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This blog contains the CD, DVD and other music reviews from the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois.

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    The 44's

    Rip Cat Records

    13 Tracks

    The Los Angeles contemporary blues band, The 44's, has become a very popular live blues group since their first release Boogie Disease in 2010 which reached number two onB.B. King's Bluesville Sirius/XM Satellite Radio and number 12 on the NationalLivingBlues radio charts. American Blues News awarded the band with The Best Blues Band of 2011 and Blues Underground Network awarded the band with Best Debut Album.

    It comes to me as no surprise that they have received these accolades and the title of the hardest working band of 2011, after reviewing their 2010 debut CD on the Rip Cat label. Supporting their efforts all the way, has been Kid Ramos who in my estimation one of the finest West coast guitar slingers today. Ramos produced their latest release Americana on the same label as their debut album. With Ramos as a guest on guitar, Johnny Main handles lead guitar and vocals along with the other original members Tex Nakamura on harp, Mike Turturro on upright bass, and J.R. Lozano on drums.

    The 44's along with contemporary blues groups like Kid Ramos, John Nemeth, Kid Anderson, Pieter "Big Pete" Van Der Pluijm, and Kyle Jester, just to name a few, are preserving that West coast sound in both harp and guitar styles, dating back to the early days of blues bands like the Hollywood Fats Band, the Red Devils, and the James Harman Band.

    Their latest release is new material by the 44's and Kid Ramos along with Willie Dixon's "You'll Be Mine," and Chester Burnett's "Mr. Highway Man." They open Americana with an up-tempo boogie clillin' style tune "Hanging Tree" with Ramos on lead guitar and Johnny Main blowing his "Mississippi Saxophone" delivering that raw, rough, gritty blues sound that has made them so successful as both a studio and live blues group. Johnny Main and Kid Ramos compliment each other with great guitar licks and along with a superb horn section on the song "Lady Luck." Main's harp and vocals on the original shuffle "Cocaine" are very reminiscent of the early James Harman days. "Dixie" brings in a hint of rockabilly much like a tune from Sun Records and then moves seamlessly into that West coast guitar style. "She's Poison" has almost a hypnotic groove with haunting harp solos from Tex Nakamura. Kid Ramos offers some slide guitar on "Pleading My Case," a tune that could be taken right out the Elmore James songbook. The 44's get down and dirty on the slow blues tune "Mr. Operator," delivering lead guitar solos brought center stage with a little SRV flavor added! "Slip Slidn' Thang" has a traditional Delta blues sound with slide guitar throughout. "99 To Life" is a hard drivin' shuffle with scorching guitar solos and exceptional harp from Nakamura. "Hard Times" slows the pace considerably featuring Kid Ramos this time on the Dobro guitar. The CD concludes as superbly as it started on the original tune "Hold On" with Johnny Main tearing it up on lead guitar, Kid Ramos on baritone and rhythm guitar, and a explosive saxophone solo from Ron Dziubla's horn section. 

    With their new release Americana, the 44's have delivered a collection of new, original material created with vintage equipment that offers a variety of guitar styles from days past. This is what blues is all about! They bring a riveting sound that is absolutely captivating.

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    Tired of Bluesmen Cryin'
    Tas Cru
    Crustee Tees Records
    11 Tracks

    At the age of nine, Tas Cru was exposed to the blues style of Howlin' Wolf through his uncle and father who had a strong interest for the blues legend and his unique vocals. He also listened to other bluesmen like Albert Collins, who to him was one of the best blues artists at phrasing.  Tas is quoted as saying, "many musicians have an electrifying guitar stage presence, but an important part of what makes a great artist is their unique way of phrasing and Albert Collins was one of the best at phrasing."
    His latest release Tired of Bluesmen Cryin' was inspired from a statement made by a student who had attended one of the Blues In The Schools programs Tas had given. She said she was tired of bluesmen singing about what they had lost and that some of them probably deserved it. Impressed that a young student made such a significant observation, he decided to write the song as the title track of his new CD. 

    The CD opens the title track "Tired of Bluesmen Cryin'," with Tas playing slide on his homemade Tejano Cigar Box guitar that he uses as a significant part of his live performances. With strong vocals paralleled to those of Jimmy Thackery, Tas changes guitars to a resonator on the slow, soulful tune "Changin' My Ways." He changes once again to deliver this time the slow love song "One More Time", with smooth guitar solos. The tempo picks up on "Road To Obsession" with a fiery guitar style and funky bass line. "Try, Oh I Try" is another slow blues tune about the sweet temptations of life on the road. The slide guitar and organ dominate the tune "That Lovin' Thang." According to Tas, he hears every word his baby says as heard in the original track "Every Word You Say." "Sure Do (want to fool around)" assures us he will be nobody's fool. He enlists the fine slide guitar of sideman Jeremy Walz, along with a smooth acoustic guitar groove throughout the original song "Storytime." "Heal My Misery" would be a good theme song for a travelin' bluesman and his trials and tribulations of life on the road. On the serious side, Tas pays tribute to the soldiers and families of the US Army's 10th Mountain Division in the final melancholy song "Dark Side Of The Mountain."

    Tas Cru is quite the story teller as heard in his latest release Tired of Bluesmen Cryin'. The 11 original tunes are well written and the musicality is superb! You owe it to yourself add this CD to your collection.

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    Right Here Right Now
    Sunny Crownover
    Blue Dutchess Records
    11 Tracks

    Sunny Crownover's first experience singing the blues started in Dallas-Fort Worth area working in clubs and coffeehouses. After moving to Austin in high school, she sang with Austin's own Van Wilks, a blues-rock native, as well as other blues and R&B groups in Austin. After moving to New England, she began singing with the Boston blues group 2120 South Michigan Avenue. Duke Robillard first heard her voice at a Harvard University show where he was a guest and decided she was the singer he was looking for to complete the projects that he titled Introducing Sunny and Her Joy Boys, Stomp! The Blues Tonight, and Tales from the Tiki Lounge. He was impressed with her ability to phrase like Etta James and still maintain her own unique voice quality. Sunny has a certain southern charm in her voice like many of Texas blues singers of the '70s and '80s.
    Sunny Crownover and Duke Robillard's latest project Right Here, Right Now is the 4th release that she has been involved with since 2009. This cast of all-stars includes Sunny on vocals, Duke Robillard on guitar, Bruce Bears on keyboards, Brad Hallen on bass, Mark Teixeira on drums, and a horn section that includes Doug Woolverton on trumpet, Mike Tucker on tenor sax, Doug James on baritone sax, and Billy Novick on clarinet. Also included in this line-up, is guest musician Sugar Ray Norcia on harmonica. Once again Duke Robillard produced the album, which is really Sunny's debut CD as a roots blues singer. Right Here, Right Now is a collection of all original material with Sunny taking her musical career to the next level.

