Saturday, December 29, 2018

#368 : Shaw Davis & the Black Ties - Tales From the West



2018 – Chin Music Records

By Phillip Smith; Dec. 29, 2018

Tales From the West, the second release from Florida blues-rock trio Shaw Davis & the Black Ties, is an engaging balls-to-the-wall smash hit.  Front-man Shaw Davis coaxes a tsunami of sound from his guitar, culminating in an explosive performance.  The remainder of this killer band is comprised of bassist Patrick Stevenson, and drummer Bobby Van Stone.  

With a taste of Texas blues, “Take My Hand” rocks hard, and begs to be heard loudly.  Davis takes the listener to the cosmos and back with his stellar guitar commandeering.  The psychedelic groove on title track “Tales From the West” is ominous and infectious.  It digs right into my skull, and hangs out quite a while.  “Mamma Told Me” brings more Texas blues back in full regalia.  It sounds fantastic.  Davis takes another jammin’ venture into the cosmos of psychedelia on “Atomic Groove”. 

This band is the first I have ever heard to fearlessly take on Frank Zappa.  When “Willie the Pimp” began, I was not only impressed at the cajones it took to cover a Zappa song, but I was amazed at how great this sounded.  The only other cover on the album, “I Gotta Try You Girl”, from North Mississippi blues legend Junior Kimbrough, is loaded with searing guitar and rock-solid vocals.

Tales From the West is an astonishing forty-seven minute listen. The louder it’s heard, the better it sounds.  It’s just that good of a record.








For more information about the artist, visit this website..   https://www.shawdavisblackties.com/


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Sunday, December 23, 2018

#353 : Amanda Fish - Free



2018 – Vizztone

By Phillip Smith; Sep. 22, 2018

Free, the latest album from Amanda Fish has a sense of earnest purity in both the writing and presentation.  The music, delivered with the swagger of an outlaw poet, is a heart-stopping head-turner.  Amanda not only holds court as vocalist on this terrific blues-rock record, but she also plays bass (all tracks), acoustic guitar, electric and 12-string guitar, mandolin and piano.  This artist is extremely talented to say the least.  Drummer Glen James backs her on all the tracks.   Also appearing on this disc, are guitarists Dave Hayes, Ken Valdez, Coyote Bill and Lois Nadal, Chris Hazelton on keys, and vocalist Sara Morgan.  Special guests include Alastair Greene, “Steady Rollin’” Bob Margolin, Tyler Morris, and Richard Rosenblatt    


One of the most amazing songs I’ve heard this year is the blues ballad “Anymore”.  Fish’s vocals are heartfelt and soulful.  Hayes’ contagious guitar riff, and Hazelton’s funky keys sign, seal and deliver this wonderful track.  I love the swampy southern twang of “The Ballad of Lonesome Cowboy Bill”.  Like an old Marshall Tucker record, this one sets up shop with a tale to tell and a fistful of fiery guitar licks.  Fish’s powerhouse vocals are nicely framed by Margolin and Morris.  Alastair Greene kicks the door in and takes no prisoners with a dynamite guitar performance on “Going Down”.  This is one bad-ass house-rockin’ song.  The infectious driving rhythm on “Not Again” charges along like a freight train on a mission.  Rosenblatt sweetly accompanies on harp, and Hays on guitar.  “You Could Be” is beautifully played.  It’s got such a robust sound rooted in the wonderful instrumentation of Fish on guitar and piano, Hazelton on organ, and Coyote Bill on guitar.   

Amanda Fish grabs my full attention with Free.  It is one hell of a spectacular listen.  That’s for sure.

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Saturday, December 22, 2018

#367 : Sugaray Rayford - Somebody Save Me



2018 – Forty Below Records
Release Date : Mar. 1, 2019

By Phillip Smith; Dec. 22, 2018

My first exposure to Caron “Sugaray” Rayford was through listening to the Double Dynamite record from the Mannish Boys.  Rayford sang lead on nine of the twenty-six track on that double album.  Take a listen to any of his music, and it will become so very evident why he was nominated for four Blues Music Awards in 2018.  Written and produced by Forty Below Records founder Eric Corne, Somebody Save Me, the latest from Sugaray Rayford is bathed in the goodness of Sixties soul.  Rayford’s suave and powerful voice is accented quite nicely on this new recording with interesting hooks and a tight-knit band.  It’s much akin to the music of Charles Bradley, which I simply adore. The backbone of the band on this album consists of Rick Holmstrom on guitar, Matt Tecu on drums, Taras Prodaniuk on bass, and Sasha Smith on keys/organ.

