Saturday, February 29, 2020

#434 : Bai Kamara Jr. & The Voodoo Sniffers - Salone


2020 – Moosicus Records

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 29, 2020

It didn’t take but one listen to Salone, the latest release from Bai Kamara Jr., to turn me into an instant fan.  This was my first exposure to Kamara and his music, and to put it bluntly, his songs have swept me off my feet.  Born the son of a former Sierra Leonne ambassador, Kamara who grew up in the UK and moved to Brussels where he has lived for over twenty-five years.  For Salone, his sixth album, he embraces his African heritage with fifteen fantastic all-original, self-produced songs rooted in blues, jazz, and funk. 

Kamara, with his six-string acoustic guitar, reminds me a lot of the current delta blues players.  His songs are intriguing and poignant.  He begins with “Can’t Wait Here Too Long”.  The song is highly infectious.  Kamara’s vocals are suave as he sings of empowerment on “Lady Boss”, a cool and funky blues track.  One of Kamara’s songs which have burrowed deep into my brain is “Black Widow”.  Spider-like percussive sounds are at the forefront of this deep-blues track which I utterly adore.  “Don’t Worry About Me” is an absolutely stunning song of overcoming hardships.  It reminds me a lot of the music of another favorite, Sixto Diaz Rodriguez.

Salone is a downright fascinating piece of work which deserves to be heard, and Bai Kamara Jr., with his brilliant songs, has definitely won me over.       



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For more information about the artist, visit this website: https://baikamara.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.













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Saturday, February 22, 2020

#433 : Ben Rice & RB Stone - Out of the Box




2020 – Middle Mountain Music
Release Date : March 6, 2020

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 22, 2020


Out of the Box, a cigar box guitar project by Ben Rice and RB Stone caught my attention in a magnificent way.  Rice and Stone have written eleven original blues tracks which they perform using an assortment of cigar box guitars comprised of 6 and 4 string Washboards, Swampeast Cigar Box, and a Lobo Cigar Box.  Backing Rice and Stone on this self-produced project is drummer Dave Melyan, bassist Joseph Barton and Jimi Bott on tambourine.  Bott, the award-winning blues drummer who has played with the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and The Proven Ones, also recorded and mixed the record.

The guys bust out in full rockabilly style on “Hot Rod Mama”, both tearing it up on 6-string Washboards.  The slide sounds terrific, and their vocals are dynamic.  Melvan’s back-beat and Rice’s mesmerizing riff instills a relaxed North Mississippi vibe to “Easy Rollin’ Down the Road”.   Stone breaks out his harmonica on the delightfully cool retro track “Hoodoo Workin’ Overtime”.  There’s a bit of a Howlin’ Wolf essence about this one that I adore.  “Swamp East Boogie” puts a smile on my face with every listen as Stone lets loose on his SwampEast CBG.  The Southeast Missouri area they sing about is very familiar to me.   “Bad Blood on Mean Whiskey” has a menacing ambiance and a badass attitude that is irresistible.      

The grand finale of this splendid album is a song called “Lobo Jam”.  This four and a half minute instrumental jam consists of an edgy driving rhythm and lots of smoking slide guitar.  I absolutely love it.  This album is a must for blues and cigar box guitar fans.      

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For more information about these artists, visit their websites:  https://rbstone.com and https://www.benricelive.com/

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 15, 2020

#432 : Lauren Anderson - Won't Stay Down



2019 – Lauren Anderson Music

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 15, 2020


Won’t Stay Down, the latest release from Lauren Anderson is a powerful five-track, all-original EP, which wonderfully showcases her soulful vocals and gifted song-writing chops.  Anderson’s genre-bending blueprint here is a sweet blend of country, soul, rock, and blues.  Providing the instrumentation behind her knock-out voice, is an amazing group of musicians consisting of guitarist Jimi Greene, bassist Hutch, drummer John Rodrigue, and William Adkins on keys.

Anderson beautifully sings breakup song, “Too Little, Too Late” with a delicate finesse.  Dripping with emotion, the song features a wonderful organ accompaniment from Adkins.  It’s such a lovely song.  Hutch and Rodrigue create a cool infectious groove to run through the center of “Won’t Stay Down”.  It takes a hold of me fast.  Emmanuel Echem and Kiran Gupta add a smooth extra layer to “Cake”, a funky jazz number with an Amy Winehouse vibe.  This one is my absolute favorite.  Anderson continues to captivate me with “Wild and Free”.  With Greene ripping it up on guitar and Adkins hammering the keys, it’s one hell of a rockin’ jam to close this record out with.  

