Saturday, October 21, 2017

André Bisson - Break


2017 –André Bisson
Release Date : Oct 20, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Oct 21, 2017


It was a welcoming surprise to hear the smashing new release Break from André Bisson. It’s been a little over two years since I reviewed his previous album Left With the Blues.  Though that recording won me over hook, line, and sinker, this album is even more captivating.  Bisson masterfully taps into his Motown, blues, and gospel influences for these compositions, and then performs them with vibrant vocals along with a tight cast of musicians. With a guitar full of twangy goodness in hand, Bisson leads his core band composed of saxophonists Bil Holinaty and Gordon Aeichele, trumpeter/cellist Loretta Hale, bassist Mike Rowell, drummer Sean Bruce Parker, and Jesse O’Brian on piano/B3 organ/Wurlitzer.

I love how the title track “Break” latches on to me from the git-go.  Bisson belts this one out of the park with fortitude.  The feel-good vibe continues onward to “How Many Times”, a swinging and soulful track which gently walks the line between Sun and Stax.  Utilizing the energizing sound of a room full of horns, and an expert rhythm section, Bisson pulls off a sweet callback to Vegas-era Elvis Presley.  Swirling sounds of organ, bountiful blasts of brass, and a groovy sax solo puts me in my happy space when “Feelin’ Fine” jets out the speakers.   

Bisson beautifully sings the blues on “Reflections”, a lovely and melancholy song delivered with a sad swirly melody.  Then with the swagger of Joe Cocker, he takes on The Beatles’ “Elenor Rigby”, giving this only cover song on the album a total make-over.

Break, Bisson’s seventh album, undeniably shows just how much of an artist he truly is. This is indeed one terrific album.       

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The PhillyCheeze review of André Bisson’s “Left With the Blues” :
 

    
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.  


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Albert Castiglia - Up All Night


2017 –Ruf Records
Release Date : Oct 6, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Oct 14, 2017


Albert Castiglia is definitely on a roll. He pulls no punches on his latest album “Up All Night”.  With an all-new band consisting of bass player Jimmy Pritchard and drummer Brian Menendez, Castiglia again enlists Mike Zito to produce, help write, and toss some of his trademark guitar and vocals into the ring.  Also making appearances on this magnificent blues-rock album are music masters Lewis Stephens on keys, Sonny Landreth on slide guitar, and Johnny Sansone on harmonica.

Castiglia presses the pedal to the metal, as he lays a long trail of rubber on “Hoodoo on Me”.  Penned by Zito, this heavy-hitting blues-rocker rides a thick relentless bassline and showcases Castiglia’s guitar mastery.  Smattered with a slough-full of funky psychedelic licks, his cover of Brian Stoltz’s (funky Meters) “I’ve Been Up All Night” is engaging and groovy.  Landreth’s slide guitar on Castiglia’s tale of outrunning a hurricane in “95 South” is marvelous and swampy, just the way I love it. 

Included in this recording are a couple of outstanding songs from Graham Wood Drout (Iko Iko) who Castiglia collaborated with in 2006 on a record called The Bittersweet Sessions: “Three Legged Dog” and “Knocked Down Loaded”.  Both have the unique gift burying themselves in my head for hours on end.  I love Castiglia’s nitro-charged take on Luther “Snake Boy” Johnson’s “Woman Don’t Lie”.  It’s a sizzling delight.   

Castiglia won me over with his previous album, “Big Dog” which I reviewed in June of 2016.  I remember thinking how tough it was going to be for him to top that album. He did though.  “Up All Night” is absolutely wonderful and has set a new bar. 

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The PhillyCheeze review of Albert Castiglia’s Big Dog album  > 
  
     
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.  






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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Marcus Randolph My Peeples Peeple - Transplant


2017 –American Showplace Music
Release Date : Oct 20, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Oct. 7, 2017

Transplant, the debut release from Marcus Randolph My Peeples Peeple, is quite the captivating and funky listen.  Randolph (founding member of the Robert Randolph and the Family Band) holds court on drums and vocals, along with both steel and acoustic guitars.  Joining Randolph on this recording is drummer Dwayne “Duce” Snelling Jr, John Ginty on B3 organ and piano, bassists Michael Randolph Jr, and Walton “A.J.” Mims, guitarists Will “B.J.” Nelson, Jimmy Bennett, and Joey Williams, and backing vocalist Shawn “The Bishup” Herbert.    

