The Essential Eric Anderson By Eric Anderson

March 16, 2019

Eric Anderson has just turned 75 and in celebration of this milestone, he has released the 2-disc, 33 track CD titled The Essential Eric Anderson.

Anderson was an original member of the Greenwich Village folk revival movement of the 1960’s. While not as well-know as some of his contemporaries, his songs have been covered by the cream of American music including Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger, The Grateful Dead, Linda Ronstadt, and Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Anderson is a folk singer and songwriter deluxe who has that rare ability of putting his thoughts and visions to music. Always living and performing as a member of the American counter-culture, his lyrics have recorded and challenged American life and culture for the past half-century.

His latest release is drawn from all phases of his 45 year recording career. Included are tracks from his long lost Stages album, which was recorded in 1973 but whose master tapes inexplicably disappeared for nearly 20 years. Live versions, recorded at The Bitter End, of “Violets Of Dawn” and “Thirsty Boots” highlight the album. Add in “Everything Ain’t Been Said,” “Come To My Bedside, My Darlin,’” “Trouble In Paris,” “Come Runnin’ Like A Friend,” “Listen To The Rain,” ” I Shall Be Unbounded,” and “Ghosts Upon The Road” and you have a nice taste of his style and of American folk music.

Andersen engaged in a number of duets and many voices are resurrected from the great beyond. “Turn Like A Freight Train” with Dan Fogelberg, “Keep This Love Alive” (Rick Danko), “You Can’t Relieve The Past” (Lou Reed), and “Plains Of Nebrasky-O (Phil Ochs), open up time periods long past. The likes of Richard Thompson, David Bromberg, Joni Mitchell, Maria Muldaur, and Joan Baez also make appearances.

Extensive liner notes by New York Times writer and Lou Reed biographer Anthony DeCurtis plus Anderson himself are included.

Eric Andersen’s ballads are some of the best folk music of the last 50 years. They are also a history of our nation in song. A true essential listening experience for any follower of folk music and its history.

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.

Walking In The Wild Land By Jim McCatty

March 16, 2019

Jim McCarty is a bona-fide member of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. He is a founding member of the Yardbirds and the only original member left in the band. In addition to the Yardbirds, he has been a member of Renaissance, Shoot, Box Of Frogs, Stairway, Illusion, and the McCarty-Topsham Band. He has now surfaced with his third solo album titled Walking In The Wild Land.

His new album is very different from the classic rock sound of the Yardbirds. It is more folk oriented and has a mellow, laid back vibe.

In many ways his solo albums allow him to explore a different side of his personality. While he has always been somewhat in the background as a drummer; now he is the front person and focal point as the acoustic guitarist and vocalist. He also composed the album’s dozen tracks.

McCarty wisely does not over-reach but keeps it simple. He may not have the expertise or style of the Yardbirds more celebrated guitarists, but he is an adequate strummer who is able to accompany himself and bring his music to life.

The tracks run from the melancholy “Changing Times” to the reflective title track and “Stop Living In The Past.” It may not be the most exciting album released this year bit it is relaxing and like a visit from an old friend.

Walking In The Wild Land finds a music veteran taking a road less traveled. A good listen for the quiet times of life.

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.

Three For The Road By John Mayall

February 17, 2019

John Mayall just keeps rolling along. Now in his early 80’s, he maintains an extensive concert and recording schedule.

Mayall’s new live album, Three For The Road, began two years ago when guitarist Rocky Athas missed a concert due to plane connections. Forced to play as a trio, John Mayall decided to continue within that context. His new album was recorded at two concerts in Germany during March of 2017.

Bassist Greg Rzab and drummer Jay Davenport have been with Mayall for a decade and their chemistry together is excellent. Mayall, vocals, keyboards, and harmonica, is more in the limelight than he has been in years. His music has always had a guitar focus but now his keyboards are central and it is a new and welcome direction for an artist whose career has passed the 50 year mark.

The nine tracks include 7 covers by classic blues artists and two original Mayall concert favorites. They all run from 5 to 11 minutes, so their is a lot of room for experimentation and improvisation.

Mayall’s “Streamline” and “Lonely Feelings” have been concert staples for some time but here they take on new textures within the trio format. “Congo Square” at 11 minutes and “Tears Came Rollin’ Down” at nine plus minutes are excellent examples of how three instruments can interact over an extended period of time.

Mayall’s voice may have lost a little over time but it is still an effective blues instrument.

John Mayall is travelling a different road in the twilight of his career, which is not an easy thing for a veteran artist. Three For The Road is an album well-worth exploring.

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.