Eric Hughes Band CD coverDrink Up!
I-55 Productions

Chances are if you’ve ever spent any time on Beale Street looking for the blues, you’ve come across the Eric Hughes Band. Long time mainstays on Beale, you can usually find them in one of several venues throughout the week. His popularity amongst the performers has earned him perennial nominations as the Beale Street Entertainer of the Year. A master on guitar, harmonica and vocals, he is also a crafty wordsmith when it comes to songwriting.

Drink Up! is the fourth release from the Eric Hughes Band. It features a strong line-up of musicians alongside Eric: Leo Goff on bass, Walter Hughes on guitar and mandolin, Doug McMinn throwing down drums, percussion and congas, Chris Stephenson on keys, and Memphis legend Robert Nighthawk Tooms also on keys. The production staff is also of high note, with Brad Webb as engineer, co-producer and mixer, and Dawn Hopkins, perhaps the finest editor and mixing professional in the entire MidSouth if not the entire country.

What is truly enjoyable about Eric Hughes’ music is his ability to come at you from a multitude of directions. He opens up with the title track, “Drink Up!” done in a jumping rockabilly feel. Later on he takes a little funk flavor with tracks like “Frostina” and “Repo Man.” “That’s My Baby’s Mama,” with its pop song quality carries a memorable catch-phrase behind a Stax-like guitar groove that if you do not watch out, you’ll be singing in your head endlessly. The cover of “Going To Brownsville” opens with a very traditional Delta feel, played on a steel-bodied acoustic guitar, with the pace picking up midway through as the band joins in. And “The Ballad Of Weevil Point Willie” is a nice display of Hughes’ songwriting ability to pass on a story; this time with a little down-home setting enhanced by the mandolin work of Walter Hughes.

Eric Hughes runs fully in front of his band each and every time out. His harp work on “Blues Magician” captures the essence of his bluesy lyrics precisely, doubly enriched by tight guitar licks. And what songwriting: “I’m a blues man, I’m only happy when I’m down.” On “Frostina” he uses great imagery to describe the coldness of this woman: “combs her hair with an icicle,” “sleeps in a Fridgadaire” and “just too chilly to hold.” Now that’s cold! And visual. He tells us about the life of a bluesman , staying out all night, cigarettes and booze, now you’ve “Tested Positive For The Blues.” His doctor tells him he needs to get a little sunlight, but the only cure that there really is is to find a little loving. This song is Eric Hughes at his unique best!

Drink Up! is a terrific recording, falling quite rightfully in the Memphis mode. It is a blues album, but it has been crisscrossed by other forms of music, too. Much like Beale Street and the city itself. Eric Hughes has struck gold in his songwriting this time out and the musicianship of the band and himself are definitely reaching new heights as well. If you’re unfamiliar with Eric Hughes or the modern Memphis blues sound, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this one.

Total Time: 42:48

Drink Up! / that’s My Baby’s Mama / Blues Magician / Frostina / Tested Positive For The Blues / Mama Don’t Allow / Repo Man / Raining On Beale / Going To Brownsville / The Ballad Of Weevil Point Willie / My Baby Got A Black Cat

Dudley Taft CD coverDeep Deep Blue
Self Produced

Former Seattle-based guitarist, now living on the East coast, Dudley Taft has securely placed himself into the upper class of the blues rock pantheon. A previous grunge rock artist who started with the band Sweetwater, he has waded into the bluesy depths of the Mississippi River for its musical culture. I just never realized that it flowed into Puget Sound.

Deep Deep Blue is Taft’s sophomore release and it is definitely for fans who enjoy the likes of ZZ Top or Joe Bonamassa. Taft catches us with nasty guitar hooks and exceptional songwriting. He covers a broad range of musical journeys that even includes performing the works of Bob Dylan and Lou Reed; making their music his own fiery property when said and done. His take on “Palace Of The King” makes you wonder if Leon Russell and Don Nix originally meant the tune to be for him foreseeing the future some forty years in advance. It is every bit as exciting as Albert King’s version, and that is saying a lot.

His original numbers, eight of the eleven tracks on the disc, find noteworthy lyrics and musical interpretation, highlighting his stellar guitar with formidable backing by John Kessler on bass, Eric Robert on keys and a trio of first-class drummers, Scott Vogel, Jason Patterson and the sensational Chris Leighton.

