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Briggs Farm Blues Festival Info And Playlist

Briggs Farm Concerts is proud to announce another exciting year of Blues at Briggs Farm, Friday July 10th & Saturday July 11th, 2015. Nescopeck, Pennsylvania. 

For the 18th year the Briggs family will transform their tranquil, rural farm into one of the most celebrated & award winning blues festivals nationally, that keeps music lovers and festival goers alike wanting more, from the time the first guitar rings out Friday until the gates close Sunday afternoon. Two stages will host twenty one International, National and Regional acts promising the most exciting lineup to date.

Since its first year in 1998, “Briggs Fest” has been continually captivating and attracting larger audiences with bigger and better acts annually. Along with Mississippi Delta inspired cuisine and “farm fresh roasted sweet corn,” diverse, unique vendors, on-site camping, free parking and free hayrides… This year’s festival is looking to be the best yet.

2015 Briggs Fest is offering a Who’s Who of established & up and coming Blues Artists. Headlining the Main Stage on Friday night is Devon Allman, guitar virtuoso and son of legendary Greg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band. Musically described as Muddy Waters meets Sun Ra, Allman finds inspiration from a wealth of influences; Teeny Tucker, described by James “Skky Dobro” of Blues Blast Magazine as “…the best female Blues vocalist on the scene today; Alexis P. Suter Band is back on the Briggs scene with her commanding bass baritone artfully blending gospel and blues; Butterfield Revisited, lead by Gabriel Butterfield, son of legendary harmonica player, Paul Butterfield, takes the stage with seasoned music veterans to pay their mutual respects to Paul Butterfield, a true pioneer of the blues and 2015 inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Saturday night Main Stage performances include Headliner Danielle Nicole, a powerhouse vocalist of the new generation of blues and a 2014 Blues Music Award winner, with the Danielle Nicole Band; white-hot chemistry meets world class material with Mike Zito and the Wheel, ” His music flows into the veins and move the body in ways that can only be described as free and wild, ” says Jazz Review; last of a breed of 60’s high octane rock, the Slam Allen Band is real soul and blues entertainment from the Grammy nominated bandleader, lead guitarist and vocalist with blues legend James Cotton; go back in time with Terry “Harmonica” Bean and the Cornlickers and experience authentic Delta and Hill Country Blues.

The “Delta Style” Back Porch Stage is an intimate setting providing audiences the opportunity to get “up close” with performers from several different bands.It’s here on Friday, July 10th at 4:30, an educational observance of the Blues will take place called the Centennial Blues Celebration. Michael Cloeren, Award winning Founder & Producer of Pocono & PA Blues Festivals, will feature six influential blues artists who were born in 1915: Robert Lockwood Jr., Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Johnny Shines, David “Honeyboy” Edwards and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Cloeren will discuss their life and times, their stories and connections to the Blues, and a sample of their music will be performed by Teeny Tucker, Bobby Kyle and Lonnie Shields. It’s a proud part of the American story and Briggs Farm is thrilled to offer this truly unique event on the Back Porch Stage.

Other Back Porch Stage performers include Lonnie’s Back Porch Party featuring Lonnie Shields, young and talented Jessie Loewy, Ben Singleton, and the soul man Leroy Hawkes. Bobby Kyle, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, Miss Melanie and the Valley Rats, Teddy Young and the Aces, and Hess & Owens, Terry “Harmonica” Bean, Miner Blues, and Symphonic Haze.

Briggs Farm Blues Festival is unique! If you talk to anyone who has been to a “Briggs Fest,” chances are they have not missed a year since their first experience! This is because of the festival’s growing popularity with the international and national acts wanting to play the fest; Mississippi Delta inspired cuisine including farm fresh sweet corn, diverse, unique vendors, on site camping, free parking and free hayrides! Oh, let’s not forget about the great people and good vibes.

Briggs Farm also offers a “quiet camping area” designated for those who want to enjoy a calm relaxing weekend at the Briggs family’s welcoming farm. “The Woods” hosts late night jam sessions for those who are attracted to late night, post festival activities.

Briggs Farm is sure to provide you with a great environment and great friends making your stay at Briggs Farm memorable. When the gates close Sunday afternoon, don’t worry, there is always next year!

