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Issue 7-44, November 7, 2013

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Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2013 Blues Blast Magazine

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 In This Issue

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Chicago guitarist, Dave Specter. Bob Kieser and Marilyn Stringer have Part 1 of coverage of the King Biscuit Blues Festival.

We have five Blues music reviews for you. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new release from Billy Thompson. Steve Jones reviews a new album from Bryan Lee. John Mitchell reviews a new CD from Phil Gates. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new release from Bill Durst. Marty Gunther reviews a new album from Jeff Saxon.  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 are finally getting caught up from being gone last week for the 2013 Blues Blast Music Awards in Chicago. It was one hell of a party! If you did not make it, then put it on your calendar for next year. (Last Thursday in October!)

Although we did not find out in time to let everyone know directly by email, the show was streamed live via Buddy Guy's Legends' video stream on We did send this information out on Facebook and Twitter and we are told that many of you tuned in.

In case you missed it, the show in it's entirety can be seen on their website now. CLICK HERE.

In case you missed news of the winners in the fan voting, it is now available on our website at:

We will have photos of all the fun for you starting in next weeks issue.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music! 

Bob Kieser 

Blues Blast Magazine is offering a fall advertising special. This special pricing will be our lowest pricing of the 2013-2014 season.

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Blues Blast Magazine is a great way to promote the Blues. More than 26,000 Blues fans read our magazine each week. They are located in all 50 states and in more than 90 countries. We get more than 2,000,000 (That's TWO MILLION) hits and more than 45,000 visitors a month on our website. 

Normal 2013 - 2014 ad rates are $90 per issue for Blues Blast magazine ads and $100 per month for website ads. BUT, for a limited time, you can advertise in six issues of Blues Blast Magazine and on our website for a month and a half for only $350. This is a $690 value! To get this special rate simply reserve and pay for your ad space by December 15, 2013. Ads can be booked to run anytime between now and September 30, 2014 for your 2014 Blues festival, album release or other music related product.

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 Featured Blues Interview - Dave Specter  

It’s not because he’s shy or because he struggles to find the right words.

It’s sure not because he’s hesitant to talk about his craft or to give praise to those that have inspired and influenced him.

It’s purely because when you’re able to play the guitar with all the passion, grace and creativity that Dave Specter can, you can simply just let your instrument do the talking for you.

And hearing it, folks, is the best way to describe the ‘Dave Specter sound.’

“I really like for my music to speak for itself, rather than try to put it into words. I’d much rather just let the music itself reach people,” Specter said. “But I have a strongly Chicago blues-based sound … I grew up here and have been on the scene for almost 30 years. My influences range from Chicago blues, Texas blues and West Coast blues to the jazz guitar of players like Kenny Burrell and Grant Green, on to the R&B guitar of guys like Steve Cropper and Leo Nocentelli of The Meters. Those are some of my favorites, along with a guy like Curtis Mayfield, who is also one of my heroes; although I don’t think I play anything like him. But his sound does have an influence on my music, to some degree.”

Growing up in Chicago, Specter was an avid fan of the pleasures obtained through simply listening to music, long before he decided to pick up an instrument and learn how to play.

“I grew up in a very musical family, where music was always played in the house on the stereo, or on the guitar by my older brother and sister. I was always a huge music listener and music fan,” he said. “And I honestly just picked up the guitar for fun at the age of 18. I just started fooling around with it and learned some rock-n-roll tunes. And then I went away to college at the University of Illinois and people like Koko Taylor and Junior Wells and Buddy Guy and Magic Slim would come down and play at the student union there. And that changed my life. That got me seriously interested in guitar and that’s when I started getting T-Bone Walker and Magic Sam and Albert Collins and Muddy Waters records and learning how to play along with them.”

Eventually, Specter gave up college and moved back to Chicago with the sole intention of becoming a blues guitar player.

And in short order, that’s just what he did. He did stints in his early 20s playing with legends like Sam Lay, Steve Freund, Son Seals and Jimmy Johnson. It was also about that same time that Specter embarked on the journey that every serious player goes on sooner or later – the quest to find his own individual sound.

By using his influences as a springboard – rather than as a final destination – and then by channeling those through what he feels and hears inside himself, Specter has managed to avoid the pitfall of recycling the cache of oft-repeated blues licks and has crafted something that keeps listeners sitting on the edge of their seat. His playing is soulful, tasteful and tuneful, and always seems to be straight from the heart.

