For those of you who haven’t heard of Zac Harmon, he is an award winning bluesman who comfortably resides in the Robert Cray wing of the contemporary blues. In 2006, he won the Blues Music Foundation award for Best New Artist for his album The Blues According To Zacariah. In the years since six more albums have followed including the new recording Long As I Got My Guitar.
Zac has a voice and a guitar style that can best be described as ‘chillin with the soul blues’. His songs on the new album are in parts upbeat, funky, pensive, spiritual, and socially aware. He even ventures “down the bayou” a bit with the delightful accordion accompanied Crying Shame. Zac was born in Jackson Mississippi to parents who schooled him in music. His mother played piano and his father, the first black pharmacist in Mississippi, played harmonica. His dad tended to the needs of Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Albert King, Ike & Tina Turner, and Little Milton at times and all those combined influences have made Zac Harmon one of the great blues & soul men of the roadhouse blues.
Now based in Texas, Zac worked with the renown music producer, Jim Gaines, who most notably produced Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana, and Journey, to create the soulful music magic on this recording. Backing Zac on most of the tracks are the Rays consisting of Bob Trenchard (bass), Richy Puga (drums), Johnny McGhee (guitars), Dan Ferguson (keyboards and accordion) and backing vocals by SueAnn Carwell and Corey Lacey.
My favorite recording on the album is the title cut, Long As I Got My Guitar. Over the years, I have heard guitar players time and again talk about having survived their days payin’ their blues dues and facing the brutal choice of pawning their guitar for money to pay bills. Zac captures that melancholy experience with some exquisite guitar licks and real world lyrics. I also loved the guitar work on the socially conscious Waiting to Be Free. Another favorite of mine on the recording is People Been Talking which is soul blues at its very finest.
Over the last 18 months all of us have dealt with enforced periods of isolation as a result of the pandemic. It has given most of us a new appreciation of family and friends and, in Zac’s case, he says it gave him the realization that “as long as I have my guitar, all is good with my soul”. All I can add to that is that just listening to Zac sing and play on this new recording had a nice calming effect on my soul best exemplified by his song, Soul Land. Give it and the rest of the songs on this album a listen as you chill to some mighty fine soul blues.
Zac Harmon – Long As I Have My Guitar (2021 Catfood Records)
Ben Vee started out spinning songs on terrestrial radio and at nightclubs back in the 1970’s in his home state of Louisiana. After a career in the construction business, he returned to DJing in 2011. He now hosts two shows each week on http://www.bluesmusicfan.com and writes about the blues at http://www.benveeblues.com from his home in Connecticut. He also has a 24 hour stream devoted to the Roadhouse Blues… WRHB
Well the sun is out and the days are gettin’ warmer! Hope you and yours are stayin’ safe during these strange times! Grab your favorite beverage and join us for a mix of new contemporary roadhouse blues and blues rock in equal measures from 12-2 pm EST today on http://www.bluesmusicfan.com.
Got tunes by Malia, Zack Walther, Katie Kadan, King Solomon HIcks, Eric Gales, Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa, Walter Trout, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and many more!
The year 2019 was a banner year for the roadhouse blues across the world. From Australia to Copenhagen and along all points in between, both debut artists and well established performers released a stunning number of new recordings. Every month my in box and my mail box were full of some fabulous blues recordings which makes picking the Ben Vee Roadhouse Blues 66 this year much more daunting.
This year’s list includes classic blues, roots oriented blues, R&B, soul, contemporary blues and blues rock artists with songs that span the genre from “almost the blues” tunes to the stellar classic blues sound of Mary Lane. Given that many of us have some extra time on our hands due to the ongoing global pandemic, I hope you enjoy downloading and listening to every one of these songs.
The position of the songs on the list is of little consequence…you might list them in a different order and get no argument from me. Whether it is song #23 by Samantha Fish or number 66 by the Coyote Kings, all of these tunes made my playlists for my roadhouse blues shows at http://www.bluesmusicfan.com, got mentioned on my Ben Vee Facebook page or Twitter account, and/or got written about on this website at http://www.benveeblues.com during 2019. All 66 are representative of the energy and vitality that permeates the modern contemporary blues….by and large they are upbeat…sometimes loud…and truly international.
The Top Ten (in no particular order other than #1)
#1 Mary Lane – Blues Give Me a Feeling (2019 Travelin’ Woman)
Mary Lane, from Chicago, recorded the Roadhouse Blues 66 number one tune of 2019 at the age of 83!! How cool is that! She is one of the last living legendary singers of the blues to have been part of the great migration from the American Deep South to Chicago in the 1940’s. Just a fabulous tune!