On Friday July 10th the camping area will open at 10:30 am, and the concert field will open at 12:30 pm. The following day, Saturday, July 11 the concert field will open at 12:30 pm, and on Sunday the camping area will close at 2:00 pm. The music goes till midnight each night.

For tickets and information please on to www.briggsfarm.com or call Briggs Farm Concerts. Telephone (570) 379-3342

^^^ The above information is from the official press release ^^^

We at Blues Biscuits have been to Briggs Farm about half a dozen times and it is always a highlight of the summer. There is continuous music on two stages which is a bit of a bummer because you will inevitably miss some great performances, but they schedule afternoon and evening sets for many of the second (Back porch) stage performers so you have multiple chances to see them all. The food is outstanding, the friendly laid back atmosphere is fantastic, and the grounds are easy to navigate. There is a short walk between the stages so you don’t lose much time when traveling to the other stage. Parking is easy, the staff is incredibly helpful and friendly, and the Briggs family are true Blues fans which shows in everything they do to ensure your enjoyment of the festival. I cannot recommend Briggs Farm Blues Festival enough. Make the trip, you will not regret it.

To get you familiar with this year’s lineup we put together a playlist featuring many of the artists performing this year. if you do not subscribe to Spotify, you can still listen to this playlist, and all our other Spotify playlists through our website.

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.

Throwback Thursday: Devon Allman – On The Cigar Box Guitar and Breaking All the Rules

With the Allman Brothers Band calling it quits this year and winding down in New York City this week and next, I thought we’d take the opportunity on Throwback Thursday to look backward and forward with this piece by Maureen Elizabeth. It was previously published at our alma mater American Blues News.

Maureen spoke with Devon Allman who quite organically found his way to the family business. Devon is making music on his own terms and like his father’s band, he cannot be pigeonholed into one genre. He makes music. Honest, soulful music done with integrity, care, and skill. In that way he is carrying the family tradition into the 21st Century. So as the Allman Brothers Band disappears into the distance, we can rest assured Devon Allman will be out there making music for years to come. Remember to check out our review of his tremendous new album Ragged & Dirty.

Alright Bicuiteers, step into the WABAC machine and hold on to your hats…

devon allman1

Inspired? Yes. Intentional? Not really. Beautiful? Absolutely. Devon Allman’s first evening spent with his own cigar box guitar inspired a melody in a quiet moment that soon became a fan favorite – “Yadira’s Lullaby.” Devon spoke with American Blues News about how the gift of his cigar box guitar reconnected two families and the excitement of playing an instrument that has no rules…

When was your first introduction to the cigar box guitar?

It’s kind of a funny genesis. I was playing a show in Tennessee and I have a fan who comes to all the Tennessee shows. He had mentioned on a fan site that he was going to be bringing a gift for me and I thought “cool!” He came to the show and my assistant brought him backstage. He has this thing in his hands and I said “what do you have there, Jim?” And he pulls it out and he said “man, this thing, I just have a feeling that you are really going to dig this” and he gave me this cigar box guitar. I was blown away! I had never seen anything like it. I had always been a pretty traditional guitar player and I just sat there immediately and started plucking away at it. I just fell in love with it.

What is it about it that attracts you?

I don’t know, I think just… visually – it is so unique – there’s no doubt about that. And when you play it the tonality of it is so Americana and I really dig that aspect of it. The guitar is such a standardized thing – you have a certain body style and neck radius and number of frets- and this kinda’ breaks all the rules.

From what I am hearing, that seems to be a large part of the appeal….

It’s cool – especially with getting down to 3 or 4 strings. It really makes you think differently, melodically, and I found that you can pop on the top string with your thumb and hold the base line while you get melodic with the other strings – it’s a cool approach.

It offers something a little different – a little new…

Definitely.

I would be curious to know your opinion – what do you attribute this renewed interest in the cigar box guitar?

I don’t know what to attribute it to, really, because the dynamic of people being attracted to something is so fleeting – people are fickle, you know – it’s one thing and then it’s on to the next. For me, I would think that the simplicity of the instrument and the unique look definitely draw people in. Once you play it- the different vibes that it embodies are definitely astounding – it can bluesy, it can be country, it can be swampy, it can be classical and that is pretty cool.

