Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Muggs - Straight Up Boogaloo

2015 – The Muggs
By Phillip Smith; April 11, 2015

Straight Up Boogaloo, the fourth studio album from Detroit rockers The Muggs, hit me like a 100 mph fastball launched by Alex Rodriguez.  Using a blues-fueled album-rock approach to music, the Muggs ( guitarist Danny Methric , bass player Tony DeNardo, and drummer Todd Glass) deliver their music with raw unbridled performances, oftentimes resembling that of Plant and Page.

There’s definitely a Led Zeppelin vibe hanging in the air on opener “Applecart Blues”. Vocals reminiscent of Robert Plant, and heavy driving guitar riffs, lure me right in.  Glass kills it on drums, keeping a powerful thundering beat going.  This one is on top of my list of favorites.  The guys keep the Zeppelin thing going on “Roger Over and Out A”, and “Roger Over and Out B”, an opus dedicated to the legendary sci-fi/horror film producer/director, Roger Corman.  Corman’s film titles and subject matter are cleverly woven into the lyrics, making these songs a treasure trove of Easter eggs.

Other songs seem to have more of a Black Sabbath/Ozzy feel.  “Spit and Gristle” falls into this category.  From the hypnotizing and infectious opening riff to the melodic vocals which just seem to linger in thin air, this track is a head-slammin’ balls-to-the-wall original. And then obviously falling into this category, is the equally impressive cover of Black Sabbath’s “Tomorrow’s Dream”, off the 1972 Vol. 4 album.  

The Muggs also take on early Fleetwood Mac, with the Peter Green penned “Rattlesnake Shake”.  Grittier and swampier than the original, this one is almost twelve minutes in length, and full of bluesy goodness.  Methric’s guitar playing makes this one a very interesting listen.  They score big again while tackling the Beatles’ “Yer Blues”.  It’s such a great song, and they nail it to the post.

Straight Up Boogaloo, impressive from start to end, is my favorite rock album of 2015 so far. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Slam Allen - Feel These Blues

2015 – American Showplace Music
By Phillip Smith; April 4, 2015

Step inside, Slam Allen’s latest album, Feel These Blues, and allow yourself to soak up all the soulful house-rockin’ goodness you can.  Don’t worry about being greedy, there’s plenty for everyone.  Listening to the blues being performed at the level Allen plays is such a joy.  Having worked his way up through the ranks by being lead guitarist and lead singer for James Cotton for nine years, Allen’s years of experience is felt in every song.  With a band composed of bassist Jeff Anderson, drummer Dan Fadel, and organist/pianist extraordinaire John Ginty, Allen delivers eleven delightful original tracks, and a surprising cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain”.

Allen jump-starts things with title track “Feel These Blues”, a high-energy boogie with fantastic, bluesy guitar licks.  It’s a perfect song to set the album in motion with.  Keeping the blues bus a rolling is “All Because of You”.  This stand-out track, topped with Ginty’s B3 is slathered with Allen’s soulful guitar and vocals.  There’s an undeniable Memphis Stax influence on “Can’t Break Away From That Girl”.  Allen seeming channels Otis Redding, while throwing in little Steve Cropper-ish licks on guitar.  I love the funky, feel-good groove built around Anderson’s bassline.  All this, along with a little church added via Ginty on organ, makes the track a bona fide favorite.  For a feel-good song which exudes positive energy, nothing beats “That’s Where You Are”.  From the opening bassline to the closing organ outro, this luscious track puts a smile on my face every time.   

Slam Allen keeps the writing real and the performances fresh. Feel the Blues is “Top-Shelf” blues at its best.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Gregg Allman live at Riverside Casino 3/28/15

Riverside, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; Mar 29, 2015

Walking on stage to a standing ovation from a sold out crowd is something only a few people get to experience.  Gregg Allman is one of them.   Allman, along with the rest of his nine man ensemble took the stage at Riverside Casino in Riverside, Iowa.  With Allman on the B3 and Scott Sharrard on guitar, front and center, the band tore into a ripping rendition of “Stateboro Blues”.  The audience was happy, and so was I.  Without missing a beat, they then slid right into a sweet sounding “I’m No Angel” followed up with the mellow grooves of “Come and Go Blues”.  Dipping into his Playin’ Up a Storm album for a two-fer, Allman performs a refreshingly “Brightest Smile in Town”.  The intro was beautifully played, and Allman’s vocals were soulful.  The sax solo was a standout as well. I absolutely loved hearing the crowd pleasing Muddy Waters classic, “Trouble No More”. Initiated with a fantastic drum intro, this one was played tight as hell. This is where it sets in, just how cohesive this band is.  It’s so enjoyable to hear Sharrard tear it up on guitar. For “Melissa”, Allman switched over from the B3, to acoustic guitar. This song hit the spot, and drew people to their feet. 

