Blues Access Winter 2001
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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)

Chris Ardoin & Double Clutchin'
Best Kept Secret

" Accordionist Chris Ardoin aims specifically at the youth market and gets the funk goin' on an album of mostly original material." [Wyckoff] (Rounder)

B.C. & the Blues Crew
Creole Etouffée

Vocalist Bev Conklin and her band are longtime fixtures around Pennsylvania and the Northeast. They're plenty tight on this baker's dozen of original songs from various band members. (Blue Screw)

Tom Ball & Kenny Sultan
20th Anniversary Live

Guitar/harp duo captured in good form on this celebration of 20 years in the biz together. (No Guru)

35 Orange

Acoustic guitar/harp twosome with unusual, well-arranged material, ranging from a sweet version of "Amazing Grace" and "The Old Folks Ain't Home" (their take on Stephen Foster's "Swanee River") to Ma Rainey's "C.C. Rider." Gene Capringlio on guitar and vocals and Dr. 88 on harp and vocals, both usually heard in a band setting, get down to the bare bones here. (Barebones)

Fontella Bass

Reissue of soul star Bass' 1972 recording includes a re-recording of Fontella's 1965 hit, "Rescue Me." As dated as her dashiki and 'fro on the cover. (Fuel 2000/Universal)

Big Al and the Heavyweights
Live Crawfish

A funky gumbo of great electric blues with a dash of Cajun spice cum Nashville, mixed up with the vocals, guitar and slide guitar of Tim Wagoner, George "Harmonica Red" Heard, Calvin Johnson on bass and Big Al Lauro on drums and vocals. Recorded live at the Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar in Nashville, the Heavyweights get you moving one way or another - from slow and mean to hot and hoppin'. A guaranteed good time! (Bluziana)

Big Bill's Acoustic Trio
Mahogany Hall

Average acoustic blues that needs a little more inspiration and perspiration to keep listeners interested. (Black Rose)

Big Joe and the Dynaflows
I Warned You Baby!

North Carolina quintet offers up some easy-rolling boogie and blues, complete with honking sax and swing to spare. (Gutter)

Scrapper Blackwell
Bad Liquor Blues

A collection of late '20s-early '30s recordings by the seminal Naptown blues master. His "vocal call and guitar response" style was to be imitated for decades to come and had an effect on the styles of artists like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. (Catfish)

The Blue Junction
22:17 Live in Aarhus

Danish combo make the right moves, but their tame sound belies a lack of true blues power. (Inter Music†)


Guitar-based blues by Jay Bethel on guitar, vocals and keys, Dan McPheeters on guitar and vocals, Steve Smith on bass and Andy Vernon on drums. Well-produced and arranged with fine playing on an even mix of slow blues, rockers and hoppin' shuffles.

Blues Control
Tore Down

Here are five guys having a good time, and it shows in the music. Jim Gillespie on vocals, organ and guitar, Bill Elliott on guitar, Michael O'Brien on saxes and keys, Joe Granthem on bass and Howy Hess on drums put together a fine set of danceable jump blues with occasional dashes of swing, Cajun, and Chicago flavors. (Blues Control)

Blues Union
Extra Blue

From the cold and rainy Northwest comes some hot and soulful blues - a dozen originals that lay right in the groove, all the way from jump blues to jazzy instrumentals and funky lines that'll make you dance. Great piano playing and superb vocals from John Carswell, with Zane Rudolph on guitar, horns by Dan O'Steen and Alex Sheldon's drums. (Burnt Skillet)

Eugene "Hideaway" Bridges
Man Without a Home

A true talent, Bridges has got the whole package: a full, expressive vocal sound, clean guitar playing and great songwriting skills on nine originals and two Sam Cooke tunes. (Armadillo)

CC Bronson
Let the Blues Lift You Up

Above-average blues-diva outing with a nice soulful R&B edge. (Southbound)

Jon Brown
70 Years Coming

70-year-old vocalist Jon Brown sounds anything but old-fashioned as his raspy Delta-style singing blends with blues harp or synth to create an approach that's truly original in every sense. The juxtaposition of Brown's earthy voice, strummed acoustic guitar and the techno-sounding synth/rhythm tracks breaks new ground, and while I wouldn't put it in the box called "blues," it certainly fell out of that box! (Acid Blues)

Nappy Brown
Night Time Is the Right Time

This undeservedly obscure R&B singer who saw his songs become hits for others (the Crewcuts, Patti Page and, most notably, Ray Charles) gets the "best of" reissue treatment, giving us a chance to catch up on an unsung soul/R&B hero. (Savoy/Atlantic)

