Issue 6-44, November 1, 2012
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Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2012 Blues Blast Magazine
In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Little Joe McLerran. Bob Kieser has photos and commentary from the Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival.
We have five music reviews for you! John Mitchell reviews a new release from Mick Kidd. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new release from Neil “Bar-B-Q” Barnes and Friends. Steve Jones reviews a new release from Wildcat O'Halloran. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new album from Peter Novelli. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD from Magic Slim. We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
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Featured Blues Interview - Little Joe McLerran
He didn’t know it at the time, but a simple act of kindness turned in when a buddy needed a favor would end up having a profound and lasting effect on his life – not to mention impacting his career as a bluesman.
But all Little Joe McLerran knew at the time was that a friend and his partner needed a ride from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Springfield, Missouri.
That friend was country blues picker Johnny Long and his 91-year-old partner was Chicago blues legend Homesick James.
“They were playing at the Tulsa Blues Festival (in 2004) and missed their ride back to Springfield (where Long and James were living). And I knew Johnny from Colorado – he’s an incredible talent and his singing is unreal – so he called me up at a friend’s house (in Tulsa) and him and Homesick was madder than hell about missing their ride,” said McLerran. “And I said, ‘OK, we’ll get in the car and I’ll drive you guys back to Springfield.’ And Homesick and I made quite a connection on that trip. He was the genuine-article blues guy. He’d been making records since the 30s. He was really quite a guy, a real sweetheart.”
That 182-mile trip down I-44 spawned a friendship between the 20-something McLerran and the 90-something James that would last right up until Homesick passed.
“We hung out after that and spent some time together. When I went to his house, it was unbelievable. I mean, it was a regular house with nothing really fancy about it,” McLerran said. “But then there’s like an autographed picture of Peetie Wheatstraw (influential bluesman who passed away in 1941) hanging on his wall. It’s like, where did you get something like that? - straight from the source, obviously.”
Homesick James not only added the ‘Little’ handle onto the front of Joe McLerran’s name, he also helped the Tulsa-based acoustic bluesman through an extremely tough time in his life.
McLerran and his younger brother Jesse were more than just flesh-and-blood, they were also musical soul-mates and by the time Joe had turned 9-years-old, the brothers had already formed a band called Buddy Hollywood and had developed quite a reputation, along with some pockets stuffed with cash, by playing the blues, along with some Beatles and Bob Marley songs, at the Pearl Street Mall in their hometown of Boulder, Colorado.
Their musical collaboration continued, even though when Joe was 15, the family moved to Tulsa. Once in T-Town, Joe became “Son Piedmont” because of the style of blues he favored and Jesse became “Washboard Jesse” after he picked up the scrub board and started hammering out tunes by Skip James and Mississippi John Hurt. The next thing you know, with their bass-playing father on board, the teen-aged McLerran boys started cutting a CD.
But during the final process for mixing that compact disc, tragedy struck when Jesse was killed in a car accident.
Naturally devastated, Joe put playing music on the backburner for well over a year; during which time he couldn’t even bring himself to listen to the tracks that he and Jesse had laid down in the studio.
“It was Homesick that got me back into playing. A friend of mine, Jim Karstein, was playing drums with Homesick at a festival in Salina, Kansas and he invited me to go up there with him so I could visit Homesick. So I spent three days hanging out at Homesick’s hotel room and he had this story about Elmore James (who was Homesick’s younger cousin) dying on his bed,” McLerran said. “And Homesick said he took a solid year off from playing music after that. So our stories were similar. But then he told me, ‘You’re the only guy out there doing this kind of stuff, Joe. You really need to get out there and do it again.’ So I thought, I might as well. But all during that year (off) I really did feel the healing power of the blues, even though I just didn’t have much desire to really go out and play gigs and anything like that. But the blues is really powerful stuff and they will make you feel better.”
Since heeding Homesick’s words of advice, McLerran hasn’t put his guitar down for seemingly more than a few minutes at a time.
Matter of fact, he’s earned quite a reputation as a ‘have guitar, will travel’ bluesman.
His recent “Blues in the Southern Hemisphere Tour,” which included stops in Paraguay and Columbia, South America, fully illustrate as much.
“I’ve just noticed with those kinds of tours that people are people, just about everywhere you go, the Middle East included. The culture, especially in the Middle East, is way different, but there’s something about the blues - even if they don’t speak English – where they can get the idea of what the song is all about,” he said. “They can tell whether the song is a happy blues tune, or whether it’s a mournful thing, just by the melody of the song itself. So the blues can relate to all sorts of people. The blues are most certainly American music, but it’s became the world’s music over the years.”
