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January 7, 2010           

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Hey Blues Fans,

2009 was a great year for the Blues. This week reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker  brings us his picks for best songs and best CD's of 2009. His list comes ONLY from 2009 CDs that crossed HIS desk. To see the complete lists and James' full notes on how he compiled the list, click the links below!

Skyy Dobro’s Top 10 of the Best 25 CDs For 2009:
See the other 15 top CDs on our website- CLICK HERE

1. The Insomniacs - At Least I’m Not With You
2. Too Slim & The Taildraggers - Free Your Mind
3. The Twisters - Come Out Swingin'
4. Shirley Johnson - Blues Attack
5. Bobby Jones - Comin’ Back Hard
6. Damon Fowler - Sugar Shack
7. Various Artists  - Chicago Blues - A Living History
8. Sean Costello  - Sean’s Blues
9. Rick Estrin & Nightcats - Twisted
10. Cyrus Hayes & Lady Lee - Mr. President

Skyy Dobro’s Top 10 of the 50 Best Songs For 2009:
See the other 40 top songs on our website- CLICK HERE

1. The Insomniacs “Description Blues”
2. Too Slim & The Taildraggers “Bottle It Up”
3. Ty Curtis Band “Cherry City Boogie”
4. Damon Fowler “Lonely Blues”
5. John Nemeth “Where You Been”
6. Shirley Johnson “Blues Attack”
7. Eugene "Hideaway" Bridges "Never Alone"
8. The Twisters "Kiko"
9. Sean Costello "Motor Head Baby"
10. Phil Berkowitz “Tonka T”

In this issue - Blues Reviews and MORE!

James Walker reviews a new CD from Mr. G & The Mystery Band. Steve Jones reviews a CD by Coco Montoya. We welcome two new reviewers this week. Sheralyn Graise reviews a new CD from Jon Shain. Greg 'Bluesdog' Szalony reviews a new CD by Debbie Davies. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!

 Featured Blues Review 1 of 4

Mr. G & The Mystery Band - It's A Mystery

Self Release / G-FreeThoughts Publishing

11 songs; 73:07 minutes; Suggested

Styles: Harmonica Blues; Chicago Blues

Well, well, these are mysteries:

Who is Mr. G?
Who will be in his band at the next live show?
How can this group put out a really good, all original music, debut Blues CD using “a live in the studio approach wuth limited overdubs and few takes” while others invest excessively and come out with crap?
“Why can’t we all just get along?”
“Why can’t some people tell right from wrong?”
“Why are some people kind and generous and others are rotten to the core?”
“Why do we all love to sing and dance?”
“Why does a pretty girl get a tattoo?”
“Why do young men wear those saggy pants?”

Some of these puzzlers found in the title track have answers while others will remain unknown. First, “Mr G” is Chris Gillock, a singer, songwriter, and harpist who started life in California but finished his education in Chicago and put down area roots. He became a student of Chicago Blues and traded his California funk and jazz trombone for the Blues harmonica.

Mr. G established the Mystery Band on Thanksgiving evening in 2003, filling in for a busted booking at the now defunct Bill’s Blues Bar in Evanston, Illinois, where he was a “hanger-on” and investor. In the six years since, Mr. G has convinced over 45 of Chicago-land’s top blues and jazz players to join the Mystery Band’s mission: “to jam and have fun.” The liner notes list most of those recruits, and the “A Team” on this CD are very talented Chicago stalwarts and pedigreed, indeed: Guitars – OSee Anderson and Anthony Palmer; Drums – James Carter; and bass – Greg “E.G.” McDaniel.

As a reviewer, I receive too many “Blues” CDs that are not. It is a joy to receive this set of solid Blues with first rate playing, unique chromatic harp tones, and eleven original songs with both thoughtful and humorous lyrics. Some of Mr G’s raucous harmonica is rightly featured in the first track, which poses both deep questions (“mean people”) and funny mysteries (the “tattoos” and “saggy pants”).

Sometimes, Mr G juxtaposes a light hearted look and heart break in the same verse like in “My Dog and Me,” a swampy guitared story of marital breakup. “When I first met my wife, I thought she was so fine / But the longer I lived with that woman the more I loved my canine / I couldn’t satisfy her no matter how hard I tried / But now she’s gone and I must confess I feel dead inside.”

