Sunday, April 24, 2016

Tasha Taylor - Honey For the Biscuit

2016 – Ruf Records
By Phillip Smith; Apr 24, 2016

Tasha Taylor, daughter of Stax legend, Johnnie Taylor has found her sweet spot for making music.  Her latest and third album, Honey For the Biscuit, is a wondrous cache of rhythm and blues with a whole lot of soul.  The core band she has put together is quite the ensemble.  It includes bassist Nathan Watts (Stevie Wonder), guitarists John Notto and Jon Taylor, pianist/keyboardist Don Wyatt, percussionist Mujungo Jackson, and Gerry Brown, Ronald Bruner and Stanley Randolph on drums.  In addition, Taylor utilizes a full brass section. 

The retro Motown vibe and lush sound of the horns in “Wedding Bells” quickly grab my attention.  Taylor’s voice gets sultry while Wyatt and Watts keep the rhythm in a borderline trans-inducing state, keeping me hypnotized for the duration of the song.  Taylor draws me in deeper with “Places I Miss”, a song about yearning to break free from a harmful relationship. 

A song that puts a smile on my face is the light and bluesy “Family Tree”, with special guest Keb Mo appearing, guitar and microphone in hand.  This eloquent ditty gets stuck in my head every time I hear it.  Keb is not the only special guest who appears on this album.  Robert Randolph sits in on the spirited “Little Miss Suzie” livening things up with his unique style on lap steel guitar.  In “Leave That Dog Alone”, Taylor tackles the Blues with full force, enlisting the fiery Samantha Fish, who gives a ripping performance on guitar.  Then, Taylor also shakes it on down with Tommy Castro, who lends vocals to the funky “Same Old Thing”.

According to Taylor, Honey For the Biscuit was three years in the making, and I believe it.  The writing and composition of each of the thirteen tracks are reflective of a whole lot of heart and soul. Taylor shines as songwriter and singer both.   

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Shaun Hague : Journeyman A Tribute to Eric Clapton - Live @ Campbell Steele Gallery : 4/22/16

Live @ Campbell Steele Gallery
April 22, 2016 – Marion, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; April 23, 2016

Friday, April 22, Chicago guitarist/vocalist Shaun Hague brought his captivating show, Journeyman - A Tribute to Eric Clapton, to Campbell Steele Gallery in Marion, Iowa.  Joining Hague onstage for this delightful retrospective is keyboardist Robert Monroe, bassist Brian Burke and drummer Andy Taylor.  In this sold-out show, Journeyman treated the audience to three sets of hits and deep cuts, making sure to cover every era of Clapton’s career.

Beginning with the Sixties, Journeyman hit the ground running with a killer cover of “White Room” which almost immediately gave me goosebumps. This was followed up with a riveting “Badge”.  Burke's sweet bassline cemented the intoxicating groove on “Sunshine of Your Love”, in which Hague and Monroe alternated vocals.  The band was in total synchronicity for this one.  Taylor’s drum solo was spectacular and was a definitely ‘Hell Yeah’ moment.  Hague doles out more smokin’ guitar grooves on Robert Johnson’s iconic classic “Crossroads” to end the first set.

Set two, featured songs from the Eighties and Nineties, where Journeyman hit on deep cuts, “Holy Mother”, and honky-tonk friendly “Alberta”.  After a jamming performance of “Pretending”, they brought onstage with them, guest guitarist Billy Satterfield. Watching Hague and Satterfield go toe-to-toe on Muddy Water’s “Hoochi Coochi Man” was phenomenal.  The dual guitar sounded terrific.  Monroe downright tore it up on keys, reminding me of a mad scientist at work.  His talent definitely runs deep.    

The third and final set covered the classic Clapton songs of the Seventies.  Taylor grabs another captivating drum solo on “Let it Rain”.  I love this song.  I haven’t heard it in a while, but it transports me instantly to the days of my youth.  Satterfield is invited onstage again to join the band for “Cocaine”, where they tendered another absolutely grand performance.  Electric and spacy, their rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” was an example of rock and roll at its best.  No Clapton tribute would be complete without “Layla”. This beautifully played song was the cherry on top, and ended the last set of the evening, bringing the walk down memory lane to a close.  It was a terrific night for music.    

