Monthly Archives: January 2015

Fresh Biscuits! Weekly CD Reviews – January 30, 2015

We’re back again for our weekly CD reviews. This week we’re featuring a reissue, a terrific album from 2014, and a biscuit so fresh you can’t even get it in a store yet. We hope you can check them all out and find something interesting for your ears!

JuniorWellsSouthSideBluesJamJunior Wells

Southside Blues Jam

Delmark

Release Date November 18, 2014

 

What can you say about Junior Wells that hasn’t already been said? He is a legend truly deserving of his stature. Junior took over the harmonica slot in Muddy Waters’ band when Little Walter left the group. Together with Buddy Guy, Junior Wells made one of the greatest Blues records in history with Hoodoo Man Blues. Junior and Buddy – the original Blues Brothers – worked together on and off until the time of Junior’s death in 1998 but along the way, Junior forged his own style, was a master of the harmonica, and a powerfully passionate singer.

Southside Blues Jam was Delmark’s attempt to capture on tape the feel of Junior’s regular working band that had a weekly Monday night gig at Theresa’s Lounge on Chicago’s South Side. The band you could find weekly at Theresa’s featured a Who’s Who of Blues legends. Buddy Guy and Louis Myers on guitar, Fred Below on drums, Ernest Johnson on bass and the incredible Otis Spann on piano. You almost have to wonder what Junior had to contribute. One listen to Southside Blues Jam and it becomes apparent what Junior had. Beyond the obvious, Junior was a band leader who could draw great performances out of his band. He can be heard directing the soloists, calling out arrangements and tempos, and he lends a tremendous presence to the proceedings.

The first sound you hear on South Side Blues Jam is Otis Spann’s piano. Spann is a master pianist and if you didn’t know it before, you’ll know it by the end of this album. His work provides the harmonic backbone of every song. His triplets, trills, and tangents add flair to the songs and make his a standout performance. “Stop Breaking Down” is the lead track and Junior blows his harp like Hell, fired by the spirit of Otis Spann. Junior emotes the words as much as he sings them, pleading the blues like no other. “I Could Have Had Religion” is another powerful performance. Junior seems to be improvising lyrics about then recent blues tragedies like Howlin’ Wolf’s heart attack, Muddy Waters’ car accident, and the death of Magic Sam. At the end you hear him talking like it was a rehearsal take. The informality in the studio gives it the feel of a true late night blues jam but Junior sang those improvised words with fire and passion. This is the real blues.

Let’s say a few things about Buddy Guy. Buddy is a show-off. He’s a head cutter, a ball buster, and an all-round son of a mother, but when he takes on the role of sideman he checks his ego at the door. His playing here is exceptional, but it never overpowers Junior or any of the other musicians. Buddy plays in the open spaces and never detracts from the main event. Buddy stretches out on “Lend Me Your Love” and hearing it now I can easily understand why guitar heroes like Clapton, Beck, Page, Hendrix, and Vaughan all worshiped at the feet of Buddy Guy.

The original album ends with track eight on this reissue which is a fantastic duet/duel between Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. They share the vocals and go toe to toe with their solos. Their rapport transcends music. It transcends the bandleader/sideman dynamic, and their obvious friendship. It’s nearly eight minutes of pure blues improvisation with Junior, Buddy, and Otis at their finest. If this is what was witnessed on Monday nights at Theresa’s, get my time machine ready, we’re going to hear some Blues!

The reissue features seven previously unreleased tracks, nearly doubling the amount of music on the original album. The biggest difference is the absence of Buddy Guy. Louis Myers handles the guitar work on most of the bonus tracks and proves to be a more than capable foil for Junior Wells. Junior dedicated “Rock Me” to Muddy Waters and Spann pulls out all the stops. Junior whips up a fierce Windy City bluster as he plays his harp in honor of his old boss. “Lexington Movies” is an amusing bit of studio chatter, and the disc closes with an upbeat tune called “Got To Play The Blues” which belies Junior’s fascination with James Brown.

The bonus tracks are less formal than the cuts on the original LP. However, it is during these bonus tracks that you get a feel for Junior as band leader. You can hear him directing Spann and Myers during “It’s Too Late Brother” and on a rambunctious, and thematically very different alternate take of “I Could Have Had Religion” you hear Junior direct the band to do it “funky, low down, and dirty – just like that.” This simple, off the cuff directive from Junior perfectly sums up this record. Funky, low down, and dirty – just like that.

