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June 3, 2010 

© 2010 Blues Blast Magazine

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Hey Blues Fans,

There is an interesting new Blues theatrical production called Low Down Dirty Blues put on by the Northlight Theatre in Skokie, IL that features a great cast and some cool Blues music. (Check out their ad in this issue. SCROLL DOWN!)

Low Down Dirty Blues is situated in a South Side Chicago Blues bar where musician gather and the songs are inspired by Muddy Waters, Ma Rainey, Sophie Tucker and Howlin' Wolf. The cast includes Mississippi Charles Bevel, Felicia P. Fields, Gregory Porter and Sandra Reaves-Phillips. Shows run several times weekly through July 3rd.

If you are going to the Chicago Blues Fest next weekend check it out for an interesting side trip while you are in town.

James Walker will have a review of the production for you in next weeks issue. For tickets and more information visit their website at

Blues Wanderings

Blues Blast Magazine made it out to Watseka, IL for the 3rd annual Watseka Blues, BBQ & Arts Fest! Below are some shots of Herman Hines, Mondo Cortez and  Brad Ber of Chicago Blues Angels, Doug McDonald from Blue Mirror Band and Rusty Wright of Rusty Wright Band.


The fest featured exciting Blues performances ruling the day as each and every band played and performed music which was as good as that found anywhere. (Photos by Susan Walker)

In This Issue

Marilyn Stringer send us a review of the Santa Cruz Blues Festival. We have six CD reviews this week! James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new CD by John Németh.  John Mitchell reviews a new CD by Dave Weld and the Imperial Flames. Greg 'Bluesdog' Szalony reviews a new CD from Dan Treanor, Creighton Holley and Kyle Roberts.  Sheralyn Graise reviews a new CD by Raoul and The Big Time. George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish reviews a new CD by Cyril Neville. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD by Benton Flippen & The Smokey Valley Boys .  All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!

 Live Blues Review

 18th Annual Santa Cruz Blues Festival  - Memorial Day Blues at Home

Photos & Commentary by Marilyn Stringer

After months of unseasonable rain and cold, the sun popped out for the two day blues festival in Aptos, CA. And it was extra special for this blues lover - I was back at my "hometown" festival for the first time in five years. The festival grounds are set in a natural amphitheatre park and the organizer, Bill Welch, knows how to put together an event and line-up that is stellar. (photo: Eric Burdon & The Animals)

The morning started out with a bang - Eric Lindell and his infectious Bayeau Blues - including guitars (Eric & Thomas Johnson), Creole horn, drums, and a big dose of blue eyes and laughter. He definitely got the crowd going (even after he was the very late pre-festival performer the night before at Moe's Alley, our long-time local blues venue). Very fun band, always!

Keeping the phunk in the house, next up was Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk, led by Ivan (son of Aaron Neville) on keyboards, adding two basses - Nick Daniels and Tom Hall- and a sound like nothing you have heard. I am not sure who was having more fun...the band or the crowd. They are a band who wanted to play nasty and dirty phunky, so they named it after a dumpster, 'cause there is nothing phunkier than that, or them!

On a different level, more surrealistic and using a looping station was singer/songwriter James Arthur, who sang his soulful blues and did a finale that included spray painting while he sang. His sound is "experimental, innovative" and "part of a new generation of soulful singers".

Aahhh! back to the roots, long-time standards, acoustic & banjo bluesy, international beats, and always a crowd favorite-the Taj Mahal Trio brought the crowd to their feet to dance....and laugh at his antics and stories.....singing along to the well-worn (like a favorite pair of slippers) songs...because Taj, Kester Smith (drums), and Bill Rich (bass) just have it down and natural after 30 years. And we like it! Gonna' paint my mailbox BLUE!

Ben Harper and the Relentless 7, in a rare northern California appearance, closed Saturday's lineup, mesmerizing everyone with his original blues, drawing from folk, gospel, reggae, rock, bending the genre's together in his unique way - indescribable actually . He had at least 5 lap slide guitars and 10 other guitars that were changed out for almost every song. If you are ever in the vicinity of Ben Harper, and want to see someone "channel" music, go see him.

Sunday morning the Detroit party band, Was (Not Was), brought more blues, jazz, soul, funk, and fun to a large crowd who made sure they got to the party on time. Band leader and bassist, Don Was, and "spiritual leader" of the group, also is a producer for Bonnie Raitt and the Rolling Stones. The band includes the Boneshakers guitar player, Randy Jacobs, and singer, "Sweet Pea" Atkinson; soul singer ( "I love to dance! Any kind of Dance! I love to dance wid'da wimmen!!" he told me) Sir Harry Bowens, David MacMurrey (sax) and Jamie Moholbrac (keyboards).

