Sunday, December 10, 2017

#307 : Southern Avenue live at CSPS

Dec. 9, 2017
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; Dec. 10, 2017

From Memphis, Tennessee, Southern Avenue is one of the newest bands to record for the iconic Stax Records label.  Saturday, December 9th, this magnificent quintet brought their illustrious brand of soul to a packed house at CSPS in Cedar Rapids amid their seemingly non-stop tour to promote their remarkable self-titled record.  Fronted by powerhouse lead singer Tierinii Jackson, the band also consists of her sister Tikyra Jackson on drums, guitarist Ori Naftaly, bassist Gage Markey, and keyboardist extraordinaire Jeremy Powell

Southern Avenue served up two delicious sets of music, covering mostly songs off their new album.  The soulful sweet vocals Tierinii delivers on “What Did I Do” was so right-on.  Her vocals on “It’s Gonna Be Alright” were angelic, and the keyboard performance from Powell was captivating.  I was so happy to hear them perform “Don’t Give Up”.  That’s such a terrific song.  It’s what drew me to the band in the first place this past spring.   

Their fabulous and funky take on the Beatles’ “Come Together” caught me entirely by surprise.  Naftaly’s guitar was smokin’.  It was a special treat to hear their covers of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, and Bill Withers’ “Use Me” too  They were both soul-dripping performances. I loved every bit of it. 

Southern Avenue ranks right up there among my favorite new bands this year, and I sure hope to see them again soon.


* All Photos by Phillip Smith

Friday, December 8, 2017

#306 : Little G. Weevil - Something Poppin’

2017 – Vizztone
Release Date : Nov. 17, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Dec 8, 2017

Little G. Weevil’s latest release, Something Poppin’ is a fabulous mix of blues, R&B, soul and funk, infused with a hip hop beat.  Originally from Hungary, Gabor Szucs aka Little G. Weevil relocated to the United States in 2004 to immerse himself in the music and culture of The Blues.  Since then, he’s called Birmingham, Atlanta, and Memphis home at different points along the way. His music is so rich and full of texture, it’s no surprise: in 2013, he pulled down first place in the Solo/Duo category of the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee.  Singer/songwriter/guitarist Little G. Weevil holds court with drummer extraordinaire Daniel Harper , bassist Marton Pfeff , guitarist Laci Borsodi, and on Hammond organ/Fender Rhodes/keys, Matyas Premecz.

An incredible surge of excitement plasters the wall as Little G drop-kicks the door wide open in “Here I Come Knocking”.  Harper’s beat effortlessly draws me in like a moth to a flame and that rocking opening riff sinks its claws in quick.  As the tune barrels right on, it clears a path for the rest of the album to slide right through.  It’s fantastic.  A hypnotic beat with smooth backing vocals from Sharika Allen Brown and Rebeka Easley Ellis make for a great hook in title track “Something Poppin’”.  G’s suave vocals fearlessly croon while I immensely enjoy his guitar performance.  The guitar licks G adds to the hill-country-blues-soaked “See Me in the Country” is phenomenal. I love the funky keys Premecz throws in too.  When I hear the introduction to Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusher Man” from the 1972 film Super Fly, I crank that volume way up.  This is one super delicious cover, for sure.  The ripping rhythm of “Crawling” is slathered in soul. Amid the lush swirling keys, Little G sings this one with the conviction of Jimmy Vaughan of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and blesses the listener with a healthy dose of stellar guitar playing.  It sounds so good.

Little G. Weevil scores huge with this album. Something Poppin’ is an absolute delight!

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

Saturday, December 2, 2017

#305 : 61 Ghosts - … to the Edge

2017 – Bluzpik Media Group
Release Date : June 15, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Nov 28, 2017

… to the Edge, the all-original six-track EP from 61 Ghosts is a pure, raw joy to listen to.  61 Ghosts is comprised of singer/songwriter/guitarist Joe Mazzari (Johnny Thunders), drummer Dixie Deadwood (Leo “Bud” Welch), and bassist J.D. Sipe, who is also known for his outstanding artwork featuring portraits of rock and blues musicians. Recorded at the Clarksdale Soundstage in Clarksdale, Mississippi, To the Edge embraces the rich history of the Mississippi Hill Country Blues, while spinning Mazzari’s sharp, hard-edged lyrics. 

