If Rockhampton duo Busby Marou hadn’t already found a nice little groove over their first two records, then Postcards From The Shell House ensures they have now.
Think melodic, acoustic tunes with heartfelt lyrics delivered by the John Mayer-esque Tom Busby. From the opening cut, Best Part Of Me, none of the 11 tracks particularly break the mould, nor do they need to. Busby and his partner in crime, Jeremy Marou, are at their best when they’re throwing down three-minute guitar-pop tunes, and their growing legion of fans are sure to lap up this latest collection.
Shell House picks up where the island sway of Farewell Fitzroy (2013) closer “Waterlogged” left off. At once a homecoming (“Living in a Town”) and a departure from the country leanings of preceding offerings, it’s an album steeped in the gentle rhythms of the coast. Opener “Best Part of Me” champions Busby’s breezy croon and Marou’s earthy guitar, recalling Josh Pyke and laidback moments from Bernard Fanning. Reconciliation anthem “Paint This Land” bears the sonic stamp of producer-collaborator Jon Hume, while folk-rock anthem “Getaway Car” is piloted by the pair’s sparkling harmony.
At 72, Morrison can still belt the blues with passion and swagger. The opening title track is an original that pays homage to Willie Dixon‘s “Hoochie Coochie Man” riff. He elaborates on the wrongs in life and love, but exhorts listeners to get up and move on without self-pity. He follows with the single “Transformation,” a trademark Celtic R&B tune and the set’s outlier; his vocal interaction with Beck‘s tasty slide guitar is irresistible. “I Can Tell,” with Beck and Farlowe, is the first of two Bo Diddley tunes, and offers a fantastic lead-in to the medley of T-Bone Walker‘s “Stormy Monday” and Doc Pomus‘ “Lonely Avenue.” Morrison has cut the former several times dating back to Them, while a version of the latter appeared on 1993’s Too Long in Exile. Beck shines, unfurling his guitar wrangling with fire as Farlowe (who had a hit with “Stormy Monday in the early ’60s) and Morrison exchange verses effortlessly, making these the singer’s definitive versions. Fame vocally opens the original “Goin’ to Chicago” with a jazzman’s swing, accompanied only by double bass. Harmonica, electric guitar, and drums follow his organ on the second verse and Morrison enters on the third in a fingerpopping slow burn. Morrison first recorded “Bring It on Home to Me,” for the live It’s Too Late to Stop Now…. While that version was far more animated, this one offers the soulman’s nuanced best as a vocal stylist and he sings the hell out of it. Beck‘s solo on the tune is his own watermark on the set. Morrison‘s “Ordinary People” is a stomping, textbook case in how to write classic-style blues in the 21st century. A stride piano is the engine for the growling read of Sister Rosetta Tharpe‘s gospel blues “How Far from God,” and Morrison‘s passionate delivery makes every word believable. “Teardrops from My Eyes” was Ruth Brown‘s first number one hit; led by Fame, the band lays down swinging R&B, creating a solid backdrop for Morrison to wail. Little Walter‘s “Mean Old World” was once an oft-covered standard, and Morrison reminds us why by reviving its fiery spirit. A rowdy, raucous take on Bo Diddley‘s “Ride on Josephine” closes out this party on a proper note, with Morrison letting the backing chorus and the tune’s trademark boogie riff guide him. On Roll with the Punches, Morrison revisits his roots without nostalgia or overt reverence. For him, these songs are as vital and important to him as his own songs. The spontaneity on this set is more akin to a live record than a studio effort, making it a most welcome entry in his catalog.
“What better way is there to express yourself than through music?” asks singer-songwriter Chelsea Williams. Her question is almost rhetorical, as Williams, in full obedience to her heart’s most urgent commands, documents her emotions in song in ways that can feel astonishing. Sometimes those feelings are carefree and luminous; other times they’re troubled and turbulent. But when channeled through her captivating voice and intoxicating melodies, they work their way into the thicket of your senses before coming to rest in your soul.
Whether Williams is the music industry’s best- or worst-kept-secret is open to debate. Sure, she’s performed on The Today Show and has opened for big names such as the Avett Brothers and Dwight Yoakam, and she’s even had a high-profile guest shot on a Maroon 5 video, dueting with Adam Levine on the group’s No. 1 smash “Daylight (Playing For Change).”
But the truly incredible part of the golden-voiced chanteuse’s story has taken place at Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, where she’s performed acoustically for the past few years. During these appearances, Williams has managed to move an unprecedented 100,000 copies of her three indie records – Chelsea Williams, Decoration Aisle and The Earth & the Sea. Her customer base has even included the likes of Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard, who was so impressed by what he heard that he bought a CD. Even one of Williams’ biggest influences, singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow, walked away with an album.
