Saturday, August 20, 2016

Prodo - The Summoning


2016 –  Prodo
By Phillip Smith; Aug. 20, 2016

The Summing is quite a funky follow-up to the Wisconsin jam-masters Prodo’s debut release, Prodotype.  Amidst a seven month tour in China, guitarist/lead vocalist Henry Robinson, along with drummer Dane Pastor and bassist Jeremy Erickson, hit the studios, and have delivered one hell of an album full of twists and turns.  Embracing the chaos and comfort that can be created with music, Prodo playfully explore the craft of fusion.    

A funky world-beat rhythm loaded with spacy jams gets “Wadadadoo” off the ground very nicely.  “The Creep” ominously follows, brilliantly composed to leave the listener in an unsettled state.  A feel-good reggae beat reels me into the poppy atmosphere and psychedelic sounds of “This Life”.  Title track, “The Summoning”, loaded with heavier guitar riffs, a funkier bass line, and playful lyrics reminds me of Phish, a band I have a high regard for.  Robinson’s soothing vocals set a beautiful melodic tone to “A!”, to which his guitar licks effortlessly hover in the air. And as for what kind of tipper the Dali Lama is on the golf course, forget about it, and take a relaxing listen to the lovely “Gunga Galunga” for your total consciousness needs.    



The Summoning can be found at https://prodo.bandcamp.com/track/the-summoning

JL Fulks - On Down the Road- EP


2016 – JL Fulks Enterprizes
By Phillip Smith; Aug. 20, 2016


Some say great things come in small packages.  That is very true for the latest release, On Down the Road, from the twenty-six year old singer/guitarist JL Fulks . This five track EP is one big bowl of outstanding tunes. After giving it a single listen, one should find it very obvious how his band made it to the Semi-finals of the 2016 International Blues Challenge in Memphis.  Originally hailing from Greenville, South Carolina, and living in Memphis for a while, Fulks now finds his home in Southern Florida, fronting his trio composed of Ken Burgner on bass, and Ian Jones on drums.   

The southern rock fueled title track, “On Down the Road” will get the foot stomping for sure.  Speckled with the sounds of summer, this song about conquering restlessness and breaking free to head out on one’s life journey, features some mighty fine and tasty lead guitar provided by special guest Matt Schofield.  A driving beat and the lush sounds of a B3 from Muggie Doo, set the perfect stage for Fulks’ commanding vocals and riveting guitar on “The River”. 


Fulks guitar is dynamic and intoxicating on the colossal “Phrygian Dance”.  This prog-blues instrumental is pumped with killer beats and stellar bass, making it shine immensely.  This fantastic EP is such a treat to hear, and I anxiously await to hear more music from JL Fulks.  







Saturday, August 13, 2016

JRZ System - Teazer


2016 – Frankenbacker Music
By Phillip Smith; Aug. 13, 2016


I heard JRZ System for the first time last week, with my first visit to the Tommy Bolin Music Festival in Sioux City, Iowa.  Hailing from Lincoln, Nebraska, this extremely talented trio is composed of guitarist Mark Zavon, bassist Troy Johnson, and drummer Todd Roberson.  During these past seven days, their latest release Teazer has rapidly become one of my all-time favorite albums.  This ten track tribute of instrumentals is one stellar testament to the music of the late great Tommy Bolin, capturing each song off Bolin’s Teaser album in their original sequence. In addition, they also include “Crazed Fandango”, originally recorded for Teaser, but not released until 1996 with the release of From The Archives, Vol 1.

From the beginning at “Grind”, I knew I was in for a treat.  Johnson’s monster bassline, Zavon’s ripping guitar, and Roberson’s crushing performance on drums are synchronized until the end.  I can’t help but think of my first impression of Joe Satriani, when I heard Surfing With the Alien, and how much it knocked my socks off.  “Homeward Strut” is crazy good too.  Each person shines bright and takes up the slack for no one.  “Savannah Woman” is another sparkling gem, artistically highlighted by a Santana-like aura and a smooth Latin beat.    

