Saturday, April 21, 2018

#330 : Kris Lager Band - Love Songs & Life Lines



2018 – Kris Lager

By Phillip Smith; April 21, 2018


The Kris Lager Band has hit an “out of the stadium” home-run with their latest album Love Songs & Life Lines. Taking a more rootsy approach than usual, Lager embraces the core musical genres classified as Americana as he opens up and shares an honest yet soulful insight into life itself.  The band is comprised of Kris Lager on lead vocals and guitar, John Fairchild AKA Scooby Sha Bobo on drums, Aaron Underwood on bass guitar, Mike Lefever saxophone, and Jeremiah Weir on the B3 organ.  Recorded by Pony Creek Studios in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Love Songs & Life Lines was mixed by legendary producer Jim Gaines (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana, Steve Miller, Van Morrison).  Needless to say, it sounds great.

The album sweetly opens up with the magnificent instrumental “Aurora Borealis”.   Lager notes this is both a love song and a life line, as the song’s title is derived from Aurora, Nebraska, his father’s birthplace.  Immediately following, “The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants” grabs me with a contagious hook and a Traveling Wilbury vibe.  It then relinquishes me to the beautifully written and performed “Sweet Magnolia”, a track which brings back fond memories of growing up in the South.  I love the slide guitar on this track.  A smooth funky rhythm constructed by Underwood and Scooby sets the stage for “San Francisco Bound”, a freewheelin’, feel-good ode to Lager’s 2009 journey of California via the Pacific Coast Highway.  This one makes me grin from ear to ear.  Delightful waves of Dylan wash over with every listen to “Where the Green Grass Grows Tall”.  Lager’s voice sounds so good amid Weir’s spirited electric piano accompaniment and Scooby’s shuffling beat.   
Love Songs & Life Lines is both charming and brilliant.  Give it a listen, it will not disappoint.

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Love Songs and Life Lines can be purchased from Kris Lager on his website: https://www.krislagerband.com/store.html





In June of 2014, I caught up with the Kris Lager Band with camera in hand, for the annual Irish District Music and Arts Festival in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Those photos can be viewed using the following link:   https://phillycheezeblues.blogspot.com/2014/06/irish-district-music-arts-festival_22.html
   

Saturday, April 14, 2018

#329 : Long Tall Deb and Colin John - Dragonfly



2017 – Vizztone Records

By Phillip Smith; April 14, 2018


Dragonfly, the second disc from Long Tall Deb and Colin John is a superb album to sink ones teeth into.  This eleven track album explores a variety of worldly genres while anchored in American roots, blues and soul.  Deb Landolt aka Long Tall Deb fills each song with her enchanting vocals, building a connection to the listener every time, while Colin John wondrously plays guitar.  The main core of musicians on the album consists of drummer Jimmy Castoe, bassist Melvin Powe, and Nate Hofman on organ.  Produced by Michael Landolt (Coldplay, O.A.R.) the album also features several noteworthy guests such as Mick Kolassa, Jeff Jensen, Michael Hill, Jo El, James Cunningham, Bill Ruffino, Cliff Starbuck and Chris Stephenson.       

There’s a sense of attitude and fearlessness on the head-banging blues-rocker “On the Way Down”.  From John’s searing guitar riffs to Deb’s powerful vocals the song rides the wave of Castoe’s thunder and sticks the landing quite nicely. John breaks out the sitar to add a taste of India to the spaghetti western ballad of no regret called “Remember Why (It’s Good He’s Gone)”.  The brutal honesty of the lyrics in “Pull The Pin” cuts through like a broken beer bottle.  It’s an amazing song of self-reflection and metamorphosis.

With the exception of an intoxicating cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Lungs” off his 1969 self-titled album, all songs on Dragonfly are original compositions.  “Lungs” is a little extra special in that it features a different configuration of musicians than the rest of the album.  For this poignant and beautifully played cut, Long Tall Deb and Colin John enlist drummer James Cunningham, guitarist Jeff Jensen, bassist Bill Ruffino, and organist Chris Stephenson. 

