Sunday, December 26, 2021

#534 : PhillyCheeze's Favorite 20 of 2021


By Phillip Smith; Dec.25, 2021


PhillyCheeze's Favorite 20 of 2021

(in alphabetical order)

Gov't Mule - Heavy Load Blues

Corey Harris - The Insurrection Blues

Tony Holiday's Porch Sessions - Volume 2

Seth Lee Jones - Flathead

Joseph and the Velozians

Jujubees - Where Are We Now

Kingfish - 662

Larkin Poe & Nu Deco Ensemble - Paint the Roses

Memphissippi Sounds - Welcome to the Land

Miss Lady Blues - Moe Betta Blues

Tony Spinner - Love is the Answer

Sugarmill Slim

Carolyn Wonderland - Tempting Fate

Ghalia Volt - One Woman Band

The Spotify Playlist

Saturday, December 25, 2021

#533 : Sugaray Rayford - In Too Deep


2022 – Forty Below Records

By Phillip Smith; Dec.25, 2021

I was super thrilled to see the new Sugaray Rayford disc In Too Deep when it recently arrived.  I was in total awe of his prior album, Somebody Save Me, which earned him a Grammy nomination and two Blues Music Awards.  Sugaray’s brand of hot buttered soul makes me feel alive with each and every listen.  Fabulously written and produced by Eric Corne, founder and president of Forty Below Records, this record is drenched in Seventies Soul and /R&B.  With Sugarray behind the mic, his band consists of Rick Holmstrom and Eamon Ryland splitting up the guitar performances, Sasha Smith and Drake Munkihaid Shining sharing keyboard responsibilities, Taras Prodaniuk on bass, and Matt Tecu on drums.

“Invisible Soldier” leads the album off with a megaton of groove and a reminder to us all about the struggles experienced by wartime veterans.  This song in particular was inspired by Sugaray’s personal battle with insomnia stemming from PTSD.  With every listen, I get swooped up by the hypnotic rhythm woven into “In Too Deep”.  The array of guitar licks thrown in by Ryland adds a sweet extra layer to this song of despair.  The horn-laden jam on “Under the Crescent Moon” is a superb and funky throwback to those Seventies cop drama scores I loved so much.  It’s a very infectious track.  I also adore “Miss Information” where the melody takes a brassy, disco-esque route and the lyrics rap to a beat of their own.  With a vibrant breath, and silky-smooth vocals, Sugaray delivers “Gonna Lift You Up”.  Blues-soaked guitar, gospel-inspired organ, and horns all come together for an enormous good time.  The album closes in a unifying way with “United We Stand”.  There’s a definite Stax influence embedded in this track, and I love every bit of it.

In Too Deep has already secured a place in my favorite albums of the year, although the release date will be in 2022.   This is an album you will surely want to keep an eye out for.  It’s an absolute gem.  



For more information about the artist, visit this website :  

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, December 18, 2021

#532 : Carolyn Wonderland - Tempting Fate


2021 – Alligator Records

By Phillip Smith; Dec. 18, 2021

Texas blues sensation Carolyn Wonderland has certainly been on the fast-track these past few years.  After holding a highly-coveted spot as guitarist in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, a position previously held by legends such as Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and Mick Taylor, Wonderland signed to the beloved Alligator Records label.   That just does not happen by chance.  This kind of positioning only happens with talent, and passion, and determination.  Tempting Fate, Wonderand’s twelfth album quickly stole my heart with her original style of blues.  Recorded with Wonderland on vocals, lead guitar, and lap steel, Bobby Perkins on bass guitar, and Kevin Lance on drums, this release also features guest appearances by Dave Alvin, Marcia Ball and Jimmy Dale Gilmore. 

Wonderland’s ode to current events “Fragile Peace and Certain War” ushers in the album on a swampy wave of lap steel slide guitar.  The way she rips into the song with her blunt fearless vocals and guitar is simply magnificent.  Enlisting fellow Alligator Records recording artist Marcia Ball to join her on piano for a rollicking country-boogie soaked in cowboy culture called “Texas Girl and her Boots”, Wonderland becomes the Texas version of Imelda Marcos when it comes to foot apparel collections.  The cover of Billy Joe Shaver’s “Honey Bee” is a big ball of fun too, featuring Jan Flemming on accordion.  In a classic Nashville country way, Jimmy Dale Gilmore and Wonderland pour their heart and soul into Bob Dylan’s “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry”.   Then, for the grand finale, she boldly takes on The Grateful Dead’s “Loser”.  Wonderland’s explosion of electric guitar and Joplin-esque howls make for a lush and fierce jam.  It’s such an intoxicating performance.  