That’s amazing for one instrument.

Yes. Obviously, the guitar can be all of those things too but typically, when you have a brother or a sister of a guitar…let’s talk about mandolin, let’s talk about banjo, those instruments pretty much lean into one venue of music whether its bluegrass with a banjo, or folk music with a mandolin. The cigar box guitar crosses all genres and when I held it I fell in love with it right there. Later that night I was talking to my girlfriend on Skype – I was on tour in 7 cities-and I just wanted to show her the guitar because I was so jazzed about it. I literally wrote a tune on the spot as a lullaby to put her to sleep and it’s crazy how that song has become a fan favorite. It’s going to be on the next album. The cigar box guitar instantly inspired me to do something that I would have never done which is write a lullaby! Rockers don’t write lullabies! (Laughing) But- personal reasons aside- musically, and on an esthetic level, I was so pleased to be able to do something as simple as a lullaby. And to actually have it be something personal and poignant is cool but to also have it as worthy to put on an album or worthy to pull this out and play on the stage live and get such a crazy response has been a win, win. When I pull the cigar box guitar out you can hear the cat calls from the crowd – “what is that thing?” It’s absolutely a joy to play.

It is inspiring then?

Definitely, definitely! The fan that gave me the guitar put me in touch with its creator, Travis Woodall, and strangely enough Travis’ Uncle was really great friends with my Dad who obviously has been a musician for a long, long time in the Allman Brothers. So it was cool to make contact with Travis and know that our families were connected 30 years ago when we were kids!

There’s a lot to be said for serendipity!

The guy that was stuffing those boxes over in Honduras or over in Cuba 30 years ago -how would he know that this box would become an instrument that would bridge two families and inspire a song- that’s crazy! It’s just cool. The cigar box guitar phenomena –is very much under the radar. But I think that it is just healthy for music you know, it’s doing something a little bit different – it’s shaking things up- and that’s how I feel when I pull it out live and people go “holy cow what it is this thing?”

Maybe people are searching for something new and different- it gives you that little sense of awe because you don’t know what it is or what it can do…

The first time I ever saw one was on Beale Street in Memphis. There was a street performer out there – he is actually kind of known as the most popular street performer in the world – Richard Johnston. BI saw him sitting on the side of the street on Beale Street with a cigar box guitar with 2 or 3 strings – I can’t remember – and he had a kick drum that he worked with his right foot and a snare drum that he worked with his left foot. His thumb was working the base string and his fingers were working the melody and he had a microphone and he’s singing. He was drums, base, guitar, and vocal – a one man band! He was absolutely killing it – he must have had 100 people in a circle around him and he had these huge, these comically huge, cowboy boots that he was using as a tip jar -they were like size 15 and looked like they belonged to Kareem Abdul Jabir!  People were pulling out 20 dollar bills, 10 dollar bills – I know this guy was sitting on a grand right there and it was all because, well… number one because he kicked ass and number two because it was such a unique display! That was my first ever encounter with cigar box madness and it stuck with me.

That would leave an impression!

Richard is a great guy. He’s a monster. You know – people from Japan pay him to go over there and do the exact same street show in Tokyo. I played with him a few years ago and we’ve been text buddies ever since – he’s a great performer.

Have you built, or do you intend to build, your own?

You know, funny enough, once this fan had introduced me to Travis we just got along famously, instantly. I told him -dude it would be neat to have a double neck! He came to a show and brought me a different one – I had a 3 string and he brought me a 4 string and when I started plucking away at it I said “wow, this is an ENTIRELY different sound than the 3 string!” The 3 string was more swampy – more like a base and the 4 string was more like – I don’t even know- more of a twangy – I got more of a Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page kind of vibe out of it – so I thought it would be so awesome to have both of those sounds on one guitar – what about a double neck -3 strings on one neck and 4 on the other? He made it in a month.

And how is it?

It’s a monster! Travis is really, really good in creating these instruments – they are not shoddy in any way. They don’t fuzz out or fret out. He installs the electronics perfectly– when you plug it in it sounds great and that’s the thing. One thing I was really concerned about once I plugged it onto my amp was- how was it going to sound true- how it does it sound acoustically and would there be feedback problems- which there wasn’t.

