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Fall New Releases For Your Christmas List

It’s the holiday season again and that mean gift giving. This fall there has been a treasure trove of Blues new releases and you’re sure to find something for all the Blues lovers on your shopping list and maybe even something for yourself.  Guitar fans will find Mike Zito, Walter Trout, Todd Wolfe, Tommy McCoy, Popa Chubby, Gary Clark Jr., Dave Weld, Jay Willie, Leslie West, Tommy Castro, and Arlen Roth‘s Slide Guitar Summit. Legends like Robert Cray and John Mayall have new releases. Harp fans can dig into new releases from Chris O’Leary, Harmonica Shah, Charlie Musselwhite, and an expansive collection from Ruf called Blues Harp Women. If a blues fan on your list has been very good this year you might consider getting them the omnibus 14 disc Paul Butterfield complete albums box set. You’ve been good this year right? Get yourself one too.

There’s a mess o’ blues this year so grab an eggnog, dig in deep and check out these hot new items from the last few months. Check your list twice, there’s a lot you don’t want to miss!

Andy Santana

Andy Santana & The West Coast Playboys Watch Your Step!

Anthony Geraci

Anthony Geraci & The Boston Blues All-Stars Fifty Shades Of Blue

Arlen Roth

Arlen Roth Slide Guitar Summit

Joe Bonamassa

Joe Bonamassa Live At Radio City Music Hall

Walter Trout

Walter Trout Battle Scars

Leslie West

Leslie West Soundcheck

Tommy Castro

Tommy Castro Method To My Madness

Kim Simmonds & Savoy Brown

Kim Simmonds & Savoy Brown The Devil To Pay

John Mayall

John Mayall Find A Way To Care

Mike Zito & The Wheel

Mike Zito & The Wheel Keep Coming Back

Paul Butterfield

Paul Butterfield Complete Albums: 1965-1980 14 Disc Box set

Shemekia Copeland

Shemekia Copeland Outskirts Of Love

Danielle Nicole

Danielle Nicole Wolf Den

Duke Robillard

Duke Robillard The Acoustic Blues & Roots of Duke Robillard

Joe Louis Walker

Joe Louis Walker Everybody Wants A Piece

Guy Davis

Guy Davis Kokomo Kidd

MonkeyJunk

MonkeyJunk Moon Turn Red

Various Artists

Various Artists Blues Harp Women

Jonn Del Toro Richardson

Jonn Del Toro Richardson Tengo Blues

Steve Howell & The Mighty Men

Steve Howell & The Mighty Men Friend Like Me

The  Jimmys

The Jimmys Hot Dish

Colin Linden

Colin Linden Rich In Love

King Louie & LaRhonda Steele

King Louie & LaRhonda Steele King Louie & LaRhonda Steele

Lara Price

Lara Price I Mean Business

Eric Bibb and JJ Milteau

Eric Bibb and JJ Milteau Lead Belly’s Gold

Kevin Selfe

Kevin Selfe Buy My Soul Back

Thorbjorn  Risager & The Black Tornado

Thorbjorn Risager & The Black Tornado Songs From the Road

The Claudettes

The Claudettes No Hotel

Dave Weld And The Imperial Flames

Dave Weld And The Imperial Flames Slip Into A Dream

Mitch Woods

Mitch Woods Jammin’ On the High Cs

Chris O'Leary

Chris O’Leary Gonna Die Tryin’

The Robert Cray Band

The Robert Cray Band 4 Nights of 40 Years Live

Gary Clark Jr.

Gary Clark Jr. The Story of Sonny Boy Slim

Laurence Jones

Laurence Jones What’s It Gonna Be

Harmonica Shah

Harmonica Shah If You Live To Get Old, You Will Understand

Dudley Taft

Dudley Taft Skin and Bones

Jay Willie

Jay Willie Johnny’s Juke Joint

Charlie Musselwhite

Charlie Musselwhite I Ain’t Lyin’

Dave & Phil Alvin

Dave & Phil Alvin Lost Time

Popa Chubby

Popa Chubby Big, Bad And Beautiful – Live

Nikki Hill

Nikki Hill Heavy Hearts Hard Fists

Loren Connors

Loren Connors Live In New York

Les Copeland

Les Copeland To Be In Your Company

Todd Wolfe Band

Todd Wolfe Band Long Road Back

Andy Cohen

Andy Cohen Road Be Kind

The JC Smith Band

The JC Smith Band Love Mechani

Andy Poxon

Andy Poxon Must Be Crazy!