Randy Brown
Welcome to My Room

A reissue of Brown's sexy 1978 recording. Move over, Barry White - this is music to "get busy" with. (Susie Q/Universal)

Buckwheat Zydeco
Ultimate Collection

"With 19 cuts coming in at almost 80 minutes, this is a fully-loaded package of solid material that shows Buckwheat's talent and adaptability throughout his career, from his first recording in 1979 to his hot-selling On a Night Like This CD. Not a weak sister (or brother!) in the mix." [Wyckoff] (Hip-O)

Canned Heat
The Boogie House Tapes

The raw sound quality on this collection of previously unreleased tapes captured in concert and in jam sessions never betrays the Heat's sense of fun and spontaneity. (Ruf Records)

Barbara Carr
Stroke It

Straight-forward blues mama knows what she wants, how she wants it and is not afraid to admit it or ask for it. Made me blush! (ECKO)

Bo Carter
Bo Carter's Advice

Good compilation spanning the recording career (1928-1940) of one of the seminal solo guitarists in the Mississippi blues tradition - a great finger-picker as well as a master of the double-entendre. (Catfish†)

Ervin Charles
Greyhound Blues

Posthumous release from the well-traveled Texas bluesman (see "Port Arthur Shootout" in BA #39; "In Memory," BA #42) is chock-full of heart and soul. (Dialtone)

Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater
Reservation Blues

"Clearwater mixes the sounds of Muddy Waters with Chuck Berry better than anyone in the business. Here he tries out a couple of new ideas while keeping the party going strong as ever, and this celebration of his 50th anniversary as a bluesman shows no sign that the Chief is slowing down." [Socey] (Bullseye Blues)

Bill Coday

By-the-numbers blues and Memphis R&B workout, solid and well-sung but somewhat predictable. (ECKO)

Wallace Coleman
Stretch My Money

Powerful vocals and authoritative harp work from a pro who's seen enough of life to put some of it back into his music, and it's a pleasure to listen to. Nothing fancy, mind you - just straight blues performed on guitar and harmonica for the sake of the music, not the musician. Careful attention to dynamics and knowing when the solo should end is the trademark of this style, and the entire band is on the same page. (Pinto Blue)

Mary Connolly
Blue Desire

Ms. Connolly has the gospel-soul thang going on here, but her poppish material is over-produced and a really pretty voice is drowned under all the instrumentation. Too bad. (Natural Thang)

Joe T. Cook

Minnesota harp man Joe T. Cook returns with guitar work and arranging help from John Franken to achieve a better-defined sound, more finesse and taste than on his past efforts, but it's still best when mixed with high volume and a six-pack. (Blue Loon)

John (Scooch) Cugno
Blues Survivor

Cugno does it all (with a little help from his friends) on this self-produced mix of originals and covers, providing all the vocals and harp work, some guitar and all the drums. Nice job, Scooch.

Caroline Dahl
No Hats

Ms. Dahl offers some nice boogie-woogie and New Orleans-style piano on this all-instrumental, self-produced effort. (Globe)

The Daily Blues

Blue-collar blues band grinds it out on a funk tip with likable results.

Daryl Davis
American Roots

Former Muddy Waters keyboard man pays tribute to American music legends Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Professor Longhair and others on this modest, heartfelt effort. (Armadillo†)

Downliners Sect
Sect Appeal

A reissue of live and studio recordings from 1980 by the UK band that enjoyed some short-lived fame in the early and mid-'60s and again in the mid-'70s. (Indigo†)

Little Arthur Duncan
Live in Chicago!

Duncan's pleading voice and harp work are forces to be reckoned with, but they deserve better production and a little more energy to make them stand out from the crowd. (Random Chance)

Johnnie Mae Dunson
Big Boss Lady

You don't argue with a big boss lady, and the back-porch vibe (just her vocals and acoustic guitar) is a nice touch, but there's not quite enough mystery or intensity to sustain the project. (Lakada)

Empty Hand
Empty Hand

This is a fine recording of straight-ahead jazz with excellent vocals from Lili Layton and a range of flavors from Latin to blues to acid and most stops in between. Not a blues release, but it deserves mention since it's so very tasty. (Godfather)

Ennis in Theory
Take Me Home

Vocalist/guitarist Kevin Ennis fronts this five-piece guitar-based band from the Northwest on a program of 12 originals co-written with his wife, bassist Chandra Ennis, and they play with energy if not much finesse.