I love the opening track “Heartbeat”.  The rolling beat and scorching guitar riffs pour freely like that of a Springsteen barn-burner.  Mazzari’s gravelly vocals definitely sing from a place of experience.  The song wonderfully rolls right into “No One at Your Door”, a caffeinated breakup song which keeps the heart pounding with a relentless racing rhythm and punkabilly flair.  Mazzari’s poetic prowess portrays a world of hurt in World Gone Crazy”.  His guitar mastery brightly shines as he takes the listener another gloomy step deeper into the abyss of desolation in the heart-felt lament “If Tears Were Dirt”.  Acoustically performed, “Show Me Your Scars” is an absolutely beautiful song about opening up.   It’s a true gem.

The songs of 61 Ghosts are quite exceptional.  Mazzari has such a wonderful way with words, and the proof is abundant on this release.  I am already looking forward to the release of their first full-length album.               




61 Ghosts "Heartbeat" Official Music Video

61 Ghosts "World Gone Crazy" Official Music Video

J.D. Sipe’s artwork can be found here…

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


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

#304 : Muddy Manninen - Long Player

2017 – Muddy Manninen
Release Date : July 14, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Nov 28, 2017

Muddy Manninen, a founding member of the Finnish rock band Havana Black, recorded three albums with Gringos Locos from 1987 to 1991, and joined the progressive UK blues-rock band Wishbone Ash in 2004.  With them, he shared lead guitar duties and took on responsibilities as main song writer for twelve years until his recent departure to reemerge as an extraordinary solo act.  Long Player, his first solo album is magnificent album of expertly-crafted guitar-centric rock.

When it comes to instrumentals, Manninen’s are breathtaking.  “Dickies” puts a smile on my face as soon as it hits my ears.  Drummer Dave Hill and bassist Mark Butler form an amazing rhythm section for Manninen’s tantalizing performance.  Waves of crashing cymbals provide the backing of long-hanging notes peppered with a slew of magnificent guitar licks.  I love the bouncing bluesy groove on “Cheese Rolling”.  The accompaniment by saxophonist Patsy Gamble and keyboardist Tom Malm coat the song with a lush sophistication.  Captivating and beautifully played, “Lil’ Rosie” blooms with a hypnotic allure. It’s quite seductive.  “The Jester” fits well into the same wheelhouse as the Allman Brothers, as it embraces the free-wheeling twangy-ness of southern blues-rock. Mark Perry joins on keys and Manninen’s guitar playing is again un-deniably stunning.

The renowned Gregg Sutton lends his strong raspy vocals to the Eighties-style rocker “Danger Zone”, a song he co-wrote with ManninenKev Moore provides guest vocals on the lovely “Swan Song”, a folky melody featuring Tom Leary on fiddle.  Of the dozen songs on Long Player, are all original tunes, with the exception of one, a delightful rendition of Bread’s 1969 hit, “Guitar Man”.  The song surely evokes a sense of reminiscence.

It’s a safe bet; Muddy Manninen’s Long Player is a must-listen for the guitar aficionado.


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

Saturday, November 18, 2017

#303 : Samantha Fish - Belle of the West

2017 – Ruf Records
Release Date : Nov. 03,  2017

By Phillip Smith; Nov 18, 2017

With Belle of the West, Samantha Fish continues to knock my socks off with her music.  Since 2011, this fierce guitar-slinging singer-songwriter from Kansas City has released five spectacular albums.  Belle of the West is the second one of 2017.  In March, Fish turned a lot of heads with the fabulous Chills and Fever album, which focused mainly on R&B deep cuts from the Sixties and Seventies.  Belle of the West, takes a more rootsy route, with Fish exploring the nooks and crannies of Americana.  Recorded at Zebra Ranch Studio in Independence, Mississippi, this album again reunites Fish with Luther Dickinson ( North Mississippi Allstars, South Memphis String Band) for his production expertise as well as guitar and mandolin prowess.  Also appearing on the album is Jimbo Mathus (Squirrel Nut Zippers, South Memphis String Band) on Fender Rhodes piano and harmonica, Lightnin’ Malcom on guitar/harmonica , Amy LaVere on upright bass, Lillie Mae on violin, Tikyra Jackson and Trina Raimy on drums, and Sharde Thomas on fife and drums.

