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May 20, 2010 

© 2010 Blues Blast Magazine

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Hey Blues Fans,

If you are on the west coast, the places to be for Blues fans this weekend is the Doheny Blues Festival in Dana Point, California. The festival features some great Blues artists including Taj Mahal & The Phantom Blues Band, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Jackie Greene, Black Joe Lewis, Eric Lindell, Lynwood Slim, 2,000 LBS of Blues and rockers The Black Crowes on Saturday. On Sunday the lineup includes Robert Cray, Booker T. Jones, Bettye Lavette, Otis Taylor, Duke Robillard, John Németh and rock icons Crosby Stills & Nash.

Marilyn Stringer will be there for to send us photos for Blues Blast Magazine. Look for a review of all the fun next week!

This week we have part two of our coverage of the 31st Blues Music Awards including more of Marilyn's photos of this huge gathering of Blues stars. SCROLL DOWN!!

Blues Wanderings

We made it hear a band from Wisconsin called Hounds Tooth this week. The band features Jared James Nichols on Guitar and Vocals, J.D. Optekar on Guitar and Vocals, Bob Noll on Bass and Jeff Oscarson on Drums. They played a set of mostly Blues covers with a few songs from their new CD Soul Rockin (See their ad in this issue).

These guys are pretty good and we love it when we hear younger "Blues" players that actually play Blues material rather than a bunch of rock and roll masquerading as Blues. Even better we like seeing guitar players who can produce great sounding tone without a huge array of electronic pedals on the floor to do the work for them. The only pedal we saw on the stage was a guitar tuner.

In This Issue

EIGHT new CD reviews this week! James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new CD by The Informants that won the "Best Self Produced CD" this year. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD by Solomon King. Greg "Bluesdog" Szalony reviews a new CD by Billy T. Band. Dale Clark reviews a new CD by Steve Matthews’ Razers.  Malcolm "Yard Dog" Kennedy reviews a new CD by Lady A. Paul Schuytema reviews a new CD by The Nighthawks.  John Mitchell reviews a couple of new "Project"  CDs, one by The  Vincent Hayes Project and also one CD by the Ledbelly Project. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!


 Live Blues Review

31st Blues Music Awards and More Memphis Wanderings

Comments and Photos by Marilyn Stringer

The Blues Music Awards, aka BMA's, were held in Memphis on May 6, 2010. (For full list of nominees go to But the day didn't start with the awards ceremony- it started at the Folklore Shop, just a short trolley ride down Main Street, where two performances were scheduled. First up was Fiona Boyes- three time BMA final nominee and only Australian ever nominated. Being a big fan of Fiona's, I always love her acoustic, yet authoritative, original, and very humorous approach to life and the blues. With her red boots keeping beat on her turquoise milk-carton "bass/drum", she tells stories and sings her way into your soul and lightens up your day. In stark comparison, but equally entertaining, was Eden Brent, accompanied by Colin Lindley. Bawdry, never looking down or back, Eden just roars with laughter, her fingers flying up and down the keys. It was like having Julie Andrews and Joan Rivers back to back. Gotta' Love 'em Both!!

We went in search of BBQ before the awards, finding the famous Rendezvous and learned the difference between dry and wet BBQ. Back at the convention center, we found Debbie Davies warming up in a dark, silent room and E.G. Kight checking out the Blues Foundation's silent auction, where she proudly showed me the photograph she donated.

The reception began at 5:30, where everyone gathered in their finest, snapping photos like crazy, and on the stage was Michael Burks, followed by Big James Montgomery (whom I missed - he is phenomenal). Group Photo: Patrick Rynn, Anthony Gomes, Zac Harmon, Michael Burks, Todd Sharpville

The doors opened at 7 and the crowd surged up the escalators. And although I tried my hardest to capture every award and every performance over the next six hours, I had to leave the room occasionally for a glass of wine. And in the lobby, there were so many people that required attention, so I did miss a few. Bill Wax and Llou Johnson (the smooth, low voice on XM-(known for "The Ten Commandments of Blues are Always Subject to Change") did a great job announcing throughout the evening

BMA Recipients: DVD - Delmark Records, Traditional Blues Male - Duke Robillard

Pinetop Perkins Piano Player - Eden Brent , Soul Blues Male - Curtis Salgado , Drums - Cedric Burnside

Traditional Blues Female - Debbie Davies presented by Koko Taylor's daughter - Cookie, Buddy Guy accepts Hall of Fame award from Bonnie Raitt

