Crystal Shawanda singin’ the CHURCH HOUSE BLUES

Crystal Shawanda is an indigenous Canadian who grew up on the Wikwemikong reserve on an island in Ontario, Canada. Blessed with a stellar voice that has catapulted her to the forefront of the contemporary blues scene, Crystal now lives in Nashville with her record producer and co-writer husband Dewayne Strobel. The new album CHURCH HOUSE BLUES is her second for True North Records and an incredible followup to Voodoo Woman that I reviewed back in 2018. (The link in blue is to the album on Spotify.)

Church House Blues is part of her continuing evolution from country music to the blues. She initially came to Nashville as a country singer back in 2007 for RCA Records and recorded a Billboard top 20 country hit for them. But, as you can clearly hear when you listen to her, her forte and her heart belong to the blues. She left RCA a couple of years after the hit single and has been focused primarily on the blues ever since.

The first single from the new album is WHEN IT COMES TO LOVE, a pretty ballad that highlights that awesome voice which has both elements of Koko Taylor and Janis Joplin as well as a delicious hint of Patsy Cline. The emotion she invokes as she sings will draw you in and then grab your soul. And there is no better showcase for that than BIGGER THAN THE BLUES and EVIL MEMORY. Another favorite of mine is NEW ORLEANS IS SINKING with its driving clap rhythm and some haunting harmonica. Additionally I enjoyed MOVE ME. HEY LOVE, BLAME IT ON THE SUGAR, and the title cut. Crystal sings my favorite sensual love song of the year so far with I CAN’T TAKE IT….ya gotta give it a listen!!

Crystal draws on her life and the blues as inspiration and gives back to the community both as a singer and a motivational speaker. I wouldn’t mind gettin’ up on a Sunday morning and pokin’ my head into any church in Canada or Nashville that gave the pulpit and stage to Crystal Shawanda for her CHURCH HOUSE BLUES!!

Crystal Shawanda – Church House Blues (True North Records 2020)


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.

Down the Bayou Blues on BMFR for a Mardi Gras Tuesday

I thought I would spin some “down the bayou” tunes for a Mardi Gras Tuesday as well as new songs by the Marry Jo Curry Band, Albert Cummings, Hazmat Modine, Los Skeletone Blues, and Lee Holmes. Also will have some classic cuts by Marcia Ball, Johnny Winter, John Hiatt, and Janis Joplin.

Join us from 12 to 2 pm EST today (February 25th) for my Roadhouse Blues Nooner on http://www.bluesmusicfan.com. You can find the intended playlist below.

ARTISTTITLE
Mary Jo Curry BandShake & Bake
Tab BenoitFast And Free
Albert CummingsRed Rooster
Tas CruSave Me
Eric LindellBayou Country (live)
Mary Jo Curry BandFront Porch
Thorbjorn Risager and The Black TornadoTwo Lovers
Johnny WinterIf You Got A Good Woman
Janis JoplinOne Good Man
Blues HangoverTwo Cigars
Hazmat ModineBe There
Marcia BallDown The Road
Screamin’ John and TD LindRollin’ Joanna
Sheri Roberts GreimesSlip Away
The Allman Betts BandTry
Jimmy HallTwenty-Nine Ways
Jimmy CarpenterLove It So Much
Lee HolmesOne Toe
Delbert McClintonA Fool Like Me
John HiattLong Gone
OSLUCrazy Train
Dawn Tyler WatsonBad Seed (Feat. Steve Hill)
Los Skeletone BluesStonetown
Vegas Strip KingsTake It Easy
Big Joe and the DynaflowsSo Mean To Me
Irrma ThomasOld Habits Are Hard to Break
Clifton ChenierAll Night Long
Chubby Carrier & The Bayou Swamp BandDancing With A Feeling

Tuesday Roadhouse Blues Nooner

Join us on http://www.bluesmusicfan.com for Ben Vee’s Tuesday Roadhouse Blues Nooner featuring tunes by Joe Bonamassa, Widow Blue, Beth Hart, John Hiatt, Gary Moore, Genevieve Chadwick, Ally Venable, Joanne Shaw Taylor, and many more!!  It starts at 12 Noon EST….be there!!!

Below is the intended playlist.

