Saturday, October 31, 2015

Charlie Musselwhite - I Ain’t Lyin’…


2015 – Henrietta Records
By Phillip Smith; Oct. 31, 2015

 
I Ain’t Lyin’…, the latest album from legendary Bluesman Charlie Musselwhite is chockfull of downhome blues and happens to be a sheer delight.  The album was recorded live in 2014 at the Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival in Sonoma, CA, and Clarksdale Soundstage in Clarksdale, MS, with Matt Stubbs (guitar), June Core (drums), and Steve Froberg (bass).   

I love how Musselwhite takes on Elmore James’ “Done Somebody Wrong”.  Stubbs’ crisp bluesy riffs and Musselwhite’s second- to-none harp playing sound so good.  There’s a sort of playful Fifties rockabilly vibe going in “Long Lean Lanky Mama”. It’s just a fun song to dig into, as is “My Kinda Gal” with Froberg’s cool-as-hell, cowboy-fitted baseline.  The band gets kind of funky on “Long Leg Woman”. Its Allman Brothers feel makes it one of my favorite tracks on this album.  This is definitely a song that jams.    

Duke Pearson’s “Cristo Redentor” is such a lovely piece.  This slow and easy instrumental is exquisite.  Core’s drumming really shines and Stubbs so elegantly keeps the rhythm going as Musselwhite beautifully plays his heart out on harmonica.

Musselwhite scores big with I Ain’t Lyin’… This is how the Blues should be played.

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Martin Harley and Daniel Kimbro - Live at Southern Ground


2015 – Del Mundo Records
By Phillip Smith; Oct. 24, 2015

 
UK singer/songwriter/guitarist Martin Harley along with Daniel Kimbro, an extremely talented upright bass player from Eastern Tennessee, should work together more often.  The duo recorded the magnificent ten track album, Live at Southern Ground in just a ‘handful of hours’ at Southern Ground Studios in Nashville, Tennessee. With the exception of a couple of covers, the majority of the album features the engrossing lyrics and fetching melodies written by Harley.

“Cardboard King” is such a beautiful song about loss and disappointment.  Harley’s buttery vocals are the icing on this cake filled with an amazing blend of resonator with slide and bow-played bass.  I love the playful and fun approach Martin takes as he picks “Honey Bee” banjo-style.  This one makes me smile, as does the swinging “Love in the Afternoon”.

I can feel the emotion emanating from Harley as he goes to church and plays the hell out of Tom Waits’ “Chocolate Jesus”.  They also nail Blind Willie Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” to the wall.  Harley has the perfect voice for wailing out the blues.  That voice paired with his unique guitar stylings make for a delightful listen.


Live at Southern Ground certainly lands in my personal list of favorite records this year. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Todd Wolfe Band - Long Road Back


2015 – American Showplace Music
By Phillip Smith; Oct. 17, 2015

The Todd Wolfe Band seems to just get better and better.  Wolfe surrounds himself with some of the most talented musicians around: drummer Roger Voss, bassist Justine Gardner, and the master of the B3, John Ginty.  Since Wolfe’s last album was released in 2013, his band has spent over 200 nights on the road touring the world.  It was during these travels; the band wrote and developed material for his ninth album, Long Road Back.  It’s an intelligent mix of mind-bending Rock and Blues.  

Title track “Long Road Back” is pure Southern Rock with an Allman Brothers/Govt Mule vibe.  I’d love to hear this one with an extended jam.  “Poison” has all the qualities of a hit song.  Wolfe lets loose some really nice bluesy guitar licks while Ginty’s luscious B3 attacks and Gardner’s funky bassline slide nicely into place. This is just a fantastic piece. “Fire Me Up” has a nice homey groove, and seemingly calls back to his days working with Sheryl Crow.  Wolfe throws a little Southern seasoning into “Annalee” which hums down the track like a freight train tearing cross-country.  I love the slide guitar screams he injects into the song.

