Monthly Archives: July 2014

Throwback Thursday – We Survived Bluestock!

Buddy Guy at BluestockI was looking for some pictures to commemorate Buddy’s Guy’s birthday and for Throwback Thursday on our Facebook page. I was led to a nice set of shots taken at Bluestock, the ill-fated festival in the Catskills that literally and figuratively took a bath thanks to Hurricane Irene striking far inland three years ago. The post led to a conversation on Facebook with ChefJimi Patricola and Chris Lyon, our ticket winner for Pennsylvania Blues Festival, and it got me thinking about that fateful weekend at Hunter Mountain in New York state.

So let’s get in the WABAC machine once again and revisit the one, and so far only, Bluestock…

BluestockPosterSkies were blue and spirits were high on Friday afternoon as the first annual Bluestock festival kicked off with two time IBC winner Lionel Young and his band, but a sense of foreboding was palpable as attendees wondered what Sunday would bring as Irene left a wake of destruction in her path up the east coast.

No, Bluestock did not exactly happen as planned. Gregg Allman, Saturday’s scheduled headliner, had to cancel due to illness. Mysteriously, or perhaps enigmatically, Steven Seagal and his band Thunderbox (yes! this is a real thing) were no where to be found. Shemekia Copeland was a late addition to the lineup and Robert Cray was added as a headliner. Then the unexpected, unwanted guest arrived: Hurricane Irene. Producer Steve Simon probably never had an inkling that hurricane season could disrupt his monumental undertaking of combining the Blues Cruise with Woodstock. A hurricane? In the Catskills? Never. Well, think again.

By the end of Friday night, Sunday’s schedule had been scrapped and the festival, originally intended to take place outdoors, with two side-by-side stages for continuous music, was to be moved indoors on Saturday. Thankfully, Hunter Mountain Ski Resort had several halls to accommodate the indoor festival allowing them to keep the original plan of adjacent stages and continuous entertainment. To everyone’s surprise, the headliners Robert Cray and Buddy Guy were to play outdoors on Saturday afternoon and all the other acts that could make it would be playing indoors for a marathon thirteen hour show.

Of course, many were displeased by the turn of events and several angry customers shared their opinions on social media sites like Facebook. Some were angry about cancellations and many felt the festival should have been cancelled altogether. However, the majority of people gathered on the mountain thought the show must go on. And go on it did. Crammed into two days of music were nineteen acts featuring a veritable who’s-who of modern blues. Performers ranged from longtime favorites like Elvin Bishop, Tommy Castro & The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue, Tab Benoit, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Shemekia Copeland to relatively newcomers Moreland & Arbuckle, Alexis P. Suter Band, Trampled Under Foot, and Port City Prophets to local favorites Bruce Katz Band and Chris O’Leary, who made a surprise appearance with Bob Margolin & Matt Hill (Matt now plays full time in his wife Nikki Hill‘s band).

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While Saturday had illustrious acts seemingly every hour on the hour, Friday’s lineup was stellar in itself. The Lionel Young Band got the early birds moving with their leader’s guitar pickin’, fiddle pluckin’ boogies and a rollicking version of “Got My Mojo Working.” Literally moments after the closing notes of their set, Bob Margolin & Matt Hill continued the show on the adjacent stage allowing the crowd nary a second to catch its breath. Bob Margolin is a proven crowd pleaser but 2011 BMA Best New Artist winner Matt Hill stole the show with possibly the best AC/DC cover ever in “Hellz Bellz” – done Jerry Lee Lewis style, it was a nearly unrecognizable revved up rock n’ roller that would have left Malcolm and Angus Young drop-jawed and stupefied. Matt Hill then upped the ante with a song presumably called “Lemon Squeezer.” He sang about squeezing your lemons, woman, showed you his technique, bounded around the stage and removed his belt to whip you into submission. His infectious energy spread through the crowd and band. When Chris O’Leary came out to blow some harp it seemed the hurricane may have come early. They laid waste to preconceived notions of legendary jams when Lionel Young came out with his fiddle and joined the fray. This supergroup tore into another version of “Got My Mojo Working” that had the Catskill evergreens shimmying on the slopes.

The Bluestock crew kept the music going, operating like a well-oiled machine, getting BMA nominees Trampled Under Foot on stage just as the jam with Bob Margolin ended. The band appeared on many “best” lists in the last few years and it is immediately apparent why. This trio of siblings plays almost telepathically, locked in the groove and playing hard. Once their fiery set ended, the festival modeled after the Blues Cruise found ports of call in Louisiana with sets from Tab Benoit and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. Benoit’s laid back delivery and sinewy grooves took us deep in the heart Cajun Country. Exuberant fans threw plush alligator hats to the band and Tab obliged by donning the cap while playing. His searing solos were hot as a raging skillet in a blackened shrimp contest, and were twice as tasty.

