Saturday, July 30, 2016

Matty T. Wall - Blue Skies

2016 – Hipsterdumpster Records
By Phillip Smith; July 30, 2016

Hailing from Perth, Australia, Matty T. Wall proves his band is indeed a musical force to be reckoned with.  With blues and rock at the forefront of his ten track debut album, Blue Skies, Wall interestingly gravitates towards jazz and grunge as well, masterfully concocting his own creative and unique blend of sound.  Backed by drummer Jasper Miller and bassist Stephen Walker, both also from Perth, Wall could not ask for a better rhythm section suited for his music. They really make his songs shine.

Wall revs the listener up with hot Texas style electric-blues in the album opener “Burnin’ Up Burnin’ Down”.  An energetic cover of Keb Mo’s “Am I Wrong” sweetly follows.  Wall delivers the goods on Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile”.  This nearly twelve minute long jam is a soulful and psychedelic treat. The guitar solo is simply amazing.  The track “Scorcher” certainly lives up to its name.  Here, Wall goes full-on rockabilly, turning his dial to eleven, doling out fast and furious guitar licks.  Miller’s performance on drums is simply outstanding.  The melodic title track “Blue Skies” is a wonderful listen too.  This beautiful song captures the essence of early Nineties Seattle grunge. 

For the pi├Ęces de r├ęsistance, Wall breathes new life into “Hellhound on My Trail”, Robert Johnson’s legendary tale about the aftermath of his deal with the devil at the infamous Crossroads.  Wall artistically sets a dreary mood for the song using sound effects of rain and thunder.  Miller pounds the drums as if to mimic the sound of a racing heart in distress.  There is a definite heaviness padded with layers of anxiety built into the music.  It fits perfectly to the lyrics.

What Matty T. Wall has done with Blue Skies is tremendous, not only for blues, but for music in general.  The album is indeed a masterpiece.         

for more info on Matty T. Wall, visit his website at

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Mike Sponza - Ergo Sum

2015 – EPOPS Productions
By Phillip Smith; July 23, 2016

It only took one listen to Mike Sponza’s latest album, Ergo Sum (Latin for “Therefore I am.”), to realize it was going to be one of my favorite discs this year. British singer/guitarist Ian Siegal joins Sponza in the writing and performance on seven of the eight songs on this stellar album of blues and soul, recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London.

Sponza takes an interesting look at the golden mean and applying it to daily life in “Modus in Rebus”.  A small burst of Frank Zappa-inspired vocals, satirical lyrics, spacy guitar licks, and the lush sounds of a Hammond organ played by Dean Ross make this a stand-out.  There seems to be a little Alabama Shakes vibe going on with “See How the Man”.  Sponza’s playful guitar sounds great.  Backed by saxophonist Matej Kuzel and trumpeter Chris Storr, this song sends me back to the Memphis Stax/Volt days.  While on the subject of Stax, I have to mention another favorite, “Prisoner of Jealousy”.  Siegal sings this one with the conviction of Otis Redding while the rest of the guys settle quite nicely into a smooth Booker T and the MGs groove. It sounds plumb terrific.   

The funky guitar riff and contagious melody running through “Kiss Me” is delightful, as is the soulful vocals, swampy slide guitar and rich sax/organ accompaniment which bring the masterpiece “Penelope” to the forefront.  Special guest, British blues singer Dana Gillespie gives a smooth and intoxicating performance on the captivating “The Thin Line”.  Topped off with fabulous bursts of brass, and little dabs of slide guitar, the song plays out beautifully.    

Thoughtful lyrics, powerful vocals, and perfectly executed melodies make Ergo Sum a fun yet intelligent album.  It’s going to remain on heavy rotation in my player for quite a while.       


Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Paul DesLauriers Band - Relentless

2016 – Big Toe Productions
By Phillip Smith; July 17, 2016

Relentless, the follow-up to the self-titled 2014 album from The Paul DesLauriers Band is a riveting electric blues album to say the least.  Singer/guitarist extraordinaire Paul DesLauriers takes the helm of this ship manned by a magnificent rhythm section, bassist Greg Morency and drummer Sam Harrison.