“The Promenade is huge part of my life,” says Williams. “It’s one of the only spots that I know of in Los Angeles that has such a high volume of foot traffic. People are out and about enjoying themselves, and they know that they’re going to hear musicians. It’s incredible when I get comments like, ‘I was having a really bad day, but your music totally brought me out of it.’ That’s what I love about music myself – the ability to take somebody on a journey that they weren’t planning on.”
Kirk Pasich, President of Blue Élan Records, might not have been anticipating such a journey when he first caught one of Williams’ outdoor gigs, but he quickly knew it was one he wanted to take over and over. And so now we have Williams’ debut on Blue Élan, Boomerang, a thoroughly winning and transcendent mix of Americana, indie-folk and lush pop that places the young artist front and center among the preeminent performers of the day. “My aim with this record was to maintain integrity, creatively and musically,” she states. “I wanted to let creativity rule the process and not be afraid to step outside of what was expected of me.”
Williams musical journey began early. Born in Columbus, Ohio, she was still an infant when her mother picked her up for a move to Glendale, California. “My mom had dreams of being a songwriter herself,” she explains. “She was always writing and playing guitar and singing around the house. I used to fall asleep in the living room while listening to her playing music with her friends. I think it all sort of seeped into my head and stayed with me.”
It wasn’t long before Williams joined in on her mother’s living room jams. “It just seemed very natural to me,” she says. “Music always pulled me in. We would go to Disneyland, and I would always run toward the stage whenever a band was playing. I just wanted to be a part of it.” Her mother’s CD collection – Carole King, Todd Rundgren and James Taylor were favorites – made the first impression on Williams, but she soon discovered Bob Dylan. “We didn’t agree on Dylan,” Williams laughs. “I think my mother didn’t like his voice, but it seemed so beautiful to me.”
By the age of 13, Williams took up the guitar and started writing her own first songs. “It seemed so normal to me because that’s what my mom and her friends were doing,” she remembers. “I didn’t even worry about whether what I was writing was good or bad. I just enjoyed doing it.” In high school, her listening habits included solo artists such as Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan and Elliott Smith, but she eventually discovered bands like Radiohead and the Pixies. Williams recalls how hanging out with the “indie rock kids” at school led to an interesting musical exchange: “I introduced them to Dylan, and they hipped me to Death Cab for Cutie. It was pretty cool.”
Even before graduation, Williams hit the local clubs and coffee houses, and once she had her diploma in hand she made her way onto the stages of Hollywood, performing at the Knitting Factory, Hotel Café, Room 5, and On the Rocks. “They were great learning experiences, but in truth, I didn’t like to play those gigs,” she explains. “They didn’t pay very well, and you oftentimes had to go out of pocket just for the chance to be seen and heard.” Williams discovered that busking on the streets of Glendale offered a better opportunity to get her music across. “There were people walking around with Starbucks cups, and you had little kids trying to break dance,” she says. “The people really listened.” From there, she decided to take her act to the burgeoning outdoor scene of the Third Street Promenade.
With the Santa Monica Pier and the Pacific Ocean as her backdrop, Williams truly found her voice. Recording her music on her own (“I did a lot on my computer with GarageBand”), she found enthusiastic buyers willing to lay down $5 and $10 a CD. Connections were made – people gave her business cards and asked her to sing on sessions – one of them being producer Toby Gad, famous for his work with Beyonce and Natasha Bedingfield. The two worked on a collection of songs that yielded a full album, which strangely enough, resulted in Williams’ first taste of heartbreak.
“Toby pitched me to Interscope, and they bit,” she explains. “They said, ‘We love you and we love the album, and we want to release it as soon as possible.’ I was thrilled.” And then, a perplexing thing happened… as in nothing happened. “The label wanted me to do more writing, which I did, but then it became obvious that they weren’t going to release the album,” she says. “I couldn’t understand it.”
At first, Williams was crushed and even briefly considered quitting music (“I considered becoming a geologist”), but after extricating herself from the deal she realized it was all for the best. “After I got some distance from the album I’d recorded, I felt like it didn’t represent me anymore,” she says. “So I dusted myself off and hit the streets again, and after a while things came back around.”
By the time Williams met up with Kirk Pasich at the Promenade, she had a batch of new songs that would fully reflect her commitment to processing emotions with honesty, courage, hope and humor. Working with producer and multi-instrumentalist Ross Garren (Kesha, Ben Folds, Benmont Tench), she turned those songs into Boomerang, an album that grows in depth and meaning with each listen.
