Friday, June 29, 2012

Blues For Sale - Ten More Questions with Larry Garner

Larry Garner's new CD, Blues For Sale, may be his best yet.  It's loaded with some of Garner's best songs and he's never sounded better, either on vocals or guitar.  He produced the disc and took his time doing it, writing songs as he went, with great results.  In addition, he's backed by his regular band, which includes Jared Daigle on guitar, Shedrick Nellon on bass, Micheal Caesar on drums, and Nelson Blanchard on keyboards and they come up big, along with vocalist Debbie Landry. 

The great thing about a Larry Garner album is that it makes you laugh with songs like "Talking Naughty" and "Miss Boss," and it makes you think with tunes like "Broken Soldier" and "A Whole Lotta Nothing."  There's a great variety of tunes on here.  Some other standout tracks include "It's Killing Me," a devastating slow blues, the upbeat "Alone And Happy," about a woman being single and loving it, "Last Request (When I Die)," a delta blues-styled tune with a unique twist, and the tourist-friendly track, "If You Come To Louisiana."

Friday Blues Fix is grateful that the gracious Mr. Garner agreed to sit down and answer Ten More Questions from us.  He was our very first Ten Questions victim, errr, subject over two years ago.

Blues For Sale, like your other releases, features some great songs from your unique perspective.  You’ve produced your last two discs and they both seem to have more of a Louisiana feel than your previous efforts.  What are some things that you did on Blues For Sale that differ from your other albums?

It took a lot longer to finish Blues For Sale than any of my other cd’s because of touring, death all around me, and studio availability. I used my band and people who had toured with me for all of the songs, having Debbie Landry on vocals with me was a big plus.  Everyone playing on it is from the Baton Rouge area, no hired studio guns. On the past albums I pretty much had all the songs written before hand and with this one I would take 2 or 3 songs in at a time. It was a work in progress and I’m just happy that Philippe (DixieFrog) gave me a lot of time to deliver.

Can you tell us a little bit about your thought process when writing songs?  Do you do it in a structured way… many hours a day writing songs, or do things sort of happen spontaneously?

Different days different ways. Sometimes it’s a deeper thought that I have to think about for a while to get it right on paper and sometimes it’s a shallow thought that gets me excited and it don’t stop flowing. I really don’t have a structured time that I write I just get 'em as they come to me. Sometimes the music comes first and sometimes the words come first. I think my best feeling for actually sitting down writing is when I have to ask the bartender to borrow a pen and piece of paper. I usually complete a song that I start in a bar.

How many of your songs do you get from listening to other people’s stories?  “Alone and Happy” and “Bull Rider” (from your last album) sound like those types of songs.

Sometimes talking with others or watching others, I get ideas to write about.  Lots of my songs have lines that were inspired while talking to folks and  if you  know me at all, you will know that I will tell anyone , “That’s a great line for a song or that’s a great song title, or that would be a great name for a cd ….etc.” For some reason its second nature for me to think in song. Sometimes I have to dig deep to find the courage to sing a song that may offend  a certain sector but Gatemouth told me, “I’m gonna tell you right now, if them songs come to you and you don’t sing em, you know what………….they gon' stop coming to you”.

“Broken Soldier” recounts the plight of a veteran returning from the Middle East and his struggles to adjust?  Was this inspired by someone you know or just from your own observations?

There was a man who lived next door to us with his younger brother when I was a kid. He was what they called back then “shell shocked”. He was strange to say the least and as I got older I seen guys coming back from Vietnam in the same shape. More recently by having a street conversation with a PTSD vet in one of the big cities I felt I had to write the song.  I am a veteran and it's easy for me to talk with other veterans.  When I see them homeless and unemployed I’ll take the time to give them food rather than giving them money.  I’ve talked with some who are getting used to a new prosthetic arm or leg but its hard to talk with one who can't get new memories to replace the  mental trauma that they had to cause and that they also endured. `This ain’t a new thing, I’m sure there have been broken soldiers since the beginning of time because us humans sure have been killing each other since the beginning.

I listen to a song like “Last Request,” and it makes me think about your health battles a few years ago.  How much did your struggles change your perspective on your career and your life in general?

