November 30, 2022
Issue 16-44 November 3, 2022 – Blues Blast Magazine


Cover photo © 2022 Bob Hakins


 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with Derrick D’Mar Martin. We have ten Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Michele D’Amour and the Love Dealers, Ben Levin, Annika Chambers & Paul DesLauriers, The Hungry Williams, Charlie Morris Band, Mad Dog Blues, Jay Douglas, Dave Thomas, Steve Dawson & The Telescope 3 and DC Carnes. Scroll down and check it out!



 Featured Interview – Derrick D’Mar Martin 

infoAnyone who has had the pleasure of attending a show in recent years with Rick Estrin and the Nightcats certainly has fallen under the spell of the band’s exuberant drummer, Derrick D’Mar Martin. His drum solo combines equals parts of showmanship and rhythmic variety, with a touch of acrobatics. His style is a perfect compliment to the similar efforts of his band mates Rick Estrin, Kid Andersen, and Lorenzo Farrell, who never fail to give their audiences the best musical experience possible while keeping them fully entertained along the way.

For Martin, it comes naturally. “I was raised by entertainers. I really enjoy playing drums. That is who I am, just another person in the long legacy of drummers and entertainers like Gene Krupa, Chick Webb, Papa Joe Jones. The list goes on, and I am continuing that legacy in my own way. It is fun to be free. What I am looking for is to have fun, to find that zone where we can have the best night possible.”

Around the age of four, Martin fashioned his first drum set utilizing his mother’s pots and pans, with wooden spoons for drumsticks. A year later, his Mom got him his first real drum kit in an effort to regain the use of her cookware.

“That set didn’t last long. It had paper heads, which I went through in the first day. My mother was a singer and an actress. I would accompany her to rehearsals, and she was always playing records at the house. In my earliest memories, I remember being rhythmically fascinated with drums.

“I found her Prince records, and became a huge fan. I probably shouldn’t have been listening to those records at that age, but there was something about his music that resonated with me. We also listened to Stevie Wonder, Parliament/Funkadelic, the O’Jays. She also had some amazing Bobby Bland records, Al Green, the who’s who of soul music. The ones that really appealed to me in particular were Prince, Stevie Wonder, and  Funkadelic.”

The next step for the aspiring drummer was to join the school band once he reached seventh grade at Hardy Jr. High in Jackson, Mississippi.

“I was in choir and doing other stuff while in elementary school, but things really got serious when I joined that band. The first day of band class, everybody wants to play drums. So the teacher is weeding kids out, Miss Jennifer Seaton at the time, who was a great band director. She said I should play trumpet. In my mind, I’m like, nope, I am playing drums! That’s just it, the way it is going to be. So that is where I started, doing orchestral percussion, snare drum, tympani. She was very adamant about all of us being able to read, and write, music. I took to that right off.

“I was there until ninth grade, then I went to Provine High School with the marching band, where Tony Winters was the Director of Bands. He was another staunch person about being able to read and understand the intellectual side of music. The tenth grade was when I started to play drums in a formalized setting. It was odd because I was playing in the Jazz band. Up until then, I had never played jazz, nor did I have any real understanding of what it was. That was baptism by fire! Throughout my high school years, I played chimes xylophone, tympani, marimba, and percussion in marching and concert bands, learning so much. I am proud of the fact that I was in the All-City Band for four years.

“I will always be proud to be from Mississippi, born and raised in Jackson. The older I get, the more I realize that during the time I was raised there, I got the one of the best educations I could have received anywhere in the world, on quite a few levels. I had great lessons, amazing teachers and mentors, in public school, the universities, and the chitlin’ circuit.”

After he graduated, Martin started attending classes at Jackson State University as a Music major in percussion with an emphasis on Jazz music. He attended classes during the day, working on music theory studies, and practicing with the marching band. That freed up his evenings for additional studies of a decidedly different nature.

image“I was attending the official university by day, and the blues university by night. I was playing the chitlin’ circuit down on Lynch Street, really learning how to play blues, soul, and R&B music, getting yelled at and threatened by the older guys. My first road tour happened when I was 19 or 20 years old, with singer Dorothy Moore, who had a huge hit with “Misty Blue”.

“Guitarist Vasti Jackson continues to be a mentor to this day. I played with local artists like Cadillac George Harris, Billy “Soul” Bonds, Bobby Rush, and an amazing singer, Patrice Moncell, who was a modern day version of Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. She taught us so much. There was also the Mo Money Band, which had Forrest “Juke” Gordon on drums, another one of my mentors. I also worked with the Malaco records guys like Harrison Calloway Jr. and Larry Addison, one of the label’s songwriters.”

Martin made it into his junior year of college before Lady Luck came knocking. At that time, leaving school before earning a degree was intensely frowned upon. Still, the drummer had to consider an offer from one of the most recognized names in the music business.

“The professors considered it a cardinal sin to leave school for a “gig”. My offer was to audition for Little Richard’s band. I had a meeting with three of my professors, and they were all telling me that I had to go do the audition. I reminded them that they had always preached that we shouldn’t leave for a gig. They said no,no no, we meant a chitlin’ circuit gig. And I remember my Jazz professor telling me to make sure that I get a round-trip ticket. So I did the audition, got the job, and continued on a whole other level of study.”

Martin had been playing in a band called Infinity, managed by Linda Jacobs, who was also involved in the Jubilee Jam festival in Jackson. She had booked Little Richard, they became friends, and stayed in contact. One day he mentioned that he was looking to hire a young black drummer.

“Little Richard wanted to augment his band, get back to having two drummers. The other drummer at that time was Monkey Womack from Alabama. Linda called to tell me that she had recommended me, and to expect a call. I thought I would hear from a manager or representative. But it was Little Richard who called. He told me to go to the record store and buy a copy of his greatest hits on Specialty Records, then call him back.