This is an album I highly recommend to everyone.  Tempting Fate is one of my favorite albums of the year.  




For more information about the artist, visit this website:


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, December 11, 2021

#531 : Willie Jackson - All in the Blues


2021 – Willie Jackson

By Phillip Smith; Dec. 11, 2021

Hailing from Savannah, Georgia, Willie Jackson, the son of a reverend, had worked for the railroad until an accident ended that career.  It was then he decided to dedicate his time on his music and the Blues.  Jackson’s brand-new album All in the Blues, follows up quite nicely to his debut 2017 EP release Willie Jackson Blues.  His lyrical mastery and deep velvety vocals quickly grabbed my attention upon the first listen of this twelve-track album.  Carrying a torch for the early post-war blues songs and cleverly utilizing the literary tool of the double entendre, Jackson is a true wordsmith.   

The album opens with “I’m Your Landlord” in which Lomax Spalding lays down a funky groove on guitar while Jackson sings about alternative methods of collecting rent.  Jackson keeps the humor in his music as “The Whole Book is Wet” follows up.  This horn-infused song about wet matches is definitely not about camping mishaps.  A hot rhythm section keeps the party going as Jackson shoos away would-be suiters from his woman on “Sticky Hand Blues”.  “Hey Gangsta” takes a more serious turn, as Jackson sings about settling up with his daughter’s violent-prone boyfriend.  This song absolutely swings with a full band and Trosky Lane’s smokin’ guitar performance.

With one foot firmly planted in the past and one tethered to the now, Willie Jackson’s All in the Blues is one-hundred percent real-deal Blues.     



For more information about the artist, visit this website :


 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, December 4, 2021

#530 : Gov't Mule - Heavy Load Blues


2021 – Fantasy

By Phillip Smith; Dec. 4, 2021

I’ve been a Gov’t Mule fan since seeing them live at the 1998 HORDE Festival at Alpine Valley in Wisconsin.  Warren Haynes is such an astonishing performer, and I consider him one of my favorites.  Heavy Load Blues, the title of the new Gov’t Mule album, is perfectly matched with the contents inside.  For the first time ever, the band has made an album comprised solely of blues, and it’s plumb terrific.  This thirteen-track release is also available as a deluxe edition which features eight additional songs, some recorded live and some in studio.   

In a bodacious fashion, this record gets rolling with a cover of Leroy Carr’s “Blues Before Sunrise”.  Joined by the sounds of pounding piano keys and a fierce harmonica accompaniment from Hook Herrera, Haynes belts this one out of the park.  His vocals are surely meant for the blues, and he often reminds me of the great Howlin’ Wolf.  This is one of the reasons I am really drawn to the band’s take on Wolf’s classic “I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline)”.  I love the dirty, bass-laden, drum-crashing, organ-slathered groove which drives this one.  Their cover of Tom Waits’ “Make it Rain”, is a stand-out as well.  This version still maintains a tiny bit of that original industrial vibe, all-while flipping the song into a bona fide blues track.  Haynes’ guitar licks are hot and his voice is fearless on their performance of Albert King’s “Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home”.  This is one funky delicious treat indeed.

“Street Corner Talking”, the title track of a 1971 Savoy Brown release is dusted off and shined up for a riveting jam which only appears on the deluxe edition.  Also included as a bonus track is a smoldering performance of “Good Morning Little School Girl” by Sonny Boy Williamson I, with Hook Herrera guesting on harp.  It’s absolutely fabulous.

Heavy Load Blues is as good as it gets for blues albums, and I would definitely recommend the deluxe edition for anyone considering picking this one up.  It’s just that good.       







For more information about the artist, visit this website :


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, November 20, 2021

#529 : Cole Allen - The Other Side


2021 – Cole Allen

By Phillip Smith; Nov. 20, 2021

Minnesota-based music artist Cole Allen first appeared on my radar while I was in the midst of reviewing the album Live My Life by his wife Sena Ehrhardt.  Allen was lead guitarist for the band, and that album, which was released on Blind Pig Records made a terrific impression on me.  His new six-track release The Other Side is quite impressive as well.  His talents shine brightly on this recording as he performs solo with acoustic guitar in hand.