Anderson definitely packs a lot of punch into this recording.  Won’t Stay Down is definitely a ‘keeper’.


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For more information about the artist, visit this website: https://www.laurenandersonmusic.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 8, 2020

#431 : Sister Lucille - Alive



2019 – Endless Blues Records
By Phillip Smith; Feb. 8, 2020

Hot and seductive vocals from Kim Dill coupled with gobs of dynamic guitar from her husband Jamie Holdren fuel Alive, the debut album from Springfield, Missouri’s Sister Lucille.  They sound great together as their voices blend in southern-style harmony.   The other half of the band is comprised of a fantastic rhythm section featuring drummer Kevin Lyons, and bassist Eric Guinn.  Alive, produced by Holdren, and mixed by Grammy Award winner Jim Scott who produced Tedeschi TrucksRevelator album, makes for one hell of a bluesy listen.   

Holdren pours out a cool funky groove on “Won’t Give It” as the soulful keys from Chris Stephenson on a Hammond B, join with attacks of brass from saxophonist Peter Climie, trumpeter Jared Dover , and trombonist Andrew Earle.  It sounds great.  I love the swampy, delta blues style slide Holdren dishes out on “See My Baby”.  For a nice big helping of blues at its authentic best, “Respect Your Woman” features Eric Hughes, a Memphis blues artist who I hold high regard for, making a guest appearance on harmonica.  It’s always a delight to hear him play.  

I adore the Stax vibe hanging out in “Wanna Love You”.   Dill sings this infectious tune with sexy persuasion as Holdren absolutely rips it up on guitar.  The Stax vibe keeps trucking on as they cover “99 Pounds”, a song written by Don Bryant, and originally recorded by his wife Ann Peebles.  This one is a big-time favorite indeed and it’s songs like this which I fall head over heels for.  Etta James’ “W.O.M.A.N”, the other cover song on this record is a splendid showcase for Dill as she pours everything into her performance of this wonderful classic. 

Sister Lucille serves up a marvelous mix of blues, rock, and soul with Alive.  I certainly hope we hear more from them in the near future. 
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For more information about the artist, visit this website: www.sisterlucilleband.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 1, 2020

#430 : Griff Hamlin and the Single Barrel Blues Band - I'll Drink to That



2019 – Griff Hamlin

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 1, 2020

I’ll Drink to That, the debut album from Griff Hamlin and the Single Barrel Blues Band is absolutely terrific.  Hamlin, known to many through his Blues Guitar Unleashed instructional website, has built an outstanding band to back him on this new release.  A smokin’ guitar and smooth vocals puts him front and center with a remarkable rhythm section comprised of keyboardist Ty Bailie, bassist Mark Smith, and drummer Chris Atchley.  The Single Barrel Blues Band also contains a splendid horn section made up of Jonathan Bradley on trumpet, Eric Letta on alto/tenor sax, Kevin Hicks on trombone, and Laura Hamlin on baritone sax.  This release is composed of ten tremendous blues tracks which are sure to keep the record on heavy-rotation.

I love the opener “Almost Level with the Ground”.  It has an instant familiarity and reminds me of what I admired about the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Hamlin’s vocals are fearless, and his guitar is flawless.  Smith and Atchley steer the bus with astonishing precision as the backing horns and keys give the song body and soul.  “Don’t Lie”, another go-to song for me, is another fine example of Hamlin’s exquisite mastery of the blues.  This song fabulously highlights his sensational shredding skills.      

“Someone” is slow and beautifully captivating.  Bailie plays this one with a soulful finesse and the horns effortlessly blend right in, making it a pure joy to listen to.  I yearn for another trip to the ‘Big Easy’ when I hear “Louisiana Holiday”.  It’s funky, fun, and best served with an ice-cold Abita beer.  Hamlin’s expertise when it comes to writing authentic blues songs, is rightfully exhibited on “Bourbon and a Pistol”.  It’s a very cool song to close the album with.

