Issue 6-47, November 23, 2012
Scroll or Page Down! For news, photos, reviews, links & MUCH MORE in this issue!
Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2012 Blues Blast Magazine
In This Issue
A.J. Wachtel has our feature interview with Reba Russell.
We have five music reviews for you! Mark Thompson reviews a new release from Milton Hopkins & Jewel Brown. James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new release from Little Joe McLerran. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new release from The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new album from Dorothy Moore. John Mitchell reviews a new CD from Ron Hacker. We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
From The Editor's Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
We want to remind you of our upcoming Blues Overdose Issue next week. On the last Thursday of each month Blues Blast Magazine is featuring free Blues music downloads from some of the best new artist releases.
Next Thursday will feature new downloads from Teeny Tucker, Eddie Shaw, Shaun Murphy, Matthew Curry and several other artists.
Also remember there are 10 tracks from our October 26th Blues Overdose issue still available until this Sunday November 25th including tracks from John Primer, Nellie "Tiger" Travis, Nick Moss, Eddie Turner Kilborn Alley and Zac Harmon! Click HERE to get this Free Blues music now!
Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!
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Featured Blues Interview - Reba Russell
The first time you hear this woman sing you will be impressed with the passion in her voice. Every note that comes out of her mouth is intensely personal and you feel it the moment you hear it. The second time you hear this woman you will become a fan for life. Listen to the way they do it down South.
Blues Blast: Growing up in Memphis what artists did you listen to and who influenced your style?
Reba Russell: When I moved to Memphis I was around 13 years old I listened to Joyce Cobb, Jimi Jamison, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Isaac Hayes ,Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Beatles, Pink Floyd ...so rock artists and soul and blues artists were my main influences. I am a completely self taught musician and vocalist and had I not been in Memphis while I was discovering music, I am not sure I would be a working musician, Memphis taught me how to play and sing with wild unapologetic abandon.
BB: You've travelled the world for the past 20 years playing festivals in North America and Europe. What gigs stand out most in your mind and why?
RR: I dig playing everywhere and to everyone! However, there are 3 places that have specifically motivated or taught me something about my ability to move an audience. The King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Arkansas. Standing in the middle of downtown Helena in the middle of the Mississippi Delta watching people like Frank Frost, Pine Top, Sam Lay, Sam Carr, Erma Thomas, Bobby Rush, Bob Margolin, James Cotton ..well, that will learn ya a thing or two! Then being asked to play...it made me realize that the ground one stands on there in the Delta does magically transform us. Then there is Europe! Those audiences are unbelievably attentive. Every little club and festival we play in Europe is so intense. If I had to single one out, it would be a place called the Banana Peel in Ruselade, Belgium. That club is the closest thing to a juke joint in Europe. The people are sitting right at your feet. They get sweat slung on 'em, spit shot across 'em, beer spilled on 'em and they love it! We also adore playing in Canada! Our show last year at the Labott Fest in Edmonton was off the chain. I am currently looking into licensing that performance for a live album. Canadians are very loyal to the blues.
BB: Your current five-piece electric blues band plays like a tight fist. What is the common denominator in your band that produces such a powerful performance?
RR: Well of course the answer to that is... my monstrous power of motivation! Ha!, It is our love for the music and each other that creates our sound. Everybody is the star in our band. No one person is more important than the other.
BB: You've released 6 CD's in the past 10 years. Is all the music similar or how have you evolved as a band in the past decade?
RR: I've released a total of 8 CD's. The last 4 are with my current band. I would say that the music is similar on all of them because it 's mostly the same songwriters. Myself, my bassist (husband) Wayne, Robert Tooms (keys/harp) and various great Memphis/local songwriters, However, i think the intensity has cranked up on my part for sure over the past 5 years. Aging will do that for you. Seems I became less distracted from the outside world. The real evolution has been in band members. When Josh Roberts and Doug McMinn joined Wayne, Robert and I in 2004 things really took off in a much more serious direction.