Divided into two parts: sunset, and sunrise, this album begins on the darker sunset side, with title track “The Other Side”.  There’s a strong Pearl Jam-unplugged vibe on this song, which I just love.  Allen’s lyrical mastery is perfectly framed by his melancholy melody in “Black Cloud” a song where desperation seems to be the norm, and total hopelessness seems to be right around the corner.  As the darkness fades away, and the light creeps in, a splendid cover of “Maybe it’s Time” by Jason Isbell opens the sunrise portion of the album in a thought-provoking fashion.  Allen’s odyssey through the dark and into the light finally lands him on the ‘other side’ with “Noelle”.  This beautiful song, dedicated to his daughter, is wrapped in a blanket of love and joy. 

The Other Side is such a reflective piece.  Allen wears his heart on his sleeve throughout the whole album.  His original songs are amazingly crafted and seem to walk the line between Eddie Vedder and John Prine.  I certainly hope to hear more of Cole Allen in the future.      


 Links to additional PhillyCheeze reviews featuring Cole Allen:

PhillyCheeze's Rock & Blues Reviews: Sena Ehrhardt live at Campbell Steele Gallery - Feb. 11, 2017 (


PhillyCheeze's Rock & Blues Reviews: Sena Ehrhardt - Live My Life (


For more information about the artist, visit this website :


You can 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, November 13, 2021

#528 : Dave Specter - Six String Soul : 30 Years on Delmark


2021 – Delmark Records

by Phillip Smith; Nov. 13, 2021


Dave Specter has appeared on over fifty albums and DVDs either as guitarist, bandleader, or producer, and was inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame in 2018.  For an artist to have a three-decade-long career on one label is indeed a rarity.  Specter’s latest release celebrates that exact accomplishment with Six String Soul: 30 Years on Delmark.  This fabulous two-disc set covers his amazing career with 28 magnificent tracks representing fourteen albums.   The list of legendary blues artists appearing on this compilation album is a dazzling one to say the least.  It includes Barkin’ Bill Smith, Ronnie Earl, Jesse Fortune, Tad Robinson, Sharon Lewis, Barrelhouse Chuck, Floyd McDaniel, Lurrie Bell, Jimmy Johnson, Otis Clay, Brother John Kattke, and Jorma Kaukonen (Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna).

“Wind Chill”, from the album Bluebird Blues he recorded with Barkin’ Bill Smith, and Ronnie Earl is a delectable jazz instrumental complete with a smooth walking bassline and coupled with organ, and horns.  Specter’s guitar performance is superb.  From the same album, a sweet cover of T-Bone Walker’s “Railroad Station Blues” immediately follows.  Barkin’ Bill takes on the lead vocals as Specter and Earl join on guitar.  From the album Kiss of Sweet Blues by Lurrie Bell with Dave Specter and the Bluebirds, “You’re Gonna Be Sorry” is an exquisite blast of Chicago Blues, with Bell on vocals and guitar.  A track that absolutely cooks is “Can’t Stay Here No More” off Wild Cards with Tad Robinson’s soulful vocals riding a wave of Stax-inspired rhythm, complete with hornsI absolutely love this one.  W.C. Handy’s “St Louis Blues” from Floyd McDaniel’s West Side Baby album totally captivated me.  This is one of the first songs I learned how to play on organ back in the Seventies, and it will always be a special song to me.  Specter teams up with Otis Clay for a ripping good time in “Chicago Style”.  This homage to the Windy City and the blues artists who make their mark there is a swinging one.  Jorma Kaukonen and Brother John Kattke collaborate wonderfully with Specter on the album Blues From the Inside Out.  “The Blues Ain’t Nothin’”, a song from that album and co-written by Kaukonen and Specter is a wonderful jam loaded with smoldering riffs, and hot licks.

Six String Soul closes with Specter’s brand new single “The Ballad of George Floyd” which he recorded with Billy Branch.  Showcased now at the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa as part of the Songs of Conscience, Sounds of Freedom exhibit, the song’s hand-written lyrics are on display among Woody Guthrie’s tenor banjo, Steven Van Zandt’s guitar used for the “Sun City” recording, and Pete Seeger’s five-string banjo.

Six String Songs : 30 Years on Delmark is definitely an album blues fans will want to give a listen to.  This thirty year journey of Dave Specters musical career is highly recommended.




