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April 8, 2010 

© 2010 Blues Blast Magazine

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In This Issue

James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new CD from MonkeyJunk. Bruce Williams reviews a new CD by Tinsley Ellis. Greg "Bluesdog" Szalony reviews a new CD from Downchild. Sheralyn Graise reviews a new CD by The Cashbox Kings.  Nat Dove sends us a review of the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame & Awards Show. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!

 Featured Blues Review 1 of 4

MonkeyJunk - Tiger in Your Tank

Beefy Productions

11 songs; 49:12 minutes; Suggested

Styles: Traditional and Contemporary Blues

Remember a Canadian band I reviewed, The Twisters? This week it’s back to Canada to catch up with another band deserving more attention, MonkeyJunk.

 Shuffle Shoes and I have been playing their debut CD on our WKCC Friends of the Blues Radio Show, and the second track, “Small Time Evil” was #35 on “Skyy Dobro’s Top 50 Songs For 2009.”

The trio has gotten lots of media and fan attention based on that CD, “Tiger in Your tank.” Check this list:

* They are nominated for a 2010 Blues Music Award in the category of Best New Artist Debut.
* The Ottawa-based group swept the 13th annual Canadian Blues awards, scoring wins in five of the six “Maple Blues” categories for which they were nominated. As a group, the trio landed the awards for Entertainer of the Year and Electric Act of the Year. A pair of awards also went to singer and multi-instrumentalist (harp, baritone guitar, keys) Steve Marriner (for Male Vocalist of the year and Harmonica Player of the Year), while axeman Tony Diteodoro picked up the award for Guitarist of the Year.
* They just won the Best Blues Artist award at the Canadian Independent Music Awards at Canadian Music Week in Toronto.
* They were 3rd Place finalists in 2009’s International Blues Challenge in Memphis.

That is a very impressive list of accomplishments, especially considering it was less than two years ago that MonkeyJunk formed when two old friends, the award winning and critically acclaimed Marriner and Diteodoro, enlisted drummer Matt Sobb. The trio developed their distinctive no-bass, boogie-blues during a few months of regular gigging.

Their name is taken from an utterance of legendary Delta Bluesman Son House, who emphatically and passionately growled, “I'm talkin’ 'bout the Blues. . . I ain't talkin' 'bout monkey junk!” That quote can be heard at the beginning of the opening track, their grooving cover of Muddy Waters’ “I Want to Put a Tiger in Your Tank,” written by Willie Dixon.

My favorite song “Small Time Evil” has a hypnotic “voodoo” guitar hook that propels this Blues based number until Marriner’s sax-sounding harp perfectly sets up Tony D’s slippery slide guitar solo. Marriner’s edgy vocals seal the deal!

Besides “...Tiger...” and “...Evil...,” other songs getting radio play are “Beefy” – a killer instrumental with plenty of electric and slide guitar, baritone guitar replacing bass guitar, and a mid-song funky rhythm tandem of drums and harp. “Blues for Anna” is a ballsy 12 bar Blues original reminiscent of “She’s 19 Years Old.” Another instrumental closes the set, “Gutsy,” showcasing Marriner on Hammond organ this time.

While their CD was released in Spring 2009 on the Beefy Productions label, it is being re-released on April 20, 2010, on Australia’s “+1 Records.” There are seven original songs and four covers.

“Gutsy” is an apropos title for all the music of this band, which draws heavily on the legends of the Blues and translates that influence into an interesting and entertaining contemporary blend. It is not all straight Blues, but that lets purists and everyone else enjoy the varied offerings.

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 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.

 Blues Society News

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Alabama Blues Project - Northport, AL

On Saturday, May 1st, the Alabama Blues Project presents Blues Extravaganza 2010.  It is a free, family-friendly blues festival and will be held in historic downtown Northport from noon to 7 p.m. The live show features three After-School Blues Camp student bands as well as Alabama blues greats Microwave Dave, Bettie Fikes, Lil' Jimmy Reed and more! This event is hosted by the Northport Downtown Merchants Association. The Blues Extravaganza is in its third year as a unique musical celebration, bringing seasoned blues talent together with the young ABP After-School Blues Camp students and showcasing their combined Alabama blues power to the community at large. The 60+ students have been studying the blues all spring and are looking forward to sharing the fruits of their hard work and performing along side professional Alabama Blues Performers.

