Vivascene New and Old Blues Variety Playlist

Variety is the spice of life, and this assembly of new and old blues cuts proves highly satisfying.



On Mississippi Blend, her brilliant 2017 Ruf Records release, Ghalia Volt called on some special guest stars to assist herself, bassist / co-producer Dean Zucchero, and guitarist Smokehouse Brown in the making of a special Louisiana flavored blues/rock treat.

The gifted trio, along with ace musicians Lightnin’ Malcolm, Cedric Burnside, Watermelon Slim, and Cody Dickinson were assembled with veteran engineers Kevin Houston and Kevin Nix at Zebra Ranch Recording Studio in the hill country of Coldwater, Mississippi.  Zebra Ranch is owned by Cody and his brother Luther Dickinson, founding members of the North Mississippi Allstars and the sons of the late, legendary Jim Dickinson. The result of this project was a fine blend of Mississippi Hill Country sounds with some rock edges.

“My lyrics come from stories I’ve experienced and the emotional reactions to them.  In the old days, they said blues is not only about lamentation, but encouragement.  That’s the way I see it, too.” ~ Ghalia Volt 

On the song, “First Time I Died,” Ghalia provides a smoldering, enticing vocal to a song that stealthily slithers along like a Mississippi cottonmouth snake at night.  Comparisons to other singers don’t really apply; she has a unique style that is satisfying to my ears, sending pleasurable shivers up my spine.  The song’s deep echo and reverb add a menacing atmosphere, as does the guitar of Smokehouse Brown.  

A fixture on the New Orleans blues scene since 2009, Smokehouse Brown (longtime Johnny Maestro and Mama’s Boys lead guitar player) has been described as playing his instrument with a rich blend of Chicago and Delta blues with a dose of Nawlins funk.  On “First Time I Died,” I’d say he’s closer to emulating the exciting solo work of the great Harvey “the Snake” Mandel.

The rhythm section is simply fiery perfection.  Both Dickinson and Zucchero are experienced blues veterans with few peers.  When the group arrives at the instrumental break at just before the two minute mark, the musicians lock tight with the passionate fury comparable to any of history’s best power trios.

