Saturday, February 24, 2018

#321 : Rockin’ Johnny Burgin - Neoprene Fedora

2017 – West Tone Records

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 24, 2018

Rockin’ Johnny Burgin has been putting out righteous blues music for at least twenty years, and his latest release Neoprene Fedora is no exception.  On this sixteen track record, Burgin further explores the blues, taps into some California surf guitar, and steps into the world of zydeco for a few songs.  Again, recording at the Greaseland Studios in San Jose, California, Burgin enlists a super group of notable musicians to join him: Kid Andersen (guitar/bass/piano), Aki Kumar (harp/percussion/vocals), Bob Welsh (guitar/piano), Alabama Mike (vocals), Vance Ehlers (bass), June Core (drums/percussion), Stephen Dougherty (drums), Nancy Wright (sax.), Steve Willis (accordion), Billy Wilson (rub board), and Chris Matheos (bass).

Title track, Neoprene Fedora is one smokin’ cool tune.  This is California surf at its best.  With Nancy Wright on sax, and Kid Andersen joining in on guitar, the song pretty much soars skyward with its over seven minute instrumental jam.  I love how Burgin’s cover of “Give Me an Hour in Your Garden” drips with authenticity.  Originally recorded by Papa John Creech on his 1972 album Filthy, Burgin wails this one with heart and soul as Anderson joins in on piano.  Alabama Mike steps in on vocals and Aki Kumar on harp, as Burgin breaks the funk out on “Smoke and Mirrors”. This juicy track is soaked in the raw grit of the mid-Seventies, and I dig every bit of it.  Burgin connects right in to the essence of the average blue-collar worker in “I Ain’t Gonna Be a Working Man No More”.  Featuring a driving rhythm from Ehlers and Dougherty and the guitar prowess of the great Bob Welsh, the song buries in deep.  With a Smokestack Lightnin riff, Burgin bids a personal adieu to the Windy City in “Goodbye Chicago” and sets his scope on the Sunkist State, where he now resides.  It’s a wonderful homage.      


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

Saturday, February 17, 2018

#320 : Jane Lee Hooker - Spiritus

2017 – Ruf Records

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 17, 2018

There is no other band quite like New York City’s Jane Lee Hooker.  Much like the Rolling Stones, this rockin’ quintet, comprised of Dana “Danger” Athens on lead vocals/keys, guitarists Tracy “High Top” Almazan and Tina “T-Bone” Gorin, drummer Melissa “Cool Whip” Houston, and bassist “Hail Mary” Zadroga, has deep roots in the Blues.  Spiritus, their sophomore album is a ten-song mix of high-voltage rock and roll and blues deliciously delivered with a captivating and unbridled approach.  

An energetic shout-out to the famous Knucklehead Saloon in Kansas City nicely kicks things off in a southern rocker fashion for the opener “How Ya Doin’?”  “Gimme That” sweetly follows.  The swagger in Athens’ vocals is undeniable and that Stonesy riff sounds so good.  Living life to its fullest, taking charge and taking chances takes precedence in the passionately sung “Mama Said”. The dual guitars are terrific.   

Cool Whip and Hail Mary take no prisoners as they forge a raw and intense groove on Big Mama Thornton’s “Black Rat”.  This one is best served loud.  The energy of the band radiates through their ripping performance on Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland’s 1961 jewel “Turn On Your Love Light”.  It is a pure delight indeed.  To wrap things up, Jane Lee Hooker beautifully winds Spiritus down with a wonderful ten minute dose of relaxing slow-cooked blues in “The Breeze” which certainly hits the spot.  I love every bit of it.


In September of 2017, I caught Jane Lee Hooker at the Bowlful of Blues Festival in Newton, Iowa.  It was a terrific show.  The lineup was The Norman Jackson Band, Rob Lumbard, Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers, Mato Nanji & Indiginous, with Jane Lee Hooker headlining.  I am so glad I took my camera and captured the event for my blog.  Here’s a link to the photos I took that day …  

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

Saturday, February 10, 2018

#319 : Jim Shaneberger Band - Above and Below

2017 – Jim Shaneberger

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 10, 2018

Above and Below, the second release from the Jim Shaneberger Band is an immensely invigorating blues-rock album.  This West Michigan trio comprised of Shaneberger on lead guitar and vocals, bassist Jeffrey Baldus, and drummer Steve Harris are a powerhouse band with deep Zeppelin and Hendrix roots.     