The After-School Blues Camp brings Alabama's rich blues heritage to the next generation of budding musicians and combines hands-on music instruction with a life-skills curriculum and blues music history. Students and audience alike will also be treated to performances by the Blues Instructors, whose members have been teaching our young students throughout the semester. These great musicians include B.J. Reed, Bruce Andrews, Debbie Bond, Jesse Suttle, Brad Guin and more. It's going to be a party!

For more information, or if you would be willing to volunteer, please call at (205) 752-6263 or email  

Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford, IL

Crossroads Blues Society will be hosting four Blues in the Schools Programs on April 27 and 28, 2010. Billy Flynn and Barrelhouse Chuck wil bring their musical knowledge and prowess to the Rockford area with a pair of programs each. The two will spend the day individually in two Rockford Public Schools on Tuesday afternoon and then one will be at Byron's Mary Morgan Elementary School while the other is just east of Byron, IL in Monroe Center Elementary School on Wednesday morning. The two artists will also be doing a public evening show at the Just Goods Listening Room at 201 7th St in Rockford at 7 PM Tuesday night. Each will perform a set then the two will jam together for a while. The show is free to students, $5 for Crossroads members and $8 for others.

Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, IA

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents the preliminary round of the Iowa Blues Challenge on Sunday April 11th starting at 5:00 p.m. at Rascals (1414 15th St., Moline) Admission is $10, $7 for Mississippi Valley Blues Society members. Bands scheduled to compete are the Pocket Deuces Blues, V.J.J. Groove and the Steady Rollin’ Blues Band.  Each band will play a 30- minute set, and after the challenge there will be a jam session.

The winner of this round will travel to Des Moines on May 22 to compete at the state level in the Iowa Blues Challenge. The winner of the Iowa Blues Challenge will represent the state of Iowa in the 2011 International Blues Challenge and will also have a slot at the 2010 IH Mississippi Valley Blues Festival.

Also Chicago blues guitarist, composer, actor, writer, and educator Fernando Jones will be the artist for the Mississippi Valley Blues Society Blues in the Schools Residency Series during the week of April 12-16, 2010. Fernando will conduct workshops at schools and colleges as well as free open-to-the-public performances:

Wednesday April 14, 11:30 a.m.—Black Hawk College, Building 1 lower lobby, Moline
Wednesday April 14, 7 p.m.—Mojo’s in the River Music Experience, Davenport
Thursday April 15, 7 p.m.—St. Ambrose University, Galvin Fine Arts Center, Madsen Hall, Davenport .

MVBS presents the Texas blues of Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King on Saturday April 24 at the Eagle Reception Hall—2030 4th Ave., Rock Island. This is a BYOB show; attendees must be 21 or over. The show starts at 8 p.m., and admission is $25 at the door, $20 for MVBS members or for advance tickets from the MVBS Office (MWF 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.). For more info call the MVBS office at 563-32-BLUES or visit our website at: .

Blues Blowtorch Society - Bloomington, IL

BBS Presents 3rd Friday Blues - On April 16, 2010 the Blues Blowtorch Society will host Steve "The Harp" Blues Band with Special Guest from Austin Texas Lightning Red at the Treehouse Lounge 2060 Ireland Grove Road, Bloomington, IL 61704 (309) 662-5231 Show starts at 7 PM till 10 PM For more info:

Columbia College - Chicago, IL

Free Blues Camp Audition -  Saturday, May 22, 10:00 AM - Noon, Columbia College Chicago Music Center, 1014 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago. This is an opportunity to audition for this great youth Blues Camp held at Columbia College July 4 – 9, 2010 by Artistic Director, Fernando Jones.

