Category Archives: Fresh Biscuits

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases For February 10, 2015

Well, my little Biscuiteers, this week is a dry week for new releases. Maybe the industry is giving you some time to explore the music of the Best Blues Album nominees from the 2015 Grammys that were held this past weekend. Johnny Winter won this year. Personally I think it was a sympathy win since we lost him this year. For more of my thoughts on his new album check out our review here. For my money, of those nominated, Dave & Phil Alvin had the best record, with Charlie Musselwhite at a close second. Our review of Dave & Phil’s album is here. On the left side of our page we have a poll. Who do you think should have won the Grammy? Click your choice and vote! The other fine nominees are Ruthie Foster and Bobby Rush. Check out their latest albums too since this week is looking bleak for new releases to enjoy.

What we do have this week is a Stax/Volt Singles box set, a live set from recent Blues converts Spin Doctors, and a Vance Kelly live set that seems to have been available digitally since December. Check them out. The Spin Doctors last album – If The River Was Whiskey  – was their first Blues foray and is terrific. If they keep it up they just might make a successful transition into the glamorous world of Blues. I hope they like carrying their own gear and then getting it stolen! But they’ll never be as good as Joe Bonamassa – just ask him! Okay, okay, JB gets a lot of grief and he just got a little more. I still dig him. Bring back Black Country Communion, Joe!

Anyway, three big new releases. Enjoy:

 

 

Spin Doctors

Spin Doctors Songs From The Road

Vance Kelly

Vance Kelly Live At Kingston Mines

Stax/Volt Soul Singles

Various Artists The Complete Stax/Volt Soul Singles: 1972-1975

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases For February 3, 2015

It’s time for another new releases listing. The new releases this week are a guitar blues extravaganza. I can’t wait to hear all these CDs! Tinsley Ellis has a new disc called Tough Love out today. You can read our review by clicking here. Beyond Tinsley’s fretboard fireworks, there’s Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King’s latest platter. I had the thrill of jamming with these legends a few years ago and while it went by in the blink of an eye I am forever grateful to them for inviting me onto their stage.

Bernard Allison is back this week with his funky fury and Jeff Michaels offers an homage to Texas Blues, which his website says came out last summer. Maybe this is a reissue too, or a wider release. Last up is a reissue of Kenny Parker’s 1998 record Raise The Dead. They seem to have renamed it during the reissue process, maybe to trick you into buying it again if you already have it. Maybe not.

Everybody get your air guitars out and be ready to boogie…

Smokin' Joe Kubek & Bnois King

Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King Fat Man’s Shine Parlor

Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis Tough Love

Bernard Allison

Bernard Allison In The Mix

Jeff Michaels

Jeff Michaels Long Live Texas Blues

Kenny Parker

Kenny Parker Raising The Dead

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.

 

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

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.

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!

Fresh Biscuits! Weekly CD Reviews

This week, Devon Allman announced he’ll be leaving Royal Southern Brotherhood. RSB is one of my favorite bands of the last few years and the second to crumble after a few short years (Black Country Communion was the other). RSB will be continuing to make music, adding Tyrone Vaughan – son of Jimmie Vaughan – to the lineup. The front line will now feature founding member Cyril Neville, Tyrone Vaughan, and Mike Zito’s replacement, Bart Walker. In light of these developments we decided to take a look at the most recent Royal Southern Brotherhood album, and the Ruf Records debut of new member Bart Walker.

heartsoulbloodRoyal Southern Brotherhood

heartsoulblood

Ruf Records

Release Date June 10, 2014

Royal Southern Brotherhood was put together by Thomas Ruff of Ruf Records. His idea was to bring together members of two of the most respected musical families in the South and see if they could revive the spirit and soul of Southern music in the modern era. The main players were Cyril Neville of the Neville Brothers, Devon Allman – son of Gregg Allman and leader of Honeytribe, and bluesman Mike Zito who is an old friend of Allman’s from their days working in bands and at Guitar Center in St. Louis. The rhythm section features musical titans as well. Drummer Yonrico Scott is from Derek Trucks Band, and bassist Charlie Wooton is a veteran of the Louisiana music scene and started out playing with Zydeco icon Chubby Carrier. Their debut record, the self-titled Royal Southern Brotherhood, garnered rave reviews and their following road work turned them into a formidable live band. Earlier this year Mike Zito announced his departure from RSB to focus on his solo career. This week, Devon Allman announced the same. Thus their second studio album as a unit has become this line-up’s swansong.

