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RD Olson - Keep Walking Woman

Arizona Blues Hall of Famer RD Olson has done it  again, this time with Keep Walking Woman, a showcase of Olson's immeasurable talents as well as an old-school-sounding blues testament to modern-age blues realities.   Olson's spot-on assessment of Trickle-Down Economics starts it off in Baby Boomer Blues, while Olson's distinctive voice takes us "down, down, down, going down ... Lord to the ground" all the while rattling off familiar names from John Lee Hooker to Luther Allison, and that's about as down, down, down low as the blues gets, all with a fun and funky back-beat rhythm section that never, ever stops.  The fun(que) continues with Bleed Baby Bleed, as Olson sings about "confusion, delusion, the sins of Mankind" while the band cooks behind him:  "Bleed baby bleed, bleed down to the bone, your life ain't nothing baby, unless it's your own."  Deliriously tasty.  Olson and the band slow it down with I Miss New Orleans, smoky and saucy.  And so it goes ... Olson's vocals are dirty and delicious throughout the collection of treats such as Up The Line, a runaway freight-train of boogie infused with off-Broadway jazz and funk and soul, and it simply does NOT get any better than that.  Thank you, RD and Band.

Oh yeah, but Olson's "still got the blues in the night ... cryin' the blues to a bottle of red" in Johnnie Walker, as heartfelt and deep-down soulful as blues gets.  The title track, Keep Walking Woman, is a street-party rhythm-n-funk-n-jazz driven band showcase of talent.  Olson overstates the obvious with Can't Spend What You Ain't Got, adding "... you can't never lose what you never had."  Sing it RD, preach it to the choir.  Playing a mournful harp as well as pouring out some seriously low-down blues, RD Olson brings old school, front-porch blues to life.   Closing the collection is the infectiously fun Sheila, an upbeat number reminiscent of the best of swing blues, in other words a blues party:  "Sheila, I want to be your man someday, I love you girl but you don't even know my name."  Add some of the most blisteringly hot harp to a scorchingly good band and mini-solos on top of Olson's unique and powerful vocals, and you get one of the best songs of the year ... this, or any other.  Tip of the cap to RD Olson.  Keep Walking Woman is a definite keeper of the flame, and keeper for anyone who appreciates the blues. 

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Miss Freddye - Lady of the Blues

To say that Miss Freddye is an "old school blues" singer is a true-but-narrow interpretation of her work as an artist, and while it's more than true that she sings with a Koko Taylor-esque sound and sensibility, the bottom line is that Miss Freddye is an incredibly talented songstress with a knack for incorporating just the right amounts of both soul and sass into her work.  Her newly released "Lady of the Blues" proves it from the opening lines of "Miss Freddye's Gonna Fix Ya" - the lead-off song in a heavy-hitting lineup of yes, brand new old-school style blues.  To be sure, Miss Freddye has a little help on the CD from the likes of Kid Anderson and Andy Santana, who produced along with Lisa Anderson, as well as musical help from John Nemeth and a host of others, but it's all a vehicle to showcase Miss Freddye, and showcase it does, and when Miss Freddye promises to fix ya, you just KNOW that whatever is wrong with the world, it will all go away with some of her "soup for the soul."  Most of the tracks are co-written by Andy Santana, a handful of them co-written by Miss Freddye herself, and picking a favorite is from among the gems is as close to impossible as it gets.  The title track features a funky back-beat, driving bass and Miss Freddye punching it lights out:  "Make no mistake this time, don't you get me wrong/I been doing this far too long, why did it turn out wrong/That is why ... everybody calls me:  Lady of the Blues."  Tell it, sister.  "Don't Apologize, Recognize" is a slow number that tugs at the heartstrings, while "Home Improvement" features a yakkety-sax sound and a mellow yet upbeat shuffle.  "Use The Back Door" is a winner on every level:  "You say that you're leaving, you say you've had enough/I won't try and stop you, even help you pack your stuff" from Miss Freddye's evocative vocals to Eric Spaulding on some of the sauciest sax you'll ever hear, and like the rest of the songs, every note from everyone involved is perfectly nuanced and timed.  Powerfully sweet stuff.

I could go on and on about the sophisticated change of rhythm on "Chain Breaker," not to mention Freddye's out-of-this-world vocals or Spaulding's smoking-hot sax and Anderson's saucy six-string and the rest of a very good ensemble, and I could write a thousand word essay about the pure, raw sensuality of "Doorway to the Blues" which manages to be both laid-back and intensely spiritual at the same time, as well as a showcase for Freddye's vocal range:  "Life can get you down, and leave you feeling blue/Sittin' around crying, that's all you got left to do/You know baby, that's the doorway to the blues."  Instant Classic.  I could heap praise on Miss Freddye for her powerful, honest voice on "These Are My Blues" - not mention the infectious, soulful harp solo, and as tasty an arrangement as it gets, and there's simply no way to prevent yourself from cuttin' a rug when Freight Train Blues barrels past:  "There's that freight train running, just won't let me be/I don't care which way it's going, as long as it sets me free/I can hear the whistle blowing, I can feel the boxcar sway/I don't care which way it's going, just take my blues away."  Yeah.  I could go on for days, but I won't.  The joy is in the music, and Lady of the Blues is a keeper that you'll listen to again and again.  Thank you, Miss Freddye, for sharing your gift with the rest of the world, and thank you to everyone else who made one of the best new CD's of this or any year.  Get yourself some fixin' up, you won't be sorry.

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AJ Fullerton - Kalamath

A year ago I had the pleasure of listening to AJ Fullerton's solo EP She's So Cold, several times over ... now I have the pleasure of hearing him with an ensemble band and a full-length CD:  Kalamath.  The CD, which features Todd Edmunds on bass, Stud Ford on drums and Eric Luba on keys, is an energizing and upbeat take on "traditional" blues ... call it "Electrified Mississippi Hill Country" if you will, call it anything you want, but it's delicious.  Fullerton & Friends (of which there are many, including Nic Clark, Megan Burtt, Taylor Scott and Lionel Young) have put together a masterpiece of music from the opening title track to the closer.  Kalamath, the song, is an almost-mesmerizing, upbeat "trance blues" winner, with steady-as-a-rock rhythm from Edmunds and Ford, while Luba adds layers of keyboards to Fullerton's hypnotic chords (and yes, background fife from Sharde Thomas) and that's just in the opening bars.  Fullerton, who's already won multiple awards from the Colorado Blues Society and a year ago played the IBC's in Memphis, has transcended to another level of goodness.  A reincarnation of She's So Cold is a turnaround from last year's solo:  this time around it's a beat-driven, straight-ahead, powerful force of nature, still reflective of the same feelings and emotions as the solo version, only more so.  Fullerton's vocals are often that deep, down gutsy-blues that smacks of old-school blues and a lifetime of pain, all this coming from an artist who's barely into his twenties.  "I've been running, running for days, all of my life so it seems/But if I can make it til morning, darling I'll be alright, I'm falling apart at the seams."  Laying bare emotion after emotion through song after song, Fullerton seemingly plays out various stages of a breakup in life, from denial to acceptance, from pleas of "Lover Come Back" to the realization that there are "Miles Between Us" and the real-time worldliness of traveling the road while thinking about a "cold-hearted woman" and the endless miles of passing headlights on Highway 285:  sweet licks from Taylor Scott's 6-string and Eric Luba's keyboard accentuate Fullerton's intense vocals and the strong rhythm section.

As if arriving at the end of a road, the CD becomes more even-tempered and mellow, starting with Oh Frustration is questioning of the very soul:  "Are you lonely, because I been lonely too/Are you angry at something somebody did to you/You feel sorry the second time being used/You feel empty, I been feeling empty too."  Background vocals from Hannah Holbrook and Luba's delicate piano work almost ensure that the listener will get lost in this number, and yes, it's ok to feel alright.  Worried Mind is quintessential back-country blues, with mournful fiddle courtesy of Lionel Young:  "Making my way up the road, leave my troubles all far behind, oh Lord, I'm driving with a worried mind."   Finishing the CD with a re-worked traditional Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down, Fullerton and Co bring out all the stops, with hot harp licks from Brandon Bailey adding just the right amount of counter to Fullerton's expressive vocals.  In this case, Fullerton doesn't just remake the song, he owns it:  lock, stock and barrel.  And maybe that's the best thing about Kalamath:  Fullerton owns it, from top to bottom, as well he should:  he co-produced the CD along with Tennessee Grapejoy and producer/engineer Joshua Fairman, and the production of Kalamath is nothing less than stellar.  All songs are original, except for the closer, and all seem to speak from the depths that only years of experience can usually speak from, a testament to Fullerton's maturity beyond his years, both musically and lyrically.  In a short period of time, the blues have been good to AJ Fullerton, and in return, he's been good for the blues.  As Buddy Guy said:  "The blues don't bring you down, they lift you up" and indeed, by the end of the collection there's a smile on my face, and you'll have one too.  AJ Fullerton is "all grown up" as is his music, and it's truly a wonderful thing.  Check out and get yourself Kalamath.  You're gonna love it. 

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Mark Cameron Band - Live! At Blues on the Chippewa

Nothing is better than live blues, and live blues is always best at a festival, which brings us to the latest release from The Mark Cameron Band:  Live!  At Blues on the Chippewa.  A blues-lover's treat, this is the next best thing to being there, and the band had their mojo workin' in spades on a hot August day in Wisconsin.  The live recording, apparently done at the last minute, is killer good and the music itself is even better.   The festival appearance itself came on the heels of their 2016 release Playing Rough, an incredibly good CD all by itself, but the energy captured in the live performance is simply over the top, butt-shakin', footloose boogie'n'blues from a terrific band, fronted by guitarist and song-writer Mark Cameron, with help from a fine cast of talent:  Scott Lundberg on bass, Bill Keyes on harp, Dan Schroeder on drums and Sherri Cameron on percussion and sax.  Starting off with Doctor in the House, an upbeat number featuring Keyes' fine harp work and Schroeder's "hitman" work on skins, the band gets the boogie-woogie rolling early.  Cameron's opening licks on Somewhere Down the Line are tasty, and the groove from Schroeder and and Lundberg is juicy sweet, with Sherri's backup vocals a perfect complement at just the right times.  Everyone in the band has a moment to shine, and rightfully so, as everyone has talent in abundance.  Dicey is one super fun little number:  "When you go somewhere you ain't 'sposed to be/And you see something you ain't 'sposed to see/When you go somewhere you ain't 'sposed to go/And you find out somethin' that you ain't 'sposed to know ... that's dicey!" and that's just plain good times talkin' in song.  The band slows it down with the deep blue Borrowed Time, Cameron's mellow chords opening like chimes, Sherri's flute a perfect counterpoint, rhythm section providing a steady beat, everything coming together to a crescendo of sound later in the song, a powerful warning about the perils of life.  Mojo Shuffle is a gritty, greasy, swampy tune featuring harp and a chorus of background vocals from the entire band:  "You can talk real sexy and act real cool, but without that mojo you look like a fool" ... absolute truth.

Hammered by the Blues is a slow but steady, straight ahead bluesy song, with perfectly timed and soulful harp behind perfectly timed guitar riffs and Cameron's gritty, dirty, deep-down from the heart of the soul vocals, along with Keyes' sweet'n'tangy BBQ-sauce covered rib-sucking harp, followed by Cameron's guitar solo that resonates from head to toe: folks, this here is seriously and incredibly good stuff.  The band kicks it up a notch with their one cover, Howlin' Wolf's Killing Floor, Cameron's voice as growl-y and nitty-gritty as it gets, with pretty much everyone in the ensemble taking a moment to shine.  Playing Rough is guaranteed to get anyone chair-dancing and then some:  "From the beginning you were the one/The first kiss you bit my tongue/You're a bad bad girl ... I thought I could tame you, turn you around/I tried speaking soft and holding my ground/That didn't work, no no  it wasn't enough/I tried being nice, now I'm playing rough" ... a rockin' number with as sweet a guitar solo as one could ask for and a fabulous driving song that's simply brimming with cocky mojo attitude.  Done Me Wrong is slow and smoky and saucy, straight from bayou country, Cameron's slide-guitar work tasty and delicate:  "Driving to the ends of the Earth together, that was just fine with you long as there's sunny weather/But when the storm comes, when the storm comes you cut and run, you cut and run/Where you going, wish I could come along/You done me wrong, you done me wrong" ... yummylicious good blues right here, as is everything else on the CD.  Rusty Old Model T is a funky, fun shuffle that's toe-tapping good and satisfies the soul like sipping an ice-cold glass of lemonade while sitting on the front porch in a rocking chair watching the sun set on a lazy summer evening kind of way.  The CD's final number, Back Seat Boogie, is just that:  a rollicking good time boogie shuffle with sweet sax, sexy guitar chords and smokin' hot harp at every turn, a chorus of juicy good sounds that permeates thru the ears and heals the soul like only blues can achieve, a song that will keep playing in the mind long after it's over.  The Mark Cameron Band is a blues treasure that everyone should know about, and Live! At Blues on the Chippewa is deserving of multiple spins on the turntable:  pure blues at its best, just the way it's meant to be.

