Never afraid to take the proverbial bull by the horns, Seattle-based singer songwriter and band leader, Michele D’Amour – Michele De-MOORE (rhymes with “the floor”), – releases her fourth album, “Wiggle Room,” the inaugural debut on her record label, with her band, The Love Dealers. All this comes hard on the heels of a last year’s album, “Lost Nights At The Leopard Lounge,” from which one of the tracks won a Grand Prize in the 2017 John Lennon Songwriting Competition.
“Wiggle Room” also marked a point of expansion for D’Amour and her team as she added four new members to the band. She teamed up with Washington Blues Society Hall of Fame member and renowned guitarist Mark Riley to produce the record and recorded all the rhythm tracks at Strange Earth Studios with Grammy-winning engineer Steve Feasley. The ten new tracks feature D’Amour’s powerhouse vocals and renowned songwriting and showcase the talents of new guitarist Jeff Cornell and drummer Dave Delzotto, while adding the elements of a full-time keyboardist in Brian Olendorf and sax man Noel Barnes to the Love Dealers sound. The collection is also an expansion of style, pushing beyond the group’s previous catalog of straight-ahead blues, funk and rockin’ soul and delving into jazz, swing, boogie, Latin and touches of country and gospel.
The opening track, ‘Falling Down,’ is some hot funk with an Albert Collins edge, with Cornell and Barnes trading solo licks. D’Amour then delivers some quick advice for all the gals on the swinging ‘Sweet Lovin’ Man,’ with long time Seattle Blues Diva Nora Michaels joining her on the chorus. Trumpeter Greg Lyons plays the role of Chet Baker on the luscious jazz lounge title track. Barnes lets his sax wail while D’Amour channels Lydia Pense for the East Bay Soul burner ‘Honey On The Side.’ Bass man Patrick McDanel digs deep into the walking line on the upright as D’Amour paints a vivid picture of the homeless man on the corner, who could be any one of us given a set of unfortunate circumstances in ‘Nothing To No One.’ The tune again showcases Lyons on a Miles Davis-inspired flugelhorn solo, joined by McDanel on trombone.
The Southern California sound of ‘Let It Slide’ also colors an important message about tolerance and self-preservation with conga man Angelo Ortiz adding spice to the smooth groove. D’Amour plays the woman scorned on the break neck boogie ‘Been So Long,’ and delves further into the psyche of self-esteem on the dramatic torch song ‘Worthy,’ featuring a haunting guitar riff by Cornell. Olendorf then flashes his skills on the keys with some jaunty ragtime piano on ‘He Can’t Be Wrong,’ a timely rebuke of a common bully. He then delivers a classical intro to the album closer ‘Hard Times,’ a heartfelt gospel-infused lament that paints an all-too-clear picture of current events, with John Oliver III adding soulful backing vocals.
Michele D’Amour is a songwriter, who is fulfilling her mission, as stated in the liner notes, to make music that reflects the moments of joy amid times of struggle, because when we feel most deeply is when art is clear and focused, and the message on point.
The title of her sixth album says it all, for L.A. based Indie Blues Artist Lawrence Lebo is truly an “Old School Girl” and proud of it. This new album also features her prowess as a songwriter as the seven new tracks delve into soul-blues territory that pay homage to her “Stax Records’” influences. Lebo partnered with Rich Wenzel at Ardent Audio Productions to mix and master the album for his familiarity of “Old School” ways of record making. Wenzel places Lebo in the center of a pulsing rhythm section spiced with classic Hammond B3 organ, sweet lead guitar, hot blues harp and rock-solid bass lines.
The sultry ‘You’ve Got A Secret’ opens the album with Lebo calling out the deceitful ways of a lover who’s doing her wrong, with Larry David and Tony Mandracchia trading delicious solos on organ and lead guitar as Lebo pours her heart out. The title track finds Lebo laying out her retro manifesto, over a sweet swing groove and walking bass. She namechecks her heroes Etta and B.B and throws shade on the “New School Girls,” who prefer an Uber ride over a 57 T-Bird. The album’s lone cover of the T Bone Walker standard, ‘Stormy Monday,’ is given the full knee-deep shag and Sunday church service treatment with thick B3 backup that spins up into a rollicking double time for a fabulous harmonica solo from David and more hot lead guitar before Lebo takes us home for the dramatic finale.
We head to the bayou for some Cajun jitterbug dancing on the Zydeco spiced ‘Stop Shouting Your Business,’ with Lebo channeling the Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas, on the accordion fueled second line gumbo. The Memphis soul styled ‘Give Me A Try’ is straight out of the Soulsville catalog with a fatback beat, chicken picking lead and funky Fender bass from her longtime partner in crime Denny Croy. Lebo then lets it rip on the full throttle Texas double shuffle ‘Bad To The Core,’ with all of her sass and spunk front and center, declaring she is done “being good,” while Tony wails on his Stratocaster. The classic twelve bar ‘Happy Anniversary, Baby’ is a blues sonnet, with a lush string arrangement and emotive solos, lovingly delivered as a tribute to a soulmate who has shared all the good times and bad, with equal devotion.
Lawrence Lebo plays the game on her own terms, an artist who has earned her street cred “Old School Girl,” by working in the gritty clubs of Los Angeles, and by earning a degree with honors from UCLA, to become a respected American blues & roots musician.
