What a great time it was, the CD Challenge lasted 30 days with 31 reviews for your holiday shopping assistance.
We covered a broad range of musical style but all housed under our big blues tent (which was one of the finalist names for the web site before Blues411 won) and we are thrilled to have done it.
What we are doing is reposting these in 5 sections each covering a span of 7 days so that artists, fans, and promo peeps can easily find their reviews. It also helps cos it allows me to tag posts and they turn up on feeds etc., so it’s a win win for all involved.
Remember all of these reviews will be up on Amazon.com under the name Blues411.
Corey Lueck & The Smoke Wagon Blues Band :
It Ain’t Easy (HS Records)
Well now we all have heard how the Devils got someone woman, right? Well these cats start off this release with a updated swing beat entitled ‘Devil Got My Woman’. Not the standard “woe is me, what am I to do” sad refrain but more of “…and I like it, yes I do…just a little bit of bourbon she’ll do anything I need her to” Proudly proclaiming his ‘dire’ situation and how he serves her breakfast consisting of bourbon with a spoon, this is a fun track that has an infectious beat and well played by the band. Dude, she got a sister?
Showing an ability to vary the pace and throw a slower number, Corey and the band give us ‘Hold On To You’. Mr. Lueck’s whiskey strained vocals and pain felt harp work exoriate the many layers of desperation that make up the situation at hand.
Shuffling to the strains of ‘Fine Furred Momma’ we are treated to Mr. Lueck’s view of being involved with a first class lady with very high standards and the pitfalls of living life the way he does. Mr. Gordon Aelchele provides some sweet sax work over top of Jesse O’Brien’s rolling organ work.
‘Ain’t No Use’ is a blues burner that reaches deep into the relationship and emotional attachment to their music. Juke joint bluesified piano by aforementioned Mr. O’Brien, sweet-toned guitar work by Mike Stubbs and vocals by Mr. Lueck set this apart as a true blue track that reflects the heartache and realization that the end is near and it ain’t no use.
In his liner notes Corey states that they created this album to speak ‘our’ truth, and they have done just that. Fortunately their truth is very well steeped in our universal truth. Well paced, fun, poignant and a great addition to anyone’s collection. Buy it a give it to a country music fan just to see what they say, just don’t tell them it’s the Blues.
Visit Corey and the band at: http://thesmokewagonbluesband.bandzoogle.com/home.cfm
Delta Moon: Black Cat Oil (Red Parlor Records)
OK so the pairing of the band name and the title just brings up images of swamps, Spanish moss and sickly sweet sultry nights.
Hey now, that’s a good thing!
A drum beat and thick slide guitar set us up in ‘Down and Dirty‘, as Tom Gray “I lost my job, I lost my home…” Yeh, brother we hear ya. This track sets the stage for a wonderful collection of ten originals penned by Tom and band mates and one cover.
Fred McDowell’s ‘Write Me A Few Of Your Lines‘ is the lone cover, and well chosen and their treatment adds a new life to the classic song. Yes, we have heard it ad nauseum but what Delta Moon does with it is refreshing and has the feel of Mississippi Hill Country to it, nicely done.
There is an overall reverb feel to this release, created by Tom and Mark Johnson on guitars. Not the thin usual aura associated with reverb city – but a thick reverb like the cries of a cat or a lost soul in the warm delta night as it rings off the roofs and windows. Somewhat haunting but to good to not take notice of.
‘Blues In A Bottle‘ is a very interesting take on what might seem to be the standard fare on alcohol and blues. Yet is a plea that he be able to put these blues in a bottle and cork the stopper down. I find these lyrics compelling and just what we need these days with songwriting in our genre. Bravo!
The title track ‘Black Cat Oil’ recalls the time when hucksters roamed the streets as medicine shows. Things have not changed much as the plethora of internet ads incessantly pound us with ‘curatives’ and ‘potions’. So tempted he sends off his money and get his bottle of black cat oil, of course it turns out for the worse – losing everything and being under arrest, but the glimmer of everlasting hope and saving graces is clear as he sings “I guess I might not of used enough”! Indeed, there is a serious depth to these words whether it be about snake oil, talisman’s or religions.
Oh hell, since I went there lets take one look at ‘Neon Jesus’, the path to salvation or redemption is often only clear when the darkest hour is upon us. Mr. Gray writes compelling lyrics to a slightly ethereal backdrop of music that tells the tale of every person and the quest, reflection, and deliverance.
