January 2021 New Music Releases

December 2020 New Music Releases 

There is so much good music out there. To help sort through it, we recommend starting here. 

Alastair Green – The New World Blues (Whiskey Bayou Records) 

Andy Watts – Supergroove (Booga Music / VizzTone) 

Anthony Gomes – Containment Blues (Up 2 Zero) 

Artur Menezes – Fading Away (VizzTone) 

Ben Levin – Carryout or Delivery (VizzTone) 

Charlie Musselwhite & Elvin Bishop – 100 Years Of Blues (Alligator Records) 

David Rotuno Band – So Much Trouble (Dreams We Share) 

Dennis Jones – Soft Hard & Loud (Self Release) 

Devin B. Thompson – Can’t Get Over You (Severn) 

Dustin Arbuckle & The Damnations – My Getaway 

Joe Bonamassa – Royal Tea (J&R Adventures) 

New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers – New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers, Vol. 1 (Stony Plain) 

Peter Parcek – Mississippi Suitcase (Lightnin’ Records) 

Peter Veteska & Blues Train – Grass Aimn’t Greener On The Other Side (Self Release) 

Ron Thompson – From The Patio: Live At Poor House Bistro, Vol. 1 (Little Village Foundation) 

Shemekia Copeland – Uncivil War (Alligator Records) 

Sonny Green –  Found! One Soul Singer (Little Village Foundation) 

Tim Woods – Vortex (Self Release) 

Wikki O’Neill – World Is Waiting (Blackbird Record Label) 

 

Ramblings On My Mind - 2020 in Review and What Lies Ahead 

Ramblings On My Mind – December 2020

Greg Johnson, Cascade Blues Association President 

Following a tradition that I have done for several years now, my column for December will give shout out to ten albums that have caught my attention the most over the past year. Favorites that found quite a bit of listening playtime. Not necessarily the top albums for everyone, but they are definitely for me. And I am sure that there are a few that will be surprises for people who may be unfamiliar with the artists listed; but that should give you reason to check them out. As always, these are in no particular order of preference. Favorites can change day to day. But each of these have staying power for me. 

Richard Ray Farrell – Three Pints of Gin (Blue Beet Records): Now living in Spain, Richard Ray Farrell is an artist that never fails to impress me, whether playing solo or with a band. On this disc it’s just himself with a guitar and rack harmonica. The playing is impeccable and the lyrics as usual are memorable, fun and well thought out. Always a pleasure to hear each release he comes out with. 

Jimmy Johnson – Every Day of Your Life (Delmark): One of Chicago’s elder statesmen of the blues.Jimmy Johnson is now in his 90s, but age has not slowed him down any. His first album for Delmark in nearly 40 years and it is pure Chicago blues at its best with terrific guitar work from a master. 

Robert Cray Band – That’s What I Heard (Nozzle Records/Thirty Tigers): Is it possible that Cray just seems to be a fountain of youth with every new release? There is no let down from one recording to the next; rather it seems a jump ahead every time. One of the absolute best in soulful blues and guitar work found another outstanding disc to add to his already deeply impressive catalog. 

Lloyd Jones – Tennessee Run (VizzTone): Hardly a surprise here. Lloyd Jones has always been one of my top go-to musicians locally and beyond. His recordings have always been fantastic, but Tennessee Run brought out the big guns and commanded attention from those who may have overlooked this genius. Recorded in Nashville under the eye of Kevin McKendree who has helmed the production of some of the business’ best-known artists, bringing a collection of Music City’s finest Lloyd’s exceptionable songwriting hit the mark on all counts. Soulful, at times humorous, but always delivered with the brilliance Lloyd has within. A winner by all means. 

Jody Carroll – World of Man Anthology (Thahaylia Music): Three discs released simultaneously with every track a master work. And it was all recorded in less than a month-and-a-half. You cannot look past what an accomplishment Jody has put together, this is Americana/roots music at its very best. Available only through Bandcamp, it is something that should be sought out and heard, his playing and songwriting may have never been better. And with his previous work that is saying a lot. 