Rick J Bowen
Daughter of a Sears & Roebuck shoe salesman, Lawrence grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles, far away from the entertainment industry. She worked into the business the hard way, by singing in bands in every gritty little dive bar, all the while struggling as a single mother. While her recordings receive airplay internationally, raising a family kept Lawrence’s performance schedule mostly local. She is well known and loved in Los Angeles. The LA WEEKLY awarded her BEST BLUES SINGER in their annual BEST OF LA 2014 special addition and wrote “Lebo remains one of this country’s greatest living blues singers.”
In 1985 Lawrence was working in a duo act at a little bar on Venice Blvd in West Los Angeles. On her break she walked down the street to another bar to hear their band and met bassist Denny Croy (Lawrence Lebo, Doug MacLeod, Fiona Boyes, Brian Setzer Orchestra, Moon Martin). “We had this up and down the street romance,” says Lawrence. A year later they were married and playing music together, with Lebo writing material and fronting the band! Over 30 years later they are still performing and recording together. That is so Old School!
Lawrence has always relied on the strength of her music. In a career that has lasted several decades Lawrence was a successful self-releasing artist long before any artist ever dared consider doing such a thing! In 1989, before everyone had a computer and access to the internet she released her debut EP on her label On The Air Records from the kitchen of her tiny rent-control apartment, using just a typewriter and her Rolodex. All of Lawrence’s body of work contains the element of Old School.
Lawrence is a consummate performer and entertainer who takes her audiences along on a magical journey. In their live concert review Music Connection wrote “Ms. Lebo took complete control of the stage. She was a comfortable performer who worked her audience well, often at times offering humorous as well as educational explanations for her choices. She had style, spunk and charisma! This was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.”
Ms. Lebo has worked long and hard at developing her craft and expanding her education. In the 1980s, she had attended the vocal program at Grove School of Music in Los Angeles, California. With this educational background, a steady performance schedule and raising family, she returned to traditional academia in 2000, earning an Associate of Arts degree in music at Santa Monica College, and then transferring to UCLA to complete her Bachelor of Arts degree in 2005. She received two of UCLA’s highest honors, including a Regents Scholar and a Gold Shield Alumni Scholar, that covered her entire tuition. Lawrence proudly notes however, “The best part of my experience at UCLA was getting to study Duke Ellington under Professor and world-famous Jazz/Blues guitarist Kenny Burrell. It just doesn’t get any better than that!” She graduated from UCLA with Latin Honors and became the first in her family to graduate from higher education. Periodically she teaches a blues singing techniques workshop at world famous McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, as well as at other venues in conjunction with her concerts.
Formerly the lead guitar player with multi BMA-award winner Louisiana Red, Johnny Ticktin (pronounced Tick-Tin), along with the Headhunters, is set to release his 8th album, “That’s All I Need.” The ten tracks are a testimony to his life-long obsession with the six string, covering the gamut of guitar centric styles from surf and swing to blues, Mambo and classic R&B. The Headhunters are joined by a couple of special guests on the collection of songs from heroes like Lowell Fulson, Magic Sam, and Link Wray that have shaped Ticktin’s guitar playing over the years.
The album opens with swamp blues proto type ‘That’s All I Need,’ from Magic Sam’s seminal 1967 album “West Side Soul.” Johnny pushes the tremolo guitar sound that made Sam famous even further evoking CCR and Tony Joe White. Venerated D.C. area keyboardist, Tam Sullivan, adds luscious piano and organ to the Bobby “Blue” Bland soul blues classic ‘Lead Me On,’ creating a vehicle for Johnny to ramp up the drama with his enduring vocal and sweet lead guitar. Johnny and the boys then get funky on the ode to shapely curves and Johnny’s other obsession and day job at JT Auto Service, ‘Body And Fender Man,’ originally written by Doc Pomus and Duke Robillard for Baton Rouge soul singer Johnny Adams. They smooth out the groove, while staying true to the guitar riff created by Chet Atkins, on 1957 Rockabilly B side hit ‘Chicken House.’ Lowell Fulson’s 1957 hit for Chess Records, ‘Rock ‘Em Dead,’ is given the Headhunter treatment, pushing the boogie woogie up a notch to a full-tilt dance-floor-filling roadhouse shuffle, and the frenzy continues for the blazing rip thru Elmore James slide guitar bombast ‘Shake Your Money Maker.’
Johnny pays tribute to one of the unsung heroes of reverb-soaked Garage Rock with a fun-loving take of Link Wray surf guitar instrumental ‘Ace Of Spades’ tossing in a little bit of Switchblade for good measure. Power house vocalist Liz Springer from acclaimed D.C. band Built 4 Comfort, is the special guest for the sassy duet ‘Watch And Chain,’ trading barbs with Johnny like June Carter on the late 60’s Bo Diddley beat romp from the Donovan catalog. A second Magic Sam cover, the classic Chicago Blues shuffle from 1958 ‘All My Whole Life,’ showcases Johnny’s guitar skills and the crack Headhunter rhythm section. Everyone shines on ‘Collins Mambo,’ closing the album with another high energy instrumental that has Johnny blending elements from several of Texas bluesman Albert Collins’ legendary ice-pick riffs into a dance hall fiesta.
