Video: Rock Hall of Fame inductions for Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Paul Butterfield Blues Band featuring John Mayer, Jimmie Vaughan, Gary Clark Jr., Doyle Bramhall II, Jason Ricci, Billy Boy Arnold, others

We can’t imagine a more fitting tribute to blues-rockers Stevie Ray Vaughan and his band Double Trouble than the one the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame assembled this past weekend to help celebrate the group’s induction in the Hall. If it wasn’t enough pairing original Double Trouble members Chris Layton (drums), Reese Wynans (keyboards), and Tommy Shannon (bass) with Vaughan’s older brother Jimmie Vaughan on guitar, the on-stage gathering also included a few other well-known and rising talents in fellow Texas guitarslingers Gary Clark Jr. and Doyle Bramhall II (whose father wrote several songs performed by the late Vaughan, including “Life by the Drop” and “Change It”) and another pretty impressive player of whom you may have heard named John Mayer.

Needless to say, it was a performance to remember, with Mayer, Clark, Bramhall, and Vaughan trading off on both vocals and licks for the opening “Pride and Joy” and Texas Flood” that followed, before all but Vaughan put down their instruments (save for tambourines for Bramhall and Layton) to provide background vocals on Vaughan’s “Six Strings Down”, which he wrote after Stevie’s death and still performs frequently in his brother’s memory.

Here’s the full set:

We weren’t quite sure what to think when we read that country rocker Zac Brown and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello would be among the artists paying tribute to the other group of blues-rockers being inducted, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. But, joined by blues harmonica player Jason Ricci and members of the Paul Shaffer Band on “Born in Chicago”, we have to admit, these guys made for some surprisingly good picks by the Rock Hall, with Brown’s vocals bearing a nice resemblance to those of Butterfield’s. Check it out for yourself:

Later, the surviving members of the Butterfield Band – drummer Sam Lay, keyboardist Mark Naftalin, and overall-wearing guitarist Elvin Bishop – also took the stage for a song, joined by harmonica player Billy Boy Arnold and Paul Shaffer and his band on “Got My Mojo Working” (song starts about 1:50 in):

All in all, these performances made for a rather nice nod to the blues by an organization that is sometimes criticized for overlooking artists of the genre.

You can catch an airing of the ceremony – which also included the inductions of Ringo Starr, Bill Withers, Lou Reed, Green Day, The “5” Royales, and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – on HBO premiering May 30th.

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Spring into the Blues

With the weather warming and signs of spring now all around, here’s a little something you can take with you when you go, whether that’s out and about on the trail, down the highway, or just to your favorite chair or hammock to kick back and relax.

Featuring recent music from Steve Hill, Johnny Winter, Liz Mandeville, Mike Zito, Roly Platt, Grady Champion, Dana Fuchs, Rob Stone, Johnny Rawls & Otis Clay, Robben Ford, Eric Bibb, Vaneese Thomas, and more, the latest episode of our BluesPowR Radio Hour is now available for streaming online or download.

Check it out today!

Playlist:
Hate To See You Go – Steve Hill
Cloud of Love – Liz Mandeville
Don’t Break a Leg – Mike Zito & The Wheel
Living on Borrowed Time – Johnny Rawls & Otis Clay
Step It Up n’ Go – Sidestreet Reny featuring Lil’ Bell
Wait Baby – Rob Stone
Strollin’ with Sasquatch – Rob Stone
Thing About Love – Blues Boy Kings
Justified – Robben Ford (w/ Keb’ Mo’ and Robert Randolph)
Witness – Melinda Colaizzi
Going Down the Road Feeling Bad – John Cephas & Phil Wiggins
Can’t Ever Let You Go – Vaneese Thomas w/ Rufus Thomas
Ocean Of Tears – Roly Platt
Don’t Want No Woman – Johnny Winter (w/ Eric Clapton)
Addicted – Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar
Morning Glory – Eric Sardinas & Big Motor
Don’t Waste My Time – Grady Champion
Driftin’ Door to Door – Eric Bibb
Set it on Fire – Dana Fuchs
Take Me With You When You Go – Jimmy Thackery (w/ Chubby Carrier)

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Guitarist Robben Ford looks Into the Sun with latest release

We probably don’t write as much about guitarist and singer Robben Ford as we should here, considering the nearly three dozen albums he’s put out over the years in both his own name and with a variety of bands. But it would be difficult to overlook his latest release Into the Sun (Mascot Label Group), which Ford himself refers to as “one of the top recordings I’ve ever done”.

