Category Archives: Fresh Biscuits

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases Round-up

Welcome back ladies and gentlemen. It is new releases round-up time again. There is a wide variety of new blues and blues related music out recently. We start off with a pair of albums we overlooked in recent new releases features.

Ana Popovic recently released an album with her father Milton. Speaking about the album, Ana recently reminisced “My dad Milton is the reason I’m into music. It was his impressive blues and soul collection and nightly jam sessions in our modest apartment on the 11th floor in New-Belgrade, Serbia that kept me awake at night and drawn to this great form of American art. I wanted to record the songs we use to play together while I was still living at home. As a memory of my youth days but also to give people, who are into my music, an idea of how and where things started. It took ten years to convince him to record an album together. At last I got him to the studio with an argument he could not reject: ‘Just do it for your grandchildren.’ He did.” It’s just in time for Father’s Day and makes a perfect gift for those Blues loving Dads out there.

Another one we missed recently is Otis Taylor’s Hey Joe Opus – Red Meat. The album is centered around Taylor’s musings on how decisions can change the lives of those affected by the choices. The album is designed to be listened to as a single piece of music in ten parts, with the song “Hey Joe” as its overarching theme. “Hey Joe” is performed twice, each with contrasting instrumentation. The music incorporates spacey textures and interlocking guitars, with additional accents provided by violins and cornets. Four notable guests lend their talents to the proceedings including Gov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes, acoustic guitarist Bill Nershi from The String Cheese Incident, and singer/songwriter/guitarist Langhorne Slim. Once again Taylor is creating undefinable music and this one certainly seems like it may be pretty intense.

Charles Wilson is the nephew of the late great blues legend, Little Milton, and has been tagged as “The Crown Prince of Soul.” He has been nominated for two W.C. Handy awards (now Blues Music Awards) and returns now with another blues focused disc called Sweet & Sour Blues. The Kentucky Headhunters and Johnnie Johnson teamed up again back in 2003 for a bluesy romp which is just now seeing the light of day on Alligator Records which has me pretty excited. As you may know, Johnnie Johnson was the piano player in Chuck Berry’s band and the man responsible for all those swinging sixths riffs that Chuck churned out on the guitar. Johnnie may not be remembered as the father of Rock & Roll but he was definitely the cool uncle who taught his brother everything he knew! Thankfully these recordings are finally coming out.

Here’s what to look for this week…

Ana & Milton Popovic

Ana & Milton Popovic Blue Room

Otis Taylor

Otis Taylor Hey Joe Opus – Red Meat

The Kentucky Headhunters and Johnnie Johnson

The Kentucky Headhunters and Johnnie Johnson Meet Me In Bluesland

Charles Wilson

Charles Wilson Sweet & Sour Blues

Travis Haddix

Travis Haddix It’s My Time Now: Best Of

Ken Tucker

Ken Tucker Look My Way

Chuck Willis

Chuck Willis My Story: All The Hits & Other Classic Tracks

Daddy Mack Blues Band

Daddy Mack Blues Band Bluesman Looks At Seventy

Fresh Biscuits! Hot New CD Reviews

Our CD reviews this week turned into a guitar fest. I didn’t even plan it that way. I grabbed bunch off the stack and boom! Glorious guitars showering us with notes covered in grease, grime, grits, and gall. The music featured this week is sometimes audacious, sometimes laid back, but just right for whatever ails you. Collect them all!

As always, I hope you find something interesting for your ears.

 

JohnMayallLiveIn67John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers

Live In ‘67

Forty Below Records

Released on April 21, 2015

 

If Corey Harris really wants to know if white people can play Blues, all he needs to do is listen to Peter Green emote liquid hot pain and turmoil on the Bluesbreakers archival release called Live In ’67. The answer he will find may confound him, but it will be a resounding Yes. Much more than Eric Clapton’s replacement, Green transcends musical genres and unleashes the raw hellish nightmare of post WWII Great Britain in a tidal wave of musical expression that will have you listening for the air raid sirens over London. John Mayall is known as the Godfather of British Blues, and along with guys like Cyril Davies and Alexis Corner brought Blues to the attention of the devastated, disaffected youth of England who grew up in abject poverty, standing in line for rations, and stealing to get basics like food and shoes. The industrial cities of the Midlands had ghettos full of workers who would never escape their toils and lived in an unofficial state of indentured servitude. The emotional music of blacks who were exploited for their labor in the American South resounded in the children of the WWII survivors in Britain. They knew the despair and hopelessness first hand and dreamed of more. The Blues provided a way to channel the frustrations and find moments of pure joy amid their miserable existence. Live In ’67 captures some of those moments as delivered by John Mayall, Peter Green, John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood.

This band is where Fleetwood Mac was born. Yes, Fleetwood Mac was a blues band kids, before Green checked out and Jeremy Spencer went religious. The triumvirate of Green, McVie, and Fleetwood dominate these recordings which is a testament to Mayall as a band leader. Even in his early days he showcased his band and was willing to step out of the spotlight. Green leads the band through fiery renditions of Otis Rush classics “All Your Love” and “Double Trouble” but he brings down the house over the course of eight minutes of “Have You Ever Loved A Woman.” As for Mayall, his tenor is in fine form and his organ playing anchors the songs that Green stretches six ways from Sunday. One of Green’s jams gets so intense you’ll forget it started out as “The Stumble.” When he kicks back into the song proper, it’s a jolt. There is nothing sleek, pretty, or cute on these recordings. The source material for Live In ’67 is one-channel reel to reel tapes sent to Mayall by a fan from Holland who covertly recorded the shows 50 years prior. Mayall cleaned up the tapes but be warned, this a bootleg recording, albeit a damned good one. This version of the Bluesbreakers only existed for about three months and thankfully the anonymous fan was there to capture one of the most intense Blues line-ups ever, be they white or black. Yes, Corey Harris, white people can play the blues, however very few can play like Peter Green. Represent!