BB: Your range is impressive and you can go from full-throttle roadhouse to slow-burning introspective blues. Are you more comfortable singing one style over the other?
RR: Nope...I just sing. If I love and believe in the song I can pretty much go where I need to get it across. I also love so many types of music that I may have developed a less restricted style than some.
BB: You play as Reba and Friends every Sunday night at Neil's in Memphis. What can a newcomer expect walking into your show for the first time?
RR: One could expect a loose and fun evening. I play guitar but I am not by any stretch of the imagination a "guitarist!" I basically butcher all the songs I play! One would hear songs ranging from Led Zeppelin, Neil Young , Dolly Parton, Joni Mitchell along with all my blues material , some gospel, and my originals. It is totally a mixed bag of anything goes. My pals who share the night with me also do all sorts of music and we usually end up harmonizing and sharing songs. It's a hoot!
BB: You've cut your teeth in Memphis and Mississippi. How is the blues scene different down South than up North in Chicago and Detroit? Is audience expectation the same in such far-apart places?
RR: Hell if I know! Ha! I have never played in Chicago, except for the Blues Blast Awards last year...nor have I played Detroit or any Northern cities. I have played quite a bit in the South and out West. I find that most audiences in the U.S. are wonderfully enthusiastic but are much more apt to come to a show with an..."OK, show me" type attitude. That's good though, keeps you trying hard to please 'em! The one thing i find that is different region to region is folks' individual idea of the blues. It seems folks outside of the South like to label different blues styles, while here in the South, we pretty much just say, it's blues man.
BB: Your latest CD, "8", is packed with your typical hard-driving blues with a huge back beat, your gentle-ballads, your gospel-inspired soul music and your Memphis style R&B. How has your current music been received on your circuit? What have your fans told you they like best about the songs?
RR: Most of the comments I get are usually about my inhibition involving my views and feelings in my songs and the songs I pick. I don't pull punches and I don't get all girlyfied. I don't think of myself or write much as a sex object and most of the stuff I write, I write while I am pissed off about something. I am probably a latent folk singer really. Standing up against the "man"! Ha!
BB: What's in the future for The Reba Russell Band?
RR: Getting a live record out there! We also want to begin another studio record. I also hope like hell we can withstand the economy and keep on touring a bit. It is getting a lot harder for us older members to travel and because we don't have major support from a label or an agent it makes it difficult to get the better gigs.
BB: Fact or fiction: bassist Wayne Russell was born in Pontotoc, Mississippi to parents who picked cotton on family land? How bluesy is that in the 21st century?
RR: Fact! Wayne's whole family on both sides were all Mississippians. His Mama and Daddy were sharecroppers on his Uncle's land until his Daddy had a melt down in a rainstorm and packed the family up and moved to Memphis. Wayne remembers being pulled down the rows on the cotton sack by his Mama. He said it was one of his favorite things as a little child. Wayne's song "Red Mississippi Clay" is a completely true story.
BB: You are on the recording of the "Class of '55 Memphis Rock & Roll Homecoming" with Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, June Carter Cash, The Judds, Rick Nelson and John Fogerty. Care to share a few stories about this extraordinary event? What was this show all about and which of these artists did you especially appreciate meeting and sharing the stage with?
RR: Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash were as kind and welcoming as humans get. I will never forget being with them til the day I die. I had recently signed as an artist to producer Chips Moman, He produced Elvis, Neil Diamond, Rufus Thomas, Dusty Springfield, and many more Chips had come back to Memphis to help the Memphis music industry and made a deal to bring over all the Sun Record stars and as many other cool cats as he could, to make a record at the old Thomas Street Studio. So they brought a recording truck in and Chips made it happen. I was working at the Peabody Hotel one night that week and got a call . I left the band at the gig playing and went down there. Chips literally brought me on the studio floor, introduced me around then pushed me in front of the background mic with June Carter Cash, The Judds, and Tony Wine. They must have wondered what the hell was going on but everyone was so nice. It was surreal to say the least. I was shocked when I got a credit on the record but damn glad I did!
