Saturday, January 31, 2015

Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers - Living by the Minute

2015 – Silver Street Records  
By Phillip Smith; Jan 31, 2015

One might think this has to be a Detroit or Memphis band upon first listen, but Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers actually are from Lincoln Nebraska.  This is where the members of the band met and began creating some of the coolest and funkiest sounds being made today.  Living by the Minute, Hoyer’s electric sophomore album, is one big bowl of fun.  With Hoyer holding down the B2 and lead vocals, the Shadowboxers consist of guitarist Benny Kushner, drummer Justin G. Jones, and bassist Josh Bargar, along with Mike Dee on saxophone and Tommy Van Den Berg on trombone.

Hoyer suavely attacks the soulful "Blood and Bone" much like James Brown would’ve back at the Apollo, tossing out little growls like vocal grenades.  A funky bassline from Barger leads Hoyer and company through the Isaac Hayes influenced “Misfit Children”.  This is definitely one of my favorites.  Pure energy seems to emit from the pulsating, dance-friendly “Real Time”.  I could very well see Sharon Jones covering this one.  Backing vocalists Hanna Bendler, Kim Moser, and Megan Spain are a lovely addition to the stand-out track, “A Man Who Believes His Own Lies”. This song is the pocket Aces on the album.

Living by the Minute is pure satisfaction. It doesn't get much better than this.

For more information on Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers, visit their website at

Saturday, January 24, 2015

John Ginty - Bad News Travels Live CD/DVD

2014 – American Showplace Music 
By Phillip Smith; Jan 24, 2015

John Ginty’s latest album, Bad News Travels Live, is an electrified bowl of funky blues., New Jersey B-3 master Ginty recorded this twelve track, two disc album this past June, in front of a small audience, at Showplace Studios, in Dover NJ.  His band is composed of guitarist Mike Buckman, bass player Paul Kuzik, and drummers, Dan Fadel and Andrei Koribanics.  Joining Ginty was a superstar cast of guest musicians consisting of Albert Castiglia, Todd Wolfe, Chris Jacobs, Alexis P. Suter, and Jimmy Bennett.   

Saturated with a suitcase full of soul, Ginty’s playing reminds me so much of Booker T Jones.  Dripping of Sixties-era Memphis soul music, “Switch” emits a wave of encompassing good vibrations. “Arrivals” follows suit and continues the vibe.  

Tempos and moods both change when “Black Cat” comes around.  This slow-cooked blues tune, turns into a furious dueling jam between Albert Castiglia’s nitro-fueled guitar licks and Ginty’s ‘too hot to handle’ B-3 sounds.  Castiglia appears again for the Allman Brothers flavored tune, “Damage Control”.  Also lending a hand on that track is guitarist Chris Jacobs and singer Alexis P. Suter, who wonderfully belts out the lyrics with her amazingly deep trademark voice.  Suter also sings on the soulful R&B song, “Seven and the Spirit”.  I like the way it playfully closes out with a homage to both Otis Redding and The Blues Brothers, giving us a little taste of “I Can’t Turn You Loose”.     

“Rock Ridge” embodies the spirit of the late Frank Zappa, with its unique chord progressions and fascinating tempo changes.  A flawless guitar performance from Todd Wolfe and an awe-inspiring display of Ginty’s musical chops, make this a favorite.

I like how the entire cast is gathered together for the finale, “Trinity”.  This jam lasts nearly nine minutes in length, and leaves the listener uplifted, much the same way one would expect to feel exiting an old-time gospel tent revival.  It certainly leaves me with a smile on my face.  Bad News Travels Live is definitely one of the better live recordings I've heard in a while.    

