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Issue 7-12, March 21, 2013

Scroll or Page Down! For news, photos, reviews, links & MUCH MORE in this issue!

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2013 Blues Blast Magazine

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 In This Issue

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Toronzo Cannon.

We have 6 music reviews for you! John Mitchell reviews a new release from Bobby Rush. Mark Thompson reviews a new album from Doug MacLeod. Ian McKenzie reviews a CD from Willie May. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new album from Sugarcane Collins. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD from Al Basile. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new release from Nick and the Ovorols. 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,

I wanted to mention a very special show. As you know, we recently lost a master Bluesmen when Magic Slim died.

There is going to be a very special tribute and benefit show next week in Chicago. If you can make it you will get to see some of the biggest Blues names on the planet in a very special show that benefits Magic Slim's family. Here is the information from Magic Slim's manager Marty Salzman:

A Night For Magic: A Tribute To Magic Slim

We are happy to announce the Magic Slim tribute show, A NIGHT FOR MAGIC, a tribute to Magic Slim has been scheduled for March 28, 2013, at The Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse Avenue, Chicago, IL 60626 beginning at 7 P.M. All proceeds will go to Magic’s family. Tickets are available in advance through the venue, at a cost of $25.00. Please spread the word to all your contacts and get your tickets while they last. Space is limited.

This All-Star blues tribute will include performances by Shawn Holt and the Teardrops, John Primer, Billy Boy Arnold, Otis Clay, Eddy Clearwater, Jimmy Burns, Billy Branch, Lonnie Brooks, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Wayne Baker Brooks, Eddie Shaw, Nick Moss, Grana Louise, Big Time Sarah, Zac Harmon, Carl Weathersby, Linsey Alexander, Mike Wheeler, J.W. Williams, Steve Cushing, Zora Young, Lurrie Bell, Jimmy Johnson and the Chicago Blues All-Stars, Nalle (Denmark), Ronnie Baker Brooks, Lurrie Bell, Jimmie Johnson and Zora Young.

It is going to be quite a show. So get your tickets before they sell out! Help us spread the word by sending this information to all your Blues friends and contacts. Let's support the family of one of Blues music's true legends by selling this event out and helping Slim's family.

You can get tickets at this link:

See you there!

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music! 

Bob Kieser 

 Blues Wanderings

We made it out to see a show by Ana Popovic put on by the Friends Of The Blues at the Watseka Theatre last weekend. Ana is a guitar player you must see to appreciate. Along with her  great singing and songwriting she put on quite a performance.

She has a new album coming out on April 16th called Can You Stand The Heat. You can check out the title song from the new CD now in this video clip, CLICK HERE

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 Featured Blues Interview - Toronzo Cannon

Dig this scenario – mild-mannered bus driver by day; super-powered, guitar-shredding savior of the blues by night.

Admittedly, that may be a touch overly-dramatic – there’s no evidence that his trusty Flying V is waiting in a phone booth at the end of his route – but that is the life that Chicago bluesman deluxe Toronzo Cannon has been living for the past several years.

A bus driver with 21 years of service for Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) during the daylight hours, when the sun begins to set in the evening, Cannon morphs into one of the brightest lights currently shining on the world of the blues.

“Well, my job (for CTA) is like a necessary evil. If you don’t work, you don’t eat,” laughed Cannon. “But when I’m on that stage, that’s a totally different thing; I want to be on that stage. I want to get out the day’s aggression on that guitar. Public transportation is public transportation and you’re going to get a mix of all kinds of people. But at the end of the day, it’s really nice to be in front of people who are there because they want to see you – and not just because their bus is 10 minutes late. But I’m on the bus all day thinking about that night’s gig. I just can’t wait to get there.”

It’s safe to say that those people clamoring to see the dynamic Cannon do his thing on the stage have rapidly grown in numbers since the release of his breakthrough 2011 album, Leaving Mood (Delmark Records).

Like an unexpected bolt out of the blue, Leaving Mood’s impact on the blues scene was a fast and furious one, catching many people off guard, including its creator.
“Yeah, I was surprised (by the initial reaction) and really didn’t know, you know what I mean? I knew it had made a splash, but then again, I didn’t realize that people were embracing it like they were,” he said. “You’re kind of putting your soul out there for everyone to see.”

Once the first few Hound Dog Taylor-esque chords of album-opener “She Loved Me” grab the listener by the scruff of the neck, it’s almost impossible to deny that a major new force has tossed his hat into the conversation of best blues guitarist calling Chicago home.

But there’s more to Leaving Mood than just a bunch of thick, chunky guitar riffs tossed off by the left-handed Cannon. His confident and powerful vocals also beg for attention and his song-writing gives the listener plenty to mull over and ponder, as well.

