A Fistful Of Gumption By Randy McAllister

April 12, 2017

I don’t know how many drummer/harmonica players there are out there, but if there is a list Randy McAllister has to rank near the top.

McAllister is a blues/roots musician with some country influences thrown in for good measure. His sound may not be the smoothest you have ever heard but he more than makes up for it with energy, his superb harp playing, and three decades of honing his craft.

“My Stride,” “Leave A Few Wrong Notes,” and “East Texas Scrapper” all feature his harmonica virtuosity and leave one wishing many of the other songs would feature it more.

He has always been a competent song-writer, who is able to tell stories through his music. “Band With The Beautiful Buss,” “The Oppressor,” and “C’mon Brothers And Sisters” take the listener for a ride through the mind and soul of a Texas musician. “Ride To Get Right” is his ode to Otis Redding and Earl King.

McAllister’s 14th album covers a lot of ground but with energy and passion. Fistful Of Gumption is music for the mind and soul.


A Force Of Nature By Sari Schorr

April 12, 2017

Every once in a while an album sneaks up on you. A Force Of Nature is the debut release by Sari Schorr and why she waited so long is a mystery.

Schorr is a recent inductee into the New York Blues Hall Of Fame has opened for the likes of Joe Louis Walker and Poppa Chubby. She possesses an excellent song-writing ability but it is the power of his voice that puts he above and beyond the norm.

On her own compositions, “Ain’t Got No Money,” “Ordinary Life,” “Cat And Mouse,” and “Demolition Man,” her voice booms, purrs, and commands attention. Her cover of Huddie Ledbetter’s “Black Betty” transfers it to a modern day masterpiece. She even brings new energy to the old Motown classic “Stop In The Name Of Love.”

Sari Schorr has been around for a while. Hopefully A Force of nature will bring her some overdue attention and commercial success.


Peace Trail By Neil Young

April 12, 2017

I don’t think Neil Young has ever issued a bad album in his half-century or so in the recording studio. His latest release, Peace Trail, may not rank among his best work but it is certainly above average.

The music is primarily acoustic and sparse as he only uses drummer Jim Keltner and bassist Paul Bushnell.

The album clocks in at 38 minutes divided between 10 tracks. The heart of the release is his socio/political material which has become more common as he has aged. More interesting are the times and songs when he looks inward and takes a more philosophical approach to his writing. There is an emotional connection to this type of material that seem genuine as he and much of his long-time fan base are facing their own mortality.

Peace Trail may not be his most memorable release but it does have a power to it. It will make you think and reflect and that is enough this time around.

 


Re-Loaded By Al Atkins

April 12, 2017

The brass ring was within reach of Al Atkins but it passed him by. During 1969, he formed Judas Priest with himself as lead vocalist. That band quickly imploded but he re-formed the band in October of 1970 with all new members. He left in May of 1973, just before the release of their first album, and the rest, as they say, is history.

For the last 40 years or so, he has maintained the faith. His career has existed on the periphery of success as he has fronted bands such as Holy Rage and the Atkins/May Project, plus released a number of solo albums.

His latest release, Reloaded, is his re-imagining and re-recording of ten songs from various parts of his career. It includes “Winter” and “Never Satisfied,” which he co-wrote and appeared on Judas Priest’s debut album.

At this point in his career, Atkins is who he is. He produces a straight forward brand of metal and hard rock. He surrounds himself with veteran musicians including Ian Hill (Judas Priest), Chris Johnson (Holy Rage), Rob Allen (UK), and current band mate Paul May.

Tracks such as “Cradle To The Grave,” “Love At War,” “A Void To Avoid,” and “Coming Think And fast” are pounding pieces of rock and roll with Atkins voice leading the way.

Reloaded is an introduction to Al Atkins. It may not change the face of hard rock but it helps gives a veteran of it his due.


Blue & Lonesome By The Rolling Stones

March 29, 2017

The last Rolling Stones studio album was 11 years ago. They have written some songs and have been in the studio, but no album has been forthcoming. Then in a three day frenzy; they entered a recording studio and recorded a dozen blues tracks. The result was the album Blue & Lonesome, which now holds the distinction of being their only studio release to contain no original Jagger/Richard compositions.