Taft has extended the blues rock boundaries, giving it his own sense of punch and delivery that can be hard-hitting and crafty. Dylan’s “Meet Me In The Morning” catches your ear right off and setting the pace for the electric forces emanating throughout the disc. But then he can hit with a mellower number like “Wishing Well” that reminds me of some of Tim “Too Slim” Langford’s material, meshing both acoustic and electric guitars. This in my opinion is by far the best number of the album..

You may find bits that sound like the best of classical rock here, but it is all drenched heavily with a blues base. If you like blues with a bit of a bite and edge, Dudley Taft is somebody to place close heed, too. Sharp and solid licks like those on Deep Deep Blue will sink deep and grab you by the shoulders, shaking you to give them a listen. Do so! Dudley Taft has that rock edge that’ll hold on to you long after this one finishes playing. He has found his true niche. Going back to the music that originally inspired him and it is where he belongs.

Total Time: 48:52

Meet Me In The Morning / The Waiting / God Forbid / Sally Can’t Dance / Deep Deep Blue / Feeling Good Now / Wishing Well / Satisfy You / Bandit Queen / Palace Of the King / Shanks Akimbo

Coyote Kings CD cover

Coyote Kings CD coverNasty Habits & Dirty Little Secrets
Twin Lion Records

When it comes to rockin’ blues bands in Eastern Washington, The Coyote Kings are definitely within the cream of the elite. This hard-hitting trio led by Robin Barrett on sizzling guitars and Chris “Rocket” Johnson pounding the skins and Kit Kuhlmann’s pulsating bass lines add deliberation to the music scene in Walla Walla and all points beyond. When you slip in the addition of the amazing vocals of Michelle “Mush” Morgan you’ve got a recipe to turn a lot of heads taking note of this strong, tight band. Mush joined the band in 2010 and was prominently featured on their last CD, Move. This time out on the latest release Nasty Habits & Dirty Little Secrets, she captures the full soul and intensity of Robin Barrett’s lyrics, taking the band to unforeseen acclaim.

All the tracks on Nasty Habits are penned by Barrett. They are well crafted, telling stories of life’s lessons in the pains of romance and warnings thereof as well. Barrett is at his best writing the slow, grinding blues where his guitar work fills in the emotion with the singer’s voice, whether his own or Mush’s, partnering with the instrumentation driving the impact home.

Take a song like “Best You Couldn’t Do.” Mush is telling you that you’d better listen up to what she has to say about how things are between you and her. She is cold and blunt. A kiss is not foreplay. And though you did the best that you could do, it’s just not enough on your part. The lyrics are emphasized by Barrett’s stinging guitar lines.

That is followed by Barrett taking on the vocals for “Hard To Be A Man.” It is another number of love gone wrong. It’s tough to be a man with somebody like you who spends so much time lying, cheating and all those other things you do.

And yet the theme continues with another strong track featuring Mush with “Baby’s Gone.” The interplay between vocals and guitar shines once again, with Barrett’s string-work on the slow blues jarring at your heart with the emotive pain that is being expressed.

With “That Hot Daddy” the band picks up the pace. It is a fun and nasty little number where Mush is telling us to pay heed to some of those men you ladies may encounter, cause some of those hot daddys are really sharks, swimming around like a mako in the dark. Love the imagery that Barrett has created here.

“Afternoon Sun” offers a relaxed, easy going number deep with one’s feelings for their partner, where I can’t think of anything I’d rather do, than take a little rest with you. And the instrumental “Walking In The Fog” is sensational, with Barrett channeling the spirit of the late Gary Moore’s guitar style to perfection. The disc closes out with “Am I Gettin’ Wise,” where Barrett takes a little look at himself in the mirror and despite still feeling like he possesses some of his younger wild ways, he has found recovering from too much partying takes a bit more to recuperate from and temptations are becoming easier to avoid with age.

Nasty Habits & Dirty Little Secrets is a very nicely produced recording with over the top sound. The band is clearly finding their niche and it’s in a place that is quite enjoyable and welcome in the ever strong blues world of the Pacific Northwest. Watch out Walla Walla, with the Coyote Kings & Mush putting out such a masterfully crafted album like this one, your little backyard secret will most likely get out and spread like wild fire on radio stations and stages far beyond the Northwest. This album has all the goods to cause just that.

