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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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    Solo Live From The Meisenfrei Blues Club
    Kirsten Thien
    Screen Door Records
    www.kirstenthien.com
    15 tracks with 14 introductions/65:20

    Recorded live at the Meisenfrei Blues Club in Bremen, Germany on October 30, 2012 and released on Screen Door Records on June 4, 2013, this is Thien's first live solo release after three prior studio albums.

    Born on an army base in Berlin, Germany and later raised in Maine, Thien grew up singing in a northern Baptist church.  Other early musical influences were Linda Ronstadt, Aretha Franklin.  New Orleans jazz and 1920's women blues singers.  After graduating from Georgetown University School of Business, Thien gave up a career in banking and began her career as a blues artist, settling in New York City.  She has toured the U.S. and Europe and has opened for Dickey Betts, Buddy Guy and Shawn Colvin.

    The 15 tracks are an eclectic mix of original and borrowed covers.  Thien's acoustic guitar provides the backdrop for the mostly poignant lyrics carried well by her strong voice.  Although my favorite original cover is "Nobody's Ever Loved Me Like You Do", I liked the borrowed tunes the best, especially Bob Dylan's "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry", Ida Cox's "Wild Women Don't Have The Blues", Leon Russell's "I'd Rather Be Blind", Elvin Bishop's "Fooled Around And Fell In Love" and Sippie Wallace's "Women Be Wise". 

    I was impressed by the courage Thien had to muster to do a solo tour and performance at the 300-seat club and the good fortune to receive the souvenir recording from the club's sound man that she said "...captured this moment in time that already had a special place in my heart and mind."  Worth a listen.

    Reviewed by Diane Mandell

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    House Call
    Marshall Lawrence
    www.doctorblues.com
    www.marshall-lawrence.com
    13 tracks/44:16

    Edmonton, Alberta native Marshall Lawrence's fourth album released on May 21, 2013 is a real gem.  Called the "Doctor of the Blues" and Canada's " best acoustic slide and finger-style blues and roots artist", Lawrence actually has a doctorate in psychology and uses music in his practice to connect with patients. 

    Lawrence asked his dad for a guitar when he was 10 years old in 1996.  By the time he was 14 he was doing live performances.  Influenced by music greats like Chuck Berry, BB King, Johnny Winter and Eddie Hazel, Lawrence was drawn to acoustic guitar and mandolin. 

    There are 11 original tracks on the album.  Electric guitar is absent but not missed at all.  Deft finger-picking and sweet harmonica blend with good story-telling for some toe-tappin' blues.  All tracks are under four minutes in length so the music and message doesn't get lost in translation.  My favorite tracks include the toe-tapping "Mean Momma Blues", "Factory Closing Blues" which is a commentary about hard economic times relevant to current times and "Biscuit Rolling Daddy" with its great finger-picking. Definitely recommended!

    Reviewed by Diane Mandell

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    Stepchild Of The Blues
    Howard Glazer
    Lazy Brothers Records
    www.howard-glazer.com
    9 tracks/42:51

    Released on September 17, 2013 on Lazy Brothers Records, "Stepchild Of The Blues" is comprised of all original tracks self-engineered and produced by Glazer.  The well-known Detroit-based song writer, vocalist and guitarist is frequently featured with another Detroit bluesman, Harmonica Shah, who returns the favor with his harp licks on tracks 3 and 9.

    Glazer has played blues for over 20 years with the likes of Johnny Winter, Savoy Brown, BB King and David "Honeyboy" Edwards, to name a few.  He has toured in the US, Europe, Japan and Canada.  He was nominated for both the 2013 Downbeat Critics Choice Award for Best Rising Star-Guitarist and Best Blues Artist. 

    My favorite tracks are the two with Harmonica Shah, "Gas Pump Blues" and "Hurtful Feeling".  I also really liked "Liquor Store Legend" but the rest of the tracks hold their own, too.  I give it an enthusiastic thumbs up especially for those who prefer their blues more on the "traditional" blues club side.

    Reviewed by Diane Mandell


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    Live In Concerts
    Henrik Freischlader Band
    Self released
    www.henrikfrei-schlader.com
    www.cablecar-records.com
    4 disc set/32 tracks with 3 intros/266:04

    The 4-disc album "Live In Concerts" by Henrik Freischlader Band was self-produced by German guitarist and song-writer Henrik Freischlader and released August 30, 2013 on Cable Car Records.  The album consists of two live shows from two tours: one show in Arnsberg, Germany on May 21, 2011; and the other show in Hannover, Germany on November 8, 2012.  All but six tracks were written by Freischlader.

    Freischlader, an autodidactic (self-taught) multi-instrumentalist (guitar, bass and drums to name a few) from Wuppertal, Germany self-produced the album under his own label, Cable Car Records.  The band formed in 2004 and has toured with mostly sold-out shows throughout Germany and Europe, opening for other blues performers like BB King, Peter Green, Johnny Winter, Joe Bonamassa and the late Gary Moore.  

    The four-disc album has over four hours of blues recorded at two live shows.  The band writes and sings in English so you forget they are German until they speak to the audiences between numbers.  Some tracks are heavy, almost metallic electric blues while others are sweet and yearning.  With over 30 tracks, there are too many to individually mention but the album is definitely worth a listen.  Try it on a rainy day while you do housework or simmer homemade soup and soak in this band's blues.  I'm sure we'll hear more in the future from these talented musicians.

    Reviewed by Diane Mandell

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    Loosen Up!
    RB Stone
    Self released www.rbstone.com
    10 tracks/35:35

    "Loosen Up!" Is the 16th album for Nashville-based blues veteran RB Stone.  Released on June 18, 2013 on his own music label, Middle Mountain Music, the singer, song-writer, guitarist and harmonicist Stone and his band serve up their brand of blues.

    Stone was born in Huntingburg, IN, and raised in Ohio.  Both his parents were music-lovers, so Stone was exposed to a wide variety of music like BB King, Elvis, The Beatles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Janis Joplin, Johnny Cash, Herb Alpert and a host of others.  By age 12, his mother had showed him some piano chords and Bill Withers'" Lean On Me" became the first song he learned to play.  After high school he worked on the railroad and later managed a plumbing, heating and electrical store.  By 23, he sold almost everything he owned and drove to Colorado to become a cowboy.  He wrangled horses and led Rocky Mountain camping trips by day and entertained the campers with his guitar and vocals at night. 

