The new releases this week are big bag of funky blues. We have a Henry Gray retrospective compiled by long time collaborator Bob Corritore. According to Bob’s website, “The legendary blues pianist Henry Gray has collaborated with harmonica ace Bob Corritore since 1996. The visceral musical cohesiveness and their long standing musical bond has produced consistently stunning recordings that are steeped in purity and tradition. With Henry’s recent 90th birthday (born January 19, 1925), Bob Corritore took it upon himself to share some of these true musical gems from his seemingly infinite recording vaults. The first volume presents a 14 song selection recorded over a 19 year period, in which all but 4 tracks are previously unissued. Henry sings 9 of these selections and Robert Jr. Lockwood, John Brim, NappyBrown, Tail Dragger, and Dave Riley provide one vocal each. At the core of each of these songs are the Gray and Corritore team who demonstrate their robust musical prowess and understated taste. Joining the proceedings are a rotating lineup of some of the blues’ greatest musicians for a program of fully-realized songs that alternate between rollicking, partying jumps and shuffles to the deepest of blues!” This is a good one folks and not to be missed. You can sample some of it in our Spotify playlist at the bottom of this post.
We also have the domestic release of Rick Vito’sMojo On My Side. The album was released in Europe last Fall. You may remember Rick from his time in Fleetwood Mac and more recently with the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band. Rick is a tremendous writer and guitarist and if this is your first time hearing him you may be left scratching your head wondering how you missed him.
Omar Coleman gives us Born & Raised. Omar kicked off his career in 2010 and has been studying with a who’s who of Chicago Blues legends like Billy Branch, Sugar Blue, Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, and Bob Stroger. Born & Raised features his soulful singing and powerful harp playing.
The Frank Bey and Anthony Paule Band are an eight piece group playing West Coast soul-blues since 2011. Two albums released in 2013, You Don’t Know Nothing and Soul For Your Blues earned the band two Blues Music Award nominations. The critically acclaimed Bey Paule Band which has made the Downbeat Magazine critics poll as well as the Living Blues Magazine Best of 2013 list. This resulted in two European tours, and a many prestigious festival appearances throughout North America in 2014. Not Goin’ Away is the new disc. Be sure to check out the samples in our playlist below.
Henry Gray & Bob Corritore Vol. 1: Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest
Omar Coleman Born And Raised
Rick Vito Mojo On My Side
Bey Paule Band Not Goin’ Away
Check out a pair of tracks from each of these new albums with our Spotify playlist.
Remember, while it’s great to hear music for free, it’s even better to support the artists and buy the music you like. And whenever possible go see the bands live!
Hello again. It’s time for our weekly Fast Five reviews. I dug a little deeper into the Blues Bin this time for a few albums that came out earlier this year. I think they deserve our attention and hopefully you will be interested enough to give them a shot – Bob Corritore’s Taboo and Luther Dickinson’s Rock ‘n Roll Blues. We’re ahead of the game with the new Billy Boy Arnold disc and we also have Sena Ehrhardt and Too Slim & The Taildraggers. As always, I hope you find something interesting for your ears.
Chicago Blues stalwart Billy Boy Arnold has returned to Canadian label Stony Plain. The new disc marks Arnold’s second album for the label, the last being 2001’s Boogie ‘n’ Shuffle. Over the years, Arnold has built quite a catalog. The Blues Soul Of Billy Boy Arnold showcases Billy’s love of Soul and R&B, along with his brand of Chicago Blues. Billy Boy is backed by producer/guitarist Duke Robillard and his band, with the Roomful Of Blues horns sitting in on a few tracks.
As a teenager, Billy Boy got a personal harmonica lesson from his hero John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson. His life trajectory changed at that moment and before long Billy was playing with Bo Diddley. During sessions for Bo’s “I’m A Man” Billy was offered time to record the single “You Got To Love Me” which got his solo career off to a running start. His classic “I Wish You Would” has been recorded several times, including stand out versions by The Yardbirds, Canned Heat, and John Hammond. The Yardbirds had a big hit with his tune “I Ain’t Got You” which has also been recorded and performed by a host of artists from Aerosmith to Sugar Blue.