DeltaMoonLowDown

Delta Moon

Low Down

Jumping Jack

Released on May 5, 2015

 

Tom Grey and Mark Johnson of Delta Moon met by chance many (delta) moons ago when Tom tried to sell a Dobro to Mark. Phone numbers were exchanged and soon the two were playing together all around Atlanta. The guitar interplay between Gray and Johnson is magical. After almost a dozen Delta Moon albums, the duo has cemented its place in guitar tandem history. It is rare for a band to have even one skilled slide guitarist but Delta Moon boasts two. Their styles seem to mesh effortlessly and the sum sounds larger than their individual parts. The music also benefits from Tom Gray’s voice which has a mellow whispery rasp which draws you in and makes you listen closely. He was the Roots Music Association’s 2008 Blues Songwriter of the Year so you may want to listen closely anyway. He has a knack for creating insidious hooks that dig deep into your consciousness the more you listen to them. The duo is joined in the band by bassist Franher Joseph and drummer Marion Patton. These two musicians could have been great engineers because they build perfect foundations for every song on Low Down.

Low Down starts with the steady chug and side-winding slide of “Wrong Side Of Town.” “Spark In the Dark” is a fitting title to this energetic tune. It has a driving beat, terse chords, and greasy slide. These guys get incredibly warm tones from their instruments and amps, and the loping stand-up bass in songs like “Nothing You Can Tell A Fool” creates a stomping on the floor boards kind of low end you don’t hear much anymore. I must really hate Tom Waits’ voice because I can’t listen to him, but when I often love his songs when done by others. Delta Moon’s cover of “LowDown” is one of those great covers. The amusing wordplay in the song is perfect for this band and their style and feel makes it pure Delta Moon. If there is a complaint to be made about Low Down it’s this: it’s almost too mellow. It’s relaxing. This is Monday through Thursday Blues. When Friday and Saturday night come around you’ll probably want something more rambunctious and if all goes well, on Sunday you’ll have some explaining to do. At least you can feel sure when Monday night comes around again you can relax on the porch with a tall glass of lemonade or sweet tea and fall into the friendly Low Down groove of a Delta Moon.

 

DebbieDaviesLoveSpin

Debbie Davies

Love Spin

VizzTone

Released on April 21, 2015

 

Love Spin is the latest from the tremendously talented Debbie Davies. The title is drawn from the grimy, slinky title track that brandishes a hopeful attitude about all the crap that comes your way. This seems like it might be her personal philosophy. Debbie tackles many personal issues and demons on Love Spin but presents them in a positive way. “A Darker Side Of Me” is the most pleasant song about self-destructive behavior I’ve ever heard. Other topics include getting traded in for “Two Twenty-Five-Year-Olds” and handling a deficiency in the romantic health of a relationship with “I’m Not Cheating Yet.” Yet, of course, is the operative word so get it together buddy.

The record is full of Davies road tested guitar playing. You can tell she’s played with and learned the greats because she is right there with them. Davies is a tasteful, intelligent player with wide ranging tones, imaginative licks, and fully developed solos. Every note means business. Davies’ work is succinct, tasteful, and accessible. She resists the urge to overplay and knows she made the right decision. Guitar players don’t agree on much but I’m sure most of us would agree that on Love Spin and all her records, she plays exactly what the songs need. On “Two Twenty-Five-Year-Olds” Debbie channels her old boss Albert Collins with some icy, sharp picking. She must be playing daggers for the idiot who wants to trade her in. “A Darker Side Of Me” has delicately strummed chords and gentle fills, and “Life Of The Party” opens with a blast of joyously spiky single note jabs. On the album closer, Debbie plays some mean and gritty slide guitar. I don’t know which guitar and amp combo she used but I want it and I want it today!

Overall, Love Spin lives up to its name as Debbie Davies plays and sings for us a set of happy sounding, reassuring songs. Debbie is in strong voice, singing and playing with verve and style. This is another solid effort from the sassy, guitar slinging road warrior. Give it a (Love) spin.

 

GuitarHeroesJames Burton, Albert Lee, Amos Garrett, David Wilcox
Guitar Heroes
Stony Plain
Released on May 5, 2015

Guitar Heroes is pure, unadulterated joy. Albert Lee, James Burton, Amos Garrett, and David Wilcox spend an hour four twisting and turning your mind through 60 years of Rock, Roll, and Hillbilly Rhythm & Blues guitar licks, tricks, and trapeze flips. Gathering these Masters of the Telecaster was the brainchild of Doug Cox, artistic director of the Vancouver Island MusicFest. In the liner notes Cox says “As Artistic Director of the Vancouver Island MusicFest, I get to dream up collaborations like these for what will hopefully become once-in-a-lifetime musical experiences. This one worked. It’s truly rock and roll heaven, right here on Earth where there is indeed, a hell of a band!”

Beyond the pickers, that band consisted of the members of Albert Lee’s touring band including keyboardist Jon Greathouse, bassist Will MacGregor and drummer Jason Harrison Smith. The 11 tracks were recorded live on stage at the Vancouver Island MusicFest and are presented as-is. There are no edits, overdubs, or studio touch up. This is the real thing and the interplay suggests a band that plays together seven nights a week, not four guys who just met and decided to jam. It is a testament to their abilities and attitudes. There is room for everyone and even though everyone seems to be playing their best stuff, it never sounds like a competition. The playing remains tasteful and the boys never get in the way of the others. Often they play amazingly complimentary bits that give the familiar material unexpected freshness. All the signature tunes are here from rollicking opener “That’s All Right Mama” to “Susie Q” and an all-out jam on set closer “Country Boy.” Stony Plain had the good sense to provide track by track performance credits and a quicksilver set like this needs one so we can keep up. And while the solos are dazzling some of the most interesting work is done to the rhythm guitar parts as these guys deconstruct the songs on the spot and build them back up again while we listen.

Albert Lee has over 20 solo albums, played with Heads, Hands and Feet, the Everly Brothers, Eric Clapton and more. James Burton is responsible for the classic “Susie Q” lick. He was a longtime member of Ricky Nelson’s band and then joined Elvis Presley’s band and stayed until the King died in 1977. He also worked with Jerry Lee Lewis, John Denver, Merle Haggard, Roy Orbison and countless others. Amos Garrett was in Paul Butterfield’s Better Days and has played with Maria Muldaur, Doug Sahm, Gene Taylor Band, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Jerry Garcia and a host of others. David Wilcox is a veteran of Nashville North and The Ian Tyson TV show. he also played with Maria Muldaur, has had many Canadian hits and gold and platinum albums. David is regarded as one of Canada’s most influential roots musicians. The four men got to town one day early to rehearse. One day. One. Day. The result is an incredible set that defies description and must be heard to be fully appreciated. This isn’t just for blues fans. This is for anyone who can appreciate the artistry of master musicians capable of delivering the highest caliber performances just for fun.