 For more information about the artist, visit this website :


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, November 6, 2021

#527 : Joseph Veloz Presents - Joseph and the Velozians


2021 – Joseph Veloz/Big O Records 

By Phillip Smith; Nov. 6, 2021


Four years have passed since Veloz’s last release Offerings made it across my desk for review.   That was quite an impressive album.  His brand-new record Joseph and the Velozians again captures my full attention with his delightful originals and covers.  With Veloz laying down the funkiest of rhythms on bass and Funk-wah guitar, keyboardist Jim Alfredson and drummer/percussionist Donny Brown hold down the fort for the other thirteen musicians appearing in varied combinations. 

Slathered in a slow buttery groove, “Pretty is as Pretty Does” opens the album with guest Larry McCray behind the mic with his soulful vocals.  I love it when he rips it up on guitar during the bridge.  The party train continues to barrel down the line as Thornetta Davis sings Muddy Waters’ “I Got My Mojo Working”.  Carlton Washington is a beast on guitar as is Jim Alfredson on keys.  This is hands-down one of the best contemporary covers I have ever heard of this classic blues track.  Davis also delivers a velvety and soulful performance on the 2006 Gnarls Barkley hit song “Crazy”.  Veloz takes Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do For Love” and breathes new life into the song as a funktified instrumental with a George Clinton flair.  The laid-back groove makes for a very chill listening experience. 

Joseph and the Velozians is an incredible and inspirational release.  R&B fans and funk aficionados are going to love this record.                



PhillyCheeze Review for Joseph Veloz – Offerings :


PhillyCheeze Review for Thornetta Davis – Honest Woman:



For more information about the artist, visit this website :




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

Sunday, October 31, 2021

#526 : Corey Harris - The Insurrection Blues


2021 – M.C. Records

By Phillip Smith; Oct. 31, 2021

Recorded in Atri, Italy in the early months of COVID shutdowns, Insurrection Blues the twentieth release from Corey Harris, marks his first record for M.C. Records.  Harris keeps this recording a solo-effort which features just him and his acoustic guitar, making for a beautiful and intimate listening experience.  This fifteen-track album is a really nice mix of deep blues covers, traditional songs, and original pieces.

From the first song “Twelve Gates to the City”, Harris has my full attention.  I love the tone of his guitar as he performs this spiritual traditional.  His cover of Charlie Patton’s “Some of These Days” is a pure delight.  Harris suavely slips into troubadour mode, breathing new life to “When Did You Leave Heaven”, the song which launched Tony Martin’s career as a recording artist in 1936.  His velvety vocals on this track are backed by guest Lino Mugio on mandolin.  Harris performs the instrumental “Toubaka” with an elegant grace.  I really like “Mama Africa” too.  This original has flavors which remind me of Led Zeppelin.  The trance-friendly groove of Skip James’ “Special Rider” is fabulously intoxicating.  With a Robbie Kriegler-like guitar approach, Harris instills a Doors vibe into title-track “Insurrection Blues”.  Harris’ affinity for the classics shines brightly as he pays tribute to Blind Blake on a couple of tracks: “You Gonna Quit Me Baby” and “That Will Never Happen No More”.  

We need an album like Insurrection Blues every once in a while, to remind us of where the blues began.  I can certainly see this one grabbing an award for best traditional blues.                              



 For more information about the artist, visit this website :


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

Sunday, October 24, 2021

#525 : Reverend Horton Heat w/ James Tutson - Live at Wildwood Smokehouse & Saloon 10-22-21


Reverend Horton Heat w/ James Tutson & The Rollback

Live at Wildwood Smokehouse & Saloon 10-22-21

Iowa City, Iowa



By Phillip Smith; Oct. 24, 2021


It was great to get out Friday evening for a much-needed dose of live music at Wildwood Smokehouse & Saloon in Iowa City, Iowa.  First up was James Tutson along with two members of his Rollback band (drummer Dr. Tyler Carrington and keyboardist/bassist Erik Lehmann) showcasing their unique blend of soul and R&B.  Tutson’s powerfully soulful vocals sounded fabulous paired with his guitar.  It’s not too often one hears the opening act encouraged by the audience for an encore, but it certainly happened this evening.  For the main event, Jim Heath aka Reverend Horton Heat, along with bassist Jimbo Wallace and drummer Jonathan Jeter (the Revelators) blessed the crowd with a mix of RHH favorites, deep cuts, and covers which included Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades”, and Elvis’ “Viva Las Vegas”.   Although this was my fourth time to see the good Rev, it’s hard to believe it has been about twenty-two years since I last saw him.  He definitely still delivers one hell of a performance.     


*  All photos by Phillip Smith

James Tutson & the Rollback

Reverend Horton Heat