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Hey Blues Fans,
Those of you who watch the annual Grammy Awards broadcast are already aware that the show includes performance of the nominees of the current crop of pop music stars, country, rock and roll, rap and other of the most popular musicals styles. Unfortunately performances by artists nominated in styles of music like Blues, bluegrass, folk and zydeco are not included in the actual TV broadcast. These music styles always get to perform and receive their awards BEFORE the TV broadcast actually starts.
This year you can actually see these performances as the happen in a live stream on the Grammy website and on youtube.
Scheduled to perform in this live pre-telecast program are Buddy Guy, Cyndi Lauper, Maria Muldaur, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Trombone Shorty, Mavis Staples and many others.
The 53rd Annual GRAMMY® Awards Pre-Telecast Ceremony will take place on Sunday, February 13 from 1 – 4 p.m. PT at the Los Angeles Convention Center and will be streamed live internationally on www.grammy.com/live and www.youtube.com/thegrammys beginning at 1 p.m. PT. The live stream of the Pre-Telecast will remain on GRAMMY.com as video on demand for 30 days following the event.
Be sure to check it out!
RIP Marvin Sease and Gary Moore
From our good friend Bob Corritore comes news of the passing of Soul Bluesman Marvin Sease.
"RIP Marvin Sease February 16, 1946 - February 8, 2011. Marvin, a well travelled "Chitlin' Circuit" performer, died Tuesday February 8th, in Vicksburg, Mississippi while battling pneumonia. He would have celebrated his 65th birthday next Wednesday. Born in Blackville, S.C., Sease began singing gospel music with a local group the Five Gospel Crowns. Marvin moved to New York in 1966 and performed with his brothers in the group Seas, before going solo. He became popular performing regularly at Brooklyn's Casablanca club in the 1970s.
Sease recorded his first album, self-titled, in 1986 on his own Early Label. The record featured the song "Ghetto Man," a year later, when he signed with Polygram, it was expanded to include his signature song the racy "Candy Licker." Marvin Sease cut close to 20 albums for major labels although his songs were often considered too explicit for radio. His last album, "Who's Got the Power," was released in 2008."
Also the passing of Blues Rock artist Gary Moore was reported by Reverend Keith A. Gordon.
"The Internet was buzzing last night with news of the death of British blues-rock guitarist Gary Moore. Moore passed away on Sunday, February 6, 2011 at the age of 58 while on vacation in Spain. While it is thought that Moore died of a heart attack, Spanish authorities have ordered an autopsy to confirm the cause of death.
It is as a bluesman that Moore will be remembered, the talented guitarist first returning to the form with 1990's critically-acclaimed and commercially successful Still Got The Blues album. Moore would continue in the same blues-rock vein with 1992's After Hours and 1993's Blues Alive. In 1995, Moore honored his mentor with the Blues For Greeny album, a tribute to fellow guitarist Peter Green. After delving back into hard rock and a little guitar experimentation for a couple of albums, Moore's 2001 album Back To The Blues would provide the blueprint for the remainder of Moore's career. Moore's last album was 2008's Bad For You Baby."
Blues Blast Magazine made to Memphis for the finals of 2011 International Blues Challenge last weekend . The winners of the band category were The Lionel Young Band. Second place went the the Mary Bridget Davies band. Third place and the award for best guitarist in the Blues Challenge competition went to Rob Blaine.
We will have complete coverage of all the band finalists in next weeks issue. STAY TUNED!
In This Issue
This week we begin our coverage of the Legendary Blues Cruise. Part one this week is a collaboration by John Mitchell and Marilyn Stringer.
Our Blues Video this week is a clip of Marvin Sease. We have four Blues music reviews this week! James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new DVD from Watermelon Slim & The Workers. Steve Jones reviews a new CD by Cal Williams Jr. Ian McKenzie reviews a new CD by Catfish Keith. George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish reviews a new CD by The Robin Thrush Jr. Band. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
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Featured Blues Review 1 of 4
Watermelon Slim & The Workers - Live at the Ground Zero Blues Club DVD
16 Songs - 1 hour 50:05 minutes; Bonus materials including a full hour interview
Rating: Library Quality
Styles: Modern Electric Blues; Traditional Blues; a cappella Hollers
Here is my attempt for Understatement of the Millennium: “Bill “Watermelon Slim” Homans is an American original and national treasure.”
