The Holmes Brothers
Alligator CD

This is Alligator’s fifth project from the rootsy and resiliently soulful Holmes Brothers. For more than three decades, brothers Wendell and Sherman Holmes and brother-in-spirit Popsy Dixon have been roaming the world with their telepathic, church-rooted vocal approach (their spine-tingling three-part harmony singing is legendary), deep Southern roots and tough instrumental chops to the fore. The trio characteristically dig deep on this fourteen track project, recorded at funky Studio G in Brooklyn, New York, and surface with a wealth of well-cured blues, dangerously rhythmic funk, roadhouse rock, intense R&B and classic soul (great covers of Ted Hawkins’ sweet “I Gave Up All I Had” and a doo wop-oriented reprise of William Bell’s “My Kind Of Girl”) alongside a half dozen Wendell originals. Particular ear-prickers among the latter include a hard rocking “Stayed At The Party,” the lickety-split “Lickety Split,” a resigned “Gone For Good” and an intrepid “Darkest Hour” while cover gem highlights also encompass climactic versions of both Ike Turner’s “You’ve Got To Lose” as well as Curtis Salgado’s intense “Drivin’ In The Drivin’ Rain.” The album closes with a soul-stirring rendition of their signature song—the uplifting hymn “Amazing Grace.” Since their discovery at a jam session at New York’s Dan Lynch’s club by Joan Osborne and members of Blues Traveler and their debut on Rounder Records in 1989, the Brothers have toured virtually non-stop. Not to be missed if they come your way!—Gary von Tersch

Adam Gussow
Kick And Stomp
Modern Blues Harmonica Productions

One man bands have a long history in the blues - there is nothing more basic than a man sitting on a porch blowing a harmonica and stomping his feet. But don’t think this old school style can’t be made to sound fresh. Gussow found his first calling in 1986 as part of the duo Satan and Adam with the foot percussion and guitar of Sterling Magee. But the true revelation came in 2008 at the sight of Deak Harp stomping and blowing solo through a big PA on the sidewalk in Clarksdale. Shortly after that he received a mini stomp block as a gift then up graded to a mini drum kit. He says “The format shouldn’t work, but it does because it’s nothing more than a contemporary updating of the old Deep South groove. I’m running my harp through a pair of tube amps because the over saturated power trio sound of Cream was a first love.” “Kick and Stomp” is Adam Gussow’s first release as a solo performer, singing, blowing amplified harp, and kicking a bass drum and tambourine pedal with no loops or overdubs. This is a one man show from start to finish as both a solo performer and producer.
The title tune starts up “Kick and Stomp” and it gives Adam a platform for his flights of harp fantasy. Half of this disc are Adam’s original songs: “Shaun’s Song,” “Buford Chapel Breakdown,” “Mr. Cantrell” and “Down Ain’t Out” are instrumentals, illustrating that he may be one of the best harp players anywhere. The other half are cover tunes, some you might expect like “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,” “Every Day I Have the Blues” or “Goin’ Down South.” But when you first recognize the progressions of “Sunshine of Your Love” or Cream’s version of “Crossroads Blues” played on harp and drum that he truly makes these classics his own. The same can be said of “Poor Boy,” which invokes the same power the Wolf brought while being completely different in character. The final cuts are a study in contrasts: “Sugar” from the jazz sax of Stanley Turrentine played in 3rd position to Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” played in 1st position sounding like a century old minstrel show.
Adam Gussow has moved from upstate New York to Oxford, Mississippi and with “Kick and Stomp” it sounds like he fits right in.—Roger & Margaret White

