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February 27, 2014


by GFats


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.



February 27, 2014


by GFats


Live at Scullers- Fortune Cookie  



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.

February 27, 2014


by GFats


Smokin’ Joes BBQ and Blues
Brighton, Ma

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.

January 10, 2014


by GFats



Narrows Center For The Arts

Fall River, Ma



JW AND AJBy A.J. Wachtel


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.










December 29, 2013


by GFats



Delta Groove Productions – B00DSAUJ4G


Review by The Bluebird


“Good Morning Mr. Blues, give me your right hand … ”

Solo record, “Dangerous” by Mannish Boys’ Sugaray Raymond, is chock full of standard blues tones, Muddy Waters vocal style and reliable harp wailing, alongside expertly bent notes. A mix of classic and contemporary ranges, which span the historic Son House and reach to include Raymond’s original works, this is a record that can speak a happy jive to a wide variety of blues fans.

The line-ups of both the recording artists and the touring band are impressive, and the combinations of musicians who gather to support Suga validates his award winning talent. Special guests on the production of Dangerous include: Kim Wilson, Sugar Ray Norcia, Big Pete, Kid Andersen, Monster Mike Welch, Gino Matteo, Franck Goldwasser, Fred Kaplan, Anthony Geraci, Bill Stuve, Willie J. Campbell and Jimi Bott.

The hidden gem in all of this, however, is Mr. Rayford’s soul. Not only his Memphis Stax vocal power, which echoes James Brown, Otis Redding and Teddy Pendergrass, but his caliber of strength, dignity and resilience as a human being. Listen to his record cold, just put it on and kick back. Then read through his website and absorb the ‘story’ behind the words to the songs Rayford wrote. Once you know his character, take that all in and listen to the record again. Go for a ride with “Dangerous” on your car music player. The words and sharp arrangements on the record are so transparent, they are a window to his courage.[1]

Texas born and raised, Sugaray knows real life blues and the inspiration required to celebrate the spirit within them. He started his music career at age seven. Playing drums in his church during gospel sessions, the boy overcame incredible loss and poverty through music, family and faith.

His official website tells his childhood story:

“He remembered a sad game he played with his brothers, a competition that determined who was skinniest by counting the number of belt holes left unused. His mother struggled to raise three boys alone while battling cancer. When she died, it was a kind of relief. “She suffered and we suffered,” Rayford said. “Then, we moved in with my grandmother and our lives were a lot better. We ate every day and we were in church every day, which I loved. I grew up in gospel and soul.”


Dangerous/Delta Groove Music/Released September 17th, 2013.

Produced by Randy Chortkoff and Jeff Fleenor.

Engineered and Mixed by David Z.

Dangerous/Track List (Song Credit):

Country Boy (R. Norcia) -

Understand this now to avoid confusion later. There are two, I say two, “Sugar Ray” performers on this record. Sugaray Rayford and Sugar Ray Norcia. Norica does a great deal of writing too, as he fires up his harp. But another thing to note is that there are three, I say three, harmonica players who have contributed to this record: Big Pete, Randy Chortkoff, and Sugar Ray Norica. Chortkoff is executive producer and mixes as well. The dedication to this album can be seen in the overlapping credits and heard in how the arrangements are wound up tight.

Stuck for a Buck (R. Rayford, R, Carter) -

This was one of my favorite songs on the record. An original by Rayford, it blasts from the past with some James Brown style brass. Ron Dziubla and Mark Pender arrange the horns for the record, keeping their tenor sax and baritone trumpet in the forefront of some pieces, to add a classic soul vibe to these blues tunes. I can only imagine how seeing this live would get good people out of their seats into some Saturday night swing. Gino Matteo picks up the lead guitar, with Willie Campbell on bass. The whole song is pulled together with bring it on home organ by Fred Kaplan. Love transition right before the bridge mid-song, it is so flexible, you’re gonna look around for the rubber band man.

I’m Dangerous (R. Chortkoff) -

Chortkoff penned this title track, which hides appropriately as the third song on the record. Monster Mike Welch takes on the rhythm guitar with fierce ups and downs to take the listener through the winding curves that are highlighted by Sugar Ray Norcia’s lead harp. The only critique of this song is that Sugaray Rayford has such a warm vocal presence, he doesn’t sound ‘dangerous’ at all. He brings forth a welcoming atmosphere and his bad boy stance is something that makes you want to smile.

Two Times Sugar (R. Norcia) -

Just in case you slept through my first song intro, these men wrote a song that cleverly notes the two Sugarmen introducing themselves to each other and having a fun song conversation. Great track, another one of my favorites!