I don’t get as depressed or overwhelmed about life like I used to. I feel now that most of what happens in this world is based on foolishness and there is nothing I can do about that. I used to be afraid of what people would think if I said what I felt but not anymore.  If I see something going on that’s wrong I will say something just like if I see something that’s going on right.  I’m in better health now than I have been since I was in my 40’s and I feel great but I’m not afraid of dying anymore. I ain’t trying to rush it but when it comes I look forward to it because in my opinion its just another phase of existence.  I just don’t want that phase to be interfered with by man's monetary process. We have a family cemetery so Please! just put me in the ground naturally so I can go back to mother nature under the pecan tree. 

You recently finished an overseas tour.  How many countries did you visit?  How does the blues scene overseas compare to the U.S.?

This time it was Germany, France, Austria, England, and a newcomer to my list, Senegal.  Although I really get depressed when I know I’m gonna have to go though the airport crap, I really love it when I land in another country and be recognized as a Bluesman.  Tabby was the first to tell me, “When you go to Europe you are an artist and they treat you like one”.  The places that we play over there are usually places where people pay close attention to what you are delivering and you can hear a pen drop right before a thunderous applause. Most times at festivals people have the chance to dance and a lot of them do, mostly alone. Over here in most of the places there’s a different attitude toward the band (artist) but I‘ve gotten used to that. In a lot of places, nobody is interested in what you are saying they just want you to keep playing and keep them dancing. I loved Wilson Pickett and all of his songs but you can only do "Mustang Sally" so many times in your lifetime and it gets painful to play. There is a big difference and you have to learn and accept the difference because it’s a humbling experience to come back from Europe and go straight on the road here.  Makes me think about Joe Louis Walker's “Blues Survivor.”

The blues is an American music style, yet it, and the artists who play them, continually gets the short end of the stick here.  Based on your experience playing here and abroad, do you have any ideas about how to improve the standing of the blues in the U.S.?

Nah, no ideas anymore and if I did it wouldn’t change anything. So many times, people (not blues people) over here have asked me what do you do and when I tell them I‘m a Bluesman. They will say, “Oh you play jazz“, and I will correct them and say, “No I play the blues“ then they will say, “Oh I love the blues“, so I push the envelope and ask, “What was the last blues cd you bought“, and most times that’s the end of that conversation.  Everyone knows that America gave the blues away and the British invasion brought them right back and made millions. The Bluesmen and Women have given everything to America and for what…To be a support act for some kid who learned how to play by listening at their records.  I’m very happy for the few players who are finally getting some decent work over here, but it didn’t come easy for them. You got to suck ass, kiss ass and take whatever they feel you deserve just to keep the band working. You cant just be a Blues player delivering great shows night after night you got to also be cliqued up. I have never been a big joiner so I don’t expect much anymore now that I know how it works. Mr. Collins told Larry Neal and me, ”Fellows, you got to get used to it….some people have to pay their dues and some people got their dues paid for them”.  I’m very grateful to the folks who give us gigs and play my songs on the radio and internet to get the word out there. I’m especially grateful to the fans who love us over here and that’s why I continually say “I Thank Y’all For Coming Out and Thank Y’all for Helping Keep the Blues Alive”!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love good sleep, Woodworking, Metalworking, cooking BBQ for friends, Fishing and watching shows I’ve recorded while I was away. I also like gardening but I don’t get to do that as much as I want. I don’t really like it, but I have to cut the grass…Lots Of It.

Musically speaking, is there anything that you want to do that you haven’t had the opportunity to do yet?

I’ve pretty much given up on most of the dreams that I’ve had that hasn’t been fulfilled. I just want to keep playing with musicians that respect the stage, respect the audience and respect the music that’s being played. Brian Lee has the dream of recording with Kenny Neal and me so I would like to see that happen for his dream's sake.  Anything else good that happens will be a surprise.  In the meantime go to  if you want to keep up with the few gigs that we do over here.

Now, check out a few song clips from the new disc.......

