Saturday, June 25, 2016

Albert Castiglia - Big Dog

2016 – Ruf Records
By Phillip Smith; June 25, 2016

I’ve always enjoyed hearing Albert Castiglia play the Blues, but there is something about his latest album, Big Dog, that grabs ahold of me and just latches on.  Castiglia surrounds himself with extremely talented musicians: bassist Scot Sutherland, drummer Rob Lee, and Lewis Stephens on keys & piano.  For the icing on the cake, Mike Zito also performs on guitar and produced the album as well. 

Castiglia enters the album guns-a-blazing, holding back nothing, lobbing immense and intense guitar licks as if grenades on a battlefield, in the monster opening track “Let the Big Dog Eat”.  Castiglia advises promising musicians that hard work is the key to success in the song, “Get Your Ass in the Van”.  He lays down lots of sweet killer slide guitar on this original track, while satirically making his point, singing “This ain’t no American Idol.  There ain’t no more deals being made at the cross-roads.”. Castiglia then goes deep on his four-star cover of Luther Allison’s “Drowning at the Bottom”.  I can feel the blues oozing from his pores as he beautifully plays this soulful tear-jerker. This is my absolute favorite.  Stephens’s organ performance adds a cool Allman Brothers vibe on “Let’s Make Love in the Morning”.  This soulful, feel-good song puts a smile on my face with every listen.             

Big Dog is so hot and electric; it is pretty much an instant classic.     

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Eric Gales - Concert Photos : Irish District Music & Arts Festival (Cedar Rapids, IA 6/18/16)

All photos by Phillip Smith

Voice of Cedar Lake live at Irish District Music and Arts Festival 6/18/16

Cedar Rapids, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; June 19, 2016

Blue skies and warm weather set the perfect stage for a day of music and relaxation at the seventh annual Irish District Music and Arts Festival, which took place on June 18th.  The Voice of Cedar Lake, composed of guitarist Craig Erickson, vocalist Alicia Strong, bassist John Hall, keyboardist Tom T-Bone” Giblin, and drummer Jon Wilson took the stage first, opening up for the great Eric Gales

Erickson kicked things off with one of my favorite songs from his Sky Train Galaxy album, “Mojo in Memphis”.  Soon afterwards the band broke out the funk and tore into a groovy performance of Rufus and Chaka Kahn’s “Tell Me Something Good”.  Strong’s vocals were powerful and perfect.  Strong belted out more sweet and soulful vocals as the band doled out a rousing cover of Buddy Mile’s “Them Changes”.  I loved the bluesy spin they put on the Bob Marley classic “No Woman No Cry”, as well as the clever mash-up with the Five Stairsteps’ 1970 top-ten hit “O-o-h Child”.  Delbert McClinton’s “Standing on Shaky Ground” was a real treat, highlighted by an outstanding performance by Hall on his seven string bass, and Giblin on organ.  Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” immediately followed, keeping the groove afloat and the audience on cloud nine. 

Watching these musicians in action makes me proud to live in a community which not only has a wealth of great talent, but through appreciation of live music, is able to retain these talented artists we get so much enjoyment from.         

All Photos by Phillip Smith

Craig Erickson

Craig Erickson / John Hall

John Hall

Craig Erickson

John Hall / Tom 'T-Bone' Giblin

Alicia Strong

Alicia Strong

Jon Wilson

Voice of Cedar Lake

Alicia Strong

Craig Erickson

Craig Erickson / Alicia Strong

John Hall

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Dylan Wickens & The Grand Naturals - Hi Lo-Fi

2015 – Dylan Wickens & The Grand Naturals
By Phillip Smith; June 18, 2016

Hi Lo-Fi, the wonderfully bluesy sophomore release from Dylan Wickens and The Grand Naturals is a delightful listen. This rockin’ trio from Ontario consists of guitarist Wickens, drummer Al Webster(Jeff Healey, Colin James), and bassist Dennis Pinhorn(Downchild).  

There’s a cool little SRV vibe going on “Love & Lust”.  It’s fun, funky and infectious.  “Run Sister” gets down and dirty, with intense grooves fueled by fuzzy guitar riffs, and heaping dose of hot harp from Tortoise Blue.  I love the retro blues sound of “Calamity Jane”.  The organ accompaniment from Blue adds a nice touch too.  By the time “Fall Apart” comes around, I’m jamming out in full force.  This psychedelic treat is a powerhouse.  Another favorite, “Rock Bottom” is slathered in heavy electric blues with a strong Hendrix influence. It is almost trance-inducing. Wickens also delivers a big mess of bodacious slide in the cover of “In My Time of Dying”.  It is grand.

This is an album I could listen to all day long.  Hi Lo-Fi is a sure-fire winner.   

for more info about Dylan Wickens & the Grand Naturals, visit their website...