BB: You opened for B.B. King in Oxford, Mississippi. What does his legacy mean to you and your band and what was he like personally to you?
RR: Mr. King is the only Mississippi bluesman I ever heard say he was glad for white folks that play the blues. He gave white players credit for helping to keep the blues alive. That is how much Mr. King loves the blues. He wants it to live on all over the world. He also holds women in high regard and I appreciate that too! The day we opened up for his show in Oxford, he must have said our band's name 10 times! Over and over and saying "weren't they great, she can sing!". Then our band waited about 4 hours by his bus and watched as he signed autographs until no one was left.. He told us after his show, "If you'll wait around we can talk a minute and make a picture together". He kept his word. I learned a great deal that day about what cool truly is.
BB: U2 came down to Memphis and you appeared on their 1988 album "Rattle & Hum". How did this happen and what do you remember best about working with the band?
RR: I was doing a session at Ardent Studio. The manager told me they were looking for background vocalists down at Sun Studio, and asked if I was available? I said yes and asked her who it was for? She told me she wasn't allowed to say but that she thought I should go. So I went and when I arrived, got put in the front hall with my friends The Duncan Sisters. I was eaves-dropping pretty good and soon realized it was U2. It was interesting because they cut the whole thing in the room. No headphones. So all the singing, the instruments, everything was at room volume, like a garage band. Wild! The endearing thing about the band was that they were very reverent of the studio and all the photos and relics. It was obvious that they had a deep appreciation of Memphis and Memphis music.
BB: You jammed with Ringo in Memphis. How did this happen and what are Ringo and Barbara Bach really like backstage?
RR: I not only jammed with Ringo , I sang on some songs with him on an album that never got released. The jam was on a riverboat. Chips threw a party for him when he came to Memphis. Ringo and Barbara were down to earth and really sweet. Ringo was very funny and he told really good stories. He was totally sentimental when speaking of John and it was amazing to be there listening to a Beatle in an intimate setting like the studio. I was just very lucky to have been in the right place at the right time.
BB: You have won Recording Academy Awards including the NARAS Premier Female Vocalist in 1990, 1998 and 1999. Does winning these awards really do anything for your career?
RR: Honestly, I got those awards back in my young, fresh and pretty days, so it's hard to tell if it helped or not. I am sure I got booked on my looks rather than accolades from time to time back then, all us women did and still do!! Hell I am a way better vocalist now for sure although not quite as shapely and good-looking. Ha!
BB: You sing on a bunch of artist Tracy Nelson's CD's and back her on some club dates. She even sings a duet with you on your "City Of The Blues" CD. What do you like best about singing with her and are there any plans for future joint adventures?
RR: I'll sing with Tracy as much as she'll let me, anytime, anywhere, for free!! I love her as a person and as an artist. I was a Tracy Nelson fan long before I was a performer. Meeting her and singing with her is one of my most precious dreams fulfilled. She is, in my opinion the greatest white female blues singer. Period. Hands down, no contest.
BB: You have singing roles in movies "Finding Graceland", "Heart Of Dixie" and recording the soundtrack for "Forty Shades Of Blue". Tell me a little bit about each experience and how is singing for the movies any different than recording a CD or playing in front of a live audience?
RR: The song I sang for the movie soundtrack "Forty Shades Of Blue" was only for the soundtrack. I don't think the song appeared in the movie itself. I never watched it. Can't believe I just admitted that!
On "Heart Of Dixie", I sang one song in the movie as a character and another song for the credits. The song for the credits in "Heart Of Dixie" was a duet with Delbert McClinton . We did it separately so I didn't get to meet or sing with Delbert. My part in the film "Road To Graceland" was only as an extra playing a background singer. My husband Wayne leased his upright bass for the movie, and the bass made more money than I did! Ha! We laughed a lot!