    Soon he formed his first band and started Middle Mountain Music which survives nearly 30 years later when he couldn't find a record label to take his first blues recording in 1985.  Since then he has toured five continents, sold over 40,000 albums mostly at his shows, and performed with musicians like The Marshall Tucker Band, The Burrito Brothers, Tricia Yearwood, Little "Joe" and Chris Ledoux, to name a few.

    Stone is clearly an interesting fellow.  His lyrics and vocals combine with accomplished guitar and harmonica to produce some nice blues with a little country flavoring.  My favorite tracks are "High Horse", the title track "Loosen Up" and "I Ain't Buyin' That Bull".  I enjoyed the album and think you will too.

    Reviewed by Diane Mandell


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  • 11/06/13--20:50: The Lily Diane Mandell


  • The Lily
    Layla Zoe
    Self released
    www.layla.ca
    www.cablecar-records.com
    11 tracks/63:43

    "The Lily" is the seventh album for Victoria, British Columbia born Layla Zoe and was released August 30, 2013.  The Montreal-based singer and song-writer has been singing since she was four years old.  She began performing to audiences with her father's band when she was only 14. 

    The 30-something Zoe has been compared to Janis Joplin by fans and critics alike due to her raw vocals and emotional on-stage performances.  Zoe has toured Europe and Canada and performed with numerous musicians including the late Jeff Healey, Danny Marks, David Gogo and Pistol Pete.  "The Lily" pairs Zoe's lyrics and vocals with German guitarist Henrik Freischlader's music on most of the tracks.

    I liked two tracks best: the title track "The Lily" and the Neil Young/Jeff Blackburn number "Hey, Hey, My, My".  Listen to this album when you have a quiet hour plus and the opportunity to curl up with lyrics in hand and soak up Zoe's storytelling and Freischlader's guitar.

    Reviewed by Diane Mandell

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  • 11/06/13--20:50: The Lily Diane Mandell


  • The Lily
    Layla Zoe
    Self released
    www.layla.ca
    www.cablecar-records.com
    11 tracks/63:43

    "The Lily" is the seventh album for Victoria, British Columbia born Layla Zoe and was released August 30, 2013.  The Montreal-based singer and song-writer has been singing since she was four years old.  She began performing to audiences with her father's band when she was only 14. 

    The 30-something Zoe has been compared to Janis Joplin by fans and critics alike due to her raw vocals and emotional on-stage performances.  Zoe has toured Europe and Canada and performed with numerous musicians including the late Jeff Healey, Danny Marks, David Gogo and Pistol Pete.  "The Lily" pairs Zoe's lyrics and vocals with German guitarist Henrik Freischlader's music on most of the tracks.

    I liked two tracks best: the title track "The Lily" and the Neil Young/Jeff Blackburn number "Hey, Hey, My, My".  Listen to this album when you have a quiet hour plus and the opportunity to curl up with lyrics in hand and soak up Zoe's storytelling and Freischlader's guitar.

    Reviewed by Diane Mandell

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    Down On My Luck
    Jon Zeeman
    Membrane Records
    http://www.jonzeeman.com
    11 Tracks

    Jon Zeeman is not a stranger to the music world particularly to the blues. If his name does not sound familiar, you have seen and heard him record and perform with the Allman Brothers Band, Susan Tedeschi, Janis Ian, The Burns Sisters Band, and Chris Spedding.  At an early age 8, Jon became infatuated with any type of guitar equipment and was influenced by artists like, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, The Beatles, B.B. King, The Rolling Stones, Johnny Winter, B.B. King.

    He decided at the age of 13 to make music his career, starting by studying classical piano.  Jon spent two years studying music at Ithaca College in New York before moving to New York City where he began producing, writing music, doing session work, and working in his "Studio Z." From there he went to Scandinavia to record and perform with various groups. By the 90's, Jon started to perform his own music, releasing his highly acclaimed debut album Still Life in Europe in 2003. It was followed by his second album Zeeland in 2008.  

    His aggressive  jazz-blues-funk-fusion guitar style is created with his most utilized guitars that include a Sadowsky and a '63 Brown Deluxe, creating his own unique sound with amp distortion. He has really developed as a blues/rock guitar player since starting guitar in 1969. He guitar handling expertise is quite prevalent in his latest release Down On My Luck, where he also features his daughter Zoe on base. Also on bass is Phil McArthur, with George Lilly on drums, and Tom Regis sharing keyboard assignments with Bob Taylor. 2013 marks a new direction for Jon with his singing debut included on the list of 10 new original tracks. The only cover song is Johnny Winter's "I love Everybody," a tune Jon handles with ease, making it his own. With this new release, he seems to be moving away from the jazz/funk direction that can be heard on his earlier albums and more into the blues/rock style. The CD opens with an original Texas style  blues tune titled "You're Right, I'm Wrong," with Jon as the driving force on guitar and vocals. The title track "Down On My Luck" is a powerful, slow, shotgun blues number. "Hangman's Bridge" is an explosive blues rock tune similar in style to a Walter Trout style. "Waitin For The Storm" is one of most soulful blues tunes on the album. "I Got News" features Jon Zeeman's vocals as much as his superb guitar solos. "Money" establishes a very funky rhythm guitar underlying the tune. The pace is picked up with   
    "Got The Gun," a hard drivin' rock 'n' roll tune similar those by the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Jimmy Vaughan in the 70's. "Can't You See Me" and "So Bad" is a strong parallel to some of Stevie Ray Vaughan's material. The album concludes with "Better Off Dead" displaying once again the talent Jon Zeeman possesses both vocally and instrumentally.

    Jon could be one of the most underrated musicians in the blues field today. As difficult and expensive as it is to tour today, Jon is one blues artist every blues fan should have the opportunity to hear live or at the very least on CD. With his skills he, is bound to gain attention world wide in no time.

