Saturday, May 20, 2017

Nick Schnebelen - Live in Kansas City


2017 – Vizztone Records
By Phillip Smith; May 20, 2017


I’ve been a fan of Nick Schnebelen since hearing Wrong Side of the Blues, a 2011 release from his band Trampled Under Foot, which was cofounded with his siblings, Danielle Nicole and Kris.  That album was one of my favorites that year, and I was fortunate to have reviewed it for Blues Review Magazine’s online magazine, Blues WaxNick now leads his own band, a high-energy power trio with Cliff Moore on bass and Adam Hagerman on drums.  Live in Kansas City captures a riveting concert from this band who took the stage at Knuckleheads Saloon in Kansas City on December 3, 2016. 

Leading off this killer ten track album, is the spectacular “Fool”.  Schnebelen’s vocals, soaked in the blues, are powerful and smooth.  The captivating sound of his guitar rings with spirit and emotion.  I love the funk-infused rhythm on “Herbert Harper’s Free Press News”.  Catchy riffs and high-octane drums fuel this one.  The guitar mastery demonstrated in “You Call That Love” is second to none, and sounds absolutely amazing. Chills shoot up and down my spine when they break into a quite superb cover of Johnny Winter’s “Mean Town Blues”.  Schnebelen takes no prisoners as he plays this wonderful piece on slide.  The album closes with “Conformity Blues”, an exquisite instrumental guided by a propelling rhythm and intricately laced up with an exhilarating guitar performance.


Nick Schnebelen Live in Kansas City is an outstanding album of fortified electric blues which hits the ground running and plows through right to the very end.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

John Mayall - Talk About That


2017 – Forty Below Records  
By Phillip Smith; May 12, 2017


I’m always happy to hear new material from John Mayall,.  With his latest album, Talk About That, Mayall nails down another winner in a long string of rock-solid blues albums.  Returning to record the eleven track jewel with Mayall is guitarist Rocky Athas, bassist Greg Rzab, and drummer Jay Davenport.    

Mayall lays down seriously groovy keyboard riffs alongside Rzab’s thick and saucy bassline in title track, “Talk About That”.  I love it when he breaks out that juicy Bourbon Street blues with the deliciously horn-rich “Gimme Some of That Gumbo”.  Athas delivers a searing guitar performance which brings this one home.  When Mayall plays the harmonica in the Jimmy Rogers All Stars cover, ”Goin’ Away Baby”, it sounds so damn good.  This is one killer blues song indeed.  His piano performance on life-questioning “You Never Know” is quite delightful too.  I get lost in the stirring sounds of “Blue Midnight”. Its vibrant and intoxicating rhythm pulls me deeply in.       

For “The Devil Must Be Laughing” and “Cards on the Table”, Mayall enlists non-other than the fabulous Joe Walsh to play guitar.  Both are rather outstanding and capture the legendary Walsh sound.   


Talk About That is an enchanting album which showcases a wonderful set of Mayall masterminded blues.    


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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

John Nemeth - Feelin’ Freaky

John Nemeth   
Feelin’ Freaky
2017 – Memphis Grease 
By Phillip Smith; May 9, 2017

Feelin’ Freaky, the latest release from John Nemeth is a brilliant collage of heady blues-rich soul music taking a smidge of liberty to poke fun at society and embrace those on the edge.  Recorded  at the Zebra Ranch in Coldwater, Mississippi and  Royal Studios in Memphis, Tennessee with his touring band, the Blue Dreamers (guitarist Johnny Rhoades, bassist Matthew Wilson, drummer Danny Banks) under the direction of Grammy-nominated producer Luther Dickenson, the album certainly has its share of the Bluff City woven into its DNA.

Nemeth addresses the topic of gun violence in America while blasting a wall of lush poppy horn-infused soul in “Under the Gun”. I can’t help but think of Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground while this terrific anthem rolls out the speakers.  He crushes it on title track “Feelin’ Freaky” a funky jewel with a driving riff and creamy contagious hook.  Nemeth breaks out a briefcase full of blues harp to top off the dance-friendly groove on “Get Offa Dat Butt”.  This is a fun one for sure.

Capturing the sweet soul Stax sounds of the early Seventies, Nemeth unleashes a smoking smooth vocal performance on “Rainy Day” a song of regret and heartbreak.  He nails it down again in “Long Black Cadillac”.  The song is heavy and beautiful. 

