Boz Scaggs headlines this eclectic blues playlist, ably complemented by a host of stellar performances from several other players delivering top-level blues satisfaction.
CASPER RAWLS ~ from the album BRAVE WORLD
Rick “Casper” Rawls is a music industry icon, a guitarist who plays the songs and the music, and not just the guitar. Although not universally well known, his tasteful musical chops have been on display in shows with some of the greatest names in rock and country over a five decade musical career.
“Being a sideman, it’s different every day. You wear whatever hat you pick up on the way out the door. As a sideman you have to be as prepared as you can. You’re there to support the artist and serve the song.” ~ Casper Rawls
Rawls is a master of acoustic and electric guitars, including his near-signature white Fender Telecaster equipped with a Parsons/White B-Stringbender System.
Casper Rawls released an ultra- fine solo recording, Brave World, in 2015 with R S. Field production that showcased his masterful versatility. It was recorded in Austin, Texas at Wire Studio.
Brave World featured performances by many simpatico roots musicians: guitarist David Grissom, bassists Glenn Fukunaga and Brad Fordham, drummers Dony Wynn and Chris Searles, pianists Floyd Domino and Earl Poole Ball, organist & accordionist Stefano Intelisano, pedal steel player Tommy Detamore, mandolinist, fiddler, harmony vocalist Warren Hood, harmony vocalist Marshall Hood, and Chris Carmichael on strings and string arrangements.
Casper Rawls provided a couple fine cover renditions on Brave World. One was J.J. Cale’s “Thirteen Days.”
BOZ SCAGGS ~ from the album MEMPHIS
Boz Scaggs ventured down to the famous Royal Studios in Memphis, Tennessee for his 2013 recording, titled appropriately, Memphis. Royal was the same studio where Al Green, under the direction of Willie Mitchell, produced hit after hit of soulful pop music in the mid-seventies. Boz drew upon that studio’s vibe for inspiration, and had Steve Jordan as his drummer and producer on the project. Veteran bassist Willie Weeks provided the bottom end to solidify this outstanding rhythm section.
Boz also had some stellar guests at the sessions. On “Dry Spell,” composed by Boz’s friend and frequent collaborator Jack “Applejack” Walroth, modern day bluesmaster ‘Keb ‘Mo laid down some clean Dobro slide utilizing the ceramic slide called “The Mudslide” made by Jim Dunlop. Boz and Jordan called on Mississippi legend Charlie Musselwhite to shade the song with his trademark locomotive blues harp licks, and also Spooner Oldham for a slight taste of piano. Blue-eyed soul singer Boz’s vocal is heavily echoed in the manner of his earlier release, Dig, but it remains immediately identifiable. This song is performed sans the Royal Horns & Strings that are used elsewhere, giving it a real nice earthier feel.
OMAR COLEMAN ~ from the album BORN AND RAISED
MAN LIKE ME
Omar Coleman’s 2015 release, Born And Raised on Delmark Records, provided great Chicago Blues from kickoff to completion. Just what we’ve come to expect from that respected Windy City Label.
The band Coleman assembled was definitely top shelf. On Omar’s original composition “Man Like Me,” guest guitarist Toronzo Cannon provides fuzz-toned sparks of his own to help the group create a groovin’ blues inferno.
The tight blues chops of guitarist Pete Galantis are in this fine mix. While hanging sturdily on bass guitar was the brilliant multi-instrumentalist Ari Seder, a graduate of the prestigious Oberlin Conservatory of Music with a B.M. in jazz guitar. The rollin’ piano of Neal O’Hara is bouncing along like a kangaroo to complete the ensemble effort. “Do you know what I am sayin’?”
