Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Bastard Fairies “Memento Mori” -- From the Archives #2


By Phillip Smith

Memento Mori is a Latin phrase which translates as ‘Remember you are mortal’.  This CD by the Bastard Fairies helps us do just that.   Lead singer Yellow Thunder Woman, with her  lovely and delicate voice begins the first track, “The Greatest Love Song“ with these words:  ‘All I need is a catheter and lobotomy..’.  Beautiful, yet disturbing, this is not the usual opening of love songs, and I have to give kudos to anyone who can work that line into one.

Guitarist Robin Davey has managed to create a variety of musical backgrounds for Memento Mori.  “A Venomous Tale” has hints of a reggae beat, while “Whatever” sounds like an old western cantina song, with it’s instrumentation of piano, and banjo.        

The second track, a very clever and sweet song, “Apple Pie“, just asks us all to get along.  An almost perfect segue takes us to another melancholy song, “Habitual Inmate“. 
Memento Mori reinforces its namesake with,  “We’re all going to Hell”.  If you’ve ever done anything that would send your soul to hell, it’s probably listed in this song.  I am well aware of a beer frame in bowling, but never have I ever heard of a beer break in the middle of a song as this song has.

A couple of the weaker selections include “Moribund”  and “Everyone has a Secret”.  .  One of the most annoying things about Memento Mori was the overuse of the ‘I’m singing from the bottom of a well, and using a megaphone’ effect.  On some tracks that might work well, but it is really overkill when done on every song. 

The title track, “Memento Mori”, reminding us to eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may be dead, is my second favorite song of this collection.  It’s very melodic, and Yellow Thunder Woman lets us hear her voice the way it should be, unfiltered.  

All in all, The Bastard Fairies have produced a nice collection of songs, well written, yet still a little rough around the edges. 



* originally published for Foundrymusic.com in 2007

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Goon Moon “Licker’s Last Leg” -- From the Archives #1


By Phillip Smith



Jeordi White (aka Twiggy Ramirez of Marilyn Manson)  and Chris Goss (Masters of Reality) have collaborated once again to produce their first full length CD together as Goon Moon.  Licker’s Last Leg uses a variety of musical styles to walk the listener through the album.  Apple Pie, the first cut, almost scared me away from the CD with what I can only equate as the musical equivalence of running fingernails down a chalk board.  Eventually the annoyance stopped and the song unfolded, nicely I might add.  Although there is a lot of Goth rock influences in Apple Pie,  the rest of the CD seems to be a mix of classic rock peppered with a dab of industrial.   Tip Toe could easily have been mistaken for a Devo song, with its mechanical beat and quirky lyrics.    My Machine is another nice track,  it‘s a little faster than some of the other songs, and uses several tempos and synthesized vocals at times,  emitting an Eighties Techno/Metal flavor.  My favorite track though is An Autumn That Came Too Soon.  It has a simple beat but it is very hypnotizing, with its tranquil repetitiveness and smooth-as-silk vocals.  Individually these are all nice songs, but they don’t all necessarily all gel together as well as I would have expected.  What I considered the strangest and most experimental track, The Golden Ball, stretches to almost 10 minutes in length, and is composed of eight mini songs.  The last and least track, Built in a Bottle, could have been left off entirely and I would not have minded.  It was too slow and whispery to follow the eleven songs it followed. 


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Otis Taylor - “My World is Gone”




by Phillip Smith


After a Jimi Hendrix tribute concert, Taylor and friend, Mato Nanji, were backstage discussing the history of the Native American.  Within that discussion, Mato, member of the Nakota Nation, uttered the statement, “My World is Gone”.  At that point they both realized what they needed to write about: the trials and tribulations of the Native American as it tries to retain the remaining bits of its culture.  That is what this album is all about.  Running the usual gambit of topics, My World is Gone touches on drinking, racism, lost love, and murder.  Just over half of the tracks, feature special guest, Mato Nanji, front man for the band Indigenous and member of 3 Skulls and the Truth, on lead guitar.  Mato is quickly becoming one my favorite guitarists to listen to.    