Big Daddy Wilson – Crazy World (2019 Deep In My Soul)
An expat from the United States who has lived in Germany for years, Big Daddy aces an sumptuous slow soul ballad.
Altered Five Blues Band – Mischief Man (2019 Ten Thousand Watts)
Led by the deep blues voice of Jeff Taylor, this group out of Wisconsin once again makes one of my top performer annual blues lists.
Keb’ Mo’ – Cold Outside (2019 Oklahoma)
I played this song over and over when it came out on the album this past summer. You can nevah get enough of Keb’ Mo’!
Christone Kingfish Ingram – Fresh Out (2019 Kingfish)
A 20 year old with a debut album that features a cut with Buddy Guy as well as another with Keb’ Mo’. Life is good for this very talented young man.
Jontavious Willis – Low Down Ways (2019 Spectacular Class)
Another young blues artist that attracted the attention of Taj Mahal as well as Keb’ Mo’, Jontavious has stardom written all over him. It will be interesting to see how he evolves as a blues artist as the years roll by.
Tiffany Pollack & Eric Johanson – Blues In My Blood (2019 Blues In My Blood)
This blues duo hails from my hometown of New Orleans. Tiffany has a haunting voice that is framed by a strong beat and memorable guitar licks by Eric on this song.
Beth Hart – Bad Woman Blues (2019 War In My Mind)
Beth just has a great time with this tune and shows off the chops that have made her a fan favorite amongst blues rockers.
Brandon Santini – Drive You Off My Mind (2019 The Longshot)
This long time resident of Memphis had a great year in 2019. He was my 2019 Roadhouse Bluesman of the Year for both this album and one he did with Tennessee Redemption. A great voice and world class harmonica player; what’s not to like!
Allman Betts Band – Shinin’ (2019 Down to the River)
The sons of the Allman Brothers pick up where their dads left off! Not much else to be said but get yer tickets when they get close by!!
As you look through the rest of the list and hopefully listen to many, if not all, of the tunes, I hope you get an appreciation for what I term as the roadhouse blues. From its roots in the deep American south, the blues has grown and expanded to become a worldwide phenomenon. (And if someone you know states “the blues is dead” just show them this list and ask them how so?!) I am proud to be one of the DJs and influencers helping get the word out about just how great this music is!!!
Blues Give Me A Feeling
Big Daddy Wilson
Deep In My Soul
Altered Five Blues Band
Ten Thousand Watts
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
Fresh Out (ft Buddy Guy)
Low Down Ways
Tiffany Pollack & Eric Johanson
Blues In My Blood
Blues In My Blood
Bad Woman Blues
War in my Mind
Drive You Off My Mind
The Allman Betts Band
Down to the River
Amnesia Blues Band
Fast Johnny Cool
If I Love You Hard Enough
Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers
Who’s Gonna Save My Soul
No Good Deed
Me My Guitar and the Blues
Lights On But Nobody’s Home
Coming In Hot
Ghost Town Blues Band
Tedeschi Trucks Band
They Don’t Shine
Three Chords and the Truth
Three Chords and the Truth
Howlin’ For My Darlin’
I Still Get Excited
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Woman Like You
Zack Walther Band
Kill or Be Kind
Don’t Give Up on the Blues
Don’t Give Up on the Blues
Pack It Up
50: Just Warming Up!
I’m Coming For You
Rise from the Flames
Left Lane Cruiser
Shake and Bake
A Fool Like Me
Tall, Dark, and Handsome
Miss Bix and the Blues Fix
Follow Me Down
We Don’t Own the Blues
Ain’t My Problem (ft The Teskey Brothers)
The Texas Horns
I’m Doin’ Alright (ft. Carolyn Wonderland)
Get Here Quick
The Mike Duke Project
I’m Not Sad Tonight
….Took a Whlle
Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters
Baby How Long
Beyond the Blue Door
Travelin’ Blue Kings
So Called Story Teller
Ida Bang & the Blue Tears
Good to Me
Women and Whiskey
Rainy City Blues
Road I Call Home
The Teskey Brothers
So Caught Up
Run Home Slow
Kerry Pastine and the Crime Scene
City of Love
Somebody Save Me
I Feel the Same (ft Paul DesLauriers)
Kiss My Sass
Back To Tennessee
Start a Fight
Harvesting My Roots
Wentus Blues Band w/ Duke Robillard
Too Much Mustard
Rockin’ Johnny & QuiQue Gomez
Everybody Loves My Baby
Dos Hombres Wanted
Broke And Lonely
Keep On Turning
I Can Fix It (ft Jack Pearson)
Pawn Shop Blues (Roadhouse)
Sweet Or Mean
The Kokomo Kings
Fighting Fire with Gasoline
Coming Closer to the Day
Coming Closer to the Day
Blue Moon Marquee
As I Lay Dying
Bare Knuckes & Brawn
Train to Key Biscayne
Train to Key Biscayne
Don’t Bother Trying To Steal Her Love
Thinkin’ and Drinkin’
For Love & Money
I’m a Bluesman
Jook Joint Jam
Manx Mariner Manline
Hell Bound for Heaven
Girl Got the Mojo
The Blues Gonna Getcha
Big Wolf Band
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.
