These ten albums are just about the strongest group of new releases in recent memory. It is a virtual lock that several of these will be honored in our annual “Best Of…” edition which will be coming to you in January 2020. Many will receive a coveted BLUES JUNCTION Productions Award at that time as well. All hyperbole aside, these are that good. Thanks to Charlie Lange (C.L.) for his commentary on a few of these great CDs. As always by clicking on the albums you will be taken to his Bluebeat Music website.
Bonita and the Blues Shacks Sweet Thing
The German based blues band, B.B. and the Blues Shacks, who are celebrating their 30thanniversary in 2019, have been moonlighting a little over the past few years. Their side project is to present themselves alongside the talented and charismatic vocalist Bonita Niessen. Niessen is a long time German resident who originally hails from South Africa. She is a dynamic, old-school, soul singer and is the perfect foil for this uber-talented ensemble. Her presence gives the band additional versatility and flexibility. Sweet Thing is the brand-new album, the second and easily, best album under the Bonita and the Blues Shacks brand. It sports a combination of covers and originals, much of it with a swinging blues feel imbibed with a whole lot of soul. It is a real winner. -D.M.
Jimmie Vaughan Baby, Please Come Home
When Vaughan thinks about the notion of the great American songbook it isn’tGershwin, Porter or Rogers and Hart that he has in mind; it is T-Bone Walker, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Billy Butler and others of their ilk. I believe that they have created the greatest contributions to our nation’s musical lexicon. So does Vaughan…obviously. This blues icon and his great band prove that a great song performed with verve can and does still take flight. Vaughan’s singing on Baby, Please Come Home is the best of his career…by far. His guitar playing sounds like…well, it sounds like Jimmie Vaughan. That is a sound that is an instantly recognizable commodity and one that is revered throughout the blues world. Baby, Please Come Home is an early contender for BLUES JUNCTION Productions album of the year. -D.M.
Duke Robillard Ear Worms
Like Vaughan, Robillard is celebrated as one of premier guitarists of his generation andlike Vaughan, he is one of the G.O.A.T. As age begins to set in, he has relinquished some of his vocal duties on his recent albums and Ear Worms reflects that trend. Duke fronts a great band which he has kept intact for a very long time. They are Bruce Bears, who plays both electric and acoustic piano as well as Hammond organ, bassist Brad Holland and drummer Mark Teixeira. None of this can save the album from some awkward choices. However, there is enough good stuff here that I can recommend this wildly uneven affair. The CDs high points are the album’s three instrumentals and they are so good they might be worth the price of admission all on their own. On Ear Worms Duke experiments with more pop-oriented sources from primarily the 60’s and 70’s that simply do not play to his strengths. -D.M.
The Cash Box Kings Hail to the Kings!
Every other year or so for a long dang time now The Cash Box Kings present a newalbum’s worth of material and every time I tell you the truth; which is that the most recent offering is the best album of their career. Their brand-new album, and the second on the Alligator Record label, continues this welcome trend. Hail To The Kings! is simply outstanding and is (all at once everybody) the best album of their career. The original songwriting which dominates this album is provided by way of the pen of both the band’s leaders their principal vocalist, Oscar Wilson and their founder, harmonica player and occasional singer, Joe Nosek. The material is outstanding and ranges from poignant social commentary in numbers such as Bluesman Next Door to just plain fun in the songs such as Joe, You Ain’t From Chicago. Long time members of this Chicago blues collective, guitarist Billy Flynn and drummer Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith make wonderful contributions. Hail To The Kings! Receives my highest recommendation. – D.M.
Harp Dog Brown For Love & Money
For my money this is the best Harpdog Brown album of his career. While I suspect manylong-time fans will disagree, that is just a matter of taste. Here Brown mixes a variety of blues styles, throws them in a time machine and drops them into old New Orleans. Picture Louis Jordan and Louis Armstrong strolling into the The Brass Rail to make a fuss. Original material sits comfortably beside covers by Wynonie Harris, Memphis Slim and others. Harpdog flexes his prodigious vocal shops and slips his impressive harp into the mix judiciously and therefore effectively. Kudos go out to the album’s producer and guitarist Steve Dawson. However, it is the reed and brass musicians who deserve much of the credit for shaping the sound on this great album. The trombone of Skye Lamborn and the clarinet of William Joseph Abbott give this music an unmistakable air of old New Orleans where one can practically smell the Magnolia blossoms. Harpdog Brown’s For Love & Money lets listeners know there is more than one way to enjoy traditional blues. – D.M.
Joe Restivo Where’s Joe?
Joe Restivo is the long-time guitarist of the Bo-Keys. We most recently heard from thisMemphis musical treasure as a member of the Love Light Orchestra, which backed up vocalist John Nemeth on his return to form by way of their live 2017 CD. He has been part of the band the City Champs and Detective Bureau among other Memphis ensembles. Here he is under his own name and asking the musical question, Where’s Joe? Since I’ve heard this all instrumental record, I have the answer. Joe is hanging out in that world where jazz and blues get lost in each other’s soul. It is that place in Englewood Cliffs, New Jew Jersey, circa the late 50’s and early 60’s. Joe is with three like minded individuals, sax man Art Edmaiston, bassist Tim Goodwin and Tom Lonardo on drums. These four musicians sound like they have just released a Blue Note album produced by Alfred Lyons and engineered by Rudy Van Gelder back in the halcyon days of that label. To hear that here in the second decade of the new millennium is a real joy. Thanks Joe. – D.M.
The Hollywood Fats Band Blues by the Pound Volume 1
Back in the late 70’s when the civilized (if you can call it that) world was fighting overpunk rock vs disco, prog rock vs glam rock and who was more annoying and pretentious Fleetwood Mac or the Eagles, an L.A. based band emerged with a sound that no one, it seemed, wanted to hear. They were called The Hollywood Fats Band and they played the blues like nobody’s business. In the case of this band, excellence sometimes wins out. Richard Chalk of Topcat Records told me recently, he believes that guitarist Hollywood Fats is more popular now than when he was part of this band, who was struggling to find an audience back in the day. He may be right. These live tracks recorded in 1979 and ‘80 offer a rare glimpse into the brilliance of The Hollywood Fats Band. The songs on Blues By The Pound compliment the two live releases put out by Delta Groove Music entitled Larger than Life Volumes 1 & 2. Those recordings can be found as bonus CDs which are part of two record sets on albums by The Hollywood Blue Flames entitled Road to Rio and Deep in America. – D.M.
Johnny Shines Live 1973: The Blues Came Falling Down
Shines played with blues luminaries like Little Walter, Robert Lockwood, Jr., Mississippi Fred McDowell and Willie Dixon among others.
This largely solo performance at Washington University’s Graham Chapel in St. Louis mixes original compositions with a few selections by Robert Johnson for a grateful and enthusiastic crowd.
This performance catches Johnny Shines at the musical high point in his long career. This CD represents material that has never been released. – C.L.
The Cornbread Project Catawampus
The music retains a funky down-home feel with some modern production techniques added.
If you like the recent Atomic Road Kings release, this CD is similar, but not the same. C.L.
Big Creek Slim Just Don’t Understand: Live Volume One
This live recording from a 2017 performance features Big Creek Slim with a full band featuring the amazing Tomi Leino on second guitar along with Peter Nande on harp and Troels Jensen on additional vocals and piano.
It is a no-nonsense collection of straight-ahead traditional blues played with conviction and a deep understanding of the genre. – C.L.
Posted with permission from Blues Junction Productions.
BLUES JUNCTION Productions
412 Olive Ave
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
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