 

 

tinsley_ellis_tough_love_square_largeTinsley Ellis

Tough Love

Heartfixer Music

Release Date February 3, 2015

 

Tinsley Ellis has been making music for a long time. He got started on guitar at a young age and by his teenage years he was already an accomplished musician. Tinsley was born in Atlanta but spent his early years in south Florida. He left Florida behind, returning to Hot ‘lanta in 1975. He formed a band with future Fabulous Thunderbird Preston Hubbard and in 1981 formed a new band called The Heartfixers with Chicago Blues man Bob Nelson. By the time of The Heartfixers’ 1983 platter Live At The Moonshadow, the Washington Post declared Tinsley to be a “legitimate guitar hero.” By the end of the 80s, Tinsley was picked up by Alligator Records and hasn’t stopped. He tours consistently and since starting his own label, Heartfixer Music, he has put out a new album every year. The latest is Tough Love and Tinsley’s scowl on the cover is letting you know he’s not fucking around.

While Tinsley may be deadly serious about his music and his gruff expression on the cover might make you think he’s going to be pissed if you even point at it, Tough Love is a welcoming album. He brings you in right away with “Seven Years.” This funky lead track features slinky, clean lead guitar licks that bring to mind Robert Cray. Ellis’ voice is in terrific form here and throughout the new disc. Somehow it is simultaneously raspy and smooth as he delivers his tales and punctuates them with biting commentary from his guitars.

“Midnight Ride” is a hard strutting shuffle and Tinsley unleashes the beast during his solos, bending the Hell out the high notes until they’re screaming like over-heated tires burning rubber and launching the midnight ride. “Give It Away” is an acoustic guitar based ballad that is an exact match for Tinsley’s older and wiser crooning. “Hard Work” reminds me of J.J. Cale and features plenty of grooving slide licks. Like anything Tinsley does, his slide playing is not a retread of someone else’s ideas. His slide licks are just far enough outside the box to sound fresh. Maybe it’s because he is not primarily a slide guitarist. His approach is different and the results speak for themselves.

Ellis is joined on Tough Love by a core band of Lynn Williams on drums, Steve Mackey on bass, and Kevin McKendree on keyboards. “Should I Have Lied” is a piano ballad that gets set ablaze when Tinsley lets loose on his guitar. It sounds like he’s using a hollow body guitar and it has an earthy tone. Tinsley is a master at matching the guitar to the song. This tune pulls together all his strengths as a singer, player and writer. It is superb. The set closes with another smoldering slow blues called “In From The Cold.” McKandree plays a mellotron, of all things, on this one and it’s a delight. I’m pretty sure they won’t be bringing the ancient behemoth on tour but damn it sounds great on the record. It’s like King Crimson meets B.B. King at John Paul Jones’ house. I don’t know who had the idea, but kudos to Tinsley for running with it. This mix of old sounds spurred some damned fine, fresh-sounding music.

Somehow, Tinsley Ellis manages to consistently present engaging new music. It seems like stepping away from big blues labels and making music for his own record company has freed his spirit. The music of his last few albums has been filled with joy. Anyone wondering if Blues is just depressing songs needs to look no further than Tough Love. Tinsley tells it like it is. Sometimes it’s rough and ugly but sometimes it’s the best thing in the world. It’s all here.

 

 

JPSoarsFullMoonNightInMemphisJ.P. Soars

Full Moon Night In Memphis

Soars High Productions

Release Date September 18, 2014

 

J.P. Soars came to the Blues world from the south Florida heavy metal scene. Soars credits a trip to Memphis and a meeting with the legendary Jessie Mae Hemphill as a life altering experience that eventually led to his career in the Blues. By chance, Soars met cigar box guitar pioneer John Lowe and was smitten by the rustic instruments. Soars traveled to Memphis again as a member of David Shelley and Bluestone for the 2007 International Blues Challenge. The band made it to the top ten. Soars was inspired to form his band, the Red Hots. With the Red Hots, he won the South Florida Blues Society competition two years in a row and represented the group at the IBCs where in 2009 they won. Soars also took home the Albert King Blues Guitar award. The heavy metal kid has mixed influences from Django Reinhardt and Guitar Slim to Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix into a signature sound that capitalizes on his distinct voice as much as his guitar prowess.

