CD Reviews – One-A-Day Holiday Challenge Week Three

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 Bluesuitspeaks (dat be me – and that was another possible name for the site before Blues411 won out).

David Maxwell: Blues In Other Colors (Shining Stone Records)

Let’s start with a quote from Mr. Maxwell, “Blues In Other Colors represents a snapshot of the melding of traditional blues with music from other countries to which I’ve been drawn. Relax and enjoy the trip!”

Starting with the opening sounds coming from the speakers, it’s Jerry Leake who is a master percussionist of the West African and Indian stye of beats. Mr. Maxwell enters the scene and plays it jazzy but with blues overtones – there is a familiarity in this cut, ‘Movin’ On’, and the scope of the sound only bodes well for what is to follow.

We visit lands far away in ‘Interlude A’ where he swirling styled Oud playing by Boujmaa Razgul, accompanied by Max’s soft toned piano surely does feel like the blues from far off places. Be sure to visit ‘Interlude B’,  for some brain music.

Big Sky’ might feel a little closer to home, as Mr. Maxwell sets the tone with some crisp and pleasing piano work and then joined by a United Nation of musicians and instruments. Harry Manx is a stellar artist who plays the Mohan Vina (Veena) which is a hybrid styled guitar/sitar (no stomp box here) and rings true with exotic notes. Further on in the track we Troy Gonyea adding his excellent guitar work to the mix as Eric Rosenthal joins Mr. Leake on drums and the double bass of Marty Ballou create an aural painting that any museum would be proud to hang on their walls. Just beautiful, and familiar in an uncanny way.

There are quite a few ‘straight up’ blues numbers here, ‘Rollin’ On‘, ‘Cryin’ The Blues’ (quite exciting)and a few more to keep your blues head in the game, but even these have surprises and twists to them.

I have come to learn that the blues is in every culture, it is – for the most part – indigenous music. Music of the people and their struggles, of their pride in their heritage that acts both as medicine and as storytelling. It would be a great disservice to the talents of these folks to ignore this release.
Get it for yourself, get it for a Jazz loving friend, for a younger person who is digging Bollywood music – I don’t care who or why – just get it.

Mr. Maxwell is always close to home here:

Suzie Vinnick: Live At Bluesville (independent)

With the release of her first acoustic blues release “Me ‘n Mabel” Ms. Vinnick ventured to the studios of Bluesville where she was invited by Mr. Bill Wax to lay down some tracks and just have a good ol’ time. The day and music turned out so well that she decided to share them with all of us.

The first strums of ‘Mabel’ (Ms. Vinnick’s trusty guitar) fills the room with a soulful sound as Ms. Vinnick starts to sing it only amplifies the soul drenched moment in which we are caught.

Growling, semi-breathless and undoubtedly in the mood she sings ‘You’ll Be Mine’. Well, she leaves no doubt in my mind that what Suzie wants Suzie gonna get.

In a shuffle with added raking of the strings Ms. Vinnick offers us the sagely advice of “Everybody’s Gotta Walk”. She offers us truth and wisdom in a steady rolling way with the line”there ain’t no free ride…everybody’s gotta walk”. Moaning the blues could be a sub-title for this track as Ms. Vinnick explores the deep soulful side of her voice and we and her find it pleasing.

When I her people covering “Can’t Find My Way Home” I usually turn away fro the train wreck that ensues. Not the easiest song to sing let alone cover adequately. Ms. Vinnick boldly takes it on with an understanding that by adding your own style and voice to it – it can become yours. Not since Ellen McIllwaine’s version on her release ‘Honky Talk Angel’ has an artist nailed this song so perfectly. Well done.

Another cover is Buddy & Julie Miller’s “Shelter Me”. A truly great song, it gained popularity with Tab Benoit’s version a few years back (which is where I first heard it). There is something vulnerable about Ms. Vinnick and her acoustic guitar sing pleading to the Lord to shelter her ‘neath his wings. But within that vulnerability and pleading there is the inner strength and courage that one gains from knowing that the power of all the universe is on her side as she defiantly calls upon the forces to bring it on.

Painted in traditional singer songwriter colors Ms. Vinnick has created a new color – one of herself – with this release. With roots trailing from her vocals and guitar work she gives us all a work that should be listened to and enjoyed by all in the family for it reaches across all borders and genres.

Cross over the musical border and visit Ms. Vinnick at:

Altered Five: Gotta Earn It (Conclave Records)

Dang the Midwest mush have a hold on the soul of this nation, every time I take notice of a band that’s got the funk and R&B thang down they seem to be from up that way. Well Altered Five fits that mold and then breaks outta it.

So first cut, ‘Ain’t That Peculiar’ the classic soul song by Marvin Gaye, is done up with a thick slab of funk bacon and greased rock guitar. Hottdamn this mutha gets it on, had to check it twice cos it was so nice. Just wasn’t sure it was the same song.

Lead vocalist Jeff “JT” Taylor has that voice that gets down in the grit of the street and only comes up when he wants it wants to. Take the title track “You’ve Got To Earn It”, a life lesson to one and all, telling the tale of how everything has a system to make it succeed, and to be loved you got to earn it. Sassy and funky guitar work by Jeff Schroedl keeps us in the groove as does the hypnotic beats of his brother Scott (and they do work well together). Note this bad boy song was done originally by the Temptations.

Stepping out of the alley and into the street for a rumble we get “Older, Wiser, Richer”. A fast paced blues burner that features the throw back keyboard work of Raymond Tevich, (think Return to Forever meets Sly Stone – wit don;t think that your mind will explode!). This bullet train of a track we hear JT asking for a rewind button as life rolls on and all he has for it is the fact that if he had done it right he woudla been more than just older, wiser and richer.

