2016 – Vizztone
By Phillip Smith; Sep. 25, 2016
In 2013, San Francisco
musician, Nancy Wright pulled down
the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame’s Blues Saxophonist of the Year award. She’s been touring with Tommy Castro for the past couple of years, and has just wrapped up
her latest album, Playdate!. For this project, she has enlisted a slew of
top tier blues talent – Tommy Castro,
Victor Wainwright, Elvin Bishop, and Joe Louis Walker to name a few.
Her band consists of producer/guitarist Christopher “Kid” Anderson, with Chris Burns on keys, bassist Joe
Kyle Jr., drummer J. Hansen, Tom Poole on trumpet, and Faris Jarrah on trombone, and percussionist
Guest vocalist Wee Willie Walker gives a standout
performance and Wright gets down on
sax, as the gang breaks out the sweet funk on the Willie Harper classic, “Why You Wanna Do It”. I fall hook, line and sinker for this
track. It’s absolutely fabulous. I also have to crank up the volume when the
soulful “Been Waiting That Long” kicks in.
Sung by Frank Bey, who toured
with the Otis Redding Review in the
sixties, this killer song was written by Wright’s
friend and mentor, the late, great Lonnie
Mack. Kyle’s funky bassline grabs
ahold and doesn’t let go on “Warranty”, a smooth bluesy track featuring the
lovely and silky vocal talents of Terrie
in the carefree and classic Motown sound on original track, “Good Loving Daddy”.
It’s a terrific listen for sure. Playdate!
winds down and closes out with the with the slow and wonderfully bluesy “Soul
Blue”, which features the spectacular guitar sounds of Chris Cain. This album is a
By Phillip Smith; Sep. 17, 2016
“Heal My Soul”, the sixth
album from the New York ensemble Lex
Grey and the Urban Pioneers, has quite a kick to it. Grey’s delivery is a force to be reckoned with,
as she belts out powerful vocal performances in this ten song collection of
original blues and straight-up rock and roll tunes.
joins in with his homemade ‘Dewanatron’ which rolls the red carpet out for the album
opener “Factory”. Grey gets downright
sultry on this bluesy track as Walter
Tates Jr. dishes out some tasty sax licks.
When I hear “Quiet Place”, I’m taken back to the mid-Eighties when bands
like the Pretenders ruled my
turn-table. “Ghost” has some of those same qualities as well. This cool rock and roll dirge hosts a most
interesting and ominous tone, thanks to Vic
Mix on guitar.
Bringing the album to a
close, is title track, “Heal My Soul”, which begins its journey with a slower
pace, and ascends into a wonderful New York groove. The song culminates by releasing oodles of emotion
into a swirling soulful jam.
By Phillip Smith; Sep. 17, 2016
UK musician Mark Harrison is one hell of a
story-teller and songwriter. He delivers
his roots-rich music acoustically using National
and twelve string guitars. His latest album, Turpentine, is a delightful listen to say the least. Playing alongside Harrison on this thirteen track album of all original material is Charles Benfield on double bass, Ed Hopwood on drums, percussion and
harmonica, and Paul Tkachenko on
mandolin, piano, organ, and accordion.
Make the best with what you
have, is the message shared in “Black Dog Moan”. The light and carefree melody
captures my full attention. I can
totally relate to the frustration Harrison
sings about in “Hardware Store”, as he sings ‘”All those things they sell down
in that hardware store. I don’t know
what they do and I don’t know what they’re for”. The fabulous instrumental, “Dog Rib” is a haunting
bluesy treat with a tribal beat. This is
acoustic blue at its best. Tkachenko straps on the accordion and
sprinkles some New Orleans-style Cajun seasoning into “Dirty Business”, a song
about greed and thievery.
I absolutely adore the “The
Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek”. This amazing song tells the story of the deal
made in 1830 between the US government and Chief
Greenwood LeFlore of the Choctaw Nation, in what is now known as Mississippi.
One listen to Turpentine, and it is quite apparent why
Harrison received two nominations in
the British Blues Awards, for Songwriter and Acoustic. The album is an instant treasure in my books.
2016 – Bluzpik Media Group
By Phillip Smith; Sep. 10, 2016
I’m really smitten over the
new Kat Riggins album, Blues Revival. This singer/songwriter from Miami has such a lovely
voice, perfectly suited for singing the blues. She has a clever sense for
songwriting as well. Penning eight of
the ten songs on this album, she injects a stylish and fresh attitude toward
the Blues . This powerhouse singer has a
wonderful backing band too. Also known
as Blues Revival, her ensemble is composed
of Darrell Raines on guitars and
keys, bassist George Caldwell, and
drummer Doc Allison.
“Good Girl Blues” feels so
good to listen to, with its velvety smooth delivery. I love her cover of Sam Cooke’s “Change is Gonna Come” too. Riggins
belts this one out with the passion and conviction which this song deserves. Raines
lays down the law with his guitar on “Blues is My Business”, from Etta James’ 2003 Grammy winning album, Let’s Roll, making for a very striking cover. Riggins’
vocals run from sultry to sassy, while psychedelic guitar licks and a groovy
trance beat take “Devil is a Liar” to another dimension. This terrific song takes me back to the early
years of the late great Isaac Hayes.
Both Riggins and her band bring
their “A-game” to each and every song, making Blues Revival such a pleasant listen.
By Phillip Smith; Sep. 3, 2016
Formed about ten years ago in
San Francisco by New Orleans musicians displaced from the aftermath of Hurricane
Katrina, Honey Island Swamp Band is
composed of Aaron Wilkinson
(mandolin, guitar, harmonica, vocals), Chris
Mulé (guitar, vocals), Sam Price
(bass, vocals), Garland Paul (drums,
vocals), and Trevor Brooks
(keyboards). Their newest release, Demolition Day is a bountiful big bowl of
soulfully seasoned Americana roots-rock, and wonderfully written songs produced
by Luther Dickinson(North Mississippi Allstars).
An exquisitely funky bassline
sets the track for an intoxicating jam fueled with spacy guitar in “Head High
Water Blues”. I love the little blasts
of brass and boogie-laced piano accompaniment in “Watch and Chain”. Mulé
seems to have channeled the spirit of Harry
Nilsson while writing “She Goes Crazy”. The innocence lingering in the melody is a fun
contrast to the chaotic love story welded into the lyrics. “Katie” is a lovely piece as well. This folky performance with a zydeco spirit is
one my favorites. The album comes to a
close with the magnificent “Devils Den”. The eclectic sound of Wilkinson’s mandolin and Mulé’s swampy slide guitar set an eerie
ominous presence, like a Nick Cave murder ballad.
one of the more interesting albums to recently dip into my awareness, reveals something
new with each listen. I’m downright captivated
by this music and so enjoy being unconsciously ushered from genre to genre.
That’s a craft in and of itself.