Issue 7-7, February 14, 2013
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Cover photo by Arnie Goodman © 2013
In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Delta Bluesman T-Model Ford.
We have 6 music reviews for you! Ian McKenzie reviews a new album by Clayton Doley. John Mitchell reviews a new release from Claude Hay. Rhys Williams reviews a new live album from Buddy Guy. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new album from Mike Wheeler. James "Skyy Dobro" Walker and Rainey Wetnight review a new CD from Teeny Tucker. Marty Gunther reviews a new album from Willie May. We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
“The Taledragger ...
There were a ton of bluesmen before him.
There will be a ton of bluesmen after him.
But there will never, ever be another T-Model Ford.
The good man upstairs will see to that.
For the day that James Lewis Carter 'T-Model' Ford was born into this world in Forrest, Mississippi, the Creator promptly broke the mold and chunked it straight into the Old Man River.
Though he's now firmly into his ninth decade on this earth, T-Model still crackles with all the piss and vinegar of a man many years his junior and can probably still whip as much ass as needed, when it’s needed.
And that's despite the seemingly endless stream of shit he's had to wade through the past few years.
Where lesser men would have crumbled and folded, T-Model has managed to survive – and even thrive –multiple heart attacks, a pacemaker implant, a pair of strokes, the condemnation of his living quarters, and maybe most impressively of all, Father Time.
And when you pile that on top of what he faced as a younger man - plowing a field all day long, enduring a ruthlessly-violent father, toiling away at a brutally-tough sawmill, and serving time on a chain-gang after murdering a man (he’s still got the scars on his legs to prove it)- it seems quite appropriate that T-Model's breakout album, Pee Wee Get My Gun (Fat Possum Records), contains a song titled “Nobody Gets Me Down.”
Consider it the gospel according to T-Model.
For just a quick taste into the colorful life and times of T-Model Ford, all one has to do is to take a stroll down Greenville’s Walnut Street.
There they’ll find a plaque inlaid into the brick sidewalk commemorating one of the city’s favored sons. In addition to the picture of a guitar and microphone that adorns two corners of the plaque, another corner finds a depiction of a gun and a knife.
Though there is a hint of weariness, there's certainly no sign of defeat in T-Model's voice these days.
“I'm doing fine, man ... just like an apple on a tree,” he said from the living room of the Greenville house he and his wife Stella had recently relocated to. “Can't nuthin' keep the Taledragger down for long, you know.”
T-Model's latest heath obstacle has been a stroke he suffered last year, one that left him hospitalized for a spell and also rendered him unable to cut loose on the guitar in the manner he has been accustomed to.
“The good Lord has decided to let me live a little while longer and my arm is starting to get alright,” said T-Model. “I can still play my guitar a little. They tell me I'm 92 years old now and I reckon that's right. People don't believe me, but that's the truth. At least that's what they say ... I don't know.”
T-Model was almost into his 60s and had only barely ever picked up a guitar – much less tried to play one or attempt to turn on an amp – when his fifth wife walked out the door, leaving him heartbroken and unsure as what to do next.
But as he famously said in the documentary You See Me Laughin' T-Model reached over, picked up the Peavey Razor laying by the couch and said, “I'm a play this mother*%#@er.”
And that's just what he did, taught himself how to play the guitar he called Black Nanny.
“I gave it that name when I bought it, when they brought it to me,” T-Model said. “I called it Black Nanny because that's what I thought it looked like.”
T-Model and Black Nanny – along with one of the best drummers to ever play the Delta blues – Tommy Lee Myrick, better known by his one-word handle of Spam - recorded four seminal albums for the Fat Possum label, and then, despite being at each other's throats a good deal of the time, managed to rack up a ton of road miles in support of those LPs.
Never far from the front of the mind is a hot and humid summer night in Batesville, Arkansas on the banks of the White River around the dawning of the new millennium.
As the day gave way to night, and the thick evening air clashed with the cool river water - creating an amazing blanket of cushy, billowing fog as an amazing backdrop - T-Model and Spam slammed through cuts like “Chicken Head Man” and “She Asked me, So I Told Her,” as the duo had ear-to-ear grins stretched across their faces.
