Roadhouse Music Reviews – The Commoners, Derrick Procell, and The Hungry Williams

Just back from a long weekend in southern California with my younger daughter and her husband. We had a blast…..lots of music, food, friends and tequila! Here are three new recording that I enjoyed listening to on the plane trip there and back.

Butter cake at Nick’s in Laguna Beach with Amanda

The Commoners – Find a Better Way (Gypsy Soul Records 2022)

The debut album, Find a Better Way, by The Commoners out of Toronto Canada is downright badass southern style music. The group is fronted by Chris Medhurst, who’s voice reminds me of another Canadian star, Burton Cummings. Melodious wafts of the sounds of The Black Crowes, the Eagles, and the Allman Brothers also drift through the music. The first video single of the recording, Fill My Cup, should give you a good feel for the talent of the band that includes Ross Hayes Citrullo (lead guitar), Ben Spiller (bass/piano), Adam Cannon (drums) and long time friend Miles Evans-Branagh (organ). Kevin Shirley (of Joe Bonamassa fame) even helps a bit producing the title cut. Overall the album has some mighty fine tunes…..give it a listen!!

Favorite cut: More Than Mistakes

Derrick Procell – Hello Mojo (Catfood Records 2022)

Derrick Procell is another of those great talents of the modern blues that you probably haven’t heard of though he was been writing, singing, and performing for well over 40 years. His latest album, Hello Mojo!, is a showcase for his soulful voice and harmonica playing. He has a video out for the first cut from the recording, Skin In the Game, that is contemporary blues at its best.

Though you may not know who Derrick Procell is, my bet is that you have heard his music on True Blood, The Office, Boston Legal, The Americans, or King of the Hill television shows over the years. He has even won a songwriting award at the annual Billboard Magazine get together. And, closer to my heart, he has written music for American Cancer Society events. (As some of you know, I do a fundraiser of my own and participate in the Second Life Relay for Life event for the American Cancer Society each year.)

Overall this album grades out high enough to receive serious consideration for Contemporary Blues Album of the year awards. If you listen to the recording, leave your own comments below. I’d love to know what you think!

Favorite cut: The Contender

The Hungry Williams – Let’s Go (Rochelle Records 2022)

Out this Friday September 9th, on my birthday, The Hungry Williams will be releasing their second album, Let’s Go. When I heard their debut recording in 2019, Brand New Thing, I thought for sure they were from my hometown of New Orleans. Now after listening to the new tunes, I can say confidently that they are a Big Easy R&B band, regardless of their claims to be from Milwaukee!!

The songs on the recording have a largely “back in the day” sound from the 1950’s. There are tunes originally done by Lavern Baker, Big Maybelle, and Fats Domino guitarist Roy Montrell as well as a number of fabulous originals. The band consists of Kelli Gonzalez (lead vocals), Joe Vent (guitar and vocals), Jack Stewart (keyboards), Mike Sieger (bass), John Carr (founder, drums), and a horn section of Jason Goldsmith, Casimir Riley, and Lech Wierzynski.

This past February, they released the first video for the album, Mardi Gras Day in time for the Crescent City holiday. I encourage you to give it a listen. I love good time music that makes you feel good; it’s what the concept of the roadhouse blues is all about!! The Hungry Williams kick out music that is fun and captures the magic of New Orleans….well worth your time!

Favorite cut: Oooh Wow!


#blues #modernblues #contemporaryblues

Ben Vee started out spinning songs on terrestrial radio and at nightclubs back in the 1970’s in his home state of Louisiana. After a career in the construction business, he returned to DJing in 2011. He now hosts two shows each week on http://www.bluesmusicfan.com and writes about the blues at http://www.benveeblues.com from his home in Connecticut. He also has a personal 24 hour stream devoted to the Roadhouse Blues… WRHB as well as a Youtube channel.

Soul Blues Chillin’ with Zac Harmon

For those of you who haven’t heard of Zac Harmon, he is an award winning bluesman who comfortably resides in the Robert Cray wing of the contemporary blues. In 2006, he won the Blues Music Foundation award for Best New Artist for his album The Blues According To Zacariah. In the years since six more albums have followed including the new recording Long As I Got My Guitar.

Zac has a voice and a guitar style that can best be described as ‘chillin with the soul blues’. His songs on the new album are in parts upbeat, funky, pensive, spiritual, and socially aware. He even ventures “down the bayou” a bit with the delightful accordion accompanied Crying Shame. Zac was born in Jackson Mississippi to parents who schooled him in music. His mother played piano and his father, the first black pharmacist in Mississippi, played harmonica. His dad tended to the needs of Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Albert King, Ike & Tina Turner, and Little Milton at times and all those combined influences have made Zac Harmon one of the great blues & soul men of the roadhouse blues.

Now based in Texas, Zac worked with the renown music producer, Jim Gaines, who most notably produced Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana, and Journey, to create the soulful music magic on this recording. Backing Zac on most of the tracks are the Rays consisting of Bob Trenchard (bass), Richy Puga (drums), Johnny McGhee (guitars), Dan Ferguson (keyboards and accordion) and backing vocals by SueAnn Carwell and Corey Lacey.

