Blues Access Summer 2000
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New Releases

All CDs reviewed by the BLUES ACCESS editorial staff. Discs that have been given full reviews in this or previous issues of BLUES ACCESS are quoted with the reviewers initials in brackets.    Note: Be sure to send us two (2) copies of all new releases.

Red Rooster Pick     (†=Import)

The Nelsen Adelard BandBlues Got a Hold on Me

Not another guitar-heavy blooze band, here’s some jump blues that’ll get your toe tappin’! Adelard (playing guitar, harp and keys) and his band boogie through ten classics and originals with second guitar, sax, bass and drums all playing ensemble the way you like — not in your face. Being a swing fan, I loved his closing rendition of "Ain’t Misbehavin’." (J-Bird)

Monti Amundson • I See Trouble

Modest, likeable, acoustic-driven effort from the Northwest is well-executed if not ground-breaking. (Beatville Blues)

Back Alley • Show Me What You Got

Kansas outfit has all the basic roadhouse band moves down and can take it to the next level with a little more effort.

The Larry Baeder Group • Maximo Strut

Guitarist/singer Larry Baeder leads his troupe through a New Orleans-flavored blues set that mixes influences as diverse as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Wes Montgomery with a dash of Cuban rhythms. Well done in every aspect — his guitar playing is inspired, and his vocals unique and soulful. I believe him! (New Moon)

Ronnie Barnes • Wonderful Woman

Eleven tunes from this R&B/pop/soul vocalist. (Ecko)

Robert Belfour • What’s Wrong With You

It’s on Fat Possum, so you know what to expect. The spirit of the Mississippi Delta blues lives on in the hitherto unknown Belfour: raw, haunting solo acoustic blues that cut right to the bone. (Fat Possum)

K.D. Bell • K.D. Bell

Smooth R&B stylings are standard fare that won’t ruffle any feathers … or light any fires. (Thrillionaire)

Best & Blues Power • Best & Blues Power

While the musicianship is superb, the blues somehow don’t ring true with Italian-accented vocals. The trio keeps it low key with mostly acoustic and slide guitar backed by a minimal drum kit and bass. Tight, well-arranged presentations, but somehow it doesn’t seem to move me. (Blues & Rock Connection)

Bobby Bland • The Best of Bobby Bland: The Millennium Collection

Although skimpy on annotation, this collection packs in Bland’s biggest hits for the Duke and Dunhill labels: "I Pity the Fool," "Turn on Your Lovelight," "Stormy Monday Blues" and more make this an excellent intro to the R&B/blues great. (MCA)

Blues Fools • Fools in the Blues

It’s the West Coast sound, direct from … Hungary? Yup, the blues is universal, and these four guys are spreading the word in Eastern Europe. With fine harp work from Matyas Pribojoszki and the cooking guitar of Laszlo Horvath, the vocals are mostly right on, although the non-English inflection comes through on some of the backup singing. Still, it’s not enough to make you go away — these guys are too good. (Crossroads†)

Ray Bonneville • Rough Luck

Rolling, gentle acoustic folk and country blues from Canadian Bonneville. Recorded live in the studio, this has a very personable feel. (Prime CD)

Bobby Bradford • No Saints Walkin

Here’s some straight up gut bucket blues with a little Memphis swagger, a modest but winning effort.

Brickyard • Blues in Pajala

EXIT: Bluesland

Swedish outfit dreams of Texas and Chicago, doing a credible take on those old U.S. blues scenes, but they won’t frighten the natives too much. (Brickyard†)

Big Bill Broonzy • Trouble in Mind

Compilation drawing from the twilight of Broonzy’s career documents a bluesman still at the top of his game despite battling throat cancer. Stirring solo acoustic work from the folk-blues legend. (Smithsonian)

Mel Brown • Neck Bones & Caviar

"Brown’s surely the equal of an Eric Gale or a Cornell Dupree, so he isn’t exactly challenged by this CD of straight-up blues and funk. Still, it’s an appealing set." [Schuller] (Electro-Fi)

R.L. Burnside • My Black Name A’Ringin’

When it comes to Mississippi hill country blues, this here’s the real deal. Recorded in the fall of 1969, the Independence, Mississippi, sharecropper is captured with excellent recording quality on 13 tunes that feature his haunting vocals and rhythmic guitar work, many recorded in his home after a long day working the cotton fields with his wife and children. The fact that R.L. is still gaining new converts over 30 years later is testimony to his music’s staying power. (Genes)

Beau Burton • Blues-N-Red

Overblown singing, abrasive guitar — my tinnitus is preferable to this.

ButterBall • ButterBall

Guitar/bass/drums do about what you’d expect from young white guys, but with a few surprises in material, including T-Bone’s "Build Me a Playhouse," Jerry West’s "Knock Knock," Leadbelly’s "Outskirts of Town" and, most unexpectedly, the instrumental "Theme From the Magnificent Seven." (Live Bug)

The Dermot Byrne Blues Combo • Raw Whiskey Blues

Discovered singing on the streets of Dublin, Ireland, Byrne’s brand of acoustic guitar blues is simple, with only bass and what must be a very small drum kit. The focus is on his powerful and unique vocal sound, which betrays no Irish accent at all and seems inspired by field hollers more than anything else. (Beatville Blues)

Chris Cain • Live at the Rep

Cain and cohorts captured live and in fine form. Includes several selections from the commissioned score for Thunder Knocking on the Door: A Blusical Tale of Rhythm & the Blues, and Cain plays it all with verve and wide dynamic range.

