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 4 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.
So we end with a review of a Christmas release from a guy who grew up on a christmas tree farm !
David Gogo: Christmas With The Blues (Cordova Bay Records)
Canadian string bender, David Gogo has turned his charm and talents on to the Christmas season and has given us a splendid holiday release.
Setting us up just right with the down home funky ‘Christmas On The Bayou’ David works the magic and shakes the gris-gris bag with this swampy, tone-drenched version of the Lonnie Brooks song.
A fantastic spin on contemporary times and the incessant political correctness is the twisted ‘Let’s Get A Real Tree’. Mr. Gogo laments his current situation with his vegetarian girlfriend and the life altering changes he has made to accommodate her, but the line has been drawn in the sand as he states he was born on a Christmas tree farm and asks ‘don’t be a hippie we’re gonna get a real tree’.A great original tune that will take it’s place among the classics.
Displaying his string bending abilities and bluesy vocal talents he gives us ‘Santa Claus Is Back In Town’. Indeed he is with guitar slung on his back he is ready, willing and able to hang up her stockings and turn off the lights as she prepares for him to come down her chimney tonight. ’nuff said!
A sweet version of ‘Merry Christmas Baby’ with a slight jazz feel to it, but steeped in the blues tradition that Mr. Charles Brown intended. Mr. Gogo works the guitar to fit the feel and pulse of the song as they interpret it. Forceful but not overwhelmingly so his solos add a great depth and soul to the track and works on all levels.
The most traditional of tunes is his version of’ ‘Little Drummer Boy’. With Mr. Gogo working the slide across the neck of his resonator to the march-like beat of the drums and added harp make this a really nice Christmas song for all.
Like the Blues, like Christmas, like holiday music out of the norm then ‘Christmas with the Blues’ is for you, and for a friend too because it’s that good to have Christmas with the blues.
Mr. Gogo can be found way up North in real life but on the web he is at: http://www.davidgogo.com/
Danny Brooks: Texassippi Soul Man (HHR Records)
Danny Brooks is an amazing man, he is a survivor, re-born thru his faith and thru that faith he brings us some very fine blues music. His life story reads like a blues novel with ties to the past that bind him and the music together forever, I urge ya’s to check him out.
With this, his tenth release, we get a soul-drenched collection of sixteen original songs that work the genre in and out much like a professional boxer works the jab, punch and uppercut. It is a knockout!
‘Soul Man’ is his biography, from the age of fifteen when he first saw Muddy Waters and decided to devote his life to the blues, covering his travels – all done with a tasty beat and country blues feel that contains a steady back beat. Verbally toasting his influences and flatly stating that he, “…God Almighty is a soul man”.
‘Let It Rain’ is a gospel like slow testimony to watching his child self destruct, knowing that there is nothing one can do – and also acknowledging that this is what he had done to his parents in his youth. The good news is that his daughter is doing fine.
Mr. Brooks treats us to his version of what could be called a Howlin’ Wolf song. ‘I Wanna Be With You‘ . Spot on with it’s Wolf groove as he growls lyrics that speak of the thin disguise that we hold over our real emotions and the old familiar needing to laugh from crying. As we listen to the quite spooky guitar work from Lou Erlanger we are driven to the dark delta and hear ‘the Wolf’ howlin’ “ahhh oooh”.
A Nawlins second line feel is what ‘Middle Of A Miracle’ has to it. It is Mr. Brooks song to us all reminding us to take notice of the miracles that happen around us everyday, to step back from the daily grind that we are caught up in recognize the joy each day brings. It finishes up with Mr. Brooks taking us to church with a chorus of yells exhorting us to stand up and realize what we have around us.
This release is a celebration of life, and yes life is not always an easy road, but that road gives us strength and with the bad comes good and from failure we learn to succeed The alternatives are not pretty, so take heart share the love with one another and by all means listen to this Texassippi Soul Man. This is one release that certainly brings the true spirit of Christmas home to the listener, one of thankfulness, of joy and a celebration of life.
