Friday, February 26, 2021

#488 : Head Honchos - Blues Alliance



2020 – Grooveyard Records

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 26, 2021


Head Honchos, a heavy-duty blues-rock band from Indiana, grabbed my full attention from the git-go with their second album Blues Alliance.  This power-quartet, centered on dual guitars manned by lead vocalist Rocco Calipari Sr. and his son Rocco Calipari Jr. is definitely a band that deserves a hell of a lot of attention.  Comprising the rest of the band is bassist Mike Boyle and drummer Will Wyatt.  Eleven tracks in length, the album features nine outstanding originals and two stellar covers.

I love the dirty, greasy groove on “Mr. Bad”.  It sounds so damn good paired up with the ripping guitars from the Caliparis.  Raw and blood-thirsty vocals from Rocco Sr. take full command.  “She Got That Thing” is nearly six minutes of funky rockin’ bliss.  I have to give bonus points for solos from Wyatt on drums, and Boyle on bass.  Another song that digs right in is “Can’t Be Satisfied” with its fearless driving rhythm, pounding drums, and infectious riff.  Scooped up by the Chuck Berry influence on “Rock n’ Roll”, I grab on tight for the ride and enjoy this no-holds-barred rocker.

Their cover of “Evil”, written by Willie Dixon and originally recorded by Howlin’ Wolf is magnificent.  This performance is so reminiscent of classic Zeppelin.  A breakneck pulse, searing guitars, and fearless vocals make this the stand-out track.  The record closes with another fantastic cover.  Serendipitously, very shortly before I decided to review this album, I became enthralled with Big Ass Truck’s version of the Al Green song, “I’m A Ram”.  Then I discovered that song was covered by Head Honchos too.  Al Green made it soulful.  Big Ass Truck made it funky. Govt Mule made it somewhat reggae.  Now Head Honcho gives it a swampy makeover, with lots of slide and some juicy harp from Wyatt.

Blues Alliance is a record I very highly recommend.  It’s going down as one of my favorites of the year. 

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For more information about the artist, visit this website : https://www.theheadhonchosband.com/home

 

 

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, February 20, 2021

#487 : John D'Amato - Blood on the Strings

 


Tru Blu Records

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 20, 2021

 

John D’Amato’s third and most recent album Blood on the Strings is a terrific follow-up to Born Blue: The Sun Sessions.  His guitar prowess shines brightly on this self-produced ten-track record of blues.  It’s surely no surprise this master of the guitar made the cut in 2009 for Guitar Player Magazine’s Editors Top 8.  His style is effortlessly clean with a retro sound.  Backing D’Amato in the studio for this album of all-original songs is his wife Lauren D’Amato on lead and background vocals, Carl Brenner on drums, Hottub Willie Scruggs on bass guitar (7 tracks), John Green on bass guitar (3 tracks), Dan Nadassi on keys (7 tracks), and Geno Haffner on keys (3 tracks).

John tears it up on guitar from the start on “Gal in Memphis”, a duet he sings with Lauren.  I really like the slow blues of “Rich Man” too.  It has a very nice Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits) style.  Title-track “Blood on the Strings” recollects John’s early days of learning guitar.  It’s packed with hot licks and a driving rhythm.  Even Jesus, with his humble beginning and violent end, gets the blues in “Walk on Water”.  A definite favorite and a very fitting song for the day “Walk Away” preaches that something has got to change.  It’s beautifully constructed and leaves the listener with a positive message.  The album ends with a rocker called “Rollin’” about a musician’s life on the road.  D’Amato laces this one with an infectious riff which quickly makes itself at home buried in my brain,

Blood on the Strings is a solid album with a kick-ass name.   It’s definitely worth the listen.

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For more information about the artist, visit this website : https://johndamato.net/

 

 

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, February 13, 2021

#486 : Alastair Greene - The New World Blues

 


2020 – Whiskey Bayou Records

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 13, 2021


I’ve been a fan of Alastair Greene since reviewing his 2017 release Dream Train.  That album came to fruition soon after his lengthy gig of playing with Alan Parsons.  Hearing his latest album, The New World Blues, only made me more of a fan.  Greene is rocker rooted in blues, and a bluesman rooted in rock.  His songs are solid as hell, and his guitar prowess is absolutely stunning.  Tab Benoit, cofounder of Whiskey Bayou Records produced the album, and took on drums, with bass player Corey Duplechin rounding out this paramount power-trio. 

