Saturday, February 4, 2023

#595 : Kim & Brian - In the Valley of the Blues (


2022 – Kim & Brian

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 4, 2023

Release Date : Dec. 18, 2022 

Original source :


Kim & Brian, a blues act from Tacoma, Washington, has recently caught my attention in a large positive way.  Comprised of Kim Archer and Brian Feist, the duo have been playing and writing songs together since 2019.  In 2022, they were awarded “Best New Band” from the Washington Blues Society.  Their new EP release In the Valley of the Blues is jam-packed with five solid original blues tracks topped with stellar vocals, and excellent musicianship.  With both Kim and Brian taking on vocals, Kim performs on acoustic guitar, and Brian on lead guitar.  The two are joined by Andrew Cloutier on drums, and Jerome Gates on bass.

The driving rhythm on “Lewis County Jail” lays the tracks for Kim’s commanding vocals and Brian’s smokin’ guitar to transport a hefty load of blues from the git-go.  Taking the lead on “Valley of the Blues”, Brian’s soulful voice sounds great as each note from his guitar projects pure emotion.  “Dark Light” is a simply amazing track.  The spotlight shines brightly on Kim’s vocal artistry.  Her voice on this song reminds me a lot of Jeni Grouws’ from The Avey Grouws Band.  In the Valley of the Blues concludes with a sultry bid of adieu called “Worlds Apart”.  Kim’s vocals are amazingly smooth.

It’s very exciting to hear new music of this caliber.  Kim & Brian sound terrific together, and their songs are downright splendid.  I’m looking forward to hearing more from them. 



For more information about Damon Fowler, visit his website at:


Available on Amazon

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Saturday, January 28, 2023

#594 > Tas Cru - Riffin' the Blue (

2023 – SubCat Records

By Phillip Smith; Jan. 28, 2023

Release Date : Feb. 3, 2023

Original source :


Riffin’ the Blue, the latest from New York bluesman Tas Cru, certainly lives up to its name.  The riffs are infectious and deliciously bluesy, making for a fantastic new batch of home-grown originals from Tas.  The album is self-produced and features Tas on vocals and guitar with Mary Ann Casale on backing vocals, Ron Keck on percussion, Bruce Katz on piano/organ, Andy Hearn on drums, and Bob Purdy on bass.  Special guests include Mike Zito, Lenny Milano, and Bill Barry.

With Zito tearing it up with a smoking performance on lead guitar, the album bursts wide open with the title-track “Riffin’ the Blues”.  The organ accompaniment from Barry sounds glorious on this rocking blues shuffle.  A funky beat and a swinging rhythm is the backbone for the rally cry of “Stand Up”.  It’s an absolute favorite which quickly brings me up on my feet.  I love the lush Mark Knopfler-ish tone Tas pulls out of his guitar on “Throw it All Away”.  Tas’ approach to writing and composing often reflect a Warren Zevon kind of style.  “Crazy Getting in My Way” is a fine example of a song which falls into that category.  It’s quite an amazing track.  Riffin’ the Blue concludes with the haunting blues of “Memphis Gone” which showcases the talent of Zito on slide guitar.  The emotion Tas poignantly pours into his vocal and guitar performance is deeply felt.    

Riffin’ the Blue is a brilliant album and is now my favorite release from Tas Cru.  I highly recommend this one. 



For more information about Tas Cru, visit his website at :


Check out other PhillyCheeze reviews for Tas Cru at :





Available on Amazon

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Saturday, January 21, 2023

#593 > Lex Grey and the Urban Pioneers - How Many Roads? (

2023 – Lex Grey

By Phillip Smith; Jan. 21, 2023

Release Date : Jan 27, 2023

Original source :


How Many Roads? , the eighth release from New York ensemble Lex Grey and the Urban Pioneers grabbed my attention quite quickly on the first listen.  Grey’s voice is powerful and soulful as she performs the eleven masterfully-written originals on this album.  Known for their rock, blues, and burlesque shows in Brooklyn and lower Manhatten, the group is comprised of vocalist/guitarist Lex Grey, producer/guitarist/audio engineer Vic ‘Mix’ Deyglio, writer/musician Ed Wasilewski, sonic innovator Brian Dewan, and drummer/percussionist Sonny Rock.  

