Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tom Craig and Soul Patch - Get Ready For Me

2017 – Tom Craig and Soul Patch  
By Phillip Smith; Feb 18, 2017

It’s obvious to see why Tom Craig and Soul Patch were chosen to represent the Central Delaware Blues Society for the 2017 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee this past January.  Oozing with soul, this fabulous R&B ensemble’s tantalizing debut album, Get Ready For Me, is solid proof.  Soul Patch, fronted by singer/guitarist Tom Craig has one bodaciously tight rhythm section consisting of drummer Johnny O’Connell and bassist “Rando” Randy Branning, smooth keyboard stylings of Eric Johnson on Hammond and a terrific horn section with Vince Gleason on tenor sax, and Skyler Hagner on baritone.

Tom Craig and Soul Patch deliver horn-infused soul, reminiscent of the formative music coming out of Stax Records in the Sixties with “Louita” and “How Did I Break the Rules”.  I love the bluesy undertones of title track “Get Ready for Me”.  Craig’s vocals are suave and commanding like Neil Diamond.  His guitar licks sounds great, as they pepper Johnson’s lush keys and the smoothly blended sax riffs.  Heartbreak hit, “She Did it to Me, She’ll Do it to You”, is a big tantalizing bowlful of slow bluesy soul.  A captivating hook with a peppy groove steers “Captain Funk” right into my list of favorites.  Craig serves up a delicious taste of Chicago blues in “Please Forgive Me Baby” with a brilliant vocal performance.

Listening to Get Ready For Me puts me in a good mood, and brings a smile to my face with every listen.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Sean Taylor - Flood & Burn

2017 – Sean Taylor Songs  
By Phillip Smith; Feb 18, 2017

Flood and Burn, the eighth full-length release from UK singer/songwriter Sean Taylor is an engaging, melodic jewel.  The album consists of eleven original pieces covering a variety of genres, along with a compelling bluesy cover of “Heartbreak Hotel” featuring Taylor on harp and Andre Moran on slide guitar.     

The velvety and lulling “Codeine Dreams” welcomes the listener in with soft swirly vocals amid colorful splashes of saxophone courtesy of Joe Morales. Taylor’s poetic mastery cleverly reveals itself on “A Good Place to Die” and the jazzy “Cruelty of Man”.  
With Roscoe Beck (Leonard Cohen) on double bass and Mike Hardwick on pedal steel, “Troubadour” beautifully recounts the uncertainly of life as a traveling musician.  A wave of melancholy washes over me when I hear “Life Goes On”.  Whether going through good times or bad, one can only go forward.  The lord giveth and the lord taketh away when Taylor charmingly conjures up an ominous hill-country vibe on the downtempo title track “Flood and Burn”.  Mark Hallman guests on banjo and Andre Moran on slide guitar, elegantly setting the song’s dark mood.  

Subtle references to Charles Bukowski, Townes Van Zandt, and Skip James are delightfully plucked like Easter eggs from “Bad Case of the Blues”.  A lush mix of slide guitar from Moran and violin from Hana Piranha taxis this daunting melody to exactly where it needs to be.  “Better Man”, a song of blessing and sacrifice, guided by the wonderful talent of Piranha on violin and Danny Thompson on double bass, eloquently brings Flood & Burn to a graceful end.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sena Ehrhardt live at Campbell Steele Gallery - Feb. 11, 2017

Marion, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; Feb. 12, 2017

Saturday, February 11,  The Sena Ehrhardt Band gave a superb performance at the Campbell Steele Gallery in Marion, Iowa.  This Minneapolis-based blues band is fronted by singer/songwriter Ehrhardt, her husband, guitarist Cole Allen, drummer Wayne Allen, and bassist Crosby Williams.  Prior to Ehrhardt taking the stage to sing the wonderful “Things You Should’t Need to Know” off the 2014 Live My Life album, Cole Allen warmed the audience up with a serious dose of instrumental electric blues. His talent on the guitar runs deep.  

