Paging Thunderclap Newman – Please Report to 2012 Immediately

There’s ‘Something In The Air” do you remember that song? Musta been 1969-70, Pete Townsend had put together this band and this song was all over the alternative radio back then. I have always dug it, and it is on my mind “repeat button” usually for a week or so. If ya listen closely you can even hear Townsend doing harmonies – Pete is such an underrated vocalist – very cool song. Just so you can dig on it:

Now what does this have to do with anything even remotely scurrying through my brain, well let’s take a little trip, take a little trip, take a little trip with me (thank you Lowrider Band). Well see, here we are a quarter of the way into the year 2012 – yeh the end of the Mayan calendar – and after all the preemptive media hype concerning the end of the world scenarios we are still here. Yes we are but things have started to change.

I first started noticing a subtle undercurrent last October or so, there was a palpable vibe going around in certain circles, some of whom I inhabit occasionally. Some of the artists that I have spoken with felt it also. As Tommy Castro said about writing songs “there are songs floating around out there…you have to keep your antenna up or it will pass you by”.  Now in this case I think many folks had their antennae raised because there definitely was this feeling of a new dawn and possibly a new day to come.

As Americans we seem somewhat entrenched into finites – like the aforementioned hype about the end of the world. Well it’s not the end, or just the start of a new beginning? It has it’s place in history contained in everything from Tarot (the feared Death Card), to Christians celebrating Easter and the re-birth of Christ, to plain old Spring wherein we see a renewal of flora and fauna – so in that context why would the Mayan calendar ending be anything but the start of something new (or in the air).

Maybe it is the true breaking of a new dawn for a new day. Are we going from chrysalis to butterfly? Now the pessimists and some political factions may think hell is just around the corner – and it may very well be for them – but with that end is a new beginning for the rest of us. Yet as Tommy Castro said we have to have our antennas set in the receive mode. Oh yeh, ask Tommy about change. Of course nothing will happen easily, there are still some bumps in the road, some issues to be dealt with, but nothing of any good comes easily. Ask any musician who is an ‘overnight success’ after twenty years of working bar gigs.

Look around – just peek at the Blues music scene. There is positive movement toward establishing a Blues Hall of Fame, you will hear more about this as we go further into the year and beyond. But musically also there is a spring that is no longer silent. There are a great number of young folks playing the Blues around the word. They have found it to be the voice of life and are embracing it after years of being driven by by the sound of corporate prostitutional music. They see the light and the music. Check out Trent Romens, Andy Poxson, and Bear Hutchinson among others. All over Europe and Asia there are more and more bands playing Blues and American roots music with the fervor that once swept thru England in the sixties (a movement that gave us the Stones, Yardbirds, The Animals and Mayall). Some of these younger bands are the Johnny Riegar Band out of Germany and The Bleu Rascals from the Philippines. While some of the European established acts that are getting great play here in the states are Philip Fankhauser from Switzerland, Pristine Band from Norway, J.W. Jones from Canada and more fine artists around the world playing the Blues.

I believe we are about to enter into an amazing creative period in the world which will effect the fortunes for all of us who have our ear to the ground and are receptive to the changes going on around us. As Too Slim and the Taildraggers’ said, “Free Your Mind” well just do it (not in the Nike sense) – let go of the negative, be open to the possibility of the positive changes that are around you. There are roads to be taken, lessons to be learned and songs to be sung, and together we can make it a joyful noise that will raise the roof and spirit level for all of us. There is definitely something in the air and time has come today (thank you Mr Lester Chambers).

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
© 2012
photos: courtesy of open source photos.

CD Reviews: Spanning the Globe – Blues Around The Country and The World

Well we know that the Blues are probably as popular around the world as they are in their own backyard. Europe has long embraced the Blues, Asia has now adopted it as one of their own, and, oh Canada well we all know how that goes.

So did a little aural travels and found some Blues from here and there and wanna share them witchas. Hope ya enjoy them and check them out – and oh yeh, keep an open mind.


Pete Thelen: Travels To The Edge (B.T. Productions)

Let’s start way out on the edge here. Pete Thelen has given us a very unique and personal look at what the Blues can be.

Pete was born in Chicago and his roots in the modern day Blues mecca are solid, but to some might not be obvious. A stint in the Army showed him the world, and from Germany to Riyadh he soaked up the cultural influences and they made a lasting impression on and in his music.

Aptly titled “Travels To The Edge” features a ethereal mix of sounds – utilizing such diverse instruments as the udu, cello, sarangi all added to drum machine mixes, harp and keyboard textures. “Move On” has a feel of uber modern Delta Blues and might be the one cut that Blues friends might be drawn to. It has an easy sway and pulse that connects to the roots of the Blues.

“Alameda” is a street poem featuring sung-spoken lyrics that rip to the core. Hitting us with the lyric “Sometimes the things we call pleasures start playing too rough. When one’s too many and a million’s not enough” An easy, beatnik beat almost covers the darkness that resides in these lyrics, a good musical-noir anthem to the things that exist when one travels to the edge.


Pristine: Detoxing (Bluesnews Records)

Norway has always had it’s share of highly skilled musicians who carry on and expand the envelope of Western musical styles. Pristine has just been added to that list.

Opening with “Damned If I Do” we ride the psychedelic waves of a B3 with it’s nod to Led Zeppelin’s “Your Time Is Gonna Come” and then it takes shape as a nicely crafted rocking blues house burner featuring the vocal gymnastics of Heidi Solheim.

