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!

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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Nick Moss Band delivers Live and Luscious treat on latest project

We’ve talked about the Nick Moss Band quite a bit here in recent years, and the invitation to participate in the inaugural U.S. offering of the Lead Belly Fest at NYC’s Carnegie Hall earlier this month (and not just because the band’s vocalist Michael Ledbetter happens to be a great-great nephew of Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter himself, although we’re sure that did help) on the same stage as such acts as Buddy Guy, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Eric Burdon and Walter Trout is a good sign of the band’s growing reputation as one of the best blues-oriented jam bands on the scene today.

Nick_Moss_Live_and_Luscious (280x251)With a new double studio CD (From the Root to the Fruit) just announced for May release, we figured it might be a good time to take a look at the band’s latest project, an 8-song live album recorded last May at the Baltic Blues Festival in Germany that is every bit as Live and Luscious (Blue Bella Records) as its title promises. Included are a few songs that longtime Moss fans might recognize from earlier projects, in the title track from Moss’ Time Ain’t Free album, a shuffling, groove-filled “Try to Treat You Right” (the opening track from Moss’ 1998 debut First Offense), and a slow, simmering 12-minute take on Jimmy Reed’s “The End” that varies greatly from the version heard on Moss’ earlier Live at Chan’s album and, with its plentiful, often stinging guitar, positions Moss among such other greats as Peter Green and Walter Trout.

Fortunately for us, though, this is really just the beginning, with lots more great music to be heard, offering a nice preview of several tracks from the upcoming From the Root album. Among them are the rock-steady opener “Breakdown” that gets things grooving from the start, as well as an extended version of Moss’ commentary on the Ferguson police shooting and riots in the flowing “Shade Tree”, a soulful, nearly 13-minute jam that is just as good as anything you’ll hear from the Allman Brothers, with lyrics that talk of blood in the streets and a repeating chorus of “it’ll never be the same”.

In addition to helping out on both lead vocals and guitar throughout the album, Ledbetter also wrote three of the tunes, the first coming just two songs in with the extremely soulful “Catch Me I’m Falling” that’s sort of a modern-day equivalent of the kind of stuff Sam & Dave used to do, combined with some funky, Peter Frampton-like wah effects on guitar. Yes, we do feel you, Mike…

Heritage Music Blues Fest 2012

Heritage Music Blues Fest 2012

Taylor Streiff, Nick Fane and Patrick Seals round out the band on keyboards, bass and drums, respectively, with Streiff really having the chance to shine on songs like “Try to Treat You Right” and “Time Ain’t Free”. Don’t let the number of tracks fool you when it comes to getting your money’s worth: the songs here all clock in somewhere between the 6- and 13-minute mark, with plenty of solos from both Moss and the others, not to mention some interesting touches along the way, such as when Moss works in a few bars of AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” near the close of the Ledbetter-penned “I Dig” (one you’re sure to dig too).

It’s likely no accident that the band chose to wrap up the album on the creeping, somewhat psychedelic number entitled “Stand By”, which is exactly what a lot of us will be doing as we eagerly await that double studio album from Moss and his band, with Live and Luscious providing a satisfying taste of what’s to come.

Related posts:
Nick Moss’ time has come today with Time Ain’t Free
Nick Moss kickstarts 2014 album with soulful single “I Want the World to Know”
Generous servings of guitar, family-style blues help define 2012 Heritage BluesFest
Nick Moss makes another bold statement on Here I Am
On Privileged, a rolling Moss gathers some rock

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Buddy Guy, Mavis Staples, Jon Cleary snag blues, roots Grammys; Gary Clark Jr., Bonnie Raitt help pay tribute to B.B. King

It was a good night for the blues at Monday’s Grammy Awards, with Buddy Guy, Mavis Staples, and Jon Cleary taking home awards for best blues album (Born to Play Guitar), best American roots performance (“See That My Grave is Kept Clean” off her Your Good Fortune album), and best regional roots music album (Go Go Juice), respectively.

But perhaps the biggest thrill of the night was the tribute to the late, great B.B. King (who won 15 Grammy awards of his own during his career, including best traditional blues album for, among others, Live at the Apollo, Blues Summit, Blues on the Bayou, Riding with the King, A Christmas Celebration of Hope, and his last, in 2008, for One Kind Favor) that came late in the program, with Gary Clark Jr. and frequent Grammy honoree Bonnie Raitt joined by country singer and the night’s winner in both the best country album and best country performance categories Chris Stapleton on King’s iconic “The Thrill is Gone”, the song for which King received his very first Grammy (for best R&B vocal performance) in 1970.

Watch the trio wish The King of the Blues well with this dynamite performance, which also features a nice video montage of King for a backdrop:

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Blues Lyrics of the Week (Valentine’s edition): Talkin’ ’bout love with Magic Sam

We couldn’t think of a better bluesman to revisit on this holiday than the recently discussed Magic Sam, who was not only born on Valentine’s Day in 1937 but also performed his share of tunes involving love and romance (often borrowed from other artists like Otis Rush, Willie Dixon, and Roscoe Gordon), from “Easy, Baby” and “I Just Want a Little Bit” to “All Your Love”, “My Love Will Never Die”, and “Keep on Lovin’ Me, Baby”, just to mention a few.

Here’s one of Sam’s originals on the subject that says it better than any overpriced greeting card ever can:

“You belong to me,
and I belong to you,
And when we are together, baby,
I just love all the things we do.

Darling, I, I really love you.
I said I, whoa, I love you.

We swim and we skate,
we go out on dates.
We kiss and we dance,
and we love to make romance…

You know I love ‘ya,
place no one above ‘ya.
Crazy ’bout you, baby,
and I don’t mean maybe.
I said, baby,
my baby,
I said love, baby,
you know that I love you.”
– “You Belong to Me”, Sam Maghett

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