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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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Showing posts with label Arizona. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arizona. Show all posts

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Laura Green - Green Eyed Blues - New Release Review

 I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Green Eyed Blues, from Laura Green and it's a cool mix of rock, blues, country and soul. Opening with country flavored, Bone To Pick, Laura Green is up front on lead vocals, backed by Art Dwyer on bass, Aaron Griffin on slide, Rob Lee on drums and Bob Lohr on piano. Her paired vocal with Rich McDonough who also plays guitar makes this a solid opener. Green really shines on It Ain't Easy, a shuffle track with a gospel structure. With backing vocals by Renee Smith, Chris Shepherd, Ron Roskowske, Michelle Isam and Ellen Kinkle make this one of my favorites on the release. Folk blues, Mama Don't Cry is a real nice track with strong vocal lead by Green over acoustic guitar and mandolin by Charlie Pfeffer. Excellent! Joe Meyer adds a real nice tom tom rhythm to That's Right, a Bo Diddley like track and Griffin's guitar work really shines. Shuffle track, Cry, has a solid blues feel and Green's vocals shine nicely. Wrapping the release is slow shuffle, Don't Know Why, with Green working the melody over some real tasty guitar work. With Bill Murphy on keys and Meyer on drums, a cool closer for a cool release. 

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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Black Cat Bones - Tattered & Torn - New Release Review

I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Tattered & Torn, by Black Cat Bones and it's a cool blues rocker. Opening with Manslaughter, with it's driving bass line by Jeff Daniels, Black Cat Bones show their blues rock roots. With Charlie Pitts on vocal, Jerry Sommers on drums and Richard Rivera and Gary David on guitars these guys drum up the feeling of the early days of blues rock music and Humble Pie. Dead Broke Blues maintains a rock swagger and solid lead vocals, but what really stands out to me are the impressive guitar accent lines by Rivera and David. Rather than long flowing lines of solos, these guys insert strategically placed accents that set the track off nicely. Slow blues, The Race, has a real solid melody and lead vocal by Pitts and introduces some nice sax soloing by Clay Brown, Carla Brownlee (bari sax) and Amochip Dabney (in this order). Very cool. One of my favorite tracks on the release is rocker, Pay You Back With Interest, with it's tight drumming, double kick drum and cool back beat. The lead guitar lines on this track are definite throw backs with a cool pedal treatment. One of the tracks that has a sort of iridescence is Laying In Wait with a cool, laid back bottom and key overlay. Pitts' vocals carry the track nicely and understated guitar lead is perfect. Wrapping the release is I Don't Care, is an easy rocker with an almost Rolling Stones/country feel. Call and response between Pitts and Daniels on vocals is strong and laid back guitar lead feels great on this track. A solid closer. 

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Rockin' Johnny Burgin at the Rhythm Room - March 9, 2019

We all see ordinary talent in shows around town but there are a few bands that will draw me out late at night every time they tour because of their artistry and Rockin' Johnny is definitely one. When I saw that he was playing the Rhythm Room, definitely the best place to see a band in Phoenix, I made it a date. The club was packed and I sat in the corner because I arrived just before the show started but I wouldn't miss it. Johnny came on stage carrying his classic Emperor and his classic tone. He did a short set, maybe 6 or 8 tracks and he didn't take a note to get on track. He was hitting on 12 cylinders from note one. I don't know if you've seen Johnny, but this is a guy who is all about style. He isn't Jeff Beck who wrote every trick in the books, nor Joe Bonamassa who plays every Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton riff. This is a pure Chicago blues guy who has been around the block and has assembled some absolutely terrific old style riffs that he applies at just the right time and in style. He's a serious player and an excellent singer. I don't think that he knows how good a singer he is having played lead guitar behind leaders like Tail Dragger but this guys vocals are strong and sometimes downright exceptional. But the really cool part about Johnny's playing is his style. Here's a guy who is standing up with a band of 3, carrying most of the weight himself, and then just blowing out a riff that curls your hair. We're not talking about blistering speed like a metal rocker. We're talking old school riffs that make you was a great riff and the man can go! But here's the great part... after he plays it, he seems to look around quietly and say to himself... I did it... and smile with accomplishment.  No pretense...pure love for his trade. The band took a short break and then club owner and world renown harp player Bob Corritore stepped up to the mic announcing that they had some surprises for the crowd. Due to a larger blues event, Blues Bash, that was happening in Phoenix this weekend, there were a number of performers on hand. A man with deep blues roots and quite a pedigree, Jimi "Prime Time" Smith was there and took the stage with Rockin' Johnny and Corritore. The crowd really loved Smith with is silky vocals and license plate guitar. He put on a really good show including walking the audience while playing and singing.

