Move On
Self Produced

Lisa Mann CD coverLisa Mann’s last album, Satisfied, was one of those rising star releases that propelled her and The Really Good Band into the attention of those far out-reaching the Pacific Northwest. The numbers on that disc were prominently featured in her International Blues Challenge semi-final appearance and she has since been featured alongside pals like Diane Blue in Boston and with Karen Lovely on tours to Europe, showcased at the huge Sin City Blues Festival in Las Vegas and a short national tour called ‘Til The Wheels Come Off. So how do you follow-up on a highly successful outing like Satisfied? Why, you put together another album just as strong that will continue that steamrolling opportunity to place your name in the spotlight. You wouldn’t expect anything less from Lisa. And Move On is exactly that record.

Recorded at Portland’s Opal Studio, this is everything you know and love about Lisa Mann. Superb songwriting, exceptionally strong bass drive and those vocals that can tear at your heart-strings or kick you in the back end to get her point across. So you better pay attention. The Really Good Band is spot on throughout Move On as well. Jeff Knudson offers expressive often rocking, often funky guitar, and it’s always the definitive match for Lisa’s vocals. Michael Ballash strikes the perfect pace with his drumming. And Brian Harris throws down serious keyboard that sets the mood, adding the right amount of charisma and panache to each number he appears on.

Lisa has an enormous number of friends and admirers in the Portland musical family and she has brought in a handful of them together for this project. LaRhonda Steele, Arietta Ward, Rae Gordon and Richard Arnold are like the A-Team of go-to vocalists that compliment Lisa so effectively. Sonny Hess has teamed up with Lisa often through the years and she joins in on guitar and vocals for “The Blues Is My Medicine.” Sonny co-wrote this song with the late Paulette Davis, delivering the message that music can be a relieving, soothing and just what the doctor ordered to bring you back up from whatever may be taking you down. Former Insomniac members Alex Shakeri on keys and Dave Melyan on drums, both who have often worked with Lisa and always deliver their own distinct flavor. The harmonica work of Mitch Kashmar is featured on two numbers. One of the finest harp players on the planet, his inclusion helps bring its own unique enjoyable feel, especially on “You Don’t Know,” where Lisa comes across in a presentation that would make Bonnie Raitt jealous and Mitch offers a playful feel almost like he is channeling his inner Toots Thielemans.

Lisa’s songwriting continues to amaze. Like true blues artists she grasps at the experiences of her life and turns them into reflections that many others can relate to as well. Be they happy or sad. The title track, “Move On,” details the various things that life throws at you, but you have to learn and adapt so they do not take you down the wrong path. Two life-altering occurrences in Lisa’s life are mentioned, the death of her mother and the loss of her vocal abilities that silenced her from the summer before last, both devastating but Lisa knew that she had to overcome each to proceed with her future. On a more upbeat note is “Big Long List.” Everybody has such a list that never seems to end. Once you complete what is there, something new always arises to take its place. “I’ve Been Used” is a slow blues where Lisa growls out her pain with Jeff Knudson’s searing guitar punctuating the hurt. “Are You Lonely” is Lisa at her best in songwriting numbers that are bouncy and memorable. Something that probably often goes through her mind as either her husband or herself are usually on the road away from one another, thus the life of two musicians working in different bands. “Give You My Love” is also a heart-wrencher as she shows her love for all the world to see.

The album finishes with two tracks of note. Lisa has stated before that since first covering Little Milton on her last release, she feels compelled to do one of his numbers on every disc from now on. This time she includes one of Milton’s best known numbers “The Blues Is Alright.” The other song is a re-release of an award-winning track she put out a few years ago, “This Bitch.” An edgier song with deep-throated bass playing that still holds a lot of strength.

As Lisa Mann & Her Really Good Band start hitting the touring circuit more heavily, this is an excellent offering that displays her vocals, songwriting and performances. With continued releases as strong as Satisfied and now Move On expect more attention to be thrown upon Lisa and the band. We should be witnessing the break out of another treasure from the Pacific Northwest, one who has the goods to take on the blues world and the charm to win over fans everywhere. I guess we’re going to have to get used to sharing her with others. We’ll gladly abide.