Otis has an interesting way of taking the blues and serving it up in his own very unique style, oftentimes transporting the listener into a trance-like state, with steady background beats and rhythms.  From the first and title track, “My World is Gone”, one of the collaborations with Mato, I am totally on-board with the musical journey which awaits.  In this one, Anne Harris adds a nice little folky presence with an ever-so-soft fiddle accompaniment.  In “Lost My Horse”, Tayor and Mato sing about alcoholism and the dire consequences that were the direct result.  In this song, a man whose father was a runaway slave and whose mother was a Navajo woman, loses his horse, his most important possession, due to drinking.  Soon after, he realizes it is only a matter of time before he loses his mind.  The history lesson continues in “Sand Creek Massacre Mourning”, recounting the despicable atrocities of the 1864 attack by Colonel John Chivington along with 700 of his troops on a village of friendly Cheyenne and Arapaho encamped in southeastern Colorado Territory. The song has a certain military cadence to it; the kind one would hear preceding an execution.  Taylor’s banjo picking combined with and Ron Miles cornet playing, gives this a little The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly touch.  

I love the infectiousness of “Huckleberry Blues”, as Taylor keeps a constant rhythm on banjo behind some really nice jazzy cornet playing by Ron Miles. Taylors strong and soulful vocals remind a bit of Isaac Hayes.  Other favorites include “Gangster and Iztatoz Chauffeur”, and “Green Apples”.  Both heavily doused in the washtub of trance blues,    have such an instant likeability.

I liked this album from the first listen, and the pleasure I get from it increases with each subsequent listen.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Reviews and Articles for Blues Revue Magazine 2011- 2013 .



by Phillip Smith


Paul Thorn - What The Hell is Goin' On?
http://bluesrevue.com/2013/04/paul-thorn-what-the-hell-is-goin-on-4-19-13/#

Craig Erickson - Galactic Roadhouse
http://bluesrevue.com/2013/04/craig-erickson-galactic-roadhouse-4-05-13/#

Josh Smith - Don't Give Up On Me
http://bluesrevue.com/2013/03/josh-smith-dont-give-up-on-me-3-08-13/#

Betty Fox Band - Too Far Gone
http://bluesrevue.com/2013/02/betty-fox-band-too-far-gone-2-22-13/#

Kenny Wayne Shepherd Concert 1/26/13 Review
http://bluesrevue.com/2013/02/blues-beat-kenny-wayne-shepherd-show-review-2-01-13#

Kenny Wayne Shepherd photos from Concert 1/26/13 Riverside, IA
http://bluesrevue.com/2013/02/the-photo-page-kenny-wayne-shepherd-live-2-01-13/#

David Hidalgo / Mato Nanji / Luther Dickinson – 3 Skulls and the Truth
http://bluesrevue.com/2013/01/david-hidalgo-mato-nanji-luther-dickinson-3-skulls-and-the-truth-1-04-13/#

The Mokats - Crossover Blues
http://bluesrevue.com/2012/12/the-mokats-crossover-blues-12-21-12/#

Hamilton Loomis - Live at the Hub, DVD
http://bluesrevue.com/2012/11/hamilton-loomis-band-live-at-the-hub-dvd-11-16-12/#

Simon McBride - Crossing the Line
http://bluesrevue.com/2012/11/simon-mcbride-crossing-the-line-11-09-12/#

Bob Dylan - Tempest
http://bluesrevue.com/2012/11/bob-dylan-tempest-11-02-12/#

Colin Linden - Still Live
http://bluesrevue.com/2012/09/colin-linden-still-live-9-28-12/#

Killing Floor - Rock 'n' Roll Gone Mad
http://bluesrevue.com/2012/09/killing-floor-rock-n-roll-gone-mad-9-14-12/#

Chris Watson Band - Pleasure and Pain
http://bluesrevue.com/2012/08/chris-watson-band-pleasure-and-pain-8-17-12/#