On the wistful pop symphony opener “Angeles Crest,” Williams paints a vivid picture of her childhood, envisioning the mountains she and her mother once drove by. With clear-eyed perception she looks back at the road once traveled and stares down the future on “Fool’s Gold” (“I wrote it right when I parted ways with my prior label. It’s me processing the situation”). Opening her throat with the bracing line “I was frozen by a mighty cold wind,” Williams further recounts that painful label experience on the aching country ballad “Dreamcatcher.” “Out of Sight” is a striking, chilling piece of torch-song blues, on which she casts off a previous personal entanglement with the mantra “out of sight, out of mind.” But on the buoyant, aptly titled “Rush” she finds herself caught up in the dizzying first flush of a new love. “It’s all about being in that moment,” she says, “all the crazy fears and hopes that come with the possibilities of a relationship.”
A stronger, wiser but no less hopeful Williams looks back on the recording of Boomerang thusly: “For me, this record has been an exercise in taking the reins and forging my own path in music and in life. I had never been given a record budget that came with so much creative control before. With that kind of freedom came a greater sense of responsibility and a greater pride in the work we were creating. I am so proud of the record Ross and I created.”
And with a characteristic note of levity, she adds, “I’m so happy that I didn’t give up music to become a geologist.”
Like many first-class leaders Mindi Abair (pronounced with a long A plus Bear) knows how to surround herself with greatness. She has been electrifying audiences with her dynamic live performances and utter command of the saxophone since her debut album in 2000. No one since Junior Walker has brought saxophone and vocals in one package to the forefront of modern music, with a raucous tone and such dynamic stage presence. After eight successful solo albums, the two-time GRAMMY nominated saxophonist, singer, songwriter teamed up with powerhouse Detroit band The Boneshakers, led by guitarist Randy Jacobs and released the critically acclaimed debut Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers LIVE in Seattle in September of 2015.
After 2 ½ years of non-stop touring with the five-piece band that includes vocalist Sweet Pea Atkinson, drummer Third Richardson, keyboardist Rodney Lee and Derek Frank on bass, she called on the talents of renowned Blues Rock producer Kevin Shirley (Led Zeppelin, Joe Bonamassa, The Black Crowes, Aerosmith) to guide them into the studio for their first studio recording. They chose the famed Hollywood recording studio EastWest Studios, and recorded 11 new tracks of hard-driving blues, rock and soul in just five days. “The EastWest Sessions” includes guest appearances from Joe Bonamassa and the 2017 GRAMMY Best Contemporary Blues Album Winner Fantastic Negrito.
The album opens with the thumping soul rocker, ‘Vinyl,’ that is a celebration of love and the power of music, that name checks many of its inspirational characters. Abair and Jacobs share lead lines over the heavy tom tom-driven groove of the instrumental ‘I’m Not That Kind Of A Girl,’ that builds into the sheer abandon of a saxophone house party. Abair spells out her philosophy of self-reliance and determination on the rocker anthem ‘Play To Win.’ Choosing a bump and grind slow blues as her soap box, Abair takes aim at the boy’s club for the blistering rebuke ‘Pretty Good For A Girl,’ driving her point home by sparring with guitar-slinger and friend Joe Bonamassa. For the soul ballad ‘Let Me Hear It From You,’ Sweet Pea Atkinson takes the vocal reins, demonstrating the power and skills he honed as the acclaimed lead singer for Was Not Was, Bonnie Raitt and Lyle Lovett. Some greasy wah-wah guitar mixes with Abair’s saxophone on the opening hook of the inventive almost instrumental Blues Rock anthem ‘Live My Life,’ that features a vocal chorus alternating with scorching solos. The gospel soaked ‘Freedom,’ starts out unfettered then jumps into a ripping guitar riff over a huge drum groove. This ain’t your daddy’s jazz saxophone for sure. The slinky beat from Third Richardson provides the template for Abair’s unapologetic confessional ‘I Had To Learn The Hard Way.’
Deep Blues pioneer Fantastic Negrito joins the crew on the expansive meditation ‘She Don’t Cry No More,’ a brooding work song dug up from the recesses of the human condition, filled with desperate weeping and wailing. Abair then plays a woman scorned on the dramatic ‘Done Me Wrong,’ pouring out her fury with tenacious vocals and blistering saxophone. The playful cigar box guitar-driven country meets New Orleans two step, ‘I Love To Play The Saxophone,’ closes out the session. A sweet back porch sing-along with Abair touting her affection for the horn that has been the love of her life.
The title “The EastWest Sessions” refers to the LA studio used for recording the album in the city where they all met and started playing together, but upon further consideration what Mindi Abair And The Boneshakers have created is something deeper; a melding of styles and ideals. The tracks are a mixture of old school Eastern R&B swagger and soul meeting Modern West Coast Jazz and Commercial Rock sensibility, blended into a new groove for a new age.
