Gerald McClendon - Can’t Nobody Stop Me Now

Gerald McClendon 

Can’t Nobody Stop Me Now
Delta Roots Records

by Greg Johnson 

Chicago vocalist Gerald McClendon releases his latest disc, Can’t Nobody Stop Me Now, offering a dozen original tracks that blend everything you can possibly desire in pure R&B and soul music, done in the bluesiest of fashions. Using the basic themes of undying love, cheating partners and broken hearts, McClendon magnificently and smoothly sings of human passions that are true and straight to the heart. 

It’s easy to see that McClendon has heavy blues influences from the likes of Bobby Bland and Z.Z. Hill, but listening to his catalog of previous releases you’ll also find reminisces of folks like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. It all comes through with his vocal presentation that channels the very best in the business.  

The songs on this disc are filled with imagery that is easy to visualize while listening. On “Cut You Twice” the narrator’s wife walks in on her cheating partner in the act and lets him know, “I’m gonna cut you once, shoot you twice, you better start running for your life.” On “Mr Wrong” he simply asks if he can be Mr Wrong until Mr Right comes along.” On “She Don’t Love Me Anymore,” the tables are on the opposite side as he comes home and finds out that all of his clothes have been thrown outside and the locks changed, because while he was sleeping, she was midnight creeping with somebody else. The wordplay on every number is absolutely brilliant and the finished product flows perfectly. 

With a sensational array of Chicago side-men backing him, including stand-out performances by saxman Skinny Williams and songwriter, producer, drummer Twist Turner, McClendon flows smoothly from one song to the next while displaying his authenticity or masterful delivery. Known by his peers in Chicago as “The Soulkeeper,” it’s quite obvious how fitting that title really is after one listen to Can’t Nobody Stop Me Now. Excellent album and highly recommended!! 

Total Time: 45:09 

Can’t Nobody Stop Me Now / Where Do We Go From Here / Groove On Tonight / She Don’t Love Me Anymore / Runnin’ Wild / It’s Over Now / Mr Wrong / I Started Over / You Can’t Take My Love / Why Can’t We Be Together / Cut You Once / I Think About You 

Johnny Rawls

Johnny Rawls 

Live In Europe
Continental Records Services

Review by Greg Johnson 

If you’re new to the field of soul blues, then it’s time for you to sit up and take notice. Going directly to Johnny Rawls may be one of the best options to introduce yourself. The multi-Blues Music Award winning vocalist is like something sweet that is going to make you crave hearing him more and more. Like maybe your favorite ice cream or dessert, once you hear his voice you immediately turn up the volume and listen even closer. 

It’s always a treat to see a master musician perform live, especially when they possess the capacity to draw a crowd into their hands. Makes you want to dance; makes you want to smile. On this new disc, Live in Europe, (released on the Dutch label Continental Records Services) Rawls only needs to take nine songs to bring your senses to attention. He is backed by a German trio known as The Özdemirs, and Italian Hammond player Alberto Marsico. The group toured throughout Europe in 2019, including this performance recorded in Hildeshiem, Germany, and in Vejle, Denmark, where they captured a take on T-Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday.”  

Most of the selections, like “Stormy Monday” are covers, but all done in his own sensual and smooth rendition. Songs like The Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden,” OV Wright’s “Into Something (I Can’t Shake Loose),” Tyrone Davis’ “Turning Point” and James Carr’s “Pouring Water on a Drowning Man,” are all done with just the right Rawls’ touch that is heartfelt and spot-on soulful. “Lucy,” one of his own signature tunes, closes the performance and also hits home. You know as he calls the ladies down front that this is a party by all means; and if you’ve ever caught Johnny Rawls in a juke joint or small stage, he is going to get a little raunchy and suggestive, too. Inciting the audience to get your hands in the air and swing that thing! “Come on, Lucy, get juicy, honey, get on down and down and work that coochie.” 