“So I ran to the store, bought it, and called him back. He asked me if I had listened to the songs. I knew the songs from hearing them, they were hits. So he wanted to know if I could play his songs, can I play? I answered, yes sir! He said he would call me back, which he did several days later to let me know that I should fly out to Los Angeles the next day. He would have a ticket for me, and he wanted to check out my playing.

“I spent several weeks out there hanging out with him. There was supposed to be a formal audition, but that never happened. What Richard was really doing was spending time with me, watching what I was doing, getting to know who I was as a human. He took me to some clubs, restaurants, and church. We did all of that before we ever played any music.

‘Eventually we went to a blues club that Roy Gaines had in South Central Los Angeles. Roy was the guitar player in Richard’s band. There was a honky-tonk piano and one of the worst drum sets you have ever seen. We had Charles Glenn, the bass player, and Richard’s son Danny with us. Richard sits down at the piano and starts playing the blues, telling stories. Charles plugged in his bass, I got behind the kit, and for two hours we did nothing but play the blues songs. I am totally disarmed, not realizing this is my audition. I’m just relaxed, being myself. Finally, Richard said OK, I’ve heard enough. He told me I got the gig, and that we were opening for the Temptations the following week.

image“I was like, what just happened. We didn’t even play any of your tunes. Richard told me not to worry about that. He was satisfied that I had a good groove, a good back-beat, a good foot, that I say yes sir, no sir, and that I loved my Mama, adding that he was going to teach me the rest. That was the beginning of a 17-plus year ride with Little Richard.”

In short order, Martin not only was in the band, but had to learn the show from Monkey Womack in preparation for an upcoming European tour.

“That tour was epic. It was going to be the first time that Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and Jerry Lee Lewis were appearing on the same stage ever in history, in Europe. So I just joined the band, we didn’t do formal rehearsals. I knew the songs, but needed to learn Richard’s ques. Unbeknownst to me, Monkey was getting ready to leave the band. There was nobody to tell me this is what you do.

“Naturally, I messed up a couple of things learning on the gig. Once we arrived in London, we were staying at the Mayfair Hotel. Richard had a grand piano in his suite. I go to his room for an almost four hour private rock ‘n’ roll lesson from Richard. We went through all of his hits, him playing piano and I am playing on a pillow with sticks. It was a fine way to learn how to pick up his ques. We did three dates in London, and I got a nice write-up in the paper welcoming the new drummer. Richard thanked me for bailing him out of a tight spot, telling me I had the job as long as I want it.”

From 1995 until 2001, the band worked year-round, working a lot of state fairs. Once June cane around, Richard and the band headed to Europe, where they would play a show almost daily until the end of August. Because Richard was a Seventh Day Adventist, there would be no shows on Friday evenings. There was also an annual residency in Las Vegas with Chuck Berry at the old Caesars Palace. After 9/11, it took awhile for Richard to get comfortable going overseas for any length of time, so the band managed to keep busy doing corporate and private functions.

“We stayed busy doing a lot more in the States. Richard also did a lot of television and commercials. One cool thing about him was that he was adamant about using his people. I ended up playing on the theme for the new Candid Camera show. And we did a remake of “Keep A-Knockin’” for the soundtrack to the movie, Why Do Fools Fall In Love, about singer Frankie Lymon. He kept us pretty busy.”

Since 1995, Martin has also been a recording artist himself, with his own production company/record label, Airtight Records, to release his D’Mar recordings. That year he released his first major label rap record, Jacktown, with the group Wildlife Society on TVT Records. He also started a business with his ex-wife, Faith Martin, in Clinton, Mississippi called Percussion Music Media. The duo taught voice lessons along with drums and piano, with a show choir and a recording studio.

“When I wasn’t working with Richard, I would run those businesses, and make my own records. Additionally, I created a master class entitled Drums & More, where I go out to schools to give lectures on the history of drums. I took a Jazz history class in college, where I discovered that the drum set is an American invention. My program is designed to cover the role of drums in popular American music from traditional New Orleans music through hip hop. I do a lot of playing to demonstrate the various styles of rhythm as well as bringing up the names of important musicians that the students should know about. It also ties into the importance of mathematics, reading, and social skills. At one point I was on the Mississippi Arts Council, and have continued to do that program out here in California. ”

To date, Martin has released 84 songs, and four full length albums, available at his website. His latest album, So Much Soul, came out earlier in the year. He has received some great feedback along with over 700,000 streams on Spotify and other platforms. He has received a number of requests to play his music live, which may happen next year depending on the Nightcats schedule.

“I call my music Nu Funk Soul. I don’t consider myself the greatest vocalist, but I do think I write good songs and grooves. While I was working with Little Richard, he would always encourage me to do more of my own stuff. He’d say, you are more of a stylist, like Hendrix and Sly Stone were stylists. When I would play my music live, I would get the response that the music was retro, a throwback. But I use a lot of modern technology in making the records, some hip hop drum ascetics with an old school soul vibe. With each record, I am getting more comfortable with who I am as an artist.”

Martin moved to the San Jose, California in 2010. He was still gigging with Little Richard, just not as frequently. As the number of shows tailed off, there were other opportunities around.

image“I arrived in the Bay area at the perfect time. There were a lot of things in the south Bay area just starting to take off. Kid Andersen had Greaseland Studios going. I quickly met Aki Kumar, Mitch Woods, Mark Hummel, and Rick Estrin. Those relationships set-up the next 10-12 years of my life, especially when it comes to playing the blues. After my divorce, the woman I started dating was a nurse, and she got a job offer at Stanford. We decided to move for the job. Now we are married, and she is a doctor.