Ehrhardt’s strong and powerful vocals sounded so good on the slow and swampy “Last Chance”, from her first record. Cole’s ripping guitar performance, an added bonus, is such a treat.  The band blessed the crowd with the house-rocking Chicago blues fave “Little By Little”, which ended in an audience participation sing-a-long. I was happy to hear them play a personal favorite, “Buried Alive”. It is an outstanding number.  For the fabulous finale, Ehrhardt closed out with “Rock Me Baby”, dedicating the song to B.B. King, Johnny Winter, and Smoking Joe Kubek.  It was a terrific show for sure.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Thornetta Davis - Honest Woman

2016 – Sweet Mama Music
By Phillip Smith; Feb 11, 2017

Honest Woman, the latest album from Detroit’s Queen of the Blues Thornetta Davis, glimmers with fiery soul.  This red-hot delight features a dozen original songs brought to glorious life under Davis’ commanding vocal presence. Davis’ backing musicians performing on the brunt of the album is guitarist Brett Lucas, drummer Todd Glass (The Muggs), Phillip J. Hale on keys, and James Simonson on bass.

Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds steps in as guest vocalist/harp player on the lively duet, “I Gotta Sang the Blues”. The contrasting voices pair together quite nicely, and Wilson’s harmonica performance is smokin’ as usual.  Davis enlists The Larry McCray Band to back her up on the groovy gospel-soaked “Set Me Free”.  This is one superb jam filled with stellar vocals and hot funky guitar licks.  It makes me want to shout, Amen!

I love how the brass mingles with the walking bassline and soulful keys on the fabulous “I’d Rather Be Alone”.  Davis sings this ode to a boomerang ex-lover, strong and proud.  Lucas delivers a searing guitar performance propelled by Glass’ driving beat on the magnificent “I Believe (Everything Gonna Be Alright)”.    

Thornetta Davis instills a fabric of enchanting soulful blues into each and every song on Honest Woman.  Reflected in her powerful vocals is heart-felt emotion, which, along with the superb musicianship she commands, is the key to an album full of outstanding performances.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Too Slim and the Taildraggers - Blood Moon

2016 – Underworld Records  
By Phillip Smith; Feb 4, 2017

With nearly thirty years under his belt performing and cutting records, Nashville-based Tim “Too Slim” Langford’s genius for dark rocking blues songs is undeniably strong as ever.  Backing Langford is his rhythm section, the Taildraggers, drummer Jeff “Shakey” Fowlkes and bassist Robert Kearns.

Blood Moon explodes out of the gate with “Evil Mind”, a guitar-heavy southern-rocker topped off with a hefty dose of adrenalin.  Langford’s contagious guitar riffs and smoky vocals keep me captivated for the mysterious and witchy “Gypsy”.  This terrifically dark love song is one of my favorites. He then sets a beautiful and cosmic mood in “My Body”, a song about death and the hereafter.

If one didn’t already know, it would very easy to think “Get Your Goin’ Out On” was a Rolling Stones deep cut with its blazing honky-tonk vibe.  For title track, “Blood Moon” Langford goes all out with hearty helping of searing blues guitar. It sounds great. 

Too Slim and the Taildraggers’ Blood Moon is an engaging album of raw unbridled southern blues-rock with a unique sound I’ve become quite fond of.  It’s one of those recordings I can listen to over and over again.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Collective Soul live at Riverside Casino and Golf Resort Jan. 28, 2017

Riverside, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; Jan 29, 2017

Saturday, January 28, Collective Soul (front man Ed Roland, his brother, rhythm guitarist Dean Roland, bassist Will Turpin, lead guitarist Jesse Triplett, and drummer Johnny Rabb) hit the ground running with an outstanding performance of “Heavy”, bringing a surge of energy and excitement to a sold out show at Riverside Casino and Golf Resort.  This was my sixth time to experience them since 1995, and it was so good to see and hear them again.  Ed was in rare form and Triplett was tearing it up on guitar

