|Robert Bradleys Blackwater Surprise
Vanguard Records 786-2
Melding soft rock flavors, blues influences, jazz-fusion suppleness and creative talents into their own brand of alternative blues-rock, Robert Bradleys Blackwater Surprise has grown far beyond its Detroit roots to become a cultic national phenom. Led by the blind singer/guitarist Bradley, the groups continued evolvement has led to some recent personnel changes aswell.
The former RCA recording group is making its debut on Vanguard with a new lineup that is unafraid of innovation. Bradley and drummer Jeff Foulkes remain stalwarts within the new order; adding: Randy Sly on the keyboards, Matt Ruffino on the guitar, and Tom Wilbur stoking the bass strings. This conglomerate is equally ready to play with techno funk stuff, blues root stock, world beats, and power rock chording or soul arrangements as the situation or track demands.
In example, Train bursts forth on the strength of thundering organ lines and an engaging rhythm. Bradleys individually alternative rasp brings full flavor out on this hard charger. Following freshly, comes the almost reggaed See Her, full-fledged with haunting orchestration and tender reverberations. Check out the funky Profile, the lovingly soulful Feel The Fire, or the lamenting, keys-led ballad, Exist For Love. Finding each slice another pleasing avenue: Nightlife revamps well-scored background vocals, Willy Lee tells a sadly common acoustic tale of woe, and Ride My Wave mounts a drilling drum beat and more reverbed instrumentation.
Three more trembling power tracks finish this out with continued variety reflecting contempo-gospel and electric folk, and the closing Born in America displaying a vital, time descendent poignancy at this point in our lives. Do yourself a favor: Find a way to find this! This release is as pleasant a Surprise you could give or keep! Purists beware and twelve-bar maniacs stay at home .... this is for those looking for another slice of pie. Go head put a little spice in your life, do the Blackwater Surprise! Mark A. Cole
Vanguard Records; Welk Music Group; 2700 Pennsylvania Ave.; Santa Monica, CA
Maurice John Vaughn
Blues Suit Records BS-1160
Maurice John Vaughn practices mainstream blues with an urban perspective in his approaches and onslaughts. Vaughn is a former Alligator recording artist who was mentored in the Chicago area blues haunts. A multi-instrumentalist with strong proficiencies on the sax and guitar, Maurice is also a consummate showman giving each audience his very best. This is his third solo outing, with two previous efforts on Alligator, and numerous other production and studio credits with the Italian Appaloosa label.
Vaughn, on sax, guitar, and handling the vocals, is joined by long-time band mate Nathaniel B.J. Emery on the trombone and lead vocals on two cuts. Other Chicago talent here includes Detroit Junior on piano for three cuts, and Allen Batts pumping out the organ on two also. Velvet McNair also lends her vocal strength to the mix on a couple of tunes. Filling things out are Fred Brousse on guitar and harp, Ilaria Lantieri on the bass, and Massimo Bertagna on the drum kit. Guests include drummer Jerome Moho on six slabs, and Khouki Pontelero on the keyboards for six also. All the tunes, but Pickett and Croppers In The Midnight Hour, were also penned by Maurice.
The opener, Talking To Each Other With The Music sets Maurices credo aflame with a romp rhythm, sweet piano from Pontelero, and smooth harp lines from Brousse.The titletune follows with strong but slower beat and
contemporary lyrics. Hitting the love themes Vaughn shoots his energy into Two Can Play That Game and Love Abuse. This material comes up fresh with brilliant Emery horn arrangements and varied material like the funky Stop And Take A Drink or the moving and fanciful Shoo Fly Shoo!
This is a straight forward bunch of rocking city blues from Maurice and Blue Suit Records. Maurices composing skills, his obvious fun in making his blues, and the delivery here brings his blues to greater accessibility. Always expanding his musical parameters; there are slight popular music slants, full horn sounds from Maurice and B.J., and the always incessant good-time flavor commonly found in his work. Well worth your effort to find,this release is bound to have people talking! Mark A. Cole
Blue Suit Records; P.O. Box 352707; Toledo, OH 43635: or, www.blue-suit.com
Lets Get It On (Deluxe Edition
Motown Records 440-014-757-2
The unrequited master of soul sound and love songs, Marvin Gaye is re-presented to the American scene in this wonderfully provocative two-CD box set honoring Gayes complicated attachment to his music and life. A second CD going beyond the call exudes a clever examination of working demos, alternative mixes and more. The eight songs from the original LP are reproduced here, and following them on the first disc are nine session cuts that never made it on the 1973 original.
