Saturday, March 25, 2017

Elmo Karjalainen - Age of Heroes

2017 – KC Sound
By Phillip Smith; Mar. 25, 2017

Age of Heroes, the fourth full length solo album from Finnish guitarist extraordinaire Elmo Karjalainen continues to push the envelope of rock when it comes to electric guitar instrumentals.  For influences, Karjalainen mentions the guitar-greats, like Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Pat Metheny and Jeff Beck.   

Karjalainen presents speed metal at its best in “A Meeting of the Gods (And This Guy)”. Guest guitarists Janne Nieminen and Emil Pohjlainen, 2016 winners of the Guitar Gods Competition, kick in some extraordinary solos for this shred-fest.  Called “King of the Keys” by Guitar World Magazine, keyboardist Derek Sherinian(Planet X, Black Country Communion) give a magnificent performance in “The Colour of Greed”, amid thunderous crashing drums and melodic adrenalin-infused guitar.  The hypnotically driving rhythm of “A Fertile Discussion” clutches on to me with a tight grip. 

A feeling of tranquility washes over me when I hear the ambient “Chikken Noodul”. It’s quite a soothing listen, as is “Breathe”.  There’s something galactic about “Blue Eyes”. The song seems to shoot me into the cosmos with each listen.

Karjalainen wears his passion for music on his sleeve, playing every piece with immaculate precision. This album is a must for guitar enthusiasts.


Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from the PhillyCheeze Amazon store.

Hector Anchondo Band - Roll the Dice

2017 – Hector Anchondo  
By Phillip Smith; Mar. 25, 2017

Hailing from Omaha, Nebraska, and finalist in the 2016 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, the Hector Anchondo Band is one tight-as-hell band.  Alongside lead guitarist/lead singer Anchondo is drummer Khayman Winfield, bassist Josh Lund, and Justin Shelton on harmonica.  Anchondo’s spectacular guitar playing and suave vocal stylings stand out front in his newest release, Roll the Dice.  Immersed in blues and Americana, this ten song album is a wonderful delight.

The lovely Kansas City songstress Amanda Fish joins Anchondo to dish out some riveting vocals in the energetic “Dig You Baby”.  Anchondo rips it up on guitar while Eric Stark and Kenny Glover dole out a clutch horn accompaniment.  This, fused to an outstanding harmonica performance from Shelton, sets the pace for the rest of the album.  “Masquerade”, a wonderful cocktail of blues and rockabilly is the perfect vehicle for Anchondo’s debonair voice. It’s a great tune for sure.  Anchondo brilliantly pulls the listener into his sad and lonesome world in “Sometimes Being Alone Feels Right”, a ballad he sings with heart-felt emotion.  He masterfully does it again in “Here’s To Me Giving Up”, performed in an absolute troubadour fashion.  Following an exquisite guitar intro, Winfield and Lund create a worldly magnificent space for Anchondo’s guitar prowess to explore in the flawless cover of “Black Magic Woman”.  It’s absolutely beautiful.

I had the pleasure of catching two stellar Hector Anchondo Band performances last summer.  The first show was at the North Liberty Blues and BBQ Festival in North Liberty, Iowa, and the second, was at the fabulous Tommy Bolin Music Festival in Sioux City, Iowa.  I’ve been a fan since.


View my previous blog entries about the Hector Anchondo Band...

Hector Anchondo Band - North Liberty Blues and BBQ Festival - 2016
Photos © 2016 by Phillip Smith  ... 

Tommy Bolin Music Festival - Aug 6, 2016

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Jake Chisholm - No More Sorrow

2016 – Jake Chisholm
By Phillip Smith; Mar. 18, 2017

Toronto music artist Jake Chisholm does a fantastic job of encapsulating the purity and rawness of Seventies blues-rock with his latest album, No More Sorry.  He brings a fistful of confidence to these ten tracks of originals with a rugged vocal styling and skillful guitar playing.  Chisholm’s power-trio also includes drummer Sly Juhas and bassist Chris Banks

Chisholm masterfully sets a dark and ominous state of impending doom with the psychedelic treat, “You Never Will”.  His guitar chops stand out up front as he elegantly ushers in a relaxed Hendrix vibe on “Just Because You Want To”.  This one is beautifully played.  Guest Jameson Elliot doles out a cool driving bassline as Chisholm shares a trippy hardscrabble look at life on the “Merry-Go-Round”.   I can’t help myself for falling for the infectious hook threaded through the title track, “No More Sorrow”.  It grabs me every time I hear it.  I like this one a lot.