With a wide variety of grooves that are flat out fun to listen to these tracks are great for a Saturday night House party, put them on and kick out the jams – be sure to stock some catfish and cold beer too cos y’all gonna need it.

Take five and check them out at:

Omar and The Howlers: TOO MUCH Is Not Enough (BGM) 

To quote the disclaimer on the release..”Yes I know, I know I have already released a tribute to Jimmy Reed. Let me be the first to say I know this.
Glad we got that out of the way, now on to what we have here.

The opening strains of “Too Much” played perfectly by Omar, leads us into a totally new experience of his takes on Jimmy Reed. Featuring the late Gary Primich on harp. This has more of a true feel of Jimmy Reed music, better blend of harp, guitar and rhythm it speaks of the simple depth that is so hard to master.

Take a listen to “Honest I Do”. Omar sings it with a true purpose, it almost seems like it was written for him to give voice to. Mr. Primich hi-register harp tweedles has the soul of Mr. Reed in it. Jay Moeller on drums keeps time like a swiss timepiece as they end in unison.

In the same vein is “Going To New York” as Gary hits spots on the harp that people only dream about. Mr. Dykes rhythm guitar work is such an important component to the overall feel of this release without it being a showcase for his ample talents – well at least they don;t slap ya in the face like a cold shower. They weave their way into each track and set a perfect table for the meal of harp and rhythms that occur in each of them.

Upbeat and swinging for the fences we have “You Don’t Have To Go”. Listen to this track – in the background at first, there’s this thick syrupy slide guitar happening there. That’s Gary Clark, Jr. using all his talents to create a sound that instantly recalls Mr. Reed’s passionate but laid back work on the slide, but adding his own twist of hot sauce on top of that. Thick, hearty, slightly spicy and very good for you.

Man, this is the perfect accompaniment to Mr. Dykes’ earlier release of Mr. Reed covers “On The Jimmy Reed Highway” – they are different enough that they can be enjoyed separate or alongside one another.

Get this for yourself and a for a fan of Jimmy Reed’s music, even if they don’t know they are.

Omar can always be found on:

The Billy Thompson Band: 
Noel Noel/Christmas Will Never Be Blue

This download only special holiday release from the Billy Thompson Band that adds the good blues to a Blue Christmas. It consists of two tunes, “Noel, Noel” and “Christmas Will Never Be Blue“.

Noel, Noel’ is written by Billy & Kirsten Trump and is a slow blues burner that opens up with a hard edged guitar intro and proceeds to feature Billy doing passionate vocals over solid from the ground up sound from the band. With the steady bottom of Gene Monroe on bass, and organ work from Ricky Wilkins we get our Yule on and begin to understand what the true meaning of the season is.

Billy is a tasty guitar player who knows how to pick it and when to stick it. He can blaze a riff out or can sit on the note for what seems like forever. This is a great cut and builds to a thumping crescendo as Eric Selby beats the drums like they owe him money.

The second cut is Christmas Will Never Be Blue’ which kicks off with Eric throwing the second-line rhythm down and Billy bringing on the guitar with fat tone like that big turkey or Christmas ham sitting right there on the plate.

Quoting Howlin’ Wolf, Freddy King, and Jimmy Witherspoon  lyrics, Billy provides the beauty and joy that we recall as children. With splendid piano rolling by Ricky Wilkins a la Billy Payne, and Billy T. channeling his Paul Barrere with a dash of Lowell George we get us a Virginia Gumbo based on the flavors of Little Feat back in the day. Hard rockin’, foot stomping good – no greater holiday music than right here.

For the cost of  Brussell Sprouts, Chestnuts or some PBR you can get yourself a holiday gift that will keep on giving. Think about sending this little ditty to a friend on iTunes and that will make their holiday bright.

Get it at iTunes:
check out The Billy Thompson Band at:

Scottie Miller: Rise Up (Independent)

Some of us know Mr. Miller as the keyboard player for the great Ruthie Foster Band, but few of us know his ability to rise up and shine on his own.

The title track (and first cut) ‘Rise Up‘ states flatly that we need to rise up, join together and be as one as one united nation. Thrilling and quite poignant words, with a steady beat and soulful background vocals by Jennifer Grim make this an anthem for the future of us all.

Mr. Miller is much at ease with whatever style he takes on. ‘On My Way’ features Dr. John styled vocals and subtle yet complex piano work that adds to the second line feel of this track. In the next instance on ‘Grace’ he utilizes a bowed upright bass, nylon stringed acoustic and some piano to create a song-prayer that is beautiful and sincere. One which is delivered with a haunting clarity that sets the scene of the road and life’s crazy hectic pace and our need for a safe haven.

Until The End of Days’ is an authentic Puerto Rican Cuarto which has the warmth and rhythm of the islands including all the smiles and lazy-happy feel that is indigenous to  the soon to be 51st state. Mr. Joe Cruz adds some wonderful work on said Cuatro as Mark O’Day, on drums,  effortlessly throws in background rhythms to make your hips move with out you knowing it.

Rolling piano sets us up for a toodle-loo of a St. Louis styled piano blues number about poor Joe who left too soon, and the pining that accompanied that departure. Addressing Mr. Joe’s fatal issues, Scottie states “he should laid off the cocaine and stuck to the beer” There is a New Orleans funeral feel to this track which has traveled up the Mississippi and come to roost in the Upper Regions of the headwaters of said river but maintained all the influences that it passed through.

