Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Flobots - Fight With Tools - From the Archives #6

By Phillip Smith

I was captivated upon my first listen of Fight With Tools by Flobots,   Flobots, an alternative  hip hop band hailing from Denver, are similar in style to bands, Cake and 311.  But Flobots,  flaunting a seemingly higher IQ, are a bit more funky and a lot more political.  Jamie Laurie, aka Jonny 5, the founder and constant member of the band, chooses to write and rap about current events and his political views rather than the topics usually covered by hip hop artists. 

Jesse Walker lays down some really kick-ass bass lines to cuts, “Combat” and title track, “Fight With Tools”.   Violist, Mackenzie Roberts along with trumpeter, Joe Ferrone add a unique flair to this album, enriching the musicality of tracks such as “Mayday”, one of my personal favorites of this collection, and the in-your-face, world leader-challenging “Same Thing”.  “Handlebars” standing out as the downloadable favorite on iTunes, showcases Laurie’s skills as a writer/rapper.  Different than the rest, “Never Had It”  kicks off with a sultry beginning, and resonates with a vibe of sixties pop.  But if you really want to take something catchy to the dance floor, take a listen to “The Rhythm Method”.  Flobots all come together on this song like none other on Fight With Tools.  

I found the song “Anne Braden” very lyrically powerful and musically hypnotic.  Flobots take a stab against racism with this track, a tribute to a woman who received honors for her contributions to civil liberties.  

Each track is individually unique, yet one can sense a common thread running through them all.  The album is very well constructed, and I have to say, I am impressed. 

Rating =  4.0 / 5.0

* Originally published on FoundryMusic.com, July 2009

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Bryce Janey - “Burning Flame”

By Phillip Smith

Bryce Janey’s newest CD, Burning Flame has been the only disc in my vehicle all week, and I haven’t had the urge to pop in a different disc yet.  That’s just how good this album is.  Chock full of Texas style blues, about motorcycles, guitars, bootleggers, and lost love, with a little swamp thrown in; this eleven track album features the Dan “DJ” Johnson on bass guitar, Eric Douglas on drums, and Tommy T-Bone Giblin on the Hammond organ.      

Janey brings us in with a strong opener, “Chrome Horse”, a blues-ridden rocker, sure to be a favorite of motorcyclists everywhere.  When I hear this one, I think of how great it would be to hear it on the FX television show, Sons of Anarchy.  

If you asked what songs really jump out, I would certainly include, the Jimi Hendrix influenced “Can You Feel It?”  Johnson’s killer bass line drives this one, while Janey lays down some smoking guitar licks.  “Guitar Playing Fool” is one I really feel.  Giblin’s Hammond shines through as Janey sings about making a living playing music.   

There are a couple of covers on the album worth mentioning. The first is “Special Ryder Blues” by Skip James, which Janey has definitively made his own.  I love the bass line on this one, and overall this is one of my favorite cuts on the whole album.  The second cover, “The Stealer”, a Free cover originally recorded in 1970, which has a new more eerie swampy personality.  Another nice selection from the swamp is “The Last Goodbye”, and this is one I am instantly drawn to.  Janey lets loose and the guitar seems to play itself.   I really like this one a lot.
Janey has set the bar up another notch, one upping himself again.  Burning Flame is absolutely enjoyable from start to finish.  It is definitely worth exploring. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Craig Erickson - Rare Tracks (Volume Two)

By Phillip Smith

Craig Erickson never ceases to amaze me.  Rare Tracks (Volume Two), the second installment of previously unreleased nuggets from his secret stash, unleashes fourteen new pieces of ear-candy to be happily enjoyed. With the exception of one track, all are originals.  As well as writing, Erickson takes on the responsibility of playing all the instruments, and belting out all the vocals as well.  Erickson gives us a full one hundred percent.  

Leading off with a short spacey track just over a minute long in length, ‘Deep Blue Circles’ seems to be more of an intro for the song following it, ‘Heavy Stuff’, about the necessity of having to escape everyday life once in a while.  This track has a nice little funky rhythm slathered with a thick coating of heavy fuzzy bass.

Few people can cover Jimi Hendrix, make it their own, and make it sound good to boot.  Erickson is one of those few.   Not quite a cover, but rather an adaptation, ‘Purple Haze (The Trip)’ is the only track not completely written by Erickson.  I love the subtle keyboard accompaniment on this, and how it sets a soft jazzy stage from which to launch an amazing crescendo of six-string energy.

