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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, July 19, 2019

Zenith Records artist: Adam Holt - Kind of Blues - New Release Review

I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Kind of Blues, from Adam Holt and it's solid. Opening with up beat rocker, Mr. Morning Drive featuring Adam Holt on vocals and guitars, Owen Finley on bass, Greg DeLuca on drums and Donnie Sundal on keys. With it's upfront poppy sound, nice melody and lovable tempo, this is a sure radio track. One of my favorite tracks on the release is I'm Still Holdin' On with a melodic slide lead from Lee Yankie and beautifully country style vocal blending, underscored by the pedal steel work of Mark Welborn and real nice electric blues style soloing by Holt. Very nice. Piano rocker, Give The Dog A Bone is a cool stripped down rocker with a definite country twinge. Holt really has a great voice and his sense of lyrics are great. Sundal, piano work on this track set a nice groove and Holt's guitar used as punctuation is perfect. Very cool. Another country flavored track, The Bourgeoisie really is a great track with a tight Latin rhythm. With a cool bass line, tight drums, organ accents and excellent guitar punctuation, Holt's vocals ride high on the wave. Excellent! Crossing over into jazz land, The End is a strong jazz track with a foot in country. This is the one track where Holt's vocals aren't the best part (his vocals are really strong) but the composition is really nice and the blend of organ, drums, bass and lead guitar are superb. Wrapping the release is Bob Dylan's Lay Lady Lay with a rich pedal steel guitar undercoating. maintaining much of Dylan's original arrangement and some instrumental enhancements, a strong closer. 

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

New album from Carolyn Gaines - pays homage to blues greats - THE THRILL IS GONE out on 8/2

Carolyn Gaines Pays Homage

To B.B. King, Buddy Guy & Other Blues Greats 

With The Thrill Is Gone Out on August 2

Hand-picked covers convey her vocal prowess

Featured players: Grady Gaines, Sr and Grady Gaines, Jr and Ric Jaz

“Lady with Soul” – Johnny Rawls
“Gaines’ powerful, expressive voice has hints of the languid swing of Billie Holiday” – Blues Blast

Last year, fans and critics fell in love with Carolyn Gaines’ debut album, Beware Of My Dog, this year, she continues to sing her backside off, like Ma Rainey, Billie Holiday, Etta James,  Bessie Smith, and Diana Ross on her new album, The Thrill Is Gone via Polka Dot Records out on August 2, 2019. The collection is colorful and filled with snarls, sneers, growls, and guts all sung with a smile on the singer’s face. Gaines produced the album herself, and she recorded at Leon Haywood’s (“It's Got To Be Mellow,” Guitar Slim, “Bad Mama Jama”) Sunnyside Studio in Los Angeles, CA. The studio was on the verge of closing, and she had one month to do it, so Carolyn called on some legendary musicians and Family to get the job done. So, this album, The Thrill Is Gone was one of the last recordings to come out of the studio.

Special guests on the album include Ric Jaz; blues guitarist for Buddy Guy, her uncle Grady Gaines, Sr (Little Richard, Gatemouth Brown, Sam Cooke, Jimi Hendrix) and his son Grady Gaines, Jr (Grady Gaines, Sr band) both on saxophone along with Gino Baronelli, “The Blues Don” on guitars. Other players on the album are Charles Sherman on piano, Moe Bleek on organ, Glen Doll on harmonica and upright bass; duties were cover by both Dale Atkins and Paul Kennedy.

Having an album with no drums and very sparse instrumentation allows a lot of space around the notes so you can hear the emotion in Gaines’ voice. She opens with the Buddy Guy classic lines; “Damn Right I Got The Blues – from my head down to my shoes,” with the same real raw vocal prowess as Guy still conveys. Buddy Guy has always been an artist that Carolyn looks up for inspiration with his long-standing and celebrated career. Her cover of “Guess What” she confirms in song, that she won’t let her man walk all over her, Your house all messed up, baby, and your line don't sound true, I smell a rat, cause it stinks all over you, say” (From Buddy Guy’s album, Living Proof, 2010).

On Ma Rainey’s tune, “Deep Moanin’ Blues” (1928) her uncle Grady Gaines, Sr and her cousin, Grady Gaines, Jr wail away on the saxophone while she sings deep from her bottom of her soul to get that lioness feeling out of her, [they] “just rock my socks!” laughs the blues singer. Carolyn’s voice has the swagger to it, and the attitude in her stylings and delivery is perfectly perfect like her father Roy Gaines, Buddy Guy, Ma Rainey, Bobby “Blue “Bland, The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger. Carolyn’s voice will remind you of the blues pioneer, Big Mama Thornton – a raspy, seductive sneer.

