I know most of you think it’s just partying, hanging out, slapping hands and all that good stuff – but there is bidness that goes on at the Blues Music Awards in
Memphis. It’s a prime spot to be if you want to interact and network with artists, labels, publicity folks and more. Just about any ancillary field related to
the Blues music business is represented there, it is truly a spot for the Blues cognoscenti.
So, I did get my little hands on some hot new releases for y’all from the artists themselves, so here is fine collection for you to consider.
Greg Nagy: Fell Toward None (Big O/Vizztone)
From the first funky strains of ‘Pack It Up‘ Mr. Nagy sets the stage for this release and never backs away from taking us on 11 groove laden tracks. Greg has been around for a spell, getting acclaim while with the mid-west band Root Doctor, and on his own for the past few years. His prior effort was nominated for a BMA Best New Artist Award in 2009. So from a good stock he has put together a serious soul stew review for us to partake in.
Some of the finer cuts are the selections he co-wrote with former Root Doctor (now keyboard player for Janiva Magness Band) Jim Alfredson. ‘Wishing Well‘ an upbeat, tempo shifting shuffle that features a nasty retro wah-wah guitar that restates that pedals position in the R&B family. ‘For A Broken Heart‘ is a minor key blues that delves in to what exists inside a broken relationship and trying to find a way to either get out or get it right.
‘I’ll Know I’m Ready’ has an interesting feel to it with the drums echoing the loneliness that exists inside the words of the song as the writer gets into the car and proclaims he is ready to forget about the love gone bad but tussles with the overbearing sadness of facing the fact of it. Mr. Alfredson provides some beautiful key board work on this cut reinforcing the emptiness of the situation.
A shout out to the ‘Facebook Mama’ complete with a poke at ‘pokings’ and references to status updates and never having too many friends. It is a modern take on the traditional double entendre songs about meat men, dentists, and switchboard operators slightly bawdy but all in good taste.
The title track ‘Fell Toward None’ has a swamp blues feel that has migrated to the North – Flint, Michigan – to his home town. It is an expose of what many of the Rust belt towns and cities are experiencing these days and is a tale told with great feeling, thank you Greg a super, super song.
What we have with Fell Toward None is a more confident Greg, both in his guitar playing but also in his vocal deliveries. What is interesting is that Mr. Nagy has taken the time to get to know and absorb all the facets of the music he plays, the Rhythm and the Blues, and in doing so offers us up a tasty, educated palate of musical dishes for us to enjoy – and come back for seconds.
Victor Wainwright & the wildroots; Lit Up ! (Wildroots Records)
Straight outta the box – Victor Wainwright can play some piano. I have had the chance to see him in person on several occasions and he is one dynamic and talented man. There’s always the issue of how does this electricity transfer to vinyl (forgive me age here) ah to digital media (ugh that sounds just so lame).
With ‘Big Dog’s Running’ This Town’ I must say he starts off on the right track. Up tempo, fast-paced ‘Big Dog…’ tells the tale of the ladder of success and all the pitfalls that are planted in that road. With hot horns and solid vocals this cut sets us up for the next ‘Ting Tang Bang’ features some splendid harp work by Mark ‘Muddyharp’ Hodgson that certainly echoes the sentiment of the lyrics.
From honky-tonk to sexy vamped up strolls to Louisiana hot sauce syncopated second line joyfulness, Mr. Wainwright seems much at home with any form of American Roots Music.
This sentiment is shown in the track ‘Dixie Highway’, an aural landscape of the South that recalls Randy Newman but just a tad more rural and less ‘red-neck’. ‘Weeds’ is an asseverated re-visiting of the American work ethic (or garbage-in, garbage out) done to the feel of a Louis Armstrong melody. ‘Little Ol’ Shack’ which has a family good time feel to it, leads us into the title cut “Lit Up !’. As the horns lay down the base, we are treated a wonderful funky tribute to a lover that has him ‘lit up, a burning flame’ and his intentional, if not joyful, disregard for his mama’s advice to NOT play with fire !
While his piano playing is superb, it is his vocals that are a pleasant surprise. Raspy, but not irritating, his voice is equally at comfort shouting and calling as he is pining or doing straight ahead vocal treatments. The band is a great fit to his sound and style, and the horns really fill out the sound-scape and make ‘Lit Up !’ sure to be one of the top releases for 2011.
Brandon Santini: Songs of Love, Money and Misery (OLM Records)
Remember Delta Highway ? Power Blues Band of a few years ago, well they went the way of so many promising young blues bands, unfortunately. Yet good things come of break-ups, after all this is the Blues. So that harp player/vocalist, the big guy with the hat, always smiling like he dug it as much as we did, yep him, that dude is – Brandon Santini. This is his aptly titled release ‘Songs of Love, Money and Misery’, and from what I know of him and the last few years he should be right at home in making this presentation to you.
Drawn to the shuffle of ‘She’s Sweet Like Honey’ we get a taste of just how sweet the band can sound when they are hitting on all cylinders. Featuring Elliot Sowell on some sweet guitar work, and Brandon’s matter of fact stated lyrics plus his fine harp playing make this a fun song to listen to.‘Leaving New York’ is a well written (from a NY Point of view) saturnine composition that one seems to have heard before, and works well in a ‘film noir’ sense of time and space. On ‘Tomcattin’ ‘ we are treated to Mr. Santini’s fluid motions on his harp over top of drummer, Joe Meyer’s ‘What I’d Say’ styled percussion. It’s a nice thing to hear the guys just hanging out and playing for the fun of playing.
I must mention that Mr. Victor Wainwright and his guitar player, Greg Gumpel appear on this release to add their own brand of Memphis soul to the release. Remiss I would be, if I did not mention The Evil One playing bass and holding the bottom way down in the alley.
This is a good place for Mr. Santini to re-orient his musical journey. A solid release that’s showcases his growing mastery of the blues harp, both diatonic and chromatic, and reinforces his solid vocal presentations. The band is solid, mature and capable of giving him the support he needs while challenging him to make it even better.
P.S. I just have to give a shout out to his label name Old Lonesome Me Records LOL !
Some of these are so new that they are not yet available, if you like what you read here please do check out the artists site for pre-order info and any updates pertaining to the releases.
Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease,
photos: courtesy of Leslie K. Joseph, artists.