Saturday, November 21, 2015

Stolen Hearts - Dirty Southern Soul


2015 – Stolen Hearts
By Phillip Smith; Nov 21, 2015


In 2014, Pam Taylor and Robert Johnson Jr. came together to forge a new musical dynamic duo, joined together in heart and on stage.  Hailing from the Carolinas, the music of Stolen Hearts’ debut album, Dirty Southern Soul is a wholesome blend of blues, jazz and folk rock.  Taylor and Johnson are both soulful vocalists and masterful guitarists.  Adding to the cool factor, Taylor was mentored by non-other than the renowned blues guitarist Debbie Davies.

“Carolina Days (Bootsie’s Song)” is a fresh splash of roots rock.  Johnson takes the lead on vox and tosses in smile-worthy mandolin playing, which adds quite a nice touch to the catchy guitar riffs. Taylor belts out the sax-infused heartbreaker “All I Got Left” in a most impressive way.  Her buttery vocals sound great.  Taylor delivers more exquisite vocals on “My Johnny”.  This one reminds me so much of Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac with its light bouncy melody.  

Stolen Hearts take us on a trippy psychedelic journey in “Werewolves (Make Lousy Boyfriends)”.  Fuzzy guitar riffs and echo effects turn this space jam sung by Johnson into an instant favorite.  This twelve track album ends with a delightful live performance of the Etta James classic, “I’d Rather Go Blind”.


Stolen Hearts certainly embrace their creativeness, both lyrically and musically. Dirty Southern Soul is a tasty musical treat, indeed.

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for more information on Stolen Hearts, visit their website : http://www.stolenhearts.rocks/

Misssissippi Bigfoot - Population Unknown


2015 – Silver Tongue Records
By Phillip Smith; Nov 21, 2015

 

Formed six months ago, in May of 2015, after a show at The Ground Zero Blues Club, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Mississippi Bigfoot is akin to lightning in a bottle.  They certainly have revealed to be the biggest musical surprise for me this year.  This Memphis-based band consists of lead vocalist Christina Vierra, lead guitarist Johnny Holiday, guitarist Ashley Bishop, drummer Doug McMinn, and bassist Cade Moore. Population Unknown is a stellar collection of nine boogie-infused, rocking blues songs, one of which is a phenomenal cover of “The Hunter”, first recorded by Albert King.    

Vierra’s vocals are powerful and soulful as she belts out the fabulous “Burn That Woman Down”.  Holiday has no shortage of tasty guitar licks as he plays this swampy favorite with true grit and conviction.  “Wag the Dog” is another killer tune.  This hard-driving song is a perfect storm of blues and rockabilly. McMinn slathers on a hefty helping of tasty harp, which sounds so cool running alongside the commanding voice of Vierra.

Mississippi Bigfoot breaks out the funk and delicious grooves in “No Flesh In OuterSpace”, a cosmic favorite.  Holiday and Vierra perform as a duet in the smoking hot “Clarksdale”, which pays homage to Robert Johnson’s legendary crossroads where deals with the devil are made.    

Mississippi Bigfoot nails every song with great writing and outstanding performances.  Population Unknown is such an enjoyable album from start to finish; I recommend it for anyone who loves great blues music.   


For more information on Mississippi Bigfoot, visit their website at www.mississippibigfoot.com/

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown - The Devil to Pay


2015 – Ruf Records

By Phillip Smith; Nov 14, 2015

The Devil to Pay, the latest from the legendary Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown is a monster set of thirteen all-new, original mojo-infused blues tunes.  Savoy Brown retains their exemplary three man lineup with bassist Pat DeSalvo and drummer Garnet Grimm as Simmonds continues to lay down the law with his guitar and verse.    

Simmonds’ guitar oozes with heartfelt emotion as he explores the deep well of loneliness in “Ain’t Got Nobody”.  He then faces the harsh consequences of infidelity in the title track “The Devil to Pay”, a rambling blues tune with an old school Sun Records rockabilly vibe.  Simmonds rips it up with tremendous slide on “I’ve Been Drinking”.  While “Snakin’” is a nice instrumental to which one can sit back, relax and enjoy, the ominous “Evil Eye” pretty much begs to be turned up full blast so one can completely absorb the radiating guitar licks and badass bassline. This is one killer tune.

I really like this particular incarnation of Savoy Brown.  Simmonds, DeSalvo and Grimm sound so good together, and really know how to tap into that rawer, edgier sound so reminiscent of the early days of rock and roll. The Devil to Pay is a definite ‘keeper’.  