    Reviewed by Rick Davis


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    Road Dog's Life
    Smokin' Joe Kubek & Bnois King
    Delta Groove Music
    http://www.smokinjoe-kubek.com
    12 Tracks

    When Smokin' Joe Kubek and Bnois King joined to form the group Smokin' Joe Kubek & Bnois King over twenty years ago, it was a match that brought the essence of Texas style blues to audiences world wide. With the aggressive guitar style of Smokin' Joe Kubek, heavily influenced by the hard-rocking blues of the '60s and '70s, and Bnois King's smoother, more soulful, jazzier style influenced by the sounds of the 1950s and '60s, they have forged superb material since they met in the 80s. Kubek's roadhouse style guitar and King's jazz style guitar and deep roots vocals offer a perfect musical balance. King keeps the music directed in a traditional vein, while Kubek pushes the blues boundaries.

    As a follow up to the their new approach to the blues, with their unplugged CD, Close To The Bone,they have returned to a format more typical of the earlier hard driving roadhouse studio albums, with the latest release Road Dogs Life on the Delta Groove label. With the exception of two cover songs, you are in for a real treat with this brand new collection of original material, along with a host of guest artists who have jumped aboard to create an all-star supporting cast. Joining Smokin' Joe Kubek and Bnois King are Kid Andersen from Rick Estrin and the Nightcats on guitar, Randy Chortkoff and Kim Wilson on harmonica and vocals, Patrick Recob and current bass player from Mannish Boys Willie J. Campbell on electric bass, and Jimi Bott on drums.

    The album opens with the hard driven original tune about the legendary gambling king "Big Money Sonny" from Paducah, Texas, the Crossroads of America. Kubek's signature in-your-face guitar licks continue with "Come On In." They continue with the shuffle "Nobody But You," with Kim Wilson adding his superb harmonica and sharing vocals with Bnois King. "Road Dog's Life" rips into that hard rockin' Texas blues style, describing life on the road for a blues musician. The traditional blues song "K9 Blues" describes his treatment as a "K9" expressed by his fiancée as a result of a terminated relationship. Kubek electrifies his listeners with his guitar solos and Jimi Bott maintains a Latin beat on the original tune "That Look On Your Face." King likes to deal one on one or as he explains it on the hard driven tune "Face To Face." They defiantly put their own signature on "Don't Bother Me," a song written by George Harrison and appearing on the Beatles album With The Beatles."I Ain't Greasin'" features once again the unsurpassed  Kim Wilson on harmonica, delivering a style familiar with the group The Fabulous Thunderbirds. "Talking Bout Bad Luck" stirs in a little Louisiana swamp beat along with some slide guitar delivered by Smokin' Joe. Randy Chortkoff is featured on harmonica covered on the Rolling Stones hit "Play With Fire." The album ends on a light note with the tune "That Don't Work No More."

    Once again the extraordinary songwriting and stellar performance of the dynamic duo from Dallas have teamed up to create a chart topping album. The seasoned veteran musicians on this CD assist to make it one of best offered from Smokin' Joe Kubek and Bnois King.

    Reviewed by Rick Davis


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    What’s The Chance
    Paul Gabriel
    Shining Stone Music Group
    www.paulgabriel.net
    13 tracks

    The disciples of Duke Robillard continue to grow and produce interesting CDs for the blues world to enjoy.  Robillard has produced this CD and appears along with Mark Naftalin on piano, Steve Pastir on guitar and the Roomful of Blues Horns (Rich Lataille and Mark Earley on sax and Doug Woolverton on trumpet.  Hailing from Connecticut, this guitar player is also backed by a band comprised of Billy Bileca on bass, Nick Longo on drums and Larry “Buzzy” Fallstrom on keys.
    A local success, Gabriel emerges on a grander scale with this release.  Having played and recorded with Harry Chapin, Rory Block and Michael Bolton, Gabriel is the real deal.  He has been associated with Duke for twenty years and the styles are certainly similar as he learned at the feet of his master, even working together for long periods at Duke’s house.  Mixing the blues with R&B and jazz, Gabriel has a cool and effusive style of play. He also wrote all but two of the tracks here and covers one song.

    I really enjoyed the guitar interplay and the bigger band feel of this CD.  These guys are great accompanying each other and are very together. They seamlessly trade off solos and blend together beautifully.

    Gabriel opens with a swinging jump blues that feature Gabriel, Robillard and theHorns prominently.  It’s a great starter.  Following that is “Ride, Ride, Ride” with more great guitar,Folstrom on piano and a driving beat,

    The covered song is Chris Kenner’s “Something You Got,” a Big Easy classic where Gabriel and Duke both put on a show.  There are a couple of very cool instrumentals here, too.  Gabriel ‘s “328 Chauncey Street,” a jazzy and swinging cut where he picks out some great solos along with the Duke and Bruce Bears impresses on organ.  “C.M.C.” is the other instrumental in a similar vein, but this time with Fallstrom on B3 and Bears on piano.  Very thoughtful and jazzy.

    Two of the tracks are a bit tongue in cheek, :Devil’s Daugher” and “Fine At’tire.” The former describes the women he tenuously got involved with and the latter is a trendy throwback with Gabriel singing an Naftalin on piano without the rest of the musicians.  Well done! 

    I enjoyed the CD overall.  One area that I was least impressed were the vocals.  The delivery is sort of monotone at times, where Gabriel gets a bit nasal and breathy.  It’ not bad, but it just doesn't vary a lot in his approach to singing.  But other than that minor criticism, if you are a Robbilard/Roomful of Blues aficionado then you will enjoy this CD.  Gabriel gives us some great new songs and guitar work and the backing players are all in synch and support each other to the max.  Another New England jump blues success story!

    Reviewed by Steve Jones


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    Come On Down
    David Gogo
    Cordova Bay Records
    www.davidgogo.com/
    11 Tracks

    David Gogo met Stevie Ray Vaughan backstage at the Royal Theatre in Victoria, British Columbia at the age of 15, which was one of the events that inspired him to pursue a career in blues. By the time he was 16, he had assembled his first band called The Persuaders. His band had shared the stage with blues legends Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, Johnny Winter, Otis Rush, and Bo Diddley, and opened for George Thorogood, ZZ Top, The Tragicially Hip, Buddy Guy, Little Feat, and Jimmy Vaughan. After performing in support of The Fabulous Thunderbirds in Europe, he was able to sign a solo record deal with EMI Records. It was shortly after that he performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival with B.B. King, Otis Rush and Blues Traveler.

