Blues Reviews
April/May 2017

Slippery Noodle Sound
What Exactly Does A Noodle Sound Like?
The Slippery Noodle Inn, Indiana’s oldest continually operated bar, has a rich history. Built in 1850 as a luxurious road house for the railway, it was also a stop on the Underground Railroad. By the turn of the century it hosted gangsters, a brothel, a brewery, a livery stable and slaughterhouse - but after a hundred years it was just a neighborhood tavern. Harold and Lorean Yeagy bought the bar in 1963, on Friday the 13th and after a bout of late night drinks dubbed it The Slippery Noodle Inn. It’s been in the family since. Their son, Hal Yeagy, took over running the bar in 1985 after his father’s death and since that time it’s grown from a one room lunch counter into the Midwest’s premiere blues club, winning the Blues Foundation’s Keeping the Blues Alive Award as Blues Club of the Year in 2003. Home of the Blues in Indiana it features blues seven nights a week including local, regional and national acts. With all this historical music being created, in 1993 Hal decided to commemorate their 30th anniversary with the release of “Live From the Slippery Noodle Volume 1,” a compilation album from some of their best shows released on their own label, Slippery Noodle Sound. More live compilation albums followed with Volume 2 in 1994, Volume 3 in 1997 and “Live From the Slippery Noodle Inn 50th Anniversary” a live 3 CD set released in 2013.
They’ve also produced a series of studio recordings including Yank Rachell and David Morgan “Pig Trader Blues,” David Morgan’s “I Never Knew She Was Married,” The Cooler Kings “Looks Like Trouble,” Blue Lou & the Accusations “60 Watt Bulb” and “Blocks Of Stone,” Gene Deer’s “Soul Tender” and “Livin’ With the Blues,” Jimmy Ley “The Stalker” and The Gordon Bonham Blues Band “Low Down And Blue.”
With a proven track record for knowing what the public craves, Slippery Noodle Sound have added four new CDs: three live recordings all titled “Live at the Slippery Noodle” by Dave Muskett Acoustic Blues Band, Rebekah Meldrum & Paul Holdman, The Why Store and one studio recording from the band The Elect, called “Greeting.”
The Dave Muskett Acoustic Blues Band “Live at the Slippery Noodle,” features Dave Muskett on guitar, dobro, vocals doing thirteen self-penned songs, as well as producing, mixing and mastering this 2014 set. He was assisted by Mark Carnes on harmonica, Jay Arnold on stand up bass and Charlie Bushor on stripped down drums. The band has a laid back country blues groove. Carnes’ harp fills behind the guitar and vocals with the rhythm chugging beneath as Muskett croons and growls some witty lyrics on tunes like “That Kind Of Walk” and satirical innuendos on “Handyman Blues” that gives whole new level of meaning to customer service. Picking up steam halfway through his dobro takes off on “Rain Song” and “Sweet Mary Jane” while Carnes shines on “Semi Naked Shoe Shine” with Dave’s picking taking on a jazzier bend. The rhythm section shows off on the sing along “Pet That Thing” and everyone is swinging by the finale “You Got To Know.”
Rebekah Meldrum & Paul Holdman “Live at the Slippery Noodle” give a more updated electric sound with Paul Holdman on guitar and vocals, Dave Murray bass, Kevin Kouts drums, Patrick Long harmonica and featuring the striking vocals of Rebekah Meldrum on a set of mostly cool covers. A standout is a dynamic retelling of James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s World” then shifting straight to Fred McDowell’s “You Got To Move” with Holdman taking the lead vocals. Rebekah returns with a gentle version of the Miracles’ “Tracks Of My Tears” and a forceful “House of The Rising Sun” while her take on “Georgia On My Mind” lets Holdman’s jazzy guitar shine. Elmore James’ “The Sky Is Crying” is given a T-Bone Walker-like treatment from Holdman as Rebekah croons and moans then takes a down home version of Aretha’s “Baby I Love You” as Holdman slides into an Elmore-like “Baby Please Don’t Go.” This self-produced set of fourteen songs is a blend of blues, country and jazz with a big sound for a small group live.
Another Noodle regular, The Why Store “Live at the Slippery Noodle” is a more rock-oriented band featuring Christopher Shaffer vocals and acoustic guitar, Troy Seele electric guitar, Dan Hunt bass and John Gray drums. The distinctive vocals of Christopher Shaffer floats from a whisper to guttural growl and powers this band through sixteen songs all written by Shaffer. Troy Seele’s electric guitar blending with Shaffer’s acoustic that flow and blend together, complementing each other throughout. Some songs have a folksy tilt like “Wronging Me,” “Show Me The Love” and “Halo” but Troy Seele’s guitar rocks hard through “Never Wanted” and “Broken Glass.” “Mamas And Papas” hits a strong groove between Shaffer and Seele that takes a Stooges turn on “I Got It” and finishes with a flamenco flourish on “Surround Me.” The Why Store is a rock band with it’s own distinctive sound and it’s understandable why they’re so popular with their Whomhead followers.
The studio recording released by Slippery Noodle is a rock Americana band, The Elect, with a CD titled “Greetings” featuring Michael Weir vocals, guitar, piano, Brain Miller keyboards, Peter Lenges guitar, Sam Taylor bass, Chad Baker drums and Jimmy Tucker percussion. All ten songs are written by Michael Weir and recorded at Primary Sound Studio, a hundred-year old former church. The Elect’s sound has a rich familiar quality reminiscent of Van Morrison, Bob Seger, John Fogerty or the Grateful Dead and their overall tone is a mellow groove.
If you find yourself in Indianapolis, Indiana, you’re sure to find some great entertainment any night of the week at the Slippery Noodle Inn. Until then take a sample of Slippery Noodle Sound home with you. Meanwhile, the Yeagy’s are recording “Live at the Slippery Noodle Volume 4” right now!

