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Sunday, April 24

Cathi's CDs -- 4/24/2011

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Burke, Solomon & De Dijk – “Hold on Tight” (Verve-Forecast) B+

Solomon Burke, one of the most influential soul singers since forever, died last year, going out as many a musician might hope to--en route to a gig. These last few years he’d been stretching out in/with different musical styles/musicians (“Nashville” etc.) making just about every style of musical soulful. This one—largely rockin’-- is the result of a four-year association with Dutch rock and roll band—De Dijk. Co-writing most all tunes on this—De Dijk’s first album in English—Solomon Burke undauntedly fronts an 8-piece, European R & R band with aplomb, though for my money this band sometimes crowds the musical landscape. They’re good though. Burke’s daughter Cindy and granddaughter Sophia provide backups and he claims to here be “at last a full member of a band.” Only Solomon could make a soul tune out of “Text Me.” We’re sure gonna miss this guy.

Gray, Henry – “Lucky Man” (Blind Pig) A

Blind Pig is re-issuing some old blues recordings now and this one features New Orleans/Chicago blues pianist Henry Gray who became renowned in Chicago beginning with a 12-year stint as Howlin’ Wolf’s pianist and then went on to back up just about everyone there on recordings before dropping out of the scene for a couple of decades (when he worked as a roofer in Baton Rouge for 15 years (!).Yet, like many before him, he re-emerged to great acclaim later in his life. These sessions were recorded in the late ‘80’s and demonstrate Gray’s great rollin’ piano work and some wonderfully expressive vocals over GREAT blues. He’s got the creds, the abilities and only in the 90’s came to prominence as the star, not the sideman. A great player and bluesman…we miss him.

Rachell, Yank – “Blues Mandolin Man” (Blind Pig) A

This is a re-release of Yank’s 1986 recording (Random Chance) featuring Bloomington’s own Pete Roller, Lenny Marsh and harper Peter “Madcat” Ruth, along with Yank’s granddaughter Sheena on bass. Tight album from the old-time mandolin master who played with Sleepy John Estes (and Hammie Nixon) for 40 years, paired with Sonnyboy Williamson and moved from his native Brownsville (TN) to Indy in the ‘50s, where he died and was laid to rest. Arguably one of the best blues mandolin players on the planet . Roller provides beautifully supportive slide guitar work along with Madcat’s soulful harp and Sheena/Lenny’s solid rhythm section driving the bus. A great disc…and a wonderful man. Good for all mixes.

Sullivan, Quinn – “Cyclone” (Under the Radar) B+

Whiz kid Sullivan is the young guitarist who appeared on Ellen Degeneres at age 6 and wow’d Buddy Guy on stage at age 8—copying his guitar licks fearlessly and taking the crowd by storm. Championed by Buddy, Quinn was quickly launched (managed by Guy) and now at age 12 has already shared the stage with Eric Clapton, Derek Trucks and who knows who else. This disc features an original Buddy Guy tune and 11 of renowned songwriter and producer Tom Hambridge. This kid is taking the place by storm, though it’s strange listening to some ripping guitar and a wicked back-up band with a little boy’s voice fronting the storm. He’s already dangerous with that wicked guitar; when his voice changes, he’s gonna be lethal. This disc is a rocker with some alarming pop tunes.

Thackery, Jimmy and the Drivers – “Feel The Heat” (Indie/Telarc Distrib) B+

Guitar samurai Thackery, a Pittsburgh native, grew up in Washington, DC where he became known as the blistering guitarist for the Nighthawks, with whom he worked for 13 years and recorded over 20 albums. In 1987 he launched himself as a front-man with various power trios (Jimmy Thackery and the Assassins, Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers) and remains at the top of his game with muscular blues guitar work that takes no prisoners, makes no apologies and also nears the 20-album mark. A glutton for road-work, Thackery is recognized as one of the premiere blues-rock guitarists on the scene today. His vocals are adequate and his songwriting continues to progress (he writes 10 of the 12 tunes here) though I find these tunes a strange collection. It’s his guitar work that still soars and is his true gift.

Various – “The Best of Mustique Blues” (Wolf) B

Every January in Mustique (West Indies) Basil’s Bar (which boasts a stage surrounded on three sides by beach and water) hosts a blues festival for charity. It began with the love of the blues, and the hope to raise money to pay for children there to go to school. This disc is a collection of the best performers of the last 15 years—performing live. Produced by Dana Gillespie (blues fan/player) and the bar owner, Basil Charles, who for his charity work was subsequently awarded an O.B.E. by the Queen. Not bad for blues eh? And a bad collection of blues from a wide variety of players.

