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.