Saturday, March 28, 2020

#438 : Ryan Perry - High Risk, Low Reward




2020 – Ruf Records
By Phillip Smith; March 28, 2020

In 2007, Ryan Perry was only thirteen years old when Homemade Jamz Blues Band placed second at the 23rd International Blues Challenge in Memphis.  With four albums already under his belt as frontman for this Tupelo, Mississippi-based sibling trio with brother Kyle and sister Taya, Ryan ventured a new direction to record this debut album as a solo artist.  For High Risk, Low Reward, Perry noted that he originally wanted to keep the Jamz vibes going, but discovered along the process of writing, his musical tastes had changed.  “The new generation of the blues is here now, and it’s here to stay…”, says Perry.  This new album contains eleven extraordinary tracks, and features Roger Inniss on bass, Lucy Piper on drums, along with backing vocalists Jeffrey Staten and Stefanie Bechtold.

Perry cracks the album open with “Ain’t Afraid to Eat Alone”, a track offering a healthy dose of attention-grabbing guitar and creamy vocals.  From the first listen, I’m instantly reminded of the remarkable music of Robert Cray.  I find myself going back for extra helpings of title-track, “High Risk, Low Reward”.  Perry delivers it in that delectable North Mississippi swamp style, which I adore so much.  His cover of Willie Dixon’s “Evil is Going On” is riveting and magnificent.  His guitar prowess shines brightly as his voice delightfully growls.  The album closes with an amazing delta-blues original “Hard Times”.  I absolutely love it. 

Perry keeps one foot in Mississippi as his other seeks new ground, creating a fresh blend of blues.  Mississippi High Risk, Low Reward is a terrific album every blues fan should give a listen to. 

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·      *   Note : Ryan Perry will be joining Jeremiah Johnson and Whitney Shay for Ruf Records Blues Caravan 2020.           



For more information about the artist, visit this website:  www.ryanperryband.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, March 21, 2020

#437 : Dedicated Men of Zion - Can't Turn Me Around




2020 – Bible & Tire Recordings
By Phillip Smith; March 21, 2020


The Dedicated Men of Zion’s latest release Can’t Turn Me Around is plainly put, music for the soul.  The four men whose magnificent harmony make this record such a stand out is Anthony Daniels, Antwan Daniels, Dexter Weaver, and Marcus Sugg.  This eastern North Carolina gospel quartet was formed in 2014 as a quintet, but with the passing of founding member Trevoris Newton, the departure of Darren Cannon, and the addition of Sugg, the group was rebuilt as four.  Anthony, who has backed up Elton John, Toni Braxton, and Bebe Winans, is Antwan’s father, and Sugg’s father-in-law.  Produced by Bruce Watson of Fat Possum Records, and recorded in his Delta-Sonic Sound Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, the record comes to life, enlisting Watson’s all-star studio band.  With Will Sexton on guitar, George Sluppick on drums and percussion, Mark Stuart on bass, and Art Edmaiston on horns, the music is infused with that easily identifiable Memphis soul sound I often crave.

“I Feel Alright” is definitely reminiscence of the sounds coming out of the Stax studios on East McLemore Ave in the sixties.  Anthony’s velvety lead vocals sound fantastic backed the all-star band.  I love the hypnotic riff running through title-track “Can’t Turn Me Around”.  Anthony’s voice shines brightly, while Sexton lays down some funky psychedelic licks on guitar.  It sounds great.  The harmonies on the up-beat “You Don’t Know” are delightfully uplifting.  A fitting song for the times ,“It’s a Shame” is southern gospel soul at its finest.  

I’d encourage anyone to check this album out.  It’s the real deal.

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Dedicated Men of Zion - Leak in this Old Building




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, March 14, 2020

#436 : Wide Mouth Mason - I Wanna Go With You


2019 – Wide Mouth Mason

By Phillip Smith; March 14, 2020


Wide Mouth Mason, a blues-rooted duo formed in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1995, is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Shaun Verreault and percussionist/vocalist Safwan Javed.  I Wanna Go With You, their eighth release, features a dozen impressive songs fortified with poignant lyrics and tight musicianship.  Verreault, a master of slide guitar, embraces a threestyle technique which consists of wearing three slides with rounded tips.  It definitely sounds amazing on both his resonator/dobro, and electric lap steel. 

