CD Reviews by
JRBS members, musicians & guests.
The following CD reviews reflect the opinions of the reviewers
only and not of the organization.
“New Orleans Christmas”
This is a
collection of Christmas songs played by some of New Orleans best known
jazz artists. Most notably, Ellis Marsalis records “God Rest Ye Merry
Gentlemen” in smooth jazz piano style, and Big Al Carson with Lars
Edegran & his Santa Clause Revelers doing a Dixieland rendition of
“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” My favorite cut is Ingrid Lucia’s
version of “Zat You, Santa Claus?” a Louis Armstrong classic.
Music, better known for their recordings of music from African and
Asian nations, released this CD world wide in October. The promo copy
I got was packaged in a cardboard sleeve like a miniature LP jacket.
I wish all record companies would follow suite. The hard clear
plastic boxes that are most common these days are too fragile and
usually end up in the trash after the first time they are dropped.
Besides, they are useless to those of us that store our CD’s in CD
New Orleans Playground
Putumayo Kids, #P257
On this CD, there’s New Orleans Jazz versions of some classic
children’s tunes, “Row Row Your Boat” recorded by Dr. John, and Hack
Bartholomew’s version of “When The Saints Go Marchin’ In.” There’s
also Buckwheat Zydeco’s “Skip to My Blues” which has the lyrics from
the original children’s song but certainly not the original melody.
Fat’s Domino’s “Whole Lotta Lovin’ and “Ya Ya” from Lee Dorsey (“Sittin’
in La La waitin’ on my Ya Ya Uh Huh”) are pushing the border between
children’s songs and love songs but I suppose most parents would be OK
with it. “Ain’t Got No Home” from Clarence “Frogman” Henry may be a
little creepy to young children especially when he sings “I ain’t got
no mother, I ain’t got no father, I ain’t got no sister, I ain’t got
no brother….” in his frog voice.
As a whole, this is a great children’s record for birthdays, sock hops
and slumber parties but I’d be wary of playing it around toddlers and
preschoolers. It may a little intense or “above their heads.”
John Hammond in Concert
Coffee and Tea
early (around 5 p.m.) for a show not scheduled till 8, I sat in the
coffee shop with my laptop and a cup of peppermint tea writing my
weekly newspaper column. No one else was in the room until John
Hammond and his wife sat at a table and ordered. On my way back to
the counter for a refill I stopped and introduced myself. A brief but
very informative conversation ensued. I mentioned that we were right
up the road from the Hohner USA office and he was unaware of this
fact. I learned that he’s a devout Hohner harmonica player and he buys
them from Joe Filisko, THE top harmonica customizer. I have never met
Filisko but John Hammond is the third person I’ve spoken to that said
Joe is not only a harmonica master but also a really nice guy. I have
to say the same about John Hammond.
The show was awesome! For
those of you that have never been to Ashland Coffee and Tea you are
really missing something. A coffee house, lunch spot and general
hangout for locals during the day, Ashland Coffee and Tea brings in
nationally acclaimed acts every weekend and attracts audiences from
all over the state. Check out their website, (www.ashlandcoffeeandtea.com).
You’ll see I’m not lyin’.
a treasure trove of blues trivia and nostalgic stories. Especially
about the Chicago blues scene in the early sixties. He became friends
with Michael Bloomfield in school and thanks to Bloomfield he was
afforded the opportunity to meet and hear many of the great Chicago
blues artists as a teenager including Howling Wolf, Mississippi John
Hurt and Sonny Terry.
learned to play the guitar and moved to Los Angeles in 1962 to pursue
a career in music. He took a job pumping gas at the Wilshire Blvd.
Shell Station. One day, a Porsche convertible pulled up to the pump.
The driver was wearing a big white cowboy hat and headed for the
restroom as soon as he shut down the engine. On the passenger’s seat
was a Martin D-45 guitar. No case, the guitar was just laying there
in the sun. Hammond says he overfilled the Porsche’s tank because he
couldn’t keep his eyes off the guitar. When the driver returned he
noticed John staring at the guitar and asked if he played. Hammond
picked up the Martin and played a little for the driver in the white
cowboy hat. The driver said “I can get you some gigs!” and John
Hammond’s music career was launched. The driver in the cowboy hat was
earning a few bucks as a musician Hammond returned to Chicago in a
newly purchased car and met up with Bloomfield again. One day
Bloomfield took Hammond to meet Big Joe Williams who Hammond described
as being “about five foot two inches tall and five foot two inches
wide.” When Big Joe learned that Hammond had a car he allowed John to
drive him to his gigs and even sit in on the harmonica.