After tackling “Contagious” with a big bowlful of grit, Ed switched over to acoustic guitar to play the “AYTA (Are You The Answer?)” from their 2015 album, “See What You Started by Continuing”.  It sounded terrific.  With Ed still on acoustic, he segued in to “Shine” with a mini intro of “Amazing Grace” before the band burst fully into “Shine”.  Camera phones all over the venue rose into the air to capture this one played to perfection.  Ed poured everything he had into the song, jumping high in the air in ways I could never accomplish.  The crowd totally in his hands, the song ended with heavy thrashing and audience accompaniment.   

Before beginning “Draw the Blood”, a song so new, it had only been played live once before, Dean unfortunately fell ill and sadly was unable to continue on for the evening.  After checking with him to make sure he was alright, Ed and the band continued on through two other newer songs, “Pieces” and the melodically spacey “Rule #1”.  As the oh-so familiar riff of “Precious Declaration” tears through the speakers, the house rises, only to remain standing through the rest of the show.  “December” opens to a wave of whistles and applause and climaxes with Ed doing a Chuck Berry “duck walk” across the stage. They played through an amazing “World I know” and rock anthem “Gel”, putting a big smile on my face.  Still feeding on the frenzy started by “Gel”, Rabb blessed us with a fantastic drum intro on “Where the River Flows”.  This is Rock and Roll at its finest.

Just before closing the night with their last song, “Run”, Ed commented, “It’s been 23 years now.  Not bad for the one hit wonder of 1994.” As the song came to its end, Ed was the last to leave the stage, still strumming his acoustic guitar and marching off, like the troubadour, into the dark, disappearing off to back stage.    


Photos by Phillip Smith

Ed Roland

Dean Roland

Will Turpin

Ed Roland

Jesse Triplett

Ed Roland

Will Turpin

Ed Roland

Dean Roland

Johnny Rabb

Jesse Triplett

Johnny Rabb / Will Turpin

Jesse Triplett

Ed Roland

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Alejandra O’Leary - All I Know

2016 – Alejandra O’Leary  

By Phillip Smith; Jan 28, 2017

Alejandra O’leary’s latest album, All I Know carries on the raw indie-pop tradition O’Leary is known for.  Performed and produced by O’Leary, bassist Thom Canova and drummer Mark Simonsen, this eleven track break-up album keeps the music interesting with swirly melodies and heady lyrics. 

The topic of frail and failing relationships is the forefront of the opener “Doubtless”, an emo love song whose tension slowly builds until peaking in a furious psychedelic frenzy.  O’Leary’s clever and hardnosed lyrics are nicely set to an edgy and haunting melody in “I Only Came Here For Your Body”.  I love the way “Trace/Color/Light” beautifully dances in a cosmic cloud of psychedelia too.  It’s very nice indeed. 

Alejandra O’Leary is a true poet and artist whose music continues to move forward. She definitely proves that in All I Know.

Dave Fields - Unleashed

2017 – FMI Records
By Phillip Smith; Jan. 28, 2017

Another stellar album from New York bluesman Dave Fields has hit the airwaves.  Unleashed is a perfect blend of seven live cuts and seven studio cuts, each one bringing out the best of Fields’ outstanding guitar performances.

Unleashed takes off with a groovy live instrumental called “Anticipating You”.  A terrific performance from Vladimir Barskey on keys, a cool funky bassline from Erik Boyd, and percussion from Doug Hinrichs sets a Stax-like stage for Fields to jam his heart out too. Using that Stax sound as s springboard perfectly segues into the next tune, a cover of Memphis-great Don Nix’s, “Going Down”.  Tackled with a fiery intensity, Fields doles out a big fat dose of superb guitar playing.  For Jimi Hendrix fans, Fields also gives a killer performance on “Hey Joe”, and “The Star Spangled Banner/Hey Joe (reprise)”. 