The second set was quite strong too.  Allman picks up his electric guitar for an exquisite “Ain’t Wasting Time No More”. It sounded so good.  Returning to acoustic guitar, Allman and the band got a little help from the crowd singing “Midnight Rider”.  This song culminates with a really interesting trumpet performance from Marc Franklin and a standing ovation.  The fast and furious “Love Like Kerosene” was phenomenally played. Ron Johnson was dishing out some awe-inspiring groove on the bass while we got yet another smoking performance from Sharrard.  After the first few notes of “Whippin’ Post” were played, it was apparent the audience would not be able to sit still.  Greg remained on electric, while Peter Leven took over the B3.  Groovy beats from Steve Potts and Marc Quinones and blasts from the brass make this an interestingly funky treat.  This was one everyone had undoubtedly been waiting for, as it drew a huge standing ovation.  With that closing out the last set, the band returned once more with Allman back at the B3 for a riveting extended version of “Southbound”.  Needless to say, the show was outstanding.


Statesboro Blues
I’m No Angel
Come and Go Blues
Brightest Smile In Town
Trouble No More
The Same Thing

-Instrumental Break-

Cradle of Civilization
Hot Lanta
Ain’t Wasting Time No More
Midnight Rider
Love Like Kerosene
Whipping Post



Saturday, March 28, 2015

The New Basement Tapes - Lost on the River

2014 – Harvest Records
By Phillip Smith; Mar 28, 2015

There’s something very special about the latest supergroup, New Basement Tapes.  This collective of musicians, consisting of Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), & Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons) have joined forces to record fifteen tracks based on uncovered song lyrics which were written by Bob Dylan in 1967 during the original Basement Tape sessions. Dylan credited with co-writer of each song on the album, does not appear on any of the performances.

The somewhat spacy “Down on the Bottom” kicks things off.  This track is co-written by Jim James, who also by the way takes on the electric guitar and organ.  I really like the fuzzy My Morning Jacket guitar licks James dishes out during the bridge.  This is the kind of song that captivates me upon first listen.  James is also at the helm of “Nothing To It”, a poppy song about letting the flip of a coin decide the fate of a thief.  Under the covers, this is ominous and sinister enough to be on Harvey Dent’s playlist.  

I can’t steer away from “Kansas City”, with writing credits given to both Mumford and Goldsmith.  Mumford nails the lead vocals on this ode to torn hearts and letting go.  Johnny Depp even makes an appearance to play guitar on this one.  Goldsmith revisits Kansas City on “Liberty Street”.  This story of hard times is solemnly sung and beautifully played on piano.  Goldsmith delivers again on the rootsy “Card Shark”, a cute little ditty featuring Costello on ukulele.  This song has that feel-good pleasantness to it that lures the listener to sing along. I like this one a lot.

It’s so good to hear Elvis Costello tear it up both vocally and electrically on guitar in “Six Months in Kansas City (Liberty Street)”.  He brings to the table the same enthusiasm and exuberance he had in his early years.

Title track, “Lost on the River #20” beautifully concludes the album, with lovely vocals from Rhiannon flowing alongside stellar acoustic guitar performances from Mumford and Goldsmith.  It’s hard to believe these Dylan songs haven’t been put to tape and released before.  They’re so good.  Lost on the River is nothing short of a masterpiece.    

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Cécile Doo-Kingué - Anybody Listening, Pt 1 : Monologues

2015 – CDK Musik
By Phillip Smith; Mar 21, 2015

Soulful vocals paired with infectious rhythms and thought-provoking lyrics, are the heart of Cécile Doo-Kingué’s latest album, Anybody Listening Pt. 1: Monologues, the first installment in a trilogy of albums. Anybody Listening features nine blues-soaked, cleverly written songs performed on acoustic guitar in a solo setting. 

Doo-Kingué makes a huge powerfully submissive splash with album opener, “Make Me”. I love her sultry vocals on this fusion of funk and blues.  She keeps the mood light in “Little Bit” as well, in this ditty about what it takes to get in the happy place. I can’t help but smile when I hear this one.

