We begin with the blues keyboard prowess of Pat McDougall and conclude with a tasty cut from the immortal Buddy Guy.
PAT McDOUGALL ~ from the album IN THE KEY OF SORRY
WHICH WAY THE COLD WIND BLOWS
A blues keyboardist from Portland, Pat McDougall covers plenty of bases on his fabulous new release, In The Key Of Sorry. The thirteen compositions therein are testimony to the gentleman’s gift for crafting quality melodies supplemented by salient lyrical flair.
In The Key Of Sorry was recorded at Roseleaf Recording Studios in Portland. McDougall co-produced the album with studio owner Jimi Bott. The result is a stunning recording that shows it was completed with tender loving care.
“I’m infinitely grateful to the musicians who brought their talents to the project, and to my brilliant and unfailingly wise co-producer, Jimi Bott.” ~ Pat McDougall
“This album has been great fun to work on. I hope everyone gets as much enjoyment listening to it as we had making it!” ~ Jimi Bott
One of the finer and bluesier songs on the album comes near the release’s end with “Which Way The Cold Wind Blows.” Three special guest stars make important appearances on the song. The first is Virginia born, Portland, Oregon transplant Kevin Selfe on guitar. His guitar contribution is excellent, and when paired with McDougall’s organ, helps create a slightly sinister atmosphere.
“The main reason I wanted to be a part of this recording is because of Pat’s vision as a songwriter. Each tune has a palpable vibe that is unique and genuine.” ~ Kevin Selfe
The other two special guests come with the dynamite rhythm section of Lisa Mann on bass guitar and Jimi Bott on drums and percussion. Their presence is prominent in the mix and propel the song forcefully along.
“I was pleased to find out that Pat is also a great songwriter, and knows how to arrange a tune. I was very glad he asked me to be a part of his new record.” ~ Lisa Mann
“I was honored to have Kevin Selfe add a guitar solo and rhythm guitar to “Which Way The Cold Wind Blows”. The song also features Jimi Bott on drums and Lisa Mann on bass! Fold in the sultry tones of the Hammond A-100 at Jimi’s studio, and you’ve got some buttery magic happening right there.” ~ Pat McDougall
The lyrics of “Which Way The Cold Wind Blows” closely mirror those from the Bill Withers classic “Ain’t No Sunshine.” The character in the song has suffered the agony of his lady moving out and leaving him behind, with her departure planting painful reminders of her everywhere. Vivid lyrical details are cleverly provided, such as him looking at the outline on the wall where her picture used to hang. Further imagery is provided with lines “the skies are grey and cloudy, with no blue in sight,” which, along with chill winds blowing, aids in reinforcing the feelings of being cold and lonely.
This song, and the album in its entirety, continues to grow on me with each additional listen. It is high quality music performed with passion and a purpose.
SHAUN MURPHY ~ from the album I’M COMING HOME
ONE MORE LAST TIME
Shaun Murphy garnered a lot of well earned attention on her outstanding 2020 Flame Still Burns release. It’s equalled, if not bettered, by her newest titled I’m Coming Home. This is Murphy’s eleventh solo, and it again finds her singing with a passion and power that touches all of the blues bases adroitly. Skillfully produced and mixed by Kevin McKendree, the release contains twelve high quality songs.
“Being in the music business has afforded me a tremendous outlet, for energy, writing, touching peoples’ hearts and hopefully leaving lives in a better place.” ~ Shaun Murphy
Shaun’s crackerjack group of musicians provide peerless support, and sound better than ever. The guitar and vocalist duo of Kenne Cramer and Tommy Stillwell are expert veterans that adapt to a variety of settings with impressive finesse and flair. The rhythm section of bassist John Marcus and drummer Tom DelRossi are just what you’d expect from a couple of Nashville Cats; an unceasing rock solid bottom. Kevin McKendree, a multi-instrumentalist highly proficient on keyboards, in addition to being an exquisite songwriter, rounds out the band.
The opening track, “One More Last Time,” immediately jumped out to me as a dynamite performance. It is a terrific cover of a pretty obscure song written by Jeff Paris, and released on his 2011 album Broken Chain. Every person in the group shines with major contributions on this high energy rocker. The bright guitars lead the charge, dueling enticingly with the Hammond organ majestically swelling while the heavy beat is balling the jack.