Nemeth continues to keep a unique edge applied to his music, never failing to engage the listener with fresh funky grooves drenched in old-school soul.  That’s exactly what I love about this album.











Saturday, April 29, 2017

Eliza Neals - 10,000 Feet Below


2017 –  E-H Records LLC
By Phillip Smith; Apr 29, 2017


10,000 Feet Below, the latest album from Detroit music artist Eliza Neals is pretty incredible.  This wonderfully talented singer/songwriter/pianist and 2013 Michigan Blues Hall of Fame inductee, guitarist Howard Glazer (The Narcotics) are backed by an amazing group of guest musicians in the making of this fabulous record.
  
Neals’ angelic vocals pour freely over Glazer’s captivating and psychedelic guitar licks in the dark and spacy cover of Skip James’ “Hard Killing Floor”.  It’s an absolute delight. There’s a huge splash of more mind-melting psychedelic-infused blues in the boldly performed “Call Me Moonshine”.  Glazer’s playing is sublime.  I get lost in the hypnotizing groove of “Merle Dixon”.  It’s a warm and fuzzy guitar play-land to spend time in. 

Neals digs in deep and pulls out some amazing power vocals Ann Wilson-style, for the scorching rocker “Burn the Tent Down”.  Teaming up with guitarist Billy Davis (Jimi Hendrix, Hank Ballard), Neals gives an intoxicating delivery on the heady original composition “At the Crossroads”.  It’s absolutely beautiful.


10,000 Feet Below is a striking album, full of rich melodies and exquisite vocals.

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Low Society - Sanctified


2017 – Rezonate Records
By Phillip Smith; Apr 29, 2017


It didn’t take very long at all for me to fall head over heels for this record.  Mandy Lemons’ powerful vocals stand-out as her husband, guitarist/producer Sturgis Nikides plays incredibly smooth slide, making for some deliciously twangy blues.  With backing from a Belgian rhythm section featuring bassist Jacky Verstraeten and drummer Bart De Bruecker, the band, Low Society takes on its intriguing personality.  Sanctified, their third studio album is a hard-hitting, gobsmacking delight.  It was recorded partly in Belgium and partly in Memphis, where the band currently resides.

I love their cover of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery”.  It’s such a beautiful song, and sounds terrific with Lemons on the mic.  Guest pianist Rick Steff adds a lovely accompaniment.  There’s a crisp stillness which lingers in the air when I hear “Nina”.  This one reminds me tremendously of Fleetwood Mac during their mid-Seventies years.  “Drowning Blues” and “Raccoon Song” are captivating as well.  I could listen to Nikides play this all day.  The spirits of the cross-roads must have been summoned for title-track “Sanctified” for Lemons and Nikides both dole out no-holds-barred performances.  


Sanctified closes out with an exquisite heartfelt cover of Etta Jame’s blues classic, “I’d Rather Go Blind”.  Low Society magnificently delivers a marvelous album of blues enacted with a rebellious flair.  It’s a new favorite, for sure.





Saturday, April 22, 2017

Mr. Sipp - Knock a Hole In It


2017 – Malaco Records 
By Phillip Smith; Apr 22, 2017


Records like Knock A Hole In It from gospel-musician-turned-bluesman Castro Coleman, aka Mr. Sipp , “The Mississippi Blues Child”, are far and few in-between.  Coleman, winner of the 2014 International Blues Challenge and Gibson Guitarist Award in Memphis, Tennessee pours his soul into his craft, both as a songwriter and performer. This album features a dozen original tunes and one fabulously superb cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” which runs nearly eight and half minutes long and segues right into a sweet guitar instrumental of “Star-Spangled Banner” which brings it to a close.

I absolutely dig the funky raw groove woven into the title-track, “Knock A Hole In It”.  The energy running through this song is stunning and electric.  This one surely goes down as my favorite song of the year.  Terrific vocals and smoking hot guitar from Coleman along with a searing performance from organist Carrol McLaughlin make “Bad Feeling” another stand-out song.  Coleman certainly does not mess around when it comes to dishing out serious blues.  From the slow, smoldering “Strings Attached” to the heel-stomping house-rockin’ “Juke Joint”, his artistry shines through. 


