Tuesday, March 26, 2019

#383 : Ghost Town Blues Band live @ Moline Viking Club - March 24, 2019

Moline, Illinois

By Phillip Smith; March 26, 2019

I was happy as a lark to see Ghost Town Blues Band return to the region on their latest Canada/Midwest tour.  They truly are one of my favorite bands.  Presented by the Mississippi Valley Blues Society, and hosted by the Moline Viking Club, the show featured two bodacious sets of riveting high-energy blues.  Fronted by Matt Isbell on lead vocals and guitars, Ghost Town Blues band is also comprised of lead guitarist Taylor Orr, bassist Matt Karner, drummer Andrew McNeil, organist/keyboardist Cedric Taylor, and trombonist Suavo Jones.

As soon as the band kicked the first set into gear with “Hate to See Her Go”, and “Memphis Blues”, I knew it was going to be a sensational show.  They broke out “Dust the Dust” and ”Big Shirley” too, the latter of which sweetly rolled right into Led Zepplin’s “Rock and Roll”.  I loved the funky two-fer including “Shine” and "Givin’ It All Away” from their latest album, Backstage Pass.  Suavo belted out such a tremendous solo on trombone.  It was absolutely amazing.  Isbell pulled out his one-of-a-kind cigar box guitar he made out of his late grandmother’s silver drawer for an enthralling performance of “Road Still Drives the Same”.    

With a Bourbon Street-style entrance, horns and drums in hand, the band marched back into the venue for the second set playing “When the Saints Go Marching In”.  That was so fun to watch.  They played “Memphis Train” and “Tip of My Hat” soon after.  When they broke into the Beatles’ “Come Together” though, it was quite magical.  Like sword-wielding knights, Suavo and Isbell squared off.  While Suavo extended the outer slide tube of his trombone skyward, Isbell held his cigar box high in the air, nailing every note as the guitar neck maneuvered about the trombone as a slide.  It’s such a unique and amazing feat to witness.  Afterward, Orr gave a smokin’ guitar solo on “One More Whiskey”, then the band wrapped up with a spectacular extended jam on “Whipping Post”.  It was such a wonderful evening of music, I can’t wait to see them again. 


* All photos by Phillip Smith     

Saturday, March 23, 2019

#382 : Coyote Kings - Rocket

2019 – Underworld Records
By Phillip Smith; March 23, 2019

Coyote Kings, that fiery blues band from Wala Wala, Washington which I’ve been reviewing since 2011, is back once again with yet another rockin’ album of blues.  The album is called Rocket, and it happens to be the Coyote Kings first on Tim Langford’s (Too Slim & the Taildraggers) music label Underword Records.  This is also their first album featuring their new singer, Tiphony Dames who recorded her debut self-titled album with the band in 2017.  Led by guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Robin Barrett, Coyote Kings is also comprised of bassist Kit Kuhlmann and drummer Gordon Townsend.

“Drive Me”, with its bluesy beatnik vibe scores huge, blending searing guitar licks from Barrett and Diego Romero with a fierce accompaniment from Nate Miller on sax.  Dame’s vocals are smooth as silk, and sound great.  Things get heavy with “Break Free” as Barrett throws down a riff that’s infectious and yet psychedelically ominous.  Miller shreds the sax again, as Barrett unleashes the funk in “All Tangled Up”.  The mood softens when Dame sings “Baby’s Gone”, a heartbreaking lament of lost love.  Her vocals really shine here.  The album comes to a close with a beautiful five-minute instrumental called “Song For Shaman”, featuring guest bassist Kelin Kreider. The track is absolutely stunning.

Rocket, the sixth album from the Coyote Kings is a positive step in a new direction for the band, and I look forward to hearing more from them with Tiphony. 


For more information about the artist, visit this website.. coyotekings.com  

Take a listen to the album on Apple Music, and if you decide to purchase it, use my special link.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

#381 : Nick Schnebelen - Crazy All By Myself

2019 – Vizztone

By Phillip Smith; Mar. 16, 2019

I’ve been a fan of Nick Schnebelen since reviewing Trampled Under Foot’s 2011 release Wrong Side of the Blues for Blues Revue Magazine’s online zine BluesWax.  I remember being in such awe of great talent when I saw the band perform live at Riverside Casino in 2012.  Schnebelen’s Live in Kansas City album, released in 2017, was outstanding, and this brand-new record Crazy All By Myself is absolutely terrific.  Producer/drummer Tony Braunagel (Taj Mahal, Robert Cray), along with heavy hitters, organist/pianist Mike Finnigan and bassist Hutch Hutchinson form one hell of a rhythm section.

