Friday, July 12, 2019

#400 : Ruf Records - 25 Years Anniversary




2019 - Ruf Records  
by Phillip Smith; July 12, 2019

To commemorate the 400th PhillyCheeze’s Rock & Blues Review, I want to shine some light on the special 25 Years Anniversary disc from Ruf Records.  This is one hell of a collection.  This edition contains both a 14 track CD, and a 12 video, 62-minute DVD .  The CD features a ton of music from Ruf’s most recent releases, while the DVD delightfully spans their entire era, going back to the Luther Allison days.  

After seeing Ruf’s Blues Caravan last year in 2018, I was happy to see the disc containing songs by Ally Venerable, Mike Zito, and Bernard Allison who all shared the stage at the 2nd annual Czech Village Blues festival, here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa last August.  Ally rips it up on guitar and belts out the title track to her latest album, “Texas Honey”.  Zito’s song is also the title track for his latest, “First Class Life”.  I love the slide guitar on this one.  The swampy, funky goodness of Bernard’s “Backdoor Man” is so enjoyable.  Vanja Sky, who played on the European legs of the caravan, gives us the smokin’ blues in “Hard Working Woman”.   

Ruf also includes the sultry “Chills and Fever” from the wonderful Samantha Fish, and  Ina Forsman’s exquisitely danceable ’ “Get Mine”.  For the classic blues-head, there is “Low Down“ from The B.B. King Blues Band, and hardcore soul music fans will surely dig “Deep in my Soul” from Big Daddy Wilson.  Also nice to hear, is my favorite Savoy Brown song from the past few years, “Why Did You Hoodoo Me”.  It definitely cuts to the bone.    

The DVD begins with a spectacular performance of Denmark’s Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado fabulously performing “If You Wanna Leave”.  It’s so cool to see Mike Zito, Devon Allman and Cyril Neville jam together on “Moonlight Over the Mississippi”.  Oli Brown’s driving blues-rock anthem “Here I Am” is captivating.  From the 2019 Blues Caravan, there’s a terrific video of Katarina Pejak, Ina Forsman and Ally Venable covering the classic Stevie Ray Vaughan song “If the House is Rocking”, and they sound great.  For a wonderful song to close with, Luther Allison soulfully sings “Living in The House of Blues”.

Ruf Records 25 Years Anniversary should be in the collection of every blues fan.  It is a powerhouse of a retrospective.      

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For more information about the artist, visit this website.. www.rufrecords.de  


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Thursday, July 4, 2019

#399 : Tony Holiday - Porch Sessions




2019 – Vizztone
By Phillip Smith; July 4, 2019

It’s the Fourth of July, and today I’ll be spinning Porch Sessions from Memphis blues-man Tony Holiday.  I love the concept for this record.  In the spirit of classic blues field recordings, Holiday visited and jammed with a ton of big names in the business, right on their front porch.  With Holiday on harmonica, he is joined by guitarist Landon Stone, and bassist Kid Anderson on all tracks.  Guests include Charlie Musselwhite, James Harman, John Nemeth, John Primer, Bob Corritore, Aki Kumar, Rockin’ Johnny Burgin, Kid Ramos, Mitch Kashmar, Jake Friel, Ronnie Shellist, and more.

The raw stand-out blues guitar of two-time Grammy nominated John Primer joined with both Holiday and Bob Corritore on harp, makes for an amazing listen on “They Call Me John Primer”.   It’s always a treat to hear Musselwhite.  He lets loose on “That’s Alright” as Kumar takes on the vocals to this six-and-a-half-minute blues jam.  And for an extra blast of cool, Burgin appears on guitar.  I dig the cover of Little Sonny’s “Woman Named Trouble” with Nemeth on harp and vocals, Matthew Wilson on guitar and Danny Banks on drums.  It has such a funky groove.  Harman and Ramos sound so great together as they break out a briefcase full of blues on “Goin’ to Court”.  “Hip To It” is a delightful harp blues instrumental.  It’s a rare treat to hear three harp players at once as Holiday, Shellist, and Kashmar interestingly play off each other’s performance.  

Hearing the musical collaborations recorded on this album, is like staring blues right in the eye.  With the Porch Sessions, Holiday reiterates exactly what the Blues is all about. 