Marvins anthemic approaches to love and sexuality were never as clear cut as the working processes brought to light here. With additional insights from writer/co-producer Ed Townsend, the twenty-eight page liner notes includes the original Gaye LP expose along with interesting comments from biographer David Ritz and fellow writer Ben Edmonds. Along with all the speculation is also important studio session info never before released. The original Lets Get I On is continued with the original closer Keep Gettin It On, but it is also examined further here on a demo and the alternative Part III. Similarly Just To Keep You Satisfied is heard here in three forms other than the original recording. Gayes other takes on the tune are presented a cappella, and those done with the Monitors in 1968 and the Originals in 1970.
Full orchestration throughout focuses on elegant compositions and arrangements. Gayes masterful lyricisms and cleverly non-decisive composing allows him the freedom to explore. Gayes reinforced notions of love and purpose are actively deciphered on very personal levels within the notes, and the understanding there gained helps to understand the tortured genius that is Marvin Gaye. Marvins continually evolving musical ethos seemingly helped make sense of his physical and worldly restraints.
Material written by Gaye, along with notable co-writers like Townsend, Anna Gordy (Gaye) and Willie Hutch make this lineup. The many musicians are interchanged throughout and include the likes of guitarist Ray Parker Jr., percussionst Jack Ashford, and keyboardist Herbie Hancock. The sessions also included numerous instrumental takes including Song #3, Cakes, Running From Love, and Mandota. Closing out the exposé is a live version of Come Get To This from a 1974 Oakland, California performance. The cut, originally released in 1990, is the frosting on this soulful Gaye cake. The entirety of this release is exacting the formulae and progressive growth of Marvin Gayes music. The wonderfully toned vocals and exquisite composing resounds with a newer and enlightened level of mixing and remastering. The result conclusively deserves your attention. Mark A. Cole
Motown Records; c/o UMG Recordings Inc.; 1755 Broadway; New York, NY 10019
Motown/Hip-O Records 314-556-225-2
The Four Tops enjoyed a long career that began in 1956 before the Motown sound had been established, and they also were a tremendous part of the labels defining moments in the later 60s and early seventies. They further capitalized on their music and fame well into the 1990s. The Four Tops: Levi Stubbs, Lawrence Payton, Obie Benson, and Duke Fakir were R & B chartmasters with numerous hits among the eighty-five tracks in this four CD box set.
This set includes four chronologically arranged CD starting with Disc 1 that is mostly singles released from various labels including Chess, Columbia, Riverside, and Motown from 1956-1965. Familiar cuts include Baby, I Need Your Loving, Cant Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch),Its The Same Old Song, and the then-standard For Once In My Life. Cuts include previously unreleased songs, mixes and versions.
Disc 2 has all the chart toppers with hits like Reach Out And Ill Be There, Standing In The Shadows Of Love, Bernadette, Walk Away Renee, If I Were A Carpenter, and MacArthur Park. Unreleased gems include a new mix of 7 Rooms Of Gloom, Oh Ive Been Blessed, Just Another Lonely Night, Ill Pay Double, So Far, and Stranded On The Road Of Love. The height of their Motown popularity from 1966-1969 is represented splendidly on this disc with work from writers Ashford and Simpson, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Smokey Robinson, Jimmy Webb, Barrett Strong, and others.
Disc 3 dates to work from the 1970-1973 era and includes the well known Its All In The Game, a previously unreleased and unedited version of Still Water (Peace)/Still Water (Love), and two duets with the Supremes River Deep, Mountain High, and Im Glad About It. The platter contains work released in the United Kingdom on the Tamla Motown label, post-Motown releases oh the ABC/Dunhill label, along with Are You Man Enough from the movie soundtrack for Shaft In Africa (1973). Disc 4 provides work from 1974-1992 and features work from the Arista and Casablanca labels. It also contains collaborations with the Temptations (including a long medley of their hits), Aretha Franklin, and Grover Washington Jr.
This comprehensive collection contains a wonderful 84 page booklet bound into the casing. The booklet has premium photos, interviews with the surviving principals and producers, and full single and LP discographies. A well-researched retrospective of one of R & Bs most enduring groups, Fourever is also a tribute to the groups monumental impact, not only on Motown Records, but also on the history of soul music itself. This box, in all its published splendor, is needed in any serious popular music collection. Mark A. Cole
Universal Music Enterprises; UMG Recordings, Inc.; 2220 Colorado Blvd.; Santa
Monica, CA 90404
Down In The Mood Room
TinyTown Records TTCD 2011
In a very jazz-inclined release, harpman Jerry Portnoy (veteran of Muddyn Waters and Eric Claptons bands) teams up with Duke Robillard and other illustrious jump-blues company. A well-schooled and well-travelled player, Portnoy chomps at his harp bit with the integrity and expertise reserved of the masters. This release attests to his almost four decades behind the harmonica mike. Outside his harmonicizing, Portnoy also displays his classic jazz leanings and composing skills.
