Well the temp hit the 90 degree mark here in balmy Rochester, NY – the official end of winter and unofficial start of summer. With summer comes travel, relaxing, hanging out with old friends and making new ones. With that in mind this I offer a fairly substantial collection of releases that should be on your summer music list. There’s quite a few so take your time and digest them as you will, remember they are always here for your pleasure.
Joe Bonamassa: Dust Bowl (J&R Adventures)
With the first cut ‘Slow Train’ Mr. Bonamassa sets the stage for a cloyingly hot and beautifully descriptive release. As the recreated chugging of the train picks up pace and moves down the line, picking up hitchhikers in the form of deep soulful vocals and eloquent guitar work, we chug along to the final stop where we encounter the ‘new world’ of the ‘Dust Bowl’.
Wonderful ‘spaghetti western’ guitar tones announce our arrival – here we are treated to an empty world where all we “get is indecision – the classic run around”. Layers of sound created by hand percussion, keyboard, drums and guitar fills the space with an amazing understanding of the subject matter.
Joe does not do it alone – he features John Hiatt (Tennessee Plates), Vince Gill (Sweet Rowena), and Glenn Hughes (Heartbreaker). His work with Mr. Hiatt is especially joyful, it seems almost at odds to the feel of the release, yet it has it’s place in the overall picture. Fun, rocking and gotta get away feel takes us on the joy ride on this Cadillac with Tennessee plates. ‘Sweet Rowena’ is a solid blues shuffle that Mr.’s Gill and Bonamassa trade vocals and guitar licks that shows both their versatility and urges us to re-think the industry imposed ‘genres’ or categories of music that seem to keep us apart more than bring us together. Glenn Hughes, formerly of Trapeze and Deep Purple, is now part of Black Country Communion, Mr. Bonamassa’s other musical band. They keep alive the heavy guitar, head banging tradition of their roots with a stinging cover of the Paul Rodgers/Free song ‘Heartbreaker’
This is another fine album by Joe and in it he shows his absolute mastery of the guitar. There is not a current style that he cannot get his head and hands around – and make it his own. I wonder why he is seemingly not as well know as some other guitar players. His playing, technique and understanding of the sound and art of his instrument is unparalleled, and I urge you to take another (or first) listen to this young man.
JP Soars: More Bees with Honey (Soars High Productions)
I firmly believe that the first cut on a release should set the stage for what follows – so it better be a grabber. Mr. Soars understands this, ‘More Bees With Honey’ does just that, featuring Ms. Robin Rogers working the vocal hive with JP in an up-tempo swinging rollick thru the old adage that our parents, no doubt, told us repeatedly.
Mr. Soars vocals are certainly unique. Gritty, coarse but spot on, they hold a certain throw-back feel that the blues has always had, and at times forgets. On ‘So Many Times’ Mr. Soars sings of tears gone dry and the release of a, yet again, unfaithful lover. This is set up in a standard slow blues format featuring some nicely constructed guitar work over the backdrop of Travis Colby’s keyboard work.
JP covers a wide range of styles here, from a funky, wah-wah laced ‘Doggin’ , to a west coast swing, tempo shifting burner ‘Hot Little Woman’, that extols the virtues of this special type of woman. I am not quite sure if the tongue is in the cheek or not, but it’s cool either way !
An interesting cover of Louisiana Red’s ‘Sweet Blood Call’ reminds us that the Blues was created in a less than perfect life, and that some of the lyrics are not as PC as we may like. JP does some nasty guitar work as he drives us around the back roads of the Blues as they used to be. I think this song shows us the link between hip-hop, rap and the Blues quite nicely. Listen to the lyrics, and then maybe listen to some Muddy Waters and others to realize the propinquity of these seemingly unrelated styles. The final cut here is ‘Where’d You Stay Last Night’ a great adaption of ‘Baby Face’ Leroy Foster lyrics, and music by JP. This one takes us home and leaves us wanting more.
On this release Mr. Soars selects from his hive of influences including Johnny Guitar Watson, Guitar Slim, Muddy Waters, Stax and Hill Country Blues – and throw in a little bit of heavy metal for spice. JP is one of the exciting young artists in the Blues. He applies modern touches to classic, traditional blues music and is doing a damn good job of it. Oh yeh, go see him if you get the chance, he won’t disappoint.
To find out more about Leroy Foster – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leroy_Foster_(musician)
Lightin’ Malcolm (featuring Cameron Kimbrough): Renegade (Ruf Records)
Here is another fine young Bluesman, and his aptly named new release ‘Renegade’ pretty much sums up his approach and life. As Malcolm says “The songs on this album are definitely the result of years livin’ the renegade lifestyle. The renegade cuts against the grain, doin’ things his own way on his own terms. I’ve always tried to be a right doin’ person, to help people around me…I follow the laws of the universe, not the laws of man…I know right from wrong. Most times your on your own, movin’ from place to place with your guitar and your music..”at the same time interacting, entertaining, jamming, working, helping, teaching, learning, singing, dancing, sleeping, and living with all the people that come through your life. You are what you’ve done and the legacy you leave behind is the life you live everyday.”
Raw, passionate, straight forward blues is what we have here. This release is basically a guitar and drum duo recording featuring Malcolm and Cameron Kimbrough, grandson of of Junior Kimbrough.
