Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tom Craig and Soul Patch - Get Ready For Me

2017 – Tom Craig and Soul Patch  
By Phillip Smith; Feb 18, 2017

It’s obvious to see why Tom Craig and Soul Patch were chosen to represent the Central Delaware Blues Society for the 2017 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee this past January.  Oozing with soul, this fabulous R&B ensemble’s tantalizing debut album, Get Ready For Me, is solid proof.  Soul Patch, fronted by singer/guitarist Tom Craig has one bodaciously tight rhythm section consisting of drummer Johnny O’Connell and bassist “Rando” Randy Branning, smooth keyboard stylings of Eric Johnson on Hammond and a terrific horn section with Vince Gleason on tenor sax, and Skyler Hagner on baritone.

Tom Craig and Soul Patch deliver horn-infused soul, reminiscent of the formative music coming out of Stax Records in the Sixties with “Louita” and “How Did I Break the Rules”.  I love the bluesy undertones of title track “Get Ready for Me”.  Craig’s vocals are suave and commanding like Neil Diamond.  His guitar licks sounds great, as they pepper Johnson’s lush keys and the smoothly blended sax riffs.  Heartbreak hit, “She Did it to Me, She’ll Do it to You”, is a big tantalizing bowlful of slow bluesy soul.  A captivating hook with a peppy groove steers “Captain Funk” right into my list of favorites.  Craig serves up a delicious taste of Chicago blues in “Please Forgive Me Baby” with a brilliant vocal performance.

Listening to Get Ready For Me puts me in a good mood, and brings a smile to my face with every listen.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Sean Taylor - Flood & Burn

2017 – Sean Taylor Songs  
By Phillip Smith; Feb 18, 2017

Flood and Burn, the eighth full-length release from UK singer/songwriter Sean Taylor is an engaging, melodic jewel.  The album consists of eleven original pieces covering a variety of genres, along with a compelling bluesy cover of “Heartbreak Hotel” featuring Taylor on harp and Andre Moran on slide guitar.     

The velvety and lulling “Codeine Dreams” welcomes the listener in with soft swirly vocals amid colorful splashes of saxophone courtesy of Joe Morales. Taylor’s poetic mastery cleverly reveals itself on “A Good Place to Die” and the jazzy “Cruelty of Man”.  
With Roscoe Beck (Leonard Cohen) on double bass and Mike Hardwick on pedal steel, “Troubadour” beautifully recounts the uncertainly of life as a traveling musician.  A wave of melancholy washes over me when I hear “Life Goes On”.  Whether going through good times or bad, one can only go forward.  The lord giveth and the lord taketh away when Taylor charmingly conjures up an ominous hill-country vibe on the downtempo title track “Flood and Burn”.  Mark Hallman guests on banjo and Andre Moran on slide guitar, elegantly setting the song’s dark mood.  

Subtle references to Charles Bukowski, Townes Van Zandt, and Skip James are delightfully plucked like Easter eggs from “Bad Case of the Blues”.  A lush mix of slide guitar from Moran and violin from Hana Piranha taxis this daunting melody to exactly where it needs to be.  “Better Man”, a song of blessing and sacrifice, guided by the wonderful talent of Piranha on violin and Danny Thompson on double bass, eloquently brings Flood & Burn to a graceful end.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sena Ehrhardt live at Campbell Steele Gallery - Feb. 11, 2017

Marion, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; Feb. 12, 2017

Saturday, February 11,  The Sena Ehrhardt Band gave a superb performance at the Campbell Steele Gallery in Marion, Iowa.  This Minneapolis-based blues band is fronted by singer/songwriter Ehrhardt, her husband, guitarist Cole Allen, drummer Wayne Allen, and bassist Crosby Williams.  Prior to Ehrhardt taking the stage to sing the wonderful “Things You Should’t Need to Know” off the 2014 Live My Life album, Cole Allen warmed the audience up with a serious dose of instrumental electric blues. His talent on the guitar runs deep.  

Ehrhardt’s strong and powerful vocals sounded so good on the slow and swampy “Last Chance”, from her first record. Cole’s ripping guitar performance, an added bonus, is such a treat.  The band blessed the crowd with the house-rocking Chicago blues fave “Little By Little”, which ended in an audience participation sing-a-long. I was happy to hear them play a personal favorite, “Buried Alive”. It is an outstanding number.  For the fabulous finale, Ehrhardt closed out with “Rock Me Baby”, dedicating the song to B.B. King, Johnny Winter, and Smoking Joe Kubek.  It was a terrific show for sure.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Thornetta Davis - Honest Woman

2016 – Sweet Mama Music
By Phillip Smith; Feb 11, 2017

Honest Woman, the latest album from Detroit’s Queen of the Blues Thornetta Davis, glimmers with fiery soul.  This red-hot delight features a dozen original songs brought to glorious life under Davis’ commanding vocal presence. Davis’ backing musicians performing on the brunt of the album is guitarist Brett Lucas, drummer Todd Glass (The Muggs), Phillip J. Hale on keys, and James Simonson on bass.

Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds steps in as guest vocalist/harp player on the lively duet, “I Gotta Sang the Blues”. The contrasting voices pair together quite nicely, and Wilson’s harmonica performance is smokin’ as usual.  Davis enlists The Larry McCray Band to back her up on the groovy gospel-soaked “Set Me Free”.  This is one superb jam filled with stellar vocals and hot funky guitar licks.  It makes me want to shout, Amen!

I love how the brass mingles with the walking bassline and soulful keys on the fabulous “I’d Rather Be Alone”.  Davis sings this ode to a boomerang ex-lover, strong and proud.  Lucas delivers a searing guitar performance propelled by Glass’ driving beat on the magnificent “I Believe (Everything Gonna Be Alright)”.    

Thornetta Davis instills a fabric of enchanting soulful blues into each and every song on Honest Woman.  Reflected in her powerful vocals is heart-felt emotion, which, along with the superb musicianship she commands, is the key to an album full of outstanding performances.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Too Slim and the Taildraggers - Blood Moon

2016 – Underworld Records  
By Phillip Smith; Feb 4, 2017

With nearly thirty years under his belt performing and cutting records, Nashville-based Tim “Too Slim” Langford’s genius for dark rocking blues songs is undeniably strong as ever.  Backing Langford is his rhythm section, the Taildraggers, drummer Jeff “Shakey” Fowlkes and bassist Robert Kearns.

Blood Moon explodes out of the gate with “Evil Mind”, a guitar-heavy southern-rocker topped off with a hefty dose of adrenalin.  Langford’s contagious guitar riffs and smoky vocals keep me captivated for the mysterious and witchy “Gypsy”.  This terrifically dark love song is one of my favorites. He then sets a beautiful and cosmic mood in “My Body”, a song about death and the hereafter.

If one didn’t already know, it would very easy to think “Get Your Goin’ Out On” was a Rolling Stones deep cut with its blazing honky-tonk vibe.  For title track, “Blood Moon” Langford goes all out with hearty helping of searing blues guitar. It sounds great. 

Too Slim and the Taildraggers’ Blood Moon is an engaging album of raw unbridled southern blues-rock with a unique sound I’ve become quite fond of.  It’s one of those recordings I can listen to over and over again.