For something that‘s kind of “kitschy” -like a cigar box guitar- that may not play or sound as well; that’s more just kind of a novelty than an actual playable instrument – it kills! It’s really, really good! I foresaw writing some material on the 4 string and then I started thinking for the live show -it would kind of suck to pull out the 3 string and play the lullaby and then go to the 4 string and play something else – it would be neat if it was all in one.

And without rules it can all be accomplished – you just have to ask!

He was really great and I think his company has a really bright future – it’s nice when someone like Travis has it together that young and can stay under the auspices of his own creation – if he sold out to some company tomorrow they could easily drag the quality down.

And the fact that he is an artist creating something and therefore putting a piece of himself, his soul, into it there is an intimate connection that raises the value not just in terms of money but as in what has been created.

Absolutely, because you are making art on this piece of art. When you mass produce it you lose that soul. It’s like if you go to a store and you buy a thousand dollar Gibson Les Paul- yeah, it’s a nice guitar but if you buy the $5,000 custom shop -you’re not just paying for the name “Custom Shop” – you are paying for the guys who take the time, use the finest material and instead of cranking out 500 guitars in a factory that day – they maybe cranked out 5. And that attention to detail is what gets lost when these companies get big. That is my wish for him – that as he grows he keeps that personal touch.

When I was talking to Travis about the resurgence in popularity of the cigar box guitar he talked about how people turn to music no matter what the hardship is they are facing and that this instrument is a bridge for people who have always wanted to play but felt they couldn’t or couldn’t afford to. So it becomes that accessible instrument that anyone, really ANYONE, can hang on to –if they want to produce a little bit of music in their backyard.

It’s true. Somebody picks up a guitar for the first time – if it only has three strings – it’s a little less intimidating. You can kind of pluck away at it without thinking what should I do with all these other strings?

When you pick up the cigar box guitar what does it do for you?

It’s something different. If I had to give it a really lame analogy- it’s like if you already drove a really great car- say you drove a really nice Cadillac every day – you love it, you’re used to it, you’re comfortable in it but then you get to go off road in a really cool jeep – it’s a completely different feeling. Well, that’s how it is grabbing the cigar box guitar- it’s just kind of… there’s no rules… it’s a nice diversion.

So getting back to my earlier question…would you ever build one yourself?

You mean physically, with my own hands? (Laughing) Oh no, no, no, I don’t build them -I just play them! I’ll leave that to Travis!

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Fresh Biscuits! New Releases For October 14, 2014

Alright, finally a week with some blues new releases. Over the last few weeks new releases of blues have been all but barren. This week however offers a basket full of hot biscuits. Devon Allman’s second solo album debuts this week. You can find our review here. This week is a guitar lover’s dream with a hot collection of Jimmy Thackery’s work on Blind Pig, Chris Duarte’s Lucky 13, a new Popa Chubby disc, and the US release of European sensation Erja Lyytinen’s new set.

Beyond the scorching guitars we have new music from JW Jones, plus dUg Pinnick of King’s X has a new Blues project out called Grinder Blues and NOLA supergroup New Orleans Suspects unleashes their new effort.

 

Popa Chubby

Popa Chubby I’m Feelin’ Lucky – The Blues According To Popa Chubby

Chris Duarte Group

Chris Duarte Group Lucky 13

New Orleans Suspects

New Orleans Suspects Ouroboros

JW Jones

JW Jones Belmont Boulevard

Jimmy Thackery

Jimmy Thackery Extra Jimmies

Grinder Blues

Grinder Blues Grinder Blues

Erja Lyytinen

Erja Lyytinen Sky Is Crying

Devon Allman

Devon Allman Ragged & Dirty

Fresh Biscuits! Friday Fast Five CD Reviews September 26, 2014

Well friends, I managed to get back on track with the five reviews for this week even though I missed Hump Day. Somehow the Fast Five turned in to a guitar love-fest. We’ve got Devon Allman, Joe Bonamassa, Gary Moore, and Gary Clark Jr. We also have Mississippi Heat whose new disc has plenty of terrific guitar playing too.