Wolfe breathes a phenomenal new life into Stephen Still’s “Black Queen”.  This rockin’ jewel, slathered in a heavy dose of Seventies psychedelia, is such a delightful listen.  They also give a stellar performance, taking on Cream’s “Outside Woman Blues”.  
   
Voss bangs out a cool as hell tribal beat which leads in to the witchy “Hoodoo River”.  Sporting infectious grooves saturated in trance blues, this is a splendid song to chill to.  Ginty plays the hell out of this one, and Wolfe’s guitar playing is simply amazing.   “Gone” is another track that blows me away.  It’s fuzzier, funkier, and contagious as hell.

There is so much going on in the music in this album, I hear something new and interesting each time I hear it.  Needless to say, Long Road Back is a fabulous album and indeed a terrific listen.  







Saturday, October 10, 2015

Dweezil Zappa - via zammata’



2015 –Dweezil Zappa

By Phillip Smith; Oct. 10, 2015

The title via zammata’ is taken from the name of the street in Partinico, Sicily where Dweezil’s grandfather, Francis Vincent Zappa lived before immigrating to America.  The street name refers to the very specific sound made when rain puddles are trampled by the feet of children at play.    In 2013, Partinico renamed that exact street, via Frank Zappa after Dweezil’s father.   Zappa hugs the curb, sticking close to this definition of via zammata’, in the music created for this album.  His playful splashes are in a musical playground, however, with focus on waves of sound instead of water.

Zappa starts the album with the fantastic instrumental, “Funky 15”.  Reminiscent of the attention-grabbing themes associated with television crime dramas from the Seventies, it boasts a nice slice of funk, a groovy bassline and a beautiful string and brass arrangement by ‘Scoremeister’ Kurt Morgan, which all culminates into a wonderful and thrilling listen.  “Rat Race”, lulls the listener in with a sweet little vocal harmony from the Song Birds, and then in a Reverend Horton Heat rockabilly fashion, pushes the pedal to the metal and takes off like a souped up hot rod.  A strong and steady flow of adrenaline keeps this one headed in a furious frenzy.  Zappa dives into the world of heavy metal on “Dragon Master” taking a tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top Spinal Tap approach.  Featuring lyrics written by Frank, and vocals by Shawn Albro, the song is a definite favorite.

Switching gears from metal to meta, Zappa enlisted the one and only John Malkovich to speak the whimsical wandering narrative on “Malcovich” to which Zappa returns in song, this reply, “Malcovich, Malcovich what the fuck are you talking about?”  This makes for a nice sing-a-long.  ”Hummin’” takes a realistic look at life with a weirdly hypnotic melody which burrows deep into my brain and digs in, as if to set up permanent residence.  I’ve caught myself waking up in the middle of the night a couple of times already with this song running through my head.

via zammata’ is a fun and quirky album with lush melodies and complex compositions built around bizarre yet intelligent lyrics.  It took only one listen to establish this album as a favorite.          
 

http://phillycheezeblues.blogspot.com/

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Andy T. Nick Nixon Band - Numbers Man


2015 –Blind Pig Records
By Phillip Smith; Oct. 3, 2015

Taking in the cool blues-lavished sounds of the Andy T. – Nick Nixon Band’s latest release, Numbers Man makes me smile from ear to ear. The band is guitarist Andy ‘T’ Talamantez, vocalist Nick Nixon, Larry van Loon handing the B3 and piano, drummer Jim Klingler, and bassist Sam Persons. Also along for the ride is The Texas Horns (Kaz Kazanov: tenor sax, Al Gomez : trumpet, and John Mills : baritone sax).

A blast of horns and a wave of B3 lead the way for a swinging R&B treat in “Shut the Front Door”. Andy T. delivers classic rock guitar, Chuck Berry style, as Nixon belts out his commanding vocals. The band nails down a splendid rendition of Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown’s ”Gate’s Salty Blues” in which Klingler’s precision drumming rolls out to greet the sweet twang of Andy T’s guitar.

