Friday, June 1, 2012

New Blues For You (Summer 2012 Edition)

It's still early, but this looks like it's going to be a great summer for new blues.  It's been a good year so far with some standout releases, but this month has really gone above and beyond.  As always, these discs will be reviewed in much more detail in the June or July issues of Blues Bytes.

If you like the old school blues done up right, you would be hard-pressed to find a better outlet than Double Dynamite, the recent 2 CD set by the Mannish Boys on Delta Groove Records.  The Mannish Boys are an all-star outfit of West Coast bluesmen who have released several great albums of classic blues songs over the past six or seven years.  In the past, the group has been fronted by such singers as Finis Tasby, Bobby Jones, and Johnny Dyer, along with the vocals and harmonica of Delta Groove head man Randy Chrotkoff.  This time around, Tasby and newcomer Sugaray Rayford, a gospel-influenced Texas singer cover all the bases, but get a hand from other contributors like Mud Morganfield, James Harman, and Jackie Payne.  Other guest stars include Rod Piazza, Elvin Bishop, Bob Corritore, Mike Finnigan, Junior Watson, Jason Ricci, and Kid Ramos.  One disc is traditional Chess/VeeJay era blues and the other is a jumping set of R&B and soul-based blues.  Yeah,  you'll want to get your hands on this one, folks.

Delmark Records has really struck gold in recent years with outstanding releases from artists like Toronzo Cannon, James Kinds, Studebaker John, Sharon Lewis, Demetria Taylor, Eddie C. Campbell, and Quintus McCormick.  McCormick's third and latest Delmark release, Still Called the Blues, provide further evidence that he is a great guitarist and singer, as his strong vocals work in both a blues and soul setting.  McCormick wrote over half of the tunes on this disc and they mix funk, R&B, rock, and soul with the blues. He also covers a varied set of tunes ranging from Bobby Rush to B.B. King to Paul McCartney.  Musicians like McCormick give me confidence in the future of the blues.

I wrote about The Fremonts a while back on one of my Top Discs You Might Have Missed series.  After six years, the group recently released a live disc, recorded at the Bailey Woodpit BBQ in Julian, CA.  Live at the Woodpit features the band doing twelve of their favorite songs before an small, but enthusiastic audience.  The Fremonts specialize in that vintage Gulf Coast blues and R&B sound, with a splash of Chicago thrown in for good measure.  Fronted by Mighty Joe Milsap, a fine old school vocalist, and propelled by a sizzling twin guitar attack, the Fremonts make some mighty fine music, with a mix of old favorites and originals that blend easily with the classics.  The Fremonts are a band that deserve to be heard by fans of traditional blues, so stop by their website and see what you're missing.

Speaking of bands that deserve to be heard by a larger audience, did you know that The Nighthawks are celebrating their 40th year this year?  They recently signed with Severn Records and recently released Damn Good Time, a hard-hitting set of roadhouse blues.  Three of the four Nighthawks (Mark Wenner, Paul Bell, Johnny Castle, and Mark Stutso) take turns at vocals and all of them sound great.  The songs are a mix of blues, soul, rock, and R&B with covers of tunes by Elvis ("Too Much"), Jimmy McCracklin ("Georgia Slop"), Billy Price ("Who You're Workin' For"), Nat King Cole ("Send For Me"), and Wilbert Harrison ("Let's Work Together").  This may be the strongest set of Nighthawks yet, and with a list of alums that includes Jimmy Thackery, Warren Haynes, Jimmy Nalls, and Pete Kanaras, that's saying something.  Seek this one out because any disc by The Nighthawks is guaranteed to be a good one.  Hopefully, their relationship with Severn will be a fruitful one.

Occasionally, you will get to hear a CD that really puts a hop in your step, that is totally unlike anything else you've been listening to.  I got the hop a couple of weeks ago when I heard Tweed Funk's Love Is.  Holy Cow!  Back in the 70's, as a teenager, I really got into the funk bands that were popular, such as the Ohio Players, Parliament, Confunkshun, the Bar-Kays, and even the Godfather himself, James Brown.  Tweed Funk has the funk and mixes it in healthy doses with the blues.  Their original tunes move from swing ("Fine Wine"), to slow blues ('Getting Home"), to funk ("Dancemaker," "Pick 'em Early") and they cover everyone from Johnny "Guitar" Watson ("A Real Mother For Ya"), Magic Sam ("What Have I Done Wrong"), and even the Godfather (the show-stopping closer "Sex Machine").  This was a really fun disc to listen to and will appeal to fans beyond the blues spectrum.

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