Fatt Cat Freddie
Cruisin' for a Bluesin'

Blues-rock comin' fast and heavy from this Cheyenne, Wyoming, power trio. (Spirit Wind)

Roy Gaines
New Frontier Lover

Gaines' big-dawg vocals shine on this otherwise uninspired outing. (Severn)

Al Green
The Hit Singles: A's and B's

While this exhaustive compilation of every Willie Mitchell-produced 45 single by the great soul singer may not be the ideal intro to the enduring artistry of the Rev. Al, how can you argue with any CD that contains "Let's Stay Together," "Tired of Being Alone" and "I'm Still in Love With You"? The definition of sublime genius. (Hi/Demon/Westside†)

The Groove Hogs
No Small Feat

Ten-man big band concocts a heady mix of jazz stylings over smooth R&B- inflected blues.

The Groundhogs
Boogie With Us

One-time John Lee Hooker UK back-up band captured live in all its blues-meets-progressive '70s rock glory. Eccentric and more interesting than most bands mining similar territory. (Mooncrest†)

Dennis Gruenling Featuring Sandy Mack
Up All Night

The second release from harpist Gruenling, paying tribute to the classic Chess and Modern recordings of George "Harmonica" Smith and Little Walter, puts this young player right up there in the top ranks. Gruenling's harp work is well accented by the fine guitar playing of Andy Reidel and Bill Hunt, who evoke the era through tone and taste, with Sandy Mack on vocals, Mike Lampe on bass and Eric Addeo on drums. (BackBender)

Ron Hacker and the Hacksaws
Back Door Man

Bay-Area regular Ron Hacker's fourth release offers more rawwww blues, recorded live at the Saloon in San Francisco with the leader's raspy voice and even raspier slide guitar work dominating. Set down your longneck and dance, man! (Saloon)

Travis "Moonchild" Haddix
Shootum Up

Another fine effort from Ohio-based singer/guitarist Haddix showcases his wild, Buddy Guy-influenced guitar style and throaty vocals in front of a full seven-piece band. Here's an example of how geography does translate into sound as Haddix blends Chicago and Memphis stylings into his own Ohio Stew, dropping the harp accent in favor of keyboards and horns. (Wann-Sonn)

Doni Harvey
Your Blues Ain't Like My Blues

Harvey plays all the instruments and sings all the vocal tracks on this self-produced CD, delivering a modern urban feel with his compressed guitar tone and polished production. Excellent vocals are undermined by the sterility of the drum machine, but he gets a more natural guitar tone on the title track and the acoustic "Have My Love Today." (Herman's)

Bugs Henderson & the Shuffle Kings
Call of the Wild

Two CDs of live, screaming guitar from Henderson and his trio, recorded live in Germany in a single evening and featuring a batch of SRV-flavored originals with LOUD guitar and bass, a medley of Ventures tunes and a salute to Link Wray. (Taxim)

Herzhaft Blues
Herzhaft Special

This French outfit has its heart in the right place ... but there's just not enough soul to make it work. (Blues N' Trad)

The Hollywood All Stars
Hard Hitting Blues From Memphis

CD reissue of raw and raunchy 1987 Highwater LP that lives up to its title and delivers a knockout punch. (Highwater/HMG)

Last One Standing

Good players sabotaged by pedestrian material and faceless vocals. (Mojo Hand)

John Lee Hooker
Detroit 1948-1949

Vintage Hooker, recorded in the Motor City and now on CD for the first time. Raw, hypnotic, introspective solo and group performances that capture the Hook's unbridled passion and imaginative musical vision. Buy this one! (Savoy/Atlantic)

Jay Hooks
Jay Hooks

It's the SRV trio thing - loud, in-your-face guitar with OK vocals - imported from The Netherlands. (Provogue)

Lightnin' Hopkins
Blues Masters: The Very Best of Lightnin' Hopkins

Excellent "Intro to Blues 101" text, collecting some of the best Hopkins sides from six different labels. Blues Masters, indeed! (Rhino)

Lightnin' Hopkins
Rainy Day in Houston

Twenty out-takes from sessions recorded in Houston in 1955, 1961 and 1968, with recording quality varying from terrible in '55 to reasonably acceptable in '68. Highlights are the songs from '68 inspired by the war in Vietnam. (Indigo†)

Howard & the White Boys
Live at Chord on Blues

Funky, effortless contemporary blues played before an appreciative crowd by a band whose 12 years on the road have honed its chops to a ferocious point. (Evidence)

Bleu Jackson
Feel That Thrill

Fine electric and acoustic guitar and vocals from Jackson - but not much conviction - on a well-produced CD recorded in Nashville. (Taxim)

Lewis Jetton and 61 South
State Line Blues

A program of nine originals and two covers that showcases Jetton's unique vocals and guitar work but is more blues-rock than anything else.