As a voice for a new generation of activists, Doo-Kingué picks up where the Seventies left off, when it comes to writing songs promoting civil rights.  “Bloodstained Vodka” is her response to the arrest of feminist punk rockers, Pussy Riot for charges of hooliganism, and Putin’s anti-gay stance.  Stand-out track, “Six Letters” takes a seriously heavy look at racism and the atrocities which go hand in hand with it.  Doo-Kingué plays this one in a traditional blues style, complete with slide.        

Title track, “Anybody Listening” a mellow ode to loneliness closes the album with a sad and slow yet funky rhythm. Although Anybody Listening Pt. 1: Monologues seems to goes by fast, it has a lot of replay-ability.  This poignant album leaves me wanting to hear more, and excited to hear the next two albums in the series.       

For more info on Cécile Doo-Kingué, visit her website

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Michael ONeill - I Like It Like That

2013 – Sleeping Trout Music
By Phillip Smith; Mar 14, 2015

Michael ONeill has a special talent, when it comes to songwriting. One listen to I Like it Like That, is good proof he can just as easily write for the mainstream country fan, as well as for the indie roots music enthusiast.  One thing is for sure, the songs in I Like it Like That are steeped heavily in Americana.

The first two tracks, “Raise a Glass”, and “When You Come Around”, remind me a lot of the self-reflective songs of Roy Orbison during his career revival in the Eighties. They’re both quite nice. ONeill croons with heartfelt emotion on “Feel Her Heart Break”, a somber song about a bad relationship. The steel guitar on this track is a very nice touch.

ONeill captures the spirit of John Prine in “Running Out of Time”.  This ode seems to say, life is way too short to spend all of our time here on Earth trying to figure out who we are.  “On Time” strikes a chord, paying homage to the Grateful Dead.  Complete with Jerry Garcia influenced guitar and vocals, this ditty is carefree and enlightening.

“ Real Deal” is a perfect pop country song. Catchy energized hooks and rockin’ bluesy riffs make this a boot-scooting favorite.  The alternate version of this song featuring a side of fiddle performed by Tim Crouch, is even better.

For more info on Michael ONeill, visit his website

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Dave Paris - Jury of My Peers

2015 – Mr. & Mrs. Paris Music
By Phillip Smith; Mar 7, 2015

The latest album, Jury of My Peers, from Iowan Dave Paris is a smorgasbord of thirteen original and amazing guitar-centric instrumentals.  Paris keeps it fresh with varying styles and tempos, burning his own stamp of ownership into each track with blazing melodic guitar riffs.  

As if busting through a wall like the Kool-Aid Man, “Romans Road” takes a no-holds-barred approach to greeting the listener with a an unexpected blast of hard-driving metal-laced rhythm.  Besides the furious guitar licks prominent on “Bought by Blood”, I love the swampy harmonica intro from Cyprian Alexzander.  Stand-out anthem, “Night Before Last”, is beautifully powerful.  Paris introduces a small string section composed of violinists Natalie Brown, Mike Hall, and Curt Harman, which adds tremendously to this song’s unique appeal.      

As far as the heaviest tracks go, I’m drawn to both “Last 2nd” and “Author of Fate”.  A funky bassline from Barbe Paris and intriguing beats from drummer Brent Harknett help make “Last 2nd” a great rock instrumental.  Paris performs this with an undeniable mastery.  “Author of Fate” kicks off in a classic Metallica form, with lots of fury. Paris carefully injects a smidge of progressive rock into this one before returning to the song’s metal roots.      

Dave breaks out the slide, and slips in a really unexpected treat in “Wood, Wire, Wind”.  Steeped heavily in North Mississippi country blues, this one hits the spot.  Alexzander returns with harmonica in tow for this track.  Based on this track alone, I’d love to hear what Paris would do with an entire album devoted to the Blues.

It’s so enjoyable to hear a guitar master such as Paris, do what he does best.  Fresh and seriously focused, Jury of My Peers has edged its way onto my list of favorite instrumental rock albums.  

For more info on Dave Paris visit his website

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar - Send the Nightingale

2015 – Samantha Martin Music
By Phillip Smith; Feb 28, 2015

The new album from Toronto-based recording artists Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar is sure to draw a lot of attention and adoration.  Boasting a clever mix of blues, roots, country and gospel music, Send the Nightingale is absolutely compelling.  With vocals that fall into the same wheelhouse as Janis Joplin, Martin takes command of each song.  Guitarist Mikey McCallum, along with backing vocalists Sherie Marshall and Stacie Tabb, form Delta Sugar.    

