Longtime singer-songwriter and guitarist delivers rich collection of blues, soul, funk and jazz
It only took listening to the first few bars of Weight of the World, the title track of Joe Louis Walker’s new album, to get a feeling I would love the music. It turns out my gut was right. Weight of the World, released on February 12, is a warm-sounding and rich collection of original songs, including soul, funk, blues and jazz.
If you happened to catch my latest Best of What’s Newinstallment from Saturday, you may recall I highlighted one of the album’s tracks, Is It a Matter of Time? As I noted in the post, while I had featured Walker once before in June 2020, I hadn’t explored him any further then. Well, I’m glad I paid more attention this time!
Before getting to the album, I’d like to provide some background on Walker who picked up the guitar as a child and already started performing during his young teenage years in the mid-’60s. It appears for the first two decades as a professional musician, Walker was a sideman before launching a recording career in the mid-’80s.
From his current web bio: Walker has recorded with Ike Turner, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, and Steve Cropper, opened for Muddy Waters and Thelonious Monk, hung out with Jimi Hendrix, Freddie King, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and was a close friend and roommate of Mike Bloomfield.
Walker’s 1986 debut album Cold Is the Night on HighTone announced his arrival in stunning fashion, and his subsequent output for Verve, Alligator, HighTone, and others only served to further establish Walker as one of today’s leading bluesmen. The New York Times raved, “Walker is a singer with a Cadillac of a voice. His guitar solos are fast, wiry, and incisive, moaning with bluesy despair.” Rolling Stone calls him “ferocious.”
Walker, who is in the Blues Hall of Fame and has won various blues awards, is primarily known as an electric blues guitarist. But his latest album demonstrates his influences extend beyond the blues. Time to take a closer look!
I’d like to kick things off with the great aforementioned title track The Weight of the World. The beautiful soul tune was penned by album producer Eric Corne who shared writing duties with Walker and provided guitar and backing vocals. Corne is a Canada-born and Los Angeles-based producer, engineer and singer-songwriter. His bio reveals impressive recording credits, including John Mayall, Glen Campbell, Kim Deal (The Pixies), Lucinda Williams and Walter Trout, among others.
I’m skipping the previously noted Is It a Matter of Time? and go right to Hello, It’s the Blues. The soulful ballad was written by Walker. Beautiful!
Don’t Walk Out That Door is another standout on the album and may in fact be my early favorite. This gem, which was co-written by Walker and Gabriel Jagger, sounds like sweet “old-fashioned” soul you could picture having come out of Stax – so good!
Next things turn funky on Count Your Chickens. This is another track written by Corne -groovy stuff!
How ’bout some kickass rock & roll? Look no further than Blue Mirror, penned by Walker. Yeah, baby, it’s only rock & roll but I like it. Check out the neat guitar and honky tonk piano action!
Let’s do one more. Did I mention jazz? Here’s the album’s fun closer You Got Me Whipped, another track written by Walker.
Weight of the World, which appears on Forty Below Records, was recorded “just outside of Woodstock, NY.” This review wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the fine musicians who backed Walker. In addition to Corne, they include Scott Milici (keyboards), Marc Pender (trumpet), David Ralicke (saxophone), Eric Gorfain (violins), Gia Ciambotti (backing vocals), Geoff Murfitt (bass), Eddie Jackson (bongos) and John Medeiros Jr. (drums).
Here’s a Spotify link to the album:
Walker is supporting the album with a tour that is kicking off this Friday (February 24) in Beacon, N.Y. After a few additional dates in Woonsocket, R.I.; Northhampton, Mass. and Boston, Mass., he’s going to Europe, including France, Switzerland and Norway. The current schedule is here. I would love to see him, but unfortunately, none of the current dates work for me. I’m hoping for a second U.S. leg later this year or catch him some other time!
Sources: Wikipedia; Joe Louis Walker website; YouTube; Spotify
Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time
I hope everybody is spending a nice weekend and would like to welcome you to another Sunday Six. While I love blogging about music, this weekly recurring feature has been my favorite since its inaugural post in January 2021. Unlike most other more thematic posts, I feel The Sunday Six allows me to write about any type of music I dig within the same post. As tempting as it may look to broaden the series to other days of the week, I think it would lose its appeal to me, not to mention many if not most readers. With that said, let’s jump in the time machine and embark on another fun trip!
Charles Mingus/Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
Our first stop today takes us back to October 1959 and Mingus Ah Um, a studio album by Charles Mingus. Over a 30-year career, the double bassist, pianist, composer and bandleader played with many other jazz greats like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and released about 50 albums as a bandleader. Initially, Mingus started on the trombone and later studied the cello before picking up the double bass. As a teenager, he felt excluded from the classical music world since he couldn’t join a youth orchestra because of his inability to read musical notation quickly enough due to a poor education. These experiences, along with lifelong racism Mingus encountered influenced his music that oftentimes focused on themes like racial discrimination and injustice. By the mid-70s, sadly, Mingus had developed ALS. Eventually, this heinous disease made it impossible for him to play bass. Mingus continued to compose music until his untimely death in January 1979 at the age of 56. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat is a Mingus composition that first appeared on his above-mentioned 1959 album. Apart from Mingus (double bass), the track featured John Handy (alto saxophone), Booker Ervin (tenor saxophone), Horace Parlan (piano) and Dannie Richmond (drums) – so beautiful and relaxing!
Teresa James/Ticket to Ride
From the past, we shall jump to the present: January 20, 2023. That’s when Teresa James released her latest album With a Little Help from Her Friends, a collection of Beatles covers with a twist. In case you’ve never heard of James before, neither had I. According to her website, the vocalist and keyboarder is a Los Angeles-based contemporary blues artist who has released albums with her band The Rhythm Tramps since 1998. She has also recorded with the likes of Walter Trout, Eric Burdon, Spencer Davis, Tommy Castro and Randy Newman, and been a featured act on Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruises for more than twenty years. This brings me back to With a Little Help from Her Friends, which features fun bluesy renditions of Beatles tunes. Let’s check out Ticket to Ride. Primarily written by John Lennon and, as usual, credited to him and Paul McCartney, the original first appeared as a single in April 1965. It was also included on the studio album Help! released in August of the same year. I like that bluesy take!