Rick J Bowen
Two-time GRAMMY nominee Mindi Abair has made her mark as one of the most recognizable saxophonists in the US. You may know her as the saxophonist on American Idol, or the only saxophonist to tour with rock legends Aerosmith since 1973. You may have seen her on stage with Bruce Springsteen for a historic night at the Beacon Theater, or tuned in as she joined Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra on the Late Show with David Letterman, caught her appearance at The Grand Ole Opry, or recognized her as Al Pacino’s sax player in the movie Danny Collins or as the sax player in Adam Sandler’s film “Sandy Wexler.”
Her eight solo CDs have garnered ten #1 radio hits, seven top five spots and two #1 spots on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz album chart. Abair received a 2014 GRAMMY nomination in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category for “Summer Horns,” a #1 recording with her friends Dave Koz, Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot, and more recently received a 2015 GRAMMY nomination for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album for her solo album “Wild Heart” featuring friends Gregg Allman, Joe Perry, Trombone Shorty, Booker T. Jones, Keb’ Mo’, and Max Weinberg.
After “Wild Heart,” Abair wanted to translate its edgier rock/soul sound to the stage. She called longtime friend Randy Jacobs (Bonnie Raitt, Was Not Was, Willie Nelson) to join her live band. Randy brought his Detroit blues/rock edge to her music. Randy’s band, The Boneshakers, was playing The Newport Beach Jazz Festival on the same bill as Mindi’s band, where she hopped on stage to “sit in” with The Boneshakers. “There was so much electricity on stage. We all felt it. Everyone played with complete abandon,” Abair said. “It felt like home. And most of my band were also playing with Randy’s band. It was really only about hiring longtime Boneshakers vocalist, Sweet Pea Atkinson (Bonnie Raitt, Was (Not Was), Lyle Lovett). So, we made it official and hit the road as Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers.” “Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers LIVE in Seattle” was released September 2015, featuring all the abandon of their live performances.
The artists she’s toured with and/or recorded with are a testament to her talent: Aerosmith, Gregg Allman, Keb’ Mo’, Joe Perry, Bobby Rush, Lalah Hathaway, Trombone Shorty, Duran Duran, Adam Sandler, Lee Ritenour, The Backstreet Boys, Booker T. Jones, Jimmy Webb, Mandy Moore, Max Weinberg, Bill Champlin, David Pack, Mocean Worker, The Ides of March and Teena Marie. Abair played on Bobby Rush’s album with Blinddog Smokin’ called “Decisions” and she produced, wrote, played and sang on “The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You.” Abair has also played on a few Keb’ Mo’ albums over the years and vice versa and she played on Sweet Pea Atkinson’s album releasing on Blue Note Records in Sept., produced by Keb’ Mo’ and Don Was.
Kelly Z’s solo album, “Rescue,” is a collection of 60’s Funk, Rock and R&B produced, mixed and recorded by the acclaimed Chuck Kavooras. The eight tracks of inspired cover songs were recorded in 2011, but because of a set of fortunate and unfortunate events, never completed. When Chuck and Kelly Zirbes started talking about doing another project together, Chuck remembered the abandoned tracks and played them for Kelly. Both decided they were just too good to sit in a box, where no one would hear the power of these songs and skillful effort of the musicians. Kelly was brought in to sing on the tracks and finish the project. The whole album was recorded on analog at Slide Away Studios, recreating that big vintage sound, and featuring a full horn section, special guests – Teresa James, Shari Puorto & Lisa Orloff Staley – and the core studio band of Rick Reed, Bryan Head, John Marx, and Mo Beeks.
Kelly’s powerhouse rough and ready vocals draw instant comparisons to fellow blues belters, Lydia Pence, Dusty Springfield, Tina Turner and Irma Thomas. She rips out the scorching plea, ‘What Do I Have To Do,’ on the James Brown funk and fury opener, then dials it back for the smoldering soul of ‘Baby It’s You,’ and digs deep into her emotional tool kit for the slow blues ‘You Don’t Realize.’ Guitarist Perry Robertson plays Kelly’s foil on the Ike and Tina standard from 1963 ‘It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,’ complete with “Ikette” backups from Teresa, Shari & Lisa. Kavooras himself adds greasy slide guitar to the swamp rocker ‘Trying To Find My Mind.’ Soul classic ‘He Called Me Baby’ is given a tender but robust treatment and you can sink your teeth into the sexy groove of Isaac Hayes’ ‘Do Your Thing.’ The folk chestnut, ‘You Are My Sunshine,’ is given the full “Funky Broadway” treatment of a thundering jungle beat and blazing horn jabs to bolster Kelly’s steamy vocals. This collection was so worth every effort needed to complete the “Rescue.”