Little Freddie King
You Make My Night
Made Wright Records

Fread E. Martin is the son of a blues man. He ran away to New Orleans at 14 and along the way was reborn as his alter ego, Little Freddie King. Little Freddie’s music can seem deceptively simple with its hypnotic repetition, churning rhythms and bursts of guitar wrapped around his creaking vocals. Most of his band has been with him for decades: anchoring the bottom is ‘Wacko’ Wade Wright, drummer, manager, producer and probably Freddie’s best friend in the world; harpist and melodic foil Bobby Lewis Ditullio has been with the band since 2000 and newest player William Jordan on bass. There ain’t nothing else like Freddie, always dressed in a sharp suit, hat and shoes, this seventy-six-year old gentleman can still hang a leg over the neck of his guitar during a solo. Capturing that spark “You Make My Night” is recorded live on Freddie home turf, the d.b.a. Music Club on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans, doing what he does best: raw gut bucket blues.
The set begins with some clean noodling guitar with harp chiming through the notes and the drum builds to a slow freight train pace driving John Lee Hooker’s “Hobo Blues” as the guitar moves to a precise bluesy slop and Freddie’s mournful voice breaks through. Shifting to his own songs “Can’t Do Nothin’ Baby” chronicle his travels down Highway 2 past his baby’s door and “Tough Frog To Swallow” takes you on a tour of what may be some of his most notorious dives in New Orleans, the repetitious harp drives the song while “Chicken Dance” both from his 2010 “Gotta Walk With Da King” has Freddie as the cock of the show crowing out his glee to the crowd’s delight as the harp is pecking and scratching. Freddie gives a minute long intro into “Bus Station Blues,” Freddie’s solo shows what a fine guitar picker he is. Filling out the set with a number of covers they launch into “Big Boss Man” with Freddie’s guitar and Wacko’s steady rhythm, the harp fills between lyrics and takes the solo while in “Baby, Please Don’t Go” the harp rings out the melody as the guitar answers. “Wang Dang Doodle” has guitar ringing out the theme with flourishes in between as Freddie growls out the notorious cast of characters picking up steam as they near their conclusion. The original instrumental “Sing Sang Sung” ties up the show, Freddie’s guitar rings out the lines reminding you of a joyous version of “Killing Floor.”
Little Freddie King is the last of the real old school juke joint bluesman and his live “You Make My Night” is all the proof you need.—Roger & Margaret White

Dave Fields
FMI Records

Dave Fields has music in his blood. The son of award-winning composer/producer/musician Sammy Fields, he attended the Berklee College of Music and made a name on the commercial music scene in NYC. But the blues came calling and his debut CD “Back in Bluesville” won Best Self-Produced CD at the 2006 IBC. Dave’s newest CD is “Unleashed,” a fitting title as half the CD was recorded at his live shows to reveal the real power of Dave Fields.
Limbering up live at Al Weber’s Studio with “Anticipating You,” an energetic fusion instrumental featuring Kenny Seoul on drums, Eric Boyd’s bass, Vladmir Barsky playing keyboards and Doug Hinrich’s percussion - the energy just leaps off the track then the band turns to a breakneck country flavored “L.E.S. Hoedown” and Dave sounds like at least two guitar players. Traveling to the Stanhope House in New Jersey, Dave is captured with Andy Huenerberg on bass and Sam Bryant on drums, blasting into “Going Down” in a version decidedly different then Freddie King or Jeff Beck, the energy splintering from the speakers. Then taking “Better Be Good” from his “Detonation” CD, increasing the pace to a power walk as Dave announces to the crowd, “I just wanna play my guitar…. and have some fun!” Shifting his base to The Robin’s Nest which he calls “the NY area’s one and only juke joint,” swapping Dave Moore on drums Fields settles into a restrained take on “Pocket Full Of Dust” again from his “Detonation” CD, a Leslie-toned guitar replacing the organ. Then dipping into Hendrix mode Dave covers “Hey Joe” with a startling urgency and power going directly into “The Star Spangled Banner” and reprise of “Hey Joe.”
His studio work takes a more measured approach. His “Child Of The World” was written after events in Paris with Kenny Soule on drums, Buddy Allen bass and Vladimir Barsky on organ following with the one true blues number, “My Mama’s Got The Blues,” JT Lauritsen adds harp but Dave cuts through those high notes and digs in with “The Boy Wants To Play.” The “Jagged Line Pt 1” slashes with a proto metal edge with Van Romaine, drums, Chris Tristram, bass, Vladimir Barsky, organ, then steps up the tension, power and virtuosity with “Jagged Line Pt 2.” Powering down to finger snaps, delicate guitar and light organ, Dave sings affectionately of his home “New York City Nights” as sweeping strings fill out his land of dreams.
On his newest CD Dave Fields has let his creative urges loose ranging from blues to fusion and metal, he’s truly been “Unleashed.” —Roger & Margaret White

Coco Montoya
Hard Truth
Alligator 2017
Motion and emotion.

