Mary Lane – Lady Regent of the Chicago Blues

She is 83 years young and along with Buddy Guy, who has called her “the real deal”, they are the reigning regents of the Chicago Blues.  And it does not get better than Mary Lane’s new album Travelin’ Woman.

Mary Lane Travelin Woman

The personification of the “great migration” of African Americans from the cotton fields of the American south to the city of Chicago both before and after World War II, Mary sings the blues the way only someone that has endured the degradation and hard times of segregation, and still maintained their pride and spirit, can.  Heartfelt and upbeat, the 10 songs on this album are a testament to the power of song sung by a voice of greatness.

The title cut, Travelin’ Woman, is a reminisce about her journey from Arkansas to the blues stages of Chicago that she shared with B.B. King, A.C. Reed, Elmore James, Magic Sam, Junior Wells, and Howlin’ Wolf. Blues Give Me a Feeling is a great tune about her love affair with the American music genre. Some People Say I’m Crazy, Bad Luck and Trouble, Ain’t Gonna Cry No More, Ain’t Nobody Else,  and Rain in My Heart are all bad ass Chicago blues. And amidst all these great songs, Leave That Wine Alone, is my hands down favorite.

Mary Lane

Produced by Jim Tullio, who also co-wrote most of the songs on the album, the CD features guest appearances by Billy Branch, Corky Siegel, the late Eddie Shaw, Indiara Sfair, Gene (Daddy G) Barge, Colin Linden, and Dave Specter.  This is only her second album, the first was done twenty years ago or so, but she has been a fixture on blues stages all over Chicago for decades. Man…the rest of us have missed it until NOW!

Also, filmmaker Jesseca Ynez Simmons is putting the finishing touches on a documentary about Mary’s life entitled I Can Only Be Mary Lane.  I am looking forward to its release and being able to see it!

Folks, you absolutely HAVE to listen to this slice of blues greatness! Mary Lane has sowed the blues for over sixty years…..with Travelin’ Woman she finally reaps the recognition and fame that she has long deserved.  Keep crankin’ out the blues Mary…we are all now your loyal subjects!

Women of the Blues Records 2018

Ben Vee’s Roadhouse Blues Bin for Sept 19, 2018

Well…it’s the last day of summer for 2018….where the heck has the year gone??  Here are some more albums and tunes that made their way onto my DJ sets playlists regularly over the last several months……………….

Casey James –  Strip It Down (2017)

Casey James

Great young talent from Texas, Casey plays a fine guitar and sounds a bit like Kenny Wayne Shepherd.  This album has a number of roadhouse tunes on it including a duet with Delbert McClinton entitled Bullet Proof.  Also enjoyed All I Need, I Got to Go, Killin’ Myself, and Makin’ Up.

Joe Goldmark – Blue Steel (Lo-Ball Records 2018)

joe goldmark

A California pedal steel guitar player crankin out some blues…..you gotta listen to this!  The album is largely instrumental with guest vocalists on a number of cuts. Particularly liked Beautician Blues and The Wobble featuring Glenn Walters on vocals. I got a great response to these by my listeners! The CD also includes a number of country tunes including an instrumental Warm Rain that is pretty sweet!  Joe also is a partner in five San Francisco area pizzerias called “Escape from New York Pizza“.  Pizza and some pedal steel blues….not a bad combination at all!!!!

Mud Morganfield – They Call Me Mud (Severn Records 2018)

Mud Morganfield

A son of the great Muddy Waters, Mud is a fantastic blues man in his own right. On his fourth album, he serves up a blues buffet that spans the Chicago blues, funk, r&b, and a bit of jazz. Loved Oh Yeah, the title track They Call Me Mud, Walkin’ Cane, and a duet with his daughter Lashunda entitled Who Loves You. A number of great artists also helped out on the album including Billy Branch, Studebaker John, Mike Wheeler, and Billy Flynn.  Muddy would have loved a snifter of cognac and a fine cigar while listenin’ to his son carry on the blues tradition….I know I did!

