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Blast Furnace Blues Festival Coming This Weekend

Robert Randolph, Charlie Musselwhite, Coco Montoya & More Headline 2016 Blast Furnace Blues Festival at SteelStacks in Bethlehem

Festival, presented by Highmark Blue Shield, set for March 11-13

CharlieMusselwhiteBlastFurnaceBETHLEHEM, PARobert Randolph & the Family Band, GRAMMY winner Charlie Musselwhite, Johnny Winter’s All Star Band, Coco Montoya and the Royal Southern Brotherhood headline the fifth Blast Furnace Blues Festival presented by Highmark Blue Shield March 11-13, 2016 at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem. Three-day festival passes and single-day tickets for the event, which features 18 national and local blues artists are available at www.steelstacks.org and 610-332-3378.

On Sat., March 12, Blast Furnace Blues welcomes dynamic funk and soul group Robert Randolph & the Family Band. Named one of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” by Rolling Stone, Robert Randolph and his band first gained national attention with the release of the album Live at the Wetlands in 2002. The group has performed at festivals ranging from Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits, to Gathering of the Vibes and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, while Randolph’s guitar work has resulted in collaborations with icons such as Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana.

Prior to Robert Randolph’s set, guests will enjoy a scorchin’ performance by the Royal Southern Brotherhood featuring Cyril Neville of The Neville Brothers. Also performing is Coco Montoya, a former member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers who’s been called “the hottest southpaw in the blues” by Guitar One Magazine.

Headlining the festival on Sun., March 13, is the one and only Charlie Musselwhite. A Blues Hall of Famer and a 2013 GRAMMY winner for Get Up!, his collaboration with Ben Harper, Musselwhite has been recording and performing for more than five decades. During his career, the legendary harmonica player has recorded and shared the stage with a who’s who of the music world including blues legends like Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf, as well as Mick Jagger, INXS, Tom Waits and the Blind Boys of Alabama.

Earlier in the day, attendees will also enjoy a special tribute to Johnny Winter as the Johnny Winter All Star Band rocks the ArtsQuest Center. This high-energy ensemble features former Johnny Winter Band members Paul Nelson on guitar and James Montgomery on vocals, performing the music of the late blues-rock guitarist. Among the other artists who will take the stage March 13 is Janiva Magness, the 2009 Blues Foundation B.B. King Entertainer of the Year and 2015 Contemporary Female Artist of the Year.

”Highmark Blue Shield is proud to once again sponsor the Blast Furnace Blues Festival, a wonderful musical event that draws blues-lovers far beyond the Lehigh Valley,” says Susan Hubley, director of community affairs at Highmark. “This year’s lineup of musicians looks as incredible as the setting at SteelStacks. We’re grateful for the opportunity to show our support for this showcase of blues talent.”

The 2016 Blast Furnace Blues Festival kicks off Fri., March 11, with an incredible night of music by some of the region’s top blues acts. Set to take the stage are Friar’s Point, Sarah Ayers Band and the Craig Thatcher Band. The festival will also offer a special blues brunch, with music by the BC Combo, March 13 at 11 a.m.

Looking for the ultimate experience at Blast Furnace Blues? The festival offers three-day VIP Packages, which include admission to the entire festival, as well as a Sunday Blues Brunch ticket, meet & greets with select headliners, commemorative poster, valet parking and more. VIP Packages, which are available in limited quantities, are only $199.

BLAST FURNACE BLUES PRESENTED BY HIGHMARK BLUE SHIELD LINEUP:
March 11
Musikfest Café presented by Yuengling
6:30 p.m. Friar’s Point
8:00 p.m. Sarah Ayers Band
9:45 p.m. Craig Thatcher Band

March 12
Musikfest Café presented by Yuengling
12:30 p.m. Ursula Ricks
1:45 p.m. Darrell Nulisch
3:15 p.m. James Armstrong
5:00 p.m. Coco Montoya
6:45 p.m. Royal Southern Brotherhood
8:30 p.m. Robert Randolph & the Family Band
Fowler Blast Furnace Room Stage
1:00 p.m. Maria Woodford Band
2:30 p.m. Toby Walker
4:15 p.m. Ursula Ricks
6:00 p.m. Darrell Nulisch
7:45 p.m. James Armstrong

