We start off with the classic duo of Pinetop Perkins and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and end with Derrick Procell in this diverse blues playlist that spans the decades.
PINETOP PERKINS & WILLIE “Big Eyes” SMITH ~ from the album JOINED AT THE HIP
EYESIGHT TO THE BLIND
“Eyesight To The Blind” is a classic Blues song written and first recorded back in 1951 by Sonny Boy Williamson II. It has been skillfully covered by numerous blues artists since. Some very nice renditions have been offered up by Eric Clapton, Gary Moore, and Aerosmith to name just three over the years.
The version presented on the Grammy winning Joined At The Hip is a joyful ensemble romp with some of Chicago’s finest musicians onboard for the ride. Pinetop Perkins on piano and Willie Smith (blues harp) share the vocal and drive the song like champs on their respective instruments. The engine room of Kenneth Smith on drums and Bob Stroger on bass are stellar, as are the guitars of John Primer and “Little” Frank Krakowski.
They all work together like a Gold Medal Olympic rowing crew. When each instrument takes its turn in the spotlight the result reaches deep down to your Blueslovin’ soul.
Lord, ain’t she pretty, and the whole world know she fine!”
Every time she start to loving, she bring eyesight to the blind.
ERIC CLAPTON ~ from the album OLD SOCK
“Born in 1945 in rural Ripley, England, Eric Clapton received his career calling to become a professional guitarist at an early age. After unearthing the works of the master bluesmen and heeding their lessons his life’s course was set. He later would add the skills of songwriter and vocalist to his repertoire. Through the years he has traveled many diverse musical roads and mastered many different styles, always displaying an unvarying level of craftsmanship along with an ability to deeply stir the emotions of others with his great gift. He remains indisputably one of the greatest and most influential guitarists of all time with a distinctive sound that is all his own.
“For his new release Old Sock, Eric Clapton has left the major labels for the liberating comfort of his Bushbranch imprint of the Surfdog label. If you recall “Hello Old Friend” from Eric’s No Reason To Cry, that song’s vibe is very much present here. Eric says hello to many of his old friends who have greatly assisted him on past recordings and tours through the years. These friends include Henry Spinetti, JJ Cale, Chris Stainton, the inimitable Steve Gadd, Willie Weeks, Tim Carmon, Steve Winwood, Jim Keltner, and Doyle Bramhall II. Much of the record consists of Clapton’s covers of some favorite songs of enduring popularity, with three of these pulled from the 1930s. In ways Old Sock recalls his time spent with Delaney and Bonnie when the music was played for the pure love of it. This album reflects the matured Clapton, enjoying life and making music for his own gratification.
“JJ Cale’s previously unreleased “Angel” gets fortification from JJ Cale on vocals and guitar. As in the past, Clapton truly shines on Cale’s material, with it strongly paralleling his own. EC has enjoyed huge triumphs covering the Cale songs “After Midnight” and “Cocaine.” The twin guitars of Clapton and Cale are understated, but attractive in their interplay, with beautiful spirited tones in attendance.” ~ RP / Vivascene
QUINN SULLIVAN ~ from the album MIDNIGHT HIGHWAY
“I want to make music that moves people. That is the definition of success to me.” ~ Quinn Sullivan
Quinn Sullivan has been touring the globe since he was just an eleven years old child prodigy guitarist. He began by sharing the stage with his mentor and hero, the living legend Buddy Guy.
Quinn Sullivan’s third studio album, ‘Midnight Highway,’ was released in North America on January 27th, 2017. It was produced by Tom Hambridge. The entire album is great, but the closing song, “Buffalo Nickel,” is extra-great. It’s an instrumental written by Tom Hambridge and, to me, I hear echoes of past late guitar greats Duane Allman, Toy Caldwell, and Jerry Garcia at different points of the song.
MUDDY WATERS ~ from the album HARD AGAIN
“Yet another Hard Again powerhouse ensemble track is “Crosseyed Cat” with aggressive piercing guitars, blues harp blowing, and piano runs accompanying Willie “Big Eyes” Smith’s traditional Chicago Blues shuffle style drum work. Willie held the position of drummer in Muddy Waters band from 1961 to mid ’64, and then again from 1968 to 1980. A brief side note: Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and Pinetop Perkins had a wonderful blues recording called Joined At The Hip a couple of years ago, released right before Perkins’ death. Willie shows off his harmonica and vocal expertise on it, another very highly recommended release.