MAN LIKE ME – Personnel
Vocals, Harmonica – Omar Coleman
Guitar – Toronzo Cannon
Guitar – Pete Galanis
Bass – Ari Seder
Drums – Marty Binder
Keyboards – Neal O’Hara
KID RAMOS ~ from the album OLD SCHOOL
ALL YOUR LOVE
“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 Your Love.” The song was recently covered by The Rolling Stones on their excellent back to the blues album Blue & 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
HAMILTON LOOMIS ~ from the album BASICS
COME AND GET ME
“Basics is the title of the powerful release by the highly accomplished singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist Hamilton Loomis on his Ham-Bone Music label. Loomis was born in the coastal city of Galveston, Texas (about an hour from Houston, one of the blues meccas of Texas) and blessed with musical parents who forwarded their love of music into the fabric of his DNA and furnished kindling to help fuel his musical aspirations.
“My parents had a fantastic record collection and, when I started writing, I gravitated towards what I’d been listening to all my life. I have a huge reverence for the blues and all it encompasses, but I’ve always been fond of R&B and funky music.” ~ Hamilton Loomis
“On Basics he continues his quest to stand out as an electrifying, boundary-crashing young star. In the process he strides atop the fenced genre boundaries while repeatedly crossing through the gates of rock, blues, and soul/funk with a smidgen of jazz fragments tossed in for good measure.
“When I was coming up in the music scene, I was lucky to have musical mentors like Joe ‘Guitar’ Hughes, Johnny ‘Clyde’ Copeland, and of course, rock icon Bo Diddley.” ~ Hamilton Loomis
“On Basics, Loomis has called on the talents of Armando Aussenac to flesh out his artistic concepts. Aussenac, a Mexico City born drumming whiz who attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, also provides background vocals, and in addition is co-writer of a pair of chief tracks. Grammy award winning songwriter Tommy Sims (Eric Clapton’s “Change the World”) contributes five co-writes and together Loomis and Sims function with an ESP-like chemistry in an exhibition of leading lyrical magic. Saxophonist Fabian Hernandez provides potent exquisite musical support, background vocals, and is credited with co-writing “Come and Get Me;” my favorite cut on the album.
“My nomination for 2017 Song of the Year goes to “Come and Get Me.” Seven minutes of pure delight on this wonderfully infectious song that contains guitar work that reminds me of Elliot Randall’s essential jazz-vibe contributions to Steely Dan (a band that defied genres). It could also be favorably compared to the scorched with a jazz casual virtuosity that recalls the endeavors of the late great guitarist Tommy Bolin. I love the superbly emotional vocal intensity and the tidy lyrics on exhibit here. The drumming of Armando Aussenac chugs along in a fashionable tight lock-step precision performance with the bass guitar. I could post all the lyrics, but an example is “It’s been a long long time, since you’ve been on my mind/I know what I’ve got to do/These open arms are coming for you/You live inside my soul/Loneliness takes control/But, you know what people say/Every tomorrow brings a new day.”
“Back to the guitar play: the guitar lead during the approximate 3 minute to 5 minute mark is prodigiously uplifting. The entire song is a masterful display of his axe virtuosity all the way to the final fade out. The musical and lyrical pieces all fit perfectly together like an accurately completed jig-saw puzzle.
“On Basics, Hamilton Loomis has achieved a superior standard of excellence for himself. Although at times he does show small traces of his musical influences, he is most assuredly not a musical clone. In the process of his evolution and illumination he has taken his music closer towards his already apparent R&B leanings while still possessing a soul for the blues. He steps up and epitomizes the perfect purring hum of a well-tuned Mercedes Benz. His musical sophistication mirrors that carmaker’s motto of “Defined by style, powered by innovation.” ~ RP / Vivascene
DEXTER ALLEN ~ from the album KEEP MOVING ON
IF I AIN’T GOT YOU
Born in Crystal Springs, Mississippi, some twenty miles south of Jackson, Dexter Allen is an artist that puts a heaping helping of funk and soul into his blues. The gentleman is an adept songwriter, and a brilliant multi-instrumentalist.
