Rest in peace, B.B. King

“Heaven done called another blues-stringer back home…”

We’re sure there will be many tributes being paid to The King of the Blues everywhere around the world this weekend – including at the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival where we’ll be – and for weeks and months to come. And that’s exactly as it should be. You’ll be greatly missed, B.B.


Benedum Center, Pittsburgh, Nov. 2012



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John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – Live in 1967 offers previously unheard early performances featuring Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood & John McVie

By rights, it shouldn’t even exist, the product of a fan from Holland sneaking a one-channel reel recorder into a series of London shows to capture a band that performed together for only three months before three-quarters of its members decided to, well, go their own way and form another outfit whose name derived from the surnames of drummer Fleetwood and bassist McVie. That first band may not have been together long enough to record in the studio, but nearly 50 years later, we’re fortunate to now be able to hear these blues/rock n’ roll masters playing together on this treasure from Forty Below Records, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – Live in 1967 (Never Before Heard Live Performances), featuring John Mayall on vocals, harmonica, and keyboards, backed by one of the most talented Bluesbreakers line-ups in the band’s history with Peter Green on guitar; John McVie on bass; and Mick Fleetwood on drums.

Taken from recordings of the band at five different London clubs, the sound here admittedly is not always the greatest, even with some pretty good restoration from Forty Below’s Eric Corne, with instruments at times fading in and out during solos and Mayall’s vocals in particular tending to be quite muddy. But we couldn’t agree with Corne more when he states “While the source recording was very rough and the final result is certainly not hi-fidelity, it does succeed in allowing us to hear how spectacular these performances are”, including some delightful solos from both Mayall and Green to complement Mayall’s impressive vocals.

Mayall_Live_1967 (250x225)That applies from the very first song, with the band slinking in on Otis Rush’s “All Your Love” before taking things full throttle about halfway through and then bringing it back down again just in time for the track’s conclusion. If that song alone isn’t enough to hook you, there’s plenty more where that came from, including a creeping “Double Trouble” (another of Rush’s songs) and the 1-2-3 punch of the slow blues of Freddie King’s “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” featuring some Kansas-sounding tinkling of the ivories from Mayall (several years before Kansas would have been heard), the always fun tongue-twister of a tune “Looking Back” (Johnny “Guitar” Watson), and a passionate take on Rush’s “So Many Roads” that together make this set every bit worth its purchase price.

In addition to the Rush and King songs already noted, the album also includes takes on Rush’s “I Can’t Quit You Baby”, King instrumentals “San-Ho-Zay” and “The Stumble” – the latter featuring some particularly stinging guitar from Green – and a simmering “Someday After Awhile” (King), as well as a few other blues classics in Tommy Tucker’s “Hi Heel Sneakers” and the intense, closing “Stormy Monday” (T-Bone Walker), offering further evidence of the tremendous influence of such U.S. artists on British blues bands of the time.

“Ever since Eric Clapton joined the band, we both had a great interest in the recorded work of Otis Rush and Freddie King and many of their classic songs became part of our live performing catalogue. Their guitar work was always an inspiration for Eric, Peter Green and Mick Taylor in those early years.” – John Mayall

Also included here are a few Mayall originals in “Streamline” and a “Brand New Start” that features Mayall on harmonica along with some fiery guitar from Green, proving that these guys could excel at whatever they were playing, including what may very well be some of Green’s finest work ever. With the fan having taped five shows, we can only wonder what other treasures from these performances might still be out there – and whether there’s enough of them to make a volume 2… In the meantime, though, we’ll be listening to this one a whole lot more.

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Elvin Bishop, Bobby Rush, and John Hammond big winners at last night’s Blues Music Awards

Elvin_Bishop_Cant_Even_Do_Wrong_coverHis latest album may be titled Can’t Even Do Wrong Right, but recent Rock Hall of Fame inductee Elvin Bishop (Paul Butterfield Blues Band) seemed to do quite all right at last night’s Blues Music Awards in Memphis, taking home trophies in three of the six categories in which he was nominated, including the coveted Album of the Year in addition to Band and Song (for the album’s title track). That was also enough to make Bishop the biggest winner on the night, with only two other artists receiving multiple awards: Bobby Rush for B.B. King Entertainer of the Year and Soul Blues Male Artist and John Hammond for Acoustic Artist and Acoustic Album (Timeless).

Among the night’s other album winners were Keb’ Mo’ for Contemporary Blues Album (BluesAmericana), Mud Morganfield & Kim Wilson for Traditional Blues Album (For Pops: A Tribute to Muddy Waters), Johnny Winter for Rock Blues Album (Step Back), John Nemeth for Soul Blues Album (Memphis Grease), and Selwyn Birchwood for Best New Artist Album (Don’t Call No Ambulance). Gary Clark Jr. and Janiva Magness won in the Contemporary Blues Male and Female Artist categories, respectively, while Lurrie Bell was recognized as Traditional Blues Male Artist and Ruthie Foster walked away with the Koko Taylor Award for Traditional Blues Female Artist.

Joe Bonamassa was honored on Guitar, Charlie Musselwhite on Harmonica, and Marcia Ball as the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year, in what may have been one of the most rounded Blues Music Awards ceremonies in terms of winners in recent history. Look for the complete list of winners on the Blues Foundation’s website soon.

Congratulations to all of the nominees, as well as last night’s winners!

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Coming festivals, shows well worth the trip for blues fans throughout Mid-Atlantic

Earlier this year, we told you about the Lancaster Roots & Blues Festival, which is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the must-attend events for blues fans in the Mid-Atlantic region. Here are a few more festivals and shows scheduled for the coming weeks and months that might be worth the trip for those in and around the MD/DC/PA area.

Sat., May 2UMCH Family Services’ Change Your Hue of Blue, Northland Performing Arts Center, Columbus, Ohio. A blues music benefit raising awareness and funds for family mental health, featuring 2014 Blues Music Award Koko Taylor Award (Traditional Blues Female) winner, 2011 Blues Music Award Best Traditional Blues Album winner (Trying to Hold On), and 2008 Blues Music Award Best New Artist Debut winner (Cotton Field to Coffee House) Diunna Greenleaf and Blue Mercy; 2014 Blues Music Award nominee for Acoustic Artist of the Year Little G. Weevil; and Chicago guitarist Joel DaSilva and the Midnight Howl. or

cbbf2015Sat., May 16 & Sun., May 17Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival, Sandy Point State Park, Annapolis, MD. Blues returns to the bay in a big way with performances from Gregg Allman, Buddy Guy, Charlie Musselwhite, Bobby Rush, Beth Hart, Tommy Castro & the Painkillers, Shemekia Copeland, Jonny Lang, Jarekus Singleton, a Chesapeake Bay Blues Band featuring Dean Rosenthal and current and past members of The Nighthawks Mark Wenner, Pete Ragusa, and Jan Zukowski, and more.

Fri., May 29 – Sun., May 3120th annual Western Maryland Blues Fest, City Center and City Park, Hagerstown, MD. Another great line-up featuring Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials, Matt Schofield, Ian Siegal, Mike Zito & the Wheel, Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers, Moreland & Arbuckle, Jarekus Singleton, Nikki Hill, Bonerama, the Kelly Bell Band, Hamilton Loomis, Albert Cummings, and more!

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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!

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

Mandel, right, with Charlie Musselwhite, courtesy of

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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