    Her distinctive vocals and the strong horn section are superb on the opening tune "Oh Yes I Will." Sunny's smooth, sultry, southern style vocals, along with Robillard's jazz guitar leads, make "One Woman Man" one of the album's best tunes. "Love Me Right" is the first traditional blues number to engage the expertise of Sugar Ray Norcia on harmonica. The title track "Right Here, Right Now" adds a little country flavor showing the versatility of Sunny's voice. The slow, steady blues tune "Roll Me Daddy" brings back Sugar Ray on harp. "Cook In Your Kitchen" is a boogie-woogie piano blues tune with strong guitar leads from Duke. "Warned" and "I Might Just Change My Mind" once again involves the full horn section blended with powerful vocals and Robillard's rich guitar licks. "Hi-Heels and Home Cookin'" travels south for a little Dixieland jazz. "Trust Your Lover" blends some boogie-woogie piano and slide guitar for the Elmore James fans. They conclude on the soulful side with the song "Can't Let Go."

    Right Here, Right Now is a culmination of the success that Sunny Crownover and Duke Robillard have shared on the first three projects. Hopefully, it is just a sample of what's to come in the future.

    Reviewed by Rick Davis

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    Willie May

    Booman Records

    10 tracks/40:44

    Willie May's new CD, “Thirteen”, is a very intriguing recording. It is the 13th CD to be released by this very talented guitarist, singer, song writer and performer. Over the years he has played at many types of venues including bars, festivals, concert halls and even Attica prison. Willie's music can also be heard on blues radio stations in Europe, Australia, Argentina, South Africa and back to Buffalo N.Y. At this time “Thirteen” is on the NY Roots Music (blues) list at #10 and the Roots Music Report at # 34. Willie infuses roots, country and some reggae - Cajun in with his blues. Besides playing dobro and guitar on the recording we are also treated to the different sounds off a kalimba and acarina.

    Performing along with May on “Thirteen” are Doug Yeomans on guitar, Evan Laedke with piano and organ, Jim Whitford playing upright bass and Josh Meyers and Randy Bolam sharing the drum tracks. The mix of sound on the CD is also enriched by the addition of Kevin Espinosa playing harmonica, Leeron Zydeco's accordion and several background singers. All of this group together make for a strong lineup on this CD. Yes, we have a lot to listen to and for with “Thirteen”.

    The cover art work may just scare the heck out of you if you think about it. You can just take it for what it is or read what you feel like into it. With tunes such as “”Dealin' with the Devil”, “Devil's Daughter” and “I'm a Tragedy” the mind may wander freely on the subject. “Dealin' with the Devil” is a strong example of Willie's fine dobro playing ability. This track features some really powerful sounds from the instrument and is good to listen to. May's has a rough, unpolished, gritty nature in his vocals (not being derogatory here) that just enhances the quality of his blues. He does sing with much emotion and feelings for the lyrics that he has written. He tells us that “you can't outrun the devil” and telling the devil that you've got Heaven on your side. This tune is a story that we should listen to.

    “Smile” takes us to a more upbeat place with  a down south Cajun type tune. Infused into the lyrics we hear Willie playing electric guitar featuring a real strong solo. This is another solid track from “Thirteen”. “I'm a Tragedy” is a bluesy, rock almost Rollin' Stone type tune. “Take a look at me. I'm a tragedy”, Take a good look, I was once like you” tells us of the trials of life to look out for. Willie seems to have taken the time and effort to write lyrics with meaning and the strength to make us listen to them. Every track on this CD is different, easy to listen to and make one feel like you are on a musical adventure.

    Willie May and his recording, “Thirteen”, are both unique and interesting. May's is a talented guitarist, writer and singer who has place his heart and feelings into his music. He seems to be willing to venture anywhere to tell his stories with his music. “Thirteen” may go in many directions as far as being an all out blues recording but it still remains as a fine example of good music to listen to.

    Reviewed by Harmonica Joe

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    It Ain't Easy 
    Corey Lueck and the Smoke Wagon Blues Band
    Self Released
    15 Tracks

    Canada produces some of the finest blues artists in the blues world. Names like Colin James, Powder Blues, Jeff Healy, The Downchild Blues Band, and contemporary artists like Sue Foley and JW-Jones have become prominent figures connected with the blues scene.

    Flying under the radar since 1997, the Southern Ontario group Corey Lueck and The Smoke Wagon Blues Band has released their third CD It Ain’t Easy. Of the 15 tracks, Corey has co-written all but one with the guitarist Mike Stubbs. The cover song on the CD is the slow blues tune "Ain't No Use" by Rudy Stevenson, featuring a superb piano performance from Jesse O'Brien and equally good guitar riffs from Mike Stubbs. The rest of the songs are all original tunes played by a seasoned group of blues veterans. Corey's vocals have that gritty, smoky, raw sound of Joe Cocker or Murali Coryell.

    The steady rollin' tune "Devil Got My Woman," the funky original "Drinking Hard And Steady,"  and New Orleans tempered song "Tongue Tied" feature superb cameo performances on saxophone by Gordon Aeichele. Aeichele also has solo saxophone spots with a complete horn section background on "Fine Furred Momma." "Where Did I Go Wrong" is a special treat, featuring the sweet vocals of Robin Banks complimenting the entire band. Guitar solos, keyboards, harp, in addition to the full horn section of the Kingston St. Quartet, make "Down Hearted Blues" one of the standouts on the album. Lueck blends both vocals and harp into a slow, symphonic background on the tune "Hold On To You." "Josephine" is a blend of funk, with the ambience of the delta created with a dobro guitar from Mike Stubbs. The tongue-in-cheek "Hen House Hopping" is a little more on the lighter, humorous side. "That Voodoo" will find you deep in bayou, this time with Robin Banks and Corey Lueck sharing the vocals on this swamp blues track. The title track "It Ain't Easy," "Some Other Fool," and "Damaged Time" are a slower tunes with smoother vocals about a relationship in the past. It Ain’t Easy concludes with a very roots sounding tune with Mike Stubbs again on the dobro guitar and Corey wailing on his harmonica, echoing blues artists Moreland and Arbuckle.

    After listening to this CD, you will find Corey Lueck to be a very accomplished harp player with a perfect, whiskey soaked blues voice. It offers a multitude of blues styles created by an all-star cast of Canadian artists.

    Review by Rick Davis

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    Too Much Jesus (Not Enough Whiskey)
    Mighty Sam McClain
    City Hall Records
    14 tracks/48:27

    When he first came to prominence in the 60's, Mighty Sam McClain joined a long line of talented soul and blues singers like Solomon Burke and Bobby “Blue” Bland. He scored a major hit with a cover of Patsy Cline's “Sweet Dreams” along with several records that made a dent in the charts. But McClain wasn't able to keep things rolling along and he eventually slid into a hand-to-mouth, homeless existence until the Neville Brothers reached out a helping hand and started McClain on the road recovery. Since 192, the singer has released more than a dozen recordings that consistently garnered effusive critical praise and numerous blues award nominations.

