Tuesday, March 23, 2010

CD Review: The Bluesmasters featuring Mickey Thomas

The Bluesmasters featuring Mickey Thomas
(Direct Music Distribution)
By Steve "Fly" Klein

The eleven song CD, The Bluesmasters featuring Mickey Thomas was released today. Tim Tucker (guitarist and producer) has truly assembled a wealth of top players. Tucker and pianist Sean Benjamin (who guests on two tracks of this CD) started The Bluesmasters in 2007 utilizing their past bandmates and contacts throughout the blues world.

First let's review the band:

Tim Tucker's guitar playing shows he's mastered every blues lick, every nuance, and sizzling solo in the great American Blues catalog.

Anysley Dunbar (drums) may be best known for playing in Journey and Jefferson Starship, but few realize he was in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers with Peter Green and John McVie and was part of the first Jeff Beck Group (frustrated that the band was not playing a strict enough blues set for his taste, he left after their seminal record Truth).

Danny Miranda (bass) has been playing in Blue Oster Cult since 1995 and joined Queen + Paul Rodgers for their album and the 2005 and 2006 tours.

Ric Ulsky (Hammond B3 organ) is a big time keyboardist in bands such as The City Zu and Smokin' Guns and has put in his time touring with such as The Turtles, Spanky & Our Gang, Chuck Berry, and The Coasters to name a few.

Doug Lynn (harmonica) is a famous harp player in both the Omaha and Seattle areas and knew Sean Benjamin back in his days with the Benjamin's band in the late 70s.

And finally, Mickey Thomas (vocals) has made his name as lead singer for Jefferson Starship, but more than a few should remember his turn as the vocalist for the Elvin Bishop Group and their hit "Fooled Around And Fell In Love". Just in case you've forgotten, they've included the hit on this CD.

The CD sets the bar high with the first cut "Cherry Red". Guest musician Sean Benjamin pounds out the blues on the piano while Thomas pushes his vocal chords into a soulful shout. Doug Lynn's harp excellent work rounds out the song.

"Rock Me Baby" sends the proceedings into passing gear with nice Chicago-style harp work by Lynn. While Thomas does a great job of selling the song, I hear echos of the Jeff Beck-era Rod Steward in his voice. While "Fooled Around And Fell In Love" is a bluesed up version that showcases Thomas' nice vocal reinterpretation of the classic and some solid drumming by Dunbar. And be sure to listen for Ric Ulsky's excellent organ work on the Etta James gospel-tinged classic, "I'd Rather Go Blind". Adding guitar to "Get Your Business Straight" and "Can't Get No Grindin'" (plus sharing lead vocals) is the Mississippi-born Magic Slim. These songs loosen up the band a bit and Magic Slim cuts through with his tough guitar tone.

I'd say that Willie Dixon's "Third Degree" and Elmore James' "Over Yonder Wall" are my favorites on the CD. Dunbar and Miranda lay down a nice groove to set the table on "Third Degree", while Tucker's smoky guitar work and Ulsky's B3 set the song on fire. "Over Yoner Wall" features a great performance by the whole band led down the path by Thomas' vocal and Tucker's blistering guitar.

I enjoyed this CD. The musicianship is excellent and the song choice is right on target. On the other side of the coin, the performance is a little too polished; some of the songs seem to be missing a certain edge. I would love to see these guys live, because I believe that is where the magic will be heard.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

(Chicago, Illinois) This Coming Saturday March 20th there is a huge show coming to my area. Electro Glide Records will be launching it's new label with a CD Release of "No More Promises" the latest from Jimmy Warren and his band. I have a copy playing in my computer as I write this and belief me when I say "This is one hot CD".  
Jimmy Warren Band

