Tuesday, August 31, 2010

“Shake For Me” - The Mannish Boys (Delta Groove Music)

By Malcolm Kennedy
Shake for Me

The whole Mannish Boys project is about three things: 1) one playing some damn good music with a bunch of friends, 2) focusing some attention on the music of some of the artists who gave us the blues, some well known others less known, and 3) focusing some long overdue attention on some first class singers like Finis Tasby, Bobby Jones, Arthur Adams and Johnny Dyer.

They do this in true revue style with players and singers moving in and out of the band. Shake For Me marks the Mannish Boys fifth anniversary and once again, as on their first four releases, finds the band hitting on all cylinders and delivering the goods. The first five tracks are all different in style and introduce some new players including the rhythm section of Willis Campbeli on double bass and Jimi Bott on drums. Finis opens things up with a ripping take on the classic "Too Tired," backed by sister label Eclecto Groove's Nick Curran on guitar. Bobby Jones is up next for a medley of Bo Diddley's "Mona" and Johnny Otis' "Willie and the Hand Jive" backed by Eclecto's Mike Zito on guitar and vocals. Finis comes back for a laid back version of one of my all time favorite blues, Lowell Fulson's "Reconsider Baby" with Frank Goldwasser laying it down on lead guitar. If you don't already have some Mannish Boy's in your collection there is no better time to start than with Shake For Me, and I am sure after you listen one time you will be back at the platter store to get the whole collection. I give this CD my highest recommendation.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"He Said She Said" - Peter Karp & Sue Foley (Blind Pig Records)

By Malcolm Kennedy

He Said She Said

The pairing of Peter Karp and Sue Foley on Blind Pig's He Said She Said was very well conceived, their talent, style and tone are all a solid fit. Several songs feature a playful interplay of vocals back and forth; on others they sing solo.

The opening track, with slide guitar and duo vocals, "Treat Me Right" has a standard blues theme of "baby you don't treat me right" but the similarities to other mean mistreating blues ends right there, and it is one of the album stand out cuts. Peter sings solo on "Wait" with Sue adding some harmony and it is reminiscent of Dylan at his best. Between the slide guitar and Sue's vocals, "Rules of Engagement" sounds like something Bonnie Raitt would do and Peter's vocals are just the right touch as they sing "ain't nothing fair in love and war."

Jason Ricci opens "Hold On Baby" with a touch of plaintive harp, a song about not letting the world grind you down and keeping a lighter side. I like the song; but, feel it would have benefited from a little more harp. Ricci also adds a couple of his tasty signature noodleing licks to "Mm Hmm." My favorite song is "Scared" a relationship song featuring muted trumpet, Foley's silky vocals and acoustic guitar. They bring on the blues somewhat ironically for the love song "Valentine’s Day." From singer/songwriter to blues, duos to solos, slide to strumming, Sue's alluring vocals to Peter's pleasant tenor, He Said She Said contains pleasing well crafted songs throughout, and I found it to be a gratifying listen.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Radio Documentary About the Rise of Country Blues in the Mississippi Delta

I ran across this outstanding documentary - now podcast - about the rise of rural, country blues in the Mississipppi Delta and had to share it. Whether you are a fan or artist of the blues genre and roots music, this is something worth listening too...

(Originally Published at TheCountryBlues.com)

I Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down,” a six hour long radio documentary about the Mississippi Delta Blues is Written, Produced and Narrated by Frank Matheis, Melon Productions, New York. The 6 hour long program series takes its title from a song by Mississippi Fred McDowell. It is a historical documentary series that covers the rise of the rural, country blues of the Mississippi Delta from the 1920’s through the migration of African-Americans to points north in the 1940’s. It includes the period up to development of the urban sound known as “the Chicago blues”. The documentary concludes with a look at the acoustic blues today, in the 21st Century, and spotlights some of today’s musicians in this genre.

"‘I Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down’ …should be required listening for anyone interested in American music…because it brims with powerful, potentially life-changing blues. You cannot hear this music and remain unmoved.” - Eric Pooley, TIME Magazine
The descriptions and 6 part podcast can be viewed and listened to by clicking here...