Tommy McCoy

Tommy McCoy 25 Year Retrospective

Al Basile

Al Basile B’s Expression

Fresh Biscuits! Hot New CD Reviews

Our CD reviews this week turned into a guitar fest. I didn’t even plan it that way. I grabbed bunch off the stack and boom! Glorious guitars showering us with notes covered in grease, grime, grits, and gall. The music featured this week is sometimes audacious, sometimes laid back, but just right for whatever ails you. Collect them all!

As always, I hope you find something interesting for your ears.

 

JohnMayallLiveIn67John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers

Live In ‘67

Forty Below Records

Released on April 21, 2015

 

If Corey Harris really wants to know if white people can play Blues, all he needs to do is listen to Peter Green emote liquid hot pain and turmoil on the Bluesbreakers archival release called Live In ’67. The answer he will find may confound him, but it will be a resounding Yes. Much more than Eric Clapton’s replacement, Green transcends musical genres and unleashes the raw hellish nightmare of post WWII Great Britain in a tidal wave of musical expression that will have you listening for the air raid sirens over London. John Mayall is known as the Godfather of British Blues, and along with guys like Cyril Davies and Alexis Corner brought Blues to the attention of the devastated, disaffected youth of England who grew up in abject poverty, standing in line for rations, and stealing to get basics like food and shoes. The industrial cities of the Midlands had ghettos full of workers who would never escape their toils and lived in an unofficial state of indentured servitude. The emotional music of blacks who were exploited for their labor in the American South resounded in the children of the WWII survivors in Britain. They knew the despair and hopelessness first hand and dreamed of more. The Blues provided a way to channel the frustrations and find moments of pure joy amid their miserable existence. Live In ’67 captures some of those moments as delivered by John Mayall, Peter Green, John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood.

This band is where Fleetwood Mac was born. Yes, Fleetwood Mac was a blues band kids, before Green checked out and Jeremy Spencer went religious. The triumvirate of Green, McVie, and Fleetwood dominate these recordings which is a testament to Mayall as a band leader. Even in his early days he showcased his band and was willing to step out of the spotlight. Green leads the band through fiery renditions of Otis Rush classics “All Your Love” and “Double Trouble” but he brings down the house over the course of eight minutes of “Have You Ever Loved A Woman.” As for Mayall, his tenor is in fine form and his organ playing anchors the songs that Green stretches six ways from Sunday. One of Green’s jams gets so intense you’ll forget it started out as “The Stumble.” When he kicks back into the song proper, it’s a jolt. There is nothing sleek, pretty, or cute on these recordings. The source material for Live In ’67 is one-channel reel to reel tapes sent to Mayall by a fan from Holland who covertly recorded the shows 50 years prior. Mayall cleaned up the tapes but be warned, this a bootleg recording, albeit a damned good one. This version of the Bluesbreakers only existed for about three months and thankfully the anonymous fan was there to capture one of the most intense Blues line-ups ever, be they white or black. Yes, Corey Harris, white people can play the blues, however very few can play like Peter Green. Represent!

DeltaMoonLowDown

Delta Moon

Low Down

Jumping Jack

Released on May 5, 2015

 

Tom Grey and Mark Johnson of Delta Moon met by chance many (delta) moons ago when Tom tried to sell a Dobro to Mark. Phone numbers were exchanged and soon the two were playing together all around Atlanta. The guitar interplay between Gray and Johnson is magical. After almost a dozen Delta Moon albums, the duo has cemented its place in guitar tandem history. It is rare for a band to have even one skilled slide guitarist but Delta Moon boasts two. Their styles seem to mesh effortlessly and the sum sounds larger than their individual parts. The music also benefits from Tom Gray’s voice which has a mellow whispery rasp which draws you in and makes you listen closely. He was the Roots Music Association’s 2008 Blues Songwriter of the Year so you may want to listen closely anyway. He has a knack for creating insidious hooks that dig deep into your consciousness the more you listen to them. The duo is joined in the band by bassist Franher Joseph and drummer Marion Patton. These two musicians could have been great engineers because they build perfect foundations for every song on Low Down.