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue took us from Benoit’s rural bayou to the Crescent City with an effervescent set full of New Orleans funk and jazz. Many concert goers later commented that the band seemed out place at a blues festival, but enjoyed them nonetheless. Blues and jazz are inextricably linked, born of similar circumstances and using the same musical language. It was a master stroke to remind the fans of this oft forgotten musical relationship and the powerful music of Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue certainly had the crowd in the palm of its hand by the end of the set. Shorty’s passion and connection to his instruments was nearly tangible as he breathed life from the trombone and trumpet into the air around Hunter Mountain. The band was one of only a few selling their CDs for less than twenty dollars – theirs were merely ten – and I hope everyone who enjoyed the set took one home. A better value for ten bucks could not be found at the festival.

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Friday’s closer Elvin Bishop took the stage and played a set roughly based on his recent CD “Raisin’ Hell Revue” recorded on one of the Blues Cruises. Unfortunately he told some of the same stories from the CD but his good humor helps overcome the familiarity. His guitar playing helps a little too. Well, it helps a lot. The jamming kicked up a notch when Tab Benoit joined Elvin Bishop and the band for a few songs to close out the set. They didn’t play “Got My Mojo Working” and I’m glad for that. After the first two acts of the day did it I was getting worried.

Due to a bizarre twist of weather-related fate, Saturday noon found Robert Cray on stage while the crew set up the opposite stage for Buddy Guy. Robert Cray and Buddy Guy, back to back, on a Saturday afternoon. It almost made you glad to be in the path of a hurricane. Cray’s smooth, soulful blues eased the bleary-eyed revelers into the day. Cray joked a few times about the bright sunlight and time of day but there was no detrimental effect on the music.

While Robert Cray’s set was somewhat laid back, Buddy Guy came out all guns blazing. If the hair of the dog didn’t cure your ills, trouble was coming your way at maximum volume and speed. Buddy’s amps must have been bought from Spinal Tap because he was definitely one louder than everyone else. He sang “74 Years Young” from his Living Proof album but played like the owner of 34 years young fingers. His passion, humor, stage antics and propensity to say “fuck” a lot certainly woke everyone up.

About halfway into his set, Buddy brought out 12 year old Quinn Sullivan who has been appearing with the Buddy Guy Band for a few years. Quinn has enormous talent and his technique is flawless, but unfortunately he’s at a stage of his musical life marked mostly by imitation, and Buddy let him dominate the rest of the set. Sullivan sang a few songs, but his pre-pubescent voice is too high and was washed out in the mix. Still, he is only twelve and will hopefully evolve into a powerful musical force in the next ten years or so. Buddy Guy believes in him and even quipped that he would certainly come back next year, but only if Quinn gets an invitation too. I say Quinn Sullivan should be invited, but give him his own set so we can get a full ninety minutes of Buddy Guy next time.

After Buddy Guy’s set, the festival moved indoors, just moments ahead of the rain. Recent concert tragedies from stages falling at the Indiana State Fair and the Ottawa Blues Fest surely had the promoters and crew concerned and they made short work of taking down the outdoor staging. Accommodations were also made to allow the campers to stay in the lodge on Saturday night. Steve Simon and crew put safety first making sure all attendees were protected.

There was a bridge there on Friday. I'm sure of it!
There was a bridge there on Friday. I’m sure of it!

Meanwhile, two stages were ready to go inside. One in a large auditorium style hall and the other in place for the late night jams with Mitch Woods, dubbed Club 88. Mitch hosts Club 88 on the Blues Cruises and usually persuades lingering musicians to join in the fun. Tucked in the corner of the lodge, the stage was like an eight ounce brisket sandwich with sixteen ounces of brisket on it; messy, over flowing, and finger licking good. The sky was crying but the blues lovers were smiling as the two stages provided continual music for the next eleven hours as the rain pounded the mountain outside.

Saturday’s indoor lineup was Shemekia Copeland, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Curtis Salgado, Bruce Katz Band, Shakura S’Aida, Moreland & Arbuckle, Tommy Castro & The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue, Albert Cummings, Alexis P. Suter Band, and Port City Prophets. Every one who made it to the mountain played a set and then the music continued once more when Mitch Woods’ Club 88 re-opened for business with the Prince of Beale St. Billy Gibson at the microphone.

I must confess I’ve seen Shemekia Copeland three times this year. She played basically the same set each time and told the same stories. I suspect I’m spoiled by bands that vary their sets. Her band is tight and plays perfectly each time, which makes once a year enough for me. Ms. Copeland has a powerful voice and uses it well, but there are no surprises for repeat customers. If you haven’t heard her sing live though, I highly recommend it. No studio wizardry, and sometimes no microphone, is used but her tiny frame holds inside an immense musical force.

 

Guitargasm. Add it to your lexicon.
Guitargasm. Add it to your lexicon.

Ronnie Baker Brooks gave the guitar fans one long guitargasm after another and even soloed his way through the crowd to the bar for a drink and a bottle to play some slide. It’s not a new addition to the traditional trick bag, but it gets the crowds going every time. Curtis Salgado’s blue-eyed soul had the faithful swaying to the beat; Bruce Katz Band whipped up some Hammond B-3 blues with Alexis P. Suter’s guitarist Jimmy Bennett pulling double duty, playing and singing with Bruce. Shakura S’Aida’s vigorous vocalizing drew cheers and Moreland & Arbuckle literally and figuratively kicked everything up a notch with their guitar and harmonica led trio. They were asked to play a bit longer while Tommy Castro was setting up next door and the enthusiastic crowd response drove them to greater manic intensity. They even had the audacity to release their new album on vinyl, which was quite popular at the merchandise table.