Podcast Links:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"The Devil Is An Angel Too" - Janiva Magness (Alligator Records)

By Malcolm Kennedy
The Devil Is An Angel Too
Equal parts smoky, sultry and powerhouse; Janiva has clearly established herself as one of the premier talents in blues today and the new Alligator Records release The Devil is An Angel Too is a clear reason how. Janiva's striking, curvaceous look doesn't hurt a bit; but with vocals like this she would still be getting the recognition she so richly deserves if she had too heads.

Janiva has received a bevy of Blues Music Award’s and even more nominations over the last five years including the 2009 Award for BB King Entertainer of the Year and I expect The Devil Is An Angel Too will also achieve notice... Janiva lays down the law telling a cheating man "I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down." Telling him he can't use hearts for play toys to an engaging melody. On "Weeds Like Us" Janiva shows yet another side as she sings "weeds like us are hard to kill" over a plaintive guitar. For "Walking In The Sun" Janiva's singing displays elements of Janis Joplin without the whiskey and cigarette seared tortured raspy edge. The infectious beat of "Your Love Made A U-Turn" will have you bouncing and is sure to be a crowd pleaser live as she sings "his love made a u-turn and left me standing in the street."
On "Homewrecker," Janiva tells the accused that one day you gonna get what's coming to you! Janiva dedicates The Devil Is An Angel Too to Foster Youth and Alumni and urges folks to make a difference for a child at risk. Check out fostercarealumni.org and see what you can do. The Devil Is An Angel Too is yet another excellent offering by one of the true rare gems of the music business.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"My Turn" - Kirk Fletcher (Eclecto Groove Records)

By Malcolm Kennedy
My Turn

The long awaited new release by Kirk Fletcher (Mannish Boys, Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Charlie Musselwhite) was well worth the wait. Released on the Eclecto Groove label, Kirk shows great versatility. Kirk opens the disc with "El Medio Stomp" which absolutely rocks. If you don't crank this puppy up you better go see the doctor because you are probably a couple of quarts low. It features all of the best elements of a Stevie Ray Vaughan instrumental over a smoking hot beat, think Fat Tones Bobby Patterson in his best groove. "Found Love," a Jimmy Reed tune, has kind of a country and western feel to it. Kirk dusts off the Crusaders "Way Back Home" putting his own jazzy stamp on it with some help on bass from his buddy Travis Carlton and some fine smooth sax work. It is a great song that I have long been a fan of myself.

Kirk's version of "Congo Square," while interesting, I found it to lack the rhythmic punch I had anticipated especially since the song is about hearing the drums in Congo Square, "its an old time tradition when they play the drums at night in Congo Square" however on subsequent listening it grew on me. Kirk starts off "Blues For Antone" with acoustic guitar and then he plugs in and tears down the house with some serious slow blues guitar. "Let Me Have It Ali" is a funk fest complete with horns and organ, and "Continents End" is spacey Hendrix Axis Bold As Love psychedelic ... aah, wow! Flashbacks included.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Blues on the Road: 2010 Simi Valley Cajun Creole Festival

By Tony Frederickson

This past Memorial Day, I had the pleasure of attending the Simi Valley Cajun Creole Music Festival in Southern California. This event has raised over $1.2M in support of charitable, humanitarian and educational causes. What a show it is!! With multiple stages featuring Cajun, Zydeco and Blues entertainment, it has grown to be one of the largest festivals of its kind west of the Mississippi River attracting 15,000 people.
I landed at LAX, picked up my rental car and jumped on the freeway up to Simi Valley. I arrived early enough in the morning to leave plenty of time to check-in to my hotel and freshen up before going over to the festival grounds at Rancho Santa Susana Park. The weather was a welcome relief from the cold of Washington; the sun was shining, the humidity was low, the temperature was a comfortable 80 degrees.

As soon as I got to the Blues Stage, I ran into Tim and Michelle Burge and Cholo Willsin! It's always nice to meet up with friends from the Washington Blues Society when I'm traveling on the blues highway. This year's festival featured the 5th Annual Delta Groove All-Star Blues Revue, featuring 12 outstanding acts from the Delta Groove family of artists.