J.P. Soars’ latest foray is Full Moon Night In Memphis. The title track and album opener is an urban mixture of Hill Country cigar box guitar, driving rhythms, and howling Mississippi saxophone courtesy of rising star Brandon Santini. Soars’ voice reminds us of a guy who got his start in Memphis all those years ago. J.P. has a Howlin’ Wolf style rasp that serves the music well. It seems to be his natural voice. It doesn’t come across as shtick. It definitely fits with the grinding tones of the cigar box guitars. It’s a match made on the wrong side of the tracks somewhere in Hell and I can’t get enough.

The next tune is called “Back To Broke” and it is one of the catchiest sing-along Blues I’ve come across in a long time. Sometimes you hear a song and think “that’s catchy” but then it disappears as quickly as it arrived. “Back To Broke” will stick with you for a few days. The music is funky and it will get you moving while you join J.P. in singing “I’m back to broke, it ain’t no joke. I had some money in my pocket but it went up in smoke.” Mark “Muggy Doo” Leach adds some Memphis style B3 BBQ sauce to this tasty musical concoction and J.P.’s fingers dance their way through a jaunty solo. It’s refreshing to hear such a happy memorable tune about a dire situation. That’s Blues at its best, right?

“Somethin’ Ain’t Right” is another standout tune. It is built around a monster riff that could have been born in 1970 at Leslie West’s house. I hope Leslie wasn’t home because this thing is ripping up everything in sight. J.P. feeds the monster with freewheeling solos while drummer Chris Peet and percussionist Raul Hernandez propel the beast. Somethin’ ain’t right if you don’t like this song.

Full Moon Night In Memphis isn’t all bluster and blooze. Soars covers a lot of ground. There’s a trip through that other famous Tennessee music city on “The Road Has Got Me Down” which also features the wonderful harp playing of Brandon Santini. J.P. works his full moon magic on Lap Steel and the backup singers croon like the Carter Family. Again, this is a well-constructed song; it feels fun, and uplifting even when the subject would otherwise seem very sad. He’s on the road and missing home but turns it into a sprightly song. Soars seems to have a knack for songwriting. All his prowess as a guitarist would be for naught if he couldn’t wrap great songs around it. Luckily he can. He successfully takes on Latino guitar instrumentals with “Lil’ Mamacita” which features his incredible chops on acoustic guitar, and closes the album with a jump blues number that would make Louis Jordan proud. It’s a Full Moon Night In Memphis and anything can happen. With this new album from J.P. Soars, you can be certain something will.

 

Hump Day! Risque Tunes For Your Midweek Blues 1/28/15

BluesBiscuitsHumpdayI looked at my watch and it was quarter past two, time for a little hump day fun with you and we’ll reel… Reelin’ and Rockin’ with Chuck Berry. Was Chuck a blues man? His path to fame followed in the footsteps of the great blues men. He came from a southern city, moved north, made his name playing electric guitar and singing energized versions of down home songs, and wound up at the home of Chicago Blues – Chess Records. Modern blues players certainly recognize Chuck’s Blues. Sure his blues was faster and had an undeniable swing but it was blues nonetheless. The father of Rock & Roll was a Blues man. Hey, if Willie Dixon played on your records, you’re a blues man.

ChuckBerryLondonSessionsI’ve been digging some Chuck Berry grooves lately and I’ve been particularly smitten with an album called The London Chuck Berry Sessions. Chess had several of its big acts record with some of their British fans who just happened to be some of the most popular musicians in the world in the late 60s and early 70s. Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Rory Gallagher, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Mitch Mitchell and several others from the British music scene sat in to record with their heroes like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Chuck Berry. The live half of The London Chuck Berry Sessions is my favorite however.

The recording captures Chuck in a playful mood as he rips through “Johnny B. Goode,” guides the audience through the ins and outs of “My-Ding-A-Ling,” and best of all, he offers a down and dirty version of “Reelin’ And Rockin’.” You may recall that Rock & Roll was a southern term used by the blacks to refer to sexual intercourse. Naturally Chuck ran with that euphemism and created a one-eyed monster all his own. In the lyrics of “Reelin’ And Rockin'” he definitely blurred the lines between sock-hop dance moves and the backseat after-party. The original lyrics were innocent enough to get radio play in the ultra-conservative 1950s, but were filled with double-entendres for those in the know. Chuck was the master of the double-entendre. Sometimes it seems like all the double-entendres currently in use are on loan from the collection of Charles Edward Anderson Berry.

