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.
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.
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, Amazon.com, 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; www.georgegritzbachmusic.com
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’ . . .
PROFESSOR DOUG BELL & FRIENDS
The Road to Del Rio
© Copyright – Doug Bell / Bellevue Cadillac Records (888174158181)
Bellevue Cadillac Records
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.
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.
By A.J. Wachtel
This is a groove-oriented band; they set the aural mood first and then take off with passionate and powerful vocals sung by both Babe Borden and Jon Catler; who also play autoharp and all guitars respectively. I really dig when they sing together; their vocals tease and match so well it substantially adds to the group’s collective sound. On “Live Long Day”, their third CD, this characteristic is best seen in “Slow Moving Train”, “One Thing” and in the uptempo opener “Sittin’ In The Train Station”: and the title cut; the radio friendly “Live Long Day”. I also like the r&b flavor of “Down The Road” where Babe just wails. They make the only cover, Robert Johnson’s “Love In Vain”, their own with it’s quicker slow-shuffle tempo and great vocals. All the other tunes are composed by Catler. Mat Fields on bass and Lorne Watson pounding add energy and provide a solid backing on all the cuts. Powerful blues and blues/rock with a hint of Jefferson Airplane-like psychedelia. Ancient ideas with 21st century technology. Good stuff! Check these cats out when you see them around town this Winter.
Review by David Wilson
Frankly, I do not have a clue as to how to evaluate this CD. While it seems to have some clear roots deeply embedded in traditional blues forms, its branches and its glory are truly realized only in its upward sweeping, blue sky over the rainbow embracing improvisational jazz and chrome plated boogie styled runs, none of which do I have the vocabulary to discuss.
Historically, I understand, Ms. Bogart is a saxophonist of some note and a former member of the group Cowboy Jazz. I suppose a saxophone is easier to tote around than a piano, although keyboards today are compact and versatile. It does not seem to be a crime for someone to exhibit as much talent, technique and temperament on two such different instruments but it hardly seems fair to the run of the mill musicians in our world.
What I have finally come to realize, as I fumble my way through this, is that I don’t have to know how or what or why she plays the way she does, makes the musical choices she does, or phrases vocally the way she does because emotionally, she destroys my defenses and leaves me vulnerable, wiped out, cleansed.
This might not be your cup of tea. Before I started trying to figure it out I would not have chosen it for mine. Having experienced it, lived with it for awhile, I count it a discovery.
Clearly, others more knowledgeable than me feel that way as well for this release has also been nominated for a 2013 Blues Music Award in the Pinetop Perkins category which was since awarded to Victor Wainwright.
Chris Duarte Group
My Soul Alone
Blues Bureau Int’L – (B00AX5HGWW)
Chris Duarte- Guitar and Vocals
Steve Evans- Bass
Aaron Haggerty- Drums
Produced by- Mike Varney
Released on Shrapnelrecords 2013
(Blues Bureau International)
Readers should read
The Chris Duarte Group’s biography as a guide before
buying this album. It was (very well) written by Robert Holman, who has followed the evolution of this artist for quite some time. You can read
Mr. Holman’s summary of this record on the band’s website:
http://www.thechrisduartegroup.com/ . The reason I say this is because
Duarte and his obviously talented band, weave in and out of various blues
styles, and altogether stray from straight blues within the same
collection, at times. Each song is different from the other, in phrasing,
blues period and even genre.
The opening track, “Show Me That You Want It,” notes jazz influences, which
make this song leap from the music player. Harmonies and repetition in the
chorus give this a top tappin’ 1940’s jumpin jive vibe. “Yes, It’s You”
brings warm country tones to underline this pop diddie that makes the
entire record lots of fun for the listener. Clear tones like the Beatles’
influence this tightly written track. “Take Me Now” was my favorite song
from the record. It isn’t everyone who can nail the groovy vibe of a
Steely Dan-like type of ensemble. Smooth and easy, it is timeless and
contemporary at the same time. Duarte imparts a great deal of catch in
every song to keep you engaged, this one is memorable.
“A Dollar Down And Feeling Low” gives the listener a great escape into the
slower side of blues. With Otis Rush influences of long phrases and
streamlined tones, this minor blues tone song is a hidden gem. “I Bucked
It Up” brings the wide reach of various blues styles that Duarte calls
into the mix on the same record. He pushes the fun side of blues on this
song. Almost sounding like a live version of rocker Joe Walsh, this track
would have the audience catching on quickly and shouting along in any
venue. Duarte can bend a note, and the lead shows some skillful technique
in the opening sections. Holman describes some Hubert Sumlin styles in the
lead and Buddy Guy riffs toward the end. Listeners will have to analyze
these for themselves, but there were some classic blues styles to dig into
Chris’s signature Hendrix influence is well documented. ‘Outta My Way’ is
stated to have “the patented Hendrix 7th chord accents” which you do hear
later in the track. This song has a lot of Hendrix references, but the
pace is faster and less funky. Chris’ voice reaches for every note, which
in some ways distracts from the instruments. He can stay in his range for
a more solid effect, still a good effort, nonetheless.
In “Leave My Soul Alone,” Chris is quoted as naming The Black Keys as
influence in this song. “I was first exposed to those guys when I did the
Romp album.” “Our producer at the time, Dennis Herring, brought that song
in, the Romp that is, and it was the Black Keys version of it.” I liked the choppiness of it. This song sounded raw and brought some genuine soul to the blues mix.
In “Sweet Little Girl,” the biography states that Chris wrote this song for his
daughter and there is some heavy influence of Howlin Wolf from the days
where Chris played Howling for My Darkling with Bobby Mack and Night
Serious pride came through on this track, that’s all I’ll say here.
I liked “Lazy Afternoon” for the simple reason that it puts a positive
spin on a cloudy day, blues style. It is a walk through your backyard that
you’d never notice before without Duarte’s fresh perspective, great song.
“Can’t Shut Me Out” comes through to show an increase in intensity, as
Duarte pours on the guitar riffs and special effects, expressing more of
his Hendrix influence. “Blue Jean Outlaw” tells a story in the Western
folklore of a “young man that takes up a life of crime to feed his
family.” The guitar blends melodies and vocals, that mirror the narrative
of the tale. The opening drums and guitar was quiet and serene, making a nice intro to the sad story he tells. The vocal tone of this was flatter than some of the change ups in the rest of the album, but the guitar work wove around the lyrics to make an interesting backdrop.
“Carelessness” may take the listener off guard. The song was named after a
lodge in Northern California where Chris Duarte met a violin player and
they jammed out to “Freedom Jazz Dance”. Duarte’s producer, Mike Varney
wanted to get Mads Tolling on one song for My Soul Alone. Duarte is noted
for being inspired by fusion artist, John McGlaughlin, and the blend
between Duarte’s bold confidence as a guitar player and Mads Tolling’s
fiery violin is a great adventure for the listener.
These tracks are so different from each other, Duarte takes risks in being
unpredictable with song choice. For this reason, “My Soul Alone” may end
up being a stand out record for the Chris Duarte Group.