Initially a drummer, and then guitarist with blues greats Albert Collins and John Mayall, Coco Montoya has fronted his own band for over two decades and garnered fame and a myriad of Blues Music Award nominations. For his first album in three years, guitar maven Montoya has recruited an all-star cast of Southern California musicians and produced nearly an hour-long set of compelling tunes. Produced by Phantom Blues Band drummer Tony Braunagel, the set sports fellow Phantom members Mike Finnigan on keyboards and Johnny Lee Schell on guitar, session luminary Bob Glaub on bass, and guitarist Billy Watts of Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps. James herself, with chanteuse Deb Ryder, provides tasty vocal backing.
With that kind of ensemble, good things happen. The album blasts off with three uptempo numbers, including covers by Warren Haynes and Ronnie Earl. Montoya’s piercing single note forays interplay with Finnigan’s swirling organ fills, particularly on “Lost in the Bottle.” The group slows the pace on “Old Habits Are Hard to Break,” a John Hiatt tune introduced by Coco’s evocative solo. Several of the tracks that ensue are distinguished by the creative second guitars of Schell and Watts, particularly Johnny Lee’s contribution on “The Moon Is Full,” delivered while Montoya pays six-string tribute to mentor Albert Collins.
Motion and emotion. The bulk of the set is blues rock, riding a danceable beat propelled by the ace rhythm section; that’s the motion. The emotion emerges on the slower numbers, highlighted by the penultimate “Where Can a Man Go from Here?” Montoya’s guitar fashionings shine throughout, but really dazzle on these more languorous tracks.
After listening several times to the CD, my admiration for Montoya melds with my memories of his fellow bluesman, the late Michael Burks. Like Burks, Coco can deliver passionate vocals and awesome guitar work, but just kills it with the occasional slow blues number that exceeds the reach of many contemporary blues guitarslingers enamored of speed and impetus. —Steve Daniels

Corky Siegel’s Chamber Blues
Different Voices
Dawnserly Records

This ongoing project of harmonica legend Corky Siegel features a string quartet of Jaime Gorgojo (violin), Chihsuan Yang (violin, ehru, a two-stringed Chinese violin, and vocal). Dave Mass (viola), and Jocelyn Butler Shoulders (cello). Additionally, tabla player Sandeep Das is on one track, saxophonist Ernie Watts on one track, vocalists Matthew Santos and Marcy Levy, drummer Sam Lay and the Chicago-based folk trio Sons of the Never Wrong are also contributors. Percussionist/drummer Frankie Robinson, a 26-year veteran of working with Chamber Blues, as well as a decade with Ramsey Lewis, is prominently featured, as well. Most of the dozen compositions are from Siegel and, as mentioned, they combine harmonica with string quartet. To call this brilliant is to state the obvious. It is also demanding music. It breaks any preconceptions that listeners may have regarding the wedding of classical string quartet and blues harmonica. The Siegel-Schwall Blues Band first tackled this alliance of styles in 1973 on a recording with the Chicago Symphony under the baton of Seji Ozawa. Mr. Siegel saw Alligator release two Chamber Blues recordings in 1994 and 2005 and in 1998 released Complementary Colors on Gadfly Records.
The disc at hand opens with a harmonica wail surrounded by the strings plucking and bowing thoughtfully. Ernie Watts, a first class jazz master adds his voice to the mix, dueting with and chasing Siegel as the strings become more cohesive and couching. Missing Persons Blues, Op. 26 sees these disparate voices join in a harmonious and complementary singular song, sometimes sounding like an outside jazz piece. On One, also from his pen, a beautiful harmonica section surrounded by sweet strings sets the stage for Santos to sing in a jazzy style, “in Paradise a pair of hearts are one.” Strings, percussion and harp work superbly. His Time Will Tell Overture, with Das on tabla, is another voice that weaves seamlessly with strings. The interplay between the strings and the principals is equally mesmerizing. Just when you get into the classical mode, along comes Marcy Levy to sing Lay Down Sally, a song she co-wrote with Eric Clapton. The reading is adventurous with the strings taking on a percussive and swinging role. This is followed by a captivating string-driven version of the Siegel-Schwall classic Angel Food Cake. Corky and the strings work superbly together. On Shadows in a Shoebox, written by Santos, Siegel’s harmonica introduces the theme, with the strings again gently holding him before Santos joins in, sometimes scatting the melody. The following gospel classic, I’ll Fly Away, features the Sons of the Never Wrong’s Deb Lader, Sue Demel and Bruce Roper on vocals. Demel’s guitar and Lader’s mandolin are integrated with the string quartet in a marvelous singing in tandem with percussion and harmonica. Next up is a combination of Corky’s Italian Shuffle with the blues classic Flip, Flop and Fly, sung by Sam Lay in a thoroughly enjoyable lope. Keeping contrasts at the heart of the disc, Galloping Horses, composed by Hai Huang-Hai features Chihsuan on the ehru. This is followed by the two part Counter Intuitive, Op.24 from Siegel. This is a swinging harp piece with strings offering counterpoint. On the second part the viola of Dave Moss is featured. The closing Siegel composition The Sky Will Fall reminds of Charlie Haden in its introductory section for its voicing. Siegel sings, “If we never learn to give/we’ll be facing emptiness…if we don’t learn to love, the sky will fall.”
Siegel has performed around the world as a guest artist of some of the world’s greatest symphony orchestras and he has received countless classical music awards. But, don’t forget that he was the harper for the great Siegel-Schwall Band. The combination of the two Corkys is a delight. —Mark E. Gallo