Boldly going into a classic Blues shuffle they give us “Breaking Bad” . Then go right to the heart of it with an interesting cover of of the hallowed “Whipping Post”. Fear and trepidation cast aside like so many other sacred cows they put their twist on this song and both pay homage to it and reconstruct it into a stripped down guttural anthem that captures the lonely side of the pain.

Whoa, is that a Bill Withers riff on “Damage Is Done”? No doubt, but it sure is a funky riff that captures the essence of the aftermath of a relation. Seriously nice guitar work is featured by Knut Reiserud on the slow burner “The Last Day” and “The Blind”.

Heidi’s vocals are that fine combination of throw-back old school blended with modern day angst. The band offers her a solid base to work from while being able to challenge her with a wall of sound that propels her to the next level.
Title track “Detoxing” features an instrumental prologue that creates a psychedelic wave form from which Heidi casts an intoxicating mix of eastern sounding vocals that fit right into that groove and takes us along to ride the tide.


Treasa Levasseur: Broad (Slim Chicken)

In this, her third release, Toronto based Ms. Levasseur bring us a dynamic mix of old school R&B, singer-songwriter ‘folk-blues’. How’s that for genre bending !

“Much Too Much” opens the disc with a monkey funk feel, or was that Monkey Junk feel. Actually both, backed by the BMA winning band on four cuts (1,3,4 10) which were produced by Steve Marriner, we got ourselves a head-rocking beat to carry the lyrical challenge of the statement ‘much to much to much to much’.

Working with Raoul And The Big Time (2,8, 9) we take it in slightly different direction. “A Little Pride” is a plea for ‘dignity, chivalry, propriety and a little pride’ in dealing with not just the ladies, but most likely, in everyday life. This being done to a rocking horn fronted groove that conjures visions of doing the jerk or watusi – or even chair dancing for us older folk.

There are three covers in which Treasa stamps with her own product code. Randy Newmans’ “God’s Song”, is the first that we hear and get to appreciate the lyrics with the treatment given the song. A faithful re-interpretation of Neil Young’s “Walk On” takes on a different light when done here. I get the feel that she means every word and that it applies equally to her as it did to Neil in the way back.

Just to offer some props to what I feel is a super cut “Feel Good Time”. There are elements of Jazz, but also of rap-styled lyrical delivery. The triplets and syncopation shows us the roots in Jazz but feel is thoroughly modern and not stuck in the shadows of the past. The final cut is a poignant self-portrait titled “Let Me Sleep On It”, just wonderful and thank you.

An exciting release from an under-appreciated artist Ms. Levasseur offers us a quote to remember:
“I’m not the one who gets the guy, I’m the one who gets the scoop – less pretty lady and more trusted Girl Friday. If I were a Hepburn, I’d be Katherine, not Audrey…” I have to agree but must add that I, and many others, prefer the Katherine model because within that there is an undeniable truth of person there that is priceless and never fade. Keep on keeping on Treasa !


Volker Strifler: Let The Music Rise (VizzTone)

Born in Heidelberg, Germany and now living in Santa Rosa, CA. Mr. Strifler is well-known as the front man for the Ford Blues Band and sideman for Robben Ford. That’s a decent enough pedigree to warrant a look and listen, doncha think?

Opening the release is his personal take on Sleepy John Estes’ “The Girl I Love Got Great Long Curly Hair”. Re-titled “Going To Brownsville” it is an up-tempo second line, funkified arrangement that speaks volumes about just how Mr. Strifler views and then disseminates the Blues. In the only other cover, Fleetwod Mac’s “Jigsaw Puzzle Blues” (by Danny Kirwin) we get a tasty treat rooted in New Orleans but with a touch of “Harlem Nocturne” added to it to make truly universal in scope, sorta like a truffle-laced beignet for breakfast – at once appealing but somewhat dangerous and otherworldly.

“The Great Escape” is a spaghetti-surf rich ride on the bullet train headed toward the Blues station with no brakes, fortunately it hits the mark and fades into the sunset leaving us grasping from the journey.

“Let The Music Rise” works on many levels. As the title track it gives promise to the future of the release and music in general re-affirming that the cream will rise to the top and there will always be a lace for real music in our pop-distracted culture. Nicely arranged and moving in and out of grooves this is a great song that should be playing on stations and internet shows very soon.

In a super nice sway from the gentrification of the Blues, “Redemption” offers a fine mix of Afro-Cuban rhythms accompanied with a rock edge that obliterates those lines of demarcation that certain factors apply to music everywhere.

Congratulations Mr. Strifler on a fine release, skillfully arranged and bearing a point of connectivity for the audience, we look forward to more from you.

So here ya have it – the wide world of Blues laid out before you. While not all encompassing there is a certain commonality contained here. These artists do not rely on others views of what the Blues (or music) should or shouldn’t be. They are all original, and honest, being nothing but who they are.
We cannot ask for more from any artist or person for that fact, to acknowledge them as such is a tribute to them and thank them for what they do.

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
© 2012
photos: courtesy of artists



Photo Gallery: Artists Shots from IBC’s




President and Mrs. Obama will host “In Performance at The White House: Red, White, and Blues”, a concert in honor of Black History Month featuring Buddy Guy, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, Jeff Beck, Gary Clark, Jr., Shemekia Copeland, Warren Haynes, Mick Jagger, B.B. King, Keb Mo, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, and Booker T. Jones as music director and band leader!!! Tune in to PBS on Monday February 27 at 9PM E.T. to catch what is sure to be an absolutely INCREDIBLE show!
NOW who said we need Grammys ? At least our President gets it !

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
© 2012