JBHuttoHawkSquatJ.B. Hutto With Sunnyland Slim
Hawk Squat
Delmark
Released on March 17, 2015

Delmark has been putting out some great reissues recently and Hawk Squat does not disappoint. Hawk Squat was originally issued in 1968 on Delmark and now contains the re-mastered original album and six additional previously unreleased tracks. Hutto is regarded by those in the know as a standout of the second generation of Chicago Blues greats but his output was sporadic and his catalog is filled with recordings of questionable origin and quality. Luckily he occasionally recorded for reputable labels like Delmark. Recorded at sessions separated by roughly three months, from May to August 1968 plus one track recorded in December 1966, Delmark managed to capture lightning in a bottle. J.B. Hutto’s energy is tangible and his mastery of the Elmore James style of slide is more joyful celebration than emulation. His voice is plaintive and full of anguish on slower numbers like “If You Change Your Mind” and confidently strong on “The Same Mistake Twice” and “Speak My Mind” which appears three times in total. The final version closes the disc and is a full minute longer than the previous two. It is slowed down slightly and is played without the strutting shuffle but is no less intense. These variants offer a wonderful glimpse into the creative process and in this case make the bonus tracks enjoyable additions instead of filler.

Sunnyland Slim is present for the sessions and plays a lot of organ. His piano takes center stage on “Too Much Pride.” This song is also represented by an alternate take which isn’t significantly different but Sunny’s piano seems to sound brighter on the bonus version and his intro sounds higher in pitch. “I’ll Cry Tomorrow” is the only bonus track without a counterpart on the original album. Sunnyland Slim plays some swirling organ under Hutto’s biting guitar licks as J.B. sings about drowning his sorrow and telling his hear he’ll cry tomorrow.

As for the original album, it is fiery, feisty, and fickle. Sunnyland Slim’s organ playing is effervescent, and J.B. Hutto is a whirlwind slurry of Blues Power, sly wit, and toastmaster general. The sessions included Lee Jackson on guitar, Junior Pettis and Dave Myers on bass, frank Kirkland on drums and Maurice McIntyre on tenor sax. Herman Hassell plays bass on “Hip Shakin’” the sole track from 1966. Together these musicians created a Blues classic that still sounds fresh and relevant today. If you are not familiar with J.B. Hutto, do yourself a favor and start right here with Hawk Squat!

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases May 19, 2015

Greetings and salutations! It’s time for new releases again and this week we have four more exciting albums. The Amanda Fish Band debuts on VizzTone with Down In The Dirt. Amanda was part of the VizzTone showcase at Rum Boogie in Memphis as part of BMA week. She’s getting a lot of attention right now and we’ll have a full review of the new album posted soon. And yes, Amanda is related to Samantha. Amanda is Samantha Fish’s older sister and according many, is also Kansas City’s best kept secret. Make sure you check out Down In The Dirt.

Sugaray Rayford is back with Southside. Sugaray Rayford was nominated for the prestigious BB King Entertainer Award by the 36th Blues Music Awards. He was also nominated for Traditional Blues Male Artist and included in three Mannish Boys nominations. He has an incredible set of pipes and could probably sing the phone book and hold your attention. You do remember phone books right? Billy Price and Otis Clay are two other guys who could probably steal your date while singing the ingredients in a can of Campbell’s soup to them. This is definitely a week for fans of talented vocalists and tremendous interpreters of song. Don’t let that take your attention from the Texas Horns though. These guys will blow you away!

Texas Horns

Texas Horns Blues Gotta Holda Me

Billy Price and Otis Clay

Billy Price and Otis Clay This Time For Real

Amanda Fish Band

Amanda Fish Band Down In The Dirt

Sugaray Rayford

Sugaray Rayford Southside

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases May 12, 2015

Alright Buiscuiteers, it’s new releases time again. This week, we have two brand spankin’ new discs and a reissue of a lesser known classic.  Sure it’s not much, but look at this week as time to appreciate some acts that may have dropped below your Blues Radar. take some time to really get to know the new Blues you pick up this week.

King King is a Blues band from Britain, currently ripping it up on the European festival circuit. King King won five awards at the 2014 British Blues Awards including Best Band for the third consecutive year and Best Album for 2013’s Standing In The Shadows. The new disc is Reaching For The Light. Reach for your copy at their website or at fine online retailers everywhere.

Scott Ellison has been putting out blues albums since 1993 but before that he worked with a long list of artists including The Box Tops, The Shirelles, Marvalettes, JJ Jackson, The Drifters, The Coasters, and Gary “US” Bonds. Ellison has written several songs that have appeared in hit TV shows and movies including Sister Sister, Santa Barbara, Reindeer Games, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Joan of Arcadia, Saving Grace, Smash and four songs on 2012’s hit TV show Justified. Scott recently sang and performed a song he co-wrote called “Jesus Loves Me” (Baby Why Don’t You) for the movie “Home Front” starring Jason Statham and Kate Bosworth. “Jesus Loves Me (Baby Why Don’t You)” was on the film soundtrack, but is also on Elevator Man. Elevator Man was produced by Walt Richmond, who has played keyboards on the last five Eric Clapton records. Scott is on tour in the US and Canada so head on out and catch this veteran musician live.