The only cover contained here is a great version of ‘Dixie Lullaby’ written by legendary Leon Russell and Chris Stainton. With vocals that do justice to the original and then some, Mr. Miller builds the tune in a loose, but connected rhythm and groove that is a perfect spot for Harold Tremblay to work some harp mojo into it. You can almost hear Mr. Russell singing along and tipping his hat to this version of his classic tune.

Scottie Miller’s “Rise” will make everyone smile, make them shake their hips and just possibly refocus their energy to positive cause that;s the only way we gonna ‘Rise’ from these doldrums.

Scottie is here on the web:

Ian Siegal & The Mississippi Mudbloods: Candy Store Kid (Nugene)

Straight outta the sleeve with the first drum beat and guitar notes you will be lured into this release. ‘Bayou Country’ written by Duke Bardwell, sets the stage with Cody & Luther Dickinson kickin’ in with guitar and drums with a soul chorus that add depth and groove to this track.

Mr. Siegal has a unparallelled talent for snappy, rhyming couplets of songs. His craft is well displayed with “Loose Cannon’. A heavy grooved track that features some golden words that we all know and, to this point haven’t heard in this way. With Mr. Alvin Youngblood Hart on guitar there is a level of urgency at play here that makes it all the more enjoyable to listen to and dig.

A story from the backyard farm is ‘Kingfish’. A hypnotic track with a wall of sound that tells the tale of that Banty Rooster and Kingfish and the inevitable outcome when one finds the other in their yard or hen house. It’s an age old story done up tasty with a side of deep fried soul.

Sittin’ in with Ian on ‘So Much Trouble’ is the author of the song, Lightin’ Malcolm. With sitar by Luther Dickinson functioning on the ethereal level pleading for sanity in the background, and a hard rock beat made soulful by Stefanie Bolton, Sharisse and Shontelle Norman we fully grip the almost hopeless situation put to words ad beat here.

The other cover here is Little Richard’s ‘Green Power’. With a deep funk that takes it’s shape and form from the wah-wah effected guitar work. Nasty as you want to be is the approach here, as Ian and cohorts flatly state the desire and lure of ‘green power’ over any other type of power – black, white whatever if it ain’t green it’s not worth it. An interesting take on those dead presidents for sure.

One other sterling example of Mr. Siegal’s songwriting beauty is ‘Hard Pressed (what da fuzz?)’. Fuzz-faced guitar work and lyrics containing antonyms and thought provoking comparisons that show the simple complexity of who he is in song. Or as he proudly states “the best damn mistake you ever made’. Amen to that.

Originality abounds with Mr. Siegal, his work with the Mississippi Mudbloods allows him to be his best. The feel and groove that they put on vinyl is unpretentious and forceful. If you like your Blues original with ties to the past and stated matter of factly then do yourself a favor and get this one.

Mr. Siegal hides in plain sight here:

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
© 2012
Where Blues Thrives
Photos courtesy of Artists

Dion The Wanderer Comes Home to The Blues: Part One

By Don Wilcock

“Sometimes white guys are trying to get inside the blues. Blues guys are trying to get out.”

Dion Di Mucci makes profound statements like that in a Bronx accent that he delivers in a drawl that is the vocal equivalent of a mixed metaphor. It’s as though he were a Bronx borough kid who has spent the summers visiting his grandmother in Arkansas to get away from the street gangs and has become a bit of a hybrid.

He made the above quote to me in 2007 when he’d just released Son of Skip James, the second CD of the three in his blues trilogy. The first was Bronx in Blue. He releases the third, Tank Full of Blues, on January 24th. In the four and a half years since Son of Skip James, Dion has spent significantly more time working on that drawl which now plays a much bigger part in his persona, and he’s not sure he still believes blues guys are trying to get out of the blues.

“I might redefine it because I always said you don’t have to be a young, black guy to have the blues in the ’30s walking to the crossroads because John Paul II had them,” Dion says today. “(John Paul) was born in Poland under the Nazis, under Communism. His friends were dying on the streets so the guy had the blues. Maybe he didn’t define it like we’re talking. He didn’t have the form, the three cords, but he had it. You know what I mean?”

Dion is a complex person. The masses see him as the ultimate Bronx hipster whose late ’50s rock and roll hits “The Wanderer,” “Runaround Sue” and “Ruby Baby” made him one of the first rock and roll stars with all the baggage that went with it, drugs, sex and an attitude with a capital A. That said, he’s still married today at age 72 to Susan, whom he’s been with since he was 15.

Last year he published Dion The Wanderer Talks Truth co-written with religious writer Mike Aquilina. Dion is a life-long practicing Catholic who quotes scripture and is inspired by Psalms that he reminds me are songs in scripture.

To some in the blues community he is an interloper, a Johnny Come Lately switching musical styles late in life. Tank Full of Blues is going to change all that. While most of the songs on the first two blues albums were homages to the classics, this release is mostly originals by a “rhythm singer” as he calls himself who plays guitar with the kind of raw honesty that reminds me of Jimmy Reed.

Not so much that he sounds like Jimmy Reed, but more in that his fingers short circuit the brain and connect directly to his heart like Jimmy did. One cut in particular, “Bronx Poem,” tells his life story that is to blues what Gil Scott-Heron was to rap: fundamental, honest and true to the genre without mimicking its progenitors.

“I’ve never felt more relevant,” he says, “and that’s a wonderful thing. I’m very blessed in that respect because – at my age – I feel a lot of gratitude for that because I have a good mind. I have a good perspective, a good bird’s eye view of where I came from and the music, and how it evolved and the friends I have. I’m just very grateful because this music opened my whole life to travel, to meeting people and everything we think.”