March 13
Musikfest Café presented by Yuengling
11:00 a.m. The BC Combo
1:15 p.m. The Revelers
2:30 p.m. Janiva Magness
4:15 p.m. Johnny Winter All Star Band
6:00 p.m. Charlie Musselwhite
Fowler Blast Furnace Room Stage
12:30 p.m. Matt Anderson
2:00 p.m. James Supra
3:45 p.m. Matt Anderson
5:15 p.m. The Revelers

Fresh Biscuits! Friday Fast Four CD Reviews – September 19, 2014

Well folks, it’s been a crazy week and I’ve been busy with all sorts of non-blues stuff. I do have a day job you know. Two, actually! Unfortunately, Friday is running out and I only had time to write up four reviews. I know, I know, you were really looking forward to that fifth review. What could it have been? Devon Allman? Duke Robillard? Norman Taylor? Bob Eike? Well, maybe you’ll find out next week if I do Fast Six. It kinda kills the alliteration though and that’s going a little too far right? Maybe not.

This week does mark the 44th anniversary of the death of Jimi Hendrix. He died on September 18, 1970, just weeks before I was born. Somehow, his music has moved me since before I was a teenager. So, this week I offer a run down of his first two posthumous albums, which were reissued on Tuesday September, 16th. Also featured is a hot new disc from a guy I never heard of before, and a live album from a modern blues guitar hero who is under-rated for his vocal talents. I hope you enjoy them and find some music you want to explore.

 

JimiHendrixTheCryOfLoveJimi Hendrix

The Cry Of Love

Experience Hendrix/Sony Legacy

Released September 16, 2014

 

The Cry Of Love was long regarded as the most accurate approximation of Jimi Hendrix’ intended final album. After Jimi’s death, Mitch Mitchell and Eddie Kramer compiled the completed tracks they had been working on for the Electric Ladyland follow up. While Hendrix had been hoping to put out another double LP, The Cry of Love is a single disc distillation of what was finished for the project. Naturally, Jimi could have changed any of these tunes or re-recorded them, as he often did, up until the album went to press but it’s generally accepted that he was satisfied with these as presented. The Cry of Love was available on CD until 1992 and all of the tracks re-appeared in re-mastered form later on.

The Cry of Love is a curious album and shows how diverse the planned double LP would have been. In 1997, Experience Hendrix attempted to create the double album and issued First Rays Of The New Rising Sun. Hendrix mention the First Rays name in a few interviews, but the last written title found on one of Jimi’s hand-written track lists, was Strate Ahead. Instead, the record was named for the last tour Jimi Hendrix and Mitch Mitchell did together, along with bassist Billy Cox, who also plays on the bulk of the album. The tracks range from the revved-up R&B of “Freedom” to silly blues jamming like “Belly Button Window.” Hendrix shows he hasn’t lost his touch with backwards guitar on “Drifting,” unleashed the funky Heavy Metal thunder on “EZY Rider,” and gave us the poignant ballad “Angel.” Over all, Jimi’s music was taking a turn toward R&B and funk, and his playing is less incendiary than on previous records but is no less masterful. His sonic palette was expanding rapidly and his ability to layer disparate guitar parts into an improbable whole was unparalleled. Just listen to all the parts in “Freedom.” His rhythm as lead style is prominent on “Drifting” and he adds Buzzy Linhart on vibes to the layers of forward and backward guitars. It creates an illusion of a sparse arrangement, yet it’s quite densely packed.

VH1 recently called The Cry Of Love the greatest posthumous classic rock record of all time. I can’t agree with them, but it is damned good. All the hallmarks of Jimi’s playing are here, his voice sounds great, and his guitar harmonies are soaring. It has been said that Jimi’s last year was directionless and frustrating as he tried to explore scattered arrays of new music but was stifled by his management, stressed by his legal battles, and irritated by touring demands. Jimi may have been looking for a new direction for his music but unfortunately he didn’t realize his music was the new direction. He brought it all together and that’s why it resonates with us over 40 years later. The Cry of Love reminds us all of what was lost on September 18, 1970.

