Saturday, July 24, 2021

#510 : Christone "Kingfish" Ingram - 662


2021 – Alligator Records

By Phillip Smith; July 24m 2021


Clarksdale, Mississippi’s breakout blues star Christone “Kingfish” Ingram has just released his second studio album 662, and it’s fantastic.  It’s even stronger than his 2019 debut album Kingfish which entered the Billboard Blues charts at #1, remained in the charts for ninety-one weeks, and was nominated for a Grammy.  This recording has that same promise.  662, the album’s title refers to the area code in Mississippi where the twenty-two-year-old Kingfish was born and raised.  It’s truly the land many consider the ground zero or cradle of the blues.  And it’s within that magical place, Kingfish draws his inspiration.  662’s fourteen original tracks were cowritten by Kingfish and the album’s acclaimed producer/drummer Tom Hambridge.  Also appearing on the record are guitarists Kenny Greenberg and Bob Britt , bassists Glenn Worf and Tommy MacDonald,  pianist/organist Marty Sammon, saxophonist Max Abrams, and Julio Diaz on trumpet.

Fueled with a driving beat from Hambridge and his own blazing guitar mastery, Kingfish paints a lyrical picture of his home and family as he leads off with title-track “662”.  A pulsing rhythm and infectious riff pull me right in to “Long Distance Woman” where Kingfish’s guitar play is over-the-top fabulous.  “Not Gonna Lie” downright rocks on the riff, and is chockful of guitar ear-candy, and suave vocal stylings.  Loaded with a fistful of funk, Kingfish sings about the juke-joint experience which the older generation reminisced about in “Too Young to Remember”.  This one is another favorite.  I really like to hear him go into ‘crooner’ mode as he does on “You’re Already Gone”.  Reminiscent of those early days of Robert Cray, everything is just so perfectly smooth, from his guitar playing to Kingfish’s voice.  He tears the roof off with “My Bad”.  This song is so hot and smokin’, it absolutely cooks.  I simply adore “Something in the Dirt”, another homage to his home and the legendary bluesmen who played there.  It’s a great mix of barrel-house piano, paired with Kingfish’s instrumental finesse.  Beautifully performed, “Rock & Roll” softly and sweetly brings this stellar record to its close with a present-day twist on Robert Johnson’s visit to the crossroads. 

662, the second album of hopefully many more to come in Christone “Kingfish” Ingram’s career, is an absolute gem.  I highly recommend this one for all music fans.                      


For more information about the artist, visit this website : 


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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

#509 : Bryce Janey & Merrill J. Miller - Live at Checker's Tavern

1997 – Blue Sunday Entertainment

By Phillip Smith; July 20, 2021

Twenty-five years ago, Iowa bluesmen Bryce Janey and Merrill J. Miller stepped onstage at Checker’s Tavern, in Cedar Rapids Iowa, and cut one hell of a live blues record.  Bryce, who had been playing guitar professionally since the age of thirteen with his parents as the The Janeys, has performed with acts such as Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, and Johnny Winter.  Merrill, the son of a protestant minister, immersed in a background of gospel, infatuated with the blues, and notes his influences as Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Walter, has been playing harmonica since the age of 10.  The two have been friends since their school days together.      

Live at Checker’s Tavern consists of fifteen deep-blues tracks.  It starts out with an acoustic blues original “I.O.U.” written by Bryce.  His deep vocals alongside Merrill’s rolling harp gets the album off to a brilliant start.  They keep it going as Merrill sings Little Walter’s “It Aint Right”, followed next by a brilliant take from the duo on Robert Johnson’s “Terraplane Blues”.  “Gamblin’ Man” is another great example of Bryce’s talent for songwriting.  This musical chemistry between the two shines on this song.  I really like the sliver of funk running through Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor”.  It’s loaded with hot electric guitar licks, and sounds great.  The funk gets even stronger when they break out “Practice What You Preach”, the title-track off Bryce’s first solo studio album. “Purple Haze” is a lot of fun as well and heats things up right before sliding into “Goin’ Back Home” a track written by Bryce’s father BillyLee Janey (Truth & Janey). This is Iowa-blues at its best.  The up-tempo harp-blues track from Merrill, “Slow Bluze”, absolutely cooks.  It’s cool to hear them belt out Sonny Boy Williams’ “Pontiac Blues” to bring the show to its end.

Checkers, known for its Sunday night blues shows, supports local and regional blues acts such as Bryce and Merrill.  I had the pleasure of seeing them perform there many times.  In 1997, the recording of this event was released and it has been a go-to cd for my listening pleasure for a long time.  Sunday, August 29th , from 4-7pm Checkers will host the 25th Anniversary of this recording featuring Bryce and Merrill playing selections from this CD as well as some of their original material. 



Saturday, July 17, 2021

#508 : The Whiskey Gingers - You Should Know



By Phillip Smith; July 17, 2021

Beautiful vocals, rich harmonies, and catchy melodies quickly capture my attention on You Should Know, the debut album from the Oklahoma-based acoustic trio The Whiskey Gingers.  Their brand of music playfully expands across multiple genres producing their own special blend of pop-country-folk-rock.  Beginning as a duo comprised of Jess Crothers and Jenny Bendure, who had met at the 2017 SongWriters Association of Norman, The Whiskey Gingers incorporated bassist/vocalist Michael Bendure shortly after forming in 2018.  Honorary Gingers for the recording of this record are Mike Marty on drums, T.Z. Wright on accordion/keys, Bob French on banjo/mandolin, Gregg Standridge on guitar, Kent Graber on violin, Ethan Hicks on clarinet, Kevin Webb on steel guitar, and Bill “Top Dog” Cummins, David Henson, Jim “Big Train” Madsen, and Matt Stratton on claps/vocals.  Produced by Terry “Buffalo” Ware at Buffarama Studio in Norman, Oklahoma, the album consists of thirteen all-original songs.       