Larry Garner Discography

Double Dues (JSP Records)
 Too Blues (JSP Records)
 You Need to Live a Little (Verve/Gitanes)
 Baton Rouge (Evidence)
 Standing Room Only (Ruf)
 Once Upon the Blues (Ruf)
 Embarrassment to the Blues?(Ruf)
 Here Today Gone Tomorrow (DixieFrog)
 Live at the Trivoli (with Norman Beaker)
Blues For Sale (DixieFrog)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Five Albums You Might Have Missed (V.5)

The past few years, we've seen a lot of great blues albums many that sometimes it's hard to get them all, so a lot of excellent listening might slip under the radar unnoticed, either due to limited distribution, lack of publicity, or sometimes just plain old bad luck (this is the blues we're talking about, right?).  With these posts, Friday Blues Fix aims to help out everybody.....we help get these well-deserving albums a listen and we make sure you loyal blues fans are aware of them.  You are welcome.

Bobby Rush - Raw (Deep Rush Records):  This was a big change of pace for the Chitlin' Circuit King.  This came out around the time that Rush was enjoying a new wave of popularity after he appeared in the Martin Scorsese mini-series, The Blues, and he was inspired to return to his roots.  Raw is just like the title, stripped-down blues at its most basic.  Most of these songs are Rush originals, but he also tackles three covers, "Boney Maroney," "School Girl" (the standard "Good Morning, Little School Girl"), and "Howlin' Wolf."  Of course, when you say "Rush originals," you have to remember that most of Rush's songs "borrow" themes and ideas from other songs.  This is nothing new.....blues artists have been doing this since the beginning (Willie Dixon was one of the best at this).  Rush acquits himself quite well as a guitarist....we already knew he was an underrated harp player.  Shawn Kellerman adds dobro on several tracks.  If all you've ever heard of Bobby Rush is his unique brand of soul/blues (called "Folk Funk" by the man himself), this set will be a pleasant surprise and shows that had Rush gone a different musical route with the blues, he would have been just fine.

T-Model Ford - Jack Daniel Time (Mudpuppy Recordings):  Ford recorded this set at Red's Lounge in Clarksdale with some assistance from Terry "Harmonica" Bean, guitarist Bill Abel, and drummers Sam Carr and Lee Williams.  Ford works through a fairly typical set of his raucous, rowdy Delta blues, but the bonus is the three acoustic tracks he turns in, which are pretty neat and show a side of him that many had not previously seen.  All of Ford's CDs are a lot of fun, but this one may be my favorite for many reasons (Ford is really in his element here and it's a really relaxed, laid-back set...the acoustic tracks are really good), but the biggest is the inclusion of my all-time favorite blues instrumental, "Red's Houseparty."

Eddie King - Another Cow's Dead (Roesch Records):  Behind this slightly twisted album cover lies some fantastic music.  King passed away a couple of months ago, but he left us this stellar set of soul-soaked blues released during the late 90's.  He played guitar in Koko Taylor's band for years, so he was criminally underrecorded.  This album features several members of the Blues Brothers horn section (Birch "Slide" Johnson, Alan "Mr. Fabulous" Rubin, and Blue Lou Marini, plus Ronnie Cuber) on several tracks.  King's own tunes are a mix of soul and blues, with standouts like "Kitty Kat," "Walk Right On In," and "Hey Mr. Bluesman," and the covers are in the same mold, with one of the best being King's version of Luther Ingram's "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want To Be Right."  It's too bad this guy didn't get a few more opportunities in the studio.

Dave Perkins - Pistol City Holiness:  Wow!  This one knocked me for a loop when I heard it a couple of years ago.  I'll make this as simple as possible.....if you're a blues/rock fan, you NEED this disc.  You will listen to it and listen to it and then listen to it some more.  Perkins has played guitar with artists ranging from Vassar Clements, Ray Charles, Jerry Jeff Walker, Carole King, and Guy Clark, but on this release, he is all about the blues.  From the opening cut, "Break," you will be hooked. He also does one of the best versions of Freddie King's "Goin' Down" that you will ever hear.  Others tracks that need to be heard include the instrumental "Cherryfish and Chicken," "Train at Night," and the track on the video below, "Devil's Game."  Perkins recently did the music for the upcoming movie, Deadline, and the just-released soundtrack is excellent, so by all means, check out Dave Perkins.  You can thank me later.