Low Down starts with the steady chug and side-winding slide of “Wrong Side Of Town.” “Spark In the Dark” is a fitting title to this energetic tune. It has a driving beat, terse chords, and greasy slide. These guys get incredibly warm tones from their instruments and amps, and the loping stand-up bass in songs like “Nothing You Can Tell A Fool” creates a stomping on the floor boards kind of low end you don’t hear much anymore. I must really hate Tom Waits’ voice because I can’t listen to him, but when I often love his songs when done by others. Delta Moon’s cover of “LowDown” is one of those great covers. The amusing wordplay in the song is perfect for this band and their style and feel makes it pure Delta Moon. If there is a complaint to be made about Low Down it’s this: it’s almost too mellow. It’s relaxing. This is Monday through Thursday Blues. When Friday and Saturday night come around you’ll probably want something more rambunctious and if all goes well, on Sunday you’ll have some explaining to do. At least you can feel sure when Monday night comes around again you can relax on the porch with a tall glass of lemonade or sweet tea and fall into the friendly Low Down groove of a Delta Moon.

 

DebbieDaviesLoveSpin

Debbie Davies

Love Spin

VizzTone

Released on April 21, 2015

 

Love Spin is the latest from the tremendously talented Debbie Davies. The title is drawn from the grimy, slinky title track that brandishes a hopeful attitude about all the crap that comes your way. This seems like it might be her personal philosophy. Debbie tackles many personal issues and demons on Love Spin but presents them in a positive way. “A Darker Side Of Me” is the most pleasant song about self-destructive behavior I’ve ever heard. Other topics include getting traded in for “Two Twenty-Five-Year-Olds” and handling a deficiency in the romantic health of a relationship with “I’m Not Cheating Yet.” Yet, of course, is the operative word so get it together buddy.

The record is full of Davies road tested guitar playing. You can tell she’s played with and learned the greats because she is right there with them. Davies is a tasteful, intelligent player with wide ranging tones, imaginative licks, and fully developed solos. Every note means business. Davies’ work is succinct, tasteful, and accessible. She resists the urge to overplay and knows she made the right decision. Guitar players don’t agree on much but I’m sure most of us would agree that on Love Spin and all her records, she plays exactly what the songs need. On “Two Twenty-Five-Year-Olds” Debbie channels her old boss Albert Collins with some icy, sharp picking. She must be playing daggers for the idiot who wants to trade her in. “A Darker Side Of Me” has delicately strummed chords and gentle fills, and “Life Of The Party” opens with a blast of joyously spiky single note jabs. On the album closer, Debbie plays some mean and gritty slide guitar. I don’t know which guitar and amp combo she used but I want it and I want it today!

Overall, Love Spin lives up to its name as Debbie Davies plays and sings for us a set of happy sounding, reassuring songs. Debbie is in strong voice, singing and playing with verve and style. This is another solid effort from the sassy, guitar slinging road warrior. Give it a (Love) spin.

 

GuitarHeroesJames Burton, Albert Lee, Amos Garrett, David Wilcox
Guitar Heroes
Stony Plain
Released on May 5, 2015

Guitar Heroes is pure, unadulterated joy. Albert Lee, James Burton, Amos Garrett, and David Wilcox spend an hour four twisting and turning your mind through 60 years of Rock, Roll, and Hillbilly Rhythm & Blues guitar licks, tricks, and trapeze flips. Gathering these Masters of the Telecaster was the brainchild of Doug Cox, artistic director of the Vancouver Island MusicFest. In the liner notes Cox says “As Artistic Director of the Vancouver Island MusicFest, I get to dream up collaborations like these for what will hopefully become once-in-a-lifetime musical experiences. This one worked. It’s truly rock and roll heaven, right here on Earth where there is indeed, a hell of a band!”