    His latest project continues the winning combination of McClain's passionate vocals complimented by his razor-sharp band that excels at a variety of styles. The band's leader, guitarist Pat Herlehy, wrote all of the arrangements and collaborated on the horn charts with sax player Scott Shetler. Herlehy is a multi-talented musician as witnessed by his contributions on tenor sax, flute, Clavinet, Hammond B-3, and percussion. He also co-wrote all but one song with McClain. The other band members include Chad Owen on bass, Rick Page on drums, Joe Deleault on keyboards, Russell Jewell on trombone and Grayson Farmer on trumpet.

    McClain has always had a creative vision that allows him to concoct engrossing frameworks for his on-going exploration of of the familiar themes of love, loss, God and maintaining a caring spirit. The funky “Rock My Soul” finds McClain excitedly expounding about his new love interest. Herlehy's taut guitar opens “Stand Up” over a strong horn chart before McClain issues to rousing proclamation for everyone to reach out a helping hand. “Wake Up Call” centers on  the need to get things right before God's return. As you listen, notice the expert phrasing McClain utilizes as he easily switches from a sweet plea to a gritty shout without missing a beat.

    Other highlights include the riveting ballad, “Tears”, with McClain making a stark plea for forgiveness with special guest Conchetta on backing vocals and “Real Thing”, which McClain wrote with Allen Toussaint that is sparked by some muscular sax from Shetler. The title song is potent admission that a measured approach is best in all things. Equally fine is the swaying rhythm on “I Wish You Well” and McClain's sorrowful confession regarding the end of a relationship on “ Missing You”. Even a generic number like “Dance” will have you up and moving in short order as the band sets up an infectious groove.

    Mighty Sam has not lost a thing over the years. He remains perhaps the finest living soul singer from a by-gone era. And don't be put off by the religious references. McClain is one of those vocalists that could sing the phone book and make it exciting. With the support of his fine cast of backing musicians, he has fashioned another in a long line of soul/blues gems. Definitely recommended!

    Reviewed by Mark Thompson


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    The Road To Mississippi
    J.P. Reali
    Reali Records
    12 tracks/35:29

    J.P. Reali is an outstanding example of a very talented resonator slide guitar blues artist.  For over 30 years he has shaped and nurtured his music while playing several genres of music. During this period he also developed his vocal skill as well as a strong lyric writing ability. He has won several music honors over the years also. He was the winner of the DC Blues Society’s Battle of the Bands category in both 2010 and 2011. “The Road To Mississippi” is Reali’s third blues album to be released. All of the tracks on the CD were written by J.P. except for “Jefferson Lament” penned by Chris Reali and “The Book Or The Bottle” by J.P. and Chris. All of these songs have good lyrics in them. Joining Reali on this recording are Pete Regusa playing drums on 2 tracks, John Previtti on upright bass on 1 track and Mark Wenner (Nighthawks) playing harp on 4 tracks. Other than these musicians Realli does a fine job as a solo blues artist for the rest of the CD.

    “Jefferson Lament” quickly lets us know that we are about to hear some serious country acoustic blues. Realli gives us a large dose of powerful resonator guitar playing as he does a great job on vocals while adding a thought provoking field holler for the lyrics. There is some swell call and response with the vocals and guitar here. “Time to get your boots on, it’s time for work” starts the tale of the workers enduring tough times in the fields. J.P. seems to bring this tale to life for us as he performs.  Chris Realli did a fine job writing this tune.  It is refreshing to hear someone play the really old style acoustic blues as well and heartfelt as well as J.P. Realli does. This style of playing seems to be a dying form of the blues. We should not be willing to let it be hidden away or just disappear. This is where the blues came from.

    Besides the serious blues that Reali takes us to, there is also a lighter side of the blues from him. With tune such as “Biscuit Baking Mama”, featuring Mark Wenner on harp, and “Cold Steel Blues” we are in a happier place of blues. These tunes definitely show a good, free and loose side of Reali’s music style. You may want to take time to listen both his finger picking and slide work on the resonator guitar. This is some really good stuff.

    “The Road To Mississippi” is easy to listen to, memorable and grabs at our senses as to what the blues are all about.  Except for the fact that the opening and closing instrumentals are just a short tease of J.P.’s guitar playing and should have great stand alone tracks on the CD, there is nothing bad about “The Road To Mississippi.” Being only about 36 minutes in length we are left hanging wanting more J.P Reali’s blues.

    Reviewed by Harmonica Joe Poluyanskis

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    Live Blues Protected By Smith & Wilson
    Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and Roger “Hurricane” Wilson
    Bluestrom Records
    12 tracks/66:23

    “Live Blues Protected By Smith & Wilson” is a read deal acoustic blues CD featuring two outstanding blues artist. The late Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, long time drummer for the Muddy Waters Band, plays blues harmonica as well as giving us his vocal take on blues tunes that we all know. Joining him on this live show recording is Roger “Hurricane” Wilson. Roger is a very proficient finger picking guitar player as well as being very capable of carry out vocal duties on several tunes. Both musicians on this CD write very interesting and heartfelt lyrics on several tracks also. The 12 tracks on this recording are a mix of Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters and Slim Harpo tunes as well as Smith and Wilson songs. There is something for everyone mixed into this CD. These songs all feature both artists doing their best blues vocally and instrumentally.

    Opening the set with Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Eyesight To The Blind”, “Big Eyes” blows solid blues harp with great feeling and  timing as well as inserting his own style to honor previous masters of the harmonica. His vocals also have their own qualities which have that certain roughness and grittiness that we want to hear with the blues. Roger shuffles along with his guitar picking his way down the blues highway with Willie. This is an ear opening tune that takes us into the world of real acoustic blues. Willie’s “Born In Arkansas” is an upbeat tune with more awesome harmonica playing which shows a different dimension of his harp style. Willie states, “I was born in Arkansas,  raised on a country farm and had to work my way up North to make good.”  This is the blues. Wilson also plays some strong finger picking guitar for us.

    “You Do Your Job” is a fun tongue in cheek song written by Roger Wilson. He states that he has been doing his job for a long time and that I don’t tell you how to do yours, so don’t tell me how to do mine.”Big Eyes” chugs along on harp as Roger is picking his guitar. The harmonica solos on this track are very interesting as well as unique. This is a real strong tune on the CD. A favorite track on this recording is “Dreamin’” which is an instrumental featuring Willie’s chromatic harmonica talent. This is a real deep slow blues number played with strong emotion and great tone as well as timing. This is a track for you harp fans to listen to. “Hurricane” rides along on this one on his guitar paving the way for Big Eyes’ blues. This is really a strong tune for the CD.