Bob Dylan/Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
For this next tune, we travel to January 1975 and Bob Dylan’s 15th studio album Blood On the Tracks. Initially received by critics with mixed reviews, it has subsequently been acclaimed as one of the maestro’s greatest – haven’t we seen that movie before? Anyway, I was reminded of Mr. Zimmerman’s gem the other day when my streaming music provider served up Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts. It immediately occurred to me the epic story ballad would make a great pick for a Sunday Six. Wikipedia notes the tune was one of five songs on the album, which Dylan initially recorded in New York City in September 1974 and then re-recorded in Minneapolis in December of the same year. It’s the latter version that became the album track. Dylan (vocals, guitar and harmonica) was backed by Gregg Inhofer (Hammond), Billy Peterson (bass) and Bill Berg (drums). Man, I love this tune, including Dylan’s vocals, the cinematic lyrics and the sound, especially the Hammond organ!
Otis Redding/I’ve Been Loving You For Too Long
Time for some sweet soul music. And when it comes to that genre, I always enjoy going back to the heyday of Stax. I’ve Been Loving You For Too Long is a gem co-written by Otis Redding and Jerry Butler. It was included on Redding’s third studio album Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul, released in September 1965. Sadly, it would mark more than the half point of the five-year recording career of the man nicknamed the “King of Soul”. By the time Redding died in a plane crash in December 1967, he had become Stax’s biggest star and just recorded what became his biggest hit, (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay. He was only 26 years old. Like his two previous albums, Redding recorded Otis Blue with Stax house band Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Isaac Hayes on piano, and a horn section consisting of members of the Mar-Keys and the Memphis Horns. What a killer backing band, and what a voice and soulful performance!
Matchbox Twenty/3 AM
Some of you may be surprised to see me feature a tune by post-grunge pop rock band Matchbox Twenty. I didn’t see that one coming myself until I recently came across 3 AM and remembered I’ve always liked this tune. It was included on their debut album Yourself or Someone Like You, which came out in October 1996. Co-written by the group’s lead vocalist and bassist Rob Thomas and Brian Yale, respectively, together with John Leslie Goff and John Joseph Stanley, 3 AM also became the album’s third single in November 1997 – and their first no. 1 in the U.S. on Billboard’sAdult Pop Play and the Adult Alternative Airplay charts. It also topped the Canadian singles chart. Elsewhere, it performed more moderately, reaching no. 31 and 64 in Australia and the UK, respectively. While I hadn’t heard the name Matchbox Twenty in many years, they are still together, evidently as a touring act, with Thomas, Yale and two other co-founding members comprising the current line-up.
Bryan Adams/Summer Of ’69
And we’re off to our final stop on this trip. If some readers perhaps were less surprised about Matchbox Twenty than I thought, it’s safe to assume my final pick will lead some to roll their eyes. I’ve said it before and fully stand behind these words, I do like a good number of songs by Bryan Adams, especially from his first five albums the Canadian artist released between 1980 and 1987. This includes Summer Of ’69, one of multiple charting singles off his fourth and most successful album Reckless from November 1984. For fair balance, I will add I’m not a fan of his big hit ballads (Everything I Do) I Do It for You, Please Forgive Me (-I will but the song is an atrocity) and Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman? At the same time, I recognize big hits help artists sustain themselves. If I see this correctly, Bryan Adams hasn’t had any comparable hits since 1995, yet he continues to march on nearly 30 years later.
This post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist of all the above tunes. Even if Bryan Adams and Matchbox Twenty aren’t your cup of tea, I still hope there’s something you dig!
Sources: Wikipedia; Teresa James website; YouTube; Spotify
Great authentic blues is about the deepest lows and the highest highs life can throw at you. That’s exactly what Walter Trout delivers on his new album Ride, released on August 19 – and boy, what a great ride it is! I’ve really come to dig this man since he entered my radar screen about three and a half years ago, especially after seeing him at Iridium in New York City in April 2019.
Having encountered many demons, the now 71-year-old blues rock veteran has plenty of fodder to write about. From a childhood with an abusive father to alcohol and drug dependence to a near-death experience when his liver was failing and he needed a liver transplant to a gruesome ensuing recovery, Trout has seen it all over a 50-year-plus career.
Outside of blues rock circles, Trout may not be exactly a household name like Stevie Ray Vaughan used to be back in the ‘80s. But this doesn’t make him any less compelling. Plus, sadly, SVR, perhaps the best modern blues guitarist I can think of, has been gone for more than 30 years. Trout managed to turn his life around and is still standing. He has been sober since 1987. Aptly, he called his 2019 blues covers album Survivor Blues. I reviewed it here at the time.
Ride is Trout’s 30th studio album. It’s safe to assume you won’t find many other artists who reach that milestone, especially not from Trout’s generation. But what really amazes me is how much fire in the belly he continues to have. And how much Trout still has to say. Outside his music, this includes his passionate advocacy for organ donations. He likes to remind people that had it not been for a donated liver he received in May 2014, he wouldn’t be alive today.
Let’s take a closer look at some music. Here’s the opener Ghosts, which also became the album’s lead single on April 15. “It starts off with the lyric, ‘Sometimes I hear a familiar song and it brings back memories’ – that’s the truth,” Trout said in a statement, as reported by Guitar World. “I’ll be riding in my car, a song comes on the radio and I have to pull over and sob for a while. Ghosts sums this album up, y’know?”
On the title track, Trout takes a break from blues rock and embraces more of a southern rock sound. In fact, I have to agree with a review in Rock & Blues Muse, which notes the song’s Allman Brothers vibe. After reading this, I can totally picture the type of twin lead guitar fill-ins the Allmans excelled at. Also, I suspect the theme of just wanting to jump on a train appeals to many folks who like to get away from any troublesome situations. Check out this beauty!
Another highlight is Waiting For the Dawn, the second single that appeared ahead of the album on August 12. “There were times in this pandemic where I have sunk into some pretty deep depressions, sitting around, wondering whether life has a point,” Trout recalled, as noted in this piece by Rock N’ Load. Somewhere else (sadly, I’m blanking on the source) I read this slow blues is reminiscent of Gary Moore – good observation!
Perhaps Trout’s most personal song on the album is Hey Mama. Rock & Blues Museobserves it’s “an interior debate about why his mother didn’t do more to protect him from the horrific abuse inflicted upon him by his war-broken stepfather.” Here’s an excerpt from the lyrics: Hey mama, can you hear me?/I’m frightened and I’m blue/mama, can you help me?/You know I’m still counting on you…This is powerful stuff I would compare with John Lennon’sMother.
The last tune I’d like to call out is the closer Destiny, a beautiful love ballad that stands in marked contrast to the other tracks on the album and their pretty bleak lyrics. An excerpt: On the night I met you/I saw a connection in your eyes/And I felt like you’d been sent to me/And then I realized that I felt in my heart I’ve known you long before/And it wouldn’t be lonely anymore/It was meant to be, you and me, destiny… Also, check out that great soothing guitar sound!
