Where Folk Gets The Blues
Self Produced

In a city like Portland that is filled with outstanding musicians of numerous genres, Anne Weiss stands tall when it comes to overall talent and songwriting. A tremendous vocalist, she is also a multi-instrumentalist who may take on a song behind a guitar, ukulele or piano at any given moment. And she is more than exceptional at all.

Where Folk Gets The Blues is a double CD that offers two musical directions from Anne’s repertoire. Disc one is comprised of phenomenal folk selections performed by Anne mostly in a solo setting. Crafty lyrics that are worthy of top shelf literature. These songs should leave no doubt that Anne Weiss is amongst the masters of today’s folk scene.

Disc two finds Anne in a bluesy setting. Alongside more samples of her lyrical magic on original numbers, she also takes on several well-known blues classics with magnificent results. She is joined by a handful of sensational musicians throughout the offerings, including world class local performers like Mary Flower and David Jacobs-Strain. Her take on Keb’ Mo’s “Perpetual Blues Machine” strikes perfectly and she also presents new, unique and original versions of Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen” and “Love In Vain.” The lap slide work by Mary Flower on Tampa Red’s “It Hurts Me Too” truly makes the song sing. But beside the amazing covers, Anne’s original tracks are stand-outs here, such as “Looks Like Satin,” “Love Is The Dagger, “Hop In The Truck” and the beautiful “John Muir’s Brook.”

Some of the selections have previously appeared on earlier Anne Weiss CDs and there are several that were recorded live at the River Folk Festival. If you enjoy folk or blues you should find something that appeals to you on Where Folk Gets The Blues. An incredible release from an incredible artist. Anne Weiss proves that she can cross musical lines with over the top results. Where Folk Gets The Blues breathes with emotion and is a definite display of the talents of an artist who knows how to deliver music that is enjoyable and satisfying on all counts.

Total Time: 1:33:34

Mountain / Down To The Garden / Compass / Cherokee / The Good Fight / Quenching Ground / Walker’s Rag / Have Some Peace / Tomorrow’s Gate / Particles Of Rain / Day Of Celebration / Perpetual Blues Machine / Hop In the Truck / It Hurts Me Too / Come On In My Kitchen / Snowbound / Looks Like Satin / Too Long At The Fair / Walk Down The Road / The Ballad Of Mary Magdelene / Love In Vain / Love Is The Dagger / Shadow Of Doubt / John Muir’s Brook

Blues Music Awards DVD cover

This year’s event was captured masterfully by AudioGraphics Masterworks in a beautiful video production and the sound was recreated by one of Memphis’ best studios, Ardent. The line-up is a virtual who’s who of the blues world, including people like Charlie Musselwhite, Tab Benoit, Joe Louis Walker, Tracy Nelson, David Maxwell, Billy Boy Arnold, Samantha Fish and so many more.

The DVD is broken down into two sections, one for Public Broadcast airings which feature acceptance speeches mixed within the performances and the second showcasing songs from those who were nominated and collaborations onstage of exceptional pairings. Highlights have to include the rousing take by Johnny Sansone on the song of the year, “The Lord Is Waiting The Devil Is Too,” Hadden Sayers and Ruthie Foster trading verses on “Back To The Blues,” Otis Clay’s soulful “Got To Get Back” with The Bo-Keys’ horns behind him, Daniele Schnebelin’s fierce and passionate vocals on Trampled Under Foot’s “Goodbye,” Tab Benoit’s “Medicine,” Victor Wainwright’s “Big Dog’s Running This Town,” Grady Champion on “Thank You For Giving Me The Blues,” J.P. Soars’ “Doggin’” and perhaps my personal favorite of the night, the acoustic duet of Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks on “Back Where I Started.”

The Blues Music Awards is one of those events that every blues fan should make an effort to attend. Always a memorable occasion, sitting at tables with artists and enjoying great performances. There are 26 songs on the DVD (25 listed on the CD sleeve, but a track by David Maxwell was left off by mistake) covering more than two hours and 13 are included on the CD. This is merely a drop in the bucket for an event that lasted more than six hours altogether. Even if you did not have the opportunity to attend, this collection is well worth owning. Outstanding from start to finish.

