“Talk about star power, a killer voice and guitar skills. She said to the band as much to the audience, “I think tonight, we’ll just play some blues.” Playing slide guitar, Grainger began with rootsy blues, her voice full-bodied with plenty of soul. There was clarity there too with that unmistakable bell tone mixed with grit. We were in for some serious musicianship with Kara Grainger. Her vocals packed a punch and she played monster guitar solos that had the crowd whooping andclapping. Nice to see a female musician kick some a** like that”. – Rock & Blues Muse
“But the highlight of the opening set will be Aussie soul slinger Kara Grainger who is known for her groove-rooted sound and mean slide guitar; her sultry vocal melting hearts and minds, a true delight to see”. Zaki Zufri, Insing.com
Her music career began in a small suburban town of Sydney Australia and since then has taken her on an incredible journey throughout the globe. Combining tasteful blues and slide guitar, soulful vocals and a heartfelt approach to songwriting, Kara’s truly unique sound will leave you uplifted, inspired and always wanting more.
At the age of 16 Kara joined with her brother Mitch Grainger to form the band “Papa Lips”. The band toured consistently throughout Australia and produced two studio albums that received national air play.
The band was heavily influenced by the sounds of Stax recording in Memphis, and by the Funky style of blues and soul that derived from New Orleans.
In 2008 Kara signed to Australian label “Craving Records” and was invited to the US by producer David Kalish where she recorded her debut solo album. The recording entitled “Grand and Green River” received critical acclaim and remained in the top 30 of the Americana Charts for 38 straight weeks.
Since then Kara has made two further albums whilst residing in the US. In 2011 “LA Blues” was recorded live at Studio City Sound. The cd paid tribute to some of Kara’s earliest blues inspirations and in 2013 kara recorded and released”Shiver and Sigh” through Los Angeles record label “Eclecto Groove.” The album was produced by grammy award winning producer David Z with some of LA’s finest musicians, including Mike Finnigan, Hutch Hutchinson, James Gadson and Kirk Fletcher among others.
Recently Kara was invited to play in North east India by the Himalayan Blues Foundation. Her performance at the “18 degrees cultural Festival” introduced the local community in Shillong to roots and blues music for the very first time.
She has traveled to Indonesia several times to perform at the the Jakarta International Blues Festival, performing together with her US band and also as a special guest with “The Jakarta all Women Blues Review”.
In 2011 she toured Japan with “The Swampers and Donnie Fritts”, the infamous house Rhythm section for “Fame Recordings” in Muscle Shoals…She has taken her band to Switzerland where she performed at the “Sierre Blues Festival” as well as “Lucerne”. The band has also toured in Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg and Spain..
In 2015 Kara performed at the “Beautiful swamp Festival” in Calais France and also to sell out crowds on her debut tour of the Uk. One of the highlights was perfoming at “Ronnie Scotts”, Londons premier blues and jazz venue.
In the US Kara has performed at several Festivals such as ‘The Portland Waterfront Blues Festival’, ‘Blues from the Top’ in Colorado and “Austin City Limits”. She has also opened the show for many extraordinary acts such as Peter Frampton, Buddy Guy,Taj Mahal and Jonny Lang, to name a few.
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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
For the 15th album of her illustrious career, Marcia Ball enlists Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) to handle the production, and one listen proves that was a wise decision. Recorded in Austin and at the legendary Dockside Studio in Maurice, Louisiana, Shine Bright finds Marcia being backed by different bands—each providing a touch of the local flavor of their respective cities. The album features nine originals and three covers (Ernie K-Doe, Ray Charles and Jesse Winchester). From the opening moments of the funky, groove-laden title track “Shine Bright,” a song that manages to tie together Ken Kesey and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, you know you could only be listening to Marcia Ball. Like a great roux, one that takes time, care and attention to create, Marcia Ball, over the course of 50 years as a professional musician, has developed a style that, while imitated, is uniquely hers. Whether it’s Texas Roadhouse Blues or the boogie-woogie barrelhouse sounds of legendary New Orleans piano players, it’s all stirred up and presented in a soulful and classy, yet down home and funky manner. And while Marcia’s musicianship and delivery are second to none, she has become quite the songwriter, one who is not afraid to tackle the difficult issues that we face today. However, the message is often delivered on top of such wonderfully infectious grooves that even heavy topics provide opportunities to feel good and dance. If you are doubtful then check out “Pots And Pans.” “They Don’t Make ’Em Like That” returns the listener to a simpler time; and while those times are gone, at least we are lucky enough to still have originals like Ball in this world full of built-in obsolescence. The sax work of Steve Berlin (baritone) and Eric Bernhardt (tenor) ebbs and flows with Ball’s piano and takes a wistful lyric and propels it into a feel-good dance party.
