Deva Mahal, Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton join Bettye LaVette and others at inaugural Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival

Mahal

We weren’t able to catch much of the inaugural edition of the Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival that took place at the August Wilson Center in downtown Pittsburgh this past weekend, but the few acts we did manage to see Saturday afternoon were certainly good ones, with Deva Mahal finishing up the outdoor portion of the day before the Rev. Shawn Amos and Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton helped get things started on the intimate indoor stage.

Here are a few pictures we snapped during those sets, any of whom would be well worth checking out, hopefully not if, but when they return to the ‘burgh to play slightly longer engagements or at least on their recordings. You can read more about the debut album from Mahal, whose father happens to be a pretty famous blues guy by the name of Taj Mahal, here, and about Paxton, who we last caught at the Lancaster Roots & Blues Fest a few years back, here.

Amos

Mahal & Ingram

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although we’ve heard one or two of his albums, this was our first time seeing the Rev. Amos live, and were definitely impressed by his energetic, entertaining set, with blues legend Bobby “Blue” Bland’s son Rodd Bland on drums.

Paxton

Among the acts we were disappointed to miss at the festival this weekend were headliners Bettye LaVette (Saturday) and John Scofield (Sunday) as well as earlier Saturday afternoon acts Billy Price, Teeny Tucker and Christione “Kingfish” Ingram, although we were fortunate to see the latter join Mahal for her set’s closing number, an always soulful take on Carole King’s “Take a Giant Step”. Not too shabby of a line-up for a first-time effort, one that we hope will have a long, rich history here in the Steel City!

Amos

Ingram

Amos w/ Bland

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Blues Been Mighty Good to Me

Things may finally be starting to cool down a bit on the outdoor thermometer but we’ve got another hot one for you here with this edition of our talk-free BluesPowR Radio Hour, featuring double-shots from both Jim Gustin & Truth Jones as well as Delmark Records’ 65th anniversary tribute album, with tracks from Demetria Taylor and Corey Dennison & Gerry Hundt. Plus, you’ll hear music from Bobby Messano, Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers, Tom Hambridge & Allen Toussaint, Theotis Taylor, and more!

Playlist
Big Hearted Woman – Jim Gustin & Truth Jones (Memphis)
Half Past Ten – Jim Gustin & Truth Jones (Memphis)
Make It Work – Andy Frasco (Songs from the Road)
Lonely Leavin’ Town – Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers (Big Road)
Never Too Late to Break a Bad Habit – Bobby Messano (Bad Movie)
Beautician Blues – Joe Goldmark (Blue Steel)
High Desert – Marie/Lepanto (Tenkiller)
Broke and Hungry (tribute to Sleepy John Estes) – Corey Dennison & Gerry Hundt (Tribute: Newly recorded blues celebration of Delmark’s 65th Anniversary)
Riverboat (tribute to Big Time Sarah) – Demetria Taylor (Tribute: Newly recorded blues celebration of Delmark’s 65th Anniversary)
Fly Away to Be At Rest – Theotis Taylor (Something Within Me)
Blues Been Mighty Good to Me – Tom Hambridge w/ Allen Toussaint (The NOLA Sessions)

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Reigning Queen of Beale Street Barbara Blue makes big splash with Fish in Dirty H20

It’s been a few years now since we’ve had a chance to talk about smoky-voiced Pittsburgh native Barbara Blue, who has been holding down a five-nights-a-week gig at Silky O’Sullivan’s on Memphis’ Beale Street for the past 21 years, a feat that long ago earned her the title of “The Reigning Queen of Beale Street”.

Having previously recorded albums with both Taj Mahal’s Phantom Blues Band and Willie “Pops” Mitchell’s house band, Blue is still giving us plenty to talk about with her 11th independent release Fish in Dirty H2O (Big Blue Records), which may just be one of Barbara’s finest albums yet.

Everything here is solid, although we probably would have appreciated more of a straight-up blues take on the title track, a cover of a Koko Taylor tune on which Blue is joined by rapper Al Kapone. While we have to give Blue props for taking such a creative approach to the song, and it certainly works, there’s a part of us that really would have loved to hear Blue belting this one out just as Koko did (and as Blue herself does on other tracks like the tough driving rocker “Accidental Theft” that features former Gregg Allman Band guitarist Scott Sharrard and a New Orleansy “Wild Women” with horns, piano and female backing vocals), especially with so much of the project tending toward the swaying side.
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Bad Day

It doesn’t matter what kind of day it’s been so far, it will only get better once you’re listening to this latest edition of our BluesPowR Radio Hour, which, we think you’ll agree, has lots of soul with music from Billy Price, Danielle Nicole, the Corey Dennison Band, The Proven Ones, and Too Slim & the Taildraggers, plus other tracks from Buddy Guy, Little Freddie King, and Johnny Chops & the Razors.

So go ahead, crank it up, and have a good one!

