They say you can’t keep a
good man down. The same goes for Kurt Neumann. Neumann’s
most recent album under the Bodeans
moniker is a pure delight. Neumann
is the only one left from the original lineup, but he keeps chugging along as a
prolific writer and musician. I Can’t Stop contains a dozen original
tracks which just gets better with each listen.
Neumann leads the album off “Slave”.
Thick swampy blues-soaked slide guitar licks
which ride atop a cool tribal beat makes this one sound so good. “Oh Mama”, “Roll With the Punches”, and “Yesterday”
capture that slightly poppy rocking Bodeans
sound oh so elegantly. Songs like these
are what made me a Bodeans fan in
the first place. Emotions run deep in the beautiful and melancholy break-up
song “Beg or Borrow”. Accompaniment from the Junkyard Horns is an added bonus. “Something We Found” rolls out like a pop-infused
folk rock Mumford and Sons tune. This catchy-as-hell
song is quick to put a grin on my face.
I Can’t Stop
is rapidly becoming not only one of my favorite Bodeans albums, but one of my favorite albums this year.
For a short three-month stint
in 1967, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers
consisted of future Fleetwood Mac
members, Peter Green, John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood. Because a
devoted fan from Holland was ballsy
enough to sneak a one track reel-to-reel recorder into five different clubs in
London to record a handful of shows, we are blessed to hear the magic which
took place when these four musicians took the stage. Keeping in mind, this was recorded in mono,
from a hidden tape recorder; the results are consistent with most bootleg
recordings from that era. Live in 1967 gives us thirteen sweet
blues-smothered tracks to chew on.
The Bluesbreakers break out a little briefcase of blues featuring Freddie King songs : “Have You Ever
Loved a Woman”, “The Stumble”, “Someday After Awhile”, and “San Ho Zay”. Peter
Green kills it on guitar covering these.
It’s just downright cool to hear him rip into “The Stumble”. This is blues guitar at its finest. The opening riff on “San Ho Zay” is so lush; I
wish it could have been recorded off a board.
I love their performance of T Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday”. This one puts me in my bluesy space
immediately. Mayall on vocals and
organ guides this one from start to finish with a delicious guitar performance
from Green. This is what music is all
about, right here.
and Fleetwood Mac fans are sure to enjoy
this historical bluesy treat.
Chicago blues masters The Cash Box Kings return again to
serve up a nice and healthy dose of classic-sounding blues on their new album, Holding Court. Stomping through the decades, they seem very
at home playing in the musical styles prevalent during the Thirties through the
Fifties. Joe Nosek, and Oscar Wilson
continue to front the band, and it absolutely pleases me to see Barrelhouse Chuck back on piano/organ, as
well drummer Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith
sitting in on three tracks.
down the harmonica, and Joel Paterson
delivers great twangy licks on lead guitar while kicking things off with the Willie Dixon cover, “I Ain’t Gonna Be
No Monkey Man”. They also nail down a
sweet cover of John Lee Hooker’s “Hobo
Blues”. Paterson plays it nice and slow.
The Cash Box Kings certainly have a knack for bringing current issues to light in their
lyrics. “Download Blues”, written by Nosek, documents the monetary hardships
musicians face these days because of illegal downloading on the back of a common
devil-may-care attitude about sharing copyrighted material. Whereas “Gotta Move
Out to the Suburbs” is a commentary about folks living in the inner city, being
pushed out of their homes, to make way for expensive high-rises and skateboard
parks. Both are favorites.
It’s so nice to hear the Blues
presented in the unadulterated manner The
Cash Box Kings meticulously perform it.
Holding Court is true gem.
