February 21, 2024
Issue 17-1 January 5, 2022 – Blues Blast Magazine


Cover photo © 2023 Marilyn Stringer


 In This Issue 

Anita Schlank has our feature interview with Kat Riggins. We have six Blues music reviews for you this week including new music from Catfish Keith, Paul Steward, Chris Canas, Detonics, Robert Hill & Joanne Lediger and The Wayne Riker Gathering. Scroll down and check it out!



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 Featured Interview – Kat Riggins 

imageWhen you see Kat Riggins perform, you see a tiny, beautiful woman with a deep voice, and just the right amount of rasp to her singing.  She is an extremely dynamic performer, and her connection with the crowd is powerful, as she somehow effortlessly portrays the impression that she sees and is singing directly to each member of the audience.  But Kat’s musical path wasn’t always directed toward becoming a blues singer.  When she was seven years of age, her grandmother decided to put her and her siblings and cousins in music classes, and because Kat had long fingers, her grandmother chose the piano to be Kat’s instrument.

“My piano teacher was not very nice.   It was so discouraging to me that I only lasted two weeks.  Then I didn’t formally study music again until I was at the university, with a major in musical theater. There I studied classical voice–opera.  I chose that because I didn’t know much about it and just wanted to learn.  When I love something, I just want to know more about it.  But the music theory classes were all about math, and I’m not a numbers person, and I was not financially able to finish my degree.”

Kat ended up leaning toward the blues influenced by her mother’s vast record collection, and she noted that there was always music playing in her family’s house.

“My mother had a wide variety of music, but she used to especially like to play voices more on the rough and heavy side.  The female singers that she would listen to were Denise LaSalle, Betty Lavette, Betty Wright, Janis Joplin and Tina Turner.  All of those were voices I could hear myself in.  You know the popular music at that time was Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson, whom I love and respect, but I didn’t hear any sort of motivation to believe in my own voice through their voices.  But when I hear Betty Wright or Gladys Knight—now those are the voices that let me hear myself and let me believe in myself.  I always struggled with that.  When I was young, I didn’t believe in my own voice, and I used to be teased as a child for having a deep raspy voice.  When I was 7 or 8 years of age, people told me I sounded like a man.  And you know children’s hearts are fragile and tongues are sharp, so it cut deep.  But then when I was 13, I was rehearsing for a pageant in school, and I had been assigned a Whitney Houston song.  My dad heard me rehearsing and he said, ‘I’m only going to say this—Whitney Houston has Whitney covered.  Your voice is special, so use your own voice.’  That spoke to me louder than all of those voices of the kids that used to tease me.  What they said paled in comparison to what he said that day.”

Kat initially had to earn the respect of other musicians and also had to fight some stereotypes in order to be taken seriously as a band leader.  Although luckily, and somewhat surprisingly, she did not face discrimination about or pressure to hide her sexual orientation

“When you are a black female lesbian in the United States you hear all the discouraging things people will try to project onto you.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who had to rise above that.  And then in the music business, being a small woman with zero degrees and not playing an instrument, I was initially assumed to be ‘just the girl singer’.  My band quickly got over that, and then it was great, but still at the end of the night venue owners would walk right past me and head to my guitar player with the check.  He would have to say to ‘put it in the boss lady’s hands’.  That used to happen a lot.  You have to not allow them to tell you who you are.  My sexuality was never a problem in the music industry though.  When I came into the business I was already out, so that was never a problem.  It’s always been understood by my booking agency or managers that I will never hide this because I’m happily married, and this is a part of me that goes into my music.”

imageKat’s touring within the United States is increasing, but she previously had frequent opportunities to tour internationally.  Most recently her travels took her to a remote part of Africa.

“That African trip was to La Reunion Island.  It’s a territory of France, technically on the continent of Africa, near Madagascar, and the inhabitants consider themselves African.  It’s a beautiful mix of people from all over the continent who live there, and they were so warm and welcoming.  It was my first time in Africa, and it was just as magical as everybody described.  Some of the sunsets didn’t even look real, with the oranges and coral colors.  It was a special place.  My European audiences are also very gracious and loving and warm, so I get invited over there a lot, but I’ve also been working really hard to venture to all parts of the United States.”

