As always I like to mix and match several different artist together when I review CD’s here. I do this for several reasons, the main one is to cross market them to other fans who may not know of them or especially like that style of music. Ya never know what might strike a harmonious chord in folks so it’s always good to put artists out there for everyone to read about and hopefully listen to.
Here then are a threesome that are quite different musically but with one thing in common, well probably more than one thing, but for my purposes one thing, they are represented by Frank Roszak who is also a Tier 1 Supporter of Blues411. I guess that’s a disclosure of sorts but ya know if the artist or release doesn’t resonate with me then it ain’t getting any press, so sit back enjoy and maybe check these artists out, and if you are an artist maybe check out Big Frank too !
Liz Mandeville: Clarksdale (Blue Kitty Music)
I love it when a release start with a snippet of conversation with the artists from the studio. In this case it’s picked up as Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith, Darryl Wright and Liz Mandeville are talking about ‘coming out swinging’. Liz says to them “If I am ever in a fight I want you on my side” to Willie and Darryl, and that’s just what they do ‘come out swinging’ on this release.
Starting with ‘Roadside Produce Stand’ it’s Liz at her double entrendre best, as she extols the virtues of all the goodness she has in store at her produce stand. This song is a throw-back to the days when ladies like Lucille Brogan, and Victoria Spivey ruled the roost. Liz revealed to Blues411 that this song was a direct result from a conversation with Bill Wax at the opening of the Blues Foundation office space in Memphis.
As they kick of the shuffle she throws us a hint with a nasty little guitar lick that recalls “nah nah, nah nah nah, nah” that we all used to taunt other kids back in the playgrounds with and then proceeds to sing about her tomatoes that you can hold in your hand and most especially her raspberry bush that makes the sweetest jam ! HAH, damn sure I bet it does.
Not just a silly ode to her feminine attributes, but a fun rollicking trip down the road to that old style country store featuring Willie blowing tasty notes on the harp as the bands sings the chorus of “‘it ain’t my fault, I’m just made that way”
Ms. Mandeville is certainly not a one trick pony when it comes to song writing. She can focus on (and has several times) the pain, loneliness and frustration of being part of the military’s extended family. On ‘A Soldiers Wife’ she paints a very sad and heartfelt portrait of what it is like to be just that for four-hundred days and all that goes along with it. With some stunningly poignant slide guitar work by Donna Herula that brings the anguish and emptiness to the front making this song one that everyone needs to listen to.
Picking up the acoustic for some acerbic political prose Liz gives us 4:20 Blues. As she sings “..I see murderers going free and pot heads doing time’ we realize that the time has come to (and is in the process of) reexamine the war on drugs. Done with a wonderful example of rhythmic blues finger picking styled tune she lambastes the DEA, politicians and others who waste our tax dollars on this out dated prohibition.
Backed by solid musicians and featuring some super guest artists like Eddie Shaw, Nick Moss, Clarksdale is a welcomed release that should be on everyone’s player who appreciates well crafted songs, excellent musical presentation and the wit and charm of a seasoned veteran that refuses to pull punches and does not back down or compromise musically or politically.
Tweed Funk: Love Is (Tweed Tone Records)
From the opening strains of “Fine Wine” Tweed Funk kicks out the jams with a funky back beat that features Smokey on vocals, and some tasty Carl Perkins styled guitar by JD Optekar in conjunction with a rolling horn section that work together quite harmoniously and most seriously funky!
Sometimes we get over saturated with covers of certain songs, “A Real Mutha For Ya” by Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, is one of those songs – that is except in this case. There is a certain understanding in this version, the inherent funk and soulful B3 of Jimmy Voegeli combined with a deep reaching guitar work by JD Optekar and special guest Greg Koch make it a contemporary twist of a classic song that has not lost it’s meaning to this day. This sensibility can also be applied to their take on the James Brown classic ‘Sex Machine’.
With father’s day just behind us, we are treated to some fatherly advice that stands the test of time and rings true in ‘Pick Em Early’. A slightly funked up shuffle that recalls Daddy’s advice to J.D to pick ‘em early in the night – fun stuff and advice well heeded. Once again we hear some tasty guitar work from JD while Marcus Gibbons (drums) and Donnie Mac (bass) keep that pocket in place and rockin’.
Latin rhythms and serious throw-back, old school set ups abound in ‘Smooth Taste’ give it a listen and get out the wide collared shirts and “I’m Gonna Get Ya Sucka” styled platform shoes complete with gold fish in them fro the back of the closet and throw a party for the neighborhood.
Not to be pigeon holed, Tweed Funk gives us ‘Gettin’ Home’, which is a smoldering slow blues number that features Mr. Voegeli’s B3 expertly translating the wave of emotions and insecurities into sounds. Smokey’s pleading vocals and JD’s guitar work make this one fine cut that is a favorite.
Out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Tweed Funk has been around about eighteen months and this is their second powerhouse release. Put on that Members Only jacket, pour a glass of Jack and Coke and get down and funky with ‘Love Is’.
The 44′s: Americana (Rip Cat Records)
Out of Los Angeles area, these cats mix West Coast Blues with Chicago and other American styled roots music into their own brand of hi energy infectious music.
Opening with ‘Hanging Tree’ we are treated to a serious boogie based song of the effects and cost of high and hard living. Featuring Kid Ramos, on this and several tracks, we get the feeling that there is no regrets and this was the the road chosen and therein lies the tale.
‘Lady Luck’ slowly smokes as Johnny Mains sings of the abandonment by this fickle lady and his quest for the smallest bit of appeasement in the battle called life. Some great horns, arranged by Kid Ramos and Ron Dziubla, add depth to this cut which has a familiar riff to it – I’m thinking ‘Mama Told Me Not To Come’ and actually it would make sense knowing the overall theme of the song. Let me know if ya hear it!
Well versed in many styles but all lead to the well trodden path of dangerous women, uncompromised living and the harsh dramas found along that path. In ‘Cocaine’ we ride the wave of the lady’s love being equated to that seriously addictive drug and other vices that are so easy to pick up on and ever so hard to put down.
To further show their ability to detail the dark side they take us on the highway to ‘Dixie’. A taste of Southern rockabilly that stomps and kicks, smokes and chugs before ending like a train that has hit the restraining wall just as the brakes finally kick in. Good fun!
The two covers here are the gritty ‘Mr. Highway Man’ by Howlin’ Wolf, and the rockin’ “You’ll Be Mine’ by Willie Dixon.
There is a classic old-school party till you drop feel to many of the eleven original cuts (of thirteen) the road, the take no prisoners approach to life that is refreshing and straightforward. Asking for no forgiveness and offering no apologies, the 44′s stand on solid ground with their back to the wall middle finger extended and upright as the firing squad takes aim. Aptly titled ‘Americana’ is a must for those who like their blues guitar’d up but not overdriven to the boredom factor.
Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
photos: Courtesy of artists
Frank Roszak is now available for hire for independent radio and press promotion. Roszak’s multi-faceted background in the music industry includes over 25 years of experience as an award winning record producer and engineer, in addition to extensive involvement booking acts at many internationally acclaimed festivals around the world. If you are an independent artist serious about seeking representation for marketing your next project to radio and press, then you owe it to yourself to discuss your options with someone who can provide you with the necessary experience and industry connections to help take your music to the next level. http://www.roszakradio.com/index.html