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: http://www.davidmaxwell.com/
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: http://www.suzievinnick.com/
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: http://www.alteredfive.com/
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: http://www.omarandthehowlers.com/
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: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/digital-christmas-single/id572812967
check out The Billy Thompson Band at: http://billythompsonmusic.com/
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: http://www.scottiemiller.com/welcome.html
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: http://iansiegal.com/
Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
Where Blues Thrives
Photos courtesy of Artists