Vickers, Brad & His Vestapolitans – “Travelin’ Fool” (ManHatTone) C


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Saturday, April 16

Cathi's CDs -- 4/17/2011

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Ball, Marcia – “Roadside Attractions” (Alligator) B+

Marcia Ball chuckles at an old bluesman’s warning: “Women are too smart to stay long in music.” She’s been at it nearly 40 years…through many albums on the Rounder label and with Alligator since 2000. She’s a road dawg too…loves performing and although based in Austin, TX, she’s away more than home, playing that East-Texas-Blues-Meets-Louisiana-Swamp-Rock on her keyboard and double-daring everyone not to dance. On this fifth disc for Alligator she works with famed songwriter and producer (Nashville, TN) Gary Nicholson. Her vocals are a combination of singing and shouting—a bit wobbly on the slow ones and her trademark remains those rollin’ piano that also signifies there’s a party goin’ on.

Bartley, Geoff – “Put The Big Stone Down” (Indie) A

New England is a great place for acoustic music, and Cambridge has long been a supportive center for it. Bartley is a long-time veteran there, a songwriter/guitarist very well-known and appreciated for his old-style (pre WWII) finger-picking and skills with flat-picking and slide guitar. He’s been at it for decades, and regularly hosting the Tuesday open mic nights at Central Square’s Cantab Lounge, and working with Tom Paxton. His playing is a delight, moving smoothly through rag time, jazz and blues. So refreshing to hear all that style and maturity on guitar. Like a cool drink after a long, parched day. Gruff vocals reflect the years, but somehow enhance the whole. Several original songs…very good for all mixes.

Budd, Andy – “Ragtop Monterey” (Red Bush Records) C+

Singer Songwriter from Virginia, by way of Nashville, Budd pulls together a Nashville band to do his bluegrass/country style of tunes. Nice, and often comic lyrics tell decent stories in each song, with a back-up band that delivers a straight country and bluegrass bed for him to sing over. Nice, but nothing really stands out.

Chapin Sisters, The – “Two” (Lake Bottom Records) B

After a tantalizing 6-tune sampler whetted the appetite for these ladies tight-knit, ethereal vocals, they’ve dropped off one sister to motherhood, and made this disc as a duet. The tunes are very dark and seem to sink slowly under the weight with not enough change-up in style to have the impact the sampler had. Yet the two still have hauntingly beautiful voices and mesh and interweave through an abundance of slow and mournful melodies that tell tales of abandonment and loss, sometimes fading to drones. No dance music here! Songs for introspection and slow piano tinkling with heavy focus on their (admittedly) fine vocals.

Curtis, Stony – “Cosmic Connection” (Blues Bureau Intern’l)

Power trio…going for guitar electro-sizzle sainthood. Sonny can play…he pounds the songs together with plenty of notes leftover. Cosmic indeed…helps if you’ve smoked a big spliff and have the day off tomorrow. Not recommended.

Delta Generators – “Hard River to Row” (Delta Generators Music) B+

Grooveadelic four-piece from New England who swear they were dragged feet-first up the Mississippi, collecting rocks in their socks and that’s why they blast this very bluesy rock with Led Zep vocals. Ain’t afraid of fuzz guitar, but can live without it too (thank Gawd). Not sure they can live without slide guitar and a dirty-bottom rhythm section…even the slow ones growl. Cleaned up on blues awards in the NE and even tripped the lights fantastic at the Memphis Blues Fest. They’ve been takin’ vitamins, but have the skills to back it up. Mostly rock-blues with some very interesting songwriting palette-cleansers (#11) and quite a singer. Collected a lot of rocks – it was a hard river to row.

Etheridge, Riley, Jr – “Powder Keg” (Rock Ridge Music) B

Southern rock guitarist (now working from New York) runs through a selection of Southern blues-rock with a New York shine on them--big band backs with horns, and Mickey Rafael (Willie Nelson) on harp. Reminiscent of Little Feat catalog. Can also move through quieter vocal and minimal backup (#4) tunes—all with great players. but big band blues-rock are his forte with kinda plain vocals.

Gaines, Roy – “Tuxedo Blues” (Black Gold Records) A-

Brother to Little Richard’s saxophone player, Grady Gaines, Roy started out on piano emulating Nat King Cole, but moved to guitar as a teenager after being stunned by the playing of T-Bone Walker. He grew up playing clubs in his native Houston and was even dubbed “T-Bone Junior” for a time. He then relocated to Los Angeles and became a force to be reckoned with in Roy Milton’s band, followed by stint with Chuck Willis. Here he brings out six originals and some favorites from Quincy Jones, Nat King Cole, and others with his Orchestra. Once more we’re deailing with big band blues (a la B.B. King) with guitar that sails over the top and sweetly mature vocals. He’s gotten his guitar-tone DOWN baby! Nice record of big-band blues ‘n jazz..