Martin’s influences are also nicely rooted in Sixties soul music as well.  Kicking off with a light rhythm reminiscent of Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man”, is “Addicted”, a proclaiming song of love, and a soulful joyous treat.  The mood suddenly drops on “When You Walk Away”, a heart wrenching song about splitting up.  McCallum on guitar, brings to mind Steve Cropper’s playing on ”(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay”.    

Martin performs “One More Day” with the energy and unbridled exuberance of a gospel band in a southern tent revival.  Complete with obligatory stomps and clap, it’s cloaked in a rootsy and rustic vibe.  To this song, I say “Amen brothers and sisters!”  The song that sticks with me the most though is “Don’t Shoot”.  I absolutely love it.  Martin, like Lucinda Williams, just has an uncanny knack for writing great story-telling songs that rock with a country/western flair.

Excellent songwriting, powerful vocals, fantastic harmonies, and expert musicianship, make Send the Nightingale the wonderful album it is.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Kubek & King - Fat Man's Shine Parlor

2015 – Blind Pig Records
By Phillip Smith; Feb 21, 2015

Dynamic Blues duo Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King have teamed up again, to record and produce an album of the best down-home blues one can hear.  The title itself, Fat Man’s Shine Parlor, conjures up visions of seasoned bluesmen congregating in the neighborhood barbershop on a Saturday afternoon, exchanging stories of days gone by.

“Got My Heart Broken” is an excellent track to start off with its high energy and driving rhythm.  Eerie growls resembling the snores of a sleeping dragon emit from Kubek’s guitar and make this one even more fascinating.  Keeping that initial energy flowing, they dive into another favorite, “Cornbread”, a heavy blues ode to country cooking and soul food.  I love the groove on “Diamond Eyes”.  Heavily steeped in Seventies blues/rock, my mind wanders to artists like Robin Trower and Pat Travers when immersed in this song.      

As soon as I hear the beginning Zeppelin’esque riff from “Brown Bomba Mojo”, I get excited.  This is phenomenally played and hits on all cylinders. It really doesn’t get much better than this.  Kubek and King certainly deliver the goods once again, proving tasty guitar blues is their specialty.     

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The B-52’s live at Riverside Casino 2/14/15

Riverside, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; Feb 15, 2015

One of my all-time favorite bands, The B-52’s descended upon the Riverside Casino in Riverside, Iowa last night and gave a stellar Valentine’s Day performance in front of a packed house. It was a special night, as the evening marked the 38th anniversary of their first concert performing together.  Original founding members Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, and Cindy Wilson were joined onstage by guitarist Greg Suran, bassist Tracy Wormworth, drummer/percussionist Sterling Campbell, and guitarist/keyboardist Paul Gordon.    

The band kicked things off with “Pump”, off their most recent studio album, Funplex.  This one got the crowd excited and the energy flowing.  The only other track from this album, was “Love in the Year 3000”, introduced by Kate who acknowledged Riverside, Iowa as being the future birthplace of Captain Kirk while pondering the details of how his parents hooked up.    

Deeper cuts played, included the songs, “Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland” from Bouncing Off the Satellites and “Is That You Mo-dean?” from Good Stuff. Cindy gave a touching introduction to “Girl…” reminding us it was off the last album her brother Rickie played on before he passed in 1985.  This one was Cindy’s song to sing.

For a short while, Kate and Cindy held down the fort with “Roam” and “Legal Tender”, which quickly filled the aisles with dancers and revelers.  As soon as those songs finished, Fred mysteriously returned to stage donning a red ‘Kate-like’ wig.  Stating it was party time, the band tore into “Party Out of Bounds”. Afterwards, Fred exclaimed “It’s fun being a red-head!”     

The set is ended with crowd-favorite “Love Shack”, which brings the entire audience to their feet.  As the B-52’s return for their encore, the familiar spacy beeps from “Planet Claire” fill the air.  It’s still amazing to hear Kate’s enchanting siren-like vocals on this one. I remember thinking; this must have been what the siren songs which called out to Odysseus sounded like.  It was so captivating.  To wrap things up, the audience was treated to an extended dance version of “Rock Lobster”, a true classic off their first album. With red lobster-color lights shining upon the stage, Kate danced her heart out, and never seemed to break a sweat. 

This was hands down, a fantastic show, and a fun concert.