I have a feeling Knock a Hole In It will be at the top of my list for a quite a long time.  It’s definitely a good time.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sean Chambers - Trouble & Whiskey


2017 – American Showplace Music  
By Phillip Smith; Apr 15, 2017


From 1998 to 2003, Sean Chambers toured as lead guitarist and band leader for the legendary bluesman Hubert Sumlin. During that time, Chambers was named by Guitarist Magazine as “One of the Top 50 blues guitarists of the last century”.  His sixth release, Trouble & Whisky is fully-loaded with raw electrified blues.  Backing Chambers is drummer Kris Schnebelen(Trampled Under Foot) , bassist Todd Cook, and Michael Hensley on B3 and piano.

Right out of the gate, the driving rhythm and searing blues in “I Need Your Lovin” sets the tone for the whole album.  Chambers’ slide guitar on “Bottle Keeps Staring at Me” gets so red hot, it scorches.  The infectious hook sets in and does not let go.  With Schnebelen nailing down a thunderous performance on drums, Chambers takes on Rory Gallagher’s “Bullfrog Blues” with unbridled force.  I love the way Chambers’ guitar wails with emotion in his rendition of s B.B. King’s “Be Careful with a Fool”.  It’s plumb terrific. Special guest, John Ginty, one of my favorite keyboardists today, lays down some groovy keys on his B3 in the soulful jamboree of “Travelin’ North”.  It melts like butter with Cook’s funky bassline.  The song soars skyward as Chambers takes control of this wonderful instrumental.

Trouble & Whiskey is about as good as it gets.  It is indeed a powerful album.





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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Samantha Fish - Chills & Fever


2017 – Ruf Records
By Phillip Smith; April 8, 2017



With her new album, Chills & Fever, Samantha Fish ventures into an exciting new direction, shifting her focus towards early Rock and R&B.   Recorded in Detroit, Fish baptizes this fourteen track recording in the splendid sounds of the Sixties and Seventies, enlisting members of the Detroit Cobras( rhythm guitarist Joey Mazzola, bassist Steve Nawara, drummer Kenny Tudrick), electric pianist Bob Mervak, and a superb horn section featuring Mark Levron on trumpet, and Travis Blotsky on saxophone. 

Fish sings “It’s Your Voodoo Working” with a sexy and confident voice.  Her guitar teases are terrific and sound amazing, backed by the vibrant horn accompaniment from Levron and Blotsky.  A new life is breathed into Irma Thomas’s “Hurts All Gone”.  It’s a spectacular song with a fabulous hook.  Her slide guitar on Skip James’ “Crow Jane” is a bodacious swampy treat.  I absolutely love it.  I’m also smitten by the wonderful cover of Lulu & the Luvvers’ “I’ll Come Running Over”.  That is hands-down, one big nostalgic bowlful of fun featuring a classic rhythm and blues sound.


Chills & Fever reveals a most interesting new side to Samantha Fish.  Already a huge fan of her work in the blues, this album only makes me love her music more.

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Southbound Snake Charmers - Rhythm ‘N’ Rust


2017 – Southbound Snake Charmers  
By Phillip Smith; April 8, 2017



There was instant lovability for Southbound Snake Charmers the moment I first popped their latest disc, Rhythm ‘N’ Rust into the player.  The album is chock-full of swampy southern blues-rock driven by wonderful thunder filled rhythm.  Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, this magnificent trio is composed of vocalist/guitarist Chris Denman, bassist Nat Sutphin, and drummer Brooke Maloney

Maloney’s pulsing drumming lures me right into the wonderfully greasy blues of “Don’t Speak Too Soon”.  Filled with amazing guitar licks, fearless vocals, and intoxicating bass, there’s a Sixties’ Cream vibe running through this amazing psychedelic jewel.  This one relentlessly surges through my soul.  Highlighted by its caffeinated crashing beats and invigorating rhythm, attitude runs rampant through the hoodoo- infused “Snake Oil”. Denman seemingly takes a cue from RL Burnside on another favorite, “Hearts of Corruption”, singing the blues while dishing out whopping doses of deliciously swampy slide guitar.  There’s a beautiful and unsettling intensity which slowly rises to the top in “The Longest Night”, a thrilling ballad spattered with amazing guitar and sung with the freewheeling charisma of Jim Morrison. 


The brilliantly ferocious hard-rocking blues of Rhythm ‘N’ Rust satisfies my craving for exemplary music in spades.  On a ten point scale, this record scores an eleven. 