Harmonica - Jason Ricci, Best New Artist Debut -Monkey Junk

Acoustic Album-David Maxwell & Louisiana Red , Traditional Blues Album - "Super Chikan" James Johnson


Song of the Year - Cyril Neville (& Mike Zito), Contemporary Blues Male Artist, BB King Entertainer of the Year, Contemporary Blues Album - Tommy Castro

Band of the Year - Tommy Castro, Scot Sutherland, Ronnie Smith, Tom Poole, Keith Crossan, Steve, Tony Stead

I believe it was unanimous that the speech given by Jason Ricci will go down in the history books as the most expressive, heart-felt, over the top and entertaining speech the BMA's have ever heard. Even Tommy Castro, who followed him, was almost speechless, and wondered how he could follow that. If you want to know what he said, you will have to find someone who was there! And later on in the evening, Jason's performance proved how well deserved that award was. Jason Ricci is a uniquely gifted artist that defies containment and his performances are always like his acceptance speech: over the top, expressive, heart-felt, and entertaining.

Jason Ricci, Shaun Starski and Jason Ricci

BMA nominees that performed throughout the evening included:

Candye Kane, Eden Brent , Duke Robillard

Joe Louis Walker with Todd Sharpville

The Mississippi Sheiks joined by Maria Muldaur

Delmark Revue with Bob Stroger (BMA Winner-Bass), Eddie C. Campbell and Shirley Johnson

The Chicago Blues with Billy Boy Arnold, Billy Branch, and John Primer

Buddy Guy played a couple of songs after his award presentation, Dave Maxwell

Louisiana Red , Little Victor, Ann Rabson

Super Chikan and his keyboard player LaLa Craig, the Tommy Castro Band

The evening was coming to a close, the room had thinned out, and the last performance of the night was Monkey Junk, winner of the New Artist Debut. Being from Canada, they were not well known but the minute they started playing, the remaining attendees were up and dancing until the band said their goodnights.

Monkey Junk and Tony D from Money Junk

The lobby was still full of celebrants and across the street, the hotel was the same. No one wanted the evening to end but there was still more to come. On Friday morning we had a date with a large group from the S.Fla. Blues society - it was off to Graceland , a time capsule from the 70's and actually a once-in-a-lifetime tour. Afterwards, Larry the cab driver convinced us that we should eat at Central BBQ, and he would refund our cab fare back if we didn't think it was the best - he was right. And then back to Beale Street for more music. There was a lot going on there including horse drawn carriages (with a dog on every carriage), kids flipping down the street for tips, souvenir shopping, an open market with crafts and a statue of WC Handy, and yes music, everywhere, blues.

The 2:30 blues jam at Rum Boogie, presented by Blind Raccoon Records, featured Chris James (guitar) & Patrick Rynn (bass), San Diego recording duo, who are also part of the Phoenix Rhythm Room All Stars. With them were Rob Stone (harmonica), Steve Bass (drums), and Dave Maxwell, improvising with two bar stools and a keyboard.

Dave Fields & Billy Gibson (above-right), who are like two kids on a playground, took over the second set, backed up by Dave's band. JT Lauritsen, Norway's accordion and harmonica bluesman joined in for a couple of songs. And then they bought up a 16 year old blues harp player from NJ, Jay Gaunt, who has recently released a CD produced by Charlie Burch & Jason Ricci. After a couple of songs with Billy, he soloed up and cut loose. We all did a double take, stopped, and paid attention. He is definitely going to be someone to go see for a long time!

JT Lauritsen, Jay Gaunt & Billy Gibson

The final Saturday treat of the Memphis weekend, after touring Sun Records and the Rock & Soul Museum, happened when we wandered into BB Kings for a last hurrah, and found Big Llou, that silky voice on XM Bluesville, waiting to go on stage with the BB King Allstars (Carl Drew Band). He sang a duet with Joyce Henderson and I do have to say that he is as sexy singing as he is talking on the radio. Barry White, step down. What a way to end our Memphis adventure.

So with that our BMA weekend drew to an end and we reluctantly headed back to our hotel with one last stop at Gus's for fried chicken and fried pickles (Yum!). [On behalf of probably everyone]I would like to thank Jay Sieleman, Joe Whitmer, and the entire Blues Foundation for all that they do and a successful BMA event. And once again, congratulations to all the nominees and winners of this year's Blues Music Awards.