The instrumental, ‘Make it Through’ is amazing and beautiful. I love how at ease and full of peace I am when listening to it.  Erickson’s expressiveness shines through brightly.  Erickson gets funky on ‘Midnight Flight (Reprise)’, a very short track clocking in at just over a minute and a half.  The only thing wrong with this track is that it is way too short.

I’ve listened to this album several times over and deem every track a keeper.  Rare Tracks (Volume Two) is a delight indeed

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Black Oak Arkansas “Back Thar N’ Over Yonder”

By Phillip Smith

Being a BOA fan, I’ve been waiting for an album like this for a long time.  Back Thar N’ Over Yonder bestows upon us five new Southern Rock tracks featuring reunited former members of the band, jamming along side by side with the newer members. Returning to record alongside Jim “Dandy” Mangrum, Rickie Lee “Ricochet” Reynolds Johnnie Bolin and George Hughen are Pat “Dirty” Daugherty, and Jimmy “Soybean” Henderson.  And as info-mercial extraordinaire, Ron Popeil, would say, “wait… there’s more”.  There are also nine tracks of previously unreleased material from 1972 through 1974, a re-mastered version of the original version of “Jim Dandy”, and a thirty page booklet of classic band photos, concert posters, and promotional ads included to boot.  One of my favorite photos is from a concert poster showing the ‘Boss’, Bruce Springsteen opening for Black Oak Arkansas at the KSU Student Center Ballroom.   The ticket price was $4.00 in advance, and $4.50 at the door. 

Coming out guns blazing, BOA hits us with “Plugged in and Wired”.  Bolin rolls us into the song with a catchy drum beat before the band breaks out into this heavy rock anthem.  This one gets the adrenalin flowing.  Immediately following is, “Sweet Delta Water”, an ode to the mighty Mississippi. With a much slower tempo, it takes a 180° turn from the preceding song.  I find myself reminiscing about older, simpler and more carefree times every time I hear it.  

I love it when BOA gets a little philosophical and cosmic. “15 Million Light Years Away” taps into that philosophical well as Dandy ponders when, exactly, man will finally pull himself together.  In this crazy world, ‘lunatics run the asylum and animals run the zoo’.  But when we do all get ourselves together, he sings, ‘It may be tomorrow, it could be today, or 15 million light years away.’  I’m putting my money on 15 million light years away.  I also have to say kudos on the Reynolds penned track, “I Ain’t Poor”.  This country/rock boogie has a damn catchy rhythm and lyrics that make me smile.  

The nine previously unreleased tracks are pure gold.  Produced by the legendary Tom Dowd, these were recorded with drummer Tommy Aldridge, guitarist Harvey Jett, and the late great Stanley Knight.  My favorite dusted-off original, “Legal I.D” is cool little country jam, complete with piano.  Preaching the message of checking gals’ ages before making any sort of advances, I can only guess R. Kelly never heard this one. The Tommy Aldridge drum solo on the trippy “Up Up Up”, is simply amazing.  The studio version of “Hot Rod” still smokes.  Duel guitars with Dandy’s raspy vocals which reach thresholds which would leave most people mute, make this a ribald psychedelic treat. 

Hearing BOA cover the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, shot chills up and down my spine. Dandy pours a train car full of soul into his vocals on this one, and the band is tight as a tick. Turn up the volume on this one to fully enjoy. 

This album is a fascinating simultaneous look into both the past and the present of Black Oak Arkansas.  When listening to the album, it does not feel like it is coming from two different sources in two different eras.  The weaving together of the vaulted tracks with the reunion tracks is, to say the least, organic and natural. I truly am surprised the unreleased tracks never made it onto vinyl back in the day.  They are superb and withstand the test of time.  And as far as the reunion material goes, it too puts a big ole grin on my face when I listen to it. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Joecephus and the George Jonestown Massacre - Smothered and Covered -- From the Archives #5

By Phillip Smith    (Originally published 2008 for FoundryMusic.com )

Ask, and ye shall receive.  Upon stumbling upon this bands’ Myspace page, my interest was piqued enough to add Smothered and Covered to my Christmas wish list.  Christmas morning arrived and I found myself sitting in front of the tree opening a small package containing that very same CD by Joecephus and the George Jonestown Massacre.  It made my day.  I am definitely a sucker for the non-mainstream.  And also a sucker for a title that also hints at one of the many ways one can get hash browns at one of my favorite chain restaurants, Waffle House: smothered with onions and covered with cheese.  