Gerald McClendon – Can’t Nobody Stop Me Now (Delta Roots Records): In a city filled with so much blues and soul music as Chicago is, there will be artists that may not receive the attention outside that should be reaped upon them. Gerald McClendon is such a musician. Known in the city as the “Soulkeeper,” Gerald is a living epitome of a R&B/soul vocalist with deep bluesy roots, who thrives on delivering perfect examples of the themes behind the songs we all love. Twist Turner’s production brings out the voice that is pure and smooth. 

Franck L. Goldwasser – Sweet Little Black Spider (SlimByrd Records): With a guitarist and songwriter of the caliber of Franck Goldwasser (aka Paris Slim) you know that the music is going to be straight-ahead blues and nothing else. When you add Kid Andersen and June Core to the mix, you have the makings of magic as soon as they start to play. Contemporary blues with a feel for the past that harkens to the very finest of the West Coast masters. As Kid Andersen states, “This shit is real.” 

John Bunzow – Concrete Paradise (Self Released): Here is another example of Americana/roots songwriting that is a listening pleasure from the very first note to the end, demanding repeated plays. Everything about this album rings to perfection. As I claimed when released, this is one of those discs that will make you go “wow!” And even several months later, it’s still making me say wow! 

Johnny Burgin – No Border Blues (Delmark): The most remarkable feature of this recording is the fact that many people do not think of blues outside of America or Europe for the most part. Johnny Burgin went to Japan and gathered some of that country’s most recognized blues artists, who are pretty much unheard of here in the States,proving that the music is universal. Upon first listen you may believe this is a collection Chicago-based musicians, that may be due to Johnny’s exemplar guitar work, but it is so much more than just that. These players have the goods down pat and it shows. 

Linsey Alexander – Live at Rosa’s (Delmark): If you want to feel like you’re sitting in a bustling Chicago blues club listening to one of the city’s absolute masters, reach for this disc. It has that feel because it is exactly that. Linsey Alexander has been plying his work in Chicago for many a year, and like McClendon mentioned earlier, is sadly under-recognized outside of town. It’s authentic, if ever there was somebody to be referred to as “the Real deal” he is much deserved of that label. Powerful and enlightening, a live performance that shines with each listen. 

So many fine releases come out every year. Always more than can be accredited for on a small list. These are but a few that stood out for me, but it’s hard not to mention stellar recordings from others like Ben Rice & RB Stone, John Nemeth, Shemekia Copeland, Anni Piper, Anthony Geraci, The Proven Ones . . .  the list is endless. Especially within a year of lockdown where listening to great blues heldmore than just a casual perspective. I hope that this list will have you reaching out to these artists if you haven’t heard their music yet. You cannot go wrong with any of them. 

CBA Board Important Message

Big Surprise!  Actually a big thank you to all of you who voted!

Your Officers are:

President-Greg Johnson

Vice-President-Shelley Garrett

Secretary-Marie Walters

Membership SEcretary-Mike Todd

 

 

Live Christmas Streams from the Alberta Rose Theatre 

Live Christmas Streams from the Alberta Rose Theatre 

Live Christmas Streams from the Alberta Rose Theatre The holidays are upon us and even though we cannot celebrate in venues, the Alberta Rose Theatre will be presenting two Christmas shows through their streaming outlet. For two evenings of some of the finest blues, soul, R&B and gospel please make plans on tuning into these performances. 

On Sunday, December 13, Norman Sylvester and his band play a special holiday show for fans, friends and family on the Portland Music Stream. 

Then one week later, on Sunday, December 20, Enjoy a special Christmas show with a Steele Family Christmas featuring vocalistLaRhonda Steele, pianist Mark Steele and their daughters Lauren and Sarah, along with the Steele Family Band. 

Both shows start at 7:00 pm, and tickets to stream the events are $20.00 each available at etix.com. 

 

Looking to Get Lost

Looking to Get Lost 

Adventures in Music and Writing
By Peter Guralnick 

Review by Greg Johnson 

Peter Guralnick is arguably one of the foremost musical historians and biographers of our time. His books on the lives of Sam Cooke, Sam Phillips and Elvis Presley are definitive, and his collections of his writings such as the tomes Sweet Soul Music and Lost Highway bring to life to personalities and individuality of musicians covering the blues and other forms of American music.  