“Living Today” gets this eleven-track record off to a ripping start, with Greene reminding us to let our love shine through this world gone mad.  The song is quite powerful.  Benoit throws down a monster beat as Greene absolutely tears it up on guitar.  Greene pours a jug-full of delta grease into “Bayou Mile” a ballad of reflection. This one puts a smile on my face and makes me think of home.  Things heat up when Greene breaks out a big ol’ case of Texas-style blues on his instrumental “Back at the Poor House”.  This one evokes the fabulous sounds of Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Sitting atop a delicate framework, is this beautiful and melancholy song called “Heroes”.  It totally captivated me, both lyrically and musically.  When I heard the harmonized vocals, I was instantly reminded of one of my favorite bands in the nineties, The Meat Puppets.  The album comes to a walloping finish on title-track “The New World Blues” with Greene doling out heaping helpings of swampy electric slide.  It sounds so damn good. 

“The New World Blues” is definitely among the best albums I’ve heard this year.  It’s surely one blues-rock fans will want to grab.   

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For more information about the artist, visit this website : https://agsongs.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.






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Saturday, February 6, 2021

#485 : Vanessa Collier - Heart on the Line



2020 – Phenix Fire Records / Vanessa Collier

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 6, 2021

 

They say you got to strike while the iron is hot, and that is exactly what Vanessa Collier is doing.  As the recipient of the “Horn Player of the Year award for two years in a row at the Blues Music Awards in 2019 and 2020, this artist is surely setting herself up for a three-peat.  Collier brings an immense amount of talent to the studio for her fourth album Heart on the Line.  She’s truly at the top of her game both vocally and as a sax player.  Backing Collier on this eleven-track album is Laura Chavez on electric guitar, C.C. Ellis, Scott Sutherland (Mike Zito, Albert Castiglia), and Cornell Williams on bass, William Gorman on organ/piano, Quinn Carson on trombone, and Doug Woolverton on trumpet.

I absolutely love “Bloodhound”, Collier sings the song with a sweet Mississippi twang as Chavez pours gobs of swampy goodness all over her slide guitar.  Topped with horns and searing guitar, the rolling rhythm on “Take a Chance on Me” is funky and infectious.  Collier beautifully delivers another outstanding dose of original blues with her breathtaking voice and mastery of the saxophone on “Weep and Moan”,

Out of the eleven tracks, all are original with the exception of two covers.  The first being a groovy remake of James Brown’s “Super Bad”.  Slathered with heaping helpings of delicious sax, this one leads the album off in style.  The second is a fresh and hip take on Randy Neuman’s “Leave Your Hat On”.  Collier really gets down on this one.   It’s plumb terrific.

Heart on the Line is an album I would highly recommend.  It’s a superb recording.                

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(note: In 2019, I had the pleasure of catching Laura Chavez perform with Nikki Hill as the Friday night headliner at the Prairie Dog Blues Festival in Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin.  The show was downright splendid.)   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information about the artist, visit this website : vanessacollier.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.





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Saturday, January 30, 2021

#484 : Shakin' Woods - The Blues Groove Sessions #1



2020 – Shakin’ Woods

By Phillip Smith; Jan. 30, 2021


Hailing from the Washington DC metro area, Shakin’ Woods, is a blues-rock band drenched in funk and southern-soul.  This talented quartet was formed in 2019 and is comprised of singer/guitarist Rich Russman, keyboardist/guitarist Austin Day, bassist George Belton and drummer Paul Dudley.  The Blues Groove Sessions #1, a four-track EP, is the first of several EPs planned to be released by the band this year, with the next released titled The Blues Proper Sessions #2.

I love the funky bass groove running through ‘Like a Superman”, it tracks wonderfully with the disco-friendly pulse Dudley creates.  Russman delivers the goods with the finesse of Steely Dan, incorporating smooth vocals, and a standout guitar performance.  “The Place to Be” leaves me with a big grin on my face as the friendly Phish-like groove creeps over to a psychedelic Hendrix-influenced bridge, and then back again.  Then while on the subject of Phish, they fantastically cover Trey Anastasio’s “Cayman Review”.  The EP ends on a beautiful and melancholy note as Russman sings of intertwined souls in “Still Alive”.  I can feel the emotion pouring out of his guitar in lush and bountiful waves.