“Well, “She Loved Me” was a thing that I had been thinking about because I used to work (on his CTA route) by the jailhouse and you’d see different people go in and out of the jail or the courthouse. And I would always see women going to see their husbands or boyfriends in jail. And then I would sometimes see these women getting out of jail themselves with those little ankle bracelets – those Lindsey Lohan things or whatever those things are – and I would say to myself, ‘How would this feel if a man was in love with a woman in jail?’” said Cannon. “But when it came out in my mind for writing, it was going to be a story about a woman taking a rap for a man. And that’s what the song came from. It’s like, ‘I killed her abusive boyfriend, because I was in love with her and she took the rap for me.’”

Like a good episode of CSI, Cannon’s tunes can be like little mysteries that may not always end up where it seems like they should.

“The title track – “Leaving Mood” - is actually a suicide song. It kind of came up in a conversation I was having with my co-writer at the time, Lawrence Gladney, and I said, ‘Man, I’m in a leaving mood.’ I wasn’t talking about suicide – we were just talking – but we looked at each other and said, ‘Wow. That’s a song.’ But I didn’t want the song to be the traditional ‘got my suitcase packed and am leaving’ song,” said Cannon. “I wanted it to be more engaging, where the listener would say, ‘Oh, wow. The gunshot … he killed himself …’ That’s the blues. Things like that happen.”

“I think I like non-traditional endings, where the listener might go - ‘I sure didn’t expect the guy to kill himself.’ You know, you think the guy’s just going to leave, but then you hear the gunshot and my voice echoes at the end … you want the listener to not be expecting the song to end up there. And I got that because years ago, Bruce Iglauer always told me, ‘Write songs with stories … write songs with stories.’ And I’m left-handed and that’s what I attribute my weird writing style to. So I like to really think outside the box. I mean, I’m trying to be traditional (to the blues), but not traditional in the sense of writing or storytelling. But you know, people have killed themselves over lost love, so I just took that concept and put it to the blues.”

More than just offering advice on matters pertaining to song-writing, Igualer also penned a glowing assessment of Cannon’s skills on the back jacket of Leaving Mood. And while it might seem a bit puzzling for some to see the founder and president of Alligator Records quoted on the back of a CD issued on the Delmark Records label, according to Cannon, it’s really no big deal when you connect the dots.

“Me and Bruce, I can safely say, are friends and we’ve talked for a number of years. He gives me information and knowledge on certain things, and I can go to him when I have questions about things. And he always picks up his phone for me, which is cool,” Cannon said. “So we’ve been friends throughout the years and I didn’t think it would be a far-fetched thing (for Igualer to write a blurb on the back of Leaving Mood), especially since he had worked for Delmark. He’s real cool about it and I thanked him for it.”

Cannon, who was born in the Windy City on Valentine’s Day in 1968, is currently at work on the follow-up to Leaving Mood, and given the way that disc went down with blues lovers everywhere, he knows the pressure is on for outing number two for Delmark.

“A little bit, yeah, because people talk about the sophomore jinx and all that stuff. But I was happy that Delmark asked me to do another one, because I try to never assume anything. And this time I went into it without my writing partner (Gladney),” said Cannon. “But when Steve Wagner (Delmark general manager, producer and engineer) asked me to do another one, I was really happy.”

As a youngster, one of Cannon’s favorite hangout spots on Chicago’s South Side – Baldwin Ice Cream – was in close proximity to Theresa’s Lounge, the legendary juke joint where Buddy Guy and Junior Wells once famously called home. And though it didn’t have the lure of delicious frozen desserts like the ice cream parlor did, Theresa’s still piqued young Cannon’s curiosity.

“It was just a place where I knew my uncles went, you know? That’s where my uncle Richard and uncle Pee Wee would visit and there was an ice cream shop down the street. And me and my brothers and sisters would go down there right before they closed, around 9 p.m., and sometimes I would run down another half-block and look over the banisters (at Theresa’s) because I just figured my uncles were down there” he said. “And sometimes, you’d see things and sometimes you wouldn’t, because the door would be closed. But I never got the chance to go in, because I was just 10 or 11 years old at the time.”

Not realizing that he lived in a neighborhood that was so richly steeped in the blues at the time, the environment that Cannon grew up in was still filled with all kinds of tasteful music.

“My grandmother’s and grandfather’s records would always be playing and whenever my aunts and uncles came over and would be playing cards, you’d hear stuff. So coming up as a kid in the early 70s, when the adults were in the front room – and the kids were in the back – they’d be playing their blues, or stuff like Al Green and once in awhile I’d sneak and look through the beads and see what’s going on up there,” he said. “So music played a role in my younger years; and then at family reunions and things like that. And later I found out that my grandfather’s favorite song was “My Babe” by Little Walter. He used to sing it to my grandmother.”