Don Wilcock for Blues 411: You and I did two interviews, one in 2006 and one in 2007. At that time you used the term “cartoon” saying that so many people from that era are viewed as cartoons, and when I do these interviews, Gene Pitney was another one. They’re so real that many people our age have taken what you did and what I listened to in the ’50s and it’s become a lifestyle that’s very meaningful and is much more than a cartoon.

Dion Di Mucci: Well, the thing is probably after that interview I made an album that was kind of an offshoot. It was called Heroes, guitar greats of early rock and roll, and you know when you get guys like Cliff Gallup who played with Gene Vincent and you listen to these guys, they were all into T-Bone Walker, and when you listen to even Chuck Berry’s riffs they come right out of T-Bone Walker riffs. All that Chuck Berry stuff he was playing. So you get guys who just flew under the radar.

B411: Yes.

DD: Like Paul Burlison who played for Johnny Burnett. When you listen to those guys, and they all were aware of the guys we’re talking about – as far as blues roots, they all had them. I didn’t even know how much I loved them until I recorded Bronx In Blue.

I wouldn’t even think of trying to sing like that at the Brooklyn Fox when guys like Bo Diddley and Little Richard, Chuck Berry and maybe Howlin’ Wolf were backstage. I wouldn’t even think of doing what the Rolling Stones did, like actually mimicking black people. It would have been like absurd. It would have been like what are you doing? What are you trying to do? What, are you kidding me? Why are you singing like that? You don’t talk like that, that kind of thing. So, who would even think of it?

So I guess recording stuff like “The Wanderer,” “Ruby Baby” and “Drip Drop,” they were all like blues songs, but what we did was go into a major key, and that’s rock and roll. That was rock and roll back then. You just turn blues into a major key, and you had rock and roll. And you put a little lift into the music. It was a little happier.

Even though “The Wanderer” is a dark song because the guy’s saying, “I roam from town to town. I go through life without a care. I’m as happy as a clown with my two fists of iron, but I’m going nowhere.” It’s really a dark, but we put such a spin on it. These were like cleverly disguised blues songs. So, some of those artists, like Cliff Gallop to me, people are very unaware of him. But he changed things. I think he infiltrated the culture of music, but he never wanted to leave Norfolk. He was a janitor in a school or something. He didn’t want to leave. He loved his wife, and he stayed there. He didn’t want to go on the road.

B411: I think you’ve transcended that chasm between people like your early self and Rolling Stones and the other side of the coin like Chuck Berry and the people at the Brooklyn Fox, particularly on “Bronx Poem.”

DD: Oh, you heard that?

B411: Oh, my God. You’ve found a voice there that’s authentic and not derivative of anyone. It’s so you.

DD: I always say I don’t sing black, and I don’t sing white. I sing Bronx. [Chuckle]

B411: In this particular song you’ve blown through to the other side.

DD: Wow. Thank you for that. I don’t know anyone who’s listened to that. You’re the first guy I’m talking to about it. But thank you ’cause it was totally free abandon stream of consciousness. There’s no melody. There’s no particular formula to the music. I just was playing and talking.

B411: So, that wasn’t written down in advance?

DD: Well, some of I was. Some of it was. Kind of what I do is with that I had some thoughts, and I fill it in. You know, it’s like I put some points, just to keep me in the continuity of it.

B411: Have you ever heard Gil Scott-Heron’s stuff?

DD: No.

B411: He came before the rappers, and he was the jazz guy. What you’re doing here reminds me so much of him. Knowing you as well as I do, it blew my mind. I heard it for the first time yesterday, and I think it’s the best thing you’ve ever don by a long shot. It’s marvelous.

DD: Well, you know, its’ funny. (Blue Horizon label head) Richard Gottehrer heard it and said, “You know, we should put that first.”

B411: Yes!

DD: I said, “It’s gonna throw people off.”

B411: No!

DD: I said, “That’s not a blues song.” I thought they’re gonna have the wrong idea about what the album’s about. It was kind of an afterthought, a meditation thing. It’s a funny thing. I was running it by my daughter. I said, “I want to do this.” She said, “Just make it three minutes. People get bored.”

B411: God, no.

DD: So, I don’t know how long it is, but I just kept going. Now that I listen to it, the weird thing about it is I could fill in, fill in, fill in, fill in. You know what I mean?

B411: Yeah.

DD: I could keep going. Good thing I just left it, but I tell you, even the guitar work on it has no rhyme or reason. Well, it does have a rhyme or reason, kinda punctuating the words, but it was just one time right through, and I left it.

I have two of the reasons I did this album. I have artist friends that I talk to, and it started with Jay Sieleman from the Blues Foundation. He’s not an artist, but he loves the blues.

B411: Yeah, I know Jay very well.

DD: Jay said to me, he said, “You know, Dion, what’s wrong? Today, blues is guitar driven. Only guitar. Everybody leans on guitar,” and we both agreed that’s what it should be. It’s blues. We’re going, “Yeah, okay. What else?” He says, “Back in the day, Robert Johnson had a story. There was some kind of narrative and some kind of genius about his writing,” and I said, “You know, I tell ya, Jay. I’m gonna lean in on the stories.” Maybe I made it too much of a narrative, but even “Tank Full of Blues.” “I got a woman who wants me and another who wants me gone.”

B411: Great line, a great line.

DD: When I wrote that line I said, “How come nobody ever wrote this?” There’s two women in my life, and I’ve finally had it.” That kind of thing. So a woman who wants me, and a woman who wants me gone. When I wrote the line I said, “How come nobody ever wrote this line?” You even get a line like that? What the hell?