    For his critical acclaimed debut album in 1994,David Gogo, he received his first nomination for a Juno Award. The Juno Awards, presented by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, has nominated Gogo for a total of four times. The Maple Blues Awards honoring, the best in Canadian blues, nominated David 14 times, with him winning guitarist of the year in 2002 and 2004. He was also nominated twice for the INDIE Music Awards, happening in Toronto as part of Canadian Music Week,  twice for The Western Canadian Music Awards ceremony for music in the western portion of Canada, winning in 2012 for his album Soul Bender, once for the Great Canadian Blues Award, winning Best Canadian Blues Musician in 2004, and once for the West Coast Music Awards, winning Musician of the Year in 2000.

    With credentials like that, it is easy to see why David Gogo is one of Canada's rising stars in the blues world. His 13th album titled Come On Down features 12 tracks with six new original tunes and six classic covers redone with his own signature, as a result of a recent trip along the "Blues Trail" in Memphis, Mississippi and Alabama. The album is a collection of both his rollicking music with a tribute to traditional blues and a stronger influence from the early rock 'n' roll. Including himself, David calls on the expertise of 15 singers and musicians throughout the 12 tracks. Gogo opens with some blistering slide guitar and solid vocals on "Bad 'n Ruin," a tune written by Small Faces keyboard player Ian McLagan and lead singer Rod Stewart. Gogo's lyrics and guitar solos are very strong on the title track "Come On Down," with gospel background vocals added on this haunting original song. "Call Your Name," the second original number, is another tune showcasing Gogo's superb guitar work, vocals, and songwriting expertise. He slows things down on the soulful, original tune "Worth It," a song co-written by David Gogo. More of the Louisiana Delta comes out on the original tune "Natchez Dog" in both Gogo's guitar riffs, Shawn Hall's harmonica, and the addition of superb keyboards. Gogo really explodes on guitar with his rough, roadhouse rocker "Kings," another original tune added to this new release. On a lot of the tunes on Come On Down, he blends his vocals and background vocals extremely well. He follows up with series of covers starting with an extraordinary version of "So Into You," one of best tunes written by the Atlanta Rhythm Section keyboard player Dean Daughtry, Buddy Buie, the band's manager and producer, and Robert Nix, the drummer. The last original tune on the album is a high powered, no holes barred rocker "Blue Eyed Daisy" and as the lyrics indicate, he put the petal to the metal much like the legendary Jimi Hendrix. The album continues as Gogo shifts gears with the classic R&B tune "Let's Go Get Stoned," a tune often performed by Ray Charles and written by Josephine Armstead, Nicholas Ashford, and Valerie Simpson. Gogo's vocals and guitar riffs are some of the best of the album on this tune. David continues with the Robert Palmer song "Looking For Clues." The album concludes with a Christine McVie tune "Spare Me A Little Of Your Love" and "World Turning" a song co-written by Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac.

    If you have ever heard one of David Gogo's albums, you will understand why he has been labeled the hardest working blues artist in Canada. You will find Come On Down, his latest release is no exception to that statement.

    Reviewed by Rick Davis


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  • 11/06/13--20:57: Mule reviewed by Steve Jones


  • Mule

    Port City Prophets
    Self released
    http://portcityprophets.bandcamp.com
    10 tracks

    I try not to prejudge a CD by it’s cover.  Just like a book, you don’t really know what’s inside until you listen.  Well, I set myself up with this CD.  A huge mule nostril stares at you on the cover of this CD and I must say I had low expectations.  When I played it, things rapidly changed.

    The band starts out with a driving swing song called “Close Your Eyes.”  Stinging guitar, great lyrics and vocals and a big back beat told me maybe I should not have pre-judged this.  When the slide guitar lit off to open “Jesus Saved My Soul But…” I knew  that  certainly had been hasty.  A gritty, slow and mean  slide song with equally dirty vocals.  The “but” is that, “Jesus Saved my soul, but my money belongs to my wife.  It’s a good thing that heaven’s free because that lady she sure is tight.”  Tim Kirkendall’s testifying and Troy Tolie’s guitar made me a believer.  Maybe mule nostrils aren’t so bad...what a cut!

    Organ work added by Bill Nance takes us a little bit to church as “I Already Know” begins.  A slow and quiet song that builds and build so well, it really displays soul-felt emotions. “Mule In A One Horse Town” is some rocking blues.  More grit and dirt in the vocals and a big guitar and organ sound make this one really sweet.  “When The Lights go Down in St. Louis” may hearken back to bassist and vocalist Tim Kirkendall’s home town, but these guys are low country blues men with the port and swamps of South Carolina percolating in their souls.

    The trio and occasional friend sitting in continue the charge with “Done Changed My Mind.”  A blistering guitar opens the song and then Kirkendall continues his vocal onslaught by giving us the blues done so convincingly right.  Henry Ancrum’s drums here are simple yet effective.  The beat makes the tune feel much more earthy and gusty. On “Let Me Breathe” we get more beautiful and soulful blues with thoughtful organ and guitar work. “No Time” is more rocking and has some more passionate vocal work.  “I Used To Love You” opens o some bass licks and cool keys and then the guitar and drums add to the primal nature of this.  More deep gutsy blues with poignant lyrics delivered extremely effectively.  They close with “Pluff Mud,” the only light and airy number on this otherwise down and dirty blues CD.  Light and airy as it starts, at least, with a good little minute intro before the band hits it hard and drives the CD to a rousing finish on a super instrumental.  Guitar and organ trade the lead, the bass and drums again go beyond worldly and they deliver a remarkable finish to a remarkable album.

    I loved this CD.  It has songs with great lyrics, great vocals, and great musicianship.  I want to see these guys live– the unleashed version would have to be even more amazing.  Most highly recommended!!!

    Reviewed by Steve Jones


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    Birds Above Guitarland
    Pete Anderson
    Little Dog Records
    www.peteanderson.com
    11 tracks/43:03

    There are a lot of great musicians that most people have never heard or heard about. It is rare to be a musician that most people have heard without realizing who they are listening to. Pete Anderson falls into that category. He is a household name despite the fact that he spent seventeen playing guitar for country superstar Dwight Yoakam, appearing on recordings that sold millions of copies. Anderson also helped with the arrangements and production as the duo brought the traditional twang back to country music.