So, for Hump Day this week I’m dedicating this feature to “Reelin’ And Rockin'” and it’s many variations. First is the version from The London Chuck Berry Sessions, then there’s a live appearance, also in London recorded around the same time. you’ll notice some of Chuck’s schtick is the same but his facial expressions are priceless. Next up we have a powerful houserockin’ version from one of Chuck’s biggest followers, George Thorogood. George and the band leave the Hampton crowd exhausted. After that we have a slightly laid back version courtesy of the Sam Lay Band. From there we head to the outer perimeter of the Blues World to one of my favorite roots rock bands – Tommy Conwell & The Young Rumblers. In the synth pop 80’s, Tommy and the band had the audacity to sneak blues tinged tunes like “I’m Not your Man” and “Love’s On Fire” into the top 40. Deeper album cuts like “Workout” and concert staples like Freddie King’s “Hideaway” gave away Tommy’s love of blues. Unfortunately they are a largely over-looked band and we’ll give them a glance right here and now. Also from the Rock and Rockabilly portion of our Venn Diagram of Blues comes a band called The Head Cat. The Head Cat features Slim Jim Phanton from the Stray Cats, Danny B. Harvey from Lonesome Spurs, and Lemmy from Motorhead. Yes, that Lemmy. Seriously, how many Lemmys do you think there are? Give it chance. Maybe you’ll hate it, er, like it. Yeah, maybe you’ll like it. I love it.

If you stick with us, Reelin’ and Rockin’ your way from Chuck Berry to Lemmy, you get a special Hump Day treat at the end. No, not that kind of treat! Play with your own Ding-A-Ling!

Chuck Berry Reelin’ And Rockin’

Chuck Berry Reelin’ And Rockin’ – BBC Theatre, London 1972

George Thorogood Reelin’ And Rockin’

The Sam Lay Blues Band Reelin’ And Rockin’

Tommy Conwell & The Young Rumblers Reelin’ And Rockin’

The Head Cat Reelin’ And Rockin’

Chuck Berry My Ding-A-Ling

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases For January 27, 2015

This week has a slim selection but some interesting new releases and reissues. We have brand new music from D.A. Foster, Brandon Santini, Billy Walton Band, and from the fringes of the Blues, Gov’t Mule. Reissues include Magic Sam’s final sessions and a box set of several Harvey Mandel recordings.

There’s a lot of great stuff here to enjoy this week, and Hell, if you bought just six new Blues CDs a week, you’d have 312 new CDs every year. Exciting isn’t it?

We hope you find something interesting for your ears in this week’s new releases.

Brandon Santini

Brandon Santini Live & Extended!

Billy Walton Band

Billy Walton Band Wish For What You Want

Magic Sam

Magic Sam Genius: Final Sessions

Harvey Mandel

Harvey Mandel Snake Box

D.A. Foster

D.A. Foster The Real Thing

Gov't Mule

Gov’t Mule Sco-Mule

Hump Day! Risque Tunes For Your Midweek Blues 1/21/15

BluesBiscuitsHumpdayYou know, sometimes Hump Day doesn’t go as planned. Not everyone gets to enjoy the Hump Day activities. Every blues musician knows you don’t always get what you want. Unrequited desire has been the basis of many songs, in all genres, ever since the first note was sung. However, there’s something about the way a blues singer puts it into words that separates them from the rest of the pack. Sometimes those words work out so well, they’ve got extra humps lined up for the following week.

This week we’re dedicating Hump Day to those who want the attention of their lover but they just aren’t getting any. For Harpdog Brown, his woman is too busy with her online friends. He’d love to poke his “Facebook Woman” but he can’t get his login, if you know what I mean…

Poor Lil’ Ed Williams is having similar issues with his “Computer Girl.” Her idea of digital input doesn’t quite match Lil’ Ed’s. No Nybbles and Bytes for Ed tonight, looks like his dongle will be left dangling even though none of the female ports are in use. Maybe he should look into some hot swappable plug and play action.

Finally, we have a more traditional dilemma. Booze and Blues go hand in hand and Moreland & Arbuckle know it well. Dustin Arbuckle is getting wound up by his “Teasin’ Doney” whose favorite licker comes in a bottle. That sounds dirty. It probably is. It’s Hump Day after all!