Anyway, but then I had this vision in “Ride’s Blues” of me driving Robert Johnson to the crossroads. I figure the song is all about him being at the crossroads and trying to flag a ride from the crossroads, but he was in town. He asked me for a lift. So I drove him there, and I had this conversation with him and then I put that song together. I said, “I got some stories here.”

So, I started leaning towards stories and really drawing pictures. I love drawing pictures with words. Like even in “Holly Brown” it says, “I’m trying to get next to you any way I can. You’re like a soft wind summer breeze. When God made you he was really pleased.” It’s just a beautiful line to me that like, wow, okay, I got something now. “When God made you, he was showing off.”

Anyway, so I kept it up, and I thought I‘m gonna write these blues songs. I’m gonna lean on the narrative, the story, or the words. Blues is not a thinking man’s thing. I would never do a thing that’s contrived, ’cause I thought it came off really natural, so that was one of the things Jay told me. He said, “You should lean on the words a little ’cause people kind of toss them off. Jay was saying the words are the least important. It’s very guitar oriented. It’s very guitar driven which it should be.

I don’t know. I don’t listen to that much of new blues. So Jay was saying they kind of toss the words off. There’s certain things you hang your hat on that’s gotten me through the 72 years, out of the drugs, kept me married, kept me sane. That’s the other thing. One was the words. Jay was saying. “I don’t hear enough good story telling.”

This was a conversation I heard. Maybe he didn’t even say it the way I’m saying it. It was just a passing thing, but what I came out of the conversation with was why don’t you push the envelope a little with the writing of the words. So, anyway, I tried to lean on the story. That was one thing.

The other thing is in “The Bronx Poem” I do mention a lot about God. At 72 years old, I kid you not, I feel more relevant than I did when I was in my 20s making hit records, and you can hear it, and the reason is it’s like I’m connected a little. I open my heart to my creator, and however I choose to word that.

B411: How did you feel when (noted music journalist) Dave Marsh told you you were the most relevant pop star from your era?

DD: Okay, that’s the second thing. Jay told me about the story in the blues, and Dave Marsh told me about being the most creative and relevant over all these decades. He said, “You’re truly an artist for the ages.” I wanted to start arguing with him. I really did. It really encouraged me, and then what those two things did for me, Jay and Dave Marsh, was I wanted to start expressing who I was in this genre.

If you look at Tony Bennett, he does it great whatever he does, but he expresses it, or he interprets classics, and I thought that’s what I wanted to do on Bronx in Blue, and what I wanted to do on Son of Skip James. There are so many good songs out there. Let me go back and get some of these chestnuts. New people should hear these things.

Then, after those two remarks from Jay and Dave Marsh I thought, you know, let me express who I am within this genre. Let me start expressing who I am and what I can do in this musical form ’cause I loved the blues. I never realized how it was everything to me until I did Bronx in Blue. When I went in I cut that album in two days. I thought, “This is really what’s the center of my being.” I never knew it. I kind of overlooked it because of the era I came from.

That was the conversation we had a little while ago when I said the Rolling Stones did this and that, so I thought maybe it was a part of me, but I didn’t realize if it was another time, and I was born in another place. Man, that’s all I would’ve been doing, but it comes out on this latest album.

B411: Boy, does it!

DD: That’s only me on guitar. I’m the only guitar player. That’s me, and I thought, “I don’t know how to play a lot, but I’m in the groove. I like to play in the groove.

B411: Charles Messina is collaborating with you on a play called The Wanderer, The Life.

DD: Well, he’s writing it. I’m just giving him information. You know, I guess in a way we’re collaborating. Yeah, we are, but he’s a playwright. He’s a young guy. He’s almost 40, and he was born in the Village, and I relate to him because he’s a rhythm writer. I’m a rhythm singer.

B411: Can you define that?

DD: A rhythm singer?

B411: I know what rhythm singer means. What does rhythm writer mean to you?

DD: Well, he has kind of a pace that he – I don’t know. I just feel it. I was having lunch with David Gonzales whose writing a Times piece, and he was telling me his son put together a little essay, but he was trying to explain to his son you got all the facts right. You Google-ed, everything is in there, but now you gotta make people feel, and you gotta give it a rhythm,” and that’s what made me think, “Oh, really?” It’s a rhythm that takes you along, that connects everything, and it’s the rhythm of the streets and the rhythm of the city.

But I know when I’m reading it or seeing it, I know when I don’t have it. I always thought Bobby Darin was a rhythm singer. I go see Kevin Spacey doing his life story, drove me nuts ’cause Kevin Spacey is not a rhythm singer. He hijacked his songs. Yeah, he killed ’em. He destroyed the whole thing to me.

That’s why I think anybody could sing rock and roll, but I don’t think anybody could sing the blues. You need something in the blues. You need that feeling. There’s something about it. You need to be connected to it. I don’t think you can learn it.

B411: Do you think Mike Aquilina is a rhythm writer? [Author of the as-told-to autobiography Dion The Wanderer Talks Truth]

DD: I like him. Yes, I do. In a way he has his own – do you? You read some of his stuff. Do you like it?

B411: No.

DD: You don’t like the way he writes?

B411: No, I was disappointed in the book to be candid about it. I wanted more. You and I are always honest with one another, so I’m being honest.

DD: No, you’re honest. I’ll think about that next time because he is a religious writer. He was trying to get my rhythm. He’s a very heady guy. I was hesitant about answering that because I think he’s more of an intellectual, more of an academic writer.