From an interview on this DVD, Homans says of himself, “I’m a working class, master-of-none-type, grunt labor, rural person.” The interviewer’s immediate retort is, “Who also taught history.” Those two statements illustrate the paradox Homans seems to embody.
Consider: this Bluesman and his band garnered seventeen Blues Music Award nominations in four years including a record-tying six in both 2007 and 2008. In 2008, Slim and the Workers won the Blues Foundation’s Band of the Year Award. Only the likes of B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Robert Cray have landed six in a year, and Slim is the only blues artist in history with twelve in two consecutive years. But ... Watermelon Slim has been everything but a full time musician. He’s been a soldier, truck driver, forklift operator, sawmiller (where he partially lost a finger), firewood salesman, teacher, collection agent, funeral officiator, watermelon farmer, and, at times, a small time criminal.
Musically, Homans has built a remarakble reputation with his raw, impassioned intensity. Predominantly left handed, he learned to play guitar in a hospital bed in Vietnam as a wounded soldier in that war. Resting the guitar across his lap, he used a slide in his right hand. With his band, he plays with his guitar on a folding stand in front of him with a variety of slides and “mojo hands” laid out. Solo, he plays his National resonator on his lap.
He also plays a killer harp when inspired, and he writes some incredibly real and earthy songs. His vocals are gruff and sound as beat-up and road weary as his face looks.
This DVD, nominated Best Blues DVD for the 2011 Blues Music Awards, is priceless for its insights and showcasing of this American treasure. This first ever Watermelon Slim DVD of a live performance was filmed May 12, 2007, in one of the most storied Blues clubs in America -- Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale MS. This concert features special guest appearances by Charlie Musselwhite, Big George Brock, and Jimbo Mathus.
Further adding to the paradox, this gruff Bluesman is dressed in an ivory colored three piece suit with hat and shoes to match. The band is also well represented, but the overall delivery is loose and good natured as though they had no idea a DVD was being filmed. The camera crew used multiple units to get great band shots and close ups of Slim’s studied looks and song intro stories.
Song standouts include: “Devil’s Cadillac” with Slim’s unique tuning, the socially conscious “Black Water,” “Who’s Gonna Pay” featuring a harp duet with Big George Brock, and “Buick Fifty-Nine” with Charlie Musselwhite.
Most entertaining and revealing is the near hour long interview. In it, a passionate about politics and issues Slim says that he may enter politics to run for office if he ever gets a full set of teeth.
If you are passionate about the Blues and those contemporaries who perform it, one can not write Watermelon Slim off as a weirdo. Look beyond the surface, dig the songs, and especially listen to the interview. This guy is as real as a rough hewn oak beam used in Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood cabin..
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 www.wkccradio.org 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 Video Of The Week
Blues Society News
You can submit a maximum of 125 words or less in a Text or MS Word document format.
Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford, IL
On Friday, March 18th the Crossroads Blues Society presents Blues in the
Schools (BITS) Wine Tasting Fund Raiser at Artale Wine Co. 6876 Spring Creek
Rd # 128, Rockford, IL 61114-7405. The event will be held from 5:30 PM to
8:30 PM. Tickets are $15. Food will be provided by Joesph Barbados/Pearl and
a karge assortment of wines will be available to sample. Tickets are
available at the store whose hours are 10 AM to 9 PM daily except Sunday
when the hours are 11 AM to 6 PM.
Colorado Blues Society - Boulder, CO
On Feb 13, 2011 please join CBS for an afternoon of Blues and Heart Awareness at Jazz at Jacks in the Denver Pavillions (500 16th Street Suite 320 Denver, Colorado 303-433-1000) . National recording Blues star, Deanna Bogart is headlining the event. Deanna, the 'Girl in the Band', is a multi talented award-winning pianist, writer, songstress and saxophone player, who has performed with the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise Revue in addition to fronting her own outstanding band. Joining Deanna on the marquee are three extremely talented Colorado Blues bands: Papa Juke, the Delta Sonics, and Eef & She Grooves.
In addition to a fabulous Blues lineup, the afternoon will present valuable information on cardiovascular disease and strokes. There will be an AHA informational booths and Heart Check America will provide free heart scans to emphasize the importance of heart health awareness and early detection. There will also be silent auctions and raffles with some pretty amazing prizes.
