Saturday, May 26, 2018

#334 : Too Slim and the Taildraggers - High Desert Heat



2018 – Vizztone
Release Date :  April 27, 2018

By Phillip Smith; May 26, 2018


High Desert Heat, the latest release from Too Slim and the Taildraggers soars off the launchpad with a blazing psychedelic cover of the Chambers Brothers’ classic “Time Has Come Today”.  It’s magnificent to say the least.  Too Slim then proceeds to tear through nine ripping guitar-infused tracks of original blues-rock.  With Tim Langford aka “Too Slim” on guitar and lead vocals, the Taildraggers consists of Jeff “Shakey” Fowlkes on drums, Zach Kasik on bass guitar and special guest Sheldon “Bent Reed” Ziro on harmonica. 

With Ziro supplying a hearty accompaniment on harp, Langford dispenses a big tasty dose of blues guitar on “Trouble”.  I love the groove Fowlkes and Kasik keep afloat.  They never leave the pocket.  Too Slim sings about hitting bottom in “Broken White Line”, a badass song with an opening riff sweetly reminiscent of Steppenwolf’s “Pusherman”.  It captures my attention immediately.   Communication breakdown is what “Stories to Tell” is all about.  This infectious rocker lures me in with its funky, searing riff, and keeps me hooked with Langford’s delightful guitar licks.  Too Slim and the Taildraggers close the album out with the title track “High Desert Heat”, a spaghetti western style instrumental with ominous overtones and exquisite slide guitar.   

Too Slim absolutely nails it with High Desert Heat.  It’s a fantastic album.

      
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Click below to read the PhillyCheeze review of : Too Slim and the Taildraggers – Blood Moon  https://phillycheezeblues.blogspot.com/2017/02/too-slim-and-taildraggers-blood-moon.html     



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.     


Saturday, May 12, 2018

#333 : Crystal Shawanda - Voodoo Woman



2017– New Sun Records

By Phillip Smith; May 12, 2018

The latest release from Juno Award winning Crystal Shawanda is about as good as it gets.  Growing up in Ontario and introduced to the Blues by her brother at a young age, Shawanda has been playing paid gigs since the age of ten.  Voodoo Woman, her sixth album since 2008, is simply fabulous.  Of the ten tracks on this record, Shawanda delivers seven magnificent covers, and three outstanding original tracks of her own. Shawanda’s band is composed of Dewayne Strobel on all guitars, Dave Roe and Michael Dearing on bass guitars, Louis Windfield, and Darren James on drums and percussion, Stephen Hanner on harmonica, Dana Robbins on saxophone and Peter Keys on the B3 organ.

Shawanda takes on Willie Dixon and Howlin’ Wolf with a riveting two song medley of “Wang Dang Doodle / Smokestack Lightnin’”.  Strobel shines on slide guitar as Hanner wonderfully wails on harp.  It sounds great.  More power vocals follow on title track “Voodoo Woman”, a fitting homage to the late great Koko TaylorShawanda brings it back on her beautiful cover of Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind”.  I love this song, and this version sounds amazing.  I’m also head-over-heels for her cover of Bob Montgomery’s “Misty Blue”, which was also covered by Etta James in 2011 on her Dreamer album.  Robbins’ saxophone adds a lovely touch to the song.       

“Cry Out For More”, an original co-written by guitarist Strobel is a smooth blues-rocker which comes to an end in full shin-dig form.  Shawanda’s vocals carry the perfect measure of rasp, reminiscent of the magnificent Bonnie RaittStrobel conjures up a cool twangy groove accented by a suave horn accompaniment on “Trouble”, another one of Shawanda’s originals. With a tight band behind her, she approaches the mic with a fearless attitude. 


Voodoo Woman is such a delightful listen; I give it my highest recommendation.  

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

#332 : Michael Buffalo Smith - The Austin Sessions



2018– Michael Buffalo Smith

By Phillip Smith; May 07, 2018


Between juggling his gigs as southern rock historian, author, creator/publisher of Kudzoo online magazine, blogger, podcaster, singer/songwriter/guitarist Michael Buffalo Smith has just released his sixth record since 1992.  The Austin Sessions, a four track EP recorded in 2016 at Green Garage Studio, is co-produced by Billy Eli and Jim Hemphill. With Smith on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, the remaining members of the band is composed of Jim Hemphill on lead guitar, Joseph Parrish on bass guitar, Michael McGeary (Jerry Jeff Walker) on drums, and Eli on backing vocals and acoustic guitar.