James Carr
A Losing Game
Kent 45 RPM EP

Ill-fated Southern soul hero James Carr was born to a Baptist preacher’s family in Como, Mississippi in 1942 and began his career sounding like Otis Redding before developing a style similar to Percy Sledge and was, among those in the know, considered better than either of them. After a brief spell with various Memphis-area gospel groups (including the Harmony Echoes) he went secular, signing with Quinton Claunch’s local indy Goldwax Records (after being rejected by Stax) and proceeded to release a lengthy string of downbeat, wailing, intensely candid hit singles alongside a few more uptempo flip-sides like the deep soul-ish “That’s What I Want To Know.” The crossover hits began with 1966’s pleading “You Got My Mind Messed Up” and continued through “Love Attack”*, “Pouring Water On A Drowning Man”*, “The Dark End Of The Street,” “Life Turned Her That Way, “A Man Needs A Woman,” “That’s What I Want To Know,” and “Freedom Train” along with a host of others that were just as deserving of chart action. In addition to the asterisked pair above, the other two songs on this Limited Edition EP, a great cover of Marvin Preyer’s “What Can I Call My Own” and Carr’s original “A Losing Game,” are similarly stunning. Don’t wait too long—an earlier Carr Kent EP is sold out.—Gary von Tersch

Leon Redbone
On The Track
Third Man Records—Vinyl LP
Leon Redbone
Long Way From Home: Early Recordings
Third Man Records—Vinyl 2-LP

The recently retired singer/songwriter and deft guitarist, Leon Redbone, who specializes in jazz, country and Delta blues, ragtime and Tin Pan Alley classics, is a one-of-a-kind musical wonder in a Baby Gramps, Jelly Roll Morton, Jesse Fuller or Fats Waller sort of amalgamation. Attired in his Panama hat and dark sunglasses, he began performing on stage in Toronto, Canada in the early 1970s with his novel mix of vaudeville routines, early jazz covers, sly originals and skillfully atmospheric instrumentals. I once heard his live stagecraft described as “so authentic you can even hear the surface noise of an old 78 RPM record.” His debut disc, released on Warner Bros in 1975, features vintage jazzers like Joe Venuti, Milt Hinton and Joe Wilder along with Charles Macey on Hawaiian guitar and Don McLean on banjo transfixing and bewildering the earlobes with numbers on the order of  “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Lulu’s Back In Town” and the opening “Sweet Mama Hurry Home Or I’ll Be Gone.” Long Way Home, on the other hand proffers a compilation of early recordings from 1972/73 in Buffalo, New York, split evenly between a coffeehouse gig and radio station WBFO. Throughout the 18 titles, his scintillating charisma is obvious as he leans heavily on the songbooks of both Robert Johnson (“If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day,” and “Kind Hearted Woman Blues” are picks) and the yodeling cowboy, Jimmy Rodgers (likewise “T.B. Blues,” “Mother, Queen Of My Heart” and “Gambling Bar Room Blues”) with room, here and there, for the likes of Blind Blake’s “Bootleg Rum Dum Blues” and a couple by Irving Berlin. Very recommended.—Gary von Tersch

