Saturday, January 29, 2011

An Evening at Trasimeno Lake: Live From the Heart of Italy - Ana Popovic (DVD)

By Malcolm Kennedy

Popovic, Ana - An Evening At Trasimeno Lake: Live From The Heart Of Italy
An Evening at Lake Trasimeno was filmed at a concert during the European portion of Ana’s Blind For Love tour supporting her 2009 Eclecto Groove release featuring an eight piece band. The performers consist of a rhythm section of bass, drums, keyboards, percussion, a two piece horn section of sax and trumpet, back ground vocals and Ana on vocals and guitar. There are 14 tracks including five from the new CD, six from Eclecto Groove’s 2007 release Still Making History and with one each off Ana’s two Ruf Records CD’s, 2003’s Comfort To The Soul and 2001’s Hush and a previously un-released cover of the Willie Dixon song “Let Me Love You Babe,” Ana came to by way of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s In Step album. There are also bonus features including a pair of acoustic numbers filmed in the afternoon and a full interview.

Blind For LoveOne of the interesting things the director did was to have scenes periodically either between songs or sometimes fading out of a track with Ana walking around the venue grounds or through the 13th century castle on the site while doing short interview bits rather than just a straight 2 hour concert set. Ana plays tortured slide on the bluesy shuffle “How’d You Learn To Shake It Like That” and does a slow burning blues version of “U Complete Me” both supported by the core band of Ronald Jonker-bass, Andrew “Blaze” Thomas-drums and Michele Papadia-keyboards. This four piece core also performed unassisted on half of the songs including the opening four with the full eight piece outfit joining in on the fifth song and also the last song, The other songs feature configurations with the horns and back-up singer, horns only and six piece with no horns.

Musically Ana covers a lot of ground from gritty blues to bumping funk, blazing blues rock to jazzy acoustic showing as she does on her CD’s that she has many sides to her music. On most of the songs Ana plays her 1964 three tone Sunburst Fender Stratocaster; but on several cuts she switched to her red 1960 Relic, Custom Shop Strat with white pick guard. She comes out dressed in black leather pants, sleeveless top bangles, rings and her signature arm jewelry and almost knee high studded stiletto heel boots. She follows this with “Blind For Love” also acoustic with the addition of the sax and trumpet. On “Recall The Days” from her Comfort To The Soul CD Ana plays blistering solos while Ronald is particularly animated on the bass.

The interview in the bonus feature gives some interesting insight of how Ana balances raising her 2 ½ old year son Luuk with touring and recording. There are also two solo acoustic tracks filmed in the afternoon at various places on location at the castle showing some of the spectacular views at this beautiful site. An Evening at Trasimeno Lake is well filmed and produced; the sound quality, filming angles and edits are all top notch and they provide song titles on screen at the start of each song.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Travelin' Light with James King and The Southsiders

Billy Spaulding is the one who told me about it. I ran into him at Elmer's Pub in Burien, appearing with the Tim Turner Band a couple weeks ago. Billy told me he had a gig the next night out in Maple Valley at Gloria's, performing with James King's new band, "JAMES KING & the SOUTHSIDERS." Just like that, I am on the scent of adventure; lured to the edge of metropolis to bring back news of a hot new band on the Northwest Blues horizon. You know when James King is involved, it's going to sizzle.

Here's what James had to say about his new group: "I've been lucky to have been in some great bands over the last 35 years, as a front man and a side man. Now, I'm fortunate again to have four excellent players who believe in my ability to conduct a party. Arlin Harmon is the best piano and organ player I've ever heard and he's in my freaking band!! All we want to do is make some people happy if they stumble upon us and play the best possible music together that we can."

What I immediately appreciated was the less beaten-into-the-ground selection of tunes, meaning I got to hear some obscure classics many folks are not familiar with...yet. Fun stuff, swinging, danceable and upbeat. "Heart and Soul to You," by Mitch Woods, "Reconsider Baby" by Lowell Fulson, and "Sick and Tired," were on my favorites list. I highly recommend this new band for your entertainment.

JAMES KING & the SOUTHSIDERS: Steve Blood, guitars; Billy Spaulding, drums and vocals; Dave Berry, bass; Arlin Harmon, keyboards; and Jim King, sax, harp and vocals. Oh yeah, the new CD, probably not ready for a couple months, but they are working hard and really excited about it. The album's cover art by Ian Weintraub, sets the stage for a whole lotta fun to come.

