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







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.       


  


Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Paul DesLauriers Band - Relentless


2016 – Big Toe Productions
By Phillip Smith; July 17, 2016


Relentless, the follow-up to the self-titled 2014 album from The Paul DesLauriers Band is a riveting electric blues album to say the least.  Singer/guitarist extraordinaire Paul DesLauriers takes the helm of this ship manned by a magnificent rhythm section, bassist Greg Morency and drummer Sam Harrison.

In “Stewtro Rock (Just Got Back)”, DesLauriers breaks loose with guitar in hand like a furious and caffeinated bat out of hell, soaring all the way until its mind-blowing climax.  The energy stays high in “I’m Your Man”.  Walking the narrow line between blues and rockabilly, DesLauriers doles out Memphis-style riffs while Morency keeps the rhythm going with a boogie-laced bassline. DesLauriers gets nice and swampy with “Still Under My Skin”, while hopelessly pining over lost love.  The jam on the bridge is absolutely amazing.  DesLauriers unleashes a wondrous wall of guitar sound while Harrison dishes out a stellar and thunderous performance on drums.  I also can’t help but gravitate towards the beautiful eight and a half minute power ballad “If I Still Had You”.  As the tension slowly builds, I crank the volume to fully embrace the lovely intense jam which follows.                 

More often than not, as the last song on the album finishes, instead of replacing the disc with another, I’ll just let it ride for another spin.  That must be why this album is so suitably named, Relentless

   



Saturday, July 9, 2016

Wooden Nickel Lottery - Down the Line


2016 – Violet Isle Records
By Phillip Smith; July 9, 2016


There’s something kind of special about Wooden Nickel Lottery’s latest album, Down the Line.  The songs take me back to the late Seventies, when rock music relied on well-written songs, and radio stations still played a mix of genres.  That’s exactly what these Eastern Iowa musicians have to offer, as they skillfully combine splashes of rock, blues, country, funk and soul to create their own special blend of homegrown tunes.  The band is composed of lead vocalist/guitarist Rick Gallo, guitarist/tunesmith Rich Toomsen, bassist Jessica Toomsen, and drummer Delayne Stallman.

Gallo soulfully belts out “Can’t Be Wrong” with a power and smoothness which reminds me of Foreigner’s Lou Gramm.  I dig the funky bassline Jess lays down on “No Second Chances”.  It puts a smile on my face with every listen.  It’s easy to get lost in the bluesy melody on “Yesterday’s Rain”. It’s nice and slow, with an Allman Brothers vibe.  Hearing this one played live with an extended jam would be a treat for sure.  WNL kicks out the jams in hoedown fashion for a downright bodacious and intense instrumental, “Throw It Down”.  They keep the fire burning with the rocker “The Open Road”, staying on course with a driving beat from Stallman as Rich sweetly rips it up on guitar.   


For a cool-as-hell finale, the album closes out with a swampy homage to the working man in the track “Nickels and Dimes”.  Wooden Nickel Lottery scores big with Down the Line.  It is such an enjoyable album, I anxiously await their next.

 




Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Steve Hill- Solo Recordings Volume 3


2016 – No Label Records
By Phillip Smith; July 6, 2016


It’s no surprise Canadian musician Steve Hill has pulled down the 2015 JUNO Award for Blues Album of the Year, as well as Maple Blues Awards in 2014 and 2015 for Electric Act of the Year.  This man has it all going on with one of the best one-man band acts I’ve heard.  Hill attacks the blues with true grit as he pulls it all together accomplishing a magnificent feat in every one of his performances.  Solo Recordings Volume 3 follows up his JUNO nominated Solo Recordings Volume 1 and JUNO winning Solo Recordings Volume 2.  With Volume 3, Hill dishes up a dozen magnificent songs which resonate deeper with each and every listen.

“Damned” breaks loose with a wall of electric guitar fury alongside a driving beat.  One song in and already it’s hard to imagine this is one lone man with an arsenal of instruments.  Hill approaches “Still A Fool & A Rollin Stone” with intense focus, dishing out a performance which sounds like it came from someone who has been playing fifty years.  He shines on guitar as well as vocals, making this a no-holds-barred favorite.  In “Troubled Times”, Hill shows off his versatility and reminds us that not everything is pleasant.  The song is beautifully played.  When Hill tackles one of my favorite blues tunes, “Rollin’ & Tumblin / Stop Breaking Down”, I go to my happy place as soon as I hear the slide.  The man can sure play the blues.  That is a fact.