Rick J Bowen
Kelly Zirbes and her band Kelly’s Lot have been playing and recording in Los Angeles since the mid 90’s, and have recorded eleven albums and toured nationally and internationally, amassing a strong following. Currently, the full band is Kelly Zirbes on vocals, Perry Robertson and Rob Zucca on guitars, Matt McFadden on bass, Sebastian Sheehan on drums, Bill Johnston on sax, Dave Welch on trumpet, Bobby Orgel on keys and Frank Hinojosa on harmonica.
“Test Drive” gave the band its first official release. Through the first ten years they recorded three live albums, “Live At The Troubadour,” “Stop And Make A Difference” and “Trio,” headlined local festivals, toured regionally and embarked on two national tours. Many radio stations, have played their albums including their seven-song EP “Come To This,” which was recorded to showcase the band’s journey towards more blues.
Kelly’s Lot has been featured on many media outlets for the music and charity work the band has embraced. Some of the appearances include ABC Perspectives, Channel 4 in Milwaukee, Rock City News, LA Times, Pasadena Weekly, Independent Songwriter Magazine, Mixdown Magazine, The Debra Duncan Show, Good Morning Texas, The Gordon Keith show and Fox TV Houston to name a few.
In 2008 “The Light” was released, which showcased more of the rock and blues the band was getting known for. Their next release in 2009, “Pastrami and Jam,” included a list of covers the band enjoys playing.
Kelly and her band have opened for Tommy Castro, Shemekia Copeland, Marcia Ball, John Mayall, Curtis Salgado, Coco Montoya, to name just a few, and have hosted blues events for charities and for fellow blues musicians. With the support of European fans, the band toured across Belgium, France, Germany, England, Scotland, and The Netherlands. In 2011, they released a live album from Brussels, “Live in Brussels,” which was released both in Belgium and the U.S. “Plain Simple Me” came next and brings the listener back to the roots of this band, when Kelly was playing solo shows as a singer/songwriter.
“Don’t Give My Blues Away,” the next studio recording, was released with a horn section and keys with guest artists Teresa James, Robert Dill and Fred Mandel lending their musical genius to the project, which helped book new gigs for the group including the Valencia Jazz Festival and The Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival. “Bittersweet,” their early 2017 release is a mix of many genres and features a new side of the duo’s songwriting. Kelly and Perry have written songs for a 2018 blues release.
Bristol-based Elles Bailey has a talent for crafting and seamlessly weaving rootsy blues, country, and soulful rock, with a contemporary edge. What’s more fate has blessed her with a ‘smoky vocal’ style that perfectly fits her music.
Elles’s trademark husky, lived-in voice may sound like this young songstress keeps up a 60-a-day habit, but was actually caused by a serious childhood illness. At the tender age of three, Elles contracted both viral and bacterial pneumonia. Ever-resilient, Elles recovered,but her voice had changed completely. An ENT visit revealed no permanent damage, but as the specialist prophetically observed, “If she ever wants to sing, she’ll be a natural blues vocalist!”
Now, the miracle girl with the made-for-the-blues voice is about to release her debut album, ‘Wildfire’, on 1st September, 2017.
Elles had The opportunity to record ‘Wildfire’ at Blackbird Studio in Nashville Tennessee where she drew together an amazing pool of musical and production talent and expertise.
“It was always my plan to release my debut album in 2017,” says Elles, “It had been a long time coming, but I could never have imagined getting the opportunity to make it in Nashville, at a studio like Blackbird Studios, where so many iconic albums have been made! I’m very excited about sharing this record with the world!”
Produced by Brad Nowell ‘Wildfire’ assembled a host of Nashville’s finest, including Grammy Award winner and two-time CMA ‘Musician of the Year’ Brent Mason on guitar, three-time ‘Musician Hall Of Famer’ Bobby Wood on piano, joined by Chris Leuzinger (Garth Brooks) on guitar, Mike Brignardello (Lynyrd Skynyrd, Amy Grant) on bass, Wes Little (Stevie Wonder, Melissa Etheridge) on drums, and even legendary Ivor Novello Award-winning songwriter Roger Cook came on board to help add some extra sparkle. Blended together back in the UK with the likes of Jonny Henderson (Robyn Ford, Matt Schofield) on Hammond organ and Joe Wilkins on blistering guitar, the result is a unique trans-Atlantic coming together of styles.