    With tunes such as “Scratch My Back”, “Can’t Be Satisfied”, and “Long Distance Call” included on the play list as well as tunes from both Wilson and Smith this is a CD to be listened to over and over. Both of these blues artists brought their own take and feelings to all of these tunes making them stand out even more.  For acoustic blues fans and blues fans not really familiar with them, “Live Blues Protected By Smith & Wilson” is a powerful recording to listen to. This live show is truly a hit and a great tribute to Willie Big Eyes” Smith. Thanks to Roger “Hurricane” Smith for putting this recording together and preserving it for all of us blues fans.  www.cdbaby  or www.hurricanewilson for CD.

    Reviewed by Harmonica Joe Poluyanskis

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    Blues Beyond the  Borders
    Live In Istanbul
    Mitch Woods
    VizzTone Label Group
    21 Tracks

    Mitch Woods and Rocket 88s have delivered music that transcends cultural boundaries as they embarked on their recent five week trip to the Republic of Turkey. Blues Beyond Borders–Live In Istanbul, resulted from a live recording at the Efes Blues Festival, October, 2010. The Vizztone label made the CD/DVD combo possible for release, selecting this memorable show, which was one of twenty-six shows in twenty cities over this five-week period. Mitch Woods, the New Orleans style boogie woogie piano man from California, with his booming vocals and all-star band, keep the crowd entertained with a retrospective collection of Mitch Woods classics and cover songs from a vault of treasures.

    The Rocket 88′s absolutely radiate with Amadee Castenell on sax and background vocals, Cornell Williams on bass and vocals, Adam Gabriel on guitar and background vocals, and Larry Vann on drums. The CD/DVD combo share Mitch Woods tunes "Solid Gold Cadillac," "Mojo Mambo," "Boogie Woogie Bar-B-Q" "Queen Bee," and "Long Lean & Lanky." Other common cover songs include "I Got A New Car" written by Erin "Big Boy" Groves, Jr., "What Can I Do" by Roy Milton, Rene Leon's "Crawfishin'," the Henry Glover and Fred Weismental tune "Down Boy Down," the Eddie Boyd and Willie Dixon classic "Third Degree," Jackie Brenston's "Rocket 88," Roy Byrd's "In The Night/Lambaya Puf De" (an American and Turkish tune combined), and the closing track, the old time boogie woogie classic "House Of Blue Lights" written by Don Raye and Freddie Slack. The DVD includes videos of their journey, exploring the Republic of Turkey, the culture, adventures on the road with the Kenny Neal band, Turkish Independence Day at Izmir, introduction of the Pozitif Crew, and a slide show of the scenes from Turkey. 

    Mitch Woods remarks about the reception they received throughout the country. The Istanbul concert was filled with predominantly young college age fans. With Wood's charisma, he brought the house down during the concert. Founded in 1989, Pozitif, based in Istanbul, Turkey, is an independent leader in music dedicated to bringing a wide range of music to audiences with the following mission statement: "changing the way people perceive life through music." Judging from the response of the audience, this mission statement was met. Mitch Woods and his Rocket 88s are truly ambassadors of the blues. This tour really brought the two countries together using the common tread of music, proving the real emotional power of the blues.

    Review by Rick Davis

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    Cell Phone Man
    Willie Buck
    Delmark Records
    17 tracks/59:31

    Veteran singer Willie Buck adds another chapter to the resurgence of his career with a recording that builds on the momentum generated by his 2010 release on Delmark Records, The Life I Love. His latest mixes seven original songs with a variety of covers that include five written by Buck's greatest influence, the legendary Muddy Waters. After raising his family and supporting them primarily as an auto mechanic, Buck is ready to share his talents with a wider audience. He did make an occasional club appearance over the last three decades but only the most die-hard blues fans had ever heard of him, let alone actually heard him singing live or on record.

    If it is true that we are judged by the company we keep, Buck scores high marks for the outstanding group of musicians that help him out on this project. Every one of them is well-versed in the traditional Chicago electric style, starting with the twin guitars of Rockin' Johnny Burgin (who co-produced the disc with Delmark’s Steve Wagner) and Rick Kreher (who played in Muddy Waters’ band). Barrelhouse Chuck Goering studied with all of the great Chicago blues piano players and his playing testifies to the fact that he learned his lessons well. The rhythm section of John Sefner on bass and Steve Bass on drums is rock-solid. Bharath Rajakumar and Martin Lang may not be names that spring to mind when you think about harp players, but both offer proof that they deserve wider recognition.

    Buck's voice rings out loud and clear throughout the disc -- gritty one moment before slipping into a soulful lament the next. His feelings of resignation are apparent on the opener, “Doin' Good and Bad at the Same Time” while the title track finds him attempting to incorporate modern technology in his pursuit of a love interest. Other originals like “I Want My Baby” and “Two Women Talking” find Buck applying new lyrics to familiar blues progressions. He sings with unerring frankness on the first tune while Barrelhouse Chuck's hands dance across the keyboard. The second number finds Lang and Goering weaving together rich fills behind Buck's powerful voice.

    The longest cut, “Strange Woman” is the first of the Muddy Water's tunes that the band tackles. Buck adopts some of his mentor's vocal qualities, Rajakumar wails on his harp and Burgin impresses with his distinctive guitar playing. Goering’s spirited efforts on “Going Down Main Street” are another highlight, followed by Buck's emotionally-charged rendition of “Streamline Woman”. Burgin switches to acoustic guitar for a stripped-down version of “Two Trains Running” that keeps the focus on Buck's raw voice. A second acoustic track, “I Wanna Talk to My Baby”, is in a similar vein with another potent effort from the singer. The disc closes on a high note as once again the band unites as a tight ensemble behind Buck for a hearty run-through of “Blow Wind Blow”.

    Add this one to recent recordings from Mud Morganfield and Taildragger that show there is still plenty of life left in the old-school styles, especially when the music is entrusted to musicians with a deep love of the roots. Willie Buck understands because he was there back in the 1950s, experiencing the power of Muddy Waters, and other pioneers, live in the flesh. He honors their legacy with this unembellished update that never strays from the traditional sound – and is well worth a listen.

    Reviewed by Mark Thompson

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    In Between Time 
    Al Miller Chicago Blues Band
    Delmark Records
    17 tracks/72:41 

    Al Miller’s, “In Between Time”, released by Delmark Records, was recorded in 1999 and originally released in 2000. Miller is an outstanding harmonica player, singer and guitarist who has been playing Chicago style blues since the 1960’s. In the past he has moved to California, returned to Chicago, left the music scene to raise a family then came back to the blues scene with the release of “Wild Card”. Then after several years with health problems he came back and recorded “In Between Time”. The play list for this project includes relatively lesser known tunes by BB King, Johnny Young, Eddie Taylor and Walter Jacobs. Also added to the list are 5 songs written by Miller which make this CD over 73 minutes of strong Chicago style blues.

