The second in our series of eclectic mix playlists is sure to please blues and rock fans alike.
JOHN DAVID SOUTHER ~from the album BLACK ROSE
BANGING MY HEAD AGAINST THE MOON
John David Souther is a great singer and songwriter that provided many hours of enjoyment to me through the Seventies, and beyond. His first three albums are all classics, and bring back nice memories of glory days. I always listened to a variety of musical genres, but the country-rock coming out of California at the time was pretty special.
John David Souther was born into a musical family in Detroit, Michigan. The family moved to Texas, and John spent his formative years in Amarillo before embarking to Los Angeles to pursue his musical dreams.
John David Souther’s second solo album, Black Rose, like his first, was also released on Asylum Records. It came out in 1976, and was highly anticipated. I’d dearly loved the first one, as it got many spins on my turntable. Black Rose surely didn’t disappoint. It was loaded with well crafted songs, and had some great musicians in tow.
The opening track on Black Rose was, to me, one of his finest. But as I stated above, every song resonated with me.
Banging My Head Against The Moon
Acoustic Guitar – John David Souther
Electric Guitar – Waddy Wachtel
Electric Guitar – Danny Kootchmar
Bass – Paul Stallworth
Drums – Jim Keltner
Backing Vocals – Andrew Gold, Art Garfunkel, David Crosby, John David Souther
THE PHANTOM BLUES BAND ~ from the album OUT OF THE SHADOWS
RAIN DOWN TEARS
The Phantom Blues Band was formed as a studio band to backup Taj Mahal on his 1993 release, ‘Dancing’ the Blues.’ Consisting of an aggregate of the very finest Hollywood studio musicians including the hard-driving Texacali Horns, their impressive list of credits could fill a telephone book (remember those?).
The Phantom Blues Band’s sound is a cross-breeding of many different musical styles which includes Blues, Jazz, R&B, Gospel, Rock and Roll and Reggae. The group stepped out confidently into the spotlight with their debut titled Out Of The Shadows on Delta Groove Productions in 2006.
One of the finer songs on the album was the Henry Glover and Rudy Toombs penned, “Rain Down Tears.” It was originally recorded by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters way back in 1959. On Out Of The Shadows it is given a beautiful late night blues treatment. The vocals remind me of the splendid harmonies from The Band, with Mike Finnigan, Johnny Lee Schell and Larry Fulcher combining for a memorable performance. The guitar work is chilled perfection reminiscent of Steely Dan’s best moments, and the rhythm section is tight as a tourniquet. Finnigan’s Hammond B-3 stylings are supported excellently by the Texacali Horns. It all adds up to a sublime performance: sure to please.
Guitar – Denny Freeman
Guitar – Johnny Lee Schell
Keyboards – Mike Finnigan
Bass – Larry Fulcher
Drums – Tony Braunagel
Saxophone – Joe Sublett
Trumpet – Darrell Leonard
You say you’re leaving, ain’t comin’ back
There’s nothing I can say to make you unpack
It’s gonna rain down tears, rain down tears
You need a shelter somewhere, somewhere
RONNIE EARL ~ from the album FATHER’S DAY
I’LL TAKE CARE OF YOU
“I feel the respect and affection for him that a father feels for his son. He is one of the most serious blues guitarists you can find today. He makes me proud.” ~ B.B. King
Ronnie changed his last name to ‘Earl’ as a tribute to the great blues slide guitarist Earl Hooker.
“In 2015 Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters released perhaps his finest and most consistently powerful recording with Father’s Day on Stony Plain Records (Canada’s Roots, Rock, Country, Folk & Blues Label). The former lead guitarist for Roomful Of Blues pays tribute to both his late father, as well as some of his music industry father figures (Otis Rush, Magic Sam, B.B. King, etc.).
“Each and every song is an illuminating display of Earl’s guitar soulfulness and dexterity. My favorite song, although hard to choose only one, is the nine minute treatment given to “I’ll Take Care Of You,” the Bobby Bland hit ballad from 1960 that has been covered by scores of artists. Diane Blue sings with the same smoky sensuality that Beth Hart revealed on ‘Don’t Explain,’ her first collaboration with Joe Bonamassa. The song reaches and maintains a heated fervor on the final five minutes with Dave Limina’s Hammond B-3 organ engaging in a musical conversation with Ronnie Earl’s expressive guitar.” ~ RP / Vivascene
TREVOR SEWELL ~ from the album CALLING NASHVILLE
MATTER OF TIME
The rhythm section cuts a groove as deep as the Colorado River burrowed into the Grand Canyon on “Matter of Time.” A slide guitar intro rises above the groove as Sewell employs a vocal similar to Mark Knopfler. The tempo of the song simmers just below a full-boil. Midway through the guitar interactions between the lead and slide prove rousingly supple and if your head isn’t bobbin’ and your toes aren’t a-tappin’ then you simply don’t have a pulse. When gifted female singer Mia Moravis makes her vital appearance she adds further clout. The magnetic refrain of “It really doesn’t matter, it’s just a matter of time” says it all much like the wisdom of a sage.