“At first I was playing with the Jake Nielsen Trio. We went to Greaseland to record Jake’s album, and I met Kid, who really liked my playing. He started calling me to do some sessions. Then I met June Core, who is such a sweet person, and one of best blues drummers alive. About 2-3 weeks after that, my phone starts ringing, people calling me for gigs. When I asked how they got my number, the answer was always that June Core said they should call me. How cool is that!

“Then I started playing in Mark Hummel’s Blues University! In the Bay area, it seems like 90% of the blues musicians have spent time in Mark Hummel’s band. I was working with Mitch Woods, and was also in the Paula Harris band. Kid was playing with Rick and the guys, and I would sub with them here and there. When Jay Hansen left the band, Kid asked me about joining the band. My twins were born in 2012, and I really didn’t want to be on the road that much, so I turned it down. That is when Alex Pettersen took over on drums in the Nightcats.“

‘Then Alex had to go back to Norway. I was subbing for him on a gig, and I rode with Kid. The entire way there he was talking to me about joining the band. So I finally made the decision to be a Nightcat . They were already family by then. I have worked with a plenty of people, and dealt with a lot of personalities . They don’t come any better than Rick Estrin. He is a straight shooter, has a great sense for business, an amazing performer and songwriter. I am having a great time with those guys on and off the stage. When I first joined, June called to tell me that he thought I was a perfect fit for the band. He had actually played with Nightcats at one point.”

There is a lot of activity centered around Andersen and Greaseland Studios. The depth of musical talent in the Bay area provides plenty of options for each recording session.

“Greaseland has become it’s own musical family something that is not often seen these days, similar to what Stax or Motown Records were like. Kid is making a record every day. Depending on what the record is, it might be me on drums, or June on drums with me on percussion. The talent is 3-4 musicians deep on every instrument. There is no ego, it is just a matter of what is needed, musicians wanting to help each other. It is a great scene to be a part of. I used to live about ten minutes from the studio, so I would be there 3-4 days a week. A year ago I moved to Burbank, so now I fly up there several times a month.”

“I just finished writing for my college master class called “The Truth”. I will be implementing it next year through bookings at universities. It is a practical, real life, how-to on stuff we do as musicians. It covers topics like how do you prepare for a gig, how do you travel, all of the little, but necessary, things that will help students transition from the college level into the real world.

“For me as a drummer, the most important thing that has been given to us is the shuffle. I am literally spending my life trying to master it, because there are so many iterations of it that you never really master them all. I tell drummers all the time that the better you can play a shuffle, the better you will play everything else, whether it is swing or funk. It is the most beautiful thing to me, and I am always trying to pass it on to as many young drummers as I can. A lot of things are cool, but accessing the shuffle is paramount to rhythmic success.”

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying the sun and retirement. He is the past President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and a former member of the Board of Directors for the Blues Foundation. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!


 

 Help Wanted – Writers 

Do you really know your Blues and enjoy telling others about it?

Blues Blast Magazine is looking for a few good writers to volunteer to help us out. We need writers for music reviews who know Blues and can write a minimum of two reviews a month.

We will provide access to downloads or physical CDs, DVDs and books for review. The writer keeps the album, book or DVD for doing the review. We get music submissions from all over the world. We publish music reviews each week so there is a steady flow of music that needs to be reviewed.

These are volunteer positions that need a person who really loves the Blues and wants to spread the Blues word! Must have good writing and composition skills, good grammar and spelling!

Familiarity with WordPress software thet we us to post reviews or willingness to learn helpful. (If you are familiar with Microsoft Word, it is similar. Very easy to use!)

Experienced writers are encouraged to send samples of previous work. All Blues Blast staff started out as volunteers like this. We have kept those with dedication on as staff writers afterwards.

If you are interested, please send an email to info@bluesblastmagazine.com and tell us about your Blues background. A resume and/or writing samples are always appreciated too.


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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 10 

imageMichele D’Amour and the Love Dealers – Hot Mess

Blues Kitty Records

www.micheledamourandthelovedealers.com

11 tracks

Pacific Northwest vocalist Michele D’Amour and her band had a great run of music production and success and then the Pandemic hit. Their 2020 plans, like with so many other musicians, were dashed and they hunkered down. They spent two years rewriting material and adapting their sound with a new guitarist and drummer and have now produced a great new CD. Ten original tracks are included and a cool cover are featured on this album.

Michele is from the Seattle area as is Patrick McDanel, the bassist.  Richard Newman from Memphis went to become their guitar player and Kitchner, Ontario, drummer Carl Martin joined the band, too. Also playing here are Noel Barnes on saxophones, Tom Worrell on piano (two tracks) and Philip Woo ads his organ on a cut; D’Amour penned nine of the new songs and Newman wrote the other.

The album begins with the title track. It’s funky, has tons of Wah Wah pedal and saxophone. The cut is D’Amour giving advice to a girlfriend who needs to turn her life around. “I Walk On Guilded Splinters” follows, which features a deep bass and guitar groove. D’Amour takes Dr. John’s tune and gives it her own dark take on it, chanting voodoo and other dark stuff, it’s a fun track. “Plum Crazy” is up next, with some more heavy guitar and bass, blending surf rock and some heavy blues. The theme here is a ’46 Ford (depicted on the album cover) with a driving beat as Michele singing with lots of emotion. Next is “Devil In The Dark,” with some more funkiness and rocking stuff. D’Amor sings about the folks who are out there pretending to be and do good but who really are out to mess with us. There is a big, funky guitar solo here to enjoy, too.