Jimmy writes all the material. The first cut is called "Watermelon Money". Jimmy says it was a phrase that his daughter used and he wrote a song about it. Another very interesting cut is called "Darker Side of Grey". It is an instrumental that reminds me of some of the great guitar pickers. I hear Hendrix, Trower, Santana and SRV all rolled into one. Bob Margolin contributes a lead line on "It Ain't Fair".  Jimmy Warren is an artist that will go a long way in this biz. An ex Capital Records executive has come out of retirement to manage him. This executive has said that he has more potential than some top name entertainers and the band can not be touched instrumentally. Mr. Executive has helped with Jimmy's digital distribution. That distribution is set for April 6th when "No More Promises" goes world wide. It can be ordered at Electro Glide Records Website.  Mr. Executive is setting up a meet with the PBS People later in the week.
Al Stone is a phenomenal musician that is based out of Jacksonville, Florida.  I have heard excerpts from his soon to be released Cd called "I Want It all".  If Al keeps cranking out CD's like this then he will get it all.  His CD is scheduled to be released May 18 and Al will be at the showcase.  I am really looking forward to seeing and hearing him with Jimmy Warren March 20th.

Chris Beard @ Kingston Mines
A recent  entry to the "Stable' is none other than the legendary blues man Chris Beard. Chris just recently played at the legendary Kingston Mines and I attended. Killer, killer, killer. Chris exploded on stage. He is a true blues man. I have written before about the question, "Where does a musician get the emotion from?" I do not know in Chris's case, but it is the blues and it is as deep as the ocean and as wide as the blue sky.  Chris thank you for your contribution. Unfortunately Chris will not be at the March 20th show. He currently is bluesing it up overseas in the most unlikely of spots. Beirut, Lebanon. He has a one month engagement there. His CD release is scheduled for  May 25.

  "Catch Blues Band" is out of West Virginia and these boys have it going on. Mike Roeder lead guitarist and vocalist is responsible for  most of the original material. I have not heard these guys except for some videos on youtube. What I have heard is outstanding work and they will be opening up the showcase.

There will be a lot going on at this party. Jimmy Warren will be shooting a video for the European TV market. He plans on turning it into a DVD for U. S. distribution.  There will be a raffle for a signed Fender Guitar. All the musicians that play will sign it and if you bring a Sharpie and you win you'll be able to get some more. The $20 ticket price for this raffle will also include a free performance, subject to tour schedule of the "Jimmy Warren Band."  All proceeds from the raffle will go to the Peotone, Illinois food bank. Some of the greatest blues men in the city have been invited and should be in the audience. I will not reveal their names because an invite is an invite. You do not have to come, but if you don't you are going to miss one of the biggest shows to hit the city in a long time.

 Watch the Electro Glide Records  website for upcoming releases. There is a couple of Blues compilation CD's coming out and I have it on good authority that Austin, Texas blues rocker Zak Perry is coming on board. If you have a CD you can submit it to the label. There is directions on the website.   David Gerald will be playing March 20 and will be heard on one of the future Blues CD compilation's.   Yours truly will be Emceeing the whole event and I will be working without a net.
PS Watseka Theater on March 21
Blues Me Or Lose Me,
John the bassman says "What chord is that?"

Friday, March 12, 2010

CD Review: All In Time

Claudette Miller

All In Time

(C Miller Music, 2007)

By Steve "Fly" Klein, Chicago Blues News

Claudette Miller's CD All In Time recently came across my desk. While this CD was recorded a few years ago, I thought I would jot down my thoughts anyway.

Claudette Miller has the energy for classic Chicago blues and the range to handle other songs in her repertoire like jazz and R&B. Her band on this CD consists of Bob Murphy on keys, who also engineered and produced, Albert Johnson on guitar, Tenry Johns on bass, and Terry Mason on the drums. Also appearing is drummer Jammin Jr.

The first thing that hits you is Claudette's powerful voice. On her "Pillow Full of Tears", Claudette stands up for herself to her man. Her voice and Murphy's keyboard work really sell the song.