Kat recently joined the impressive roster of artists on Gulf Coast Records, a record company co-owned by Mike Zito and Guy Hale.  Her last two albums, Cry Out, and Progeny were both released on that label.  She was asked how this collaboration occurred.

“My agent was kind of shopping me around to different labels right at the same time Albert Castiglia was talking to Gulf Coast about me, so I guess my name was in both ears.  As I was wrapping up my tour in Europe, Guy Hale reached out to me, just for us to try to get to know each other and figure out if it was a good fit. It was!  He is hilarious, just like Mike Zito, and long story short—we officially signed on the dotted line.  Co-writing with Mike is a ball.  When he and Guy Hale are both in the same room, that’s a lot of ab work because you’ll be laughing all day.  And then you throw Albert into the mix, and it feels like you’re one of the guys who is visiting the frat house.  It ends up being a hilarious, creative masterpiece and my stomach hurts and I’m floating on air.”  (Zito seems to feel just as positively toward Kat, as he stated the following regarding why he wanted her on his label: ‘Kat Riggins is a true artist that performs from her heart and soul.  She IS the music.’)

Some people have tried to claim that the lyrics to blues songs are too simplistic and cliché, but there is no evidence of that in Kat’s original songs.  She has always tended to write songs that are deep and address social issues or psychological concepts.  With her latest releases, her writing seems to have turned even more toward directly addressing social justice issues and including spirituality.

“It feels like a little shift.  With every album and with every passing year, I feel like I get a little closer to knowing who I am and figuring this mess out.  As I learn all of that, I become more secure.  When we are trying to figure it out, we can get insecure and wonder if we are going in the right direction, or if we should worry about losing friends with what we say.  But if I am going to preach authenticity, I have to be a real person.  An artist is meant to be a light in the dark.  If it’s an artistic gift that you have and you have a platform, part of the strings attached to that gift is the responsibility to tell the truth.  At this point I’m doing more of that.  I would like to find many ways to say thank you.  I’m very grateful and I’m trying to put more of that gratitude in my songs.  A lot of it is spiritual and I must be honest about that too.  I like including Gospel interludes from my childhood.  It’s a special piece of me to put in every record—to identify my soul.”

imageKat confirmed that songwriting can be an extremely cathartic experience.  She noted that one of the most therapeutic songs that she wrote was an early song entitled “Forgive”, which talks about being able to let go of hurt from past relationships.  More recently a song about her mother has led to one of her most cathartic writing experiences.

“On ‘Mama’ I am crying on the track, and we didn’t cut anything out.  All the tremors and breaks in my voice and the breathing—it’s all in there.  You probably won’t ever hear me do that song live, but it was just very cleansing to record it.  My mother passed away in May, and her birthday was in May, and Mother’s Day is in May, and I felt that I had to reclaim the month of May and bring a joyful occasion to that month.  So, my wife and I chose to get married in the middle of May.  It’s never going to be easy to handle the loss—no matter how long ago it was.  You get stronger and it gets easier to cope with and you focus on the knowledge of having known and loved that person.  But all the images still come up—I see her dancing to Sade on Christmas and images of her in her holiday shirts—like the one for Halloween that says, ‘just give me the damn candy’.  I’m remembering all of those beautiful moments.”

Blues songs can also be healing and cathartic to the listener, since writers often share their personal experiences with trying times, which in turn makes those in the audience feel less alone. Sometimes those audience members approach Kat to thank her for those comforting moments.

“The first time it happened I almost couldn’t keep it together.  It was someone thanking me for writing “No Sale”.  It’s about the road to recovery and a sobriety journey.  Then people have thanked me for saying “God” on stage, since many are afraid to.  So, this is why I tell the truth.  If my spirit puts it in my heart to write and I share it, somebody has got to be helped by it.  I try to be obedient to that.  Even if nobody ever came to me to thank me, I just know that I’m not supposed to keep songs like that to myself.  The blues is a specifically healing form of music because of the rawness of it, the truth.  The simplicity of it—that is what is attractive.  Someone will hear it and it will help.”

In addition to extensive writing, Kat has also been painting more since the start of the pandemic.  She frequently takes a lyric from one of her songs and puts it in a painting. She has also taken that time when venues were closed to initiate plans for collaborations with other artists.

