The Blues Never Sleeps

Here’s the latest installment of our BluesPowR Radio Hour, featuring music from recent Blues Music Award (BMA) winners Walter Trout and Duke Robillard, as well as a double-shot from quadruple BMA nominee Anthony Geraci, plus tracks from Tasha Taylor and Samantha Fish, Steve Hill, and more. Enjoy!

Playlist
The Blues Never Sleeps – Anthony Geraci & The Boston Blues All-Stars (Fifty Shades of Blue)
Blues for David Maxwell – Anthony Geraci & The Boston Blues All-Stars (Fifty Shades of Blue)
Put Me Back – Amy Hart (Live at the Mayne Stage)
John the Revelator – Lewis Hamilton (Shipwrecked)
Rollin & Tumblin / Stop Breaking Down – Steve Hill (Solo Recordings Vol. 3)
Slender Man Blues – Billy the Kid & the Regulators (I Can’t Change)
Leave That Dog Alone- Tasha Taylor w/ Samantha Fish (Honey for the Biscuit)
I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water – Duke Robillard (The Acoustic Blues & Roots of Duke Robillard)
Cold Cold Ground – Walter Trout (Battle Scars)

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Posthumous single from dual Blues Music Award winner Otis Clay: Mississippi Poor Boy

You may have seen in our last post that among the multiple award recipients at last week’s annual Blues Music Awards was the late soul-blues crooner Otis Clay, whose wins in the soul male artist and soul blues album (for his collaboration with Billy Price on This Time for Real) categories were, believe it or not, his first Blues Music Awards in a long and distinguished musical career that, in addition to blues, R&B, and soul, was also largely rooted in gospel, an influence to which Clay returned often throughout the decades.

Such is the case with this track, for which Clay’s vocals were actually recorded during the sessions for his 2014 Soul Brothers collaboration with friend and fellow soulman Johnny Rawls. The plan was to include the song – one of Clay’s favorites – on his next solo album, a project that unfortunately never came to fruition before the legend’s passing this January at age 73.

Not wanting to see such a good thing go to waste, Catfood Records’ Bob Trenchard enlisted Rawls and a few others to help complete the track, with Trenchard on bass, Johnny McGhee on guitar, and Rawls producing as well as providing both percussion and background vocals along with neo-soul artist Janelle Thompson. The result was a fittingly beautiful and fulfilling note by which to remember Clay, a gospel song with a raw blues edge that embodies both the spirit and career of this Mississippi boy.

We weren’t able to catch Clay when he visited Pittsburgh to perform with Price at the Rex Theater last fall, but here’s a great medley from that show that also starts on a bit of a spiritual note:

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Buddy Guy, Walter Trout, Otis Clay among big winners at last night’s Blues Music Awards

The winners of the 37th Blues Music Awards were announced last night in Memphis, with Buddy Guy, Walter TroutOtis Clay, Cedric Burnside, and Victor Wainwright each taking home a pair of awards in a five-way tie for the event’s big winner.

Guy received awards for album and contemporary album of the year for his Born to Play Guitar; Trout took home the gold for both rock blues album (Battle Scars) and song (“Gonna Live Again”); and the late Clay won in the soul male artist and soul blue album categories for his collaboration with Pittsburgh’s Billy Price on This Time for Real. Burnside was honored for traditional blues album (Descendants of Hill Country) and his work on drums, while Wainwright got the nods for band and B.B. King Entertainer of the year.

Among the night’s other winners were Joe Louis Walker for contemporary male artist, Shemekia Copeland for contemporary female artist, John Primer for traditional male artist, Ruthie Foster for traditional female artist (Koko Taylor Award), Doug MacLeod for acoustic artist, Sonny Landreth on guitar, Kim Wilson on harmonica, and the late Allen Toussaint for Pinetop Perkins Piano Player. You can view the full list of winners on the American Blues Scene site.

Congratulations to all of last night’s winners and all of this year’s nominees.

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Second volume of live recordings offers another listen at Mayall’s pre-Fleetwood Mac Bluesbreakers

Every time we hear a new album from John Mayall, like last year’s Find a Way to Care, we think The Godfather of British Blues just may be sounding better musically than ever. But then we hear something like this, the second in a series of previously unreleased live recordings of his band The Bluesbreakers culled from a handful of London shows from the spring of 1967, and we’re reminded that Mayall has really always been pretty brilliant, especially when backed, as he is here, by the likes of guitarist Peter Green, drummer Mick Fleetwood, and bassist John McVie, a line-up that didn’t stick around long enough to ever join Mayall in the studio, choosing instead to go their own way and form a band called Fleetwood Mac.