The album closes with a very nice take on Rawls’ tribute to his friend, Otis Clay, the title track to his previous American release “I Miss Otis Clay.” He brought this touring band into the studio in Copenhagen to lay this take down. Get your hands on this incredible album, because Johnny Rawls is arguably the finest soul bluesman in the world today. He’s going to lead you into a sure-fire love affair with soul blues without doubt. 

Total Time: 41:14 

Beast of Burden / Country Boy / Too Weak To Fight / Can I Get It / Turning Point / Stormy Monday / Into Something (I Can’t Shake Loose) / Pouring Water on a Drowning Man / Lucy / I Miss Otis Clay[Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break] 

Linsey Alexander 

Live at Rosa’s
Delmark Records 

 by John Taylor 

The “Hoochie Man” lives. And Linsey Alexander, whose blues are as authentic and Chicago as they come, is living well, if his “Live at Rosa’s” album, released May 15, is any indication. 

The eight-song collection comes from a recent show at the storied Chicago blues club, Rosa’s Lounge. Listen to three or four notes of this disc, and you’ll feel like you’re sitting at the best table in the house. Alexander’s vocals and guitar cut a wide swath, and he’s got plenty of muscle behind him: Sergei Androshin (guitar), Roosevelt Purifoy (keyboards) Ron Simmons (bass) and Ray Stewart (drums). 

Alexander turns 78 in July, but he’s in his prime here. He’s playing the kind of blues that thump in your chest. Full. Solid. Satisfying. The kind you only hear when you head downtown. 

Alexander’s signature lyrics and playful style is on full display. His light licks accent songs like “Please Love Me,” but he seizes the strings and powers them down on cuts like “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” and “Ships on the Ocean.” You might even want to get up and do a little dancing when he plays “Goin’ Out Walkin’ ” or “Snowing in Chicago.” 

No doubt about it. This guy’s still the real deal, and he’s keeping real blues alive and relevant. You’re gonna want to savor “Live at Rosa’s.” So here — pull up a chair and dust that snow of your coatYou can sit with us. 

We got another round on the way. 

Total Time: 53:03 

Please Love Me / My Days Are So Long  / Have You Ever Loved a Woman / I Got a Woman / Goin’ Out Walkin’ / Somethin’ ’Bout ’Cha / Snowing in Chicago / Ships on the Ocean / Going Back to My Old Time Used to Be 

 

Victor Wainwright & The Train

Victor Wainwright & The Train 

Memphis Loud
Ruf Records

by Greg Johnson 

Victor Wainwright is without doubt one of the piano kings of our time. On his latest disc, Memphis Loud, he takes us on a compelling journey through a series of musical styles where he expands on his range of playing, from his well-known boogie to soft ballads to a touch of country. And it all screams to be heard. 

Wainwright’s band, The Train, is a mixture of amazing musicians from Memphis and afar: Terrance Grayson on bass, drummer Billy Dean, twin guitars from Pat Harrington and Dave Gross, plus horns provided by Doug Woolverton and Mark Earley. If that’s not enough, the guest list of friends joining in is an all-star collection in its own right: Reba Russell, Monster Mike Welch, Gracie Curran, Greg Gumpel, Mikey Junior and Chris Stephenson. Thus The Train is a fitting moniker as there is a lot of locomotive energy behind this band. 

The opening track, “Mississippi,” draws you forth with Wainwright’s frolicking fingerwork, gliding and glistening across his keys. The pace increases and the tone is set for what to expect through the rest of the album. The music and lyrics are going to hit on all angles, heartbreak (“Disappear”), humor (“South End of a Northbound Mule”), gospel-influenced soul (“Reconcile”), there’s even a love letter written for his dog (“My Dog Riley”). Horns that bring to mind classic jazz bands like Duke Ellington; there’s musical grounds of Memphis, New Orleans and more; and of course that pounding piano that hearkens to boogie masters such as Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. Wainwright covers all that ground and more in splendid fashion on Memphis Loud. 

 

Total Time: 57:49 

Mississippi / Walk The Walk / Memphis Loud / Sing / Disappear / Creek Don’t Rise / Golden Rule / America / South End of a Northbound Mule / Recovery / My Dog Riley / Reconcile 

 

  

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 

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