The funds raised will be presented to AHA and will go towards public health education, early detection, research and community service. Tickets are $20. www.coblues.com
The Grafton Blues Association - Grafton, WI
The Grafton Blues Association & the Cedarburg Cultural Center will present Tinsley Ellis on Thursday March 24 at the Cedarburg Cultural Center. Doors open at 6pm show starts at 7pm. Food and drink will be available for purchase. Tickets are $14 in advance for GBA and CCC members, $15 in advance for non-members and $17 at the door for everyone. For more info visit - www.graftonblues.org
Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, IA
The Mississippi Valley Blues Society will celebrate Black History Month by bringing Chicago blues guitarist, singer, educator, and actor Doktu Rhute Muuzic to the Quad-Cities February 7-11 for the third of four residencies of the 2010/2011 Blues in the Schools Artists in Residence series. Doktu Rhute will conduct workshops at ten area schools and three free, open-to-the-public performances. He will present a program of music and song that incorporates blues history with the world today. The free, open-to-the-public performances are: Tuesday Feb. 8 at 7 p.m.—Borders in Davenport, Wednesday Feb. 9 at 5 p.m. —Mojo’s in the River Music Experience, 2nd and Main in Davenport and Thursday Feb. 10 at 3 p.m.—Bettendorf Public Library. www.mvbs.org
The Great Northern Blues Society - Wausau, WI
The Great Northern Blues Society in Wausau, WI will be hosting their annual fundraising event “Blues Café’”, on Saturday 3/26/11 at the Rothschild Pavilion. (Near Wausau, WI)
Performing will be Jumpship Blues Band, 12 Year Old Tallan Noble Latz, Red White & Blues Band, Young British Blues Diva Joanne Shaw Taylor, and Atlanta Based Blues Guitar Flamethrower Tinsley Ellis. The Fun Starts at 1:00PM. $13 in advance, $18 at the door. Bulk ticket rates also available. For more info see www.gnbs.org
West Virginia Blues Society - Charleston, WV
The West Virginia Blues Society presents the Charlie West Blues Fest May 20 & 21, 2011 in Haddad Riverfront Park, Charleston, WV Here is the lineup: Friday May 20 - Sit Down Baby, Izzy & Chris, Mojo Theory, Lil Bryan & The Travelers, Davina & the Vagabonds and Joe Louis Walker. Sat. May 21- IBC Band Winner, Slim Fatz, Trampled Under Foot, Sean Carney, Kristine Jackson, Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King and Ana Popovich. The Charlie West Blues Fest is produced by the West Virginia Blues Society, Inc. www.wvbluessociety.org and www.charliewestbluesfest.com
The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society - Marietta, Ohio
The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society will host the 19th Annual River City Ohio Blues Competition on February 18 & 19, 2011, at the historic Lafayette Hotel in Marietta. Blues Bands and Solo/Duo blues acts will compete for cash prizes and BJFMS sponsorship to the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, TN, in early 2012.
Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL
The Illinois Central Blues Club 25th Anniversary Celebration is Saturday,
March 5, 2010, at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 2200 S. Meadowbrook,
Springfield, IL from 7:30 pm to 12:00 am.
This event serves as a fund raiser for the ICBC’s “Blues in the Schools” programs which bring live blues music and oral history of the blues to children and adults in the community. The admission fee is $8.00 for members and $10 for non-members. For more info contact Mark Edmiston at 217-679-0721 or visit www.icbluesclub.org
Also BLUE MONDAY SHOWS - Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $3 cover. Feb 14 - Dave Lumsden Blues Band, Feb 21 - Kilborn Alley, Feb 28 - Bruce Katz. icbluesclub.org
Featured Blues Review 2 of 4
Cal Williams Jr - All That I Learned From The Sea
I never judge an album or a book by its cover, but this one certainly matches up well. Cal Williams Jr is an acoustic folk and blues artist whose music style hearkens back to the folk movement of the 1960’s; the CD cover also has quite a retro look and feel to it, adding to its charm. Williams’ vocals reminded me at times of Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson from the early Canned Heat days. He hits high notes in a manner that brought back memories of Wilsons’ “Goin’ Up Country” and other great songs. Hailing from Australia and playing a lot in the UK, Williams has little exposure to US audiences. He is a three time winner of Songwriter of the Year in South Australia and has received many accolades in the UK and Australia, and it is quite apparent why he has when I listened to this CD.