Hammond is a very intense and physical performer. One of my
Bluegrass/Americana playing friends said (in front of his wife) that
Hammond beats the $**+ out of the guitar. On the night I saw him he
played two guitars. One appeared to be an old Martin auditorium style
(maybe a ooo28??), and the other looked to be a National Steel
Resonator. He never broke a string and even manually stretched the
low E string on the Martin when he was re-tuning it after playing a
song in drop D.
equally brutal on his harmonicas. Playing on a neck rack he throws
his head back and thrusts his face toward the sky. With eyes closed
and cheeks puffed out he manages to get blow bends out of the high end
of the harp. Something most harp players can’t do even when the harp
is safely cupped in two hands. I was in awe.
primarily played classic blues tunes through out his career but
recently took to song writing. At the show I saw he played his
original “Push Comes to Shove.” His newest CD of the same name is due
out in January 2007. It includes five new originals plus two tunes by
G Love (of Special Sauce fame) who is also the producer.
JRBS members can catch John Hammond at The Ellington on February 17,
Live in Europe
Ruf Records, #RUF-1113
recorded in the Musa in Gottingen, Germany Oct. 2005. Notable cuts
include “It’s a Man Down There” Credited to George T. Crockett and
Jack Daniels, a swinging version of the tune “One Way Out” made
popular by The Allman Brothers Band in the 70’s and “Too Cool”
co-written by Allison and Bruce McCabe. The longest jam during the
concert was “The Walk” at over eleven minutes. This slide guitar
shuffle leads the listener to assume that Bernard Allison is a huge
Bo-Diddly fan. So much so that he wears a snakeskin shirt and has
stuffed rattlesnakes on his hat.
It used to be
that live albums were poorly recorded with no studio mixing and
editing. The actual live shows sounded better, even it you were
standing in front of the bass guitar speakers. Today that has
changed. If it wasn’t for the occasional applause from the audience or
the artist talking to the crowd: (i.e.: “Thanks for coming, I’d like
to introduce the band” etc.) you’d never know you were listening to a
live recording. Except of course for the instrumentals, and Bernard
Allison‘s 2 CD set “Energized“ is chock full of instrumentals. Great
jams from Allison’s guitar, Jassen Wilber’s bass, Mike Vlahakis’ on
keyboards and Andrew Thomas on the trap set.
“New Used Car”
Ruf Records, #RUF-1116
By Rusty Wilbourn
Sue Foley has evidently been cutting records for quite some time. The
oldest one on her website is “Young Girl Blues” released in 1991.
After that she’s released another every year or two with the exception
of 2000 when she released two. It’s funny, I’ve never heard of her.
I try to stay abreast of the blues artists that are currently
producing material. Half the reason for her anonymity is that
although she hails from Canada her records are released in Europe.
Ruf Records is a German based concern and the only show currently
listed on her website is in New Brunswick Canada. Her performance
schedule is rather light.
“New Used Car” consists of 12 tracks all written by Foley. It seems
to me, a man, that the record is aimed at the women’s market. The CD
is pink and most of the lyrics are about feelings, something us men
don’t have. “Absolution,” “Deep Freeze” and “Found My Love” could
definitely be described as blues but the rest of the tunes are leaning
towards rock. Unfortunately, none of it stands out and her vocals are
wanting. It almost seems at times like she’s attempting to get the
sheep like warble that Stevie Nicks has and other times she‘s trying
to sound like Edie Brickell but slightly off key. I’m sorry to
say that “New Used Car” hasn’t got any shine to it. Perhaps some
of her earlier work is better.
Old Crow Medicine Show
“Big Iron World”
Nettwerk Productions #Nettwerk 0-6700
My first encounter with Old Crow Medicine Show was a few years back at
the Rhythm on the River Concert in Scottsville, VA. The opening band
was Old School Freight Train and the headliner was Hackensaw Boys.
Both local groups from Charlottesville and billed as Bluegrass bands.
Old School Freight Train was finding recognition thanks to
collaboration and support from David Grisman, Jerry Garcia’s Bluegrass
pickin’ buddy. Hackensaw Boys, a hodgepodge group of buskers from the
Charlottesville Downtown Mall had to cancel at the last minute and
OCMS stepped in to take their place. They were impressive. Versatile
and creative with high energy. Later when I got a chance to see
Hackensaw Boys I realized the Scottsville audience had enjoyed a rare
treat. Hackensaw Boys are entertaining and fun but not near the
caliber of OCMS. Not long after the entire country was introduced to
OCMS on the Late Night with Conan O’Brien show. I caught that
appearance also. They played Dylan’s “Wagon Wheel,” one of the more
popular cuts on their first CD “O.C.M.S.”
