Ghost Hounds are anything but broken on blues album You Broke Me

A few weeks back, we told you about the second single from Pittsburgh-based blues-rock sextet the Ghost Hounds‘ upcoming blues album You Broke Me (Maple House Records): an electrifying cover of the Howling Wolf classic “Smokestack Lightning“. So, while we knew the first two tracks off the album were definitely killer, with the chugging opening “Baby We’re Through” having been released earlier this year, we had to wonder if it was possible for the rest of the album to be anywhere as solid, and are pleased to report that is indeed the case: from the early-Stones-like slow blues of the title track that follows those two singles to the swinging take on Ry Cooder’s “Willie Brown Blues” (from the Crossroads movie soundtrack) and all the way through to the album’s closing number, the second of two (both excellent) versions of the original “Through Being Blue Over You”, this one a swaying acoustic take that nicely highlights singer Tre’ Nation’s soulful vocals, and, the former, a slightly more robust electric version. 

Filling out the album are a strong, John Lee Hooker-ish acoustic rendition of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Lonesome Graveyard” that adds some prominent piano, a creeping “Still You” and an early rock n’ roll sounding “On Your Trail”. The tracks routinely allow each of the instruments to stretch out, providing ample opportunity to hear some bouncy keys, stinging guitar, and driving drums throughout the album, with fellow western PA musician Charlie Barath also contributing harmonica on a handful of songs.

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Tune into the Weekend: Ghost Hounds unleash Smokestack Lightning, announce upcoming blues album

We’ve been meaning to write something about the Pittsburgh-based blues-rockers Ghost Hounds for some time now, and for once procrastination may actually have worked in our favor: not only do we get to tell you about the band, with whom some of you may already be familiar as an opening act for Bob Seger or the Rolling Stones in recent years, but we get to do so in the context of their new blues-focused album, You Broke Me (Maple House Records), announced today.

Although you’ll have to wait until May 13th to hear the whole album, here’s the band’s gritty, well, smoking take on the Howlin’ Wolf classic “Smokestack Lightning,” which starts with some searing guitar before giving way to Tre’ Nation’s soulful vocals, some muddy harmonica and bouncy keys.


With “Smokestack Lightning” following the blazing first single from the album – “Baby We’re Through” – earlier this year, it’s sounding like You Broke Me could very much be a winner, something we’ll be sure to report back on in the coming weeks if the rest of the album sounds anywhere as good as these first two tracks!

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Tune into the Weekend: Joe Louis Walker remembers B.B. and Lucille with some Regal Blues

Veteran blues guitarist and singer Joe Louis Walker has a new album out this month on Cleopatra Records, which, as acknowledged by its title of Eclectic Electric, is indeed an eclectic collection of tracks ranging from originals like the chugging opener “Uptown Girl Blues” that features fellow guitarist Jimmy Vivino to covers that span from Muddy Waters’ “Two Trains Running” to a funky take on Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” featuring song co-writer Waddy Wachtel on guitar, a swampified “All She Wants to Do is Dance” (Don Henley), and a “Hotel California” (the Eagles), featuring longtime Walker pal Murali Coryell on guitar, that may be even more haunting than the original with its blistering guitar work and Walker’s unique vocals.

But haunting is a far cry from the sound of our favorite track off the album: a new version of this swinging original we heard from Walker once before, back on the B.B. King Blues Band‘s 2019 album The Soul of the King. While this version again finds Walker backed by the former members of B.B.’s band, it also includes Doyle Bramhall II as a guest guitarist, and is just what the doctor — no, the King — ordered to help kick your weekend off right!

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Latest Jazz Festing in Place offers classic performances from B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Dr. John and more

If you didn’t tune in for the first weekend of this fall’s edition of WWOZ’s Jazz Festing in Place the past weekend (with the live, in-person version of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival once again cancelled due to the continued pandemic), you missed hearing some terrific archival sets from musicians from throughout the festival’s five-plus decade history. In addition to some well-known blues acts like B.B. King (1994), John Lee Hooker (1991), Bonnie Raitt (2009), Dr. John (2009), Clarence Gatemouth Brown (2000), Samantha Fish (2018), Marcia Ball (1999), Champion Jack Dupree (1990) and Walter “Wolfman” Washington (2016), highlights of this weekend’s lineup also included a 2013 set from Guitar Slim Jr. and the famed 1974 Professor Longhair “Fire Benefit” show — featuring the Professor himself as well as the likes of Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, The Meters, Earl King, and Snooks Eaglin — along with performances from such other greats as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Stevie Wonder, Irma Thomas, the Allman Brothers Band, Buckwheat Zydeco, The Band, Dianne Reeves, John Mayer, the Funky Meters, Mahalia Jackson, Carole King, the Voice of the Wetlands All Stars and Herbie Hancock, among others.