Guralnick has been doing interviews and stories for numerous publications since the 1960s. His newest book, Looking to Get Lost, is another indispensable collection of his works that features a great deal of those who influenced his musical, and written, tastes throughout his career. His love for the blues that made him want to write about musicto begin with is well presented, from his very first interview with original bluesman Skip James, to encounters with the likes of Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, Solomon Burke, Lonnie Mack and a full interview with Eric Clapton. But it much more than just the blues. His pieces cover the history of modern music, with chapters covering people like Ray Charles, Merle Haggard, Colonel Tom Parker, Johnny Cash, Bill Monroe, Doc Pomus and train song balladeer Dick Curless. 

This work is also quite personal as he talks about his family relationships, his love for authors such as Southerner Lee Smith and British writer Henry Green, and those he considers the top entertainers in his experiences that stand out (Solomon Burke, Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown and Howlin’ Wolf). 

There is much to consume with Guralnick’s pieces. The never-ending heartbreak of Dick Curless’ quest to become more recognized. Colonel Parker’s reluctance to speak directly about himself, but always seemingly willing to give direction to somebody who would. Johnny Cash’s open kindness to his fans always wanting to give back to them. The self-assuredness of musicians like Burke, Wolf and Jerry Lee Lewis (with the humorous tale of his first and only piano lesson where the teacher gives him a piece to learn, and he brings it back playing it perfectly. But then asking the teacher, “but doesn’t is sound better like this” as he improvises his own changes to the number.).  

In all of Guralnick’s material, you come to know the subjects more intimately. You may or may not always like how that person represents themselves, but you’re always going to want to keep reading. Finishing one chapter immediately makes you want to go onto the next. That is the true caliber of Guralnick’s skills; it’s hard to put down and leaves you wishing for more when you reach the end. For those who have a love for modern music, nobody will keep you enthralled more than him. 

Little, Brown and Company. Illustrated. 554 Pages. $30.00 

 

Dudley Taft

Cosmic Radio
American Blues Artist Group

Review by John Taylor 

Finally. Something good has come of the COVID-19 catastrophe. 

Though the damage the pandemic has done to the live music business is “a real blow to the solar plexis,” blues-rocker Dudley Taft says, he admits that spending endless hours in quarantine has at least given him unexpected time to craft the 12 tracks on his latest album, “Cosmic Radio.” 

And the extra work shows. 

Imaginative lyrics, polished sounds and memorable melodies power “Cosmic Radio” to some previously unexplored terrain. 

The album launches with the title cut, which Taft wrote while vacationing in the Bahamas. With vocals amped with rock-style reverb, a rolling drum line and axes cutting a wide swath, “Cosmic Radio” seizes your attention from the first downbeat. 

Taft says he wrote the song in one night – along with a second song, “Hey Hey Hey.” 

“There’s something about the Bahamas that spurs my creativity,” he says in a liner note on his website. “Maybe it’s the weed?” 

One of the most notable standouts on the album is “Relentless,” Taft’s first formal collaboration with his daughter, Ashley Charmae. She takes lead vocals on the song and adds backups on several others on the album. 

Other must-hears: “The Devil,” “Left in the Dust,” “The End of the Blues” and the soft ballad “I Will Always Love You,” which features more Charmae vocals and incorporates a World War II-era piano that an old family friend wanted Taft to have. 

Written between fall 2019 and this past spring, “Cosmic Radio” also presents some of the first music written about the pandemic. “I’m a Believer,” for example, was born of Taft’s frustration with the ongoing problems and limitations the coronavirus has caused. 

Jason Patterson and Chicago’s Walfredo Reyes Jr. – who’s worked with Santana, Traffic and Steve Winwood — split the work behind the drum kit, while Kasey Williams sits in on bass. John Kessler — who worked with Taft when the two were playing in rock bands in the Seattle area starting back in the ‘90s, and who’s headed up the Puget Sound’s KNKX blues program for the past two decades — takes a turn on bass for “Goin’ Away Baby” and “The End of the Blues.” 

