Friday, July 13, 2018

#341 : Michael Buffalo Smith - Makin’ it Back to Macon



2018 – Dreaming Buffalo Music

By Phillip Smith; July 13, 2018


Makin’ it Back to Macon follows closely on the heels of his recent EP The Austin Sessions, released earlier this Spring.  The “Ambassador of Southern Rock” and founder of Kudzoo Magazine Michael Buffalo Smith reveals he has even more up his sleeve with this first full length album since 2005.  Buffalo holds down the vocals and acoustic guitar with the rest of the band being composed of Greg Yeary (rhythm/lead guitar) Billy Eli (acoustic guitar), Joey Parrish (bass), and Towson Engsburg (drums/percussion).  Paul Hornsby (Charlie Daniels, Marshall Tucker Band) produced the album, which also features Tommy Talton (Cowboy) on guitar, E.G. Kight on backing vocals, and the one and only Billy Bob Thornton narrating the prologue and epilogue.

For the introduction, Buffalo wrote a soulful dedication to the town of Macon, Georgia, making note to mention the music, the food, and the people.  Read by Thornton, this spoken piece is a wonderful tribute to set the table for the music which follows. 

Buffalo brings a sense of optimism to his song of mortality in “Both Feet on the Ground” which features guitarist Daniel Jackson and bassist Joey Parrish, both from the Silver Travis Band.  Topped off with some very cool slide-work from Tommy Talton and featuring Paul Hornsby on the Wurlitzer piano, “My Baby Drives a Mercedes Benz” was  co-written with Smith’s longtime collaborator Greg Yeary.  Smith explains it was part of the set list when he and Yeary performed as Buffalo Hut Coalition in the Eighties.  Talton also appears on the fantastic and melancholy “Tired of Living Blues”.  Adding pops and scratches to be infused into the recording, Smith bestows a vintage sound to this bona fide blues tune.  Smith invokes a style reminiscent of the great John Prine into his music. A perfect example is “On a Still Cold Saturday” inspired by a trippy recurring dream.  Ripples of melancholy washes over when I hear Smith bare his soul on “Woman in the Moon (It Comes in Waves)”, a very personal song he wrote after the passing of the love of his life.    

The record concludes with a beautifully written self-reflective spoken word piece, “Epilogue: Reflections at 60”.  With a gripping delivery, this mini-bio written by Smith is read aloud by Billy Bob Thornton.  It honestly ties everything together.       


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Click the following link to read the PhillyCheeze Review of Michael Buffalo Smith's EP, The Austin Sessions : 
https://phillycheezeblues.blogspot.com/2018/05/332-michael-buffalo-smith-austin.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, July 7, 2018

#340 : Whitney Shay - A Woman Rules the World



2018 – Little Village Foundation
Release Date: August 1, 2018


By Phillip Smith; July 7, 2018


Recorded at the acclaimed Greaseland Studios in San Jose, California and produced by ChristopherKid” Andersen, A Woman Rules the World, Whitney Shay’s latest album is her first in six years.  This landmark recording surrounds the riveting vocalist with an outstanding group of musicians whose appearance includes Kid Andersen (guitar, bass, sitar, and Wurlitzer) , Jim Pugh (organ, piano) “Sax” Gordon Beadle (saxophones), Kedor Roy (upright and electric bass), and Alex Pettersen (drums).    

The album begins with the sweet sound of horns, and a huge splash of Detroit soul in “Ain’t No Weak Woman”.  Shay’s smooth and sultry vocals sound great on this funky original. This rolls quite nicely into a jaw-dropping performance of Dinah Washington’s “Blues Down Home”.  It’s absolutely fabulous.  “Love’s Creeping Up on You”, another original from Shay is rooted in the Memphis sound.   Andersen seems to channel B.B. King on guitar, while the rest of the crew takes a cruise down McLemore Avenue, for more of a Stax Records vibe.  Pettersen gives a brilliant execution on drums to boot.

Shay soulfully sings title track “A Woman Rules the World” an exquisite selection by the legendary blues master Denise LaSalle, who sadly passed away earlier this year.  Then there’s the rousing rendition of Little Denise’s “Check Me Out”.  Slathered in old school funk, this smash hit written by the great Jimmy McCracklin oozes with groovy goodness.
Paying homage to one of the greatest Rock and Roll legends ever, Shay and company let loose an amazing cover of Little Richard’s “Freedom Blues” off his 1970 album Rill Thing.  They then rip it up on “Get Down With It” from his 1966 album The Wild and Frantic Little Richard to bring this wonderful album to its conclusion.

A Woman Rules the World is full of everything a music lover wants in an album: great songs, a spectacular voice, and an amazingly tight band.  I love every bit of it.   

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For more information about Whitney Shay, visit her website :  https://www.whitneyshay.com/home



Saturday, June 30, 2018

#339 : Eric Corne - Happy Songs for the Apocalypse



2018 – Forty Below Records

By Phillip Smith; June 30, 2018


Eric Corne, founder and president of Forty Below Records, has brought fabulous new artists like Sam Morrow and Jaime Wyatt to my attention and recorded established favorites such as John Mayall, Walter Trout, Joe Walsh, Lucinda Williams, Edgar Winter, Joe Bonamassa, John Doe (X) and Glen Campbell.  Happy Songs for the Apocalypse, the latest release from award winning producer/singer/song-writer Eric Corne is rather reflective of the world today, and is an amazing listen.  The dozen original tracks are beautifully written and tightly woven together in the assembly of this album.

