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.
Singer/songwriter Meg Williams balances her big guitar playing with a sweet and sultry vocal style and razor-sharp lyrics. The recent transplant to Music City from upstate New York, Williams has made the most of her first year in Nashville, playing showcase gigs as a solo as well as with her full band, and releasing a new EP, Maybe Someday. The original six tracks aren’t what you’d expect from an East Nashville studio. They are full-blown blues rock and soul tunes, no country twang here. Williams busts out with the deep-fried funk ‘Not My Problem,’ as the opening track delivering some real Girl Power soul. She then rips into the straight-ahead blues shuffle ‘Bad Lovin,’ peeling off Magic Sam guitar leads. Swamp rocker ‘Little Bit Of The Devil’ features greasy slide guitar from Dan Wecht on the cautionary tale of a dangerous women. The title track ‘Maybe Someday,’ is a lesson on optimism infused with sweet gospel swing, taking generous influence from Tedeschi Trucks Band. The album’s first single ‘Let Me Down,’ is built off a heavy riff, a deep NYC rock groove and tough girl grit. The set ends with the head bopping rocker ‘I Feel A Heartache Coming,’ highlighting Williams power pop songwriting skills and unlimited potential.
Rick J Bowen
Meg has been busy performing all around Nashville at respected Writer’s Nights and Songwriter Showcases, and numerous venues with both her band, Meg Williams Band, and as a solo/duo act – you can find her on a stage nearly every single night (sometimes 3x a night!) After living in Nashville for only over a year, she has already been the Featured Artist at several songwriter showcases, shared the stage with many established songwriters & artists, and competed in the 2016 Nashville Blues Challenge. She has additionally performed in Memphis during the International Blues Challenge week (2017 & 2018), performing at the highly respected B.B. King’s Blues Club Memphis (2018), toured southern California three times in the past year, performed twice at the Re-Axe booth at the Summer NAMM showcase in Nashville, recently played at Knoxville’s WDVX Blue Plate Special, and performed at Cheyenne Frontier Days and Loretta Lynn’s Ranch as a guitarist for another Nashville-based artist. Often compared to Susan Tedeschi and Bonnie Raitt, Meg’s guitar playing has captured the attention of listeners throughout all of Nashville and increasingly the US.
Katie Knipp is equipped with powerful vocals and plays a variety of instruments from boogie woogie piano to slide guitar, to honest harmonica laden stories in between. She has opened for Robert Cray, Joan Osborne, Jimmie Vaughan, Jon Cleary, The Doobie Brothers, Tim Reynolds, The James Hunter Six, and more. #10 on Blues Albums Billboard and 2019 SAMMIE award winner for best blues artist.
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Mary Gauthier - Rifles & Rosary Beads
Sep 08, 2019
Co-written with U.S. veterans and their families, the eleven deeply personal songs on this album reveal the untold stories, and powerful struggles that these veterans and their spouses deal with abroad and after returning home.
_"You’ll be hard-pressed to hear a more powerfully moving work than Rifles & Rosary Beads this year — or any other.”
Last year we saw the release of Jim Allchin’s Decisions album which garnered good critical review for it’s great songs and musicianship. Allchin returned to the studio this past Spring to once again collaborate with Tom Hambridge and his team. Hambridge has produced Grammy winners before and to make things even sweeter he and Allchin invited Mike Zito, Bobby Rush and The Memphis Horns to join them on this production.
The output of all that is 14 new songs, 3 penned by Allchin alone and the other 11 were collaborations between Allchin, Hambridge and a couple of other folks here and there. In addition to Allchin on vocals and guitar are Bob Britt, Kenny Greenberg and Rob McNelley on rhythm guitar, Hambridge on drums, Kevin McKendree on keys, Glenn Worf on bass, Mycle Wastman on backing vocals and the aforementioned guest musicians.
Peter Rowan has paid his dues, spending more than 50 years in and around bluegrass, sharing the stage with everyone from Bill Monroe and Jerry Garcia. Now, he’s paying tribute.
His new CD on Rebel Records is called Carter Stanley’s Eyes. But the title cut isn’t the only nod to the man many consider the best lead singer in bluegrass. Cut after cut, including two written by Carter, two written by his brother Ralph, and one by Monroe, the songs conjure up memories of the artist who left us far too soon, in 1966.