Bob Corritore
Delta Groove 2014

All-instrumental albums face a formidable challenge: maintaining interest while eschewing the most compelling and versatile instrument of all, the human voice. Many fail to meet the challenge, falling victim to repetition and lack of verve. (One such harmonica endeavor of a couple years back was lauded by some, but induced ennui in this listener; I likened it to elevator music.) Fortunately, there are notable and even brilliant exceptions; I think of a Debbie Davies recording, many by guitar master Ronnie Earl, and now this release by another harmonicat, Bob Corritore.
Formerly of Chicago and now based in Phoenix, Corritore is a maven of the “Mississippi saxophone” who has gathered an ensemble of adept musicians and succeeded in delivering a set of worthy tracks. This is not a dance record: the prevailing mood is contemplative, even pensive, although such cuts as “Harp Blast” and “T-Town Ramble” provide a driving mid-tempo change of pace.
There are multiple highlights. “Harmonica Watusi” presents a shimmering interplay between harp, guitar, and bass, with tinkly piano backing. “Mr. Tate’s Advice” sports dialogue between Corritore’s horn and Doug James’ sax. “Shuff Stuff” displays Corritore at his Chicago-style best, with fine sequential sax, organ, and guitar solos. The album ends with “Bob’s Late Hours,” a great 2 AM bar closer featuring Corritore’s rich and echo-y harmonica tone.
In addition to the main man’s virtuosity, kudos must be given to guests Doug James, Papa John DeFrancesco on organ, and Jimmie Vaughan on guitar, and to the backing group, steadied by drummer Richard Innes and bassist Kedar Roy. Most appreciated is the presence of keyboard maestro Fred Kaplan, whose contributions are superb throughout, and guitarist Junior Watson, whose leads are consistently inventive and who knows the value of silence between notes.— Steve Daniels

Li’l Ronnie & The Blue Beats featuring Claudia Carawan
Unfinished Business’ Soul, Funk, Ballads
& Blues
Eller Soul Records

This CD has an interesting back story, Li’l Ronnie & the Grand Dukes have been tearing it up for fifteen years but before that Ronnie Owens held court with another popular band, The Blue Beats, featuring the soulful vocals of Ms. Claudia Carawan. In 1991 while recording their second disc and negotiating for national release the band broke up and the tapes were shelved. More than twenty years later Owens rediscovered them and realized how great the tapes were. There was some damage but Ronnie was able to salvage six of the original tracks. But what to do? Bring the original band back together to rerecord the damaged cuts completing this “Unfinished Business.” Sultry singer/sax player Claudia Carawan, bassist Mike Moore and keyboardist Ericson Holt quit their jazz gigs, Jim Wark put down his rockabilly guitar and Stu Grimes brought back his drums, Ronnie Owens is still wailing harp. To the band’s credit it’s impossible to tell which are the original recordings and which have been reproduced. Most of the songs were written by the band in 1991 with the exception of the title tune “Unfinished Business.”
Kicking off with some swing on “Bring Your Fine Self Home,” Claudia’s hot and sexy on top of the horns led by Ronnie’s harp followed by “I Just Met A Man” and Prima’s “Jump Jive, Then You Wail.” Shifting to some Stax-like soul, “Get Tough” with horns punching, organ echoing the harp and the backup singers join in for funkier “Thick & Thin.” Claudia has a Ronnie Spector vibe with “I Feel A Heartache Coming On.” Owens sings lead on a few: “Stop Cheatin’ Me Blind,” “I Had A Warden For A Women” and “Cold Hard Cash,” which was covered on the latest Grand Dukes release. The duets of “Too Fast For Conditions” covered on the first Grand Dukes disc and “Unfinished Business” show this was built to last.
With this “Unfinished Business” completed The Blue Beats declare “whats done is done, can’t go back home...But now were back together and let’s set the record straight, baby it’s never too late.” The Blue Beats never sounded better.
Roger & Margaret White

Joe Louis Walker
Hornet’s Nest
Alligator 2014

By last count, Joe Louis Walker and B.B. King were virtually tied for number of all-time nominations for Blues Music (formerly known as Handy) Awards from the Blues Foundation, and Walker has indubitably assured his place in the Blues Hall of Fame.  In his follow-up Alligator release after the well received “Hellfire,” Walker demonstrates conclusively that even at the end of his seventh decade, his passion and prowess in the blues are undiminished.
Talk about energy!  This CD just about jumps out of the player.  From bar one of the first, title cut, Walker is out front with searing vocals and inspired guitar delivery.  There are twelve songs on the album, and even the slow tunes vibrate with conviction and chops.  Backed by an ace quartet of Reese Wynans on keyboards, Rob McNelley on second guitar, Tommy MacDonald (once again a member of Tommy Castro’s band) on bass, and producer and co-songwriter Tom Hambridge on percussion and background vocals, Walker provides a versatile mixture of soul, blues, and gospel.
Wait a minute, though: why do The Rolling Stones appear in the middle of the CD?  Oops, it actually is Walker and company, covering the Stones’ “Ride on, Baby.”  One of the Stones’ lesser known compositions, it is for me one of the notable tunes of this set; Walker provides as tough a vocal as Mick Jagger, and listen to Wynans’s piano contribution at the end of the song! Walker re-emphasizes his rock cred with several other songs, including the penultimate tune, “Not in Kansas Anymore.”  When you listen to that one, even though it sports a mid-tempo instead of frenetic beat, you won’t be in your seat anymore, you will be bopping across the floor.
The two gospel representatives are also fine.  On “Don’t Let Go” Walker is supported by a back-up three-man vocal chorus, there is no instrumental solo break, and the song proceeds compellingly through almost five relentless minutes.  “Keep the Faith,” the last song of the CD and the other gospel rendition, features Walker at his fervent singing best.  Let’s not forget the guitar work throughout, either.  In my opinion, Walker is one of the most adept guitarists at delivering rapid flurries of boiling single notes and chords, yet he knows when to slow down, suppress any rampant ego, and leave spaces in his playing for the music to ripen.   He’s also pretty darn good at slide guitar, as evidenced on “I’m Gonna Walk Outside.”— Steve Daniels