Beyond the pickers, that band consisted of the members of Albert Lee’s touring band including keyboardist Jon Greathouse, bassist Will MacGregor and drummer Jason Harrison Smith. The 11 tracks were recorded live on stage at the Vancouver Island MusicFest and are presented as-is. There are no edits, overdubs, or studio touch up. This is the real thing and the interplay suggests a band that plays together seven nights a week, not four guys who just met and decided to jam. It is a testament to their abilities and attitudes. There is room for everyone and even though everyone seems to be playing their best stuff, it never sounds like a competition. The playing remains tasteful and the boys never get in the way of the others. Often they play amazingly complimentary bits that give the familiar material unexpected freshness. All the signature tunes are here from rollicking opener “That’s All Right Mama” to “Susie Q” and an all-out jam on set closer “Country Boy.” Stony Plain had the good sense to provide track by track performance credits and a quicksilver set like this needs one so we can keep up. And while the solos are dazzling some of the most interesting work is done to the rhythm guitar parts as these guys deconstruct the songs on the spot and build them back up again while we listen.

Albert Lee has over 20 solo albums, played with Heads, Hands and Feet, the Everly Brothers, Eric Clapton and more. James Burton is responsible for the classic “Susie Q” lick. He was a longtime member of Ricky Nelson’s band and then joined Elvis Presley’s band and stayed until the King died in 1977. He also worked with Jerry Lee Lewis, John Denver, Merle Haggard, Roy Orbison and countless others. Amos Garrett was in Paul Butterfield’s Better Days and has played with Maria Muldaur, Doug Sahm, Gene Taylor Band, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Jerry Garcia and a host of others. David Wilcox is a veteran of Nashville North and The Ian Tyson TV show. he also played with Maria Muldaur, has had many Canadian hits and gold and platinum albums. David is regarded as one of Canada’s most influential roots musicians. The four men got to town one day early to rehearse. One day. One. Day. The result is an incredible set that defies description and must be heard to be fully appreciated. This isn’t just for blues fans. This is for anyone who can appreciate the artistry of master musicians capable of delivering the highest caliber performances just for fun.

JBHuttoHawkSquatJ.B. Hutto With Sunnyland Slim
Hawk Squat
Delmark
Released on March 17, 2015

Delmark has been putting out some great reissues recently and Hawk Squat does not disappoint. Hawk Squat was originally issued in 1968 on Delmark and now contains the re-mastered original album and six additional previously unreleased tracks. Hutto is regarded by those in the know as a standout of the second generation of Chicago Blues greats but his output was sporadic and his catalog is filled with recordings of questionable origin and quality. Luckily he occasionally recorded for reputable labels like Delmark. Recorded at sessions separated by roughly three months, from May to August 1968 plus one track recorded in December 1966, Delmark managed to capture lightning in a bottle. J.B. Hutto’s energy is tangible and his mastery of the Elmore James style of slide is more joyful celebration than emulation. His voice is plaintive and full of anguish on slower numbers like “If You Change Your Mind” and confidently strong on “The Same Mistake Twice” and “Speak My Mind” which appears three times in total. The final version closes the disc and is a full minute longer than the previous two. It is slowed down slightly and is played without the strutting shuffle but is no less intense. These variants offer a wonderful glimpse into the creative process and in this case make the bonus tracks enjoyable additions instead of filler.

Sunnyland Slim is present for the sessions and plays a lot of organ. His piano takes center stage on “Too Much Pride.” This song is also represented by an alternate take which isn’t significantly different but Sunny’s piano seems to sound brighter on the bonus version and his intro sounds higher in pitch. “I’ll Cry Tomorrow” is the only bonus track without a counterpart on the original album. Sunnyland Slim plays some swirling organ under Hutto’s biting guitar licks as J.B. sings about drowning his sorrow and telling his hear he’ll cry tomorrow.

As for the original album, it is fiery, feisty, and fickle. Sunnyland Slim’s organ playing is effervescent, and J.B. Hutto is a whirlwind slurry of Blues Power, sly wit, and toastmaster general. The sessions included Lee Jackson on guitar, Junior Pettis and Dave Myers on bass, frank Kirkland on drums and Maurice McIntyre on tenor sax. Herman Hassell plays bass on “Hip Shakin’” the sole track from 1966. Together these musicians created a Blues classic that still sounds fresh and relevant today. If you are not familiar with J.B. Hutto, do yourself a favor and start right here with Hawk Squat!