Johnny Main, guitar and lead vocals of the 44's set up (using Rockin' Johnny's guitar) and a really hot guitar player that I hadn't seen, Henry Carvahal (Rod Piazza Mighty Flyers among others) was on fire. This guy is a powerhouse and has great hands. matched with the balance of RJB's band these guys were electric.

After another short break, Rockin' Johnny took the stage again with Corritore, and local blues legends, singer George Bowman, and guitar player Donnie Dean. This bands focus was primarily prime Chicago style blues providing a stable base for players who don't play together daily and Corritore's harp work was really strong. Bowman's vocals were solid and guitar exchanges between Dean and Burgin really cool. After maybe another 5 tracks, Burgin took the stage back to his basic 3 piece ensemble and closed out the night. He brought along a solid bodied Danelectro and in open tuning, played some really nice slide. Johnny really knows how to put on a show and with a sea of talent in the room, this was a really great show for what is a fairly small club. This was likely one of the best blues shows in Phoenix for 2019. If it sounds like I had fun, I rolled into bed around 2am. This band literally played till shutdown. Very very nice. Watch for a review of Corritore's upcoming release, Do The Hip-Shake Baby! in the next few weeks. 

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Rockin' Johnny Burgin @ The Rhythm Room In Phoenix - October 2017

I saw a great show at the Rhythm Room, the premiere blues club in Phoenix, last week and it was great. The Rhythm Room is a real Phoenix landmark that took over where the mason Jar left off. That's where I last saw Albert King. At the Rhythm Room I've seen a number of super shows and artists including Johnny Winter, Joe Bonamassa and Jimbo Mathus. I moved a while back and live outside of the city now. It makes it a lot tougher to see a mid week show, but when I heard that Rockin' Johnny was playing town, I knew I was going to be there. I've seen Johnny a number of times both on his own and with Tail Dragger.  I remember seeing him on film a number of years ago where he was playing backup player and just with a few riffs, he stood out and got my attention.

Now with a number of his own excellent releases under his belt, Rockin' Johnny puts on one hell of a show! He pulls from his most recent release Neoprene Fedora as well as a few other terrific releases including Greetings From Greaseland and Grim Reaper. Johnny is a great showman and at the Rhythm Room he plays 2 sets. Obviously what originally got my attention was Johnny's powerful if not often wild guitar riffs but Johnny is actually turning out to be a really good singer. Every time I see him I think, man this guy is really a good singer but I always remember those power riffs of his. Johnny isn't a Bonamassa or Clapton clone and he doesn't ape Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page or any of the other spectacular guitar players like most of his contemporaries. Johnny has his own style which is a mix of classic, underplayed riffs and his own style and blues, R&B, soul and rock. I don't take a lot of notes at a concert (hell, I'm there to drink beer and listen to a band just like you). Johnny hits the floor hard and pushes himself to gets things hopping fast. After only a few tracks, he really settles into a groove and it just keeps getting better and better throughout the show. I believe he played most every track from his Neoprene Fedora release (which is terrific by the way) and my recollection is that he played the title track near or at the end of the first set.