Murphy’s vocal hits the bullseye, strong and passionate as she robustly belts out the defiant lyrics. The subject in the song is fed up of being used as a lustful plaything without love being part of the equation. Yet, it’s difficult to resist the pleasures her lover provides, almost as if she’s badly addicted to the experience. This one screams “single” to me.
Vocals, Tambourine — Shaun Murphy
Guitar, BG Vocals — Kenne Cramer
Guitar, BG Vocals — Tommy Stillwell
Keyboards — Kevin McKendree
Bass — John Marcus
Drums, BG Vocals — Tom DelRossi
TOMMY CASTRO AND THE PAINKILLERS ~ from the album STOMPIN ‘ GROUND
LIVE EVERY DAY
“I heard each one of my friends’ contributions on these songs in my head as I was working on them. Happily, when I reached out and actually asked, everyone said yes.” ~ Tommy Castro, referring to the great guest artists on Stompin’ Ground
“Each song on Stompin’ Ground shows a slightly different side of his multifaceted musical personality. Castro, a native of San Jose, California, opens windows both into his past and his always-evolving musical future.” ~ JD Nash
Stompin’ Ground in 2017 on Alligator Records was a great album performed with his stellar band and a few key guest appearances. “Live Every Day” had Charlie Musselwhile providing a weathered vocal and some of his signature blues harp. Co-producer Kid Andersen played acoustic guitar, and the band creates a deep blues groove.
Guitar – Tommy Castro
Vocals, Harmonica – Charlie Musselwhite
Acoustic Guitar – Kid Andersen
Keyboards – Michael Emerson
Bass – Randy McDonald
Drums – Bowen Brown
KEITH STONE ~ from the albumTHE PRODIGAL RETURNS
Keith Stone is a native son of New Orleans, Louisiana; a city steeped in a rich American musical heritage. Stone, a staggeringly gifted guitarist, singer and songwriter, paid tribute to the Crescent City on ‘The Prodigal Returns.’ The abundantly impressive supportive group of musicians who join him on his bluesy journey help contribute plenty of mystical mojo to the potent mix.
David Hyde, who grew up in Hammond, Louisiana, bestows beneficial bass guitar, skilled production, and he also wrote and arranged all the album’s wonderful horn parts. Nelson Blanchard, another multi-talented Louisiana native and Louisiana Music Hall of Famer is credited with drums, percussion, various keyboards, and background vocals.
Keith Stone’s earnest homage to his loving wife “Cindi Leigh” features two special NOLA guest artists. Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes adds authentic Louisiana accordion flavor to the song. When combined with the frottoir (chest rubboard) expertise of Andy J. Forest, the song takes on a definite goodtime Creole quality. Keith Stone sings with undeniable passion and his guitar literally jumps with joy. Lyrics such as “she’s smart as a tack/smooth like butter/when she pulls me close/man, I start to stutter” strike the lovesick nail squarely on the head. Blanchard fuels the song with rolling tom-tom percussion and Hyde’s stepping bass is prominent in the frisky mix, as is the saxophone of Mike Broussard.
SUSAN TEDESCHI ~ from the album WAIT FOR ME
WAIT FOR ME
Born in Boston, Susan Tedeschi grew up in nearby Norwell, absorbing her father’s Lightnin’ Hopkins and Mississippi John Hurt record collection. She graduated from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in 1991, and began her blues music career in earnest.
“I think that to become your own artist and have your sound, a big part of that is the influences of what came before. They all become part of you, and what touches you, you emulate through things.
“I’m not going to be able to sing like Billie Holiday or Aretha Franklin: but, there are nuances that have been inspired from them, and that comes out of playing and singing. I’m not going to be Freddie King at guitar, or Magic Sam. But, you can hear their influences in the vibrato, and it becomes your own thing. And with the jambalaya of influences, you are creating your own sound through emulation.” ~ Susan Tedeschi
The title track from her 2002 Grammy Nominated Wait For Me album was written by Felix Reyes. The album was one of the last records produced by Tom Dowd, who passed in October of that year.
