Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mick Kolassa And Friends ~~ Double Standards

I’ve always enjoyed albums in which one artist explores music with several other artists in order to see what direction that collaboration takes. In my collection are albums of duets featuring Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet, among others, and now I’m delighted to add the latest from Mick Kolassa who has teamed up with different friends on a new album of duets, Double Standards.
You might remember that on Kolassa’s previous album, You Can’t Do That, featured a team up with Mark Telesca, turning Beatles classics into acoustic blues numbers. He’s shown that he has no problem taking chances with his music and he’s gathered some very talented musicians and singers to make this a very enjoyable album.  
Double Standards is produced by longtime collaborator and all-around guitar wizard Jeff Jensen, who also plays guitar and even adds vocals to one song. Vocalists include Sugaray Rayford, Heather Crosse, Victor Wainwright, Annika Chambers, Tas Cru, Tullie Brae, Eric Hughes, Erica Brown, Patti Parks, David Dunavent, and Gracie Curran.
Aside from Kolassa and Jensen on guitar, musicians include Bill Ruffino on bass; James Cunningham on drums; Chris Stephenson on organ; Eric Hughes adds his harmonica to three songs; Jeremy Powell plays piano on two tracks, Alice Hasan on violin; and Colin John and David Dunavent play guitar on one track each.   
The album starts off with a fun Willie Dixon number, 600 Pounds Of Heavenly Joy, which features Sugaray Rayford with Kolassa. The two have great gruff voices and this is a lot of fun to listen to and a great invitation to what must surely be an interesting journey. Jensen’s guitar adds a sweet element to the song.
A second Willie Dixon classic, I Just Want To Make Love To You gives Kolassa a chance to team up with Heather Crosse. Crosse is a strong vocalist, and the way her voice has an edgy low growl makes this song one that catches you right away and won’t let go. Definitely going to be receiving airplay on Time For The Blues, and I suspect many other shows! I don’t have any of Crosse’s other recordings, but you better believe I’m ordering the others right now. Meow…
Victor Wainwright joins Kolassa for a great version of It’s Tight Like That. Originally written and performed by Hudson Whittaker, better known as Tampa Red, this is one of those great songs that features Red’s fun wordplay. This is a great example of Hokum Blues, and I, for one, hope that we will hear more of this style. Wainwright, who has just announced he’s joining the Ruf Records family, is one of the best keyboardists alive, and his vocals rock. Eric Hughes blows a great harp on the number.
One of the most alluring and sensual songs ever recorded, Fever, showcases Annika Chambers’ great voice. This jazzy number is deeply rooted in the blues, and Stephenson’s organ adds a deeper dimension to the song. This is a great late night song to unwind to after a long day, or to hold that certain someone a little closer for an even longer night…
Tas Cru steps up to the microphone for the next song, the powerful Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out. Hasan’s violin gives the song a sweet melancholy introduction before Kolassa’s vocals come in. This version of the song pulls out all the stops and Kolassa and Cru wring every drop of emotion out of the lyrics.
BB King’s Rock Me Baby features a great collaboration between Kolassa and Tullie Brae. Stephenson’s keyboards set up the song and while Kolassa’s vocals are good, Brae takes things higher. This is another song that will be appearing on a number of shows. It’s just plain fun and while it doesn’t try to capture King’s signature guitar sound, it takes on its own soul and remains very true to the spirit of the original.
The iconic Key To The Highway has been covered by just about every blues artist over the years. Now we can add Kolassa and Eric Hughes to that list. Hughes has already added his sweet harp to a couple of previous numbers, and here he brings both his harp and vocals to the song. It’s a good interpretation of a classic tune.
One more Willie Dixon number, Spoonful, features Kolassa and Erica Brown. They turn the song jazzy with Stephenson’s keys taking the lead. Kolassa has chosen his songs wisely, mixing some of the better known works by Dixon and Tampa Red with others that are great, but perhaps not as well known. Listen for Jensen’s guitar break and they way he trades off with Stephenson. Very nice interpretation.
Patti Parks joins Kolassa on a great cover of Hudson Whittaker’s It Hurts Me Too. This is one of Tampa Red’s most covered songs and one that resonates deeply with most audiences. It’s one of those songs where the singer just bares his or her heart and pours out the emotion. A truly wonderful gem of a song, and a great interpretation.
Early In The Morning features David Dunavent on guitar and vocals. This is a rocking blues number that will be showing up on my show, and I suspect many others as well. For those who like their blues with a bit of an edge, this is the one for you!
Another number from Hudson Whittaker, aka Tampa Red, Don’t You Lie To Me (Evil), brings Gracie Curran and Kolassa together. More great keys work from Stephenson overlaid with some funky guitar and Curran’s vocals are sweet and soulful at the same time.
Jensen teams up with his old friend on their version of Outside Woman Blues. Whenever they team up there are bound to be a few surprises, in this case a more rocking number than most of the previous tracks. Jensen is one of those guitar slingers who always turns in a great performance, and once you hear him, you’re always looking for his next release.
All of the previous vocalists join Kolassa on a fun, seven-minute version of Ain’t Nobody’s Business to close out the album. Everyone seems to be having a great time and it sounds like the recording of the album was a great party and a wonderful excuse for friends to get together. Wish I could have been a fly on the wall for this one!
Mick Kolassa may not be a household name, but within the blues world he is a well respected musician. He keeps that old school sound alive and isn’t shy about sharing the spotlight with his friends and colleagues. Since discovering his talents a few albums back, I have become a big fan of his work, and Double Standards will have a welcome place in my collection.

