Blues vets Primer, Corritore reunite for Ain’t Nothing You Can Do!

Despite the current political mood, this spring seems to be one of much collaboration in the blues music world, with new joint projects out or on the way from the likes of Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’, Charlie Musselwhite and Ben Harper, Guy Davis and Fabrizio Poggi, and Michael Ledbetter and Monster Mike Welch, to name a few. We’ll have more for you on some of those other projects in the weeks ahead, but thought we’d get things started with a reunion of two bluesmen we last heard Knockin’ Around These Blues together back in 2013, in guitarist John Primer (Muddy Waters Band) and harmonica ace Bob Corritore, who’s really banged out some terrific solo and duo albums in recent years, collaborating, for example, on releases with the likes of youngblood guitarist Big Jon Atkinson, veteran pianist Henry Gray, and longtime vocalist friend Tail Dragger.

So it may not come as a big surprise that Ain’t Nothing You Can Do! (Delta Groove Music) also features a few other guest appearances. That includes both Atkinson and Gray on songs such as the swinging Chicago sound of “Hold Me in Your Arms” (Snooky Pryor) and a pair of Albert King numbers (a shuffling, almost “Crossroads”-like “For the Love of a Woman” and the gritty, steady-grooving title track), while the late Barrelhouse Chuck rides the keys on the remainder of the tracks, all of which are simply delightful and together help make for one of the most entertaining and authentic modern Chicago blues sessions you’ll have the pleasure of hearing, from the slunking instrumental original “Harmonica Boogaloo” and “Dust My Broom”-ish slide guitar riffs of “May I Have a Talk with You” (Howlin’ Wolf) to the opening, energetic “Poor Man Blues” and slow deep blues of the closing “When I Leave Home” with its soulful, B.B. King-style guitar licks, plaintive harmonica, and some fine playing from Barrelhouse Chuck, both Primer originals.

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Blues, Whiskey & Wimmen: John Lee Hooker centennial collection assembles some of bluesman’s finest

When it comes to music compilations, phrases like “finest” and “the very best of” tend to leave a good deal of room for debate: no matter how great a collection may be, there are always going to be at least a few other songs some will argue should have been included, especially when you’re talking about a blues legend like John Lee Hooker. Sure enough, many of the songs you’ll hear on Whiskey & Wimmen: John Lee Hooker’s Finest (Vee-Jay Records) can be found on earlier compilations of the bluesman’s work, but we aren’t about to begin comparing its track listing with those already out there, choosing instead to appreciate this one — celebrating the 100-year anniversary of Hooker’s birth near Clarksdale, Mississippi — entirely on its own merits.

Truth be told, Whiskey & Wimmen is a damn fine collection, spanning a decade of the Rock and Blues Hall of Famer’s career across several labels and styles, from the machismo of tracks like the groove-laden, gruff-vocaled “Boom Boom” that opens the set with a boom, the chugging “Big Legs, Tight Skirt”, and the shuffling “Dimples”, to crawling numbers like “I’m in the Mood”, “Whiskey and Wimmen” (“almost wrecked my life”), and a short but “hard times”-filled “No Shoes” on which Hooker sings of “no food on my table, and no shoes to go on my feet”, to the soulful, swaying “Frisco Blues” with Motown’s Mary Wilson & the Andantes providing harmony vocals — many employing the driving boogie beat that helped make Hooker famous.

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R.I.P., guitarist and singer Lonnie Brooks

The music world lost another true father of the blues this weekend with the passing of Chicago blues guitarist Lonnie Brooks (born Lee Baker, Jr.). We had the pleasure of seeing Lonnie – whose most recognizable songs included the likes of “Don’t Take Advantage of Me”, “Two Headed Man”, “Eyeballin'”, “You Know What My Body Needs”, and “Cold Lonely Nights” along with other gems such as “Trading Post” and “I Want All My Money Back” – and his sons Ronnie and Wayne Baker Brooks at the Heritage Blues Music Fest back in 2012, where we snapped these photos, one of which may look somewhat familiar to you as the image that appears at the top of our website, capturing Brooks and his sons playing each other’s guitars.

Here’s a little something else to help remember Brooks by: a classic cut of his “Two Headed Man” off Alligator Records’ Living Chicago Blues series. This one’s audio-only, so just sit back, close your eyes, and let these fine blues in, as you appreciate the talent that was Mr. Lonnie Brooks.

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Tedeschi Trucks Band keeps on growing with Live from the Fox Oakland

By now, we probably don’t need to tell you how terrific the Tedeschi Trucks Band is. If you’ve heard any of the band’s three studio albums, you’re already aware of just how nicely the sounds of this now-dozen member ensemble meld, whether they’re belting out an intriguing original or a creative interpretation on such classics as Joe Cocker’s “Space Captain” or Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight”. And if you’ve heard their first live release Everybody’s Talkin’ or ever had the good fortune of witnessing the band perform, you’ll of course be familiar with how much more captivating the band led by singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi and her guitar-slinging husband Derek Trucks (Allman Brothers Band, Eric Clapton) can be, given the opportunity to stretch their talents even further in time and direction.