Back to fun in track three; “Hey José,” is a traditional 12 bar Chicago Blues shuffle with great harp soloing and guitar breaks by OSee Anderson. As the story goes, José is a best-friend bartender, and the narrator is in clearly in Chicago because he keeps ordering “another Old Style® beer.” This one is headed for a fun spot in my radio show!

Another must play song is the set’s real standout, a minor key chromatic workout, “Cheat Me Fair.” This slow Blues is an eight minute expose of love gone wrong featuring torturing vocals, harp solos and Anthony Palmer’s gut wrenching guitar. The narrator indulges in a curious fantasy about “driving an old Dodge Dart down to Mexico to find a Mexican girl who will follow him everywhere and always tell the truth.” Now that’s funny!

My first ear-worm (song that repeats later in your head) came from the chorus on “Get Out and Walk,” written when gasoline prices were over $4.00 per gallon in 2008. The special effects harp sounds come from a low D harp muted by a coffee cup. The rhythm guitar percolates like a mountain brook on this Country Blues flavored, go green themed number.

One song has Reggae flavoring, one a Bo Diddley beat, another is a rumba. There is an ode to square shouldered working folk, a “Payin’ Taxes” protest, and themes from after hours partying to both sides of love. Bottom line: every track on this CD is a winner. Put this CD in a blind listening test for Blues fans and friends, and they will agree that there is enough going on here to elevate to a national level this band that’s slowly building a following in the intensely competitive Chicago Blues market.

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Thursdays from 7 - 8 pm and Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL

To See James “Skyy Dobro” Walker's CD rating system, CLICK HERE 

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

 Featured Blues Review 2 of 4

Coco Montoya - The Essential Coco Montoya

Blind Pig Records

2 tracks

The Blind Pig ”Essential” CDs are a great way to sample the wares of the cadre of artists who record for the label. In the case of musicians like Magic Slim and the Teardrops or Tommy Castro, the word “Essential” is a bit more appropriate than with Coco Montoyo since they released many prior CDs and continue to record on the label. Montoya’s first three solo releases (1995-1997) were with Blind Pig and they are collected up and sampled in this set, but none of his prior stuff with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers or any of his newer works after Blind Pig are included here. That being said and title aside, this is a nice sampler for those looking to get in synch and explore Coco’s early solo stuff on this label.

Montoyo toured with John Mayall for about ten years before going solo. In 1995 he gave us “Gotta Mind to Travel” and a plethora of stars appeared on it with Montoya, including his personal hero Albert Collins and leader of the Bluesbreakers John Mayall. It garnered 4 Handy Award nominations and made Montoya a standout in the blues world after winning the Best New Artist award. “Ya Think I’d Know Better” followed the first album up with a Jim Gaines produced album of more fiery stuff. The third album, “Just Let Go”, was also produced by Gaines and placed Montoya well on the road to individual blues stardom.

It’s all good stuff here. Montoya chose the tracks from each album to include in this CD. The silky smooth guitar work that he is famous for ripples through cuts like “Seven Desires”, “Monkey See Monkey Do” and the slow blues cut “Do What You Want to Do” and “You Don’t Love Me”. There are a lot of ballads here, giving us a nice soulful look at Montoya’s abilities. “Sending Me Angels” and Am I Losing You” are two of the really nice ballads here. Vocally we also see Montoya’s prowess; “Same Dog” and “You’d Think I’d Know Better By Now” are just two of the dozen cuts where he shines.

If you are in need of early Montoya solo stuff, then go get this CD. It’s a great showcase of his first three solo works. If you are a big Montoya fan you may already have them; if not, then I’d probably recommend you buy all three of the original CDs because his Blind Pig Stuff is pretty damn good!

Reviewer Steve Jones is secretary of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

 Blues Want Ads

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Buy or sell equipment , musicians wanted, gigs wanted, help wanted, information wanted etc. Limit 100 words. All ads submitted will be used if space allows. If space is limited, ads will be randomly selected to appear in the Blues Blast. Ads may be edited. Send your ad submission to

Magazine Seeks Summer Festival Reviewers

Blues Blast Magazine is looking for a few good men (Or Women)! Over the 2010 summer season we are looking for folks who attend Blues Festivals and take good photos for festival reviews.  If you attend multiple Blues Festivals or Blues shows and could volunteer to send us 500 to 1000 word reviews and a few good photos, please reply to .