“If The Shoe Fits” delivers some more heavy guitar and some great sax licks, too. We get some pretty piano to savor on “Helping Hand.” D’Amour sings about doing the best we can do and not to judge each other. “Helping Hand” continues the gritty vocal work in a down tempo piece; here we get some nice organ backing and a baritone sax solo to enjoy. “It Won’t Break My Heart” picks up the pace in a broken relationship song; the beat may be peppy but the lyrics certainly are not. Another nice sax solo is delivered here, followed by a stinging guitar solo.

“Cold Red Sun” is a tune about the devastation of forest fires out west. The band delivers it with a rumba which helps set the tone for this dark themed cut. A pair of  fine guitar solos are featured on this song, one in the middle and one to take us home. “Nurse With A Purse” is a cut about a sugar mama, where D’Amour sings with some humor to us about a kept man. The sax and guitar are once again well done. “Your Dachshund Won’t Leave Me Alone” features a Crescent City sound with Michele describing the wicked little dog she is not too fond of. There is more super sax work, some grimy guitar, and some delightful piano which serve well to close out a fine album.

There is a lot to like here. D’Amour’s vocals are controlled and balanced, delivering power when she needs to and offering restraint when appropriate. The electric and steel guitar work are super, the backline is steady, solid, and funky and the horns and keys ad nice dimensions to the music. I enjoyed this album of rocking and funky blues. It is Michele’s seventh album and she and the new band have done an outstanding job producing new music for blues fans to enjoy!

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.


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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 10 

imageBen Levin – Take Your Time

Vizztone Label Group

www.benlevinpiano.com

12 tracks

At age 22, people are talking about Ben Levin as a veteran blues musician. This is his fourth Vizztone release; his prior work has garnered nominations for Blues Blast Music awards in Debut Album of the Year,” “Sean Costello Rising Star Award,” and “Keyboard Player of the Year.” This year, he was also nominated for a Blues Music Award for his piano skills. This young man from Cincinnati is a hot commodity whose star is rapidly rising. He’s been playing piano since the age of 7 and this is actually his 5th album.

oining Ben here are Bob Stroger (lead vocals and bass) , Lil’ Ed Williams (lead vocals and guitar), Lil’ Jimmy Reed lead vocals and guitar), Johnny Burgin (guitar), Noah Wotherspoon (guitar), Aron Levin (guitar), Walter Cash (bass), Ricky Nye (drums), Shorty Starr (drums) and Kris Butler (conga). Levin handles all the piano duties and sings on four cuts. He also wrote five of the songs.

The CD opens with Levin on vocals in his song “Take Your Time.” His jumping piano and fine vocals make this one great and Burgin’s smooth guitar adds well to the mix. Stroger fronts the band like the pro he is. Stellar piano once again helps make this special. Wotherspoon offers us a nice solo here, too. Lil’ ed sings the classic “Why Do Things Happen To Me” and plays some tasty guitar, too. This is beautiful, slow blues with Ed and Ben excelling on their instruments. Lil’ Jimmy Reed sings and plays on “I’ve Been Drinking Muddy Water,” a great cover of this blues shuffle. Levin’s piano once again gives the listener something to appreciate.

Ed returns for “Hole In The Wall,” a cool jump blues and shares the vocal lead with Levin. It’s a fun cut that romps and swings. Great slide and piano are featured here. Levin leads “Out Of Your Own Way,” a fine original tune. Burgin plays guitar on this one and does a great job, too. Stroger fronts the band for “Bad Boy,” the super Eddie Taylor song.  Wotherspoon’s guitar and Levin’s piano both are solid here on this pretty, slow blues. Lil’ Jimmy Reed returns for “You Know You’re Fine.” Here we gets some more outstanding piano as Reed and the band lay out some fine music for us to enjoy.

“Longer Hours, Shorter Pay” is a nice original by Ben and his dad who are both featured on their instruments as Lil’ Ed howls out the lead vocals and plays guitar in his inimitable style. The Levins’ also wrote “Lump Of Coal,” and Lil’ Jimmy Reed fronts the group for this cool and slow blues. Little Milton’s “Love You Baby” features Levin and Stroger on vocals and Wotherspoon on guitar. Bob answers Ben’s call in this jumping and slick cover. The finale is “Mr. Stroger’s Strut,” a super instrumental with Bob on bass, stinging guitar by Noah and striding piano by Levin; Ben also wrote the piece.

This is an outstanding album from top to bottom. Levin has assembled a wonderful team of musicians to joining him on this album. He’s developed into a great singer and his piano skills are just amazing. If you like piano blues then look no further – this one is a winner!. Kudos to Ben for delivering another truly first-class and outstanding album! I most highly recommend this album.

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.


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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 10 

imageAnnika Chambers & Paul DesLauriers – Good Trouble

Vizztone Label Group

https://annikaandpaul.com

11 tracks

Husband and wife Annika Chambers and Paul DesLauriers have merged their personal lives and careers together in a soul, blues, gospel and rock album of eleven really fine tunes. The powerful voice of Chambers coupled with the fiery guitar of DesLauriers makes for a superb mixing of talents, styles and sounds.

Annika hails from Houston, Texas, while Paul is a Canadian; both are acclaimed blues artists, Chambers by the Blues Music Awards and Living Blues while DesLauriers has many accolades from the Maple Leaf and other awards. They first met for a few seconds n the lobby of The Orpheum Theater in Memphis in 2018 at the IBCs. They established their relationship while at the 2019 IBC during a recording session and married in August of that year. The blues-rocker meets the soul-blues singer and their personal and professional lives have enjoyed the success of the blending of their love and talents.

The band here joining the couple are J.P. Soars on ten tracks (guitar on eight and bass on the other two), Chris Peet on drums (nine tracks and a bass on two), Gary Davenport and Alex McElcheran on bass for a couple of tracks each, Bernard “Bingo” DesLauriers on drums for two cuts, and Barry Seelen on B-3 Organ for three tracks. Backing (and gang) vocals are handled by Annika, Paul, J.P., Chris, and Kim Richardson.