At Least I'm Not With YouThe Insomniacs were first up, and they set the bar very high for everyone following on the Blues Stage. This Portland-based band is fast becoming a national touring act, and has shown many folks across the country what we have going on here in the Pacific Northwest. Well, listening to this show, I reconnected with Sharonmarie Fisher; who for those of you who don't remember her, she was part of the Seattle Women in Rhythm and Blues group. She is now living near Simi Valley, and it was good to catch up with her and talk about music and friends from up in Seattle. She's still singing and is quite involved in her community. Most weekends, the Sharonmarie Fisher and Richard Belmond Blues Duo play in the greater Los Angeles-Simi Valley area.

Los FabuLocosThe rest of the day was just a blur with great music and lots of good conversation. Los Fabulocos, with Kid Ramos, was next, and he tore it up as usual with his searing guitar licks. Arthur Adams and his band followed Los Fabulocos, and showed why h e is still a fan favorite today with lots of crowd interaction. The Hollywood Blue Flames added their take on the blues and were followed by the Jackie Payne/Steve Edmonson Band. It had been a full day and we had another band to go. The Soul of John Black closed out the day, and it was a great way to finish the day.

Still buzzing from all the great music and the tasty ribs from Sweet Lou's BBQ many of us weren't ready to call it a night, so we headed down to The Langham in Pasadena and caught the James Harman Band. Our group consisted of Tim and Michelle Burge, Cholo Willsin, new friends Cindi Bernhardt and Mike Lovato, and me. We were all tired, and there were a few nods of the head for many of us, but the show was great. As James played, I thought about his next trip to our region to play Winthrop. Somehow, we all made it home to our hotels and had a great night’s sleep.

My TurnKirk FIetcher and his band were up first on the festival’s second day. I really like his funky sound and recommend his new CD, My Turn, on Delta Groove. A combination of Lynwood Slim and lgor Prado from Brazil played straight ahead blues with a little taste of Latin flavor thrown in. Mike Zito was next, and I can't begin to tell you how talented this guy is. When you see Mike's name on a playbill, go see him; you won't be disappointed.

Candye Kane and her band, with special guest Bob Corritore, put on a classic Candy Kane show with a harmonica twist. I met Bob after their set; he's a really nice guy, and really knows the music. I look forward to many more conversations with him. One of my personal favorites, Elvin Bishop, was up next, and he had the crowd eating out of his hand. I've seen Elvin perform more than a hundred times over the years, and I never get tired of his high energy and the fun he puts into his music. Always a treat for me!

The closing band was The Mannish Boys, and they filled the stage with many guests and left the audience on their feet satisfied, but calling for more. I really appreciate what the Mannish Boys do, always featuring older players and keeping the blues alive with their own special flavor. This was quite a memorable Memorial Day Weekend, thanks to the 5th Annual Delta Groove All-Stars Blues Revue. Delta Groove received the prestigious Keeping the Blues Alive Award in 2008, and thanks to the leadership and insight of Randy Chortkoff and Frank Roszak, this acclaimed blues record label is keeping the blues very much alive at events like the 21st Annual Semi Valley Cajun Creole Festival (with A Blues Infusion). Look at Tim and Michelle Burge's excellent photo gallery of this event on their Facebook page to share in this wonderful event.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Blues In The Schools

Inspired by a similar program in Charleston, S.C., acoustic jazz guitarist James "Curley" Cooke formed the non-profit Pacific Northwest Blues in the Schools in 1998. Designed for students with little or no prior experience, the courses last from one week to three months, with an average of 16 sessions.

Pacific NW "Blues in the Schools" is a 501-C3 tax exempt non-profit organization in the Greater Seattle area that is one of the most successful and comprehensive Blues in the Schools programs existing in the United States today.

Their programs are taught by professional blues musicians and teachers from the Northwest, and they offer programs to local public school systems, private schools systems, community centers and institutions. Pacific Northwest Blues in the Schools seeks to provide a positive alternative activity for the youth of the Northwest, with many of their programs conducted during "prime risk," after-school hours.

Whether you are and blues artists or blues fan, help make a difference in kid's lives. Check out more about this great program and get invloved!!

