Sleeper By Chickenbone Slim




Chickenbone Slim

Review by David Bowling


What’s in a nickname? A number of blues artists have had colorful nicknames down through the years. Larry Teves doesn’t look like a chickenbone and I’m not sure he is slim, but the man can play the blues.

His third release, titled Sleeper, of all original material is another album of excellent and technically adept modern-day electric blues. Both an accomplished vocalist and guitarist; he has now passed the 1000 performance mark.

His songs all have a unique quality and each tells a story both verbally and instrumentally. Backed by a veteran band, he calls on a number of guest artists; Laura Chavez, Joey Harris, Jerry Rainey, to help present his message and music.

Tracks such as “Vampire Baby,” “My Bad Luck,” “Strange Things Happen,” and “Strolling With Chickenbone” run the gamut from sublime to explosive to smooth-flowing.

Sleeper continues Chickenbone Slim’s progression as one of modern day’s blues better artists. It is an album worth exploring.

Rating: ***


The Triangle By Lisa Mills



The Triangle

Lisa Mills

Melody Place Music 2020

Review by David Bowling


Sometimes it’s the melody, sometimes it may be the words, other times it’s a guitar solo, but every once in a while it is all about the voice; and so we come to Lisa Mills.

Mills does not have a perfect voice or the best voice, but it is memorable. She draws you in by her ability to emotionally emphasize each word and make you anticipate what is coming next.

The Triangle is not only her first album for Melody Place Music but is the label’s debut release as well.

At this point in her career, she is an interpreter of other people’s songs and the 14 tracks that comprise the album are an eclectic mix ranging from the Great American Songbook, to straight pop, light jazz, and the blues.

Emblematic of her approach is a cover of the old standard, “Just Walking In The Rain,” recorded live at Sun studios in Memphis. Made a hit by Johnny Ray, her version is more in tune with the original 1953 recording by the do-wop group The Prisonaires. Her voice strains to carry the song but ultimately turns it into a smooth R&B type performance.

Cole Porter’s “Same Time Same Place” and “A Place Nobody Can Find” are re-imagined as a fusion of jazz and soul that would fit a smoky lounge late at night. “Greenwood Mississippi” and “Tell Mama” are more blues oriented and her vocals have a little more bite.

Mills is one of those artists who has the ability to take a song and make it fit her style, which makes her take unique.

The Triangle is her coming out party and is an excellent introductory journey through the style, mind and voice of Lisa Mills.

Rating: ***1/2

Crowing Ignites By Bruce Cockburn

Crowing Ignites

Bruce Cockburn

True North 2019

Review by David Bowling


This one has been on my desk way to long, so shame on me.

Bruce Cockburn’s career is closing in on the half-century mark. He built his reputation as an excellent songwriter who produced incisive and melodic pop and folk music. He took a surprising turn in 2005 when he released the all-instrumental Speechless album to critical acclaim and commercial success. It contained older material and cover songs and received a Canadian Folk Music Award for Best Instrumental Album.

Now he has returned with an all new instrumental release. Crowing Ignites is an album of all original compositions and enables Cockburn to step forward as one of music’s most accomplished acoustic guitarists.

Albums without vocals are a different breed. They take a alternate route to hold the listener’s attention be it though emotion, energy, atmosphere, melody, or expertise on a given instrument.

Cockburn travels in a number of directions and explores several different styles. Blues, Jazz, and folk form the center of the album. He also travels outside of conventional music forms with “Bells Of Gethsemane,” which combines Tibetan cymbals, chimes, and bowls into an imaginative masterpiece that does not follow any particular structure.

“Easter,” (composed on an Easter Sunday) , and “Sweetness And Light” are just Cockburn on the guitar. He is able to create a story without words or accompaniment as his ability to pick out a melody is on display.

“Blind Willie” is an ode to bluesman Blind Willie Johnson where he ramps up the energy as he trades guitar licks with dobro player and producer Colin Linden. “The Mt. Lefroy Waltz” is close to a classic jazz piece as he is surrounded by a bass, drums, and cornet. “Seven Daggers” is another conglomeration of instruments and sounds as 12-string guitar, kalimba, dulcimer, chimes, plus Colin Linden on baritone guitar all join together to create textures and layers of sound.

If you have not heard from Cockburn since his “Wondering Where The Lions Are” days or you are just looking for some different and excellent guitar-based music, then Crowing Ignites is an album for you.

Rating: ****

Blues & Hues By Clifford Lamb

Blues & Hues

Clifford Lamb

Weber Works Label 2020

Review by David Bowling

Pianist and composer Clifford Lamb has produced a conceptual fusion album, which is an interesting statement at face value. While Blues & Hues may not be a completely well-defined jazz album; but Lamb’s approach and style fit the format.

His primary backing musicians are jazz trumpet player Nicholas Payton, bassist Buster Williams, and drummer Cindy Blackman Santana. He also uses such backing artists as vocalists Laura Vail and Alex Brown ( one of Ray Charles original Raelettes), rapper Anacron, guitarist Tariqh Akoni, and flutist’s Justin Klunk and Scott Mayo.