Picking up and becoming interested in the guitar at the ripe old age of 21, Cannon learned about basic chord structure on the instrument through the music of iconic reggae legend Bob Marley. And while blues and reggae may seem like oceans apart, they’re basically from the same family tree.

“Reggae is Jamaican blues. Our blues is about storytelling and it’s the same thing with reggae – it’s telling a story, too,” said Cannon. “And sometimes, I’ll throw in a couple of reggae-infused songs into my blues act and I tell the audience, ‘You know, you may think I’m playing reggae, but it’s really just the blues from Jamaica.’ And they dig it.”

Cannon, whose first guitar was a Harmony acoustic purchased by his sister from a local pawn shop, has quickly and forcefully carved out his own space among the crowded ranks of the best Chicago blues guitarists, although he seems far from ready to just sit back and coast on what he’s accomplished to date.

“I’m really insecure about my guitar-playing, because there are so many great players out there. For me, the grass is always greener. For myself, no matter what I would do to turn myself on, I would look at guys like Chico Banks, or Mike Wheeler or Rico McFarland … Carlos Showers, Carlos Johnson, Carl Weathersby …there would always be something that I would see them do that would knock me down and make me say, ‘I gotta’ go back in the basement.’” he said. “But I just try to play guitar. My focus is to just try and keep up with the other cats – not to try and pass them. I just want to do my part and turn myself on.”

Weathersby turns up to play guitar on a pair of cuts on Leaving Mood, and Cannon salutes the late, great Banks with a lively and upbeat tune titled “Chico’s Song.”

“He (Banks) was our Michael Jordan of the blues here in Chicago. He was our (this generation of Chicago blues guitarists) Magic Sam, because he was a bright, shining star and then all of a sudden, he was gone,” said Cannon. “He is greatly missed.”

There’s little doubt that all of the sudden attention heaped on Cannon has been a bit head-spinning at times for the bluesman. Sometimes instant attention and the white-hot glare of the spotlight can wear on a person and ultimately give them a loftier impression of themselves, changing the way that they view things in the process.

But that doesn’t seem to be an issue with Cannon.

“I don’t take any of this for granted … how could I? I mean, I’m getting ready to go to France and I’m sitting in the airport, just looking at my guitar and thinking, ‘Wow. This (guitar) has got me going places that I never thought I’d be going.’ How can you take that for granted?” he said. “Cats don’t HAVE to ask you to play with them. Promoters don’t HAVE to ask you to play at their festivals. You know, whatever they’ve got leftover is what I’ll take, man. One of my sayings is, ‘You’re only as good as your last gig.’ So I’m always humble, because I feel like I have to prove myself every time out.”

Those proving grounds can come in many diverse forms; sold-out, standing room only festivals on a Saturday afternoon, or nearly-empty clubs on a Sunday evening.

“I was playing at Buddy Guy’s on Super Bowl Sunday and there weren’t many people there; there was like 18 people and they were from England,” he said. “But I just went ahead and did my thing and I ended up selling 16 CDs that night. The place was virtually empty because of the Super Bowl, but it wasn’t the fault of those cats that were in the club. They came to see a show and that’s what they got.”

Photos by Bob Kieser © 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

Bobby Rush – Down In Louisiana

Deep Rush Records/Thirsty Tigers

11 tracks; 49 minutes

Bobby Rush has issued everything from solo acoustic to full band recordings in recent years. On his latest CD there are no ‘bootylicious ladies’ as Bobby operates in small band format and, although recorded in Nashville, Bobby takes the music ‘back home’ to his native Louisiana. The cover depicts Bobby in front of an old wooden shack with rough stones and woods around him. He is, however, also in front of a Marshall amp and the cover is all sepia tones except for Bobby’s guitar which is picked out in bright turquoise and purple – a very well-produced piece of artwork. The musicians involved are producer Paul Brown who plays all keyboards, Pete Mendillo on drums, Terry Richardson on bass, Lou Rodriguez on guitar and April Brown on backing vocals. Bobby plays guitar and harp and handles all lead vocals.

All the songs come from within the band, predominantly from Bobby alone. Just the title track is a cover and it’s a good one, a composition by former Redbone brothers Pat and Lolly Vegas with Jim Ford. To give the song the real Louisiana feel Paul Brown produces an accordion sound on his keyboard and with the percussion effects from Pete Mendillo the song has a Little Feat vibe and makes a great start to the album. “You Just Like A Dresser” has an amusing tag line “…somebody’s always ramblin’ in your drawers” as the band sets a real funky beat behind Bobby’s vocal. You can imagine this one easily transferring to Bobby’s full band show. In similarly amusing vein “I Ain’t The One” (written by Paul Brown) is a bright tune that tells us that Bobby won’t be the one to tell his lady what she will be missing if he walks away. Bobby demonstrates his harp skills which also feature (in different style) on the slow blues of “Don’t You Cry” which musically sounds a little like “It Hurts Me Too”. The guitar playing here (I assume Lou Rodriguez) is very nicely done too. “Tight Money” opens with plaintive harp before an insistent funk beat comes in. One small issue is that the sleevenotes have this, the next song and their respective timings the wrong way round!