This was a weekend to be remembered and repeated. In the meantime, see you all at the Doheny Blues Festival next weekend! (For an eventual full set of photos go to )

 Featured Blues Review 1 of 8

The Informants - Crime Scene Queen

Wipe It Off Records theinformantsband

12 songs; 48:21 minutes; Suggested

Styles: Retro Rock and Roll, Rockabilly, Roots Rock, Zydeco

This week let’s catch up with a hopping, fun band that makes me want to move to Denver CO, to be able to see them perform on a regular basis. The Informants’ second CD, “Crime Scene Queen” is so good that, back in January in Memphis, it won the International Blues Challenge Best Self-Produced CD! (Actually, they tied for first with the Laurie Morvan Band). Each Blues society from around the world could submit their region’s best self-produced CD. All of the submissions were judged on (1) Musical Performance, (2) Audio Quality of the Presentation, (3) Cover Art and Design and (4) Credits and Liner Information.

The Informants managed to avoid the too common problem of all songs sounding the same. While this is not really a “Blues” CD, there is plenty of variety found in the catchiest tunes and ear-worms I’ve found in a while. Anchored in ample competence and musicianship, their enthusiasm is absolutely infectious. Primary songwriter Mark Richardson (keyboard/accordion/trumpet) focuses on themes to which we can all relate: celebration (“Get Twisted”), heartache (“Nothing But A Bad Break”), redemption (“Salvation”), and fatalism (“Travelin' On”).

Versatility reigns across the twelve original tracks (save one) manifest in backing vocals (that range from Gospel to show choir) to jazz trumpet to flute to soulful saxophone to blistering Rockabilly guitar to a ready-for-anything rhythm section. The songs range from break-neck Rock and Rollers to slow ballads.

The real spark plug of this seven piece band is the exciting lead vocalist and sexy fashion maven Kerry Pastine. She and the band are smart enough to understand that a performing band is putting on a show and should dress for the part. Why can’t more bands understand that people do not want to pay money to see show performers who are attired just like them? Other band members include Mike "Mac" McMurray, bass and vocals; Paul Christophersen, drums and vocals; Paul Shellooe, guitar and vocals; Kenny Plum, tenor sax and vocals; Jonny Love, baritone sax, tenor sax and vocals. Guests are Hazel Miller, Sheryl Renee, and William Lynch – vocals, and Jeremy Lawton (producer) – organ, tambourine, chains.

As for the music, according to Richardson in an interview on their website, “I think it's basic: Music is for dancing. Music is made so it moves you. A lot of people are looking for a sound that they haven't heard in a long time, a sound that made people move.” Pastine added, “It's fun, but there's an element of where it sounds dirty and dangerous, but it's a big, really fun happy sound. So, there's that allure to it, and of course, we're naughty. So I suppose it makes other people want to be naughty, too.”

It is time to get “informed” – hell, it’s past time! Unless you are one of those Blues purists still pissed off at Muddy Waters for going electric, you are going to dig this CD.

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.

 Featured Blues Review 2 of 8

Solomon King - Under the Sun

Blue Skunk Music

10 tracks/42:35

Currently based in Los Angeles, former Detroit resident Solomon King is a singer/guitar player trying to make in-roads into the West Coast blues scene. He has enlisted some first-rate musicians to provide help on his latest project. Band members include Ray Parker Jr. of “Ghostbusters” fame on guitar, Ollie Brown on drums (Stevie Wonder, Rolling Stones) and Reggie McBride on bass (Keb Mo, Rickie Lee Jones). Award-winning producer Sylvester Rivers adds keyboards and synthesizers. Shea Chambers, Elaine Gibbs and Cristi Black provide the backing vocals.

The title track opens the disc utilizing a familiar blues riff, with King forcefully stating his case as an accomplished international lover over taut guitar licks and some fine harmonica licks from Jimmy Powers. “Frankie & Johnnie” is another tough rocker in the Stones mode that recasts the traditional tale of doomed lovers. It was written by songwriter Jeff Laine, who penned four other songs on the disc including “Jack Me Up”, which features a surging rhythm and a strong vocal from King.

“Ain’t No Love” finds King slipping into a Motown-style groove with his raspy voice crying out in anguish over a lost love while he pulls some sweet sounds out of his guitar. The closing cut, “Who’s Lovin You Now”, has an opening sequence that finds the band steadily building the intensity before taking off on a romp that recalls the classic Faces recordings. King sings with a higher pitch to his voice and plenty of rock star posturing. The spirited backing trio of voices inject a bit of gospel influence that makes this cut special.

