Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Spread the Love" - Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters (Stony Plain Records)

By Malcolm Kennedy 

Spread The Love
Some folks think of Ronnie Earl as being to jazzy or that an album of instrumentals is too much; but for me Ronnie’s guitar playing speaks volumes. When the fat, stinging guitar and B-3 come in on the first seconds of the opening track, Albert Collin’s “Backstroke,” a mid paced blues shuffle, I knew I was in for a fantastic ride.

The follow up, “Blues For Dr. Donna” is a languid front porch affair with minimal accompaniment. Ronnie’s jazzy take on Kenny Burrell’s “Chitlins Con Carne", made famous to most through Stevie Ray Vaughan, adds a whole new dimension to this classic tune. The same can be said of his slow and reverently soulful approach to Duke Pearson’s “Christo Redentor” brought to my ears by way of Charlie Musselwhite. The subtle, quiet organ work by Dave Limina provides the structure for Ronnie to layer the voice of his guitar onto. Eleven of the generous 14 tracks are originals with Limina and drummer Lorne Entress each contributing one.

“Miracles” with it’s soaring and searing guitar lines reminds of something Santana would play. I think Otis would approve the way Dave tinkles the ivories on his tribute “Spann’s Groove.” Other standouts for me are “Blues For Slim” with Ronnie’s fluid playing and the jazzy “Ethan’s Song” with the B-3 adding to the groove. At the end of the acknowledgements in the liner notes Ronnie writes “Be kind. We need more love and forgiveness. Don’t give up hope before the miracle happens! Love, Ronnie. A heartfelt sentiment from this truly phenomenal artist, Very highly recommended.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Roslyn Blues Festival Recap

By Tim Dooley

The Roslyn Winter Blues Festival happened on February 18th & 19th 2011 in Roslyn, Washington. A grass roots effort, the festival would not have been possible without help and support from Roslyn’s residents, neighbors, and friends. A huge thank you goes out to security, sound, video, and the rest of the crew who along with the support of the Venues, The Cle Elem/Roslyn Police Department, and City Hall enabled us to
present a great weekend of Blues that musically rivaled any festivals.

Friday started out slow but by the end of the first sets the houses were full. Junkyard Jane performed their “Swampabilly Blues” at the Brick, while Blues Attitude totally smoked The Pastime. At Marko’s Place, Reggie Miles felt right at home mesmerizing the crowd with his homemade guitar and saw strumming. Friday night’s headliners Nick Vigarino & Larry Dennis in Back Porch Stomp rocked the house. Nick wowed the crowd playing slide on his guitar with every thing anyone would hand him, from a plastic pitcher, cell phone or the cowboy boot he pulled off the leg of a guy. The Pastime finished the night with Ravin’ Wolf, bringing a howling set of their psychedelic sagebrush blues. Later on, Open Country Joy’s country inspired “roots, rock, reggae” kept the crowd at Marko’s Place dancing until the plug was pulled.

Saturday started early at the Brick with two local teenage bands Luminous Decibel and The Odds, whose youth and talent both entertained and astonished. It was still daylight when the youthful elegance of Vince Mira shined through, with his big baritone voice and tantalizing guitar. As the sun set, the incredible one man band of Baby Gramps hit the stage with his foot stomping, throat singing, and national guitar “scribbling”. Then there was The Legend That Is Alice Stuart, wow, an amazing set from an amazing woman, (almost as good as listening to her at the afterhour’s party)! Rounding out the night at the Brick was the Rod Giles Band, adding a modern, groovin blues, which kept the crowd dancing till the end.

At the Pastime, last minute addition Aaron Daniel brought a different, energizing sound that caught a few people off guard. Then the country inspired sounds of Howlin’Houndog brought in a set of “Porch Music”that was fit for a king. Next up was the beautiful and multi-talented Stacy Jones. Whether singing, playing guitar, or on the keys, this 2010 Washington. Blues Society best female vocalist, with her dad in the band, is a must see! For me the Festival would not have been complete without Seattle native Daddy Treetops & his Howlin’ Tomcats. A little country, a bit of folk and one rockin set of blues. Fascination Nation had a little accident with their keyboardist but managed to put on one heck of a show bringing their own mix of Jazz, Rock and, of course, the blues to close the night. Marko’s Place started the day with a more folk sound provided by the opening band Harvey Swanson & the Coyotes, whose acoustic mix of melodies soothed the heart and eased the mind. Millie, the caretaker of the Roslyn Inns, and Roy, one of our soundmen, were nice enough to fill in a gap with a folk guitar and a trombone, which made for a nice treat. Then the party really started with Seattle’s Ayron Jones & the Way who are a Roslyn favorite. The night ended with the local favorite, Sidestreet Reny, who never disappoints.