* all photos by Phillip Smith

Cindy Wilson, Fred Schneider

Cindy Wilson, Fred Schneider & Kate Pierson

Cindy Wilson

Kate Pierson

Greg Suran

Fred and Kate

Cindy, Fred & Kate

Kate Pierson

Fred Schneider

Cindy , Kate, & Fred

Cindy Wilson

Cindy, Fred, & Kate

Fred Schneider

Cindy Wilson

Fred & Tracy Wormworth

Fred Schneider

Kate Pierson


Private Idaho
Dance This Mess Around
Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland
Legal Tender
Party Out of Bounds
Love in the Year 3000
Is That You Mo-dean?
Love Shack


Planet Claire
Rock Lobster

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Alejandra O'Leary and the Champions of the West - Heartspace Timepiece

2014 – Sheepdog Sheethog Music
By Phillip Smith; Feb 14, 2015

It just takes one listen to Heartspace Timepiece from Alejandra O’Leary and the Champions of the West, to acknowledge it as a beautiful masterpiece.  This indie rock band based in Michigan and North Carolina, craft and perform amazingly lush pop music with outstanding vocals and deep lyrics.   

The spacy and futuristic, “Now Now” reminds me a lot of synth-pop band, Missing Persons.  Echo-filled vocals, and attention-grabbing guitar licks make this one a great track to open up with.  O’leary’s angelic voice flawlessly flows through the folksy “Skin to Skin”, with the softness of Juliana Hatfield. “New Low” is the song most likely to get stuck in my head.  This deliciously poppy song ironically tells the tale of an unraveling relationship. 

The Champions of the West definitely come from a space heavily influenced by bands like the Strokes. This adds a nice substantial and meaty texture to tracks “Positive Drag”, “Talk Me Down”, and personal favorite, “Mine That Groove”.

O’Leary nails this one down, as there are no skip-overs on this album.  Each of the nine songs on Heartspace Timepiece is definitely a ‘keeper’.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Empty Trail - Hollow Hearted

2014 – Empty Trail
By Phillip Smith; Feb 8, 2015

I’m really impressed with the production on debut EP release Hollow Hearted from Austin, Texas rocker, Rick Lambert of Empty Trail.  This writer/vocalist/guitarist takes full control of the helm on this boat with fiercely intense guitar performances and furious beats. Upon first listen, I can’t help but feel the energy and hear the influences from bands like Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog.

“Above My Love” kicks off the six song masterpiece with a thunderous drum intro.  Lambert seeming channels the late, great Lane Staley, as his vocals seem to amazingly hang in mid-air.  When “Down” begins, I notice I seem to crank up the volume just a bit. This is absolutely one of my favorites.   Lambert kills with lush guitar licks and melodic vocals, perfectly fitted for rock and roll. 

Simply put, Hollow Hearted is stunningly great.  I have no doubt we will be hearing a lot more from Lambert and Empty Trail in the future.     

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Evan - New Folk

2015 – Evan
By Phillip Smith; Feb 7, 2015

The soothing sounds of New Folk by Evan are quite a refreshing change of pace when it comes to folk music.  Evan’s unique vocal styling and catchy acoustic rhythms provide the perfect vehicle for his cleverly written songs.  Songwriter/Guitarist/Vocalist Evan Meulemans is joined by drummer/percussionist Mike Underwood, and bassist Graham Prellwitz in the making of this earthy eight track album.

Title track, “New Folk”, a delightful tune about self-awareness and purpose, reels me in for the long haul.  This wonderful song has been swimming in my head since I first heard it.  I also am really drawn to the poppy track, “Morning Dew”, about letting down ones hair and running free.  It’s such a fun listen, it puts a big smile on my face each time I hear it.    

Ushering in a feeling of tranquilly is “Water Song”, a short and sweet little song about getting back to nature, and allowing fate to run its course.  Evan slows things down a bit on “Wishing Well”. Softly sung, and lightly played, this song poetically expresses a longing for a lost love.  I like the way this song unexpectedly picks up with a boost in tempo midway.       

New Folk is a positively charged, feel-good folk album which leaves me wanting to hear more.       

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Bryce Janey - Blues in my Soul : From the Archives #17

2010 – Grooveyard Records  
By Phillip Smith; July 10, 2010

Blues in my Soul, the latest release by Bryce Janey, shows true grit as it showcases his skillful song writing, fine guitar slinging, and deep soulful vocals.  There is a huge Texas blues presence on this album, akin to the likes of Billy Gibbons, Johnny Winter, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.   Accompanying Janey are Dan Johnson on bass, and Eric Douglas on drums.  Both are excellent musicians and assist in making Blues in my Soul the enjoyable listening experience that it is.  