But the title cut, one of three songs on the CD written by Rowan, seals the deal. The Light in Carter Stanley’s Eyes recounts the day in 1965 when Monroe and Rowan — a member of the Blue Grass Boys who wasn’t yet old enough to vote — visited Carter near the end of his tragically shortened life.
The song includes a spoken part, in which Rowan recalls Monroe telling Stanley that he had been one of his favorite Blue Grass Boys, and his favorite lead singer. It also recounts Stanley asking Rowan if he was “going to stick with it,” which Rowan answered affirmatively. Given that more than half a century has passed between the question and this new project, Rowan clearly kept his end of the bargain.
The song, with it’s built-in oral history of an important moment in bluegrass history, will help make Carter Stanley relevant to new generations of pickers. And it should add momentum to the push to add Carter and Ralph to the Country Music Hall of Fame, an oversight that frankly should have been corrected long ago.
Buddy Guy stands as one of the last true traditional blues legends of his time; an era that predated the rock ‘n’ roll explosion of the mid-1960s. Few remain, and even fewer are still releasing albums that remind us as to why they have enjoyed such a lengthy and illustrious career. The Blues Is Alive And Well is very much one of those albums. As a follow-up to his 2015 release, Born To Play Guitar, and his eighteenth solo studio album, The Blues Is Alive And Well features collaborations with Jeff Beck, Keith Richards, and Mick Jagger, and is certainly one of the best blues records to be released this year.
Becky’s body of work is already vast and impressive, as a songwriter and as artist, and she has the awards and accolades to back it up. But, as Crepe Paper Heart demonstrates, she’s not about to rest on her laurels.
From the opening notes of Another Love Gone Wrong to the closing of Phoenix Arise, the 12 songs will take you on an emotional roller coaster of thrills, tears, longing and loss. The stories are compelling, as her songs tend to be. And the performances are top drawer. Again, that’s no surprise if you’ve followed her on stage and on record. With the collective strength of her band and an all-star lineup of guests, anything less would be shocking.
Heartbreak is never any fun, but it sure seems to be good fuel for the creative process. Nicki Bluhm first found an audience for her rich, smoky voice while making music with her husband Tim Bluhm, who produced her early albums and co-founded their band, the Gramblers. But in November 2015, the Bluhms revealed they were getting a divorce, and their creative partnership ended along with their marriage. Splitting up was clearly not a pleasant experience for Nicki, and she lays out all her hurt and disappointment on her 2018 album, To Rise You Gotta Fall. This is a breakup album if there ever were such a thing, but Bluhm doesn't sound like the experience has weakened her. There are bittersweet moments in "Staring at the Sun" and "Last to Know" where Bluhm reveals her emotional wounds, but more often she sounds clear-eyed in her postmortem of her relationship ("Something Really Mean") or defiant as she moves past the wreckage ("Can't Fool the Fool" and "Things I've Done"). Musically, To Rise You Gotta Fall is steeped in vintage R&B and soul with a dash of country for seasoning, and the bluesy angles of the music are a perfect match for Bluhm's ruminations on a love that used to be. The album was cut in Memphis at the legendary Sam Phillips Recording Studio, and producer Matt Ross-Spang has put together a band that can evoke the sounds of R&B past without sounding dated or falsely nostalgic. And To Rise You Gotta Fall features some of Bluhm's finest vocal work, filled with passion and nuance at the same time, and for all the powerful emotions in play here, she doesn't overplay, and the focus and restraint only make this music more intense. Hopefully Nicki Bluhm won't have to get dumped again for her to make an album this good, but at least she found a way to put her broken heart to good use, and To Rise You Gotta Fall ranks with her best music to date.
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Kinky Friedman - Circus of Life
Sep 08, 2019
Before he was a novelist, and before he ran for governor of the state of Texas, Kinky Friedman was known as a musician. Proof of that can be found in his first new album in close to four decades, Circus of Life, being released on his own Echo Hill label.
As the lead singer of Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys he was responsible for such country classics as “Asshole from El Paso” and “They Don’t Make Jews Like Jesus Anymore”. The band also hold the distinction of being one of the few who were filmed for the famed TV show Austin City Limits but whose segment was never aired. (It is available on DVD if you look hard enough).
While Kinky has mellowed somewhat since those halcyon days, only “Little Jewford” Shelby (piano) still rides with him, and his songs aren’t as in your face as they used to be, none of that impacts on the quality of the material you’ll find on this album. For while the twelve songs on the disc only add up to just over 35 minutes of music, their substance can’t be measured by how much time they take up.