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Bill Durst - Good Good Lovin

2015 – Durstwerks
By Phillip Smith; June 11, 2016

Good Good Lovin, the latest from Canadian bluesman Bill Durst (Thundermug), is one hell of a treat.  With bassist Joe DeAngelis and drummer Corey Thompson at his side, Durst is serving up some of the tastiest Texas-style guitar blues and boogie I’ve heard.  The album features nine original kick-ass tracks co-written by Durst and DeAngelis, of which most sport a strong ZZ Top vibe.

The music hits the ground running with title track “Good Good Lovin”.  Durst dishes out fuzzy riffs and groovy licks as this infectious song races along, hammering the listener’s adrenal glands into submission.  “Got Love” keeps the energy levels high with call-backs to early Led Zeppelin.  Durst’s gravelly vocals sound so cool as he’s ripping it up on guitar in the outstanding power shuffle “King Snake Prowl”.  His slide guitar on “Heaven Heaven” sounds mighty sweet too. 

I could listen to Durst play guitar all day long and not tire. Good Good Lovin is an instant favorite which needs no time to warm up to.  Fans of ZZ Top should strongly consider picking a copy of this album up.

For more info on Bill Durst, visit his website

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Peter Kelly - Don’t Let Me Be Alone

2015 – Peter Kelly Music
By Phillip Smith; June 4, 2016

Rich poppy melodies and dark poignant lyrics are the focus of Peter Kelly’s album Don’t Let Me Be Alone.  The ten original songs from this New York singer/songwriter are smart and all beautifully performed by Kelly himself.  “Live The Dream” sweetly ushers the listener in with lush vocals and swirling rhythms. Following is the quirky anthem for codependents ”Don’t Let Me Be Alone”, in which Kelly keeps things flowing with contagious hooks. Irony is king in “Suicidal”. This upbeat ditty about cloaking suicidal thoughts with fake smiles is infectious and clever. It is one of my favorites.   Kelly blends rap and pop, topped off with melodic vocals, for “Tailwind (It’s a Beautiful Day)”, a song I love to start the day with.

Don’t Let Me Be Alone is a terrific listen from beginning to end, and comes highly recommended.    

Reverend Freakchild - Illogical Optimism

2016 – Treated and Released Records
By Phillip Smith; June 4, 2016

For those looking for a new spiritual leader, I’d like to recommend the good Reverend Freakchild.  His latest album, Illogical Optimism is three discs of musical fun.  The first disc is Odds, Ends and Other Amazingness.  It features fifteen blues and boogie-laced tracks that make me grin from ear to ear.  The second disc, Everything is New, contains a dozen stand-out remixes of Freakchild’s own “Everything is New”.  Lastly, the third disc is called Kairos, and contains acoustic gospel blues songs from a former Florida preacher who goes by the name of Ramblin’ Jennings

The Rev interestingly gives John Lennon’s “Imagine” the Lou Reed treatment.  This is one cool track indeed.  The good times roll as he takes on the Meters’ bayou-boogie classic ”Hey Pocky A-Way”.  I love Freakchild’s rendition of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s look at mortality, “See That My Grave is Kept Clean”.  This one stellar blues song. Freakchild brings the first disc to a close with a splash of weirdness and creativity in the gonzo inspired “Plastic Jesus Working On a Building”, which uses the traditional songs “Plastic Jesus” and “Working On a Building” as bookends to contain a myriad of random sounds and song-bits.   

On disc number two, in which all the tracks are variants of the same song, Freakchild is careful to give each track a unique and distinct sound.   Drummer Chris Parker lays down a trippy beat for Freakchild to break the funk out ala George Clinton style in my favorite track, “Once Upon a Time Called Right Now”.  I also really like the hillbilly version “Alla Gotta Na’” too.  Co-producer Sal Paradise lends his breath and harmonica as the Rev breaks out the banjo.  For the multi-linguist, Freakchild also includes both French and German versions.   

The third and final disc features eight tracks from a different reverend.  Armed with just a guitar and harmonica, Ramblin’ Jennings shares the gospel by playing the blues, and he does it with a lot of heart, soul, and authenticity.  Stand-out songs include”Safe in the Storm”, “I Saw A Wheel”, and “Silver Sandals”.

Give the Reverend Freakchild a listen. You will not be disappointed.  

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Sam Morrow - There Is No Map

2016 – Forty Below Records
By Phillip Smith; May 28, 2016

Sam Morrow’s debut album Ephemeral was one of my favorites of 2014, therefore, I was most curious to hear the new songs on his latest release There Is No Map.  As expected, the new album revealed to be another masterpiece.  With poetic beauty and brutal honesty, Morrow explores the not-so-glamorous gonzo journeys his modern-day outlaw life has taken.

The soulful boogie-laced tale of destitution and addiction in “Barely Holding On” is a sure-fire hit.  Like a freight train, the songs keep fearlessly rolling.  I get goose bumps when I hear “The Deaf Conductor”, written by the album’s producer Eric Corne.  Accompanied by the lush and beautifully textured sounds of a B3, this one has an instant familiarity to it.  I feel as if I’ve heard this song a hundred times before.  Then there’s the swirling, melancholy, country-flavored dirge “Green”, in which Morrow, like a burdened Buddha sings “The same old bullshit don’t make the grass green.”  This one is flawlessly and soulfully performed.  The eerie and ominous vibe woven into the wonderfully dark “Devil’s in the Details” are quick to grab my attention as well. The song is short, but sweet.