Beau Jocque and the Zydeco Hi-Rollers
Give Him Cornbread Live!

"Recorded at the Habibi Temple in Lake St. Charles in 1993 at the first of many battles of the bands between Beau Jocque and Boozoo Chavis, this hefty performance represents the much-missed Beau Jocque's side of the melee with enormous energy." [Wyckoff] (Rounder)

Larry Johnson
Blues for Harlem

This Piedmont-style country blues artist claims the heritage of his mentor, Rev, Gary Davis, but demonstrates his own unique sound with a heavier emphasis on the stride piano feel that's such an integral part of Piedmont picking. (Armadillo)

Syleena Johnson
Chapter 1: Love, Pain & Forgiveness

Good song cycle on an R&B tip with bluesy shadings, in the tradition of Millie Jackson and Donna Summer. (Jive)

Kristi Johnston Band
That Would Be Fine

The album notes call her "rough and raw" - that may apply to her guitar style, but her vocals are sweet and sexy. The rough and raw will come as the years pass. Keep an eye on this young Canadian. (Stony Plain)

The Killer Blues Band
Mighty River

This unimaginatively-named New Jersey quartet gets points for its bar-band bravado and unique instrumentation - violin, keys and rhythm. (Blues Leaf)

Kimball & the Fugitives

It's almost criminal: Seattle trio manages to make blues standards sound like Muzak.

Freddie King
The Best of Freddie King: The Shelter Records Years

Freddie's "real" best sides were made for Federal Records, but there are plenty of goodies here from his latter-day sessions for Leon Russell and Denny Cordell, including "Going Down," "Same Old Blues," "Big-Legged Woman" and "Woman Across the River." (The Right Stuff)

Sy Klopps
Berkeley Soul

Vocalist Klopps fronts a tremendous Bay Area band on a program that moves from Chicago to Memphis to Nashville and back, mixing up the styles (and songs) of Wilson Pickett with Sam Cooke and Little Willie John. Alternately soulful and swinging, Klopps presents a great variety of vocal sounds backed by superb instrumentation.(Bullseye Blues)

Dieter Kropp & the Red Hot Blues Band
Red Hot Cookin'

German harpmeister does a credible take on sweet-home-Chicago-style blues. (Spareribs†)

Paul Lamb & the King Snakes
Take Your Time and Get It Right

British harp player Lamb and his five-piece band do a respectable job of getting a Chicago sound with a bit of Louisiana influence. The sparse arrangements and restrained solos give this recording a mature sound. (Indigo†)

Creighton Lindsay

Lindsay is an East Coast guitarist transplanted to Oregon. Influenced by Spider John Koerner and Happy Traum, his folk blues roots are evident on these mostly laid-back songs recorded at various times between 1981 and 1998. (Time & Strike)

Hamilton Loomis
All Fired Up

Multi-instrumentalist Loomis plays lead and rhythm guitar, harp, B-3, Rhodes piano, bass and trombone in addition to handling the vocals. The guitar playing is good if you like that compressed tone, but his vocals sound like he's 15, and it's got a real "I'm looking for radio play" feel to it. (Ham-bone Music)

The Love Dogs
New Tricks

Yes! It's a big eight-piece R&B revue that rocks and swings with an energy level that makes you wanna dance. This band has a groove that alternates from Memphis to New Orleans and you can feel it in every tune, from the rockin' "Don't Bug Me" to the second-line funk of "Northbound Train" to the soulful "You'll Never Know." (Tone-Cool)

Robert Lee McCoy
Prowling Nighthawk: The Complete Robert Lee McCoy

An essential collection of seminal Mississippi Delta blues sides recorded for Bluebird in the late '30s by the slide guitar genius better known as Robert Nighthawk. (Catfish†)

Big Jay McNeely
Central Avenue Confidential

The veteran R&B saxophonist who was in the first wave of West Coast honkers and shouters celebrates 50 years in the business on this sizzling program of infectious swing and smoky balladry. Good fun from the real deal. (Atomic Theory)

The Mighty Mike Schermer Band
1st Set

Guitarist, vocalist and former sideman with Angela Strehli, Charlie Musselwhite and Maria Muldaur steps out with a refreshing West Coast blues session. (Fine Dog)

Sam Mitchell

Dobro picker Sam Mitchell alternates between some hoppin' little finger-style ditties a la Mance Lipscomb and haunting, heavy-reverb slide outings. (Taxim)