Be sure to say hello if you see me, I'll be Travelin' Light.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Few Things To Note For Seattle Area Blues Fans

By Rev. Deb Engelhardt
A couple things have come up that are of note to Seattle area blues fans... First thing is that the Blues To Do television show is now being taped live at the J&M Cafe in Pioneer Square on Sunday nights, with setup around 5 pm. and windup by 7 pm. (Funding for the SCAN TV studio has disappeared.)

At 7 pm, the Seattle Houserockers jam for a few hours, and I have been enjoying the return of blues to the J&M. Yesterday I received a telephone call from John Lee of the Seattle Houserockers, telling me that the jam has been suspended until March 5, when they will return with a full evening's entertainment.

You can still get your blues fix in the Square, Doug McGrew is hosting jams at 88 Keys a couple nights a week, including Wednesdays.

Also, Fabulous Roofshakers performed last Saturday night (tomorrow) at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant after bugging Gaye for five years trying to get a gig there. Come out and support the Roofshakers, they truly are fabulous, one of my favorite all around dance bands; they've got just what you need to get your boogie on. [you can view the Roofshakers calendar here]

"Devil Got His Way" - Damon Fowler (Blind Pig Records)

Devil Got His Way 
Damon Fowler caught my attention with just the title of his latest record, Devil Got His Way, before I heard a note. This isn't filled with social commentary or political examinations but if ever there was a phrase that seemed appropriate for the times we're living in, this might be it.

Sugar ShackDevil Got His Way is Fowler's follow up to his Blind Pig debut Sugar Shack and he's re-teamed with producer Scott Cable for a 12-song set that begins with a solid blues base and sprinkles it with Southern roots-rock charm and a hint of country tonk twang. He approaches the blues with a smooth, warm voice that radiates and heats the way that first sip of whiskey does. He sets things ablaze with his guitar when he wants to move from frying pan to fire and he has the confidence not to bludgeon listeners with excess. He gives his leads melody and purpose, making it count when he plays.

Fowler wrote or co-wrote 10 of the songs on Devil and his growth as a songwriter forms a foundation for the rest of his talents. His compositions have a hint of pop construction and some feel like they could be singles on FM radio or that they'd fit alongside songs that have been in heavy rotation on classic rock stations for decades. His sound and ideas have a worn, well-traveled feel without sounding like tired retreads.

Among the highlights are the opening tracks "We've Got A Good Thing" and the title cut. "We've Got A Good Thing" is one that wears those countrified roots and is augmented with a guitar solo that's as greasy as the food at a Southern diner. "Devil Got His Way" sports a sinister, snarling slide guitar workout over a funked-up, rocking bass line. That slide gets another great workout on "28 Degrees" and then he sets it aside for some fancy picking on "Tight Rope." "Don't Call Me" and "You Go Your Way" are finely crafted tunes that work familiar lyrical terrain in an engaging way.

Devil Got His Way dips occasionally but is smart, well crafted, and superbly executed. The comparatively weaker moments still feel at home and are listenable in the context of this tightly focused set. I'm not signing on with Satan but Damon Fowler makes it sound mighty appealing when the devil gets his way.

This review was originally posted on

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Mind and Music of Mighty Mo Rodgers

By Robert Horn 
This post is a precursor to a much more extensive article I'm penning for the Washington Blues Society's  Bluesletter about Mo Rodgers. A while back, when I first set out to develop a website called the, I decided I wanted some music that was representative of the topic. The first song I thought of was "Blues Is My Wailing Wall" by Mo Rodgers. I felt that it was the most perfect song for the website.

(Listen to the entire track at

That is when I first contacted Mo. It was almost three years ago...

Blues Is My Wailin' WallNow days I am in touch with Mo on a daily basis. Whenever there is any political or cultural event in the world that gets people talking and debating, Mo has an opinion. Sometimes on Facebook he will post a few song lyrics as a statement. He goes deeper into philosophy, psychology, history, and other fields. His academic background includes philosophy and humanities, and Mo would he would fit nicely into a sociology or black history department too. Mo is not at all narrow in his consciousness either. He credits Europe as well as Africa for some of the pre-conditions for the blues to come into being. He also discusses with me and others how he thinks the south is haunted and how the blues has a healing characteristic.