I love the groove Braunagel and bassist Reggie McBride pour over “It Ain’t Me”. Smooth and intoxicating, it washes over me, like a fine bourbon.  Hearing Schnebelen let loose on guitar is pure joy.  Finnigan absolutely cooks on piano for “Ain’t Got Time For the Blues”.  The song is a massive dose of adrenalized blues with more stellar guitar from Nick.  Another song that grabs my full attention is “Alter of Love” which happens to feature one my favorite harp players, Jason Ricci.  This is one positively fabulous.

Schnebelen breaks out some wonderfully delicious slide guitar as he expresses his fondness for Harley Davidsons in the double-entendre loaded bike song “I’m a Fat Boy”.  With “Soul Magic”, the lovely Heather Newman appears on backing vocals, as Nick reveals his prowess as an R&B singer.  “Holding On”, beautifully performed and featuring the great Davy Knowles on guitar, is another favorite. 

Focused and fierce, Schnebelen has taken his music up another notch. Crazy All By Myself is definitely a record for blues fans to take notice of.


For more information about the artist, visit the website :  www.nickschnebelenkc.com .

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.   As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

#380 : Billy Hector - Some Day Baby

2018 – Ghetto Surf Music

By Phillip Smith; March 9, 2019

There’s a certain essence to the music of Billy Hector.  He writes great songs, his guitar performances rock the house, and his voice is made for the blues.  I love his work.  This New Jersey blues artist has topped himself once again with his latest album, Some Day Baby.  It’s not just the blues which Hector is a master of, but the man also knows his way around funk and soul in a tremendous way as well.

Once I hear the horns regally lead “Wizard of Babylon” in on the first track, I know I’m in store for a delightful listen.  Hector’s guitar sizzles as the groove kicks in.  With Winston Royce on bass guitar, and Val Romaine on drums, title track “Some Day Baby” is absolutely fabulous.  It’s magnificently punched up with horn accompaniment from Tom Labella and John Martin, and magically charged with an energy much akin to that of the Red Hot Chili Peppers taking on Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”.  Another favorite is the George Clinton-esque, funk-infused “Butt Naked and Funk”.  Bassist Erik Boyd and drummer Rich Monica pair up for the rhythm section on this wonderful jam.  There’s an unavoidable intoxicating rhythm which draws me into “Creeper”.  The deep tones in Hector’s vocals are superb as he sings this song of infidelity, which by the way is enjoyably topped off with keys from John Ginty.   The way Hector transforms "Moonlight in Her Eyes" from a rolling blues tune to a Beatles-like orchestrated number is pure genius.  

Hector quite nicely takes on a couple of traditional tunes with “On Your Bond”, originally released by Blind Willie Johnson in 1930 , and “Alabama Bound”.  “Whisky”, a dark and brilliant tune dances atop a menacing atmosphere created by David Nunez on keys and drummer Larry Crockett.  Hector plays this with an emotional bravado. The album comes to a lively close with “Road to Happiness”, a soulful duet with his wife and co-producer Suzan Lastovica.   

Some Day Baby, a terrific album from start to finish, is definitely an addition to my favorites of 2018. 


For more information about the artist, visit this website.. www.billyhector.com  

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.   As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

#379 : Anthony Gomes Live at the Redstone Room - March 2, 2019

Davenport, Iowa

March 2, 2019

By Phillip Smith; March 3, 2019

The first time I saw Anthony Gomes, the year was 2012, and he was opening up for the legendary B.B. King at the Paramount Theater in Cedar Rapids.  The sheer exuberance in his performance and mastery of guitar grabbed my full attention.  Saturday, March 2nd, he gave a stellar performance at the Redstone Room in Davenport, Iowa.  With Gomes on guitar and lead vocals, he was joined on stage by bassist Sean Holland and drummer Jeremy Howard.

From the git-go he rocked out with “Nasty Good”, and “Your Mama Wants to do Me (and Your Daddy Wants to do Me In)”, from his latest album Peace Love & Loud Guitars, an album which was a PhillyCheezeBlues blog pick of the week in January.  He also tore it up on his ode to Crown Royal with “Purple Whiskey Sack” from his 2006 album, Long Way Home.

His cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” was outstanding.  Gomes was totally in his element, as he let loose on this one.  I was glad to hear “White Trash Princess”.  It’s one of my favorites on the new album, as is the title track “Peace, Love, and Loud Guitars”.   “Blues in the First Degree” also made the cut, and it sounded great.  It was such a joy to hear him play the new material.    

For the encore, Gomes brought the show to close, splendidly ripping it up on his stately homage to the King of the Blues, with “Come Down”.  It was magnificent, as was the show.  I can’t wait to see him perform again.


* All photos by Phillip Smith

Saturday, March 2, 2019

#378 : Music Maker Relief Foundation (Various Artists) - Blue Muse

2019 – Big Legal Mess Records

By Phillip Smith; March 2, 2019

The Music Maker Relief Foundation, whose mission is “to preserve the musical traditions of the South by directly supporting the musicians who make it, ensuring their voices will not be silenced by poverty and time”, is issuing a new book and CD package called Blue Muse to celebrate their twenty-fifth year.  According to their website, musicmaker.org, this organization, founded by Timothy and Denise Duffy, has helped with over 12,000 grants, and has supported 435 artists.  Blue Muse contains twenty-one tracks of southern blues and roots music from various artists.  It features recordings made from the nineties up to the present day, with tracks contributed by both Taj Mahal who beautifully performs “Spike Driver Blues” and Eric Clapton who joins with Timothy Duffy for a sweet instrumental cover of Willie Brown’s “Mississippi Blues”.

Eddie Tigner who played many years with the Ink Spots and was at one time the lead of Elmore James’ house band, tears it up on piano with his performance of “Route 66”. When Alabama Slim kicks off “I Got the Blues”, it puts a big smile on my face.  His hypnotic guitar stylings pull me deep into the song.  The soulful deep-cutting vocals of Robert Finley marvelously sing out on “Age Don’t Mean a Thing”.  With Jimbo Mathus on guitar and Al Gamble on keys, this is southern soul at its best.  Former Carolina Chocolate Drop co-founder Dom Flemons breaks out his harmonica and sings “Polly Put the Kettle On”.  Ben Hunter appears on fiddle and Guy Davis on guitar, making this traditional song also covered by the blues-great Sonny Boy Williamson, a delightful listen.  

One can feel the blues in the voice of the late great Piedmont Blues artist Algia Mae Hinton, who passed in February of 2018, as she delivers “Snap Your Fingers”.  Guitar Gabriel’s “Landlord Blues” oozes with authenticity.  ‘The Blues Doctor’ Drink Small from Columbia, South Carolina wonderfully sings and picks “Widow Woman”, a melancholy and reflective piece paying homage to those who have lost their husbands.   

This collection also contains “I am the Lightning” from one my recent favorites, Willie Farmer whose latest album, The Man From the Hill was reviewed on my blog last month. This is such cool song.   I was also happy to see Ironing Board Sam’s “Loose Diamonds” appear on this album too.  His CD, Super Spirit, which this track is from, was one of my memorable finds in 2018 while visiting one of my favorite stores on the planet, Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art in Clarksdale, Mississippi.   

Available by March 28th, 2019 , Blue Muse is also paired with a powerful 152 page companion book titled Blue Muse: Timothy Duffy’s Southern Photographs, published in association with the New Orleans Museum of Art, and loaded with tintype photos taken by Duffy of musicians representing American roots music.  For more information or to purchase this set, visit musicmaker.org .        


Track list:
  1. La Collegiale – The Grotto Sessions (Guitar Gabriel, Ironing Board Sam, Etta Baker, Captain Luke, Alabama Slim, Neal Pattman)
  2. Spike Driver Blues – Taj Mahal
  3. Old Black Buck – Captain Luke
  4. Route 66 – Eddie Tigner
  5. I Got The Blues – Alabama Slim
  6. Age Don’t Mean A Thing – Robert Finley
  7. Polly Put The Kettle On – Dom Flemons
  8. Hambone – John Dee Holeman
  9. Snap Your Fingers – Algia Mae Hinton
  10. I am the Lightning – Willie Farmer
  11. D.O.C. Man – Dave McGrew
  12. Sweet Valentine – Martha Spencer & Kelley Breiding
  13. I Wanna Boogie – Boot Hanks w/ Dom Flemons
  14. Mississippi Blues – Eric Clapton w/ Tim Duffy
  15. Landlord Blues – Guitar Gabriel
  16. Widow Woman – Drink Small
  17. Cabbage Man – Sam Frazier, Jr.
  18. Sing It Louder – Cary Morin
  19. Loose Diamonds – Ironing Board Sam
  20. I Know I’ve Been Changed – The Branchettes
  21. Something Within Me – Theotis Taylor

