Cherry Red Records
Review by Ms. Marci
I must confess from the start, being a singer/bassist myself, I am a HUGE Jack Bruce fan! He was an inspiration to me from the first time that I heard him in the mid/late-1960s. When I was informed that he had a new CD, I wanted “IN” on reviewing it. On the other hand, if his new CD didn’t live up to what I hoped for, you all would know about that, too! As I listened to a preview on his website I was immediately struck with the power and presence of his voice. I thought, “Wow…he still got it!” Now, listening to the entire CD, Silver Rails, I am even more impressed with the staying power of this gifted man. Mr. Bruce penned all of the songs on this CD. His wife, Margrit Seyffer, co-wrote “Candlelight,” and Kip Hanrahan co-wrote “Hidden Cities.” Pete Brown co-wrote the remaining seven tunes. You may recall that Brown and Bruce co-wrote most of Cream’s single releases including the hits, “Sunshine of Your Love,” “White Room” and “I Feel Free.” The song “Drone” was written solely by Bruce.
This CD is also a bit of a family affair as his daughters, Aruba Red and Kyla Bruce sing backing vocals and his son Malcolm Bruce plays guitar. Also part of this masterpiece of a recording is Robin Trower of Procol Harum fame, on guitar, and Cindy Blackman Santana (an ex-Connecticut woman, I might add) on drums. You may be asking yourself about her last name, and YES, she is Carlos Santana’s wife! (the guitarist, not the baseball player) When reading the song titles, you may also notice that two songs, “Keep It Down” and “No Surrender” were on previous recordings. Make no mistake, these are no rehashed versions.
This CD begins with the song “Candlelight.” A short drum accent, Phil Manzanera on guitar, and a full horn section set the stage for Bruce’s commanding, unmistakable voice and suddenly you know you are in for a magical musical journey! He literally breathes life into the lyrics, “I wish you could shine a healing candlelight over her life and mine. We suffer so much pain under the sundown’s evening wing!” Track two, “Reach For The Night” begins with Bruce playing a plaintive piano intro. He starts out half speaking the lyrics, and then the melody slowly builds. Bruce sings, “I used to be somebody in the general scheme of things. I built myself a folly ‘cause it looked like it had wings.” In the center of this song are well executed solos by John Medeski on Hammond organ and Derek Nash on tenor sax. The lyrics that spawned the title of this disc follow in the last verse, “Now my train can still sing along those silver rails.”
Up to this point, the songs were a little laid back, but “Fields of Forever” kicks it up a notch on an up-tempo tune with Bruce on vocals, piano and bass guitar. Once again, we enjoy the sound of the full horn section, embellished with Bruce on piano. He performs all the vocals on this tune. The chord changes and arrangement were downright refreshing! Track four might be identified as “something completely different!” It’s almost a chant as he is joined by four other vocalists that include the aforementioned Aruba Red and Kyla Bruce weaving a familial timbre. The fifth track, “Don’t Look Now” takes a sharp turn as a ballad/waltz. Bruce adds a soft touch to this song with a melodic piano intro. His vocals really stand out in this offering as he covers many stylings and octaves!
The next cut, “Rusty Lady” is a light hearted, up-tempo tune with riffs reminiscent of his days with Cream. Bruce really drives the vocals home and made me “LOL” when I heard him emphasize lines like, “But when she went and missed my G-spot…” and, “It was Winston in drag without the cigar!” Track seven, “Industrial Child,” is humble in its instrumentation with Bruce on vocals while playing softly on the piano and Tony Remy on acoustic guitar. Its mournful melody is haunting as it tells of the plight of those who once had a future working building ships, but, “So many people without a chance, lost their dance…big ships stopped berthing.”
The power trio styling of “Drone” made me want to shout, “Far out, man!” Bruce begins track eight with the buzzing of a fuzz-wah on his Warwick Jack Bruce Signature Model, modified fretless 4-string bass. He also accompanies himself on guitar and is joined by Milos Pal on drums. As I read the lyrics, I thought about our current situation with unseasonable weather, “I saw a bumble bee today. He shook his head and turned away. The daffodils looked cold and wan. I wondered where the spring had gone.” As I mentioned before, the ninth track, “Keep It Down” was on a previous recording, “Out of The Storm.” I was especially impressed with the presence in Bruce’s vocals in the Silver Rails version…very commanding!