Williams guitar work is impeccable. He fingers notes effortlessly and adds depth to his sound on the low end. He also sings with great conviction. He wrote 7 of the 10 songs here and they are quite good. “Coal Town” opens the set; he picks and bounces through this one and hauntingly sings about going down to Coal Town to find his love. It’s a great lead off song to set the tone for the rest of the CD. The vocals in “New York Central” even more so reminded me of Wilson than the first track. He picks away while singing in an almost haunting manner. I was hooked by the end of the second track.
“Northern Line” is a very folksy slower love song that evokes simpler places and times. I see myself back in the Student Union building at college or in a coffee shop in NYC listening to folk artists sing of their loves and lives. “The Sea” continues in that vein, but then “Geshe La” offers an interesting contrast. It reminds me a bit of the melodic lines the Doobie Brothers “Black Water”. This in an instrumental track and the music flows and gives the impressions more of the majesty of the sea with waves crashing ashore than the song title. Geshe La is a high level Buddhist monk position, requiring 20 years study and then 6 or 7 more years of particular study to attain. In either case, the song is an excellent one. “Pallet On The Floor” follows, a lighter and bouncier hill country styled track with spoons slapping to keep time.
“In Perfect Light” and “Far Side of You” are softer, more ethereal back to back songs. “Ghost of Banjo” features a very cool violin overlaid with Williams’s guitar in a pleasant and lilting Celtic-like instrumental. The violin continues into the final track, a cover of “Lay My Burden Down”. Williams is joined by harmonizing female backing vocals in a nice rendition of this traditional piece.
Kory Horwood plays double bass and sings, Manny Kechayas is on jazz kit, udu and Cajon, Anthony Pak Poy plays guitar, ukulele, and electric bass, Dee Trewartha is the fiddler and sings, and Emily Davis sings on this fine little CD. I can’t really call this traditional blues; this really is more of folk album, but it is well done and delivered with heart. I enjoyed the album as will folk music fans.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Legendary Rhythm And Blues Cruise January 2011 - Part One
By John Mitchell [with additional comments and photos by Marilyn Stringer]
The Blues Cruise is a Blues institution, now in its sixteenth year and increasingly popular, as those who try to get on one will testify. The returning cruisers already account for 70% of the places, so just getting on the boat is an achievement. However, once you’re there it’s a Blues Mecca, the main problem being hard choices, with great bands all over the boat. So, having been asked to report on the cruise for Blues Blast, I’ll try to give you a flavor of the experience.
In reality the cruise starts with a pre-cruise party organized by the fine people at the South Florida Blues Society who state that as long as the cruise departs from Fort Lauderdale they will run the party. This year we were welcomed at 5.00 pm by Piano Bob and John Carey who entertained everyone as they arrived. The evening show featured Reverend Raven And The Smokin’ Altar Boys and Bryan Lee who provided an excellent evening. The Reverend and his band were clearly ready to party and had the dancers up from the first number. Featuring superb sax player Big Al Groth, The Reverend played a good selection of predominantly up-tempo material with a good representation from their recent CD “Shake Your Boogie” which I had the pleasure of reviewing for Blues Blast recently.
Bryan Lee – The Braille Blues Daddy” – from New Orleans brought us a flavor of the Crescent City with crowd favourites such as “Congo Square” and invited guest Michael Burks to join in for the final set of the night, giving us a taste of the jams to come on the cruise.
Saturday passes slowly as the inevitable boarding processes take place, but once everyone is on board and accounted for the sail away is set for 5.00 pm. [The Sailaway BBQ is hosted by Rick Estrin -his personal recipes - and the Sailaway Toast starts the cruise each year]
This year the honor of starting the whole thing off fell to Rick Estrin And The Nightcats who immediately set the tone for the week with an exciting set, guitarist Kid Anderson demonstrating his skills and a verve for showmanship to act as a foil to Rick’s hipster persona, harmonica playing and witty songs. The large crowd joined enthusiastically in Rick’s advice to a prospective partner to “Dump That Chump”. I was so drawn into the music that I did not notice that we had crossed the harbor limit and were already well out to sea. [Bass: Lorenzo Farrell]
Janiva Magness kicked things off on the Main Stage with her regular band featuring Zach Zunis on guitar. Janiva is a scintillating and sexy performer who wears her heart on her sleeve. She dedicated her set to the memory of Robin Rogers who had been scheduled to appear on the cruise before she became ill and for whom the cruise office staff all wore commemorative T shirts on Day 1.