“Some good came from that little forced hiatus.  I remembered how much I loved getting my hands dirty, so I started painting again.  They are all for sale on my website and I always bring them out to shows whenever there is space at the merchandise table.  And there have been some inquiries regarding co-writing with other artists.  I can’t say too much about that right now, but there will be some exciting announcements coming soon.”

When asked with which artists she would like to collaborate, Kat mentioned Keb Mo’ and Fantastic Negrito, but her list seemed to focus primarily on women who, like her, are strong, powerful, and exceptionally talented.

“Tina Turner would be my dream collaboration, but I would love to work with Betty Lavette, Ruthie Foster, and Larkin Poe.  Also Beth Hart—I want to just drink her voice—it’s so moving!”

We can only hope that we will be present in the audience if any of those collaborations should occur.

You can find out more about this talented artist, including seeing her tour schedule, sampling her music, and checking out her paintings on her website:  www.katriggins.com

Writer Anita Schlank lives in Virginia, and is on the Board of Directors for the River City Blues Society. She has been a fan of the blues since the 1980s. She and Tab Benoit co-authored the book “Blues Therapy,” with all proceeds from sales going to the HART Fund.


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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

imageCatfish Keith – Still I Long To Roam

Fish Tail Records

www.catfishkeith.com

13 songs time- 59:17

Here it is the acoustic singer-guitarist’s twenty first album, and somehow he has pretty much flew under my blues radar. Of course over the years I have seen his name in ads for his CDs and appearances, but I only have a vague recollection of any of his music. So, that ends with this review. He is an accomplished acoustic guitarist in finger-picking and slide styles, as well as an engaging gruff voiced singer-songwriter and interpreter of the blues canon. Like most of his recordings, it is just his voice and various acoustic guitar, as he is one of the few carrying on with the acoustic blues tradition.

On the first of his two original songs here, “I’m A Wanderer, Fare Thee Well” he accompanies himself bottleneck style on his National Reso-Phonic “Exploding Palm” Baritone Tricone with his appropriately gruff voice in sync with his playing. It is a ponderance on the vagabond life style. The other original composition “Cherry Red” was inspired by songster Mance Lipscomb and Skip James. Catfish goes in and out of a Skip James falsetto vocal. “She burnt my biscuits and she bakes my bread”.

Going back close to a century, Frank Stokes’ “Stomp That Thing” is reminiscent of Roy Book Binder’s rhythmic and thumping guitar style. Not sure what it is about, but here is a repeated lyric-“Gettin’ sick and tired of hearing them ding dongs ring”. You tell me. He does a version of pianist Cecil Grant’s “I’m A Good Man”. he does Jimmie Rodgers'(The Blue Yodeler) “Daddy & Home” and even manages some yodeling. The album’s title is taken from this song.

He imparts a powerful rhythmic sense to legendary gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “He’ll Understand And Say Well Done”. He does a call and response vocal with himself on Blind Willie Johnson’s “When The War Was On”, about World War II. He does a nice reading of Mississippi John Hurt’s “Louis Collins”, but of course the vocal not as gentle as John’s. A first for me, an acoustic guitar version of New Orleans piano master Professor Longhair’s “Go To The Mardi Gras”. Once again an off and on falsetto. He adds the line-“I’m gonna break every lovin’ law”.

He does Tommy Johnson’s “Cool Drink Of Water”, where Howlin’ Wolf got “I asked for water, she brought me gasoline”. I’m not familiar with The Mississippi Sheiks’ “Bed Spring Poker”, but I’m guessing it is double entendre.

It does the ole Bluesdog’s heart good to know there are folks like Catfish Keith striving to keep the acoustic blues alive and breathing. Music like this is always a breath of fresh air in the face of the onslaught of electric blues and blues-rock. At times it is a needed relaxation. It has taken me a long time to discover him. Don’t make the same mistake.

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



 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

imagePaul Steward – World Champion

C&P 2XG Records

https://paul2xg.com/

9 tracks

“I was born on a Thursday, December 20th, 1984 in Wine Country California; raised on Elem Indian Colony Sulphur Bank Rancheria. Moved to Santa Rosa, CA as a teenager. I love music! Been singing and playing my whole life. My dad gave me the gift of music, got me a toy piano when I was little, taught me to play guitar at 13. We traveled all over America sharing that music.”