“The bottom line is that since I started, I’ve been striving to create my own sound and style. One of the greatest compliments you can pay an artist is telling him or her that they’ve developed their own voice,” he said. “We all start out by copying our influences … there’s no secret in that. But you don’t want to sound like you’re copying and imitating and stealing your whole life. You want to eventually develop your own sound and style and I’m pretty confident that I have. It’s a really great compliment when someone hears your music and says, ‘Hey man, I knew that was you.’”

Since he began cutting albums in the early ‘90s, the Chicago native has been heralded as one of the most adventurous and dynamic guitarists on the scene. Filled with all the sensibilities one would expect from the classic Chicago blues genre, Specter’s compositions also allow for generous bits and bytes of spine-tingling ‘organ trio jazz’ that harkens back to a time when music was not sterilized and gushed out from its creators like a pipe bursting under pressure.

“When I first started playing, I was playing classic rock, because that’s what I listened to as a kid. Then I really got into the Chicago blues and then I started reading interviews with guys like Otis Rush and Jimmie Vaughan. I would hear them talk about Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery and jazz players like that,” Specter said. “And I actually took a few guitar lessons from a famous guitar player and teacher in Chicago named Reggie Boyd. And Reggie Boyd taught Howlin’ Wolf and Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy and Robert Junior Lockwood and Jimmy Johnson. He was a session player for Chess Records back in the day and probably his most-famous work was when he played lead on Jimmy Rogers’ “Rock this House.” He would tell me stories about teaching those blues guys and how almost every one of them wanted to know what the jazz cats were doing. So I kind of felt like I was following in their footsteps - humbly in some degree – when I heard that.” But the jazz that I really like has a lot of blues in it. I like really bluesy, really greasy jazz.”

Over the course of the nine albums he’s issued under his own name, Specter has treated blues lovers to the best of both worlds. 2010’s Spectified (Fret12) was an all-instrumental affair, as was his release from 2000, Speculatin’ (Delmark). But even though he doesn’t sing himself, several of Specter’s other discs do feature vocalists, including such notables as Jesse Fortune, Lynwood Slim, Tad Robinson and Specter’s first vocalist – the late Barkin’ Bill Smith.

“Writing instrumentals is really my specialty; it’s my strong point. I don’t sing … I like to say that I sing with my guitar, so I write music and instrumentals based on a lot of different ideas and grooves that I like to approach,” he said. “For example, I wanted to write kind of a blues rumba and give it a Tex-Mex feel, so I wrote a tune (“Rumba & Tonic”) and had David Hidalgo from Los Lobos play on it on the Spectified CD. I like to kind of push the envelope a bit. I like to take some of the groove and the feel of the blues and add something new to them, instrumentally.”

The Windy City may be Specter’s home base and regular stomping grounds, but like the old saying goes … ‘have guitar, will travel.’ And in Specter’s case, that travel is not just limited to the contiguous United States.

“I performed in Israel in March, which was my second time to play there. And last fall I performed in Argentina and I’m working on a European tour for the spring of 2014,” he said. “I usually average about one or two international trips a year, but mostly I play around Chicago and at some mid-western festivals, as well.”

Specter’s international reputation as a guitarist, composer, producer and bandleader is not the end of the story, either. He’s also a partner at Evanston S.P.A.C.E. – one of the hottest live music venues in the Chicagoland area, and he’s also found time to breathe life into to a remarkable series called Dave Specter’s Blues and Beyond (episodes can be viewed on YouTube). On them, Specter gets to fill the role of journalist and sits down with a who’s-who in the music industry, asking questions from the unique perspective of a musician, affording the viewer a different way to experience some of the hottest and most-respected players around. A few of Specter’s guests on the show include Hubert Sumlin, Anders Osborne and Warren Haynes.

“Well, I’m certainly not a journalist or a talk show host, but I am a curious musician. It’s kind of like a behind-the scenes, artist-to-artist interview. A lot of them are up on YouTube – guys like Hubert Sumlin, John Hammond, Eddy Clearwater - and we just did a really exciting interview with Jimmie Vaughan and a real cool west-side, soul food lunch with Otis Clay, where Otis suggested we meet him for lunch at one of his favorite restaurants on the west side of Chicago,” Specter said. “The interviews with Jimmie and Otis and Albert Lee are right now being put together for a pilot TV or Web show, so those will hopefully be released sometime this fall or winter.”