The bass line Dan Johnson provides for “Walkin’ on a Live Wire”, is infectious and ominous.  I could listen to this song all day long.  It is my favorite track.  Janey has a talent for making his Strat sing, and the way he exhibits that talent makes this song a treat to listen to.   Another great song, “Mission For Love”, with its’ funky trance-inducing groove, is pure enjoyment. 

“City Under Water” stirred up a lot of emotion, as it unleashed memories of the flood of 2008 which hit Cedar Rapids very hard, and left an unfathomable amount of destruction.  The feeling of helplessness we all had as we saw the river rise out of its banks are duly expressed as Janey sings,  ‘The sky is falling.  The ground is coming up.  Water at my knees.  I’m running out of luck.’ 

Other notable cuts include a pair of really cool cover songs, Johnny Winter’s “Medicine Man”, and Robin Trower’s spacey ballad “In This Place”.   Blues in my Soul is a fine album.  Pick it up and have a good listen.

For more information about Bryce Janey :

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers - Living by the Minute

2015 – Silver Street Records  
By Phillip Smith; Jan 31, 2015

One might think this has to be a Detroit or Memphis band upon first listen, but Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers actually are from Lincoln Nebraska.  This is where the members of the band met and began creating some of the coolest and funkiest sounds being made today.  Living by the Minute, Hoyer’s electric sophomore album, is one big bowl of fun.  With Hoyer holding down the B2 and lead vocals, the Shadowboxers consist of guitarist Benny Kushner, drummer Justin G. Jones, and bassist Josh Bargar, along with Mike Dee on saxophone and Tommy Van Den Berg on trombone.

Hoyer suavely attacks the soulful "Blood and Bone" much like James Brown would’ve back at the Apollo, tossing out little growls like vocal grenades.  A funky bassline from Barger leads Hoyer and company through the Isaac Hayes influenced “Misfit Children”.  This is definitely one of my favorites.  Pure energy seems to emit from the pulsating, dance-friendly “Real Time”.  I could very well see Sharon Jones covering this one.  Backing vocalists Hanna Bendler, Kim Moser, and Megan Spain are a lovely addition to the stand-out track, “A Man Who Believes His Own Lies”. This song is the pocket Aces on the album.

Living by the Minute is pure satisfaction. It doesn't get much better than this.

For more information on Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers, visit their website at

Saturday, January 24, 2015

John Ginty - Bad News Travels Live CD/DVD

2014 – American Showplace Music 
By Phillip Smith; Jan 24, 2015

John Ginty’s latest album, Bad News Travels Live, is an electrified bowl of funky blues., New Jersey B-3 master Ginty recorded this twelve track, two disc album this past June, in front of a small audience, at Showplace Studios, in Dover NJ.  His band is composed of guitarist Mike Buckman, bass player Paul Kuzik, and drummers, Dan Fadel and Andrei Koribanics.  Joining Ginty was a superstar cast of guest musicians consisting of Albert Castiglia, Todd Wolfe, Chris Jacobs, Alexis P. Suter, and Jimmy Bennett.   

Saturated with a suitcase full of soul, Ginty’s playing reminds me so much of Booker T Jones.  Dripping of Sixties-era Memphis soul music, “Switch” emits a wave of encompassing good vibrations. “Arrivals” follows suit and continues the vibe.  

Tempos and moods both change when “Black Cat” comes around.  This slow-cooked blues tune, turns into a furious dueling jam between Albert Castiglia’s nitro-fueled guitar licks and Ginty’s ‘too hot to handle’ B-3 sounds.  Castiglia appears again for the Allman Brothers flavored tune, “Damage Control”.  Also lending a hand on that track is guitarist Chris Jacobs and singer Alexis P. Suter, who wonderfully belts out the lyrics with her amazingly deep trademark voice.  Suter also sings on the soulful R&B song, “Seven and the Spirit”.  I like the way it playfully closes out with a homage to both Otis Redding and The Blues Brothers, giving us a little taste of “I Can’t Turn You Loose”.     

“Rock Ridge” embodies the spirit of the late Frank Zappa, with its unique chord progressions and fascinating tempo changes.  A flawless guitar performance from Todd Wolfe and an awe-inspiring display of Ginty’s musical chops, make this a favorite.

I like how the entire cast is gathered together for the finale, “Trinity”.  This jam lasts nearly nine minutes in length, and leaves the listener uplifted, much the same way one would expect to feel exiting an old-time gospel tent revival.  It certainly leaves me with a smile on my face.  Bad News Travels Live is definitely one of the better live recordings I've heard in a while.    