“Boogie In The Dark” is a rocking tune with nice guitar and a familiar lyric (for Bobby Rush fans!). “Raining In My Heart” finds Bobby laying down another funky piece with strong backing vocals and organ though the lyrics are pretty derivative – “the sun’s gonna shine in my back door someday”, etc. “Rock This House” is almost an instrumental collaboration between Bobby, Paul and Lou and has some of that ‘chicken scratch’ guitar as well as synthesised horns, the only vocals being a chorus of “we’re gonna have some fun tonight”; difficult to keep still to this one. “What Is The Blues” finds Bobby starting in spoken mode to explain his vision of the blues over a slow and swampy backing, the two guitars intertwining very well as Bobby sings about sleeping alone while his woman is with someone else. Returning to happier thoughts and funkier rhythms, Bobby then tells us another familiar story about the “Bowlegged Woman”, the song also name-checking New Orleans, going down behind the sun, collard greens and, inevitably, a knock-kneed man! The album closes with the gentle “Swing Low” which is an amalgam of the spiritual and some additional lyrics by Bobby. Bobby’s world-weary voice suits the mood of the song well and the very quiet backing vocals work well behind him.

At 77 Bobby Rush is still making music and sounding a lot younger than his age. Long-time fans will definitely find things they like here and some who are not familiar with Bobby’s work could well start here.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. Current favorites from recent releases include Michael Burks, Little Feat, Sugar Ray and The Bluetones, Albert Castiglia, Johnny Rawls and Doug Deming.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Featured Blues Review 2 of 6

Doug MacLeod - There's a Time

Reference Recordings

13 tracks/58:09

Over his thirty year career, Doug MacLeod has consistently honored the lessons he learned from legends like Big Joe Turner, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and George “Harmonica” Smith. MacLeod's original songs take a hard, honest, and often humorous look at world as he sees it. His heartfelt tales are delivered with his masterful storytelling skills, consistently connecting with listeners on deep emotional levels while his immaculate phrasing on a bevy of guitars creates a rich backdrop for his riveting vocals. Nominated for numerous Blues Music awards, including “Acoustic Artist of the Year”, MacLeod is firmly established as one of the reigning masters of the acoustic genre.

On his latest release, he changes course a bit by adding long-time associate Denny Croy on bass and the renown Jimi Bott on drums, both men adding rich rhythmic textures to the proceedings. MacLeod switches between his personally hand-crafted National M-1 Reso-phonic he calls “Moon”, his older Gibson C-100 “Little Bit” acoustic, a National “O” called “Owl” and a borrowed 12 string National El Trovador.

The recording was done live in the recording studio by Grammy-winning engineer Keith Johnson, who is known for his ability to capture and accurately recreate the magic of a live performance. MacLeod admits that he initially had some hesitation about this method of recording but the trio quickly settled into a relaxed comfort zone based on their years of playing together. The result is a sonically superior recording that articulates each note from Bott's subtle use of his drumsticks to the notes that ring out of the leader's guitar.
Highlights abound, starting with “Black Nights”, a worrying blues about nightfall and the intense feelings it conjures up. “Run With the Devil” is a descriptive portrait of a man from MacLeod's past who “..played music with a cross-eyed mind.”. The talking blues is set up by sharp slide licks on 'Owl'.

MacLeod paints another vivid picture on “St. Elmo's Room and Pool”, making you feel right at home at a neighborhood joint that offers” ..a fine selection of real cheap blues” in addition to a variety of illegal entertainment options. On “I'll be Walking On”, he delicately picks on 'Moon' while his voice rises in a mournful cry as love fades. The shimmering tones of the 12 string El Trovador compliment MacLeod's voice as he slips into the falsetto range on “The Up Song”, delivering a positive message about the power of hope.

MacLeod's wry sense of humor gets a workout on “My Inlaws Are Outlaws” over a light, swinging groove while he takes dead aim at the self-absorbed on “The Entitled Few”, calling out those who ignore the suffering all around them. Another stand-out track revisits a street-corner debate MacLeod had with a zealous ”Christian” over the merits of Biblical scripture and who will receive salvation. “A Ticket Out” is a gentle ballad relating how regret eats away at you when the time comes to end a relationship. On “Rosa Lee”, MacLeod wrings some razor-sharp slide licks from 'Moon' and you can hear how the three musicians are in perfect sync.

Croy's bass provides powerful foundation on “East Carolina Woman” as the singer expounds on another relationship that left him with a troubled mind. The emotionally-charged rendition of “The Night on Devil's Road” reaffirms MacLeod's mastery as a storyteller. The haunting “Ghost” closes the disc with hair-raising cries and a hypnotic guitar line.