The album opens with “You’ve Got To Believe,” a powerful cut showcasing Annika’s amazing voice and Paul’s outstanding guitar skills. A soul-blues-rock cut about self-confidence, it’s a great start to the album. There’s some cool mandolin mixed in there, too. The funky “Stand Up” is next, a commentary on standing up for rights. Chambers’ voice us strident and DesLauriers’ guitar is powerful as the tune builds to a huge climax. Two great original tunes to start things off well! George Harrison’s “Isn’t It A Pity” follows, with a stinging guitar and soulful vocals. They made this into a powerful ballad with their substantial vocal and guitar work. “Heavy Load” takes us to church as Chambers’ howls and DesLauriers’ dobro set a deep and heavy mood on this superb tune. Lots more social commentary here to express feelings on the need for unity and equality.

The cover “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” is next, with Chambers starting off lecturing us on acceptance and trying to see things through the eyes of others. It’s a sweet cover that the duo and company nail. “Need Your Love So Bad” is a soulful ballad with some pretty organ accompaniment and super guitar.  It’s A Little Willie John cut that the duo make their own. “We Got The Blues” is a Cassie Taylor cut (Otis’ daughter) and Annika and Paul demonstrate that they truly have got the blues! Another great performance in this driving and slick cut. “I’m Going To Live The Life I Sing About In My Song” is a slow and funky original cut that builds into an amazing frenzy of guitar and vocals.

Baby Washington’s soul tune “Money’s Funny” is the next cut and Chambers and DesLauriers turn this into a big, romping and stomping cover.  A rocking guitar solo and driving beat make this version a winner. Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” gets a cool cover where Chamber and her husband rock it out, giving it their spin on Leslie West’s most famed song.  DesLauriers gives the riff a slight twist and Chambers blows the vocal lead away. “I Need More Power” concludes the album’s offerings. This traditional spiritual is given a truly powerful treatment as Chambers blows the listener away.  It’s a superb conclusion to a a superb album.

Annika and Paul worked on music as Pandemic therapy, as did so many other musicians. The newlyweds have produced a high powered blend of blues, rock, and soul that is outstanding. Three original cuts and eight amazing covers give the listener a demonstration of what this musical couple can do. I most highly recommend adding this to your musical collections!

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.


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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 10 

imageThe Hungry Williams – Let’s Go!

Rochelle Records – 2022

www.hungrywilliams.com

10 tracks; 34 minutes

It’s a long way from Wisconsin to New Orleans, but The Hungry Williams’ leader John Carr has long held a fascination for New Orleans R&B music and wanted a band that swung like the music he so admired. That is the essence of The Hungry Williams, named after one of the Crescent City’s greatest drummers, Charles ‘Hungry’ Williams and they play this unashamedly retro music with great enthusiasm. They released their debut Brand New Thing in 2020 and on this second album they continue to mix originals with covers drawn mainly from the 50’s and early 60’s. The band is led by John on drums, with Kelli Gonzalez on vocals, Joe Vent on guitar, Jack Stewart on keys and Mike Sieger on bass; the band is augmented by baritone sax player Casimir Riley and tenor sax man Jason Goldsmith who provides most of the solos. The sessions were engineered and recorded by Jacob LaCally whom John persuaded to come to Wisconsin to work on the album, having been impressed by his work with The California Honeydrops.

The album opens with the band’s tribute to New Orleans, “Mardi Gras Day”, the second line rhythms augmented by the trumpet of Lech Wierzynski of The California Honeydrops who added his part remotely (though you would never know, as it sounds like he was there in the room with the band). “Movin’ On” has the strolling rhythms so associated with Fats Domino and is pianist Stewart’s tribute to Fats and his usual collaborator, Dave Bartholomew; Kelli sings it superbly, as she does the band’s version of Lavern Baker’s “You’d Better Find Yourself Another Fool” which has a storming sax solo and fine backing vocals from the rest of the band. Big Maybelle is a favorite of the Hungries and “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show” is one of several of her songs that the band performs live, Kelli giving the familiar song plenty of ‘sass’. “Gee Baby” was first released in 1959 by duo Joe & Ann and it’s another classic piece of NO music, more solid vocals from all the band on this one and another sax solo to savor.

John and Kelli wrote “Boss Man” and its jaunty rhythms offer a good opportunity for John to feature briefly on the drums mid-song before Kelli’s “Big Mouth Betty” which she insists is not autobiographical! Maybe not, but it’s a fun song with some witty lyrics about someone who “never stops to take a breath”. “Oooh-Wow” was written by Fats Domino’s guitarist, Roy Montrell, so it is appropriate that guitarist Joe Vent handles the lyrics on another NO classic. Kelli returns with the 1962 hit by Martha Carter, “Then I’ll Believe”, another ‘strolling’ rhythm with a fine sax break. The album closes with the highly inventive and comic “669 (Across The Street From The Beast)”. This one is a joint effort between John, Kelli and Joe and was apparently intended to fade out, but as the band was cooking, they let the tape run. Amongst the lyrical fun is this couplet: “He may not have a pitchfork and tail, man you ought to hear him howl and wail”.

Although rather short by modern CD standards there is no filler here, every track is a winner and, if you enjoy swinging, NO-flavored, music, you should definitely investigate The Hungry Williams.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.