Joining Jerry and Duke is Marty Ballou on the bass and Steve Ramsay on the drum skins. Horns are Gordon Beadle on the tenor sax, and Doug James honking on the baritone sax and bass clarinet. Studio guests include Troy Gonyea on the guitar for three cuts, Bob Malone handling the vocals on one tune, and Mark Davis contributing his mandolin, fiddle, and mandocello.
The jazz standard Doodlin kicks off the biscuit and thirteen tracks found here. Pulling off clear cutting notation, Portnoy shares the stage and solos with the entire band. Sprinkled among the slick selections are five Portnoy originals that echo a mature musician with sanctifying arrangements and deliveries. Hear elegant renditions of Stormy Weather, Sentimental Journey, and others. Jazzy profiles, jump reactions, and swingin tendencies abound on this platter making it a milestone harmonica recording by one of the best. Mark A. Cole
TinyTown Records; P.O. Box 540523; Waltham, MA 02454-0523: or, www.harpmaster.com
Preachin The Blues:
The Songs Of Mississippi Fred McDowell
Telarc Records CD-83536
It was Alan Lomax that brought Fred McDowells backwoods brand of country blues to the attention of record labels who jumped to record the Delta musician at the forefront of the folk blues revival of the early 1960s. The Arhoolie, Testament, and Atlantic labels presented the honest, rugged, yet gospel-rooted blues of the rural McDowell.
His gutbucket brand of blues was delivered with the fire and brimstone of the most lucid of evangelists. Blues stylizations fall to genuine understanding and delivery of the genres most elusive and seemingly tortured inner reflections. Blues purism is a two-way street for players and listeners; and for players like McDowell and his mentor Charley Patton, the blues were lived and they profiled an existence.
With respect to McDowell; a bevy of more contemporary blues musicians tip their hat and musical roots to Fred and his country blues. Many of the cuts found here are well-known blues standards, and the performers are as varied as their executions and styles. Paul Geremia jumps up to start it all with Get Right Church bringing resonating slide within a full-bodied acoustic redux. Charlie Musselwhite carries the cross next on 61 Highway with rare and sweet guitar and strident vocals. Anders Osborne bats next with his homer on Kokomo Blues replete with gristled vox and strong ax pickin. Gregg Hoover, Dan Corbett, and Darren Thiboutot assemble for two: Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning with Colleen Sexton providing the vocals; and,Thats Alright with Johnny Sansone on the harmonica and vox.
Brian Stoltz plops down on a high strung rendition of You Gotta Move with weighty voice and slide contributing equally. Hot frets from Tab Benoit and his authentic drawled vocals put down an earthen version of Train I Ride; and, you can hear the ivory register cook with David Maxwell on the piano for I Heard Somebody Call. His pleading notation resounds with the melancholic drama and hopeful expressiveness that pervades the original. Canadian Sue Foley puts a vocal agony and her guitar ecstasy into the travelin train song Frisco Line, while Kenny Neal delivers Freds Worried Life Blues, and Scott Holt finishes it out with a pointed Good Morning Little Schoolgirl.
A very healthy collection of acoustic blues is found on the disc. Here found are straight forward, solo (in most cases) renditions with classic results; blues done with root processes in mind and heart. This is a magnificent retrospective of McDowell songs that are often thought to come from the public domain. All the artists here are true to the character of McDowells music, and respectful of the Mississippi bluesmans contributions to the genre. Mark A. Cole
Telarc Records; Telarc International Corp.; 23307 Commerce Park Drive;
Cleveland, Ohio 44122: or, www.telarc.com
Mississippi Fred McDowell
I Do Not Play No Rock n Roll
Fuel 2000 Records 302 061158 2
The title was the Tennessee natives description of his music, and he follows that his particular brand is just natchel blues. Plain and simple; man and guitar, music and the experience... that is what Fred McDowells music is about. Though called Mississippi Fred McDowell (1904-1972), he came to Como, Mississippi after marrying in 1940.
Bottleneck blues guitar, bone slide, and tremelodic sustains became trademarks of Freds deep Delta understanding of the blues. Blues with gospel and Africana roots gave rise to Freds stylings with repetitious rhythms and syncopated notations. With driven rhythms and sandpapered vocals, McDowells music exudes the authenticity that bore it.
These recordings are being reissued; the originals date to September of 1969 and were recorded at the then new Malaco studios. McDowell is said to have switched to electric guitar for the session that included bassist Jerry Puckett , and drummer Dulin Lancaster. The material garnered rave reviews and good sales at that release three decades ago. This reissue of the EMI/Capitol stuff includes riveting versions of Baby Please Dont Go, Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, Kokomo Me Baby, Thats Alright Baby, Red Cross Store, Everybodys Down On Me, 61 Highway, and two gospel favorites Glory Hallelujah and Jesus Is On The Mainline.