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hamilton Loomis Band “ Live at the Hub” DVD : From the Archives #16

By Phillip Smith; Jan 10, 2015

Live at the Hub, recorded at The Hub, in Cedar Falls, IA is energetic, bluesy and captivating.  Within a two hour time frame, I have gone from not really knowing who Hamilton Loomis is, to being a brand new fan.  This DVD is very nicely produced and indeed captures the energy and playful vibe of the actual live performance.  The band is composed of Loomis (lead vocals, guitar, harmonica), Kent Beatty on bass guitar, Stratton Doyle holding down the sax and keyboards, and Ryan Cortez who keeps a funky and steady beat on the drums.  Intertwined between songs, are little documentary pieces of Loomis filling us in on the band’s beginnings, influences, and generally what makes it tick.  I liked these little windows into the band’s soul.  It’s in these little pieces where Loomis talks about opening for blues icon, Bo Diddley and generously being taken in under his wing.
Loomis’s mastery of the guitar and soulful vocals is well-complimented by his hip and youthful presence on stage.  The first song on the set list, “Best Worst Day” sets the tone for the rest of the show.  It’s funkdafied blues.  Doyle’s saxophone adds lushness to the sound.  The camaraderie between Loomis and Doyle reminds me a little of the camaraderie exhibited at a live Phish show between Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon.  I definitely did a proverbial double-take during “Working Real Hard”, when Loomis and the band segue into Master Blaster (Jammin’) by Stevie Wonder.  They keep the funk rolling with ‘Stuck in a Rut’, singing, “I was stuck in a rut, but now I’m in a groove.”  Full of the good kind of positive energy, this song reminds me a bit of Tower of Power. 

His Texas blues influences kick in on “Voodoo Doll”, where he knocks an ‘over the wall’ homerun all while just ‘having some fun’ with Doyle on sax.  After one quick round of rock paper scissors, the two being exchanging licks, or as some people call it, “cutting heads”.  Bouncing back and forth trying to stump each other in a fascinating display, they roll through song samples such as ‘Walk This Way’, ‘Sunshine of Your Love’, ‘Brass Monkey’, ‘Billie Jean’, and ‘All Right Now’, culminating in an over-the-top full on attack finish. 

With Loomis being a protégé of Bo Diddley, you have to figure there is going to be at least a couple of tracks honoring him.  If you figured that, you’d be correct. Breaking out his red Gretsch Bo Diddley signature guitar, Loomis covers ‘Road Runner‘ which is immediately followed by ‘Who Do You Love?’.  The guitar was a gift from Bo Diddley which makes these tracks even more special.  Since Doyle is playing keyboards on this track, his saxophone is available for other things, such as taking on the role of the largest slide I have ever seen used on a guitar.  With the Bo Diddley guitar in one hand and saxophone in the other, Loomis slides the horn across the neck as he picks out the tune with the other, and afterward, tosses the sax back to Doyle who is still playing keyboards.          

Live at The Hub is delightful from start to finish.  These guys are the real deal musically, and cannot be accused of lacking in showmanship

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Rachelle Coba - Mother Blues

2014 – Mono Records  
By Phillip Smith; Jan 17, 2015

Mother Blues is the name of the debut album from Wichita, Kansas native Rachelle Coba, and an appropriate name it is.  This blueswoman writes, sings, and plays lead guitar.  By the way, she does it all extremely well.  Coba is undoubtedly the ‘whole enchilada’.  Backing her on this treasure chest full of tunes is upright bass player David M. Santos, and drummer Karl T. Himmel.

A favorite track about one of my favorite cities is “Never Been to Memphis”.  Hearing Coba sing her way down a list of all the cool Memphis sites, brings back wonderful memories of being in the Bluff City.  Her raspy voice is an excellent match for her guitar playing.  This bluesy boogie is accompanied by Ray Murry on piano.

“Ain’t Got Time (to Fall in Love)”, slides in like melted butter, as Coba belts out the lyrics with a ton of soul, which is then poured over a big bowlful of tasty little guitar licks.  One of the most beautifully played songs is “Between the Tracks”. Sung soft and sultry, I absolutely love this ballad.     

Coba gets the blood pumping again on “Chicago” a fun and bouncing ditty, ironically about high hopes gone bad.  “Telephone Song” taps into the deep well of classic blues, with Ron Taylor setting the mood with the help of his Hammond organ.  Coba’s guitar is impressive, on this slow and hearty track.