King does not fare as well on three covers. His interpretation of Rev. Al Green’s classic “Love and Happiness” adds nothing new and shows some of the limitations of King’s singing abilities. “Whiter Shade of Pale” is recast as a soul ballad but is missing the majestic organ part of the original and King’s thin voice conveys tenderness at times but never fully grabs the listener’s attention. The worst of the bunch is “Tracks of My Tears” as King’s quivering vocal and halting delivery can’t be rescued by the lush harmony vocals of the backing singers. This release is a mixed bag, both in terms of the performances and the musical genres covered. King is most comfortable in the blues/rock area and the tracks in that vein contain some memorable performances. While King may aspire to be a soul singer, this disc loses steam when he shifts into that genre due to his voice lacking the strength to gain favorable comparisons to the likes of Smokey Robinson. When King sticks to the rocking tunes, he is definitely worth a listen.

Reviewer  Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL

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.

Madison Blues Society - Madison, WI

More than 4,000 Blues fans are expected at the 8th Annual Blues Picnic on Saturday, June 19. There'll be 9 1/2 hours of FREE music from 11:30AM to 9:00PM featuring Tate and the 008 Band, Shake Daddys, Joe's Blues Kids, Cash Box Kings, Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin' Altar Boys, John Primer and the Real Deal Blues Band and Grana' Louise. We'll have lots of great food, drinks and beer and don't miss out on the Prize Raffle and the 50-50 Cash Raffle. Get the full story at

Washington Blues Society - Seattle, WA

The Washington Blues Society’s local competitions for the 2011 International Blues Challenge will be held on Sunday, June 20th and Sunday, June 27th at the award-winning Highway 99 Blues Club in Seattle. Depending on the number of entries received, there may be an additional competition on July 11th or July 25th. The preliminary solo/duo competitions will be held on either Sunday, June 27th or one of the July dates above. Competition finals will be held on Sunday, August 22nd at the the Snohomish Taste Of Music Festival.

Any Washington State blues act may enter, and the act must include at least one who is a member of the WBS. Band entry fee is $30.00 and solo/duo entry fee is $15.00. Entry deadline is Thursday, June 10th. For complete info see the website at: or email

Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford, IL

Crossroads Blues Society is producing their very first Blue festival this year. The Byron Crossroads Blues Festival will run from noon to midnight on Saturday, August 28, 2010, in downtown Byron, Illinois.

The festival lineup includes The Resistors, noted artists Filisko and Noden, The Cashbox Kings, Westside Andy/Mel Ford Band and Dave Weld and the Imperial Flames. For more information visit the Crossroads website at:

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

2010 Friends of the Blues shows - May 27 - Moreland & Arbuckle 7 pm , Kankakee Elks Country Club, June 15 - Albert Castiglia 7 pm , River Bend Bar & Grill, June 22 - Al Stone, 7 pm , River Bend Bar & Grill and August 10 - Sean Chambers, 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. May 25 - Kurt Crandall, May 31 - Frank Herrin & Blues Power, June 7 - The Avey Brothers, June 14 - Jim Suhler & Monkey, June 21 - The Texas Groove Blues Band, June 28 - Bryan Lee, July 5 - Little Joe McLerran, July 12 - Michael Charles Band, July 19 - Laurie Morvan, July 26 - Bill Evans Birthday Bash

River City Blues Society - Peoria, IL

The River City Blues Society present the Main Street Blues Party featuring: Eric "Guitar" Davis & Doghouse Blues on Saturday June 12th, 2010 from 4pm to 10pm on Main Street in Downtown Pekin, Illinois.

Also they have more of their weekly Blues shows during the summer season. 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 June 16th, 2010 - Albert Castiglia, Wednesday June 23rd, 2010 - Chris Beard, Tuesday June 29th, 2010 - Bryan Lee, Thursday July 15th, 2010 - Joel Paterson and Wednesday July 28th, 2010 - Andrew "Junior Boy" Jones.

5th Annual T-Bone Walker Blues Fest
June 18-19, 2010
Music City Texas Theatre  -
Linden, Texas

Johnny Winter

Zac Harmon

Malford Milligan

Robin & the Bluebirds

Dorothy “Miss Blues” Ellis

Buddy Flett

Emily Elbert

Guitar Shorty

Honeyboy Edwards

Henry Gray & the Cats

19th Street Red

Sumter Bruton

Diddley Squat

Kayla Reeves

Pleasant Hill Quilting Group

Guitar Hero Competition – Friday & Saturday

Call (903) 756-7774 for more information or visit

 Featured Blues Review 3 of 8

Billy T. Band - L.O.V.E.(Just A Silly Notion)

Big H Records


Smooth is the key word for this outing by American Billy T. and his Norwegian compatriots. His smooth vocals and a collection of seamless original and cover songs played by crack players make it hard to believe these guys never stepped on American soil, as they have a real feel for Memphis soul, R & B, swamp rock and rockabilly all injected with blues. The mostly blues infused guitar solos add a freshness to the proceedings. Southern soul music is the predominate sound bolstered by blues. Billy Troiani sure has the mellow pipes to deliver the goods. This music is well suited for a lazy day at the beach or a barbeque.

