On The MARK….The Nighthawks new recording is fantastic Roadhouse Blues

Nighthawks

I’ve been a fan of the Washington DC based Nighthawks for a long time and they simply have out done themselves on their new CD, All You Gotta Do.  I count a gospel blues nomination, a harp instrumental nomination, and a Blues Song of the Year among the tracks on this 12 track masterpiece!!  Mark Wenner has fronted and guided the band for 43 years and it shows in the both the selection and performance of some badass roadhouse blues tunes. On their previous albums they have performed primarily original songs but on this one they expand their horizons to give several great classic blues tunes the Nighthawk touch including songs by Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, and RL Burnside.

The highlight of the album has to be a slow beautiful soul blues ballad Three Times Your Fool.  Mark Stutso, who wrote the song, puts his heart and soul into the performance and it should earn the band a sure fired nomination for song of the year.  And if there is a nomination for “Just Plain Bad Ass Rockin Blues” it has to be their reworking of RL Burnside’s Snake Drive. This trance blues tune has a infectious beat with great harmonica and guitar work.  They also kick out a jammin version of Sonny Boy Williamson’s Ninety Nine Dollars and a great version of Muddy Waters Baby I Want to Be Loved.

The Nighthawks also add some down the bayou spice to the recording with Voodoo Doll and Isn’t That So and take a side trip back to the sounds of the  fifties and sixties with a great reworked version of the original Standell’s song Dirty Water and Brenda Lee’s That’s All You Gotta Do.

And if that is not enough, Blues For Brother John, is a simple but great blues harmonica instrumental that deserves a nod for Mark Wenner in the harmonica category.  And to top it off Mark Stutso does a heart warming version of Levon Helm’s When I Go Away that is gospel blues at its finest.

The current lineup for the Nighthawks is Mark Wenner (vocals and harmonica), Mark Stutso (vocals and drums), Johnny Castle (vocals and bass) and Paul Bell (guitars).  The chemistry of the group is undeniable and the fact they are havin a damn good time comes through clearly on the recordings. Here’s to hoping they stay together for a long long time!

Ellersoul Records 2017

PS…if you feel like listenin’ to some roadhouse blues after reading this review….check out my 24 hour stream at http://www.s1.nexuscast.com:8043 .

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The I-580 off ramp to the Summer Time 2017 Blues….with the Delta Wires

Delta-Wires-Photo-1-by-Dana-Davis

Delta Wires photo by Dana Davis

There is a great crisp upbeat blues sound emanating out of Oakland, California in the music of the Delta Wires!  A seven piece band with a 30 year vintage, the Delta Wires seventh album, Born in Oakland, is a magical mix of the West Coast blues that is fresh and relevant.  I couldn’t help envisioning Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi and the Blues Brothers just hollerin’ and cheerin’ as I listened to the new CD.  Their “mission from God to spread the blues” definitely reached the off ramps from I-580 to the bright side of the bay!! Band leader and on lead vocals and harmonica, Ernie Pinata started the band as a college project back in the day and the Delta Wires have matured into an exciting and original purveyor of the modern blues.

I absolutely love the song Vacation on the CD. It is the perfect tune released at the perfect time for me….and I bet for YOU!  Tom Gerrits (bass) and Tony Huszar (drums) lay down a steady rockin blues beat, Richard Healey rips it up on guitar, and the horn section consisting of Gerry Jonutz, David Bowman, and John Christensen give the song some unique spice that I think makes it a sure fired hit!  Wanna feel good, different, get outside, or get on the road to somewhere new…..just play this tune and the bags will almost pack themselves!

The album also features a great funky blues instrumental number, In the Middle, that showcases the talents of the horn section. Sunny Day and Fun Time are great little hip swayin’ chillin’ blues tunes, Your Eyes is some fine badass blues, and Devil’s In My Headset features some guitar licks and a sax solo I really enjoyed.

Kudos to acclaimed master engineer Bob Olhsson for marshaling the talents of the Delta Wires and transforming them into a powerful set of ten original cutting edge modern blues tunes!  This is the defining sound and album of the blues for the summer of 2017!

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Have any comments or thoughts on the modern rockin’ blues or recommendations of groups I should listen to, drop me an email at benvee@yahoo.com.  And don’t forget to check out my 24 hr Roadhouse blues stream at http://s1.nexuscast.com:8043 !