Photos by Bob Kieser © 2012 Blues Blast Magazine
Interviewer A. J. Wachtel is a long-time entertainment journalist in New England and the East Coast who currently writes for The Boston Blues Society and The Noise Magazine. He is well known in the Boston and N.Y.C areas for his work in the Blues for the last two decades.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.
Blues Want Ad
Blues Blast Magazine Seeks Volunteer Music Reviewers
Blues Blast Magazine is looking for persons with a solid Blues background interested in helping us review the large number of CDs we receive from Blues artists all over the globe. We need reviewers to write clear concise 400 to 800 word reviews. Must be willing to review a minimum of 3 CDs a month. The reviewer keeps the CDs for doing the review.
Featured Blues Review 1 of 5
Milton Hopkins & Jewel Brown
Here is a refreshing project from two veteran performers with star-studded resumes. Guitarist Milton Hopkins got his career off to a memorable start when he joined the Tempo Toppers in 1950. Along with saxophonist Grady Gaines, they provided the fiery support that helped establish Little Richard as a star. The band later became the Upsetters and set standards for other bands to live up to for musical excellence and showmanship. Hopkins also spent nine years in B.B. King's band in addition to working with Johnny Ace and Big Mama Thornton. Jewel Brown starting her recording career in 1955 with a single for the Duke label. The highlight of her career was a nine year stint as the lead vocalist in the Louis Armstrong band in addition to working with organist Earl Grant and the legendary Texas jazz tenor saxophonist Arnett Cobb.
these two natives of Houston, Texas was an outstanding idea, made
abundantly clear on the opener. Brown lets loose a shout over a strong
riff from the horn section to start “Jerry”, then captivates you with
lusty tale about a good-loving' man while Hopkins shows that the passing
of time has not diminished his skills on the guitar. The good-time mood
continues on “Daddy, Daddy” with a sound that recalls the New Orleans
R&B sound of the Upsetters with some rollicking piano from Nick
Connolly. Brown's boisterous rendition of “Cry Me a River” is another
highlight with Kaz Kazanoff's sax pushing the singer before giving way
to more of Hopkins' distinctive guitar.
Two tracks find Hopkins switching to acoustic guitar with J.B. Lenoir's “The Whale Has Swallowed Me” venturing into a gospel vein that Brown crying out for guidance. “I'm Leaving You Now” was written by Lightnin' Hopkins. Milton shows that he has a deep understanding of his cousin's guitar style, rendering a stark backdrop for Brown's heavy-hearted singing.
Hopkins and the band share the spotlight on three instrumentals. Other musicians include Corey Keller and Jason Moeller on drums, Mike Keller on guitar and Johnny Bradley on bass. “Evening Breeze” is a pensive tune that finds Hopkins picking wistful lines while Kazanoff creates some smoky ambiance with a noteworthy sax solo. Even better is the gritty “Tater Tots” that recalls Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, another leader that Hopkins once worked for. Hopkins alternates between chords and single note runs that exude the hallmarks of the Texas blues guitar style. “Back to the Shimmy” gets off to a rocking start but never really takes off.
Hopkins and Brown may be well past the retirement age but they still have plenty to offer. Their vigorous performances often eclipse the offerings of musicians decades behind them on the road of life. Dialtone Records deserves accolades for giving this project the green light. It is good to know that there is still a place in the world for music that is straightforward, full of nuance and musical craftsmanship. This gem is definitely worth a listen!
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.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 2 of 5
Little Joe McLerran - Facebook Blues
Root Blues Reborn Records
13 songs; 43:24 minutes; Library Quality
Styles: Finger Picked Piedmont Blues
In 1960s Social Studies classes, the joke about Communism was: “All are equal, but some are ‘more equal’ than others.” Similarly, all musicians are unique, but some are “more unique” than others. Little Joe McLerran is among the most unique. On Thursday, May 17, 2011, a performance by Little Joe opened the 2011 Friends of the Blues concert season. Joe and his dad (Robbie Mack) played as a duo. Persons commented after the show, "I can see a band [with a flatpicking, loud, electric guitar hero] anytime -- tonight was really special!" That expression sprang from Little Joe’s impressive and clearly different style.