A new album from John Prine is always reason to celebrate, but an album in which he wrote or co-wrote all the songs is an even bigger reason to rejoice. The Tree of Forgiveness is the first album since 2005’s Fair & Square where Prine has written the songs. He has issued albums since then, but like Bob Dylan, they have been albums of cover versions, but this album is Prine and, I would argue, Prine at his best.
Prine co-writes with old friends and longtime collaborators on this album. He even wrote a song with Phil Spector — he started writing the song, “God Only Knows”, decades ago. Pat McLaughlin, Roger Cook, and Keith Sykes have worked with Prine in the past. He has made some new friends too in Dan Auerbach, who co-wrote the brilliant “Caravan of Fools”, and Brandi Carlile, who duets with Prine on the beautiful “I Have Met My Love Today”.
When Nashville-based singer/songwriter/producer Tom Hambridge decided to pay tribute to the city of New Orleans with this CD, he had no trouble recruiting several of the biggest names in Big Easy music – including Ivan Neville, Sonny Landreth and the late Allen Toussaint — to help him. But that should come as no surprise to anyone who’s aware of the rich legacy he’s already created in the worlds of blues, country and rock.
A native of Buffalo, N.Y., who graduated from Berklee College Of Music and spent three years on the road as the percussionist for guitar legend Roy Buchanan, Hambridge has earned Grammys as a producer of Buddy Guy’s Living Proof and Born To Play Guitar albums as well as more nominations for his collaboration with a who’s who of entertainers, including Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Van Morrison, Johnny Winter, Gregg Allman, Kid Rock, George Thorogood, Susan Tedeschi and many others.
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Mark Knopfler - Down the Road Wherever
Sep 08, 2019
Mark Knopfler’s ninth solo studio album ‘Down The Road Wherever’ features unhurriedly elegant new songs inspired by a wide range of subjects, including his early days in Deptford with Dire Straits, a stray football fan lost in a strange town, and the compulsion of a musician hitching home through the snow. Mark has a poet’s eye for telling details that infuse his songs with his unique psychogeography – ‘where the Delta meets the Tyne’ as he describes it – and his warm Geordie vocal tone and his deft, richly melodic guitar playing are as breathtaking and thrilling as ever.
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JP Harris - Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing
Sep 08, 2019
JP Harris doesn’t fancy himself a musician as much as a carpenter who writes country songs. With his forthcoming album, Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing (out October 5 on Free Dirt Records), Harris is back after a four-year hiatus to remind us what it's like to actually live the stories we hear so often in country music. Born in Montgomery, Alabama, Harris left home at 14 and traveled the country hopping freight trains, working the odd job, and living without electricity or running water for over a decade. For this record, his third full-length, he tapped a handful of his favorite players and called on the production prowess of Morgan Jahnig (Old Crow Medicine Show) to capture the stories of his stranger-than-fiction life. Dripping with pedal steel and telecaster twang, the record has the rugged edges of outlaw, the danceability of honky tonk, and classic country's beloved emotional candor. After more than a decade in the trenches, Harris is more in love with country music than ever. If he hasn't already, his latest effort will make you a believer.
Steve Forbert’s new album ‘Magic Tree,’ recorded in Meridian (his birthplace in Mississippi), Nashville, New York, New Jersey and Virginia, is a collection of his own songs and the music loses nothing in its quality of production despite the country wide recording venues. Throughout the album his folk roots shine clear, as does his song writing ability honed over his forty years in the music industry.
It might be naive to think you can detect authentic music without being familiar with the particular genre. Paul Thorn’s Don’t Let the Devil Ride, is an incredible gospel and gospel-influenced album that sounds like the real deal: From its production, which sounds like it was recorded inside an old hot wooden church stuffed full of sinning parishioners, to the songs, which make the listener feel like they’ve stumbled into perhaps the South’s most exciting church service. It’s all the more amazing given that Thorn isn’t a gospel artist.
The album kills because it’s intense without being noodle-y. Every song sounds like great musicians trying–somewhat unsuccessfully–to hide just how talented they are. As is often the case with gospel, much of this comes from the organ, which propels many of the songs here. The album kicks off with “Come On Let’s Go,” which is propelled by that organ, as mentioned earlier. An infectious hand-clap keeps the beat, with horns popping in and out of gospel-tinged background vocals. The song builds to a manic climax before collapsing into a swirl of organ. Truthfully, if Thorn had ended the album on that first song, everyone would have felt like they got their money’s worth.
