Friday, April 12, 2013

New Blues For You - Spring, 2013 Edition (Part 2)

Continuing our theme of a couple of weeks ago, Friday Blues Fix will take a brief look at a few more new and upcoming releases that are worth your attention.  As always, extended reviews of these discs can be seen at the KBA award-winning site, Blues Bytes.  

Tinsley Ellis - Get It! (Heartfixer Music):  This is one of several instrumental CDs that has really put a hop in my step the past few weeks.  I first encountered Tinsley Ellis at the late, great Chunky Rhythm & Blues Festival in the late 80's, when he was part of the Alligator Records contingency.  His guitar work really raised some eyebrows that day among festival attendees, most of whom were hearing him for the first time.  Ellis has recorded for several different labels since then, including Telarc and Capricorn, plus a return to Alligator, but Get It! is being released on his own Heartfixer Music label.

There are ten tracks here, with Ellis moving pretty easily from blues/rock to New Orleans-styled funk to vintage rock & roll to world music to the down-and-dirty blues.  Ellis pays tribute to many of his influences here, too.....from Albert Collins to Roy Buchanan to Duane Eddy to Chuck Berry to Bo Diddley to Freddy King.  Guitar fans of all genres will dig this one.  Ellis shows some impressive versatility and imaginative guitar work throughout.

Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters - Just For Today (Stony Plain):  I'm a late arrival to Ronnie Earl's solo music.  Sure, I enjoyed his work on numerous Black Top releases in the late 80's and early 90's (notably his work with Earl King and Roomful of Blues on Glazed and also on Hubert Sumlin's Blues Party).  For some reason, I missed out on a lot of his solo work with the Broadcasters over the past couple of decades until a few years ago.

Earl backed off the touring circuit a few years ago for health reasons, limiting most of his live dates to locales near his Massachusetts digs.  The break from the pressures of constant touring seems to have recharged his batteries, so to speak, and his tenure with Stony Plain Records has been a productive one, as far as creativity goes.  Just For Today captures Earl at three live dates in Massachusetts and, as always, Earl's guitar work shows a mastery of both blues and jazz stylings, and an amazing rapport with the Broadcasters.  This particular group has been playing together for 13 years and it shows with every note.

The Duke Robillard Band - Independently Blue (Stony Plain):  Robillard has enjoyed a productive relationship with Stony Plain Records, consistently releasing some great albums that mix urban blues, jump blues, swing, and early rock & roll.  This latest release is no exception as Robillard and band are joined by another powerhouse guitarist, Monster Mike Welch.  The Duke and the Monster complement each other perfectly, engaging in a couple of cool instrumentals and some good-natured "head cutting."

The songs themselves are very strong, with three being written by Robillard's former Roomful of Blues band mate Al Basile.  Robillard's own compositions are equally well-done.  As far back as I can remember, Duke Robillard has never released anything less than an above average album.  This one falls right in there with the rest.  Over the past year, there have been some outstanding releases from several former Roomful members (Robillard, Earl, Basile, and Ron Levy) that all blues fans need to have in their collection.

Big Papa and the TCB - Six Pack Of Cool (Inland Blue Records):  If you're a jump blues fan in need of a fix, then look no further.  This is the disc for you.  You might have heard these guys in a Papa John's commercial over the past couple of years, playing their song, "Go Big Papa!" and have had a couple of songs featured on the A&E series, Breakout Kings  They mix jump blues with rock and swing for the most part, but this disc is firmly focused on jump blues.

The disc will definitely get you on your feet with several rousing numbers, but they also mix in some pretty solid slower tunes, too, and several tracks also have a definite New Orleans flavor to them, too.  Their front man, singer/guitarist Chris "Big Papa" Thayer does a fine job and the band is fantastic.  Singer/guitarist Gino Matteo joins the band on one tune, too.  This one will definitely move you and groove you, get you on your feet and keep you there for a while.

Hadden Sayers - Rolling Soul (Blue Corn Music):  After a prolonged absence from the music business, Sayers returned a couple of years ago with his Hard Dollar album, which was pretty well-received by fans and critics and got his career back in gear.  His song, "Back To The Blues," was nominated for Song of the Year at the BMA's.

Rolling Soul consists of songs that Sayers mostly composed while on the road touring.  Sayers' tunes are great and vivid images of the human condition.  He has an expressive and soulful voice and it works well on the variety of tunes here, which range from Texas shuffles to swing to after-hours blues to rock and soul.  Ruthie Foster, who hired Sayers as her guitarist a few years back (which helped jump-start his career) and appeared on his last disc, also appears on Rolling Soul.  Hadden Sayers is a talented musician who hopefully will receive more attention the second time around.

I wanted to say a few words about Jimmy Dawkins, who passed away Wednesday, April 10th.  Dawkins was one of the first blues guitarists that I heard.  It was on a concert broadcast on PBS during Black History Month.  His nickname was "Fast Fingers," but it really didn't suit his style.  He played some fierce, fiery, intense guitar, and his songs were often pretty intense, too. He got his start on the West Side with other guitarists like Otis Rush, Luther Allison, Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson, Buddy Guy, Eddie C. Campbell, and many others, and was devoted to getting the blues out to a larger audience and working to get younger artists an opportunity to record.

He recorded sporadically over the years, starting with Delmark, where his debut, Fast Fingers, was one of his best recordings and a great example of late 60's electric Chicago Blues.  The follow-up, the underrated All For Business, included Otis Rush on second guitar, and Andrew "Big Voice" Odom on the majority of the vocals....not a bad line-up at all.  Another keeper is A Tribute To Orange, recorded when Dawkins was on a European tour in the early 70's and matching Dawkins with Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and Otis Rush.  He later recorded for Excello, Earwig (one of his best, Kant Sheck Dese Bluze), Ichiban/Wild Dog, and Fedora, where he released his last disc in 2004.

Roosevelt Jamison passed away a couple of weeks ago.  Jamison was responsible for the discovery of O.V. Wright and James Carr, two of the greatest soul singers ever.  Jamison also wrote the soul classic, "That's How Strong My Love Is," which was recorded first by Wright, later by Otis Redding, and still later by the Rolling Stones.  There was a possibility that someone might have discovered O.V. Wright, but there's little doubt that without the efforts of Roosevelt Jamison, we might have never heard James Carr and that would have been a terrible thing.  There's no way that I can do Jamison's story justice, so I encourage you to read Peter Guralnick's recent blog post and also Red Kelly's wonderful post on his great blog, The "B" Side to learn more about this great man.

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