As Winter is slowly giving way to Spring, Friday Blues Fix continues our look at some of the great new and upcoming blues releases that should definitely be on your listening list. This has been a great couple of months of new recordings......from some artists that you may be familiar with and some that you may be hearing about for the first time. Trust me when I tell you that there are many more wonderful new discs on the way in the coming months, and we will be discussing a lot of those in the coming weeks. In the meantime, check out these six excellent new releases. As always, expanded reviews of these discs can be found in current and/or future issues of Blues Bytes, THE online magazine for reviews of new blues CD.
Igor Prado Band & Delta Groove All Stars - Way Down South (Delta Groove Music): That's way down south as in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where singer/guitarist Prado hangs his hat, along with his talented band. They were most recently heard backing the late, great Lynwood Slim on his fine 2010 release, Brazilian Kicks. For this outstanding release, Prado and his band are joined by an impressive roster of current blues stars......Mud Morganfield, Sugaray Rayford, Rod Piazza, Kim Wilson, Randy Chortkoff, Omar Coleman, Wallace Coleman, J.J. Jackson, Mitch Kashmar, Junior Watson, Monster Mike Welch, Honey Piazza, and many more. There are even two tracks with Lynwood Slim, who passed away last year, but is still much missed on the West Coast blues scene. Despite the number of guest stars present, they don't take Prado out of the spotlight. He sings on two tracks and his guitar work is a highlight on every track. It's good to see that the blues are being kept alive internationally by such great bands as this one.
Chris Daniels & the Kings (Featuring Freddi Gowdy): Funky To The Bone (Moon Voyage Records): Stop looking for your next party disc.......this is it! Singer/songwriter/guitarist Daniels, who's fronted the Kings for over 30 years, and singer Gowdy, half of the 60's soul duo Freddi Henchi & the Soulsetters, have collaborated for the best set of old school funk I've heard in years. Wow, this is a fun disc! From the opening cut, a redo of an old Freddi Henchi hit from years ago, to a pair of Rance Allen tracks, to a smoldering take on Chris Kenner's "Something You Got," to a fantastic set of original tunes, this one burns from start to finish, blending blues, funk, and soul as well as it's been done in a long time. Don't miss this one, folks!
The Mike Henderson Band - If You Think It's Hot Here...(EllerSoul Records): You may not have heard of Nashville songwriter/singer/guitarist Henderson, but chances are good that you've heard something he's played on or written. Blues and rock fans probably remember "Powerful Stuff," by the Fabulous Thunderbirds....well, he wrote that. He's also played on albums by Albert King, Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt, Sting, Bob Seger, and, one of my favorites, Beautiful Stars by Isaac Freeman. He's taken a bit of a sabbatical from recording to help raise his kids, but he's returned like a house afire on this wonderful release. The focus is on blues and rock, with not one, but two Hound Dog Taylor covers, a dandy take on Robert Johnson's "If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day." His original songs are excellent, too. The title track by Henderson and R.S. Field is excellent and the other originals move from the Gulf Coast to the Windy City. Whether you dig blues or blues-rock, you'll be spinning this one over and over.
Tas Cru - You Keep The Money (Crustee Tees Records): This disc has been resting comfortably at or near the top of some of the blues and roots charts for the past few weeks, and when you listen to it, it will make perfect sense. Tas Cru rates as one of the finest blues artists, songwriters, and guitarists currently practicing. He covers a lot of different styles of the blues on his releases, usually moving from traditional to blues rock to country blues and roots and he's a master guitarist (on this disc, he plays electric, acoustic, resonator, and cigar box guitars). His songwriting is first-rate, with clever lyrics and wordplay. The title for this album comes from an encounter he had with the late Delta blues legend T-Model Ford, when the Canadian was part of a benefit in Clarksdale for the ailing blues man. When Ford found out that Cru and his band were foregoing payment for the gig to help him pay his medical bills, he told Cru, "Tonight, just show me the love......you keep the money."
Eric Sardinas & Big Motor - Boomerang (Jazzhaus Records): Sardinas combines the best of two worlds.....a love for the blues that began when he was a child (and not just the usual suspects either.....we're talking the early pre-war blues artists, too) with a vision of updating the old classic style in a blues rock vein. Certainly, he's not the first to attempt this, but he's definitely one of the best I've heard in a long while. He is a slide guitar master, moving from resonator to dobro to steel guitar and boasts vocal skills nearly as strong as his fretwork. Boomerang is dedicated to Johnny Winter, and the late guitarist's fingerprints are all over this disc, especially his energy and intensity. Saidinas offers up some pretty impressive original tunes that rock pretty hard, plus a couple of really cool covers, notably the Leiber/Stroller tune, "Trouble," made famous by Elvis Presley, but in Sardinas' able hands, it's transformed into a totally different tune. Blues rockers definitely need to get their hands on this one for sure, but it will appeal to a wide range of blues fans.
Brad Hatfield - For A Change: Hatfield is a Cincinnati native who has been around the blues since he was a kid (his father, Bernie Hatfield, has played keyboards for various blues bands for years), and picked up the guitar when he was 10 years old. Unfortunately, he was injured in a construction accident which left him paralyzed and put his musical career in jeopardy. Fortunately, he was able to pick up the harmonica after the injury and his powerful and versatile singing voice was still intact. His 2013 debut release (Uphill From Here) won rave reviews and resulted in Hatfield earning a BMA nomination for Best New Artist. His second release finds Hatfield working with the award-winning producer Tom Hambridge and a couple of members of Delbert McClinton's band (guitarist Bob Britt, keyboardist Kevin McKendree). Hambridge wrote most of the songs here and they really show Hatfield's range as a vocalist, moving from blues-rock to Chicago blues to swampy Gulf Coast-styled blues to country blues and deep soul. This is a really nice release from an artist who has overcome quite a bit of adversity and deserves to be heard.