Hope Waits (Radarproof Records):  Waits is a Louisiana native with a deep, sultry voice.  Her debut release, out in 2007, is an impressive mix of blues, soul, and jazz.  She might remind some listeners of Norah Jones a bit, but her vocals are edgier and sometimes almost hypnotic.  The arrangements are very sparse, giving her incredible vocals plenty of room.  For me, the best tracks were the jazzy interpretation of Jackie Wilson's "I'll Be Satisfied," an intense version of Otis Redding's "Cigarettes and Coffee," and Bob Dylan's "Ring Them Bells," but the biggest catch of all is the dazzling reading of "Drown In My Own Tears."  Waits makes the Ray Charles standard her own with a breathtaking performance.  This is the only release for Waits so far, but hopefully there's more in the works.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Ace of Spades

O. V. Wright
On Monday, I received the new Johnny Rawls CD, Soul Survivor, in the mail for review.  Rawls' old school soul blues is a longtime favorite of mine, and his new CD is typically fantastic and essential listening for blues fans.

One of Rawls' mentors is the great soul singer, O. V. Wright....Rawls served as his bandleader for most of the 70's, and usually tries to include at least one O.V. Wright song on his albums, therefore serving a dual purpose, reminding old Wright fans of the past glories of their hero and introducing scores of new fans to the catalog of one of the greatest soul singers of all time.

Overton Vertis Wright was born in Leno, TN in 1939.  He got his start, like most young black singers at the time, in gospel with groups like The Sunset Travelers and The Harmony Echoes, who also boasted James Carr as a member.  Wright and Carr was both discovered by Roosevelt Jamison.  Jamison, who worked in the medical research field, was a budding songwriter and manager of some local Memphis groups.  He wrote Wright's first secular single, "That's How Strong My Love Is," for Goldwax Records in Memphis.  Wright's passionate reading was unfortunately eclipsed by Otis Redding's version....Redding liked the song so much, he decided to record it himself, taking the wind of Wright's sails (and sales).  However, Wright's version is superior in every way except record sales.

To make matters worse, The Sunset Travelers recorded for Peacock Records, and the ever-opportunistic Don Robey filed a lawsuit against Goldwax, claiming that Wright was still under contract to Peacock as a member of the Travelers.  Robey won the lawsuit and Wright moved to the Peacock subsidiary, Back Beat, where he recorded classic tunes like 1965's "You're Gonna Make Me Cry."  The songwriters for Back Beat stumbled onto a winning formula for Wright, combining the pain of the blues with the upbeat job of gospel music.  Wright was the perfect outlet for this formula, because he never held anything back on his performances.  Another stellar performance from this period with Back Beat was the dramatic "Eight Men, Four Women," from 1967.

In 1967, Wright began a collaboration that would last the rest of his life, teaming with Memphis producer/songwriter Willie Mitchell.  While it was unusual for Robey to allow anyone outside of his Houston base to work with his artists, the collaboration with the legendary Mitchell had to have been a no-brainer.  The Wright/Mitchell team was responsible for hits like "Gonna Forget About You" (later recorded by Robert Cray), the goose bump-inducing "Born All Over" (written by Johnny Copeland), "Ace of Spades," and what may be the ultimate O.V. Wright tune, "A Nickel And A Nail," a song which should be on the short list of greatest soul tunes of all time.

An extension of the Wright/Mitchell collaboration was Wright's regular recording rhythm section, which would later make up the Hi Records Rhythm Section, Howard Grimes (drums) Teenie Hodges (guitar), Leroy Hodges (bass) and Charles Hodges (keyboards).  This quartet would make their mark on dozens of soul classics of the 70's.  Wright's final output for Back Beat in 1973 included "Drowning On Dry Land" and "I'd Rather Be Blind, Crippled, and Crazy."

Mitchell had begun working for Hi Records as producer/songwriter/performer, while doing the same for Robey at Back Beat.  When the label owner passed away in 1970, Mitchell found himself running the label, which worked out well for him, since he had signed Al Green the year before.  Soon, Wright was a part of Hi as well, joining an All-Star line up that included Green, Otis Clay, Syl Johnson, and Ann Peebles.  Wright continued his string of powerful soul classics for Hi, recording songs like "I Don't Do Windows" and the unfortunately titled "Into Something (Can't Shake Loose)."

