Standing On Faith By Corey Ledet & His Zydeco Band

October 19, 2017

The origin’s of Zydeco music are lost in the mists of time. It ‘s history traces back to combining French Creole music with rhythm & blues and expanding outward from there.

Corey Ledet is one one the leading practitioners of Zydeco music today and he has just released his ninth album Standing On Faith.

Ledet is an accordion player/songwriter/vocalist/band leader who fuses Zydeco rhythms to other musical formats.

The song titled “Intro” is a funky album opener. He quickly moves in a pop direction with the instrumental “Love Never Felt So Good” and the smooth title track. He then adds a little reggae influences with “A Good Day” and finishes his gumbo concoction with the bluesy “Street Light.”

Ledet has developed the capacity to create Zydeco music as it should be. Standing On Faith is a joyous romp through the world of Zydeco music.

Joy Comes Back By Ruthie Foster

October 19, 2017

Ruthie Foster’s voice and ability to interpret songs is a force of nature. Her albums tend to key off of where she is in her life’s journey and the type of material she chooses to cover.

Her new album, Joy Comes Back, was recorded in the midst of a relationship break-up. The material she chooses to explore range from the blues of the Mississippi Delta to the funk of the Staples to an odd but wonderful cover of an old Black Sabbath classic. It all adds up to an emotional album of loss, therapy, recovery, and ultimately joy.

Her sound is more elemental than in the past, which puts the emphasis on her voice. There is a high-tension gospel cover of the old Four Tops ditty “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever.” She is at heart a blues singer and she takes Mississippi John Hurt’s “Richland Woman Blues” out for a ride. She explores Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” as a blues jam. “Forgiven” is a ballad that just lets her voice soar.

Ruthie Foster has received numerous Blues Awards nominations and travelled with the likes of The Allman Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, and Susan Tedeschi. Hopefully Joy Comes Back will garner her some well-deserved mainstream acclaim.

Migration Blues By Eric Bibb

October 19, 2017

Eric Bibb has recently produced a series of excellent and relevant albums highlighted by 2014’s Blues People. He has a laid back and simple approach that often belies the messages of his music.

His latest release, titled Migration Blues, is centered around a fusion of past and present migrants or migrations that are explored within a folk and blues format. The 15 tracks include 12 original tunes and three cover songs. Bibb (vocals, acoustic guitar, and banjo) is joined primarily by JJ Milteau (harmonica) and Michael Jerome Browne (guitar, banjo, and mandolin).

Keying off the Southern American migration of Afro-Americans from the rural south to the industrial north due to segregation and poverty, he moves his music to present-day reasons for escaping various home countries. “Refugee Moan,” “Four Years No Rain,” “We Had To Move,” and “With A Dolla In My Pocket” focus on the effects of war, prejudice, and starvation in their home countries and the hopes and realities of their new homes. Particularly chilling is “Prayin’ For Shore,” which presents the dangers at sea and of their destination as well.

The Three cover songs are a laid-back version of Bob Dylan’s “Masters Of War,” a hopeful interpretation of Woody Guthrie’s classic “This Land Is Your Land,” and a moving version of the spiritual “Mornin’” Train” that ends the album.

Despite the seriousness of the topics, Bibb’s voice and music make it all very listenable. Milteau’s Harmonica is an important component to the sound on many of the songs as it provides a nice counterpoint to Bibb’s guitar work.

Eric Bibb has paid homage to the American blues through his stories and music. Migration Blues is an album that deserves a listen.


Thirteen By The BoDeans

October 2, 2017

Kurt Neumann and Sam Llanas met in 1980 and the BoDeans were born in 1983. There debut album, Love & Hope & Sex & Lies brought them commercial success and established them as a cutting edge band. Llanas left in 2011 but Neumann continues to front the band and shortly will release the their 13th album, appropriately titled Thirteen.

The BoDeans have always fused Roots rock and alternative rock into their music. Thirteen tends to be more in the roots category as Neumann has created a series of thoughtful and melodic songs. He and the band recently became involved with the Netflix series The Ranch, and the style of the album keys off the laid back nature of the series. “My Hometown” and several other tracks appeared on the show and form the foundation of the album.

Songs such as “Maggie’s Bar,” “Headed Back In Time,” “Nowhere Fast,” and “Way Back In Time” have a wistful appeal as they tell stories of the American heartland.

Thirteen is a fine addition to the BoDeans catalogue of music. It proves that the band is alive and well during the fourth decade of their existence.

Two Of A Kind By Bobby Darin And Johnny Mercer

October 2, 2017

Bobby Darin, (1936-1973), packed a lot into his 37 years of life. He was a teen idol who produced such hits as “Splish Slash” and “Queen Of The Hop” that led to his 1990 induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. He was an actor who won a Golden Globe Award and he actually married actress Sandra Dee of Grease song fame.

At the height of his commercial appeal, he changed musical directions. He always wanted to be a Sinatra-type singer and recorded “Mack The Knife” from Three Penny Opera. It became one of the most popular singles in music history, topping the Billboard Pop Chart for nine weeks.

In 1961 he joined with orchestra leader/arranger Billy May and recorded the album Two Of A Kind. That album has now been reissued with seven bonus songs.

I find it interesting that this album was picked for reissue. While it is representative of the second part of his career, it just disappears into his catalogue of releases. It is a smooth and pleasant album but probably not among his best works.

He was touring with Johnny Mercer at the time, and the material reflects that relationship. It is an album of standards, highlighted by two Darin/Mercer compositions and four more Mercer songs.

“Ace In The Hole” is an old jazz song from 1909. Darin gives it a more Big Band/pop feel in a swinging version. The lightweight “Who Takes Care Of The Caretakers Daughter” is a pun-fill journey. On the other hand he gets to cute with “My Cutey’s Due At Two-To-Two.” It is representative of a number of songs that appeared dated over 50 years ago and today fall into the quaint category today.

The seven bonus songs are more of the same except for an interesting take on the Dave Dreyer/Ruby Herman song “Cecelia.”

This reissue of Two Of A Kind” will no doubt please Bobby Darin fans but if you want an introduction to Darin at his best, there a a number og Greatest Hits albums available.

Alabastard By Austin Hanks

October 2, 2017

Austin Hanks is a road warrior who has spent the last decade plying his craft in front of audiences large and small. He has opened for such rockers as The Allman Brothers, The Black Crowes, Bad Company, and his old pals ZZ Top. He recently took some time off to record and release his first album in years. The title, Alabastard, represents a wanderer who left his home in Alabama in search of a better life.

He is a straight ahead country rock musician, who channels ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynnrd at times. His singing has a soulful appeal, which many times runs counterpoint to the music.

He presents his music without frills as his brand of boogie rock and blues would be at home in a juke joint late at night. “This Ain’t No Jukebox,” “Toughest Part Of Me,” “”Rise Above,” and “Alive & Untied” are all energetic blasts of rock power.

Alabastard may not cover any new ground but it is a solid album of music that is fit for a late-night party.

Rating: ***