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Andy T Band - Double Strike

A few years ago, the Andy T Band appeared, featuring the vocal talents of one Mr Nick Nixon, and a year ago I had the pleasure of seeing the Andy T - Nick Nick Nixon Band just after they'd been nominated for a couple of Blues Music Awards, as well as a few Blues Blast Awards.  A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to catch them again but time, as it inevitably does, means change, and the rigors of touring take their toll as well, forcing the retirement of lead vocalist Nick Nixon.  But the Andy T Band is back, featuring the vocals of Alabama Mike.  Nick still contributes to the cause with lead vocals on a handful of songs, but Mike is now the lead vocalist, and that's not a bad thing, because Alabama Mike has a voice and talent that's unique.  With keyboardist Larry van Loon returning along with skins guy Jim Klingler, Johnny Bradley on bass, and the Texas Horns (Kaz Kazanov, John Mills, Al Gomez) pitching in throughout, as well as the usual excellent production of the legendary Anson Funderburgh, and the Andy T Band is back good as new with Double Strike:  a baker's dozen of blues tunes that are sure to get the toes tapping and the body moving.  From the opening lines of I Want You Bad, Alabama Mike makes his presence felt and heard, while the band is rollicking and rolling with a perfectly delicious upbeat shuffle that satisfies the blues soul, with every part of the ensemble pitching in with just the right sound at just the tight time.  Indeed, old friend Nick Nixon sings lead vocals on a few of the tracks, including Deep Inside and the ever-so-tasty I Feel So Bad, the first of two Chuck Willis songs.  To put it simply, this band does everything right, no matter what the song happens to be.  The slow, smoky blues of Juanita is just about as good as the blues can get, but that can be said for pretty much every track on the CD.  Mudslide, penned by Funderburgh, has a distinctly upbeat and funkalicious back-beat groove, and the interplay between Andy's guitar and Larry's Hammond B3 is a thing of musical beauty.  The Nixon-penned Sad Times is a perfect big-band ensemble number, with the Texas Horns, Andy's accentuating riffs, and silky-smooth keyboard wizardry from special guest Mike Flanigan (Bully Gibbons, Jimmie Vaughan) making it worthy of hearing again and again.

Doin' Hard Time is a smoky, saucy, down-home blues style that melts away life's troubles: "I'll keep on loving you baby, I'm wrapped up in your chains/I don't want to be free, now, I'll suffer with your pain/Your my big house warden, and you got me doin' hard time" ... Andy's guitar work and the deep, baritone sax of John Mills as a counterpoint.  Old Friend Nick Nixon is lead vocals on the yummy, almost Calypso sound of Drunk or Sober "I got a gal, she's mighty fine, she gets juiced on cherry wine/But that's my woman, to me it's no disgrace/ I love her drunk or sober, there's no one to take her place" and that's pure, dedicated love that only the blues can convey in a feel-good way.  Andy's Dream About You is guaranteed to get anyone dancing and hitting "repeat play" again and again, as the band is jukin' and jivin' from beginning to end, Mike's vocals screaming "greasy-good blues" at every turn.  There's a reason this band is touring and so in-demand:  they are "just that good" from top to bottom, and as is so often the case, the whole is more than simply the sum of the parts.  The collection ends with Where Did We Go Wrong, a mellow shuffle that wraps itself gently around the soul, at ease with the universe despite the end of a relationship, and maybe that's the best testament to just how good the Andy T Band really is:  blues that lift the spirit regardless of anything else, the true nature of blues embodied in a hard-working and extremely talented band of musicians.  Double Strike, due out in June from American Showplace Music, is worthy of any collection, and one that you'll listen to over and over, because the music, like the band, really is "just that good" ... getcha some, it's good stuff.

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Bobby Messano - Bad Movie

Bobby Messano is, by nature, eclectic, so it should come as no surprise that his latest CD, Bad Movie, epitomizes the word in the very best way imaginable.  Messano, whose decades-long career has encompassed blues, rock and much, much more, has produced a deliciously dizzying blend of genres and styles that come together to tell a story of both woe and redemption, with Messano conjuring up nearly every musical trick he's learned during the course of his remarkable career.  Starting with the rousing, rocking title track, Bobby Messano shows why he's more than "just" a blues gunslinger.   With help from Ed Canova on bass, Nioshi Jackson on percussion, Pete Gallineri on keyboards and Jon Tiven adding sax on a few tracks as well as co-writing all of the the songs, Bad Movie blasts off like an audiophonic rocket.  "I been working all night, burning the midnight candle/Gonna grow some wings so I can fly off the handle/Tell me, Lord, what did I do this time/I've paid for what I've done, but I've committed no crime ... this is a bad movie."  Messano's searing, sizzling guitar is perfect with Jackson and Canova's driving beat.  Bobby's own bad movie is explained with the melancholy "Dead Rose" as he sings about the end of what never really began:  "There's no sunlight in this garden, to start a new life thats what you need/In spite of that I took my chances, took a shot, I planted a seed/Call me optimistic I suppose/Had to see it right in front of my nose/That in this place where nothing grows, why water a dead rose?"  Bobby's playing is as delicate and inspired as it gets, and the passion flows through his fingers in a way that few others can achieve.  Come To Your Senses, a passionate and intense plea is pure electric blues bliss.  Road To Oblivion is an old-school, Mississippi Hills Country Blues Beat number:  "I'm going down the road to oblivion, just me and my guitar/I'm going down the road to oblivion, driving slow in this beat up car/I know where I'm gonna end up, it doesn't matter if we don't get far."  Messano's slide-guitar work is a delicious treat.  Unconventional Wisdom is a straight-ahead blues rocker,  while the upbeat, backbeat sassy sounds of Too Good To Be True is blues funk at its finest:  "If something's too good to be true, it's time to wake up to reality/If something's too good to be true, but I really like the way you lie to me." 

Messano dips into a hip, beat-driven Bo Diddly blues sound with If The Phone Ain't Ringin', It's Me Not Callin'.  Never Too Late To Break A Bad Habit is a microcosm of every relationship gone south:  "When I saw that smile across the room I couldn't forget her/But fate's a harsh mistress, I wouldn't want to upset her/So I got my chance that night and I had to grab it/But it's never too late to break a bad habit."  Messano even channels his inner Bob Marley with You Left Me No Choice, proving that blues runs the spectrum of music from rock to bluegrass, from pop to funk to reggae and beyond.  The Girl That Got Away is a smooth, smoky, tasty little number with a timeless sound and quality, both musically and lyrically:  "We had something special, least I thought we did/Love made me feel like I was a kid/Then straight out of nowhere, you pulled out the rug/And left me without my favorite drug."  The collection then turns from "Bobby's Bad Movie Story" to "Everyone's Bad Movie Story, starting with I Thought We Had This, a song lamenting a loss of direction for the country and world, and the plaintive We Need A Blessing, a reminder that we're all the same.  Is It Too Much To Ask For A Miracle asks the obvious, and the CD comes full circle with the upbeat and forward-looking American Spring, a song as filled with hope and promise as Bad Movie (both the song and the rest of the CD) is filled with bittersweet reflections.  Still, the CD doesn't make you sad, instead it's cathartic, for the listener as much as the artist.  In the end, what counts is the soul of the artist and the feelings conveyed by the music, and in this case, the soul of Bobby Messano  is on full display to see ... and yes, to hear, and maybe that's the best part of all.  Check out more at and tell him Wolf sent you. 

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Dustin Pittsley Band - Dustin Pittsley Band

Dustin Pittsley has been around awhile, and many, if not most, blues fans know him well.  Having started as a young teen, Dustin's career has been on a steady upward trajectory for years, and with good reason:  he's one of the most talented artists around, and for proof look no further than his band's latest eponymous release:  Dustin Pittsley Band, on Horton Records.  Pittsley is as genuine and personable as he is talented, and he has talent at every level, from playing guitar to singing to songwriting, and story-telling, with lyrics that are thoughtful and often evocative aw well as music that brings joy to the soul.  He's also talented at putting together an incredible band, with smokin'-hot Chris Kyle on keyboard, Donnie Wood on bass and David Teegarden, Jr on drums.  From beginning to end, this is a musical set that satisfies the soul, starting off with Can't Find Nothin' - a song about realizing that everything we're looking for is really all right in front of our eyes, right there all along.  Dustin keeps the steady Tulsa rhythm going with Satellite, a hopeful yet introspective tune that's just soul-satisfying.  Just Enough Time has a fun, funky, rockin' feel as Dustin relates the sad tale of a guy who stops by a bar for "just one drink" but stays for more, ending up with "just enough time to get my story straight" ... and I can't say enough about the always on-time and seemingly always perfect playing of Chris and Donnie.  There's the mellow, reflective Rare To Be Right, which evolves into a rolling, rocking, soaring runaway train before slowing back down, and never losing the original feeling.  Where I've Been is a tasty journey as Dustin and the band show off their talents, as Pittsley looks back on his years of metaphorical travel. 

With the deeply thoughtful Shadow of a Stranger, Pittsley reflects on the sometimes limited space we all feel in our lives at times:  "There's the shadow of a stranger, he's following me/and he's always been there, we just can't agree."  Inner peace is the subject of the almost haunting sounds of For the Ones We Leave Behind:  "Get on your horse and ride, put your head down and weather this storm ... but you're going to have to get blood on your hands someday."  Slow Down does just that, a laid-back number that offers sage advice:  "Slow down, slow down, let's take it easy today."  The band ends with a flourish with the Tulsa-beat move and groove of Waves Crashing, a rockin' blues number that WILL have your mind dancing from beginning to end.  In short, Dustin Pittsley is simply a supremely talented young man with an equally talented band, definitely an artist who deserves to be heard - not only on CD but live as well, and his shows are consistently among the best I've ever seen.  Check out his place at and grab his latest from Horton Records, iTunes or Amazon.  Good stuff, you're gonna love it.    

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Deep Pocket Thieves - Deep Pocket Thieves

Blues bands come and go with varying degrees of success and ability, so it's no surprise that Colorado, like many places, has a plethora of new bands, formed in many cases from the ashes of others, and such is the case with Deep Pocket Thieves.  DPT, a collaboration of some of the most talented artists in the Denver area, blends the diverse backgrounds and musical histories of its members into a delicious melange of blues, soul and rock, with just a tiny bit of funky R&B to spice up the flavor.  The result:  a band that is so good they're heading to Memphis to compete in the International Blues Challenge on behalf of the Mile High Blues Society.  With each of the members bringing years of experience to the table, DPT has quickly established itself as a local favorite.  Their first release, the eponymously titled EP Deep Pocket Thieves, is a gold mine of deep and heartfelt blues, soaring harmonics and vocals that steam up the speakers.  Lead vocalist Larea Edwards,  whose background includes literally singing in a church choir, as well as time spent with other blues bands, has not just a fabulous and strong voice, but a charisma and presence like few in the industry:   hearing Larea sing leaves no doubt that her talent is soul-deep, and the rest of the band brings that same depth of ability and feeling to everything they do.  With Jimmy Ayers on keyboards, Jim DeSchamp on guitar, Jodie Woodward on bass and Scott Rivera on drums, DPT is a rich blend of amazing talent and years of experience.  Four of the five offerings on the EP are originals, and the cover of John-Alex Mason's Locomotive is nothing short of magical.  The band starts off with the original Memphis Saturday, a sultry, smoky, deep-down soul-filled blues number that showcases the talents of Larea's vocals, Jimmy's understated keyboard wizardry and the rest of the band backing things up perfectly.  "Going down to Memphis, the miles put holes in my shoes/I don't care if I gotta walk, cuz I gotta sing the blues/Going down to Memphis, all that's left is my case and bag/You see, I was born with nothing, so I got more than I had/I gotta play, I gotta play Memphis on a Saturday."  This is seriously good stuff.

Quarters, penned by Ayers, is a heartfelt, slow blues number that evokes images of the deep south circa 1850:  there's just something "old" about this song, in a very refreshing way, and Larea's solo violin work is as good as her vocals.  DPT's cover of Locomotive is as good as it gets, with a terrific arrangement backing up Larea's heartfelt singing.  King of the Hill is an upbeat number, with some tasty licks peeling off Jim's six-string, and Jimmy's Hammond organ work adding the perfect flavor.  The band slows it down with Last Goodbye:  "What can I do when my heart won't let go/I'm moving on/What can I say, you see I don't know/I just want you next to me."  More blues goodness.  Deep Pocket Thieves, while one of the newest bands around, has a sound as if they've been around forever:  everyone does their part, and the whole is so much more than the sum of its parts, much more.  It's a short EP collection, but certainly one worth having and hearing again and again, and if sheer talent and depth of feeling is any indication of success, Deep Pocket Thieves should be wildly successful in whatever they do.  Learn more about the band at and be sure to tell them that Wolf sent you.  This is big-league, rad-gumbo, swamp-soul good blues right here.  Try it, I guarantee you'll love it.