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases For April 24, 2015

It’s another week closer to summer even though it felt like winter here in the Northeast. there was snow in the air yesterday, but it was raining in my heart. I want to find Jack Frost and put the Double-Eyed Whammy on that little son of a sea monster. If anything can warm our winter crushed hearts it a week with a ton of new releases.

The new releases this week range from vintage British Blues to modern blue-eyed soul. there’s Delta blues via Netherlands, Acoustic porch rockin’, and plenty more. I can’t wait to hear Debbie Davies’ new platter. I always look forward to her new music. The most tantalizing this week though is the John Mayall archival release which includes the founding members of Fleetwood Mac – Peter Green, John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood. remember when Fleetwood Mac was a blues band? Me either, it was before my time. But I have the records to prove it!  That great band grew out of the Bluesbreakers and now we have a great opportunity to hear how it all went down.

Have a great weekend and pick up some blues and roots new releases while you’re out there looking for Spring. To those readers having beautiful weather and plenty of warmth, we shall live vicariously through you so make sure you have some hot new blues for us to enjoy. Have a great weekend everyone!

John Mayall

John Mayall Live In ’67

Debbie Davies

Debbie Davies Love Spin

Tad Robinson

Tad Robinson Day Into Night

Nighthawks

Nighthawks Back Porch Party

Jimbo Mathus

Jimbo Mathus Blue Healer

James Harman

James Harman Bonetime

Carolyn Wonderland

Carolyn Wonderland Live Texas Trio

Gaye Adegbalola & Wild Rutz

Gaye Adegbalola & Wild Rutz Is It Still Good To Ya?

Deb Ryder

Deb Ryder Let It Rain

Hans Theessink & Terry Evans

Hans Theessink & Terry Evans True & Blue

Fresh Biscuits! Friday Fast Five CD Reviews – August 15, 2014

Welcome to the second installment of the Friday Fast Five! There seems to be a roadhouse theme that appeared as I was writing these reviews. Each artist featured would satisfy even the rowdiest of Hank Jr’s friends. They can all play sweet, soothing blues but it’s the barnburners that really set them free. If you’re looking for some good time, rough and tumble blues this weekend maybe one or all of these albums will kick it up a notch. As always, feel free to comment, argue, and tell me I’m way off base. Comment here, Facebook or Twitter.

JohnMayallASpecialLifeJohn Mayall

A Special Life

Forty Below Records

Released on May 13, 2014

Another John Mayall record? Is there really such a thing as just another Mayall record? Let’s find out. John Mayall has spent his life playing and singing the blues and it has certainly been A Special Life indeed. The Godfather of the British Blues has become a legend just for introducing the world to legends like Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jack Bruce, Mick Taylor, Walter Trout, and several others. However, along the way he has amassed a catalog of roots and blues music almost unparalleled by other blues musicians. Mayall is a consummate musician and bandleader and seems to never begrudge his students when they outshine the teacher. He is a gentleman of the blues.

A Special Life is the gentleman’s new album and it bristles with excitement and energy. “Why Did You Go Last Night” kicks off the album in New Orleans style as CJ Chenier sits in for a rollicking romp through his father Clifton’s tune. “Speak Of The Devil” revisits Sonny Landreth’s tunes with tough lead guitars and Mayall’s robust but plaintive tenor. “That’s All Right” takes us to Chicago via London and “Big Town Playboy” is a strutting Texas roadhouse shuffle. Too my ears, “Floodin’ In California” is Mayall’s shining moment on A Special Life. On this Albert King tune, Mayall’s levee breaks and the tune is flooded with waves of agonized organ artistry. It’s beautiful and immensely moving. Mayall also plays some lead guitar on the tune and leaves the King Albert licks to Rocky Athas.