Playlist
Believer – Johnny Chops & the Razors (Johnny Chops & the Razors)
Expert Witness – Billy Price w/ Nancy Wright (Reckoning)
Love Ain’t Fair – Corey Dennison Band (Night After Night)
Lord I Just Can’t Keep from Crying – Danielle Nicole (Cry No More)
Someday You Might Change Your Mind – Danielle Nicole w/ Kelly Finnigan (Cry No More)
Can’t Do Nothing Babe – Little Freddie King (You Make My Night)
Don’t Leave Me This Way – The Proven Ones (Wild Again)
Bad Day – Buddy Guy (The Blues is Alive and Well)
Time Has Come Today – Too Slim & the Taildraggers (High Desert Moon)

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Delmark Records celebrates 65th anniversary with album paying Tribute to label’s past artists

Recently, we told you about the latest album from Lurrie Bell, on which he and brothers Steve, James and Tyson (dubbing themselves The Bell Dynasty) paid tribute to their late, harmonica-blowing father Carey Bell. Now that same record label celebrates its 65th anniversary with a compilation that follows much the same approach: 11 tracks presented by current or recent artists on the Delmark Records label as individual tributes to some of the musicians who recorded for the company during the 1960s and ’70s.

This includes one more track for their father from Lurrie and his brothers (accompanied again by Eddie Taylor Jr. on guitar), who display every bit the fire here on “One Day You’re Gonna Get Lucky” as throughout their own recording, with other real gems coming from the likes of Omar Coleman (a funky take on Junior Wells‘ “Train I Ride” that gets the album off to a great start), Jimmy Johnson and Dave Specter (an “Out of Bad Luck” that honors Magic Sam), Linsey Alexander and Billy Flynn (a soulful, swaying tribute to Jimmy Dawkins in “All for Business”), and Lil’ Ed and Dave Weld (who present a stinging “Speak My Mind” in memory of Ed’s uncle J.B. Hutto).
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Columbus’ Project Blues Review attracts dollars, starpower as Eric Clapton joins headliner Jimmie Vaughan onstage

We’ve talked here before about the Project Blues Review fundraiser that takes place each summer in Columbus, Ohio, which has provided a few of the most memorable shows we’ve had the pleasure of seeing, first, a 2014 Tribute to Muddy Waters that featured John Primer, Bob Stroger, Bob Margolin, Bob Corritore, and David Maxwell, among others, all on one stage, and then, in 2017, an all-night set from guitarist Ronnie Earl and his band.

Vaughan & Clapton (DustyBlues Photography 2018, www.DustyBlues.com)

We weren’t able to make the 2018 edition of the show this past weekend, but those who did were treated to another great night of blues that again included regulars such as Jonn Del Toro Richardson, Bob Margolin, Sean Carney, and the Texas Horns, along with headliner Jimmie Vaughan, who was joined for a few songs by another guitarist you may have heard of who happens to own a home near Columbus: Eric Clapton.

According to the Where’s Eric! Eric Clapton Fan Club Magazine and other accounts, Clapton joined Vaughan, Mike Flanigin (organ), and George Rains (drums) (together billed as the Jimmie Vaughan Trio) for three or four songs at the start of the band’s headlining set (thanks to DustyBlues Photography for the photos!), including Otis Smokey Smothers’ “Come On Rock Little Girl”, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s “Dirty Work At The Crossroads” and Guitar Jr. (Lonnie Brooks)’s “Roll, Roll, Roll”. It must’ve been like Christmas in August for those in attendance, but it looks like those of us who missed it are going to have to wait until October for our Christmas gift from Clapton, who also announced this weekend that his next album, Happy Xmas (Oct. 12), will be of the holiday variety.

Organizers report that this year’s Project Blues Review was also a huge success on the fundraising side. With these kinds of line-ups and surprise appearances, it’s pretty clear that these guys are doing a whole lot more and deeper than “Pretending” and are quickly making Project Blues Review an event serious blues fans just can’t afford to miss!

(DustyBlues Photography 2018 www.DustyBlues.com)

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Matt Andersen & The Mellotones team for Live at Olympic Hall

Early last year, we told you how good Canadian guitarist and singer Matt Andersen can be live. If you still haven’t gotten the chance to experience that for yourself, you no longer have to take our word for it, with Andersen’s latest CD Live at Olympic Hall (True North Records) providing all the convincing you’ll need. Backed here by the 10-piece Halifax ensemble The Mellotones, Andersen rolls through some of his catchiest tracks and a few choice covers that together allow him to accomplish just what he set out to do: “mak(ing) a live record that would be something fans could come back to again and again, the way he did when he was a kid, with Eric Clapton Unplugged“.