Kolassa doesn’t tour much, staying in the Mississippi to Memphis areas for the most part, but if he does come anywhere near you, make sure to catch the performance. To find this Swing Suit Release, be sure to check out his website http://www.mimsmick.com/ and if you like what you hear, make sure to give his other releases a listen.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Bush League ~~ James RiVAh

Around here, the title of The Bush League’s latest album, James RiVAh, makes perfect sense. The city of Richmond is built along the James River, we refer to our fair city as RVA as in “Richmond, VA,” and most people pronounce the word “river” as “riv-AH” like some sort of non-adenoidal Thurston Howell the Third.
If you are not familiar with The Bush League, they are one of the hardest working bands in the Central Virginia area, a semi-finalist at the 2012 and 2017 IBC, and one of those groups that have all the talent and drive to make a deep mark on the world of the blues.  
The Bush League is a tight four-man group and consists of vocalist JohnJason "JohnJay" Cecil, bassist Royce Folks, guitarist Brad Moss and drummer Wynton Davis. For this album, their third, they have brought in some great guest players including Trenton Ayers of the Cedric Burnside Project, Jeremy Powell from Southern Avenue on trumpet and keyboards, Suavo Jones from the Ghost Town Blues Band on trombone, Paul Biasca on sax, and Vince Johnson on harp.
Of the twelve songs on the album, ten were group written by TBL and they’ve chosen one from Fred McDowell and Muddy Waters to cover. They blend together well and help to create a sweet overall mood.
The album starts off with River's Edge, an appropriate title and a funky blues groove that showcases Cecil’s powerful vocals. This one would be right at home with those that like their blues with an edge so sharp it can cut through just about anything in its way…
The Mississippi Fred McDowell classic, Kokomo Me Baby, follows. Trenton Ayers from the Cedric Burnside Project provides the smoking lead guitar and this updated cover may take a few liberties with a song made famous by the man who said, “I do not play no rock and roll,” but the spirit of the song remains.    
The next song, Say Yes, slows thins down beautifully and Cecil’s delivery of this sweet ballad features some great horn work from Powell, Jones, and Biasca. Sometimes when watching Cecil work a room, it’s easy to pigeonhole him as a blue-collar performer and one might forget that he possesses a powerful soulful voice that can wring so much emotion from a line. This is a lovely number and adds a deeper dimension to The Bush League.
TBL follows up with Show You Off, with Powell adding his keyboards to the mix. This is more of the soulful funky blues that started off the album and it has a groove that’s deep and tempting for even the most reluctant audience member to get up and boogie on that dance floor. If you ever get the chance to catch these guys live, you won’t be disappointed. I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the stage with them on a few occasions and they work a crowd like nobody’s business and you can’t help but have a great time when The Bush League is playing.   
Muddy Waters’ Catfish Blues follows with its darker, almost ominous opening. Moss’ guitar cuts through the opening and Cecil’s voice punches its way through. It’s a very cool interpretation that allows the band to show some of its depth as no guests are present on this one. A great showcase.  
After that is Kick Up Yo Heels, which features Jones on trombone as well as Ari Morris on synthesizer. The song is an up-tempo dance number that features a great turn from Davis on drums.
Long Gone follows that with some old school pleading blues. It’s pure emotion from a man who knows he’s saying goodbye. Cecil’s vocals are processed some and it adds a different feel to the track. The next song, Hearse, has Ayers returning to play lead guitar and as you can imagine from the title, it’s a very dark song and pairs beautifully with the previous track. I’ll be curious to see if they marry the two songs the next time I see them play live. 
Tuxedo Blues follows with Vince Johnson playing harp, and Jones, Powell, and Biasca adding their tight horns to the mix. It’s a sweet throwback song and Johnson’s harp takes the group into a slightly different direction. There’s a plaintive sadness in his playing that emphasizes the pain in the lyrics. Really like this song a lot.   
TBL gets funky on Moonshine which adds Jeremy Powell’s delicious honkytonk keyboards and the result is a tight dance number that also has some cool lyrics. I like this song a lot and can’t wait to see what the guys do with it live.    
Not many things are more sobering than a Cold Shower, and here the guys use this one as a dark reminder of reality. Folks and Davis create a deep pocket and Cecil punches his vocals like he’s fighting for his life. Moss’ guitar attacks and when he drops out, the silence is almost deafening.
The album closes with the raucous What's Wrong With You, which not only features Powell’s keyboards, but the entire band and most of the people who were recording the album adding stomps, handclaps, and hollers to the number. It’s a great way to bring this fine album to an end, and still leave you wanting more.