A Special Life is well-produced, crisp, effervescing record from an 80 year old musician. Let that sink in for a moment. He’s singing great, playing well, and still writing excellent tunes about his passions. Whether he’s singing, blowing harp, or rocking out on the guitar, he’s putting younger men to shame. There will be a time someday when there will be no more new music from John Mayall, so to answer my own question, no. There is no such thing as just another Mayall record and this one proves it. Enjoy it.

 

LeeDelray570-BluesLee Delray

570-Blues

Available at CDBaby

Released Spring 2013

570-Blues came across my desk last year and unfortunately I wasn’t able to place a review of it anywhere. We’re going to fix that right now. 570-Blues is a solid collection of modern electric blues. What does that mean? Is it generic blues? Far from it. Lee Delray mixes styles of his influences. You can’t really tell if he’s playing a B.B. King lick or an Albert Collins lick. Maybe it’s Luther Allison. Maybe you shouldn’t analyze it so much and just enjoy it. He’s a New York City white boy and he knows his way around the blues. He’s even been sanctified by the Chubb Fatha himself, Popa Chubby. “Don’t Tell me I Can’t Get The Blues” tells Lee’s tale of blues living and street-side schooling and displays a lot of the guitar chops he’s picked up along the way.

Lee Delray’s guitar playing is good; maybe too good. I hear him play and I just want to hear him cut loose and roughen the edges a little. Some of 570-Blues feels like Lee is holding back in his guitar playing. Maybe it’s the recording studio environment. To paraphrase John Lee Hooker, Lee you’ve got it in you and you gotta let it come out! Let that boy boogie! I had this feeling most of the way through 570-Blues and then came “No Time Blues” This was it. Lee’s playing on this one is incandescent and worth the wait. Lee rips it wide open and lets loose in a way the rest of the albums suggests he could but never did. How’s that for a convoluted sentence? My head was still spinning I guess. 570-Blues is a great jumping off point and promises a tremendous future for Lee Delray who has musical chops, good songs, and an expressive singing voice. Now let’s get out there and see him live!

 

RBStoneLoosenUpRB Stone

Loosen Up!

Middle Mountain Music

Released on June 18, 2013

RB Stone’s voice sounds like Johnny Van Zant. You can say what you want about modern Lynyrd Skynyrd and I’d probably agree with most of it but Johnny has a hell of a voice and so does RB Stone. It’s got warmth even when singing lyrics that come with a wink and a nod. He sounds like he having fun, but he wants you to have fun right along with him. His singing style and intonation perfectly match his roadhouse ready tunes. His guitar playing ain’t to shabby either. His songs are adeptly constructed. He matches his bemused lyrics with just the right riffs.

The album also benefits from the sturdy production of “Producer of the Blues Stars” Tom Hambridge. Hambridge is also a fine musician and writer, and he pays drums on Loosen Up! The tunes range from the poignant “God Heals You When You Cry” to the hard driving “I Ain’t Buying That Bull Today.” “Texas Drunk Tank Blues” is exactly what it says and has an appropriately rollin’ and tumblin’ beat. Album opener “High Horse” sets the tone for the whole of Loosen Up! with its Telecaster shuffle and smirking lyrics about cutting loose and having a good time for once in your pontificating life. Loosen up indeed.

RB Stone’s guitar playing is impressive and he’s equally adept on slide, punctuating the title track “Loosen Up” with appropriately greasy licks. RB unleashes the slide on a cigar box guitar too, which appears on “Harley Heart,” the breakneck album closer. This is fun, booze-drinkin’, pool-shootin’, dust-kickin’, duck-walkin’, house-rockin’ boogie on a Saturday night and Sunday’s comin’ much too soon music. Loosen Up! has also been floating around my desk and made it into my car a few months ago and I’ve been enjoying the Hell out of it since. Send all your speeding tickets to RB. They’re his fault.

 

Nighthawks444The Nighthawks

444

EllerSoul Records

Released on June 17, 2014

I’ve always thought of the Nighthawks as a Rock & Roll band. Hell, their first album 40 years ago was called Rock ‘n’ Roll. It comes as no surprise that 40 years on The Nighthawks are still out there beating the drum for early Chuck Berry and Elvis-style Rock & Roll. Sure they play the blues and sure they’ve backed up every Blues legend who ever rode through the Washington, DC metropolitan area, and sure they’ve spawned a pair of legends themselves in Mark Wenner and Jimmy Thackery, but at their heart is a Rock & Roll band. This is a good thing. It keeps moneymakers moving and grooving way until the break of dawn. 444 is a throwback to the early days of Rock & Roll. Please note I’m not saying “Rock.” We’re talking Rock & Roll: boogie that swings, bounces, bops, and pops. It’s Chuck Berry’s sped up blues and the Nighthawks know it inside out.