Doug MacLeod has earned the many accolades and honors that have come his way in recent years. He continues to find creative ways to rework the blues traditions, honoring the legacies of the legends he learned from. Keeping in mind that he has over twenty recordings to his credit, There's a Time might be his best yet. He takes us into the darkness, then pulls us out, offering a glimmer of hope that some day we can make the world a better place. Until then, be thankful that we have him around to continue to guide us to look at the world with brand new eyes. This one come highly recommended!

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying life without snow. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and the past president of the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years - just ask his wife!

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Featured Blues Review 3 of 6

Willie May - Blue Decade

Booman Music BMCD4014

Ten Tracks - 41:43

By his own admission Willie May has performed in basements, barns, garages, street corners, speak-easies, house trailers, preschool, high school, colleges, radio, television, bars, concert halls, outdoor festival arenas, and inside Attica prison. Leaving aside the obvious question about the last of these, it appears that Willie May has some hundreds if not thousands of gigs under his belt.

This CD seems to have been around for some time, for an examination of the Willie May website (see above) shows a number of additional albums to be available. Although it is quite possible, it is unlikely that many of them are better than this.

On the ten original tracks, Mr May performs with a mix of excellent musicians in settings ranging from slow blues to funky. In the first category is a track (Off Her Rocker) which features some excellent supporting harp work by the great James Cotton…this one is make-the-hair-on-your-neck-bristle-good! Always a sucker for a horn section the opener I Won’t Miss You, falls nicely in the funky category with a surging bass part (Tom E. Corsi) that lifts the roof and a sax solo from Larry Cheeley that is short but outstanding. Nice second voacal part here too from Barbara St Claire. Fun Fun Fun, Stormin’ bass too on the closer (think the Theme To Peter Gunn: anyone remember that?) called Friend Of The Friendless. A relentless foot tapper this one, with some driving harp work from ace harmonic player Mike Silver.

All in all, an excellent album that is recommended and forms a part of a growing body of outstanding music from Mr May. Keep on keeping on Willie.

Reviewer Reviewer Ian McKenzie lives in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South ( 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

 Blues Society News

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Heartland Sound Staged - Peoria, IL

A group of area music lovers are planning and organizing a fundraiser-type music event, The Jam Sessions @ Expo to Support Local Live Music. It will be Saturday, March 30, 2013 beginning at Noon at the Opera House at the Expositions Gardens, 1601 W. Northmoor Road, Peoria IL.

Year after year our area musicians donate their time, equipment and talent to help members of our community in their time of need. They share their music & talent, for no other reason, than to help! This event is to thank them for sharing their gift of music with all of us, and all their much appreciated community service!

Net proceeds will be divided by the performing artists and HEARTLAND SOUND STAGED, a musical television pilot filmed and produced in Central Illinois in part by musicians Robin & Tony Crowe. Our area is rich with musical talent and these 8 bands are just a few of the areas musicians that deserve a pat on the back and a Thank You!

The show features Boomstick, Robin Crowe Band, Bill Porter, Dave Chastain, Magnanimous, Sofa Shark and Brain Child. Admission is a $10 donation. For more information contact: Ron Mc Fall (309) 678-8476 or visit 

Grafton Blues Association – Grafton, WI

The 6th annual Grafton Blues Challenge will be held March 23rd, 2013 at Circle B Recreation Center, 6261 State Road 60 Cedarburg, WI. Admission is $10. 11 Blues Acts are competing. Doors at 4 pm. Tickets available online

The Santa Barbara Blues Society - Santa Barbara, CA

The Santa Barbara Blues Society, the oldest existing U.S. blues society, founded in March 1977, celebrates its 36th. birthday on Saturday, March 23, 2013, at the Carrillo Recreation Center, 100 E. Carrillo Street in downtown S.B. The performer, flying to S.B. from his home in the blues mecca of Chicago, is John Primer, making his debut for the SBBS. Have you noticed that great musicians attract other great musicians to play with them? Think Miles Davis, B.B. King, John Mayall…and arguably the greatest bluesman of them all, Muddy Waters. Well, Primer was guitarist in Muddy's last band before his death in 1983. Subsequently he was prominent for over a dozen years as guitarist with the stellar Chicago blues band, Magic Slim and the Teardrops.

For the last 20 years, Primer has fronted his own band and garnered multiple awards and kudos while keeping alive the sound of classic Chicago blues. He is a current nominee for a Blues Music Award, given annually by the Blues Foundation, for Traditional Male Blues Artist of the Year. Doors will open at 7:00 PM; music starts at 8:00 PM. There is a large spring-loaded dance floor; there will be free BBQ snacks and birthday cake. For further information, go to, or leave a message at (805) 722-8155.

Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, Iowa

The 2009 International Blues Challenge winner J.P Soars will be playing a show sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Blues Society on Wednesday, March 27th at Martini’s On The Rock, 4619 34th Street, Rock Island IL. Showtime is 7:00; admission is $10, $8 for MVBS members.

J.P. Soars and his band The Red Hots not only won the International Blues Challenge in’09, but that same year J.P. got the coveted Albert King Award for “Most Promising Guitarist”. Since then the raves have continued to roll in with Mr. Soars garnering a Blues Music Award nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Artist of 2012, based mostly on his new release, More Bees With Honey.

And if you’d like a little taste of this year’s upcoming MVBS Fest 2013, make an effort to come to Martini’s and give a listen to this guitarist extraordinaire, who will be teamed with slide guitarist Damon Fowler and pianist Victor Wainwright in an all-star band called Southern Hospitality who will headline the Tent Stage on Thursday July 4th at 10:00 p.m. And if that still isn’t enough to entice you, come see J.P. play his homemade, 2-string cigar box guitar for some very old-time blues.

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society is seeking bands to participate in the inaugural Mississippi Valley Blues Challenge. The first Mississippi Valley Blues Challenge will be held July 5, at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival. The first of three bands will start at 3 PM and each will perform 20‑minute sets with 5 judges making a decision on which band is the best.

Bands within a 175 miles radius of the Quad Cities will be eligible to compete, but before a band can progress to the final round at the festival, they must first surmount a preliminary round on April 28, at The Muddy Waters, Bettendorf, IA, to decide on the top three bands for the final competition at the festival.

The winner earns the right to compete in the International Blues Challenge held in Memphis, January 21-January 25, 2014. The prize package also includes cash, travel expenses, and the opportunity to perform July 6, 2013 at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in Davenport, Iowa.

The deadline for applications is April 20. All interested bands can find applications at

River City Blues Society - Pekin. IL

The River City Blues Society presents JP Soars & The Red Hots on Friday March 29th at 7:30pm at Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St. Pekin, Illinois will be . Admission $6.00 general public or $4.00 for Society Members For more info visit: or call 309-648-8510

The Piedmont Blues Preservation Society - Greensboro - NC

The Piedmont Blues Preservation Society’s 27th Annual Carolina Blues Festival presented by YES! Weekly is being held in downtown Greensboro, NC, May 18, 2013. We’re excited to announce Janiva Magness and Kenny Neal will be headliners for the day-long event.

Janiva Magness has been nominated for five Blues Music Awards: B.B. King Entertainer Of The Year Award, Contemporary Blues Female Artist Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Contemporary Blues Album Of The Year, and Song Of The Year. The Awards Ceremony happens just 9 days before our festival.

Kenny Neal, 2011 Louisiana Music Hall of Fame Inductee, is an acclaimed multi-instrumentalist and is widely renowned as a modern swamp-blues master. His new release, Hooked On Your Love, follows the triumph of his multi-award-winning 2008 comeback album, Let Life Flow. The CD raked in the accolades: three Album Of The Year awards, two Song of The Year awards for the title track, and Kenny himself garnered two Artist of the Year honors.  More Info at

Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL

Now in their seventh season, The Friends of the Blues present 7 pm early shows: 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: or

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

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. March 25 - JP Soars, Apr 1st - Shawn Pittman, Apr8th - Blues Deacons, Apr 15th - Matt Hill, Apr 22nd - Brad Vickers & His Vestopolanias, Apr 29th - Stone Cold Blues Band. More info available at 

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, Tinsley Ellis, Mud Morganfield, Kristine Jackson, Grand Marquis Band, Southern Hospitality, Bryan Lee & The Power Blues Band 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 Visit

 Featured Blues Review 4 of 6

Sugarcane Collins - Downunder the Blues

Across the Rhythm Records

12 songs; 62:42 minutes

Styles: Traditional Blues, Modern Acoustic Blues, Blues Rock

It’s phenomenally difficult for an artist to follow a seminal achievement with a work of equal quality. Consider Australia’s Sugarcane Collins, an acoustic bluesman with a threefold fire in his vocals, guitar and songwriting. His 2006 masterpiece story of the blues, “Way Down the River,” was the culmination of thirty years of research, study, and profound soul-searching. What songs could possibly follow his thirteen-track saga of hardship and oppression suffered by the African slaves and hope to match them? This time, Sugarcane has traveled back to his own land “Downunder” to recapture much of the eerie and poignant magic that his “magnum opus” contained. As on “Way Down the River,” each of the twelve compositions is original, and the blues world will be made a far better place because of it. Plucking nylon strings on his acoustic, no one spanks the guitar like Sugarcane, but this reviewer believes his prime strength is as a lyricist, as evidenced in these selections:

