Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters strengthen family ties on Father’s Day

Despite its rich, more than 25-year history, we have to admit to being only a fairly recent fan of Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters, with the band really first having caught our ear with 2013’s Just for Today, a mostly instrumental affair save for its cover of Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind” that featured Diane Blue on vocals.

That’s almost the polar opposite of the band’s latest CD, Father’s Day (Stony Plain Records), where Blue is one of two guest vocalists (along with Nick Moss Band singer/guitarist Michael Ledbetter) to be featured on a total of 12 of the album’s baker’s dozen of tracks – including classics from Magic Sam, Otis Rush, B.B. King, Fats Domino, and the Rev. Thomas Dorsey – with the sole instrumental this time out being a bluesy cover of Bobby Timmons’ “Moanin'”. It’s also the first time the band includes a horn section in quite a while, making this Father’s Day a rather memorable one.

image001 (2) (250x224)The album opens on the midtempo shuffle of Otis Rush’s “It Takes Time”, one of many tunes on which we get to hear Earl’s stinging guitar combining with the gruff, soulful vocals of Ledbetter (who happens to be the descendent of a famous bluesman in Huddie Ledbetter, a.k.a. Lead Belly). Keyboardist Dave Limina also makes himself heard on this first track, and then frequently throughout the album, with Lorne Entress and Jim Mouradian holding down the rhythm nicely on drums and bass, respectively.

The jazzy “Higher Love” that comes next is a lovely duet between Blue and Ledbetter, as is also the case with the uptempo “Follow Your Heart” (revisiting a tune that first appeared on Earl’s 1984 They Call Me Mr. Earl) that comes a bit later in the program and ranks among the album’s best tracks.

Rush’s “Right Place Wrong Time” – with its downright growling vocals at points – is one of several slow, soulful numbers from Ledbetter, along with a simmering, quietly powerful “Giving Up” that really allows Ledbetter to demonstrate the range of his voice; the New Orleans flavor of Fats Domino’s “Every Night About This Time”; a creeping title track that’s as drenched in emotion musically as it is vocally as Ledbetter delivers its lyrics about making peace, forgiving, and moving on from fear and anger; and Magic Sam’s “All Your Love”, picking up the pace just a bit for an organ-filled cover of B.B. King’s “I Need You So Bad”.

Blue adds some sassy R&B vocals to the band’s groove-filled take on Magic Sam’s “What Have I Done Wrong”, and then moves to slow and smoky on “I’ll Take Care of You” (Brook Benton) before helping to close the album with the beautiful soothing gospel of Rev. Thomas Dorsey’s “(Take My Hand) Precious Lord”.

Earl’s playing is, as always, superb, as is the band’s cohesiveness after performing with this same line-up for a dozen years now. The album and title song are dedicated to Ronnie’s late father, with whom the 2014 Blues Music Award Guitarist of the Year reconciled after many years of strained relations just last Father’s Day, so part of the lesson here may be that it’s never too late to make a change for the better, including to start appreciating the music of Earl and his band The Broadcasters.

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After years of collaborating, soul/R&B crooners Billy Price & Otis Clay come together This Time for Real

When it comes to soul vocals, there may be no one more well-regarded than Mr. Otis Clay, while Pittsburgh rhythm & blues/soul singer Billy Price still at times seems like one of the region’s best-kept musical secrets, despite having served as vocalist for the Roy Buchanan band for three years back in the 1970s (you can hear Price on both Buchanan’s That’s What I Am Here For and Live Stock albums) in addition to fronting his own band here in southwestern PA for the past few decades.

Billy_Price_Otis_Clay_This_Time_for_Real (250x250)Still, it sometimes takes a pretty die-hard soul music fan to really be able to enjoy a full album from even the most masterful of the soul performers, with the songs often starting to sound a lot alike at some point. Which is what really makes this collaboration from Clay and Price – the pair’s first full album together even though they’ve been performing and recording songs with one another off and on since the early 1980s – such a gem; not only does This Time for Real (Bonedog Records/Vizztone Label Group) bring together two very fine voices, but it offers a remarkably rich diversity of tracks and grooves, making for one of the most entertaining soul-blues albums we’ve heard in quite some time.