Darren Jay & the Delta Souls - Drink My Wine
http://bluesrevue.com/2012/08/darren-jay-the-delta-souls-drink-my-wine-8-10-12/#

Johnny Rawls - Soul Survivor
http://bluesrevue.com/2012/06/johnny-rawls-soul-survivor-6-22-12/#

Debbie Bond - Hearts Are Wild
http://bluesrevue.com/2012/06/debbie-bond-hearts-are-wild-6-15-12/#

Eddie C Campbell - Spider Eating Preacher
http://bluesrevue.com/2012/05/eddie-c-campbell-spider-eating-preacher-5-25-12/#

Riverside Casino Blues Weekend Review
http://bluesrevue.com/2012/04/blues-beat-blues-weekend-at-riverside-casino-4-20-12/#

Riverside Casino Blues Weekend Photos:
http://bluesrevue.com/2012/04/the-photo-page-riverside-casinos-blues-weekend-4-20-12/#

Stacy Jones Band = No Need To Spell it Out
http://bluesrevue.com/2012/04/stacy-jones-band-no-need-to-spell-it-out-4-20-12/#

Mighty Sam McClain & Knut Reiersrud - One Drop is Plenty
http://bluesrevue.com/2012/04/mighty-sam-mcclain-knut-reiersrud-one-drop-is-plenty-4-13-12/#

Tony Spinner - Down Home Mojo
http://bluesrevue.com/2012/03/tony-spinner-down-home-mojo-3-23-12/#

Roy Trevino - self titled
http://bluesrevue.com/2012/03/roy-trevino-roy-trevino-3-16-12/#

Bryce Janey - Game of Life
 http://bluesrevue.com/2012/02/bryce-janey-game-of-life-2-17-12/#

Mike Zito - Greyhound
 http://bluesrevue.com/2012/01/mike-zito-greyhound-1-20-12/

Mississippi Fever - Self Titled
http://bluesrevue.com/2012/01/mississippi-fever-mississippi-fever-1-6-12/#

Jay Gordon's Blues Venom - No Cure
 http://bluesrevue.com/2011/12/jay-gordons-blues-venom-no-cure-12-30-11/#

Coyote Kings - Move
http://bluesrevue.com/2011/12/coyote-kings-move-12-16-11/

Marco De Sade Band - Take No Prisoners
http://bluesrevue.com/2011/12/marco-de-sade-band-take-no-prisoners-12-16-11/#

BillyLee Janey - No Saints Ringin' the Bells
http://bluesrevue.com/2011/11/billylee-janey-no-saints-ringin-the-bells-11-04-11/#

David Bromberg - Use Me,
http://bluesrevue.com/2011/07/david-bromberg-use-me-7-8-11/

Levee Town - Pages of Paperwork ,
http://bluesrevue.com/2011/07/levee-town-pages-of-paperwork-7-22-11/

Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band - Peyton on Patton,
http://bluesrevue.com/2011/07/the-reverend-peytons-big-damn-band-peyton-on-patton-7-29-11/

Levon Helm - Ramble at the Ryman ,
http://bluesrevue.com/2011/09/levon-helm-ramble-at-the-ryman-9-2-11/

Trampled Under Foot - Wrong Side of the Blues,
http://bluesrevue.com/2011/06/trampled-under-foot-wrong-side-of-the-blues-6-10-11/#

Dr. Duke Tumatoe - I Just Want To Be Rich
http://bluesrevue.com/2011/04/dr-duke-tumatoe-i-just-want-to-be-rich-4-22-11/#

Bryce Janey - Blues in My Soul
http://bluesrevue.com/2011/01/bryce-janey-blues-in-my-soul/#

Colin Gilmore - Goodnight Lane
http://bluesrevue.com/2011/01/colin-gilmore-goodnight-lane/#

John Lee Hooker Jr., - Live in Istanbul Turkey
http://bluesrevue.com/2011/01/john-lee-hooker-jr-live-in-istanbul-turkey/#


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Delta Saints - Death Letter Jubilee


By Phillip Smith



Furiously fabulous and dankly dark, The Delta Saints deliver possibly the most powerful rocking Blues album of the year with Death Letter Jubilee.  Led by vocalist Ben Ringel and guitarist Dylan Fitch, The Saints hit every song full on, pouring their heart and soul into every note, coating a nougaty center of Blues with a premium blend of rock topped with a heaping helping of harmonica. 