Bluesbreakers_1967_vol2 (280x280)You may recall us hoping for a second volume of music from these shows during our review of the first set last spring, and we’re pleased to report that only three of the songs on John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers Live in 1967 – Volume Two (Forty Below Records) are repeats of tracks that appeared on volume one, not that we mind at all hearing some different interpretations from these guys on classics like “Stormy Monday”, “So Many Roads”, and “Double Trouble”. But that’s only once you’re able to get past the opening track, the slow blues of a “Tears in My Eyes” that features some stinging playing from Green and that you’re going to want to play over and over again.

As on the first volume, pretty much everything here is spectacular, with the biggest highlights (once you’re able to move on from that opener) including the grooving instrumental “Greeny”, a slow, patient take on B.B. King’s “Sweet Little Angel” that captures the band deep in the zone, and a cover of Sonny Boy Williamson II’s “Bye Bye Bird” that also has Mayall blowing away on harmonica.

In between, you’ll also hear a shuffling, slightly accelerated take on Williamson II’s “Your Funeral and My Trial”, the “Spoonful”-like original “Please Don’t Tell”, covers of J.B. Lenoir’s “Talk to Your Daughter” and Eddie Taylor’s “Bad Boy”, and another instrumental original in “Chicago Line” that includes a terrific bass solo from McVie, many of which again feature Mayall on harmonica in addition to vocals and/or keyboards.

Derived from a fan’s bootleg recordings of shows at four different London clubs, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise (especially to those who heard Volume 1) that the sound here can be a bit muffled and uneven at times, even with the great work from producers Mayall and Forty Below’s Eric Corne in cleaning things up. But that really is a small and insignificant price to pay to be able to hear such an important and intriguing piece of blues history. Along with its predecessor, Live in 1967 – Volume 2 is a must-have.

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Listen up: Alabama soul/bluesman Sam Frazier Jr. begs Take Me Back on long-lost album

Recently, we told you about the latest album from real-life blues brother Benny Turner, which you may recall featured a restored version of a song Turner recorded with piano great Charles Brown just before Brown’s death and that had for some time been feared lost in Hurricane Katrina. Today, we’re pleased to bring you a track from another long-lost project, this time from gifted Alabama soul/bluesman Sam Frazier Jr., who recorded this tune and the 15 others on his “new” Take Me Back (Music Maker Relief Foundation) album during a three-year period in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The gravelly, Taj Mahal-like vocals here on “Drippin’ Honey” are a sharp contrast to the smoothness you’ll hear on such other songs as the horn-laced “I Don’t Want Another Love” and choir-backed pop-soul of “Black and White Love” (with its both harmonious sounds and messages, including such lyrics as “If you need an answer, simply stop and realize/ I only see the color of your eyes”) that bookend the track, as well as the classy soul of numbers like “Why Do People Play With Feelings”, “Don’t Spread Your Love Around”, and a gospelish “Love, Fish and Bread”, one of the few songs on which Frazier can also be heard on harmonica, something he learned from Sonny Boy Williamson.

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Canadian bluesman Steve Hill continues to beat of own drum with Solo Recordings Vol. 3

In a world filled with blues-rock trios and quartets, Canadian bluesman Steve Hill stands alone – literally – himself providing all the drums, hi-hats, and harmonica needed to accompany his primary instruments of guitar and vocals. We first told you about Hill shortly after he captured four honors in the 2015 Maple Blues Awards, for entertainer, guitarist, electric act, and recording of the year for his Solo Recordings Vol. 2. Now Hill is back with Vol. 3 in that series, and it’s every bit as good as – if not even better than – his last.

Once again, Hill delivers a smoking set of mostly original tracks, ranging from folksy acoustic numbers like “Troubled Times”, the harmonica-laced “Slowly Slipping Away”, and the breezy, Buddy Holly-ish ode “Emily”, to rockers such as the shuffling “Can’t Take It With You” and a hard-driving, groove-soaked “Rhythm All Over” that rivals some of the best from The Black Keys.