Griff Hamlin and the Single Barrel Blues Band is a band on top of their game.  I really appreciate what they are doing with the Blues, and immensely enjoyed this album.

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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.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


Saturday, January 25, 2020

#429 : Tas Cru - Drive On



2020 – Subcat Records

By Phillip Smith; Jan. 25, 2020

Tas Cru (Rick Bates) has been on my radar since reviewing his Simmered & Stewed album in 2017.  Since then, I’ve seen him perform some kick-ass blues live at the Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis and the Prairie Dog Blues Festival in Wisconsin.  Drive On, his latest album is another superb recording of music rooted in the blues.  With backing vocals from Mary Ann Casale, Tas keeps front-and-center on lead vocals, guitars, and harmonica.  Adding a lush new sound to his music is the new guy Saxophonist Anthony Terry.  The band also includes Gabe Stillman on slide guitar, organist Anthony Geraci, bassist Bob Purdy and drummer Andy Hearn.  Special guests include drummers Sonny Rock and Cathy Lamanna, and Colin “Big Yellow Dog” Beatty on bass.       

Tas kicks this one off with “That Lovin’ Thang”.  Delivered with a cool, swinging groove and a hot keyboard lesson from Geraci, this barn-burner is an absolute gem.  Stillman loads “Money Talks”, up with a nice juicy dose of slide guitar.  Title-track “Drive On” is so sweet and infectious, it’s certainly among my favorites.  Sonny Rock, who has toured with Tas quite a bit over the past few years, makes a guest appearance on “Save Me”, a heady tune with a Doors-meets-Dire Straits atmosphere.   On a haunting and ominous note, the album concludes with “Devil in Your Heart”, an acoustically-performed duet with Mary Ann Casale.  I love the fact that this is stripped-down, where we can zero in on the vocal performance.  They sound great together. 

Whether live or on record, Tas is one of my favorites.  His songs are almost always originals, and his writing stands out from the herd,  Drive On is indeed another terrific album. 


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Mary Ann Casale , Tas Cru @ Prairie Dog Blues Festival
 Prairie du Chien, WI
 July 26, 2019
* Photo by Phillip Smith


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, January 18, 2020

#428 : Thorbjørn Risager - Come On In




2020 – Ruf Records 

By Phillip Smith; Jan.18, 2020

I’ve been a big fan of Thorbjørn Risager since reviewing his Too Many Roads album in 2014.  This eight-piece band from Denmark has been playing together for seventeen years, and continually raise the mark with every release.  Rooted in blues, and infused with elements of jazz, swing, gospel, and rock, Risager’s music is some of the best recorded today.  Their new album Come On In is absolutely stunning.  Backing Risager while he takes lead on guitar and vocals, is Emil Balsgaard on piano/keys, Joachim Svensmark on guitar, Kasper Wagner on assorted saxophones, Hans Nybo on tenor sax, Peter W. Kehl on trumpet/flugelhorn/trombone/sousaphone, Søren Bøjgaard on bass/moog/synthesizer, and Martin Seidelin on drums/percussion. 

Title track “Come on In” rolls out with a fetching pulse from Seidelin while Risager lures me in with his cool-as-hell voice and etheric guitar licks.  I love the slide on “Last Train”.  This fabulous, hard-driving blues tune is marvelously infectious.  “Two Lovers” is beautifully written and performed.  Risager constructs a dreamy and hypnotic atmosphere in “On and On”.   There’s a deep soulful energy about this one, that draws me right in.  With the dials set at eleven, they tackle “Love So Fine” with searing guitar, pounding keys, and a backline of brass.  This powerful jam is a great one to rock out to. 

Thørbjorn Risager and the Black Tornado have unquestionably won me over yet again with Come On In.  It is such a splendid album to usher in the new year.           

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For more information about the artist, visit this website https://risager.info     




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, January 11, 2020

#427 : Annika Chambers - Kiss My Sass



2019 – Vizztone  
By Phillip Smith; Jan. 11, 2020

Kiss My Sass, the third studio album from Houston blues artist Annika Chambers, is a dynamo of hot soulful blues.  Chambers, who was deservedly awarded the 2019 Blues Music Award for Soul Blues Female Artist of the Year, has been nominated again for 2020.  She certainly woos me over with her astonishing beautiful voice.      