Robben_Ford_Into_the_Sun (260x260)Featuring guest appearances from the likes of Keb’ Mo’, Robert Randolph, Warren Haynes, Sonny Landreth, ZZ Ward, and Tyler Bryant, Into the Sun is a pleasing mix of serene ballads – such as the jazzy, creeping “Rose of Sharon” that opens the album with its mellow vocals, subdued organ, and delicate guitar, and the smoky R&B sounds of the ZZ Ward duet “Breath of Me” – and infectious grooves, mainly the latter. That includes the breezy “Day of the Planets” with its lightly rocking chorus; the flowing, open road feel of the Booker T-ish “Rainbow Cover”; a funky “High Heels and Throwing Things” on which Allman Brothers Band member and Gov’t Mule frontman Warren Haynes contributes his share of nice licks; and the patient, swaying “So Long 4 U” with slide guitar master Sonny Landreth accompanying.

But perhaps the best of the tracks here are a greasy, uptempo “Howlin’ at the Moon” – one of several tracks to employ some impressive female background vocals – and the slow rootsy shuffle of “Justified” that sounds like it was written just for bluesamericana artist Keb’ Mo’, with whom Ford in fact trades lines over some searing lap steel playing from Robert Randolph and excellent work on keys from Jim Cox.

Cap that all off with the gritty, more rocking “Cause of War” with its distorted vocals and stinging guitar; the country-rock riffs and muddy harmonica (courtesy of song co-writer Kyle Swan) of the slow blues number “Same Train”; and a closing “Stone Cold Heaven” that features guitarist Tyler Bryant – not to mention a rather terrific band and some masterful guitar and crisp vocals from Ford – and you get a pretty good sense of just to what Ford was referring when he described the project as “really upbeat” and “hav(ing) a positive vibe to it”, with “a lot of different rhythms and colors”.

Perhaps the only area where “upbeat” doesn’t ring entirely true is in regards to the album’s lyrics (this is, after all, the blues), even if they do happen to be generally well-done and often somewhat captivating (and mostly from Ford himself, with help only from Swan on a handful of songs and Ward on their duet). That said, for nearly every gem like “I come here with water/ your world is on fire/ and I’m met when the smoke clears/ with a screech of your tires / Rose of Sharon /why don’t you come on/ why don’t you come on home?” and “asked why so cold and cranky, you take a swipe at me/ ask any judge and jury, they’d pack you off and set me free/ and I’d be justified (I would be justified) to pack up my things and walk / well, I’d be justified (I would be justified), had enough of your crazy talk”, there are also plenty of positive sentiments along the lines of “tried to find myself, where I didn’t belong/ finally found real fire, in a secret song/ watching good things grow/ under the rainbow/ under your rainbow cover” and “the window opened on your face/ a single star, a timeless space/ to freely give is not so smart/ but I love the thief who stole my heart/ so close to you, you’re the very breath of me”.

True to its title, this album from Ford is a shining one. Even if the guitar virtuoso plays only a fistful of the 11 tracks from Into the Sun during the shows on his spring tour (which, for our good friends here in BluesPowR’s adopted hometown of Pittsburgh, includes a stop this coming Saturday, April 18th at the Southside’s Rex Theater), that alone will likely give plenty to write home about.

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Stuff You Gotta Watch: Joe Bonamassa pays tribute to blues masters on Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks

Blues-rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa is no stranger to covering the songs of the blues masters, having, for example, included tracks from Robert Johnson (“Stones in My Passway”), Howlin’ Wolf (“Who’s Been Talking”), and Willie Dixon (“I Got All You Need”) all on his recent Driving Towards the Daylight album. But never before has Bonamassa devoted an entire recording to the songs of the legends that came before him, as he’s done on his latest double CD, DVD, and Blu-ray collection Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks.