The delay from getting Tommy Castro set up caused a schedule crunch and bands had to play simultaneously, dividing the attention of the Bluestock survivors but Tommy Castro & The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue held most of the focus once under way. They played an incendiary rendition of “Gotta Serve Somebody” before being joined by Rick Estrin, Deanna Bogart and others for a recreation of the legendary blues cruise’s favorite jams.

Albert Cummings took the stage with the rhythm section from Shakura S’Aida’s band – two guys he met a mere thirty minutes before going on – and they wowed the small crowd in front of the tiny Club 88 stage. The trio played seamlessly with Cummings’ molten licks flowing freely over the bedrock of bass and drums. Alexis P. Suter’s powerful, booming voice filled the auditorium and the band’s gospel infused blues surely added weight to those prayers for shelter from the storm pounding the Catskills. Port City Prophets, an upcoming band from South Carolina, played last on the Club 88 stage, mixing amusing originals with clever covers. They played a dynamic version of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Couldn’t Stand The Weather” in honor of the looming devastation that would be unleashed by morning.

I'm not sure what used to be here but it's probably on Oneonta by now.
I’m not sure what used to be here but it’s probably on Oneonta by now.

And so, we had Bluestock 2011: One of the headliners cancelled, an MC was AWOL, minor acts hoping for major exposure were crammed into a ski lodge playing for hundreds instead of thousands, headliners opened the show, openers closed; all the signs of the Apocalypse were there. But the Apocalypse never came. The crowd was well behaved in the cramped space, everyone was happy to be there enjoying a seemingly endless variety of blues, and the producers, promoters, managers and musicians all pulled together to provide those who braved the weather the best possible experience. They came through with class and grace, deftly handling one dilemma after another making Bluestock 2011 an unforgettable weekend of music, friends and adventure. Although I’m already looking forward to the next Bluestock, strangely enough, the Simon brothers and the Bluestock crew will have a hard time topping it next year.

Hump Day! Risque Tunes For Your Midweek Blues 7/30/14

SuperChikanWe spent the past weekend at Pennsylvania Blues Festival and had the good fortune to catch two sets by James “Super Chikan” Johnson. Super Chikan is one of my favorite blues performers, players, writers and guitar builders. He made some wild looking guitars from items like old oil and gas cans to ceiling fans, axes, and even shotguns. On Sunday July 27, 2014, Super Chikan played a solo set using a variety of his homemade instruments, and performed again later in the day. The second set was supposed to be a solo set but turned into an impromptu full band set as Jarekus Singleton and his whole band eventually joined the Chikan on stage. This set was my favorite of the weekend. It was an organic jam that the musicians quite obviously enjoyed and Super Chikan’s upbeat blues boogies had everyone moving and more people up dancing than any other set I saw.

How does all this relate to Hump Day? Well, Super Chikan has a tune called “Shoot That Thang” and it gets down and dirty. So down and dirty that Chikan declined to play it when requested by a fellow PA Blues Fest patron. He said it gets a little X-rated (a slight overstatement) and he wouldn’t play it with little kids around. Did I mention he’s also a class act? Somebody Shoot That Thang! I looked around for a video with the studio version but I came up empty. I did find a pretty lengthy but fun performance clip though. I hope you enjoy it.

BarbaraCarrOur second selection is also inspired by Pennsylvania Blues Fest. Barbara Carr performed an afternoon set and unfortunately I missed a lot of it covering another band on another stage. I don’t know if she played this song but if she did I’m sorry I missed it. Maybe she would have explained just what a “Bo Hawg Grind” is but I’m guessing that if you don’t know you’ve never experienced it. According to Barrelhouse Words: A Blues Dialect Dictionary By Stephen Calt, a bo’ hog is a boar hog; literally an adult male swine. Bo’ hog connotes a middle aged or sexually experienced boyfriend, a bo’ hog shuffle is a slang term for sexual intercourse, and a bo’ hog’s eye or hog-eye is a slang term for vagina. Well, then, let’s have a listen and see what we can learn of the “Bo Hawg Grind.” I wonder if Muddy was looking for Barbara when he was singing “Can’t Get No Grindin'”…

Super Chikan – Shoot That Thang

Barbara Carr – Bo Hawg Grind

Get yourself Sum Mo’ Chikan:

Fresh Biscuits! MonkeyJunk – Tiger In Your Tank CD Review

MonkeyJunkTigerInYourTankMonkeyJunk
Tiger In Your Tank (2014 Reissue with Bonus Tracks)
Stony Plain

Tiger In Your Tank is MonkeyJunk’s first album and has now been reissued by their current label, Stony Plain, and the new version includes two bonus tracks recorded in 2014. It’s hard to believe this is a debut album. Their sound seems so fully realized and they play together intuitively like it’s been years but they were a relatively new band at the time of the recording. MonkeyJunk formed around Steve Marriner and Tony Diteodoro, two old friends who enlisted drummer Matt Sobb to round out the trio. Together, they developed their rustic, no-bass sound over a few months of playing live. They were nominated for awards before their debut album came out and the buzz has built to a roar since then.