Although OCMS is known as a bluegrass or country band, a copy of their
new CD “Big Iron World” found its way into the JRBS mailbox. I’ve got
the privilege of reviewing it, and I’m pleased to announce that these
local boys from the Shenandoah Valley just keep getting better and
better. And yes, there is blues on this CD. “Down Home Girl” by
Jerry Leiber and “Minglewood Blues” by Noah Lewis are both traditional
twelve bar numbers. The original cuts “New Virginia Creeper” and “Let
It Alone” definitely qualify as Ragtime or Jump Blues. The first
single released on the CD, “James River Blues” is an OCMS original
lamentation to the James River Batteau of yesteryear. It can’t be
classified as blues but it’s still immensely enjoyable as is the rest
of the album. Dylan fans will be
enchanted with “I Hear Them All” and “Bobcat Tracks.” The only
disappointment is track two, “Cocaine Habit” which is nothing more
than a continuation of “Tell It To Me” the cocaine song off their
first CD. One wonders why these guys insist on discussing this
subject on both CD’s.
It may be wrong doting on local boys made good but in this case it’s
well deserved. I predict we’ll be seeing videos from OCMS on CMT
soon. Their future includes the Country Music Awards and perhaps even
“Living Out Of Time”
Ruf Records, #RUF-1111
Robin Trower is a British Stratocaster player that enjoyed great
success in the 70’s. His first notable work was with Procol Harum.
Their hit song, “Whiter Shade of Pale” featured Steve Winwood on
vocals and keyboards. Later in the same decade Trower teamed up with
vocalist /bassist Reg Isidore to record a couple albums of original
music under his own name. His style of guitar playing was compared to
Jimi Hendrix and riding on the immense popularity of the recently
deceased guitar prodigy Robin Trower found huge success with rock
singles, “Bridge of Sighs,” “Day of the Eagle” and “Too Rolling
“Living Out of Time” is a live recording from the Sept. 2005
Rockpalast Crossroads Festival in Bonn, Germany. Trower’s new band
includes Davey Pattison on vocals, Dave Bronze on bass and Pete
Thompson on drums. The band’s sound, including vocals, is virtually
indistinguishable from the original 1970’s group. The album features
the three songs listed above plus ten more Trower originals. The band
is on tour and will be playing the Birchmere in DC on Oct 8 for those
of you that care to catch his live performance. I would imagine
everything you’ll hear is already available on this CD. The site is
"35 X 35"
Alligator, # ALCD120/21
This double CD celebrates Alligator's 35 years in blues music. The
unusual thing about this compilation is that it features the first
recording of these 35 artists who have been or are on the Alligator
Included here are the following highlights: Big Walter Horton, "Have a
Good Time," Albert Collins; "Honey Hush," Professor Longhair; "In the
Wee Wee Hours," Buddy Guy; "Are You Losing Your Mind?," Johnny Winter;
"Don't Take Advantage of Me," James Cotton; "High Compression," Lonnie
Mack; "Satisfy Suzie, "Roy Buchanan; "When a Guitar Plays the Blues",
Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, "She Winked Her Eye", Saffire-The Uppity
Blues Women, "Wild Women Don't Have the Blues", Luther Allison, "Bad
Love", and Shemekia Copeland, "Salt in My Wounds".
Overall, this is a very nice and listenable commemoration of the 35
years that Alligator Records has been in business.
CEPHAS & WIGGINS
"Shoulder to Shoulder"
Alligator, ALCD 4910
This new album from Cephas & Wiggins has 12 tracks of very nice blues
in the Piedmont style.
7 of the tracks were written or co-written by John Cephas including "Ain't
Seen My Baby", "All I Got is Them Blues", "Seattle Rainy Day Blues",
and "The Blues Three Ways". In addition, there's "Catfish Blues
(James), "Susie Q" (Sonny Boy Williamson) and "Three Ball Blues
(Fuller) that were written by other blues artists. "The Blues Three
Ways" was recorded live on March 7, 2006, at the Democratic Club in
Overall, this is another outstanding album by these masters of the
“The Turner Diaries”
Northern Blues Music, #NBM0036
“The Turner Diaries” is Turner’s personal thoughts
and opinions of himself, current issues and his relationship with
others be they lovers or friends. Not unlike the type of writings one
would find in a diary or on the newest form of self-expression
spanning the internet, the blog. As we all know, real men don’t keep
diaries so Turner has set his to music. Rockin’ music that is meant to
be played loud. This is not an album for the Mississippi Delta Blues
fan. It’s more in line with the style of Hendrix or Robin Trower.
Electric and loaded with effects.
The portrait photography on the cover and inside
jacket employs an interesting effect as well. Turner, having a caramel
complexion is dressed in a black t-shirt and his arms and face are
covered in writing, presumably the original manuscript of one or more
of the songs on the album. It gives the appearance that he’s covered
head to toe in a tanning booth tattoo. Interesting……….
All songs on this CD are Turner originals and the
band is tight consisting of guitar, bass, drums and keyboard. Lots of
sound from a small ensemble. Turner is a masterful electric guitarist
both on the frets and the effects pedals. The question about this
album is; is it blues? There’s not one song that follows the classic
twelve bar progression. Only track eight, “Shake 4 Me” has
characteristics of what is traditionally considered blues. If this
record finds its way into the major music stores it should probably be
filed under Rock, not Blues.
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