Powered by a big bowlful of moxie, Samantha ushers the listener into “American Dream”.  The violin accompaniment is the cherry on top of this swirly drum and fife driven masterpiece. “Blood in the Water” cleverly follows right behind, slowly accumulating a tense and unsettling vibe with its lulling rhythm.  Fish’s exquisite vocals highlight “Cowtown”, a riveting country-fried toast to escaping the clutches of small-town living.  Loaded with gobs of twangy guitar and a rocking piano backer, this sticks its landing as one of my favorites.  “Daughters” is an especially captivating song.  It is fabulously written and filled with emotion.  

Title-track, “Belle of the West”, penned by Jimbo Mathus has a strong Willie Nelson air about it and is a nostalgic call-back to the golden era of country music’s story-telling songs.  I adore Samantha’s cover of the RL Burnside classic “Poor Black Mattie” too.  It’s an absolute pleasure to hear Dickinson record the song again.  It was one of my favorite cuts off the Shake Hands With Shorty album he recorded with the North Mississippi Allstars seventeen years ago.
Samantha Fish has once again brilliantly defied those who would pigeonhole her as one particular type of artist.  The well from which her talents are drawn runs incredibly deep.  As far as I’m concerned, this record, “Belle of the West” is destined to be an instant classic.


Links to other PhillyCheeze Reviews featuring Samantha Fish  

PhillyCheeze Album Review : Samantha Fish - Chills & Fever

PhillyCheeze Concert Review and Photos : Samantha Fish - Live @ Campbell Steele Gallery : 3/18/16


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

Saturday, November 11, 2017

#302 : Popa Chubby - Two Dogs

2017 – Popa Chubby Productions
Release Date : Nov. 27,  2017

By Phillip Smith; Nov 11, 2017

I’ve been a fan of Ted Horowitz, also known as Popa Chubby, since 2003, when I saw him live in Memphis, TN at the Beale Street Music Festival.  I still remember being so impressed with not only his mastery of the guitar, but with the amount of passion he poured into his performance on that blistering hot day.  It’s only been about a year since his previous album, The Catfish hit the shelves, and he has already set a new bar of excellence with his latest, Two Dogs.   This is my absolute favorite released so far.  Boasting thirteen tracks of hot electric rocking blues, the record features two bonus live tracks, covering Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, and The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil”. Besides the fabulous Dave Keyes on keys, Sam “Freight Train” Bryant on drums, and Andy Paladino on bass, Popa Chubby also is accompanied by his daughter Tipitina Horowitz on trumpet, along with Andrew Garrison on tenor saxophone.

“It’s Alright” magnificently jump-starts the album with a searing guitar intro and keeps marching on with an infectious melody and charismatic attitude.  I immediately fall for the captivating blues riff Popa Chubby plants in “Rescue Me”.  Then, when he unleashes into the bridge, it sounds so damn good, especially with the full sound of the organ lingering in the background.  As Keyes tears it up, Chubby gets down and totally rips it up in a fantastic Neil Young kind of way, bringing “Dirty Old Blues” to the top of stack of my favorites.  “Shakedown” is another great song.  It’s gritty, bluesy and loaded with gobs of psychedelic guitar goodness.  It’s almost a one man show for the smooth and jazzy instrumental “Clayophus Dupree”, as Popa Chubby plays guitar, bass, and drums, with Keyes applying his signature vibrant texture to the song on organ.

Popa Chubby undoubtedly hit the bullseye as far as this album is concerned.   Two Dogs is hands down one of the best blues-rock albums released this year.      


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

Thursday, November 9, 2017

#301 : Crystal Bowersox live at CSPS

Nov. 8, 2017
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; Nov. 9, 2017

Crystal Bowersox blessed CSPS with her third appearance on November 8th.  With an acoustic guitar strapped around her shoulder, the songstress was joined by drummer Derek Louis, and bassist Lucas Morton.  It was a perfect evening for music, as Bowersox belted out two fabulous sets, much of which can be found on her new Alive album. 