In addition to playing the blues at stops all over God’s green earth, McLerran also gives workshops and master classes on the genre at schools – from elementary to college – at all his outings, exposing the magic and history of the music to thousands of eager students.
Just the fact that the emotions of an audience of full of Bolivians or Columbians can be stirred by the guitar playing and singing of a young man born and raised in Boulder, Colorado must really mean that music is indeed the universal language.
“It absolutely is. I’ve just had wonderful experiences playing music all over the world. I was kind of blown out that in the Middle East, it was very rare to come across someone who didn’t speak English,” McLerran said. “But in South America, everyone speaks Spanish and it’s rare to find somebody that actually speaks English. In Paraguay, there are some really great blues players down there around the border of Argentina and Brazil, where all those countries met up. They really, really know their stuff.”
Gifted musicians though they may be, some of those Paraguay bluesmen probably have no earthly idea as to what kind of story the lyrics are trying to convey.
“They like the really old-time stuff like Tampa Red and Big Bill and they can really play it. But you know how the blues likes to play with words and phrases; sometimes I wonder if they really know what the meaning of those words are,” McLerran laughed. “For instance – ‘grinding scissors’ I wonder if they really know that scissors is not really what’s being talked about there?”
As would be expected, a lot of those blues musicians from Paraguay - and beyond - have hopes and aspirations of some day, some way, packing up their instruments and coming to the United States - home of the blues – to show off all they’ve learned from watching McLerran and other American bluesmen do their thing.
“They would really like to get visas and come to the States to play, and I’ve suggested that they get in touch with the Blues Foundation and start a blues society and get their help,” he said. “Since then, in Paraguay, they’ve started a blues society down there and are working with getting in on the IBC (International Blues Challenge) stuff, so that’ll be a great opportunity for those guys to get up to Memphis and see what it’s all about.”
When McLerran speaks of the opportunities presented by competing at the IBC, he knows first-hand what he’s talking about.
Representing the Blues Society of Tulsa, he won the solo-duo category at the 25th edition of the yearly challenge back in 2009.
“Eden Brent put it into good words; she said winning the IBC kind of jump-starts you career. And it sure does. You know, if you win the thing, you get all these opportunities to go and play at all these blues festivals that normally you might not have a chance to play at,” he said. “It was a tremendous boost to my career and it still is. And it’s funny, but when you meet other people that have won it, it’s like you have this instant connection or bond with them. They all kind of understand it.”
In McLerran’s case, that old adage of ‘if at first you don’t succeed …’ really hits home. He had traveled from Tulsa to Beale Street three straight years without bringing home any hardware before breaking through on attempt number four, the year he took top honors in the contest.
“That very last time that I went down there, I decided that would be my last time. And it’s really funny that I won it that time,” he said. “The first two years I went down there and it was just me and my dad - just bass and guitar. And then I brought a band with me, some guys from Tulsa, for the third year, just because I thought it would be a lot of fun to bring some friends with me. I didn’t expect to win it that year.”
That was the year (2008) that one of McLerran’s friends from Colorado – Lionel Young – won the solo competition.
“My pal Spencer Bohren was a judge that year and he said if I came back next year all by myself, there was a good chance that I might win it,” McLerran said. “So I took his advice and tried it all by myself and that’s apparently what the judges were looking for. But I felt really relaxed and put together a set list with a huge variety of stuff. I did a Professor Longhair tune and a Leroy Carr tune … I just tried to mix things up as much as possible.”
McLerran’s latest CD is entitled Facebook Blues and the title track offers a look at all the modern communication techniques we’re being bombarded with, through the eyes of someone who considers himself a step behind the rest of the free world, technology-wise.
“Well, actually, I was probably about the last person on earth to get a computer,” laughed McLerran. “While I was out in Paraguay, my wife bought a computer and when I got back home, we were all set up on Facebook and all that stuff. But I’m just so low-tech. But yeah, that’s what that (Facebook Blues) is all about – frustration with all the new technology and stuff. I’m just trying to get into the loop.”