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


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Saturday, June 29, 2019

#398 : Big Jack Reynolds - That's a Good Way to Get to Heaven




2019 – Third Street Cigar Records
By Phillip Smith; June 29, 2019

Third Street Cigar Records has recently released a terrific twenty-track CD compiling the best of Ohio bluesman Marshall “Big Jack” Reynolds.  This deluxe package also includes a feature-length documentary on DVD containing eighty minutes of rare footage, and interviews which has gone unseen since the late Eighties.  Although this was my first exposure to Big Jack Reynolds, I found the documentary to be very engrossing.   

Reynolds’ earlier recordings were made during the Sixties in Detroit on the Fortune and MAH labels.  After moving on to Toledo around 1970, Reynolds set up his home-base and continued performing for another twenty years, recording his last songs in 1990, three years before he passed away.  According to Third Street president John Henry, “Big Jack wasn’t nationally famous, but he was our guy and now we get to bring him to the world…  Every local player wanted to perform with Jack.  He was a ‘real-deal’ bluesman from somewhere down south, though it was never clear where”.  With Reynolds on vocals and harmonica, the majority of the cuts on this fascinating compilation feature Larry Gold on guitar, Johnny “Hifi” Newmark on bass, Slim Tim Gahagan on drums, and Chad Smith on piano.

The album opens with a sweet previously unreleased cover of Jimmy Reed’s “Honest I Do”.  Reynolds also lays down a very nice cover of Slim Harpo’s “Scratch My Back” as well.  I love Gold’s ripping guitar performance on “You Better Leave That Woman Alone”.  Coupled with a cracker-jack rhythm section and Reynold’s slightly raspy vocals, this original sounds great.  “Mean Old People” is about as real as it gets.  Here we get to hear Big Jack alone with his guitar.  It is unadulterated raw blues at its purist.   

The infectious and inescapable surf beat on his 1962 single “Made It Up in Your Mind” is a wonderful backdrop for Big Jack and his harp.  It’s dripping with cool.  My favorite, an original called “Hot Potato” has a stellar groove.  Big Jack breaks out his guitar on this jamming instrumental which concludes with him exclaiming “That’s a good way to get to heaven!”.  This gravitative track is such a great listen. 

This is one great retrospective collection which I will enjoy for a long time.   

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For more information about the artist, visit this website.. www.thirdstreetcigarrecords.com

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Sunday, June 23, 2019

#397 : Cheyenne James - Burn It Up




2018 – Cheyenne James

By Phillip Smith; June 21, 2019

Burn It Up, the debut album from Texas blues singer Cheyenne James is one powerful and soulful ride.  James, an accomplished stage actress, dancer, and fire-eater pours her whole self into each of the ten outstanding performances.  Her band consists of guitarists Dave Carter and Mark May, bassist Rock Romano, harmonicist Steve Krase, keyboardist Randy Wall, drummer Jim Brady, saxophonist Eric Demmer, and Lamar Boulet on trumpet and flugelhorn.

I love her remarkable cover of Little Milton’s “Grits Ain’t Groceries”.  Cheyenne’s stellar vocal delivery has a nice Stax-like backing with the horns and keys.  With a taste of old-school Nashville, James fearlessly belts out “Gypsy Mama” while Krase tears it up on harmonica.  When she sings Van Morrison’s “Steal My Heart Away”, I just have to stop everything and listen.  It’s such a beautiful song, and so beautifully executed.  Sung with an abundance of heart and emotion is the sublime original “What Does It Mean”.  Cheyenne’s performance on this gem is reminiscent of the late, great Amy Winehouse, and Boulet’s trumpet performance is mesmerizing.  The album comes to a smile-inducing close with a smooth rendering of Willie Dixon’s “You Know You Love Me Baby”.

Burn It Up is a definite ‘keeper’.  I immensely enjoyed listening to this album, and very much look forward to hearing more from Cheyenne James.           

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For more information about the artist, or to purchase her CD, visit her website.. https://www.cheyennejames.com

  

Saturday, June 15, 2019

#396 : Vince Agwada - Light of Day



2019 – Rocketnoodle Music
Release date : July 15, 2019

By Phillip Smith; June 15, 2019

It has been eight long years since the release of Vince Agwada’s last album, Basic Blue.  Fans of his should know it’s been very much worth the wait.  His latest record, Light of Day, is self-produced and loaded with sixteen astonishing original songs rooted in the Blues, but spanning genres from Jazz, Rock, Funk, and World Music. 