A catchy hook and lush slide guitar from Verreault beckon me to join their journey forged with “Bodies in Motion”.  Vancouver hip-hop artist Tonye Aganaba lends her remarkable voice to “Every Red Light”.  This is a spectacular song bathed in pop and slathered with a bit of grease.  The imagery effortlessly spills from the lyrics.  “High Road” is a stunning blues track.  The sound of the dobro rings clear and sounds great with slide backer.  I love “Some Kind of Requiem” which boasts an intense rhythm, magnificent picking, and gospel-inspired vocals.  “Erase Any Trace”, cowritten by David Gogo, is another excellent blue-soaked song.  It’s swampy and fantastic.  Wide Mouth Mason fabulously cover David Bowie’s 1983 chart-topping hit “Modern Love”.  They give it a bluesy makeover with a dab of harp from Shawn “The Harpoonist” Hall. 

With a primary theme of traveling, I Wanna Go With You makes for a great listen on the road.  Each song, solid as a rock, the album makes for one hell of a listen.          

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


Saturday, March 7, 2020

#435 : Josh Smith - Live at the Spud




2020 – Flat V Studios
By Phillip Smith; March 7, 2020

I’ve been a fan of Josh Smith’s since reviewing his Don’t Give Up On Me album in 2013 for Blues Revue Magazine’s online zine BluesWax.  His 2015 album, Over Your Head album was another favorite.  It’s so cool to hear this new live recording of Josh playing at The Baked Potato in Studio City, California.  Comprised of back to back gigs on December 29 and 30, 2018, the album provides a nine-song retrospective of Smith’s last fifteen years.  With stellar musicians, drummer Gary Novak and bassist Travis Carlton backing him, Smith delivers one hell of a performance.

He kicks into top gear with a heavy dose of blues-rock on “How Long”.  It’s such a phenomenal jam with lots of beefy bass, crashing drums, and searing guitar.  “Pusher” sneaks up right behind with delightful boatload of funky jazz.  This thirteen-plus minute piece is colossal to say the least.  The funk is flying on “Letting You Go”, and I’m loving every bit of it.  Smith’s vocals are confident and bluesy and his guitar is white hot.  Novak crushes on drums.  An injection of fuzz bass from Carlton takes “When I Get Mine” to the next level.  It’s amazing.  I get goosebumps when they break into “Triple J Hoedown”, a magnificent western-rooted jam.  It’s a pure joy to listen to.

Spinning Live at the Spud this past week has definitely brightened my commutes to and from work.  I hope to see more live albums like this from Josh in the future.           

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For more information about the artist, visit this website.. www.joshsmithguitar.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, February 29, 2020

#434 : Bai Kamara Jr. & The Voodoo Sniffers - Salone


2020 – Moosicus Records

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 29, 2020

It didn’t take but one listen to Salone, the latest release from Bai Kamara Jr., to turn me into an instant fan.  This was my first exposure to Kamara and his music, and to put it bluntly, his songs have swept me off my feet.  Born the son of a former Sierra Leonne ambassador, Kamara who grew up in the UK and moved to Brussels where he has lived for over twenty-five years.  For Salone, his sixth album, he embraces his African heritage with fifteen fantastic all-original, self-produced songs rooted in blues, jazz, and funk. 

Kamara, with his six-string acoustic guitar, reminds me a lot of the current delta blues players.  His songs are intriguing and poignant.  He begins with “Can’t Wait Here Too Long”.  The song is highly infectious.  Kamara’s vocals are suave as he sings of empowerment on “Lady Boss”, a cool and funky blues track.  One of Kamara’s songs which have burrowed deep into my brain is “Black Widow”.  Spider-like percussive sounds are at the forefront of this deep-blues track which I utterly adore.  “Don’t Worry About Me” is an absolutely stunning song of overcoming hardships.  It reminds me a lot of the music of another favorite, Sixto Diaz Rodriguez.

Salone is a downright fascinating piece of work which deserves to be heard, and Bai Kamara Jr., with his brilliant songs, has definitely won me over.       



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











  

Saturday, February 22, 2020

#433 : Ben Rice & RB Stone - Out of the Box




2020 – Middle Mountain Music
Release Date : March 6, 2020

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 22, 2020


Out of the Box, a cigar box guitar project by Ben Rice and RB Stone caught my attention in a magnificent way.  Rice and Stone have written eleven original blues tracks which they perform using an assortment of cigar box guitars comprised of 6 and 4 string Washboards, Swampeast Cigar Box, and a Lobo Cigar Box.  Backing Rice and Stone on this self-produced project is drummer Dave Melyan, bassist Joseph Barton and Jimi Bott on tambourine.  Bott, the award-winning blues drummer who has played with the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and The Proven Ones, also recorded and mixed the record.

