CD Review:Joe Louis Walker’s Blues Conspiracy: Live on The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise

Dear readers, fellow cruisers and friends, every now and then stuff hits ya like a brick, and that’s what the October 2010 LRBC did. It was just so fantastic that I am barely recovered, and it’s Friday !

So what do I see in my mailbox when I get home ? The latest release from Joe Louis Walker, recorded on the January 2010 Bluescruise from Stony Plains Records. As Cedric Burnside would say “Well, Well, Well . . . “

Guess I better just stop trying to fight off the after-effects and pick up where I left off on the boat, turn the music up and hit it and stick it.

An eleven cut release, it follows Joes’ highly successful Between A Rock and A Hard Place, which won the BMA for Blues Album of the Year (09). It features guest appearances by some of today’s finest Blues artists around. Who you may ask, check this out:
Johnny Winter, Curtis Salgado, Watermelon Slim, Tommy Castro, Mike Finnigan, Duke Robillard not enough ? Well let’s add to that, Deanna Bogart, Nick Moss, Paul Nelson, Keith Crossan, Tom Poole, Tab Benoit, Kirk Fletcher, Kenny Neal, Jason Ricci ahhh . . . let me think here, oh yeh might as well go full monty on this, Todd Sharpville, Mitch Woods and Paris Slim. OK I did it, full exposure.

For the kick off we are treated to ‘Slow Down GTO’, a paean to fast cars and the thrill of them. Featuring Mr. Mike Finnigan on organ, they rip thru the song like a hot car on a summer night shattering the sound barrier and breaking all the artificial rules of the road and blues music. With the starting light behind us we are treated to some of the finest guitar work from Mr. Johnny Winter that I have heard in awhile on ‘Ain’t That Cold’. It would appear to me that Johnny is much more comfortable playing alongside Mr. Walker than holding court on his own, his licks are sweet, hit percentage right up there and you can tell from the sound that it’s cooking in the kitchen.

Speaking of cooking, the soul stew of Curtis Salgado & Mike Finnigan join Mr. Walker for ‘You’re Gonna Make Me Cry’ and it drips with down home soul revival stew, both Curtis & Mike have the best soul drenched voices around. If I skip some cuts it’s only because I don’t want to be a tell-all review here, trust me there ain’t a bad cut on this baby.

One highlight (amongst them all) is the Jason Ricci, Nick Moss and Paris Slim version of ‘Born In Chicago’. As Mr. Walker so aptly puts it at the end of the cut after thanking Jason, “you’re killing them baby” ! Oh hell, the next cut features Watermelon Slim killin’ his slide guitar (and harp) and Joe Louis standing up in his own right as they play off of one another and bring it right down to the bone on ‘Sugar Mama’.

I attended two of the recording sessions on the boat this past January and was knocked out by the skills that were on display, but never thought that the recording would be able to capture the sound and fury of these performances. Through the entirety of the release we hear Mr. Walker’s vocals and guitar playing at the top of their game. This encouraged and challenged his guests to step up and deliver as well. It is also nice to hear some of the word play between the artists as they perform together – sorta like an insider’s seat at that special table.

The crowd responded, the artists responded and so will you when you listen to this seriously good release. Flashbacks from the January cruise are not the responsibility of the artist, label or reviewer, but sit back and dig ‘on ’em.

Oh wait just in case you need one more little enticement to get your sweaty hands on this baby – photos on the package are from fellow cruiser and one of the best Blues photographers, Joe Rosen, now go out and get it !

Until Next Time
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease

photos courtesy: Artist, Leslie K. Joseph
© 2010

Songwriter’s Workshop: October 23, Day 7

One of the many great things that occur on the cruises are the Forums or Workshops. They vary from Photographer Workshops where every level of picture taker can learn and be inspired by the three great ‘shooters’ on the boat: Joe Rosen, Marilyn Stringer, and Jan Schneider. ‘shooter’ Leslie K. Joseph takes advantage of these when she is on the boat and has benefited greatly from the expertise and knowledge imparted to her from these great people,

I sometimes tag along to the Photographer Workshop just to listen and learn, but this year there was a “Songwriter’s Workshop’ that I was debating. Early that morning while walking thru the Lido Dining Room, I was summoned by Scrap Iron, and joining him at breakfast, I got to talking to Theodis Ealy. Theodis was one of the hosts at the workshop so after speaking with him I decided that I should go check it out.