Last but not least this week is a a reissue on Wounded Bird Records of Johnny Winter’s Raisin’ Cain album from 1980. This was the last record Johnny made for the Blue Sky label. Four years later he would turn up on Alligator and dedicate the rest of his career to playing Blues. Raisin’ Cain has plenty of Blues though, and Johnny was clearly influenced by working so closely with Muddy Waters. Highlights include “The Crawl,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Bon Ton Roulet,” “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” “Mother-in-Law Blues,” and “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing.” So, if you missed this one originally, or if you haven’t been able to find it since it has been out of print for a while, check it out. You can’t go wrong

King King

King King Reaching For The Light

Scott Ellison

Scott Ellison Elevator Man

Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter Raisin’ Cain Reissue

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases May 5, 2015

You might think that with only four new releases this week, it’s slim pickings, but these particular new releases just might keep you listening all week. Guitar Heroes features the legends James Burton, Albert Lee, Amos Garrett, and David Wilcox all on stage together and ripping it up. I know, you’re upset that Joe Bonamassa isn’t included. Get over it. As it is, you get a thrill-a-minute ride through Americana’s Blues and Rock & Roll history. The Word returns this week as well. The Word is made up of Robert Randolph, John Medeski, and North Mississippi Allstars. It’s not necessarily Blues but neither is Otis Clay. It’s a big tent, folks. I’m trying to embrace it! The Word is a terrific high-energy band and if they tour you should definitely check them out.

Delta Moon releases a new disc this week with a great lead-off single covering Tom Waits’ tune “LowDown” which also happens to be the album title. These guys have a rich and thick sound guaranteed to please. Last but definitely not least we have the new album from Mr. Sipp The Mississippi Blues Child. If you have SiriusXM and tune into B.B. King’s Bluesville then you’ve probably heard the title track which is a damned fine composition. They’ve been playing Delta Moon tracks too, so if you’ve heard them and liked them, support the artists and pick up these great new discs.

James Burton, Albert Lee, Amos Garrett, David Wilcox

James Burton, Albert Lee, Amos Garrett, David Wilcox Guitar Heroes

The Word

The Word Soul Food

Delta Moon

Delta Moon Low Down

Mr. Sipp

Delta Moon The Mississippi Blues Child

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases For April 14, 2015

Recently, the record industry decided to give new release day worldwide consistency and they went with Friday. So, sometime soon all new releases will be available and in your greedy little hands a few days earlier, or a few days later depending on your point of view. It hasn’t happened yet, so until then we’ll keep putting up our list of bluesy new releases on Tuesdays.

Tuesday April 14, 2015 brings us a mishmash of blues related releases. Slam Allen delivers a stellar album, Feel These Blues. Sherwood Fleming brings you Blues Blues Blues, and classic rocker Randy Bachman serves up some Heavy Blues. Somehow this reminds me of the joke wherein you add the words “in bed” to any fortune cookie fortune. Maybe we should add “blues” to every album title. Beth Hart’s new album can be Better Than Home Blues, and the probable Albert King bootleg out today will become the Dylanesque title The Purple Carriage St Charles, IL 02-02-74 Blues. By now you’ve probably figured out that having Blues in the title of your album irritates me a little. I can’t really pinpoint why. Maybe it’s cheesy marketing, maybe it’s a throwback to the 30s and race records where blues songs all had blues in the title so people knew what style they were getting. I don’t know. Just stop. I’ve got the Blues In The Title Of Your Album Blues.

Two reissue/archival new releases this week are of particular interest. Omnivore Recordings has remastered James Luther Dickinson’s Beale Street Saturday Night project. For more info on this interesting historical document click here. The other is Canned Heat with John Lee Hooker Carnegie Hall 1971. This one is available on both CD and limited edition green vinyl and features liner notes by Dave Thompson with a brand new interview with Canned Heat drummer Adolfo Fito de la Parra.

Slam Allen

Slam Allen Feel These Blues

Sherwood Fleming

Sherwood Fleming Blues Blues Blues

Canned Heat and John Lee Hooker

Canned Heat and John Lee Hooker Carnegie Hall 1971

Beth Hart

Beth Hart Better Than Home

Beale Street Saturday Night

James Luther Dickinson Beale Street Saturday Night

Bachman

Bachman Heavy Blues

Albert King

Albert King The Purple Carriage St Charles, IL 02-02-74

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases From March 2015

March was a fairly quite month for new releases. Hopefully April will see more Blues music coming out as we head into festival season for 2015. What did arrive in March was fairly interesting though. Joe Bonamassa released a live tribute to Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, Danielle Nicole (aka Danielle Schnebelen from Trampled Underfoot) put out an EP featuring her first solo recordings, and Ian Siegal delivered The Picnic Sessions featuring impromptu jams with Alvin Youngblood Hart, Cody Dickinson, Luther Dickinson, and Jimbo Mathus.

Other artists who had new releases in March include Innes Sibun, Papaslide, Robben Ford, Doug MacLeod, JJ Grey & Mofro, and James Day & The Fish Fry. If you’re an artist and you put out a new album recently or you have one coming out soon, let us know and we’ll be sure to include you in our round up!

As always, we try to keep you up to date on the new releases, even if there aren’t many on a weekly basis. Once the new releases start rolling in we’ll be back to our weekly schedule instead of these monthly updates.

Innes Sibun

Innes Sibun Blues Transfusion

Papaslide

Papaslide The Deepest Pain

Joe Bonamassa

Joe Bonamassa Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks

Robben Ford

Robben Ford Into the Sun

Danielle Nicole

Danielle Nicole Danielle Nicole EP

Doug MacLeod

Doug MacLeod Exactly Like This

Ian Siegal

Ian Siegal The Picnic Sessions

JJ Grey & Mofro

JJ Grey & Mofro Ol’ Glory

James Day & The Fish Fry

James Day & The Fish Fry Southland

Fresh Biscuits! Weekly CD Reviews – February 28, 2015

NickMossBandTimeAintFreeNick Moss Band
Time Ain’t Free
Blue Bella Records
Released on March 18, 2014

Nick Moss has been a fixture of the Chicago music scene since the early Nineties. He plays regular gigs at Buddy Guy’s Legends, he’s played with Jimmy Rogers and Jimmy Dawkins, and counts Ronnie Earl among his biggest fans. In 1993 he joined The Legendary Blues Band led by Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. Nick’s career as a bandleader kicked off with 1998’s First Offense and it’s been building slowly but surely into a proud legacy. This legacy has grown by leaps and bounds with the last few records and in many ways those were building toward the crowning achievement that is Time Ain’t Free.