    But Anderson loves blues music, a passion that started when he attended the 1968 Ann Arbor Blues Festival. Hearing Lightnin’ Hopkins, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf created an indelible impression on the young musician. Since he left Yoakam’s band, Anderson has been cutting solo records that find him digging deep into the music that once captured his heart.

    On his latest, Anderson handles the vocals and guitar parts in addition to playing bass, harmonica and percussion. Michael Murphy plays keyboards. Key bass, strings and adds some harmony vocals. Five different drummers are used with Herman Matthews appearing on five tracks. The horn section is comprised of Lee Thornberg on trumpet, French horn & trombone plus Ron Dzibula on saxophones.

    With the horns urging him own, Anderson shows he learned plenty of lessons from T-Bone Walker on the smoldering “I Got Mine”, laying down a magnificent guitar full of deft improvisation. He delivers a gripping confession on “Rock in My Shoe”, his voice full of heartache. The horns ride the loose-limbed rhythm on “36 Hour Day” as Anderson provides another brief glimpse at his prodigious guitar skills. He stretches out a bit on “Talkin’ Bout Lonely”, mixing blue notes with his trademark twang in a solo of mesmerizing beauty.

    “Red Sunset Blues” comes across as a Duane Eddy meets the spaghetti western soundtrack with a little surf action thrown in to keep things interesting. And right in the middle is another guitar solo full of exciting twists and turns. Murphy turns an equally interesting jazz-influenced solo on piano. Anderson breaks out the shuffle rhythm on “Outta The Fire”, his voice taking on a harder edge over the blaring horns. His meticulous phrasing is highlighted on the swinging “Talkin’ My Baby Done” as he wrings pure magic out of his instrument. Jake Maeby’s swirling organ chords set a moody tone on “For You”. Anderson twists a haunting solo out of his fretboard over an arrangement with a hint of reggae.

    Things shift south to Louisiana on “Empty Everything” with Anderson crying the blues accompanied by Dennis Gurwell on accordion and Steve Nelson on upright bass. The bonus track at the end of the disc is a reprise of “Rock in My Shoe”, this time with the soulful Bekka Bramlett on lead vocal. Her stirring performance points out Anderson’s limits as a singer. But his calling card is his inventive guitar playing. He never overplays or falls victim to the “faster-louder” school of indulgence. He succinct solos avoid clichés in favor of refreshing, playful that leave wanting to hear more. And that is reason enough to check out this little gem!

    Reviewed by Mark Thompson


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    Account to Me
    Hank Mowery
    Old Pal Records
    www.hankmowery.com
    10 tracks/38:12

    This recording revives the legacy of the late Gary Primich, a brilliant harp player, exciting singer and skilled songwriter. Hank Mowery has always had a deep respect for Primich and his music. In recent years, Mowery has developed a friendship with JV & Darsha Primich, Gary’s parents, who came to him to suggest making a recording that would include a handful of Gary’s songs. Two of the songs had never been recorded. JV had found them among Gary’s personal effects.

    Mowery is a fine choice for the project. His smooth vocal style easily captures the essence of the Primich sound, as you can hear on “Put the Hammer Down”. Troy Amaro lays down a swinging guitar line that is full of twist & turns while Mowery blows some country-style blues harp. On  “My Home” , Mowery once again treats us to some dynamic harp playing while Amaro again impresses with a succinct, flowing solo with Junior Valentine on rhythm guitar. Primich incorporated elements of jazz into his material and the band shows they can nail that style on “Pray for a Cloudy Day”, with Mowery’s resonant voice riding the mellow shuffle beat.

    The title track is the first of the unrecorded songs. Mowery’s soulful singing grabs at your heartstrings as he pours out his plea for honesty while John Large on drums and Patrick Recob on bass & acoustic guitar lay down an understated rhythm while Chris Corey adds some piano accents, making this track a definite highlight. Corey’s rolling, New Orleans-style piano is featured on “Tricky Game”, the second new tune. Mowery utilizes a reflective vocal tone to ponder to intricacies of human relationships.

    The rousing opener, “Spend a Little Time”, is a Mowery original that mixes Corey’s acoustic piano with a distorted Wurlitzer electric piano, creating a hard-driving sound devoid of guitars. Mowery blows up a storm on his harp, then goes deep into the traditional style on another original, “If I Knew What I Know”, a gut-bucket blues full of outstanding reed-bending from the leader.  Mowery and Corey on organ shine on the instrumental “Banana Oil” while Recob handles the singing on one of his songs, “Target”, a chilling portrayal of a down-bound life punctuated by the thick tones Mowery pulls from his harp.

    Rev. Robert Wilkin’s “That’s No Way to Get Along” gets an acoustic performance featuring Jimmy Stagger on vocal &National resonator guitar with Mowery pulling train sounds out of his harp. It is a fitting ending for this fine recording that reminds us of Gary Primich’s talent while serving as Hank Mowery’s coming out party. Make sure that you check this one out. Between the powerful material, Mowery’s inspired performances and the strong ensemble work from the band, there is plenty to enjoy through repeat listens. Strongly recommended!

    Reviewed by Mark Thompson


     

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    Dangerous
    Sugaray Rayford
    Delta Groove Music, Inc.
    www.sugar-rayblues.com
    14 tracks/67:48

    In a June posting on Facebook, Randy Chortkoff, owner of Delta Groove Music, mentioned being in the final stages of mixing the tracks for an upcoming release and added, “…by far the best album I’ve produced to date.” His ringing endorsement was directed at the label’s first solo effort from singer Caron “Sugaray” Rayford, who garnered acclaim for his contributions to the award-winning Mannish Boys Double Dynamite project. Chortkoff was so impressed by Rayford’s talent that he made the decision to give the singer featured billing in the group.

    Many artists would fade into the woodwork while recording with top-rank blues veterans like Kim Wilson, Sugar Ray Norcia, Monster Mike Welch, Kid Andersen, Anthony Geraci and Fred Kaplan on keyboards, Willie J. Campbell and Bill Stuve on bass with Jimi Bott on drums. Rayford sounds right at home; his mighty voice riding any rhythm the all-star aggregation throws at him. He never overplays his hand, proving to be equally adept at rendering a downhome blues or letting his voice ring out on an up-tempo barnburner.

