It’s been a while since I had the time to post reviews and I apologize for that. Blues Biscuits is a labor of love but it’s a one man operation and sometimes this one man is spread a little too thin. Circumstances conspired to keep me from writing much but I never stopped listening. I get a tremendous amount of new Blues to go through and review. I appreciate the work it takes, especially in this modern music industry, to get a CD together and actually make and distribute it. I like to give the music more than one listen before forming an opinion. Some of my favorite albums took time to grow on me and I often find those to be the most enjoyable. Based on that experience I feel I should give the artists and their music time to sink in and see if my first impressions were accurate. I want to give them a fair shake.
Since my summer was a bit of a wash out and early fall has been hectic, I have quite a stock pile of CDs to go through. I had a few in mind to review and others I picked mostly because of the covers. I’ve said many times that covers are important. Don’t short change your music, your passion, your life’s work, with a lousy album cover. Anyway, I’ve changed up the format of the reviews a little bit to streamline them so I can cover as much ground as possible and still give these artists the attention they deserve.
Victor Wainwright & The WildRoots have served up one of the best of 2015 with Boom Town. If your brain can’t have fun on Boom Town, the drugs will never help. During “Two Lane Blacktop Revisited” Victor shouts “let’s put this thing on two wheels!” and you know that turn is coming way too fast and it’s gonna be wild. Boom Town is train robbery music. It is Old West saloon blues and the soundtrack to the James Gang’s bank heist highlights reel. Yes, it’s criminal. This may well be the devil’s music. By the time you get to “Wildroot Rumble” you’re cheering them on as you boogie around the house, banging on the air pianner and looking for your six-guns. The rumble is exactly what it says. The band engages in all-in, no holds barred shootout at the Boom Town Corral, delivering a non-stop high energy jam that slaps your damned mouth as it hangs slack-jawed at glory of the album you just experienced. It is bodacious. Saddle up and ride off into the sunset, this thing is over.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Two Lane Blacktop Revisited, Saturday Night Sunday Morning, Wildroot Rumble, Boom Town, If It Ain’t Got Soul – Part 1
When I first saw and heard Eden Brent I was stunned that such a powerful and dynamic sound was being generated by the small frame person behind the keyboard. I had no idea she had been nicknamed “Little Boogaloo” by her mentor Boogaloo Ames, but damn if it isn’t perfect. She is a revered writer and has earned eleven Blues Music Award nominations since 2009. Her voice has power and her playing runs from sullen to bombastic in a turn of a chorus. It’s wonderful. Yet somehow I missed her latest album Jigsaw Heart when it came out last year and I now lament the time I’ve spent without it. While there are examples of rollicking boogie wherein Brent showcases her finger-pumping chops, much of Jigsaw Heart straddles the fence between Country and Blues. There is a twang in the songs and palpable pain. Eden delivers the words with all the emotion they imply and we couldn’t ask more from her. There is unreleased tension in many of these songs. I don’t know if it’s by design or happenstance but I suspect she did it on purpose. Sometimes the song goes right up to the line, refusing to play that one last chord that will thrust away the pain. Instead the songs soak in the heartbreak, absorb it, and turn it on itself. This is melancholy blues at its sultry best.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Jigsaw Heart, Tendin’ To A Broken Heart, Better This Way, Everybody Already Knows, Locomotive
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats were big in Memphis in 1950, Chicago in ‘55, Detroit in ‘65, Philly for the Bicentennial, and New Orleans since France held the deed. This is music that exists outside time. 2075 will be a great year to hear this album. I haven’t been this excited by a record in years. I feel it in my bones and it makes me want to dance. I never want to dance. Rateliff is a folkie singer/songwriter/guitarist who fell in with a bunch of musicians who seem to unconsciously know exactly what to play. They are in the pocket, deep in a groove, and making you move. The tones are vintage, the beats are irresistible, and the lyrics will sear your heart with pain as you tap your foot, shake your hips, and cry out “Somebody get me a god damned drink!” Their music is not necessarily Blues but it shares more with Howlin’ Wolf and Little Milton than most of the Blues you heard at every festival this year. They play Soul and R&B as it was when Aretha Franklin was young. Nathaniel Rateliff’s voice tingles the spine and the brilliant arrangements highlight strength upon strength making the complex seem simple and memorable. They are best known for the Gospel infused hit “S.O.B.” but it’s not the best song on the album. I can’t even pick a best – I love everything about this album. It will be difficult to follow up this modern masterpiece and if they never do I just don’t care. I’ll still have this sweaty, greasy, bristling, bulging, and beautiful album, and I’ll listen to it until the day I die.
STANDOUT TRACKS: all of Side One, most of Side Two.
Lara Price was born and sadly, abandoned in Vietnam in 1975 but was rescued by Operation Baby Lift. She discovered music at the age of six and took piano lessons from Howard Jones. She eventually began to sing and has been perfecting her craft ever since, becoming a fixture of the San Francisco Bay music scene. Lara has been picked up by Vizztone and her new album I Mean Business is out soon. The new album has a classic 70s vibe with punchy horns, surging guitars, and simmering keyboards pulsating behind the sultry songstress. Lara has many musical irons in the fire, performing Folk music, Pop/Rock, Blues and more, keeping her schedule full and her chops sharp. She brings lessons of those other genres and bands to bear on her new album and it shows in the exemplary songwriting and arrangements. She brought in guests Jim Pugh, Chris Cain, and Mighty Mike Schermer to round out her usual group of cohorts. Lara Price co-wrote several of the songs on I Mean Business, and together with producer Kid Anderson, captured a modern take on classic Soul and R&B. This isn’t Beyonce’s Rhythm & Blues and we’re all better for it.