This time around, Billy Boy has recorded some of his favorites. One of the highlights is a moving, melancholy “St. James Infirmary.” The tune keeps the minor key tones of Louis Armstrong’s famous version and starts off with a lonesome harmonica howling over some minor chords on the piano. Billy’s conversational, low-key delivery accents the despair and heartbreak, and Robillard plays some gritty licks over the loping shuffle. Chuck Berry’s “Nadine” is revved up and rockin’, and Billy Boy tips his hat to Ray Charles with a swinging, swirling take on “Don’t Set Me Free.”
Mixed among other covers like Joe Tex’ “A Mother’s Prayer” and Ted Taylor’s “You Give Me Nothing to Go On” are some new Billy Boy Arnold gems like the sly, shuffling “What’s On The Menu Mama” and tongue-in-cheek album closer “Keep On Rubbing.” These two are prime examples of the fun, good-time Blues that made Billy Boy Arnold famous. Duke Robillard gets to flex his considerable blues muscles on B.B. King’s “Worried Dream.” This tune really brings home the vintage sound that permeates The Blues Soul Of Billy Boy Arnold. There is no new ground broken here, but at this point in his career does Billy really have anything to prove? He’s out there going strong, making music, and bringing joy to the people. At a time he could be relaxing, it’s good to know he’s still willing to share The Blues Soul Of Billy Boy Arnold with us.
So, I was listening to the new Bob Corritore disc Taboo, grooving along, thinking man, this really calls to mind a 60’s get together with friends, and playing records in the living room. I can see the brightly colored drapes, the wood and stone décor, the contrasting colors, the miniskirts. Did I mention the miniskirts? This tune completely put me in a sixties TV state of mind. Since the new disc is all instrumental I had no clue to the song title so I had to look. I picked up the CD jacket, flipped it over whilst bobbing my head along with track and what do I see as the title? “Mr. Tate’s Advice.” Mr. Tate. As in Larry Tate on Bewitched? It has to be. I really want it to be Larry Tate. Everything about this song says Bewitched, especially once you know the title. It’s subtle, but it’s there and you hear it at once if you have that frame of reference. That’s great instrumental writing. To convey mental images through music is certainly a difficult task but Bob Corritore does it here and all through Taboo.
Several of the tunes on Taboo have a vintage feel. “Fabuloco (For Kid)” sounds like a bit like the Latin craze mid 60’s pop instrumentals. It’s a fun, percolating tune that will surely get you moving. Another throwback is the beach party romp called “Harmonica Watusi.” If you’re not picturing Annette Funicello’s pointy bathing suit while you do the Mashed Potato and The Watusi around your living room you aren’t living. Blues fans need not be worried; it’s not all Beach Party Playboy After Dark Shindig music. There are blues tunes on this new record. “5th Position Plea” is not a sexual reference as far as you know. It probably takes its name from the 5th position harmonica playing which is fairly uncommon in blues. “Shuff Stuff” is a Texas Style shuffling blues with Jimmie Vaughan as the featured guitarist. Jimmie and Bob lead the band on a road trip around the great Republic of Texas. Saxophonist Doug James and Papa John Defrancesco take solos tasty as Central Texas BBQ and twice as fiery. Jimmie Vaughan delivers his usual peerless perfection. He gives exactly what the song needs every time.
Bob Corritore has become one of the most acclaimed harmonica players in the world. He has shared stages and recorded with the who’s who in blues. His interest in Blues was sparked by hearing Muddy Waters on the radio at age 12. Bob was born in Chicago and made it to many blues shows around town getting to know major and minor players alike and soaking up everything he could. Bob Corritore is steeped in blues and blues tradition so it is no surprise that this eclectic mix of instrumentals would have a retro vibe and classic tones. If this was 1960, this music would be “cool.” Hell, it’s still cool today. Maybe that’s why it’s Taboo. Check it out; it’s a gas!