heartsoulblood is the name of the recent disc and it also describes the vibe of the album. It’s almost like they knew this would be it for them and they poured everything into it. The record opens with “World Blues” which is a bayou stomping, greased lightning slide-guitargasm celebrating the universality of Blues. World Blues seems to be the music they are creating as a band as well. The percussive elements are drawn all around the world. Neville and Scott are percussionistas. They weave and their parts together and their inner clocks merge into one heart that beats under all the music Royal Southern Brotherhood creates. This is clear especially in “Here It Is” which showcases Cyrille Neville’s stripped down funk. The focus is dialed in on the rhythm section and Neville’s hypnotic vocal. Bassist Charlie Wooton and drummer Yonrico Scott lock into a zesty groove and sparse guitars give the tune a lot of room to breathe.

“Rock And Roll” is a barnstorming Rock and Roll song about Rhythm & Blues. The guitar tandem of Zito & Allman blow the roof off every Chitlin circuit joint left standing from Memphis to Macon, Georgia. Devon Allman leads the group through a beautiful wall of sound called “Groove On.” The dense arrangement is so unobtrusive you almost don’t realize how much you’re hearing. This effect is expertly achieved and is a testament to the talent of the band and producer Jim Gaines. “Callous” tells how a hard life will leave a callous on your soul, over an echo drenched, clean-tone riff that sounds like a mix of Cream’s “Crossroads,” Beatles’ “Come Together” and Albert King’s “Born Under A Bad Sign,” but mostly “Come Together.”

“Ritual” is a Hoodoos-and-Voodoo-on-the-bayou bit of nasty business involving a whip and a snake. This must be some kind of fertility ritual. The tune is dense as a Bitches Brew and twice as creepy, unless your motto is “Sticks and stones may break my bones but whips and snakes excite me.” “Let’s Ride” is an ode to bikers but it seems way too mellow for a Harley Rally. If you’re looking for a tune to help you relax while you’re parked at the Crazy Horse monument whilst taking a break from your trip to Sturgis, this is the one. “She’s My Lady” has some sweet soul vocals. It’s a mellow love song, with a Detroit via Nawlins vibe and some Grant Green style guitar playing. It sublimely showcases the vocal skills of the band and the signature harmonies that may be lost without Allman and Zito. Album closer “Love And Peace” seems to express the band’s motto. Even the guys who quit have proclaimed their love for the band and the individuals therein. There’s no acrimony, just well-wishing to all involved.

Like the South itself, the band has a beguiling laid back charm that draws you in with its warmth, salt water breezes, home cooking, and hospitality. Their music has a natural flow to it. It feels good to listen to this kind of music. I only hope the loss of Allman and Zito won’t change the dynamic too much. Allman provides the classic rock grit and soaring Les Pauls, and Mike Zito brings the swampy blues and fiery slide work. Both will be missed as vocalists, and if you’ve seen them live, you know their friendship and musical brotherhood ratchets up their stage presence considerably. We wish them both the best in their solo careers and we hope the Royal Southern Brotherhood continues to make engaging, positive music for years to come. We’ll always have their heartsoulblood and that alone might be enough.

 

BartWalkerWaitingOnDaylightBart Walker

Waiting On Daylight

Ruf Records

Release Date March 12, 2013

In 2012 Bart Walker represented Nashville at the Blues Foundation’s annual International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Bart and his band came in second overall and he won the top guitar title. The ES-335 Gibson Custom guitar he won for his efforts appears on his latest album, Waiting On Daylight. Waiting On Daylight may not have happened if Ruf Records owner Thomas Ruff wasn’t in the audience at the IBC. Ruff signed Walker to a contract and brought him together in the studio with the legendary Jim Gaines who has produced a long line of terrific albums for musicians like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Santana, and John Lee Hooker. Armed with a slew of songs and the guidance of a veteran like Gaines, Bart Walker has made a blistering record. This is tough, loud, gritty blues mixed with a little Nashville inflection, some hard rock drive, and down home storytelling.