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Catfish Kray Band (ft Lady Larea) - Ripples

Lately, I've been blessed to be on the listening end of some of the very best and latest music that the blues world has to offer, from Tas Cru to Thornetta Davis, Vaneese Thomas to Albert Castiglia ... and Ripples, from the Catfish Kray Band.  I know that Catfish Kray isn't exactly a "household name" and that's just fine, not everyone is known by everyone else, which is why it's important to remind the world that there ARE other terrific bands, unknown bands and signers who toil away in relative obscurity, perfecting their craft, doing what they love to do:  making music, in this case blues music from the heart and soul.  Edd "Catfish"Kray has been playing guitar since the 60's and rediscovered his "inner blues child" in the 1990's ... the music world has been blessed with his bluesical talents ever since, as Kray's bands have graced nearly every venue in and around Denver, and now his band's sound better than ever.  Featuring Lady Larea (Larea Edwards) on vocals, Rich Sallee on bass and Gregg Wilson (who traces his lineage back to Victoria Spivey) on drums, The Catfish Kray Band has produced a solid gold of an offering with Ripples.  "Mean, Mean, Mean" kicks off the CD with some of the juiciest sounds, a funkalicious beat in back of Larea's mournful voice.   The band is swampy good with "Honey Don't Do It" as Larea's vocals take over the top and the band's deep south slow rhythm grooves keep perfect time, Kray's sweet guitar licks providing just the right counterpoint to the mix.  If this isn't good home cookin', nothin' is.  Kray, Edwards and Sallee all have a hand in compositions on the CD, and the Edwards-penned "So Ashamed" is a s good as it gets:  slow, smoky, saucy and a deep-down soulful mournfulness that just cries out "pure blues."   Another Edwards number, "Ain't Coming Back" is another powerful number.  The band has fun with Freddie King's "Hide Away" before returning to original tunes. 

"Long Time" is a Sallee tune with a sassy, brassy attitude that oozes seductively in the form of Lady Larea's vocals:  sweet and smoky-spicy, Kansas City BBQ rib-dripping hot-sauce good blues.  With  "Black and Blue Blues" is a rocking, rollicking Catfish original ode to old age, and all the aches and pains that go along with it, grab your partner and dance away your own black and blue blues.  Another Sallee original, "Blues You Left Me" is a sophisticated number with Sallee and Wilson sparkling on rhythm, as they do throughout the entire CD.  Kray's "Rain On Me" rounds out the all-too-short collection with a bang:  straight-forward "blues-rock" with a message:  "It's gonna be a good day/I'm really feeling fine/The world belongs to me/And it's mine, all mine/So don't you rain on me, baby, no don't rain on me baby" ... and that's the power of blues, feeling good despite the "black and blues" all over.  Catfish Kray and his troupe have a winner with Ripples.  Buy it here: and be sure to check out the Catfish Kray band page at  Crack open a cold one, crank it up and enjoy the tunes.  You'll be glad you did.

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Brad Wilson - Blues Thunder

Brad Wilson is fun.  Every time I look at his CD or images online, he simply LOOKS like he's having a blast, and even on his studio CD from 2015, Blues Thunder, he sounds not just technically perfect, but that he plays with passion and a sense of having a good time creating his music, his art.  He's a genuinely warm and nice guy, and as hard working as it gets, doing over 100 gigs a year.  An infectious smile and "Beach Boys" long blonde hair looks make him a natural to be strolling along a sunny beach, guitar screaming and a smile on his face.   From silky smooth on the opening Is It Any Wonder to amped-up raucous good fun with Black Coffee at Sunrise, Wilson can flat-out play.  Change It Up is a Santana-esque yummylicious aural sensation of sweet six-string heaven, with a tasty Salsa back-beat from an absolute monster-good band.  Blues Shadows has an almost dark, rainy, foggy evening sound, the lounge-piano opening as melancholy as it gets, lost deep in the blues.  Step By Step is a butt-bumpin' boogie rockin' number that's get-out-on-the-dance-floor good, and the title track sounds just exactly like that:  Blues Thunder.  Good Stuff.

Let's Go Barefootin' It is a driving beat with some smokin' hot harmonica party of a tune that simply rocks.    Cool Runnin' features a sweet, slick "California Jazz/Swing" guitar, and Wilson is as adept at the "gentle cool breeze" sound as anyone in the business.  Black Coffee rollicks with a rockabilly tempo and sensibility, and Wilson's seriously fun guitar work is a six-string, finger-pickin' flying high good time.  My favorite might just be Sugar Sweet, a funky, back-beat and background vocal-inside-your-ears-whisper that's dripping with soul .  Blues Thunder is a carefully crafted good time, cutting across all aspects of blues and music in one terrific and diverse collection of songs.  Brad Wilson is extremely talented at what he does, and that's a very, very good thing to hear.  Check out  Blues Thunder and more from  Brad Wilson at and tell him Wolf sent ya. 

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AJ Fullerton - She's So Cold (EP)

AJ Fullerton's EP (She's So Cold) is a masterpiece.  Not so much because it's one of the best solo blues efforts to come out this (or perhaps any) year, not even because every song in the collection is old-school, down-home "true blues" (whatever that may be), rather it's because Fullerton has delivered an "old soul" CD at the tender age of 21 years young.  Granted, Fullerton's been at this thing for awhile, and his latest effort is far from his first, having released both a full CD as well as a previous EP before this, but still ... when someone is this good and still this young, when someone has the respect for tradition and ability to recreate the original sounds and feelings of the roots of the music he plays as Fullerton clearly does, kudos are in order, so perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that Fullerton will be headed to Memphis for the IBC's soon.  With only a resonator guitar, a homemade stomp box and his own determination, AJ Fullerton has gone from novice to accomplished in a very short time, having only picked up the guitar at age 14.  Beginning with the title track, Fullerton shows maturity in both his music, which is played to perfection, but also his songwriting abilities.  "She's so cold, Lord, she nearly killed me/She's so cold, and baby I don't mind/She's so cold, and her memory haunts me/Just won't leave my mind."  A tale of being drawn in and hurt, and knowing it all along.  That's powerful stuff.  Smoke & Mirrors has a wistful sound along with with a gently driving beat, a hopeful yet realistic song about meeting someone who might be special, with no promise of anything being real.  And so it goes, every song a masterpiece short-story, delivered with both precision and quiet passion. 

Fullerton's songs are from the heart and soul, as well as often from his own thoughts, fears and experiences.  With I Don't Want To Grow Old, Fullerton sings of many of the fears that we all live with from time to time:  "I don't mind losing my mind/I don't care losing all my hair/I've always done just what I was told/I do not I do not want to grow old."   Homesick is the story of a young man who is just that, being alone on the road yet knowing that, in a deeper sense, one can never truly go home again.  "Home, I'm going home, I don't ever want to be alone/Home, I'm going home, I spent so many days out on the road/And I'm homesick, but I can't go home/Hardship when you're on your own."  Every song tells a story, and every story strikes deep.  This is simply some very, very good work from an up-and-coming talent, and a lot of people will get to know young Mr Fullerton before it's all over.  Music that is at once reflective and genuine.  From the heart, just as "old school blues" is meant to be.  AJ Fullerton does it right with She's So Cold, but don't take my word for it, find out for yourself at and yes, get this EP.  You'll be glad you did, and tell AJ that Wolf sent you.

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Anni Piper - More Guitars Than Friends

Anni Piper, fresh to the US from Australia, is a vixen, a vamp, a tease and every woman scorned.  She's a smokin' hot seductress, the unattainable woman that every man wants, and she also happens to be a pretty good bass player, singer and songwriter.  Thing is, what strikes me most about Anni Piper is her incredibly fun sens of humor, a trait that shows itself from beginning to end of her latest release:  More Guitars Than Friends.  Piper, along with guitarist Dave Kury and drummer Frank Hetzler (both of whom helped co-write many of the songs on the CD) along with a few others have labored to produce a deliciously fun, kicky set of tunes that will get any listener in a mood to dance, party and forget the troubles of the world.  In short, More Guitars Than Friends is a CD that will make you smile.  Piper, whose awards include Best New Talent at the Australian Blues Music Awards, the ABC Radio National 'Fresh Air' contest, and 2nd place at the Australian National Songwriting Contest, has been around for awhile, but it's really only lately that she's gotten much notice here in the US, and rightly earned.  The band kickstarts things with Wonder Woman, a swinging, jumping bouncy number with a driving beat and some stellar, throwback 6-String licks from Kury.  "I'm a wonder woman, I wonder what I saw in you" while the rest of the band becomes a sort of Greek Chorus of vocal agreement.  Just A Little Bit, a wonderfully rockin' update of the 1959 song by Roscoe Gordon, is a showcase for the talents of the entire band, and they definitely do it more than justice.  "Turn your lamp down low, come and slip me a kiss/ Turn your lamp down low, you know I can't resist/All I need is a teeny weeny bit, just a teeny weeny bit of your love."   Buckle Bunny is a showcase for Anni's writing skills (as well as Mike Franklin's skills on keyboard) and it's a winner both musically and lyrically, a wild-ride romp of a tune that's over far too soon, as Anni sings about her desire for a "straight-shootin', all-nightin', boot-scootin', fist-fightin' cowboy-honey for this buckle bunny" that's as dance-able as it gets, and in short a tune that's just, plain fun.  The band slows it down considerably as Anni goes into "torchlight singer" mode with the title song:  "Oh my dressing room is marked with a star/Cuz the show all on me depends/Yet I realize about the 12th bar down/I have more guitars than friends."  Such a sad state of affairs, to be sure, except that it's all done with a wink and a nod, as Anni cleverly goes for the double-entendre:  "I'm too tightly wound/Just too highly strung/Who'd want to be around/The woman I've become."  If that's not the best pun in the music business, I don't know what is, and that's part of what "makes" this collection so special and fun.  Paper Bag is an over-the-top number with backing horns, great swing/jump/jazz and lyrics that are impossibly cheesey:  "Before you take her into your bed/Just say baby put this on your head" with references to Medusa and rating "the other woman" as a negative 3.  Seriously just off-the-wall fun.  Jilted?  Not Anni Piper.  Just brutally honest and opinionated. 

Life isn't always perfect, of course, and that's never as apparent as in Cold Pizza And Warm Beer, a cover of a song done by Saffire (The Uppity Blues Women):  "I got up this morning, crawled out of my my bed/My back was really aching, my eyes were cherry red/It's just the morning after, I don't remember who was here/I'll eat a slice of cold pizza, and wash it down with warm beer."  Amen to that, way too often.  The perfect slow shuffle for that "morning after" feeling.  Shotgun Wedding has a calypso beat and feel, and the subject is exactly what you think it is, with Anni singing the part of the bride in question.  Another fun, bouncy original that showcases the band's depth and diversity.  Good stuff.  I'm Lost Without You, a terrific cover of a Memphis Slim song, is Anni Piper at her seductive, sultry best, featuring some fabulous chord and beat changes, the band keeping it tight all the way through.  Piper has a way of making even cover songs sound "original" with her voice and stylings, and allows her bandmates to shine when the time is right.  Eugene is an original, old-school rockin' number, with Piper as the woman scorned (in spades):  "Eugene, I know just where you've been/You left with my best friend and her twin sister/She said you done a whole more than kissed her/You better be packing your things now, mister" ... all done with what must have been a sly grin on her face.  The CD close out with Blackberry Brandy, a slow, almost "western" sounding number:  "Blackberry brandy, it's all I crave/It's fine and dandy, but it's an early grave."   Again, Piper's deep-seated sense of humor comes across.  Overall, a fun-filled collection of (mostly original) songs from Anni Piper & Co, worthy of more than a few spins and listens.  Get yourself a copy and learn more about Anni Piper at  Fun stuff, good stuff, getcha some.

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Andy T-Nick Nixon Band - Numbers Man

I've written so many times that music, especially blues, runs deep into the heart and soul of the listener.  It's about friendship and love and having fun along the way, and such was the recent show in Denver by the BMA nominated Andy T - Nick Nixon Band.  Up for Blues Band of the Year as well as Traditional Blues Album, California native Andy "T" Talamantez, as technically proficient a guitarist as you'll ever hear, relocated to Nashville, TN about 7 or 8 years ago, and eventually ran into James "Nick" Nixon, a Nashville native whose career runs from gigs with Jimi Hendrix in the 60's to signing with Chess Records in the 70's and a 35 year long stint as music educator in Nashville.  The rest, as they say, is history, and history has rewarded us with a trio of CD's from one of the finest ensemble groups around today, the latest being Numbers Man, and it's a thing of beauty.  Along with Larry van Loon on keyboards, Jim Klingler on drums and - on the CD - Sam Persons (John Herring is now touring and performing with the band as bassist), Andy and Nick churn out a magnificent collection of songs that touches the mind and heart and soul.  Shut The Front Door kicks off the CD with a bang, a blend of blues and country-western and Chuck Berry all rolled into one.  Nick's vocals and Andy's tasty string work, with the rhythm backing bouncing and juking, is a wake-call for the body and spirit.  Devil's Wife, a Cajun-inspired number about perhaps the meanest woman ever, showcases The Texas Horns and serves as a reminder to choose friends carefully.   The CD, produced by Anson Funderburgh (who chips a few guitar licks in on a few tunes), continues with the gently swaying jazzy smooth Deep Blue Sea, an invitation to intimacy.  "Of all the fishes in the sea, you're the one I like to swim home with me/Together we can swim in the sea of love, underneath the starry sky above/Yes whatever whatever, darling, anything you want to do/I could spend forever swimming around the sea with you."  How can you not love it?  Grab that special someone, pull him or her close and enjoy.  The Zydeco sounds of Tall Drink Of Water keeps the good times going:  "She's a big, big girl, at least six-three/She looks so fine, she took a shine to me/She's a tall drink of water, I'm gonna fill my cup/She's a tall drink of water, things are looking up."  The sound is so infectious and the band is perfect on every note.  Excuse me while I flag down the bartender for my own tall drink.  The title track, Numbers Man, is a "dark blues" song about a local gambling operation, the guy who can "get things done" outside of the lines of legality.  Larry van Loon shines brightly with his keyboard wizardry (and having just seen the band live, I can attest to that personally).  The band be-bops along with Pretty Girls Everywhere, fun and bouncy and just that "feel-good" upbeat shuffle beat that demands toe-tapping and chair-dancing, at the least.  