 

 

JimiHendrixRainbowBridgeJimi Hendrix

Rainbow Bridge Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Experience Hendrix/Sony Legacy

Released September 16, 2014

 

Rainbow Bridge was the second posthumous Jimi Hendrix release and has been out of print for quite some time. While nominally a soundtrack from the horrible Rainbow Bridge file, to which Hendrix was loosely tethered when Hendrix’ manager Michael Jeffery realized his film project was dying a slow death. Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell, and Billy Cox appear briefly in the film, mostly through live concert footage filmed in Maui. None of the Maui concert is featured on Rainbow Bridge. None. Only about 17 minutes of highly edited footage of the concert made it into the film itself. So what is on Rainbow Bridge Original Motion Picture Soundtrack? Well, most of the songs on the soundtrack appear as incidental music in the film. Most of the music was intended for the planned sprawling double LP follow up to Electric Ladyland.

“Dolly Dagger,” “Earth Blues,” “Room Full Of Mirrors,” and “Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)” all turned up on Experience Hendrix’ 1997 effort to construct the great lost Jimi Hendrix album First Rays Of The New Rising Sun. “Pali Gap” and “Look Over Yonder” turned up on South Saturn Delta, the studio version of “Star Spangled Banner” was included on The Jimi Hendrix Experience box set, and “Hear My Train A Comin’” has been featured on Blues in 1994 and Voodoo Child: The Jimi Hendrix Collection in 2001, each with slightly different edits of Jimi’s introduction. If it seems like you need a scorecard, you’re right; especially if you have this album on vinyl and wanted a digital version.

There are plenty of reasons to want this album in its original configuration. It has no less than two now classic Hendrix tunes – “Dolly Dagger” and “Room Full Of Mirrors” – and an absolutely scorching version of “Hear My Train A Comin’” which was recorded live during the first show at Berkeley Community Center on May 30, 1970. In just under twelve minutes Jimi lays the groundwork for all the major blues heroes of the modern era. From Stevie Ray Vaughan to Eric Gales, it’s all here. If there is any doubt about Hendrix as bluesman, he crushes all your arguments in the first few minutes. The production on this live track is incredible too. Producers Mitch Mitchell and Eddie Kramer expertly meld it with the studio cuts. The whole album is surprisingly cohesive and there are no replacement musicians to be found as there are on Crash Landing and Midnight Lightning. Mitchell did do some drum overdubs however, but who’s to say those wouldn’t have been done anyway. Kramer and Mitchell were Jimi’s closest musical confidants and their love of Jimi and the music the made together comes through in the creation of this album. It’s nice to have it back in its initial form once again.

 

HarpdogBrownWhatItIsHarpdog Brown

What It Is

Dog Breath Records

Released March 4, 2014

 

I hate shrill harmonica. In fact, it kept me away from harmonica bands for a long time. I owe my new found love of harmonica bands to Dustin Arbuckle of Moreland & Arbuckle. I love his tone. But this is not about Dustin, or me for that matter. It’s about the glorious harp tone that opens What It Is by Harpdog Brown. It’s rich, thick, gritty, and grooving. Harpdog has been in the Blues business for thirty years and you hear them all in the opening moments of “Doncha Know I Loves Ya.” The first four bars are the mission statement, buy in, and hostile takeover. It kicks off an hour of blues from the gut that will hit you where it counts on every track.  

I don’t know how this guy from Vancouver sounds like he was raised in Mississippi but he does. The whole band melds styles from Chicago to Austin, and L.A. too. Guitarist Jordan Edmunds has a west coast blues feel, like a mix of T-Bone Walker and Little Charlie Baty, with just enough Texas shuffle to keep you guessing. John R. Hunter on drums and George Fenn on bass swing with delight, drop down low for the gutbucket shuffles, and march with pride. “If You Wanna Grow Old” sounds like the soundtrack to a train robbery murder mystery. Thematically it’s quite different. Harpdog relates lessons in moderation he’s learned in his quest to keep having birthdays. “No Money In The Till” talks about the hardships and travails of the 99% over a “.44 Blues” style riff. “Blue Lights” is a tour de force instrumental with Harpdog showing off how he earned his name. “Headin’ Out” closes the record with a definite Howlin’ Wolf vibe that was alluded to throughout the disc.