Trout who now lives in Denmark recorded the album back in Los Angeles with his current regular band: Teddy “Zig Zag” Andrealis (keyboards), Jamie Hunting (bass) and Michael Leasure (drums). “No star cameos,” he toldRock & Blues Muse. “Strictly me and my band. The only guest was my tour manager, Anthony Grisham, who plays rhythm guitar on “Leave It All Behind.”
Appearing on Provogue/Mascot, Ride was produced by L.A.-based Canadian, producer, engineer and singer/songwriter Eric Corne. Additional recording credits noted in his online bio include John Mayall, Glen Campbell, Lucinda Williams, Joe Bonamassa, Jeff Healy, Michelle Shocked and Nancy Wilson (Heart), among others.
Here’s a Spotify link to Ride, an album I can highly recommend:
Walter Trout is currently on the road in Europe and will play 15 dates in the U.S. in September before playing Europe again in October and November. He’s closing out the year with a few dates in California. The full schedule is here. If you’re into blues rock, catch him while you can – no pun intended!
Sources: Wikipedia; Guitar World; Rock & Blues Muse; Rock N’ Load; Walter Trout website; YouTube; Spotify
A selection of newly released music that caught my attention
Happy Saturday and welcome to another installment of Best of What’s New, my weekly look at newly-released music. Unless noted otherwise, all tracks are on albums that were released yesterday (April 22)
Bonnie Raitt/Livin’ For the Ones
I’m absolutely thrilled to start this post with new music by one of my long-time favorite artists, Bonnie Raitt, who I guess doesn’t need much of an introduction. Raitt grew up in Los Angeles in a musical family and got into the guitar as an eight-year-old, after receiving a Stella as a Christmas present. She taught herself by listening to blues records. In the late ’60s, Raitt moved to Cambridge, Mass. and started studying Social Relations and African Studies at Harvard/Radcliffe. Three years after entering college, she decided to drop out to pursue music full-time. Her eponymous debut album appeared in 1971. Fast-forward nearly 51 years to Just Like That…, Raitt’s 21st studio release and her first in more than six years since Dig In Deep from February 2016. Here’s Livin’ For the Ones, a tune for which she wrote the lyrics, with music from longtime guitarist George Marinelli. A statement on Raitt’s website notes the song is a rocking dedication to the friends and family she has lost in recent years. It’s got a cool Stonesy sound – love it!
Fontaines D.C./Roman Holiday
Irish post-punk band Fontaines D.C. have been around since 2017. They were formed by Grian Chatten (vocals), Carlos O’Connell (guitar), Conor Curley (guitar), Conor Deegan III (bass) and Tom Coll (drums), who met while attending music college at British and Irish Modern Music (BIMM) Institute in Dublin. After a series of singles released in 2018, the group’s debut album Drogel appeared in April 2019. This brings me to Skinty Fia, their third and latest album. Here’s Roman Holiday, credited to all members of the band. While the video clip isn’t particularly memorable, the song is pretty cool. Check it out!
Old Crow Medicine Show/Honey Chile
Old Crow Medicine Show are a Nashville-based Americana string band formed in 1998. According to their Apple Musicprofile, they have influenced a generation of 21st-century roots musicians with their infectious mix of hollers, jug band favorites, and pre-rock ’n’ roll blues. The group caught their big break when bluegrass giant Doc Watson watched them busking in Boone, North Carolina, and invited them to participate in his MerleFest roots-music festival in 2000. Relocating from North Carolina to Nashville, they made their Grand Ole Opry debut in 2001, and they were inducted into the esteemed country music institution 12 years later. From 2004 to 2019, seven of their eight albums hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Bluegrass chart—the only LP that missed the top spot, 2014’s Remedy, won the Best Folk Album Grammy Award. Heavily influenced by Bob Dylan, they’ve cowritten two songs with the legendary singer-songwriter, including their joyous, Platinum-certified 2004 hit, “Wagon Wheel.” Here’s Honey Chile, a great-sounding track from Old Crow Medicine Show’s new album Paint This Town. The song was co-written by Ketch Secor and Joe Andrews, a current and a former member of the group, respectively.
The Million Reasons/If Not For The Fire
Next up is new music by Chicago rock band The Million Reasons. I must give a shout-out to Jeff from Eclectic Music Lover who earlier this week reviewedHaven, the group’s first full-length album released on April 15, which brought these guys on my radar screen. Founded in 2016 as a trio, the band has since grown to a five-piece. Their debut EP The Roundaround appeared in February 2017. A second EP, If Not For the Fire, came out in February 2020. The Million Reasons have also released various singles. Their current line-up, which has been in place since 2019, features Taylor Brennan (lead vocals), Ken Ugel (guitar), Mike Nichols (guitar), Jason Cillo (bass) and Colin Dill (drums). For more background on the band, check Jeff’s excellent above review. Here’s If Not For The Fire. Like all other tracks on the album, it’s credited to the entire band. This really rocks – also strong lead vocalist!
Closing out this week’s new music revue is the latest single by blues-rock veteran Walter Trout, an artist I’ve come to dig over the past few years! During a nearly 53-year recording career, Trout who in March turned 71 has survived many ups and downs. This includes overcoming drug and alcohol addiction in the ’80s, surviving liver failure and recovering from a liver transplant in 1994, and dealing with dishonest management people. Trout really has seen it all! Quite appropriately, he decided to title his 2019 blues covers album Survivor Blues. I reviewed it here and subsequently saw him at the Iridium in New York. I can highly recommend him – a great guitarist and an authentic no BS-type artist. After releasing Ordinary Madness in August 2020 (reviewed here), Trout recently announced his 30th solo album Ride, which is slated for August 30th. The opener Ghosts came out as the first single on April 14. This sounds great, and I’m really looking forward to the new album!
Last but not least, here’s a Spotify list featuring the above tracks and some additional tunes.
Sources: Wikipedia; Bonnie Raitt website; Apple Music; Eclectic Music Lover; Walter Trout Facebook page; YouTube; Spotify
Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time
It’s Sunday morning, at least in my neck of the woods in lovely central New Jersey where you can always run into a confused deer and spot the occasional fox. Or watch the squirrels chasing after one another. And did I mention Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny and that other guy many of you aren’t fond of (though 100 million fans can’t be wrong!) are Jersey boys, as is Walter Trout (at least originally)? Okay, this is starting to sound like a silly ad for the Garden State, so let’s move on to the business of the day: Six tunes of music of the past and the present.
Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio/Don’t Worry ‘Bout What I Do
Speaking of the present, let’s start today’s musical journey with some groovy organ jazz by Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, an act I’ve previously featured. Founded in 2015, the trio includes self-taught Hammond B-3 organist Delvon Lamarr, guitarist Jimmy James and drummer Dan Weiss. From their website: Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio—or as it is sometimes referred to, DLO3—specialize in the lost art of “feel good music.” The ingredients of this intoxicating cocktail include a big helping of the 1960s organ jazz stylings of Jimmy Smith and Baby Face Willette; a pinch of the snappy soul strut of Booker T. & The M.G.’s and The Meters; and sprinkles Motown, Stax Records, blues, and cosmic Jimi Hendrix-style guitar. It’s a soul-jazz concoction that goes straight to your heart and head makes your body break out in a sweat – in other words, it’s some pretty cool shit! Don’t Worry ‘Bout What I Do is an upfront single that was released on January 6, 2022, from DLO3’s upcoming fourth studio album Cold As Weiss scheduled for February 11 – my kind of music!
The Fabulous Thunderbirds/Wrap It Up
Let’s keep groovin’ and movin’ and slightly pick up the speed. This next tune takes us back to 1986 and a tasty tune by The Fabulous Thunderbirds: Wrap It Up.Isaac Hayes and David Porter wrote that song for Stax soul duo Sam & Dave who included it on their fourth studio record I Thank You from 1968. The Thunderbirds did a beautiful job with it, recording it for Tuff Enuff, their fifth studio album that appeared in January 1986. If I see this correctly, it became one of the Texas blues rock-oriented band’s most successful singles, reaching no. 50 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100. The Fabulous Thunderbirds, who were founded in 1974, remain active. Their current line-up includes original member Kim Wilson (vocals, harmonica), along with Johnny Moeller (guitar), Kevin Anker (keyboards), Steve Gomes (bass) and Nico Leophonte (drums).
Time for a dose of ’60s psychedelic rock. Frankly, I don’t recall how The Merry-Go-Round ended up on my list of earmarked tunes for a Sunday Six installment. I can confirm I wasn’t flying eight miles high on some controlled substance! I suspect it must have been a listening suggestion by my streaming music provider. Anyway, The Merry-Go-Round were a short-lived American band from Los Angeles formed in the summer of 1966 by singer-songwriter Emitt Rhodes, along with his friends Gary Kato (lead guitar), Bill Rinehart (bass) and Joel Larson (drums). Inspired by contemporaries like The Beatles, The Byrds and The Left Banke, The Merry-Go-Round only released one eponymous album in November 1967. It barely made the Billboard 200, reaching no. 190. After various subsequent non-charting singles and an attempt to record a sophomore record, the group disbanded in 1969. Here’s Live, their first and most successful single from 1967, which peaked at no. 63 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song also was the opener of the album. Nice tune!
Probably, this has happened to you as well. Suddenly out of nowhere, you recall a great tune you hadn’t heard in years. That’s exactly what prompted this next pick by Fastball and their January 1998 hit The Way. It probably saved the American alternative rock band’s career after their first single and debut album had gone nowhere. Fueled by The Way and a second tune, Out of My Head, Fastball’s sophomore album All the Pain Money Can Buy went Plantium within six months of its March 1998 release. It also yielded two Grammy and one MTV award nomination. Written by group member Tony Scalzo (vocals, bass, keyboards, guitar), The Way was inspired by a story he had read about an elderly Texas couple who had gone missing and eventually were found dead in their car hundreds of miles away from their original destination. The song’s great cinematic story-telling would make a good episode for The Twilight Zone. Fastball are still around in their original line-up, which in addition to Scalzi includes Miles Zuniga (vocals, guitar) and Joey Shuffield (drums, percussion). Sadly, as is all too common in the tough music business, the band never managed to come anywhere close to replicating the success of their second album. And, based on sampling songs from some of their other records, it wasn’t because of lack of decent music!
Johnny Cash/Give My Love to Rose
Initially, I had planned to feature Johnny Cash’s incredible rendition of John Lennon’sIn My Life, one of my all-time favorite Beatles songs from their second 1965 album Rubber Soul. Then I started listening from the beginning of American IV: The Man Comes Around, Cash’s studio record from November 2002, the last released during his lifetime. It was also the fourth in his “American” series, which were produced by Rick Rubin and marked a late-stage career resurgence for “The Man in Black.” When I got to Give My Love to Rose, I simply couldn’t resist picking this powerful tune over In My Life, as much as I love the latter. Written by Cash, the song has incredible story-telling, and it’s a tearjerker. Originally, he had composed and recorded the tune with the Tennessee Two at Sun Records in 1957. It first appeared that same year as the B-side of the single Home of the Blues. Cash’s sparse and vulnerable rendition on American IV won him a Grammy in 2003, just days before his 71st birthday. Cash passed away in September of the same year.
Led Zeppelin/Custard Pie
After this powerful tearjerker, I’d like to finish this post on a kickass ’70s rock note. On we go to Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin’s sixth double-LP studio release from February 1975. It combined eight new songs and some previously unreleased tracks the group had recorded during the sessions for the Led Zeppelin III, Led Zeppelin IV and Houses of the Holy albums. Here’s the opener Custard Pie, one of the new tunes, credited to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Songfactsnotes the song is based on various American blues recordings, including Blind Boy Fuller’s 1939 “I Want Some Of Your Pie” and Brown McGhee’s 1947 “Custard Pie Blues.“ An influence on this song is “Drop Down Mama,” a 1935 blues song by Sleepy John Estes with Hammie Nixon…[It also] includes a snippet from “Shake ’em On Down” by the blues musician Bukka White. In typical Zep fashion, you wouldn’t know any of this from looking at the credits, and I’m making this remark as a huge Led Zeppelin fan. I just wish they would have given credit to the artists whose work they apparently borrowed. It wouldn’t have diminished this great rocker by one iota, at least not in my eyes. The cool clavinet was played by John Paul Jones, while Plant provided some neat harmonica action. As usual, John Bonham’s drumming is outstanding. Dynamite tune all around!
Not to forget, here’s a Spotify playlist of the above picks:
Sources: Wikipedia; Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio website; Songfacts; YouTube; Spotify
They don’t call John Mayall “The Godfather of British Blues” for nothing. If you’ve paid attention to the blues legend, which I admittedly haven’t as much as I probably should have as somebody who digs the blues, you realize the now-88-year-old has been on an incredible late-stage career roll. Between 2014 and 2019, Mayall has released four albums and just came out with yet another one. Of course, at the end of the day, it’s not only about quantity but more importantly, it’s about quality. In my book, Mayall sure as heck continues to deliver on both!