Excellent!  Club owner and renown blues harp player, Bob Corritore, joined Johnny on stage for a few hot Chicago blues numbers and Bob never fails to impress. He's a great harp player and extremely knowledgeable blues enthusiast, running a blues radio show on National Public Radio for many years.

Recalling the show, I'm certain that he played Guitar King, Won't Get Married Again, Give Me An Hour In Your Garden, Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear, and  Goodbye Chicago. there were a few tracks that were just over the top. From Greaseland I remember Cold Chills, She's A Hit and Homework as well as the highlight of the show for me, Johnny's take on The House Of The Rising Sun. Unfortunately the footage was unusable for reasons out of my control. Grim Reaper and I Did The Best I Could were among the best of the rest but the ultimate best groove is Smoke and Mirrors. I really think that this is one of the best grooves caught on a contemporary blues release in years.

 Off the floor, Johnny is a hell of a nice guy and just wants to put on a great show. Catch him in a smaller club while you can. It may not be next week, but this guy really has something special and you should get your share.

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Friday, July 1, 2016

Relaunch of the Squirrel Nut Zippers - 2016 Concert Tour - Marquee Theatre Tempe, Arizona - Review

I saw the "New" Squirrel Nut Zippers last night and the show was wild. I had mentioned to a few friends that I was going to see the Squirrel Nut Zippers last night and they either looked at me with a puzzled look or they knew exactly what I was talking about. What the hell is a Squirrel Nut Zipper... well, that I can tell you.       Jimbo says, "Nut Zippers" is a southern term for a variety of old bootleg moonshine, and the band's name comes from a newspaper account which related the story of a highly intoxicated man who climbed a tree one night, refusing to come down even after authorities arrived. The article's headline read: "Squirrel Nut Zipper."     Now what does that have to do with a band and who are they? This band is absolute energy with as much animation as a 30's cartoon and as crazy wild as a drunk squirrel. Mathus is a terrific performer and this band of high level New Orleans style jazz musicians put as much energy into entertaining as they do playing their respective instruments... and that is a bunch!

Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I have really become intoxicated with the music of Mississippi native, Jimbo Mathus, since first seeing him with Buddy Guy in the early 2000's. Mathus first formed the Squirrel Nut Zippers in the 90's with Mathus' now ex wife, Katharine Whalen, along with Tom Maxwell, Chris Phillips, Don Raleigh and Ken Mosher. Due to other projects and the breakup of Jimbo and Whalen, the project had gone idle. I've got to tell you I'd never seen a SNZ show nor had I ever really heard their music except in passing one weekend about 10 years ago. When I saw that they were playing in town and that Jimbo was leading the pack, I decided to check it out. The new lineup is Jimbo Mathus — vocals, guitar, slide guitar, tenor banjo, trombone, piano; Chris Phillips — percussion, contraption kit, drums; Ingrid Lucia — vocals; Tamara Nicholai — bass; Justin Carr aka Dr. Sick - fiddle, banjo and saw; Charlie Halloran — trombone; Kevin Louis; Dave Boswell; Henry Westmoreland - saxophone; Kris Takorski on keys; and Kevin O'Donell.

 This was a packed house of people who mostly knew every word of every song. They weren't obnoxious singing over top of the band but it was apparent when the lead vocalist would step back from the mic that the crowd picked up the  slack. Jimbo Mathus is the ultimate showman and blows out every bit of energy that he has on stage. Comes dressed in a wool band suit,  in dark burgundy, complete with gold trim  with a full vest and terrific boots and a derby and a wild black and white striped shirt. This outfit looks like it was bought right off of the back of a musician from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band (sans the policeman's style bill hat). Ingrid Lucia is dressed in a period black dress with a lacy "flounce" and openings down to the waist. This show is pure vaudeville with Jimbo taking every opportunity to throw sly one liners in the very brief moments between songs and the music is punk. I mean high energy, raw and irreverent! I managed to get the play list so here it is:

