Live At The Fillmore Auditorium – San Francisco By Chuck Berry



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: ****



Road Dog Dharma By Reverend Freakchild



Road Dog Dharma

Reverend Freakchild

Reverend Freakchild 2019

Review by David Bowling


It’s time for the faithful to gather around as The Reverend Freakchild is back in the pulpit. Road Dog Dharma is his new album and it continues his approach of combining the blues with bits of country and psychedelic music. It all adds up to an idiosyncratic but ultimately interesting album.

Road Dog Dharma is Reverend Freakchild’s personal journey throughout the United States. Twelve of the 26 tracks are snippets of conversation and interviews, which are interspersed among the music tracks.

Musically, he covers a lot of territory but it all makes sense within the context of his theme. “Roadtrance” Live In Concert, the solo acoustic “Dial Me In,” “Hippie Bluesman Blues,” “Keep On Trucking,” and “The Fish Line” are all looks into his imagination and mind.

Even the cover material fit the theme well. Townes Van Zandt’s “White Freightliner Blues,” J.J. Cale’s “Call Me The Breeze,” and ZZ Top’s “Jesus Just Left Chicago” are all performed with a blues foundation, as they contribute to the overall experience of the album.

Reverend Freakchild has issued his most thoughtful and well-thought out album. Road Dog Dharma is an excellent introduction to his music and one of his best.

Rating: ***1/2

Ape Shifter II By Ape Shifter



Ape Shifter II

Ape Shifter

Brainstorm Records 2019

Review by David Bowling


Ape Shifter is a basic, no nonsense instrumental hard rock band. Led by guitarist Jeff Aug; he is backed by the solid rhythm section of drummer Kurty Munch and bassist Florian Walter.

Aug was born in Washington D.C. and raided in Maryland but has lived in the Alps of Southern Germany for the past 20 years. He has fused American music sensibilities with European rock. What has emerged is an intense brand of rock and roll.

An instrumental band always has the added challenge of making their music interesting without words. Ape Shifter overcomes this issue by placing the focus on Aug’s guitar. He attacks songs such as “Mask Of The Ancient Warrior,” “American Eagle,” “Matilda,” and “Jiggy Jiggy Boom Boom” with a fierceness and lack of restraint.

Ape Shifter is a band that needs to be played loud to be appreciated. The album is also available on vinyl if you are so inclined.

Rating: ***


Ear Worms By Duke Robillard



Ear Worms

The Duke Robillard Band

Stony Plain 2019

Review by David Bowling


Duke Robillard’s career has passed the 50 year mark and is still going strong. One of the founders of Roomful Of Blues and a member of The Fabulous Thunderbirds for a number of years; he has always maintained a solo career as well. He is a blues guitarist extraordinaire and his 30 plus solo albums have explored the blues idiom from a number of directions.

Ear Worms is his latest release and it is an appropriate title. Twelve of the 13 tracks are songs that have styed in his head, or his ears, for decades. Songs by Brenda Lee, The Neville Brothers, Link Wray, Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, and more, are re-imagined after staying with him for years. It adds up to a passionate, personal, and unique album by one of the great living blues guitarists.

Emblematic of his personal approach is his cover of the pop tune “Everyday I Have To Cry.” The Arthur Alexander tune is best remembered for versions by Steve Alaimo and Dusty Springfield but it is obscure British pop artist Julie Grant’s recording that he remembers. He found Grant and had her provide the vocal, while he gave the guitar sound a modern feel.

Link Wray’s “Rawhide” has been a favorite of guitarists for several generations. It is unadulterated rock and roll. Another reach back into rock and roll history is ‘Sweet Nothin'” by Brenda Lee. Sunny Crownover’s lead vocal gives it an authenticity and Robillard moves it in new directions with his guitar. “Yes We Can” is a cool psychedelic jam type piece.

The only original tune is also a reach back into his personal history. “Don’t Bother Trying To Steal He Love” was written during the 1980’s and has been re-recorded once. Now it reaches its final form as a rhythm & blues tune.

Ear Worms is a personal journey through Duke Robillard’s  musical roots, with some modernization along the way. One of his better and more interesting recent albums.

Rating: ****

Esoebo VI By Esoebo


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Esoebo VI


Knot Reel Records 2019

Review by David Bowling


Every once in awhile, its nice to try something a little bit different and the music of Esoebo (E-So-Bo) may fit the bill with their new album titled Esoebo VI.

Songwriter/acoustic guitarist/vocalist Chuck McDowell and cello player/harmony vocalist Gail Burnett formed Esoebo (Eclectic Selections of Everything but Opera) as a vehicle to bring McWilliams visions and some judicial covers to fruition.

Everything begins with McDowell’s songwriting ability. He is one of those artists who is able to layer his lyrics, giving the songs deeper meanings to be explored. He also provides the foundation with his vocals and acoustic guitar. Burnett fills in some of the blanks with her cello and backing vocals. Their backing band fills in around the edges.

The center of their style is rockfish folk and Americana. It is the added instrumentation that gives the music its different and creative nature. It is both simple and cerebral.

Esoebo is travelling a different musical journey. Their new album deserves to be explored, especially if you want something a little out of the ordinary.

Rating: ***

For Love & Money (CD) By Harpdog Brown


For Love & Money

Harpdog Brown

Dog Hose Records 2019

Review by David Bowling


Harpdog Brown is a Canadian bluesman whose heart may be north of the USA border but his musical soul has drifted south toward New Orleans and the Southern Delta.

Brown’s new album, For Love & Money, merges southern swing with some elements of Louie Armstrong’s New Orleans Jazz and blues. It has a more developed sound than many of his past releases as he adds a horn section and tones down the guitars in favor of his harmonica and vocals.