Joecephus is Joe Killingsworth and is the brains, vocalist, and jack-of-all trades person behind this hellbilly/cowpunk crew.  The songs are way off-center and mostly about drinking.  The album kicks off with two energetic bluesy tracks,  “Jerk You Off My Mind” , about a man in prison who ended up there because he caught his wife messing around with another dude, and “Honky Tonk Night Time Man”.   One in particular I really enjoyed was “Bloody Mary Morning”, which boasted some mighty fine guitar playing.

Some of the other odd-ball, yet enjoyable songs of Smothered and Covered are “Drink Like a Fish”, and “Who’s Gonna Get us High?”.  The strangest, however, being a slowed-down version of AC/DC’s “Hells Bells”, which was recorded as a duet, and made clever use of the violin.   The song that almost got away, is an unlisted track at end of the CD.  This being, a cover of Jerry Reed’s “Amos Moses”, the man whose daddy used him for alligator bait and could eat his weight in groceries.  

I really got a kick out of this CD, and look forward to hearing more music by Joecephus and the George Jonestown Massacre. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Shawn Holt and the Teardrops - Daddy Told Me


2003 - Blind Pig Records
By Phillip Smith; Oct. 26, 2013

Shawn Holt, son of Morris ‘Magic Slim’ Holt, who passed away earlier this year, is now taking over the reins as front man for the Teardrops.  His debut release, Daddy Told Me,  a mix of originals and covers and is an extraordinary tribute to his father.  This album is pure blues and in my opinion should be a contender for a coveted Handy Award.  The Teardrops (guitarist Levi William, bassist Chris Biedron, and drummer Brian ‘B.J.’ Jones), deliver the goods, which I like to think of in this case, as a briefcase full of blues. 

It was a pleasant surprise to find that Holt enlisted legendary bluesman John Primer (who played with his father for thirteen years) to handle lead vocals and guitar on a fantastic cover of Bo Diddley’s “Before You Accuse Me”.  Primer also sticks around to play guitar on the funky “Buddy Buddy Friend”, an original from Shawn about so-called friends who hang around when times are good and you’re sharing the wealth, but disappear once the bankroll dries up. I think we can all relate to that. 

The title track, “Daddy Told Me” is gritty and chalk-full of attitude.  I love the rapport between Holt and William, both on guitar, as it is a huge part of what makes this song sound so cool.  I really enjoyed the guitar on “Please Don’t Dog Me” also, as it accentuates the slow blues beat laying behind it.     

It was very surprising to me at how little time it took for this album to enthrall me. Every song is a winner, and the album itself, I highly recommend.  Magic Slim would have been very proud.


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, October 19, 2013

Valerie June - Pushin’ Against a Stone

2013 - Concord Records
By Phillip Smith ; Oct. 19, 2013

I had never heard of Valerie June prior to her performance on The Late Show with David Letterman.  She performed “Workin’ Woman Blues”, her first cut off her new album Pushin’ Against a Stone.  She took the stage with her acoustic guitar strapped around her shoulder and started singing about how she had been working her whole life, and now is ready for a sugar daddy.  For those few minutes, as far as everything else was concerned, time had been frozen. I was so infatuated with her voice, and how it was a unique blend of soul and country.  The song was intoxicating.  It swept me off my feet so fast, I had to hit the internet, find her website, and order her album.  To make matters even sweeter, I found it was available on vinyl.
June is not just a pretty voice with a guitar.  She is quite talented in the writing department as well.  She wrote or co-wrote all the songs on the album, with one exception, “Trials Troubles and Tribulations”, a bluegrass gospel song by Estil C. Ball.  This stripped down acoustic song focuses on her lovely vocals, leaving the drums behind. 

Booker T. Jones (Booker T. and the MG’s) makes an appearance to play organ on “Somebody To Love” and “On My Way”.  The former, a real folky tune about needing somebody to loves features Luca Kezdy on violin. The latter, another selection in the country/folk category, also features Kezdy on violin.  The rhythm reminds me a little bit of “Friend of the Devil” by the Grateful Dead.  