While Ball has certainly made a career of delivering infectious swampy dance grooves, don’t think for a second that she can’t still deliver soulful ballads and tender love songs. Ball’s road-weary vocal delivery on songs like “What Would I Do Without You” and “World Full Of Love” tends to lend an air of extra authenticity to each. On “I Got To Find Somebody” and “When The Mardi Gras Is Over,” Ball tackles quintessential New Orleans institutions like Ernie K-Doe and Mardi Gras with the confidence and swagger required. Of course, getting help from a backing band that features Roddie Romero (guitar), Eric Adcock (Hammond B-3), Lee Allen Zeno (bass), and Jermaine Prejean (percussion) paired with Berlin and Bernhardt on sax certainly helps to liven up the celebration. That same backing band is in full swing on “Once In A Lifetime Thing,” giving Romero and company a chance to shine as they lay down a swampy groove that is reminiscent of the classic swamp pop sounds of yesteryear.
Shine Bright closes out with Ball covering Jesse Winchester’s “Take A Little Louisiana.” This is a match made in heaven; and while Jesse is no longer with us, his spirit is certainly kept alive by performances like this. So take their advice and take a little Louisiana with you… and make sure to take a little Marcia too!
A career-defining album produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos. Marcia is simply on fire throughout, with an exuberant array of piano-fueled roadhouse romps seasoned by incomparably soulful ballads. Tracks include nine new Marcia originals, plus brilliant takes on the music of Ray Charles, Ernie K-Doe and Jesse Winchester. Producer/saxophonist Berlin guests on five tracks. “Rollicking, playful, good-time blues and intimate, reflective balladry…her songs ring with emotional depth” —Rolling Stone
Described as “like a young Billie Holiday gate-crashing a Tom Waits Swordfishtrombones recording session”, blues and roots duo Ma Polaine’s Great Decline continue to build a reputation as an intriguing and hard to pigeon-hole act.
2016’s EP release Small Town Talk gained rave media reviews, building on 2015’s nomination as an emerging artist in the British Blues Awards, winning a Reveal Records emerging act competition, an international song-writing semi-final spot for Suffer It Well from 2013 EP of the same name. Throughout last year Ma Polaine’s Great Decline toured the country, taking in the finest of intimate venues and enjoyed a busy festival season, culminating with triumphant sets at Towersey Festival and Purbeck Valley Folk Festival.
From the start Beth Packer and Clinton Hough always sought to keep their song-writing influences open. A strong base of blues is there, with jazz and country also holding sway, original writing is the focus, with oddness, sparsity and a subtle quality that is their own. There is a freedom for Packer to explore her vocal qualities and lyric writing, creating tales of haunting beauty, veiled sorrow, and a darker image of happiness.
The live band has moved through several line-ups and have returned to their roots as a duo. Live Packer moves between double bass, accordion and harmonica, with Hough on electric or acoustic guitar, all accompanying Packer’s powerful yet sensitive vocal.
99/100. This awesome album lost one point because “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”
Roots Music Report
“5 stars”, “Ma Polaine’s Great Decline once again generates a dark, highly seductive atmosphere part jazz, part cabaret; the potency of which is magnified by their minimalist approach”.
“Ma Polaine’s Great Decline inhabit that twilight zone between decadence and respectability but they never let you know in which camp they are going to plant their musical foot”.
Blues And Soul Magazine
“8/10”, “Crying out to be used on sound tracks. A very cinematic sound.. The icing on the cake is their vocalist. Stunning singer Beth Packer is someone to get to know”.
Texas blues queen Kathy Murray and her band, The Kilowatts return with their fourth album, Premonition Of Love, in a new partnership with Nola Blue Records. The ten original tracks and three inspired covers, mixed and mastered by multi-award-winning Jack Miele, explore the range of blues and roots music that their home of Austin, Texas is famous for. Fellow Nola Blue recording artist, Benny Turner, Freddie King’s younger brother and bass player, makes a special guest appearance on four tracks to help launch their label debut with extra flair.
Kathy wastes no time kicking off the album with the horn infused Boogaloo ‘First Do No Harm,’ and preaches the virtues of peace and love, while her long-time partner Bill “Monster” Jones rips a jagged lead guitar. The title track, ’Premonition Of Love,’ is a burning chunk of Texas Funk inspired by legend of the Lone Star state Freddie King. Turner leads the bump and grind blues for the smoking ‘Beggars Can’t Be Choosers,’ and spars with Kathy on the slinky horn funk ‘Always Fooling Me.’ The dance floor fills up for the jump blues ‘Grow Some,’ featuring great walking bass and honky-tonk piano from Matt Ferrell.