I never really thought about what Led Zeppelin would sound like if they had been from the South, but once I heard “Sing to Me”, I am pretty sure I now know.  Ringel and Fitch transform themselves into alternate versions of Plant and Page as we heard in “The Battle of Evermore”, from the album, Led Zeppelin IV.  This track is absolutely outstanding.

Ringel, like Steven Tyler, has a voice that is raspy and powerful.  It sounds really good alongside Greg Hommert’s harmonica in “Chicago”.  I love this track.  It’s so full of soul and spirit.  Speaking of spirit, one doesn’t have to be religious to be overcome with it when one listens to title track, “Death Letter Jubilee”.  This one has all the toe-tapping, hand-clapping fun of a bible-belt tent revival, minus all of the judgment.  Bring your own spiders and snakes.   

With spurts of controlled frenzy, delivered with an increasingly fast tempo, they rip through “Devils Creek”, as if adrenalin is flowing freely through their veins.  Bassist David Supica keeps a nice groovy bass-line going in this forewarning ditty.   

This thirteen track album definitely deserves a listen.  It’s fantastic.  

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Coyote Kings w/Mush - Nasty Habits & Dirty Little Secrets


By Phillip Smith

From the Pacific Northwest, in Walla Walla, Washington, Robin Barrett and company deliver another bounty of Blues with Nasty Habits and Dirty Little Secrets, the Coyote Kings follow-up album to Move.  Writer and lead guitarist, Barrett, is joined by vocalist Michelle 'Mush' Morgan, bassist Kit Kulhmann, drummer Emilo Cabrales and keyboardist Doug Scarborough to create another saucy album of earthy electric Blues composed of eleven new original tracks.

With Mush on mic., the crew breaks out with a fun jam on title-track, “Nasty Habits & Dirty Little Secrets”.  Barrett throws down a catchy funk-infused riff that has a way of burrowing itself in one’s head like a Ceti eel from Star Trek II Wrath of Khan.  I could almost hear the band having fun recording it.       

“Baby’s Gone”, a stand-out favorite is a melancholy lament about lost love and contemplations of suicide while holding on to a desire to live. This heartbreaking song features fantastic guitar licks, and vocals from Mush so sad and lovely, it left me a little on the heavy side with emotion.

Another slow tempo contender for best song is “Afternoon Sun”.  Barrett handles the lead vocals on this one and handles it quite well.  I enjoy the mellow space it creates very much.  The combining elements of piano, vocal harmonies and lyrics remind me a lot of Phish, one of my favorite bands.  This one plain and simple, puts a smile on my face.     

A perfect song to chill out to, ‘Walking in the Fog’, is one of the best new instrumentals I have heard this year.  Hands-down fantastic, Barrett plays it soft and slow, in the way one would actually walk in a fog.  I would love to hear an entire album of instrumentals of him playing guitar like he does on this one.      

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cash Box Kings - Black Toppin’


By Phillip Smith

Black Toppin’ by Chicago bluesters, The Cash Box Kings will have listeners waxing nostalgic in no time.  Their sixth release continues the tradition of infusing their music with the spirit and sound of the Forties and Fifties.   Producer/front man, Joe Nosek on harmonica, alternates lead vocals with Oscar Wilson while Joel Paterson conquers the lead guitar and Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith masters the drums. 