Rick J Bowen
At the tender age of six, Johnny began learning to play the guitar. This early training paid off; he was soon the top pick for young, budding bands in the D.C. area. The hot shot quickly picked up all the era’s popular songs such as The Animals, Beatles, Steppenwolf, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin.
Johnny attended University of Miami where he earned a degree in Psychology, but the real focus of his education was on the blues. He soon met Bruce Ewan, harmonica player and brother of blues man, Bobby Radcliff. Bruce and Johnny became record connoisseurs hunting record conventions for blues records and listened to many of the records Bruce had mysteriously confiscated from his brother. Some of these were the recordings of Bobby “Blue” Bland, Otis Rush, Little Milton, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Guitar Slim, T-Bone Walker, The Meters, and of course, the legendary records of Magic Sam. Johnny started playing nothing but the blues.
Over the course of his travels, Johnny became friends with a fine harmonica player named Larry Wise. Larry was known for touring with famous blues men and introduced Johnny to Louisiana Red. The three became known as “Nobody’s Children” and began a whirlwind tour of the US and Canada. With hit records such as Red’s Dream and Sweet Bloodcall, Louisiana Red enabled Johnny to play with many other blues masters. Nobody’s Children toured, played festivals and shared the stage with greats such as Lightnin’ Hopkins, Big Mama Thornton, Memphis Slim, Nina Simone, Taj Mahal, Duke Robillard, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Albert Collins, Albert King, Big Moose Walker (Earl Hooker’s piano player), Muddy Waters, Big Walter, Pinetop Perkins, Luther Allison and many more.
Johnny stayed for some time with Sunnyland Slim, Legendary Chicago piano player and a member of Muddy Waters Band. He became friendly with Lurrie Bell, and together, would go to sit in clubs on the North side of Chicago. One night they went to see Big Walter Horton play with Eddie Taylor. Outside the club they met Steve Guyger and Eddie, taking a band break. Steve was an up and coming harmonica player from the Philadelphia area. The boys got to play with the band, featuring Eddie Taylor, Big Walter, Odie Payne, Louis Meyers, and Pinetop.
Upon coming home in 1982, Johnny was asked to replace the guitarist in the band that Steve Guyger had started in Philadelphia called The Excellos. Johnny had already been a guitar player for the legendary band Rockett 88 from Wilmington, Delaware. The Excellos played places in Philadelphia such as J.C. Dobbs with bands like The Stray Cats opening for them. It was with the culmination of all these experiences and the knowledge he learned, Johnny moved back to Washington D.C. to form Johnny and the Headhunters, which is now a trio with guitar, bass and drums. The Headhunters have performed for over three decades in and around the Nation’s Capital, along the whole East Coast as well as popular in the Manhattan club scene especially at “Manny’s Car Wash,” a favorite Upper East Side blues hot spot. The band has played shows with Pete Ragusa, drummer and Grammy-nominated producer for the internationally acclaimed Nighthawks.
In the tradition of the great ladies of song such as; Dinah Washington, Ruth Brown, Etta James and Aretha Franklin, Los Angeles born Brigitte (pronounced Bridget) Purdy uses her versatility to preform music across a range of genres from classical to blues, funk, rock, jazz and soul. She captivates the listener with a sultry, powerful and emotive vocal skills that can go from a whisper to a scream, while pouring all her emotions in to every note. The Dorothy Chandler Conservatory grad displays all her talents on her latest album “Still I Rise.” The collection of ten original tracks is the fruit of Purdy’s collaboration with Southern Californian guitarist Dave Osti, who produced, co-wrote and played in the Blues Angel rhythm section that recorded the basic tracks at Loveless Motel Studios in Sierra Madre California with Billy Burke. The teamwork on this album allowed Purdy and her talents as a singer, lyricist and songwriter to rise to their full potential.
Blues Music Award winner and Grammy nominee, Kenny Neal, makes a guest spot on the opening track ‘Hoodoo,’ with his hot harmonica adding genuine Louisiana spice to the powerhouse blues shuffle. Purdy wears her heart on her sleeve on the inspirational ‘Be The Light,’ urging her brothers and sisters to “love one another and be true to you” on the swinging gospel fueled ballad. She then demonstrates her grit on the Texas Blues ‘Home Is In My Heart,’ making a bold declaration of her territory. Osti rips hot lead guitar and honky-tonk piano on the up-tempo southern fried swing ‘My Kinda Blues,’ with Purdy and her throaty alto spelling out how to win her love. The dramatic ballad ‘Last Time,’ showcases Purdy’s vocal range, drawing instant comparisons to Etta James and Shemekia Copeland, as she soars above the classic R&B arrangement.
Purdy lets her sass and spunk rip, playing the woman scorned on the keen deep shag funk track ‘Get It Understood,’ and laying down the rules “don’t call me baby, don’t call me sugar, get it understood.” The groove stays funky on the playful tale of temptation ‘If I Could,’ with Purdy trying to convince herself to remain faithful to her “sweet lovin’ man.” The loving tribute to B.B. King and his beloved guitar ‘Lucille Don’t You Weep,’ is a glorious production number inspired by the master bluesman that references several of his iconic songs lyrically and sonically, adding strings, backing vocals and of course a brilliant lead guitar solo to a sultry R&B ballad.
