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

Saturday, October 23, 2021

#524 : Larkin Poe & Nu Deco Ensemble - Paint the Roses


2021 – Tricki-Woo Records

By Phillip Smith; Oct. 23, 2021

I’m always excited to hear about new music from Larkin Poe.  I’ve been a fan of this duo since hearing them open for Elvis Costello at the Paramount Theater in Cedar Rapids, Iowa five years ago.  The original songs Rebecca Lovell and Megan Lovell write are beautiful, sometimes intense, and cut deep to the bone.  Lead vocalist/guitarist Rebecca captivates me with her beautiful, yet fearless voice.  The vocal harmony she shares with lap-steel wizard Megan is magical.

Paint the Roses is a seven-track release which Larkin Poe recorded live at the North Beach Bandshell in Miami, Florida on December 12, 2020 with the orchestral backing of Nu Deco Ensemble.  Once I heard their new take on Bessie Jones’ “Sometimes” which also appears on their 2018 Venom & Faith album, I knew I was in for a real treat.  The infusion of clapping hands, strings, and horns took me to church in a big way.  Next up on the track list is “Back Down South” an original off their 2020 album Self Made Man.  Megan’s lap slide is performed with perfect precision as Rebecca rips it up on guitar and delivers the song with her enchanting voice.  It sounds fantastic with the enrichment of the Nu Deco Ensemble as the song takes a dip into the Allman’s “Blue Sky” for a brief intermission.  Before diving into a four-track superfecta of songs, all off Self Made Man, Larkin Poe introduces a new song called “Mad as a Hatter”, which I absolutely adore.  The pulse of this homage to Alice in Wonderland runs with a rapid pace, and dips momentarily into psychedelic territory.  “Every Bird That Flies” is such a beautiful song, and surely earns its wings with the accompaniment from the ensemble.  I love the slow build-up of tension accomplished with the instrumentation, which is then then slowly released to send the song skyward.  Larkin Poe closes out the show in an amazing performance of “She’s a Self Made Man”.  Cloaked in a horn-laden suit, this hard blues-rocker is a perfect fit for a future 007 theme song.  

I knew I would like Paint the Roses, but I was surprised at just how much I liked it.  This is surely a record folks will want to add to their collection.         




 For more information about the artist, visit this website :

 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.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

#523 : Hector Anchondo - Let Loose Those Chains

2021 – Vizztone

By Phillip Smith; Oct. 17, 2021

Five years ago, in July of 2016, I heard Hector Anchondo for the first time, and instantly became a fan.  His band was playing the North Liberty Blues and BBQ Festival in North Liberty, Iowa.  Less than a month later, I would hear him again at Tommy Bolin Festival in Sioux City, Iowa.  Again, he dazzled me with his unique style of blues.  In 2020, Anchondo entered the International Blues Challenge in Memphis for the third time, and righteously awarded the top prize in the best solo/duo category.  It was very well deserved. 

Let Loose Those Chains is the brilliant all-original, self-produced new album from Hector Anchondo.  With Anchondo on guitar and vocals, drummer Khayman Winfield, and bassist Joe Corley comprise the rest of this well-oiled three-piece band.            

Title-track “Let Loose Those Chains” opens the album in a very poignant way, capturing my full attention.  Anchondo’s writing and performance of this message of breaking free is absolutely striking.  The tension is broken with the fabulously swinging track loaded with delicious twang called “I’m Going to Missouri”.  It’s such a fun song.  Anchondo breaks out the resonator and slide for his song of infatuation “Sweet Tooth”.  I love this sound that feels like it’s straight out of the Mississippi Delta.  Time seems to stand still as he slows things down for “Sometimes Being Alone Feels Right”, a beautiful ballad of self-reflection.  Praise and gratitude are bestowed on single mothers everywhere, receiving a heart-felt acknowledgment in “Momma’s a Hard Man”.  Anchondo makes this solo effort feel very personal. 

Let Loose Those Chains is one of those records that shine brightly from every facet and elevates Anchondo to a whole new level.  I highly recommend it.  



Link to the PhillyCheeze review of Hector Anchondo’s 2017 Roll the Dice album :


 For more information about the artist, visit this website :


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.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

#522 : Joanna Connor, Avey Grouws Band and James Tutson - Live at the Olympic

The Olympic Southside Theater
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
 All Photos by Phillip Smith; Oct. 09, 2021

The Olympic Southside Theater in Cedar Rapids, Iowa was definitely the place to be the evening of Friday, October 8, 2021.   This music venue, previously known as Spotlights, Big Dogs, and 3rd Street Live since I've lived in town, has hosted countless musical acts over the years.  In 1992, I set foot in this place for my first time and saw Kevin Burt with his band The Blues Instigators.   Over the years, I was fortunate to catch acts like John Mayall, Warren Zevon, Buddy Guy Little Feat, Black Oak Arkansas, George Clinton, and Days of the New.       After several years of non-occupation, this sacred space for music has been restored and revitalized to give it a new life as a place for people to congregate and enjoy live music.

The evening started off with a captivating solo performance from Iowa City artist James Tutson (James Tutson and the Rollback) who appeared on NBC's The Voice, earlier this year.  I really hope to hear more from him in the future.

Avey Grouws Band took the stage next, engaging the audience to the max.  Their setlist included favorites such as "Two Days Off (and a Little Bit of Liquor)", "Come and Get This Love", and "Dirty Little Secret" off their 2020 album The Devil May Care and tracks from their brand new album Tell Tale Heart such as  "Love Raining Down", and the intoxicating instrumental "Mariana".   I loved every bit of it.   

Immediately following was Chicago's Queen of Blues Rock guitar Joanna Connor. Watching and hearing her play is an absolute treat.  Her fearless approach to her music, ranks her among the top of the list.  

The jam session at the end was extraordinary, as  guitarist Billy Satterfield joined Joanna, Chris Avey, Jeni Grouws, and James Tutson for the grand finale.  After going so long without seeing a show of this caliber in Cedar Rapids, this was exactly what I needed.     
·         All photos by Phillip Smith

James Tutson

Avey Grouws Band

Joanna Connor

All-Star Jam

* all photos by Phillip Smith