Honey Island Swamp Band
Demolition Day

This Luther Dickinson-produced gem is one of the standout CDs of the past year. Toss Little Feat, country Stones, Allman Brothers, and every classic funky New Orleans groove (from Snooks Eaglin to Dr. John) you’ve ever heard into a musical blender. What you get is one of the most exciting bands in the land. This is their fourth album, but my first exposure to them. The opening How Do You Feel has an opening guitar riff that recalls the Stones’ Happy, signaling that this is gonna be a fun ride. The band is comprised of mandolin/ guitar/harmonica player Aaron Wilkinson, lead guitarist Chris Mule (pronounced Mule-ay), bassist Sam Price, drummer Garland Paul and keyboardist Trevor Brooks. They trace their journey from New Orleans, where most of them knew each other, to San Francisco, where they formed the band following chance meetings after they had all fled Katrina, and back to New Orleans. They bring their individual and collective experiences to the gumbo of styles and influences that permeate this superb recording. On Head High Water Blues they sing of Katrina’s effect on them and their city. “Get yourself a hammer and saw/it’s demolition day…Nothing left to fight for/Nothing left to lose/No one left to cry for/nothing left to prove.” Beautiful slinky guitar and keyboard interplay. No Easy Way Out has an Allman Brothers feel with the added allure of brass. “Lipstick on a cigarette still smoking in the tray/two words on a matchbook say all there is to say/black birds at the window/circle round and round.” Throughout the recording it is apparent that this is a meticulous band that sees the lyric/story as an equal partner to the brilliant playing. On Medicated (“all of the time”) they remind of NRBQ for the joy and chops that they bring to the song. Watch and Chain’s lower register electric piano combines seamlessly with horns on a deep voodoo groove. “My baby loves me like a watch and chain/she winds me up and runs me down again.” Slowing it to an acoustic ballad, Katie is an ode to a woman of which they sing, “Met my Katie on Bourbon Street/She’s so pretty/knocked me off my feet/Disappeared without a trace/Since I ain’t had a smile on my face”) and Ain’t No Fun has that Allman inspired slide and smooth vocal harmonies. They sing, “Maybe someday I can be your back door man/I’m doing everything I can to be your back door man…It’s a drag/you know it’s just a drag/that you can put that cat back in the bag… It ain’t cool/the way you school me/I feel just like a fool…” The distinct instrumentation is clear and clean. She Goes Crazy with an intro reminiscent of Harry Nilsson’s Coconut melds into “I can’t sit still/my vision’s bent/I ain’t seen my baby since I don’t know when/she’s got pretty hair and a great big smile/don’t mess with her cause you know she’s wild/that’s my girl/that’s my baby/she goes crazy.” Through Another Day, following a harp intro, makes way for a dominating mandolin intertwining with exquisite slide filigrees. On Say It Isn’t True Wilkinson sings, “I used to be a good man/on a winning track/now I walk a lonely road/counting tears and looking back/what have I done?/I threw it all away.” The music is as moody and wistful as the lyrics, making for a powerful and emotive ballad. On the closer, Devil’s Den, the groove is spooky midnight and the battle with demons seems imminent. “Lord knows I tried and tried/but I’m down upon my knees/have pity on my evil soul.” The instrumentation is largely acoustic and cinematic. Like the rest of the album, it is easy enough to pick it apart to name influences, but suffice it to say that this is a brilliant album. —Mark E. Gallo

By The Bayou
Drive-Ins & Baby Dolls
Various Artists
Ace CDCHD-1486

As it cloud-burstingly proclaims in Ian Saddler’s image-laden liners introduction: “This sixth volume in the “Bopping By The Bayou” series, the 16th in the overall “Bayou” series, is a mix of previously unissued recordings, rare 45s, tracks pulled from old compilations and the odd goodie reissued legally for the first time.” Indeed, what we have here is a superb collection of hot rockers, cool boppers and Cajun thumpers compiled for the explicit enjoyment of lovers of Louisiana and South Texas music. And all 28 titles, from Cookie Roberts’ opening “Draggin’ At The Drive-In” to Jay Chevalier’s topical closer “Kruschev And The Devil,” have a decided rockabilly/early rock ‘n’ roll heart—these are musicians, known and unknown, who were all hoping to be the next Elvis Presley, Jimmy Reed, Johnny Cash, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Duane Eddy, Chuck Berry or Clifton Chenier. Ah, that pre-Bobby Rydell era! Favorites in my household begin with Terry Clements & The Tune Tones and their rave-up “Rock Me Mama” and continue through Rod Bernard’s inspired recall of Mr. Berry’s classic “No Money Down,” Pee Wee Trahan’s rockabilly-styled version of the c&w standard “Prisoner’s Song,” Wiley Jeffers’ wild-ass recall of Mr. Presley’s Sun hit “Baby I Don’t Care” and a pre-urban cowboy” Mickey Gilley (who at 80 is still performing) with a rockabilly resplendent “Drive In Movie.” Also noted: Johnny Winter plays lead guitar on Burl Boykins’ boisterous original “Let Me Come Your Way.” Saddler notes that Boykin was known as “Little Elvis” for his no-holds-barred version of “Hound Dog.” Bonzer! - Gary von Tersch