Blue Monday, the slow, smoky Malone-Caple tune covered by Albert Collins on his Frostbite album, is a winner with Nixon's passionate voice and Andy T's tasty guitar licks.  van Loon's yummy keyboard work adds another level of deliciousness that lingers even after the song has ended.  Another original, Hightailin', features more tasty Hammond B3, and Andy's guitar mastery is clean, sexy, sultry and hot.  There's a reason this band has been nominated for awards:  they are simply just that good.   The Nixon-penned Sundown Blues is as real and gutsy as blues gets:  "Sundown blues, oh how I hate that sundown blues/Sundown blues, I've got nothing else to lose/The sun went down when my baby left me/That's why I call it the sundown blues."  Kim Wilson adds a special harmonica backing and solo, and the result is just ever-so-good.  Home-grown blues for the soul, dig?   The band kicks it into 40's swing mode with Tell Me What's The Reason, Nixon's vocals and Andy T's jazzy slick stringwork at the front, with a perfectly produced "big band sound" backing them up with precision.  Good stuff.  Be Somebody Some Day might just be the story of everyman, everyone everywhere who wants to succeed in life.  "Want to tell you a story about my life/Everything I do, had to do it twice/Doesn't look like I'm making headway/Cause I'm doing the same thing every day ... I wanna be somebody, I wanna be somebody some day."  Yup, that's just how many of us feel, Nick.  Slow and swaying, plaintive and bluesy, baritone sax (John Mills solo) and Hammond B3 and tasty guitar ... and yes, I wanna be somebody some day, too.  Andy's What Went Wrong is another Zydeco-Creole number about a couple that's been together for a long time, but the relationship is on the rocks, Nick's voice pleading to save what was once special.  The band pays homage to Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown with Gate's Salty Blues, and they do it well.  Indeed, there's nothing this band doesn't do extraordinarily well, from slow and mellow to upbeat and swing.  Musically, lyrically, solo spots and ensemble, everything is "pitch perfect" (and the band is just as perfect "live" - an absolute treat from as nice a "family" of musicians as you'll ever find).  The band caps off the CD with Andy's plea to humanity:  This World We Live In.  "People learn to hate, then they learn to fight/They must believe it's their God-given right/This can't change until we judge ourself before others and change our hate to love/No matter about religion, or the color of our skin/Love is the answer for this world we live in."  Amen, and thank you, Andy T.  Thank you, Nick Nixon.  (And thank you, Kyle Deibler).  To anyone reading this:  buy this CD, listen to it ... over and over again ... and if you get a chance to see Andy T - Nick Nixon Band, jump on it. Savor it.  Feel the love.  

Andy T-Nick Nixon Band - Numbers Man on Blind Pig Records is available at

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Rex Peoples & X-Factr - Fried Food / Hard Liquor

Colorado's Rex Peoples is a man who's been around, a man who has felt the blues and lived the blues, and has been singing the blues long enough that he knows how to express it, in songwriting as well as performing.  Coming back from a devastating illness, Rex teamed up with some of the area's best players in keyboardist Danny Haynes, guitarist Jim DeSchamp, bass player Bob Tiger and skins man Carleton Pike for what turned out to be one of the best "true blues" offerings I've heard in awhile:  Fried Food / Hard Liquor.  Rex, who has toiled as an entertainer, vocal coach and educator for the Blues in The Schools program, puts mind, heart and soul into all he does, and he does it all well.  So well, in fact, that he and the band were the Colorado Blues Society's entrant to the IBC in Memphis, hardly a surprise for someone with this kind of talent surrounded by a band that's as talented and tasty as they come.  Starting off with the Sunday-Come-To-Meetin' sound of Lord Willing, Rex puts on a clinic on how to sing the blues, a short number with the band perfectly in time at every stop and start.  "Lord Willing, and the creek don't rise/Lord willing, til the day I die/Gonna tell the truth, gonna tell no lies/Lord willing, said I will survive" and Rex Peoples is indeed a survivor.  I Love The Blues has a gestalt-blues sound:  part African beat, part deep south, part Creole, part jazz club ... and when Rex sings "I love the blues, it comes from way down in my soul" you have no doubt whatsoever.  Field Hand Blues is Rex's homage to the slavery and toil of the deep south and his own ancestry. All Day Blues is a slow, smoky, tasty number with understated guitar from Jim and keys from Danny, perfect complements to Rex's smooth delivery, as sweet a number as you'll hear.  The title track and my personal favorite, Fried Food/Hard Liquor is an evocative, smoky tale of a juke joint somewhere in the South, the origins of the blues sound: "Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, stood a tiny wooden shack/Christmas tree lights hung year round, with a wood-burning stove in the back/We're serving fried food, hard liquor, and playing the blues."  Close your eyes and you can feel the musty air of a hot, steamy July night in Mississippi, the sounds of blues wafting through the air and the aroma of fried catfish, hush puppies and slow-smoked BBQ.  Jim DeSchamp's guitar is both delicate and delicious with a perfect little solo at the break, and Danny's understated yet omnipresent keyboard chords provide the perfect backdrop and mood, and he also comes across perfectly when it's his turn to shine. Bob and Carleton keep the rhythm sweet and tasty throughout the song and indeed, the entire collection.

Rex turns his recent illness into song with Make Bad Look Good, the story of a bluesman and indeed, every blues singer, player, frontman and sideman toiling on the road that never seems to end, and the toll that it takes over time.  Danny and Carleton pitch in with perfectly timed riffs of keys and skins, and it all blends into a moving feeling that touches the heart and soul, as does every track on the CD.  Trouble Man, a lament of the evils of society in various form, is slow and touching:  "Trouble man, selling dope on the corner/Trouble man, you can do good but you don't wanna/Trouble man, as sure as you were born/You know that you been doing wrong."  The slow shuffle Talkin' With My Baby is a toe-tapping, chair-dancing look back at a man who suddenly finds himself alone for reasons he doesn't understand and the pain he feels.  "She wouldn't pick up the phone, and I was left just driving around/I looked everywhere, but my baby was nowhere to be found."  I feel your pain, Rex.  Lover is an upbeat, get-off-your-butt and cut a rug testament of praise, a feel-good "hell yeah" number that's simply irresistible:  "I got a woman that I'd like you to meet/Long black hair and oh-so-sweet/I think about my baby all the time/I never thought that this could happen to me, but I love her/Oh I love her, or Lord yeah.".  Oh yeah.  As with everything on this collection of songs, the whole is much more than the sum of its parts, with everyone in the band getting a turn to shine, and shine they do.  There is simply no way anyone can hear this song and not be infused with joy.  The same goes for the closing track, I Wanna Know, a fast-moving blues train of staccato keys and drums from Danny and Carleton, evolving into a guitar solo from Jim that's ever-so-tasty.  As Rex noted in the liner notes:  X-Factr is about the intangibles in music that make the religious shout, the partiers dance, and reminds us of the emotions that make you say "That's my song!"  Amen to that, Rex.  Welcome back.  The rest of you, contact Rex (see information below) and get this CD.  I promise you'll love it, from beginning to end.

For a copy of the CD, please email Rex Peoples directly:

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Crooked Eye Tommy - Butterflies & Snakes

From sunny, southern California comes an incredible blues band:  Crooked Eye Tommy, fronted by Tommy Marsh of crooked eye fame, and brother Paddy Marsh, both guitarists and vocalists, and both adept songwriters.  Along with Jimmy Calire on sax, Tony Cicero on drums and Glade Rasmussen on bass, this band is steeped in blues from the heart and soul.  Somehow, someway, this band has managed to put out songs that are new and original and fresh, yet familiar ... a comfortable feel despite hearing them for the first time, and it's a good thing.  Both brothers can play some terrific riffs, and Calire on his sweet sax adds a delicious layer of funk and soul, as does the entire band.  Starting off with the semi-autobiographical song Crooked Eye Tommy, a slow, smoky, southern blues soulful number, the band serves notice that they are, indeed, worthy of attention.  Come On In has a funky, swaying, moonlit beachside feel, a song about a man's home and heart:  "It needs work, baby not too much/The best home improvement is your loving touch/There hasn't been a fire in years/You got one burning now and it's dried my tears/Come on in, baby, make yourself at home."  I Stole The Blues is a fun, mellow shuffle about musical influences, from Muddy Waters to Jerry Garcia.  "I stole the blues/I stole the blues as a matter of fact/Well you know I stole the blues/Now it's time to give it back."   Calire cranks out an incredible solo at the break, highly remiciscent of Clarence Clemons at his E-Street Band best. There's a slightly jazzy feel to Time Will Tell, about the differences between men and women, and how we show our love.  Tommy and Paddy share a twin-guitar solo, running up and down the frets in perfect harmony and unison, then trade licks with each other, proving that both are adept at their craft.  This is seriously good music, from a seriously good band that certainly deserves attention.

Somebody's Got To Pay is a statement about our current socio-economic condition, and it's all too true:  "If you think your government, gives a damn about your rent/And if you vote for left or right, they don't care about your plight/You see money's their only game, but somebody's got to pay."  Amen, brother.  An added layer of Hammond B3 by Bill Bilhou and Calire's fiery, smokin' sax makes this a terrific little number.  With Love Divine, the band shows off their musical chops in a variety of ways, and the blistering guitar solo mid-song is a delicious, if short, rocking little bit.  After The Burn is an upbeat, almost Calypso sounding song, again with Bilhou's Hammond B3 in the background, delicious stuff that highlights the fact that Crooked Eye Tommy, the band, isn't about Tommy or Paddy or Jimmy, Calire, but about the music itself.  Nobody's the "star" but everyone in the ensemble adds to every song, top to bottom, beginning to end.  Some true blues with an upbeat, get out of your chair and dance fast boogie-woogie beat is Mad And Disgusted, featuring lyrics that ring all too true to many, and some fun-filled piano work throughout:  "I used to have an old Suburban, it hauled my gear around/It didn't pass the smog so I had to shut that sucker down/You know I'm mad - mad and disgusted/It seems this good old American life, oh it's all but busted."  Over And Over is a slow, romantic ode featuring Calire's saucy saxophone that would leave Tom Scott smiling.  The band wraps up the collection with the almost country/western Southern Heart, a personal song from Tommy that allows the band to virtually ride off into the sunset at the end of the CD, with props to Lynyrd Skynyrd along the way, proof that Crooked Eye Tommy's musical heritage has its roots in the south, birthplace of the blues itself. Butterflies & Snakes is a powerful and yet fun collection, and one that I highly recommend.  Good stuff from Crooked Eye Tommy: a new band with an old soul.  Cheers.

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Coyote Bill - Goodbye Raylene

If you're anything like me, you not only love the blues, you also appreciate good slide-steel guitar, and one of the newest and best in the business is one Coyote Bill.  Hailing from my old hometown of Kansas City, Coyote Bill was the Kansas City Blues Society IBC entrant a year ago, and he's back on track with his latest CD:  Goodbye Raylene, a raucous and rollicking good time from beginning to end.  Coyote Bill, along with bassist (and part-time vocalist) Susan Barrett as well as Jeremy Butcher on skins, cranks up the high-octave fun with what might best be described as "gutbucket boogie" ... and indeed, the CD starts off with a track called Gutbucket Moan, an upbeat shuffle with a fabulous backbeat and an "authentic" blues sound and feel.  The title cut, Goodbye Raylene, is an upbeat blast of rockin' and rollin' slide guitar virtuosity.  Only slightly more subdued than ZZ Top, this is a band that's definitely out for a fun time.  Bill shows a lyrical sense of humor throughout the CD, such as Long Gone Song:  "We have a disagreement, it turns into a fight/The problem doesn't matter just as long as she is right/Well I believe my baby's long gone/Everything I try to do, I do it all wrong."  With 69 Hiway, Bill expresses the frustrations of everyone on the "highway of life" ... if you're not dancing and moving and having a blast, check your pulse.  The trio slows it down a tiny bit for One Damn Minute, a tasty little number about a guy who's all too often been wrongly accused of "runnin' round, cheatin' and lyin" ... if there's a complaint to be found, it's that the song is too short.  Electrofied Boogie is just that, upbeat boogie-woogie blues and a literal showcase for Bill's talents on the axe - with music this good, you don't need lyrics, just a dance floor for the party that's waiting to happen in your ears, very reminiscent of George Thorogood.  