“It’s absolutely amazing, YouTube and all that stuff – there’s videos of me on there that people from all over the world can check out. And with Facebook, I’m able to keep up with some of my friends out of the country. I don’t have to call them on the phone and that’s pretty nice. It’s really something. But to show you just how this technology is making the world a smaller place, I just got back from Columbia recently and some guys down there were showing me this YouTube video of Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown, who was just killing it, that I didn’t know existed. I’d never seen it in my life and it’s funny that it took some guys down in Columbia for me to know it was out there. That’s technology.”
Even in this day and age, it’s not totally unusual for a youngster to fall under the spell of the blues and want to pick up a guitar and play like what they might hear on the radio – namely cats like Jimi, Eric, Buddy and Stevie.
But for McLerran, those artists that he looked up to during his initial brush with the blues were a tad different and sported names like Rev. Gary Davis, Barbeque Bob and Tampa Red – cats you would be hard-pressed to run across on most radio dials.
Hearing those institutions helped fuel his infatuation with the kind of blues referred to as the Piedmont style, the style of blues made famous on the east coast and is built on deft finger-picking, owing a lot to the traditional ragtime type of playing.
“My dad was playing bass in all sorts of blues bands up in Colorado when I was a kid, and I’d go out to the gigs with him and watch those guys play and I just always thought the Piedmont style was really it. It’s really melodic sounding and really just appealed to me,” he said.
That didn’t mean, however, that after falling in love with the Piedmont blues that McLerran closed his mind and refused to let any other influences creep into his playing.
“My style is always adapting to new stuff. When I started off playing as a kid, I pretty much played that east coast, Piedmont style blues. And that sound is still coming out of my guitar, for sure,” he said. “Because that’s what I started out with. But all the different stuff I’ve learned over the years has really helped to shape my own sort of sound. It’s not so much regional-sounding anymore.”
Maybe it’s because the affinity for learning the old blues tunes of the past masters that he and his brother Jesse had are still fresh in his memory, or maybe it’s just because he doesn’t want names like Blind Blake, Josh White or Blind Boy Fuller to be forgotten. Whatever the reason, Little Joe McLerran seems intent on doing whatever it is that he can do to keep the blues and all its rich traditions alive - especially in places that are worlds away from the bustling city of Chicago or the fertile Mississippi Delta region, places where the blues are second nature to most.
You might call it Little Joe McLerran’s mission statement.
“I really love doing these educational tours, like the thing I just got done doing in Columbia and the Middle East. I just love going out and helping to spread the word about the blues and take it to the far corners of the world,” he said. “Places where people might not be familiar with blues music, but places where they’ve definitely got the blues and relate to it. I’d love to keep on doing those kinds of things.”
Visit Little Joe's website at www.littlejoeblues.com
Click pic above to hear a sample clip of Joe's Piedmont Blues.
Photos by Bob Kieser © 2012 Blues Blast Magazine
Interviewer Terry Mullins is a journalist and former record store owner whose personal taste in music is the sonic equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder. Works by the Bee Gees, Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind & Fire and Willie Nelson share equal space with Muddy Waters, The Staples Singers and R.L. Burnside in his compact disc collection. He's also been known to spend time hanging out on the street corners of Clarksdale, Miss., eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.
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Featured Blues Review 1 of 5
Mick Kidd – Rehab & Camel
12 tracks; 49.10 minutes
Mick Kidd hails from South Australia and has been playing a variety of guitar roles for more than twenty years. Included in his CV is the lead guitar role in a symphony orchestra interpretation of Pink Floyd and involvement in several Australian blues festivals. This is his second full length solo CD and Mick plays everything you hear (guitar, loops, stompboard, vocals) apart from harp which is played on four tracks by Tim Sheehan. Most of the material is studio-based but three tracks are live, including two of the three covers.
The covers are RJ’s “Crossroads” and John Brim’s “Ice Cream Man”. “Crossroads” starts with an instrumental section before the familiar riff and lyrics appear. Mick’s gruff voice works well on this song though the version here does not add anything particularly novel to the many versions we all know of this warhorse. “Ice Cream Man” is played on a resonator and the slide playing is fine though I did not like the vocal much. The third live cut finds Mick with harpist Tim playing an original composition “So Many Women”, a fast-paced number in which Mick bemoans the excessive number of women in his life, “but don’t tell my wife”! Tim’s harp keeps the momentum going well and I liked this one with its humorous take on relationships.