When It Rains It Pours (C. Crayton) -

Original by Pee Wee Crayton.

This song, literally, sounds like rain when it opens. It is a cold November day as I listen, and the jazz shake, that Jimi Bott creates with his drums and percussion, comes through this track is very relaxing and reflective of the season. Franck Goldwasser takes on the lead guitar, which is perfectly tempered to the simmering stream of blue that evolves from this great ballad. Bill Stuve brings on the big bubbling bass, that is highlighted by Kaplan’s twinkling piano. The horns round out the sound for an expert take on a jazz inspired song that mirrors some of Rayford’s core blues narratives, in an elegant and powerful piece.

Pretty Fine Mama (R. Chortkoff, T. Leavy) -

Chortkoff takes on the lead harp mid-song in this fun and fast moving track, but it’s the opening hook that gets you right from the start. A gidde-up gallop of beats and bass from Goldwasser and Campbell keep the rhythm going and the song is a party in a box. Geraci on piano gives it an old road house feel. Rayford provides some texture to the set with his vocals, which range from straightforward to gruff, while Bott keeps up the pace with a great foundation on his drums.

Depression Blues (C. Brown) -

Written by Gatemouth Brown.

Celebrating the struggles of relationships and life’s everyday strife, yeah, celebrating blues, that’s what Suga is all about, and it comes through in this song. Even when you think you’ve got it all together, you too may end up in the soup line. Life is unpredictable, but one thing that’s for sure is Rayford’s consistent voice and solid guidance in soul infused style.

Goin’ Back to Texas (R. Chortkoff) -

Kim Wilson makes his debut on the record with the autobiographical song written by Chortkoff, which depicts Rayford’s life and travels. The longest track on the album, it’s a tribute to Sugaray as he opens up to the audience and lets loose with fire and might, controlled only by the slower pace of the song, with some expert grooves by Geraci and Campbell on bass and Monster Mike on rhythm guitar. One thing I listen for is whether or not master musicians show off, or play within the framework of what’s best for the song. This record is stocked with more talent than ego. Bravo, but hey, we ain’t done yet.

I Might Do Somethin’ Crazy (R. Rayford, C. Carter) -

I was waiting to hear another one of Rayford’s original works come through here and this one did not disappoint. His sense of humor, use of metaphor and great sense of rebel freedom takes you up on yonder’s wall and back again.

In the Dark (H. Parker, D. Robey) -

Written by Junior Parker, this “post war gem” shines bright to keep the foundation of the blues alive. Riding high in the top ten on the R&B charts in 1971, the original is all about smooth vocals and horns. Suga’s version is well done, honest to his deeper voice and consistent. It’s straight shooting steady, as Rayford makes it his own and still respects the source.

Surrendered (R. Chortkoff) -

This long running ballad is as prolific as it’s meditative. Suga offers advice and his life experience has earned him the respect to do so.

“The victory is yours, when you surrender …”

“All you fears are gone, the knock out punch returns … ”

Need a Little More Time (R. Rayford, R. Carter) -

A clever clip with some deep Delta grooves indeed. Suga calls out to Franck Goldwasser’s National Steel guitar, which makes such a sweet riding sound. The back ground sticking is charming and makes you want to pour some icy cold lemonade on the porch. With Chortkoff running the harp, all you need is a jug and some dust to kick up the whole scene.

Keep Her at Home (F. Goldwasser) -

Penned by the lead guitarist, Franck Goldwasser, this is a contemporary take on a some world boogie. Big Pete’s contribution here is a slam dunk on the harp, which cuts like scissors through the thick blues grooves.

Preaching Blues (E. House) -

The legendary Son House is echoed, and the spare opening guitar is so comforting and welcoming! The pace quickens and Rayford finds his voice, tells his story and brings the listener to another level of connection and respect. “Blues comes a runnin’ takes me from tree to tree …” The guitar pickin’ is right on time and sets up a clap along gospel beat, but Rayford is strict about keeping the gospel only in church, so he flattens it out by “Preaching Blues.”

Known by fans in the LA area as ‘Suga,’ his journey through music covered R&B funk with the Urban Gypsys, sharing the stage with the Average White Band, Dennis Quaid, Joe Luis Walker, and Kal David, among others. A bluesman at heart, he eventually left the Urban Gypsys to lead vocals for Aunt Kizzy’s Boyz in the Temecula area, drawing huge crowds, winning international blues awards, and landing an RBC Records contract because of Sugaray’s gift of connection with the crowd.


Suga is now in Los Angeles and hosted Cozy’s blues jam in Sherman Oaks. Through the world class musicians he met at this venue, his solo career has skyrocketed. Delta Groove management signed him on as the lead vocalist for the Mannish Boys in 2011. He has contributed to countless productions in many media settings and continues to do so.