The Blues Groove Sessions #1 is absolutely marvelous.  I can’t wait to hear the follow-up EPs.

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For more information about the artist, visit this website : shakinwoods.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.




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Saturday, January 23, 2021

#483 : Ghalia Volt - One Woman Band

 


2021 – Ruf Records

Release Date – Jan. 27, 2021

By Phillip Smith; Jan. 23, 2021

 

I was first introduced to the talents of Belgian-born blues artist Ghalia Volt with the 2018 release of Let the Demons Out by Ghalia & Mama’s Boys.  For that recording, which I absolutely loved, Ghalia teamed up with New Orleans bluesman Johnny Mastro and Mama’s Boys.  This past March she started a new one-woman philosophy and took it Mississippi to test drive the new arrangement.  According to Ghalia, “I started playing on a real drum set, playing a kick, snare, and hi-hat plus a tambourine with my two feet, while playing slide/guitar and singing at the same time.”  So for this latest album One Woman Band she flies solo, recording all the instruments live at once and ditching the popular multi-track route.  The recording which took place at Royal Sound Studios in Memphis, Tennessee includes guest appearances from Dean Zucchero on bass, and Monster Mike Welch on guitar.   

Ghalia delivers “Last Minute Packer” with pure raw gusto and powerful, yet delicate vocals which sound fantastic.  Her slide guitar prowess certainly demands attention on “Espiritu Papago”.  Zucchero’s steady thumping bassline solidly holds the fort down, as Ghalia’s vocal and guitar performance reaches a somewhat hypnotic state.  “Can’t Escape” chugs along like a locomotive, and is slathered with gobs of swampy slide.  It takes me right to the heart of the Mississippi Delta.  She keeps that deep blues rolling on breakup song “Reap What You Sew”.  It’s such a treat to hear her play.  “Bad Apple” is undoubtedly a strong selection too.  This original song is absolutely stellar.  Ghalia tackles Tampa Red’s “It Hurts Me Too” with feeling and finesse, as she pours herself into the performance. 

It’s obvious Ghalia Volt has spent a lot of time in the Mississippi Delta, soaking up as much of its spirit as she possibly can.  That’s certainly evident on One Woman Band.   Magnificent and timeless, this album is one hundred percent pure blues.     

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Link to the PhillyCheeze review for Ghalia and Mama’s Boys Let the Demons Out

https://phillycheezeblues.blogspot.com/2018/01/312-ghalia-mamas-boys-let-demons-out.html 

 

For more information about the artist, visit this website : ghaliavolt.com

Take a listen to the album on Apple Music, and if you decide to purchase it, use my special link. 



Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from the PhillyCheeze Amazon Store.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


Saturday, January 16, 2021

#482 : Alabama Slim - The Parlor



2020 – Cornelius Chapel

Music Maker Relief Foundation

Release Date: Jan. 29, 2021

By Phillip Smith; Jan. 16, 2021

 

Originally from Vance, Alabama, Milton Frazier aka Alabama Slim was born in 1939 and moved to New Orleans in 1965.  It was there when he started jamming occasionally with his cousin Little Freddie King.  By the 1990’s they had become best of friends, and spoke to each other on a daily basis.  In 2007, with the help of the Music Maker Relief Foundation, they cut an album together called The Mighty Flood.  In 2010 Alabama Slim recorded his first solo album Blue & Lonesome, which was also made with the help of the MMRF.  And now, a little over ten years later he has a brand new fabulous record of fresh downhome blues called The Parlor.  The album was recorded in New Orleans at The Parlor Recording Studio in four hours’ time, and incorporates the talents of Jimbo Mathus (Squirrel Nut Zippers) on piano/organ, and Matt Patton (Drive-By Truckers, Dexateens) on bass and Ardie Dean on drums, with Alabama Slim front and center on guitar and vocals.  As an added bonus, Little Freddie King even steps into the studio with guitar in hand to record a track. 