This Time Another Year
self produced

This is Brandon Santini’s sophomore solo disc and he has thrown together a stellar band to work with, most notably the addition of guitarist Jeff Jensen. The pairing of Santini and Jensen has proven to be somewhat magical as Santini’s easy-going manner onstage is offset by the frenetic pace of Jensen’s guitar playing. They’re the perfect foils for one another.

Santini has an exceptional knack for writing tasteful songs with memorable instrumental catches and lyrics. The title song, a reworking of Charlie Musselwhite’s “This Time Another Year,” maintains a steady walk as Santini’s harp rolls back and forth, crisp but never overplayed, making the song totally his own. Again with Jensen the two trade off leads on the number enhancing with the right amount of fills to compliment the other. Early in his career Santini had a tendency to play like John Popper, but over the years he has matured following the path of Chicago masters like Sonny Boy Williamson or Little Walter instead. He has mastered that direction knowing that when you blow a note you make it have meaning, it does not need to be overworked. And with that sense Santini has built his own unique sound that is as easily identifiable as those aforementioned greats.

Speaking of Sonny Boy, there are two covers of his on this disc, “Bye Bye Bird” and “Raise Your Window.” They are done with glowing tribute to the master, yet also delivered with an original sound of their own at the same time. Most of the tracks are originals by the band and are quite pleasant and bluesy. I love the step-up of “Got Good Lovin’,” the slow blues of “Late In The Evening” and the frivolity of “Fish Is Bitin’” co-written by Jensen and bassist Bill Ruffino. Jeff Jensen rises to the forefront with his sensational playing on “Dig Me A Grave”.

The band, besides Jeff Jensen, includes the aforementioned Bill Ruffino, who like Jensen departed from the West Coast to Memphis where he teamed up with his former bandmate. On drums is longtime Memphis musician James Cunningham who has worked with Robert Nighthawk Tooms and Mike Forrest in various band formats, including the Wampus Cats and the Eric Hughes Band. Making a guest appearance on three numbers is Victor Wainwright including “What You’re Doing To Me” which he co-wrote with Santini and Jensen. The band also covers one of Wainwright’s pieces, “Coin Operated Woman.”

I first met Brandon Santini many years ago, introduced by mutual friend Billy Gibson. At the time Gibson was working seemingly constantly on Beale Street, earning the moniker “The Prince of Beale Street.” Gibson is not as common a sight on Beale anymore, but Santini has surely taken on the role himself. You can find the band working the clubs several times a week. Perhaps it is time to pass the title from Gibson to Santini. A more worthy successor would be hard to find. Brandon fits it nicely. And This Time Another Year supports the claim.

Total Time: 53:33

Got Good Lovin’ / This Time Another Year / What You Doing To Me / Late In The Evening / Dig Me A Grave / Bye Bye Bird / Things You Putting Down / Been So Blue / Coin Operated Woman / Help Me With The Blues / Raise Your Window / Fish Is Bitin’

Long Walk Home
Delta Groove

Jump ahead two months. Kevin & The Tornadoes had just completed a stellar set at the Waterfront Blues Festival featuring many of the same cats from the new album on stage with them. I was sitting in the VIP area with Tornadoes bassist Allen Markel and his wife Lisa Mann as I noticed Kevin across the way in conversation with Delta Groove boss Randy Chortkoff. Kevin soon walked over with a grin on his face. “You just got signed, didn’t you?” I asked him. He didn’t need to say anything. By the way his face lit up even more I knew he had. And why not? A good portion of those appearing on the album, like Mitch Kashmar, Gene Taylor, Doug James and even Tornadoes drummer Jimi Bott had all been on Delta Groove releases in the past. It was a natural fit with its traditional blues flavored by with a little West Coast flair.

 The album, Long Walk Home, is by far the finest moment in Kevin Selfe’s songwriting abilities yet. The guest artists are a nice touch, but in reality it is the core group of The Tornadoes, Kevin with Allen and Jimi, that make this all come to life. The tracks are filled with gritty down home guitar work that takes you to the swamp or to the back alleys and even a little resonator thrown in for good measure. You can sense the Louisiana bayou come through on something like “Midnight Creeper” or “Too Much Voodoo.” You can feel the impact of Elmore James and Hound Dog Taylor on the slide piece “Put Me Back In Jail.” The pulsations of “Duct Tape On My Soul” and “Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool” delivers prime Kevin Selfe creations that have been primed for some time in his live performances. And his writing also makes you wonder about his luck with the opposite sex as he relates tales of the woman who breaks up after having him pack her things and moving her into a new home (“first you broke my back, then you broke my heart”) on “Moving Day Blues,” the “Dancing Girl” who shakes it with all those guys right in front of him while he plays, a little bit too provocative for his taste, and the girl who shows up after he’s been waiting for her to come home all night long whose clothes aren’t on just right and she’s “Walking Funny.” The stories are first class and blues through and through.

