There’s no better way to describe the latest Vivascene blues playlist than to borrow the title of a classic album by Johnny Winter.
JOSE RAMIREZ ~ from the album MAJOR LEAGUE BLUES
“Jose Ramirez, the Costa Rica Blues Ambassador is a Delmark Records artist. You know the Delmark Record label means quality rib-stickin’ Chicago Blues. Well, Jose Ramirez recently swung for the fences, and hit a home run on his debut for the prestigious Chicago based Blues & Jazz label. His release is entitled Major League Blues and it finds Ramirez fully utilizing the expertise of the Delmark All-Star Band on four of the album’s tracks.
“The album contains two fine covers of Blues chestnuts: Magic Sam’s “My Love Is Your Love,” and “Bad Boy” from Eddie Taylor. Both of these prove to be extremely satisfying. The original “Bad Boy” was cut in Chicago back in 1955, with guitarist and vocalist Eddie Taylor accompanied by the Blues harp of Jimmy Reed and drum work of Ray Scott. Jose Ramirez proves himself a bad, bad boy on his rendition. Billy Flynn and Roosevelt Purifoy Jr. demonstrate the adage of cream always rising to the top with vital interjections; all the time Jose provides his heartfelt, memorable vocal and his formidable guitar.
“Jose Ramirez has learned his lessons well from the masters of the genre, and he masterfully knows how to best serve his songs without unnecessary flash. If you love Chicago Blues, played with passion and finesse, get yourself a copy of Major League Blues. ~ RP / Vivascene
Bad Boy – personnel
Guitar, Vocals – Jose Ramirez
Guitar – Billy Flynn
Organ – Roosevelt Purifoy
Bass – Bob Stroger
Drums – Willie Hayes
BETH HART + JOE BONAMASSA ~ from the album SEESAW
“In 2013 Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa released their second collaboration of classic cover songs entitled Seesaw on the Provogue label. Both of these talented performers are perhaps best known for their forays into the blues, but this release finds them stretching the boundaries of their comfort zone in an album of covers genuinely eclectic in scope.
“1975’s Al Green soulful song “Rhymes” from his Al Green Is Love album has been chosen as the first single, and first video to be pulled from the release. The Hart/Bonamassa rendition is faithful to the original capturing all the Memphis soul charm that pushed Green’s effort to the number one spot on the R&B/Soul charts. It takes a confident “chutzpa” or supreme self-confidence to cover an Al Green song, and Beth does it well. Joe’s guitar licks echo the original co-author’s (Mabon “Teenie” Hodges) perfectly, and The Memphis Horn sound is duplicated superbly by Lee Thornburg making this song a pure joy.” ~ RP /Vivascene
BUDDY GUY ~ from the album THE BLUES IS ALIVE AND WELL
NINE BELOW ZERO
Buddy Guy released his aptly titled album The Blues Is Alive And Well in 2018, and provided some of his trademark stinging searing guitar on the single, “Nine Below Zero.” It’s a track that I rate highly, because it’s such a great example of the electric Chicago Blues that he helped pioneer.
The unrushed Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller) cover found Guy proving that his vocal prowess was still strong as a bull at the age of 81 years young. Surrounded by superb musicians, Buddy continues to shine brightly. Kudos to producer Tom Hambridge for continuing to present Guy in his best light: comfortable as a bug in a rug with the blues.
Personnel – Nine Below Zero
Buddy Guy ~ Guitar, Vocals
Rob McNelley ~ Guitar
Kevin McKendree ~ Piano
Willie Weeks ~ Bass
Tom Hambridge ~ Drums
JACK MACK AND THE HEART ATTACK HORNS ~ from the album BACK TO THE SHACK
NEVER TOO LATE
“Making Back to the Shack was great fun, especially when we tracked it. We didn’t demo any of these songs. We just went in the studio with the lyrics, music and melody and the band members found the groove. With cats like Bergman, Campbell, Lovitt, Murguia, Thornburg, Finnigan, Braunagel, Atkinson and Falconer you just can’t lose.” ~ Andrew Kastner
“To me there is simply nothing like the expression and power that the majestic Hammond B-3 organ and a 122 Leslie bring to the table for any type of music. I’m proud to say it’s been my keyboard voice and partner in crime for over 40 years.” ~ Carlos Murguia
“Some driving Hammond B-3 organ and blistering hot and nasty guitar interplay fuel “Never Too Late.” The highest quality horn arrangement affixes the atmosphere while Bruce Atkinson’s stepping bass guitar and guest Les Falconer on the drum kit hold down the fort with a tight tension-filled rhythm groove. Mark Campbell is masterfully superb in pleading for “someone to rescue me” because “it’s never too late …. too late for love,” and the background vocals provide a bit of additional pizazz.” ~ RP /Vivascene
ROY BUCHANAN ~ from the album WHEN A GUITAR PLAYS THE BLUES
SHORT FUSE (1985)
Roy Buchanan’s classic Alligator debut, When A Guitar Plays The Blues, was an exhilarating exhibition by the late genius of pyrotechnic blues/rock guitar. Roy himself called it “the best album I ever made.” All of the songs are good, but “Short Fuse,” with it’s appropriate title always planted the seed in my mind of a keg of gunpowder….. with the fuse burning its way down to detonation. A truly explosive instrumental number.