The good news is you don’t need to be too bummed about missing it: you can listen to any or all of the past weekend’s sets for the next couple of weeks on WWOZ’s online two-week archive. And there’s also a  second weekend of the virtual festival starting this Thursday, featuring a whole different slate of performances, including sets from Allen Toussaint, Fats Domino, Jon Cleary, The Neville Brothers, Joe Cocker, Trombone Shorty, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Ellis Marsalis, Henry Butler, Dee Dee Bridgewater, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Santana, The Meters, Anders Osborne and more!

All of which is to say, if you’re not finding some way of Jazz Festing in Place, whether it’s catching the sets upon their initial broadcast or later through the online archive, you’re really missing out!

And many thanks of course to WWOZ for helping to “let New Orleans live in (all of us)” with the once-again fantastic programming!

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Tune into the Weekend: Canadian bluesman Steve Hill’s take on Robert Johnson classic Hellhound on My Trail

Probably one of the biggest highlights of our week was the release of this new single from one-man blues band Steve Hill: a splendid cover of the haunting Robert Johnson classic “Hellhound on My Trail”, available now through all streaming platforms. We think it will be one of yours too!

Enjoy!

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Tune into the Weekend: Not just Dear America, but the Whole World’s Got the Blues on Eric Bibb’s latest album

We can’t think of another bluesman or woman as consistently good at what they do as Eric Bibb; although his music may not always be the flashiest or provide for the most diverse of sets, there’s probably nothing that we’ve heard from the folk-bluesman over the decades that we haven’t appreciated and liked, and his latest album Dear America (Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group) is no exception.

Here’s our favorite track from the album, the creeping, slightly haunting “Whole World’s Got the Blues” that also features guitarist and singer Eric Gales:

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Remembering Mike Finnigan

Not just the blues — but the whole music — world lost one of its greatest living musicians last week with the passing of organist and singer Mike Finnigan, whose work we admired not only with bands we’ve reviewed here over the years like the Phantom Blues Band and Mannish Boys and through his own solo career but also accompanying such household names as Taj Mahal, Etta James, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Bonnie Raitt, Joe Cocker, Dave Mason, and Jimi Hendrix, among others.

We’ve gathered just a small sampling of some of our favorite blues tunes from Finnigan for you below, but there’s plenty of more great stuff out there featuring Finnigan’s terrific playing and soulful vocals, fairly easily found through a Google search.

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Tune into the Weekend: 2019 International Blues Challenge Solo Act Winner Jon Shain Airs “2020 Blues”

Even with 2020 now well within our rearview mirror, Covid and other events have helped to ensure the year will be long-remembered, and, for many, probably not among the U.S.’ finest days.

That’s just one of the issues North Carolina folk-bluesman Jon Shain, who won the 2019 International Blues Challenge in the solo/duo act category, explores on his latest album with longtime collaborator FJ Ventre, Never Found a Way to Tame the Blues (Flyin’ Records), along with such other subjects as the refugee crisis, global economics, and Holland’s new pot law as well as more classic blues themes like love gone wrong and life in the music business.

While the topics addressed on the album are sometimes weighty, the playing from Shain, Ventre and their guest musicians isn’t, weaving between straight blues, rock, folk, rockabilly,  ragtime, and jazz sounds created by guitar, upright bass, harmonica, mandolin, fiddle, piano, drums and percussion, and more.

Shain — who has played with the likes of John Dee Holeman as well as opened for acts such as John  Hiatt, Keb’ Mo’, and Little Feat — and Ventre deliver this particular track on 12-string and upright bass, accompanying powerful lyrics regarding  hatred and cynicism, equality, and hope for the future that include such statements as “I ache for my sisters—they’ve borne the brunt for so long/ I’m waitin’ for the day when they’re in power where they belong” and “I’m prayin’ for the youth—the only ones who could figure out this mess/ Our grand experiment has ended with us all under duress/ We got a national case of too much stress.”

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Eddie 9V sticks with impressing in Paste Studio session

If you still haven’t had a chance to check out young Atlanta soul/bluesman Eddie 9V as we’ve encouraged, or you just want to take in more from him after liking what you’ve heard on either his livestreams during the pandemic and/or albums Left My Soul in Memphis, live Way Down the Alley, or most recent Little Black Flies, this week’s Paste Studio on the Road session with Eddie and his band provided a terrific opportunity to hear some of Eddie’s gritty music stylings, as well as from the artist on such things as recording his latest album, the musical vibe and lyrical inspiration created by fish fries, his spirit of choice, and the improving climate for live performances.

Musically, you’ll hear Eddie’s “nod to Elmore James” in “She Got Some Money” as well as the title tracks from both of Eddie’s studio albums and the single “The Come Up”, all of which are sure to get you groovin’ just in time for the weekend.

Watch Eddie’s Paste Studio session below!

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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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