John Mayall & The Blues Breakers
Road Hogs—
In The Palace Of The King—
Eagle Rock 3-CD

John Mayall
A Special Life
Forty Below CD

Eighty years young, English blues-rocking singer, guitarist, harmonica ace, pianist and prolific songwriter John Mayall’s musical career has spanned more than fifty years. From the 1960s on, his Blues Breakers combo has been studded with the likes of Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Aynsley Dunbar, Jack Bruce, Mick Fleetwood, Sugarcane Harris, Mick Taylor, Walter Trout, Harvey Mandel and more recently (as on this trio of album reissues) the simpatico, chemistry-rich trio of guitarist Buddy Whittington, drummer Joe Yuele and bassist Hank Van Sickle. Stories dates from 2002 with many of the titles paying homage to some of Mayall’s favorite bluesmen including Leadbelly, Little Walter, Bo Diddley, Robert Johnson and Kokomo Arnold on tracks like “Feels Just Like Home,” “Southside Story,” “Oh, Leadbelly,” “Kokomo” and “I Thought I Heard The Devil.” Other killers are the topical “Dirty Water” and the novelty “Romance Classified.” 2005’s Road Hog features thirteen Mayall originals along with a couple of inspired efforts courtesy of Yuele and Whittington—the accurately entitled “Awestruck And Spellbound” and a nervy “Brumwell’s Beat.” Picks among the others begin with “Chaos In The Neighborhood,” “Short Wave Radio,” “Kona Village” and the set closing steamer “Scrambling.” 2007’s In The Palace Of The King is Mayall’s tribute to one of his heroes—the late blues genius Freddie King—with fifteen songs either composed by King or associated with him with the accent on his productive years in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the Shelter label and musical associates Leon Russell and Don Nix. Picks include a cover of Robben Ford’s roaring instrumental “Cannonball Shuffle” (say, is that Ford on guitar?), invigorating revivals of Nix’s “Going Down” and “Living On The Highway,” likewise Russells’ “I’d Rather Be Blind” and “Help Me Through The Day.” Also noted is the steaming title song and the rough and rowdy “Big Legged Woman.” And, delightfully, more of the same from the Godfather of British Blues is front and center on his just out A Special Life—where he returns to his roots on an eclectic jam-up of blues-locused songs with side-trips into rock and Americana. Something for everybody, with deep-grooved, unfailingly energetic reprises of material from the likes of Jimmy Rogers (“That’s All Right”), Jimmy McCracklin (“I Just Got To Know”), Eddie Taylor (“Big Town Playboy”) and Albert King (his great “Floodin’ In California”), a couple of reflective Mayall originals (“World Gone Crazy” and “Just A Memory”) along with vibrant reworkings of Clifton Chenier’s classic “Why Did You Go Last Night” (with Chenier’s son, C.J., guesting on accordion) and Sonny Landreth’s tempest-tossed “Speak Of The Devil.” Indulge yourself—get ‘em both!—Gary von Tersch