All the studio material is original and the results are somewhat mixed. Opener “Short Fuse Blues” is a slide-driven rocker but I never enjoy distorted vocals which are a feature of the track. “Cut You Loose” is a pleasant cut with Mick double-tracked on guitars and some quiet background harp by Tim. “Crash And Burn” rocks along nicely with a toe-tapping refrain, “Complete Unknown” has some nice slide work and harp and “State Of Mind” has a catchy riff on electric guitar which makes it perhaps the rockiest track on the album.
However, on several tracks I found Mick’s voice to be a little low in the mix, making it difficult at times to catch the words. Acoustic blues is not really my preferred area but I have to say that overall I did not find this effort sufficient to sustain my interest throughout this CD.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 2 of 5
Neil “Bar-B-Q” Barnes and Friends - This Was Then, Now
15 songs; 61:46 minutes
Styles: Traditional Electric Blues, Chicago Blues
Tech experts are excited about a projected tipping point called the “singularity,” at which technology becomes so advanced that it can literally build and program itself. Will there ever be a point in the evolution of blues music when albums can almost compose themselves? Surely not, but that’s the interesting question proposed by the title of Dublin, CA’s Neil “Bar-B-Q” Barnes on his time-capsule album, “This Was Then, Now.”
Of the fifteen 1980 - 82 vintage recordings, the five originals are excellent, solid blues offerings with an all-star studio line up. Too bad there wasn’t more of those to include. The last nine are covers recorded live in the early 1980s at various venues in the blues scene of the San Jose/ Santa Cruz CA area known as The "South Bay." One live highlight, however, is Luther Tucker singing and playing guitar on “Worried Life Blues.” Almost all of the covers are familiar to blues fans (e.g. “Got My Mojo Working,” “Sleep in a Hollow Log,” “The Mess Around,” and “Same Old Blues”). One could argue that the “blues singularity” has been reached, but Barnes explains: “The sound quality of the live recordings is a bit raw, but are included because I am fond of the songs and the musicians who performed them. I think the energy still comes through.” Indeed it does, but, again, the best offerings on this CD are the five originals. Three pack a wallop stronger than Autumn 2012’s Hurricane Sandy:
Track 03: “One More Pallbearer”--Oct. 31st Halloween and Mexico’s Day of the Dead are upon us, and this song provides the perfect atmosphere. Vocalist Hap Scott laments: “It’s going to take one more pallbearer to put you in your grave. Six will put you in the ground; it’s going to take one more just to stifle your sound!” Barnes’ harp and Bob Gomes’ Hammond B-3 organ are frighteningly good beside guests on guitar Mike “Jr.” Watson and Sonny Lane.
Track 04: “Bayshore Backup”--This perky instrumental features Mark Naftalin on piano, Bill Stuve on stand-up bass, guitarists Sonny Lane and Mike “Jr.” Watson, and Robert Montes on drums. Everyone is in full form, clapping and jiving along to the rhythms of San Francisco’s South Bay area. “Bayshore Backup’s” only flaw is that it’s too short, clocking in at three minutes--just when any dancers might be busting their biggest moves!
Track 05: “Married Man Eyes”--People know the look, especially if they themselves are hitched: “You can see it in their eyes when the weekend comes. You start discussing your plans; they tell you they can’t come. They don’t want to hear about those good times--that girl got them on the run!” Be sure and listen closely to the opening commentary and the very end, because they’re the best parts. This reviewer would like to nominate “Married Man Eyes” as 2012’s funniest blues song!
Other featured guest musicians are Ron Thompson – vocals and slide guitar, Little Willie Littlefield – piano, Francis Clay – drums, and Johnny Waters – vocals and guitar. The live tracks feature Barnes, Greg Hartman, Lex Silva, and Barnes and the Rib-Tones: Sid Morris, Hap Scott, Larry Calley, Bob Gomes, and Robert Montes.
Overall, Bar-B-Q Barnes’ efforts are far above average; they knew how to play real-deal blues.
Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 33 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Live Blues Review - Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival
I made it to the 2012 Deep Blue Innovators Festival in Monmouth, Illinois recently. This was the 6th year our friend Paul Schuytema has produced this event. Monmouth, Illinois is a seemingly short 80 miles down the expressway from home and it was my third time covering this great little festival. The fest is held in the old Rivoli Movie Theatre so the sound was great and there was literally not a bad seat in the house. This year's fest added a new convenient twist, cocktail waitresses. So you never had to leave your seat for an adult beverage all night long. Nice touch Paul!
