Beth McKee - Sugarcane Revival (Swampgirl Music): The talented singer/songwriter returns to her musical roots with her third release......the music of Louisiana, Texas, and her native Mississippi. The result is her best and most personal album yet. The common themes on many of these thirteen tracks is restlessness and discovery. This is some of the best songwriting that I've heard in a while. It's highly personal, but listeners can relate to them with ease. We all deal with these same issues, and like she points out, the solutions are usually right there in front of us and, a lot of times, it's up to us to get to them or through them. McKee sounds fabulous on these tunes.....she's easily one of the finest, most expressive singers currently practicing, and there's a great list of musicians lending support......her husband, drummer Juan Perez, guitarist Tommy Malone of the subdudes, guitarist Tony Battaglia, fiddle player Jason Thomas, and her former Evangeline bandmate Rhonda Lohmeyer on mandolin. Sugarcane Revival is McKee's best album so far, and one of the best you'll hear this year.
Check out FBF's Ten Questions with McKee from 2012 here.
Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters - Father's Day (Stony Plain Records): Earl's ninth album for Stony Plain is a bit different from his last few releases. For the first time in many years, Earl uses a full horn section, and vocalists (Diane Blue and Mike Ledbetter) are featured on all but one of the thirteen tracks. Guitar fans shouldn't be concerned though, because Mr. Earl still gets plenty of room to astound and amaze with his endlessly inventive fretwork, and while Ms. Blue and Mr. Ledbetter do a wonderful job with their vocals, Earl's guitar is so soulful and so intense that it practically serves as a third vocalist. The track list are mostly covers from many of Earl's influences....a couple from Otis Rush and Magic Sam apiece, plus tunes associated with the two, and a really nice tribute to B.B. King. Father's Day is dedicated to Earl's father, a Holocaust survivor and the title track is about the guitarist making peace with his father shortly before he died last year. This is a marvelous album that blues guitar fans need to get their hands on.
Kern Pratt - Broken Chains (Gigtime Records): Mississippi native Pratt has played guitar for a variety of artists ranging from Willie Foster and T-Model Ford to Eden Brent to Percy Sledge to Steve Azar, so you can imagine that he's pretty skilled at playing in a number of different styles. That's obvious from listening to his latest release as his brand of blues mixes in rock, funk, and R&B. Book-ended by some sweet resonator guitar, Pratt rips through a stellar set of originals and covers. Pratt gets help from Kenny Neal on one track and Ms. Brent on another, and a horn section which really kicks things up a notch. Pratt finished in 2nd Place in the 2013 IBC and he shows here that he's a first-rate songwriter as well as a guitarist and singer with deep roots in the music of his home state. This will appeal to blues fans and blues rockers equally.
David Michael Miller - Same Soil (Food For The Soul Records): Miller's last CD, Poisons Sipped, was an FBF favorite last summer for it's compelling mix of blues, gospel, and soul. Let's just say that if you liked that disc, you will love this one. Miller pays tribute to many of his influences, such as Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, and Jimmy Reed, on these original tunes, which range from blues-rock to soul to funk and R&B to gospel. Miller's vocals are as powerful as they were on his previous release, even more so, and I really like his songwriting on these tunes. This guy would be a household name if there was any justice in the world. I can see fans of music from Robert Cray or Al Green or Robert Randolph, as well as traditional blues fans really digging this one.
Bert Deivert & Copperhead Run - Blood In My Eyes For You (Rootsy Records): There aren't a lot of blues mandolin players on the current blues scene.....Ry Cooder, David Grisman, and Steve James all record the occasional mandolin track, but pickings are pretty slim. Bert Deivert was born and raised in the U.S., but moved to Sweden in the 70's. He's worked with a number of musicians in blues, rock, rockabilly, and roots music over the years and has spent time in Mississippi in recent years, playing with soem of the local talent. This new release features his interpretation of several classic blues tunes. His mandolin playing really gives these old tunes a new shine and the Swedish band Copperhead Run provides excellent support. There are older tunes from Big Joe Williams, Son House, the Mississippi Sheiks, and Sleepy John Estes, plus newer tunes from Paul "Wine" Jones, R.L. Burnside, and the mandolin legend Yank Rachell. This is a really interesting and unique approach to the blues, thanks to Deivert's work on the mandolin.
The Henry Gray & Bob Corritore Sessions - Volume 1: Blues Won't Let Me Take My Rest (Delta Groove Music): Piano man Henry Gray turned 90 in January of 2015 and he has enjoyed a long, productive career, backing Howlin' Wolf in the 50's and 60's, and doing session work on many of the legendary recordings of the same period for Chess, Vee-Jay, United, and other labels, backing Jimmy Reed, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Rogers, Little Walter, and others. He's still going strong and this set, with Bob Corritore on harmonica, contains 14 songs, mostly standards, recorded over 19 years. Backed by a veritable all-star team of blues musicians, Gray and Corritore sound great and you'd never know that nearly 20 years have passed during the recording of these tracks. The best thing about this set is in the title......Volume 1. That means that there's more music from these two in the can somewhere and hopefully we will get the chance to hear it soon.
More reviews to come in a few weeks, so stay tuned......