Saturday, May 3, 2014

Warrel Dane - Praises to the War Machine : From the Archives #12

2008 -  Century Media

By Phillip Smith; Written for , July 6, 2009

Praises to the War Machine is the solo effort of Warrel Dane, lead singer of  Seattle band, Nevermore.  Collaborating with Soilwork’s guitarist Peter Wichers, and drummer Dirk Verbeuren, Dane has constructed a new heavy metal opus.  Praises to the War Machine doesn’t just tap its needle into the heavy metal vein of decades past, but plunges that sucker right in there.  I definitely pick up shreds of Black Sabbath, Ozzy, and Dio to name a few.  And that’s not a bad thing. 

First out of the gate, the guitar-heavy and melodic “When We Pray”  drives home the point, which Dane sings ‘nothing ever changes when we pray’.   Other heavy tracks include, “Obey” and “Equilibrium“.  “Obey“, reminds me a bit of Disturbed, and pounces upon the listener with vigorous guitar riffs.    
And lets not forget the ballads.  One in particular stands out, “Your Chosen Misery”.   This one seems a little out of place, when compared to the other tracks, as the vocals are contrastingly deep  for the lion's share of this song. 
The most interesting track however, is a cover of Paul Simon’s “Patterns” from the 1965 album, The Paul Simon Songbook.  Danes version, although tons heavier than the original, is still recognizable.  Check out the original and then listen to Dane’s version if you get a chance.   And definitely check this CD out.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Bugs Henderson Group - Still Flyin’

2008 -  Reissued by Grooveyard Records
1981 – Originally issued on Flying High Records

By Phillip Smith; April 27, 2014

I’ve recently stumbled upon Grooveyard Record’s re-release of the late Texas blues guitarist/songwriter Bugs Henderson’s Still Flyin’ CD.  Although, the music is thirty-three years old now, it’s new to me, and frankly put, it’s a damn good album. In addition to the ten tracks on the original album, this reissue, also throws in an additional four bonus tracks, the last of which, happens to be Audio Liner Notes.  It's such a unique idea, and makes for an interesting listen as we hear the stories behind the music.  Rounding out the rest of the band is bassist Bobby Chitwood and drummer Ron Thompson.   

“Baby Ruth”, a bluesy southern rock boogie, kicks the album off and draws me right in.  This is a fun one to listen to, and sounds like it was a fun one to record as well.  Henderson plays to an increasingly faster tempo, exhibiting some of his fabulous guitar-play.   Keeping the momentum going for a song appropriately named, “Heart Attack”, a rightfully impressive exhibition of fast-paced rockin’ blues, Henderson pulls out all the stops as Thompson pounds the hell out of his drums.     

Henderson proves he can slow it down a bit too, and still sound great.  “Judi Likes the Blues” a song that sounds as if it were cross-pollination between Willie Nelson and the Allman Brothers, is a mellow and softly played country blues track, featuring the late and great Tom Morrell dishing out some tasty licks on his steel guitar.

I listen in awe to the killer blues riffs, in “Not Guilty”, title track “Still Flyin’”, and instrumental, “Little Brother”.  The latter is dedicated to Bug’s little brother, Kim who died in a car accident at the young age of Twenty-one.  Psychedelically played on top of a slow, yet funky rhythm, the emotion is felt with nearly every note.   

Catching me somewhat by surprise, this album quickly became a favorite to listen to.  It’s an outstanding blend of guitar-centric Texas Blues and boogie-laced Southern Rock.‎

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Delta Flyers - Sixteen Bars : From the Archives #11

2010 - Soulbilly Music Group 
By Phillip Smith; January 8, 2011

Vocalist Stevie DuPree and songwriter/guitarist Travis Stephenson are the driving force behind The Delta Flyers, a genuine down-home blues style band.   Sixteen Bars offers up ten top-notch original songs, covering the trials and tribulations of the common man and those a little less fortunate.

When one is confronted with  the term, ‘Sixteen Bars’, without taking too long to think about it, the sixteen bar blues easily comes to mind.  However. “Sixteen Bars”, the name of the title track is clearly a reference to the number of bars across a jail cell door.  This  track tells the crazy alcohol-fueled hard-luck story of the events leading up to a long prison sentence.   Played with lots of  twangy slide guitar and accompanied harmonica, this track is haunting and intriguing.

 A little bit of a history lesson awaits those who listen to “Dockery Farm”, a dirge about the hard life as a poor share-cropper at the famous Dockery Farm cotton plantation outside Cleveland,  Mississippi.  According to B.B. King, this is where it all started.  Dockery Farm,  regarded as a birthplace of the American Blues, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

Speaking of historical places, move over Bob Dylan, there‘s a new song about Highway 61.  I‘m talking about “61 Highway Blues“.  Again, there is likely to be some killin’ done too.  As Dupree puts it, ‘That old 61 highway sure can be a mean ole road.’.  Some great slide and some even  better story telling makes this a great song to start the album off with.