Saturday, February 23, 2019

#377 : Atomic Road Kings - Clean Up the Blood

2019 – Bigtone Records

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 23, 2019

At the core of the Atomic Road Kings sits vocalist/multi-instrumentalist ‘Big’ Jon Atkinson (Kim Wilson) and master harp player Eric ‘Jailhouse’ VonHerzen (Walter Trout, Social Distortion, Kid Ramos).  Together, with bassist Bill Stuve, drummer Malachi Johnson, and guitarists Scot Smart and Danny Michel, they bring a robust, vintage blues sound into the studio to create their debut album, Clean Up the Blood. The album contains eleven original songs, and one traditional cover.  Recorded live at Atkinson’s studio using vintage analog gear from the Forties and Fifties, the album has an authentic retro vibe to it and sounds terrific.

Stuve’s slow blues bassline and Atkinson’s commanding vocals make “Rumors” such a cool song.  Tony Delgado, on lead guitar, gives a smoking performance too.  I love “Vibrations” as well.  This throw-back with a Howlin’ Wolf vibe features a splendid accompaniment from pianist Robert Welch.  The ominous nature of title-track “Clean Up the Blood” digs deep to the bone.  Atkinson and VonHerzen are definitely at the top of their game when it comes to composing timeless-in-nature blues songs.  Von Herzen keeps the rhythm rolling on “Two Sided Story” with his magnificent harp playing.  More bluesy goodness ensues with “Back Down South”.

Atomic Road Kings is definitely a band for the blues enthusiasts to keep an eye on.  They are the real deal indeed.     


Saturday, February 16, 2019

#376 : Willie Farmer - The Man From the Hill

2019 – Big Legal Mess Records

Release Date : March 1,2019

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 16, 2019

Willie Farmer, an auto mechanic from Duck Hill, Mississippi, who’s owned his own shop for over forty years, scores huge with his splendid new blues album, The Man From the Hill. Recorded at Delta Sonic Sound in Memphis, Farmer enlists top-tier talent to back him, like Jimbo Mathus (Squirrel Nut Zippers), Will Sexton, Mark Edgar Stuart, and Al Gamble ( St.Paul and the Broken Bones). 

I love that rolling rhythm embedded into Farmer’s songs.  On Junior Kimbrough’s “Feel So Bad”, which leads the album off, the riff is unavoidably hypnotic and alluring.  He also rolls out a hearty cover of “Shake It”, originally from Jessie Mae Hemphill.   “I am the Lightning”, is also heavily soaked in the North Mississippi hill country waters.  It just pulls me right on in.  This track in particular also appears on an upcoming release called Blue Muse, a various artist collection from the Music Maker Relief Foundation.  

An avid churchgoer who still plays every Friday, Farmer also represents the sweet sounds of old-school gospel music with The Sensational Nightengales’ “At the Meeting”.    Farmer has a special way of bringing the listener right into the songs he sings.  When he sings “Daddy Was Right”, it’s an absolute heart-breaker.

This is definitely an album to keep an eye out for.  I can’t get enough of it.


Take a listen to the album on Apple Music.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.  Click on the link below to purchase this terrific album from the PhillyCheeze Amazon Store.

#375 : Danielle Nicole - Live at the Famous Mockingbird

Danielle Nicole     

Live @ The Famous Mockingbird
Marion, Iowa
Feb. 15, 2019

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 16,2019

The Famous Mockingbird was the place to be for two stellar sets of blues on Friday, February 15.  It was a sold-out show, and the excitement was surely in the air to see Danielle Nicole, who was a 2019 Grammy Nominee for Best Contemporary Blues Album.  Her band consisted of drummer Ralph Forrest, and guitarist Brandon Miller, who will be returning to Famous Mockingbird with his band in the near future. 

The show led off with the smooth and buttery “Hot Spell” from her latest album, Cry No More.  Her luscious vocals and thumping bass sounded absolutely fabulous.  Other amazing cuts from that album which landed in the first set were, “Lord I Can’t Keep From Crying”, “Pusher Man”, “Burning For You”, and “My Heart Just Remains”.  I loved her cover of Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You”, and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Spoonful”.  She soulfully covered Lukas Nelson’s “Find Yourself”, and closed the show with “Save Me” chockful of heavy riffs, and wonderful guitar shredding from Miller.