I love the brilliant Amy Winehouse vibe Grey injects into the opening song “In it Together”.  Her voice is delicately soulful as Mix and Dewan drive the song on piano and synth.  I can’t help but smile like a possum when she breaks out a briefcase full of blues in “Ain’t From Mississippi”.   The extra grease Wasilewski pours into his guitar performance makes for a splendid listen.  It’s exciting to hear Grey beautifully deliver “Begin Again”.  This a song is so reminiscent of the psychedelic rock of Jefferson Airplane, and instantly transports me to that awakening time.  Her haunting ballad “Biker Down” is a heartfelt and gorgeous dedication to a lost friend.  Bringing the record to a stellar close is “Angel” a song of gratitude and loss.  Grey’s vocal performance drips with raw emotion as she sings this song of aches and pains.   In the vein of John Prine and Bonnie Raitt, this is a song that cuts deep to the bone.    

This recording has turned me into a solid fan of Lex Grey and the Urban Pioneers.  How Many Roads? is album-oriented Americana at its finest.



For more information about Lex Grey and the Urban Pioneers, visit his website at :


Check out other PhillyCheeze reviews for Lex Grey at :

Saturday, January 14, 2023

#592 > Damon Fowler & Friends - Live at the Palladium (

2023 – Landslide Records

By Phillip Smith; Jan. 14, 2023

Release Date : Jan 20, 2023

Original source :

I been preaching the gospel of Damon Fowler for almost ten years.  In 2013, Fowler, J.P. Soars, and Victor Wainwright unleashed an outstanding record under the name of Southern Hospitality, called Easy Livin’.  The CD had landed in my mailbox for review and after giving it a listen, I was smitten with his work.  Fowler’s latest release features this master guitarist playing live at the Palladium alongside bassist Chuck Riley, drummer Justin Headley, and special guests Jason Ricci on harmonica, Eddie Wright on guitar, and Dan Signor on keys.  Live at the Palladium features eight original songs, and two bodacious covers.

Early in on this set, Fowler breaks out a handful of my favorites from his prior album Alafia Moon.  His fabulous cover of Guy Clark’s “The Guitar” puts a gigantic smile on my face.  Clark ranks up there among the best when it comes to songwriters, and I absolutely love this song which Fowler has breathed a new life into.  “I’ve Been Low” gets wonderfully intense as Fowler lets loose on his guitar.  His no-holds-barred approach never ceases to amaze me.  Jason Ricci steps in for a four-song run starting with “Somethings Change”.  It’s always a joy to hear him play harp.  The performance of Fowler and Ricci on “Somethings Change” is exquisite.  Ricci does what Ricci does best, pouring his heart and soul into the smoldering, slow blues of “Tax Man”.  Fowler sings and plays this one with fine precision.  Both Wright and Ricci join in on the closing song “Sugar Shack”.  This title-track off Fowler’s 2009 Blind Pig release clocks in at just under twelve minutes, and magnificently paves the way for a blues-soaked southern-rock jam.  It definitely makes for a grand finale.


For more information about Damon Fowler, visit his website at :

Check out other PhillyCheeze reviews for Damon Fowler





Available on Amazon

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Saturday, January 7, 2023

#591 > Diane Blue All-Star Band - Live! At the Fallout Shelter (


2022 – Regina Royal Records

By Phillip Smith; Jan. 7, 2023

Original source :


Live! At the Fallout Shelter, the latest release from Boston-based vocalist Diane Blue has fabulously captured my full attention.  Recorded on February 26, 2022, at the Fallout Shelter in Norwood, Massachusetts, this live album contains two excellent covers, and seven original tracks written by Blue during the pandemic.  Blue’s smooth and soulful vocals are perfectly matched with a tight, rhythm and blues band which features Chris Vitarello on guitar, Dave Limina on Hammond organ, and Lorne Entress on drums.  When not fronting her own band, Blue also performs as vocalist for Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters.

A blast of Stax-flavored soul ushers the record in with “I Got a Good Thing”.  Blue’s Memphis-style approach sounds absolutely wonderful.  Vitarello, Liminia, and Entress have an instrumental chemistry reminiscent of Steve Cropper, Booker T. Jones, and Al Jackson Jr..  “Crazy,Hazy, Lazy”, a masterfully constructed love ballad, hits me with a beautiful wave of melancholy infectiousness.  I can’t help but feel the blues when I hear her cover of Millie Jackson’s “I Cry”.  An additional two verses are added by Blue to bring awareness to social injustices happening today.  Ronnie Earl makes a guest appearance on “Leave Me Alone” and nails down an exquisite guitar performance.  Each note he plays seems to sink right in to my bones.  This is slow blues at its best, making for an intoxicating seven-and-a-half-minute-long listening experience. 

