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!

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Ben’s Blues Bin – March 14, 2017

Here’s some of the artists and tunes in heavy rotation on my 24 hour rockin blues stream this week!

Aster Pheonyx and John GintyJohn Ginty featuring Aster Pheonyx – Rockers (American Showplace Music 2016)

New Jersey performers John Ginty and Aster Pheonyx have turned a chance encounter at a studio into a rockin blues collaboration that could well put them into the same stratosphere as Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa and Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks!  She has a powerful voice and he is a world class keyboard/organ player. I hope they recognize the magic in the mesh of their talents and record together for a LONG time. Loved Believe in Smoke and Captain Hook.

 

Vidar BuskVidar Busk & His True Believers (Stompin Our Feet with Joy Grappa Records 2011)

One of a number of great Nordic rockin’ blues artists that have emerged over the last decade, Vidar and his band from Norway will have you hoppin’ and a boppin to Jelly Roll and the Working Man Blues. The tunes feature some bad ass harpin.

 

tiphony dames 2Tiphony Dames With the Coyote Kings (CD Baby 2017)

Robin Barrett and the Coyote Kings lay down some bad ass jams to showcase the voice of this young lady from Harlem on her debut album (and the sixth for the band). Loved the songs Ain’t That a Bitch, Bad News for Me, and Down with the Blues.  She’ll be appearing with the band on April 7, 8, and 9 of 2017 at the Walla Walla Guitar Festival. If you live in the Washington state area…get your tickets now!

RossingtonRossington – Take It on Faith (Loud & Proud Records, 2016)

After a 28 year hiatus, Gary Rossington and his wife Dale have released another awesome blues rock album.  I love their voices and his guitar licks have only gotten better (if that is possible!) from his days with Lynyrd Skynyrd. Loved the cuts Shame on Me and Two Very Different Things.

 

johnny mastroJohnny Mastro & Mama’s Boys – Never Trust the Living (Independent, 2016)

This is the fifth album for this band from my hometown of New Orleans and it is a great contemporary rockin blues disc.  Chocked full of crankin guitars, great harmonica riffs, and solid vocals by Johnny, I just loved Walkin’, Monkey Man, and the title cut, Never Trust the Living.  They have also taken Europe by storm with their raw brand of the blues and done over 30 tours of the continent in the last decade. If you are lucky enough to be in New Orleans this coming weekend for the Saint Paddy’s festivities, you can check them out on Frenchmen street at the Apple Barrel (Mar 17th) and Bombouloa’s (March 18th).

AND…..

My lovely wife and I will be seeing Eric Clapton this coming weekend at the Madison Square Garden….woot…..will give you an update next week!!  Checkin’ one off the old bucket list 🙂

 

 

Albert Cummings…The Badass Master Craftsman of the Rockin Blues

If you are working man or woman in Germany, Japan. Great Britain, the United States, Canada, or anywhere else in the world, Albert Cummings is a kindred spirit.   He is a master carpenter and home builder as well as being, according to the late great B.B. King, one of the world’s best blues guitarist. I got so see him this past Friday (February 17, 2017) at Stage One in Fairfield, Connecticut.  It is a small cozy venue without a bad seat in the house and it was a perfect setting for his style and music.

Albert comes across as an everyday person.  Dressed in an untucked maroon long sleeve shirt and jeans and wearing a grey baseball cat, Albert is your average working guy…..until he strikes a chord on his guitar and begins to belt out tunes with his distinctive voice.  He started playing the electric blues guitar while he was in college…drawn to it by the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan. And in 2003, he put out his first solo album, From the Heart, with no less than SRV’s group, Double Trouble, as his studio band and producers.  In 2006, he recorded, Workin’ Man Blues, on the album Working Man.  It is a remake of song written by Merle Haggard that fit’s Albert persona and will forever be the way that I think of him.

 

albert-cummings-one

On stage, Albert smiles and grins a lot.  It is obvious that he loves playing the blues.  And once he got started, it was rapid fire rockin blues for two hours.  Backed by a tight bass guitarist and drummer, he covered songs for his latest release, Someone Like You, on Blind Pig Records (a powerhouse blues label… http://www.blindpigrecords.com/ ) as well as favorites like Cry Me A River, Hoochie Coochie, and The Blues Make Me Feel So Good from his previous albums.

Afterwards he mingled with the crowd and I got him to sign my Albert Cummings baseball cap. He was as friendly in person as on stage. We chatted about the blues and he wished me the best as a blues dj and blogger and his thank you for me playing his tunes on my stream was just so damn genuine.