Two bands who were new to me appeared in the evening so I split my time between them. Big James And The Chicago Playboys were outside on the Pool Deck providing a high octane set and it was good to hear the horns punching out the riffs. The band mixed classic Chicago blues with their own material and I particularly noted the dance routines of the front men! [Guitar: Michael Wheeler, Trombone: Big James, Trumpet: Charles Pryor, Bass: Larry Williams, KB: Joseph Blocker, Drums: Cleotis Cole, Jr.]
At the same time Terrance Simien brought the party to the Main Stage with his Zydeco Experience. Not only Cajun but also a touch of reggae influence to my ears. A huge crowd was all up and dancing for this one! The set featured his daughter, Marcella, on vocals on one number who sounds like she will also have a future in the business if she wants it. [Guitar: Jose Alvarez, KB: Danny Williams, Bass: Stan Chambers, Frottoir: Ralph Fontenot, Drums: Keith Sonnier]
Closing Day 1 on the Main Stage Kenny Wayne Shepherd encountered a few technical issues at the start of his set but overcame them to entrance the audience with a good mix of his own material from across all his albums as well as a selection of classic blues such as “I’m A King Bee”. As he usually does, he closed with an extended tour de force version of Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” to leave the audience exhausted but satisfied. [Vocals: Noah Hunt]
[While Kenny Wayne & Noah Hunt left the crowd in a frenzy, The Taj Mahal Trio brought the Pool Deck crowd his beloved set of long time favorites. Everyone found something to dance to. Taj Mahal: Vocals, Bass: Bill Rich, Drums: Kester Smith]
However, for those with the strength and endurance the jam session on the Pool Deck had just started with Tommy Castro hosting. Michael Burks, Janiva Magness, Todd Sharpville, Damon Fowler and Bob Margolin were among the jammers while I was there before heading to the all night piano bar where Eden Brent was entertaining the cruisers with her mix of boogie piano and effervescent personality. As Eden took a short break at 3.00 am I made for bed, but Eden assured the crowd that she fully intended to see in the daylight before closing up! [And this photographer hit the jam and then bed-missed Eden. Jam photos featured in next issue]
Day 2 starts early on the cruise as there are two sessions starting at 10.30. These are parties for Returnees and for first timers (“Virgins” in cruise-speak) and always offer a surprise musical accompaniment to the complementary mimosas or Bloody Marys. To my personal delight the returnees were entertained by special guest Lonnie Brooks playing with his son Ronnie Baker Brooks’ band. [And to top off the fun, it was Ronnie's birthday.]
The virgin party was hosted by Big James And The Chicago Playboys, themselves new to the boat, plus “virgin” guests including Gina Sicilia [and Dave Gross (from Debbie Davies band), Damon Fowler, and Mike "Shinetop Jr" Sedovic (new keyboard player from Trampled Under Food)]
Gina was not given much rest because immediately afterwards she was back on stage with Debbie Davies. Debbie had suffered an accident and apologized for sitting down for her set but that did not diminish her excellent playing. Debbie should have shared the stage with Robin Rogers and dedicated her set to Robin’s memory. Backed by her regular drummer Don Castagno, she had New York guitarist Dave Gross playing bass on this occasion and Gina Sicilia sittin' in to sing beautifully on a selection of her own material as well as an excellent cover of Robin Roger’s “Time For Myself”. Also sitting in for a couple of songs was Todd Sharpville, another special guest on the boat who was very visible around the stages all week. [Once again, this photographer was at another part of the boat conducting a photography workshop with the two other staff photographers and missed this performance]
Faced with a very difficult choice of what to see next, we opted to stay by the Pool Deck to see Bob Margolin. On this occasion Bob had up and coming guitarist Matt Hill playing bass and regular drummer Chuck Cotton driving the beat. Mac Arnold joined the fray to sing a selection of classic covers from the likes of Muddy Waters and Bobby Bland. Mac played bass also, as well as a guitar made from an oil can!
Running the set as a sort of jam session, Bob invited Sweet Betty (from the Music Makers Sisters Of The South Review) to sing a number about drinking brown liquor, which Betty proceeded to do literally, to the applause of the crowd up front! Matt Hill took centre stage to sing his own “Red Boots” and a cover of AC/DC’s “Hellz Bellz”, both taken from his recent “On The Floor” CD. Matt demonstrated why he is being talked about a lot with a dynamic performance, especially on a cover of a Nappy Brown tune where he reprised Nappy’s trick of singing while on his back on the floor!
