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

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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 heĀ 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

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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

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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

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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: ****

 

No Paint By Jeff Chaz

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No Paint

Jeff Chaz

JCP Records 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

Jeff Chaz has been a regular on the Southern blues circuit for several decades now. Several months ago he released his first new studio album in three years titled No Paint.

Many times simple is best and on his new release he returns to basics. He records his new album with just a rhythm section of bassist Augie Joachim and drummer Rick Jones. This forces him to carry the load on his guitar and playing the guitar is one of the things he does best.

Chaz is also a first rate songwriter and nine of the ten tracks are originals. The eight minute “Lowdown, Dirty Blues” is a slow, extended guitar clinic with his gritty vocals connecting his improvisational runs. “The Stars Are Out” is another extended guitar extravaganza.

While songs such as “You Gotta Show Me,” “Blues Buffet,” “We Ain’s Shackin’ No More,” and “deet, deet, deet” remain true to his blues; they are full of catchy hooks as they tell their stories of success, regret, food fortune, sadness, and even a little humor thrown in for good measure.

No Paint is an excellent album of fundamental electric blues and is well worth the price of admission.

Rating: ***1/2

Songs For Groovy Children: The Fillmore East Concerts (5-CD Box Set) By Jimi Hendrix Band Of Gypsys

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Songs For Groovy Children: The Fillmore East Concerts (5-CD Box Set)

Jimi Hendrix Band Of Gypsys

Legacy 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

You can always tell that the Christmas season has begun by the increase in Box Set releases. One of latest is Songs For Groovy Children: The Fillmore East Concerts by Jimi Hendrix Band Of Gypsys.

By mid 1969, Hendrix had disbanded the Experience quickly assembled his Band Of Gypsys with bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles. Their live debut was a series of four concerts, December 31, 1969-January 1, 1970, at the legendary Fillmore East in New York City. It was a rare Hendrix concert that was professionally recorded as he owed the Capital Record Label an album due to an old contractual issue and planned to fulfill that contract with a live recording.

Some of the music has been releasedĀ  but this is the first time all four sets are presented in their entirety and in chronological order. In addition to the 43 performances, there is also a 40 page booklet with photos and informative essays.

The gem of the release is the first disc that contains the afternoon concert of December 31. The 11 song set consisted of material that had not been previously released at that time. It was a leap of faith for Hendrix and his new band. Songs such as “Machine Gun,” “Isabella,” “Power Of Soul,” “Ezy Rider,” “Lover Man,” and “Burning Desire” pointed toward a new musical direction and that set remains unique in the vast catalogue of live Hendrix performances.

The other three performances, spread over four discs, are a mixture of newer and older material. One of the constants in all four concerts was the song “Machine Gun.” They remain some of Hendrix’s finest guitar performances. Material such as “Stone Free,” “Foxey Lady,” “Hey Joe,” and “Purple Haze” have been included on dozen’s of live Hendrix releases but with Miles and Cox and with the passage of time they take on new textures.

The Fillmore East Concerts were a unique interlude in the musical life of Jimi Hendrix. A couple months later, The Band Of Gypsys was gone and Hendrix would spend the remaining months of his life playing with Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell and Cox as his primary bassist.

Songs For Groovy People: The Fillmore East Concerts is the best example of a style of music Hendrix was willing to explore but ultimately would not commit to long term. Nevertheless it remains an important statement by Hendrix and its nice to have the music back in circulation.

Rating: ****1/2

Twice As Nice By Brad Vickers And His Vestapolitans

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Twice As Nice

Brad Vickers And His Vestapolitans

Man Hat Tone Label 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

Brad Vickers continues to add to his legacy as one of the premier blues musicians working today. Twice As Nice is the sixth album with his Vestapolitans and again, he uses a blues foundation to move in a number of stylistics directions.

Vickers studio music tends to be fuller than his live performances. His basic band of bassist Margey Peters, drummer Bill Rankin, and saxophonist Jim Davis are a very capable backing band for his guitar and vocals but many of the songs here, he adds a violin, keyboard, or an extra sax to the sound.

The album consists of two originals by Vickers, five by bassist Margey Peters, plus four covers.