Al Basile
Woke Up in Memphis
Sweetspot 2014

If the liner notes of a blues CD reference both Elvis Presley and Leo Tolstoy, you know you’re in for something unique. Al Basile doesn’t disappoint.
One of the many distinguished alumni of the great Rhode Island jump blues combo Roomful of Blues (still going strong after 45 years!), Al Basile follows up his 2012 double CD release “at home next door” with another high quality effort. Abetted by a group of ace musicians, including several other Roomful alumni, and backed by producer and guitar whiz (and Roomful founder) Duke Robillard, Basile mines the horn-driven blues sub-genre to great effect.
No slouch as a cornet player — several times Blues Music Award nominee as Horn Player of the Year — Basile delivers several solos of silvery tone and tantalizing groove. His arrangements of the horn section, also featuring saxophonists Rich Lataille and Doug James, are both sweet and sassy. Robillard, of course, provides some understated but scintillating guitar solos, and “Make a Little Heaven,” a gospel number inspired by a prior collaboration with The Blind Boys of Alabama, benefits from the vocal participation of Sista Monica Parker.
A veritable Renaissance man, Basile composed all fourteen songs, and his literary skills (he is also a poet and playwright) are revealed in the shrewd, wise, and sometimes risible lyrics. In “When Things Get Tough,” he satirically opines: “When things get tough, the tough get things…so let’s buy a Maserati, and see what tomorrow brings.” “Jimmy and Johnny” is a ballad about two best friends parted by a woman and a secret. The title tune is an ode to the power of music. “Saved by the Blues” is…well, you guessed it, and “Too Tough” is a tribute to a formidable girlfriend. There’s not one bad song in the bunch, and the album is enhanced by a booklet of liner notes sporting full lyrics and Basile’s brief commentary on each cut.
I’m going to be playing this CD a lot.— Steve Daniels

Albert Castiglia
“Solid Ground”
Ruf Records”
Albert Castiglia is a young man who’s been at the forefront of the new blues scene and I was surprised to learn “Solid Ground” is his seventh CD in twenty years of recording. Solid can be steady or dependable and Albert has always been a hot player but here he displays a mature voice and solid songs. This Miami native has been touring incessantly preparing for this release and taken his newest tunes with his trio of Matt Schuler bass, Bob Amsel drums, Jeremy Baum keyboards to producer multi instrumentalist Dave Gross at Fat Rabbit Studios in New Jersey.
“Solid Ground” begins in a heavy rhythm with the hard hitting bass driven “Triflin’” taking it to a Chuck Berry styled “Put Some Stank On It” trading guitar licks with Ms Debbie Davies while his voice takes on a Bob Seger edge and follows through on “Love One Another” a southern soul serenade. Castiglia’s “Keep You Around Too Long” sounds like it could be a Kim Wilson recording with a skillfully sloppy guitar where the notes seem to fall into all the right places and “Sleepless Nights” is a twang bar drenched blues. The “Little Havana Blues (Arroz Con Mango)” is a slinky Latin rock instrumental with interweaving guitar lines coiling around the organ till coming to a ringing completion. “Hard Time” uses acoustic bass, mandolin and Dobro then takes a detour from this lonely street to Walter Williams’ “Bad Avenue” a place so bad even the kids have pistols. More covers complete the disc with the classic “Going Down Slow” broken down to a bare bones blues rocker and the Rolling Stones “Sway” sounding like a Tom Petty ballad and a heart felt version of “Have You No Shame.” Castiglia covers three songs by fellow Miami musician Graham Wood Drout. “Searching the Desert For The Blues” an urban swamp blues, an American roots “Celebration” sounding like Bob Seger’s Night Moves and the acoustic ballad “Just Like Jesus.”
Albert Castiglia has grown over the last two decades from hot young guitar slinger to mature voiced singer songwriter who can still jam with the best of them and that really is some “Solid Ground.”—Roger & Margaret White