Bonamassa_Muddy_WolfThe first in a planned series of concerts and recordings paying homage to some of the biggest names of the blues, Muddy Wolf captures Bonamassa presenting the songs of two greats, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, as performed during a historic concert at Colorado’s famous Red Rocks Amphitheater last fall, the largest show of Bonamassa’s career. (Bonamassa has already announced the dates for the next installment of the series, which will come in the form of a “Three Kings” – as in Albert, B.B., and Freddie – tour taking place across the U.S. this summer.)

Recorded Labor Day weekend of 2014, Muddy Wolf includes more than two hours of songs from Waters and The Wolf as well as a handful from Bonamassa’s own catalog, backed by a band (appropriately dubbed the Muddy Wolf Band) assembled just for this occasion that features Reese Wynans (Double Trouble) on keyboards and organ, longtime Late Show drummer Anton Fig, Kirk Fletcher on guitar, Michael Rhodes on bass, Mike Henderson on harmonica, and Lee Thornburg, Ron Dziubla, and Nick Lane on horns. This of course includes some of the artists’ most famous numbers in tracks like “I Can’t Be Satisfied”, “Tiger in Your Tank”, “You Shook Me”, “Spoonful”, “Killing Floor”, and “Evil (is Going On)”, but also some lesser-known songs such as Waters’ “Stuff You Gotta Watch”, “Real Love”, “My Home is On the Delta”, and “All Aboard” and Wolf’s “All Night Boogie (All Night Long)”.

Bonamassa_MuddyWolf_still2 (280x199)Both music discs start with short clips of each of the greats performing their songs – for Waters, the punchy “Tiger in Your Tank”, and a gritty “How Many More Years” for The Wolf – before transitioning seamlessly into the Muddy Wolf Band’s takes on those same numbers. The horns and keyboards help give many of the songs a swinging sound, and it’s clear from very early on that this isn’t just about Bonamassa showing off on guitar: although there are plenty of Bonamassa solos, you’ll also hear a whole lot of “c’mon Mike”, “c’mon Reese”, “c’mon Kirk”, and “c’mon Michael” calls from Joe throughout the show, often one right after another.

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A 70th birthday appreciation for guitarist Harvey Mandel

Mandel, r, with Charlie Musselwhite, courtesy of HarveyMandel.com

Mandel, right, with Charlie Musselwhite, courtesy of HarveyMandel.com

We’re a day late in bringing this to you, but saw this nice birthday tribute to and update on Chicago guitarist Harvey “The Snake” Mandel written by Tompkins Square Label founder Josh Rosenthal. Although it’s been several years since Mandel’s been active because of his health issues, you may recall Mandel from his playing with and alongside such greats as John Mayall, Canned Heat, the Rolling Stones, Howlin’ Wolf, Michael Bloomfield, Muddy Waters, Charlie Musselwhite, Steve Miller, Buddy Guy, and more recently the blues supergroup Chicago Blues Reunion with Barry Goldberg, Nick Gravenites, and Corky Siegel.

We hope you’ll give Rosenthal’s appeal a read and consider helping out in any way you can.

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Second annual Lancaster Roots & Blues Festival offers more blues than any one fan can hear

You know it’s probably a pretty blues-packed program when you’re only able to catch short segments of such talented acts as Albert Castiglia, Nikki Hill, Mac Arnold & Plate Full o’ Blues, Peter Karp and Sue Foley, and Dana Fuchs in order to be able to see other artists like Joe Louis Walker, Corey Harris, Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown, Blind Boy Paxton, Popa Chubby, and the Mark May Band.

And that’s not even considering the many other blues and non-blues acts we would have liked to see but just didn’t have a chance to, including the likes of Joanne Shaw Taylor, Jason Ricci, Live, Iron Butterfly, Jay Farrar, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band, Amy Hart, Clarence Spady, and Charlie Gracie.

Albert Castiglia

Albert Castiglia

That’s exactly the situation with which we were faced a few weeks back at the second annual Lancaster Roots & Blues Festival in eastern Pennsylvania, where there’s clearly way more going on than any one person can ever expect to take in. Organizers have already announced that they’ll be moving from the current two- to a three-day format for 2016 (Fri.-Sun., Feb. 26-28), but it’s unclear at this point whether they’ll be using that extra day just to spread out a similar number of acts, add even more performers, or a combination of the two.

