Saturday, August 22, 2015

John Mayall - Find a Way to Care


2015 –Forty Below Records
By Phillip Smith; Aug. 22, 2015




It makes me happy to see John Mayall return to the studio and record another sensational blues album.  Find a Way to Care is masterfully written and exquisitely performed.  Returning to the studio with Mayall is guitarist Rocky Athas, bassist Greg Rzab, and drummer Jay Davenport, who were all present on his previous studio album A Special Life.  

Mayall breathes a new funky and soulful life into Percy Mayfield’s “The River’s Invitation”.  With Mayall manning the keyboard, and a terrific horn section at his side, this song takes on a sort of “Bar-Kays Soul Finger” vibe.  I dig this one a lot.  Riding this same wave of feel-good music, is the vibrant Lightning Hopkins cover, “I Feel So Bad”, which makes me feel so good when I give it a listen. 

There’s no shortage of traditional blues here either.  Mayall serves up nothing but the best of it as he splendidly tackles Junior Parker’s “Mother in Law Blues”,  Muddy Water’s “Long Distance Call”, and Charles Brown’s “Drifting Blues”.   

I’m quickly drawn in to the music on “War We Wage” a heady guitar blues track by acclaimed UK guitarist Matt Schofield.  It’s hard to beat the combination of Mayall’s keys alongside Athas on guitar.  They just sound so good together.  Mayall brings the album to a close, busting out some fabulous barrel house piano blues on “Crazy Lady”.

Mayall is known as the “Godfather of British Blues” for a good reason and his legacy continues with Find a Way to Care.      






For more info on John Mayall, visit his website http://www.johnmayall.com/

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Rocky Athas The Essential Rocky Athas Volume 1


2015 – Cherryburst Records
By Phillip Smith; Aug. 15, 2015

My first exposure to the lush and bluesy sounds of Rocky Athas came about because of my deep appreciation for the band, Black Oak Arkansas, who Athas played with for a short while.  His work with the legendary John Mayall drew me in even further.  Regardless of whom he is playing with, it is always a joy to hear him play.  The Essential Rocky Athas Volume 1 focuses on Athas’ solo works, which he describes as “a labor of love years in the making”.  For the guitar aficionados, Athas notes fifteen different guitars used on the ten tracks in this fabulous collection.   It makes me happy to know he plans to release two more volumes later this year.  

Athas delivers energized Texas blues at its finest in “Long Time Gone” and “Think About It”.  The later features special guest John Mayall.  Captivating grooves seasoned with delicious guitar licks bring these tracks to the forefront.   The soulfully performed “Last of the Blues” is about as perfect a blues song as one can get, with its poignant lyrics and beautiful melody.    It’s so fun to hear him let it all hang out on “Tearin’ Me Up”, another terrific track. 

The album closes out with an exquisite cover of Cream’s “White Room”, bringing the John Mayall connection full circle, as Athas pays homage to the earliest of Mayall’s collaborators, Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce.  This track is truly the pièce de résistance. 

I can’t wait to hear volumes 2 and 3.




For more info on Rocky Athas, visit his website http://www.rockyathas.com/


Friday, August 7, 2015

Elmo Karjalainen - The Free Guitar Album


2015 –KC Sound, Finland
By Phillip Smith; Aug. 7, 2015

Finnish guitarist Elmo Karjalainen’s latest venture and his second solo album is an extraordinary showcase of guitar mastery.   The Free Guitar Album features eight original compositions. Download the digital version of the album for free off Karjalainen’s own website www.elmojk.com, or purchase a hard copy CD, and get three additional tracks, featuring alternate guitar solos. 

It’s awe-inspiring to hear Karjalainen tear through the opening track, simply named “Instrumental”, with tremendous force.  I love the display of versatility as this track segues into “Don’t Quit Yer Day Job”, an intriguing melody with a funky rhythm not afraid to show its metal underbelly.

Karjalainen shows his softer side on “She Sleeps on the Moon”, an amazingly beautiful composition providing a lush and trippy listen.  Another track taking ownership of his softer side is the peaceful and floaty “Relax”, a wonderful piece for meditation.   

Karjalainen is a phenomenal guitarist, and The Free Guitar Album is a sweet deal.  Visit his website, and give it a listen.  