The Bush League is one of those groups that always seems to have its head down and working. They aren’t flashy, but they are steady, dependable, and make some of the best music I’ve heard on a continuous basis. In Central Virginia, they are almost always in demand as an opening act when a well-known group comes to town, and trust me, in front of an audience there are precious few that do it any better.
James RiVAh is their fifth release, although only the second they've recorded in the studio, and I think it’s some of the best work they’ve ever done. While they continue to set the bar higher and higher for performance, they’ve just raised it for an album as well. There are several good groups that I am fortunate to see on a regular basis, and there are a smaller group that I fully believe are only an eyelash away from making it to the next level and going national, and believe me when I tell you that The Bush League is in that elite company.
Take a couple of minutes and check them out at their website: http://thebushleague.com/, where you can find out more information about getting this great release and learning more about their appearances throughout the south, and hopefully soon, the rest of the country.  

   

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Straw Family ~~ Family Matters

I’ve learned never to anticipate what you might hear from a new group. If it’s someone you’ve been following for years, okay, you might be able to figure out what they might do next. Someone new? Forget it.
When one of my publicist friends sent me an e-copy of The Straw Family and as I read up on them I discovered they were from Denmark, a country noted for several musical traditions ranging from folk and classical all the way up to jazz and even metal. After all Lars Ulrich, the drummer for Metallica, hails from Denmark.
Even though I thought I was prepared for whatever I might hear from The Straw Family on their new album, Family Matters, I can truly say that I did not expect to hear some sweet country pop with some of the tightest harmonies I’ve heard for a long time. The Straw Family consists of family members Sally, Carsten, Henriette and Denise Fabricius and they are backed by a solid rhythm group made up of bassist Helge Solberg, drummer Carsten Milner, and guitarist Frederik Nordvang.
I don’t have further information regarding songwriters or any guest musicians, but will update if I find something out.
There is a lovely lilting nature to most of the songs on the album. The two sisters plus mom Henriette all have beautiful voices and they weave together to form a beautiful tapestry. I wish I could tell you who sings lead on which song, perhaps I can find out and pass that on as well.
The Straw Family would have been right at home in the folk-rock era that fused primarily Anglo-Celtic beats with modern lyrics and melodies. It’s a genre that unfortunately no longer commands the airwaves as it once did. That does not make the music any less enjoyable, and this album is one that anyone who enjoys sweet ballads and familial harmonies will enjoy.
The album starts off with Alive, a nice tight little rocker that slides easily into the more country flavored 1965. 1965 makes good use of what sounds like a lap steel guitar, but without verification I can’t be sure.
Speaking of guitars, the next song, Hot Sunny Day, has a wicked guitar intro and a couple of nice leads. The song itself takes on a slightly darker tone than most on the album. The follow up song, It’s Cold Outside, is a lovely melancholy ballad and I like the way they pair these two songs together to create an interesting juxtaposition.
Then to show the band has a funky side, they drop Bang Bang before performing two gorgeous ballads, Spider Making New Web and I Hope.
After that is Family And Friends, a song that is obviously very important to the group. I might say that it is the driving force of their personal and artistic philosophy.
The last two songs bring the album to a close, first a nice rocking number, To A Higher Place, which more or less brings them back to the style that started the album, and finally Dreaming, with its ethereal folk-style guitar and haunting vocals that truly showcase their music at its finest.
The Straw Family is just starting to make inroads on the airwaves in Europe and the UK, and I’m not sure if they have had much if any play in the USA. However, great music is not defined by airplay, and I hope that by spreading the word, they can begin to find success here.