The album has a very cool ‘retro’ sound, as it swirls the sounds of Music City with that of Motown.  Title track “Pushin’ Against a Stone”, with its harmonized backing vocals brings to mind the music from Mary Wells.  And for a bonus, we get to hear the psychedelic guitar styling of guest guitarist, Jimbo Mathus, who also appears on four other tracks.  It’s no surprise then, he plays on my favorite tracks on the album, “Wanna Be On Your Mind”  This is another song that is so captivating, it almost puts me in a trance. 

Valarie June is such a talented new artist who has a refreshing new take on music, and I have no doubt we will see a lot more from her.  This album easily falls into my top five favorite releases of the year.    

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

John Prine w/ Peter Case Paramount Theater Cedar Rapids, IA September 14, 2013

Paramount Theater

Cedar Rapids, IA
September 14, 2013

By Phillip Smith

It is such a great pleasure to once again hear live music in the beautifully restored Paramount Theater in Cedar Rapids.  John Prine, with opener Peter Case played to a capacity crowd last night, bringing a little piece of the Ryman to town.
Singer/songwriter Peter Case, opening his acoustic set with “Put Down that Gun”, quickly captured the the audience.   I loved “Crooked Mile”, with its funky countrified rhythm and Case’s guitar picking.  The song to remember from this set, however, was the soft and heartfelt love song, “Two Angels”.  Before beginning this one, Case mentioned it had been picked up and used in an episode of HBO’s True Blood.  He went on to say it was used on a scene where two shape-shifters were having sex on a pool table.  He then humorously added that was just what he was thinking about when he wrote the song.   Case certainly delivered and one couldn’t ask for a better person to open up for John Prine. 
With guitarist Jason Wilber on one side and stand-up bassist Dave Jacques on the other, Prine was in rare form, and played through most of the songs from his first and self-titled album.  Opening with a rowdy crowd-pleaser, “Spanish Pipedream”, Prine set the mood for the rest of the evening.   Before I knew it, he was tearing through “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore”, another favorite.  
I loved how everything quieted down throughout the “Humidity Built the Snowman” from Lost Dogs & Mixed Blessings. This song seems to make me feel really self-aware, just thinking about the lyrics “Humidity built the snowman.  Sunshine brought it down.”  
Breaking up the heaviness from the previous songs, Prine broke out a fun little song co-written  with Peter Case,  called “Space Monkey”, about the exploits of  a primate shot into space during the Cold War when the USSR and the USA were racing to get a man on the moon first.   The monkey was forgotten about but finally made it back to earth, only to meet up with a couple of friends at a karaoke bar and talk about old times.  
It was a treat to hear “Dear Abby”, and  the heart wrenching “Sam Stone”.  The biggest treat for me though, was when Jason Wilber picked up a mandolin, and began playing the intro to the classic, “Angel from Montgomery”.   This is what it’s all about.  
To bring things to a close, Prine brought Case out on stage , and together they performed a ripping rendition of “Paradise”.   It was a great night for music.    

Friday, October 11, 2013

Big B "More to Hate" -- From the Archives #4

By Phillip Smith

One rarely thinks of Vegas when the topic of rap music arises.  That may be changing really soon.  Big B,  the Las Vegas rapper has released a very solid album called More to Hate.  Each song seemed to have its own individual imprint, displaying a diversity of styles.  The title track “More to Hate” emits that old school nineties rap essence, and eases the listener in comfortably.  “White Trash Life”, the single, could easily be confused as a Mighty Mighty Bosstones song, with its ska beat, and gravelly vocals.  Being a Bosstones fan myself, I enjoyed this track immensely.  Danny Diablo offers up assistance with the track, “Put’em Up”, a southern fried selection which reminded me a bit of Kid Rock.  “Put’em up, get ‘em up, stick ’em up,  what? Your hands motherfucker! Your hands motherfucker!”, the hook, is still moshing around the diameter of my brain. 

Big B really connects with the common person though songs “Counting Pennies”, “Pass the Jager”, and “Real as they Come”.   “Pass the Jager”, featuring Dirtball, another ska influenced song, makes an excellent party anthem.    

The catchiest of the tracks on More to Hate, may just be “Looky Looky”, layering the hook over a beat that sounded like something the B-52’s could have cooked up.   I also favored the track “On the Road”,  which mixes one part drinking song, with stories from the road, with a friendly nod to ICP and the Juggalos. 

With the help of  the Kottonmouth Kings, Big B has transformed Men Without Hats’ one hit wonder into something sure to put a grin on Cheech and Chong’s faces.  In “We Can Smoke”, Big B sings, “We can smoke if we want to…”   to the tune of “The Safety Dance”.   Tech N9ne is featured on the following track, “Million Miles”, a love ballad about being away from home. 