Jarekus Singleton
Refuse to Lose
Alligator 2014

Many blues followers are familiar with dynamic media favorite Gary Clark Jr.; many of us have also encountered the equally compelling Marquise Knox.  To the list of up-and-coming young artists, it’s time to add the name Jarekus Singleton.
Hailing from Mississippi, Singleton emerged from a gospel music background (not surprisingly, common in the blues world), influenced heavily by the Kings - Albert, B.B., and Freddie -  Stevie Ray Vaughan, and even several rap and country luminaries.  Switching from his first instrument, bass, he has become a proficient guitarist as well as songwriter and performer.  “Refuse to Lose” represents his debut appearance on a major label…and it’s a major success.
The album is comprised of a dozen songs, all penned (solely, or with Harrison Sumner) by Singleton.  The prevailing (but not exclusive) theme is an old one: the travails of amatory relationships, the perfidy of an unreliable lover, even the desire for revenge.  However, the hoary motifs are enlivened by fresh ingredients, particularly some piquant and risible lyrics.  In “Purposely,” for example, Singleton disses his recalcitrant partner: “If your funeral starts at 7, you’ll probably show up at 9.”  In “Hell,” he crows, “When I die I’m goin’ to heaven, baby; you already took me through hell.”  My favorite, from “The Blame Game”: “My boss is a jerk, he complained every time I went to sleep.”  Wouldn’t that give anyone the blues?
In fact, “The Blame Game” is one of my favorite tunes on the album; it sports a loping beat, some great lead guitar, and fine harmonica accompaniment by guest Brandon Santini.  With its back porch rustic flavor it evokes Taj Mahal’s classic version of “Going Up the Country.”  Also in the running for best cut is “Crime Scene,” which allows Singleton to demonstrate that he can effectively croon, in contrast to his lusty singing and rapping on other tunes.  His lead forays on the song begin in the low register with single notes and end with a passionate and frenzied coda; the song is reminiscent of Robert Cray’s “Strong Persuader” and of equal high quality.
Echoes of Jimi Hendrix, Joe Louis Walker, and Stevie Ray pervade the album.
There are funky groove tunes here, such as the syncopated “Gonna Let Go” with its swirling organ backing; slow and mid-tempo shuffles; and a rousing closing rocker, “Come Wit Me.”  Bandmates James Salone on organ, Ben Sterling on bass, and John Blackmon on percussion are stalwart throughout.  Singleton’s list of thank-you’s in the liner notes is long.  In turn, I want to thank him, and Alligator impresario and producer Bruce Iglauer, for introducing me to a notable new talent.— Steve Daniels

The Terry Hanck Band and Friends
Gotta Bring It on Home to You
Delta Groove 2014

For years a mainstay of the Elvin Bishop Band, saxophonist and singer Terry Hanck is now leading his own band, and on this release for the Delta Groove label he heads a group of top-notch musicians. The results are gratifying — some might say electrifying.
A master of the tenor sax, Hanck is a perennial Blues Music Award nominee for Horn Player of the Year, an honor that he garnered in 2012, the same year he won a Critic’s Choice Award by Living Blues Magazine. The man can really blow that thang! Not only does he have powerful pulmonary bellows; he also produces a beautiful, pure tone that he can morph on cue into honks, gulps, and moans to fit the occasion. He can also swing with the best. Just check out “Right Now Is the Hour,” the opening cut, or “Pins and Needles,” or the title tune; on each, by the second bar of his sax stylings he will have your fingers popping and your hips swaying.
This set list is notable for its versatility as well as its expertise. The first song is a sashaying mid-tempo rocker with nice backing vocals. It’s followed by a Chicago blues, anchored by the guitar lead - fine throughout the album - of Johnny “Cat” Soubrand. The ensuing jump number is then succeeded by another Chicago blues at a slower pace. “T’s Groove,” one of the four compositions penned by Hanck, features a great organ contribution by Lorenzo Farrell, who engages in give-and-take with Hanck’s tenor. There are two 1950s-era tunes, including “My Last Teardrop,” a lachrymose ballad that segues mid-song into an uptemp rave-up! And on the title tune, Hanck’s horn is augmented by a trio of guitar mavens - Soubrand, producer Kid Andersen, and Debbie Davies - delivering dazzling solos in succession.
Baritone sax adept Doug James lends a hand on several numbers, notably his collaboration with Hanck on “Jam Up.” Keyboardist Jim Pugh (Robert Cray Band), multi-instrumentalist Bob Welsh (Elvin Bishop Band), and Farrell (Rick Estrin & the Night Cats) all make stellar contributions. Oh, by the way, did I mention that Hanck is one helluva singer?— Steve Daniel