P.S. Anyone who knows what in the name of Sam Hill a teasin’ “doney” is gets a shiny new dime. We’ll FAX it to you. We’ll FAX you real good.

Harpdog Brown Facebook Woman

http://youtu.be/lMuKnwtjefw

Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials Computer Girl

Moreland & Arbuckle Teasin’ Doney

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases For January 20, 2015

It’s New Release day again and this week is particularly exciting. Beyond the brand new releases, we have a ton of re-issues of Earwig Music catalog items that have been out of print for quite a while. If you missed these the first time around, now is your chance. Rockbeat Records is re-issuing a J.B. Hutto album this week. It’s a 2 disc set called Chicago Slide The Final Shows 1982. I’m particularly excited about this J.B. Hutto and the Dave Weld/Lil’ Ed collaboration being re-issued. A Chicago Blues stalwart and his greatest disciples having recordings returning to availability is always a good thing. Another point of interest this week is an Earwig reissue by Johnny “Yard Dog” Jones. I have never heard this guy but based solely on his name, I’m in. and check out that album cover. It’s simple, down to earth, humorous and vaguely downtrodden. It’s got it all.

Damn, I forgot to mention Big Jack Johnson Live In Chicago is reissued this week too. There’s a lot of good stuff. Check it out.

Doghouse Sam And His Magnatones

Doghouse Sam And His Magnatones Knock Knock

Michael Jerome Browne

Michael Jerome Browne Sliding Delta

Howlin' Bill Hungry

Howlin’ Bill Hungry

Shorty Kreutz

Shorty Kreutz Full Custom Boogie

J.B. Hutto

J.B. Hutto Chicago Slide The Final Shows 1982

 

REISSUES from EARWIG

Homesick James

Homesick James Goin’ Back In The Times

Little Brother Montgomery

Little Brother Montgomery At Home

Lil' Ed and Dave Weld with The Imperial Flames

Lil Ed and Dave Weld with The Imperial Flames Keep on Walkin’

David Honeyboy Edwards

David Honeyboy Edwards The World Don’t Owe Me Nothing

David Honeyboy Edwards & Friends

David Honeyboy Edwards & Friends Old Friends

Little Willie Anderson

Little Willie Anderson Swinging The Blues

Johnny Yard Dog Jones

Johnny “Yard Dog” Jones Ain’t Gonna Worry

Jimmy Dawkins

Jimmy Dawkins Kant Sheck Dees Bluze

Louisiana Red

Louisiana Red Millenium Blues

Louisiana Red

Louisiana Red Sittin’ Here Wonderin’

Big Jack Johnson

Big Jack Johnson Live in Chicago

Fresh Biscuits! Weekly CD Reviews – January 16, 2015

It’s time again for our weekly CD reviews. This is our first installment of 2015. I took a little break over the holidays but now we’re back! This week I’m taking a look at a pair of albums that evaded our pages last year and a brand new disc out just this week.

A lot of CDs come in the mail and the unfortunate reality is the bigger names get preference. I try to cover as much ground as possible though, so I make a pile of interesting stuff for those times I can include something off the beaten path. I make a lot of these decisions based on the covers. Album covers are important, ladies and gents. I’ll go off on a tangent about that soon enough in the reviews below but if your cover is eye-catching that will give you the edge almost every time, whether it’s in a store, a web site, or a merch table at a festival. Remember that next time your manager has your band standing next to a tree in their back yard. Anyway…

Without further adieu, I present Terry Quiett Band, Brent Johnson, and Josh Hoyer And The Shadowboxers

 

TerryQuiettBandTakingSidesTerry Quiett Band

Taking Sides

Lucky Bag Records

Released on March 25, 2014

 