In a flash, they instantly tear out the gate with the magnificent “My Way”.  Shaneberger pulls me tightly in with his massive funky riffs and psychedelic guitar licks.  On the thought-provoking rocker “Indifference” a song inspired by the 2016 shootings of Philandro Castile and Alton Sterling, Shaneberger sings “How many lives must be lost before we set things right?”.  Shaneberger’s guitar mastery is duly noted as Harris tears off a tremendous performance on drums sending this edgy rocker of a track past ten, and right to eleven. The momentum only grows as adrenalin continues to freely flow through the veins of Texas-style blues rocker “Above and Below”. 

I love the slow-paced Black Crowes/Aerosmith vibe running through the beautifully played “Bright Side”.  Shaneberger’s vocals are smooth and cool.  With a SRV influence at its epicenter and a downright funky groove, “I Can’t Sleep” brings a big smile to my face.  I’m also a huge fan of the funky instrumental jam “Just Sayin’ Bro”.  Baldus’ bass is simply amazing on this.

It’s impossible to avoid the trance-inducing hill country blues rhythm threaded through “Way Down South”.  It holds the door open quite nicely for Shaneberger’s shredding guitar solo. It’s plumb terrific.

From start to finish, Jim Shaneberger Band is tight as a drum and solid as titanium.  It doesn’t get much better than Above and Below for fans of blues-rock.  


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

Sunday, February 4, 2018

#318 : Muddy Gurdy

Muddy Gurdy
2017 – Vizztone
Release Date : 2/2/18

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 3, 2018

Muddy Gurdy is absolutely one of the most interesting blues albums I’ve heard in recent years.  Hypnotic Wheels, a trio of French musicians, Tia Gouttebel (guitar/vocals) Gilles Chabenat (hurdy-gurdy) and Marc Glomeau (percussion) embarked on a journey to the hills of North Mississippi to record with local blues artists who are tightly connected to the fabulous music of their elders.  The recordings were made using a hurdy-gurdy as a second guitar and captured with an eight-microphone preamp and computer in someone’s house, porch, front yard, or historic landmark such as Dockery Farms or B.B. King’s Club Ebony.  From Mississippi, the contributing artists are Cedric Burnside, Shardé Thomas, Cameron Kimbrough, and Pat Thomas.

I love the homage to R.L Burnside, with the wonderfully hypnotic cover of “Goin’ Down South” and the driving beat of “See My Jumper Hanging on the Line”.  It’s in these two tracks that the wonder of the hurdy-gurdy is revealed.  Its swampy slide-like sound magically lends itself to trance blues music in a very fitting fashion.  Cedric Burnside, grandson to R.L appears with acoustic guitar in hand and mic for a beautiful performance.  He pays a wonderful tribute to his late brother Cody Burnside on “That Girl is Bad”, and hangs around for a tantalizing cover of Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ and Tumblin’”.

Muddy Gurdy explores fife and drum music with Shardé Thomas.  Thomas gives a delicate vocal and fife performance on “Station Blues”, a song by her grandfather and fife-master Otha Thomas.  Her delivery of the traditional “Glory Glory Hallelujah” is stunning.   

It’s a real treat to hear Cameron Kimbrough, tearing it up on guitar while singing his grandfather Junior’s “Leave Her Alone”.  The rolling rhythm pulls me right in to its vortex of sound.  Cameron inherently keeps the swirling melodic framework in place for his own original tune, “Gonna Love You”.  Pat Thomas’ “Dream” is downright extraordinary.  Sung and strummed by the son of James “Son” Thomas at the Highway 61 Museum in Leland, Mississippi, this folk-country blues song is a prime example of the inner-beauty of music.
At Dockery Farms, Gouttebel takes the vocal reins on Hypnotic Wheels’ rendition of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s classic “Shake ‘em on Down” which is followed up with a mesmerizing cover of Charles Singleton’s “Help the Poor”, first recorded by B.B King in 1964.   

I highly recommend this album, especially for fans of the North Mississippi Hill Country Blues. 


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