The album opens with a lonesome harmonica and the Son House quote that gave the band its name. “I’m talkin’ ’bout the Blues. . . I ain’t talkin’ ’bout monkey junk!” and then launches into a high energy take on Muddy Waters’ “I Wanna Put A Tiger In Your Tank.” The insistent beat and snarling guitars propel the song and Marriner’s harp signals the arrival of the chugging freight train MonkeyJunk calls their debut album.  “Pay the Cost” is like a modern day take on “Mother Earth.” No one makes it out alive and the mournful harp and earthy guitar tones remind us of the inevitable dirt nap we all get for playing. “’If You Were Mine” sounds like a Stevie Ray Vaughan take on Otis Rush which probably says more about Otis’ influence on SRV than anything else. MonkeyJunk turn in a fun version with a brisk shuffle pace with some badass barroom blowing on harp from Steve Marriner and a barnstorming solo from Tony D.

Tony D is a skilled slide guitar player which reminds me that guys like Duane Allman, Sonny Landreth, Derek Trucks, Lowell George and the late, great Johnny Winter get all the accolades when it comes to slide guitar but there are a ton of great slide players hiding in plain sight. Unfortunately, with the music business the way it is, you have to actively seek them out. If you are looking for a good one carrying the torch of the legends but melding styles and playing with a masterful touch and intonation listen to Tony D. His slide chops are all over Tiger In Your Tank but he plays in such a natural, organic way that you can hear it and not realize the skill it takes to make it sound that way. For instance, “Blues For Anna” is a classic Chicago Elmore James style slide tune, except that it isn’t. James’ signature riff is missing but not missed because Tony weaves together licks from the Hill Country to the Delta for a swampy, gritty romp through the bayou of Chicago’s South Side.

“Beefy” indeed has a big, bold tone with lyrical playing from Tony D. “Beefy” is a showcase tune for the whole band. Steve Marriner howls and moans on harp, and percussionist Matt Sobb adds a little hoodoo to the big beat. Speaking of hoodoo, “Boogie Man” is surprise take on Freddie King’s Blackwell/Russell composition. This is what cover songs should be: a near reinvention. Any bar band can faithfully reproduce a song and they’ll always be a bar band. MonkeyJunk deconstructs “Boogie Man” and rebuilds it as a swampy, murky stomp that reminds us more of the scary phantom of childhood nightmares than a womanizer in the 70’s discothèques. It might be my favorite Freddie King cover ever.

The additional bonus songs illustrate the continuity of sound this band has had since its debut album. The first is “Lucky One” and is a high energy rocking tune starting off with the fuzzed out guitar riff that fits in well with the 2009 tones on Tiger In Your Tank. It sounds like Sobb is playing a full kit and it’s missing some of the more interesting accents he uses to great effect on other tracks but everything about this tunes says the boys just wanted to rock and I’m right there with them. This is not a throwaway bonus track that leaves you wish the bonus was cash. Well maybe you still want the money, but the song is excellent and doesn’t musically disappoint. “Pueblo” closes the disc with all the hallmarks of this great debut album. Howling, menacing harp, rich rhythmic elements, and sweet guitar tones for miles. I don’t know where this Pueblo is but it’s got to be somewhere in the swamps of Louisiana, among the cypress, tupelo and alligators. For some reason, it reminds me of the way “When The Levee Breaks” ends Led Zeppelin’s fourth album. It’s dark and eerie and keeps you wondering what’s coming next.

So who are MonkeyJunk? Steve Marriner is a multi-instrumentalist supplying vocals, baritone guitar (baritone guitar? yes, please!), and is perhaps known best as one of Canada’s finest purveyors of harmonica blasting and back porch blowing. Steve has toured and performed with Harry Manx and Sue Foley. He’s appeared on Harry Manx recordings, as well as records from JW Jones Blues Band, and Steve Dawson. He also released his own album, Going Up, in 2007. He won the Ottawa Blues Harp Blow-Off at age 14 and got a spot on stage at that summer’s Ottawa Cisco Blues Festival. But is he any good? Yes, he’s good. He also produced the album and played organ on a few tracks. No, he’s not just showing off.

Tony Diteodoro (aka Tony D) has spent 20 years on the Canadian blues scene with his own band as guitar player, singer, and songwriter. He has played festivals on both sides of the Atlantic, toured Europe several times, and played for Canadian Forces troops stationed around the World. He has released six CDs and is active with Blues In The Schools and other charities. So, he’s been around and seems like a nice guy, but can he play? Let’s ask the eight ball… Sources say yes, and they’re quite right.