That said, we can’t imagine anyone ever being bored at this festival; if one act is slow or not quite what you expected, there’s nearly always another one or two that might be of interest taking place.

For us, the highlights of the weekend were probably the sets we heard from former Muddy Waters bassist Mac Arnold and his band Plate Full o’ Blues, rising traditional blues star Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton, electric guitarist Popa Chubby, and British blues rockers Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown, in addition to the somewhat lesser-known names of the Kelly Bell and Mark May bands.

Visit the BluesPowR Gallery to see more of our photos from the Lancaster Roots & Blues Festival

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Just a few days left to help fund Jonn Del Toro Richardson’s debut solo album

Project Blues 2014

Project Blues 2014

Last summer, we had the chance to catch Texas guitarist and singer Jonn Del Toro Richardson as part of the Project Blues event in Columbus, Ohio. A 2005 International Blues Challenge dual winner, both as a member of Diunna Greenleaf‘s Blue Mercy band and the competition’s best guitarist, Richardson has always served as either a sideman (including a spot on the Blue Shoe Project’s Grammy-winning Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen, where he backed the legendary Pinetop Perkins) or collaborator – as in the case of his Drivin’ Me Wild CD with fellow IBC winner (2007) Sean Carney, as well as a 2011 album Time Slips On By with mandolin player Rich DelGrosso – but is currently in the process of recording his first solo album in Austin, Texas.

The album will be produced by a famous name in Texas blues, Anson Funderburgh, with 20% of revenues from the CD going to Project Blues (of which Richardson is a founding artist) to help provide mammograms and other assistance to women and families in need. Here’s the link to Richardson’s campaign for the album on Indiegogo, which we’re honored to note includes a photo taken by yours truly at last year’s Project Blues event. With nearly 90% of the goal already raised, Jonn’s looking for just a little more help over the coming days to push this project forward, with hopes of some pretty high returns come next awards season!

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Lancaster Roots & Blues Festival 2015 in photos

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Joe Louis Walker

We’re still compiling our written recap of this year’s Lancaster Roots & Blues Festival, but, in the meantime, you can now view the photos we captured during those two days in our BluesPowR Gallery, including dedicated albums for Joe Louis Walker, Blind Boy Paxton, Popa Chubby, Mac Arnold & Plate Full o’ Blues, Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown, and Masters of the Telecaster Tom Principato and Jim Weider, as well as a shared folder showing performances from Corey Harris, Albert Castiglia, Nikki Hill, Dana Fuchs, Peter Karp & Sue Foley, the Mark May Band, Kelly Bell Band, and Johnny Long.

And while you’re visiting our BluesPowR Gallery, feel free to check out some of our photos from past festivals and shows, which we’re guessing probably include at least a few more of your favorite artists!

Popa Chubby

Popa Chubby

Masters of the Telecaster

Masters of the Telecaster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Karp & Sue Foley

Peter Karp & Sue Foley

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Johnny Winter wins blues Grammy plus a few Lancaster Roots & Blues Fest pics

Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter

Aside from Johnny Winter‘s posthumous award for Best Blues Album for his Step Back – the late guitarslinger’s first Grammy win for his own music, despite three of the albums he produced for Muddy Waters having won Grammys a few decades back – and six-time Grammy winner Buddy Guy being recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award, there wasn’t nearly as much blues music being celebrated at this weekend’s Grammy Awards as we had hoped there might be. Roseanne Cash bested triple nominee Keb’ Mo’ in two of the categories (Best Americana Album and Best Americana Performance, where she also beat out a joint offering from Gregg Allman and Taj Mahal) in which Keb’ was nominated, while Beck won out in the third category, for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. Keb’ was of course gracious, posting on social media that his “award” was to be honored by his peers with nominations in three categories and that he was honored to be a nominee in the same categories as Roseanne Cash. Still, it would have been nice to see Keb’ take home at least one award; let’s just hope it doesn’t take quite as long to happen for Keb’ as it did for Johnny Winter…

Above is a picture of Winter we snapped at last year’s inaugural Lancaster Roots & Blues Festival a year ago this month, just a few months before his death.