Over the next two months, Albert will be playing venues all over the northeastern United States, the mid west, and the South.  Check out his tour dates at http://albertcummings.com/tour-dates/ and if he comes your way, go spend an evening listening to the rockin blues of the Workin’ Man Albert Cummings.

Full Steam Through the Night with Thorbjorn Risager & The Black Tornado

thorbjorn

The first great blues rock album of 2017, Change My Game, is by Copenhagen based Thorbjorn Risager and the Black Tornado. A true mesh of blues, rock, and soul, the album resonates with a contemporary sound.  Thorbjorn was a distinctive voice meant for steamy nights at the club or home. Musically, the album makes tasteful use of horns, keyboards, and backup vocals to compliment the outstanding guitar and percussion work.

I have noted previously over the last year that a number of music artists have revived the true rhythm and blues and soul sound of the sixties and seventies on their releases. These genres are important categories of the blues and deserve the attention and respect they are getting from contemporary artists.  Beth Hart, Melissa Etheridge, along with perennials Curtis Salgado and Janiva Magness come to mind and Thorbjorn fits nicely into this group of stellar performers.  The title cut is vintage funk…upbeat and snappy. Long Gone is a slow lyrical masterpiece filled with late night images of sorrow and pain. And I Used To Love You is a beautiful song with some awesome blues guitar riffs and a nice beat.

thorbjorn-1On a number of cuts on the album, Thorbjorn continues to expand on the blues for contemporary audiences.  Train is just badass contemporary upbeat rockin’ blues…ridin full steam through the night. Holler and Moan builds on the delta roots of the electric blues and makes tasteful use of blues chant and horns as well as the banjo to highlight the growling vocals of Thorbjorn…a very cool tune.  Maybe It’s Alright is a perfect synergy of the blues, soul, and rock that should drive people to the dance floor at juke joints worldwide.

Without a doubt, Thorbjorn Risager and the Black Tornado, are world class talents.  This is the tenth record release for the group and with the power and drive of blues giants Ruf Records behind them, they should get a lot of airplay on blues stations and streams (like mine) across the globe.  They will be touring in Denmark, Germany, and Sweden to support the new album over the next several months. As the airplay builds for the record, I expect the tour to expand through the rest of Europe during the summer.  I know it is very expensive for an eight member European band to travel and play in the United States, but I do hope they will make one foray to the northeastern United States and Canada. I know enough about the current blues and blues rock music scene to say with full confidence that audiences in New York City, Hartford, Boston, Montreal, and Toronto will love their music!! I just hope I get to see them soon…..or can find a cheap flight to Copenhagen!

Beth Hart – Fire on the Floor … You’re Gonna Need a Hose!

Since the October release in Europe of Fire on the Floor by Beth Hart, I’ve been waiting to watch the new album stream onto my computer here in the United States. I finally have it and all I can say is WOW!  It is another soul baring and intense foray by Beth! An exhilarating tour de force that runs from soulful to upbeat blues to excruciatingly personal and beautiful ballads, Beth just continues to amaze.  She paints real life scenes in her songwriting, frames them with powerful strong rhythms, and then delivers the final product with a voice that belts out reality.  At times fiery and very often vulnerable, the album is a masterpiece!

beth-hart-fire-on-the-floorOn the title cut, Beth delivers another instant classic with lyrics that will cut waning lovers to the core; it is the radio/streaming hit of the album. And you may well need a fire hose to cool off after listening!

The tune, Good Day to Cry, just stunned me. It is as if Beth and Janis Joplin sat down and wrote a song together.  It is what Janis would have written and sung at this stage of her career had she lived…I just know it.

 

For fans like me of William Gibson and the novel Neuromancer (that forecast the internet back in 1983 and introduced the “cyber punk” cult), the tune Fatman could be a future movie soundtrack cut.  It is a witty biting look into the dysfunctional personality of a drug user and a great upbeat tune.

The song, Coca Cola, brought a laugh and a big smile to my face. For those of you that know me personally or listen to my DJ sets, you know that a cigar and a Coca-Cola can are never far from my hands when I play my tunes. And I would be more than happy to share an ice cold one with Beth any time!

Stylistically, the album takes you several different places. I can see Beth performing Baby Shot Me Down with Dr. John at the Jazz Fest in New Orleans; another song with strong lyric visuals and excellent keyboard work by Beth. Let’s Get Together is a vintage 60’s Motown soul that is a strong suit for Beth’s voice.  Jazz Man hails back to Billie Holiday and the film noire movies that I love so much.  Love is a Lie and Love Gangster are sassy and sultry tunes that harken back to her Bang Bang Boom Boom album. Picture in a Frame and No Place like Home are just great Beth ballads.. vignettes of her soul.

