Over the next several weeks blues music fans from all over the world will gather in Southern California for three consecutive weekends of some very special music. The hub of activity centers around the Doheny Blues Festival in Dana Point and at the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival the following weekend. Other activities surrounding these festivals include the second annual official Simi Valley After Parties Saturday, May 27th and Sunday, May 28th. On the previous Saturday back down in Dana Point, the first ever BLUES JUNCTION Productions Hospitality Suite will host an after festival party featuring the debut of The Silver Kings. On the weekend after Memorial day a four stop mini tour by the international festival favorite B.B. and the Blues Shacks will take place. These shows include the Sunday, June 2nd, show at the world famous Tiki Bar. Lil 'A’ & The Allnighters will be opening these shows. Our May Jukebox at the JUNCTION features recordings by some of the artists that will be descending on the southland over the next few weeks.
The latest Bob Corritore project again finds him backing another Chicago blues veteran; this time it’s guitarist and vocalist John Primer. The Delta Groove Music release entitled, Knockin’ Around These Blues has this desert fox surrounding himself with an army of talent. Corritore waged his blues battle on two fronts as he recorded seven of the ten tracks in his adopted state of Arizona. On these tunes he and Primer are joined in the studio by guitarist Chris James, bassist Patrick Rynn and drummer Brian Fahey. The remaining three tracks were recorded in Chicago. That city’s blues tradition is where Corritore draws virtually all of his inspiration. On these songs Billy Flynn handles the guitar duties, bassist Bob Stroger is on board and Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith is heard on drums. Barrelhouse Chuck’s piano is heard throughout this CD. The Willie Dixon penned number, Just Like I Treat You, is an upbeat tune that I pulled from one of the Arizona sessions. Corritore will be playing harmonica as a special guest with Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King at the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival.
Smokin' Joe Kubek & Bnois King’s September, 2012 release, Close to the Bone, is their Delta Groove Music debut. The album is a 100% acoustic recording which is a departure from what fans of this dynamic duo from Texas have come to expect. The album is full of some special guests including the rhythm section of bassist Willie J. Campbell and Jimi Bott on a handful of tracks. They are also joined by Kirk Fletcher, whose acoustic playing is extraordinary. Other guests include Paul Size, Fred Kaplan, Bob Corritore, Big Pete and Randy Chortkoff. The Texas Alexander song Mama’s Bad Luck Child features Lynwood Slim playing some very tasty Big Walter Horton influenced acoustic harp. Enjoy a rare West Coast appearance by this guitar tandem at the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival.
Kevin Selfe's Delta Groove Music debut, Long Walk Home was released in February of this year. It is a solid, self-assured outing that has already created a buzz in the biz. The vocalist and guitar player wrote all of the album’s eleven tunes. The Seattle based musician has put together a stellar band with bassist Alan Markel and drummer Jimi Bott. Guests also include pianist Gene Taylor. On the album’s second track, Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool, Selfe shares the spotlight with harmonica great Mitch Kashmar as well as Doug James on baritone sax. Self will be a special guest with The Mannish Boys at the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival. Additionally, harmonica player Mitch Kashmar will be part of the Delta Groove Harmonica Blast that will take place as part of this year’s festival.
Andy T – Nick Nixon Band featuring Anson Funderburgh has a new album, Drink Drank Drunk on Delta Groove Music that was released back in February as well. The album was produced by Funderburgh and features his guitar playing on four of the album’s twelve tracks. Guitarist Andy Talamantez, if you are not into the whole brevity thing, is now thankfully cutting us writers some slack by going with the “T” moniker. For this month’s Jukebox selection I am giving Nixon’s gospel and soul infused vocals a rest and queue up an Andy T original instrumental which features the guitar of Anson F entitled, Dos Danos. You can check out Andy, Nick and Anson at this year’s Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival.
James Harman’s Bamboo Porch Live at Little Village Volume 1 is the first CD by the prolific songwriter, singer and harmonica player since 2003’s Lonesome Moon Trance. On this October, 2012, release Harman is backed by guitarist Nathan James, bassist and harmonica player Troy Sandow, drummers Steve Magalian and Mike Tempo, who is the longtime percussionist with the James Harman Band. This live recording took place in the Northern San Diego County seaside enclave of Carlsbad. The CD has songs that were laid down using an acoustic duo, The Bamboo Porch Quartet, an acoustic trio and the full five piece James Harman Band. One of the tracks that feature the full JHB is entitled Pink Alligator. The track is imbibed with the famous Harman wit. Harman’s Bamboo Porch Revue featuring Nathan James and Mike Tempo will be part of The Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival.