Colin Linden: Still Live (Yellow Dog Records)
Simply put, Mr. Linden may do ‘Roots music’ better than just about anyone out there. This live release makes a case to support that statement.
Just spin his latest release – first track ‘Big Mouth‘ a catchy rhythm, toe tapping pace, and the lyrics that will blow you away. It’s often hard to appreciate the lyrical context when the sound and musicianship is so stellar, but take an ear and listen to the first lines….”it’s so hard to take the first step, when you know how long the journey may be” let it settle in and hear the truth in those words.
His songwriting skills are unparallelled ‘Between The Darkness and the Light of Day’ he sings of a soldier on the road between the darkness of the light of day, he speaks for us all. Weary yet encouraged by the road ahead to become glory bound. This Aesopian tale captures all of our struggles and all of our hopes and dreams and our undying commitment to them. His guitar work, with it’s gentle reverb/echo adds a dreamlike touch as Mr. Spooner Oldham works the organ creates a background that supplements the ethereal yet solid base that is the song’s story.
Jumping to a juke joint tune ‘Smoke ‘em All’ Mr. Linden displays his exceptional finger picking abilities with a tune that creates the protagonist – the late friend and keyboardist Richard Bell – with the words ‘tough like Chuvallo with Ray Charles soul’ as he tells the tale of a cat too cool for school who just has got it going and knows how to play at life, regardless of the final outcome.
‘Remedy‘ delivers to our ears a sweet little rock and roll number that belauds the curative power that a certain woman has for the singer, and his commitment to be under her spell. You might be familiar with The Band’s version with Levon Helm rasping the vocals.
The most interesting title here is ‘John Lennon In New Orleans’. While never mentioning Mr. Lennon, what we get is a New Orleans travelogue into loneliness done up with a slightly fifties doo-wop feel. Intriguing, poignant and featuring a great slide guitar solo this track is a perfect example of the overall abilities the Mr. Linden possesses and his ability to
His lyrics evoke the writings of the past blues greats – his music is at once old time yet so contemporary that you think you have never heard it quite done like this. Appealing to anyone who has ears, this should cover anyone on your holiday list.
Visit Mr. Linden at his home on the web and learn more about this stunning artist: http://www.colinlinden.com/
Doug Deming & The Jewel Tones: What’s It Gonna Take” (VizzTone Records)
Mr. Deming’s new release features acclaimed harp master Dennis Gruenling, who is also his touring partner and combined they provide some of the more tasty blues/roots music to our ears.
The title track provides us with a rockin’ spin on the pertinacious question “What’s It Gonna Take”. With Chuck Berry inspired leads dipped in a bucket of blues, this track sets us up for a fun ride that fades off with Mr. Deming torturing those six strings.
More bluesy in feel is “Think Hard” – featuring Mr. Gruenling’s deep toned harp work. This is one of seven original tunes on this release and reveals to us the deep feel for the blues that exist in Mr. Deming’s writings. The tune itself is a grungy shuffle that recalls the feel of Little Walter and others but with a modern twist to it.
A great shuffle-swing based version of Willie Mabon’s “Poison Ivy” that will get ya dancin’ right there in your living room from it’s infectious and rapidly breaking out fun feel provided by Doug & Dennis’ playful treatment backed by a great pocket that consists of Andrew Gohman on upright and Devin Neel on drums.
There is a great display of variety contained within this release, in addition to the above tracks there is a fun swinging version of the oft’ covered “I Want You To Be My Baby”. Starting out at a sprinters pace the band kicks it into an even higher gear and the call and response lyrics are spot on and when Mr. Deming takes on the lead vocal gymnastics it blows the roof off the juke joint and then Mr. Gruenling takes the lead blowing that harp till it almost has no life left in it. Next up Mr. Deming steps in to travel up and down the neck of that hollow body guitar and give us a treat that equals the harp calisthenics.
You can’t go wrong with this release, put on your morning coat or smoking jacket and fire this baby up – it fits in with anytime of day. While you’re at it grab one of these babies fro your friends who think the blues/roots world is full of loud and brash over the top sound, this will change their mind and show the tasty side of the blues.