The Wildcat O’Halloran Band
Party Up in Heaven
Self-released, 2014

First of all, you have to be intrigued by any band sporting members with monikers Wildcat, Jopey, Loverboy, and Dr. Luscious.  Then there are the song titles: “Hate Me for a Reason,” “Drownin’ (Flu Bug),” and “Probably Dead.”  Oh, did I mention the music?
Ensconced in western Massachusetts, this rough-edged bar band supersedes its genre niche with instrumental expertise and some of the most entertaining songs that I’ve heard in years; many of these tunes combine the droll wit typified by such blues songwriters as James Harman and Rick Estrin with an underlying emotional poignance. 
Take, for example, “Crossin’ Off.”  The second cut on the CD, it follows the uptempo opener “Rollercoaster,” with its frustrated lover’s lament, “I don’t need an angel, just not a rollercoaster.”  “Crossin’ Off” is the ensuing slow blues, with an atmospheric organ backdrop reminiscent of Barry Beckett’s distinguished playing on Boz Scagg’s eponymous soulful album from four decades back.  Wildcat sings the blues: “I’m crossin’ you off the list of people who understand me; problem is: yours was the only name on that list.”
Here’s a good question Wildcat poses for all of us: “If they party up in heaven, where the hell are they gonna find a band?”  (If it’s heaven, there will be music!)  Contemplating places to live, he suggests that “life in New England is mostly OK until the flu bug comes your way.”  Here’s an area where I agree strongly with Wildcat: when I die “I want six harmonica players on top of my hearse as we drive along.”
The usual blues topics — fickle lovers, frustrated love, the beauty of a lover — are augmented by eclectic motifs: the travails of musicians in the cutthroat music business, death, dying, influenza, life in New York City, and “Hate Me for a Reason,” which can be interpreted politically as well as regarding an amatory relationship.
Wildcat Halloran penned nine of the eleven songs and provides the lead vocals and (presumably) the lead guitar stylings.  (Liner notes are minimal and there is another guitarist.)  Estimable support is evident, especially from Jopey Firzpatrick on drums, Wally Greaney on harmonica, and Emily Duff on saxophone.
This is a record you can dance to, think about, and chuckle over.  Really good stuff.— Steve Daniels

The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Live At Monterey
Experience Hendrix/Legacy

The Animals
The Animals

Sam Cooke
Ain’t That Good News

The Allman Brothers Band
Live At The Beacon Theatre 1992

Ronnie Spector
And The E Street Band
Say Goodbye To Hollywood/Baby
Please Don’t Go

Now in its seventh year, Record Store Day is a day-long celebration of independent record store culture and the magic of vinyl held annually on the third Saturday in April. Among the limited edition and collectible titles available from Sony’s enterprising Legacy division this time around are the trio cited here. Hendrix’s mythic US debut performance at 1967’s Monterey Pop Festival is presented in its entirety on 200 gram audiophile vinyl by QRP, with analogue mastering by Bernie Grundman along with a short essay from 2007 by Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell. Highlights include Hendrix originals “Purple Haze” and “Foxey Lady” along with searing, mind-numbing covers of Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone,” Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” and B.B. King’s invitational “Rock Me Baby.” As reflective drummer Mitchell puts it: “You had forty minutes to do your stuff and prove your point.” Rarely has it been done so well. The Allman Brothers 2LP 180-gram audiophile vinyl release showcases ten key tracks (including “Statesboro Blues,” “Hoochie Coochie Man, “Jessica” and “Whipping Post” along with a full side devoted to their classic “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed”) recorded live at New York City’s fabled Beacon Theatre in March of 1992 and was produced by Warren Haynes. Now an annual tradition at the Beacon, this deck documents where it all began with Duane certainly there in spirit. The Ronnie Spector/E Street Band freebie is a stunningly timeless recreation of the 7” 45 that Spector and the E Streeters cut for CBS in 1977. “Say Goodbye” was written by Billy Joel and conceived as a musical tribute to the sound of the Ronettes (“Be My Baby,” “Walking In The Rain”), so it was certainly fitting that Spector cut her own version, with Bruce Springsteen’s backing band and the Boss himself on acoustic guitar. All in all, as much talent and class as you can squeeze onto a 7” single! The ABKCO vinyl reissue of Sam Cooke’s landmark Ain’t That Good News RCA album is a real treat. Originally released fifty years ago, just nine months before his untimely passing, it features hits such as “Another Saturday Night,” the title song and “Good Times” along with the prescient “A Change Is Gonna Come,” which quickly became an anthem for the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. Also turning fifty this year is the Animals’ self-titled extended-play disc, originally issued only overseas. This was the band’s second EP and is part of a series of EP reissues for ABKCO, with 10” vinyl editions of The Animals Is Here and The Animals Are Back released on last year’s Record Store Day. The four titles, all covers, draw from the John Lee Hooker (“Boom Boom” and “Dimples”), Chuck Berry (“Around And Around”) and Fats Domino (“I’ve Been Around”) songbooks and are early Animals at their blues-rocking best. Can’t wait for next year!—Gary von Tersch