First Time I Died – personnel 

   Vocals, Guitar – Ghalia Volt 

   Lead Guitar – Smokehouse Brown

   Bass – Dean Zucchero 

   Drums – Cody Dickinson 

“The Hammond B3 is heavy, for sure. Heavy as a heartache.” ~ Gregg Allman
Gregg Allman poured out his heart on “My Only True Friend” with the same passion that made the singer, songwriter, and musician the legend that he was. One of the inventors of Southern Rock, Gregg was blessed with one of the finest soulful blues growls in existence. His Hammond B-3 Organ skills were filled with tremendous power: emotionally impactful.  
Long time Gregg Allman Band musical director & gifted guitarist Scott Sharrad was a co-writer with Gregg on this song. Sherrod is now a member in the band Little Feat.
This great recording was the opening track off of Gregg Allman’s final studio album in 2017, Southern Blood, produced by Don Was and mixed by Bob Clearmountain. The recording was a product of nine days toil at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama in March of 2016.  
Billy F Gibbons of ZZ Top once eloquently stated Gregg Allman’s singing and keyboard playing displayed “a dark richness, a soulfulness that added one more color to the Allmans’ rainbow.”
Southern Blood producer Don Was said of the posthumous LP: “It was kind of unspoken, but it was really clear we were preparing a final statement, in many ways.  It’s not an album about dying. Gregg was explaining his life and making sense of it, both for the fans who stood with him for decades, and for himself.”
The Gregg Allman Band
  Vocals, Guitar, B-3 Organ – Gregg Allman
  Guitar – Scott Sharrard
  Keyboards – Peter Levin
  Bass – Ronald Johnson
  Drums – Steve Potts 
  Percussion – Marc Quinones
  Saxophone, Flute – Jay Collins
  Saxophone – Art Edmaiston
  Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Marc Franklin
  Harmony Vocals – Buddy Miller
Recent Ruf Records signee Ashley Sherlock just released his debut album Just A Name, on the Ruf label on Friday, June 16, 2023. The release follows the Northern Britain guitarist, singer, songwriter’s two prior EPs, and with the new twelve song release he’s poised for global recognition with his three piece group playing an ear-satisfying rock synthesis of melodic vocals, string-bending guitar riffs, upon a bedrock of strong beats: Indie-rock with just a smidgen shade of blues.
“The band started about four years ago. That’s when I found the dynamic rhythm section of Charlie Rachael Kay on bass and Danny Rigg on drums. I love those guys to bits.” ~ Ashley Sherlock
“This new album talks about some of the toughest parts of my life, and if any of it makes sense and resonates with even just one person… then we have done our job.” ~ Ashley Sherlock 
The lead off track, “Trouble,” is the third song I’ve heard from ‘Just A Name,’ and I’m really liking what I’m hearing. It follows the previous pre-released songs, “Realise,” and “Dear Elizabeth.” Sherlock’s vocal ranges from sweet mellowness to his near screams on “TROUBLEEEEEE” as he clearly relates the bad, bad way he’s feeling. The guitar break at around the three minute mark allows for a release of the tension that’s been steadily building earlier in the tune. Take a listen. 
Ashley Sherlock – Guitars, Lead Vocals
Charlie Rachael Kay – Bass, Backing Vocals
Danny Rigg – Drums, Backing Vocals
Remembering Joe Cocker, a man with a raspy voice that could deeply touch your heart and soul. 
Joe Cocker is best known for his memorable interpretations of other people’s songs. He was certainly one of the finest ever at this art. “First We Take Manhattan” was written by the late Leonard Cohen, one of the great songwriters of his generation. As was Cocker’s standard practice, he completely “owns” it.
First We Take Manhattan – personnel 
  Vocal – Joe Cocker
  Electric Guitar – Tim Pierce
  Electric Guitar – Steve McEwan
  Electric Guitar – Steve Power
  Piano – Chris Elliott
  Organ [Hammond] – Jonn Savannah
  Bass – David Catlin-Birch, Neil Stubenhaus
  Drums – Jeremy Stacey
  Percussion – Andy Duncan
  Synth – Spike Edney
  Backing Vocals – Helen Hampton, Katie Kissoon, Mary Carewe
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!  It’s 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.
“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 Pierre Lacocque, as always, is sublime on his blues harp.  
Truth Like Rain – personnel
  Vocals, Lead Guitar – Michael Dotson
  Harmonica – Pierre Lacocque
  Keyboards – Johnny Iguana
  Bass – Brian Quinn
  Drums – Terrence Williams
“I met Derek Trucks when I was playing on Susan Tedeschi’s album in 2004 (Hope And Desire) and she had already been a fan of mine and familiar with my work. During that session, there was one song Trucks played on and I became immediately intrigued with his playing. I was blown away that he could make a six string sing like some sacred steel instrument.” ~ Doyle Bramhall II
Doyle didn’t specify the specific song, but I’m almost 100% positive that he was referring to Susan’s outstanding rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Lord, Protect My Child.” The spotlight on the song is clearly Tedeschi’s near perfect vocal. Guest star, and future husband, Derek Trucks plays a sweet dobro that indeed does sounds pretty dang sacred.
Vocals – Susan Tedeschi
Dobro – Derek Trucks 
Acoustic Guitar – Doyle Bramhall II 
Piano – David Palmer
Bass – Paul Bryan 
Drums, Percussion – Jay Bellerose
Backing Vocals – Jean McClain, Niki Haris 
IVOR S.K. ~ from the album MISSISSIPPI BOUND
Ivor S.K. is a native of Australia with a Piedmont Blues heart and soul. His debut EP, Delta Pines, was a true treat to the ears. It contained five delectable songs performed on acoustic guitar by Ivor that revealed an unvarnished substance and style that evoked the pre-World War II country blues centers of the Mississippi Delta and the Piedmont regions.