    Miller has a large group of very talented musicians, that we are all aware of and embrace,  joining him for this recording. “In Between Time” features Billy Flynn, Dave Specter, John Primer as well as Miller playing guitar. Harlan Terson takes on the job of bass player for most tracks while Barrelhouse Chuck and Ken Saydak are at the piano while Willie and Kenny Smith and Mike Schick share the drum rolls on different tracks. All this plus several other fine musicians just enhance Al Miller’s ability with the harmonica, guitar and vocals. This man presents his music with much feeling and a great feel for his love of the blues.

    “In Between Time” is a strong example of Miller’s tune writing and ability to sing some real slow Chicago blues. The lyrics tell us the possibilities of life that may come to us. Al states “In between times of sickness and in health, darkness and light, when shadows capture the night and when I don’t know right from wrong”. These are all examples that state that we all have a lot going on in our life. Miller on guitar along with Billy Flynn’s slide guitar is really a treat for the ears. Joe Filisko steps this tune up a notch by playing his style of electric harp while the addition of the piano (I do not know who plays here) really makes this tune a hit. Johnny Young’s tune,  “ I Got It”, is a swell instrumental tune showcasing Miller on the harmonica. Al plays with strong tone and a feeling for the mood of the tune. Ken Saydak shows off his stuff on the piano as Billy Flynn solo’s away on the guitar. This track is like a full blown blues jam highlighting the massive talent of these musicians on “In Between Time”.

    Al plays his great style of harp on the cover of Willie Dixon’s “Dead presidents”. With John Primer singing the vocals and the saxophones of Berry Winograd and John Brumbach plus Harlan Terson and Mike Schlick leading the way, Miller is allowed to treat the ears to a swell harmonica solo. Also, if you have never heard of a tune called “1839” by Elmore James you will enjoy listening to it. John Primer again sings the lyrics and play guitar while Miller stands out on the harp. This tune has it all as blues tunes go.

    With 17 solid tracks and almost 74 minutes of awesome Chicago style blues on “In Between Time” it is very easy to recommend that you take the time to check out the music of Al Miller and the Chicago Blues Band. Miller does not allow himself to change the blues to fit into something other than what they should be. He and the band are a true example of what the Chicago blues are.

    Reviewed by Harmonica Joe Poluyanskis

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    Long Walk Home 
    Kevin Selfe
    Delta Groove Music, Inc
    11 tracks/50:11

    A move to Portland, OR six years ago has really paid off for guitarist Kevin Selfe. Along with his band, the Tornadoes, Self quickly became a fixture on the Northwest scene, winning a number of area blues music awards and capturing plenty of accolades for his Playing the Game release. With the backing of the Delta Groove label, Selfe is looking to reach a larger national – and international – audience.

    Selfe plays guitar and handles the lead vocals. He also wrote all of the songs and served as the Producer for the project, using the studio that drummer Jimi Bott built in his home. Allen Markels is the other half of the strong rhythm section. Veteran Gene Taylor appears on four tracks on piano. The same tracks are bolstered by a horn section comprised of Joe McCarthy on trumpet, Chris Mercer on tenor sax and Brad Ulrich on baritone sax.

    There is plenty to like, starting with Selfe's commanding performance on “Mama Didn't Raise No Fool”. Doug James' honking baritone sax props up the low end, Steve Kerins fills out the arrangement on piano and Mitch Kashmar blows a memorable acoustic chromatic harp solo. But it is the leader's brawny voice and gut-bucket guitar that make the biggest impression. Tracks like “Duct Tape on My Soul” and “Moving Day Blues” show display a strong T-Bone Walker influence, robust horn charts and smooth vocals. The later track is another highlight as Selfe's penetrating guitar licks ride the riffing horn section, building the slow blues to a cathartic finish.

    Bott lays down a swinging shuffle beat on “Walking Funny” as Taylor rocks the 88's. The horns get to stretch out a bit on “Second Box on the Left” as Selfe's deep voice articulates the hard times that befell him after losing his job. Selfe plays acoustic slide on a resonator guitar on “The Blues is My Home”, singing with unerring frankness about the music he loves. The frantic “Last Crossroads” is less effective in the acoustic format despite Bott's sure-handed work. Despite Selfe's spirited efforts, the track is weaker lyrically than the rest of the program and fails to impress.

    Selfe regains his footing on “Dancing Girl”, utilizing a guitar lick from “Lonely Avenue” to set-up another solo full of cascading runs up and down the guitar neck. He generates a raw, menacing electric slide tone on “Midnight Creeper” as Bott once again kicks things into gear. Kerin's piano propels the first half of the closing track, “Put Me Back in Jail”, before Selfe tears it up on slide on a tune that reworks “Give Me Back My Wig”.

    One listen to this recording will make it clear that Kevin Selfe is a very talented musician. At times the disc could use a bit more greasy textures as some arrangements are spot-on recreations of music of by-gone eras. But Selfe avoids cliches, demonstrates his versatility and ends up with a recording that warrants your consideration. We will be hearing a lot more from him down the road.

    Reviewed by Mark Thompson

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    There's a Time

    Doug MacLeod
    Reference Recordings
    13 tracks/58:09

    Over his thirty year career, Doug MacLeod has consistently honored the lessons he learned from legends like Big Joe Turner, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and George “Harmonica” Smith. MacLeod's original songs take a hard,  honest, and often humorous look at world as he sees it. His heartfelt tales are delivered with his masterful storytelling skills, consistently connecting with listeners on deep emotional levels while his immaculate phrasing on a bevy of guitars creates a rich backdrop for his riveting vocals. Nominated for numerous Blues Music awards, including “Acoustic Artist of the Year”, MacLeod is firmly established as one of the reigning masters of the acoustic genre.

    On his latest release, he changes course a bit by adding long-time associate Denny Croy on bass and the renown Jimi Bott on drums, both men adding rich rhythmic textures to the proceedings. MacLeod switches between his personally hand-crafted National M-1 Reso-phonic he calls “Moon”, his older Gibson C-100 “Little Bit” acoustic, a National “O” called “Owl” and a borrowed 12 string National El Trovador.

    The recording was done live in the recording studio by Grammy-winning engineer Keith Johnson, who is known for his ability to capture and accurately recreate the magic of a live performance. MacLeod admits that he initially had some hesitation about this method of recording but the trio quickly settled into a relaxed comfort zone based on their years of playing together. The result is a sonically superior recording that articulates each note from Bott's subtle use of his drumsticks to the notes that ring out of the leader's guitar.

    Highlights abound, starting with “Black Nights”, a worrying blues about nightfall and the intense feelings it conjures up. “Run With the Devil” is a descriptive portrait of a man from MacLeod's past who “..played music with a cross-eyed mind.”. The talking blues is set up by sharp slide licks on 'Owl'.  MacLeod paints another vivid picture on “St. Elmo's Room and Pool”, making you feel right at home at a neighborhood joint that offers” ..a fine selection of real cheap blues” in addition to a variety of illegal entertainment options. On “I'll be Walking On”, he delicately picks on 'Moon' while his voice rises in a mournful cry as love fades. The shimmering tones of the 12 string  El Trovador compliment MacLeod's voice as he slips into the falsetto range  on “The Up Song”, delivering a positive message about the power of hope.