When it comes to blues musicians, Coba is the real deal.  It’s such a delight to find an album such as Mother Blues.  It definitely hits the spot.    


For more information on Rachelle Coba, visit her website at

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Lucinda Williams - Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone

2014 – Highway 20 Records  
By Phillip Smith; Jan 10, 2015

Among my favorite albums of 2014 is Lucinda Williams’ Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone.  This two-disc, twenty song masterpiece is beautifully performed in her iconic country-laced style.  This album lies in the same wheelhouse as Springsteen’s 1982 album Nebraska.  The lyrics are so compelling; one can’t help but be pulled into her dark and oft-times dismal world. 

Williams chooses the slow and lovely, “Compassion”, to gently greet and ease the listener in to the album.  From a poem written by her father, acclaimed poet Miller Williams (April 8, 1930 – January 1, 2015), this song preaches indiscriminate compassion for our fellow man no matter how ironic it may seem.  What a wonderful world it would be if more people practiced this ideal.  Williams kicks in to gear with “Protection”, a high octane track about overwhelming vulnerability.  Bluesy guitar riffs, guide this one to the finish.

The dark and haunting “West Memphis” quickly brings to mind the Paradise Lost HBO documentaries which brought the story of the West Memphis Three into the spotlight.  Walking the line between country and blues, this song of injustice and prejudice is sure to kick any comfortable feeling still lingering around, right to the ground into a puddle of uneasiness.

Paying homage to the sounds of the Fifties and Sixties, Williams cleverly delivers “Wrong Number”, a song about missed connections, with a slow doo-wop beat.  “Big Mess”, with its cool walking bassline, joins along as well, with callbacks to that wonderful era of music. 

When “Stowaway in Your Heart” begins to play, I feel as if the Sun has finally penetrated the dark clouds above and punctured a little opening for its rays to beam through.  This poppy country song lightens things up with offerings of gratitude and flashes of hope.  It puts a smile on my face for sure.  My favorite track on the album, however, is “Everything but the Truth”.  Packed with swampy guitar licks, lush slide guitar, and grit, it just doesn’t get much better than this.

Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone is so well-written, and superbly performed, I’d say it’s definitely an instant classic.  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Roly Platt - Inside Out

2014 – Roly Platt  
By Phillip Smith; Jan 3, 2015

It takes a harpist like Roly Platt to show the world that a harmonica, in the proper hands, can be the main dish instead of a mere seasoning.  Platt, a thirty-five year veteran of the Canadian music scene and two-time Maple Blues Awards nominee for “Harmonica Player of the Year”, recorded eleven fantastic pieces for his first solo album, Inside Out.  Backing Platt in the studio is producer/keyboardist/pianist Lance Anderson, guitarist John Tilden, bassist Russ Boswell, and drummer Al Cross.  Platt also brings in special guests Steve Strongman, John Jordan, and Neil Chapman to join.
Platt pays an instrumental back-to-back homage to Ray Charles with “I Got a Woman” and “Georgia On My Mind”.  Break out the dancing shoes for “I Got a Woman”.  Platt tears this rip-roaring party song up while Tilden tosses out some quite impressive guitar licks.  Cross, on drums, brings it to closure very nicely.  Afterwards, settle in for a calming rendition of “Georgia On My Mind”.  I love the way Anderson sprinkles a bit of gospel seasoning on the Hammond organ while Platt nails every note.  And speaking of “gospel seasoning”, listen for the cleverly planted segue of “Bringing in the Sheaves”, which leads right into “Rippin’ It Up”, an original ditty about dances at the old church hall.  A throwback to the early years of Rock and Roll, Platt sings and plays this in the spirit of the Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis.  A tight instrumental performance on “Mad River” makes for a hell of a bluesy romp. This is a smokin’ jam that brings me great joy each time I hear it.  

With Steve Strongman on guitar and vocals, “Ocean of Tears” is pure blues, and sounds so good.  Played with heartfelt emotion, Platt makes it impossible for this song to go unnoticed.  Jordon John lends his amazing voice along with his acoustic guitar, for a very cool, country rendition of James Taylor’s “Bartender’s Blues”.   One more ‘must-mention’ track is the beautifully played “Over the Rainbow” from the film, The Wizard of OzPlatt and Anderson both score big on this lovely cover.

Inside Out is such a rewarding listen; one doesn’t have to be a blues harmonica fan to enjoy. 

For more information on Roly Platt, visit his website at