Saturday, August 13, 2016

Royal Southern Brotherhood - The Royal Gospel


2016 – Ruf Records
By Phillip Smith; Aug. 13, 2016


I really like the musical direction Royal Southern Brotherhood is taking.  Not straying too far from their bluesy roots, the band continues to keep a fresh and funky sound as they roll out their fourth fabulous album, The Royal Gospel.  The RSB lineup this time around consists of singer/percussionist extraordinaire Cyril Neville, guitarists Bart Walker and Tyrone Vaughan, drummer Yonrico Scott, bassist Darrell Philips, and as guest on the B3, Norman Ceasar.  There must have been a lot of magic in the air during the seven days of recording this album at the Dockside Studios in Louisiana. One can feel the connectivity and kinship of the band imbedded in the music.

“Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire” opens with guitars blazing.  Loaded with badass heavy riffs and an intense bassline, this song is best heard loud.  The slide guitar on the swampy blues ditty “Spirit Man”, sounds downright great backed with the soul-filling sound of the B3.  I love the trance-inducing rhythm in “Blood Is Thicker Than Water”.  Neville’s smooth vocals fit in quite nicely.  “Face of Love” is such a terrific song too.  It is quite beautifully sung and performed.  One of my favorite unexpected surprises is when RSB breaks out the funk in “Can’t Waste Time”.  I can’t help but be transported to the late Seventies, when I was first started jamming out to Funkadelic.        


The Royal Gospel closes out in full-on revival mode, urging folks to stand up for what they believe in, with “Stand up” , a soulful tune served ala gospel style, complete with lots of foot stomping and hand clapping.  If this don’t get one moving, it’s likely nothing will.  This lineup of RSB works really well, and I hope it stays in place for a while.  

Monday, August 8, 2016

Tommy Bolin Music Festival - Aug 6, 2016

Sioux City, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; Aug. 8, 2016

One couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day to hold the annual Tommy Bolin Music Festival in Sioux City, Iowa.  It was such a wonderful experience.  This year was special in that it was a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Bolin's second solo album, Private Eyes.  And a heartfelt celebration it was, full of positive energy and musical fellowship.

Somethings can't be helped, so I didn't make it in time to catch Perfect Strangers from Finland, who kicked the festival off at 2:00pm.  I heard nothing but admirable comments about these guys who traveled the farthest to play by a long-shot.   I did however make it in time to catch a really nice set from guitarist Dean Christopher and drummer Bobby Berge.  Berge played with Bolin in Zephyr and then again in Energy.

The Hector Anchondo Band took the stage and treated us to a dashing performance of sizzling blues.  Anchondo's well of talent runs very deep.  His voice reminded me very much of the late great Roy Orbison while singing "Shake Me Shake Me".  I was glad to hear "Candy Shop".  Anchondo plays this one with some bodacious slide.  Santana's "Black Magic Woman" made for a perfect finale, with an amazing display of surf guitar guided by a stellar drum performance.  This one was fun indeed.

The Craig Erickson Band gave up a riveting performance as well.  Erickson, started with with one my favorite tracks from his album Sky Train Galaxy, "Mojo in Memphis" and then got its psychedelic groove on with "Cosmic Farm".  The groove keep going strong all the way to the end with  "The Comeback" , and Erickson's tribute to Bolin, "Gettin' Tighter / Ode to T".  

Following Craig Erickson, was the five-piece band, Russell Bizzett and the East/West Band,  who dished out a rollicking set of blues-rock favorites.  It's always a pleasure to hear Jr. Walker's "Shotgun" and Buddy Guy's "Messing With the Kid".  They rocked the house on this one.   It was also great to hear Etta James' "The Blues is My Business" as well as Freddy King's "Goin' Down".  

The largest ensemble of the night, the Tommy Bolin Tribute Band, featured a revolving door of musicians consisting of Johnnie Bolin (Black Oak Arkansas), Craig Erickson, Bobby Berge, Ryan Vicker, Kenny Passarelli (Barn Storm), Sam Irish, and more.  This special gathering of musicians performed live, the entire Private Eyes album.   From the beginning note of "Busting Out for Rosey" , it was magical.   Black Oak Arkansas's Jim Dandy and Samantha Barnes Seauphine made a surprise appearance, making for a plumb magnificent performance of "Shake the Devil".  With bassist Kenny Passarelli in the house, it would have been a sin not to play "Rocky Mountain Way", which he co-wrote.

I was totally enamored by a tight rock fusion trio, called JRZ System. Their latest album Teazer is a Tommy Bolin tribute, and features all songs by Bolin.  They played a monster instrumental set which included an encore featuring Craig Erickson.  I did not let the night pass by without stopping by their merchandise table to purchase a couple of CDs.   My only regret, is that I only bought two, and not three.

The evening was not going to end without a roof-raisin' set from one of my all-time favorite bands, Black Oak Arkansas.  Grinning from ear to ear, I was happier than a bug in a rug to see this band play live again.  It was so good to hear "Lord Have Mercy on My Soul", "Hot and Nasty", "Uncle Elijah", and "Hot Rod".  BOA was in rare form.  They were smokin'.  For the finale, they treated us to their Bolin cover, "Post Toastie".  It was splendid indeed.