The Sun is Shining Down, which appeared last Friday, January 28 via Forty Below Records, is Mayall’s close-to-70th record overall, including his releases with The Bluesbreakers. Even if you leave out the live and compilation records, you still easily get to 50-plus albums, which have come out over a 57-year recording period. The picture below taken from Mayall’s website captures his remarkable catalog.
Sure, The Sun is Shining Down, is blues and there are only so many ways you can play the blues. While as such it’s fair to say Mayall doesn’t reinvent the genre, he still has a couple of surprises up his sleeve, which I will get to when taking a closer look at some of the album’s tracks. Mentioning the guest artists may give you a hint or two: Mike Campbell (formerly with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), Marcus King, Buddy Miller, Scarlet Rivera, Melvin Taylor and Jake Shimabukuro.
Mayall (vocals, keyboards, harp) is also backed up by his longtime Chicago rhythm section of Greg Rzab (bass) and Jay Davenport (drums), along with Austin-based guitarist Carolyn Wonderland who has been part of Mayall’s band since April 2018. And let’s not forget about the neat horn section featuring Mark Pender (trumpet), Richard Rosenberg (trombone) and Ron Dziubla (saxophone). I’d say ’nuff with background and let’s get to some music, and it’s going to be great!
Here’s the album’s first track, Hungry and Ready, one of six tunes written by Mayall. The remaining four songs are covers. Mayall couldn’t have picked a better opener, which features Chicago blues guitarist Melvin Taylor. The title says it all. Mayall and his backing band clearly were ready to play some sizzling blues, and it all sounds incredibly fresh. The vibe of the tune is somewhere between Muddy Waters’Mannish Boy and the soulful Sweet Home Chicago, Blues Brothers-style. If you dig the blues, how can you not love this!
Since I previously wrote about the excellent Can’t Take It No More featuring rising roots and blues rocker Marcus King on guitar, I’m skipping it here and go right to I’m As Good As Gone, one of the aforementioned covers. Written by Bobby Rush, the tune was first recorded for his 2011 studio album Show You a Good Time. Mayall’s rendition features Americana artist and guitarist Buddy Miller. Nice!
Next, let’s get to something you don’t frequently hear when it comes to the blues – a tune featuring a violinist playing fill-ins commonly provided by a guitar. And we’re not talking any violinist here, we’re talking Scarlet Rivera, of Bob Dylan’s legendary Rolling Thunder Revue 1975-1976 concert tour. Among others, she played that great violin part on Dylan’s Hurricane. Here’s Got to Find a Better Way, another Mayall composition. The title surely doesn’t refer to the music- check out how cool a violin can sound playing the blues!
Another highlight on the album is Chills and Thrills, a tasty funky tune written by Bernard Ellison as the title track for his 2008 album. You can check out the original here. Now let’s listen to Mayall’s rendition. I think he wisely chose to stay close to the original – why mess with something that’s perfect! This cover features the talented Mike Campbell on guitar. This is some groovy shit with a great guitar solo!
I guess by now you’ve noticed I love this album and could go on and on. The last track I’d like to call out presents another surprise. How ’bout a blues solo played on an electric ukulele? Enter Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso, Jake Shimabukuro. The song is One Special Lady, another tune penned by Mayall. The ukelele solo action starts at around 2:14 minutes. The tune also showcases Mayall’s fine skills on keyboards. Amid all the first-rate artists he has played with throughout his career and, frankly, helped nurture, Mayall oftentimes doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a musician. My only criticism here is Shimabukuro should have been given a bit more room. That ukelele blues action is super cool!
Here’s the entire album pulled from Spotify.
The Sun is Shining Down was recorded in Los Angeles, where Mayall has lived since the late ’60s, at Robby Krieger’sHorse Latitudes studio. And, yep, that’s the Robby Krieger who used to be with The Doors. The album was produced by Eric Corne, founder and president of Forty Below Records. According to his website, apart from Mayall, Corne’s impressive credits include Walter Trout, Joe Walsh, Edgar Winter, Glen Campbell, Lucinda Williams, Nancy Wilson (of Heart) and Krieger, among others.
“I couldn’t be happier with the new record,” said Mayall in a statement. “I can’t wait to share it with my fans. Each one of these special guests brings something unique to the album and our team works so well together. I think you can hear that chemistry in the music.” I couldn’t agree more!
Unfortunately but quite understandably, Mayall separately announced he will substantially scale back his touring schedule, citing the pandemic and his age. Fans will still be able to see him at local shows “and the occasional concert further afield.” Southern California is a bit far for me, but if Mayall will ever return to the New Jersey-New York-Connecticut tristate area or Philadelphia, I’d seriously consider seeing him – unfortunately, I never have. Heck, I might even return to Boston where I saw Neil Young solo in July 2018!
Sources: Wikipedia; John Mayall website; Eric Cone website; Discogs; YouTube; Spotify
For people who have frequently visited this blog or know me otherwise, this won’t come as a big surprise: I love the blues and blues rock. I also feel it’s a type of music that’s perfect to be experienced live. This is the second part of a two-part post celebrating great live performances of blues and blues rock gems. In case you missed part I, you can check it out here. Now, come on, let’s have some more fun!
Buddy Guy/Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues
Having mentioned Buddy Guy more than once in part I, it’s about damn time that I feature the man. Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues, written by Guy, is the title track of his seventh studio album from July 1991. The video footage documents his performance of the tune in September 2018 at the Americana 17th Annual Honors, held at the storied Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. Guy was 82 at the time – an unbelievable force of nature! I saw him in April that year in New York City at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, where he was on fire was well. Sadly, his gig marked one of the last shows at that venue before they closed it down!
This post wouldn’t be complete without this killer performance by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Voodoo Child (Slight Return), written by Hendrix, first appeared on the band’s third and final studio album Electric Ladyland that came out in October 1968. The clip is from a documentary titled Music, Money, Madness … Jimi Hendrix in Maui, which chronicles the Experience’s visit to the Hawaiian island in July 1970 including their two performances there. The film and a companion album were released in November 2020.
Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble/Pride and Joy
Don’t get me started on Stevie Ray Vaughan. In my book, he was the most talented non-black electric blues guitarist I can think of. Buddy Guy during the previously noted documentary said Vaughan was to the blues what Michael Jordan was to basketball – great observation! Pride and Joy, written by the guitar virtuoso, was included on his debut studio album Texas Flood released in June 1983. The clip captures a performance of Vaughan and his backing band at Montreux Jazz Festival in 1982 – not exactly a match in heaven, since the audience clearly was less than enthusiastic about the band’s performance – I guess it was simply too much for their jazz ears! The band took it with pride, perhaps less with joy, though they still put on a killer performance!