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hamilton Loomis Band “ Live at the Hub” DVD : From the Archives #16

By Phillip Smith; Jan 10, 2015

Live at the Hub, recorded at The Hub, in Cedar Falls, IA is energetic, bluesy and captivating.  Within a two hour time frame, I have gone from not really knowing who Hamilton Loomis is, to being a brand new fan.  This DVD is very nicely produced and indeed captures the energy and playful vibe of the actual live performance.  The band is composed of Loomis (lead vocals, guitar, harmonica), Kent Beatty on bass guitar, Stratton Doyle holding down the sax and keyboards, and Ryan Cortez who keeps a funky and steady beat on the drums.  Intertwined between songs, are little documentary pieces of Loomis filling us in on the band’s beginnings, influences, and generally what makes it tick.  I liked these little windows into the band’s soul.  It’s in these little pieces where Loomis talks about opening for blues icon, Bo Diddley and generously being taken in under his wing.
Loomis’s mastery of the guitar and soulful vocals is well-complimented by his hip and youthful presence on stage.  The first song on the set list, “Best Worst Day” sets the tone for the rest of the show.  It’s funkdafied blues.  Doyle’s saxophone adds lushness to the sound.  The camaraderie between Loomis and Doyle reminds me a little of the camaraderie exhibited at a live Phish show between Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon.  I definitely did a proverbial double-take during “Working Real Hard”, when Loomis and the band segue into Master Blaster (Jammin’) by Stevie Wonder.  They keep the funk rolling with ‘Stuck in a Rut’, singing, “I was stuck in a rut, but now I’m in a groove.”  Full of the good kind of positive energy, this song reminds me a bit of Tower of Power. 

His Texas blues influences kick in on “Voodoo Doll”, where he knocks an ‘over the wall’ homerun all while just ‘having some fun’ with Doyle on sax.  After one quick round of rock paper scissors, the two being exchanging licks, or as some people call it, “cutting heads”.  Bouncing back and forth trying to stump each other in a fascinating display, they roll through song samples such as ‘Walk This Way’, ‘Sunshine of Your Love’, ‘Brass Monkey’, ‘Billie Jean’, and ‘All Right Now’, culminating in an over-the-top full on attack finish. 

With Loomis being a protégé of Bo Diddley, you have to figure there is going to be at least a couple of tracks honoring him.  If you figured that, you’d be correct. Breaking out his red Gretsch Bo Diddley signature guitar, Loomis covers ‘Road Runner‘ which is immediately followed by ‘Who Do You Love?’.  The guitar was a gift from Bo Diddley which makes these tracks even more special.  Since Doyle is playing keyboards on this track, his saxophone is available for other things, such as taking on the role of the largest slide I have ever seen used on a guitar.  With the Bo Diddley guitar in one hand and saxophone in the other, Loomis slides the horn across the neck as he picks out the tune with the other, and afterward, tosses the sax back to Doyle who is still playing keyboards.          

Live at The Hub is delightful from start to finish.  These guys are the real deal musically, and cannot be accused of lacking in showmanship

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Rachelle Coba - Mother Blues

2014 – Mono Records  
By Phillip Smith; Jan 17, 2015

Mother Blues is the name of the debut album from Wichita, Kansas native Rachelle Coba, and an appropriate name it is.  This blueswoman writes, sings, and plays lead guitar.  By the way, she does it all extremely well.  Coba is undoubtedly the ‘whole enchilada’.  Backing her on this treasure chest full of tunes is upright bass player David M. Santos, and drummer Karl T. Himmel.

A favorite track about one of my favorite cities is “Never Been to Memphis”.  Hearing Coba sing her way down a list of all the cool Memphis sites, brings back wonderful memories of being in the Bluff City.  Her raspy voice is an excellent match for her guitar playing.  This bluesy boogie is accompanied by Ray Murry on piano.

“Ain’t Got Time (to Fall in Love)”, slides in like melted butter, as Coba belts out the lyrics with a ton of soul, which is then poured over a big bowlful of tasty little guitar licks.  One of the most beautifully played songs is “Between the Tracks”. Sung soft and sultry, I absolutely love this ballad.     

Coba gets the blood pumping again on “Chicago” a fun and bouncing ditty, ironically about high hopes gone bad.  “Telephone Song” taps into the deep well of classic blues, with Ron Taylor setting the mood with the help of his Hammond organ.  Coba’s guitar is impressive, on this slow and hearty track.

When it comes to blues musicians, Coba is the real deal.  It’s such a delight to find an album such as Mother Blues.  It definitely hits the spot.    


