Saturday, February 23, 2019

#377 : Atomic Road Kings - Clean Up the Blood

2019 – Bigtone Records

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 23, 2019

At the core of the Atomic Road Kings sits vocalist/multi-instrumentalist ‘Big’ Jon Atkinson (Kim Wilson) and master harp player Eric ‘Jailhouse’ VonHerzen (Walter Trout, Social Distortion, Kid Ramos).  Together, with bassist Bill Stuve, drummer Malachi Johnson, and guitarists Scot Smart and Danny Michel, they bring a robust, vintage blues sound into the studio to create their debut album, Clean Up the Blood. The album contains eleven original songs, and one traditional cover.  Recorded live at Atkinson’s studio using vintage analog gear from the Forties and Fifties, the album has an authentic retro vibe to it and sounds terrific.

Stuve’s slow blues bassline and Atkinson’s commanding vocals make “Rumors” such a cool song.  Tony Delgado, on lead guitar, gives a smoking performance too.  I love “Vibrations” as well.  This throw-back with a Howlin’ Wolf vibe features a splendid accompaniment from pianist Robert Welch.  The ominous nature of title-track “Clean Up the Blood” digs deep to the bone.  Atkinson and VonHerzen are definitely at the top of their game when it comes to composing timeless-in-nature blues songs.  Von Herzen keeps the rhythm rolling on “Two Sided Story” with his magnificent harp playing.  More bluesy goodness ensues with “Back Down South”.

Atomic Road Kings is definitely a band for the blues enthusiasts to keep an eye on.  They are the real deal indeed.     


Saturday, February 16, 2019

#376 : Willie Farmer - The Man From the Hill

2019 – Big Legal Mess Records

Release Date : March 1,2019

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 16, 2019

Willie Farmer, an auto mechanic from Duck Hill, Mississippi, who’s owned his own shop for over forty years, scores huge with his splendid new blues album, The Man From the Hill. Recorded at Delta Sonic Sound in Memphis, Farmer enlists top-tier talent to back him, like Jimbo Mathus (Squirrel Nut Zippers), Will Sexton, Mark Edgar Stuart, and Al Gamble ( St.Paul and the Broken Bones). 

I love that rolling rhythm embedded into Farmer’s songs.  On Junior Kimbrough’s “Feel So Bad”, which leads the album off, the riff is unavoidably hypnotic and alluring.  He also rolls out a hearty cover of “Shake It”, originally from Jessie Mae Hemphill.   “I am the Lightning”, is also heavily soaked in the North Mississippi hill country waters.  It just pulls me right on in.  This track in particular also appears on an upcoming release called Blue Muse, a various artist collection from the Music Maker Relief Foundation.  

An avid churchgoer who still plays every Friday, Farmer also represents the sweet sounds of old-school gospel music with The Sensational Nightengales’ “At the Meeting”.    Farmer has a special way of bringing the listener right into the songs he sings.  When he sings “Daddy Was Right”, it’s an absolute heart-breaker.

This is definitely an album to keep an eye out for.  I can’t get enough of it.


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#375 : Danielle Nicole - Live at the Famous Mockingbird

Danielle Nicole     

Live @ The Famous Mockingbird
Marion, Iowa
Feb. 15, 2019

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 16,2019

The Famous Mockingbird was the place to be for two stellar sets of blues on Friday, February 15.  It was a sold-out show, and the excitement was surely in the air to see Danielle Nicole, who was a 2019 Grammy Nominee for Best Contemporary Blues Album.  Her band consisted of drummer Ralph Forrest, and guitarist Brandon Miller, who will be returning to Famous Mockingbird with his band in the near future. 

The show led off with the smooth and buttery “Hot Spell” from her latest album, Cry No More.  Her luscious vocals and thumping bass sounded absolutely fabulous.  Other amazing cuts from that album which landed in the first set were, “Lord I Can’t Keep From Crying”, “Pusher Man”, “Burning For You”, and “My Heart Just Remains”.  I loved her cover of Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You”, and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Spoonful”.  She soulfully covered Lukas Nelson’s “Find Yourself”, and closed the show with “Save Me” chockful of heavy riffs, and wonderful guitar shredding from Miller.

It was a splendid show indeed.