If you’ve listened to the
music of Sharon Jones, you most
likely have heard Saun & Starr. Last year, I was fortunate enough to catch Jones in concert, and remember being
bowled over by the exquisite harmonies of backing vocalists, Saundra Williams and Starr Duncan- Lowe , aka Saun & Starr. They
made quite the impression then, and they make a tremendous impression now with their
stellar performances on their debut album, Look
Closer. To top it all off, the Dap-Kings perform on this new record, drizzling
their familiar funky soul on every song, in the Daptone style, and I
Title track, “Look Closer
(Can’t You See the Signs?) ushers the listener in with an up-beat
dance-friendly rhythm guided by a buttery bassline served up by Bosco Mann. When I hear the bouncy
beats and soulful vocals on “Hot Shot”, I’m immediately taken back to the early
music of the Jackson 5. I just love the way this song was written and
performed. Whereas “Another Love Like
Mine”, with is restless funk and echo-laced guitar effects, seems to draw in a
little more inspiration from the late great Isaac Hayes.
Every time I hear the
infectious grooves of “Big Wheel”, I can’t help but get a big ol’ smile on my
face. Like Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff”, this track takes a soulful approach
to calling out tricksters and scoundrels in wolves clothing. Another fun little track, “Dear Mr. Teddy”, happens
to take awkward situations to a new level. This is the kind of song that sounds
best on a rainy day. Saun & Starr close the album out
with a light-hearted ditty about communication breakdown, “Blah Blah Blah Blah
Blah Blah Blah”. I like the cool little jabs Victor Axelrod lays down on the organ and the Steve Cropper-flavored guitar riffs from Binky Griptite. This is such
a smooth song.
is a sheer delight. It’s the best soul
album I've heard this year.
The latest album, Old School Thang from Billy Hector is slathered in blues and
quite the listen. Hector dishes out his songs in a variety of formats, ranging from
traditional and swampy, to trans-blues.
“She’s Gone”, a great track
to open with, grabs me with the smooth Santana-influenced
guitar licks. It sounds so good,
especially with the accompaniment by David
Nunez on organ, and the horn section made up of Tommy Labella and Steve
Jankowski. Hector breaks out the big guns and totally nails down a cover of Don Nix’s “Goin’ Down” in a tribute to Freddie King. The musicianship is nothing less than phenomenal. This is what the blues is all about. I love the funky rhythm on title track, “Old
School Thang”. If Prince decided to cross over to the blues, I think this is very
close to what it would sound like. I have
to mention the awe-inspiring drums provided by Sim Cain, which made me think of the late great Chuck Ruff who played drums on the iconic
song, Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein”.
“Rita”, a despairing and
tragic tune which seems to fall in the same wheelhouse as the music of Tom Waits, has a nifty way of getting
stuck in my head. For the finale, Hector closes out “People of the World”,
a tasty treat full of groovy jams coated with organ and horns. Funky repetitive grooves reminiscent of the
trans-blues music of Otis Taylor,
keep this one going for eight minutes.
Every song on Old School Thang is a winner. This album comes highly recommended.
There’s just not that many
places left that capture the history and sanctity of Rock and Roll as much as
the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake,
Iowa. That’s why watching the Boxmasters, play live in this chapel of
rock, made for an absolutely perfect night for soaking up the wonderful music
and the fantastic stories that go with them, as sung and told by front man Billy Bob “Bud” Thornton. The Boxmasters
are: Thornton, co-founder/guitarist J.D. Andrew, guitarist Brad Davis, and keyboardist extraordinaire
Teddy 'Zig Zag' Andreadis.
The band, all sporting
Liverpool Beatles suits, took the stage, kicking the evening off with a rocking
performance of “Emily” off Thornton’s
2003 Solo album, The Edge of the World.
I love that classic western sound Davis squeezes out of his guitar on “Providence”. Davis
grabs my full attention again in “Beautiful”.