Starting with “Ain’t Even Worried’ we hear the truth spoken over a retro-groove/trance feel that demonstrates the variety of what can be done inside the blues. Title track ‘Renegade’ re-establishes the Blues as a visceral genre. Boldly emerging from years of neglect and gentrification, this cut has the pure power to remind us that the jook joints are still alive and thriving, and that we need to frequent them.
There seems to be a deeper understanding of life contained in this release. ‘Guilty Man’ details the trespasses on the road of life. The addition of horns give this cut a groove without overshadowing it’s baser instincts, a very nice job here. Got to mention ‘My Lyin’ Ass’ - a killer cut, funny yet educational as it refers to the simple truth about – his lyin’ ass !
‘North Mississippi’ is a homage to where he found his true love for the blues. Featuring a catchy rhythm and punctuated by the horn section it also incorporates a rap vocal overlay by Mr. J Grubbz. I believe Mr. Malcolm has gone a long way to bring the Hill Country music into the twenty-first century, making it vital to a new generation of artists and fans alike. It’s unique, contemporary, minimalist with overtones of surf music but still harkening back to the traditional never losing sight of it’s roots.
Better Off Dead: Girls Guns and Money (GarageLand)
With a release cover that takes me back to the tawdry twenty-five cent detective novels of my childhood, how could I NOT like this release. Well, I still haven’t gotten tired of it, and it’s got 28 cuts on the disc ! Only one cover here, that is ‘God Will‘ by Lyle Lovett, the rest are from the prolific fingers and somewhat bent mind of Mr. V.D. King.
First out of the box we are treated to ‘Twister In A Trailer Park’ which equates love to the headlines that we have come to know and love concerning the usual
occurrences of just that, twisters in a trailer park, one would think that they might build them elsewhere, or maybe it’s cause they are there that the twisters find them??? Next up is ‘Bad Credit’,this Tex-Mex romp paints an all too familiar story of our current dilemma. And so it goes, taking us on a road trip thru American Roots Music from ‘Louisiana Hot Sauce’ and ‘Back To Memphis’ stopping at all points in between. As we ride in their ‘Yellow Cadillac’ and head to ‘San Antone’ only to fall in love with a ‘Porn Star’ and have a ‘Chicken Pickin’ Good Time’. Yet ‘One More Time ‘ we are faced with the eternal question ‘What Happened?’. In the end it’s asked ‘If I Can Quit Drinkin’ (Why Can’t I Quit You)’ yet it’s your ‘Rockin’ Daddy’ that will ‘Never Let You Down’ because ‘I Ain’t Gonna Change’ . Even if they claim to be from a ‘Broken Home’, and scream ‘Kaboodle Cock-A-Lulu’ at inappropriate times just ‘Let Your Heart Be The Judge’ on this fun filled romp that should be on your summer music list.
My apologies to Mr. King for paraphrasing some of his brilliant work here, but why try to recreate perfection, and as is the rules in the Blues copying is bad thing, but stealing is accepted. Peace V.D. !
Davina & The Vagabonds: Black Cloud (Roustabout Records)
Awwrite, I just had to add this to the summer music-fest of love I got going here. This is one dynamic release folks. It recalls a time and place where the guitar was NOT the dominant choice of weapons for the Blues masters. Actually the closet thing to a guitar is the stand up bass played by Michael Carvale (and very nicely too I might add). What we get here is a channelling of sorts back to the classic sounds of New Orleans horn bands – think early Louis Armstrong meets Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Well, you could add some touches of jazz, soul, swing and a hint of gospel to the mix – yeh that about covers it.
‘Black Cloud’ is a wonderful mix of Broadway arrangement coupled with 1920’s jazz tinged blues, Ms. Sowers vocals ring true here with just enough gruff and sass to create a wonderful picture of words and music. ‘Start Runnin’ is a open threat to the other woman who is trying to steal Davinas’ beau. “You better step up, step out or start runnin” pretty much sums up the feeling expressed here in this up beat, rolling horn symphony of Louis Prima jump swing feel.
Not a one dimensional approach to this mound of sound, we are treated to a wonderfull taste of Ms. Sowers sultry despair in “Let’s Bring It Back’ with Dan Eikmeier blowing some down-right rightous trumpet. We then visit what might be termed a classic pop sounding sound (but way better) in Pocket’ . If this cut wasn’t so good it might have a shot at being popular on the commercial end of pop culture, but it is way too good, and actually has shape and form to it, unlike most of the pop pulp out there today.
For the Blues pureists there is one twelve bar compostion contained here, the lasciviously titled ‘Lipstick and Chrome’ which treats us to some quite unforgettable images courtesy of Ms. Sowers lyrics. The other band members who contribute to the great feel of this release include Darren Sterud on trombone, and Conner McRae on drums.
Black Cloud fits nicely into my summer music extravaganza and I do beleive that you will enjoy it too. These good folk are out onthe road some 300 days a year, so if ya get a chance to see them do it !
So there we have my little summer list of music that I think will go great with our summer fun – whether it be on a surf board, or under a boardwalk, night-clubbing or just sittin’ on the back porch diggin’ it. Any or all of these releases will please ya like a cold one at 11:00 AM on a hot July morning. And no need to check the can to know if they’re cool enough, they are, take my word for it!
Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease,
photos: courtesy of artists.