Coyote Blues is an earthy, gutsy showcase of Bill's talents and he proves himself worthy of being mentioned alongside some of the best slide-men in the business.  Glass Cutter is an uptempo, bump-bumpin' boot-scootin' head-shakin' romp that's sure to get listeners dancing from start to finish.  The band is tight on Kansas Peaches, an upbeat shuffle with some yummy chord rips throughout as well as a just plain fun groove.  Flick My Switch is another example of Bill's tongue-in-cheek lyrical mastery, nearly equalling his mastery on the axe, and always with a wink and a nod to blues masters of the past:  "You got a dirty mind now, I do what I'm told/Don't leave me now hangin' child, I'm hangin' cold/You been workin' too hard woman, I got the thing to scratch that itch/I got to tell you honeychild now, you really flick my switch" ... finger-pickin' good if ever there was.  Wrapping things up with Two Shots And A Rat, Bill and the band bring it home with a funky, soulful good time. The entire CD has a clean yet vibrantly "true blues" sound, excellent production that adds to Coyote Bill's "Southern Comfort" sound.  In the end, music is only as good as it makes you feel, and this is a collection that will leave you feeling very, very good every single time, and will get a number of spins by anyone who loves blues and blues guitar.  Learn more about Coyote Bill at and be sure to follow the link (below) to get his CD:  Goodbye Raylene.  Trust me, you won't be disappointed. 

Dan Treanor's Afrosippi Band - Born to Love the Blues

A few months ago I reviewed a fabulous CD by Denver's own Michael Hossler, one of the most under-appreciated musicians around, but now it's time for the rest of the story.  That story is about one of the best bands not just in Denver, or even Colorado, but simply one of the best in the business, period:  Dan Treanor's Afrosippi band.  And just who is Dan Treanor?  Well, he's a local legend who's been around for more than a few days, gifted on both strings and harmonica ... active in Colorado's Blues in the Schools, a 2012 recipient of The Blues Foundation's Keeping the Blues Alive award, a 3-time nominee for Blues Album of the Year award, a 4 time IBC entrant and, along with his Afrosippi band, 3rd Place in the 2013 IBC event ... all in all an impressive resume, more so for someone that few outside of the Denver blues scene have heard of, and more's the pity:  this music is simply too good not to hear.  As for the band name, Treanor's influences run from Deep South traditional blues to the very roots of music and the beats, instruments and sounds of African music ... world music indeed, and all wrapped up with some of the most incredible vocals around, thanks to Denver's "Queen of the Blues" one Erica Brown.  It's a Sunday-Go-To-Meetin' Blues Revival Prayer and Testament, can I get a hallelujah (I recently had the good fortune to see the band at Lincoln's Roadhouse here  in Denver, and it was indeed a magical night, especially when Nic Clark and Taylor Scott joined the band onstage for a couple of numbers).  Treanor and Brown, with Hossler often kicking it on lead solo guitar, and MJ (Merrian Johnson) on lead vocals as well, there's nothing like it around, and Born to Love the Blues is, in a word, fabulous, a dozen songs (mostly Dan Treanor originals) that are guaranteed to lift the spirits, infuse the soul and wake up the dancer in every listener.

Starting off with Can You Hear Me, the band sets the tone with with an upbeat sound, silky blends of guitar and Ms Brown's vocals, all backed by a terrific and accomplished rhythm section of Jack Erwin on Bass Scott Headley on drums.  Another original follows with Done Got Old, and Ms Brown knows how to belt out the blues.  Dan's harmonica and Michael's guitar are the perfect complement, and it's a collective effort that works on every level, powerful and driving.  MJ takes over lead vocals on Orgone's Who Knows Who, a funky and soulful number that hits home all the way through.  The band does an outstanding job with Hurt Like Mine from the Black Keys, as Brown's powerful vocals match Treanor's powerful harmonica, and Hossler's guitar.  Treanor shines and blisters his way throughout the song, proving why he's one of the best in the business.  Slowing it down in a good way, MJ might just bring tears to your eyes with the Sam Cooke cover of A Change is Going to Come:  pure soul, pure heart, pure blues and harmony, and the blues simply doesn't get much better than this.  The band goes back to originals with Love Ain't Easy to Find, a testament to love and peace of mind in a world of loneliness and heartache.

The Band's "signature" song, A House is Not a Home, is an upbeat, moving, grooving, toe-tapping, upbeat number that features Hossler's lap steel guitar prowess and Treanor's magnificent guitar along with Brown's vocals:  turn it up, kids, it's party time and the house is rocking!  MJ's vocals on Heat are smooth as silk, an almost "pop" number that works musically and lyrically.  Knocked Out is fun Treanor harmonica opening, Brown talking about getting knocked out by life:  jug of bourbon, a little slow gin/I just keep on drinking again and again/cause I'm knocked out, oh yeah, laid out on the floor/if I get up in time I won't get knocked down no more.  Powerful and driving, funky and a collective effort if there ever was one, Mississippi Fred's Dream is a showcase for the band and just about as much fun as it gets, with Treanor's "straight and natural blues" style front and center.  Oh yes, blues had a baby and now that baby is all grown up and playing in Denver.  The band ends the magnificent collection with a heart-moving cover of Emile Sande's Next To Me, and MJ's voice is pure bliss.

Stand up, Dan Treanor, and take a deep bow:  you've earned it, and deserve it.  Born to Love the Blues is one of the best blues albums I've ever heard, and I've heard quite a few.  The band, top to bottom, is as accomplished and technically sound as any in the business; Erica Brown and MJ are two of the finest vocalists on the planet, and the CD belongs in the collection of every serious (or casual) blues fan, it really is just that good and then some.  If you're not yet familiar with Dan Treanor's Afrosippi Band, it's time to find out for yourself why this band is considered perhaps the best in Colorado.

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 Markus James - Head For the Hills

A few months ago at Denver's Pearl Street Blues Festival, I was treated to the sounds of a remarkably talented musician, one Markus James.  On stage with his signature porkpie hat and drummer Marlon Green, the sparks flew fast and furious as James showed why he's one of the most versatile musicians around today, just as he showcases on Head For The Hills:  powerful music with an even more powerful primal beat.  As for James, he not only does all vocals and guitar, he also plays gourd banjo (yes, you read that correctly), three-string cigarbox guitar, slide dulcimer, one-string diddly-bow, beatbox and yes ... harp.  With Green (the last person to play with John Lee Hooker), Calvin Jackson (who played with Junior Kimbrough and RL Burnside) or Junior Kimbrough (son of Junior Kimbrough) on skins, James has delivered an epic roots-music adventure that belongs in every blues collection.  The roots for this one are from the deep south, birthplace and home of some of the most revered names in blues.  Incorporating his African-roots-beat style with the deepest roots of American blues, James has produced a masterpiece.  From the opening notes of Just Say Yes, James takes the listener on a wild ride that's as heady as it is relentlessly driving, and certainly reminiscent of Burnside's Rollin' & Tumblin'.  The title track itself features lyrics that may be sparse but invoke chills:  It's hard out here, all the pimps and pills/All the dealers and all their pretty pills/First one's fee and the last one kills/Time to head for the hills ... time indeed.  Shake is a full-bore driving groove, replete with harp and some of the most exceptional string work imaginable, and the shake is delivered full force from top to bottom:  Angels sing/Trumpets Blow/Earthquake/Jericho.  Simply put, Markus James is lightning infused with atomic energy, an almost one-man-show with a depth of sensibility and history that's second to none, as he sings in Suit of Golden Clothes:  In a righteous world, you'd be king.  Pausing to slow down with For Blind Willie, James pays mellow and deepfelt tribute to the ages (I'm thinking more Blind Willie Johnson than Blind Willie McTell, but the sound is unmistakably 1920's roots blues).

James (and Green) ramp it up with Gone Like Tomorrow, rich with sound upon layered sound as James evokes imagery with his musical wizardry.  Fallin' From The Sky has a similar feel, but a darker edge:  It's a dangerous place but I know my way around/Just how long have you been travelin' underground.  Jame's sings with deep conviction, just as he plays, and the combination of his deep and somewhat gravelly voice with his hard-edged music and driving beats works on every level.  On A Mississippi Porch sounds precisely like that:  finger-pickin' acoustic guitar and simple percussion slaps on a Mississippi front porch in the summertime, with Calvin Jackson providing hambone percussion on the track.  Sleepyhead is simply Markus James and acoustic guitar:  nice and easy, slow and smooth, delicious.  James turns up the beat again on Candyland Refugee:  Dream about a world that's in your hand/Slippin' thru your fingers like a grain of sand/God starts laughin' when we make a plan/Lord I'm a refugee from Candyland.  In some ways, we all are, and that's perhaps the strongest bond we have with blues and life, eternally unchanging, death as much a part of it all as life.  The listener will absolutely wake up with Woke Me, a funky, fun, boot-scootin' boogie blast of cranked up, amped-out fun.  Wake the dead, Markus James, and long may blues live.  Get this CD.  Play it, listen to it, then repeat.  Again, and again, and never forget what old-school blues really is.  With Head For The Hills, old school is revived and sounds fresher than ever. 

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Kirby Sewell Band - Girl With A New Tattoo

From the opening notes of Kirby Sewell's latest CD, I was hooked.  Hooked on the beat, hooked on the lyrics, hooked on the music, hooked on phonics.  Girl With A New Tattoo, the latest from Canadian Kirby Sewell, hits home with a bang.  Sewell's vocals are cutting and real, and along with guitarist and producer Neil Gunhold, the band conspires to keep it real with a fresh, new backbeat and a sense of humor.  The Devil's in the Details starts off the CD with funk and groove and a steady-rocking beat, Morgan Turk's lead string work the perfect complement to Sewell's brash sound.  Jim Johnson kills it on the skins and Jae Cho keeps it all together with some seriously good bass.  Serious blues from a seriously talented band, with Sewell shining in the middle.  The title track is just about as much fun as a song can get, and Sewell's ongoing commentary tells it like it is: Is that a unicorn on your shoulder, ain't seen one of them in awhile/Is that a spider on your bye-bye dear, them long legs is just my style/Well it ain't exactly kosher them things make me wanna do/There ain't nothin' in this world like a girl with a new tattoo. If you don't simply love this I'll gladly refund your money (with proof of purchase) and Sewell's right, there's really nothing quite like a girl with a tattoo.  Carry Me Home is a bit poppish, but the band makes up for any sins with Stop and Go, a deliciously wicked, steamy number that's perfect for movin' and groovin'.  Again, some of the best and tightest rhythm work and sweet strings from Turk.  One thing about Kirby Sewell is that he knows that his music is about more than just his singing ... but his voice and attitude are most certainly the glue that holds it all together.

$1.11 is a hoppin' and boppin' number about a re-examined life and moving on from the past:  I sold my soul for a dollar/I sold my dreams for a dime/I sold my heart for a penny in a pawnshop at the corner/Now I got a dollar-eleven I'm looking for a good time ... and Sewell's rough-edged voice is as driving as the rest of the band, with a jazzy little break in the middle, definitely good stuff, danceable stuff to be sure, and yes, a song that makes the listener think.  A Better Reason is mellow with an almost "country" flavor to it, but then nobody's perfect, and the band kicks it back into high-gear blues swagger with Kiss You Tonight, a guy looking forward to tonight's hot date down by the riverside after a long day at work.  Good stuff.  Cryin' All The Way recounts the many things that can happen in life, all of which leave one crying about the past and the way things used to be, with the moral of the story being that you really can't look back:  instead, look forward to the future because that's all there is.  The band nails it with their ending track:  Till The River Starts to Overflow ... a simple, soulful, old-school blues-based ditty that's as tasty as any dessert.  All in all, a fabulous if all-too-short collection from a terrific blues singer and his band:  clean yet at times gritty, and no ego getting in the way of the music or the sound.  Two thumbs up for the Kirby Sewell Band's CD, because Sewell is right when he sings:  Ain't nothing in the world like a Girl With A New Tattoo.   

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Dr Izzy Band - Blind and Blues Bound

Enough has been written already about the incredible story of Dr Izzy, but for those who aren't familiar with her story, a fast overview:  born and raised in small-town Texas, Izzy loved to sing at an early age, but was stricken with blindness at the age of about 10.  Fighting the odds of success, she lived and earned through her sense of feel as well as her mind, and always what was in her heart ... in college she studied biology, and though many told her she wouldn't make it, she did indeed, although as a Chiropractor, and yes she's a licensed, practicing bona fide doctor.  Raising a son and needing the money from her work, she let go of singing for awhile, but eventually came back to it, again with all her heart and soul.  In the early 2000's she met and eventually fell in love with Robert Morrison, a seriously gifted guitarist, and they became partners in music craftsmanship as well as husband and wife, and the rest - as they say - is history. 

Along the way, Izzy and Robert met bassist Kenny Passarelli (co-founder of Barnstorm and co-writer of Rocky Mountain Way) who is also co-producer of Blind and Blues Bound, as well as listed co-writer of all songs on the CD, along with Dr Izzy and Robert.  The result is a collection of songs that run from pure, soulful roots blues to Texas-inspired gospel, from Americana to Blues Rock ... and with just a little help from a few friends (James Cotton adding harmonica on the opening Matches Don't Burn Memories, Anne Harris and her remarkable violin playing, and trance-blues originator Otis Taylor on banjo for Old Black Crow) and you have the makings of a signature sound that can take your breath away.  And while Izzy's heartfelt voice is always front and center, Robert's masterful guitar work, acoustic or electric, is a joy as well.  Indeed, the interplay between Morrison and James Cotton, with Dr Izzy's singing is as powerful as it gets, a down-home, Southern-rocking, deep-fried number that resonates on a myriad of levels.  Soul Dance is a magical, almost western-desert sounding mournful appeal, with the melancholy strains of Anne Harris' violin adding depth and harmony to a powerful song about never giving up and succeeding at whatever the task in life.