In addition to his Blues and Beyond series, Specter is also involved in a series of interviews for S.P.A.C.E. that can be seen on Vimeo, including a roundtable discussion he recently hosted with Mark Hummel, Anson Funderburgh and Little Charlie Baty that touches on everything from influences to the state of the blues.

As if that wasn’t enough stuff to keep Specter’s plate overflowing, there’s also the little matter of finding adequate time to hit the studio.

“Well, I’m in the studio now, working on my 10th album for Delmark Records. We started tracking in late August and Otis Clay is one of the special guests on it,” he said. “And I’m very excited about that. The album’s going to be about half instrumentals and half vocal tunes. In addition to Otis Clay, Brother John Kattke sings on three songs.”

Specter has become a fixture on the venerable Delmark label (the oldest American jazz and blues independent label in existence) and in a cool bit of ‘coming full circle’ he also worked at Bob Koester’s Jazz Record Mart and Delmark Records back in the lean days when he was trying to break in as a musician.

Not unlike most musicians, Specter knows that the zone on the bandstand is a different one than the zone in a recording studio, and finding that coveted Zen-like feeling can take a bit of work and preparation in one of those zones.

“I’m writing more now than earlier in my career and I find that very rewarding. But it’s also challenging to put together original material for an album … it is a challenge that I enjoy, however,” he said. “I’m 95-percent a live player and even though I’ve been doing studio work for over 23 years, I still feel somewhat out of my element in a recording studio, because I’m much more comfortable in a live setting. For me, the most challenging part of making records is the first couple of days of tracking in the studio when you’re used to playing so many live gigs and then all of a sudden you’re playing for those sterile walls and no audience. It just takes awhile to get me into that comfort zone (in the studio), where when I’m playing live, it’s just totally natural and comes a lot easier.”

Be it on the stage or in the studio, Specter has certainly traveled a lot of ground since his early 20s when one of the odd jobs he held down was as a bouncer at B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted.

“I don’t know if I’d call it a ‘bouncer’ or not, because it was in a pretty tame, Yuppie kind of neighborhood,” laughed Specter. “We thought of ourselves as ‘door-people,’ although I did have a knife pulled on me once.”

Despite that, it’s hard to imagine a better place for an aspiring young musician to have a ‘day job’ at other than one of the hottest places for blues in the city of Chicago.

“It was a great place to work. I always tell my students that if you want to learn this music, you have to immerse yourself in it. And sitting in the back of a blues club all night and hearing three to five sets from Magic Slim, or Eddie Shaw or Eddy Clearwater or Lonnie Brooks or Sunnyland Slim was an amazing learning experience,” he said. “And I got paid for it!”

For more info on Dave Specter visit his website at

Photos by Bob Kieser © 2013 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.

 Featured Blues Review 1 of 5

Billy Thompson - Friend

Soul Stew Records

CD: 13 songs; 60:17 Minutes

Styles: Modern Electric Ensemble Blues, Slide Guitar Blues, Blues Rock

When one thinks of the term “ensemble,” especially in relation to blues, it’s meant to describe a group larger than the word “band” typically does. Case in point: North Carolina native Billy Thompson and nineteen(!) fellow musicians, featured on his exhilarating sixth album. As a follow-up to the 2012 Blues Blast Music Award-nominated A Better Man, Friend more than lives up to its anticipatory hype. When so many rockers and bluesmen with world-class talent pool their efforts, they knock even the highest expectations out of the park! The most recognized of these collaborators include Bill Payne (Little Feat, J.J. Cale), Ron Holloway (Warren Haynes, Tedeschi/Trucks), James “Hutch” Hutchinson (Bonnie Raitt, Neville Brothers), and Mike Finnigan (Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker). Together they pull out all the stops, having recorded the basic tracks down in an old grist mill, delivering an open and old-school tone. The following three tracks (of thirteen) showcase not only their individual instrumental mastery, but sheer collective power:

Track 01: “Soldier of Misfortune” - When it comes to the foxholes in which some soldiers fight, they’re financial rather than physical. “Well, I’m less than mercenary, ‘cause I need more (dead) Presidents. But we’re struggling in the heartland, all the ninety-nine percent.” Billy Thompson’s guitar blazes white-hot throughout the song, its riffs relentless. Backing it up are Chris Dominici’s insistent piano keyboard and sizzling sax by Ian Charleton and Tom N. Tierney.

