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.