Sunday, September 27, 2020

#464 : Hanging Tree Guitars (Various Artists)


2020 – Music Maker Relief Foundation

By Phillip Smith; Sep. 26, 2020

The work of Freeman Vines, a North Carolina-based bluesman/artist/luthier, is the focus of a new book called Hanging Tree Guitars published by Bitter Southerner.  The title is a reference to a series of guitars in which Vines made using wood from a known lynching tree.  The guitars are fascinating and incredible pieces of art.  The book features tintype photos by Timothy Duffy, along with an essay by Lonnie Holley, and interviews with Vines.  Music Maker Relief Foundation, a non-profit organization which helps support impoverished musicians, has released a twelve-track album of various artists to serve as a companion piece to the book.  It truly is a splendid collection of blues and gospel music.

Leading this collection off is Rufus McKenzie’s “Slavery Time Blues”.  This is harmonica blues that cuts right to the bone as McKenzie creates a vivid visual relaying stories of his grandparents who were born as slaves.  Born in Perry Georgia, the same town as McKenzie, James Davis delivers his instrumental “Turning Point” in bare-bones fashion with just electric guitar and snare.  Its hypnotic rhythm embeds itself, like an earworm into my subconscious.  Guitar Gabriel sings of hard times in “Southland Blues” a striking song gently played on acoustic guitar with a lovely piano accompaniment.  Adolphus Bell gets my full attention on “Black Man’s Dream”, as he speaks of change, powerfully queueing up his meaningful words in a beautiful poetic cadence.  This one he makes sure to mention is dedicated to the late, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Hearing John Lee Zeigler on acoustic guitar play “John Henry” is intoxicating.  His unique style makes for an amazing listen.

The first half of the recording, being aligned with the Blues, leaves the remainder focused on Gospel.  The Glorifying Vines Sisters from Eastern North Carolina bring the house down with the vibrant and uplifting “Get Ready”.  It’s so different to hear “Glory Glory” played on steel guitar, but that is a good thing.  Elder Anderson Johnson absolutely tears it up on this traditional gospel song, and makes it his own.  When Johnny Ray Daniels digs in to “Somewhere to Lay My Head”, I truly want to stand up and dance.  It brings a joy to my heart.  One couldn’t pick a better song to bring this to a close than with “Amazing Grace”.  With a weathered voice and acoustic guitar, James ‘Guitar Slim’ Stephens (1915-1989) sweetly performs this 240-year-old song.  He takes it on with honor and gusto.                


For more information about Hanging Tree Guitars, visit .

For more information about Music Maker Relief Foundation, visit .

Saturday, September 19, 2020

#463 : Andy Watts - Supergroove


2020 – Booga Music

By Phillip Smith; Sep. 19, 2020


Supergroove, the latest album from Israel’s Ambassador of the Blues Andy Watts is an impeccable record of big-band blues topped with the delectable sound of Watts’ smoking guitar.  With vocals rotated around a noteworthy guest list of singers such as Eliza Neals, and Joe Louis Walker, the band consists of Eyal Klein on keys, Ioram Linker on sax, Gregory Rivkin on trumpet, Tom Mochiach on bass, Moran Bar-On on trombone, Tom Bolig on drums, and Coastin Hank on harmonica.  Co-produced by multi-BMA winner and Grammy nominee Kenny Neal, Supergroove is nice mix of originals and covers, with a clean and polished sound.  

The funky instrumental “Supergroove” leads the recording off in a way which perfectly fits its name.  The sweet sound of horns backed with a B3 and a snappy back-beat make for great accompaniment to Watt’s Texas-blues stylings.  Linker’s baritone sax solo is a nice touch too.  I love Roy Young’s vocal stylings on their cover of Rick Estrin’s “Living Hand to Mouth”.  This is blues at its best with a luscious side of harp.  Young sounds great on the funky R&B cover of Gonzalez’s 1974 song “Pack it Up” too.  Grammy nominee Joe Louis Walker adds a silky-smooth touch to “Burning Deep”, a beautiful and soulful original.  It’s an absolute pleasure to hear the fabulous Detroit songstress Eliza Neals pour her magic on his 1995 song “Blues of the Month Club”.  I’d love to hear more collaborations between her and Watts.  High-energy blues-rocker “Don’t You Let Me Down” which was originally recorded in 1972 by the band Jericho, features the original singer Danny Shoshan.  This new version, rearranged for Watts’ larger band, sounds fantastic polished up with sounds of brass.  The album closes with a beautiful and delicate performance of Peter Green’s intoxicating instrumental “The Supernatural”.  Watts takes this song which first appeared on John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers’ A Hard Road album, and lifts it skyward in his own unique way.

