Stellar performances from some of the greatest artists in blues and classic rock make this playlist a very enjoyable mix.
JOHNNY RAY JONES ~ from the album WAY DOWN SOUTH
DON’T BURN DOWN THE BRIDGE
“Johnny Ray Jones has a voice that is heavy as an anchor loaded with Blues mojo. It is soul-drenched, gravely grit covered by a velvety robe. The songs are well crafted, just like his previous offering, ‘Feet Back In The Door,’ and all the bases here are covered. Once again, he is backed by a supreme aggregate of talented musicians, many of whom are part of the Grammy Winning Phantom Blues Band.
“Two Phantom Blues Band members share production duties, which land squarely in the pair’s wheelhouse. Both guitarist Johnny Lee Schell, and drummer Tony Braunagel have years of experience in charge of steering the sailing ships on musical journeys that delight.
“The brass section is the best of the best. With saxophone star Joe Sublett, another Phantom Blues Band member, joined by the duo of Mark Pender on trumpet and Ritchie “La Bamba” Rosenberg on trombone, both members of perhaps the greatest horn band of all time: Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.
“The late, so very great, keyboard artist, Mike Finnigan, yet another Phantom Blues Band alumni adds his usual most excellent contributions. You’re getting the picture by now I trust. These musicians have the synergy of musical brothers, honed by years of touring and studio work behind Taj Mahal, and on their own.
“On “Don’t Burn Down The Bridge,” James “Hutch” Hutchinson on bass, and percussion master Lenny Castro complete the song roster, fitting snugly like the final two pieces of a crossword puzzle. The melody, the lyrics, the vocal, the killer horns, and the pocket groove prove as satisfying as getting your check on payday. Riding on top are the organ churn of Finnigan and the tasty stinging guitar of Schell. I’m here to tell you…This song is fine!!”~ RP / Vivascene
BONNIE BRAMLETT ~ from the album LADY’S CHOICE
TWO STEPS FROM THE BLUES
(w/ Gregg Allman)
“I always wanted to be a singer. I don’t remember wanting to be anything other than that.” ~ Bonnie Bramlett
Bonnie Bramlett is an extremely soulful vocalist that proudly shares her deep love for rhythm and blues every time she performs. Her second solo recording for Capricorn Records, was ‘Ladies Choice’ in 1976, produced by Johnny Sandlin.
The song “Two Steps from the Blues” was written by Don Robey and Texas Johnny Brown, and was first recorded and released by Bobby “Blue” Bland in 1961.
Two Steps From The Blues – personnel
Vocals – Bonnie Bramlett
Vocals – Gregg Allman
Guitar – Tommy Talton
Keyboards – Barry Beckett
Bass – David Hood
Drums – Roger Hawkins
Saxophone – Harvey Thompson, Ronald Eades
Trombone – Charles Rose
Trumpet – Harrison Calloway
REESE WYNANS ~ from the album SWEET RELEASE (2019)
“Let me just say, Kenny Wayne Shepherd came in the studio and was blazing from the very first song, from the very first bar, all the way through. What a performance by him. I just love the way he plays, and I was so happy to have him on this record. He played guitar on “Riviera Paradise,” played on “Crossfire,” played on “Say What,” and even sings a little bit on the Archangel song, doing pretty good for the “Shape I’m In.” So thank you very much Kenny Wayne.” ~ Reese Wynans
“Riviera Paradise,” written by Stevie Ray Vaughan, was included on ‘In Step,’ the SRV and Double Trouble release in 1989. The soulful instrumental was recorded after a full day of recording material for the album. Stevie asked producer Jim Gaines to leave the tape running and to turn down the lights. All alone, he recorded the guitar track on his Fender Stratocaster. Double Trouble added the backing later, including an organ foundation from Reese Wynans. On the sequencing of ‘In Step,’ it was the album’s closing track.