Man what a fine time it was. Now I ain’t no songwriter, never been no songwriters son, but there were universal truths being told here and I was so glad that I went to listen.

Featuring an array of songwriters each of them would offer up a story about a song or about the process of songwriting and then play or sing that song, All were very helpful even to me a non-song writer. Howard Scott of War, recounted how ‘Cisco Kid’ came about – they were playing in a bar (Cisco’s) , and some drunk dude came up and put a dollar in the jar and requested a song, the bouncers were about to throw him out when Howard said something to the effect that ‘The Cisco Kid, he was a friend of mine’ – come on folks, is that too cool or what? One other thing, well besides that fact that you should always keep a pad and pen next to your bed, was that ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends’ was written after an argument within the band.

Jimmy Thackery (an under-rated songwriter) spoke about how a friend who suddenly lost his wife asked Jimmy to write a song about the experience as a tribute to his fallen partner. “Blinking of an Eye’ was what Jimmy wrote and the crowd was dead silent as he first told the story then played it low and sorry on the guitar. A wonderful moment amongst wonderful moments. And Jimmy did NOT write ‘Sell The Bitch’s Car’…

Tommy Castro, Kelley Hunt, Rick Estrin and legendary writer Bruce Bromberg (Hi-Tone Records & Smokin ‘Gun fame) regaled us with their insights, successes and some failures. Interesting was Bruce’s recalling that at the peak of his success he was to busy to collaborate with Yip Harburg (of Wizard of Oz fame), shortly thereafter Yip passes away and Bruce’s’ chance had expired along with it. Make appointments with others to write, don’t pass up an opportunity no matter what. There are songs floating around out there in the wind – if you do not grab it someone else will. Keep your antenna up and searching, listen to everything and take it in, damn good advice even for me, which pays off later at the airport while waiting to catch my plane back home. Interesting theme re-occurrence here, Kelley Hunt’s most popular song is Emerald City – about Oz and places like it, just like the tie in folks sorry, but it is cool.

My magic moment – Theodis Ealy, known for the song “Stand Up In It’,  talked about how he was in a relationship and everything was good, except they weren’t friends, and that was the one thing he wanted the most. He started the song raspy and soft spoken barely playing the guitar, then built slowly to a crescendo of passion and sadness and he sang about the unattainable destination that would thwart the relationship and doom it. Just incredible, no double entendre, no Standing In It, just a heart felt plea of someone realizing that it will never be the thing he wanted most. The song title is ‘I Want To Be Your Friend’, and will be on Theodis’ next release due out after the new year.

There is so much more to the cruise than hanging and banging to the music. There are opportunities to learn, to interact with professionals, to get drunk also if you like, but one dimensional it is not. My only thought is that one of these workshops should be held earlier in the week, I believe that this would make the listening experience more enjoyable and give better insight into the artists and their muses. As this one was held on Saturday (Day 7) and in opposition with another one on Social Networking, ’tis a  shame I coulda gone to both.

Until Next Time
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease

photos courtesy: Dee Wallace, Chefjimi

© 2010

LRBC –Another Great Day to Be At Sea

Virgins report to the Pool Deck to get leid – repeat offenders to the lounge for the returnee party. Virgins get treated to performances by ‘virgin’ acts, this year it was Lightin’ Malcolm and Cedric Burnside aka Two Man Wrecking Crew, and Grady Champion. Which isnt too shabby, oh yeh, along with champagne, mimosas’ or bloody mary’s. My only concern was that it might be a little cold up there.