Susan Tedeschi provides a quite beautiful, soulful and emotionally moving vocal. The piano of Jason Crosby, together with the splendid brass arrangement, escorts Susan as she pours out her heart while appealing to her lover to “wait for me.”
Wait For Me – personnel
Vocals, Guitar – Susan Tedeschi
Piano, Organ – Jason Crosby
Bass – Ron Perry
Drums – Jeff Sipe
Tenor Saxophone – Paul Ahlstrand
Tenor Saxophone – Tino Barker
Baritone Saxophone – Gordon Beadle
Trumpet – Scott Aruda
DEAN ZUCCHERO ~ from the album ELECTRIC CHURCH FOR THE SPIRITUALLY MISGUIDED
BIG BOSS BOY
Dean Zucchero cut his teeth in the bustling, industry-driven Manhattan music scene. Zucchero’s consequent appreciation for melody, lyrical craftsmanship, arrangement, improvisation and an overall connection with urban multiculturalism provides deep prominence in his music.
Now a New Orleans mainstay, the veteran bassist, composer and producer Zucchero has released a new album. It is 100% written, arranged and produced by Dean Zucchero. This treasure chest spans a broad spectrum of sub-genres, but has that Nawlins flavor down to the marrow.
Dean Zucchero has called on the help of nine of his favorite regional vocalists who each croon a tune in the release. New Orleans’ Blues statesman Johnny Sansone, Mississippi Soul-Blues legend Johnny Rawls, Zydeco master Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes and rising stars Jonathon “Boogie” Long and Ghalia Volt, all are featured. Now, doesn’t this sound irresistibly appealing?
Also, to further please folks like myself who value fine instrumental compositions, Zucchero has added two instrumentals to the tracklist to further greaten the listening experience.
The first single from Dean Zucchero’s debut album on Pugnacious Records was “Big Boss Boy.” The song features the dynamic pairing of soul blues legend Mr. Johnny Rawls on lead vocals and Johnny Burgin on guitars.
The song features a heapin’ helping of Nawlins soul funk, as Rawls lays down a righteously raw vocal which is nicely sweetened by interjections by the female backup singers. Burgin’s guitar dances around the churning rhythm section like nobody’s business with the organ adding just the right amount of melody support to the rich gumbo.
Well, well, well, alright…. Tasty!
“Johnny Burgin brought the track Big Boss Boy to a hip ’70s guitar level – Freddie King meets Nile Rodgers.” ~ Dean Zucchero
Big Boss Boy – personnel
Vocals – Johnny Rawls
Guitar – Johnny Burgin
Organ – Phil Breen
Bass, Percussion – Dean Zucchero
Drums – Terence Higgins
Percussion – Alex Harris Macdonald
Backing Vocals – Ghalia Volt, Tiffany Pollack
JOHNNY IGUANA ~ from the album JOHNNY IGUANA’S CHICAGO SPECTACULAR! (A Grand And Upright Celebration Of Chicago Blues Piano)
STOP BREAKING DOWN
“Blues will always reach SOME people because it’s so immediate, simple and human.” ~ Johnny Iguana
Delmark recording artist Johnny Iguana is a monster pianist who has paid his dues on tours and sessions with Blues legends such as Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Billy Boy Arnold, Otis Rush, Carey and Lurrie Bell, Lil’ Ed Williams, James Cotton, and others. His recording session work is featured on dozens of releases; including multiple Grammy nominated albums. He also is a hardworking always-improving songwriter.