The word, “Dragonfly” as mentioned in the liner notes, is a symbol of transformation and change, and is the definitive theme to the record itself.  The album’s title track, full of adrenalin-pumping surf guitar is cloaked in the shadows of an ominous and forbidding atmosphere.  This twangy masterpiece is most interesting and has a strong presence, much akin to the songs Quentin Tarantino hand-picks for his films. It’s a brilliant song indeed. 

The flowing continuity of Dragonfly smoothly weaves its eleven songs into one very enjoyable listen.   

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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, April 7, 2018

#328 : Reverend Freakchild -Dial It In



2018 – Treated and Released Records

By Phillip Smith; April 7, 2018

Dial It In, the third album from the good Reverend Freakchild is absolutely fabulous.  Most often with a National steel guitar in hand, his brand of blues and blues-rock is incredibly unique, outstanding, and at times a bit psychedelic.  For this album, Freakchild enlists drummer Chris Parker (Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, Paul Butterfield) and guitarist Hugh Pool who also recorded and mixed the album.

The record softly cracks open with a mostly instrumental, backwoods, swampy blues track “Opus Earth”.  Accented with backwards guitar, a hypnotic beat, and spiritual chants, this amazing track lets the listener know they are in for a unique listening experience.  Freakchild delectably covers Depeche Mode with a nice and greasy blues-soaked arrangement of “Personal Jesus (on the Mainline)”. With Pool blowing harp, and Freakchild providing the suave velvety vocals and twang, this version totally demolishes the original.  Guitarist Mark Karan and bassist Robin Sylvester, both from Ratdog guest on “Hippie Bluesman Blues”. They instill a delightful deadhead vibe into this country-blues original.


The soulful rhythm in “Dial It In” coupled with Freakchild’s fast-paced prose draws me in with a firm grasp.  Spirited backing vocals from the lovely Hazel Miller join with Garrett Dutton’s (G Love and Special Sauce) for a rejoicing funky good time.  With Jay Collins boldly belting it out on saxophone, Freakchild fearlessly takes on Dylan’s “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” in a marvelous no-holds barred performance. A wonderful tribute to Blind Willie Johnson is exhibited in a “Soul of Man”, before the good Rev takes us home with the cosmic closer “Opus Space” for a grand finale.  And to this, I say “Amen Brother, Amen!”.            


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Click below to read the PhillyCheeze review of  : Reverend Freakchild - Illogical Optimism




      



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 31, 2018

#327 : Tyler Morris Band - Next in Line




2018 – Vizztone

By Phillip Smith; March 31, 2018


Next in Line, the third album from Tyler Morris continues to break new ground for the nineteen year old guitar prodigy.  Chock-full of blues-soaked rocking originals, this record, produced by Grammy Award winner Paul Nelson (Johnny Winter), stands tall.  While Morris holds the fort down on guitar, the rest of the band is comprised of vocalist Morten Fredheim, bassist Scott Spray, drummer Tyger MacNeal and keyboardist Mike Dimeo.    

Morris lays down the blues in a tantalizing jam with the fabulous Uptown Horns in the instrumental “Choppin’”.   His performance in “Thunder” rides the rails of a funky dirty groove and is downright amazing.  The great Joe Louis Walker teams up with the band to belt out the classic SRV barnburner “Willie the Wimp”.  The swirling sounds of Dimeo on organ coupled with MacNeal’s tremendous beats and Spray’s standout bassline set a perfect stage for Morris’s searing licks.    

“Down On My Luck” is unbelievably good.  Morris fills this stunning song to the brim with an intoxicating blues riff which keeps the energy flowing while Fredheim’s powerful vocals evoke a spectacular fierceness. If this is any indication of what’s in store from the band in the future, I can’t wait to hear their next album already.

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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 24, 2018

#326 : Ten Second Pistol - You Have No Power Over Me



2018 – Zeven Music Entertainment

By Phillip Smith; March 24, 2018


Ten Second Pistol packs a hard-hitting punch with their delightful and raw debut album, You Have No Power Over Me.  Benny Chang, front man of this up-and-coming blues-rock band out of El Paso, Texas connects with the listener using attention-grabbing guitar riffs and suave smoky vocals.  Alongside Chang is his rhythm section composed of bassist Davis Alexander and drummer Manny Ayala.  They’re a tight outfit indeed.  