Award-winning and chart-topping songwriter, Donnell Spencer Jr., lends his talents to ‘Blues Angel,’ playing drums on the flowing neo-soul track that has terrific crossover potential for multiple radio formats. Drake ‘Munkihaid’ Shining, keyboardist from the Sugaray Rayford Band, leads the charge on orchestral closing title track ‘Still I Rise.’ The passion play begins with delicate underpinnings and builds to a spectacular musical climax with Purdy’s anthem of personal triumph pushing her vocal and emotional skills to the limits and beyond. “Still I Rise” from Bridgett Purdy will certainly further solidify her as an emerging star in the roots, R&B and blues scene.
Rick J Bowen
Brigitte was born and raised in Los Angeles. From an early age, her family cultivated her artistry by immersing her in the rich sounds of blues and gospel. Her father was a blues guitarist and would often showcase her talents at family gatherings. At the tender age of five, she was hand-picked by the choir director to perform her first solo. At the age of 13, her mother heard an announcement on the radio for auditions at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Brigitte competed against hundreds of young hopefuls for a chance to enter the Dorothy Chandler Conservatory. She was selected and subsequently trained by the best in the business.
Brigitte began performing at the Ahmanson Theater and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. She has been blessed to share the stage with talents such as Dionne Warwick, Marilyn McCoo, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton and Tierra, among many others. She also enjoyed working with Hal Davis of Motown Records. Among her many vocal gigs, Brigitte was a background vocalist for Paul Rodgers on the Jimi Hendrix/Muddy Waters Tour. She was given the incredible opportunity to tour the globe with The U.S.A. Girls, entertaining the troops overseas for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Brigitte is forever grateful for the opportunities she has been given. She loves people and loves to give of her time and talents. Believing strongly in the power of mentoring, she obtained her bachelor’s degree in the humanities and enjoys giving back to her community.
Brigitte uses her sultry, powerful and emotive range to captivate an audience. She can go from a gentle purr to a sonic boom within seconds, while pouring her heart into every note. Her incredible versatility ranges from classical to blues, funk, rock, jazz and soul, each delivered with her unique and passionate style.
Me & The Originator is Al Basile fifteenth release on Sweetspot years. It’s a concept album which tells a story through a hybrid of narration and songs about an imaginary musician who has a career which harbors a dark secret. This CD asks the questions ‘who makes the song?’ and ‘Who can can call a song their own?’ – another way of thinking about the history of blues as it has passed down to us latter day interpreters. Produced by Duke Robillard, with the same lineup as on Al’s BMA nominated best contemporary blues album Mid-Century Modern in 2016.
Al Basile grew up in a park in Haverhill, Massachusetts. He graduated from Phillips Academy in 1966, and in 1970 he was the first to receive a Master’s Degree from the Brown University Writing Program. He began his musical career as a cornet player with Roomful of Blues in 1973, and has worked with the Duke Robillard Band as a songwriter and recording member since 1990, appearing on twelve CDs and a DVD; his songs have been used in films and television and covered by such artists as Ruth Brown and Johnny Rawls, and bands New Jump Blues and the Knickerbocker All Stars. He has fifteen solo blues and roots CDs out under his own name, the majority having reached the top 15 on the Living Blues airplay charts in their year of release. They have all been produced by Robillard and feature his guitar playing and many former Roomful members: guest artists have included the Blind Boys of Alabama, jazz great Scott Hamilton, and the late Sista Monica Parker. He has been nominated seven times since 2010 for a Blues Music Award as best horn player; his 2016 CD Mid-Century Modernwas nominated as Best Contemporary Blues Album. He is also a prize-winning poet, with two published books, 2011’s A Lit House and 2017’s Tonesmith. He taught full time at the Providence Country Day School in East Providence, RI from 1980-2005 and since then has concentrated on his writing, performing, and recording.
“The NOLA Sessions” is inspired by the beauty and creative depth of New Orleans. Tom Hambridge set out to produce a biographical blues recording by leveraging the immense talents of local musicians and legends including the late, great Allen Toussaint, Clapton’s favorite slide guitarist, Sonny Landreth, and the B3 mastery of Ivan Neville, as well as rich artistic contributions drawn from New Orleans’ musical heritage. For this eighth solo album Tom and his production team ventured south to The Parlor studios in the Irish Channel neighborhood of uptown New Orleans and gathered some of the best players the Big Easy has to offer. Other guests on this album of 13 original tunes by Hambridge, some in concert with other composers, include The McCrary Sisters and The Naughty Horns, as well as his daughters, Sarah & Rachel Hambridge. This quality production is further enhanced by being mastered at Abbey Road Studios in London in the “George Martin Suite” by Grammy winner Sean Magee.
The album opens with the easy swinging duet ‘Blues Been Mighty Good To Me,’ featuring the amazing piano and vocal of the master of New Orleans soul and R&B sound, Allen Toussaint, on one of the last studio recordings before his untimely death in 2015. The selection is even more appropriate as Hambridge and Toussaint share the honor of being successful songwriters and producers, who have played a crucial role in countless classic songs popularized by other artists.