Reviewers are needed for the Southwest and Texas area, the Florida and Gulf area, the Eastern coast area and also on the European, Asian and Australian continents. A short sample of your writing, a sample photo and info on your Blues background would be helpful. Please include your phone number with the reply.

Music Journalist Wanted

Blues Blast Magazine is seeking an experienced writer to do interviews and other writing assignments. We need a dependable person to reliably complete one or more assignment a month. Assignments include interviews with musicians and other industry professionals.

Blues knowledge and previous writing experience are required. Excellent typing and transcription skills helpful. Please reply to with your resume and a contact phone number.

 Featured Blues Review 3 of 4

Jon Shain - Times Right Now

Flyin' Records

Jon Shain, with FJ Ventre, was a finalist in the 2009 International Blues Challenge in the solo/duo category representing the Triangle Blues Society of North Carolina. Jon, a Massachusetts native became enamored with Piedmont style finger picking while attending Duke University. He has played with “Big Boy” Henry and has shared the stage with Hot Tuna, the Dave Matthews Band, Leon Russell and recently with Jorma Kaukonen, John Hammond, Keb’ Mo’ and others. When he is not working his busy tour schedule, he teaches Piedmont guitar in his home base of Durham, North Carolina.

Most of the songs on his latest CD, Times Right Now were written by Shain or co-written with Jackson Hall. Shain is a veteran recording artist with a number of CDs to his credit as a band member and as a solo artist.

The opening lines from the traditional song, "James Alley Blues", provide the title for the CD. “Times right now ain’t nothing like they used to be.” The second song, "Mr. Snakeoil" tells a story but it isn’t clear what that story is. Nonetheless, Shain’s voice is good and so is the music. The music moves and makes you want to listen again and again. "Spinning Compass", "Something New", and "Driving Them Crazy" are quiet songs typical of a singer-songwriter, folk style.

"Clementine" is a folksy, bluegrass waltz. "Careless Love" is an acoustic folk ballad with slide guitar. "Ooncha Ooncha Music" is a smorgasbord of bluegrass mountain music with a little Dixieland thrown in. Speaking of New Orleans, "Midnight Snack" has a Crescent City syncopation on a rock and roll beat with soulful horns providing an R & B punch. "Louise, Louise" is a slow blues with forlorn harmonica wailing. It is a nice acoustic number, a mood setter. Very nice. "Song For Dara" is a short folk interlude. "Little Flower" is an electric southern rock/blues burner. The last song, "Yadkin River Blues" is a pleasant ballad.

Times Right Now starts on a blues note but settles into a folk, bluegrass style. The CD picks up on a blues vibe with Midnight Snack. The CD is good and easy to listen to. Times Right Now is more of a folk CD than a Blues CD. That said, Shain is a good singer and the musicians form a good, tight unit.

Reviewer Sheralyn Graise graduated from the University of Akron a while back. A former Social Services professional, she is now pursuing other interests such as music history, writing, and photography. She has been a member of the Blues Foundation since 2001.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

 Blues Society News

 Send your Blues Society's BIG news or Press Release to:  

You can submit a maximum of 175 words or less in a Text or MS Word document format.

Arkansas River Blues Society - Little Rock, AR

The Arkansas River Blues Society presents Willie P with Joe Marks & NTO, Tuesday, 1-19-2010 at Juanita’s, 1300 Main Street, Little Rock, AR. The show starts at 9 p.m. $10 Cover

Wichita Blues Society - Wichita, KS

The Wichita Blues Society presents the 12th Annual Blues Ball Saturday, January 16th, 2010 at the Cotillion , 11120 West Kellogg Street in Wichita. The event features the Blues Masters of Wichita including Berry Harris, Ray Drew, Henry Walker, Rudy Love, D.D. Dunn and Mr. Lee with Big Clyde Sheely and Rib Bone (Beau Jarvis, Shawn Kail and Jeff Stidham) on the backline. The WBS Blues Challenge Winners Rachelle Coba and Jimmie Lewin & The Kingtones will open the show.

