Tune into the Weekend with new single from Blues Music Award emerging artist nominee Jose Ramirez

We haven’t yet had a chance to listen to Costa Rican blues guitarist and singer Jose Ramirez‘s Blues Music Award-nominated debut album Here I Come, but have certainly moved it closer to the top of our pile for checking out after hearing Ramirez’s latest single on Delmark Records, “Whatever She Wants” —  a nod, according to Ramirez, to some of the old-school blues/soul singers such as Johnnie Taylor, Bobby Bland and Bobby Womack.

A slow blues burner in the vein of such classics as “The Thrill is Gone” and “Still Got the Blues”, “Whatever She Wants” includes some soulful, passion-soaked vocals and guitar from Ramirez, with a funky, organ-driven turn about halfway through that leads into a stinging guitar solo.

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UK Blues Awards finalists Let the Good Times Roll during online ceremony

The annual UK Blues Awards took place this past Sunday, again virtually due to the ongoing pandemic, with this year’s winners including When Rivers Meet for emerging artist of the year, band of the year, album of the year (We Fly Free) and most inspirational online performance of the year, Elles Bailey for artist of the year, Matt Long for instrumentalist of the year, Dom Martin for acoustic artist of the year, Connor Selby for young artist of the year and Shemekia Copeland for international artist/band of the year.

While the 105-minute program included terrific performances from a number of the individual winners, the real highlight of the awards was the closing jam featuring  many of the finalists and winners, including Elles Bailey, Matt Long, Paul Long, Dom Martin, Emma Wilson, Kyla Brox, Giles Robson, Toby Lee, Connor Selby and more, all recorded separately from their homes and sent in to UK Blues Awards to put together in this one romping take on the Louis Jordan blues classic “Let the Good Times Roll”, which is exactly what they do here. Enjoy!

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UK guitarist Will Johns rips it up on Bluesdaddy

We’ve talked quite a bit here over the years about some of the second generation blues men and women helping to carry on the tradition of their fathers, including the likes of Bernard Allison (son of Luther), Shemekia Copeland (daughter of Johnny), Lurrie Bell (son of Carey), Kenny Neal (son of Raful), Big Bill and Mud Morganfield (sons of McKinley, a.k.a. Muddy Waters), and others.

Thus far, this same trend doesn’t seem to also be happening on the other side of the pond, at least not strictly in regards to the blues, but perhaps one of the closest examples of it you’ll find there — albeit through a bit less of a direct lineage — is UK blues singer and guitarist Will Johns. While Johns’ father Andy wasn’t a famous musician himself, he did work with many of them throughout his successful career as a record engineer and producer, including the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Blind Faith, Van Halen, and Eric Clapton, who — through his previous marriage to Will’s mother’s sister Pattie Boyd — also happens to be one of several famous uncles to Will, along with George Harrison (through his even earlier marriage to Pattie), Mick Fleetwood (through his past marriage to another aunt), and Andy’s older brother Glyn Johns, also a well-known producer and sound engineer to some of the same acts as Andy as well as The Beatles, The Who, and The Eagles, among others.

For not being related to Clapton by blood, Johns does manage to sound a bit like him at times on his latest album Bluesdaddy — not so much in regards to singing as in playing and talent — particularly on such heavier blues classics as “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “Rolling & Tumbling”. All but one of the dozen tracks here, in fact, are covers, many of them quite familiar, including “Everyday I Have the Blues”, “Don’t You Want a Man Like Me”, “High Heel Sneakers”, “Oh Well”, “Sweet Little Angel”, “When You Got a Good Friend”, “I Just Wanna Make Love to You”, “Call Me Willy” (“Willie Brown Blues”) and “Walking and Crying”.

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Tune into the Weekend: Mike Ross shakes on down a classic with debut single from new album

We had a chance to catch bluesman Mike Ross along with some other great UK blues artists as part of the Wrotham Arms online blues and roots festival back in February, during which Ross performed a number of songs from his upcoming album The Clovis Limit -Tennessee Transition.

Ross first caught our ear a few years back with his album Jenny’s Place, and then again with his gritty Wrotham Arms set, which included — among other gems like Ross’ “The Only Place You Ever Take Me is Down” and revisiting of his earlier “Fixing to Die” — this Bukka White classic (later re-popularized by Mississippi Fred McDowell), “Shake ‘Em on Down”.

And that’s just one of the covers from Ross’ new album, where you’ll also hear his takes on Charlie Patton’s “Screamin’ & Hollerin’ the Blues” and Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues” along with originals such as “Young Man”, “Blow Away”, “Don’t Say a Word” and “None of Your Business” that all work quite well with those covers. Enjoy!

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Tune into the Weekend: Guitarists Johnny Burgin, Anson Funderburgh team for Valentine’s Day blues single

We know things have been pretty quiet around here as of late, but what better time than heading into a weekend to start to turn things around?! And those in any stage of a relationship will hopefully already have realized that this isn’t just any ordinary weekend, but one on which Valentine’s Day also happens to fall.

While we can’t really offer you any assistance in being prepared for the holiday, we can at least help get you in the mood for it with this just-released sweet slow blues track from guitarists Johnny Burgin and Anson Funderburgh, backed by the well-known Christian Dozzler on keys, Burgin’s touring partner Chris Matheos on bass, and Reo Casey on drums.

With its lyrics of love and captivating licks from both guitarists, this little gem from Delmark Records is bound to be the Cherry on Top of whatever plans you have — or don’t have — for the weekend. Enjoy!

