All on board for a train ride with Peter Ward

It’s time to board the Train to Key Biscayne with Peter Ward!  Maybe you are wearin’ a fedora, perhaps a fine Stetson, and you have brought along your best cigars, a stash of your favorite liquor, and your lovely lady dressed in her best finery. Some folks have brought their kids and others have grandchildren in tow.  All are excited to hear Peter’s new album and there is a cheerful camaraderie as the journey begins.

On the train to help entertain you are some of Peter’s friends.  Luther Johnson, longtime sideman for Muddy Waters, is there. A host of New England’s blues luminaries are there too: Ronnie Earl, Sugar Ray Norcia, Mudcat Ward (Peter’s brother), Anthony Geraci, Neil Gouvin, and Michelle Willson.  Some fellow musicians catch a ride also; Jiri Nedoma, Bob Berry, George Dellomo, Hank Walther, Aaron Gratzmiller, and Keith Asack.  Even a friend, Johnny Nicholas, who relocated to Texas, has come back to town to catch the train rollin’ out of Boston.  And there is the original art work that Peter did for the album cover hanging in a place of honor in the dining car.

peter ward_train to key biscayne

As the train makes its leisurely way south, Peter and his friends entertain you with a wonderful mix of New England based blues, western swing, and an enticing slice of R&B. Leading off is Luther Johnson singing The Luther Johnson Thing; a song Peter wrote to commemorate Luther’s life and contribution to the electric blues and who better to sing it than the man himself.

Next up is Sugar Ray Norcia to sing and swing the blues with A Westerly Sunday night. He follows it up with a fantastic R&B tune that harkens back to golden Saturday nights in the fifties and sixites….When You Are Mine. (All the songs on the album were written by Peter and the mental images he creates with the lyrics and music are magical.) Sugar Ray finishes up with a nostalgic swing tune, As Long As I Have a Chance.

Michelle “Evil Mama” Willson then takes the stage as the train rocks to and fro headed ever south. It’s gettin’ warmer…folks are sheddin those New England weather clothes and breakin out the jeans, t-shirts, and tank tops…baseball caps and sunglasses proliferate among the guests. Michelle rocks the blues with the Coffee Song and then sings an inspiring rock ballad, I Saw Your House, that has a great Bruce Springsteen feel to it.

Everyone is excited to see one of the all time great blues guitarist, Ronnie Earl, take to the stage to play with Peter and they launch into a rousing Chicago blues tune, Blues Elixir (Ronnie’s Here).  Peter follows up with a beautiful instrumental entitled Supposedly that features some awesome harmonica and piano playing by Hank Walther.

Then Peter and the core band of Mudcat Ward (bass), Neil Gouvin (drums), and the great keyboard player Anthony Geraci lay down some upbeat blues with Something Always Slows Me Down.

Finally as the heat rises and the palmettos come into view through the windows, Johnny Nicholas goes front and center with more rocking blues as he belts out Change (Ain’t Never For the Good). Johnny started out in Rhode Island, played in California, then Chicago, and did a stint with Asleep at the Wheel before settling in Texas. But he has always maintained his ties to his musician friends in New England. To close out the journey he also sings the title cut, an incredible fusion of the blues and western swing.

Peter-Ward-Photo-1-by-Tom-Hazeltine

Photo by Tim Hazeltine

On his second solo musical foray, Peter Ward has simply outdone himself!  The album is well produced and performed; it is entertainment at its finest. They say you can tell a person by the company they keep.  And I would be thrilled to be part of this company of musicians and friends on a Train Ride to Key Biscayne anytime!


Peter Ward – Train Ride to Key Biscayne   (Gandy Dancer Records 2019)

Ben’s Bin Full of Blues Reviews for Oct 30 2018

 

My thoughts go out to the people of the Jewish community in Pittsburgh as they mourn the senseless and hateful act of violence in their midst. I think I can speak for the blues community when I say that we share your grief and stand next to you arm in arm in the battle against bigotry and hate.

With that stated,   I move on to quick reviews of some albums I have listened to recently.

Eric Bibb – Global Griot (Stony Plain Records, 2018)

Eric Bibb

The term griot (gree-oh) refers to a class of traditional West African musicians and storytellers that carried on the oral traditions of their people.  Eric Bibb certainly merits inclusion given his roots and his artistry on the acoustic and electric guitars and his easy story telling voice.  Reflecting a truly global perspective with recordings for the album done in France, Sweden, Jamaica, Ghana, England, and the United States, this two CD set was an enjoyable listen.

I particularly liked Gathering of the Tribes, All Because, Grateful, Remember Family, and Race & Equality. And the song, Michael…Row Da Boat Ashore, brought back memories of long road trips with my parents and five kids in a Chevy station wagon. My mother would lead us in singing old gospel and traditional tunes. I thank Eric for reawakening memories that bring both sadness and joy; it is the truly the power of music in the fingers and voice of a master!

John Akapo – Paradise Blues (Mensch House Records, 2018)

john akapo

Hawaiian born and Samoan blooded, Big John Akapo is a talented acoustic guitarist with the perfect voice for the style of delta and mellow blues that he plays on his debut recording, Paradise Blues.  I loved his renditions of the blues classics, I Can’t Be Satisfied, and Ramblin’ On My Mind.  I also enjoyed his original songs Little Lani, Don’t Believe Her, and Maui Drive.

John has stated that “I think my music is like a tree rooted in traditional blues but sprinkled with Pacific salt water.”  Here’s to hopin’ that the tree continues to flourish and that we hear much more from him as the years go by!

Anthony Geraci – Why Did You Have To Go (Shining Stone Records 2018)

anthony geraci

Anthony Geraci is a gifted blues pianist  His career spans over 40 years and he is an original member of both Sugar Ray and the Bluetones and Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters. His blues pedigree attracted the likes of Ronnie Earl, Sugar Ray Norcia, Monster Mike Welch, Kid Ramos, Dennis Brennan, Jimi Bott, Sugaray Rayford, Willie J. Campbell, and Michelle “Evil Gal” Willson to contribute to his newest recording, Why Did You Have To Go.

The album features 13 all original tunes and showcases the blues, R&B, and even a bit of jazz. Though based in Massachusetts, he spent sometime in Clarksdale, Mississippi, the epicenter of the delta blues, as he wrote songs for the album and the influence shines through on the song, Baptized in the River Yazoo.  My favorite on the album is the title cut, a great soulful R&B tune. I also loved Fly On the Wall, Don’t the Grass Look Greener, and the down the bayou feel of Long Way Home. And if all that wasn’t enough, the song My Last Good Bye is some great deep down grindin’ blues.

Overall, this is an joyous celebration of the blues….a worthy addition to my collection and hopefully yours!