The songs of Peters and Vickers compliment each other. Vickers “Mississippi Swamp” retains a sense a humor amid Vickers Bottleneck guitar and guest Mickey Junior’s harmonica. Margey’s “Coast To Coast” is a rollicking tune about traveling down the road. Vickers “Red Dust” has a little bite to it as he explores the plight of Native Americans. Margey Peters “Brooklyn Evenings” is a poignant look into a past that can never be re-created.

The best of the cover songs is an exploration of Jimmy Reed’s “Close Together” that brings a lot of energy to the original.

Brad Vickers has created an imaginative and creative album of blues related tracks. Twice As Nice is a album of songs by a veteran bluesman doing what he does best.

Rating: ***1/2

50 Year Trip: Live At Red Rocks By John Fogerty

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50 Year Trip: Live At Red Rocks

John Fogerty

BMG 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

There was a time when John Fogerty refused to perform Creedence Clearwater music. That changed with the passage of time and his latest album, 50 Year Trip: Live At Red Rocks is a live, in concert celebration of his 50 year musical journey and is filled with primarily the best of Creedence Clearwater, plus a few solo songs.

If there is ever a criticism of John Fogerty, be it in the studio or live in concert, it is he is too perfect. His live performances tend to mirror his studio tracks, note for note and vocal for vocal. He follows that formula on this album as he travels through a 19 song set that contains some of the best rock and pop music of the past 50 years. But it could have been a lot more.

John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater have always been all about the music. From “Born On The Bayou” and “Green River” to the concert ending “Fortunate Son,” “Bad Moon Rising,” and “Proud Mary,” the music just flows from one song to the next. Add in such songs as “Looking Out My Back Door,” “Down On The Corner,” “Who’ll Stop The Rain,” and “Centerfield” and you have the perfect John Fogerty/Creedence concert.

The CD does not present the whole concert. What is missing are a number of 1960’s covers including The Beatles “With A Little Help From My Friends,” The Who’s “My Generation,” John Lennon’s “Give Peace A Chance,” And Sly & The Family Stone’s “Dance To The Music” and “Everyday People.” The inclusion of this material would have made the CD a lot more interesting and ultimately better. There is a film of the concert being released that contains the entire performance.

50 Year Trip: Live At Red Rocks is a basic John Fogerty primer. It is what it is and a good place to enjoy his music. The negative part of the release is what was excluded and that makes all the difference.

Rating: ***

 

 

Mad Lad: A Live Tribute To Chuck Berry By Ronnie Wood & His Wild Five

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Mad Lad: A Live Tribute To Chuck Berry

Ronnie Wood & His Wild Five

BMG 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

Ronnie Wood has been a member of The Rolling Stones for 44 years and prior to that, a part of Faces and The Jeff Beck Group. The first two made him a double inductee into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

His solo career has been a little more haphazard, albums appearing when he has some extra time on his hands. His new release is Mad Lad: A Live Tribute To Chuck Berry. The instrumental backing is basic; Ben Walters (keyboards), Dion Egtved (bass), Dexter Hercules (drums), Antti Snellman & Tom Waters (saxophones on 5 tracks), and singer Ismelda May.

The album was recorded live at the Tivoli Theater, Dorset, which is probably the way the music of Chuck Berry should be heard. Ronnie Wood is one the great living rock guitarists and the lack of a second .guitar on stage puts him front and center.

The album is a combination of Berry’s well-known hits, some of his lesser known blues songs, an original “Tribute To Chuck Berry,” and a cover of “Worried Man Blues,” which Berry used to play on stage.

It all adds up to primarily a Ronnie Wood guitar album, which uses the music of Chuck Berry as a starting point. The straight blues tunes, “Blue Feeling,” and “Worried Life Blues” present a different Wood. Here he is outside his rock and roll comfort zone and shows why he is a suburb musician, no matter what the style. Add in “Mad Lad,” which is a basic Ronnie Wood primer and you have the makings of an excellent guitar album.

While the better known songs, “Back In The USA,” “Little Queenie,” and “Johnny B Goode” feature competent vocals by Wood; it is his subtle guitar runs that drive the performances. When Ismelda May shares the lead vocals on “Wee Wee Hours,” the vocals are front and center.

Sometimes the best albums are created simply and this is especially true with live releases. Mad Lad: A Tribute To Chuck Berry” finds a re-invigorated Ronnie Wood doing what he does best.

Rating: ****