Low key soul simmering make the title track, "Trying To Live My Life Without You" and a cover of Major Lance's "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" go down easy. The original "You Don't Answer My Letters" is swamp rock with a reggae feel to the backbeat. Rockabilly is visited on Johnny Horton's "I'm Comin' Home" taken at a slower tempo than I'm used to, but Billy's delivery and rockabilly guitar riff's done to a 'T' make this a keeper. I'm still wondering about these guys from Norway....they must of spent many hours soaking up roots music from the states. Nothing seems forced or hesitant. "I Was Born A Loser" a 1966 hit for Memphis native Bobby Lee hits the spot. It's hard to tell the originals from the covers as Billy and crew can come up with a sound on their own that harkens back to old school blues as on the drown-your-sorrows lament "That's What The Whiskey's For". The instrumental "Selma" brings up images of Booker T. & The MG's featuring a blues solo interjected midway.

The musician's here don't miss a turn. The only minor quibble I can see is the use of synth-strings on "Um, etc.". But it's hardly noticed. The guitar army of Ian F. Johannessen, Hakon Hoye and guest Sven Zetterberg support each other throughout in fine style. The drumming of Alexander Pettersen and Billy T's rock steady bass playing along with the occassional keyboards add all the right touches. It's pleasant to see such attention to detail given by folks from another land to a music heritage they obviously love. Billy has surely taught and/or learned well from his friends. Music coming from the heart like this deserves wider attention. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up.

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

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

Wanted -Ticket to Clapton’s Crossroads Fest

Do you have a spare ticket the Crossroads Festival on June 26 you want to sell? I really need to buy one ticket so my dear spouse can come with me. Prefer general admission so we can lie on a blanket together. Scalpers need not call. Tel: 847-524-4272

Band Leader Looking For A Label & Gigs

Koko Taylor's band leader Vino Louden is alive and well ...back from a terrible vehicle accident and near death experience playing and singing the blues. Looking for a label and gigs. Contact at 773-318-2492

Blues Music Reviewers Wanted

Blues Blast Magazine is looking for reviewers to review new Blues CDs, DVDs an books. If you have a background and experience with Blues music and like to write we can provide new music releases for you to review. Person must be willing to write a minimum of one review every other week. Reviewer keeps the CD/DVDs for writing the review.  If interested please send a sample of your writing and a short bio of your Blues background to Please include your phone number with the reply.

 Featured Blues Review 4 of 8

Steve Matthews’ Razers - Don’t Turn Me In


undated - released 2009

Blues in the U.K. is a knotted knot of knots. The islanders have obviously taken the American blues guitar tradition and handed it back polished, enlarged, some say, perfected—others admonish, only, better crafted. We play with the idea that some of the iconic British voices in rock and roll—Mick Jagger, Joe Cocker, Rod Stewart—were blues singers of the first rank. I believe a prominent reviewer at this magazine has confessed that he really heard blues for the first time back in those famous 1960s, from the Animals. We honor Mayall as a father-figure in this music. We have tremendous respect and affection for individual players on the UK blues scene. For instance, you really should hear Big Joe Louis on guitar, Ian Siegal sing, and Errol Linton on harmonica, just to name a few. But for all that, and as much fun as it would be to go for an explore, very few of us would buy a ticket for London when we were looking for great blues.

London, as Blues Blast Magazine pointed out in this magazine last fall, is undergoing a surge in blues interest with the very notable opening of Charlotte Street Blues in Fitzrovia, Blues Kitchen in Camden Town, and ‘Round Midnight in Islington. London remains the global center for the “not the same old blues crap” movement. But thoughtful blues lovers in the UK are the first to tell you, they turn to the U.S. for the very best in blues. I once heard a U.S. band play in London, and had a man come up to me and say, “We couldn’t do that here. Even if we wanted to,” with the stress on the “if,” to emphasize with awe, “It would never occur to us to do some of the things you people do to this music to give it emotional life.”