Returning to the Santa Cruz Blues Festival, after many year's absence was Coco Montoya, bringing his own style of blues - soulful and rockin' all at once. At one point he invited Randy Jacobs (Was-Not Was) up to jam with him. Coco was feelin' it!!

In great anticipation, curiosity, and general longing for a trip back to our youth, we all waited for Eric Burdon and the Animals to take the stage. And the trip was oooh so sweet. He sang the magical songs we grew up with, he made them new and exciting without losing their core, and he brought waves of deep nostalgia to everyone, including me. And when they started singing The House of the Rising Sun, (the first song many of us learned to play guitar to), the emotions were high. And the song was not like you have ever heard it, with Red Young dropping it down on the organ, and Terry Wilson on guitar - the long, drawn-out, styled-up and blues'ed-down, version that you hoped would never end. I could become a groupie again! The blues, so deeply rooted in the rock music of decades ago, became apparent with everything they brought back to us.

Well after that, I glad there was time to take a deep breath and prepare for the next act - Susan Tedeschi & Derek Trucks, and a band, full of brothers and family members. (I don't have the names of everyone). And, as to be expected, Derek was in the zone on guitar and Susan played and sang the blues, with the deep rich sounds only she can produce. And together, they are twice as great!

Topping the two days of perfection and the icing on a very rich cake was Buddy Guy. (Truth: other than a few songs at the BMA's in May, I have to admit to being a Buddy virgin). Well, if you have seen Buddy, then you know he is not only the best of the best bluesman, he is pretty funny too! And his guitar player, Ric Hall, was pretty amazing also - especially when he twirled his guitar around on his chest - whoa! So, it was a perfect ending to a perfect festival in Santa Cruz and a memorable Memorial Day weekend!

Special thanks to Bill Welch, and the hard working staff at the Santa Cruz Blues Festival and volunteers, for producing an impeccable event! I know all of my friends and everyone in the bus line loved it too! (

An eventual full set of photos can be found at  See you in Chicago where I will really be going home! 

 Featured Blues Review 1 of 6

John Németh - Name The Day

Blind Pig Records

11 songs; 41:46 minutes; Library Quality

Styles: Retro-Modern Blues, Soul, Soul-Blues, R & B

“John Németh (pronounced like the Jets quarterback, Joe Namath) is a rising blues star; an incredible singer steeped in tradition and with dynamic range. A harmonica player of riveting intensity and virtuosity, he also puts on a stage show with antics like kicking his foot as high as his head.” Skyy Dobro April 29, 2007

“There is no sense denying it; one might as well say it out loud: when it comes to the best young, white, contemporary blues singers, John Németh and Andrew Duncanson of The Kilborn Alley Blues Band are in the top five with Németh holding my personal list’s number one spot.” Skyy Dobro Sept. 23, 2008

“2009’s “Love Me Tonight” confirms that the Blues Blast Music Award John Németh received last November (2008), The Sean Costello Rising Star Award, was rightly awarded!” Skyy Dobro February 2, 2009

As the reader can see, keeping up with the dynamic John Németh has become an annual event since 2007. “Magic Touch,” released January 30, 2007, was an album which broke John Németh to a world wide audience and Big-Industry-Buzz status. “Magic Touch,” is regarded as an essential piece to appreciating music of the 2001 – 2010 decade. It received my highest (and very rare) rating of “Reference Quality.”

2010 finds Németh, assistant producer Kid Andersen, and guitarist and pianist extraordinaire Bobby Welsh creating popular music that will be as popular across ages when retrieved from one’s library of recorded music. “Name the Day” again draws on America’s classic Blues, Soul, and R&B influences, especially those of Memphis and Muscle Shoals. Németh’s song writing is his best ever, and all are original songs save Otis Blackwell’s “Home in Your Heart” recorded by Solomon Burke.

Németh’s top ranked, funky and soulful vocals are strong, tough, and tender as ever, and they are on full display. Personally, I did not find the addition of even more horns beneficial or pleasing, and there is, sadly, less of John’s virtuosic harmonica playing. The fantastic Bobby Welsh is solid as always, but I would have been enjoyed even more of his solos and standout moments.