Infatuation with a 6’-3” tall gal is the inspiration for the fun and spirited, “Tall Drink of Water” in which special guest, Christian Dozzler takes the boat out for a little Zydeco fun. Dozzler also adds a nice taste of barrelhouse blues to “Sundown Blues”, which mixes nicely with the lush B3 sounds of Van Loon. This extraordinary track features Kim Wilson from the Fabulous Thunderbirds on harmonica. When that is joined with Nixon’s gravelly vocals, everything gels perfectly and culminates into a flawless performance.

It’s very obvious that Andy T. and Nixon take their music seriously. Numbers Man is the proof in the pudding.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Bridges of Madison County, Iowa - October 1, 2015


Photos by Phillip Smith 


Imes Covered Bridge, St. Charles, IA 

Imes Covered Bridge, St. Charles, IA 

Imes Covered Bridge, St. Charles, IA 


Holliwell Bridge, southeast of Winterset, IA

Cedar Bridge, north of Winterset, IA

Cedar Bridge, north of Winterset, IA


Holliwell Bridge

Holliwell Bridge, southeast of Winterset, IA

Cedar Bridge

Cedar Bridge

Hogback Bridge

Cedar Bridge

Cedar Bridge

Hogback Bridge


Hogback Bridge


Through knothole of Hogback Bridge

Through knothole of Hogback Bridge

Roseman Bridge

Through knothole of
 Roseman Bridge

Cutler Donahue Bridge, Winterset, IA

Roseman Bridge

Hogback Bridge

Hogback Bridge

Roseman Bridge

Cutler Donahue Bridge, Winterset, IA

Cutler Donahue Bridge, Winterset, IA

Roseman Bridge

Hogback Bridge

Roseman Bridge

Roseman Bridge

Saturday, September 26, 2015

David Gogo - Vicksburg Call


2015 –Cordova Bay Records
By Phillip Smith; Sep 26, 2015


Canadian blues guitarist David Gogo delivers outstanding electric guitar blues in pure album storytelling fashion via his fourteenth record, Vicksburg Call.  Gogo steps through each of the ten songs like a separate chapter in this narration of a bad breakup.  Gogo's stellar band consists of Jay Stevens (bass guitar, vox, piano), Bill Hicks (drums, percussion), Marisha Devoin (acoustic bass), and Rich Hopkins (Hammon organ).    

“Cuts Me to the Bone” is hard rockin’ Texas style blues that pulls me right in to his world. With an intro that pays homage to Neil Young, and a rhythm that fits really comfortable, the song screams to be turned up loud.  I also have to mention “What’s Not to Like” which boasts one hell of a catchy hook.  I like the frugally peppering of slide guitar on this one. The legendary Kim Simmonds (Savoy Brown), guitar in hand, joins in for “Fooling Myself”.  This one is one big bowl of blues.   

I love his spacy psychedelic take on Neil Young’s “The Loner” with the cool as hell bass line from StevensGogo’s slathering of raw and fuzzy goodness on his guitar riffs grabs my attention as the song melts in my ears. A big surge of empathy erupts as Gogo distraughtly sings “There’s a Hole”, about the hole in his life that his woman used to fill. The finishing touches of harmonica from special guest Shawn Hall pull the heartstrings even tighter.  Gogo masterfully tackles Stephen Stills’ “Jet Set (Sigh)” too.  His guitar performance on this track is phenomenal.  The unexpected treat on this album appears on the final track.  Gogo beautifully puts his unique spin on Annie Lennox’s “Why”, singing it with fortitude of conviction.

Amazing guitar performances and great songs make Vicksburg Call a captivating listen.  






  


Andrè Bisson - Left With the Blues


2015 –Andre’ Bisson
By Phillip Smith; Sep 26, 2015

There’s something magical about the multi-talented Andrè Bisson and his latest release, Left With the Blues. The band, made up of vocalist/guitarist/pianist Bisson, saxophonist Bill Holinaty, trumpeter Loretta Hale, bassist Kevin Beeby, and drummer Glenn Paul, is one extremely tight group of musicians with a keen flair for blending blues with soul, funk, and gospel.  Bisson’s songwriting talent shines on this magnificent album. 