The final cut, “No Surrender” was also previously released, but once again, Bruce breathes new life into this song. The usual suspects of instrumentation are present; drums and guitar, but also features Bruce on bass and a fascinating instrument called a “Melotron.” I would recommend that you do an internet search of this device. It’s quite amazing and Bruce uses it to its highest potential! This tune has a power trio approach to it as well. His vocals are outstanding! He carries you on a journey through this song, then, to a sudden stop as this song is punctuated by its title, “No Surrender!” I believe that this is one his Jack Bruce’s finest works. Buy it…you WON’T be sorry!!!
Rhonda Sue Records, 2013
Review by Lady K
David Egan, out of New Orleans, plays piano, electric piano, and organ. He sings (and has a lovely Bayou accent which is very obvious in his songs), AND he wrote all of the tunes on this self-titled album. His ‘basic’ band was Mike Sipos (drums) and Ron Eoff (bass). And then there are the guests: guitar (Lil Buck Senegal, Joe McMahan, Bruce MacDonald, Buddy Flett); sax(es) (Dickie Landry); congas/percussion (Mike Dillon); triangle (Tony Daigle); backing vocals (Roddie Romero, Caleb Elliot).
There’s a whole bunch of piano blues on David Egan’s “David Egan”. “That’s a Big Ol’ Hurt” is a slow and sexy tune with some fantastic baritone sax from Landry. It’s about a love gone terribly awry: ‘I walked in on you and Freddy, and I knew that I was ruined / you gave me that stinkin’ grin and kept right on doin’ what you were doin’ / and that’s a big old hurt.’ The funky, uptempo “Call Your Children Home” features Zydeco’s legend, Lil Buck Senegal, on guitar, and contains advice to the guitar player in the tune: ‘Buddy Boulden used to do it when he blew his mighty horn, crank that funky guitar up and call your children home.’
“Outta Mississippi” contains killer hard-driving, rockin’ guitar and Dickey’s alto sax, while “The Outside” is slower, epitomizing lonely blues. The slow, sad piano blues tune “Blues How They Linger” reminds us that happiness (and love) don’t always last: ‘Love runs hot and cold people – empires, they rise and fall / but the blues, how they linger. . .’
One of Lady K’s favorite tracks is the sexy mid-tempo “Dance to the Blues With Me” – you’re gonna want to dance to this one, so you might as well stand up and get moving. ‘Shimmy down now darlin’, shake down all the doors / Show me somethin’, baby, I ain’t never seen before / Why don’t you get up and dance to the blues with me?’ Another favorite of mine is “One Foot In the Bayou”; it’s more rockin’ blues with a honky-tonk feel from Egan’s keyboard, bemoaning a move from NOLA to NYC: ‘She done gone up to the city – still got mud on her shoes / she got one foot in New York City and one foot in the Bayou.’
“Funky Dreams” had a bit of a jazzy feel and a mid-tempo beat, and might make you change your mind about trying to get a good night’s sleep – lest you have weird dreams too: ‘Blind man at the wheel, babies with loaded guns / Ninety-nine mad dogs squeal – mortified legs can’t run / Just a few hours of sleep would sure do me good – just get funky dreams instead.’
“Dead End Friend” is an up-tempo goodbye to a lover with a wandering eye: ‘Don’t say goodnight, just climb on in with his garbage and his racing forms / Something tells me that his beat-up Ford is about to become your new home.’
The CD ends with 3 slow blues tunes (which Egan does really well, by the way): “Sad Sad Satisfaction” – piano blues about a breaking heart: ‘I got a sad, sad satisfaction that my worst suspicion’s come true / Just a hint of intuition that soon I’d be losing you.’
“Rootbeer Baby” is sexy-bluesy and uses different foods/cooking terms as metaphors for over-the-counter sex (you’ll just have to listen to it for yourselves). And “Every Tear” is another slow love song: ‘Oh then reach out and hold me close, and in time you sure will know that I will dry every tear.’
Even tho’ “David Egan” has its share of sad love songs, it will make you happy – the way good blues music does.