To be continued

photos of Mr. Di Mucci provided courtesy of Joseph A. Rosen
other photos courtesy of artist

We at Blues411 are thrilled to have this in-depth conversation with Mr. Dion Di Mucci provided to us by Mr. Don Wilcock. Don is well known in the music world as an author and journalist with 40+ years of experience. We believe that his contributions to Blues411 are a giant step in providing you, our readers, with the most talented and insightful writers around today.
We would also like to extend thanks to Mr. Joseph Rosen for his soul capturing photos
of Mr. Di Mucci.
Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
© 2012
Part two can be found here:

CD Reviews: Old Friends, New Releases

Spring is here, at least for the moment, so it’s time to take stock and go thru closets and sort things out that matter. So what I have done for these reviews is to take some artists who, for whatever reasons, are considered ‘old friends’. I may have been listening some to them for years, or known them for a good spell of time. With that in mind, I’m reviewing their new releases and enjoy the comfort they bring, but also the excitement that they provide in their new works. I hope you too, will pick up on some of this and maybe they will become ‘new friends’ to you.

Tracy Nelson: Victim Of The Blues (Delta Groove)
Possessing a signature voice that seems to shine with the ligfht of truth, regardless of genre or niche, Ms. Nelson is qualified as an old friend to me. From her early days in 1964 with the release of ‘Deep Are the Roots‘ and through to her forming of the band, Mother Earth, Ms. Nelson has set a standard for female vocalists that still holds sway today.

Victim of the Blues‘ opens with the Willie Dixon cut ‘You’ll Be Mine‘ a rolling piano provided by Jimmy Pugh, that is matched in it’s intensity by Mike Henderson on gutiar and we hear THAT VOICE – unmistakable, full of intent purpose as she dictates the line ‘you’ll be mine’ leaving no doubt about the outcome of this situation.

Ms. Nelson offers up interpretations of some songs fromn the ancestral tree of the Blues: Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Lightin’ Hopkins and Ma Rainey. But one that caught my ear is the incredible song by Mr. Earl Thomas, ‘Lead A Horse To Water‘, In her liner notes she states her love for the song when she ffirst heard and acknowledges her surprise when she learned that it was from a contemporary artist and not written back in the day. This song is a favorite of mine by Mr. Thomas, and Ms. Nelson infects it with a touch of gospel and deep rooted soul as she calls and is answered by Mr. James ‘Nick’ Nixon. Add to that some swampy slide guitars out to a first rate version of a top notch song. Thank you for singing this !

The title cut is a Ma Rainey tune, and as with every release, Ms. Neslon includes a song by Ms. Rainey or Ms. Bessie Smith, two of her earliest influences. In 2010 Ms. Nelson lost practically everything in a fire at her 100+ year old farm house near Nashville, wherein the local Fire Department said they could save just one room, she choose the studio. This album somehow survived that fire and it is aptly titled – her rendition of the tune is more of a confession and release of all that has occurred up to this point.

Ms. Nelson has some outstanding guests contained within this release. Ms. Angela Strehli offering up advice in ‘Howlin’ For My Baby’, Ms. Marcia Ball combining vocals and her unmistakable piano style on ‘Shoot My Baby’. Not to mention Ms. Reba Russell on background vocals (how good is that )? The final cut which was made famous by Ms. Irma Thomas ‘Without Love’ is such a soul stirring and uplifting version as Mr. John Cowan adds his superb voice in a vocal duet that takes us out of the dark and shows us the true light that shines for and in us all.

Brad Vickers & His Vestapolitans: Traveling Fool (ManHatTone)
With his third release, Brad and his Vestapolitans take us back to the days when the road was king, music simpler and made for joy, and rock and roll was young and fresh. From the first notes of the title cut ‘Traveling Fool’, you are drawn in and made a comfortable partner, riding shotgun in this musical excursion. The Vestapolitans are named after the open Vestapol tuning, and they show that there are legions of super sounds available in open tunings that you just cannot achieve in regular tuning. Brad features a very special guest in the person of  Bobby Radcliff a guitar player who is so tough that it has been said he should carry, and pass out meat tenderizer with him at gigs. Mr. Radcliff add some very tasty and tender licks in his appearances on this release. Another guest is Mr. V.D. King on guitar who adds an uncanny knack for capturing era-sensitive and kick ass licks to two songs here. Brad offers an up-tempo version of the Sonny Terry classic, ‘Diggin’ My Potatoes’, which is a rollicking jaunt through the back roads complete with feet swinging to the beat while trying to maintain vertical on the running boards.

What Mr. Vickers and his band offer us is fun. Yes, a good time mix of eleven originals and four interpretations that span blues, ragtime, rock & roll and American roots music, materfully produced b whiz-kid Dave Gross. Each cut is strong, and are different enough to show you the versatility of this fine band. ‘Uh-Oh’, an original by Mr. Vickers, had my darling bride doing the frug, swim and looking for her go-go boots. What might very well be my adopted song for South Carolina (where I split my time) is by Ms. Margey Peters called ‘Skeeter Song’. A fine blend of saxophone punctuations, and rolling piano is a segue to an killer acoustic solo by Mr. Radcliff, all building to a fun ending that makes it right for all (‘cept the skeeter).

Two fine interpretations are the J.B. Lenoir ‘Low Down Dirty Shame’, and the classic Leroy Carr ‘How Long Blues’ take us to the final cut “Rockabilly Rumble’ which harkens back to the days when the saxophone was yielding to the electric guitar as the king of instruments.

In his liner notes Brad thanks Rosco Gordon, Pinetop Perkins, Jimmy Rogers, and others who Mr. Vickers has played with over the years, and he has learned so well from them, in this release he expresses and demonstrates a deep understanding of music and styles and they would be damn proud of this release.