Been Long Time Comin' has a slow, melancholy sound and beat to back up the powerfully emotional lyrics of the hardships and hard relationships of growing up in an often harsh reality.  Earth Bound has a similar sound and style, although more "amped up" in nature, how one feels about a broken relationship.   Old Black Crow is a soulful instant classic, Taylor's banjo the perfect accompaniment to Izzy's voice as she creates symbolism from beginning to end.  Morrison's acoustic guitar on Mama Said, along with Harris' violin, creates a mood of sadness that fits well with bittersweet song about memories and memories lost.   The almost gospel Passion's Not A Crime, replete with background harmonies that would be just as at home in any church as they are on a blues recording, is just about as deep-down heartfelt as a song can get:  stay true to yourself, and even though we may have to "sell out" to make it in society, hang onto your passion and hang onto your soul, because when you get right down to it, that's what really makes us who we are.  Hang Tough is a fun, rocking number highlighting everything that happens in life that tend to knock us down, the message loud and clear that you've got to hang tough just to survive.   It's Been Real is another slow-rocking number, this one about a relationship turned bad:  say goodbye, it's been real, seeya later. 

The CD closes with the distinctly southern-roots sound of Your Redeemer, with Morrison adding not only his excellent guitar but also his singing, part harmony and the occasional lead line:  a delicious back and forth and then blend of two voices, two hearts, two souls that have long since become one ... be your own redeemer, choose your battles and be at peace with yourself.  And really, who knows better about struggles and overcoming hardships, all while maintaining that deep, down true passion, than one who's done just that, as Dr Izzy has done since she was a young girl.  Intensely personal from beginning to end, Blind and Blues Bound is the perfect collection of stories and struggles, of hardships overcome, relationships lost, the past remembered and the future always in sight.  One doesn't need eyes to see some things, or to understand that life is what you make of it.  Dr Izzy is the living testament to the power of one's own sheer will to succeed, and the band's personal touch on every song is as powerful as the raw emotion that goes along with being human.  Blind and Blues Bound is a CD that deserves to be in any collection, and well worth many listens, because one is never too old to learn about overcoming obstacles and staying true to the heart.

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Johnny O. Band - Life's Tough

Life's Tough is a fabulous CD from the Johnny O. Band, a jewel that was recorded live at The Dickens Opera House in Longmont, Co, just north of Denver.  Starting off with BB King's Sweet Little Angel, Johnny O and the band prove they can play blues with the best bands around.  John Ohnmacht is a remarkably talented guitarist and musician who deserves to be more widely known.  With Marion Edwards (Drums), Ian Anderson (Bass) and Bruce Delaplain, the band is as polished and silky smooth as it gets.  The album itself is dedicated to the memory of the late, great Howard Berkman, who mentored a young and impressionable Johnny O at an early age.  The master's teachings took hold, as evidenced by the incredible work and sound of the Johnny O Band. Indeed, nearly half of the tracks are Berkman songs, including the title track, and all of them sound fresh every time I spin the disc.  Incorporating just a touch of smooth jazz in the riffs here and there, the arrangements (all by Ornmacht) are fabulous, and the musicianship is of all the band members is readily apparent throughout.  Johnny O, who's rightfully won the Colorado Blues Society's IBC challenge in 2009 (band) and 2011 (solo/duo) is one of the best at what he does:  blues with attitude, funk and a bit of jazz and a whole lotta soul.  Mama's Pontiac is a fun little Allman-style bop along, while Myrna Moonlight is simply one of the most delicious blues-jazz blends ever:  a Berkman gem that's at once soothing and relaxing, yet forward-driving.  Delaplain's keyboard work is fabulous yet understated on Green Blues, a powerful plea to save the only Earth we know. 

Crescent City People, a Johnny O original, is a funky and soulful song about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and those who ended up in the worst possible shape for seemingly no reason other than lack of compassion.  Adobe Flats has a laid-back, driving down a long, winding, open highway with the wind in your face feel, a little bit bit blues, a little bit jazz and just a hint of soul ... good stuff!  Whiskey Drinkin' Woman is a slow, true-blues shuffle written by Lou Donaldson, and about as much fun as it gets ... Johnny's playing is perfectly suited to a song like this, and he treats the lyrics with the blues-respect they deserve, absolutely a favorite from the beginning note.  The Berkman title track, Life's Tough, is a gritty, down-in-the-dirt blues number about ... well, about life, and sometimes it really is tough, but we find the strength to keep on going anyway.  If you like good blues, then you want this one:  pour yourself a cold one, turn up the volume, kick back and enjoy one of Colorado's gems.

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Hornbuckle - Virtue & Vice

In the five years that I have been an active member of the Denver/Colorado blues scene a name that I have heard often is Hornbuckle. A number of times I have promised myself to check out a Hornbuckle concert but have never had the chance, and thus it was with distinct pleasure that I got to hear Michael Hornbuckle at a recent charity event, and again just a short time later at a local bluesfest:  make no mistake, Michael Hornbuckle can play with the best of 'em.  He and brother Brian (bass), along with Alexander “Ace” Baker (keyboards) and Lance Crane (drums) have come out with a fabulous new CD titled Virtue And Vice, and it's a winner all the way around.   Hornbuckle (the band) features excellent songwriting from both brothers as well as Baker, along with terrific musicianship and excellent production.  

Done Fooling Around starts it off with a bang, and there's plenty to like here:  a slightly funky, power beat with everyone contributing their part, some trippy chord progressions at the break, and multi-layered vocals that are ever-so-tasty.  Complicated is a look at how society has changed over the years, from simple games of “kick the can” to the way things are now, more jaded and complicated in almost every way.  Taking another look back, in a far less serious way, the band kicks it into high gear with the raucous and fun '59 Pontiac Hearse (and yes, I want one).  With a line like “... baby where we're going, there ain't no return” you just have to love it, and Michael simply kills it with his guitar.  Brian's Slave To The Benjamins hits a home-run as well, and Baker's keyboarding skills are nothing less than standout quality.  

Blue Note is a mellow reflection of how hard it is to let go of a relationship, old-school style blues with an old-school sound and feel.   Lip is a fun, bouncy homage to the simple pleasures of the small things in life, like “... my baby's lip” and Michael showcases his blisteringly solid axe work at the break and beyond.  Definitely a good, rockin' number with no pretensions.  The Michael-Brian collaboration Ride Away is another solid rocker with a strong beat.  Michael's Bird Of A Feather is a powerfully emotional bit of songwriting and singing, as is One Foot In The Grave, a social statement that reverberates strongly in a variety of ways.

Angels, Addicts, Poets and Thieves has a distinct “southern swamp-blues” sound and feel, another powerfully emotional song from Michael and Ace Baker.  For anyone who's ever been down and wondered how hard it is to get back on their feet, this song pretty much hits home.  Knife In Your Hand is a not-so-subtle reminder not to argue with a woman with “that look” in her eyes, especially when you've done something like stay out all night.   Preach on, guys.  Beautiful Rain, about drug addiction, is another strong number that hits on all levels, as Michael sings about “a beautiful rain, pharmaceutical things, but it comes at a price, a slice of your soul.”   The band ends the collection with the title track (and one of my favorites), Brian's Virtue And Vice, an upbeat shuffle about, well, the virtues of both virtue AND vice – “One for today, one for tomorrow, drink up cuz you only live twice/one for the joy, one for the sorrow, here's to virtue and here's to vice.”  So true, and maybe it's truly who and what we all are, deep down inside:  conflicted, frustrated and seeking a way out from the troubles that affect us all.  Sometimes you just can't win, so you might as well have fun … and the band does just that:  a fun number that hits the nail on the head.  I'll drink to that, and a rousing cheer for Virtue and Vice, the CD from Hornbuckle.  Two thumbs up, guys.

Velarde - Full Moon

Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, and recently I was lucky enough to catch Kirby Velarde at a benefit concert here in Denver. The concert was a fund raiser for a local musician stricken with cancer and the turnout was incredible: an outpouring of love that touched the heart. As I walked into the event, I heard a wonderful musician on stage and asked who it was, and was told that it was Kirby Velarde a name previously unknown to me but one that I'm glad that I know. Velarde's CD “Full Moon” is a revelation for someone who's never had the chance to hear Kirby Velarde's magnificent guitar work. Velarde, fronted by Dan (father) and Kirby (son) Velarde is a fabulously talented pair surrounded by other equally adept musicians.

Velarde starts off with the mellow instrumental Can't Be Messin' with a Poor Man's Money and it's a sultry, delicious tune that showcases Kirby's talents on the six-string. The title track Full Moon is an upbeat, saucy tribute to the power of the moon, emotions and the very night itself. The song is a rocking, straight-forward power track and Velarde nails it all the way through. I'm in Heaven is another good blues/rock number that's sure to have the listener chair-dancing and toe tapping. Dan's rough, growly vocals and Kirby's masterful axe provides a perfect contrast to Jimmy Ayers' silky smooth keyboard work. Physical Thing is a funky, almost Tower of Power sounding song with some decidedly jazzy string work from Kirby and terrific sax work from Dan Williamson ... trumpet, trombone and keyboard round the full sound of the track. The band pulls out every funkalicious stop for Hard on the Road and background vocals from Renard Gallo and Anitra Lewis are as soulful as it gets. If you're not dancing you're not listening.

Dan and Kirby slow it down for a moving and personal tribute June of 69. Vietnam: no more needs to be said other than the song is beautiful and a fitting tribute to all those that served with conviction. Kirby's guitar is as stunning as Dan's vocal message. Man Thing is a kick-ass statement on how to party: work hard, play hard and enjoy life. Kirby's guitar and Jimmy's organ complement each other perfectly. Dan doubles down by showing off his talents on the harp as well as vocals on the steamy Gypsy Woman and Jimmy's Hammond Organ work is as saucy as it gets. Kirby ends things with a flourish with more deliciously bluesy six-string work. 7 has an almost new age ethereal feel featuring Howard Whales on the keys. Coming full circle, June of 69 ends the collection the same way it began, a mellow, introspective instrumental with Kirby sounding much like Pat Metheny. Kirby is as adept playing soft and slow as he is at play full-bore power blues. I cannot say enough about both the talent showcased on this CD as well as the music. Definitely worthy of any collection, I highly recommend “Full Moon” by Velarde. But then, I suppose, one would expect nothing less from a Wolf.

Mojomama - Mojomama

Over the last few years, I've been blessed to catch Denver favorite Mojomama a few times, and it's always a good party, but lest one think “dance floor blues” is all this band does, think again. Their latest work is a celebration of musicianship and craftsmanship, and lead vocalist Jessica Rogalski has never sounded better. Along with husband Paul on bass, the terrific Bob Murnahan on guitar and Paul Christiansen on drums (along with a couple of very special guests), Mojomama has created a delicious variety of sounds and styles that are as evocative as they are listen-able, and all songs are such a collaborative effort that Mojomama is listed as writer, and it's that lack of ego from anyone in the group that makes everything that much better.

The CD starts off with Lying In The Dark, a soulful, swaying number that not only showcases Jessica's voice, but also Bob Murnahan's fabulous style of string play … Eternity is a reggae-influenced delight, featuring the incredible talents of Anne Harris, perhaps the best violinist around at the moment, as well as Tim Davis on keys, and again some deliciously understated yet eloquent guitar work from Murnahan.  Dig Deeper is a sassy, sultry, jazzy number that WILL have the listener chair dancing, at the least (ok, this reviewer was chair dancing, so there's that) and the band kicks into high hear with Be A Legend, a frolicking, rollicking good time with a little help from the amazing Janiva Magness, and the back-and-forth between Rogalski and Magness is just about the most fun one can have, a pair of truly talented singers belting out heart and soul, and it really just doesn't get any better than that.

Ms Rogalski is at her bluesy best on Fool For Your Love, and the music behind her is just as good … did I mention that this band is, top to bottom, talented? They are, and the depth and breadth of the musical styles is nothing short of incredible. Liberation is magical, a blues/pop/rock/jazz melange that's somewhat reminiscent of Chicago Transit Authority (without the horn section) … and on this one Murnahan bursts thru to the front with some killer good guitar licks, while the rhythm section keeps it upbeat and real.   Very, very, very good stuff here.

Forbidden Love is a slow, delicious tease, Ms Rogalski's voice is as tempting as Eve's apple was to Adam, while Love Hangover is a kicky admission of wanting more from a lover, upbeat and jazzy with some marvelous work from Christiansen throughout the song. Wrapping up the collection is Night After Night, a slow, smoky, sexy, sultry, saucy-as-it-gets blues-to-the-bone number that digs deep down to the soul, and both Rogalski and Murnahan shine brightly.  Mojomama is seriously good music, by seriously good musicians … craftsmanship and art with a distinctive style and sound.

Kerry Pastine and the Crime Scene - The Other Side

In 2009 (has it REALLY been that long?) Kerry Pastine's “Crime Scene Queen” with The Informants was named top overall Self-Produced Blues Album in the Blues Foundation National Awards.  Now, she's back with a slightly revamped lineup, and the new offering from Kerry Pastine (and The Crime Scene), The Other Side, is a winner at every level.   With a slightly different lineup, but keeping longtime collaborator and “partner in crime” (see what I did there?) Paul Shelooe (guitar) and Mac McMurray (bass) and staying true to the criminally good vibes from Crime Scene Queen, Kerry Pastine and friends have produced another arresting body of work, more evidence of Ms Pastine's vocal talent and writing ability.  Shellooe is credited as co-writer on all but one song, and Paul is a more than capable musician in his own right, and a treat to watch in concert with some high-energy moves and playing.