In two-parter “Jagged Line Pt 1” and “Jagged Line Pt 2”, Fields offers a glimpse inside his own life and struggles.  Beautifully composed, this pair of songs walks the tightrope between blues and rock, lyrically leaning more toward blues and musically taking the rock and roll route.  I get completely drawn in to Fields’ lyrics on “My Mama’s Got the Blues”.  This song drips with hard times and authenticity.  Also grabbing my full attention is the lovely and carefree “New York City Nights”, a jazzy selection paying homage to the Big Apple.     

Fields scores big on this album. Unleashed is destined to be a sure-fire hit release.  

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Tas Cru - Simmered & Stewed

2016 – Vizztone Records
By Phillip Smith; Jan. 21, 2017

As New York blues artist Tas Cru explains, he is returning to his ‘acoustic-ish’ blues roots on his latest album, Simmered  & Stewed.  He breathes a delightful new life into a handful of his older recorded material with the use of his acoustic, resonator and cigar box guitars. 

Cru gets a spirited and running start on the outstanding “Dat Maybe”, revving up his resonator through the driving beat supplied by Andy Hearn, a juicy wall of harmonica from Dick Earl Ericksen and a soulful organ accompaniment from Guy Nirelli.  It’s impossible to escape the gravitational pull of the trance groove Tas embeds in “Feel I’m Falling”.  Distant backing vocals and Ron Keck’s spacy ominous percussion add to the haunting vibe in this brilliantly psychedelic cry for help.  David Liddy’s rollicking barrelhouse piano playing shines bright through the saucy and manic blues of “Biscuit”.  Shout outs to the legendary Delta Blues great Robert Lockwood Jr. and the voice of KFFA’s King Biscuit Flour Hour ‘Sunshine’ Sonny Payne also bring a smile to my face.

Simmered & Stewed is chock full of all original tunes, with the exception of one song.  As the only cover on the album, the 1967 Jackie Wilson hit song “Higher and Higher” deliciously and slowly builds to a fast boil in the uplifting form of a southern gospel ten revival session. This is a nice treat indeed.  Thus the album comes to its finish, and I say, Amen brother!    


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Starlite Campbell Band - Blueberry Pie

2016 – Supertone Records
By Phillip Smith; Jan. 14, 2017

Blueberry Pie, an album of outstanding original blues from married musical duo Starlite Campbell Band captured my full attention upon first listen.  Singer/songwriter/bassist Suzy Starlite and her husband singer/songwriter/guitarist Simon Campbell also own Supertone Records, an independent label based in London, with a world-class analog recording studio located in Valencia Spain.  This eleven track album also features Steve Gibson on drums, Jimmy Henderson on Hammond Organ and Wurlitzer Electric Piano, along with special guest Danny Boy S├ínchez on harmonica.

A propelling rhythm highlighted by an intoxicating bassline make way for Campbell’s delicious blues guitar licks to ignite on “Walkin’ Out the Door”.  The band gets down and dirty on the exhilerating “You’re So Good For Me”.  Henderson attacks the Hammond with full force as Campbell throws down a riveting and electric performance.  It’s as if there was a musical “battle royale” between the two in the studio. This one is a downright splendid recording.

The Starlite Campbell Band also has a folky and rootsy side.  Acoustic title track “Blueberry Pie” warmly comforts the soul with eloquent harmonies and a taste of slide.  They beautifully deliver the poppy and melancholy “I Need a Light” in a mesmerizing fashion, rolling it in on a red carpet of bass and cymbals. 

Blueberry Pie is a big bowlful of luscious rock and blues with thoughtful lyrics, played with precision.  It’s that damn good. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Jack Mack and the Heart Attack Horns - Back to the Shack

2016 – SSR Freeroll Records
By Phillip Smith; Jan. 7, 2017

There’s a big, bodacious, and retro sound imbedded in Back to the Shack, the latest release by the Jack Mack and the Heart Attack Horns.  Front-man Mark Campbell invigorates each song with his powerful and soulful vocals as the band tops them off with rhythm, blues, and copious amounts of brass.  It’s impossible to miss the Stax and Motown influences which seem to be deeply rooted in the music. 