Tim “Too Slim” Langford has been a fixture of the American music scene for about 25 years and has put out 15 albums. That’s amazingly prolific, especially by recent standards with bands taking two or more years to make new records. This new Anthology brings together songs from Too Slim’s Underworld Records catalog featuring songs from his last decade of recordings. Anthology includes three new songs produced by Grammy Award winning Producer Tom Hambridge. Also included are some previously unreleased versions of familiar songs. The liner notes are skimpy and only give details for the new songs. The fact the songs are new is more implied than explicit. For a sprawling, 34 track Anthology I expected more song information, especially for the previously unreleased songs. Personally, I enjoy the music more when I have some context and usually an Anthology is accompanied by some reflections from the artist or, at a minimum, an essay by someone well acquainted with the music and band. It may seem like a minor sticking point, but I could make my own anthology in iTunes or the like. Sure it wouldn’t have the alternate versions or new songs, but alternate versions are often unreleased for a reason. I’d like some inside information on the songs to read while I reminisce over decade spanning collection. Okay, end of complaints section. Moving on…
The music runs the gamut from swampy Blues to Cowpunk to Country & Western and all points in between. “Mississippi Moon” is the kind of swamp rock slide guitar driven tune I could listen to all day long. “When Whiskey Was My Friend” crosses into modern rock territory and has some stinging lead guitar from Too Slim. “Mexico” is weird Jimmy Buffett blues but it’s catchy. It has sultry slide guitar and steel drums (or a close approximation). It had me looking for my salt shaker and a cheeseburger. “Devil In A Double Wide” has guitar riffs as Hellish as the title suggests. “She Sees Ghosts” has a sick single-coil guitar tone and a tight horn arrangement. The song closes out disc one which seems to highlight the harder rocking tunes from Too Slim & The Taildraggers.
Disc two has more of the deep Blues tracks like the gut wrenching “Everybody’s Got Something” to some acoustic tracks like the haunting “La Llorona.” Slim’s slide work on “La Llorona” is a study in intonation and left hand control. It also helps that he plays a beautifully sad melody. “Good To See You Smile” is the kind of blues I love the best. Wicked tones, churning Hammond organ, and caustic solos with notes bent to Hell and back. The three new songs are spread around the set and fit in well. “Big Ole House” is a mournful tale of emptiness echoed in the tremolo guitar effects and wistful piano. Strategically placed guitar glissandi appear like apparitions in the night. Everything in Too Slim’s voice says he wants them to stay, but the apparitions are fleeting at best. Another new song, “Wishing Well” opens disc one with a disgusted look at the charlatans disguised as spiritual advisers and faith healers. His repulsion is underscored by sparring solos from Too Slim and Nashville guitarslinger Bob Britt.
By the end of Anthology, you have to catch your breath and reflect on the diversity of the music you just experienced. It’s a little uneven and they’re not all keepers but you get an overflowing plate of Blues on Anthology that is sure to satisfy most of your musical appetites. Here’s to Tim “Too Slim” Langford and the Taildraggers for keeping the faith for 25 years and pouring their hearts into an impressive catalog of music.
Sena Ehrhardt’s debuted in 2011’s Leave the Light On from Blind Pig records. Since then she’s been collecting accolades from around the music industry. Sena lists Luther Allison as a major influence, having experienced the power of his live show and the raw emotion in his voice. She got her start singing with her father’s band Plan B but in 2010 she formed her own band and began to shape her destiny. Sena has certainly focused Luther Allison’s influence and she pours her all into every note she sings. Her new disc Live My Life shows incredible growth and focus. She’s formed a new band and wrote much of the album with new guitarist Cole Allen.
From the opening guitar riffs this band sounded to me like the Robert Cray Band via Austin, TX. I like it. The band is tight and guitarist Cole Allen cuts a wide swath of territory. Sena gives the band plenty of room to shine and together they have come up with interesting riffs and song structures. “Everybody Is You” has a stuttering riff and the words work their way around to a glaring twist. The guitar solo recalls Alberts King and Collins. The opening tune “The Stakes Have Gone Up” strides through Cray’s “Smoking Gun” territory, picks up the still hot weapon and fires again. This is a menacing opener, laying it down in no uncertain terms that they are here to play and here to stay. Smokin’ Joe Kubek sits in on “Things You Shouldn’t Need To Know” and delivers a blistering slide solo perfect for the desert hot shimmering shuffle. The twin guitars build to a crescendo under Sena’s vocals until she brings it all down with the flirtatious “take it off babe.” Wait, she was talking about a blindfold? I have to listen to that one again.