For many Tom’s wiry tenor may be unfamiliar, but whip crack shuffle back beat from Hambridge is easily identified as demonstrated on the juke joint testimonial ‘Bluz Crazy.’ Louisiana icon Sonny Landreth brings his signature “Slydeco” electric guitar to the sessions, for the first of several appearances, on the swamp rocker ‘This End Of The Road,’ delivering that unmistakable greasy slide sound he is so famous for.
Alumni of the Loyola University Jazz Band, The Naughty Horns, join in on the French Street party anthem ‘I Love Everything.’ Hambridge celebrates of the life of old friend John Flynn on the heartfelt ‘What You Leave Behind,’ beautifully complemented by Neville’s B3 and the Horns’ “Last Waltz” quality arrangement, and then delivers an authentic second line groove for the twisting stomp ‘Little Things,’ boldly declaring “the more you don’t give a sh*t, the easier it is to sleep, so I don’t let the little things bother me.” On the tome of a tormented man ‘Whiskey Ghost,’ (a co-write with Gary Nicholson) which first appeared on Hambridge’s 2013 collaboration with Buddy Guy for the album “Rhythm & Blues,” Landreth and Tom take the spooky rhumba further down the bayou. Music director and guitarist for Daryl Hall’s highly acclaimed show “Live From Daryl’s House,” Shane Theriot, rips hot lead licks and the McCrary Sisters provide the Sunday go-to-meeting backups for the Gospel rocker ‘Save Me,’ which was co-written by piano man and former member of Derek and the Dominos, Bobby Whitlock.
Hambridge pays tribute to all things “strong,” good, bad and ugly, by comparing them to what he longs for on the edgy ‘A Couple Drops,’ before slowing the pace on the spacious Father and Son epic ‘Masterpiece.’ The torrid tale of a road warrior, ‘Me And Charlie,’ is dedicated to Buddy Guy’s trusted bus driver Charlie McPherson and features more scorching “Slydeco” leads. Prolific Nashville songwriter Jeffrey Steele, worked with Hambridge on the contemporary country ballad ‘Trying to Find It,’ an expansive track that is anchored by stellar piano from Kevin McKendree and soaring leads from top session guitarist Rob McNelley.
“The NOLA Sessions” close with an in-depth study of one of our most human qualities and conceptions, ‘Faith,’ with the soulful vocal of Hambridge backed by fingerpicking guitar from John Fohl and the mournful cello of Nathaniel Smith to punctuate the introspective treatise on one of the most powerful forces in the universe.
Rick J Bowen – Five-time blues writer winner and KBA award recipient from the Washington Blues Society
Tom Hambridge is a two-time Grammy-winning producer, songwriter, & drummer for his production work on two of blues legend Buddy Guy’s most critically-acclaimed albums: “Living Proof” (2010) and “Born To Play Guitar’ (2015).
Tom has also produced five other Grammy- nominated albums. He has won numerous W.C. Handy and Blues Music Awards, eight Boston Music Awards and several ASCAP Country Music Awards. He was the recipient of the prestigious KBA (Keeping the Blues Alive) Award and has been inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame. The list of artist collaborators includes such notables as Gary Clark Jr., Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, B.B. King, Gregg Allman, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, Kid Rock, Billy Gibbons, Johnny Winter, George Thorogood and Susan Tedeschi, among many others.
Over 400 of Tom’s songs have been recorded (and many top charted) by such diverse artists as Buddy Guy, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, Rascal Flatts, Eric Burdon (The Animals,) James Cotton, Foghat, Delbert McClinton, Van Zant, and Joe Bonamassa. Tom has also performed/toured and/or recorded with Chuck Berry, Boston, Hank Williams Jr., Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley, Susan Tedeschi, Johnny Winter, George Thorogood and the Destroyers and Keb’ Mo’, to name just a few.
Tom is a Voting Member of the National Academy of Arts and Science (NARAS) a Member of the Local Grammy Chapter Nashville, TN; and a Member of The Blues Foundation.
There must be something in the wind of the Texas/Arkansas/Louisiana tri-state area that makes everyone from there wonderfully sentimental. The music and art from that region is steeped in tradition and plays out as if time has stood still for a century. Steve Howell and his quartet, The Mighty Men, are living embodiment of that charm and style of Texarkana, as they prefer to honor melody and lyricism over pyrotechnics and flashy instrumentation. Lead by Howell the group returns with their third album “Good As I Been To You,” along with special guest vocalist Katy Hobgood Ray, delivering further explorations of long-hidden gems from the great American songbook. The eleven tracks, a celebration of songwriting and storytelling from the masters, run the gamut of genres from roots to blues, country, gospel and work songs from well-known originators such Lead Belly and Memphis Minnie to lesser known ones such as Arthur “Blind” Blake, all of whom have been a lifelong influence on Howell and his passion.
The Mighty Men open the set with a slinky blues romp from the 1950’s, ‘Bacon Fat,’ that features some jaggedy lead from guitarist Chris Michaels and a Doodley Wop sing-along chorus. Katy Hobgood Ray then joins Howell for a duet rendition of ‘When I Was A Cowboy’ that was first recorded by Lead Belly in 1933 and is given full band electric roots rock treatment sounding like something from the Buffalo Springfield catalog. Katy Ray leads the band through a swinging cover of Memphis Minnie’s 1930’s ragtime ‘New Dirty Dozens.’