Steve_Hill_Solo_Recordings_Volume_3_artwork (280x280)Truth be told, you know this is going to be another damned fine offering from Hill pretty much from the start, kicking off as it does on the raw and gritty “Damned” with such biting lyrics as “when things are right, I make them wrong/ I never know where I belong/ I screw it up and then I’m gone”. That’s followed by the slightly more radio-friendly, Bad Company-with-a-punch “Dangerous” before Hill turns up the heat on the first of several blues classics with “Still a Fool & a Rollin Stone”. A fierce “Rollin & Tumblin/Stop Breaking Down” comes later in the program, after which the one man band offers an equally fine, albeit much quieter, cover of the traditional “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad”.

If you didn’t take our advice and check Hill out after our last review, you’re going to want to do yourself a favor and get on that now. And be sure to tell a friend about him too, for these Solo Recordings are far too terrific for anyone to keep to themselves!

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Blues brother Benny Turner makes name for self with When She’s Gone

whenshesgonetif (280x280)We’ve spent quite a bit of time talking here about the numerous second generation blues men and women helping to carry on their fathers’ musical legacies, including such artists as Shemekia Copeland, Bernard Allison, Lurrie Bell, Mud and Big Bill Morganfield, and Zakiya Hooker, to name just a few. Sometimes, we may not need to wait for the next generation to pick up the torch, if, for instance, there happens to be a sibling who also sings or plays – Austin’s Jimmie Vaughan being a pretty good example, along with this fellow Texan, who, by name, may not be instantly recognizable as a relative of blues royalty, but has certainly paid his dues in the biz, having played for his late brother’s band for a decade and then served as a musician and bandleader for the “Blues Queen of New Orleans” Marva Wright for more than 20 years before finally assuming center stage as the leader of his own band just six years back, also supporting the likes of Chicago bluesman Mighty Joe Young and the famous gospel group The Soul Stirrers (of Sam Cooke fame) throughout his more than 50-year career.

Even with those background details revealed, many still may not recognize the name of electric bassist Benny Turner, the younger brother of and a longtime player with the late blues great and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Freddie King (who left this earth nearly four decades ago now). But we suspect that the veteran bluesman’s newest album, When She’s Gone (Nola Blue, Inc.), will go a long way in helping Turner to make a name for himself and gaining the attention he deserves as both a musician and singer.

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Knickerbocker All-Stars Go Back Home to the Blues on much anticipated follow-up

A few years back, we told you about a terrific collection of songs from The Knickerbocker All-Stars, a group of mostly New England musicians committed to helping to preserve and carry on the musical tradition of Rhode Island’s famed Knickerbocker Cafe. As we hoped at the time, that wouldn’t be the last we heard from the All-Stars, with the band having now put out its sophomore release in the rich Go Back Home to the Blues (JP Cadillac Records).

Like the first album, this one again includes a rotating cast of vocalists, with return appearances from Sugar Ray & the Bluetones frontman Sugar Ray Norcia, Texas bluesman Willie J. Laws, and Boston’s Brian Templeton (The Radio Kings). Also taking a turn on mic (and cornet) for one song is Al Basile, who also served as the project’s musical director and wrote several of the songs, including the album’s greasy title track.

Knickerbocker_cover (1) (280x238)Sometimes jazzy (like on the opening cover of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “36-22-36”  featuring Norcia on vocals, the snappy instrumental “Hokin'”, and the humorous, Basile-penned and -sung “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Being Right?”), sometimes soulful (such as on the straight-ahead blues of “You Know That You Love Me” [Freddie King] and the band’s take on Guitar Slim’s “Something to Remember You By” [which sounds a lot like Slim’s biggest hit, “The Things I Used to Do”], both delivered by Laws), it’s all swinging, thanks in part to a full horn section made up of members, alumni, and friends of both Roomful of Blues and the Duke Robillard Band, with Roomful co-founder and longtime pianist Al Copley, bassist Brad Hallen, and drummer Mark Teixeira helping to hold down the rhythm.

The smoky “He Was a Friend of Mine” mixes some Curtis Salgado-like vocals from Laws with some “Hoochie Coochie Man”-ish fills from the horns, with Laws also delivering some sturdy vocals on the high-powered, shuffling closer “I Tried” (Larry Davis) with its monster licks from guitarist Monster Mike Welch (also of Sugar Ray & the Bluetones fame).