Side story: Leon Levy, a longtime mentor of her Carolyn’s played her music for the legendary Queen of Rock, Tina Turner and she said that her voice sounded like Big Mama Thornton.  

“A celebration of the distinctive vocal tone that has a roughness that is never smoothed into something that it isn’t; her vocals are full of warmth and expression. “– Blues Doodles (UK)

Carolyn digs way down with Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind,” and that’s when she starts to blend tears with her vocals as she begs her man to reconsider their love. Her vocals are with mixed emotions met with the sparse sounds of her cousin Grady Gaines, Jr on saxophone with guitar, bass, and organ, so her vocals stand out.  On the halfway mark of The Thrill Is Gone - her version of Muddy Waters’ “I Got My Mojo Working” is fun, sassy and her vocals are confident as Muddy Waters with Gino Baronelli’s hopping guitar licks matching her phrasing. Carolyn’s voice sounds like honey on Otis Redding’s “Dreams To Remember” her bittersweet melody of heartbreak with Gino’s chiming chords behind her, but it was Buddy Guy’s version that drew her to the song. The lonesome harmonica cries behind her voice, on Bobby “Blue” Bland’s ultimate heartache song, “Stormy Monday” and she comes back rocking out to Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago” as she sings playfully with her uncle, Grady Gaines, Sr, on saxophone.

These songs on this album were carefully chosen by Carolyn, for she’s known and loved them since was a child from modern-day of Guy, and rockers like Jim Hendrix’s: her rock n' roll, bluesy vocals on “Hey Joe” and “Red House” are extraordinary. She brings energy and groove to the classics. It’s the teary-eyed cover of Billie Holiday’s classic “God Bless The Child,” that her cousin Grady Gaines, Jr on saxophone and Ric Jaz Buddy Guy's guitarist both strives to recreate a moment as if Billie Holiday was in the studio with them at Sunnyside. That song has always been a dream of hers to sing, taking cues from Lady Day and the singer who portrayed her on the silver screen, Diana Ross. “I always wanted to sing this song like Diana Ross, and I would dream of how I would combine it with the gracefulness of Billie,” Carolyn gushes.

The album closes with “The Thrill Is Gone,” a B.B. King song written by Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell in 1951 became a mega-hit for B.B. back in 1969. Carolyn pays homage to him as being one of her very favorite blues singers and performers. Along with her uncle Grady Gaines, Sr’s soulful saxophone and Buddy Guy’s guitarist Ric Jaz, they “bestowed raw blazing sunshine!” Carolyn shouts after hearing the final recording.

Some of this music history with Carolyn started before she was even born. The singer was born in Houston, TX and moved out to the Los Angeles area with her father as a teenager only to fall in love with blues.  Roy Gaines’ career started 60 years ago, with his band in Texas called The Jazz Crusaders, and he has released 18 albums, played with many blues and jazz greats, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Billie Holiday and Diana Ross. He played with the great Lady Day when he was just 21 at Carnegie Hall!

Her father’s love of the blues and jazz carried over to his daughter who developed a creative way, 20 years ago, to teach the American Blues genre, with her Blues School Programs by going into schools to teach children of all ages. She has the support of her father for this endeavor and Roy Gaines along with other artists Ike Turner, Guitar Shorty, Buddy Guy, Shemekia Copeland, Etta James, Keb MO', Herbie Hancock and B.B. King to appear at various events and show examples of their beloved genre. Roy Gaines’ was a legendary teacher of the blues. She was able to cover a lot of ground through the Los Angeles Unified Schools District; both Pasadena and Hawthorne from elementary to high school, homes for the elderly, and Roger Naber's Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. As of today, Carolyn has taught over three million people the blues!

Carolyn’s family’s stories intertwine with so much rich musical history from Billie Holiday, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Ray Charles, to Bobby “Blue” Bland to Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding, it’s only natural for her to pay homage!