This edition also marks the first time most of the reviews feature albums released during the same week. How do you like that? Fresh biscuits indeed! As always, I hope you find something new and interesting for your ears…

 

DevonAllmanRaggedAndDirtyDevon Allman

Ragged & Dirty

Ruf Records

Release Date October 14, 2014

 

Devon Allman has been a busy man for the last few years. He wound down Honeytribe with Space Age Blues, recorded two studio albums and a live set with Royal Southern Brotherhood, and released Turquoise, the first disc under his own name. In October Devon will release his second solo album Ragged & Dirty. Devon chose to record the new album in Chicago and brought in Blues Producer Extraordinaire Tom Hambridge work on the disc. Hambridge pulls triple duty adding drummer and songwriter to his credits on the album. The core band on the project is rounded out by Felton Crews on bass, Giles Cory on guitar and Marty Sammon on keyboards. Together they put together a moody, surging disc that rivals anything out there today.

Ragged & Dirty is a bit of a misnomer though. I was a little disappointed at first. To me a ragged and dirty Chicago blues album is Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers. That’s ragged and dirty and oh so glorious. Devon Allman’s Ragged & Dirty is syrupy sweet by comparison. But the songs are so damned good! While Turquoise was a solid effort, it was more of a singer/songwriter album. Ragged & Dirty is a fully realized blues rock record and plays to all of Devon Allman’s strengths. Gritty stomper “Half The Truth” opens the disc with a forceful punch. Your appetite for R&B gets a feast on a tremendous cover of “The Spinners’ I’ll Be Around” and Otis Taylor’s “Ten Million Slaves” seems Taylor-made for Allman’s powerful voice, which seems even more emotive with female background accompaniment.

The centerpiece of Ragged & Dirty is a sprawling nine and a half minute instrumental called “Midnight Lake Michigan.” It burns with intensity hot enough to light Lake Shore Drive from dusk ‘til dawn. Devon also tips his hat to Windy City blues heritage with the title track, Luther Allison’s “Ragged & Dirty.” Allman’s own songs fit perfectly into the mix especially the funky “Blackjack Heartattack” which Devon delivers with a menacing vocal and snarling guitar licks. It segues into his smoldering blues called “Back To You.” His guitar chops have been honed by years of touring and dueling with Mike Zito in Royal Southern Brotherhood and it shows. He’s in great voice on Ragged & Dirty also, and delivers “Back To You” with a heavy weariness lesser singers could never conjure.

After about 45 minutes of intense blues rock, Devon closes the disc with an acoustic based balled reminiscent of “Left My Heart In Memphis” and “Turn Off The World.” It’s a great way to come down from what sounds like a high energy club set at Kingston Mines. Devon Allman has had the talent but recently he has honed his abilities and sensibilities and has come up with the best music of his already long career. I guess I’ll have to forgive him for it not being as ragged and dirty as I expected. I love it anyway.

 

JoeBonamassaDifferentShadesOfBlueJoe Bonamassa

Different Shades Of Blue

J&R Adventures

Released on September 23, 2014

 

Joe Bonamassa kicked off his solo career in 2000 with A New Day Yesterday. The title of his first album, in hindsight, reveals not just a tribute to Jethro Tull, but a mission statement for a career that continuously looks backward while firmly staking territory in the future. The music is not the only old-school influence on Joe Bonamassa. The old work ethic of making records frequently has rubbed off on him and he has compiled a lengthy discography in the last 14 years. In the liner notes Joe mentions that it’s been two years since his last solo studio album and that much has happened. He says he’s closed the first book of his career and Different Shades Of Blue is the first chapter in the new book. Maybe he’ll be taking it slower. He hints at enjoying the fruits of his intense labors and avoiding the blur.

Different Shades Of Blue opens with a short instrumental tribute to Jimi Hendrix’ with “Hey Baby (New Rising Sun).” Joe lists the gear used on the album but leaves you to figure which vintage Strat he used for this short but sweet tip ‘o the hat. “Oh Beautiful!” follows, with a heavy riff that would have made a perfect Black Country Communion track. As it is, Joe and the band tear into with gusto and leave you wondering Black what? The recent single, “I Gave Up Everything For You, ‘Cept The Blues” is a blues rock interpretation of the classic Elmore James shuffle. From the title it seems like it might not sing well, but Joe has become quite a vocalist and put the emphasis in exactly the right spots and they seem so obvious, you’ll be singing along in no time. The title track opens with a melancholy, descending acoustic riff with mournful electric wailing over it. The chorus has harmony vocals that elevate the spirit of the song with a brave defiance that sees you through the “Different Shades Of Blue.” The song is capped by a full on Bonamassa solo full of strings bent to Hell and rapid fire notes raining down like Armageddon.