With a passion for great music, producers Leah & Becca Knight of Ro-Town Sound and Tim Dooley of Dooley Productions put together a line up that satisfied everyone. The next step for Leah, Becca and Tim is the Second Annual Roslyn Crawl, coming up September 30th – October 2nd 2011. The Crawl is a music and arts street festival spanning the main business block of Roslyn. It will include 6-8 stages including a children’s stage, a performing arts stage, an art exhibit, and locally produced arts & crafts. The food vendors and beer gardens will provide awesome regional micro-beers, craft wines, and fantastic food. Featuring an exciting mix of genres, The Crawl will certainly provide a variety of entertainment for everyone.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Tribute to Pinetop Perkins with Hubert Sumlin and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith in Seattle

On April 26h and 27th, Dimitriou's Jazz Alley in Seattle will host a tribute to the late great Mississippi delta bluesman, Pinetop Perkins (July 7, 1913 – March 21, 2011); featuring Hubert Sumlin and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. Pinetop's best friend and Hubert Sumlin (proud recipient of the Living Blues Gold Award) has agreed to play with Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and the Pinetop Perkins band for two nights and two shows at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley.

Hubert SumlinWhen Hubert Sumlin plays guitar he takes you to his World of Blues Feeling -- from despair to ecstasy, from delicate grace to raw power, from lost to found. Though he's influenced and inspired many of the most famous guitar players, Hubert owns the magic. His style is original and personal and instantly recognizable. Best known for his celebrated work, from 1955, as a guitarist in Howlin' Wolf's band, his playing is characterized by "wrenched, shattering bursts of notes, sudden cliff-hanger silences and daring rhythmic suspensions". – Guitar World.  Listed as number sixty-five in the Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, he is also sited as a major influence by artists such as Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Robbie Robertson, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmy Hendrix.

Joined At The Hip: Pinetop Perkins & Willie "Big Eyes" SmithPinetop's last recording, Joined at the Hip, was a collaborative project with Willie "Big Eyes" Smith released in June 2010. The album features Smith on harp and the majority of vocals, leaving the drummer's chair open for his son, Kenny Smith. Joined at the Hip includes a mix of material written by Smith along with a few chestnuts from the annals of Delta and Chicago blues.

Tell Me MamaNot only did Willie "Big Eyes" Smith garner two nominations for the 2008 Grammy's, but in doing so he made blues history.  His nominations for Best Instrumentalist in the categories of drums and harmonica marks the first time an artist has been recognized for two instruments, let alone in the same year.  He is a 7-time W.C. Handy Award winner, multiple Grammy Award nominee and 2007 Blues Music Award recipient for Best Drummer.  Known for his traditional shuffle style he has been regarded as the heart and soul of the Chicago blues sound.  But these days, fans are just as likely to find Willie "Big Eyes" Smith holding on to a harmonica, his first instrument. Turns out, this award-winning blues drummer is also an accomplished harmonica master, band leader and dynamic vocalist.

For show information, Click Here

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Scandalous" - Black Joe Lewis and the Honey Bears (Lost Highway Records)

There are so many elements to the sound of Austin based Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears that make up what they describe as "garage soul," but the main ingredient is pure unadulterated fun. Every track on the band's second release Scandalous sounds exactly like a band having a great time doing what they love to do.

Lewis formed the Honeybears with Zach Ernst, who rides shotgun on guitar, and helped create a muscular road-seasoned eight piece band that sounds like James Brown singing in front of a funky punk band from the Deep South. Track one "Living In The Jungle," hits you with a full frontal assault from the Hard Proof Honeybear horns alongside some heavy guitar all propelled by a crack rhythm section that gives way to Lewis shouting "welcome to the jungle, everybody get up and find the groove."

The groove rumbles on to "Booty City," a classic boogaloo that sounds like it came straight out of Motown, then settles into a mixture of roadhouse boogie, blues and soul. Lewis weaves his vocals into the lead guitar lines on the smooth "I'm Gonna Leave You," and the terse" Ballad of Jimmy Tanks," in the style of classic bluesmen like Lighting Hopkins and Elmore James.