Guitarist Ed Berghoff artfully introduces “Before the King” on acoustic guitar.  The track, which features the talented guest backup vocalist Melanie Taylor, soon turns into a smokin’ blues number complimented with smooth horns, a snappy piano accompaniment, and blazing guitar from Andrew Kastner.  Keyboardist/vocalist Mike Finnegan also makes a guest appearance on this album, serving up some of his finest splashes of sound on the swaying blues ballad, “Somethin’ in the Water”.  I love the funky bassline and James Brown inspired singing on the mucho danceable “Bad Habit”.  Bad habits lead to bad decisions, which happen to be the theme of “Serves Me Right”, a funky little mix of soul and country with a nice twangy delivery from Kastner.  “Never Too Late” hits big and hits hard, showing positive proof just how tight of a band this is. Campbell sings with dedicated conviction on this hot electric blues tune immersed in a sea of horns and keys.

Jack Mack’s Back to the Shack is a sure-fire hit in my book.  It is an immensely enjoyable listen.

For more about Jack Mack and the Heart Attack Horns, visit their website

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Glenn Hughes - Resonate

2016 – Frontiers Music
By Phillip Smith; Dec. 31, 2016

Glenn Hughes continues to rock the world with one of the most outstanding voices on the planet.  Resonate, his first solo release in eight years is sure to be a contender for Best Rock Album of 2016. Joining Hughes on this fabulous eleven track album of all-originals is guitarist Soren Andersen, drummer Pontus Engborg, and keyboardist Lachy Doley.  

Hughes brilliantly flaunts his rock and roll bass guitar and vocal chops on “Heavy”.  This high-voltage opening track boasts thick monster guitar licks from Andersen and stellar crashing beats from guest drummer Chad Smith of The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  “Let it Shine” sneaks up on the listener and sinks its hooks right in.  Amid Andersen’s revving riffs and Doley’s glorious full-bodied keys, Hughes keeps it melodic and soulful until the furious end.  Mad keyboard wizardry and crashing guitar riffs wash ashore like the foretelling waves of a tsunami on “Steady”.  The gravity waves emitted from “Landmines” funky rhythm tightly pull me into its adrenalin-rich hook. With acoustic guitar in hand, Hughes closes the album with “Long Time Gone”.  This melancholy rock ballad breaks through the wall with full force, featuring lush keys, a funky bassline and Smith ferociously gracing the drums again.

Resonate goes down as one of my top Rock and Roll picks for the year.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Gina Sicilia - Sunset Avenue

2016 – Blue Elan Records
By Phillip Smith; Dec. 26, 2016

Beautiful, captivating vocals are the center of attention in Sunset Avenue, the sixth studio release from Philadelphia singer/songwriter Gina Sicilia.  Nominated in 2008 for a Blues Music Award in the category of Best New Artist Debut, Sicilia proves once again, her voice is certainly one to be reckoned with.  Her approach to singing the blues is a softer and more soulful one. 

I’m hooked on this album right from the get-go with “Abandoned”, a marvelous piece dunked in country-blues.  Sicilia’s bluesy performance on “They Never Pay Me” is quite breathtaking, as she sheds her chains of repression to stand out and be heard.  This outstanding song is wonderfully played.  Another sweet little prize on this album is her joy-filled cover of The Exciters’ 1962 Top 10 single “Tell Him”.  It’s a delightful homage indeed.

Sicilia’s sweet stellar voice, along with her talented and tight cast of musicians make Sunset Avenue the standout five-track EP it is.  

