Saturday, December 30, 2017

#311 : Howlin' at Greaseland

Various Artists
Howlin’ at Greaseland
2017 –West Tone Records
Release Date : 2017

By Phillip Smith; Dec 30, 2017

Howlin’ Wolf has always been one of my favorite bluesmen and I was quite excited to hear this new compilation of the Wolf’s music masterminded by producer Stephanie Tice and Christopher ‘Kid’ Andersen.  Howlin’ at Greaseland was recorded at Andersen’s Greaseland Studio in San Jose, California, and features a terrific crew of blues singers consisting of Alabama Mike, John Blues Boyd, Tail Dragger Jones, Henry Gray, Aki Kumar, Terry Hanck, and Lee Donald.   The band has a rotating cast of notable Bay area blues artists on hand too.  With Andersen himself on guitar for the majority of the songs, others include: Rick Estrin(harmonica), Aki Kumar(harp), Rockin’ Johnny Burgin(guitar), Johnny Cat Soubrand(guitar), Vance Ehlers(bass), Jim Pugh(piano), Dmar Martin(drums), Lorenzo Farrell(piano), Alex Pettersen(drums), Robby Yamilov(bass), Joe Kyle Jr.(bass), June Core(drums), Henry Gray(piano), Patrick Rynn(bass), Chris James(guitar), Eric Spaulding(sax) and Mike Phillips(bass).

The album wonderfully begins with the infectious hook of “Meet Me in the Bottom”.  Alabama Mike pours himself into his performance.  Kid Andersen’s slide guitar sounds so nice, especially paired with the harp playing of Rick Estrin.  It’s a terrific way to start the record.  This really has a way of warming the listener up for the killer rendition of “Smokestack Lightnin’” sung by John Blues Boyd.  This one features both Kid and Rockin’ Johnny Burgin on guitars, as well as Estrin on harp, delicately accented by the piano prowess of Jim Pugh(Robert Cray Band).  Tail Dragger delivers the goods on “Don’t Trust No Woman”, as he belts the tune out with tons of experience.  Rockin’ Johnny Burgin splendidly keeps the song rolling on guitar while Aki Kumar delivers a big juicy performance on harp.  I love Henry Gray’s remarkable piano and vocal delivery of “Little Red Rooster”.  It is blues at its purest.  The album comes to a close with sweet recording of “Spoonful” sung with conviction by John Blues Boyd. Players on hand for this track include Kid Andersen and Rockin’ Johnny on guitars, with Rick Estrin on harp, Joe Kyle Jr. on bass, Jim Pugh on organ, and Eric Spaulding on sax.  They sound so great together; I certainly would be up for hearing more of these compilations from Greaseland.      

Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from the PhillyCheeze Amazon store.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

#310 : Rockie Charles - Born For You (Reissue)

2017 –Orleans Records
Reissue Date : Nov. 24, 2017
Originally Released : 1996

By Phillip Smith; Dec 23, 2017

Alfred Charles Merrick (Nov. 14, 1942 - Mar. 12, 2010), also known as the “President of Soul” Rockie Charles was a Louisiana-born singer/songwriter who was a backing vocalist for the likes of Percy Sledge, Little Johnny Taylor, and Otis Redding in the late Sixties. He cut his first single “Mr Rickashay” in 1967 and recorded a few more singles on the Soulgate label a little later.  Due to a slowing demand for blues and soul artists in the Seventies, Rockie switched careers and became a tug boat captain. Then in the mid- Nineties, he placed an advertisement in a New Orleans entertainment directory looking for music work. That drew the attention of Carlo Ditta, producer for Orleans Records, which then led to the development of Born For You, his debut solo LP, which was recorded in 1995-1996.  With Rockie handling the guitar and vocals, his rhythm section was comprised of bassists Jerry Pekinto and John Bonvillian Jr., organists Rick Allen and Wayne Lohr, and drummer Tony D’Alessandro. 