His approach is to bring together original and classic songs. The highlight of this eight track album is “Peace Prayer,” which is representative of this approach. Native American influences, a hundreds year old spiritual, rapper poetry, and “Teen Spirit” by McCoy Tyner all morph together into an elegant mix.

Other highlights include No regrets, which uses music by Spanish composer Mannel de Falla as a jumping off place for his own smooth jazz and the old American classic “I Love’s You Porgy,” where Lamb demonstrates his piano versatility.

Lamb has  a smooth melodic style that sustains his creativity and makes the complicated nature of his music very listenable.

Blues & Hues is an interesting amalgam of styles and tempos that intersect into a album of creative jazz and at time real beauty.

Rating: ***1/2

Blind Lemon Sessions By Mick Kolassa



Blind Lemon Sessions

Mick Kolassa

Endless Blues Records 2020

Review by David Bowling


Mick Kolassa is a musician who moves in a number of directions but is always centered around the blues. I have been following his career for a decade or so and his albums are always unique creations. Each has a distinct personality and his latest release, Blind Lemon Sessions, is no exception.

The album began in Germany when Kolassa recorded some material for a compilation album to be issued by the Blind Lemon Record label. He eventually recorded enough material for a new album.

There are seven cover songs that present the essence of Mick Kolassa. The traditional “St James Infirmary” and classic “Ditty Wah Ditty” are short simple songs that have been around for decades and he manages to give them new life. The Beatles “Help” is changed from a frantic rock number to a slower bluesy appeal. It is a unique take on a well-known song.

His own material is more Americana than blues at times. He has consistently relied on humor and “Recycle Me” continues that tradition.

Very noticeable on this release is the use of multi- stringed instruments. Kolassa plays six and 12 string guitars, a baritone ukulele, and an odd type of banjo. Add in slide guitars, bass, violin, and another banjo by his supporting players and you have a layered effect that adds extra textures to his approach.

Blind Lemon Sessions is a fine release that fuses different styles into a unique blues sound. It is an album that focus’ on the subtleties of the blues and is well worth a listen or two.

Rating: ***1/2


A Month Of Sundays By Jim Roberts & The Resonants


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A Month Of Sundays

Jim Roberts & The Resonants

Review by David Bowling


Jim Roberts & The Resonants have returned with their third album release of contemporary blues. Roberts is an extraordinary electric guitarist, slide guitarist, and is one of the few artists to have added a cigar box guitar to his repertoire.

A Month Of Sundays is an album of varying tempos, which makes each track unique and keeps the album fresh.

Roberts uses his brass judiciously. The album opening “Skeeters” is driven by the horn section, while the sax and guitar combine on “I’m Walkin’ On” to create a pleasant fusion of blues and jazz.

Perhaps the best and certainly the most creative track “What Her Evil Do.” It is a trip back in time via the primitive sound of the acoustic cigar box guitar, which blends with the harmonica sounds of Joey Gomez. Also standing out is the slow blues tune “Make A Promise.”

In addition to his guitar and vocal duties, Roberts produces the album and wrote or co-wrote all 13 tracks, which puts him at the center of each song.

Through it all Roberts transitions effortlessly from one style to another making A Month Of Sundays not only a slide guitarists delight but also an album of excellent modern-day urban blues.

Rating: ***

Blues In A Bucket (CD) By The Forrest McDonald Band



Blues In A Bucket

Forrest McDonald Band

World Talent Records 2019

Review by David Bowling


Veteran songwriter and guitarist deluxe Forrest McDonald will release his 15th album early next month. He will turn 70 during 2020, and while this is retirement territory for many people, McDonald shows no sign of slowing down as Bucket Of Blues is one of the strongest albums of his career.

McDonald has always been an excellent songwriter and on his newest release, he wrote of co-wrote all 11 tracks. The songs range from thoughtful to explosive, which are helped by a horn section. Except for two songs where he assumes the lead, he turns over the vocal duties to Andrew Black and special guest Becky Wright.

“Blues In The Basement” is a slow blues tune powered by McDonald’s guitar and Black’s vocal. “Blue Morning Sun” is a poignant piece lamenting the loss of his brother to cancer.

“Boogie Me Till I Drop” is the album opener and a good party song that presents another part of McDonalds musical persona. Becky Wright’s lead vocal on “Powerhouse” brings a different perspective and textures to the album’s music. The brass section bring extra energy to “Windy City Blues,” “Go To The Light,” and “Going Back To Memphis.”

Throughout the album, McDonald demonstrates his mastery of the guitar that he has developed over a near half-century career.

Blues In A Bucket travels in a number of directions but is ultimately tied together by incisive lyrics and McDonald’s guitar licks. A good way to start your 70th year.