"The Blues in Schools program is exactly the kind of outreach into the community that I wish were being done all over America. It is so important to let kids know about the incredibly rich contribution that Black music has made to so much of the music we love today. I salute the work Annette Taborn and Pacific NW Blues in Schools is doing to help build self-esteem and appreciation for this wonderful heritage." -- Bonnie Raitt

For more information and to get involved visit: bluesintheschools.org

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Blues State" - Rob Moitoza (Holy Crow Records)

By - Robert Horn

Rob Moitoza has shown some talents on a new CD that may have been hidden from some of his usual fans if he didn't create this one. Rob is regarded by many as one of the great bass players in the Seattle area, but how many knew about his harmonica playing, singing, as well as his song writing and producing? Rob had some help in the production with co-producer Dick Henderson of HenPro Productions in Federal Way. It is no surprise to some of us that he would break a few rules here in pursuit of art. He did one song twice on the CD. In one version, Rob had Annieville argue with him in song as his irate wife and in the other version (although they are pretty close to identical) she argued with him in an even more smart-ass way as his wife (it's ok, they did it with a lot of humor and nobody got hurt). That was on the song, "That's Why I Want To Live Alone."

Rob wrote some others that were great like "Ghost of The Blues" in which he sings about what has happened to Pioneer Square since the Blues doesn't get played there as much as it used to, with the exception of the resurgence of blues music at the historic J and M Cafe. Most songs on this CD were written by Rob, but a few were written by other song writers that I really think are in his same Sttle eaarea look up to. Ron Cook, Mark Riley, Al Kaatz, and Orville Johnson are good guitar players. Chris Leighton is not exactly an unknown drummer. On the Sam Cook song "Change Is Gonna Come" Matt Williams plays drums, Scotty Harris plays saxophone, and Hade Al-Saadoon plays the trumpet. Annieville, Ron Weinstein, Doug Bright, Paul Richardson, and Dick Henderson share ivory hitting duties. There are some others on some songs like Marty Vadalabene on drums, Alik Naka'oka on congas Tonya Ferris, Sue Fair, and Ellen Whyte on vocals along with Rob, and Warren Outten on cornet. Yes, that is right, there is a lot of talent on this CD!

Rob Moitoza's Cavalcade of Stars [Explicit]When Rob writes songs they have a lot of social commentary and that is true of this CD as well as others he creates. Songs like "Speeches to The Streets'' and "Blue State Blues" should be listened to for the lyrics as well as the music. This guy is a treasure to have in this region. Get the CD, but also go catch him live. When Rob came to the Pacific Northwest he quickly realized that there were already some good harmonica players here, so he dropped the harmonica and picked up his bass. On this CD he picked the harmonica back up, and I encourage everyone to listen for some great sounding harmonica on Blues State.

Monday, August 9, 2010

On The Waterfront – The 2010 Safeway Blues Festival

By Robert Horn

There was "The Mississippi Stage" and "The Louisiana Stage," but I saw Chicago, Portland, and Seattle area performers on each of the four stages of the 23rd Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival over the July 4th weekend. It happened in Portland, but it seemed to actually take place in heaven: due to the reverse culture shock I felt returning to earth. Years ago, a friend said that Waterfront is "how I would like to spend my whole life," and I can't disagree with her. Festival booker Peter Dammann looks like a genius when it is over: year after year, Peter and his behind the scenes team does a first class job selecting some of the world's best blues talent.
I was astounded by many I heard on day one. I thought I heard Etta James, but saw that it was Portland's own Lisa Mann. I loved hearing Bob Shoemaker, followed by Walter Trout, followed by Trombone Shorty, followed by Cedric Burnside and Lightning Malcolm, followed by John Mayhall, followed by Taj Mahal, etc... all within the first few hours. It got better over several more days.
I was fortunate this year to meet and talk with many performers. Stay tuned to these pages as I'll feature some of the conversations I had "On the Waterfront" with musicians like Kevin Selfe, Lloyd Jones, Rick Knapp of the Walter Trout Band, Chris Thomas King, and Jeff Herzog.

I talked to Kevin Selfe, and it was surreal. We talked onstage in the guest area while Alligator recording artist Michael Burks' band were in sound check. There were five drum beats in between each word Kevin said, and a guitar riff would punctuate - or dominate - our conversation.

Playing The Game"I was a late bloomer in terms of music," said Kevin,. "I didn't start getting interested in music until I was about 16. My dad got me my first guitar when I was 18. It was a cheap junker like one every dad should get his kid just to see if they really liked playing it after trying it a while."