Riviera Paradise – personnel
Keyboards – Reese Wynans
Soloist [First Solo], Guitar – Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Soloist [Second Solo], Guitar – Joe Bonamassa
Guitar – Jack Pearson
Fretless Bass – Steve Mackie
Bass – Tommy Shannon
Drums – Chris Layton
Orchestrations Arrangement – Jeff Bova
Orchestrated By – The Boca Orchestra
BROTHERS BROWN ~ from the album DUSTY ROAD
DRINK YOU OFF MY MIND
“Brothers Brown are a group of four veteran consummate musicians who crafted an auspicious debut with Dusty Road on Funky Joint Records distributed by 335 Records. This brotherly effort blends strains of soulful blues, R&B, alt-country, jazz and rock and roll on twelve salient songs that keenly help define the genre of Americana Music.
“The group consists of Paul Brown (Los Angeles) on guitars and vocals, Paul Brown (Nashville) on keyboards and vocals, David Santos on bass guitar and additional vocals, and Pete Young on drums and vocals.
“Drummer Pete Young provides a distinctive lead vocal on “Drink You Off My Mind.” His voice has much of the character of mid-period Bob Dylan (Planet Waves) and Paul Brown’s organ is sublime reminding me of Al Kooper mixed with Jimmy McGriff with his cool pacing and use of “space.” Brown also adds some piano to the song for further depth. You can guess what the subject matter entails by the song’s title.” ~ RP / Vivascene
B.B. KING ~ from the album TAKE IT HOME
TAKE IT HOME
“Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but no one wants to die to get there!” ~ B.B. King
As a young man, Riley B. King served in the American army during World War II. After the war was over, he became a disc jockey in Memphis. Mr. King loved music from a young age, and his passion for singing had started as a child in the church choir. However, this passion eventually blossomed into a successful career.
B.B. King’s 1979 release ‘Take It Home’ found the blues great uniting again with members of the legendary jazz group The Crusaders, as he had on ‘Midnight Believer.’ The title track was written by Wilton Felder with Will Jennings adding lyrics.
Riley B. King, the Blues’ best ambassador, chose the final verse of this song for the epitaph on his tombstone.
“I’m playing and writing better than ever before. I can say more with less. My songs are funky and danceable and my writing is now less personal diary than in the past. I want my songs to tell universal stories.” ~ Chris Cain
“Chris Cain is a vocalist with traces of Riley B. King in his vocal inflections and his deep soul-rich voice. Cain is a most impressive, top-level guitarist possessing a full-bodied tone that resonates deep in your soul. He’s simply a great bluesman.” ~ RP / Vivascene
DION DIMUCCI ~ from the album BLUES WITH FRIENDS
BAM BANG BOOM
“I think the only thing my voice has lost over the years is the innocence. I feel like I sing better than ever now.” ~ Dion
“I perform on some of these blues cruises with Taj Mahal and The Fabulous Thunderbirds where you can really rock out. It’s great. You get all these doctors and lawyers and such and they put on wigs and really let loose. They let the music fill them mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. And they dance. Boy, do they dance.” ~ Dion
The song finds the two Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees performing the bluesy cut. The song is an ode to Dion’s wife Susan, whom the singer met in 1963.
“This is another song that started as phrases I wanted to sing. ‘I stepped into love.’ The lyric does a good job of describing what happened when I first met Susan. We were both teenagers. She was new to my very Italian neighborhood in the Bronx, and she was a redheaded transplant from Vermont. Bam bang boom!” ~ Dion
“Billy Gibbons was a joy to work with on this. There’s nobody like him.” ~ Dion
BOBBY WEIR and WOLF BROTHERS ~ from the album LIVE IN COLORADO
WEST L.A. FADEAWAY
“Back when I was a kid, people were much closer to the music. In my generation, we held music in our hearts and I’m not sure it’s that way anymore. I want to bring music back to the cultural prominence that it enjoyed when I was younger because the artistic community has something to say.” ~ Bob Weir
During his distinguished career with the Grateful Dead, Bob Weir was one of the songwriters and played primarily rhythm guitar. Also, he was the lead singer on many of the band’s Rock ‘n’ Roll and C&W leaning songs.