“Johnny stands out as an artist who has reached the apex of his craft, but who has not allowed a strict definition of blues to limit his expression. A feat of this album [Johnny Iguana’s Chicago Spectacular!] and of Johnny’s artistry is how his original compositions flow naturally and organically out of the classic Chicago blues piano repertoire. His chordal creativity is as much on display as his blues-language fluency.” ~ Larry Skoller, producer
“From early on, the two harp players that had a profound effect on me were Rice Miller (Sonny Boy Williamson II) and Junior Wells. Later on, I got into James Cotton, Big Walter Horton, and the other masters. As I became more proficient, and my ear became better so that I could actually hear what he was doing, I fell head over heels for Little Walter. I never tried to be a Little Walter guy in the same way that I immersed myself in the Rice Miller style. Whenever I want to do some graduate work, I go back to Little Walter to chip away at that mountain.” ~ Matthew Skoller
“I do think musicians should practice on their instrument a LOT; so their timing and feel and tone are good, and can deliver what the songs are trying to say. But, I do always say to the band, “mistakes don’t matter… lead with your heart.” ~ Johnny Iguana
The song “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues” classifies as a True Blues Classic. It was written by Robert Johnson and originally released in January, 1938. It would be posthumously released as “Stop Breaking Down” by Sonny Boy Williamson I, in August of 1948. Many artists have released their renditions, with perhaps the best known being The Rolling Stones in 1972 on their masterpiece Exile On Main Street. Junior Wells & Buddy Guy, Eddie Taylor, Lucinda Williams, ZZ Top, and Eric Clapton were among the others cementing the song’s classic status.
On Johnny Iguana’s spirited rendition, his rollicking piano makes this version distinctive. Matthew Skoller provides a fine vocal and blues harp, and Billy Flynn, as always, serves the song. Another key exponent, Kenny Smith exhibits why his services on his drum kit are always highly in demand.
Vocals, Harmonica – Matthew Skoller
Guitar – Billy Flynn
Piano – Johnny Iguana
Drums – Kenny Smith
BUDDY GUY ~ from the album BORN TO PLAY GUITAR
TURN ME WILD
“The Blues turned my life upside down, had me going places and doing things that when I look back seems crazy. The Blues turned me wild.” ~ Buddy Guy
Buddy Guy’s 2015 Born To Play Guitar earned the Grammy Award for Best Blues Album. Following the proven formula of pairing Buddy Guy + fine musicians and guest stars + fine songs + fine production = highly successful musical endeavor.
Again working with Tom Hambridge, his brilliant collaborator since 2008’s Skin Deep, Buddy Guy demonstrates through ferocious he-man solos, that he was born to play guitar, and he didn’t require lessons. As the lyrics state in another fine song, “I was born to play the guitar / People, I got blues running through my veins.”
“Buddy Guy is like fine wine: he just keeps getting better with age. Winning the Grammy for Living Proof is living proof that even at 76 Buddy Guy is still at the top of his game and is making some of his best music.” ~ Tom Hambridge
Turn Me Wild (Written by Buddy Guy and Tom Hambridge)
Guitar / Vocals – Buddy Guy
Guitar – Kenny Greenberg
Piano [Wurlitzer] – Reese Wynans
Drums – Tom Hambridge
Bass – Billy Cox
ERJA LYYTINEN ~ from the album WAITING FOR THE DAYLIGHT
WAITING FOR THE DAYLIGHT
“Music really crosses all the boundaries. Music is a language, that everyone can learn. And when you speak the same “language,” you can share emotions.” ~ Erja Lyytinen
“My playing skills and singing, during the past twenty years have developed a lot. I am pushing myself as a guitarist and a singer constantly. During the making of my latest album, Waiting For The Daylight, I tried to find a new approach to my playing. Also, I feel that I have been able to grow as a songwriter, and I am not afraid to express myself and sing about deep subjects.” ~ Erja Lyytinen
“By being able to travel around the world and meeting lots of different people from different cultures I’ve learned so many things and seen so many things. I have learned, there are blues lovers everywhere you go, and it seems to be a unique group of people who value music that has been actually played by musicians on stage, with sincere, honest lyrics and with huge emotional output.” ~ Erja Lyytinen
Finland’s much acclaimed Queen of Slide Guitar is a keen songwriter who possessing a buttery smooth vocal delivery. The title track for Erja Lyytinen’s current release veers into prog-rock / metal territory, with the keyboards of longtime associate Harri Taittonen prominent in the mix. Erja states that she wove some lead licks from Tony Iommi into the song, yet her vocal is clean and clear, quite unlike anyone I’ve heard in the heavy metal genre.