I love the way Corne splendidly starts the album off with “Mad World”, his prophetic account of the beginning of the end.  Eamon Ryland lends a dreamy texture to this personal favorite on pedal steel.  Doug Pettibone (Lucinda Williams) provides a delicate Dobro performance on “The Guilded Age” while Corne sings of the wolves of Wall Street. Sasha Smith on dolceola and violinist Freddy Koella (Bob Dylan, KD Lang, Dr. John) inject a bright Celtic sound into Corne’s dispirited observance of current day politics “Short Wave Preachers”.

Corne taps into the spirit of the early Rolling Stones with “Ridin’ with Lady Luck” and “Locomotion”.  “Ridin’ with Lady Luck” features the legendary Walter Trout laying down some fabulous licks on lead guitar and Corne ripping it up on harp.  The excitement builds as Smith lays the piano groundwork on the upbeat “Locomotion”.  Guest David Ralicke (Degue Fever, Beck) orchestrates a rich horn arrangement on this captivating song as Corne revs it up with a side of guitar twang and more harp.

Corne utterly wins me over with Happy Songs for the Apocalypse. It is definitely a delightful and intelligent 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, June 23, 2018

#338 : Little Boys Blue w/Kid Memphis - Hard Blue Space



2018 – Vizztone
Release Date :  June 1, 2018

By Phillip Smith; June 23, 2018


Forged in Tennessee, Little Boys Blues keeps pumping out solid southern blues music.  Their latest album, Hard Blue Space brings guitarist John Holiday (aka Kid Memphis) into the mix, as he rips it up with singer/harmonica player JD Taylor for ten luscious original songs.  Holiday played the role of Carl Perkins in the 2005 Johnny Cash bio-film Walk the Line.  Taylor actually played gigs with Perkins himself.  The band also consists of drummer Mark Brooks, bassist Dave Mallard, and guitarist Alex Taylor.  Guests include guitarists and slide players Andrew White, Wes Henley, and Brad Webb, with Dave Thomas on keys. 

The first cut “Six Foot Down” tells the story of a broken heart beyond repair.  Taylor’s smoky vocals are reminiscent of John Hiatt’s and hover above gobs of juicy harp, a heart-pounding beat, and a lot of laidback slide.  “Loving Kind” takes a walking blues stroll and is topped with nice bluesy licks from Kid Memphis.  Changing pace and slowing it down a bit, “Blues Bug” is wonderful and right in the pocket.   

I’m immediately caught up in the intoxicating rhythm of “Got a Mind of Your Own”.  Swirling sounds of the B3, and Taylor’s magnificent harp playing perfectly accent this one as Kid Memphis plays guitar with a cool Robert Cray vibe.  The ghosts of North Mississippi must’ve been present on the recording of “If the Blues Start Calling”.  The song’s infectious groove is so downright dirty, it sounds fabulous.      

Hard Blue Space from Little Boys Blue w/ Kid Memphis is a grand slam. This pairing is a delight to hear.  They were definitely made for each other.   

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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, June 16, 2018

#337 : Sugar Brown - It’s a Blues World (Calling All Blues)



2018 – Sugar Brown

By Phillip Smith; June 16, 2018


Ken Kawashima, a finalist in the 2017 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up in Ohio, studied in Chicago, got his PhD from New York University, and now lives in Toronto.  There he teaches East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto and plays the blues.  While in the Windy City, where his musical path was shaped, Kawashima was given his nickname Sugar Brown by Chicago bluesman Tail Dragger Jones.

It’s a Blues World (Calling All Blues), Sugar Brown’s third album glows with authenticity.  Each of its thirteen original songs has a sense of stewardship and timelessness.  Joining Sugar Brown on the studio for this album is special guest and blues guitarist Rockin’ Johnny Burgin, a close friend of Brown’s who was instrumental in inspiring him to play blues guitar.  The rest of the band is comprised of Michelle Josef (drums), Russ Boswell (upright bass, electric bass), Nichol Robertson (guitar,banjo), Julian Fauth (piano,Farfisa), Julia Narveson (horns and fiddle), Chuck Bucket (drums), and Bill Howard (tambourine, bass drum). 

Sugar Brown shares a lesson on the topic of economics, as he sings about everyone scrambling for the same “Lousy Dime”.  Robertson’s infectious banjo riff rolls throughout this wonderful song.  Accompanied by an exquisite fiddle accompaniment and a beautifully executed piano backing, it’s absolutely flawless.  With a Tom Waits-like gusto, Brown suavely sings “What I Know”.  The song sweetly rolls in with a horn and harp intro and is threaded with gobs of marvelously twangy guitar.  A North Mississippi blues approach is taken with “Out of the Frying Pan“, an intoxicating tune about having nowhere else to go.  The circulating rhythm lures me quickly in, and holds me captive for the remainder of the song.  It’s terrific.

