June 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.

June Review Shorts

Postby blueswriter » Fri Jun 08, 2007 10:39 pm

Howdy gang!

Getting caught up with the pile of review material that has landed here recently has been a challenge but progress is being made. In order to get things done in a somewhat timely manner, I've pared the reviews down a bit from the more recent entries, but hopefully there will be plenty of information so readers can make their choices and spend their dollars in the best way possible. I have no affiliation with any of the labels, but I do provide links to them (where possible) as well as an outlet where everything is available from one source. There's an awful lot more on the way so please stay tuned... ;)

Done Got Tired Of Tryin'
Broke & Hungry (2007) 13004


10 tracks, 51 minutes, highly recommended. Following on the heels of his highly-acclaimed CD from 2006, Back To Bentonia, the return of Jimmy "Duck" Holmes is cause for celebration. Broke & Hungry Records gets an ovation as well for making sure the down-time between releases was minimal. If you thought blues records weren't this pure and down-home these days, you were mistaken. Recorded at the Blue Front Cafe, Bentonia's longest-running juke joint (owned by "Duck") over two sessions (four tracks stem from the Back To Bentonia sessions), Holmes is little more than a bluesman and gentleman, and a gifted one at that. With Lightnin' Malcolm on drums for a few and Bud Spires adding harp to Catfish Blues, "Duck" delivers Junior Parker's Train I Ride and Skip's Cherry Ball along with his own Biscuit Roller, Pencil And Paper, Could've Been Married and the rollicking instrumental, Blue Front Breakdown. Jimmy's timing is wonderfully archaic and his voice flat-out convinces anyone that he's the real deal - without doubt. Buy all four discs on the Broke & Hungry label - you'll thank me later.

Broke & Hungry Records

Negro Prison Blues & Songs
Collectables (2007) CD0850


23 tracks, 70 minutes. Absolutely essential. For anyone wondering what blues was like before the earliest recordings landed on the commercial market in the 1920s, there are very few projects that can match the power, purity and passion available in the 28 tracks on this stunning collection of vintage Alan Lomax recordings. What this disc consists of, more than likely, is what Charley Patton, Son House and others heard as Pre-war fieldhands heard before they picked up their guitars and went on to become recording artists. As dark and rich as the fertile Mississippi soil, there's an unmatched beauty in this music from the Mississippi and Louisiana State Penitentiaries. Issued previously on various labels, this budget-priced offering from Collectables is simply some of the most stunning and earthy music ever recorded. No More My Lord, Old Dollar Mamie, Levee Camp Holler, Old Alabama, Duckin' And Dodgin' and many more. Timeless, beautiful and unquestionably essential for every blues fan.

Collectables does not have a direct link but CDs on this label can be acquired through Oldies Records.

Old School
Alligator (2007) 4915


12 tracks, 61 minutes, excellent. Back with her first effort in a half-dozen years, Koko Taylor's newest offering, Old School is a solid slice of modern blues with touches of the old school approach. Supported by her band, The Blues Machine, the queen of the blues can still belt it and she gets additional help from Bob Margolin's guitar on a pair, Billy Branch's harp and Mark Kazanoff. Memphis Minnie's Black Rat sounds tight, E.G. Kight's Bad Rooster struts, there are two Willie Dixon gems, Young Fashioned Ways and Don't Go No Further, plus Magic Sam's All Your Love along with a hefty assortment of original rockers and slow blues. While Alligator's production values are too clean to go completely old-school, Koko has shaken off her illness and inactivity proving she still has a lot to offer. Let's hope her return comes much quicker next time out.