Track 02: “Garden” - In another time and place, this Joey Harris ballad cover might have been featured on a Perry Como album or the Lawrence Welk Show. However, here in the 21st century, “Garden” is an eclectic New Orleans rhumba with so much spice that it puts jambalaya to shame. With vocals reminiscent of Eric Clapton and Steve Miller, Thompson boldly launches forth: “If I could cut down space and time, I would be yours; you would be mine. I’m just an ordinary guy meets an ordinary girl. I don’t have to come inside - just let me dream about your world.” Bill Payne’s seductive piano keys steal the show just as surely as “Garden” will steal romance fans’ hearts.

Track 03: “Interlude” - Three words: “pure slow blues.” Sometimes short descriptions are the best, and let the music do the rest! “You have played me, baby, like a master plays his instrument, and I, finely tuned for this performance, exulted at your caress.” For blues lyrics, Kristen Trump’s are as exotic as they come. They almost don’t fit the barroom atmosphere provided by the other instruments here. However, this is a highlight, not a flaw.

Find a “Friend” and recommend this powerhouse ensemble blues CD!!

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

 Featured Blues Review 2 of 5

Bryan Lee - Play One For Me

Severn Records

10 tracks/43:43

This album is a real departure from the norm for Bryan. Completely funky and soulful with the Severn Records house band and a huge horn and string section arranged and conducted by Willie Henderson, Lee gives us a very interesting and thoroughly enjoyable addition to his repertoire that I am sure will garner him great notice and some accolades to boot! It is a super little album for this now 70 year old super star of the blues.

The opener is an old Memphis soul tune written by George Jackson and Willie Mithcell, “Aretha (Sing One for Me).” It is a tune where Bryan pleads soulfully that if Aretha sings a song for his girl that maybe she’ll come back to him. He then moves into some Freddie King with “It’s Too Bad (Things Are Going So Tough For Me)” when he wails on his axe and Kevin Anker tickles the keys sweetly in support. A Bobby Womack cover follows, “When Love Begins (Friendship Ends).” Lee is more evenly soulful than the edgier Womack and it comes off nicely done. His guitar also helps to sell this as he picks out a very cool solo; the strings and horns are supremely cool here, as is the organ in the background. Up next is the classic Howlin’ Wolf/Willie Dixon tune “Evil Is Going On” where Bryan growls and grunts along with Kim Wilson blowing some mean harp. The keyboard here is also special; Lee, Wilson and Anker have really given this cut some dirty and cool freshness. “You Was My Baby (But You Ain’t My Baby No More)” is the first of the original cuts and Bryan lets his unfaithful woman have it both vocally and with his guitar.

“Straight to Your Heart” continues in the funky and soulful vein and Lee continues to deliver the goods. A Dennis Geyer song, Lee gives it a great effort. “Poison” is next up, straight up Chicago blues. Kim Wilson plays some hot harp and Bryan’s vocal are distorted as if he sings through a harp mike. It’s very well done and very hot and dirty sounding. Wilson solos first and then Lee comes in with his guitar and just makes this one complete. “Let Me Love You Tonight” has the Memphis sound all over it with a bouncy and swinging groove and a beautiful rounded out guitar sound. This may be THE song of the album that will have a great life of it’s own! “Why” is a slow and thoughtful piece with a deliberate beat and guitar work that Lee excels at. He completes the recording with “Sixty Eight Years Young,” which could be an answer to the many blues men’s songs where they sing of getting old. Here Lee regales that at 68 he’s happy to still be getting it done. Very funky and neat– hand claps, percussion, organ, bass, drums and rhythm guitar set this up for Lee who then hits a home run with his vocals and lead guitar.

It’s different. It’s new. It’s fresh. It’s soulful. It’s Bryan Lee like we’ve never hear him before. A huge house band along with the folks noted previously and Johnny Moeller supporting on guitar, Steve Gomes on bass, Robb Stupka on drums and Mark Merrella on percussion all give Bryan some super backing and allow him to fully express his soulfulness. This is some of Bryan’s best work ever– I was really impressed. If you love Bryan as I do, go get this. If you are new to the Braille Blues Daddy you will see a side of him that we sometimes get to hear in snippets that is expanded and nurtured into a beautiful set of soulful tunes. Well done to both Bryan and Severn for delivering a superb CD for this most deserving artist!

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 Live Blues Review - King Biscuit Festival Part 1

The 29th King Biscuit Festival is one the longest running festivals in the nation with a mission of sustaining the culture, heritage, and authenticity of the Delta Blues. Ten of thousands of people come from all over the world to downtown Helena, Arkansas, to get a taste of the south, the blues, and reunite with their blues family. This year’s festival promised to be one of the best with a great lineup and great weather.

