Too Much Mustard By The Wentus Blues Band With Duke Robillard

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Too Much Mustard

Wentus Blues Band With Duke Robillard

Ramasound Records 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

Duke Robillard is one of the most prolific musicians working today. Whether it be producing, guesting on an album, or releasing his own material; he appears on a dozen or so albums each year.

The blues are alive and well in Finland and the Wentus Blues Band is one of its leading practitioners. The connection between them and Duke Robillard began in 1987 when they were Duke’s opening act. Now 30 years later they have joined together to create a new album titled Too Much Mustard.

The Wentus Blues Blues Band is a self-contained unit, who play a dynamic form of American electric blues. When you add a second lead guitarist of Robillard’s expertise, the sound is enhanced and the quality of the music ascends to the highest level.

The Wentus Blues Band, both instrumentally and vocally, play a very good American brand of the blues. They are also also and excellent match for Robillard’s sound and style.

The music is a mix of originals and covers. The covers are good and the originals are very good. Leonard Cohen’s “First We Take Manhattan,” Tom Waits “2:19,” Chuck Willis’ “Feels So Bad,” and Robert Johnson’s “Judgement Day” all have different origins but are transferred into an electric blues and rock mix. Each song may have a similar approach, so if you like one, you will like them all.

The original compositions have a little bit more individual personality. Songs such as “Passionate Kiss,” “Right In Your Arms,” “Miranda,” “She Made My Mind,” and “Selma” allow the band members to stretch a bit.

The Wentus Blues Band is able to connect on a personal label. They have a comfortable sound that is very listenable. Too Much Mustard is a solid album of blues and Duke Robillard’s participation as guest guitarist, producer, and whose painting forms the album cover, only makes it better.

Rating: ***1/2

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Beyond The Blue Door By Ronnie Earl And The Broadcasters

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Beyond The Blue Door

Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters

Stony Plain 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

Calling all blues enthusiasts; Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters have returned with a new album. Beyond The Blue Door is a blues tour de force in that it smolders on the slow blues tracks and scintillates on the faster paced material.

Ronnie Earl, former guitarist for Blues Traveler and now three decades into his solo career, is a four time Blues Music Award winner. The Broadcasters include keyboardist Dave Limina, drummer Forret Padgett, bassist Paul Kochanski, and vocalist Diane Blue.

There are three classic soul songs that vocalist Diane Blue gets just right. Add in Earl’s blue guitar runs on “Brand New Me,” “Why Can’t We Live Together,” and “Drowning In The Sea Of Love” and you have performances that present a soul and blues fusion at its best.

Many times simple is best. Bob Dylan’s “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” has been recorded dozens and maybe hundreds of times. Here it is just Ronnie Earl and guest David Bromberg. It is a raw and basic take on this old song that gives it a new perspective. Possibly the best moments on the album occur on “Alexis’ Song” courtesy of the duet between Earl’s guitar and Greg Piccolo’s tenor saxophone.

Earl, like most elite guitarists, has a sound that is very recognizable. This is very apparent on slower blues numbers “Baby How Long” and “Blues With A Feeling.” the clarity of his impeccable technique is clearly on display.

A new album by Ronnie Earl is always a cause for celebration. Beyond The Blue Door is one of his most soulful releases. It is modern day blues at its best.

Rating: ****

 

The Lost Tapes (CD) By Ian & Sylvia

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The Lost Tapes

Ian & Sylvia

Stony Plain 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

Ian (Tyson) & Sylvia (Fricker), both individually and as a duo, have been key artists in the Canadian music scene for over a half-century. They were also an integral part in the Greenwich Village folk revival scene of the early 1960’s. While they went their separate ways in 1975, they left behind a catalogue of folk music that has rarely been equaled in Canadian music history.

Their new album began with some spring cleaning by Sylvia, which unearthed a box of long misplaced concert tapes from the early 1970’s. These missing performances have now been released as a 2-CD set titled The Lost Tapes.

Ian & Sylvia’s new album will mostly appeal to fans of the duo or of the folk music scene of the 1960’s. While the audio is not up to modern standards; it does provide a nice glimpse into their music and concert style.

Disc one is the more traditional of the two. It consists of traditional songs and country classics including Ian Tyson’s most famous composition “Four Strong Winds.” Songs such as “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” “Crazy Arms,” “When First Unto This Country,” and “Nancy Whiskey” are all staples of the late sixties folk scene. Ian & Sylvia had a unique vocal style so it is interesting to hear their interpretations of these old tunes.

Disc two contains 13 previously unreleased performances. Many of the songs are not usually associated with the duo or folk music. It allows them to explore material beyond their norm and shows their willingness to take some chances in concert.