Title track, ‘Black Toppin’’ a catchy little ditty about forbidden love and sneaking around is a pleasurable treat.  Written and sung by Wilson, this one sounds steeped in old school Blues.  Also dunked in the old school Blues tank, is their spot-on cover of Willie Dixon’s ‘Too Late’, (originally recorded by Little Walter), and the traditional, ‘Walking Blues’.  Both of these sung by Wilson as well.  He has a great voice for the Blues, and it delivers authenticity to the songs.

Barrelhouse Chuck, 2013 nominee for the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year Award, makes an appearance on four tracks.  Of those, the spotlight really shines on him in  ‘Money, Marbles, and Chalk’ and one quickly finds out why he was nominated.    Bundling Barrelhouse Chuck on organ, with Nosek on harp, gives ‘My Tinai’ a cool retry Sixties Doors sound.           

When the band gets going on songs like Lou Reed’s ‘Run Run Run’, one can feel the energy pulsating through the speakers.  I might have to go out on a limb and say I like this version better.  The band is so tight and the Paterson squeezes every note out of his guitar with precision.  This is my favorite track on the album.    

For those fans of the classic Blues, this one comes highly recommended.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Southern Hospitality - Easy Livin’


By Phillip Smith


Grab some iced tea and meet me on the front porch, ‘cause we’re gonna relax and listen to Southern Hospitality’s new CD, Easy Livin’.  With its origins stemming from an impromptu jam session following a blues festival in Florida back in 2011, Southern Hospitality is comprised of guitarist JP Soars, lap steel guitar master, Damon Fowler, and keyboardist Victor Wainwright.  Easy Livin’ is undeniably a Southern blues concoction, which is comforting and somewhat intoxicating.  The guys all contribute their song writing skills to the making of the album. Both, the opener, “Southern Livin’”, and the closer, ”’Sky is What I Breathe” is credited to all three.  “Southern Livin’” is such a cool song, and like Southern living goes, it takes its time and is in no hurry to get anywhere.    And I absolutely love “Sky is What I Breathe”.  It’s such a beautiful song about remembering our connection with nature and our responsibility to keep it sacred. 

If one is going to dedicate an album to southern hospitality, you have to have at least one song about drinking. “Kind Lies & Whiskey” is that song.  Written by Fowler, this country boogie draws a bright spotlight of attention to his keyboard skills.  While we have the menu out, you have to order up the ‘Fried Neck Bones and Home Fries”.  The guitar on this Latin instrumental written by Willie BoBo is so very reminiscent of Carlos Santana.   Can I order an album of instrumentals from Soars and Fowler for desert?

The album as a whole is quite good and at times outstanding.

---

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Bluesmore Music Festival - Cedar Rapids, IA Aug.3, 2013

By Phillip Smith
Aug 3, 2013

* all photos by Phillip Smith


Craig Erickson, Ron DeWitte, and BillyLee Janey

This year was yet another great year for music at annual Bluesmore Blues festival in Cedar Rapids.  Opening up the main stage was the LCBS All-Stars, featuring Craig Erickson, Ron DeWitte, BillyLee Janey, Bryce Janey, Dan Johnson, Dennis 'Daddy-O' McMurrin, Skeeter Lewis, Tom 'T-Bone' Giblin, and Danny Ketelson and Eric Douglas.  Seeing this much local talent on the stage at one time was a definite treat.  Following the LCBS All-Stars was the Scott Holt Band, which was followed by the headlining act of Lucky Peterson featuring Tamara Peterson.   These are just a handful of photos I was able to snap while taking a break or two from selling shirts at the merchandise tent. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Craig Chaquico “ Fire Red Moon ”


By Phillip Smith

Craig Chaquico, whose name is now more synonymous with jazz guitar and new age music, has decided to veer off his current path and venture down the blues highway for a while on his latest album, Fire Red Moon.  The album is very guitar-centric, and pleasing to listen to.  Mixing elements of his earlier rocking days with Jefferson Starship, with his new age styling, he’s producing some interesting music. The band is composed of lead singer Rolf Hartley, drummer Wade Olson, bass player Jim Reitzel and keyboardist Bill Slais.