While the tender, R&B sounds of songs like “I’m Afraid of Losing You” (Betty Everett), “Tears of God” (Los Lobos), “Love Don’t Love Nobody” (The Spinners), and “Don’t Leave Me Starving for Your Love” (Holland/Dozier/Holland) are all pretty superb, it’s the more upbeat numbers on which these two stars really shine, including the opening, horn-laced “Somebody’s Changing My Sweet Baby’s Mind” (Little Walter), which starts off delightful enough with Price on vocals and then just continues to get better with the switch to Clay for the next verse before the two join together on the chorus; perhaps our favorite track of the bunch in the smooth, soulful “All Because of Your Love” (Tyrone Davis); a funky, strutting “Broadway Walk” (Bobby Womack) that brings the party to you; and the old-time soul tones of “Too Many Hands” (one of two songs previously recorded by Clay on which the duo offers a new version here) and the closing “You Got Me Hummin'” (Sam & Dave).

Produced by guitarist and Roomful of Blues founder/former frontman Duke Robillard, who – along with his current band and a few members of Roomful’s horn section – also can be heard backing Price and Clay on the album, This Time for Real is what Clay calls “the culmination of what we started in 1982″ (the first time the two performed together). But with any luck, what we have here will really just be volume one.

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Boasting new line-up, Royal Southern Brotherhood Don’t Look Back on latest release

There’s some good news for Royal Southern Brotherhood fans on the band’s third studio album Don’t Look Back (Ruf Records), and that’s that the grooves here are just what we’ve come to expect from the band, despite the rather drastic change in the line-up over the past year with the departures of mid-west guitarists Mike Zito and Gregg Allman offspring Devon Allman.

Royal_southern_brother_dont_look_back (250x248)Replacing them are rising star Bart Walker and another next-generation bluesman in Tyrone Vaughan, son of original The Fabulous Thunderbirds guitarist Jimmie Vaughan (which also makes Tyrone the nephew of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan), both solid additions to the band even though not featured to quite the same degree vocally as their predecessors, putting percussionist Cyril Neville at the mic a bit more this time around than on past projects. That of course isn’t a bad thing, as there are few in the business as smooth on vocals as Neville, but perhaps the only thing that might have made Don’t Look Back any stronger would have been to diversify the sound just a tad more by putting Walker and/or Vaughan on lead vocals for another number or two, especially hearing the richness of tunes such as the powerful opening “I Wanna Be Free” – on which the two newcomers trade vocals (along with Neville) as well as licks on guitar; the gritty, banjo-laced title track featuring Walker upfront; and the greasy, Vaughan-led “Poor Boy”.

That said, there isn’t a bad track in the bunch, with other highlights here including the stinging “Hard Blues” (co-written by album producer Tom Hambridge); an upbeat “Reach My Goal” that offers such encouraging words as “take life as it comes, just don’t sell your soul/ keep your eye on the doughnut, not on the hole” and “time is something you can’t buy, steal or borrow/ I’m livin’ every day like there’s no tomorrow”; a funky, wah-filled, New Orleans-flavored “The Big Greasy”; the swampy “Bayou Baby” that features Jimmy Hall (Wet Willie) on harmonica and background vocals; a horn-infused “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like You No More” with its superb guitar interplay; and even a few much more tender numbers like the soft R&B strains of “Better Half” penned by Neville for his wife and the closing, acoustic “Anchor Me” (co-written with Anders Osborne).

In addition to Neville, original band members Charlie Wooton (bass) and Yonrico Scott (drums, percussion) also return, joined by special guests that include Hall, a horn section, and the son of an actual brother from one of the same mothers in nephew Ivan Neville (Hammond B3, piano, and clavinet).

While it may not ever be possible for the band to top its stellar self-titled debut, Don’t Look Back certainly ranks a close second, with Walker and Vaughan serving as impressive replacements for the band’s original guitarists. Anyone who may have doubted the future of the band upon the departures of two of its founding members will be glad to hear – literally – that RSB is still one of the best bands in the contemporary blues arena.

Here’s a look at them doing a few of the songs (“I Wanna Be Free” and “Don’t Look Back”) from the new album at New Orleans’ Louisiana Music Factory this spring.