What It Is comes chocked full of classic blues tones, Harpdog’s robust vocals, colorful wordplay, and top notch playing. I admit I never heard of Harpdog Brown before last week, but I’m hooked now. This is honest, deep earth blues. These guys feel it; there is nothing forced. The blues seem to flow from these Canadians. Hail Canada, the new home of the Blues! What It Is is a harmonica lover’s dream. Harpdog digs deep, swings hard, and rocks the house. Hopefully it will find a home south of the border and worldwide.

 

 

CocoMontoyaSongsFromTheRoadCoco Montoya

Songs From The Road

Ruf Records

Released on July 8, 2013

 

Astonishingly, Songs From The Road is the first live release from the dynamic Coco Montoya. Coco has probably logged millions of miles and thousands of shows from his days with Albert Collins and John Mayall to his stellar solo career. Coco has been out there playing the blues for decades. Recently Ruf Records has been putting out these live Songs From The Road sets, usually featuring one CD and one DVD. Here we get two CDs recorded on two nights, almost a year apart. The result is like getting a full Coco Montoya show on tape and it is glorious.

The spirit of Coco’s mentor Albert Collins is alive and well in album. The set opens with Collins’ “I’ve Got A Mind To Travel” and it makes the perfect icebreaker, giving Coco and keyboardist Brant Leeper plenty of room to stretch out with their solos and get loosened up. Also on disc one is a cold fusion tribute to Albert called “Love Jail.” It’s a classic Collins Shuffle, complete with Jimmy McGriff style organ and a walking bass line that Albert loved to have underneath his blistering solos. Coco Montoya shows what he learned from the Master Of The Telecaster blending it skillfully with his own style. The tune is a ten minute foray into blues jamming that makes you forget the inane love jail lyrics.

Disc two has an extended 15 minute take on the tender ballad “Good Days, Bad Days.” Bassist Nathan Brown plays a sweetly melodic solo. Coco’s guitar work on this tune reminds me of Mark Knopfler. It is delicate, precise, tone rich, and perfect for the song. He builds his solo into a sizzling frenzy and reins it back in to finish with gentle tones and volume swells. If this one doesn’t make you want to see the band live you might be agoraphobic. It should be noted that the liner notes and back cover have incorrect running orders for disc two. “Good Days, Bad Days” and “I Need Your Love In My Life” are reversed, as are “My Side Of The Fence” and album closer “You’d Think I’d Know Better By Now.” This is of course not reflective of Coco Montoya. This is a record label mistake.

There may be some printing issues with Songs From The Road but the playing is top quality. Coco’s band is locked and loaded, ready to follow Coco anywhere. Coco Montoya gets accolades for his guitar playing but his smooth, soulful voice is a major asset. He sings with authority and finesse. He also wrote all but two of the tunes on Songs From The Road. The album gives a great overview of the band’s talents, Coco’s abilities, and his deep catalog of songs. Songs From The Road has been a long time coming but it showcases an artist at the top of his game. Go out and get it!

Fresh Biscuits! New Blues Releases For July 8, 2014

This week is pretty decent for new Blues releases with three live albums, a pair of reissues, and a deal going down. With a full house, a deal, and a guy named Lucky, I’m not sure if this is a new music list or card game in some juke joint last Friday night.

Coco Montoya and Rick Estrin & The Nightcats are issuing long overdue live albums, then there is the return of Fred & The Healers with a brand new line-up and a hot new record, and albums from Corey Harris and Barry Goldberg (recently of The Rides) get reissue treatment.

Fresh Biscuits – July 8, 2014

Coco Montoya Songs From the Road

CocoMontoyaSongsFromTheRoad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rick Estrin and Nightcats You Asked For It…Live!

RickEstrinNightcatsLive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preston Shannon Dust My Broom

PrestonShannonDustMyBroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucky Peterson I’m Back Again

LuckyPetersonImBackAgain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Olney When The Deal Goes Down

DavidOlneyWhenTheDealGoesDown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vincent Bucher Hometown

VincentBucherHometown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fred & The Healers Hammerbeatmatic

FredAndTheHealersHammerbeatmatic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barry Goldberg Blasts From My Past (Extended Edition Reissue)

BarryGoldbergBlastsFromMyPast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corey Harris Fulton Blues (Deluxe Edition Reissue with Bonus Tracks)

CoreyHarrisFultonBluesDeluxeEdition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always please support the artists by buying their music and please support Blues Biscuits by clicking our link before you shop. Thank you and enjoy your fresh biscuits!