Vivascene Shades of Blues and Blues/Rock Playlist

Contemporary blues at its best, with a diverse and exciting lineup of great tunes from today’s eminent practitioners.

JOHN PRIMER  ~ from the album  HARD TIMES


     “You CAN’T Paint the BLUES without the PRIMER!”

John Primer’s virtuosity as a blues musician was forged by legends of the genre. His list of early mentors and associates reads like a partial roll call for the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame. His first major gig, in the early ’70s, was at Theresa’s Lounge, home base of harp legend Junior Wells. The Southside house band also included Muddy Waters alumnus Sammy Lawhorn. Primer credits this formidable and versatile guitarist with inspiring him to first utilize his-now trademark technique on the slide. He remained at Theresa’s, maturing and honing his chops, until Muddy Waters recruited him in 1980. After Waters became too ill to perform in ’82, Primer hooked up with yet another Chicago blues master, the incendiary Magic Slim, with whom he played for about 13 years. 

In 2022, Mr. Primer’s released Hard Times. John Primer wrote all the songs, and provides vocals and lead guitar. The accompaniment comes courtesy of the Real Deal Blues Band (Steve Bell, blues harp / David Forte, bass guitar / Lenny Media, drums). Two extra special guests are on board: keyboard maestro and Delmark Records artist Johnny Iguana and guitarist Rick Kreyer who was a member of Muddy Waters’ last band.  

Primer pays homage to his hometown on the lyrics of a fine song titled “Chicago.” First Kreyer, then Primer take guitar solos on a brisk feel good blues shuffle tune. Mr. Primer is keeping the Blues alive, and in good hands



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 a salient lyrical flair. His musical originality has resulted in a recording of ultra-fine quality.

“I’d been on a tour through Oregon, Washington and Montana with Kara Grainger. One afternoon we were zooming through the small town of Troy, Montana on our way to Spokane. Looking out the van window I saw a storefront with the sign, “Hot Soup & Ice Cream.” I called out to the whole band to look, and we all had a good laugh about what a wrong-sounding combination that was. It stuck with me, and I ended up writing a song that extended that idea to two incompatible people. When we started to plan the recording, I knew that I wanted Kara to play on the track. I called her up, she remembered the sign in Troy, and she enthusiastically agreed to add her gorgeous guitar work to the song.” ~ Pat McDougall 

“I was so happy Patrick asked me to contribute to his latest album. He always brings enthusiasm, great musical ability as well as a sense of humor to any project he’s involved in. That road sign Pat spotted when we were touring together led to many hours of laughter for the remainder of our tour. I’m so glad the moment was forever captured in song…. nice one Pat!” ~ Kara Grainger 

Master storyteller McDougall sings “Hot Soup and Ice Cream” in a brilliant offhand manner that is vaguely reminiscent of Randy Newman. His lyrics go into great detail about the subject of the song encountering an intriguing lady that is unlike any he’s previously met. A roller coaster relationship ensues with plenty of ups and downs with the experience described by the metaphor “We go together like hot soup and ice cream.”Kara Grainger brings a buoyant cheery guitar lead that brings to mind songs from roughly a century past. Her leisurely playful six-string work is expressive and sweetly fits the song, with her mid-song solo ringing with a sugary tone. The contrast between the sunshiny melody and the wistful romantic lyrical content works like a charm.

In addition to Kara Grainger, the song features the guest rhythm section of bassist Jeff Langston and drummer Chandler Bowerman. This tune affords McDougall’s release even more diversity. And, it sounds better with each further listen. In fact, the album in its entirety, grows on me with each additional listen. It is high quality music performed with passion and a purpose



“The Fabulous Thunderbirds are an American institution which has survived near perpetual personnel changes since their origin in the mid-seventies. The lone constant has been Kim Wilson, their charismatic front-man and major inspiration. Wilson is a blues harmonica maestro, gifted vocalist, able songwriter and robust road warrior who has been the enduring glue that has sustained the unyielding viability of the rootsy Blues/Rock band from Texas for so many years. The new release is titled On the Verge on Severn Records, and it’s a blast of the T-Birds trademark blend of Blues, Rock, R&B and lesser supplementary genres – much like the blend of ingredients found in a spicy bowl of Texas chili.

