The year 2019 was an exciting and invigorating one for blues lovers with the largest number of new albums released that I can recall since at least 2012. Amongst all the songs that I heard and spun for the year (and that was thousands!), these five struck me as the most creative in terms of the sound or lyrics or voice or a combination of all three!! (Links to the songs on Spotify or Youtube are shown in blue.)
With lyrics that are Shakespearean in terms of the pathos and images created for your mind to wrestle with, If I Loved You Hard Enough is about a dysfunctional love that has spanned the lovers lives since they were kids. The opening lyrics portray a shocking scene at a Piggly Wiggly parking lot and it just gets better from there!
The song was written by Rob Robinson, the leader and front man for the Leipers’ Fork Tennessee soul blues band and is just one of many great tunes on the album Holywater. Rob also owns and operates a roadhouse style eatery south of town calledPuckett’s…..mhmm…fine food and great roadhouse blues..I gotz to get there soon!
Amnesia Blues Band hails from Gippsland, Australia. Paul “Buck” Buchanan is the lead vocalist and primary songwriter and they have penned an incredible song, Fast Johnny Cool, on their latest album Hailstone. An infectious bass driven beat and a great voice frame a song about a battle of guitar players at a low down roadhouse.
I got to chat with them a couple of months ago and they warned me not to visit them “down under” with a great voice or guitar. Listen to the song…you will know what they mean!
Jason Ricci & the Bad Kind – Break in the Rain(My Chops Are Rolling 2019 on EllerSoul Records)
A transplant from Maine to my hometown of New Orleans, Jason Ricci is one of the great harmonica players of the blues genre. Break in the Rain has an insistent beat with fabulous guitar licks, some awesome harmonica riffs, and lyrics about a day jumpin’ in puddles and layin’ in the tall grass… naked! Hell yeah!
The song was written by band member and guitarist John Lisi. The Bad Kind band also includes Jason’s wife, Kaitlin Dibble, on backing vocals on the song. I hope to see them perform tunes from My Chops Are Rolling the next time I am back down in the Big Easy!
One of traits of some blues lovers is a kind of conservatism about what is and is not the blues. There are any number of blues purists out there that I respect but don’t agree with. As B.B. King stated once in an interview that I saw, it was only natural for the blues to evolve as more and more people were exposed to it and began to play and interpret it from their own individual perspectives. First it was the delta acoustic blues. Then it was electrified when it moved into urban areas like Chicago. Eventually it was rocked up by the British blues bands of the last sixties. And now we have the wide variety of contemporary blues that I love and spin regularly. I use the term “roadhouse blues” to describe this fascinating mix of modern blues with rock, soul, rhythm and blues, gospel, swing, roots music, and, yes…even a bit of rap influence!
On their latest album, Shine, Ghost Town Blues Band out of Memphis includes an original and creative song entitled Dirty. It’s a southern blues rockin’ tune about dealin’ with the life that fate sometimes deals and includes the tasteful use of rap. It is just such a natural fit for the song and blues in general. Kudos to the band for having the creativity (and bravery to face the blues purists) with such a fine recording! And people certainly love the album. It rose to number one on the Billboard Blues Charts soon after it’s release this past October.
Left Lane Cruiser hails from Indiana and is a duo consisting of singer/guitarist Joe Evans IV and Pete Dio on drums/percussions. One of the songs on the new album SHAKE & BAKE is entitled Smooth Commander and it is about a sojourn across the world and his father’s love for the blues. The use of a resonator guitar is awesome and Joe’s voice is distinctive. And as he sings in the song, the blues will bring everybody around…..that it will surely do!!!
And kudos to the renown illustrator William Stout for providing such a creative album cover!
Ben Vee is an internet DJ and writer from New Orleans that now lives in Connecticut with his wife Annette. He started spinning records back in the 1970’s and has been writing about the roadhouse blues since 2011. He does two roadhouse blues shows each week on http://www.bluesmusicfan.com and he writes about the blues when the urge strikes on http://www.benveeblues.com.