Alligator Records

The Definitive Collection
Hip-O (2007) 677902


16 tracks, 67 minutes, recommended. Considering the recording career of Robert Cray has now spanned a quarter-century and numerous efforts, a single-disc, 16-track collection certainly does not equate to being 'definitive' but it does get the job done as a well-chosen overview. With powerful blues in the form of Phone Booth or Playin' In The Dirt to his unbeatable blend of blues, soul and R&B for Bad Influence, I Guess I Showed Her, Right Next Door, Forecast (Calls For Pain) and plenty more, what's not to like? Lots of staccato guitar with nods to Cray's influences, ranging from Johnny "Guitar" Watson to Albert Collins to Wes Montgomery. With his rich, soulful vocals out front, 'young Bob' gets plenty of support from his varied and thumping bands, all riding loose-in-the-saddle but providing that necessary in-the-pocket feel. Robert Cray continues to impress but listening to this made it readily apparent how quickly the past twenty-five years have flown by.

This disc does not appear on their lists yet but check here for other titles - Robert Cray - Hip-O Records

Guitar'd And Feathered
Ruffhouse 1127


13 tracks, 37 minutes, excellent. Like it or not, her album covers aren't likely to garner any awards for their artistic integrity but Candye Kane has offered some fine and listenable blues during her music career. While this project does fall into the dismally short category with its woeful 37-minute spin time, it's hard to go wrong with Candye's heartfelt vocal delivery and a cast including Junior Watson, Bob Margolin, Ana Popovic, Sue Foley, Kid Ramos and Bob Brozman on guitars. With a different guitarist stepping in for each cut, the variation in themes and grooves is highly entertaining. Add more help in the form of Thomas Yearsley (the Paladins) or Bill Stuve (ex-Mighty Flyer) in the bass department plus Evan Caleb's in-the-pocket drumming and it's a winner. Guitar Slim's Done Got Over It gets a fine reading and Kane dedicates I'm My Own Worst Enemy to her numerous friends and few adversaries on the Blues-List. While heavy on the guitar slingers this is not an over-the-top guitar shootout. This could rank as Candye Kane's best yet. Nicely done with a hefty dose of good times.

Ruf Records

Late In The Night
MC (2007) 57


13 tracks, 49 minutes, excellent. Depending on whether you liked Rick Holmstrom's last effort or not might factor into how you receive his newest offering... I've been called a master of the obvious before now. While hard to believe, it's been almost five years since his last effort, but the West Coast guitarist pulls out all the stops again. With the frenzied jump of On The Vine, the slow and moody In The Night, the rocking I'm Leaving and the atmospheric Tutwiler (brilliantly bordering on Santana territory), Holmstrom delivers a varied mix of vocal and instrumental tracks. As expected, with his bizarre sense of humor in music, you also get the wacky [Wham-O and Peculiar Hop, plus an interesting take on Bob Dylan's Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35 plus the traditional Dig Myself A Hole. With Jeff Turmes and Stephen Hodges in support, Holmstrom's Late In The Night disc is a gritty and wide-ranging (and sometimes downright odd) blues outing minus the knob twiddling and sampling of his last.

Rick Holmstrom

The Wheel Man
Northern Blues (2007) NBM0038


14 tracks, 48 minutes, recommended. There's a reason Watermelon Slim (real name William Homans) has been collecting blues nominations - although without a win to his credit yet - he's simply got it goin' on. His slide guitar is pure and unaffected, his harp work stands well on its own and his voice has the right touch of smoke and grease. As a songwriter the guy is simply brilliant. For those with his self-titled 2006 debut on Northern Blues (which is also heartily recommended), the backing unit is fleshed out with another guitar while Dave Maxwell and Magic Slim appear as special guests. A driving set of mostly original tracks with Slim Harpo's Got Love If You Want It and Furry Lewis' Judge Harsh Blues for good measure, Slim and the Workers get it right with a mix of shuffles, slow blues and rockin' dirt sure to please the wide tastes of a varied blues demographic. This isn't modern, polite or over-produced - it's in-your-face with plenty of grime and grit.

Northern Blues

© 2007 by Craig Ruskey

All items reviewed can be purchased through Roots & Rhythm - the finest roots music selection on the web.
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Postby bosco » Tue Jun 12, 2007 1:06 pm

Great stuff B-dub.

Your efforts are always appreciated!


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Postby blueswriter » Tue Jun 12, 2007 3:18 pm

Thanks, Jeff. I hope all is well with you! :wink:
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