Bonus tracks make this a worthy repurchase, or first purchase, because this is a classic blues release no one should miss. Five extra cuts are You Got To Move, The Train I Ride, Long Line Skinner, You Ain't Gonna Worry My Life Anymore, and My Baby She Gonna Jump And Shout. It doesnt get any deeper to the American root of blues ... Fred McDowell music sits on the fence between secular and religious music that formed vital parts of black existence in the south. Feel the blues when listening to Fred McDowell, for they were a vital part of his life. Mark A. Cole
Fuel 2000 Records; 6607 Sunset Blvd., 2nd Floor; Hollywood, CA 90069: or, www.fuel2000.com
Distributed by: UMV Distribution; 10 Universal City Plaza; Universal City, CA 91608
Big Joe Williams
Absolutely The Best
Fuel 2000 Records 302 061141 2
Crawford Mississippis son, Big Joe Williams, never laid his hat down too long in one spot. Moving from state to state, and later abroad, Big Joe waxed sides for Arhoolie, Folkways, Delmark, Testament, Bluesville, and others before his death in 1982. Born in 1903, Williams first recorded for Bluebird in the mid-30s, and that hit, Baby Please Dont Go propelled his career in countless worldly directions.
Williams was famed for his melodic acoustic Delta Blues that moreover were played on his own-customized nine-string guitar. Big Joe capitalized on deeper rhythms gained through the added strings. His incredible fluidity on the frets gave him an added string element. His guitar was sought out by groups early on, but his incessant travels necessitated a more solo musical existence.
The first nine tracks here have never been released in the US. They were originally recorded for Eli Toscanas Cobra label back around 1957. Precise dates are unavailable, but the sessions included the sparse accompaniment of Erwin Heffer. They include Cottage Grove, Meet me In The Bottom, Bessemer Baby, Baby Please Dont Go (two versions), Shake Your Boogie, Jump Baby Jump, and a couple from Leroy Carrs songbook; Mean Mistreater and Prison Bound.
Chain Gang Blues harkens back to a 1960 session that included Big Joe, Lightnin Hopkins, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGee. Razor Blade Blues finds Joe playin solo with the noticeable slide at his disposal. Another nine tunes were recorded in Denmark for the Storyville label: I Feel So Worried, So Soon Ill Be Goin My Way Back Home, Shake Em On Down, Dont You Leave Me Here, Fickle Pickle, Ramblin And Wanderin Blues, Dont The Apples Look Mellow, El Paso Blues, and Shaggy Hound Blues.
Big Joe kept his music down to earth and communicable. Like the folk blues revival of the sixties that Joe was able to capitalize upon, todays blues popularity will find Williams blues highly energetic and entertaining. Big Joes music is a traveling mans story of life, his means to many ends, and a literal piece of the Deltas cultural history. Mark A. Cole
Fuel 2000 Records; 6607 Sunset Blvd., 2nd Floor; Hollywood, CA 90069: or, www.fuel2000.com
Distributed by: UMV Distribution; 10 Universal City Plaza; Universal City, CA 91608
The Country Blues
Wolf Records CD 120.972
Claiming purist intent, Al Cook has set down eighteen tunes in his own definition of the genres early solo acoustic era of the 1920s and 30s. The Wolf Records recording artist presents his fourth effort for the label with clear cut acoustic Delta stylings. Al Cooks demonstrative knowledge of American blues of the era seems engaging, and his guitar and piano action here pays ample tribute as well. As a songwriter, Cook has also penned all the tunes but one; and his compositional leanings are well sketched out in the liner notes.
Al does work out the vocals, guitar and he covers the piano on two cuts. He is helped out on one tune each by Stephan Rausch on the harmonica, and Charlie Lloyd on the piano. Reverend Frank TT sings one slab, and Kathy Kern and Karin Daym add vocals and guitar to one track each. Recorded between November 2000 and March 2001, these sessions could date back to another time altogether.
Cook shows fine form picking throughout while reminiscing over the styles of Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson, Blind Blake, or Son House. The songs lyrics reflect many simple yet contemporary themes with traditional treatments. There is a great sensitivity to the material which stylistically influenced each piece.Treated equally is the tremendous emotion that Cook throws into his vocals and those of the guests he employs. Hopefully we can look forward to another volume of Cooks country blues in the future; this collection is a righteous take on the old styles and a grand set of new compositions for your consumption! Mark A. Cole
Wolf Records; P.O. Box 375; 1120 Vienna; Austria: Wolf Records USA Inc.; P.O. Box 6066; Chicago,
IL 60680-6066: or, www.wolfrec.com
The Rockin Johnny Band
More Real Folk Blues
The hot, movin Chicago blues band formed by Rockin Johnny Burgin is no joke. Their slickly entranced groove follows them wherever they go, and this time they were found at B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted for these live recordings. This marks the third CD for the band following two other successful efforts on the Delmark label. Johnny, and his trademark Rickenbacher guitar show again why theyre one of the best draws in the Windy City.