Dean Christopher

Dean Christopher

Bobby Berge

Hector Anchondo

Hector Anchondo Band
Justin Shelton

Hector Anchondo Band

Craig Erickson Band
Rob Haskell, Craig Erickson, John Hall

Craig Erickson

Jesse Christen

Craig Erickson Band
Rob Haskell

Russell Bizzett and the East/West Band
Dennis Lee Kelley & Phil Kelley

Russell Bizzett
and the East/West Band

Russell Bizzett
and the East/West Band

Dennis Lee Kelley

Russell Bizzett
and the East/West Band

Glenn Reitsma

Russell Bizzett
and the East/West Band

Emily Martin

Russell Bizzett and the East/West Band

Russell Bizzett and the East/West Band

Tommy Bolin Tribute Band
Jesse Christen, David Napier, Craig Erickson

Tommy Bolin Tribute Band
Craig Erickson / Ryan Baker

Tommy Bolin Tribute Band
w/ 
Jim Dandy 
Tommy Bolin Tribute Band
Johnnie Bolin

JRZ System
Troy Johnson

JRZ System
Mark Zavon

JRZ System w/ Craig Erickson

Black Oak Arkansas
Samantha Barnes Seauphine
 & Jim Dandy

Black Oak Arkansas
Rick Reynolds

Black Oak Arkansas
George Hughen

Arthur Pearson

Black Oak Arkansas

Black Oak Arkansas
Johnnie Bolin

Black Oak Arkansas
George Hughen

Black Oak Arkansas
Rick Reynolds

Black Oak Arkansas
Arthur Pearson

Black Oak Arkansas
Jim Dandy




* ALL PHOTOS BY Phillip Smith

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

California Guitar Trio - Live @ CSPS, Cedar Rapids, Iowa : 8-3-16

* all photos by Phillip Smith



California Guitar Trio

Paul Richards

Hideyo Moriya

Bert Lams

Bert Lams

Hideyo Moriya

Bert Lams


Hideyo Moriya

Paul Richards


California Guitar Trio w/ Fabio Mittino

Opening for California Guitar Trio was Italian guitarist Fabio Mattino.  This was his first solo performance in the US.

Fabio Mittino

Fabio Mittino

Fabio Mittino and Bert Lams

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Matty T. Wall - Blue Skies


2016 – Hipsterdumpster Records
By Phillip Smith; July 30, 2016

Hailing from Perth, Australia, Matty T. Wall proves his band is indeed a musical force to be reckoned with.  With blues and rock at the forefront of his ten track debut album, Blue Skies, Wall interestingly gravitates towards jazz and grunge as well, masterfully concocting his own creative and unique blend of sound.  Backed by drummer Jasper Miller and bassist Stephen Walker, both also from Perth, Wall could not ask for a better rhythm section suited for his music. They really make his songs shine.

Wall revs the listener up with hot Texas style electric-blues in the album opener “Burnin’ Up Burnin’ Down”.  An energetic cover of Keb Mo’s “Am I Wrong” sweetly follows.  Wall delivers the goods on Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile”.  This nearly twelve minute long jam is a soulful and psychedelic treat. The guitar solo is simply amazing.  The track “Scorcher” certainly lives up to its name.  Here, Wall goes full-on rockabilly, turning his dial to eleven, doling out fast and furious guitar licks.  Miller’s performance on drums is simply outstanding.  The melodic title track “Blue Skies” is a wonderful listen too.  This beautiful song captures the essence of early Nineties Seattle grunge. 

For the pi├Ęces de r├ęsistance, Wall breathes new life into “Hellhound on My Trail”, Robert Johnson’s legendary tale about the aftermath of his deal with the devil at the infamous Crossroads.  Wall artistically sets a dreary mood for the song using sound effects of rain and thunder.  Miller pounds the drums as if to mimic the sound of a racing heart in distress.  There is a definite heaviness padded with layers of anxiety built into the music.  It fits perfectly to the lyrics.


What Matty T. Wall has done with Blue Skies is tremendous, not only for blues, but for music in general.  The album is indeed a masterpiece.         


for more info on Matty T. Wall, visit his website at http://mattytwall.com/





Saturday, July 23, 2016

Mike Sponza - Ergo Sum


2015 – EPOPS Productions
By Phillip Smith; July 23, 2016


It only took one listen to Mike Sponza’s latest album, Ergo Sum (Latin for “Therefore I am.”), to realize it was going to be one of my favorite discs this year. British singer/guitarist Ian Siegal joins Sponza in the writing and performance on seven of the eight songs on this stellar album of blues and soul, recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London.

Sponza takes an interesting look at the golden mean and applying it to daily life in “Modus in Rebus”.  A small burst of Frank Zappa-inspired vocals, satirical lyrics, spacy guitar licks, and the lush sounds of a Hammond organ played by Dean Ross make this a stand-out.  There seems to be a little Alabama Shakes vibe going on with “See How the Man”.  Sponza’s playful guitar sounds great.  Backed by saxophonist Matej Kuzel and trumpeter Chris Storr, this song sends me back to the Memphis Stax/Volt days.  While on the subject of Stax, I have to mention another favorite, “Prisoner of Jealousy”.  Siegal sings this one with the conviction of Otis Redding while the rest of the guys settle quite nicely into a smooth Booker T and the MGs groove. It sounds plumb terrific.   

The funky guitar riff and contagious melody running through “Kiss Me” is delightful, as is the soulful vocals, swampy slide guitar and rich sax/organ accompaniment which bring the masterpiece “Penelope” to the forefront.  Special guest, British blues singer Dana Gillespie gives a smooth and intoxicating performance on the captivating “The Thin Line”.  Topped off with fabulous bursts of brass, and little dabs of slide guitar, the song plays out beautifully.    

Thoughtful lyrics, powerful vocals, and perfectly executed melodies make Ergo Sum a fun yet intelligent album.  It’s going to remain on heavy rotation in my player for quite a while.