And below are a few of our favorite photos from this year’s festival in Lancaster that took place over the weekend, with more pictures and notes on the performances to come in the days ahead.

Corey Harris

Corey Harris

Joe Louis Walker

Joe Louis Walker

Kim Simmonds & Savoy Brown

Kim Simmonds & Savoy Brown

Mac Arnold

Mac Arnold

Popa Chubby

Popa Chubby

Blind Boy Paxton

Blind Boy Paxton

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Quadruple Maple Blues Award winner Steve Hill keeps blues to himself with Solo Recordings Vol. 2

Recently, we told you about the debut album from Canadian harmonica player Roly Platt entitled Inside Out. With a late fall release, that one came out just a bit too late to be eligible for this year’s Maple Blues Awards (Canada’s equivalent of the Blues Music Awards) held a few a weeks back in Toronto, but we’d be surprised not to see Platt and his album nominated in a few categories for the next annual awards coming up in early 2016.

Steve Hill - Solo Recordings Volume 2 Cover Art (220x220)The big winner at this year’s Maple Blues Awards, meanwhile, was Canadian guitarist and singer Steve Hill, who took home awards for entertainer, guitarist, electric act, and recording of the year for his Solo Recordings Vol. 2. We never got the chance to hear Hill’s Solo Recordings Vol. 1 (winner of the best self-produced album honor at the 2013 International Blues Challenge) – or, for that matter, the four-track EP that came in between, entitled, fittingly enough, Solo Recordings Vol. 1 1/2 – but you can bet we’ll be checking them both out soon after hearing all that Hill has to offer on Vol. 2, which, like its predecessor, has also been nominated for a Juno Award (the Canadian version of the Grammy Awards).

Despite a sound comparable to that of fellow Canadian trio MonkeyJunk and U.S. acts like Moreland & Arbuckle and Gary Clark, Jr., Hill is – as the titles of his latest recordings indicate – a true one-man show, tearing away on guitar and vocals as well as on drums, cymbals, and even sometimes harmonica. “I’ve got a drum kit at my feet; we’ve modified all of my guitars with an extra pick-up that takes the sound of the two big strings that goes through an octaver and a bass amp so I got a bass sound at the same time that I’m playing the guitar,” notes Hill in his press materials. “I got a drum stick now so that I can play the right cymbal and I started playing harp about a year-and-a-half ago. It’s very challenging, but I love this sound. It’s very basic and very raw.”

And very good too, from the biting chorus and scorching guitar of the gritty opener “Still Got It Bad” and dirty shuffle of Little Walter’s “Hate to See You Go” (minus the harmonica) – one of three covers on the album, along with a hard-driving take on Muddy Waters’ “I Want You to Love Me” and the soft, breezy “Simple Things” (Ray Bonneville) – to the creeping country blues of a Johnny Cash-like “Tough Luck” (that does include harmonica), and everything in between.

A few of songs, like the catchy “Slim Chance” and the swaying ballad “Better”, sound like something that easily could have been included on the soundtrack of an ’80s John Hughes film, while other cuts like “Never is Such a Long Time” and “Go On” are more apt to remind listeners of current blues artists like Gary Clark, Jr. and Johnny Sansone, respectively, with some forceful harp combining with Hill’s mostly gruff vocals on lyrics like “push me round, and call me weak/ slap me in the face, I’ll turn the other cheek/ I don’t wanna’ give up on you, no matter what you do/ but with the way you make me feel, how can i go on? Go on…” on the latter, giving way to a smooth, soulful chorus and falsetto notes.

The hard-edged “The Collector” offers more of our favorite lines from Hill in “But I don’t want your Steve Austin Six Million Dollar Man figurine/ and you can keep your Mickey Mantle rookie baseball card…just give some truth, gimme’ somethin’ real, give me somethin’ I can truly feel”, with the album closing on the mellow grooves of “Long Road”.

As great as it is to hear Hill doing his thing on Solo Recordings Vol. 2 (already his eighth full-length studio album), you really need to see him in action to appreciate all of which Hill is capable. Here’s a video of Hill at this year’s Maple Blues Awards doing “Still Got It Bad/Hate to See You Go” to give you a taste of what we mean:

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