It was a splendid show indeed.

* Photos by Phillip Smith

Saturday, February 9, 2019

#374 : Paul Nelson - Over Under Through

2019 – Riverwide Records

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 10, 2019

Over Under Through the new album from Paul Nelson is a powerful one to say the least.  His songs, poignant and masterfully crafted, are delivered with finesse.  Drawing inspiration from artists like Amos Lee, Ray Lamontagne, and Lyle Lovett, Nelson carves out his own style, and leaves me wanting to hear more.   

Of the eleven tracks on the record, all are original with the exception of one.  That one exception is an amazing, retooled cover of Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line”.  He definitely made this one his own.   Nelson’s pulsing blues-laden spiritual, “Go Down Ezekiel” is terrific and swampy, with guitarist Kevin Barry (Rosanne Cash, Susan Tedeschi, Paula Cole) onboard.  The poetic dirge “Ghost in the Basement”, an absolute favorite, is beautifully written and sang with a heartfelt performance.  In “Silent Majority”, Nelson takes a Dylan-esque stance and boldly proclaims that silence strengthens authority, indifference paves the way, and ain’t nothing gonna ever change if we’re silent.  The song is loaded with a twangy goodness from Barry, and nicely accented with harmonizing backing vocals from Kristin Cifelli, Ellis Paul, and Nickie Fuller.    

Paul Nelson scores huge with this recording.  Terrific from beginning to end, Over Under Through is a captivating and rewarding listen.


For more information about the artist, visit this website..   https://www.paulnelsonofficial.com

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.
   As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

#373 : John Mayall - Nobody Told Me

2019 – Forty Below Records
Release Date : Feb. 22, 2019

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 2, 2019

The highly revered Godfather of British Blues, John Mayall is back, and this time he’s bringing a slew of A-list guitarists to the studio with him.  The list of guests on this album is comprised of Todd Rundgren, Little Steven Van Zandt (E Street Band), Alex Lifeson (Rush), Joe Bonamassa, Larry McCray and Carolyn Wonderland, all of whom are noted as personal favorites of Mayall.  Returning to the studio with the godfather is Greg Rzab on bass guitar and Jay Davenport on drums.  Billy Watts appears on rhythm guitar as well, along with Mayall’s horn section (who are also members of the house band for Conan O’Brian).  Produced by Eric Corne (founder of Forty Below Records), and recorded in the famed Foo Fighters’ Studio 606, which houses the legendary Sound City console, the album has a sweet rich sound, and a luxurious, polished ambience.

The album opens with a down-home blues number by Magic Sam, “What Have I Done Wrong”.  Mayall’s vocals are perfect for singing the blues, and Joe Bonamassa, needless to say, absolutely tears it up on guitar.  Bonamassa also appears on the cover of “Delta Hurricane”, the title track to Larry McCray’s 1993 album. The groove on this is delightful, with Mayall on keys, Bonamassa on guitar, and a stellar brass accompaniment.  McCray kills it on the Albert Collins song, “The Moon is Full”. I could listen to him play all day long.  His performance on Gary Moore’s “The Hurt Inside” is wonderful too.

It’s a rare treat to hear Rush’s Alex Lifeson play hard core blues. With Mayall bringing it home on harp and keys, Lifeson pours himself into his performance on “Evil and Here to Stay” a tune from the late, great Jeff Healey. The funky riff Rundgren opens Little Milton’s “That’s What Love Will Make You Do” with, brings me immediately into the song.  The horn section punches it up quite nicely while Rundgren keeps the endorphinic energy flowing freely.  Hearing Little Steven dole out some serious blues in “It’s So Tough”, brings a giant smile to my face.  It’s nothing short of an amazing listen.

I love the three tracks Carolyn Wonderland appears on.  She boldly takes on Bonamassa’s “Distant Lonesome Train”, and plays the hell out of it.  Her slide guitar is an absolute delight.  She also covers a couple of Mayall-penned songs.  With the timing of B.B. King, she instills a relaxed breath into title track “Nobody Told Me”, and puts the moxie in “Like it Like You Do”.

Nobody Told Me is a one of a kind record. The song choices Mayall makes for this are fantastic, and their execution is absolutely brilliant.          

Past PhillyCheeze reviews for John Mayall…
John Mayall - A Special Life :

John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers - Live in 1967

John Mayall - Find a Way to Care :

John Mayall - Talk About That :

For more information about the artist, visit this website.. https://www.johnmayall.com

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.   As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.