    “Country Boy” bursts out of the gate with Rayford’s dynamic vocal commanding your attention. Taking his time on Pee Wee Crayton’s “When It Rains It Pours”, Rayford generates a slow-burning heat that contrasts nicely with Franck Goldwasser’s fluid guitar picking. One of Rayford’s originals, “Stuck for a Buck”, has him taking a bemused look at his precarious financial status with Rob Dziubla doubling on tenor and baritone sax plus Mark Pender on trumpet. Norcia joins the host for a duet on “Two Times Sugar” as the duo slides effortlessly through a celebration of their good lovin’ ways.

    Chortkoff penned two of the highlights. “Goin’ Back to Texas” gives Rayford the chance to slow the pace while waxing nostalgic over the land where he grew up. Kim Wilson’s harp echoes the singer’s every move and Goldwasser adds to the country-inflected feel with some biting slide guitar. Wilson’s harmonica mastery is on full display on “Surrendered”, establishing the moody atmosphere while Rayford utilizes a gritty edge with his meticulous phrasing to testify to power of the human spirit.

    The enormous depth of the singer’s voice is showcased on “Depression Blues” and Junior Parker’s “In the Dark”, capturing your attention over the combined weight of the horns and Andersen’s distinctive fretwork. On the latter cut, Chortkoff gives listeners a taste of his reed-bending skills. Another Rayford original, “Need a Little More Time”, has a stripped-down acoustic arrangement with Goldwasser on a National Steel guitar supporting the singer as he pleads for some relief from life’s pressures.

    The tougher side of Rayford’s nature comes out on “I’m Dangerous” and “I Might Do Somethin’ Crazy”, the second cut a Wolf-like primal declaration of warning ignited by Andersen’s scorching licks. “Keep Her Home” sports a raging boogie beat with Big Pete on harmonica. Rayford finishes with “Preaching Blues”, a song from Son House. His forceful interpretation, over Goldwasser’s dancing slide guitar runs, highlights one last time the power of his voice in addition to his uncanny ability to capture the emotional heart of each song.

    One listen to this recording makes it clear that Chortkoff wasn’t indulging in some form hyperbole with his praise for Dangerous. This disc is full of scintillating performances, particularly from the big man pictured on the cover. It took a while for Sugaray to get to this point in his career. It was time well spent as he is in full command of his voice, delivering one stirring moment after another on a disc that will undoubtedly receive plenty of attention come awards time. Highly recommended!

    Reviewed by Mark Thompson


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    Christmas for Wounded Veterans - Vol. 2
    Westchester All Stars and Friends
    Self-released
    www.westchester-allstarschristmas.com
    15 tracks/


    With the holiday season upon us, we will soon be inundated with the usual overdose of holiday music that seems to crop up everywhere. If you’d like a break from the standard holiday fare, this project from singer Bill Edwards and friends deserves some attention. Edwards dedicates the disc to his father, a veteran who served in WWII and the Korean War on the USS New Jersey battleship. Edwards Sr. passed away before the project was completed. Proceeds from the CD sales will be donated to numerous veteran organizations.


    The all-original program is one reason why this disc merits consideration. Edwards had a hand in writing five tunes and takes the lead vocal over the funky strut the band lays down on “Santa’s Gonna Fly”. His duet with Jessica Lynn on “Celebrating Christmas” injects a touch of heartbreak into the holiday mood as the pair shares their feelings in the aftermath of a divorce. Edwards alter persona – Big Willy WE – brings the hip-hop spirit to “Love and Family” with backing from The Funky Herd on a tune that gets to heart of what the season is really about.


    Edwards adds a touching vocal to “Santa I’m Writing this Letter”, written from the perspective of a young boy asking Santa to bring his Mom home safely from the war. Former major league baseball star Bernie Williams accompanies him on guitar. Another special guest, Earl Slick, once backed up David Bowie. He fires off a feisty guitar solo on “Presents”, a hard-driving number with Edwards blowing some fine harp.


    “Rockin’ Soul Christmas” is just that, a powerful horn section blasting away behind Jon Cobert’s boisterous singing. Equally memorable is Eden Riegel’s bright tribute to man with the presents, “Oh Santa (We Love You)”, again with the horns filling out the arrangement. Tom Dudley – the Blues Buddha- takes over “Santa Claus is Comin’ Tonight” with a powerful voice that dominates the guitar-driven tune that rocks with a vengeance. The mood shifts to a sultry, jazzy vein as Duchess Di announces on “Twelve Santa Babies” that she wants more than one Santa this year, with Dave Keyes helping out on piano.


    “Christmas Prayer (It’s in the Giving)” sounds like a traditional hymn that quickly becomes a highlight once Chuck St. Troy wraps his wondrous voice around the lyrics. Mia Staton’s “little girl” voice on “Hey Hey Santa” is a perfect fit for a cute song that has a youngster reflecting on the quality of their life.  The Renovators bring an easy-rolling feel to “Old Fashion Christmas Eve” while Johnny Feds & Da Bluez Boyz closes the disc with the sinister roadhouse shuffle “Bad Case of the Christmas Blues”.


    There is plenty to enjoy on this project that examines the holiday season from a variety of heartfelt perspectives utilizing a variety of musical styles. Many of the artists involved will gather on Friday, December 6, at the Music Hall in Tarrytown, NY for a gala concert that honors our nation’s veterans. Once again, the proceeds will be donated to help our wounded soldiers get the care they deserve.


    You can lend a hand by purchasing a copy of the CD through the website and let Edwards & the Westchester All Stars brighten up your holiday season with this fine collection.

    Reviewed by Mark Thompson


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    Black Wind Howlin'
    Samantha Fish
    Ruf Records
    www.rufrecords.de
    www.samanthafish.com
    12 Tracks/54:22

    Samantha Fish, the effervescent young singer, songwriter, guitarist, first became known beyond the Kansas City area in 2011 with the release of "Girls With Guitars" on Ruf Records. She soon after released her first Ruf solo CD, "Runaway", for which she was awarded the 2012 Blues Music Awards "Best New Artist Debut". After two years of nearly non-stop touring, Samantha has now released her second solo album, "Black Wind Howlin'", a collection of 12 tunes, 10 written by Fish, one co-written with Mike Zito, and one well chosen cover, that will almost certainly garner even more awards.