A stunning release, their best to date. If you like your Blues thick like a gumbo made with the darkest of roux then ‘Black Cat Oil’ is for you. It is refreshing and not too overworked, and guitars know their place in the band here. Get it – give it!
Take sip, and see what it does for you: http://www.deltamoon.com/Delta_Moon___Home.html
Dorothy Moore: Blues Heart (Farish Street Records of Mississippi)
Ms. Moore certainly has the pipes to sing the Blues. Just take a listen to the first cut, ‘Coming Down With The Blues’. Her voice is the voice of experience, knowledge and wisdom. She delivers a homeopathic diagnosis inside the framework of a funky rhythm and super horn work that makes me wish that she could reach out and touch me so I could also come down with the Blues that she is getting.
Slowing it down to a torch song pace, Ms. Moore prescribes her own brand of wisdom on the E.G. Kight masterpiece, ‘Let The Healing Begin’. The truth is right there in our own power, no one from the outside can provide the touch and depth of understanding that exists in our relationship – so let the healing begin tonight. Oh yeh, give an ear to Ms. Moore’s harp work on this cut.
With all the smoothness of the depth of what some may call Southern Soul, Ms. Moore posts a sign on the door to her heart that she does not want to be there ‘When The Hurt Comes Down’. Slow, moody, and deep felt we fully understand what she is speaking about. This is a universal feeling and that is what is so great about this release it is all about a universal feeling. If we are human then we have experienced these emotions.
Getting just this side of funky, we get experience the inside of the heart being locked up for so long on ‘Institutionalize‘. Rhythmic and with a feel of urgency and hope we get a glimpse of the joy and pain of long term relationships, ’nuff said.
So we all remember the Bobbie Gentry one-hit wonder. ‘Ode To Billy Joe’. What we get in this helping of black eyed peas and biscuits is a poignant treatment that speaks to the reality of the situation and makes one come to terms with the depth of the song.
To fully grasp the depth and talent that Ms. Moore possesses sit down and listen to My Life On Earth’. Within the song Ms. Moore sings of life, love and hands down the wisdom of ages to this and future generations to take heed of.
True Blues lives in this ‘Blues Heart’ that beats inside Ms. Dorothy Moore. Buy it for yourself, buy it for family and for the grand children for it is true wisdom that resides in these ten songs, and they need to live on and on.
Larry Garner: Blues For Sale (DixieFrog Records)
Jumping off the player ‘A Whole Lotta Nothing‘ is a straight ahead, take no prisoners look at what gives people the blues – and it’s right there in the title. Mr. Garner’s guitar work crisp and heartfelt, and the lyrics of this song are spot on, give it a listen.
The next track, ‘Talkin’ Naughty‘ has the familiar feel of a B.B. King song. Mr. Garner captures the ‘old school’ feel of “You Better Not Look Down’ while modernizing it with wonderfully ‘naughty’ lyrics that define where these types of words are to be spoken. In addition to this he also offers some real deep advice fr the men , and y’all better take heed. Ms. Debbie Landry adds great vocal support on this track that drives the message home (as she does through out the release).
What might be the most heartfelt track is ‘Broken Soldier‘. A shockingly accurate description of life of a soldier on this side of the war effort and how they come to gorgonize one. Broken, disgruntled and at odds with everything he once believed in with no clear path to the future. Bless you Mr. Garner for bringing light to this situation in such a fine fashion.
Mr. Garner is shows his depth and comfort level with any style within the Blues tent. He can grind out a slow blues (It’s Killing Me‘), and next kick out the jams with a Louisiana themed shuffle (‘If You Come To Louisiana‘) and then throw down a rock & roll based tune such as ‘Alone And Happy‘.
It is one of the better release out this year, Mr. Garner will please any and everyone on your music gift giving list – it will educate the new while pleasing the familiar. Oh yeh, if you are getting one for someone, get one for yourself too!
Find out more about Mr. Garner visit: http://www.larrygarnerbluesman.com/home.cfm
Sunny Crownover: Right Here Right Now (Shining Stone Records)
‘Oh Yes I Will‘ starts us off and I can’t agree more – it answers the question for us all – will we like it? We can stop there but that’s not fair, this track struts it’s stuff featuring Sunny’s in the pocket lead vocals backed by Doug Woolverton on trumpet, Mike Tucker on tenor and Doug James on baritone. Especially tasty is Mr. Robillard’s guitar licks which are as funky as you can get.
