Milligan Vaughan Project….Some Satisfaction for the Soul!

MPV

It must be pretty cool to have a dad, Jimmie Vaughan, who is a legendary blues man and an uncle, Stevie Ray Vaughan, that helped define the rockin’ blues genre but I can’t imagine the amount of pressure that goes with following in their footsteps and playin a guitar!  Tyrone Vaughan has done just that and acquitted himself well.  Combining forces with a well known and respected Texas blues and soul singer, Malford Milligan, they have produced a fine album called the Milligan Vaughan Project.

The album was recorded in Austin in between tour dates throughout Texas and produced by David Grissom.  It features original tunes written by Milligan, Vaughan, and Grissom and songs penned by Davey Knowles and Gene McDaneils. There is also  one fantastic cover of Buddy Guy’s Leave My Girl Alone.  Tyrone does a fine job of emulating Stevie Ray on the recording and I just know his uncle must be grinnin’ from ear to ear up there with the rest of the giants of the blues.

The music on the album is a creative mix of blues, rock, and soul.  My favorite track is a hot upbeat number entitled Soul Satisfaction. Malford has a voice similar to another favorite artist of mine, Joe Louis Walker, and his gritty delivery works well on the blues rockin song Dangerous Eyes. I also enjoyed Tyrone’s guitar licks amid the social commentary of Compared to What and on the tune Driving You.

Tyrone has an exciting future in front of him and it will be interesting to see how things work out for the Milligan Vaughan Project as time goes on.  But rest assured that Tyrone is not “trading on the family name”; he is very very good and deserves to be listened to….even if his last name was Jones!

 

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Dudley Taft’s Summer Rain lets the blues rock pour down!

Dudley Taft

I first became aware of Dudley Taft back in 2011 with the release of Left for Dead, a great blues rock album that highlighted his unique and memorable voice. Fast forward six years, and we get his fifth studio album, Summer Rain, which is just as good.  Dudley laid down the basic tracks for the new CD in his new studio outside Cincinnati (that he bought from Peter Frampton) and wrote all the songs.  He is an unabashed blues rocker and his music draws on the best of both its progenitors and helps to define the genre.

Come with Me sounds like a perfect mesh of Ted Nugent and Deep Purple; his guitar soars as an insistent beat drives the song….good stuff!  Dark Blue Star, Edge of Insane, and Don’t Let It Fade just crank!  My favorite tune is Flying on Love…..like fine tequila..sensimilla…you take me higher…why don’t we just drink margaritas and sit by the fire…..what a damn good idea…make it a bottle of Don Julio 1942 and I will be right there! I Lost My Way  and Live or Die are beautiful slow songs with great guitar licks.  And the title cut, Summer Rain, features some more great guitar riffs.

Dudley dedicated his album to all the men and women in the armed forces who accept duty tours in faraway places.   One of my greatest honors as a DJ has been to have troops stationed in Afghanistan tune into my live DJ sets on the Secondlife social grid and request mainly upbeat blues rock tunes to pump them up before they go out on missions.  The song, Pistols At Ten Paces, is one that I will be sure to play if they ask again.

This album was a great listen!  It will be officially released on September 15th and I hope it does well in terms of radio/internet play and sales over the coming months.  Download it as soon as you can….you won’t be disappointed!

Dudley Taft – Summer Rain    Taft Enterprises LLC 2017

Al Basile counts that Quiet Money as he Swings the Blues!

Al-Basile-Quiet-Money-Hi-Res-Cover-150x150

To me, Al Basile is the Randy Newman of the blues.  A talented song writer, as well as cornet player who has been playin’  for over forty years, Al has a nice vocal delivery similar to Randy’s and a penchant for songs that paint vivid images. His last recording, Mid-Century Modern, was nominated for 2016 Contemporary Blues Album of the year and his new album, Quiet Money, delivers some great forties and fifties style R&B and swing with the backing of Duke Robillard (who also produced the album) and several members of his former band, Roomful of Blues.  If you like your blues smooth and primarily upbeat, you are gonna love it!