Spam, who by day was a grave-digger, passed away a few years back.
And T-Model has a theory as to why his long-tenured running partner is not around these days.
“If he'd left them cigarettes alone, he might still be living. He loved them cigarettes ... he'd always be around smoking them cigarettes,” T-Model said.
Since then, T-Model has recruited another drummer – one who doesn’t live far away at all - his grandson, Stud.
“I got Stud with me now playing the drums. And he can play 'em, too,” he said. “I teached him how to play the drums ... Hell, I teached him everything.”
When he's not gigging at places like Red's Lounge with his grandfather, Stud has also been playing drums for Lightnin' Malcolm as of late.
Whether backed by Spam or Stud, T-Model Ford gigs have always been about everyone in attendance having a good time, regardless of if they’re on the bandstand or on the dance floor.
When T-Model would shout out, “It's Jack Daniels time!” from the stage, it was more than just idle chatter.
It was more like a call to arms.
Nestled carefully under his folding chair would be the ever-present pint of Jack Black, and it wouldn't be long into T-Model's set until that bottle would be drained dry.
And another one would magically appear in its place.
Maybe the biggest adjustment that T-Model has had to make recently has been to leave the Jack Daniels alone.
“Yeah, they won't let me have it now,” he said. “Them doctors said no.”
Almost as notorious as his appetite for whiskey is T-Model's taste for the young ladies that always seem to flock around him at his shows. They're not shy about hugging and fawning all over him, and T-Model doesn’t seem to mind the attention one little bit.
“Yeah, T-Model likes the ladies, but I had to give them up when I done got married,” he said. “But the ladies do love T-Model.”
They love the man and the love the music he coaxes out of his guitar.
T-Model's songs were never meant to be easily-digested and they're sure not for the weak of heart.
Raw as all Hell, they spring to life as if from out of nowhere and when it's time for them to wind down ... they just kind of lurch to a halt instead of coming to a timely and complete stop.
And that's precisely what makes T-Model Ford's brand of blues so unique and spontaneous – they're birthed on the fly.
“Well, I just got into 'em and learned 'em a little bit and then I just went on out there and played 'em,” he said of his song-writing method. “I got a heap of songs I made up. And people like 'em, too. Yeah, they like them T-Model songs ... they sure do.”
As part of the infamous first Fat Possum Caravan back in the mid-90s, T-Model, along with R.L. Burnside and Paul 'Wine' Jones, helped introduce a whole new generation to the real deal Mississippi blues. Criss-crossing towns and any college campus that would have them, the Caravan opened eyes and ears to the fact that there was more to the blues than just B.B. King or Eric Clapton.
Fat Possum's eclectic roster of rough-hewn blues artists also helped to inspire a whole slew of bands that had one foot in the delta camp and the other one in punk rock.
One of those outfits, Seattle's Gravelroad, was inspired enough to join forces with T-Model for a couple of tours and album, giving audiences a dose of the old, as well as the new.
And the ‘young-uns from Seattle’ even lived to tell about it.
“Man, I teached them guys how to play the blues ... how to play some of the songs that I played,” T-Model said. “And they learned it, too. I enjoyed traveling around and playing with those boys. One of 'em called me here last week and said he was gonna come down and see how I was doing one of these days.”
Those not fortunate enough to see the T-Model/Gravelroad pairing up close and personal would be well advised to seek out 2011’s Taledragger (Alive Records) for a taste of how that union went down.
While his days of globe-trotting with a band of musicians 60 years younger than him may be in the rear-view mirror, neither Hell nor high water – or any other myriad of problems – is going to keep T-Model Ford from playing hotspots in Clarksdale or at the King Biscuit Blues Festival.
“I'm doing fine ... everybody loves T-Model Ford, you know,” he said. “And as long as the good Lord let's me live, I'm gonna be here playing those blues.”
