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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.

36th Annual Blues Music Awards 2015 Nominees Announced

BMAThe Blues Foundation has announced the nominations for its annual Blues Music Awards, which will be presented at the Cook Convention Center in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, on Thursday, May 7, 2015. The annual Blues Music Awards ceremony is the premier event for blues professionals, musicians, and fans from all over the world.

We’re glad to see many of our favorites made the list including Alexis P. Suter, Bruce Katz, Gary Clark Jr., Phil and Dave Alvin, and Mud Morganfield & Kim Wilson. Receiving six nominations each are Elvin Bishop, John Németh and Sugar Ray NorciaRick Estrin and the Nightcats combined for four nominations in individual and band categories. Bobby Rush, Janiva Magness, The Mannish Boys and newcomer Jarekus Singleton each received three nominations. We saw Jarekus lay it down live this year and he is the real deal folks. Get out there and see him. We wish all the nominees the best of luck.

Tickets for the award ceremony are on sale at The Blues Store at www.blues.org. Blues Foundation members have the privilege of deciding which nominees will actually take home the Blues Music Award in May and will be receiving their ballots shortly. Are you a member? Join at blues.org.

The 36th Blues Music Award nominees are:

Acoustic Album
Hard Luck Child: A Tribute to Skip James – Rory Block
Jericho Road – Eric Bibb
Jigsaw Heart – Eden Brent
Son & Moon: A Tribute to Son House – John Mooney
Timeless – John Hammond

Acoustic Artist
Doug MacLeod
Eric Bibb
John Hammond
John Mooney
Rory Block

Album
Can’t Even Do Wrong Right – Elvin Bishop
Living Tear To Tear – Sugar Ray & the Bluetones
Memphis Grease – John Németh
Refuse to Lose – Jarekus Singleton
Wrapped Up and Ready – The Mannish Boys

B.B. King Entertainer
Bobby Rush
Elvin Bishop
John Németh
Rick Estrin
Sugaray Rayford

Band
Elvin Bishop Band
John Németh & the Bo-Keys
Rick Estrin & the Nightcats
Sugar Ray & the Bluetones
The Mannish Boys

Best New Artist Album
Chromaticism – Big Harp George
Don’t Call No Ambulance – Selwyn Birchwood
Heavy Water – Fo’ Reel
Making My Mark – Annika Chambers & the Houston All-Stars
One Heart Walkin‘ – Austin Walkin’ Cane

Contemporary Blues Album
Can’t Even Do Wrong Right – Elvin Bishop
Original – Janiva Magness
Refuse to Lose -Jarekus Singleton
Hornet’s Nest – Joe Louis Walker
BluesAmericana – Keb’ Mo’

Contemporary Blues Female Artist
Beth Hart
Bettye LaVette
Janiva Magness
Marcia Ball
Shemekia Copeland

Contemporary Blues Male Artist
Elvin Bishop
Gary Clark Jr.
Jarekus Singleton
Joe Bonamassa
Joe Louis Walker

Historical
From His Head to His Heart to His Hands – Michael Bloomfield (Columbia/Legacy)
Live at the Avant Garde – Magic Sam (Delmark)
Soul & Swagger: The Complete “5” Royales 1951-1967 – The “5” Royales (Rock Beat)
The Modern Music Sessions 1948-1951 – Pee Wee Crayton (Ace)
The Roots of it All-Acoustic Blues – Various Artists (Bear Family)

Instrumentalist-Bass
Bob Stroger
Lisa Mann
Michael “Mudcat” Ward
Patrick Rynn
Willie J. Campbell

Instrumentalist-Drums
Jimi Bott
June Core
Kenny Smith
Tom Hambridge
Tony Braunagel

Instrumentalist-Guitar
Anson Funderburgh
Joe Bonamassa
Johnny Winter
Kid Andersen
Ronnie Earl

Instrumentalist-Harmonica
Charlie Musselwhite
Kim Wilson
Mark Hummel
Rick Estrin
Sugar Ray Norcia

Instrumentalist-Horn
Al Basile
Deanna Bogart
Jimmy Carpenter
Sax Gordon
Terry Hanck

Koko Taylor Award
Alexis P Suter
Diunna Greenleaf
EG Kight
Ruthie Foster
Trudy Lynn

Pinetop Perkins Piano Player
Barrelhouse Chuck
Bruce Katz
David Maxwell
Eden Brent
Marcia Ball

Rock Blues Album
Step Back – Johnny Winter
Goin’ Home – Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band
Time Ain’t Free – Nick Moss Band
heartsoulblood – Royal Southern Brotherhood
The Blues Came Callin’ – Walter Trout