The festival opened on Thursday morning with this year’s IBC winner – The Selwyn Birchwood Band. Selwyn represented Florida’s Suncoast Blues Society in January and not only did the band win the IBC’s, Selwyn was also won the Albert King “Best Guitarist” in the competition finals. They are all accomplished musicians and together are a high energy fun band: Regi Oliver – saxophone, Curtis “Too Tall” Nutall – drums, and Donald “Huff Wright – Bass.

One of the youngest new bluesman, 14 year old Bobby Paltauf, from Fairfield County, CT, was the next band to take the stage. Bobby has been playing for about six years and is self-taught. He is clearly a new talent to watch and his band was great: Miles Livolsi-bass, Gene Leone Jr-keys, and Caitlin Kabifus-drums.

Sterling Billingsly, a very active part of the festival’s staff, brought a band on stage that included three of Reba Russel’s players backing him up. Great blues!! Along with Sterling on guitar, the band included Robert “Nighthawk” Tooms – keyboard, Josh Roberts – guitar, Doug McMinn-drums, and Leo Goff-Bass.

Next up was Travis Wammack. Best known for his use of the fuzz tone for electric guitar, he can be heard on hit records that have sold over sixty million copies. His history in the music industry is massive. And what a great show! After blowing the amp for his old Silvertone, he got another amp and played beautiful slide on that old guitar. He was definitely one of those “treats” that we get when we travel to other regions of the country. His band included Jan Gulette-guitar, Donny Gulette-bass, and Roger Clark-drums.

Next up was perennial favorite Hamilton Loomis. Hamilton has performed at nearly every King Biscuit for the last 7 years I have been attending and I never get tired of hearing him. His set was a real crowd pleases as usual.

New Orleans's musician Walter “Wolfman” Washington was up next. His music captures not only some real Blues but also real New Orleans soul and jazz.

Taking the stage next was one of my favorite guitar players, Sonny Landreth. Sonny is a master at playing slide and has one of the most interesting right hand picking styles of any player I have seen. It is no wonder Eric Clapton admires his playing and included him in the lineup for all of his Crossroads Guitar Festivals. To see a close-up examination of Sonny's unique right hand picking style on our website, CLICK HERE

The headliner for the first night of the King Biscuit was piano player, Marcia Ball. It has been a few years since I last got to hear her great singing and playing. I had forgotten just how good this lady is!

So ended the first day of this huge 3 day festival. Check back next week for photos of all the fun on day 2!

Photos and commentary by Bob Kieser and Marilyn Stringer © 2013 Blues Blast Magazine

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

 Featured Blues Review 3 of 5

Phil Gates – Live At The Hermosa Saloon

Self Release

11 tracks; 62 minutes

When I reviewed Phil Gates’ 2010 release “Addicted To Love”, a disc on which Phil played almost all the instruments himself, I felt that the CD would have benefited from a rhythm section. Well, here is such a disc, recorded live and with a quartet format: Phil on guitar and vocals, Ron Battle on bass, Keith Williams on drums and Morris Beeks on keys and backing vocals. The result is more satisfying to these ears! The material is mainly Phil’s own compositions with just two covers: “Messin’ With The Kid” and The Loving Spoonful’s “Summer In The City”. Many of the tracks are extended versions leaving plenty of space for Phil to demonstrate his guitar playing skills, well exemplified by the opener “Addicted To The Blues” which is far superior to the original album version. Opening with a loping riff that recalls a laidback “Smokestack Lightning”, Phil’s vocals are relaxed and clear in a song that seeks to explain Phil’s dedicated career in music. In the instrumental section first Morris gives us a cool organ solo, then Phil stretches out on guitar, clearly enjoying himself as he laughs at the end of the first solo!

On “Messin’ With The Kid” the familiar central riff remains though Morris’ rapid-fire solo on organ certainly differs from Junior Wells’ original. Phil funks up the solo with plenty of quick notes and the rhythm section gets a short spotlight too. Phil’s version of “Summer In The City” is quite laid back with some nice jazzy chords at the beginning and a strong solo – a good version of a song rarely covered in the blues world.

