Saturday, January 22, 2022

#538 : Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip - Whole 'Nutha Thang


2021 – Ruf Records

By Phillip Smith; Jan. 22, 2022

I’ve been a fan of Finnish, award-winning blues artist/bandleader Micke Bjorklof since reviewing his 2014 release After the Flood.   Bjorklof and Blue Strip had recorded four albums prior.  One of those being 2007’s Whole ‘Nutha Thing, originally released only in Scandinavia.  That album is now remastered and re-released by Ruf Records to help celebrate Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip’s thirty-year anniversary of being a touring band.  Recorded in London and produced by Neil Brokbank, this landmark record redefined the band’s sound.  With Bjorklof on lead vocals and harmonica, the band consists of Lefty Leppanen on slide/guitars, Seppo Nuolikoski on bass/piano, Teemu Vuorela on drums, and Roiko-Jokela on percussion/vibraphone/keys.  The eleven-track album also features guest appearances by Geraint Watkins (Paul McCartney, Bill Wymann ,Van Morrison, Mark Knopfler) on keys, and horn players from Van Morrison’s band at the time, Matt Holland on trumpet/flugel horn and Martin Winning on saxophone.  

With a Dylan-esque swagger, “Jungle Cat” strolls through with a delicious dose of twangy slide and barrel-house piano.  Bjorklof goes into full swing on “Back to my Room”.  Leppanen’s guitar performance is stunning and the rhythm section is amazingly tight.  This is one to jump, jive and wail to.  A whimsical, hypnotic melody speckled with slide creates the dreamy quality in “I Fell Down From the Tree (When I Saw Robert Johnson Pass Me By)”.  “Grapesugar Love” breaks out the funk in a big juicy way with bodacious blasts of brass mixed with a huge dose of swampy slide.  It’s vibrant and absolutely wonderful.  Time stands still as a melancholy wave washes over me with each listen of “Silver Moon”.  Bjorklof’s silky smooth vocals sound fantastic against this beautiful piano-led melody which brings Whole ‘Nutha Thang to its end.

Micke Bjorklof and Blue Strip never cease to amaze me.   They are surely among my favorites. 


For more information about the artist, visit this website :


Previous PhillyCheeze reviews featuring Micke Bjorklof:


Micke & Lefty (feat Chef ) – Let the Fire Lead


Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip – Twentyfive Live at Blues Baltica


Southpaw Steel ‘n’ Twang – Stat(u)e of Mind


Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip – Ain’t Bad Yet


Southpaw Steel ‘n’ Twang – Hale’s Pleasure Railway


Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip – After the Flood




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, January 15, 2022

#537 : Bernard Allison - Highs & Lows


2022 – Ruf Records

By Phillip Smith; Jan. 15, 2022


Bernard Allison is one of those artists who I totally admire, and I’m absolutely thrilled to hear fresh music from him.  Highs & Lows, his latest album is hands-down fantastic.  Produced by Grammy Award winner Jim Gaines, this eleven-track blues album is a slice of perfection.  The core of Allison’s top-notch band consists of George Moye on bass guitar, Dylan Salfer on rhythm guitar and Steve Potts on drums.

Energy levels are high as Allison fearlessly hits the ground running on “So Excited”.  It’s great to hear him blaze full-throttle on guitar.  This is exactly what I was hoping for on an opening song.  Title-track “Highs & Lows” rolls out with its funky, infectious riff and pulls me right in.  Guitar in hand, Canadian blues artist Colin James joins Allison in a juicy duet of Texas-style electric blues on “My Way or the Highway”.  The swampy sounds of the Mississippi delta are quite infused into “Side Step”, making it one of my favorite songs on the disc.  What a pleasant surprise it is to hear Bobby Rush accompany Allison on “Hustler”.  His distinctive voice and harp playing are delivered in his usual suave approach and it’s fun to hear him collaborate with Allison. 

I love that Allison pays tribute to his father, Chicago blues legend Luther Allison by recording two of his songs.  The first up is the 1974 single “Now You Got It” off the album Luther’s Blues.  This is Seventies soul-blues at its best.  Immediately following is “Gave it All”, from Luther’s 1994 album Soul Fixin’ Man.  It swoops me right up in its cozy warm arms for an intoxicating horn-infused listen.  Allison's performance on this is downright breathtaking.