Song
“Another Murder in New Orleans” written by Carl Gustafson & Donald Markowitz, performed by Bobby Rush and Dr. John with Blinddog Smokin’
“Bad Luck Is My Name” written and performed by John Németh
“Can’t Even Do Wrong Right” written and performed by Elvin Bishop
“Let Me Breathe” written by|Janiva Magness & Dave Darling, performed by Janiva Magness
“Things Could Be Worse” written by Ray Norcia, performed by Sugar Ray & the Bluetones

Soul Blues Album
Blues for My Father – Vaneese Thomas
Decisions – Bobby Rush with Blinddog Smokin’
In My Soul – The Robert Cray Band
Memphis Grease – John Németh
Soul Brothers – Otis Clay & Johnny Rawls

Soul Blues Female Artist
Candi Staton
Missy Andersen
Sharon Jones
Sista Monica
Vaneese Thomas

Soul Blues Male Artist
Bobby Rush
Curtis Salgado
John Németh
Johnny Rawls
Otis Clay

Traditional Blues Album
Common Ground: Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy – Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin
For Pops (A Tribute to Muddy Waters) – Mud Morganfield & Kim Wilson
Livin’ it Up – Andy T-Nick Nixon Band
Living Tear To Tear – Sugar Ray & the Bluetones
The Hustle is Really On – Mark Hummel
Wrapped Up and Ready – The Mannish Boys

Traditional Blues Male Artist
Billy Boy Arnold
John Primer
Lurrie Bell
Sugar Ray Norcia
Sugaray Rayford

Alexis P. Suter Band Brings Blues Power To The Chandelier Lobby

On Saturday November 15 marked the launch of the second season of the “Live from the Chandelier Lobby” concert series at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in Wilkes-Barre, PA. The Chandelier Lobby series will feature one performance per month beginning in November and run through April 2015. This year, Michael Cloeren, founder of the Pocono/Pennsylvania Blues Festival and director of the Philadelphia Folk Festival, will serve as emcee for each performance. Michael will be introducing the performers and conducting brief Q&A sessions with the artists. The setting is the intimate Chandelier Lobby of the F.M. Kirby Center, with soft lighting and general admission seating featuring some tables, soft cushioned benches, and other chairs. Every seat gets terrific sound and there are multiple opportunities to meet the artists.

2014-11-15-03NormanTaylorAlexis P. Suter Band and special guest Norman Taylor kicked off the second season with hot sets of blues on a cold November night. Norman Taylor released his CD Blue Soul earlier this year and he performed several tracks from the disc for an appreciative crowd. Taylor later said he received his first standing ovation that night and it was well deserved. His powerful and deep voice resonated throughout the lobby and his intricate guitar picking provided depth for his one-man performance. Taylor is a throwback to the early days of Blues and traveling musicians. He is a lone musician with guitar and voice, using both to great effect as he entertains the crowd with originals, traditionals, spirituals, and popular covers. Mr. Taylor took a few steps out from under the blues umbrella and treated the audience to a plaintive version of Bobby Womack’s tale of urban struggle “Across 110th Street.” Mr. Taylor’s set, however, was the calm before the storm.

2014-11-15-08JohnGintyThe Alexis P. Suter Band is Blues rockin’ force of nature and cannot be denied. Their new album Love The Way You Roll has been on top of the charts since it came out last summer. The band has been touring around the East Coast, building their following one show at a time. Brothers Jimmy and Peter Bennett, on guitar and bass respectively, and drummer Ray Grappone is the power trio at the heart of the band. They work together like a well-oiled machine. A machine that takes full flight once Alexis P. Suter starts to sing. Back-up vocalist Vicki Bell provides the high harmony that keeps the music soaring. On the evening of November 15th, the band was joined by keyboardist extraordinaire John Ginty. Ginty and the band are old friends and he locked right into the APSB groove.

Alexis P. Suter Band covers a lot of ground in their live shows. They will take you up to the mountain top and kick your ass – in the best way possible of course! Alexis’ Gospel roots and message of love permeates the music yet the band still rips it up with Devil’s music riffs flying fast and furious. They presented many tunes from their hot new album Love The Way You Roll but it was the stunning, heart wrenching performance of “Let It Be” that left the crowd slack-jawed and dazed. Alexis’ mother had been ill for a while and concern for her mother came through crystal clear in her impassioned performance. Her voice cracked with emotion as Alexis belted out “Mother Mary comes to me!” toward the end of the songs. With tears in her eyes and love in her heart she took ownership of Sir Paul’s Beatles classic. This is her song now and she shares it, and herself, with the audience every time she sings it.