Johnny actively pushes his axe work forward and he handles the vocals chores throughout as well. Sho Komiya is heard ringing the bass notes, Kenny Smith handles the work behind the drumkit, and on rhythm guitar is Rick Kreher. Special guests include Eddie Shaw on the sax for two cuts, and young Jesse Scinto taking the sax for one also. Billy Flynn comes out for guitar on one song, and Mark Cihler take charge of the harp duty for one, too.
The raucous set of covers takes flight with Little Arthur Duncans Duncan Donuts and Eddie Shaws blazing sax lighting it up. My Man, played as an instrumental gives Johnny and company further room to run. Earl Hookers Swear To Tell The Truth, Universal Rock, and Guitar Rag all give Rockin Johnny plenty of fret-fryin space as he picks his solos like a true ax slayer. On Chicken Heads, Sho Komiya paces with his funked bass lines; and Blues In B, a Mark Cihlar tune, gives the writer a slice of pie to showcase his harp skills also.
This set climaxes with PeeWee Craytons slow groove Blues After Hours and Willie Dixons Shake For Me; both of which allow the band to stretch into some longer five and six-minute jams. Ode To Billy Joe completes the platter and set and it is also well-done with a bluesier arrangement. The Rockin Johnny Band is a movin and experience in any venue or format. This disc is no exception ... powered-up Chicago blues from a group living the life, and doing it right! Dont miss out, this is worth looking for! Mark A. Cole
Marquis Records; P.O. Box 117; 3023 N. Clark; Chicago, IL 60657: or, www.rockinjohnnyband.com
I Got A Right! ... To Some Of My Best
CMO Records CMO 1010
Francine Reed seems comfortable in many shoes, as she pulls jazz, blues, gospel, or soul slants from her bag with an apparent ease reserved for few. Of late she has been touring behind Lyle Lovett and his Large Band, and more recently collaborating on television and in the studio with Willie Nelson. In any event, Ms. Reed has also waxed CDs with Ichiban and Platinum Entertainment, both of which have gone out of business. With rights to her previous material in limbo, Francine is releasing this effort recapturing many of her time-worn favorites and another chance in the recording limelight.
This release finds Francine is top form and singing across the board covers. Willie Nelson helps out with a duet on Nightlife and Tinsley Ellis cuts the strings on One Monkey (Dont Stop No Show). There is a mess of musicians in the studio on the three new cuts, but the core is Marvin Taylor on guitar, Yonrico Scott on the drums, Russ Rogers on the bass, and Steve McRay on the keys. The remaining cuts come from the two Ichiban releases; Cant Make It On My Own and I Want You To Love Me.
Killer tunes include Been There Done That, Nightlife, One Monkey, I Want You To Love Me, Stop Me, and Wild Women Dont Get the Blues. She delivers the Canned Heat hit Lets Work Together, punches out Percy Mayfields Please Send Me Somebody To Love, and closes things up with a jazz-lined rendition of Out Of The Clear Blue Sky. Strong lungs, wide range, and varied material all play into Francines tireless vocal character. She has a wonderful voice and this release should go a long way in reacquainting people to her talents. Mark A. Cole
CMO Records; c/o CMO Productions; 2310 -D Marietta Blvd.; Atlanta, GA 30318-1333:
Ill Be Your Mule
Delmark Records DE-752
Brooklyn native Steve Freund settled in the Windy City back in the 70s and began a blues apprenticeship that was marshaled by Sunnyland Slim and also found him working with Koko Taylor, Floyd Jones, Big Walter Horton, and James Cotton. In the 90s he moved to California befriending and working with Boz Scaggs. Steve still lives out West, but he commands a deep respect amongst the Chicago players and others on the blues scene.
That is witnessed by the cornucopia of bluesmen that have come out to play on this release. Bassists Bob Stroger and Harlan Terson join in, as does drummer Kenny Smith. Mark Mr. B Braun plays the piano, and Steve Guyger catches the harp work. Guitarists Dave Specter and Pete Crawford help out; and the horns are: Clark Dean, Van Kelly, and Dave Clark on the saxes, Brian Schwab on the trumpet and Steve Horne on the trombone.
