Showing posts sorted by relevance for query rocky athas. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query rocky athas. Sort by date Show all posts

Friday, March 15, 2024

#667 : Rocky Athas - Livin' My Best Life (


2024 – Cherryburst Records

By Phillip Smith; Mar. 16, 2024

Release Date : Mar. 10, 2024

Original source :


Rocky Athas is one of my all-time favorite blues-rock guitarists. He’s played with musical legends John Mayall, Glenn Hughes, Buddy Miles and Black Oak Arkansas and whether performing with someone else or recording his own solo work, he always manages to amaze me. Livin’ My Best Life is his latest release. It contains ten bodacious tracks of high-octane music and I absolutely love it. He puts the ‘rock’ in blues-rock. With Rocky on lead guitar, his son Rocky Athas II on bass guitar, Walter Watson on drums and lead vocals, and his son Jared Watson on guitar and vocals, the band could not be a tighter unit.

Title-track “Livin’ My Best Life” gets the album rolling with a big juicy dose of Texas-style blues with a ZZ Top vibe. Hearing Rocky shred on this one makes for a damn good listen. The fun ensues when they break out a smokin’ cover of Don Nix’s “Black Cat Moan”. I love how Rocky coaxes the most amazing tones out of his vintage 1969 Gibson Les Paul Custom Black Beauty using a vintage Vox Wah Wah to pay tribute to the late Jeff Beck on this track. From its infectious riff to its poignant lyrics, “Dark Days” is a fantastic original spawned from fatherly advice about remembering who we are regardless of the insanity surrounding us. This is indeed a favorite. It made me happy to hear John Mayall making a guest appearance on harmonica for the spectacular cover of “Long Gray Mare” originally recorded by Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green in 1968. He can sure make that harp sing. The solo guitar Rocky creates is outstanding. For an unexpected treat, I love the cover of Bob Dylan’s “Watching the River Flow”. The original was produced by Leon Russell and recorded at Blues Rock Studio in New York City at a session in 1971. From the beginning couple of bars of “Walk in My Shadow”, I am immersed in the groove created by Rocky II and Walter Watson. There is not a Free cover that ever sounded better to me. I feel as if Rocky is pouring everything he has into this performance, and it sounds terrific. First recorded by Freddie King in 1971, the cover “Palace of the King” makes for a riveting closing song. The twists and turns, Rocky takes with his guitar keeps me tightly glued to this track.

With Livin’ My Best Life, Rocky Athas wins me over once again.  This album certainly gets my highest recommendation.  



For more information about the Rocky Athas, visit this website :

For past reviews mentioning Rocky Athas on PhillyCheezeBlues :





Sunday, August 16, 2015

Rocky Athas The Essential Rocky Athas Volume 1

2015 – Cherryburst Records
By Phillip Smith; Aug. 15, 2015

My first exposure to the lush and bluesy sounds of Rocky Athas came about because of my deep appreciation for the band, Black Oak Arkansas, who Athas played with for a short while.  His work with the legendary John Mayall drew me in even further.  Regardless of whom he is playing with, it is always a joy to hear him play.  The Essential Rocky Athas Volume 1 focuses on Athas’ solo works, which he describes as “a labor of love years in the making”.  For the guitar aficionados, Athas notes fifteen different guitars used on the ten tracks in this fabulous collection.   It makes me happy to know he plans to release two more volumes later this year.  

Athas delivers energized Texas blues at its finest in “Long Time Gone” and “Think About It”.  The later features special guest John Mayall.  Captivating grooves seasoned with delicious guitar licks bring these tracks to the forefront.   The soulfully performed “Last of the Blues” is about as perfect a blues song as one can get, with its poignant lyrics and beautiful melody.    It’s so fun to hear him let it all hang out on “Tearin’ Me Up”, another terrific track. 

The album closes out with an exquisite cover of Cream’s “White Room”, bringing the John Mayall connection full circle, as Athas pays homage to the earliest of Mayall’s collaborators, Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce.  This track is truly the pièce de résistance. 

I can’t wait to hear volumes 2 and 3.

