No not those kind of benefits, more along the lines of artists who are or have become friends over the years and have allowed me to listen to their new releases.
So here I have compiled a short list of some of these talented folk and hi-lighted their releases so that you might grab a hold on to them and enjoy them also.
Johnny Sansone: The Lord Is Waiting and The Devil Is Too
(Short Stack Records)
When I first heard Johnny Sansone’s ‘Poor Man’s Paradise’ (2007) I knew that this man understood the world’s dark side and how it was an eternal struggle to find the light of salvation. I have met Johnny several times and found him open, friendly and very charismatic, almost the other side of the coin from this taut release.
Working with Anders Osborne (producer, guitar, vocals, and additional vibes) and Gallatic drummer Stanton Moore, this 10 track stripped down and raw look at a life as it reaches that all important crossroads where one has to make the choices and decisions that will effect the future for a long long time.
Starting with ‘Sinking Ship’ if one takes this literally – you really don’thave to walk the plank on a sinking ship cos we all are going down on it no matter what. It seems to set the stage for what Mr. Sansone offers up in the remainder of the album. So whether it is a relationship, a job, and it’s sinking there’s no need for the embarrassment of being made to walk that plank. ‘Corn Whiskey’ is an instrumental that allows Johnny to showcase his excellent harp playing skills in a rough and tumble cut that signifies the title. He has become equally adept at both the diatonic and chromatic harmonica and knows how to get down and dirty with them throughout this release.
One might find these songs disturbing and too dark and primal for casual listening, but I urge you to put this baby on and listen to it. His handling of this time in his life is laid out here for us to listen to and be part of the resolution. ‘Johnny and Janie’ paints a picture of the fragility of what appears to be a strong, unchallenged man and how a love gone bad can make him do desperate things. The title track is just a raucous New Orleans romp with sharp overtones of menace and once again the subject of choice and how it is up to the individual to make the choice – but ya better make the right one cos ‘the lord is waiting and the devil is too’.
This fine release is unlike anything else Mr. Sansone has previously shared with us. This is his 6th release and the very first that features him on harp only. It is modern, yet strongly connected to past both in theme and sound. Within the framework of this release Mr. Sansone proves his worth lyrically, vocally and instrumentally. A good candidate for nominations across the Blues field I cannot be happier for him.
Davis Coen was kind enough to introduce me to Ms. Grace Askew in Memphis while attending the Blues Music Awards this year. A friendly, cheerful young lady who is performing constantly in one of the best musical cities in America.
What I didn’t expect was the depth of her work here on this disc. This release captures a wide range of music – music which I refer to as American Roots music – incorporating Blues, Alternative Country, and a dash of alternative modern. With these 11 cuts Ms. Askew treats us to some of the more sultry vocals that I have heard of late. Her voice falls somewhere between Etta James, Tom Waits and Neko Case. That is not a bad thing.
‘Been Broken Too’ and ‘Go My Way’ are two of the bluesier tunes. With a solid swampy feel Ms. Askew and the band paint pictures that are more complex than we first realize. Like a fine dinner offering from a top notch chef, we at first, take in the general appearance (sound wise) then as we begin to immerse ourselves in it we only then fully appreciate what is being presented to us. ‘Midtown‘ offers us a musical film-noir commentary on the urban landscape and it’s inhabitants that could exist in almost any inner city neighborhood.
There is so much to be enjoyed on this release (10 of the 11 are originals and 1 is co-written with Davis Coen). I firmly believe that we need to embrace what these young, talented artists are bringing into the Blues – without them I fear the tent will not grow and wither from inside.
I was first introduced to Mr. Radcliff through Mr. Brad Vickers at Kenny’s Castaway’s in NYC earlier this year. A quiet man who gave no hint at the powerful playing he was capable of.
Blues man Bobby Radcliff spent quality time back in the 60’s with ‘Magic Sam’ Maghett which bound him forever to that raucous mixture of deep blues and flashy funk that was seemed to define the sound of Chicago’s West Side. He is a throw-back, old-school, hard-core blues-funk (I wanted to see how many hypens I could use!) master.
Slip this CD into the player and stand back, ‘Invisible Man’, the first cut, screams out the blues at it’s best. With the current re-discovering of The Butterfield Blues Band, Mike Bloomfield and bands like PG&E we don’t need to look any further than Bobby for current, alive and vital sounds that made that era one of the most exciting around. Backed by Chris Matheos laying down some of the funkiest bass-lines in town, and Robert Danielson on drums putting the heat in the beat we immediately get comfortable because we feel like we have heard these songs before.
‘Quake’ is a hard driving instrumental that changes gears but holds the road with aplomb like a classic car. His rapid fire picking straddles the line between country, rock and blues and displays a sensitivity to the piece that sets him apart from many of his contemporaries. ‘Black Hearted Woman’ finds Mr. Radcliff in a very comfortable blues set-up. His vocal treatment lands somewhere between parched and warbly – but it fits so perfectly with the lyrics and overall feel of the tune that we wonder how he decided on that approach. A personal favorite is ‘Picking On Me’ just a fun shuffle relating the constant annoyance from someone who if they keep it up will leave nothing behind of the victim (the singer). ‘Bad Dreams’ harkens back to Michael Bloomfield and the Butterfield Blues Band – there is that sound that says 60’s white boy blues – but it’s real, not an attempt to re-create it for gain or recognition. Bobby has this down pat, from the reverb to the dry tonal quality this baby you know he is laying it out there for us to enjoy.
A refreshing track finishes off the disc ‘Billy’s Nocturn’, an instrumental that reshapes our concept of what an instrumental could be, a feeling of Danny Gatton, and Roy Buchanan permeates the sound and guitar work. Quality work that is at once lyrical and strong, this is a most pleasant composition to ride into the sunset with. I just have to say any artist who can put a painting of ‘Dirty Harry’ as the cover art and call the release ‘Freaking Me Out’ has me on their side, it just is so cool on so many levels !
Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
photos: Courtesy of artists.