Immediately, I’m lured into the record with “Let That Sass Out”, a tune written by R.B. Stone.  Powerful vocals from Chambers is topped with a buttery rhythm from drummer Greg Brown Jr., and bassist Larry Fulcher.  Searing guitar licks from The Mighty Orq seals the deal.  Ruthie Foster makes a guest appearance on “What’s Your Thing”, with The Mighty Orq on pedal steel.  This one is an absolutely fabulous cocktail of deep blues and heavy soul.  I downright love her cover of the Etta James’ classic “In the Basement”.  This party song puts such a big smile on my face with every listen.  Chambers enlists her husband, the great Paul DesLauriers with acoustic guitar in hand, to join in a spirited duet on “I Feel the Same”.  They sound wonderful together.  DesLauriers douses his guitar with gobs of delightful slide while the subtle booming thunder from percussionist Sam Harrison injects an unmistakable heaviness to the song.   

Kiss My Sass truly is an album I’ve enjoyed from beginning to end.  It’s a terrific listen.      
   
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For more information about the artist, visit this website..  https://www.annikachambers.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, January 5, 2020

#426 : Kevin Burt Live at Checkers Tavern



Kevin Burt Live at Checkers Tavern
Cedar Rapids, IA


January 5, 2020
By Phillip Smith

It’s been around twenty years since I first witnessed Kevin Burt’s early appearances at Checkers Tavern.  He’s always been engaging, but this show seemed more special, as Kevin reminisced about playing this venue in his early days as a solo performer. After kicking his show off with “Wake Up Baby”, an original off his Heartland and Soul album, he fabulously played through a mix of covers and original songs.  Armed with guitar and harmonica, he covered selections such as Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”, Junior Wells’ “Messing with the Kid”, Richie Havens’ “Freedom”, Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now”, and Buddy Guy’s “Feels Like Rain”.  He also played several of my favorite originals, such as “Your Smile”, and “Day Day”.  His performance was soulful and heartfelt, and his voice, as always, superb.  I enjoyed this one immensely. 


* photo by Phillip Smith

Saturday, January 4, 2020

#425 : Joanna Connor - Rise



2019 – M.C. Records
By Phillip Smith; Jan. 4, 2020

For over thirty-five years, Joanna Connor has been wooing blues fanatics in the Windy City.  Rise represents her thirteenth album, and third for M.C. Records.  After spotlighting her 2016 release Six String Stories on my blog and being gobsmacked while watching her perform at the 2017 Czech Village Blues festival in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, it’s a great pleasure to hear new music from this fabulous musician.  Connor, on guitars and vocals, is backed by bassist Joewaun Jay Red Scott, drummers Cameron Lewis and Tyrone “TY Drums” Mitchell, Delby Littlejohn on keys and Ryan Shea on sax.

Joined by Keithen Banks on vocals and rapper Alphonso Buggz Dinero, Connor starts the record off with a delightful dose of funk-filled R&B in “Flip”.  This is where all the fun begins.  Then, with guitar in hand, Mike Zito steps in on “Bad Hand”.  This uplifting track is accented quite nicely with a beautiful keyboard performance from Littlejohn.  Lewis tears it up on the jazz instrumental “Joanna in A”.  This is one hip track that feeds the spirit.  Another great instrumental is the cover of Sly Stone’s “If You Want Me to Stay”.  I dig it when Scott pours the funk on the bass.  Listening to Connor play “My Irish Father” is an absolutely astonishing experience.  She truly is a master.  

Connor’s blend of funk and blues goes right for the jugular in “Mutha” with fierce, mind-blowing guitar licks and vocal backing from Dinero.  The album comes to a climatic end with “Dear America”, a heavy Led Zeppelin-based blend of “When the Levee Breaks” topped with Dinero’s spoken-word state-of-the-world message.

Rise elevates Joanna Connor to a brand-new level.  I highly recommend this one.   

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

PhillyCheeze’s Review of Joanna Connor’s Six String Stories : https://phillycheezeblues.blogspot.com/2017/08/joanna-connor-six-string-stories.html

PhillyCheeze’s Photo coverage of 2017 Czech Village Blues festival, featuring headliner Joanna Connor : https://phillycheezeblues.blogspot.com/2017/08/czech-village-blues-festival-aug-12-2017.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.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.