Tommy Castro • Live at the Fillmore

"Castro and Co. turn in a typically super-charged performance that undoubtedly had the crowd on its feet from the first notes." [Jordan] (Blind Pig)

Robert Charels • Metropolitan Blue

Produced by Duke Robillard (who also plays on a few cuts), vocalist Charels brings together a great bunch of East Coast talent for his first solo recording. Well-arranged and produced, the band fires on all cylinders, but something’s missing — maybe the fire you feel on "Bop All Night Long," one of the hottest tunes, needs to spread throughout. (Fountainbleu)

Elliott Chavers • The Return of a Legend

This Texas-born singing sax player moved further west in the ’50s and, backing up players like T-Bone Walker, Pee Wee Crayton, Sam Cooke, Lowell Fulson, Freddie King and Jimmy Reed, helped to define what became the West Coast Sound. He became a front man when Cooke was late to a gig and they had to start, so Chavers stepped up to the mike and wowed everyone. Backed up by a super group of West Coast players, Chavers gets the job done with class. Smooth vocals to match his sax tone are his hallmark. (Storyville†)

Clifton Chenier, Mance Lipscomb, Lightning Hopkins • Live! at the 1966 Berkeley Blues Festival

Three legends captured live, featuring 11 unreleased performances. Outside of some annoying radio fade-outs at inopportune moments, a welcome blast from the past. (Arhoolie)

Rich Chorne • My First Car

Fun disc evokes the memories of America’s love affair with the automobile, of the freedom it symbolized and the music that provided the soundtrack to those long hours spent cruising. Nice originals alongside high-energy covers. (Chorne)

Deborah Coleman • Soft Place to Fall

"Still torn between blues, rock and that crossover appeal she’s displayed on her pair of albums for Blind Pig, Deborah Coleman returns with yet another set that shows she’s not quite ready to give her allegiance to either genre." [Koetzner] (Blind Pig)

Sean Costello • Cuttin’ In

"Costello has opted to make a good album featuring an entertaining mix of club blues and ’50s-style R&B. Though Costello still sounds a little young, this is a first-rate concept disc from start to finish." [Burke] (Landslide Records)

James Cotton • Fire Down Under the Hill

"Cotton, who turns 65 in July, remains a nimble, dexterous harmonica player, master of a distinctly recognizable vibrato and attack, and he showcases those skills well." [Powell] (Telarc)

Dillard Crume • I’m Glad He’s Right Here By My Side

The first solo effort from a 21-year veteran of the legendary Gospel group, the Soul Stirrers, where Sam Cooke once held his spot as lead singer. Crume puts a little more of a pop spin on his gospel roots than I expected, but it’s all that for Soul Stirrers fans. (Susie Q/Gospel Jubilee)

Cup-a-Jo • Straight Up

Guitarist/singer/writer Joe Oeser leads his Cup-a-Jo band through 13 of his original compositions, ranging from fun and funky to slow and bluesy. With a second guitar, bass, drums and keyboards, the gang does a pretty good job, especially on the tunes featuring the full horn section — God I love those horns! And Oeser’s fine guitar work over the keyboards of Gary Brudos sound great. (Straight Up)

Boo Boo Davis • East St. Louis

You don’t expect drummers to double as great blues vocalists, but this journeyman from East St. Louis is just that. Raunchy dive-bar blues at its best, right here. (Black & Tan†)

Guy Davis • Butt Naked Free

"It’s clear from the get-go that Davis is an accomplished player, but his strength lies in his song-writing. He’s a master at putting modern lyrics to traditional blues." [Ranney] (Red House)

Josh Davis & English Dave • Turnpike Cruiser

Mixing up a few originals with a few classics, they all come out sounding authentic for these two young guitarists. They consider themselves revivalists, and indeed they are breathing life into the blues, emulating the guitar sounds of T-Bone Walker, Pee Wee Crayton and Tiny Grimes with a decidedly West Coast sound. Sharing the spotlight, the two always perfectly cover the bases, never stepping on each other and never making you feel like you’re listening to a guitar album. It’s 12 fresh cuts of the sound that you often have to look long and hard for, like finding a case of Scotch you thought was no longer available. (TopCat)

Jimmy Dawkins, Lefty Dizz, Brew Phillips & the Houserockers • Bad Avenue

Specially-priced set reissues CDs from three Chicago guitar stalwarts: Brewer Phillips (Whole Lotta Blues, 1982), Jimmy Dawkins (Feel the Blues, 1985) and Lefty Dizz (Ain’t It Nice to Be Loved, 1989). They’re all solid sessions recorded in the Windy City with well-known sidemen. (JSP†)

The Will Derryberry Band • Live: August 31, 1999

Straight-ahead contemporary blues from solid outfit that, with a little more distinctive material, could do some damage in the future. (Fair Oaks)

Miss Sugar Pie DeSanto • A Slice of Pie

"DeSanto, who cut more than 30 songs for Chess Records, gets by on personality more than drop-dead singing talent. But she knows exactly how a song should sound." [Knopper] (Jasman)

Bo Diddley • The Best of Bo Diddley: The Millennium Collection

Latest repackaging of Bo’s hits and near-hits contains a mere dozen tracks (the 1997 release His Best had all but one of these songs plus nine more.) Redundant if you have previous collections, essential if you don’t. (MCA)

Drippin’ Honey • Drip Drip

This Amsterdam-based four-piece mixes up their blues influences: West Coast harp sounds overlaid with Texas guitar, and Chicago shuffles with surf guitar. Yet they are still pretty fresh and alive. With Sander Kooiman on guitar and vocals, Kim Suelten on harp and vocals, Lut Lutlik on bass and Joost Tazelaar on drums, Drippin’ Honey is pretty sweet. (Beatville Blues)

