Soaring (CD-Reissue) By The Don Ellis Orchestra

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Soaring

Don Ellis Orchestra

MPS 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

Don Ellis, 1934-1978, was an avant-garde jazz big band leader/drummer/trombone player/composer who found mainstream commercial success with the rock audience of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. His 1970 live release, Live At The Fillmore, was the apex of his career. It set the stage for  further experimentation within a big band setting before his untimely death of a heart attack at the age of 44.

Ellis began his career with the reconstituted Glenn Miller Orchestra, followed by stints with The United States Army Band, and Maynard Ferguson. His first group was the Hindustan Jazz Sextet, which incorporated a sitar into a jazz setting. By 1968 he was leading a big band and was signed to the Columbia record label.

While his live albums were always spontaneous and inventive and in many ways the best of his career; his 1973 release Soaring was perhaps his most innovative and adventurous studio release.

Soaring was recorded with 22 musicians including a 12 man horn section, three percussionists, a four string quartet, and Bulgarian jazz piano virtuoso Milcho Laviev. Somehow it all came together and resulted in one of the unique jazz releases of the era.

Recording within a jazz context; he incorporates funk, classical elements, and European folk traditions to produce an eclectic fusion of sounds.

The music is relaxed, introspective, and some of the most intricate ever recoded. “Go Back Home” is an upbeat tune with a brilliant tenor sax solo by Sam Falzone. “Sladka Pitka” harps backs to his early jazz experimentations with old world folk music. “The Devil Made Me Write This Piece” is Ellis’ last known recording as a drummer.

“Invincible” is Ellis’ crowning achievement in the studio. It builds upon itself with constant tempo and chord changes and finally soars away.

Don Ellis’ death at a young age due to heart problems ended a career that explored music from unique perspectives. Soaring is an important chapter in his legacy.

Rating: ****

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Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters (CD) By Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters

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Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters

Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters

Home Perm Records 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

Ashleigh Flynn has been around for awhile, both in the studio and on the road. Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters are new and have just issued their self-titled debut album.

A debut album is always a leap of faith. It is announcement to the world of who you are musically, for better or worse. And so we come to rebirth of Ashleigh Flynn with her backing band the Riveters.

As a solo artist, Flynn was a troubadour type singer. The focus was just on her as she produced a peppy form of folk music. A backing band allows he to stretch out a bit and explore country and pop idioms and even add a little blues influence. The sound is fuller and more complete.

Her songs may never have a gritty reality but they do have a self-confidence and a positive approach, and in the music world, that is becoming all to rare. “This Love,” “The Sound Of Bells,” “You Will Remember,” and “High On A Mountain” are journey’s though the mind and soul of Ashleigh Flynn.

Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters is the beginning of a new journey. Their debut album is a good first step.

Rating: ***

Miles To Go (CD) By Colin James

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Miles To Go

Colin James

Stony Plain Records 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

Veteran Bluesman Colin James has just released his 19th blues album, and that is a lot of music, and a lot of love for the blues.

James has always been a blues purest and his new release reflects that fact. He reaches back to the past for nine of the albums eleven tracks. While he using a backing band, and at times a brass section, his devotion to blues history shines through on his interpretations of gems by Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Little Willie John, Robert Johnson, and the like.

A strong point in the material is his selection of the cover tunes. He has avoided many of the aforementioned blues masters well-know songs and delved a little more deeper into their catalogues. “Ooh Baby Hold Me,” “Soul Of A Man,” “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” “Dug My Self A Whole,” and “Still A Fool” are a wonderful ride through blues history with some modern accents.

Colin James is fast becoming one of the grand older men of the blues. Miles To Go is another solid link in the blues chain by a modern day master.

Rating: ***1/2

 

149 Delta (CD) By Mick Kolassa And The Taylor Made Blues Band

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149 Delta

Mick Kolassa and The Taylor Made Blues Band

Endless Blues Records 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

Mick Kolassa is like an old friend. He shows up at you door every year or so, drops off an album of new music, and then continues on his way until next time.

149 Delta is the latest stop in Kolassa’s musical journey. His last two releases concentrated on cover songs, including an album of acoustic Beatle songs, recorded from a blues perspective. Now he has returned to his own material as 9 of the 12 tracks are original compositions.