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Keep your Belly full of blues with satisfying new releases from a traditional blues favorite as well as a rising UK contemporary blues outfit

One need look no further than the likes of Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Nirvana, Pete Seeger, Lonnie Donegan, and Ram Jam to be reminded of the influence of blues/folk multi-instrumentalist and singer Huddie Ledbetter – better known to most as Lead Belly – on classic rock, pop, and alternative music over the decades, having either served as the source of or helped popularize such songs as “Goodnight Irene”, “Gallows Pole”, “The Midnight Special”, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”, and “Black Betty”, among others. There are, of course, already plenty of best-of collections dedicated to the Louisiana-born songster, but for those looking to take a bit of a deeper dive into Lead Belly’s music, you won’t find anything quite as comprehensive or entertaining as this offering from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, a career-spanning five-disc, 108-track set entitled Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection.

Lead_Belly_Smithsonian_Collection (250x250)A campanion to Smithsonian’s earlier Grammy Award-winning Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection, the set contains 16 previously unreleased recordings, including four original songs and two radio programs recorded for WNYC that haven’t been heard since their original airing nearly seven and a half decades ago, several of the tunes from which are available only through the programs. In addition to the more popular songs noted above, you’ll also hear such gems as the mid-tempo “Bourgeois Blues”, the lively “Fannin Street (Mister Tom Hughes Town)” that’s as good a reminder of Ledbetter’s skill on the 12-string guitar as any; chugging, harmonica-laced tunes like “John Henry” and “Lead Belly’s favorite blues” according to one of the radio programs: “Good Morning Blues”, both featuring Sonny Terry on harmonica; the previously unreleased “I’m So Glad, I Done Got Over”; upbeat rags such as “It’s Tight Like That” and “Diggin’ My Potatoes”; an early version of “House of the Rising Sun”; and a terrific “Dekalb Blues” that ranks as one of the set’s best tracks despite its placement just a few songs shy of disc five’s close.

And that’s really just the tip of the musical iceberg, with an impressive array of other original and traditional folk (“Pick a Bale of Cotton”, “Cotton Fields”, “Bring Me a Little Water, Silvy”); country dance/”sukey jump” (“Yellow Gal”, “Chicken Crowing for Midnight”); spiritual (“We Shall Be Free”, “There’s a Man Going Around Taking Names”, “They Hung Him on the Cross”); work/prison & field hollers (“Grey Goose”, “Boll Weevil”, “Rock Island Line”, “On a Monday”, and a “Ham and Eggs” that isn’t about eating but rather a tune men on the chain gang sang while hammering away on the small rock piles); children’s play (“Ha-Ha This A Way”, “Sally Walker”); protest/political (“Jim Crow,” “Scottsboro Boys”, “Governor Pat Neff”); topical (“Blind Lemon”, “The Titanic”, “T.B. Blues”, “Hitler Song”, “The Hindenburg Disaster”, “Queen Mary”, “National Defense Blues”); Irish (“If It Wasn’t for Dicky”); and even a sing-a-long song or two (with Ledbetter accompanying, for example, a Bessie Smith recording of “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”), a surprising variety even for a man who estimated that he could sing “500 songs and never go back to the first one”.

Of course, much of the set focuses on the blues, ranging from the tender strains of such tracks as “Outskirts of Town”, a variation on “See See Rider” in “Easy Rider”, takes on the Leroy Carr classics “In the Evening (When the Sun Goes Down)” and “How Long, How Long” (the latter featuring some nice falsetto refrains from Lead Belly in addition to the terrific rhythm of his guitar), a slow-tempoed “Alberta”, a “Sail On, Little Girl” derived from various other blues songs from Tommy McClennan (“You Can’t Mistreat Me”), Bumble Bee Slim (“Sail On, Little Girl”), and Blind Boy Fuller (“Pistol Slapper Blues”), and what a WNYC announcer described as “one of the wailingest, lonesomest blues you’ve ever heard” in “Leaving Blues”, to mid-tempo numbers like “Sweet Jenny Lee”, “Packin’ Trunk Blues”, “Baby, Don’t You Love Me No More”, “Jail-house Blues”, and Bessie Smith’s “Backwater Blues”, to lively pieces like “Blues in My Kitchen, Blues in My Dining Room”, “4, 5, & 9″, the bouncy “Keep Your Hands Off Her” (Big Bill Broonzy), a smooth, jazzy “Silver City Bound” about Ledbetter’s travels with Blind Lemon Jefferson, “When a Man’s a Long Way from Home”, “One Dime Blues”, and the “high jive” of “How Come You Do Me Like You Do?”.