Those interested in helping out T-Model with medical bills or with
living expenses please send donations to:
Photos by Arnie Goodman © 2013
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 6
Clayton Doley - Desperate Times
Hi-Fi Doley T
Nine Tracks - 39:43
Mr Doley hails from Australia and started to play music at a very early age. He was attracted to the B3 Hammond Organ and taught himself to use the bass pedals (which for the uninitiated, allow a keyboard top line, to be accompanied by a bass part created by the musician. The double keyboard and an array of knobs and buttons (called ‘drawbars’) to allow the player to alter and adjust the dynamics of the emitted sound. Invented in the 1930s, the instrument became a favourite of jazz musicians (like Jimmy Smith) and was to the fore front of 1960s and 1970s rock with artists like Alan Price, Gregg Allman, Rick Wakeman, and Booker T. Jones of Booker T. & the M.G.'s who used the Hammond, on the song "Green Onions".
Clayton Doley is a master of his instrument. He has a fine jazzy touch and cab take a song like the famous Misty, written by Errol Garner and weave it into an intricate sound picture. Not only that, Clayton has a fine voice too, reminding me occasionally, but not too often, of the vocal stylings of Mose Alison but with a deeper more resonant touch than Allison.
Other, more blues based tracks include, Willie Dixon’s Seventh Son and a very nice rendition of Chicken Shack coupled with the Feather’s How Blue Can You Get? A word here about the excellent guitar work by Champagne James Robertson, some of his licks are simply outstanding. A constant an inspiring presence throughout the CD
The CD includes five Doley originals including the punningly titled Chester Drawers (which I take to be a tribute to B3 player Chester Thompson of Santana) which is a wonderful example of Doley’s nifty footwork on the bass pedals, as well as some atmospheric drawbar work. Take a listen too to the outstanding drum work by Davide Di Renzo
But a word of warning…This is not a blues album, it is much more like a beautifully recorded (in Toronto, Canada) jazz album. Nevertheless, that caveat aside, strongly recommended..
Reviewer Ian McKenzie lives in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South (www.bluesinthesouth.com) a monthly flier providing news, reviews, a gig guide and all kinds of other good stuff, for people living and going to gigs along the south coast of England. Ian also produces and presents three web cast blues radio shows; one on www.phonic.FM in Exeter (Wednesdays: 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central, 10am Pacific) and two on KCOR (www.kconlinereadio) on Fridays at 12noon Central (Blues and Blues Rock) and Mondays at 4pm Central (Acoustic Blues).
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Claude Hay – I Love Hate You
12 Tracks; 41 minutes
This is Australian Claude Hay’s third independent CD release. As on the previous CDs Claude plays virtually everything you hear, with other players adding bass to one track, drums to two and cello to one. Claude also builds his own guitars and his home studio, so this really is DIY music!
Claude’s specialty is slide guitar and the sole cover (Lennon/McCartney’s “Come Together”) is a good example of his style, plenty of slide and a good effort at covering such a well-known song. His own songs which range from acoustic to blues-rock are less impressive. At the more acoustic end of that spectrum we get songs like “Hound” which has plenty of backing vocals to add to the power of the chorus but which peters out towards the end.
The album definitely starts in heavy rock mode with the title track “I Love Hate You”. Claude’s voice reminded me of Robert Plant with a heavy production that seems to recall Zeppelin but is marred by a plodding drum beat. “Good Times” is also high energy rock with some wah-wah guitar and a reasonably catchy chorus. The pace drops for “Stone Face”, a slow but angry song about… an unwelcoming sales assistant!
“Don’t Bring Me Down” has a familiar title but is another Hay original in heavy rock mode, plenty of chugging rhythm guitar work here. The gentlest song on the CD is probably the intro to “Close”, just Claude singing against just his acoustic guitar and a string arrangement and cello before the song develops into more of a Zeppelin “Kashmir”-era feel. Claude also delves into country blues on “Narrow Mind”, his dobro supported by handclaps and foot stomps and “Blues Train” is played at a fast pace befitting the title with some nice picking on what sounds like banjo.
I applaud Claude’s ambition in producing his own music with so little outside input. Although the music may not be to everyone's taste it is always good to see new talent developing their own route through the blues and rock territory.
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 3 of 6
Buddy Guy – Live At Legends
11 songs - 55 minutes
Does the world really need yet another Buddy Guy live album? Especially one that features yet more covers of classic songs that have already been done to death on other albums, with three studio out-takes tagged on at the end? After all, he’s still recording and releasing new material, so do we have any interest in hearing him cover other people’s songs?
