Archives

Todd Wolfe Band Live Show Review – 2nd Story Blues

ToddWolfeBand201510022ndStory-1Todd Wolfe is not a household name, except maybe at his house. He’s never sold a million records under his own name, but he’s played on a few million sellers by others including old band mate Sheryl Crow. He’s opened shows for his musical heroes and he’s shared the stage with some as well. He plays the blues, but he likes to rock out. If this was 1972 he’d probably be mentioned in the same breath as many of his heroes like Leslie West and Eric Clapton. His writing and playing are imaginative, dynamic, and underrated. In an age of iPods, BitTorrents, Kimyes, Lady Ga Gas, and radio goo-goos, Todd Wolfe has gone largely un-noticed by the masses. Maybe that’s a good thing. Todd Wolfe continues to put out honest, heartfelt roots and blues music on his own terms. He works hard, traveling the world with his band to spread his self-described “Bluesadelic” musical vision.

Like all blues related music, Todd’s often gives a nod to the past. The overall sound of the band is reminiscent of Cream, Mountain, Rory Gallagher, and even the Son Seals Blues Band of the mid to late 70’s. Todd’s sound is raw, energetic, and pure. His vocals are gritty, gutsy, and occasionally gruff. His lyrics draw on his life experiences and his innate sense of song-craft makes every tune memorable. He is adept at slide guitar, and is as comfortable with only an acoustic guitar as he is at maximum volume fronting his powerhouse band featuring Justine Gardner on bass and Roger Voss on drums.

ToddWolfeBand201510022ndStory-2Last week we had the opportunity to catch Todd Wolfe Band in the initial phase of their tour celebrating the release of their phenomenal new album Long Road Back. The show was presented by 2nd Story Blues Alliance, an organization supporting Blues and musicians in the Lehigh Valley region of eastern Pennsylvania. 2nd Story brings in national blues acts to the Epic Center in Fountain Hill, PA right next door to Bethlehem. Todd Wolfe was a long time fixture of the Lehigh Valley and the local audience was enthusiastic. Todd brought along Hammond B3 and all around keyboard wizard John Ginty, who played on and co-produced Long Road Back, plus local favorite Sarah Ayers to sing on a pair of tunes. The result was two sets of incredibly dynamic music featuring jams that pressed to the edge of the cliff and almost fell off. It was wonderful to hear and mesmerizing to watch.

Armed with a handful of guitars and a single Marshall amp, Todd immediately proved his mastery of classic riff creation leading the band through several new tracks from the new album Long Road Back. The music covered a lot of stylistic ground and John Ginty on keyboard made this formidable trio an even more powerful quartet. One of my favorite moments was the performance of the atmospheric album closer “Hoodoo River.” When I first heard this song, I thought it was missing something but I liked it anyway. The missing piece must have been my fault because it has since become one of my favorite Todd Wolfe Band tunes. It is an instrumental track wherein the second theme never seems to resolve and I have come to believe that is exactly the point of it. The keyboard and guitar jams made this tune levitate and Voss and Gardner formed a well-oiled groove machine. It was perfectly unresolved and exquisitely performed.

ToddWolfeBand201510022ndStory-3Justine Gardner and Roger Voss play telepathically and the petite Gardner makes a rumble exponentially bigger than the figure she cuts. The whole band gets deep into the music and plays toward each other much of the time. You definitely get a bird’s eye view as these talented musicians create music on the fly that they want to make, and would be making whether you were there or not. It is honest and in the moment. Their energy draws you in and the quality of the songs keeps you there. Whether it’s “Miles To Go” or “Day By Day” from the last album, or a new rocker like “One Shot,” the brisk stomp of “Sunnyvale,” the Fusion-Blues of Ginty’s “Peanut Butter,” a primal and thunderous re-imagining of Stephen Stills’ “Black Queen,” or the maximum R&B of Sarah Ayers singing “Mercy” the band went from highlight to highlight. If you miss Todd Wolfe Band live you’re missing some of the best musicians out there making music with integrity and imagination every time they take the stage.

For more pictures from the show, check out our Facebook page.

Just in case you aren’t familiar with Todd’s work, I put together a Todd Wolfe Primer playlist. Remember, Spotify is great to find new music but the artists get very little from any streaming service. If you enjoy what you hear, buy the CD or digital album. Supporting the artists is the only way to ensure you get to hear more from them in the future.