I don’t know what in the Hell this music is called. It’s got Blues, Boogie, Soul, Gospel, and Rock & Roll. It’s Little Feat, Mavis Staples, Muddy Waters and Booker T. and that’s just in one song. It should be a mess but it’s marvelous. Nick Moss and his band have emptied the pantry and come up with one of the best damned recipes you’ve ever seen. This is musical comfort food. Nick’s records have always carried his influences but with Time Ain’t Free he has finally found the perfect balance. A major added dimension to the music is vocalist and second guitarist Michael Ledbetter.

Michael is a descendant of Huddie Ledbetter aka Lead Belly. He grew up hearing soul singers but at age 15 he decided to become an opera singer. He spent eight years in the Chicago Opera scene before deciding to focus his talents on Blues. The Blues scene and the Nick Moss Band are better for it. Nick moss deserves a lot of credit for inviting this talented young man into his band and slowly giving him a bigger share of the spotlight. I saw the band a few years ago at 2nd Story Blues in Bethlehem, PA and Michael was fairly new to the band. He sang a few songs and did terrific background vocals. After the show he was humble when complimented and was focused on paying his dues. Nick Moss knows all about paying dues and has obviously been a great mentor. Ledbetter sings six tunes on Time Ain’t Free and has or shares writing credit on a few as well. Of these tracks, “Fare Thee Well” is the benchmark by which all others shall be judged. This is a song that brings the whole band together for a glorious moment of aural perfection.

Time Ain’t Free captures your ears with the first raspy slide guitar licks of “She Wants It” and melts your face with album closing instrumental “[Big Mike’s] Sweet Potato Pie.” “Was I Ever Heard” is a rollicking march with swirling keyboards courtesy of Bryan Rogers. Drummer Patrick Seals propels this tune and Nick Moss lets loose torrents of raunchy guitar licks that contrast beautifully with the softness of the chorus and background vocalists Tina J. Crawley and Lara Jenkins. Bryan Rogers keyboards are like the gravy that ties it all together on a lot of these songs. I sure he hope he used a B-3 and not some digital reproduction. The music on Time Ain’t Free is so earthy and rich that I’d be heartbroken if it was infected with fake B-3. It sounds great whatever it is, but it’s the principal of it! I guess I could let it slide since the band covered “Bad ‘N’ Ruin” by the Faces and Mr. Rogers offers up stellar playing that would make the late, great Ian McLagan proud.

The decision to cover a song by the Faces gives you an idea where this band is and where they’re headed. No influence is avoided. Instead, all influences are blended into a distinct Nick Moss Band sound. When Moss solos, he is incandescent. His guitar playing is passionate, poisonous, and proud. His licks in “Been Gone So Long” are illegal in five states, yet in “Fare Thee Well” he uses a cleaner tone, inhabits the groove and releases soul stirring notes to the heavens. The riffs on title track “Time Ain’t Free” are a stuttering jolt of energy and Moss harnesses that energy to fuel his fiery solos.

Time Ain’t Free is a reminder that truly great music is still be made today. While the mainstream is giving accolades to auto-tuned pabulum spewing fashionistas, Nick Moss Band is cranking out honest, gripping music and taking it to the people one town at a time. Don’t waste your time on Celebutantes of Pop or any of the Blues Pretenders to the Throne out there, your Time Ain’t Free and it deserves the real deal.

SteveEarleTerraplaneSteve Earle
Terraplane
New West Records
Released on February 17, 2015

According to the liner notes, Steve Earle only believes two things about the Blues: they are the common denominator of the human experience, and someday he would make this album. Damn if he wasn’t right on both accounts. Terraplane is that album. Not only can Steve play the Blues, but he can write engaging songs that seamlessly fit into the tapestry started on a plantation over 100 years ago. Arguably the album is named for Robert Johnson’s “Terraplane Blues” and ol’ Bob Johnson is named checked on “Tennessee Kid” so it’s no surprise Steve Earle has taken Johnson’s approach to Blues. Johnson melded music from all around into his own distinct sound. You all remember “They’re Red Hot” right? On Terraplane, Earle takes common themes, common patterns, and common words and much like the rest of his catalog, stirs them into something wholly uncommon.

I thought the best thing about a Blues album from Steve Earle would be the utter lack of re-tread lyrics, but the best thing about Terraplane is the sound. It’s a big, wide open sound. The instruments have room to breathe, the guitars get gritty, the drums can be felt coming through the speakers, and Earle’s voice is expertly captured, retaining all the snarl, melancholy, and loss. The feeling of dread is undeniable when he all but whispers the awful truth that “the balance comes due someday” at the end of “Tennessee Kid.” While the lyrics of the songs on Terraplane are sometimes clever and often poignant, there is the seemingly throw-away chorus of “Baby Baby Baby (Baby).” It must be a tongue-in-cheek tip of the hat to classic blues that were more about the feeling conveyed than the actual words. Still the song has one of my favorite lines in “I got a little girl that live way down south, a little town they call ‘shut my mouth’” and it’s a strutting harmonica fueled shuffle that would have sat comfortably between Little Walter and James Cotton at a Muddy Waters show.

Earle was joined in the studio by his faithful compatriots Kelly Looney on bass, Will Rigby on drums, Eleanor Whitmore on fiddle, and Chris Masterson on guitar. Steve sings of course, and plays harmonica, guitar, and mandolin. Eleanor duets with Steve on “Baby’s Just As Mean As Me” and ups the ante considerably. She has a classic voice for blues, somewhere between Billie Holliday and Lil’ Johnson. Chris Masterson plays beautifully crafted solos and fills. He never over-steps, over-plays, nor over compensates for having no sense of the music. He knows the music and from his guitar work you can tell he feels it. The whole band seems to play like hive mind hell bent on groove. Terraplane is a testament to their collective artistry.