Slathered from end to end in delicious slide, “Two Tons of Fun” showcases Agwada’s guitar mastery with a big bowlful of searing blues.  A fearless bassline and a mind-boggling guitar shredding session takes “Blues 99” to the king-of-the-hill position.  Agwada’s performance is exquisite.  I love the transformation “I Wanna Fly” goes through as it transcends from its front-porch blues beginnings to a funky, soulful song with keys from Tim Gant, and amazing percussion from Kwame Steve Cobb.  The slide-heavy, Allman-esque “Mustafa’s Lament” is great too.  With backing from the Game Changer Horns, complete with a sax solo from Edwin Daugherty, this instrumental is a funky treat.  “Southbound 69” keeps me tuned in with a stellar groove and more amazing guitar-play.  Capturing my full attention, the multi-textured “Spirit” leads off with a Scottish bagpipe.  With a strong steady beat, hot guitar licks, buttery smooth vocals, and jazz-laden piano accompaniment, this beautifully written and executed dirge winds down its glorious path.

Vince Agwada has certainly created a masterpiece.  Light of Day is a must for blues and guitar aficionados.                        

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For more information about the artist, visit this website.. www.vinceagwada.com

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

#395 : Big Daddy Wilson - Deep in My Soul




2019 – Ruf Records



By Phillip Smith; June 11, 2019



Deep in My Soul, the latest album from the Big Daddy Wilson, is a magnificent platter of soulful blues.  This North Carolina born bluesman who now calls Northern Germany his home, trekked back to the U.S. to begin working with Grammy-winning producer Jim Gaines.  Recording began at GainesBessie Blue Studio in Stantonville, Tennessee, and wrapped up at the legendary FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.  With Laura Chavez onboard playing guitar, Wilson’s killer rhythm section is comprised of Memphians Dave Smith on bass, and Steve Potts on drums.

With a soulful Memphis Stax vibe, the album begins with “I Know”.  Chavez immerses herself into Steve Cropper-mode and the rest of the band follows suit.  With additional accompaniment from Brad Guin and Ken Waters, aka The Alabama Horns, the stage is perfectly set for Wilson’s deep, engaging vocals.  “Tripping On You” is another terrific track saturated in the funky, soulful sound of Stax.  It is purely delightful.  The inescapable hook of “Ain’t Got No Money” keeps me on the line while I gush over the slide guitar.  I absolutely love the funky riffs, soul-wrenching vocals, and an infectious groove on title track “Deep in My Soul”.  Ominous and seductive, “Voodoo” is one cool-as-hell blues-soaked track.  It’s as if it were pulled right out of a Mississippi swamp.

This album from Big Daddy Wilson scores high on all levels, and I highly recommend it.        


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


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Saturday, June 1, 2019

#394 : Sean Taylor - The Path Into the Blue




2019 – Sean Taylor Songs
By Phillip Smith; June 1, 2019

The Path Into the Blue, the ninth full-length album from London-based singer-songwriter Sean Taylor is absolutely remarkable.  I love how this beat-poet troubadour underscores the social issues of today with his expertly crafted lyrics.  Then with a blanket of soulful, funky, and rootsy music, his message is beautifully delivered.  With Taylor on vocals and guitars, and electric piano, Mark Hallman takes on the bass, suitcase drums, electric piano, and Hammond organ.

A groovy disco-infused rhythm is the backdrop as Taylor tears off his quick-fire rant against Brexit, hipster culture, addictions, corporate greed, and the dark side of the internet in “This is England”.  Wordless backing vocals from Stephanie Daulong add a very cool Pink Floyd-esque touch to the song.  The 2013 Lampedusa migrant shipwreck is the melancholic subject of “Lampedusa”.  Andre Moran makes a guest appearance on guitar for this beautifully executed performance.  The sounds of a pedal steel guitar played by Henry Senior gently ushers the melodic “In the Name of God” into play.  However, when the saxophone and backing vocals finally arrive, this floaty anti-hate song delightfully breaks the boundaries between country, jazz, and gospel.  Taylor’s slightly gravelly vocals and the irresistible, delicate melody on “Tobacco and Whiskey” naturally remind me of the finest works of the great Tom Waits.  It is definitely one of my favorites.