Born in Colorado in 1983, Tulsa, Oklahoma singer/songwriter/guitarist Little Joe McLerran's deft specialty is finger-picking Piedmont-style blues; he's played it as long as he can remember and is one of only a handful still alive who do and do it well. Wikipedia says, “Piedmont blues (aka East Coast blues) refers primarily to a guitar style, the Piedmont finger style, which is characterized by a finger picking approach in which a regular, alternating thumb bass string rhythmic pattern supports a syncopated melody using the treble strings generally picked with the fore-finger, occasionally others. The result is comparable in sound to ragtime or stride piano styles. Coined by blues researcher Peter B. Lowry, who in turn gives co-credit to fellow folklorist Bruce Bastin, the Piedmont style is differentiated from other styles, particularly the Mississippi Delta blues, by its ragtime-based rhythms.”
But, Piedmont-style Blues is not all that makes Little Joe unique; Memphis’s 2009 International Blues Challenge solo/duo winner is a music ambassador for the US State Department. McLerran has been taking his Blues to all corners of the Earth. In the spring of 2010, on behalf of Jazz at Lincoln Center and the US State Department, Little Joe took his band for a month long tour of Middle Eastern countries Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain. "He was singing ‘Hair Parted in the Middle’ to veiled University girls in Saudi Arabia, and they were going crazy," witnessed Robbie Mack. 2011 and 2012 found him touring Paraguay, and most recently, Colombia, South America, in his work with the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.
His travels have helped inspire his fourth album, "FaceBook Blues." The 13-track album, over a year, three studios and a slew of guest artists in the making, includes six original tunes including the title track. “Well, actually, I was probably about the last person on earth to get a computer,” laughed McLerran in a recent interview by Terry Mullins for Blues Blast magazine. “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 [“Facebook Blues”] is all about – frustration with all the new technology and stuff. I’m just trying to get into the loop.”
The title track was the first track we played on the Friends of the Blues Radio Show. It’s a full production number with horns and an upbeat rhythm and melody that make it a guaranteed ear-worm. The song’s story line finds the narrator’s girlfriend with a page on Facebook and no time for him anymore. So, he gets his own page. “ ...sounds like a joke, but I get tagged and poked – [it all] leaves me with the Facebook Blues.” Can you relate?
spin, “Gotta Move,” is a slide guitar and harmonica shuffle masterpiece
inspired by Little Joe’s friendship with the late author, Homesick
James. Another great song in the same tempo and style is Tampa Red’s
“Black Hearted Woman.” We played original “My Gal Kay” – intended for
all fans of double entendre lyrics: “If You See Kay…” Can you spell?
Hey, it’s an old joke, but Little Joe is too young to know. Before
Thomas A. Dorsey got religion, his early Blues was full of double
entendre, witness track two “Billy the Grinder.”
Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast 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.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Blues Society News
Maximum of 175 words in a Text or MS Word document format.
Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport. IA
Chicago singer and educator Maggie Brown will be returning to the Quad Cities for Blues in the Schools sponsored 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 http://www.mvbs.org
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 Jimmy Nick & Don't Tell MaMa at 7:30 PM Friday Nov 23th 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. 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
Featured Blues Review 3 of 5
The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer - Checkered Past
Canadians Shawn Hall and Matthew Rogers bring the blues kicking and screaming into the future under the guise of The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer. The idiom gets a swift kick in the “wazoo” and what results from the fallen pieces being reassembled is something astounding. This CD is a combination of the blues as well as a reflection on it, ala another Canadian musical visionary Paul Reddick. This CD is the child of the duo, with no outside assistance. They handle all vocals and instrumentals, as well as the seamless production. Nothing here sounds haphazard or out-of-place. The lead vocals and outstanding harmonica playing are handled by Shawn, with Matthew providing everything else.
