It Isn’t Freedom If YOU don’t have a CHOICE!

Government restrictions on the right to assemble during the ongoing pandemic have destroyed the livelihoods of many local musicians and performing artists. And the rationale for lockdowns being used by politicians and public health officials bode ill for their long term future.

The current pandemic was initially termed the Wuhan flu before it was deemed politically incorrect. It is a virulent and deadly form of the flu. It is not the first such strain nor will it be the last. Every year, the flu strikes millions of people. It is particularly deadly to the elderly and those with other serious underlying medical problems. AND it mutates as it goes so that in any given year there can be new strains to address. And this strain is really bad news.

But we know this….if you are over 70 or have a serious medical issue…take EVERY rational precaution. If you are over 50, wear a mask and wash your damn hands when you are out and about. But if you are under 50 and have no serious medical condition, you should have the CHOICE to take the RISK and get on living your life. Restricting the rights of people under 50 to go to a restaurant or a concert hall or a local bar is government sticking its nose where it can….but it shouldn’t!!

We ALL live with risk every moment of every day. And destroying the livelihoods of performing artists to mitigate these risks is not going to do anything but lead to more drug use and suicides among this vulnerable group of people. Public Health officials are already stating that it may be 2022 “before they feel the threat to the public is under control”. And I have news for you ….the NEXT STRAIN of flu after COVID-19…and there will be a next strain… will lead to the same rationale for restricting public assembly in the name of safety……..for whom?

At some point, we must, in the music industry, stand up to the hysterical (and politicized) fear mongering. Previous generations have had to battle evils that far outweigh this pandemic. All we have to do is endure the slights of the social media trolls (who tolerate no opinion but their own) and rationally make the case that freedom is about making choices and taking the associated risk. If the reasoning takes hold that MY freedom should be restricted dramatically to lower YOUR risk then democracy will become just a platitude and public health officials will be screaming an alarm on any number of issues. If they can restrict your right to assemble, they can damn sure restrict your ability to eat, drink, smoke, drive, create music, or make comments like I am…all in the name of public health!! Fight for your freedoms…..and help put a lot of performing artists and musicians back to work NOW!


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.

Ana Popovic’s Stiletto Blues

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My lovely wife Annette and I got to see one of the world’s greatest blues and rock guitarists on Friday night……Ana Popovic!  Nestled in the intimate 225 seat confines of the Fairfield Stage One Theatre, we enjoyed a two hour performance of songs from her last several albums as well as tunes by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix!

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Method to the Madness yields hit for Tommy Castro

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Tommy’s latest album Method to My Madness deserves serious consideration for blues album of the year. A Californian with the soul of a deep southern R&B bluesman, he has paid his dues over the course of 14 albums and thousands of live performances. Along with his band, the Painkillers, he has produced 12 songs that span the expanse of the blues from soul to great blues rockers.

The title cut is a soul infused slice of Tommy’s upbeat style. With the tune On Common Ground, Tommy observes that “we have to band together or all fall down”; a healthy bit of advice for our fractious society. Shine A Light and All about the Cash feature some bad ass guitar licks and Bad Luck is an awesome blues shuffle. On Ride, Tommy channels a bit of Jack Kerouac and Jim Morrison to create a distinctive song.  And Tommy shines in my favorite blues genre, the grinding blues, with Lose Lose.; his voice suits the deep sensual blues.

Twelve songs….twelve great tunes. Check out his tour schedule. If he gets close, make sure to go share in the madness.

If you have an mp3 player….check out “Ride“…..

 

 

 

In From the Cold with Tinsley Ellis

tinsley_ellis_tough_love_square_400x400Tinsley’s latest album Tough Love has been nominated by the prestigious Blues Foundation for 2016 Rock Blues album of the Year and has already won the same award from Blues Blast Magazine. It is a deserving honor for the Atlanta based blues rocker.  Over the course of eleven albums and almost 20 years, Tinsley has wowed listeners and audiences with an intense brand of blues rock. For his latest album, he turns down the dial just a tad and has produced a classic.

When I first bought and listened to the album in February of 2015, I was blown away by one song in particular, In From the Cold.  It is the last of the ten songs on the recording and he definitely saved the best for last. It is a perfect blending of his voice and guitar playing style featuring heart felt lyrics and soaring guitar licks.  It is far and away my pick for Blues Song of the year and will become a blues rock classic.

 

 

A Toast to B.B. King

When a bluesman passes, we mourn for just a bit and then celebrate their lives with song, the clinking of glasses, and the telling of stories amongst friends.

I first saw B.B. King at the age of sixteen back in 1969.  I attended a Johnny Winters concert and BB was the opening act.  I had no idea of who he was.  Dressed in a white shirt and black tie, he and his band came up on stage to the murmurs of the teenage crowd.  “Who is this dude?”  Once he started playing, the audience sat in stunned silence as BB began to make love to Lucille. It was an electrifying performance and by the third or fourth song, everyone was on their feet. I will never forget that night; I was introduced to the blues by the King himself!

The traveling bard telling stories and singing songs is one of the oldest art forms known to man.  B.B. told the story of the blues in concert a reported 15,000 times in his career. He rose from humble roots in the cotton fields in Mississippi and spread the music of the blues literally across the globe. And his legacy of songs will be sung long after we return to the dust from whence we came. If you have a story about B.B., share the memory with family and friends and us……

Rest in peace Riley King!  I count it a blessing to have lived during the era of the King of the Blues, though I wish you could have stayed just a little longer.