Scott Ramminger
Do What Your Heart Says To
Arbor Lane Music

Scott Ramminger is a saxophonist and vocalist who brings a wheelbarrow full of chops and talent to this groove-laden project that features both a killer band and an impressive list of guest artists. Recorded in New Orleans, it’s all about N’awlins through and through. The opening Living Too Fast features the Subdudes’ Tommy Malone duetting with Ramminger, who sings, “We talked about our lives for hours/I knew this one was gonna last/She come to the conclusion/ that I was livin’ too fast/she poured my bottle out in the ocean/She threw my cigarettes in the trash/She sold my motorcycle/gave a buddy of mine my stash/She come to the conclusion/that I was livin’ too fast.” A medium tempo lope it’s highly infectious. He’s a clever songwriter, a superb saxophonist and a fantastic vocalist. Pianist David Torkanowsy and bassist George Porter, Jr. keep the groove percolating with guitarist Shane Theriot, drummer extraordinaire Doug Belote, and a horn section of trombonists Rick Trolsen and Greg Hicks and trumpeter Eric Lucano. On the following Someone to Disappoint, vocalist Bekka Bramlett joins Ramminger on the roadhouse rockin’ tune on which Ramminger reminds of Delbert McClinton. She returns for the ballad of Hoping That The Sun Don’t Shine (“the eggs that I just fixed/taste like cardboard in my mouth/I’ve hardly slept at all/since the day that you walked out”) on which his tenor is a delight.
Then comes the great Francine Reed to share the vocals with Ramminger on the title cut. “You gotta shake things up/do what your heart says to.” They sing, “She’s so low/your brain is telling you that/she’s gonna spend your money/ and drop you flat/you’ll get beat up bad/then she’ll hand you your hat” over a rhythmic pattern set up on drums and piano. Superior songwriting. The McCrary Sisters, among the shining stars of gospel music, are here with Ramminger on four tunes, of which the ultra-funky Give a Pencil to a Fish and Get Back Up are most impressive. Again, that lush tenor rules. Janiva Magness adds her vocals to the humorous It’s Hard to Be Me (“I make up these stories/to hang on to your love/I give and I give girl/but it’s never enough/it takes a lot of hard work/to come up with this stuff”). The closing Stubborn Man, with Roddie Romero on accordion, has a decided zydeco feel, showcasing Ramminger’s diversity.
One of the highlights of this new year, Do What Your Heart Says is a funky blues affair that sounds better with each listen. This is highly recommended. —Mark E. Gallo

Rich Minus
This Son Is A Stranger To You
Saustex CD

This seven track CD is a posthumous release by well-kept-secret Texas singer/songwriter Rich Minus, whose gritty, saucily playful songwriting style often recalled the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Steven Fromholtz or Guy Clark. Recorded at the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis and produced by Grammy Award winner Matt Ross-Spang, it stands alongside a trio of great full-length albums he recorded in the early 1990s for France’s New Rose imprint. The colorful, hard-drinking Minus is perhaps best known for his “Laredo Rose” composition that opens affairs and which Doug Sahm and his all-star Texas Tornados had some luck with (Minus also used to open for them) but there’s nary a clunker in the bunch here—the cream of the crop, so to speak—from the wryly philosophical “Penny For Your Thoughts” and “The Most Beautiful Waltz” through the arresting “Last Night” and “Blue Stockings” to a portrait of “Connie” and the imploring “Be Good To Me.” The hand-picked backing band includes Neil Young drummer Steve Potts, Johnny Cash’s bassist Dave Roe and Ryan Adams’ firebrand guitarist. Well worth the search!—Gary von Tersch

Dennis Coffey
Hot Coffey In
The D (Burnin’
At Morey Baker’s Showplace Lounge)
Resonance Records

Dennis Coffey is a legendary guitarist who in the ‘60s played on untold Motown hits by day and by night in the clubs led an experimental movement to fuse jazz, soul, rock and R&B creating a groove that led to the foundations of funk. But where did this sound come from? This “lost” recording, now titled “Hot Coffey In The D” captured that spark in its infancy as it burst forth. Coffey came up on the cusp of early rock ’n roll a session musician, Lyman Woodard, a young Hammond B-3 prodigy schooled at Oscar Peterson’s Advanced School Of Contemporary Music, Melvin Davis a songwriter, soul singer, drummer for the Miracles. They became a local powerhouse trio in an emerging scene, providing backing as a studio band and drawing crowds to listen at their live shows.
Taped at a regular gig in 1968 at Morey Baker’s Showplace Lounge in Detroit you can hear the sparks smoldering on their original opener “Fuzz,” the restrained organ and steady rhythm building as an effects-heavy guitar slowly asserts its dominance cutting with its rhythmic chops and slashing riffs. Slowing the pace for “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” and “The Look Of Love” with gentle guitar statements of the themes the band expands with improvisational energy, the drumming is solid while constantly shifting as the mood of the organ churns and holds the bottom on the bass pedals before restating the themes turning these popular tunes of the day into a funky grooves. Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage” sticks to its jazz roots while their funky original “The Big D” is a full blown forerunner of the Coffey sound today while giving Woodard free rein on organ. The little known soul number “Casanova” (Your Playing Days Are Over) originally recorded in ‘67 on the Zodiac label is done as a seven minute instrumental jam that won’t disappoint. The shimmer of the keys flows fluidly for Ramsey Lewis’ version of “Wade In The Water” till Davis and Coffey step in and take it to deeper depths.
This unearthed time capsule is nearly fifty-years old yet still sounds fresh and stimulating. These improvisational tracks are a prelude to the sound Dennis Coffey is still doing in his weekly show at the Northern Lights in Detroit today. If you can’t make it down to the club put on some “Hot Coffey In The D,” enjoy this tasty brew and hear where it all began. —Roger & Margaret White