Often, Lead Belly can be heard discussing the meaning or origin of the song before he begins to sing, as on “Noted Rider” – which we learn refers to a “drunk woman been drinkin’ all night long and ain’t had no sleep. She been disturbin’ peace ’round in the neighborhood” – and the breezy, smooth-vocaled “Relax Your Mind” warning against distracted driving.

While most of the songs feature Ledbetter by himself on vocals and guitar, the set occasionally finds Lead Belly trading in his signature Stella guitar for an accordion (the first instrument he learned) – as is the case, for example, on “Sukey Jump”, “John Hardy”, and “Laura” – or being joined by such guests as Sonny Terry on harmonica and Brownie McGhee on guitar (including for “John Henry”, a rollicking “Diggin’ My Potatoes” on which McGhee also joins on vocals, “4, 5, & 9″, “Easy Rider”, and “National Defense Blues”, with Terry alone also accompanying Ledbetter on “How Long, How Long”, “On a Monday”, “Outskirts of Town”, and the opening “Irene” ), Woody Guthrie (vocals and mandolin on “Alabama Bound” and “Fiddler’s Dram” along with vocals on “We Shall Be Free”, where they’re also joined by Terry on harmonica), and Anne Graham (“Bring Me a Little Water, Silvy”, “What’s You Gonna’ Do When the World’s on Fire”, and “Rock Me (Hide Me in Thy Bosom)”). Lead Belly even plays piano on one tune (the barrelhouse-style “Big Fat Woman”), one of two songs – along with the catchy rhythm and nonsense “bang-a-lang, bang-a-lang, ba-da-da-dee-do-day” lyrics of “Jean Harlow” – to include some impressive scat singing from the songster.

As one might expect with such an extensive collection from this period, the sound quality varies greatly across the set, with some tracks being rather noisy while others are surprisingly clear. The discs come as part of a 140-page coffee table-sized hardbound book that also includes some nice essays, rare photos, and detailed track notes.

It’s not exactly clear when or how Ledbetter came to be known by the nickname of Lead Belly: some speculate it might have been in his youth when a friend or family member altered the sound of his surname by substituting the “t”s with “l”s, others say he earned it years later either on his way to or in prison. But regardless, his is a name that’s destined to live on for a long time, thanks to artists such as those mentioned at the start of this post and sets like this from Smithsonian Folkways.

TBelly_cover (249x250)We’re really no more certain of how UK contemporary blues band TBelly came up with their name than we are of Lead Belly’s, but we have to admit that we like what we’ve heard from them so far in their debut album Dead Men Don’t Pray (Cabin Music/ECR Music Group). While some blues fans might be tempted to dismiss the band upon learning that three of its five members formerly played in Les McKeown’s Scottish bubblegum pop group The Bay City Rollers (“Saturday Night”, “Be My Baby”, “I Only Want to Be With You”, “Bye Bye Baby”), we can assure you that the band’s sound is much deeper and more contemporary than you might at first imagine, with songs like “Mr TBelly Blues” and “I Want to Be With You” venturing well into heavy blues territory. Indeed, these guys are a whole lot closer to the likes of Moreland & Arbuckle, Johnny Sansone, or the Stephen Stills/Kenny Wayne Shepherd/Barry Goldberg supergroup The Rides – although perhaps slightly more polished and diverse even than any of these – than they are the band some of its members formerly called home.

Led by Russell Keefe on vocals and keyboards, along with fellow former Rollers Ross Lardner on lead guitar and Kevin Magill on drums, TBelly also includes bass player Riad Abji and backing singer Debs Bonomini, joined by guest harmonica player Al Richardson on several of the 11 original songs.

With deep, gritty – often croaking – vocals that range from the likes of Tom Waits to Joe Cocker and Eric Burdon to Louis Armstrong, Keefe has every bit the voice to match his strong playing on keyboards, displaying an impressive versatility in delivering tracks like the rocking numbers noted above to the jazzy, horn-accented “Night at the Ritz” and such soulful ballads as the sensitive acoustic closer “Broken” and soft, bluesy “I’ll Get You Home”.