ROBBEN FORD ~ from the album BRINGING IT BACK HOME
BIRDS NEST BOUND
“I don’t find a lot of people actually saying things through music any longer. They are not trying to say anything with their music, they just want to make money with it. I think it’s important to actually say something real, something meaningful, rather than just write some trash and try to sell it.” ~ Robben Ford
Robben Ford is a premier electric guitarist who over the course of a 40 year career has combined Blues with Rock and Jazz fragments sprinkled with a little R & B to form a hybrid that transcends the boundaries of these genres. He is also a skilled vocalist and innovative interpreter of songs as he clearly confirms on Bringing It Back Home, his album on the Provogue imprint of the Mascot Label Group.
On his 2013 album titled Bringing It Back Home, Robben selected nine classic songs to cover in his distinctive style, graced them with new arrangements, and provided a new composition of his own that fits in like a dream. The songs are generally Blues or R&B based, and each is tackled with a relaxed comfortable charm and masterful musicianship, making this release an easily enjoyable pleasure. For the greater part forgoing the sizzling guitar solos that helped him earn his revered place among guitar heroes, he instead plays with an elegant and refined sophistication that suits itself quite well to the material he has chosen and to the ensemble of musicians joining him on this project.
The early 1930’s Delta Blues song “Birds Nest Bound,” written by Big Joe Williams and often credited to Charlie Patton, offers Ford a generous opportunity to hit his Blues sweet spot and excel both vocally and on his guitar. Ford’s pure tone is so perfect and appealingly executed. He makes it sound so easily obtained; even when you know that it isn’t. This laid-back blues shuffle gets the entire group involved with an authoritative Larry Goldings’ Hammond B-3 tremolo caringly complementing Ford’s guitar.
OMAR KENT DYKES ~ from the album RUNNIN’ WITH THE WOLF
Howling Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning” is one of the all-time great blues songs, with its roots reaching back to the Mississippi Delta work chants and the birth of the blues. Raw and gritty, comprised of a simple one chord blues centered around a repeating guitar vamp, Wolf has been said to have based it on a song written by blues legend Charlie Patton, who Wolf performed with back in his early days. The song has been performed by countless groups, with slight variations, but the mesmerizing drone is always an ever-present factor. Ted Roddy is in tow for some inspired down-home blues mouth-harp while Derek O’Brien’s pulsating guitar assists in framing a moaning and groaning Dykes ominous vocal which resonates darkly dangerous and menacing enough to make a grown man shiver.
“We used to sit out in the country and see the trains go by, watch the sparks come out of the smokestack. That was smokestack lightning.” ~ Howlin’ Wolf
ELVIN BISHOP ~ from the album RED DOG SPEAKS
MANY RIVERS TO CROSS
The title of Elvin Bishop’s 2010 release on Delta Groove Music was Red Dog Speaks. By the title you know there will be plenty of Bishop and his trusty guitar, “Red Dog,” on display throughout. Like many of Elvin’s albums, this one contained a very nice variety of well crafted tunes.
“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
“Many Rivers To Cross” is a well-known ballad written by reggae master Jimmy Cliff. It has been covered by numerous artists, with memorable covers by a few of my favorite singers (Joe Cocker, Linda Ronstadt, and Eric Burdon). Here the vocal was passionately delivered by veteran bluesman John Németh with Elvin Bishop sliding beautifully on his trusty “Red Dog.”
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
TOM PETTY and the HEARTBREAKERS ~ from their self-titled debut album
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers rose to fame in 1977, with their first Top 40 single, the sultry, bluesy hit “Breakdown.”
“Breakdown” was a song written and recorded for the band’s debut eponymous album. Initially, the song had lead guitarist Mike Campbell with a distinct guitar lick only being played near the song’s end. During playback one night when Tom Petty and Dwight Twilley were in the studio, Twilley made the suggestion that the Campbell lick should be used throughout the song.
“We cut it with Mike’s guitar riff only appearing at the end of the record…Then Dwight Twilley came in and heard Mike’s lick on the end and said, ‘S–t, man, that’s the lick, that’s the whole thing, and it only comes up right at the end of the song? I’d put it everywhere!’ ” ~ Tom Petty
Petty followed Twilley’s advice, and at 2 AM gathered the Heartbreakers to join him in re-recording the song. Their final take was seven to eight minutes long, but it was pared down to 2 minutes and 39 seconds for the album.