Staying put after Bob’s set proved a good move as we managed the best seats in the house for the Legendary Rhythm And Blues Cruise Review. For those not familiar with this review, the notion came directly from the cruise where the array of musicians on the boat always provides some great jams. Tommy Castro had the idea of taking the concept ashore and has produced the Review at festivals on land.
So what you get is The Tommy Castro Band with a selection of guests, on this occasion Magic Dick from the J Geils Band playing his dramatic harp, Deanna Bogart providing her triple threat of voice, piano and sax and Michael Burks on guitar. In addition another special guest on the cruise Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy joined in on one number. Matt looked quite frail and needed assistance to reach the stage, but once there he played like a demon, bringing a huge smile to Michael Burks’ face. A word too about MB who was also all over the boat and produces such great tone on his guitar, as well as being a real gentle giant, one of the true gentlemen of the blues. [When Michael played with the Revue, he brought his drummer, Popcorn Louden, along with him].
As ever, Tommy’s band gave stellar support throughout and the sight of Keith Crossan, Deanna Bogart and Tom Poole trading solos on the final number “I Feel That Old Feeling Coming On” was a definite highlight for me.
So all that happened in 48 hours after arriving at the pre-cruise party! Further highlights during the week included a CD Release party for Trampled Under Foot, the sheer entertainment of the Sisters Of The South review organized by the Music Makers, a horn-heavy set from Keith Crossan and friends in the Crows Nest, Taj Mahal’s spellbinding talk on the history of the blues and daily jam sessions with a long line of guitar slingers waiting to join the fray.
A report like this can only scratch the surface of the week on board, but if it whets your appetite to take the cruise, my advice is “don’t hesitate, sign up immediately”!
Reviewer John Mitchell is a British blues enthusiast, currently recovering from his week on the blues Cruise.
Marilyn Stringer is a freelance photographer and frequent Blues Blast contributor. All of Marilyn's cruise photos can be found - (eventually) - at MJStringerPhoto.com.
Featured Blues Review 3 of 4
Catfish Keith - Live at the Half Moon
Fish Tail Records
75mins 30 secs
This is a CD of two legends. The first is the venue. The Half Mon is a pub in south west London in the suburb (many Americans would call it a subdivision) known as Putney. It is one of London’s best known and longest established live music venues and has over the years hosted every one from Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, the influential blues artist Champion Jack Dupree and Arthur Crudup to the Stones, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Alexis Korner, The Yardbirds – and as they say, many, many more; Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry, Taj Mahal, Frankie Ford, Memphis Slim and Eddie Floyd. The list goes on.
The second legend is the musician himself. Do they still call people ‘guitar heroes’? If they do Catfish Keith is definitely one of them.
Playing a National Resophonic baritone guitar, a custom made (Flammang) parlour guitar and using a stomp board throughout, Keith plays and stomps his way through thirteen tracks the outstanding of which is the medley Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground / By And By I'm Going To See The King, a kind of tribute to Blind Willie Johnson which echoes, but does not slavishly copy the originals and is stunning in both its simplicity and its power. Beautiful is a word that springs to mind.
Other outstanding tracks are Mr Catfish’s Advice, which is a rhythmic masterpiece (played on the custom parlour guitar) and stunning version of You To Move which is a serious re-working of the old gospel original that is both simple and complex. (One of the strange things about the guitar is that things that sound simple are often very hard to play and things that sound complex are also difficult to play!) Check out the Blind Willie McTell Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning for proof of that. That one has one of those moments where the audience is stunned to silence for a couple of micro-seconds after the music stops; always the proof of a masterful performance.
Adaptations of music/songs here from Jessie May Hemphill, Rev Robert Wilkins, Rev Gary Davis, Skip James, Fred McDowell, John Hurt, Bukka White and (no lie here) Jack Teagarden.
The whole gig was recorded on DAT and transferred to CD. The is a nice ambience in the venue that reminds me a bit of the live echo achieved by John Hammond Jr when he recorded a whole CD in a church in New York city. Perhaps that should not be a surprise as the venue is like hallowed ground to many of us.
This is Catfish’s 15th CD. It is IMHO, one of his very best!.