Kathy lays it on thick, pouring out her sex appeal, drawing comparisons to Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker on the Lowell Fulson 1965 classic ‘Black Nights,’ a brassy and sassy feel-good tune despite the sorrowful lyrics, featuring a horn section that moans and wails. The reverb soaked take of Magic Sam’s bone-cutting blues ‘What Have I Done Wrong,’ highlights more hot leads from Jones and showcases the core sound of the Kilowatts. Turner returns along with Kim Field on scorching blues harp for down and dirty, gritty blues ‘Final Verdict.’ Jones dons the accordion for a side trip to the bayou for the joyful Cajun romp, ‘Sugar Bee,’ then drummer Nina Singh delivers the authentic Bo Diddley beat for ‘Answer Yes.’ Piano man Floyd Domino jumps in on the roadhouse blues rocker ‘All These Questions,’ as Kathy plays the part of a women scorned and ready to fight for her man. The Texas-styled shuffle of ‘I Got This’ swings with a dose of boot-scootin’ boogie. Kathy concludes her sermon of empowerment, encouraging us all to embrace the freedom to love deeply and keep our eyes on the prize, on album closer ‘The Bigger Picture,’ an easy-going rhumba that sweetly sails off into the sunset.
Rick J Bowen
With their recent signing to Nola Blue Records and their successful 2017 release of Let’s Do This Thing that was the Austin Blues Society’s entry for Best Self-Produced CD at 2018 IBC, Kathy Murray and her band, the electrifying Kilowatts, reassert their place in the blues pantheon that helps Austin, TX keep its reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World.
This is far from Murray’s first time at the rodeo. For decades she has helped keep a spotlight on the Texas capital’s blues scene. She cut her teeth during the golden era of Austin’s blues and R&B scene in the 1980s and early 90s, sharing the stage with the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and blues godfather W.C. Clark. In addition, she also took her rightful place among a veritable Murderer’s Row of formidable Austin blues women, including Marcia Ball, Lou Ann Barton and Angela Strehli. Along with the Kilowatts, she has shared the stage with headliners of the caliber of Albert Collins, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Albert King, Koko Taylor and others.
“The first night I saw a live band in Austin, I was 16,” Murray told the Austin Chronicle. “David (her brother, guitarist David Murray) was 14 and we snuck into the Armadillo World Headquarters where there was a triple bill of Storm, with Jimmie Vaughan, the Nightcrawlers with Stevie Ray, and Paul Ray & the Cobras. My little teen self was totally blown away!”
Throughout her professional evolution, the blues has been the foundation of Murray’s music and songwriting, but she’s never been just a one-trick pony. “My sound encompasses the influences of all of Texas’ rootsy regional music styles that I’ve been exposed to throughout my life: blues, swamp pop, rock, zydeco, soul, rockabilly and conjunto,” says Murray.
Born to a service family, Murray moved all over the country before her father settled the family in Austin upon his retirement in 1968. At the time, the city was experiencing the first stirrings of what would become a vibrant live music scene. Murray cut her musical teeth on her older sister’s Elvis 45s, later graduating to the blues-tinged country of George Jones and Hank Williams. But it was experiencing the blues in person, at legendary clubs like Antone’s and the Armadillo that was a life-changing experience for Murray. Local talents like Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan and Blues Boy Hubbard and national acts like Freddie King and Muddy Waters found a rabid fan in Murray. At the same time, she took a deep dive into the classic recorded blues canon, devouring records by Magic Sam, Bobby “Blue” Bland, B.B. King, Memphis Minnie and myriad others.
One critic described Murray’s soulful, emphatic vocals as “the love child of Jimmy Reed and Wanda Jackson.” Another noted that her music “oozes Texas’ low-down smooth and sexy blues.” Murray describes herself as “both a big-voiced blues singer and a prolific songwriter with a strong modern voice. I feel I’m taking the blues into the future by writing new songs in the styles that influenced me.” Alluding to contemporaries like Bonnie Raitt and Susan Tedeschi, Murray says, “We all have a foundation in common in our passion for blues music, but we stepped out of the box and incorporated aspects of rock, soul and other styles into our music.”
The new Premonition of Love will join a Kathy & the Kilowatts catalog that also includes Let’s Do This Thing,Relatively Blue and Groovin’ With Big D (dedicated to the late drummer, SRV songwriter and musical mentor, Doyle Bramhall, Sr.). The latter project has a long pedigree, dating back to sessions that Murray, along with longtime musical partner (and husband) Bill “Monster” Jones, cut with Bramhall in the 90s.
2018 sees not only the release of Premonition of Love, but also forthcoming tours of the US, Scandinavia and Spain. Kathy Murray believes, not without justification, that even after a lifetime onstage and on record, the best days for Kathy & the Kilowatts are still ahead.