In “Stewtro Rock (Just Got Back)”, DesLauriers breaks loose with guitar in hand like a furious and caffeinated bat out of hell, soaring all the way until its mind-blowing climax.  The energy stays high in “I’m Your Man”.  Walking the narrow line between blues and rockabilly, DesLauriers doles out Memphis-style riffs while Morency keeps the rhythm going with a boogie-laced bassline. DesLauriers gets nice and swampy with “Still Under My Skin”, while hopelessly pining over lost love.  The jam on the bridge is absolutely amazing.  DesLauriers unleashes a wondrous wall of guitar sound while Harrison dishes out a stellar and thunderous performance on drums.  I also can’t help but gravitate towards the beautiful eight and a half minute power ballad “If I Still Had You”.  As the tension slowly builds, I crank the volume to fully embrace the lovely intense jam which follows.                 

More often than not, as the last song on the album finishes, instead of replacing the disc with another, I’ll just let it ride for another spin.  That must be why this album is so suitably named, Relentless


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Wooden Nickel Lottery - Down the Line

2016 – Violet Isle Records
By Phillip Smith; July 9, 2016

There’s something kind of special about Wooden Nickel Lottery’s latest album, Down the Line.  The songs take me back to the late Seventies, when rock music relied on well-written songs, and radio stations still played a mix of genres.  That’s exactly what these Eastern Iowa musicians have to offer, as they skillfully combine splashes of rock, blues, country, funk and soul to create their own special blend of homegrown tunes.  The band is composed of lead vocalist/guitarist Rick Gallo, guitarist/tunesmith Rich Toomsen, bassist Jessica Toomsen, and drummer Delayne Stallman.

Gallo soulfully belts out “Can’t Be Wrong” with a power and smoothness which reminds me of Foreigner’s Lou Gramm.  I dig the funky bassline Jess lays down on “No Second Chances”.  It puts a smile on my face with every listen.  It’s easy to get lost in the bluesy melody on “Yesterday’s Rain”. It’s nice and slow, with an Allman Brothers vibe.  Hearing this one played live with an extended jam would be a treat for sure.  WNL kicks out the jams in hoedown fashion for a downright bodacious and intense instrumental, “Throw It Down”.  They keep the fire burning with the rocker “The Open Road”, staying on course with a driving beat from Stallman as Rich sweetly rips it up on guitar.   

For a cool-as-hell finale, the album closes out with a swampy homage to the working man in the track “Nickels and Dimes”.  Wooden Nickel Lottery scores big with Down the Line.  It is such an enjoyable album, I anxiously await their next.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Steve Hill- Solo Recordings Volume 3

2016 – No Label Records
By Phillip Smith; July 6, 2016

It’s no surprise Canadian musician Steve Hill has pulled down the 2015 JUNO Award for Blues Album of the Year, as well as Maple Blues Awards in 2014 and 2015 for Electric Act of the Year.  This man has it all going on with one of the best one-man band acts I’ve heard.  Hill attacks the blues with true grit as he pulls it all together accomplishing a magnificent feat in every one of his performances.  Solo Recordings Volume 3 follows up his JUNO nominated Solo Recordings Volume 1 and JUNO winning Solo Recordings Volume 2.  With Volume 3, Hill dishes up a dozen magnificent songs which resonate deeper with each and every listen.

“Damned” breaks loose with a wall of electric guitar fury alongside a driving beat.  One song in and already it’s hard to imagine this is one lone man with an arsenal of instruments.  Hill approaches “Still A Fool & A Rollin Stone” with intense focus, dishing out a performance which sounds like it came from someone who has been playing fifty years.  He shines on guitar as well as vocals, making this a no-holds-barred favorite.  In “Troubled Times”, Hill shows off his versatility and reminds us that not everything is pleasant.  The song is beautifully played.  When Hill tackles one of my favorite blues tunes, “Rollin’ & Tumblin / Stop Breaking Down”, I go to my happy place as soon as I hear the slide.  The man can sure play the blues.  That is a fact.