To find out more about the group, be sure to check out their website: http://www.straw.de/. You’ll be glad you did. 
(For our Danish speaking readers, I have attempted to translate the page through the help of Google Translate. If I have said anything egregious, please be sure to let me know so I may correct it.)
Jeg har lært aldrig at foregribe hvad du måske hører fra en ny gruppe. Hvis det er nogen du har fulgt i årevis, okay, kan du måske finde ud af, hvad de måske gør næste. Nogen ny? Glem det.
Da en af mine publicist-venner sendte mig en e-kopi af The Straw Family, og da jeg læste op på dem, opdagede jeg, at de var fra Danmark, et land kendt for flere musikalske traditioner lige fra folkemusik og klassisk hele vejen op til jazz og endda metal. Efter alt kommer Lars Ulrich, trommeslager for Metallica, fra Danmark.
Selv om jeg troede, at jeg var forberedt på det, jeg måske ville høre fra The Straw Family på deres nye album, Family Matters, kan jeg virkelig sige, at jeg ikke havde forventet at høre noget sødt pop med nogle af de strengeste harmonier, jeg har hørt for lang tid. Straw Family består af familiemedlemmer Sally, Carsten, Henriette og Denise Fabricius, og de er støttet af en solid rytmegruppe bestående af bassist Helge Solberg, trommeslager Carsten Milner og guitarist Frederik Nordvang.
Jeg har ikke yderligere oplysninger om sangskrivere eller gæstemusikere, men vil opdatere, hvis jeg finder noget ud.
Der er en dejlig lilting natur til de fleste sange på albummet. De to søstre plus mor Henriette har alle smukke stemmer og de væver sammen for at danne et smukt tæppe. Jeg ville ønske jeg kunne fortælle dig, hvem der synger bly på hvilken sang, måske kan jeg også finde ud af det og give det videre.
Stråfamilien ville have været rigtig hjemme i folkestenens æra, der primært smeltede anglo-keltiske beats med moderne tekster og melodier. Det er en genre, der desværre ikke længere kommandoerer luftbølgerne, som det engang gjorde. Det gør ikke musikken noget mindre fornøjelig, og dette album er et, som alle, der nyder sød ballader og familiære harmonier, vil nyde.
Albumet starter med Alive, en dejlig stram lille rocker, der glider let ind i det mere landsmagede 1965. 1965 gør god brug af det, der ligner en lap steel guitar, men uden verifikation kan jeg ikke være sikker.
Taler om guitarer, den næste sang, Hot Sunny Day, har en ond guitar intro og et par gode leads. Sangen selv tager en lidt mørkere tone end de fleste på albummet. Opfølgningssangen, Det er kold udenfor, er en dejlig melankoli ballad, og jeg kan godt lide den måde, de parrer disse to sange sammen for at skabe en interessant sidestilling.
Så for at vise bandet har en funky side, slipper de Bang Bang, før de udfører to smukke ballader, Spider Making New Web, og jeg håber.
Herefter er Family And Friends, en sang, der selvfølgelig er meget vigtig for gruppen. Jeg kan måske sige, at det er drivkraften i deres personlige og kunstneriske filosofi.
De sidste to sange bringer albummet til et luk, først et dejligt rockingnummer, Til et højere sted, som mere eller mindre bringer dem tilbage til den stil, der startede albummet, og endelig Dreaming med sin æteriske folkestil guitar og haunting vokaler, der virkelig udstiller deres musik på sit bedste.
Straw Family er lige begyndt at sætte ind på luftbølgerne i Europa og Storbritannien, og jeg er ikke sikker på, om de har haft meget, hvis nogen spiller i USA. Men stor musik er ikke defineret af airplay, og jeg håber, at ved at sprede ordet, kan de begynde at finde succes her.
For at finde ud af mere om gruppen, skal du sørge for at tjekke deres hjemmeside: http://www.straw.de/. Du vil være glad for at du gjorde det.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Tinsley Ellis ~~ Winning Hand