People in the U.S. don’t take much interest in the difference, but blues fans and players in the UK have lots of explanations. They say the blues is in our American voices. Or they claim it is in infinitesimal “micro-nuances” in our play that can only come as cultural resonance. Several, have smiled wanly, and told me, “We play blues with this,” pointing to their head, “while you play blues with this,” pointing to their heart. This last certainly would offend British blues lovers, who I have seen standing on their pub chairs singing, swaying, and cheering—plainly, with no lack of heart. The occasion for writing this is receiving for review London’s Steve Matthews’ Razers 2009 album Don’t Turn Me In. It couldn’t be clearer: Steve Matthews has heart.

I’ve reviewed a number of blues cds that had at their core, as a sort of marketing device, the conceit that the player, the player’s hometown, or the player’s parentage was legendary. The musicians or some genius who advises them have tried to forge a persona as a blues legend in their packaging art and liner notes, but the result is always a forgery, a shoddy sales gimmick. Being a bluesman is not your hat or haircut, or shoes, or car, or the brand of amp you play through, or your hometown, or, candidly, who your father is; and it certainly isn’t something you invent and say about yourself. With Steve Matthews’ Don’t Turn Me In we meet a genuine blues man, a person and a persona. Matthews has been blowing the harp, singing, and using blues as a creative pallet for a long time. He is not easily impressed, not easily shook. The man is mellow. But he isn’t just flowing musically, he’s got a point of view. He has that exact “askance” point of view, that stand off on the edge of society to laugh or cry or plead, that is the blues.

Matthews is a South London harmonica player, singer, and band leader. His usual partner in music is Dave Briggs, a beloved London guitarist widely known for playing with Scottie Moore. Don’t Turn Me In is a powerful album of music, and Matthews’ persona is the core. Matthews is out front and assertive entertaining us, but subject to instant invisibility the moment we turn our backs; his band makes us laugh, and the joke is on them. We are attracted to this band’s remarkable prowess as performers from right out of the people; but, if we’re not too drunk to notice, we pick up that they’d get along without the middle class comforts more easily than we would, and that maybe they do. They are having more fun than we are, but are skating on much thinner ice. This is Steve Matthews.

There isn’t an original song on this album. Four of the eleven tunes are co-written by Gary Primich, showcasing Matthews’ admiration for the late Austin harp star. But the selection of the songs goes to the Matthews persona. “Angeline,” “Cold Hand in Mine,” and Guy Forsyth’s “Don’t Turn Me In,” the song from which the album takes its name, define the act as outcast and outlaw, numb, vulnerable, plaintive. No nostalgia trip, this album is music for grownups who are not in the mood to pretend they have ever had it all together.

The musicianship here is powerful. Toby Baron on drums, upright and out front, should be giving clinics for blues percussion. Besides Matthews, Briggs, Baron, and Jon Bankes on electric bass, Neil Cowley hits the keyboards, Richard Sadler does some double bass work, Bruce Knapp plays guitar, and Sean Genockey adds slide guitar. At key points, as in the song “Don’t Turn Me In” the band achieves a euphoric wall of blues sound. This is not supposed to be an album of virtuoso harmonica, but Matthews’ harmonica has a stunning emotional quail, and he rocks out whole songs with his driving lines. There is not a lick of mostly Briggs’ tremendous guitar on Don’t Turn Me In that was not available in blues and rock culture by 1965; but these traditional materials are exactly the idiom Matthews and his Razers intend to use to communicate with us. We get the message and more than a few of the subtleties. It goes way beyond this review to explore, but Don’t Turn Me In innocently reopens the question of true blues, real blues players, and, if anyone in the U.S. cares, the very possibility of blues in the UK. It is an album of music, and a provocation to some important conversations.

Reviewed by Dale Clark.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

 Featured Blues Review 5 of 8

Lady “A” - BlueZ in the Key of Me

Self released, 2010

The new release by Lady A and her Baby Blues Funk Band is tight, funky old school R&B at its very best. If you have seen here live (very highly recommended by the way) you know that they put on a high energy, good time, fill the dance floor and keep them there shaking it until they drop show. Well BlueZ in the Key of Me follows suit with some sophisticated jazzy slow cheek to cheek numbers tossed in for good measure.

The Baby Blues Funk Band are Richard L. Mills on guitar, Gary Smith on bass and J. Oliver III on drums, keys and other instrumentation plus bass on 3 tracks and also had a hand in writing the music for a dozen of the 13 original tracks and lyrics on 6. Additional guest musicians include Bruce Laing-harmonica, Steve Black-guitar, Butch Harrison-trumpet and Teri Anne Wilson-guitar although track listings for them aren’t listed.