A chill hypnotic beat and a ripping guitar riff usher the album in on title track, “Transplant”, a song of gratitude to Randolph’s wife who unselfishly gave him another chance at life by donating one of her kidneys to him in 2011.  I love the swampy steel guitar on “Sucka” and how it is immersed in a funky Isaac Hayes-era Stax-friendly jam.

I can’t help but break a smile on “Lift Me Up”.  Starting with a simple beat and an acoustic guitar, this fabulous song grows to a much grander version of itself.  Another point of light is “In My Heart”, superbly performed and sung with the conviction of Stevie WonderRandolph slathers extra helpings of tasty steel guitar on “63 Hog Drive”, an outstanding jammin’ blues instrumental.  When joined by the rest of the band, it turns into one hell of a jamboree.  


Transplant comes to a smooth R&B finish with “Diggin’ Me a Hole” featuring guest artist Brian Harris aka Wonder on vocals.  Eleven tracks of fresh and funky all-original music grace the album, making for a magnificent record.

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


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Conrad the Band - Valley Fever


2017 –Slepton Records
Release Date : Oct 27, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Sep 28, 2017


Valley Fever, the latest release from Conrad the Band, has completely caught me by surprise, and I’m loving it.  Hailing from Bakersfield, California, and now living in San Francisco, this duo comprised of childhood friends Matthew Shaw (guitar/bass/vocals) and Nick Andre (percussion/synth/production) unveils a six-track masterpiece loaded with bleeding-edge techno, vintage guitars, and hardscrabble stories revolving about a cast of unfortunates.    

A seductive bassline, a hypnotic drum beat, and huge doses of electric fuzzy guitar effortlessly lure me into “Devil’s Gonna Find You”, an intense song with an ominous presence which speaks of junkies and public transportation.  “Food for the Fishes” is beautifully engineered and emits a floaty, cotton-candy sweet melody in Flaming Lips fashion while describing a melancholy dream about parting ways.

A poetic despairing tale of a miserable sad sack in “Teddy”, takes a series of dark turns while exploring end-games ranging from the homicidal to suicidal.  By its finish, my heart is racing.   A chill beat and dreamy synth usher in “One More Smoke”.  This melody about staying awake until dawn with a pack of smokes and a bottle of booze makes for a perfect epilogue for the preceding “Teddy”.  As if drawing musical inspiration from the best of the Seventies television crime dramas, “Poor Davy” blasts a barrage of gritty synth sounds topped off with an extra helping of pimping bass.   Valley Fever ends with a beautiful Velvet Underground-like track about doom and love called “Black and Blue”.

Albeit a short one, clocking in at just around twenty-two minutes in length, this is one cool-as-hell album.  I honestly can’t wait to hear what comes next for Conrad the Band.      

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Alastair Greene - Dream Train


2017 –Rip Cat Records
Release Date : Oct 20, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Sep 23, 2017

Alastair Greene recently parted from his seven-year gig as Alan Parson’s touring guitarist and made the decision to follow his musical dream of pursing a full-time solo career. His most recent album, Dream Train, produced and mixed by David Z is a monumental one to say the least.  It contains a dozen originals and one fabulous cover.  With Greene on guitar and vocals, he is joined by Jim Rankin on bass, and Austin Beede on drums.

Beede’s thunder-filled pounding beats fuel title-track “Dream Train” as Greene kicks it into full-throttle fearlessly blasting his turbo-charged electric blues. “Nome Zayne”, a previously-unreleased Texas-style blues-rocker written by Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) and featuring the great Walter Trout is funky and infectious.  It’s definitely one of my favorites, as is “I’m the Taker”.  Greene keeps this one powerful, raw and a bit psychedelic. 
    
The instrumentals on this album are delightful.  So elegant is “Song For Rufus”.  Though clocking in at just less than two minutes in length, it carries heartfelt warmth. “Iowa” is a blessing to hear as well, and not just because it is where I call my current home.  The rich sounds from organist Mike Finnegan and the gentile waves of crashing cymbals provide a perfectly textured space for Greene’s guitar to explore.  This gorgeous song quickly brings to mind my first listen of Eric Johnson’s Tones album.  Debbie Davies appears with guitar in hand for a swinging instrumental blues jam on “Grateful Swagger” and it is downright terrific.  