The album is certainly an amazing listen.  I highly recommend it.

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



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Saturday, May 25, 2019

#393 : Christone "Kingfish" Ingram - Kingfish



2019 – Alligator Records
By Phillip Smith; May 25, 2019

I first heard of Christone “Kingfish” Ingram a couple of years ago, while watching a YouTube video.  I remember being amazed at his guitar prowess and being enamored by the sheer depth he plunged himself into the Blues.  Earlier this month, I was fortunate to have witnessed a live performance of this Clarksdale, Mississippi blues prodigy at Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis, Tennessee.  It was indeed a rare treat for this blues music loving soul. 

Ingram’s debut album, simply titled Kingfish, has finally been released, and I’m absolutely loving it.  Produced and co-written by two-time Grammy winner Tom Hambridge, the album features notable guest performances from Buddy Guy, Keb’ Mo’, and Billy Branch.  With Kingfish holding court on vocals and guitar, and Hambridge behind the drums, the band is comprised of guitarist Rob McNelley, bassist Tommy MacDonald, and Marty Sammon on B3 organ/piano.     

From the beginning, I was hooked by the dynamic groove of “Outside of This Town”.  Kingfish’s fearless delivery and robust vocals stand tall in the saddle.  Buddy Guy who has stated “Kingfish is the next explosion of blues.”, appears with Keb’ Mo’ on the delightful gem of a tune “Fresh Out”.  This track about being down and out has a cool vintage quality about it.  Sammon’s piano accompaniment is terrific.  “Before I’m Old” is another great song.  It is funky, soulful, and topped with more searing guitar.  Keb’ on this one too, as well as three other smoking tracks.  One of which is “If You Love Me”.  With Billy Branch on harp and Chris Black on drums, it’s a downright jamboree.          

One of my absolute favorites on the album is, “Been Here Before”.  Kingfish plays this amazingly-reflective song on acoustic guitar and sings it with heart.  I remember being wowed and captivated by his performance of this song at Beale Street Music Festival. It really stuck with me. 

Kingfish is one of those albums, every blues fan will want in their collection. It’s that damn good.   

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For more information about the artist, visit this website.. www.christonekingfishingram.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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Sunday, May 19, 2019

#392 : John Clifton - In the Middle of Nowhere



2019 – Rip Cat Records

By Phillip Smith; May 19, 2019

There’s a genuine authenticity to the blues music of California singer/harmonica player John Clifton.  Whether playing one of his own terrific original songs, or tearing through one of his amazing covers, he blankets his music on In the Middle of Nowhere with a warm nostalgic vibe.  His tight-as-hell band consists of guitarist Scott Abeyta, bassist Jake Finney, drummer/percussionist Edward Fritz, and pianist Bartek Szopinski.

Clifton delivers a tasty dose of ripping harp on the instrumental original “Cool Spot in Hell”, while Szopinski hammers out an exquisite piano performance.  Another great original is “Four Years Ago”.  This instant classic, about being in the doghouse, is an undeniable treat.  “Ain’t Spending No More Money” is another hot original, that boasts more searing blues.  It makes me realize just how much I enjoy the cohesiveness of this band.  They really gel.     

I love the smoking guitar doled out by Abeyta on the cover of Charley Jordon’s 1931 recording “Keep it Clean”.  Their take on Junior Wells’ “So Tired (I Could Cry)” simmers quite nicely.  Clifton smoothly sings this with a suave delivery.  For the album closer, they delightfully nail down a rollicking version of Merle Haggard’s “Honky Tonk Night Time Man”.  It really cooks.         

In the Middle of Nowhere is as solid a blues album as one can be.  It really made an impression on me.