Gilkyson, Eliza – “Roses at The End of Time” (Red House) B+

Singer songwriter Gilkyson gives us another collection of Americana story-telling. From a family of performers and songwriters, she’s woven her own trail of introspective and descriptive tunes, finding a home on the Red House label. John Gorka and Lucy Kaplansky guest on the disc (produced by her son Cisco), filled with fairly dark prospects on the world and its politics, sorrows, and saving-graces…painted in poetic descriptions. A little humorous projection (#8) even.

Goldberg, Mark “Pocket” – “Off the Alleyway” (PocketGoldberg Prodns.)

Southern California bassist/vocalist Goldburg pulls together a number of South Cal studio musicians (Joe Sublett-horns, Terry Evans-vocals, etc.) and issues a listenable album with horns, some slide guitar and songwriting of the eclectic kind. Nevertheless, overall not recommended for WFHB.

Great Caesar’s Ghost – “What’s Done is Done” (Great Caesar’s Ghost) B

Southern rock cover band puts out a double CD of it’s greatest “hits” – culled over eight years of playng on the road. Lead vocalist Larry Schmid sings over a full band of musicians who have obviously honed their skills out there in the trenches. Band is good, reminiscent of the Allman Brothers (who indeed, they thank on the sleeve). Very nice musicianship though heavily influenced/rife with Almans, Dickey Betts, Jeff Beck, Stones…and three Schmid originals…all rock, even when lightly restrained. Covers are very like originals.

Grills, Steve – “After Hours—with Ernest Lane” (Toogaloo Records) B+

New England guitarist who, after being turned on to rock/blues via Chuck Berry, swiftly fell in love with the blues, befriending Robert Nighthawk Jr., and Albert Collins. He gathers some VERY cool sidemen here to back him on a collection of blues selected to pay tribute to his blues influences. Ernest Lane, pianist for Earl Hooker, Ike and Tina Turner, etc., holds the keyboard position here, and Steve Gomes, Bassist Extraordinaire (Darryl Nulisch, Severen Record house musician, etc.) create a pocket you can’t slip out of if you tried. They certainly give him a rock-steady foundation over which he plays some fine guitar. Joe Beard also provides guest vocals on #5. The grooves are very good, as is his fretwork. His vocals…not so much. Nevertheless, this is a tight band and none too shabby in the blues groove.

Hobson-Compact, Erin – “Fortune Cookie Philosophy” (Choking Chicken Rec.)

The young Erin Hobson leads her four-piece group comprised to three very veteran and skilled musicians with confident electric guitar playing and supple vocals. Songwriting is a combination of pop flavored with funk and professional arrangements…no doubt heavily influenced by multi-instrumentalists Steven Ross (here mainly playing bass), Ross Rice (a touring studio musician and guru on keyboards/synth), and drummer Gary Burke (Dylan, Graham Parker, Shania Twain, Joe Jackson). Hobson’s voice is almost childlike, non-assertive, but smooth. She caresses the lyrics that are nearly overwhelmed by the players’ musical prowess. I’m not much of a pop fan, but this disc is invitingly quirky and several tunes have a Paul Simon feel.

May, Willie – “Nights of Luna” (Black Rock Entertainment)

Player from “western” New York with rough voice and okay backup band with horns. No cigar.

Moss, Joe – “Drive Time: Live at Chan’s” (Joe Moss & His Brothers Records) B-

Massachusetts guitar player’s 8-tune disc on an independent label. Nice grooves along the rock-funk line with blues occasionally visiting. Super long intros (as much as a minute) of comping before vocals start on most tunes. Instrumentation pretty nice, but singing only adequate. Nice bar band, probably fun live.

Quiett, Terry – “Just My Luck” (Terry Quiett Music) B

Oh no…another power trio…comin’ in blastin. But wait…here’s a soulful acoustic number with resonator guitar. Then here’s one with jazzy touches. All band tunes bristling with muscular guitar attacks and Quiett’s in-your-face vocals…that still manage to sing, not yell. Songwriting reveals the man’s got a host of alien women encounters…but the music is an electric rocker’s delight….along the Robben Ford trail.