Saturday, April 1, 2017

Tommy Talton - Somewhere South of Eden


2017 – Tommy Talton 
By Phillip Smith; April 1, 2017



It’s been almost three years since Tommy Talton’s previous release Until After Then hit the airwaves.  That one was quick to grab my attention with its lyrical and stylistic twists.   His latest, Somewhere South of Eden, continues to feed my fascination with prolific lyrics and lush melodies.  Backed by bassist Chris Donohue (Emmy Lou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Alison Krauss) and drummer Bryan Owings (Tony Joe White, Buddy Miller, Emmy Lou Harris), Talton is also joined by several spectacular guest musicians such as  Chuck Leavell (Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Allman Brothers), Spooner Oldham, Ike Stubblefield, John Ginty, Steve Conn (Sonny Landreth, Bonnie Raitt), Kenny Head (John Barry, Georgia Satellites),  Jeff Mosier (Col. Bruce Hampton) on banjo, and saxophonists Randall Bramblett and Tom Ryan.

“Somewhere South of Eden”, a beautiful melancholy number flowing with soothing twangy slide, takes a hard look at mortality.  This song shows without a doubt Talton belongs at the top of the list when it comes to the songwriting greats.  I absolutely adore the buttery hypnotic hook in “Poblano”, a wonderful Latin-inspired instrumental with worldly beats from David Keith on congas and piano accompaniment from Chuck Leavell.  It’s always a pleasure to hear the funky keyboard wizardry of John Ginty.  His contribution to southern jam-friendly rocker “Waiting on the Saints” sounds fantastic amid Talton’s bodacious guitar licks.  “Don’t Go Away Sore”, featuring a terrific banjo performance from Jeff Mosier is a big bowlful of bluegrass fun.  It puts a grin on my face which stretches from ear to ear.

The esteemed Tommy Talton has definitely crafted one hell of an album with Somewhere South of Eden.  I highly recommend it.


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Take a listen to the album on Apple Music, and if you decide to purchase it, use my special link.  This helps keep the PhillyCheeze site going.





Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from the PhillyCheeze Amazon store.



Saturday, March 25, 2017

Elmo Karjalainen - Age of Heroes


2017 – KC Sound
By Phillip Smith; Mar. 25, 2017



Age of Heroes, the fourth full length solo album from Finnish guitarist extraordinaire Elmo Karjalainen continues to push the envelope of rock when it comes to electric guitar instrumentals.  For influences, Karjalainen mentions the guitar-greats, like Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Pat Metheny and Jeff Beck.   

Karjalainen presents speed metal at its best in “A Meeting of the Gods (And This Guy)”. Guest guitarists Janne Nieminen and Emil Pohjlainen, 2016 winners of the Guitar Gods Competition, kick in some extraordinary solos for this shred-fest.  Called “King of the Keys” by Guitar World Magazine, keyboardist Derek Sherinian(Planet X, Black Country Communion) give a magnificent performance in “The Colour of Greed”, amid thunderous crashing drums and melodic adrenalin-infused guitar.  The hypnotically driving rhythm of “A Fertile Discussion” clutches on to me with a tight grip. 

A feeling of tranquility washes over me when I hear the ambient “Chikken Noodul”. It’s quite a soothing listen, as is “Breathe”.  There’s something galactic about “Blue Eyes”. The song seems to shoot me into the cosmos with each listen.


Karjalainen wears his passion for music on his sleeve, playing every piece with immaculate precision. This album is a must for guitar enthusiasts.



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Hector Anchondo Band - Roll the Dice


2017 – Hector Anchondo  
By Phillip Smith; Mar. 25, 2017



Hailing from Omaha, Nebraska, and finalist in the 2016 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, the Hector Anchondo Band is one tight-as-hell band.  Alongside lead guitarist/lead singer Anchondo is drummer Khayman Winfield, bassist Josh Lund, and Justin Shelton on harmonica.  Anchondo’s spectacular guitar playing and suave vocal stylings stand out front in his newest release, Roll the Dice.  Immersed in blues and Americana, this ten song album is a wonderful delight.

