Amour By Colin Linden & Luther Dickinson

December 16, 2020

Colin Linden and Luther Dickinson are two veteran guitarist who have joined forces to create the album Amour. They have basically selected some of their favorite songs, invited some friends to contribute the lead vocals, and the result is a laid-back, personal album of love songs.

Colin Linden’s career is close to the 50 year mark. He has been a noted session guitarist for Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, and The Band among others, and currently balances a solo career with being a member of Blackie and The Rodeo Kings.

Luther Dickinson is currently the lead guitarist for the North Mississippi All Stars but it was his four year stint as a member of the Black Crowes that helped define his career.

They have selected songs from country, blues, folk, and rhythm & blues. Their guitars meld together in supporting vocalists Billy Swan, Rachel Davis, Ruby Amanfu, Sam Palladio, and Jonathan Jackson.

The old Ray Price hit “For The Good Times” is transformed into a Smokey blues number, curtesy of the lead vocal by Ruby Amanfu. Billy Swan’s composition became a classic R&B hit for Clyde McPhatter. Now Swan turns it back in a more country direction. “Crazy Arms” with Sam Palladio handling the lead vocal duties, find Linden switching to electric dobro.

The only original composition is the album opening “Careless Love.” This instrumental establishes the tone and style of what will follow as Linden’s dobro and Dickinson’s electric guitar create a love song without words.

Sometimes it is enough for a musician, or two musicians in this case, to just have some fun and create an album of appealing music. Their guitar playing is both subtle and technical. A good album for late at night when the lights are low.

Rarities: Volume 3 By Curved Air

December 16, 2020

Cured Air was, and still is, a progressive rock band. They formed in 1970 and combined electronics with some classical and folk influences. They had a unique approach as they used a violin as a lead instrument. They released six studio albums during their first incarnations. They were far more popular and influential in the home country of Great Britain and Europe, than in the United States, where they were more of a cult band.

The Curved Air Rarities Volume 3: The Second British Rock Meeting 1972 the best of the three releases of rarities. It presents possibly the earliest live performance of the band in existence. In addition, the sound is extraordinary for an early 1970’s concert recording.

The album consists of their set performed at The Second British Rock Meeting Festival, Germersheim, Germany, May 22, 1972. They were a band that was much better live than in the studio as they could improvise at will. The best example of their prowess as an improvisational band is a 31 plus minute jam of “Vivaldi,” that highlights the convergence of violin, synthesizer, and guitar.

The six song set presents about an hour of music that is different from much of what was being produced at the time. Lead singer Sonja Kristina vocals float in and out. She was and remains unique as a female front woman for a progressive rock band.

Curved air travelled a different road in creating their sound. The concert remains an interesting intergration of various sounds that creates a number of textures and layers. In some ways it is a product of its era and the early development of progressive music, but it also points to the future.

Prime Cuts By Poppa Chubby

December 16, 2020

Popa Chubby’s career is approaching the three-decade mark and to celebrate the occasion; he has released a retrospective of his career titled Prime Cuts: The Very Best Of The Beast From The East.

He is basically bluesman, whose sound spreads out in a number of directions. His new compilation album provides a good glimpse of the various sides of his music; more so than any of his regular releases. “Light Of Day” has a R&B vibe, while “Caffeine And Nicotine” has some jazz elements. “Grown Man Crying Blues” is eight minutes of what he does best; improvising on his guitar whole while wailing away on vocals.

Thirteen of the 15 tracks are originals but the two covers are excellent. “Hey Joe” is a basic rendition, while he twists Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” all out of shape.

Popa Chubby may be raw at times but his music is engaging. Prime Cuts: The Very Best Of The Beast From The East is a good starting point to experience his music.

Church Of The Blues By Watermelon Slim

December 16, 2020

William Homans, better  known as Watermelon Slim, has taken an unusual journey for a bluesman; born in Boston, B.A. from the University of Oregon, Masters degree from Oklahoma State, and a tour of Vietnam. He released his first album in 1973 but waited 20 years to release his second. Now he has retuned with his 13 release titled Church Of The Blues.