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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 10 

imageCharlie Morris Band – At the Firehouse

BluesCoast Records

https://charliemorris.com/

CD: 14 Songs, 74 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Live Album

In several past reviews, I’ve detailed the differences between live and studio albums in terms of content, volume, energy level, and atmosphere. Perhaps the greatest difference on a live album lies in the old adage: “Give the people what they want (and they’ll come to see it).” In 2019 in Ruskin, Florida, At the Firehouse Cultural Center, the Charlie Morris Band recorded a crisp, clear concert. This was pre-COVID, pre-toilet-paper-panic, pre-economic-shutdowns related to such. Masks and mandates had yet to be put into place. Ah, those halcyon days! Morris and his fellow musicians bring them back on their most current release, three years later, in a supposed post-COVID world.

They present fourteen terrific tracks: ten originals and four covers (“Love Her with a Feeling” by Colin Smith Whittaker, “It Shoulda Been Me” by Eddie “Memphis” Curtis, “Too Many Bad Habits” by John Nicholas, and “Won’t You Tell Me Your Name” by Jerry Quinn). Part of their allure lies not only in their excellent musicianship, but in their close rapport. Exhibit A? After the band’s keyboardist slays and plays with much “Feeling,” Charlie says, “What you all think about Mr. Kevin Wilder?” (Applause) “Well, guess I’d better play something now. You didn’t leave me much.” Then Morris proves everyone, including himself, utterly wrong. Another highlight is the man’s original songwriting, like on “My Baby Don’t Cook.” This swing blues number will get you on your feet in two seconds flat. The lyrics are funny, so grab your honey, whether they’re a whiz in the kitchen or not. Continuing with the food theme is “Y’all Come Over for Dinner,” adding a dash of funk to the blues gumbo these Floridians are serving up hot.

Morris’ vocals are diction-perfect if not pitch-perfect. Even people with less-than-stellar hearing will be able to understand his lyrics. As for his fretwork? Smooth and sizzling. Although he doesn’t go for Hendrix-style shredder, that’s okay. Low-to-medium-key blues is this band’s thing. With him are the aforementioned Kevin Wilder on keyboards, Andrew Lack on second guitar, and Eric Elsner on drums. Together they form an ensemble that’ll please any crowd.

States Charlie on his website: “My first proper professional gig was. . .at a place called the Starlight Lounge (which explains a lot). In Tennessee, I came to love bluegrass and singer-songwriter acoustic music. On the cruise ships, I fell in love with jazz. In Europe, I got into Flamenco, Celtic and African music. And in New Orleans, I just listened and tried to sop up some of that gumbo!

So, if you’re expecting to hear some ‘authentic’ blues, bluegrass or anything else – sorry. My work is the product of all the great music I’ve listened to in my life, and all the great musicians I’ve met and played with along the way.”

Even so, if you love live albums and a fun, enjoyable album, stop for a spell At The Firehouse!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 43 year old female Blues fan. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.


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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 10 

imageMad Dog Blues – Gratitude

Mighty Fine Productions

https://maddogfriedman.bandcamp.com/

12 songs time – 61:17

Denver, Colorado based self-titled Colorado Country Blues Band Mad Dog Blues are something of an updated string band. Creative harmonica, mandolin, acoustic guitars, bass with alternating vocalists offer a respite from electric instruments and drums. The vibe attained is in a very folky vein with elements of blues, bluegrass and jam band tendencies. Mad Dog Friedman is an inventive harmonica ace that possesses a rough gravelly voice. He also plays indigenous flute on a few tracks. Jeff Becker is melodic mandolin player. The two guitarists Mark Kaczorowski and Sean Bennight are very versatile and melodic. Clark Chanslor is an upfront bassist. Jenn Cleary and Freyja Wild provide vocals on a few songs.

The songs have a joyful intertwining of the various instruments that convey an uplifting spirit. The effect is that of five very accomplished musicians taking turns at solos with none of them except the bass player relegated strictly to a backup role. Jeff Becker’s mandolin expertise is particularly on display on “Well Babe”, “Down So Long” and “Love Ladder”. Mad Dog weaves his harmonica lines throughout the proceedings. The two guitarists are no slouches themselves. Clark Chanslor’s meandering bass lines are ever present.

The tempos vary from slow burners to upbeat romps. It is a relief to not have electric instruments (except for bass) and drums on a recording for a change. Thankfully these guys aren’t strummers. They present intricate solos on their given instruments. Interestingly the only real dud here is the title song “Gratitude”. Half spoken; half sung it is given a flat delivery by Mad Dog. My preference is for the more upbeat tunes such as “Well Babe” and “The Great Unknown”. Clark Chanslor’s bass has a prominent presence on “Hear Me Crying”.

The mandolin and guitars on “Rocking Chair” are quite mesmerizing on this enchanting melodic piece. Funky isn’t a word usually attributed to acoustic music, but “Mojo Queen” is and helped along by Mad Dog’s funkified harmonica. Guests Jenn Cleary and Freyja Wild take on the vocals on “Peace In Our World”. Mark Kaczorowski adds slide guitar and Mad Dog supplies a bit of indigenous flute for flavor. Flute pops up again on the duet by Sean and Freyja, “Pinned Down By The Rain”. A kind of folky love song. A hidden track finishes things off. It basically consists of studio chatter, flute and chants of “why” and “peace in our world”. Not sure of its’ purpose, probably just to look clever.

There you have it, a breath of fresh air. Nothing here you could call blues, but a lot you can call refreshing and totally enjoyable music.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.


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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 10 

imageJay Douglas – Confession

Mega City Music

www.jaydouglasmusic.com

14 tracks

Born in Jamaica and raised from his teens in Toronto, Jay Douglas has had a long career in music. He had his first gig while in high school and was popular in the Caribbean nightclub scene in Toronto and Montreal the 60’s and 70’s. He’s toured the globe as a solo artist and is an award winning Canadian artist for his Reggae and other music that has influenced him over his long and successful career. Nearly 40 artists support Jay on this album that tells the story of his musical journey in the songs he’s chosen to sing. Doo Wop, blues, R&B, rock, jazz, and soul all get fine treatment by Douglas here.

