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

Perry and the Pumpers - Concert Photos : Irish District Music & Arts Festival (Cedar Rapids, IA 6/17/17)

Perry and the Pumpers

Cedar Rapids, IA
By Phillip Smith; June 17, 2017

Although rain was in the forecast, the music gods smiled down, and the 2017 Irish District Music & Arts Festival finished the evening unscathed with the exception of the occasional droplet falling from the sky.   Opening for the Honey Island Swamp BandPerry and the Pumpers took the stage at five o-clock and the festivities commenced.  Iowa Blues Hall of Fame member and Cedar Rapids native Perry Welsh, returned to his hometown with a briefcase full of blues to give a ripping performance.  The Pumpers were composed of guitarist Bryce Janey,  Iowa Blues Hall of Fame member and B3 master Tom 'T-bone' Giblin, drummer Troy Harper, and bassist Dave Bader,  Starting things out with "Ain't That Just LIke a Woman", the band rolled through a treasure chest of classics which included "In My Younger Days", "Early in the Morning", and "Hey Little Girl", setting the stage for a great night of live music.

All Photos by Phillip Smith

Troy Harper, Perry Welsh, and Dave Bader

Perry Welsh and Dave Bader

Dave Bader and Bryce Janey

Dave Bader and Bryce Janey

Tom 'T-bone' Giblin

Dave Bader, Perry Welsh, and Bryce Janey

Perry Welsh and Dave Bader

Dave Bader

Tom 'T-Bone' Giblin and Perry Welsh

Perry Welsh and Dave Bader

Bryce Janey

Perry Welsh

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Joseph Veloz - Offerings

2017 – JMVelozs
By Phillip Smith; June 17, 2017

It’s a rare treat when a bass player’s talent takes top billing, as Joseph Veloz does.  This Detroit area musician who has played with many greats over the years, such as Lucky Peterson, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Mississippi Heat, James Armstrong and Joanne Shaw Taylor, joins forces on his new album, Offerings, with guitarist Shawn Kellerman, keyboardist Jim Alfredson , and drummer Andrew “Blaze” Thomas.  As if that’s not enough, he is also accompanied by very special musical guests Lucky Peterson, Biscuit Miller, Greg Nagy, and Jennifer Westwood & Dylan Dunbar (Jennifer Westwood and the Handsome Devils).   

The funk rolls in on a blast of cosmic keys and thumping bass, straddling a bombardment of badass guitar from Kellerman for the instrumental “Just Jammin’”.  A wave of musical delight washes over me as this one plays on.  Featuring the signature sounds of Lucky Peterson on vocals, “Jukin’ and Shakin’” shifts into high gear for a refreshing blast of spirit-lifting, feel-good, high-energy blues. Alfredson’s performance on the organ is simply amazing.  Biscuit Miller lends his fabulous voice to the infectious soulful groove of Eddie Kirkland’s “Good Good Day”. 

Being a huge fan of Jennifer Westwood and the Handsome Devils, I immediately fell in love with the outstanding cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”.  Westwood’s vocal delivery is beautiful and iconic.  Kellerman dishes out huge doses of searing slide guitar, which opens up for a dazzling guitar solo from Dunbar.  This is a terrific track indeed.   

Veloz closes this eight song treasure out a breakneck performance on Prince’s “Kiss” with Joey Spina (Whitey Morgan and the 78’s) on the mic.  The creativity in Veloz’s musical arrangements and production choices are the icing on the cake of his extraordinary talent as a bassist.  And that’s what makes Offerings such a blast to hear. 


