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..

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Phillycheeze's Favorites from 2018

By Phillip Smith; Dec 29, 2018

        The Phillycheeze Top 20 of 2018 (in alphabetical order)


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.



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, 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 tracks 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. 


For more information about the artist, visit this website :

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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.


For more information about Paul Oscher, visit his website .

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, 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.


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

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.

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

Saturday, December 1, 2018

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

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.


For more information about CeCe Teneal & Soul Kamotion, visit their website:  

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.

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