Dr. John • Duke Elegant

The Doctor does Ellington in his laid-back, lazy style, offering up mellow R&B, jazz and funk versions of Duke standards. It’s a tribute to the long shelf life of these compositions, which remain fresh and vital, but if the Doctor had put just a little more juice in the project, it might have been truly great instead of merely good. (Blue Note)

Mark Dufresne • There’s a Song in There

Dufresne has assembled a crack Los Angeles band, including Kid Ramos and Larry Taylor, to back his wry tales of the daily grind. Good songwriter, and not bad on the harp either. (Jeromed Records)

David "Honeyboy" Edwards • I’ve Been Around

Fourteen sides cut in Chicago from 1974 to 1977, featuring Edwards on guitar, harp and vocals, with occasional help from Walter Horton on harp and Eddie El on guitar. These recordings are a fine example of the first step in the evolution of Delta blues to the electric Chicago sound, with Edwards playing consistently in time, something many of the early Delta solo artists openly disregarded as a part of their stylistic signature. With everyone on the same beat through the entire tune, ensemble playing became the hallmark of the blues, and the electric sound was born. (32 Blues)

Tinsley Ellis • Kingpin

"Diehard blues fans would hope for more straight-ahead blues in this set, but on the other hand, Ellis and company have an eye toward broader exposure and airplay. This is sure to appeal to blues fans with a taste for Allman-flavored, Little Feat-ish Southern-style sounds." [Madden] (Capricorn)

Terry Evans • Walk That Walk

"There are stylistic bows to Otis Redding, Sam Moore and various other ’60s soulsters, but the foundation on which Terry Evans stands most comfortably is up on the choir stand. He’s one of the finest gospel singers in the land, even if he does sing about shoes and balling." [Gallo] (Telarc)

Tom Feldmann • Lay It on You

21-year-old Feldman plays a nice steel-top, and with more seasoning his style of acoustic folk-blues could gain wide recognition.

The Four Charms • Flatland Boogie

Not much info on disc, but this quartet has got the jumpin’ jive thing down. Quite good swingin’ blues played with gusto. (Hi Style)

Jay Gordon • Rings Around the Sun

Los Angeles Strat-slinger Gordon’s self-produced CD is strictly for lovers of in-your-face guitar playing, something he is really good at. It’s more a wall of sound approach than one with varied dynamics, and the Hendrix/SRV licks abound on all17 cuts, with more distortion and feedback than some can stand. (Blue Ace)

Henry Gray & the Cats • Live: Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest

First live recording from ex-Howlin’ Wolf pianist and session man Gray, and it’s smokin’ Chicago blues the way it’s supposed to be done. Gray’s voice and key bashing are in fine form, and he’s ably assisted by special guests Martin Simpson and Sonny Landreth. (Lucky Cat )

Phil Guy • Say What You Mean

It’s been several years since the lesser-known of the Guy brothers has released a CD; in fact, all his releases have been on European labels. His singing lacks the tonal and emotional range of bro’ Buddy, but his guitar playing is top shelf. (JSP†)

John Hammond • Best of the Vanguard Years

An excellent collection that includes 23 recordings spanning Hammond’s early career from 1964 to 1976. The bands here are phenomenal, notably the crew on the 1965 So Many Roads date, featuring the Band plus a young Charlie Musselwhite and Michael Bloomfield on piano! Folks say that Hammond’s friend, Bob Dylan, attended this recording session and was so impressed that he soon afterwards began working with the Band on the seminal Music From Big Pink. (Vanguard)

Harmonic Henry & the Blues Rockers • Harp Rumble

One of Sweden’s finest outfits and veterans of 20 years work turn in a credible homage to Little Walter and the Chicago sound. Still detect an accent, though. (Cee Pee Vee)

Jack Heinze Bluesband • History in Our Time

California-based guitarist Heinze leads his bass/drums/guitar trio through a dozen originals. Vocals leave something to be desired. If I was at a club and Heinze was the band, I would probably leave unless … never mind, I’d ask them to leave with me. (Earth Dreams)

Jack Heinze Bluesband • Once Upon a Time

See above — more of the same. (Earth Dreams)

Robert Hill • Robert Hill

Versatile guitarist who uses layering, tone, texture and good taste to keep the listener riveted. Good singer, mean slide player — here’s to more efforts like this from Hill. (Slide On Rye)

Richard "Groove" Holmes • Blues All Day Long

Welcome reissue of 1988 session features more jazz regulars than you can shake a stick at (Holmes, Houston Person, Cecil Bridgewater) playing the slow blues and swingin’ funk like only vets can. Organist Holmes could work the Hammond B-3 with style and grace, as evidenced here. (32 Jazz)

Rick Holmstrom • Gonna Get Wild

"Listeners who like Rusty Zinn’s gleaming, vintage-toned blues, Duke Robillard’s old-school jump-swing or the early work of Teddy Morgan should particularly dig this Tone-Cool debut disc from Holmstrom." [Huchtemann] (Tone-Cool)

Homesick James • Got to Move

Recorded in the early to mid-’60s and digitally remastered to sound like it’s new stuff, these 14 sides from James are mostly representative of his later work with the electric blues bands of the Chicago genre — and great work it is. It’s blues like this that inspired the current generation of players from New York to California. (32 Blues)

Lightnin’ Hopkins • Feel So Bad: The Essential Recordings of Lightnin’ Hopkins

Good foray into Hopkins’ legendary ’40s canon, concentrating on solo efforts but also including "Katie Mae," "Feel So Bad" and "Let Me Play With Your Poodle." Texas acoustic blues at its best. (Indigo†)

Joe Houston & Otis Grand • The Return of HONK!