Reviewer Ian McKenzie lives in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South (www.bluesinthesouth.com) a monthly flier providing news, reviews, a gig guide and all kinds of other good stuff, for people living and going to gigs along the south coast of England. Ian is also a blues performer (see www.myspace.com/ianmckenzieuk) and has a web cast regular blues radio show on www.phonic.FM in Exeter (Wednesdays: 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central, 10am Pacific).
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 4 of 4
The Robin Thrush Jr. Band - Music City Jam, Live in the Studio
11 tracks - Total time: 66:36
The mid- and late 1960s found the melding of traditional electric blues with the new sounds emerging from rock ‘n’ roll that created a new rock genre, blues-rock. Propelled by young guitarists who loved the blues and played in rock bands, the genre came into its own at the hands of those such as Eric Clapton and Cream, Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin, and Alvin Lee and Ten Years After, with Lee immortalizing the genre through his filmed performance on the Woodstock movie. Blues–rock was characterized above all by young dynamo guitarists such as these, whose virtuosity and creativity pushed the electric guitar to its technical limits in playing that depended on long guitar solos; indeed, one way to characterize blues-rock vocal numbers is that they are long, extended guitar solos with vocal breaks, instead of the standard other-way-around. Robin Thrush Jr. and Music City Jam, Live in the Studio are squarely in this tradition. Still a teenager of only 19 when he recorded Music City Jam in 2009, Robin Thrush Jr. first began playing guitar at three, has fronted the Robin Thrush Jr. Band since 2000, and played at both the Sarasota Blues Festival and the King Biscuit Blues Festival in 2004. Lead vocalist and guitarist with the Robin Thrush Jr. Band, he is backed by David Richardson on drums and father Robin Thrush Sr. on bass.
This means that Music City Jam, Live in the Studio, the Band’s third CD, is a blues-rock recording rather than a blues recording that rocks, and is essentially a showcase for Thrush Jr.’s guitar playing, which is quite technically adept and impressive. The rhythm section of Richardson and Thrush Sr. is solid and supportive, providing unobtrusive rockish underpinnings. While blues-rock has never been particularly characterized by emotional depth and nuance in its vocals, Robin Thrush Jr.’s vocals are emotive within the general confines of a genre that’s more guitar-driven than vocal-driven, and where songs for performance are chosen more for their simpler lyrics that lend themselves to easy repetition than anything else. Yet given this, Music City Jam, Live in the Studio is far from uninteresting or emotionally flat. Robin Thrush Jr.’s vocals project appropriate desperation on track 2, “Parchment Farm,” the band’s version of Mose Allison’s adaptation of the Bukka White classic; Bod Diddley’s “Who do You Love,’ track 4, is given a sinister edge; and Thrush spits out the lyrics to “Spoonful,” track 10, with declamatory assertiveness.
Music City Jam starts out frenetically with Big Joe Williams’s “Baby Please Don’t Go,” and gives a psychedelic feel to Hound Dog Taylor’s arrangement (from the Beware of the Dog! album) of B.B. King’s “Rock Me Baby,’ track 5. The same psychedelic rock approach fuels Thrush Jr.’s approach to Memphis Slim’s classic instrumental, “Steppin’ Out,’ track 9. Robin Thrush Sr. does the vocals on a Cream tune, “Sleepy Time Time,” track 8, and fittingly enough, the final track is a rendition of blues-rock pioneer Alvin Lee’s “Woke Up This Morning.” “Woke Up This Morning” combines with a Robin Thrush Jr. Band original, “MC Jam #11,” for an extended track that’s 11 minutes and 10 seconds long. The same is done with “Who Do You Love,” where the Diddley number flows into “MC Jam #4” on a track that’s 14 minutes and 16 seconds long. In fact, nine of the CD’s 11 tracks are longer than four minutes each, and four of them are longer than five minutes each—yet the length never renders any track here overlong or boring. Music City Jam, Live in the Studio does indeed flow well, and Thrush’s long guitar jams always carry the listener’s attention. Rounding out the tracks are three more Robin Thrush Jr. Band instrumental originals: track 3, “MC Jam #3,” track 6, “MC Jam #6,” and track 7, “Music City Blues,” which builds around variations on a standard slow blues melodic line. Music City Jam provides the listener with music moods and approaches that vary from frenetic to lyrical, pensive melancholy to exuberant rock, all highlighted by guitar mastery from young Thrush. If one likes blues-rock, one will indeed like Music City Jam, Live in the Studio.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.
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