There’s a heavy North Mississippi Delta vibe in “Rain Stomp”.  Greene plays this wonderful callback to classic blues slathered up with a heaping dose of exquisite swampy slide.  A collaboration with Mike Zito results in one badass song called “Down to Memphis”.  The riffs are hard and intense.  The slide guitar is fantastic.  

One listen to Dream Train, and it’s so very obvious Alastair Greene made the right decision to pursue his musical dream.  This is absolutely one stellar blues-rock album.
   

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




Sunday, September 17, 2017

Brad Stivers - Took You Long Enough


2017 –VizzTone Label Group

By Phillip Smith; Sep 16, 2017


A finalist in the 2014 International Blues Challenge in Memphis and a staple in the Austin, Texas music scene, Brad Stivers’ debut album, “Took You Long Enough” is a wonderful blend of Sun Records, the Nashville Sound, and Southern R&B.  

The funky Jimmy Nolen-ish guitar riff draws me in to title track, “Took You Long Enough”.  Accented by Stivers’ smooth troubadour vocals, this is one killer track.  Stivers breaks out a tantalizing guitar solo on his mighty horn-infused cover of Ray Charles classic “You’re Just About to Lose Your Clown” which features outstanding performances by Mark Wilson on saxophone and Bukka Allen on B3.  Emily Gimble (ex-member of Asleep at the Wheel and granddaughter of Johnny Gimble from Bob Willis and His Texas Playboys) makes a guest appearance, lending her voice and piano mastery on a beautiful duet covering yet another amazing tune recorded by Ray Charles, “Here We Go Again”.

Being down and out never sounded so good as “Nickle and a Nail”, sung by the powerful and soulful voice of Malford Milligan. There’s a bit of a Robert Cray vibe which rings throughout this fabulous song.  A slow-burning ominous melody and Stivers’ delicious, twangy guitar delightfully provide the springboard for his heart-wrenching vocals in the brilliant original “Save Me”.  


I love his funky instrumental cover of James Brown’s “Cold Sweat”.  Bassist Bobby Perkins and drummer Nico Leophonte make for a tight-as-hell rhythm section while Stivers delivers a riveting performance to close out this spectacular recording.   

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For more information about Brad Stivers, visit his website ... www.bradstivers.com



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, September 9, 2017

Savoy Brown - Witchy Feelin’


2017 –Ruf Records

By Phillip Smith; Sep 9, 2017


It’s been fifty years since the first Savoy Brown album, Shake Down, hit the streets in England, and Kim Simmonds shows no signs of slowing down.  The man is definitely on a roll right now.  Besides his brand new solo instrumental album Jazzin’ on the Blues, which is absolutely wonderful by the way, he has the all new off-the-hook Savoy Brown album Witchy Feelin’ out now too.  It is a smoldering hot eleven track plateful of electric guitar-blues.  Returning to the studio with Simmonds is bassist Pat DeSalvo and drummer Garnet Grimm, both of who have been playing in Savoy Brown since 2009

A strong impression is made when I hear the intoxicating Texas blues of “Why Did You Hoodoo Me”.  The driving rhythm and searing guitar seals the deal.  The hypnotic hook and swampy slide of “Livin’ on the Bayou” lures me in like the song of the sirens.  It’s beautifully played.  I then get a big smile on my face when he breaks out more bodacious slide singing about one of my favorite places, “Memphis Blues”.  Simmonds pumps a delightful dose of psychedelia into the amazing, “Thunder, Lightning and Rain”, making for an exquisite listen.  “Can’t Find Paradise”, the anthem of the album is rockin’ and contagious. It’s terrific.

Witchy Feelin’ certainly ranks up there among my favorites of the year.  

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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.

Kim Simmonds - Jazzin’ on the Blues


2017 –Panache Records

By Phillip Smith; Sep 9, 2017


The latest solo effort from Kim Simmonds (Savoy Brown) , Jazzin’ on the Blues, is wonderfully brilliant.  Featuring twelve amazing instrumental tracks of Simmonds killing it on acoustic guitar, bass guitar, and harmonica alongside percussionist Ron Keck, this record is destined to stand the test of time. 