[1] “Sugaray – Sugaray Blues.” 2009. 20 Nov. 2013 <>

[2] “Sugaray – Sugaray Blues.” 2009. 20 Nov. 2013 <>

[3] “Sugaray – Sugaray Blues.” 2009. 20 Nov. 2013 <>

December 29, 2013


by GFats



Self Release


Review by Ms. Marci


George Gritzbach, who wrote all nine cuts on this disc is featured on electric and acoustic guitars, harmonica and vocals. All performed with skill and soul.  His arrangements are diverse, yet congruent,  and are the common thread that sews “WHOA YEAH” all together.

This recording opens on a very up-tempo and optimistic note with “Don’t Bug Out!” This song has a kickin’, “Junior Walker” energy, compliments of an outstanding horn section featuring Steve Ahern, Rich Labetz and local-to-international saxophone legend, Mike “Tunes” Antunes (Beaver Brown Band).  I might add that Antunes is not the end of the prestigious names taking part in this recording. Aside from George Gritzbach, who is a bit of a legend in his own right, there is no shortage of impressive personalities involved in this project.  Phil Green of Triad Recording Studio played guitar, sang backing vocals, and acted as producer along with fellow Triad partner, Tony Ricci.

One thing in particular that endeared me to this recording is the cleverness of the music and lyrics.  Gritzbach is a wordsmith! For instance, the second tune, “No Spare Part” approaches the loss of a relationship from a unique angle…”I’m not lookin’ to change your mind.  I’d just like to know what junkyard has my heart.”  This CD shifts to a pop-jazz groove on track three, “Meant To Be,” which could be defined as a hybrid of “Fever” and “Moon Dance.”  Then, the fourth cut, “Hot Little Hands,” has a straight out raw and rockin’ feeling punctuated by some strong soloing on slide guitar.  This tune tells a tale of an unsuspecting person basically being stalked.  Leave your imagination open. Then Gritzbach seamlessly segues into another tune with a clever concept that “Love May Be Blind…but it ain’t deaf and dumb, too!”  This is, unfortunately, a song many of us can identify with as he reports being presented with way too much evidence that his woman is cheating on him.  The sixth cut is Gritzbach’s “Queen Bee,” a song who’s only connection to the well known song of the same title is the fact that it’s pure blues.  He exclaims in the chorus, “She’s my queen bee, always gives me a good buzz!”

This disc shifts gears on track seven, “Day Off” to something completely lighthearted and another display of his way with words.  The song starts with the drums playing something reminiscent of a Bo Diddley beat then the horns kick in. The lyrics resonate a sentiment I think we all can share, “All I need is a day off…nothin’ to do an’ all day to do it!”  Then on cut eight, this recording slips into a gentle, warm folk blues feeling in “Cape Bay Blues” as he muses about the place he has, I imagine, spent most of his life.

The final and title track, “WHOA YEAH!” is a swing song guaranteed to get people up and dancing!  The chorus has the kind of hook that draws you in and you’ll be singing it by the second verse…if not sooner. The perfect ending to a perfect recording!

You can purchase “WHOA YEAH!” on CD Baby,, and of course, the CD release party at The Narragansett Cafe in Jamestown, RI on Sunday, January 12th, 2014 at 4:00pm.  Well worth the trip!


The unsung heroes:

Bobbie Alves, drums

Rich Hill, Fender electric and upright bass

Michael Critch, keyboards

For more info, go to;

December 2, 2013

The ThrowDown Band, on the long road to Memphis – By Lady K

by GFats

The ThrowDown Band, on the long road to Memphis.


By Lady K

Listen up blues lovers, on November 10th, Boston’s ‘bad boys of the blues’ (otherwise known as The ThrowDown Band), won the Boston Blues Challenge. In January, they will be heading to Memphis to represent Boston, competing in the week-long International Blues Challenge.

For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of having ThrowDown rip out your guts at one of their totally kick-ass electric-guitar blues shows, get out and see/hear them!!! The ThrowDown Band is made up of four hugely talented guys: Eric Savoie (lead vocals), Stan C (multiple lead guitars), John Peresada (bass), and Skip Fischer (drums).

Since ThrowDown Band was born just a few years ago, various big and little venues and festivals in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine have hosted countless shows, and the guys have been blowing the minds of fans in the 3 states. It’s time to let them forage in Memphis, rub shoulders with blues-aficionados and compete against some 200+ blues-bands from around the world.