The track that killed me on first listen is “I Said Too Much.” With its Gospel influence, the lyrics are more soul baring than a confessional. It is a moving and emotional tear-jerker of a song with a Welsh guitar solo perfectly fitting the mood. The chorus is ear-worm catchy especially with Steve Willis and Ed Earley providing nicely arranged background vocals.

“Heartbreak with a Hammer” has some fine harmonica work. Bobby takes one of his better guitar breaks while either Austin deLeone and Jake Smolove add organ.

The funniest song based on every road warrior’s nightmare is “Do You Really Want That Woman.” Convinced he can resist anything except temptation, the narrator “damn straight” does want a try out with the sweet young thing who has just paid him an “ounce of attention.” By the end of the song, he does resist as he has a “good girl at home.” The background vocalists conscientiously and heroically sing the chorus, “Don't you know you got a good girl at home.”

John Németh is so widely recognized for his vocal gift that basically any Németh CD is cause for celebration. His five CDs show the development of a career, and there’s no reason to not add this album for both fun and posterity.

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 6

Dave Weld and the Imperial Flames - Burnin’ Love

Delmark Records

13 tracks; 65.34 minutes

Dave Weld has been away from recording for many years, caring for his mother during a difficult period. The sleeve notes of the CD explain how Dave coped with the situation and is a moving read. This CD is clearly a real attempt to regain the territory Dave occupied in the 90s when his CD with Lil’ Ed Williams on Earwig turned some heads.

Dave’s links to Lil’ Ed go a long way back. JB Hutto (Ed’s uncle) taught Dave slide and Dave was part of the original Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials before starting his own band, The Imperial Flames. Lil’ Ed appears on this CD also, playing rhythm on most tracks and taking a couple of solos. However, where this CD differs from the slide-fest that is always the hallmark of a Lil’ Ed album is the featured tenor sax player, Abb Locke, whose warm tones are a strong element in this record.

Dave’s works fine on this Chicago style material. Opener “Sweet Shiny Brown Eyes” is a good start before we hit “Ramblin’” (the longest track at 6.34) which is based around the Robert Johnson tune but with additional and personal lyrics about Dave’s efforts to establish himself in the Chicago scene; really nice sax solo here. Track 3 is a fast paced shuffle entitled “Burnin’ love”, again featuring a strong sax solo and a real fret burning solo from Dave, before we hear the first of two tunes penned by drummer Jeff Taylor, “I got mad”. Jeff takes lead on the vocals on both his compositions and does a good job. “I got mad” lopes along with the story of a difficult relationship while later track “All of these things” tells us about a new love, with solos by Lil’ Ed and Dave.

Two tracks feature Monica Myhre on lead vocals, both her own compositions – “Talk Dirty” and “Listen to Mama”. The first sets off at a fast pace and does what it says in the title! Again, the sax fits superbly into the tune, followed by a nice guitar solo from Dave. “Listen to Mama” starts as more of a slow paced boogie, before building into a more upbeat tune. The variety of vocalists is a strong plus for the CD, in my view.

There are two songs from outside the band; a cover of mentor JB Hutto’s “Things are so slow”, a classic blues which offers Dave a chance to demonstrate his slide chops, alongside some ‘dirty’ sax from Abb Locke. Lil’ Ed penned “Ed’s boogie” which is just what you’d expect from the title, a fast paced boogie, with Ed on lead vocals and slide.

Dave wrote seven of the tracks here, two with Monica Myhre. “She’s mine” is a nice tune, good vocals and another excellent sax solo. “Donnie Lee” is a slow blues, with harmony vocals from Monica which add to the song. “Peace of Mind” is classic Chicago blues and closing track “She’s Lyin’” is an upbeat shuffle with strong sax and guitar features to round off an excellent comeback album for Dave. I enjoyed the CD and am glad that Dave has returned to the scene.

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.

 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.

Alabama Blues Project - Northport, AL

Alabama Blues Project 2010 Summertime Blues Camp will be held July 19-23 at Covenant Presbyterian Church on Hargrove Road in Tuscaloosa, AL. For more information please contact Cara Smith at (205) 752-6263 or You may also find out much more about our Summertime Blues Camp by clicking here to visit our 2009 review.

