Puppet Show By The Ally Venable Band

March 16, 2019

The young Queen of the East Texas blues has returned with a new album titled Puppet Show.

At the age of 19, she is a seasoned veteran of the Texas blues scene. While in high school she released several well received blues albums, became a staple on the local blues club circuit, and her group has been named the East Texas Blues Band of the year three times.

Venable is a work in progress. Her voice is soulful and powerful and has always been her strength. Now her guitar ability and songwriting skills have improved considerably since her last release.

Her basic sound is modern electric blues bordering on rock and roll at times. While she uses a seasoned second guitarist on two tracks, she is at her best when it is just her backing band of drummer Elijah Owings and bassist Bobby Wallace with an occasional keyboardist or harmonica player added for a fuller sound.

The album consists of 8 original songs and covers of two classic blues songs. She has learned the craft of creating memorable melodies within a blues format. Songs such as “Bridges To Burn,” “Cast Their Stones,” “Sleeping Through The Storm,” and “Puppet Show” are powerful guitar tunes and when you combine them with incisive and insightful lyrics, they represent what the modern blues should be like.

It is also interesting to her youthful take on “She Caught The Katy.”

Venable is just at the beginning of her blues journey. Puppet Show ia not only a fine introduction to her music but is a personal jumping off place as she hones her approach.

Old School By Kid Ramos

March 16, 2019

In cosmic terms, 17 years is the blink of an eye but in the life of a musician, it can be a lifetime.

Kid Ramos has just released his first album in 17 years. During that time period he has raised a family and fought off a cancer attack. Old School represents his return to the blues.

His approach is straight forward and fairly simple. His rhythm section lays down the rhythms and Ramos riffs over them. The opening track, “Kid’s Jump (Tribute To B.B.)” is an excellent example of his approach.

While Ramos is a vocalist, he has blues singers Johnny Tucker, Kim Wilson, and Big Jon Atkinson to lend a hand. His 17 year old son Johnny debuts as a vocalist as well.

Kid Ramos does not change the blues world or try to get to inventive. Old School is a solid album of music, which should please any aficionado of the blues.

Dial It In By Reverend Freakchild

March 16, 2019

Ain’t no Reverend like the Reverend Freakchild.

The good Reverend has returned with another album of the blues from his own, somewhat warped and irreverent, perspective. I don’t know if there is such a term as psychedelic blues, but his new release, Dial It In, would fit that approach.

The only thing traditional about his new album is his use of a number of mainstream musicians on a number of tracks. Guitarist Mark Karan (Bob Weir), harmonica player Garrett Dutton (G Love and Special Sauce), pianist Brian Mitchell (BB King), and saxophonist Jay Collins (Greg Allman) all bring a little sanity to the good Reverend’s vision of music.

While Freakchild may travel a different path; he is grounded in the blues.

The three cover tunes all move in different directions. Dylan’s “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” is a fusion of jazz and blues. Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus (On The Mainline)” is stripped to basics and re-emerges as a stark blues tune. “Soul Of A Man” is a rare emotional moment from the Reverend as he pays homage to the bluesman , Blind Willie Johnson.

“Opus Earth” and “Opus Space,” which bookend the album combine with “Roadtrance,” “Damaged Souls,” and “15 Going On 50” to present his own eclectic view of the world around him.

Dial It In and Reverend Freakchild requires some getting used too but his passion for the blues shines through. It may not be music for everyone but if you want a different experience, then this may be an album to try.

The Focus Family Album By Focus

February 17, 2019

Focus was, and sometimes still is, a Dutch progressive rock band who found success in the United States during the first half of the 1970’s. Formed in the late 1960’s by Thijs Van Leer; their early line-up included guitar virtuoso Jan Akkerman. Albums such as Moving Waves (1972), Focus 3 (1971), and Hamburger Concerto (1974) sold several million copies in the United States and produced the quirky hit single “Hocus Pocus.”

The Focus Family Album is a two-disc, 20 track CD that includes 10 tracks by the band and 10 tracks by various current and former members; hence the name of the album.