In 1994, Bob Weir was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Grateful Dead.
Originally on the 1987 Grateful Dead ‘In The Dark’ release, “West L.A. Fadeaway,” was written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter with Garcia handling the vocal on this semi-bluesy “semi-deep cut.” The radio hits from the album were “Touch of Grey” and “Hell In A Bucket.”
‘In The Dark’ was recorded in an unusual and experimental fashion. The band was constantly touring and had been performing much of the new material live for years. It was their calculated decision to record the basic tracks live on stage in an empty and darkened Marin Veterans Auditorium. This process gave the album its title, while also helping the band achieve a more authentic sound, something the Dead had long struggled with on their studio recordings. Later overdubs were added in the studio, which gave the album’s sound a polished sonic blended edge.
West L.A. Fadeaway – personnel
Guitar, Vocals – Bobby Weir
Bass – Don Was
Drums – Jay Lane
Piano – Jeff Chimenti
Pedal Steel Guitar – Greg Leisz
Cello – Alex Kelly
Tenor Saxophone – Sheldon Brown
Trumpet – Brian Switzer
Trombone – Adam Theis
Violin – Mads Tolling
HAMILTON LOOMIS ~ from the album BASICS
“On ‘Basics,’ Hamilton Loomis has achieved a superior standard of excellence for himself. Although at times he does show small traces of his musical influences, he is most assuredly not a musical clone. In the process of his evolution and illumination he has taken his music closer towards his already apparent R&B leanings while still possessing a soul for the blues. He steps up and epitomizes the perfect purring hum of a well-tuned Mercedes Benz. His musical sophistication mirrors that carmaker’s motto of “Defined by style, powered by innovation.”
“Another one of my favorite songs comes with “Breaking Down,” a ballad of love gone wrong. Loomis projects a smooth soulfulness in his voice; a warm, mellifluous timbre that shows he is a most capable natural singer. It’s one of his most aching and passionately pleasing renderings when he sings “feels like breaking up, when love is breaking down.” Hamilton produces a laudable guitar solo that is measured and dulcet, and to a certain degree reminiscent of the great Robben Ford. The guitar works in tandem with a beneficial basic drum framework. Astute lyrics abound, such as “hard to see the future, when you’re dwelling in the past.” The background vocals add an appealing layering, entertainingly aligning to seal the deal.” ~ RP /Vivascene
KEITH STONE ~ from the album THE PRODIGAL RETURNS
NEW ORLEANS MOONLIGHT
My favorite song on “The Prodigal Returns” release from Keith Stone is a luscious slow dance number entitled ‘New Orleans Moonlight.’ Stone’s vocal is simply superb and his mid-song guitar solo is a thing of heart-felt beauty. Elaine Foster is very striking on her lovely background vocal; and the baritone sax play of Mike Broussard is delightfully smooth. The picturesque lyrics are so vivid that you can close your eyes and picture sitting and canoodling with your sweetheart beneath the warm summer moonlight.” ~ RP / Vivascene
“New Orleans Moonlight is one of my favorites. I wrote it because I love New Orleans and the city is so beautiful in the moonlight. It’s the kind of song that was waiting to be written — a little old school with Guitar Slim, Wayne Bennett, and B.B. King overtones.” ~ Keith Stone
ELVIN BISHOP ~ from the album RED DOG SPEAKS
MANY RIVERS TO CROSS
“Many Rivers To Cross” is a well-known ballad written by reggae master Jimmy Cliff in 1969. The song inspiration came after years of poorly paid tours of Europe trying for global recognition. Crossing the English Channel to Dover in a despondent mood, Cliff wondered what more he had to do to gain acceptance.
The song has been covered by scads of artists, including memorable covers by a few of my favorite singers (Joe Cocker, Linda Ronstadt, Harry Nilsson and Eric Burdon).