The Dallas gospel funk band, The Relatives, make a guest appearance on the raucous "You've Been Lyin," turning it into a Sly and the Family Stone style house party. Another standout track, "Mustang Ranch," is the true story of a road trip from Salt Lake City to San Francisco with a late night stop at the infamous brothel, delivered by Lewis with fierce comedic timing over a classic highway boogie sounding every bit as hilarious as Eddie Murphy in his prime.

As if to show they are more than a four on the floor funk band The Honeybears hit the twelve eight swing of the Ivory Joe Hunter classic "Since I met you Baby," with authentic bravado. With the acoustic stomp "Messin," Lewis shows that his roots are not far from the delta and Robert Johnson, who also taught himself how to play on a second hand guitar.

Scandalous showcases a band on the move, and having a riot getting there.

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears will be performing at the Crocodile in Seattle on Saturday, April 9, 2011. Click here for show information...

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Review: Rory Block - Shake 'Em On Down - A Tribute To Mississippi Fred McDowell

By JD Hathaway (
Shake 'em On Down: A Tribute To Mississippi Fred McDowell
Rory Block is a fortunate soul who figured out who and what she wanted to be at an early age and had the courage to pursue it. I'm not suggesting her life has been easy. Hell, is anyone's life actually easy? She paid a price and paid her dues but her hunger for music and the blues put her on a path and that journey and those she met along the way has informed her music.

Her abilities and understanding were aided in part because the blues is influenced by the folk tradition of passing songs and knowledge from generation to the next, and Block was inspired in time to meet and learn from some Delta pioneers and their protégés. That opportunity to learn not just from the recordings but from the people who made them has inspired a new chapter in her career, "The Mentors Series." She began recording tribute albums to those early Delta masters, emphasizing those she was fortunate to meet. Shake 'Em On Down is the latest chapter in that series, paying tribute to the great Mississippi Fred McDowell. The majority of these songs were penned, recorded, or performed by McDowell. Block also wrote a few originals for the set.

Blues Walkin' Like A Man: A Tribute To Son HouseIt's preposterous that a white female from New York would be among the most capable, faithful practitioners of an idiom invented primarily by African-American men who were slaves, former slaves, sharecroppers, and hobos concentrated in the Mississippi Delta, but the blues is a culture that transcends culture, race, gender, and geography. Block continues to be among the preeminent practitioners of acoustic, country blues. That it shouldn't work, that absurdity is part of what makes this album great. I love when gender roles and cultural identity get thrown out the window by daring artists with the skill and vision to make it work. Block is such an artist and it works very well on Shake 'Em On Down.

A masculine blues prowl like "Kokomo Blues" is a perfect vehicle for someone who wants to confound preconceived notions. Block doesn't shy away from the song's overt lust. She tempers the testosterone just a little but doesn't make it pretty or polite. She is unapologetic while maintaining a hint of a woman's touch. That same formula is at the root of the title track and it works equally well. The relentless slide and charging riff are given just a little sweetening in the form of overdubbed harmonies but none of the meaning is lost. "Worried Mind" is simple, pure country blues with lyrics that have been nicked and slightly altered in countless blues songs.

Performing "Kokomo Blues" and "Shake 'Em On Down" is only part of the story presented on this album. They're great songs that have been covered, copied, and re-interpreted innumerable ways by artists inspired by the influential McDowell.

Some may find it odd or inappropriate to mix original songs on an album purporting to pay tribute to another artist but Block's originals showcase her own deep understanding of McDowell and provide context and history that assists listeners in connecting with the album's subject and themes.

"Mississippi Man" tells the rest of the story behind this record. McDowell isn't just a voice and guitar on a vinyl disc or a picture in a photo album to Block. He is a flesh and blood, three dimensional, and present at a crucial moment in her life. "Mississippi Man" is a powerful musical account of her first encounter with McDowell. She sketches a former version of herself from a lifetime ago and puts her back in contact with the moment she met McDowell. She brings them together again, immortalizing that moment in the intimacy of a song.

"The Breadline" is a more academic connection to McDowell but no less powerful. It's natural to hear Block connect to McDowell musically, being an incredibly gifted slide player with a deep understanding of the deep blues. We experience that connection throughout the record. What "The Breadline" does is connect listeners to McDowell by writing the right song for the right moment because McDowell's blues are our blues once more. The global economy is a tangled, corrupt, impossibly complex system. When the economy is flushed down the toilet and the politicians squabble about what they're going to do to fix it -- and feel free to use any of several possible definitions of the word fix -- the global economy is no longer arcane formulas creating obscure indexes, it's survival and it's personal. So is Shake 'Em On Down.