The holiday season is upon us and my hope is that one of the tunes during today’s Roadhouse Blues Nooner will inspire you to download the album and gift it to a friend! Join us at High Noon EST on http://www.bluesmusicfan.com for a mix of the best in contemporary blues including a new promo single from Albert Cummings plus some vintage Bob Dylan and an “almost the blues” Creedence Clearwater Revival tune that I love.
Join us for new contemporary blues by the B. Christopher Band, Wentus Blues Band, Zack Walther Band, Johnny Boy Kunk, and many more as well as several classics from my archives. Tune in at http://www.bluesmusicfan.com at 3 PM EST today, October 24th.
Sometimes I run across an album that just blows me away…..this one did!! Wentus Blues Band is a Finnish group that has been together touring for thirty years. Recently, they journeyed across the seas to Rhode Island to make the album TOO MUCH MUSTARD with renown guitarist and producer DukeRobillard……the result is simply blues magic!
The first cut to grab my attention was 2:19. The band is tight featuring Juho Kinaret on vocals, NikoRiippa on guitar, Robban Hagnäs on bass, Pekka Gröhnon keyboards,and Daniel Hjerppe on drums and they blend their instruments seamlessly as they drift though a badass little tune.
I was riveted by their version of FIRST WE TAKE MANHATTAN. The song was written by Leonard Cohen and I am familiar with it because of a recording done by Jennifer Warnes in the 1990’s with Stevie Ray Vaughan on lead guitar. Both the Cohen and Warnes versions were whimsical. Wentus Blues Band delivers the appropriate feel and ominous warning to this apocalyptic song.
A song that will get alot of airplay during my roadhouse blues sets on BMFR is SHE’S A KILLER HOT BLONDE. It is hot rockin’ blues with some great guitar and piano licks.
I also enjoyed the songs TOO MUCH MUSTARD, FEELS SO BAD, and I HEAR YOU KNOCKIN’. All great tunes that bear the imprint of the Duke as their record producer. He also plays guitar throughout the album and even provided two tunes for the band from his early years, SHE MADE MY MIND and PASSIONATE KISS.
In an interview done on the Michael Limnios Blues Network, Juho eloquently stated “the Blues music is a universal playground. It doesn’t look at your color, how old you are or where do you come from.” Amen, brother!! As I have stated a number of times over the last five years, there is alot of great blues coming out of Europe and Copenhagen and the Nordic countries in particular. With the release of this album, the Wentus Blues Band’sTOO MUCH MUSTARD blueses itself into contention as one of the great recordings of 2019.
Wentus Blues Band – Too Much Mustard (2019 Ramasound Records)
Links in blue are to Spotify, Youtube, or quote references.
...And yes I know “blueses” wasn’t a word until today…..lol.
I am back from vacation and ready to roll out some badass roadhouse blues for you on http://www.bluesmusicfan.com at High Noon EST. Have a mix of new contemporary tunes by Mike Duke, Zack Walther, and the Tedeschi Trucks Band as well as some classics from the archive.
Here is the intended playlist that I post with the hope that if you like the some of the tunes that you will go to your favorite music shop and buy them! Help the blues to thrive in 2019!
The Texas based Zack Walther Band is hard to pin down when it comes to their tastes in music…and that is a good thing! On the new album, The Westerner, due out this Friday, October 25th, they provide a spicy mix of Americana, rock, country, and R&B that plays to the strength of band leader Zack Walther’s soul infused voice.
My favorite tune on the album is Payin’ For It Now. A song about poor life choices that lead inevitably to the blues, Zack’s voice vividly brings home the realization that there is more to bein’ a man than money and cars. An insistent beat and some great backing harmonies with band members Matthew Briggs (drums, guitars, bass) and Mike Atkins (keyboards, bass) make this a recording you won’t soon forget.