    The CD opens with a fast pace blues rocker, "Miles To Go", a tune borne from endless touring, that sets the scene for the high energy, intense, guitar driven songs that follow. Next is "Kick Around" an upbeat, uplifting tune with some great guitar from producer Mike Zito, just one of the many great tracks on this disc.

    "Go To Hell", a good tune co-written with Zito, is a powerful male vs female duet between Fish and  guest vocalist Paul Thorn. Track four, "Sucker Born", features dirty slide wah guitar from Fish, and some great wailin harp work from "Jumpin Johnny Sansone". Next comes "Over You", one of the lighter tracks, a slow ballad with nice guitar complimenting Samantha's voice.

    The only non Fish penned song on the disc, "Whos' Been Talkin'", written by Chester Burnett, aka "howlin' Wolf", is another of the many highlights on this CD. With excellent guitar from Fish and more heavy harp from Jumpin Johnny Sansone, this great cover of a classic blues tune is sure to please fans everywhere.

    On a CD full of great cuts #7, "Lay It Down", may possibly be the best of them all with a driving beat, superb dirty-grungy guitar, lyrics that paint great mental images of "just another Saturday night", and a super vocal performance from Samantha. It also has a clever lyrical reference to a previous effort, "just a reckless little runaway, got something to prove", evidence of Samantha's considerable lyrical skills. Next a change of pace with "Lets have Some Fun", a nice, sexy, laid back little blues ditty that stands tall with just Samantha's vocal and a single acoustic guitar-she just keeps getting better.

    A couple of killer blues rockers, "Heartbreaker" (a Fish original, no relation to the Zeppelin tune of the same name) and "Foolin Me", both well done tunes, are followed by the title track "Black Wind Howlin'", a solid blues effort with some smoking guitar that rocks from start to finish. The surprise closer, "Last September" is a straight up country song that features the fiddle of Bo Thomas. A nice way to end a collection of upbeat, guitar driven blues rock tunes, the change of pace demonstrates  the versatility and depth of Ms. Fish. "Black Wind Howlin'" is highly recommended.


    Reviewed by Dennis Barker


     


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    Remembering O.V.
    Johnny Rawls
    Catfood Records
    10 tracks/34:45
     
    If there is anyone qualified to do a tribute to the legendary soul singer O.V. Wright, It would be singer Johnny Rawls. He played guitar in Wright’s band and eventually became the musical director. The two men were friends and it was Rawls who was with Wright when he suffered a fatal heart attack in 1980.
     
    Backing up Rawls are the usual suspects from the Catfood band featuring Producer Bob Trenchard on bass, Johnny McGhee on guitar, Dan Ferguson on keyboards, and Richy Puga on drums & percussion. The horn section consists of Andy Roman on sax, Mike Middleton on trumpet, and Robert Claiborne on trombone.
     
    The opening track, “Into Something (I Can’t Shake Loose)”, starts things off with a surprise. The first voice you hear belongs to Chicago soul legend Otis Clay. He trades gritty lead vocals with Rawls as the pair bemoan being in the clutches of a love that leaves them helpless, framed by the potent backing from the band. Clay appears on another Wright classic, “Nickel and a Nail”, his distinctive voice full of heartache compared to Rawl’s earthy charm. 
     
    Rawls brought in noted engineer Jim Gaines to remix three songs that appeared on his prior three CD releases. “Eight Men, Four Women” gets a dramatic reading from Rawls with the Iveys – Arlen, Jessica and Jillian – adding sweet backing harmonies. A strong rhythm guitar line and blaring horns on “Ace of Spades” draw an energized performance from Rawls before he stares deep into the well of despair on “Blind, Crippled and Crazy”.
     
    Rawls gives one of his strongest performances on “Poor Boy”, a lesser-known tune from early in Wright’s career. “Precious, Precious” is a ballad with an irresistible lilt. The band swaggers through “Don’t Let My Baby Ride”, giving Rawls the chance to show his seductive side. Clay returns on the lone original song, “Blaze of Glory”. Both singers offer robust promises to stay true to the music right up to their last breath.
     
    Recently, Rawls received two nominations for prestigious Blues Music Awards, one for Soul Blues Male Artist and the other for this recording in the Soul Blues Album category. Here’s hoping that his project will encourage listeners to check out the O.V. Wright legacy. It is a truly fitting tribute, done with much love and respect.
     
    Reviewed by Mark Thompson

     





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    Barrelhouse Stomp
    Chris James and Patrick Rynn
    Earwig Music Company
    12 tracks
     
    Partners in the blues for over 20 years, guitarist/vocalist Chris James and bassist Patrick Rynn wear their love for traditional Chicago Blues on their sleeve. After all, the duo first teamed up in the Windy City, and went on to back local harp player/band leader Rob Stone in his blues band, the C-Notes, before going off as a duet. All three ex-Chicagoans have since relocated to Southern California. They may have left the snow and cold behind, but they took the city’s music with them.
     
    This is Chris and Patrick’s third Earwig release and, like the first two, it is an outstanding album!  In order to avoid re-making the same type of CD repeatedly, the songwriting partners have changed a few things in the studio this time. In keeping with the title theme they have added some spectacular piano players in this “barrelhouse” effort, and it comes from three different acclaimed artists: Henry Gray (still feisty at age 88), Aaron Moore (who just passed away on Nov. 27, 2013 at age 95) and, for over half the tracks, David Maxwell who has won awards for his Otis Spann-worthy piano work.  The result is a fantastic album that will win them many new fans while extending their relationship with existing fans.
     
    Also appearing on tenor saxophone are a trio of superb horn men: Eddie Shaw, Johnny Viau and Norbert W. Johnson. Willie Hayes does most of the drumming; Eddie Kobek also appears on three tracks and the inimitable Wilie “Big Eyes” Smith also appears on a couple of cuts.  Chris’ and Patrick’s buddy Rob Stone appears on harp for a couple of tracks and Jody Williams adds his guitar on four songs.  Stone also helped out in penning seven of the tracks with the featured duo.   James sings on all cuts (except of course the instrumentals) and plays lead on most tracks and adds harp on another.  Rynn is the bassist for all of the cuts.
     