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases July 17, 2015

As of July 10, 2015, the day for new releases in the US has been changed to Friday to match the international new releases day. This rare instance of worldwide uniformity may help cut down pirating and will make music available at all outlets at the same time.

There have only been a few new releases from the world of Blues recently so here we present what has since the release day change on July 10. The list is eclectic and includes the third disc from the incredible Samantha Fish who is quickly rising through the ranks of blues musicians with her dynamic guitar playing, powerful voice, engaging songs, and authoritative stage presence. Lately she’s been incorporating cigar box and gas can guitars, adding a rustic rumble to many of her songs. Her slide playing is getting better all the time and she rips it up on the new disc Wild Heart.

Hammond B-3 wizard John Ginty is back with a strong new disc called No Filter. The title might allude to the fact there’s no filter when it comes to expressing himself musically. There is plenty of Blues on No Filter, but John takes listeners on trip around the musical solar system and stops at just about every planet. It’s another wonderful platter from this master keyboard player.

You may know Barry Levenson from his stint in Canned Heat, but Barry’s playing and writing extends far beyond the 15 minute boogie madness of the Heat. Barry is into old school tones and tunes and he concocts masterful musical excursions which perfectly suit his tasteful, sometimes delicate and always melodic playing. He plays things you wish you could play. Well I wish that, anyway. Make some time for The Visit and be prepared to pay attention while you sit back and listen to this sublime offering from a true master.

Speaking of master guitarists, Ronnie Earl returns with another celestial album. This time out, Ronnie’s already heavenly blues goes one step further into the universe with the addition of vocalist Michael Ledbetter from the Nick Moss Band on most of the album. The pair co-wrote the moving title track “Father’s Day,” a soul searching song of peace and forgiveness. The whole album carries a peaceful feeling and Mr. Earl’s playing is beguiling, spine tingling, and brilliant.

Beyond the big hitters is some interesting stuff like Blinddog Smokin’ and their funky High Steppin’John Lisi’s eccentric Shut The Front Door, and Erja Lyytinen’s powerful Live In London. That’s it for now. I hope you find something interesting for your ears.

 

Samantha Fish

Samantha Fish Wild Heart

Ronnie Earl

Ronnie Earl Father’s Day

John Ginty

John Ginty No Filter

Barry Levenson

Barry Levenson The Visit

Erja Lyytinen

Erja Lyytinen Live In London

Blinddog Smokin'

Blinddog Smokin’ High Steppin’

John Lisi

John Lisi Shut the Front Door

If you’d like to sample the music on these new releases, check out our Spotify playlist. If you don’t have a Spotify account, you can listen right here through our website.

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.

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases For January 13, 2015

Well, the long winter break is over, the Holidays have passed, the eggnog bottles are empty and the credit card bills are coming in, but the new releases are popping back up. Hopefully you saved a few bucks to treat yourself to some hot new music this winter.

There wasn’t much in the Blues genre in the during the waning days of 2014, but now, in the second full week of 2015, there is a pretty good line-up of new Blues to start us off. There’s a new live album from John Ginty. This guy is an incredible keyboard player and has played on countless sessions. You may have heard his solo stuff on B.B. King’s Bluesville on Sirius/XM or heard him as part of Robert Randolph And The Family Band, of which he was a founding member.

The new Johnny Winter set brings together highlights from the Bootleg Series, a CD version of the Record Store Day vinyl release “Live Bootleg Special Edition” which is also a compilation of Bootleg Series tracks, and a third disc of rarities. The press release doesn’t say if the “rarities” are previously unreleased, except for two tracks they mention. If you’re not familiar with the Bootleg Series, this looks like a great place to jump in. If you have them all, it looks like a retread of stuff you already bought. I’d like more info on the third disc before I decide to buy it.

We hope you find something good in this week’s new releases to get your new year of Blues off to a great start.

Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter Remembrance Volume 1 (Limited Edition, 3-CD Set)

Eric Sardinas

Eric Sardinas Boomerang

Lightnin' Slim

Lightnin’ Slim I’m A Rollin’ Stone – Louisiana Swamp Blues – The Singles As & Bs 1954-1962 Centenary Edition

John Ginty

John Ginty Bad News Travels – Live

Grizzlee Train

Grizzlee Train Come Back Around

Glas

Glas From The Blues To Your Shoes

Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers

Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers Living By The Minute

 

Now, go forth and boogie!

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.