I’m not so sure I would want to play poker with Tinsley Ellis. Why, do you ask? Ellis is unpredictable, he rarely does what you expect him to do, and he always has an ace up his sleeve somewhere. That ace tends to be his amazing ability with a guitar, and his talents are all over his recent return to Alligator release, Winning Hand.
Ellis is one of those seemingly tireless performers who is constantly on the road. In fact, I saw him live long before I owned any of his albums, and have made more than a couple of pilgrimages to catch him live as that is where he truly shines. As good as his albums are, and make no mistake – they are genuinely excellent works, they can’t seem to capture the intensity of one of his live performances.
Fortunately for his fans, he is back on the road in support of Winning Hand, and he’ll be bringing his performance to Richmond’s Capital Ale House Downtown on Tuesday, January 16 at 8:00 pm. If you have never seen him live, make sure you get your tickets early to see just what he can do.
For this album, his first on Alligator in several years, Ellis has assembled a tight group of musicians that aside from Ellis playing guitars and handling the vocals, includes Kevin McKendree on organs and pianos as well as a baritone guitar on one song; Steve Mackey on bass’ and Lynn Williams on drums and percussion.
Ellis wrote all but one of the songs on Winning Hand, the lone exception being Dixie Lullaby which was written by Leon Russell and Chris Stainton. Guitar fans can check the song list as well to see which one of his many guitars Ellis played on each song.
The album starts out with a tight groove on Sound Of A Broken Man. It’s a solid song with good vocals and occasional guitar pyrotechnics. Williams’ drums tie everything together and the song gets the album off to a good start. Look for this one to get some airplay.
Ellis and company keep the beat going with the follow up song, Nothing But Fine. Williams does a good job of setting up the song before the rest of the band jumps on board. When Ellis finally takes a break he delivers a strong southern roots rock lead. Good song.
They slow things down of the next song, Gamblin’ Man, and the effect is very strong. Ellis increases the intensity in his vocals and McKendree does some nice work on both piano and organ. This song is pure blues and is one of those songs that lingers for a long time after you hear it.
He gets a little funkier on I Got Mine upping Mackey’s bass and McKendree plays some STAX sounding keyboards to set up Ellis soaring guitar runs and his soulful voice. Kiss This World starts off with a nice blend of percussion and guitar. The guitar runs are exciting and keeps the song moving.
The next song, Autumn Run, starts off gently and shows a different, softer style for Ellis. I appreciate his vulnerability on the song and can’t wait to see how he approaches this when he’s in front of an audience.
Ellis and company then turn the boogie dial up to 11 for Satisfied. This is one of the best rocking numbers to come down the roadhouse path in a long time. McKendree’s keys really do a number on this song and Ellis’ gravelly vocals make this song rock. Oh yeah, count on hearing this one very soon on Time For The Blues!
He steps back a couple of notches for Don’t Turn Off The Light, taking a slower more intense approach to the song. This is a darker blues tune that exposes Ellis’ raw emotion. It’s a beautiful, thoughtful song that gets deep into your soul and stays there for a while. Love this one a lot.
The one song on the album not written by Ellis is Dixie Lullaby by Leon Russell and Chris Stainton. It’s a sweet homage to the South and works perfectly with Ellis who is a true son of the South and well steeped in our musical traditions. Love this number and I’m so glad he chose to cover it.
The almost nine-minute Saving Grace closes out the album. It’s a great song full of fire and intensity and a strong way to end the album. The length may keep airplay down, and that’s a shame. Just listening to Ellis rain down the blues in a stripped-down manner moves this album’s overall effect up several notches. I can’t wait to see him take his time with this song live and explore all of its musical nuances.
Tinsley Ellis is an amazing musician and performer and he’s put together an impressive album to mark his return to Alligator and to kick off the new year. Winning Hand fires on all cylinders and is the kind of album that should appeal to most electric blues lovers.