Walter Trout/Bullfrog Blues
Walter Trout perhaps is the ultimate blues survivor. At about 2:30 minutes into his 2019 rendition of Bullfrog Blues at a jazz festival in Bavaria, Germany, Trout hints at what I mean, saying, “My life was saved by an organ donor. So sign up, be an organ donor and do something good for humanity.” In 2013, Trout’s past use of drugs and alcohol had caught up with him, and he found himself with end-stage liver disease, requiring a transplant to live or die. Luckily, a donor liver was found in time, and after a lengthy recovery during which Trout needed to relearn how to speak, walk and play the guitar, he was able to resume his career. Bullfrog Blues, a traditional, became the B-side of Canned Heat’s debut single Rollin’ and Tumblin’ from 1967. At the time, Trout was a 16-year-old growing up in New Jersey. Little did he know that he would join the band’s version that existed in 1981 and become their lead guitarist until 1985.
Ana Popović/Ana’s Shuffle
Time to feature another contemporary female blues rock artist: Ana Popović who was born in Serbia and has lived in the U.S. since 2016. It was her father Milton Popović, who introduced her to the blues, and she started playing guitar in Serbia at the age of 15. Four years later in 1995, she founded R&B band Hush there. The group disband in 1998 when Popović went to The Netherlands to study jazz guitar. The following year, she launched the Ana Popović Band in the Netherlands. In 2001, her solo debut Hush! appeared. Here’s a great live version of Ana’s Shuffle, an instrumental Popović first recorded for her sixth studio album Can You Stand the Heat from March 2013. It was co-written by her and co-producer Tony Coleman who was B.B. King’s drummer for 25 years. The following clip is from a March 2017 performance at a blues festival in Bethlehem, Pa.
Tedeschi Trucks Band/Midnight in Harlem
Since this two-part post was inspired by Tedeschi Trucks Band, it feels right to end it with a tune by what I would consider to be the best contemporary blues rock band. Here’s an August 2011 performance of Midnight in Harlem recorded in Atlanta. Co-written by the band’s harmony vocalist Mike Mattison and slide guitarist extraordinaire Derek Trucks, the track first appeared on their debut album Revelator released in June of the same year. Trucks absolutely shines on slide guitar, while Susan Tedeschi demonstrates her solid vocal skills. She’s also a great guitarist. The entire army of a band is just killer – this is what perfect musicianship looks like!
I don’t even want to pretend I know how to write lyrics, so let’s better stop it right here. But the content of these words largely reflects the truth, if you allow that “the blues in my head” actually was a set of headphones and that I was listening to a Buddy Guy tune, followed by a Walter Trout song this morning.
While I never need an excuse to blog about music I dig, the aforementioned little episode gave me the idea to put together a post about blues and blues rock tunes, so I wanted to acknowledge it. In fact, I would say the majority of my blogging is triggered by spontaneous music encounters. With that explanation out of the way, let’s get to some music!
Buddy Guy/I Suffer With the Blues
Given the intro, it makes sense to kick things off with Buddy Guy. This is a tune from his 1967 debut album Left My Blues in San Francisco. I Suffer With the Blues was written by Guy who today, more than 50 years years later at age 84, still plays his energetic brand of electric guitar blues. I guess he wasn’t kidding when he titled his 17th studio album from July 2015 Born to Play Guitar, an amazing album, btw.
Janis Joplin/Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)
Boy, would I have loved to see Janis Joplin in concert! Her incredibly powerful voice and her energy were just off the charts. Try (Just a Little Bit Harder) is the incredible opener of what sadly was Joplin’s only solo album that appeared during her short lifetime, I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, released in September 1969. The tune was co-written by Jerry Ragovoy and Chip Taylor.
Walter Trout/All Out Of Tears
Since I listened to Survivor Blues, Walter Trout’s aptly titled studio album from Jan 2019, I’ve really come to dig this bluesman who originally is from New Jersey. After overcoming alcohol and drug addiction in the ’80s and making it through a liver transplant necessitated by liver failure, Trout perhaps is the ultimate blues rock survivor. All Out Of Tears is a tune from is most recent album Ordinary Madness that came out in August 2020. The great slow blues, which has a bit of a Gary Moore vibe, was co-written by him, his wife and manager Marie Trout and blues fellow artist Teeny Tucker.
Bonnie Raitt/Mighty Tight Woman
While Bonnie Raitt crosses genres, I simply couldn’t do this post without including her. She’s one of my all-time favorite artists, not only because of her extraordinary slide guitar playing, but also because of her sincerity. Raitt covered Mighty Tight Woman, a Sippie Wallace tune, on her eponymous debut album from November 1971.
B.B. King/What Happened
B.B. King needs no further introduction. I pretty much could have picked any tune. What Happened is from Completely Well, King’s 17th studio album released in December 1969, which is best known for his cover of The Thrill Is Gone. What Happened holds the distinction of being the only tune on the album, which was written by King.
Dani Wilde/Bring Your Loving Home
The blues is a genre that has a number of great young female guitarists. One is 35-year-old Dani Wilde from South West England. At age 22, she was signed to Ruf Records, an independent German blues label, a force in blues with an impressive roster of artists. A significant portion of them are women. Bring Your Loving Home, written by Wilde, is the opener of her debut album Heal My Blues from 2008.
Stevie Ray Vaughan/Pride and Joy
A post about blues tunes really would be incomplete without Stevie Ray Vaughan. Sadly, this amazing guitarist from Texas lost his life already at age 35 in a helicopter crash, one of so many talented musicians who died in air travel accidents. Pride and Joy, written by Vaughan, appeared on his debut album Texas Floods released in June 1983. He’s also an artist I would have loved to see live.
Serbian blues singer and guitarist Ana Popović, who currently resides in Los Angeles, is another talented female artist who started her solo career at Ruf Records with the album Hush! from January 2001. Written by Popović, Fearless is the opener of her fifth studio album Unconditional that came out in August 2011.
Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’/Don’t Leave Me Here
One of the coolest collaboration albums I know is TajMo from May 2017, which brought together two blues greats from different generations: Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’. I was fortunate to catch them during a tour they did that year to support the album – one of the best shows I’ve seen. Here’s the fantastic opener Don’t Leave Me Here cowritten by Gary Nicholson, Mo’ and Mahal.
Eliana Cargnelutti/Just For Me
Time to wrap up this post. How many female blues guitarists from Italy do you know? Had you asked me that question a few years ago, I would have come up completely empty. I “discovered” Eliana Cargnelutti in January 2019, when I did a feature on female blues artists. The 31-year-old from Udine, Italy, who is yet another artist on Ruf Records’ roster, has released two albums to date. Here is Just For Me, a track from Cargnelutti’s sophomore album Electric Woman released in January 2015.
