From his 1960 album, Rockin’ at the Hops, Chuck helped translate the electrified urban blues to an entire generation of teenagers, including John Lennon and Eric Clapton, back in the 1950’s and 1960’s with songs like this one. He is rightly called the father of rock & roll and was one fantastic blues man too!
Chuck Berry was one of the defining artists of his time…..flaws and all. I love his music and hope you do too.
The summer is blowin’ by and here are some of the albums that I am listening to (song links to Spotify or Youtube are in blue):
The Kokomo Kings – Fighting Fire with Gasoline(2019)
The Kokomo Kings new album Fighting Fire with Gasoline heralds the return of the era when rock & roll and the blues were essentially the same genre. Upbeat and fun, I really enjoyed EVERY tune on this recording done by a mix of band members from Sweden and Denmark. I don’t know if it is somethin’ in the water, but there are a number of great new bands coming out of Copenhagen and Stockholm and the Kokomo Kings are one of the best. The band features Martin Abrahamsson (vocals and guitar), Magnus Lanshammar (bass and guitar), Ronni Boysen (guitar), and Daniel Winerö (drums).
The album is packed with great rockin’ boogie blues tunes that will get your hips and feet movin’ including A Big Pile of Fish, Fighting Fire With Gasoline, Fooled by the City Lights, I Thought I was a Patient Man, If I was an Alien, Tornadohead, and The Fish Won’t Bite. Really lovedHeatwavewhich has a Fabulous Thunderbirds feel to it. And my personal favorite is Tied to the Tracks that has some nice guitar riffs and a Mississippi Hill Country sound.
The influence of Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry pervades the album and I know both are in blues heaven smilin’ down on this fantastic recording. Now…if only I can persuade them to send me a t-shirt with the album cover on it…my summer will be complete!!!
Jason Ricci & the Bad Kind – My Chops Are Rolling (Ellersoul Records 2019)
Since releasing his first recording in 1995, Jason Ricci has earned a reputation as one of the best harmonica players in the music business with two awards (2010 & 2018) from the prestigious Blues Music Foundation for his talent on the instrument. On his second release for Ellersoul Records, My Chops Are Rolling, Jason Ricci & the Bad Kind again lay down some badass roadhouse blues.
I was captivated by the tune The Way That I Hurt Myselfthat has echoes of Led Zeppelin in the performance. The song highlights Jason’s voice as well as some badass harpin’ and also shines the musical spotlight on the incredible guitar playing of John Lisi.
Additionally, Jason does a stellar instrumental cover of Led Zepp’s Going to California on the album. I also enjoyed Break In the Rain and a song he recorded with his wife, Kaitlin Dibble, entitled If You Should Lose Me. It is a great cover of a song originally performed by Barbara Lynn back in the late 1960’s.
Jason & I share a love for the New Orleans Saints and he put his admiration into words and music on Who Dat Nation! All you Saints fan should give it a listen! And Atlanta Falcon fans might want to avoid the explicit version he also includes 😛
Blue Moon Marquee – Bare Knuckles & Brawn(Factor Canada 2019)
Harkening back to the era of the blues cabaret, Blue Moon Marquee modernizes the sound on their new CD, Bare Knuckles & Brawn. A.W. Cardinal makes it work with gritty vocals and guitar playing and Jasmine Collette lays down some badass upright bass riffs as well as vocals. They are the core of a band that features guest appearances by Darcy Phillips (keyboards), Jerry Cook (Tenor & Bari Sax, Clarinet), Jimmy “Hollywood” Badger (Drums), Jack Garton (trumpet), and Paul Pigat (guitar).
Overall, this is well produced album with a laid back ambiance and a jazzy feel that still maintains an adherence to the blues. I really enjoyed 52nd Street Strut, As I Lay Dying, and the sultry feel of Big Black Mamba. Big Smoke is a great blues tune and Fever Flickering Flame conjures up scenes of a packed dance floor at a 1920 speakeasy. The haunting use of the trumpet and sparse piano licks perfectly frame Jasmine’s voice on Hard Times Hit Parade. And I loved the western swing guitar playing of Paul on The Red Devil Himself.