For the purpose of full disclosure, I usually don’t like female vocalists who aren’t also instrumentalist. Yes, yes, the voice is an instrument, I get it, but I mean guitarist, pianist, and so on. For some reason unknown to me, they don’t always seem to be able, or allowed, to sing honestly. They go full-on sex kitten or gruff whiskey and cigarettes Janis Joplin style. Sena Ehrhardt is able to balance her delivery in an honest manner. She sings high notes when the song demands it, gives the coy come hither tones when appropriate, and has impeccable phrasing and note control. Her lyrics are smart and sing well. Nothing seems forced. Maybe it’s the industry that tries to back female singers into one corner or another but Sena dances around the ring like Ali. She’s staking her claim in the Blues scene and doing it her way. Live My Life isn’t just an album title, it’s a mission statement and it’s a mission you’ll want to get in on.
With a title like Rock ‘n Roll Blues, you might expect to be getting North Mississippi Allstars Part Deux. Not so. Luther Dickinson is a talented guy with eclectic tastes and an ear for fresh tones. He plays roots music in a variety of musical configurations. On Rock ‘n Roll Blues he is joined by upright bassist Amy LaVere, Sharde Thomas on drums and fife, and Lightnin’ Malcolm on drums with all contributing vocals. Rock ‘n Roll Blues has songs that date back twenty years and gives the listener a sense of Luther’s journey from young punk in the Mississippi Hills to seasoned performer and respected musician.
The focus of the album seems to be on rhythms. The opener is a manic tale of teen rebellion set to tin can percussion. Luther proclaims with raw abandon “I grew up on punk rock when I was young, Lived in the country was the only one, For miles and miles nobody around me, Rockin’ solo skateboard anarchy.” And continues with “I get so excited, have to vandalize!” it’s the portrait of a pent-up misunderstood teen with no other outlet for his frustration. It would be funny if it didn’t hit home for so many. “Blood ‘n Guts (The Ballad Of Boots And Dixie)” puts Luther out on the road and finding his way. This is another heavily rhythmic tune with Luther playing a churning acoustic guitar figure over a bouncing bass line. The ebb and flow of relationships on the road is reflected in the words as well with lines like “Take A bullet for any one of these, can’t stand these sons of bitches.” “Bar Band” takes shots at the naysayers.
On “Rock ‘n Roll Blues” Luther rails against the slave trade-like recording industry and the harsh realities of being under a recording contract. On “Goin’ Country” Dickinson sings about defying Dad and hanging up the rock ‘n roll shoes. The disc closes with a delicate yet rhythmically throbbing ballad called “Karmic Debt.” In enigmatic fashion, his words don’t tell you if it’s all been worth it or not but you get the sense he’s at ease with his decisions. Rock ‘n Roll Blues is raw, rough, and rhythmic, but it’s alternately quiet, chilling, and beautiful. The music and words are much more intricate than the simple instrumentation and laid back delivery make them seem. This is an unexpectedly beautiful album which gives us a deeper sense of Luther Dickinson as artist and fellow traveler in the land of Rock ‘n Roll Blues.
It’s Hump Day and that means blues. Low down, dirty, grinding blues. I’ve read that the bigger the cushion, the sweeter the pushin’ and apparently a lot of blues musicians have heard the same thing. For decades, bluesmen have been chubby-chasing and lusting after big-legged women. Even Leadbelly sang about loving a big fat woman.
Chick Willis was famous for his risque song “Stoop Down Baby” and his ribald lyrics have permeated his work all throughout his career. The one we picked for Hump Day is “I Want A Big Fat Woman.” There’s no double-entendre there. It’s quite clear. Bring on the heavy weights and get it on!
According to his website, Bob Corritore is “considered among the top traditional blues harmonica players on the scene today. Additionally he is the owner of the Rhythm Room, the radio show host of “Those Lowdown Blues” on KJZZ, the founder of Southwest Musical Arts Foundation, the editor and main writer of the Bob Corritore Blues Newsletter, an official endorser of Hohner harmonicas, a Keeping The Blues Alive award recipient, a grammy nominated harmonica player and producer, an honorary member of Collectif Des Radios Blues, and a great fan of, and active participant in blues music in general.” And he also wants a big fat mama.
Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King have made our Hump Day list before with “My Space Or Yours.” Bnois has an eye for the ladies and he likes a healthy, healthy mama. Not surprisingly it comes from an album called “Roadhouse Research.” I’m betting Bnois wasn’t just sampling the menus and beer on tap.