You don’t get a lot of surprises with Different Shades Of Blue but that’s not a bad thing. The songs are well developed, keep you interested, and sound crisp. There are meaty riffs and blinding solos. Joe Bonamassa has never denied his love of 70’s Blues Rock and he carries the torch with pride. Why not? He plays the bejesus out of it and sings it more and more like Paul Rodgers as the years go by. Joe is not a one trick pony however, and this album showcases all his loves from Chicago Blues to electric folk tunes and smoky jazz piano balladry. Bonamassa has his share of detractors and I think a lot of them just don’t want to like his music. I think they see him as generic, but they just aren’t going deep enough. Joe Bonamassa is a lasting talent who has conducted himself with professionalism missing from many people his age, he has an enthusiasm for music that is tangible and the will to share Different Shades Of Blues with the masses.

 

GaryClarkJrLiveGary Clark Jr.

Live

Warner Brothers

Released September 23, 2014

 

Gary Clark Jr. seemed to come out of nowhere around 2011 with his EP on Warner Brothers but as is often the case, no one arrives fully formed. The 30 year old Clark got his start, like many Texas blues players, with some help from Austin legend Clifford Antone. He’s had some independent releases and made his major label debut on Warner Brothers late in 2010 with The Bright Lights EP. His Blak And Blu album really put him on the map and he’s been riding a wave of big name recognition ever since. His live shows with his powerhouse band are not to be missed but in case you haven’t made it, or just want to relive it, there’s the new album Gary Clark Jr. Live.

The set opens with a dense, murky take on “Catfish Blues.” This fish is swimming in filthy pond of Robin Trower residue from 1973. It’s terrific. Clark even sounds a little bit like James Dewar, Trower’s vocalist from long ago. There’s all sorts of garage blues on this Live set though, from the stomp of “Next Door Neighbor Blues,” Memphis late nite “3 O’Clock Blues,” and a pair of Albert Collins jams including “If Trouble Was Money” and “If You Love Me Like You Say.” Little Johnny Taylor probably never expected his tune to be bookended by “Third Stone From The Sun” but it works pretty well. Let’s call it a glorious juxtaposition!

We’re covering some intense guitar playing this week and Gary Clark Jr. Live may be the most intense. Second guitarist King Zapata and Gary Clark Jr. send each other soaring higher with shocking regularity. The guitar tones are angry, and aggressive, and sweet, and soothing. There’s a density of sound that two guitars, bass, and drums rarely achieve without sacrificing clarity. Yet, they do it and they do it well. “Third Stone From The Sun” has the sound of a bulldozer gleefully destroying your house and “Bright Lights” is the dance they do around the fire they just started with its remains. It’s malevolently magnificent music making.

Gary Clark Jr. Live transcends blues, roots, soul, and rock. Gary Clark Jr. says it’s all soul music. He certainly seems to pour his soul into making it and the band, featuring Zapata, bassist Johnny Bradley, and drummer Johnny Radelat, are right there with him, giving their all for the higher power of music. Together they leave it all on the stage. With the energy level captured on this live disc, I don’t know how they do it night after night but I’m glad they do.

 

MississippiHeatWarningShotMississippi Heat

Warning Shot

Delmark

Released September 23, 2014

 

Led by harmonica master Pierre Lacocque and fronted by vocalist Inetta Visor, Mississippi Heat has become one of the most consistently excellent bands in recent memory. Based in Chicago, they have their finger on the pulse of Big City Blues. They deftly handle all styles of Blues and do so with integrity, honesty, and a convincing authority. Warning Shot, on Delmark, is the band’s latest release. It’s out now on CD and will soon be available on vinyl.