Mo and the Reapers
Hot 'n' Spicy Blues

It's French blues with New Orleans overtones and fine playing all around by this five-piece harp/guitar-based band. (La Sauce Blues†)

Micky Moody
I Eat Them for Breakfast

Moody is a versatile guitarist equally at home with muscular blues-rock, solo acoustic pieces and slide workouts who generally sounds best when he handles the vocals himself. (Armadillo†)

Zola Moon
Earthquakes, Thunder and Smiling Lighting

Ms. Moon leads her band through nine originals that alternately swing and rock. She plays the harp and is a full-voiced blues singer who can hold a note with power forever and still get soft and sultry. (Postmodern Music)

Gatemouth Moore
Hey Mr. Gatemouth: Complete King Recordings

He's been a reverend since 1948, and his 78s were impossibly rare on LP, but this almost complete collection of Dwight "Gatemouth" Moore's work for King Records in the mid-'40s sets forth the blues crooned smooth as silk ... and just as classy to boot. (Westside†)

Ace Moreland
Give It to Get It

Ace's fifth CD is a fine piece of work indeed. Moreland's harp, guitar, slide and singing are teamed with Bob Greenlee's bass, production and songwriting skills to deliver the goods via distinctive vocals, clean guitar work and great arrangements. (King Snake)

Mr. Downchild
Behind the Sun

Competent if not particularly original take on the Mississippi Delta blues by this solo artist from Cleveland by way of Great Britain. (Mascita)

Robert Nighthawk
Live on Maxwell Street 1964

The raw, primitive power of the Mississippi slide legend, captured live on a Chicago street corner in 1964. Can it get any more down-home - or any better - than this? Roots blues at its finest in this fascinating reissue. (Bullseye Blues)

Mollie O'Brien
Things I Gave Away

This Denver-based vocalist is a true chanteuse whose lovely voice can easily wrap itself around virtually any kind of song. She's got a soft spot for blues and R&B but only displays it on a few of the numbers here, with others ranging from folk to Beatles to jazz. Nina Gerber delivers whistle-clean production along with most of the guitar parts. Former subdudes John Magnie and Steve Amedee also contribute. (Sugar Hill)

Tim Oehlers
Low Profile

With vocals sounding a lot like Denver's Chris Daniels, singer/guitarist Tim Oehlers puts together 13 tasty originals on this nicely produced CD. From the Southern-rock feel of "Brother Duane" with smooth slide work, to the downright jumping harp work and T-Bone influenced guitar sound on "A Call for Junior," Oehlers' material spans a variety of influences, and it sounds like he's having fun doing it - something about the spark in his playing, and a sense of humor in the lyrics. (Timdog)

Omar & the Howlers
The Screamin' Cat

"Sonic hoodoo, swamp blues and three-chord rock'n'roll highlight this Texas-based band's 14th release, a diverting if not downright eccentric outing. The Screamin' Cat is rife with fuzz-toned guitars, sound effects, and menacing humor galore." [Burke] (Provogue)

Junior Parker
Way Back Home

The late harmonica star Junior Parker's early career was memorable for his collaborations with Howlin' Wolf, Big Mama Thornton, Bobby "Blue" Bland and others, but this collection of 23 sides from just before Parker's death from a brain tumor in 1971 presents his ho-hum Groove Merchant recordings from the late '60s instead. (Connoisseur Collection)

Michael Peloquin
House of Cards

From the "Horns of Dilemma" to guitarist Tommy Castro, Peloquin assembled an impressive group of friends to help out with this fantastic recording, which features his smooth West Coast vocals, fat sax playing and in-the-pocket harp work. The material moves from the straight blues of "23 Kinds of Fine" to the funky jazz of "Maceosity," with a side trip to Louisiana on "What's Yours Is Yours." (Globe)

Paul Pena
New Train

Pena has lived a blues life: blindness, illness, the loss of a mate, a career neglected by those entrusted to further it. When music industry impresario Albert Grossman put the kabosh on the release of New Train in 1973 he left Pena feeling out in the cold alone. Who knows what Grossman was thinking, but this is an excellent record, and not just because it contains Paul's own version of "Jet Airliner," the song that would help propel Steve Miller to superstardom. Sounding only mildly dated, it presents Pena's soulful voice and guitar in various settings: from bluesy R&B (joined by the Persuasions) to acoustic rock (with help from Jerry Garcia and Merle Saunders) to the Hendrixian workout, "Cosmic Mirror." (Hybrid)