    MacLeod's wry sense of humor gets a workout on “My Inlaws Are Outlaws” over a light, swinging groove while he takes dead aim at the self-absorbed on “The Entitled Few”, calling out those who ignore the suffering all around them. Another stand-out track revisits a street-corner debate MacLeod had with a zealous ”Christian” over the merits of Biblical scripture and who will receive salvation. “A Ticket Out” is a gentle ballad relating how regret eats away at you when the time comes to end a relationship. On “Rosa Lee”, MacLeod wrings some razor-sharp slide licks from 'Moon' and you can hear how  the three musicians are in perfect sync.

    Croy's bass provides powerful foundation on “East Carolina Woman” as the singer expounds on another relationship that left him with a troubled mind. The emotionally-charged rendition of “The Night on Devil's Road” reaffirms MacLeod's mastery as a storyteller. The haunting “Ghost” closes the disc with hair-raising cries and a hypnotic guitar line.

    Doug MacLeod has earned the many accolades and honors that have come his way in recent years. He continues to find creative ways to rework the blues traditions, honoring the legacies of the legends he learned from. Keeping in mind that he has over twenty recordings to his credit, There's a Time might be his best yet. He takes us into the darkness, then pulls us out, offering a glimmer of hope that some day we can make the world a better place. Until then, be thankful that we have him around to continue to guide us to look at the world with brand new eyes. This one come highly recommended!

    Reviewed by Mark Thompson

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    The Town Crier
    Robert 'Top' Thomas
    WildRoots Records
    13 tracks/42:57

    This album is New Smyrna Beach, Florida native, Robert 'Top' Thomas' first solo album endeavor.  Thomas has toured and recorded with the likes of Noble 'Thin Man' Watts, Lazy Lester, Bill 'Sauce Boss' Wharton, and Alex Taylor since he was 13.  Thomas was also a founding member of Smokehouse, recording four albums on the King Snake Records label in the 1990's to define Florida Swamp Blues as a distinctive genre in the world of blues.  Twelve of the 13 tracks were written for the disc project with album producer Stephen Dees noted most often.  The third track, "The Same Thing Could Happen to You" is the only tune composed for another project.  Previously written by Jerry West and recorded by first-generation swamp blues musician, Lazy Lester, Thomas' vocal interpretation is similar and Thomas notes his thanks to Lester on the cd liner for inspiring him to make this album.

    "The Town Crier" is a compilation of down and dirty delta swamp blues.  Thomas' voice is gritty and gruff yet clear enough to carry the album's simple short stories.   Good guitar riffs are ample throughout.  The instrumental "Yeehaw Junction" has tenor sax and harmonica complementing the riff.  Stephen Dees' "Bad Seed" has Thomas grinding out the words, "Why do you water your garden with the tears of the broken hearted?".  "Blues Grass" and "What's the Matter Ma" croon about hard economic times.  "Sugar Shop" is one of my favorite tracks with Wainwright's boogie piano accompanying Thomas' guitar riffs and gravel vocals.   Another favorite is the title track, "The Town Crier" with great piano and smoky harmonica.  "Lazy Little Daisy" is a humorous number about a deadbeat spouse.  I recommend listening to this album more than once as it will definitely grow on you.  Two thumbs up.

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    Stone Blue 
    Willie May
    Booman Music
    10 tracks/37:10

    This is the 12th album out of 13 for Willie May.  The Buffalo, NY area native and his original band members (Ron Kain - guitar, Tom Corsi - bass, Randy Corsi - drums) have played together since the band formed in 1984.  May has performed on stage with a host of musicians such as Buddy Guy, Chris Duarte, James Cotton, Alvin Lee, Steppenwolf, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Otis Clay, Edgar and Johnny Winter, and The Climax Blues Band, among others.  May has played thousands of venues including Attica Prison.  He has written all the songs on this CD.

    The album is a nice mix of blues, jazz, country, and rock.  "Stranger In My House" is a blues-jazz number about the breakdown of a love relationship featuring Ken Parker on sax.  May's distinct gravelly voice laments "I got a stranger in my house where my baby used to be."  Another track, "Where Did We Go Wrong" is a hill country-flavored tune featuring the guitar-pickin' twang of Carl Eddy.  "Showtime" is another jazzy number featuring Ken Parker on sax and Ken Parker on harmonica.   One of the best tracks is "So Long Ago" with May singing about loss and moving on with lyrics like "I don't look back anymore...that was so long ago." Another album definitely worth a serious listen.

    Reviewed by Diane Mandell

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    Get Up!
    Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite
    Stax Records
    10 tracks

    "Get Up!" is the 12th studio album for Ben Harper.  Two-time 2005 Grammy winner for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album, Harper began playing guitar as a child growing up in California where his grandparents owned a music store frequented by the likes of Leonard Cohen and Taj Mahal.  Influenced by musicians like Robert Johnson and Bob Marley, Harper combines song writing, vocals and guitar instrumentals to create a mix of blues, gospel and R&B.  He owns and plays three Weissenborn guitars manufactured in the 1920's and 1930's.  The signature of these lap slide guitars is their hollow neck body chamber which runs the entire length of the body.  Harper is also an activist whose well-organized website contains links to numerous environmental and social responsibility networks.

    Charlie Musselwhite, a six-time Grammy nominee, 14-time W.C. Handy Award winner and Blues Hall of Fame inductee, has recorded over 20 albums since 1967 as well as guested on many more before collaborating with Harper on "Get Up!".  Born in Mississippi, Musselwhite spent most of his childhood in Memphis.  He moved to Chicago as a young man, soaking up the blues scene there.  Eventually he moved to California where he and Harper recorded sessions together and performed a dozen live concerts.  They were encouraged to collaborate by fellow musician John Lee Hooker after both joined Hooker for a 1997 session.  The result of that encouragement is "Get Up!"

    Joining Harper and Musselwhite in the band are Jason Mozersky on guitar, Jesse Ingalls on bass and keyboards and Jordan Richardson on drums.  Harper wrote or co-wrote each track on the CD.

    "Get Up!" is musically diverse, with powerful, often dark lyrics attesting to the pair's first-hand encounters with heartbreak and heartache.  As Musselwhite points out, "These songs are all from the heart, more so than from the head.  More than just music, they are reflections of life."  In "You Found  Another Lover (I Lost Another Friend)", Harper sings "I may lie to my heart, but my heart never lies to me."  while Musselwhite's harmonica croons in sweet and yearning harmony.  "We Can't End This Way" is a plea for unity between the "haves" and the "have-nots".   "I Ride At Dawn" was written in honor of a friend's Navy Seal son with Harper's signature Weissenborn slide guitar leading the battle.  This album is a serious two thumbs up and should not be missed.