Smith opens up with a relaxed country ditty called “Paintin’ Her Toenails”.  This song according to Smith, was inspired while observing his wife sipping wine and painting her toenails on the front porch illuminated by the light of a harvest moon.  I can’t help but be reminded of the Boxmasters when I hear “Fatboy”, Smith’s southern rock homage to motorcycles and women.  Chockful of quick-witted double entendres, the song puts a grin on my face from ear to ear.  The pièce de résistance however is “Karl Childers Blues” a brilliant ode to Billy Bob Thornton’s Academy Award winning film, Slingblade.  Doyle Hargraves very much had it coming, indeed.  

There's a full album from Buffalo coming around the bend, this summer called Makin' it Back to Macon, which is being produced by Paul Hornsby (Charlie Daniels Band, Marshall Tucker Band, Wet Willie).  So the four tracks on this EP will have to tide Buffalo's fans over until that is released.     

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For all things Michael Buffalo Smith, visit him online at http://www.michaelbuffalo.net.

Michael Buffalo Smith is also very much involved in spear-heading a campaign to establish the Southern Rock Hall of Fame and Museum.   For more information, visit the website, http://southernrockhall.org/




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.     


Saturday, April 28, 2018

#331 : The Eric Hughes Band - Meet Me in Memphis



2017 – Eric Hughes Music

By Phillip Smith; April 28, 2018


If you’ve listened to live music on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee within the past seventeen years, there’s a good chance you’ve heard Eric Hughes on stage performing his unique and captivating blend of blues.  He took up residency on the historic Official Home of the Blues in 2001, and plays there on a regular basis still today.  Meet Me in Memphis, marks his fifth album to date, and is an homage to the city in which he was born and raised.  The Eric Hughes Band consists of Eric Hughes on vocals, guitars, harmonica, and percussion, Walter Hughes on guitars, mandolin, lap-steel, Leo Goff on bass guitar, Brian Aylor on drums, Chris Stephenson on keyboards, Art Edmaiston on saxophone, Marc Franklin on trumpet, along with Susan Marshall and Reba Russell on backing vocals.

The nine track album rolls out the gate, ready for business, with “Freight Train of Pain”.  This southern rocker comes loaded with scads of blues-soaked harp and ripping guitar riffs.  Hearing title track “Meet Me in Memphis” ushers me right to the heart of the Bluff City with a longing for some fine music, tasty barbeque, and a tall glass of sweet tea.  With a robust horn accompaniment, chords, and Steve Cropper-like guitar licks, I love how the song gently taps into the soulful sounds of Stax Records.

Hughes has a gift for incorporating the lost art of story-telling into his songs. A captivating tale of outlaw nature is spun in his western ballad “The Day They Hanged the Kid”.  Franklin, on trumpet, suavely tops the song with a little Spanish seasoning.  With poetic truth, and a shovelful of satire, the troubles of the hipster nation finally get the spotlight in Hughes’ humorously penned “Midtown Blues”.  Once pulled in by Aylor’s caffeinated beat and Goff’s funky bassline on “Here Comes the Boogie Man”, there’s no escape from   Eric’s magnificent harmonica performance and Walter’s wonderfully ominous guitar licks.  

In joyous celebration of one of America’s favorite pastimes, the album closes with “Believe I’m Going Fishing”.  I simply adore this song.  It’s catchy as hell.  In fact, the whole record is that catchy.  Meet Me in Memphis is a terrific album, and a splendid delight.        

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Eric Hughes also appears on Mick Kolassa’s Double Standards album, which I reviewed earlier this year.  That recording comes highly recommended as well.  Here’s the link to that review.



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.     




Saturday, April 21, 2018

#330 : Kris Lager Band - Love Songs & Life Lines



2018 – Kris Lager

By Phillip Smith; April 21, 2018


The Kris Lager Band has hit an “out of the stadium” home-run with their latest album Love Songs & Life Lines. Taking a more rootsy approach than usual, Lager embraces the core musical genres classified as Americana as he opens up and shares an honest yet soulful insight into life itself.  The band is comprised of Kris Lager on lead vocals and guitar, John Fairchild AKA Scooby Sha Bobo on drums, Aaron Underwood on bass guitar, Mike Lefever saxophone, and Jeremiah Weir on the B3 organ.  Recorded by Pony Creek Studios in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Love Songs & Life Lines was mixed by legendary producer Jim Gaines (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana, Steve Miller, Van Morrison).  Needless to say, it sounds great.