Along the way, you’ll also hear the catchy, driving “Tie It on My Face”, with its “Wild, Wild West” (The Escape Club)-like rhythm and some ripping guitar from Lardner; the creeping, New Orleans-flavored “Lie in the Desert”, and a pleading, powerful “Best Out of You” that adds some subtle yet effective strings – particularly when they’re leading into another fine solo from Lardner. “Respectable Man” sounds like something Eric Burdon could easily have recorded, with hard-rocking grooves and some especially gritty harmonica from Richardson, who also contributes on the swaggering title track, while Bonomini’s background vocals go a long way in helping to balance Lardner’s stinging guitar and Keefe’s scratchy vocals on the simmering “Where’s the Doctor”.

Dead Men Don’t Pray makes for a solid debut from a surprisingly tight and well-rounded band, with Keefe’s lyrics representing yet another area of excellence, including such lines as “this is the way to combat social disease/ the lack of contact comes to me with such ease/ I miss the times you really pushed me around/ I want to lie in the desert with you”; “I have an automobile, it has an expensive feel/ I eat in all the right places, but I don’t get fulfilled/ but all I want from you is a night at the Ritz”; “well you made a fool of me, and you did it very well/ you took my heart and you crushed it like a very, very small eggshell/ your mind is a sewer and it runs very deep/ well you cut me up, and dumped me in a trunk, and you threw away the key” (“Where’s the Doctor”); and “I’ve been by the wayside/ I’ve been in despair/ I need a drink in the morning/ just to get me through the day/ I once was a proud man/ and I think I still am/ but the streets have a habit/ and the habit won’t go away” (“Broken”).

Once you’ve heard TBelly, chances are they too will be a habit that won’t go away; fortunately those in the U.S. will have the chance to hear more of them when the band tours the states starting in July, with appearances scheduled for New York City, D.C./Maryland/Virginia, Philadelphia, Chicago, Louisville, and hopefully more. If their live show is anything like that of this stellar debut, TBelly just may be the “must-see” blues act of the year.

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Ain’t Doing Too Bad

Here’s a little something to help get your summer off to the right start: another scorching edition of our BluesPowR Radio Hour featuring recent music from Joe Bonamassa’s Muddy Wolf Tribute, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Billy Boy Arnold, Benny Turner, Duke Robillard, Devon Allman, Mississippi Heat, Coco Montoya, Steve Earle, Tinsley Ellis, Junior Wells, MonkeyJunk, Sena Ehrhardt, and more!

Whether you’re stuck in an office, hanging by the pool, or on the road to Walley World or some other exotic destination, this latest episode makes for a perfect soundtrack for your summer. Check it out today!

Playlist
Ain’t Doing Too Bad – D.A. Foster
Nowhere To Go – Mississippi Heat
Ten Million Slaves – Devon Allman
I Got a Mind To Travel – Coco Montoya
Down in Mexico – Duke Robillard Band
I Knew She Was a Liar (But I Never Would Have Called Her a Thief) – Davy Knowles
Ladies Shoes – Missy Anderson
What’s On The Menu Mama – Billy Boy Arnold
Lucky One – MonkeyJunk
Blues Is A Woman – Chris O’Leary Band
King of the Blues – Steve Earle & the Dukes
Midnight Ride – Tinsley Ellis
I Wanna Give It to You Baby – Benny Turner
If Trouble Was Money – Sena Ehrhardt
Meet My Maker – John Campbelljohn Trio
Love My Baby – Junior Wells w/ Buddy Guy
The Day After Yesterday – Moondog Medicine Show
I’m Not Downhearted – Colin Cooper Project
Outlaw Angel – Joanne Shaw Taylor
All Night Boogie (All Night Long) – Joe Bonamassa

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He’s back! An exclusive interview with blues rocker Walter Trout

One year after a lifesaving liver transplant last Memorial Day, blues-rock guitarist Walter Trout has much to be thankful for as he prepares to return to the stage next week. Here’s what Trout had to say when we talked with him by phone a few weeks back about being 10 days away from death, his “third chance at life” and returning health, the upcoming “I’m Back!” tour, and some of the other artists he’s worked with, admired, and mentored through the years, from such legends as John Mayall and Luther Allison to Mike Zito, UK blues-rocker Danny Bryant, and up-and-comers like Laurence Jones and Trout’s own son Jon.