Smokin’ Blues (and almost the blues) Reviews – May 13, 2015

The Stone FoxesSmall Fires  (2013 Stone Foxes Records)

A one Cigar rating for this CD from a San Francisco blues rock band. With a sound steeped in the distortion blues of the Black Keys and a vocal style reminiscent of the Kinks and the J. Geils band, the Stone Foxes deliver some crankin’ tunes with a good beat and lyrics. I enjoyed Everybody Knows.

John Mayer – Paradise Valley (2013 Columbia Records)

While most of the media seems fascinated by John’s love life, I prefer to focus on his music. Featuring a true talent on the guitar and a special voice, Paradise Valley is a pleasant roots rock/country work with a melancholy tinge and lyrics that blue lovers will enjoy. On Call Me The Breeze, John builds on the Tulsa sound recordings of Eric Clapton and the songwriter, JJ Cale, to produce a great version of his own. I just want John to stop toying with the blues out at the fringe and dive into the deep end….it will happen one day and be well worth the wait.  One cigar and the patience of Job rating for this CD.

Marcus BonfantiShake the Walls (2013 Jigsaw Music Ltd.)

A one fine cigar rating for this blues rock recording by a great British singer and guitar player. His deep gritty voice and “seventies throwback” look fit the blues like a well made glove. While he can crank out blues rock with the best of them, I also enjoyed the acoustic cuts on the album. Try Jezebel, Alley Cat, Blind Alley, and The Bittersweet.

DorothyDorothy EP (2014 Claray Records)

An Acid Cigar and shot of tequila rating for this badass debut EP! Featuring the riveting raw vocals of Dorothy Martin, this blues rockin’ foursome out of Los Angeles just cranks it out. I loved Gun in My Hand, After Midnight, Wicked Ones, and Bang, Bang, Bang.  Gotta check it out!!

Pour Me a Dream – A review of Beth Hart’s “Better Than Home”

In an age when pulsing electronica and sexually explicit hip hop and pop drive the top of the music charts, it is exhilarating to listen to an artist that continues to write and perform from the soul. On her latest album, Better Than Home, Beth Hart pours out her feelings and thoughts in a musical style that reflects her blues core. The album highlights her artistry on the keyboards as well as her song writing talent without diminishing the quality of a voice for the ages.

This is an album best listened to with a glass of wine on a contemplative evening. (In my case, it would also include a Perdomo 10th Anniversary Champagne robusto cigar!) On my favorite cut, she writes “Pour me a dream and play me a tune…I will get along just as long as I have a song.” It is a lyric that reflects the feelings of most music lovers. But then she cuts you to the core with the reminder that melancholy reverie is “a slip into the rich of the dark…the cheapest of tricks” but she goes ahead anyway and invites us along. It is the essence of the blues and no other current artist even comes close to laying out her heart and soul like Beth.

I had the honor to interview Beth backstage in the fall of 2013. I was doing a piece to be used on radio in Europe for her upcoming tour that year. It was my first (and to date only) radio interview with an artist and she immediately put me at ease. She is personable, self-deprecating, a “down home” girl from California, who after struggling and overcoming her drug demons is comfortable in her own skin. She talked of her love for her husband (who has been her road manager for the last 15 years), her family, and the fans that have stuck with her through thick and thin. I also mentioned that over the years on many of her albums she has “wrestled with God” in her lyrics. She smiled and said simply that she writes about life’s struggles and her feelings as best she can. She also stated that she prefers a simple sound without a lot of the “production values” that modern producers foist onto the final versions of songs before they are released. On the deluxe version of the current CD, there are a couple of songs where one is “produced” and the other version is only Beth and her piano and they are great. (I will get along as long as I have a Song and St. Teresa). Kudos to the producers for allowing Beth’s vision to bear witness to her talent.

On the new album, she continues to address many of the topics we discussed two years ago. The title cut of the album, is a great song where Beth addresses God and angels with an honesty and sincerity that transcends the cold and often harsh theology of modern religion. She pays tribute to her mother “Mama, This One is for You” on one tune and writes another “We’re Still Living in the City” that is surely for her husband. I had mentioned to Beth in our interview that I thought R&B was her strong suit and “Smile on my Face”, “Trouble”, and “The Mood I’m In” just confirm my thought. The power of her voice matched to an R&B beat is simply infectious. Beth reaches out to those struggling with their demons, poverty, and despair with “Tell Them to Hold On”. And her love song, “Tell Her You Belong to Me”, is just simply beautiful. My pick for “breakout single” is a catchy tune called “Mechanical Heart”.

Beth’s new album debuted on the Billboard Hot 200, a feat she last accomplished fifteen years ago. It is a testament to her perseverance and love of music, the loyalty of her fans, and her constant touring in Europe and the United States. I will get to see her again here in Houston on June 13th. Checkout her website at www.bethart.com , buy the album, and make sure to go see her if she gets close! Pour me a dream Beth and just sing your songs….and the world will be a better place for us all.

April 2015  Mascot/Provogue Records (Deluxe Edition)

Review by Ben Vee  benveeblues.com benvee@yahoo.com