The retrospective makeover he applies to his music, using vintage technology, encapsulates his work in an era of bygone times, giving it a unique sound.  That’s half the attraction to this album.   The other half is Sugar Brown’s exemplary songwriting.  This album comes highly recommended for Blues enthusiasts.   


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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, June 9, 2018

#336 : Ghost Town Blues Band - Backstage Pass



2018 – Ghost Town Blues Band

By Phillip Smith; June 9, 2018


Ghost Town Blues Band’s Backstage Pass is one of the best live albums I’ve heard all year.  With every listen, I fall head over heels for its long soulful jams heavily steeped in American blues and roots.  From the beloved city of Memphis, Tennessee, Ghost Town Blues Band is composed of lead vocalist/guitarist Matt Isbell, guitarist Taylor Orr, Suavo Jones on trombone, Kevin Houston on sax, Tim Stanek on the Hammond B3, piano and keys, bassist Matt Karner, and drummer Preston McEwen.  Produced by McEwen, Backstage Pass consists of nine splendid tracks recorded live at Lafayette’s Music Room in Memphis on July 29, 2017.

The album breaks out with a smashing cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together”.  This sounds fabulous with slide guitar and horns.  I love the way they weave bits of “Norwegian Wood” and Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” into the fabric of the tune.   I will be sadly disappointed if this song does not make it on the next Fried Glass Onion compilation series (a tribute to the music of The Beatles, performed by Memphis bands).  They take on the Allman Brothers’ signature song “Whippin’ Post” with true justice and a truck load of responsibility, bestowing the listener with a beautiful and amazing sixteen minute jam.  Isbell’s guitar performance is stellar.  Their cover of George Porter Jr’s (The Meters) “I Get High” is a bouncy and funky treat loaded with contagious horn riffs and more head-turning guitar.  McEwen is a bodacious drummer, and keeps everything in check. 

“Shine”, drenched in that good ol’ Memphis soul greets the listener like an old friend whose face has not been seen in a long time.  The Stax sound is definitely represented here with the swirling organ and those cool little blasts of horns led by Isbell’s wonderful and gravelly vocals.  From their Dust to Dust album, GTBB revisits “One More Whiskey” a blues-soaked ode to drinking which Isbell tops with a tasty side of harmonica.  This is a fun tune indeed. 
   
I had the privilege of catching the band in Memphis earlier this spring at the Beale Street Music Festival.  With cigar box guitar in hand, stretching as high as Isbell could raise it, Jones proceeded to extend his trombone to its outer limits, to use the far-most edge as a guitar slide until that cigar box just plumb gave out.  After several attempts at reviving that guitar with no luck, Isbell put his own creation out of misery with a mighty rock-and-roll Pete Townsend style bashing.  They outshined every act I saw that day, and quite frankly, most of the other acts I saw that whole weekend.  They were truly amazing, as is this album.  It’s ridiculously good.

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Ghost Town Blues Band live in Memphis, Tennessee at
Memphis in May Beale Street Music Festival 2018
Photo by Phillip Smith






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, June 2, 2018

#335 : Fantastic Negrito - Please Don’t Be Dead



2018 – Cooking Vinyl
Release Date : June 15, 2018

By Phillip Smith; June 2, 2018


Please Don’t Be Dead is one of the most exciting albums to be released this year.  I’ve been a fan of Fantastic Negrito (Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz) since viewing the C-Store Session videos on YouTube in 2015, and I loved The Last Days of Oakland album which was released in 2016.  The title of his latest record, Please Don’t Be Dead, refers to the underlying fear a parent holds for the future of their children in a world filled with school shootings, opioid addictions, and homelessness.  

The album wonderfully ignites with an infectious guitar riff backed with a captivating beat on “Plastic Hamburgers”, an anthem about the need for due change.  Fantastic Negrito has a genuine gift of sparking moments of inward enlightenment in his songs.  With “Bad Guy Necessity”, he sheds light on the age-old craft of misdirection in a Prince/Beatles kind of way, and how it’s used by those in power to create an enemy which only they can eradicate. 

A gut-wrenching response to gun violence and mass shootings is revealed in his “Letter to Fear”.  This beautiful song, delicately steeped in blues and bathed in swirling sounds of organ is elegantly sung.  Funk and gospel are cleverly woven together in “The Suit That Won’t Come Off”, a song about feeling isolated from the world.  Fantastic Negrito paints a dire portrait of that place in our minds where we often flee to in the darkest of times.  Then he sings a song of apology to those he’s offended or wronged while in that place on a “Cold November Street”. 

I dig the hard-hitting hook busting loose on “The Duffler”, and how it smoothly navigates its way through a sweet, galactic groove. The album comes to a close in a huge P-Funk-style presence with “Bullshit Anthem”.  The song is slathered in funk and gushing with attitude.  It is a sheer delight.  On the topic of P-Funk, I recently read that  the Godfather of Funk George Clinton plans to retire in 2019.  Although, it will be most sad to see him depart, I would love to see Fantastic Negrito pilot the mothership when that time comes. He definitely has what it takes.


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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, 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




      



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