Randolph, Robert & The Family Band – “We Walk This Road” (Warner Bros) B+

Randolph learned pedal steel guitar from church. In church, it’s referred to as “sacred steel” guitar. Randolph added soul and funk as he learned and came to the attention of several people, eventually landing a gig working with the North Mississippi Allstars. Forming “The Family Band” with cousins, he began opening for Derek Trucks and others, then recording with Eric Clapton. On this release Ben Harper, Doyle Bramhall and others guest with T-Bone Burnett producing. “We Walk This Road” is a “celebration of African-American music over the past 100 years…with old-time (original recordings) leading the listener to new songs/versions by Randolph and guests. Funk, soul, gospel and rock. Vocals are quiet stars on this disc, and the combined work of T-Bone Burnett and Randolph make the tunes amazing, yet hard to classify. Innovative work.

Rodriguez, Carrie & Ben Kyle – “We Still Love Our Country” (Ninth St. Opus) A

Austin, TX native Rodriguez toured for years with Chip Taylor and then became very well known for her fiddle playing, singing and songwriting. She has been dabbling with different partners, and this one with Irishman Ben Kyle (Romantica) sure hits the spot. His mellow vocals are the perfect foil for her dazzling pure sound as they sing. The do a beautiful remake of the Townes Van Zandt “If I Needed You” – a song I thought might be too tired to survive yet it is revived ever sweetly here. These type of harmonies are so fine and so hard to find. WOW. They also do some wonderful Texas two step, country, and even a sweet version of Boudleaux Bryant’s Love Hurts. Wow. This CD is too short…more please.

Sweany, Patrick – “That Old Southern Drag” (Nine Mile Records) C

Rough-voiced rock with traces of southern soul, but not a lot of nuance…not recommended.

Waters, Ben – “Boogie 4 Stu: Tribute to Ian Stewart” (Eagle Records) A

A young fan of Ian Stewart set out to make a CD in tribute of his hero after studying him for years (even after Stewart’s death) and as he began, notice of his project came to the Rolling Stones and several others who knew him – all who asked to participate. The result of a year’s project lie on this disc. Waters really demonstrates a solid command of Stewart’s style with his own flourishes thrown in, and as always – the Stones jump it up about 10 notches. The whole disc not only sounds great, but it’s clearly a project of love. As Keith Richards told Waters…”There’s only two people I never heard a bad word about…Ian and Charlie Watts.” This is a beat.

Whiptails, The – “The Whiptails” (Basilhead Records) C+

This Texas trio plays eclectic country & rockabilly and are described as “Patsy Cline meets Elvis Costello.” I’m not sure that describes it. Lead singer/guitarist Jeanne Sinclair has a clear,-but-warbly voice laden with yodel and bassist Chris Cessac, and drummer Garrett T. Capps provide an underpinning to her careening,but breathy phrasing and unadorned guitar work, Strange, not terribly melodic.. I think I’d need a different kind of vitamins to call this good..eclectic certainly…good?


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Sunday, April 10

Cathi's CDs -- 4/10/2011

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Bohler, Kaye – “Like a Flower” (Indie) B+

Lots of promo noise being made about Bohler, here backed by Robben Ford and Tommy Castro on guitars, horn and big vocal-backups behind a collection of blues-pop-rock tunes. Power vocals with lots of vibrato. Killer musicians put down a bed over which Bohler soars with plenty of vocal power. I’m not much into big band blues, but she can hold her own with what it takes to stay out in front of it. Castro and Ford sure put this disc in the pocket and nice vocal backups polish it nicely.

Handley, Randy – “You Don’t Know My Mind” (Way INTUIT) B+

Long ago, but not far away, Randy Handley was a prominent figure in Bloomington’s music scene. A wonderful songwriter and singer, he held together a band that kicked booty (with Kenny Aronoff doing some of the kicking). Went the way of the buffalo for beaucoup years, and here he is again on a CD produced by another local musician (lately of Nashville, TN), Mark Robinson. Handley’s songs have been featured on “platinum and grammy winning” albums. He checks in here with five originals (two co-written with Robinson), and one killer cover of a traditional tune—the title cut—which he puts over deliciously in both acoustic and electric-band fashion. With a voice wizened by time, he fills his tunes with vivid description, maturity, and the weary observation of Dylan/ Springsteen/Knopfler. The disc starts with slow songs, moves into medium rock and finishes with some righteous rockers – all bristling with thoughtful lyrics and a keen musicality. It felt good to hear Handley still delivers, even from the land of the buffalo.