Kenny Wayne Shephard fans may recognize the voice on the opening track, ‘Lie to Me’, featuring special guest singer Noah Hunt.  His voice, deep and smooth, fits the song very well.  ‘Bad Woman’, another of the seven original songs, is outstanding.  Rolf Hartley’s vocals show a huge range on this one, and if a dude can channel Janis Joplin, he just may have done that for this song.  Also enjoyed is title track ‘Fire Red Moon’, a blues instrumental to ‘zone out’ to and appreciate.

‘Born Under a Bad Sign’, a total re-imagineering of the original, seems more like a ‘Muzak’ or ‘Weather channel’ version than a blues song.  It’s all instrumental, and sounds almost as if it was created specifically to be used for background music.  That’s not the case on every song though, thank goodness.  Chaquico raises the roof on Muddy Waters’ ‘Rollin’ and Tumblin’. It rocks as it should.    

The album closes out with a bang, covering Robert Johnson’s ‘Crossroads’. Opening with a little taste of slide guitar on top of some rattlesnake and wind sound effects,  it breaks out and runs like Willie Brown ‘til the end.  This one is definitely my favorite cut.  Chaquico throws his new age approaches to the side and plays this one specifically for the blues fans. Hartley shines on vocals as well.  I hope Chaquico follows the blues path for a little while longer.  It seems to fit him well.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Magic Slim & the Teardrops “ Bad Boy ”



By Phillip Smith

Morris Holt, aka Magic Slim, who passed away last February at seventy six years old, still had it going on.  His voice was still going strong, and he sounded great.  Bad Boy, his newest release with the Teardrops (guitarist Jon McDonald, bassist Andre Howard, and drummer BJ Jones) is completely saturated in the blues.  I’d expect nothing less.  Bad Boy consists of a few covers, some older originals, and some newer originals.

Slim brings everything to the table on Roy Brown’s ‘Hard Luck Blues’.  From the emotional beginning when he sings, ‘well rocks is my pillow, and the cold ground is my bed.’, to the sorrowful ending where he’s sings “I’m gonna find my mother’s grave, fall on the tombstone and die”.  Slims playing is outstanding and his Gibson sounds great, as he carefully places each note played.

I love the Eddie Taylor cover, and title track, ‘Bad Boy’.  This one is the ultimate homage to us boys your parents warned you about.  The original version was really slow, while Magic Slims version is faster and a little more upbeat.  Hands down, I like Magic Slims version better.  I also like their cover of Denise LaSalle’s ‘Someone Else is Steppin’ In’.  This song is just so rich and hearty.  Although I admit, if I had to make a choice between the original or Slims version, I’d have to throw my vote to Denise LaSalle.  Her version is a bit sassier.  Also covered is Albert King’s ‘Matchbox Blues’.  To compare Magic’s with Albert’s would be comparing apples to oranges, but the song itself is extraordinary and Magic Slims version is very nice.      

Original tracks to make note of are ‘Older Women’, a song, Ben Franklin would probably enjoy, and ‘Country Joyride’, with a little smidgeon of rockabilly influence.  There really aren’t any “throw away” songs.  Bad Boy is solid blues from start to finish.
---

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Peter Karp\Sue Foley - Beyond the Crossroads

By Phillip Smith

Maybe it’s just me, but the newest release, Beyond the Crossroads by Peter Karp and Sue Foley gets more interesting with each subsequent listen.  A common thread runs through each song, tying them all together in a neat little musical present for the listener.  This thread is the personal relationship between the artists themselves.  A follow up to their prior album, He Said, She Said, based on their back-and-forth emails and long distance calls, these songs delve a bit further into their hearts and souls, revealing a refreshing positivity.

The harmonies on this album are very nice.  Sue Foley has a sultry and slightly raspy voice that can really belt out some lyrics when she needs to.  To hear what I am talking about, check out the song “Analyze’n Blues”.  What really puts the icing on the cake for this track is Karp throwing down with his National Steel ResoRocket slide. This one ranks high on the ‘cool meter’.  I love this song.  