As well as being supported by Radio 2, her single ‘Wildfire’ finally came off the Planet Rock playlist after a whopping 10 weeks and she’s back on their play list again, with her most recent single ‘Same Flame’. She has remained on the Country Rocks Spotify playlist for over a month now and cracked the magic 150k marker. Wildfire recently landed radio 1 playlist in Holland and has been voted the number 1 album in the IBBA blues radio charts. What’s more, Bailey’s most recent single ‘Same Flame’ and its accompanying video went on in June to make Song of the Day at Songwriting Magazine.
Reviewers have been wowed by Elles and her debut album, Wildfire due to be released on 1st September 2017. Maverick Magazine gave ‘Wildfire’ top marks (5/5) and went on to predict a glowing career for this talented artiste: “If Bailey can follow this album up with something equally as good as ‘Wildfire’, there’s no reason why she can’t hit the heights Swift did in country- and perhaps move even further up the country mountain than Swift did.”
“It’s a fact that very few make it to the big stage,” Blues In Britain reminds us, but “Elles Bailey has the necessary talent, the drive, and no) the product.”
Not only will Elles be doing her own headline tour of the UK through out October and November she has also been asked to open for guitar legend Eric Gales on his UK & Ireland tour.
ELMORE MAGAZINE REVIEW.
With ‘Wildfire’ she now delivers a debut album featuring a dozen tracks that are brim-full of fiery blues and confidence.
The pace and pitch is delightfully varied while the smoky-vocals are clear, clean and confidently self-assured, shades of the late Dusty Springfield at times, with hints of many of the old female blues greats swilling around in the background. Recorded in Music City USA, Nashville, and featuring some of the city’s finest sidemen, the keys and guitar work are driving, forceful, pounding along at times while at others pulling back off the gas and sliding along with zinging, ringing taste and control.
In many ways this album is a genuine triumph. It’s one thing to turn out a limited six-track EP but quite another to follow through soon afterwards with a fully formed, 12-track album. Bailey on this wonderful offering has pulled the trick off with absolute ease and assurance. This is an album that both promises much and delivers. In addition, it is a promising release that hints at yet more to come in the future pipeline. This is an album that crosses the acoustic-slide/electric blues divide comfortably and confidently. Get out and grab a copy of ‘Wildfire,’ you certainly won’t be disappointed. Ellis Bailey is a rising star to keep an eye on, for sure.
Few things are as pure as the sound of a solo vocal and sparse acoustic accompaniment. That singularity of purpose led to the latest collaboration from veteran blues man Steve Howell and his partner, Jason Weinheimer; “A Hundred Years From Today.” The wonderful ten song collection of rural country blues and traditional jazz offerings in the intimate setting of guitar, bass and vocals is set for an August of 2017 release. Texan Steve Howell provided the melodic and seasoned finger style guitar and soulful vocals while Jason Weinheimer lent his considerable and widely recognized skills on bass, engineering, mixing and mastering. The album opens with the jaunty trad jazz tune, ‘Lulu’s Back In Town,’ that was a staple of Fats Waller’s repertoire. The old-time country blues tune from 1927, ‘Kansas City Blues,’ shows off Howell’s adept finger picking skills and the inspiration he drew from Mike Bloomfield. Howell then digs deep into the songbook of fellow Texan Lightnin’ Hopkins for the share cropper’s blues ‘Going Back To Florida.’ The loose yet tight two-step feel of ‘Louis Collins,’ cleverly disguises the dark beauty of the great American murder story from the 1920’s, first recorded by Mississippi John Hurt.
Howell pays tribute to another one of his heroes, and Texas legend, jazz man Jack Teagarden, on the sweet lilting title track, ‘A Hundred Years From Today.’ Weinheimer keeps the bass walking as Howell trades rhythm, leads, and verses on the country blues boogie ‘Got The Blues, Can’t Be Satisfied,’ another standard from the catalog of Mississippi John Hurt. The duo then pays tribute to the Crescent City, (New Orleans) the birth place of Jazz on a loving reading of ‘Basin Street Blues.’ Howell deftly merges the jazz standards ‘Limehouse Blues’ and ‘After You’ve Gone’ into one with an extended instrumental intro of more finger picking magic that sets up his easy swinging vocals. Bo Carter and The Mississippi Sheiks wrote and recorded some of the most varied Delta Blues material and are well known for bawdy songs such as ‘Who’s Been Here?’ that would have been considered “blue material” back in the day. Howell delivers here with the light hearted, tongue-in-cheek humor that was intended. The much-loved standard, from the great American songbook, ‘Rocking Chair,’ closes out the set with Howell slowing the tempo and imbuing the motif of a dialog between an aged father and his son, with the deep melancholy from someone facing mortality.