The album begins with “The Revelator”, a hypnotic track with an Isaac Hayes delivery that magically beckons me like a porch light to a moth.  The bassline from Prodaniuk was quick to embed itself deep within my subconscious.  “Time to Get Moving” is a blues-soaked adrenalin jolt.  Its heightened pace is fortified with a groovy guitar twang from Holmstrom and topped with a juicy harp performance from Corne.  One listen to “You and I” and the music of Memphis’ Stax Records immediately comes to mind.  There’s certainly a call-back to the Memphis Horns with the sweet sounds of brass from Mark Pender on trumpet, Ron Dziubla on sax, and Richard A Rosenberg on trombone.  Swampy and dangerous, there’s an obvious Howlin’ Wolf vibe radiating off “I’d Kill For You, Honey”.  “Angels and Devils” keeps the atmosphere ominous, and unpredictable.  If ever there was a need for a blues-centric James Bond theme, this song would be on the top of the list.  Sugaray takes it nice and slow like Teddy Pendergrass on title track, “Somebody Save Me”.  His smooth, buttery vocals delicately dance atop a backing of violin and cello.  This definitely sets the mood for a slow dance.  

Sugaray is the real deal and Somebody Save Me is an amazing listen. 

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For more information about the artist, visit this website :  https://sugarayblues.com


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Saturday, December 15, 2018

#366 : Paul Oscher - Cool Cat



2018 – Blues Fidelity

By Phillip Smith; Dec. 15, 2018

It’s a real blessing to hear the blues from those who have spent time playing with the legends.  Paul Oscher, an integral part of the blues world since the Sixties, joined Muddy Waters Blues Band at the age of seventeen to play harmonica.   With Muddy, he played for around five years.  He even shared Muddy’s basement with the legendary pianist Otis Span for a while too.  Oscher’s latest album Cool Cat, contains a baker’s dozen of songs, the majority of which are straight-up blues. 

Oscher is a blues maestro and his songs strongly connect to the listener.  With one exception, which happens to be a marvelous and hypnotizing performance of “Rollin’ and Tumblin’”, the album is comprised of all original material.  “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” features Mike Keller on guitar, Sarah Brown on bass guitar, Russell Lee on drums, and the backing vocals of Sunny Lowdown and Jeremy Dowden.   Miss Lavelle White makes a guest appearance to sing “Dirty Dealing Mama”. This double-entendre packed tune is a huge barrel of fun.

Oscher’s vocals sound wonderful and gravelly as he sits behind the piano on “Money Makin’ Woman”.   Guitarist Mick Schemer, bassist Johnny Ace , and drummer Russell Lee make for an outstanding backing band for it too.  They appear all together on four other tracks, of which include “Blues and Trouble”, “Hide Out Baby”, “Work That Stuff”, and “Poor Man Blues”.

I’m absolutely delighted by the title track instrumental “Cool Cat”, and the story he tells leading up to it.  Recorded as a jazz quartet, this song is dedicated to a flute-playing wine-head who kept a beret-wearing, sunglass-sporting alley cat named Cool Cat.  Oscher also recorded a smooth nine-and-a-half minute R&B version of “Cool Cat” at the famed Greaseland Studios with Kid Andersen.  It is fantastic.

Oscher keeps the Blues as real as it can get, and keeps Cool Cat cool as hell.

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For more information about Paul Oscher, visit his website www.pauloscher.com .

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Saturday, December 8, 2018

#365 : Kevin Burt - Heartland & Soul



2018 – Little Village Foundation

By Phillip Smith; Dec. 8, 2018

I still remember the first time I heard Kevin Burt perform. It was shortly after I moved to Iowa in 1992.  It was a remarkable performance with Kevin fronting his band The Instigators.  His voice was unique and unforgettable.  Kevin has been a key presence in the music community here for a long time.  It makes me happy to see him become a part of a much larger scene since bringing home first place awards in three different categories during the 2018 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee : Best Solo/Duo Performer, Best Guitarist, Best Harmonica Player.  Recorded at the famed Greaseland Studios in San Jose, California, and produced by Kid Andersen and Jim Pugh, this debut album Heartland & Soul is more than fabulous.  With Kevin on vocals, acoustic guitar, and harmonica, Jerry Jemmott (Gregg Allman) appears on bass, Derrick ‘D’Mar’ Martin ( Little Richard) on drums, Jon Otis (Johnny Otis’ son) on percussion, Kid Andersen (Rick Estrin & the Nightcats) on guitar and melodica, Jim Pugh (Robert Cray) on keys, and Lisa Leuschner Andersen on backing vocals.