Nathan James & The Rhythm Scratchers' Delta Groove Records debut, What You Make of It, is a March, 2012, release. The 34 year old James moved away, for the moment anyway, from the solo acoustic blues that has been the hallmark of his already prolific career. He is joined here by bassist and harmonica player Troy Sandow and drummer Marty Dodson for a more eclectic and electrified presentation. James has been the long time guitarist in the James Harman Band and Harman guests on one track. Two songs even feature the horn section of Johnny Viau and Archie Thompson. The Jimmy McCracklin classic Later On is given a fresh take by the uber-talented wunderkind, Nathan James. As mentioned check out Nathan as he is a guest with Harman. He will also bring his band the Rhythm Scratchers to the stage the following day in Simi Valley.
B.B. and the Blue Shacks' July, 2012, release, Come Along on Cross Cut Records is another gem from this terrific German band. The group consists of front man vocalist and harmonica player Michael Arlt, his older brother Andreas on guitar, bassist Henning Hauerken, Bernhart Egger on drums and Dennis Koeckstadt on keyboards. In classic Blue Shacks fashion they offer up an eintopf of blues styles that include r&b, west coast blues and jump blues styles all with heavy doses of soul. What makes this one of the best albums by these Bavarian blues men is that they allow themselves to stretch out a little more instrumentally than on previous albums. The album also features all original tunes. Raise Your Voice is an up tempo shuffle that we have been dancing to out here at the JUNCTION. Check out this international festival headliner and fan favorite in an extremely rare U.S. appearance and in an intimate club setting to boot. As part of a four date West Coast tour this band will be playing the Tiki Bar on June 2nd at 2:00pm.
Billy Boy Arnold sings Big Bill Broonzy is the April, 2012, Electro–Fi release by an old master who seems to get better with age. This collection of tunes finds Arnold covering yet another pre-war blues musician. On his previous outing the consummate Chicago blues man covered tunes by John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson. There isn’t a bad track on this disc and I could have gone in any number of directions but I chose to go with one of my all-time favorite Broonzy penned tunes, Goin’ Back to Arkansas. This song parts company with the original most notably with Rick Sherry’s playing of a clarinet. This is a great choice which imbibes the tune with a wonderful old timey feel. Guitarists Eric Noden and Billy Flynn, as well Beau Sample on acoustic bass make great contributions to this record. They have a real feel for this type of material. Arnold will be part of Mark Hummell’s Blues Harp Blowout: A tribute to Little Walter at this year’s Doheny Blues Festival.
San Diego’s Red Lotus Revue released their first long playing CD entitled, Fourteen Stories a year ago last May. This band began as a Sonny Boy Williamson 2 tribute band and has gone on to become much more. This quartet is made up of vocalist and harmonica player Karl Cabbage, guitarist Jimmie Zollo and Pete Fazzini as well as drummer Curt Kalker. Seven of the fourteen stories included on this album were written by Cabbage and Zollo. The remaining seven tracks includes covers of Otis Smothers, Johnny Shines, Jimmy Reed and as you might expect one from Mack Rice aka Sonny Boy Williamson 2. I went with a tune written by Chester Burnett aka Howlin’ Wolf, You Can’t Be Beat. Wolf is perhaps one of the most underrated harmonica players in the blues. Cabbage handles the harp in much the same way Wolf did and that is with a stark, understated beauty. Red Lotus Revue will be appearing at this year’s Doheny Blues Festival. Additionally Cabbage and his new band The Silver Kings will be making their live performance debut by playing at the BLUES JUNCTION Productions Hospitality Suite at the Doubletree Hotel immediately following Saturday’s festival on May 18th.
Curtis Salgado's April, 2012, release on Alligator Records, Soul Shot, was the best sounding soul-blues album I had heard in some time. That was until the new albums by B.B. and The Blues Shacks and The Igor Prado Band came across my desk just a couple of months later. Salgado is backed up on this CD by the great Phantom Blues Band. The real star here though is Salgado’s singing. Salgado and the band cover such luminaries as O.V. Wright, Otis Redding, Johnny “Guitar” Watson and others. It is however the album's closing track, a gospel infused, Salgado original, A Woman or the Blues that really caught my attention. This song, like others on the record, also features Salgado’s harmonica playing which he employs sparingly giving more impact to every note he plays. Curtis Salgado will be playing both days of the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues festival. On Saturday he will be part of the Finis Tasby tribute and on Sunday he will be a guesting with the Mannish Boys.