Kicking off on a soaring “Weightless” that will have you feeling good from the get-go while also quickly reminding you that Andersen is one of the most impressive male vocalists around, it isn’t until about four songs in (presenting along the way a swinging “Alberta Gold” and breezy, slightly countryish “I Don’t Wanna Give In”) that Andersen slows things down a bit, first with the somewhat haunting, groove-filled “What Will You Leave” and then the country-soul of a “Coal Mining Blues” that nicely demonstrates the softer, more tender side of Andersen’s vocals.
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Lurrie Bell and brothers celebrate harpmaster father on Tribute to Carey Bell

Nearly 30 years after playing together with their father, harmonica ace Carey Bell, on the 1990 Dynasty! album, brothers Lurrie, James, Steve, and Tyson Bell are continuing to carry on their dad’s legacy as Lurrie Bell & The Bell Dynasty. Although the Dynasty is but a part-time gig for the brothers, with Lurrie (vocals and guitar) having a successful solo career in addition to being a co-founder (along with harmonica player Billy Branch) of The Sons of Blues, Steve (harmonica) being a current member of blues singer/guitarist John Primer’s band, and Tyson (bass) having recently worked with another true son of the blues in Magic Slim (Morris Holt) offspring Shawn Holt, you’d swear from the tightness of the siblings’ latest recording that these guys have been playing together, well, all of their lives.

Appropriately available on the same Delmark Records label as on which Carey released his debut album (Carey Bell’s Blues Harp) almost 50 years ago and two collaborations with Lurrie in the 1977 Heartaches and Pain (Lurrie’s debut recording) and 2007’s Gettin’ Up, released just weeks before Carey died at age 70, Tribute to Carey Bell features a dozen tracks honoring their father. This includes the band’s take on a number of originals and classics performed by Carey throughout his career, as well as a pair of originals from the band in James’ dragging “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” — one of three tunes on which James (who also plays drums on the project) handles vocals, along with “What My Momma Told Me” (Junior Wells) and the funky “Break It Up” (Little Walter) — and a shuffling, Billy Branch-penned “Carey Bell Was a Friend of Mine” that features Branch on vocals and trading some nice licks with Steve on harmonica.
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Harp ace Bob Corritore & friends blow through the crossroads with Don’t Let the Devil Ride!

We’ve talked here before about some of the terrific collaborations of which harmonica master Bob Corritore has been a part over the years, including recordings with the likes of piano great Henry Gray, guitarist John Primer, and Chicago bluesman Tail Dragger, just to note a few, and Corritore’s new album Don’t Let the Devil Ride! (VizzTone Label Group/Southwest Musical Arts Foundation) is another perfect example of that, featuring a dozen songs captured during nine different sessions between 2014 and 2017. While the title of the project makes it clear that ol’ Beelzebub wasn’t welcome to the party, Corritore does bring a whole bunch of talented friends along for this devilishly good ride down the blues highway, including Gray and Tail Dragger, as well as guitarist Big Jon Atkinson, bassist Bob Stroger, and vocalists such as Sugaray Rayford, Willie Buck, Oscar Wilson, and Alabama Mike, among others.

We could easily go through this album for you track by track, but the truth is that 1) absolutely everything here is solid and 2) doing that will really only delay you from going out to get a copy, which is something you’re definitely going to want to do. If, however, you’re looking for suggestions on a track or two (or four) on which to start, we might recommend the uptempo “Tell Me Mama” (Little Walter) that features Oscar Wilson on vocals, Jimi “Primetime” Smith and Johnny Rapp on guitar, and Henry Gray on piano; a creeping “Laundromat Blues” that combines high, raspy vocals from Alabama Mike with some haunting harmonica from Corritore, guitar from Big Jon Atkinson, and piano from Bob Welch to make for a tune that’s so gritty, you might really actually need a laundromat; a shuffling “Steal Your Joy” with booming vocals from Sugaray Rayford, guitar from Chris James and Mojo Mark, and bass from Patrick Rynn; and the funky grooves of “Blues Why You Worry Me?” with its screechy Hill Country style vocals from Alabama Mike as well as guitar from Atkinson and Danny Michel.

With its rotating cast of vocalists and musicians, Don’t Let the Devil Ride! once again demonstrates that, for Corritore, playing isn’t about promoting himself so much as it is about the music that’s created, with just as many, if not more, solos on guitar and piano as you’ll hear from Corritore’s harmonica. Together, it makes for a, well, hell of a ride, one that should be an automatic lock for the traditional blues album nomination in next year’s music awards. Here’s hoping there’s some room in that car for an awards statue or two!

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Blues supergroup The Proven Ones proves its mettle on Wild Again debut

With each person having already distinguished himself as an individual performer, sideman, or member of such accomplished blues bands as The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters, The Mannish Boys, and Sugar Ray & the Bluetones, it should come as no surprise that the new soul-blues-rock supergroup The Proven Ones can make some great music together. But what may surprise you is just how great the music on the band’s debut album Wild Again (Roseleaf Records) is, with the recording quickly becoming one of our favorites of 2018.

Featuring the sturdy, soulful vocals of Boston bluesman Brian Templeton, the guitar talents of Kid Ramos, the keyboards of Anthony Geraci (Sugar Ray & the Bluetones), bass from Willie J. Campbell, and drums from Jimi Bott (who also recorded and mixed the project), the band — whose members have appeared on hundreds of recordings — very much lives up to its name on this inaugural offering, proving to be easily on par with the likes of other successful recent collectives such as Royal Southern Brotherhood, The Rides, and the Tedeschi Trucks Band.
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