Wright during the late 70's
In the late 70's, Wright went to jail on drug-related charges and his career never really got back on track after that.  Truthfully, the modern sound of soul of the mid 70's was not a perfect fit for Wright's raised-in-the-church rawness, but the drugs caused his health to deteriorate as can be seen in pictures taken of Wright during that time period.  In 1979, Wright underwent heart surgery and his doctor told him he could live another one to three years.  Unfortunately, he barely made it a year, dying in Birmingham in an ambulance after suffering a heart attack.  He was 41 years old.

O. V. Wright continues to serve as a musical influence for many soul/blues singers, including Rawls, Robert Cray, Otis Clay, Billy Price, Tad Robinson, and many others.  Here's some recommended listening....

The Soul of O. V. Wright (MCA) - This single disc set collects the best of Wright's Back Beat recordings, from around 1965 to 1973.  Nearly all of Wright's standout tunes are included in this 18-track set.  There was a box set of Wright's entire output for Back Beat a few years ago, but it's out of print and costs an arm and a leg.  This is the best place to start with O. V. Wright though.  He's at the top of his game on these tracks.

The Complete O. V. Wright on Hi Records - Volume 1: In the Studio, Volume 2: On Stage (Live In Japan) (Hi Records UK) - Wright's Hi material is considered to be of lesser quality than his work for Back Beat, but while the styles had changed somewhat, Wright still brought that same passion and intensity to his later recordings.  He was also a big favorite in Japan, so there were a couple of recordings made while he toured there, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with those performance at all.  Pick up the Back Beat sides first, but these later recordings are still top of the line and show that even with his personal issues in the late 70's, Wright still had plenty in the tank.

A little reminder about one of the best little blues festivals in Mississippi taking place this weekend in Bentonia.  The festival is hosted by Bentonia resident and Broke and Hungry recording artist Jimmy "Duck" Holmes.  This year, the festival's 40th, Holmes moved the festival from downtown Bentonia to Holmes' farm just north of town.  The line-up is outstanding this year, as always, with great local talent....Bill Abel, Terry "Harmonica" Bean, Lightnin' Malcolm, Roosevelt Roberts, Scott Hales, and Super Chikan will be there to close things out on Saturday night.  You can find out more (including directions to Mr. Holmes' farm) at the Festivals' Facebook page.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue #6

Welcome back.  It's time once again for one of Friday Blues Fix's most popular features.  In case you're visiting for the first time, or you just haven't been paying attention all the other times, FBF will take a look at a blast of blues from the past (Something Old), a shot of blues from the current scene (Something New), either a blues man doing rock or a rocker doing blues....whatever suits me at the moment (Something Borrowed), and someone who sums up the essence of Blues as we know it (Something Blue).  Are you with us?  Great!   Let's get it started.

Lightnin' Hopkins
For Something Old today, we will look at one of my favorite country blues men, Sam "Lightnin'" Hopkins.  Hopkins was one of the most prolific artists during his time, recording numerous sides and albums for numerous labels from the 1930's until his death in 1982.  The Centerville, TX native was an amazingly nimble guitarist and his fleet-fingered picking enabled him to play lead, bass, rhythm, and even percussion at the same time if he needed to.  He was as comfortable playing electric as he was acoustic.

Hopkins reinvented himself several times...starting out as a country bluesman with some excellent recordings in the 30's and 40's, charting on the R&B charts several times and releasing some great recordings for Gold Star and Aladdin.  In the mid 50's, he plugged in and recorded some stunning and influential sides for Herald.  Largely forgotten with the advent of rock and roll in the 50's, he became a folk-blues artist and suddenly he had a whole new group of fans and followers.

Hopkins managed to make his mark in country blues and in urban blues, too....something rarely seen back in his time.  If you would like to hear more from Lightnin' Hopkins, there are a boatload of CDs that bear his name and 95% of it is of such high quality that you really can't go wrong wherever you start.  Check out this performance from the American Folk Blues Festival in Germany from the mid 60's.  Hopkins hated to fly, but he overcame his fear to make the trip over and later toured most of Europe and Japan in later years, gaining even more fans in the process.