Reissue of 1994 release that united classic Texas R&B saxman Houston with the American expatriate guitarist who’s been tearing up the UK for years. (JSP†)

Eugene Huggins • Life Is a Nightmare

Recorded live with a great lineup at the incredibly funky Saloon in San Francisco’s North Beach (you can smell the stale beer a block away), this 20-year veteran of the Bay Area blues scene is at his best for all 12 tunes. With Rusty Zinn featured on guitar for a few songs, Huggins is backed by guitarist Justin McCarthy, veteran bassist Burton Winn and drummer Big Walter Salzwitz (aka Walter Shufflesworth of the Dynatones). A few other friends show up for the gig, so we also get to hear Chris Goddard on guitar, Wendy DeWitt on piano and Greg Errico on drums. (Saloon)

Fruteland Jackson • I Claim Nothing But the Blues

"Jackson’s debut album for national distribution has given the Electro-Fi label its first acoustic blues release, featuring ten outstanding traditional-style blues originals." [McDermott] (Electro-Fi)

Calvin Jackson & Mississippi Bound • Goin’ Down South

This drummer/vocalist hails from Tate County, Mississippi, and his brand of blues includes flavors from New Orleans to Nashville. Jackson is a veteran of the blues touring circuit in Europe and the U.S., backing artists like R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and Jessie Mae Hemphill. He does a great job on 12 tunes ranging from originals to covers of Willie Dixon’s "Put It All in There," Fred McDowell’s "Kokomo," and Jimmy Reed’s "Bright Lights, Big City." (Beatville Blues)

Elmore James • The Very Best of Elmore James

The title is no exaggeration — "Dust My Broom," "The Sky Is Crying," "Shake Your Moneymaker" and more singles recorded for Trumpet, Meteor, Flair, Vee Jay, Chess, Fire and other labels, from the father of the modern slide guitar. (Rhino)

Billy Lee Janey • Mankiller

Iowa bluesman Janey delivers his killer Telecaster tone and gutsy vocals on ten cuts featuring Dan Johnson on bass, Robin Messer on drums and the expressive B-3 of Sam Salomone. The grooves are tight and well-arranged, and Janey proves his salt with a guitar sound that cries the blues — not too Texas, not too Nashville, but still east of Kansas City. (Hot Fudge)

Bryce Janey • Bare Wire

Billy Lee Janey’s son Bryce calls on his dad and a few buddies to help him out on this recording. He’s a Strat guy, but with the nice clean tone that speaks volumes instead of just using volume. Set apart from the crowd by his distinctive vocals, Bryce probably gets some of his dad’s gigs — and rightly so — combining tasty guitar playing with soulful singing. (Hot Fudge)

Big Jack Johnson & the Oilers • Roots Stew

This is one heady stew indeed: smoldering rootsy workouts combined with convincing country-blues, spiced with Johnson’s adept guitar/slack key/mandolin work and powerful voice. Years spent with fellow Jelly Roll Kings Frank Frost and Sam Carr really shows, producing down-home rural blues the way it’s supposed to be played, and deserving of its W.C. Handy nomination. (MC)

Amyl Justin • Amyl Justin

Solid R&B grooves provide a solid foundation for Justin to howl and scowl over. Good effort. (Thrillionaire)

Jo Ann Kelly • Talkin’ Low

The late English blues singer is featured on a never before released collection of her work from the ’60s through the ’80s. Playing variously solo acoustic, duo acoustic, trio acoustic, and with a full-on electric band, she demonstrates plenty of power and conviction on these 19 cuts. (Mooncrest†)

Smokin’ Joe Kubek featuring Bnois King • Bite Me

"This is plain and simple one of the best working bands out there, and while it’s not all blues, it IS all business. Extra grits, hold the jive." [Kirby] (Bullseye Blues)

David Landon • Chasin’ the Blues

WARNING: Contains two Hendrix covers! As well as "Blue Suede Shoes" done up as blues played by a Holiday Inn Band. Landon has decent guitar chops but should leave the singing to someone else. (Whip)

Sonny Landreth • Prodigal Son: The Collection

Landreth’s earliest recordings, including sessions from 1973 and 1977, revealing a young man exploring straight-ahead, rootsy slide blues stylings. Fascinating glimpse of the budding slide guitar master before he honed his distinctive South Louisiana style. (Music Club)

Sam Lay Blues Band • Rush Hour Blues

The latest effort from Chicago drummer and vocalist Sam Lay, whose resume with Howlin’ Wolf and Paul Butterfield alone should get your attention, is arguably his best recording in years. Consistent in style and quality, every cut is a well-crafted classic. Supported by an outstanding band that sounds like they’ve been playing five nights a week, Lay lays down the beat, and his vocals are more expressive than ever. They’ve really captured the small combo sound with harp, piano, guitar, acoustic bass and drums, and that makes this the real deal. (Telarc)

Barry Levenson-Jake Sampson Band • Closer to the Blues

Bassist Jake Sampson’s vocals provide the authentic Chicago sound to complement Barry Levenson’s strong, Bloomfield-influenced guitar playing. Add in harp, horns and keys and you’ve got a tight band. (Storyville†)

Lightnin’ Willie and the Poorboys

Roadhouse blues for the Saturday night rowdies, nothing more or less. Music for gettin’ the crowds up and movin’. (Road Dawg Touring Co)

Lil’ Brian and the Zydeco Travelers • Funky Nation

The new-school Zydeco: trad-Cajun elements crossed with contemporary urban funk produces a winning combo. (Tomorrow)