Total Time: 51:24

Move On / Are You Lonely / Give You My Love / The Blues Is My Medicine / You Don’t Know / My Man / I’ve Been Used / Big Long List / Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby / Doin’ OK / The Blues Is Alright / This Bitch


The Holmes Brothers (photo by Mary Ellen Mark)

The Holmes Brothers (photo by Mary Ellen Mark)

The Holmes Brothers – Wendell Holmes (guitarist/pianist/vocalist/songwriter), Sherman Holmes (bassist/ vocalist/songwriter) and brother-in-spirit Popsy Dixon (drummer/vocalist) – are true treasures of American roots music. For 35 years, The Holmes Brothers’ joyous and moving blend of blues, gospel, soul, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll and country has been captivating audiences around the world. Their spine-tingling three-part harmony singing, mixing Wendell’s gruff and gravelly vocals with Popsy’s soaring falsetto and Sherman’s rich baritone, brings the spirit of gospel-inflected deep soul music into every song they perform. Equally gripping is the rhythmic foundation laid down by Sherman’s bass playing and Popsy’s drumming, perfectly complementing Wendell’s blues-soaked guitar solos and church-inspired piano playing. The band expertly blends Saturday night’s roadhouse rock and blues with the gospel passion of Sunday morning’s church service. Rolling Stone says The Holmes Brothers play “impressive, fervent country soul.” Entertainment Weekly goes farther, declaring “The Holmes Brothers are juke joint vets with a brazenly borderless view of American music…timeless and rapturous.”

The Holmes Brothers will be appearing at Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave, on Monday, June 2nd for a 7:30 pm show. Tickets are available through for $18.00 advance or at the door for $20.00 day of show. This is a 21 and over only event with mostly standing and some seating in the balcony.


Gabriel Cox
Self Produced

Gabriel Cox CD coverThere are a lot of talented musicians out there today that have come to be categorized under the heading of Americana or Roots Music. It is a broad label that encompasses a variety of music, most of it with some form of blues base behind it. Unfortunately a lot of terrific artists seem to get lost due to this, because people just cannot see the connection or because it is too diverse in the multitudes of directions that have been thrown under the heading. But there are many exceptional artists who deserve to be heard. Some perhaps like Valerie June, Bob Schneider, JJ Grey, Eric Lindell, Anders Osborne or Paul Thorn have all been able to break down the doors and have themselves heard. Hopefully, this will happen with Gabriel Cox as well.

Cox is a Salem, Oregon-based musician who draws his modern style blues in a manner that may bring to mind a number of artists who have come under the above label. He has a rock-edged flair to his all original music. It is not your traditional 12-bar blues, but it is highly interesting and catchy material. And the very first thing you’re going to notice on the opening track of his debut, self-titled album, is that the man can sing! That song “Wonderful Soul” is ear-candy that sounds as if it belongs on the radio, playing in your ear-buds, in your car, on your stereo, or wherever else you listen to enjoyable music. And it is just the first number on a recording that is excessively well produced and filled with exciting music.

Cox is more than just an adept vocalist. He is the full package. He writes his own material and plays both guitar and banjo exceptionally well. The band behind him is on target with Cox’s musical visions and help bring that rockin’ sharpness to the music. Nathan Olsen’s keyboard maneuvers lay down funkiness in the right parts and add the right sound effects matching Cox’s intense fretwork. The rhythm section of bassist Sheldon Roy and Mark Cox on percussion drives the band with energy to spare. Mark Cox also delivers fine harmonica playing on “Ricochet” that combined with the single string guitar picking and banjo add to a mystical, perhaps evil as he informs you if you want to play something one way, he is going to do it the opposite. Vocalist Kube Feuerborn pits a mighty challenge to Cox on “Real Problem” as the two exchange jabs in their “conversation, an awkward situation” as they reveal that they “real problem is you.”

There is really a lot to like about this album. The lyrics are going to find themselves rolling through your mind with several tracks that keep demanding replay over and over because they’re just that appealing. Again, do not go into this with thoughts that you’re going to hear traditional blues, this is modern and innovative. Perhaps the closest you’ll get to traditional is the closing piece “Willie Brown” that is mostly a cappella with hand clapping and foot stomping as backing that was recorded live. It is still intense with its chorus, “I ain’t no wolf, but I am howling, I ain’t no king, but I am crowned, I see angels, without a heaven, and I hear music, without a sound.”

This is an impressive debut disc from Gabriel Cox. I can foresee him making his mark easily in the roots music world with such listenable and catchy material. Well done, this is one disc that has been on constant airplay for me the past couple months.

