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.  




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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.