Other audition date is Thursday, June 3, 6:00 – 8:00 PM, at Guitar Center, 4271 West 167th Street, Country Club Hills, IL. Go to for more details. RSVP Online at

The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL

Spring 2010 Friends of the Blues shows- April 13 - Perry Weber & DeVilles, 7 pm , Kankakee Elks Country Club, April 17 - Joel Paterson Trio, Kankakee Valley Boat Club (“Rockin’ the River”), April 20 - Too Slim and the Taildraggers, 7 pm , Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, June 22 - Al Stone, 7 pm , River Bend Bar & Grill. For more info see: 

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 $3 cover. April 12 - Perry Weber and the Devilles,  April 19 - Too Slim & the Taildraggers

River City Blues Society - Peoria, IL

The River City Blues Society has started booking more of their weekly Blues shows. The shows start at 7:00pm at Good Fellas Pizza and Pub, 1414 N 8TH St Pekin, IL. Admission for all shows is $4 or $3 for RCBS members. Shows currently scheduled are:  Wednesday April 21st, 2010 - South Side Cindy & the Slip Tones

 Featured Blues Review 2 of 4

Tinsley Ellis - Speak No Evil

Alligator Records

Blues is a vast genre offering something for everyone, and if you like a little hard rock in your blues, Tinsley Ellis is your man. As I listen to the opening cut, ‘Sunlight Of Love’ I’m reminded of Ernie Isley’s Hendrix influenced guitar playing except Tinsley Ellis brings a southern rock flavor to the party. The wah-wah pedal combined with the other audio effects on the guitar successfully capture that familiar old psychedelic 70’s sound, except here it’s delivered with a blues twist. The modulation just before the solo on this first cut is very effective, in fact the arrangements are very strong on all the songs here. On the whole, Speak No Evil is an album for those who like powerful blues influenced guitar-rock, and there’s a certain nostalgic feel to some of these songs that will appeal to many music lovers.

The second track, ‘Slip And Fall’, starts off sounding a bit like ZZ Top and has a chorus that harkens back to the music of Bad Company. On ‘Speak No Evil’ Ellis uses a slightly mellower guitar tone and disperses tasty licks in between the vocal passages in the manner of a seasoned bluesman. He uses a similar guitar tone on ‘It Takes What It Takes’, a soulful song with an R&B feel which features cool little guitar harmony lines. The guitar soling here is very melodic and crisp, and the addition of conga here was a great idea.

‘The Other Side’ is anchored by a great lower-middle register guitar riff during the verses and in true trio format form, the bassist “The Evil One” and drummer Jeff Birch step up and drive the groove when Tinsley takes off. I love the restraint of ‘The Night Is Easy’ and this is maybe the most emotionally charged vocal by Ellis on this album.

Southern Rock fans will really dig ‘Left Of Your Mind’, while ‘Cold Love, Hot Night’ will please anyone who digs the work of John Hiatt. It has that same kind of catchy chorus and rootsy feel.

The song ‘Amanda’ makes me think of the Hendrix album, ‘Cry Of Love’ (that was the album released in 1971 after his death), especially the guitar tone. This song rides on “The Evil One’s” perfect bass part allowing Tinsley to really cut loose on the guitar.
The sustaining, compressed guitar tone on ‘Loving For Today’ works well on this catchy love ballad, which is slightly reminiscent of Clapton & Crays ‘Old Love’. The next song has the somewhat amusing title, ‘Grow A Pair’, and is about a man stepping up to the plate and facing his challenges and is another strong vocal performance by Ellis.

I love playing blues instrumentals on my radio program, and I know my listeners will love the last track, ‘Rockslide’, a foot-stomping slide guitar extravaganza that rocks from start to finish.

Keyboardists Kevin McKendree and Pete Orenstein both compliment their front man and seem content in their role of adding color to the arrangements. This is the kind of expert accompaniment a guitar-slinger longs for.

If you dig Robin Trower, Mick Ralph from Bad Company, the modern Buddy Guy, Tommy Castro or even George Throrogood, you’ll probably really like this artist and this album. This is full bore blues-rock, written and performed by an artist who has something to say and who says it with authority.