“A Hundred Years From Today,” from Howell and Weinheimer, offers an interesting and accessible set list, recorded with an eerie clarity missing in the quality of most audio production, that breathes new life into gems from the past and taps the depths of the human condition.
by Rick J Bowen
When Steve Howell first heard Mississippi John Hurt’s happy style of fingerpicking country blues in 1965 at the age of thirteen, he immediately knew that the tame, folky style of strumming the guitar was a thing out of the past for him. As his journey progressed, Mississippi John Hurt begat Blind Willie McTell and Leadbelly, who begat Robert Johnson, Son House, Rev. Gary Davis, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Blake and a host of other black acoustic guitar players and vocalists. His interest in rural, folk-blues styles and the history of the music led him to learn more about how this music came to town and melded with the horn-oriented bands prevalent in the cities, creating a strong affinity for him with the traditional jazz and New Orleans music of the first half of the twentieth century. This led to a journey through music which, of course, included the pop, country, rock and blues music of the times, as well as the music of Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Lester Young, Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden, Art Tatum, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Chet Atkins, Johnny Smith, Wes Montgomery, Bucky Pizzarelli, Joe Pass, George Van Eps, Lenny Breau, and many other great jazz artists. Although very interested in many other music styles (bebop, rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm and blues, and others), the heart of his playing and singing is very much rooted in the rural acoustic blues and traditional jazz genres born in the American South.
Born in Marshall, Texas, Steve lived in Kilgore, Texas, until the age of seventeen, when his family moved to Shreveport, Louisiana. Upon Steve’s graduation from Captain Shreve High School in Shreveport, he lived in Dallas, Arlington, Austin, and spent some time in Pennsylvania during 1972-1973. Late 1973 brought the beginning of a hitch in the U.S. Navy which took him to Key West, Florida, and then to Havorfordwest, South Wales, for 3 1/2 years. During this time, he played folk clubs in South Wales, as well as in the South of England with his partner, fingerstyle and slide guitarist and mandolinist, Arnie Cottrell. They also played several folk music gatherings including the Pembroke Castle Folk Festival in the spring of 1976.
Upon his return to the United States ‘77 and back to Shreveport, Louisiana, Steve performed through the late 70’s & 80’s, with numerous gigs around East Texas, initially as a duo with guitarist David Dodson in 1977 and then with his partner, Shreveport restauranteur Jim Caskey. Since 2006 Steve has recorded the music he loves so much as well as continued to perform, oft times with his Mighty Men. Steve is the Recipient of the 2012 Academy of Texas Music Historical Significance Award.
A veteran songwriter and performer, Jason Weinheimer has spent the last decade focused on recording and producing albums for other artists at his studio, Fellowship Hall Sound www.fellowshiphallsound.com. He has recorded albums by John Moreland, Buddy Flett, and Jim Mize, among many others. In addition to his studio work, he plays bass in a few bands, most notably Steve Howell & the Mighty Men. His solo album “Skies Are Grey” was released in 2016 under the name The Libras.
Amber Cross’ powerful new album, Savage On The Downhill, is out this Friday, July 21st!
American Songwriter have the full album stream ahead of it’s official release this Friday while the Bluegrass Situation did a quick shot interview with Cross. Stay tuned for more tour dates and info from Amber Cross!”There’s a roughness about “Savage on the Downhill,” that can only come from survival” – Laura Bauer, Wide Open Country
“The ache in Cross’s voice is something you find in every song, which is part of what makes this album so powerful. ” – Gary Schwind, AXS
Authenticity is a difficult thing to measure in American roots music. It’s not in the hat you wear, or the twang in your voice. It’s in how well you understand that the music comes from the land, and that its roots run deep. Americana songwriter Amber Cross understands this, and on her new album, Savage on the Downhill, she makes music as beholden to the landscapes of Northern and Pacific California, where she lives and travels, as to the visually-rich songwriting she crafts around it. Her songs hang heavy with the yellow dust of dirt roads, plunge deep into the soft loam of the forest. As a hunter, a fisherman, and a woman of the backcountry, she knows the countryside well, and has a deep respect for the honest work that makes you a steward of the land. It’s something she shares with other roots musicians, a community she found attending her first Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. Her contacts from the gathering helped her connect with Savage on the Downhill’s producer, Canadian blues and roots musician Ray Bonneville. Traveling to Austin to record the album with Bonneville, Cross connected with other great American songwriters, Gurf Morlix and Tim O’Brien, who bothcame onboard for the album, with O’Brien complimenting her “no bullshit style of singing.” If there’s a rawness to Cross’ voice, a plainness to the words, it comes from the fact that Cross knows the roots of this music aren’t fancy. They’re built by hand and filled with honest words and hard-won truths.