I didn’t know anything about Terry Quiett Band but I was intrigued by the cover of their 2014 album Taking Sides when I came across it in a stack of discs I ran out of time for last year. Make no mistake: covers are an important part of the package. Since I am a reviewer, there’s a higher chance than usual that I’ll give it a listen no matter what. Still, there are hundreds of Blues releases each year, often from artists you’ve never heard of, even if, like the Terry Quiett Band they’ve had a long career already. The front cover of Taking Sides melds the big sky heartland and resonator guitar with the luminous big city skyline and a three pick-up electric guitar. The guitars meet in the middle implying this band is proudly fusing elements of the blues into a hybrid. Your imagination fills in the details until you plop the disc in your player and you’re greeted by the raspy electrified resonator as Quiett peels off riff after riff. It’s exactly as advertised and it’s glorious. But maybe I would have missed this one if the cover was a band shot, up against a pick-up truck in a parking lot somewhere. The cover brings you in; it’s a hook almost as important as the hooks in the music. Personally I’m sick of boring blues album covers, but when you see a cover like this you know the band is serious and they want to make a statement. Hopefully you’ll like the statement, but at least they were bold enough to go for it and try to catch your eye in the midst of a sea of unknown entities releasing CDs with nothing more than their picture and generic Arial font lettering.

Thankfully, the music within meets the expectations set by the cover. The album opens with slide on steel as the resonator is caught in a rollin’ and tumblin’ groove that just won’t stop. Immediately you realized the promise of the cover is being realized. The track has the frantic energy of a city and the tone center of Grandma’s back porch. “Cut The Rope” is sinister psychedelic blues. If you’re going to play slide through a wah-wah pedal I’ll probably follow you like a puppy dog chasing down bacon. The accelerated rave-up toward the end will leave you howling for more.

The back cover makes a clear distinction between Side A and Side B, as if this were a record. In many ways, the tunes marked for Side B represent another side of the band’s style. It starts off with a smoldering minor key blues that burns the whole damned barn down by the time it’s over. Much of Side B brings the tempo down, and gives the band a chance to shine on some extended cuts that are in many ways more intense than the hard driving Side A. The two sides provide an additional surprise by not being what you might expect. I admit I was thinking I’d be hearing acoustic driven music on Side B after the rampaging first half. I was pleasantly surprised. Whether it’s Side A or B, the songs are superbly crafted and arranged. Mississippi Hal Reed blows a mean harp on “Come The Morning” and the horns on “Gimme Some” deliver knock out blows.

Terry Quiett is an evocative singer and a Hell of a guitar player whether he’s playing standard or slide. Sometimes it seems like everybody’s playing slide guitar these days, like it was just discovered and it has to be tried. The results are good, bad, and often ugly. Slide guitar playing requires your attention. Proper intonation is the key, but you have to dampen the strings, limit the noise, and for the love of Elmore James find a new lick to play. Terry Quiett sounds like he has put in the time and effort. He plays some borrowed lines and who can blame him. Some classic slide riffs are so fun to play, you just have to. But he incorporates all kinds of slide licks into his songs; sometimes for accent, sometimes to make a full statement. His hands are steady. He’s probably at a point where he doesn’t think about it much which allows the music to flow from within. The feel of this album and his playing makes all the difference. The feel is honest. This band brings out all sides and somewhere in the middle is the Truth, which is this: Taking Sides gathers inspiration from all sides of the blues and makes up one terrific album.

 

BrentJohnsonSetTheWorldOnFireBrent Johnson

Set The World On Fire

Justin Time Records

Released on April 8, 2014

 

Brent Johnson was a guitar prodigy as a child. When New Orleans’ legendary “Braille Blues Daddy” Bryan Lee heard Brent’s playing, Lee invited him into his Blues Power Band. With Lee’s band, Brent has recorded and toured the globe for the last ten years. Between tours with Bryan Lee, Brent hit the road with John Perkins on drums and Bill Blok on bass. They played Brent’s original compositions of which he is very proud. The group was met with an enthusiastic response from crowds. Bolstered by the appreciation of the fans, the band decided to go into the recording studio. Together, with Wayne Lohr on keyboards and a few special guests like Sonny Landreth and Alvin Youngblood Hart, they put together the blazing new record, Set The World On Fire.

Johnson is committed to writing his own songs which stems from a long-time love of guitarist/singer bandleaders. Johnson has said his favorite music is “raw, honest and dirty.” This attitude surely informs the songs he writes and the few covers he chose for the album. The production captures a live band feel with earthy vintage tones and all the jagged edges sticking out daring you   Lyrically, he does not use elaborate metaphors. He prefers simple and direct such as “Don’t buy a ticket if you don’t want to take a ride.”