2014-11-15-18AlexisPSuterThe night ended with the band’s trademark closer of Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips.” Showing she is a woman of good humor, Alexis demonstrated the proper way to shake that booty. After an emotionally powerful set, it was a great way to cut loose and send everyone home smiling and in high spirits. The Alexis P. Suter Band is the real deal. Their original songs are compelling, the musicians give everything they have, and the smiles all across the stage let everyone know they’re music is a labor of love. If you love live music with heart, energy, and road-tested grit this is your band. Shake your hips on out to see them as soon as possible.

For more information about “Live from the Chandelier Lobby” concert series at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in Wilkes-Barre, PA visit their website at http://www.kirbycenter.org. The next act on the roster is Cabinet, who will play two nights – December 19th and 20th 2014.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, please support the artists and Blues Biscuits by clicking on our Amazon links before you shop. Thank you!

Throwback Thursday – Richard Briggs Interview 2012

Next Friday, July 11, 2014, the Briggs Farm Blues Festival will kick off its 17th annual event with a stellar lineup of national and local acts, great food, and an eclectic array of vendors. In 2012 I had the opportunity to chat with festival organizer Richard Briggs on the occasion of the festival’s 15th Anniversary.

Briggs2014WebBanner

Let’s fire up the Wayback machine for a short trip in time to 2012 and Richard Briggs…

 

Briggs Farm is a 350 acre family-run farm nestled in the small, rural Pennsylvania town of Nescopeck and one weekend every July since 1998 it has been home to blues musicians and fans from around the world as they gather for the Briggs Farm Blues Festival. 2012 marks the 15th anniversary of the Briggs Farm Blues Festival which has hosted dozens of artists from legends like David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Big Jack Johnson, Eddie Shaw, Louisiana Red and Johnny Rawls to local favorites Clarence Spady and upstarts like Vandelay Industries. The festival features acts on the Main Stage and the Porch stage which is literally a back porch set up under a tent and the spot where Honeyboy Edwards sat telling stories about his time with Robert Johnson, Harper instructed the crowd on the finer points of didgeridoo playing, and festival favorite and BBQ Pit Master Lonnie Shields perennially lights up the night with his electrifying performances. For the 15th anniversary, the folks at Briggs Farm have put together another all-star lineup including Sam Lay on the Back Porch, Friday headliner Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater, Saturday headliner Bernard Allison, plus Moreland & Arbuckle, Rory Block, The Butterfield Blues Band, Linsey Alexander, Alexis P. Suter Band, and many others. The festival takes place on July 6 and 7, 2012 and is sure to be a hot weekend of blues.

Alexis P. Suter makes sure Jimmy plays it right for you.
Alexis P. Suter makes sure Jimmy plays it right for you.

The Briggs Farm Blues Festival is the brainchild of Richard Briggs, blues and roots music fan and former TV producer. We caught up with Richard recently to take a look back at 15 years of Blues and family fun down on the farm. Richard Briggs’ experience as a producer gave him a different perspective when he attended festivals as a fan, “I like to go to other festivals, not just to see musicians but to see how it’s produced. I produced TV shows for PBS station WVIA and I was there for 22 years. I started this project here on the family farm while I was still doing TV, so I come from that background and I really enjoy putting on a show.” The idea for the festival came to him at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, “I always thought I could do better. I was at the Philly Folk Festival thinking ‘I could do this.’ Everything was ready and I just had to put it together. It took a few years to get it together and convince people that it wasn’t outrageous. It took a lot of convincing at first. The township was concerned and wanted to make sure it wouldn’t be a bad situation for the community and neighbors. We’ve had a gradual growth in attendance over the 15 years so it wasn’t like a horde of crazy people coming in to town. Traffic problems never occurred, parking wasn’t an issue. It’s really become a good thing for the community. In addition to the local business people who are involved, there are families who come to visit relatives and go to the blues festival. People come from Texas, Canada, California, all over. ”

Terry "Harmonica" Bean brings Hill Country Blues to Briggs Farm
Terry “Harmonica” Bean brings Hill Country Blues to Briggs Farm

Richard was confident he and the festival could succeed but he’s not afraid to admit he over-reached a bit that first year. “I had planned to do three festivals,” he said with a laugh. “But I learned my lesson. People still say to me ‘why don’t you do a jam band or a country festival?’ – but they’re crazy! It’s a lot to put together, but that first year I had a folk festival also and there was another one I cancelled. But the blues people were just really nice. They were comfortable and it was well enough attended that I really didn’t lose any money. Now, we get a lot of people coming back and they bring more people and whole families and groups of friends. It’s a comfortable place for people.” Comfort isn’t usually something you often expect at a festival, but the laid back atmosphere and farm fresh food at Briggs Farm is a big part of the comfort factor. Their willingness to allow coolers and outside food and drinks also helps, and you can’t beat camping at Briggs Farm, especially if it rains. “It was initially a one day event and the next year we had really bad weather. In fact the second year attendance was less because of the weather so we decided to do two days. We already had everything set up so we thought if one day is rainy and one day isn’t then it’s not a loss if people only come one day. Then we had some people who wanted to camp so we started letting them stay overnight. So camping turned out to be the best idea because people camping don’t care if it rains and it makes it very easy for people to come a long way. They don’t have to find a hotel and don’t have to drive if they’ve had a few drinks. It’s a lot of fun to have people stay overnight.”