Lil’ Slim and the Back-Alley Blues Band • Live at the Zoo Bar

Here’s a young cat to keep an eye on. Lil’ Slim fronts his four-piece (two guitars, bass and drums) and plays some fine guitar on 11 tracks that also feature his developing vocals. (Zoo Bar)

Mance Lipscomb • Live! at the Cabale

Texas folk/country blues legend recorded live by Arhoolie’s Chris Strachwitz. These mostly unreleased performances from 1964–1972 capture Lipscomb’s quietly powerful as well as lighthearted song stylings in stark relief. (Arhoolie)

Little Isidore & the Inquisitors • Inquisition of Love

No One Gets Hurt

Lovingly accurate re-creation/homages to the glory of doo wop. Mostly originals, the tunes effectively conjure the ghosts of Little Anthony, the Marcels, Frankie Lymon et al. Not much blues content, but a pair of noble tributes to a long-lost pop music form. (Hy-Sam)

Lucky Stereo • Lucky Stereo

Wow! One of the finest — if not the finest — guitar albums I’ve heard in a while. Bobby Keyes on guitar leads his trio of Craig Macintyre on drums and Sean Hurley on bass through 12 dazzling instrumental pieces. Not since the Chet Atkins/Mark Knopfler duo CD have I heard such pristine guitar work. A MUST HAVE for guitarists. (Thrillionaire)

Malkum & Chris • Walk On

Apparently, these two guys recorded an album back in the ’70s produced by B.B. King, and now they’re back. It’s acoustic guitar and National steel guitar with harp and vocals, playing a nice selection of classics from the likes of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Willie Dixon, Blind Willie McTell, Muddy Waters and Big Bill Broonzy. Well done, but nothing to get the juices jumping. (Buckatoon)

Woody Mann & Bob Brozman • Get Together

Two masters of the acoustic blues guitar: Mann started as a student of the legendary Rev. Gary Davis, while Brozman cut his teeth on the road, honing his chops on National/slide guitar. Together, they forge a new music that pays homage to their roots while pushing their skills as musicians to create what they call "world music with Mississippi roots." (Acoustic Music Records)

Jack McDuff • Another Real Good’Un

Reissue of ’89–’90 release finds the Hammond B-3 master still in fine form, playing mostly bluesy, late-night jams ("Summertime," "I Can’t Get Started") with the occasional uptempo swing number ("Rock Candy") thrown in. Fine jazz on a blues tip. (32 Jazz)

Jay McShann • What a Wonderful World

The legendary pianist, singer, composer and bandleader still cooks at 83. All his experience comes to bear in these 11 tunes, ranging from the classic shuffle "Cherry Red" to the jazzy instrumental "Crazy Legs and Friday Strut," and closing out with a touching rendition of "What a Wonderful World." Surviving so many years in the business and still making music of this caliber — it truly is a wonderful world. (Groove Note)

Midnight Breakfast Blues Band • Mr. Nobody

Italian blues from a veteran European touring band. The liner notes say it well: "The blues is a language not our own, but which we have studied with great respect. Maybe our rendition is no longer blues … but we are proud of it because it comes from the heart." Marco Calietti’s raspy vocals and stinging guitar are enough to convince me that it is the blues, and that it’s time to seriously consider European blues artists. (M. B. B. B. )

Memphis Slim • The Folkways Years, 1959–1973

Fine collection of Slim’s Folkways output, featuring solo work as well as duets with Willie Dixon (bass) and Matt "Guitar" Murphy. One of the finest boogie-woogie pianists is showcased throughout this expedition into Memphis Slim’s rootsy side. (Smithsonian)

Mark "Guitar" Miller • Naked Soul

Miller is a guitarist of some merit. His style is clean and nimble, almost elevating this set above the standard blooze-rock fare he offers up. (Hooper)

The Milwaukee Slim Blues Band • The Milwaukee Slim Blues Band

Slim’s choice of material pays tribute mostly to Muddy, and he and the band do a respectable job on tunes which those without a strong voice might shy away from — including "Blow Wind Blow," "Hoochie Coochie Man," "Big Boss Man," "Walkin’ Through the Park" and a great rendition of the Freddie King instrumental, "San-Ho-Zay". The band has that raw feel, and its energy drives the music. (Hander Pander)

Mojo Blues Band • Blues Parade 2000

Easy-rolling blues from this Austrian outfit, featuring guest appearances from Jimmy McCracklin, A.C. Reed, Bob Gaddy and others. (Styx†)

Coco Montoya • Suspicion

"Montoya’s natural vibrato and timbre are to the auditory nerves what lilacs are to the olfactory, and he has a voice that could redeem even the worst of tunes." [Wickstrom] (Alligator)

Charlie Morris • Bluer Than Thou

Morris plays the blues adequately, but the singing, well … (Blues Page)

Mother of Moth • Delta

Six tunes from acoustic guitarist/singer Patrick Archie. It’s a time travel thing — back to the ’70s and psychedelic acoustic blues a la Led Zep — as Archie recycles some lyrics over his own music. Somehow all the songs sound like "Gallows Pole."

Charlie Musselwhite • Best of the Vanguard Years

Compilation includes highlights from Musselwhite’s three Vanguard LPs, two anthologies and session work from John Mayall’s "So Many Roads." Excluding selections from ’94’s "Blues Never Die," which suffers from subpar production, this is a great intro for novices and a reminder of Musselwhite’s Chicago blues artistry. (Vanguard)

Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas • Let’s Go!