The guys bust out in full rockabilly style on “Hot Rod Mama”, both tearing it up on 6-string Washboards.  The slide sounds terrific, and their vocals are dynamic.  Melvan’s back-beat and Rice’s mesmerizing riff instills a relaxed North Mississippi vibe to “Easy Rollin’ Down the Road”.   Stone breaks out his harmonica on the delightfully cool retro track “Hoodoo Workin’ Overtime”.  There’s a bit of a Howlin’ Wolf essence about this one that I adore.  “Swamp East Boogie” puts a smile on my face with every listen as Stone lets loose on his SwampEast CBG.  The Southeast Missouri area they sing about is very familiar to me.   “Bad Blood on Mean Whiskey” has a menacing ambiance and a badass attitude that is irresistible.      

The grand finale of this splendid album is a song called “Lobo Jam”.  This four and a half minute instrumental jam consists of an edgy driving rhythm and lots of smoking slide guitar.  I absolutely love it.  This album is a must for blues and cigar box guitar fans.      

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For more information about these artists, visit their websites:  https://rbstone.com and https://www.benricelive.com/

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Saturday, February 15, 2020

#432 : Lauren Anderson - Won't Stay Down



2019 – Lauren Anderson Music

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 15, 2020


Won’t Stay Down, the latest release from Lauren Anderson is a powerful five-track, all-original EP, which wonderfully showcases her soulful vocals and gifted song-writing chops.  Anderson’s genre-bending blueprint here is a sweet blend of country, soul, rock, and blues.  Providing the instrumentation behind her knock-out voice, is an amazing group of musicians consisting of guitarist Jimi Greene, bassist Hutch, drummer John Rodrigue, and William Adkins on keys.

Anderson beautifully sings breakup song, “Too Little, Too Late” with a delicate finesse.  Dripping with emotion, the song features a wonderful organ accompaniment from Adkins.  It’s such a lovely song.  Hutch and Rodrigue create a cool infectious groove to run through the center of “Won’t Stay Down”.  It takes a hold of me fast.  Emmanuel Echem and Kiran Gupta add a smooth extra layer to “Cake”, a funky jazz number with an Amy Winehouse vibe.  This one is my absolute favorite.  Anderson continues to captivate me with “Wild and Free”.  With Greene ripping it up on guitar and Adkins hammering the keys, it’s one hell of a rockin’ jam to close this record out with.  

Anderson definitely packs a lot of punch into this recording.  Won’t Stay Down is definitely a ‘keeper’.


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For more information about the artist, visit this website: https://www.laurenandersonmusic.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, February 8, 2020

#431 : Sister Lucille - Alive



2019 – Endless Blues Records
By Phillip Smith; Feb. 8, 2020

Hot and seductive vocals from Kim Dill coupled with gobs of dynamic guitar from her husband Jamie Holdren fuel Alive, the debut album from Springfield, Missouri’s Sister Lucille.  They sound great together as their voices blend in southern-style harmony.   The other half of the band is comprised of a fantastic rhythm section featuring drummer Kevin Lyons, and bassist Eric Guinn.  Alive, produced by Holdren, and mixed by Grammy Award winner Jim Scott who produced Tedeschi TrucksRevelator album, makes for one hell of a bluesy listen.   

Holdren pours out a cool funky groove on “Won’t Give It” as the soulful keys from Chris Stephenson on a Hammond B, join with attacks of brass from saxophonist Peter Climie, trumpeter Jared Dover , and trombonist Andrew Earle.  It sounds great.  I love the swampy, delta blues style slide Holdren dishes out on “See My Baby”.  For a nice big helping of blues at its authentic best, “Respect Your Woman” features Eric Hughes, a Memphis blues artist who I hold high regard for, making a guest appearance on harmonica.  It’s always a delight to hear him play.  

I adore the Stax vibe hanging out in “Wanna Love You”.   Dill sings this infectious tune with sexy persuasion as Holdren absolutely rips it up on guitar.  The Stax vibe keeps trucking on as they cover “99 Pounds”, a song written by Don Bryant, and originally recorded by his wife Ann Peebles.  This one is a big-time favorite indeed and it’s songs like this which I fall head over heels for.  Etta James’ “W.O.M.A.N”, the other cover song on this record is a splendid showcase for Dill as she pours everything into her performance of this wonderful classic. 