Lows & Highs ends with a blast of funky downhome blues with “Last Night”.  Lyrically timeless, this song hits on every cylinder, and I dig every bit of it.  Allison pours everything he has into this guitar performance, making it a huge standout. 

This is an album that delivers the goods with each and every song.  It’s terrific through and through.       



 For more information about the artist, visit this website :


Past PhillyCheeze reviews featuring Bernard Allison :

PhillyCheeze's Rock & Blues Reviews: #313 : Bernard Allison - Let it Go (


PhillyCheeze's Rock & Blues Reviews: #347 : Czech Village Blues - Aug 11, 2018 featuring Ruf Record's Blues Caravan (

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

Saturday, January 8, 2022

#536 : Roy Roberts - Covering the Years


2022 – Rock House Records

By Phillip Smith; Jan. 8, 2022

Growing up in Tennessee, Roy Roberts was exposed to a variety of music, but it was Jimmy Reed’s song “Baby What You Want Me to Do” which inspired him to get his first guitar.  Over the years, Roberts has backed acts such as Solomon Burke, Eddie Floyd, “Little” Stevie Wonder, Dee Clark, and Otis Redding.  His From the mid-sixties Roberts worked as a session man and recorded several 45’s.   When disco music became more popular, he switched over to country music for ten years, and toured with O.B. McClinton.   This new eleven-track album Covering the Years is a collection of his songs commemorating sixty-plus years in the music profession.  It captures his journey quite nicely. 

Roberts’ horn-infused Seventies soul ballad “You’re So Sweet” is absolutely delightful.  This feel-good song puts a grin on my face with each and every listen.  “Love on the Line” hearkens back to the smooth sounds of The Cornelius Brothers.  It’s definitely one of my favorites.  Roberts serves up some straight-up Porter Wagoner-style country with steel guitar accompaniment by Rick Nathy on “Can’t Find My Angel”.  There’s a hint of B.B. King and Robert Cray in “Born to Sing the Blues”.  Roberts totally owns the vocals as Eric Callands brings it on keys.  The sweet sound of southern soul oozes out every pore of “Can’t Go On” in a magical way.  I really like this one. 

It’s most interesting to hear Roy Roberts as he visits the musical touchstones of his life.  Whether rooted in R&B, blues, country, or soul, the songs in Covering the Years are all from the heart.  


For more information about the artist, visit this website :

Saturday, January 1, 2022

#535 : Robert Connely Farr - Ain't Enough


2021 – Robert Connely Farr

By Phillip Smith; Jan. 1, 2022

Ain’t Enough was recorded at Hipposonic Studios in Vancouver, BC, and marks Robert Connely Farr’s ninth studio album, and first solo acoustic album.   What I love about Farr’s music is that it’s deep, meaningful, and baptized in the blues.  Nominated for 2019 Maple Blue Awards for Songwriter of the Year and New Artist of the Year, Farr was mentored by 2021 Grammy nominee Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes.  This mentorship with Holmes is key in Farr’s devotion to keep the Bentonia Blues legacy moving forward.  Holmes, owner of the world’s oldest juke-joint The Blue Front CafĂ© in Bentonia, Mississippi, was mentored by Henry Stuckey who also taught Skip James.  One can feel the history of the handed-down teachings in Farr’s songs.   

Like Townes Van Zandt, John Prine,and Bruce Springsteen, Farr has the magic to pull the listener in to his world to experience the good with the bad.  This is very much so as Farr reels me in with title-track “Ain’t Enough”.  It totally sets the tone of the album.  Performed on a twelve-string, his cover of Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes’ “Going Away to Leave” is absolutely breathtaking with its ominous and hypnotic riff.  A wave of emotion overcomes me when I hear him sing about his gut-wrenching battle with cancer in “I Get By”.  Farr’s infectious rolling melody swoops me up as he paints a clear picture of economic inequalities in “Getting’ Richer Blues”.  It’s such a badass song.

Ain’t Enough is a striking album of real-deal blues.  Farr’s lyrics cut to the bone and his melodies are beautifully haunting.               



 For more information about the artist, visit this website:


Available on Bandcamp