Actually, the answer to all three questions is a surprisingly unequivocal “yes”.
The first eight tracks (one of which is an entertainingly foul-mouthed introduction) on Live At Legends were recorded at Buddy’s eponymous club on 29 and 30 January 2010, shortly before it relocated a few doors north on South Wabash Avenue in Chicago. The final three songs are previously unreleased studio recordings from Guy’s Living Proof album sessions, also in 2010.
The live songs are staples that many people will recognise both from the famous original versions but also from now-clichéd versions performed by pretty much every bar band that has ever rustled up a blues set at short notice: “Mannish Boy”, “I Just Want To Make Love To You”, “Damn Right I Got The Blues”, together with medleys of “Boom Boom/Strange Brew” and “Voodoo Chile/Sunshine Of Your Love”. They are played, however, with a verve and energy that we have no right to expect from a 73 year-old man, even when backed by a switchblade-sharp band. Buddy’s voice can still go from a whisper to a scream and back again several times in a single song and his frantic, skittering guitar-playing remains impassioned and on the edge of out-of-control, even when hidden under layers of wah-wah effects.
Buddy and his band also give the songs themselves some novel twists, so that “I Just Want To Make Love To You” becomes a funk work-out, with great organ from Marty Sammon, before segueing into Bobby Rush’s “Chicken Heads”. “Skin Deep”, Buddy’s call for racial tolerance from his 2008 album of the same name, is recast as a slower, less busy, more gospel-influenced number than the studio version, and is perhaps more moving as a result. “Mannish Boy” features Tim Austin’s insistent machine-gun rattle on the drums, giving the song a modern feel, while Rick Hall unleashes a superb solo, to prove that his boss isn’t the only one who can play a mean guitar.
Any Buddy Guy concert of course has to feature his hilarious (and inspired) impersonations of some of his influences (or some of the people influenced by him). On Live At Legends, his introduction to “Boom Boom is uncannily close to John Lee Hooker, even if his interpretation of “Strange Brew” is all Buddy Guy.
Overall, the songs are tightly played and not over-long (always a risk with live albums by great instrumentalists). Indeed, the medleys are perhaps too short, ending just as the listener is getting into the song. Production, by Tom Hambridge, is crystal clear.
The three additional studio out-takes are a slow blues dedicated to his famous Stratocaster, “Polka Dot Love”, a funky “Coming For You”, which is co-written by Delbert McClinton but without Delbert’s usual spark of original genius and a cover of Muddy’s “Country Boy”, which is worth hearing simply for Buddy’s impersonation of Muddy’s voice.
It is perhaps curious that Silvertone/RCA could not find more songs from the two nights they recorded at Legends to make up a full live album, but none of the three studio songs comes across as a “filler”.
Buddy Guy has released over 50 albums in a recording career of almost 50 years. His releases are like Rioja wines. He mixes a range of influences as Rioja blends fruit from three different regions of Spain and, just as one rarely gets a bad bottle of Rioja, so one rarely gets a stinker from Buddy. And a good Rioja, like a good Buddy Guy album, is a wonderful treat. Live At Legends is not as essential as, say, A Man And The Blues, but it is better than we probably have a right to expect.
Worth checking out..
Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England, where the alluvial soil and pancake-flat vista of the Fenland geography was slavishly copied by early American settlers when they built the Mississippi Delta.
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.
Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
Now in their seventh season, The Friends of the Blues present 7 pm early shows: March 5 – Brandon Santini, Kankakee Valley Boat Club, 1600 Cobb Blvd., Kankakee IL 815-939-1699; March 19 – Harper, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, 2672 Chippewa Drive, Bourbonnais IL (815) 937-0870; March 28 – The Sugar Prophets, Kankakee Valley Boat Club, 1600 Cobb Blvd., Kankakee IL 815-939-1699; April 4 – Shawn Pittman, Kankakee Moose Lodge, N State Rt 50 (Kinzie Ave), Bradley IL (815) 939-3636; April 16 – Matt Hill, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, 2672 Chippewa Drive, Bourbonnais IL (815) 937-0870; May 2 – Biscuit Miller, Kankakee Moose Lodge, N State Rt 50 (Kinzie Ave), Bradley IL (815) 939-3636; May 16 – James Armstrong, Venue TBA; May 30 – Bryan Lee, Kankakee Valley Boat Club, 1600 Cobb Blvd., Kankakee IL 815-939-1699. More information: www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues or email@example.com
San Louis Obispo Blues Society - San Luis Obispo, CA
The San Luis Obispo Blues Society welcomes Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers on Saturday, March 2 at 8:00pm at the SLO Vets Hall (801 Grand Avenue, San Luis Obispo, California). The Cinders open the show. Tickets are $17 for Blues Society members and $20 for the general public. All tickets are sold at the door. SLO Dance offers free dance lessons at 7:30pm. 21 and over, please. For more information, call 805/541-7930 or visit our website www.sloblues.org.
The New Mexico Blues Society - Rio Rancho, NM
The New Mexico Blues Society will be holding it's 3rd "Cused of the Blues" festival on March 16th, 2013 @ 1521 Broadway SW, Albuquerque, NM featuring local, New Mexico talent. Hillary Smith & Friends will be headlining the show. So far the lineup, still under construction, consists of The Kenny Skywolf Band, Twisted Mojo, The Jake Jones Band, The Memphis P-Tails with Joanie Cere, The Albuquerque Blues Connection, Hillary Smith & Friends, plus an hour long All Star Jam to close the show which will run from 1:00pm until 9:00pm. Admission is $5.00 for NMBS Members and $7.00 for nonmembers. We will be holding raffles and a silent auction. All proceeds will go toward our Youth Scholarship Fund, Blues In The Schools Program (BITS), and sending a couple of kids to music camp this year. As part of our current membership drive, those joining NMBS between now and March 16th will receive a free ticket to this event. Memberships are as follows: Individual Membership = $20.00/year, Family Membership = $30.00/year, and Band/Business Membership = $40.00/year. Please check us out on Facebook and go to our web site: nmbluessociety.com for the latest listings of Blues Gigs in New Mexico. Blues are happening here and growing by leaps and bounds each and every year. If you are a die hard Blues Fan/Musician and looking for a change, please consider relocating to new Mexico, "The land of Enchantment." http://nmbluessociety.com/
Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford/Northern Illinois
The Inaugural Field of Blues Festival to be held at the Rockford Aviators Stadium on June 22nd has finalized their lineup and they have six great bands ready to be featured on stage. Crossroads Blues Society is proud to announce that Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials, Willie Buck and Tail Dragger with the Rockin' Johnny Band, Toronzo Cannon, Dave Weld and the Imperial Flames, Aaron Williams and he HooDoo, Steve Ditzell and the Flaming Mudcats will be the lineup for the event. This lineup gets into deep traditional, funky, and rocking blues; the energy and sound will please all blues fans and anyone else who attends. Gates will open at 11 AM and the fun begins at noon! Advanced tickets go on sale soon and will be only $10; admission at the gate will be $15. Parking on site will be $2: ample parking is available at the stadium. For more info see www.crossroadsbluessociety.com.
Ventura County Blues Society- Ventura, CA
The Ventura (Calif.) County Blues Society presents the 8th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival (formerly the Simi Valley Blues Festival) on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at Moorpark College in Moorpark, Calif. starting 11 a.m. and featuring headliners the legendary Johnny Rivers; Savoy Brown featuring Kim Simmonds; and Kenny Neal; plus regional acts Dona Oxford, Preston Smith & The Crocodiles, and Michael John And The Bottom Line. Tickets $25. in advance, $30. day of show; kids 12 and under free (with adult). Proceeds benefit The American Diabetes Association and local charities. Info./Tickets: (805) 501-7122 or log onto www.venturacountyblues.com
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. Feburary 18 - Hurricane Ruth, Feburary 28 - Lionel Young, March 4 - Brandon Santini, March 11 - Eddie Snow Birthday Tribute w/ Bill Evans, March 18 - TBA, March 25 - JP Soars. More info available at icbluesclub.org
West Virginia Blues Society - Charleston, W.V.