Total Time: 63:30

Wonderful Soul / Change My Mind / Mr. No Call No Show / Ricochet / Crush / Fire And Ice / Little Birdie / Real Problem / Not My Lady / The Truth Hurts / The Lamb / What’s Your Name / Willie Brown




Do What You Want
Barrbarian Records

Tess Barr CD coverHere is proof that not all blues happening in the State of Oregon comes from along the I-5 corridor. For the past thirty years Tess Barr has been mixing things up out in the Columbia River Gorge, blending her early exposures to country & western and her love of rock in her teens into her own blues format that has made her a favorite act in the clubs around Hood River and The Dalles. Tess has recently released a new CD titled Do What You Want that should make those fans very happy and win over even more.

Do What You Want is a culmination of many years worth of work. It is almost entirely original material, with the lone exception being Junior Wells’ “Little By Little.” All are written by Tess Barr and her husband Patrik.

Opening with “I’m Gonna Die,” the song flows with a standard blues progression that is highlighted by some nice slide as Tess explains that she’s “going to die loving you, she doesn’t know why, but you’re killing her.” This is followed up by “Dead And Gone” with some very haunting slide work from Patrik for a heartening number about a past love, married too young and the relationship was rocky and didn’t last. But still despite the hurt, those memories return 29 years later once you learn that person has died. Tess’ vocals on this track are quite emotional setting the song’s mood up perfectly. On the title track “Do What You Want” I hear a little surf and 60s era garage band guitar playing, pushing the song along, once again with Tess singing about a relationship that’s incompatible, “just do what you want, you never think twice, just go out and play, let’s hope that you don’t regret it one day.” “Crimes And Sins” with its Gram Parsons’ acoustic guitar backed by pedal steel courtesy of Jeff Hulett and steady drumming from Jeff Minnick, tells the story of a young woman born to a teenaged mother and raised by her grandparents, told she was on her own at the age of thirteen. Spending her life feeling that she was to blame for the sins of her parents only to learn what a true family is from her husband and children.

There are a handful of songs on Do What You Want that have been in Tess’ repertoire for some time. “Blues For The Avatar” is the title track to a 1996 comedy film that Tess and Patrik also starred in that was showcased at a trio of film festivals, even taking home the Silver Remi Prize at Houston’s World Fest. Another tune that has been held onto for a number of years is “Christmas Song,” originally written in 1985 that has been a holiday favorite locally for her.

Do What You Want is a very fine release that reflects Tess Barr’s diverse musical background and how it has come out through her in her blues. This is music that comes from experience and the heart. An exceptional vocalist with a band that knows exactly how to bring this original music to the forefront. So if you ever find yourself out in the Columbia Gorge area, or you see her name pop up in one of Portland’s venues, do yourself a favor and check out Tess Barr and her band. The music happens beyond the Northwest cities like Portland, Seattle, Eugene, Tacoma or Spokane and Tess Barr is living proof of that.

Total Time: 56:46

I’m Gonna Die / Dead And Gone / Little By Little / Prison Walls / Do What You Want / This Is Too Hard / I Gotta Go / Blues For The Avatar / Dealers Blues / Crimes And Sins / Don’t Cha Ever Leave Me Alone / Christmas Song



This year’s 27th Anniversary of the Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival is shaping up to be the best rhythm & blues PARTY yet!  COME SEE WHY!  The Award-Winning Winthrop Music Association presents the Festival July 18-20, 2014 at the Blues Ranch in Winthrop, Washington, nestled in the beautiful Methow Valley in the heart of the North Cascades, surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery in the Pacific Northwest.

Featuring: Charlie Musselwhite, Royal Southern Brotherhood (featuring Cyril Neville, Devon Allman & Mike Zito), Shemekia Copeland, Roy Rogers, Carolyn Wonderland, Too Slim & The Taildraggers, The Soul of John Black, The Holmes Brothers, Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble, Homemade Jamz, Chris O’Leary Band, DoctorfunK, David Vest (solo), and Lady “A” & Stan Street (our Master of Ceremonies)

Three days packed full of Rhythm & Blues!  Washington State’s largest and longest running blues festival kicks off 7:30 pm, Friday, July 18 with its early show, the “Lowdown Hoedown”, in the Big Top Tent BEER GARDEN at the Blues Ranch featuring Winthrop favorites Too Slim & the Taildraggers, The Soul of John Black, and the funky soul sounds of DoctorfunK in a special fundraising concert for The Cove Food Bank in Twisp, WA. Saturday and Sunday music starts at 11 am and runs until 2 am. On-site camping ($45 for the weekend), free showers, food and craft vendors, shade tents, and beer garden are all located on the Blues Ranch grounds on the beautiful Methow River. The Friday night Beer Garden Show is $10 or free with weekend pass. A weekend pass is $90 in advance, $100 at the gate. For complete schedule, tickets, and lodging information please visit our website You can also find us at For high-resolution photos, artist interviews and press inquiries contact Erika Olsen at 206-818-5934,

The Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival is brought to you by The Winthrop Music Association, a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation. Proceeds from the Festival help support a number of cultural and civic organizations in the Methow Valley and beyond, including The Cove Food Bank, Methow Valley School District Music Program, Little Star Montessori School, Heart of the Methow Pow Wow, Oregon Food Bank/Waterfront Blues Festival, and Washington Blues Society Musician’s Relief Fund. WMA is a member/affiliate of The Blues Foundation, Inland Empire Blues Society, Cascade Blues Association, Washington Blues Society, Methow Valley Arts Alliance. We welcome back long time festival sponsors DELTA MUSIC EXPERIENCE, Winthrop RED APPLE Market and Odom Distributing.

ramblings201306BNGreg Johnson / CBA President

The other day I had one of my co-workers stop by my little corner of the warehouse where I put together kits for the production line. As normal, I had music playing in my area. That is usually where I listen to the discs I have purchased or CDs that have been submitted for BluesNotes reviews. What I usually refer to as my homework. Anyway, the guy makes a statement, “Man, there is only so much blues you can listen to, don’t you ever get tired of it?” In short, the answer is no.

The blues has so many different directions and sounds. If you grow too tired of listening to one at any given time, there are dozens more you can choose from. Think about it. Traditional Chicago blues with Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf one day, then you can take a trip to Louisiana the next for classic R&B, a little Mardi Gras street parades or zydeco, then maybe jump to Kansas City for a bit of horns and jump blues. There’s the intricate acoustic stringwork of Piedmont, the trance hill style of North Mississippi, or the rockin’ blues of the British bands of the 60s and 70s. The West Coast has its swing feel in Southern California which is completely different than the sounds you hear from the Bay Area or the Northwest. From the Delta to the raga blues of Harry Manx, or the Brazilian music explored by Charlie Musselwhite, or even the deepest of origins stemming from Malian artists in Africa, many still performing today in areas of that country where music has not yet been banned by religious extremists trying to overtake the government. And this is only touching on a handful of many blues expressions.

The blues has grown world-wide and with each location there is a unique flavor all its own. It is the variance of interpretations, what the individual performer feels within them. It’s very personal and it’s social, or as Jimi Hendrix said, “The reflection of the world is blues,” meaning the artist tells it like it is from their own view and stance, be it happy or sad. It may be an old music in the realm of modern days, but it evolves like everything else. The catch phrase “keeping the blues alive” is a nice rallying point, but honestly the blues is not a dying art form. It has always been around and it is the birthplace of all those other popular styles of music whether they want to acknowledge it or not. Kind of like most media outlets today promoting music; it’s everything but the blues. To them I say, “Hey, the blues is not going anywhere, open your eyes and ears and give it a listen. You might actually enjoy it if you give it a chance.”

So back to my original thought. Is there only so much blues you can listen to? Of course not, there is a seemingly endless number of artists and variations of the genre. It is certainly not the only music I listen to. I have a wide open mind when it comes to listening to all types of music. I’ll give it all a chance, but like everybody else I’ll have my favorites and my dislikes. To each their own. Just don’t pigeon-hole the blues into the stereotype of being a tired old music form. If that’s the way you feel, you’re not paying attention to what is being created here and now.

Okay, I’ll step off my soapbox now.

A listing of new music received at the CBA office or purchased personally in March 2014 that should be noted:

Backpack Jones – Betsy’s Kitchen (Self Produced)
Chris Lord and Cheatin’ River – Chunkabilly Blues (Self Produced)
Debbie Bond and The TruDats – That Thing Called Love (Blues Roots Productions)
Dixie Peach – Blues With Friends (Big Shew Records)
Eddie Cotton – Here I Come (DeChamp Records)
Jim Suhler – Panther Burn (Underworld)
JJ Thames – Tell You What I Know (DeChamp Records)
Joe Louis Walker – Hornet’s Nest (Alligator Records)
John Nemeth – Memphis Grease (Blue Corn Music)
Johnny Drummer – Bad Attitude (Earwig Music Company)
Justin James Bridges – On My Way (Self Produced)
Tess Barr – Do What You Want (Barrbarian Records)
The Bluesmasters – Volume 3 (Direct Music Distribution)
Tommy Castro and The Pain Killers – The Devil You Know (Alligator Records)
Various Artists – NW Roots Uprising, Vol. 1 (Self Produced)

Rob Shoemaker - photo by Greg JohnsonIn 1951, the year Fender started selling electric bass guitars, bass player Rob Shoemaker was born in Philadelphia. Coincidence? Makes you think. When he was a kid, his family moved around, starting in upstate New York. Then to the Chicago area from 4th grade through high school. Then all over the west before finally settling in Portland in 1977 and blessing our blues music scene.