The band is also enhanced by the sensational horn parts arranged by Joe McCarthy. Some of these pieces have long been in Kevin’s songbook, like “Moving Day Blues” and “Walking Funny.” But they take on even more life with the brass added, courtesy of Chris Mercer, Brad Ulrich, Peter Moss, Doug James and McCarthy. Mitch Kashmar’s harp on “Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool” has that same impact, as does the keyboard work by Steve Kerin and Dover Weinberg in their appearances on the disc.

This is an album sure to be counted as one of the best Northwest releases of the year, and perhaps even amongst the best everywhere. Kevin Selfe & The Tornadoes work endlessly throughout the region all year long; but with Long Walk Home I predict we’re going to see a lot less of the guys as they will be in demand far outside of the area once people get the taste of this release. Excellent is only a mild term when describing this masterful work. Bravo Kevin Selfe!

Total Time: 50:09

Duct Tape On My Soul / Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool / Moving Day Blues / Last Crossroad / Dancing Girl / Midnight Creeper / Walking Funny / Too Much Voodoo / Second Box On The Left / The Blues Is My Home / Put Me Back In Jail

Dave Mathis CD In Your Face

In Your Face

Dave Mathis has long been one of the premier harmonica players in the Portland blues scene. This new release by Mathis may be referred to as his debut recording, but it is filled with highlights from his career over the past twenty years, really only a drop in the pond for as long as he has been blowing that tin biscuit around these parts. And that career has seen him perform with some of the very best talent around.

The disc starts out with a trio of numbers with Mathis playing alongside Kelly Joe Phelps; two from past Phelps’ recordings and a third previously unreleased take on “Poor Old Mattie” from a 1993 session. These are followed by a handful of selections from Adam Scramstad’s solo release Down The Muddy Creek; a jazzy piece from Kacy Colleen; a rocking blues tune from Seattle’s Bobby Holland and the Breadline; and a pair of songs with Mathis working with Michael Osborn & the Drivers, including a superb cover of The Fabulous Thunderbirds’ “Why Get Up.” In between are a couple entries from his outstanding pairing with guitarist Steve Cameron as The Blues Police with special note to their reading of “St. James Infirmary” which is perhaps one of the finest renditions of this song on disc by anybody. There are also five cuts of live performances of Mathis working with K.G. Jackson and Papa Salty recorded at Vancouver’s The Longhorn Bar & Grill which make this collection indispensable.

Dave Mathis is a true Portland blues icon. He always blows a breath of fresh air to any track he is a part of. There may be portions of his career missing from this album, but regardless, Mathis at any period of his lengthy time amongst the blues heavyweights in the Northwest is worth hearing over and over again. This reflection is a tasty bite of what the master has to offer.

Total Time: 70:44

Screaming & Hollering / Poor Old Mattie / Piece By Piece / Louisiana Blues / Hot Rod Tracy / St James Infirmary / The Sprawl / Brother Can You Spare A Dime / Same Thing / Blues Don’t Bother Me / Woke Up Evil / One Of These Days / Ol’ Main Line / Cold Grave / Bright Lights, Big City / Why Get Up

Early last year, following the passing of the great Etta James, a tribute show was held at the Alberta Rose Theatre featuring five of the city’s finest female vocalists: Amy Keys, Duffy Bishop, LaRhonda Steele, Lisa Mann and Rae Gordon backed by the DK Stewart Sextet and Friends. That event was recorded and highlights of it have been released as a CD titled Tell Mama.

To celebrate the CD’s release, a new show has been put together which will take place at the Alberta Rose Theatre on Friday, March 15th at 8:00 pm. Returning will be the DK Stewart Sextet along with singers Amy Keys, Duffy Bishop, LaRhonda Steele, Rae Gordon and added for this event Lady Kat.