Songs such as “I Can’t Slow Down,” “US 12 To Highway 49,” “Alternative Road,” and “Whiskey In The Morning” are autobiographical, which is perfect for his brand of blues. Also included is a cover of the old rhythm & blues classic “I Don’t Need No Doctor.”

The Taylor Made Blues Band adds a new element to his music as a full backing band fills in the sound an gives it added textures and depths.

Mick Kolassa has issued another a blues masterpiece. 149 Delta is an album worth exploring.

Rating: ****

Where The Rain Falls (CD-EP) By Kimia Penton

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Where The Rain Falls

Kimia Penton

Kimia Q Productions 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

Kimi Penton may be a songwriter and she may be a classically trained violinist, but it all comes down to her voice. She has a soprano voice that is a gift and it tends to be the focal point of her music.

She has now issued her second release; a six-song EP titled Where The Rain Falls. Unfortunately, it only provides a taste of her style and sound. Hopefully a full album in the same vein will follow that will further explore her talent.

Her new material is a little different than that of her debut album Lessons From Life And Love. Her music still has distinct folk leanings but she veers toward a pop and Americana sound at times. “First And Last Time,” “Stepping Stones.” and the title track are representative of her songwriting, singing, classical violin training.

In many ways the music of Kimia Penton is still a work in progress. The six songs that comprise Where The Rain Falls serves to whet the appetite as to what will follow.

Rating: ***

 

At King Electric (CD) By Ray Bonneville

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At King Electric

Ray Bonneville

Stonefly Records 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

Ray Bonneville has carved out a nice blues niche for himself. He is a Texan who plays a no-nonsense brand of electric blues. He has returned with his ninth album titled At King Electric, which includes 11 original songs.

Bonneville draws on his life experiences to create the characters that inhabit his music. There stories are brought to life through his guitar, vocals, and harmonica with a minimalist rhythm section in support.

His gritty voice is made for  the blues and his instrumental ability enables him to produce an energetic and passionate sound.

Ray Bonneville has traveled from Vietnam to Europe to Alaska with a lot of stops in between at hundreds of bars and concert halls. At King Electric is his latest stop in his journey chronicled by the blues.

Rating: ***

A Woman’s Soul: Tribute To Bessie Smith (CD) By Rory Block

A Woman’s Soul: Tribute To Bessie Smith

Rory Block

Stoney Plain Records 2018

Review By David Bowling

 

Rory Block has immersed herself in the blues for literally her entire adult life and part of her teenage years as well. Her five decade career, her prowess as a guitarist/vocalist, and her respect for the history and traditions of the blues have propelled her to the forefront of the American blues pantheon.

For the last decade she has been issuing a series of albums that have channeled, copied, and paid tribute to classic blues masters. Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Reverend Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, and Skip James have all been subjects of her approach. Her latest album explores the legacy of Bessie Smith.

A Woman’s Soul: Tribute To Bessie Smith is unique in that Smith is a woman and was primarily a vocalist.

Bessie Smith, 1894-1937, was a child of poverty who produced a gritty form of the blues. He songs were raw, as was she, and she was not admired within much of the blues community of the day for the crudeness of her approach. She was, however, one of the most commercially successful artists of the pre-second World War era as her songs resonated at a basic level.

Her stories were sexual, reflected the poverty around her, and dealt with the racial tensions of her time. “Gimme A Pigfoot And A Bottle Of Beer,” “Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl,” “Weeping Willow Blues,” “Empty Bed Blues,” and “Do Your Duty” traveled her earthy journey.

To her credit, Rory does not try to imitate Smith but rather updates her music. Her guitar brings Smith’s songs into the 21st century and fills them in ways that were not available at the time of their creation. Her voice is smoother, which gives the material a different sheen. The songs survive in a different form and format and while they are lodged in the past, they remain powerful.

In many ways A Woman’s Soul: Tribute To Bessie Smith, is the most adventurous release in the series. It is a wonderful call from the past that should not go unheeded.