JACK MACK AND THE HEART ATTACK HORNS ~ from the album BACK TO THE SHACK
Loyal fans and newcomers alike will be drawn to the brimming brilliance of Back to the Shack. Jack Mack & The Heart Attack Horns pay homage to many of the R&B/Soul heroes that provided them with musical inspiration
“Tony Braunagel and Bruce Atkinson make for a super-tight rhythm section. Of course, everyone else who played or sang on this record are major reasons why it I love it so much. Mark, Bill and I have been together for so long; there is a special chemistry that makes Jack Mack’s music so unique. I can’t put it in words…. but, I know it when I hear it.” ~ Andrew Kastner
The Heart Attack Horns are especially prominent on the funky “Bad Habit”, The rhythm resides securely snug in the pocket and Mark Campbell’s vocal takes on a perceptively soulful quality that brings to mind James Brown. Rat-a-tat drums, poppin’ bass, and Curtis Mayfield style guitar all funk it up like the south-side shuffle. Fun and funky would be a good description for this one.
“I always try to stay true to the soul/blues style when I write the horn arrangements. Paying homage to all the greats that have come before me. It’s also important that the horns remain a prominent feature of the songs. We’re known as a “horn band;” and we don’t want to bury or hide the horns.” ~ Bill Bergman
NELSON BLANCHARD ~ from the album NELSON BLANCHARD
FREE BIRD IN THE WIND
“I find inspiration all around me. I try to make my music representative of myself and my generation. I love music of nearly all genres!” ~ Nelson Blanchard
Nelson Blanchard’s first solo recording after a lifetime in music was brilliantly produced by Blanchard, Dan Tyler and David Hyde. The diversity of genres on the album securely maintains the listener’s interest throughout. Blanchard is an excellent songwriter, and all eleven songs are winners, with his friends and musical guests providing stout support.
“We were fortunate to secure Owen Hale for a song on the sessions. He is one of the best drummers in Nashville, and then Lynyrd Skynyrd. A true drumming legend. I heard his name my first day in Nashville.” ~ David Hyde, producer
Kentucky born Owen Hale is a versatile session drummer who in addition to spending five years playing with Lynyrd Skynyrd, has played with Robert Plant, and a who’s who list of country artists such as Patty Loveless, Toby Keith, David Allan Coe, George Strait, George Jones, Johnny Paycheck, Alan Jackson, Brooks and Dunn, Reba McEntire, K.T. Oslin, Mark Chestnut and oodles more.
It’s fitting that Mr. Hale was brought in to play on the song “Free Bird In The Wind”, a song written by Blanchard and a writing partner, Baton Rouge’s popular radio personality Scott Innes. The subject of the song is the tragic fatal Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash in 1977 that took the lives of founding member Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist and vocalist Steve Gaines, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, and two pilots.
“It talks about that particular place where they crashed, and it has kind of a little rock edge and sounds like Lynyrd Skynyrd a little bit.” ~ Nelson Blanchard
Baron Rouge guitarist Ian Webster, who also boasts an impressive stage/studio resume makes his lone appearance on the release, teaming with Brent Mason, who was listed by Guitar World Magazine as one of the “Top Ten Session Guitarists of All Time” to deftly deliver some Southern Rock sensibility to the table. Nelson Blanchard’s vocal on this one proves ideally satisfying.
Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards – Nelson Blanchard
Guitar – Brent Mason
Guitar – Ian Webster
Bass Guitar – David Hyde
Drums – Owen Hale
Background vocals – Tareva Henderson
BUDDY GUY ~ from the album SWEET TEA
DONE GOT OLD
“Music for me is all about making someone happy, and I always enjoy that. I love to see someone smiling, and hope that I made them forget about other things for a while.” ~ Buddy Guy
“I know I’m a survivor. I mean we’re all only here for a time, you know — we’re here for a reason, not here for a season, man. All our days are comin’, so I’m just hopin’ I can keep our music goin’ on till some other young generation of people carry on for us, hopefully.” ~ Buddy Guy
“Done Got Old,” is a song written by Junior Kimbrough that was the opening track on Buddy Guy’s 2001 Sweet Tea release. It’s a grippingly raw acoustic song that’ll make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. A sentimental return to music’s primal pre-war days, it was recorded at Sweet Tea Studio deep in the Delta, Oxford, Mississippi.
The album was nominated for 2001 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Other nominees were Dr. John for Creole Moon, Etta James for Matriarch of the Blues, and Keb’ Mo’ for The Door. Delbert McClinton won that year with his Nothing Personal album.