Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sari Schorr - A Force of Nature

2016 –  Manhaton Records
By Phillip Smith; Nov. 29, 2016

A outstanding voice for the Blues and a bucketful of attitude runs through the grooves on A Force of Nature, the groundbreaking album from Sari SchorrSchorr is indeed a force of nature as she belts out each song with conviction and true grit. 

Schorr captivates me from the beginning on “Ain’t Got No Money” with a downright phenomenal vocal performance. Paired exquisitely with decadent swirly guitar and a riveting rhythm backing, this song hits strong.  The energy carries over to “Aunt Hazel”, a bluesy rocking anthem with a southern rock flavor.  Schorr’s cover of Lead Belly's “Black Betty” nicely exits the gates with a sweetly ominous stride before kicking into high gear, tearing the roof off with a crushing vocal deliverance and stellar guitar licks. “Letting Go” a sultry throwback with a Dusty Springfield-in-Memphis vibe, beautifully highlights the sophisticated and softer side of Schorr’s vocal wheelhouse. This lovely and emotionally charged song is absolutely marvelous.  The fabulous Walter Trout makes an appearance on a cover of one of his own songs, “Work No More”.  Hearing his fiery, yet melodic guitar licks shoot out of his guitar is a pure sensation.   

The album is so incredible; it only took one listen to A Force of Nature to turn me into a Sari fan.  

The Joey Gilmore Band - Respect the Blues

2016 –  Mosher Street Records
By Phillip Smith; Nov. 29, 2016

It feels really good to settle in for a nice listen to the latest release, Respect the Blues, from Florida blues-man Joey GilmoreGilmore and his crew, bassist Robert “Hi-Hat” Carter, drummers Raul Hernandez and Maurice Dukes, keyboardist Sonny Boy Williams, and guitarist Ivan Chopik have an old-school vibe, but keep it fresh in their performance.

“A Little Love (Always Makes it Bettah)” is a vibrant and energizing Cajun-flavored track.  Accented with Gilmore’s groovy playing and the lush sounds emanating from Williams’ keys, this track delivers the goods.  I love that slow bluesy funk which is slathered all over “Breakin’ Up Somebody’s Home”, originally recorded by Ann Peebles.  This is a hell of a song immersed in pent-up angst and orneriness.  Gilmore exquisitely covers “Chain of Fools” with the female half of the duet beautifully taken on by Edlene Hart.  The Joey Gilmore Band also serves up a bountiful bowlful of soul with William Bell’s “Can’t Kill Nothin’” and the Johnny Rawls tune “Soul Survivor”.  The blues burrows in deep when Gilmore wails his heart out on “Brownskin Woman”, a killer song with an attention-grabbing drumbeat and the sweet sounds of Rockin’ Jake on harp.      

Respect the Blues is a definite ‘keeper’.  

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Danielle Nicole live at Campbell Steele Gallery - Nov. 19, 2016

Marion, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; Nov. 20, 2016

Saturday, November 19, singer/bassist Danielle Nicole gave an exquisite performance to a sold out crowd at Campbell Steele Gallery in Marion, Iowa.  Singer/bassist Nicole, previously of the Kansas City band, Trampled Under Foot, is now in command of her own band, consisting of the very talented guitarist Brandon Miller, keyboardist extraordinaire Mike “Shinetop Jr.” Sedovic, and the outstanding Jon Faircloth on drums. This troop of musicians is one of the tightest groups I’ve heard, and hearing them play live is truly an electric experience.

Nicole beautifully performed the tremendous “Give Me Tonight” by Grammy Award winning songwriter and producer Anders Osborne, who also happened to produce Nicole’s 2015 Wolf Den album. Their performance of “Starvin’ For Love” was both joyous and riveting.  Miller tore into some lush slide guitar on their deliciously haunting cover of Son House’s “Death Letter Blues.”    

The first segment of the second set featured Nicole onstage alone, armed with acoustic guitar instead of her bass. She captivated the audience with John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery”, and a poignant delivery of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice”, before taking on Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”.
A moment of remembrance for the great soul singer Sharon Jones (May 4, 1956 – November 18, 2016) was taken, as Nicole shared her memories of opening up for Jones at a music festival overseas.  This ushered in a most fitting tribute as they broke out the funk in Jones’ “Nobody’s Baby”.  Another tribute to a recently fallen musical dignitary was taken later in the evening with a terrific performance of Prince’s “Purple Rain”.  Nicole sang this with intensity and heartfelt emotion as Miller payed a stellar guitar solo.

Although the band played for nearly three hours with just a smidge of a break, it was an evening which no one really wanted to end.  This is what the blues is all about.