Thankfully The Nighthawks aren’t as rhythmically repetitive as Chuck became, and they cover a lot of ground, from the acoustic roots of Muddy Waters’ “Louisiana Blues” to The Du Droppers’ vocal workout “Walk That Walk.” The title track “444” is one of those classic “had the girl out to late” tunes that were popular in the era before profanity. It chugs along with the urgency of a young man being chased by her angry daddy. “Got A Lot Of Livin’” absolutely pops. Mark Wenner’s howling harp is all over the record. He has a rich, thick tone that never gets to the fingernails-on-chalkboard screeches employed by lesser mortals. The band’s line-up has been somewhat unstable over the years but Wenner has held it all together and still puts out excellent Nighthawks music. If you’ve got the blues and need a pick-me-up, grab your girl and keep her out late cuttin’ the rug to 444.

 

ChrisOLearyLiveAtBluesNowChris O’Leary Band

Live At Blues Now!

VizzTone Label Group

Released on August 12, 2014

Chris O’Leary is the former front man of Levon Helm’s Barnburners. The Chris O’Leary band was formed in 2007 around a tight group of road warriors. Chris’ years spent with the Barnburners, backing up an eclectic mix of musicians at Levon Helm’s New Orleans club, and touring the country afterward, turned him into a musical medium. He channels a multitude of blues & soul styles authoritatively. It’s hard to believe he grew up closer to Albany, New York than New Albany, Mississippi. The blues pours out of his fuzz-drenched, raspy harp and his band is right there with him at every twist and turn. After two successful and acclaimed studio albums, this red hot combo has unleashed a sizzling live album.

Live At Blues Now! has tunes from both studio albums and a grooving, bouncing version of Billy Boy Arnold’s “Wish You Would.” Chris sings some of it through the harp mic and his vocals take on a Howlin’ Wolf snarl. I was really excited to have a live version of “Tchoupitoulas” (that’s “Chop-ih-too-liss” to you and me). If “Tchoupitoulas” doesn’t get you moving you may be dead. Have someone take your pulse immediately. Administer mouth to mouth as desired. It should have you singing and dancing like you’re down at Tipitina’s with the second-line hot on your heels. The whole album, from the opener “Give It” to the closer “History” has incredible drumming. The beats are almost tribal, churning and chopping, like waves of the sea surging and receding, thrusting the band forward, reeling rocking in rhythmic ecstasy.

On “Trouble,” special guest guitarist Alex Schultz rides the rhythmic waves like a man who’s conquered the Pipeline. Chris O’Leary’s harp cuts through like a thrusting oar and keeps the band on course. The shimmering guitars of “Louisiana Woman” and lonesome harp conjure a hoodoo mist across the bayou and “Water’s Risin’” swings, rocks and reels. This is rock & roll blues at its best, combining gospel vocals, Chuck Berry rhythms, and dueling guitars into a spicy gumbo of American music which pretty much encapsulates the Chris O’Leary Band. This band is the real deal. Bring the band into your living room, car, or bayou back porch with Live At Blues Now!

If you are interested in these or any other Fresh Biscuits! click on our link to buy from Amazon or visit the artists pages linked in the reviews. As always, please support the artists!

Fresh Biscuits! Walter Trout – The Blues Came Callin’ CD Review

Walter Trout The Blues Came CallinWalter Trout
The Blues Came Callin’
Provogue

Walter Trout’s recent health issues and liver transplant have become common knowledge in the blues world, with fans and fellow musicians marshaling their forces and raising money to help Walter pay the bills. Astonishingly Walter Trout was able to not just make a record during this period, but maybe it’s the record of his life. It is no surprise to find the desperation, reflection, and introspection triggered by his travails made their way into his music. The Blues Came Callin’ is Truth with a capital “T”. Walter lays it all out, sings from the heart and plays from gut.