Consisting of several original tunes and a well-selected group of covers, Brown takes the listener on a journey through some modern day blues, while remaining in touch with traditions from the past. Original songs, “Reefer Lovin’ Woman” and “Stiff” plus covers Blue Light Boogie,” “Buzzard Luck,” and “The Comeback” are all blasts of blues delight.

Harpdog Brown is now four decades into his career. For Love & Money is a well thought out and structured album that provides some interesting twists and turns within a blues setting. A good buy for any fan of the blues.

Rating: ***1/2

Sweet Release (CD) By Reese Wynans And Friends


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Sweet Release

Reese Wynans And Friends

J&R Adventures

Review by David Bowling


If ever an album and artist deserves commercial success; it is Sweet Release by Reese Wynans. He is a rock and blues artist that you probably have heard but may not recognize his name.

Wynans is a member of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame due to his membership in Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Double Trouble. He has supported such stars as Buddy Guy, Martina McBride, Captain Beyond, John Mayall, Ana Popovic, and Jon Bonamassa among others. What he has not done in his 50 year old career is release a solo album, until now.

Sometimes it is the company you keep and for his new album Wynans draws on a number of artists from past associations. Jon Bonamassa produces and plays guitar and former Double Trouble bandmates Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton are on hand. Add in such luminaries as Sam Moore, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Warren Haynes, Vince Gill, Keb Mo, Doyle Bramhall II, Bonnie Bramlett, Jimmy Hall, and more, and you have the makings of one of the best rock/blues albums of the year so far.

The only song he co-wrote is a rocking blues track that is a tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughn. “Crossfire” features former Double Trouble band members Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon but it is the combination of Kenny Wayne Shepherds guitar, Wynans keyboards, and Sam Moore’s bluesy vocal that drives the track.

Three Stevie Ray penned songs are included. “Say What,” “Hard To Be,” and “Riviera Paradise” are a guitar connoisseur’s delight with Joe Bonamassa and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, exchanging licks.

“Shape I’m In” and the Beatles “Blackbird” demonstrate different sides of Wynans approach. The first is a barrelhouse rocker that traces its roots to the blues. “Blackbird” is just Wynans and his piano. It can best be described and an improvisational jazz piece. It is a simplistic approach that is very different from the other tracks but may be a style he may want to explore in the future.

Reese Wynans has had half-a-century to prepare for his debut album and it was time well spent. Sweet Release is an excellent album by a veteran bluesman who has a lot of friends.



Hell Bound For Heaven By Manx Marriner Mainline



Hell Bound For Heaven

Manx Marriner Mainline

Stony Plain 2019

Review by David Bowling


So who or what is a Manx Marriner Mainline?

Harry Manx and Steve Marriner are multi-instrumentals who have shared the stage together for a number of years. Manx is an expert slide guitarist and a practitioner of the Mohan Veena, which is a 20 string Indian instrument that he has incorporated into his blues style. He has 15 solo album to his credit. Marriner is a long-time member of the band MonkeyJunk. They have now combined their talents to release their debut album Hell Bound For Heaven.

They have produced primarily a roots album that incorporates strong elements of blues and gospel. Manx’s exploration of fusing Indian music and American blues are muted as they take a more traditional approach.

Their debut together consists of six original and four cover tunes. The title track, the only one to feature the Mohan Veena, has creative interplay with Marriner’s twelve-string guitar and is representative of the fusion of sounds and styles that combine to create their brand of roots music. “My Lord” is just Marriner on guitar, harmonica, and vocals, which proves that sometimes simple is best.

The covers run the gamete from Reverend Gary Davis’ “Death Have No Mercy In This Land” to the traditional “This Little Light Of Mine.” Right in the middle is Charlie Patton’s “Rattlesnake Blues” with Manx revving up his slide guitar for some straight-forward blues.

Harry Manx and Steve Marriner have combine their talents to release an album that explores many facets of what can be defined as roots music. Hell Bound For Heaven is an album that invites repeated exploration.

Rating: ***


Clean Up The Blood (CD) By The Atomic Road Kings


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Clean Up The Blood

Atomic Road Kings

Big Tone 2019

Review by David Bowling


There are probably thousands of bands all vying for a piece of the blues pie. Each is trying to find that magic ingredient that sets them apart and hopefully leads to commercial success. Enter the Atomic Road Kings and their new album Clean Up The Blood.

Jon Atkinson is a competent vocalist and excellent guitarist, especially when he is in slide guitar mode but it is harpist Eric Von Herzen that makes the difference. His melodic excursions create a deep, rich, and dark sound.

The harmonica and guitar sound play off of each other and form the foundation of the band’s music. They do not have a light touch but rather attack their songs with intensity and energy.

Atkinson and Von Herzen wrote 11 of the 12 tracks and songs such as “In Arms Reach,” “My Way Back Home,” “Back Down South,” and the title track are all prime examples of what modern day blues should be like.

Rating: ***


All We Have (CD) By Taylor Scott Band


All We Have

Taylor Scott Band

Mark Pucci Media 2019

Review by David Bowling


The Taylor Scott Band has returned with a new album titled All We Have. They are a basic modern day electric blues band with rock and roll overtures.

The band consists pf guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Taylor Scott, keyboardist Jon Wirtz, bassist Chris Harris, and drummer Lem Williams. They form a formidable unit who wisely do not try to re-invent the blues.

They music keys off Scott’s guitar. He is an adept technician who is able to create a clear sound. The band fills in the background. They may not be ground breaking but songs such as “Somebody Told Me,” “Carry Me Away,” “Wishing Well.” and “The Walk” are sure to please any aficionado of modern days blues.

The Taylor Scott Band’s music is basic and sometimes that is the best way to play the blues.

Rating: ***