Reliable veteran Nathan Williams provides another solid Zydeco outing. Infectious fun for all. (Rounder)

Kenny Neal • What You Got

On his second Telarc release Neal delivers a unique combination of soulful vocals and superb guitar playing that will satisfy the most discriminating blues palate. Did I forget to mention that he also plays some fine harp? When the leading light of the talented Neal family from Baton Rouge is on, he’s really on. A dozen tunes that will have you out looking for more of his recordings (Telarc)

Yoko Noge and the Jazz Me Blues Band • Yoko Meets John

Not a long-lost Lennon/Ono experiment but a nice Chicago blues/jazz fusion on a mellow tip. Some great horn blowin’ and some humorous vocal sparring between pianist Yoko Noge and trombonist John Watson. (Jazz Me Blues)

Zach Parrish Blues Band • Zach Parrish Blues Band

Self-produced effort is rough around the sonic edges, but the lively and humorous spirit of Parrish’s tunes shines through like a lovable shaggy dog.

The Pattersonaires • Book of the Seven Seals

CD reissue of 1984 release by respected Memphis traditional gospel group. The original was the label’s best selling LP ever. (High Water/HMG)

Billy Price • Can I Change My Mind

Interesting project. Cult hero Jerry "Swamp Dogg" Williams produces, plays piano and writes most of the material, yet turns the vocals over to one Billy Price from Steeltown USA. Straight-ahead ’60s/early ’70s-era soul, right down to the cover shot recreation of Tyrone Davis’ LP of the same name. (Green Dolphin)

John Primer • Knocking at Your Door

"Evocative guitar work and vocals, Swiss-perfect timing and first-rate songwriting all point to an important musician who deserves a lot more attention than he’s gotten thus far." [Gallo] (Telarc)

David Ralston • Nail It Down

It’s a family thing it seems: Delaney and Bonnie — the Next Generation, with lots of help from the first generation … maybe a little bit too much. Not knowing David Ralston, I had high expectations when I read the roster of musicians, but while everyone plays well, there’s no spark.. I think Delaney Bramlett spent too much time in production and lost the feeling they were going for when they cut the tracks. Ralston goes to great pains to thank everyone for their love, guidance and support, but to make a good record, you’ve got to have a vision that everyone follows and supports, not an idea that everyone involved has influence on. (Zeromach)

Red Beans & Rice • On Your Way Up

Green band plays a lean and clean brand of blues that just needs to age a bit to reach full flavor. Promising. (Self-Adhesive)

Jimmy Reed • The Very Best of Jimmy Reed

Excellent compilation of Reed’s Vee Jay sides. They’re all here: "Ain’t That Loving You Baby," "You Got Me Dizzy," "Take Out Some Insurance," "Big Boss Man," "Baby What You Want Me To Do," "Bright Lights Big City" and more. Throw in the informative Cub Koda liner notes and you’ve got a superb intro to the Leland, Mississippi, blues master. (Rhino)

Jimbo Ross • Driven by the Blues

Adapting electric blues guitar technique to viola (that’s like a violin on steroids), Ross rocks his way through 11 tunes with a sound all his own. Fine performances all around, but Ross’ vocal style gets old after the first three or four tunes and never seems to vary. (Bodacious)

Rudy Rotta Band • Blurred

Rotta’s sweet guitar tone and clean phrasing are the highlights here as he fronts this solid Euro-blues outfit. (Acoustic Music†)

Tony Santos and His Blues Conspiracy • That’s What I’m Talking About

Eleven originals from NYC-based Santos. His mechanical guitar playing dominates the recording, with no redemption from his vocals. My wife says he’s cute.

Charlie Sayles • Hip Guy

Solid compilation culled from harp virtuoso Sayles’ two previous LPs. Sayles sings well, totally shreds those reeds and is deserving of wider recognition. (JSP†)

Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band • Live On

This disc will not disappoint fans of the young guitar shredder, who heaps on the hot licks here en masse. Lively production by ex-Talking Head Jerry Harrison plus guest shots from Primus’ Les Claypool, James Cotton and Double Trouble up the ante even further. (Giant)

The Slackjaw Blues Band • Knuckle Down

Your classic four-piece roadhouse blues band boogies through 14 cuts with a few slow tunes thrown in to let you catch your breath. The liner notes credit guitar, bass, drums and harp players with vocals but don’t offer details for each tune. That’s too bad, since I would have liked to avoid those sung by the guy on cut #2, "Judgement Day." Fine playing marred by inconsistent singing. (Granite Hill)

Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers • Everbody’s Talkin’ ’Bout Miss Thing!

"Saucy old-school jump blues and big-band swing are brought to vivid modern life. In the process, the group has crafted an album that just might re-energize the flagging swing revival." [Burke] (Fat Note)

Josh Smith and the Frost • Woman

Testosterone-drenched blues-rock with drums and buzzing guitar way up front from developing young guitarist. Give this one to your little brother; it’ll point him in a better direction than ’N Sync. (Maddog Music)

The Soul Stirrers • The Soul Stirrers Live in Concert

First formed for the Library of Congress in 1927, this band has continued to evolve over some 70 years since they began to transform gospel music into a new genre named for them — Soul music! Here are 10 new live cuts from the most recent Dillard Crume-led incarnation of the group that gave us Sam Cooke. (Gospel Jubilee)

South Side Slim • Five Steps

"Combine some turbo-charged guitar, a great voice and even some letter-perfect R&B, and this is an album with depth that grins with promise and jumps with spontaneity." [Kirby] (South Side)

Corey Stevens • Getaway

The kind of mindless, empty blooze-rock that only Los Angeles could spawn. Ready-made for a Schlitz ad. (Eureka)

Super Chikan • What You See

"James ‘Super Chikan’ Johnson’s changed bandmates and added some edgier guitars that leave the B.B. King smoothness behind. It’s like he left the nightclub and hopped a train south to some roadhouse." [Marko] (Fat Possum)

Roger Sutcliffe • C-Breeze Blues

Known since the ’60s as a virtuoso of the acoustic fingerstyle blues and slide guitar in the UK, Sutcliffe returns with a collection of 14 sides that reaffirm his reputation as the English John Hammond, albeit without the same vocal power. Superb playing and arrangements that are modern while still true to the music. (Acoustic Music Records)

Swingadelic • Boogie Boo!