The lovely Kansas City songstress Amanda Fish joins Anchondo to dish out some riveting vocals in the energetic “Dig You Baby”.  Anchondo rips it up on guitar while Eric Stark and Kenny Glover dole out a clutch horn accompaniment.  This, fused to an outstanding harmonica performance from Shelton, sets the pace for the rest of the album.  “Masquerade”, a wonderful cocktail of blues and rockabilly is the perfect vehicle for Anchondo’s debonair voice. It’s a great tune for sure.  Anchondo brilliantly pulls the listener into his sad and lonesome world in “Sometimes Being Alone Feels Right”, a ballad he sings with heart-felt emotion.  He masterfully does it again in “Here’s To Me Giving Up”, performed in an absolute troubadour fashion.  Following an exquisite guitar intro, Winfield and Lund create a worldly magnificent space for Anchondo’s guitar prowess to explore in the flawless cover of “Black Magic Woman”.  It’s absolutely beautiful.


I had the pleasure of catching two stellar Hector Anchondo Band performances last summer.  The first show was at the North Liberty Blues and BBQ Festival in North Liberty, Iowa, and the second, was at the fabulous Tommy Bolin Music Festival in Sioux City, Iowa.  I’ve been a fan since.


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View my previous blog entries about the Hector Anchondo Band...

Hector Anchondo Band - North Liberty Blues and BBQ Festival - 2016
Photos © 2016 by Phillip Smith  ... 


Tommy Bolin Music Festival - Aug 6, 2016






Saturday, March 18, 2017

Jake Chisholm - No More Sorrow


2016 – Jake Chisholm
By Phillip Smith; Mar. 18, 2017


Toronto music artist Jake Chisholm does a fantastic job of encapsulating the purity and rawness of Seventies blues-rock with his latest album, No More Sorry.  He brings a fistful of confidence to these ten tracks of originals with a rugged vocal styling and skillful guitar playing.  Chisholm’s power-trio also includes drummer Sly Juhas and bassist Chris Banks

Chisholm masterfully sets a dark and ominous state of impending doom with the psychedelic treat, “You Never Will”.  His guitar chops stand out up front as he elegantly ushers in a relaxed Hendrix vibe on “Just Because You Want To”.  This one is beautifully played.  Guest Jameson Elliot doles out a cool driving bassline as Chisholm shares a trippy hardscrabble look at life on the “Merry-Go-Round”.   I can’t help myself for falling for the infectious hook threaded through the title track, “No More Sorrow”.  It grabs me every time I hear it.  I like this one a lot.


There’s a sense of honesty woven into the crafted and thoughtful lyrics written by Chisholm.  His serious approach to music makes No More Sorrow the splendid record it is.

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Take a listen to the album on Apple Music, and if you decide to purchase it, use my special link.  This helps keep the PhillyCheeze site going.  



Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from the PhillyCheeze Amazon store.  

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Dave Keller - Right Back Atcha


2016 – Tastee-Tone Records  
By Phillip Smith; Mar. 11, 2017


Immersed in the goodness of Memphis soul, Vermont recording artist Dave Keller’s latest album Right Back Atcha, is a sheer delight to hear.   Keller’s splendidly soulful voice sounds terrific, as does his band which consists of Ira Friedman on Hammond B3 and piano, bassist Gary Lotspeich, and drummer Brett Hoffman.  The inclusion of Mo’ Sax Horns sweetly fills the bill needed to recreate that Memphis sound which Keller definitely channels.  They sound great and bring a wealth of energy to the album. 

I am instantly captivated upon my first listen to the fabulous cover of the 1974 Willie Clayton single, “It’s Time You Made Up Your Mind”.  Dap and funky, this song begs me to get up on my feet and dance.  Memphian Darryl Carter, who co-wrote that song, also teams up with Keller in writing the beautiful “Deeper Than the Eye Can See”, a love ballad with a lingering Otis Redding vibe.  I love the infectious groove of “Slow Train”.   This soulful ballad is highlighted by a fantastic sax solo from Joe Moore ( Slim Harpo, Wilson Picket ). 

Funky guitar riffs and playful blasts of horns swim among the lush sounds of Friedman’s B3 in “Urgent (I’ll Give It All)”.  Keller sings this with sophisticated conviction, making for a one cool as hell track.  Keller’s vocal performance in “What’s it Gonna Take?” is electric and amazing.  Drenched in sweat and dripping with raw soul, this song burrows deep down right to my core.


Right Back Atcha is a terrific album which I could listen to all day long.   