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Reprise Records takes us back out Riding with the King with expanded, remastered 20th anniversary edition of King/Clapton collaboration

I guess you could say that we’ve been on a bit of a hiatus since the start of this coronavirus lockdown. It’s certainly not that we haven’t been paying attention to what’s been going on in the blues world during this time, having in fact spent many hours taking in livestreams (and trying to catch up on those we weren’t able to tune into live) from blues artists all over the world, with some our favorites having come from the likes of Catfish, Robin Bibi, Dom Martin and Corey Harris across the pond to musicians from across the U.S. such as Eddie 9V, John Primer, Andrew Black, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Jimmy Burns, Kenny Neal, and Lucious Spiller, to name just a few.

Having frequently done most of the listening and writing for this blog on our train commute into and home from the office, however, we’ve come to realize that the lack of an office to which to commute has tended to put a pretty serious kibosh on our blues blogging! So while we’ve missed out on telling you about quite a few new album releases and other stories from the blues world, we hope the bit of good news we’re about to share will help make up for our absence from the scene these past few weeks, particularly for any fans of Eric Clapton and/or the late great King of the Blues himself, B.B. King (so basically everyone!)

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11 Guys Quartet delivers big sound on Small Blues and Grooves

While we’re on the topic of great new releases from the VizzTone Label Group, here’s another one well worth checking out. Although their names may not be as familiar as those in the band about which we told you in last week’s post, the members of the 11 Guys Quartet have been playing together even longer, having first come together in the early 1980s and then proceeding to share the stage and studio on and off for the following decades.

About a dozen years ago or so, the band went into the studio and recorded a live album of original instrumentals, a project that didn’t see the light of day until now, released by VizzTone as Small Blues and Grooves. The album’s press materials don’t really say why it took so long for the album to be released, but we’re guessing the delay probably wasn’t the result of the band not being able to find a good record company to work with, as one of the members — harmonica player Richard Rosenblatt — happens to be the president of the VizzTone Label Group!

It doesn’t matter that this music wasn’t recorded this decade; the 14 tracks here make for some timeless stuff, consisting of one great instrumental blues track after another and some of the most expressive playing we’ve heard in quite some time, a perfect example of the phrase “blues with a feeling”.

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Blues supergroup the Phantom Blues Band is Still Cookin’ with hot new album

There aren’t many blues bands today that can compare with the Phantom Blues Band in terms of either talent or longevity. They may be best known for their role backing the legendary Taj Mahal on several projects — earning two Grammy Awards along the way — over the past three decades, but they’ve also dished out a bunch of terrific music of their own during that time, including their latest release Still Cookin’ (VizzTone Records), which again captures the band sounding ridiculously good.

With members whose names will be quite familiar to regular readers of this blog, from either their past work together or supporting artists like Robert Cray, Barbara Blue, Curtis Salgado, Eric Burdon, Danielle Nicole, Joe Louis Walker, the Mannish Boys, Bonnie Raitt and Tommy Castro, just to name a few, the Phantom Blues Band is made up of Tony Braunagel on drums, Mike Finnigan on keyboards, Larry Fulcher on bass, Johnny Lee Schell on guitar, Joe Sublett on saxophone and Les Lovitt on trumpet, with Finnigan, Fulcher and Schell taking turns on vocals, often featuring two or all three on the same song, as is the case, for example, on the opening track, a country-soul take on the Steve Cropper/Wilson Pickett co-penned “Don’t Fight It” that anyone with a pulse will be sure to feel, with Fulcher and Finnigan also sharing the mic for the breezy, island/reggae sounds of a “Shine On” that’s every bit as good and uplifting a song as you’d hear from the likes of such other collective talents as the Royal Southern Brotherhood.

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Tune into the Weekend: no need to wait ’til the Midnight Hour for Handsome Jack’s rocking cover of Wilson Pickett classic

You, like us, may not have known Jack… New York-based rock trio Handsome Jack, that is. But the latest single from the band has certainly helped put them on our radar, and will likely do the same for you.
 
It’s an absolutely smashing version of Wilson Pickett’s mid-1960s hit “In the Midnight Hour” that has much of the soul of the original thanks to its rich horns, lush keyboards, and female backing vocals, but with the added punch of gritty, distorted vocals (think a heavier-hitting CCR, Bob Seger, or the more contemporary The Commonheart), ripping guitar, and pounding drums. 

Though it’s probably impossible to do any better than Pickett did the first time around, you have to commend Handsome Jack for taking on the challenge and delivering a version you can listen to not just once out of curiosity, but that you’ll come back to and enjoy time and time again!

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Forrest McDonald Band puts some of its best Blues in a Bucket on latest release

We liked the Forrest McDonald Band‘s earlier album Turnaround Blues so much that we wondered if we’d ever hear another one quite that good from them. Not that the band’s 2017 follow-up album Stand My Ground was anything to sneeze at: spotlighting the powerful vocal work of Becky Wright, the album was indeed a solid one and very much worth checking out, even if it didn’t attain quite the same level of impressiveness as that previous release.

Now a few years later comes along McDonald — who, you may recall, spent part of his career playing guitar for the likes of Bobby Womack, Bonnie Bramlett, and the famous Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, including having contributed that instantly recognizable guitar work on Bob Seger’s hit “Old Time Rock and Roll” — and his band as strong as (if not perhaps stronger than) ever with their latest recording Blues in a Bucket (World Talent Records).

Wright makes a fine return appearance, guesting on vocals for two tracks, the gritty, slithering “Powerhouse” and the closing “Let the Love in Your Heart”, an upbeat catchy duet that sounds like it could have come straight out of a Disney movie or parade. But most of the vocals this time around are handled by the immensely talented Andrew Black, who we also heard a bit from on Turnaround Blues and whose dynamic range of R&B/soul stylings is in a rare league with such names as the late Michael Ledbetter, Ty Taylor of Vintage Trouble, and Brian Templeton of The Proven Ones.

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