 

Layin’ Down the Night Owl Blues with the Tucci Band

Tucci Olivia

The new Tucci Band album Olivia (2017 Hideaway Records) is a first rate rockin’ blues CD featuring the twin influences of the Chicago blues and the Allman Brothers Band sound that Steve Tucci has been associated with for a long time. “Doc” Tucci (yes.. he is a real doctor!) assembled a stellar cast of singers and guitar players to assist him (on guitar) and his brother Michael (on drums) including Larry McCray (vocals, guitar), Shawn Murphy (vocals, sax), Al Owen (vocals), Harry DeBusk (bass), Ira Stanley (slide guitar), Bob Dielman (guitar), Donnie Richards (organ) and Dan Ryan (keyboards). And on one very special cut, Play By the Rules, you get to hear one of the last recordings of the incredible Dan Toler on guitar. (Dan was with the Allman Brothers Band for three albums, the Greg Allman band on their hit records, and with Dickey Betts Great Southern band.)

Larry McCray is a fabulous bluesman in his own right with over a half dozen previous albums. He is featured on my favorite cut from the CD, High Roller, as well as on I Don’t Need It,  and the grindin’ blues tunes You Hurt Me and Without You.  I also enjoyed the title cut Olivia which is a funky blues song sung by Shawn Murphy and featuring some great slide guitar work by Ira Stanley. Additionally, Train Blues is a nice southern rockin’ blues jam that has some fantastic dueling guitar riffs from Steve and Larry.

This album does a great job of furthering the vision that Steve and Dan Toler had established on the first and only Toler Tucci Band album, Doc’s Hideaway.  Dan was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease during the recording of that album and passed away shortly after it was completed in early 2013.  The two of them wanted to write and record in an atmosphere of friendship and comradery.  With Olivia, that vision has been actualized among a group of friends who just happen to be some of the finest blues men on the planet. The CD demonstrates that the blues brotherhood they desired is alive and well and turnin’ out some bad ass tunes…Dan Toler would be proud!!

A Fierce Shot of the Rockin’ Blues – Sean Chambers

Sean Chambers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With a great roadhouse blues voice tinged with the spirit of Johnny Winter and a  guitar style reminiscent of both Gary Moore and Alvin Lee, Sean Chambers is my first nominee for rockin’ blues artist of 2017.  His new album, Trouble & Whiskey, is an intense display of virtuoso guitar work and inspired vocals.  He does a great job of covering B.B. King’s “Be Careful with a Fool” and absolutely tears up Canned Heat’s “Bullfrog Blues“.  And “Cut off my Right Arm” features some bad ass guitar licks.  “Gonna Groove” is funked up blues perfect for dancin’ to on a Saturday night at your favorite juke joint.  “I Need Your Lovin‘” is just incredible blues rock and “Sweeter Than a Honey Bee” is some fine swamp blues..appropriate for this Florida based artist.

Sean truly shines on the grindin blues title cut, “Trouble and Whiskey” and the sultry blues rocker “Handyman” (with Jimmy Bennett).  And I absolutely loved the instrumental “Travelin’ North” featuring New Jersey’s bad ass John Ginty on keyboards. The slidin blues cut “Bottle Keeps Staring at Me” conjured visions of Johnny Winter and is sure to be a hit.

I seldom recommend every song on a CD but this is a pleasant exception. (My second in a row!) His talent should come as no surprise since he honed his skills playing with the great Hubert Sumlin starting back in 1998 and he has been payin his dues ever since…hopefully it will now pay off in a big way!  This is my first exposure to Sean and I intend to go back and listen to some of his other albums including “The Rock House Sessions” which was produced by Reese Wynans.

Sean will be touring the rest of June in Florida and then wander up to Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts in July!  I can only hope he will add a date in Connecticut so that I can get a shot of his bad ass rockin’ blues live!

Sean Chambers = Trouble and Whiskey (2017 American Showplace Music label)

https://www.facebook.com/seanchambersmusic/

Conquerin the Blues – Anthony Rosano

Anthony RosanoEasily a nominee for 2017 Contemporary Blues band of the year, Anthony Rosano and the Conqueroos embody all that is best about the modern blues.   Tinged in rock but true to their blues core, the band’s new self titled album is great from beginning to end.  Based out of Norfolk, Virginia, they are a “must see” if they get close….great vocals and bad ass musicians.  From the delta acoustic “Proud of my Sins” to a fantastic blues ballad “Bound To You” (that I am getting repeated requests for during my blues sets) to sexy  rockin blues songs like “Wicked Grin” and “Revolve”, this is the rare CD where I love EVERY tune.

