50 Years of Como Ms. Blues

Various Artists

50 Years of Como Ms. Blues
Wolf Records International 

by John Taylor

Wolf Records International recent compilation album, “50 Years of Como MS Blues,” serves as an excellent primer for anyone who’s interested in learning more about the foundations of North Mississippi Hill Country Blues that flourishes in The Magnolia State. Its nineteen cuts include performances from Jessie Mae Hemphill, Fred McDowell, Ranie Burnett, Eli Green, Othar Turner, and R.L. Boyce, and every tune is splendid. What often sets Hill Country Blues apart from traditional Delta Blues is its reliance upon a repeating, one-chord percussive arrangement, rather than the latter’s more recognizable twelve-bar, three-chord melodic structure. This creates a mesmerizing groove—the popular phrase today to describe Hill County Blues is “hypnotic boogie,” which works for me; I can find no better label. And this CD is packed with nothing but that hypnotic boogie. 

The album also includes several unreleased recordings, three by R.L. Boyce, two by Ranie Burnett, and one each by Jessie Mae Hemphill and Othar Turner, and these songs are the quill, especially Boyce’s renditions of “Baby Please Don’t Go” and “Lonesome Road.” There’s an extraordinary, nearly overwhelming, authenticity to these performances—a distillation of bleak pain and bitter suffering into seductive and compelling music. “Lonesome Road” in particular offers an interesting juxtaposition with Junior Kimbrough’s version of that song from his album “Meet Me in the City.” While both Boyce and Kimbrough’s versions fit recognizably into the Hill Country tradition, they’re effective markers for the stylistic variety inherent in this tradition. Kimbrough’s tune revels in its distorted rumble where Boyce’s version is less aggressive, more organic and plaintive. 

With so many musical genres tending to fuse nowadays (is it blues rock or rock inspired blues?) it’s refreshing to find this music in its pure form, played by musicians for whom music was not so much a way to make a living, but a way to make a life, or at least make life make sense. This album chronicles an important slice of American music history that deserves wider recognition. Highly Recommended. 

50 Years of Como MS Blues is available from Austria through Wolf Records (https://www.wolfrec.com/produkt/50-years-of-como-ms-blues/), but may be difficult to find in The States. I have it on good authority that it’s also available on Spotify. 

Total Time 1:12:28 

Jessie Mae Hemphill: Go Back To Your Used To Be / Shame On You (Takes 1&2) /Train, Train / Eagle Bird / Shake It, Shake It 

Fred McDowell: Frisco Line / You Gotta Move 

Ranie Burnette: I Wonder Why / I Call My Baby / I’m Goin Away / Moonshine Blues / Come On Baby 

R.B. Boyce: Gonna Boogie-Poor Black Mattie / Child Of God—One Of These Days /Baby Please Don’t Go—Lonesome Road 

Eli Green With Fred McDowell: Brooks Run Into The Ocean / Bull Dog Blues 

Othar Turner: Rooster Blues 

2020 Blues Music Awards

2020 Blues Music Awards

For the first time in its 41-year history, the Blues Music Awards was unable to celebrate with its huge extravaganza as they have done for so many years. The pandemic may have shut down the in-person event, but The Blues Foundation found the means to recognize this year’s achievements in high fashion just the same by taking it virtual — online. 

Compacted into a two-hour event broadcast by Facebook and YouTube, the celebration was hosted by Shemekia Copeland, with presentations from celebrities like Bettye LaVette, The Fantastic Negrito, Charlie Musselwhite, Beth Hart, William Bell and others, plus at-home performances by multiple acts including Larkin Poe, Southern Avenue, Walter Trout, Samantha Fish and Sue Foley.  

This year’s biggest winner was young bluesman Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, sweeping every category he was nominated for and taking home five awards, including Album of the Year. Sugaray Rayford won the most coveted prize, the BB King Entertainer of the Year Award, while the Nick Moss Band took Band of the Year honors. 