This is the perfect album to share with friends, a fine cigar, and a dirty martini. Let me know when ya do!!!
Travellin’ Blue Kings – Wired Up(Donor Productions 2019)
A European band that helps defines what I term as the roadhouse blues, the Travellin’ Blue Kings kick out some solid tunes on their new album Wired Up. This four piece band consists of Stephan Hermsen (vocals, harp, guitar), Jimmy Hontelé (guitar), Winne Penninckx (bass), and Marc Gijbels (drums).
This is another album where I loved EVERY cut. Particular favorites are Get It Done, Ninety Minutes, Into the Night, Straight Eight, and The Way It Used to Be. The instrumental title cut Wired Up is also a badass tune featuring some awesome guitar playing.
They are also the first band that I have seen that identify themselves as being from Benelux, an economic union of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The Travellin’ Blue Kings are doing their part to promote Benelux with one of the best roadhouse blues albums of 2019!
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Where southern rock and country meet the blues is the musical space where Adam Holt plies his craft. An Alabama boy , his music is the kind you would hear on a peanut shell strewn roadhouse floor amidst the clack of pool table balls and hearty laughter on a hot humid southern summer night. Roadhousers aren’t music purists so a mix of Muddy Waters, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, Delbert McClinton, and Bonnie Raitt blares out from the jukebox as people relax and have a good time on a Saturday night. Adam Holt’s new album Kind of Blues fits this style of music like a tight pair of jeans on a southern lady out for a juke joint weekend.
All the songs are originals except for a deep velvety voiced rendition of Bob Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay. He captures the heart of Americana music with Mr. Morning Drive, a song he co-wrote with his wife, Jillian, about her grandfather who was a DJ for many years. Some tasty guitar picking makes The End a tune worth savoring. And The Story Must Go On is a thoughtful southern rock song about the progress of civil rights in the American south. Bobby is a great cut that shows off his voice and guitar playing and the talent of keyboardist and organ player Donnie Sundal.
The song that really caught my ear was the upbeat Before I Trusted You. It should get a lot of airplay on country and southern rock formatted stations and streams. And the lyrics alone make it worthy for inclusion in the roadhouse blues category.
As the album title states, it is Kind of Blues and well worth a listen.
It’s spring time, well almost in New England, and here is what I am listening to as I await freakin’ warmer weather …..
Manx Marriner Mainline – Hell Bound for Heaven (2019)
Harry Manx is a blues original. His primary musical instrument is the Mohan Veena, often associated with classical music from India, which gives Harry’s music a surreal sound that is perfect for the blues. His partner for the album is Steve Marriner, a gifted harmonica and guitar player who also performs on the drums, organ, and bass. Both have great voices and contribute songs for Hell Bound for Heaven, released by Stony Plain Records.
The recording has a mix of what I call roots blues and gospel tunes. I particularly enjoyed their rendition of the legendary Charlie Patton’s Rattlesnake. And the songs Hell Bound for Heaven, Nothing, and Everybody Knows will get a lot of spins on my personal stream (http://s1.nexuscast.com:8043) and during my upcoming sets on Blues Music Fan Radio. Great tunes from a duo of Canadian artists!!!
Stony Plain Records 2019
Harpdog Brown – For Love & Money (2019)
To be officially released on April 26th, Harpdog Brown’s For Love & Money recording is a great throwback to the swing and jazzy feel of the blues in the late 1940’s. If I didn’t know better I would swear this Canadian from British Columbia had grown up in New Orleans. With a heavy emphasis on piano and horns on the album, Harpdog reminds me alot of the best of Dr. John….gravely voice, gritty lyrics, and fantastic musicianship.
I particularly enjoyed Thinkin’ and Drinkin’, Blue Light Boogie, Buzzard Luck, and Vicious Vodka. An album best enjoyed with your woman and a martini and cigar in hand for sure!