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

Saturday, June 10, 2017

John McNamara - Rollin’ With It

2017 – Bahool Records  
By Phillip Smith; June 10, 2017

Recorded at Memphis’s legendary Ardent Studios, Rollin’ With It, the latest album from Australian singer/songwriter, John McNamara is chockful of smooth Memphis soul.  Boasting a killer lineup of Stax musicians featuring drummer Steve Potts (Booker T & the MGs),  guitarist Michael Toles (Bobby Bland, The Bar-Kays), pianist/organist Lester Snell (Albert King, Isaac Hayes), who also arranged the album, and bassist James “Jimi” Kinard(Isaac Hayes, B.B. Kings All Stars), the album is a bodacious musical delight.       McNamara, who grabbed a semi-finalist slot in the 2015 International Blues Challenge, lays his fabulous voice and bluesy guitar licks down in six original songs and four wonderful covers.

From the moment, “One of a Kind” immersed from the speakers, loaded with searing electric guitar, rich keys from Snell, and the sweet sound of horns, I knew this album would be a favorite.  McNamara suavely croons as the spoon-fed rhythm of “Under the Weight of the Moon” uncannily drills itself into my subconscious. That’s absolutely fine with me though.

McNamara beautifully takes on Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Ask Me Nothing (But about the Blues)”.  Drizzled with buttery vocals and wonderful blasts of horns, this one is sung from the heart.  His recording of Otis Redding’s “Security” is second to none and positively fabulous.     

As a huge fan of Stax Records and all the terrific music which flowed out its doors in the Sixties and Seventies, I have to say, Rollin’ With It ranks as my favorite Stax album not officially on the Stax label.  It’s just that good.


Saturday, June 3, 2017

North Mississippi Allstars - Prayer For Peace

2017 – Sony Legacy  
By Phillip Smith; June 3, 2017

North Mississippi Allstars has been one of my favorite bands since they rolled out Shake Hands With Shorty in the year 2000.   With their latest album Prayer For Peace, the three-time Grammy Nominated Dickinson brothers, Luther and Cody bring another fine batch of blues songs to the table.  Recorded in multiple studios across the U.S., while on their 2016 tour, this self-produced album features quite the notable guest list, which includes Oteil Burbridge, Graeme Lesh, Sharisse Norman, Danielle Nicole, Dominic Davis, and Shardé Thomas.   

The driving trance beat and the beckoning of a “Prayer For Peace” warmly lures the listener into the album.  The accompaniment by guest musician, fife-master Shardé Thomas (daughter of Otha Turner) is the cherry on top of this mantra for world peace.  A delicious bombardment of greasy slide guitar from Luther grabs my full attention on the riveting hill country blues of “Run Red Rooster”.  They tackle “Stealin’”, first recorded by the Memphis Jug Band in 1928 (and also covered by the Grateful Dead), in a raw stripped-down Stones fashion.  Taking on another couple of cues from The Dead, they tear into an intoxicating version of “Deep Ellum” and break out a plumb terrific jam on “Bid You Goodnight”.  

Wonderfully psychedelic licks woven into clusters of fat electric riffs breathe new life into the hill-country blues of R.L. Burnside’s “Birds Without a Feather”.  Another Burnside foot-stomper they take on is the fabulous “Miss Maybelle”.  They also pay a nice homage to the great Mississippi Fred McDowell, injecting a fortified soulful groove into “You Got to Move” which segues very nicely into a smoking rendition of “61 Highway”. 

The Dickinsons valiantly do their part to make sure the blues are not forgotten by keeping the music alive in their performances.  Their taste in music is extraordinary as is their interpretations of it.  Prayer For Peace continues their tradition.  


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

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Nick Schnebelen - Live in Kansas City

2017 – Vizztone Records
By Phillip Smith; May 20, 2017

I’ve been a fan of Nick Schnebelen since hearing Wrong Side of the Blues, a 2011 release from his band Trampled Under Foot, which was cofounded with his siblings, Danielle Nicole and Kris.  That album was one of my favorites that year, and I was fortunate to have reviewed it for Blues Review Magazine’s online magazine, Blues WaxNick now leads his own band, a high-energy power trio with Cliff Moore on bass and Adam Hagerman on drums.  Live in Kansas City captures a riveting concert from this band who took the stage at Knuckleheads Saloon in Kansas City on December 3, 2016. 

