Monthly Archives: October 2015

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.

Day Old Biscuits! The Long Lost CD Reviews

It’s been a while since I had the time to post reviews and I apologize for that. Blues Biscuits is a labor of love but it’s a one man operation and sometimes this one man is spread a little too thin. Circumstances conspired to keep me from writing much but I never stopped listening. I get a tremendous amount of new Blues to go through and review. I appreciate the work it takes, especially in this modern music industry, to get a CD together and actually make and distribute it. I like to give the music more than one listen before forming an opinion. Some of my favorite albums took time to grow on me and I often find those to be the most enjoyable. Based on that experience I feel I should give the artists and their music time to sink in and see if my first impressions were accurate. I want to give them a fair shake.

Since my summer was a bit of a wash out and early fall has been hectic, I have quite a stock pile of CDs to go through. I had a few in mind to review and others I picked mostly because of the covers. I’ve said many times that covers are important. Don’t short change your music, your passion, your life’s work, with a lousy album cover. Anyway, I’ve changed up the format of the reviews a little bit to streamline them so I can cover as much ground as possible and still give these artists the attention they deserve.

VictorWainwrightBoomTownVictor Wainwright & The WildRoots
Boom Town
Blind Pig Records
Release Date May 26, 2015

Victor Wainwright & The WildRoots have served up one of the best of 2015 with Boom Town. If your brain can’t have fun on Boom Town, the drugs will never help. During “Two Lane Blacktop Revisited” Victor shouts “let’s put this thing on two wheels!” and you know that turn is coming way too fast and it’s gonna be wild. Boom Town is train robbery music. It is Old West saloon blues and the soundtrack to the James Gang’s bank heist highlights reel. Yes, it’s criminal. This may well be the devil’s music. By the time you get to “Wildroot Rumble” you’re cheering them on as you boogie around the house, banging on the air pianner and looking for your six-guns. The rumble is exactly what it says. The band engages in all-in, no holds barred shootout at the Boom Town Corral, delivering a non-stop high energy jam that slaps your damned mouth as it hangs slack-jawed at glory of the album you just experienced. It is bodacious. Saddle up and ride off into the sunset, this thing is over.

STANDOUT TRACKS: Two Lane Blacktop Revisited, Saturday Night Sunday Morning, Wildroot Rumble, Boom Town, If It Ain’t Got Soul – Part 1

EdenBrentJigsawHeartEden Brent
Jigsaw Heart
Yellow Dog Records
Release Date May 6, 2014

When I first saw and heard Eden Brent I was stunned that such a powerful and dynamic sound was being generated by the small frame person behind the keyboard. I had no idea she had been nicknamed “Little Boogaloo” by her mentor Boogaloo Ames, but damn if it isn’t perfect. She is a revered writer and has earned eleven Blues Music Award nominations since 2009. Her voice has power and her playing runs from sullen to bombastic in a turn of a chorus. It’s wonderful. Yet somehow I missed her latest album Jigsaw Heart when it came out last year and I now lament the time I’ve spent without it. While there are examples of rollicking boogie wherein Brent showcases her finger-pumping chops, much of Jigsaw Heart straddles the fence between Country and Blues. There is a twang in the songs and palpable pain. Eden delivers the words with all the emotion they imply and we couldn’t ask more from her. There is unreleased tension in many of these songs. I don’t know if it’s by design or happenstance but I suspect she did it on purpose. Sometimes the song goes right up to the line, refusing to play that one last chord that will thrust away the pain. Instead the songs soak in the heartbreak, absorb it, and turn it on itself. This is melancholy blues at its sultry best.

STANDOUT TRACKS: Jigsaw Heart, Tendin’ To A Broken Heart, Better This Way, Everybody Already Knows, Locomotive

NathanielRateliffNightSweatsNathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Stax
Release Date August 21, 2015