The remaining originals cover a fair range of styles. “Away I Go” is more of a pop song with some oblique soloing from Phil though his voice was less convincing on this cut. “Used Me Up” is a solid blues on the end of a relationship while “Old School” reminisces about schooldays in a song with a soul/gospel feel in which the harmony vocals work well with Phil’s lead voice. “End Of Time” is at the rockier end of the spectrum while “Evening Train” rattles along, driven by the drums, both relatively short cuts, as is closing track “Get Around To Me” with its catchy, jazzy guitar figure and imposing rock guitar solo. The other two tracks are extended versions: “Take It Out” refers to getting rid of what spoils a relationship, a gently funky tune into which Phil injects some angst in his solo. Leaving the best till last, “I’m Lost” is a nine minute ballad on which Phil’s voice is particularly convincing, his solos hit hard and Morris’ organ sounds like Al Kooper on “Blonde On Blonde” which is perhaps why the song made me think it could have been a Dylan outtake – definitely my favorite cut on the CD.

This is a well recorded live album which gives a good demonstration of what Phil and his band deliver on stage.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He enjoyed attending this year’s Blues Blast Awards.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE


 Featured Blues Review 4 of 5

Bill Durst – Live

Self Release

10 tracks / 45:21

Under their national MAPL system, Canadian radio stations must allot up to 40% of their airtime for Canadian artists, and this program helps grow local bands in a market that might otherwise be saturated by their brothers from the other side of the border. Some of these artists become big enough that their popularity extends further south, but often times it ends up that these acts get a loyal Canadian following so they enjoy good careers without us Americans ever hearing anything about them. Bill Durst is part of the latter group.

Bill Durst has been around the block a few times, having been active in the music scene for the past four decades, both as a solo artist and with the band, Thundermug. Since 1972, he has cut ten albums and had seven hits on the Canadian charts. Somewhere in there he played with Tres Hombres, a ZZ Top tribute band, which is how he ended up with that fantastic beard!

Live is Bill Durst’s latest effort, with ten tracks that were recorded at The Music Hall in London, Ontario back in late 2010. Seven of these songs are originals that were written by Bill and Joe DeAngelis, his buddy from Thundermug, and there are also three neat cover tunes. Bill takes on the guitar and vocal chores, and he is joined by Corey Thompson on drums and Paul Loeffelholz on bass and backing vocals. This is one tight power trio!

“Love Have Mercy” is the first track up, and we find out that the beard is not the only thing that Durst got from his stint in Tres Hombres – he came out of that band as a consummate blues rocker, with killer guitar chops, a distinctive voice and the heart of a showman. There is a definite ZZ Top influence in his music, albeit with an edgier sound and a much funkier bass presence.

After this sizzling opener, the band settles into two covers written in 1960 by Willie Dixon. The first is “Little Red Rooster,” which was originally recorded by Howlin’ Wolf, and then “I Want to Be Loved,” which was popularized by Muddy Waters. In case it ever comes up in a trivia contest, the Rolling Stones covered both of these songs too. Anyway, Bill’s versions of these songs have a different vibe than the originals, as they have been converted to his style of Southern/Texas blues rock. These are Bill Durst songs now through and through, and Loeffelholz’s walking bass lines (punctuated by slaps and pops) are nothing like you would find in the originals.

The other cover is ambitious, as it is hard to top the version of Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues” that the Allman Brothers included on their 1971 juggernaut, At Filmore East. Bill and his band rose to the challenge, and they knocked this one out of the park. Once again they reinvented this song in their own style, and this fast-faced roadhouse blues lends itself well to Durst’s guitar skills, which are prodigious. I am not going risk the wrath of the Allman’s fans by directly comparing the two versions, but I will let this one rest by saying that it would be very hard to do better than what these guys did with this classic.

Besides his guitar chops, Bill Durst has his singing down too. On first impression, he seems to have the typical growly bluesman voice, but after listening for a while I was taken by his vocal range, as well as all of the extra nuances he adds in. He can take a grunt, hoot or holler, and interject it so that it really affects the mood of the song. I am sure that you have heard singers try to do this before and fail, because it comes off as phony or contrived, but Durst can do it with such a natural feel that it really adds to the music. You can hear this with his woo hoo’s on the Creole-influenced “Café’ on the Gaspe” or his ability to mimic his guitar with the vocals on “Wandering Blues” (my favorite track on Live).

Bill is a master songwriter too, and his original tracks are certainly well-crafted, but what is more noticeable is how he lets his sense of humor take over every now and then. It can be semi-subtle, like reworking a children’s song into a drinking anthem with “Porcelain Bus,” or more overt, such as the “Hole in My Soul” self-improvement plan: “…I’m gonna give up my cocaine and buy me a bag of pot.” You have to love this stuff!

