City Night By Savoy Brown

City Night

Savoy Brown

Quarto Records 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

Not many bands can trace their lineage back 54 years but so it is with Savoy Brown. They formed in 1965 as part of the British blues/rock wave. Through constant touring and time in the studio, they have assembled a body of work that reaches back five decades and forty plus albums.

There have been close to 60 members of Savoy Brown but the one constant has been guitarist, songwriter, and now vocalist Kim Simmonds. He has guided the bands fortunes since the beginning.

The Savoy Brown of today is their most basic configuration. It consists of Simmonds, bassist Pat DeSalvo, and drummer Garnet Grimm. Gone are second guitarists, harp players, keyboardists, and saxophonists; all of which filled in their sound in the past.

City Night is a straight ahead, high octane fusion of blues and rock. Savoy does not try to over extend or re-invent themselves, but keeps it elemental. Simmonds bluesy riffs are piled on top of the bands heavy rhythms. Songs such as “Don’t Hang Me Out To Try,” “Neighborhood Blues,” “Superstitious Woman,” and “Selfish World” are all traditional-type hard rock blues.

Simmonds recently stated, “No, I’m never ever retiring! I’m on this trail ’till the end.” City Night proves that there are some miles to go.

Rating: ***

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Mississippi BarBQ By Zac Harmon

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Mississippi BarBQ

Zac Harmon

Catfood Records 2019

Review by David Bowling

Guitarist/blues singer Zac Harmon invites you to a musical BarBQ, southern style. The menu is a healthy helping of modern day blues and superb guitar playing.

His new release, Mississippi BarBQ, will be released July 19. It is his most ambitious album to date as he surrounds himself with an array of backing musicians, who help him fill in the sound.

The Rays, led by bassist Bob Trenchard, are on of the best backing bands working today and they supplement the sound on seven of the eleven tracks.  Add in a four piece horn section and you have the makings of an excellent modern day blues album that builds on his vision of southern traditional blues.

Original tracks such as the title song, “Make A Dollar Out of Fifteen Cents,” “Honey Pleez,” and “Smoke And Mirrors” are fine examples of his sophisticated blues approach. Also included is a stunning cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knocking On Heavens Door.”

Zac Harmon’s approach to the blues continues to evolve as he experiments with new layers and textures. Misisisippi BarBQ is the latest chapter in his musical journey.

Rating: ***

Who Cares By David G Smith

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Who Cares

David G Smith

Hey Dave Music 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

David G. Smith will release his new album, titled Who Cares, August 23rd. It is an album of 12 original tunes that feature his songwriting ability. The album took a very personal direction with the passing of his friend and producer Blue Miller.

Smith is basically a troubadour who fills in his sound with various incarnations of a backing band. The focus, however, is always on his lyrics and storytelling.

Smith’s stories run from the light to the gritty, but they always tell a story. His writing is simple and mostly serious as he touches on depression, southern border issues, and the critical album ending “Who Cares.

The highlight of the album is the gentle “Shine,” which is enhanced by guest co-vocalist Mary Gauthier.

David G. Smith has produced another album of cerebral music. Who Cares is an album that deserves some attention.

Rating ***

Revelation By Tullie Brae

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Revelation

Tullie Brae

Endless Blues Records 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

Tullie Brae has one of those just voices made for the blues.

Brae’s new album hits all the high points of a traditional blues album titled Revelation. The ten original tunes range from gentle ballads to hard edged rockers. Her lyrics tell stories of love, loss, relationships, violence, and redemption.

She accompanies herself on various keyboards, slide guitar, and cigar-box guitar, which I haven’t heard in quite a while. She also surrounds herself with and array of musicians, including a string section, which not only provides support but fills in the sound.

Despite the lyrics and her backing musicians, it all comes back to her voice. Revelation is a blues coming out party for a unique vocalist and blues artist.

Rating: ***

Get Here Quick By The Texas Horns

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Get Here Quick

The Texas Horns

Severn Records 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

If you are a horn section and want to release an album, you better have a lot of friends, which brings us to The Texas Horns.

Mark “Kaz” Kazanoff, John Miles, and Al Gomez are The Texas Horns. They have established a reputation as one of the best brass sections working today. They have now taken a leap of faith and stepped forward to release their own album titled Get Here Quick. They have also written all the tracks, which is unusual for a brass section.

They have assembled an array of musicians, including guitarists, bass players, keyboardists, vocalists, and drummers to front the band. This allows the trio to functions as both a classic backing brass section, and an improvisational unit.

Their sound cuts across styles. There is blues, especially when Ronnie Earl is the guitarist, Americana, some rock and roll, and jazz.

Get Here Quick is an album that can be appreciated track by track. Grab a copy and let the music flow.

Rating: ***1/2

Speakeasy By Paula Harris

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Speakeasy

Paula Harris

Paula Harris Music 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

Imagine a smoky lounge about a half-century ago. It is a basic band of piano, drums, and bass. As Paula Harris begins to sing, the crowd quiets.

Paula Harris is a composer and singer who has a connection with jazz and blues of a by-gone era. Whether her own compositions or choice covers; her soulful voice is perfect for old time jazz with some blues thrown in for good measure.

Her backing band of pianist Nate Ginsberg, bassist Rich Girard, and drummer Derrick Martin are veteran unit who lay down a basic sound that connects with her style well, plus they are adept at keeping.  her voice front and center.

The most inventive track is her re-imagining of Thelonious Monk’s “‘Round Midnight.” She is true to the music but composes new lyrics, plus adds trumpet player Bill Ortiz to give it an authentic feel. Add in Louis Jordan’s “Is You Or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” and jazzy original tunes “Soul-Sucking Man,” “Haunted,” and “You Don’t Look A Day Over Fabulous” and you have an album of excellent music.