Friday, December 23, 2016

Randy McAllister and the Scrappiest Band in the Motherland - Fistful of Gumption

2016 – Reaction Records
By Phillip Smith; Dec. 23, 2016

Randy McAllister and the Scrappiest Band in the Motherland bring to the table, ten wonderful tracks of Texas blues and simmering soul, wrapped tightly in a Fistful of Gumption.  Singer/songwriter/drummer McAllister, guitarist Rob Dewan, fiddle player Maya Van Nuys, and bassist Matt Higgens make up the core of this top-class band. 

A pulsing fiddle riff and a driving beat pumps the groove through “C’mon Brothers and Sisters”, an energetic number with wonderful retro backing harmonies.  I love the beautifully written and performed, “Time for the Sun to Rise”.  McAllister’s vocals ooze heartfelt emotion on this melancholy Sixties soul throwback. 

Van Nuys levels the field with her fiddle playing on “Ride to Get Right (Tribute to Otis Redding and Earl King)”.  Fit for a Louisiana hoedown, this big rollicking number grabs a lot of attention.  I’m taken to church when I hear “Background Singer”, a funky and spirited ode to the stars of the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom. 
McAllister breaks out his harp and gets “Leave a Few Wrong Notes” kicked off in a rocking scrumptious way while Dewan keeps those tasty guitar licks rolling.

McAllister and his Scrappiest Band in the Motherland are one tight ensemble, and Fistful of Gumption leaves me wanting nothing but more.     


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Popa Chubby - The Catfish

2016 – Popa Chubby Productions
By Phillip Smith; Dec. 17, 2016

With a music career which has spanned over twenty five years, New York blues artist Ted Horowitz, aka Popa Chubby, continues to keep the sound fresh and the songs innovative on his latest release The Catfish.  Popa Chubby shows he can not only dish it out with raw sheer attitude, but he can also approach a song with grace and elegance as well.  The Catfish contains ten outstanding new songs, as well as two wonderful covers.

Nothing quite compares to the magnificent instrumental “Blues For Charlie”.  There’s a whole lot of heart and soul poured into Popa Chubby’s searing guitar performance.  On the subject of instrumentals, I also fell for “Wes is More”, a smooth jazzy number with a lot of pick-me-up and a sweet accompaniment by the prestigious Dave Keys on piano, and drummer Dave Moore.  In a barrelhouse style, Keys plays a wonderful backup to Chubby on a delightful cover of Robert Johnson’s “C’mon In My Kitchen”.  This is a fine cover indeed.  Taking on the Everly Brothers 1957 hit, “Bye Bye Love” while adopting a reggae beat, Popa Chubby catches me off-guard when breaking into an amazing run of hummingbird-like guitar picking. This is one fantastic track.

Popa Chubby’s daughter Tipitina peppers the ominous and hypnotizing rhythm of another favorite, “Slow Down Sugar” with cool blasts of trumpet as Chubby raps through his own vocal harmonies. I tend to crank the volume up a smidge when I hear “Cry Till It’s a Dull Ache”, a vibrant nod to Seventies blues-rock with a John Kay and Steppenwolf feel.  Chubby has his mojo running on “Dirty Diesel” too.  This rowdy rocker is loaded with smoking guitar licks and rambunctious keys.

Masterfully engineered hooks and grooves sidled up with Popa Chubby’s bold and fearless guitar handling sets the table for an enjoyable and engaging listening experience.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Stevie J. Blues - Back 2 Blues

2016 – Mississippi Delta Records
By Phillip Smith; Dec. 10, 2016

Jackson, Mississippi recording artist Stevie J. Blues is serving up some great tunes on his latest release Back 2 Blues.  Incorporating down-home blues, and hot buttered soul, his music is loaded with outstanding guitar licks, smooth vocals, funky bass-lines, and old-time gospel-inspired beats. 

A friendly swaying groove, peppered with blasts of brass from The Jackson Horns, surrounds Stevie J. as he invites the world to just show a “Lil’ Mo’ Love”.  Holding nothing back, he then full-on embraces the funk in a classic George Clinton “P-Funk” style on “Good Good”, firing off hot guitar licks guided by a catchy rhythm laid down by drummer Nick Merisaul and keyboardist Kendrick Hart.  Produced and co-written by the multi-talented “Saint” Anthony Dalcoe (Curtis Mayfield, James Brown), this track stands out in a big positive way.

Gospel-flavored trance beats, swampy slide guitar and the flowing sounds of Scott Albert Johnson on harp bring a delicious authenticity to “Come See Me”.  One can feel the heartfelt emotion hanging in the air as Stevie J. sings about lost love in “Another Jody Song”.  This killer bluesy heartbreaker was written by Omar Cunningham, who also appears on the backing vocals. 

Stevie J. rips it up on guitar, capturing my attention as he enlightens us with the story of his path to the blues, while being the “Son of a Sanctified Preacher”. This follows with a spirited performance of “Stranger in the City”, a song dedicated to his late mother, and featuring Dwayne Watkins and Dr. MJ Johnson.  Back 2 Blues closes out with a terrific instrumental blues jam called “Blues By the Bay”.  I could listen to this all day.  


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Billy Pierce - Shapes of Soul

2016 –  Got Slide Records
By Phillip Smith; Dec. 3, 2016

The tunes on Billy Pierce’s latest album, Shapes of Soul is chock full of New Orleans-rooted jams topped off with some of the best slide guitar around.  Pierce’s band includes the multi-talented bassist/producer Charlie Wooton, drummer Doug Balote, and keyboardist Keiko Komaki.  Special guests include the magnificent trombonists of Bonerama ( Mark Mullins, Craig Klein, and Greg Hicks), Mike Zito, Jason Ricci, Jeff T. Watkins, and Michael Doucet.   

Pierce sings about struggling with money in “Paycheck to Paycheck”, an electric song with a smooth jazz vibe, featuring a terrific performance by the guys in Bonerama.  Harp player Jason Ricci dishes out a captivating performance on “Me and the Misses”.  Title track “Shapes of Soul” is a wondrous instrumental in which Keiko Komaki ‘s piano performance beautifully compliments Pierce’s slide guitar.  “Delta Queen”, a torch song for the southern man is immersed in a cool groove and slathered with scrumptious slide as well.  The contrasting guitars from Zito and Pierce sound amazing on “Tears of Joy”.  I love the way this song takes a hard right turn into the land of controlled chaos.  This song turns into one tasty jam when Balote ups the tempo and Komaki attacks the B3 with full force.  Massive waves of funk and infectious grooves make “Katrina” a definite standout.
 I get a little hypnotized with each and every listen to this delightful instrumental.

Pierce carefully explores the music acknowledged for its southern roots, and creates beautiful micro-blends of jazz, blues, and country which lay the foundation for Shapes of Soul.    

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sari Schorr - A Force of Nature

2016 –  Manhaton Records
By Phillip Smith; Nov. 29, 2016

A outstanding voice for the Blues and a bucketful of attitude runs through the grooves on A Force of Nature, the groundbreaking album from Sari SchorrSchorr is indeed a force of nature as she belts out each song with conviction and true grit. 

Schorr captivates me from the beginning on “Ain’t Got No Money” with a downright phenomenal vocal performance. Paired exquisitely with decadent swirly guitar and a riveting rhythm backing, this song hits strong.  The energy carries over to “Aunt Hazel”, a bluesy rocking anthem with a southern rock flavor.  Schorr’s cover of Lead Belly's “Black Betty” nicely exits the gates with a sweetly ominous stride before kicking into high gear, tearing the roof off with a crushing vocal deliverance and stellar guitar licks. “Letting Go” a sultry throwback with a Dusty Springfield-in-Memphis vibe, beautifully highlights the sophisticated and softer side of Schorr’s vocal wheelhouse. This lovely and emotionally charged song is absolutely marvelous.  The fabulous Walter Trout makes an appearance on a cover of one of his own songs, “Work No More”.  Hearing his fiery, yet melodic guitar licks shoot out of his guitar is a pure sensation.   