If you know his music, this is welcome news for you, and if you happen to be new to Ellis’ music, take this fool’s advice and check out his work pronto. You can find out more about this record as well as his previous releases and his touring schedule at http://www.tinsleyellis.com/ and if you happen to live near the Richmond Virginia area, I’ll expect to see you at the January 16th show at the Capital Ale House Downtown!  

Monday, January 1, 2018

Bobby BlackHat Walters And Friends Ring In The New Year At Williamsburg’s Kimball Theatre

If there is a better way to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of a new one than with good friends, great music, and the warmth of laughter, I don’t want to know about it. Last night, Tidewater Bluesman extraordinaire Bobby “BlackHat” Walters put on his red jacket, donned his signature black chapeau, and wowed a crowd of 400-plus revelers like he was born to do it.
To be sure, Walters had a lot of help entertaining this very enthusiastic crowd. Prior to his appearance on stage at just past 9:00, the audience had already been treated to performances by Ruth Wyand, In Layman Terms, and the Tom Euler Band, all of whom will be representing Virginia in Memphis for the International Blues Challenge this year.
All three acts are veterans of the Challenge in recent years, Wyand even attained the finals of the solo/duo category in the 2017 edition, as did Euler’s band when they backed Walters in 2016. In Layman Terms has made three appearances in the adult category to go along with other appearances they made in the youth showcases.
The Kimball Theatre, located in Williamsburg’s chic Merchant Square shopping center, is a lovely classic movie theatre that has stopped showing movies and has been renovated into a live performance venue. Seating over 400 people, there were few seats open when the show started, and none left by the time the first artist, Wyand, finished her set. In fact, there were folding chairs brought out for the overflow people that made their way to the theatre during the coldest night of the season thus far.
Wyand, a one-person band who plays guitar, drums, and pretty much anything else she can get her hands on, used her roughly 30 minutes to set the mood for the show. Her charm was infectious as she connected with the audience, even joking at one point, “Let me introduce the band…”
After her well-received turn, the next performers were In Layman’s Terms. ILT is from Williamsburg and many in the audience were there to see them perform. The band’s nucleus is the brother and sister tandem of Cole and Logan Layman on guitar and bass and vocals respectively. They are joined by Hamed Barbarji on trumpet and Austin Pierce on drums for a tight sound that sometimes flies very close to jazz but is very deeply rooted in the blues.
In Layman Terms received the first standing ovation of the night at the end of their set. Always modest, the members of the band had to be reminded to take their bows from the audience.
If the show had ended there then everyone would have gone home satisfied, but we were less than halfway through the evening. The Tom Euler Band came on next and proceeded to raise the stakes with a high-energy set of blues and rock that further electrified the audience. Including blistering covers of Whipping Post and Led Zeppelin’s Rock And Roll, they mixed in originals that had the audience cheering. Euler played guitar and handled the vocals and was joined by Lucy Kilpatrick on keys and a rhythm section comprised of Von José Roberts on bass and Michael Behlmar on drums.
At this point, the emcee for the evening (your humble narrator) had to give the audience a small break to give the audience a chance to visit the facilities as well as pick up some music. All of the bands brought CDs for sale in order to raise capital for their respective trips to Memphis this year. Winning their local competitions is just the first step, they have to have the resources to get there and have a place to stay during the week-long run of the show.
With the break over, it was time for headliner Walters to take the stage. Walters has a large following, not only within Virginia, but all over the country thanks to his several CDs, appearances at the International Blues Challenge and various festivals, and his work on military bases in support of our nation’s service men and women. Walters is a veteran himself who, in the past, has served in the White House, and who has made giving back to his community a large part of his performing philosophy.
Since his motto is, “You never know what’s going to happen at a Bobby BlackHat Walters show,” Walters pulled out all the stops to make it come true. Two of his daughters, Shayna and Akeylah Walters, joined him for a song and at one point he stopped a big dance song, Red Shoes, that featured long-time friend and musician Lucius Bennett, short to remind the audience that there was plenty of room for them to get up and shake their stuff. 
They didn’t have to be told twice and many of them leapt to their feet to boogie down. In fact, Walters left the stage in order to join them in the celebration.  
There wasn’t much he could do to top that, so he brought out all of the musical performers plus guests for a show-stopping version of I’ve Got My Mojo Working before extolling those in attendance to go visit local tavern The Triangle to finish ringing in the New Year.  
That’s another of Walters’ philosophies, share the wealth and celebrate other’s talents. I don’t know if he ever gets jealous of another performer – I suspect he does not – but he encourages other performers to make themselves better, and he is not shy to tell audiences and friends about other great acts he’s seen.
His support was a great reason for the initial success of the New Year’s Extravaganza. Every act was delighted to join in the fun and did everything in their power to ensure that the audience had a great time. While the show was going on, the Kimball Theatre committed to Walters having another show their next New Year’s.
Plan on ordering your ticket now, you won’t want to miss that show!