Paul’s bio goes on to tell us of his achievements and accomplishments. His love of music is rooted in family and he and his Dad Richard have a duo band (Twice As Good) and won the 2010 Native American Music Awards Blues Album of the Year. More albums and the 2021 launch of Steward’s solo career was followed by the release of this album a year later. Mixing blues, funk, soul, R&B, tribal music, and even some pop, it’s a fun cacophony of fine sounds and music. It even features the first ever commercial release of a Southeastern dialect Pomo language song, “Myanik Xe (Beautiful Music).” This California wine country-based artist is a great singer, songwriter and musician.

The title track is first up and there is a heavy, funky groove going on and Steward sings emotively and plays with ferocity. “Doin’ My Thing” follows, which starts out slow and soft and then  breaks into a driving and rocking blues. This and the next cut were penned by Paul. “Come On Girl” is a soulful piece with another sweet groove and funky vocals. Next is “That’s Where You Are,” is a slower soul blues with pretty guitar and powerful vocals. OAul’s Pomo cut is the next track and features chants, shouts, rhythms and a clapper stick.  It’s pretty darn cool and well done.

Jimmy Dawkins “If You Gotta Love Somebody” is classic Chicago blues with a soulful delivery. Freddie Hughes’ “Send My Baby Back” is a big soul number that Steward nails. Exceptional vocals and a slow and sultry delivery make this a winner. Next is Bruno Mars’ “Grenade” and Steward makes it his own.  Funky and cool, he blends and mixes musical styles into a cool pop/hip hop/blues and works well. He finishes up with Ras K’dee’s rap “Seasons,” transforming the cut into a powerful, slow R&B cut with tasteful vocals and guitar.

Steward is an exceptional artist with a great new, solo record.  He’s toured the US and globe and is someone whom I hope to get to hear live soon. He’s a fantastic singer and guitarist and his songs and performances blend soul and blues and everything else into a delightful sound that grabs the listener. Highly recommended!

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 6 

imageChris Canas – Detroit

Third Street Cigar Records

https://www.chriscanas.net/

11 tracks

Detroit and automobiles are synonymous. The auto industry was a big draw for migrating African Americans looking to escape Jim Crow, boll weevil infestations and the servitude of share cropping.  Chris Canas is a young bluesman who continues the blues legacy of the Motor City with eleven new tracks for listeners to enjoy.

Canas handles lead guitar and vocals and also adds slide and some bass. Derek “DC” Washington plays bass and Marc Anthony Guillory is on drums. Danny Pratt plays harp and Mike Biddle is on organ. Nikki “D” Brown is on lap steel, Ray Benson does percussion and the horn section is Travis Geiman (trombone), Ben Delong (trumpet) and Bob Manley (tenor sax).

The album begins with the title track, an homage to Canas’ hometown. A funky blues where Canas sings and plays with feeling, including a big guitar solo. “Blues Blues Blues” is a swinging track with a bog guitar and them harp solo. “Addicted” follows, a heavy, guitar blues cut with a driving sound.  “Juke Joint Jive” is another swinging cut with the harp up front and the horns in support. Canas swings and jumps vocally and the cut is lot of fun.

“Cookie” is next, with some more nice guitar licks. “Queen of My World” is a slow blues ballads with some great organ that builds in emotion and intensity with Canas finally delivering a huge guitar solo. “You Don’t Give a Damn” follows, in Sam Cook style, a cut where Canas croons a bit with great emotion. “Good Man About To Break Bad”is the story of a guy who is about to go ballistic because he’s being messed with at work and in life. He’s calling out his job and people in traffic and giving them notice in no uncertain terms. Guitar and organ get some good solo time.

“Shoot From The Hip” is another song with a little anger let out as Canas know where he’s coming from. More big organ and guitar are featured again. Next is “Smoke In The City,” a cut with a great groove and more of Canas’ moxie making for a great performance. Things finish with “Put It In The Pot,” another hot number with a funky groove, organ and horn support helping to get the pot boiling. Canas also provides one final big performance with his guitar to savor, too.

Canas grew up loving music and played a number of instruments. When he finally landed on guitar he’d found his niche and he demonstrates his prowess and ferocity with the guitar in each track. He competed in the International Blues Challenge thrice, representing three different affiliates and was a finalist in his last attempt in 2020. His blues/funk/soul infused music delights fans every time he plays, and this new CD will surely get him some new fans while delighting his current ones. This is a great blues album with a lot of hot and driving cuts that will certainly get the listener’s blood flowing. Well done!