Showcasing The Blues–Volume 4
Harp Blowin’ Blues From
South Florida
Mosher St. Records
With all the great blues you’ve been reading about in Florida this issue, the perfect outlet is a series of CDs simply called “Showcasing The Blues.” Released by South Florida’s award winning leader in blues, Mosher St. Records, owner Jerry Blum states, “This showcases our great talent in the area that draws nationwide acclaim.” Now on their fourth edition, Volumes 1 and 2 showcased the finest blues bands in southern Florida, Volume 3 featured southern Florida’s outstanding guitarists while Volume 4 is “Harp Blowin’ Blues From South Florida.” This double CD features 28 tracks from as many different artists without a weak link in sight. With this solid a sound the only non-Floridians are Memphis cat Billy Gibson and Jason Ricci, a former Florida resident.
Every harmonica disc must pay homage to Little Walter and here Willy Lojo & Lowdown slips into “Last Night” while others probe into a few rarities with Billy Burns’ “Walking Out On You,” Rockin’ Jake doing “Hit The Highway” and Nick Trill takes on “Little Girl.” On the traditional side Nico Wayne Toussaint does Muddy’s “Deep Down In Florida” and Tony Messina has a loose version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “How Many More Years.” A few instrumentals pop up with Clayton Goldstein’s “Opie’s Shuffle,” TC Carr and The Catch “Checkin’ Out” and RJ Harman’s tribute to Jason Ricci “Wake County Stomp.” Showcasing styles from the Jump Swing of Dr. Lee and The Regulators’ stinging “Skeeter Boogie Woogie,” to the blues rockin’ “Allergic To Work” of Pat Ramsey and we can’t forget Lady A blowing her “Blues Train.”
This is just a small sample of the Florida scene featured on “Showcasing The Blues -Volume 4
Harp Blowin’ Blues From South Florida” and it’s all too good to overlook. Mosher St. Records music is available from CDBABY, iTunes and Amazon for purchase or download. A big load of cool sounds from South Florida, get ‘em while it’s hot.—Roger & Margaret White

Rachelle Coba
Mother Blues
Mono Records SW 134th Court, Miami Fl. 33177

This young lady from Wichita Kansas is the real deal. Trained as a classical guitarist with a unique finger picking style, she earned a degree in music but started her real training sitting in with Buddy Guy in 1991. Rachelle has toured as music director for Matt “Guitar” Murphy, performed at the International Blues Challenge as a solo player in 2009 and 2013, with her band in 2012 and was a special guest on the 2013 Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. For an unknown she seems to know all the right people, but there’s much more here then neat licks and guitar tricks. This blues mama has unleashed her debut CD “Mother Blues” revealing a rich voice reminiscent of Susan Tedeschi with an earthier feel and nine truly original tunes with a passionate soulful edge. The thrust of the band is comprised of Coba on vocals, lead & rhythm guitar, David Santos on upright bass and Karl Himmel on drums with the handiwork of an additional guitarist or keys on a few tunes.
Kicking off the CD with the gentle sting of “Never Been To Memphis” obviously must have been written before her triple trips to that town. The trio are joined by Ron Taylor on keys and backup vocals but it’s Coba’s strong, confident, soulful vocals that tell it like it is with “Ain’t Got Time (To Fall In Love).” The “Worried Blues” has a breezy jazzy guitar responding to Coba’s lyrics but she takes a break on leads for Jerry Hahn on “Between The Tracks” and Robert Cardwell on “Chicago.” An organ joins the fray for the bluesy “Telephone Song” and testifies with “Let Your Love Shine” but “A Man Like You” is back to the swinging trio and “View From Here” is Coba solo showing why she went to the IBC’s twice on her own. The only cover on the disc is the title song, Sam Taylor’s “Mother Blues” and filling out the disc with two remixes.
With a new artist’s first time release it’s common to hear similarities to classics but this is not the case with “Mother Blues” - the originals are expressive and soulful and all hers. Coba has a degree in music but she’s got a Masters in blues. —Roger & Margaret White