1) Good Enough For Grandad
2) Club Limbo
3) Put A Lid On It
4) Got My Own Thing Now
5) Blue Angel
6) La Fitte's
7) It Ain't You
8) Suits  (video below)
9) Ghost of Stephen Foster
10) My Drag
11) Wished For You
12) Prince Nez
13) Bad Businessman
14) --- Hell
15) Memphis Exorcism
16) Plenty More

They also played a 2 song encore consisting of:

17) Bedlam Ballroom
18) I Found A New Baby

One of my favorites of the evening was the last song of the set, Plenty More, with lyrics like "They say all the boys are monsters, All the girls are whores, So when you lose the one you love,There's always plenty more". Mathus, who delivers the song with such sincerity, gleans in joy  with his eyes wide (Think Mantan Moreland , almost bugging)

Mantan Moreleand
and a mischievous grin revealing his famous gold tooth on delivering the punch line.

Mathus, the primary writer for all of the band's material is a veritable jukebox of musical knowledge, able to play in most any style. Last night I saw him playing with rich jazz chords and rag time strumming as well as neatly articulated riffs and fluid jazz runs.  Lucia's voice is solid yet unusual, adding to the band's "tricks" and complimenting their strengths. Each of the horn players took a number of solo's bringing out the flavor of New Orleans embedded deep in the roots of this band and Carr's strength on fiddle both in bowing and plucking is a showcase of it's own. He also strums it like a banjo, thumps it for impact and lets not forget his featured saw playing. Yes, this band has it all.

With a remastered twentieth anniversary edition of Hot slated for release July 29 on Hollywood Records and a reunion tour to follow, Billboard is exclusively debuting "The Puffer," a never-before-released bonus track written with the late Stacy Guess. The song, which is named for an old steam train, has a Duke Ellington feel and is "kind of a creepy and very typical Zippers," says Mathus.

Listen to Unreleased "Puffer" Jimbo also notes that he's working on new material in the Squirrel Nut Zipper motif so likely we will be looking for a new release altogether in the near future!



6/29/2016 Tucson, AZ RialtoBuy Tickets
6/30/2016 Tempe, AZ MarqueeBuy Tickets
7/1/2016 Flagstaff, AZ OprheumBuy Tickets
7/2/2016 Las Vegas, NV The Downtown Grand
7/3/2016 Park City, UT Deer Valley ResortBuy Tickets
7/9/2016 Montreal Jazz Festival MétropolisBuy Tickets
7/30/2016 New Orleans, LATipitina'sBuy Tickets
8/31/2016San Diego, CABelly Up TavernBuy Tickets
9/1/2016Los Angeles, CATeragram BallroomBuy Tickets
9/2/2016 Tuolumne, CAStrawberry Music FestivalBuy Tickets
9/3/2016 Sausalito, CA Sausalito Arts FestivalBuy Tickets
9/19/2016 Nashville, TN City Winery (Two Shows)Buy Tickets
9/22/2016 Atlanta, GA City Winery (Two Shows)Buy Tickets
10/18/2016 Alexandria, VA The BirchmereBuy Tickets
10/23/2016 Black Mountain, NC LEAF Festival Buy Tickets
11/11/2016 Cape May, NJ Exit Zero Jazz Festival Buy Tickets
11/12/2016 Englewood, NJ Bergen Performing Arts Center Buy Tickets

Jimbo Mathus is a regular southern gentleman, a great musician and songwriter,  a real card, and appears to be humbled and appreciative of every single face in the crowd and every clap of the hand.
I am extremely happy that I made the choice to go see this esoteric band of gypsies weave their magic. They are a fun group of talented musicians and their show is an absolute blast!