Speakeasy is an album where the past and present day intersect. Grab your favorite beverage, turn the lights down low, and relax.

 

Rating: ***1/2

Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie By Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie

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Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie

Lindsay Buckingham & Christine McVie

Warner 2017

Review By David Bowling

 

Fleetwood Mac went into the studio to create a new album, but countless delays and Stevie Nicks not being available due to her solo career finally pushed Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie to change direction and issue a self-titled duo effort. Mick Fleetwood and John McVie comprise the rhythm section, so in actuality four-fifths of Fleetwood Mac were involved in the project. The only other musician was keyboardist Michael Froom.

McVie and Buckingham complement each other well. McVie tends to keep Buckingham’s solo excesses under control and Buckingham brings out the best in McVie and gives her music a little more bite.

Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie is an album that grows on you. Many aspects of the Fleetwood Mac sound are present but there is a sparseness to the sound in many places. The elimination of Nicks from the equation enables McVie to be the main vocalist and allows them to create their own music without including just a vocalist.

They are at their best when it is McVie’s melodies and voice and Buckingam’s guitar tying everything together.

Christine McVie centers the key tracks. “Red Sun” is an up-tempo ballad that has McVie providing a wistful vocal, while Buckingham creates simple but effective guitar lines that fills in the gaps. “Too Far Gone” has a rock foundation curtesy of bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood, but the vocal by Christine McVie is finds her reaching back to her Chicken Shack days with a blusey performance. “Game Of Pretend” is basically McVie and her piano.

Buckingham has always been an under rated guitarist. He shines on many of the tracks, plus his voice combines with McVie’s to create exquisite harmonies in places.

Lindsay Buckingham Christine McVie probably would have made a very good Fleetwood Mac album. Due to external circumstances, it ends up as a brilliant release by Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie.

Rating: ****

Kind Of Blues By Adam Holt

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Kind Of Blues

Adam Holt

Zenith Label 2019Review by David Bowling

 

It’s amazing what an old Ampex tape machine and a few guitars can produce.

The CD cover picture makes Adam Holt look like an old and grizzled bluesman, which in many ways is correct. However, it belies his soulful, and almost gentle voice.

His new album, Kind Of Blues, is a personal release, that moves outward from a blues foundation toward country, Americana, and some good old rock and roll. The nine original compositions trace his personal journeys through life, set to music. Separation, corporate America, equality, and ultimately faith. all combine together to form  relevant and well thought-out album of music.

Adam Holt has produced another sold album of music. Kind Of Blues is recommended for anyone who likes their music introspective and passionate, plus has a little bounce to it.

Rating: ***

Twist The Knife By The Forty Fours

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Twist The Knife

Forty Fours

Rip Cat 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

Somethin old, something new, from the Forty Fours. It has been seven years since their last album, and in the mean time, vocalist/guitarist leader Johnny Main has assembled an entirely new lineup. Main and harmonica player Eric Von Herzen, bassist Kike Hightower, drummer Gary Ferguson, and guitarist Junior Watson have now released Twist Of Fate.

Their new album contains only one original song, “Cutting Deep,” written by Main. The other seven tracks are covers of songs by Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Albert Collins.

Main leads his band through 33 minutes of energetic blues with rock and roll elements. There is a raw feel to many of the tracks but Main’s guitar work and Von Herzen’s harp center the music and provide enough sophisticated elements to keep it interesting.

The reconstituted Forty Fours have released an album that keeps the music simple and sometimes that is best. Twist Of Fate is a solid effort and well worth a listen.

Rating: ***

Live At The Fillmore Auditorium – San Francisco By Chuck Berry

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Live At The Fillmore Auditorium – San Francisco

Chuck Berry

Mercury 1967

Review by David Bowling

 

Chuck Berry may not have invented rock and roll all by himself, but he was there at the beginning. He established the guitar as a viable lead instrument and combined a number of styles and rhythms, which formed some of the foundations of rock and roll.

As time passed. Berry developed two bad habits when playing live. He tended to rely on his series of hits recorded during the 1950’s and he travelled without a backing band, instead relying on local bands. This made most of his concerts have a sameness and many of the local groups were inferior musically.

These issues were not present in 1967, when he performed the Fillmore in San Francisco. His set was comprised of mostly blues numbers and light on the usual hits. In addition, he shared the bill with the Steve Miller Band, who remained on stage as his backing band.

Live At The Fillmore Auditorium – San Francisco was released in 1967 and has been reissued a number of times. This is one of those occasions when the original release is better off without the bonus tracks.

It is blues tunes that dominate the performance. There is a lot of improvisation rather that just rote performances. There are also a number of slow blues tunes and laid back tempos, which were rare from Berry. In addition The Steve Miller Band with Miller on backing vocals, guitar, and particularly harmonica pushed Berry into one of the better recorded live performances of his career.

“Everyday I Have The Blues,” “Driftin’ Blues.” “Wee Baby Blues,” and “Hoochie Coochie Man” all meander along with some tempo twists and turns. “Everyday I Have To Cry Some” is a brilliant excursion through some Chicago blues.

The rock tunes have a tightness. His own “Feelin’ It” and “Rockin’ At The Fillmore” crackle with energy as he dig’s a little deeper into his catalogue. Even the album ending “Johnny B Good” comes across as a guitar based romp.

Chuck Berry’s career lasted more than six decades and as time passed he was many times taken for granted. If you want a quick lesson into his contributions to rock and roll; any of his Greatest Hits releases will due. If you want a look into his musical soul; then check out Live At The Fillmore Auditorium – San Francisco.

Rating: ****