* Photos by Phillip Smith

Saturday, February 9, 2019

#374 : Paul Nelson - Over Under Through

2019 – Riverwide Records

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 10, 2019

Over Under Through the new album from Paul Nelson is a powerful one to say the least.  His songs, poignant and masterfully crafted, are delivered with finesse.  Drawing inspiration from artists like Amos Lee, Ray Lamontagne, and Lyle Lovett, Nelson carves out his own style, and leaves me wanting to hear more.   

Of the eleven tracks on the record, all are original with the exception of one.  That one exception is an amazing, retooled cover of Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line”.  He definitely made this one his own.   Nelson’s pulsing blues-laden spiritual, “Go Down Ezekiel” is terrific and swampy, with guitarist Kevin Barry (Rosanne Cash, Susan Tedeschi, Paula Cole) onboard.  The poetic dirge “Ghost in the Basement”, an absolute favorite, is beautifully written and sang with a heartfelt performance.  In “Silent Majority”, Nelson takes a Dylan-esque stance and boldly proclaims that silence strengthens authority, indifference paves the way, and ain’t nothing gonna ever change if we’re silent.  The song is loaded with a twangy goodness from Barry, and nicely accented with harmonizing backing vocals from Kristin Cifelli, Ellis Paul, and Nickie Fuller.    

Paul Nelson scores huge with this recording.  Terrific from beginning to end, Over Under Through is a captivating and rewarding listen.


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Saturday, February 2, 2019

#373 : John Mayall - Nobody Told Me

2019 – Forty Below Records
Release Date : Feb. 22, 2019

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 2, 2019

The highly revered Godfather of British Blues, John Mayall is back, and this time he’s bringing a slew of A-list guitarists to the studio with him.  The list of guests on this album is comprised of Todd Rundgren, Little Steven Van Zandt (E Street Band), Alex Lifeson (Rush), Joe Bonamassa, Larry McCray and Carolyn Wonderland, all of whom are noted as personal favorites of Mayall.  Returning to the studio with the godfather is Greg Rzab on bass guitar and Jay Davenport on drums.  Billy Watts appears on rhythm guitar as well, along with Mayall’s horn section (who are also members of the house band for Conan O’Brian).  Produced by Eric Corne (founder of Forty Below Records), and recorded in the famed Foo Fighters’ Studio 606, which houses the legendary Sound City console, the album has a sweet rich sound, and a luxurious, polished ambience.

The album opens with a down-home blues number by Magic Sam, “What Have I Done Wrong”.  Mayall’s vocals are perfect for singing the blues, and Joe Bonamassa, needless to say, absolutely tears it up on guitar.  Bonamassa also appears on the cover of “Delta Hurricane”, the title track to Larry McCray’s 1993 album. The groove on this is delightful, with Mayall on keys, Bonamassa on guitar, and a stellar brass accompaniment.  McCray kills it on the Albert Collins song, “The Moon is Full”. I could listen to him play all day long.  His performance on Gary Moore’s “The Hurt Inside” is wonderful too.

It’s a rare treat to hear Rush’s Alex Lifeson play hard core blues. With Mayall bringing it home on harp and keys, Lifeson pours himself into his performance on “Evil and Here to Stay” a tune from the late, great Jeff Healey. The funky riff Rundgren opens Little Milton’s “That’s What Love Will Make You Do” with, brings me immediately into the song.  The horn section punches it up quite nicely while Rundgren keeps the endorphinic energy flowing freely.  Hearing Little Steven dole out some serious blues in “It’s So Tough”, brings a giant smile to my face.  It’s nothing short of an amazing listen.

I love the three tracks Carolyn Wonderland appears on.  She boldly takes on Bonamassa’s “Distant Lonesome Train”, and plays the hell out of it.  Her slide guitar is an absolute delight.  She also covers a couple of Mayall-penned songs.  With the timing of B.B. King, she instills a relaxed breath into title track “Nobody Told Me”, and puts the moxie in “Like it Like You Do”.

Nobody Told Me is a one of a kind record. The song choices Mayall makes for this are fantastic, and their execution is absolutely brilliant.          

Past PhillyCheeze reviews for John Mayall…
John Mayall - A Special Life :

John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers - Live in 1967

John Mayall - Find a Way to Care :

John Mayall - Talk About That :

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