The 54-year-old Taft built his reputation during the 1990s as a rocker with the Northwest bands Sweet Water and Second Coming, but in recent years he’s returned to his native Midwest. The great-great-grandnephew of President William Howard Taft established his home base in Cincinnati in 2013. 

He also seems to have built himself a comfortable home in the blues. 

 

Total Time: 55:14 

Cosmic Radio / Left in the Dust / The Devil / Goin’ Away Baby / One in a Billion / The End of the Blues / Relentless / Fly With Me / Hey Hey Hey / All for One / I’m a Believer / I Will Always Love You 

 

Danny Brooks and Lil’ Miss Debi  Are You Ready? The Mississippi Sessions  Hishouse Records

Danny Brooks and Lil’ Miss Debi 

Are You Ready? The Mississippi Sessions
Hishouse Records
 

Review by John Taylor 

Part memoir, part altar call, Danny Brooks and Lil’ Miss Debi’s “Are You Ready? The Mississippi Sessions” is a masterful work that’s timely, yet timeless. Like a favorite Bible verse, it’s one you’ll want to turn to more than once — it’s salve for the soul in an anxious age. 

Joined by an impressive collection of backing musicians, the 69-year-old “Texassippi Soul Man” has produced a 20-song album that revisits familiar sounds and places with the wisdom of a man who’s traveled far, learned much and now sees things from a hard-won perspective. 

Summoning revival-style gospel, harmonica-rich Mississippi country blues, a little downtown Memphis style and some smooth slide guitar work, Brooks offers encouragement to the sinner, comfort to the weary and warnings to those who would take love for granted. 

As the note introducing the title song puts it: “Life can be brutal at times and beautiful at other times. It’s what we make it, in spite of being dealt a bad hand. Life comes at everybody like a freight train, it does not pick favorites. There is no easy way out, but there is peace for those that seek it.” 

The playlist further underscores the point. 

“I know I’m not a righteous man,” he sings on “Climb That Mountain,” “but sinners need help, too.” 

Other songs – “We Do Whatever It Takes,” “No Easy Way Out,” “Where Will You Stand?” and “The Battle” come to mind – also speak to truths Brooks has learned the hard way. 

The Canada native has tight-roped between sin and salvation from his childhood days of reciting Scripture on street corners at his father’s bidding to a short-term prison stay in the 1970s. But these days, living in Llano, Texas, he’s made peace with his mistakes — and he’s made his decisions. 

“You learn how to win when you know what it’s like to fall,” he adds on “Climb That Mountain.” 

One of the more poignant moments on the album comes on “Angel From Montgomery.” It’s perhaps the most heartfelt and genuine rendition of John Prine’s classic since he released it back in 1971. 

Recorded in Raymond, Mississippi – just outside Jackson – the band includes guitarists Greg Martin of the Kentucky Headhunters and John Fannin, who formerly worked with Rusty Weir and Jerry Jeff Walker. Micah and Joel May comprise the rhythm section, James Lawlis plays horns and Geri O’Neil provides bass and background vocals. Chalmers Davis and Sam Brady round out the group, along with Professor Andrew Lewis, who mixes in keyboards on “We Do Whatever It Takes.” 

Like Brooks and Lil’ Miss Debi, the versatile group can tighten up or ease off at will, but they remain consistent and true throughout the album. 

And consistent and true might be the best two words to describe their overall effort here. 