Dog House Records 2019
Brandon Santini – The Longshot (2019)
Brandon Santini turns up the amplifier (and I’d say it’s about time!) on his new album, The Longshot. An up and coming harmonica player and vocalist who has already been nominated for the BMA blues harmonica player of the year award (2014), his future is bright to say the least! I always have felt that Brandon, who I became aware of in 2012, had the ideal voice and harmonica skills to lay down some badass blues rock……and now he has.
He is backed on this outing by a solid group of musicians; Timo Arthur and Jed Potts on guitars, one of my favorite keyboard players John Ginty, Chuck Combs on bass, and Reid Muchow on drums. Ginty, Santini, and Ben Elliot produced the album.
I loved Somebody’s Gotta Go, Back to You, Beggin’ Baby, Going Home, and Drive You Off My Mind. All of them are now in rotation for my DJ sets.
I certainly think this album deserves early consideration as a nominee for Blues Rock album of 2019! Keep crankin out dem roadhouse blues Brian!!!
American Showplace Music (2019)
Mark Wenner’s Blues Warriors (2018)
A side project for long time Nighthawk Mark Wenner, this album is a refreshing celebration of tunes by Muddy Water, B.B. King, Sonny Boy Williamson, Fats Domino, Big Joe Turner, Elmore James, and Slim Harpo. Mark is a gifted singer and harmonica player and his brilliance carries this upbeat bluzin’ album. Fellow Nighthawk, Mark Stutso joins him on drums, along with talented guitarist Zach Sweeney, singer and guitarist Clarence “The Bluesman” Turner, and features the double bass of Steve Wolf.
I loved every cut on this CD including King Bee, Trust My Baby, Rock A While, Hello Josephine, (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear, It’s My Own Fault, and Dust My Broom. The album includes a really nice cover of a relatively unknown tune by Muddy Waters Diamonds at Your Feet that I have worked into my blues sets al ot over the years and the only original song, written by Mark, is an instrumental tribute to the legendary Jimmy Reed entitled Just Like Jimmy.
If you want to spend some time listening to straight up rockin’ blues from the fifties, you can’t do better than downloading and listening to this album!
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.
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.
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)
Released in the early 1950’s, the Fender Telecaster was the first commercially successful solid body guitar and has been used by blues, rock, and country bands ever since because of its distinctive tone (and relatively cheap price!). Famous artists like Buck Owens, Albert Collins, and Muddy Waters played the Telecaster in the fifties and Keith Richards and Jimmy Page have used it in an exquisite manner since the 1960’s. On his new album, Tele Masters, Arlen Roth displays his own love and mastery of the Telecaster with a stellar set of 16 tunes.
Over the years, Arlen has performed with Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Levon Helm, Ry Cooder, Johnny Winter, Rick Vito, and Sonny Landreth (click here for a great live performance by them of Blues Attack ) to name just a few. He has been voted one of the 100 Most Influential Guitarists of All Time by Vintage Guitars magazine….and my bet is that many of you have never heard his music! Well, I hope we can change that after a listen to this inspiring new album.
The list of artists that contributed to this effort is impressive. The most notable to regular readers of my blog is Joe Bonamassa. Joe’s Blues is Bonamassa’s tribute to the legendary Albert Collins and is a must have for collectors of Joe’s tunes. Also contributing on the recording are Steve Cropper (yeah THAT Steve Cropper), Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, Jack Pearson, Albert Lee, Jerry Donahue, Johnny Hiland, Bill Kirchen, Brent Mason, Will Ray, Red Volkaert, Cindy Cashdollar, Billy Panda, Bryan Sutton, Tommy MacDonald, and Steve Wariner. The drummer on the album and its producer is one of my favorite people, Grammy Award winner Tom Hambridge who plays with Buddy Guy. Tom’s production of the songs brings out the best in Arlen and showcases the distinctive attributes of the Telecaster in a way that is engaging and entertaining. The album is primarily instrumental but features several songs with vocals that I really loved.