Tickets are available through www.albertarosetheatre.com and are $15.00 in advance. This is a CBA co-sponsored event and members can receive a $2.00 discount when ordering on-line by using the code CBA. Minors are okay when accompanied by a parent or guardian. The Alberta Rose Theatre is located at 3000 NE Alberta St., Portland.

Do not miss out on what is certainly going to be yet another night of incredible music in tribute to the late Etta James.

Franco and the Stingers CD cover

Franco and the Stingers CD coverI Like It Just Like That

It seems like a long time since Franco Paletta & The Stingers last released Can’t Kick Love. But the wait is more than worth the time. I Like It Just Like That is a brilliant follow-up to that disc and surpasses it immensely. Utilizing the band that he won the Cascade Blues Association’s Journey To Memphis competition and took with him to Memphis for the International Blues Challenge, this is an ensemble that fires on the right track in every direction. The camaraderie between each member enhances one another, all masterful at their respective instruments. This is by far the finest collection of musicians Franco has ever worked with. And Franco himself has never sounded better on vocals and his harp work is dynamic.

Recorded at Droolin’ Dog Records and produced by Dave Alvey, Franco Paletta and Timmer Blakely, the album is filled with catchy tracks that take on a variety of blues directions. Opening with a strong harmonica and guitar pairing on “Oh Baby” the band kicks off in fine fashion, propelled by the added horns Joe McCarthy, Scott Franklin and Jeff Homan. Jason Thomas’ guitar bites with intensity, as he does throughout the album. Steve Kerin steps to the front on the third track with delicious keyboard work. He also pounds the ivories to perfection on numbers like “I Really Want To Sing The Blues” and “Red Hot Lovers.” The rhythm of Timmer Blakely on bass and Jonathan Barber on drums is rock solid, holding the whole band together flawlessly.

Personal highlights on this album filled with great numbers has to be the R&B feel of “It Brings A Tear,” sounding as if it could’ve been lifted from a soul recording from forty-fifty years ago. The Jason Thomas penned “Livin’ The Blues Again” showcases Thomas at his slow blues guitar best; quite moody in a walking the back streets in tears type moment that can raise the hair on the back of your neck. That is followed up with another great guitar number with “Gypsy Woman.” Franco’s churning harp on the title track is joyful and plays to effect the sense of his adoration for his life’s love. And of course there is “She’s My Little Girl,” a number that has become somewhat a trademark song of the band that just gets you into the mood to dance every time it’s played.

Franco Paletta’s songwriting continues to jump leaps and bounds. His voice is growing richer with flavor and emotion, which is only made more developed with those clever lyrics he is offering. I Like It Just Like That is the finest recording The Stingers have given to us yet; and if the progression of this band keeps growing the way it is, watch out for whatever they do next.

Total Time: 50:33

Oh Baby / Born To Please / When She Do That Thing She Do / She’s My Little Girl / I Like It Just Like That / Please Baby / Livin’ The Blues Again / Gypsy Woman / Red Hot Lovers / It Brings A Tear / I Really Want To Sing The Blues

Vicki Stevens Sonny Hess CD cover

Vicki Stevens Sonny Hess CD coverBlues Alchemy

Four of the six selections are well-known covers. But in the vocal chords of Vicki, “29 Ways,” “Built For Comfort” and “Groove Me” really takes flight. A couple of Sonny’s original songs have appeared previously on her All Aces CD, but they are a nice mix to showcase the new act as well. I particularly enjoy the new version of “Lie Myself” with Vicki taking the vocal lead. It sounds incredible and even more haunting, with Kevin LaBaron handing out exceptional saxophone and Sonny’s intense guitar work is one of her best outings ever. Add to that the popping bass of Jim Hively and Kelly Pierce’s driving drums, it is the perfect ensemble of this band at work.

A fine release that makes you want to hear more of this grouping. Cannot wait to see what they do next.