“On Hard Again James Cotton and Johnny Winter both soak each song with incredible blues riffs. And at sixty-plus, an age when most have retired to the rockin’ chair, Muddy’s vocals are as full of attitude and as saucily cool as at any time in his illustrious career. There’s simply not a less-than-stellar performance in the bunch; not a weak moment anywhere on the record. A good analogy might be made by comparing Muddy Waters to a super-talented ball-player (Larry Bird comes to mind, showing my age) who continually makes those around him better. Muddy inspires those around him to provide their tip-top performances, and a tip of the hat to Johnny Winter for convincingly capturing it so perfectly for posterity.” ~ RP / Vivascene
“Playing with Muddy was excellent. I loved it. I loved him as a musician and I loved him as a person. It was the most fun I ever had. He was a big influence on me.” ~ Johnny Winter
“The legacy that Muddy Waters left behind is the stuff of legend, making timeless music, universal in its power to touch and move us deeply. Hard Again is one of the bricks that built that formidable and legendary wall. If there ever were an essential blues record, this is it.” ~ RP/ Vivascene
THE BEAT DADDYS ~ from the album HOODOO THAT WE DOO
THE BLUES CAN HEAL YA’
“The Beat Daddys conjured up a potently heady blues music incantation with their 2015 release entitled hoodoo that we doo on Melrose Hill Records. The nucleus of the group was long-time friends and Beat Daddys co-founders Larry Grisham and Tommy Stillwell; both truly crafty songwriters.”
“The penultimate track on the release is dedicated to B.B. King and features the most joyful vibe of any of hoodoo’s tracks. The liner notes read: “We would also like to respectfully dedicate track 10, “The Blues Can Heal Ya” to the memory of the late great Riley B. King and to the spirit with which he performed. As long as there is the Blues, B.B. King and all the great Bluesmen that have gone before him will live on.” The song is two and a half minutes of pure unadulterated elation with inspired lyrics and mouth-harp.” ~ RP / Vivascene
MISSISSIPPI HEAT ~ from the album MADELEINE
TRUTH LIKE RAIN
Mississippi Heat’s personnel may have changed over the decades, but the heart and soul of the music remains with Pierre Lacocque, who continually directs the band with his highly creative and virtuosic harmonica skills, his stellar songwriting, and his artistic vision.
Madeleine is a 30th Anniversary recording that shines on like the Mississippi moon up in the sky! Chock full of Blues goodness with excellent base group members and superstar guest musical appearances from world acclaimed Kenny Smith, Lurrie Bell, Johnny Iguana, plus many more. If you like Chicago Blues with great Blues Harp and Horns, you will love this release on the Van der Linden Recordings label.
“Blues music is an existential music. It comes from the unfathomable pain that lies within the Afro-American’s experience, the agony of despair behind slavery and racism, as well as the experience of rejection because of the color of one’s skin. It remains that we all have the blues in some form or another. We all are trying to make sense of what it means to be alive. Most of us will experience aloneness, and physical or spiritual suffering.” ~ Pierre Lacocque, Mississippi Heat
“Truth Like Rain” is my favorite of the two quality selections written by Michael Dotson on the release. Dotson’s sing/speak vocal is sooo tasty, and it provides a welcome variety to the album. His guitar work is also pretty tasty on this leisurely paced blues. The song features an appearance from extra special guest star Johnny Iguana, and Lacocque, as always, is sublime on his blues harp.
MARCUS KING ~ from the album YOUNG BLOOD
The young gentlemen is a gifted songwriter and master guitarist with cross-over appeal. Born in South Carolina to a blues guitar playing father, he began mastering the instrument at a young age, and was recording when he was only eleven years old.
“Aim High” was written by Marcus King, along with Dan Auerbach and Greg Cartwright. It’s one of the songs off his current release ‘Young Blood.’ It was produced in Nashville by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys fame at his Easy Eye Studio.
“It was the most organic way I could have done this album. Me and Dan really had a shared vision. We pretty much just put the microphones out there and he let me do what I do. I was in a state of mind at the time where I really just needed to go all the way back to my core influences and be myself, just be completely genuine.” ~ Markus King
BUDDY GUY ~ from the album BORN TO PLAY GUITAR
FLESH AND BONE
“Y’know, every time I go in the studio now my mind is on all the great blues players that have passed on before B.B. We used to talk about it — Muddy, Wolf, Walter, Sonny, all those guys. They were my teachers, y’know? When I got to know them, they would always wind up saying, ‘If I go before you, boy, keep playing those blues.’ The last words Muddy Waters told me was, ‘Man, just keep playing those blues;’ I didn’t know how ill he was, and two days later I got a call he was gone. I’ve got a song on the album for him [“Come Back Muddy”], so when we heard B.B. was gone I said, ‘Let’s put one on for him, too.’ ” ~ Buddy Guy on “Flesh and Bone “(dedicated to B.B.)
The song “Flesh And Bone” was written by Gary Nicholson and Tom Hambridge. The album Born To Play Guitar was released on the Silvertone Record label in 2017.
“Tom’s produced my last four albums, and the guy’s almost like Willie Dixon. He can feel what fits you and he brings the best out of you. You’ve got to give him most of the credit for most of the songs on these albums, even though I did co-write a few songs on all of them. But, he knows how to get the best out of you.” ~ Buddy Guy
Flesh and Bone – personnel
Guitars and Vocals – Buddy Guy
Keyboards – Reese Wynans
Drums, Tambourine, Triangle – Tom Hambridge
Bass – Michael Rhodes
Backing Vocals – McCrary Sisters
Featured Vocals – Van Morrison
KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD ~ from the album THE TRAVELER
TAKE IT ON HOME
KWS’s 2019’s The Traveler was packed with both great songs and great musicians. Perhaps one of the finest on this collection is “Take It On Home.” It’s a warm, mid-tempo tune done with an appealing southern rock flair along with a mighty fine Kenny lead vocal. Upon releasing this album, he credited Stephen Stills, his bandmate in The Rides, for encouraging him to sing more.