It may not have been its usual party atmosphere as in years past, with the crowd and musicians mingling together and the extended performances and acceptance speeches, but the Blues Music Awards presentation was very well done during this time when we cannot all be together. Plus, it offered the experience to many who might otherwise not have been able to have been there in person. 

This year’s Blues Music Award winners are: 

B.B King Entertainer of the Year: SUGARAY RAYFORD 

Band of The Year: NICK MOSS BAND featuring DENNIS GRUENLING 

Album of the Year: CHRISTONE KINGFISH” INGRAM – Kingfish 

Song of the Year: NICK MOSS featuring DENNIS GRUENLING – “Lucky Guy” 

 Best Emerging Artist Album Winner: CHRISTONE “KINGFISH” INGRAM – Kingfish 

 Contemporary Blues Album: CHRISTONE “KINGFISH” INGRAM – Kingfish 

Contemporary Blues Female Artist: SHEMEKIA COPELAND 

Contemporary Blues Male Artist: CHRISTONE “KINGFISH” INGRAM 

 Traditional Blues Album Winner: NICK MOSS BAND W-DENNIS GRUENLING – Lucky Guy 

Traditional Blues Male Artist: JIMMIE VAUGHAN 

Traditional Blues Female Artist: SUE FOLEY 

 Rock Artist Winner: ERIC GALES 

Blues Rock Album Winner: ALBERT CASTIGLIA – Masterpiece 

 Acoustic Blues Album: BOB MARGOLIN – This Guitar And Tonight 

Acoustic Blues Artist: DOUG MACLEOD 

Historical Blues Album: EARWIG MUSIC COMPANY/MICHAEL FRANK – Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records – The Definitive Collection 

 Best Soul Blues Album: BOBBY RUSH – Sitting On Top Of The Blues 

Best Soul Blues Male Artist: SUGARAY RAYFORD 

Best Soul Blues Female Artist: BETTYE LAVETTE 

 Instrumentalist Guitar: CHRISTONE “KINGFISH” INGRAM 

Instrumentalist Bass: MICHAEL “MUDCAT” WARD 

Instrumentalist Horn: VANESSA COLLIER 

Instrumentalist Vocals: MAVIS STAPLES 

Instrumentalist Drums: CEDRIC BURNSIDE 

Instrumentalist Piano (Pinetop Perkins Piano Player): VICTOR WAINWRIGHT 

Instrumentalist Harmonica: RICK ESTRIN 

 

New Music Releases October 2020

New Music Releases June 2020

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

 Bai Kamara Jr – Salone (Moosicus/MIG Music) 

Band Of Heysek – Juke My Joint (Indies Scope) 

Blind Lemon Pledge – Going Home (OFEH) 

David Bromberg – Big Road (Red House) 

Don Bryant – You Make Me Feel 

Duffy Bishop – I’m Gonna Do What I Want! (‘Lil Spinner Records) 

Franck L. Goldwasser – Sweet Little Black Spider (SlimByrd Records) 

Jeremiah Johnson – Heavens To Betsy (Ruf Records) 

Jim Gustin & Truth Jones – Lessons Learned (Self Released) 

Mark Telesca – Higher Vibrations (Midnight Circus Productions) 

Reverend Freakchild – The Bodhisattva Blues (Treated and Released Records) 

Rory Block – Prove It On Me (Stony Plain) 

Rory Gallagher – Check Shirt Wizard – Live In ’77 (Hip-O Select) 

Ruthie Foster – Live At The Paramount  

The Mary Jo Curry Band – Front Porch (Self Released) 

The Proven Ones – You Ain’t Done (Gulf Coast Records) 

The Reverend Shawn Amos & The Brotherhood – Blue Sky (Put Together Music) 

Tony Holiday – Soul Service (VizzTone) 

Tyler Morris – Living In The Shadows (VizzTone) 

Various Artists – 50 Years Of Como MS Blues (Wolf Records) 

 

 

Band of Heysek, featuring R.L. Boyce & Kenny Brown - Juke My Joint

Band of Heysek
featuring R.L. Boyce & Kenny Brown

Juke My Joint
Indies Scope 

If you want to feel the rain, you come to the Northwest. If you want to feel the blues, you go to Mississippi. 