Johnson spins a funky groove on title track “Teaser” for Zavon to weave his psychedelic licks through.  It sounds amazing.  “Marching Powder”, my personal favorite Bolin track, is played ‘balls to the wall’, in an onslaught of melodic metal. I love the way they gently ease into “Wild Dogs” and take off running. 


When it comes to Rock and Roll, it really doesn’t get much better than this.  I am so looking forward to hearing more from JRZ System in the future, because Teazer is fantastic!

Royal Southern Brotherhood - The Royal Gospel


2016 – Ruf Records
By Phillip Smith; Aug. 13, 2016


I really like the musical direction Royal Southern Brotherhood is taking.  Not straying too far from their bluesy roots, the band continues to keep a fresh and funky sound as they roll out their fourth fabulous album, The Royal Gospel.  The RSB lineup this time around consists of singer/percussionist extraordinaire Cyril Neville, guitarists Bart Walker and Tyrone Vaughan, drummer Yonrico Scott, bassist Darrell Philips, and as guest on the B3, Norman Ceasar.  There must have been a lot of magic in the air during the seven days of recording this album at the Dockside Studios in Louisiana. One can feel the connectivity and kinship of the band imbedded in the music.

“Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire” opens with guitars blazing.  Loaded with badass heavy riffs and an intense bassline, this song is best heard loud.  The slide guitar on the swampy blues ditty “Spirit Man”, sounds downright great backed with the soul-filling sound of the B3.  I love the trance-inducing rhythm in “Blood Is Thicker Than Water”.  Neville’s smooth vocals fit in quite nicely.  “Face of Love” is such a terrific song too.  It is quite beautifully sung and performed.  One of my favorite unexpected surprises is when RSB breaks out the funk in “Can’t Waste Time”.  I can’t help but be transported to the late Seventies, when I was first started jamming out to Funkadelic.        


The Royal Gospel closes out in full-on revival mode, urging folks to stand up for what they believe in, with “Stand up” , a soulful tune served ala gospel style, complete with lots of foot stomping and hand clapping.  If this don’t get one moving, it’s likely nothing will.  This lineup of RSB works really well, and I hope it stays in place for a while.  







Monday, August 8, 2016

Tommy Bolin Music Festival - Aug 6, 2016

Sioux City, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; Aug. 8, 2016

One couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day to hold the annual Tommy Bolin Music Festival in Sioux City, Iowa.  It was such a wonderful experience.  This year was special in that it was a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Bolin's second solo album, Private Eyes.  And a heartfelt celebration it was, full of positive energy and musical fellowship.

Somethings can't be helped, so I didn't make it in time to catch Perfect Strangers from Finland, who kicked the festival off at 2:00pm.  I heard nothing but admirable comments about these guys who traveled the farthest to play by a long-shot.   I did however make it in time to catch a really nice set from guitarist Dean Christopher and drummer Bobby Berge.  Berge played with Bolin in Zephyr and then again in Energy.

The Hector Anchondo Band took the stage and treated us to a dashing performance of sizzling blues.  Anchondo's well of talent runs very deep.  His voice reminded me very much of the late great Roy Orbison while singing "Shake Me Shake Me".  I was glad to hear "Candy Shop".  Anchondo plays this one with some bodacious slide.  Santana's "Black Magic Woman" made for a perfect finale, with an amazing display of surf guitar guided by a stellar drum performance.  This one was fun indeed.

The Craig Erickson Band gave up a riveting performance as well.  Erickson, started with with one my favorite tracks from his album Sky Train Galaxy, "Mojo in Memphis" and then got its psychedelic groove on with "Cosmic Farm".  The groove keep going strong all the way to the end with  "The Comeback" , and Erickson's tribute to Bolin, "Gettin' Tighter / Ode to T".  