Brent Johnson’s guitar playing is lyrical. He sings, but his guitar is another voice for him and the two work together like Siamese twins line cooking at the local diner. From his tones to his notes, he finds the right combination of flavors for every song. Not every song is raw and dirty however, but they all come off as honest. Unfortunately you can hear when a band is going through the motions. Thankfully that does not occur with Brent and his band. Even the guests come to play their best. Alvin Youngblood Hart trades blows with Johnson like Frank Costanza on Festivus, and Sonny Landreth lights up “Long Way Back To New Orleans” with his inimitable slide guitar sound and style. Brent Johnson is a fine slide player too and he revs it up like a ’57 Big Block Chevy on John Lee Hooker’s “Meet Me In The Bottom.”

The record’s tour de force is a grinding 13 minute workout on “As The Years Go Passing By.” This emotional roller coaster should probably be accompanied by Jack Daniels and Prozac. It is an impassioned performance that will bring guitar worshipers to the album. However, based on Johnson’s passion for original material I have to wonder why he didn’t write a minor key Blues of his own for this showcase. Maybe it just felt right to do it this way. It sure sounds right. Actually, all of Set The World On Fire sounds right. It sounds like a band of brothers laying down music they love. It is free of pretense and schtick. It aims at the core of the Blues ideology of lightening your load through music. Brent Johnson’s debut album will help you. Hucklebuck your way out to the store and get one.

 

JoshHoyerLivingByTheMinuteJosh Hoyer And The Shadowboxers

Living By The Minute

Silver Street

Released on January 13, 2015

 

Josh Hoyer and The Shadowboxers is an up and coming Soul/R&B/Funk band from Lincoln, NE. Successes in their first two years of playing include being nominated for Blues Blast Awards Debut of the Year, entering the top ten of RMR Charts for Soul AND R&B for over 30 weeks, being named the 2013 Omaha Entertainment Winner for Soul Artist of the Year, and a nomination for Artist of the Year for 2014. The band formed in late 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska. As a talent buyer and bartender at the world-famous ZOO Bar for the last ten years or so, bandleader Hoyer has witnessed and joined several of the top roots and blues artists touring the country. As a bandleader he has won numerous local music awards and his current band, The Shadowboxers, includes some of the areas most revered and accomplished musicians. The Midwest has become fertile ground for talented young blues and roots players over the last decade. Josh Hoyer and The Shadowboxers continue the trend with their new album Living By The Minute.

I don’t know how, but Hoyer, a white guy from Nebraska, sounds like a black guy from Philly. The band has a soul sound like the finest MFSB mixed with New York City Funk, and Memphis Rhythm & Blues. The backing vocals from Hanna Bendler, Kim Moser, and Megan Spain are beautiful. Their harmonies are rich yet sparse and can cut you to the core. They have a definite Sixties tone to their voices, reminiscent of the Delfonics and other groups of the era. Bassist Josh Bargar seems like the driving force in many of the songs. His bass playing blurs the line between percussion and melody. He plays lead bass but it’s never over-powering. Even in a slow tune like the title track “Living By The Minute” Bargar’s bass lines give the song a little punchiness that if provided by drums would be too much. All the songs on the disc are expertly arranged and mixed. In “Misfit Children” the bass again centers the song while the horns and guitars bring the funk. Hoyer’s organ playing, especially his Hammond B2 – yes B2 – is tremendous. He weaves his lines in between the rhythm section and lays chords on top like gravy.

On “Over The City” Hoyer’s voice sounds like John Bell from Widespread Panic. In my mind I could hear Panic covering this tune. “Let it Out” does what it says. The first 20 minutes of the record are fairly mellow, mid-tempo R&B songs but this one rocks out a little with a fast pace, stop-time rhythm changes, hot guitar solos, and Hoyer belting it out with help from the energetic backup vocalists. The disc closes with three up-tempo tunes. I don’t know if “11:11 333” is some oddball Numerology reference or what, but the damned song is funky. I caught myself repeating the numbers like a babbling fool along with Hoyer as he sang. “Blood And Bone” is another showcase for Bendler, Moser, and Spain, and “Don’t Turn Away” brings it to a close with all the traits that make this band special – percolating bass, swirling organ, funky beats, swooping horns, dynamic songwriting, and those amazing voices. You might as well put this album on repeat; don’t turn away!