The West Virginia Blues Society, Inc. presents the return of its rockin’ annual event, the 6th Annual Charlie West Blues Fest (CWBF), Friday, May 17th and Saturday, May 18th at Haddad Riverfront Park in Charleston, WV.
This free event, which has gained national attention throughout its five year history, will play host to some of the most talented and up-and-coming blues artists in the country and from around the world. The return of the legendary Ava Popovich as well as Davina and the Vagabonds will surely get you moving, and other highlighted artists include Kim Wilson & The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Magic Slim & The Teardrops and Mojo Theory, just to name a few.
The CWBF is an annual event dedicated to support wounded service members through the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP)—a nonprofit organization whose mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors. For information on sponsorships and donations contact Jack Rice, West Virginia Blues Society at (304) 389-1439or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.wvbluessociety.org.
The West Michigan Blues Society - Grand Rapids, MI
The West Michigan Blues Society in cooperation with community supported radio station WYCE 88.1 present the 2013 Cabin Fever Blues Series. The Series will be held at Billy's Lounge 1437 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI. 616-459-5757. Music starts at 9:30 PM. The band participating this year are: February 16 - Damon Fowler, February 23 - Sena Ehrhardt, March 2 - Peaches Staten. Cover for the shows are $10.00 per show. http://www.wmbs.org.
The Great Northern Blues Society - Wausau, WI
The Great Northern Blues Society is having our annual fundraiser known as the “Blues Café” on 3/9/13 in Rothschild, WI (near Wausau, WI)
Doors to the Rothschild Pavilion (1104 Park Street, Rothschild, WI) open at noon, music starts at 1:00PM with 10 hours of non-interrupted Music featuring Donnie Pick & the Road Band, Kilborn Alley Band, Grady Champion, Magic Slim & The Teardrops. Corey Stevens and Robert “One-Man” Johnson will be playing Acoustic Sets between main stage acts. There will be 4 Food vendors on site, with Cold Adult Beverages.$17 in advance - $22 at the door. For general information, and Ticket information go to – www.gnbs.org.
Featured Blues Review 4 of 6
Mike Wheeler – Self Made Man
13 tracks / 1:06:28
ountless variations of blues music are being produced all over the world, and most of it is really terrific stuff and I love getting to learn something new every time I check out an artist’s latest material. But every time I hear some quality guitar-driven Chicago blues, it reminds me of why I was drawn to the genre in the first place. And that is why Mike Wheeler’s latest CD, Self Made Man, is in such heavy listening rotation for me right now.
Mike Wheeler has been around the block a few times, having pleased blues fans for almost three decades. He has been with quite a few different bands over the years, and has recorded albums with many of them. These include some true Illinois gems, such as Cadillac Dave & the Chicago Redhots, Big James & the Chicago Playboys and Peaches Staten. I might as well drop a few more names as he has played with some true legends, including B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Koko Taylor.
Mike has been so busy that he has not recorded very much of his own stuff, but he has made up for lost time with Self Made Man. Wheeler takes care of the vocals and guitar, and is joined by a fabulous band that includes Brian James on keyboards, Larry Williams on bass, and Cleo Cole behind the drum kit; harp-master Oman Coleman pitches in on a few tracks too. There is plenty of music on this disc, with 13 tracks and a 66 minute play time. All of these tracks are originals, with the exception of Willie Dixon’s “Let Me Love You Baby.”
Wheeler has a strong and rich vice, and plays a mean blues guitar too. This is evident from the first bars of the lead-off track, “Here I Am.” This is one funky piece of music, and the guitar and bass are perfectly synced over James’ classic Hammond B3 sound. His guitar tone on this song reminds me a bit of Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Mike is able to weave riffs in and out of the verses like the seasoned pro that he is.
Once I wrapped my mind around what good musical skills he has, I began to notice that Mike Wheeler is also a good writer and an engaging storyteller. He shows a great grasp of humor and irony as he explores the misery of getting trapped by the wrong mate (“Big Mistake”), being his own worst enemy (“Self Made Man”) and trying to make things right again (“I Don’t Like it Like That”). These songs are all set to solid blues score with a little funk thrown in for good measure.