“Kim Wilson, blessed with a thick, hearty soul/blues voice, has repeatedly teamed with the best of Texas’ ace blues electric guitarists in The Fabulous Thunderbirds. This trend has begun with Jimmie Vaughn and has carried on through Duke Robillard, Kid Ramos , and more recently Nick Curran. The latest guitar-slingers hailing from Austin, Texas to join the Thunderbirds are Johnny Moeller and Mike Keller; both of whom previously paired with Nick Curran in the Austin-based group The Texas Northside Kings. Both Moeller and Keller do an admirable job, but it is Wilson’s vocals that stand forefront in the mix throughout the release. His exceptional singing remains as tight as ever; not losing even a half-step with age.

“The two other new noteworthy additions are Johnny Moeller’s half-brother Jason Moeller on drums and Randy Bermudes on bass. These four younger musicians team with Kim Wilson to infuse the music with a fire and bravado worthy of the T-Bird name. Collectively they provide an undeniable authenticity along with a genuine directness of purpose that is crucial in allowing the blues to pack the emotional punch from which it gains its ultimate power. Additional guest musicians on keyboards, percussion, background vocals, and various horn instruments flesh out the overall sound.

“Too Much Water” has an almost uncanny semblance to Robert Cray in the vocal, the lyrics, and the musical rhythmic syncopated stance. Every time I hear it I keep expecting the Robert Cray guitar break that seems destined to come, but in its place is a Wilson melismatic blues harp lead that is simplistic, yet mighty tasty in its restraint. All the bluesy elements come together perfectly with the truly fine commanding lyrical content, making this one of the finest songs ever recorded by the T-Birds.” ~ RP / Vivascene 

Vocals, Harmonica – Kim Wilson

Guitar – Mike Keller 

Guitar – Johnny Moeller

Keyboards – Kevin Anker 

Bass – Randy Bermudes 

Drums – Jason Moeller



“I was actually born in Texas, so the first thing I heard was country music, storytelling music. I was a huge LeAnn Rimes fan, I loved that stuff. Then, I took songwriting and lyric writing when I was in college; studied a whole bunch of different styles, and I loved the singer/songwriter stuff, but I also loved putting that in a band setting as well. My more modern influences of songwriting would be the Wood Brothers. And I like a lot of Nashville writers.” ~ Vanessa Collier 

Vanessa Collier began playing saxophone at the age of nine, and studied at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. Ms Collier eventually earned dual degrees in Performance and Music Production & Engineering. While still working on completing her degree, she toured with veteran blues guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer Joe Louis Walker for approximately 1½ years. JLW is a gentleman with an extensive knowledge of blues history. JLW gave Ms Collier the sage advice to strike out on her own. Since that time the singer / songwriter / multi-instrumentalist has been releasing music and garnering both fans and awards.

“I grew up listening to a lot of Top 40 and country, and then I found Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, the jazzers, and Norah Jones, Jill Scott. When I was in college, I was given Bonnie Raitt’s first three records, and I just love her voice. She’s just always been able to give me goosebumps. She’s always sang a story so well: I just love anybody who sings a story well.” ~ Vanessa Collier 

Vanessa Collier’s most recent release was recorded live at The Power Station in NYC. The songs showcase her beautiful soul-laden vocals, as well as her fine songwriting skills. Seven are her originals, alongside three striking cover renditions.

Andrew Crane on bass guitar and Byron Cage on drums comprise the tight rhythm section forming the foundation for Collier and her group to build on. The much lauded Electric guitarist Laura Chavez is a true powerhouse. William Gorman, who joined the band of Joe Louis Walker when he was just nineteen is a wizard on keyboards. Add Collier’s work on various saxophones, and you have a tourniquet-tight ensemble.

An extended performance by Vanessa Collier and her band of the Ann Peeble’s song “I Can’t Stand The Rain” is about as good as gold. Peeble’s original was recorded in Memphis and released in 1973 with legendary Willie Mitchell producing the soul funk classic. Once, in a Billboard magazine article, John Lennon commented, “It’s the best song ever.”

Vanessa Collier’s protracted rendition allows everyone in the band to step up in a jazzy musical conversation, while she sings it with a passionate soul embrace that proves attractively enticing.  