Steve has made a lot of music over the decades and a lot of it has been indefinable even though everyone has tried. But Steve Earle knows the Blues. He knows it isn’t defined by twelve bar shuffles, minor sevenths, never-ending Elmore James slide licks, or blowing through the Blues Box guitar scale as fast as you can. It’s a feeling, and you can’t fake it no matter how hard you try. Over the last eight years or so of writing about blues I’ve seen a lot of bands and heard a landfill full of questionable blues records. There’s a lot of crap out there. If you want to save the Blues, you better start feeling it because without the feeling isn’t worth a good god damn. Maybe the Blues will be saved by aging artists and fans that come to realize they need more authentic music in their lives. Today’s One Direction and Beyonce fans will eventually be 50 and looking for a greater meaning in their world and the music they choose to fill the empty spaces. They may turn to the Blues if it isn’t over-run by self-congratulatory musical masturbators singing “Woke up this morning” between 100 bars of speed exercises. Steve Earle knows all this. He’s known it for a long time. Steve has lived the blues. He’s fought demons inside and demons in Nashville. He’s had everything and he’s had nothing. He’s had the blues and he’s always made music with hints of blues. He writes honest songs. He’s not pretentious but he isn’t afraid to step up on the soapbox either. He’s me and you and we all have the Blues. With Terraplane he’s put those Blues together in one record. With an eye to the past put rooted firmly in the present, Steve Earle has offered an authentic document that defies description and pigeonholes, but is quite obviously blue. I knew Steve Earle wouldn’t let us down.

DaveAlvinLiveInLongBeach1997Dave Alvin with Billy Boy Arnold,Gatemouth Brown, and Joe Louis Walker
Live In Long Beach 1997
Rock Beat Records
Released on February 17, 2015

Flying in under the radar recently is a new release on Rock Beat Records that features a live set recorded in 1997 during one of many in a series of Blues Unplugged show at Cal State University Long Beach. The shows were put together by KLON program director Gary Chiachi who had been involved in the Long Beach Blues Festival. On this particular night in 1997, founding member of The Blasters and CSULB alum, Dave Alvin was on the bill along with Blues luminaries Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Billy Boy Arnold, and Joe Louis Walker. Dave Alvin may not be the first name that pops into your head when you think Blues Unplugged but in this setting, Alvin’s blues roots come to the surface and crack every sidewalk in town.

Last year Dave and his brother Phil released Common Ground, an album of Big Bill Broonzy tunes, so it is not surprising that Dave covered a Big Bill Broonzy song on that night long ago. “Tell Me How You Want It Done” also turned up on Common Ground but here it is stripped down to just Dave and his guitar. Dave quips to the audience that it’s a guitar song he’s never managed to play correctly all the way through. He does a damned fine job though and his earnestness comes through. Even before the days of The Blasters, Dave and his brother Phil would follow blues musicians around and talk their way into the gigs. They spent a great deal of time with Big Joe Turner who Dave calls “maybe the greatest human who ever lived” as he introduces “Chains Of Love.” Dave puts all his heart and soul into this sublime version of the tune. Dave ends his set with a slow, earthy version of The Blasters tune “Long White Cadillac.”

As good as Dave Alvin’s set is, the magic really starts with the collaborations. First up, Dave joins Billy Boy Arnold on a chugging Bo Diddley style number called “I Wish You Would” that Arnold actually wrote back when he was playing with Bo Diddley in the 50’s. This is a veritable classic, with a great hook that hangs around long after the tune is over. This stripped version is a little slower, but Arnold’s harp howls and moans over Dave’s rhythm that rolls on steady like a southbound train. When Dave joins Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, they play an impromptu tribute to such a train, the “Wabash Cannonball.” According to Brown, Dave didn’t even know they were going to do that tune prompting Gate to say “man this guy’s great.. I pulled that one out, he didn’t know I was gonna do it!” Gate’s fiddle and Dave’s guitar combine for two minutes of train-hopping hobo blues that ends all too soon. Leave it to Gatemouth Brown to whip out “Beer Barrel Polka” at a Blues show and play it in a Hillbilly fashion on a fiddle. He takes a few moments to tell Dave how they’ll be playing it and ten away they go. Dave’s strumming is percussive and steady as Gate fiddle’s fiery and furiously, better than any kid in Georgia giving the Devil the business. Johnny, when you’re done bring that fiddle made of gold over to Gate’s house. It’s his.

The disc ends with Billy Boy Arnold, Joe Louis Walker, Gatemouth Brown, and Dave Alvin playing a pair of tunes. Oddly, the back cover leaves gate out of the credits for the last two tracks, but he is mentioned in the liner notes and by the MC on the disc. The first tune is a loose jam that ended up named “Long Beach Blues.” Obviously impromptu, its cohesion is a testament to the language of the Blues and the ability of the performers to converse musically. For guitar enthusiasts this jam is the go-to track on here. Walker blazes on slide, Dave rips out some fiery licks he became famous for in the Blasters and Gate trades his fiddle for his guitar and rips it up with the boys. This is a blues jam the fans always hope for but rarely get. It is off the cuff and brilliant with guys who never played together, listening to each other, playing for fun, and having a great time. The set ends with Gatemouth Brown’s “It’s A Long Way Home.” The song recalls Big Bill Broonzy’s “Key To The Highway” and the wide open feel provides a perfect close of this meeting of journeymen. For me, these last two tracks with all four musicians makes this set worth the price of admission. Live In Long Beach 1997 is a rare time capsule of an authentic Blues jam between masters of the form who leave their egos at the door and just have a good time playing honest, satisfying music. Don’t let this one pass you by.

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases For February 2015

It’s new releases round up time again. This week we’re combining the last two weeks’ new releases because there wasn’t much for either one but we want to let you know about what’s new. It seems Steve Earle has joined the ranks of Blues musicians, at least for this record. Steve has always had a fair amount of Blues in his music so this one should be interesting. I never really saw Steve as a country artist; to me he is a roots rockin’ singer/songwriter and no matter the genre he always comes up with good music. Keep an eye out for this one. 

There’s also a great 1997 live set from Dave Alvin where he joined Gatemouth Brown, Billy Boy Arnold & Joe Louis Walker for a rousing Blues jam. Other archival releases include a Leadbelly box set and a Mississippi Fred McDowell live album with recordings from 1971.  Igor Prado Band with Delta Groove Allstars offers a set of collaborations including two songs featuring the late great Lynwood Slim performing Lowell Fulson’s “Baby Won’t You Jump with Me” and Paul Gayten’s “You Better Believe It.” There’s also brand new music from Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, and Little Freddie King. It’s not a big new releases list but there’s plenty of exciting possibilities for your ears this time around.