“As a songwriter, I write songs that I feel the everyday man or woman can relate to. I feel there is a song for every situation in life that we go through.” ~ Dexter T Allen
Dexter began playing guitar and bass around the age of ten under the tutelage of his uncle, and at the age of twelve he began playing bass guitar and traveling the central Mississippi area with his father’s gospel group. Years later, he played guitar, in addition to serving occasionally as band leader on tours with the legendary Bobby Rush.
Dexter released his most recent blues album, Keep Moving On, in 2021, on the Endless Blues Label. Allen skillfully handled the musical chores of guitar, keyboards and bass, as well as producing the album.
One of my favorite songs on the release is “If I Aint Got You.” It’s a blues funk song with a groovy vocal, and intelligent lyrics about having a multitude of material items, and also friends, a dog, children and a lover. But, there’s a key component in life’s happiness equation that’s missing…. the lady that is the object of his desire. As he states in the song, “Material things come and go; it’s matters of the heart that matter most.” Take a close listen.
TIM GARTLAND ~ from the album TRUTH
WISH I COULD GO BACK
“The long journey in music, has been enjoyable, and seems to get more joyful with time.” ~ Tim Gartland
Nashville based Tim Gartland is an extra-fine soulful blues singer. He is a songwriter boasting a vocal that is as smooth and satisfying as a sip of George Dickel Tennessee whiskey. A master of both the diatonic and chromatic harmonica, his lyrics are consistently top-notch. In fact, his greatest attribute might just possibly be his songwriting skill; adroitly combining lyrical and melodic mastery.
“I grew up in the midwest, in Ohio with a musical family. From money made as a paper boy, I bought my first harmonica at age thirteen, and have been playing ever since.” ~ Tim Gartland
His newest album, Truth, was expertly produced by Grammy Award winner Kevin McKendree. ‘Truth’ contains all original Gartland compositions that add to his continually growing reputation in Blues and Americana circles.
Key bolstering forces on this album are Kevin McKendree on piano and organ, Robert Frahm on lead guitar, Ray Desilvis on acoustic guitar, along with a top-level rhythm section comprised of Steve Mackey on bass, Kenneth Blevins on drums, and Bryan Brock on percussion. All are excellent musicians.
The leisurely blues track, “I Wish I Could Go Back,” is a co-write by Gartland and guitarist Ray Desilvis, who dazzles on acoustic slide. Like much of Garland’s songs, the lyrics are rich with imagery with examples “swingin’ like a monkey from tree to tree, and swimmin’ like a catfish, carefree.” The laid-back swampy vocal is well-suited, and with his prominent harmonica bestow a casual sitting by the river watching it flow ambiance. McKendree’s piano tinkling combines pleasantly with Garland’s harp and Desilvis’ slide on this well crafted song.
DOUGLAS AVERY ~ from the album TAKE MY RIDER
TAKE MY RIDER
Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Douglas Avery got an early start performing for the first time at age five as a member of his school‘s choir, singing pop and inspirational songs. He studied the trumpet at age eight, and was inspired by Jethro Tull’s frontman Ian Anderson to pick up the flute as a teenager.
Avery, after finding inspiration from the moving performances and stirring recordings by harmonica greats such as Magic Dick (J.Geils Band), Paul Butterfield and Alan Wilson (Canned Heat), began teaching himself to play the instrument in the early Seventies.
Along the way, Avery has studied the rudiments employed by some of America’s finest blues harp players including R.J. Mischo, Dennis Gruenling, Zoe Savage and the renowned instructor Jon Gindick.
While soaking up the West Coast blues scene, Doug has established friendships with R.J. Mischo, Kim Wilson, Henry Carvajal, Honey and Rod Piazza, guitarist Franck L. Goldwasser, and bassist/producer Ralph Carter. A regular at jam sessions, Douglas continues to sharpen his music skills alongside some of the SoCal area’s top players.