Live performance CDs can be a dicey at times, but this disc avoids the usual pitfalls. The instruments and vocals are well-recorded with good mixing, and the transitions from track to track are seamless. Also, as all three performers are veterans there is not a miscue or clunker to be found. This is particularly impressive when you consider that these guys did not know they were going to use the recordings from this show to cut a live album.

This CD was a fine introduction for me to Bill Durst’s music, and I am going to have to track down some of his other material so I can hear what else he has done. Live is a great snapshot of what he and his band are capable of, and their live show must also really be something to see. Give it a listen, or better yet, go to his website to see if he is playing in your area anytime soon! .

Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at 

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 Featured Blues Review 5 of 5

Jeff Saxon – Blujanova

Relevant Records

10 songs – 38 minutes

Take a heaping helping of blues, throw in an equal amount of cool jazz and then mix with Brazilian bossa nova beats – that’s what multi-instrumentalist Jeff Saxon has done to create this stylish disc.

A New Jersey native who discovered the South American beat through his father as a child, he’s lived and performed out of Los Angeles for decades, working in the studio for Dave Koz, Norman Brown and Hiroshima in the jazz world while appearing publicly as an acoustic guitarist, too. The idea to combine the mediums came to him in a flash while a finalist in the acoustic blues competition at the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival in Colorado a few years ago. “All of us had to play a rendition of ‘Hound Dog’,” Saxon says. “But feeling a bit constrained by the song’s three major chords, I injected some jazz and bossa nova, bluesified the vocal melody and emerged with a version I really bonded with. While I didn’t win the contest, I emerged with an even better ‘prize’ because it led me to ‘Blujanova.’”

Saxon doubles on guitar and keyboards on this work, which is produced by multi-instrumentalist Michael McGregor, who contributes bass, keyboards and percussion. They’re joined by former Santana sideman Keith Jones on fretless bass, Stevie Wonder percussionist Munyungo Jackson, John Daversa (trumpet), Reinhold Schwarzwald (alto sax), and Joey Navarro (keyboards and strings). The end product is a soothing, sweet and stylish melding of the three artforms enhanced by Saxon’s equally pleasant vocal delivery.

The disc sets sail effortlessly with the self-penned “Bye Bye Blues,” on which Saxon contributes all but the rhythm instruments. Next up is a tasty refashioning of Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog,” the song made famous by Elvis. Both would be delighted with the fresh turn it takes. “Yes Is My Favorite Word,” another original, sweet, image-filled pleaser, precedes a smooth, but still funky version of the James Brown classic “I Got You (I Feel Good).”

Three more originals – the sensual “The Afterlove,” the mood altering “What Makes You Happy” and the autobiographical “Bossa Nova Boy” follow before revisiting “Riders On The Storm,” the Doors classic. Of the three covers, this one sticks most to the original premise, but the Latin rhythms definitely project it in a new direction. The disc concludes with two more Saxon originals, “Trust In Love” and “Waiting For Lily,” a powerful instrumental conclude the set.

This CD, available through CDBaby and iTunes, might remind some folks of the work of Mose Allison. They share the same smooth, sweet sensibilities. Different, and highly entertaining.

Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

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 Blues Society News

 Send your Blues Society's BIG news or Press Release about your not-for-profit event with the subject line "Blues Society News" to:

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The Great Northern Blues Society will be holding its 15th Annual Blues Café event at the Rothschild Pavilion (near Wausau, WI) on Saturday March 8th, 2014. Doors open at Noon, with Music starting at 1:00PM. Five great Bands, and Lonesome Dan Kase playing acoustic sets between the main-stage acts. 10 hours of Non-Stop Heavenly Blues Music.

Performing will be Howard Guitar Luedtke & Blue Max, Altered Five, Cee Cee James, The Rusty Wright Band, and 2013 International Blues Hall of Fame Inductee Joe Louis Walker Band!

Four different food vendors, and cold adult beverages will be available throughout the day at the venue.Take a Northern Wisconsin get-away to Kick-Off Spring with a House-Rockin’ Blues Party! See for further information.

The Golden Gate Blues Society - San Francisco, CA

The Golden Gate Blues Society presents the San Francisco International Boogie Woogie with Bob Seeley, Carl Sonny Leyland, Silvan Zingg, Lluis Coloma and Wendy DeWitt on November 17, Sunday, 2013 4:00pm. at SF Jazz Center’s Miner Auditorium, 201 Franklin Street, San Francisco.