Friday, November 13, 2015

Chloe Collins - 5 @ 15


2015 – Collins House Records
By Phillip Smith; Nov 12, 2015

 

Listen to the new five song EP, 5 @ 15 by the New York recording artist Chloe Collins, and you’ll find yourself amazed at the sound of her voice.  Collins not only possesses an outstanding ability to sing, but this fifteen year old star shines brightly as a songwriter and guitarist too. Recorded at Grind Central Station in Nashville, and produced by Mikey Reaves, 5 @ 15 is a well-polished album of Country-Pop music.  Backing Collins on additional guitars and instruments is Reaves and Taylor Ivey.  

Breakup ballads, “All Over Again” and “My Goodbye” both have ‘radio-hit’ written all over them.  The music is fresh and catchy.  Collins takes to slightly darker waters with “New Nightmares”, a playful song about cutting lose and raising a little Hell. 


5 @ 15 will certainly resonate with Country-Pop fans all over.  A great voice and good songs make this one a fun little listen.  I look forward to hearing what Collins has in store for us in the future.  







Saturday, November 7, 2015

Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip - Ain’t Bad Yet


2015 – Hokahey! Records
By Phillip Smith; Nov 7, 2015

 
Ain’t Bad Yet, the sixth album from Finnish blues-rock group Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip is an instant hit as far as I’m concerned.  The lineup of the band remains the same, featuring Bjorklof (vocals/harmonica/guitar), Lefty Leppänen(electric guitar/slide guitar), Teemu Vuorela(drums),  Seppo Nuolikoski(bass) and Timo Roiko-Jokela(percussion/malletkat).  Terrific songs and outstanding performances with a rich southern vibe are key to the allure of this album, which by the way is produced by legendary John Porter.

A saucy rhythm, joined with hot harmonica licks, spill all over “Rat Race”, a spectacular jammin’ favorite, reminiscent of one of my favorite bands, Phish.  I love the change of tempo when the band breaks into “Sweet Dream’s a Sweet Dream”, a slightly spacy Hendrix-influenced treat.  Leppänen’s swampy slide guitar sounds so good on “Last Train to Memphis”, and “Today”.    

Catchy blues-filed hooks and a hard driving beat keep the anti-war anthem “Rain in Jerusalem” quite centered.  This is such a powerful song.  Bjorklof delivers funky vocals and sweet harmonica over a really cool little bass-line provided by Seppo on “Hold Your Fire Baby”.  Gritty blues sounds best with some cool harp. 

I dig the twangy “Blame It On the Bright Lights”, with its catchy back-beat.  John Porter steps in with guitar in hand and is joined by singers Lena Lindroos and Veera Railio. This song reminds me a lot of southern twangsters, Southern Culture on the Skids. I can’t help but feel good all over when I hear it.


Ain’t Bad Yet is a soulful blend of blues and country, making this eleven track album a refreshingly cool listen from start to end.  Micke Bjorklof and Blue Strip definitely hit this one out of the park.  

Kinky Friedman - The Loneliest Man I Ever Met


2015 – Avenue A Records
By Phillip Smith; Nov 7, 2015


It’s been a long damn time since Kinky Friedman has released a new studio album.  To put it in a political perspective, Gerald Ford was winding down his last year of presidency the year Lasso From El Paso was released in 1976.  The thirty-nine year wait is finally over, and The Kinkster has delivered a mother-load of western/folk greatness in his brand-spankin’ new album, The Loneliest Man I Ever Met.  The album features musicians Joe Cirotti (guitar, bass, mandolin), Brian Molnar (guitar), and Jeff ‘Little Jewford’ Shelby (keyboard), and is chock-full of magnificent covers and original gems.

The Willie Nelson classic, “Bloody Mary Morning” is quick to grab my attention.  This is just a great song, and to smear the icing on the cake, Nelson lends not only guitar and vocals to the song, but steps in as producer on it as well. I would have loved to hang around the studio when this was recorded.  Kinky’s version of Tom Waits’ “Christmas Card From A Hooker in Minneapolis”, keeps my ears glued to the speakers as much as the original.  “My Shit’s Fucked Up”, by the late great Warren Zevon, prompts me to keep in mind, life doesn’t slow down for anyone.  If there’s something on the top shelf of one’s priority list, take care of it before the opportunity is lost.

Friedman is a true master of storytelling.  With seemingly little effort, he draws me in to this despairingly gloomy world of solitude and isolation in title track, “The Loneliest Man I Ever Met”, and then transports me to a different place and time in “Wild Man From Borneo”.  The album closes with the elegantly performed standard “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”, which features guest pianist Bobbie Nelson.  This one is very nice indeed.

I hope the wait-time is much shorter until the next release from this national treasure.  The Loneliest Man I Ever Met is a quite the splendid listen.    

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