Today, Friday Blues Fix looks at some exciting new and recent releases that are worth shelling out some of that hard-earned currency for. There are still a lot of hard-working bluesmen out there, old and new, needing some attention from blues fans. Please support them any way you can, by purchasing CDs, downloaded their music (legally, of course), and by going to see live blues wherever and whenever you can. These guys and gals toil away up to 300+ nights a year in some cases to give you the music you love to hear, so every bit of change you can send their way makes a difference.
First up today is Mississippi blues/soul man Stevie J. Fans of the Mississippi scene may recognize Stevie J as Steve Johnson, who's played guitar or bass for many years in Bobby Rush's band and on a few of his CDs, including Live At Ground Zero and Folkfunk. Stevie J has also played on numerous Malaco Records sessions, has fronted his own band for the past few years and is a favorite on the southern soul circuit as well. Recently, he released a two-CD set that captures both sides of his persona. The Diversity Project consists of a blues CD (Standin' at the Station) and a soul CD (Soul Sessions). The blues CD includes some very good original compositions ("Standin' At The Station," "Born Again Bluesman," and "Yes I Love Da Blues") and some excellent covers (a funky reworking of Luther Allison's "Middle of the Road" and Percy Mayfield's "River's Invitation"). Stevie J likes to mix healthy doses of funk into his blues (a prerequisite if you spend any amount of time in Bobby Rush's band) and it produces some satifying results.
There are some good original songs on the soul CD and a couple of cool cover tunes (George Clinton's "Cosmic Slop" and John Mayer's "Gravity"). Stevie J has a smooth vocal style that suits the genre perfectly. It's easy to see why he's a favorite on the southern soul circuit. This CD was entered in the album division at the recent IBC in Memphis and Stevie J made it to the IBC finals as a performer as well. Whether your tastes runs more toward modern blues or soul, you will enjoy this one. Stevie J came to my hometown a few years ago played his own set and backed Dorothy Moore and a couple of other local artists and seemed to be a really nice guy. Hopefully, this set will mean bigger and better things for him.
FBF hasn't really covered a lot of lady blues singers over the past year and that was an oversight on my part. One of the best out there right now is Nellie "Tiger" Travis, another Mississippi native though she has relocated to Chicago in recent years and has made some noise on the soul/blues scene herself in the states and overseas. Her most recent release is I'm Going Out Tonight, on the Benevolent Blues label. After Koko Taylor's death, Chicago radio legend Pervis Spann dubbed Travis the new Queen of Chicago Blues and she's earned the title with this CD. Like Taylor, she can handle the rough and tough tracks ("Before You Grab This Tiger By The Tail," "Ain't Gonna Raise No Grown Ass Man," "Tornado Wrapped In Fire") and the tender tracks ("I Cry The Blues," "There's A Queen In Me") effortlessly. She even pays tribute to Taylor ("Koko") and her home state ("Born In Mississippi"). Travis wrote seven of the ten tracks and gets help on a couple of tracks from Buddy Guy's band (her husband, Tim Austin, plays drums for Guy). This is a strong set of hard-hitting blues from a lady who may not be in a class by herself, but it sure doesn't take long to call the roll.
Los Fabulocos calls their music "Cali-Mex." It's an irresistible mix of blues, rock, country, zydeco, and traditional Mexican music. The group includes members of the former East L.A. roots band, The Blazers (Jesus Cuevas - singer, accordion, and Mike Molina - drums) and guitarist Kid Ramos. Their second release, on the Delta Groove label, is called Dosand is a ton of fun, with songs like the zydeco flavored "The Vibe," "Everything Will Turn Out Alright," which recalls the mid 80's Los Lobos, "The Coffee Song" (written by bass player, James Barrios) and a dazzling Spanish/English version of Little Richard's "Keep A Knockin'." Cuevas does a wonderful job on vocals and his accordion really adds a nice dimension to the music, but Kid Ramos' excellent and tasteful guitar work really lifts this one up a notch. This is a great disc to plug into your next party.
What a nice story behind this CD.....Back in 1976, James Kinds was listed in Living Blues as one of the "New Generation of young Chicago blues musicians," and he toured Europe the next year. However, his career never really took off from there and stalled after an ill-fated union with Ike Turner at his L.A. studio, and he ended up in Dubuque, Iowa, where he continued to ply his trade, but under less of a spotlight. He reappeared at the 2007 Chicago Blues Festival, which attracted the attention of Delmark Records, who have now released Kinds' new CD, Love You From The Top. Kinds' vocal style is distinctive, but will remind you of two West Side legends, Magic Sam and Syl Johnson. Musically, the disc has a definite West Side vibe. Kinds wrote all of the tracks on this CD and plays guitar. He's backed by a solid three-piece band and also adds Chicago sax man Eddie Shaw on four tracks, including this one, "Johnny Mae." Sometimes the blues does have a happy ending and in this case, James Kinds has an opportunity to make things even better in the future.
That's all we have time for today, folks. We'll discuss more new releases in the near future. Right now, Friday Blues Fix would like to pay tribute to several blues artists who passed away over the past few weeks, starting with Gary Moore. Moore was known by many rock fans as the guitarist for the Irish rock group, Thin Lizzy, but carved out a solid career as a blues rocker over the past couple of decades. He was found dead in his hotel room about a month ago, apparently from a heart attack.
Soul and blues singer Marvin Sease also passed away in February at age 64, after a lengthy illness. Sease got his start in gospel music, but later turned to secular music and enjoyed a nice run on the southern juke joint circuit with songs like "Ghetto Man," "Dreaming," and "Candy Licker," and he had several albums to chart on the Billboard R&B charts.
Eddie Kirkland, the Gypsy of the Blues, was killed on February 27 in a car accident. He was 87 years old and was still active on the blues scene. Kirkland played second guitar on many of John Lee Hooker's 50's recordings....an impressive feat. He recorded for King Records and Fortune Records in the 50's and later served as Hooker's road manager. In the 60's, he played with Otis Redding and even cut a record for Volt Records (as Eddie Kirk) before leaving the business to become an auto mechanic. He returned in the 70's, with a revitalized sound and never looked back, continuing to record and perform right up until his death.