The lyrical imagery throughout this track speaks to me. “There’s a spot beneath the magnolia tree /That’s where I hear the wind just talkin’ to me” sets my mind to reeling…. I can almost smell the fragrant breeze blowing through the trees.
I enjoy an album that has a balance and a variety to keep it fresh. For me, this album has ten songs that benefit from a mix of KWS’s and Noah Hunt’s vocals, a bit of Kenny’s outstanding guitar, spicy horns at times, different tempos, excellent musicianship and fine production.
Take It On Home
Guitar, Vocals – Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Backing Vocals – Noah Hunt
Keyboards – Jimmy McGorman
Keyboards – Joe Krown
Bass – Kevin McCormick
Drums – Chris “Whipper” Layton
TOMMY CASTRO ~ from the album STOMPIN’ GROUND
“Castro’s band, The PAINKILLERS, are ‘Tighter than a Tourniquet’ — I personally urge you to catch them live at each and every opportunity you get.” ~ RP
“Tommy has always been top of the heap among blues guitar players. He always puts on a great show.” ~ Joe Bonamassa
Alligator Records recording artist Tommy Castro and his ace band, the Painkillers, were in excellent form on the 2017 release, Stompin’ Ground. The album was recorded and mixed at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studio in San Jose, California. A couple mighty fine guest artists also were on hand to make some key contributions on a few cuts.
Mike Zito, soon to start his Gulf Coast Records label, made an impressive appearance on “Rock Bottom,” a hard rockin’ blues song. Castro and Zito share the vocal and combine their talents on the full throttle twin guitar attack.
Guitar, Vocals – Tommy Castro
Guitar, Vocals – Mike Zito
Keyboards – Michael Emerson
Bass, Backing Vocals – Randy McDonald
Drums – Bowen Brown
ANGELA STREHLI ~ from the album ACE OF BLUES
“I’d never heard a white woman sing the blues like Angela: so deep, so unaffected, so natural. I was immediately struck by her powerful voice and her depth as an artist. She’s one of a kind.” ~ Sue Foley
“The thing about the blues is that it can just grab you, and you don’t have a defense. It’s gotcha! And that’s what happened to me. I was completely ignorant about it, didn’t know what to call it — and I just had to start investigating.” ~ Angela Strehli
Angela Strehli’s first new record in 17 years was released late in 2022. Titled Ace of Blues, it represented the rebirth of Antone’s Records, which is now an imprint of New West Records.
The great Ambassador of the Blues, B.B. King released “Gambler’s Blues,” in 1967 on his Blues Is King album. That record was recorded live in a Chicago nightclub on November 5, 1966 with a rather small combo for B.B. The song was co-written by B.B. King and Johnny Pate.
“Gambler’s Blues” would become associated with Blues legend Otis Rush, after the Bluesman released his slow-burning rendition on a single in 1969. Produced by Michael Bloomfield, Otis Rush provided his fierce vocal and some of his firey trademark guitar.
“I was happy to record this tune because it truly represents the intensity of the Otis Rush I was fortunate to get to know.” ~ Angela Strehli
Throughout the release, Stehli’s vocals are dynamite, and “Gambler’s Blues” is no exception. Lead guitarist “Mighty” Mike Schermer deserves special mention also for his inspired work.
Angela Strehli is one of the most legendary and iconic members of the Antone’s blues family: she is truly the Queen of Texas Blues. Ace Of Blues cements her legacy as one of America’s premiere blues singers.
DERRICK PROCELL ~ HELLO MOJO!from the album of the same name
Music veteran Derrick Procell has a hot-buttered baritone vocal that envelopes his songs with a smooth self-assured charm. The title track of his new release on Catfish Records contains a punchy horn arrangement that precisely punctuate the song at opportune moments and briefly solo. The backing band, The Rays, provide sturdy support, along with the swinging female backing vocalists who keep repeating the song’s refrain: Hello Mojo! The release was produced by Bluesman Zac Harmon.
“I wrote or co-wrote all of the original material on the record. Four of the songs were co-written with Grammy winner Terry Abrahamson, who’s known for his work with Muddy Waters, and has been my writing partner for the last 10 years. The title track, Hello Mojo!, was an immediate fave. It’s the only song on the record that I played piano on. I handed the rest of the keyboard duties over to the more than capable Mr. [Dan] Ferguson. However, after a couple of trips out into the studio to show him kind of what I was looking for on that track, he turned to me and said, ‘well then why don’t you just play it!’ Zac [Harmon] seconded that and off we went.” ~ Derrick Procell