Los Angeles Blues Society - Los Angeles, CA

The Los Angeles Blues Society is pleased to announce their Tenth Open Jam to be held on Sunday June 20th, 2010 from 2pm to 6 pm at Main Street Restaurant, 4902 Main St. Yorba Linda, CA. The host band will be Blues Straight Up. All jammers and friends welcome. Come down to jam, listen and have a great time. For more info visit

Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation - Chicago, IL

Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation will be hosting their annual "Hot Blues Nights" event during the Chicago Blues Fest weekend. The show starts on Saturday, June 12th @ 9pm! For only a $10 minimum donation/person, you can enjoy some live music with special guest Johnny Drummer, tour the historic Chess Studios, feast on some food and refreshments, and overall have a "Wang Dang Doodle" of a time. The event will be held at 2120 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60616. For more information visit .

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

The 2010 Youth Blues Camp will be held at Columbia College Chicago Music Center, 1014 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago July 4 – 9, 2010 by Artistic Director, Fernando Jones.  For complete information visit

The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL

2010 Friends of the Blues shows - 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. 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 6

Dan Treanor, Creighton Holley, Kyle Roberts - American Primative

Plan-It Records


The latest from blues journeyman Dan Treanor who is known for the African influences and instruments incorporated into his music. This time out that influence is seen mostly in the percussion. Harmonica and slide guitar are his primary tools throughout abetted by his use of banjo, Khalam, keys, diddley bow and bass. Creighton Holley's self assured husky voice lends itself to this modern take on the delta blues, as well as playing electric guitar. The percussion that drives the tunes is provided by Kyle Roberts. Various guest musicians lend the appropriate coloring when needed. With the arsenal of instruments the songs never feel cluttered. Slide guitar, harmonica and mandolin drift up and down in the mix.

Much of this record brings to mind a less edgy Otis Taylor in the instrumentation as well as in the topics presented. The intro to the lead off track "Took The Wrong Road" sounds like Pops Staples' "World In Changes" if memory serves. This song begins our trip thru the delta. The interweaving of slide, harp and electric give life to the songs. On "Duckin' And Dodgein" the slide and electric guitar have a dogfight. Although credited to Treanor on the sleeve notes "Brand New Walking Blues" and "Serves You Right" are updates of the originals. Done for the umpteenth time this "New Walking Blues" is powered along by African-ish percussion and handclaps. "You Can't Outrun The Blues" is a welcome addition to the blues will getcha category of tunes.

The addition of the Village East Baptist Choir to "Motherless Child" melds well with harp and snaky slide for a gospel-meets-delta voyage. "Serves You Right" with its' banjo-mandolin-harp mix sounds like a sprightly, eclectic song from Harry Manx. "Tangled Road" calls up the Otis Taylor reference with it's haunting answer vocals and violin supplied by Lionel Young. As seen on "Poor Man's Sentence" and others here Holley's electric playing compliment the acoustic sounds rather than adding a rock sound. A song about the downtrodden with a slight Yardbirds groove to the underlying riff. Train sound effects lead into "South Bound Train" one of the staples of old time blues the ever present train tune replete with Sonny Terry harmonica. What sounds like a kalimba(African thumb piano) takes us to the islands for a bit of Calypso blues with "Sunshine Galore".....'Come to dee islands mon'. "Big Bayou" visits The Big Easy with a fine second line shuffle by Kyle Roberts and sax supplied by Sonny Espinosa.

"Ain't It A Pity" pares down the blues to electric, slide and acoustic guitars sparring over minimal percussion. The cliched lyrics of "Everything About You" mar an otherwise slinky tune. Dan himself steps out for a vocal (?) turn on "1969". Heck the guy gives note perfect guitar and harmonica throughout, he's entitled to one misstep with his hushed weak vocal. It dosen't take away from his sentimental memories of his stint in Vietnam. It's the thought that counts.

I don't think Treanor will ever run out of musical ideas and his choice of outstanding singers to relate his blues stories. He comes up with another keeper here.

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.

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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.

13th Annual Prairie Dog Blues Fest

Friday, July 30, 2010

Jonathan Tyler & Northern Lights Big James & the Chicago Playboys  Guitar Shorty  Jon Justice   Eddie Turner

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Eric Sardinas  Shaun Murphy Band  Big John Dickerson Show  Debbie Davies & Robin Rogers Band  Vernon Ray Harrington  Sena Ehrhardt Band  Hounds Tooth


Festival Website

The only Blues festival held on an island in the middle of the Mississippi River!

 Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin on St. Feriole Island

 Featured Blues Review 4 of 6

Raoul and The Big Time - You My People

13 tracks

I have to admit, I didn’t know what to expect from a CD titled You My People by a Canadian actor born in England named Raoul Bhaneja. I kept an open mind. I’m glad that I did. The title track, “You My People,” is an upbeat paean to those who like “live music played in a down home way.” So, as it turns out, I am his people!

Raoul and The Big Time is a four piece combo led my actor/harmonica player Raoul Bhaneja. The other members are Darren Gallen on guitar, Tom Bona on drums, and Terry Wilkins on upright bass. All are veterans of the Canadian blues scene. Bona is a Maple Blues Award winner. Terry Wilkins has played for a number of bands, including Levon Helm’s. The band has opened for Buddy Guy, Bobby Bland, and the Downchild Blues Band. This CD has a number of guest appearances such as Junior Watson and Mark Hummel.

I like the track, “You My People.” It’s catchy and infectious. “One Card Trump” has a big band feel to it with two sax players and a trumpeter with Bhaneja soloing on the Mississippi saxophone. His vocals are a bit rough though. “Live Without Me” is about a man who realizes he does not have the upper hand in his relationship. I like the down and dirty beat to the song. The rough vocals give it a pained, plaintive quality. “Where the Wind Blows On Shore” continues the theme in a slower tempo. “Movin’ Out” sounds downright old. “All to Myself” is a Ray Charles ballad. “Born to Love” is an up-tempo Chess Records, “I’m a Man” machismo type song. It is immediately followed by a cover of Muddy Waters’ “Gypsy Woman.” “Breathin’ In” is an instrumental with dueling harp by Mark Hummel. It is the most contemporary sounding track on the CD. The remaining songs are of a social commentary character from war to the economy, tongue and cheek anti smoking, and a “We Can Change” romp reminiscent of a political campaign to the south, i.e., south of Canada.

The band is good. I particularly like the upright bass and the piano by guest artist Tyler Yarema. Yarema’s playing is similar to Otis Spann. However, there seems to be a glut of fedora, vest and tie wearing retro bands hitting the market now days. Many of them are good. Overall, You My People, is another retro style blues and big band CD albeit one of the better ones.

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.

 Featured Blues Review 5 of 6

Cyril Neville - The Essential Cyril Neville 1994-2007

MC Records

11 tracks

Total time: 57:13

Cyril Neville, youngest of New Orleans’ famed Neville Brothers musical family, stunned the blues world in 2009 with the release of his CD, Brand New Blues, on roots/blues MC Records, a solidly original and funky approach to the blues. The Essential Cyril Neville 1994-2007, continues that same approach, with 11 varied tracks that are a rich jambalaya of New Orleans musical textures. All but one of the tracks were previously recorded on Cyril Neville’s small-label solo releases, The Fire This Time (1995), New Orleans Cookin’ (2000), Soulo (2000), and the no longer available Healing Dance and Just for the Funk of It. The previously-unreleased track is the opening track here, “The Blues Is Here To Stay,” with guest Taj Mahal. In addition to producing The Essential Cyril Neville, Cyril was also instrumental in selecting the tracksfor a rich Louisiana gumbo of musical approaches.

Cyril Neville is also an African American left political and social justice activist, which is also integral to his music, giving much of it an insistent but unobtrusive left political message that only complements, not distract from, his musical artistry. Cyril Neville is an artist with much to say who says it well, both in needed political tocsins for our troubled times, and through compelling musical artistry that partakes substantively from both his New Orleans and African American heritages.

The Essential Cyril Neville is a CD comprised of many different styles and genres. Funked-up approaches to blues and rock grace the first two tracks, the above-mentioned “The Blues Is Here To Stay,” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady.” This incorporation of funk elements into these two other genres not only gives the music a more contemporary feel, it also enhances them strikingly through the creative originality of the approach, complementing the blues roots of the first track in a refreshing way that also maintains fealty to those blues roots; with that same fealty to Hendrix’s original arrangement refreshingly complemented as well by the novel funk styling. The third track, Professor Longhair’s “Tipitina,” is introduced by Neville as a tribute to this great artist that’s “takin’ his music into the New Millennium.” It does so by rendering it as an impassioned blues-rock number with strong horns, a solid piano solo, and Neville’s own enthusiastic blues-shouting vocals.