The group tracks are modern era in origin, originally recorded for several different projects. The represent the band’s current approach and are competent progressive rock.

The solo tracks are more eclectic and experimental. How good they are depends on the listeners ability to stretch their minds.

Individual solos dominate the individual band members contributions. Pierre van der Linden presents two tracks from his experimental Drum Poetry album.  Band leader This van Leer donates two flute pieces that run counter to the drum tracks. “Hazel” is an acoustic guitar piece by Menno Gootjes that demonstrates his precise style. Udo Pannekeet brings a unique approach to his bass playing through the use of a fretless bass on “Song For Yaminah” and a six string bass on “Anaya.”

The album is not a cohesive affair. The full band tracks have a finished feel, while the individual pieces find the members experimenting and, in some cases, doodling on their own. In many ways it is the band deconstructed.

The Focus Family Album is a niche release for hard core fans of the band. If you want to experience their full power and creativity, check out their 1970 releases.

The Luckiest Man By Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters

February 17, 2019

Any new release by Ronnie Earl and his Broadcasters is a must listen for any blues aficionado and The Luckiest Man is no exception.

The album is one of loss and faith; both explored within the context of the blues. The passing of his long time friend and bass player bandmate Jim Mouradian has left an imprint on his latest album of music. “Death Have No Mercy is a fitting tribute to hos lost friend, while “Never Gonna Break My Faith” deals with recovery and moving on.

He returns with his past with the ten minute “Long Lost Conversation.” A Number of his old bandmates are along for the ride, including vocalist/bassist Sugar Ray Norcia.

From the opening cover of “Ain’t That Loving You Baby,” he quickly demonstrates why he is considered on of the best traditional blues guitarists working today.

The Luckiest Man is an album of how the blues should always be.

Heritage: Home Recordings/Demos 1970-1973 By America

January 24, 2019

Dewey Bunnell, Gerry Beckley, and Dan Peek formed America during the late 1960’s. The early 1970’s found them producing a string of hit singles including “A Horse With No Name,” “Ventura Highway,” “Lonely People,” “Tin Man,” “Woman Tonight,” and “Sister Golden Hair.” Their brand of light rock proved to be commercially successful and radio friendly. While the 1970’s would be their creative nadir, Bunnell and Beckley would remain together for the next four plus decades.

America has now returned to its roots with their latest release. Heritage: Home Recordings/Demos 1970-1973 gathers together 15 demos from their classic period, including nine previously unreleased songs.

The album is a niche release for fans of the band or possibly of the era. Recorded mostly at Beckley’s home studio, it presents an intimate look of the band at the beginning of their career. While it may not be the equal of their first two albums recorded during the time period; it fills in a number of gaps in their career.

“Man Of Pride,” “James Holliday,” and “”Sea Of Destiny” are the most complete songs. The harmonies and gentle rhythms are intact but they are not the equal of their best material. ‘”Songs such as “Riverside,” “Rainy Day,” and “Ventura Highway” are works in progress and give a glimpse of their developmental process. There is also a hidden track, which is an a cappella version of “A Horse With No Name.”

America released a lot of excellent music during the 1970’s. Heritage: Home Recordings/Demos 1970-1973 is a trip back in time to their most productive period. It is a journey worth taking for any fan of the band.

Waffles, Triangles & Jesus By Jim White

January 24, 2019


Anyone who names their album Waffles Triangles And Jesus definitely travels a different road. Add in Holly Golightly, and a cornucopia of indie musicians and you have a prime example of Jim White’s brand of quirky, hybrid Americana music.

If there is a musical style named psychedelic folk; Jim White would qualify as a founding member.

A quintessential Jim White track is “Playing Guitars” with some eclectic guitar playing by White and an equally eccentric vocal by Golightly. Everything flows outward from this starting point. He travels from the music of the Appalachian mountains to the rhythms of the African continent. He even makes a stop in Mayberry, North Carolina but that’s better heard than explained.

Jim White creates music that makes you think, while being amusing and confusing. In the last analysis, it is always interesting and worth a listen.