Steve Earle

Steve Earle Terraplane

Dave Alvin

Dave Alvin, Gatemouth Brown, Billy Boy Arnold & Joe Louis Walker Live In Long Beach 1997

The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band

The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band So Delicious

Igor Prado Band with Delta Groove Allstars

Igor Prado Band with Delta Groove Allstars Way Down South

Little Freddie King

Little Freddie King Messin’ Around Tha Living Room

Fred Mcdowell

Mississippi Fred Mcdowell Live 1971

Lead Belly

Lead Belly The Smithsonian Folkways Collection

Fresh Biscuits! Weekly CD Reviews – February 20, 2015

We’re back again with some CD reviews for you. This week we have some exciting instrumental hi-jinks, kick-ass rockin’ blues, and a delightful R&B influenced album. If you’re in the Northeast like me, you’re probably frozen, snowed in, and offering bounties for Jack Frost on Craigslist. These hot Blues will hopefully warm you up. As always, I hope you find something interesting for your ears!

JohnGintyBadNewsTravelsLiveJohn Ginty

Bad News Travels Live

American Showplace Music

Release Date January 13, 2015

 

Organist John Ginty is a Morristown, NJ native who has traveled the world playing in the road bands of acts like Jewel and Dixie Chicks plus stints with Citizen Cope and several others. Ginty is a founding member of Robert Randolph and the Family Band with whom he received two Grammy nominations. In 2003, John appeared on the Blind Boys of Alabama’s Grammy Award winning album Higher Ground. Maybe it was just luck, but it’s more likely that John Ginty knows how to pick his musical partners. When it came time to record his first studio album, 2013’s Bad News Travels, he chose a host of superb musicians to join him. Recently, Ginty released a double disc live set recorded in front of a small audience in the studio where he created Bad News Travels –  Showplace Studios, in Dover, NJ. Reuniting with many of the guests from his album, Ginty presents the music in organic form – musicians in a room playing off each other and drawing energy from the joy of music making. Thus we have Bad News Travels Live.

Bad News Travels Live is not merely an exercise in replicating the studio album. Ginty and friends fine-tuned the running order and added a pair of Ginty originals not on the studio album. The result is an energetic, uplifting romp through timeless sounding music. The set starts with the funky driving rhythm of “Switch.” The whole band gets to stretch their fingers and preview the stellar musicianship about to be unleashed upon the crowd. The band includes Mike Buckman on guitar, Paul Kuzik on bass, Dan Fadel on drums, and Anrei Koribanics also on drums. The drummers are exceptional together and provide the finely tuned engine this band needs to perform at optimal magnitude. They are the drum corps, front line, back line and boogie crew laying down the beat for me and you! “Arrivals” is a raucous instrumental that reminds me of a revved up version of Buddy Guy’s “Man Of Many Words.” Ginty is man of many notes and I’m pretty sure I heard all of them in this tune. Luckily I am not Emperor Joseph II from Amadeus. I do not believe in too many notes. “Arrivals” is a breath taking experience but just as soon as it’s gone Albert Castiglia is out on stage firing up a mellower but no less brilliant “Elvis Presley.” The King is dead, long live the king! Apparently Elvae are popping up in visions all over town. This is a fun tune and adds levity to a session that people could interpret as serious business.

While there is no shortage of instrumental serious business here, John Ginty had the good sense to bring in a vocal powerhouse to match the fleet fingered fireworks. Dynamo Alexis P. Suter lends her inimitable voice to “Seven And The Spirit” along with her Alexis P. Suter Band partner in crime Jimmy Bennett on guitar. Bennett is a well-rounded tasteful player who seems to play exactly what the songs needs. “Seven And The Spirit” has plenty of hot jamming from Bennett and Ginty and winds down with a nod to Otis Redding’s “Can’t Turn You Loose.” Alexis also provides the perfect foil for Ginty and Albert Castiglia on “Damage Control.” This swampy boogie with scorching guitars fires up a crawfish boil that’ll have the whole neighborhood dropping by.

Speaking of dropping by, Todd Wolfe drops by for a pair of tunes and while I was hoping he would sing, he did not. He did however put on his There & Back Jeff Beck hat, cranked the overdrive on his Fender amp and blasted out Telecaster licks that would have made Roy Buchanan smile – and we all know that didn’t happen often. Wolfe plays on “Peanut Butter” and “Rock Ridge.” The latter sounds so familiar I thought it was a Jeff Beck tune for a moment. Wolfe’s slide playing is pitch perfect as he feeds the beasts that prowl out on “Rock Ridge.” Cris Jacobs takes a plunge into his old jam band days, ripping up wicked solos on “Mirrors” as well as trading blazing licks with Albert Castiglia on “Damage Control” and “The Quirk.” John Ginty is the perfect host, encouraging all his guests to shine by giving them plenty of musical space and pushing them higher with his own dynamic playing. Still, Ginty is the star of the show. He gets an amazing array of sounds from his Hammond B-3, Vintage Vibe piano, and an acoustic piano. There are no synthesizers – just a man who knows how to get the most from his instruments. He is a monumental talent who has thus far evaded the ears of too many. The music from this double CD is also available on DVD. With DVD you can watch up close as the maestro coaxes otherworldly notes from his keyboard. The DVD is a bird’s eye view of the live session and offers the opportunity to see how these performers interacted and created this powerful music.

I get a lot of CDs to review and unfortunately I don’t have time to write about them all. I have to choose what to cover and I prefer to write about music I like. Even still, some of the records I’ve reviewed fall by the wayside after a short time. John Ginty’s Bad News Travels Live is not one of those records. I loved it from the first few notes. Last year I heard John playing live on B.B. King’s Bluesville on Sirius XM. I was beyond impressed and filed his name away to investigate. John’s talent on keyboards, his songwriting, and his musical perspective leave me wanting more. If I was a keyboard player, I don’t know if I’d want to quit or go practice more but this is one of those records that gets you musically fired up and ready to jam. The Bad News is Good News and it all travels at the speed of sound. Go hear some today!