His guitar work is built on the legacy of Mississippi Fred McDowell. He plays a slide-resonator electric guitar that produces a unique sound. His overall approach channels Muddy Waters with a little Champion Jack Dupree thrown in for good measure.

His new album consists of seven original compositions and seven classic covers. His cover of McDowell’s “Highway 61” is spot on, while the classic “Smokestack Lightning is more basic, which greatly enhances the song.

His original compositions, “Post Modern Blues,” “Charlottesville (Blues For My Nation),” and “Holler #4” are all modern blues songs that have their foundations firmly rooted in the Delta.

Watermelon Slim is a modern days blues artist who respectfully updates the styles and traditions of the past. Church Of The Blues is an excellent album for any fan of the blues.

Over, Under, Through By Paul Nelson

December 16, 2020

Paul Nelson’s new release, Over Under Through, is an album where the sum of its parts are better than the whole. This is due to his penchant for combining a number of styles, including blues, roots, folk, country, and gospel onto one album of music. It does not make for a cohesive affair but the tracks are each unique and stand on their own.

Nelson is basically a story teller. His ten original composition take the listener on a journey of the ear and mind. The songs run from four to seven minutes, which give him time and space to create textures and layers. “Ghost In The Machine,” “Go Down Ezekiel.” “There Is Weeping,” and “Silent Majority” are all fueled by his precise lyrics, memorable melodies, and a full, tight band behind him.

Nelson has created an album of music that reaches out in a number of directions. There should be something to please most any fan of good music.

Nature By Paul Kelly

November 5, 2020

Paul Kelly is a national treasure in his home country of Australia but his inability to achieve large commercial success in the United States remains a mystery. His brand of cerebral and catchy music have enthralled his fan base for decades. He has now issued his latest album Nature.

His new release is loosely connected to 2017’s Life Is Fine but here the music centers around the theme of nature. The creative and unique aspect of the release is his use of poems by Dylan Thomas, Walt Whitman, Sylvia Plath, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Phillip Larkin, which he sets to music.

Kelly’s music always has an earthy nature to it. While he is not an American, there are influences there. If there is an Australian equivalent to America, this is it as his sound settles in comfortably somewhere between country, folk, and pop.

His regular backing band is made up of drummer Peter Luscombe, bassist Bill McDonald, guitarists Ash Naylor and Dan Kelly, and keyboardist Cameron Bruce. They can rock when needed and can fade into the background when necessary. Here they provide a precise and smooth backing for Kelly’s creative process.

The opening track sets the tone of the album. Dylan Thomas’ classic poem “And Death Shall Have No Dominion” has always appealed to the mind and soul. Put to music with a full band, the words take on new textures and depths. Walt Whitman’s “With Animals” is a center piece around which Kelly’s original compositions, “Little Wolf,” “With The One I Love,” “Seagulls Of Seattle,” and “Morning Storm” revolve.

Gerard Manley Hopkins was a Jesuit Priest and Victorian Irish poet. His “God’s Grandeur” should have been the last track, rather than the 11th of 12, as it sums up Kelly’s creative intent.

Nature is another unified concept from Paul Kelly’s mind. It is a thoughtful release, whose individual chapters add up to a satisfying conclusion.

Don’t You Feel My Leg By Maria Muldaur

July 14, 2020

Anyone who could survive half-a-decade or so as a female member of the Jim Kweskin Jug band deserves a half-century career.

Maria Muldaur began her career during the fold revival of the 1960’s, spent some time as a backing vocalist for the Grateful Dead, produced the seminal pop hit “Midnight At The Oasis,” and has released recorded pop, blues, and jazz music for the last four plus decades. Her latest release, Don’t You Feel My Legs: The Naughty Bawdy Blues Of Blue Lu Barker, is a fun-filled blues romp with a little jazz thrown in for good measure.

Blu Lu Barker, 1913-1998, was a blues singer who reached her commercial peak during the late 1930’s and 1940’s, but performed regularly into the 1990’s. She had a sultry voice and like many of the early female blues singers got by on guile, sass, and sexual innuendo. She may be a somewhat obscure singer today but she is a good choice by Muldaur as their approach to music match well.