About midway through my second listen of this disc I realized I was completely drawn in, which surprised me because the first time it wasn’t doing much for me. Yes, first impressions are important but Living By The Minute reminded me of the importance of recorded music. It is there to explore, experience, and examine. Sometimes you need to live with it a few times before you truly get it, and when you do it is very much worth the effort and can make all the difference in your outlook in general. Josh Hoyer and The Shadowboxers have made one of those records that reveal more of itself with each listen. This quality makes it a more significant achievement and means this band is on the right track. Give Josh Hoyer And The Shadowboxers and their new album Living By The Minute all the time they deserve.

Hump Day! Risque Tunes For Your Midweek Blues 1/14/15

BluesBiscuitsHumpdayWelcome back for more Hump Day fun. It’s 2015 and we have a whole new round of filth lined up for you this year! We’ll ease in slowly to 2015 with a fairly tame set of tunes that aren’t particularly blunt but they get the point across. The International Blues Challenge is happening next week so if you’ll be on the road to Memphis you might think about a whole other kind of joyride while you’re cruising down the highway.

Since the dawn of the automobile, it has not only been used as a sexual metaphor in song, it’s also been used as a rolling hotel room for young lovers everywhere. Some musicians have worked their exploits into songs. Some have sung about the woe of seeing their lover in the car of another. You just can’t trust a woman who will spend the day riding around town while you’re hard at work! Still others have written songs about the desire to go for midnight rides. Naturally, these songs are about making sure the young ladies are safe and not walking late at night along dangerous roadways. Their safety is your primary concern, right fellas? And if there happen to be some submarine races happening, you’ll be more than happy to give the ladies a ride, if you know what I mean.

So, this week we’ll look at the evolution of a relationship as it moves from one car-related stage to the last. First, when the romance is new you want to take your young lover for a ride in your car under the romantic moonlit sky. Howlin’ Wolf knew this long before he left Memphis. He tells us all about it in “Baby, Ride With Me.”

Next, the romance has waned. You’re working hard all day long and you get the feeling your woman isn’t hanging around the house just waiting for you to come home. She’s having fun joyriding in some other guy’s car. Lightnin’ Hopkins had it happen to him and he shares his misery in “Automobile Blues.”

Eventually, everything comes to an end. Relationships are a lot like cars. They’re exciting and powerful when new, but they take some hits – a few bumps in the road, somebody in a parking lot slams into them a few times, the bumper gets out of shape, the paint job fades, things start to leak… Sure you can fix it up a little, give it a good jump to get it going but in the end it’s time to part ways. It might be a difficult split. Jimmy Thackery has some great advice for handling the break up.

 

Howlin’ Wolf Baby Ride With Me

Lightnin’ Hopkins Automobile Blues

Jimmy Thackery Cool Guitars

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases For January 13, 2015

Well, the long winter break is over, the Holidays have passed, the eggnog bottles are empty and the credit card bills are coming in, but the new releases are popping back up. Hopefully you saved a few bucks to treat yourself to some hot new music this winter.

There wasn’t much in the Blues genre in the during the waning days of 2014, but now, in the second full week of 2015, there is a pretty good line-up of new Blues to start us off. There’s a new live album from John Ginty. This guy is an incredible keyboard player and has played on countless sessions. You may have heard his solo stuff on B.B. King’s Bluesville on Sirius/XM or heard him as part of Robert Randolph And The Family Band, of which he was a founding member.

The new Johnny Winter set brings together highlights from the Bootleg Series, a CD version of the Record Store Day vinyl release “Live Bootleg Special Edition” which is also a compilation of Bootleg Series tracks, and a third disc of rarities. The press release doesn’t say if the “rarities” are previously unreleased, except for two tracks they mention. If you’re not familiar with the Bootleg Series, this looks like a great place to jump in. If you have them all, it looks like a retread of stuff you already bought. I’d like more info on the third disc before I decide to buy it.

We hope you find something good in this week’s new releases to get your new year of Blues off to a great start.

Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter Remembrance Volume 1 (Limited Edition, 3-CD Set)

Eric Sardinas

Eric Sardinas Boomerang

Lightnin' Slim

Lightnin’ Slim I’m A Rollin’ Stone – Louisiana Swamp Blues – The Singles As & Bs 1954-1962 Centenary Edition

John Ginty

John Ginty Bad News Travels – Live

Grizzlee Train

Grizzlee Train Come Back Around

Glas

Glas From The Blues To Your Shoes

Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers

Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers Living By The Minute

 

Now, go forth and boogie!