The title tune starts it all with Freund displayin his tactical command of the guitar; the slow groove fashioned is strong. Next is B.B.s Fine Lookin Woman, and it comes off with some mighty fine ivory work by Mr. B.. Hear Freund and Braun run co-leads on Hung Down Head, then cut to brilliant horn interplay on Fittin To Go, a driven instrumental. Seven tunes here bear Freunds name and choice selections like Tampa Reds Ramblers Blues, Big Bill Broonzys Ramblin Bill, Eddie Jones Something To Remember You By, and his tribute to Sunnyland When I Was Young makes for a nice set.
Freund is atop his Chicago stylings, and convincingly has put out a release worthy of awards. These blues come straight down the pipe without any nasty leftover tastes. Powerhouse piano from Braun, fitting horn arrangements, and guitar work beyond complaint. Working-man vocals fit the bill as well. Hey, whats not to like? Mark A. Cole
Delmark Records; 4121 N. Rockwell; Chicago, IL 60618: or, www.delmark.com
The Nimmo Brothers
Coming Your Way
Armadillo Music ARMD 00011
Glasgow, Scotlands Nimmo brothers have climbed to the top of the contempo-blues heap in the UK. Their hard hittin scratchin and clawin power blues is based on the brothers double guitar attack and double action on their vocal mike. Talented additionally to write all ten of these slabs; no guarantee, but the young pair may be headed toward some serious popularity outside the Isles and across the pond.
The Brothers axes and vocals are hard to tell apart, but it looks and sounds as each is working out on Fender axes. The quartet is completed with the beat of drummer Mark Barrett, and the bottom from bassist Sam Firth. Moving like clockwork through their paces, executions and deliveries fall rightly together.
Shes All Mine slices into the set with hellbent guitar phrasings and an even harder rhythm. A decided swing shuffle beat comes to She Fills My Cup. Then a funkier pop-rock attitude comes out on the self-pitying Long Way From Everything, until it bleeds into guitar solo in its over seven minute length. The six minute AlI I Want takes a slow blues grind with haunting vocals and clear, stabbing guitar action. Like If I Could See Through Your Eyes the long stretch blues jam comes through with flying colored results. Ample but simple instrumentation, and readily accessible lyrics keep the music easy flowin.
They take the reins at a harder charge with rockin cuts like Live For Another Day. Across the breadth of this disc, The Nimmo Brothers ply a rock-oriented blues repertoire and the boys double hard hitting axe attacks will give no quarter. This is hot blues rock, styled with a flair and passion not seen since the early days of the classic rock era. Fine tuned ears will agree ... tough rock and blues with a hint of jump/swing. Mark A. Cole
Armadillo Music, Ltd.; P.O. Box 3055; Sturminster Newton; DT10 2XA; United
Kingdom: or, www.bluearmadillo.com
Put Your Hands On Your Hips
Rounder /Heritage 1166-11587-2
Bessie Jones was born Mary Elizabeth Smith in 1902 in Smithville Georgia. Working up and down the East Coast and Florida as a migrant farm worker, Bessie absorbed the great oral traditions of her ancestors learning many slave songs, work songs, childrens rhymes, and game songs from her grandfather, a slave who had made the Middle Passage voyage. Marrying George Jones, she and her new family moved to St. Simons Island; one of the slave-settled Georgia Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina, Georgia, and north Florida.
Joining the islanders culture, Bessie became active in keeping the oral tradition in music alive. She was sought out and recorded by Alan Lomax, and she was seen at mainland folk festivals during the 1960s and 70s. Rounder Records found her and recorded two LPs back in 1975 (So Glad Im Here) and 1979 (Step It Down). The first featured mainly work songs, field hollers, and gospel songs passed through the ages. The latter focused on children songs and game music that was also a rich part of the Afro-American cultural diaspora.
Thirty-one tracks on this CD bring back both LPs in this reissue of the material with remastering and critical liner note reproductions that include lyrics, comments, and explanations of causes, sources, and moral reasons for the titles continuity through the ages. Throughout the material there are songs of hope, desperation, love and the lovelorn, and stories taken from Christian topics or Bible passages. The tremendous religious basis of hope is often taken up and passed along in such oral tradition found here. Timeless in nature, listening will bring you to clapping, slapping, or stomping your foot too!
Without instrumentation, the a cappella renditions echo with beautiful harmonies often including children singing rounds and choruses. Bessie Jones encyclopedic knowledge of folk songs will astound you. Her friends, neighbors, and or charges singing along present honest, emotive, and sometimes religiously charged renditions of songs that have been passed from generation to generation. It lives today for your enjoyment; thanks to Bessie Jones! Mark A. Cole
Rounder Records Corp.; One Camp Street; Cambridge, MA 02140; or, www.rounder.com
Keep It Rollin: The Blues Piano Collection
Rounder /Heritage 1166-11601-2
Blues piano has a long history and wide stylistic differences. The practitioners presented here by Rounder Records take a swath across time and space to give you a fine collection of old-timers and newcomers working through boogie, barrelhouse, rag, and urban differences in their deliveries and compositions. These unaccompanied recordings give you the man and piano in collectable renditions with technologically superb digital remastering.