“This album rides with a cast of many of the best players working today. Doug’s songs, singing and harmonica playing grew on me like sweet melon in the summertime.” ~ RJ Mischo
In 2019, Douglas Avery finally acted on his lifelong desire to record some of his musical creations. Sitting in on a R.J. Mischo gig in Santa Barbara provided the opportunity for Avery to invite Franck L. Goldwasser to collaborate on his project. Upon the guitarist’s recommendation, the budding recording artist then recruited Ralph Carter and drummer Johnny Morgan for a recording session at the bassist/producer’s studio in Ventura. Encouraged by the band’s enthusiastic response, Avery drew from a broad spectrum of jazz, rock and ballad influences to compose and record additional material to complete an album.
This debut release, titled Take My Rider, was released in December 2022, on Avery’s own GreenWave record label. The release contained fourteen tracks. And most likely, Take My Rider will not be his last album. Enjoy the title track!
POPA CHUBBY ~ from the album TWO DOGS
“I came to the blues from the back door. I love it and appreciate it, but I don’t make the claim to be a bluesman. There are many people who play the blues way better than I do.” ~ Popa Chubby
“Popa Chubby placed a frequently recurring bit of advice in the liner notes of his 2017 release, Two Dogs, which I wholeheartedly agree with. He advises to “Play it loud and often!!!!!” I’ve followed his doctrine and found that all of the songs contained on this album resonate deeply in both my head and in my heart. So people…….. CRANK it up.
“Some people don’t enjoy instrumentals, but I confess that I’m not among those crazy individuals. I’ve always been a sucker for a great instrumental, and Popa muscularly delivers the goods with “Cayophus Dupree.” The song has a late-night “attitude” that is dominated by his vibrantly crisp and sparkling guitar legerdemain throughout. Dave Keyes (a long-time PC cohort) lordly weaves jazz/blues swirlings into the tune’s fabric from his Hammond B-3 organ played through a Leslie cabinet to provide a masterful counterpoint. Together Popa and Keyes have always been double-eyed dynamite, definitely the case here. Chubby also steps up on this one and provides simple, yet sturdily steadfast, bass and drums to this melodic and most-becoming blend.” ~ RP / Vivascene
ANTHONY GERACI ~ from the album WHY DID YOU HAVE TO GO
LONG WAY HOME
For approximately four decades, magnificent pianist, Hammond organist, and composer Anthony Geraci has played alongside some of the most influential blues musicians of the 20th century. The gentleman is an original member of SUGAR RAY & the BLUETONES, RONNIE EARL & the BROADCASTERS, and THE PROVEN ONES, and has been recognized for his stellar contributions on numerous albums by garnering nominations from both the Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Awards and the Grammys.
Anthony Geraci was also nominated for a Grammy in 2000 for his work on Super Harps I that also features James Cotton, Charlie Musselwhite, Billy Branch, Sugar Ray Norcia, and Michael Mudcat Ward
Anthony Geraci’s release in 2018, Why Did You Have To Go, on Shining Stone had a slew of guest vocalists, and key contributions from some of his many talented musical friends. It received a total of six Blues Music Awards nominations by the Blues Foundation for Album of the Year, Traditional Album of the Year, Song of the Year (“Angelina, Angelina”), as well as individual nominations: Pinetop Perkins Piano Award, Traditional Male Blues Artist and Band of the Year.
“I recorded this CD with my musical family. I’ve been fortunate over the last few years to meet and play/record music with some of todays greatest blues musicians: Sugaray Rayford, Ronnie Earl, Welch/Ledbetter, The Proven Ones (Kid Ramos, Jimi Bott, Willie Campbell, and Brian Templeton) and of course Sugar Ray and the Bluetones. I like to think of myself as a songwriter as much as a pianist and Hammond Organist. I always like to have that old school sound, but I also realize in 2018 that recordings are much more modern, and we can use that technology to our benefit.” ~ Anthony Geraci
All of the great songs presented on Why Did You Have To Go were penned by Geraci. The song “Long Way Home” benefits immediately from the sonic blast of horns courtesy of Sax Gordon and Doug Woolverton. The award winning vocalist Sugar Ray Rayford supplies his potent soulful punch while the entire group boogies down in support of Geraci’s keyboard mojo.