Nelson, Tracy – “Victim of the Blues” (Delta Groove) B

Tracy Nelson has been around a lonnnnng time on the music scene. Born in California, but raised in Wisconsin, she began singing there in the early 60’s and recorded her first (blues) record while paling around with Charlie Musselwhite in Chicago. Then she moved to California and a wildly eclectic catalog of music, recording (and garnering fame akin to Janis Joplin) in country, soul, and pop, first by forming the famous “Mother Earth” California band in 1968, moving to Nashville, TN and then returning to California. In ’93, after recording on many labels, performing with just about everyone, and garnering beaucoup awards, she returned to blues/Rounder, and here (on her 26th album) she delves into her formative blues influences. With gritty and fierce vocal style she puts it over “as well as a Norwegian White Girl can.” The disc is reflective of sixties rock-blues (Cocker/Russell/Ball) with big-mama belter out in front and multi-back-up lady singers (Angela Strehli/Marcia Ball guest.)


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Sunday, March 13

Cathi's CDs -- 3/13/2011

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Bonamassa, Joe – “Dust Bowl” (J&R Adventures) A

Guitar wunderkund Bonnamassa puts out his 12th CD – with pumped up versions of some of his older tunes, and collaborations with John Hiatt, Vince Gill and Glenn Hughes. Each successive CD testifies to his growing prowess with guitar protechniques and high volume vocals. Seemingly effortlessly, he manages to push both to the outer edges of control, then draw them back—keeping excitement high. He does his mentor—SRV—proud. Bonamassa clearly loves his work and that passion is communicated to the listener. He ain’t afraid to bring it down acoustically too – every CD just gets smoother and better. He’s got the goods…and though he’s always classed as blues, I’d say he leans more toward rock, but who cares? Gill and Hiatt kick booty on their trademark “Tennessee Plates!”

Grana’ Louise – “Getting’ Kinda Rough! (Delmark) B

Midwestern belter, Grana’ Louise is relatively new to the blues scene, but taking it by storm. She’s entertaining live, which though it doesn’t always translate well to CD, garners fans wherever she goes. She’s got a full-throated voice and doesn’t care what genre her songs come from as long as they “speak.” This is her second CD and behind the first one she won the Chicago Blues Challenge and completed several European tours. Arriving in Chicago in ’98, Grana’ “inherited” Big Time Sarah’s band and their solid blues backing has suited her well as she stepped immediately into her role as a new female belter…Chicago singers whose numbers have sadly diminished in recent years. Her beginning songwriting efforts are crowd pleasers, though not necessarily too delicate (“Lead Foot Mama”; “Big Dick, MS”).

Rich, Richie & Chi-Town Blues Band – “From the Streets” (Chi-town Music) B+

Big-man, husky-voiced Chicagoian Rich (“Richie Rich”) Ryan steps out to sing vocals in front of Chicago musician stalwarts (Billy Flynn-gtr/mandolin/harp, Barrelhouse Chuck-piano, and Kenny Smith-drums, etc.). It would be hard to go wrong with that back up bunch…who pull off a change-up of nice blues throughout this CD. Rich’s gravelly voice gives the music a certain gin-soaked feel, and all tunes are his originals, but I’m not sure it stands up to the talents of the back-up miusicians. Billy does some of his rare and beautiful blues mandolin (#2), Smith keeps the beat absolutely solid, and Barrelhouse Chuck lipsticks up the solos somethin’ fierce. Sounds like it was a fun project.

Schmidt, Danny – “Man of Many Moons” (Red House) B+

Missouri-born, Austin-based singer-songwriter, Schmidt is indeed of “many moons.” After a short musical, commune-living, and recording career, Schmidt moved to Austin where upon being diagnosed with cancer, he wrote/recorded a CD to pay medical bills. It was highly successful (as was his cancer treatment) and long-story-short, he’s now signed to “Red House” and delivers this—his second—CD to major acclaim. His songwriting is imagery laden and rich, and his soft, minimal-instrumentation is the perfect setting for it. With largely just vocals and fingerstyle guitar, the CD also offers Ray Bonneville guesting on harp, and an array of vocal backups by friends. Nice listening..mostly midtempo tunes…good for all mixes.

Sicilia, Gina – “Can’t Control Myself” (VizzTone) B+

Young singer from Philadelphia who at 26 has sprung onto the music scene with ferocious publicity and on this – her third CD – garners the musical support of the “insanely talented” Dave Gross (who plays all instruments on this record but trumpet, sax and one lap-steel track). Gross’s reputation as a gritty blues artist/major talent is renowned, and he sure sets Sicilia’s liquid-but-weighty vocals off well. With supple voice in the neighborhood of Susan Tedeschi and a touch of Raitt, she tackles seven originals and three notable covers here. Sicilia garnered awards straight out of the box, and has stepped from straight blues to some country, a little Americana and on this disc…more soul and R & B. She’s certainly established a solid base for just about any direction she targets. She’s good lookin’ too – damn it.


