APRIL 2007










PAT WILDER and Serious Business
Lay Down Daddy
www.patwilderlive.com

The former ‘Blues Art’ cover star has a fine release here that is firmly blues rooted but which also shows this lady’s many and varied influences – as befits someone who as a child had a lesson from Taj Mahal. Over the years this native San Franciscan has played behind many musicians but here she is right out in front of a tight little combo and it makes the listener wonder just where she has been and how come the blues scene has missed out on her all these years (although she certainly does not look like she has been around as long as she has!)

She does not really sound like anyone else around either – there may be a bit of Esther Phillips’ attitude and Tina Turner’s sassiness in the vocals, but who’s complaining about influences like that? Similarly, her guitar style is Texas based, with a little Albert Collins, a little more Johnny ’Guitar’ Watson and a lot of Pat Wilder. It is good to note that the production – also by the talented Ms. Wilder – gives preference to the vocal over the guitar, unusual these days but isn’t the blues a vocal art? She has written some fine songs and knows where to find a good song too – try the opener, Bobby Rush’s ‘If You Love Me Like You Say’, or the excellent solo rendition of ‘Rock Me Baby’, though the credit here to Big Mama Thornton is more likely an indication of whom Pat earned it from.

I really enjoyed this one. Let’s hope we will hear more from Pat soon – very soon please!

----- Norman Darwen










KOKO TAYLOR
Old School
Alligator ALCD 4915
www.alligatorrecords.com

“I may be getting old, but I got young-fashioned ways”, sings Koko, and after many health problems over the last few years, Koko announces her intentions right from the first note – she’s coming back strong, and with an aptly titled CD that will gladden the hearts of her fans old and new.

It’s not too young-fashioned either – the biggest influences here seem to be the classic bands of late fifties Muddy and early sixties Wolf. There are songs from Koko herself, but also covers of material from the repertoires of Muddy, Lefty Dizz, Memphis Minnie and Magic Sam. Guitarist Criss Johnson is responsible for the arrangements and does a truly wonderful job – it may not be 1963 but this is as close as it gets these days! Helping out Ms. Taylor are the likes of Billy Branch – take a listen to his playing on Koko’s own ‘Better Watch Your Step’ (take a listen to this one for everyone though – wonderful indeed!), Brother John Kattke getting it just right on piano, Bob Margolin doing his first-class Muddy thing and an old time rhythm section of Kenny Hampton on bass and Willie Hayes on drums. Even the Blues Machine, Koko’s touring band, get in on the act for the final track. As good, no, as top-notch as all these guys are though, this is Koko’s record and as I said, this is a release that any real blues fan will find a total delight.

----- Norman Darwen




GRANT LYLE
Retronym
www.grantlyle.com

This young singer/ guitarist/ songwriter out of Toronto, Canada, has been causing something of a stir and the music on this CD, recorded in November 2006 with Roly Platt on harmonica and Michael Sloski on percussion (he’s also the engineer), shows why. It’s blues (though there are a couple of singer/ songwriter flavoured items)  – and although he can do more or less straight covers such as his trio of Muddy songs (‘Can’t Be Satisfied’, ‘Honey Bee’, Don’t Go No Further’), the likes of Blind Willie McTell’s ‘Broke Down Engine’ or Little Walter’s ‘Mellow Down Easy’ maintain enough of the originals to be recognisable but are certainly altered enough to convince the listener that in Grant Lyle there is an artist with a highly individual approach and style. Platt too plays harmonica in an unusually distinctive manner too. So, here’s something refreshingly fresh out of Canada..... 

----- Norman Darwen









THE CHAMPION RECORDS STORY VOLUME 2 – ROCKIN’ R&B
Various Artists
SPV/ Blue Label 49292 CD

Champion Records was based in Nashville, Tennessee in the late fifties, under the leadership of Ted Jarrett, who has already had success through his involvement with the likes of Christine Kittrell and Gene Allison. This set is aptly titled, and the range of the 21 tracks includes a wild Little Richard impersonation by Little Ike, some fine instrumentals from Jimmy Beck & His Orchestra (including ’Pipe Dreams’ which sold around 50,000), a rocking group sound on Larry Birdsong’s ‘Scooter Poofin’, older jump-blues styles from Cliff Butler (a Louis Jordan influence) and the totally obscure Clenest Gant (rather Big Joe Turner-ish), a Dave ‘Baby’ Cortez styled organ instrumental from Johnny Bridgeforth, and a LaVern Baker flavoured ‘Fever’ from Sandra Meade. Also included are very early titles from Al Garner and Earl Gaines, and several other obscurities.