Booker T. Laury who died in 1995 is represented with an up-tempoed shuffle that excitedly pushes Bookers Boogie and the bluesier Early In The Morning that has screeched vocals and irregular notation. Tuts Washington, a New Orleans entertainer, recorded two cuts here in 1983 just before his death. His Arkansas Blues and Yancy Special are economical instrumentals with barrelhouse flavors. The almost frontier sound of the Laury and Washington are quite different from the city sound and sophistication of Charles Brown. The West Coast piano giant shows his smooth, jazzy, and sultry piano style on both Black Night and Nobody Knows The Trouble Ive Seen. Browns silky voice just tops is all off. He and his Give Me A Woman wax with a storied cabaret-style.
James Booker brings on All Around The World with ivory and vocal response to reinforce his plea of love. His twelve barred Hound Dog and Amen give him further keyboard road to build his vocals upon. Eddie Bo contributes two: the moving shuffle Hard Times and the aspired Im Through Dealing. Others contributing cuts are Art Neville, Willie Tee, and newcomer Davell Crawford.
Its not only lovers of the keyboards that benefit with this release. This is a good cross-sectional view of the piano in the context of blues music. The genre would not be the same without the instrument many find as background support or as a composing tool. Blues piano has never sounded so alive and healthy, take a listen and dip into a little history. Great liner notes and session info are included. Mark A. Cole
Rounder Records Corp.; One Camp Street; Cambridge, MA 02140; or, www.rounder.com
Holding My Own
Malaco Records MCD 7503
St. Louis, Missouri gave Shirley Brown a home that fostered her music career with a start in the local Baptist church choir. Soon known around town as a R & B belter, Brown was also managed by blues great, Albert King. Brought to Memphis to record with the Bar-Keys, Brown was instead signed by Stax Records in 1974. After Stax, she went to Arista for a time before finding a home at Malaco Records in 1989.
Shirley is a woman with big sound. Her capable lungs have been a hit since her Stax 1974 recording of Woman To Woman. In that vein she opens this effort with her declaratory Sweet Lips, Big Hips, complete with funky ax by Will McFarlane and organ by Clayton Ivey. Freddie Knight writes and produces three cuts: The fancifully soulful If You Keep Using My Love and Through The Storm on which Shirleys sweet gospel lean is backed by the Mississippi Mass Choir. On the third, Walkin Or Crawlin, Browns jazzed vocal profile is supported by Iveys piano and B-3.
The pop-orientated R & B of Shirley Brown dances with soul-filled, funky, or rich props that make her deliveries tender and rewarding. She takes emotive content to new boundaries on tunes like How Close We Came, Sticking By My Man, If I Were Your Woman, or When A Woman Loves A Man. Her take on Is There A Lover In The House and Denise LaSalles The Best Woman take desire to task also. Take Shirley in for the evening, plop this on, and get into the mood for something else. Surrender to this soulstress and let your emotions take charge! Mark A. Cole
Malaco Music Group; 3023 W. Northside Drive; Jackson, MS 39213: or, www.malaco.com
Relaxin With Tyrone
Malaco Records MCD 7505
Chicago soul singer Tyrone Davis has fought for thirty years to get to the top of his hill in the Windy City. Born in Greenville, Mississippi, Tyrone migrated north in 1957 and soon was working with producer/songwriter Harold Burrage. In 1968, he signed with the citys Dakar Records. He has also recorded with Columbia before signing with Malaco back in the seventies.
Tyrone sings with a soft tenor voice that comes to each song with a resonance, suppleness, and soothing nature that befits the love songs and soul ballads on the menu here. Funky guitar by Chico Banks, and Davis gives the sweet and low out on the opening Sugar Daddy. Phosonte Vales Kiss You has him handling all programming and instruments as Tyrone says goodbye with a soulful drawl and drool. Paul Richmond gives us the music on Hell Never Love You and with Gloria Graham for the background vox, Davis croons with confidence and candor. Richmond also lays out the cuts: The mournful Leavin Me and the funked up Power; both of which Davis wraps his golden voice into and around.
Sure Wasnt Me rings with Tyrones pleading vocal denial, sweet programmed tones and guitar by Jim Sims. Adding new dimensions to Sly Stones hit Family Affair, Tyrone shows his give and take with guess who ... Tyronza Davis. Closing up with Tribute to Johnnie Taylor, Tyrone languishes and takes a slow time out with saxist Jerry Winston. Theresa Davis is heard with the background voice and she is found on a couple of other slabs as well.