‘Love Me Right‘ has a down home Jimmy Reed feel to it. Sugar Ray Norcia blows and draws every nuance possible from the harp, and the band gives us that familiar head bobbing rhythm but with just enough twist to make it fresh.
A piano roll leads the way down into the cleverly disguised lyrics of ‘Hi-Heels and Home Cooking‘. Done in a twenties blues style and written by Gary Nicholson, undoubtedly one of the better songwriters out there. Sunny’s soft but sassy vocals add an innocent depth to the tune and it is, by far, one of the most fun tracks on the disc.
Equally adept at moving stylistically around the blues country side, we get a shot of Chicago with ‘Roll Me Daddy‘ once again Sugar Ray sets the tone with some gripping harp work as the band works it’s way around Brad Hallen’s almost heart like bass lines.
The title track is a warm and comfy love ballad, that allows Ms. Crownover to display the other side of her vocal talents – and well done too.
Produced by Duke Robillard, Ms. Crownover has put together a super collection of songs here, relaxed and refreshing perfect for sharing with someone who you enjoy being with. Not slow and old but intimate and comforting to the soul.
Find out more about Sonny & Duke https://www.facebook.com/dukeandsunny
The Charles Burton Blues Band: Favorites (independent)
Straight out of the case we shuffle off to Duke Robilliard’s ‘Tell Me Why‘. Big sounding, with Charles adding a swing horn section to it that adds just enough verve to make it alive and jumping.
Strutting a rumba beat we get ‘Early In The Morning‘ made famous by Louis Jordan. Charles works some interesting twists into the guitar – this cut is made for swing dancing, hi-energy swing dancing that is.
A very adept guitarist and soulful vocalist, Charles treats us to many familiar toons. He even gets his Classics IV groove on with ‘Spooky‘ – his treatment is more of a dance oriented than the etheral one that we are familiar with. His guitar work is constructed very nicely, and adds much to the overall feel of the track.
Little Walter’s often covered but sometimes underappreciated ‘Last Night‘ which was written after the death of a friend is not an easy cover song. Given it’s proper respects it is a touching song of loss, with the band kicking it in with feeling they accomplish their goal of representing one of the blues masters finest songs.
A release compised of ‘Favorites’ it fits the bill as just that. Each tune will ring true to you, familiarity is good on many levels. Production values work well and this release is a great fit for newcomers to the Blues, or folks who might think the blues as old and weary. They would be a cool band to see doing a live show as we would be dancin’ and swaying to the music, which is all about feeling the music and that’s what it is all about. Ain’t it?
Visit Charles and the band at: http://www.charlesburton.com/
Chris O’Leary Band: Waiting for the Phone To Ring (Vizztone Records)
Thirteen originals, that need to be turned up loud and played with a beer in one hand and a partner on the other. That’s what this release is all about.
‘Give In’ is a dark and mysterious rumba, that has all the overtures of double entendre blues. Mr. O’Leary blows some nasty harp and his vocal pairing with Willa McCarthy works as you can feel the electric tension as the sparks are about to fly.
A great horn section consisting of Andy Stahl, and Chris DiFrancesco work their booties off keeping pace with the revved up track son this release. On ‘Without You‘ they provide the intro as Chris steps up on the harp and they go straight to the tip of the top after that.
Chris’ vocals are wonderfully natural and his harp playing is wide ranging and sensual. ‘Pictures of You‘ is an old style blues stroll that has him wearing his heartache right on the sleeve, Jeremy Baum tickles those 88′s in such a bluesy manner that one actually feels sorry for them ivories.
Up beat and carefree is the tone that ‘Pockets Are Full‘ espouses. But on closer inspection we see how ‘the pockets are full but their hearts are empty’ – a poignant look at modern day relationships and the values of things other than those that keep us alive.
Engineered by David Gross who adds guitars, drums and percussion I would recommend this release for anyone who likes cool vintage blues but with a full dash of cohesive contemporary styled options.
Take some time to check out his site, this man and his music is too cool to be ignored:
Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
Where Blues Thrives
Photos courtesy of Artists