Briggs Farm crowd 2011

Camping tickets are a hot commodity and have greatly helped the Briggs Farm maintain its reasonable prices, which is important to Richard and the folks at Briggs Farm. They view their festival as a family event and want as many people to enjoy the music as possible. “If we have to increase the price we agonize over it. We’d rather have more people come than raise the prices and have less people. We have the space so we want people to come have a good time. We don’t want it to be an expensive event. I think our prices are good and we’re going to keep them there. We’re making it at this price. We didn’t start out to make a bucket of money and be done. We want a yearly event that we all love to do and have it be financially stable, which it is. We like the bands we’re able to afford at this point. We’ve been able to grow our audience and we can pull from a larger pool of artists now because we can pay more. Now our second stage is becoming as well booked as our big stage.”

Lonnie Shields makes sure you get the good stuff.
Lonnie Shields makes sure you get the good stuff.

Another integral part of this successful festival is the food, which is overseen by none other than Lonnie Shields who is not only a blues maestro but also a barbecue master who offered his services to a frustrated Richard Briggs. “One of the early years, Lonnie headlined on a Friday night and that’s when I met him. He’s one of those guys that’s always talking barbecue and we continued to talk over the years and we’ve had him back a few times. Eventually he offered it to me. Originally we were making the food ourselves, and then we had vendors in and I was not happy. Then again we had vendors the next year and I still wasn’t happy. Lonnie was there and he wanted to help out. We made the smokers and cookers to Lonnie’s specifications. We buy 500 to 600 pounds of pork and he comes up and starts cooking on Wednesday night.” Richard continues, “Making the food is something we always wanted to do ourselves and with Lonnie’s help it’s going well. We’re adding some new things in the style of home cooked Delta-style food. We definitely want something home cooked instead of from a cart or a truck and Lonnie loves doing it. Now he brings his sister Pearly Mae up from Helena, Arkansas to help him out. They have a little family reunion. He has other family within reach and they all come to the festival and stay over.

EliCookOnTheBackPorch
Eli Cook channels Son House on the Back Porch Stage

Lonnie also knows all the musicians coming in and he often goes and plays with them on the main stage after his set on the Porch Stage. He entertains all the volunteers too. He has plenty of stories! I was concerned that at some point he might not be able to do it so I asked him about it and he said I’d have to tell him not to come, and that’s not going to happen.”

A Bluesman's work is never done.
A Bluesman’s work is never done.

Over the course of 15 years there have been some great memories made for fans and musicians a like but a few stick out in Richard Briggs’ memory, “We always try to get some older guys for the Porch Stage so that can be really close to the audience and relate some of the history. This year we have Sam Lay and in 2010 we had Louisiana Red – a lot of those guys are leaving us, but Red was here. We had a lot of rain that Saturday night and I remember him sitting in the green room tent backstage waiting to go on and water is coming in under the tent – it was raining pretty hard – but he wanted to go on. He’s saying ‘If there’s any way we can go on, we want to play.’ So I told him as soon as the sound guy gives me the go ahead we’ll get you out there. It was real late and the rain stopped so Red went on and then it started to rain again but he kept going! He played until around two in the morning. His wife wanted him off stage because it was really late but he wasn’t pausing between songs long enough for us to comfortably get in there to get him off stage. It was quite an experience.” He continues, “One year, Eddie Kirkland, who was about 80 years old, drove up in the beat-up old 80’s station wagon, popped the hood and started working on it. I looked in and it was held together by wire and duct tape! (laughs) It’s just been great to meet all those guys.”

Luckily, everyone attending Briggs Farm Blues Festival also gets the chance to meet the performers, usually at the merchandise table after their sets but many stick around for some of Lonnie’s pulled pork or some fresh sweet corn cooked to perfection, and can be found chatting with fans and fellow musicians all day long. The interaction between musicians and fans, the relaxed atmosphere, the volunteers, the fresh food, and great music makes Briggs Farm Blues Festival a true family destination that is affordable and enjoyable. There is a tangible sense of community that permeates the festival, putting smiles on faces even before the music starts and Richard Briggs is particularly proud of it, “I want people to get that as soon as they drive in and I want them to be wowed by it and get that excitement.”