Roomful of Blues CD cover45 Live
Alligator Records

Roomful of Blues, in honor of their 45th year as a band, celebrate by releasing 45 Live. Recorded over a three night engagement this past March at The Ocean Mist in Mantunuck, Rhode Island. Forty-five years; this is a band that just never seems to slip on by. And that is certainly great news for blues fans because this group continues to release amazing, jumping music that can set the mood for any dance party.

Vocalist Phil Pemberton holds down the lead with the band, easily gliding Read more

Lady A CD coverHow Did I Get Here?

For somebody who has spent their life in Seattle, Lady A sure has a lot of Southern feeling within her music. On her latest release How Did I Get Here? there is the gumbo-flavored essence of Louisiana and that deep-down soulful Mississippi blues. It can be quite reminiscent of the great music originating from the Malaco Records label. And her recent trips down South with the Delta Music Experience tours have left quite an impression on this artist that shows through with the songwriting that she shares in the selections with bandmates J. Oliver III and Paul Robertson. The only exceptions are “24 Carat Man” that she co-wrote with guest guitarist Teri Wilson and a cover of the Will Jennings/Nesbert Read more


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

Kirsten Thien CD coverSolo Live From The Meisenfrei Blues Club
Screen Door Records

New York City-based blues artist Kirsten Thien is most often found touring with a full band to compliment her amazing vocals, but this new release, Solo Live From The Meisenfrei Blues Club finds her baring herself alone on the German stage armed with only her guitar and voice. It is quite intimate and she has a very receptive audience. Kirsten is an engaging performer, always smiling and giving the impression that she is having a good time that is reciprocated by those in attendance.

Solo Live From Meisenfrei showcases Kirsten with numbers from her three previous releases, with focus on a handful from the last disc Delicious. Kirsten explains before going into a sensational take on Sheryl Crow’s “Leaving Las Vegas” that her definition of blues is pretty diverse, and the selections here, whether her own compositions or covers, showcases her tastes and knack for story-telling songwriting. Original numbers like “A Woman Knows,” “Thank You (For Saying Goodbye)” “Nobody’s Ever Loved Me Like You Do” and “The Sweet Lost And Found” are perfect examples of tracks that could cross-over between rock and blues genres.

She has also included a handful of cover numbers that are perfectly spread throughout her performance that enhances the show and fit nicely with her own material. They each have their own personal reason for being included, many dealing with relationships both good and bad. She explains how she often thinks about Sippie Wallace’s words about not advertising your man as she coaxes a little audience participation on “Woman Be Wise” and mentions that she has a thing for bad boys before taking on Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around And Fell In Love.” There are also superb versions of Leon Russell’s “I’d Rather Be Blind” and Bob Dylan’s “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry.” And she finishes her show with a medley of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” mixed with B.B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone” that leaves the crowd ecstatically pleased.

Solo Live From Meisenfrei Blues Club is very enjoyable performance from an artist that knows how to capture an audience and proves she can do just that with or without her band. She makes the crowd feel as if they’re sitting in their own homes witnessing a private performance. It is personal and heartfelt, a very welcome release from Kirsten that will be highly valued by anybody who has ever attended one of her shows before. And for those who have not had that pleasure, it’ll have you writing that down on your bucket list for certain.


Total Time: 1:10:08

Hold Onto Me / A Woman Knows / Thank You (For Saying Goodbye) / You’ve Got Me / Wild Woman Don’t Have The Blues / The Sweet Lost And Found / Ain’t That The Truth / It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry / Please Drive / Leaving Las Vegas / Nobody’s Ever Love Me Like You Do / Woman Be Wise / Fooled Around And Fell In Love / I’d Rather Be Blind / Medley: Ain’t No Sunshine – The Thrill Is Gone




Southern Hospitality CD coverEasy Livin’
Blind Pig Records

There have been many attempts over the years to put together “super groups” of multiple talented artists. Sometimes they work and other times not. Southern Hospitality were three good friends who were performing at an event with their own individual bands when they happened to be placed on stage with one another and really dug what they heard. Damon Fowler, J.P. Soars and Victor Wainwright liked it so much that they decided to do some tour dates with each other and to release a recording. That recording, titled Easy Livin’ is an outstanding collection that proves these guys should be playing together. And though it may not be in their own individual styles necessarily that you’d hear each of them at their own shows, it is a fantastic blend of all things that are good in Southern music.