Last but not least, the engine driver Matt Sobb was a busy Ottawa-based freelance drummer before he joined MonkeyJunk. He has played with Jeff Healey, Johnnie Johnson, Kim Wilson, Colin Linden, and Lee Oskar just to name a few. He can play any style and uses a variety of percussive instruments to add texture and accents to the MonkeyJunk sound. But can he play the blues? Well if Kim Wilson is calling you, you can play the blues.

Together these gentlemen have created a unique sound beyond classification; breaking blues barriers and building a reputation as custodians of the modern blues. Their sound is at once Chicago Blues, swampy Louisiana Blues, Mississippi Hill Country meets Delta Blues with a dash of Folk, Country, and Funk. It could be a disaster musically but they deftly pull it off, seemingly with no effort at all and that’s how you know they’re good. It takes work, practice, and skill to create something so fresh from forms so old. If Son House was around, he’d surely be talking about MonkeyJunk now.

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Fresh Biscuits! New Releases For July 29, 2014

It’s another slow week Biscuiteers. Apparently July is not a big month this year for new blues releases. There are two very exciting live CD new releases this week though. First is the latest installment in Johnny Winter‘s Live Bootleg series. We lost Johnny on July 16, 2014 and he will be sorely missed. The Live Bootleg series, from Volume 1 to this new Volume 11, is a great way to remember why we loved him. I pre-ordered mine from Amazon and can’t wait for the mail tomorrow.

Another archival live release is the sprawling 6 CD set from The Allman Brothers Band. The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings features live recording from the shows on the weekend of March 12-13, 1971 that gave us the legendary At Fillmore East album plus their show from the closing of the Fillmore East on June 27, 1971. This is not strictly blues, but they explored the outer reaches of blues and jazz improvisation like no band before or after and influenced blues players everywhere.

Rounding out this week is a reissue with bonus tracks from Monkeyjunk. This is a reissue of their 2009 debut Tiger In Your Tank.

With the passing of Johnny Winter and The Allman Brothers Band bringing its career to an end this year, we are reminded we should get out there and see our favorite performers while we still can. Hopefully Monkeyjunk will keep going for a while. Get out there and see them!

Fresh Biscuits – July 28, 2014

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Johnny Winter – Live Bootleg Series Volume 11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Allman Brothers Band The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings
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6 CD Edition, 3 Blu Ray audio discs, or 4 LPs (which appear to be a partial sample of the set)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MonkeyJunkTigerInYourTank
MonkeyJunk – Tiger In Your Tank (reissue + 2 bonus tracks)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please support the artists and Blues Biscuits by shopping through our links. Thanks!

Fresh Biscuits! Alexis P. Suter Band – Love The Way You Roll CD Review

APSBLoveTheWayYouRollAlexis P. Suter Band
Love The Way You Roll
American Showplace Music

Alexis P. Suter is the owner of that big, booming voice you can hear roaring out of Brooklyn into the heart of the North American continent. The Alexis P. Suter Band’s star is certainly on the rise as accolades continue to pour in and they continue to beguile audiences from town to town. The band burst on to the music scene via Levon Helm’s legendary Midnight Rambles in Woodstock, NY. Levon was captured by what he called Alexis’ wonderful spirit and had the band open for him around 90 times.

By 2012, Alexis was nominated for Best Soul Blues Female Artist at the 33rd Annual Blues Music Awards. The band was known for its mix of Blues, Soul, and Gospel influences and continued to build momentum by releasing Two Sides in 2011 and taking the new music to the stage. Perhaps now more than ever the band is poised for a national and international break. Love The Way You Roll is the new album from Alexis P. Suter Band on American Showplace Music and it has all the hallmarks of a classic benchmark album.

“Nuthin’ In The World” drags us onto the boards with a hot jam filled with tasty guitar licks and is built on a churning riff with unexpected changes. The vocals are gritty and the harmonies are loose. This is a stage song and they captured it expertly. “25 Years” is about a significant other sitting in the jailhouse and it looks like they’ll be getting 25 years. It’s another tough barroom blues with a circular riff that accents the futility of waiting 25 years for some idiot who got pinched. Forget making the bail, Alexis, time to move on. If I have any real problem with this album it’s in this song. The words make no reference to unjust accusations or innocence, so the singer seems to weighing the pros and “cons” of waiting for this delinquent. Maybe it was murder and the victim really deserved it. I don’t know, but thinking about is distracting me.

Two songs later I’ve forgotten all about the jailbird and his bail because the John Lee Hooker boogie of “Big Mama” has me enthralled with its chunky riffs and elastic slide guitar. Jimmy Bennett is a helluva guitar player and his work fires just about every song on Love The Way You Roll. In fact, it may be Alexis’ name on the APSB freight train but the engine room is manned by the power trio of Bennett, Bennett & Grappone. The Bennett Brothers, Jimmy on guitar and Peter on bass, interact like they’ve been doing this since the womb. They were truly born to play together, never missing a move the other one makes. Drummer Ray Grappone and Peter Bennett lay down the groove like a heavy duty Rhythm and Blues machine on the verge of Rock and Roll. Jimmy Bennett knows how to write the thick sounding riffs a trio needs and his soloing ranges from passionately restrained to full blown psychedelic bluster. He uses a wide variety of implements from a wah-wah pedal to slide guitar and always has the right tool for the job. He is more than capable of over playing and hogging the spotlight with guitar wizardry but he doesn’t. That’s the mark of a master musician. His contributions, as well as Peter’s and Ray’s, make the whole sound better than the sum of its parts. They are a musical tandem, stretching and twisting in perfect synchrony, and they’re even better live. What was I complaining about again?

