Saturday, July 29, 2017

Paul Nelson Band - Badass Generation

2016 –Walk the Dog Music / Friday Music Inc.

By Phillip Smith; July 29, 2017

One of the hottest albums I’ve heard this year is Badass Generation from The Paul Nelson Band.  Featuring a dozen wonderfully written and performed original tunes, the album is a surefire hit in my book.  Nelson, who was awarded a Grammy for performing on guitar and producing the legendary Johnny Winter’s 2014 Step Back album, fronts one tight as hell band.  This killer quartet consists of Nelson on guitar, singer Martin Fredheim, bassist Christopher Alexander, and drummer Chris Reddan 

I love the thick Texas-style blues riff on “Down Home Boogie”.  The licks are searing and the slide guitar is sweet and buttery.  Fredheim’s vocals are amazingly powerful and confident.  “Keep it All Together” has an instant likeability and hooks me with its southern-blues-rock charm.  With only a few listens under my belt, “Please Come Home” has already clawed itself inside my head, waiting to be running on auto-play upon my awakening.  Nelson’s guitar performance is this ballad is spacy and cosmic.  It reminds me tremendously of Jerry Garcia from the Dead’s In the Dark era.  It’s a fabulous song indeed.

“Swamp Thing”, Nelson’s nitty gritty guilty-pleasure love song, is one big ball of fun.  With an infectious hook surrounded by the sounds of the night, the tone is perfectly set.  The grinding intro on “Trouble” is chockful of gusto.  Reddan’s full-on drum attack is terrific and Nelson’s solo on the bridge is downright awe-inspiring.  When the dual guitar rings out on “Take it Back”, I immediately think of one my favorite bands, Black Oak Arkansas. I have to turn the volume up a notch or two for this badass album closer.  It’s rock and roll at its best.




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

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Gina Sicilia - Tug of War

2017 – Blue Elan Records
By Phillip Smith; July 22, 2017

Gina Sicilia continues to captivate listeners with her beautiful voice and lovely compositions in her seventh release, Tug of War.  Produced by Grammy-winning producer Glenn Barratt and Grammy-nominated producer Dave Darling, the album consists of six new tracks, along with the five tracks from her 2016 EP release, Sunset Avenue

Guest guitarist Zach Zunis (Janiva Magness) dishes out a heaping dose of electrifying licks on “I Don’t Want to be in Love”.  Strong and confident, Siclia’s vocals on “Damaging Me” are reminiscent of those of Linda Ronstadt’s in the height of her career.  Her cover of Patsy Cline’s “He Called Me Baby” is a magnificent and fresh homage to the 1976 Candi Staton version. The rich sounds of Joel Bryant’s B3 slather the song with soul.  Sicilia gives an outstanding performance filled with emotion as she sings The Beatles’ 1963 hit “All My Loving”.  

Drawing inspiration for the album title and original tracks, from her own personal struggles and experiences, this wonderfully gifted vocalist artfully encapsulates the Blues into her music and into this album, Tug of War.    


Here's a quick link to check out my review of Gina Sicilia's  Sunset Avenue EP -> 

Take a listen to the album on Apple Music, and if you decide to purchase it, use my special link.  This helps keep the PhillyCheeze site going.  

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

Ivor S.K.- Montserrat

2017 – Ivor Simpson - Kennedy

By Phillip Smith; July 22, 2017

Ivor S.K. is quickly climbing to the top of my list of favorite songwriters.  One year has lapsed since his critically acclaimed EP, Delta Pines crossed my desk.  I loved that disc.  I adore his latest release, Montserrat as well.  This debut full-length album consists of ten original masterpieces steeped in blues.  Montserrat showcases the genius of Ivor Simpson-Kennedy, with each song written, arranged and performed by the artist himself.
I quickly latch on to the marching rhythm of breakup song “Don’t Say Goodbye” while enjoying the slick rockabilly guitar licks.  The hook in “Ain’t No Cross” masterfully induces a double-take, while tackling one of the largest white elephants on the planet.     His tale of double-crossing drug dealers in the Caribbean-flavored “I’ve Been Had” is a sheer delight.  It is funky and contagious.           
“It’s Raining”, beautiful and melancholy, sinks in deep.  His performance on acoustic guitar is absolutely lovely.  The jazzy homage to the Big Easy in “Take Me Back to New Orleans” is vibrant and alluring, painting pictures of exploring the local music scene and chilling at the world-famous Beignets.

Listening to Ivor S.K. reminds me of listening to Tom Waits for the first time, being caught up in the wonderfully raspy voice, the musicianship, and the songs.. those killer songs.  This album indeed stands up and stands out.