Ross William Perry
Live: Blues in Greenville

The 20-year old wünderkind struts his Strat licks in front of a trio on a variety of material, ranging from the surf hit "Pipeline" to "Polk Salad Annie," "Superstition" and Freddie King's "Sen-Sa-Shun." Good barroom fare, but nothing to write home about. (Kidblue)

Michael Pickett
Conversation With the Blues

Vocalist/harpman Michael Pickett (no relation to Wilson) goes to Memphis on the gospel-influenced "When I Lay My Burden Down" and cops a cool Taj Mahal groove on "The River." The guitar/harp lines on "It Don't Matter to Me" are something special, and his Dobro work on "Bad Love" is as restrained and tasteful as his harp playing is throughout. (Wooden Teeth)

Preacher Boy
The Devil's Buttermilk

Post-modern blues, cleverly arranged and produced, substituting affected vocals for heart and soul. What hath Tom Waits wrought? (Manifesto)

Lou Pride
I Won't Give Up

Sweet soul music of the Memphis variety, with producer Bob Greenlee on bass and Ace Moreland on guitar in support of Pride's classic voice, which sounds great throughout his second release. (King Snake)

Snooky Pryor & Mel Brown
Double Shot!

This is the real deal: two of the finest blues players alive, playing music they know and love. From the slow blues of "Big Leg Woman" to the hopping "Snooky and Mel Boogie," the chemistry is still there, and both men perform at the peak of their form. Backed by John Lee on piano, Al Richardson on bass and Jim Boudreau on drums, with Michael Fonfara contributing keys to several cuts, everything feels vital and alive - and they're all having a sure-'nuff good time. (Electro-Fi)

Ann Rabson
Struttin' My Stuff

Good stuff from the no-nonsense blues mama whose big booming voice is wonderfully counterpointed here by her barrelhouse piano and spare acoustic guitar. Nominated for a 2000 W.C. Handy Award, and rightfully so. (M.C.)

Railway Pie
Railway Pie

Mixing in some traditional jug band music with country blues in the Piedmont style, these Kiwis from New Zealand cover material by artists like Tampa Red and Tommy Johnson. (Native)

Ma Rainey
Black Cat Hoot Owl

A collection of 20 classic mid-'20s sides that clearly demonstrate Rainey's status as queen of the blues singers in the earliest days of blues recording. The sheer emotional power of her singing and her distinctive tone cry the sadness of the blues with every note. (Catfish†)

Kenny "Blue" Ray
Blues Obsession

His obsession is our gain: Ray keeps cranking out these tasty and tasteful self-produced recordings. He weaves clean, economical guitar licks throughout, displaying plenty of bite and subtle power. Another solid effort from this crafty veteran of the Texas blues scene. (Tone King)

Jo Jo Reed
Back on the Scene

Accordion man Reed and crew make infectious fun with their raw, hard-kicking zydeco attack. (Louisiana Red Hot)

Billy Rigsby
Neo Soul

Rigsby does the smooth-talkin', sweet-singin' thang quite well and delivers some eloquent R&B. (King Snake)

Terry Robb & His All Star Blues Orchestra
Heart Made of Steel

A full platter of blues in a variety of flavors, from big swinging horn arrangements to solo country-style finger-picking instrumentals. Acoustic guitarist and singer Robb augments his guitar-bass-and-drums trio with a six-piece horn section, piano and mandolin to round out his blues orchestra as each tune dictates. This one is a pro job all the way. (Burnside)

The Duke Robillard Band

Duke Robillard goes back to his blues roots with this set of 12 original tunes, ranging from the funky acoustic blues of "Sayin' Don't Make it So" and the minor-bluesy "You Mean Everything to Me" to the Memphis-sounding "Male Magnet" and the big swing sound of "Jumpin' With Duke." Robillard is all about good taste - he'll never sacrifice the feel of a song for the sake of an unnecessary guitar solo. (Shanachie)

Otis Rush
The Essential Otis Rush: The Classic Cobra Recordings 1956-1958

These 24 cuts (including eight previously unissued alternate takes) from Rush's Cobra Records days (1956-'58), arranged and produced by the great Willie Dixon, define why Otis is a legend of the Chicago blues. Classic is an understatement, and Rush's accompaniment includes Little Walter, Big Walter Horton, Ike Turner, Red Holloway and other fellow blues giants. These sides belong in every American home! (Fuel 2000/Universal)

Keith Scott
Living in My Own World

Up-and-coming Chicago guitarist offers energetic, crunchy ax work on this self-produced disc. (Daydream)

Mark Selby
More Storms Comin'

Young guitar-slinger plays his sleek licks over a series of fine blues-rock grooves, highlighted by some especially nice slide work. (Vanguard)