The title track “Love The Way You Roll” also features a snarling slide guitar with Alexis sounding imposing and almost evil. This perplexing juxtaposition of subject matter and musical presentation adds tension to the song and really makes it kick. “Gonna Love You” is a sultry slow burn with simmering organ added by journeyman extraordinaire John Ginty. Suter dives into this one and gives a provocative performance. Alexis is credited on only a few songs as a writer, and “Gonna Love You” is one of them, but whoever the author is, from Big Mama Thornton to ASPB vocalist Vicki Bell, Alexis has the innate ability to inhabit the songs and become their essence. Her delivery is impassioned, intense and inspired. Her range of emotions is palpable and she will take you along for the ride through the ups and downs, the joy, the sorrow, the anger; you’ll feel it all in your soul if your heart can take it.

Love The Way You Roll is the antidote to boring retreads of old blues styles. The band is tight, the songs are road-tested, and the energy of this emergent blues power sizzles through the speakers. Most of the songs on Love The Way You Roll are under four minutes and pack a lot of punch. The band hit ‘em hard and get out. The tracks are perfectly tailored, emphasizing all their strengths and any song on Love The Way You Roll could be pulled for airplay or to share with your friends and turn them on the Alexis P. Suter Band juggernaut. I hope the band really likes these songs because they will be playing them for a long time to come.

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Hump Day! Risque Tunes For Your Midweek Blues 7/23/14

SweetJellyRollWho’s hungry? I must be thinking about food today so what he have for your Hump Day Blues is some good old-fashioned musical food porn. Food metaphors for sex have been used in songs since Edison recorded Bell singing to Watson about his long white bologna (this may or may not be true – no evidence exists). Spread out some cabbage, bananas, sugar, honey, jelly, wieners, peaches, lemons, pies, hot dogs, custards, rolls, buns, and more and you’ve got a salacious smorgasbord. I’m surprised there’s no blues song about kumquats. That word even looks dirty. It sounds filthy and it’s probably, ripe, sweet and juicy waiting for you to take a bite.

Anyway, your Hump Day feature this week might whet your appetite, fill your sack, scramble your eggs, toss your salad, bake your beans, warm your wiener, roast your nuts, gravy your biscuits (hey now!)… alright, you get the picture.

First we have Lil Johnson looking for her Hot Dog Man. It sounds more like Lil Johnson was looking for Big Johnson, if you know what I mean.

Royal Southern Brotherhood is a recent band carrying the hokum flag forward with a song from their first album. Cyril Neville wants some of that sweet jelly donut but she ain’t sharin’, even after he took her to see Dr. John at Tipitina’s. Maybe he should try a Chocolate Angel instead.

Lastly we have the voluptuous and vivacious Candye Kane inviting you to eat it all night long. Her buffet offers large portions and the biggest jugs of milk around. Drink up boys.

 

Lil Johnson – Sam the Hot Dog Man

Royal Southern Brotherhood – Sweet Jelly Donut

Candye Kane – All You Can Eat

PA Blues Fest Ticket Winners Announced!

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YAY! ANOTHER UPDATE!
Since we have not heard from Patricia Diak, we have chosen another new winner! This contest has gone off without a hitch! The new winner, after an intense game of rock, paper, scissors, three coin flips and an arm wrestling match is Chris Lyon, who was not involved in the any of the aforementioned contests. Congratulations Chris, you are the second, second runner up and you are now victorious.

UPDATE! Bridget Kelly Kathleen Fick cannot attend the show. The new winner is Judy Malin Mangini! Please acknowledge your win by 6 pm ET July 23, 2014. Comment on the Winners post on Facebook or message us on Facebook.

Attention Biscuiteers! The winners of the Pennsylvania Blues Fest tickets have been drawn. Ticket winners are Bridget Kelly Kathleen Fick and Patricia Diak! Congratulations. Please acknowledge your win by 6 pm ET July 23, 2014. Comment on the Winners post on Facebook or message us on Facebook. If you do not, new winners will be chosen! Thanks to everyone who participated and especially Pennsylvania Blues Festival for the tickets.

Michael Cloeren Interview – Pennsylvania Blues Festival

PABluesFestBoardThe Pocono Blues Festival had been a Pennsylvania tradition for 19 years, bringing the best of blues music to the Pocono Mountains and fans from around the globe. In November 2010, it looked like the tradition might be over. Michael Cloeren, the founder and producer of the festival was called into a meeting with the president of Peak Resorts and was told the company was going in a different direction and that the resorts were no longer going to do any summer or fall events. However, Michael did not want to see the tradition of the festival and what he calls a “family reunion” fade gently away.

