On The MARK….The Nighthawks new recording is fantastic Roadhouse Blues

Nighthawks

I’ve been a fan of the Washington DC based Nighthawks for a long time and they simply have out done themselves on their new CD, All You Gotta Do.  I count a gospel blues nomination, a harp instrumental nomination, and a Blues Song of the Year among the tracks on this 12 track masterpiece!!  Mark Wenner has fronted and guided the band for 43 years and it shows in the both the selection and performance of some badass roadhouse blues tunes. On their previous albums they have performed primarily original songs but on this one they expand their horizons to give several great classic blues tunes the Nighthawk touch including songs by Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, and RL Burnside.

The highlight of the album has to be a slow beautiful soul blues ballad Three Times Your Fool.  Mark Stutso, who wrote the song, puts his heart and soul into the performance and it should earn the band a sure fired nomination for song of the year.  And if there is a nomination for “Just Plain Bad Ass Rockin Blues” it has to be their reworking of RL Burnside’s Snake Drive. This trance blues tune has a infectious beat with great harmonica and guitar work.  They also kick out a jammin version of Sonny Boy Williamson’s Ninety Nine Dollars and a great version of Muddy Waters Baby I Want to Be Loved.

The Nighthawks also add some down the bayou spice to the recording with Voodoo Doll and Isn’t That So and take a side trip back to the sounds of the  fifties and sixties with a great reworked version of the original Standell’s song Dirty Water and Brenda Lee’s That’s All You Gotta Do.

And if that is not enough, Blues For Brother John, is a simple but great blues harmonica instrumental that deserves a nod for Mark Wenner in the harmonica category.  And to top it off Mark Stutso does a heart warming version of Levon Helm’s When I Go Away that is gospel blues at its finest.

The current lineup for the Nighthawks is Mark Wenner (vocals and harmonica), Mark Stutso (vocals and drums), Johnny Castle (vocals and bass) and Paul Bell (guitars).  The chemistry of the group is undeniable and the fact they are havin a damn good time comes through clearly on the recordings. Here’s to hoping they stay together for a long long time!

Ellersoul Records 2017

PS…if you feel like listenin’ to some roadhouse blues after reading this review….check out my 24 hour stream at http://www.s1.nexuscast.com:8043 .

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Joe Bonamassa at his Best! Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks (Live)

When you head north from Vicksburg Mississippi, you travel on the legendary Highway 61. Like a wide Roman road meant to last forever, it is a straight rigid arrow pointed at the temple of the blues, Clarkesdale, 200 miles to the north.  Along its way, you experience miles of miles of flat open cotton land and copses of trees sheltering small stores and the homes of the people that work the fields.  During the summer, it is a hot, hard, sweltering land.  And from this productive soil, much of it reclaimed from the swamps by slaves and their “freed” descendants, rose the sounds and music of the delta blues.  Two of its sons, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, took that music, electrified it, and at the relatively late ages of 28 and 38 respectively, headed north to Chicago.  They weren’t so much seeking fame and fortune as a bigger stage on which to play and perform the music they loved. Now two generations later, Joe Bonamassa has released a live double album that commemorates their lasting contribution to the blues. Performed at the Red Rocks venue in Colorado, Joe and a solid cast of blues all-star musicians pay tribute to their blues heroes with a stellar list of tunes.

Normally when I review an album, I find one, sometimes two or three, and very seldom more than 4 songs that merit a cigar rating. For this album, EVERY song on it is a Cuban of the finest quality.  Joe has been honing his craft since his discovery as a child prodigy at the age of 12 by B.B. King and he is now the crown prince of the electric blues.  Because of his voice and playing style, he is accessible to lovers of rock as well as the blues.  Because of his incessant touring and recording over the last 15 years, he is the face of the rockin’ blues to the droves of fans that attend his concerts and buy his music. If you don’t know who he is or know much about the current state of the blues, this album will serve as your gateway.  It includes classic tunes from Muddy and Howlin’ like I Can’t Be Satisfied, You Shook Me, Double Trouble, My Home Is In The Delta, How Many More Years, Shake for Me, Evil (Is Goin’ On), Spoonful, and Killing Floor.  It also includes some Joe B. nuggets like Sloe Gin (his “instant” classic from 2007) and the Ballad of John Henry, as well as a couple of cuts from his latest studio album released last fall. Joe’s love for the blues and his profound respect and admiration for the work of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf comes through loud and clear on this album. Give it a listen. If you aren’t already, you will become a fan of the electric blues and the amazing Joe B.!

Rating: A Box of the finest Cuban Cigars to be shared with friends and family after dinner and drinks!

J&R Adventures CD and DVD formats – 2015

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!

A Love Affair with the Blues

It all starts for me in the 1950’s with the emergence of the electric guitar and two gifted artists: Muddy Waters and B.B. King.  They were at the head of an entourage of talented players and singers who electrified and expanded the delta blues and exposed a generation of teenagers growing up in the late fifties and sixties to a sound that they embraced, massaged, and have passed onto an exciting new generation of blues artists.

Most, but not all, of the electric blues artists from the 1950’s  that I love were based in Chicago, a rough house city where there were opportunities not available In the segregated southern United States.  Many arrived by train and settled on the south side of the city, Muddy Waters among them. Sleeping on the couch of relatives, working during the day, and playing the blues at night and on weekends, he electrified audiences with his voice and his sensual style.  By the end of the decade of the fifties, he, along with Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter, reigned over Chicago and he was traveling to Europe to wow audiences on the continent.  The gigs in Europe featuring songs written by his one time bass guitarist, Willie Dixon, would eventually fire the imagination of Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Mick Jagger, among others, and the British Blues would be born.

While Muddy headed north, a young man from Mississippi stayed closer to home and made a name for himself and his guitar in Memphis, Tennessee. As a singer and DJ in Memphis in the late 1940’s, he picked up the nickname, the Beale Street Blues Boy, which was later shortened to B.B. Within years, he was to be acknowledged as the King of Blues, the one and only B.B. King. With his guitar, Lucille, he has become the living embodiment of the blues.  His distinctive voice and guitar playing style brought droves of new fans to the blues and he has continually strived to share his stage with promising talent.  Among them was an 11 year old boy who is my favorite modern blues guitarist and singer, Joe Bonamassa.

On this blog, I hope to expose readers to my favorite blues artists and to review blues music.  I also have a 24 hour blues stream where you can listen to selections from my collection of 40,000 or so blues tunes. ( http://www.s1.nexuscast.com:8043 ).  I am partial to what I term, the rockin’ blues, a style of blues that I was exposed to as a young man by Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix.  But I love all electric blues….the rhythm….the lyrics….the passion.  It is a life long love affair.