A look back on my music journey over the past 12 months
At first, the thought of writing a year in review type post didn’t look very appealing. After all, it’s safe to assume most of us can’t wait to kiss 2020 goodbye and erase it from our memories. This certainly describes my sentiments in many ways. But while the past 12 months brought unprecedented challenges, including for the music business, I think not all was doom and gloom. Initially, this was supposed to be one post. Then, it got longer and longer, so I decided to break it up in two parts. Here’s part 1
The good and the bad…
On the positive side, the music industry recorded rising revenue fueled by streaming. As Music Business Worldwidenoted in September, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) reported a 5.6% year-over-over increase in total U.S. recorded music retail revenue to $5.6 billion for the first half of 2020. This included a 12% surge in streaming music revenue to $4.8 billion. If streaming kept that pace in the second half of the year, it would be up one billion year-over-year. However, according to this Billboardstory from earlier this week, growth in streaming volume has stalled since the end of June.
At the same time, the concert business, the main source of income for most artists, is in the toilet. The Los Angeles Times recently reported America’s largest concert promoter Live Nation experienced a nosedive in revenue of 98% and 95% during the summer and fall, respectively. The same article also stated 90% of independent performance venues will close for good without government aid, while long-established venues like the Troubador in L.A. are hanging on but face an uncertain future. This doesn’t only put the livelihoods of many artists at risk but also of all the folks working at performance venues or whose job are otherwise tied to live entertainment.
New music kept coming out…
Despite COVID-19, new music continued to be released throughout the year – lots of it. In fact, at least some of this activity can be explained by the pandemic. Artists who weren’t able to tour found themselves with more time on their hands to work on new material. New albums by Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift and Paul McCartney are just some of the examples that come to my mind in this context.
I’m happy new music was a major theme for my blog in 2020, more than ever before. As frequent visitors know, I’m not talking about music you can find in the present mainstream charts. As of this blog post, I reviewed more than 20 new albums. That’s only counting new original music, not other releases, such as new installments from Springsteen’s great live bootleg series or James Taylor’s cover album of the American songbook. Yes, while I know next to nothing about American standards, I did review that album and enjoyed listening to it!
Frankly, I could have reviewed more new albums. I didn’t. In addition to lack of time, part of the reason was because of Best of What’s New. This weekly recurring feature on newly released music, which I launched in March, focuses on songs rather than entire albums.
It’s gratifying to me that except for one time due to a death in my close family, I posted new installments each week, meaning I’ve been able to discover new music week after week I found decent enough to write about. Keep in mind this is the same guy who as recently as last year kept complaining how “terrible” contemporary music is! I forgot one important qualifier: Music that’s in the mainstream charts. Let’s take a look at some of the new music I wrote about over the past 12 months.
My favorite new albums…
While it’s hard to narrow things down, from the 20-plus new albums I reviewed the four ones I feel most excited about are AC/DC/Power Up (released November 18), Walter Trout/Ordinary Madness (August 28), Norah Jones/Pick Me Up Off the Floor (June 12) and Ruby Turner/Love Was Here (January 24). Following is a tune from each:
AC/DC: Shot in the Dark (Power Up)
Shot in the Dark, the album’s great lead single, is classic AC/DC and makes you feel you just time-travelled back to 1980. Like all other tracks on Power Up, it was co-written by Angus Young and his older brother Malcolm Young during the period between the Stiff Upper Lip (February 2000) and Black Ice (October 2008) albums. You can read more about Power Uphere, a must listen to for AC/DC fans.
Walter Trout: Wanna Dance (Ordinary Madness)
I love Walter Trout, a no BS artist and decent guitarist who has lived through dramatic ups and downs. Perhaps, he’s the ultimate blues rock survivor! Here’s Wanna Dance. “I had Neil Young and Crazy Horse in mind when I wrote the tune,” Trout told American Songwriter. Dancing is a metaphor for enjoying and celebrating every moment in life, since We ain’t gonna live forever, as Trout sings. He knows all too well. This is one hell of a blues rocker! See here for more about Ordinary Madness.
Norah Jones: Flame Twin (Pick Me Up Off the Floor)
I had been aware and always liked Norah Jones and her piano-driven lounge style jazz for ,any years, but had never explored any of her albums. I’m glad Flame Twin from her seventh studio album Pick Me Up Off the Floor finally changed this. Written by Jones, the tune injects a dose of blues, which rarely if ever is a bad thing in my book. I also dig the Hammond B3 accents from Pete Remm who plays electric guitar as well. And, of course, there are Jones’ great soothing vocals and piano playing. Like other songs on Pick Me Up Off the Floor, the tune was inspired by poetry. My review of this great album is here.
Ruby Turner: Don’t Cry Over Yesterday (Love Was Here)
Don’t Cry Over Yesterday was the track that made me listen to Love Was Here, a beautiful classic soul album by British soul, gospel and R&B vocalist Ruby Turner. I hadn’t heard of Turner before, even though she’s performed since 1983 and worked with other artists like Bryan Ferry, Steve Winwood, Mick Jagger and UB40. “Discovering” great artists like her is part of the reason why I love music blogging. If you’re into ’70s style soul, I’d encourage you to check out this album, a true gem! You can read more about it here.
For more than 25 years, the independent German label Ruf Records has been a remarkable force for blues music
When blogging about music, it’s about the artists and their work first and foremost- seems obvious! Sometimes, I also like to get a bit nerdy and write about gear. What I rarely do is paying attention to music labels with a few exceptions like Stax or Motown. In fact, oftentimes, I don’t even bother to mention on which label an album was released.
One name that has kept popping up for contemporary blues is Ruf Records (pronounced “roof”). I noticed it again just yesterday while compiling my latest Best of What’s Newinstallment that included blues rock artist Jeremiah Johnson whose latest album Unemployed Highly Annoyed appeared on Ruf Records.
Like the majority of Ruf’s roster of current artists, Johnson is an American musician. Yet Ruf isn’t located say in Chicago or anywhere else in the U.S. for that matter. London? Nope. Ruf is based in Lindewerra, a picturesque German village with a whopping 256 inhabitants (as of 2019) in the region of Thuringia, which used to be part of the former German Democratic Republic. I had to look that geographic location.
Germany and the blues? Not to mention a tiny village? That’s not the most obvious association, in my opinion. Or how about the fact the founding of this independent label in 1994 was connected to Luther Allison? Finally, Ruf got my attention.