Total Time: 27:55

29 Ways / Groove Me / Built For Comfort / I’m Not Leaving You / Lie Myself / Pack It Up


Linsey Alexander

Linsey AlexanderBeen There Done That
Delmark Records

Been There Done That is a sensational recording by bluesman Linsey Alexander who has worked the clubs of Chicago since moving there from Mississippi in the 1950s. It is his debut on the Delmark label, though he has released a number of solo efforts on smaller labels that probably did not get the attention out of the Windy City that this masterful artist truly deserves. Alexander is not about flash. He is not a guitarist that is going to strike out as many notes as he can in little time. This is tasty blues done right, being played by a well-toned band that completely shines on each and every track, including some well-known Chicago artists such as guitarist Mike Wheeler, keyboardist Roosevelt Purifoy and on three selections harmonica ace Billy Branch. There is also a lot of emphasis provided to the music by the LA Horns.

The music is straight forward and filled with emotion and often a little tongue-in-cheek humor. Alexander works to perfection the collaboration between his voice and the band. He throws in dashes of soul and funk with the blues, but regardless it all comes across as Chicago blues as you’ve come to know and love.

All but one of the dozen tracks had Alexander’s hand as part of the songwriting. The lone exception being Willie Kent’s number “Looks Like It’s Going To Rain,” a true highlight on the album as he pays tribute to his good friend who passed away in 2006, with The LA Horns bringing the song to life alongside Alexander’s guitar. Other tracks of note have to include “Big Woman” where he playfully sings about his over-sized girl-friend who he has to take to Lake Michigan to give her a bath and because he couldn’t buy a Cadillac she would fit into, had to buy a bus instead. But he still loves her as she “smells like butter, but tastes like cream.” Billy Branch and Roosevelt Purifoy are superb alongside Alexander’s guitar on the opening “Bad Man.” The three of them blend nicely without ever stepping on one another. The soulfulness of “Been There Done That” has a flavor that makes it sit right beside some of the very best songs of Little Milton or Johnnie Taylor. But to be honest, I cannot find a single track on this disc I do not enjoy.

Been There Done That is without doubt an album that brings out the very best of the blues. A guitarist and vocalist of top shelf form who has put in more than half a century developing his craft that absolutely excels. Double thumbs up to Delmark for bringing yet another over the top Chicago musician to the forefront. Highly recommended!

Total Time: 62:37

Raffle Ticket / Bad Man / Been There Done That / I Had A Dream / Looks Like It’s Going To Rain / My Mama Gave Me The Blues / Going Back To My Old Time Used To Be / The Same Thing I Could Tell Myself / Big Woman / Going Up On The Roof / I’m Moving / Saving Robert Johnson


Vance Kelly

Vance KellyTell Me Why: His Best 15 Songs
Wolf Records

Vance Kelly is a seasoned Chicago-based blues artist who plays some very fine guitar and has a distinctly soulful voice. Having worked around the Windy City for the past few decades, including a stint in A.C. Reed’s band, he has developed a strong fan base and has released a handful of recordings on the German Wolf label, known for showcasing often overlooked Chicago blues artists.

His latest recording with his unit The Backstreet Blues Band, Tell Me Why, is subtitled as His Best 15 Songs which notes audience favorites from his career and offers cover gems from artists such as Z.Z. Hill, Bobby Bland, Junior Parker, Sir Mack Rice and others compiled from his previous Wolf releases. There are also four newly recorded numbers including takes of Prince’s “Purple Rain” and Billy Roberts’ “Hey Joe” (best known for the cover by Jimi Hendrix). Both of these tracks truly allow Kelly to stretch out on his guitar. He can work it with a number of notes, but really draws out the emotional emphasis in everything he plays. And Kelly does not just perform covers of other musicians’ music; he’s also a capable and gifted songwriter, penning several original tracks on this outing.

The Backstreet Blues Band currently is made up of keyboardist John Walls, Mark Miller on bass and Shawn Lewis throwing down multiple instruments including drums, guitar and harmonica. But over the years, and displayed on several tracks here, Kelly has employed some monster Chicago musicians such as Big James Montgomery on trombone, guitarist John Primer, sax master Eddie Shaw and harp ace Billy Branch, among others.

This is a fine collection for anybody looking for an introduction to Vance Kelly and his soulful Chicago blues.

Total Time: 79:02

Twenty Four Hours / Wall To Wall / Foot Loose & Fancy Free / Doing My Own Thang / Members Only / I Stay Mad / Purple Rain / Drivin’ Wheel / Tell Me Why / Love Of Mine / Bad Taste In My Mouth / You Steppin’ Out / Highway Here I Come / Mustang Sally / Hey Joe