JAMES MONTGOMERY BAND WITH BARRY GOUDREAU AND GARY HOEY – ROCK-N-BLUES GUITAR SUMMIT – REVIEW BY A.J. WACHTEL
THE JAMES MONTGOMERY BAND with BARRY GOUDREAU/
Rock-N-Blues Guitar Summit
The Larcom Theatre,
Review by A.J. Wachtel
This North Shore venue is an old movie theater and has a great sound system; I always enjoy seeing a show at the cool club and tonight is no exception. A good description of Gary Hoey, solo for tonight only, is “one man, one acoustic guitar, and 20 guitar pedals.” This Lowell legend CAN PLAY. His set contains a nice mix of covers from his new CD Deja Blue including “Born Under a Bad Sign,” “Bootmill Blues,” a great version of “All Along the Watchtower,” “Ohio,” and even Elmore’s “It Hurts Me Too” on dobro. His original song “Illinois Strong,” also done on dobro with a slide, is killer too. Note for note, Gary’s is much more Jimi then Eric; even without the many effects he incorporates during his set. Basically, he uses a pre-recorded rhythm and second guitar part and just plays over it magnificently. There are A LOT of notes and sounds coming from the stage. Every few minutes Hoey bends over to turn on or turn off one of the many effects he uses masterfully too; so there is much movement going on as he plays. Standing up with the acoustic strapped around his shoulder Gary talks to the crowd and introduces all of the songs with a short story. Everyone just loves the verbal interaction and his SCHTICK accompanying the virtuosity too. Did I mention that this cat PLAYS?
James Montgomery is the classic showman. His great band, including guitarist extraordinaire George McCann and bassist David Hull (Farrenheit/ Aerosmith/ The Joe Perry Project), starts the set with a rollicking instrumental before Hull announces the legendary blues harp player. As James walks onstage, and the music accompanies his entrance, he looks out at the screaming crowd with bemusement. Then with his hands at his side, he signals “come on” by wiggling the fingers of both hands now close to his waist: and the crowd goes nuts. I really dig when they ZZ Top Muddy Water’s “The Same Thing” mid-song with guest guitarist Barry Goudreau from the band Boston adding his screaming leads to the mix. During “Crossroads,” “Goin’ Down,” and “Red House,” Gary Hoey steps up and a few times all three guitarists stand stage right together and duel away. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen onstage in a long time and during one of these moments I smirk when I realize: the name of tonight’s show, Guitar Summit, is both apt and understated. Other toxic tunes featuring James’ hot harp include “Delta” from the band’s latest release From Detroit to The Delta, Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?,” and the best encore I’ve heard in a long time, a rocking R&B version of Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell (C’est La Vie).” A great night with a great band at a great venue. They don’t have shows like this in North Dakota, folks.
JOHN SEBASTIAN (Formerly in Lovin’ Spoonful)
THE LARCOM THEATRE
LIVE – 5/8/14
By A.J. Wachtel
One does not usually and at first associate Country Blues with jug band rock and roll icon John Sebastian; but the relationship between these genres and specifically with his own music was clearly pointed out in his two set narrative performance. Playing acoustic and electric guitar alone on stage, John led the audience through a verbal history of his career accompanied by stories, jokes and song after song of his fast, pickless, syncopated fingerpicking style. Covering American Country Blues influences like Mississippi John Hurt with his versions of “Satisfied” and “Lovin’ Spoonful” and “I’m So Lonesome Everyday”, he threw in a Hughie Piano Smith (‘Rocking Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu’) r&b song, talked about the vocal influences of Sleepy John Estes and even showed the packed house, with chord by chord progressions as audial illustrations, how “Heat Wave” by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas was the direct influence of his song “”Do You Believe In Magic”.
The club itself, is my favorite North Shore venue to see a show. It’s just 40 minutes out of Boston and is located in an old movie theater with ornate woodwork all over the cozy, almost 500 seat capacity, two tiered room. And the great sound system, already very clear and crisp, is a continuous ‘work in progress’ head honchos Peter and Vicki Van Ness, tell me although it sounds close to perfect to me already.
Spoonful hits “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice”, “A Younger Girl Keeps Rolling Cross My Mind” and “Daydream” were great too. At some points, the audience would be singing along with him and he would grin and become silent in the middle of the song and just let the packed house continue as he played. The sound of an audience singing loudly with passion to his music was very moving to say the least. And very cool. And he introduced “Welcome Back” with “This song sucks if you don’t sing along”; and everyone did.
The influence of the Blues is in all music genres today; some of it is just more obvious than others.