   

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Professor's Honor Roll ~~ The Best Of 2017

Welcome to what will be the last blog entry of 2017. In some ways it’s been a very good year, in other ways not so much. We’ve had a lot o great music come our way, and we’ve said goodbye to some old friends. It’s all part of that great wheel that just keeps rolling. Come on, Proud Mary, take us all down the river one more time.

Personally, I feel a little down. I started off the year with great enthusiasm, making a promise to myself to put in a review or a preview of an upcoming show every day. I didn’t quite make it as I had a little health issue that put me on the sidelines for a little bit.

**If you’re not interested in personal reflection, skip ahead to the next paragraph. I won’t mind.** No, it wasn’t another heart attack, I’ve had quite enough of those for one lifetime, but it was heart related. Since the issue was in a difficult area to access, my great docs switched around some meds, and while that left me a little out of it, they have since stabilized the problem and I’m back and better than ever. So, I do plan on doing more reviews, interviews, and previews in 2018. Count on it

Anyway, thanks for sticking around during the boring part. Below is a collection of 50 albums that will form my list of the Best Of 2017. I’ve provided a link to the review that I posted for each, just click on the name and the magical computer should take you right to it. If I haven’t yet reviewed it, I will say so, but when I do review it, I will go ahead and update the link.

Check back often.

Oh, these aren’t ranked 1-50. Even I am not crazy enough to do that by myself. I’ve grouped them into categories to make it a little easier.


First up are The Guys and The Groups.
Stompin' Ground       Tommy Castro And The Painkillers  Review of the album is coming soon. In the meantime, here is a review I did of one of Castro’s killer live shows
Blues With Horns Vol 1  Chris Daniels And The Kings With Freddi Gowdy  No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way.
Dream Train Alastair Greene        No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way. 
Signs Jonny Lang        No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way.
Approved By Snakes Jason Ricci & The Bad Kind     And while you’re at, here’s an interview I did with Ricci when the album was released. 
Lay It On Down         Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band          No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way.
My Brother's Blues    Benny Turner      No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way.
Blues And Boogie Vol. 1     Kim Wilson          No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way.

Next up are the Women In The Blues
The Eastwest Sessions Mindi Abair And The Boneshakers          No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way.
The Beat Of My Heart Lisa Biales                
Meeting My Shadow Vanessa Collier                
Let The Demons Out  Ghalia & Mama's Boys           No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way.
Down Hearted Blues Eilen Jewell          No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way. But if you are interested, here’s a look at one of her great live shows.                    
Blue Again Janiva Magness           
Lady Of The Blues Miss Freddye            No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way.
10,000 Feet Below Eliza Neals                  

Let’s take a look at some unusual combinations. Team Ups
Tajmo       Tah Mahal & Keb' Mo'                     
Right Place, Right Time     Monster Mike Welch And Mike Ledbetter              Friends Along The Way        Mitch Woods        No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way. 