 

Total Time: 79:34 

Are You Ready? / Jesus Had the Blues / Jamaica Sun / We Do Whatever It Takes” / Let Me Know / No Easy Way Out / Angel From Montgomery / Coming Home / One More Mile (to Mississippi) / Rock ‘n’ Roll Was the Baby / Where Will You Stand? / Hold on to Love / Broken / Climb That Mountain / Put a Little Rock ‘n’ Roll in Your Soul / Without Love / Me and Brownie McGhee / Tell Me About It / When I’m Holding You / The Battle 

 

Ron Thompson  From The Patio

Ron Thompson 

From The Patio: Live At The Poor House Bistro, Vol. 1
Little Village Foundation 

Review by Greg Johnson 

Bay Area favorite, guitarist Ron Thompson, may have passed on earlier this year, but thanks to the folks at Little Village Foundation, we have this terrific live recording from San Jose’s Poor House Bistro that will continue to allow us to enjoy his music again. Holding a fourteenyear Wednesday night residency, these songs were picked from two nights in 2014, the masters were mixed by Kid Andersen atGreaseland Studios, who also produced the album and plays on a couple tracks himself. 

Thompson’s guitar work really shines, as it should. The man was among the first-call West Coast players having worked with John Lee Hooker, Little Joe Blue, Big Mama Thornton, Etta James and Lowell Fulson as well as many others. With a natural ability on both finger and slide guitar styles, Thompson could supercharge an audience with electrifying, energized and even haunting performances; all displayed on the selections offered here. 

Covers of Don Covay & Bobby Womack’s “That’s How I Feel,” Lowell Fulson & Lloyd Glenn’s “Sinner’s Prayer, Willie Dixon’s “Meet Me In The Bottom,” Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Bring Me My Shotgun,” and Buster Brown’s “Doctor Brown” are all delivered with excitement and passion. A trio of his original numbers, “Mardi Gras Boogie,” “The River Is Rising” and “When You Walk That Walk” showcases his own prowess at songwriting. The entirety of this collection is excellent and well delivered. 

Playing behind Thompson on these dates were organist Jim Pugh, Scotty Griffin on drums, Sid Morris on piano, and bass players Dave Chavez and Gary Rosen. Aside from Kid Andersen mentioned earlier, harmonica ace Gary Smith also appears for a number. 

Ron Thompson may no longer be with us, but his memory will live on with recordings like these. The title states volume one, let’s hope for more yet to come. 

Total Time: 44:56 

Meet Me In the Bottom / Bring Me My Shotgun / Mardi Gras Boogie / Tin Pan Alley / One More Chance With You / I Done Got Over / Sinner’s Prayer / The River Is Rising / That’s How I Feel / Doctor Brown / When You Walk That Walk 

Mitch Kashmar & Terry Robb,  New Music Courses through Artichoke Music

Cascade Blues Association/Artichoke Music
Present Steve Cheseborough
 

Historian, musician, author. Steve Cheseborough wears many hats. A life-long student of the early blues and its progenitors have consumed his own passion for playing and recreating those innovative sounds that bridged the development of modern music over the years. A performance by Steve Cheseborough is so much more than just his playing guitar and harmonica; it is in itself a history lesson as he recounts the stories of his heroes, such as Bo Carter, Charley Patton, Blind Boy Fuller and those who birthed the blues and American music. Steve is also the author of the essential guide to visiting the Mississippi Delta for those seeking the background of those inspiring artists and more. Titled Blues Traveling: The Holy Sites of Delta Blues, which is a living work as he updates its content continuously and it has seen multiple printings to date. He was also a featured artist in the film Last of the Mississippi Jukes. 

Steve Cheseborough joins us for the Cascade Blues Association’s second presentation of our monthly streamed showcase in collaboration with Artichoke Music (where Steve also offers classes in both acoustic guitar and harmonica). This is certainly going to be an entertaining night of music and stories from one of the very best at early blues and the progression of the music throughout the years. Steve himself has been one of those bridges that brings everything to life. 

Wednesday, December 2, 7:00 pm. Online with Facebook Live on Artichoke Music’s event page. Please share with your friends to allow the largest audience for these performances each month as we can. 

Please join in on the broadcast and remember to visit Steve’s online payment outlets at: 

Venmo @Steve-Cheseborough or PayPal chezztone@gmail.com 

Every little bit helps our musicians struggling to make ends meet during Covid and the loss of most if not all of their regular working gigs. 

You can also donate to both the Cascade Blues Association and Artichoke Music, two non-profit organizations working to bring you live music and supporting our local musicians and venues at: 

www.cascadebluesassociation.org
www.artichokemusic.org