With two strong albums like these under Morrow’s belt, I already await the next.

For more info about Sam Morrow, check out his website...

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Charlie Faye & The Fayettes

2016 –  
By Phillip Smith; May 21, 2016

It’s about time someone took the bull by the horns to brush the dust off the classic girl group sound so embraced and adored in the Sixties.  Bringing that luscious sound to life again is Austin singer/songwriter Charlie Faye, who masterfully captures that carefree sound with eleven brand new original tracks.  Her backup singers, the Fayettes, BettySoo and Akina Adderley both have established and well-respected solo careers outside this charming trio.

Charlie Faye and the Fayettes start their debut album off with “Green Light”, a soulful and poppy feel-good treat about blossoming relationships. “Sweet Little Messages” walks the path between Motown and Memphis, dishing out beautiful harmonies peppered with Steve Cropper-like guitar licks.  There’s also a huge Stax sound on “Eastside” a lively dance-inducing track which draws attention to neighborhood gentrification.  This groovy track is definitely my favorite.

I love the combined sound of spaghetti-western surf guitar topped with the trippy psychedelic synth present on “Loving Names”.  It’s so hard to believe this is all brand new music.  When Faye sings “Coming Round the Bend” with her swirling and sugary sweet vocals, it sounds so good.  The song makes me feel nostalgic for the Phil Spector-produced Ronettes.    

It’s refreshing to hear a brand new take on a sound that’s been out of the spotlight for nearly forty years.  I would definitely like to see music of this style make a comeback.  It has been put away for far too long.  

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Blue Öyster Cult & April Wine - Live @ Riverside Casino, May 14, 2016

May 14, 2016 – Riverside, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; May 15, 2016

It was a great night for rock and roll as iconic rock legends Blue Oyster Cult and April Wine descended upon Riverside, Iowa to play a sold-out house at Riverside Casino.  Canadian rockers April Wine took the stage first, rolling the show out with “Anything You Want” off their 1982 Power Play album. The band is guitarist/vocalist Myles Goodwyn (the only remaining original member left), guitarist Brian Greenway (who has been with the band since 1977), bassist Richard Lanthier, and drummer Roy “Nip” Nichol.  After tearing through a very tight “Sign of the Gypsy Queen” and crowd favorite “Just Between You and Me”, they laid down the law with “21st Century Schizoid Man”.  It was heavy and delicious. Lanthier’s monster bass sounded so good alongside Myles Goodwyn’s mind-melting guitar.  Lanthier later delivered a killer bass solo on “Crash and Burn”.  Excitement filled the air as the opening riffs of “I Like to Rock” spill out.  Playing hard and heavy, the band was totally in sync and sounded very nice indeed.  Nichol peeled off a tremendous drum solo, part of which was barehanded.  It was quite impressive.  Winding things down, the guys played “Before the Dawn” and ended the show with “Roller”.  I loved the sound of the dual guitar on this one.  It was terrific. 

Blue Öyster Cult hit the ground running with a fabulous convergence of guitars on “The Red and the Black”.  Their two original members, front man/lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Eric Bloom, and guitarist Buck Dharma are joined by guitarist Richie Castellano, drummer Jules Radino, and bassist Kassim Sulton.  BOC delivered deeper cuts such as the medieval themed “Golden Age of Leather”, and the poppy “True Confessions” prior to cutting their way through a ripping and fantastically tight “Burning For You”.  From their self-titled 1972 album, we heard the hypnotically heady “Then Came the Last Days of May”.  The performance was mesmerizing and Dharma’s guitar was smoking.  Of course, no BOC concert would be complete without the rock and roll anthem “Godzilla”. Dharma played this iconic song with precision while Bloom’s vocals fell right into the pocket.  This was such a treat to hear. Without missing a beat, the set ended with a beautifully played “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, conjuring up memories of days gone by.  Just when the show was thought to be over, BOC returned for an encore, blessing the audience with one more song, “Cities on Flame With Rock and Roll”.  Sulton’s colossal bassline was played with true grit as this magnificent song and the evening ended with a barrage of guitar goodness.



by Phillp Smith

April Wine
May 14, 2016 : Riverside Iowa

Brian Greenway

Richard Lanthier

Myles Goodwyn

Brian Greenway

Myles Goodwyn

Brian Greenway

Myles Goodwyn
Myles Goodwyn, Richard Lanthier

Blue Oyster Cult
May 14, 2016 : Riverside Iowa

Eric Bloom

Eric Bloom & Buck Dharma

Eric Bloom

Richie Castellano

Kasim Sulton & Buck Dharma

Richie Castellano and Eric Bloom

Eric Bloom

Buck Dharma

Richie Castellano, Eric Bloom, Buck Dharma, and Kasim Sulton