* all photos by Phillip Smith

Danielle Nicole

Mike “Shinetop Jr.” Sedovic

Brandon Miller

Danielle Nicole & Jon Faircloth

Brandon Miller

Danielle Nicole

Jon Faircloth 

Danielle Nicole

Danielle Nicole, Jon Faircloth, Mike 'Shinetop Jr.' Sedovic

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Laurence Jones - Take Me High

2016 –  Ruf Records
By Phillip Smith; Nov. 19, 2016

Take Me High, the fourth album from British blues artist Laurence Jones, is downright spectacular.  After being awarded Best European Blues Guitarist in 2015, Jones fines himself nominated again for 2016.  Producer-extraordinaire Mike Vernon (John Mayhall, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac) puts his magic touch on the album, making sure the energy levels remain high on this fabulous recording.  Joining Jones is his band composed of bassist Roger Inniss, drummer Phil Wilson, with Bob Fridzema on keyboards and Paul Jones on harmonica. 

Killer beats and lush keys provide the perfect backdrop for Jones’ razor-sharp riffs on “Live It Up”, a monster song which crushes everything in its path.  From the searing beginning to its exciting climax, “Addicted to Your Love” is drenched with emotion.  “Take Me High”, stewed in an electric bluesy goodness is dutifully served with true grit and nice tasty helping of slide.  It is such a great pleasure to hear Jones let loose on a song, like he does on Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground”.  This piece de resistance is ear-candy for the music aficionado. 

I could listen to Take Me High for hours on end.  It is just that good. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Southern River Band - Live at the Pleasuredome

2016 –  The Southern River Band
By Phillip Smith; Nov. 12, 2016

Nothing quite compares to a big healthy dose of pure unadulterated rock and roll, and that is exactly what one gets when they press the play button on Live at the Pleasuredome, from The Southern River Band.  The music is vibrant and resonating, boasting grandeur vocals from Callum Kramer, ripping guitar performances by Jason Caniglia, frenzied thunderous beats from drummer Carlo Romeo, and awe-inspired basslines from Anton Dindar.  These four guys, from a town called Thornlie (not far from Perth, Western Australia), take their cue from some of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time: The Rolling Stones, Van Halen, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, to name but a few.

Lush guitar riffs and a catchy hook draw me in to “Pandora”, like an ant to honey.  I immensely enjoy the ferocious rock anthem “Let It Ride”, steered by Kramer’s amazingly intense vocal prowess.  Caniglia adds a generous serving of southern fearlessness to this bluesy masterpiece. “Two Times the Fool” feels like a newly discovered Black Crowes song uncovered from a lost box of master-tapes.  Soulful and melodic vocals surf atop an avalanche of intensive jam.  “Little While” is a terrific song too.  Kramer takes a relaxed approach in singing this charming power-ballad while dabbling on just a smidge of textured rasp. 

I haven’t heard an album with this kind of presence in a long time.  The Southern River Band scores huge with Live at the Pleasuredome. This is indeed one epic listen. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Rev. Billy C. Wirtz - Full Circle

2016 –  EllerSoul Records
By Phillip Smith; Nov. 6, 2016

I’ve been a fan of the good Reverend Billy C. Wirtz since around 1990.  My first exposure to his music was either from my Sunday night ritual of tuning in to Dr. Demento’s syndicated radio, or was from listening to WEGR, Memphis’ Rock 103 on my thirty minute morning commute.  Wirtz’s music was getting a lot of airplay on both.  It didn’t take long before I was hooked and purchased Wirtz’s wonderfully wicked album, Backslider’s Tractor Pull, which featured hilariously twisted songs such as “Sleeper Hold on Satan”, “Just Friends”, and “Honky Tonk Hermaphrodite”. 

Recorded live from the First House of Polyester Worship Full Circle is a brand new tasty dish of humorous off-the-wall songs performed by Wirtz on piano, and fried up with a heaping helping of swinging back-up from legendary blues greats, The Nighthawks (Paul Bell – guitar, Johnny Castle – bass, Mark Stutso – drums, and Mark Wenner – harmonica)., Other players featured on the album include guitarist Bob Driver, bassist Steve Riggs, and Lil’ Ronnie Owens on harp.
Wirtz takes a satirical tongue-in-cheek jab at The Grateful Dead and its diehard community with “Mama Was a Deadhead”.  He then takes country music to a whole new planet with the hilarious “Daddy Was a Sensitive Man”, about a channeling, Volvo-driving, drum-circle fanatic who makes his living at the futon shop, and longs for quality time with his family.  While on the subject of family matters, Wirtz hits another homerun with a ditty based on a true story, as told to him by a waitress at a diner he often visited.  Her father had passed away, and her step mother ran off with her favorite girlfriend, “Daddy Passed Away” and mama turned gay. 

On the serious side of the album, Wirtz and The Nighthawks rip it up on a smashing rendition of Charlie Rich’s “Breakup”.  This is rockabilly goodness at its best.  In addition, Brother Billy serves up a couple of cool instrumentals, showcasing his piano prowess on the 1959 Bill Black Combo hit, “Smokie Part 2”, and dishing out a smooth and velvety cover of Floyd Cramer’s, “Your Last Goodbye”.     

Wirtz scores with Full Circle. The combination of Reverend Billy and The Nighthawks makes for such a terrific listen.    It takes me back to the carefree days of being glued to the radio on Sunday nights listening to Dr. Demento.