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Sugarcane Jane - Southern State of Mind
Sep 08, 2019
Sugarcane Jane, the Alabama Gulf Coast-based husband and wife duo of Anthony Crawford and Savana Lee have recorded Southern State Of Mind with producer Buzz Cason. The recording starts off with a rousing "Cabin On The Hill", already a favorite with Sugarcane Jane fans. It is followed by "Campfire", the first single. The thought-provoking, fresh and exciting "Man Of Fewest Words" precedes the title track, "Southern State Of Mind", the tale of the joys of Southern living. "Destiny", a raw rocker, is foreshadowed by the inspirational "Rainbow". "Red Flags Warning", a true gem from the pen of Anthony Crawford is cut #7. Savana Lee is featured beautifully on "The One Before Me". "How Do You Know" and "We Can Dream" wrap up this eclectic collection of songs from the duo.
Brooklyn based but with a somewhat nomadic background, Ana Egge is one of those songwriters who seem to hover around the edge of the mainstream. She gets great reviews but she’s certainly not a household name even in the most dedicated of Americana infested households. Her album with The Stray Birds, ‘Bright Shadow’, did cause a bit of a buzz, perhaps down to that trio’s reputation but we can safely say here that ‘White Tiger’ is a much more multi faceted affair than the folky infused ‘Bright Shadow’, bursting as it is with imaginative arrangements adorned with horns and synths.
Tas Cru’s bio begins like this, “Raucous, rowdy, gentle, sweet, eccentric, quirky, and outright irreverent are all words that fittingly describe Tas Cru’s songs and testify to his reputation as a one of the most unique of bluesmen plying his trade today. ”
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Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore - Downey To Lubbock
Sep 08, 2019
DOWNEY TO LUBBOCK was born by immaculate inspiration from live shows Grammy winner Dave Alvin and Grammy nominee Jimmie Dale Gilmore performed together in 2017. Just the two of them were swapping songs and cutting up, each with a guitar and a heart full of soul, musicians who’ve been on the road their entire adult lives. The result is an album of blues, rock and folk inspired tunes that both of their fans will enjoy.
The album contains 12 songs - 10 covers and two originals - and is destined to be a classic Americana album from two Americana legends.
Joyann Parker brings a full range of talent to her performances as an accomplished singer, pianist, songwriter must-hear lead guitarist, currently endorsed by Heritage Guitars in Kalamazoo, MI. She has performed for thousands at major venues and festivals across the country.
For one so young (he was born in 1988), Travis Bowlin has already achieved a hell of a lot. Not only can he play the guitar, he can make them too! At first he made cigar box guitars for his own use but people seeing him use them, created a demand that he now meets through his separate business, Bowlin Box Instruments. Travis was born near Cincinnati and raised in a household full of many genres of music…so he soaked up blues, rock ‘n’ roll, gospel and country. He got his first guitar aged 15 and very soon started to perform around his home and surrounding states. To take his devotion a step further, he moved to Nashville and released his first album in 2014, called See You Again. His influences have a wide range as he cites Led Zeppelin, BB King, Robert Johnson, Prince, Steppenwolf, 3 Dog Night and Albert King amongst others.
He has now released his follow up album called, rather neatly, Secundus, as it means second but can also, apparently, be used to mean ‘lucky’. It contains 12 all original tracks and shows a development from that first outing with its more developed, blues-oriented feeling and manages to cover virtually every emotion a human being can experience. There are many more flavours to be discerned and I can hear jazz and soul in the mix and I even picked up a hint of progginess in a Yes kind of way.
In the past several years, Sideline has jumped from being a literal side project for some bluegrass A-listers to a fully-fledged band working its way to the top of the bluegrass world. With a few of those original “sidemen” on board, as well as the addition of several younger faces, Sideline has continued to up their game with the release of their new Mountain Home album, Front and Center.
Opening track Thunder Dan has captivated radio audiences with its catchy chorus and bluesy, mash-style grass. Penned by Josh Manning, it’s a take on the familiar “mountain man” story, featuring a title character with an itchy trigger finger and strong vocals from Troy Boone. The song hit number one last month and was back at the top spot on the Bluegrass Today chart this past week. Lysander Hayes is another rough character, keeping his mama up worrying and praying while he picks and drinks and runs around. Skip Cherryholmes pulls out the clawhammer banjo for this song, which along with Nathan Aldridge’s fiddle, makes for a nice old-time-with-drive vibe.
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