"Big Fat Daddy" is a sassy tune that Ms. Miller handles well. The band does some background singing that adds to the fun.

The CD makes a turn with a jazz rendition of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine". An interesting arrangement that, while Claudette sings well, I feel guitarist Albert Johnson struggles pulling off his part.

Bob Murphy's synth-horns are featured on the gospel tinged blues "I Know Your Kind". Claudette shows her roots the way she handles the vocals. Sweet.

The soulful "Highway Man" tells of a woman and a handsome, but wandering, highway man. Again, the fine keyboard work of Bob Murphy adds much to this number.

"You're Leaving Me" is an R&B inspired song that gives Ms. Miller a chance to stretch out her vocals a bit. The rhythm section really lays down a tight and funky groove on this one.

The B.B. King classic "Rock Me Baby" is slowed down a bit and it churns and grinds with a smoky vocal by Claudette. Listen for the great clavinet work by Murphy.

The CD ends with another Miller original where she really shines, "Can't Find My Man". A classic blues number that intersects a traditional rhythm section with techno synthesizers. While I thought the musical bed was not entirely successful, Claudette's vocal stands out over any distraction.

Claudette Miller continues to sing in clubs around Chicago and her ability to sing and write is a powerful combination. She has the pipes to belt out a song like "Pillow Full of Tears" and the talent to lay down crushed velvet with material like "Highway Man" and "You're Leaving Me". However, I think her abilities could be showcased better if she were backed by a traditional blues band with a full horn section.

I look forward to hearing more from Claudette Miller.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Johnny Drummers Birthday Party

My Buddy L V Banks
(Chicago, Illinois) . This past Monday night I went to a small little club located in the south-side of Chicago. It is called "Artis Lounge''. Monday Nights you can find the real deal blues artists there. When "Billy Branch and the Sons Of the Blues" are in town they spend  Monday nights in this club. They are, believe or not, the house band. Because they play there on an off night it is sort of a meeting place for blues musicians, radio and TV personalities and of course journalists. I guess you could call it a watering hole for the blues scene. I sat at a table with Claudette Miller (listen to "Pillow Full Of Tears") and Blues Photographer Mary Hampton who was also celebrating a birthday. Mary has chronicled the blues scene and has just about 50,000 photos and they can be viewed here While at her site check out the other venues she has photographed. She is a true artist and historian thanks Mary.
Johnny Drummer trying to get his hat back.
Johnny Drummer is a very versatile performer. He grew up in my favorite city, Alligator Mississippi. He had a very musical family. Johnny moved to Chicago in 1954 and five years later he found himself in the Army. He learned how to play drums while in that service branch. Mr. Drummer has played with a who's who of artists. Junior Wells influenced him to start playing the Mississippi saxophone.
        Nick Charles (SOB) Johnny Drummer, Tyrell drums and                      L V  Banks
Junior Wells influenced a lot of current day harp players including Billy Branch. I myself meet Junior Wells back in 1979 at a small club on the upper west side. I just happened to fill-in on bass for Smilin Bobby when his original bass man showed up to the gig stoned out of his mind. I just went to watch, not play, but play I did. At the time I did not know who he was. Smiling Bobby was opening for Buddy Guy. If you lived in Chicago and played guitar during that time period you would never know who you would run into. Just like at Artis Lounge. Monday night found L V Banks at the bar and sitting right next to him was Ronnie Baker Brooks across the bar was Matthew  Skoller .and at the end of the bar was DJ Tom Marker from WXRT radio. WXRT is one of a few stations that still airs blues music. Thanks Tom. Club Owner Mike was there along with a host of others. I could not list all the people that show up there on a regular basis. If you are in Chicago you have got to stop in for a drink. Try Monday night. Blues ME or Lose Me. Gatorman Terry Lape
Electro Glide Records is having a mini blues summit/showcase I will be Emceeing the whole show. Go HERE for more info. It will be a real hot spot for the Blues.