The Season 9 American Idol finalist initiated her show with a stellar cover of Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”.  It was fantastic.  “Broken Wing” was s such a lovely song, being sung from the heart as effortlessly as Bowersox makes it seem.   She gave a terrific performance on “Staycation”, which teased Steve Miller’s “Fly Like an Eagle“, and suavely segued into Bob Marley’s “Everything Gonna Be Alright”.  Laying out a roadmap to her heart in song, Bowersox beautifully sung “He Calls Me Angel”.   “The Ride”, a tale of a gonzo off-the-cuff trip with a bad news scoundrel, co-written with Lance Carpenter, kept the audience in the palm of her hands.  In closing, she delivered a bodacious finale with a couple of striking covers, The Eagles’ “Desperado”, and Janis Joplin’s “Bobby McGee”.          

All photos by Phillip Smith

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

Saturday, November 4, 2017

#300 : Rocky Athas - Shakin’ the Dust

2017 – Cherryburst Records
Release Date : Oct 15, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Nov 3, 2017

With this being the 300th installment of Phillycheeze’s Rock and Blues Reviews, I wanted to use this milestone issue to honor blues-guitar great, Rocky Athas, who has just released this fabulous new album, Shakin’ the Dust.  Produced by the legendary Jim Gaines and jam-packed with a truck-load of Texas blues, this eleven-track record is a true gem.  In the studio with Athas is his son Rocky Athas II on bass guitar, and drummer Walter Watson. Together they form one hell of a power-trio.      

Athas fires off a blazing performance on “You Pushed Me Too Far”, an outstanding original with a heavy dose of attention-grabbing blues licks.  It’s absolutely wonderful and doesn’t get much better than this.  “Texas Girl” is great too, as it kicks off with an amazing intro.  The song fearlessly follows suit with Athas injecting heaping helpings of fantastic guitar into a crushing wave of catchy hooks.  I love the Neil Young grunge vibe Athas affixes to “Time Flies” and how the ballad seems to gently tumble by like time itself.               

His revved up cover of the Calvin Carter penned classic “I Ain’t Got You” is a sweet amalgam of the versions rendered by The Yardbirds and Aerosmith.  Athas breathes new life into Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Looking Back”.  I get a big smile on my face every time I hear it.   The album closes out with a spectacular mind-bending performance, taking on Jimi Hendrix’s “Villanova Junction”.  This one is beautifully played.     

The cohesive flow on Shakin’ the Dust makes an appreciable call-back to the heyday of album rock.  It’s put together really well.  Rocky Athas scores big with this album, and I look very much forward to hearing what is in store down the road.    


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

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Davide Pannozzo - Unconditional Love

2017 – Davide Pannozzo
Release Date : Oct 19, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Oct 21, 2017

Once settled in New York after relocating from Italy, Davide Pannozzo began working on this masterpiece called Unconditional Love.  His music reveals a distinct freshness and originality in both his writing and performance.  Produced by Steve Jordon (John Mayer Trio, Blues Brothers) and Will Lee (Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band) this record is a brilliant blend of contemporary blues and jazz with a positive energy.  Pannozzo takes front and center stage on guitars/vocals, with bassist Will Lee, drummers Steve Jordon and Shawn Pelton, and both Ricky Peterson and Oli Rockberger on Hammond organ/keys.

“Six Wires” is an amazing and infectious tune in a Steely Dan kind of way, topped off with a smoking guitar performance from Pannozzo.  With every listen to “Bring Me to the Light”, I am absolutely captivated.  This lovely song has such a beautiful and relaxed melody. The funky bassline and jazz-infused instrumentation on “One and Only” swiftly lures me in to hear Pannozzo’s buttery troubadour vocals.  The blues-soaked “Chasing Illusions” is absolutely fabulous.  It cuts deep, right down to the bone.    

With the guitar prowess of Joe Satriani, Pannozzo glides through an amazing instrumental cover of “Stratus” by Billy Cobham (Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jazz is Dead).  Pannozzo’s take on George Harrison’s “Wah Wah”, from the 1970 album All Things Must Pass, sticks fairly close to the original and sounds terrific.

Unconditional Love ranks up there among my favorite releases this year.




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

Saturday, October 21, 2017

André Bisson - Break

2017 –André Bisson
Release Date : Oct 20, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Oct 21, 2017

It was a welcoming surprise to hear the smashing new release Break from André Bisson. It’s been a little over two years since I reviewed his previous album Left With the Blues.  Though that recording won me over hook, line, and sinker, this album is even more captivating.  Bisson masterfully taps into his Motown, blues, and gospel influences for these compositions, and then performs them with vibrant vocals along with a tight cast of musicians. With a guitar full of twangy goodness in hand, Bisson leads his core band composed of saxophonists Bil Holinaty and Gordon Aeichele, trumpeter/cellist Loretta Hale, bassist Mike Rowell, drummer Sean Bruce Parker, and Jesse O’Brian on piano/B3 organ/Wurlitzer.

