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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Ruf Records artist: Mike Zito & The Wheel - Songs From The Road - CD/DVD - New Release Review

I just received the newest release, Songs From The Road from Mike Zito & The Wheel and it's terrific! This like a number of other releases in this series is a 2 disc set and in this case, one a DVD and I'll tell you, I can't wait to get this thing home and watch it! I'll do a separate review of the CD here and a follow up for the DVD shortly. Opening with Don't Break A Leg, a real hot funky number is cooking. With Zito on vocal and guitar and hot sax lines from Jimmy Carpenter, a funky organ solo from Lewis Stephens, Scot Sutherland laying down a funky bass line and the tight rhythms of Rob Lee on drums, this is Zito at his best! Next up is Greyhound with an almost Keith Richards attitude but with a bit more country flavor. Carpenter rides high on sax with soul and clarity. A change up is a quiet remake of Prince's Little Red Corvette and again the supple vocal like sax leads of Carpenter. Another rocker with attitude is Rainbow Bridge. I really like the slick slide guitar work and fat riffs backed by Carpenter on sax and and that swampy, rocky feel. Excellent! Pearl River is a bluesy ballad with warm chords and a sultry sax chaser. Zito's vocals really shine on this track and his guitar tone is rich! Hell On Me is a rolling rocker with some really grinding guitar work. Pushed along by snappy drum work from Lee, this track really hits. C'Mon Baby is an easy R&B style ballad with a country twist. Organ work from Stephens cushions the vocals nicely making for a definite radio track. Judgement Day is a solid high stepper with a pounding down beat. Zito steps out with a much more rock style guitar solo on this track the excellent snare work of Lee really makes it work. An over the top sax solo by Carpenter iced the deal on this one. Dirty Blonde has a real country/rock blues feel and Zito take a page from the Gatemouth Brown book. With R&B richness the band develops a real nice jam and Stephens lays out a great electric piano solo opening the floor. Zito follows short behind with a free flowing guitar solo of his own. Carpenter steps up and trades riffs with Zito making for a really enjoyable rocker. Subtraction Blues has a real New Orleans funky blue sound that is hard not to really like. His vocals have a rawness that contrast nicely against the polished sound of Stephens on the electric piano. His stylized guitar work adds without overwhelming the track and his phrasing is really cool. Wrapping the CD portion of the release is Gone To Texas, a subdued and well written ballad. Carpenter and Zito really light up the solos giving the CD portion of this release a super close.  

If you support live Blues acts, up and coming Blues talents and want to learn more about Blues news and Fathers of the Blues, Like ---Bman’s Blues Report--- Facebook Page! I’m looking for great talent and trying to grow the audience for your favorites band! ”LIKE”


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Canadian Roots Music Singer Robin Banks Creates a "Modern Classic" on New CD, Produced by Duke Robillard, Due November 25

Canadian Roots Music Singer Robin Banks Creates a Modern Classic on New CD, Produced by Duke Robillard, Due November 25

Toronto, ON – Canadian roots music singer Robin Banks announces a November 25 release date for her self-released CD, Modern Classic, with distribution through CD Baby. Produced by acclaimed guitarist/producer Duke Robillard, who also adds his amazing guitar tones throughout the album, Modern Classic features a dozen all-original songs that showcase not only Robin’s sultry, soulful vocals, but also her strengths as a composer. Along with Robillard, she’s backed by an all-star band: Bruce Bears (keyboards), Mark Teixeira (drums), Brad Hallen (bass) and a horn section that includes Doug James (baritone sax), Doug Woolverton (trumpet) and Mark Early (sax) of the Roomful of Blues Horns. 

Based in Toronto, Robin Banks has already amassed a lengthy career as a touring and recording artist in both her native Canada and all over the world. She’s played extensively in the U.S. as well as Germany, Austria, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, France and Jamaica. The songs on Modern Classic reveal an artist comfortable in a variety of idioms from jazz and pop to blues, soul and R&B. With the sympathetic support of Robillard and company backing her, Robin has crafted an album of scintillating grooves that alternately percolate with heat, and float like a butterfly around the musical notes the band creates in the air around her. She has a voice that’s been compared to such greats as Etta James and Dinah Washington. Rather than just a collection of songs, Modern Classic, with its insightful lyrics, strong melodies and flowing, artful presentation, commands listeners to embrace its entirety, similar to the way albums were recorded (and listened to) in the golden age of music recording from the 1960s and ‘70s.  

The music on Modern Classic covers ground ranging from Memphis and Muscle Shoals-rooted blues and soul, to swing, boogie-woogie, honky-tonk and sweet sounding jazz, compliments of Robin’s amazing pipes. After the recording sessions, Duke Robillard declared, “the songs on her new CD bring together all her talents in a way that shows her as a major force in roots music;” while keyboardist Bruce Bears called her “a hidden gem from Canada who deserves much wider recognition; I’ve never worked with a vocalist who had as much command of musical language and nuance as Robin.”