Tas Cru: Jus’ Desserts (Crustee Tees Records)
Dubbed the ‘master of the triple entendre’, Mr. Cru offers life lessons to us with a certain flair that resonates deep. His ‘triple threat’ skills at songwriting, guitar playing and soulfull singing make him one of upstate New York’s jewels.
With his latest release Tas serves up a piping hot, eleven course meal of original songs for those of us who enjoy our blues with a literate twist. Opening with a nice down homey groove ‘Just Let It Happen‘ which extolls the virtues of learning to ‘just lettin’ things be’. This is so true. To reinforce this thought he offers us some tasty acoustic slide guitar by Jeremy Walz, that will get the point to you if you haven’t gotten it already.

Glad To Be Alive‘, is a nice jazz-tinged shuffle in which extolls the virtues of his baby and how she makes him so glad to be alive. This is a nice cut as it is electric and I am more accustomed to Mr. Cru’s acoustic work. A nice helping of straight up blues work is mixed in the cut ‘Eau De ‘Nother Man‘ which is a story about fragrances or scents that we all carry with us, and tell-tale other scents that can give ones transgressions away. This is prime Tas Cru writing, slick, funny, but spot on. All the Tas tunes are tasty but I have special fondness for ‘My GPS Mama’, and title track ‘Jus’ Desserts’ where Tas demonstrates his under-rated skills at harp playing. Mr. Cru is more than a funny singer-songwriter, true he does use humor and wit in his songwriting, but the message and depth of his music is more than strong enough to stand up to close examination. Jus’ Desserts offers us a toe tapping, laid back, thoroughly enjoyable release that will keep you coming back for more. Do check him and his releases out.

We are coming up fast on the Blues Music Awards in Memphis, May 5th, so that will involve travel and a gathering of the tribes for the week. Looking forward to seeing everyone and spending some quality time hanging out, catching up and listening/seeing some of the very best Blues artists. To see more about the Blues Music Awards you can visit this link and while you are there consider joining the Blues Foundation – read about all the good they do for the musician’s, the Blues in Schools, the H(andy) A(rtist) R(elief) F(und) and so much more. You can join for as little as $25 USD, and youths
(14-20) can join for free.

Until next time,

Love, Peace & Chicken Grease,

photos: courtesy of Artists
© 2011

CD Reviews: It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who You Don’t Know

Wow, there is so much good music coming out these days it’s hard for a guy to keep up widdit all.
So I am now going to give this space to some artists who I am not familiar with. Some of you folks might know them, others might be in my camp of the unknown. Either way it’s got to be good stuff because they are getting some ink (?), errh, maybe internet ink, web space, anyway, they are here for your pleasure, enjoy !

Terry Quiett Band: Just My Luck (Lucky Bag Records) release date: April 19, 2011

 Hooked, with the first cut, Karma, which comes on with a funky groove-laden rhythm and slightly distorted wah effects reinforcing the groove. Love the line ‘when karma comes back around’ that surely is a warning for us all, or at least words to live by.

This three piece band out of the rural plains of Kansas, features Aaron Underwood on bass, and Rodney Baker on the drums. Together they provide a solid back line for Mr. Quiett to work his varied guitar techniques and styles to near perfect execution. His work is equally spot on whether he grinds the full metal axe or exhorts the hell-hounds to let him be on his acoustic. They participated in the 2011 International Blues Challenge in Memphis to rave reiviews.

His styles range from the aforementioned funky ‘Karma’, to a jazz tinged, yet smoldering ‘Work For It‘ – his take on some of the ladies who make themselves available to musicians. A very nice somewhat autobiographical number is ‘Pound of Flesh’ wherein Terry openly fesses up to his own transgressions and faces up to the Devil wanting his pound of flesh. This is done with real nice slide work, and a bangin’ groove that will have all the guys drumming on the table tops, trust me!

This is a mea-culpa kind of release for Mr. Quiett, the songs lay bare the facts of his actions and their resulting implications. In doing so, Terry’s confession is a joy for us all to listen to.If confession had only been this good when I was a child I might have done it more often !
Oh yeh, gotta love the cover art, check it out, all I can say is, yeh no kidding !

Ron Tanski: Dragged You Down (Self Produced)

When a song starts with ‘it’s a marvelous night..’ I shudder at the thought of hearing ‘for a moondance’! Fortunately Mr. Tanski does NOT go there. Where he does go is deep into the cigarette tainted, whiskey primed world of piano blues.

His opening number ‘Marvelous Night For The Blues’ is an upbeat call to arms for him and his baby to ‘go downtown and throw a little cash around’ stating outright that if they don’t play they both gonna blow a fuse. This release contains twelve original songs by Mr. Tanski, and he performs solo on all but three of them.

A superbly versatile player, he can boogie-woogie with the best of them, as shown in ‘Hurricane Boogie’ , and then proceed to take us way down in the alley with ‘Never Have Another Chance With You’ and then stroll through the double entendre ‘Cookieman’ with aplomb and all seriousness. As a chef I can attest to cravings for a nice warm cookie, while still appreciating all the other kinds of sweets that are available. In spite of it’s church like start, the title cut ‘Dragged You Down’ has sheer rocking energy and a killer guitar solo from Mr. Andrew Hiestand, as Ron apologizes with tongue in cheek to his put upon partner (ending with the line “… gonna put you back on the streets’.)

There is a strong hint of Tom Waits here, but ‘Mr. T’ is not that dark and foreboding, he makes us all very comfortable with the blues and in turn we become voyeurs to his journey all the while staying safe with our headphones on and a drink in our hand.