Reviewer Bruce Williams is seasoned Blues musician (Junior Wells, Lefty Dizz and The Chicago Fire, Jimmy “Fast Fingers” Dawkins, Mark Hannon Blues Band). He learned the blues from some of Chicago’s masters and has shared the stage with legends such as Willie Dixon, Jimmy Rogers, Sammy Lawhorn, Hound Dog Taylor and Jimmy Johnson. His band appears at clubs and festivals throughout the Midwest. He hosts a weekly radio program on WRLR FM Public Radio and produces music out of his home based Highland Lake Records Studio.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

 Featured Blues Show Review

West Coast Blues Hall of Fame & Awards Show

March 28th, 2010 Oakland, CA

The Bay Area Blues Society makes the music accessible to the African American community. They offer Blues music as it always was, and always should be. The BABS has for each the last 21 years has sponsored one of the greatest celebrations of Blues music and culture this country has ever seen. It is the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame Show. It is a real celebration of the music and the culture; it is a grand gala, up scale affair. In 2010, this event was held on March 28, at the Airport Hilton Hotel in Oakland, California. As usual it was the grandest affair dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of the West Cost Blues as one of the most significant art forms this country has ever produced.

This ceremony celebrates Oakland, California as the birthplace of West Coast Blues and the surrounding areas, landmarks and people who supported the Oakland Blues scene. Back in the day when the Blues centered on Seventh Street and the pioneers of the genre such as: Lowell Fulson, Big Mama Thornton, Jimmy McCracklin and T-Bone Walker along with Bob Geddins and the like, created a musical art form that continues to fascinate and influence the world.

This years inductees were John Handy, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, James Lee Jamerson, Sheila E, Snooky Flowers, Lonnie Hewitt, Janis Joplin, Russell City Country Club, Curtis Moore, Herbert Mims Jr., Augusta Lee Collins, Johnny Morris aka Ronnie Dark, Wally Cox, Marcus Books /Dr. Ray G. Richardson and Melvin “Bluesman” Bolden.

Ronnie Stewart, the director of the Bay Area Blues Societyand his beautiful wife Paula are the energetic force that drive this and the other festivals and Blues events that are presented by the BABS throughout the year in this most colorful and dedicated West Coast Blues capital of Oakland, California. At first glance, one can see that this is an act of love from the whole community. Everyone in the community takes pride in the accomplishments of the event. Everyone seem to perform their duties whether driving, setting up the stage, placing seats in proper places, making the performers feel comfortable all with a smile. It is truly a community effort, which accounts for its success.

People come from far and near to celebrate the West Coast Blues in Oakland, and when one consider the true history of the Blues; you must conclude that Oakland and its residents pioneered a style of Blues that was absolutely unique. Oakland Blues is and always was a hybrid of all the other Blues styles, and depicted the vastness of the immigrate culture of the area.

Freddie Hughes Nat Dove presenting award to Tomcat Courney Nat and Takako Dove

The highlight of this year’s West Coast Blues Hall of Fame Award Show was the bay area’s own Freddie Hughes, who mesmerized the audience and brought them to their feet. Mr. Hughes performed his 1970 hit “Send My Baby Back”. The audience showed that they really appreciated his soulful rendition of the song, by singing along and cheering him on. It was truly spiritual, like the many African American Churches in the Bay Area. They gave him a warm, heartfelt standing ovation.

Mr. Stewart, the director of The Bay Area Blues Society has been able through the years to keep the Blues blue, and not follow everyone else in their efforts to redefine the blue out of the Blues. In many instance the music has been santaclaurized i.e. do the same to the Blues as they did to Christmas, which is more about Santa Claus than Jesus. They changed it by redefining it beyond any semblance of its true self. It becomes the same as speaking an accent without a trace of the language.

Whether it is called Blues, Rhythm and Blues, Gospel, Soul, Funk or Rap; these terms in the black community are only used to depict an era and a time frame. This is all African American music, and is about liberation and the African American experience in this country.

Reviewer Nat Dove has distinguished himself as a composer, arranger, producer, performer and recording artist throughout an illustrious career that began a half century ago in his native Texas. Along the way, he’s worked with a veritable who’s-who of celebrated music personalities. Though he could easily earn a comfortable living as a headlining musician, he’s chosen to apply his many musical skills and talents to his other love—education. An insatiable international traveler who has spent considerable time living in Paris, Tokyo and other exotic locations, Dove’s scholarly pursuits have led him to teaching, lecturing and performing for the last three decades in some of the world’s most renowned music venues and educational facilities. 

