If this week’s weather isn’t quite doing it for you, then we can at least help put some Spring in your step with this latest talk-free edition of our BluesPowR Radio Hour, featuring a pair of tracks from both Junior Wells (joined on one by Buddy Guy) and The Liam Ward Band, plus other music from Mark Hummel, Alabama Slim, Sugaray Rayford, Ian Parker, Willie Farmer, and Wille & the Bandits.
Playlist Millionaire – Willie Farmer (The Man From the Hill) Messin’ with the Kid – Junior Wells & Buddy Guy (Box of Blues) Uprising – The Liam Ward Band (Uprising) Filthy Rich – The Liam Ward Band (Uprising) Time To Get Movin’ – Sugaray Rayford (Somebody Save Me) Victim of the Night – Wille & the Bandits (Paths) I Got The Blues – Alabama Slim (Blue Muse) The Creeper Returns – Mark Hummel (Harpbreaker) I Can’t Understand – Ian Parker (Spoonful of Gold – Blues for Willie) One Day (Every Goodbye Ain’t Gone) – Junior Wells (Box of Blues)
Although genre-melding guitarist Robben Ford describes his latest album as “a real departure from tradition in terms of the songwriting” (“tradition” referring to the strong blues and rhythm-and-blues elements that often serve as the basis of Ford’s music), Purple House (earMUSIC) isn’t really all that far off from what we’re accustomed to hearing from Ford. Despite an increased emphasis on the production side this time around, Purple House (named after the studio in Tennessee where much of the album was recorded) in the end still boils down to Ford’s same reliable formula of smooth vocals and fusion of rock, jazz and blues grooves to help make it another album very much worth checking out.
While it’s true that Ford can at times gravitate to the mellower side, and certainly does here on tracks like the slow, dark and simple “Empty Handed” with its jazzy, cavernous sound and breezy, swaying “Wild Honey”, Purple House as a whole is probably one of the most diverse and captivating of albums we’ve heard from Ford. In addition to guest appearances that include “Queen of the Blues” Shemekia Copeland, who joins Ford for a duet on the slow, somewhat gritty “Break in the Chain”, and Bishop Gunn’s Drew Smithers, who contributes additional guitar on “Willing to Wait”, the album also offers a terrific range of songs, from those softer aforementioned ballads to rockers such as the midtempo opener “Tangle With Ya”, funky “Cotton Candy”, and closing, hard-edged “Somebody’s Fool” that Bishop Gunn lead vocalist Travis McCready helps give a Lance Lopez-like sound to match Ford’s tough licks.
Here’s another talk-free edition of our BluesPowR Radio Hour to help close out your February. This one starts and finishes with tracks from the Ally Venable Band, in addition to another pair of songs from Western PA’s Dan Bubien & the Delta Struts. Along the way, you’ll also hear from Bob Margolin, Kirk Fletcher, UK rockers Bad Touch, a jazzy one from Steve Conn, and more. Give it a listen today!
Playlist Back Water Blues – Ally Venable Band (Puppet Show) Flesh and Bone – Steve Conn (Flesh and Bone) Shake That Thing – Dan Bubien & the Delta Struts (Thieves & Yesterdays) Movin On Up – Bad Touch (Shake a Leg) Bright Lights, Big City – Deathhouse Blues (The Beer Battered Boogies) Mercy – Bob Margolin (Bob Margolin) Falling To The Ground – Dan Bubien & the Delta Struts (Thieves & Yesterdays) Gotta Right – Kirk Fletcher (Hold On) Waste It on You – Ally Venable Band (Puppet Show)
The first time New England native John Fusco came to this crossroads, as a young musician who had already had the honor of meeting and learning from blues masters such as Frank Frost and Sonny Terry, he ended up deciding to head back north to pursue another of his passions, filmwriting.
And though you could take the man out of the crossroads, you apparently couldn’t take the crossroads out of the man, with Fusco’s first screenplay in fact telling the tale of a young classically trained guitarist (played by Ralph Macchio) who ventures south with an old bluesman in search of a long-lost song from blues master Robert Johnson, who, legend has it, promised his soul to the devil during a visit to the crossroads in exchange for the ability to play better guitar.
Last fall, we gave you a preview of the Music Maker Relief Foundation‘s (MMRF) 25th anniversary compilation album in the form of a track from longtime MMRF supporter and board member Taj Mahal and promised we’d bring you more on the album upon its release. Although the names of many of the artists on the 21-track Blue Muse may not be as familiar as Mahal and Eric Clapton — the latter captured here doing the slow blues instrumental “Mississippi Blues” with MMRF founder Tim Duffy during a 1995 jam and then discussing with Duffy where the piece is originally from (Willie Brown) and how Stefan Grossman included it on one of his blues guitar tutorials (from which Duffy learned it) — that doesn’t make the songs of any lesser quality, with other highlights including a gritty, hypnotic “I Got the Blues” from Alabama Slim that sounds like it could easily have come off Buddy Guy’s Sweet Tea in addition to borrowing a few lines from Otis Rush’s “Double Trouble”, a “Hambone” that finds John Dee Holeman joined by Taj Mahal on the hambone playing (body-slapping), Boot Hanks and Dom Flemons‘ (Carolina Chocolate Drops) “I Wanna Boogie” with Hanks on guitar and vocals and Flemons on hambone, and the slow folk-country blues of a “Widow Woman” on which Drink Small‘s deep, scratchy vocals are somewhat reminiscent of the late Paul Pena.