Kicking off the show this year again was area favorite Charlie Hayes and Joel Fleming. With Hayes on guitar and vocals and Fleming providing some great harmonica, they did a good job launching this years festivities.
Scheduled next was another area artist, bluesman Fred Dixon, of Oquawka, IL. Fred Dixon's Band had to pinch hit as Fred was ill and not able to make the show. The band played a selection of pop and soul tunes but not much of anything in the way of real Blues. It was however an enjoyable set.
Scott Ainslie was next and he provided some great Delta Blues. Scott played several Robert Johnson tunes and I mean they were authentic. Johnson himself would have been impressed.
Scott also is a Blues historian and does quite a few Blues in The Schools performances and residencies teaching folks young and old about the history of Robert Johnson and other Delta Blues players. If you get the chance to hear Scott, don't pass it up!
Scheduled next was a husband and wife team known as Blue Mother Tupelo. The duo of Mikol Davis on vocals, piano and tambourine and Ricky Davis on acoustic and electric guitars led their band through an intense set of music that included Blues, Americana, and rockin' music with a heavy dash of Memphis soul. This is one talented act!
The final act for the fest was the Matthew Skoller band. His band included Billy Flynn on guitar, Felton Crews on Bass and Johnny Iguana on keyboards. All of them including Matthew played on the 2011 Raisin Records release Chicago Blues A Living History : The (R)evolution Continues. They are some of the best players in Chicago Blues today. It was a real treat to get to hear them in this great sounding old movie theatre.
The Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival is held each October. Put it on your calendar for next year!
Photos and comments by Bob Kieser © 2012 Blues Blast Magazine.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Blues Society News
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Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport. IA
Chicago singer and educator Maggie Brown will be returning to the Quad Cities for Blues in the Schools sponsotred by the Mississippi Valley Blues Society. Brown will be the MVBS Blues in the Schools artist-in residence in Quad City area schools during the week of November 26-30.
She will also appear at four open-to-the-public performances:
Monday Nov. 26, 6:30 p.m.—Davenport Public Library 6000 Eastern
Ave., Davenport, IA
For More info visit
Suncoast Blues Society - Tampa, FL
The members of the Suncoast Blues Society are proud to join the many sponsors, including the Realize Bradenton organization in sponsoring the first annual Bradenton Blues Festival. The inaugural fest will be held on Saturday, Dec.1, in downtown Bradenton in the newly redeveloped Riverwalk area along the Manatee River. Gates open at 10 a.m and music starts at 11 a.m. with the Steve Arvey Horn Band. Additional acts include Ben Prestage, Homemade Jamz, Southern Hospitality, Johnny Sansone, Dave "Biscuit" Miller, Kenny Neal and Ruthie Foster. Tickets are only $25 and can be purchased at the festival website. For more information, please go to : www.suncoastblues.org
River City Blues Society - Peoria, IL
The River City Blues Society presents John Primer at 7:00 pm Wednesday November. 7th at Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St. Pekin, Illinois Admission: $7.00 general public or $5.00 for Society Members For more info visit: www.rivercityblues.com or call 309-648-8510
Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL
The Illinois Central Blues Club presents "Blue Monday" every Monday night for the last 25 years - BLUE MONDAY SHOWS - Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:00pm $3 cover. November 5 - Studebaker John, November 12 - The Blues Deacons, November 19 - Harper, December 3 - Andrew "Jr Boy" Jones, December 10 - Hurricane Ruth, December 17 - R. J. Mischo, December 23 - Blue Sunday With The Blue Suns, December 30 - Blue Sunday With Mojo Cats And Tombstone Bullet Open Jam. More info available at icbluesclub.org
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
Friends of the Blues present 2012 shows:
Featured Blues Review 3 of 5
Wildcat O'Halloran - Cougar Bait Blues
Dove's Nest Records
OK, call me a sucker for loving bands with a swinging sound and a horn section. I had no idea who Wildcat O'Halloran was before getting this CD. He looks like a blend of Cheers' Cliff Clavin and Star Trek's Scotty with a droll sense of humor added on to boot, but he is a fine guitar player, singer, songwriter and leader of a big old band!