From the first few measures of “Hot Foot”, I knew this was going to be an extraordinary record.  Slim’s guitar picking is a blues-lovers delight.  Next up, Slim brings his cousin Freddie in for the hard-driving “Freddie’s Voodoo Boogie”.  It’s absolutely wonderful.  Slim slows it down and sings about a woman who steals his heart in “Rob Me Without a Gun”.  Story-telling songs like this one really grab me, especially when sung with the conviction Slim incorporates into his performance.  Mathus and Slim form a most interesting partnership of guitar and piano in the slow blues of “All Night Long”, a first-person account of a man in search of his two-timing gal.  A soulful Stax-like groove runs through “Forty Jive”, a political satire number which goes right for the jugular.  His cover of Sleepy John Estes’ “Someday Baby” is played with finesse and puts a smile on my blues-loving face.

The Parlor is certainly a recording to be embraced.  It captures Alabama Slim in a non-filtered environment, allowing the music to be heard the way it was meant to be.  Records like this just aren’t made this way anymore.          

         

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For more information about the artist, visit this website : Alabama Slim - Music Maker Relief Foundation

 



Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from the PhillyCheeze Amazon Store.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

#481 : Tony Spinner - Love is the Answer



2020 – Grooveyard Records

By Phillip Smith; Jan. 09, 2021


After nearly eight years since releasing his last album Earth Music for Aliens, Northeast Arkansas blues-rocker/guitarist extraordinaire Tony Spinner is back with a fabulous new record Love is the Answer.  Spinner joins bassist Michel Mulder and drummer Alex Steier once again in the studio for this project which spans a dozen original tracks. Recording took place at three locations: The Farm in Jonesboro, Arkansas, Lil’ Heaven Studios in Arnhem, Netherlands and Chill Hill Studio in Italy.

Spinner introduces the opening track “Same as it Ever Was” in a spaghetti-western fashion. Then with a blast of mind-blowing guitar shredding, switches into full-on funk. It sounds great!  His infectious groovy funk continues on with “Dizzy”, with Spinner waxing nostalgic in an attempt to escape the insanity of the world.  I love his jazz-guitar ode to little green men in “U.F.O.”.  It’s so fun to hear him play this one.  With title-track “Love is the Answer”, Spinner sings a message of peace and love, making for a beautiful ballad.  The slide blues that pours from “True Love” is absolutely great.  Laden with a plethora of aural treats, instrumental “Chun-Key” puts a gigantic smile on my face.  Boasting seven and a half minutes of southern funk, “Big River” is another favorite.  This composite of Allman and Marley is out of this world, and surprises me at every turn.  Spinner truly out does himself on this track.

This is the third Tony Spinner album I’ve reviewed over the years, and he never ceases to amaze me. Love is the Answer is a gem indeed and I highly recommend this record.   

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For more information about the artist, visit this website : www.tonyspinner.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.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


Saturday, January 2, 2021

#480 : Kerry Kearney - Tales From the Psychedelta



2020 – Highlander Records

By Phillip Smith; Jan. 2, 2020

 

Tales From the Psychedelta, the latest release from New York Blues Hall of Fame inductee Kerry Kearney is absolutely fabulous.  It’s such a pleasure to hear a slide guitar master of his caliber beautifully playing original blues.  Kearney’s music covers subjects which all have a distinct place in the Mississippi Delta, such as Memphis, trains, voodoo, the Mississippi River, and Jesus.  The dozen songs on this album flow like the river itself from one song to another.   

From the git-go Kearney rips it up with a high-energy Allman Brothers vibe on “Five Time Man”.  Note after note of precision finger-picking bring this masterpiece to the forefront.  The swampy delta slide guitar on “Mississippi River Stomp” is wonderful and lush.  “Memphis High” is an experience in and of itself.  With drummer Eileen Murphy throwing down an infectious beat, and Charlie Wolfe dropping his hot harp licks, Kearney gives a magnificent raw unbridled performance.  Tony Campo on organ, creates a rich and ominous backdrop for the Santana-esque “Voodoo Down the River”.  “Runnin’ Weepin’ Tremblin’” sounds so damn good too.  It certainly satisfies my sweet tooth for riveting blues guitar.  

Kerry Kearney’s Tales From the Psychedelta is a terrific listen from start to finish.  It’s one of those albums I find myself leaving on repeat for several cycles through at a time.      

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For more information about the artist, visit this website : www.kerrykearneyoffical.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.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


Saturday, December 26, 2020

#479 : Beauwater - Who Works For Who?