Toronzo Cannon
For Something New, we head to Chicago and meet up with one of the city's newer stars, Toronzo Cannon. Cannon grew up on the sounds of Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, and Muddy Waters.  His guitar style emulates the three Kings, as well as Hendrix, and a big dose of 70's R&B and funk.  He played with Wayne Baker Brooks and Joanna Connor before launching his own solo career and forming his own band, the Cannonball Express.

Cannon has become a mainstay of the Windy City blues scene and has toured nationwide and worldwide over the past couple of years.  He's developed into a fine songwriter, too.  With all this happening in his career, Cannon still finds time to work his regular day job, driving a bus for the city, but if things continue to get bigger and better for him, he might not be doing that for long.  His latest release, Leaving Mood, was one of 2011's biggest releases and spent a lot of time in my stereo over the past few months.  Pick it up and you will see why.  Meanwhile, check out this live version of the title cut of his new disc.

Eric Clapton and Freddie King
For Something Borrowed, we find a familiar face doing a familiar song.  Like many other blues fans, I got most of my early exposure to the blues via Eric Clapton.  When I first heard him in the mid 70's, I really enjoyed his guitar playing and didn't know or care about his influences.  As time passed, and I heard more and more of his recordings, some of the really good songs that caught my ear turned out to be blues tunes from years before that he was covering.

For example, on Clapton's live disc, Just One Night, he does an incredible version of Otis Rush's "Double Trouble."  When I first heard it, I had no idea who Otis Rush was, not to mention that he was only born about fifteen miles from where I lived.  There were other tunes as well, such as Sleepy John Estes' "Everybody Ought To Make A Change" (from Money and Cigarettes), several others from Just One Night ("Early In The Morning" and "Ramblin' On My Mind"), and "Crosscut Saw" (from Money and Cigarettes).

Clapton riding with the King
In the meantime, I had backtracked to some of Clapton's early work with Cream and the Yardbirds, and picked up ever more blues tunes.  Then I read a bio of Clapton where he paid tribute to a lot of the blues artists that influenced him as a youngster, like Robert Johnson, Buddy Guy, B. B. King, Freddie King, Muddy Waters, etc..., so I started listening to their music.  I was amazed that I had been listening to music for years, and were it not for Mr. Clapton and the Blues Brothers (plus the occasional appearance from B.B. King on TV back in the day), it might have been years before I became familiar with this music called the blues.

One good thing about Eric Clapton that has always benefited blues fans has been the fact that he has honored his musical influences, appearing with them on albums, at festivals, paying tribute to them in print or on video.  During his Crossroads Guitar Festivals, the list of performers is always heavy toward the blues, a mix of his influences and newcomers.  That's one of many reasons that we blues fans should always tip our hats to Eric Clapton.  Meanwhile, check Slowhand out as he plays one of my favorite blues songs, Big Bill Broonzy's "Key to the Highway."

Terry "Big T" Williams
I didn't really have anything in mind for Something Blue when I started this post, but when I did find something, it seemed like really the ONLY choice to me.  This video by Clarksdale musician Terry "Big T" Williams has all the ingredients needed for Something Blue.....setting in the Delta (as witnessed in the opening shot), a delta blues man playing solo, and a classic blues tune that most blues listeners are familiar with ("C.C. Rider").  Folks, this is as blue as it gets.

A little background on Williams....he's a Clarksdale native who grew up hearing the sounds of B.B. King and Muddy Waters.  He got a guitar at the age of nine and was soon training under the legendary blues educator, Johnny Billington, who taught many of the current crop of Mississippi Delta blues musicians.  He went on the road with the Jelly Roll Kings when he was a teenager and was soon fronting his own bands.  He's released a pair of discs, the first one was a stripped down disc with Wesley Jefferson for Broke & Hungry Records (Meet Me In The Cotton Field) and the second was a more urbanized, funky disc a couple of years later (Jump Back Big T is in the House).


Friday, June 1, 2012

New Blues For You (Summer 2012 Edition)

It's still early, but this looks like it's going to be a great summer for new blues.  It's been a good year so far with some standout releases, but this month has really gone above and beyond.  As always, these discs will be reviewed in much more detail in the June or July issues of Blues Bytes.