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats were big in Memphis in 1950, Chicago in ‘55, Detroit in ‘65, Philly for the Bicentennial, and New Orleans since France held the deed. This is music that exists outside time. 2075 will be a great year to hear this album. I haven’t been this excited by a record in years. I feel it in my bones and it makes me want to dance. I never want to dance. Rateliff is a folkie singer/songwriter/guitarist who fell in with a bunch of musicians who seem to unconsciously know exactly what to play. They are in the pocket, deep in a groove, and making you move. The tones are vintage, the beats are irresistible, and the lyrics will sear your heart with pain as you tap your foot, shake your hips, and cry out “Somebody get me a god damned drink!” Their music is not necessarily Blues but it shares more with Howlin’ Wolf and Little Milton than most of the Blues you heard at every festival this year. They play Soul and R&B as it was when Aretha Franklin was young. Nathaniel Rateliff’s voice tingles the spine and the brilliant arrangements highlight strength upon strength making the complex seem simple and memorable. They are best known for the Gospel infused hit “S.O.B.” but it’s not the best song on the album. I can’t even pick a best – I love everything about this album. It will be difficult to follow up this modern masterpiece and if they never do I just don’t care. I’ll still have this sweaty, greasy, bristling, bulging, and beautiful album, and I’ll listen to it until the day I die.

STANDOUT TRACKS: all of Side One, most of Side Two.

LaraPriceIMeanBusinessLara Price
I Mean Business
Vizztone
Release Date November 13, 2015

Lara Price was born and sadly, abandoned in Vietnam in 1975 but was rescued by Operation Baby Lift. She discovered music at the age of six and took piano lessons from Howard Jones. She eventually began to sing and has been perfecting her craft ever since, becoming a fixture of the San Francisco Bay music scene. Lara has been picked up by Vizztone and her new album I Mean Business is out soon. The new album has a classic 70s vibe with punchy horns, surging guitars, and simmering keyboards pulsating behind the sultry songstress. Lara has many musical irons in the fire, performing Folk music, Pop/Rock, Blues and more, keeping her schedule full and her chops sharp. She brings lessons of those other genres and bands to bear on her new album and it shows in the exemplary songwriting and arrangements. She brought in guests Jim Pugh, Chris Cain, and Mighty Mike Schermer to round out her usual group of cohorts. Lara Price co-wrote several of the songs on I Mean Business, and together with producer Kid Anderson, captured a modern take on classic Soul and R&B. This isn’t Beyonce’s Rhythm & Blues and we’re all better for it.

STANDOUT TRACKS: I Get It When I Want It, Undone, I Mean Business

CrookedEyeTommyButterfliesSnakes Crooked Eye Tommy
Butterflies & Snakes
Independent Release
Release Date August 1, 2015

Crooked Eye Tommy are the brainchild of Tommy and Paddy Marsh and arrived on the scene in 2013. Their debut album Butterflies & Snakes comes on like swampy North Florida Skynyrd Style Blues. It’s played by Southern California guys and it all makes perfect sense. There are slinky slide guitars, arpeggio riffs, spot-on vocal harmonies, and Latinesque grooves that mix perfectly. Crooked Eye Tommy is another example of a band that isn’t necessarily Blues but gets categorized under the rapidly expanding Blues Big Top. It’s okay. We welcome them in, point them to the stage and say show us what ya got. They got it. And Butterflies & Snakes proves it. Crooked Eye Tommy pull together a variety of influences and make music that will make you shake your hips slowly through a sultry summer night. The guitars simmer, Jimmy Calire’s sax is seductively soothing, and the vocals keep you in the moment. There’s a unifying thread holding all the disparate influences together and it seems to be that it is Crooked Eye Tommy are skilled musicians who care about making quality music that isn’t stale, repetitive, or cliché. Their first CD, Butterflies & Snakes, is a terrific introduction to a band ready to break out of Southern California and bring their brand of Blues and Roots music to the masses.

STANDOUT TRACKS: Come On In, I Stole The Blues, Mad And Disgusted, Over And Over

BobMaloneMojoDeluxeBob Malone
Mojo Deluxe
Delta Moon Records
Released on August 21, 2015

Keyboard maestro Bob Malone has issued a new album called Mojo Deluxe. From the cover to the music, this record is witty, tough and retro. There are real instruments, boys and girls, and plenty of Mojo. Bob’s keyboard chops are in fine form but this is not just an occasion show off. The songs are potent, memorable and well-crafted. It makes me wonder if Mr. Malone’s time playing in John Fogerty’s band has influenced his songwriting. You can’t play three minute masterworks every night without having them seep into your psyche. Whatever the source of the Mojo, Malone has made a fun record with a somehow timeless feel. From strong vocals, gritty guitars, and swirling keyboards there is something for all Blues fans on Mojo Deluxe. Stan Behrens plays the Hell out of the harmonica on Mojo Deluxe and is a highlight of every song he’s on. Kudos must be given for listing the keyboards used in the liner notes. He played an old upright piano, a Wurlitzer, and more. These instruments make all the difference in the music and it’s great to know what he used on a particular tune. Malone is definitely not a synthesizer guy and I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