This is yet another example of why Denver is rapidly becoming known as a hotbed of Blues, and deservedly so.  With a sound, feel and look that's epically retro, The Crime Scene is high energy music and fun, a mix of blues, rockabilly and soul.  Test The Fire starts off with a revival-boogie sound, and Pastine belting out the lead, testifying as much as singing, old school and powerful good stuff.  A shuffle beat with some very tasty guitar licks follows in Cold Stare Hot Touch.  The title track, The Other Side, opens with some delicate “Spanish Guitar” and evolves into a swaying little number, romantic and liberating … Dirty 2 Step is just plain hip-shakin', movin', groovin', good-time get up and move fun, as is Liar, Cheater Dead  … and the anchor song, Motor Vixen From Hell, is the stuff of legends as only Kerry Pastine could pull off.   When this band gets the energy going, they don't mess around (and I've seen them enough to know that Crime Scene is one of the most talented in Denver).

To be sure, Pastine can sing ballads, as evidenced by Intoxicating Madness and I'm Not The One … Let's Call It Love has a funky backbeat and some killer sounds all around,  and Pastine rightly showcases her voice which is strong, clear, often evocative and always emotive with a wide range.   Denver's Kai Turner (Strictly Blues) named Save My Soul as one of his Top 20 blues songs for 2014, and rightly so.  Pastine (who's really a poet, writer and philosopher trapped in a vibrant, singing body),  Shelloe and the rest of the Crime Scene know how to set a mood both musically and lyrically.   Go to The Other Side with Denver's Crime Scene Queen.  You won't be sorry.

Michael Hossler - With Friends Like These ...

In the five years that I've been involved with the Colorado blues scene, I have to say that I've never met an artist as unassuming and genuinely down-to-earth as Michael Hossler.  Michael is a musician's musician:  always on stage, never in the spotlight, content to be part of a whole rather than the front-and-center guy.  With Friends Like These ... Michael's come forward to the front in a wonderful way, having finally written and produced his own CD, and the list of friends who contribute read like a Who's Who of Denver's blues:  Dan Treanor, Erica Brown, Nic Clark, Danny Haynes, Rex Peoples and more donate their fine talents, surrounding Michael with just enough bass, drums, keyboards, harmonica and vocals to fill in the missing pieces, while Michael shines on guitar in his own right.  Ten tracks, and all but one written by Hossler, proving that Michael Hossler is more than "just" a guitarist cranking out a few chords on the side, and while the liner note claim that the music was "created from Blues by-products, no Blues were harmed making this recording" it's a CD that's full of the most enjoyable, easy-to-listen-to, toe-tapping, foot-shuffling, crank it up and move blues around.   

Michael and his crew start it off with Shake The Shack, featuring Dan Treanor on harmonica and Erica Brown on vocals, a jumping, swinging number that gets the pulse going and the feet tapping.  Blues Fuse is a movin' groovin' instrumental that features Michael's delicious guitar, and yes it's a "jazzy" little number, a very good jazzy little number.  7 Step Hag is another instrumental that allows Michael to shine, with some delicious rhythm from Ron "B6" Buckner on bass and Bruce Crisman on drums ... it's one of those tunes that can stuck in your head indefinitely, in a very good way, and it's an indescribably delicious music treat.  Rex Peoples adds vocals to Nic Clark's harmonica on Hiding In The Shadows, an almost hauntingly melodic number that could be almost autobiographical, in a metaphorical sense, for a musician who's always part of the supporting cast.  Are You Cool Yet is 100% Michael Hossler guitar, chords and picking and absolute proof, as if more was needed, that Hossler can do amazing things with a stringed instrument.  Mellow and tasty, and one of my favorites in the collection ... but then, this is a fabulous CD that has me thinking "they're ALL favorites" by the time it's all said and done, a testament to Michael's playing and writing abilities. 

You're Gonna Miss Me showcases Merrian "MJ" Johnson on vocals, along with Danny Haynes on smoky keyboards and Alan Simmons on even smokier sax ... blues and jazz and and ... well, it's music and yummy stuff at that.  Another silky-smooth jazzy trackThe Right Thing By Leaving, follows with Michael artfully picking the strings.  Whip, Crack, Perfect smokes it, and the CD ends with I Am The Invisible Man ... but invisible no longer, as Michael is front and center all the way through on this collection, yet never allowing himself to be more than the music he plays.  With Michael, it's all about the music and never about ego, and when it comes to Michael Hossler's wizardry on guitar, the music is always flavorful.  Nothing fancy, but then nothing fancy is needed here.  Jazz, R&B, Swing, Blues ... call it what you want, I call it a treat, and one that the listener can replay over and over again and never tire of ... I highly recommend Michael Hossler's "With Friends Like These ..." (so stop reading and go get it, yeah like right now!  there's even a convenient link for you, so what are you waiting for?).  Michael Hossler ... getcha some!

Katy Guillen & The Girls - Katy Guillen & The Girls

As a Kansas City native, I'm always interested in hearing the talent from my old hometown, and there's plenty of it to be sure.  In the last few years I've been blessed to see Trampled Under Foot (ft Danielle Schnebelen) and the hot-handed Samantha Fish several times at various venues here in Colorado.  A few weeks ago I volunteered for a Blue Star Connection benefit concert, and with a billing of Mike Zito and Samantha Fish, it was rocking, but my main interest was the opening act, a new band from KC:  Katy Guillen and The Girls:  a dynamic trio that definitely brings a powerful sound. 

Katy's been around for awhile and has a strong blues background, and hooked up a few years ago with Claire Adams and Stephanie Williams, and the girls haven't stopped since, playing gigs all over the KC area, and in 2014 appearing at the 35th Annual Montreal International Jazz Festival and Joe Bonamassa’s Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea cruise in February of this year.  Kansas City’s preeminent alternative weekly, The Pitch, awarded them with Best Emerging Artist at their 2014 Music Awards, and they were finalists in the 2014 International Blues Challenge.  The girls have been receiving their accolades, and deservedly so.  They bring it on-stage and in the studio, a power-trio blend of rock, blues and a touch of country.  Call it what you will, I call it some damned fine music. 

The CD starts off with a bang:  Don't Get Bitter, a blues-rock number that scores on every level.  the girls are accomplished and technically precise in their playing, Katy's voice is dynamic and the lyrics are powerful:  "Don't hold on to anger expecting to be free/You're drinking that poison, don't pass it off to me - Just get better, don't get bitter/That's ok."  Old Best Friend is a slowed-down  blues-rock number, while Woke Up in Spain has a hard-hitting "garage band/pop"feel ... Gabriella is funky and bluesy and delicious ... Think Twice is a fun, upbeat blues rocker written by Adams ... Quiver has a prog-rock feel and sound ... Don't Turn Your Back is a rocking-blues with an edge ... The Race is a power-rock .. the girls end things with the reflective Earth Angel ... to be clear, Katy and The Girls aren't "strictly blues" (as my friend and local blues DJ Kai Turner would say) but they do crank out some strictly good music that's well worth the time and money invested.  Thanks to Mike Zito and Samantha Fish for their performances at the Blue Star benefit along with Katy Guillen and The Girls, and a very special thank you to Richard Hawes and Dave Strong, for all your hard work and dedication to a truly great cause.

Amanda Fish Band - Down in the Dirt

Having been back in Kansas City for some "family business" recently, I was pleased that I was able to squeeze in a little personal time with a visit to BB's Lawnside BBQ, not for the food (which is good!) but for the music.  BB's is famous for hosting some of the best blues artists from across the country, and of course the best of KC's local talent, and so it was that I spent a couple of magical hours watching and listening to the Amanda Fish Blues Band.  Like her slightly more well-known sister (Samantha), Amanda Fish can belt out a blues tune with the best of them, and while she doesn't blister a guitar the way Samantha does, she more than holds her own with her voice and stage presence. 

Backed by a fabulous 4-piece band, Ms Fish had me from the beginning, and there aren't many singers who put more feeling, emotion and soul into their vocals than Ms Fish.  Koko Taylor is an appropriate comparison here, and her band's first CD:  Down In The Dirt, starts off with a bang with I'mma Make You Love Me.  Player Blues is a sultry shuffle about a woman wanting a married man, not wanting to tear his life apart and torn herself over the conflicting emotions. Powerful stuff here.  Wait is a hard-edged rocker, a warning about relationships that seem good on the surface but might not be as good as one thinks, and just "wait, wait, wait:  that'll change" ... Guess I'll Lay Down (co-written and sung by guitarist Sean McDonnell) is an easy, slow, Sunday shuffle about missing someone special.  Ms Fish takes over the vocals for the last half of the song, and it works splendidly.  McDonnell, who who also co-authored a few other songs (including the title track and yes, that's Sean on the cover) is an accomplished musician and terrific stage presence in his own right. 

All songs on the CD are originals by Ms Fish, both lyrics and music, which shows the depth and breadth of her talents. I Don't Need It is a gutsy, swaying, bluesy track featuring some delicious slide guitar, tasty harmonica and of course emotional and powerful, straight-forward lyrics and vocals.  Lady Of The Night is just what one might think it is:  "I don't care what you call me, long as you call me sometime/I don't care what I mean to you, cause honey your money's just fine" ... truth has never sounded better.  There's really not a bad song on the entire CD, released on VizzTone.  Strong and powerful or sultry and sexy, Ms Fish can belt out the blues with the best in the business, and Down In The Dirt is a polished effort all the way around:  lyrics, music, production ... well worth many spins and listens.  Of course, I can't forget to thank Ms Fish for her charity work with Blue Star connection, and a huge thank you for her time and grace in answering some of this reviewer's questions.  Special thanks to Richard Hawes for the "heads up" as well as Coyote Bill (Coyote Bill Boogie Band) for his immeasurable assistance.

Chris Daniels & The Kings - Funky to the Bone

What could possibly be better than a CD Realease concert?  Well, how about two?  Valentine's Day no less, and the good times were plenty at Herm's Hideaway in Denver for the release of Funky To The Bone from Chris Daniels and The Kings (ft Freddi Gowdy) and funky it is!  The concert itself was magical, with Kerry Pastine and The Crime Scene (reviewed above) starting the party, and a packed house was dancing from the get-go.  Meanwhile, back at Herm's, Chris Daniels brought the house:  a full horn and rhythm section, Hazel Miller and Coco Brown along with Freddi on vocals.  The next couple of hours was a funkified r&b soul-filled party event, and the CD is the same way:  good times and a good-feel from start to finish, old-school "funky blues" thats simply a blast:  think Johnny "Guitar" Watson meets Tower of Power with a little Dr John for added spice. 

Chris Daniels is a survivor, to be sure, having played Denver and the midwest back in the 70's and a survivor of leukemia (indeed, Freddi survived his own battle with cancer) proving again that "old, tough guys" simply can't be kept down for long.  The CD is a celebration of life past, present and future, and starts off with the title track, and it's true to its name, definitely a funky number that gets the listener moving.  Something You Got is a slower, r&b infused confession of love that's perfect to grab your partner and get in some up-close and personal dance floor time.  The guys kick it back up a bit with Don't Let Your Mouth Write No Checks (That Your Booty Can't Cash In) and the band is smoking hot.  Hazel and Coco with their background vocals and the funk is complete with some smoking hot organ and brass.  Of course, this is true for the entire collection:  a big-band sound and feel with depth and soul that fills every corner of the ears and mind. 

Cool Breeze has the same flavor, a throwback sound with some hip-hop fun from Chris Kimmel tossed on top for flavor.  Dance, Dance, Dance will make you do just that, an upbeat r&b jazzy kicker that starts the motor just right. What A Day is a mellow blues numberr that's soothing and feel-good at the same time.  Survivors is an auto-biographical self pat on the back for both Chris and Freddi, and well-earned for both.  The band closes out with Birthday Suit, bluesy and soul-filled fun with a straight from New Orleans sound and feel.  Look, there's simply no way anyone can listen to this stuff and NOT love it.  The CD is worth the price for the historical look back booklet alone, a fast history of Chris and his travels over the years, as well as Freddi and many, many others.  The CD is available online and it's well worth the investment.  Funky To The Bone.  Getcha some!

Eef and the Blues Express - All Rivers Run to the Sea

There's not much better than a blues show, but when it's a CD Release party it's an extra-special show, and when it's an IBC sendoff to boot ... well, so it was at Denver's Rusty Bucket (hi, Ron!) that a good portion of Denver blues fans were treated to a more-than-fun time courtesy of Eef and The Blues Express.  With Randall Dubis, yet another IBC entrant from Denver, opening the event, there ere happy feet and happy concert-goes from the outset.  Dubis is one of the smoothest and most talented guitarists around, and his synthesis of blues, swing and jazz guitar is a winning combination.  Randall graced us for a good 45 minutes or more, before stepping aside for Eef's show, and a show it was.  Eef and her fabulous band (with help from some friends) rocked the house for the next few hours, and the house was a moving, grooving, dancing sea of good times.  "The Play's The Thing" of course, amd the band's CD, All Rivers Run To The Sea, is a terrific follow-up to Eef's first CD:  Bluesalicious, and hearing it performed "live" is even better still. 