Ushering in the album, title-track “Born For You” showcases Rockie’s smooth vocal stylings and his bright guitar performance which are masterfully highlighted by rich swirly organ music and accented with delightful blasts of brass.  From the first listen, the song brings to mind the early sounds of Otis Redding and the early Sixties soul music from Stax.  Rockie sings his southern soul ballad “Old Black Joel” with heartfelt emotion.  This fabulous and amazing track features the heavenly backing voices of Karlene Arena, and Rhea Kahler.  I love the funky infectious hook in the twangy “Festus Believes in Justice” and the high notes Rockie serves up in “I Just Called to Wish You a Merry Christmas”.  His vocals are suave and charismatic.   There are not many holiday songs as soulful as this one.  The bluesy “There is a Rainbow Hangin’ Over My Shoulder” brilliantly escorts the album to a beautiful and poignant close. 

Each and every listen to Born For You brings a great deal of joy to my music-loving ears.  This album is true gem.


Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from the PhillyCheeze Amazon store.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

#309 : International Blues Challenge #33

Various Artists
International Blues Challenge #33
2017 –Frank Roszak Promotions
Release Date : Oct. 1, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Dec 16, 2017

The Blues Foundation and Frank Roszak Promotions have once again teamed up to release another fantastic album to showcase the talented artists who make the pilgrimage to Memphis, Tennessee for the acclaimed International Blues Challenge.  This fourteen track release focuses on the Solo/Duo division and Band division finalists specifically.

“Shine On” from the first place band winner Dawn Tyler Watson leads off with an exhilarating gospel-rooted, sax-infused shotgun start.  It is glorious indeed.  From North Carolina, Randy McQuay serves up outstanding slow-cooking slide guitar on “Till I Get to Memphis”.  The piano blues on “Don’t Dig Today” from first place, Solo/Duo winner Al Hill, is beautiful and timeless.  A driving rhythm runs through Sobo Blues Band’s “Catfish Boogie” while Daniel Kriman wails on the slide guitar.   It’s captivating how this band from Jerusalem incorporates their American, Russian, and Middle Eastern influences into their music.  I absolutely love it.  Ruth Wyland & The Tribe of One’s  “I Don’t Have Proof” is a mesmerizing and heartfelt tale of unfaithfulness.  From Spain, Felix Slim, masterfully captures the essence of acoustic guitar blues in a captivating performance of “I Hate You Cause I Love You”.  King Bee, out of Montgomery, Alabama hits hard with a heavy riff in their ripping track “Dangerous”, and it sounds great.

The International Blues Challenge #33 CD is a great blues sampler with a ton of terrific music.  It certainly opens one’s eyes on how endearing The Blues is on a worldwide scale.

Track Listing
1. Dawn Tyler Watson - Shine On
2. Johnny Fink & The Intrusion - Let's Hear Some Blues
3. Randy McQuay - Till I Get To Memphis              
4. Brody Buster's One Man Band - 2029                              
5. Al Hill - Don't Dig Today              
6. Sobo Blues Band - Catfish Boogie
7. Ruth Wyand & The Tribe Of One - I Don't Have Proof   
8. Souliz Band Feat. Sugar & Spice - Good Lovin (Hot & Fresh From The Oven) 
9. Felix Slim - I Hate You Cause I Love You                       
10. Wes Lee - Chains That Bind                                
11. Sam Joyner - Onions Ain't The Only Thing 
12. Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers - Elbow Grease
13. King Bee - Dangerous
14. Sugar Brown - Meet Me In The Country

To join The Blues Foundation, or purchase this CD, visit them at their site:

Friday, December 15, 2017

#308 : The Jimmy Zee Band - What You See is What You Get

2017 –Jimmy Zee
Release Date : July 1, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Dec 15, 2017

What You See is What You Get, the sixth album from Vancouver, BC’s Jimmy Zee is a smoking hot album of blues-rock. Zee’s stand-out vocals are packed with character and a whole lot of rasp.  He sounds great alongside the guitar stylings of Rob MacDonald and Tim PorterThe Jimmy Zee Band also consists of singer Nadine States, bassist Miles Hill, drummer Joel Fountain, Harpdog Brown on harmonica, Darryl Havers on keys, and saxophonist Steve Hilliam.

A cool bluesy riff hooks me fast in title track, “What You See is What You Get” and sets the stage for a little swampy fun.  I love the harmonica Harpdog doles out in the twangy country-fried “Backroads”.  The backwoods energy changes in a most interesting way when Rick Threat drops by to inject his high-voltage free-flowing rap verses for the finale.   Goosebumps shoot up and down my spine when I hear the opening notes of “I Ride Alone”.  With guitars blazing, drums crashing, and harmonica blasting, the album plunges into fourth gear with Zee delivering the goods with ferocity and true grit.  This rocking anthem, topped off with Cree-Aboriginal chants from States, is absolutely brilliant. 