Diane Blue All-Star Band is definitely now on my radar.   Live! At the Fallout Shelter is a super listen from beginning to end.  This album is one I highly recommend. 


For more information about Diane Blue, visit her website :

Thursday, December 22, 2022

#590 : PhillyCheeze's Favorite 20 of 2022 (


By Phillip Smith; Dec.22, 2022


PhillyCheeze's Favorite 20 of 2022

(in alphabetical order)

Bernard Allison - Highs & Lows

Bad Daddy - It's a Mad Mad Bad Dad World

Buckmiller Schwager - To Memphis and Back

Gary Cain - Next Stop

Annika Chambers & Paul Deslauriers - Good Trouble

Ryan Lee Crosby - Winter Hill Blues

Robert Connely Farr - Shake It

GA-20 - Crackdown

Diunna Greenleaf - I Ain't Playin'

The Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer - Live at the King Eddy

Herman Hitson - Let the Gods Sing

Spencer Mackenzie - Preach to my Soul

Eliza Neals - Badder to the Bone

Prakash Slim - Country Blues From Nepal

Gina Sicilia - Unchange

Sir Rod & the Blues Doctors - Keeping it in the Family

Sugaray Rayford - In Too Deep

The Terraplanes Blues Band - Stepping Stones

Dylan Triplett - Who is He?

Matty T Wall - Live Down Underground

The Spotify Playlist

Sunday, December 18, 2022

#589 > GeminiiDragon - Equinox (


2022 – Nepotism Recordings

Release Date: Feb 1, 2023

By Phillip Smith; Dec. 18, 2022

Original source :


Equinox, the follow-up album to GeminiiDragon’s earlier release this year Fighting Fire With Fire continues to rock out with music fortified with a heaping helping of funk, soul, and blues.  Lead vocalist Jessica Harper and guitarist Christian Simeon absolutely shine as writing partners on this ten-track recording of all original songs.  Harper and Simeon are joined by bassist Dougie V, drummer E Sass, and backing vocalist La La Thomas

A rocking beat and funky bassline build the way for “Sister Switchblade” to bash the front gates of the record open.  This song is a wonderful amalgam of Seventies rock and hot buttered soul.  It’s nicely wrapped in Harper’s fearless vocals and Simeon’s searing guitar licks.  “Ballad of Willie Mae & George”, the first single off the record, is a brilliant slice of southern blues-rock.  Harper and Thomas’s vocal chemistry shine as the infectious rhythm takes hold.  “Rusty Gun” is badass from start to finish.  The song’s dangerous, mean-streets personality is woven tightly into its power-rock riffs.  “Good Thang” is slathered in a funky rhythm served ala Bob Seger’s “Come to Poppa”, and it’s delightfully wonderful.     

GeminiiDragon continues to fascinate me with Equinox.  Their approach to music is fresh and invigorating.  They definitely have a unique style, and that’s a ‘good thang’.   



PhillyCheeze Review #551, GeminiiDragon – Fighting Fire with Fire   



For more information about GeminiiDragon, or to order Equinox, visit their Bandcamp page:

Sunday, December 11, 2022

#588 > Steve Hill - Dear Illusion (

2022 – No Label Records

By Phillip Smith; Dec. 11, 2022

Original source :


Canadian bluesman Steve Hill has pulled down an impressive number of awards over his twenty-seven-plus years of playing professionally.  In 2015 he was awarded the Juno Award for Blues Album of the Year.  In 2013 he received the Best self-produced CD award at the Memphis International Blues Challenge.  And as far as the Maple Blues Awards go, he’s secured eight of them for different categories over the years.   That being said, Steve Hill is definitely a force to be reckoned with, and his latest album, Dear Illusion is absolutely brilliant.  The album contains ten masterfully-written original songs performed by Hill on vocals and a variety of instruments: guitars, bass, drums, pedal steel, piano, mandolin, and harmonica.  Behind Hill, is drummer Wayne Proctor, and The Devil Horns.

An infectious guitar riff and a blast of horns kicks the record in with a fully-charged burst of energy on “All About the Love”.  The up-tempo beat lays down the red-carpet for the hot blues revue to come.  Leading in with a swampy serving of harp, Hill keeps the momentum going with “Keep it Together”.  The slide guitar on this Springsteen-like track sounds great paired with the horns.  As soon as “Follow Your Heart” starts, I immediately start soaking up that honky-tonk era Stones vibe.  Not only is this a terrific song, but it offers great advice as well.  A melancholy wave rushes over me when I hear “So it Goes”.  Hill enhances the mood on this lovely ballad performing on mandolin.  Dear Illusion concludes with “Until the Next Time”, a song which makes me think of George Harrison very much.  The song is weightless and grounded at the same time. 