And just because I’m proud of the work done by the artists in my commonwealth, here’s a look at some great Virginia Artists.
Been A Long Time Baby     Tom Dikon & The Jukes Revival      No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way.

And one last title that I absolutely loved. It’s not strictly a blues album, in fact, really only one song is likely to get played on Time For The Blues, but the rest of it showcases a monumental talent continue to play with his approach to music.

On A Distant Shore  Leon Russell          No review yet, but stay tuned, one is on the way. I can tell you that it’s a beautiful album from a beautiful soul.  

There you go, my 50 Best Of 2017 list. Remember, I didn’t get copies of everything that was released this year so there are more than a few titles that would have made this list had I gotten them. Feel free to add some of your choices in the comments below. Heck, I might even go looking for them and play a song or two.

If you will indulge me just a little, I would like to offer one last thought about 2017. Just before Christmas, Henry and I lost a friend and colleague that we have known for about 20 years. His name was George Maida and he produced The Electric Croude, the show that preceded ours for the entire 11 years that our show has aired. It was a sudden loss and all of us are devastated by what happened.

George was consumed by his passion for music. His show really had no boundaries, and his curiosity took him into several different worlds. As we move into 2018, please keep in mind that the candle of life can be snuffed out in an instant and the only thing we really leave behind are the memories that other people have of us.

If you’re a person who makes resolutions, let’s all make one to be better toward each other, to share our passions, and to create great memories for the people we love. Let’s live in the moment while respecting the past and anticipating the future.

Much love and respect to George Maida, to my long suffering co-host Henry Cook, and of course to each and every one of you who read my words or listen to the show.

Here’s to 2018!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Fast Eddie And The Slowpokes Kick It Into High Gear at The Tin Pan

Yeah, it was a cold night. My grandfather used to have descriptions for nights like this that involved anatomical references to either witches or welldiggers, but as this is somewhat of a family blog, I’ll leave those for your imagination. Fortunately, The Tin Pan was a hot place to be as the band Fast Eddie And The Slowpokes drove down from the Metro DC area to play what I believe is their first show in Richmond.
The five-piece band consists of Ed Crowley on harp and vocals, Dave Gorozdos on keys, James “Cookie” Cooke on bass, and a pair of Scotts – Mattern and Chadwick on guitar and drums respectively. It’s a tight group with the rhythm section setting up a deep groove and Gorozdos and Mattern providing the leads. Crowley’s harp is solid and his vocals are strong.
They kicked off their 90-minute set that mixed blues with high energy rock with Reelin’ and Rockin’ before moving on to versions of I Don’t Play, the funky Dresses Too Short, and even their version of Frankie Ford’s Sea Cruise with nary a break in between. While Crowley was certainly responsive to the audience and engaged them in spots, Fast Eddie is about the music and keeping the show rolling.
The guys have a good mix of covers and some very strong originals. I’m searching through my notes looking for some of the titles, but honestly, I was enjoying myself too much as an audience member to fully note which titles were originals. I do remember liking It’s Impossible and Don’t Matter Watcha Call It, but I’m going to reach out to the band and see if I can note the others.

They had some fun demonstrating their versatility by inviting local bluesman supreme, Li’l Ronnie, up on stage to perform a song with them. Now, they had only met just prior to going on stage and had not prearranged any kind of a song. Ronnie just told them to perform a slow blues groove in A and together they improvised a performance that would have been right at home at just about any show.
Getting back into the swing of things – and let me tell you bothers and sisters – these cats can swing! They can also jump, boogie, and their slow blues stand with the best of ‘em. Other highlights of their performance include There Was A Party Goin’ On, Dressing Like You Don’t Dress For Me, Rack ‘Em Up, and their closing number, First I Look In The Purse.
Audience reaction? One gentleman was so moved that he stood and danced by his chair for much of the show. I know the low temperature caused some people to stay home, but the next time Fast Eddie And The Slowpokes play, I hope more of you will come out and enjoy this group. I know I will, and if I get wind that they are coming to town, I’ll be shouting it from rooftops.
In other words, unless you’re allergic to having a good time, catch these guys every chance you get!
(Photos by Anita Schlank. Used by permission.)