Track 01: “The Blues Downunder”--This tale has two parts, comparing the misfortune of one Jim Jones, a British convict on his way to Australia in its penal-colony days, with the misfortune of the Aboriginals who are systematically and cruelly dispossessed of their lives and ancestral lands. Sugarcane’s hard-driving acoustic guitar notes and vengeful vocals mark the song as a chilling overture to the rest of the album: “And some dark night when everything is silent in the town, I’ll shoot those floggers, one and all, I’ll shoot those bastards down!” As the sounds of the sea continue to lull listeners, Brett Charles presents a pointed monologue originally written by Australian author Xavier Herbert in April 1978: “Until we give back to the black man just a bit of the land that was his…we shall remain what we have always been so far, a people without integrity--not a nation, but a community of thieves.”

Track 09: “Flowers by the Roadside”--Although this is a poetic ode to, and a chiding of, hot-rodding travelers, its tone is anything but melancholy. The tempo of “Flowers” is reminiscent of an automobile barreling down the highway in the dark of night. Listeners might imagine it’s full of whooping teenagers, who are ignoring not only the speed limit but their own safety. After these motorists’ fatal joyrides, "and now amongst the crumpled steel there's bodies dead and cold," Sugarcane recounts rumors of their spectral sightings: “There’s tortured souls and spirits out on the highways… They gambled, they lost, and never made it home.” Reckless drivers may learn their lesson for a while, while the pain of their loss is still fresh, but “now the paint is fading on the cross where you died.” This minute detail is a metaphor: as the paint fades upon this memorial, so does the warning that it represents. “The highway’s a gamble when you’re going for a ride,” Collins comments ruefully. However, it need not be a heedless one. The fewer “Flowers by the Roadside,” the better.

Track 10: “Berry’s Creek Dreaming (When I Was a Cowboy)”-- This is one of the most poignant autobiographical songs ever written. Collins warmly reminisces about the farm upon which he spent most of his childhood: the land, the pests both animal and plant, and most of all, the people: “We’d go in the back door. The house would be sleeping, though big clock would tick-tock and chime on the hour. And all through those child days, those wild days and vile days, the farm: it was big, it was safe, it was ours. It was home, home….” This refrain of “home” is long and soothing, a call originally for the dairy cattle that four generations of Sugarcane's family raised. With atmospheric accordion by Kirk Steel and penetrating lyrics, “Berry’s Creek Dreaming” is a balm for the soul and a soft cloth to dry one’s tears. Anyone who pines for home will rejoice in it, as will all who remember their childhood pleasures and pains.

Sugarcane Collins gave the blues genre the masterpiece “Way Down the River,” which was set in the Mississippi Delta of the 1920s and 30s, and on “Downunder the Blues,” he has continued with his sublime storytelling, innovative arrangements and pristine production. So go to his website get your hands on a copy of this brilliant new album, and take a trip to Australia with him--and to blues heaven!

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

2013 Blues Blast Music Awards Submissions Now Open

It is that time again to let publicists, artists, labels and Blues industry contacts know that submissions for consideration in the 2013 Blues Blast Music Awards are now open.

We are again offering to put your eligible Blues music releases directly into the hands of our 30 nominators for consideration in this years awards. Submissions are free and can be sent until 4/15/2013.

Complete information at the link below.

 Featured Blues Review 5 of 6

Al Basile - At Home Next Door

Sweetspot Records


The former Roomful Of Blues cornet player offers a 2-CD set this time around. The first consists of remasters of various tracks from his Sweetspot Records output, as well as one new one. The second CD is his latest recordings. Former band mate Duke Robillard produced the new tunes, and is the sole guitarist throughout the two discs. Duke employs his band, as well as some “first call” guest musicians. Al penned all twenty seven of the songs. Once again he provides vocals along with his classy cornet playing.

Disc one, At Home With The Blues, consists of what the title implies, blues of various styles. Al’s writing style lends itself to stretched out easy-rolling blues. There aren’t any melodies here that you’ll find yourself humming. That is not to say that the playing and sound quality isn’t of the highest caliber. “Go Back Home To The Blues” basically serves as the title track. It swings along quite nicely courtesy of Duke’s guitar and the organ work of Bruce Katz. Al possesses a voice well suited to the blues, just the right touch of grit. Muted cornet is a nice lead-in to the “uptown blues” of “Daddy Got A Problem”, the problem being momma. Tasty organ by Bruce Katz and a punchy horn section move things along just fine.

The narrator is happy that she’s “Not The Wrong Woman” and the jazzy cornet, sax and “late-night” piano soloing are not the wrong music for this fine tune. “Bad Intentions”, as well as every other song make good use of Duke’s versatile guitar skills and the band’s ensemble interaction. The subject matter of “Picked To Click” is voodoo, so it looks really awkward when the term “goofy dust” is used instead of the correct “goofer dust”. I’m not making this stuff up folks. “Annie Get Your Thing On’ is a dose of smoldering funk. “Too Slow”, “Housekey Blues” and the awkward “Termites In My Basement” seem to be sexual innuendo. Acoustic country-blues guitar support the mundane lyrics of “80 Bells”, the only other mediocre track here.

