Saturday, October 26, 2013

Shawn Holt and the Teardrops - Daddy Told Me


2003 - Blind Pig Records
By Phillip Smith; Oct. 26, 2013

Shawn Holt, son of Morris ‘Magic Slim’ Holt, who passed away earlier this year, is now taking over the reins as front man for the Teardrops.  His debut release, Daddy Told Me,  a mix of originals and covers and is an extraordinary tribute to his father.  This album is pure blues and in my opinion should be a contender for a coveted Handy Award.  The Teardrops (guitarist Levi William, bassist Chris Biedron, and drummer Brian ‘B.J.’ Jones), deliver the goods, which I like to think of in this case, as a briefcase full of blues. 

It was a pleasant surprise to find that Holt enlisted legendary bluesman John Primer (who played with his father for thirteen years) to handle lead vocals and guitar on a fantastic cover of Bo Diddley’s “Before You Accuse Me”.  Primer also sticks around to play guitar on the funky “Buddy Buddy Friend”, an original from Shawn about so-called friends who hang around when times are good and you’re sharing the wealth, but disappear once the bankroll dries up. I think we can all relate to that. 

The title track, “Daddy Told Me” is gritty and chalk-full of attitude.  I love the rapport between Holt and William, both on guitar, as it is a huge part of what makes this song sound so cool.  I really enjoyed the guitar on “Please Don’t Dog Me” also, as it accentuates the slow blues beat laying behind it.     

It was very surprising to me at how little time it took for this album to enthrall me. Every song is a winner, and the album itself, I highly recommend.  Magic Slim would have been very proud.


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, October 19, 2013

Valerie June - Pushin’ Against a Stone

2013 - Concord Records
By Phillip Smith ; Oct. 19, 2013

I had never heard of Valerie June prior to her performance on The Late Show with David Letterman.  She performed “Workin’ Woman Blues”, her first cut off her new album Pushin’ Against a Stone.  She took the stage with her acoustic guitar strapped around her shoulder and started singing about how she had been working her whole life, and now is ready for a sugar daddy.  For those few minutes, as far as everything else was concerned, time had been frozen. I was so infatuated with her voice, and how it was a unique blend of soul and country.  The song was intoxicating.  It swept me off my feet so fast, I had to hit the internet, find her website, and order her album.  To make matters even sweeter, I found it was available on vinyl.
June is not just a pretty voice with a guitar.  She is quite talented in the writing department as well.  She wrote or co-wrote all the songs on the album, with one exception, “Trials Troubles and Tribulations”, a bluegrass gospel song by Estil C. Ball.  This stripped down acoustic song focuses on her lovely vocals, leaving the drums behind. 

Booker T. Jones (Booker T. and the MG’s) makes an appearance to play organ on “Somebody To Love” and “On My Way”.  The former, a real folky tune about needing somebody to loves features Luca Kezdy on violin. The latter, another selection in the country/folk category, also features Kezdy on violin.  The rhythm reminds me a little bit of “Friend of the Devil” by the Grateful Dead.  

The album has a very cool ‘retro’ sound, as it swirls the sounds of Music City with that of Motown.  Title track “Pushin’ Against a Stone”, with its harmonized backing vocals brings to mind the music from Mary Wells.  And for a bonus, we get to hear the psychedelic guitar styling of guest guitarist, Jimbo Mathus, who also appears on four other tracks.  It’s no surprise then, he plays on my favorite tracks on the album, “Wanna Be On Your Mind”  This is another song that is so captivating, it almost puts me in a trance. 

Valarie June is such a talented new artist who has a refreshing new take on music, and I have no doubt we will see a lot more from her.  This album easily falls into my top five favorite releases of the year.    

