Saturday, March 27, 2021

#492 : Sugarmill Slim -- Sugarmill Slim



2021 – Self-released

By Phillip Smith; March. 27, 2021

 

Occasionally a debut album really grabs ahold of me and gives me true hope for the future of the blues.  The ten-track, self-titled record from Sugarmill Slim is truly one of those.  It’s loaded down with six ripping deep-cut covers and four marvelous originals delivered in a fearless juke-joint fashion.  Sugarmill Slim aka Anders La Source is a multi-instrumentalist based in the Los Angeles/Hollywood/San Fernando Valley area who found focus playing harmonica in the confines of raw blues.  Produced, engineered, and mixed by Chuck Kavooras (Bob Margolin, The Mannish Boys), the album features Slim on harp and lead vocals, with a band comprised of Courtney Kakebeen on bass guitar, Slam McAdam on drums, Luca Neroni on guitar, and Isaac Rawdog Plummer on organ and piano.   

From the beginning of their cover of Muddy Water’s “Just to be With You”, I was totally amazed at the intensity of Slim’s harp playing and his made-for-the-blues vocals.  His cover of Little Walter’s “Me and Piney Brown” is a pure delight.  Plummer wails on the organ of this red hot rhythm section.  A funky slice of soul “Leaving Truck” is an uncontested favorite.  “Screamin’”, an instrumental which first landed on the debut album of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, is given a makeover cloaked in steamy Memphis soul.  It reminds me immensely of the MGs.  More intense blues follows with covers of Sonny Boy Williamson II’s Help Me” and Junior Wells’ “Little by Little”.  These are absolutely fabulous.  Slim sings with the ferocity of Jerry Lee Lewis on “Hook Me Up”, the scorching original track he first released as a single.         

I’m so glad I stumbled upon this recordThis is honestly one of the best straight-up blues albums I’ve heard this past year.  I highly recommend checking it out.  You will not be disappointed. 

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Take a listen to the album on Apple Music. 

 



For more information about the artist, visit his bandcamp page : https://sugarmillslim.bandcamp.com/



Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from Bandcamp .



Saturday, March 20, 2021

#491 : Robert Allen Parker - The River's Invitation

 


2021 – Broken String Records
Music Maker Relief Foundation
 
By Phillip Smith; March 20, 2021
 
Robert Allen Parker, a staple of the Memphis music scene, is going all-in on his second solo effort The River’s Invitation.  This incredible double LP ushers the listener along an amazing Memphis-music experience, incorporating the many styles and genres which have graced the Bluff City to produce a potent cocktail of delta blues, southern soul, psych-rock, southern boogie and gospel.  Recorded in Memphis with an ensemble of local talent, the album features singers Kennard Farmer, Candice Ivory, Yubu Kazungu, Lahna Deering and Chris Stephenson, with a top-notch cast of musicians consisting of guitarists Khari Wynn (also on bass guitar) and Rev. Neil Down, bassists Chiemi Fujio, Leroy Hodges (Hi Rhythm Section) , keyboardists Gerald Stephens and, Chris Stephenson, percussionists Michael Alan Todd and Melvin Turner, sitarist Richard Cushing, saxophonist Hope Clayburn, trombonist Victor Sawyer, trumpeters Shayla Shaw and Jared Dover, violinist Krista Lynne, cellist Jana Misener, and drummers Paul Taylor, Brian Wells, and Howard Grimes (Hi Rhythm Section).  Parker’s guitar style and mastery has garnered critical acclaim from Gary Clark, Luther Dickinson, Valerie June, and Tav Falco.   

 
Surfing atop a furious beat, “The Sound of Revolution” epically washes ashore on a wave of prog-rock spiked with a string section and hints of R.E.M..  Parker then takes us to church in the Mississippi delta for a swampy delivery of gospel standard “Jesus is on the Main Line”.  With vocals drenched in blues, he gives a breathtaking slide guitar performance.  “Indian Dream / 1 Way 2 Fly” is a most interesting display of musical duality as the selection abruptly transitions from a soft Indian-inspired instrumental into an explosion of power-punk-pop.  Complete with crunchy guitar, catchy hook, and a smoking bridge, it definitely rocks.  “More Than Love” is a brilliant nod to the legendary Stax catalog, boasting a funky groove, soulful vocals, and blasts of brass.  And I adore his cover of Al Green’s “I’m a Ram”.  It’s loaded to the brim in a groovy and funky stink.  Parker pays homage to the great Duane Allman on “Skydog”.  I love the Allman Brothers vibe he injects into it as he pours out this flawless performance.  The River’s Invitation comes to a magnificent end of its twenty-four track journey with a fistful of funk, Hendrix-y psych-blues guitar, and full-bodied organ with “And the Song Goes on Forever”.  It’s quite the amazing listen.       
 

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About "I'm a Ram" 

Since reading Robert Gorden’s book It Came From Memphis and listening to the companion soundtracks, I’ve become obsessed with the song “I’m A Ram”.  Although originally recorded by Al Green, the version appearing on the soundtrack was performed by Memphis band Big Ass Truck.  After going through a rabbit hole of sorts, I had even created a Spotify playlist consisting of every version of “I’m a Ram” I could find.   Within a week, I received a CD for review from a blues-rock band called Head Honchos,  which also contained a cover of the song.  I took that a sign to take a closer look at that album.  It ended up being one of my favorite albums I had heard so far this year. 
 