The album sweetly opens up with the magnificent instrumental “Aurora Borealis”.   Lager notes this is both a love song and a life line, as the song’s title is derived from Aurora, Nebraska, his father’s birthplace.  Immediately following, “The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants” grabs me with a contagious hook and a Traveling Wilbury vibe.  It then relinquishes me to the beautifully written and performed “Sweet Magnolia”, a track which brings back fond memories of growing up in the South.  I love the slide guitar on this track.  A smooth funky rhythm constructed by Underwood and Scooby sets the stage for “San Francisco Bound”, a freewheelin’, feel-good ode to Lager’s 2009 journey of California via the Pacific Coast Highway.  This one makes me grin from ear to ear.  Delightful waves of Dylan wash over with every listen to “Where the Green Grass Grows Tall”.  Lager’s voice sounds so good amid Weir’s spirited electric piano accompaniment and Scooby’s shuffling beat.   
Love Songs & Life Lines is both charming and brilliant.  Give it a listen, it will not disappoint.

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Love Songs and Life Lines can be purchased from Kris Lager on his website: https://www.krislagerband.com/store.html





In June of 2014, I caught up with the Kris Lager Band with camera in hand, for the annual Irish District Music and Arts Festival in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Those photos can be viewed using the following link:   https://phillycheezeblues.blogspot.com/2014/06/irish-district-music-arts-festival_22.html
   

Saturday, April 14, 2018

#329 : Long Tall Deb and Colin John - Dragonfly



2017 – Vizztone Records

By Phillip Smith; April 14, 2018


Dragonfly, the second disc from Long Tall Deb and Colin John is a superb album to sink ones teeth into.  This eleven track album explores a variety of worldly genres while anchored in American roots, blues and soul.  Deb Landolt aka Long Tall Deb fills each song with her enchanting vocals, building a connection to the listener every time, while Colin John wondrously plays guitar.  The main core of musicians on the album consists of drummer Jimmy Castoe, bassist Melvin Powe, and Nate Hofman on organ.  Produced by Michael Landolt (Coldplay, O.A.R.) the album also features several noteworthy guests such as Mick Kolassa, Jeff Jensen, Michael Hill, Jo El, James Cunningham, Bill Ruffino, Cliff Starbuck and Chris Stephenson.       

There’s a sense of attitude and fearlessness on the head-banging blues-rocker “On the Way Down”.  From John’s searing guitar riffs to Deb’s powerful vocals the song rides the wave of Castoe’s thunder and sticks the landing quite nicely. John breaks out the sitar to add a taste of India to the spaghetti western ballad of no regret called “Remember Why (It’s Good He’s Gone)”.  The brutal honesty of the lyrics in “Pull The Pin” cuts through like a broken beer bottle.  It’s an amazing song of self-reflection and metamorphosis.

With the exception of an intoxicating cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Lungs” off his 1969 self-titled album, all songs on Dragonfly are original compositions.  “Lungs” is a little extra special in that it features a different configuration of musicians than the rest of the album.  For this poignant and beautifully played cut, Long Tall Deb and Colin John enlist drummer James Cunningham, guitarist Jeff Jensen, bassist Bill Ruffino, and organist Chris Stephenson. 

The word, “Dragonfly” as mentioned in the liner notes, is a symbol of transformation and change, and is the definitive theme to the record itself.  The album’s title track, full of adrenalin-pumping surf guitar is cloaked in the shadows of an ominous and forbidding atmosphere.  This twangy masterpiece is most interesting and has a strong presence, much akin to the songs Quentin Tarantino hand-picks for his films. It’s a brilliant song indeed. 

The flowing continuity of Dragonfly smoothly weaves its eleven songs into one very enjoyable listen.   

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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.   
  

Saturday, April 7, 2018

#328 : Reverend Freakchild -Dial It In



2018 – Treated and Released Records

By Phillip Smith; April 7, 2018

Dial It In, the third album from the good Reverend Freakchild is absolutely fabulous.  Most often with a National steel guitar in hand, his brand of blues and blues-rock is incredibly unique, outstanding, and at times a bit psychedelic.  For this album, Freakchild enlists drummer Chris Parker (Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, Paul Butterfield) and guitarist Hugh Pool who also recorded and mixed the album.