In addition to the 13 originals 2 classic bonus cover songs Rufus Thomas’ “Walking the Dog” and Bill Withers’ stupendous “Use Me” are included to round things out. The art, design and photography of Amanda Gresham of Delta Music Experience make for a very professional package.

The band stays tightly in the groove throughout and adds a punch when needed. On “Good Music, Good Gumbo” Miss White invites you to her house for a backyard bash singing “LJ Porter’s in the house Red Hotz just might stop by before the night is out… this parties off the hook it started at four, ‘cause I’ve got good music, good gumbo and all my good friends, all get together, the party begins.

The CD opens with the title track a laid back blues with a slinky guitar solo. “Do Yo Thang” opens with harp and goes right into the funk with Lady A imparting sage advice to a friend to ‘wake up and find yourself a new man.’ “R U Ready” is party time dance music and “Still Leaving” is a slow soul blues torch song. “Use Me” doesn’t have the punch and snap of Withers version; but the soul is undeniable and “Walking the Dog” is a joyful funky strut.

In my opinion all; but maybe the most hard core blues traditionalists will love this CD, and I think it could easily make converts out of some of them too! BlueZ in the Key of Me is definitely a keeper and deserves some attention. Go to a show and get a copy is my recommendation.

Reviewer Malcolm "Yard Dog" Kennedy is a frequent contributor to the Washington Blues Society Bluesletter, and he is the former Vice President and Merchandise Director of the society. He is the co-author of the profile published in the 2009 Blues Festival Guide, which recognized the WBS for its Keeping the Blues Alive Award. Malcolm volunteers at the society's monthly all-ages Blues Bashes and at many festivals and special events promoting the blues in the Pacific Northwest.

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 Featured Blues Review 6 of 8

The Nighthawks - Last Train to Bluesville

Rip Bang Records

10 songs, 40:21

Every once in a while, it all comes together. That’s what happened in early 2009, when XM/Sirius blues DJ Bill Wax heard that the Nighthawks were in town and performing some acoustic shows. At his invite, the band showed up at the XM/Sirius studios in downtown DC and proceeded to lay down the tracks, performed live and raw, that became Last Train to Bluesville.

The Nighthawks have been around for decades, formed in 1972 by Mark Wenner and Jimmy Thackery. Over the decades, they’ve toured 49 states and a dozen countries and changed lineups numerous times, all the while working for their dinner and schlepping their own gear.

When I gave Last Train to Bluesville a first listen, those 30-odd years of playing and touring showed through - not in a tired, exhausted sort of way, but as deep experience with the music that seems to come so effortlessly.

The CD is classic old-school acoustic blues delivered with a delightful jam band flavor. Anchored by Mark Wenner’s harp playing and vocals, the band delivers every songs with conviction and true musicianship. The XM/Sirius studios must have a serious set up, because this is one of the most crisp, sweet-sounding discs I’ve ever heard, as though the band is right here in my living room, playing live.

Last Train starts with the classic The Chicken and the Hawk (Up, Up and Away), which was a real treat for me, since I’d only ever heard that song done live by an old local bluesman around my neck of the woods. The upbeat blues ditty showcases the mellow sound of Wenner’s harp, the gentle beat of snare-drum-only percussion and the wonderful yet slightly raw harmonies that are a signature of this set.

The disc features a trio of McKinley Morganfield (Muddy Waters) songs: Nineteen Years Old, Can’t Be Satisfied and Rollin’ and Tumblin’, all standouts with rich, deep slide guitar marrying perfectly with Wenner’s harp. The five minute plus Rollin’ and Tumblin’ is a true tour de force, and reminded me of that great give and take jam in Clapton’s Unplugged on the same song.

Another standout is You Don’t Love Me, an Elis McDaniel (Bo Diddley) composition. Sung by bass player Johnny Castle, it features a great rhythmic give and take between Wenner’s harp and Bell’s guitar and some wonderful lyrical guitar licks under Castle’s vocals.

About the only weak spot on this disc is the title: Last Train to Bluesville (is a trite moniker like that really necessary?). Title aside, this offering serves up ten tracks of incredible acoustic blues, all the more impressive given that it was recorded as a live session in the studio rather than pieced together of tracks and parts. The crystal clear recording would showcase any flaws - instead what comes through is a tight, professional acoustic set that truly showcases the Nighthawks’ musicianship.

If you are an acoustic fan, grab this disc and be prepared to wear it out.