Disc two, Next Door To The Blues, leans to a more soul and R&B tinged sound. Duke, drummer Mark Teixeira and most of the horn section make appearances here as well with the same fine results. “Too Much Like Fate” and “Keep That Heart’ are good examples of the upbeat tunes. The melancholic, jazzy “Stony Ground” feature melodic guitar and cornet solos. “Tryin’ To Impress The Girl” has just the right amount of a classic Fats Domino vibe to give it that freshness. A “take charge” groove powers “Miss Dissatisfied” from Duke Robillard’s chugging intro to his “spot on” distorted soloing to Al’s skittering muted cornet solo and “in command” vocal. The shadow of The Rolling Stones loams over parts of this song.

The playing is of the highest order and the sound is clear and crisp throughout. You’ll find yourself appreciating Duke Robillard’s amazing capacity for playing many styles of guitar really well. Everyone should find something to like here.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Featured Blues Review 6 of 6

Nick and the Ovorols – Telegraph Taboo

Self Release

10 tracks / 46:09

Some guitarists spend their entire lives searching for the perfect tone, but it sounds like Chicago’s Nick Peraino hit the mark early and then some. On Nick and the Overols’ debut studio CD, Telegraph Taboo, he lays down some of the heaviest hitting blues rock tones I have ever heard. Who would ever guess that he started out as a jazz musician?

Nick is a Yankee that moved to the windy city in the late 1990s so he could study jazz guitar at DePaul University and to be closer to the Mecca of blues music. After college he toured the Midwest with his own band and worked as a sideman around town. He took the role of frontman again when he formed Nick and the Overols in 2011, and their music is not jazzy at all! Nick provides the guitar, bass and other stringed instrument parts on this album, and he is joined by Lance Lewis on drums, Marcin Fahmy on keyboards and Honeesoul on backing vocals. Peraino produced the album and wrote all of the tracks, with Lewis having co-writing credit on the first song.

And the first song is one raw piece of electric blues. “Take the V Train” uses a guitar pattern that repeats and then layers over a heavy ride cymbal and kick drum with Lewis hammering out a basic bass part. Despite the great guitar sounds, Nick’s voice is the star here. He comes off like a harder-edged Paul Rodgers, which is a good thing. The lyrics are simple with no frills, which is something you will find throughout the album.

After the first track, things turn up a notch. “Chitown Via Greyhound” has a couple of false starts, almost like he is trying to figure out the best way to approach the song, and then it just takes off like a bat out of hell. For this one Peraino uses heavily distorted guitars with a neat slide solo overlay. Lewis is back on the drums for this track and he lays down a serious beat. This song segues into the slow rolling “Heed the Words I Say” which has a slightly funkier vibe due to the inclusion of Fahmy’s B3.

“Honey Please” is a standout track, with a bit more of a modern sound. It is upbeat with thumpy bass and lots of toms and kick drum. Peraino tortures his voice as he strings together an impressive string of musical clichés. His guitars are all over the place and he has some truly awesome solos that battle with each other. Then “Mojo A Go Go” brings the soul and funk out with some wacky distorted keyboard parts. Though the material is all blues-based, Nick and the Ovorols manage to come up with a lot of different sounds and tones, so things never get into a rut.

The vocals are overpowered by the music in the slow-burning “Hey, Mr. President” to the point where I had a hard time understanding the words. This is fine with me as I do not like to mix my music with politics. After this song the album takes a turn and we are treated to a neat ballad, “Try Me,” which is the longest track, coming in at 7 ½ minutes. In this song Nick shows just how pretty he can sing, and his voice works so well with Honeesoul’s. Fahmy’s organ work is very tasteful, and Peraino’s guitars have a lot of neat textures in this tune, with a good mixture of clean and reverb layers. This is my favorite track on the album as it is just so well crafted. The mood becomes even more subdued with “Day to Day,” a bare bones ballad. The drums are left out as Nick experiments with delay-soaked acoustic guitar and some edgy effects. He also throws a little accordion into the mix, which adds nicely to the unique sound of this track.

The band picks up the tempo and brightens the mood with the soulful “Half of Two” as Honeesoul returns. And to close out the album, Nick gives us “Soundtrack to Life” which a short yet mournful guitar-only a capella tune.

Telegraph Taboo was an ambitious undertaking, and Nick and the Overols were up to the task. This is a collection of twelve very good original songs, and if you like hard-hitting electric blues this will be just the ticket for you. Check it out if you get a chance -- you will be glad you did!

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

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

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