Howell goes on to celebrate the songwriters, who created the “Brill Building Sound,” where numerous teams of professional songwriters penned material for girl groups and teen idols in the early 1960s, by covering the bubble gum pop classic from 1964 ‘It Hurts To Be In Love.’ He then gets way low down for the downtempo spacious blues ‘Come Back Baby,’ and the slow rolling Texas finger-picking ramble ‘Blues In The Bottle.’ Katy Ray steps to the mic again for a lovely update of the timeless tune ‘Easy Rider,’ with a lilting vocal, Mark Knopfler like guitar work and a forward moving groove. Howell reveals more of his love for syrupy 60’s pop by covering the Frankie Valli hit and surely one of the saddest songs of all time ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore.’ The crew lifts the mood with the inspired country blues from the Blind Lemon Jefferson archives ‘Bad Luck Blues.’ Jefferson, a fellow Texan, is considered by Howell to be “the greatest of all of the Texas blues singers.” Howell plays the role of the section boss, leading the Men though an acapella Gandy Dancer work song ‘Lining Track.’
Steve Howell is recognized as a world class blues finger style guitarist, and so pays tribute to Arthur “Blind” Blake by covering his 1927 ragtime ‘You Gonna Quit Me,’ thanking the man who inspired Howell to take up the mantle of this difficult technique and endeavoring to keep this blues alive.
Rick J Bowen – Five-time Blues Writer winner and KBA Award recipient from the Washington Blues Society
East Texan Steve Howell’s guitar playing and singing are very much rooted in the traditional jazz and rural acoustic blues genres born in the American South. His interpretations of tunes from these genres have been enjoyed by audiences in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Great Britain for over forty years and lauded by critics from the United States and Europe who have unanimously praised his unique approach to breathing new life into time-honored songs from days gone by and reintroducing little-known gems of American music to a whole new audience. He has released six CD’s and was the recipient of the Texas Music Academy’s 2011 Historical Significance Award. His recordings are in steady rotation on radio playlists in the United States, France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Poland, Greece, Croatia, and Australia and on XM and WorldSpace satellite radio. A set of fifteen of his fingerstyle guitar arrangements of early jazz standards will be released by the Hal Leonard Corporation in the summer of 2018.
Chris Michaels cut his musical teeth in the late 80’s and early 90’s as a bass player in the Shreveport, LA area, including notable one nighters with Cab Calloway, Martha and the Vandellas, and Augie Myers and numerous gigs with local heroes such as The Deadbeats, Iraz Baz, The Cut, David Egan, and Buddy Flett. Later exploits included extensive touring with Beanland, a notorious jam-band from Oxford, MS. The mid-90’s were spent doing numerous recordings and live dates as a member of Boondogs in Little Rock, Arkansas. Other notable gigs that followed included recording dates and live shows with artists such as the late Jim Dickinson, Greg Spradlin, Isaac Alexander, Mulehead, Ho-Hum, Kami Lyle, Kevin Gordon, The Yellow Hope Project and Buddy Flett. Although primarily focusing on electric bass, upright bass, and guitars, Chris released a solo record of Americana inspired songs titled “Morning & Night” in 2009. Throughout it all Chris has maintained a musical kinship and friendship with Steve Howell, both in the studio and on the stage.
Dave Hoffpauir started playing professionally in 1982. He played around Shreveport for 10 years or so in bands such as the Psychobillies, the Native Sons, the Deadbeats (his first collaboration w/ Steve Howell) Dorothy Prime and the Housecats, Betty Lewis and the Executives, and in various house bands which backed artists like Jessie Thomas, Kenny Bill Stinson and Buddy Flett. In 1989, he formed the SugarKings (his first serious collaboration w/ Chris Michaels, and he also played in the Infidels in 1990 (his first serious collaboration w/ Jason Weinheimer.) After moving to Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1992, he continued playing with the SugarKings but also began playing in several Arkansas bands, including Ebo and the Tomcats (which backed Billy Lee Riley and Dale Hawkins on several occasions), the Skeeterhawks, the Cockleburrs and Mulehead. He and Kevin Kerby briefly tabled Mulehead and joined Ho-Hum in 1993. After recording several demos with various producers, including the legendary Jim Dickinson in 1994, they eventually signed a record deal with Universal Records in 1995. They had one major label release, Local, which came out in 1996. Hoffpauir joined the Boondogs in 1999 and again worked with Michaels, Weinheimer and Dickinson as they completed a project that was never released on Garageband.com Records. Michaels, Weinheimer and Hoffpauir have continued to play with Steve Howell for over 30 years while pursuing their other musical interests and have formed a very creative bond that has yielded some fine recordings.
Jason Weinheimer owns and operates Fellowship Hall Sound in Little Rock, AR. In addition to producing and engineering, he plays in the Boondogs, Love Ghost, The Libras and with songwriter Isaac Alexander. He also played with the late great Jim Dickinson, who served as his studio mentor and musical guide for many years. Jason is the owner/operator of Fellowship Hall Sound recording studio in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he has played on, produced, and engineered many significant recordings by artists including Steve Howell & The Mighty Men, Jim Mize, Isaac Alexander, Boondogs, The Yellow Hope Project, Greg Spradlin & Band of Imperials, and Buddy Flett.