This album is a great listen and a testament to the songwriting, musical talent, and powerful voice of Beth Hart.  I can’t wait to see her perform these songs live….SOON!

Fast Driven Rockin Blues Mama Kelly Richey

In the mood for some badass blues rock with lightning in a bottle guitar riffs and sung with a voice that communicates a passion for the blues and relates a life spent paying dues at roadhouses and juke joints all over the mid western United States?  Meet Kelly Richey!!  Hailing from Cincinnati, she has been crankin out blues rock for over 25 years.  She’s as comfortable jammin’ out on T-Bone Walkers Mean Old World as she is effortlessly moving over the frets to an extended version of Hey Joe.  With a real rockin blues mama voice to accompany some world class guitar playing, she deserves to be better known than she is.  I would love to see her on a stage jamming with Joe Bonamassa, Eric Clapton, or Buddy Guy….she sounds that good on guitar.

kelly-richey

Besides the two cuts I mentioned above, I enjoyed Afraid to Die from her latest album Shakedown Soul.  There are several cuts from her previous dozen or so albums that have caught my attention:also: Fast Drivin’ Mama, Ripped & Torn,  and The Blues Don’t Lie. And I really love Brick from her Live…As It Should be recording.

Overall she has an impressive discography and merits a good listen. She is also a song writer and a guitar teacher working to pass the blues onto the next generation, Kelly epitomizes THE Rockin’ Blues Mama.  If she gets close, go see her and download some of her tunes!!

Ben’s Best – 2016 Rockin’ Blues Bundle (Part Two)

As I stated in part one of this blog, there were some great tunes and albums released in 2016 by both established stars of the rockin’ blues genre and some exciting new artists. The artists noted are in no particular order….I encourage you to buy their music to help the blues to continue to thrive!

 

memphis-rock-and-soul-album

 

Melissa Etheridge – Memphis Rock & Soul

This is a GREAT album by one of the world’s best music artists.  Her voice and soul/rhythm & blues music were meant for each other.  She can rock it…she can funk it…she sings with soul…every cut on this album is a jewel! I particularly loved her covers of Rock Me Baby and Born Under a Bad Sign that feature John Mayer on guitar!  Kudos to Stax Records for releasing this masterpiece!!

 

colin-james-bule-highways

 

Colin James – Blue Highways

A Canadian national treasure, Colin’s latest album just reinforces his status as one of the best artists of the rockin’ blues. I loved the cuts HooDoo Man Blues, Going Down, and Gypsy Woman.  He is on my bucket list to see and interview!!

 

layla-zoe-breaking-free

Layla Zoe – Breaking Free

She’s a sultry rocker with a blues soul and a voice that brings the inevitable comparisons to Janis Joplin.  Another Canadian to make my 2016 Rockin’ Blues Bundle, I can’t wait for the chance to see her belt out her tunes. I loved the title cut, which is a rockin’ blues anthem to a woman taking charge of her life, as well as Work Horse and Wild One (a very adult tune..grins).

 

sonny-landreth

 

Sonny Landreth – Bound by the Blues

An artist from my birthplace in Lafayette, Louisiana, Sonny Landreth is one of the best slide guitarists on the planet according to Eric Clapton!  Though this album was released in 2015, it has so many great tunes on it that it continued to top the charts throughout 2016. Featuring a distinctive vocal style and tone on guitar, Sonny cranks out great covers of Walkin’ Blues, Dust My Broom, and Key to the Highway as well as the autobiographical original The High Side and the title cut.  Another selection for this list where you should enjoy all the tunes on the album.

monkeyjunkMonkeyjunk – Time to Roll

Following in the footsteps of their great 2015 album, Moon Turn Red, their latest offering builds on their reputation as one of the best of the contemporary blues artists out there.  From Ottawa, they are yet another Canadian group to blues their way onto the 2016 list! I loved the title cut, Undertaker Blues, and their cover of a Albert King tune, The Hunter.