Michael Burks
I’m a Bluesman
Iron Man Records

They called Michael Burks the Iron Man. He was as good an electric blues guitarist and singer as you’ll ever hear. These recordings from 1998 are seeing the light of day for the first time. Burks died of a heart attack in 2012 at age 54. Bob Greenlee, who originally recorded these tracks for his King Snake label, has passed, as has the rhythm guitarists on the set, Ace Moreland and Warren King. That these recordings were released takes on that more of an importance. Wightman Harris brought these out of the shadows for which I will be eternally grateful.
Burks’ recorded output was relatively scant. He recorded his debut album in 1997 (From the Inside Out for Vent Records) before Alligator picked him up and released four outstanding recordings with Make It Rain (2001), I Smell Smoke (2003) and Iron Man (2008). In 2013 they released Show of Strength posthumously. Each was a revelation. As is the release at hand.
The set opener, What Are You Doin’ to Me has a bit of draggin’ Godzilla through the alley to it. Lyrically, it tells the tale of walking in on his lady and someone else. The scorching guitar tells the tale as convincingly as his vocals. Conspicuously Albert King inspired, he had that smooth power that few outside of King possessed. The sparks fly off his guitar, the band rocks solid and the horns are on fire. Check out I Didn’t Take Your Woman (“you gave her to me”) for an exercise in electric virtuosity. The surprise cut on the disc is the absolutely stunning version of the Hall & Oates hit, Sarah Smile. Blues artists tackling pop tunes is usually a bad idea. Iron Man’s version is an improvement over an already stellar version by Hall & Oates. The guitar work is jaw-dropping and emotive.
My Little Girl has an Otis Redding quality. Crisp horns and a medium tempo that tantalizes. As is the case throughout, his inventiveness on the guitar is a treat. He was able to tell a tale with no words. When he sings “I’m a Bluesman until I die…like peanut butter and jelly” you know he’s totally from the heart. This disc just did not want to come out of the player. Gets my vote for the most significant historical release of the past year. Highly, (did I say Highly?) recommended. Great album! —Mark E. Gallo

Professor Louie and The Crowmatix
Crowin’ the Blues
Woodstock Records 2016
The name of the band may suggest an academic ornithologist investigating the esoteric behavior of a particular species of bird. No, actually, it’s the blues.
Based in Woodstock, NY, this quintet, led by Louie on keyboard and vocals, was long associated with The Band, erstwhile fellow Woodstock denizens. Louie fronts a rhythm section comprised of Gary Burke on drums and Frank Campbell on bass, with Miss Marie lending vocal and percussion support and John Platania handling the guitar duties.
This follow-up to the group’s praised 2016 Americana release, “Music from Hurley Mountain,” shifts back to blues roots. Featured are covers of such classics as B.B. King’s “Confessin’ the Blues” and Elmore James’ “Fine Little Mama.” All are considerably altered from the original versions of their progenitors. Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights, Big City,” for example, trades its Louisiana gumbo drawl for a meandering version driven by the Professor’s piano. Similarly, the oft-covered “High Heel Sneakers” is slowed from the uptempo renditions of many previous cover performers.
Jimmy Rogers, Big Bill Broonzy, and Jimmy McCracklin are some of the other late blues legends whose tunes appear on the album. While lacking the grit and gleam of the original renditions, the vocals provided by Louie and Marie fit well with the overall approach. Especially noteworthy is the track “Love Is Killing Me,” with multiple tuneful vocal harmonies, Campbell’s propulsive bass, and extra guitar contributions from Josh Colow and Michael Falzarano (the latter a frequent participant in Hot Tuna gigs).
Finally, kudos to Platania, whose name may be familiar from his three decades playing guitar for Van Morrison. His playing is the highlight of the album.— Steve Daniels

Grady Champion
One of a Kind
Malaco 2016

Mississippi-born and -based bluesman Grady Champion has an eclectic history, beginning in the music industry as a record promoter, segueing into a brief career as a rapper, and for the last fifteen years blazing a trail as a bluesman. Adept at songwriting, singing, and harmonica playing, he has also cemented his reputation as a dynamic showman.
Thus it’s no surprise that on this, his tenth release, he evokes comparison with another Mississippi son of the blues with similar talents. That would be none other than the venerable and widely lauded Bobby Rush. Like Rush’s best efforts, “One of a Kind” features upbeat and danceable tunes, soulful lead vocals, spirited backing vocals, and lyrics both timely and lascivious. Neither Rush nor Champion go in for double entendre; it’s more like one-and-a-half entendre. “Bump and Grind,” “Heels and Hips”…you get the idea.
On this set Champion’s guitarist of choice is fellow Mississippian Eddie Cotton, noted bluesman in his own right, who distinguishes himself throughout with sizzling leads and tasteful fills. Mr. Sipp (Castro Coleman) and Theodis Ealey add to the six-string lineup on a couple of tracks each, and Elvin Bishop lends his slide expertise to one of the standout cuts, “What a Woman.” (That slow shuffle is worth the price of admission.) Sam Scott holds down the drum chair, Myron Bennett and Ken Smith alternate bass duty, and Carroll McLaughlin provides quality keyboard artistry. The Jackson Horns goose multiple tunes into overdrive.
Adept as Bobby Rush at deploying the Mississippi saxophone, Grady is more than competent at single note solos but more frequently prefers chording on the harmonica, which does heavy duty here. Champion’s composer or co-composer credit on eleven of the dozen songs attests to his songwriting ability, and his growling vocals again raise memories of Rush. However, Grady is also capable of smoother soul singing, as exemplified by “Move Something,” a call to dance. The set ends with the extended instrumental “GC Boogie,” affording some solo time to each principal and ending this party platter on a continued celebratory note. —Steve Daniels