Everything gets underway with the “alternative-rock” cum blues under-pinnings the refreshingly noisy “Shake It”, bolstered by in command harp skills. “Wake Up”, which begins life sounding like the kickoff to The Cramps’ version of “Goo-Goo Muck”, morphs into a “retooling” of Blind Willie McTells’ immortal “Statesboro Blues”. “Roll With The Punches” features a sturdy guitar hook courtesy of Matthew. “I try rollin” with the punches, but the punches keep rollin’ me”. Slide guitar and harp battle it out “stop-and-start” style in “Get Out”. A haunting gospel motif is conjured up in “Are You Listening Lord?”. Here and throughout this CD, Shawn’s harmonica work is a force to behold as it breathes life into each tune. Willie Dixon’s “Mellow Down Easy”, a song associated with Little Walter, is dusted off and revitalized with echoed vocals. A reggae beat enhances the bouncy strains of “Too Late Virginia”. “Chevrolet”, which first saw life as “Can I Do It For You”, as performed and written by Kansas Joe and Memphis Minnie and later renamed “Hey Gyp” by none other than Donavan appears here as a harp-guitar energized “country-blues”. Most folks probably know it as a concert staple of Eric Burdon during his stint with the Animals. Shawn’s vocal really shines here. “Burning Bridges” closes out things with its pleasing “jingly-jangly” noise.
Is it traditional blues? Is it blues at all at times? You decide. The only thing that I am sure of that this is the stuff that a jaded reviewer lives for…A refreshing and invigorating listen every time it graces your CD player. It’s a hell of a great listen. These guys have really created something here that deserves a wider audience. It should have appeal to blues fans, as well as to lovers of well-conceived music. Oh…Did I mention that I LOVE this CD?
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 4 of 5
Dorothy Moore – Blues Heart
Self released through Farish Street Records
10 tracks / 42:34
Whenever I get a new CD from a legend of the music industry, before my first listen I always wonder if it will live up to the artist’s previous catalog of work. Maybe it is the pessimistic way of looking at things, but a lot of times it does not work out well – look no further than last year’s Bob Dylan Christmas album. Well, this time Dorothy Moore made things easy on me and I do not have to be such a sourpuss, because Blues Heart, her latest CD, is very good.
Dorothy Moore has quite a musical career since signing with Epic Records and hitting the Billboard Hot 100 in the mid 1960s. She has been in and out of the industry with various record companies, and has recorded in the pop, soul, blues, gospel, and disco genres. As of late she has been recording secular music on Farish Street Records, her own label. It seems she has found her niche with the blues; she has worked with music from solid writers and put out a very nice recording.
Blues Heart is not just a clever name, as this is a smooth blues and soul album. Dorothy laid down the vocals in Nashville, Tennessee and Jackson, Mississippi with the help of Vince Barranco on drums, David Hungate on bass, Clayton Ivey on keyboards and organ, Steve Johnson on guitar, Jim Horn on flute and Harrison Calloway with the synthesizer horns and strings. Oh yes, and Dorothy has taken up the harmonica, so we get to hear a bit of her new talent on this album.
There is no doubt that this is a blues album when the first song is a about a lady whose man steals away with another woman; he even takes all of her money without leaving a note. I guess that would be a few good reasons to be “Coming Down With the Blues.” Dorothy’s voice is soulfully mature and pure honey, and Steve Johnson shows off his guitar skills by expertly playing off of her. You will also hear some heavy synthesizer work on this which carries through much of the album. Electronic music might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it works well in this context.
It would not be fair if I did not talk a little about Ms. Moore’s harmonica skills, which she has been working on for the past three years. We hear her harp on the second track, “Let the Healing Begin,” which is a slow blues jam with honky-tonk piano and a fat bass part. It was wise to pick a slow jam for her first recoded harmonica solo, and she did an admirable job on the “Mississippi sax,” as she calls it. This song’s old-school blues vibe contrasts nicely with the next track, “Make Up.” This funky tune is full of phased guitars and hearty organs and synths, and recounts the joys of reconciling after a disagreement – in a sexy way.