My favorite recording on the album is the title cut, Long As I Got My Guitar. Over the years, I have heard guitar players time and again talk about having survived their days payin’ their blues dues and facing the brutal choice of pawning their guitar for money to pay bills. Zac captures that melancholy experience with some exquisite guitar licks and real world lyrics. I also loved the guitar work on the socially conscious Waiting to Be Free. Another favorite of mine on the recording is People Been Talking which is soul blues at its very finest.

Over the last 18 months all of us have dealt with enforced periods of isolation as a result of the pandemic. It has given most of us a new appreciation of family and friends and, in Zac’s case, he says it gave him the realization that “as long as I have my guitar, all is good with my soul”. All I can add to that is that just listening to Zac sing and play on this new recording had a nice calming effect on my soul best exemplified by his song, Soul Land. Give it and the rest of the songs on this album a listen as you chill to some mighty fine soul blues.

Zac Harmon – Long As I Have My Guitar (2021 Catfood Records)


Ben Vee started out spinning songs on terrestrial radio and at nightclubs back in the 1970’s in his home state of Louisiana. After a career in the construction business, he returned to DJing in 2011. He now hosts two shows each week on http://www.bluesmusicfan.com and writes about the blues at http://www.benveeblues.com from his home in Connecticut. He also has a 24 hour stream devoted to the Roadhouse Blues… WRHB

Ben’s Monday Blues Bin (7/15/19)

It’s summertime in Connecticut.  I am sittin’ out in my man cave enjoying the heat, smokin’ a cigar, and listening to some new albums.

Zac HarmonMississippi BarBQ (Catfood Records 2019)

Zac Harmon

A great mix of soul, Chicago blues, and a touch of blues rock, the new Zac Harmon album Mississippi BarBQ was produced by Jim Gaines (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana).  It also features a stellar group of studio musicians known as the Rays: Bob Trenchard (bass), Richy Puga (drums), Johnny McGee (guitars), Dan Ferguson (keyboards), Mike Middleton (trumpet), Andy Roman (alto sax), Nick Flood (tenor and baritone sax), and Drake Dominigue (trombone & tuba).

Zac has been recording since 2003 and with this CD, he steps it up to a new level. The voice is fabulous, his guitar playing is first class, and the song writing conveys images that give witness to his Jackson, Mississippi roots.  The songs are all originals except for a great rendition of Dylan’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door.  I enjoyed Make a Dollar Out of Fifteen Cents, Gypsy Road, Honey Pleez, Smoke and Mirrors, and So Cold.

A gifted artist, a world renown producer, and some fantastic studio musicians meld together for a first rate recording that also features cuts by his current touring band. Make sure to give the title cut Mississippi BarBQ a listen….with some barbeque, cornbread, mustard greens, black eyed peas and, of course a cold beer at the ready!!

The Texas HornsGet Here Quick (Severn Records 2019)

Texas Horns

 

Three of the most bad ass horn blowers on the planet got together down in Texas, invited some gifted friends, and created a delightful RnB recording entitled Get Here Quick. Mark ‘Kaz’ Kazanoff (tenor sax), John Mills (baritone sax), and Al Gomez (trumpet) can truly be judged by the company they keep with the likes of Carolyn Wonderland, Curtis Salgado, Guy Forsyth, Gary Nicholson, John Nemeth, Ronnie Earl,  and Anson Funderburgh steppin’ into the studio to assist; they got the rhythm and they damn sure got the blues!  This is an awesome CD!

A long time favorite of mine, Carolyn belts it out on I’m Doin’ Alright At Least For Tonight. And Curtis lends his soulful voice to Sundown Talkin’. My favorite tune on the album is Guitar Town that is sung by Guy Forsyth with backing vocals by Carolyn and lead guitar work by Anson. Gary Nicholson contributes two of his songs, Soulshine  & Fix Your Face, and both recordings are mighty fine. Anson does the lead guitar on Soulshine and another of my favorites, Ronnie Earl, does the honors on Fix Your Face.

There are also several tasty instrumentals on the album that showcase the talent of this horn blowin trio. My favorite is Truckload of Trouble written by John Mills and I also enjoyed the title cut contributed by Kaz Kazanoff.

I have to say when I opened the CD I was thinkin’ “now who are these guys?”.  Man…was I pleasantly surprised after listening to the entire recording. Download and give this a listen…hope you are pleased too!

The Duke Robillard BandEar Worms (2019 Stony Plain Records)

Duke Robillard

The new album, Ear Worms, has a fifties and sixties feel to it and is a pleasant listen.  Duke Robillard has been playing and recording for over fifty years and is a superlative guitar player.  I particularly loved the instrumental You Belong to Me that I first heard sung by Patsy Cline many years ago. It was one of my mother’s favorites and Duke shows it the love and tenderness it deserves.

I also enjoyed Don’t Bother Trying to Steal Her Love with Dave Howard on vocals and the song Yellow Moon which is sung by drummer Mark Teixeira.  The rest of the band is Bruce Bears (keyboards & vocals) and Brad Hallen on bass and they are a very tight knit group of artists.  The album features a number of guest vocalists including Sunny Crownover, Chris Cote, Mark Cutler, and Klem Klimek.  This is definitely a recording to relax with on warm summer evening.

 


Send along a comment if you would like! Love to hear what your thoughts are on these albums and blues music in general!!