Repeat Offenders settle into the lounge and were treated to the ‘Coffee and Chicken Review’. This is a song written by Jimmy Thackery about Smokin’ Joe Kubeks’ need for coffee on a regular basis (many times a day) while on the road and his partner in the Blues, Bnois King’s diet – which consists of KFC. Of course there were plenty of drinks available to the returnees to begin their day. Aforementioned, Grady Champion wowed the crowd on the deck with his band which consist of Nathan Keck (a talented young guitarist), Chis Gill on slide, Xavres Good on drums and Marquis Champion (Grady’s) son, on drums. With a voice that is a fiery mixture of grit and soul, and harp playing that is both energetic and accomplished, Mr. Champion would appear to be a fast rising star, and new favorite of the cruise.

Elvin Bishops’ Raisin’ Hell Revue featured a wonderful assortment of talented musicians such as Kid Anderson and Bob Welsh on guitar (along with Elvin). A dynamic horn section with Brother Ed Early on ‘bone, Terry Hanck on sax, versatile keyboardist and accordionist, Steve Willis, Ruth Davies on bass, and Bobby Cochran on drums. Throw in Finis Tasby, and John Nemeth and you won’t find a better revue anywhere. All took the spotlight on various numbers but Terry Hanck wowed the crowd with some searing vocals and nasty sax work. Not to be outdone was John Nemeth whose voice is so very fine that it defies description. A big plus to Kid Anderson and Elvin for their fun verbal fisticuffs concerning the nattily attired Kid, vs. the down home Elvin wardrobe.

Deciding to actually eat dinner tonight we hit the Rotterdam dining room dressed in theme appropriate (Soul Blues Night) attire. Not many cruisers seemed to get the ‘theme thing’ here but that could be attributed to the large number of ‘virgin’ cruisers on the West Coast cruise. Had the opportunity to spend some quality time with XM 74’s ‘voice of god’ Big Llou and learned of how much he is enjoying working with XM and just how amazed he is at the Blues community caring and friendliness, and how he seems to have, also, found his tribe.

In order to work off a seriously full course meal, the pool deck featured a full nights worth of entertainment starting with Coco Montoya. His performance was a sign of how great a blues player he really is and his band just kicked butt and continued to every time we saw him.

Next up was the much anticipated appearance of Johnny & Edgar Winter. It is great to have Johnny back on the scene and Edgar was looking healthy and at the top of his musical game. Each taking turns to feature their works, and then jamming together at the end of the set. If you want to read a wonderful book about Johnny’s life please consider Mary Lou Sullivan’s’ “Raising Cain’ it is a wonderful in depth biography and highly recommend it.

Hoping to move around somewhat – and get off the pool deck (still) – I planned on seeing the beginning of the Low Rider Pro-Jam, and moving to the Piano Bar after a while. As they say (whoever they are) the road to Hades is paved with good intentions. So instead of Slippin’ into darkness, and asking the musical question, why can’t we be friends? I hung out with the Cisco Kid and realised that the World is a Ghetto and got sucked into the Pro-Jam hosted by Low Rider Band. Wait – weren’t those songs by War ? Well yeh, the Low rider Band are the majority of artists from he original band War. As funky as ever they kept us dancing thru the late night into he early morning hours. Fronted by vocalist/guitar player Howard Scott, Lee Oskar on harmonica, drummer Harold Brown (as funky as anyone) they ripped a few fav’s fro over the years and then brought up Mr. Larry McCray, Sister Monica Parker, Dennis Jones and a host of others as we ventured into P-Funk, James Brown and some down home tasty soul-stirring funk. With nothing left in the tank it signaled it was time to end of Day 2.

Highlight: The Low Rider Pro-Jam with MC’s Big Llou, and Scrap Iron and the refusal of the band to quit it – they just kept doing it again and again.

Up next Day 3 Cabo, Fish Tacos, Pacifico and love or confusion . . .

Until next time,

Love,Peace & Chicken Grease

© 2010

CD Reviews – Albert Castiglia, JW-Jones

Over the last few years we have been blessed with a talented outcropping of fine young blues players from all over the world. The list of names is as long as their combined tour schedules, but Albert Castiglia (Ka-STEEL-Ya), and JW-Jones will be featured on these pages today.  Both of these young men appear to be poised for a major breakout in the blues world as evidenced by their latest releases.