Marion James: Essence (EllerSoul Records)

Originally released in 2003, Essence has been re-released by Ellersoul Records, features Nashville’s Queen of the Blues, Ms. Marion James. Like many great R&B singers Ms. James’ musical background is rooted in the church. In 1966 Marion had a top ten hit with ‘That’s My Man’ featuring guitarist Johnny Jones (aka Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland) for the Excello label. During the early sixties her band consisted of side men Billy Cox and Jimi Hendrix (Jimmy James ?) back in the day. Yeah that’s all great I hear ya saying, but . . .

Well what we have here is aptly titled – Essence defined as the following:
essence is the attribute or set of attributes that make an object or substance what it fundamentally is, and which it has by necessity and without which it loses its identity. OK kind of deep here, but that is what this release is it is the essence of Soul and Blues music.

Starting with the funky soul trippin’ song ‘Tables‘ we hit the groove spot and go from there. Add horns, wacka-wacka wah wah guitar and solid lead vocals we hear the truth in her statement that the ‘tables are gonna turn on you’ and we know that to be true because this lady is not one to be messin’ with. With a lyrical reference to the old male-oriented blues lyrics of buying a penthouse and calling it a shack, Ms. James let’s the men know that it’s a two way street, and she is the crossing guard.

Give me Love’ is slow Blues at it’s best, with traditional workings in the I-IV-V with tasty guitar, horns and B3. Ms. James’ vocals are reminiscent of the great ladies of Jazz and Blues, and the band she works with know how to step in and step back as needed. Featured performers are Reese Wynans (keys), Jack Pearson (guitar), Bob Babbit (bass) and Chuckie Burke (drums).
If I didn’t say the year this was originally released, you would not have asked. It is that vital, and has a contemporary feel (I guess that makes it timeless) that will not fade from its grooves (oh darn they ain’t got no grooves anymore – ah well you know what I’m sayin’).

Cousin Harley: It’s A Sin (Little Pig Records)

Paul Pigat is Cousin Harley, yes it is true. An alter ego, Motorhead Rockabilly at it’s very finest. Throw in some Dick Dale, the Ventures and what you get is a stripped down form of rock and roll that mixes in blues, country and really is a genre busting form of music.

The best example of this would be the final cut on the release, ‘Spaghetti No Sauce’ it hits the ground running and you will be left looking for waves and your surf board but not on the earth but on a distant planet where only few dare to go.

The title track ‘It’s A Sin’ rides in on an old steam powered railroad train that has been juiced up enough to make it dangerous. As it pulls into the station we hear a Johnny Cash type of voice pleading for some form of intervention to be divinely laid upon his lady because she has no room in her heart or life for him or anyone else, and has no first-hand knowledge of herself at all and it’s a sin.

Spooks’ is similar to the great instrumentals of The Ventures and the late great, Danny Gatton wherein ‘Cuz’ paints us a picture of a landscape at night that is alive with life, death and after-life all enjoying and sharing the streets and co-existing in harmony, sweet harmony.
One might hear the influence of Carl Perkins and others in the snubbingly titled “I’ll Keep My Old Guitar‘. Here we are treated to some wonderful lyrical loyalty, as he expresses his preference to his guitar over fly by night ladies of all sorts.

No release of this sort would be complete without a nice minor blues number. Cuz gives us that with ‘The Ballad of El Swartho’, a catchy title and really fine instrumental that allows us to see the varied influences and styles that make Cousin Harley’s ‘It’s A Sin’ release a fun filled romp on them frets!

Sabrina Weeks & Swing Cat Bounce: Tales From Lenny’s Diner (self produced) how do people come up the names for their bands? Well, I can answer for this band. “Swing Cat Bounce” was inspired by them listening to a radio show on the CBC about economics and the ‘dead cat bounce’. So, after some healthy discussion around the campfire, it morphed into “Swing Cat Bounce”, because ‘you ain’t got a thing, if you ain’t got that swing’. Really!

‘Ain’t My Time To Sing The Blues’ really gets to the point of this release, good times are the main focus and that light at the end of the tunnel is the glow of a cold bottle of Molson’s and a campfire. ‘Boogie Downtown‘ swings into high gear, and paints a picture of playing downtown at a fun spot, but there’s a hardly anyone around. So within the framework of good times the message is real and it expresses the sometime harsher realities of being a band and playing 200 plus nights a year.Fingers In My Pockets’ is a Jimmy Reed riff based swing number that has Sabrina at her story-telling best.Independent Woman is a sultry, sexy, to the point statement of Sabrina’s been there and done that learning of life’s lessons. A searing, funky guitar solo helps us get the point and then the chorus kicks in with a call and response and reaffirms that she is indeed standing on her own two feet. I am sure that seeing this band live would be a fun filled evening and hope to catch up with them in the future.

This five-piece band from Kamloops, BC, offer up some ‘feel good bounce and boogie blues’ with ample good vibes to make almost anyone tap their feet. With Sabrina offering heart felt vocals, and Mike Hilliard throwing some snazzy lead guitar work, they are backed by a rhythm guitar, bass and drums that keep that pocket in place. Full sound without being overpowering – the addition of horns seems a natural thing for the style of music and offers a nice touch to this release.

With eleven cuts (ten originals) covering the full range of bouncing boogie. They each explore differenet themes but all are rooted in good times and hitting the dance floor. The final cut , Independent Womanis a sultry, sexy, to the point statement of Sabrina’s been there and done that learning of life’s lessons. A searing, funky guitar solo helps us get the point and then the chorus kicks in with a call and response and reaffirms that she is indeed standing on her own two feet. I am sure that seeing this band live would be a fun filled evening and hope to catch up with them in the future.

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease,

photos courtesy of  Artists
© 2011