All Photos by Phillip Smith

Shaun Hague

Robert Monroe

Shaun Hague

Brian Burke

Andy Taylor

Andy Taylor

Shaun Hague &  Brian Burke

Brian Burke

Brian Burke

Shaun Hague, Brian Burke, and Billy Satterfield

Shaun Hague & Billy Satterfield

Billy Satterfield

Robert Monroe

Robert Monroe

Shaun Hague

Shaun Hague

Shaun Hague & Billy Satterfield

Shaun Hague, Brian Burke, and Billy Satterfield

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Trysette - Feel So Pretty

2015 – Little Hartley Music
By Phillip Smith; Apr 13, 2016

Feel So Pretty, the fifth studio album by Australian singer/songwriter/pianist Trysette is quite a lovely album indeed.  It is melodically rich and beautifully performed.  A seasoned and most talented group of musicians was enlisted for this studio recording in Los Angeles.  Guitarist Randy Ray Mitchell (Donna Summer, Warren Zevon, Billy Bob Thornton), organist Bob Malone (John Fogerty), and drummer Mike Baird (Eddie Money, Rick Springfield, Joe Cocker, Journey) gel together so good as the backing band, as they mix elements of pop and country and rock creating a laid-back and feel-good sound.

Trysette sings about an unhealthy infatuation in “Under My Skin”, a song that is smooth as glass with catchy hooks.  This song appears again at the end of the album in a more intimate and stripped down presentation, with Trysette at the piano, Marty Rifkin on pedal steel and backing vocalist Karen Nash.   I really like title track “Feel So Pretty”. It has this really cool Julianna Hatfield vibe and is such a delight to hear. Of the dozen tracks on Feel So Pretty, all are original with the exception of one song; Snow Patrol’s 2006 hit single “Chasing Cars”. The string accompaniment from Sophie Delerue and Candy Girard are the perfect touch to this mesmerizing cover which showcases Trysette’s beautiful vocals.

Feel So Pretty is music for the soul on a rainy day.  Heartfelt from beginning to end, this enchanting album is a true gem.  

for more info on Trysette, visit her website @

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Mac Arnold and Plate Full O’ Blues - Give It Away

2015 – PFOB Music/Plantation #1 Productions
By Phillip Smith; Apr 9, 2016

This new album, Give It Away, from the legendary recording artist Mac Arnold is one big tasty bowl of traditional blues.  Alongside Arnold, is Plate Full O’ Blues, which consists of guitarist/vocalist Austin Brashier, Max Hightower (harmonica, keyboard, bass), and drummer Scotty Hawkins.  This band is the real deal, bringing solid performances to a baker’s dozen of terrific tunes, of which the lion’s share are original.

Arnold breaks out the gas can guitar on a few tracks, and it sounds doggone good.  The first of those, “Don’t Burn My Cornbread” brings a smile to my face each time I hear it.  According to the liner notes, the lyrics to this love song were sparked by an actual dinner time incident.  Things get even more interesting down at Max’s “Uncle Dewitt’s CafĂ©”, a popular little juke joint in the country where they would dance all night to a nickel jukebox.  Brashier plays this one very nicely. 

Hightower, harmonica in hand, gets “Damned If I Do” started with a nice dose of blues harp.  This one is slow-cooked Texas style, with hot guitar licks and sweet vocals.   I love the inspirational “Give It Away”.  This title track is so full of soul; one can’t help but resonate with its spirit.  Another song I find fantastic and heartfelt, is “How I Need You”.  Beautifully performed, I wish it was a little longer than two minutes in length.

Mac Arnold and Plate Full O’ Blues also give up a solid and soulful performance on Brook Benton’s “I’ll Take Care of You”, as well as a rollicking rendition of Jerry Reed’s swampy hit single “Amos Moses”.  This album is a treat for the ears and is definitely recommended for the serious blues fan.        

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Angel Forrest - Angel’s 11

2016 – Ad Litteram
By Phillip Smith; April 2, 2016

The latest album, Angel’s 11 by Quebec songstress Angel Forrest is quite a terrific record.  It features eleven original blues-laden tracks, each spotlighting a different guitarist to back Forrest’s powerful vocals. 

There’s something intriguing about the topic of dodging the law, when it comes to music and song.  That’s the hook in “Hangman”, featuring Johnny Flash on guitar.  This ripping track satisfies my craving for both blues-rock and outlaw country.  “Tumbleweed”, with Dimitri Lebel-Alexandre is another really cool song with that western vibe.  Forrest beautifully sings this heartfelt melody about longing for a lost love.    

“Spoil Me Up” is a sexy and soulful treat with a delightful horn arrangement.  Steve Strongman plays this one with precision. The lady sings the blues so good in “Let Me Go”, featuring Kim Greenwood on guitar.  Greenwood is a monster on the guitar, and when he lets loose, it sounds fantastic.  Forrest and guitarist Corey Diabo give an electric performance on the manic “Wildflower”.  While Forrest belts out a powerful delivery to “Touch Of My Hand”, axe-man Shane Murphy injects a heavy dose of psyche-blues for some really trippy results.

The other guest guitarists are Rob MacDonald, Ricky Paquette, Paul DesLauriers, Steve Hill, and Adam KarchAngel’s 11 is such a fantastic album, musically and lyrically, it definitely lands as one of my favorites of the year.