Fowler and Soars each offer monstrous guitar work and Wainwright just might be the finest piano playing bluesman going these days (as recently noted by his being named the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year at the Blues Music Awards). Filling out the band are bass player Chuck Riley from Damon Fowler’s band and drummer Chris Peet from J.P. Soars outfit. Fowler works quite a bit on the disc on lap-slide guitar which delivers some really fine flavor to the mix.

The song selections are reminiscent of great Southern artists ranging from The Allman Brothers to Jerry Lee Lewis to Little Feat to Paul Thorn. It encompasses R&B, soul, gospel, country and jazz all within its own blues takes. The guitar playing on Willie Bobo’s “Fried Neck Bones and Home Fries” is inspiring with Wainwright laying down killer organ passages. Other tracks catching my attention are “Long Way Home” that captures J.P. Soars at his finest on slide with his vocals which are nearly Howlin’ Wolf-like, the frivolity of the western swing piece “Mile After Mile” that sounds very much like a tune you’d expect from Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks with a fun little whistle thrown in during each chorus that’ll have you smiling, Wainwright’s boogie intensity alongside Fowler’s lap-slide and Soars’ quick guitar pace on “Don’t Boogie Woogie” is sheer enjoyment, and the closing beauty of the trio on “Sky Is What I Breathe” accompanied by a lone guitar, it reminds me somewhat of Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks’ song “Back Where I Started” with its ability to set emotions loose in its pureness.

While Southern Hospitality is a collection of outstanding blues artists in their own right, they have discovered a powerful arrangement here as a collaboration. This is one super group that I would love to hear more from. Easy Livin’ is a modern Southern classic. Not a blues classic, not a rock classic . . . just a classic all-around recording no matter what form of music you prefer. Thumbs up for a stellar disc!


Total Time: 60:40

Southern Livin’ / Long Way Home / Kind Lies & Whiskey / Mile After Mile / Certified Lover / Fried Neck Bones And Home Fries / Shoestring Budget / Don’t Feel Like Going There Today / Come Back Home / Powered For The Mountain / Don’t Boogie Woogie / Sky Is What I Breathe


Too Slim & Taildraggers CDBlue Heart 
Underworld Records

Tim “Too Slim” Langford has always been a fan favorite here in the Pacific Northwest as well as on the touring road. As of late, I just cannot fathom Langford doing anything wrong and that just might include his recent relocation to Nashville. Hate to see him move from the area, but if he is going to produce impressive new recordings like this latest release, Blue Heart, then all the more power to him. His previous two discs still receive a substantive amount of airplay in my car and at home, the brilliant Blues Music Award nominated Shiver and the solo project Broken Halo. I know that Blue Heart is going to be added into that mix right away.


One of the best moves that Langford made in Nashville is hooking up with studio wizard Tom Hambridge, who also takes a position behind the drums on the new album. Hambridge is a master, whatever he seems to be part of in the studio has been turning to gold as of late, working with people like Buddy Guy and James Cotton to name but two. There are other big name guests dropping by to lend their craft, including vocalist Jimmy Hall who also provides a little harmonica on the song title track and keyboard man Reese Wynans. The band is completed by bassist Tommy MacDonald and Rob McNelley on second guitar.


The music on Blue Heart is what you would expect from Too Slim & The Taildraggers. It is killer knock-your-lights-out guitar as only Langford can deliver. He may come at you with a little swampy feel as on “Blue Heart” or “Wash My Hands,” with a pure Chicago-drenched guitar such as “Good To See You Smile Again” with Jimmy Hall behind the mic, the rockin’ power of “Shape Of Blues To Come” or the acoustic slide on the closing “Angels Are Back,” but it is all awesome and completely originally penned material by Tim Langford.