Keepin’ On (Blues Leaf Records) is the latest release and may make Albert Castiglia a household name. I have enjoyed all of Albert’s releases – especially his previous one, A Stone’s Throw – but this release shows a new level of maturity both as a guitarist and as a song writer. With five of his original songs contained herein, Albert has shown steady progress in how to craft a song and relate it to his audience on ‘vinyl’. My pick of his entrees is ‘Sweet Southern Angel’ in which Dobro master, Toby Walker sits in with him. I am especially fond of this because of the acoustic sound and wonderful interplay between artists. You can view this session here

Albert covers songs by Bob Dylan (Till I Fell In Love With You), T-Bone Walker (My Baby Is Now On My Mind), Robert Nighthawk (Murderin’ Blues), Mack Rice (Cadillac Assembly Line), John Lee Hooker (Goin’ Upstairs) and Peter Green (Could Not Ask For More). But these are not just standard covers as Albert infuses them all with his personal feel for the songs and how they relate to him. His voice may well be the most underrated aspects of his talent and on these songs he features it in a sparkling array of styles and tones. Quite possibly my other fav might be “Could Not Ask For More”, which has Albert exploding on guitar solos, and some serious give and take with Bill Quinn on keyboards. Other guest artists on Keepin On include vocalist Nicole Hart, and percussionist Emedin Rivera.  As well as the aforementioned Toby Walker and Bill ‘Mighty’ Quinn (so what did they nickname people named Quinn before ‘the mighty’) ?

So folks, if you haven’t hipped yourself to Albert Castiglia yet, do so now because this guy is going to be huge, I tell ya, Huge !

JW-Jones has become one of Canada’s most popular and well-regarded, blues artists. JW first hit the scene in 1999, winning the Ottawa Blues Guitar Riff-Off competition, and then, in 2005, won a coveted Maple Blues Award for Electric Artist of the Year.

JW has just released his sixth album, Midnight Memphis Sun, his first for Ruf Records in USA, Northern Blues label in Canada and Crosscut label in Europe. With this release he has displayed his enduring bond with Blues tradition, partially recording the disc in Sun Studio in Memphis, TN, and having Charlie Musselwhite and Hubert Sumlin guest on three tracks each.

Midnight Memphis Sun features twelve tracks, showcasing eight written or co-written by Jones, and interesting choices for his covers. Ranging from fellow-Canadian Bryan Adams’ “Cuts Like A Knife” to Lowell Fulson’s “Love Grows Cold” JW strives to make these choices interesting and meaningful within the scope of the Blues. Incorporating his vocal styling to some fine back up work, he creates a fresh landscape of music for us to enjoy and harvest.

Charlie Musselwhite plays harmonica on the Jimmy Reed tune, “I Don’t Go For That,” as well as the Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee ditty, “Burnt Child.” JW seems at ease when working with Charlie, and their natural affinity for each other that I have seen live, is evident on the recording. Legendary guitarist Hubert Sumlin teams up with JW on the original “Howlin’ with Hubert,” where they trade licks while paying tribute to Mr. Sumlin’s long time employer, Howlin’ Wolf.

JW-Jones has come a long way both as a guitarist and as a singer-songwriter. I believe this coming year we will see him elevate to the next level as he refines his talents and abilities while continuing to use his influences and roots to keep the Blues fresh.

So there ya have it, two younger performers who have worked with Blues Legends and taken their own road to success. Both of them have put their own stamp on the music they play while paying tribute to those before them very much in line with the Blues traditions. Evidence of the success fo these two releases can be found in the fact that both of them have charted successfully on the B.B. King Sirius/XM 74 Bluesville Picks to Click list for several weeks. Not a simple task when there is so much excellenbt talent out there.

Until next time,

Love,Peace & Chicken Grease

photos courtesy of artists
©Blues411, 2010