California Honeydrops CD coverLike You Mean It
Tubtone Records

Since their initial release, the Blues Music Award nominated Soul Tub, and despite line-up changes since, The California Honeydrops continue to grow as one of the West Coast’s leading party-enhancing outfits. Their style of blues incorporates soulful and funky rhythms, making it quite easy to shake your booty, too. In fact, they seem more like a displaced New Orleans band with their Mardi Gras second line approach to much of their material. Perhaps it’s the grooving horn lines on trumpet and sax intermixed with some tasty keyboards that does that trick. But it is all in the name of a good time, which The California Honeydrops bring in abundance.

Like You Mean It is the band’s fourth release and I love the way the record opens up with that lonesome whistle working its way into the happy go lucky number “Here Comes Love.” The track is a classic example of pure California Honeydrops, with second line beats, trumpet and vocal Read more

Hank Shreve Band CD coverI’ve Had It
Boogie Boss Records


I’ve Had It is the debut release by the Hank Shreve Band, winners of the Cascade Blues Association’s Muddy Award for Best New Band in 2012. It is exactly what you were hoping for. Fast paced rhythms being driven by a terrific band with Hank front and center on voice, keys and razor-sharp harmonica. There is jumping blues and some mighty fine soulful tunes throughout a very nicely produced recording.

Hank Shreve was influenced immensely on the Mississippi saxophone by the likes of Paul deLay and Norton Buffalo and those impressions are quite noticeable in his performances. He has mastered that authentic deLay sound that is not the easiest approach on harmonica and there are not many who can master it as well as Hank. He also proves himself exceptionally well on keyboards and drums. The band is very tight, featuring his father Bill Shreve on bass, vocals and offering some tasteful songwriting of his own. Stan Welsh on guitar and Skip Jones fill out the band and there are also guest appearances by drummer Tim Donahue and Eugene’s legendary saxophonist Paul Biondi.

Song selections are mostly originals that most people who have followed Hank’s career starting with the Ty Curtis Band and then into his own solo foray will instantly recognize from his live performances. Numbers like his own composition’s “Boogie Boss” and “Real Kinda Thing,” along with covers of Roy Brown’s “Lollipop Mama” and K.C. Douglas’ “Mercury Blues” have long been staples in his set-lists. Newer tracks like the rock-blues of the title track “I’ve Had It” with its fine keyboard and guitar work and the New Orleans street parade-like “Street Light” are definitely shining pieces to the band’s repertoire. Stan Welsh’s guitar work really shines on the slower blues “Lover’s Holiday,” a piece co-written by Bill Shreve, who penned three of the songs on the album. I’ve Had It closes out with a Welsh-written instrumental shuffle “Sugar Bee Boogie” that highlights everybody in the band; a great way to close out this exceptional collection of music.

I’ve Had It may be a debut release, but it comes across as if this band were old hats in the studio with one another. Clearly one of the finest recordings to originate from the Northwest yet this year. Expect to find it on many best of lists at year’s end. Definitely a winning release from a band that is set to bring us all to attention very quickly.


Total Time: 46:31

Boogie Boss / I’ve Had It / Lovely One / Street Light / Lollipop Mama / I’m Good / Lover’s Holiday / Help Me Out / Real Kinda Thing / Tell Me Why / Mercury Blues / Sugar Bee Boogie

James Cotton CD coverCotton Mouth Man
Alligator Records


One may argue the point, but in the long run it’d be fruitless. James Cotton is the most important blues harmonica player on earth today. His is a lengthy and storied career that has seen him work with the greats of the genre like Muddy Waters flowing into a brilliant solo path of his own. Even today, in his late 70s, he still blows fiery harp licks with the best of them.

Cotton’s newest release, Cotton Mouth Man, is sensational. Released by Alligator Records, this disc finds Cotton reminiscing about his life in story and song. Produced by one of the best in the business, Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, Susan Tedeschi, Joe Louis Walker, etc), in Nashville, the project features some of the top in the business performing with him. From his touring band there is vocalist Darrell Nulisch, guitarist Tom Holland and bassist Noel Neal. Others appearing on the disc include Keb’ Mo’, Ruthie Foster, Joe Bonamassa, Gregg Allman, Warren Haynes, Chuck Leavell, Delbert McClinton and Colin Linden. A virtual who’s who in the blues world. Hambridge, besides producing this excellent recording, has his hand mixed in throughout as both a drummer and as songwriter on all but one tune.

Cotton Mouth Man is pure traditional Chicago-styled blues brought at its best. There is plenty to be excited about here, with personal favorites opting for Ruthie Foster’s passionate vocals on “Wrapped Around My Heart,” the driving force behind “Midnight Train” with Gregg Allman and Chuck Leavell, Keb’ Mo’ singing about the “Mississippi Mud and the hardships of working in the Delta also enhanced by superb piano from Leavell, and Darrell Nulisch taking the forefront on selections “He Was There” explaining about Cotton’s part in the heyday of the 50s-60s blues scene in Chicago and the presence of those “Young Bold Women” and what they can do to your brain, driving you insane.

Though James Cotton’s vocals abilities have been lost some years back due to throat cancer, he still brings forth a strong outing behind the mic on the closing number, “Bonnie Blue,” an acoustical duet with Colin Linden providing stunning slide guitar. It is a compelling and gripping piece to leave you believing James Cotton is indestructible, no matter what is thrown his way.

Whatever you do, never count James Cotton down for the count. There is still a great deal of fire within his soul that promises we have not seen the last of him. Cotton Mouth Man is certainly testimony to that. Among the blues releases in 2013 to date, this one must be considered indispensable. You need this in your collection. Outstanding!


Total Time: 48:58

Cotton Mouth Man / Midnight Train / Mississippi Mud / He Was There / Something For Me / Wrapped Around My Heart / Saint On Sunday / Hard Sometimes / Young Bold Women / Bird Nest On The Ground / Wasn’t My Time To Go / Blues Is Good For You / Bonnie Blue