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Monday, June 15, 2015

Robben Ford ‘Into the Sun’ Tour Rhythm Room, Phoenix, AZ USA 06/13/2015 - Ellisjames - Guest Writer

Robben Ford performed more than ninety minutes of non-stop craftsmanship to a very appreciative desert town crowd at The Rhythm Room, Phoenix, Arizona. The set list contained a pleasing baker’s dozen plus one encore of songs both from his current release, ‘Into the Sun’ (Mascot Label Group, NY, NY USA) and a potpourri selection from his vast catalog of work.
Perhaps the show was extra spirited as it was the last stop on his current 2015 tour prior to departing for a few shows in France. None-the-less, the sound mix and tone was amazing partly due to vintage amp and obvious journeyman chops from Robben and the others. Each member of the group more than held their own when given featured solos and as a unit throughout the performance.
The set kicked into high gear with ‘Just Like It Is’ from the 1997 Tiger Walk release followed up with ‘Howling At the Moon’ from the new CD. Ford dove into an extensive bridge solo more than demonstrating his talent and command of his rosewood-necked Telecaster.  2014’s A Day in Nashville cut, ‘Midnight Comes Too Soon’ preceded ‘Same Train’ then ‘Rose of Sharon’ featuring guitarist, David Grisson who ripped into his PRS as if it were the last song he was ever going to play. Great stuff!
Two more cuts from the current CD, ‘Rainbow Cover’ and the female response favorite, ‘High Heels and Throwing Things’ were no less than a guitar clinic for anyone who could follow the fret work by both Grissom and Ford. The tempo changed into jazzy blues via the 2013 ‘Bring it Back Home CD song ‘Slick Capers Blues’.  This song provided a chance for each band member to shine. Ford and Grisson took  their turns then left the stage followed by Bassist, Brian Allen and drummer,
Wes Little. Returning to finish ‘Capers’, the band took a breath, allowing Robben to switch to his sunburst Stratocaster for two songs from his ‘Renegade Creation’ Bullet release. ‘People Like Me’ and the soulful ‘Nazareth’ with Griss playing acoustic.
The back half of the show included ‘Indianola’ from the Soul on Ten CD, the 2013 Fool’s Paradise and a wonderful and rousing version of ‘Lovin Cup’, first performed on stage by Ford in 1998 as part of the ‘Robben Ford and the Blueline Authorized Bootleg’ and seen on the 2005 ‘New Morning, The Paris Concert’ DVD.
The crowd was not about to go without an encore! Graciously, the band sent everyone home with ‘All Over Again’.  Thanks to the band and staff at the Rhythm Room, unofficial home of the Phoenix Blues Society and owned/operated by harmonica pro, Bob Corritore. Strong recommendations to catch Robben Ford and band when they return from France and play California and Colorado in late July and August before heading to the East Coast in the Fall.

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”


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Jimbo Mathus & the Annunaki Playboys Live at The Raven Cafe in Prescott, Arizona

I caught wind that Jimbo Mathus was playing a show about 2 hours north of my home and I hightailed it to Prescott, AZ. I know that this doesn't seem like much of an effort but you got to know, I listen to new music every day, OK ...lets say 250-300 new releases yearly and for me to drive very far to see a show.... it better be damn good. Well, Jimbo Mathus never disappoints and yes, it was damn good! I arrived in Prescott just in time to get a seat and a beer before the Captain hit the stage to a standing crowd only performance. I was not one of the 500 million people who knew Mathus from his Squirrel Nut Zippers band and was delighted to find this guy through his association with Buddy Guy. The truth is I went to see Buddy Guy with a fellow guitar player and who watches the opening act . We were sitting there jawing away and waiting on Buddy Guy and I said to my buddy..."who is this guy?". Jimbo Mathus was the opening act and that day back in like 2001 was the day I found Mathus. He not only had the opening act, but he also played in Guys band. He knocked me out then and he knocks me out now. Jimbo's music is strongly rooted in the people, with heart. His passion for the music is genuine and his love and appreciation of his audience is obvious. Mathus played 3 sets beginning at around 8 and ending at Midnight. He did take 2 short breaks to catch his breath and sell a few t shirts, albums and CD's.