Rating: ***1/2

Elvis Live 1969 (11 CD Box Set) By Elvis Presley



Elvis Live 1969

Elvis Presley

Legacy 2019

Review by David Bowling


After appearing in 33 films, Elvis returned to the concert stage in 1968. This led him to an 11 concert stay at the International Hotel in Las Vegas during August of 1969. The RCA label professionally recorded each performance and now, a half century later, have released all 11 complete performances on a massive 11 CD box set titled Elvis Live 1969.

As with most box sets of this type, there is good news and bad news.

First, this set is for the serious Elvis collector. There is a lot of song repetition. Does a person really need 11 similar versions of “Hound Dog,” “All Shook Up,” and “Blue Suede Shoes?” On the other hand, songs such as “Suspicious Minds” have a running time from 5:56 tp 7:42, so there are some interesting differences here and there.

There is a lot of unnecessary conversation, especially in the earlier shows. As his stay at the hotel continued, his talking between songs is significantly reduced. It may have been the shows were running too long, and this was Vegas, where time is money. The early performances had a running time of close to 80 minutes, which gradually were shortened to an hour. It all adds up to over 13 hours of music included in the set.

Most Of Elvis’ music has been released a number of times and in multiple forms. Contained here is some previously unreleased material. It is the first time all 11 concerts have appeared together, complete, and in order.

As mentioned, there is a lot of repetition, as some songs appear in every concert but the gems are “Reconsider Baby,” “Inherit The Wind,” and “Rubberneckin'” which only appear in one concert and were never performed live again.

The original tapes have been remastered and the sound is crisp and clear, especially for the technology of a half-century ago. The bonus is the booklet with a number of pictures of the day.

Elvis Live 1969 is one of the most successful modern day Elvis box sets. It may have some limitations for the casual listener, but provides a nice glimpse into the pre-1970 Elvis performing career.

Rating: ****


Transpacific Blues Vol. 1 By Matty T Wall



Transpacific Blues Vol. 1

Matty T. Wall

Hipsterdumpster Records 2019

Review by David Bowling


Matty T Wall is an Australian blues artist who has gained notoriety and commercial success in his native Australia. His third album, Transpacific Blues, finds him expanding his musical vision across the pond to the United States.

Anyone familiar with his first two releases will find his new album has a very different flavor, as it focus’ on a distinctly American style and sound. Vocalist/guitarist Wall fronts a basic rhythm section comprised of drummer Ric Whittle and bassist Stephen Walker, but now adds a guest artist on five of the eight tracks. In addition, it is an album of classic blues covers.

The five tracks featuring a guest have a fuller sound as he departs from his usual three person configuration with the addition of an additional instrument. The extra band member allows him to interact with another guitarist and he is able to add pauses into the mix.

Eric Gales adds a jazz touch to “Hi Heel Sneakers, while Walter Trout brings a dose of rock and roll to “She’s Into Something Good.” Fellow Australian David Hole is probably the best match as they combine on John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom.” Kid Ramos matches Wall note for note on “Quicksand.”

The songs where he is the sole guitarist travel in a different direction. “Stormy Monday” meanders along for a blues filled six minutes. Robert Johnson’s venerable “Crossroads bring the album to a fitting conclusion as Wall’s direct approach adds new textures to this classic tune.

Matty T Wall has added another building block to his career. His explorations of the roots of American blues allow him to move in different directions from his Australian beginnings. Transpacific Blues Volume 1 is an interesting album by a musician taking some chances as he broadens his horizons.

Rating: ***1/2

Been Around By A Girl Called Eddy



Been Around

A Girl Called Eddy

Elefant Records 2020

Review by David Bowling


No matter how you slice it, 14 years is a long time between albums, especially if its your debut and second release.

A Girl Named Eddy, (Erin Moran), has been active on the concert stage and backing other artists, which has led to the title of her new release, Been Around.

She is basically one of those singers you can picture performing in a lounge late at night. Her voice been compared to Karen Carpenter and Carole King, but when I hear her sing, I think of Astrud Gilberto of “Girl From Ipanema” fame.

There is a preciseness to her music, plus an attention to detail. She wrote or co-wrote all the tracks and plays piano on many of the songs, but she is above all a vocalist. Her tone has a sultry quality that is also crystal clear, which adds textures and a brightness to the performances.

Her new material is less dark and melancholy than her previous release. “Come To The Palisades” is a wonderfully nostalgic tune of amusement parks, summer, being a teenager, and days that cannot be recovered. This song is a classic example of her songwriting ability as she wastes few words telling her story. She channels her inner Crissy Hyde on “Someone’s Gonna Break Your Heart.”

“Charity Shop Window” is another nostalgic piece that she co-wrote with Paul Williams. She fills in the simple melodies with a small string section. The most sophisticated track is the title song as she explores her inner self, complete with a horn section and a number of background singers.

A Girl Named Eddy has now issued two well-crafted albums that are both refined and appealing. Hopefully it will not be another 14 years until her next release.

Rating: ****