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Sunday, February 20

Cathi's CDs -- 2-20-2011

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Anderson, Pete – “Even Things Up” (VizzTone) A-

Guitar master (long tenure as Dwight Yoakam’s guitar player, and grammy award winning producer, this Michigan native busts out from time to time with his eclectic interests. Loves blues though and dives in when he can. This is billed as his return to get his blues ya-ya’s out. No matter what style he tries, he sure has interesting ideas of guitar work…always something new added…a guitarist primer of sorts. He’ll play some boogie, and throw in some country chords, a little space music…he’s all over the place and brings it on home in style. Bristles with styles. Check out the Booker T stuff on cut 2—interwoven with funk and a touch of rock. Then moves right into a Latin beat with a twang (#3). And later – some cool guitar and vocal acoustic numbers. Interesting. What a player--this guy just won’t be tagged.

Big Head Blues Club – “100 Years of Robert Johnson” (Ryko Records) B+

Movin’ up on legendary Robert Johnson’s 100 birthday, the group “Big Head Todd and the Monsters” put together a combo with assists by BB King, Hubert Sumlin, Honeyboy Edwards, Charlie Musselwhite, Ruthie Foster, Cedric Burnside and Lightnin’ Malcolm to present some of Johnson’s song with the accent on the originator’s depth of emotion—not just one more (of thousands) remake by a blues band. This tribute album will be supported by a national tour (“Blues at the Crossroads: The Robert Johnson Centennial Concerts”) with many of the session participants performing. Backup is minimal, both electric and acoustic, which allows for more expressive presentations (stated as their goal here). Big Head Todd vocalist Todd Park Mohr sings most tunes with wavery vocals reminiscent of Johnson.

Big Shanty – “Collection” (King Mojo Records) C

Electric fuzz with volume and a shout-talk, gravel-rough vocal over plain songs revved up with electricity. Probably great for a biker convention. Not recommended for WFHB.

Blackwell, Jody – “Come & Gone” (Trespass Music) C+

Singer songwriter with a Carole King sensibility. English teacher and folk-club performer at night, Blackwell melds melody and a sweet mid-range voice into this collection of pop-folk and mellow listening disc. Relaxing, but nothing really stands out.

Hunt, Kelley – “Gravity Loves You (88 Records) B

Shouter singer, piano player and songwriter Kelley Hunt spreads her music around, throwing her voice around with abandon, bringing a sense of excitement in her live performances (check out #2 with her vocal slides up and down). Her style is mostly gospel-tinged R & B as she accompanies herself on piano. Songs tend to have a bit too many pop-key changes and odd transitions to be natural-sounding to my ear, but she makes them work with those expressive vocal chops.

Midnight Shift – “Rhythm, Rockin’ Boogie” (Cabernet Records) C

Pennsylvania four-piece (Gtr/harp/badss and drums) that plays a nice change-up of beats and okay musicianship with okay vocals, but nothing that stands out in particular. Not recommended for WFHB.

Sugaray – “Blind Alley” (Independent) A-

Six-foot five, hefty Texan (Caron “Sugaray” Rayford) has a voice to reckon with. He steps off immediately with testifying…vocalizing a remembrance to his single mom, who died of cancer, raising her boys. This leads into a stellar vocal of Son House’s famous “Death Letter.” He really puts over that vocal, and uses minimal backup while letting the amazing voice put over the feel. Band pulls its weight just fine (even backup horns and lady backs for smooth-voice contrast). So nice to hear great vocals driving the bus. Growing up mostly raised by his grandmother, his roots are in gospel in soul, but a decade ago, he moved into singing blues in his hometown—San Diego. After achieving notoriety there he moved to L.A. where he’s become a regular on the blues scene—especially leading a regular weekly jam with his newly founded Sugaray and the CK All Stars where he is accounted as being quite an entertainer as well as vocalist. Two tunes by Al Kooper and one from the great Arthur Adams only make this disc better. I ‘spect we’ll be hearing more from this guy. This is a great start.