I enjoyed Put Some Salt on It and Simple Ain’t Easy It which feature some nice guitar playin by the Duke.  On Time Is Now, Al lays down a cornet solo that is great. And my favorite song on the CD is You Got Two…..give it a listen and you tell me if he doesn’t channel a bit of Randy Newman… blues style!

Another song that really struck me on the album was Who’s Gonna Close My Eyes?  It is a story of a lonely man who has outlived his family and is contemplating who will be there for his last days.  It’s a pretty slow song set to an R&B beat with plenty of the horns that Al loves so much.

In an age when flash and shock value seems to count for more than they should, here’s my bet on Quiet Money…..Tasteful and thought provoking blues can still deliver!!

Al Basile – Quiet Money     Sweetspot Records 2017

 

 

Continuing to Innovate….Dennis Johnson finds the Rhythm!

Dennis Johnson

Guitars have been widely available in America since back in 1894 when Sears & Roebuck began to sell them in their catalogs.  For $4 to $26 dollars, you could live on a remote ranch in Wyoming or in a shotgun shack in the Mississippi delta, and Sears would mail you an instrument to while the nights…and the blues away.  Certainly the most famous practitioner of the blues on guitar back in the early days of recorded music was Robert Johnson.  Playing throughout the twenties in the deep American south and finally recording in the mid 1930’s, he was an innovator on the guitar blending rhythm and slide phrases that are still marveled at by the likes of Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy. 

Today, we also have blues innovators on the guitar and one of them is Dennis Johnson from San Francisco. The sounds he produces playing slide are a joy to listen to. And on his third studio album, Rhythmland, he continues to explore new and interesting ways to deliver the blues.  The first cut of the album, Walkin Blues, is his interpretation of a classic blues tune that was first recorded by Son House and then adapted by Robert Johnson. Dennis has the perfect voice for this song and uses a 12 string dobro with a tone that leaps out at you as it begins….it is simply bad ass upbeat contemporary blues based on a song that is almost 90 years old!!!

Accompanied by his band the Mississippi Ramblers that consists of Tim Metz (drums), Jonathan Stoyanoff (bass) and Craig Long (keyboards and backing vocals), Dennis delivers a number of other great songs (all originals) that will make my DJ playlists and be featured on my 24 hour blues stream, Ben Vee Roadhouse Blues.  I particularly enjoyed Valley of Love for the slide work and High Heel Shoes and Fillmore Street are great upbeat dancin’ blues tunes.  The recreation of the sounds of a moving train on an acoustic guitar are just part of delightful song, Southbound Train, that always features some nice keyboard work.  The most interesting cut was Timbale featuring a latin cascara beat and some more innovative slide work that I just know my blues listeners and readers will love.

Blues folks all owe a debt to Sears & Roebuck for the innovation of the “home shopping” catalog way back in the day and our grateful thanks to blues slide guitar innovators like Dennis Johnson for his continuing and entertaining pursuit of the best possible contemporary blues while never losing sight of the debt we owe to the early blues men and women.  Download and listen to this CD……you will enjoy it!

Dennis Johnson & the Mississippi Ramblers – Root Tone Records 2017

Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band Lays It on Down…Live and in Studio!

Kenny wayne shepherd

 

Kenny Wayne Shepherd had us from the get go last night (August 23, 2017) at the Ridgefield Playhouse in western Connecticut when he stated onstage that “at our core we are a blues band and all of our music over the years has been built on the foundation of the blues”. Then they proceeded to prove it with two hours of blues rock tunes spanning the twenty two years that he has been recording since the release of Ledbetter Heights in 1995.  The performance also included a number of great new songs from their album Lay It On Down.