In short, this is a real delight. Back when these records were originally issued, they may have been a little too derivative to have enjoyed massive success, but part of the fun nowadays is to play ‘spot the influence’ – another part of the enjoyment is that many of these are just fine performances in their own right.

----- Norman Darwen
















Artist: Watermelon Slim & The Workers
Title: The Wheel Man
Label: Northern Blues Music NBM0038

For more information go to:
www.Watermelonslim.com or www.NorthernBlues.com

Well, here it is! The eagerly anticipated, second album from Mr. Watermelon and his more than happy band of Workers. Lending electrifying assistance to the proceedings is Magic Slim, who shares lead vocals with Mr. Watermelon and provides the rather tasty guitar solos on the title number “The Wheel Man.”

Crisp, sharp lyrics are delivered by Mr. Watermelon in his uniquely distinctive rolling; rasping vocal style, at a brisk rollicking pace; even the somewhat slower thought provoking solo harp and vocal numbers seem to fairly zip along.

Whether the numbers are fast foot stompers, rolling shuffles, or thought provoking slowburners, the bands’ more than evident increased level of musicianship has improved sufficiently so, that their cohesive interplay bristles and sparks throughout each number played.

Writing and presenting a more compact and precise set, has merely accentuated all the highly infectious hooks and choruses found on this album; which in turn makes it simply irresistible.
Eleven of the fourteen numbers on offer here are band originals; I do feel that a special mention is due for the solo accapella number “Sawmill Holler,” as performed by Mr. Watermelon, which is the nearest I believe we are likely to get to hear today of a cotton field/plantation work song. Listening to this number causes the imagination to run riot as Mr. Watermelon barks out his orders to his fellow sawmill workers to earn their days pay, in a stifling, sweaty, atmosphere of clogging sawdust, noisy industrial woodworking machines and a fully stocked wood yard!

I, foresee more awards winging their way to Mr. Watermelon & The Workers in the near future.
Simply stunning, simply essential!

----- Brian Harman







EARL GAINES
Crankshaft Blues
SPV/Blue 95782 CD


Born in Alabama in 1935, Earl began recording in the fifties, initially as a session drummer for the famed Excello label but he became better known after singing lead on the big Louis Brooks hit ‘It’s Love Baby (24 Hours A Day)’ – which is remade here – and then went on to enjoy a reasonably successful solo career with a variety of labels. This CD does focus on the blues side of his talent, though the other genres he has been involved in are not overlooked. The title track is a seven minutes long slow burn blues rich in automobile based innuendoes, there are several good-rockin’ blues, some fine southern soul and even a guitar-led slab of tough early sixties styled R’n’B.

The first rate support is mainly courtesy of producer/ guitarist Fred James and his fine band. The material is a mixture of previously released but long deleted numbers and unissued takes from his work with the ‘Excello Legends’ package, plus some songs that have never seen the light of day previously – and all date from within the last decade and a half. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that means this CD is in any way inferior – it is actually a rather classy release and certainly worth checking.

----- Norman Darwen







DOUG COX & SALIL BHATT
Slide To Freedom
Northern Blues NBM0039
www.northernblues.com

“File under blues” it says but that is really only half of the story, Canadian singer and wizard of the Dobro Doug Cox has a firm grounding in the blues but is always looking to explore different directions. This set should certainly fulfil those criteria.

Salil Bhatt is the tenth generation of his musical family, the son of Vishwa Mohan Bhatt who invented the Mohan Veena – an adapted “guitar” suitable for Indian slide playing – and who is special guest on a couple of numbers here. There are blues numbers here (with Doug’s vocals), but this is mostly a deep, very rootsy sound, very Indian in many places (at least to Western ears) but also a very successful and accessible fusion. If you have enjoyed similar excursions by the likes of Ry Cooder or Taj Mahal, you’ll love this – and if you haven’t, then this is the place to start. Give your ears a treat.