Taylor, Larry – “Blind Alley” (Taylor, Larry – “They Were in This House” (Wolf) B

Step-son of famed Chicago guitarist Eddie Taylor, Larry grew up around the masters of the urban Chicago blues…Wolf, Muddy, Jimmy Reed & Elmore James were often jammin’ there or pickin’ up on Larry’s mom’s good cookin’. Larry played drums whenever he could and as a teenager, went on the road with blues bands. At 21 he toured with Lurrie Bell and other “Youngsters” of the blues. Then he decided to front a band and get into singing as well. This is a CD released of his music, honed in 30 years of road work. Chicago pals (Eddie Taylor Jr., Johnny Moore, Eddie Shaw, Willie Kent, John Primer, and a pile of others jumped in to help. His singing is of medium quality, overshadowed by the kickin’ backing of so many great musicians.

Various – “Alligator Records 40th Anniversary Collection” (Alligator) A-

Forty years of putting out good blues is indeed something to be proud of, and Bruce Iglauer trots out some of his more memorable stars with special hits. Good stuff throughout – largely urban Chicago, electric blues, but some of the best—both old and (more rock-n-roll new).

Wilkins, Rev. John – “You Can’t Hurry God” (Fat Possum Records) A

Son of blues & Gospel singer Robert Wilkins, John grew up in Tennessee and has ministered for years to people of Northern Mississippi and Memphis…just now putting out his first CD…on the subjects he most loves—the lord and gospel-blues. Laid back and soulful vocals over minimalist backup – these tunes speak loudly for all the feeling in them. Back porch gospel and boogie, then moving ballads with guitars sometimes out of tune, but who cares?!?. This is absolutely a golden album!

Williams, Jason D.– “Killer Instincts” (Rockabilly Records) B

Son of Hank and Marie Williams, Jason went big-time for Jerry Lee Lewis and took up piano, leaving home at age 16 to tour with Sleepy LaBeef. Took lessons from Memphis Slim and writes killer, comic, white trash songs. Kicks off CD with an original facing the “music” (“everyone wants me to be like Jerry Lee”). He describes his life as “cartoony” and he sure writes outrageous lyrics and lives on the eclectic of wild. Bet he’s a gas to see live. Throws in Todd Snider, Amy LeVere, and Bobby Bare Jr. in on background vocals…and song titles tell it all.


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Sunday, February 13

Cathi's CDs -- 2-13-2011

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Davidson, Terry & The Gears – “Damnation Blues” (Blue Skunk Music) C

Flat-out rock with an occasional blues chord. Mostly tequila-drinking, Rolling-Stones smashin’ rock and roll. Probably a great dance band behind some serious shots…not, however, recommended for WFHB airplay.

May, Willie – “Blue Decade” (Willie May Music) C

Gruff-voiced singer backed by band with good players and James Cotton sits in on harp (#7). Nice lady singer who sometimes duets with Willie. Overall, though, the music isn’t very compelling. Can’t recommend it.

Popa Chubby – “The Essential Popa Chubby” (Blind Pig) B

Little Ted Horowitz has been knockin’ those rockin’ guitar stingers back again…this time he lays in a few less than blastin’ tunes in the mix, but sticks to his usual bad-attitude rock ‘n roll….with an occasional blues chord (I think it’s a “G”). Still good for the rockers and guitarists who want to get down—right NOW damnit. A little more of a dynamic selection of tunes than usual (check out #6 for instance). Adept guitar playing and lots of it (also as usual)…this time with back-up vocals and a little more philosophy in the lyrics. Though fans probably think if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…I think this is an improvement. Mostly rock though – t’ain’t blues.

Wolf, Todd – “Live” (American Home Entertainment) C

Live renditions of slam, distorto-guitar and head-bangin’ rock tunes…..Jim Dandy to the rescue…not recommended for WFHB.


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Friday, January 21

Cathi's CDs -- 1-23-2011

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Blackman, Macy & The Mighty Fines – “Don’t You Just Know It” (Mamaru Rec.) B-

Old timer from the East Coast…studied music there in ‘70’s…took a side trip to New Orleans where he fell in love with their music and then ended up in California as a jazz teacher in Berkeley. Fond of old-time groups like the Drifters and Coasters, he was a road dawg for 15 years…befriending Dr. John and a bundle of others (including Keith Richards), and put together a side band to keep his favorite genres – New Orleans and 50’s R &B together. Good N.O. and jazz piano chops, backed by horns and fronted by Blackman’s not-so-great vocals, and peppered with some cool saxophone and jazz touches. A mix of old-time tunes and covers. Nice party band I expect.