Saturday, March 4, 2017

Lucas Haneman Express - Tearing Up the Rails


2016 – Lucas Haneman Express  
By Phillip Smith; Mar. 04, 2017


Tearing up the Rails, the sophomore release from Ottawa, Ontario-based Lucas Haneman Express is a savory fourteen track platter of blues-rock with a slightly southern flavor.  Heading up the band is singer/songwriter/guitarist Lucas Haneman, who received the CBC Galaxie Rising Star Award at the 2005 Ottawa International Jazz Festival.  Accompanying Haneman to round out the quartet is vocalist Megan Laurence, drummer Jeff Asselin, and bassist Martin Newman

Steve Marriner from MonkeyJunk, lends his harmonica prowess to “The Verdict”.  This track oozes with swampy bluesy goodness as Marriner and Haneman go toe to toe. Marriner also appears, harp in hand on Brian Adam’s “Run to You”, another terrific track. It sounds so different recorded as a blues song.  There’s no rest for the wicked, when the band breaks into Steppenwolf’s psychedelic hit “Magic Carpet Ride”.  Leaving a smoking trail of rubber on the track, they take this one on going full throttle.   Haneman’s searing hot guitar makes for a standout performance.  I love the relaxed Steely Dan vibe Haneman brings to “Waiting at Your Door” with his smooth jazz approach. “Storybook Love” is plumb mighty too, boasting soulful vocals from Haneman, who guides the song from a slow southern sway into a ferocious intensity. 


Tearing up the Rails is a well-crafted album of poignant lyrics, rich melodies and tight performances.  It’s a great album to sink ones teeth into.  It has definitely sunk its teeth into me.    








Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tom Craig and Soul Patch - Get Ready For Me


2017 – Tom Craig and Soul Patch  
By Phillip Smith; Feb 18, 2017


It’s obvious to see why Tom Craig and Soul Patch were chosen to represent the Central Delaware Blues Society for the 2017 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee this past January.  Oozing with soul, this fabulous R&B ensemble’s tantalizing debut album, Get Ready For Me, is solid proof.  Soul Patch, fronted by singer/guitarist Tom Craig has one bodaciously tight rhythm section consisting of drummer Johnny O’Connell and bassist “Rando” Randy Branning, smooth keyboard stylings of Eric Johnson on Hammond and a terrific horn section with Vince Gleason on tenor sax, and Skyler Hagner on baritone.

Tom Craig and Soul Patch deliver horn-infused soul, reminiscent of the formative music coming out of Stax Records in the Sixties with “Louita” and “How Did I Break the Rules”.  I love the bluesy undertones of title track “Get Ready for Me”.  Craig’s vocals are suave and commanding like Neil Diamond.  His guitar licks sounds great, as they pepper Johnson’s lush keys and the smoothly blended sax riffs.  Heartbreak hit, “She Did it to Me, She’ll Do it to You”, is a big tantalizing bowlful of slow bluesy soul.  A captivating hook with a peppy groove steers “Captain Funk” right into my list of favorites.  Craig serves up a delicious taste of Chicago blues in “Please Forgive Me Baby” with a brilliant vocal performance.


Listening to Get Ready For Me puts me in a good mood, and brings a smile to my face with every listen.








Saturday, February 18, 2017

Sean Taylor - Flood & Burn


2017 – Sean Taylor Songs  
By Phillip Smith; Feb 18, 2017



Flood and Burn, the eighth full-length release from UK singer/songwriter Sean Taylor is an engaging, melodic jewel.  The album consists of eleven original pieces covering a variety of genres, along with a compelling bluesy cover of “Heartbreak Hotel” featuring Taylor on harp and Andre Moran on slide guitar.     

The velvety and lulling “Codeine Dreams” welcomes the listener in with soft swirly vocals amid colorful splashes of saxophone courtesy of Joe Morales. Taylor’s poetic mastery cleverly reveals itself on “A Good Place to Die” and the jazzy “Cruelty of Man”.  
With Roscoe Beck (Leonard Cohen) on double bass and Mike Hardwick on pedal steel, “Troubadour” beautifully recounts the uncertainly of life as a traveling musician.  A wave of melancholy washes over me when I hear “Life Goes On”.  Whether going through good times or bad, one can only go forward.  The lord giveth and the lord taketh away when Taylor charmingly conjures up an ominous hill-country vibe on the downtempo title track “Flood and Burn”.  Mark Hallman guests on banjo and Andre Moran on slide guitar, elegantly setting the song’s dark mood.  