The CD starts off with the jumping, swinging If You Really Love Your Woman, a "big-band" sound and feel that features vocals and horns from JD Kelly and some very nice keyboard work by Jimmy Ayers, who also stands out on the jazzy, backbeat "self-titled" Blues Express.  To be sure, Eef is an accomplished guitarist, but the CD is a collective effort, and the band, with Tim Molinaro on Drums and Glenn Tapia on bass, is as tight and smooth as it gets.  It takes a lot of help to turn out a quality session, though, and Eef gets that help on the title track which, when performed live, was more of an epiphany than anything else.  Jessica Rogalski (Mojomama) and Kerry Pastine (you'll read more about Kerry later) contributed their lilting voices to the track, and on-stage it was as if I'd gone to heaven already, and the angels were singing, carrying me home at last.  You're Only Fooling Yourself is a slow chastisement of someone who's soon to be left alone, and Eef does some very nice and smoky guitar on the track, as does Ayers on the organ ... it's a silky smooth, understated number. 

Kicking the tempo back up again to swing/jump, JD Kelly takes over the lead vocals for Dynamite, adding in his distinctive trombone sound at the break.  It's truly a fun "party song" that shines.  I Want My Baby Back is all Eef (with a very nice Glenn Tapia solo at the break).  Finishing the collection, the band pitches in from all corners with I Need You To Leave Me Alone, a little blues and some funk and a tiny bit of r&b and maybe some swing/jazz ... but then, that's the very essence of EBE:  when nobody's a star, everyone's a star and it shows up in this and other tracks:  a great band and a collective effort.  The CD is almost as awesome as Eef herself, and definitely worth a few or more listens.  The band is tight, and everyone is as accomplished a musician as it gets.  I've been fortunate to be able to "follow" Eef over the last few years at several local events, and the tall Dutch girl with the red guitar never disapppoints.  All songs were written by Eef except Dynamite, penned by JD Kelly.  And to Eef, for all you've done over the years at benefits and fundraisers:  THANK YOU!  Like my friend John Weeks, you are my hero (my heroine!) ... keep on rockin'

John Weeks Band - John Weeks Band

If you read my Blue Star benefit concert review last month, you'll know that John Weeks is my hero (and if you didn't read it, well ... now I'm sad).  John started playing guitar in Europe back in the 90's,  and was influenced by artists like The Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton and Freddie King.  Here in Denver, he's played with the Bluzinators as well as another band he started:  the Cedar Avenue Blues Band.  John has his very first CD out, and it's tasty.  With help from keyboardist Andras "AC" Csapo, bassist and co-producer Curtis "The Hawk" Hawkins (see?  I told you that you'd hear more about Curtis!) and Tim "Chooch" Molinaro, John's eponymous issue is a delicious sampling of what John has to offer, as well as some smooth keyboard from AC, who often grooves with a style that's as much jazz as it is blues. 

The group starts with All Night, a smooth and swinging upbeat shuffle that features AC on keyboards and vocals.  John's Devil In My House is straight from the swamp:  John's gritty vocals, down-home fingerstyle guitar work and some haunting harp infused for good measure, as John rightly points out that "the devil" can be almost anything:  jealousy, hatred or drugs.  Why Don't We Sleep On It, yet another penned by John, is an upbeat, out-of-your-seat and hit the dance floor boogie little instrumental with a nice dose of harp and some wicked-good licks from John's axe.  Sadly, it's also the shortest song on the collection, and could be twice the length and still be fresh.  Come on, guys:  MOAR MUZIK!  Or, as John himself would say:  "If you aren’t going to bring it, then stay home."  Having seen and heard John a few times now, I can honestly say that he most definitely knows how to bring it.  All songs but one were written by John and AC, the other is a John and Curtis work.

I Want To Get Back Home is a rocking, romping, bluesy, jazzy, swinging piece that features AC on vocals and both AC and John kicking it out, with Curtis and Chooch driving everything along from beginning to end.  Good stuff, guys, good stuff!  You Never Say What You Mean is blues and jazz, with AC shining on the keys as well as taking vocals., until John puts out a tasty, clean, smooth and silky extended solo on the six-string and shows why he's one of the best in Denver.  (Did I mention that John is my hero?  He is.  Absolutely.)  Ending with the John and Curtis written Moving On, a mellow-grooving, slinky-moving number that again features John's delicious finger-picking rhythm and soul-influenced blues.  Most excellent work all around, and I can't wait until John hits the studio for another CD session.  John Weeks is yet another shining example of the best that Colorado has to offer, in terms of both music AND heart:  along with Dan Treanor, Austin Young, Nic Clark, Eef & The Blues Express and so many other sharing, caring and truly wonderful people who give so much of themselves at every turn for so many charities and events.  Thank you to all.  (The rest of you:  go buy this CD).

Nic Clark, Curtis Hawkin, Bob Pellegrino, Willie Panker - Another Shade of Blue

If you read my concert review last month, you'd know about one of my favorite Colorado musicians and all-around wonderful young man Nic Clark (amd if you didn't read it, well ... shame on you!).  Another Shade Of Blue features Nic on guitar, harmonica and vocals, along with the AMAZING Bob Pellegrino on guitar and vocals, producer and bassist Curtis "The Hawk" Hawkins (more about Curtis below) and skins man Willie "Pank" Panker.  Reaching back to hornor the roots of American blues, Nic and his crew have pulled from such lumiaries as Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller), Howling Wolf (Chester Burnett) and Big Maceo (Major Merriweather).  Covering a virtual "Who's Who" of blues history, Nic Clark brings the past alive with a sound and feel that belies his tender years. 

Howling Wolf's Crying At Daybreak starts it off, Nic's harp itself crying and mournful with Bob's vocals clear and sweet, certainly never overpowering.  Jimmy Reed's delicious shuffle, Found Love, is smooth and silky ... Nic takes lead vocals and then unleashes some sticky-sweet delicious licks with the harp.  The musicians take a back-seat to the music, keeping it simple and clean at all times, and nobody allows ego to get in the way ... this is technically as clean and perfect as it gets.  It should be noted here that all songs were recorded "live" in one room, no overdubbing or added layers, just traditional blues at its very best.  Big Maceo's Worried Life Blues continues the smoky-room club atmosphere of the CD. 

The guys step it up a few beats very nicely with the Evans Shuffle, a Muddy Waters tune that gets me into a toe-tapping, chair-dancing upbeat mood every time I hear it, and Nic sizzles his harmonica on this one ... perhaps the biggest "fault" with this song, and indeed the entire collection, is that it doesn't last longer than it does, a pity since the group has gone out of the way to authenticate the sound and feel of original blues and artists.  Bob delivers some very tasty riffs on the Jimmy Rogers classic That's All Right.  It's Too Late, a Little Walter and Al Duncan piece, is a nice, bouncy little number that again allows Nic to shine on the harp, if only for a minute or two.  The guys reach way down an alley with Leroy Carr's Mean Mistreatin' Mama, and this time it's Bob shining on guitar, with Nic's vocals soulful and strong.  Ending with Rice Miller's Cool Cool Blues, Another Shade of Blue is the perfect music for a lazy afternoon or a down-home fish fry.  Available at Curtis Hawkins Music, it's a deliciously blended sampling of the very best of old-school blues, done up just right in an old-school kind of way.  Thanks, guys!


Steve Krase - Buckle Up

Things often happen for a reason, and though we may not realize that reason at first, in time life has a way of sorting itself out.  A few years ago, at one of my first bluesfest volunteer gigs, I met Andy.  Andy is my Guardian Angel of the Blues and Other Things Sacred.  Andy introduced me to Gary Eckhart, and regular Blue Monday readers know of Gary's contributions.  Gary was instrumental in John Hammer bringing me aboard the fine staff at Blue Monday Monthly, and it was John who kindly sent me a couple of CD's for the holidays and thus it was that I was introduced to the music of Steve Krase and his recent masterpiece:  Buckle Up.   From beginning to end, "Buckle Up" is a joyride of passion, grit and good, old fashioned raw blues and soul, but one would expect nothing less from a two-time (2004, 2005) IBC finalist.  Krase is a fiery and passionate singer with a gravelly voice, as well as a wicked harmonica player.  If there's one thing Krase does better than anything else, it's to really "bring it" (as my hero John Weeks would say).  The songs sounds as fresh and alive as if they were recorded at a concert, a testament to the drive and energy that Krase and his band put into their art.  The Brooklyn native has been around, and for the the last 20 years in Houston, and if I ever make it down there, a Steve Krase show is definitely on the agenda.

The CD opens with the  David Krase (yup, that'd be brother David) penned Jolene, an almost rockabilly number about a girl so mean that I'm glad I don't know her.  Bob Markoff kills it on the keyboards at the break, before giving way to Krase's harp solo.  Some yummy throwback whammy guitar shining at the end and it's one damned fun number.  Steve wrote what might be my favorite song of the collection:  the funky "I Like Them All."  The rhythm is smoky-slow and funky r&b for "Daddy's Got A Cadillac (Mama Rides A Mule)," written by bassist Terry Dry and his wife, but you know how it is with a good blues number, things always turn around at the end.  Special guest and Houston treasure Trudy Lynn showcases her pipes on Willie Dixon's "I Just Want To Make Love To You" while Krase plays a deliciously wicked harmonica, and he absolutely shines at the solo ... Ms Lynn gets credit for writing the title track of the CD.  Krase also pays homage to Houston's own Big Walter Price, kicking out a couple of his songs as well:  "Misery" - which is a grandly fun boogie rockin' number that features even more hot-sauce harp from Krase, and later on "Big Bad Woman" where Krase does a nice spoken homage to Price that gives way to the final rocking chorus of another rollicking throwback swing-style number.  If you aren't at least chair-dancing to this stuff, you're technically dead.

"Night Train (From Oakland)" is a slow-motion, deeply rich and smooth number featuring some James Henry crying guitar that's ever so good.  This is seriously good blues.  All of it.  "Blueshound" is a funky, backwoods-swampy sounding funky little groove.  The collection ends with "Now" - a slinky, sliky-smooth jazzy instrumental, also written by brother David, that sways and grooves and leaves the listener with a smile.  If you've never heard Steve Krase, you're missing out on some damned good music by some damned good artists.   As the liner notes say, the music was "made loud to play loud" and that's just what you should do.  Crank it up and get moving with Steve Krase, and be sure to Buckle Up for the ride.  If you see him around Houston or elsewhere, say hi for me.

Hamilton Loomis - Give It Back

For those of you who've read my Steve Krase "Buckle Up" CD review, you already know about my Guardian Angel Andy, who turned me on to Hamilton Loomis, who just happens to be from Houston and just happens to know Steve Krase.  Small world, right?  He has a young son named Bo, as in Bo Diddley, as in one of his mentors.  How's that for background?  Indeed, Bo Diddley's final musical contribution was for the 2007 Loomis CD "Ain't Just Temporary" - Hamilton Loomis is best described as fun, energetic and supremely talented as both an artist and a showman.  He sings, writes, plays guitar and keyboards, and bass (and probably drums, too) ... and harmonica.  Did I mention he has a pretty good move on top of a bar?  He does.  Absolutely.  Not only is Hamilton Loomis talented, he's surrounded himself by perhaps the most diversely talented musicians I've had the pleasure of seeing and hearing in awhile, and the band is at home and adept with funk, groove, soul, blues and a bit of rock tossed in for good measure.  His latest CD is "Give It Back" and it's a winner on every level.  His touring band includes Fabian Hernandez, a sax player who also hits the keys (and plays guitar) and has contributed to 7 Grammy Award nominated songs, as well as bassist Dante Ware who started out as a drummer.  Armando Aussenac handles the drums, but is equally adept at keyboards, and has has six Grammy nominations as a songwriter and performer ... and so it goes with the Hamilton Loomis Band.  While the CD includes Hernandez, the rest of the session musicians are just as talented, and includes a guest spot on the title track by Victor Wooten, bassist for Béla Fleck and the Flecktones and a 5 time Grammy Award winner himself.  All but one of the songs was penned by Loomis (and/or Loomis and Producer/Engineer Michael Hodge).

The CD opens with the funkified "Stuck In A Rut" and the band grooves on with "Eternally" - a song of enduring love.  "She's Had Enough" is a rocking, fun number about a girl who's dangerous when she seeks revenge for being mistreated.  Loomis sizzles on the harp, and the band itself is tight thru chord and rhythm changes.  The title track is a mellow, self-reflective song of thanks to those Loomis has met and learned from in life.  "Partner In Crime" is a flirtatious let's-fall-in'love number, more fun than serious and not at all a bad thing.  "High" opens with some straight-ahead power-chords, almost reminiscent of early Jeff Beck.  "Castle" sends the imagination soaring with some beautiful guitar chords, and the closing instrumental, "Peer Pressure" allows Hernandez to absolutely shine.  To be sure, the Hamilton Loomis Band has a jazzy, savvy "Sea Level" sound, but it's craftsmanship at an incredibly high level.  You won't get "true blues" from this CD, but you'll get some of the best music around, created by some of the best musicians around.   Check out all the great Hamilton Loomis collection of music at his website,  and Hamilton, if you're reading this, please say hi to Steve for me.  Thanks, Andy ... love ya, brother.