While Muldaur sings several of Barker’s most famous songs; for the most part she takes material and interprets it according to Barker’s style, but from a modern perspective. Above all, Muldaur is able to capture the fun of the music.

“Don’t You Feel My Leg” was Barker’s signature song and Muldaur cut a version of it in 1973 but it was considered to risqué for radio at the time. Today it is mild but fits Muldaur perfectly as a light-hearted blues piece. “Loan Me Your Husband” is another bawdy Barker song that succumbs to Muldaur’s light touch. Barker’s “A Little Bird Told Me’ crosses over into jazz territory.

The other tracks run the gamut from gritty to humorous to boisterous to lewd at times, which is Muldaur’s career in microcosm. “Nix On Those Lush Heads,” “Bow Legged Daddy,” “Hard Andy,” “Georgia Grind,” and the metaphor laden “Trombone Man Blues” are a trip through the tough female blues of a by-gone era.

The career of Maria Muldaur has taken a number of career turns but lately she has settled into a blues style. While her latest release may approach the blues from a certain direction; it remains true to the genre.

Maria Muldaur has created another interesting and ultimately enjoyable album of music. Don’t You Feel My Legs: The Naughty Bawdy Blues Of Blu Lou Barker is music for the mind and bordello.

Long Live Them Blues By Dry Johnson

July 14, 2020

It can be said that Long Live Them Blues by Dry Johnson is an album that was created from the inside out.

Dry Johnson is comprised of bassist Terry Dry and drummer Matthew Robert Johnson. They are the rhythm section for guitarist deluxe Mike Zito.

Creating an album as a two-person rhythm section has its own problems. As such they gather a number of friends and guests to help them out including guitarists John Del Toro Richardson, Mighty Orq, James Wilhite, plus band mate Mike Zito, vocalists Kevin Fitzpatrick, Trudy Lynn, and Annika Chambers, and harpist Steve Krase. It all adds up to an album of excellent modern day blues.

Dry Johnson and friends romp through ten original tracks and a cover of Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Hit The Highway.” Songs such as “Daddy’s Got A Cadillac,” featuring dual vocals by Zito and Chambers, “Juke Joint,” “Fried Chicken,” and “Too Many Hipsters” form the heart of a listenable and in many ways creative blues album.

Dry and Johnson form the foundation for the music and then allow the guests to build upon the rhythms and fill in the blanks. While they are in control; they are wise enough not to overwhelm their guests contributions. They are veterans who are wise enough to shepherd their musical visions to a positive conclusion.

Dry Johnson is a rare rhythm section that has moved out of the background to the forefront. Long Live Them Blues is the first release in what will hopefully be a successful new career.

Inspired By The Blues By Kenny Blues Boss Wayne

July 14, 2020

The blues reaches out in many directions with a variety if styles and genre’s. Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne has been playing his form of Boogie Woogie piano blues for decades. He has now issued his latest album Inspired By The Blues.

Wayne has assembled an all-star supporting cast including former B.B. King bassist Russell Jackson, harmonica player Billy Branch, and guitar player deluxe Duke Robillard.

His new album consists 11 new original tracks and a live cover of the old rhythm & Blues classic “Georgia On My Mind.”

Wayne is a stylish piano player who produces an infectious sound. He also adds a very personal tough with tributes to Fats Domino and Ray Charles; both strong influences in his musical life.

Despite the flourishes, Wayne has created a traditional album of blues. Inspired By The Blues proves that suit zoot blues is always in style.

Paradise Blues By John Akapo

July 14, 2020

There are many paths to becoming a blues artist but few have taken the route of Taumei “Big John” Akapo. He spent his childhood in Alaska. his coming of age in American Samoa, and is now a presence in Hawaii. He has fused his Island influences with his love of the Delta Blues to create a different brand of traditional blues.

Akapo is an imposing man with a smooth, light, and precise sound. He now brings that sound to his album Paradise Blues.

His new album consists of seven original tunes plus three classic blues songs by Muddy Water, Tommy Johnson, and a soulful version of Robert Johnson’s “Ramblin’ On My Mind.”

If you like your blues with an island twist, then Paradise Blues by John Akapo is an album for you.