Today, Ian & Sylvia are sometimes an after thought in the folk revival movement but The Lost Tapes will hopefully bring their legacy some new attention.

Rating: ***1/2

As Good As It Gets (CD) By Polly O’Keary & The Rhythm Method

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As Live As It Gets

Polly O’Keary & The Rhythm Method

Polly O’Keary Music 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

The fist commandment of a blues musician should be, “Thou Shalt Issue A Live Album.” Studio releases are fine but they do not present a complete picture of a musicians style and talent. A live release, without any studio tinkering after-the-fact, is a personal statement.

Bassist/singer/songwriter Polly O’Keary and her band Rhythm Method; guitarist David Miller and drummer Tommy Cook, have now released their fifth album and first live release As Live As It Gets.

A concert setting finds the group relaxed as they re-interpret many of their previous released songs. The ability to adjust and improvise their material gives the material new textures and nuances. Original songs such as “Red Light,” “Hard Act To Follow,” “Gather Round Me Angels,” and “Sugar Daddy” take on new life.

Two cover tracks also shine. Eric Clapton’s “Old Love” allows guitarist David Miller to step forward and take the lead. Eric Bibb’s “In My Father’s House” is re-imagined by O’Keary.

The band is more raw and basic than in the studio, which is typical of many blues bands.

As Live As It Gets is an intimate introduction to a hard working band.

Rating: ***1/2

Hell To Pay By Billie Williams

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Hell To Pay

Billie Williams

Billie Williams Music 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

And God Said, “Let Her Sing The Blues,” and it was good.

Billie Williams has one of those voices that was made for the blues. It is powerful. emotional, and the perfect vehicle to tell he stories. She has just released a new album titled Hell To Pay.

She wrote 10 of the tracks and co-wrote the 11th and some have a little bite. “Ten Million Sisters” is a feminist ode, while the title track speaks of the divisions in our country.

She surrounds herself with a full bad, and a brass section but it all comes back to her voice.

Rating: ***1/2

Detroit Breakout By Mitch Ryder

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Detroit Breakout

Mitch Ryder

Cleopatra Records 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

Mitch Ryder is best known for his series of rock/blue-eyed soul hit singles during the mid to late 1960’s. Songs such as “Devil With The Blue Dress On,” “Sock It To Me Baby,” “Jenny Take A Ride,” and “Too Many Fish In The Sea” helped define AM radio rock of the era.

Ryder, with his band The Detroit Wheels and as a solo artist, has continued to record and tour for the last 50 years. His newest release is titled Detroit Breakout.

Each of the 14 tracks has a guest artist. Lee Oskar, Cherie Currie, Joe Lewis Walker, Brian Auger, Sylvain Sylvain, and Linda Gail Lewis are some of the artists who lend a hand. The problem is they are buried in the mix many times. The engineering problems continue as there is a disconnect between the vocals and the instrumental backing. It feels as if the vocals were recorded separately and pasted over the instrumental tracks and they don’t quite match.

The good news is Ryder’s voice is still formidable. It can be over the top or fairly sedate and subtle depending on the song.

The song choice is eclectic. The Standells “Dirty Water” fits his style but the Monkees “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” not so much. The Capital’s “Cool Jerk,” Jim Croce’s “Bad Bad Leroy Brown,” Roy Orbison’s “Dream Baby,” and a surprisingly excellent cover of the folk song “If I Had A Hammer” are hit and miss.

His covers of classic soul songs benefit from Ryder’s understated vocals. “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” with Arthur Adams on guitar, The Temptations “Just My Imagination” featuring Lee Oscar on harmonica, and Sam Cooke’s Classic “You Send Me” with Linda Gail Lewis present the soft and smooth side of his music.

Detroit Breakout has its good and not so good points, but at its foundation, his voice shines through. The material may not match his classics but when he is good, he is still very good.

Rating: ***

 

Visions CD By Alice Howe

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Visions

Alice Howe

CD Baby 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

Alice Howe has a wonderful bluesy voice that is best appreciated when it separates from the instrumental backing and stands on its own.

Her new release, Visions, combines original compositions and some choice covers into an intimate album of music.

Her crystal clear interpretation of Sam Cooke’s Classic, “Bring It On Home To Me,” is a laid-back classic. Her voice envelops the instruments on the old blues song “Honey Bee.”  A simple acoustic version of the Bob Dylan tune “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right” proves that, for her at least, simple is best.

Her songs range from the warm and personal “Twilight” to the horn laden, big band sound of “Getaway Car.”

Alice Howe has created a light blues albums that fuses together a number of style. Visions is a pleasing group of songs that should provide a satisfying listening experience.

Rating: ***1/2

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: ***

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 ***