Saturday, March 26, 2022 #548 > The Boxmasters - Help...I'm Alive


2022 – Keen Tone Records

By Phillip Smith; Mar. 26, 2022

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Help…I’m Alive, the twelfth and latest release from The Boxmasters, ushers in a dozen new original songs from J.D. Andrew and Bud Thornton.  With each of their recordings, I’ve always been delighted to listen to the guys navigate through their spectrum of influences.  This album most definitely carries on that tradition.

An infectious hook, powered by a driving beat and a lush soundscape, guides power-pop anthem “I Got a Girl” to the top of my favorites.  Frustrations, fueled by the pandemic and political duality, are vented in a twang-filled, Zappa-esque manner on the title-track “Help…I’m Alive”.  Then the solutions to said irritations are cleverly laid out in the unescapable groove of “Focus on the One”.  Letting someone down easily is one of the toughest things to do, and The Boxmasters turn such an occasion into a beautiful and melancholy ballad called “Turn Away”.  It’s absolutely stunning.  The upbeat Beatles-meets-Nashville sound infused into “Time” is very cool as well.  This ode to growing old together is vibrant and catchy.  I like it a lot.

Their unique sound, and homegrown lyrics inspire me to keep this one on heavy-rotation.  Help…I’m Alive is surely another homerun for J.D. and Bud.          



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Saturday, March 19, 2022 #547 > Prakash Slim - Country Blues From Nepal

2022 –DeVille Records

By Phillip Smith; Mar. 19, 2022

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Ram Prakash Pokharel aka Prakash Slim, an emerging blues artist from Lamatar, in the Lalitpur district of Nepal, has most definitely caught my attention with his new album Country Blues From Nepal.  With only a resonator guitar and slide in hand, he captures the pure essence of the blues with magnificent covers of legends such as Robert Johnson, Bukka White, Charley Patton, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and Blind Blake.  The originals which appear on this thirteen-track album are beautifully performed as well.         

An instrumental called “Blues Raga” starts the album off with lovely sitar-like bends and a hypnotic North Mississippi hill country groove.  Prakash’s original songs emit a vintage country blues essence as he sings them with a sincere delivery.  There’s an air of legitimate struggle in Prakash’s “Villager’s Blues”.  His hard-scrabble beginnings are laid out as he becomes the bluesman he is with the autobiographical song “Poor Boy”.  In addition, Prakash recorded a Nepali version of that song called “Garib Keto” which also appears on this album.  In this age of the Corona virus, it makes total sense there should be a straight up blues song on the topic.  The response Prakash has to the COVID-19 pandemic is brilliantly laid on the table with “Corona Blues”.        

Prakash takes on two classic Robert Johnson tracks, “Crossroad Blues” and “Me and the Devil Blues”.  With an amazing fearlessness he digs in and performs the hell out of these songs.  His guitar prowess surely grabs the spotlight.  I absolutely love his cover of Fred McDowell’s “You Gotta Move” too. 

Country Blues From Nepal is an utter gem of an album.  I’m excited to see the direction Prakash Slim takes with his music on his next release.     






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Saturday, March 12, 2022 #546 > Lady A - Satisfyin'

2021 – Lady A Productions

By Phillip Smith; Mar. 12, 2022

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I’ve been a fan of Lady A since my first listen when I reviewed her 2016 album Loved, Blessed, and Blues.  Her ninth and latest album, Satisfyin’ continues to capture my affection for her music as it perfectly pairs her songwriting expertise with her special blend of funk, soul, and blues.  With Anita White aka Lady A front and center on lead vocals, her band is comprised of bassist John Studamire, guitarist Herman Brown, multi-instrumentalist Paul Richardson, multi-instrumentalist/background vocalist John Oliver III, and background vocalist Roz Royster McCommon.

The Seattle-based songstress rolls the album in with ‘Whatever You Do” which showcases her powerful vocals in an upbeat fashion.  She sounds great and the big band backing her is nicely topped off with a BB King-style guitar performance from Brown.  Immediately following is title-track “Satisfyin’”, which brings to mind the funky dance songs I immensely enjoyed in the Eighties.  Music, cheap liquor, gambling, and good food is the allure of “Miss Beula Mae’s”, an after-hours juke-joint Lady A reflects on.  Its inescapable groove, and detailed lyrics make this a favorite of mine.  A slow buttery bassline walks “Blues Soul Catfish & Fried Wings” to the finish in a major funky way.  Reminiscent of the music of George Clinton at times, it is absolutely fabulous.  In “For the People in the Back (All I Got)”, Lady A holds her ground, and without flinching once, stares down the pop-country band for pilfering her name.  Her fearless vocals, ride above a wave of hand-claps and an infectious gospel-infused melody.   

Satisfyin’ is a delightful album and like a fine wine, gets better with each and every listen.  


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Saturday, March 5, 2022 #545 > Buckmiller Schwager - To Memphis and Back

2021 – Buckmiller Schwager

By Phillip Smith; Mar. 5, 2022

Original source :


Together Tom Buckmiller and Brian Schwager are taking the Iowa blues scene by storm with their original working-man blues.  This Des Moines, Iowa – based blues duo pulled down first place in the 2021 Iowa Blues Challenge Solo/Duo category, securing their entry into the 2022 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee coming up in May.  Buckmiller has authored three blues books and teaches a class on the Blues at Drake University.  Schwager, lead guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, has a list of influences which reads like my record collection, naming guitar legends such as BB King, Jimmy Page , Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.  He has shared the stage with acts Blake Shelton, Thomas Rhett and Eli Young Band.  To Memphis and Back maintains a high level of excellence both lyrically and performance-wise on all ten songs.

A big dose of swampy slide blues leads the record in on “Whisky Man” before becoming electrified, Texas-style.  Buckmiller’s vocals take charge as Schwager absolutely rips it up.  “Thrill of the Thrill” intensifies the pace, and steps it up a notch, making for a barn-burner of a song.  A lush bluesy groove rolls in and hangs tight on “Tylenol and Templeton”.  This salute to hair-of-the-dog remedies proudly displays its Iowa roots with the mention of Templeton Rye.  Templeton was a total whisky game-changer in the state, touting a recipe that originated during the prohibition era and was supposedly enjoyed by Al Capone.  Topped off with horns and a hip soulful rhythm, “These Are the Good Days” catches me off guard in a very good kind of way.  The Velvet Underground vibe is absolutely delightful.  The album closes out with “Time To Come Home (Memphis Mix)” which absolutely cooks.  Heavy doses of resonator guitar, and hard-driving, George Thorogood-friendly riffs bring this one to a boil. It’s plumb terrific.

“To Memphis and Back” is a solid-as-hell album, and I certainly look forward to hearing more from Buckmiller Schwager in the future.  



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