Karp and Foley playfully dance around several different genres while keeping the album as a whole really bluesy.  Take the song, “At the Same Time”, for example.  As Karp and Foley alternate vocals with Karp on slide, a fantastic horn section provided by the Swingadelic Horns spice up this slow-tempo Louisiana creole flavored duet.  It’s Beale Street meeting Bourbon Street.  For those who appreciate bluegrass, and have a very short attention span, check out the very fast paced instrumental, ‘Plank Spank’.  Although it clocks in at just less than two minutes in length, Karp and Foley play their hearts out and have now earned a spot on my list of performers I want to catch live in concert. 



Rating 8 out of 10

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Beth Hart – Joe Bonamassa - Don’t Explain.


By Phillip Smith


Don’t Explain is what being a music junkie is all about.  This is a collection of ten soulfully retro-fitted songs featuring covers from Ray Charles, Billy Holiday, Etta James and Aretha Franklin to name just a few.  I listen to a lot of music each year, and find many treasures, even so, I have to say this collaboration from Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa surpasses most of those.  I love the way Beth Hart sings with pure emotion while Bonamassa subtly backs her on guitar.    

Sexy and sultry, Hart plays the part of fallen angel on the first couple of tracks, as she covers Ray Charles’ “Sinners Prayers” and Tom Waits’ “Chocolate Jesus”.   Bonamassa brings a bit of spaghetti western guitar to the table on ‘Chocolate Jesus’, creating an ominous environment, contrasting Hart’s softly sung vocals and piano.  I really like this one.

The Holy Grail song on this album is ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’, originally by Etta James.  The performance is unmistakably phenomenal.  With a string section in the background, Hart sings with believability and conviction.  Bonamassa takes over the bridge and picks out the melody only the way Bonamassa could.  Another Etta cover, “Something’s Got a Hold on Me”, is also a lot of fun.  Although it’s got a gospel flavor to it, I doubt anyone would ever hear this one played in church.

Fans of  Bonamassa will dig the Bill Wither’s cover of  “For My Friends”.  The riff is hard and fuzzy, and not hippie friendly, like the original.  I have to give this album two thumbs up.  One for Beth Hart, and one for Joe Bonamassa.    



Saturday, June 22, 2013

Irish District Music and Arts Festival, Cedar Rapids, June 22, 2013

Saturday, June 22, folks from around the area descended upon the Irish District neighborhood in Cedar Rapids, to enjoy live music, local food, and celebrate community pride.

The event kicked off on the main stage with The Ron DeWitte All Stars featuring Tom Giblin, Bryce Janey, Dan Johnson and Jon Wilson.  Following them was Tallgrass, a three piece band from Iowa City.  The Family Groove Company closed the night.

The Central Shores stage featured The Significance of Simon, and closed with a spectacular performance from Craig Erickson and Friends.

Proceeds from the event will be used to support the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy Guitar Program.







Ron Dewitte All Stars - Ron Dewitte, Dan Johnson, Bryce Janey






Dan Johnson and Bryce Janey






Ron DeWitte







Austin Morford and Matt Skinner from Tallgrass





Adam Morford from TallGrass




TallGrass 






Craig Erickson





Craig Erickson


Contino – Back Porch Dogma


By Phillip Smith

Contino may just be one of the coolest bands sporting an accordion to hit the scene.  Led by Pete Contino, son of legendary accordionist, Dick Contino who gave us ‘Lady of Spain’ and ‘Beer Barrel Polka’, this quintet intertwines Blues, Zydeco, Jazz and Americana music to produce an album full of spirited songs, rich juicy melodies, and solid vocals. 

Even with accordion in hand, their cover of Lim Liban’s ‘I Don’t Want to Know’ is straight up blues.  Al Ek wails away on the harp, providing near perfect accompaniment to Contino’s vocals on this one about letting go of the past.   Speaking of Contino’s vocals, they really stand out on their cover of Willie Love’s ‘V-8 Ford’.  Ek belts out some great harmonica again, and Billie Truitt has a nice little solo on keyboards to boot.