The CD opens with a rockabilly ditty with tackily fun lyrics. "Too Big to Cry, So I Might As Well Laugh." My favorite line is, "A whole generation growin' up to be fools, Start savin' money for bail instead of for school." Classic stuff with a bopping and rocking beat! It has to be my favorite song on the CD, but that does not mean the rest is not a fun listen. He follows with "Bottled Bravery and Canned Courage," what made him a hit with the girls and made him a man of the world. There is a trumpet solo early and a sax solo later that are both super. "If You Don't Do What I Want" gets "the delicious and nutritious Emmalyn Hicks" into the lead vocals, and then she and Wildcat get into a humorous contest of slamming each other back and forth. Once you accept their shtick, this is a great song and CD in general.
"All Your Fault" is a fun Magic Sam Cover, one of four covers on the album. "Hold On, I'm Comin'" gets greased up for this version of the cut, and Ottomatic Slim on harp does an excellent job here. "Better Luck Next Time" gets a jumpy and swinging play, and for Robert Johnson's "Come On In My Kitchen" Wildcat goes solo acoustic guitar and slows the tempo way down. The vocal duet and guitar picking are very well done for this nicely covered classic.
"Xmas Divorce" is another of Wildcat's somewhat cheesy humor songs, but he pulls it off as he struts through this music. "Cougar Bait Blues" also has more of his tongue in cheek lyrics, but the band and he really sell it. Wildcat wants to find a "Redneck Women" and put her through the blues; his guitar work here is featured and the harp and groove maintain the tone throughout. Another great harp solo is included here. My expectations for "Daisy Dukes" may have been low, but it is a tribute to the appearance of the UMass women and their preferred style of shorts. A really tight trombone solo is one of the song's highlights. O'Halloran concludes with "I Worship the Ground She Walks All Over On," more of his country fried humor. He even adds a funny aside where she'd be a keeper rooting for Johnny Damon or Rex Ryan, but Arod would be a deal breaker.
Lots of country inspiration interspersed with Wildcat's swinging blues makes for a fun CD. Yes, the songs are most often over the top tongue in cheek humor, but he sells it and I would imagine this stuff is even more fun live. If you like someone who takes his lyrics less seriously than most but still delivers a high powered sound, Wildcat O'Halloran is for you. He lists a full dozen band members in addition to himself- the horns and brass are superb, the harp is outstanding and the guitar work of he and Devin Griffiths is always well done. This one is well worth checking out!!!
Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and work with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 4 of 5
Peter Novelli – Louisiana Roots & Blues
13 tracks / 62:26
I must have listened to Peter Novelli’s Louisiana Roots & Blues a dozen times, and I hear something new each time I run through it. This is his self-released sophomore album, and it is a corker! There are thirteen solid tracks, and over an hour of quality music that is inspired by the Sportsman’s Paradise state. Though I think I hear a little Lone Star state in there too…
Peter Novelli is a class act, and a first rate guitarist and singer. He has been playing guitar since he was a kid, and was inspired by a diverse cadre of guitarists, such as B.B. King, Mike Bloomfield, Eric Clapton and Gatemouth Brown. That is a murderer’s row of 6-string talent! He is joined on this release by Chris Chew on bass, Darryl White on drums, Joe Krown on Hammond B3 and piano, and Elaine and Lisa Foster on backing vocals.
Louisiana Roots & Blues lives up to its name but you will also find some zydeco, a little swamp-style boogie and plenty of blues rock. Peter has also taken lyrical inspiration from his adopted hometown of New Orleans, and there are plenty of Crescent City references. The laid back Louisiana vibe also carries over to the tempo and you will have a hard time finding a fast track on this CD. This is cool with me because I like music that can help me wind down after a long day at work, and this one goes great with a La-Z-Boy chair, a tumbler of scotch and some strategically dimmed lights.
The album starts with “Shadow Man,” which from the first notes has some of the thickest electric guitar tone you will ever hear. After a minute or so, Peter’s vocals come in over the driving bass line, the B3 and a heavy snare. He has the ability to affect different voices to meet the needs of whatever song he is singing, and for this one he chooses a menacing growl. His first solo in the album is tasteful and restrained, fitting in perfectly with this slow blues rocker.
The next song up is “Dyin’ by the Numbers” which is sung from a coroner’s point of view as he laments the waste of life from violence, and we get to hear the Foster ladies echo his sentiments. A few guests appear on Louisiana Roots & Blues, and they are unerringly placed exactly where they need to be. On this track we are treated to the lap slide guitar of Chris Thomas King, who also appears on the next song, “Elysian Breakdown.” King provides some killer tones and melodies for the mix, and his interplay with Novelli makes for an entertaining listening experience.