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For more information about the artist, visit this website.. www.johncliftonmusic.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, May 11, 2019

#391 : Robert Connely Farr & the Rebeltone Boys - Dirty South Blues

2018 – self-released
By Phillip Smith; May 11, 2019

Growing up in Bolton, Mississippi (hometown of Charlie Patton and The Mississippi Sheiks) and mentored by Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes, puts Robert Connely Farr in a righteous spot to carry the torch for Bentonia blues.  Now a resident of Vancouver, Farr enlisted the expertise of Leeroy Stagger to produce this ten-track album featuring nine tremendous original songs, called Dirty South Blues.  Backing Farr, is the Rebeltone Boys, comprised of Evan Ushenko on lead guitar, Tyson Maiko on bass, Kyle Harmon on drums, and Michael Ayotte on keys.

The hypnotic rolling rhythm of “Ode to the Lonesome” quickly garners my attention as Farr poignantly reflects upon his fortress of solitude at the Cyprus Swamp.  Title-track “Dirty South Blues” gets real quite fast with Farr’s matter-of-fact lyrics accented by gobs of swampy slide guitar.  “Magnolia” is captivating and gut-wrenchingly dark.  Ayotte contributes a thick layer of ominous keys adding to the intensity. 

Farr pays homage to the oldest surviving juke joint in Mississippi with the wonderfully gritty original “Blue Front Café”.  The Blue Front Café, owned by Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes is one of the many sites on the Mississippi Blues Trail, and is still in operation today.  Holmes even shares writing credits with Farr, on “Just Jive Blues”, a ripping piano-heavy blues tune with lots of twang.  This is a fun one indeed.  The way Farr tackles Skip James’ “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” is plumb terrific.

Dirty South Blues is one rock-solid record of blues, and Robert Connely Farr is the real deal.   


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For more information about the artist, visit this website..  https://www.robertconnelyfarr.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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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

#390 : Sean Pinchin - Bad Things




2019 – Sean Pinchin

By Phillip Smith; May 7, 2019

I became a fan of Sean Pinchin two years ago when I reviewed his previous record, Monkey Brain.  His latest album Bad Things is out now, and it is fantastic.  The music on this eight-song disc is soaked in the blues, and filled with captivating hooks.  Pinchin mixes it up on electric, acoustic, resonator, and laptop steel guitars.  Rob Szabo handles bass, keyboard, percussion, and guitar to boot.  Mary-Jane Luvite drops the beats on drums and percussion. 

The opening track, “If You’re Gonna Leave Me” comes across strong and fearless.  This anthem, dedicated to rocky relationships, absolutely cooks with a smoking guitar performance and a hardy vocal delivery.  Title-track “Bad Things” keeps the momentum going, with its infectious rhythm, and Pinchin’s mind-melting guitar.  It’s fabulous indeed.  Dark, ominous, and beautifully played, “Devil Got My Woman” is absolutely breathtaking.  I love the simple approach he takes when taking on Blind Willie Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”.  It is a pure and honest cover.  Lovely and delightful, Pinchin’s “River” is music for the soul.  

This Canadian bluesman surely has a way about him, and his music positively stands out.  Bad Things is one terrific album.

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For more information about the artist, visit this website.. https://seanpinchin.ca/





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.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.









Saturday, April 27, 2019

#389 : Ross Osteen Band - Williwaw




2019 – Ross Osteen Band

By Phillip Smith; April 27, 2019

For blues served sizzling hot, check out the latest release from the Ross Osteen Band called Williwaw.  This album packs quite a wallop.  Osteen not only deliver the goods on guitar and slide, but his vocals has that Robert Plant range and sounds magnificent.  The band also consists of drummer Patrick Gaynor, and bassist Jim Vint.  Together, this trio is an absolute force to be reckoned with.

Their cover of Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy” delightfully kicks off the album.  From this point on, I knew I was in for some serious blues.  “Little Rooster”, performed with the fearless attitude of George Thorogood, is another song that cooks. It’s the real deal indeed.  “Broom” is spectacular too.  If I didn’t know better, I would think I was listening to Led Zeppelin.  Osteen’s rock-star vocals take charge as he pours out some of the best slide guitar you’ll hear.  The Phish fan in me loves the closing instrumental, “Jellyfish Jam”.  Its hypnotic rhythm and playful attitude draw me right in.  It is definitely one for the jam band enthusiasts to explore.  

Williwaw certainly makes my list of favorites for the year so far.

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For more information about the artist, visit this website.. www.rossosteen.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.






Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from the PhillyCheeze  Amazon Store.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.