So chances are that we needn’t spend a lot of time convincing you that the band’s newest album Live from the Fox Oakland (Fantasy Records) is also well worth a listen, featuring tracks from their latest studio project Let Me Get By as well as covers of songs from Leonard Cohen (the slow, soulful “Bird on the Wire”), the Beatles (the quiet Indian strains of “Within In, Without You”), Derek and the Dominos (a rootsy, 10-minute “Keep on Growing”), Miles Davis (a punchy, funky instrumental “Ali” that of course makes good use of horns in addition to guitar and drums), and blues masters such as Bobby “Blue” Bland (a soulfully passionate “I Pity the Fool” that finds Tedeschi digging in with tough, gritty vocals that would make the late Bland proud, buoyed further by some nice horns and guitar responses) and Sleepy John Estes (a shining, 10-minute “Leavin’ Trunk” that features some Taj Mahal-ish vocals from Mike Mattison and is soaked in funky grooves and searing guitar).

2012 Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival

Recorded on a single night in early September 2016, the live double album (which is also available on DVD with just a few changes in tracks, swapping out four of the songs found on the CD for two additional covers, in George Jones’ “Color of the Blues” and Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Going Nowhere”) captures the band’s latest incarnation, still featuring Tedeschi on lead vocals and guitar, Trucks on guitar, Kofi Burbridge on keyboards, Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson on drums, Mattison on backing and occasional lead vocals, Mark Rivers on backing vocals, and Kebbi Williams on sax, along with several new members since TTB’s previous live album in Tim Lefebvre on bass guitar, Alecia Chakour on backing vocals, Elizabeth Lea on trombone, and Ephraim Owens on trumpet.

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Holler n’ Moan

How about we help finish up another month with another fine edition of our BluesPowR Radio Hour, this time featuring music from Devon Allman, Patty Reese, the Kentucky Headhunters, Thorbjorn Risager & the Black Tornado, The King Brothers, Tami Neilson, and more?! Enjoy!

Holler n Moan – Thorbjorn Risager & The Black Tornado (Change My Game)
I Won’t Let You Down – Patty Reese (Let in the Sun)
Good Neighbor – Patty Reese (Let in the Sun)
I Am the Hunter – The Kentucky Headhunters (On Safari)
Hott Mott’s Theme – Vin Mott (Quit the Women for the Blues)
Bigg Legged Woman – The King Brothers (Get Up and Shake It)
So Far Away – Tami Neilson (Don’t Be Afraid)
Poke Salad Annie – Captain Luke (Biscuits for Your Outside Man)
Greasy Greens – George Higgs (Biscuits for Your Outside Man)
Undone – Lara Price (I Mean Business)
Shattered Times – Devon Allman (Ride or Die)

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Remembering music legends James “Mr. Superharp” Cotton and Chuck Berry

The blues world lost another legend Thursday with the passing of harmonica great James Cotton. Here’s a good obituary on Cotton from Alligator Records, with whom the harmonica player first recorded in the mid-80s and then returned for the final stretch of his career. It was from this Alligator post that we first learned of this sad news, with the piece nicely detailing Cotton’s career, including learning his craft from Sonny Boy Williamson II and playing in the bands of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf before moving on to a long and successful career fronting his own band.

The first time we saw Cotton was a 2008 show at Pittsburgh’s Rex Theater; we didn’t take pictures and hadn’t yet founded this blog, so the only memories we have of that show is that it was a terrific one.

Fortunately, we did get to see Cotton perform again a half dozen years later at the 2014 Lancaster Roots & Blues Festival, when he shared the stage with another since-departed bluesman in guitarist Johnny Winter.

Here’s a video we thought you might enjoy of Cotton and his old pal Muddy performing the slow blues of “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had”:

Our condolences also to the family, friends and fans of rock n’ roll pioneer and Muddy Waters protégé Chuck Berry, who died Saturday, decades after helping to define the genre with classics like “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven”, and whom we had the pleasure of seeing perform a few years back at the 2010 Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival.

Rest in peace, old friends, but know that your influence and music will long live on.

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Canadian bluesman Matt Andersen impresses mightily at Pittsburgh’s Club Cafe

A little over five years back now, we introduced you to Canadian guitarist and singer Matt Andersen, about whom we said at the time: “Combined with Andersen’s recent wins at the IBC and 2011 Maple Blues awards (where he took top prize in both the entertainer and acoustic act of the year categories), [his ability to accomplish such a diverse range of styles – and do it all so damn well – …] is bound to lead to a whole new world of possibilities for Andersen, and we look forward to hearing him play our part of it sometime soon.” It might have taken another half-decade to be able to see him here in our part of the world, but we’re pleased to report that Andersen played his heart out during his first visit to Pittsburgh as a headliner (having managed to sneak quietly in and out of town in September 2014 as the opening act for Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers) last Monday night at the South Side’s Club Cafe.