He built upon that sturdy foundation on his follow-up Montserrat, gaining more critical acclaim and picking up more fans. His newest, much anticipated release is titled Mississippi Bound, and doesn’t disappoint in the least. Fifteen new original songs; each written, arranged and performed by Ivor S.K. in the style of the pre-War troubadour. Simple solo acoustic guitar and unadorned vocal. I probably shouldn’t call the guitar play simple. It’s highly skilled play on what sounds like a National Steel guitar, but the album pictures a plain acoustic. 
These original songs performed on a barebones slate, feel like old friends; due primarily to the manner in which Ivor presents them. It feels like he is auditioning the tunes solely to you, in the comfort of your living room sofa or back porch swing.  
The lyrics to ‘I Don’t Roll’ remain ambiguous, and left to the listener to decipher. It’s the relaxed lived-in feel that I really love. Ivor’s vocal is warm and delightful, much like my favorite sipping whisky. And also like the whiskey, one sip is never enough.
“The blues are three L’s – Living, Loving and hopefully, Laughing.” ~ B.B. King
“I know the critics always mention Live & Well or Live at the Regal, but I think that Indianola Mississippi Seeds was the best album that I’ve done artistically.” ~ B.B. King
On Indianola Mississippi Seeds,  released in 1970, B.B. King’s sympathetic producer and engineer Bill Szymczyk brought in stars from the rock world to make guest appearances. His rationale was to further the cross-over appreciation of blues genius King’s music following the success of “The Thrill Is Gone.” The recording was done in Los Angeles at The Record Plant with key appearances by Joe Walsh, Leon Russell, Carole King, Russ Kunkel, and backup vocalists Merry Clayton, Venetta Fields and Clydie King. Although many blues purists didn’t approve of this blues genre dilution, Riley B. King’s absolute commitment to the blues tradition never faded.
The second song on Side A, one of two Dave Clark compositions on the record, “You’re Still My Woman,” is a slow and brooding, reflective tune that features B.B.’s always winning guitar and vocal and a mighty-fine supportive melodic piano courtesy of Carole King. The rhythm section of Bryan Garofalo and Russ Kunkel is as steady as a fine Swiss timepiece. The string arrangement by Jimmie Haskell serves the song quite well, putting the spotlight on B.B.’s resolute vocal and his trusty Lucille’s sweet song.
You’re Still My Woman – personnel 
   Vocals, Guitar – B.B. King
   Piano – Carole King
   Bass – Bryan Garofalo
   Drums – Russ Kunkel
Big Harp George rounded up some of his talented West Coast friends from his previous two albums for his 3rd release, the ultra-cool Uptown Cool on the Blue Mountain Records label. The album was recorded at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios in San Jose, CA, and engineered by Andersen back in 2018.
Throughout ‘Uptown Cool’ Big Harp George and his band present a signature stew of infectious songs, ironic lyrics, and impeccably played instruments making the release a tour de force for aficionados of chromatic harmonica.
“Alternative Facts” is a song of particular relevance in these current times of fake news fueled by the en masse sharing of misinformation on social media. The tongue-in-cheek lyrics show some examples of how far-fetched some of the fabrications posing as truths can reach. George uses a semi-spoken vocal to get his message across. The horn arrangement by saxophonist Michael Peloquin, who also did the arrangement on “Internet Honey,” suits the song without blemish. Kid Andersen shows his fretboard agility and the background vocalist sings the refrain “fake news” and is answered each time by Big Harp correcting with “alternative facts.” BHG’s harmonica play is simply sublime
Phil and Dave Alvin are founding members of the L.A. band The Blasters, a group that blends all styles of American roots music, with a heaping helping of The Blues. Before that, Phil Alvin was a member of Big Joe Turner’s backing band, along with keyboardist Gene Taylor. Taylor would spend 4½ years in the Blasters, and appear on four of The Blasters LPs before moving on to be a part of another rootsy feel-good band; The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Taylor’s presence on this record is hugely felt, with his genius being akin to the piano work of Pinetop Perkins; that is, knowing just what to play to enhance each song consummately.
“Here’s a jumping track from the upcoming new release by my brother and me, one of four Big Joe Turner songs we recorded on the album. Big Joe was our musical mentor, spiritual guide and lifelong friend so on this record we wanted to finally pay tribute to him. Blaster Gene Taylor struts his stuff on the boogie woogie piano, Don Heffington is rocking the drums, Bob Glaub is keeping everything solid on bass, Chris G Miller is swinging the acoustic guitar while I bash on the loud, electric guitar and my brother shouts the blues just like Big Joe taught him decades ago. Hope you enjoy it.” ~ Dave Alvin, 2015
The song “Feeling Happy” was written by Big Joe Turner, one of the pioneers of rock’n’roll and jump blues, and was first recorded and released by Joe Turner and His Blues Kings in 1956. The legendary R&B belter/shouter was born Joseph Vernon Turner Jr. (May 18, 1911 – November 24, 1985). Big Joe Turner was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1983 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
FEELING HAPPY – personnel 
Vocals – Phil Alvin
Electric Guitar – Dave Alvin
Acoustic Guitar – Chris Miller
Piano – Gene Taylor 
Bass – Bob Glaub 
Drums – Don Heffington