The Blues Came Callin’ was recorded between April 2013 and January 2014. Walter Trout’s uncertain life expectancy seems to have freed him to express himself in the most thorough way since his career began. The poignant lyrics of album opener “Wastin’ Away” seem at odds with the defiant, hard charging riffs and wild soloing. If Walter’s going down, he’s going out in a blaze of glory. “Wastin’ Away” throws down the gauntlet, accepts the challenge and kicks ass all the way to finish.

“The World Is Goin’ Crazy (And So Am I)” is getting airplay on SiriusXM at B.B. King’s Bluesville, but it features one of the weaker vocals from Walter on the record. He sounds bit frail and strained. I’m guessing it was recorded later in the sessions as he was getting weaker. I can’t imagine a life-long traveling musician like Walter being tied down with illness, unable to work, support his family, support his band, or even make sense of a world turned upside down. While his voice isn’t what it used to be, his guitar playing – and let’s be honest, we love Walter for his guitar playing – is ferocious. The tone is gritty, the notes are bent to Hell and back, and his usual speed is kicked into overdrive. Singing? What singing?

The influence of Walter Trout’s mentor and former employer John Mayall is all over The Blues Came Callin’. Mayall introduced Walter to the music of J.B. Lenoir, and here Walter cover’s Lenoir’s “The Whale Have Swallowed Me.” Co-producer Eric Corne captured a spontaneous jam that started with John Mayall at the piano laying down the boogie woogie. According to the liner notes, the rest of the band fell in behind him and what you hear on the disc in the one-take, no-rehearsal jam, and it is smokin’ hot. John Mayall turns up again on the title cut playing Hammond B-3. Walter Trout is a blues man who doesn’t always work within traditional blues formulas but this track is five and a half minutes of pure blues catharsis. It is twelve bars at a time of pain and suffering unleashed.

Elsewhere on The Blues Came Callin’, Walter Trout explores his past and present battles. “The Bottom Of The River” finds a drowning man realizing he wants to live. It starts out with steel guitar – presumably the one shown on the album cover – and Walter sings about “where I met my soul” and how the near death experience flashed his life before his eyes. Walter blows a lonesome harp before letting loose some fiery electric guitar licks. “Born In The City” explores his youth and his perpetual love of, and comfort in metropolitan communities. Walter describes “Take A Little Time” as a classic Chuck Berry rocker and he ain’t lyin’. The band captures the swing of Berry’s early Chess recordings with Sasha Smith tickling the ivories and drummer Michael Leasure laying down the Berry shuffle oh so well. Walter sings it like he means it, having learned the value of making time for love, but it surely applies to all aspects of life neglected due to the constant hustle and bustle pace of life.

The Blues Came Callin’ is mature record. Walter Trout and the band are focused, free, and on fire. There’s not a dud in sight. From touring band members Sammy Avila, Rick Knapp, and Michael Leasure, to guests including Kenny Gradney, Skip Edwards, Taras Prodaniuk, Deacon Jones, and the legendary John Mayall, all rose to the occasion and made the best music possible. Consciously or not, they made what could still be Walter’s last album and it not only enhances his legacy, it puts a mighty exclamation point on it. I am among those who hope and believe Walter Trout will be back in action soon. If the fire and defiance found on The Blues Came Callin’ is any indication, he will be back and better than ever in no time.

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Addendum:
For those interested, The Blues Came Callin’ is available as a Special Edition CD/DVD. The DVD is a 40 minute documentary about Walter Trout’s career. John Mayall appears, as does Fito de la Parra of Canned Heat who shares some vintage photos of Walter with Canned Heat. The story is compelling and when you see Walter’s frail body, the music you just heard on the CD seems impossible. I highly recommend the special edition.

Please support the artist. We usually have an Amazon link here but in this case I urge you to buy the CD direct from Walter. The price may be a little higher, but he will get more of the money if you buy it from him directly and he certainly needs it more now than ever. You can also donate here: http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/walter-trout-needs-a-new-liver-you-can-help-/151911