STANDOUT TRACKS: I Get It When I Want It, Undone, I Mean Business
Crooked Eye Tommy are the brainchild of Tommy and Paddy Marsh and arrived on the scene in 2013. Their debut album Butterflies & Snakes comes on like swampy North Florida Skynyrd Style Blues. It’s played by Southern California guys and it all makes perfect sense. There are slinky slide guitars, arpeggio riffs, spot-on vocal harmonies, and Latinesque grooves that mix perfectly. Crooked Eye Tommy is another example of a band that isn’t necessarily Blues but gets categorized under the rapidly expanding Blues Big Top. It’s okay. We welcome them in, point them to the stage and say show us what ya got. They got it. And Butterflies & Snakes proves it. Crooked Eye Tommy pull together a variety of influences and make music that will make you shake your hips slowly through a sultry summer night. The guitars simmer, Jimmy Calire’s sax is seductively soothing, and the vocals keep you in the moment. There’s a unifying thread holding all the disparate influences together and it seems to be that it is Crooked Eye Tommy are skilled musicians who care about making quality music that isn’t stale, repetitive, or cliché. Their first CD, Butterflies & Snakes, is a terrific introduction to a band ready to break out of Southern California and bring their brand of Blues and Roots music to the masses.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Come On In, I Stole The Blues, Mad And Disgusted, Over And Over
Keyboard maestro Bob Malone has issued a new album called Mojo Deluxe. From the cover to the music, this record is witty, tough and retro. There are real instruments, boys and girls, and plenty of Mojo. Bob’s keyboard chops are in fine form but this is not just an occasion show off. The songs are potent, memorable and well-crafted. It makes me wonder if Mr. Malone’s time playing in John Fogerty’s band has influenced his songwriting. You can’t play three minute masterworks every night without having them seep into your psyche. Whatever the source of the Mojo, Malone has made a fun record with a somehow timeless feel. From strong vocals, gritty guitars, and swirling keyboards there is something for all Blues fans on Mojo Deluxe. Stan Behrens plays the Hell out of the harmonica on Mojo Deluxe and is a highlight of every song he’s on. Kudos must be given for listing the keyboards used in the liner notes. He played an old upright piano, a Wurlitzer, and more. These instruments make all the difference in the music and it’s great to know what he used on a particular tune. Malone is definitely not a synthesizer guy and I thank him from the bottom of my heart.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Certain Distance, Looking For The Blues, Rage & Cigarettes, Don’t Threaten Me (With A Good Time), Chinese Algebra
Big, fat, fiery, and funky. That’s the Spirit Of The Blues as presented by Christian Collin, Chicago based blueslinger who recently released his latest disc. When I see guys in hats wielding Strats I immediately suspect them of being SRV cloning disasters. Based on Collin’s music on Spirit Of The Blues I can safely say he just likes hats. And Strats. But the tunes are all over the Blues map. He does touch down at D/FW once in a while but he lands at O’Hare too and takes a few wild rides down Highway 41. Like Stevie Ray, Christian gives credit to his influences and name checks a few like Lightnin’ Hopkins here and there. He knows where he comes from and instead of copying, he integrates and makes something fresh with old ingredients. His singing inflection calls to mind Johnny Winter, but his voice reminds me of Johnny Van Zant from Lynyrd Skynyrd. Yes, Johnny. And that’s fine with me. If Skynyrd made records like Spirit Of The Blues they wouldn’t be out flogging their past every summer. Collin however is up and coming and we need to keep an eye on him. He crafts solos skillfully and with purpose and his songs are adeptly arranged. He lets them breathe.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Blues For You, Dead Man Walking, Only You, Old 109
As I mentioned above, I picked a few CDs from the stack based on their covers. I don’t even know where this CD came from and I can’t find the info sheet that comes with most arrivals. I never heard of Ken Tucker and still know almost nothing about him. I think Ken Tucker’s cover subliminally reminded me of Roy Buchanan. I didn’t expect him to sound like Roy but I figured it would be something I liked. Well damn if I wasn’t right again. This band is probably dynamite live. Look My Way has a live feel even with the guitar overdubs. The band is a three piece and they boogie hard, rock out, and roll through the blues like a jack-knifed 18 wheeler on I-95. Tucker lacks a distinct vocal quality and I suspect that like many guitar players he chose to do it himself instead of dealing with Lead Singer Syndrome. However, the trio’s jams are the key to their success and they win the day every time. They are a tight band but loose enough to follow Ken Tucker wherever he takes these tunes. Look My Way isn’t going to change the world but it lights it on fire real nice for 50 minutes or so.
STANDOUT TRACKS: What I Need, Best Bad Habit, Brother Whiskey Sister Nicotine
You can get a taste of these fine albums by checking out our playlist on Spotify. Thanks for checking out this and our playlists. They are a great way to hear new music and revisit some classics, but please keep in mind that artists get very little money from streaming media. If you hear something you like, please buy it and support the artists.