They wisely avoided the early blues songs of the American Delta and focused on releases from the era that had an impact on their music (1950’s and 1960’s).

Little Walter passed away at the age of 38 in 1968 and was inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame as a sideman for his virtuosity on the harmonica. His career is resurrected by the Stones as one-third of the songs belong to him. “Just Your Fool,” “Blue And Lonesome,” “I Gotta Go,” and “Hate To See You Gone” as played by the Stones are where rock crosses over into the blues. Watts’ drums and the guitars of Wood and Richard drive the music away from the sparseness of the originals but Jagger’s vocals are spot on.

The Stones could not issue a blues album without a couple of Howlin’ Wolf songs. “Hate To See You Gone” and “Commit A Crime” reach a little deeper into his catalog foe some straight blues interpretations.

The Otis Rush song “I Can’t Quit You Baby” has the style that fits Jagger well and would have been at home on their early albums. Lightning Slim’s “Hoo Doo Blues” is a joyous romp.

The Rolling Stones may not re-invent the blues with Blue & Lonesome but they do re-invent themselves. They prove that you can teach an old dog old tricks.

 


On Safari By The Kentucky Headhunters

March 21, 2017

It has been almost a half-century since vocalist/guitarist Richard Young, drummer Fred Young, and lead guitarist Greg Martin began playing together, Bassist Doug Phelps was an early addition, and they have remained together ever since. It took them nearly 20 years to issue their first album but Pickin’ On Nashville was worth the wait as it sold just over two-million copies.

The Kentucky Headhunters have just released their 12th studio album titled On Safari. Their sound has changed with the passing of time. They have evolved from an electric country band into a southern rock group who incorporate blues into their mix.

Their new album includes ten originals and two covers, Alice Cooper’s “Caught In A Dream” and Charlie Daniel’s “Way Down Yonder.”

It is the ten original compositions that form the heart and soul of the album. They are the type of sold rock and roll that one has come to expect from the Headhunters. “Rainbow Shine,” ”Jukebox Full Of Blues,” and “ “Deep Southern Blues Again” wrap their southern rock roots around a blues foundation. “Beaver Creek Mansion” and   “Lowdown Memphis Town Blues” are a clever look at their own history wrapped in rock and roll.

The Kentucky Headhunters have evolved into one of the great American rock bands. On Safari is another brick in their musical wall.


All Night Live By The Mavericks

March 21, 2017

The career of the Mavericks has passed the quarter-century mark, not counting a nine year hiatus. Founding members Raul Malo (vocals/guitar) and Paul Deakin (drummer) are now joined by Eddie Perez (guitar), and Jerry Dale McFadden (keyboards).

The Mavericks are difficult to pigeon hole stylistically. They cross a lot of musical boundaries as they explore country, rock, blues, and even a little Latin vibe. The one constant is their live shows. They remain one of the best stage bands in American popular music. Their latest album, All Night Live Volume 1, brings their show to CD.

They wisely add some additional musicians to give their live sound some extra flexibility. Michael Guerra (accordion), Mike Abrams (sax), Matt Cappy (trumpet), and Ed Friedland (upright bass) add extra layers and textures to the sound. It all adds up to an energetic romp through 16 of their songs.

My only real problem with the release is the sound. Given the excellence of modern technology, it should have been better and it detracts from the overall enjoyment of the music. A smaller issue is the song section as it comes primarily from two albums. I would have preferred a more career spanning collection.

Other than the above; the album is a good presentation of their energetic live sound. The opening title track is a horn-laden blast that builds as it progresses. They almost move in a big band direction with a swinging version of “Stories We Could Tell.” They move to a blues vibe with the smoldering “Do You Want Me To.” The only cover song is a laid back version of Neil Young’s “Harvest Song.”

All Night Live Volume 1 retains the energy of the Mavericks on stage. Sound aside, it presents live music as it should always be.