If I had to choose a favorite track on this CD it would probably be “Eyes Talk” which has a lot of great elements to it, including Joe Krown’s honky-tonk piano, Novelli’s Randy Newman-esque voice, and the lovely harmonies of Elaine and Lisa Foster. This is a classic southern-fried whiskey joint blues tune. A close second would be his cover of John Hiatt’s “Lovin’ a Hurricane” which starts out with that unmistakable stacked guitar riff and delivers the goods that are expected when one re-records a beloved classic. Well done!
The most fun track is “Zydeco Lady” which has bouncy syncopated guitars and traditional Louisiana percussion and beats. The listener is treated to the accordion of Chubby Carrier who can transmit a natural tone from what had to be one of the more difficult instruments I have ever tried to play. Peter plays around a bit with Carrier as the song fades away, and they certainly work well together.
Peter gives us two instrumentals to end the CD, and they are do-overs of “Treme 3 A.M.” and “Dyin’ by the Numbers.” Without vocals these two tracks allow the listener hear how clean and smooth Mr. Novelli’s guitar style really is, not to mention Shamarr Allen’s horn. I have already added these tracks to the mix for my next party, as I think they really set a positive mood.
Louisiana Roots & Blues is packed from front to back with cleverly-written, well-performed and slickly-produced songs. You should really think about picking up a copy of the CD, and for sure get out and check out his live show. He seems to be always gigging in and around Louisiana!
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician. His blog can be found at rexbass.blogspot.com.
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Featured Blues Review 5 of 5
Magic Slim & the Teardrops - Bad Boy
There are few constants in life. Everyone has heard the old adage about death and taxes – and we all get daily reminders about sunrise and sunset. Right now some of you might want to include the one about how can you tell if a politician is lying – if his lips are moving!
Most musicians who are able to build a successful career reach a point where they decide to tempt fate and spread their wings by extending the reach of their personal musical universe. The risk is that your established audience may not understand or appreciate the new direction, breaking the bond that the musician has worked long and hard to develop.
That has never been something that Magic Slim has had to worry about in the forty-five years since he formed the Teardrops. You can always count on Slim to deliver a potent batch of hard-driving blues tunes that show no mercy. Slim has never abandoned the lessons he learned from Magic Sam, coming up with his own sound and sticking to the deep, raw blues feel that earned him a steady gig at Florence's, the legendary club on Chicago's South side, back in the 70's.
There have been plenty of members in the Teardrops over the years including Slim's late brother Nick on bass plus Alabama Jr. Pettis, John Primer and James Wheeler on guitar. No matter who is in the band, they have always delivered a tight groove with a propulsive drive that just won't quit. The other constants are Slim's muscular vocals and his vibrato-laden, biting guitar tone that separates him from the pack.
All the pieces are in place on the title track, which opens the proceedings in fine fashion with Slim's gritty vocal playing off the backing vocals from the Teardrops. Bass player Andre Howard's voice sounds almost angelic compared to the leader's dark tone as they share the lead on Denise's LaSalle's “ Someone Else Been Steppin' In”. Slim's jagged guitar lines are a highlight on Detroit Jr.'s “I Got Money” while on “Sunrise Blues”, a Slim original, the Teardrops settle into one of their patented, steady-rolling grooves while Slim details his pain over issues with his woman. The pace picks up on 'Girl What You Want Me to Do” with BJ Jones laying down a fast shuffle beat.
Other highlights include a stellar take of Roy Brown's “Hard Luck Blues” with more of Slim's trademark guitar and a spell-binding rendition of Muddy Water's “Champagne and Reefer”. Another original, “Gambling Blues”, provides a memorable kick. The band steamrolls their way through Lil' Ed's “Older Woman” while Slim once again shows that, even at the age of seventy-five, he can still wrestled plenty of primal sounds from his guitar. Slim and rhythm guitarist Jon McDonald trade licks on the closing instrumental, “Country Joyride”.
If you have been a long-time fan, you know exactly what to expect from this release – and Magic Slim does not disappoint. Currently, he is probably the best at playing the traditional style of electric blues, when the music made the jump from the Delta to the city. This one should be played loud – and comes strongly recommended!
Reviewer Mark Thompson retired after twelve years as president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. and moved to Florida. He has been listening to music of all kinds for over fifty years. Favorite musicians include Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Magic Slim, Magic Sam, Charles Mingus and Count Basie.
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