Tune into the Weekend: Big Bad Coraline

Today, we launch another new feature here, an occasional post to help get your weekend off to a good start with a track that’s caught our ear. Sometimes, the song might be a standalone single; other times, a tune we just can’t wait to highlight in an album review or on our BluesPowR Radio Hour, or something that we feel really stands out from an album we may not otherwise get to tell you about.

It’s all just another way of helping to introduce you to some of the other blues acts and music on the scene, with our inaugural track coming from a recently reunited blues duo by the name of Screamin’ John & TD Lind (who first worked together in a band called Edenstreet), a swinging, blues/early rock n’ roll style number off their forthcoming album Gimme More Time (Down in the Alley Records). Here’s to the weekend!

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Rocking new EP brings Black (Stone Cherry) to Blues

It’s been several decades now since the great Muddy Waters was booed by blues purists for introducing an electric guitar to his live blues performance. During that time, plenty of acts have of course tried to take the blues to a whole new level of rocking, with bands like Led Zeppelin and Cream being perhaps some of the first names to jump to mind and the likes of Gov’t Mule helping to still carry on the tradition.

Here’s one we mentioned in our recent review of George Thorogood’s new roots album as another upcoming example of rockers undertaking all-blues projects. We hadn’t heard much of Black Stone Cherry‘s music before now, but have to say we really dig the sound of this six-song Black to Blues EP (Mascot Records), featuring the most unique, hardest-rocking versions of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Albert King, and Freddie King covers you’ll possibly ever hear.

This isn’t the southern rockers’ first foray into the blues, with the band having, for example, included Howlin’ Wolf’s “Evil” as a bonus track on their 2016 Kentucky album and both Son House’s “Death Letter Blues” and a “Lonely Train” that borrows its chorus from Bo Diddley’s “You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover” on their Thank You/Livin’ Live album.

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Mojo Risin’: Time-trippin’ with Bette Smith’s Jetlagger

On the opening track of her debut album Jetlagger (Big Legal Mess Records), Brooklyn-born soulstress Bette Smith promises “I Will Feed You” and that’s exactly what she proceeds to do musically, moving from the haunting, Macy Gray-ish sound of that number and others like “Flying Sweet Angel of Joy” to such rockers as a Tina Turner-ish take on the Little Steven Van Zandt co-written “I Found Love” (Lone Justice) and heavy soul R&B of “Manchild”, one of several songs penned or co-penned by Jimbo Mathus, who also produced and provides some nice guitar, keyboard, and background vocals on the project.

There’s also the slow-grinding blues of an Ursula Ricks-sounding “Durty Hustlin'”, a “Shackle & Chain” that sounds like it could be a soul classic but really is only just destined to become one (being tied down has never sounded so good!), and a slow-grooved, patient take on Isaac Hayes’ “Do Your Thing”, as well as the country-flavored “Moaning Bench”, the chugging title track, and the closing, uplifting gospel sounds of the Staples Sisters’ “City in the Sky”. It’s all driven by Smith’s soulful, deep sultry voice and some terrific Memphis horns, along with modest yet impressive parts from other backing musicians, making Jetlagger one of the most powerful and feisty debuts we’ve heard in some time.

Here’s Smith with the official video for “Manchild”:

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You’ve got to hear it: soulman Chris Pierce’s latest release You’ve Got to Feel It!

We don’t know that we’d really heard of Chris Pierce before either, but it turns out that we did enjoy — along with a few million other fans of the show — the song he co-wrote that was prominently featured on an episode of NBC’s smash TV hit This is Us, you know, the tune that Randall’s biological father William penned in his younger days for his cousin’s band during an extended visit to Memphis, something called “We Can Always Come Back to This”.

Pierce didn’t write any of the songs included on his latest album You’ve Got to Feel It! (Calabama Recordings), but he did do an awfully nice job of selecting a dozen soul classics to cover here, from the “We Can Always Come Back to This”-like sway of Otis Redding’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is”, a gospelish take on James Carr’s “The Dark End of the Street”, and the slow, closing ballad “Many Rivers to Cross” (Jimmy Cliff) to the slightly more uptempo “Slip Away” (Clarence Carter) and Blues Brothers-ish grooves of “Stop” (Howard Tate) — with its powerful soul/R&B combination of horns and vocals — and swinging “Is It Something You’ve Got” (Tyrone Davis) to the tougher, Tommy Castro-like blues of “Don’t Fight It” (Wilson Pickett) from which the album’s title derives and that features background vocals from the Grateful Dead’s Donna Jean Godchaux (if this one doesn’t get you moving, we don’t know what will!) and a biting, funky take on Al Green’s “I’m a Ram”.
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Walter Trout & friends are All in This Together on blues-rocker’s latest