Zack reminds me a bit of Gregg Allman on another of my favorite cuts of the recording, What Kind of Man. He originally released this song on a previous album, Get Out of Your Head, and I am glad to see him include it once again. The lyrics are powerful and the delivery is perfect.
The album also features a song originally recorded by Sam & Dave, Hold On I’m Coming that is some damn fine soul music featuring trumpet playin’ by D. Tiger Anaya and some badass sax by Mark L. Wilson.
Other songs that I enjoyed on the album were I’m Going Out of Your Mind that has some awesome guitar riffs, the sultry tune Bad Girl, and DFW which has a great Kenny Wayne Shepherd feel to it.
And for those of you that enjoy cool album art, this one is a must have that was designed by Catherine Atkins.
Overall, this is an awesome album of Americana music performed by a talented band with great crossover potential for contemporary blues audiences on several cuts. I will be featuring some during my upcoming BMFR roadhouse blues sets. If you live in the New Braunfels area of Texas, try and catch their CD release party this Friday, October 25th, at the Brauntex Theater. If you go, let me know what you think.
I first met Mike Duke during the heyday of Wet Willie back in the 1970’s. Wet Willie was part of the sound emanating from Macon, Georgia, the home of Capricorn Records. Along with the Allman Brothers Band and the Marshall Tucker Band. Wet Willie helped solidify the main stream appeal of southern style rock music with its blues, soul, and country influences. And that was in no small part due to the talent of Mike Duke He was, and remains, a gifted song writer, singer, and keyboard player.
After the luster of Wet Willie faded for Mike, he moved on, doing a stint with The Outlaws and then relocating to the San Francisco Bay area where he spent most of the 1980’s. During that time he wrote several tunes that became hits for Huey Lewis and enhanced his reputation as a songwriter. During the 1990’s he moved to Nashville and was a featured member of Delbert McClinton’s band. In 1998, he moved back to Northern California and has been there ever since.
This album “….took a while” includes tunes that span the length of his career since the 1970’s and yet is, amazingly, his debut album! All of the songs are written by Mike and four of them are newly recorded. One tune, Torn & Scarred, was actually written by Mike in 1969 while he worked with a black church in his hometown of Mobile, Alabama. It is a sweet little gospel song with Mike pounding the ivories and singing with a voice that has lost none of its power or range after all these years.
My favorite cut on the album is a new recording of I Can’t Let You Go featuring some tasteful lead guitar licks from Elvin Bishop. It should get a lot of airplay on stations and streams that feature soul blues music. I will certainly be playing it during my roadhouse blues sets on BMFR.
I also loved another new recording,I’m Not Sad Tonight, that features Gary Vogensen on guitar and his long time friend, Angela Strehli, as part of the backing vocals. Mike’s voice and keyboard playing transported me back…just remembering…but I’m not sad….just dang happy he came out with this album!
The album has the demo version ofHope You Love Me Like You Say You Dorecorded in 1980. Huey Lewis loved it when encouraged by Bob Brown, his manager, to give it a listen. And it was performed by Huey on his second album in 1982. Mike’s demo recording started a life long friendship with Bob who also played a major part in getting this album recorded and released.
I remember Mike as a young affable musician with obvious talent who took enjoyment from keyboard playing, the chance to sing for audiences, and have people hear songs he had written. He didn’t avidly seek the limelight or stardom like so many of his contemporaries and that is probably why It took a damn long while for Bob Brown to convince Mike to release his first solo album. My hope is that several more will follow in short order!
The Mike Duke Project – …took a while(2019 Little Village Foundation)
From his 1960 album, Rockin’ at the Hops, Chuck helped translate the electrified urban blues to an entire generation of teenagers, including John Lennon and Eric Clapton, back in the 1950’s and 1960’s with songs like this one. He is rightly called the father of rock & roll and was one fantastic blues man too!
Chuck Berry was one of the defining artists of his time…..flaws and all. I love his music and hope you do too.