ARTIST TITLE
Gerry Joe Weise B Flat Jazzy
The Kentucky Headhunters Boones Farm Boogie
Willie Nelson Heartbreak Hotel (With Leon Russell)
Melissa Etheridge The Shadow of a Black Crow
Alvin Lee My Baby’s Come Back To Me
Willie May You Know I’m Lying
Widow Blue Slow Blues and a Shot of Gin
Ally Venable Running After You
Mean Gene Kelton Texas Honey
Genevieve Chadwick Yes You Did
Glen Hansard Roll On Slow
John Hiatt Over The Hill
Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa Miss Lady
Joanne Shaw Taylor I’ve Been Loving You Too Long
Sonny Landreth Bound By The Blues
Tom Hambridge Little Things (ft Sonny Landreth)
Tiffany Pollack & Eric Johanson Diamonds On The Crown
Tab Benoit Cherry Tree Blues
Lisa Mann Hard Times, Bad Decisions
Karen Lovely Never Felt No Blues
Long John And The Killer Blues Collective Cold Blood Blues
Janis Joplin One Good Man
Paul Personne & Lost In Paris Blues Band I Don’t Need No Doctor
Joe Bonamassa Midnight Blues (Live)
Gary Moore If You Be My Baby

Layla Zoe – Gemini

layla zoe 1

Great art takes you out of your comfort zone. It often makes you look at life through another lens: Salvador Dali‘s dripping clocks (The Persistence of Memory) or Picasso‘s cubism (Girl Before A Mirror) are two examples.  They distort your perception of what should be and then challenge you to think and perceive in new ways. Layla Zoe’s new album, Gemini, did that for me. I have followed her career for awhile and have found her to be a powerful and sexy Canadian singer of the roadhouse blues; I did not expect the edginess,  depth, and emotion of the lyrics and songs on this album. It has changed my perception of her. She is not just another blues singer with a great voice; she is a crown jewel of the roadhouse blues and worthy of elevation to the same status I give Jeff Healey, her countryman.

As the title cut states she lives two different places …in the pain and the power.  Part of the album is power blues rock, part is great roadhouse tunes, another piece is beautiful  acoustic delta blues, and part is some intensely dark blues portraits of people in pain and crisis. The graphic explicitness of a few of the lyrics will probably offend some (and limit mainstream air play) as she relates through song riveting images of individuals at the crossroads.

layla zoe gemini

I can think of no other contemporary blues or blues rock artist that has put herself on the line and just laid it out there like Layla Zoe has on this album.  Certainly because of her voice, there are the inevitable comparisons to Janis Joplin. But in Layla’s case, I don’t think she is living the darkness in life (as Janis and Amy Winehouse did with their heavy drug use) as much as bringing it to vivid clarity for us.  As she relates in the song, The Deeper They Bury Me, the truth indeed will set you free. And she lays bare on several songs the deep and lonely truth of what the blues is for those in despair: equal parts anger, a need for revenge, and a profound sadness.

There are 20 songs on this double CD and normally I note each of the individual cuts that I liked the most on albums I review.  In this case, no one single will do justice to Layla’s talent or the portraits she conveys in song on this album. Certainly, Are You Still Alive Inside, a beautiful slow tempo blues rocker should get a lot of airplay. But you need to buy the album and experience her music in toto.  Afterwards, I’d love to hear what you think as comments on this web page!

Layla Zoe – Gemini (Self Release 2018)

Ben’s IN THE BIN Blues Reviews – September 14, 2018

Here’s a trio of albums I really enjoyed listening to this summer……

Ally Venable Band – Puppet Show  (Connor Ray Music 2018)

Ally Venabl

A blues rocker who looks like a super model and plays a guitar like a super star, this nineteen year old from Texas does a great job on her second album, Puppet Show.  She gets some contributions from Lance Lopez, Steve Krase, Gary Hoey, and Eric Steckel….all blues stars in their own right and a sure sign of what they think of her talent. Loved the slow blues grinder, Comfort in my Sorrows, and enjoyed Backwater Blues, Survive, and the title cut Puppet Show.

Crystal Shawanda – Voodoo Woman (New Sun Records 2017)

crystal shawanda

Born and raised in Canada and now based in Nashville, this native American has an incredible voice that encompasses the best of Koko Taylor, Etta James, and Janis Joplin.  The song, Bluetrain (Slight Return)/ Smokestack Lightning Revisited, is a powerful original tune that I really love.  And she does a great job on covers of Ball & Chain, Hound Dog, Voodoo Woman, I’d Rather Go Blind, and Wang Dang Doodle.

The Lucky Losers – Blind Spot (Dirty Cat Records 2018)

lucky losers

Though they are San Francisco based and recorded the album in San Jose, California, I could have sworn Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz took a pirogue down some black water bayou in southern Louisiana and recorded their third album, Blind Spot, under the shade of a moss covered oak tree next to the water.  She and Phil seem to bring out the best in each other as they take a joyful romp through what I call the “down the bayou” blues….music that is blues infused with a healthy dose of R&B, soul, and a bit of funk. I loved Alligator Baptism, It’s Never Too Early, Love Is Blind, and Supernatural Blues.  And The River is a fantastic showcase for Cathy’s voice.  This album has my early nod for nomination as one of the five best albums of 2018.  It also features some great guitar work by special guests Laura Chavez and Kid Andersen as well as some bad ass guest sax by Nancy Wright and even some violin by Annie Staninec.