Which is exactly what this rough-cut band from Brno, Czech Republic, has done with their third album, Juke My Joint. 

Formed in 2015, the three-man outfit (writer, singer and guitarist Jan Svihalek, drummer Lukas Kytnar and bassist Mojmir Sabolovic) hit the ground running at the Eurotrialog festival in the Czech town of Mikulov, and they haven’t slowed down since. Their debut album, “Shovel & Mattock” (Indies Scope / 2017), turned the heads of blues aficionados around the world. Sessions for their second, “I’m Glad I Met You” (Indies Scope / 2019), yielded enough material for a double LP and added to a powerful playlist of original music as they took their shows on the road. 

In the fall of 2018, the band turned it up another notch as they toured the Czech Republic and Poland with North Mississippi Hill Country bluesmen R.L. Boyce, Kenny Brown and Robert Kimbrough. That led to an invitation to last summer’s North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic, one of the world’s most revered blues gatherings. 

That, in turn, led to a two-day, live analog tape-recording session in Water Valley, Miss. The town of just over 3,000, barely 70 miles south of Memphis, is in the heart of blues country, and the place seeps into the sound on “Juke My Joint.” 

This one certainly comes from the heart. With the Grammy-nominated R.L. Boyce’s vocals and Kenny Brown’s slide work, the ache is real on raw, rangy cuts like “Angry Man,” “One More Life to Live,” “Heal Me Right Now” and “On My Knees.” The driving insistence of songs like “Let Me Take You to My Place” and “No More Boogie” maintains a tireless energy that brings the album together. 

“This is a typical recording created by the enthusiasm of the moment, the mood in the studio and the protagonists’ equipment,” the band wrote in a May 1 post on their Facebook page. 

That sense of moment is there, all right. It’s a moment you’ll want to savor. 

 

Total Time: 47:15 

Angry Man / Let Me Take You to My Place / One More Life to Live / Heal Me Right Now / Drive Me Crazy / Out of Here / On My Knees / No More Boogie 

by John Taylor

Duffy Bishop - I’m Gonna Do What I Want!

I’m Gonna Do What I Want!
‘Lil Spinner Records 

“I’m Gonna Do What I Want!” Is not only Duffy Bishop’s first album since relocating to Florida, it’s her first recording in five years. But it is everything that you’d expect, and maybe even more. Her whole personality comes out in every number. It’s fun, it’s whimsical and it’s pure Duffy Bishop through and through. 

Right from the get-go, with the humorous title track, you find yourself being told by the narrator that she’s going to do exactly what she wants. Whether it’s eating spaghetti for breakfast, ice cream for dinner, or sleeping in her bed with all the stray cats and dogs in the neighborhood. Of course, the storyteller is only 6 years old. Typical penmanship from Duffy and her guitar-playing husband, Chris Carlson, and perhaps something only Duffy herself can bring to life. You have to admit, when it comes to the blues they certainly can have fun with their songwriting when they choose. 

A couple of numbers that have been fan favorites in her performances for a few years now have finally made it onto an album. The revision of Muddy Waters’ “She’s 19 Years Old,” is reworked by Carlson into “69 Years Old,” where the miracles of modern medicine have brought new life to the older lover as he now has ways like a high school boy. The other is her take on the Lesley Gore classic, “You Don’t Own Me.” Again, like the title track, this is a song that Duffy totally owns in her own right and it has become a signature song for her. 

The cover of Paul deLay’s “Love Grown Cold” has been tastefully presented and Duffy does a little mouth trumpet on the band’s drummer’s penned “The New Song” that adds a little light jazzy feel to close out the album and features nice mellow guitar from Chris. 

Five years may have been a while for us to wait for this new disc from Duffy Bishop, but despite a move across the country, a new band and the wait, “I’m Gonna Do What I Want!” is a wonderful release that more than makes up for the gap in time. Smiles abound listening to Duffy and there are plenty of those to be found here. 

Total Time: 39:53 

I’m Gonna Do What I Want / Love Grown Cold / 69 Years Old / Must Be My Fault / You Don’t Own Me / One Time / My Road Is Not Wide / Whistle Callin’ / The New Song 

 by Greg Johnson

Franck Goldwasser

Sweet Little Black Spider and Other Songs From the Trenches of the Blues 
SlimByrd Records

 by Greg Johnson

There’s a lot of history behind Franck Goldwasser’s tenure as a blues musician. From his arrival in Oakland from Paris, he has proven his craft as more than just another guitar player noodling around with the blues. No, that is putting it rather mildly. He drew the attention of his blues heroes from the start and became one of their own during his years in the Bay Area. He has always been true to the sound he learned from listening to and playing alongside those musicians — which is more than evident on this new release, “Sweet Little Black Spider and Other Songs” from the “Trenches of the Blues.” 

To remain true, he went into perhaps the finest blues studio to be found on the West Coast, Greaseland Studios, along with two of the most renowned bluesmen in the country, Kid Andersen and June Core. A true blues power trio, they laid down nine tracks live in the San Jose, Calif., studio, all Goldwasser originals. It’s contemporary blues that feels like it could’ve been cut years ago by either West Coast or Chicago-based greats, with the output that can last for years to come. Songs like “Bring Me My Forty-Five” and “You Made The Wrong Choice” fall right into this mode. Goldwasser puts forth his political stance with “Tyranny Is Rising” giving no doubt of his feelings. On the instrumentals “Blues For Eddie Hazel,” “T.S.O.B.C” and “Nosluf’s Last Laugh” the guitar work is sensational, paced perfectly and complemented by the rhythms of Core and Andersen. Hell, the whole disc is a work of art when it comes to the collaboration of these guys. Or as Kid Andersen states in the liner notes: “This shit is real!” Authentic blues at its very best. 

But it doesn’t end there. A second disc is included with Goldwasser telling stories of his past encounters with people like Charlie Musselwhite, Cool Papa, Sonny Rhodes, Robert Lockwood Jr. and others with bluesy background music to each story. These memories are just as entertaining as the over-the-top music presented on the first disc and adds an extra piece of credo behind his place in the blues world. 

This is an over-the-top package. Highly recommended and just the thing you’ve been looking for as a blues lover. 

Total Time: 1:35:55 

Bring Me My Forty-Five / Tyranny Is Rising / Don’t Say You’re Sorry / Sweet Little Black Spider / You Made A Wrong Choice / She’s Hip! / Struggle In My Hometown / Blues For Eddie Hazel / Don’t Give Up On Me, baby / T.S.O.B.C. / Evil Wind Blowing’ / Nosluf’s Last Laugh / Tyranny Is Rising (Lowdown Version) / The Day I Met Sonny Rhodes / Larry Blake’s, Memphis Charlie and Nick the Greek / Kasper’s and the Blues Barrels / The Last of The Oakland Juke Joints (Cool Papa and the Deluxe Inn) / East Bay Guy / Robert Jr. and the Superfly Coat / The Mystery of the Trash-O-Caster / Ikey Renrut and Me 

Robert Cray That’s What I Heard

That’s What I Heard
Nozzle Records/Thirty Tigers 

In tough times, a familiar face can be comforting. And the timing couldn’t be much better to see Robert Cray come back with some new music. The ageless Northwest icon and five-time Grammy winner’s latest, That’s What I Heard, came out at the end of February, just as the coronavirus pandemic was seizing the country by the throat and shutting down every music joint in town. 

A few doses of That’s What I Heard should put you right, though — it’s clearly just what the doctor ordered. 

This time around, the 66-year-old Cray continues his longtime collaboration with producer and percussionist Steve Jordan, bringing in longtime bandmates Richard Cousins on bass and Dover Weinberg on keyboards, along with new drummer Terence F. Clark. 

The team’s a natural fit, and they waste no time getting after it. 

From the driving first track, “Anything You Want,” Cray’s signature vocals and guitar loop easily through another classic case of a love hanging by a thin guitar string. 

The soulful “Promises You Can’t Keep” enlists backup vocals from Steve Perry, while “Do It” gets a little more done with some guitar help from Ray Parker Jr. 

And Cray’s signature blues and lyrics run deep in “Can’t Make Me Change” and “A Little Less Lonely,” which includes the classic line: “It may not be love, but I think it will do.” He also defies aging with his own “I’m Hot,” which he explains laughingly this way on his website: “I’m old, but I’m hot.” 

As usual, Cray makes it all look easy, smoothly blending blues, R&B and a sip of soul into a satisfying mix. Original songs fit seamlessly with covers recorded or written by the Sensational Nightingales, Curtis Mayfield, The Impressions, Billy Sha-Rae and Bobby “Blue” Bland. “Promises You Can’t Keep” enlists backup vocals from Steve Perry, while “Do It” gets it done with some guitar help from Ray Parker Jr. 

It’s a reminder of happier times, a glimmer of better ones yet to come. 

Cray, who lives in Southern California these days, has come a long way from his 1980s days in Eugene, playing dimer nights at hangouts like The Place or other Northwest clubs. But his unmistakable sound has aged as well as his still-smooth face. 

That’s What I Heard is his 20th studio album in 40 years. Cray calls it “Funky, cool and bad.” We call it good medicine. 

by John Taylor  

Total Time: 39:04 

Anything You Want / Burying Ground / You’re the One / This Man / You’ll Want Me Back / Hot / Promises You Can’t Keep / To Be With You / My Baby Like to Boogaloo / Can’t Make Me Change / A Little Less Lonely / Do It 

Rory Gallagher  Check Shirt Wizard – Live In ‘77 

Check Shirt Wizard – Live In ‘77
Universal Music Operations 

“Check Shirt Wizard” – Live In ’77 is a two-disc compilation from four Rory Gallagher shows in England during the 1977 tour celebrating the then-current release of the “Calling Card” album. Twenty tracks, many from “Calling Card” as well as his previous release, “Against The Grain,” that showcase exceptional performances filled with his pyrotechnic rock and blues guitar work.  

Rory Gallagher was perhaps the finest blues-rock guitarist to ever emerge from Ireland, if not from all of Great Britain. For those who may not be overly familiar with this claim, imagine the reverence that Americans give to Stevie Ray Vaughan. It is a like comparison not only in popularity, but also in guitar prowess and stage presence. Not to mention that the world lost both way too early. 

The first half of these performances deals with an electric approach, with tracks like “Moonchild,” “Tattoo’d Lady” and “A Million Miles Away.” But maybe it’s his ease with an acoustic guitar that really showcases his blues direction. A master slide player who doesn’t lose any of the power unplugged on a number like his cover of JB Hutto’s “Too Much Alcohol” or straight-on picking with Blind Boy Fuller’s “Pistol Slapper Blues” can surely attest to that ease. He even throws down on mandolin for “Going To My Hometown.” After a handful of acoustic pieces, he returns to the electric mode to build up the energy right to the show’s close, including “Souped-Up Ford,” “Bullfrog Blues” and the night-capping “Country Mile.” 

Rory Gallagher was a force to be reckoned with onstage. Never a drop of intensity throughout the entirety of this collection, start to finish. This is Rory Gallagher where he thrived, in front of an audience. 