He’s such a fantastic guitarist.
a really down-to-earth and heartfelt moment, discussed how much of an honor it
was to be playing at the Surf. His honesty and sincerity was felt by
everyone. The band then tore through
nine consecutive songs off their latest release, Somewhere Down the Road. It
was so cool to hear the new tracks “Sometimes There’s a Reason”, “This Game is
Over”, and “Kathy Don’t Share”. Immediately
following a brief spoken-word introduction from Thornton explaining how religion is a good thing, unless it gets in
the hands of the wrong people, Andreadis
starts “Piece of the Sky” on his Hammond in a performance fit for Sunday morning
After asking the audience about
their thoughts on political correctness and profanity, Thornton indeed got their blessing to play an explicit song or two. It was so fun to hear the rarely played tongue-in-cheek
song, “I’ll Give You a Ring” (when you give me back my balls), from their
A request from the audience
for a song from the late great Warren
Zevon prompted Thornton to reminisce
about his good friend. He explained they
had met each other at the mail box, while living in the same apartment building. They ironically got to talking about a common
trait they both suffer from, obsessive compulsive disorder. The Boxmasters
then broke into a Zevon-esque
written song, “I Shot Him Down”. “Island
Avenue”, a song off the album, The Edge
of the World, and written by Thornton’s
brother Jimmy was a jam-filled treat. After an intense and funky keyboard solo from
Andreadis on the Hammond, the band played
tight as hell. This was rock and roll at
its finest. “Hope and Glory”, the last
song of the set was dedicated to everyone who was in the military or had lost
someone in war. From Thornton’s vocals to Davis’s killer guitar, the band in
general just gels so nicely.
For an encore, the Boxmasters returned to stage in a
slightly different configuration, featuring Andreadis this time, on harmonica, and Thornton sporting a tambourine. With a beat similar to the Ramone’s “Blitzkrieg Bop”, they kick in
“Love is Real Tonight”, followed by a rendition of “That Mountain” which was so
good, it sent chills up my spine. In a cutting heads fashion Andreadis and Davis went toe to toe, harp vs. guitar. It was such an amazing performance to end this stellar show with.
For almost two solid hours, I
hung on every note played and every word sung. This show will certainly go down
in my history book as one of my favorite concerts.
The fourth studio album, Somewhere Down the Road from the Boxmasters (Bud Thornton, J.D. Andrew, Teddy Andreadis, & Brad Davis),
presents twenty-two brand new songs marinated in the styles of early rock and
classic western music. Brandishing a
musicianship second to none, and songs written with blunt honesty and
conviction, Somewhere Down the Road is
a stand-out album.
Breakup song, “This Game is
Over Now”, puts a big ol’ smile on my face as the Roy Orbison influences shine through the vocals and
instrumentation. Another track that puts a grin on my face is “Kathy Won’t
Share”, a catchy song with an REM
vibe, about a self-indulgent stay-at-home husband with a desire to bring
another woman into the bedroom.
Like the fatherly advice one
would expect to get from someone who’s received the short end of the stick for
the biggest part of their life, “Always Lie” hits heavily. Thornton’s
deep vocals are perfectly suited for this dark melody. The darkness seem to linger a little longer
on “Away Away”, as it is projected onto anonymous travelers making their way to
an unknown destination with hollow eyes and what seems to be their whole life
strapped down to the bed of an old beat up pickup truck. Perfectly suited to land on a Quentin Tarantino motion picture
soundtrack, “Don’t Follow Me Down”, a love song with elements of mystery and
danger, delivers deliciously haunting and twangy surf guitar. The “cool factor”
rides high on this one. The heartfelt “Getting
Past the Lullaby”, is a beautiful ode to mothers that will make one almost tear
Like the songs of John Hiatt or John Prine, the
selections on Somewhere Down the Road tell
stories bound to resonate with the listener.
Delivering their tunes with gusto and grit, The Boxmasters aren’t afraid to dig deep, and go down the road less
traveled in order to makes sure the listener gets something worth listening
to. That’s what makes this album such a
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
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
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.
the writing real and the performances fresh. Feel the Blues is “Top-Shelf” blues at its best.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 aresteeped
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.