“After the heaviness and emotional intensity of creating my last studio album, Battle Scars, I just wanted to go in the studio and have some fun and jam with some friends.” — Walter Trout

After a couple of albums announcing his return to the fray of the music biz from a last-hour liver transplant in the 2015 studio project Battle Scars and then the live follow-up ALIVE in Amsterdam, blues-rock guitarist Walter Trout is back again, this time bringing along a few friends, as in one for each of the 14 tracks on this latest album, appropriately titled We’re All in This Together (Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group). A follow-up to Trout’s 2006 Full Circle album that included tracks recorded with the likes of Jeff Healey, John Mayall, Coco Montoya, Finis Tasby, Joe Bonamassa, Bernard Allison, Junior Watson, Guitar Shorty, and James Harman, among others, We’re All in This Together finds a largely new contingent of mostly guitar-slinging, sometimes harp-wielding, guests lending their instruments and, often, their voices, on a baker’s dozen of original songs all written or co-written by Trout along with a cover of one blues classic.

Both Mayall and Bonamassa return here — the first on the stripped-down, guitar-and-harmonica acoustic number “Blues for Jimmy T.” on which Mayall provides the harp, and the latter on the scorching closing title track, which, unlike most of the other numbers, was captured live with the musicians in the same studio (and on the first take) — as does Trout’s longtime friend (who Walter says “sorta’ discovered me when I moved to L.A. in the ’70s”), blues keyboard great Deacon Jones (Freddie King, John Lee Hooker), who passed away in July, for several songs.

Now five decades into his career, Trout’s made a lot of friends through the years, allowing him to call upon such other seasoned veterans as Sonny Landreth, Edgar Winter, Charlie Musselwhite, Warren Haynes, Joe Louis Walker, and Randy Bachman, in addition to familiar names like Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Mike Zito, Robben Ford, Eric Gales, and harmonica player John Nemeth. The end result is a fine album that’s all-killer and no-filler, with Trout and his guests backed by Trout’s band of Johnny Griparic on bass, Mike Leasure on drums, and Sammy Avila on keyboards.
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Gregg Allman bids fond farewell to friends, fans with posthumous release Southern Blood

Southern rocker Gregg Allman‘s final album Southern Blood (Rounder Records) may not be the bluesiest he’s done (which would have been a difficult undertaking following his 2011 solo studio offering Low Country Blues), but will certainly be remembered as his most personal and evocative, featuring 10 carefully chosen tracks that reflected the Rock Hall of Famer’s mindset during the waning months of his life, from the opening, autobiograhical “My Only True Friend” that Allman co-wrote with his band’s guitarist and musical director Scott Sharrard about life on the road — with such chilling lyrics as “I hope you’re haunted by the music of my soul when I’m gone” and “Still on and on I roam, it feels like home is just around the bend/ I’ve got so much left to give, but I’m running out of time, my friend” — to the soulful country folk sound of Bob Dylan’s “Going Going Gone” (“I’m closing the book on pages and text, and I don’t really care what happens next/ I’m goin’, yes I’m goin’, I’m gone”) — one of several songs to feature Greg Leisz on pedal steel, Buddy Miller on harmony vocals, and The McCrary Sisters on powerful backing vocals — to the tender closing cover of Jackson Browne’s “Song for Adam” on which Browne himself joins Allman on vocals, with Leisz contributing on both pedal steel and mandolin.

Album producer Don Was writes in the liner notes: “The choice of songs for this record said everything that needed to be said…it’s the musical last testament of one of the greatest artists of our time. Everything you need to know about Gregg and how he felt at the end of his life is contained in the lyrics to these 10 songs and in the raw and expressive approach he brings to these last performances.”

As touching as much of the album can be, including that bittersweet terrific opening track, it’s probably “Song for Adam” that strikes the most poignant chord, about which Was observed: “Gregg always loved this song because it reminded him of his brother Duane. When he gets to the line ‘still it seems that he stopped singing in the middle of his song’, you can hear him choke up and falter. We decided to stop for the day, and Gregg never got the chance to actually sing those next two lines.”