Norcia is back on the mic for a swaying “Brand New Fool” that features some nice tinkling of the ivories from Copley along with a powerful horn solo, as well as the swinging good advice of “Take It Like a Man” (Chuck Willis), while Templeton handles vocals on the title track and the slow funk of a Basile original, “Annie Get Your Thing On”, including some Albert King-style riffs from Welch.

The baker’s dozen of tracks also includes another terrific instrumental in the uptempo “Blockbuster Boogie”, making Go Back Home to the Blues both a fine follow-up to the band’s 2014 debut and a great album to go back to, time and time again!

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Bluesman Without the Blues

With the clock set to “spring ahead” this coming weekend, why not take advantage of the extra hour you have until then by checking out the latest edition of our BluesPowR Radio Hour, featuring music from Joe Louis Walker, Joe Bonamassa, Tommy Castro & the Painkillers, Heather Crosse, Julia & the Basement Tapes, Dave Weld & the Imperial Flames, Leslie West, and Chris Yakopcic, plus a double shot from Portland, Oregon, bluesman Kevin Selfe’s latest album, including one with Sugaray Rayford on vocals?!

(But don’t worry if you can’t make the Sunday morning deadline: unlike the hour that will soon disappear, this episode – and all of our others – will still be here for you to listen to time and time again!)

Hope you enjoy!

Playlist
Young Girls Blues – Joe Louis Walker (Everybody Wants a Piece)
Looking for a Man – Dave Weld & the Imperial Flames (Slip Into a Dream)
I Can’t Be Satisfied – Joe Bonamassa (Live at Radio City Music Hall)
Left By the Roadside to Die – Leslie West (Soundcheck)
Pig Pickin’ – Kevin Selfe (Buy My Soul Back)
Bluesman Without the Blues – Kevin Selfe (Buy My Soul Back)
Please Don’t Stop – Julia & the Basement Tapes (The Dues)
Write Me a Few Lines – Chris Yakopcic (The Next Place I Leave)
My Man Called Me – Heather Crosse (Groovin’ at the Crosse Roads)
Lose Lose – Tommy Castro & the Painkillers (Method to My Madness)

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Canadian bluesman Jake Chisholm promises No More Sorrow with sophomore release

Earlier this week, we told you about the latest live release – as well as an upcoming studio album – from the Nick Moss Band. If you’re looking for a little something additional to help hold you over until the arrival of that double studio CD from Moss in May, one good place to look is the just-released sophomore album from Toronto singer and guitarist Jake Chisholm entitled No More Sorrow.

Jake Chisholm No More Sorrow Album Art (280x253)With a sound that blends shades of Moss, Matt Schofield, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gary Clark Jr., and fellow Canadians Steve Hill and Monkeyjunk, Chisholm and his bandmates Chris Banks (bass) and Sly Juhas (drums) lay down some seriously rootsy grooves, from the gritty opening title track and harmonica-laced “Weigh You Down”, to a “Merry-Go-Round” filled with Stevie Ray Vaughan-ish riffs that speeds and slows just like the playground equipment which inspired it, to the light, airy “Swamp Stomp” with its Zeppelin-esque feel (think more “Going to California” or a mellower “Gallows Pole” than “Whole Lotta Love”).

Also worth mentioning are the soulful, Hendrix-like ballad “Just Because You Want To”, the chorus of which reminds that “like holding sunshine, in the palm of your hand/ just because you want to, doesn’t mean that you can”; a raw and powerful 2014 live performance of “I Want You the Way You Are” that resembles something you’d hear from Steve Hill or Gary Clark, Jr.; and a jazzy, matter-of-fact “I’m Still Alone”, with the haunting, pointed closer “You Never Will” and a few more country-flavored numbers in the creeping “Is There Another Man” and rockabilly-style “I’m on Fire” rounding out the 10-song project.

In addition to the solid instrumentation from this power trio, Chisholm is also a gifted songwriter. We’re not sure what kind of sorrow we might have missed hearing on Chisholm’s 2013 debut Diamond in a Coalmine (you better believe we’ll be going back to check it out), but we guarantee there will only be joy when you add this one to your collection!

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