The sweet funky groove of “Money” slides swiftly in as Hilliam steps in on baritone sax.  Porter tears it up on guitar to put the icing on this stellar tightly wound jam. The song segues seamlessly right into another one of my favorites, “My Old Lady is a Freakshow”.  Revving from the get-go, the hook is groovy and unavoidably contagious.  Like the great Joe Cocker, Zee’s performance is exuberant and hard-hitting. 

The Jimmy Zee Band’s polished and unique spin on blues-rock is what makes What You See is What You Get such a fabulous listen.     



Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from the PhillyCheeze Amazon store.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

#307 : Southern Avenue live at CSPS

Dec. 9, 2017
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; Dec. 10, 2017

From Memphis, Tennessee, Southern Avenue is one of the newest bands to record for the iconic Stax Records label.  Saturday, December 9th, this magnificent quintet brought their illustrious brand of soul to a packed house at CSPS in Cedar Rapids amid their seemingly non-stop tour to promote their remarkable self-titled record.  Fronted by powerhouse lead singer Tierinii Jackson, the band also consists of her sister Tikyra Jackson on drums, guitarist Ori Naftaly, bassist Gage Markey, and keyboardist extraordinaire Jeremy Powell

Southern Avenue served up two delicious sets of music, covering mostly songs off their new album.  The soulful sweet vocals Tierinii delivers on “What Did I Do” was so right-on.  Her vocals on “It’s Gonna Be Alright” were angelic, and the keyboard performance from Powell was captivating.  I was so happy to hear them perform “Don’t Give Up”.  That’s such a terrific song.  It’s what drew me to the band in the first place this past spring.   

Their fabulous and funky take on the Beatles’ “Come Together” caught me entirely by surprise.  Naftaly’s guitar was smokin’.  It was a special treat to hear their covers of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, and Bill Withers’ “Use Me” too  They were both soul-dripping performances. I loved every bit of it. 

Southern Avenue ranks right up there among my favorite new bands this year, and I sure hope to see them again soon.


* All Photos by Phillip Smith

Friday, December 8, 2017

#306 : Little G. Weevil - Something Poppin’

2017 – Vizztone
Release Date : Nov. 17, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Dec 8, 2017

Little G. Weevil’s latest release, Something Poppin’ is a fabulous mix of blues, R&B, soul and funk, infused with a hip hop beat.  Originally from Hungary, Gabor Szucs aka Little G. Weevil relocated to the United States in 2004 to immerse himself in the music and culture of The Blues.  Since then, he’s called Birmingham, Atlanta, and Memphis home at different points along the way. His music is so rich and full of texture, it’s no surprise: in 2013, he pulled down first place in the Solo/Duo category of the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee.  Singer/songwriter/guitarist Little G. Weevil holds court with drummer extraordinaire Daniel Harper , bassist Marton Pfeff , guitarist Laci Borsodi, and on Hammond organ/Fender Rhodes/keys, Matyas Premecz.

An incredible surge of excitement plasters the wall as Little G drop-kicks the door wide open in “Here I Come Knocking”.  Harper’s beat effortlessly draws me in like a moth to a flame and that rocking opening riff sinks its claws in quick.  As the tune barrels right on, it clears a path for the rest of the album to slide right through.  It’s fantastic.  A hypnotic beat with smooth backing vocals from Sharika Allen Brown and Rebeka Easley Ellis make for a great hook in title track “Something Poppin’”.  G’s suave vocals fearlessly croon while I immensely enjoy his guitar performance.  The guitar licks G adds to the hill-country-blues-soaked “See Me in the Country” is phenomenal. I love the funky keys Premecz throws in too.  When I hear the introduction to Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusher Man” from the 1972 film Super Fly, I crank that volume way up.  This is one super delicious cover, for sure.  The ripping rhythm of “Crawling” is slathered in soul. Amid the lush swirling keys, Little G sings this one with the conviction of Jimmy Vaughan of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and blesses the listener with a healthy dose of stellar guitar playing.  It sounds so good.

Little G. Weevil scores huge with this album. Something Poppin’ is an absolute delight!

Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from the PhillyCheeze Amazon store. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

#305 : 61 Ghosts - … to the Edge

2017 – Bluzpik Media Group
Release Date : June 15, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Nov 28, 2017

… to the Edge, the all-original six-track EP from 61 Ghosts is a pure, raw joy to listen to.  61 Ghosts is comprised of singer/songwriter/guitarist Joe Mazzari (Johnny Thunders), drummer Dixie Deadwood (Leo “Bud” Welch), and bassist J.D. Sipe, who is also known for his outstanding artwork featuring portraits of rock and blues musicians. Recorded at the Clarksdale Soundstage in Clarksdale, Mississippi, To the Edge embraces the rich history of the Mississippi Hill Country Blues, while spinning Mazzari’s sharp, hard-edged lyrics. 

I love the opening track “Heartbeat”.  The rolling beat and scorching guitar riffs pour freely like that of a Springsteen barn-burner.  Mazzari’s gravelly vocals definitely sing from a place of experience.  The song wonderfully rolls right into “No One at Your Door”, a caffeinated breakup song which keeps the heart pounding with a relentless racing rhythm and punkabilly flair.  Mazzari’s poetic prowess portrays a world of hurt in World Gone Crazy”.  His guitar mastery brightly shines as he takes the listener another gloomy step deeper into the abyss of desolation in the heart-felt lament “If Tears Were Dirt”.  Acoustically performed, “Show Me Your Scars” is an absolutely beautiful song about opening up.   It’s a true gem.

The songs of 61 Ghosts are quite exceptional.  Mazzari has such a wonderful way with words, and the proof is abundant on this release.  I am already looking forward to the release of their first full-length album.               




61 Ghosts "Heartbeat" Official Music Video

61 Ghosts "World Gone Crazy" Official Music Video

J.D. Sipe’s artwork can be found here…

Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from the PhillyCheeze Amazon store.    


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

#304 : Muddy Manninen - Long Player

2017 – Muddy Manninen
Release Date : July 14, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Nov 28, 2017

Muddy Manninen, a founding member of the Finnish rock band Havana Black, recorded three albums with Gringos Locos from 1987 to 1991, and joined the progressive UK blues-rock band Wishbone Ash in 2004.  With them, he shared lead guitar duties and took on responsibilities as main song writer for twelve years until his recent departure to reemerge as an extraordinary solo act.  Long Player, his first solo album is magnificent album of expertly-crafted guitar-centric rock.

When it comes to instrumentals, Manninen’s are breathtaking.  “Dickies” puts a smile on my face as soon as it hits my ears.  Drummer Dave Hill and bassist Mark Butler form an amazing rhythm section for Manninen’s tantalizing performance.  Waves of crashing cymbals provide the backing of long-hanging notes peppered with a slew of magnificent guitar licks.  I love the bouncing bluesy groove on “Cheese Rolling”.  The accompaniment by saxophonist Patsy Gamble and keyboardist Tom Malm coat the song with a lush sophistication.  Captivating and beautifully played, “Lil’ Rosie” blooms with a hypnotic allure. It’s quite seductive.  “The Jester” fits well into the same wheelhouse as the Allman Brothers, as it embraces the free-wheeling twangy-ness of southern blues-rock. Mark Perry joins on keys and Manninen’s guitar playing is again un-deniably stunning.

The renowned Gregg Sutton lends his strong raspy vocals to the Eighties-style rocker “Danger Zone”, a song he co-wrote with ManninenKev Moore provides guest vocals on the lovely “Swan Song”, a folky melody featuring Tom Leary on fiddle.  Of the dozen songs on Long Player, are all original tunes, with the exception of one, a delightful rendition of Bread’s 1969 hit, “Guitar Man”.  The song surely evokes a sense of reminiscence.

It’s a safe bet; Muddy Manninen’s Long Player is a must-listen for the guitar aficionado.


Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from the PhillyCheeze Amazon store.          