Sister Lucille serves up a marvelous mix of blues, rock, and soul with Alive.  I certainly hope we hear more from them in the near future. 
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For more information about the artist, visit this website: www.sisterlucilleband.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.




Saturday, February 1, 2020

#430 : Griff Hamlin and the Single Barrel Blues Band - I'll Drink to That



2019 – Griff Hamlin

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 1, 2020

I’ll Drink to That, the debut album from Griff Hamlin and the Single Barrel Blues Band is absolutely terrific.  Hamlin, known to many through his Blues Guitar Unleashed instructional website, has built an outstanding band to back him on this new release.  A smokin’ guitar and smooth vocals puts him front and center with a remarkable rhythm section comprised of keyboardist Ty Bailie, bassist Mark Smith, and drummer Chris Atchley.  The Single Barrel Blues Band also contains a splendid horn section made up of Jonathan Bradley on trumpet, Eric Letta on alto/tenor sax, Kevin Hicks on trombone, and Laura Hamlin on baritone sax.  This release is composed of ten tremendous blues tracks which are sure to keep the record on heavy-rotation.

I love the opener “Almost Level with the Ground”.  It has an instant familiarity and reminds me of what I admired about the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Hamlin’s vocals are fearless, and his guitar is flawless.  Smith and Atchley steer the bus with astonishing precision as the backing horns and keys give the song body and soul.  “Don’t Lie”, another go-to song for me, is another fine example of Hamlin’s exquisite mastery of the blues.  This song fabulously highlights his sensational shredding skills.      

“Someone” is slow and beautifully captivating.  Bailie plays this one with a soulful finesse and the horns effortlessly blend right in, making it a pure joy to listen to.  I yearn for another trip to the ‘Big Easy’ when I hear “Louisiana Holiday”.  It’s funky, fun, and best served with an ice-cold Abita beer.  Hamlin’s expertise when it comes to writing authentic blues songs, is rightfully exhibited on “Bourbon and a Pistol”.  It’s a very cool song to close the album with.

Griff Hamlin and the Single Barrel Blues Band is a band on top of their game.  I really appreciate what they are doing with the Blues, and immensely enjoyed this album.

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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, January 25, 2020

#429 : Tas Cru - Drive On



2020 – Subcat Records

By Phillip Smith; Jan. 25, 2020

Tas Cru (Rick Bates) has been on my radar since reviewing his Simmered & Stewed album in 2017.  Since then, I’ve seen him perform some kick-ass blues live at the Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis and the Prairie Dog Blues Festival in Wisconsin.  Drive On, his latest album is another superb recording of music rooted in the blues.  With backing vocals from Mary Ann Casale, Tas keeps front-and-center on lead vocals, guitars, and harmonica.  Adding a lush new sound to his music is the new guy Saxophonist Anthony Terry.  The band also includes Gabe Stillman on slide guitar, organist Anthony Geraci, bassist Bob Purdy and drummer Andy Hearn.  Special guests include drummers Sonny Rock and Cathy Lamanna, and Colin “Big Yellow Dog” Beatty on bass.       

Tas kicks this one off with “That Lovin’ Thang”.  Delivered with a cool, swinging groove and a hot keyboard lesson from Geraci, this barn-burner is an absolute gem.  Stillman loads “Money Talks”, up with a nice juicy dose of slide guitar.  Title-track “Drive On” is so sweet and infectious, it’s certainly among my favorites.  Sonny Rock, who has toured with Tas quite a bit over the past few years, makes a guest appearance on “Save Me”, a heady tune with a Doors-meets-Dire Straits atmosphere.   On a haunting and ominous note, the album concludes with “Devil in Your Heart”, an acoustically-performed duet with Mary Ann Casale.  I love the fact that this is stripped-down, where we can zero in on the vocal performance.  They sound great together. 

Whether live or on record, Tas is one of my favorites.  His songs are almost always originals, and his writing stands out from the herd,  Drive On is indeed another terrific album. 


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Mary Ann Casale , Tas Cru @ Prairie Dog Blues Festival
 Prairie du Chien, WI
 July 26, 2019
* Photo by Phillip Smith


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