Fowler, Damon – “Devil Got His Way” (Blind Pig) B

Twenty-five year old guitar slinger who definitely has the upper hand when it comes to making rock, slide and lap steel guitar do just what he wants them to do. He has an expressive voice, and can make things burn, yet retain a clear notion of musical/lyrical dynamics. In short, he knows when to shut up, and when to make it bleed. Though I am a little dubious about some of his song choices, I’m really likin’ his style and can only imagine how it’s gonna be as he matures.

Lauper, Cyndi – “Memphis Blues” (Mercer Street Records) A-

On a sampler CD (reviewed last August) Lauper introduced her collaborative effort at blues and this is the final 11-tune product. It’s tough singing gut-bucket blues with a clear rock voice, but Lauper pulls it off with the more-than-able assists of veteran musicians steeped in the genre. No flies on Cyndi, but it would be hard to mess up a collection of tunes backed by B.B. King, Charlie Musselwhite, Allen Toussaint, Jonny Lang, Amy LeVere and Ann Peebles. And mess it up she doesn’t. The authenticity of these players and her able backup band place this immoveably in the pocket. It is also interesting to hear a “pop/rock” (some folks refer to it as “Betty Boop sings blues) voice soaring over the top eyebrow raising, but in the final analysis…it kinda works.

Los Fabulocos – “Dos” (Delta Groove Records) B+

Kid Ramos is featured guitar player with this “Cali-Mex” musicical group formed in 2007 and now releasing their second CD. The musical blend of blues, zydeco, ‘50’s R & R, R&B, and traditional Mexican music puts them in a genre all their own. Rife with influences like Doug Sahm and southern two-steps this disc is bristling with Southwestern/Mexican flavor. Jesus Cuevas’ accordion skills are really something—never heard accordion play rock or kick those two-steps into high. Great musicians and a great example of a Americana music we often don’t hear. And of course Ramos’ guitar chops are killer. Grab a beer and let’s dance.

Mason, John-Alex – “Jook Joint Thunderclap – (Naked Jaybird Music) B-

Old-Time country blues is a specialized style of music that is being curiously mutated into something new-yet-old by the young folks comin’ up who admire it. One such is John-Alex Mason, a Colorado-born guitarist who grew up with a gospel background, got turned onto Johnny Winter, James Cotton and a raft of country blues masters. A European stint in the army found him busking solo electric blues, and now he comes together with Gerry Hundt—an up-and-coming electric harp player from Chicago, and some R.L. Burnsides grandkids (among others) to put forth his interesting renditions of new country blues…gone electric. His one-man band rig, backed with Hundt’s muscular harmonica plunges us into from the start, and then a variety of instruments and energies fill out the CD with an electric, front-porch party. It might come down from juke music, but it’s original, with a spoonful of almost everything else (Djembe, bolofone, mandolin, fiddle, electric cigar box—even rap). Interesting….what’ll they think of next?

Mo-Tones, Johnny & the – “Nothin’ to Lose” (Altenburgh Records) C

Wisconsin rock band that claim they play blues. They do pull off a couple of cool examples…a swingin’ jump tune and one serious shuffle, but mostly medium-appealing materials though musicianship is good. Not really recommended.

Price, Lara – “Everything” (Price Productions) C

Medium-like rock. Not terrible…not so good…not recommended.

Roomful of Blues – “Hook, Line & Sinker” (Alligator) A

The Legendary band keeps cookin’, currently with 8 members and stickin’ to their typical horn-laced, great guitar and vocalist, swingin’ blues. Members basically have to be complete experts at their instruments and with some real swingin’ corpuscles flooding their veins. Founded by Duke Robillard and Al Copley in 1967, more to-be-blues stars ran through their ranks than did the veterans of John Mayall’s band. But this is big-time swing and different kinds of chops are needed. Roomful turns out it’s usual class act here. In this incarnation vocalist Phil Pemberton dishes it out hot, guitarist Chris Vachou has a corner on fluid delivery; the horn section is tops and the rhythm section –dang it…they just cook. Mostly uptempo tunes.

Stubbs, Matthew – “Medford & Main” (Blue Bella Records) B

Power trio with Stubbs on guitar, often backed by horn section (Gordon Sax assists). Stubbs plays a variety of rock beats with horn section backup and a surprisingly pleasing mix of beats and feels. The horns fill a much needed support for his riffing and the backup of his bass & drummer. As a vocalist it may be harder for me to appreciate an entire album of originals/instrument-only music, though the players definitely know what they are going. It’s a Matthew Stubbs manifesto. He pulls characteristic sounds of Strats, Tele’s and Gibsons, but I think this disc will be most interesting to guitar warriors.


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