 

EricSardinasBoomerangEric Sardinas

Boomerang

Jazzhaus Records

Release Date January 13, 2015

 

Eric Sardinas has been taking the world by storm one gig at a time for over 15 years. He looks like Ian Astbury’s cousin from Texas and plays guitar like he taught the Devil at some crossroads south of Hell. His voice is raspy and road weary; honest and bold, emitting emotion with every note. Born in Florida Sardinas first got his hands on a guitar at age six. Inspiration came from the roots music in his mother’s collection and his elder brother’s penchant for classic rock. As a teen, Eric dove head first into the Blues. His own music gave voice to the amalgamation of those influences. His music falls on the harder rocking side of blues and over a series of records he has honed his skills, wrestled with demons, logged the miles, and fought the good fight for music that comes from the heart and gut. His latest album with his band Big Motor is called Boomerang and it brings all those elements back around again for a triumphant, defiant set.

The electrified acoustic resonator is the first thing you hear on Boomerang and in many ways it’s all you need to know about Eric Sardinas’ new album. It is his signature instrument. It is ragged, gritty, down, and dirty. It is street level brilliance and elegant savagery. The song you’re hearing is “Run Devil Run” and it needs to be heard on big, loud speakers that used to fill living rooms with faux wood chic and big black rectangles daring you to tangle with them. Be prepared to listen to the whole damned thing this way because ear buds will never do this joyful noise any justice. All too soon, “Run Devil Run” is over but “Boomerang” is booming with positive waves of energy and more of that chugging guitar. Sardinas gets a variety of tones from his resonator on “Tell Me You’re Mine.” From the squonky wah-wah effects to white-washed wall of sound slides, he packs this tune with undeniably imaginative guitar licks. His voice is also in fine form all over Boomerang. Eric Sardinas voice and guitar playing make the rare perfect match in a singer/guitarist. Some guitar playing bandleaders sing because there is no other choice. Sardinas voice seems inextricably linked to his hands and tone. His hearty voice is as much a part of his musical charm as his guitar playing.

The disc is dedicated to Eric’s friend Johnny Winter who passed away last year. Eric’s Rock and Roll style of blues is akin to Johnny’s early 70s work. “If You Don’t Love Me” exemplifies this with its back breaking beat, high speed classic blues riffs, and white hot slide licks. Coupled with the next track, Leiber and Stoller’s classic “Trouble,” Sardinas seems to be offering a one two punch from his Johnny Winter bag of tricks. It’s a classic Rock & Roll original, served with grime and grease on a steaming hot Blue Plate with a side of kick-your-ass. You’re still listening through the 35” high Pioneers right?

Unlike Johnny Winter, Eric doesn’t go for the extended solos and wild jams. Boomerang is a succinct ten song record clocking in at just under thirty-five minutes. This is old school, wham bam, thank you ma’am, hit ‘em hard, hit ‘em again and go rockin’ blues. There’s no special edition, no bonus tracks, and no songs you don’t want to hear. They left the scraps on the cutting room floor and we’re all better for it. This band is on fire, the playing is powerful and the songs just might get you in trouble with the law. Big Motor runs on high octane fuel and Boomerang is it.

 

BennyTurnerJourneyBenny Turner

Journey

NOLA Blue

Released on October 27, 2014

 

Benny Turner is from Gilmer, TX. His family later decided to move to the Windy City where his brother Freddie King eventually rose to fame. Benny played in Freddie’s band for a long time and after Freddie’s passing, Benny went on the road with Mighty Joe Young and later Marva Wright. He’s made some Soul singles in the past and released a few blues CDs recently as well. Benny Turner is a bassist and singer with quite a pedigree and musical history. He brings together all those experiences on his most recent album called simply, Journey.

Journey follows divergent paths that weave in and around each other on this genre-bending set. A classic Blues shuffle called “Breakin’ News” is our first step on the path and it’s a rollicking roller with thumping bass and pulsing organ that will have you skipping down the road like you just dropped a house on a witch. The horn section swings and Jellybean Alexander pounds out the rhythm giving this tune a robust arrangement full of hidden charm. Someday I absolutely must be in a band with a guy named Jellybean. “Don’t Ride My Mule” sounds dirty and “I Wanna Give It To You” is dirty. If you’re familiar with our Hump Day features you know we love dirty blues. I wonder if Turner’s significant other is aware of being compared to a Mule. It probably explains the romantic evening he has planned in “I Wanna Give It To You.”

“How I Wish” is an old-style Blues a la Bobby Blue Bland. The big background vocals, horn section, and gliding minor chords make it a lush genre-jumping arrangement. The tune is beautifully delivered and Turner’s vocals are sublime. “My Mother’s Blues” takes us back to the porch of his childhood home. The rustic approach and sparse arrangement is a welcome break from the Big City Blues that make up the bulk of this set. It also shows Turner is comfortable and adept with all styles of Blues. Turner plays the blues on Kazoo here and makes it not only palatable but welcome. This is also one of two songs on which Benny plays guitar on the album. He is a genuine jack of all trades and plays guitar with laid back confidence. “My Mother’s Blues” is bouncy, catchy, and oddly beautiful.

Benny also plays guitar on “My Uncle’s Blues (Fannie Mae).” He plays a perfect cadence and Patrick Williams howls on the harmonica. I guess Benny’s uncle like chasing women through the hay. This is a robust rabble rouser, strident and strong, strutting like the king of the barnyard. With this song, “Don’t Ride My Mule,” and “I Wanna Give It To You” Benny Turner shows there has been and always should be fun in the Blues. Unfortunately, Blues is also about the hard times too. Our Journey ends with a poignant minor blues/gospel combination called “What’s Wrong With The World Today.” Vocalists Tara Alexander, Deanna Bernard, Ellen Smith, and Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes form a choir around Turner’s plea for peace, love, and understanding. Turner calls out cities like Detroit, Baltimore, and Chicago to “lay your pistols down boys.” The verse calling out cities is a goose bump moment. It is a chilling reminder that our struggles are greater than ourselves and need to be addressed from sea to sea. It’s a message of peace from a man whose Journey in life has been from the Jim Crow south the Obama administration. However, Benny Turner’s musical Journey is just getting started again and I suggest you join him.