Following an entertaining solo opening set from local bluesman Jimbo Jackson of Jimbo & the Soupbones fame, Andersen delivered a delightful program of his own that ranged from the soft, tender sounds of songs like “Quiet Company”, a “So Gone Now” on which Andersen stopped playing for several lines to sing a cappella, and the quiet, swaying “Coal Mining Blues”, to the deep, booming vocals of the soulful “I Lost My Way” and gruff, hard-shuffling “Devil’s Bride”, with the breezy opening “The Gift” nicely foreshadowing the rest of the set by incorporating a little bit of each, along with its uplifting message of “believe that you are special/ believe you’ve got a gift/ the gift of life is all you’ll need.”

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Mojo Risin’: UK pianist Tom Bell blends boogie woogie blues, classical on debut album Face to Face

Here at The BluesPowR Blog, we frequently receive albums that either incorporate elements of or cross more fully into such other genres as rock, jazz, soul, or country. But it’s not often that we encounter an artist who attempts to interweave the blues with classical music, aside perhaps from legendary Chicago harmonica player Corky Siegel (The Siegel-Schwall Band), who’s been doing it now for several decades with his Chamber Blues Band, due to release their fourth album Different Voices in April.

While Siegel employs very much of a team approach to his music, surrounding himself with a classical string quartet and numerous other musicians and vocalists, young UK pianist Tom Bell takes on the blues-classical challenge a bit more single- (well, actually, double-) handedly on his solo debut album Face to Face, an instrumental project that, although we don’t purport to be either the biggest fan of or expert on classical music, all sounds pretty great to us.

After starting on the bright, bubbly “Bell’s Boogie”, the twenty-something Bell moves into the more cultured stylings of Chopin, testing the waters on the serene, light tinkling of “Etude Op. 10 No. 1 ‘Waterfall'” and then venturing a bit deeper in with “Etude Op. 25 No. 12 ‘Ocean'”, with Bell never sounding the least bit in over his head.

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The Same Thing That Can Make You Laugh (Can Make You Cry)

With February already largely in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to dig into another talk-free edition of our BluesPowR Radio Hour, this month featuring the wisdom and talents of artists such as Guy King, Walter Trout, Sugar Ray Norcia & the Bluetones, Tom Waits, Davy Knowles, Trudy Lynn, Tas Cru and more. We hope you enjoy!

Feel I’m Falling – Tas Cru (Simmered & Stewed)
Tomorrow Seems So Far Away – Walter Trout (ALIVE in Amsterdam)
The Same Thing That Can Make You Laugh (Can Make You Cry) – Guy King (Truth)
King Thing – Guy King (Truth)
Thru Chasin’ You – Trudy Lynn (I’ll Sing the Blues for You)
Never Gonna Be The Same – Davy Knowles (Three Miles From Avalon)
Blind Date – Sugar Ray & the Bluetones (Seeing is Believing)
The Soul of a Man – Tom Waits (God Don’t Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson)
If Id’a Known – Little Boys Blue (Tennissippi)
Used to Be – Beth Garner (Snake Farm)

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New recording offers glimpse of what you’ve been missing at annual International Blues Challenge

You may have seen that the 2017 International Blues Challenge (IBC) took place in Memphis recently, with the Dawn Tyler Watson Band (Montreal Blues Society) and Al Hill (Nashville Blues Society) taking top honors in the band and solo categories, respectively, both of whom who you can check out in the videos at the end of this post. For those not familiar with it, the IBC draws its hundreds of competitors through contests hosted by The Blues Foundation’s regional affiliates around the world, including, for example, the Pittsburgh area’s Blues Society of Western Pennsylvania, who this year sent Charlie Barath, the Jimmy Adler Band, and Pierce Dipner as its representatives in the solo/duo, band, and youth categories.

For a bigger taste of what you’re missing at this annual blues blowout, there’s a great new collection of songs from the 32nd edition of the competition that took place in 2016. Compiled by The Blues Foundation and 2014 Keeping the Blues Alive award-winning publicist Frank Roszak, International Blues Challenge #32 features nine mostly original tracks from among the 16 finalists (out of more than 250 acts) in last year’s challenge, ranging from such rockers as the shuffling, guitar-driven opener “I’m Your Man” from the Paul Deslauriers Band (Montreal Blues Society) and the Chuck Berry-ish riffs of the “Hound Dog” (not the one you know from Elvis or Big Mama Thornton, but a spunky original with a chorus of “The day you left the door, my hound dog cried all night” and other lyrics that include “He howl, he bark, he moan, he wail/ he don’t eat his food, he don’t wag his tail/ he fuss, he fume, he weep, he sigh/I e’en saw a tear fall from his eye”) that immediately follows from blind duo InnerVision (Columbus Blues Alliance) to the creeping, acoustic “You Make All My Blues Come True” featuring the gritty vocals and biting slide guitar of the Cincy Blues Society’s Sonny Moorman and slow, haunting “Black Sheep Moan” that closes the album from solo/duo winners Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons (Washington Blues Society), with its Chris Thomas King/Alvin Youngblood Hart-like pleading vocals and wailing harp.

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