By the end of 2010, Michael Cloeren met with the administrators at Blue Mountain. Fortunately, their general manager, Jim Daley, had attended Pocono Blues Festival and was familiar with the clientele, acts, vendors, and perhaps most importantly, the popularity. The name Pocono Blues Festival could no longer be used and from the ashes of the Pocono Blues Festival a new festival was born. Michael says Blue Mountain is “a wonderful facility; very user friendly, closer to more people and fully embraced by the staff.” Blue Mountain is indeed closer to the fans, seated 45 minutes south of the original site, it’s closer to Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, and Philadelphia which are the core markets for Blues in the Poconos. Plus Blue Mountain is ideal for a festival since it has all the perfect facilities like parking, real restrooms, a natural amphitheater, and camping on site, which the other facility did not. Camping has had an unexpected but very welcome effect on the musical adventures too, “Camping on site is extremely popular and is a direct positive result how the nightly Jams have taken off since year #1 (2011).” You never know who is going to take the stage and it’s easier to stay up late to take it all in if you’re not driving.

Lil' Ed At PA Blues Fest
Lil’ Ed At PA Blues Fest

In just a few short years, Pennsylvania Blues Festival has taken the torch of nineteen years of blues history in the Poconos and run with it, regaining the status of its legendary predecessor. Much of the success is owed to Michael Cloeren and his sterling reputation and track record. According to Michael, “changing locations takes time to get on people’s radar.” He adds, “I feel this year will be very special.” Michael recently told us the transition from Pocono Blues Festival to Pennsylvania Blues Festival has been “a great experience – I feel that the event is growing in momentum and we continue to educate new customers in a positive way.” That positive way is reflected in the lineup of acts Michael brings to the festival, “I feel I program a lineup different than just about anyone in the USA. My programming work for 23 years speaks for itself.” It does indeed. You may see some familiar faces at Pennsylvania Blues Festival but you’re in for a few surprises too. Michael says he likes to schedule “1/3 blues icons, 1/3 strong festival circuit names and 1/3 acts that most people never have seen before.” Michael has a knack for getting acts out of their comfort zone too and gets some amazing performances on the smaller stages. He tells us, “I know every act that I have ever booked (since 1992 around 400 acts) and through experience I know how and where to slot them. That stuff comes easy to me.”

LinseyAlexanderPABluesFestIt may come easy to Michael since he’s been a blues fan and champion of the art form for many years. Michael told us he first met the blues on “March 30,1975 at the age of 18. I went to the Philadelphia Spectrum to see Eric Clapton and the opening act was Muddy Waters. Muddy’s show that night changed my life and I have been a blues addict ever since.” When Michael introduces bands on stage you can hear the love and admiration in his voice. You also get the notion sometimes that he knows he’s about share a secret with you and he can’t wait. Every year you have to get there early because Michael will be sharing some of the Blues best kept secrets all day long. One of my personal favorites was Linsey Alexander’s tent stage performance a few years ago. I had never heard Linsey before and had to go back for his second set later in the day. Linsey outdid just about everyone and it was revelation. You’re going to find the heart of the blues beating under the tent and you’ll get some lasting memories of special performances like the Lonnie, Ronnie and Wayne Baker Brooks performing an acoustic set. The love between father and sons was tangible as was their respect for each other and the good time they had playing together like they would in the living room at home.

LonnieBrooksPABluesFestOver the years Michael had several memorable moments of his own including James Peterson starting his set in 1996 from the chairlift, Eddy Clearwater starting his set in 1998 on a white stallion horse in full headdress, Shemekia Copeland entering the stage in 2002 on a Harley Davidson Motorcycle, and booking Lowell Fulson in 1996, which was his last east coast appearance. His other personal highlights include Ruth Brown in 2005, Luther Allison in 1995, and Otis Rush in 1998. Michael says his initial vision was “a blues festival in a mountain setting” and it has blossomed into a remarkable event hosting music legends every year. Michael says attendees should expect “a weekend of World Class Music, a wonderful facility and a staff that welcomes them with open arms.” He continues “I would suggest that people should attend this and other like-minded events with an open mind and they possibly could have a life changing moment like the one that happened to me on March 30th, 1975 at The Philadelphia Spectrum.”

Michael Cloeren is directly and indirectly involved in several like-minded events including The Philadelphia Folk Festival which he says is “The longest continuous music festival in the USA and Canada at 53 years. It offers eight stages of music, fifty thousand music guests from all over the world, and 2500 volunteers.” If Michael is involved, you can be sure the music with be exceptional and the environment will be fan friendly. A few years ago, at the time of the first Pennsylvania Blues Festival, I spoke to Michael Cloeren and he shared his approach to the booking the artists and it gives great insight to his process and what you’re going to see and hear at his events. “I program differently than a lot of festivals out there. I try to get to the core of the subject matter. To me, the core is the artists that live it, breathe it, and die it. With all respect to classic rock artists who have been in it for 30 years and just discovered the blues or put out a blues record, that’s not what I’m looking for. That’s not what I do. Obviously, the headliners are important, and they’re great acts, but it’s not always about the headliners. It’s about the entire bill. After years of experience, the guests know to get there early because some of the best sets are early in the afternoon. They may not have heard the act before but they know from history that I’ll never book a bad band. And that’s what’s great about this music, as you know, you think you’ve heard or seen a lot and then there’s a band that blows you away that you’ve never seen before. What I try to do is mix them between contemporary and traditional blues, New Orleans music, Sacred Steel, gospel, acoustic, and electric; I try to give the audience the full spectrum of blues music.”