It doesn’t take long to be overcome by the soulful groove of “Day Day”, the first selection on this twelve track masterpiece.  It certainly brings me to my happy space.  An inspirational message of gratitude is beautifully spun with heartfelt emotion in “Thank You”.  It’s a wonderful song indeed.  With a nice and swampy taste of slide guitar topped with harmonica, Kevin breaks into “Smack Dab in the Middle”.  This bodacious track is steeped in delta-style blues and infused with a funky bassline and brilliant, jamming keys.  Ensuring the only cover song on the album “Eleanor Rigby” is an absolute head-turner, Kevin adds a personal touch to give the song a greater sense of poignancy.  It’s such an amazing listen. 

Heartland & Soul certainly ranks right up there with the best blues albums released this year.  It definitely merits my highest level of recommendation.

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For more information about Kevin Burt, visit his website: www.bfburt.com .


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Saturday, December 1, 2018

#364 : CeCe Teneal & Soul Kamotion - #5OR5000



2018 – IHEART CECE
Release Date: June 22, 2018

By Phillip Smith; Dec. 1, 2018

I love the fabulous, soulful energy that flows from #5OR500, the new live album from Florida-based band CeCe Teneal and Soul Kamotion.  The title is reflective of the band’s mission to give one hundred percent on every performance, no matter if the audience size is five, or five thousand.  With CeCe Teneal front and center on vocals, the rest of Soul Kamotion is comprised of guitarist Lavon Rushing, bassist Terrell Kimble, keyboardist Christopher Baptiste, and drummer James Adkins.

“90 MPH” is a sonic blast of fearless funk as it lifts this twelve-track album off the launching pad.  With Teneal holding nothing back on vocals, Rushing loads the song with monster riffs,   Kimble thumps a groovy bassline, and Adkins is a beast behind the drums.  “Danger” puts a big smile on my face as well.  It keeps the funk flowing with a call-back to the great R&B songs of the Eighties with a touch of brass. 

There’s no shortage of blues as Teneal sings about paybacks on “Common Ordinary Housewife”.  Rushing plays this with finesse, and Teneal’s voice, full of power and range, delivers an outstanding performance. “Lonely (Even When You’re Here)” is beautifully melancholy.  Baptiste sets the atmosphere for this amazing listen.   

The band is solid and tight from beginning to end, and Teneal definitely delivers her one hundred percent.  #5OR5000 is one of the best live albums of this nature I’ve heard.  I highly recommend it.

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For more information about CeCe Teneal & Soul Kamotion, visit their website: https://soulkamotion.com  



Take a listen to the album on Apple Music, and if you decide to purchase it, use my special link.  This helps keep the PhillyCheeze site going.



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Saturday, November 17, 2018

#363 : Sean Chambers - Welcome to My Blues



2018 –American Showplace Music
Release Date: October 19, 2018

By Phillip Smith; Nov. 17, 2018

Florida bluesman Sean Chambers knocks another out of the park with his seventh album, Welcome to My Blues.  Produced by Ben Elliot and including John Ginty on B3 and keys, bassist Todd Cook, and drummer Moe Watson, this record features eleven tracks plumb full of fine-crafted electric blues.      

Chambers greets the listener with infectious SRV-like riffs and searing hot licks on title-track “Welcome to My Blues”.  It’s magnificently performed.  “Black Eyed Suzie”, another Chambers original, is soaked in the swampy southern goodness of slide guitar.  Paired with the keyboard mastery from Ginty, it invokes the sounds of the Allman Brothers.  I can’t help but fall for his cover of Luther Allison’s “Cherry Red Wine”.  That is such a heavy tune, and Chambers pours every bit of himself into the song.  His vocals are heart-felt and his guitar playing is amazing.

With guest guitarist Jimmy Bennett (The Bennett Brothers) on slide and backing vocals, “One More Night to Ride” is funky and cool as hell. There’s a bit of a Black Oak Arkansas vibe in this ode to outlaws and motorcycles. The T-Bone Walker cover “All Night Long” is soulful and handled with care. Cook’s funky smooth bass line and Watson’s stellar beats usher the song to its destined greatness as it naturally builds into a glorious jam. 

Welcome to My Blues is what blues-guitar albums are supposed to sound like. It’s one of this year’s best.           


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To check out the PhillyCheeze review of Sean Chambers – Trouble and Whiskey ;


For more information about Sean Chambers, visit his website: http://www.seanchambers.com/



Take a listen to the album on Apple Music, and if you decide to purchase it, use my special link.  This helps keep the PhillyCheeze site going.