“The most important lessons have been playing and recording with Elvin Bishop. I’ve learned a lot about playing live, and in the studio with him; more so than any other musician.” ~ Robert Welsh
Veteran bluesman John Németh passionately delivers the vocal with Robert Welsh assisting the melody on both piano and rhythm guitar.n By the album’s title you gotta know there will be oodles of Bishop and his trusty guitar, “Red Dog,” on display. Bishop slides along the strings on his trusty “Red Dog” to beautifully decorate the tune.
Many Rivers To Cross – personnel
Vocals – John Németh
Slide Guitar – Elvin Bishop
Guitar – Mike Schermer
Guitar – Bob Welsh
Piano – Bob Welsh
Bass – Ruth Davies
Drums – Bobby Cochran
Many rivers to cross but I can’t seem to find my way over
Wandering, I am lost as I travel along White Cliffs of Dover
KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD ~ from the album THE TRAVELER
TURN TO STONE
Twenty five years into his recording career Kenny Wayne Shepherd continues to create genre-defining blues-infused rock n’ roll. Building an enviable resume as an accomplished recording artist, a riveting live performer, and one of the most talented and distinctive guitarists of his generation, Shepherd continues to grow. He has sold millions of albums worldwide, received five GRAMMY® nominations, two Billboard Music Awards, as well as a pair of Orville H. Gibson awards, the Blues Foundation’s Keeping The Blues Alive award and two Blues Music awards.
2019’s The Traveler was packed with great songs and great musicians. I’m a fan of cleverly executed covers, and Joe Walsh’s “Turn To Stone” proved to be a standout track in my opinion. Noah Hunt provides a very fine vocal and Shepherd’s guitar is ablaze with unbelievable intensity. It provides a perfect example of a truly great song from one guitar master being executed with supreme conviction, and even perhaps improved on, by another master.
Guitar, Vocals – Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Vocals – Noah Hunt
Bass – Kevin McCormick
Drums – Chris “Whipper” Layton
Keyboards – Jimmy McGorman
Keyboards – Joe Krown
Saxophone – Joe Sublett
Trumpet – Mark Pender
GREGG ALLMAN ~ from the album SOUTHERN BLOOD
OUT OF LEFT FIELD
I hope you’re haunted by the music of my soul when I’m gone
‘Out of Left Field’ was written by Dewey Lyndon “Spooner” Oldham and Dan Penn in 1967 and was chosen by Gregg on “Southern Blood” as a reflection of his love for Shannon. It features a Muscle Shoals deep soulful sound thanks to support from The McCrary Sisters and a Gregg vocal that is tender, southern grit-filled yearning. The assist from a three-piece horn section should also be noted in this marvelous Don Was mix.
“Gregg was explaining his life and making sense of it, both for the fans who stood with him for decades, and for himself.” ~ Don Was
DEVON ALLMAN ~ from the album TURQUOISE (2013)
WHEN I LEFT HOME
“Devon Allman is a very talented guitarist, singer and songwriter who eloquently creates deep groove-filled music straight from his heart and soul. Turquoise on Ruf Records is Devon Allman’s first solo release, but he is most assuredly not a newcomer to the music business.
“Devon is writer or co-writer of ten of the eleven songs on Turquoise, displaying an ever-growing capacity to articulate his life experiences into assorted musical expressions. His introspective songwriting and superb singing are showcased to splendid advantage on this new collection of songs.
“Turquoise is produced by multi-Grammy award winning Jim Gaines, who also produced Royal Southern Brotherhood’s eponymous debut. In the Blues/Rock World, Gaines is legendary for securing the peak quality performances out of artists. The album was recorded at the Bessie Blue Studio in Stantonville, Tennessee, as well as at Ardent Studios in Memphis.
“Turquoise begins with a rock’n’rollin’ down the highway number called “When I Left Home” that includes some mighty tasty lead and swampy slide guitar from guest artist Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars, former Black Crowes). The forthright autobiographical lyrics are sung with deep passion in a rich full tone, and the tune exudes vast energy. Devon said he borrowed the title from Buddy Guy’s autobiography, a slight nod to one of the all-time greats of the Blues.” ~ RP / Vivascene