Rating: ****

Dopamine Machine And Acoustic Machine (CD’s) By Hadden Sayers

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Dopamine Machine and Acoustic Machine

Hadden Sayers

HSB-CD 2018

Review by David Bowling

Two album reviews for the price of one. Dopamine Machine and Acoustic Machine may be separate releases but they are connected musically as two albums can be.

Hadden Sayers is a veteran Texas singer, songwriter, guitarist, vocalist, and bluesman. He has now returned with his 9th album.

Dopamine Machine is his hardest rocking blues album to date, as it fuses elements from rock and blues into one explosive mix. His guitar work remains impeccable.

It is also a very personal album as it draws from his own thoughts and experiences. Inspired by topics such as love at first sight, cell phone addition, an article in Rolling Stone Magazine, and a Rhythm & Blues Cruise; he paints a personal portrait of his life with his stinging guitar and gritty vocals.

Dopamine Machine is the strongest album of his career; at least for a short time.

So what does an artist do when he has created an excellent album? The answer is, you re-record it as an acoustic album and so Acoustic Machine was born. He is accompanied only by vocalist Ruthie Foster on one song and a friend, Joe Ed Cobbs, who provides percussion on various objects.

Listening to this album after hearing Dopamine Machine, provides a far different experience. It may be the same songs but they now have different textures as they are stripped to basics. Each song takes on a new emotional intensity as it keeps the focus on the lyrics.

Hadden Sayers has released to excellent but very different albums. They are fine examples of how songs can be interpreted differently. They are well-worth a listen.

Ratings: ***1/2 and ****

 

 

Children Of Paradise (CD) By Willie Nile

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Children Of Paradise

Willie Nile

River House Records 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

One of the kings of American rock and roll has returned with a new album. Willie Nile released seven albums during the first three decades of his career but now they are coming more quickly as this is his fifth release since 2013.

Lately he has issued an all piano album and one of Bob Dylan covers. Children Of Paradise is a return not only to his roots but to the roots of American rock as he has produced an album of all new compositions.

The album cover is representative of the contents. The faces are photographic images of people from his Greenwich Village neighborhood. While the portraits are of people rejected by society, the songs hook into and bring to life the dreams and realities of their lives. In many ways, the album is thematic in approach; all tied together by the album closing “All God’s Children.”

Songs such as “Seeds Of A Revolution,” “Gettin’ Ugly Out There,” “All Dressed Up An No Place To Go,” “I Defy,” and “Secret Weapon” have created a powerful album that runs from desolation to hope and all points in between.

The sound is basic and elemental rock as he is mostly supported by his live band, guitarist Matt Hogan, bassist Johnny Pisano, and drummer Jon Weber plus a few guest musicians. It adds up to infectious and thoughtful music that is appropriate for a party or late at night.

Niles has been a force in American rock and roll since he opened for the Who’s 1980 American tour. Children Of Paradise cements his status as a premier songwriter and musician. It is also one of the better albums of his career, which is very high praise.

Rating: ****

Blues Keep Knockin’ (CD) By Trudy Lynn

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Blues Keep Knockin’

Trudy Lynn

Connor Ray Music

Review by David Bowling

 

Many people are very superstitious about the number 13 but Trudy Lynn is hoping that it is lucky for her as Blues Keep Knockin’ is her 13th solo album release.

She has becomes a blues staple. Her 2016 album, I’ll Sing The Blues For You, received a Blues Music Nomination, while her 2014 release, Royal Oaks Café, reached number one on the blues charts.

She is an interpreter of songs rather than a composer. She reaches back to the material of such classic blues singers as Etta James, Big Maybelle, Big Bill Broonzy, and Aretha Franklin among others.

She does not caress a song but rather overwhelms it with emotion and her big voice. “That’s Alright,” “One Monkey Don’t Stop The Show,” “I Sing The Blues,” “When I Been Drinkin,'” and “Never Been To Spain” all succumb to her passionate and energetic approach.

She is a classic blues singer. While her band, particularly when her brass section plays, has a modern feel; but when she sings on the breaks, she transport the listener back to the era of smoke filled clubs late at night.

Blues Keep Knockin’ is another strong effort from Trudy Lynn, so grab your favorite beverage, turn down the lights, and enjoy one of the better female blues singers working today.

Rating: ***1/2