Okay, so maybe we didn’t want to share Too Slim & The Traildraggers with the rest of the world. We wanted to keep him tucked up here in the Northwest where we can easier boast of his talents. But by God if he is going to move away, let him be heard by the masses. Listen up to all of those who may not know of Tim Langford (and if you are a true follower of the blues that should not be too many of you), Blue Heart is an album that is set to render your blues-rock taste-buds on notice. Spicy, sizzling hot guitar by one of the best players in the business.



Total Time: 49:26


Wash My Hands / Minutes Seem Like Hours / Blue Heart / Make It Sound Happy / Good To See You Smile Again / When Whiskey Was My Friend / If You Broke My Heart / New Years Blues / Shape Of Blues To Come / Preacher / Angels Are Back



Knockin’ Around These Blues
Delta Groove

When it comes to traditional Chicago style blues, pairing John Primer and Bob Corritore is a natural fit. The kind of match that Louis Jordan would’ve said goes together like beans and cornbread.

John Primer is a legendary guitarist on The Windy City scene, having cut his teeth behind the likes of Muddy Waters and Magic Slim; as well as building his own illustrious solo career. If you’re looking for one of the deepest, down in the alley blues guitar heroes, you need look no further than John Primer.

And although Bob Corritore may have spent the past three decades in Phoenix, make no mistake, this man was raised in Chicago and knows more than just a thing or two about delivering the greasy goodness of his hometown’s sound on the harmonica.

Knockin’ Around These Blues is a long time coming disc featuring these two masters together for the first time in a studio setting. There is no question they’ve obviously stood side by side on stage throughout the years, thrilling audiences with their satisfying interactions. So putting that magic together in something you can take home and enjoy eternally is a true blessing.

Most of the tracks found on this album are covers from the blues world’s best. Songwriters like Willie Dixon, Little Walter, Jimmy Reed, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Robert Lockwood Jr. But these numbers are not necessarily always the most-known and often overplayed selections from those greats. And when thrown into the hands of Primer and Corritore, you just do not care who wrote them anyway, because they come out alive and kickin’, gonna make you say “oh yeah!”

Delta Groove always has the know-how to combine their musicians with the absolute best artists to back them. Nothing different here, either. How can you argue with a stable of side-musicians that offer Billy Flynn and Chris James on guitars; Bob Stroger and Patrick Rynn on bass; Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith and Brian Fahey on drums; plus Barrelhouse Chuck on keys?

Chicago blues are certainly jumping with Knockin’ Around These Blues. It is a superb collection of that classical blues sound. Really hoping that this pairing develops into a partnership churning out more discs together. Very appetizing indeed!

Total Time: 55:34

The Clock / Blue And Lonesome / When I Get Lonely / Cairo Blues / Leanin’ Tree / Harmonica Joyride / Little Boy Blue . Just Like I Treat You / Man Or Mouse / Going Back Home

McCrary Sisters CD coverAll The Way
McCrary Sister Production

If you love vocal harmonies, you’re going to be hard pressed to find anything finer than The McCrary Sisters. This Nashville-based group of siblings (Ann, Deborah, Regina and Alfreda) are the daughters of renowned Reverend Samuel McCrary who was a member of The Fairfield Four, where they were exposed first-hand to the best in gospel. And it paid off beautifully. Their voices carry the influence of their gospel background and delve deeply into rock, soul, country, R&B and all forms roots, all of it quite satisfying no matter what denomination you may follow.

All The Way is the second release by The McCrary Sisters and it is filled with incredible soul-bending music that highlights the perfect harmonization of the four. Plenty of messages abound in tracks like “Let It Go,” “Skin Deep,” “You Can Make It” and “Come On.” There is not a song found here that will not lift your spirits with the various approaches they take, such as slide blues guitar of “Hum And Moan,” the funkiness behind “Victory” or the rocking drive of “Train.”

There is a lot of emotion and passion in the sisters’ delivery. This is an album that will have you jumping and testifying. Wonderful voices meshed in astounding presentation. The McCrary Sisters have that sense of musical bond that can only come from a lifetime of singing together and it shines clearly on this amazing recording.

Total Time: 55:15

Come On / Train / Skin Deep / Let It Go / Hum And Moan / Right Where You Are / Hello Jesus / Victory / You Can Make It / The Ways Of The World / Talk To You / All The Way