Saturday, August 25, 2018

#349 : Keeshea Pratt Band - Believe



2018 – KPB

By Phillip Smith; Aug. 25, 2018


It puts a smile on my face each time I experience the soulful energy of Believe, the debut album from the Houston, Texas-based Keeshea Pratt Band.  After one listen, it’s plain to see how they took home the 1st place award for Best Band in the 2018 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee earlier this year.  Vocalist Keeshea Pratt fronts this band comprised of guitarist Brian Sowell, drummer Nick Fishman, bassist/music director Shawn Allen, trumpeter Misaki Nishidate, trumpeter James Williams III, and saxophonist Dan Carpenter. 

Pratt rolls out a red carpet of Motown-inspired, slow-cooked soul in “Make it Good”.  Her vocals, drenched with pure honest emotion nail every note amid the swirling sounds of keys and bursts of brass.  The sweet sounds of the Mississippi delta take hold in “Home to Mississippi” for some bodacious down-home blues.  Greased with slide guitar and harmonica this track drips with authenticity.  

I’m captivated by the way “I Can’t Stop Now” slowly revs up and masterfully takes off in a turbo-infused fury.  Loaded with power vocals and searing guitar, it absolutely gets the adrenalin pumping.  One of my favorite singers, the legendary late-great Sharon Jones comes to mind, when listening to Pratt fabulously bring it on in the psych-soul power funk track “Out of My Mind”.  This magnificent song grabs a Phillycheeze one-hundred percent approval rating.

Pratt’s delightful voice has no boundaries as she takes the listener on a musical journey with this remarkable record called Believe.  This album is highly recommended.        
     

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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.     

Sunday, August 19, 2018

#348 : Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip - Twentyfive Live at Blues Baltica



2018 – Hokahey! Records

By Phillip Smith; Aug. 18, 2018


In 1991, front man Micke Bjorklof and bassist Seppo Nuolikoski formed Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip.  With over twenty-five years under their belt, and a few personnel changes this Finnish outfit is now stronger than ever and holds court as a top tier blues band with a global fanbase.  Twentyfive Live at Blues Baltica celebrates those twenty-five years of playing live music with a magnificent twenty-one track double live album recorded at Blues Baltica, the annual four-day blues festival in Eutin, Germany.  Alongside Micke and Seppo, the lineup of the band consists of guitarist Ville “Lefty” Leppänen who has been with the band since 1999, drummer Teemu Vuorela, and percussionist/MalletKAT master Timo Roiko-Jokela.

Firing smoothly on all cylinders, the band nicely starts off with “Jack the Black Hat” from their 2014 studio album, After the Flood.  With a tremendous jazzy groove, they splendidly cover the sultry title track to that album as well.  I love the hoodoo inspired “Ray Needs a Mojo Hand”.  It captivates me with every listen.  A couple of very cool blues covers land on disc one too: “5-10-15 Hours”, originally recorded by Ruth Brown, and a ripping celebration of “Honey Hush” which is loaded with lots of hot juicy harp.  “Honey Hush” was originally recorded and co-written by Lowell Fulsom as “Talkin’ Woman”. The song was later covered by the blues-master Albert Collins who recorded it as “Honey Hush” to place on his 1978 LP Ice Pickin’.  Lefty gives a smokin’ guitar performance on this final song of the first disc.  

The second disc opens with ”In Chains” a heart-wrenching blues ballad off Bjorklof’s 2015 studio album Ain’t Bad Yet.  “Gumbo Mama” is a fun and funky treat with a Red Hot Chili Peppers vibe.  Teemu nicely rolls the red carpet out for “Killer Woman” a twangy head-banger that rips it up in a classic rockabilly form.  It segues perfectly right into the next song, dedicated to the great, late Son House, “Ramblified” which is an incredible performance packed with lots of amazing slide guitar.  Twentyfive Live beautifully comes to a close with “Sweet Dream’s a Sweet Dream” a soulfully delicate tune which brings to mind the music of Tommy Bolin. 

Until I actually get to experience a Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip concert in person, I’m more than happy to have Twentyfive Live at Blues Baltica to enjoy.  It’s fabulous.        



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Follow the links below to read previous PhillyCheeze reviews for Micke Bjorklof and Blue Strip :         

Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip - Ain’t Bad Yet

Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip - After the Flood
Southpaw Steel ‘n’ Twang - Stat(u)e of Mind  (w/ Ville “Lefty” Leppänen)

Southpaw Steel ‘n’ Twang - Hale’s Pleasure Railway  (w/ Ville “Lefty” Leppänen and Micke Bjorklof)

           

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.     