Malaco and Davis are well suited, both encouraging each other in the preservation of dynamic soul music. The ten tunes on this biscuit are steeped in richly delivered, and soul-packed R & B. Here its easy to discern; Tyrone Davis is the voice of soul in Chicago. Mark A. Cole
Malaco Music Group; 3023 W. Northside Drive; Jackson, MS 39213: or, www.malaco.com
Go The Distance
Ruf Records RUF 1067
California resident Walter Trout has scratched out his own name in the blues with three releases for Provogue, and this his third release for Ruf. The hard charged axe slayer gained his expertise touring with Big Mama Thornton, Canned Heat, John Mayall & his Bluesbreakers, and with the great John Lee Hooker. On this release he is again teamed with super-producer Jim Gaines, who was also aboard for Trouts last two recording ventures: Livin Every Day and Live Trout.
Trouts burning notations, quick string bending, and conquering phrasings stand to show that he is one of the worlds best. His voice is suitably matched for strong issues and deliveries; his material, thirteen original tunes, is well-composed and suits his vocal strengths. Inventiveness marks his prolific writing, composing, and arranging; this fourth CD in two years providing that proof. A writer of social significance and contemporary ideas, Walters title tune Go The Distance, written before September 11th, takes on a much more special meaning now!
Going the distance with Walter is his band The Radicals: Jimmy Trapp on the bass, Bernie Pershey on the drums, and Bill Mason behind the keyboards. Trapp and Pershey make one of the strongest rhythm sections in the country, musically flyin alongside Trout without regard for personal safety. Masons work here is such a brick in the wall that failing it would be a disaster. This quartet can kick with the boundless energy of wild horses.
The grooved boogie Love So Deep and the following Outta Control shoot from the gate with abandon and fiery guitar runs from Trout. With cuts like Ride Til Im Satisfied, Walter and company pull off ripsnortin rock before falling into the introspective blues of Go The Distance. Whether Walter is talking about hope as in Down To You or Looking For The Promised Land, or making cultural whoopee with I Dont Want My MTV the tunes comes across with brilliant blues-rock intonations and executions. Walter Trout and The Radicals have another wonder-filled rock and blues release; look for them out there touring behind it as they are one of the busiest bands in the business! Mark A. Cole
Ruf Records GmbH; 7 Ludwig Wagner-Str. 31A; D-37318 Lindewerra; Germany:
Ruf Records America; 162 N. 8th Street; Kenilworth, NJ 07033:
or: www.rufrecords.de: or, www.waltertrout.com
Mojo & The Boogieman
Keep It In Your Soul
Charlevoix, Michigan is home base for Mojo & The Boogieman, a rockin and talented blues band who sound echoes an early Canned Heat. The band has put forth a body of new material written by the band in total. The couple of covers done here include a contemporaneous version of Norman Greenbaums Spirit In The Sky. All the eleven slabs though, are worked out in a hot set that could be the moving live show that they are further recognized for!
The band consists of: lead vocalist Bryan Fischer, who also handles the percussion duties; Jon Archambault on the guitar; Gary Dannecker on the bass; Jennifer Harris on the drumkit; and Bruce King on the keyboards and harmonica. Guests include Leo Dombecki on the saxophone for three cuts, and Charlie Witthoeft blowing the harp on one. Background vocalists are Archambault, Dannecker, Harrison and King. They are joined for further background vox on two tracks by Rachael Batchelor, Rachael Crim, and Monica Hayes.
The opening cut Gypsy Blues jumps up with a shuffled beat and Fischer throwing down his sandpapered and engaging vocals. Come Home Baby hits hard next with a satisfying groove with sweet piano lines and phat sax from Dombecki. Laying down some funkier guitar action, Archambault leads as bass and keys also fall into line on Mean Lovin Woman. Meanwhile, the following Id Never Be The Same Without You takes a slow intro that builds and sustains an elegant love balladry. While Voodoo too starts off slow, watch it, cause it gets into a kick mounted on volume-filing organ, raucous vocal lines, and an intense axe contribution.
This biscuit wraps it all into a ball and takes care of business. Who could be disappointed walking into a northern Michigan club and finding this group on the bandstand. Mojo & The Boogieman have definitely got their mojo workin. Find this disc and you will know how they keep warm way up there. Who better to give you that shot to get through the harsh northern winters, than Mojo & The Boogieman. Give them a try! Mark A. Cole
Mojo & The Boogieman; P.O. Box 577; Charlevoix, Michigan 49720: or, www.mojoandtheboogieman.com
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