Jack Pearson, a notable musician and singer who played with the Allman Brothers Band and also toured with Gregg Allman, is featured on vocals and guitar on two awesome blues cuts: I Can Fix It(where he and Arlen do a great job of trading guitar licks) and on an inspiring version of Key to the Highway. The fabulous Steve Cropper contributes vocals and guitar licks on the bluesy White Lightning. All three cuts will get significant airplay during my upcoming sets on http://www.bluesmusicfan.com.
But what truly underpins this album is the guitar artistry of Arlen Roth. He recorded his first album in 1978 and now, fifteen albums later, we hear his guitar playing at its very best. Besides the blues tunes, he romps through a haunting rendition of Ghost Riders in the Sky, a lovely cover of Tennessee Waltz with his daughter, Lexie Roth, on vocals, cranks it up on Rumble, and then lays down the case for why the Telecaster is such a great guitar on the badass instrumental, Tuff Tele.
This album is worth spending an evening with as I have done. Get yourself a drink, a smoke, or whatever relaxes you and telecast the night away with Arlen Rothand friends.
The synthesis of the electric blues, British blues, delta blues, and progressive and classic rock, Joe Bonamassa merges them all on his new album Redemption to create an inspiring anthem to the roadhouse blues. Since his first solo album in 2000, Joe has been building a loyal following among blues rockers, blues fans, and old time classic rockers yearning for a sound that has largely disappeared from main stream broadcasting. All of them should be thrilled to listen to his latest recording.
Joe is certainly one of the finest electric guitar players on the planet, has a fantastic voice, and is under rated as a song writer. On Redemption, he showcases all three elements of his talent. The Ghost of Macon Jones is a blues rock ballad with guitar work that hints at Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers Band and has haunting synthesizer and keyboard play by band member Reese Wynans. On Molly O, Joe creates a rock masterpiece on par with Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. Anton Fig on drums and Michael Rhodes on bass provide an insistent beat as Joe takes his guitar to places only the very best can go. On the title cut, Redemption, the delta and gospel blues merge with Led Zeppelin and Black Country Communion influences to create a fantastic rock paean. Deep in the Blues is a notable song with that same ethereal quality that Eric Clapton has always brought to his music.
On King Bee Shakedown and Evil Mama, Joe finds that sweet spot between the blues and rock I call the roadhouse blues on upbeat horns infused tunes. On I Got Some Mind Over What Matters, Joe channels a bit of Muddy Waters on a sweet delta electric blues tune.
When Joe was a youngster, B.B. King invited him on stage to give the audience a glimpse of his talent and on Just Cos You Can Don’t Mean You Should Joe displays some of the same mastery of the electric guitar that the King of the Blues saw almost 30 years ago.
Love is a Gamble is some bad ass grindin’ blues in the mold of Albert King, Freddie King, and Luther Allison. Pick Up The Pieces is a down home New Orleans style blues tune with echoes of Dr. John in the rhythms and lyrics. And Stronger Now in Broken Places is a heart tugging acoustic number that highlights Joe’s stellar voice.
Over the years, Joe has recorded several songs that seem directed right at me, a laser pointed straight at my heart. Self Inflicted Wounds joins the songs Drive, Different Shades of Blue, and Driving Towards The Daylight from previous albums as soul searching epics that I will never forget. On an album filled with great songs, it is my favorite.
Joe has earned the admiration and accolades from music critics and reviewers like myself since the release of his third album, Blues Deluxe, back in 2003. It is my fervent hope that this album finally takes Joe into the main stream for contemporary rock audience downloads; the final piece in the puzzle. The mainstream contemporary rock genre has been decimated over the years; Joe and his music are the path back! Redemption is an interesting and intense synergy of the blues and rock and worthy of comparisons with the works of B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Led Zeppelin, and Eric Clapton. He has internalized influences from some of the greatest and with Redemption makes the statement that he represents the best of all of them: a blues man, a blues rocker, a rock guitar virtuoso, and, in my opinion, the best roadhouse blues man alive today.
Joe Bonamassa – Redemption (2018 J&R Adventures)
P.S. You can listen to Joe and enjoy many more roadhouse blues artists on my 24 hour blues stream at Ben Vee Roadhouse Blues !