    The opening cut features Stone on harp and Maxwell on the piano.  “Goodbye, Later for You” grabs the listener and gets the dance party started.  It is quite the swinging number with some wicked guitar work by James, and Maxwell’s piano adds a great layer of bounce and fun.  Stone’s harp is also solid and James vocal s really sold me (as they always do).  “Just Another Kick in the Teeth” follows and all three horn players are there to help make a statement while Williams takes the guitar lead and Maxwell is on piano.  The horn work is great, Maxwell tinkles the keys sweetly and Williams picks out a great solo.  Rynn provides a cool bass solo while the sax players fill in, and then it’s Shaws’ turn to impress.  Big Bill Broonzy’s “I Feel So Good” is next; Smith is on drums here with Viau offering up some really dirty horn work.  Moore is featured on the keys and he stridently fills in well.  James vocals are emphatic and grab at you to listen for more.  Nice work!  “Messin’ With White Lightnin’” is a sweet little an instrumental with Maxwell filling in around James’ distinctively impressive guitar; he also offers up a poignant piano solo.  Hayes gives the cymbals a real workout as he keeps up a frenetic beat as the boy’s blast out a great barrelhouse cut.  I loved this track- it really gets the juices flowing!
     
    On “Before It’s Too Late” we have Moore’s other piano effort and Smith’s other appearance on drums.  James again offers up convincing vocals as Moore is emphatic on his piano work to help make the point- the piano solo here is top notch! Slide guitar, the dual horns of Viau and Johnson, and Henry Gray beating out the piano line make “A Fact is a Fact” a track that is hot as hell.  James burns up the strings and the band is in full swing here.  James adds some harp for us on “It Can Always Be Worse” where he tells us how we can always find someone far less  blessed than we are.  Straight up blues, a very fun cut. On “I’m Gonna Stop Foolin’ Myself” we have James telling us he needs a switch in relationships.  The two horns and Maxwell’s piano drive this one nicely as do James’ vocals and guitar.
     
    “Vicksburg Blues” is a great old cut which features Eddie Shaw, Rob Stone and Jody Williams.  Slow blues with real depth and effect here- another winner!  “Bobby’s Rock” brings Henry Gray back for this Elmore James instrumental.  The guitar is featured with the horns and piano in support.  Chris unleashes the slide about a minute into this and it is a thing of beauty.  While this is a guitar centered piece, the horns and piano really keep up with James and make it special!  The band swings with “Take It Easy” as they pay homage to Pinetop Perkins.  Maxwell lays it all out on piano as they swing through this in a wild but controlled manner.  The piano gets all the big solos and they are very sweetly done.  The album concludes with “Last Call Woogie”; Henry Gray is featured on this new cut that sends us off in style.  James screams and growls and he and Gray trade off solos.  Another great little cut!
     
    What are my favorites here?  Everything!  This is a beautiful mix of covers and new music and I enjoyed it all from top to bottom.  James and Rynn know their stuff and are totally in synch.  The supporting cast they have assembled works well with them and vice versa- they all checked their egos at the door and worked in total synch.  I truly enjoyed this CD and would rank it near the top for blues albums for 2013.  I’m a sucker for great piano in my blues and Aaron Moore, Henry Gray, and David Maxwell deliver the goods as do James and Rynn and the rest of the cast here.  Most highly recommended!!!


    Reviewed by Steve Jones



     


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  • 07/29/14--13:08: Article 3
  • That’s When The Blues Begins

    Ruff Kutt Blues Band
    Vizztone Records
    14 Tracks


    When I first saw this CD, I thought it may be a European blues band, but when I saw Anson Funderburgh’s name on it I got very excited.  His Texas blues playing recently resurfaced with Eric Lindell.  I saw them in New Orleans during Jazzfest.  Vocalist Finis Tasby, combines with Anson and Zac Harmon on guitar and James Goode on bass to lead this ensemble.  They play Texas blues, which has a special place in blues lovers hearts.  Goode wrote or co-wrote the entire CD.  He is a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.  So on to the music!



    The opening cut is “Deep Elam Blues”. Gives a slow churning groove of blues.  Some tasty guitar licks support Finnes Tasby’s vocals.  “Blues In My Blood” follows with a bit more funky groove.  I liked the lyrics, and the overall feel of the song.  Song 3 is “Don’t It Make You Cry” continues with good vocals by Tasby.  It remains in a slow Texas groove.  The next cut “Oh Woman” has some nice sax support by Ron Jones, including a great solo.  “Down So Low” switches to Zac Harmon on vocals.  This is another slow groovy tune that hit on all cylinders.

    Finnis Tasby comes back to vocals on “Bare Foot Blues” picks up the beat.  Nice guitar work by both Harmon and Anson.  Gentleman John Street supports it with some nice keyboards.  Zac Harmon does
    the remaining vocals except for track 13.  “Blues Ain’t A Color”  is up next.  It is a mid-tempo soulful song, with nice keyboard support.  “That’s When The Blues Begins” gets back to some soulful blues, with a hint of gospel harmonies, a nice touch by the band.  Up next is a New Orleans influenced intro this uptempod  song “That Woman Gives Me Fever”.  Track 9 is “I’m Over You Woman”  This song is fine, but not great.
     
    “Going To Bluesville” is a soft rocking hard peace.  It has a nice tempo jam, and is likely at on stage.  Zac Harmon gives a gritty vocal on “Touched By Her Flame”.  It is a solid more down home tune.  Finis Tasby returns to vocals for the last time on the CD on “Let’s Dance” with great guitar and sax work here.  I can see people grinding it out on the dance floors of Texas to this tune.  The closing cut is “When A Bluesman Goes To Heaven”.  I really like this.  Great reference to past Texas bluesmen who would be in the heaven blues band.  Good vocals by Zac Harmon.  This one is sure to be a crowd favorite.
     
    Overall a fine CD has been made.  I love to see Anson back.  The only sad for the future is the Finis Tasby had a big stroke post this recording.  We all wish him luck in his recovery.  This is one to buy!
     
    Reviewed by Mark Nelson


     



     


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