    Reviewed by Diane Mandell

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    Dr. DuPree’s Love Shop
    Stevie DuPree & The Delta Flyers
    Soulbilly Music Group
    12 tracks

    Betsie Brown and Blind Racoon have got to stop sending us stuff like this to review- I just want to listen to it over and over again!  It’s another great CD by lead singer Stevie and guitar player Travis Stephenson.  With Quentin “Q” Calva on bass and Steve Bundrick on drums, these guys blend blues and bluegrass with a little Cajun and country music into a wonderful set of tunes.  Marcia Ball plays piano on one track, Mark Kaz Kazanoff adds tenor sax, harp, harmonies and percussion, Nick Connelly is on keys, and the Texas Horn of Kaz on tenor, John Mills on baritone and Al Gomez on trumpet also add their spark to the set.  DuPree has a hand in the writing of each song here.

    The album opens with the jumping cut “Broke Up.”  Derek O’Brien adds slide and it makes for a great sounding performance.  DuPree howls and the band cuts a groove and the guitars wail.  It’s a nice piece to set the stage for the rest of the album.  “First Dance” follows, a bit of a swing/jump tune with Ball on the piano.  The horns add their sound to the mix, too.  It’s nicely done with the keys being tickled so prettily and the horns blazing oh so well.  Up next is the title track.  Alice Stewart sings the lead with help from Lisa Tingle and Stevie.  Stephenson gets funky on the guitar and then Kaz blows a mean horn solo.  At this point I was completely sold and the next nine tracks did nothing to dispel the good feelings.

    “St. Paul’s Bottoms” is a big up-tempo tune about the former Ledbetter Heights area of Shreveport.  Harp and guitar solos abound- well done!  They take it way down next with “Angel of Mercy” and DuPree wails how his Angel of Mercy from the red light district gets him through the night.  The boys then get into a groove with “Soulbilly Music” and how it’s uplifting power makes everything alright.  Then “Ain’t Gonna Be Your Dog” gets us up and dancing.  DuPree sings of his relationship reprieve and Stephenson wails on slide.

    “It’s My Life” gives us DuPree’s take on life.  Despite being “pitched high and tight” he’s happy with his life as he and the band swing and pick through this song showing us that he finer things in life pale to having a decent ride with your radio playing loud and your baby by your side.  Connelly lays down a nice keyboard solo here, too.  DuPree then testifies on “The Witness Tree” in this scaled down piece with just him and the piano starting off.  The band comes in soulfully after a minute or so as Stevie pledges his lover with his girl “under the old witness tree.”   The tenor sax solo complements the vocals here with its’ own beautiful testimony.

    “The Old Mule” pops and percolates with some nice harp work and a cool lyrics as DuPree delivers another great performance; he’s not gonna be some girl’s old mule.  “Lucky Seven” is a rockabilly track  where DuPree likens his lifes’ successes to rolling a lucky seven the hard way.  Stephenson sounds a little like Dickey Betts here on the guitars he layers in.  Connelly takes us to church on the organ as the final track opens, but then it transforms into a love song about a hot number who DuPree is ready to follow around the world.  The organ solo is huge and the band gets into a great groove.

    This is a great album.  I loved it from start to finish and just enjoyed the heck out of it.  DuPree and Stephenson are masters at reaching out, grabbing you and keeping you listening.  This is their best effort yet and I highly recommend it!

    Reviewed by Steve Jones

    Dr. DuPree’s Love Shop
    Stevie DuPree & The Delta Flyers
    Soulbilly Music Group
    12 Tracks

    The Delta Flyers started as acoustic duo, playing traditional Delta Blues and incorporating different blues styles into their repertoire. Joining the group later on were Stevie DuPree and songwriter/guitarist Travis Stephenson forming the current group. Their 2007 release On The Levee Road earned the group a trip to the 24th annual International Blues Challenge held in January of 2008 in Memphis to represent the Houston Blues Society. In 2008, the group wrapped up a successful tour of the Southeastern United States with a sold out show in Nashville, Tennessee and an opportunity to attend the 2nd Annual T.A.G. Bluesfest in Mentone, Alabama.

    Stevie DuPree & The Delta Flyers will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end with their new CD Dr. DuPree’s Love Shop. This is the fourth CD that the group has released. It is a CD loaded with guest artists like Alice Stewart and Lisa Tingle on lead vocals, Nick Connolly and Marcia Bell on keys,  Mark "Kaz" Kazanoff, John Mills, and Al Gomez of The Texas Horns, and Derek O'Brien on slide guitar. This is in addition to the core group comprised of Steve DuPree on vocals, Travis Stephenson on guitar, Quentin Calva on bass and Steve Bundrick on drums. This should give you an indication of the musical expertise assembled for the release of this new CD.

    The album opens with guitar drivin' shuffle "Broke Up" with a hint of John Fogerty style guitar riffs looming throughout. This is also one of many tracks with superb slide guitar work.  Marcia Ball is brought onto the scene along with the fabulous horn section of the The Texas Horns and Stevie DuPree's gritty vocals for the New Orleans flavored "First Dance." After the explosive intro by The Texas Horns, Alice Stewart and Lisa Tingle along with DuPree deliver the soulful vocals on "Dr. DuPree’s Love Shop." Superlative harp solos from Kazanoff and fiery guitar licks engulf  the tune "St. Paul's Bottoms." They slow things down for the ballad "Angel Of Mercy," featuring the soulful guitar solos of Travis Stephenson and the harsh, rough, husky vocals that only DuPree can provide. The spicy soulbilly music label provides the foundation for the tune "Soulbilly Music," mixed with gospel background vocals. According to DuPree the ingredients are simple "you take a roadhouse boogie and a taste of New Orleans and stir in some Texas mojo and a cup of ju ju beans." "Ain’t Gonna Be Your Dog" delivers some of the hottest slide guitar by Stephenson on the entire album. The entire band lays down a steady groove on the juke joint classic "It's My Life." The slow ballad "The Witness Tree," offering brilliant sax solos, could be a page from the Neil Young songbook. His use of the old mule as a metaphor in the New Orleans  tune "That Ol' Mule" expresses DuPree's lighter side. "Lucky Seven" almost conveys an Allman Brothers Southern rock sound throughout the song. The concluding song "A Hard Act To Follow" opens with a Procol Harum style intro and then takes a dramatic about face with an explosive Texas Horns entrance, followed by a high energy finale.

    This studio CD would indeed be a hard act to follow with it's all-star cast of award winning R&B, gospel, funk, Cajin, and blues collectively on one CD. You owe it to yourself to pick this one up to enjoy.

