When Colors Come Together By Harry Belafonte

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.

10,000 Feet Below By Eliza Neals

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.

Front Porch Sessions By Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band

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.

Fantasizing About Being Black By Otis Taylor

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.

In Session By Robbie Krieger

August 3, 2017

Robbie Krieger’s place in rock and roll history is secure. He was the guitarist for the legendary Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame band The Doors. He also co-wrote many of their most famous songs including “Light My Fire,” “Love Her Madly,” “Love Me Two Times,” and “Touch Me.”

He is known as one of the best guitarists of his generation. He maintained an off again-on again relationship with fellow Doors bandmate Ray Manzarek until the latters death. His solo career has traveled in a number of directions including rock, jazz-fusion, and experimental. He has now released the eighth studio album of his career titled In Session.

Krieger has just produced the most commercial album of his career. In Session is also a simple album.  It is a group of catchy songs on which he is joined by a number of guest artists including Jackson Browne, Nik Turner, Billy Sherwood, Tommy Shaw, Rod Argent, and even William Shatner, which was not as bad as it sounds.

“Where We Belong” with Tony Kaye, “Brain Damage” with Geoff Downes, and in one of the last performances of his life “All You Need Is Love” with John Wetton provide edgy partnerships for Krieger’s rock and roll approach. Jackson Browne with “Across The Universe” and Tommy Shaw of Styx with “Don’t Leave Me Know” provide a lighter side to his music.

The only two misses are an out of place performance of “The Little Drummer Boy” and a terribly recorded live version of “Back Door Man.”

Krieger’s previous solo efforts have always been serious affairs. In Session is just plain fun and enjoyable and that makes all the difference.

Ape Shifter By Ape Shifter

August 3, 2017

Jeff Aug is not a name you might recognize. He is a Washington D.C. born guitarist who has lived the last 20 years in southern Germany. He has floated in and out of a number of bands, and as a solo artist has toured with such artists as Soft Machine, Johnny A, and Albert Lee. Also of interest is he holds the Guinness Book Of World Record for the most concerts performed on different continents within a 24 hour period.

His new band, Ape Shifter, is a basic progressive rock band with Aug as the guitarist with bassist Florian Walter, and drummer Kurty Munch. Their self-titled debut album is all instrumental, carried and fronted by Aug’s excursions with his guitar.

This is the edgiest music Aug has produced. He has issued three rock and one punk album with his former bands, plus eight acoustic albums. Now he has cranked up the sound and intensity and immersed himself in the world of progressive rock.

“Dead Tuna Boogie,” “Ratchet Attack,” “Desert Rock,” and “Brain-O-Mat” are solid and contain enough room for Aug to improvise over the tight rhythm section. A good listen for any fan of the sound and style.

Relax Your Mind By Jim Kwesken

August 3, 2017

Jim Kweskin and His Jug Band was a seminal band during the 1960’s folk revival. Unblushing Brassiness (1963), Jug Band Music (1965), and Jim Kweskin And The Jug Band (1966) were all creative and unique approaches to the folk music idiom. The band also represented the lighter and fun side of folk music.

Kweskin took a time out from the band in 1966 to release the solo album Relax Your Mind. The music was in the same vein, and several of his bandmates were present, but it was less focused and cohesive. In retrospect it seems like an album of songs that Kweskin wanted to play and record that may not have been exactly right for his band.

There are two live tracks from a performance at Club 47 in Cambridge. “I Got Mine” and “Buffalo Skinners” not only show the technical proficiency and creative nature of Kweskin but also the goofiness that made his sound an important part of the folk movement.

The studio material has a simple and raw sound and has a jam-like feel to it. Kweskin has always been an under rated guitarist but it it Jug Band harmonica player Mel Lyman who steals the instrumental show.

The material comes from a number of sources. “Bye and Bye” is an old Southern gospel song that Kweskin interprets from a folk perspective. “Guabi Guabi” is an African folk song that undergoes an Americanization. “Eight More Miles To Louisville” is an old country song made famous by Grandpa Jones and shows how adept Kweskin was at adapting material to his own brand of folk music.

Two classic blues tunes make an appearance. Mississippi John Hurt’s “My Creole Belle” and Ledbelly’s “Relax You Mind” are Kweskin exploring a distinctly American art form. It is the opening track; “A Look At The Ragtime Era (Sister Katie’s Night Out): I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister” that is a career thesis statement for Kweskin, both as a solo artist and band leader.

Relax Your Mind is an often overlooked album in the journey of Jim Kweskin and of 1960’s folk music. It is not your usual folk music album, which makes it interesting and a necessary listening experience for any fan of the era.


Snake Farm By Beth Garner

August 3, 2017

Beth Garner has returned with her new album Snake Farm. It is a tight seven track release with six original songs, plus the title song cover of “Snake Eyes” by Ray Wylie Hubbard.

Garner has a wonderfully soulful voice that provides a firm foundation for her blues sound. She is an adept traditional blues guitarist, who really shines when playing in a slide guitar style.

Recorded just about live in the studio, she rolls through a program of modern days electric blues that moves in a rock and roll direction at times. “Wish I Was” is a three chord jam-fest that proves the blues don’t have to be serious all the time. “Used To Be” is a shuffle-style song about aging. Her take on the title track returns the song to its gritty roots.

Garner is one of those musicians who is constantly on the road plying her chosen trade in small clubs coast to coast. In many ways, she represents the way the blues should be played and heard.