Following Craig Erickson, was the five-piece band, Russell Bizzett and the East/West Band,  who dished out a rollicking set of blues-rock favorites.  It's always a pleasure to hear Jr. Walker's "Shotgun" and Buddy Guy's "Messing With the Kid".  They rocked the house on this one.   It was also great to hear Etta James' "The Blues is My Business" as well as Freddy King's "Goin' Down".  

The largest ensemble of the night, the Tommy Bolin Tribute Band, featured a revolving door of musicians consisting of Johnnie Bolin (Black Oak Arkansas), Craig Erickson, Bobby Berge, Ryan Vicker, Kenny Passarelli (Barn Storm), Sam Irish, and more.  This special gathering of musicians performed live, the entire Private Eyes album.   From the beginning note of "Busting Out for Rosey" , it was magical.   Black Oak Arkansas's Jim Dandy and Samantha Barnes Seauphine made a surprise appearance, making for a plumb magnificent performance of "Shake the Devil".  With bassist Kenny Passarelli in the house, it would have been a sin not to play "Rocky Mountain Way", which he co-wrote.

I was totally enamored by a tight rock fusion trio, called JRZ System. Their latest album Teazer is a Tommy Bolin tribute, and features all songs by Bolin.  They played a monster instrumental set which included an encore featuring Craig Erickson.  I did not let the night pass by without stopping by their merchandise table to purchase a couple of CDs.   My only regret, is that I only bought two, and not three.

The evening was not going to end without a roof-raisin' set from one of my all-time favorite bands, Black Oak Arkansas.  Grinning from ear to ear, I was happier than a bug in a rug to see this band play live again.  It was so good to hear "Lord Have Mercy on My Soul", "Hot and Nasty", "Uncle Elijah", and "Hot Rod".  BOA was in rare form.  They were smokin'.  For the finale, they treated us to their Bolin cover, "Post Toastie".  It was splendid indeed.


Dean Christopher

Dean Christopher

Bobby Berge

Hector Anchondo

Hector Anchondo Band
Justin Shelton

Hector Anchondo Band

Craig Erickson Band
Rob Haskell, Craig Erickson, John Hall

Craig Erickson

Jesse Christen

Craig Erickson Band
Rob Haskell

Russell Bizzett and the East/West Band
Dennis Lee Kelley & Phil Kelley

Russell Bizzett
and the East/West Band

Russell Bizzett
and the East/West Band

Dennis Lee Kelley

Russell Bizzett
and the East/West Band

Glenn Reitsma

Russell Bizzett
and the East/West Band

Emily Martin

Russell Bizzett and the East/West Band

Russell Bizzett and the East/West Band

Tommy Bolin Tribute Band
Jesse Christen, David Napier, Craig Erickson

Tommy Bolin Tribute Band
Craig Erickson / Ryan Baker

Tommy Bolin Tribute Band
w/ 
Jim Dandy 
Tommy Bolin Tribute Band
Johnnie Bolin

JRZ System
Troy Johnson

JRZ System
Mark Zavon

JRZ System w/ Craig Erickson

Black Oak Arkansas
Samantha Barnes Seauphine
 & Jim Dandy

Black Oak Arkansas
Rick Reynolds

Black Oak Arkansas
George Hughen

Arthur Pearson

Black Oak Arkansas

Black Oak Arkansas
Johnnie Bolin

Black Oak Arkansas
George Hughen

Black Oak Arkansas
Rick Reynolds

Black Oak Arkansas
Arthur Pearson

Black Oak Arkansas
Jim Dandy







Wednesday, August 3, 2016

California Guitar Trio - Live @ CSPS, Cedar Rapids, Iowa : 8-3-16

* all photos by Phillip Smith



California Guitar Trio

Paul Richards

Hideyo Moriya

Bert Lams

Bert Lams

Hideyo Moriya

Bert Lams


Hideyo Moriya

Paul Richards


California Guitar Trio w/ Fabio Mittino

Opening for California Guitar Trio was Italian guitarist Fabio Mattino.  This was his first solo performance in the US.

Fabio Mittino

Fabio Mittino

Fabio Mittino and Bert Lams