Here's a quick link to check out my review of Ivor S.K.'s  Delta Pines EP ->

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

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Boogie Patrol - Man on Fire

2017 – Boogie Patrol

By Phillip Smith; July 15, 2017

Boogie Patrol, a high-energy five-piece R&B band from Edmonton, Alberta has recorded an outstanding batch of ten original songs on their latest album, Man on Fire.   Rott’n Dan Shinnan takes on lead vocals and harmonica, with guitarists Yuji Ihara and Chad Holtzman, bassist Nigel Gale, and drummer/percussionist Emmet Vanetten rounding out the band.  Special guests include Marc Arnold on Hammond B3/Keys and The Mocking Shadows Horns.   

I’m hooked from the moment the horns bust loose on the smooth and breezy “Players Blues”.  Shinnan’s vocals, dripping with a cool hip rasp, ushers the album in with a suave and strong confidence.  His vocal and harmonica performance on “Hard to Tell” is grand and soulful. It’s a beautiful song for sure. The funk breaks out in a big meaty way on “Shaker Down Below”.  Complete with a rich horn accompaniment, this one is served just the way I like it, with lots of jam.  The driving funky rhythm of “Got One On Ya” is quick to grab my attention, and opens the gate for a fun and groovy listening experience.  With guitars blazing and horns on fire, Shinnan delivers an amazing vocal performance on title track “Man on Fire”, bringing the album comes to a powerful close. 

Man on Fire is a fabulous listen from start to finish.  It doesn’t really get much better than this.


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

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Knast - Reckless Soul

2017 – Madlad Music

By Phillip Smith; July 9, 2017

I’m totally smitten by the new album, Reckless Soul from the Seattle foursome called The Knast. Their music, packed with catchy lush grooves inspired by the British Invasion and the counter-culture movement of the Sixties, makes for an outstanding listen.  Making up the band, are lead vocalist/guitarist AJ Delange , lead guitarist J. Weichman, bassist Tascar Wise, and drummer Ian Thomas
Baptized in psychedelia and fuzz-laden guitar, “Side Effects” is one cool as hell track which I synchronize with immediately.  Title track, “Reckless Soul” keeps the momentum sweetly going with a driving rhythm, smooth vocals and spacy effects.  The feel-good sounds of “Here and There” puts me in my smiling phase and puts me in a care-free mood.  When listening to “Waiting For the Lights to Change”, I’m immediately infatuated with Delange’s lofty vocals and Weichman’s cutting edge guitar performance.

Every song on this ten song album is an absolute delight.  Reckless Soul is a definite keeper.


For more information on The Knast, visit their website @

Craig Erickson - All the Way

2017 – Fervor Music

By Phillip Smith; July 9, 2017

It’s hard to believe it has been twenty five years since Craig Erickson’s fabulous breakout blues-rock album, Roadhouse Stomp hit the shelves.  His latest, All the Way is an exquisite ten track shot of serious guitar-centric rock and roll featuring the great Jeff Martin (Badlands, Racer X, Blindside Blues Band, Michael Schenker, Dokken) on drums. 

Intense and hypnotic, the grinding rhythm on “Breakthrough” demands my full attention and begs to be heard at a high volume.  Erickson’s positivity shines brightly in “Like a Bird”, a beautiful track which soulfully soars skyward.  “Touch The Sky” is absolutely superb.  Erickson’s guitar performance is searing hot, and sounds terrific alongside Martin’s thunderous drumming.  A monster riff and a marching beat are the heart-pulse of “Underdog”, another favorite decorated with electrifying guitar licks.  “Never Give Up” hits the ground running down the red carpet with an extraordinary intro, and races to the finish line on a double-dose of adrenalin.

I love how Erickson cleverly weaves an inspirational theme of perseverance through this amazing record of guitar mastery.  This one is highly recommended for the guitar enthusiast.


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

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Shopkeeper – Film Review

Directed by Rain Perry
Release Date : Aug 21, 2017 – Shopkeeper, LLC

By Phillip Smith; July 2, 2017

The Shopkeeper, a warm and thoughtful documentary from folk rock singer/songwriter Rain Perry, sheds an eye-opening light on the current state of the music industry.  With a focal point of Mark Hallman’s Congress House Studio in Austin, Texas, the film takes a close look at the what it has taken over the past few decades to stay in the music game.

Delving into Hallman’s career as a musician, which spans nearly forty years, we get a glimpse of his earlier years as a member of the band Navarro, which happened to lead to simultaneously backing two legendary greats, Carole King and Dan Fogelberg. In the Eighties, after relocating to Texas, Hallman rented a house on two acres of land south of Austin to use for a pre-production studio, and he just never abandoned it. Over the years, The Congress House has become a haven for musicians from both near and far away.  Perry brilliantly relays the tale of the ever evolving business of music through the stories of Hallman and those who have worked with him, like Ani DiFranco, Tom Russell, Charlie Faye, Betty Soo, and Colin Gilmore.

