October 2, 2018
The Flat Duo Jets originated in North Carolina as a two man band; guitarist/vocalist Dexter Romweber and drummer Chris “Crow” Smith. They later added bassist Tony Mayer. They produced a hard core modern rockabilly sound with elements of surf and straight rock added to the mix.
While they released nine studio albums during their existence, it is their first album, Wild Wild Love, that remains their best and most elemental. It is one of the ultimate self-produced garage albums as it was actually recorded in a garage on a direct two-track to tape system. Originally released in 1990, it now returns in an expanded version.
The original album is a live blast of twisted rockabilly built on Romweber’s pulsing guitar runs and Smith’s thumping drums. The jazzy “Man With The Golden Arm” is transformed into a driving rock classic. “Strut My Stuff” is a guitar lover’s delight.
The band got even more basic with the release of the cassette-only In Stereo. Only 2000 copies were printed but now the six songs have been added to the expanded release. The Leiber/Stoller rock staple “Riot In Cell Block #9” and Buddy Holly’s “Think It Over” are twisted all out of shape and then re-assembled. Even Elvis’ gentle “Love Me” is turned into a vehicle for Ronweber’s guitar fantasies.
The second disc contains 13 outtakes. Songs such as “”Stephane Grapppelli’s “Minor Swing,” Huey Lewis’s “You Made Me Cry,” and staples ranging from “Harlem Nocturne” to “Bumble Bee Boogie” make for a varied above average group of extras.
The Flat Duo Jets created rock and roll at ground level. They were similar to thousands of high school bands, but just more talented. Their music is raw, gritty, and ultimately what rock and roll should be about.
April 23, 2018
You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I’m telling you why, Elvis Presley is coming to town (again).
Christmas is less than three months away and another batch of Elvis Presley music has been re-imagined. The latest in the Elvis sweepstakes is 13 of his Christmas tunes, now being backed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Elvis Presley’s three Christmas albums have sold a combined 24,000,000 copies and his original 1950’s Christmas album remains his biggest selling album. The original release is one of the better Christmas releases in that it combines rock, sacred, and gospel with some gritty and in several cases bluesy vocals by the king. It is just about the perfect Christmas album.
As Jim Croce wrote, “And you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, you don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger,” and you don’t mess around with the perfect Christmas album.
In many ways the background orchestra takes away from the power of Elvis’ vocals. When the orchestra is reduced to the distant background and the vocals are more upfront, it is just a better listen such as “Merry Christmas Baby.”
If you have not heard or want to obtain some of Elvis’ Christmas music, seek out a copy of his original first album. It is readily available. If you are an Elvis fan who has to have everything, then go ahead.
November 14, 2017
Jim Roberts has had two distinct periods to his music career, divided by 16 years as a police officer and raising a family. Before leaving the music scene he opened for such acts as Ricky Nelson, Della Reese, and Danny O’Keefe. He even made a television appearance on the Mike Douglas Show during the 1980’s.
Today he is firmly entrenched in the blues, who backed by his band The Resonants, has just released his new album Beneath The Blood Moon. He is an excellent slide guitar player but it is his expertise with a three-string cigar box guitar that defines his sound. It gives his sound a more primitive feel, which is an important part of his approach to the blues.
Roberts music is direct and hard-hitting. Songs such as “Dog Done Bit My Baby,” “Gold Train Fever,” “Dark Down The Delta,” and “The Hell Hounds Due” are all energetic excursions in the realm of the blues with some stops in Americana and roots rock.
Jim Roberts has re-invented himself as a first class bluesman. If you like your blues direct and at times raw, then Beneath The Blood Moon is an album for you.
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 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.
June 5, 2017
Lee Denis McKee (guitar) and Ralph McKee (bass) have surrounded themselves with a revolving group of talented musicians including keyboardist/composer Bobby West, vocalist Bob Schultz, drummer Jerome Edmondson, and a dozen more including an array of horn players. to create their release Enjoy It While You Can.
They are at their foundation a rock band but when the brass is highlighted and involved, they morph into a fusion of funky soul and blues. All the tracks range from four to seven minutes, which give them time to build, tell a musical story, and highlight some of the musicians.
Whether creating energetic original songs such as “A Little Bit Of Soul,” “Enjoy It While You Can,” and “One Of Us Gots Ta Go” or soul-dripping covers of Earl King’s “It All Went Down The Drain” and Dr. John’s “Qualified,” The McKee Brothers have managed to combine their versatile group of musicians into producing a cohesive and pleasing album of music.
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.
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.
March 16, 2017
Number 1: The woman can sing. She is one of those vocalists who can squeeze every once of pathos, meaning, and emotion from a song.
Lex Grey and the Urban Pioneers have just issued their sixth album titled Heal My Soul. They are known as an energetic and explosive live band who have toured relentlessly honing their craft. Grey’s tough-woman appeal help them present music that fuses rock and roll and the blues into an interesting mix.
She is backed by guitarist Vic Mix, violinist Kaia Updike, drummer John Holland, bassist Adam Price, and multi-instrumentalist Brian DeWan, who have developed into a tight and formidable band. They are fueled by the instrumental leads of Mix and Updike. It is Updike’s violin that gives the music an unusual sound at times as her ability to use it in a blues format is different and at times stunning.
Lex Grey and the Urban Pioneers are still very much a Brooklyn bar band. They are perfect for a smoky club late at night. In some ways they may be a little to authentic for huge mainstream success but Heal My Soul is a disc that needs to be played loud as it contains the essence of American rock and roll at its most basic and best.
February 28, 2017
There is a sticker on the front of the CD jacket that says “File Under Texas Music,” and to that I say AMEN.
Glenna Bell is a singer/songwriter who uses the blues as a foundation as she moves effortless to fuse rock, pop, and country into her sound.
She has a knack of choosing cover songs that can be transferred to her Texas orientation. Don Henley’s “Heart Of The Matter” re-emerges with a steel guitar and understated vocals.
At the heart of her music are personal songs about her life and Texas. “Poor Girl (In Blue)” and “Shiner Bock & ZZ Top” carry on her tradition of story-songs. “Tonight’s The Night” is a wonderful reflection of life’s transitions that works better with the video.
Perhaps the best song is “Christmas Is Coming,” which is a nostalgic and wistful approach to the season and received several hundred-thousand plays online las year.
Glenna Bell’s music always has a personal approach and her latest release is no exception. Music for the heart and mind-Texas style.