He starts off with a bouncing and fun cover of “Surely I Love You” where he sings with authority and passion. Great backing here with some cool sax and more. “Don’t You Know?” follows, fine Chicago blues done right. Douglas and company do an admirable job with some nice backing vocals by Renee Rowe and a strong band. The guitar solo by James Anthony and the horn accompaniment are super. Slow blues is next with “Since I Met You Baby,” a sweet duet with Nana McLean and Danny B blowing harp. “I Love Toronto” is next, a cool jazz cut Jay wrote to pay tribute to his city. Guitar (Quincy Bullen) and horns again are excellent. A little Bobby Blue Bland follows, “You’ve Gotta Hurt Before You Heal.” Douglas gives his all as he soulfully belts hit one out. Jeremy Sean Hector contribute sweetly on guitar here as he does on three other cuts. “Confession Blues” is a Ray Charles tune originally one on the Down Beat label by The Maxin Trio with songwriter R.C. Robinson (Ray Charles) on piano and vocals. Here Douglas does it was guitar, bass, and organ accompaniment and he nails it.

“Take Off Your Shoes” follows, a slick slow blues that Douglas again pays homage to Bobby Bland on. Douglas sings with lots of feeling as he and the band deliver another fine performance. A mid tempo jump blues is next, “Three Times Seven Makes Twenty One.” A sweet tenor sax solo and trumpet solo with fine piano support help sell this one as a winner. June Garber joins Jay for a duet on “There’s Something On Your Mind,” a Big Jay McNeely cut. The two of them sing with emotion and do an outstanding job with equally superb backing. “Smokey Places” is an old Corsairs R&B Doo Wop tune that Douglas does with feeling and makes his own. He follows that with his own “Doo Wop Blues,” a jumping and swing cut with cool trumpet, sax, piano (to note, Eddie Bullen does a super job here and on all the keys throughout) and a deep bass groove. His own “Merry Christmas To You” is next, a big band swing tune with Douglas singing and the band jumping and jiving in support.  He concludes with “Darling I’m Yours,” a Scarletts’ Doo Wop tune that’s fun and features all the great baritone and head voice vocals as part of the delivery. A fine ending to a fine album of tunes obviously delivered with deep respect and keen artistry.

I loved this album. Jay Douglas is a gem. He is a superb singer and entertainer and he’s filled this album with a lot of great music with almost forty artists playing and singing with him. I’m sorry I did not name each and every one of them for space reasons, but suffice it to say they all do a fantastic job as they and Jay give us ten wonderful covers and four  songs of his own crafting. I really enjoyed this one because Douglas is a great singer (as are his supporting vocalists) and his bands are excellent. I recommend this one to anyone who wants to hear someone pay tribute to his musical roots in in a delightful and truly entertaining way!

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.


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 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 10 

imageDave Thomas – Road to the Blues

Blonde on Blonde / Blind Raccoon Promotions

https://davethomasblues.uk/

CD: 13 Songs, 49 Minutes

Styles: Ensemble Blues, “Traditional Contemporary” Blues

True confession: Both of my Boomer parents were born in 1950. By that time, Dave Thomas – no, not the Wendy’s icon, a veteran bluesman from the UK – had already begun his musical career. He grew up during the 1960s blues boom and played in highly insalubrious joints in the docks of Newport, his home town in South Wales. At age 18, he was asked to join the seminal progressive rock band Blonde On Blonde. During the next three years, he toured all over the UK and recorded a single and two albums.

Some particular highlights of Dave’s career have included being supported by Fleetwood Mac, an appearance at Knebworth Greenbelt Festival where he sang to an audience of 25,000 people, and being invited to perform at a special show commemorating Buddy Holly at The Texas Embassy for Paul McCartney.

In recent years, he has built an international reputation as a fine blues guitarist and singer. For 10 years he led the house band at Shake Down Blues, a specialist promoter of black American blues in the UK. During this period he worked with 40 great black American blues musicians.

Also featured are producer and partner-in-crime Steve Jinks (bass, drums, percussion and backing vocals), James Goodwin (piano), Phil Marshall (saxophone), Gareth Tucker (harmonica), Michael Smith (saxophone) and John Thirkell (trumpet).

Thomas’ newest CD may not be a revolutionary or groundbreaking release, but it is a soulful chronicle of his journey in the genre. He performs with a laid-back vibe, easy to listen and relate to. Even though this is a studio album, you’ll feel like you’re right there in a pub or concert audience. In the course of thirteen songs (twelve originals and one Chuck Berry cover), he takes you on the Road to the Blues. It’s not always smooth or easy, but if you keep your “Eye on the Money” (“hand on the wheel,” as the lyrics continue), you will find your timeless destination.

If you’re looking for hand-clapping, foot-stomping blues, check out track six, “Leaving San Francisco.” A love ballad? Let Thomas be your “Everywhere Man.” A Chicago-style number? “Rose Tinted Love.” There’s something for everyone, which is a good thing, but sometimes the tunes are laid out like on one’s hometown buffet: Sure, they’re hot and tasty, but there’s little zing or pizzazz. Perhaps those are for young folks, but even forty-somethings like me love spice.

Looking for a postmodern album with a classic atmosphere? Travel the Road to the Blues!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 43 year old female Blues fan. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.