Jimmy “Duck” Holmes & Terry “Harmonica” Bean
Twice As Hard
Broke & Hungry CD

For the past decade or so this pair of Mississippi blues veterans have been performing individually as solo musicians on the burgeoning Mississippi blues scene and lately have combined their talents to create music that hauntingly recalls a bygone era. This ten track project was recorded at Cleveland, Mississippi’s Delta Music Institute in one extended session for Jeff Konkel’s enterprising Broke & Hungry label and finds the duo delving into a broad range of sounds and textures—encompassing eerie acoustic blues as well as devil-may-care, swaggering electric cuts that also feature veteran Greenville, Mississippi-based stick-man Frank Vick. Head-turners among the latter start with the opening “She Moved Across The Water,” a raucous invitation to “Boogie With Me” and the set-closing recall of Doctor Clayton’s rousing classic rouser “Cheating And Lying Blues” while favorite unplugged numbers include a vivid reworking of Muddy’s “She Moves Me,” the spectral “Hear Me Howlin’” and a descriptive “Lonesome Church Bell.” Throughout Bean’s harp work is flexibly nuanced and often stunning alongside Holmes’ engagingly down home guitar work with both gentlemen alternating on the vocals. Producer Konkel refreshingly just stays out of the way. Recently the pair have shared stages across the globe, including high-profile appearances at The Chicago Blues Festival and Switzerland’s Geneva Art Festival. Well worth tracking down as are all B&H releases. Contact Konkel at jeff@brokeandhungr—Gary von Tersch

Rockin’ Jason
D. Williams
Hillbillies And Holy Rollers
Rockabilly Records CD

Produced by fellow hepcat Dale Watson and featuring the rockabilly guitar of the legendary Sleepy LaBeef, Jerry Lee Lewis-styled piano pounder Jason D. Williams’ latest was recorded at Memphis, Tennessee’s iconic Sun Studio and pays a deserved homage to the spot where hillbilly and holy-roller music initially metamorphosed into devil-may-care rock ‘n’ roll back in the 1950s. Also accompanied by the hell-raising likes of bassist Geoff Firebaugh, guitarist Ronnie Crutcher and drummer Matt Arnn, Williams proffers eleven tracks of unadulterated Sun-spirited sound—no overdubs, punch-ins or cosmetic corrections allowed! Wise song choices as well, with a couple of adulatory Williams originals (the hitting-home title song and the revelatory “This Is Rock & Roll”) alongside some dynamite covers—from a naturalistic take on Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and a moody reworking of Hank Williams’ classic weeper “You Win Again” to a bluesy, jazzy version of “The House Of Blue Lights” (where he name-checks both Cash and Elvis)—only to close with some lively Sunday morning reflections on both “Old Time Religion” and the tent-revival jumper “I’ll Fly Away.” Well worth tracking down—contact Rockin’ Jason at —Gary von Tersch

Eden Brent
Jigsaw Heart
Little Boogaloo Records/
Yellow Dog Records 2014

2006 International Blues Challenge winner Eden Brent has been on an upward course trajectory ever since, including winning Blues Music Awards from the Blues Foundation as Acoustic Artist of the Year in 2009 and Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year in 2010. She has become a valued fixture on most Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruises, where you may have seen her late at night at her best in the piano bar if you haven’t been fortunate enough to catch her at a festival elsewhere.
On her new album, Brent displays her strengths impressively. I have to confess to being a sucker for a great female blues voice. Bessie, Clara, and Mamie Smith, Ma Rainey, Ida Cox, and their myriad colleagues from the 1920s stir my pot, as do such outstanding contemporary chanteuses as Shemekia Copeland, Rory Block, Diunna Greenleaf, Janiva Magness, and Sista Monica Parker. That list isn’t intended to be exhaustive; the intent, though, is to add Brent to the pantheon.
Of the dozen songs on “Jigsaw Heart,” six have been penned by Brent, and they mine the amatory territory from lament to lust to laughter. Playing to her forte, she defies convention by opening the album with a slow tune, “Better This Way,” a dirge for a lost love which nonetheless ends in pragmatic hope. Switching gears, the upbeat “Everybody Already Knows” crows that “We can’t cool it Papa, the fire’s burning way too hot,” emphasized by a tasty piano solo. In a similar vein, “Let’s Go Ahead and Fall in Love” trots out a host of risible euphemisms, some of them hoary (“I’ve got a little jelly roll to bake”) and some innovative (“Stack me like the spoons in the silverware drawer”). Further on, “Locomotive” is a propulsive, jaunty train tune, and the cover “Get the Hell Out of Dodge” deploys producer Colin Linden’s guitar in an infectious country blues format.
There’s a strutting gospel-flavored cut, “I Wish I Knew,” and a smoky late night cabaret tune, “Tendin’ to a Broken Heart,” to provide variety, as well as covers of a Joan Armatrading song and another composed by Linden and Tom Hambridge. An ensemble of proficient musicians provides expert support, particularly Linden, and Dan Dugmore on pedal steel. Brent’s piano prowess is evident, although her vocals are the spotlight of this outing.
Really good stuff…! — Steve Daniels


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