Saturday, November 18, 2017

#303 : Samantha Fish - Belle of the West

2017 – Ruf Records
Release Date : Nov. 03,  2017

By Phillip Smith; Nov 18, 2017

With Belle of the West, Samantha Fish continues to knock my socks off with her music.  Since 2011, this fierce guitar-slinging singer-songwriter from Kansas City has released five spectacular albums.  Belle of the West is the second one of 2017.  In March, Fish turned a lot of heads with the fabulous Chills and Fever album, which focused mainly on R&B deep cuts from the Sixties and Seventies.  Belle of the West, takes a more rootsy route, with Fish exploring the nooks and crannies of Americana.  Recorded at Zebra Ranch Studio in Independence, Mississippi, this album again reunites Fish with Luther Dickinson ( North Mississippi Allstars, South Memphis String Band) for his production expertise as well as guitar and mandolin prowess.  Also appearing on the album is Jimbo Mathus (Squirrel Nut Zippers, South Memphis String Band) on Fender Rhodes piano and harmonica, Lightnin’ Malcom on guitar/harmonica , Amy LaVere on upright bass, Lillie Mae on violin, Tikyra Jackson and Trina Raimy on drums, and Sharde Thomas on fife and drums.

Powered by a big bowlful of moxie, Samantha ushers the listener into “American Dream”.  The violin accompaniment is the cherry on top of this swirly drum and fife driven masterpiece. “Blood in the Water” cleverly follows right behind, slowly accumulating a tense and unsettling vibe with its lulling rhythm.  Fish’s exquisite vocals highlight “Cowtown”, a riveting country-fried toast to escaping the clutches of small-town living.  Loaded with gobs of twangy guitar and a rocking piano backer, this sticks its landing as one of my favorites.  “Daughters” is an especially captivating song.  It is fabulously written and filled with emotion.  

Title-track, “Belle of the West”, penned by Jimbo Mathus has a strong Willie Nelson air about it and is a nostalgic call-back to the golden era of country music’s story-telling songs.  I adore Samantha’s cover of the RL Burnside classic “Poor Black Mattie” too.  It’s an absolute pleasure to hear Dickinson record the song again.  It was one of my favorite cuts off the Shake Hands With Shorty album he recorded with the North Mississippi Allstars seventeen years ago.
Samantha Fish has once again brilliantly defied those who would pigeonhole her as one particular type of artist.  The well from which her talents are drawn runs incredibly deep.  As far as I’m concerned, this record, “Belle of the West” is destined to be an instant classic.


Links to other PhillyCheeze Reviews featuring Samantha Fish  

PhillyCheeze Album Review : Samantha Fish - Chills & Fever

PhillyCheeze Concert Review and Photos : Samantha Fish - Live @ Campbell Steele Gallery : 3/18/16


Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from the PhillyCheeze Amazon store.          

Saturday, November 11, 2017

#302 : Popa Chubby - Two Dogs

2017 – Popa Chubby Productions
Release Date : Nov. 27,  2017

By Phillip Smith; Nov 11, 2017

I’ve been a fan of Ted Horowitz, also known as Popa Chubby, since 2003, when I saw him live in Memphis, TN at the Beale Street Music Festival.  I still remember being so impressed with not only his mastery of the guitar, but with the amount of passion he poured into his performance on that blistering hot day.  It’s only been about a year since his previous album, The Catfish hit the shelves, and he has already set a new bar of excellence with his latest, Two Dogs.   This is my absolute favorite released so far.  Boasting thirteen tracks of hot electric rocking blues, the record features two bonus live tracks, covering Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, and The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil”. Besides the fabulous Dave Keyes on keys, Sam “Freight Train” Bryant on drums, and Andy Paladino on bass, Popa Chubby also is accompanied by his daughter Tipitina Horowitz on trumpet, along with Andrew Garrison on tenor saxophone.

“It’s Alright” magnificently jump-starts the album with a searing guitar intro and keeps marching on with an infectious melody and charismatic attitude.  I immediately fall for the captivating blues riff Popa Chubby plants in “Rescue Me”.  Then, when he unleashes into the bridge, it sounds so damn good, especially with the full sound of the organ lingering in the background.  As Keyes tears it up, Chubby gets down and totally rips it up in a fantastic Neil Young kind of way, bringing “Dirty Old Blues” to the top of stack of my favorites.  “Shakedown” is another great song.  It’s gritty, bluesy and loaded with gobs of psychedelic guitar goodness.  It’s almost a one man show for the smooth and jazzy instrumental “Clayophus Dupree”, as Popa Chubby plays guitar, bass, and drums, with Keyes applying his signature vibrant texture to the song on organ.