For more info on Rocky Athas, visit his website

Monday, November 20, 2023

#646 : Rocky Athas at CSPS - Nov 17, 2023 (


Rocky Athas Band

Live at CSPS – Nov. 17, 2023

Cedar Rapids, Iowa


By Phillip Smith; November 20, 2023


Original source :


Rocky Athas has been on my radar for over ten years now.  His mastery of guitar is quite impressive.   I first was introduced to his talent while he was playing with Black Oak Arkansas.  Then soon after I began reviewing CDs, I found his six-string skills across several John Mayall albums.  Athas’ solo albums then came my way for review, and each one kept revealing different layers of his guitar prowess.  When I saw that Rocky was playing at CSPS in Cedar Rapids, I knew it would be a show I wanted to see.  I had never seen him play live before, but I knew this would be a cool musical experience.  It most definitely was.  

Rocky Athas’ band consists of Rocky Athas on guitar, his son Rocky Athas II on bass guitar, Walter Watson on vocals and his son Jared Watson on rhythm guitar, with Gonzalo Trevino on drums.


                         Photos by Phillip Smith

* all photos by Phillip Smith

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Rocky Athas - The Essential Rocky Athas Volume II

2015 – Cherryburst Records
By Phillip Smith; Feb 20, 2016

Rocky Athas delivers another ten terrific tracks in the second installment of his Essential series.  Volume II was well worth the wait indeed.  Heavy-laden with killer Texas-style blues riffs, “You Move Me” kicks this album off with a jamming, soulful groove.  Immediately following, Athas then crushes it on “Bluesville”, a beautifully performed heartbreaker.  Hope is the foundation of “Miracle”, a silky smooth R&B love song, delicately played with tasty hot guitar licks.  The funky bass line and trance-friendly beat in “On the Move” create the perfect atmosphere for Athas to let loose on his ’74 Stratocaster.  I could listen to this instrumental all day long.  And for a song that really makes an impression, “Survival” gets right to the core, as Athas paints a hellish picture of war, in Warren Zevon-esque bravado.  The monster cover of Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” , however, is the cherry on top of the album.  I love this track right down to the glorious cow-bell intro.  This song is played loud and often.  The Essential Rocky Athas Volume II is a delectable album tailor-made for the blues enthusiast.     

For more information about Rocky Athas, visit his website,

Saturday, November 4, 2017

#300 : Rocky Athas - Shakin’ the Dust

2017 – Cherryburst Records
Release Date : Oct 15, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Nov 3, 2017

With this being the 300th installment of Phillycheeze’s Rock and Blues Reviews, I wanted to use this milestone issue to honor blues-guitar great, Rocky Athas, who has just released this fabulous new album, Shakin’ the Dust.  Produced by the legendary Jim Gaines and jam-packed with a truck-load of Texas blues, this eleven-track record is a true gem.  In the studio with Athas is his son Rocky Athas II on bass guitar, and drummer Walter Watson. Together they form one hell of a power-trio.      

Athas fires off a blazing performance on “You Pushed Me Too Far”, an outstanding original with a heavy dose of attention-grabbing blues licks.  It’s absolutely wonderful and doesn’t get much better than this.  “Texas Girl” is great too, as it kicks off with an amazing intro.  The song fearlessly follows suit with Athas injecting heaping helpings of fantastic guitar into a crushing wave of catchy hooks.  I love the Neil Young grunge vibe Athas affixes to “Time Flies” and how the ballad seems to gently tumble by like time itself.               

His revved up cover of the Calvin Carter penned classic “I Ain’t Got You” is a sweet amalgam of the versions rendered by The Yardbirds and Aerosmith.  Athas breathes new life into Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Looking Back”.  I get a big smile on my face every time I hear it.   The album closes out with a spectacular mind-bending performance, taking on Jimi Hendrix’s “Villanova Junction”.  This one is beautifully played.     

The cohesive flow on Shakin’ the Dust makes an appreciable call-back to the heyday of album rock.  It’s put together really well.  Rocky Athas scores big with this album, and I look very much forward to hearing what is in store down the road.    


Saturday, July 26, 2014

John Mayall - A Special Life

2014 – Forty Below Records

By Phillip Smith; July 26, 2014

A mainstay in the blues and rock world for nearly fifty years, John Mayall is proof; the blues rests for no one.  Mayall, when just a few weeks shy of his eightieth birthday, headed to Entourage Studios in North Hollywood to record his first album in five years, A Special Life.  Accompanying this legend in the studio for this timeless eleven track album were guitarist Rocky Athas, bassist Greg Rzab, and drummer Jay Davenport.  