2020 – Beauwater

By Phillip Smith; Dec. 26, 2020

 

Formed in 2008, Beauwater got its start in St. Johns, NL.  Over the next nine years, this powerhouse trio accumulated five MusicNL Award Nominations and was awarded the 2017 ECMA for Blues Recording of the Year.  Produced by Chris Kirby, Who Works For Who is a splendid ten track album of blues-rock.  Guitarist/vocalist Jonathon Reid takes on the front-man role, with bassist Greg Newhook and drummer Mike Maddox comprising the rhythm section of this tight-as-hell outfit.  Also appearing on the album is Kelly Hoppe (Big Sugar) on harmonica, Terry Campbell on trumpet, Chris Harnett on Saxophone, and Chris Kirby on keys and slide guitar.

With Kirby on slide guitar, the album fiercely clocks-in on title-track “Who Works For Who?”.  This electric opener grabs me tight with its infectious hook, and sizzling guitar.  “Flavour of the Week” follows up and delivers a delicious plate of Texas-style blues.  I love the psyche-blues of “Tonight She’s Gonna Burn”.  Gently floating aloft on a bed of clouds, the song sporadically downpours furious guitar licks which saturate the soul.  The rolling blues riff on the front end of “Nodding Off” is a bit reminiscent to the North Mississippi sound.  Between that and Reid’s suave vocals, this one has me nestled in its clutches.  “Poison” is another one that has me totally under its spell.  This southern rocker is loaded with juicy harp and swirly organ with a killer rhythm backer.

Beauwater certainly caught my attention with this record.  Each song is masterfully crafted and played with precision.  Who Works For Who? is indeed an absolute gem.  

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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.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.



Wednesday, December 23, 2020

#478 : PhillyCheeze's Favorite 20 of 2020

 


By Phillip Smith; Dec. 24, 2020



PhillyCheeze's Favorite 20 of 2020
 (in alphabetical order)



Bai Kamara Jr & the Voodoo Sniffers - Salone



Ben Rice & RB Stone - Out of the Box


Bette Smith - The Good the Bad the Bette


BillyLee Janey - 20 Dollar Tip


8 Ball Aitken - Swamp Blues 2


Eliza Neals - Black Crow Moan



Eric Hughes Band - Postcard from Beale


Erin Harpe - Meet Me in the Middle


Fantastic Negrito - Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?


Kevin Burt - Stone Crazy


Micke & Lefty feat Chef - Let the Fire Lead


Peter Parcek - Mississippi Suitcase


Robert Connely Farr - Country Supper


Ryan Perry - High Risk, Low Reward


Sir Rod & the Blues Doctors - Come Together


Sister Lucille - Alive


 
Sonny Green - Found! One Soul Singer


Tas Cru - Drive On


Tony Holiday - Soul Service


Too Slim and the Taildraggers - The Remedy









I'm including a Spotify Playlist so you can easily give a listen to each of the albums.









Click on the link below to purchase any of this terrific music from the PhillyCheeze Amazon Store.    As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

PhillyCheeze Pop Up Blues Store




Saturday, December 19, 2020

#477 : Erin Harpe - Meet Me in the Middle

 


2020 – Vizztone Label Group

By Phillip Smith; Dec. 19, 2020

 

Versed in the Piedmont style of blues, second-generation finger picker Erin Harpe has wooed me over with her latest record Meet Me in the Middle.  This is her fourth release on the Vizztone label and sixth overall.  Recorded in their Boston-area home studio while quarantined this past June, the album features Harpe on vocals, acoustic guitar, kazoo, and foot percussion, with her husband Jim Countryman on ukulele bass and backing vocals.  The production on this is fantastic, and the result is ten tracks of pure, unadulterated blues.

I admire the sound of Harpe’s guitar playing.  The finger-picking and slide work on her original composition “All Night Long” is outstanding.  Her voice, with its slight twang, is perfectly suited for singing the blues.  Another charming original that lights me up with every listen is “Meet Me in the Middle”. 

Her recording of “Pick Poor Robin Clean” is plumb terrific.  Written and originally recorded in 1927 by Luke Jordon, the song was later popularized by Geeshie Wiley in 1931.  Performed with guitar and kazoo, Harpe breathes new life into this vintage classic.  Erin and Jim also take on the iconic “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” which I absolutely adore.  It’s such a treat to hear her take this one on.  She is such a fireball on the mic as she rips it up on guitar.

Meet Me in the Middle is a must for blues fans. 

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For more information about the artist, visit this website : erinharpe.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.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.