September 6, 2017
There’s nothing like a Smoky Greenwell album on a cold Maine night. His brand of southern blues and hot harp work is a cure for any winter evening.
Greenwell’s harp virtuosity is always a blues delight and it dominates his latest album South Louisiana Blues. Backed by a host of New Orleans musicians, he blasts through four original and eight blues tunes.
“Boogie Twist” is a fun-filled romp fueled by his harp play. “Lonesome Lonely Blues” is a laid back poignant piece. “Pick It Up” has a wonderful melody with a hook that will keep bringing you back. The album opening “Animal Angels” is a fusion of rock and blues.
South Louisiana Blues is another solid another album from the mind, hand, and mouth of Smoky Greenwell. It is well-worth a listen of two.
September 6, 2017
Guy Clark died almost a year ago. His passing took away one of American Music’s greatest troubadours. Best known as a songwriter whose compositions were covered by the cream of country and folk artists; he nevertheless released nearly 20 albums of his own. He had a wonderful capacity to turn thoughts and pictures into words and music and his last studio release, My Picture Of You won a Grammy Award in Best Folk Album Category.
The last label of his long career was Dualtone. His new release, The Best Of The Dualtone Years, draws from his studio albums for the label, plus some live tracks, and adds three unreleased demos, which are combined into an essential Americana two-disc release.
His composition s run the gamut from love songs, “My Favorite Picture Of You,” to romance, “Cornmeal Waltz,” to the expression of his wry sense of humor, “Hemingway’s Whiskey.”
The live tracks get to the heart of who he was as a musician and singer. While I would have preferred to have the five live tracks together rather than interspersed throughout the album, they present some of his most famous compositions in a very personal way. “L.A. Freeway” and “Dublin Blues” helped to define what Americana music is all about and “Homegrown Tomatoes” and “The Cape” are examples of how he viewed the world around him.
The unreleased demos, “Just To Watch Maria Dance,” “The Last Hobo,” and “Time” are stripped down to basics and present a good example of his writing process.
Guy Clark left behind a catalogue of wonderful glimpses of the world around him. The Best Of The Dualtone Years is a fine introduction to his music and is not only a good release in its own right but will hopefully inspire people to delve deeper into his music.
September 6, 2017
Jon Zeeman is a guitarist who has a sound, that once you hear it, is instantly recognizable. He has just released his latest album titled Blue Room. It includes seven original tunes and thee cover songs.
He is basically a blues guitarist who fuses some rock elements into his approach. This is clearest on his interpretation of the Jimi Hendrix song “Still Rainin’ Still Dreamin’ on which he moves effortlessly though a number of styles.
While he has a backing band, the sound moves from sparse to full. This is especially the case when he plays his guitar off the keyboards. Also of note is the late Butch Trucks, whose drumming appears on two tracks, “All I Want Is You” and “Next To You.”
He is an excellent songwriter and is able to create melodic blues. “Talking ‘Bout My Baby,” “If I Could Make You Love Me,” and “Hold On” are good examples of his style. There is also a gritty cover of the Robert Johnson blues classic “Love In Vain,” which is just right for a small smoky bar late at night.
Joe Zeeman has produced a solid album of blues. It is worth a listen or two.
August 14, 2017
Harry Belafonte is celebrating his 90th birthday this year and in celebration RCA/Legacy is releasing a compilation of some of his most well-known songs titled The Legacy Of Harry Belafonte: When Colors Come Together.
Today Harry Belafonte is more known for his political stances and social awareness than his music but during the mid-1950’s through the 1960’s he was one of the most famous non-rock performers in the world. Born in Harlem, he fused Caribbean rhythms with traditional folk music. His two live albums, recorded at Carnegie Hall, sold millions of copies and made him one of the first black singers to achieve mass mainstream appeal.
Belafonte has a laid back and easy flowing style. His signature song, “Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” and such traditional songs such as “Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair),” “All My Trials,” “On Top Of Old Smokey,” and a live version of “Pastures Of Plenty” just flow easily by the senses.
His version of “Mary’s Boy Child” never grows old, as does his sincere and passionate cover of “Abraham, Martin & John” recorded shortly after Martin Luther King’s death.
The only new song is a re-recording and re-imagining of “When Islands Come Together (Our Island In The Sun)” sung by a children’s choir. It serves as the first and introductory track to the album and its music. Originally co-written by Belafonte, it was the title song for the 1957 film Island In The Sun, in which he starred.
While his music is tied to the past, many of the album’s songs remain relevant today despite their age. His music will only appeal to a certain segment of the population but for those who appreciate his style and music, The Legacy Of harry Belafonte: When Colors Come Together will be a treat.
August 14, 2017
Eliza Neals is a gritty, down to earth blues singer, keyboardist, and songwriter who strides the line between traditional and modern day blues.
Her vocals have a primitive quality that reach back to the delta, while her music, especially with guitarist Howard Glazier, have a connection to the present.
Songs such as “Cleotus,” “Downhill On A Rocket,” “Call Me Moonshine,” “You Ain’t My Dog No More,” and the only cover song, “Hard Killing Floor,” explode from the speakers and grab your attention.
10,000 Feet Below is a primordial ride through the mind and music of Eliza Neals. It is a ride worth taking.
August 14, 2017
It’s time to gather the true believers of the blues, because Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band is coming to town with their latest album release Front Porch Sessions.
Peyton has always been an evangelist for the blues. He is a traditionalist who combines the blues with a roots Americana feel. His new album is a stripped back affair. It is also his most personal release and on a number of the tracks he is solo.
What he always has going for him is his unique finger picking style on the guitar. It is the heart and soul of his approach and helps him stay in touch with the roots and rhythms of the blues.
The two instrumentals, “Flying Squirrels” and “It’s All Night Long” are living guitar history lessons. “One More Thing” delves into what life is all about out in the country. He even has a little fun with “Shakey Shirley.
Peyton is an intense and emotional performer who always takes his blues seriously. If you can buy in to his brand of stark and in some cases countrified blues, then there is a place for you in his congregation.
August 14, 2017
It is always with a sense of anticipation that I wait for each new release by Otis Taylor. It is not just that he is one of the best bluesmen working today, but that each album has a theme and individual presence all its own. 2013’s My World Is Gone incorporated Native American rhythm’s into a blues framework as he explored the plight of America’s original people. 2015’s Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat found him fusing a west coast psychedelic sound with his well-honed blues. Now he has changed direction again.
Fantasizing About Being Black is an 11 chapter history lesson of the Afro-American experience. The message is start and direct, while the music ranges from primitive to sophisticated. He particularly uses violinist Anne Harris to soften the harshness of his approach. Through it all he remains true to a blues framework and format.
Each song message set the stage for the one to follow until they meld into a cohesive whole. “Banjo Bam Bam” is a primitive story of slavery. “D To E Blues” is an ode to a father-son relationship; Chicago blues style. “Jump Out Of Line” is a look back at the Civil Rights Movement. “Jump To Mexico” explores the difficulties of interracial relationships. “Roll On Down The Hill” is an inspirational call to resist.
Fantasizing About Being Black may not be an easy listen but it is heartfelt and passionate. It is also an important contribution to Afro-American history from a musical perspective and that fact makes all the difference.