Straight-ahead jump blues and swing tunes guaranteed to get things hoppin’. Recorded live in Hoboken with members of the Asbury Jukes Horns. (MediaMix)

Roosevelt Sykes/Victoria Spivey • Grind It!

Fine performances from both artists, recorded live at the 1973 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival. Sykes’ solo piano and vocal work boogies like there’s a full band. Spivey rocks the place with her outrageous vocals, boogie piano, raucous humor and the help of the Brooklyn Blues Busters. They had some fun that day! (Total Energy)

Taj Mahal • The Best of Taj Mahal (The Private Years)

Good sampler of Taj’s work on the Private imprint, highlighting just how versatile Taj can be and how he can pull off any style effortlessly. Rock, jazz, blues, it’s all here, and done well. (Windham Hill/Private)

Gary Rex Tanner, Mississippi Slim & the Kansas City Ripper • Black Coffee

Tanner’s 14 originals provide a vehicle for his smooth and unique vocals. Backed by Mississippi Slim’s equally fine guitar work and the keyboard skills of the Kansas City Ripper, Tanner rounds out the band with Joe Sublet’s sax, Simeon Pillich’s bass and Bob Leatherbarrow’s drums. (Little Frog)

Tarbox Ramblers • Tarbox Ramblers

This quartet hits just the right kind of ragged on this charming set of folksy down-home blues. Loose and lazy in a good way, like a great street-corner ensemble that you might’ve chanced upon sometime. Nice violin, too. (Rounder)

Johnnie Taylor • Just Ain’t Good Enough

Reissue of 1982 LP finds veteran soul man amidst a slick, overly-orchestrated setting typical of that era’s production values. For die-hard Taylor fans only. (The Right Stuff)

Mick Taylor • A Stone’s Throw

On his first solo outing since 1979, this former Rolling Stone still has a lot of rock’n’roll in his blood with the eight originals and two covers on A Stone’s Throw. But, lest we forget, Taylor’s early work with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers was what first caught our attention. I was hoping this long-awaited solo outing would be a bit more rootsy and less polished, but he does get me going on the tasty "Blues in the Morning." (Cannonball)

Oscar Toney Jr. • Resurfaces Year 2000

Gospel/soul singer Toney reappears with nine tunes ranging from Burt Bacharach’s "Make it Easy on Yourself" and "Message to Martha" to B.B. King’s "The Thrill Is Gone." (Susie Q/Gospel Jubilee)

Joe Turner • Cherry Red: The Essential Recordings of Joe Turner

UK compilation of Turner’s important boogie-woogie/R&B hits circa 1938–1947. Great intro to one of the fathers of rock’n’roll. (Indigo†)

2 Trains Runnin’ • Alive and Well

Recorded live in a club somewhere, this guitar-bass-drum trio covers a baker’s dozen barroom standards. Sounds like the crowd was having a great time, but I lost interest halfway through.

Dan Tyack and Friends • Blackened Toast

Top-notch recording from Tyack and a group of extraordinary friends — pianist Pete Wasner, Bill Frisell on guitar, Paul Franklin on pedal steel, Tom Britt on guitar, and the Toast band with Rod Cook on guitar, Keith Lowe on bass, and Chris Leighton on drums. Tyack puts together a real tasty blues gumbo a la Seattle, with the New Orleans vocal stylings of Randy Handley out front. Moving from the second-line feel of "Fortified Wine" to the sad and lonesome "One More Midnight" and on to the rolling "Mambo Macabre Apocalypso," it’s all original, polished, extremely well played and produced — a breath of fresh air!

Various Artists • 15th Anniversary Collection

Straight ahead blues-rock from the Blue Wave label, featuring Kim Simmonds, Cub Koda, King Biscuit Boy and more. (Blue Wave)

Various Artists • Best of the Central New York Harmonica Blow-Off, 1996-1998

"An interesting look at the state of blues harp in and around central and upstate New York." [Ellis] (Poverty)

Various Artists • Blue Rock’It Blues Revue from the Studio

A traveling show that features 40 minutes each of three or four artists on the same bill. Seems like a great idea, since many blues fans are more willing to take a chance on four lesser-knowns than one. While it started out as a one-time promotion, they’ve been at it since 1997 and took it into the studio for this recording. With three tunes each from the four featured artists — Chris Cain, the Ford Blues Band, Mark Ford and Michael Osborn — there’s lots of variety, no lack of talent, and well-played music all around. (Blue Rock’It)

Various Artists • East Texas Pinetop Blues Festival

Blues, soul and gospel from this 1998 festival whose goal was to shine a light on the rich and varied African-American talent of this region. The disc does a good job of that, with familiar names Joe Hughes and R.L. Griffin providing the blues highlights. (TopCat)

Various Artists • Indigo Blues Collection 5

UK compilation has everything from American roots (Memphis Minnie, Tampa Red, John Lee Hooker) to modern English sounds (Paul Lamb, Mick Abrams, Alan Price). (Indigo†)