Omar Coleman appears on “Self Made Man,” “Get Your Mind Right” and “Chicago Blues.” It seems like this Windy City man is playing everywhere (and with everyone) right now, and he is a force to be reckoned with. If you are not familiar with his work this album will be a great introduction to his talent and energy. His tone is unbelievable, and his ability to work his harp into the mix and play off of Wheeler’s guitars and vocals is uncanny. His contributions pushed “Self Made Man” over the top to make it my favorite track on the disc.
The lone cover tune on Self Made Man is “Let Me Love You Baby,” a Willie Dixon song that Koko Taylor hit out of the park back in the seventies. Wheeler does not try to copy what Taylor (or Steve Ray) did with this song, but instead provides his own smooth take on it. His guitars smooth out all of the edges on this song and with Brian James’ beautiful piano work helps this song flirt with the jazz genre. But the root is still the blues and Williams and Cole stay perfectly in sync to hold down the beat. I like that Mike stepped up and did something a little different with this classic tune.
Self Made Man is Chicago-influenced blues through and through, and it is a real pleasure to listen to all of the tracks -- there is not a clunker in the lot. Between the well-played guitar, the first-rate band and the clever lyrics, and I cannot think of anything on this album that a blues fan would object to. You should give it a listen and think about picking up a copy of your own!.
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at www.rexbass.blogspot.com.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
Teeny Tucker - Voodoo to Do You
13 songs; 39:11 minutes; library Quality
Styles: Traditional Blues, Modern Electric Blues
Being a Blues CD reviewer and Blues radio show co-host, I encounter hundreds of albums per year. Imagine the range that appears, from sadly amateurish to inspiringly great. In almost every case, what separates the exciting album from the mundane is the quality of the vocals. And, honestly, how many truly exceptional, contemporary vocalists are there? My radio partner and I have not found many!
Dayton, Ohio’s Teeny Tucker is the best female Blues vocalist on the scene today! Her singing has a tone that is just instantly pleasing, no matter what the subject matter of the song. Her voice has superior qualities in passion, timbre, pitch, range and volume that define modern Blues. Now, add to that Teeny’s songwriting, backup singers, loyal touring and studio band-mates, and musical director, co-writer, and guitarist Robert Hughes, and you have a stellar combination showcased wonderfully and most recently in Teeny’s third CD, “Voodoo to Do You.” Besides Hughes, complementing Tucker are David Gastel on harmonica and keyboards, Robert Blackburn on bass, Darrell Jumper on drums, Mary Lusco-Ashley and Paula Brown – background vocals, and Linda Dachtyl adds Hammond B3 and piano to four tracks.
Across the set, Teeny Tucker, daughter of Tommy “Hi Heel Sneakers” Tucker, knows just the right notes to cast a spell on listeners. Since the beginning of her professional singing career in 1996, Teeny has mesmerized genre aficionados with releases such as 2008’s award-nominated “Two Big M’s” and 2010’s “Keep the Blues Alive.” Each of the thirteen selections on “Voodoo…” (five originals and eight covers, including a stunning, masterpiece version of Reverend Gary Davis’ “Death Don‘t Have No Mercy”) centers on the tantalizing titular subject. All of them showcase Teeny’s vocals magnificently, especially the three original compositions featured below.
Track 03: “Love Spell”--Some blues melodies spontaneously combust into high-octane lyrics and roaring instrumental riffs, but “Love Spell” is a slow burner. As Teeny yearns for the delightful early days of a fizzled romance, Robert Hughes’ mid-song guitar solo and Linda Dachtyl’s Hammond B3 organ turn up the heat. “I wish things were the way they used to be,” our lovelorn narrator laments, followed by her demand: “Hey, I need you to reach inside and cast a love spell on me!” Perhaps more than any other track on this album, “Love Spell” captures the essence of Teeny’s potent musical voodoo.
Track 07: “Shoes”--This laugh-out-loud-funny song is an ode to fashionable footwear of all kinds, to which many female blues fans can relate! “I’ve got shoes in my closet, lined across the wall, strapped ones, flat ones, ones that make you tall. I got a pair that look nice, a pair that look cool, a pair when I want to cast a spell on you...” Mary Lusco-Ashley and Paula Brown join Tucker (harmonizing with herself) on saucy background vocals, as she sings: “I’m like the woman with so many children that she didn’t know what to do!”