 Featured Blues Review – 9 of 10 

imageSteve Dawson & The Telescope 3 – Phantom Threshold

Black Hen Music

https://www.stevedawson.ca/

11 tracks

Steve Dawson is a prominent musician in the Canadian blues music scene and has appeared on over 200 albums in this century alone.  He is a native of Vancouver and currently resides in Nashville,  producing, playing and recording.  He’s won 7 Juno Awards and has received several other accolades for his outstanding production work. He’s also received many other awards including Maple Blues Awards, Grand Prix De Jazz De Montreal, and Blues Blast Awards. His website shows 48 of the albums he’s appeared on and I have listened to and/or reviewed at least two dozen of them and I’ve enjoyed them all.

This album is the second part of a trio of albums Dawson is releasing this year. The first was Gone Long Gone, a roots, folk and blues album of songs and instrumentals. This one is entirely instrumental with a focus on pedal steel guitar and hearken back to  Telescope, a similarly themed album from 2008. The promo material states that this is intended to be listened to in it’s entirety, the tunes setting up a mood and flow for the listener to enjoy. It’s quite the theme album, and I agree it’s something that is best enjoyed in it’s entirety.

Dawson handles the pedal steel, other stringed instruments, sax, and mellotron. Jay Bellerose plays drums, on bass is Jeremy Holmes, Chris Gestrim handles most things with keys and Fats Kaplan adds his banjo, accordion and fiddle on a couple of tracks. Daniel Lapp plays violins on a track and cornet on another.

The album begins with “Cozy Corner,” a somber piece that at time reminded me of Pink Floyd.  Interesting stuff. A solo pedal steel follows, “Burnt End.” Another coo; cut; short, not overdone, expressive. “Twig Bucket” follows, a slow blues with layers of guitar and pedal steel that overlap beautifully. Next is the title “Ol’ Brushy,” with a funky groove and filled with soulful organ and guitar. The pedal steel emerges to build the song powerfully before it winds to completion.

The title track follows that, and to me I got a cool vibe with lot of the sounds from a western movie theme. The fiddle coming in to play off the pedal steel was a nice effect; cool cut! “The Waters Rise” is next, stripped down in sound with pedal steel, national tricone and accordion. Very country, somewhat ethereal, the song flows nicely, as a stream meandering through a forest.  Dawson plays expressively here. “You Still Believe In Me” is filled with all sorts of cool keyboard sounds playing off the pedal steel.  It winds along slowly for the most part, with more vibrant parts interspersed that pick up the beat and showcase the keys. Next is “Tripledream,” with more keyboard work layered in with many guitars. The sound transitions into a honkytonk sound with the cornet in the lead before winding off to it’s conclusion.

“Lily’s Resistor” again  mixes cool guitar and keyboard work. “That’s How It Goes In The Relax Lounge” is a flowing cut with nice percussion work including the brushes on the snare giving the song a slick groove to follow. Guitar layers abound again, and the keyboards fill in around them sweetly. The album concludes with “Whirlwind,” a solo piece with Dawson on a prepared weissenborn (paper apparently taped across the strings); the sound here is like the sitar meets acoustic guitar as Dawson lays out some pretty licks.

It’s kind of psychedelic, new age, blues, jazz, and rock blended into a pedal steel country album.  Dawson is apparently enjoying living in Nashville and is producing some unique and creative music. I enjoyed the album; as the artist recommends, sit down and just listen; it’s a great ride!

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.


 Featured Blues Review – 10 of 10 

imageDC Carnes – Delta Crossroads Vol II

Fishhead Records

https://www.facebook.com/fishheadrecordsus/

10 tracks

DC Carnes was an original member of the Robert Lockwood Jr. All Stars and this CD appears to be a follow up to the award winning album Delta Crossroads from 2002 on Telarc Records. Carnes pays tribute to the masters with nine songs here with his band of drummer Rod Reisman, bassist Bill Watson and pianist Justin Gorski. This Cleveland-based artist gives us some inspired performances of familiar songs we all know and love. Fishhead is a Cleveland label that has also recently recorded and released Bobby Messano’s Lemonade album.

Carnes pay homage to his mentor Robert Lockwood Jr., who connects back to Robert Johnson in the Mississippi Delta. He starts with Lockwood’s “I Gotta Find Me A Woman” and picks out some tasty licks as he and the band shuffle nicely through. Piano gets some work and the guitar solos are well done. “RJ’s “Sweet Home Chicago” is done with tribute to Magic Sam and Carnes gives  a Chicago West Side feel to this standard. He and Gorski again do some nice solo work. Jimmy Roger’s “Rock the House” gets a nice cover as upright bass sets a cool groove and Carnes and the band swing through this one. Carnes gives us a little BB King to savor in “3 O’clock Blues” where he sings and plays with emotion; the slow blues are well done here. “Memphis” is next, the iconic Chuck Berry song. Carnes does it as an instrumental as he lays out some cool licks and Gorski adds some good work on the piano.

“Gimme Back My Wig” pays homage to Lightin’ Hopkins in this driving and bouncing song. Carnes does a great job on the slide here and we get another sweet piano solo, too. Freddie King’s “Hideaway” is next and Carnes and company do another nice job on this classic, familiar instrumental piece. “Kind Hearted Woman” follows, another Robert Johnson cut, Carnes howls out the lead vocals as he accompanies the song on a subdued electric guitar. The piano accompaniment is also subdued in keeping with  Carnes’ delivery, a cool cover. Last up are two versions of Johnny Winter’s instrumental “Ice Cube.” Both takes are a bit down tempo from the original, as Carnes lays out some Texas licks on his guitar for us to savor. The barrelhouse piano also adds to the feeling here as Gorski lays on some fine work on the ivories.

Carnes does a really good job here paying tribute to Robert Lockwood, Jr., and all the folks whose songs he and his band cover. Nothing s overdone or overstated; Carnes plays with a degree of reverence and puts some of his own spins on these great songs that we all know and love. I hope to hear more from DC Carnes!

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.


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