Buy My Soul Back

Thorbjorn  Risager & The Black Tornado

Thorbjorn Risager & The Black Tornado Songs From the Road

The Claudettes

The Claudettes No Hotel

Dave Weld And The Imperial Flames

Dave Weld And The Imperial Flames Slip Into A Dream

Mitch Woods

Mitch Woods Jammin’ On the High Cs

Chris O'Leary

Chris O’Leary Gonna Die Tryin’

The Robert Cray Band

The Robert Cray Band 4 Nights of 40 Years Live

Gary Clark Jr.

Gary Clark Jr. The Story of Sonny Boy Slim

Laurence Jones

Laurence Jones What’s It Gonna Be

Harmonica Shah

Harmonica Shah If You Live To Get Old, You Will Understand

Dudley Taft

Dudley Taft Skin and Bones

Jay Willie

Jay Willie Johnny’s Juke Joint

Charlie Musselwhite

Charlie Musselwhite I Ain’t Lyin’

Dave & Phil Alvin

Dave & Phil Alvin Lost Time

Popa Chubby

Popa Chubby Big, Bad And Beautiful – Live

Nikki Hill

Nikki Hill Heavy Hearts Hard Fists

Loren Connors

Loren Connors Live In New York

Les Copeland

Les Copeland To Be In Your Company

Todd Wolfe Band

Todd Wolfe Band Long Road Back

Andy Cohen

Andy Cohen Road Be Kind

The JC Smith Band

The JC Smith Band Love Mechani

Andy Poxon

Andy Poxon Must Be Crazy!

Tommy McCoy

Tommy McCoy 25 Year Retrospective

Al Basile

Al Basile B’s Expression

These Blues Go To Eleven

NigelTufnelElevenIt’s the eleventh day of the eleventh month and that means today must be one louder! Spinal Tap may have been a bottom-feeding metal myth but their dedication to loudness still rings in the ears of musicians in every genre of music. Heavy Metal and Blues have always has a special relationship. Pioneering hard rockers like Blue Cheer, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and others all had their feet planted deep in the fertile soil of the Mississippi Delta. Black Sabbath is widely regarded as the first Heavy Metal band and they grew out of a blues band called Earth. The Metal Gods Judas Priest also came together from blues bands. These musicians came from poverty stricken Birmingham in the UK and wallowed in misery much like the people of the American south. They mixed the blues with the clanging sounds they heard all around them in the local factories, sang about dark subjects, and gave birth to what is arguably the most popular and prolific genre of music in the world.

Most Hard Rock and Heavy Metal musicians left straight blues behind. Many, like Aerosmith and Whitesnake embraced the Blues idioms and deep currents of blues run underneath their blustery Rock. A band like Vader might make you question my whole premise but if you follow the influences back through time you find the Blues. in honor of 11/11 I have put together a playlist of 11 Hard Rock and Heavy Metal acts showing their Blues influence. These go to Eleven.

SpinalTaptheseGoToEleven

1. AC/DC – “Whole Lotta Rosie” They have always been a lot like Chuck Berry with a Marshall stack but here they modify a classic Chicago Blues call and response riff and rev it up to 11.

2. Motorhead – “Hoochie Coochie Man” Lemmy was born before Rock & Roll. He has shown his blues influence a number of times in Motorhead but this live track from 1983 captures a blistering performance from temporary hire Brian Robertson of Thin Lizzy fame.

3. Cinderella – “Long Cold Winter” Lumped in with the hair band pretty boys by the record labels, Cinderella was the one of the most blues influenced Hard Rock bands of the era. From whiskey soaked vocals and slide guitars to minor key Blues, they stood out out from the party pack nothin’ but a good time pop metal pabulum.

4. Aerosmith – “Reefer Head Woman” Aersosmith was shoulders-deep in turmoil when they recorded this track for a largely forgotten (by the band at least) album. They played through their pain in this classic ramshackle performance.

5. Whitesnake – “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City” MTV Zep-clone hair band Whitesnake bears almost no resemblance to the band which rose from the ashes of Deep Purple. They started life as a terrific, hard working Bluesy rock band with Mick Moody and Bernie Marsden dueling with blues licks night after night.

6. Yngwie J. Malmsteen – “Red House” Yngwie is famously a fan of Ritchie Blackmore but he loves Hendrix too and has covered a few of Jimi’s classics. Here he rips it up live and even reins in his usual over the top tendencies (a little).

7.  Ted Nugent – “I Am A Predator” This tune comes from Intensities In Ten Cities (one of my favorite album titles ever). Our loin clothed madman flexed his Blues muscles often throughout his career but this one is from way back when he wasn’t too serious about much other than rampaging guitars and lovely groupies. Everybody sing along, ok?

8. Megadeth – “I Ain’t Superstitious” Thrash Metal titans take on Willie Dixon. The winner? You decide. I still think Howlin’ Wolf is the victor.

9. W.A.S.P. – “Promised Land” Yeah, Chuck Berry isn’t really Blues but he recorded for Chess and pretty much just played fast Blues songs. W.A.S.P. was no stranger to fast blues either, since one of their big hits – “Blind In Texas” – is basically a 12-bar in in overdrive. Here, Blackie Lawless channels Chuck Berry through Elvis in a fun romp from sea to shining sea.

10. Deep Purple – “Lazy” Deep Purple is known for its Classical influenced Hard Rock and extended jams but the Blues flowed through every incarnation of the band. Here the famous Mark II lineup brings Baroque Blues to the fore in a style that mixes Bach with Freddie King and the result has Tchaikovsky spreading the news.

11. Judas Priest – “The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown)” The Metal Gods take on Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green classic. We close with this since it has one of the most influential Heavy Metal bands of all time tipping the hat to a sadly almost forgotten era of Fleetwood Mac’s history – an era of Blues. The takeaway here is how much it sounds like a Priest original. Was Peter Green the original Metal God?

In Memory Of Duane Allman 1946-1971

Those who know me, know my love of the Allman Brothers Band. Duane Allman was the creator of the band that bore his name and its leader for the first few years of its existence. Duane was a road dog, playing in bands since his teens mostly with his younger brother Gregg at his side. The two had a few false starts with The Allman Joys and Hour Glass but it wasn’t until Duane threw in the towel on the California music business promise of stardom and hi-tailed it back home that he found the recognition he deserved.

DuaneAllmanWilsonPickettDuane played on numerous recording sessions when he returned, often with top Atlantic Records artists at Muscle Shoals. It was actually Duane’s idea for Wilson Pickett to record “Hey Jude” and it was Wilson who gave Duane the nickname Sky Man which eventually morphed into Skydog. Today is the anniversary of the day we lost Skydog and I thought I’d share a playlist in tribute to this fallen musical master who died way too soon. You’ll find familiar songs on the playlist but I’ve chosen recordings that are mostly off the beaten path of the legendary At Fillmore East and the Brothers’ first few studio albums. I’ve also included some of my favorite session work Duane performed including Herbie Mann’s “Push Push,” the aforementioned “Hey Jude,” and for all the “Clapton Is God” nuts out there, “Layla” whose wicked riff and soaring slide guitars both came from Duane Allman. This week is the one-year anniversary of the last concert played by his band. They kept his spirit and music alive for over 40 years and if we keep going back and exploring his creations we too can keep it alive. Sail on, Skydog, sail on.