I love how the title track “Break” latches on to me from the git-go.  Bisson belts this one out of the park with fortitude.  The feel-good vibe continues onward to “How Many Times”, a swinging and soulful track which gently walks the line between Sun and Stax.  Utilizing the energizing sound of a room full of horns, and an expert rhythm section, Bisson pulls off a sweet callback to Vegas-era Elvis Presley.  Swirling sounds of organ, bountiful blasts of brass, and a groovy sax solo puts me in my happy space when “Feelin’ Fine” jets out the speakers.   

Bisson beautifully sings the blues on “Reflections”, a lovely and melancholy song delivered with a sad swirly melody.  Then with the swagger of Joe Cocker, he takes on The Beatles’ “Elenor Rigby”, giving this only cover song on the album a total make-over.

Break, Bisson’s seventh album, undeniably shows just how much of an artist he truly is. This is indeed one terrific album.       


The PhillyCheeze review of André Bisson’s “Left With the Blues” :


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Albert Castiglia - Up All Night

2017 –Ruf Records
Release Date : Oct 6, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Oct 14, 2017

Albert Castiglia is definitely on a roll. He pulls no punches on his latest album “Up All Night”.  With an all-new band consisting of bass player Jimmy Pritchard and drummer Brian Menendez, Castiglia again enlists Mike Zito to produce, help write, and toss some of his trademark guitar and vocals into the ring.  Also making appearances on this magnificent blues-rock album are music masters Lewis Stephens on keys, Sonny Landreth on slide guitar, and Johnny Sansone on harmonica.

Castiglia presses the pedal to the metal, as he lays a long trail of rubber on “Hoodoo on Me”.  Penned by Zito, this heavy-hitting blues-rocker rides a thick relentless bassline and showcases Castiglia’s guitar mastery.  Smattered with a slough-full of funky psychedelic licks, his cover of Brian Stoltz’s (funky Meters) “I’ve Been Up All Night” is engaging and groovy.  Landreth’s slide guitar on Castiglia’s tale of outrunning a hurricane in “95 South” is marvelous and swampy, just the way I love it. 

Included in this recording are a couple of outstanding songs from Graham Wood Drout (Iko Iko) who Castiglia collaborated with in 2006 on a record called The Bittersweet Sessions: “Three Legged Dog” and “Knocked Down Loaded”.  Both have the unique gift burying themselves in my head for hours on end.  I love Castiglia’s nitro-charged take on Luther “Snake Boy” Johnson’s “Woman Don’t Lie”.  It’s a sizzling delight.   

Castiglia won me over with his previous album, “Big Dog” which I reviewed in June of 2016.  I remember thinking how tough it was going to be for him to top that album. He did though.  “Up All Night” is absolutely wonderful and has set a new bar. 


The PhillyCheeze review of Albert Castiglia’s Big Dog album  > 

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

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Marcus Randolph My Peeples Peeple - Transplant

2017 –American Showplace Music
Release Date : Oct 20, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Oct. 7, 2017

Transplant, the debut release from Marcus Randolph My Peeples Peeple, is quite the captivating and funky listen.  Randolph (founding member of the Robert Randolph and the Family Band) holds court on drums and vocals, along with both steel and acoustic guitars.  Joining Randolph on this recording is drummer Dwayne “Duce” Snelling Jr, John Ginty on B3 organ and piano, bassists Michael Randolph Jr, and Walton “A.J.” Mims, guitarists Will “B.J.” Nelson, Jimmy Bennett, and Joey Williams, and backing vocalist Shawn “The Bishup” Herbert.    

A chill hypnotic beat and a ripping guitar riff usher the album in on title track, “Transplant”, a song of gratitude to Randolph’s wife who unselfishly gave him another chance at life by donating one of her kidneys to him in 2011.  I love the swampy steel guitar on “Sucka” and how it is immersed in a funky Isaac Hayes-era Stax-friendly jam.

