New Review Shorts...

Your chance to write big-time blues reviews. Only two rules: First, if you're connected to the band or artist, go to Shameless Promotion; Second, don't write a book -- keep it relatively short and simple, no 1,000+ word epics.

Oh .. and make it fun.

New Review Shorts...

Postby blueswriter » Thu Mar 15, 2007 1:22 am

Welcome to another installment of Blues Reviews - more short-takes for your perusal. Thanks as always for participating, and, as is often the case, there is plenty more on the way. ;)

Diamond Days
Telarc (2007) 83660


12 tracks, 49 minutes, excellent. It's widely accepted that traditional blues fans often want their music categorized for easy access but artists the likes of Eric Bibb make that chore virtually impossible. Sure, Bibb is blues-influenced, but a bluesman? The jury still seems to be in a heated debate over that issue. There's no question his guitar skills are instantly admirable - the cover of Dylan's Buckets Of Rain proves that in spades if the driving In My Father's House doesn't - and as a songwriter Eric has moved ahead by leaps and bounds over his earlier work. If musical diversity is what you're after, Diamond Days could be just what the doctor ordered, but if you're looking for a solid and well-defined blues outing, this may rattle the cage a little too often on too many fronts.

Shoulder To Shoulder
Alligator (2006) 14910


12 tracks, 40 minutes, very good. While it's impossible to neglect their longevity and diversity, Cephas & Wiggins have managed to make blues as accesible and digestible to the masses as Home Depot has done with building projects for every man and woman across the country. That's not meant as pure sarcasm, and Alligator itself doesn't escape similar criticism (often with pristine production and a lack of grit), but it does explain the downfall of Shoulder To Shoulder. When Sleepy John Estes' Broke And Hungry, Charley Patton's Dirt Road, and Blind Boy Fuller's Three Ball Blues are buffed and polished to a high-gloss sheen, something is truly missing in the translation. John Cephas and Harmonica Phil Wiggins are enjoyable enough, but blues is at its best when the earthy roughness of the music remains intact, and that isn't quite apparent here.

Push Comes To Shove
Narada (2007) 64741


12 tracks, 43 minutes, excellent. It's hard to believe John Hammond, Jr. has been delivering blues goods for over forty years now, and that's especially true on Push Comes To Shove, simply because Hammond sounds almost as fresh, new, and exciting as he did when he first hit the turntables and stages of America during the blues revival period of the middle-sixties. The freshness is equal parts Hammond, his steadfast blues direction, and new producer G. Love, who seems to understand where Hammond is coming from and heading to as well as any producer has been in the past with John. Junior Wells and Little Walter are honored with Come On In This House and Everything Gonna Be Alright respectively, with other nods going to Sonny Thompson/Freddy King on I'm Tore Down and Tom Waits for Cold Water. Nicely done.

State Of Grace
Alligator (2007) 14912


14 tracks, 52 minutes, recommended. While the efforts of The Holmes Brothers might not reach the music industry's expectations or definitions of true gold, there can be little doubt that an honest-to-goodness Midas touch does seem to be stamped on everything they do. Whether it's Creedence Clearwater Revival's Bad Moon Rising or Cheap Trick's I Want You To Want Me (a completely unexpected curveball), Sherman and Wendell Holmes have an unerring ability to redefine anything they do. Special guests include Roseanne Cash, Levon Helm, and Joan Osborne, but in all reality The Holmes Brothers don't require help, assistance, or encouargement from anyone. Whether a fan of blues, gospel, or folk, State Of Grace belongs in any collection of American Music.

Epic (2006) 77621


12 tracks, 51 minutes, excellent. This lands in the growing 'excellent with reservations' category. As a musical outing, it's as diverse and interesting as anything Keb' Mo' has done in the past, but if you're still looking at him as a blues artist - based on his now dusty first effort - you're bound to come away with some disappointment. The disappointment inside the blues camp stems from the undeniable fact that there's no longer any true definition to what Moore offers - he rambles roughshod and smoothly (over the course of the same disc) through ballads, reggae, pop, and blues, but he manages it effortlessly. While it may sound unfair, he is somewhat deserving of comparisons to James Taylor and while this effort deals with the emotional baggage we all gather over the course of a lifetime, Keb' Mo's Suitcase could just as easily wind up on a luggage carousel in Des Moines, Iowa, as it could in Rolling Fork, Mississippi.

Dirty Deal
Alligator (2007) 14913


11 tracks, 45 minutes, very good. Aside from the fact that there's more than a hint of Albert Collins in his guitar approach and a voice that is immediately unlike anyone else on his block, there honestly isn't much separating the work of Coco Montoya from a slew of other blues-rockers. He offers a good reading of the Otis Rush gem It Takes Time and gets in the alley with It's My Own Tears, but the balance of the program rides the same familiar property lines Montoya has been mining for the length of his solo career. Undoubtedly, most of Coco's fan base will be content with his if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it approach, but there's a growing squall from some within that group who remain certain that Montoya is capable of far more than just another pedestrian blues-rock outing or more of his usual rockin' blues fare.

Guitar Groove-A-Rama
Stony Plain (2006) 316


14 tracks, 75 minutes, recommended. It's been difficult to categorize Duke Robillard's music when he's frequently traversed blues, swing, jazz, and rock territory with ease and conviction, so it's doubtful that Guitar Groove-A-Rama will ease your challenge of where Duke belongs in that it covers all these bases and more. From an aptly laid-back Danny Boy to the storming 16-minute Blues A-Rama, where Robillard nods to his heroic blues influences, and a Cookin' swing workout, Robillard proves his mettle across a wide musical landscape. Assistance comes in the form of a tight rhythm section (the usual suspects - Marty Ballou and Mark Teixeira) along with additional help from Doug James (sax/harmonica), Al Basile (cornet), and Bruce Bears (organ). Duke's own liner notes offer some highly interesting technical insight on his choice of guitars, pickup selections, and amplifiers that will suit the gear-heads just fine.

Ten Days Out - Blues From The Backroads
Reprise (2007) 49294


15 tracks, CD/DVD, 76 minutes (plus DVD), highly recommended. A modern-day field project respectfully handled with the work of John and Alan Lomax in mind, Ten Days Out, the latest from Kenny Wayne Shepherd managed to document the final recording chapters of more than a few artists featured in this CD/DVD package. Gone is Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Cootie Stark, George "Wild Child" Butler, Henry "Mule" Townsend, Etta Baker... thankfully this stirring effort stands tall due to the inclusion of these familiar names, as does Shepherd's reputation as one who holds his blues roots close, although he's not solely a blues performer. KWS and B.B. King hand in a soulful (although terribly over-recorded) version of The Thrill Is Gone. Whether a new fan of blues or an honored member of the old guard, Ten Days Out should not disappoint.

© 2007 by Craig Ruskey
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