Sporting simple black T-shirts and jeans and long hair styles reminiscent of the seventies, both Kenny and Noah Hunt shared the singing duties as they romped through favorites like Deja VooDoo, Blue on Black, Heat of the Sun, and King Bee. Kenny’s guitar playing is intense and breath taking at times as he works the frets and strings in ways that very few others have ever done. But there is also a simple sincerity in his demeanor that charmed the audience (and the ladies in particular) and has been the hallmark of all great blues men and women over the years; They write about life as they see and experience it and then perform it with a gusto and relish that draws you in. No one just sits idly contemplating the music or the history of the blues at a Kenny Wayne concert…the crowd was on its feet spontaneously several times early in the concert and then stayed on its feet for the last hour swaying, rocking, and singing along at times.

Kenny has stated in several published interviews this year that he wanted his 8th studio album to take him in new directions…to explore new boundaries based on the blues.  His previous seven studio albums have been number one on the Billboard Blues charts and he has had a string of blues rock singles that have topped the rock charts over the years as well making him arguably the most commercially successful of all the blues rockers currently on tour. With the Lay It on Down album, he has achieved his 8th blues chart topping recording and he also sits atop the rock and the current album listings as well!

My favorite tune on the new CD is Nothing but the Night, a sultry upbeat recording showcasing Noah’s voice as well as Kenny’s tasteful guitar playing.  A very close second  are two songs Baby Got Gone and She’s $$$, both hot upbeat blues rockers. The title track shows the influence of the Nashville co-writers Kenny worked with for the album.  The lyrics to the song are engaging and it also surprised and delighted me with the strong beautiful harmonies between Kenny and Noah. Down for Love. Diamonds & Gold, Ride of Your Life, and How Low Can You Go are the type of roadhouse rockin’ blues that I love and feature on my 24 hour Ben Vee Roadhouse blues stream (http://s1.nexuscast.com:8043).  The lovely slow song Louisiana Rain brought back memories of our shared home state to me and most certainly was written with his wife of eleven years, Hannah, in mind.

Great album, great concert…..there is not much more that really needs to be said.  My Louisiana home boy done good!  Go see him if ya get a chance and damn sure buy the CD!!!

Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band  –  Lay It On Down,  Concord Records (US) and Mascot Records (Europe)

Makin it Loud and Clear…..Steve Krase Aces the Harpin’ Blues

Steve Krase

It’s summertime and a perfect time for a backyard barbecue with friends, cold beer, and of course some bad ass harpin’ blues.  I suggest you buy Steve Krase‘s new CD, Should’ve Seen It Coming, and let the good times roll.  Steve is a Houston based harmonica stud with a penchant for loud and upbeat tunes and on his fourth album for the Connor Ray Music label does he ever deliver!

The first tune on the CD, Brand New Thang, is a great party tune featuring some virtuoso guitar playing by label mate Mark May. On the second song, Crazy For My Baby, Steve puts himself in the league with Little Walter, James Cotton, and Charlie Musselwhite with an excellent harmonica rendition of a Willie Dixon tune.  This song should receive serious consideration in the harmonica artist category of next year’s blues awards in Memphis.

I have a particular love  for “down the bayou” blues and Steve’s cover of Fat Domino’s Let the Four Winds Blow is a great addition to that playlist for my DJ sets.  I also enjoyed the Texas blues shuffle Make You Love Me Baby.  And my vote for the Just Crank It up and Dance tune of the album is Shot of Rhythm and Blues which features label mates Trudy Lynn and Bob Lanza.

The title cut (written by his brother David) is an interesting jazzy blues jam with some great saxophone playing by Alisha Pattillo, nice keyboard work by Randy Wall, and Steve’s harmonica work is stellar. Rock Romano (bass and the studio owner), David Carter (guitars), and Richard Cholakian (drums) round out a solid backing band for Steve.

Well, if you are ever in the Houston area and see Steve Krase on the club or concert bill, strap on your dancin’ shoes, grab yer Baby, and go have a damn good time!  And a quick look at his tour schedule shows he’ll be in New Jersey on my birthday, September 9th, along with Bob Lanza……hmmmm….that’s pretty close…maybe time for a short road trip to celebrate another year on the upside of the grass!

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 .