Review by A.J. Wachtel
This is a classic, guitar-focused, testosterone-driven CD with three of the best local guitarists dueling away on it as icing on the cake. Gary struts his stuff like Stevie Ray on “Boss You Around” and I really dig his nasty, stinging guitar tone. “Boot Hill Blues” has James Montgomery doing a cameo and giving a lesson on bar-room blues. In “Almost Over You,” one of my two favorite cuts here, another Hendrix inspired local icon, Jon Butcher, duels it out with Hoey; and it is GREAT. On my other favorite cut, “She’s Walking,” axeman extraordinaire Johnny A goes head to head with Gary in this steady rolling R&B tune: and again the result is incredible. Check out the slide guitar part that Frank Hannon brings to the table during “Got To Believe”; more Rory Gallagher than Johnny Winter and just as tasty. There are two covers on this CD; “Going Down” which is positively electric, and “Born Under A Bad Sign” the Booker T written classic, with Hoey’s screaming guitar and effects driving the song. Gary Hoey’s creative dexterity is to be admired. THIS CAT SCREAMS! I really dig his music and you will too.
Review by A.J. Wachtel
Whether you know it or not, Willie Dixon has been a big part of your musical upbringing; either directly or indirectly. If you listened to bands like The Jeff Beck Group, The Rolling Stones, early Led Zep, Muddy, and Howlin’ Wolf; they all covered his songs. And now scene vet Johnny Barnes gets an all-star cast to back him up for his own stellar tribute: including David Maxwell on piano, Sax Gordon on saxophone, James Montgomery on harp, Joe Pet from The Joe Perry Project pounding, and even Jon Butcher playing the sizzling lead on “Hootchie Cootchie Man.” Barnes has a lot of fun recording this music; and it shows.
The opening recording, “I Am the Blues” starts off with a blazing guitar intro that sets the tone for the rest of the CD. Growling guitar and raspy vocals surrounded by the best internationally known blues piano, harp, and sax artists around. A great formula that results in a great listen. My favorite cuts are the hard edged “I Just Want to Make Love to You” and the romping “I’m Ready.” The bar-room blues feel of “Back Door Man,” “You Shook Me,” and “Let Me Love You, Baby” really knocks me out too. Saving the best for last, “Little Red Rooster” is a great slide version that the master himself would be proud of. Play this CD LOUD.
Party Up In Heaven
By A.J. Wachtel
Wildcat is from Western Mass. but from the sound of his new release, he is certainly turbulent everywhere he goes.
First off, he reminds me a bit of Elvin Bishop in the way that he is an excellent guitarist and he is also a showman; his tunes all have a lesson and he enjoys giving it to the audience. In this sense, he is also more rhythm and blues then just blues and the nine original songs and two covers here prove to me these cats must be one helluva bar band. I love the rocking title cut with the cool harp. I like the funky guitar on the final track, “N.Y. I’m Home” written by NYC songstress and the voice of Mass. company Dunkin’ Donuts (!!!) Cassandra Kubinski. “Probably Dead” is also a favorite of mine; funny and casual lyrics and a great uptempo r&b bar room feel to it. “Gypsy Deadend Track” has a slower tempo but also has great guitar and a hot harp.After hearing this new release I just want to see Wildcat O’Halloran and his band live. NOT your father’s Blues, for sure.
Live at Scullers- Fortune Cookie
EVIL GAL RECORDS
By A.J. Wachtel
I was at this show and reviewed it for The Noise a few months back and now I am thrilled to hear it in my living room. Michelle has a passionate, emotional and big voice; and her set on this live CD is a mixture of Dinah Washington, Ruth Brown, Abbey Lincoln, Etta James and even a bit of early Ray Charles. Her jump blues/swing sound is unique on the scene and her band, including Zac Casher on drums, bassist Sven Larson, guitarist Mike Mele and Shinichi Otsu on piano and Scott Shetler on reeds is just plain incredible. Listen to them play Dinah’s “Relax Max”, “Stranger On The Earth”, and “New New Blowtop Blues”. Hear the horn in “Fat Daddy”. Listen to the great piano in my favorite cut on the disc “Hallelujah, I Love Him So” (a very early Ray Charles cover). Listen to how the vocals and the horn play with each other on the title cut “Fortune Cookie”; a song written by the two provocateurs themselves, Willson and Shetler. A lot of the songs have short intros by Michelle as she explains their importance to her to the packed house. Check out “Racehorse” as the band plays a few measures of Western T.V. shows theme songs including “Gunsmoke” and “Bonanza”. Great stuff.