“My Time on Earth” is a poignant ballad that grows into a hopeful anthem of love for our fellow man. Dorothy goes into full-on soul mode for this song, which any of us could only hope to have for our epitaph. This sense of hope fades as “When the Hurt Comes Down” comes up next. This is a classic uptempo break-up song, with some very pretty background vocals to contrast with her plaintive wails of sorrow. We also get a dose of Jim Horn’s breathy flute, filling up the song the rest of the way with soul.
There are yet more songs of distrust and betrayal, but there is a fun twist on “Nosey Neighbors,” as she sings about how she is spying on the single lady across the street who is spying on her old man. “And if you work out in the yard, now here she comes, washing on her car.” She does indeed have a nosey neighbor, and her neighbor has a nosey neighbor too!
The closing track for the CD is definitely off the beaten path. Though not as controversial as it was when it came out in 1968, the story and message of Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” is unchanged and is still appropriate for today’s audience. This tune is a bit more of a bare-bones production, and Ivey does some nice organ work to fill in the gaps. This final song remind us of how strong Moore’s voice still is, having held up so well over the last 40+ years of studio work.
Dorothy Moore did an admirable job of putting together Blues Heart, and if you are looking for a laid-back blues vibe you will get a kick out of it. I hope she is working on a follow-up, because her experience is so valuable to the blues community, and I think she has a lot more to say to us.
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician. His blog can be found at rexbass.blogspot.com.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 5 of 5
Ron Hacker – Live In San Francisco
10 tracks; 54.10 minutes
Ron Hacker is a stalwart of the SF scene and this is his tenth CD release though his first live recording. Recorded at Biscuits & Blues in November 2011 the set features Ron on slide guitar and vocals, backed by a solid rhythm section of Ronnie Smith (ex-Tommy Castro) on drums and Steve Ehrmann (Roy Rogers) on bass. The material is mainly drawn from the classic blues repertoire with two original songs.
Ron starts solo on Sleepy John Estes’ “AX Sweet Mama” which must be a close relative of “Leavin’ Trunk”. Ron can certainly play slide and his gruff vocals serve the music well. The band joins in for the rest of the set, starting with Willie Dixon’s “Meet Me In The Bottom” and a medley of Big Joe Williams’ “Baby Please Don’t Go” and Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues” which whips along at quite a pace, making this version very different to the Allmans’ or Taj Mahal’s. Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Welfare Store” is less frequently covered and the band slows the pace down for this one and Ron fairly growls the lyrics, even bringing President Obama into the song to bring things up to date!
Ron seems to have had some difficult relationships in his life. He explains that “My Bad Boy” is a song about his son at age 18: “I’m 18 now, Daddy, I’m gonna stay out all night long. These rules I’ve been living, they’ve caused me to weep and moan”. In “Two Timin’ Woman” Ron tells the audience that his first wife liked his friends “too damn much” and the song moves along like fast-paced John Lee Hooker. In between the two originals Ron tackles Son House’s “Death Letter” and Elmore James’ “It Hurts Me Too”, both played at a slower pace with terrific slide on both cuts.
The CD concludes with “Leavin’ Blues” which Ron tells us is a Johnny Winter song. The loping riff again recalls “Leavin’ Trunk” but works extremely well, possibly my favourite track on the CD. The final track is a very lengthy version of JLH’s “House Rent Blues” which is preceded by a nice anecdote about how Ron played this in front of John Lee without knowing he was in the audience, but John liked his version, so he feels he now has permission to cover the song! It is of course very similar to “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” but without the chorus in the bar; here we just get the lengthy story of how the guy lost his job and then got kicked out of his room because he could not pay the rent.
This was my first encounter with Ron’s slide playing which I enjoyed a lot though across a whole CD it would have been good to get a little more variety. Nevertheless I can imagine that Ron will sell a lot of CDs from the bandstand as souvenirs of an excellent live show. Fans of slide guitar and classic blues should seek this one out.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.
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