    Review by Rick Davis


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    Live At Kingston Mines
    Nick And The Ovorols
    Self Released
    8 Tracks

    The Chicago-based blues band Nick and the Ovorols is establishing a strong fan base in the Chicago area, as they have performed regularly at the legendary Kingston Mines. The Chicago landmark has been a venue for world-renowned artists like Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Robert Plant, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and contemporary artists like Eddie Clearwater, Joanna Connor, Sugar Blue, and Studebaker John just to name a few.
    Nick Peraino is certainly in good company as this rising star has now been added to the list of celebrities. After listening to his CDs or attending a live show, you will understand why he is gaining notoriety in a city known for it's blues legends. Nick moved to the "windy city" from New England to study music in 1998. After finishing college, he toured the Midwest from 2003-2004 with his band Nick Peraino and Blue Moon Risin' releasing his debut album Noisy Picks and Humbars in 2005. He also started touring with Joanna Connor in 2005, playing nationally and locally at Chicago’s Buddy Guy's Legends, Kingston Mines, and The House of Blues. In 2009 Nick was selected by Grammy Award winning blues artist Sugar Blue to join him on a two week tour of Europe to perform in a number of showcase events.
    Nick decided in 2011 to once again become a band leader and this time formed his current group Nick and the Ovorols. As a result of establishing a residence at Kingston Mines from December of 2011 to April of 2012, they decided to release the album Live at Kingston Mines from one of their Wednesday night shows. Nick handles vocals and guitar with Carlos Showers also on guitar, Vic Jackson on bass, and Lance Lewis on drums. They open the show with the Mack Rice tune "Cadillac Assembly Line," injecting one of the funkiest rhythm guitar grooves along with one the most electrifying guitar performances I have ever heard in a live show. The only similar version was done by Stacy Mitchart. With Jackson on bass and Lewis on drums, the opening tune is a hard act to follow until Nick explodes with his superb slide guitar expertise on the Nick Peraino hard drivin' roadhouse blues number "Chitown Via Greyhound." On a modified rendition of the Elmore James tune "Dust My Broom," Nick shows his versatility with this great new arrangement. The band takes that funky groove and energy to whole new level on the Barry White hit "It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me" written by Ekundayo Paris and Nelson Pigford. The band excelled on the 1965 R&B single "People Get Ready" done by the The Impressions and written by Curtis Mayfield. Adding to his accomplishments, Peraino creates a more contemporary arrangement of the T-Bone Walker classic "T-Bone Boogie." On the Sam Cooke original "Somebody Have Mercy," Nick performs a more traditional blues version like Luther "Guitar Jr." Johnson. The band concludes the set with "Me and My Guitar" by Leon Russell and Chuck Blackwell, reminiscent of Freddie King in his prime. Nick's red hot guitar licks and the band's funky rhythm section make this a night to remember at Doc Pellegrino's Kingston Mines.

    After listening to this award winning performance by a very progressive new blues band, Nick and The Overols is a force to be reckoned with. You can add this one to your collection as soon as possible.

    Review by Rick Davis

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    61 49
    The Mike Eldred Trio
    Rip Cat Records
    13 tracks/47:52

    "61 49", named after the legendary crossroads in Clarksdale, Mississippi, was originally released on May 10, 2011 on the small Zoho Roots label.  The L.A. Times called it one of the Ten Best Albums of 2011 while Downbeat Magazine gave it a three-and-a-half star review.   Reissued in January, 2013 on the Rip Cat Records label, the studio-recorded album is clear and crisp with slightly over three-quarters of an hour of eclectic rock, gospel, boogie and blues.  
    Mike Eldred, previously a member of Lee Rocker's band, wrote all 13 tracks, a testimony to his creative songwriting skills.  His vocals and lyrics range from the gospel-like "Don't Go Down There" where he is joined by the Emmanuel Church Gospel Choir to "She's a Rocket" and "Jimmy, Jimmy" in Jerry Lee Lewis style with Ike Turner on piano.  His plaintive guitar solo in "Ruby's Blues" contrasts with his boogie licks in "Jake's Boogie".  "This Old Train" combines the Latin-style of Los Lobas guitarist Cesar Rosas with Eldred's crystal clear vocals and first guitar.  Elvis' guitarist, Scotty Moore, plays second guitar in boogie style on "Ms. Gayle's Chicken House".  

    The Mike Eldred Trio is Mike Eldred on guitar and vocals,  John Bazz bass and Jerry Angel drums. All tracks were written by Mike Eldred.  Special Guests include Ike Turner on piano, Kid Ramos, Scotty Moore and Cesar Rosas on guitar, Riley Osborn on B3 Organ and Jeff Turmes on baritone sax.  Although this album may not be “blues” enough for purists, the vibrant energy of each well-crafted track kept me happily replaying the album over and over.  Highly recommended.

    Reviewed by Diana Mandell

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    Deal With It
    4 Jacks
    Eller Soul Records

    “Deal With It” is 4 Jacks new release from Eller Soul Records and a good one it is! This CD features a new band that is only new to the music scene as far as this recording goes. This group consists of four hot musicians/blues artist that have been around for years on their own in the blues world.  Leading this group is the awesome Texas guitarist Anson Funderburgh. We all know him as the front man of the Rockets for over thirty years. Big Joe Maher brings his strong vocals and drums into the mix as well as his ability to write a bunch of great tunes. Filling the two remaining spots of 4 Jacks are Kevin McKendree on piano and B3 while Steve Mackey holds up the bass line. This is really one solid a mix of musicians for a CD.

    The opening track, “Deal With It”, is a strong instrumental that features outstanding guitar solos from Anson Funderburg (always did like the name) while showcasing Kevin McKendree wailing away on the B3. Maher runs the drum line in the back as Steve Mackey brings along the bass line. This tune is a neat way to introduce us to this very talented band and also opens up our mind as to what is in store for us on the rest of this recording. “Have Ourselves A Time” is one of those jump, swing type songs that gets the people up and dancing. It is a real treat to be introduced to Big Joe’s vocals on this song. This man sings the lyrics with much feeling, joy and emotion as he pounds out the drum beat. Funderburgh lays out some strong guitar riffs as McKendree plunks away on his piano. It can’t get much better than this. “Ansonmypants”, just by the name, is another song that has to be listened to.

    McKendree is showcased again on the piano doing “She Ain’t Worth A Dime”. This twelve bar blues tune with great lyrics and vocals from Big Joe is another top tune on “Deal With It”. “Thunder And Lightning” picks up the pace of the music and just screams the blue at you with Anson’s guitar solos, Big Joe’s lyrics and vocals as Kevin hammers away on the piano keys. Maher’s drum line, as well as Mackey’s bass work, is also strongly present. This is a powerful tune that gets you into a blues mode.

    4 Jacks has packed twelve solid blues tunes into “Deal With It”. Although being only 41 minutes in duration, this CD gets your attention right from the start and keeps holding you until the very end. To me “Deal With It” is CD is a real winner and 4 Jacks should just keep going down the road of the blues as they have down with this recording.

    Reviewed by Harmonica Joe Poluyanskis

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