Leading off this killer ten track album, is the spectacular “Fool”.  Schnebelen’s vocals, soaked in the blues, are powerful and smooth.  The captivating sound of his guitar rings with spirit and emotion.  I love the funk-infused rhythm on “Herbert Harper’s Free Press News”.  Catchy riffs and high-octane drums fuel this one.  The guitar mastery demonstrated in “You Call That Love” is second to none, and sounds absolutely amazing. Chills shoot up and down my spine when they break into a quite superb cover of Johnny Winter’s “Mean Town Blues”.  Schnebelen takes no prisoners as he plays this wonderful piece on slide.  The album closes with “Conformity Blues”, an exquisite instrumental guided by a propelling rhythm and intricately laced up with an exhilarating guitar performance.

Nick Schnebelen Live in Kansas City is an outstanding album of fortified electric blues which hits the ground running and plows through right to the very end.


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

Friday, May 12, 2017

John Mayall - Talk About That

2017 – Forty Below Records  
By Phillip Smith; May 12, 2017

I’m always happy to hear new material from John Mayall,.  With his latest album, Talk About That, Mayall nails down another winner in a long string of rock-solid blues albums.  Returning to record the eleven track jewel with Mayall is guitarist Rocky Athas, bassist Greg Rzab, and drummer Jay Davenport.    

Mayall lays down seriously groovy keyboard riffs alongside Rzab’s thick and saucy bassline in title track, “Talk About That”.  I love it when he breaks out that juicy Bourbon Street blues with the deliciously horn-rich “Gimme Some of That Gumbo”.  Athas delivers a searing guitar performance which brings this one home.  When Mayall plays the harmonica in the Jimmy Rogers All Stars cover, ”Goin’ Away Baby”, it sounds so damn good.  This is one killer blues song indeed.  His piano performance on life-questioning “You Never Know” is quite delightful too.  I get lost in the stirring sounds of “Blue Midnight”. Its vibrant and intoxicating rhythm pulls me deeply in.       

For “The Devil Must Be Laughing” and “Cards on the Table”, Mayall enlists non-other than the fabulous Joe Walsh to play guitar.  Both are rather outstanding and capture the legendary Walsh sound.   

Talk About That is an enchanting album which showcases a wonderful set of Mayall masterminded blues.    


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

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

John Nemeth - Feelin’ Freaky

John Nemeth   
Feelin’ Freaky
2017 – Memphis Grease 
By Phillip Smith; May 9, 2017

Feelin’ Freaky, the latest release from John Nemeth is a brilliant collage of heady blues-rich soul music taking a smidge of liberty to poke fun at society and embrace those on the edge.  Recorded  at the Zebra Ranch in Coldwater, Mississippi and  Royal Studios in Memphis, Tennessee with his touring band, the Blue Dreamers (guitarist Johnny Rhoades, bassist Matthew Wilson, drummer Danny Banks) under the direction of Grammy-nominated producer Luther Dickenson, the album certainly has its share of the Bluff City woven into its DNA.

Nemeth addresses the topic of gun violence in America while blasting a wall of lush poppy horn-infused soul in “Under the Gun”. I can’t help but think of Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground while this terrific anthem rolls out the speakers.  He crushes it on title track “Feelin’ Freaky” a funky jewel with a driving riff and creamy contagious hook.  Nemeth breaks out a briefcase full of blues harp to top off the dance-friendly groove on “Get Offa Dat Butt”.  This is a fun one for sure.

Capturing the sweet soul Stax sounds of the early Seventies, Nemeth unleashes a smoking smooth vocal performance on “Rainy Day” a song of regret and heartbreak.  He nails it down again in “Long Black Cadillac”.  The song is heavy and beautiful. 

Nemeth continues to keep a unique edge applied to his music, never failing to engage the listener with fresh funky grooves drenched in old-school soul.  That’s exactly what I love about this album.