Rick Estrin and the Nightcats’ July, 2012, release on Alligator Records may be the best album by Estrin and company in the long career of this Northern California based ensemble. One Wrong Turn is Estrin’s second post Charlie Baty CD. It was a very strong contender for album of the year. The Nightcats are Kid Andersen on guitar and Lorenzo Farrell on acoustic and Fender bass. Farrell also plays piano and organ. Drummer J.Hansen also sings one of his original tunes on this album. I could have gone in many directions but the song (I met her on the) Blues Cruise is just too funny. Estrin torpedoes this flotilla of musicians and their middle aged fans, who should know better. These people have been begging to be lampooned for some time and Estrin is just the man for the job. Rick Estrin and the Night Cats are a terrific live band. They are making their first appearance at the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival.
Lil "A" & The Allnighters CD, Special Project is a 2010 recording by this Southern California based quintet. The official release of the CD coincided with the band's appearance on the main stage at the enormous Doheny Blues Festival last May. The band is made up of veteran guitarists Joe Conde and Anthony Contreras, bassist Kenny Huff and A.J. Martel on drums. Out front is vocalist and harmonica sensation Alex “Lil’ A” Woodson. My favorite is the band's treatment of the Amos Milburn tune that is a toe tappin’, boot heel smackin’, hand clappin, finger snappin’, hip shakin’, show stopper entitled, Chicken Shack. Lil’ “A” & The Allnighters will be playing at the official Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival’s After Party in the Arena Room at the Grand Vista Hotel.
Sugar Ray and the Bluetones most recent outing is entitled, Evening. It is an October, 2011, Severn Records release and it is a beauty. This veteran, east coast ensemble is one of the world’s premier blues bands. They consistently make fine recordings and this may be one of their best. There are many fine versions of the album’s title track including versions by Cab Calloway in the 30’s, Jimmy Rushing with the Count Basie Orchestra in the 40’s and my favorite, the T-Bone Walker version from the 50’s. This is one of my favorite slow blues of all time. This tune is typically not a vehicle for the harmonica, though Norcia lends his fine harp work to this track which gives it a very smoky, atmospheric vibe. It is an absolutely haunting rendition of this already dark tune that is stunning. Guitarist “Monster” Mike Welsh makes fine contributions to this album as well. Norcia, Welsh and the rest of the Blue Tones make a very rare west coast appearance at this year’s Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival. Norcia will also be participating in the Little Walter tribute the previous weekend at the Doheny Blues Festival.
Jimmie Vaughan Plays More Blues Ballads and Favorites is a July, 2011, Shout Factory release. As Vaughan has pointed out, this record is the book end to his 2010 album entitled Blues Ballads and Favorites. The album, like its predecessor Vaughan said, was conceived to sound like an old jukebox. Jimmie and his outstanding band breathe new life into some terrific old gems. We have been grooving to the instrumental version Vaughan does of an old Atlantic single from Ray Charles, Greenbacks. These two recent releases may be the best music produced in Vaughan’s long, if somewhat disjointed career. As an unapologetic fan of Vaughan’s music, that is saying a lot. Irresistible grooves and well crafted musicianship have always been the Vaughan trademark but he outdoes himself with these two CDs. Jimmy and his great Tilt A Whirl Band featuring Lou Ann Barton will be returning to the West Coast for an appearance at the Doheny Blues Festival.
Pieter “Big Pete” van der Pluijm is a young talent who made his official American solo album debut on Delta Groove Records in the fall of 2011. The album, entitled Choice Cuts, features special guests Johnny Dyer, Kim Wilson, Paul Oscher, Kid Ramos, Rusty Zinn, Rob Rio and others. I chose the Smokey Smothers tune I Got My Eyes on You featuring Al Blake on harmonica. The track also has a nice Alex Schultz guitar solo. Alex, along with bassist Willie J.Campbell and drummer Jimi Bott, make up the core band of this fine album. Big Pete, along with Al Blake and Mitch Kashmar, is part of the Delta Groove Harp Blast and will be appearing at this year’s Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival.