Rhythm And Blues In New Orleans
By John Brown
Pelican Press

Originally titled after Fats Domino’s early “Swamp Pop” smash Walking To New Orleans upon its initial publication in Great Britain more than forty years ago, author and music researcher, John Broven, has expanded affairs mightily for this recent Pelican Press edition with an abundance of new information and interviews, additional images, recently uncovered biographical data and a greatly expanded, user-friendly appendix. All illuminatingly describing that happy-go-lucky musical magic that created that vaunted New Orleans sound that eventually was heard around the globe with ambassadors on the order of Mr. Domino, Professor Longhair, Doctor John, Irma Thomas, Dave Bartholomew, Huey “Piano” Smith, Frankie Ford, Allen Toussaint, Wardell Quezergue, Harold Battiste and, above all, studio whiz Cosimo Matassa. Interview segments with the Night Tripping Doctor, Bartholomew, Toussaint, Battiste and Matassa are particularly revealing. Perceptive new input is also provided by Jeff Hannusch (“the effect that Hurricane Katrina has had on the current trends of New Orleans music is undeniable”), Rick Coleman, Ben Sandmel and Ira “Dr. Ike” Padnos along with material on the groundwork provided by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, community radio station WWOZ and Offbeat magazine. In addition to chronicling the careers and music (that Dr. John described as “strong drums, heavy bass, light piano, heavy guitar, light horn and strong lead vocal”) of both major and minor artists, Broven also draws the bead on the independent record business activities in the Crescent City that began with New Jersey’s De Luxe Records in 1947 (with Roy Brown’s classic, bawdy shouter “Good Rockin’ Tonight”) and continued apace with the crossover likes of Aladdin’s Shirley & Lee, Atlantic’s Ray Charles and Professor Longhair, Specialty’s Guitar Slim and Little Richard and Imperial’s Fats Domino and Smiley Lewis, to mention only a few. In the process, Broven also details the climactic rise and fall of the local R&B scene that proved very influential in the development of rock & roll and soul music—from Brown’s early recordings in the 1940s to the onslaught of the Beatles in the mid-1960s to the area’s studio missteps in the late 1960s. And the beat goes in. As Broven sagely puts it on the book’s final page: “Recently, the emergence of both the Ponderosa Stomp and the French Quarter Festivals serves as an important platform for local artists—the 2015 headliners were Irma Thomas and the, sadly, late Allen Toussaint. And if you want to listen to what you’re reading, Ace Records in London has recently reissued plenty of it in their ongoing “By The Bayou” series of releases. My review of the latest album, “Drive-ins & Baby Dolls,” appears in this issue. Bon ton roulet!—Gary von Tersch

Small Town Talk
By Barney Hoskyns
Da Capo Press

The small upstate New York “getaway” town of Woodstock, had begun life as a Catskills bohemian arts colony in 1903 (the fabled three-day Woodstock Music & Art Fair was actually held on Max Yasgur’s 600 acre dairy farm miles away) but by the early 1960s the woodsy enclave had attracted a host of musicians from the New York City folk scene and beyond who had decided to “get it together in the country” as Londoner and esteemed music historian Barney Hoskyns puts it. It’s perhaps most famous as the place where Bob Dylan and the Band recorded the “basement tapes” in a pink house due east of the tiny town of West Saugerties under the aegis of Dylan’s first manager, the gourmandizing Albert Grossman, who put together a small fiefdom of studios and restaurants—even his own record label— in the area. Along with other habitues like Fred Neil, Tim Hardin, Bobby Charles, Peter Paul & Mary, Karen Dalton, Paul Butterfield, Happy and Artie Traum, Geoff and Maria Muldaur and Todd Rundgren as well as “illustrious visitors” such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, George Harrison and Van Morrison (just to cite a few) everyone is given the “behind the scenes” up-close-and-personal treatment, dark corners, hard drugs and all, in Hoskyns’ engrossing oral history of sorts. Drawing on copious first-hand interviews with the surviving major players on the scene (Hoskyns also lived there himself in the 1990s), he has come up with a copiously illustrated East Coast complement to his well received Los Angeles canyon classic Hotel California of a few years ago. As he relates in his scene-setting prologue: “From the roots put down in Woodstock by Dylan and Grossman an extraordinary scene emerged and gave rise to the notion of Woodstock as a countercultural touchstone—a hippie state of mind that went so far beyond the town itself that when Michael Lang had to move his 1969 festival sixty miles away, he did not for a moment consider dropping the name.” An absorbing, totally fascinating read.—Gary von Tersch


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