CD Reviews: New Friends = New Music

A few weeks back we looked at Old Friends, so with this  installment we look at some new friends and the great music they have added to my life. Give it a read, and do check them out on the web, in concert, or wherever you can, and see what ya think.

Alexis P. Suter Band: Two Sides (Hipbone Records)

I had heard this band on Bluesville a few years back and was impressed by what I had heard. Well, I had NO idea of how good they really are. Live they are shockingly good, visual, aurally and fun, but I am here to talk about their new release ‘Two Sides‘.
What strikes me most about this release is the tightness of the band, and quality of the music they put down here for us. Freedom and redemption are the themes they play upon with this, their fifth release, the freedom to hold your ground and make your own choices and the redemption from ‘others’ who would tell you how to live. The initial cut states it quite plainly aptly titles ‘Free’. A funky beat and punctuating keyboard work by Benny Harrison, sets us up for what is a cross between a plea, a demand and a rallying cry to be ‘Free‘.

The sound from this band – and I mean band – is such a force that it makes you sit up and take notice. This is not white noise or social interaction background music this is meant to be played loud and proud.

The APSB style fits comfortably in any glove they choose to wear, whether it be funky rock influenced songs like ‘All Over Again‘, or the swampy twist on ‘Didn’t It Rain‘, and ‘John The Revelator’ shows that they get it, as will you when you listen.

Featuring Alexis P. Suter up front on vocals, and the soul chorus of Linda Pino & Vicki Bell on vocals, to that add Jimmy Bennett (on versatile styled guitar) and Ray Grappone & Peter Bennet as the rhythm section these members are all contributors to the overall aural picture that they paint for us.

Truly there isn’t a throw away cut on this album. I have to mention that any band who can do two versions of almost the same song (Only I & Savior) and slay me with both demands attention. Only I is a slow-tempo, bluesy version, while Savior has all the funk and Rhythm of a classic Stax recording.

As dynamic as these artists are live there didn’t seem to be a big drop of energy with this release. Dynamic, full sounding and, what impresses me most is the transference of energy one gets from listening to this remarkable collection of talent and music.

Hadden Sayers: Hard Dollar (Blue Corn Music)

OK, every artist has a story, sort of like the old black and white television series, The Naked City – a million tales and at some point they all seem to start being cliche’. Hadden Sayers has his story too, but he lays it out here for us to hear – open, unashamed, and triumphant in this release of a lucky thirteen package of original songs.
Opening this release is ‘Take Me Back To Texas’ wherein Mr. Sayers makes a clear statement that he needs to get back to his home state framed inside a damn right serious boogie beat.

One of the many standout cuts is his ‘Back To The Blues’. An understated vocal duet with Ms. Ruthie Foster that is a steady rolling minor key powerhouse of a song. Give an ear to his guitar solo here – and you will understand that he has no other place to go except Back To The Blues.

I gotta give it up for the artwork, the skeletal caricature of Mr. Sayers is so spot on when I saw him recently in Memphis, I thought he had gained weight cos he had  flesh on his bones !

An interesting, but never-the-less biographical take on having a wealthy woman keeping him in the ‘Lap of Luxury’ is a fun syncopated stop time blues number that sits close to my heart, Hadden, I couldn’t have said it better myself! I must give props to ‘Hippie Getaway‘ which is a catchy up tempo song who’se depth belies it’s simplicity.

Mr. Sayers story is presented in a palpable format here, various songs in different styles showcasing his varied influences and depicting his path along the often rocky but ultimately rewarding life that he leads.

Jean Shy & Friends: Blow Top Blues (King Edward Music)

If you like your Blues with a serious twist of Jazz, and a dash of Soul, and a steady back fill of funk and gospel then Ms. Jean Shy should be on your list of artists. A sensation in Europe, where the press has bathed her in superlatives – we can see their reasoning in this generous fifteen cut release.

Setting the stage with title track ‘Blow Top Blues’ Ms. Shy lets us know the bad news that this morning she discovered that her wig was about to blow. Yes-siree, and she goes on to describe this more than common situation in a jazzy strut that we shake our heads in syncopation to the tune and ride the waves of horns and snappy guitar work.

A smokey, sultry version of ‘Willow Weep For Me’ recalls the halcyon days of my old neighborhood, Harlem, and it’s clubs, patrons and fantastic female vocalists. She follows that song with an upbeat treatment of ‘The Night Time Is The Right Time’ where the guitar playing is allowed to overtake the horns for a fine solo before retreating to it’s proper position as part of the band.

To me, the standout cut is ‘Wouldn’t Wanna Be You’, a stunning sounding song who’s message is dark and foreboding for the fly about to enter into the spider’s web. I had the hardest time getting this song out of my head, with it’s sparse but effective percussion and flanged guitar work in tandem with a serious infectious almost reggae beat. Killah !

A very satisfying release by Ms. Shy, I think this style of Blues would serve well as a way to get more people into our tent. Not overly guitar’d, thoughtful music that plays easy on the ears but is packed with the force and snap of a good left jab just before the other fighter falls to the canvas – it is a winner and should be back to move up in class and the next level.

Big Shot Reub and The Reloaders: Roundhouse Blues (Hat and Case Music)

So I didn’t know what to expect here, the cover is an illustration of a ‘hitman’ complete with a smoking gun in hand, along with all the trappings of such a mob hit. Loud ? Death-Metal Blues ? Yet another SRV clone ? I had no idea…..well here goes.

Starting with ‘So Much Inside Me’, I was floored with by an up beat, swing tempo guitar run takes us to an ‘Elvis Costello’ sounding vocals from the leader of this power packin’ trio, Mr. Rueben Vigil. Smart lyrics just added to the overall feel of joy as he tells us about what is inside him and how, as John Lee said, ‘it gots to come out’.

Out of the San Diego area, Mr. Vigil gives us a tour of his world and influences ranging from the band’s theme song ‘Big Shot Roll’ which hits starts shuffling along and then hits full stride as Rube makes references to ‘eyesight to the blind’ and a ‘quake at 6.19’. If that wasn’t enough he advises us to ‘turn up and the heat and turn down the lights’ HAH yeh brother I hear ya !

Viva Bracero’, a tribute to the unskilled laborers who helped build America after the great Depression, brings to the forefront the Latino side of his music a nicely constructed piece incorporating solid acoustic and electric guitar playing. There is a rawness here that is appealing on many levels, as one can hear tinges of Santana and The Allman Brothers weave a tapestry of sound within the song.  The next cut ‘Celestial’ gives us a spacey, drifting aural painting of all that is above and how we view it from down below. To say it is in the style of Hendrix is not a bad thing, with a soulfull feel reminiscent of the Band Of Gypsys and phased guitar work recalling the Isley Brothers and Prince it is a great spot to be in.

Reuben’s dad is a guitar player and his mom played a lap steel, he told me when he first started playing guitar he wanted to be B.B. King. Not a bad goal, but there is only one B.B., and Mr. Vigil seems to have grasped that fact, and is now on the way to becoming his own self on the guitar. This ten song release shows how the multicultural influences of various types of music can be a splendid thing indeed. I am looking forward to hearing what Reub and the Reloaders have in their case for next time.

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease,

photos: courtesy of  artists.