Fueled by searing guitar licks and a dire mood, Chang spotlights the slow-baked break-up blues ballad “Get To Steppin’” with a fabulous heart-wrenching performance reminiscent of Tom Waits.  Elegantly played and thought provoking, “Like A Bird” takes a cold hard look at the world today.  It’s quite outstanding.  A buttery electric groove forges the way for a captivating hypnotic listen in “Hold On”.  Riding atop a steady pounding beat, Chang breaks out his slide for the swampy and deliciously ominous “Got No Love”.  This leads right into the powerful blues ballad, “She Left Me”, which splendidly brings the album to its end.  Beautifully played and with no accompaniment, Chang invokes a retro juke-joint vibe with this wonderful blues-soaked track.

When I’ve listened to You Have No Power Over Me, I feel like I’ve actually listened to something with substance.  This is what the Blues is all about.    

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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 17, 2018

#325 : Tinsley Ellis / Wooden Nickel Lottery live @ The Redstone Room



Tinsley Ellis w/ opening act Wooden Nickel Lottery
Live @ The Redstone Room      
March 16, 2018
Davenport, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; Mar. 17, 2018


Tinsley Ellis blessed a full house at the Redstone Room in Davenport, Iowa with an amazing night of guitar blues, this past Friday, March 16th.  Performing with Ellis as his rhythm section was new touring bassist Kevan McCann and drummer Erik “Jazzy Skins” Kaszynski. 

Eastern Iowa blues-rockers Wooden Nickel Lottery opened for Tinsley with a powerful forty-five minute set.  WNL is comprised of lead singer Rick Gallo, lead guitarist Rich Toomsen, bassist Jess Toomsen, and drummer Delayne Stallman.  WNL kicked their set off with “Morning Heartbreak” off their 2015 debut album On My Way and proceeded to play through favorites from their latest album Down The Line, such as “Can’t Be Wrong”, “No Second Chances”, “Bad Gone Good” and “Nickels and Dimes”.  They closed out with a tight delivery of Sam Cooke’s “Change is Gonna Come”.  Gallo’s vocals were on the mark and the band’s performance was magnificent.

Tinsley did what Tinsley does best… and that’s play the Blues with his amazing arsenal of guitars.  He covered tons of favorites right from the get-go, hitting on “Saving Grace”, “Cut You Loose”, “To the Devil For a Dime”, and “Quitter Never Wins”.

My favorite moments occurred with Tinsley's Dobro in hand.  Before playing “Can’t Be Satisfied”, Tinsley explained Bob Margolin taught the song to him, and Muddy Waters had taught Margolin the song.   It was spectacular. He spoke about meeting many of the blues masters as a youth, and then tore into a breathtaking “Little Red Rooster”.
    
Before the evening was over, Tinsley let loose on “Highway Man”, “The Last Song”, and “Pawnbroker”.  It definitely was a marvelous night for music. 

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all photos by Phillip Smith



Wooden Nickel Lottery





Wooden Nickel Lottery

Delayne Stallman, Jess Toomsen, Rick Gallo

Rick Gallo

Rich Toomsen, Delayne Stallman, Jess Toomsen

Delayne Stallman, Jess Toomsen

Rich Toomsen

Delayne Stallman

Rick Gallo

Rich Toomsen, Jess Toomsen

Rich Toomsen, Delayne Stallman


Tinsley Ellis

Kevan McCann, Tinsley Ellis

Kevan McCann

 Erik “Jazzy Skins” Kaszynski.

Kevan McCann

Tinsley Ellis


Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis

Kevan McCann, Tinsley Ellis , Erik "Jazzy Skins" Kaszynski

 Erik “Jazzy Skins” Kaszynski.

Kevan McCann, Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis

 Erik “Jazzy Skins” Kaszynski.

Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis

Kevan McCann, Tinsley Ellis

 Erik “Jazzy Skins” Kaszynski.