Steve Hill’s Dear Illusion is a splendid album from beginning to end.  It’s a musical gem.


Also check out my review for Steve Hill – Solo Recordings Volume 3




For more information about Steve Hill, visit this website :



This album is available in the PhillyCheeze Amazon Store. 

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Saturday, December 3, 2022

#587 > Angela Strehli - Ace of Blues (

2022 – Antone’s Records

By Phillip Smith; Dec. 3, 2022

Original source :


Angela Strehli who helped found Antone’s, the legendary blues venue in Austin, Texas, recently released Ace of Blues, her first album in seventeen years.  Her voice is deep and buttery on this twelve-track recording as she pays tribute to those musicians who were an inspiration to her, such as O.V. Wright, Elmore James, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Little Milton and Otis Clay.  This CD also contains an interesting insert-booklet which contains photographs of those who graced the stage at Antone’s and notes about Stehli’s interactions with those artists.    

When Strehli’s cover of O.V. Wright’s “Ace of Spades” hits my ears, it puts an enormous smile on my face.  It’s downright fantastic.  Muddy Waters’ “I Love the Life I Live” is perfectly seasoned with Mark Kazanoff on harmonica. “Mighty” Mike Schermer’s guitar performance on Otis Rush’s “Gambler’s Blues” is absolutely delectable.  The tones he pulls out of his instrument are brilliant.  I dig the horn accompaniment on this one too.  Howlin’ Wolf is one of my all-time favorites, and Strehli’s recording of “Howlin’ For My Darling” is a wonderful tribute.  Mike Emerson brilliantly brings it on keys as Strehli nails the wolf howls.  As soon as the opening notes of Otis Clay’s “Trying to Live My Life Without You” finds their way out of the speakers, I switch into ‘dance mode’.  Chockful of soul, this one is a definite favorite.  Bringing the album to a close is a song Strehli wrote about her friend the legendary Stevie Ray Vaughan.   She befriended Stevie and his brother Jimmy in the earlier years of Antone’s, and her song “SRV“ is a lovely and heartfelt tribute.

Ace of Blues is as solid as a blues album can get.  I hope Angela Strehli doesn’t wait another seventeen years before recording another.                




This terrific album is available in the PhillyCheeze Amazon Store. 

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Saturday, November 26, 2022

#586 > Mud Morganfield - Portrait (

2022 – Delmark Reoords

By Phillip Smith; Nov. 26, 2022

Original source :


Mud Morganfield, the oldest son of the legendary bluesman Muddy Waters takes his music seriously.  Closely following the path of this father, Mud sets the bar high when it comes to performing the blues.  Additional influences of Motown, soul, and R&B are absorbed into his songs.  Portrait is a remix of Mud’s entire debut album Son of the Seventh Son topped off with two additional brand-new songs.  With the exception of the two new songs, this work was produced by Bob Corritore with Mud on vocals, Rick Kreher on electric guitar, Billy Flynn on guitar, E.G. McDaniel on bass, Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith on drums, Barrelhouse Chuck on piano/organ, and Harmonica Hinds and Bob Corritore on harmonica.

Portrait opens with the funky southern soul track “Praise Him”.  With Mike Wheeler on electric guitar, Luca Chiellini on keys, and the backing vocals of Felicia Collins, Shantina Lowe, and Demetrius Hall, the song is indeed a glorious one.  Barrelhouse, Beedy Eyes, and Hinds sound downright amazing as they turn the flame on to the slow-cooked blues of “Son of the Seventh Son”.  The intoxicating groove on “Catfishing” reels me right in.  Mud’s vocals are strong and confident just like his father’s.  “His presentation is smooth and buttery on “Blues In My Shoes” while the band gels perfectly together.  Portrait comes to a close with a spectacular cover of John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson’s “Good Morning Little School Girl. 

It was great to hear this remastered release of Mud Morganfield’s.  The songs are fantastic, and the sound is fresh and clean.  I’d recommend this album to anyone who is a blues fan.   



For more information about Mud Morganfield, visit this website :



This terrific album is available in the PhillyCheeze Amazon Store. 

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