Roy Buchanan: Lead Guitar
Criss Johnson: Rhythm Guitar
Bill Heid: Keyboards
Larry Exum: Bass
Morris Jennings: Drums
BUDDY GUY ~ from the album SKIN DEEP
EVERY TIME I SING THE BLUES
“Buddy Guy was for me what Elvis was probably like for other people. My course was set, and he was my pilot.” ~ Eric Clapton speaking at Buddy Guy’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2005.
“Buddy Guy is the last generation of the true blues musicians as we know them. He knows the language and speaks it as I imagine he always did. He’s the last one-of-a-kind, he-man of the blues, a muscleman of the guitar heroes.” ~ Eric Clapton
“After one gig, two cats came backstage and started questioning me like I was the teacher and they was the students. This was the first time I’d hear their names: Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. They said they slept in a van all night just to get to see me. They also said how they never knew a Strat could play blues. They thought the Strat was only for country music. I told them that it wasn’t my idea; I got it from Guitar Slim. All they wanted to hear was stories about Guitar Slim, Lightnin’ Slim, and Lightnin’ Hopkins. They knew every Chess record where I backed up Muddy and Wolf. They also knew my little single recordings, even the ones I’d done for Cobra. To make ends meet I had played the gig with only drums and bass. That impressed Clapton. He said, ‘Man, you make a trio sound big as a full band. And the way you keep your feet moving and throw the guitar around… wow!’ “Ain’t nothing,” I said, “compared to what I seen Guitar Slim do.” ~ Buddy Guy
The composition, “Everytime I Sing The Blues,” from Buddy Guy’s 2008 Skin Deep was a songwriting collaboration from Gary Nicholson and Tom Hambridge.
Everytime I Sing The Blues – personnel
Guitar, Vocals – Buddy Guy
Guitar, Vocals – Eric Clapton
Guitar – David Grissom
Keyboards – Reese Wynans
Bass – Willie Weeks
Drums, Backing Vocals – Tom Hambridge
ERIC CLAPTON ~ from the album JOURNEYMAN
Journeyman in 1989 was hailed by fans and critics alike as “his best since Slowhand “, or “most consistent and satisfying since his 461 Ocean Boulevard release.” Clapton’s play is lean and mean filled with incisive solos throughout, a stunning display of heartfelt emotion.
The song “Old Love” was co-written by Eric Clapton and his blues peer Robert Cray. Here, Eric’s singing is simply superb with gritty soul touching sensitivity. The production is polished, but not overly so. Clapton would also later provide a fine version on his 1992 ‘MTV Unplugged session,’ which would lead to his highly successful Unplugged album and would regularly include it in his concert appearances ever since. All these years later, the entire album still holds up amongst his finest career moments.
Old Love – personnel
Guitar, Vocals – Eric Clapton
Guitar – Robert Cray
Piano – Richard Tee
Bass – Nathan East
Drums, Tambourine – Jim Keltner
Synth Piano – Robbie Kondor
Synth Strings – Alan Clark
Vibraphone – Gary Burton
JIMMY CARPENTER ~ from the album THE LOUISIANA RECORD
“New Orleans music has the deepest roots of all American music. The grooves there are derived from generations passed: sometimes refined, sometimes raw, always grooving. It’s the origin of so much modern music, from rock-n-roll to blues to jazz, and often all mashed together in the same song. There is a looseness, a freedom, an uninhibited vibe to the whole city, and it shows in the music.” ~ Jimmy Carpenter
On his Gulf Coast Records release, The Louisiana Record, Jimmy Carpenter (saxophone and vocals) is pleasingly accompanied by guitarist Mike Zito, bassist Casandra Faulconer, keyboardist John Gros and drummer Wayne Maureau.
“This record is very different for me, recorded almost completely live, with simple instrumentation, and no frills. Strong melodies, laid back, grooving, iconic songs that were a real pleasure to play and sing, especially with this group of musicians, and literally on the bayou at Dockside Studios.” ~ Jimmy Carpenter
All the songs on this album are cover renditions of some of Carpenter’s favorite songs from the fertile Crescent City area. The tune “Travelin’ Mood” was written by Wee Willie Wayne who had the first recording in 1955. Subsequently, it has seen renditions done by Dr. John, Alan Price, Chuck Leavell, Gary Primach, Duke Robillard, and a few others.
The pleasurable, good time feeling Jimmy described above is quickly established on “Travelin’ Mood.” Carpenter’s sax opens the song, before the piano steps the pace and Mike Zito’s slide guitar dances along. The tune fits perfectly in Carpenter’s vocal wheelhouse, and he firmly nails it for extra bases.
The entire ensemble here is tight, but with just a tad of looseness which makes not tapping your foot along with the beat dang near impossible. When the first instrumental break comes, Zito steps out front in a masterful show of slide savvy. Carpenter then sings a bit, the lyrics naming the States he’s gonna hit in search of his gal. The yakkity sax reappears leading the pack, with piano and guitar keeping stride. And, although I didn’t specifically mention the rhythm section, their contribution is vital on this great group effort.