Bursting out a Latin groove to kick things off, Simmonds masterfully plays “Dancing on a Memory” with a suave finesse. I absolutely adore this track.  Title track “Jazzin’ on the Blues” and “The Maze” are another couple of stellar originals which shine brightly.  Simmonds’ performance is absolutely flawless.  I also immensely enjoy Simmonds’ stunning covers of Bill Doggett’s “True Blue” and Smokey Robinson’s “Shop Around”.  They are both very nice indeed.  Like a beautiful Technicolor sunset at the end of the day, “Fascination” brings a lovely end to the album. 

Jazzin’ on the Blues is an album I can sit down and enjoy from beginning to end, plus a few more times round again.  It’s that good.



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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.




Monday, September 4, 2017

25th Annual Bowlful of Blues - Sep. 3, 2017


The Fred Maytag Bowl
Maytag Park
Newton, Iowa 
All photos by Phillip Smith; Sep 03, 2017


I don't think I could have picked a better place to spend the day before Labor Day, than being immersed in the blues at Maytag Park in Newton, Iowa.  This was my first visit to the Bowlful of Blues Festival, and I hope to attend many more times in the future.  Unfortunately, I missed the opening act, Juliana and a Soul Purpose, but I did arrive just in time to catch the spectacular ninety minute set from The Norman Jackson Band in its entirety.   Having just reviewed his recent album, It's the Drummers Fault,  I was most excited to see this band from Springfield, Missouri perform live.  (click here to check out that review).   







Keeping the momentum going between the main acts,  Iowa Blues Hall of Fame member, Rob Lumbard entertained the audience on acoustic guitar with a treasure-trove of songs. 

Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers took the stage for a captivating performance, bringing a small taste of Mardi Gras to the middle of Iowa.  Following them, the great Mato Nanji and Indigenous graced the stage and gobsmacked me with his guitar prowess.  (click here to check out my 2013 review for Otis Taylor's My World is Gone album, which features Mato Nanji).      Closing out the evening, was  New York's Jane Lee Hooker, who played an amazing set of blues-rock.  They were definitely a force to be reckoned with.



The Norman Jackson Band


Norman Jackson

Norman Jackson, Danny Williams,
and Rick Shortt

Norman Jackson

Rick Shortt

Norman Jackson

Danny Williams

Norman Jackson and Rick Shortt

Rick Shortt

Norman Jackson, Rick Shortt, and
Danny Williams

Norman Jackson

Rick Shortt

Norman Jackson and Rick Shortt

Rick Shortt

Rick Shortt

Norman Jackson and Rick Shortt

Norman Jackson, Ron Brown, and
Rick Shortt

Ron Brown, Norman Jackson, Rick Shortt, and
Danny Williams

Ron Brown

Ron Brown and Rick Shortt

Norman Jackson

   

Rob Lumbard


Rob Lumbard

Rob Lumbard

Rob Lumbard


Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers


Paul LaFleur and Dee Fleming

Paul LaFleur , Dee Fleming
and Dwayne Dopsie

Dwayne Dopsie

Dwayne Dopsie

Dwayne Dopsie

Dwayne Dopsie

Paul LaFleur and Dwayne Dopsie

Dee Fleming

Dwayne Dopsie, Dion Pierre, and Damon Sonnier

Michael Doherty

Michael Doherty

Damon Sonnier

Dee Fleming

Dwayne Dopsie



Mato Nanji and Indigenious

Mato Nanji



Douglas Platero

Bronson Begay


Mato Nanji

Mato Nanji


Douglas Platero

Mato Nanji

Mato Nanji

Mato Nanji

Mato Nanji

Mato Nanji

Mato Nanji

Mato Nanji

Douglas Platero

Bronson Begay

Mato Nanji and Douglas Platero

Mato Nanji



Jane Lee Hooker


Dana “Danger” Athens

Tracy Hightop

Dana “Danger” Athens

Tina "T-Bone" Gorin

Tracy Hightop

Melissa "Cool Whip" Houston

Hail Mary Z,  Dana “Danger” Athens, and
Tracy Hightop

Dana “Danger” Athens, Melissa "Cool Whip" Houston
and Tracy Hightop

Jane Lee Hooker

Dana “Danger” Athens and Tracy Hightop

Tina "T-Bone" Gorin and Dana “Danger” Athens

Tina "T-Bone Gorin

Melissa "Cool Whip" Houston

Tracy Hightop

Tracy Hightop and Hail Mary Z