Doors open at 7pm and show starts at 8pm. Tickets $12 in advance at Select-a-seat, $15 at the door. WBS members pay $12 at the door. For more information visit   

The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society - Marietta, Ohio

The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society will hold its 18th Annual Blues Competition on February 19 and 20, 2010, at the historic Lafayette Hotel in Marietta, Ohio. Blues Bands and Solo/Dou blues acts will compete for cash prizes and BJFMS sponsorship to the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis.

First-place will receive $1,000. dollars in cash and BJFMS sponsorship to the IBC in January, 2011. Second place wins $200 and third-place wins $100. NO geographic restrictions apply. Any serious blues musician is invited to apply. Winning this preliminary competition gets your ticket punched to Memphis. Gain valuable exposure to record labels, A&R representatives, blues industry professionals and festival promoters capable of providing real career advancement.

Complete information, format, application & rules are available online at Deadline for application submission is January 9, 2010. More information: contact Steve Wells at 304.295.4323 or

Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL

BLUE MONDAY SHOWS - Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $2 cover. Jan 11 - Harper

 Featured Blues Review 4 of 4

Debbie Davies - Holdin' Court

Little Dipper Records




With this guitar instrumental release Debbie Davies joins the ranks of blues guitar sponges Anson Funderburgh and 'Steady Rollin' Bob Margolin as possessors of a wide ranging arsenal of blues guitar styles and riffs. Debbie stretches out her solos to visit various influences. At times more than one on any given song.

Anchored by her tight rhythm section she gets the proceedings going with a funky version of Duke Robillard's “Fishnet”. Punctuated by what appears to be synthesized horns. As no horn players are listed in the credits. Over this backing she lays on a string assault of the highest order. “Tryin' To Keep It Real” is a slow plaintive blues leading to some intense string bending. On Bill Doggett's “Down At The Honky Shack”, Debbie's guitar mimics the sax lines. Her playing here recalls Freddie King. This could serve as a perfect 'play the star onstage' intro.

She does up the Texas swing of Gatemouth Brown's “Okie Dokie Stomp” with a spritely romp including Gate's signature quick slides up and down the neck. Drummer Don Castagnio's tom-tom work shines here. “Percolatin'” features a twangy tone morphing into a Duane Eddy-like groove. Another funk groove is brought out in “So What”. Her soul rhythm chording gives the song a good foundation for her to lay down her stinging riffs.

“Astras De Tus Ojas” is done up in a jazzy tone. A homage to Wes Montgomery. This song is nicely accented by underpinnings of congas and organ flourishes. The title track's lilting main theme proceeds to take soaring riffs out over the rolling hills.

Earl Hooker's “I Wonder Why” , a slow percolating blues, is backed by Casandra Faulconer's rock solid bass. Here as on some other tracks producer Paul Opalach provides organ washes to flash out the sound. On”If You Love Me Like You Say” the vocal line is taken by wah wah guitar. This number was a staple of her late former boss Albert Collins. Some Hendrix influenced riffing sneaks in about midway through.

Our journey ends at the beach by way of a an original surf instrumental replete with the requisite cheesy organ and tremelo guitar. Secret Agent Man- like guitar enters the mix.

The end result here is a satisfying plate of blues served up with accents of jazz, funk and surf sounds. Much of it is get up outta yer' seat and stomp the floor stuff. Along with a few contemplative moments to cool our collective heels. Debbie has managed to use her vast stockpile of guitar styles to create a disc that I'll and certainly you will go back to time and time again. And undoubtedly find a different nuance at every listening.

All of this couldn't of been achieved without the production values of Opalach and the unobtrusive support of Castagnio and Faulconer. The sturdy bass and drum fills gave Debbie legs to stand on as she took her forays down the guitar trail. Maybe this successful outing will give others the incentive to pursue more avenues of the instrumental path. Or per chance Ms. Davies will grace us with another audience with the queen. Whatever the case, performances like this only keep the life blood flowing in our cherished blues.

Reviewer Greg 'Bluesdog' Szalony is from the New Jersey Delta. He is proprietor of Bluesdog's Doghouse at

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

 Live Blues Calendar

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