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Saturday, November 10, 2018

#362 : Lady “A” - Doin’ Fine



2018 – Lady "A"

By Phillip Smith; Nov. 10, 2018

Doin’ Fine, the fourth album from Anita White aka Lady “A” is a terrific follow-up to her 2016 album, Loved, Blessed, and Blues.  Teaming up once again with producer Dexter Allen, this singer/songwriter from the Pacific Northwest makes sure the record is loaded with funky soul and smooth blues.  With Lady “A” on vocals and Allen on guitars and bass, Chris “Rattlesnake” Minter holds down the drums, and Joey Robinson accompanies on both piano and drums.

Like that first ray of sunshine that carves its beautiful path to earth each day, title track “Doin’ Fine” sets the stage for a an enlightening listen and reassures everything will be ok.  This upbeat opener reels me right in with its gospel-infused rhythm and Lady “A’s” spirited vocals.  “Change the World” wonderfully plays like a recently uncovered Otis Redding song.  Poignant and beautiful, this song expresses a strong desire to make the world a better place.  “Throw Down” is a whole lot of fun too.  Blessed by a funk in the style of George Clinton, this tune is an absolute treat.           
Lady “A” who also hosts the award-winning online radio shows, The Gumbo & Gospel Show, and Black N Blues on NWCZ Radio once again scores big points with this new album.  It definitely grabs my attention. 

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To check out the PhillyCheeze review of Lady “A”Loved, Blessed and Blues :  https://phillycheezeblues.blogspot.com/search?q=lady+a


For more information about Lady “A”, visit her website www.ladyababyblues.com .


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Sunday, November 4, 2018

#361 : Ms Zeno the Mojo Queen - Back in Love



2018 –Blue Lotus Recordings

By Phillip Smith; Nov. 4, 2018

I absolutely love the new release Back in Love, from Verlinda Zeno aka Ms Zeno the Mojo Queen.  I stumbled upon her music several weeks ago through a podcast I frequently listen to called Radio Memphis, hosted by Ric Chetter.  From the moment she started singing, I knew I had to purchase her new disc.  Her voice, soulful and powerful reminds me of a few of personal favorites: Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner and Sharon Jones.  Backed by co-producers Paul Niehaus IV and Kevin O’Connor on almost every instrument one could think of, and Gene Jackson on vocals, the wonderful Ms Zeno brings her A-game to every track.   

With a big blast of horns and a hint of strings in the back, title track, “Back in Love” initiates this record with that glorious Stax vibe and features guest vocalist Roland Johnson. “That’s How I Know” is electrically charged and dripping with soul.  Ms Zeno sings this with abundantly sweet emotion.  G Weevil makes a guest appearance on guitar for “Willie Brown”.  This is hands-down, one fantastic blues song, and I am totally smitten by her vocal delivery.  The lady can sing the blues, and that is a fact.  Tom Martin ( Zydedo Crawdaddys)  stops by with accordion in hand to lend a bit of Creole seasoning to the wonderfully funky “Mojo Queen”.  Like a heart-wrenching Otis Redding song, “Love is Like a Flower” is an amazing song and brilliantly vocalized.  The masterful harmonica stylings of Brandon Santini sets a roadhouse blues atmosphere to “Call My Name”.  An unescapable rhythm draws me right in, like a mosquito to a porch light.  “Gotta Get Paid”, swimming in hot buttery soul and slathered in high-energy funk, firmly keeps me glued to the speakers. 

One of my favorite albums that I’ve heard this year, Ms Zeno’s Back in Love is my pick for soul album of the year.  It’s absolutely fabulous!

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#360 : Bob Dorr and Friends Live @ Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery





November 2, 2018
Swisher, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; Nov 4, 2018


Friday, November 2nd, the Linn County Blues Society and Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery hosted a stellar evening of blues in Swisher, Iowa.  Bob Dorr and Friends (guitarist Jeff Petersen, bassist Dan ‘DJ’ Johnson, and keyboardist Tom Giblin) brought their Parlor City Jam Band out to play in a totally different setting, at Cedar Ridge Winery to a full house of blues fans.   