“Don’t Look Back” is a song written by legendary blues singer-songwriter John Lee Hooker, and released as a single in 1964. As a duet, Hooker would later perform the song with the Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison on the 1997 album as the title track. Morrison would act as Producer on the track. 
Don’t Look Back enjoyed album chart success in both the U.S. and UK.  The album also went on to earn a double-Grammy win.
In the Grammy Best Traditional Blues Recording category it bested Charlie Musselwhite – Rough News, Ruth Brown – R + B = Ruth Brown, Junior Wells – Live At Buddy Guy’s Legends, and Pinetop Perkins – Born In The Delta.
In the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals category it bested Barbra Streisand – Tell Him (Barbra Streisand And Celine Dion), Barbra Streisand – I Finally Found Someone (Barbra Streisand And Bryan Adams), Babyface And Stevie Wonder – How Come, How Long, and Tony Bennett -God Bless The Child (Tony Bennett with Billie Holiday).
The song was also on an unofficial compilation CD of 11 song collaborations from the pair titled Van Morrison, John Lee Hooker, Together.
Don’t Look Back – Personnel 
  Vocals, Guitar – John Lee Hooker
  Vocals, Guitar – Van Morrison
  Guitar – Danny Caron
  Acoustic Bass – Ruth Davies 
  Drums – Kevin Hayes 
  Keyboards – Charles Brown 
“Sometimes you’ll tell a story about something that’s happened to you in the past, and only you can know that story. I mean, if it comes from that place. It’s not that you can’t do it with somebody else, but it comes from that place then that’s what it’s all about.” ~ Robert Cray
“Change is good; it’s necessary sometimes. We had two changes for In My Soul. The first of which was having Les Falconer join as drummer. I’ve watched Les from afar, but not too far away; he’s been in the Keb’ Mo’ band for years. It just so happened that three or four years ago, Les asked me if I ever wanted to make a change to consider him, and I did so about 16 or 18 months ago, so that was the reason for that change. We changed keyboard players, and we have Dover Weinberg on board, who also used to be in the band in the late ’70s. We made the change because I remember Dover having a great sound and a great feel, and I thought it would be great to have him work on the new record before we went into the studio.” ~ Robert Cray
“The composition, “I Guess I’ll Never Know,’ on In My Soul was a co-written effort by Jeff Paris, Les Falconer, Rick Whitfield and Robert Cray. The release on the Provogue label was available in an 180 gram vinyl version for audiophiles.  
“Some folks don’t like brass on Robert Cray albums, but I’m not in that camp. On this song they aren’t overpowering: they add punch and a Stax-y good substance. The backup singing also is mixed perfectly to my ears, just enough to add soul seasoning.
“It’s common knowledge that Robert Cray is always surrounded by the very best musicians. Such is the case on In My Soul. The rhythm section of bassist Richard Cousins and drummer Les Falconer is nonpareil. Cousins was in Cray’s first band back in ’90, and boy did he ever shine on Eric Clapton’s 24 Nights. Falconer has impressive credits too (check out Keb’ Mo’ Live and Mo’). Velvety engaging is the flavoring courtesy of the Hammond B-3 Organ of Dover Weinberg. 
“Robert Cray is in excellent voice throughout. Mr. Cray is at the top of his game on guitar also. You gotta know how good his game has been for decades: like Snickers, indescribably delicious.” ~ RP / Vivascene 
I Guess I’ll Never Know – personnel 
  Vocal, Guitar – Robert Cray
  Keyboards – Dover Weinberg
  Bass – Richard Cousins
  Drums – Les Falconer
  Percussion – Steve Jordan
  Horns – The Cats
“On Bringing It Back Home, Robben Ford has assembled a cast of four top-shelf contributing musicians all having the uppermost of jazz pedigrees, but also artists who, identical to himself, are proficient in a diverse variety of musical styles. Harvey Mason on drums is a living legend. He was involved on many of the CTI record projects that first drew me towards jazz music. Mason also appeared on a couple of my favorite albums: Lee Ritenour’s Captain Fingers and Herbie Hancock’s funky groundbreaking Headhunters,  both masterpieces which have stylishly stood the test of time. Perhaps his greatest claim to fame was being enlisted as a charter member in the lineup of Contemporary Jazz super-group Fourplay. Moreover, he is a producer regarded by his peers with the utmost esteem.
“Another artist of world-wide notoriety is Larry Goldings, renowned for his versatility and expertise on keyboards and the Hammond organs in particular. Goldings has been a valued sideman on hundreds of projects, in addition to leading numerous others. On top of this, Goldings has made guest appearances on past Robben Ford releases, most notably on the 2007 release Truth. The other two contributors, David Pilch on bass and Stephen Baxter on trombone, while not as readily familiar to me, are both incredible top-notch musicians with exceedingly impressive and highly varied credits and touring credentials.
“A slow blues treasure “Fool’s Paradise” proves the perfect finale to warmly pull down the shades and close the curtain on Bringing It Back Home. Golding’s B-3 organ again lays the melodic underpinning that includes an unblemished lead moment as Robben sing-speaks the lyrics. The spotlight then moves from the organ to Ford’s expressive guitar contemplative musings. The heart rendering pathos is dually conveyed by the music and the sung narrative that relates the sad consequences learned from a cloying life of drinking and gambling and staying up all the night. Comparisons to the standard “That’s Life,” the popular chestnut sung by Frank Sinatra, Van Morrison, and many others is justified.” ~ RP / Vivascene 
Song personnel:
   Vocals, Guitar – Robben Ford
   Organ – Larry Goldings
   Bass – David Piltch
   Drums – Harvey Mason