Recent events in Arizona have he and I in communication a lot lately, and Martin Luther King Day is another time we've posted exchanges online.

On YouTube there are many things you can find about this artist. Mo was a Handy Award nominee and is perhaps more known in France than in the United States. His roots go back to the Chicago and Indiana areas, but currently lives in Southern California. At the bottom of this article you'll find a YouTube "playlist" posted with six videos that are a must see. The first video is Metaphysical Blues: New Frontiers in Music Making. In it, Mo is interviewed by a sociology professor about black history and the significance of the blues. He discusses how Africans had the drum taken from them when they were kidnapped and taken to North America. Mo also talks about how they later got the drum back. One of the video clips is his song, Took Away The Drum. Some other songs with a lot of power embodied in them include: Happy As A Runaway Slave, and Shame.

Mo's music is well done, his art has a lot to say, and conversations with him are great ones. I highly recommend taking the time to watch these videos:

Editor's note: For more on The Healing Power of Blues visit: Also, check out these articles:
Blue Genes Evolutionary Musings on All American Blues by Rand De Mattei
Blues as Therapy By Robert Horn

Monday, January 17, 2011

“Riding Alone” - Sammy Eubanks (Self-released)

By Blues Boss 
If you went to the 2010 WBS Holiday Party you witnessed the VOICE! Yes SAMMY EUBANKS, the VOICE, is back with a new CD - Riding Alone. Let's get this out of the way - is it Blues? Well, yes and no. Blues based yes, but hardly true blues as the hardcore blues fan would determine. More twang than blues slang . More cowboy boots than two-toned dress shoes. And, there is definitely more cowboy hat than fedora. But, that really doesn't matter. It's catchy music, delivered with a straight ahead style. And, of course, it's the VOICE.

I always tell "first-timers" to a Sammy Eubanks performance that you are going to see a guy who looks like he should be the bouncer at the door (and, he can give you that "security look" if need be). Then the show starts and he sings – out comes a truly clear, clean, outstanding voice. Pleasing as all get-out. Everything is done effortlessly, in a casual delivery that borders on being tongue-in-cheek.

Backed by bassist Dale Lewis and drummer Gary Smith (with the addition of John Rickard on steel guitar and Charles Swanson on sax on a couple tunes), the Sammy Eubanks band is just what you expect, a tight trio putting out fun, danceable music - with a VOICE you won't hear anywhere else in the Pacific Northwest. If you liked Sammy's first CD, you'll definitely enjoy Riding Alone - if nothing else for the highly enjoyable (and festival popular) "Dancing like a White Guy" and his great rendition of the standard "Hound Dog". I've found out that its' great driving music. Pick up a copy, I bet you'll enjoy the hell out of it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Betty LaVette with Opening Act Jon Cleary in Seattle February 3-6

Greatness will be coming to Seattle February 3rd through the 6th. The soulful blues voice of Betty LaVette will grace the room at Jazz Alley along with the opening act of funk, blues, soul pianist Jon Cleary.

Bettye LaVette is one of the greatest soul singers in American music history, possessed of an incredibly expressive voice that one moment will exude a formidable level of strength and intensity and the next will appear vulnerable, reflective, reeking of heartbreak.

Interpretations: The British Rock SongbookBettye’s recent album Interpretations (2010), produced by Bettye, Rob Mathes and Michael Stevens, is a 12-song journey through compositions by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Traffic and Pink Floyd, among others, before concluding right where the very idea for the new album started: Bettye's visceral show-stopping rendition of The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me" from the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors, which is included as an extended bonus track.

There is a quality about Bettye LaVette’s style, delivery and entire persona that can perhaps only best be described as “Soulful Determination”: a worldliness that comes from bitter-sweet experience and which in turn produces bitter-sweet irony. But, despite it all, it is a delivery that is the subtle range that Soul music covers, and Bettye LaVette, with her remarkable vocal range and stamina, is one of its finest accomplished exponents.