STANDOUT TRACKS: Certain Distance, Looking For The Blues, Rage & Cigarettes, Don’t Threaten Me (With A Good Time), Chinese Algebra

ChristianCollinSpiritOfTheBluesChristian Collin
Spirit Of The Blues
Independent release
Release Date July 10, 2015

Big, fat, fiery, and funky. That’s the Spirit Of The Blues as presented by Christian Collin, Chicago based blueslinger who recently released his latest disc. When I see guys in hats wielding Strats I immediately suspect them of being SRV cloning disasters. Based on Collin’s music on Spirit Of The Blues I can safely say he just likes hats. And Strats. But the tunes are all over the Blues map. He does touch down at D/FW once in a while but he lands at O’Hare too and takes a few wild rides down Highway 41. Like Stevie Ray, Christian gives credit to his influences and name checks a few like Lightnin’ Hopkins here and there. He knows where he comes from and instead of copying, he integrates and makes something fresh with old ingredients. His singing inflection calls to mind Johnny Winter, but his voice reminds me of Johnny Van Zant from Lynyrd Skynyrd. Yes, Johnny. And that’s fine with me. If Skynyrd made records like Spirit Of The Blues they wouldn’t be out flogging their past every summer. Collin however is up and coming and we need to keep an eye on him. He crafts solos skillfully and with purpose and his songs are adeptly arranged. He lets them breathe.

STANDOUT TRACKS: Blues For You, Dead Man Walking, Only You, Old 109

KenTuckerLookMyWayKen Tucker
Look My Way
Music Access Inc.
Release Date June 2, 2015

As I mentioned above, I picked a few CDs from the stack based on their covers. I don’t even know where this CD came from and I can’t find the info sheet that comes with most arrivals. I never heard of Ken Tucker and still know almost nothing about him. I think Ken Tucker’s cover subliminally reminded me of Roy Buchanan. I didn’t expect him to sound like Roy but I figured it would be something I liked. Well damn if I wasn’t right again. This band is probably dynamite live. Look My Way has a live feel even with the guitar overdubs. The band is a three piece and they boogie hard, rock out, and roll through the blues like a jack-knifed 18 wheeler on I-95. Tucker lacks a distinct vocal quality and I suspect that like many guitar players he chose to do it himself instead of dealing with Lead Singer Syndrome. However, the trio’s jams are the key to their success and they win the day every time. They are a tight band but loose enough to follow Ken Tucker wherever he takes these tunes. Look My Way isn’t going to change the world but it lights it on fire real nice for 50 minutes or so.

STANDOUT TRACKS: What I Need, Best Bad Habit, Brother Whiskey Sister Nicotine

You can get a taste of these fine albums by checking out our playlist on Spotify. Thanks for checking out this and our playlists. They are a great way to hear new music and revisit some classics, but please keep in mind that artists get very little money from streaming media. If you hear something you like, please buy it and support the artists.

Smokin’ Joe Kubek Passes Away At 58

SmokinJoeKubekBlastFurnaceSmokin’ Joe Kubek, the Dallas blues guitarist and fixture of the Dallas/Fort Worth music scene, died Sunday October 11, 2015 of a heart attack at age 58. Smokin’ Joe died shortly before he was to appear onstage at the Pleasure Island Seafood Blues & Jazz Festival in North Carolina, according to the release. Mr. Kubek was scheduled to play there Saturday afternoon with his longtime collaborator Bnois King. Sinc meeting Bnois at a 1988 jam in Dallas they have been on the road constantly, playing clubs and blues festivals around the world 10 months a year.

Smokin’ Joe Kubek was born November 30, 1956, in Grove City, PA but grew up in Irving, TX. He turned professional at age 14 and fell in love with the blues in his late teens. He went on to work with noted Dallas soul men Al “TNT” Braggs, Little Joe Blue, and, for a time, Dallas blues legend Freddie King. Mr. Kubek was about to tour with King in late 1976 when King died of a heart attack. Kubek played with other bluesmen named King — B.B. and Albert — as well as with Stevie Ray Vaughan and many others. He made many friends on the road and earned the love and respect of his fellow musicians. His passing is a big blow to the Blues community.

Please check out our review of Smokin’ Joe and Bnois’ most recent album Fat Man’s Shine Parlor.