The album is so incredible; it only took one listen to A Force of Nature to turn me into a Sari fan.  

The Joey Gilmore Band - Respect the Blues

2016 –  Mosher Street Records
By Phillip Smith; Nov. 29, 2016

It feels really good to settle in for a nice listen to the latest release, Respect the Blues, from Florida blues-man Joey GilmoreGilmore and his crew, bassist Robert “Hi-Hat” Carter, drummers Raul Hernandez and Maurice Dukes, keyboardist Sonny Boy Williams, and guitarist Ivan Chopik have an old-school vibe, but keep it fresh in their performance.

“A Little Love (Always Makes it Bettah)” is a vibrant and energizing Cajun-flavored track.  Accented with Gilmore’s groovy playing and the lush sounds emanating from Williams’ keys, this track delivers the goods.  I love that slow bluesy funk which is slathered all over “Breakin’ Up Somebody’s Home”, originally recorded by Ann Peebles.  This is a hell of a song immersed in pent-up angst and orneriness.  Gilmore exquisitely covers “Chain of Fools” with the female half of the duet beautifully taken on by Edlene Hart.  The Joey Gilmore Band also serves up a bountiful bowlful of soul with William Bell’s “Can’t Kill Nothin’” and the Johnny Rawls tune “Soul Survivor”.  The blues burrows in deep when Gilmore wails his heart out on “Brownskin Woman”, a killer song with an attention-grabbing drumbeat and the sweet sounds of Rockin’ Jake on harp.      

Respect the Blues is a definite ‘keeper’.  

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Danielle Nicole live at Campbell Steele Gallery - Nov. 19, 2016

Marion, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; Nov. 20, 2016

Saturday, November 19, singer/bassist Danielle Nicole gave an exquisite performance to a sold out crowd at Campbell Steele Gallery in Marion, Iowa.  Singer/bassist Nicole, previously of the Kansas City band, Trampled Under Foot, is now in command of her own band, consisting of the very talented guitarist Brandon Miller, keyboardist extraordinaire Mike “Shinetop Jr.” Sedovic, and the outstanding Jon Faircloth on drums. This troop of musicians is one of the tightest groups I’ve heard, and hearing them play live is truly an electric experience.

Nicole beautifully performed the tremendous “Give Me Tonight” by Grammy Award winning songwriter and producer Anders Osborne, who also happened to produce Nicole’s 2015 Wolf Den album. Their performance of “Starvin’ For Love” was both joyous and riveting.  Miller tore into some lush slide guitar on their deliciously haunting cover of Son House’s “Death Letter Blues.”    

The first segment of the second set featured Nicole onstage alone, armed with acoustic guitar instead of her bass. She captivated the audience with John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery”, and a poignant delivery of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice”, before taking on Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”.
A moment of remembrance for the great soul singer Sharon Jones (May 4, 1956 – November 18, 2016) was taken, as Nicole shared her memories of opening up for Jones at a music festival overseas.  This ushered in a most fitting tribute as they broke out the funk in Jones’ “Nobody’s Baby”.  Another tribute to a recently fallen musical dignitary was taken later in the evening with a terrific performance of Prince’s “Purple Rain”.  Nicole sang this with intensity and heartfelt emotion as Miller payed a stellar guitar solo.

Although the band played for nearly three hours with just a smidge of a break, it was an evening which no one really wanted to end.  This is what the blues is all about.

* all photos by Phillip Smith

Danielle Nicole

Mike “Shinetop Jr.” Sedovic

Brandon Miller

Danielle Nicole & Jon Faircloth

Brandon Miller

Danielle Nicole

Jon Faircloth 

Danielle Nicole

Danielle Nicole, Jon Faircloth, Mike 'Shinetop Jr.' Sedovic