Track 4, “Ayita,” another term for Haiti, celebrates the splendor of the Haitian setting and the struggle of the Haitian people for freedom and democracy through a bouncy, horn-driven Caribbean/Latin tune that takes from Haitian music itself as it came to New Orleans, while track 5, “New Orleans Cookin’,” is New Orleans 1950s-style R&B with double-entendre lyrics that compare his woman’s love and feminine attributes to the tasty zest of the Crescent City’s famous cuisine. Track 6, “Fortune Teller,” is a live version of the Benny Spellman song written by Allen Toussaint under the pseudonym Naomi Neville that’s done here as a long, slow soul ballad with Toussaint on piano, and is one of Cyril Neville’s finest vocal performances on the CD. Track 7, “Indians Got That Fire,” is a rollicking celebration of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian tribes and their dancing displays during this festival that’s replete with the Black Seminole’s Big Chief Iron Horse giving forth with braggadocio chant.

Cyril “goes to church” on track 8, rendering Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changin’” as a reverential hymn that insistently cries out for social justice; while track 8, “Projects,” is an affirmatively African American rap song that’s also a political tocsin calling for solidarity that says that it doesn’t matter where you grow up, i.e., in the low-income housing projects, it matters what you do with it. These messages are repeated and emphasized again on the last track, “Funkalicious,” that combines both traditional and rap vocals in another political tocsin for self-empowerment through believing in oneself and not giving up. Sandwiched in-between is track 10, “Heart’s Desire,” a soul ballad duet with wife Gaynelle Neville that affirms finding love through going beneath the surface and seeing the real person buried under the social slight, dismissal and rejection.

Truly as varied a selection of tracks on a CD as one’s likely to find, especially on one that’s only 11 tracks long. Cyril Neville is indeed one of the masterful stylists of soul and soul-blues, ranking him among the male greats such as Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and Otis Clay. Excellent musicianship and backing choral work throughout is provided not only by Neville’s staple band, but by many other musicians and special guests as well.

Summing up, The Essential Cyril Neville is just a very, very good CD that far transcends being any sort of “Greatest Hits” compendium.

Reviewer George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish hails from Indianapolis, Indiana, home of blues legends Yank Rachell and Leroy Carr. He has written a regular music column for several years. He wrote the liner notes for Yank Rachell’s Delmark album, Chicago Style. He has been a blues and pop music contributor for the left-wing press as well, and has appeared in Against the Current and Socialism and Democracy.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

 Featured Blues Review 6 of 6

Benton Flippen & The Smokey Valley Boys - 270 Haystack Rd.

Music Maker Recordings

20 tracks/77:42

There are a number of musicians, most notably the Carolina Chocolate Drops, who are renewing and revitalizing interest in dyed-in-the-wool, old-time string band music. Benton Flippen is an eighty-nine year old fiddler with over six decades of experience. His music harkens back to time when music was played for dancers, with a strong rhythm the key musical element over instrumental prowess. Flippen’s earthy style is soothing one minute, hard-driving and raw the next moment. There is no doubt that his fiddle playing has remained unchanged since the early days of his career.

His backing band, the Smokey Valley Boys, is comprised of Andy Edmonds on guitar, banjo and vocal, Frank Bode on guitar and vocal, Kevin Fore on banjo and Wesley Clifton on mandolin. This combination of instruments is more common in bluegrass than traditional old time music. The band does an outstanding job in support Flippen’s fiddle, sometimes providing musical counterpoint as Edmond’s does on “Cider” with his three-string banjo. The group never fails to envelope the fiddle with a vibrant rhythmic foundation.

On tracks like “Lost Indian”, “Sugar in the Gourd” and “Sugar Hill”, the swirling music and Flippen’s keening fiddle would fill many a dance floor in short order. The disc opens with Flippen imitating a train sound before breaking into an intense fiddle breakdown on “Lost Train Blues”. Bode lays down a solid vocal on “Sittin’ On Top of the World” with the banjo and fiddle playing off each other to great effect. His voice rings out on “Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow” after some fine guitar picking to open the cut.

Flippen more than holds his own with his younger band members. Most of the tracks sport medium to fast tempos but when the pace slows on “Wednesday Night Waltz”, the octogenarian fiddler spins a delightful melody. He navigates the faster changes of “Soppin the Gravy” with ease. His duo with Edmonds on banjo on “The Girl I Left Behind Me” is another highlight.

Benton Flippen continues the tradition of old time string music through his playing and the tutoring of younger musicians. This release shows that his efforts have not been wasted. His music doesn’t shine with flashy solos and studio production techniques. It is a music that harkens back to a bygone era - music that still resonates today for those willing to take the time to listen - or better yet, get up and dance along !!.

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

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