Popa Chubby undoubtedly hit the bullseye as far as this album is concerned.   Two Dogs is hands down one of the best blues-rock albums released this year.      


Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from the PhillyCheeze Amazon store.          

Thursday, November 9, 2017

#301 : Crystal Bowersox live at CSPS

Nov. 8, 2017
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; Nov. 9, 2017

Crystal Bowersox blessed CSPS with her third appearance on November 8th.  With an acoustic guitar strapped around her shoulder, the songstress was joined by drummer Derek Louis, and bassist Lucas Morton.  It was a perfect evening for music, as Bowersox belted out two fabulous sets, much of which can be found on her new Alive album. 

The Season 9 American Idol finalist initiated her show with a stellar cover of Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”.  It was fantastic.  “Broken Wing” was s such a lovely song, being sung from the heart as effortlessly as Bowersox makes it seem.   She gave a terrific performance on “Staycation”, which teased Steve Miller’s “Fly Like an Eagle“, and suavely segued into Bob Marley’s “Everything Gonna Be Alright”.  Laying out a roadmap to her heart in song, Bowersox beautifully sung “He Calls Me Angel”.   “The Ride”, a tale of a gonzo off-the-cuff trip with a bad news scoundrel, co-written with Lance Carpenter, kept the audience in the palm of her hands.  In closing, she delivered a bodacious finale with a couple of striking covers, The Eagles’ “Desperado”, and Janis Joplin’s “Bobby McGee”.          

All photos by Phillip Smith

Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from the PhillyCheeze Amazon store.           

Saturday, November 4, 2017

#300 : Rocky Athas - Shakin’ the Dust

2017 – Cherryburst Records
Release Date : Oct 15, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Nov 3, 2017

With this being the 300th installment of Phillycheeze’s Rock and Blues Reviews, I wanted to use this milestone issue to honor blues-guitar great, Rocky Athas, who has just released this fabulous new album, Shakin’ the Dust.  Produced by the legendary Jim Gaines and jam-packed with a truck-load of Texas blues, this eleven-track record is a true gem.  In the studio with Athas is his son Rocky Athas II on bass guitar, and drummer Walter Watson. Together they form one hell of a power-trio.      

Athas fires off a blazing performance on “You Pushed Me Too Far”, an outstanding original with a heavy dose of attention-grabbing blues licks.  It’s absolutely wonderful and doesn’t get much better than this.  “Texas Girl” is great too, as it kicks off with an amazing intro.  The song fearlessly follows suit with Athas injecting heaping helpings of fantastic guitar into a crushing wave of catchy hooks.  I love the Neil Young grunge vibe Athas affixes to “Time Flies” and how the ballad seems to gently tumble by like time itself.               

His revved up cover of the Calvin Carter penned classic “I Ain’t Got You” is a sweet amalgam of the versions rendered by The Yardbirds and Aerosmith.  Athas breathes new life into Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Looking Back”.  I get a big smile on my face every time I hear it.   The album closes out with a spectacular mind-bending performance, taking on Jimi Hendrix’s “Villanova Junction”.  This one is beautifully played.     

The cohesive flow on Shakin’ the Dust makes an appreciable call-back to the heyday of album rock.  It’s put together really well.  Rocky Athas scores big with this album, and I look very much forward to hearing what is in store down the road.    


Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from the PhillyCheeze Amazon store.          

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Davide Pannozzo - Unconditional Love

2017 – Davide Pannozzo
Release Date : Oct 19, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Oct 21, 2017

Once settled in New York after relocating from Italy, Davide Pannozzo began working on this masterpiece called Unconditional Love.  His music reveals a distinct freshness and originality in both his writing and performance.  Produced by Steve Jordon (John Mayer Trio, Blues Brothers) and Will Lee (Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band) this record is a brilliant blend of contemporary blues and jazz with a positive energy.  Pannozzo takes front and center stage on guitars/vocals, with bassist Will Lee, drummers Steve Jordon and Shawn Pelton, and both Ricky Peterson and Oli Rockberger on Hammond organ/keys.

“Six Wires” is an amazing and infectious tune in a Steely Dan kind of way, topped off with a smoking guitar performance from Pannozzo.  With every listen to “Bring Me to the Light”, I am absolutely captivated.  This lovely song has such a beautiful and relaxed melody. The funky bassline and jazz-infused instrumentation on “One and Only” swiftly lures me in to hear Pannozzo’s buttery troubadour vocals.  The blues-soaked “Chasing Illusions” is absolutely fabulous.  It cuts deep, right down to the bone.    