KID RAMOS ~ from the album OLD SCHOOL


“Throughout Old School there is a raw looseness that is contagious and never feels sloppy. Kid Ramos’ guitar formula is honest as the day is long. He summons enduring guitar lines that are spare, tasty, and waste no notes whatsoever. His tone is usually sweet as molasses, but he can also apply a sharp sting at will.

“The second song is a cover of a 1957 Magic Sam composition titled “All of Your Love.” The song was recently covered by The Rolling Stones on their excellent back to the blues album Blue And Lonesome. Kid’s seventeen year old son Johnny Ramos may not be a match for Mick Jagger or Magic Sam, but he does a credible job handling the bluesy lead vocal. The focal point though is squarely on Kid Ramos’s inimitably muscular guitar play.” ~ RP / Vivascene

“Magic Sam had a different guitar sound. Most of the guys were playing the straight 12-bar blues thing, but the harmonies that he carried with the chords was a different thing altogether. This tune “All Your Love”, he expressed with such an inspirational feeling with his high voice. You could always tell him, even from his introduction to the music.” ~ Willie Dixon



Tom Holland is a contemporary bluesman famous for providing “Real Chicago Blues” in a time honored fashion. He has been paying his dues, playing traditional blues for over a quarter century with festival and club appearances worldwide. Years on the road with blues legends such as John Primer, Eddy Clearwater, and James Cotton have molded Holland into one of the most accomplished blues singers and guitarists in existence.

“I have great memories of touring in Japan in 2004 with James Cotton. To be halfway around the world playing to people who loved the music almost as much as we do here was a life changing experience!” ~ Tom Holland

“The blues has offered me a a chance to not only do what I love for a living, but I’ve gotten to travel to places I’ve never dreamed of playing, let alone seeing.” ~ Tom Holland

Tom Holland grew up on Chicago’s south side and was influenced by the city’s rich jazz and blues heritage from an early age. His father’s love of music and vast record collection provided the catalyst for Tom’s love of music….. especially blues. He began playing guitar at thirteen, learning by listening to Muddy Waters and the other masters. By the age of eighteen years of age he was gleaning knowledge from musicians on the vibrant Chicago blues scene.

“When I first started out, I hung around all the old guys and just soaked it all up.” ~ Tom Holland

Tom Holland cites fabled artists Muddy Waters, Earl Hooker, John Primer, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Eddie Taylor and Magic Slim as his greatest influences.  

The Tom Holland & The Shuffle Kings release No Fluff, Just The Stuff was recorded, and mixed at The House Of Tone Studio in Oak Park, Illinois by Felix Reyes and Tom Holland over three days in January of 2013. All ten compositions were penned by Tom Holland.

“The record is dedicated to my friends who were inspirations to me and didn’t get the chance to see the release: Neil Lifton, Hubert Sumlin, and Magic Slim. I miss you all very much each day. This one is for you guys.” ~ Tom Holland

One of the real treats comes with a simmering slow blues song, “Hardest Part Of Loving You.” Each member of the ultra-tight group is given an opportunity to share the spotlight. I believe my deep love for slow songs such as this one stems from the unique opportunity it ultimately offered for an intimate slow-dance while holding your partner in a warm and cozy embrace on the crowded dance floor.  

Guitar, Vocals – Tom Holland

Harmonica – Big D

Keyboards – Marty Sammon

Bass – Mike Scharf

Drums – Tino Cortes



Shaun Murphy’s outstanding new release, I’m Coming Home, has something to please every music lover. Of course there is plenty of Contemporary Blues present, but the songs also touch on the Soul genre, with ample Rock vibes to create a musical coup. The production achieved by Kevin McKendree is positively faultless.

“I tend to do a lot of ballads, introverted thoughts. There’s so much meat in that message.” ~ Shaun Murphy 

“If You Still Want Me” was another song on the new release that was composed by her friend Paul Warren. It’s a tender love ballad that is sung for all it is worth by Murphy. The subject in the song is missing the lover who has walked out, leaving her for another, and she is ready to go to whatever lengths to get him back.  

Shaun Murphy possesses the most precious gift a singer can own: the rare ability to be incredibly present in the moment and give a song a rich poignancy and depth that makes it her own. “If You Still Love Me” is a prime example of that gift.

The Shaun Murphy Band is comprised of a team of music professionals who have been playing their instruments for more decades than they care to count. Their combined performance on this song is magnificent.

