Saturday, July 27, 2013

Craig Chaquico “ Fire Red Moon ”







By Phillip Smith

Craig Chaquico, whose name is now more synonymous with jazz guitar and new age music, has decided to veer off his current path and venture down the blues highway for a while on his latest album, Fire Red Moon.  The album is very guitar-centric, and pleasing to listen to.  Mixing elements of his earlier rocking days with Jefferson Starship, with his new age styling, he’s producing some interesting music. The band is composed of lead singer Rolf Hartley, drummer Wade Olson, bass player Jim Reitzel and keyboardist Bill Slais.

Kenny Wayne Shephard fans may recognize the voice on the opening track, ‘Lie to Me’, featuring special guest singer Noah Hunt.  His voice, deep and smooth, fits the song very well.  ‘Bad Woman’, another of the seven original songs, is outstanding.  Rolf Hartley’s vocals show a huge range on this one, and if a dude can channel Janis Joplin, he just may have done that for this song.  Also enjoyed is title track ‘Fire Red Moon’, a blues instrumental to ‘zone out’ to and appreciate.

‘Born Under a Bad Sign’, a total re-imagineering of the original, seems more like a ‘Muzak’ or ‘Weather channel’ version than a blues song.  It’s all instrumental, and sounds almost as if it was created specifically to be used for background music.  That’s not the case on every song though, thank goodness.  Chaquico raises the roof on Muddy Waters’ ‘Rollin’ and Tumblin’. It rocks as it should.    

The album closes out with a bang, covering Robert Johnson’s ‘Crossroads’. Opening with a little taste of slide guitar on top of some rattlesnake and wind sound effects,  it breaks out and runs like Willie Brown ‘til the end.  This one is definitely my favorite cut.  Chaquico throws his new age approaches to the side and plays this one specifically for the blues fans. Hartley shines on vocals as well.  I hope Chaquico follows the blues path for a little while longer.  It seems to fit him well.





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Friday, July 19, 2013

Magic Slim & the Teardrops “ Bad Boy ”

By Phillip Smith

Morris Holt, aka Magic Slim, who passed away last February at seventy six years old, still had it going on.  His voice was still going strong, and he sounded great.  Bad Boy, his newest release with the Teardrops (guitarist Jon McDonald, bassist Andre Howard, and drummer BJ Jones) is completely saturated in the blues.  I’d expect nothing less.  Bad Boy consists of a few covers, some older originals, and some newer originals.

Slim brings everything to the table on Roy Brown’s ‘Hard Luck Blues’.  From the emotional beginning when he sings, ‘well rocks is my pillow, and the cold ground is my bed.’, to the sorrowful ending where he’s sings “I’m gonna find my mother’s grave, fall on the tombstone and die”.  Slims playing is outstanding and his Gibson sounds great, as he carefully places each note played.

I love the Eddie Taylor cover, and title track, ‘Bad Boy’.  This one is the ultimate homage to us boys your parents warned you about.  The original version was really slow, while Magic Slims version is faster and a little more upbeat.  Hands down, I like Magic Slims version better.  I also like their cover of Denise LaSalle’s ‘Someone Else is Steppin’ In’.  This song is just so rich and hearty.  Although I admit, if I had to make a choice between the original or Slims version, I’d have to throw my vote to Denise LaSalle.  Her version is a bit sassier.  Also covered is Albert King’s ‘Matchbox Blues’.  To compare Magic’s with Albert’s would be comparing apples to oranges, but the song itself is extraordinary and Magic Slims version is very nice.      

Original tracks to make note of are ‘Older Women’, a song, Ben Franklin would probably enjoy, and ‘Country Joyride’, with a little smidgeon of rockabilly influence.  There really aren’t any “throw away” songs.  Bad Boy is solid blues from start to finish.
  




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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Peter Karp\Sue Foley - Beyond the Crossroads





By Phillip Smith

Maybe it’s just me, but the newest release, Beyond the Crossroads by Peter Karp and Sue Foley gets more interesting with each subsequent listen.  A common thread runs through each song, tying them all together in a neat little musical present for the listener.  This thread is the personal relationship between the artists themselves.  A follow up to their prior album, He Said, She Said, based on their back-and-forth emails and long distance calls, these songs delve a bit further into their hearts and souls, revealing a refreshing positivity.

The harmonies on this album are very nice.  Sue Foley has a sultry and slightly raspy voice that can really belt out some lyrics when she needs to.  To hear what I am talking about, check out the song “Analyze’n Blues”.  What really puts the icing on the cake for this track is Karp throwing down with his National Steel ResoRocket slide. This one ranks high on the ‘cool meter’.  I love this song.  

Karp and Foley playfully dance around several different genres while keeping the album as a whole really bluesy.  Take the song, “At the Same Time”, for example.  As Karp and Foley alternate vocals with Karp on slide, a fantastic horn section provided by the Swingadelic Horns spice up this slow-tempo Louisiana creole flavored duet.  It’s Beale Street meeting Bourbon Street.  For those who appreciate bluegrass, and have a very short attention span, check out the very fast paced instrumental, ‘Plank Spank’.  Although it clocks in at just less than two minutes in length, Karp and Foley play their hearts out and have now earned a spot on my list of performers I want to catch live in concert. 



Rating 8 out of 10