Don’t let the name fool you, More to Hate will give you more to like. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

John Lee Hooker Jr. “ Live in Istanbul Turkey” -- From the Archives #3

2010 - Cc Ent / Copycats
By Phillip Smith ; Oct. 30, 2010

Many times live CDs take the low road as studio recordings take the high road, in regards to quality and sound.  Recorded live at the Efes Pilsen Blues Festival, in Istanbul, Live in Istanbul Turkey, by John Lee Hooker Jr. definitely takes the high road and  proves a live CD can be as much rewarding, if not more, than its studio recorded counterpart.

Backed by a large entourage of musicians, which include a fantastic horn section, John Lee Hooker, Jr. offers up eleven original songs, and a couple of covers.  Those being, “Boom Boom“ and “Maudie”,  originally recorded by his father, the late John Lee Hooker.  Along side Hooker, on guitar, is Jeff Horan.  He plays with a certain precision sure to make Hooker Sr. proud. 

“Suspicious”, references mobile phones, McDonalds, and smoking crack as it deals with the paranoia associated with a cheating significant other.  It is cleverly written and a pleasure to listen to.   It’s hard to be paranoid without being easily irritated as well.  Hooker seems to be eaten up with bitterness, as he denounces the economy, bank foreclosures, and false friends, in another favorite original, “Fed Up”.

Hooker turns his frown upside down next, as he breaks out the funk on “Funky Funk”.  If this one sounds a bit familiar, it’s because he incorporates the chorus and other pieces from Rufus Thomas’s “Walking The Dog”.  It’s a fun song.  Paying homage to his father‘s classic, “Boogie Chillen”, Hooker Jr. serves up a tasty dish with  “Doin’ The Boogie”.  It lasts almost eleven minutes in length, and  showcases a solo performance by each musician on stage before turning into a tremendous jam session. 

It’s easy to mentally place oneself  on location, in Istanbul, at this concert, while listening to this disc.  The music is so enjoyable one could not help but want to have been there.  The enthusiasm on stage is electrical.  This is the magic that gives Live in Istanbul Turkey its appeal.

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.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Photos from NewBo Arts Fest, Cedar Rapids, IA - Sep 1 , 2013

Photos by Phillip Smith 







Saturday, August 31, 2013

Reviews and Articles for Blues Revue Magazine 2011- 2013 .

by Phillip Smith

Paul Thorn - What The Hell is Goin' On?

Craig Erickson - Galactic Roadhouse

Josh Smith - Don't Give Up On Me

Betty Fox Band - Too Far Gone

Kenny Wayne Shepherd Concert 1/26/13 Review

Kenny Wayne Shepherd photos from Concert 1/26/13 Riverside, IA

David Hidalgo / Mato Nanji / Luther Dickinson – 3 Skulls and the Truth

The Mokats - Crossover Blues

Hamilton Loomis - Live at the Hub, DVD

Simon McBride - Crossing the Line

Bob Dylan - Tempest

Colin Linden - Still Live

Killing Floor - Rock 'n' Roll Gone Mad

Chris Watson Band - Pleasure and Pain

Darren Jay & the Delta Souls - Drink My Wine

Johnny Rawls - Soul Survivor

Debbie Bond - Hearts Are Wild

Eddie C Campbell - Spider Eating Preacher

Riverside Casino Blues Weekend Review

Riverside Casino Blues Weekend Photos:

Stacy Jones Band = No Need To Spell it Out

Mighty Sam McClain & Knut Reiersrud - One Drop is Plenty

Tony Spinner - Down Home Mojo

Roy Trevino - self titled

Bryce Janey - Game of Life

Mike Zito - Greyhound

Mississippi Fever - Self Titled

Jay Gordon's Blues Venom - No Cure

Coyote Kings - Move

Marco De Sade Band - Take No Prisoners

BillyLee Janey - No Saints Ringin' the Bells

David Bromberg - Use Me,

Levee Town - Pages of Paperwork ,

Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band - Peyton on Patton,

Levon Helm - Ramble at the Ryman ,

Trampled Under Foot - Wrong Side of the Blues,

Dr. Duke Tumatoe - I Just Want To Be Rich

Bryce Janey - Blues in My Soul

Colin Gilmore - Goodnight Lane

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.