Thanks to Walter for taking the time to chat with us, and we look forward to catching him on tour this summer!

BluesPowR Blog (BPB): Hi, Walter, wonderful to be talking to you – how’re you feeling?
Walter Trout (WT): Right now, man, I feel great. You know, I’m incredibly joyous and overwhelmingly happy to be alive. Being alive has a whole different meaning to me than it ever did before, because I came so face-to-face with my mortality for months and months. The doctors that I dealt with – none of them thought I would make it, and they fought for me – my wife fought for me harder than anybody, but I was pretty much gone. I’m kind of a miracle to still be here, and life is beautiful beyond all expression right now.

BPB: How long before the transplant did you know you were sick?
Walter_Trout_press (400x400)WT: It was a year before the transplant. I knew that I was carrying Hepatitis C but I showed no symptoms and I felt great. I had a lot of doctors tell me “You can carry that for 40 or 50 years and never show any symptoms, and you’ll be fine”…and so they told me “Just live a clean, healthy life”. I had known that for a while, for a couple of years, I think.

A year before the transplant, I was on tour in Europe, in Germany, and I woke up one night at about 4 a.m. and I was swelled up like a balloon with liquid. I had had cramps in my hand and I thought it was due to a magnesium deficiency so I was taking all this magnesium, and when I woke up all swelled up, I thought “Okay, I’ve got an allergic reaction to the magnesium”.

Luckily, I only had a week left on the tour. I did the rest of the tour sitting down, and then I came home and immediately went to a doctor. He said “No, it’s not magnesium; your liver is dying and you have this condition called ascites which is where you swell up”. They actually put me in the hospital and they put a drain in my stomach and they drained 25 pounds of fluid out of my abdomen, that’s how swelled up I was. That’s when they said “Your liver is fried”; I switched to a vegan diet and I stopped drinking coffee and I tried to take care of the liver as best I could. But I still was swelled up and I had to go in every couple of weeks and get drained out of my abdomen.

That’s when I did my last album (The Blues Came Callin’); I did that while I was really sick. I wrote the thing and recorded it while incredibly ill, and at one point, I was like in a wheelchair. Then, right around the time I finished the album was when I was just permanently hospitalized and I was in ICU in UCLA out here in Los Angeles for six weeks. They told me in L.A. that I had 90 days to live. After another month, where I had like 60 days to live, my wife came and transferred me to the Nebraska Medical Center because you have a much greater chance there of receiving a liver; there’s too much of a waiting list in Los Angeles. By the time I got the liver in Nebraska, I had about 10 days left to live; I was in incredibly bad shape.

BPB: And that was around Memorial Day?
WT: Yes, I got the transplant on Memorial Day, May 26th.

BPB: So on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you say you’re feeling right now?
WT: I’m feeling about an 8; I still have some days that I’m kind of low energy or I still have some days where I have some sort of minor equilibrium episodes where I feel like I need to sit down or I need to hold on to something. But that’s few and far between; I’ve got plenty of energy – I’m working out every day with weights and riding a recumbent bike. I’m playing the guitar a couple of hours every day. I’m rehearsing with the band. I’m starting to write songs; I’m going to make a new record in May. So I’m actually feeling great.

(We did our interview with Walter a little while back and we suspect his health has only continued to improve since we’ve talked with him. Here’s a video he and his wife Marie shared with fans recently on the occasion of the one-year anniversary of his transplant, where you can see Walter is looking and sounding pretty great as well.)

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New to the Gallery: Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival in photos

Tommy Castro

Tommy Castro

If you missed our earlier recap of this year’s Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival and its numerous tributes to the recently departed B.B. King, you can read it here. Or, for a quick and dirty look at the weekend, check out our photos from the festival, now posted to the BluesPowR Gallery. There, you’ll find dedicated folders for Buddy Guy, Jonny Lang, Bobby Rush, Charlie Musselwhite, and Tommy Castro & the Painkillers, as well as a shared album including images of Gregg Allman, Beth Hart, Shemekia Copeland, Jarekus Singleton, the Chesapeake Bay Blues Band, and Mingo Fishtrap.