I can’t help but break a smile on “Lift Me Up”.  Starting with a simple beat and an acoustic guitar, this fabulous song grows to a much grander version of itself.  Another point of light is “In My Heart”, superbly performed and sung with the conviction of Stevie WonderRandolph slathers extra helpings of tasty steel guitar on “63 Hog Drive”, an outstanding jammin’ blues instrumental.  When joined by the rest of the band, it turns into one hell of a jamboree.  

Transplant comes to a smooth R&B finish with “Diggin’ Me a Hole” featuring guest artist Brian Harris aka Wonder on vocals.  Eleven tracks of fresh and funky all-original music grace the album, making for a magnificent record.


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

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Conrad the Band - Valley Fever

2017 –Slepton Records
Release Date : Oct 27, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Sep 28, 2017

Valley Fever, the latest release from Conrad the Band, has completely caught me by surprise, and I’m loving it.  Hailing from Bakersfield, California, and now living in San Francisco, this duo comprised of childhood friends Matthew Shaw (guitar/bass/vocals) and Nick Andre (percussion/synth/production) unveils a six-track masterpiece loaded with bleeding-edge techno, vintage guitars, and hardscrabble stories revolving about a cast of unfortunates.    

A seductive bassline, a hypnotic drum beat, and huge doses of electric fuzzy guitar effortlessly lure me into “Devil’s Gonna Find You”, an intense song with an ominous presence which speaks of junkies and public transportation.  “Food for the Fishes” is beautifully engineered and emits a floaty, cotton-candy sweet melody in Flaming Lips fashion while describing a melancholy dream about parting ways.

A poetic despairing tale of a miserable sad sack in “Teddy”, takes a series of dark turns while exploring end-games ranging from the homicidal to suicidal.  By its finish, my heart is racing.   A chill beat and dreamy synth usher in “One More Smoke”.  This melody about staying awake until dawn with a pack of smokes and a bottle of booze makes for a perfect epilogue for the preceding “Teddy”.  As if drawing musical inspiration from the best of the Seventies television crime dramas, “Poor Davy” blasts a barrage of gritty synth sounds topped off with an extra helping of pimping bass.   Valley Fever ends with a beautiful Velvet Underground-like track about doom and love called “Black and Blue”.

Albeit a short one, clocking in at just around twenty-two minutes in length, this is one cool-as-hell album.  I honestly can’t wait to hear what comes next for Conrad the Band.      

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Alastair Greene - Dream Train

2017 –Rip Cat Records
Release Date : Oct 20, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Sep 23, 2017

Alastair Greene recently parted from his seven-year gig as Alan Parson’s touring guitarist and made the decision to follow his musical dream of pursing a full-time solo career. His most recent album, Dream Train, produced and mixed by David Z is a monumental one to say the least.  It contains a dozen originals and one fabulous cover.  With Greene on guitar and vocals, he is joined by Jim Rankin on bass, and Austin Beede on drums.

Beede’s thunder-filled pounding beats fuel title-track “Dream Train” as Greene kicks it into full-throttle fearlessly blasting his turbo-charged electric blues. “Nome Zayne”, a previously-unreleased Texas-style blues-rocker written by Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) and featuring the great Walter Trout is funky and infectious.  It’s definitely one of my favorites, as is “I’m the Taker”.  Greene keeps this one powerful, raw and a bit psychedelic. 
The instrumentals on this album are delightful.  So elegant is “Song For Rufus”.  Though clocking in at just less than two minutes in length, it carries heartfelt warmth. “Iowa” is a blessing to hear as well, and not just because it is where I call my current home.  The rich sounds from organist Mike Finnegan and the gentile waves of crashing cymbals provide a perfectly textured space for Greene’s guitar to explore.  This gorgeous song quickly brings to mind my first listen of Eric Johnson’s Tones album.  Debbie Davies appears with guitar in hand for a swinging instrumental blues jam on “Grateful Swagger” and it is downright terrific.  

There’s a heavy North Mississippi Delta vibe in “Rain Stomp”.  Greene plays this wonderful callback to classic blues slathered up with a heaping dose of exquisite swampy slide.  A collaboration with Mike Zito results in one badass song called “Down to Memphis”.  The riffs are hard and intense.  The slide guitar is fantastic.  

One listen to Dream Train, and it’s so very obvious Alastair Greene made the right decision to pursue his musical dream.  This is absolutely one stellar blues-rock album.