The cut that really got my attention on this album, was “Poison Took My Baby”.  Though it’s only a bit over two and a half minutes, this song takes a hard look at the damage drug and alcohol abuse wreak on a relationship.  As the song closes with , ‘Damn that whisky.  Damn that needle’, there is no mistaking what the message here is all about.

I thoroughly enjoyed this album.  The Delta Flyers prove to be a band to be reckoned with, and I anxiously await their next release..

Rating =  4/5

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sean Taylor - Chase the Night

2013 -  Sean Taylor Songs

By Phillip Smith; April 12, 2014

London-based singer-songwriter Sean Taylor’s sixth and latest album, Chase the Night, is quite the masterpiece. This is some of the most unique and fascinating new music I have heard in a while.  Using blues and roots music to deliver intelligently crafted lyrics that sound like lost verses of beat poetry that fell out of a Kerouac book, Taylor has skillfully assembled an album which I find becomes more interesting with each subsequent listen.   Backing Taylor on all songs is Mark Hallman, tackling whatever instrument is thrown his way and flawlessly, I might add.  The album was recorded at Congress House Studios in Austin, TX.

Taylor has this fantastic ability to pour his emotions into his music.  Take “Losing You” for example, a bluegrassy song about lost love and self-blame.  Even after admitting his infidelities, the listener still is left with a soft spot in their heart for him, as he sings, “I know I’m losing you, I don’t wanna believe it’s true.”  I love the violin Warren Hood adds to the song as well as the electric slide guitar, provided by Andre Moron.   “So Fine”, with sultry vocals by Stephanie Daulong, reminds me a small bit of Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky”.  Interestingly unfolding the similarities of sex and drugs, this song slowly and beautifully increases the tempo, building up a musical tension that is released via a furiously chaotic climax. 

“Biddy Mulligans”, about watching the world through the bottom of a shot glass, seems to draw inspiration from the works of Charles Bukowski.  There is definitely a little inspiration from Tom Waits hanging out in this song as well, sans the gravelly voice. This is beautifully played, with Taylor on both piano and guitar, Hood on violin, and Hallman taking on the bass.

I absolutely love “River”, with its trance-inducing rhythm, fuzzy guitar, and beat poetry lyrics. Like a Jim Morrison who’s more interested in being a Londoner, than being the Lizard-king, Taylor keeps the verses freely flowing.       

This is the first album of Taylor’s I have heard, and after just a few listens, it landed at the top of my favorites for the year.  Also, knowing he has five other albums out there to listen to, while I wait for the next one to come out, puts a smile on my face.  Chase the Night is definitely a keeper.‎

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Billy Pierce & Friends - Take Me Back to the Delta

By Phillip Smith; April 5, 2014

Listening to the new album, Take Me to the Delta from Billy Pierce & Friends is like taking a mini musical vacation to New Orleans.  The songs are marinated in a Cajun-style country blues sauce and served buffet-style, so as to make sure everyone gets a little of what they have to offer.  Along with Pierce, who handles the vocals and slide guitar, is bassist Chris Miller and drummer Billy Meyers.  Joining the band is a multitude of guest musicians which include the likes of Sonny Landreth, Charlie Wooton, Waylon Thibodeaux and the guys from Bonerama.

Title track, “Take Me Back to the Delta” is a bluesy treat.  With guests Landreth on slide, Wooton on bass, and Thibodeaux fiddling away, you can’t go wrong. This one is just plain fun.  I really like the instrumental, “Song For Sonny”.  This is my favorite.  It pretty much falls into the category of trance blues.  Guest drummer Johnny Digiovanni, keeps a steady interesting beat running throughout the song as Pierce plays some bodacious slide guitar. I would love to hear a full album of more songs like this one.  Coming in at number two, is “Rooster”, a song about putting stuff behind you and letting go.  Jimmy Carpenter’s sax playing surely contributes to the cool factor.  While on the subject of cool factors, check out Wooten’s funky bass track on “Big Joe”.  It goes really well with that cool swampy slide Pierce lays down.      

A couple of notable covers to mention are Big Bill Broonzy’s “Key to the Highway”, and Hank Williams Sr.’s “Jambalaya”.  Like Heinz ketchup, the Broonzy cover is ‘Slow Good’.  Bonerama provides the horns and Johnny Neel tickles the ivories, giving this a really nice authentic New Orleans sound.  And we all know, no trip to The Big Easy is complete without a big bowl of the aforementioned Jambalaya.  This bowl is spiced up with help from Thibodeaux, Digiovanni, and Henry Ramato on accordion.  