If you like the old school blues done up right, you would be hard-pressed to find a better outlet than Double Dynamite, the recent 2 CD set by the Mannish Boys on Delta Groove Records.  The Mannish Boys are an all-star outfit of West Coast bluesmen who have released several great albums of classic blues songs over the past six or seven years.  In the past, the group has been fronted by such singers as Finis Tasby, Bobby Jones, and Johnny Dyer, along with the vocals and harmonica of Delta Groove head man Randy Chrotkoff.  This time around, Tasby and newcomer Sugaray Rayford, a gospel-influenced Texas singer cover all the bases, but get a hand from other contributors like Mud Morganfield, James Harman, and Jackie Payne.  Other guest stars include Rod Piazza, Elvin Bishop, Bob Corritore, Mike Finnigan, Junior Watson, Jason Ricci, and Kid Ramos.  One disc is traditional Chess/VeeJay era blues and the other is a jumping set of R&B and soul-based blues.  Yeah,  you'll want to get your hands on this one, folks.

Delmark Records has really struck gold in recent years with outstanding releases from artists like Toronzo Cannon, James Kinds, Studebaker John, Sharon Lewis, Demetria Taylor, Eddie C. Campbell, and Quintus McCormick.  McCormick's third and latest Delmark release, Still Called the Blues, provide further evidence that he is a great guitarist and singer, as his strong vocals work in both a blues and soul setting.  McCormick wrote over half of the tunes on this disc and they mix funk, R&B, rock, and soul with the blues. He also covers a varied set of tunes ranging from Bobby Rush to B.B. King to Paul McCartney.  Musicians like McCormick give me confidence in the future of the blues.

I wrote about The Fremonts a while back on one of my Top Discs You Might Have Missed series.  After six years, the group recently released a live disc, recorded at the Bailey Woodpit BBQ in Julian, CA.  Live at the Woodpit features the band doing twelve of their favorite songs before an small, but enthusiastic audience.  The Fremonts specialize in that vintage Gulf Coast blues and R&B sound, with a splash of Chicago thrown in for good measure.  Fronted by Mighty Joe Milsap, a fine old school vocalist, and propelled by a sizzling twin guitar attack, the Fremonts make some mighty fine music, with a mix of old favorites and originals that blend easily with the classics.  The Fremonts are a band that deserve to be heard by fans of traditional blues, so stop by their website and see what you're missing.

Speaking of bands that deserve to be heard by a larger audience, did you know that The Nighthawks are celebrating their 40th year this year?  They recently signed with Severn Records and recently released Damn Good Time, a hard-hitting set of roadhouse blues.  Three of the four Nighthawks (Mark Wenner, Paul Bell, Johnny Castle, and Mark Stutso) take turns at vocals and all of them sound great.  The songs are a mix of blues, soul, rock, and R&B with covers of tunes by Elvis ("Too Much"), Jimmy McCracklin ("Georgia Slop"), Billy Price ("Who You're Workin' For"), Nat King Cole ("Send For Me"), and Wilbert Harrison ("Let's Work Together").  This may be the strongest set of Nighthawks yet, and with a list of alums that includes Jimmy Thackery, Warren Haynes, Jimmy Nalls, and Pete Kanaras, that's saying something.  Seek this one out because any disc by The Nighthawks is guaranteed to be a good one.  Hopefully, their relationship with Severn will be a fruitful one.

Occasionally, you will get to hear a CD that really puts a hop in your step, that is totally unlike anything else you've been listening to.  I got the hop a couple of weeks ago when I heard Tweed Funk's Love Is.  Holy Cow!  Back in the 70's, as a teenager, I really got into the funk bands that were popular, such as the Ohio Players, Parliament, Confunkshun, the Bar-Kays, and even the Godfather himself, James Brown.  Tweed Funk has the funk and mixes it in healthy doses with the blues.  Their original tunes move from swing ("Fine Wine"), to slow blues ('Getting Home"), to funk ("Dancemaker," "Pick 'em Early") and they cover everyone from Johnny "Guitar" Watson ("A Real Mother For Ya"), Magic Sam ("What Have I Done Wrong"), and even the Godfather (the show-stopping closer "Sex Machine").  This was a really fun disc to listen to and will appeal to fans beyond the blues spectrum.