Various Artists • Iowa Blues 6

For the past six years, Bob Dorr has helped put together an annual CD release of Iowa blues bands, and Iowa Blues 6 may be the best so far. Dorr sorts through hundreds of submissions to glean 17 cuts of sufficient playing and recording quality to build a collection worth listening to — and once again, he’s done it. (Hot Fudge)

Various Artists • It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues

This original Broadway cast CD of the award-winning musical It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues is one you need to own, whether you’ve seen the show or not. (I’ve seen the show twice, and this recording does justice to every tune.) As an extra treat, the disc features guest appearances by Taj Mahal, Buddy Guy, Johnny Lang, B.B. King and the Andrae Crouch Singers. And if that’s not enough (and it is), the CD is enhanced with a QuickTime presentation viewable on your PC, featuring Whoopi Goldberg and Taj Mahal narrating a presentation of historic photos which provide an excellent introduction to the show. (MCA)

Various Artists • Led Astray: The Folk & Blues Roots of Page & Plant

A collection that does more than simply provide some tunes by artists who inspired the blues of Led Zeppelin — it documents how each original was used in Zeppelin’s music, whether the band credited it or not. You get 16 tunes ranging from Memphis Minnie’s "When the Levee Breaks" and Sonny Boy Williamson’s "Bring It On Home" to "How Many More Years" by Howlin’ Wolf and "You Shook Me" by Muddy Waters. A great compilation, even if you don’t care for Led Zeppelin. (Connoisseur Collection†)

Various Artists • Music From the Zydeco Kingdom

"All the big-name zydeco players are represented here, as are several staples familiar to even the casual zydeco listener. But also included are a few surprises that give this disc the feel of a fan’s favorite mix tape rather than a definitive sampler." [Kirtland] (Rounder)

Various Artists • The Best of the Green Mountain Blues: Vol. 4

WIZN Vermont benefit CD is compilation of varying quality, with most groups mining the contemporary-blues territory with mixed results. (Wizard Productions)

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble • Blues at Sunrise

"The bad news is that while this CD is all blues and showcases Vaughan’s emotional fire and instrumental fluency throughout, the release includes only two previously unreleased tracks. More bang for the buck, please!" [Powell] (Legacy/Epic)

Doctor John Walker • Johnnie Walker Blue

Charmingly modest solo folk-blues outing, half covers, half originals. Enjoyable, but nothing extraordinary. (Prairie Dog)

The Victoria Warne Band • Live at the Savoy

Fronting a trio with her powerful vocals and in-your-face guitar, Warne proves that a woman can do the SRV thing — and even better than most. Recorded live at the Savoy in New York City, Warne plays her Strat with the conviction of a seasoned road warrior on 11 cuts backed by Rick Austin on bass and Ken Serio on drums. (Tripping Tree)

Toni Lynn Washington • Good Things

"Washington’s voice is big, in a nuanced Dinah Washington way rather than a belting Etta James way, and it’s a perfect match for saxophonist Paul Ahlstrand’s understated horn arrangements." [Knopper] (Tone-Cool)

Mark Wenner • Runs Good, Needs Paint

Harpist/vocalist Mark Wenner has recorded with a variety of folks from 1984 to 1998 — everybody from the Nighthawks, the Bel Airs and Switchblade to Bob Margolin and Terry Garland — and this re-mastered CD delivers plenty of variety, not only in venues and recording quality (some live, some in the studio) but also in material and grooves. The best cuts are with Margolin on guitar. (Right On Rhythm)

The Westside Andy/Mel Ford Band • Live on the Westside

This is not your average Wisconsin bar band: Westside Andy (harp) and Ford (guitar) have too many chops to be denied, and the group fairly smolders on this live set. Check out what caught Gary Primich’s ear for yourself, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. (False Dog)

Tim Wheeler & the Soul Shufflers • Extrataganza

Texas Strat-slinger Wheeler and his rockin’ roadhouse band recorded live in Belgium. Very guitar-heavy in the SRV style, but without the inspiration you’d hope for. (Alley Cat)

Steve White and the Barstool Pigeons • What’s a Man To Do

These guys play well enough, but sparks fail to fly on this workmanlike effort. (Sugar Beat)

Joe Whiting • Strong Love

Whiting’s recipe starts with a stock of smooth swing, stirs in a strong dose of country pop, a dash of Kansas City horns and funk, and it’s cooked up with skilled musicianship and arrangements. (Free Will Music)

Ellen Whyte and Reflex Blue • Here … & Gone

Oregon-based blue-eyed soul/blues diva sings well enough but plays it just a tad too polite to cause much excitement. (Road Dawg Touring Co.)

Lee Shot Williams • She Made a Freak Out of Me

"Williams, a perennial in the soul-blues realm, has an engaging voice and is more sure-handed with a lyric than many of his more famous peers. It’s his vocal gifts that give this CD its spirit, as his musical accompaniment (largely programmed) is unassertive, even bland." [Schuller] (Ecko)

The Todd Wolfe Blues Project • Live From Manny’s Car Wash

Strictly bar-band blooze’n’boogie rock, played with great enthusiasm and competence although not much originality.

Paul Wood • Bridgeburner

Cutting his musical teeth as a sideman for John Lee Hooker’s Coast to Coast Blues Band, guitarist and singer Wood dedicates Bridgeburner to his many rock and blues influences. He tips his hat to Hooker, Cream, Peter Green, Willie Dixon, Boz Scaggs and Sonny Boy Williamson with covers of songs they wrote or recorded before closing out with two originals to "give you an idea of where I’m heading from here." Would that be the rocking title track, or the acoustic dobro-flavored "Oakland to Memphis"? (Lucy)


©2000 Blues Access, Boulder, Colorado, USA