Total Time: 51:47

Nasty Habit / Best You Couldn’t Do / Hard To Be A Man / Baby Wake Up / Baby’s Gone / My Rider / That Hot Daddy / Afternoon Sun / Scary Proposition / Walkin’ In The Fog / Am I Getting’ Wise

Curtis Salgado Wins Big at 34th Annual Blues Music Awards
Curtis Salgado Wins Big at 34th Annual Blues Music Awards

Curtis Salgado Wins Big at 34th Annual Blues Music Awards

The Blues Foundation held the 34th annual Blues Music Awards in Memphis, Tennessee, on Thursday, May 9th, and the night’s biggest winner was none other than Portland’s own Curtis Salgado. Nominated for four awards, Curtis Salgado took home three, including awards for Best Soul Blues album for his incredible release Soul Shot, his third Soul Blues Artist (2010, 2012 & 2013) and the most coveted prize of the night, the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year. That third BMA is perhaps the most telling due to the tribulations Curtis has suffered the past few years with health issues that have seen him undergo a liver transplant and surgeries for lung cancer, only to dive into his recording, touring and performances with renewed vigor. All that hard work has definitely paid off and has been recognized by the voting members of The Blues Foundation.

The sole prize that Salgado had been nominated for that he did not receive was for Song of the Year for his number “She Didn’t Cut Me Loose,” which was awarded to Janiva Magness for her touching tune “I Won’t Cry.” Magness also was named Contemporary Female Blues Artist. Other multiple winners included Derek Trucks (Gibson Guitar Award and also with the Trucks-Tedeschi Band for Band of the Year and Rock Blues Album for Everybody’s Talkin’); and the late Michael Burks (Contemporary Blues Album and Album of the Year for his posthumous release Show Of Strength).

The Blues Music Awards is much more than just an awards show. It is also an amazing concert that featured 21 sets of music over a time frame of nearly eight hours. Performances by nominees and winners included burning sets by acts such as Joe Louis Walker, Royal Southern Brotherhood, Victor Wainwright, Janiva Magness, Curtis Salgado, The Mannish Boys, Heritage Blues Orchestra, Dorothy Moore and many others.

Besides the Blues Music Awards, Memphis was packed full of terrific shows surrounding the event, including jams led by Nick Moss and Brandon Santini, a 100th birthday tribute to Pinetop Perkins, and label & agency showcases from VizzTone Records and Blind Racoon amongst others.

On Wednesday night before the BMAs, The Blues Foundation also held a dinner honoring this year’s inductees into the Blues Hall of Fame. Joe Louis Walker remarked on what an honor being inducted, “”You get in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by selling a lot of records. You get into the Blues Hall of Fame by having credibility” Joe Louis Walker, Jody Williams and Otis Clay all were honored with inductions along with artists who have passed Earl Hooker, Jimmie Rodgers and Little Brother Montgomery. There were also numerous people recognized for their songs, albums, literature and music production, such as Memphis Minnie. Louis Jordan, Howlin’ Wolf, Henry “Ragtime” Thomas and New Orleans studio wizard Cosimo Matassa. For the full list of Blues Hall of Fame inductees, visit

Blues Music Award winners for 2013 were:

Acoustic Album: Not Alone – Ann Rabson w/ Bob Margolin

Acoustic Artist: Eric Bibb

Album: Show of Strength – Michael Burks

B.B King Entertainer: Curtis Salgado

Band: Tedeschi Trucks Band

Best New Artist Debut: They Call Me Big Llou – Big LLou Johnson

Contemporary Blues Album: Show of Strength – Michael Burks

Contemporary Blues Female Artist: Janiva Magness

Contemporary Blues Male Artist: Tab Benoit

DVD: Eagle Rock Entertainment – Muddy Waters & Rolling Stones, Live at Checkerboard


Gibson Guitar: Derek Trucks

Instrumentalist-Bass: Bob Stroger

Instrumentalist-Drums: Cedric Burnside

Instrumentalist-Harmonica: Rick Estrin

Instrumentalist-Horn: Eddie Shaw

Koko Taylor Award (Traditional Blues Female): Ruthie Foster

Pinetop Perkins Piano Player: Victor Wainwright

Rock Blues Album: Everybody’s Talkin’ – Tedeschi Trucks Band

Song: “I Wont Cry” written by Janiva Magness & Dave Darling – Stronger For It (Janiva


Soul Blues Album: Soul Shot – Curtis Salgado

Soul Blues Female Artist: Irma Thomas

Soul Blues Male Artist: Curtis Salgado

Traditional Blues Album: Double Dynamite – The Mannish Boys

Traditional Blues Male Artist: Magic Slim