Friday, October 21, 2011

New Blues For You - Electric and Acoustic

There have been some pretty good releases over the past few months that you might have missed.  This week, Friday Blues Fix continues its public service of making sure that blues fans don't miss out on any great new recordings, so here are a few capsule summaries of new discs.  As always, more extensive reviews of these discs can be found at Blues Bytes either right now or in the coming months.

D'Mar & Gill - Real Good Friend (Airtight):  Mississippi blues fans might be familiar with singer/songwriter/guitarist Chris Gill, who has been a mainstay of the Jackson blues and roots scene for several years.  Gill has teamed up with percussionist Derrick "D'Mar" Martin, another Mississippian, who has played with Little Richard and currently fronts the local band, Nu Funk.  The result is a combination of Gill's Delta-flavored acoustic blues mixed with Martin's amazing African-based percussion work that breathes amazing new life into the blues art form.  This was just a fun disc to listen to, and you'll find yourself playing it over and over again.  I hope that this is not a one-time collaboration and that we will get to hear more from them soon.

Bernie Pearl - Sittin' on the Right Side of the Blues (Major Label):  If Bernie Pearl isn't a national treasure, he should be.  For over fifty years, he's been a guitar player and singer, a DJ, a producer, and has led his own band.  He's done as much as anyone to help keep the blues alive for over a half century.  His latest recording is a live set, accompanied by bass player Michael Barry, recorded in Culver City, CA.  Pearl does nine covers from artists like Lightnin' Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and obscure Louisiana bluesman Herman Johnson, plus six originals that include a pair of dandy instrumentals and the autobiographical title track.  If you like acoustic blues guitar, you'll be hard pressed to find a more satisfying disc than this one.

Steve Gerard & the National Debonaires (Featuring James "Rock" Gray) - Voodoo Workin' (Blue Edge):  Gerard and band mostly focused on jump blues and shuffles on their first couple of releases, but they shift to southern blues and soul on their third album.  Relocating to Jackson, MS a while back, Gerard recruited local singer James "Rock" Gray to front the Debonaires.  Gray is a versatile vocalist, easily handling swamp blues like Charles Sheffield's title track, Chicago blues, and even New Orleans R&B. Gray also penned three songs, which lean toward the R&B side of blues.  The Debonaires are a tight group and faithfully update the classic sounds of 50's and 60's blues and R&B.  Hopefully, this one won't slip through the cracks because it's a gem.

Maria Muldaur - Steady Love (Stony Plain):  Everybody is familiar with Muldaur's seductuve 70's pop hit, "Midnight at the Oasis," but the sultry singer has focused on the sounds of New Orleans since the early 90's.  She has made some great recordings during that time span, but Steady Love may be her best yet.  This disc is her first full-fledged tribute to the Crescent City.  She does a wonderful job on covers of songs by Elvin Bishop ("I'll Be Glad"), Bobby Charles ("Why Are People Like That"), Sugar Pie DeSanto ("Soulful Dress"), and a wonderful version of Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Someone To Love."  She also mixes in several gospel tunes for good measure (another great part of New Orleans music), including "I Done Made Up My Mind" and Rick Vito's "I Am Not Alone" (with Vito on slide guitar).  Muldaur's vocals have become richer and huskier over the years ,which suits this material perfectly.  With Steady Love, Muldaur proves she's still one of the best singers of any genre.

The blues world lost an up-and-coming talent this week way too soon.  Colorado-based bluesman John-Alex Mason died from complications after outpatient surgery to remove cancerous tissue. He had been in a coma for about three weeks and was taken off life support earlier this week. He was only 35 years old and leaves behind a wife and daughter. Mason was one of the most innovative of the recent wave of acoustic blues/roots guitarists. His last CD, Juke Joint Thunderclap, released earlier this year, is an amazing effort and well worth seeking out.  

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