Watts’ guitar mastery shines brightly on this album and he makes interesting choices music-wise.  Supergroove is a rock-solid album with rock-solid performances.  It’s definitely an album worthy of adding to your collection.   




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, September 12, 2020

#462: Sir Rod & the Blues Doctors - Come Together


2020 – Adam Gussow and Roderick Patterson

 By Phillip Smith; Sep. 12, 2020

Sir Rod & the Blues Doctors is a collaboration between Adam Gussow, the master harp player of Satan & Adam, and Roderick Patterson aka Sir RodSir Rod a vocalist, dancer, and motivational speaker from the Atlanta-area also happens to be the nephew of Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee.  Magee is the other half of the incredible blues duo Satan & Adam.  After watching the highly-rated documentary Satan & Adam last year, Sir Rod contacted Gussow to suggest they join forces to record a few songs as a tribute.  One thing led to another, and they gave birth to this wonderful new blues album, Come TogetherSir Rod takes on lead vocals, as Gussow brings it on harp/percussion along with fellow blues doctor Alan Gross on guitar.

The album opens up with a blast of riveting original blues on title-track “Come Together”.  The harp is hot, and the vocals are delivered with soulful conviction.  This is a song of the times which bears a positive message.  “I Want You”, another original song, fills me with joy with every listen.  I can’t help but smile when I hear it.  Sir Rod shines as songwriter, and pianist on “So Mean”.  It’s a beautiful song filled will heart-stirring emotion.

Sir Rod & the Blues Doctors pay an honorable homage to Satan & Adam through a few songs.   “Sanctified Blues”, a delicious slice of delta blues, takes me back to sounds of Mississippi when I hear it.  Rod’s vocals remind me a lot of Chris Robinson’s on “Seventh Avenue”.  I absolutely love this song delivered in a Black Crowes-inspired fashion.  “Freedom for My People” is terrific as well.  A song of unity and freedom, it cuts through right through to the bone.

The covers they chose for the album are plumb great.  They absolutely cook on James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)”.  Then immediately following, they bring the blues back home on a fabulous rendition of Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster”.  For an album closer, they get down on Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say”.  Rod’s raspy growls, tossed in like little grenades, are fabulous. 

Come Together is a remarkable recording from beginning to end.  Blues fans will surely want to give this a listen.




* Note:  Just as I was writing this review, I sadly found out Sterling Magee, passed away on September 6th, at the age of 84 in Gulfport, due to complications from COVID-19.  Condolences to Roderick, Adam, and all of Sterling’s family and friends.




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, September 5, 2020

#461 : Peter Parcek - Mississippi Suitcase


2020 – Peter Parcek Lightning Records

 By Phillip Smith; Sep. 5, 2020

Boston-based blues guitarist Peter Parcek has hit a homerun with his third and latest album, Mississippi Suitcase.  I can certainly see why he was compared to the great Eric Clapton, by living-legend Buddy Guy.  This new eleven-track album is fully loaded with fabulous songs played with a fine-tuned finesse.  Backing Parcek in the studio is Tim Carman on drums, Tom West on keyboards, and Marc Hickox on electric bass,        

Parcek starts the album off with “The World is Upside Down”, an original down-and-dirty blues tune fitting for the times today.  Slathered in that North Mississippi hill country blues, this attention-grabber is loaded with wonderfully swampy slide guitar.  It nicely slides right into a captivating cover of Sleepy John Estes’ “Everybody Oughta Make a Change”.  It’s such a rush to hear Parcek sink his guitar pick into this one.  He takes a slightly psychedelic turn, breaking into Peter Green’s “The Supernatural” which first appeared on John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers’ A Hard Road album.  It’s a beautiful instrumental.  Luther Dickinson and Mickey Raphael make a guest appearance on an exuberant take on Cousin Joe’s “Life’s a One Way Ticket”.   It’s so cool to hear Parcek go toe-to-toe with Dickinson while Raphael is ripping it up on harp. 

Two unexpected but very notable covers on this album include an intoxicating instrumental of The Beatles’ “Elenor Rigby” and a killer rendering of Lou Reed’s “Waiting For the Man”.  Parcek definitely makes them both his own.  I love them both. 

Hearing the way Parcek pours himself into his performances on this album, is a big part of the allure of why I adore this album.  Mississippi Suitcase is such a splendid recording.



For more information about the artist, visit this 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.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.