With Bob behind the drum kit and Jeff Petersen armed with his Flying V guitar, the band played through crowd favorites such as the Hank Williams classic “Mind Your Own Business” and Freddie King’s “Have You Ever Loved a Woman”.  DJ stepped up to the mic and rocked the room with “Shake Rattle and Roll”, originally recorded by Big Joe Turner.  Keeping the momentum going, Petersen belted out Ike Turner’s legendary “Rocket 88”.  It sounded great.  When “Mustang Sally” rolled around the dance floor quickly filled.  DJ paid a wonderful homage to Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me to Do?”  As the blues jams go, you never know who will appear on stage throughout the show.  This particular evening, keyboardist Jeff Craft and harpist Bob Gleason made an appearance.  Craft led the band on a great cover of Muddy Waters’ “Got My Mojo Workin’” with Gleason wonderfully ripping it up on harmonica. It was very cool.  The music was so hot; the time quickly flew by.  Before long, the jam came to its end with Bob Dorr’s traditional Limestoner Blues Jam closer, Dylan’s “Rainy Day Woman # 12 & 35”.  It was a terrific night, indeed.     

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  * photos by Phillip Smith

Tom 'T-Bone Giblin

Jeff Petersen, Bob Dorr, Dan 'DJ' Johnson'

Bob Dorr, Jeff Petersen

Bob Dorr, Dan 'DJ' Johnson, Tom 'T-Bone' Giblin
and Jeff Petersen

Jeff Petersen, Dan 'DJ' Johnson

Tom 'T-Bone Giblin' , Bob Dorr

Jeff Craft, Bob Gleason

Jeff Petersen

Bob Dorr


Jeff Petersen, Dan 'DJ' Johnson

Jeff Petersen


Saturday, October 27, 2018

#359 : Artur Menezes - Keep Pushing



2018 –Artur Menezes

By Phillip Smith; Oct. 27, 2018

Keep Pushing, the fourth and latest album from Brazilian blues artist Artur Menezes scores high on my list of blues-guitar albums released this year.  Currently based out of Los Angeles, Menezes was recently named winner of the Gibson/Albert King Award for Best Guitarist and picked up third place winner in the Band Category at the 2018 International Blues Challenge.  Keep Pushing, produced by another current favorite of mine, Josh Smith, also features Daniel Aged on bass guitar, Gary Novak on drums, Carey Frank on Hammond/keys, Jamelle Adisa on Trumpet/Flugelhorn, Dan Boisey on Tenor/Baritone Sax, and Smith on rhythm guitar for four tracks.

I love the mix of horns and keys as they build off the slow-cooked opening riff of “Now’s the Time”.  This feel-good song sets the mood and fills me with joy with its message, ‘listen to your heart’.  Title-track, “Keep Pushing” quickly draws my attention with Menezes’ power vocals and impressive picking as it thumbs a ride atop Smith’s deep-seated rhythm.  An ominous, bone-crushing riff surges through “Come With Me” as Menezes spackles the song with gobs of scorching hot guitar.  I positively love this track.  “Pull it Through” oozes with a soulful, funky goodness.  “Can’t Get You Out of My Mind” is a mammoth head-turner.  A suave vocal performance in a puree of jazz and buttery soul lulls me into a state of absolute peace. The George Benson vibe on this treasure elevates Menezes to a whole new level.   

Terrific songs, a tight band, and a mastery of sound insure Keep Pushing maintains its status of heavy rotation.  It’s a keeper.  

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Sunday, October 21, 2018

#358 : JJ Appleton and Jason Ricci - Beautiful Slop



2018 –Old Boy Network

By Phillip Smith; Oct. 21, 2018

New York-based JJ Appleton, noted songwriter/guitarist/producer and Jason Ricci, winner of Blues Music Award for Best Instrumentalist/Harmonica in both 2010 and 2018, have joined forces again in the studio to record another outstanding treasure trove of blues.  Swampy goodness pours out every crevice of their new album, Beautiful Slop, and it truly captures my heart.  On acoustic bass is Derek Nievergelt who co-produced the album with Appleton.  

I love how they open the record by covering Lonnie Brooks’ “Don’t Take Advantage of Me”.  With Appleton spinning a cool groove on resonator, and Ricci mastering the harp as he does, they bestow a new life to this classic with a North Mississippi wardrobe.  Ricci shines as he channels the legendary Screamin’ Jay Hawkins on a stellar performance of “Hurt Myself” which also happens to be jam-packed with a slew of amazing harmonica runs.  There is obviously a musical chemistry between the two, and that is so very obvious as they tear into the delta blues of “For the Very Last Time”.  It’s almost magical.  I could listen to this all day long.  Beautiful Slop concludes with a heart-felt cover of Rihanna’s “Stay”.  Their beautiful, bluesy reconstruction of the song certainly demands attention and gave me a new layer of admiration for Rihanna as a song-writer.  Appleton and Ricci score big with this album, and I hope they keep the momentum going for another.  


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