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 6 

imageDetonics – Detonize

Naked Records

www.detonics.nl

10 tracks

The Detonics are a band from the Netherlands comprised of Kars van Nus on lead vocals and blues harp, Raymond Nijenhuis on the guitar, Raimond de Nijs and piano and Hammond organ, Mathijs Roks playing drums and Wilfred Pieters on  upright bass and backing vocals. Founded in 2014, the band won the Dutch Blues Challenge in 2016 and wound up representing Europe in the 2017 International Blues Challenge. I saw them at Buddy Guys when they competed in the Semi-Finals and I must say I was impressed with them as I am with this great album!

One has to like a band that says this about themselves: “As soon as Detonics plays, the atmosphere of prostitution, illegal casinos, home-distilled whiskey and Al Capone arises. The fact that this is a big hit with the blues audience is evident from the steaming performances in international venues and festivals.” These guys embody west Coast Blues and they can swing and boogie with the best of them. They have a genuine sound and these five young men do a stand up job delivering some fine music. This is their third album since coming together and I really enjoyed it.

Ten original tracks are featured on this album.  They start with “Too Far Away,” a nice jump blues with great guitar and organ work. Van Nus also sings and swings just like a Californian. Next up is “Mean Machine” with a driving, honky-tonk boogie going to make you feel like getting up and dancing. “Why Were You Lying” follows, with a slower tempo as van Nus croons for us. Another nice guitar solo and we get a harp solo, too. “It’s Gotta Be Me” is a bouncy and fun cut with swinging piano and guitar to enjoy. “Love Is Gone” is a slow and pensive tome with pretty guitar and organ work that make it special.

The boys go a little cowboy with the western sounding “Money Train.” Then it’s the rocking “Life’s Your Best Friend” with a deep groove gives the listener a throbbing, pulsating and fun ride. “Backdoor Annie” is pure swinging, jumping blues with a nice guitar lead to introduce us to the piece and take us through. Van Nus gives us more sweet vocals and a little harp to savor, too. “Memphis” highlights their trip to the IBC, singing about the trip to Beale Street.  It’s a fun cut with piano and guitar supplementing the vocals. They conclude with “Hard Way To Go,” a pretty ballad with just vocals. Guitar and harp. It’s sublime and cool.

Lots of variety in these ten super original cuts. If you like to swing and want to hear how the folks across the big pond can jump just like we do, then check this one out. The Detonics are an authentic jump blues band who I most highly recommend!

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 – 5 of 6 

imageRobert Hill & Joanne Lediger – Revelation

Self-produced CD

www.roberthillband.com

11 songs – 44 minutes

Since its creation, the blues has always walked in lockstep with gospel, and it’s hard to separate one from the other in this refreshing acoustic set, which features New York Blues Hall of Fame member Robert Hill and his longtime partner Joanne Lediger in a a full-band setting.

A native of North Little Rock, Ark., Hill’s an acclaimed slide guitarist who doubles on vocals, keys and harmonica here. An award-winning songwriter who’s been based out of New York since the 1990s, his tunes have appeared in numerous films and TV shows on both sides of the Atlantic, most notably All My Children, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and HBO’s Dexter, and have won top honors in contests conducted by Guitar Player magazine, Broadjam and the Unisong International Songwriting Competition.

A vocalist with a sweet delivery who hails from Rockland County, N.Y., Joanne has teamed with Robert for the past 15 years, performing extensively in the region as well as the King Biscuit and Mother’s Best Festivals in Helena, Ark., toured Spain twice and regularly play other major events in the Northeast U.S. She’s worked with a diverse set of talents that includes Joe Cocker, Dr. John, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Cassidy and Vassar Clements.

Recorded by Paul Special at Special Audio Studios in Wantage, N.J., Lediger and Hill share vocals with an assist from his daughter, Paulina, throughout with backing from Steve Gelfand on bass and Frank Pagano on drums. Ed Alstrom guests on Hammond B3 organ.

This set intersperses four Hill originals with seven familiar covers that are designated as traditions in the liner notes. However, four of the seven were first performed by Blind Willie Johnson in the 1920s and ‘30s, and another was actually penned by Tom Waits and debuted in 1987.