In 1974, the music industry boasted $10.5 billion in sales, which grew to $19 billion in 1994.  With the introduction of the MP3 and file-sharing services of Napster, Pandora, and Spotify, record sales have plummeted. This not only affects the artists, it affects the studios as well.  Without the promise of record sales, the artists embrace newer technology which gives them the ability to inexpensively record at home, on devices which may be nothing more than an iPhone.  There is a price to pay for this.  The music itself takes a huge hit in quality, as it bypasses the step where those with extremely trained ears can take a really good song, and make it a great song.  Hallman, who is one of those extremely trained and talented figures, is noticing the changing trends every day.

I love the stories Perry draws from the musicians who all share a love for this sacred space and who might consider the studio a second home. The comradery surrounding those tales of overcoming whatever obstacles they had to overcome are truly the heart and soul of the film.   


For more information regarding this film, visit these websites... and

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

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Sam Price and the True Believers (self-titled)

Sam Price and the True Believers
2017 – Sam Price Music

By Phillip Smith; July 1, 2017

When he’s not immersing himself into his mind-warping bass performances for the critically acclaimed Honey Island Swamp Band, New Orleans Sam Price has a sweet gig fronting his own funk-tified band, Sam Price and the True Believers.  With Price on bass and lead vocals, The True Believers consists of guitarist Matt Galloway, drummer Ethan Shorter, keyboardist Phil Breen, Conga Mike on congas, bongos, and percussion, and singer Whitney Alouisious.  Their first release is a five-track jubilee of infectious songs and note-worthy musical performances. 

Good vibes are abundant in the soulful bouncing rhythm of “Where I Want To Be”.  Featuring guest guitarist John Fohl (Cherry Poppin’ Daddys, Dr. John), this one turns my heart light on full beam.  Price breaks out the treasure chest of old skool funk on “Down To You”.  The whirling sounds of keys set the stage for Price’s funky bassline, Alouisious’ fierce vocals and a blazing saxophone played by Tom FitzpatrickEric "Benny" Bloom (Lettuce) lends his trumpet mastery to this song leading it to a cosmic climax.  It feels really good to snuggle up inside the relaxed swaying melody of “Keep On Pushing”.  I can’t help but think of Steely Dan when listening to this one.

I look very much forward to hearing what may come next from Sam Price and the True Believers.  They definitely have a good thing going.


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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado - Change My Game

Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado
Change My Game
2017 – Ruf Records

By Phillip Smith; June 25, 2017

It’s been almost three years since I reviewed Thorbjørn Risager’s award winning studio album, Too Many RoadsI loved that album.  His latest release, Change My Game is just as tight and sophisticated.  With Risager front and center on vocals and guitar, The Black Tornado consists of pianist/organist Emil Balsgaard, guitarist Peter Skjerning, tenor saxophonist Kasper Wagner, saxophonist Hans Nybo, trumpet player Peter Kehl, bassist Søren Bøjgaard, and drummer Martin Seidelin.  As this tight-knit band from Copenhagen puts it, “Change My Game” is not just an album title, but also the guiding ethos that has driven this band from the start. 

Risager’s vocals on “I Used to Love You” are suave and debonair. They sound great sitting in the mellow dreamlike atmosphere of reminiscence which the Black Tornado beautifully conjures up.  “Dreamland” is contagious from the beginning; I love its callback to Eighties soul-rock.  Skjerning delivers up some killer guitar riffs which play very nicely with the big full keyboard sounds from Balsgaard.

Like a moth to the flame, I’m quite drawn to the swampy blues of “Holler ‘N’ Moan”.  Saturated with nice and greasy slide guitar, and sung with conviction, this track feels so good to listen to.  There’s a sweet heaviness to the way Risager sings “Lay My Burdon Down”.  He magnificently paints this one in a gloomy melancholy light.  Risager closes with a masterpiece called “City of Love”.  In a musical sleight of hand, he inventively shapes this one from a Texas blues boogie into a mind-blowing, psychedelic treat complete with horns and swirling keys.

Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado have scored big again, continuing their tradition of excellence in music with Change My Game.  Like a big, juicy steak, this is music one can delightfully sink their teeth into.  


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


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Honey Island Swamp Band - Concert Photos : Irish District Music & Arts Festival (Cedar Rapids, IA 6/17/17)

Cedar Rapids, IA
By Phillip Smith; June 18, 2017

Photos by Phillip Smith

Honey Island Swamp Band

Aaron Wilkinson – mandolin, guitar,
harmonica, vocals
Chris Mulé – guitar, vocals
Sam Price – bass, vocals
Garland Paul – drums, vocals
Chris Spies - keyboards
 Rick King - Percussionist