Katy Hobgood Ray is a singer-songwriter, children’s author, the host, director and producer of Confetti Park, a kid-friendly radio show and podcast featuring music and children’s stories from Louisiana. Born in Bogalusa, Louisiana, raised in Shreveport, she has lived in New Orleans for the past several years, and is now located in Memphis, Tennessee. Katy has been chronicling Louisiana arts and culture since 2000, when she launched an online North Louisiana music zine called NeonBridge (now in archive). As a writer, she’s contributed to SB Magazine, VisitSouth.com, New Wave, Tulane Magazine, Jazz Archivist, and more, and worked as a radio host and content producer for NPR’s Red River Radio. Her new CD release, Louisiana Oranges, is currently gaining widespread critical favor.
Russ Green’s debut album, “City Soul,” is a love letter to the Windy City and all the musicians who helped create its legendary sound. The ten original tracks, recorded at Rax Trax in Chicago by renowned engineer Rick Barnes, was co-produced by Russ and Sam Clayton and features a select group of the city’s hottest session players.
Green and his hot blues harp burn from the top of the boogie blues opener, ‘First Thing Smokin,’ paying tribute to the sounds of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker and setting the tone for things to come. Green then works his soulful baritone like Bill Withers for the bittersweet ‘Believe In Love,’ with drummer Ricky Nelson mixing in a touch of classic side stick playing into the groove. Green displays his affinity for Jimi Hendrix with the swirling psychedelic harmonica intro to the foxy funk rocker ‘The Edge.’
International troubadour Eric Bibb graced the sessions joining Green for a duet on his delta blues stomp, ‘Going Down South,’ that was written as an exploration of the heritage of blues people. Joe Munroe lays down some super thick Hammond B3 sparing with Green’s harp on the south side strut ‘Lover Man.’
Green takes on the difficult social issues of poverty, homelessness, abuse and desperation that plague the inner city on the theatrical ‘Train Of Pain.’ The slinky blues ‘Up From The Bottom’ features some slick ice pickin’ guitar work from Giles Cory, and bass man Marvin Little leads the charge clearing the way for Green to tell the tale of a man down on his luck on the blazing chi-town funk, ‘Lint In My Pocket.’ The crew pushes the envelope on the style shifting ‘Something New,’ with Vince Agwada tossing some greasy slide guitar into the mix of modern blues rock.
The album closes with a classic R&B groover ‘Love To Give,’ with Green trading off between a soulful vocal line and screaming blues harp, showing off the chops that are certain to win him new fans and satisfy his legion of loyal followers.
Rick J Bowen – Five-time blues writer winner and KBA award recipient from the Washington Blues Society
Harmonica player and singer Russ Green’s journey into the blues is different than those of most musicians. Russ was born in Chicago and grew up on the city’s west side. Although, throughout his life he had listened to all types of music, his desire to play wasn’t realized until his adult years.
After being discharged from the U.S. Army, Russ attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale where he studied film. It was at this time that his desire to play music began to grow. Like lots of fans of Jimi Hendrix, Russ wanted to be able to re-create the sounds of the man whom he had admired for many years. But being a film student and having all his money going to these films, he couldn’t afford to buy a guitar. Undaunted by this realization, Russ remembered the purchase of a harmonica from a west side shop a few years earlier. The ability to re-create the sounds of Hendrix was becoming realized, not with a guitar, but with a harmonica!
Before leaving Southern Illinois, he was told that when he got back to Chicago he should check out Sugar Blue, described as one of the best harmonica players in Chicago. So, on his first Friday night back in Chicago Russ went out and found a Chicago Reader to see who was playing where in the city. And there it was, Sugar Blue at Blues Etc., one of Chicago’s premiere blues clubs on the North side. Mind blown by what he was hearing and seeing, Russ sat down at a high-top table not far from the bandstand. As he sat he saw a card on the table that said “tonight at Blues Etc. Sugar Blue the Charlie Parker of the harmonica and the Jimi Hendrix of the blues harp.” That’s it! That is what he wanted to be and it’s right in front of him. And the song the band was playing when he first arrived, it was ‘Miss You’ by The Rolling Stones, a song that Sugar Blue played on during his time with the band. He spent the next three months in Chicago going out to see Sugar Blue wherever he was playing but was too intimidated to speak to him. Russ then moved to Seattle, a city that captured his heart while he was in the Army.
His return to Chicago, some three years later, was not only an opportunity to learn from Sugar Blue, but also brought about the realization of a lifelong dream for Russ, working in film production. He started in television commercials and moved into television shows and feature films. Starting as a Production Assistant, he worked his way to Assistant Director and became a member of the Director’s Guild of America. Television shows include E.R. and Prison Break. Feature films include Soul Food, The Break-Up, Hardball, Save the Last Dance, Road to Perdition, Tears of the Sun and many more. With actors Paul Newman, Tom Hanks, Daniel Craig, Vince Vaughn, Vanessa Williams, Jude Law, Bruce Willis and many others. Russ even joined fellow harmonica player Bruce Willis on stage with his band while working on Tears of the Sun in Hawaii.