“It’s All Good” opens the record in a hopeful way. The singer is content with his lot in life – maybe because he such a damned good slide player. The licks are so clean I had to rewind and see if I heard fretting in there. His intonation is sure-handed and he effortlessly mixes it up with fretted notes, not just in this song but in several on Waiting On Daylight. For instance, his slide power is all over J.B. Hutto’s “Hipshake It” which boasts a relentless riff and soaring slide licks giving the ladies all the incentive they need to shake what mama gave ‘em. “99%” is a fiery populist tune about the disparity between the haves and have-nots in our society. Walker’s playing matches the intensity of the anger and disgust felt in his vocals. “Waiting On Daylight” has soaring leads accenting Walker’s heartfelt vocals. Bart Walker is a guitar slinger and a hell of a player, but he can sing too. And not just the “somebody had to do it vocals” a lot of guitarists slip past us. Bart is a bonafide vocalist. It is an instrument he skillfully uses to present his songs.

Closing the album, Bart delivers a clever revision of The Allman Brothers Band’s “Whipping Post.” Gone is the bombastic bass rumble and quick stepping rhythm. In their places are a quarter time feel with guitars playing arpeggios instead of chords under the verses. Gregg Allman did a similar reworking on his solo album Searching For Simplicity, which is an arrangement his solo band still plays. Bart Walker took it a few steps further by removing any kind of signature riff, instead focusing on the voice and the rip roaring solos he fires off seemingly effortlessly. If you’re going to cover a classic song, this is the way to do it.

In many ways, Bart Walker’s approach to “Whipping Post” is apropos of his entire approach to making music. He mixes classic ingredients from tones and lyrical themes, to song structure and guitar licks, but he makes his own recipes. His sense of dynamics, powerful but friendly voice, and endless guitar chops fortify each tune making them something more than a random mash of influences. Clocking in around 48 minutes, Waiting On Daylight leaves the scraps on the cutting room floor and delivers 100% lean and mean blues.

Fresh Biscuits! Bruce Katz Band Homecoming CD Review

Well folks, I just have one review for you this week. I spent a lot of time with this disc recently and ended up writing 800 words on it and I could have kept going. But don’t let that scare you!

I hope you enjoy the review and I hope you find something interesting for your ears.

BruceKatzHomecomingBruce Katz Band
Homecoming
American Showplace Music
Released on November 11, 2014

Bruce Katz is an in-demand sideman and has been for over 25 years. He has appeared on over 70 albums including six with Blues Maestro Ronnie Earl. Bruce spent nearly six years as a member of Gregg Allman’s band and has recorded and/or performed with John Hammond, Delbert McClinton, Duke Robillard, Joe Louis Walker, Little Milton, Maria Muldaur, Debbie Davies, and notably, Mighty Sam McClain. During Bruce’s nearly five year run with Ronnie Earl’s Broadcasters, he toured the world, wrote and co-wrote many songs, such as “The Colour of Love,” “Ice Cream Man,” and “Hippology” and won the Downbeat Critics Poll for Best Blues Album of 1996 for Grateful Heart. Bruce Katz’ solo projects retain much of what makes Ronnie Earl’s music so powerful. It has emotional depth, integrity, and beauty. Plus, he’s not afraid to rock it up once in while either, and when he does you better hold on to your hat. Homecoming, the new album from Bruce Katz Band captures all those elements and through his power of sonic alchemy presents us with musical gold.

The title track gets things going with an easy beat shuffle, with Bruce laying down the chords on organ while guest guitarist Jimmy Bennett of Alexis P. Suter Band glides through the tune on lap steel. The tune reminds me of a lazy Sunday, sitting lakeside, and waiting on a fish to bite. Katz’ organ is the comfortable cushion on the porch glider, Ralph Rosen’s drums provide the swing, and Bennett and Bruce Katz Band guitarist Chris Vitarello trade licks like frogs snapping at flies while I sip a big old glass of Sweet Tea. “King Of Decatur” continues the laid back Southern feel, even with its funky Little Feat style of New Orleans funk. Drummer Randy Ciarlante sits in for an adhoc NOLA drum section and sings, while Jimmy Bennett’s lap steel conjures everyone from Lowell George to Sonny Landreth. How is it that Bruce doesn’t play accordion on this one?