Mayall summons the spirit of New Orleans, covering the late “King of Zydeco” Clifton Chenier’s creole-flavored “Why Did You Go Last Night”.  Special guest C.J Chenier, Clifton’s son, jams out on accordion and kicks in on vocals to makes this cut stand out even more, as Mayall cuts loose on the piano. While still on the subject of Louisiana Blues, it’d be a huge mistake to not mention “Speak of the Devil”.  Rocky Athas on guitar sounds absolutely amazing on this one originally recorded by Louisiana native Sonny Landreth.  I’ve been an Athas fan since his stint with Black Oak Arkansas, and think his style blends with Mayall’s very nicely.  Athas also stands out on Jimmy McCracklin’s “I Just got to Know”, handing out lush riffs and tasty licks, as Rzab lays down a cool baseline for him to follow.

Putting the covers aside, Mayall goes deep with a few originals of his own.  Singing about the current state of the world, in the thought-provoking, “World Gone Crazy”, Mayall calls out the governments and religions of the world as the contributing sources of global insanity. Performed in a boogie style on piano with a side of harmonica, and a cool little drum intro from Davenport, this song hits the spot.  Slow and easy, like life in the Mississippi Delta, is how title track, “A Special Life” is delivered.  Mayall dishes out a sweet harmonica melody meticulously poured over a retro bluesy rhythm, as in the fashion of Quincy Jones. 

One couldn’t ask for a better bunch of musicians to back the legendary John Mayall, and this album confirms that.  Chock-full of flawlessly performed blues, rock, and boogie, A Special Life is an album to treasure.

Friday, May 12, 2017

John Mayall - Talk About That

2017 – Forty Below Records  
By Phillip Smith; May 12, 2017

I’m always happy to hear new material from John Mayall,.  With his latest album, Talk About That, Mayall nails down another winner in a long string of rock-solid blues albums.  Returning to record the eleven track jewel with Mayall is guitarist Rocky Athas, bassist Greg Rzab, and drummer Jay Davenport.    

Mayall lays down seriously groovy keyboard riffs alongside Rzab’s thick and saucy bassline in title track, “Talk About That”.  I love it when he breaks out that juicy Bourbon Street blues with the deliciously horn-rich “Gimme Some of That Gumbo”.  Athas delivers a searing guitar performance which brings this one home.  When Mayall plays the harmonica in the Jimmy Rogers All Stars cover, ”Goin’ Away Baby”, it sounds so damn good.  This is one killer blues song indeed.  His piano performance on life-questioning “You Never Know” is quite delightful too.  I get lost in the stirring sounds of “Blue Midnight”. Its vibrant and intoxicating rhythm pulls me deeply in.       

For “The Devil Must Be Laughing” and “Cards on the Table”, Mayall enlists non-other than the fabulous Joe Walsh to play guitar.  Both are rather outstanding and capture the legendary Walsh sound.   

Talk About That is an enchanting album which showcases a wonderful set of Mayall masterminded blues.    


Saturday, August 22, 2015

John Mayall - Find a Way to Care

2015 –Forty Below Records
By Phillip Smith; Aug. 22, 2015

It makes me happy to see John Mayall return to the studio and record another sensational blues album.  Find a Way to Care is masterfully written and exquisitely performed.  Returning to the studio with Mayall is guitarist Rocky Athas, bassist Greg Rzab, and drummer Jay Davenport, who were all present on his previous studio album A Special Life.  

Mayall breathes a new funky and soulful life into Percy Mayfield’s “The River’s Invitation”.  With Mayall manning the keyboard, and a terrific horn section at his side, this song takes on a sort of “Bar-Kays Soul Finger” vibe.  I dig this one a lot.  Riding this same wave of feel-good music, is the vibrant Lightning Hopkins cover, “I Feel So Bad”, which makes me feel so good when I give it a listen. 

There’s no shortage of traditional blues here either.  Mayall serves up nothing but the best of it as he splendidly tackles Junior Parker’s “Mother in Law Blues”,  Muddy Water’s “Long Distance Call”, and Charles Brown’s “Drifting Blues”.   

I’m quickly drawn in to the music on “War We Wage” a heady guitar blues track by acclaimed UK guitarist Matt Schofield.  It’s hard to beat the combination of Mayall’s keys alongside Athas on guitar.  They just sound so good together.  Mayall brings the album to a close, busting out some fabulous barrel house piano blues on “Crazy Lady”.

Mayall is known as the “Godfather of British Blues” for a good reason and his legacy continues with Find a Way to Care.      

For more info on John Mayall, visit his website