“Carolyn Gaines sounds like Koko Taylor” – Paul Goldman, VP at Paradigm Talent Agency (Buddy Guy)

Carolyn’s choice to conserve the blues was a good one, for it’s been rewarding. Accolades from education to local governments to California Governor Gray Davis, Mayor James Hahn, NAACP-President-CEO- Kweisi Mfume and the highest honor came from First Lady Michelle Obama. Her work with the schools in the Los Angles covered the entire city: from 54th Street Elementary School (Nipsey Russell) to Alma Reaves Woods Watts Library, 74th Street Elementary School to Crenshaw High School and county libraries. Praise came from members many levels of government; Los Angeles City Council Bernard Parks, Superintendent LAUSD, Members of Congress, City Council Members, U.S. Senators Dianne E. Watson/Dianne Feinstein, and California’s Speaker Assembly. In 2015, Carolyn Gaines was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the Rhythm and Blues University in Texas an organization led by Dr. Lawrence Redd, for her work in the genre. Now, she joins fellow blues artists like legendary- award-winning Buddy Guy and Aretha Franklin; whom both have Honorary Doctorate Degrees.

Lending their talents for Carolyn’s album was Roy Gaines’ grand-daughter, Jewel, a hairstylist, fashion stylist grand-daughter Rainey, and great grand-daughter Primas, a makeup artist glamourized the blues singer on The Thrill Is Gone' album art. “And, Grady Gaines, Sr’s; five-year-old great grand-niece (Roy's great, great-granddaughter), Alisa, is a fantastic blues singer at the age of five! “Our family is keeping the blues energy flowing; groovy and bluesy. The Gaines Family is outstanding!” smiles Carolyn.

''But pedigree will only get you so far. It's heart, feeling talent that makes a master musician, and make no mistake. Carolyn Gaines is the real deal.'' - Blues Matters! UK

Carolyn Gaines album, The Thrill Is Gone will sure to be another hit with fans and critics alike, and she can’t wait to get it out;  “I just wanted to cross over from these blues greats’ beautiful, “Bluesy” historical sounds and put my style on these classics! And I hope others will enjoy them as much as I do,” exclaims Gaines. So, this album, an homage, is her way to “Keep the Blues Alive!”

 ''Carolyn Gaines is an Entertainer.'' - Grammy Winner Bobby Rush

The Thrill Is Gone – songs and original artists with year

1-      Damn Right, I Got The Blues – Buddy Guy - 1991

2-      Deep Moanin’ Blues – Ma Rainey - 1928

3-      I Got Dreams To Remember – Otis Redding - 1968

4-      God Bless The Child – Billie Holiday - 1941

5-      Guess What – Buddy Guy - 2010

6-      Hey Joe – Jimi Hendrix - 1966

7-      I Got My Mojo Working – Muddy Waters - 1956

8-      I’d Rather Go Blind – Etta James - 1968

9-      Red House – Jimi Hendrix – 1967

10-   Stormy Monday – Bobby “Blue” Bland - 1962

11-   Sweet Home Chicago – Robert Johnson - 1937

12-   The Thrill Is Gone – B.B. King - 1969

Rock-A-While Records artist: Kenny Parker - Hellfire - New Release Review

I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Hellfire, from Kenny Parker and it's a nice blues rocker. Opening with Chicago style, I've Got My Eye On You, Dan Devins is the lead vocalist and also covers harmonica. Kenny parker with just the right groove lay down strong blues solo phrasing, all backed by Mike Marshall on bass, Dave Marcaccio on drums, Bill Heid on piano and Jim McCarty on guitar. Cool opener. Blind And Paralyzed is strong Muddy Waters flavored track with a strong Waters style guitar riff and a lyric play on Etta James' most popular track. With a firm pace and deliberate lead guitar work by Parker, a strong contemporary blues entry. Rock n Roller, Bye Bye Baby has great feel and tasty piano work by Leonard Moon on piano.  Title track, Hellfire, has a firm, lumbering bottom and great organ work by Chris Codish. One of my favorite tracks on the release, Parker's guitar soloing shows genuine fire and inspiration. Very cool. Bluesy ballad, I'm Missing You, has a strong melody and just a dash of old style country, including the chorus of spoken lyrics. Classic. Country flavored shuffle track, Half Crazy has a great pace and Devins' harmonica work is cool and Heid's piano work is the icing on the cake. My favorite track on the release, Backup Plan, follows a great 12 bar format with Parker showing a great response to Devins' lead vocal. Getting a real chance to stretch, Parker takes full advantage and lays down some really sweaty riffs guaranteed to make you sit back and grin. Just short of an instrumental, very nice! Wrapping the release is a hard charging rocker, Hard Times with a driving beat. Parker and Devins both show a rockier and firm hand on this riff infused closer. 

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  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”

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