 

 

stonesblueandlonesomeThe Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome

With the December 2016 release of this fantastic blues album, the Rolling Stones pay tribute to their roots.  Though arguably the greatest rock & roll band of all time, the Rolling Stones started out back in early sixties as a blues band. On this album, they pay tribute to the artists that made them who they are and they do it with respect. They play almost all the tunes on the album “straight up” with little attempt to embellish on the original arrangements…what emerges is a powerful blues sound played by band members in love with the music.

allyvenable1

 

 

Ally Venable Band – No Glass Shoes

It has been many years since I have heard a SEVENTEEN year old play guitar like this young lady based in Houston, Texas. She also has a good voice and obvious song writing talent. I enjoyed Wise Man, Train Wreck Blues, and her cover of a Bonnie Raitt tune written by Chris Smithers, Love Me Like a Man. She will have to pay her blues dues as the years go by but her talent reserves her a place on the stage for years to come.

popa-chubby-the-catfishPopa Chubby – The Catfish

When you want bad ass blues played from the heart with shredding guitar solos and lyrics sung by someone you know has lived them….you want Popa Chubby and his latest album. He tours worldwide..he plays hundreds of venues a year..he has bad ass cover art…he is THE ROCKIN BLUES.  Enuff said.

balkun-brothers-280x280Balkun Brothers – Balkun Brothers

A perfect representation of the contemporary rockin’ blues, this duo hails from my current home in Connecticut. I loved the cuts She Got It All and I Know What Ya Did off their debut self titled album.  Their music takes a traditional blues structure and then rocks it out with an interesting mix of both vocal and musical talent.  They are bringing their high energy sound to Memphis in late January to participate in the International Blues Challenge. I hope to make their fund raising gig for the trip in Berlin, CT on January 17th!!

danielle-nicole-wolf-denDanielle Nicole – The Wolf Den

Danielle’s debut album as a solo artist was released in 2015 but dominated the blues charts through all of 2016. Former lead singer for Tangled Under Foot, she is from Kansas City and has a powerful sultry voice and rockin’ blues stardom written all over her. I loved the title cut as well as It Ain’t You and her version of I Feel Like Breakin’ Up Somebody’s Home. She is definetely on the “must see” list!

jason-elmore

 

Jason Elmore & Hoodoo Witch – Champagne Velvet

A three piece band out of Texas, these guys play some smooth badass blues. Jason has a great blues voice and his guitar work is first class. (He reminds me a good bit of a young Jimmy Thackery.) I love Midnight in Memphis, Cross-Eyed Woman, and Double My Money.

 

 

lisa-mannLisa Mann – Hard Times, Bad Decisions

I fecommended this album earlier in the year in a separate blog. Lisa is based out of Portland Oregon (which is a hot bed of the blues!). She is blessed with a strong voice and some very good songwriting skills. AND she happens to be the reigning blues bassist of the world….for two years running. (Blues Music Award from the Blues Foundation, 2015 & 16). With her fourth album, Lisa has matured into a genuine contender for Female Blues artist of the year. The title cut is a great heart wrenching song, autobiographical in nature, that pulls no punches. I also enjoyed the thought provoking Judge a Man Forever and My Father’s House.

mikezito-makebluesnotwarMike Zito – Make Blues, Not War

Mike is the quinessentail rockin’ bluesman. A talented guitar player, songwriter, singer, and music producer, he has captivated blues audiences all over the place since he started crankin’ it out in 2008.  He is also the cofounder of the Royal Southern Brotherhood band which has captured the attention of the blues world in a big way.  His album Pearl River (one of my favorites) won Blues Album of the Year in 2010 and his latest work seems destinied to garner similar nominations. I loved the title cut as well as Bad News is Comin, Chip Off the Block, and Wasted Time.

ina-forsman

 

Ina Forsman – Ina Forsman

I have stated repeatedly over the past several years that the European blues scene is HOT and none is hotter than Ina Forsman.  A young Finnish artist with a strong sexy voice, she represents the leading edge of the next wave of European rockin’ blues women. I enjoyed Don’t Hurt Me Now and the “down the bayou” and New Orleans feel of the tune Hanging Loose.

 

thorbjorn-risagerThorbjorn Risager & The Black Tornado – Songs from the Road

Though released in 2015, this live album by Swedish artist Thorbjorn Risager got extensive airplay during 2016. It features some great crankin rockin’ blues and jump blues tunes that highlight Thorjorn’s gravely blues voice.  I loved If You Wanna Leave, Paradise, Too Many Roads, and Rock ‘N’ Roll Ride.

 

Well, I hoped you enjoyed this bunch of rockin’ blues tunes reviews that I assembled to represent the year 2016. As with all such lists, the constraints of time and space prevent me for listing and reviewing all the other great artists and tunes from the past year. (I can think of at least another 20 or so that could have easily made this listing.) Thanks for taking the time to read this and here’s wishing the best of the rockin’ blues for YOU in 2017.