I was listening to AC/DC with Angus Young on guitar, "he continued in between the drum beats. "They did a rendition of 'Baby Please Don't Go' and I wondered who wrote that song because I knew that they didn't. I researched it and it lead to Big Joe Williams and the blues. Then, when I was in college, my roommate who was a bass player and listened to all kinds of music pulled out Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, ...and when I heard 'Smokestack Lightning' a light went on in my head. That was it for me."

Kevin described his first band. "I was coaching high school football after college and some guys who were about 16 years old formed a band. They got in a little over their heads. They booked a gig at a bar. They played songs like those of Pearl Jam. The band entered a contest, and one of the prizes was studio time. They won. Then, a local blues band heard me on guitar, and they were looking for a guitar player. I auditioned and got the gig. I was 22 and opened for The Fabulous Thunderbirds before 10,000 people. It was the first time I met Jimmy Vaughn."

2 Man Wrecking CrewIt was a pleasure to hear and see Cedric Burnside and Lightning Malcolm perform this year. The two of them seem to carry the spirit of Cedric's grandfather, R.L. Burnside. Cedric received the Handy statuette for Blues Drummer at this year's Blues Music Awards, and last year, their Delta Groove Debut, 2 Man Wrecking Crew received the Best New Artist Debut Blues Music Award. On the Waterfront, these guys were indeed a two-man wrecking crew on guitar and drums.

ChikadelicOn day two, I attended a workshop led by Chris Thomas King. I knew of Chris' considerable achievements: he's sold over 10 million records, and received a Grammy and a Country Music Award for his contributions to the score of the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? I have always heard of some rare people who could walk into a room and their presence would be felt; almost overwhelming. Chris Thomas King is like that. He wore what I saw him wear on the screen when he played bluesman Tommy Johnson. He was still and calm, but took over the space around him. I thought he was a combination of Robert Johnson and Buddha, and it was a treat hear him play some Robert Johnson.

Later that day, I caught great sets from Super Chikan, Booker T., Bobby Rush, Paul Cebar, Jim Mesi, Janiva Magness, the Norton Buffalo Band, and Commander Cody. The Slide Guitar Showcase that included Henry Cooper was exceptional.

Thanks to Tim and Michelle Burge, I had the opportunity to talk with Chris Thomas King. He isn't a tall guy, but he is a giant. He was polite, but he also seemed to be analyzing me as much as I was analyzing him. I saw the wheels turning in his head and they were big fast wheels underneath a completely calm face and body.

I asked when he first played the blues guitar.

"Nobody has ever asked me that question before," he said. His dad and his family were all great performers and he was a prodigy. "I was never forced to play blues, I came to it later. Parents should not force kids to play blues. I think they should encourage a respect for the arts, and a lot of different genres. The arts are a lot of what makes life worth living. Some parents may try to force their kids to play blues, and I can't understand people like that."

Later that night, Curtis Salgado and Lloyd Jones were on stage together and the audience went crazy. Up until then volunteers had control of the crowd, but there was no way to control such a force of nature that is unleashed by Curtis and Lloyd together. They sounded great, and the next morning, The Oregon Music News reported that "Curtis Salgado either sounds a hell of a lot better live than on record or he had a very big set Sunday night."

Our mutual friend Rose Allen introduced me to Lloyd later, and he talked about how performers don't always know how they sound to the audience, and may not even know if the microphone is on unless someone tells them. I assured him sounded fine. At one point, I mentioned the Healing Power of Blues Project. He said "I am glad you mentioned that, the healing power of blues, because that's why I do this."

Still The RainI'd be remiss if I didn't mention the great sets from Karen Lovely, Bill Rhodes, David Vest, Son Jack Jr and Michael Wild, Paris Slim, Gary Farmer, The Twisters, Cyril Neville, Duffy Bishop, Kolvane, Little Feat, Kim Field, Nicole Fournier, Terry Robb, and hundreds of others.

As the music wound down on Monday, I caught up with Cascade Blues Association President Greg Johnson. I thought it first, but he said it first.

"I don't want it to end," said Greg

I agreed. Living life at the 2010 Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival for eternity is my idea of heaven.