THE BARRETT ANDERSON TRIO with RON LEVY
Smokin’ Joes BBQ and Blues
By A.J. Wachtel
This year’s Boston Music Award’s Blues Artist of The Year winner just keeps getting better and better each time I hear them perform. They are an r&b groove band and the best parts of the night are always in the middle of the song when the band has found it’s groove and is playing well together. What I really notice right away and enjoy is the tight way that guitarist Barrett and keyboardist Ron Levy play off of each other: it’s like listening to the show in stereo as you hear their artistry come out of different speakers; and this is what I listen to as drummer Frosty Padgett and bassist Jamie Hatcher drive the band powerfully and professionally. Songs of the night are a rocking version of Muddy’s “I Can’t Be Satisfied” showcasing Barrett’s killer slide and gruff vocals, “Emma Lee” from his latest CD “The Long Fall”, and the Jimmie Reed classic “Shame, Shame, Shame”. One song right after the other; first the guitar riff to start the melody, then the band comes right in. Very cool. I look at Barrett: growling voice, eyes closed, standing up and holding his old telecaster with the worn fretboard; just singing into the mic. And he plays with no pic on many songs: just plucking the strings to get the most out of them. Smokin’ Joes. Smoking band.
Narrows Center For The Arts
Fall River, Ma
It was pretty obvious to me as I approached The Narrows Center For The Arts, a club located on the third floor of an old mill, and saw 75 people waiting in line for the doors to open that this was going to be a special night; and that’s an understatement.
Opening act JW Jones is a three piece hard rocking somewhat bluesabilly band from Ottawa, Canada who is on board for a couple of gigs on Winter’s tour; and these cats are very polished after spending the past couple of years playing in 17 countries on 4 different continents; and their show is tight and very entertaining. Sometimes Jones sounds like SRV and sometimes he sounds like Billy Lee Riley; but it is always good and it is always a bit wild. At one time mid-song the guitarist moves over to play the drums while the drummer moves over to play the bass while the female bassist moves over to play guitar; and they accomplish this without skipping a beat. Pretty cool and pretty talented. At another point, with the guitar strapped around Jones’ neck, the bassist and the drummer come out to play different parts on the guitar and the crowd is audibly and visually entertained by this unique display of their talents. One of the songs I really dug was “Kissing In Memphis” from their last cd. Check them out now.
This room is a long rectangle with the stage along one of the long sides with tables in front and a couple of rows of seats behind them. And the sound is good and loud and with a good mix so you can pretty much hear it well wherever you are.
The first thing I notice is Johnny walks onstage pretty much unassisted. This is the first time I’ve seen him do this in a couple of years and it reassures me that tonight is going to be special just like I had previously thought. JW turns 70 next month and to me he seems healthier in mind, body and spirit than he has for a long time. First his songs:
Before the set, I asked him what was on his list for the night? “Chuck. The Stones. Muddy and Robert Johnson?” and he nodded and said “Yep. That pretty much takes care of it” and he proved to be a man of his word. Opening with “Johnny B. Good” the hour long performance kept building momentum song after song. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “It’s All Over Now”, “Boney Maroney”, “Got My Mojo Working”; “Highway 61” and “Dust My Broom” on slide were all done to perfection; and the packed house loved it.
The second thing I notice is how tight and powerful the band is. And this is another understatement. First, second guitarist Paul Nelson (who also is JW’s manager) is the perfect guitar foil to Johnny’s signature and iconic playing. He never overplays or competes; he just plays ALL the other notes needed to push Winter to be at his best. And they play so well together. Bassist Scott Spray is on fire. His right hand moves up and down the fret board plucking and dampening strings while his left hand also moves up and down the fret board picking the notes. His booming bass keeps it all together. And drummer Tommy Curiale is a perfect hard pounding and very powerful drummer. You can really feel it in the audience when his foot pedals the kick drum and when his creative time keeping comes down hard on his snare. And I really love the way he slaps his cymbals. All of a sudden, I hear an unexpected crash and I love it. I also like the way they smile at each other mid-song deep in a tight groove fully aware of the great sound they are creating. And everyone in the crowd is smiling too. A great way to start the year. Fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the ride. It’s January and Winter is here.
Check out Johnny Winter 1/31 at The Larcom Theater in Beverly, Mass.
Check out The Narrows Winter Blues Festival featuring Joe Louis Walker, Jessie Dee, The Holmes Brothers, Cedric Burnside Project and The Delta Generals 1/25 in Fall River, Mass.