That said, however, this is a wonderful set with classic appeal. All of the tunes here regardless of age are made fresh thanks to Hill and Lediger’s energetic delivery and highly percussive arrangements that will keep your toes tapping throughout.

“John the Revelator,” first recorded by Johnson in 1930, sets the tone to open as Joanne handles the lyrics atop Robert’s fingerpicking goodness on National steel. He doubles on harp for the mid-tune break before things rock steadily to a pleasant close. The pace quickens and Lediger takes you to church for a sprightly reworking of “Run On,” a number that debuted as “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” for the Golden Gate Quartet in 1946, which includes a stellar, dazzling multi-dimensional slide guitar solo.

The texture changes and the pace slows for an inventive take on Johnson’s “Soul of a Man,” another Johnson standard, with Robert handling the lyrics and Joanne doubling the chorus. It flows into Waits’ “Way Down in the Hole,” which features Paulina on vocals and takes on a different feel because of a powerful rhumba beat that separates it from the original.

“Jesus by the Riverside,” which follows, is an original that’s deeply rooted in country blues, and Joanne’s lilting delivery with call-and-response accompaniment is perfect for any house of worship. It flows into “Pay One Way or Another,” another fresh number that comes with a grinding blues groove and makes a statement again religious zealotry that colors our politics today.

Two more Blind Willie numbers — “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” and the honkytonk-flavored “Samson and Delilah” – bookend “A Devil’s Fool,” a loping number tune Windy City appeal in which Richard recommends strongly that folks should avoid temptation in all its forms before “Preacher’s Blues” serves up a clever rebuke from a preacher before the traditional “Jesus on the Mainline” brings things to a close.

Fun and faith run deep in all the cuts on this one, which shines throughout. Strongly recommended for anyone who’d enjoy old-school gospel and blues with contemporary appeal.

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Charlotte, N.C., his first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.


 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

imageThe Wayne Riker Gathering – Alphabetical Blues Bash Volume 1

Fretful Records

www.waynerikerguitar.com

13 tracks

Wayne Riker is a long time guitar teacher and author of music books from Southern California. Here he demonstrates his guitar prowess with a dozen blues standards with vocal assistance from nine San Diego area singers. His career has entered his sixth decade and he’s a master of the six string.

Riker handles all the electric guitar work. Oliver Shirley III play bass and Marty Dodson is on drums. Rebecca Jade and Ron Christopher Jones do some fun backing vocals on tracks 5 and 9.

Shelle Blue does a fine job with Otis Rush and “All Your Love.” Riker nails the guitar lead. He follows that with an instrumental version of “Baby Please Don’t Go,” the Joe Williams standard. It’s well done. Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Checkin’ Up On My Baby” is next and Lauren Leigh handles the fronting of the band quite well. It swings and bounces nicely and Wayne and band aptly support the effort.

“Dust My Broom” is next and Riker does some mean slide in this nice instrumental. “Eyes Like A Cat” features Billy Watson who traces vocal licks with Rikers guitar. It’s a nice jump blues. Riker wails on his ax for us and it’s very sweet. “Next up is “Fever,” and Janet Hammer does a  sultry and superb job with it.

Deanna Haala handles “Going Down” as Riker rocks out a bit for us. “Honky Tonk” is another interesting instrumental with a mid tempo groove and a song that Riker makes his own. “I’m Willing To Be Your Friend” has Debora Galan on lead vocals and Riker doing some fine guitar picking. “Jailhouse Blues” is an old Bessie Smith song. Ron Houston give the cut a down  home feel and Riker helps in setting the mood with some pretty solo guitar behind him.

“Killing Floor” follows that with Michelle Lundeen in the lead. She grabs this one and gives it her all as Riker plays some mean guitar. Up next is “Little Red Rooster” with Liz Ajuzee handling the singing. These two Howlin’ Wolf songs are fun as Wayne shows his stuff.  He finishes up with a swing and jump version of “Move It On Over,” and Riker has a lot of fun with the song.

Now that he’s covered A through M, I expect Volume 2 will cover the second half of the alphabet.  These familiar songs get respectful covers and interesting takes by Riker and his crew. The album is a fun ride with his great guitar and his cadre of nine singers and his band.

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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