Friday, May 16, 2014

New Blues For You - Spring, 2014 Edition (Part 3)

This week, FBF takes a brief look at even more new releases that are out there or soon to be out there for your listening pleasure.  As always, more detailed reviews of these discs (and others) can be found in current or upcoming editions of the best blues review site out there, Blues Bytes. Here are nine more for you to be on the lookout for to get you through the hot summer months ahead.

Jimmy "Duck" Holmes/Terry "Harmonica" Bean - Twice As Hard (Broke & Hungry Records):   If you heard Holmes and Bean working together on the documentary, We Juke Up In Here, a couple of years ago, you probably thought that these guys might have a collaboration album in them.  Though both are fiercely independent and unique as solo artists, even playing in different styles (Holmes often in the soft and somber Bentonia style, Bean in the raw and raggedly exuberant Delta style), they mesh together really well, working effectively in each other's styles.  There's a mix of solo tracks from each and a few collaborative efforts, sometimes complemented by the drumming of Frank Vick.  Occasionally the duo brings back memories of a previous Bentonia-based guitar/harmonica pairing from a few years back...Jack Owens and Bud Spires.  There's plenty of good time blues to be heard here.  This is definitely worth your while if you're a fan of traditional Mississippi blues.  

Eden Brent - Jigsaw Heart (Yellow Dog Records):  For her first release since 2010, the talented Ms. Brent heads to Nashville, stomping ground of her producer, Colin Linden, who also produced her previous CD.  Linden adds some stellar guitar work to back Brent, who is at her absolute best on this release.  The Nashville influence is present on several tracks, but this is still an Eden Brent record, with flashes of the blues, jazz, country, and gospel.  She sounds fantastic and has written some songs that other artists will be clamoring to record themselves.  The best thing about her recordings is that she never stands in one place for long....she's always expanding her musical reach, while all the time retaining that special individual charm that makes her music so wonderful.  Good as she is already, she keeps getting better with each release.

John Mayall - A Special Life (Forty Below Records):  In November of last year, John Mayall turned EIGHTY.  Just wrap your mind around that for a moment.  The Godfather of British Blues has been at it for over fifty years now, having released his first album in 1964.  This release puts his total at well over 60.  As usual, the living legend sings and plays guitar, harmonica, and keyboards, and he's backed by his powerful band (guitarist Rocky Athas, bass player Greg Rzab, and drummer Jay Davenport), along with zydeco star C.J. Chenier.  The disc itself is a mix of covers of mostly familiar songs by Chenier, Sonny Landreth, Jimmy Rogers, Albert King, Eddie Taylor, and Jimmy McCracklin, and some pretty good original tunes written by Mayall and Rzab.  Mayall is widely known for who has played in his bands over the years (Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and many others), and sometimes his own achievements get overshadowed, which is too bad, because there's some fine releases to be heard, and this is one of them.  

Brent Johnson - Set The World On Fire (Justin Time):  Folks, this one is a scorcher!  Johnson plays guitar in New Orleans blues man Bryan Lee's band.  This is his first solo effort and I can assure you that if there's any justice in the world, it won't be his last.  Johnson painstakingly worked on this disc, writing and rewriting, working and reworking, recording and re-recording until he had it on disc like it was in his head.  The result is one of the best debut releases you'll hear.  He's a great guitarist, songwriter, and singer.  He also tackles a diverse set of cover tunes, too, including a masterful version of "As The Years Go Passing By," and a dynamite version of "The Hucklebuck."  Earl Hooker's version is my favorite, but Johnson's comes pretty close to topping it.  Did I mention that Alvin Youngblood Hart and Sonny Landreth make appearances, too?  Why haven't you bought this yet???

Ray Fuller and the Bluesrockers - Live At Buddy Guy's Legends Chicago (Azuretone Records):  Fuller and the Bluesrockers have been playing the blues for 40 years, becoming mainstays on the Ohio blues circuit and currently serving as Saturday night headliners at Buddy Guy's Legends, which is where this outstanding set was recorded (with Mr. Guy in attendance to boot).  If you're not familiar with Fuller's specialty, you'll find out soon enough....his positively electrifying slide guitar.  This is a very well-balanced set of covers and originals that covers a wide range of blues genres, mostly focusing on the Chicago variety, of course, with covers of Elmore James, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Otis Rush, and Eddie Clearwater.  Fuller is also a great vocalist, and the Bluesrockers more than earn their moniker, making this live set a keeper for blues-rock fans.

Bad Brad & The Fat Cats - Take A Walk With Me:  Bad Brad Stivers has been playing guitar since he was ten, taking in the sounds of guitarists like B.B. King, SRV, Robin Trower, and Rory Gallagher.  He and the Fat Cats are becoming a top draw on the Colorado blues scene and this release, their second, shows why.  Stivers sounds like a mix of John Fogerty and Omar Dykes with his gravelly croon, and he and the band are very versatile, whether working through Elmore James-like slide fests, Hookeresque Delta boogies, a touch of zydeco and Crescent City R&B, and even Texas shuffles.  This is a top notch release that is worth searching for.

Shane Dwight - This House (Eclecto Groove):  Singer/songwriter/guitarist Dwight has always walked a thin line between the blues and country music on his releases.  His latest leans more toward the blues and R&B and that's perfectly all right because there's plenty to offer fans of the blues, rock, and country.  Guest vocalist Bekka Bramlett, who also appeared on his previous release, A Hundred White Lies, features more prominently on a couple of tracks, a duet with Dwight and a solo vocal of her very own.  Another factor in this CD's success are the keyboards of producer Kevin McKendree.    As much as I dug A Hundred White Lies, I believe I like this one even more.  This is fine music from a real talent who deserves to be heard by a bigger audience.

Carmen Grillo - A Different World (Big Surprise Music):  Anybody out there remember Tower of Power?  Well, Grillo worked and recorded with the band through most of the 1980's, serving as singer, guitarist, and songwriter.  Before that, he worked with Rita Coolidge, Bill Champlin, and Chicago.  A Different World is his second solo effort, and it's a great mix of blues, R&B, funk, and jazz, very similar to his Tower of Power days with horns aplenty driving most of these songs.  Grillo is a great guitarist (as evidenced by four exciting and diverse instrumentals) and singer, and he penned most of the songs, though a cover of Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "A Real Mother For Ya" is a standout.  Fans of the classic 70's and 80's R&B-based blues and jazz sounds of T.O.P. will love this one.

Giles Corey's Stoned Soul (Delmark Records):  If you're a fan of the Chicago-based Mississippi Heat, you're probably familiar with Corey's guitar work.  He's also played with a veritable who's who of Chicago's finest blues artists over his 20-plus-year career.  Corey's debut release for Delmark ain't your daddy's typical Chicago blues release...there's plenty of powerhouse guitar work and it's definitely a modern take on the classic Windy City sounds, mixing healthy doses of rock, soul, and funk.  Further proof that this has a modern bent are a couple of the cover tunes, songs from Cedric Burnside and Gary Clark, Jr.  You've probably heard me talk about "Brave New Blues" before.....this one fits the description to a tee.

No comments: