Lloyd Jones - Tennessee Run - VizzTone

Lloyd Jones 

Tennessee Run

Review by Greg Johnson 

Lloyd Jones has been a frequent guest on Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches cruises over the years, and has made some awfully important friends on these trips. One of those is keyboardist Kevin McKendree, who has performed with a literal who’s who in the music scene, is a renowned songwriter and also owns one of the very best recording studios in Tennessee. So when offering Lloyd the opportunity to record his latest tracks at Rock House Studio in Franklin, he made the run to Tennessee and laid down some of the finest music of his career. 

Lloyd describes his music as “Swampified Americana,” transversing the American musical landscape from Memphis to New Orleans, Nashville, the Delta and Portland. It is filled with Lloyd’s soulful vocals, spot-on guitar work and lyrics that are catchy, fun and heartfelt. It doesn’t hurt that the album also features a number of the very best musicians from Music City, many from McClinton’s band. Delbert makes a guest appearance as does Teresa James, and Gary Nicholson adds his pen to the composition “Bayou Boys,” co-written with McClinton and Lloyd. Lloyd’s longtime Portland fans will be thrilled to see the inclusion of Reinhard Melz on percussion, LaRhonda Steele on backup vocals and horn charts for the song “A True Love Never Dies” by the late Glenn Holstrom. 

The fun on this album never lets up. From the upbeat first track, “You Got Me Good,” followed by the equally bouncy “Me & You” there isn’t a moment of pace change until you reach “A True Love Never Dies.” Funkiness prevails on numbers like “Bayou Boys” and “Dilly Dally.” And on “Where’s My Phone?” humor takes center stage as he searches for his lost cellphone, only to locate it in the last place he’d imagine – come on, we’ve all been through this experience ourselves, admit it. 

In a career that has spanned 50 years, Lloyd Jones proves once again that he is one of Portland’s masters of blues and R&B, soulful to the core with a guitar style that punctuates his music, giving it that instant recognition. Why he isn’t far better known throughout the world is a crime. With this release on a major blues label, VizzTone, perhaps the time is here to turn around that wrong. Outstanding album, Tennessee Run is going to play through your mind for a long time to come. 

Total Time: 44:47 

You Got Me Good / Me & You / I Wish I Could Remember Loving You / Where’s My Phone? / A True Love Never Dies / Bayou Boys / Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool / Turn Me Loose / That’s All I Want / Love Is Everything / Chicken Bones / Every Time We Meet / Dilly Dally / Chevrolet Angel 


Walter Trout - Ordinary Madness - Provogue Records 

Walter Trout 

Ordinary Madness
Provogue Records 

Review by Randy Murphy 

Walter Trouts new release Ordinary Madness” finds this blues-guitar wizard in fine form, effortlessly brewing potent spells of dark musical magic with his band, drummer Michael Leasure, bassist Johnny Griparic, and keyboard player Teddy Andreadis serving as willing accomplices. This is a strong concoction that rewards careful, repeated listening. 

A veteran of Canned Heat, John Mayalls Bluesbreakers, and Percy Mayfields band, Trouts revered spot in the blues and blues/rock universe is secure, and though hes now nearing 70, Trouts lost none of his potency, either as a guitar player or blues singer. His songwriting still sits top shelf, as several of the tunes on this album evince. For me, the title track, Ordinary Madness” is the highlight. A dark, moody meditation on the perils of the mundane misery lurking within all of us. Perhaps its the general craziness of this time, but if we need an anthem for the ubiquitous anxiety that surrounds us all, weve found one. Trout sings of the sadness and the anger and the fear / that you feel everyday” and that just lays there in your gut / and it wont go away.” When Trout combines these lyrics with his wickedly ethereal rifts its as if his guitar becomes both the cause of and the cure for this pain — offering salvation with one hand, but then snatching it away with the other. Its one of the most compelling and toughest tunes Ive heard in quite some time, and alone is worth the cost of admission.  

But of course, theres more. The rest of the album shines as well as Trout examines life and loss through tune like the tough, straight-ahead blues rock of Final Curtain Call” and OK Boomers” and the subtle reflections in the ballad My Foolish Pride.” Its unusual for an album with this degree of punch and force to also contain a bucketful of understated grace and humanity. But then, thats The Blues, isnt it? Highly Recommended 

Total Time: 57:38 

Ordinary Madness / Wanna Dance / My Foolish Pride / Heartland / All Out Of Tears / Final Curtain Call / Heaven In Your Eyes / The Sun Is Going Down/ Make It Right / Up Above My Sky 


Vanessa Collier - Heart On The Line

Vanessa Collier 

Heart On The Line
Phenix Fire Records 

Review by Greg Johnson 

Vanessa Collier is a force within herself and is gaining popularity and momentum that is beyond well deserved. The current two-time recipient of the Blues Music Award for Instrumentalist Horns, she is much more than that. She’s a multi-instrumentalist, a vocalist to be reckoned with, a performer who  takes command of an audience of any size and, as displayed here and one her previous recording, a superb songwriter. 

Her saxophone playing is on full display on this new disc, Heart On The Line, but so is her slide resonator guitar work on the “Bloodhound.” This album shows that Collier can move about the musical spectrum quite easily, too, from a funky good number such as her cover of James Brown’s “Super Bad,” to “Take A Chance On Me,” and the title track, “Heart On The Line.” Her soulful side shows through with “What Makes You Beautiful,” and she feeds a bit of sentimentality with “I Don’t Want To Change A Thing.” Along with her take on “Super Bad,” Collier covers a superb version of Randy Newman’s classic, “You Can Leave Your Hat On.”  

Guests appearing on this recording include noted musicians such as Scot Sutherland on bass, Doug Woolverton on trumpet and the amazing Laura Chavez, who has worked with Candye Kane and Nikki Hill among many more, laying down her trademark guitar licks. 

Heart On The Line is sure to bring more accolades Collier’s way. At this point, her career continues to soar on an upward path and there’s no reason with a work like this that it will not proceed directly on its way up for years to come. This is an artist who is just kicking off a breakthrough among  the best recording and performing blues artists of our time and the sky’s the limit for this young musician. 


Total Time: 44:04 

Super Bad / What Makes You Beautiful / Bloodhound / I Don’t Want Anything To Change / Leave Your Hat On / Take A Chance On Me / If Only / Weep And Moan / Who’s In Power / Freshly Squozen / Heart On The Line 

Steven Troch - “Leftovers” 

Steven Troch

(Available only on Bandcamp) 

Review by John Taylor 

You know how it is when you’re eating leftovers. You mix things up. 

That to-go box of moo goo gai pan from Sunday night? It’s still good – and come to think of it, it’d go great with a cheese dog and a few of those baby carrots tonight. And why not finish up those refried beans while we’re at it? Maybe crumble up some corn chips to add some texture. 

You know how it is when you’re eating leftovers. You mix things up. 

All of a sudden, you’re an eclectic chef, combining flavors that might never have occurred to you if you were starting from scratch. 

That’s kind of how Belgian harp master Steven Troch’s “Leftovers” works, too. 

Released Sept. 12, this 13-track digital compilation of previously unreleased songs from 2017 through 2020 is a fridge full of sounds that go places you might not expect to see a harmonica. But they’re way tastier than cheese dogs and Chinese food. Troch is wide open to old and new influences, and he seems right at home in a surprising range of genres. 

Starting with “Just a Thursday,” he takes a fresh cut at a familiar blues theme: 

“Just a Thursday in a dimly lit café 

The bartender looks like long hours and low pay …” 

“Summershoes” walks a street we know, too: 

“Follow me, baby, while the band’s at the bar, 

I got something to show you in the back of my car …” 

But wait: Don’t forget harps can rock – especially with Steven Van Der Nat’s guitar work on “Your Sister.” They also work if you’re in the mood for a little bite of Charles Mingus’ “Jelly Roll.” 

Not far enough off the beaten path for you? Troch rides Out West with the trail-weary “Almost the Real McCoy” and “Del Rio,” a cowboy-tinged ballad about a stranger who casts his eyes on a girl “as wild as a hurricane.” 

And he’s not afraid to pull some old-school blues off the back shelf, either, laying down a convincing version of the Big Bill Broonzy classic, “All By Myself.” 

Then, the ultimate trip: In “My Own Universe,” Troch takes off for outer space, propelling his harp to unexpected reaches of the unknown – and shadowy, out-of-this-world sounds that he somehow conquers. 

Bird Stevens, who did most of the mixing on this album at Tub Thumper Recordsbaked in lots of surprises. While Troch and a long list of international musicians make satisfying blues riffs seem as easy as a back-porch jam session with friends, their fearless explorations make “Leftovers” a fun find – and a true keeper. 


Yeah, sometimes a platter full of leftovers really hits the spot. Pass the soy sauce – and the mustard — willya? 


Total Time: 48:03 

Just a Thursday / I Just Can’t Read Yo’ Mind / Jelly Roll / Summershoes / The Fly / Parnell Street / All By Myself /  Almost the Real McCoy / Your Sister / So Long Ago / Del Rio / Bad Taste (Bad Up Version) My Own Universe 


Lisa Mann - Old Girl

Lisa Mann 

Old Girl
JayRay Records 

Review by Greg Johnson 

Not to be one to sit idle, even during times of pandemic, Portland’s Blues Music Award-winning bassist has released two discs over the past months of shutdown. The first, an album from her alter-persona White Crone titled The Poisoner, is a step back to Lisa’s first love for metal music, which she delivers spot on. Known primarily as a blues musician internationally, she also found the time to put together a five-song EP that also is a first-class production and will definitely thrill fans of Lisa’s with little doubt. 

Her bass prowess is unquestionable as are her vocals, which can bring forth impassioned power or bring you to tears with her soft and touching emotions. Behind her is her full-time guitarist from her band, Jason “JT” Thomas, while drum duties are split between Michael Ballash and Dave Melyan, who both work and tour with her regularly. Louis Pain guests on a couple of tracks on organ and a stellar cast of vocalists backs her, too: Sonny Hess, Brian Foxworth, LaRhonda Steele and Arietta Ward – basically Portland’s A-Team. 

Of the five tracks, four are original numbers. She opens with the title track, a beautiful ballad in which  Lisa reflects on not being in her 20s anymore, but as an “old girl” (she’s definitely not) she is still making do. It’s hard to think that age is playing a role in her mind or how others might see her. JT provides a remarkable guitar break that adds to the ballad’s emotion. 

“It’s The Monkeys Or Me” is a humorous number about a relationship with a man who ran a monkey show and his house is filled with real live monkeys running the home. It may be cute at first, but they start to drive her crazy leading to the ultimatum, it’s either those monkeys or me. 

On “Everybody’s Making Money” Lisa looks at the music industry and it seems that she is putting out far more money than she brings in. Another superb guitar solo from JT here. The closing track pays homage to the musicians who came before in our area and paved the way for the artists who followed in their footsteps, never to be forgotten. 

The fifth song included is a terrific cover of Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “That’s All.” Lisa has taken part in a handful of tribute shows to the guitar great, again replicated nicely by JT while Lisa growls her way convincingly, letting everybody know that people may in their own means think that they’re right or doing what needs to be done, but they really don’t know the facts at all. 

Old Girl is Lisa Mann at her very best. The only drawback on the album is that it is way too short and leaves you craving more. Let her artistic juices flow, we can only anticipate what may be following in this one’s footsteps. This is one disc that you do not want to miss out on — buy it now! 


Total Time: 21:22 

Old Girl / It’s The Monkeys Or Me / Everybody’s Making Money / That’s All / Around Here 

Fiona Boyes - Blues In My Heart

Fiona Boyes 

Blues In My Heart
Blue Empress Records / Reference Recordings 

Review by Greg Johnson 

Since her win at the International Blues Challenge back in 2003, Fiona Boyes has been one of the most noted blues guitarists of our time, with no less than eight nominations for Blues Music Awards, including Traditional Female Artists of the Year. Blues In My Heart, released in 2000, was the debut recording for Boyes, but sadly it didn’t see much distribution in the United States. Reference Recordings has now resolved that issue by releasing a newly packaged and newly remastered take on this Australian master work for its 20th anniversary. 

Fiona is in fine form here in what she self-describes as an acoustic album of fingerpicking ragtime blues. For those who have been following her career, you’ll recognize a good number of the songs featured, including such longtime live favorites as “Two Legged Dog” and her tribute to Memphis Minnie, “She Could Play That Thing.” Fiona is joined on the album by her original Australian band: Karen “Kaz” Dalla Rosa on harmonica, Gina Woods on piano, and Paula Dowse on drums and percussion. 

Made up of 16 tracks, 10 of which are original numbers, the album features first-rate covers by legendary artists Tommy Johnson, Leadbelly, JB Lenoir, Rev. Gary Davis, Red Hodges and Kid Bailey. This is definitely a must-add album for any fan of Fiona Boyes, especially in this remastered format. 


Total Time: 52:30 

Blues In My Heart / Pig Meat / She Could Play That Thing / I Let The Blues In / Have Faith / Honey You Can Take My Man / My Say So / Rowdy Blues / Mean World / Angel / Two Legged Dog / That Certain Something / Hokum Rag / Mercy / Canned Heat / Hotel Room 


Jim Gustin and Truth Jones - Lessons Learned

Jim Gustin and Truth Jones 

Lessons Learned

By John Taylor

After four decades of singing the blues up and down the West Coast, Jim Gustin and Truth Jones are ready to impart some of the wisdom they’ve gained along the way – and it’s wisdom well worth hearing. 

Pay close attention, because here are a few examples of what we can pick up from the Southern California duo’s third album: 

Drinking can lead to bad decisions that you’ll regret the next day. “I’d Been Drinking” recounts some vivid and instructive examples. 

If you treat a woman badly, you’re apt to regret it. “She might forgive you … but she’ll never forget,” the band warns in “Never Forget.” 

And no matter how far you think you’ve come, “Never Too Big for the Blues” reminds that pain and loss can track you down and make you hurt. 

We don’t mean to lecture, though. “Lessons Learned” is the work of some seasoned pros who know how to make some unapologetic blues. Wisdom aside, the music absolutely stands strong on its own. It’s easy to see why this band made the semifinals at the 2020 International Blues Challenge in Memphis. 

Gustin’s powerful voice sounds like aged-to-perfection whiskey, pairing perfectly with the versatile Jones, who makes everything from soulful blues to gospel seem effortless. 

Meantime, bassist Scott Duncan, drummer Chuck Strong, keyboardist Steve Alterman and saxophonist Lawrence Tamez are the backbone of the band, while a notable array of special guests flesh out an impressively well-rounded album. Listen for the contributions of trumpeter Lee Thornburg from Tower of Power, Harp Attack man Chris LeRoi Hansen, guitarist Tommy “Crooked Eye Tommy” Marsh and sax guru Jim Scimonetti. Jones’ daughter, Jill Hormon, sings along on a few tracks, too. 

Gustin produced the album, while Terry Wilson co-engineered, mixed and mastered it. 

When it’s all said and done, the instrumentation and unflinching vocals add up to a full-on sound that’ll have you longing for a night of live music, or at least maxing out your earbuds. 

Through all 11 songs on “Lessons Learned,” the band stays true to the motto inscribed on their logo: “Verum quaero” — to seek truth. And yup, you’ll find some true blues here. Perhaps even a helpful reference when you’re seeking your own truth. 

Keep this one handy. It’s gonna grow on you. 

Total Time: 42:47 

I’d Been Drinking / I Heard About You / The Truth / When This Ship Sails / I Hate to  See You Go / Never Forget / All You Ever Bring Me Is the Blues / Never Too Big for the Blues / Rockslide / My Love Is True / Three Things 


Too Slim and the Tail Draggers 

The Remedy

By John Taylor 

Sure, they favor cowboy hats, tuck their pants into their boots and called Tennessee home for a while. But Too Slim and the Tail Draggers aren’t all hat. They’ve been delivering genuine blues/rock with a distinct Northwest accent for more than three decades now. 

The band born in Spokane and now headquartered in Boise has just rolled out its 15th studio album, making it an even 20 when you count five live albums. And they’ve proven up once again with “The Remedy,” a deliberate blend of blues hammered out of rock rhythms and riffs. 

With a lineup of Tim “Too Slim” Langford (lead vocals and guitar), Zach Kasik (bass, vocals and banjo) and Jeffrey “Shakey” Fowlkes (drums and vocals), the band’s latest packs a wallop.  

Guest harmonica men Sheldon Ziro, Richard “Rosy” Rosenblatt and Jason Ricci add some extra edge to this bust-you-in-the-chops follow-up to “High Desert Heat,” which was nominated for a 2019 Blues Music Award. 

Turbocharged guitars, slides, harmonica and even some banjos power this one through 10 original songs and an Elmore James cover (“Sunnyland Train”). Echoing everyone from the Allman Brothers to ZZ Top, Too Slim and the Tail Draggers continue to confidently ride the line between straight-on blues and rock. 

OK by us. 

Best enjoyed outdoors (with a beer tent and a dance area nearby), they’ve been one of the most popular road acts around these parts for years – a mainstay at many community festivals and concert series. 

The songs on “The Remedy” will only add to their repertoire if we ever get past the pandemic and back to enjoying ourselves in crowds. 


After kicking off the album with “Last Last Chance,” reminiscent of some 1970s Rolling Stones classic rock anthems, the band lays down “She’s Got the Remedy,” with a driving blues beat that could be the soundtrack for a nasty hangover. 


A thick stew of heavy guitar work is brewing on “Devil’s Hostage,” followed by “Reckless,” a harp-spiced trip “down to rock bottom, where I belong.” 


As you make your way down the playlist, you’re not likely to find any throw-aways. From the raucous “Keep the Party Rollin’” to the aching loneliness of “Half a World Away” to the band’s first-rate take on Elmore James’ “Sunnyland Train,” this album is sealed with solid workmanship. It’s what we’ve come to expect from some guys who have honed their craft to a point that they have nothing to prove to anyone but themselves. 


When you’re this comfortable in your own skin, you can wear whatever boots and hats you want. 


Total Time: 53:42 

Last Last Chance / She’s Got the Remedy / Devil’s Hostage / Reckless (feat. Sheldon Ziro) / Keep the Party Rollin’ (feat. Sheldon Ziro) / Sunnyland Train / Sure Shot / Platinum Junkie (feat. Jason Ricci) / Snake Eyes / Think About That (feat. Richard “Rosy” Rosenblatt) / Half a World Away 


Bai Kamara Jr & The Voodoo Sniffers - Salone

Bai Kamara Jr & The Voodoo Sniffers 


Based in Belgium for the past couple decades, Bai Kamara jr was born in Sierra Leone in West Africa and grew up in England. Deeply influenced by the music of his homeland, he found a distinct connection with American blues that he fell in love with during his school days. The rhythmic patterns between the two, despite the geographic separation, has always held ties that stretches back to the slave trade and the music brought to America by those in bondage. It is from those West African nations that the blues was truly born and the sound still prevails in the music today. 

It is easy to hear comparisons of Eric Bibb, Keb’ Mo’, Taj Mahal and even Habib Kote, listening to Kamara’s guitar playing and his casual baritone vocal inflections. The themes of many of the songs cross borders as well as they’re also universal; heartbreak from failed relationships, pain and hard times. These are expertly displayed on songs like “Cry Baby,” “Black Widow Spider,” “Cold Cold Love” and “I Ain’t Lying.” 

Although the album is credited alongside his band’s name, The Voodoo Sniffers, Kamara wrote all fifteen of the tracks and performed all the instrumentation and vocals himself. Salone is truly a piece of art and arguably one of the best acoustic blues recordings of the year. 


Total Time:  

Can’t Wait Here Too Long / Lady Boss / Black Widow Spider / Homecoming / Morning School Run Blues / Cold Cold Love / The Rest Of Everything / Cry Baby / I Ain’t Lying (Can’t Give You What I Ain’t Got) / Don’t Worry About Me / Naked Girls On The Merry-Go-Round / Time Has Come / Fortune / Riverboat Blues / Some Kind Of Loving Tonight 

Anthony Geraci 

Daydreams In Blue
Shining Stone Records 

By Greg Johnson 

Without question, Anthony Geraci is one of the finest and most soughtafter keyboardist in the blues world today. Renowned for his years of work in bands led by Sugar Ray Norcia and Ronnie Earl, and most recently with the super group The Proven Ones, Geraci shows that he is quite capable of fronting his own band with his third solo release, Daydreams In Blue. And he brings a fine class of friends to help him out here, too, including the likes of Troy Gonyea, Monster Mike Welch and Walter Trout on guitars, Mudcat Ward on bass, plus vocals and harmonica courtesy of Dennis Brennan.  

The recording finds Geraci mostly helming an acoustic piano, roaring through some mighty barrelhouse, boogie and shuffle numbers. Ten of the twelve tracks are originals written by Geraci, with the remaining two tracks including a piece written by Brennan and a cover of “Jelly, Jelly” from the Earl Hines/Billy Eckstine songbook. 

Brennan’s vocals are spot on perfect as a compliment to Geraci’s music, with special nods to his skills on numbers like the jazz”Love Changes Everything,” “Living in the Shadow of The Blues” and “No One Hears My Prayers.” Geraci takes a take on vocals himself on the New Orleans styled jumper “Tutti Frutti Booty,” that features Gonyea driving some swinging guitar work. And nimbly fingers through a little Chicago blues on the track “Mister” bringing the piano work of Otis Spann to mind. The horn work behind so many of the album’s numbers add so much flavor to the sound to make everything crisp and extra fun. 

Geraci’s previous pair of albums garnered him quite a number of Blues Music Award nominations, including for Album of the Year for both. Expect Daydreams In Blue to continue reaping those high accolades. Another brilliant release from a long time bluesman whose name should be forefront in every listener’s mind. 

Total Time: 48:26 

Love Changes Everything / Tomorrow May Never Come / No One Hears My Prayers / Daydreams Of A Broken Fool / Mister / Tutti Frutti Booty / Jelly, Jelly / Dead Man’s Shoes / Hard To Say I Love You / Living In The Shadow Of The Blues / Crazy Blues-Mississippi Woman / Ode To Todd, Ella And Mike Ledbetter