Fret board aficionados, tone junkies and fans of hot stove blues guitar will be glad to hear the return of Seattle guitarist Jim Allchin, who is preaching to the choir on his third album “Decisions.” The 14 tracks were recorded at the famed Blackbird Studio in Nashville by a production team led by Grammy winning producer, drummer and songwriter Tom Hambridge. The group of A list players involved also includes Michael Rhodes on Bass, Reese Wynans on piano and Hammond B3, Guitarists Pat Buchannan and Rob McNelly and the “Heart Attack Horns,” led by Bill Bergman and Lee Thornburg. If this wasn’t enough fire power Allchin and Hambridge recruited Niki Crawford, Wendy Moten, Seattle soul man Mycle Wastman and international blues super star Keb’ Mo’ to join in on vocals, rounding out the all-star team.
The core quartet opens the album on the rockin’ blues shuffle ‘Artificial Life,’ with Allchin extolling the turmoil and tribulations of the modern-day working man blues. The team then heads south of the border on a rollicking trip to ‘The Mexican End,’ an easy going four-on-the-floor groove with hot horns and lead guitar. Allchin then cranks up the volume for the heavy hitting track ‘Bad Decisions,’ featuring more molten fret work and organ from Wynans on one of several songs co-written by Hambridge. The mood mellows for the introspective ‘Healing Ground,’ with Allchin trading verses with Keb’ Mo’ speaking to the precious gift of life that surrounds us and the power of healing available to all, if we will only listen.
The house rockin’ shuffle ‘Blew Me Away’ features the “Heart Attack Horns,” who bolster Allchin’s guitar chops on a good old-fashioned song about falling in love at first sight. The piano driven ‘She Is It’ continues the theme as he testifies to the virtues of the love of his life during the easy pop ballad. The gang whip out all the Nashville cat tricks on the blazing boogie woogie instrumental ‘Just Plain Sick,’ trading hot licks like old pros. The barn-burning slow blues ‘Friends’ rolls out like a staple from the B.B King songbook, with Allchin delivering a sermon on trust and being wary of fair-weather toadies and sycophants. Allchin dons an acoustic guitar to emphasize his point and our need for peace and understanding delivered via the easy-going country blues of ‘You Might Be Wrong,’ celebrating our differences in a party atmosphere to sell an important life lesson. The second instrumental in this collection centers around soaring guitar melodies and intertwining harmonic lines that ebb and flow with emotion. The edgy ‘Don’t Care’ finds Allchin playing the role of a man done wrong and standing his ground while his guitar does most of the talking. He then digs deeper into the blues for the torch song ‘Stop Hurting Me,’ featuring dulcet piano from Wynans and a solo from Allchin that rips like Garry Moore. The tender tribute ‘My Father’s Eyes,’ will touch the heart of anyone who lost a parent at an early age and longs for them to know how much they are missed and still loved. The album closes with a third guitar-driven instrumental simply titled ‘Destiny,’ with Allchin pouring out the passion he feels for this magical instrument, through his fingertips.
Jim Allchin describes the collection in the album notes as a study in the decisions we make in our life about identity, relationships, and “how to live life authentically.” Themes reflected in the lyrical content and in the choice of every note from his cerebral guitar work and soulful vocals. This is quite an album; the stuff dreams are made of.
Pierce Edens’ new release, Stripped Down Gussied Up, is both haunting and fiery; a concoction of psychedelic-grunge-roots, with Eden’s raw, tortured country bray at the hel
Pierce Edens Stripped Down Gussied Up June 2, 2017
Life is the intersection of empty and full, dark and light. This relationship, inherent in all things, is the underpinning of Pierce Edens’ new release, Stripped Down Gussied Up dropping June 2nd. Over the last ten years, Edens has been drawing on his roots in Appalachian songwriting and blending them with the gritty rock and roll sounds that captivated him in his teenage years. Here again, Edens pulls together light and dark— Stripped Down Gussied Up is both haunting and fiery; a concoction of psychedelic-grunge, with Eden’s raw, tortured country bray at the helm.
His fifth fully independent album, Edens has taken his singular voice back home to Western North Carolina. Edens recorded Stripped Down Gussied Up in his childhood home, which he stripped and renovated into a studio a few years back. Even the environment, thus, is an incarnation of the album’s crux. Edens said, “Recording often feels paradoxical; like taking a song and distilling it down, then building it back up from the bare bones. It’s like pulling your skin off your back and then putting a nice shirt on, maybe a coat too. This is me doing that. Stripping down, gussying up.”