There’s a sense of honesty woven into the crafted and thoughtful lyrics written by Chisholm.  His serious approach to music makes No More Sorrow the splendid record it is.


Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from the PhillyCheeze Amazon store.  

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Dave Keller - Right Back Atcha

2016 – Tastee-Tone Records  
By Phillip Smith; Mar. 11, 2017

Immersed in the goodness of Memphis soul, Vermont recording artist Dave Keller’s latest album Right Back Atcha, is a sheer delight to hear.   Keller’s splendidly soulful voice sounds terrific, as does his band which consists of Ira Friedman on Hammond B3 and piano, bassist Gary Lotspeich, and drummer Brett Hoffman.  The inclusion of Mo’ Sax Horns sweetly fills the bill needed to recreate that Memphis sound which Keller definitely channels.  They sound great and bring a wealth of energy to the album. 

I am instantly captivated upon my first listen to the fabulous cover of the 1974 Willie Clayton single, “It’s Time You Made Up Your Mind”.  Dap and funky, this song begs me to get up on my feet and dance.  Memphian Darryl Carter, who co-wrote that song, also teams up with Keller in writing the beautiful “Deeper Than the Eye Can See”, a love ballad with a lingering Otis Redding vibe.  I love the infectious groove of “Slow Train”.   This soulful ballad is highlighted by a fantastic sax solo from Joe Moore ( Slim Harpo, Wilson Picket ). 

Funky guitar riffs and playful blasts of horns swim among the lush sounds of Friedman’s B3 in “Urgent (I’ll Give It All)”.  Keller sings this with sophisticated conviction, making for a one cool as hell track.  Keller’s vocal performance in “What’s it Gonna Take?” is electric and amazing.  Drenched in sweat and dripping with raw soul, this song burrows deep down right to my core.

Right Back Atcha is a terrific album which I could listen to all day long.   

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Lucas Haneman Express - Tearing Up the Rails

2016 – Lucas Haneman Express  
By Phillip Smith; Mar. 04, 2017

Tearing up the Rails, the sophomore release from Ottawa, Ontario-based Lucas Haneman Express is a savory fourteen track platter of blues-rock with a slightly southern flavor.  Heading up the band is singer/songwriter/guitarist Lucas Haneman, who received the CBC Galaxie Rising Star Award at the 2005 Ottawa International Jazz Festival.  Accompanying Haneman to round out the quartet is vocalist Megan Laurence, drummer Jeff Asselin, and bassist Martin Newman

Steve Marriner from MonkeyJunk, lends his harmonica prowess to “The Verdict”.  This track oozes with swampy bluesy goodness as Marriner and Haneman go toe to toe. Marriner also appears, harp in hand on Brian Adam’s “Run to You”, another terrific track. It sounds so different recorded as a blues song.  There’s no rest for the wicked, when the band breaks into Steppenwolf’s psychedelic hit “Magic Carpet Ride”.  Leaving a smoking trail of rubber on the track, they take this one on going full throttle.   Haneman’s searing hot guitar makes for a standout performance.  I love the relaxed Steely Dan vibe Haneman brings to “Waiting at Your Door” with his smooth jazz approach. “Storybook Love” is plumb mighty too, boasting soulful vocals from Haneman, who guides the song from a slow southern sway into a ferocious intensity. 

Tearing up the Rails is a well-crafted album of poignant lyrics, rich melodies and tight performances.  It’s a great album to sink ones teeth into.  It has definitely sunk its teeth into me.    

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.