The record softly cracks open with a mostly instrumental, backwoods, swampy blues track “Opus Earth”.  Accented with backwards guitar, a hypnotic beat, and spiritual chants, this amazing track lets the listener know they are in for a unique listening experience.  Freakchild delectably covers Depeche Mode with a nice and greasy blues-soaked arrangement of “Personal Jesus (on the Mainline)”. With Pool blowing harp, and Freakchild providing the suave velvety vocals and twang, this version totally demolishes the original.  Guitarist Mark Karan and bassist Robin Sylvester, both from Ratdog guest on “Hippie Bluesman Blues”. They instill a delightful deadhead vibe into this country-blues original.


The soulful rhythm in “Dial It In” coupled with Freakchild’s fast-paced prose draws me in with a firm grasp.  Spirited backing vocals from the lovely Hazel Miller join with Garrett Dutton’s (G Love and Special Sauce) for a rejoicing funky good time.  With Jay Collins boldly belting it out on saxophone, Freakchild fearlessly takes on Dylan’s “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” in a marvelous no-holds barred performance. A wonderful tribute to Blind Willie Johnson is exhibited in a “Soul of Man”, before the good Rev takes us home with the cosmic closer “Opus Space” for a grand finale.  And to this, I say “Amen Brother, Amen!”.            


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Click below to read the PhillyCheeze review of  : Reverend Freakchild - Illogical Optimism




      



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.     



Saturday, March 31, 2018

#327 : Tyler Morris Band - Next in Line




2018 – Vizztone

By Phillip Smith; March 31, 2018


Next in Line, the third album from Tyler Morris continues to break new ground for the nineteen year old guitar prodigy.  Chock-full of blues-soaked rocking originals, this record, produced by Grammy Award winner Paul Nelson (Johnny Winter), stands tall.  While Morris holds the fort down on guitar, the rest of the band is comprised of vocalist Morten Fredheim, bassist Scott Spray, drummer Tyger MacNeal and keyboardist Mike Dimeo.    

Morris lays down the blues in a tantalizing jam with the fabulous Uptown Horns in the instrumental “Choppin’”.   His performance in “Thunder” rides the rails of a funky dirty groove and is downright amazing.  The great Joe Louis Walker teams up with the band to belt out the classic SRV barnburner “Willie the Wimp”.  The swirling sounds of Dimeo on organ coupled with MacNeal’s tremendous beats and Spray’s standout bassline set a perfect stage for Morris’s searing licks.    

“Down On My Luck” is unbelievably good.  Morris fills this stunning song to the brim with an intoxicating blues riff which keeps the energy flowing while Fredheim’s powerful vocals evoke a spectacular fierceness. If this is any indication of what’s in store from the band in the future, I can’t wait to hear their next album already.

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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.     


Saturday, March 24, 2018

#326 : Ten Second Pistol - You Have No Power Over Me



2018 – Zeven Music Entertainment

By Phillip Smith; March 24, 2018


Ten Second Pistol packs a hard-hitting punch with their delightful and raw debut album, You Have No Power Over Me.  Benny Chang, front man of this up-and-coming blues-rock band out of El Paso, Texas connects with the listener using attention-grabbing guitar riffs and suave smoky vocals.  Alongside Chang is his rhythm section composed of bassist Davis Alexander and drummer Manny Ayala.  They’re a tight outfit indeed.  

Fueled by searing guitar licks and a dire mood, Chang spotlights the slow-baked break-up blues ballad “Get To Steppin’” with a fabulous heart-wrenching performance reminiscent of Tom Waits.  Elegantly played and thought provoking, “Like A Bird” takes a cold hard look at the world today.  It’s quite outstanding.  A buttery electric groove forges the way for a captivating hypnotic listen in “Hold On”.  Riding atop a steady pounding beat, Chang breaks out his slide for the swampy and deliciously ominous “Got No Love”.  This leads right into the powerful blues ballad, “She Left Me”, which splendidly brings the album to its end.  Beautifully played and with no accompaniment, Chang invokes a retro juke-joint vibe with this wonderful blues-soaked track.

When I’ve listened to You Have No Power Over Me, I feel like I’ve actually listened to something with substance.  This is what the Blues is all about.    

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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.     


Saturday, March 17, 2018

#325 : Tinsley Ellis / Wooden Nickel Lottery live @ The Redstone Room



Tinsley Ellis w/ opening act Wooden Nickel Lottery
Live @ The Redstone Room      
March 16, 2018
Davenport, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; Mar. 17, 2018


Tinsley Ellis blessed a full house at the Redstone Room in Davenport, Iowa with an amazing night of guitar blues, this past Friday, March 16th.  Performing with Ellis as his rhythm section was new touring bassist Kevan McCann and drummer Erik “Jazzy Skins” Kaszynski. 