Pierre Lacocque blows a mean harp and his flourishes are all over the disc. He’s also the principal songwriter for the band and he has conjured several excellent tunes for the new disc. Warning Shot kicks into high gear immediately with an Elmore James style boogie called “Sweet Poison.” I like the lyrical touches in ‘Sweet Poison” and duality of enjoying the thing that’s dangerous to you. It’s not an entirely new way to phrase it, but it flows in the song and it’s a sentiment everyone can relate to. In many ways, the song encapsulates what’s great about Mississippi Heat. They play familiar music with new twists and remain approachable to listeners. “Come To Mama” has Latin percussion and a Cuban beat, conjuring images of the band leading a dancing audience up and down Rush Street. “Swingy Dingy” is a rockin’ Chicago shuffle, “Too Sad To Wipe My Tears” is a dose of low down back porch blues, and the title track “Warning Shot” is an uptown swing number complete with big background vocals, a horn section, and some hot guitar playing from Carl Weathersby.

Michael Dotson, formerly of Magic Slim & The Teardrops, provides plenty of stellar guitar licks and keeps the band grounded in Chicago Blues territory. He takes lead vocal on a few tracks including the Mississippi Hill Country via Chicago heart-pounder “Yeah Now Baby.” He also rips it up in festive style on the Latin-style “Happy Birthday” which also features percussionist Ruben Alvarez. Vocalist Inetta Visor is a consummate singer and puts her stamp on every song, as if she wrote them herself, which is a testament to her talent and vision as part of Mississippi Heat.

Mississippi Heat have a dedicated following in the Blues community and Warning Shot is might be the one that breaks them open to a wider audience. They captured the raucous spirit of a live show and showcased their ability to meld their influences into a cohesive sound of their own. The mix of instruments and shared lead vocals keep everything from sounding the same and holds your interest over the course of 64 minutes. Warning Shot is an impressive album with something for just about any blues fan.

 

GaryMooreLiveAtBushHall2007Gary Moore

Live At Bush Hall 2007

Eagle Rock

Released September 23, 2014

 

When the world lost Gary Moore on February 6, 2011 it lost a major musical force. Gary was one of the much maligned Rock & Roll ex-patriots the Blues purists love to hate, but Gary was accepted by two Kings of the Blues and the Master of the Telecaster, all of whom were guests on his records, and stages around the world. Gary truly appreciated the music and those who made it before he did. He was always respectful of the art form and played it with his usual individuality. Freedom of expression has always been a hallmark of blues and roots music and Gary managed to forge a blues sound of his own. His blues were never more dynamic than in the live setting and the proof is in the new album Live At Bush Hall 2007.

This show, recorded on May 17, 2007 at London’s picturesque 400-person capacity Bush Hall, was originally broadcast by Planet Rock radio. Gary had just released Close As You Get This and to promote it, he worked with Planet Rock to give away tickets for this intimate show. This CD release marks the first time the complete show has been available since its original broadcast. The concert features a handful of tunes from Close As You Get such as “Eyesight To The Blind” and “If The Devil Made Whiskey,” which he rarely played live afterward. For all his storied guitar histrionics Moore was able to bring it down and deliver beautifully delicate songs like “I Had A Dream” and “Still Got The Blues.” “I Had A Dream” is a master class in playing for the song and keeping the melody in mind while soloing.

Gary Moore also tips his hat to his blues mentors with a contrarily energetic version of Albert Collins’ “Too Tired,” a snarling “Walking By Myself,” and a nine minute romp through Little Milton’s “Blues Is Alright.” For the Thin Lizzy faithful, Moore plays a blistering “Don’t Believe A Word.” Gary Moore was a musician like Johnny Winter, in the sense that he could come out and play anything and hold the audience captive. It wasn’t about hits. It was about great songs, exciting playing, and engaging the crowd. The music world lost a unique and talented player when Gary Moore died. Luckily, through his albums and archival live releases like Live At Bush Hall 2007, we can continue to appreciate the genius of his craft.

Fresh Biscuits! | Royal Southern Brotherhood – heartsoulblood

heartsoulbloodThe new RSB CD heartsoulblood is out today. These guys keep getting better and better,  and they’re prolific too! Since the debut they have put out a live CD/DVD, and Devon Allman, Cyril Neville, Yonrico Scott, and Mike Zito have all put out superb albums of their own, plus, most of the band played on Black Wind Howlin’ – the new Samantha Fish CD. Let’s give bassist extraordinaire Charlie Wooten some love too. He is a master musician.