“Santa Fe Blues” has an old style piano boogie feel, something you’d expect to hear in a saloon in a train town of the Old West. Bruce’s chops on piano are stellar. Every note is crisp and clear. The first time I listened to it I didn’t notice someone was singing. I was wrapped up in Bruce’s piano playing. I was looking at the liner notes and realized John Hammond sings the tune and plays guitar. I had to go back and listen again, and again, and… you get the picture. I love their treatment of this old Lightnin’ Hopkins tune. It’s a truly standout performance from Mr. Katz. I eventually realized John Hammond does a damned fine job singing too. Elmore James’ “Wild About You Baby” gets the Hound Dog Taylor roadhouse blues barrelhouse all night long treatment and it’s one of those moments you’ve always been waiting for. It’s great musicians playing ragged ass blues and getting it right.

“Amelia” is a playful piano driven tune Katz wrote for his granddaughter. The beat is relentless like a toddler might be and the music has a happy-go-lucky ebullience. “Time Flies” is a short and sweet swinging piece with quick moving unison playing between the guitar and organ. Rumor has it that Katz is one hell of a bass player. His left hand sure lays down a beauty of a bass line on “Time Flies.” It had me wondering who the bass player was, but to my surprise none was listed. Bruce is a dynamo. “Time Flies” captures the essence of his potent trio. It brings together telepathic playing, incredible chops, and memorable music.

Homecoming is split roughly half and half between instrumentals and songs with vocalists. Jimmy Bennett and John Hammond sing two songs each, Randy Ciarlante sings one and BKB guitarist Chris Vitarello sings his song “The Sky’s The Limit.” Chris sings well and is an exquisite guitarist. He finds the perfect style for each song and even his improvisations sound composed. He gets the right tones, the right notes, and the right attitude. Drummer Ralph Rosen certainly knows how to kick up some dust. He is more than a drummer though. He is a percussionist. He finds all the right accents, and plays eclectic beats that make perfect sense for the tunes.

Homecoming is a crowning achievement for Bruce Katz and his cohorts. The Bruce Katz Band’s music has the air of unflagging tradition yet it blurs the lines between genres. It is of itself and beyond itself at the same time. It’s like Mozart with a jazz trio playing at Junior’s Juke Joint on a Thursday night. There’s no name for it and it doesn’t really need one. At a recent show, Bruce was heard to say, several times, that “It’s all Blues.” I think we can go with that.

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases For November 11, 2014

It’s been a while since we did a new releases roundup. October was a slow month but as the holiday shopping season approaches, labels like to get all their stuff out for you to buy for yourself and your music loving friends and family. This week we’ve included a few items from last week, this week and next week. At the bottom we have a few items for the vinyl fans out there too. We featured two of the new releases in our reviews last week so please check those out as well – Dana Fuchs & Mike Zito reviews.

Mike Zito

Mike Zito and The Wheel Songs From The Road – Live in Texas (CD + DVD)

Dana Fuchs

Dana Fuchs Songs From The Road (CD + DVD)

Ruf Records 20 Years Anniversary

Various Artists Ruf Records 20 Years Anniversary

Otis Taylor

Otis Taylor Otis Taylor Collection

Magnus Berg

Magnus Berg Cut Me Loose

Maggie Cocco

Maggie Cocco Get Me

Jeff Chaz

Jeff Chaz Chronicles

Erin Harpe & Delta Swingers

Erin Harpe & Delta Swingers Love Whip Blues

Eric Bibb

Eric Bibb Blues People

Danny Green

Danny Green Road Leading Home

Bruce Katz

Bruce Katz Homecoming

Blues Karloff

Blues Karloff Ready For Judgement Day

For the fans of those twelve inch black CDs, there are several recent vinyl releases and reissues for your eyes and ears this month.

VINYL:

Keb' Mo'

Keb’ Mo’ Bluesamericana

Howlin' Wolf

Howlin’ Wolf Howlin’ Wolf (180 Gram Audiophile Vinyl)

John Lee Hooker

John Lee Hooker Boogie Chillun

Blues Brothers

Blues Brothers Briefcase Full of Blues