Elvin Bishop’s May, 2011, release on Delta Groove, a live album entitled Raisin’ Hell Revue has some of our favorites sharing the spotlight with Elvin and Red Dog. Vocalist Finis Tasby, guitarist Chris “Kid” Andersen and saxophonist/vocalist Terry Hanck are also on board. But it is John Nemeth who practically steals the show with his take on the Ray Charles classic, The Night Time is the Right Time. Nemeth has emerged as one of the preeminent singers of his generation. The return of Elvin Bishop is scheduled to take place over the Memorial Day weekend at the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival.
Rock this House is the first and only commercial release by the legendary Hollywood Fats Band. This album, originally released in 1979, is for many, one of those desert island classics. There are those who consider this the finest west coast blues album of the past 40 years. I’ll let others hash that out but needless to say you won’t get much of an argument out of me, as the album remains one of my favorites. The title track is a Jimmy Rogers’ original that swings hard from start to finish. It features the late great Michael “Hollywood Fats” Mann on guitar and Big Al Blake out front on vocals and harmonica. Al Blake is featured in this month’s ezine. Pianist, Fred Kaplan has also been an ongoing contributor to BLUES JUNCTION. Fred will also be participating in this year’s Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival.
The Mannish Boys' Delta Groove Music, May 15th, 2012 release entitled, Double Dynamite is a double CD that is in the Mannish Boys tradition of featuring a generous helping of special guests. The album's two distinctively different discs are the result of the brilliant sequencing by the record's co-producer Jeff Scott Fleenor. Disc One is entitled Atomic Blues. It is a low down, Chicago style blues album with one mid tempo shuffle after another. The band and their guests take on numerous blues standards including familiar tunes written by “Little” Walter Jacobs, Muddy Waters. Willie Dixon, Sonny Boy Williamson 2, Robert Nighthawk and others. The second disc on the album is called, Rhythm & Blues Explosion. On this disc you will find horn arrangements, some B-3 organ and back-up vocals. The entire disc has a west coast feel and is my personal favorite between the two CDs. My favorite track just might be the T-Bone Walker classic, You Don’t Love Me. It features original Mannish Boy Finis Tasby on vocals. The tune also has Kid Ramos on guitar, Fred Kaplan on piano and Bill Stuve on upright bass.
The 44s with Special Guest Kid Ramos' Americana on Rip Cat Records came out in April of 2012. This album represents a giant leap forward for this Southern California based band. The tune Lady Luck is a funky soul infused number that has a deep groove and a very cool horn arrangement by the record's other special guest, Ron Dziubla. This song, as well as the rest of Americana also features the band's vocalist and guitar player, Johnny Main. The 44’s are playing at the official Simi Valley After Party at the grand Vista Hotel in Simi Valley, CA. For details click the tab that reads Straight Up Blues Productions – Coming Attractions.
The Mighty Mojo Prophets April 20, 2013, release, Flyin’ Home from Memphis is the band’s Delta Groove Music debut. This Southern California based ensemble is led by vocalist Tommy “Big Son” Eliff and guitarist Mitch “Da Switch” Dow. Eliff and Dow, who co-wrote all of the album’s thirteen songs, are joined by Alex Schwartz on drums, Dave DeForest on bass and Mike Malone on keyboards. The harp stands down on all but five of the album’s thirteen tracks this time out. On those numbers the band is again joined by harp men Alex “Lil’ A” Woodson on four tunes and San Pedro Slim on one track. Much of the album feels like a danceable love song. Even the lone instrumental by Mitch Dow falls into this category. That tune, Jo’s Jive is what Dow says ‘what Freddy King might sound like if he recorded for Stax’. That song and I Can’t Believe could have just as easily been called, 'Flyin Back to Memphis' as they evoke the famous 60’s sound from the capitol of the mid-south. The horns of Mark Sample and trumpet of Johnny V are heard on these two tracks along with the Louis Jordan style tune, California. The organ of Mike Malone adds to the mix and, heard throughout the album, gives the record more depth and texture than their first outstanding, self titled, national release in 2011 on Rip Cat records. The song The Gambler is one of my many favorites from this record. Two things that immediately jump out of the CD player when listening to this track is how much Mike Malone’s organ adds to the mix and just how strong a guitar player Mitch Dow has become. He has emerged as another with the three “Ts”: taste, tone and timing. Combine this with the strong, very original sounding vocals of Tommy Ellif and you have yourself a great contemporary blues album. Great stuff...The Mighty Mojo Prophets are playing at a Pre-Doheny Party at the Stillwater Grill in Dana Point, California on Friday May 17th.