Peter Ward – Blues on My Shoulders (Gandy Dancer Records 2017)

Peter Ward

Several times over this past summer I have started my sets with the instrumental On the Ropes from Peter’s debut album. It is a great upbeat tune; perfect to get a roadhouse blues set goin’!  Peter has a real pedigree in the blues having played with Jimmy Rogers, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Junior Wells, and toured with the members of the Muddy Water’s inspired Legendary Blues Band and Roomful of Blues.  He wrote all but one of the thirteen tunes on the album and gets some stellar musical help from Ronnie Earl, Anthony Geraci, and Sugar Ray Norcia on a number of the cuts.  She Took It All and What Can I Do To You? are two more of my favorites on the recording.

Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters – The Luckiest Man (Stony Plain 2017)

Ronnie Earl

This past May, Ronnie won his 4th blues award from the prestigious Blues Foundation as Guitar Instrumentalist of the year further cementing his position as one of the great blues men of his generation. I have followed his career for a number of years and he just continues to grow and excel at playin’ the blues.  And he is indeed a lucky man to have such a gifted band with Paul Kochanski (bass), David Limina (piano & organ), Diane Blue (vocals), and Forrest Padgett (drums) to back him up. I absolutely loved Ain’t That Lovin’ You and really enjoyed You Don’t Know What Love Is, and Heartbreak (It’s Hurtin’ Me).    There are also several tasty instrumentals including Southside Stomp, Blues for Magic Sam, and the simply badass roadhouse tune Howlin’ Blues.

 

Hey…..and don’t forget to tune in every Thursday from 3 to 5 pm EST as I play these and other great contemporary roadhouse blues at Blues Music Fan Radio . You can also listen to the roadhouse blues 24 hours a day on my stream at Ben Vee Roadhouse Blues .

Got dem Hoodoo Man Blues!

Hoodoo Man Blues
Junior Wells’ Chicago Blues Band
Delmark Records – November 1965

Missed, at the time, amongst the debut albums of 1965 for future music luminaries like Cher, Tom Jones, the Who, and the Lovin’ Spoonful was a seminal recording in Chicago on the tiny Delmark label by Junior Wells. It was termed “dead on arrival” after its release and panned by critics as having no commercial value. But today I, and many others, consider it one of the great blues albums of all time.

The album featured two musicians that had been working together off and on since 1958. Junior, a blues harpist with a voice, and Buddy Guy, a talented if some offbeat (for the times) guitarist, had both been pulled into orbit around the brightest star of the 1950’s blues, Muddy Waters. Junior had been the first replacement for Little Waters in Muddy’s band back in 1952 and had spent the ensuing years honing his style in the rough and tumble world of the Chicago blues. Bob Koester, founder of Delmark Records, believed in Junior and told him to assemble a band of studio musicians of his choice and just play like he did in the clubs without the “3 minute” constraint that dominated the radio waves. Buddy, signed by Muddy’s label, Chess records, had to use the pseudonym, Friendly Chap, just to be able to perform on the disc. It was to be the first of 12 records that they worked on together over the next thirty years.

The songs on the album are straight forward electric and harp blues. Junior does a stellar 4 minute version of Sonny Boy Williamson’s Good Morning Little Schoolgirl including an intro displaying his virtuosity on the harmonica. The title cut, Hoodoo Man Blues, is a reworking of a Sonny Boy tune that Junior almost didn’t record because of its past rejection by other labels. Junior’s vocal style, somewhere between Howlin’ Wolf and Magic Sam, and his relaxed laughing manner as he sings carry the tune and the album. He and Buddy do a jamming version of a traditional tune also done by Sonny Boy, Early in the Morning, that is simply badass blues! And Well’s tune, In the Wee Wee hours, is a slow grindin’ blues showcase for Junior’s harp and Buddy’s blues licks as is the more upbeat Hey Lawdy Mama and the instrumental We’re Ready (written by Buddy). Throw in a nice cover of Elmore James’ version of Yonder Wall, a blues version of Hound Dog, and the often covered Chitlins Con Carne instrumental and you have one of first albums “to fully document the smoky ambience of a night at a West side nightspot in the superior acoustics of a recording studio”, according to Bill Dahl of Allmusic.

Junior’s career was to rise and fall over the ensuing years up to his death in 1998. He recorded and played on over 40 albums but his first was an enduring legacy inspired by nothing more than the desire to get some friends together and play the blues…..HELL YEAH!