 Featured Blues Review 3 of 4

Downchild - I Need A Hat



It's no coincidence that Downchild hails from Toronto in southern Canada, 'cause this is sho'nuff southern blues. This disc commemorates their 40th year in the blues business and it shows in the grooves. Their sound is as smooth as deer-guts-on-a-doorknob. Chuck Jackson's well aged blues voice has just enough rasp to give it that juke joint edge. Donnie Walsh's guitar as well lends authenticity to these eleven band originals. The band is there with the requisite backing, abetted by a few guest stars for the occasion. The two man horn section helmed by long time member Pat Carey beefs up every tune they're featured on. Michael Fonfara of the 60's band Rhinoceros, whose song "Apricot Brandy" was an FM staple of it's time, adds piano and organ, occasionally stepping out for a solo.

"Somebody Lied" speaks to the the travails of life in a slow blues complimented by a mellow trumpet solo by Wayne Jackson of the legendary Memphis horns. Colin James puts in his two cents with a guitar solo that cuts through the air. Similar sentiments are echoed by "These Thoughts Keep Marching" where Walsh interjects spoken word worries- 'where's my baby tonight?',' are the kids gonna be alright?', 'is this war ever gonna stop?', 'global warming' and other concerns.

In the tongue-in-cheek title track the singer laments 'If you're gonna be a famous blues singer you need a hat'. It won't do the trick, but these guys have surely earned their blues hats. "Down In the Delta" is a trip through the south's towns and juke joints that has you feeling like you're cruising along in your bluesmobile. Speaking of which, Dan Aykroyd lends his harp skills to "You Don't Love Me", a romping shuffle that Colin Linden also graces with a greasy slide guitar solo. Don Walsh does a nice turn on the slide driven "Rendevous". Fonfara's honky tonk piano ups the ante on this tune. His churchy organ solo on "Time To Say Goodbye" builds into the horn riff. Chuck Jackson uses the deeper register of his 'whiskey soaked' voice to good effect on this one.

Donnie Walsh's guitar and harmonica skills shine on "What Was I Thinking" an ode to second guessing....'There was no light at the end of the tunnel'. His only vocal offering "Some More Of That" offers more of the same about life passing him by.

The closing bouncy instrumental "El Stew" leaves the listener wanting more. Not one bum track or false move in this blues stew. This band makes coming up with eleven fresh tracks look easy. As long as we get help like this from our northern blues neighbors the blues will be alright!

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.

 Featured Blues Review 4 of 4

Cash Box Kings - I-94

15 Tracks

The Cash Box Kings core is Joe Nosek on harmonica and vocals, Chris Boeger on electric and upright bass, and Kenny Smith on drums. Steve Freund, Joel Patterson, Billy Flynn on guitars, Oscar Wilson guest vocalist, Mark Haines on percussion, Jimmy Sutton on upright bass and vocals, and Barrelhouse Chuck on piano round out the group. Billy Flynn also handles banjo and mandolin duties.

The Cash Box Kings are Chicago royalty. Each member brings years of performance experience even though most are young in relative terms of blues musicians. Most are also sought after studio musicians and some, like Billy Flynn and Barrelhouse Chuck, have released their own CDs. Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith is a Blues Music Awards nominee. In 2009 he was beat out, no pun intended, by his dad, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith.


The Cash Box Kings latest CD, I-94, could easily be named Boogies and Barrelhouse Blues. This CD is full of old timey, good fun blues. I-94 is a mixture of originals written by members of the band, notably Joe Nosek, and covers of Muddy Waters, the original Sonny Boy Williamson, and Blind Willie McTell with a Jim Croce thrown in for good measure. The hardcore blues tunes are the Muddy Waters songs and “Tried So Hard” by Billy Flynn.

The CD is not nostalgia as the style of most of the songs predates the births of the band members. It is more of a tribute to the past with modern sensibilities. The CD could easily be a soundtrack to a new movie about a past era.

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.

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