Subtle references to Charles Bukowski, Townes Van Zandt, and Skip James are delightfully plucked like Easter eggs from “Bad Case of the Blues”.  A lush mix of slide guitar from Moran and violin from Hana Piranha taxis this daunting melody to exactly where it needs to be.  “Better Man”, a song of blessing and sacrifice, guided by the wonderful talent of Piranha on violin and Danny Thompson on double bass, eloquently brings Flood & Burn to a graceful end.






Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sena Ehrhardt live at Campbell Steele Gallery - Feb. 11, 2017


Marion, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; Feb. 12, 2017


Saturday, February 11,  The Sena Ehrhardt Band gave a superb performance at the Campbell Steele Gallery in Marion, Iowa.  This Minneapolis-based blues band is fronted by singer/songwriter Ehrhardt, her husband, guitarist Cole Allen, drummer Wayne Allen, and bassist Crosby Williams.  Prior to Ehrhardt taking the stage to sing the wonderful “Things You Should’t Need to Know” off the 2014 Live My Life album, Cole Allen warmed the audience up with a serious dose of instrumental electric blues. His talent on the guitar runs deep.  


Ehrhardt’s strong and powerful vocals sounded so good on the slow and swampy “Last Chance”, from her first record. Cole’s ripping guitar performance, an added bonus, is such a treat.  The band blessed the crowd with the house-rocking Chicago blues fave “Little By Little”, which ended in an audience participation sing-a-long. I was happy to hear them play a personal favorite, “Buried Alive”. It is an outstanding number.  For the fabulous finale, Ehrhardt closed out with “Rock Me Baby”, dedicating the song to B.B. King, Johnny Winter, and Smoking Joe Kubek.  It was a terrific show for sure.












Saturday, February 11, 2017

Thornetta Davis - Honest Woman


2016 – Sweet Mama Music
By Phillip Smith; Feb 11, 2017


Honest Woman, the latest album from Detroit’s Queen of the Blues Thornetta Davis, glimmers with fiery soul.  This red-hot delight features a dozen original songs brought to glorious life under Davis’ commanding vocal presence. Davis’ backing musicians performing on the brunt of the album is guitarist Brett Lucas, drummer Todd Glass (The Muggs), Phillip J. Hale on keys, and James Simonson on bass.

Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds steps in as guest vocalist/harp player on the lively duet, “I Gotta Sang the Blues”. The contrasting voices pair together quite nicely, and Wilson’s harmonica performance is smokin’ as usual.  Davis enlists The Larry McCray Band to back her up on the groovy gospel-soaked “Set Me Free”.  This is one superb jam filled with stellar vocals and hot funky guitar licks.  It makes me want to shout, Amen!

I love how the brass mingles with the walking bassline and soulful keys on the fabulous “I’d Rather Be Alone”.  Davis sings this ode to a boomerang ex-lover, strong and proud.  Lucas delivers a searing guitar performance propelled by Glass’ driving beat on the magnificent “I Believe (Everything Gonna Be Alright)”.    


Thornetta Davis instills a fabric of enchanting soulful blues into each and every song on Honest Woman.  Reflected in her powerful vocals is heart-felt emotion, which, along with the superb musicianship she commands, is the key to an album full of outstanding performances.




Saturday, February 4, 2017

Too Slim and the Taildraggers - Blood Moon


2016 – Underworld Records  
By Phillip Smith; Feb 4, 2017


With nearly thirty years under his belt performing and cutting records, Nashville-based Tim “Too Slim” Langford’s genius for dark rocking blues songs is undeniably strong as ever.  Backing Langford is his rhythm section, the Taildraggers, drummer Jeff “Shakey” Fowlkes and bassist Robert Kearns.

Blood Moon explodes out of the gate with “Evil Mind”, a guitar-heavy southern-rocker topped off with a hefty dose of adrenalin.  Langford’s contagious guitar riffs and smoky vocals keep me captivated for the mysterious and witchy “Gypsy”.  This terrifically dark love song is one of my favorites. He then sets a beautiful and cosmic mood in “My Body”, a song about death and the hereafter.

If one didn’t already know, it would very easy to think “Get Your Goin’ Out On” was a Rolling Stones deep cut with its blazing honky-tonk vibe.  For title track, “Blood Moon” Langford goes all out with hearty helping of searing blues guitar. It sounds great. 

Too Slim and the Taildraggers’ Blood Moon is an engaging album of raw unbridled southern blues-rock with a unique sound I’ve become quite fond of.  It’s one of those recordings I can listen to over and over again.