“I have the best bunch of guys right now that I’ve ever had. I have Tom DelRossi on drums. I have John Marcus on bass, who was with Tim McGraw for 22 years – I’m so lucky to have him. I have Kenne Cramer on guitar; he was with Lee Roy Parnell, Dr. Hook… just a whole bunch of people. Then, I have Tommy Stillwell on guitar as well; he was with the Beat Daddys for many, many years. And, Kevin McKendree is simply amazing.” ~ Shaun Murphy 

Vocals — Shaun Murphy

Guitar — Kenne Cramer

Guitar — Tommy Stillwell

Keyboards — Kevin McKendree

Bass — John Marcus

Drums —Tom DelRossi



“The venerable group of musicians gathered together to form the group known as The Proven Ones create a musical statement for both 2018 and the ages with their CD entitled Wild Again. In doing so, they pay tribute to the celebrated history of The Blues, while maintaining an innovative and modern stance. 

“This band plays the blues without compromise, diving into the project and packing a terrific punch on both sturdy originals and well-chosen covers. Wild Again is self-produced by The Proven Ones being recorded and mixed by drummer Jimi Bott at his Roseleaf studio.

“The veteran rhythm section that causes a commotion is comprised of drummer/percussionist Jimi Bott teamed with Willie J. Campbell on bass guitar. The duo worked together in the California blues group The Mannish Boys and have known each other for close to three decades. Legendary guitarist David “Kid” Ramos also spent time with The Mannish Boys. Jimi Bott, Willie Campbell, and Kid Ramos were bandmates in The Fabulous Thunderbirds for a spell. 

“The first song on the release is a Bott penned song titled “Cheap Thrills.” It was originally on Bott’s solo release in 2005 on Roseleaf Records Cheap Thrills Live Vol. I. That one was performed with Fabulous Thunderbirds personnel that included Kid Ramos and Willie Campbell. And, much like the version presented here, it offers an electrifying jam with stand-out drumming, rock ‘n’ roll guitar, and Anthony Geraci’s stately Hammond B-3 organ, and honky-tonk piano. Plus this version includes a mighty fine vocal treatment by Brian David Templeton which includes some occasional echo-chamber vocal effects.” ~ RP / Vivascene 



Twenty five years into his recording career Kenny Wayne Shepherd continues to create genre-defining blues-infused rock n’ roll. 

KWS has built an enviable resume as an accomplished recording artist, a riveting live performer, and one of the most talented and distinctive guitarists of his generation. KWS 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. To date he has enjoyed seven #1 Blues albums in addition to a string of #1 mainstream rock singles.

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 one of the standout tracks amongst much greatness, in my opinion. The band is oh, so tight – like your high school letterman sweater.

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 



Michissippi Mick Kolassa lives in Memphis, but he was born in Michigan and lived in Mississippi for nearly 30 years. That’s where he garnered his imaginative nickname. He has played blues in solo and duo acoustic formats, and with his bands for many years and is one of the most prolific songwriters anywhere. He churns out songs faster than a country housewive churned out a barrel of butter in the late 1700’s. 

I seem to appreciate all of his recordings, especially those in which he collaborates with gifted guitarist and producer Jeff Jensen, which seems to be his common practice. On the new release on Endless Blues Records titled Wooden Music, Kolassa and Jensen decided to churn out an all-acoustic record. Ten of the eleven songs are Kolassa originals, with the lone cover coming from the brilliant catalog of the late Guy Clark.

The accordion of Rick Steff provides a beautiful counterpoint to Kolassa’s warmly weathered worn vocal on the song “Memphis Wood.” Featured guest guitarist Tas Cru adds a leisurely taste of his bluesy acoustic “gravi-Tas” to the sweet mix, especially at the break at about the 1 ½ minute mark. The lyrics extol the virtues of that sweet Memphis Wood in providing consolation from life’s romantic heartbreaks. The magical musical ingredients of Memphis Wood are fondy revealed in the lyrics. Yes, Memphis Wood will soothe your soul and set your mind at ease.