Sunday, August 12, 2018

#347 : Czech Village Blues - Aug 11, 2018 featuring Ruf Record's Blues Caravan




Czech Village
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 

All photos by Phillip Smith; Aug. 11, 2018


I am so thrilled and amazed to see how Czech Village Blues festival in Cedar Rapids has expanded and grown in just its second year.  Again, the Linn County Blues Society has joined together with the Friends of Czech Village to keep this wonderful blues event going.   It was incredible to see the musical talent and dedication to the blues presented on the Youth Stage by Kristopher Bries, Anderson Coates, Miles Damaso, and Matthew Burger.  Accompanied by Iowa Blues Hall of Fame inductees, Tom 'T-Bone' Giblin on keys, and Dan 'DJ' Johnson on bass guitar, they were quite impressive, and did a fantastic job to kick start this years festival which featured Tim@theTrutones , Shane Johnson's Blue Train, and Ruf Records' Blues Caravan presenting Bernard Allison, Mike Zito, and Ally Venable.


Youth Stage 




Tim&theTruTones

Corey Clark & Tim Wagoner

Paul Ferguson

Corey Clark

Tim Wagoner




Scott Sanborn


Scott Sanborn


Bob Deforest

Bob Deforest


Shane Johnson's Blue Train

Shane Johnson's Blue Train

Shane Johnson / John Resch

John Resch

Shane Johnson
Christopher Ryan
John Resch




Ruf Records' Blues Caravan 

Ally Venable

Bobby Wallace

Ally Venable

Elijah Owings

Ally Venable Band

Ally Venable

Ally Venable / Elijah Owings

Mike Zito


Bernard Allison

Bernard Allison / Mike Zito 

Bernard Allison / Mike Zito

Bernard Allison

Mike Zito

Mike Zito


Mike Zito

Mike Zito

Bernard Allison / Mike Zito

Mario Dawson

Bernard Allison

Bernard , Ally, and Mike

Bernard, Ally and Mike

Bernard, Ally and Mike


* all photos by Phillip Smith (2018)


Check out the PhillyCheeze review for Bernard Allison's Let It Go :

Check out the PhillyCheeze review for Mike Zito's Greyhound 
(originally published for Blues Review Magazine on BluesRevue.com :

Check out the PhillyCheeze review for Mike Zito and the Wheel's Songs From the Road 

Check out the PhillyCheeze review for Mike Zito and the Wheel's Keep Coming Back


Saturday, August 11, 2018

#346 : Savoy Brown - You Should Have Been There!



2018 – Panache Records

By Phillip Smith; Aug. 11, 2018


Savoy Brown’s latest album, You Should Have Been There! is a colossal dose of live electric blues. Originally recorded in February of 2003 at The Yale in Vancouver, this album features front-man Kim Simmonds joined by guitarist David Malachowski, bassist Gerry Sorrentino, and drummer Dennis Cotton.  Loaded with lots of extended jams, this delightful six-pack of songs gives a solid hours’ worth of listening.     

The record opens with some serious hard-driving blues with “When it Rains” off the 2003 Strange Dreams album. Simmonds then dovetails “Where Has Your Heart Gone?” in quite nicely for an exquisite eleven and a half minutes of intoxicating slow jam and guitar play.  From one of my favorite Savoy Brown albums, 1970’s Looking In, we hear the funky blues of “Poor Girl” which spins the tale of a young woman who’s fled the country life to be surrounded by the bright lights of the big city which chews her up and eventually spits her out.  I love how Simmonds lets loose on guitar with this one.  It’s an absolutely searing performance. You Should Have Been There! closes with the ominous 1972 “Hellbound Train” which boasts an amazing guitar solo from Malachowski. 

The energy of this performance certainly transcends through to the recording. You should have been there.  I should have been there.  We all should have been there.             

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Links below for PhillyCheeze reviews for Savoy Brown / Kim Simmonds :      

Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown - Goin’ to the Delta
           
Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown - The Devil to Pay
           
Kim Simmonds - Jazzin’ on the Blues
           
Savoy Brown - Witchy Feelin’



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, August 4, 2018

#345 : Bruce Katz Band - Get Your Groove!



2018 – American Showplace Music
Release Date :  July 20, 2018

By Phillip Smith; Aug. 4, 2018


I never tire of listening to the wonderful Bruce Katz performing his magic on the keys.  Whether playing with his own band or alongside greats such as Gregg Allman or Butch Trucks, Katz always brings his A-game. This album is no exception.  Get Your Groove is a treasure trove of keyboard-centric blues and jazz loaded with surprising and tasty jams.  With Chris Vitarello holding down the fort on vocals and guitar, Matt Raymond keeps the bassline going on half the tracks on bass.  Drums are supplied by Ray Hangen, with the highly-esteemed Jaimoe (Allman Brothers Band) joining him on three of them.

Hangen nicely rolls the album in with a quick cool beat to lead in “Hesitation Blues”.  The magnificent sound of B3 and a bluesy bassline is topped with Vitarello’s suave vocals and stellar guitar licks.  This track makes for a splendid opener.  “Freight Train” travels a more jazzy direction.  This cosmic instrumental, guided by the Hangen and Raymond is full of surprises and hands-down terrific. Vitarello shines brightly on guitar.