----- Norman Darwen
















HANS THEESSINK
Slow Train
Blue Groove 1620
www.theessink.com

With this release Hans once again confirms that he can hold his own with just about anyone in the contemporary blues/ roots world. 
This is a lovely bluesy set, featuring Hans’s deep voice backed by a variety of string instruments (which he plays), Harry Guggenbichler on a selection of keyboards, the rhythm section of Erich Buchebner and Harry Stampfer on bass and drums respectively, plus the sublime harmony vocals of Ramadu, Blessings and Vusa aka Zimbabwean vocal group Insingizi. It is the latter who really add unique atmosphere to the gospel styled opener and the wistful sounding ‘Thula Mama – Oh Mother Don’t You Weep’; this demonstrating Hans’ humanity, being a lament for Zimbabwe’s tragic plight after the optimism of the years around that country’s independence. There’s empathy too with the excellent banjo led adaptation of the Crescent City’s traditional ‘Lil’ Liza Jane’, transformed into a pithy observation of New Orleans post-Katrina, whilst other touches such as the martial beat which accompanies the to-the-point ‘God Created The World’ provide evidence of the attention to detail that make this such a fine listening experience. ‘Cry Cry Cry’ and ‘Let Go’ move towards more of a rockabilly/ blues sound, whilst ‘Love You Baby’ hits a coolly bluesy groove with some fine slide work on the National Steel. ‘Old Man Trouble’ is certainly effectively moody, whilst ‘Leaving At Daybreak’ exhibits some of the sparse beauty of Bob Dylan’s ‘Blood On The Tracks’. ‘May The Road’ is nice and raggy, ‘Run On For A Long Time’ has something of a hard gospel feel to it, and the closing ‘When Luther Played The Blues’ – a tribute to Luther Allison – has a minimalist, John Lee Hooker inflected accompaniment that ends this CD on a very high note indeed. The sound throughout though is rich and organic.


Hans has been around for a long time now. It is rare to find someone of his generation still pushing the boundaries, crossing the borders, and still prepared to stand up and be counted. More power to him!

----- Norman Darwen






















Artist: Tom Doughty
Title: Running Free
Label:
Corker Music CD002

For more information go to:
www.tomdoughty.com

This new album from Tom is a wonderfully relaxing and uplifting piece of music; it is also a teaser for all the niche and pigeon-hole people; those who have difficulty in taking and accepting a piece of music for what it is, as opposed to what they expect it to be. Tom is all encompassing in his approach to the playing of his music, whether; it is in the blues, jazz, folk, traditional or contemporary fields.

Tom comes from a sleepy English Cheshire village named Frodsham, he showed a significant interest in music after his mother bought him a minstrel outfit and guitar when he was six years old. After this gift he, over the years went on from strength to strength acquiring all the necessary skills needed to play a multitude of instruments.

Sadly, one morning in 1974, disaster struck, whilst on his journey to work he crashed his 500cc motorbike and suffered permanent spinal injuries which also affected his arm and fingers to the extent that he could no longer play any kind of instrument.

After a period of ten years or so, adapting in many different ways to his hugely restricting circumstances he was determined to play the music that was bursting out of his soul, even with his limited arm and finger movement. To affect his own unique style and manner of play he uses the lap steel guitar with the addition of his own particular version of the bottleneck slide.
Tom has tenderly melancholic vocals, which are somewhat reminiscent of John Tams, his gossamer like picking of the strings are accompanied by some of the most the sensuous stroking movements that can (I imagine) be produced from a slide. We are also lovingly exposed to some of the most hauntingly lyrical and esoterically intriguing pieces of slide guitar that which you may not hear again for some time.

The choice of material ranges from such artist as: Walter Davis, Charley Patton, Furey Lewis, and Muddy Waters through to Ellla Fitzgerald and The Beatles.
Accompanying tom are; Caroline Barker; cello, Dan Walker; kora, Woody Mann; guitar and Terry Jones; on harp and shaker.
A Bloody Good album! One for the collection I would say.

----- Brian Harman















Artist: J.J.Grey & Mofro
Title: Country Ghetto
Label: Alligator

For more information go to:
www.alligatorrecords.com/ or www.mofro.net

After having some interest shown from an English record company of a demo recorded by J.J. and his band in1994, they went halfway round the world in their search for a suitable recording contract. Subsequent, to the bands arrival in London, from their home, some forty miles outside of Jacksonville, Florida; they went on to enjoy a successful musical foray into the London pub & club circuit while they were there; but, sadly after a failing to secure a satisfactory record deal they ended up back in America releasing two albums; ‘Blackwater’ in 2001 and following up on that album with ‘Lochloosa.’