Take Me Back to the Delta has some really cool musical components, and fans of both Blues and Zydeco music are encouraged to check this album out.‎

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Shotgun Rebellion - Shotgun Rebellion

Shotgun Rebellion, 2014

By Phillip Smith; March 29, 2014

This self-produced, self-titled, thirteen track album by Shotgun Rebellion fell into my awareness quite unexpectedly and I have to say, it pretty much bowled me over.  These guys elevate Southern Rock to a whole new level, by introducing fearsome guitar licks, emphatic beats, powerful vocals and wild-west imagery along with an arsenal of all-original songs.  Rooted in Oklahoma, Shotgun Rebellion features vocalist Rick Davis, bassist Jon Parr, drummer Johnni Walker, and to top things off, guitarist extraordinaire Randy “The Arsonist” Cooper formerly of Texas Hippie Coalition. 

“Lost My Way”, gets the album kick-started with a combination of vocals and guitar which reminds me a lot of Black Rain era Ozzy with Zakk Wylde, sans the British accent.  Davis and Cooper knock this one out of the ballpark.  The album only gets better.  I really like the infectious groove on “Squeeze My Shotgun”.  This double entendre titled party anthem takes me back a couple of decades to Guns N’ Roses (original lineup).  The song is pure no-nonsense rock with smile-inducing guitar play and crashing cymbals.  Another track that seems to emit that GNR vibe is “Pain and Misery”.  I can’t help but think of Black Oak Arkansas when I hear Davis’s voice on this song, and its successor “Train of Pain”.  Davis’s singing and style reminds me a lot of JimDandyMangrum from BOA.   While on the subject of Jim Dandy,  I want to mention another song I really like,   “Just as Good a Day to Die”, a heady little ballad that falls right into the BOA wheelhouse. It’s as if it was written as a follow-up to the song “Lord Have Mercy on My Soul”.    

I detect a bit of Charlie Daniels inspiration when I listen to “Devils Home Brew” as Davis spins the tale of a moonshining witch.  The cool factor runs high on this eerie tale which tells us ‘there is nothing you can do once you get a taste of the Devil’s home brew’.   

Right up there on top of my list of favorite tracks are “Roll On” and “BadmansGUN”.  “Roll On”, plainly put, is one hell of a good song. Walker and Parr set up a really cool hallway of rhythm for Davis and Cooper to maneuver their way through. Then there is old-West themed ballad, “BadmansGUN”, which is sung from the view point of a man dying from a gunshot wound, and interjected with little bits of dialog and effects.  Sitting in on piano is Michael Miers, a friend of the band. One of the more interesting moments captured in the song is when everything gets quiet, and we hear just the piano, an acoustic guitar, and Johnni Walker softly whistling.     

Shotgun Rebellion not only captures my attention at the beginning, but it holds on to it until the end.  This album is quite impressive, and I hope we will be hearing a lot more from these guys in the future.  I believe we will.     

Special note :  Wes Wallace (also formerly of Texas Hippie Coalition) was added to the band full time about a month ago. So although he didn't appear on the album, he will be touring with them.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

South Memphis String Band - Home Sweet Home : From The Archives #10

Memphis Int'l,  2010

By Phillip Smith; April 24, 2010

Home Sweet Home, the debut release by The South Memphis String Band pays serious homage to early twentieth century Mississippi delta string and jug bands.   Channeling the likes of Gus Cannon, Missisppi John Hurt, and The Memphis Jug Band , musicians Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars, Black Crowes), Alvin “Youngblood” Hart and Jimbo Mathus (Squirrel Nut Zippers) share the common experience of  being good friends, and having family connections and/or roots in the Memphis and North Mississippi area.   With an arsenal of instruments which include guitars, banjos, harmonicas, steel guitars, and mandolins, The South Memphis String Band helps the listener transgress to a slower and simpler time.

Sometimes, music can trigger the same feelings and emotions one experiences with ‘comfort foods’.  This album, I have realized,  has become one of my comfort foods.  Home Sweet Home is a melting pot, taking tried and true ingredients such as delta blues, gospel and folk music and slow simmering it into a Sunday family dinner.  I love the fact that The South Memphis String Band is consistent in style with each of its songs, yet allowing each to shine on its own accord. 

This is true.  Almost every morning, there is a song stuck in my head upon awakening.  Several times, that song has been “Deep Blue Sea”.  It‘s infectious.  Other cuts deserving mention are “Bootleggers Blues” and “Old Hen”.  Both are a little country-fried and dripping with authenticity.  Listening to the vocals dance around the banjo in “Old Hen”, just puts a big smile on my face.  I relished  “Worry Bout Your Own Backyard” as well, for its bluesy vocals and its wise lyrics, “Stop worrying about the whole world, and start worrying about your own backyard.”. 

 Home Sweet Home is a soulful experience and with each listen of  “Let Your Light Shine On Me”, I want to clap my hands and yell ‘Hallelujah!’

Rating =  4/5