“Check Shirt Wizard” follows on the heels of the 2019 three-disc release “Blues” (also from Universal Music Operations), which also made available rare and previously unreleased live tracks from throughout his career. Put together, they make a terrific combination of just how powerful this man was in a live setting and how much he has been missed since his untimely passing. As live recordings go, this one is a definite keeper! 

by Greg Johnson 

Total Time: 2:01:32 

Do You Read Me / Moonchild / Bought And Sold / Calling Card / Secret Agent / Tattoo’d Lady / A Million Miles Away / I Take What I want / Walk On Hot Coals / Out On the Western Plain / Barley & Grape Rag / Pistol Slapper Blues / Too Much Alcohol / Going To My Hometown / Edged In Blue / Jack-Knife Beat / Souped-Up Ford / Bullfrog Blues / Used To Be / Country Mile 

The Proven Ones - You Ain’t Done

You Ain’t Done
Gulf Coast Records 

“You Ain’t Done” is the second recording by today’s freshest and one of the best blues-rock supergroups, The Proven Ones. Falling in the paths recently paved by acts like Southern Hospitality and Royal Southern Brotherhood, the combination of highly recognized musicians teaming together blends the individual expertise of each member to form a nicely constructed flow and presentation. Guitar mastery from Kid Ramos, keyboard wizard Anthony Geraci, tight rhythm section Willie J Campbell and Jimi Bott, with the perfect vocalist to enhance this band in Brian Templeton. All are respected with multiple accolades for their accomplishments over the years. Horns provided and arranged by Chris Mercer and Joe “Mack” McCarthy just add extra drive and flavor to the mix in all the right ways. 

The band’s debut  album reaped a Blues Music Award nomination for Best Debut that blew the gates open for this release to rise up the charts immediately upon release. The new album was recorded at Gulf Coast Records, under the direction of Jimi Bott and Mike Zito, who also guests on the album on acoustic guitar and background vocals on a handful of songs. Other notable guests include Ruthie Foster on a stunning duet with Templeton on “When My Soul Loves” and background vocals on several tracks by LaRhonda Steele. 

Musicianship is at an extreme as is to be expected. Barrelhouse keyboards from Geraci on “Already Gone” and impressive slide and rock guitar chops from Ramos on numbers like “Get Love” and “Nothing Left To Give” stand out. The album’s overall selections are diverse, with unique sounds that feature a little psychedelic, country, soul and even Latin approaches. But it’s all blues-rock done in its highest form. “You Ain’t Done” is an impressive example of a combination of artists working together as you’d dream about, all come to actual life. 

by Greg Johnson 

Total Time: 48:14 

Get Love Intro / Get Love / Gone To Stay / You Ain’t Done / Already Gone / Whom My Soul Loves / Milinda / Nothing Left To Give / She’ll Never Know / I Ain’t Good For Nothin’ / Fallen / Favorite Dress 

 

Membership Meeting Cancelled
As we’re well into our third month of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are starting to see some activities and businesses begin to reopen across the State. At this time, Multnomah County has yet to apply for the Phase One opening stage, which will only allow up to 25 people in gatherings and must include distancing of six feet for patrons. Phase One guidelines state that this must go on for a period of 21 days before moving onto Phase Two.
I am not sure how venues or the Cascade Blues Association figures in the long run of live performances taking place; concerts and sporting events are shown to be on hold until at least September. The question is the size of crowd that would entail, and that is part of Phase Three. Hopefully, we will be able to see events like our meeting come back sometime soon.
As for now, with the 25 people limit for gatherings, we will have to cancel our meeting scheduled for June. It is not just a decision made for safety, which is the number one concern, but it is also not economically feasible for us to hold a meeting with this limited number of people. Most who attend are members and have free entry to the meetings. But even if the entire 25 attendees were to pay the $5.00 non-member entry, it would still not be enough to cover the expense of our sound people. And does the 25 people include the CBA staff working, sound crew and the Eagles volunteers? It’s better to be on the cautious side at this point and hope for easing of restrictions to come about soon.
In the meantime, please continue to be safe and to support the musicians performing online and the venues and retail outlets offering allowable services. There will be an end in sight and it is in our best interest to keep everyone involved in the music we love to be able to resume their livelihood once that time returns.