Now in 2007 J.J. & Mofro present us with this, their Alligator debut and my, oh my, what a record it is; all twelve of the absolutely stunning self penned numbers are imbued with a multitude of differing influences ranging from the southern soul drenched, swamp thick sounds of J.J.s home state of Florida to the equally rich, dense urban landscapes as created by Curtis Mayfield and also (to my mind,) the intensely claustrophobic and atmospheric images conjured up from the fertile mind of Lalo Schifrin.
Whether it is slide and keyboards or violins and horns, the intoxicating effect is just the same, simply spine- tinglingly sumptuous

J.J. who plays; keyboards, guitars, electric, twelve-string, acoustic, bass and harmonica also takes lead vocals. He is joined by; Daryl Hance; guitar and slide, Adam Scone; organ and organ bass, and lastly but not least, George Sluppick; drums.

Whether this album is called swamp rock, southern soul, front porch blues or Deep South Americana. I can assure you of one fact, it is Bloody Good!

----- Brian Harman









MERCURY RECORDS – The New Orleans Sessions 1950 & 1953
Various Artists
Bear Family BCD 16804 BH
www.bear-family.de

This was originally released on vinyl back in 1989 but is now a double CD set thanks to ongoing research – the 1953 session was long supposed to have taken place in Los Angeles rather than the Crescent City.

The artists on these sessions include the powerful songstress Alma Mondy, whose voice can rival the likes of Wynonie Harris, Big Joe Turner and Dinah Washington, the unique Professor Longhair, whose 13 titles most certainly merit the description “worth the price of the album on their own”, the excellent though long-obscure band of George Miller & His Mid-Driffs (responsible for al;most all the backing work here), plus vibrant singers such as Little Joe Gaines, Dwine Craven (Mr. Brown), the female impersonator Pat Valdelar, Ray Johnson from his famous musical family – his sax playing brother Plas probably best known – and the virtually unknown singer/ pianist Herbert ‘Woo Woo’ Moore, plus the hot sacred sounds of the Silvertone Singers. Only the two titles by Theard Johnson are less than excellent, his smooth ballad style no longer in keeping with modern tastes.

With its wonderful sound, beautiful packaging, and of course incomparable music, this collection is a must have for all New Orleans lovers. !And anyone else too.....!

----- Norman Darwen

























This review has been complimentary written for your newsletter by Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro, a contributing writer for BLUESWAX and the Blues Editor at www.Mary4Music.com where you can read many more CD and live show reviews, view lots of blues photographs and find an abundance of blues material. I can be reached at [email protected]
THE CAZANOVAS
"BORROWED TIME"

"MUSTANG SALLY", "STORMY MONDAY BLUES", "COLD SHOT", "WHIPPING POST", "MESSIN' WITH THE KID" and "HOOCHIE COOCHIE MAN" cannot be heard on THE CAZANOVAS'  "BORROWED TIME". AMEN! Now I know it sounds like I just dissed several great blues songs that indeed have been written and performed by some great blues folk, however, there was absolutely no disrespect intended. Unquestionably, those songs are all classics.  On the other hand, if I took all the discs I receive that you can hear most of  them on, I could build a life size replica of a "RED HOUSE". Get my drift?

"BORROWED TIME", impressionably and refreshingly, contains ten very well written and very well performed originals, and the people responsible for this pleasurable project are: MAURICE NAZZARO on vocals and harmonica; DANNY VINSON on guitars and background vocals; JOHN WAYNE STRAW on Fender bass; and STEVE "DA WOLFMAN" HARDING on drums and background vocals.  Joining the CAZANOVAS are special guests SEAN COSTELLO on several guitar solos, DAN SEIFERT on Hammond B3, JOHN and NICK LONGO on saxophones and DONNA HOPKINS and LOLA GULLY on background vocals.

My particular favorite track is "LONG TIME". MAURICE'S harmonica playing is absolutely profound.  His style of play on this track, as well as his vocals, are quite reminiscent of one of my all time favorite singer/harp players - the late and very great William Clarke. This three and a half minute track could have pleasurably been three and a half minutes longer.


"GIVE IT ALL BACK" is, as the CAZANOVA'S describe their own style of play, "Butt-Rockin' Blues". I'm betting that "DA WOLFMAN'S" butt was surely rockin' and maybe even poppin' - off the stool that is.  He absolutely tears up the drums on this one. Lots of rockin' guitar licks and some hot Hammond by DANNY and DAN add to the smoke.

"THE SHUFFLER" is groovy instrumental that's all guitar and organ. With a steady and soft rhythm background, the two DAN'S - DANNY VINSON on guitar and DAN SEIFERT on the Hammond organ - take tasteful turns taking the lead.