With the guitar prowess of Joe Satriani, Pannozzo glides through an amazing instrumental cover of “Stratus” by Billy Cobham (Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jazz is Dead).  Pannozzo’s take on George Harrison’s “Wah Wah”, from the 1970 album All Things Must Pass, sticks fairly close to the original and sounds terrific.

Unconditional Love ranks up there among my favorite releases this year.




Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from the PhillyCheeze Amazon store.           

Saturday, October 21, 2017

André Bisson - Break

2017 –André Bisson
Release Date : Oct 20, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Oct 21, 2017

It was a welcoming surprise to hear the smashing new release Break from André Bisson. It’s been a little over two years since I reviewed his previous album Left With the Blues.  Though that recording won me over hook, line, and sinker, this album is even more captivating.  Bisson masterfully taps into his Motown, blues, and gospel influences for these compositions, and then performs them with vibrant vocals along with a tight cast of musicians. With a guitar full of twangy goodness in hand, Bisson leads his core band composed of saxophonists Bil Holinaty and Gordon Aeichele, trumpeter/cellist Loretta Hale, bassist Mike Rowell, drummer Sean Bruce Parker, and Jesse O’Brian on piano/B3 organ/Wurlitzer.

I love how the title track “Break” latches on to me from the git-go.  Bisson belts this one out of the park with fortitude.  The feel-good vibe continues onward to “How Many Times”, a swinging and soulful track which gently walks the line between Sun and Stax.  Utilizing the energizing sound of a room full of horns, and an expert rhythm section, Bisson pulls off a sweet callback to Vegas-era Elvis Presley.  Swirling sounds of organ, bountiful blasts of brass, and a groovy sax solo puts me in my happy space when “Feelin’ Fine” jets out the speakers.   

Bisson beautifully sings the blues on “Reflections”, a lovely and melancholy song delivered with a sad swirly melody.  Then with the swagger of Joe Cocker, he takes on The Beatles’ “Elenor Rigby”, giving this only cover song on the album a total make-over.

Break, Bisson’s seventh album, undeniably shows just how much of an artist he truly is. This is indeed one terrific album.       


The PhillyCheeze review of André Bisson’s “Left With the Blues” :


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Albert Castiglia - Up All Night

2017 –Ruf Records
Release Date : Oct 6, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Oct 14, 2017

Albert Castiglia is definitely on a roll. He pulls no punches on his latest album “Up All Night”.  With an all-new band consisting of bass player Jimmy Pritchard and drummer Brian Menendez, Castiglia again enlists Mike Zito to produce, help write, and toss some of his trademark guitar and vocals into the ring.  Also making appearances on this magnificent blues-rock album are music masters Lewis Stephens on keys, Sonny Landreth on slide guitar, and Johnny Sansone on harmonica.

Castiglia presses the pedal to the metal, as he lays a long trail of rubber on “Hoodoo on Me”.  Penned by Zito, this heavy-hitting blues-rocker rides a thick relentless bassline and showcases Castiglia’s guitar mastery.  Smattered with a slough-full of funky psychedelic licks, his cover of Brian Stoltz’s (funky Meters) “I’ve Been Up All Night” is engaging and groovy.  Landreth’s slide guitar on Castiglia’s tale of outrunning a hurricane in “95 South” is marvelous and swampy, just the way I love it. 

Included in this recording are a couple of outstanding songs from Graham Wood Drout (Iko Iko) who Castiglia collaborated with in 2006 on a record called The Bittersweet Sessions: “Three Legged Dog” and “Knocked Down Loaded”.  Both have the unique gift burying themselves in my head for hours on end.  I love Castiglia’s nitro-charged take on Luther “Snake Boy” Johnson’s “Woman Don’t Lie”.  It’s a sizzling delight.   

Castiglia won me over with his previous album, “Big Dog” which I reviewed in June of 2016.  I remember thinking how tough it was going to be for him to top that album. He did though.  “Up All Night” is absolutely wonderful and has set a new bar. 


The PhillyCheeze review of Albert Castiglia’s Big Dog album  > 

Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from the PhillyCheeze Amazon store.