Master Class at 12:30 included in ticket. Must RSVP for Master Class to Fotr more info visit

Southeast Iowa Blues Society - Fairfield, IA

Southeast Iowa Blues Society presents Peter Karp and Sue Foley on November 9. Fans of great live music are getting ready for international duo Peter Karp and Sue Foley to perform in the area in early November. Hosted by the Southeast Iowa Blues Society, the evening will open with Quay Thomas at 7 pm followed by Karp and Foley at 8 pm. Doors will open at 6:30 pm at the Best Western Inn of Fairfield, Iowa. For more information visit

South Skunk Blues Society - Newton, IA

South Skunk Blues Society and Lizard King Blues Society bring Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials bring their signature houserockin' boogie and scorching blues back to the Elks Lodge in Grinnell, IA for a pre-Thanksgiving bash on November 15th.

Joining them are Jefferson County Green Band, a very fine rock n' roll/jamband outfit who made an appearance in October 2012 at the Elks. This is the 4th year that Lil Ed has come to play in Grinnell and the crowds each year just keep getting bigger. Due to the popularity of the show it has become a standing room only (you might want to consider purchasing tickets in advance and showing up early).

Advance tickets are now available at The advance tickets are $20 and tickets at the door will be $25. If you bring a minimum of two canned goods per person to the door, you can get in for the advance ticket price. Canned goods will be donated to help restock the MICA Food Bank.

Also on Friday November 22nd at Speakeasy in Newton the Speakeasy brings JJ Express with Travlin' Tom Robinson, 9 start time with no cover charge! For more info visit

Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, IA

MVBS presents UK guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Joanne Shaw Taylor at The Muddy Waters, 1708 State Street, Bettendorf, IA on Friday, November 15. Joanne’s performance will start at 9:00 p.m. with a $15 cover charge, or $12 for members of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society.  For more info visit or call (563) 322-5837 

River City Blues Society - Peoria, IL

River City Blues Society presents live Blues featuring James Armstrong on Friday November 29th at Goodfellas, 1414 N. 8th St. Pekin, Illinois. Show starts at 7:30 pm. Admission is $6.00 for general public and only $4.00 for RCBS Members. For more info visit: Or call 309-648-8510

Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club presents the following 2 special shows - Peter Karp and Sue Foley - Nov. 8 7:30pm-11:30pm at Casey's Pub, 2200 Meadowbrook Rd, Springfield, IL (217) 241-7101 and James Armstrong w/opening act Mary Jo Curry and Tombstone Bullet, Nov. 9th 8:00pm-12:00pm at Third Base, 410 W Maple Ave S Springfield, IL (217) 522-7915

Also 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. Nov. 11 – Harper, Nov. 18 – Mary Jo Curry & Tombstone Bullet, Nov. 25 – Tom Holland & the Shuffle Kings, Dec. 2 – Motor City Josh, Dec. 9 – Scott Ellison, Dec. 16 – Hurricane Ruth, Dec. 23 –Brooke Thomas & the Blues Suns, Dec. 30 – James Armstrong More info available at

Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford, IL

The Crossroads Blues Society presents Trampled Under Foot friday November 22nd at the Adriatic on Jefferson and Church Streets in Rockford, 8 PM. $15 advanced, $20 at the door.

Also on Friday December 13th we present afternoon BITS with Bobby Messano followed by our mini-Winter Blues Fest featuring Bobby Messano and Sena Erhardt at the Adriatic on Jefferson and Church Streets in Rockford, 8 PM. $15 advanced, $20 at the door.

For more information about these presentations please contact: Steve Jones - Crossroads Blues Society 779-537-4006 To find out about the event, go to

Blues Society of Central PA – Harrisburg, PA

The Blues Society of Central PA proudly presents a night of ”Women of the Blues” on Saturday, October 26, 2013 at Champions Sports Bar 300 N. Second St, Highspire, PA. from 7 PM – midnight featuring The Ann Kerstetter Band, Miss T & The Mosquitoes and our headliner act , The Deanna Bogart Band. Admission is $15.00 Watch for info at

Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL

Now in their seventh season, The Friends of the Blues present 7 pm early shows: Thur, Nov 7, Terry Quiett Band -Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen's Club, Tues, Dec 10, the return of the Ori Naftaly Band from Israel! - Moose Lodge in Bradley IL sponsored by Mr. Vacuum, Bradley IL More information visit us at or email  

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