When I noticed the song was listed on the track-list to this album, I took it as another sign,  I was hooked on this album from the beginning.  I’ll be keeping an eye out for Robert’s version of the song to show up on Spotify.  When it does, it will definitely be added to the playlist.
 
Link to the PhillyCheeze playlist -  I’m a Ram   
 
 
  
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For more information about the artist, visit this website  : robertallenparker.com

Saturday, March 13, 2021

#490 : Damon Fowler - Alafia Moon

 


2021 – Landslide Records

Release Date: Mar. 26, 2021

By Phillip Smith; Mar. 13, 2021

 

I’ve been reviewing the music of Tampa, Florida musician Damon Fowler for almost eight years now.  Whether playing with his own band, or with Southern Hospitality, the supergroup he was in with J.P.Soars and Victor Wainwright, Fowler continues to be a magnificent force to be reckoned with.  His songs are compelling, his voice soulfully raspy, and his slide guitar is superb.  Alafia Moon, his eighth solo album was coproduced by Fowler and George Harris (Cheap Trick, Rick Derringer, Brian Johnson – AC/DC), and features Chuck Riley on bass, Justin Headley on drums, T.C. Carr on harmonica, Mike Kach on keys, backup vocalist Betty Fox, and Josh Nelms in charge of background noise.     

The record slides nicely into play with the swampy infectious goodness of “Leave It Alone”.  The groove quickly takes ahold of me.  The lush melody and beautiful arrangement on title-track “Alafia Moon” is a delight for the soul.  Notes from the organ seem to linger in mid-air, as the cymbals crash, with Fowler’s passion-soaked vocals ringing out atop his spectacular guitar performance.  I absolutely adore Fowler’s cover of Guy Clark’s fabulous story-telling song “The Guitar”.  It showcases his finger picking expertise very nicely.  “Some Things Change” is fantastic too.  With killer slide guitar from Fowler fueled by the smoldering sounds of harp, the song definitely cooks.  I dig the southern soul of “Wanda”.  Its Stax-meets-Fame vibe is dressed to the nines in a happy, funky groove.

The album closes with a joined-pair of tracks starting with “The Umbrella”, a spoken word selection of Fowler telling a story from his earlier days on tour.  His tale involves an encounter with a drunken fan in Prescott, Arizona, whose incessant request to hear the band play “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” leads to the final track on the album “Kick His Ass Out”.   

Constructed around the four musical corner stones of blues, country, rock, and soul, Alafia Moon sets a new benchmark for Damon Fowler.  It truly is an exceptional album.  

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

 

 

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 6, 2021

#489 : The Rush Cleveland Trio - Vintage Folk Rock and Blue Ribbon Blues



2021 – Wild Midwest Records

By Phillip Smith; Mar. 6, 2021

 

There’s something fascinating about the songs of Rush Cleveland.  His lyrical prowess goes toe-to-toe with the best of the best.  His music flows like aged whisky right from the cask.  This Iowa treasure ranks right up there with other favorite artists of mine like Watermelon Slim and Lucinda Williams.  

The Rush Cleveland Trio is comprised of Rush Cleveland on vocals and guitar, Gordon Sankey on bass and vocals, and Will Quegg on drums, with guest vocalist Sophia Landis appearing on four tracks.  Their latest release Vintage Folk Rock and Blue Ribbon Blues is a stellar nineteen track album of hardscrabble folk rock songs and from-the-gut blues all written by Cleveland.

Cleveland opens the album in a rocking Neil Young fashion with “Waterloo Land” where a trip to jail always seems to be waiting just around the corner.  “River Flows”, another great rocker, reels me in with a killer riff, and a captivating beat.  Decorated with memories of being carefree and hanging out at the river, this is one of my favorite tracks.  It’s really touching to hear Rush’s personal reflections on “Jose’s Blues” a memorandum of his friend.  Pat Garret, Geronimo, and Billy the Kid vividly come to life in Cleveland’s western outlaw ballad “Rush Meets Billy the Kid”.   

“He Always Comes Home”, featuring Landis on vocals, initiates the second half of the album.  I love the Chrissie Hynde/Pretenders vibe which radiates from her voice on this song.  Paradigms associated with contemporary love songs are abruptly demolished in “Crack House Row”, while blues paradigms are solidly reinforced with “Liquor, Lines, and Loose Women”.  Chicago, where blues meets electricity, is the backdrop of “Blues Electricity.  Here we get a brief history lesson of the genre and a terrific dose of raw guitar blues.  The album comes to a close with a wonderful instrumental called “Blues in D”.  It’s a track that puts me quickly at ease with every listen.

Vintage Folk Rock and Blue Ribbon Blues is bold stew of folk, blues, country and rock and is a standout slice of Americana.  I highly recommend it.                      

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For more information about the artist, visit their Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/TheRushClevelandTrio

  

Take a listen to the album on Apple Music. 





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