Here’s another blues box set worth checking out: a compilation of tracks from throughout the career of vocalist and harmonica player Amos Wells Blakemore Jr., better known by his stage name of Junior Wells. Born in West Memphis, Arkansas, Wells moved to Chicago at age 12, and spent his musical career playing with the likes of Muddy Waters (in whose band he replaced Little Walter) and Buddy Guy (with whom Wells would record and tour extensively over a three-decade period), with his work earning Wells nicknames that included “The Godfather of the Blues” and “The Mississippi Sax” before he moved on to the great gig in the sky 21 years ago this month (Jan. 15, 1998).
Contrary to the title, we aren’t about to keep these fine blues all for ourselves, and are pleased to share with you this latest talk-free episode of our BluesPowR Radio Hour, featuring double shots from both Watermelon Slim and Professor Louie & the Crowmatix, as well as tracks from Anthony Geraci, Sari Schorr, Jawbone, Sandy Carroll, and more. Give it a listen today!
Playlist Jug in the Water (acoustic) – Cary Morin (When I Rise) Leave No Traces – Jawbone (Jawbone) Blues All for Myself – Sandy Carroll (Blues & Angels) Gypsy Woman – Watermelon Slim (Church of the Blues) 61 Highway Blues – Watermelon Slim (Church of the Blues) Dans Les Pins – Michot’s Melody Makers (Blood Moon) Fly on the Wall – Anthony Geraci (Why Did You Have to Go) The New Revolution – Sari Schorr (Never Say Never) High Heel Sneakers – Professor Louie & The Crowmatix (Crowin’ the Blues) Fine Little Mama – Professor Louie & The Crowmatix (Crowin’ the Blues)
Ring in the holidays with the latest talk-free edition of our BluesPowR Radio Hour, featuring sounds of the season from the Paul Nelson Band and the Rev. Jimmie Bratcher plus music from Colin James, Muddy Gurdy, Matt Andersen, real-life son of the blues Joseph “Mojo” Morganfield and more.
Here’s wishing you and yours the happiest of holidays and a healthy and prosperous new year filled with the blues of only the musical variety!
Playlist One More Mile – Colin James (Miles to Go) Goin’ Down South – Muddy Gurdy (Muddy Gurdy) Station Blues – Muddy Gurdy (Muddy Gurdy) Christmas Tears – Paul Nelson Band (Blues Christmas) Who’s Gonna Be Your Sweet Man – Joseph “Mojo” Morganfield (Mojo Risin’ EP) Some Kind of Love – Rich Hope (I’m All Yours) Weightless – Matt Andersen & the Mellotones (Live at Olympic Hall) One Road Out (Angola Rodeo Blues) – Kevin Gordon (Tilt and Shine) What Child is This – Jimmie Bratcher (Man! It’s Christmas) Silent Night – Jimmie Bratcher (Man! It’s Christmas)
We don’t write about a whole lot of all-instrumental albums here, but harmonica player Mark Hummel‘s latest release Harpbreaker (Electro-Fi Records) is one that’s really too good to let pass without mention. A mix of newly recorded, live, previously issued and a good number of unreleased tracks chosen by Hummel, the album includes a baker’s dozen of tunes ranging from such classics as “See See Rider”, “Cristo Redentor” and “The Creeper Returns” to originals like the swinging opener “Harpoventilatin'” from a 2005 show at Yoshi’s in Oakland, California; a spunky, washboard and percussion-accented “Billy’s Boogaloo” recorded just this year; and the jazzy, swaying “Ready, Steady, Stroll!” from 2009’s RetroActive sessions.
Because the tracks come from a number of different sessions that took place during the past decade and a half, Harpbreaker features a rotating cast of supporting musicians on guitar, keyboards, drums and horns in addition to, and sometimes in place of, Hummel’s regular band members R.W. Grigsby on bass and Wes Starr on drums. On guitar, those guests include such well-known players as Anson Funderburgh, Little Charlie Baty, Kid Andersen, Billy Flynn and Rusty Zinn, with keyboardists Bob Welsh and Mel Brown and drummer Marty Dodson among the other contributing musicians. That variety of players, along with some superb song selection, help make the tracks all different enough not only to keep things interesting but make Harpbreaker one of the best instrumental albums we’ve heard in some time, and, indeed, one of the best albums of 2018.
We weren’t sure from where English alt/rock band Cavey got their name; we were secretly hoping it might have had something to do with the cartoon character Captain Caveman, who some might remember being called Cavey for short (and his son, Cavey Jr.) But turns out the band’s singer and guitarist is named Luke Cave, with “Cavey” just having been a longtime nickname.
And so, while we’re a little disappointed that we don’t have that cartoon reference to work with, Cavey’s new single “About to Start” is one that’s sure to draw some animated responses (including perhaps a few “unga bunga”s), building as the soulful ballad does from flowing to soaring with the help of some searing guitar, jazzy piano and horns, anguished vocals from Cave, and lyrics about the unfortunate toll life as a musician can have on a relationship, such as, for example, “All along the avenue, you can hear, that bass guitar boom/ from a dark and crowded room, where I stand and sing the blues/ If you think I’m breaking your heart, I’m just about to start.”
Give this one a listen today!
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