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Leave Here Running

Here’s another talk-free edition of our world-famous BluesPowR Radio Hour, featuring doubleshots of music from the North Mississippi All-Stars, Grady Champion, and Mitch Kasmar, as well as tracks from Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’, Angel Forrest with Steve Strongman, The Cash Box Kings, and more!

Miss Maybelle – North Mississippi Allstars (Prayer for Peace)
Off My Mind – Scott Ramminger (Do What Your Heart Says To)
Life Support – Grady Champion (One of a Kind)
Leave Here Running – Grady Champion (One of a Kind)
Spoil Me Up – Angel Forrest w/ Steve Strongman (Angel’s 11)
Blues for Chi-Raq – The Cash Box Kings (Royal Mint)
Diving Duck Blues – Taj Mahal & Keb Mo’ (TajMo)
Too Many Cooks – Mitch Kashmar (West Coast Toast)
Mood Indica – Mitch Kashmar (West Coast Toast)
Deep Ellum – North Mississippi Allstars (Prayer for Peace)

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Listen up! Krystle Warren’s Nae-Nae and Ruthie

There’s a whole lot to like about Krystle Warren‘s latest album Three the Hard Way (Parlour Door Music) and blues is just a small part of it, with the album also including sounds of neosoul, R&B, hip hop, folk, jazz, gospel, and more.

Here’s one of the bluesier tunes off that project, the creeping “Nae-Nae and Ruthie”, with handclap-like percussion, gritty harmonica, subtle keys and guitar work, and Warren’s smooth yet sturdy, full-ranged vocals all combining to create a dark haunting groove.

If that leaves you looking for a little more from the album, you might start with the powerful, passionate “Thanks and Praise”; the slightly breezy, Beatles-esque “Get a Load”; the closing soul gospel of “Move”; or the slow, stirring “Red Clay”, a jazzy, soulful number regarding the weighty topic of a 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma, race riot during which an African-American community was destroyed by the KKK.

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Lance Lopez shows lowdown blues ways on Live in NYC

Recently, we told you about the latest release from the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band, which incorporates a bit more of an Americana sound than we’re accustomed to hearing from the band. Those who prefer your blues-rock somewhat heavier and more intense might want to check out Texas guitarist Lance Lopez‘s Live in NYC (Cleopatra Records), a rocking, 7-song set produced by Johnny Winter Band guitarist and GRAMMY Award-winning producer Paul Nelson that captures a performance from Lopez at New York City’s B.B. King’s Blues Club.

Having started his career at the age of 14, Lopez served as guitarist in the bands of both soul man Johnnie Taylor and drummer Buddy Miles as well as band leader for Lucky Peterson before venturing out on his own, also holding down lead guitar and vocalist duties for the Supersonic Blues Machine (from whom we expect to hear a sophomore album sometime in the coming months).

Here, Lopez is deepest in the blues on songs like the shuffling opener “Come Back Home”, a hard-driving cover of Robert Johnson’s “Traveling Riverside Blues”, and the slow, burning blues of an 11-minute “Lowdown Ways” , with the remainder of the songs delving a bit further into, say, Van Halen territory, all delivered through Lopez’s gruff vocals and gritty, stinging guitar.

If it’s tough, hard-rocking blues-edged music you’re seeking, then Lopez’s Live in NYC is a good place to turn!

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Heritage BluesFest, Project Blues photos now posted to our gallery

Ronnie Earl

We’ve just posted the full set of photos from our recent weekend roadtrip through West Virginia and Ohio, featuring pics from both the opening night of the Heritage Music BluesFest in Wheeling and the Project Blues Review in Columbus.

With separate albums for Heritage BluesFest Friday night headliners TajMo (the pairing of Taj Mahal & Keb Mo’) and Project Blues headliners Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters, these latest uploads to our BluesPowR Gallery also include shots of artists such as Bob Margolin, Rory Block and Cindy Cashdollar, the Billy Price Band, Jontavious Willis, Sean Carney, Jonn Del Toro Richardson, Tom Holland, The Texas Horns, and more, so check them out today!

Related posts:
Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters, Bob Margolin, and more stand up to cancer at Project Blues Review 2017
TajMo, Rory Block, Jontavious Willis, and others shine at opening night of Heritage Music BluesFest


Bob Margolin & Mark “Kaz” Kazanoff






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