KubekKingFatMansShineParlor

We have put together a playlist dedicated to Joe and Bnois, two Blues Brothers and Road Dogs who kept it revelant, real, and often raucous.

Todd Wolfe Band Live Show Review – 2nd Story Blues

ToddWolfeBand201510022ndStory-1Todd Wolfe is not a household name, except maybe at his house. He’s never sold a million records under his own name, but he’s played on a few million sellers by others including old band mate Sheryl Crow. He’s opened shows for his musical heroes and he’s shared the stage with some as well. He plays the blues, but he likes to rock out. If this was 1972 he’d probably be mentioned in the same breath as many of his heroes like Leslie West and Eric Clapton. His writing and playing are imaginative, dynamic, and underrated. In an age of iPods, BitTorrents, Kimyes, Lady Ga Gas, and radio goo-goos, Todd Wolfe has gone largely un-noticed by the masses. Maybe that’s a good thing. Todd Wolfe continues to put out honest, heartfelt roots and blues music on his own terms. He works hard, traveling the world with his band to spread his self-described “Bluesadelic” musical vision.

Like all blues related music, Todd’s often gives a nod to the past. The overall sound of the band is reminiscent of Cream, Mountain, Rory Gallagher, and even the Son Seals Blues Band of the mid to late 70’s. Todd’s sound is raw, energetic, and pure. His vocals are gritty, gutsy, and occasionally gruff. His lyrics draw on his life experiences and his innate sense of song-craft makes every tune memorable. He is adept at slide guitar, and is as comfortable with only an acoustic guitar as he is at maximum volume fronting his powerhouse band featuring Justine Gardner on bass and Roger Voss on drums.

ToddWolfeBand201510022ndStory-2Last week we had the opportunity to catch Todd Wolfe Band in the initial phase of their tour celebrating the release of their phenomenal new album Long Road Back. The show was presented by 2nd Story Blues Alliance, an organization supporting Blues and musicians in the Lehigh Valley region of eastern Pennsylvania. 2nd Story brings in national blues acts to the Epic Center in Fountain Hill, PA right next door to Bethlehem. Todd Wolfe was a long time fixture of the Lehigh Valley and the local audience was enthusiastic. Todd brought along Hammond B3 and all around keyboard wizard John Ginty, who played on and co-produced Long Road Back, plus local favorite Sarah Ayers to sing on a pair of tunes. The result was two sets of incredibly dynamic music featuring jams that pressed to the edge of the cliff and almost fell off. It was wonderful to hear and mesmerizing to watch.

Armed with a handful of guitars and a single Marshall amp, Todd immediately proved his mastery of classic riff creation leading the band through several new tracks from the new album Long Road Back. The music covered a lot of stylistic ground and John Ginty on keyboard made this formidable trio an even more powerful quartet. One of my favorite moments was the performance of the atmospheric album closer “Hoodoo River.” When I first heard this song, I thought it was missing something but I liked it anyway. The missing piece must have been my fault because it has since become one of my favorite Todd Wolfe Band tunes. It is an instrumental track wherein the second theme never seems to resolve and I have come to believe that is exactly the point of it. The keyboard and guitar jams made this tune levitate and Voss and Gardner formed a well-oiled groove machine. It was perfectly unresolved and exquisitely performed.

ToddWolfeBand201510022ndStory-3Justine Gardner and Roger Voss play telepathically and the petite Gardner makes a rumble exponentially bigger than the figure she cuts. The whole band gets deep into the music and plays toward each other much of the time. You definitely get a bird’s eye view as these talented musicians create music on the fly that they want to make, and would be making whether you were there or not. It is honest and in the moment. Their energy draws you in and the quality of the songs keeps you there. Whether it’s “Miles To Go” or “Day By Day” from the last album, or a new rocker like “One Shot,” the brisk stomp of “Sunnyvale,” the Fusion-Blues of Ginty’s “Peanut Butter,” a primal and thunderous re-imagining of Stephen Stills’ “Black Queen,” or the maximum R&B of Sarah Ayers singing “Mercy” the band went from highlight to highlight. If you miss Todd Wolfe Band live you’re missing some of the best musicians out there making music with integrity and imagination every time they take the stage.

For more pictures from the show, check out our Facebook page.

Just in case you aren’t familiar with Todd’s work, I put together a Todd Wolfe Primer playlist. Remember, Spotify is great to find new music but the artists get very little from any streaming service. If you enjoy what you hear, buy the CD or digital album. Supporting the artists is the only way to ensure you get to hear more from them in the future.