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

John Prine w/ Peter Case Paramount Theater Cedar Rapids, IA September 14, 2013

Paramount Theater

Cedar Rapids, IA
September 14, 2013

By Phillip Smith

It is such a great pleasure to once again hear live music in the beautifully restored Paramount Theater in Cedar Rapids.  John Prine, with opener Peter Case played to a capacity crowd last night, bringing a little piece of the Ryman to town.
Singer/songwriter Peter Case, opening his acoustic set with “Put Down that Gun”, quickly captured the the audience.   I loved “Crooked Mile”, with its funky countrified rhythm and Case’s guitar picking.  The song to remember from this set, however, was the soft and heartfelt love song, “Two Angels”.  Before beginning this one, Case mentioned it had been picked up and used in an episode of HBO’s True Blood.  He went on to say it was used on a scene where two shape-shifters were having sex on a pool table.  He then humorously added that was just what he was thinking about when he wrote the song.   Case certainly delivered and one couldn’t ask for a better person to open up for John Prine. 
With guitarist Jason Wilber on one side and stand-up bassist Dave Jacques on the other, Prine was in rare form, and played through most of the songs from his first and self-titled album.  Opening with a rowdy crowd-pleaser, “Spanish Pipedream”, Prine set the mood for the rest of the evening.   Before I knew it, he was tearing through “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore”, another favorite.  
I loved how everything quieted down throughout the “Humidity Built the Snowman” from Lost Dogs & Mixed Blessings. This song seems to make me feel really self-aware, just thinking about the lyrics “Humidity built the snowman.  Sunshine brought it down.”  
Breaking up the heaviness from the previous songs, Prine broke out a fun little song co-written  with Peter Case,  called “Space Monkey”, about the exploits of  a primate shot into space during the Cold War when the USSR and the USA were racing to get a man on the moon first.   The monkey was forgotten about but finally made it back to earth, only to meet up with a couple of friends at a karaoke bar and talk about old times.  
It was a treat to hear “Dear Abby”, and  the heart wrenching “Sam Stone”.  The biggest treat for me though, was when Jason Wilber picked up a mandolin, and began playing the intro to the classic, “Angel from Montgomery”.   This is what it’s all about.  
To bring things to a close, Prine brought Case out on stage , and together they performed a ripping rendition of “Paradise”.   It was a great night for music.    

Friday, October 11, 2013

Big B "More to Hate" -- From the Archives #4

By Phillip Smith

One rarely thinks of Vegas when the topic of rap music arises.  That may be changing really soon.  Big B,  the Las Vegas rapper has released a very solid album called More to Hate.  Each song seemed to have its own individual imprint, displaying a diversity of styles.  The title track “More to Hate” emits that old school nineties rap essence, and eases the listener in comfortably.  “White Trash Life”, the single, could easily be confused as a Mighty Mighty Bosstones song, with its ska beat, and gravelly vocals.  Being a Bosstones fan myself, I enjoyed this track immensely.  Danny Diablo offers up assistance with the track, “Put’em Up”, a southern fried selection which reminded me a bit of Kid Rock.  “Put’em up, get ‘em up, stick ’em up,  what? Your hands motherfucker! Your hands motherfucker!”, the hook, is still moshing around the diameter of my brain. 

Big B really connects with the common person though songs “Counting Pennies”, “Pass the Jager”, and “Real as they Come”.   “Pass the Jager”, featuring Dirtball, another ska influenced song, makes an excellent party anthem.    

The catchiest of the tracks on More to Hate, may just be “Looky Looky”, layering the hook over a beat that sounded like something the B-52’s could have cooked up.   I also favored the track “On the Road”,  which mixes one part drinking song, with stories from the road, with a friendly nod to ICP and the Juggalos. 

With the help of  the Kottonmouth Kings, Big B has transformed Men Without Hats’ one hit wonder into something sure to put a grin on Cheech and Chong’s faces.  In “We Can Smoke”, Big B sings, “We can smoke if we want to…”   to the tune of “The Safety Dance”.   Tech N9ne is featured on the following track, “Million Miles”, a love ballad about being away from home. 

Don’t let the name fool you, More to Hate will give you more to like. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

John Lee Hooker Jr. “ Live in Istanbul Turkey” -- From the Archives #3

2010 - Cc Ent / Copycats
By Phillip Smith ; Oct. 30, 2010

Many times live CDs take the low road as studio recordings take the high road, in regards to quality and sound.  Recorded live at the Efes Pilsen Blues Festival, in Istanbul, Live in Istanbul Turkey, by John Lee Hooker Jr. definitely takes the high road and  proves a live CD can be as much rewarding, if not more, than its studio recorded counterpart.

Backed by a large entourage of musicians, which include a fantastic horn section, John Lee Hooker, Jr. offers up eleven original songs, and a couple of covers.  Those being, “Boom Boom“ and “Maudie”,  originally recorded by his father, the late John Lee Hooker.  Along side Hooker, on guitar, is Jeff Horan.  He plays with a certain precision sure to make Hooker Sr. proud. 

“Suspicious”, references mobile phones, McDonalds, and smoking crack as it deals with the paranoia associated with a cheating significant other.  It is cleverly written and a pleasure to listen to.   It’s hard to be paranoid without being easily irritated as well.  Hooker seems to be eaten up with bitterness, as he denounces the economy, bank foreclosures, and false friends, in another favorite original, “Fed Up”.

Hooker turns his frown upside down next, as he breaks out the funk on “Funky Funk”.  If this one sounds a bit familiar, it’s because he incorporates the chorus and other pieces from Rufus Thomas’s “Walking The Dog”.  It’s a fun song.  Paying homage to his father‘s classic, “Boogie Chillen”, Hooker Jr. serves up a tasty dish with  “Doin’ The Boogie”.  It lasts almost eleven minutes in length, and  showcases a solo performance by each musician on stage before turning into a tremendous jam session. 

It’s easy to mentally place oneself  on location, in Istanbul, at this concert, while listening to this disc.  The music is so enjoyable one could not help but want to have been there.  The enthusiasm on stage is electrical.  This is the magic that gives Live in Istanbul Turkey its appeal.