Flowers of Shrivil

The guy/gal tandem vocals are serviceable but not quite in full bloom yet. (Bad Poets)

Shrimp City Slim
Ancestor Worship: The Boston Worship 1980-'83

Apparently Slim now trades in the blues somewhere in the Carolinas, but these 1980-1983 demos of smarmy and overly-clever pop tunes with nary a whit of blues should have been left in the shoebox. (Erwin)

Mike Smith & Friends
A Little Slice of Heaven

Kansas-based guitarist/bassist/singer Mike Smith presents ten originals that mix smooth Chicago horns, a West Coast swing feel and uncluttered arrangements that keep the focus on the music rather than instrumental gymnastics. Smith leans toward a jazzy feel and a sophisticated yet uncomplicated sound, and every note on this recording is right where it's supposed to be. (Safety Zone)

Mike Smith & Friends
A Hole in the Ground

Smith gets his friends together again to make some more forays into the jazzier side of the blues on this 1998 recording. (Vital)

Chris Smither
Live As I'll Ever Be

Excellent live outing from this underrated performer and songwriter whose great understated vocals and impeccable finger-picking deserve a good deal more attention. (Hightone)

Southern Gentlemen
Exotic Dancer Blues

'80s metal demi-god Dave Chastain resurfaces with retro-'70s blues-metal power trio. Heavy - capital H - with hot licks galore. (Leviathan)

Paul Sprawl
Blue Suitcase

Looking for something thought-provoking and a little different? Acoustic guitarist Paul Sprawl is more a singer/songwriter than a bluesman, often mining the same kind of territory as Kelly Joe Phelps or David Wiffen. His material here is graced with the sparse and moody feel of the desert depicted in the photos on the sleeve. (Intuition/Allegro)

Stop & Listen Boys
Monkey Junk

Falling somewhere in between bluegrass, country blues and jug-band music, the music of these Rocky Mountain boys will make you stop and listen if that's your cup o' tea. Recorded at various studios in Colorado and Wyoming, this album delivers 11 classics including "How Long Blues," "Staggerlee" and "My Sweet Chariot." (Upland)

Jeff Taylor
Hurtin' Game / Back Home Someday

Taylor's guitar-based combo is augmented here and there by harp and horns to add some flavor to his well-played blues-rock originals on this pair of self-produced albums. (With These Hands)

Linwood Taylor Band
Make Room for the Paying Customer

Guitarist Taylor has a real authentic vocal sound but tends to over-articulate, making him sound a bit stiff for the blues. He keeps his instrumental solos in balance with his voice so that every word can be understood, but the feeling doesn't always come through. (Mystery Media)

Jon T-Bone Taylor's Bop Brothers ... and Sisters

Here is a really fine recording from the UK-based Taylor featuring the leader's guitars, Earl Green on vocals, Dave Moore on keys, Rob Statham on bass and Louis Borenius on drums. Guest singers Ruby Turner, Taka Boom, Dana Gillespie, Deitra Farr and Connie Lush add depth and variety to Green's soulful leads, and Dick Heckstall-Smith's saxophone is a tasty bonus. (Abacabe)

Brian Templeton

Distinctive contemporary blues featuring Templeton's gritty vocals over dynamic, above-average backing. (Stone Cold)

Jimmy Thackery & the Drivers
Sinner Street

Thackery's seventh Blind Pig release keeps the spotlight on his well-seasoned band, the Drivers, and once again they deliver tasteful ensemble playing with a blues-rock feel in support of Thackery's guitar and vocals. The overall flavor is still electric guitar blues, and while the title track, with its fat, oh-so-funky guitar/bass/sax lines and great solos, is worth the whole deal, a host of other great tracks are like icing on a very sweet cake. (Blind Pig)

Dave Thompson
Little Dave and Big Love

Reissue of this young North Mississippi guitarist's 1995 debut disc features 11 solid originals. Check it out if you missed it the first time. (Fat Possum)

Too Slim & the Taildraggers
King Size Troublemakers

Guitarist/vocalist Tim "Too Slim" Langford leads this trio through a dozen original tunes, with his fat-sounding guitar and slide laying licks over a tight rockin' groove. His vocals are a notch above the standard, which makes this one worth a second listen. With solid production and arrangements, this is not a garage-band recording. (Burnside)

Walter Trout & the Free Radicals
Live Trout

Trout overcame flight delays and the ensuing nausea and insomnia to record this smoking two-CD live set. You can almost see the guitar frets melting under Trout's frenzied, no-holds-barred fingers. An axe-lover's wet dream. (Ruf Records)