Sunday, August 2, 2015

Photos : Tinsley Ellis & The Janeys

Cedar River Blues Festival
McGrath Amphitheater
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  Aug 1, 2015

All Photos by Phillip Smith




BillyLee Janey

Bryce Janey

Dan Johnson

Tom "T-Bone" Giblin

Bryce Janey

Dan Johnson, Bryce Janey, Eric Douglas 

Bryce Janey

BillyLee Janey, Tom "T-Bone" Giblin

Bryce Janey

Bryce Janey, BillyLee Janey

Bryce Janey, BillyLee Janey

Dan Johnson, Bryce Janey, BillyLee Janey

BillyLee Janey, Bryce Janey

Eric Douglas

Dan Johnson, BillyLee Janey

BillyLee Janey
BillyLee Janey, Tom "T-Bone" Giblin
BillyLee Janey
McGrath Amphitheater



Tinsley Ellis

Jonathon Holland


Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis

Erik Kaszynski


Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis

Jonathon Holland

Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis

Erik Kaszynski

Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis and Jonathon Holland

Jonathon Holland, Tinsley Ellis

Jonathon Holland, Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Slackjaw - It’s Always Something


2015 –Slackjaw
By Phillip Smith; Aug. 1, 2015

It’s Always Something, the second album from New Jersey blues rockers Slackjaw, rapidly grabbed my attention with its tight musicianship and devil-may-care lyrics.  This trio consists of singer/guitarist John Thompson, drummer/harmonicist Randy Marinelli, and bassist/backing vocalist Carl Capodice.   

Album opener “Carried By Six” is smothered in Texas blues and sounds great.  Not only is Thompson one hell of a guitar slinger, but Capodice and Marinelli hold the fort down quite nicely to boot.  When it comes to relationships, if it’s not one thing, it’s another.  That’s the message in the rocking title track, “It’s Always Something”.  Thompson seriously tears it up, and throws down the gauntlet when it comes to blasting out intense guitar licks. A funky bluesy rhythm with a Spin Doctors flair gives the light-hearted love song, “New Addiction” a feel-good groovy sound.  This one surely puts me in my happy place. Tempo shifts, and more outstanding hard-driving riffs, make the melodic “Whiskey Lane” one of my favorites.    

Slackjaw closes out with the carousing song, “Bottle of Whiskey”.  This partying track is the perfect closer, and gets stuck inside my head quite often now.  All in all, It’s Always Something is a rambunctiously good listen.
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Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from the PhillyCheeze Amazon Store.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Sean Taylor - The Only Good Addiction is Love


2015 –Sean Taylor Songs
By Phillip Smith; July 25, 2015

The Only Good Addiction is Love, Sean Taylor’s seventh album, steers the focus away from the hustle and bustle of city living, as was the focus on his previous album, Chase the Night.  As Taylor explains, he is now exploring the challenging world of aesthetics, bringing out the truth in beauty and vice versa. Before the first song of this eleven track album is finished, I’m quickly reminded of just how truly remarkable this songwriter is. 

The title track takes its name from an inspiring quote from former Uruguayan President Jose ‘Pepe’ Mujica, who selflessly declined the use of the presidential palace and its staff, and chose instead to live on his modest farm, all while donating ninety percent of his salary to charity.  This captivating song with a little Leonard Cohen reference, not only opens the album, but pours a foundation fashioned from complimentary dualities.  The dark swampy blues of “Bad Light” is kicked off with the electric surge of slide guitar from Andre Moran, and masterfully accented by the deep eerie sounds of Brian Standefer on cello. I am also heavily drawn to “Lorca”, a Spanish flavored instrumental which Taylor plays beautifully on guitar. 

Double bass virtuoso Danny Thompson returns to work with Taylor on the two tracks, “Rothko”, and “Moma”.  The former, is homage to Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko who also inspired the album’s cover art.  Taylor’s guitar paired with Thompson’s double bass creates a hypnotic rhythm for the poetic lyrics to ride along. 

If you ever wondered how W.B. Yeat’s “The White Birds” would sound if set to music, wonder no more.  This vibrant poem is sweetly complimented with Taylor’s music.   “Desolation Angels” captures the essence of Kerouac’s book bearing the same name, with Clapton-esque guitar licks and free-wheeling prose. This is music for the soul. 

The Only Good Addiction is Love is definitely in my list of favorite albums this year.  It doesn’t get much better than this.