Robin Banks grew up 50 miles east of Detroit on a tobacco farm and drove a taxi in Toronto in the ‘80s to help support her singing career’s beginnings. In 1992, she put her blues band together near Windsor, Ontario, and was mentored by George “Wild Child” Butler and Alford “Chicago Pete” Harrell, while performing regionally. In 1997, Robin won Canada’s Maple Blues Award for New Artist of the Year, which was followed by performances at some of Canada's most-prominent jazz and blues festivals. That same year saw the release of her debut CD, Permanent Record, which included seven original compositions, and was followed by Robin going to Memphis and competing in the world-famous International Blues Challenge. She was later nominated in 1998, 2010 and 2011 for Female Vocalist of the Year at the Maple Blues Awards.

In 1999, she moved to Texas and stayed for seven years, forming several bands around the Dallas/Fort Worth area with such blues/roots luminaries as drummer Marc Wilson (Anson and the Rockets), bassist Drew Allain (Mike Morgan and the Crawl), guitarists Brian “Hash Brown” Calway and Johnny Moeller (Fabulous Thunderbirds), drummer Danny Cochran (Delbert McClinton), bassist Bill Campbell (LaVern Baker) and tenor sax man Marchel Ivery (Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers), among many others. During this time, Robin formed a very close and special personal friendship with the legendary singer/harmonica player Sam Myers, leader of Anson and the Rockets, who also played on her Honestly CD in 2000, comprised of 13 original songs that she wrote, arranged and produced. A year later, Robin recorded and released a live CD, titled Live after Dark, and toured regionally for the next four years throughout the region, as well as performing at many festivals.

In 2003, she toured Europe for the first time, with stops in Belgium and Holland. And in 2006, she relocated to Jamaica and became a hit there for three years, performing at nightclubs, festivals, resorts and hotels across the island with some of that country’s most-prominent musicians, including members of Bob Marley’s band. Robin returned home to Canada in 2009 and has been based there ever since. She now performs in two bands: one a straight blues group and the other a bit more diverse in its musical spectrum, including elements of jazz, jump blues, soul, R&B and even reggae. She continues to gig around 200 nights a year. 

Her last CD, released in 2010, was an album she co-wrote and produced in Dallas, titled Livin' Life, with pianist/artist Christian Dozzler, and was comprised of 14 original compositions. She also toured behind that CD with visits to Jamaica, Canada, Texas and three tours of Europe, including numerous concert and festival shows. One of the big festivals that she played in Europe behind Livin' Life was Gaildorf, the oldest (and one of the most prized) blues fest in Europe/Germany.

“Since returning to Canada, I have traveled back and forth from Jamaica probably 20 times to perform and remain prolific there,” Robin says. “I keep all my ties in Texas strong and open. In Jamaica, much like Texas and Canada, I am blessed to play with some of the highest level international musicians on the island, including Grammy award winners and the head of the music program at the arts college in Kingston.”

Provogue artist: Bernie Marsden - Shine - New Release Review

I just received the newest release, Shine from Bernie Marsden and it is solid. Opening with Linin' Track, a classic work song, Marsden opens as a solo vocalist but is quickly joined by an explosion of blues rockin' including Mark Feltham on harp and particularly strong drums. Nice! Next up is Wedding Day and Marsden and some drone note finger picking on electric guitar. Very cool ! With a catchy melody and contemporary feel Marsden rips out a nice guitar solo icing the track. Walk Away has a real pop feel and bright keyboard work. Marsden lays down some of his solid guitar riffs making this arena rock track complete. Kinda Wish She Would is a ragged rocker with a lot of bite. With it's great drive, piano support and biting guitar riffs, it's likely my favorite track on the release. Ladyfriend has a distinctly British rhythm (think When The Levee Breaks) and a crying harp. What's not to like. Next up is Trouble featuring David Coverdale on lead vocal. This is a hot blues rocker with super drum work and well placed organ dialogue accentuating the Marsden's guitar work. Who Do We Think We Are? is another track with a strong radio theme. Marsden plays a particularly melodic guitar solo on this track with nice backing vocals from Rob Cass and Pearse Macintyre. Cherry Lee Mewis takes the lead vocal on Bad Blood. This track has a great driving bass and drum line setting a solid blues base. Marsden steps up nd lets his guitar do the talking with well placed searing guitar phrases. Very nice! Joe Bonamassa is featured on lead guitar on Shine, an open wheeled racer with vocal harmonies. Rumble rhythm drum and bass work adds a nice accent to this solid rocker. Dragonfly is a haunting track with Fleetwood Mac (Peter Green's) like glistening guitar chords. A cool guitar melody makes this another of my release favorites. Tandem guitar leads, smooth vocals and a straight forward rock beat make this track a rocket to the radio. Hoxie Rollin' Time has a real cool blues rollin' beat with a nice lope and Marsden rides the wave. Clever drum riffs and tight organ work make this another of my picks for this release. Wrapping the release is NW8, an acoustic resonator track with a nice melody supported by keys and light percussion. A very nice track to close an interesting release from Marsden.  

If you support live Blues acts, up and coming Blues talents and want to learn more about Blues news and Fathers of the Blues, Like ---Bman’s Blues Report--- Facebook Page! I’m looking for great talent and trying to grow the audience for your favorites band! ”LIKE”