We hope you enjoy!

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Buddy Guy

SONY DSC

Shemekia Copeland

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Buddy Guy, Gregg Allman, Charlie Musselwhite, others remember King of the Blues during Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival

Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy

As far as we can recollect from both our own attendance over the years and the listing of past performers on the event’s website, the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival never had the honor of having B.B. King play their stage during the festival’s dozen year history. But with this year’s event taking place just days after the death of the beloved King of the Blues, you can imagine that there were plenty of memories being shared and tributes being paid to the blues great during the 13th offering of the festival that took place last weekend on the shores of Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis, Md., from Buddy Guy and a now-16-year-old Quinn Sullivan‘s performance of “Sweet Sixteen”, Gregg Allman dedicating his opening song of “Statesboro Blues” to B.B. (after the band entered the stage on King’s “Playin’ with My Friends”), and Jarekus Singleton talking about how B.B. served as an inspiration to him and countless others from Mississippi, to Tommy Castro & the Painkillers’ take on King’s “Bad Luck” and the Chesapeake Blues Band’s back-to-back salute in the “The Thrill is Gone” and “It’s My Own Fault”. Perhaps the most poignant of the moments was Charlie Musselwhite’s offering of his “Christo Redemptor” instrumental as “a tone prayer to B.B.”, who Musselwhite went on to praise by saying “I hope that someday they make a national holiday for him.”

Charlie Musselwhite

Charlie Musselwhite

While those kinds of sentimental notes helped to ensure that this festival will be one attendees long remember, we’re happy to report that neither they nor the rains that occurred each afternoon did much to dampen the spirit of the rest of the weekend, which also included some fine performances from the Queen of the Blues Shemekia Copeland, guitarist and singer Jonny Lang, the soulful grooves of Austin’s Mingo Fishtrap, Blues Hall of Famer and recent double Blues Music Award-winner – for B.B. King Entertainer of the Year and Soul Blues Male Artist – Bobby Rush, and Beth Hart, among others.

Here are a few more of the highlights from the weekend, which again proved to be another impressive one not only in terms of the acts the organizers were able to bring in to a single stage, but also in raising money for a number of worthwhile charities.

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Bobby Rush

Tommy Castro & the Painkillers doing the title track from their latest album The Devil You Know, along with a great extended version of John Lee Hooker’s “Serves Me Right to Suffer”
Bobby Rush blowing and singing his way through “Ride in My Automobile”
Buddy Guy closing out the festival with a terrific set that began with a few of our favorites in “Damn Right I Got the Blues” and “Five Long Years”, later stepping out into the audience for “Steppin’ Out, Slippin’ In”, and returning for a Muddy Waters/Junior Wells medley of “Hoochie Coochie Man/Nineteen Years Old/Hoodoo Man/Early in the Morning”, eventually ending on songs that included “Feels Like Rain” and “Meet Me in Chicago”
Beth Hart delivering the bad-girl song “Trouble” off her new album Better Than Home
Gregg Allman continuing a rain-filled start to his set with “I’m No Angel”, “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin'”, and “Come & Go Blues” on organ before switching to guitar for Muddy Waters’ “I Can’t Be Satisfied”
Shemekia Copeland belting out a powerful “Married to the Blues” during her 11th appearance at the festival, as well as visiting a few songs from her father Johnny “Clyde” Copeland in “Pie in the Sky” and “Ghetto Child”
Charlie Musselwhite doing “River Hip Mama”
Jonny Lang kicking off his set with “Blew Up the House”, later diving into a slow, burning cover of Muddy Waters’ “Forty Days”
– a diverse Sunday morning set from a Chesapeake Bay Blues Band featuring Dean Rosenthal, Tommy Lepson, Robert Frahm, and current/past members of The Nighthawks Mark Wenner, Jan Zukowski, and Mark Stutso that included classics like “Little Red Rooster”, “Walking By Myself”, and “Stand By Me”
– a soulful, energetic performance from Mingo Fishtrap, fresh off an appearance at the New Orleans JazzFest, with originals like the groovy “Too Far Gone” and covers such as Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” and Joe Cocker’s “Space Captain”

Look for more photos from the festival in our BluesPowR Gallery soon!

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Jonny Lang

Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman

Beth Hart

Beth Hart

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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.

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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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