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 

Jody Carroll 

World of Man Anthology:  

Volume One – Old Dogs 

Volume Two – Lost in Time 

Volume Three – Promise Land 

Thahaylia Music 

Review by Greg Johnson 

Jody Carroll’s three-volume compilation, World of Man Anthology, is an impressive masterclass in the basics of American music. It’s rare that such a large project can capture so much magic, especially considering they were all recorded within little more than a month and released simultaneously. If this was a career’s worth of music being compiled it would be a treasure trove worthy of a lifetime’s recognition. But it is not, Carroll has been quite prolific, releasing music regularly, all of it over-the-top exceptional. It is a testimony of his talent, imaginative creativity and his knowledge of music history, be it blues, folk or various forms of roots, that make up the huge cauldron behind his repertoire.  

The majority of the input of the three albums are his own original material, with a few traditionals and covers offered on the first disc. Almost all of it is recorded acoustically, with the exception being “Burning Hell.” The song’s fuzzy overtones on both his instrument and the recording of his voice bring to mind the rawness of North Mississippi Hill Country music from the likes of Junior Kimbrough or RL Burnside. 

Carroll’s playing rivals any of the bygone masters. His vocals are immediately recognizable. Flat out, he is an overlooked genius when it comes to songwriting and performing. Easily one of the very best of his time. 

Available individually at Jodycarroll.bandcamp.com 

Volume One: 38:30 

Fishing Blues / The Train That Carried My Girl From Town / Wildwood Flower Field / The Cuckoo / Why She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye / Columbus Stockade Blues / Elk River Blues / Up In Illinois / North Land / Burning Hell 

 

Volume Two: 41:19 

Hear That Whistle Blow / Cairo Lost In Time / Even When She’s Not There / Long Gone Train / Throw Me Down / Lost Within Your Lies / The World Of The Blues / Waiting For A Sign From Above / Nightlife / My Soul Is Going Home 

 

Volume Three: 41:25 

The World Of Man / Moonshine / Jimmie Moore’s Blues / Oh The River Oh the Sea / Heaven Knows / Hard Times In The Valley / The return Of The Last Gunfighter / Lazy Ol’ River / Promise Land / Lafayette Locks On The Fourth Of July 

 

Kirk Fletcher - My Blues Pathway

Kirk Fletcher 

My Blues Pathway
Cleopatra Blues 

Review by Greg Johnson 

If you were to sit down and ask people about who they felt were the most impressive guitar players in the blues world today, you just might find a long list at hand. But more than likely, you’d find Kirk Fletcher’s name prominently on most of those lists. He garnered attention while working with bands like The Fabulous Thunderbirds and The Mannish Boys, but if you heard his last previous disc, Hold On, you’re already aware that he has a lot to say on his own. My Blues Pathway confirms this. Whether Fletcher is performing his own material or covering somebody else’s songs, he delivers with soulful vocals and stunning guitar work. And it comes across with his own passionate signature performance on each. 

He is joined by Robert Cray bassist Richard Cousins for the recording, who also lends a hand in writing a couple of songs, “No Place To Go” and “Love Is More Than A Word.” The rest of the band behind Fletcher includes bassist Travis Carlton, keyboardist Jeff Babkos, drummers Lemar Carter and David Kida, plus horn work from Joe Sublett on sax and Mark Pender on trumpet. The album closes with Fletcher teaming up with harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite and guitarist Josh Smith on the acoustic number, “Life Gave Me a Dirty Deal,” written by Juke Boy Bonner. 

Six of the 10 pieces are originals, with the remaining covers being Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Fattening Frogs For Snakes” where Fletcher shines on his guitar with a song written to showcase Sonny Boy’s harmonica;  Chris Cain’s “Place In This World Somewhere;” and AC Reed’s “I’d Rather Fight Than Switch.” His self-written numbers are exceptional as well. Standout offerings include his tribute to one of his guitar heroes, Denny Freeman, “D Is For Denny;” heartbreak in “Heart So Heavy;” and the autobiographical “Struggle For Grace.” 

Kirk Fletcher is destined to become one of the renowned masters of blues guitar if he isn’t there already. The Hold On album reaped numerous nominations for various awards. My Blues Pathway follows right along in its footsteps and beyond. Expect more accolades coming Kirk Fletcher’s way here. 

Total Time: 45:34 

Ain’t No Cure For The Downhearted / No Place To Go / Love Is More Than A Word / Struggle For Grace / Rather Fight Than Switch / Heart So Heavy / Fattening Frogs For Snakes / Place In This World Somewhere / D Is For Denny / Life Gave Me A Dirty Deal 

 

Paul Boddy and the SlideWinder Blues Band

Paul Boddy and the SlideWinder Blues Band

Friends of Tuesday
Slide Records

From the downbeat of the first song on this EP – “Over the Hump” – you know you’re in for a bumpy, but fun, ride. And while this is the first album for Paul Boddy and his irreverent SlideWinders, it sure ain’t their first rodeo. 

The band from Doylestown, Pennsylvania  — just outside Philadelphia – takes its name from a weekly open blues jam (“The Every Tuesday Funk ’n’ Blues Jam”) that started at a club in their hometown. But all the members of the band have earned their own names by years of hard work and paying their blues dues: 

n     The British-born Boddy (vocals and guitar) grew up listening to his grandmother singing in London blues clubs, enjoying family barbecues with the Bay City Rollers and sitting in while his uncle’s band – which included a guitarist who went on to join Judas Priest – rehearsed in a warehouse. And Boddy’s dad worked with Mark Stevens of The Dovells and the late Don Kirshner. In addition to founding Cayman Records in 1999 and producing Bob Lowery’s “Yellow Light” album, Boddy has put in 40-plus years of performing, writing and recording music in multiple genres. 

n     Lori Gaston, whose vocals wrap nicely around Boddy’s, started singing in a funk band at 16, and she hasn’t stopped moving since. She’s jumped in and out of disco and R&B bands until joining the SlideWinders three years ago. 

n     Organist and pianist Glenn “The Wizard” Hale, uncle of Lzzy and Arejay Hale of rock’s Halestorm band, has played music across the country for half a century. 

n     Bassist Chip Hearne, a SlideWinder since 2018, adds another half-century of performing experience, including two decades with the Flamin’ Harry Blues Band and the Craig Thatcher Band. He also laid down the bass line for Leslie West’s “Mystic Fire” album. 

n     And drummer Dave Hollinsworthwho joined the band last year has toured with Todd Wolfe, performed with Leslie West and Geoffrey Whitehorn of Procol Harum, and sat behind Dickey Betts, John Mayall and Wishbone Ash’s Andy Powell. 

With Boddy’s bawdy vocals leading the way, the Slidewinders roll through five songs that’ll have you turning up the volume and hitting replay more than once. 

The album is full of the time-honored blues tradition of all-in-fun double-entendre lyrics (“I might be over the hill, but I’ll never get over the hump”) and titles (sorry, kids, but “Pretty Kitty” isn’t really about a cat), and the polished, lively sounds jump right out of the box. 

Tight rhythms, cinched up with the steady hands of some seasoned pros, make this one an out-of-the-chute champ. 

Count us in as some of Tuesday’s closest friends. 

Total Time: 20:18 

Over the Hump / Love Me Darlin’ / Money On Love / Knock My Boots / Pretty Kitty / Makin’ Me Cry 

 

Lloyd Jones - Tennessee Run - VizzTone

Lloyd Jones 

Tennessee Run
VizzTone 

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

“Leftovers”
(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