Find Doug & Them Jewel Tones right here: http://dougdeming.com/
Ray Bailey: Crusin’ For A Bluesin’ (ToneDef Records)
Straight out of the sleeve and off the streets we get hit with the song ”Ho’s Heart’. Great guitar work takes u to the lyrics which Mr. Bailey growls ‘you got a ho’s heart woman who ever falls in love with you is in a world of trouble’. That’s a strong statement to start with, and Mr. Bailey lays out all the evidence in his lyrics and backs them up with some tasty guitar work that is supplemented by organ work that shines as cold as this ho’s heart.
I have always used the term ‘Red Headed Stepchild’ usually in reference to being the odd man out in any situation and not getting the proper ‘spects. Mr. Bailey treats us to an acoustical version of these sentiments with some exceptional slide work inside a sad song of love that seems to be sustainable only as long as his money don’t run out. I love his hook of ‘when my money is gone, you treat me like a red headed stepchild’ – HAH ! Right on Ray, right on.
A more funky and strutting tempo is how the title track ‘Crusin’ For A Bluesin” is structured. A very tasty instrumental that features Mr. Bailey working the frets to get the most out of each note – it has the feel of those sweet soul instrumentals that existed back before the guitar became a war toy turned to twelve. Listen to this and feel that groove, well worth the cost of admission on this cruise.
The only cover on this release is the Johnny Oden classic ‘Goin’ Down Slow’. Slowed to a more natural pace than many of the existing covers but none the less possessing a deep feel for the song Mr. Bailey’s version is just what is needed to aide wit the instauration of the blues scene here and abroad. It comes across clean and breezy yet with depth and feel that no one can deny.
All of the work here is first class, ‘Little Girl’ is an indictment of this child with lyrics like ‘you’re like a penitentiary bulldog, take a mans soul without Vaseline’. This is by far one of the most wicked send ups of any person, heck you thought ‘Positively Fourth Street’ by Dylan was a send up, just wait till ya hear what Mr. Bailey puts down hear, it’ll make a grown man holler. Again let me point out that these are not screaming loud songs, they play it smooth and let us get into the feel and truth contained within the songs. OK, so the one loud song is “I Just Can’t Cry No More’ and it is done just as well as the others. It has all the feedback and phasing that one can ask for and is a celebration of James Marshall Hendrix’s birthday this month.
Want the real deal, down to the bone blues then this is where you need to be. Great writing, super guitar playing, backed by solid musicians who know how to play back and support the lead this release should be in everyone’s collection and in schools because it is educational on so many levels.
Cruise over to Mr. Bailey’s web site: http://raybaileyblues.com/
Little G. Weevil: The Teaser (Apic Records)
With the Blues appeal far reaching and inspiring it is nice to hear an adopted son and his take on the blues. Little G. Weevil has done his work well, and now lives in the USA playing the music he loves.
‘Back Porch’ is just that back porch blues, there is a timeless quality to this tune, one that reaches way back decades ago. His storytelling and guitar work are at once a tribute and then an original statement of pedigree, deep stuff here.
Going to the other side of the alley we get treated to ‘Apple Picker’ with its on the ‘V’ turnaround start and then brings his lyrics to the forefront as his story of having everything that a woman needs. There is a slight accent to his singing, which is endearing and beneficial to his takes on his style of music.
His lead work on this track is nothing short of great, fast yet slow enough that you do not get caught in the over-hyped fast finger world, he can also hold a space in time and let it lay there it for all it’s got.
Mr. Weevil’s storytelling is authentic and deep felt. His ‘Liquor Store’ tells of his battle with stress and how the liquor store was just steps away from his door called liquor store and it was always welcoming and offers a form of salvation and the warmth of kindness.