Musically Russ’ career has continued to grow since returning to Chicago. Not only has he been tremendously influenced by Sugar Blue, but also by Chicago’s other legendary harmonica player, Billy Branch. He playfully describes his relationship with his two mentors as like two little devils standing on each shoulder whispering in his ear of how he should play. He has also played, recorded and toured with John Primer and Lurrie Bell. His producing credits include a recording for Big Llou Johnson, from B.B. King’s Bluesville on SiriusXM, that won a Blues Music Award for Best New Artist. He is also one of the harmonica players featured on an album, Chicago Blues Harmonica Project, that has received rave reviews and has been played on radio stations around the world. This recording has been credited with proving that the harmonica is still alive and vibrant in Chicago. Russ has performed at numerous blues festivals, including the Chicago Blues Festival, the Burnley Mechanics Blues festival, the Gloucester Blues Festival, and the San Francisco Blues Festival, to name just a few. At this point the journey for Russ Green is rolling on!
Joan Armatrading has been making glorious music for over 45 years. She has the gift of story-telling and the talent to combine it with melodies that transcend the generation divide. A fact that is demonstrated superbly on her new single “I Like It When We’re Together”
The song gets straight to the heart of the matter. There’s no shilly-shallying with this message, it’s clear and to the point. Its very directness takes it from the personal to the universal, it’s a sentiment everyone has felt (and sometimes wished they’d expressed more often).
In Armatrading’s own words, “It’s a song that I hope will bring people together. This is why we are on this planet after all. It’s to like being with one another.”
The positive message of the lyrics is echoed by the jauntiness of the music yet there is still an element of the poignant, something Joan Armatrading does so well.
“I Like It When We’re Together” is from her forthcoming album Not Too Far Away out May 18 through BMG.
On Not Too Far Away, Armatrading presents 10 new tracks that take the deeply personal and make it universal. It is Joan at her very best. A love album of intensity that gets better on every listen.
From the Cri de Coeur of the opening song, “I Like It When We’re Together”, to the heartfelt “No More Pain” where she jumps straight in with “This pain is my protection”, these are lyrics that don’t prevaricate, they tell it how it is. In that seemingly effortless way of all good writing, they touch the heart and mind of the recipient. Listen to “No More Pain” here:
There is the haunting and rather melancholic “Cover My Eyes”, the tough and complex “Invisible (Blue Light)”, the wistful “Not Too Far Away” title track infused with longing, and the instantly memorable and anthemic “Any Place”. From “Always In My Dreams” with its solo piano accompaniment to the jaunty “This Is Not That” there is a glorious array of rhythms and tempos.
Not Too Far Away is Armatrading’s 21st album and, once again, she has written, sung, arranged and produced all the tracks as well as playing all the instruments except for drums which she programmed. It comprises the studio follow-up to the genre based trilogy, This Charming Life (2010), the jazz orientated Starlight (2012) and the blues based Into The Blues (2007), which went straight to the top of the Billboard Blues Chart, making Armatrading the first British female artist ever to do so.
“Imagine Melissa Etheridge, Pat Benatar, & Tanya Tucker as one entity!”
A multi-talented performer who writes and sings from the core of her very being, Cathy Hutch is a recipient of the 2008 Diane London Award; (Fredericton, NB), received an Oscar for Autism (for her co-written song I’m In Here); she has performed at the ECMA Awards and has been a finalist for the CBC Galaxie of Rising Stars Showcase.
Recently, after opening for Canada’s First Lady of Country Music, Carroll Baker, at the Imperial Theatre in Saint John, NB, Cathy was invited back on stage to sing the closing song with Carroll. Cathy has performed at numerous theatres and fundraising events throughout the Maritimes including the Playhouse in Fredericton, and the Atlantic National Exhibition.
Cathy’s debut CD “Not Goin’ Back” was recorded in Nashville and backed by stellar musicians such as Mike Brignardello (Jake Owen, Leon Russell, Gretchen Wilson, Faith Hill) Pat Buchanan (Hall & Oats, Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney, Don Henley), and Lonnie Wilson (Brooks and Dunn, Luke Bryan, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill).
Her latest release, entitled “Free Wheelin’” was engineered and produced by Paul Milner (Eddy Grant, Keith Richards, Matt Andersen, Glass Tiger) with Geoff Arsenault (Ray Bonneville, Dutch Mason, Matt Andersen) and Chris Corrigan; (Rita MacNeil, Mary Jane Lamond, Matt Minglewood). “Free Wheelin’” pays homage to the blues and classic rock music that Cathy loves so much. It is an unforgettable collection of 10 originals and one cover song that are both a testament to joy and the resilience of the human spirit.
“Cathy Hutch is everything that is good about live music. She is charming, witty, multi-talented and has a smile that would light the way out of a bar during a power failure. With or without accompaniment Cathy is every bit a professional entertainer. Her cover treatment of “name” artists from Pat Benatar to Patsy Cline gives any stage she inhabits a hall-of-fame vibe. As a songwriter, Cathy exhibits insights into the human condition that show her to have a heart as big as her voice. And man can she liven up a crowd! She rocks, she rolls and, above all, she entertains. “ Richard Blacquier