This is how the label’s website describes how Ruf came about, from the perspective of founder Thomas Ruf. While they may have embellished it a bit, it’s just a wonderful story that would be perfect for a movie: It all started in the Black Forest, late at night, when it seems all great things begin. There in a small village bar, with the doors locked, window shades rolled down, an after- hours party was happening inside. Blues great, Luther Allison was jamming with a bunch of eighty-year old Black Forest folklore musicians.
I was young, lucky and overwhelmed by the communicating power of music. I left the farm to pay my dues as a concert promoter, agent and manager. Soon I collaborated with Allison, eventually becoming his representative on the European side of the world.
I was a student learning from a man who traveled the rocky blues road for more than thirty years. It became apparent that relationships between artists and record companies can be frustrating for the artists, with companies lacking enthusiasm and understanding of the music. So management had a baby and it was named Ruf Records. Born of the need and love to promote what we believe in… the communicating power of music.
Based on this March 2012 post from the Blues.Gr, the above events happened in the late 1980s when Thomas Ruf started working in the music business as a European tour promoter. Ruf and Allison became friends and, eventually, Ruf started to represent the blues artist in Europe. In 1994, Allison who lived in Paris, France at the time, found himself without a label and a publisher. Apparently, that’s what triggered the formation of Ruf Records.
Fast-forward some 26 years and you’re looking at an independent label with an impressive roster of artists. Apart from Luther Allison and Jeremiah Johnson, the current and former line-up includes Canned Heat, Spooky Tooth, Walter Trout, Ana Popovic, Samantha Fish, Joanne Shaw Taylor and Jane Lee Hooker. Following, I’d like to highlight some music by some of the label’s current artists. Occasionally, the label ventures beyond the blues.
Ally Venable/White Flag
Ally Marie Venable is a 21-year-old blues rock guitarist and singer-songwriter from Kilgore, Texas. She released her debut EP Wise Man in 2013 at the age of 14. White Flag is from her third and most recent full-length album Texas Honey, which according to this Rock & Blues Musereview appeared in March 2019 and features Mike Zito and Eric Gales, among other guests.
Bette Smith/Fistful of Dollars
According to her website, Bette Smith is a rock and soul singer who grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Her 2017 debut Jetlagger received rave reviews from the likes of NPR, American Songwriter, MOJO and The New York Times. Fistful of Dollars is the tasteful, funky opener of Smith’s new album The Good, The Bad and the Bette released on September 25.
Ghalia Volt, who hails from Brussels, Belgium, is a natural-born rock star with the leather jacket and wicked grin, leaning from her album sleeve to offer you a hit on her hip flask, her website confidently states. Six years ago, Ghalia was a best-kept secret, her days spent busking on the streets of the Belgium capital, her nights shaking the city’s blues clubs. But as a die-hard R&B and blues fan, the singer-songwriter found the siren call of America too strong to resist. Visiting Chicago, Memphis and Nashville, Ghalia’s livewire talent saw her embraced by the musical motherland and elevated to headliner status.Release Me is a track written by Ghalia, which appears on her sophomore album Mississippi Blend from September 2019. And, yes, that lady is a rock star!
Whitney Shay/Stand Up!
According to Apple Music’sartist profile, Whitney Shay is a blues, soul and jump R&B singer-songwriter from San Diego, Calif. Her debut album Soul Tonic came out in 2012. She has since released two additional albums and received four San Diego Music Awards including Artist of the Year for her sophomore release A Woman Rules the World from 2018. Stand Up!, co-written by Shay and Adam J. Eros, is the soulful funky title track of Shay’s third studio album released in February this year.
Bernard Allison/Crusin for a Bluesin
Bernard Allison, who is based in Paris, France, is a blues guitarist and the son of Luther Allison. Though you’d perhaps think otherwise, Bernard taught himself how to play guitar as a child while his father was touring all over the world. While his old man wisely demanded that Bernard remain in school, he supported his music ambitions. Eventually, Bernard became part of Luther’s band and a musical collaborator. His European solo debut The Next Generation appeared in 1990. His first U.S. album Keepin’ the Blues Alive was released in 1997. Cruisin for a Bluesin is the groovy opener of Allison’s most recent studio album Let It Go from February 2018.
Jeremiah Johnson/Burn Down the Garden
Since it was Johnson and his new album that triggered this post, it felt appropriate to include the St. Louis-based guitarist and singer-songwriter, who according to his websitemerged Texas style with STL blues to create the unique sound you hear today. Here’s another great tune from his new album Unemployed Highly Annoyed: Opener Burn Down the Garden, written by Johnson, which sounds more like southern flavored country rock than blues.
Michael Lee/Praying for Rain
Michael Lee is a blues guitarist from Fort Worth, Texas. Here’s more from his his website: Raised around blues music his entire life, Michael spent the majority of his young life in blues clubs receiving an ivy league education from watching and playing with blues legends such as Andrew “Jr Boy” Jones (Freddie King), Buddy Whittington (John Mayall), Lucky Peterson (Willie Dixon). On nights he was not in the blues clubs he was down in the stockyards soaking in the Country sounds which emanated from those honky tonks. Like Delbert McClinton and many Fort Worth musicians before him, Michael’s style of music has the perfect blend of Blues and Country.Praying for Rain, written by Lee, is from his eponymous sophomore album released in June 2019.
Ryan Perry/Ain’t Afraid to Eat Alone
Let’s do one more. Ryan Perry, who hails from Mississippi, has established himself as leader of the award-winning Homemade Jamz Blues Band since 2007. According to his profile on Ruf, Although still in his twenties, Perry has the soul, scars and war stories to rival the most hard-bitten road dog. In March this year, Perry released his solo debut album High Risk, Low Reward. Here’s the tasty opener Ain’t Afraid to Eat Alone, which like most other tracks on the album was penned by Perry.
Ruf Records’ story looks impressive. Apart from its artist roster, some 300 albums have appeared on this independent label to date. In 2007, Ruf Records received the Keeping the Blues Alive Award from the Blues Foundation of Memphis, Tenn. According to Wikipedia, they also got nominations for two Grammy Awards and 10 Blues Music Awards, and that’s as of 2008.
In an undated interview on Ruf’s website, Thomas Ruf explained the label’s philosophy as follows: “It’s right there in our motto: ‘Where The Blues Crosses Over’. We want to produce the blues of tomorrow, not just re-record the blues of yesterday, and that’s why we work with some of the bravest and most visionary artists around. People often ask me why Ruf has such a devoted following, but really it’s our artists – the Ruf Records family – who create that. Our role is to help them. To succeed in this business, it’s about working hard and being honest all the time. Speak the truth. Strive for quality in everything you do.”
Sources: Wikipedia; Ruf Records website; Blues.Gr; Rock & Blues Muse; Bette Smith website; Apple Music; Michael Lee website; YouTube