Track 13: “Sun Room”--This previously-unissued track has a unique history. Says Teeny: “...We recorded [it] live at the world-renowned Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. We wrote it a few hours before recording the PBS series [“Sun Sessions”]. Listening to Robert [Hughes’] knowledge of the Sun history shaped the song’s lyrics for me. I was thrilled to have the Teeny Tucker Sun Sessions episode shown on PBS TV in every major market in the USA.” The song itself is a swinging celebration of this legendary studio, complete with guest background vocalist Jackie Tate and bassist Scott Keeler.
Blues fans: enjoy this vocalist and entertainer extraordinaire in her prime. Teeny has never been better, and the band is squeaky tight. And, if you are weary of cold weather and slate-colored skies, Teeny has some “Voodoo to Do You” and banish the winter blahs!
Reviewed by James "Skyy Dobro" Walker and Rainey Wetnight.
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Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Willie May – Thirteen
10 songs – 40 minutes
One glance at the cover art for this CD might lead you to believe that there’s nothing positive or upbeat contained inside. But don’t be misled by the highly detailed, grotesque black-and-white illustration on the j-card. Once you get past the heavily tattooed, misshapen, worm-eaten ghoul on the outside, you’ll discover an interesting mix of blues roots with a touch of reggae and rock within. Although much of the subject matter leans to the dark side, Willie May delivers sunshine amid the gloom.
Aptly titled, this is the thirteenth release for May, a five-time winner of the Buffalo (N.Y.) Music Awards. His career has spanned 30 years with tours across the Rust Belt, into Canada and Texas, and his band has shared the bill with a wide variety of talent, ranging from Steppenwolf and Bachman Turner Overdrive to Big Jack Johnson, Otis Clay, Zora Young, Gatemouth Brown and James Cotton, who guested on one of his previous releases. May composed, produced and sings all of the tracks on this disc in addition to playing lead guitar and providing additional bass, dobro, kalimba and ocarina. He’s aided by Doug Yeomans (guitar), Dwane Hall (backup vocals), Evan Laedke (organ and piano), Owen Eichensehr (piano and percussion), Ted Lambert (fiddle and backup vocals), Jim Whitford (upright bass), Tom E. Corsi (bass), Kevin Espinosa (harmonica), Leeron Zydeco (accordion) and Josh Myers and Randy Bolam (drums).
“Dealin’ With The Devil” kicks off the set, driven forward with May on the dobro. It tells the tale of a man who gets “sanctified” after he discovers the devil got his woman “because the poor girl wasn’t walkin’ upright.” He awakes in the morning “livin’ fortified” to discover the demon at his bedside, but knows he’s going to win the fight because he’s got heaven on his side. He turns to acoustic guitar with fiddle backing for “Lonely Like Me,” an uptempo discourse getting rid of a one-night stand who believes she’s lonelier than him. “You don’t know lonely the way that I do,” he insists. “I’ll never be free.” The short, sweet, swinging “Smile” follows. It’s a New Orleans-flavored groove with accordion backing, with the singer, a night person, awaking early in the morning just to see his baby smile.
The mood changes again with “Devil’s Daughter,” a country blues effort that advises against trying to run from a “voodoo child, gypsy queen, bloodsucker, backbiter” because you’re going to have to fight – you’re on the road to hell. “There It Goes” delivers a full dose of the blues in warning about how to deal with a gypsy woman guaranteed to take your soul. The funky “I’m A Tragedy” follows. This time, the gypsy’s cast a spell on the singer and gotten him to wed, then told him she didn’t love him anymore. “She took my money and left my home. That’s why there’s nothing left but flesh and bones,” he complains. The piano driven “How Can It Be” uses a reggae beat to color the world blue as night replaces day. The CD concludes with “Trilogy Of The Crimson Tempest,” ten minutes of loss, solitude and redemption.
Despite the fact that the dark theme plays throughout this album, it’s never boring. The texture changes slightly with each tune, and May delivers a solid performance. Don’t judge this book by its cover.
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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