Kevan McCann

Tinsley Ellis, Kevan McCann

Tinsley Ellis

all photos by Phillip Smith

#324 : Myles Goodwyn And Friends of the Blues



2017 – Linus Entertainment

By Phillip Smith; March 17, 2018


April Wine front-man Myles Goodwyn has had a passion for the blues since the Sixties, when the greats like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and BB King were in their heyday.  Over the years, Goodwyn set his blues songs aside for future use and never put them to wax for an April Wine album.  The future is finally here, and a dozen of those delectable songs have been recorded for this spectacular record, Myles Goodwyn and Friends of the Blues.  Goodwyn takes the lead on vocals, guitars, and keyboards, while Mike Carrol and Blair Mackay appear on drums.  Bass players consist of Richard Fallus, Alex Fraser, Russal Jackson, and Bruce Dixon.  The list of friends which join Goodwyn in the studio are Jack de Keyzer, Garret Mason, David Wilcox, Amos Garret, Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne, Joe Murphy, Frank Marino, Shaun Verreault, Bill Stevenson, and Rick Derringer.

I love the way the album rolls in with the high energy electric blues on “I Hate to See you Go (But I Love to Watch You Walk Away)”.  This captivating opener is nicely topped off with a sweet sax and horn arrangement from Eric Khayat.  Goodwyn takes an amazingly deep dive into the cold well of bitterness in “I’ll Hate You (Til Death Do Us Part)”.  This stellar performance features the great Frank Marino on guitar and piano great Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne.  I could listen to Rick Derringer play guitar all day.  His searing guitar in blues-rocker “Last Time I’ll Ever Sing the Blues” is downright tantalizing.

Myles Goodwyn and Friends of the Blues brilliantly shows another side of Goodwyn as he masters the Blues.  I certainly hope to hear more recordings like this in the future him.


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Also reviewed on Phillycheeze’s Rock & Blues Reviews

Blue Öyster Cult & April Wine - Live @ Riverside Casino, May 14, 2016



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 10, 2018

#323 : Mick Kolassa - Double Standards



2017 – Swing Suit Records

By Phillip Smith; March 10, 2018


One can feel the heart and soul poured into the latest release from “Michissippi” Mick Kolassa.  Double Standards, a wonderful thirteen track album, celebrates some of the greatest blues songs to have been recorded.  Backing Kolassa in the studio is guitarist Jeff Jensen, bassist Bill Ruffino, drummer James Cunningham, and organist Chris Stephenson.   For this venture, Kolassa also enlists the participation of several notable musicians, who today are busy carving their own unique path to present the Blues.  These artists are Tullie Brae, Erica Brown, Annika Chambers, Heather Crosse, Tas Cru, Gracie Curran, David Dunavent, Alice Hasan, Eric Hughes, Colin John, Jeremy Powell, Patti Parks, Sugaray Rayford, and Victor Wainwright.

A big gracious nod goes out to the legendary bluesman Willie Dixon.  Performing as a duet with Kolassa, Erica Brown holds back nothing as she pours her soulful vocals into the classic “Spoonful”.  I love Jenson’s guitar performance and Stephenson’s organ arrangement on this track.  The lovely Heather Crosse joins in on “I Just Want to Make Love To You”.  Memphis’ Eric Hughes lays a heaping helping of luscious harmonica on this track.  It sounds great.  The dynamic duo of Kolassa and Sugaray Rayford double the ante on “300 Pounds of Heavenly Joy”, originally recorded by Howlin Wolf, to bring a grand total of “600 Pounds of Heavenly Joy” to the table.  Fortified with the guitar prowess of both Colin John, and Mike Kolassa, this track is a big bowlful of fun.

Victor Wainwright splendidly takes the vocal reins on Tampa Red’s 1928 hokum “It’s Tight Like That”, with Hughes icing the song with harmonica and Alice Hasan accompanying on violin.  Tas Cru lends his definitive voice to the Jimmy Cox penned standard, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”.  This timeless classic is beautifully accompanied by Hason on violin and Jeremy Powell on piano.  Eric Hughes gives a smooth performance Big Bill Broonzy’s “Key to the Highway”.  It’s very nice indeed. 

Double Standards comes to a joyful conclusion in a full-fledged jamboree.  Each singer takes a turn on “Ain’t Nobody’s Business”, spinning their own off-the-cuff lyrics.  It’s a great track to close the album with, as the energy of the whole collective is funneled into this closing song. 

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All Proceeds from Mick Kolassa’s albums will go to support two of these important programs: The HART Fund and Generation Blues.

THE HART FUND (Handy Artists Relief Trust) is for Blues musicians and their families in financial need due to a broad range of health concerns. The Fund provides for acute, chronic and preventive medical and dental care as well as funeral and burial expenses. 