“Call it acoustic, or unplugged, or just cool, this album was made with love, soul, and wooden instruments.” ~ Mick Kolassa 



“Music can take people to a place where they forget about their everyday problems, and make people smile more often.” ~ Rick Berthod 

“My relationship with Peter Green started when I was 14 years old, and my uncle first played blues records for me at his house. He told me about seeing Peter & Fleetwood Mac open for Deep Purple. When I heard “Oh Well,” I knew I wanted to play guitar. Peter’s pure emotion and soul hit me like a ton of bricks. Songs like “Need Your Love So Bad” still can bring a tear to my eye: a song like “Jumping at Shadows” gives me goose bumps.” ~ Rick Berthod 

Peter Green had the distinction of replacing Eric Clapton in John Mayall’s band, and was the founding father of Fleetwood Mac, recruiting Mayall’s rhythm section at the time (Mick Fleetwood and John McVie) to form one of Britain’s major blues outfits. He had a penchant for instrumental genius, which was amplified after he left the group to go solo. “Albatross” was released as a single, and appeared on the English Rose LP.

Rick Berthod’s dreamy rendition of the song is a faithful homage, and the classic song is truly timeless.



“Every time I play with him my booty hurts afterwards from him kicking it all night!” ~ Elvin Bishop

Mighty Mike Schermer is an expert songwriter, singer and guitarist that has spent a lifetime pursuing his musical craft. He has carved out a solid solo career, releasing eight critically acclaimed albums of American roots music. Additionally, he has supplied his skilled expertise while touring and recording with such legendary figures as Elvin Bishop, Marcia Ball, Bonnie Raitt, Maria Muldaur, Angela Strehli, Charlie Musselwhite and many more.

Schermer’s songs have been covered by blues award recipients Tommy Castro, Billy Price and the late Frank Bey to name just a couple. 

“Mighty Mike Schermer is probably the best blues guitarist, singer and songwriter you’ve never heard of.” ~ Tommy Castro

His release Just Getting Good was recorded at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland in San Jose, CA with help from plenty of outstanding musicians. All twelve original songs were penned by Schermer. He had a little bit of writing assistance from his beautiful and talented partner, Ms. Kimmy Pickens on a couple of my favorites. With the opening cut aptly describing his storied musical journey with lyrical wit: “It ain’t getting’ old, it’s just getting’ good!” 

   Just Gettin’ Good – personnel 

Vocals – Ms. Kimmy Pickens, Mighty Mike Schermer

Guitar – Mighty Mike Schermer

Organ – Tony Stead

Bass – Steve Ehrmann

Drums – Derrick Martin

Trumpet – Jeff Lewis 

Tenor Saxophone – Eric Spaulding

Baritone Saxophone – Aaron Lington

Trombone – Mike Rinta



Alligator Recording artists and Chicago-blues masters The Cash Box Kings are known around the globe for their dedication to creating rich, timeless blues.  They are a primo blues ensemble co-led by blues harp maestro Joe Nosek and versatile vocalist Oscar “Mr. 43rd Street” Wilson that continually roll out music that makes you feel good as gold.  The two co-leaders are constantly accompanied by the Windy City’s best; the cream of the crop.

“The Cash Box Kings are a throwback to the golden age of blues with some kickin’ fresh young blood.  Joe is my best friend in the music world: the band is a marriage made in heaven for both of us.” ~ Oscar Wilson 

The Cash Box Kings have won widespread acclaim throughout the blues world, and their current release has only strengthened their position. Throughout Oscar’s Motel the group brings a contemporary authority and old-school authenticity to the plate to please their legion of fans.

Lead guitarist Billy Flynn is the author of the slow blues song, ‘Trying So Hard.’  It is truly an ensemble tune that allows everyone to groove.  The guitars, the piano, the blues harp, and the rhythm section all are heavily involved.  The album is spiced with guest appearances, with Shoji Naito turning up on rhythm guitar.

“Shoji is one of the most talented and competent cats I have ever met in my entire career.” ~ Eddy Clearwater

Wilson’s vocal is a thing of beauty as he emotes the true blues vibe with convincing authenticity.  When he sings, “I ain’t got no money, and I’m walking down the railroad track / And, if things don’t change I ain’t ever comin’ back” you can’t help but believe every single word.

If you want to hear true blues performed in the Electric Chicago tradition, then look no further than the Cash Box Kings.  

Vocals – Oscar Wilson 

Harmonica – Joe Nosek 

Lead Guitar – Billy Flynn

Guitar – Shoji Naito 

Piano – “Queen” Lee Kanehira

Bass – John W. Lauler

Drums – Kenny Smith