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

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Brad Stivers - Took You Long Enough

2017 –VizzTone Label Group

By Phillip Smith; Sep 16, 2017

A finalist in the 2014 International Blues Challenge in Memphis and a staple in the Austin, Texas music scene, Brad Stivers’ debut album, “Took You Long Enough” is a wonderful blend of Sun Records, the Nashville Sound, and Southern R&B.  

The funky Jimmy Nolen-ish guitar riff draws me in to title track, “Took You Long Enough”.  Accented by Stivers’ smooth troubadour vocals, this is one killer track.  Stivers breaks out a tantalizing guitar solo on his mighty horn-infused cover of Ray Charles classic “You’re Just About to Lose Your Clown” which features outstanding performances by Mark Wilson on saxophone and Bukka Allen on B3.  Emily Gimble (ex-member of Asleep at the Wheel and granddaughter of Johnny Gimble from Bob Willis and His Texas Playboys) makes a guest appearance, lending her voice and piano mastery on a beautiful duet covering yet another amazing tune recorded by Ray Charles, “Here We Go Again”.

Being down and out never sounded so good as “Nickle and a Nail”, sung by the powerful and soulful voice of Malford Milligan. There’s a bit of a Robert Cray vibe which rings throughout this fabulous song.  A slow-burning ominous melody and Stivers’ delicious, twangy guitar delightfully provide the springboard for his heart-wrenching vocals in the brilliant original “Save Me”.  

I love his funky instrumental cover of James Brown’s “Cold Sweat”.  Bassist Bobby Perkins and drummer Nico Leophonte make for a tight-as-hell rhythm section while Stivers delivers a riveting performance to close out this spectacular recording.   


For more information about Brad Stivers, visit his website ...

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

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Savoy Brown - Witchy Feelin’

2017 –Ruf Records

By Phillip Smith; Sep 9, 2017

It’s been fifty years since the first Savoy Brown album, Shake Down, hit the streets in England, and Kim Simmonds shows no signs of slowing down.  The man is definitely on a roll right now.  Besides his brand new solo instrumental album Jazzin’ on the Blues, which is absolutely wonderful by the way, he has the all new off-the-hook Savoy Brown album Witchy Feelin’ out now too.  It is a smoldering hot eleven track plateful of electric guitar-blues.  Returning to the studio with Simmonds is bassist Pat DeSalvo and drummer Garnet Grimm, both of who have been playing in Savoy Brown since 2009

A strong impression is made when I hear the intoxicating Texas blues of “Why Did You Hoodoo Me”.  The driving rhythm and searing guitar seals the deal.  The hypnotic hook and swampy slide of “Livin’ on the Bayou” lures me in like the song of the sirens.  It’s beautifully played.  I then get a big smile on my face when he breaks out more bodacious slide singing about one of my favorite places, “Memphis Blues”.  Simmonds pumps a delightful dose of psychedelia into the amazing, “Thunder, Lightning and Rain”, making for an exquisite listen.  “Can’t Find Paradise”, the anthem of the album is rockin’ and contagious. It’s terrific.

Witchy Feelin’ certainly ranks up there among my favorites of the year.  



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

Kim Simmonds - Jazzin’ on the Blues

2017 –Panache Records

By Phillip Smith; Sep 9, 2017

The latest solo effort from Kim Simmonds (Savoy Brown) , Jazzin’ on the Blues, is wonderfully brilliant.  Featuring twelve amazing instrumental tracks of Simmonds killing it on acoustic guitar, bass guitar, and harmonica alongside percussionist Ron Keck, this record is destined to stand the test of time. 

Bursting out a Latin groove to kick things off, Simmonds masterfully plays “Dancing on a Memory” with a suave finesse. I absolutely adore this track.  Title track “Jazzin’ on the Blues” and “The Maze” are another couple of stellar originals which shine brightly.  Simmonds’ performance is absolutely flawless.  I also immensely enjoy Simmonds’ stunning covers of Bill Doggett’s “True Blue” and Smokey Robinson’s “Shop Around”.  They are both very nice indeed.  Like a beautiful Technicolor sunset at the end of the day, “Fascination” brings a lovely end to the album. 

Jazzin’ on the Blues is an album I can sit down and enjoy from beginning to end, plus a few more times round again.  It’s that good.



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