It’s summertime in Connecticut. I am sittin’ out in my man cave enjoying the heat, smokin’ a cigar, and listening to some new albums.
Zac Harmon – Mississippi BarBQ (Catfood Records 2019)
A great mix of soul, Chicago blues, and a touch of blues rock, the new Zac Harmon album Mississippi BarBQ was produced by Jim Gaines (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana). It also features a stellar group of studio musicians known as the Rays: Bob Trenchard (bass), Richy Puga (drums), Johnny McGee (guitars), Dan Ferguson (keyboards), Mike Middleton (trumpet), Andy Roman (alto sax), Nick Flood (tenor and baritone sax), and Drake Dominigue (trombone & tuba).
Zac has been recording since 2003 and with this CD, he steps it up to a new level. The voice is fabulous, his guitar playing is first class, and the song writing conveys images that give witness to his Jackson, Mississippi roots. The songs are all originals except for a great rendition of Dylan’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door. I enjoyed Make a Dollar Out of Fifteen Cents, Gypsy Road, Honey Pleez, Smoke and Mirrors, and So Cold.
A gifted artist, a world renown producer, and some fantastic studio musicians meld together for a first rate recording that also features cuts by his current touring band. Make sure to give the title cut Mississippi BarBQ a listen….with some barbeque, cornbread, mustard greens, black eyed peas and, of course a cold beer at the ready!!
The Texas Horns – Get Here Quick (Severn Records 2019)
Three of the most bad ass horn blowers on the planet got together down in Texas, invited some gifted friends, and created a delightful RnB recording entitled Get Here Quick. Mark ‘Kaz’ Kazanoff (tenor sax), John Mills (baritone sax), and Al Gomez (trumpet) can truly be judged by the company they keep with the likes of Carolyn Wonderland, Curtis Salgado, Guy Forsyth, Gary Nicholson, John Nemeth, Ronnie Earl, and Anson Funderburgh steppin’ into the studio to assist; they got the rhythm and they damn sure got the blues! This is an awesome CD!
A long time favorite of mine, Carolyn belts it out on I’m Doin’ Alright At Least For Tonight. And Curtis lends his soulful voice to Sundown Talkin’. My favorite tune on the album is Guitar Town that is sung by Guy Forsyth with backing vocals by Carolyn and lead guitar work by Anson. Gary Nicholson contributes two of his songs, Soulshine & Fix Your Face, and both recordings are mighty fine. Anson does the lead guitar on Soulshine and another of my favorites, Ronnie Earl, does the honors on Fix Your Face.
There are also several tasty instrumentals on the album that showcase the talent of this horn blowin trio. My favorite is Truckload of Trouble written by John Mills and I also enjoyed the title cut contributed by Kaz Kazanoff.
I have to say when I opened the CD I was thinkin’ “now who are these guys?”. Man…was I pleasantly surprised after listening to the entire recording. Download and give this a listen…hope you are pleased too!
The Duke Robillard Band – Ear Worms(2019 Stony Plain Records)
The new album, Ear Worms, has a fifties and sixties feel to it and is a pleasant listen. Duke Robillard has been playing and recording for over fifty years and is a superlative guitar player. I particularly loved the instrumental You Belong to Me that I first heard sung by Patsy Cline many years ago. It was one of my mother’s favorites and Duke shows it the love and tenderness it deserves.
I also enjoyed Don’t Bother Trying to Steal Her Love with Dave Howard on vocals and the song Yellow Moon which is sung by drummer Mark Teixeira. The rest of the band is Bruce Bears (keyboards & vocals) and Brad Hallen on bass and they are a very tight knit group of artists. The album features a number of guest vocalists including Sunny Crownover, Chris Cote, Mark Cutler, and Klem Klimek. This is definitely a recording to relax with on warm summer evening.
Send along a comment if you would like! Love to hear what your thoughts are on these albums and blues music in general!!