They break out the Cajun seasonings on ‘Zydeco Train’, and ‘Monkey’.   ‘Zydeco Train’ makes me want to throw some crawfish in a big ol’ pot, boil ‘em up, and invite some friends over for a crawfish boil.  While Contino and Truitt take on the heaviest load, you can’t deny that upright bass providing that big steady beat.  What a cool sound.  ‘Monkey’ a song about infatuation, has a more chilled vibe to it.  It’s slower and relaxed and will have you rooting for the man and the object of his desire to make a connection.

Falling into neither the Blues nor Zydeco category, “Three Cool Cats” originally recorded by the Coasters and covered by the Beatles as well in 1962, is hip and beat.  It has a way of creeping into the subconscious mind. 

I’m very impressed with this album.  It held my interest, sounded really good, and is good for replay-ability. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Big James and the Chicago Playboys The Big Payback


By Phillip Smith

The Big Payback,  recorded live at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Club at the Le Meridien Hotel in Paris France, is spirited and electric.  The jazz club experience is definitely captured well on this album.  With Big James pounding out the vocals, and guitarist Mike "Money" Wheeler knocking out a steady stream of awesome guitar licks, the horn section, made up of Big James Montgomery (trombone)  and Charles "Richard" Pryor (trumpet/flugelhorn) provides the icing on the cake.  It just doesn't get much better than this.

Influences of James Brown and George Clinton, two of my favorites, are infused into the title track, 'The Big Payback'', originally by James Brown.  Big James breaks out the funk and for the duration of the song, hosts the spirit of the hardest working man in show biz.    This is one of my favorite tracks.  It's funky, got a nice groove to it, and has these really cool  P-funk style spoken background vocals.   While on the topic of the godfather of funk, we are also treated to a Funkadelic cover, 'I'll Stay'.  This is a really nice cover, the vocals are toned down and smoothed out to set the somber mood of the song, Pryor gives a powerfully cool trumpet solo on this one. 

A couple of interesting covers make the cut.  'Trying to Live My Life Without You' , written by Eugene Williams , but recorded by both Otis Clay and Bob Seger, is a big pleaser.   To my surprise,  at the end, we get a cover of Deep Purple's 'Smoke on the Water' to highlight Wheelers axe welding skills, and to introduce the band.  It's kind of weird to hear 'Smoke on the Water' played with a band such as the Chicago Playboys.  It's a nice change of pace, to hear a different take on this song, which differs immensely from the over-played Deep Purple version as well as the football stadium version.

The next time I am in Chicago, I am definitely going to see if Big James and the Chicago Playboys are playing anywhere.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Tommy Castro presents The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue Live





By Phillip Smith

If one thing can be said about Tommy Castro, it’s that he knows how to put on a show.  So well in fact that he is the honorary captain of the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruises.   This album features some of the highlights from The Revue’s recent live performances.  The Revue consists of Tommy Castro, his band, complete with horn section, and a number of musical guests. 

Magic is in the air as Castro totally reinvents Bob Dylan’s ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’.  Possibly one of the hottest tracks on the whole album, it’s as if Stevie Wonder himself took the song, baptized it in a lake of funk, and handed it back. 

Rick Estrin, who has recently taken over for Little Charlie as front man for the Nightcats, dishes out some smoking’ harp licks on ‘My Next Ex-Wife’.   Estrin, not the only Nightcat in on this one, is joined on this one by his guitarist Chris ‘Kid’ Anderson, who adds some pretty hot licks to the song as well.

If I were to continue name dropping, I might ask what Michael Burks, Joe Louis Walker,  Trampled Under Foot, and Janiva Magness all have in common.  The answer would be that they all contribute smoking hot numbers on this album as well. 

This CD is definitely a jewel for those who dig their compilation albums.  Because Castro’s band is backing each track, the listener gets a really good mix of music, but with a common thread providing a fluid connection.   Of course, this one comes highly recommended.