American Mojo By Robert Cline Jr.

April 8, 2018

American Mojo is an album of an artist in search of self and song. It is also a chronicle of Robert Cline Jr.’s evolution as a songwriter and musician as he traveled throughout the United Stated being exposed and assimilating various styles and types of music.  What emerges is a traveling autobiography.

Cline’s music is taken from a number of genre’s but lands somewhere between roots and blues. Songs such as “Wichita Kansas,” “Leaving This Town,” “Pillar On My Pillow,” “Professional Guest,” and “The Boys From Muscle Shoals” explore faith, meeting his wife, playing music for a living, and just having a good time; all in story form.

Cline seems to be an artist who needs to be stimulated. It will be interesting to see what his next journey holds.

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The Last Shade Of Blue Before Black By The Original Blues Brothers Band

April 8, 2018

Who knew? Almost 40 years ago the Blues Brothers film starring John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd was released to huge commercial success. The backing band was appropriately called The Blues Brothers band. Now, almost four decades later, The Original Blues Brothers Band, is still touring the world and has just released a new album titled The Last Shade Of Blue Before Black.

The Blues Brothers originally were and remain a band that plays the blues while having some fun along the way. That philosophy remains intact as guitarist Steve Cropper and sax player Lou Marine, along with their old band mates and assorted guests, romp through 14 tracks of original tunes and classic blues covers.

The original band was somewhat limited by Belushi and Ackroyd. Now, some of the best musicians working today are fronted by vocalists  such as Eddie Floyd and joe Louis Walker.

The band burns though Eddie Floyd’s original composition, highlighted by his vocals, “Don’t Forget About James Brown” and then morphs into the Paul Schaffer produced “Sex Machine.”

Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Do To Me,” Delbert McClinton’s “Cherry Street,” and Willie Dixon’s “Don’t Go No Further” continue the band’s trend of introducing new listeners to the blues.

“You Left The Water Running” and the old rock classic “I Got My Mojo Working” plum the essence of the band. Basically recorded live, they are sprawling pieces that one can envision in a smoky bar late at night. The Lou Marini title track album ender is seven minutes of proving that the band is still relevant.

For those of use who were actually around in 1978 when the Blues Brothers debuted as a one-time skit on Saturday Night Live, it’s good to have them still around. And be sure to turn up the volume.


Basics By Harold Loomis

April 8, 2018

Hamilton Loomis is another one of those musicians who floats under the radar. Years of touring and recording have honed his skills as a guitarist, songwriter, and performer. His latest release, Basics, is another album of solid blus and rock.

The album’s title signifies the approach on his latest release. He keeps it simple with a basic guitar, bass, and drums with a sax added here and there. The chord progressions are simple and the melodies memorable.

“Sugar Babe,” “Candles And Wine,” “Cloudy Day,” and “Come And Get Me” continue his use of short and incisive guitar solos with little wasted effort.

Basics is a solid release that will appeal to the ear, mind, and soul.


Rhythmland By Dennis Johnson & Mississippi Ramblers

February 14, 2018

I have a soft spot in my musical heart for slide guitarists. They are individualistic and each have their own unique sound.

One of the current leading proponents of the slide guitar style is Dennis Johnson, who with his backing band, The Mississippi Ramblers, has returned with their latest album Rhythmland.

What makes Johnson unique is while he has an easily identifiable sound, he is able to adapt it to a number of varied styles. Whether it be touches of folk, rock, roots, Americana, or straight blues, he is able to add his slide guitar sound over and through their rhythms. His approach is interesting in that he approaches a song from the basic rhythms and builds his leads from there.

Nine of the ten tracks are original and like any good blues artist they deal with life’s journeys through a story. The only non-original track is a unique interpretation of “Walkin’ Blues,” enhanced by his 12 string dobro. A counterpoint to that track is the laid-back acoustic performance on the jazz laden “My Love Is Here For You.”

Johnson is one of those master musicians who many times floats under the radar to all but a select few blues and slide guitar aficionados. He is also one of those guitarists who creates the illusion of playing the rhythm and lead parts on the same guitar.

Rhythmland is a creative piece of blues presented through the slide guitar sound. It is well worth exploring.


Milligan Vaughn Projct By The Milligan Vaughn Project

February 14, 2018

It all starts in Texas, at least for the Milligan Vaughan Project. Vocalist Malford Milligan and guitarist Tyrone Vaughan are Texans to their core and their joining together serves up a helping of dynamic rock and blues with their debut album MVP..

Milligan has a soulful voice and when it joins together with Vaughan’s guitar work, the sound emerges as a fusion of rock and blues.

The album was recorded in the studio except for the last two live tracks. “What Passes For Love” and the classic Freddy King song “Palace Of The King” represent the heart of their sound, which has been honed by constant touring.

They travel in a different direction with the ballad “Here I Am,” which is a nice counterpoint to their usual upfront, in your face approach.

MVP is a fine debit album from two music veterans who compliment each other well. Recommended for anypne who likes their modern days blues powerful and Texas style.


Approved By Snakes By Jason Ricci & The Bad Kind

January 18, 2018

Jason Ricci is one of the best harmonica players working today, period. Backed by his band, Bad Kind, he has just released his 11th album Approved By Snakes.

It is not an album for the faint hearted. “My True Love Is A Dope Whore,” “Something Just Arrived,” “Demon Lover,” Terrors Of Night Life,” and “Got Cleaned Up” deal with drugs, the seediness, sexuality, and the darker side of life. His gritty voice compliments the explicit lyrics as he communicates his messages.

Still, any Jason Ricci album revolves around his harp. He and guitarist John Lisi are able to play off of each other and their music comes across as more of a jam band approach.

Ricci’s albums are always musically interesting and creative but many times they have an uncomfortable element to them. Recommended but hold on.


All You Gotta Do By The Nighthawks

December 26, 2017

The Nighthawks are an ultimate bar band who made good. Now five decades into their career, they continue to play their unique and gritty brand of blues, rock, and roots music. The have now issued their latest album All You Gotta Do.

They keep it straightforward and simple on their latest release. They are no guests; just the members of the band. There also keep overdubs to a minimum. Basically what they record in the studio is what you get.

While many of their albums contain almost all original tunes, here except for three songs, they move outward to cover material from a number of very different artists.

The blues have always provided the band’s foundation. Muddy Waters “Baby I Want To Be Loved” is a grade school primer of the blues, Chicago style. They move Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Ninety Nine” close to rock and roll with Mark Wenner’s harmonica filling in the gaps. “Snake Drive” has a driving beat that would fit the smoky club scene late at night.

The three original songs travel different paths. “Another Day” is a folk-like protest piece clothed in a blues framework. “Blues For Brother John” is a hybrid song that focus’ on Wenner’s harmonica. Mark Stutso’s “Voo Doo Doll” is the requisite love song.

Harmonies have always been a part of the Nighthawks appeal. Jesse Winchester’s “Isn’t That So” is a gentle harmonic romp though one of a song masters creations. The Standells “Dirty Water” is an ultimate garage song Thousands of wanna-be bans have covered this song. They change it up a bit but it is a fine salute to a uniquely American style.

All You Gotta Do finds the Nighthawks in fine form. An album of solid blues and rock and roll from a veteran band who have honed their craft for decades.