Long Way Home – personnel
Vocals – Sugaray Rayford
Keyboards – Anthony Geraci
Guitar – Kid Ramos
Bass – Willie J. Campbell
Drums – Jimi Bott
Saxophone – Gordon Beadle
Trumpet – Doug Woolverton
JOHN MAYALL ~ from the album U.S.A. UNION
TOOK THE CAR
John Mayall’s U.S.A. Union’s release was a fine release of ten original songs recorded without a drummer, maintaining his reputation as a blues innovator. On the album, Mayall played blues harp, guitar, piano, tambourine, and sang.
An all-American lineup supplied the sturdy support. The clean lead guitar throughout the album was provided by Harvey “The Snake” Mandel, with the bass guitar work of Larry “The Mole” Taylor. Don “Sugarcane” Harris imparts fine electric violin to the bluesy mix.
Vocals, Harmonica – John Mayall
Lead Guitar – Harvey Mandel
Violin – Don “Sugarcane” Harris
Bass Guitar – Larry Taylor
BUDDY WHITTINGTON ~ from his self-titled debut album
Buddy Whittington is a blues player who is proud of his Texas roots. A fine guitarist who honed his chops when he replaced Coco Montoya in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.
“John Mayall has actually run an incredibly great school for musicians.” ~ Eric Clapton
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, his parents were big fans of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys brand of Western Swing. But, probably the biggest influence in young Bud’s musical makeup was the record collection of his big sister, encompassing everything from British Invasion bands to R&B hits of the day and, of course, Elvis, Buddy Holly, Beatles, Stones, The Who, The Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers to ‘The Temps and The Tops’, Gary ‘U.S.’ Bond, Jimmy Reed, and Slim Harpo.
All those years with Mayall (the Godfather of British Blues) coupled with his Texas roots have given Buddy some chops that make not just an outstanding musician, but one who currently stands heads and shoulders above his few peers. To me, his vocals are almost as awesome as his guitar work (not an easy task) and his songwriting has wit and nice variations.
When he stepped out in 2008 for his self-titled release, he was more than ready to shine. He produced the record, and wrote eleven of the twelve fine songs. One that I’ve dug a long time was his “Minor Blues.”
ROY ROGERS ~ from the album CHOPS NOT CHAPS
“I mainly like the ’classic’ guys best [still] because I listened to their recordings the most, and was so influenced by them: Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Sonny Boy II, Howlin’ Wolf as well as the country blues artists further back.” ~ Roy Rogers
Born in Redding, California, Roy began playing guitar at twelve years of age. A year later at age 13, he was performing in a rock ‘n’ roll band that wore gold lame jackets and played Little Richard and Chuck Berry tunes. He discovered the great blues players early on, especially when his older brother brought home an album by Robert Johnson. Thus began his love of the blues, slide guitar in particular, which had an immediate effect on Roy, who was indeed named after the King of the Cowboys. Through the years he developed a distinctive style of playing slide guitar that not only emerged, but one that is instantly recognizable.
Roy Rogers included a rousing cover of the classic Robert Johnson tune “Terraplane Blues” on his Chops Not Chaps release on Blind Pig Records.
The song was initially recorded in 1936 in the Gunter Hotel, San Antonio, Texas, by bluesman Robert Johnson. Vocalion Records issued it as Johnson’s first 78 rpm record, backed with “Kind Hearted Woman Blues,” in March of 1937. The song, in the style of many early Blues songs, contained thinly veiled sexual innuendo.
The song is most notable for its elaborate intertwining rhythms and disjointed sections with Johnson using the car model Terraplane as a metaphor for sex.