https://www.facebook.com/Anthonyandtheconqueroo

ANTHONY ROSANO and the CONQUEROOS (Independent Artist label 2017)

 

 

The Midnight Rider makes his Last Run

Gregg Allman was no angel.  A flawed man (like many of us), he had a propensity for drug use that haunted him most of his life, a love hate relationship with women that careened through seven marriages, and a combative spirit that put him at odds with his band mates several times in his career. But he was also a popular musical icon for his generation and a first rate singer, songwriter, and musician. The list of my favorite Gregg written tunes is literally too long to include here but suffice to say that Gregg had a window to the soul that few others have been gifted with.

Gregg_Allman_1975My favorite tune written by Gregg is “Midnight Rider”.  A tale about a drifter down to his last silver dollar and still battling on captured the imaginations of audiences worldwide, including a young Ben Vee.  He was the rock and roll rebel, James Dean writ larger….with drugs and women within easy reach as the Allman Brothers took the music world by storm in the early seventies.  His marriage in 1975 to Cher brought him into the Hollywood spotlight, diminishing his status among his southern rock base (who fought with Cher fans at concerts they did together) even as he and Cher “made the paper” constantly with tales of wild parties and huge passionate fights.  He did not wear the mantle of celebrity well and after his divorce he retreated back to his roots in the deep South.

He returned to musical form in 1986 with the release of the surprise hit album, I’m No Angel, by the Gregg Allman Band. The title cut was vintage Gregg with an admission of his faults paired with his love for a woman…a lyrical recipe that worked wonders for Gregg throughout his career.

He suffered another very public embarrassment in 1995 when he was too drunk to finish his induction speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame awards.  After watching a video of the show, he checked into a rehab clinic and fore swore the use of alcohol for the remainder of his life.  As he had done before, he got his life together after the debacle and returned to touring with the Allman Brothers until its dissolution in 2014.

Last year, he released a live album, Back to Macon, that captured him at his very best. The cuts, “Before the Bullets Fly” and “One Way Out” are two of my favorites and I was thrilled at the prospect of his seventh solo album “Southern Blood” coming out this fall.  I was shocked to hear of his passing because it was so unexpected, I thought he was back to touring.  From what I have read in the days since his death, he hid his battle with cancer in part so that he could continue to perform. He loved his audiences….and they loved him.

Allman brothers

Gregg’s older brother Duane’s favorite song was the Gregg Allman penned tune “Melissa”.  I invite you to give it a listen and just know that right now the two are playin’ it together at the crossroads….Allman Brothers now and forever.

Eric Clapton – The Cream Always Rises to the Top

In late 1963, Eric Clapton joined the Yardbirds and began a career that few will ever surpass as a guitarist, singer, and songwriter.  He is a three time member of the Rock & Roll hall of fame (solo, Yardbirds, Cream) as well as a member of the Blues and the Songwriters halls.  Often referred to as a guitar god during his youth, Eric has experienced all the highs that fame and fortune can bring to an artist as well as the lows …..drug dependency….and grief at the loss of his 4 year old son, Conor, and his good friend Stevie Ray Vaughan on a fateful helicopter ride from a concert where they had both performed that night.

Eric ClaptonMy lovely wife, Annette, and I finally got to see him on Sunday, March 19th at Madison Square Garden. It was just days before he celebrated his 72nd birthday and frankly, I figured he would be good but……. .    Well, was I ever wrong!  He was absolutely in top form on stage in terms of his voice as well as guitar playing.

 

Starting and ending the concert with Cream tunes, he spent two hours on an impressive foray through a number of his hits.  At times acoustic and others electric, Eric sounded and played as well as he comes across on his studio albums.  He was not particularly talkative but you could tell by his facial expressions as the full house sang along to his songs that he was enjoying himself.  He played rock songs, pretty songs, tunes from his Tulsa period, and of course lot of blues music.  His encore song was “Before You Accuse Me”, a blues standard, and featured both Jimmy Vaughan (brother of Stevie and a great artist in his own right) and Gary Clark Jr. who performed earlier in the night.

To say that we enjoyed ourselves would be an understatement.  It was the most money I have ever paid for a pair of tickets to a concert and it was worth every dime.  He will be returning to the United States for a limited tour in the fall of 2017.  If he is on your bucket list, as he was mine, then check your listings and go see him!