One of the busiest labels in recent months has been Severn Records. Since last summer, the Maryland label has released some of the best soul/blues albums in a long time. Many blues fans listed Charles Wilson's Troubled Child and Darrell Nulisch's Just For You in their Top Ten lists for 2009, and deservedly so. Two more releases from Severn deserve your attention as well. Tad Robinson has been one of the blues unsung heroes for quite some time. He's released several well-received CDs over the past fifteen years that featured his powerful soul-drenched vocals. His latest release, Back In Style, may be his most soulful yet. He acknowledges all his influences from Stax & Hi-influenced Memphis soul of Al Green and Otis Redding to the gritty Chicago soul sounds of Tyrone Davis. It's amazing stuff and essential listening if you're a fan of Old School Soul. It hits stores on May 18. Here's Robinson in action, with guitarist Alex Schultz.
The other Severn release of note is the incredible BlooGaLoo from Johnny Moeller. Moeller could be the new Hardest Working Man in Show Business. He's a member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds and also fronts his own band. In his spare time, he's contributed to several other Severn releases from Nulisch, Lou Pride, and Steve Guyger. BlooGaLoo took him four years to complete, but it's well worth the wait. It features appearances from T-Bird front-man Kim Wilson, Lou Ann Barton, and Shawn Pittman, along with that great Severn House Band that includes Steve Gomes, Rob Stupka, and Matt Farrell. Moeller counts Albert Collins, the Vaughan brothers, T-Bone Walker, and Lightnin' Hopkins as influences, but he doesn't really sound like any of them. He mixes them with a healthy dose of jazz, funk, soul, and rock and creates a totally unique sound. If you consider yourself any type of guitar fan, you need to own this disc.
Troy Turner has been around for over twenty years and made quite a bit of noise in the early 90's as a Baton Rouge teenager. I can remember reading a short article about Turner in Living Blues around 1990. He was certainly not lacking for confidence back then. From what I remember, his guitar was spot on, but his vocals needed some work as he sounded even younger than he was at times. He's released four discs over the past twenty years and his latest release, Whole Lotta Blues, is his first in over ten years. Released on the Evidence label and produced by Jon Tiven, the disc offers plenty of great guitar heroics and if you are a fan of Turner's, you'll be pleased to know that his vocals are much improved this time around. Whole Lotta Blues is his best release yet and hopefully will open many more eyes and ears to this artist.
Kirk Fletcher has a new release as well. It's his first in several years. Fletcher charged out of the gate about ten years ago with some great releases from JSP in England, but stepped back a bit about mid-decade and has played with several bands, including the Mannish Boys, the Hollywood Blue Flames, and a five-year stint with the Fabulous Thunderbirds. His newest release is called My Turn and is his best yet. Fletcher spent the past few years listening to many different types of music, from Jimi Hendrix to 70's funk to jazz and you can sense the influence of these diverse sounds on his new release. For a taste of Fletcher, check out this clip of him performing with the T-Birds.
Phil Gates. Gates has been around music all of his life and he's done music on the side for years while working in the aerospace industry. He's also produced and done session work and has released several of his own CDs. His most recent release is called Addicted to the Blues and it's a winner. Gates' blues are on the funky side and he is an excellent guitarist and singer. This clip is from a few years ago and it's a super cover of the old Rosco Gordon classic, "Just A Little Bit," one of my favorite blues tunes.