Pennsylvania Blues Festival is taking place July 25-27, 2014. There is an amazing array of talent lined up for the event so make plans to visit the Pocono Mountains for some red hot summer blues. For ticket information and festival information please visit the website. We hope to see you there.

Our thanks go to Michael Cloeren for taking the time from his hectic schedule to answer our questions.

Blues Biscuits will be live tweeting from the festival so be sure to follow us on Twitter @BluesBiscuits and look for #PABluesFest and remember, #thatsahotbiscuit !

Here’s the line-up:

Friday, July 25th 2014 – Friday Night Jam

8pm to Midnight in the Adventure Center – doors open at 7pm.
Cover charge at the door is $10 & Jam Buffet is $8 (food optional).

PA Blues Fest Showcase with The BC COMBO featuring Bev Conklin, Slam Allen, Mikey Junior, Joe Mac & Lonnie Shields – sponsored by WDIY 88.1 fm, Lehigh Valley’s Community NPR Station!

Saturday July 26th 2014 – Gates open at 12pm

MAIN TENT STAGE

1pm to 2:15pm – Tad Robinson
2:45pm to 4pm – Shawn Holt & The Teardrops
4:30pm to 5:45pm – Barbara Carr
6:15pm to 7:30pm – Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters
8pm to 9:30pm – The James Cotton Blues Band

ADVENTURE CENTER STAGE

1:30pm to 2:30pm – Rip Lee Pryor
3pm to 4pm – The Ursula Ricks Band
4:15pm to 5:15pm – Meet The PA Blues Fest Artists!
5:30pm to 6:30pm – Rip Lee Pryor
7pm to 8pm – The Ursula Ricks Band

Saturday Night Jam in the Adventure Center

9:30pm to 1:30am – doors open at 8:30pm.
Cover charge at the door is $10 & Jam Buffett is $8 (food optional).

PA Blues Fest Showcase with Dave Weld & The Imperial Flames sponsored by WDIY 88.1 fm, Lehigh Valley’s Community NPR Station!

Sunday July 27th 2014 – Gates open at 11am

MAIN TENT STAGE

1pm to 2pm – The Como Mamas
2:30 to 3:30pm – The Jarekus Singleton Band
4pm to 5:15pm – Chris Cain Band
5:45pm to 7pm – The Heritage Blues Quintet
7:30pm to 9pm – CJ Chenier & The Red Hot Louisiana Band

SUNDAY VIP BRUNCH

11am to 1pm – NON-VIP ticket price $30 includes Brunch! (included in VIP Package!)
VIP Sunday Brunch with The Murali Coryell Band with Special Guest – Dave Keyes!

ADVENTURE CENTER STAGE

1:30pm to 2:30pm – A Little Bit Of Blues with Warner Williams, Jay Summerour & Eric Selby
3pm to 4pm – Super Chikan (solo)
4:30pm to 5:30pm – A Little Bit Of Blues
6pm to 7pm – Super Chikan (solo)
7:30pm to 9pm – The Jarekus Singleton Band

 

 

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases For July 22, 2014

It’s a slow week Biscuiteers. Only a handful of new blues releases. Two new albums, an archival live album and a reissue. And one we missed from last week. It’s a Shame, Shame, Shame. Hey, that could be a song title! Use it; it’s on us.

Fresh Biscuits – July 22, 2014

Al Basile Swing N’ Strings  (July 15, 2014)

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Chris Smither Still On The Levee

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Seth Walker Sky Still Blue

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Bukka White and Skip James Live At The Cafe Au Go Go

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Jimmy Dawkins Feel the Blues

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Win Pennsylvania Blues Festival Tickets! That’s A Hot Biscuit!

Exciting news Biscuiteers! Today we launch our first contest. It’s a Facebook contest and you’re invited to enter. Two lucky winners will each receive a pair of tickets for next Sunday to Pennsylvania Blues Festival at Blue Mountain Ski Resort. The rules are pretty simple: You MUST do two things: Like the contest post AND share it. That’s it. It seems simple right? 1. Like the contest post on Facebook. 2. Share the contest post on Facebook. YOU MUST DO BOTH TO WIN. Two winners will be selected at random. The contest is open until 6 pm ET, Tuesday July 22. Winners will be announced on Facebook, on Twitter @BluesBiscuits and here at www.bluesbiscuits.com. If you win please acknowledge your win and confirm with us by Wednesday July 23 at 6 pm ET. Good Luck! Please follow the link below…