 I'm not great at taking notes but I do have some recollection of detail. His first set was laden nicely with tracks from his newest release Blue Healer, which is terrific by the way. I know that he played the title track, Blue Healer (above), which is one of my 2 favorites from the release as well as Coyote (below- which is the other). He also played Old Earl which is one of his story telling tracks. If you don't know Mathus' story telling, you are missing the boat. Mathus, like all of the true great performers, not only can get around on his instrument (I think he plays about everything) but can captivate his audience with clever tales. Old Earl is the one from the Blue Healer release.

 When I go to a concert, I really don't go as a reporter but as a part of the audience so forgive me for just enjoying the concert. I know that he played Shoot Out The Lights, a hot rocker, Tallatchie, a rural feeling song that I really love and one that I want to ask Mathus about later. It has one clever line that I will always remember... "Can't see you no more, newspapers say I sing". Excellent! Fire In The Canebreak, a swampy funk rocker along the lines of Little Feat, Tennessee Walker Mare, Aces and 8's, a tex mex track and Shine Like A Diamond.

His second set was really geared to audience participation with a Chuck Berry track, some R&B, Lowell Folsom's Tramp which was recorded by Mathus and Guy 15 years ago. Mathus played guitar with reckless abandon, something that I rarely see anyone but Buddy Guy do...superb! He also did real nice versions of Guitar Slim's, Things That I Used To Do and Hank Williams', Hey Good Looking. At my request he did one of my favorite country ballads, Fallen Angel. Mathus has a unique ability to take you somewhere that you want to be through his music. Another crowd favorite was John Fogerty's Stuck In Lodi. Whether it's blues, country, R&B, rock... this man has been there and he does it with intention. Raven Cafe employees were kind enough to clear a few tables for some tiny dancers near the stage and the crowd had a blast. I can't say that Mathus' music is for everyone. What I can say is, I don't get paid to do this. I do it because I love it. I go to see who I want to see, and when I see something terrific, I try to tell my friends. Well friends, this guy captures the soul of the blues in whatever he does. What does that mean? Listen to Skip James, early JL Hooker, Son House. These were men who believed in what they were doing. They liked to make a little money along the way, but they were playing real music, without the polish and all of the processing. Jimbo Mathus is the real deal. Go see him without expectations that he will blow you away on guitar. He can, he may... but go there to see a real artist perform his craft. You can thank me later!

The Annunaki Playboys are  Eric "Carlos San Pedro" Carlton - keys, Stuart "StuBaby" Cole - bass, Scott "Pako" Goolsby - guitar and Alex "Youngblood" Holeman - drums.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cash Box Kings coming to Phoenix, AZ!
"The Cash Box Kings' cast of aces sizzle the hip side of classic Chicago blues with an old delta branding iron. A prime homage to the blues' rich history with creative, enthusiastic twists." - Hittin' the Note
The Cash Box Kings make an appearance in support of their latest award-winning CD, Black Toppin',  as follows:
8:30 PM  $10
These illustrious torchbear­ers skillfully capture the essence of postwar Memphis and Chicago blues, while adding their own bravado, energy and freshness to the mix.  No less an authority than recent Grammy winner Charlie Musselwhite said, "The Cash Box Kings play with taste and feel and it was faith restoring to know there are guys out there that still know and appreciate real blues."   
Black Toppin' won the Blues Blast Music Award for "Best Traditional Blues Album" and is a 2014 Blues Music Award nominee in the same category.  The release was also named one of the "10 Best Blues Recordings of 2013" by Apple iTunes. In addition to delivering authentic, back-in-the-day Chicago blues, they display their deep af­finity for Delta and Louisiana swamp blues, jump blues and their own signature "blues-a-billy." 
Living Blues magazine proclaimed their release, "a great record by one of the best blues bands in the land," while No Depression added, "The ghosts of Muddy Waters, Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins and Little Walter must be smiling.  Black Toppin' might be the best blues album you'll hear this year."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