For more information on Rachelle Coba, visit her website at

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Lucinda Williams - Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone

2014 – Highway 20 Records  
By Phillip Smith; Jan 10, 2015

Among my favorite albums of 2014 is Lucinda Williams’ Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone.  This two-disc, twenty song masterpiece is beautifully performed in her iconic country-laced style.  This album lies in the same wheelhouse as Springsteen’s 1982 album Nebraska.  The lyrics are so compelling; one can’t help but be pulled into her dark and oft-times dismal world. 

Williams chooses the slow and lovely, “Compassion”, to gently greet and ease the listener in to the album.  From a poem written by her father, acclaimed poet Miller Williams (April 8, 1930 – January 1, 2015), this song preaches indiscriminate compassion for our fellow man no matter how ironic it may seem.  What a wonderful world it would be if more people practiced this ideal.  Williams kicks in to gear with “Protection”, a high octane track about overwhelming vulnerability.  Bluesy guitar riffs, guide this one to the finish.

The dark and haunting “West Memphis” quickly brings to mind the Paradise Lost HBO documentaries which brought the story of the West Memphis Three into the spotlight.  Walking the line between country and blues, this song of injustice and prejudice is sure to kick any comfortable feeling still lingering around, right to the ground into a puddle of uneasiness.

Paying homage to the sounds of the Fifties and Sixties, Williams cleverly delivers “Wrong Number”, a song about missed connections, with a slow doo-wop beat.  “Big Mess”, with its cool walking bassline, joins along as well, with callbacks to that wonderful era of music. 

When “Stowaway in Your Heart” begins to play, I feel as if the Sun has finally penetrated the dark clouds above and punctured a little opening for its rays to beam through.  This poppy country song lightens things up with offerings of gratitude and flashes of hope.  It puts a smile on my face for sure.  My favorite track on the album, however, is “Everything but the Truth”.  Packed with swampy guitar licks, lush slide guitar, and grit, it just doesn’t get much better than this.

Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone is so well-written, and superbly performed, I’d say it’s definitely an instant classic.  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Roly Platt - Inside Out

2014 – Roly Platt  
By Phillip Smith; Jan 3, 2015

It takes a harpist like Roly Platt to show the world that a harmonica, in the proper hands, can be the main dish instead of a mere seasoning.  Platt, a thirty-five year veteran of the Canadian music scene and two-time Maple Blues Awards nominee for “Harmonica Player of the Year”, recorded eleven fantastic pieces for his first solo album, Inside Out.  Backing Platt in the studio is producer/keyboardist/pianist Lance Anderson, guitarist John Tilden, bassist Russ Boswell, and drummer Al Cross.  Platt also brings in special guests Steve Strongman, John Jordan, and Neil Chapman to join.
Platt pays an instrumental back-to-back homage to Ray Charles with “I Got a Woman” and “Georgia On My Mind”.  Break out the dancing shoes for “I Got a Woman”.  Platt tears this rip-roaring party song up while Tilden tosses out some quite impressive guitar licks.  Cross, on drums, brings it to closure very nicely.  Afterwards, settle in for a calming rendition of “Georgia On My Mind”.  I love the way Anderson sprinkles a bit of gospel seasoning on the Hammond organ while Platt nails every note.  And speaking of “gospel seasoning”, listen for the cleverly planted segue of “Bringing in the Sheaves”, which leads right into “Rippin’ It Up”, an original ditty about dances at the old church hall.  A throwback to the early years of Rock and Roll, Platt sings and plays this in the spirit of the Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis.  A tight instrumental performance on “Mad River” makes for a hell of a bluesy romp. This is a smokin’ jam that brings me great joy each time I hear it.  

With Steve Strongman on guitar and vocals, “Ocean of Tears” is pure blues, and sounds so good.  Played with heartfelt emotion, Platt makes it impossible for this song to go unnoticed.  Jordon John lends his amazing voice along with his acoustic guitar, for a very cool, country rendition of James Taylor’s “Bartender’s Blues”.   One more ‘must-mention’ track is the beautifully played “Over the Rainbow” from the film, The Wizard of OzPlatt and Anderson both score big on this lovely cover.

Inside Out is such a rewarding listen; one doesn’t have to be a blues harmonica fan to enjoy. 

For more information on Roly Platt, visit his website at