‘She Used To Call Me Sugar’ almost seems to be a prelude to ‘Liquor Store’ in as much as it tells the tale of what used to be going on in the happy home and how things can change. There is some fine piano work by Bob Page as he fills in the background and takes hold of the lead reigns in this slow burner of a blues tune. Check out the way he sings ‘pumkin’ pie’
Little G gets it, from John Lee Hooker, to Lightnin’ Hopkins, and a stop at Chuck Berry ‘G’ is right on the money. His success on B.B. King’s Bluesville Picks to Click (#2) speaks volumes about his authenticity and how he makes the people feel his music.
This is for the accomplished blues fan, the traditionalist, the believer that each artist should bring his own slant to the music, it is for anyone who says the love the blues.
Get a taste of the Teaser and Little G here: http://www.littlegweevil.net/
Lawrence Lebo: The Best of Don’t Call Her Larry Blues Mix (On The Air Records)
One surprise that fits in well with our holiday review theme here is that Ms. Lebo has included a Christmas song on this collection, so let’s get to that one.
‘(I’m Your) Christmas Present, Baby!‘ Starts with horns a blazing and settles into a sultry vocal from Ms. Lebo Stating that she is his Christmas present and he can unwrap her. No need for fruitcake (thank goodness), her beau can tie her up in ribbons and set her beneath the Christmas tree. Throw in some electric juiced guitar and we get a nice new addition to the holiday music collection.
Let’s move to ‘Walking the Back Streets’ a slow burning tale of hurt and the residual effect of the loss of her man. A wonderful production featuring accordion and bass, it has the feel of Paris in the heyday of the Blues expatriate season. It is one of the most original versions of this song that you could ever find. Kudos to Mr. Phil Partapiano on the accordian and Mr. Denny Croy on bass.
Featuring her very own ‘Wash Cycle’ with several versions of the same songs, she features different takes on ‘It’s Not The First Time’ and ‘On Time’. I always enjoy the alternate realities of an artists song. What makes it work like this or who says it shouldn’t be this way. Let’s look at ‘On Time’ for example.
One version is stringed with violins bowed and plucked done with a steamy old style feel that recalls Billie Holiday or Little Esther. With the strings adding to the height and depth of the song it is almost upbeat. The other version is 50’s cafe styled, beatnik posed with a bass and Ms. Lebo doing all the work. Hot black and white sparks fly from the speakers as we hear her state the requirements needed in her man, otherwise he won’t get a job in her shipyard. Aye’ matey -where do I sign up!
One more track that certainly deserves mention is her version of Koko Taylor’s ‘Please Don’t Dog Me’. Well rounded production with strings and ensemble it’s is another slow burner that has a certain resolve to it that is fortified by her adamant vocal statements. Ms. Lebo has a fine sense of timing and a certain color to her voice that is at once familiar and yet fresh and new.
Steamy back room blues with a vamp of a lead singer, then this baby is for you. Ms. Lebo will fit nicely under the tree and will not fail to satisfy once you open it up, just like she sang it.
Visit Ms. Lebo here, just don’t call her Larry: http://www.lawrencelebo.com
JR Clark Band: Icicles On My Ceiling (independent)
Dubbed ‘heir to the fez’ by the fez himself Little Ed, Mr. Clark has a throw back feel that recalls Albert Collins, and some of the Chicago greats that have come and gone.
‘I Need Some Love’ is the perfect example of the Albert Collins influence, listen to those licks and you will see what I am hearing (hah how’s that). With a solid rhythm and feel for the groove these cats show they are capable of handling and understanding what it is they are putting down.
Likewise in ‘Tribute T o The Boogie’ we head south-west to Texas where we get some of that Texas Boogie. Jr handles the requisite guitar licks that speak of Freddie King’s ‘boogie funk’ and John Lee Hooker’s boogie chillin’ feel. Aided by some fine keyboard work by Willie Phips and Timson Taliaferro on drums it does the boogie good and keeps it alive.
‘How Many More Times’ is a stinger of a track. Keeping the groove alive and the beat in place we get a real sweet sound cloud that has its roots in the masters yet updated with new twists but not too far from the roots. Mr. Clark has studied the King’s of Blues well, and his solo work gets a hi passing grade.