Mo Hippa LiveNew Orleans’ Jon Cleary is a triple threat - with a salty sweet voice combining soulful vocals, masterful piano skills, and a knack for composing infectious grooves with melodic hooks and sharp lyrics. He balances a career performing on solo piano, with noted funk band The Absolute Monster Gentlemen, and his new power trio Piano, Bass & Drums, alongside a career as a notorious hired gun with the likes of Bonnie Raitt and John Scofield. Cleary is featured on vocals and keyboards on the recently released, Piety Street by John Scofield & The Piety Street Band. Cleary has toured with Bonnie Raitt since 1999, and has appeared on the albums Silver Lining and Souls Alike. Cleary has produced five recordings to date including his latest, a live recording from Sydney, Australia called “Mo Hippa”, which features a mix of the styles that inform the New Orleans’ sound -- from island rhythms, to soul-drenched funk jams.

Show information at

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Festival Review: 4th Annual Mineral Lake Benefit

By Rocky “Rock Khan” Nelson 
A beautiful Indian Summer afternoon brought us to a shindig in the shadow of Mount Rainier this past fall. I drove to downtown Mineral Washington of ultra-rural Lewis County where time and cell phone coverage ceases to exist. Randy Oxford and Gary Johnson’s fourth annual benefit on September 25th at the Mineral Lake Event Center for the Lewis County Food Bank was in full swing when I arrived with a caravan of musicians and blues fans.

A fabulous venue within the old Mineral School grounds ensured a perfect rain or shine performance for the many campers, blues fans, musicians, and vendors.

I spoke with promoter Gary Johnson about the venue and the support he has seen over the years.

“Randy and I have done 10 concerts together,” said Gary, “[mainly] Blues and Jazz, including a couple country shows. Realizing that our facility is remote, we had to reach out with our advertising. Today the average person travels at least 50 miles; others come from various areas throughout the state, also California, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Montana, and Southern British Columbia, Canada.”

“We have had over 50,000 people pass through the facility in the last 5 years,” continued Gary. “We have a 25% discount for active military and invite all members of the Armed Forces to attend. Our mission is to provide a quality show with an affordable price, keeping it family oriented, kids of all ages are welcome, and in fact we encourage it. Randy also brings young acts with each show.”

Twelve year old Nolan Garrett had won a band competition back in the spring and one of the prizes was a paid performance at the Mt.Rainier Rhythm and Blues Festival.

“I have known him since he was 9 as he attended my kid’s jams that I was hosting at Jazzbones in Tacoma,” said Randy. “I have watched him grow and develop his skills over the last 3 years and it was a real pleasure to be able to hire him and let him shine on the main stage.”

Other acts from all corners of the Pacific Northwest included Big Monti featuring Peter Dammann, The Hudson Rocket Band, The Fat Tones, Al Earick, The Coyote Kings, Jeff and the Jet City Fliers, Little Bill and the Bluenotes, Midnight Cruiser, The Randy Oxford Band, and the 20 piece Groovin’ Higher Orchestra.

Support from many volunteers made this event happen. The volunteer crew, the sound crew, the vendors, the bands, the jam sessions, the food donations, the perfect weather, and the general positive vibe, all came together at once for what was “one of the all-time great festival experiences” said Oxford.

Many microbreweries and local wineries slaked the thirst of parched blues fans. Along with a cocktail bar in the main stage area, there were Elk Head, Harmon, White Horse and Deschutes breweries. Fans of adult grape juice enjoyed local area wines from Scatter Creek and Westport. Uncle Thurm’s Southern Style cranked out ribs, cat-fish and chicken. Mario's Philly Sandwiches and the Pizza-Man gave hungry patrons excellent choices.

In addition, arts and crafts booths featured jewelry, pottery, wood carving, metal sculpture, hand-made clothing, oil painting, photography and a Massage Therapist did chair massages. The Washington Blue Society also had a booth in the main- stage area to sign up new members and sell CDs.

“Over-all, I would say that this was our best turn out yet out of the 10 events that Gary and I have put on in the last 4 years,” Oxford said with a smile.

With over 2000 pounds of canned goods donated to the Lewis County Food Bank during this event, and all the other smiling faces I saw, Randy and Gary have a lot to be proud of.

Mark your calendars for May! The next joint event for Oxford and Johnson at the Mineral Lake Event Center is the 5th Annual Music on the Mountain Festival, scheduled for May 13-14 2011. Be there for some great music, great food and drinks, and a great way to support a great cause!