JOHNNY WINTER ~ from the album NOTHIN’ BUT THE BLUES
Texas born Johnny Winter (John Dawson Winter III) was riding the wave of the blues after a small detour into rock in the late Sixties. Not only had Jimi Hendrix sought him out as a sideman, but bluesman Muddy Waters recognized his talent at first glance, becoming a friend and collaborator.
Johnny Winters so enjoyed producing and playing guitar on Muddy Waters’ Hard Again that he used the same band for his own Nothin’ But the Blues (1977) also on Blue Sky Records. To me, it represents some of Winter’s best recordings outside of his work with Alligator Records.
The release contained this dedication: “I’d like to dedicate this album to all the people who enjoy my kind of blues and especially to Muddy Waters for giving me the inspiration to do it and for giving the world a lifetime of great blues.” ~ Johnny Winter.
“TV Mama” was a song written by Luella Brown (aka Lou Willie Turner), the wife of Big Joe Turner. On this one, Johnny performed it solo with his metal body National tricone resonator.
“I fell in love with that nasty sound. It reminds me of a garbage can with wire on it. It’s got all that metal ring to it, a real bluesy sound.” ~ Johnny Winter on National guitars
ALLY VENABLE ~ from the album HEART OF FIRE
TRIBUTE TO SRV
“Ally is the future of the blues and the crossover music of American roots-rock. She is Texas Honey.” ~ Mike Zito
“Being able to evolve the genre, I will try and keep the blues alive. This will bring younger people listening to the blues. What Stevie Ray Vaughan did is a perfect example. I was introduced [to the Blues] through listening to him. He was on main stream radio. His influence was a domino effect. Hopefully, my music will influence younger people.” ~ Ally Venable
“Tribute To SRV is based on the song Lenny. He’s a big inspiration. Jim Gaines [producer] told me the story of how it was seven minutes long and he tried to wave off Stevie by saying the tape’s running out. He said he got the same vibe when we played the song Tribute To Stevie Ray Vaughan on this album. The song is about eight minutes long, like the Riviera Paradise version he did.” ~ Ally Venable
Ally Venable continues to mature with fine offerings like this instrumental tribute to SRV.
BUDDY GUY ~ from the album FEELS LIKE RAIN
I COULD CRY
“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.
“It looked very dim a few years ago, but now things look a little better for the blues, and hopefully I can hang around a little longer till I can maybe get a couple more good albums. At least I’m ridin’ in my coach now, where I can lay down and sleep when I get ready. I done made that little step, thanks to Damn Right I Got the Blues” ~ Buddy Guy
I COULD CRY
Lead Guitar, Vocals – Buddy Guy
Piano, Vocals – John Mayall
Organ [Hammond] – Tom Canning
Rhythm Guitar – David Grissom
Bass Guitar – Ricky RC Cortes
Drums – Joe Yuele
KATHY & THE KILOWATTS ~ from the album FULLY CHARGED
THE HOUSE THAT FREDDIE BUILT
Austin, Texas has maintained a reputation over the years for an abundance of strong blues women. Angela Strehli, Marcia Ball, Miss Lou Ann Barton and Shelley King spring to mind. Kathy Murray does nothing to weaken that reputation.
Kathy Murray sings with a blazing passion, like her life depends on it. Kathy fronts the Kilowatts, and her right hand man in this group is guitarist, and more, Bill “Monster”Jones , who also happens to be her husband. You just don’t get a nickname like “monster” without having chops to burn. The duo shine like luminous stars throughout Fully Charged, the amped up release from Kathy Murray and the Kilowatts.
“The House That Freddie Built” is a roadhouse blues tribute to Freddie King’s place in the forefront of the Texas Blues tradition. The rhythm section of Michael Desantis and Jim Botta provide the deep pocket. To lift the mojo even higher, Hammond B-3 genius Lewis Stephens , who held a prime position in Freddie King’s band, is on hand to join in the fun.
BUDDY GUY ~ from the album RHYTHM & BLUES
BLUES DON’T CARE (featuring Gary Clark, Jr.)
“He’s as good as it gets. Gary reminds me of T-Bone Walker more than anybody I’ve ever seen. We’re all trying to do this to keep this music alive, because the Blues isn’t being played.” ~ Buddy Guy
Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Clark began playing guitar when he was twelve years old. It quickly became his obsession, as he spent his teens playing whatever gig he could find in the Austin area. He eventually met Clifford Antone, the promoter and owner of Antone’s, the city’s legendary premier blues club, who began featuring Clark at his venue. Acknowledged worldwide as an amazing live performer, Clark soon became one of the brightest players on Austin’s blues and rock scene.
In 2013, Gary Clark, Jr., took the opportunity to trade guitar licks with the one and only Buddy Guy on a song entitled “Blues Don’t Care”. It was a co-write by Tom Hambridge and Richard Fleming and was released on this outstanding double album.