2013 looks to be getting off to a good start as far as new blues recordings go, possibly improving on what was a pretty impressive 2012 list of standouts. This week, Friday Blues Fix will look at five new releases that deserve to be heard by all respectable blues fans as soon as possible. As always, you can find expanded reviews of each of these CDs in a future issue of Blues Bytes.
4 Jacks - Deal With It (EllerSoul): The latest blues super group features Texas guitarist extraordinaire Anson Funderburgh, singer/drummer Big Joe Maher (of Big Joe and the Dynaflows), keyboardist Kevin McKendree (Delbert McClinton's bandleader) and Nashville bass player Steve Mackey. This disc is a pretty well-rounded set of blues and roots music, opening with the funky title track, a Booker T.-styled instrumental, and moving from smooth jump blues to urban blues to soul to raucous rockers. Most longtime blues fans know that Funderburgh and Maher are pretty skilled at all these styles, but McKendree and Mackey provide a tight rhythmic backing that makes an excellent release even better. This is one that you really need to seek out and, while you're at it, take a look at the remainder of EllerSoul Records' wonderful catalog of recordings. Meanwhile, check out the band in action on this great instrumental from the disc, "Texas Twister."
Live at the 55 Arts Club Berlin (Blackbird Music): Lucky Peterson has been playing the blues since he was five years old....that's over FORTY years, folks. He served in Little Milton's band and Bobby "Blue" Bland's band before striking out on his own at the tender age of 21. He's been very active on the recording and touring scene in both the U.S. and the world. Peterson's blues mixes traditional sounds with modern slices of funk and R&B. He started out on keyboards, but has developed into an excellent guitarist over the years. Since the mid 90's, Peterson's wife, Tamara, has been touring and recording with the band, adding some pop and jazz sensibilities to Peterson's repertoire. In addition, Peterson's band is one of the best in the business, with Shawn Kellerman contributing some killer lead guitar throughout this performance taped in Berlin recently. This set includes two DVD's and two CD's of the performance, plus a bonus DVD that features Peterson's band warming up the audience with several songs of their own, plus some "Behind the Scenes" clips of the band in rehearsal and an interview with the engaging Peterson. The set itself is a mix of both Peterson's own compositions, plus some covers of traditional blues classics, and a countrified blues restructuring of Prince's "Kiss." Peterson is a blues lifer who should actually be better known than he is, based on his talent and showmanship. This first-rate set is a fine introduction to his talents.
Drink Drank Drunk (Delta Groove): Andy Talamantez has been a blues fan since he was a kid, first hearing it, like most of us, from artists like Eric Clapton, but then tracing Clapton's music back to the original sources, like T-Bone Walker, Otis Rush, Albert Collins, Muddy Waters, etc... Then, he started playing himself and was soon backing Smokey Wilson and Guitar Shorty. A move to Nashville found him teaming up with Nick Nixon, a music vet who had settled down to teach music in Music City. Drink Drank Drunk is their debut recording, and it's a dandy, produced by Anson Funderburgh and featuring two other 4 Jacks members in its line-up of backing musicians (Kevin McKendree and Steve Mackey. The disc offers up some sizzling cover tunes, plus a few originals that hold up very well to the standards, like the one on the video linked below, "Have You Seen My Monkey." Nixon belts out vocals like his life depends on it, blasting out vocals with hurricane force, while Andy T's fretwork is spot-on, never a note out of place, similar in style to his producer, who also plays guitar here. Looks like this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship that, hopefully, will last for years to come. Blues fans will certainly hope so.
The Town Crier (WildRoots): If you're a longtime blues fan, dating at least back to the early 90's, you may be familiar with a Florida-based band called Smokehouse. Smokehouse recorded for the late, much lamented Kingsnake Records. Thomas was one of Smokehouse's founding members and also one of the driving forces behind the band's "Florida Swamp Blues" sound that mixed Excello-styled Louisiana blues with the Mississippi Delta blues. Yes, it was a potent mix. This is Thomas' debut release as a solo act and it continues the Smokehouse tradition with some of the sweatiest, swampiest grooves this side of Lazy Lester, whose classic tune, "The Same Thing Could Happen To You," gets a remodel job, with the added attraction of Swamp Sista (and FBF friend) Beth McKee's accordion thrown into the mix. Thomas' guitar work is super and his vocals are a perfect mix of swamp drawl and delta growl, with a little bit of country thrown in for good measure. Check out Thomas' "Lazy Miss Daisy" below and you'll get a good idea of what so much fun about this disc.
Kevin Selfe - Long Walk Home (Delta Groove): This is another keeper from Delta Groove, from an up-and-coming star, whose previous release, Playing the Game, was one of my favorites of 2011. Selfe, a reformed weatherman, gave up a potentially lucrative career in meteorology for the blues life, and I would say he chose wisely. His guitar work shows amazing versatility, and his songwriting is very original, with clever, sometimes humorous lyrics and themes. Selfe plays the blues pretty straight, with an emphasis on jump blues and shuffles, but he does mix in a few acoustic numbers, pays tribute to Magic Sam on one West Side-flavored tune, shows off some pretty fine slide work, and he also can rock the house pretty well when required. Selfe and his band, the Tornadoes, get a helping hand from harmonica player Mitch Kashmar, keyboardist Gene Taylor (The Blasters, Fabulous Thunderbirds), and drummer Jimi Bott. I think we'll be hearing much, much more from Kevin Selfe in the future, but blues fans will surely enjoy this one right now.