“It’s amazing to me that: A) I had the balls to call them at that hour; and B) they just came! I certainly wouldn’t try that these days. But, we were in that frame of mind where things had to be done right there and then. We cut the record in just a few takes.” ~ Tom Petty
Petty’s first single, when it was first released in January 1977, went nowhere. But, following months of non-stop touring, it was re-released in October and made it to Number 40 in the US, eventually spending 17 weeks in the Top 100. Also, its inclusion in the 1978 movie FM, and the accompanying soundtrack, helped further boost public interest in the debut.
“When we cut ‘Breakdown,’ it was great. There was so much passion and you didn’t even know why. You just knew that you were going to play your f–king heart out, and you could do it for days.” ~ Stan Lynch
Tom Petty – Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Mike Campbell – Guitar
Benmont Tench – Piano, Organ
Stan Lynch – Drums
Ron Blair -Electric Bass
Jeff Jourard – Guitar
Phil Seymour – Backing Vocal
MATTY T WALL ~ from the album SIDEWINDER
“Matty T Wall, a native of Perth, Australia, is an abundantly endowed guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and front-man. He’s blessed with notable flair and musical instincts that, in my opinion, will continue to blossom, bringing forth some very tasty musical fruit in the future.
“Shake It” is a pulse-quickening rock-boogie similar in theme to Elmore James’ “Shake Your Money Maker.” Or perhaps, Charlie Patton’s “Shake It and Break It.” It could also be a tribute to the one and only John Lee Hooker, the King of the Boogie. Regardless, it is dynamic, and yet another one that will blow the roof off when played in concert. Wall reiterates “shake it ‘til you break it” and leaves the interpretation up to the listener. Matty’s guitar blisters like a young Alvin Lee, and his vocal contains, at times, a slight reverb as Stephen Walker adds some background vocals. The rhythm section goes old-school rockabilly, in a similar vein to Stray Cats, with tom-toms and even a tad of cow-bell thrown in for good measure.” ~ RP / Vivascene
HERBIE MANN ~ from the album LONDON UNDERGROUND
Herbie Mann had enjoyed both critical and public acclaim after his 1971 album, ‘Push Push.’ On that release he had the talented guitar great Duane Allman guesting. In December of 1973, Mann ventured across the pond to London to record his followup, ‘London Underground.’ On this one he brought in some great musicians, including Mick Taylor from The Rolling Stones on five of the eight tracks. My favorite song on the album was an eight minute plus rendition of the Jagger/Richards song, “Bitch.” I’m not saying it compares to the Stones version on ‘Sticky Fingers,’ but I had the Mann rendition on a work out tape for weight lifting motivation, and it did the trick.
Herbie Mann – flute
Mick Taylor – guitar
Albert Lee – electric & acoustic guitar
Pat Rebillot – keyboards
Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels – bass
Aynsley Dunbar – drums
Ian McDonald – alto saxophone
TREVOR SEWELL ~ from the album CALLING NASHVILLE
LONG TIME AGO
The rootsy authentic and magnificent blues vocals of Tracy Nelson (Mother Earth) are utilized on the song “Long Time Ago.” Tim McDonald provides some excellent Hammond B-3 organ, alongside Jan Ian’s piano to add to the song’s sway. Trevor Sewell’s guitar lead is simple, yet elegant, and his vocal fits perfectly beside Nelson. The drums of Trevor Brewis are mixed up front in the production to fine effect. There are outstanding lyrics to complement the masterful vocals and memorable melody. One example is “Seasons may change, as the rivers run cold – nobody knows what the future may hold. So spare me a thought for a soul that was sold – a long time ago.”
JEFF CHAZ ~ from the album NO PAINT
TURN BACK THE HANDS OF TIME
Jeff Chaz, the Bourbon Street Bluesman, leads his three-piece band: Jeff Chaz and the NOLA Blues Trio, Chaz on vocals and guitar, Augie Joachim on bass guitar, and Rick Jones on drums on a fine cover; “Turn Back The Hands Of Time.” It features Chaz begging and pleading in a greasy, gritty-gravel vocal that is as soulfully authentically as it gets. Chaz’s vocals are uniquely distinctive as he provides a convincing argument to his lady to give him another chance at love. He lets her know that he’s suffering without her, and that this time he’s gonna be faithful.
“I used to sing the Tyrone Davis hit ‘Turn Back The Hands Of Time’ from ’71 when I was a front man in a band. I was hearing it a lot on a music channel at my regular gig. Since I really liked it I wanted to do it in the context of my regular working trio. I wanted to get my soul blues catalog strong. The audience liked it a lot (many of which had never heard the song), and I liked the unique context of the small group arrangement I worked out (guitar, bass, and drums), and said: What the heck, it is not an original, but my concept for it was.” ~ Jeff Chaz