He’s been playing professionally for nearly 50 years. When asked if he always wanted to be a musician, Rob says ever since the Beatles were in the US for their first tour. “They were interviewed on television and Paul McCartney said he wanted to see Muddy Waters while the Beatles were in the United States. I already liked blues music, but never thought of playing it until the Beatles.”

Musical Influences

“My Mom was a good, serious piano player. She played every day. My parents always had classical music playing, either on the record player or the radio.”

“I was raised on Chicago radio: listened to rock and roll on WLS and WCFL; listened to blues on WOPA and WVON; listened to jazz on WGRT; and listened to classical music on WFMT. I would sit by the radio and try to play along with everything. I listened to Chuck Berry, the Ventures, the Stones, the Beatles, Muddy Waters and B.B. King, Elvis, all the Motown stuff, James Brown, the psychedelic bands like Jefferson Airplane, Sly and the Family Stone, Freddie King, Albert King, Albert Collins, Buffalo Springfield, you name it. The first bass players I tried to imitate were Bill Wyman and Paul McCartney, then I found out about Willie Dixon, James Jamerson, Jerry Jemmott, Duck Dunn, Jorma Kaukonen, and Larry Graham. I later began to listen to jazz bass players like Ray Brown, Charles Mingus, Jimmy Blanton, Milt Hinton, Ron Carter, Richard Davis, and Leroy Vinegar.”

Musical Style

When describing his own music style, Rob says, “Bass has the same role in pretty much any style of music. The bottom end defines the harmony of the song, knits the melody and the rhythm together. The bass gives the other musicians and singers the framework to build the songs around.”


Although Rob is a bass player now, he started his music training by playing French horn in fourth grade. “The band director, Mr. Koerner, was a wonderful teacher who had played trumpet in marching bands in the Army and Ringling Brothers. I learned to read music and learned teamwork in the school band. The junior high school band director, Mr. Hoffman, was just as good.”

“When I started playing bass, I had a music-minus-one Ventures record that came with a book, and I also had the Carol Kaye bass instruction books. My ears got good enough to learn which notes to play by listening to records. I watched all the live music I could so I could see what the bass players did with their hands, and I would pester bass players with all sorts of questions about what they were doing.”


Rob is the bass player on all four of Norman Sylvester’s albums, and is in the process of completing a fifth CD with him. He recently played bass on Tommy Hogan’s Howl Like the Wind album.


“In junior high and high school I was in a band called the Lonely Souls. From sophomore year on, we worked two or three nights every week and nearly every day during summer. After high school I knocked around with dozens of bands. I started playing with Kate Sullivan shortly after moving to Portland. Also played with Marvin C. Faith, Sheila and the Boogiemen, John Borroz, and Buzz Clifford, before the Norman Sylvester Band got going. I’ve played steadily with Norman for 30 years now,” Rob said.

He has played with numerous local musicians over the years, including Frankie Redding, Janice Scroggins, Dover Weinberg, Jeff Otto, Kenny Wilde, Patrick Lamb, Pete Moss, Renato Caranto, Olan Ray Nelson, Nick Christmas, Ashbolt Stewart, Jolie Clausen, Mark Weisgram, Mel Brown, and Phil Tucker.

His son, Paul Shoemaker, has been the full time drummer for the Norman Sylvester Band for the last four years. “The late Carly T. Helgerson, an excellent harp player, had a lot to do with establishing our sound in the beginning. When Norman’s oldest daughter, Lenanne, began to sing with the U of O gospel choir, he began to use her for high profile gigs. Lenanne was soon joined by her cousins, Rhonda and Estherlita Hill. Other singers include Myrtle Brown, Gretchen Mitchell, Sarah Billings and LaRhonda Steele.”

In closing

“I love this music, and I love entertaining anybody who wants to hear it.” To hear Rob play, check out the Norman Sylvester Band at one of our local venues. You’ll find more information at their website,