On "CRYING TIME" the CAZANOVAS start off in - and never leave - a real smooth, toe-tapping groove. The rhythm section of JOHN and STEVE set the real nice pace. Several very nice harp highlights and great vocals by MAURICE and an absolutely fabulous guitar solo by none other than SEAN COSTELLO make this one replay button material. Another of the discs bests.

The very Delbert McClinton sounding "TOO BAD SO SAD" features a bit of funk from the LONGO BROTHERS horn section.  Unfortunately this is the only track they can be enjoyed on.  This track also features some of DANNY'S best guitar work.

If you're a bass man, when you insert this disc into your player, go straight to track nine - "BYE BYE BABY". In spite of some great vocals and harp solos by MAURICE, JOHN steals this one.

"SUPERNOVA" is an absolute all out free for all instrumental jam. This one has the CAZANOVAS  simultaneously and franticly peaking.  What a way to end this disc. It's a super song on a super CD by a super group - THE CAZANOVAS.

If you're one of my readers who happens to reside in, or frequents the Atlanta area, stop in on a CAZANOVAS show and tell them that the Blewzzman told you "they rip". You can also check the guys out at www.cazanovas.com.

----- PETER "BLEWZZMAN" LAURO




















This review has been complimentary written for your newsletter by Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro, a contributing writer for BLUESWAX and the Blues Editor at www.Mary4Music.com where you can read many more CD and live show reviews, view lots of blues photographs and find an abundance of blues material. I can be reached at [email protected]

KENNY ACOSTA AND THE HOUSE RECKERS
"SPANISH TOWN MARDI GRAS"
BLUZMAN RECORDS

Having played out of Austin, TX for many years, with the likes of Kim Wilson, W C Clark, and Stevie & Jimmy Vaughn, one might expect a different kind of sound from KENNY ACOSTA. However, it's very apparent that, although he can be diversified, he never strayed far from those Delta roots. On "SPANISH TOWN MARDI GRAS", it's quite evident where this Baton Rouge native is from.

Anyone who has ever had a bowl of gumbo knows that it's a perfect blend of many different ingredients. KENNY'S music is no different. This discs main ingredients are several very well done covers and several very well written originals spiced up with a hint of island fare, pinches of funk, dashes of blues, splashes of jazz, spoonfuls of soul and lots of good ol' Cajun hot stuff.

The people responsible for this very tasteful creation are KENNY ACOSTA on guitar and vocals, JOE EUNICE on bass, BRANDON COCKBURN on drums and JOE "BOY" MICELLI on percussion.

"SPANISH TOWN MARDI GRAS" opens with a very jazzy yet super soulful version of "BLACK DRAWERS". KENNY'S vocals, very reminiscent of a young Dr. John, and his very smooth, jazzy style of guitar, along with great effort from JOE on bass, clearly highlight this track.

The original title track, "SPANISH TOWN MARDI GRAS", picked me up from my desk and placed me in a seedy little cantina where I watched a scantily clad women, dancing to Flamenco music, attempt to seduce Ricardo Montalban.  What a great song!

For the funk fans "RAJUN CAJUN" is all yours. This one is pretty much all about JOE MICELLI slapping the hell out of some congas, bongos and whatever else he can get those hot hands of his on.  On the other hand, total blues freaks like me will just love "CALL THE PLUMBER". This is good old down home blues at it's best. KENNY'S vocals and blues guitar are the best they get on this one, another original.

Although he didn't write it, "LINDA LOU" is a perfectly written song for KENNY'S voice and singing style.  He seems to really enjoy cutting loose on this one. This track, just shy of three minutes, could have pleasantly been twice the length.  It seemed just as KENNY was peaking the track was ending.

"COCAINE BLUES" is another track which features KENNY'S smooth and soulful vocals and his great guitar playing. This is the kind of stuff you can listen to all day long and never tire of. JOE and BRANDON are both at their peak on this one as well.

Other great tracks on "SPANISH TOWN MARDI GRAS" are: "AIN'T HEARD JACK", "MOJO", "TIME BOMB" and "WOKE UP THIS MORNING".

KENNY ACOSTA AND THE HOUSE RECKERS are one of those bands that love being on the road.  If you live anywhere in the South Eastern part of the United States, do as I recently did and catch his live act. You can view his schedule, and buy a few of his CD's at www.kennyacosta.com.  While you're there, tell the BLUZMAN that the BLEWZZMAN sends his love.

----- PETER "BLEWZZMAN" LAURO

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