Katz blends acoustic piano with the swirling sounds of B3 on the beautiful and relaxed-paced instrumental “River Blues”.  Raymond lays down a sweet acoustic bassline which adds a deep layered tone to the song.  Another wonderful instrumental “Zone 3” is plumb buttery and saturated in blues. The performance is tight and smack dab right in the pocket.  I absolutely love it.

Rightfully named, Get Your Groove contains eleven tracks made to get your groove on.  It’s a fun one indeed.

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Click below to read the PhillyCheeze review of : Bruce Katz Band - Homecoming  

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.   







Sunday, July 29, 2018

#344 : Vanja Sky - Bad Penny



2018 – Ruf Records
Release Date: Aug. 17, 2018


By Phillip Smith; July 28, 2018


Vanja Sky, one of the newest blues artists to join the Ruf Records family, takes no prisoners with her brand new album Bad Penny.  It was just five years ago, this former pastry chef from Croatia picked up a guitar, and in the moment, she knew that being a musician was her destiny.  Within two years, she was in a band touring Croatia, Slovenia, and Germany.

Recorded at Bessie Blue Studios in Statonville, Tennessee, and Studio Erde in Berlin, Germany, Bad Penny features Mike Zito on rhythm guitar, Terry Dry and Dave Smith on bass guitar, Matthew Johnson and Yonrico Scott on drums, and Lewis Stephens on piano/organ.  She also enlists the legendary Jim Gaines (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana, Steve Miller, Miles Davis) to take on the tasks of engineering in Tennessee, along with Tobias Noethen who engineered the tracks recorded in Germany. 

Vanja rocks out on a killer cover of Rory Gallagher’s “Bad Penny” for the title track.  Her voice is strong and fearless.  Her guitar licks are terrific.  I get totally swept up in Zito’s outrageously infectious riffs.  The blues are smokin’ with lots of great slide on “Low Down and Dirty”, which includes Bernard Allison alongside Vanja and Zito.  It’s downright bodacious.  

Shining brightly as a songwriter as well, Vanja penned ten of the dozen tracks on the record.  Tender and poignant “Inside Pain” seems to float in mid-air in a beautiful performance.  She totally rips it up on “Give Me Back My Soul”, a Texas style blues rocker with a theme most familiar to blues enthusiasts. It’s a favorite indeed.  Like a Lucinda Williams tune, “Crossroads of Life” digs its fingernails in deep and packs a wallop of that great swampy sound of country blues. It’s brilliant.

Searing guitar licks along with Vanja’s amazing vocal stylings make Bad Penny one hot album, enjoyed start to finish with every listen.  Vanja is currently touring with Mike Zito and Bernard Allison on the Ruf Records Blues Caravan.  This is one show I don’t want to miss.      

 
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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, July 21, 2018

#343 : Brother Dege - Farmer's Almanac



2018 – Psyouthern.Records
Release Date: June 1, 2018


By Phillip Smith; July 21, 2018


Farmer’s Almanac, the fourth full-length album from Louisiana native, Brother Dege Legg, is somewhat of a masterpiece.  Its eleven original tracks are slathered with attention-grabbing slide guitar, and razor-sharp lyrics.  Backing Brother Dege is The Bretheren, comprised of Kent Beatty on bass, and drummers Greg Travasos and Doug Belote.   

A surge of excitement traverses through “Country Come to Town”.  Dege’s magnificent finger picking shines while Travasos provides a steady heartbeat-like pulse.  Layers of instrumentation provide an enhanced sense of depth in “The Shakedown”.  The country blues slide and backdrop of dual drums makes this an amazing listen.      

The stories Legg tells with his songs are fantastic.  Outlaw blues ballad “Bastards Blues” is tension-filled and swampy.  Guest drummers Hawley Joe Gary (Spank the Monkey) and Eric Heigle (The Lost Bayou Ramblers) join drummer Doug Belote to help create the ominous atmosphere the song resides in.  Tightly woven prose and a beautiful hypnotic rhythm keep “The Moon & the Scarecrow” gingerly afloat as it softly builds to its climatic peak.    

The album is book-ended by a pair of Pink Floyd-esque instrumentals, “Partial to the Bitters” and “Partial to the Bitters Pt. 2”.   The later, a bit more infused with twang, sounds just as brilliant, nonetheless.  Farmer’s Almanac receives my highest possible recommendation.  It’s that great. 

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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.     






Sunday, July 15, 2018

#342 : North Liberty Blues & BBQ Festival - July 14, 2018



Centennial Park
North Liberty, Iowa 
All photos by Phillip Smith; July 14, 2018


Good fortune was with all in attendance of the 2018 North Liberty Blues & BBQ festival, as most prepared for somewhat of a rainy day.   The rain staved off, the crowd poured in, and the sun burned bright, reaching temperatures of 85 degrees.  The barbecue was great and the music, which consisted of The Tanya English Band, Avey Grouws Band, Kevin Burt, The Diplomats of Solid Sound, and Fantastic Negrito, was outstanding.  

* All Photos by Phillip Smith


The Tanya English Band








The Avey Grouws Band







Kevin Burt and the Corridor







The Diplomats of Solid Sound







Fantastic Negrito