Steve Turre
In the Spur of the Moment

Turre employs such luminaries as Jack DeJohnette, Stephen Scott and Chucho Valdes to explore the "blues in jazz" on this excellent release. Ray Charles provides inspired piano backing, and Turre displays his astonishing command of the slide trombone. Good listening! (Telarc)

The Unidynes

Lukewarm effort from five-piece Iowa ensemble features the harp and vocals of Jack Schmalfeldt and Dave Schneider's guitar and vocal work on 14 originals. (Junior's Motel)

Various Artists
Bag O' Blues Vol. 2

A solid compilation featuring cuts from 18 artists on the King Snake label (Sonny Rhodes, Ace Moreland et al) - with lots of quality soul and blues waiting to be discovered here. (King Snake)

Various Artists
Bluespower! Vol. 1

Club and live-in-the-studio recordings of visiting artists - Bob Brozman, Bill Sims, T.J. Wheeler, Rockin' Jake, Lynwood Slim & Jimi Smith, Knock-Out Greg & Blue Weather among 'em - captured in Finland by Radiomafia in conjunction with the Finnish Blues Society. (Blue North†)

Various Artists
Mule Milk 'N' Firewater

A dance-party CD with 24 jumpin' cuts from the vaults of King, Federal and DeLuxe records, including R&B classics by Big Jay McNeely, Joe Tex, Little Willie John, Champion Jack Dupree, Hank Ballard and many others. (Westside†)

Various Artists
Rhythm & Blues All Stars, Vol. 3

UK compilation features familiar acts like Louis Jordan and T-Bone Walker as well as obscure regional artists like Tom Archia and Saunders King, all givin' up the great swingin' R&B sounds of the '40s and '50s. (Indigo†)

Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson
Primary Cuts: Volume 1

Excellent compilation provides the perfect intro to Vinson's engaging, cracked-voice delivery, soulful alto saxophone and deep, seminal R&B from the '40s. (Catfish†)

John Weston
Blues at Daybreak

Weston knows how to entertain in a variety of settings - solo, duo and in the band. Here he's gone acoustic, and his unique voice combines with fine guitar playing to create a sound all his own that comes across on every one of these 16 cuts. Weston is also accomplished on both diatonic and chromatic harmonicas, which is amazing to begin with, but to play that well while holding down the rhythm on guitar is almost unheard of. (Wilco)

Chick Willis
Adult Content: Recorded Live

You can almost smell the stale beer and cigarette smoke in the air on the night this was recorded by raunchy party-master Chick Willis ("Stoop Down Baby") and his bar band par excellence. (IFGAM)

Don Wise
On the Verge of Survival

Saxophonist Wise gathers multiple guest vocalists, including Delbert McClinton and Marcia Ball, for a swinging update of the days when the sax was the predominant instrument in R&B. (Horn O'Copia)

Jimmy Witherspoon
Jimmy Witherspoon With the Duke Robillard Band

Here's the top-shelf stuff, with Robillard hosting incomparable vocalist Jimmy Witherspoon in a set recorded at the same time as Duke's Stretchin' Out album. Witherspoon is close to the end here (he died less than two years later) and his voice is losing strength, but this is still some of the best blues to be heard, and you'll be envious of the folks who attended this show Vancouver, BC, back in 1995. (Stony Plain)

O.V. Wright
God Blessed Our Love

Reissue of Wright's last recordings for Willie Mitchell's Hi label, so you know you're gonna get some smooth R&B loaded with soul. R.I.P., O.V. (Susie Q)

The Seth Yacovone Band

Three-piece band from the Northeast does original blues-based pop-rock with a hint of grunge. (SYB)

Rocky Zharp & the Blues Crackers
Christmas Songs (You May Not Want Your Kids to Hear)

Yes, Virginia, if you are a bad girl, you'll find this in your stocking, and it's worse than a lump of coal. (King Hudd/Moniker)

Rocky Zharp & the Blues Crackers
Crackin' the Blues

This works better than their limp Christmas disc, but not by much. Unintentionally funny, though. (King Hudd/Moniker)

Joe Zook & Blues Deluxe
Blues With a Capital B

The first release by this veteran Trenton, New Jersey, combo shows that all those roadhouse years have produced a tight, above-average outfit.

Zoot Money
Fully Clothed & Naked

Recently unearthed mid-'60s live tapes and solo works from UK semi-legendary keyboardist (and occasional guitarist) unveil an exuberant performer. (Indigo†)


©2001 Blues Access, Boulder, Colorado, USA