Reviewer Paul Schuytema is a lifelong blues enthusiast who grew up in Chi-town. He cut his blues teeth at shows by Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. He now lives in the cornfields and puts on the Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival every fall.

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 Featured Blues Review 7 of 8

The Leadbelly Project – A Hommage to Huddie Ledbetter

Self release 2010

9 tracks; 47.21 minutes

This is a very different album! The two individuals involved are James O Belcher (voice) and Poembeat who plays all instruments (guitars, piano, synth drums, bass, etc). The website gives little information but appears to be based in Germany.

The Project takes nine Leadbelly songs and recreates them in what the authors call “reloaded in a modern way”. In essence the album consists of James O intoning rather than singing the lyrics over repetitive, sometimes almost hypnotic rhythms. Most of the songs are also played at very different pace to the well known versions: for instance “Midnight Special” is presented at funereal pace while “Bourgeois Blues” has a frenetic background with a nod to hip hop beats.

“Bring me lil water Silvy” has a soundtrack that sounds almost like an old 78 recording of a jazz band in New Orleans and is again different to the other tracks. “Green Corn”’s vocal is so low that one has to think of the late Barry White! One of Leadbelly’s best known tunes is “Gallowspole”, whether we know it from Led Zeppelin or more traditional versions. Here it appears under the title “Gallis Po’” but was a major disappointment, lacking the drama of most versions.

I am not sure what the potential market for this album is but it was not for me. I would have liked to appreciate it more, as great artists like Huddie Ledbetter should be remembered, but this Project did not work for me. Perhaps it will for others.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music. He went on his first Legendary Blues Cruise in January 2010 and had such a good time he will be back in 2011!

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 Featured Blues Review 8 of 8

The Vincent Hayes Project – Reclamation

North 61 Records 2010

11 tracks; 70.21 minutes

The Vincent Hayes Project is a Grand Haven, Michigan based trio who have added keyboards and piano for this new CD, released on their own label. The CD was recorded at the East Lansing studios of co-producer Glenn Brown where they had the opportunity to use the Neve console from the Muscle Shoals studios, the very same machine that has captured Dylan, The Allmans, Clapton and Bobby Bland. The band gigs mainly in the Michigan area but has competed in the IBCs in Memphis. This is the first material that I have heard from this band and it is an impressive collection.

The CD is a long one, so variety is important if the listener is to remain engaged. Fortunately that aspect is well covered: for example the first four tracks offer a shuffle, a funky approach, a long slow blues and a latin sound! All the tracks are written by Vince himself and there are some strong songs here.

The sound quality on the CD is excellent and the playing consistently good. Vince’s voice works fine on the material though his singing is not the strongest card in his hand as he is an excellent guitarist who can cover all parts of the blues repertoire with ease. The rhythm section is immaculate throughout and kudos go to David Alves on bass and Donnie Hugley on drums, both of whom appear to have played with Vince for some time.

The first track “Hit me high, hit me low” is a fast shuffle with a catchy chorus and makes a good upbeat start to the album. Next up is “Insecurities”, a well written song about the difficulties of relationships. Played in a funky style, the organ sound also brings a touch of soul to proceedings. Track 3 is a long slow blues entitled “I’ve got a right to change my mind” and makes a matched pair with track 8 “Some kind of fool”. Both tracks offer plenty of space for Vince to display his guitar chops. As John Mayall used to say, the mark of a good guitarist is how he approaches the slow blues tune. A word also for guest pianist Steve “Doc” Yankee whose playing subtly underpins the guitar so well on the first of these two blues.

Track 4 has a latin feel to it, bringing Carlos Santana to mind inevitably. Track 5 “I just want to get you high tonight” is a fast paced shuffle. Track 6 “Thank you baby” is one of my favourites, a churning groove with a Booker T feel to it from the organ of keyboard guest Christian VanAntwerpen and a bass line reminiscent of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help me”. The lyrics are amusing too; “I want to thank you for giving me the blues; ’cos of everything you ever gave me, baby, ’bout time I got something I can use”. Track 7 “Double Talk” has another excellent bass/organ groove with some Cropper style guitar and really rips along – you can imagine this one filling the dance floor at gigs!.

“Halfway out the door” is driven by the guitar riff and features some excellent stinging soloing. The penultimate track “Sticky thigh jive” is the only instrumental and has a relaxed feel to it with some almost jazzy playing at times. The CD ends on “You can take your troubles” a slide-driven tune with an Elmore James feel to it and makes a good ending to the album.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music. He went on his first Legendary Blues Cruise in January 2010 and had such a good time he will be back in 2011!

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

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