Eastern Iowa blues-rockers Wooden Nickel Lottery opened for Tinsley with a powerful forty-five minute set.  WNL is comprised of lead singer Rick Gallo, lead guitarist Rich Toomsen, bassist Jess Toomsen, and drummer Delayne Stallman.  WNL kicked their set off with “Morning Heartbreak” off their 2015 debut album On My Way and proceeded to play through favorites from their latest album Down The Line, such as “Can’t Be Wrong”, “No Second Chances”, “Bad Gone Good” and “Nickels and Dimes”.  They closed out with a tight delivery of Sam Cooke’s “Change is Gonna Come”.  Gallo’s vocals were on the mark and the band’s performance was magnificent.

Tinsley did what Tinsley does best… and that’s play the Blues with his amazing arsenal of guitars.  He covered tons of favorites right from the get-go, hitting on “Saving Grace”, “Cut You Loose”, “To the Devil For a Dime”, and “Quitter Never Wins”.

My favorite moments occurred with Tinsley's Dobro in hand.  Before playing “Can’t Be Satisfied”, Tinsley explained Bob Margolin taught the song to him, and Muddy Waters had taught Margolin the song.   It was spectacular. He spoke about meeting many of the blues masters as a youth, and then tore into a breathtaking “Little Red Rooster”.
    
Before the evening was over, Tinsley let loose on “Highway Man”, “The Last Song”, and “Pawnbroker”.  It definitely was a marvelous night for music. 

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all photos by Phillip Smith



Wooden Nickel Lottery





Wooden Nickel Lottery

Delayne Stallman, Jess Toomsen, Rick Gallo

Rick Gallo

Rich Toomsen, Delayne Stallman, Jess Toomsen

Delayne Stallman, Jess Toomsen

Rich Toomsen

Delayne Stallman

Rick Gallo

Rich Toomsen, Jess Toomsen

Rich Toomsen, Delayne Stallman


Tinsley Ellis

Kevan McCann, Tinsley Ellis

Kevan McCann

 Erik “Jazzy Skins” Kaszynski.

Kevan McCann

Tinsley Ellis


Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis

Kevan McCann, Tinsley Ellis , Erik "Jazzy Skins" Kaszynski

 Erik “Jazzy Skins” Kaszynski.

Kevan McCann, Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis

 Erik “Jazzy Skins” Kaszynski.

Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis

Kevan McCann, Tinsley Ellis

 Erik “Jazzy Skins” Kaszynski.

Kevan McCann

Tinsley Ellis, Kevan McCann

Tinsley Ellis

all photos by Phillip Smith

#324 : Myles Goodwyn And Friends of the Blues



2017 – Linus Entertainment

By Phillip Smith; March 17, 2018


April Wine front-man Myles Goodwyn has had a passion for the blues since the Sixties, when the greats like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and BB King were in their heyday.  Over the years, Goodwyn set his blues songs aside for future use and never put them to wax for an April Wine album.  The future is finally here, and a dozen of those delectable songs have been recorded for this spectacular record, Myles Goodwyn and Friends of the Blues.  Goodwyn takes the lead on vocals, guitars, and keyboards, while Mike Carrol and Blair Mackay appear on drums.  Bass players consist of Richard Fallus, Alex Fraser, Russal Jackson, and Bruce Dixon.  The list of friends which join Goodwyn in the studio are Jack de Keyzer, Garret Mason, David Wilcox, Amos Garret, Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne, Joe Murphy, Frank Marino, Shaun Verreault, Bill Stevenson, and Rick Derringer.

I love the way the album rolls in with the high energy electric blues on “I Hate to See you Go (But I Love to Watch You Walk Away)”.  This captivating opener is nicely topped off with a sweet sax and horn arrangement from Eric Khayat.  Goodwyn takes an amazingly deep dive into the cold well of bitterness in “I’ll Hate You (Til Death Do Us Part)”.  This stellar performance features the great Frank Marino on guitar and piano great Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne.  I could listen to Rick Derringer play guitar all day.  His searing guitar in blues-rocker “Last Time I’ll Ever Sing the Blues” is downright tantalizing.

Myles Goodwyn and Friends of the Blues brilliantly shows another side of Goodwyn as he masters the Blues.  I certainly hope to hear more recordings like this in the future him.


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Also reviewed on Phillycheeze’s Rock & Blues Reviews

Blue Öyster Cult & April Wine - Live @ Riverside Casino, May 14, 2016



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.