The last track is ‘One Eyed Woman’ has the feel of ‘Three Handed Woman’ to it. Nicely turned around with lyrics that tells the tale of living with that woman who always has one eye on him no matter what he does. I hear ya man, sorry for you!
Like your blues with a rock edge, but not too far over the line that it forgets where its roots are, this baby’s for you.
Visit these smokers at: http://www.jrcblues.com/
Davis Coen: Hard Luck Cafe (Soundview)
Davis Coen has released his third album recorded at Delta Recording Service in Como Mississippi, and like the others, it is a stunning collection of original tunes penned as an homage to the pertinacious nature of the blues.
Listen to the honky tonk piano and mandolin of the title track – then listen to the parched voice and lyrics that Mr. Coen paints for us. This is in the style of Hank Williams for the 21st century. The theme is eternal, the hurt everlasting and the message clear. It hurts.
‘Burnin’ In My Heart’ is a slightly jaunty yet unflinchingly noir view of love. What seems to be more poignant is the duet with Ms. Grace Aksew, as they perform a nuncupative testimony to the shared burning that will always reside in their hearts.
Slightly more bluesy but still with it’s roots in Americana, we hear ‘Brand New Version of The Same Thing‘. An upbeat feel that caroms over the dirt roads to the beat of mandolins, dobros and banjos while the drumming beat acts as a primitive GPS for the tune.
Drop dead blues, raw and visceral is what we hear in the lugubrious ‘Lost Shirt Blues’, Mr. Coen straps the guitar on and captures the feel of yesterdays blues with a nod towards today’s realities.
As a songwriter Mr. Coen has his thumb on the pulse of some of the most painful yet alluring blues on this planet, his aim is true, and resolve steady. Even when he is ‘this close’ to happiness he seems to come up just shy accomplishing the goal of happiness. ‘It Can Work Out’ is a wonderful example of these sentiments, as upbeat the feel and clamor that is the music that surrounds the protagonists proximity to happiness – there is still the unspoken knowledge that it can work out, but if we were betting folks we’d bet against it. Pick a track, ‘AAA Whiskey‘, ‘Mile After Mile‘ it’s story oft’ told but never quite with this level of reality.
Country blues, rural back roads that contain the true essence of life with out the modern trappings and guises laid out in plain sight – that’s what you get here. Certainly fitting for those who liked the stripped down sound and raw truth served up a la cart’, it don’t get any more real than this.
Stop take a moment and visit this talented gentleman who proudly resides inside the blues music tent: http://daviscoen.com/.
Gary U.S. Bonds: Christmas Is ON! (G.L.A. Records)
Gary U.S. Bonds is still out there rockin’ the world with his iconic voice and here is his gift for us all for this holiday season.
Like the title states Christmas is ON! Capital letters and an exclamation point means just that – stand back cos here it comes and it don’t matter if you’re naughty or nice, it’s for everyone.
With that sentiment we get the title track, a la’ Check Berry’s ‘Run Run Rudolph’ rocking out. It’s familiar but immediately lets ya know that the party is ON and we best be getting ready for it.
One of the eight originals on this release ‘It’s Christmas In Nu Awlins’ has the second line that makes ya shake yer booty. Captures the essence of the holiday without going over the top – rock steady, and ever ready it brings the warmth and fellowship that is Nawlins right into our homes.
‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ is done up in the “Quarter to Three’ style. With the ‘live’ feel and sax heavy bottom end, we wanna Shuffle and Stroll and then throw in a Lindy just for good measure.
Mr.. Bonds and his wife Laurie cover ‘White Christmas’ the Irving Berlin classic. With a smooth
doo-wop feel (think Drifters) it is a pleasant and a nice take on the often covered classic, one that will become a standard over the years for the alternative take crowd in us all.
A fine sampling of covers with very nice originals makes this a great gift for the holiday, give it knowing that people will be playing it every year until the bell tolls for the final countdown.
you can visit Mr. Bonds at: http://www.garyusbonds.com/
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
Where Blues Thrives
Photos courtesy of Artists