GENERATION BLUES provides scholarship to artists under the age of 21 to study at reputable camps, seminars and workshop programs such as Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival, Augusta Heritage Center and Fernando Jones’ Columbia College Blues Camp.






Also reviewed on Phillycheeze’s Rock & Blues Reviews

Victor Wainwright and the WildRootsBoom Town

Tas Cru - Simmered & Stewed

Heather Crosse - Groovin’ at the Crosse Roads




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 3, 2018

#322 : Victor Wainwright and the Train - (self-titled)



2018 – Ruf Records

By Phillip Smith; March 2, 2018


Victor Wainwright, one of my favorite keyboardists playing the Blues today, has released a spectacular new album with his new backing band, The Train.  Making up The Train is drummer Billy Dean, bassist Terrence Grayson, and guitarist Pat Harrington. This album features a dozen original songs from Wainwright which ranges from barrelhouse blues to boogie-woogie.  No matter what he’s playing, it’s performed with precision and soul. 

Wainwright’s lush keys and ominous lyrics stand tall on “Wilshire Grave” as it sinks its claws in.  A seductive hook, the growling trumpet of Doug Woolverton, and the backing vocals of Reba Russell make this song the embodiment of cool.  With a bluesy Randy Newman vibe, “Dull Your Shine” emits a message of positivity as it reinforces the characteristic of individuality.  There hasn’t been a better song about debt collection than “Money”.  Wainwright’s piano prowess is quite amazing and Harrington’s guitar performance is terrific.  “Thank You Lucille” is a wonderful homage to the great B.B. King.  In a fitting tribute, guitarist Monster Mike Welch seemingly channels the man himself.  A slow-burn start on “Sunshine” breaks into a rejoicing Phish-phriendly jam with tiny nods to the great Frank Zappa.  Harrington’s smokin’ guitar performance coupled with Billy Dean’s amazing drum fills put a gigantic smile on my face.

Victor Wainwright and the Train is one stellar record, and certainly deserves to be heard.
   
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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.     






Also reviewed on Phillycheeze’s Rock & Blues Reviews

Click below to read PhillyCheeze's review of  :Victor Wainwright and the WildRoots – Boom Town



Saturday, February 24, 2018

#321 : Rockin’ Johnny Burgin - Neoprene Fedora



2017 – West Tone Records

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 24, 2018


Rockin’ Johnny Burgin has been putting out righteous blues music for at least twenty years, and his latest release Neoprene Fedora is no exception.  On this sixteen track record, Burgin further explores the blues, taps into some California surf guitar, and steps into the world of zydeco for a few songs.  Again, recording at the Greaseland Studios in San Jose, California, Burgin enlists a super group of notable musicians to join him: Kid Andersen (guitar/bass/piano), Aki Kumar (harp/percussion/vocals), Bob Welsh (guitar/piano), Alabama Mike (vocals), Vance Ehlers (bass), June Core (drums/percussion), Stephen Dougherty (drums), Nancy Wright (sax.), Steve Willis (accordion), Billy Wilson (rub board), and Chris Matheos (bass).

Title track, Neoprene Fedora is one smokin’ cool tune.  This is California surf at its best.  With Nancy Wright on sax, and Kid Andersen joining in on guitar, the song pretty much soars skyward with its over seven minute instrumental jam.  I love how Burgin’s cover of “Give Me an Hour in Your Garden” drips with authenticity.  Originally recorded by Papa John Creech on his 1972 album Filthy, Burgin wails this one with heart and soul as Anderson joins in on piano.  Alabama Mike steps in on vocals and Aki Kumar on harp, as Burgin breaks the funk out on “Smoke and Mirrors”. This juicy track is soaked in the raw grit of the mid-Seventies, and I dig every bit of it.  Burgin connects right in to the essence of the average blue-collar worker in “I Ain’t Gonna Be a Working Man No More”.  Featuring a driving rhythm from Ehlers and Dougherty and the guitar prowess of the great Bob Welsh, the song buries in deep.  With a Smokestack Lightnin riff, Burgin bids a personal adieu to the Windy City in “Goodbye Chicago” and sets his scope on the Sunkist State, where he now resides.  It’s a wonderful homage.      


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