Bisson’s vocals drip with emotion as he sings the title track, “Left with the Blues”.   He reminds me so much of Chris Robinson (Black Crowes) on this one.  This slow heartfelt song sounds spectacular accented with the horns.  Bisson gives a flawless performance on his cover of Tommy McClennan’s beloved blues standard “Crosscut Saw”.  It’s a treat to hear the very talented blues harp player Jerome Godboo sit in on “Deepest Kind of Mean”.   When I hear him play, it leaves no doubt why he won Best Harmonica Player at the International Blues Challenge in 2014.  This bluesy melodious treat is indeed a favorite.

Left With the Blues closes with “Brand New Day”, a joyous and spirited song fit for a revival.  This one has such a big and full sound, it brings a smile to my face.  The entire album is an outstanding listen.    






Saturday, September 19, 2015

Black Oak Arkansas Live at Eronel : Sep. 12, 2015


Dubuque, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; Sep 13, 2015


Electricity came to Dubuque, Iowa last night in the semblance of Black Oak Arkansas. Founding members, front man Jim “Dandy” Mangrum and guitarist Rickie Lee Reynolds joined by fellow band mates, drummer Johnnie Bolin, guitarist Arthur Pearson, bassist George Hughen, and backing vocalist Samantha Barnes, played their asses off in harum-scarum fashion to a crowd of dedicated fans who continue to keep the faith.  The venue, Eronel, is located in the basement of the historic Cooper Wagon Works Building.  Originally constructed in 1895, its stone walls and arched passage ways reminded me a little bit of images I’ve seen of the Cavern Club in Liverpool.  This made for a very cool intimate setting for the show.

When Jim Dandy took the stage, donning his signature black leather, patch-adorned vest atop a cool as hell black tank with a silver skull emblazed on the front, there was no doubt this was going to be a fantastic show.  I could feel the energy heighten as BOA broke into “Plugged in and Wired” off their newer album, Back Thar N’ Over Yonder. This one really got the adrenalin flowing.  It was so good to hear “Hot Rod”, a favorite filled with double entendres and peppered with Jim’s maniacal laughter.  I also grinned from ear to ear as they played old favorites, “Uncle Elijah”, “High ‘n’ Dry”, “Happy Hooker” and “Hot and Nasty”.  The later in which Jim Dandy pulled out the washboard.  But when they played “Lord Have Mercy on My Soul (Halls of Karma)”, chills shot down my spine.  It is a phenomenal song and was a definite crowd pleaser.

Prior to performing “Heartbreaker”, Jim spoke a few touching words about a certain ‘spitfire redhead’ who died 20 years ago and sang this one in honor of Miss Ruby Starr. The band also paid tribute to Johnnie Bolin’s brother Tommy Bolin with a beautifully played “Post Toastee”.  


Saving “Jim Dandy” for last was pretty much a given.  Most everyone was singing along as the show sadly came to a close. Every time I see this band, I feel lifted and energized.  They surely are a band I will try to catch live every time I get a chance.




Jim "Dandy" Mangrum

Rickie Lee Reynolds 

Rickie Lee Reynolds, Jim "Dandy" Mangrum

Samantha Barnes

Samantha Barnes

George Hughen, Jim "Dandy" Mangrum, Arthur Pearson

Rickie Lee Reynolds

Johnnie Bolin

Black Oak Arkansas

Jim "Dandy" Mangrum

Jim "Dandy" Mangrum

Samantha Barnes, Jim "Dandy" Mangrum

George Hughen

Johnnie Bolin

Johnnie Bolin, Samantha Barnes

George Hughen

Jim "Dandy" Mangrum

George Hughen, Arthur Pearson

Rickie Lee Reynolds

Rickie Lee Reynolds

Jim "Dandy" Mangrum


Jim "Dandy" Mangrum