Sweetly delivered lyrics which cut like a knife bring “Cowboy” front and center.  It’s such an amazing song.  “I Don’t Play with Boys” is absolutely terrific too.  The violin and mandolin accompaniment produces a tranquil tension as I soak up the Natalie Merchant / Julianna Hatfield vibe.  With a touch of accordion, steel guitar, and violin “I Love You Mostly” is a splendid western-flavored on-the-fence love song.  “Ghost” is another poignant example of their masterful lyrics, and lovely vocal stylings.  I’m quite drawn to the gentle, funky rhythm which sits behind the scenes on “Mockingbird”, another absolute favorite.  Those who have ever had a dog will certainly perk their ears up to take in “Daisy’s Song”.  I can’t help but grin with each listen, recalling pet pups of days gone by.

The Whiskey Gingers certainly scored with this record.   You Should Know is hands-downs one of the best American roots albums I’ve heard this year.


For more information about The Whiskey Gingers, visit their website :



Available on Spotify


Or 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, July 10, 2021

#507 : Chris Gill - Between Midnight and Louise


2021 – Endless Blues Records

By Phillip Smith; July 10, 2021

With several albums under his belt and over twenty years of playing music, Mississippi bluesman Chris Gill states his latest release Between Midnight and Louise is the record that’s been on his mind a long time.  The title gets its name from a highway sign just outside of Yazoo City, Mississippi which points to the two towns of Midnight and Louise.  The title definitely sets the tone of this charming album comprised of Gill’s stripped-down Delta Blues.  Recorded by just him, his old guitars, two mics and a little amp, he meticulously brings the listener right into his swampy world, and it’s absolutely delightful.

I love the muddy slide-work on his ode to David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards called “Song For Honeyboy”.  It’s certainly a fitting homage to the bluesman who played with the legendary Robert Johnson in the 1930’s and passed away in 2011 at the age of 96.  A rolling melody from his guitar coupled with Gill’s smoky vocals put a smile on my face with “Back to Paradise”, a song about trying to break this world out of the insanity which seems to have taken over.  For anyone who’s spent the hot summer months in Mississippi, the words of “Fleas and Ticks” will ring true.  On this song, his instrument of choice is a vintage 1930’s Supertone, and it sounds terrific.  Gill’s mastery of story-telling downright shines on “Long Distance Highway”, an absolutely beautiful song about a musicians’ life on the road.  Like watching the last rays of the sun shoot across the sky on a summer’s evening sunset, title track “Between Midnight and Louise” gently brings the album to its end.  It’s a stunning instrumental played in open G with a ’31 Duolian. 

Chris Gill is an amazing guitarist and songwriter.  Blues fans should definitely seek this album out.     



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

Saturday, July 3, 2021

#506 : Reverend Freakchild - Supramundane Blues


2021 – Treated & Released Records

By Phillip Smith; July 3, 2021


Supramundane Blues is the latest recording from the good Reverend Freakchild and this time around, he’s taking on classic spirituals, down home gospel, and contemporary songs grounded in that arena.  His flavor of blues and roots-based jams bring the songs to a whole new level.   With Freakchild, is guitarist Mark Karan (Rat Dog), keyboardist Steve Sirockin, bassist Malcolm Oliver, drummer Chris Parker (Aretha Franklin, Donald Fagan, Quincy Jones), Jason Hamm (String Cheese Incident), and multi-instrumentalist Hugh Pool.  Grammy-nominated vocalist and harmonica player the Reverend Shawn Amos also makes a guest appearance.        

Freakchild takes Albert King’s “Everybody Want to go to Heaven” and gives it a whole different sound, cloaking the song in a spirted cosmic energy.  I love the upbeat version of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”.  Freakchild sings this with serious conviction as buckets of grease are dumped on his fabulous slide guitar performance.  A list of contemporary bluesy songs about Jesus would not be complete without Z.Z. Top’s “Jesus Just Left Chicago”.  This one beautifully plays out on acoustic guitar and harmonica.  Freakchild breaks out his magical special sauce on “Working on a Building”, a gospel standard which absolutely jams.  It’s impossible to sit still while its playing.  “Keep on Praying”, a song by Jake La Botz keeps the revival tent all fired up, with Shawn Amos stepping in with vocals and harp.  My favorite track is Freakchild’s cover of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus”.  I’ll probably always favor the original version, but this one really won me over, more-so than the Johnny Cash version.  Freakchild douses this one with really swampy slide, a driving rhythm and juicy blues harp.  I absolutely adore it. 

The album ends on a sixteen-plus minute track called “Seven Billion Light Years Old”, which packs a multitude of sound-bites into an audio montage.  It features various pieces of spoken word, and slivers of music inspired by artists such as The Who, Eddie Mars, John Mellencamp, Tracy Chapman, and David Bowie.  It truly is an enlightening journey.




I’ve reviewed these other albums by Reverend Freakchild :


Dial It In : PhillyCheeze's Rock & Blues Reviews: #328 : Reverend Freakchild -Dial It In (


Illogical Optimism : PhillyCheeze's Rock & Blues Reviews: Reverend Freakchild - Illogical Optimism (



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.