Unfortunately, competing at the Challenge isn’t cheap. Expenses include transportation for the band and their gear, lodging for a week, food (for that same week), and copious numbers of Crown Royale cold shots (yep, that’s the secret to keeping Eric in such fine voice). Since we’ll all get bragging rights when the guys kick-ass in Memphis, it’s only fair that we help out as much we can with the expenses. ThrowDown has made it easy for us to give whatever little bit we can by starting a Kickstarter website. Please click the link below and check out what they’ve set up. There are various rewards for different levels of contribution.
Just sayin’ . . .

November 3, 2013


by GFats

The Road to Del Rio
© Copyright – Doug Bell / Bellevue Cadillac Records (888174158181)
Bellevue Cadillac Records

By A.J. Wachtel51NtVOssdiL._SL500_AA280_

This cool collection of cuts is more Memphis than Chicago and more Stax/Volt than Alligator Records. And there are three distinctly different branches of the same musical tree present from start to finish. They are: Southern Americana tinged r & b, a Sunday morning Gospel Church Choir sound and auto-biographical ballads sung with emotional, powerful vocals that include a moody organ and horns. I really dig the twangy guitars on the uptempo “Mississippi Moolight” , and the rock and roll “Reckless”. The best of the ballads include “Nothing Ventured”, “Trainwreck” and the title track “Del Rio”. What I really like about the ballads is that they are all done with a campfire feel, not a schmaltzy feel, and without losing any of the passion necessarily required. “Henrietta Marie” and “All The Time In The World”, with the gospel female backing vocals added by Cassandre McKinley and Miss Marie have a spiritual sound which are perfectly suited for Doug’s soulful voice. All the tunes are composed by Doug and he plays guitar and national steel on this too. Jeremy Carter is also on guitar with Jeff Thompson drumming, Wolf Ginandes on four strings, and Tony Geraci on organ/piano. Matt Hubbard also plays organ along the way. Dimitrius Popodopoulos plays trumpet and Antonio Bolet adds his coral sitar . Great stuff. Play it loud.

October 17, 2013


by GFats
Full Circle-LIVE600_025
(Recorded Live at Chan’s in Woonsocket, R.I.)
By A.J. Wachtel
This red hot CD is just what I would expect from a killer gunslinger and his band; a stellar live performance that sets the standard on the current scene. Their opener, “One Horse Town” , one of the cuts written by Neal and band mate/vocalist/ harp player Dave Howard, sets the mood and is a good shuffle done by one of the best bar bands in New England.  Their other compositions: “Little Miss Prissy”, “The Man With The Wicked Wandering Eye”, “What’s Better Than That” and my favorite, “Sugar Daddy”, continue with their patented sound; and these cats rock! Solid vocals add to their tight sound and is an important force behind these good bar room romps.  But Neal’s screaming guitar is the main focus. He teases, he showcases, he teaches, he makes you listen. And hear his great talent on Allen Toussaint’s “Get Out Of My Life Woman” or Jimi’s “Little Wing”: with the effects, the note for note tributes, and his own creativity; a combination that simply drives this song to the stratosphere. And the out-of-the blue cover of the 60′s instrumental “Pipeline” that closes this great set. What a treat. These cats can play! Steve Bigelow on bass and Mike LaBelle on drums are the perfect artists to surround Neal and Dave and their power and experience add the right feel to make the group sound tight and enjoyable. This is exactly the kind of music you want to hear on your next night out. What a band. What a CD.
October 17, 2013


by GFats



Warmfuzz Records


billblue1By A.J. Wachtel



This is the first studio release in 30 years for blues guitarist, singer and songwriter Bill Blue. He learned his chops playing for many years with Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup who wrote the classic “That’s All Right, Mama” most famously done by Elvis. What I dig most about this CD is the raw energy of the guitars and the red hot brass courtesy of the Funk In The Middle Horns. The exceptional guitar work is done by Bill and his backing team of Michael McAdams; who was Reba McEntire’s guitarist and Larry Baeder; who was James Montgomery’s gun-slinger for years. This is a guitar album basically, done in an uptempo r&b style, with horn and organ arrangements that make this project more Memphis than Chicago or Detroit.  Tunes like “Sing Like Thunder”, the traditional “Poor Boy Blues”, the opener “It’s Gotta Change”, “Guitar Whore”  and “Who Let That Stranger In?” really knock me out. Great guitar work and I think the slide on the closer “On The Road For Big Boy” is killer too. The recording is fantastic with the guitars sounding clean and loud  -just the way I like it. And Bill’s growling vocals are perfectly suited for his style; they sound like he eats nails. When the words come out  it sounds like he’s remembering with his heart and that he knows what he’s talking about. Authentic and rock solid. This almost 70 year old hard-working artist  is REAL good.