High Energy Act coming to Phoenix, AZ!
JW-Jones, a red hot young Canadian guitar slinger/singer known as a high-energy crowd-pleaser, will bring his dynamic show to Phoenix as follows:
 9:15 PM $10  Jones, a popular and highly acclaimed artist in Canada, widely regarded as one of that country’s premier touring blues acts, is set to break out in the U.S. and worldwide markets with his first release on acclaimed American roots music label Blind Pig Records, entitled Belmont Boulevard.
The album was produced in Nashville by Grammy-winning producer Tom Hambridge, who’s helmed projects for Buddy Guy, George Thorogood, and Susan Tedeschi.   Jones said, "Signing with Blind Pig is truly an honour and major milestone in my career.  I am ecstatic to be on a label that is a fixture in roots music."
Jones has played in nineteen countries in his brief career, and recently opened tours for the late Johnny Winter and Jimmie Vaughan, one of his strongest influences. Canada’s national newspaper, the Globe and Mail, based in Toronto, referred to Jones as "one of this country's top blues guitar stars."  Billboard called JW part of "a new wave of young talent moving onto Canada’s blues stage."

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Jimbo Mathus demolishes Phoenix's Rhythm Room - David Luning Band a shocker!

Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition hit Phoenix last night like a meteor. I don't give strong endorsements to many bands so listen up. I got to the Rhythm Room a little early last night and the opening act was just setting up.

I have to tell you that the opening band, David Luning Band, was the surprise of the year for me. First off I have never heard of them but then reading their bio, they go places that I never go... like American Idol? Now before you shut this down, give me a second. If someone told me that I would like someone that was on American Idol they would get a pretty smug look of disbelief (if not a stiff defiant finger) but to actually sit in a room with this band, listen to strong, creative, concise songwriting performed by a really nice group of fellows was just inspiring.

Luning, a good looking young man who could easily have been the lead for British Band "Faces" or fit into the Beatles, has a super voice. This band doesn't sing pop music like I would expect from an American Idol candidate, but Alt American country/rock/folk/blues thing with really nicely blended vocals (think Humble Pie), creative stories (think Gerald Colliers or Arlo Guthrie) and a rowdy feel (think Keith Richards). This band really captivated the audience and based upon their 5 or 6 song performance, I am an immediate fan. Luning who handles lead vocal and acoustic lead guitar is joined by Linden Reed (drums), Dave Sampson (guitars), and Ben Dubin (bass and harp), who all participate on vocal harmonies. I don't know of anyone who is doing anything quite like them and I do suggest strongly that you search them out and give a listen. I have a copy of their latest CD, Just Drop On By, so expect a review of it in the next few days. Very nice performance men!

 Trying to summarize a Jimbo Mathus concert is like trying to count raindrops. If you have never seen Jimbo in concert and have only heard a bit of his music, you have only seen a blurry 40's B&W of the real deal. Now I was captivated by Jimbo's originality when I first saw him open for Buddy Guy over a decade ago. I recall specifically that I was sitting in Mesa Center for the Arts talking with one of my guitar jam buddies while the opening act started to play. After just a short intro I asked my pal, "Who are these guys?". We both quickly scoured the floor for a program and dummied up to catch the rest of his spontaneous set. We were talking a lot about how different this guy was and we really enjoyed him when the main show began. Everybody was there to see Buddy Guy (me included). On steps Jimbo Mathus again, the featured guitar player with Buddy Guys touring band. You are shitting me! Yep. This guy was featured on two of Guys most significant releases of the past decade.

 Skip ahead to June 19, 2014 at the Rhythm Room in Phoenix AZ. Jimbo and his Tri-State Coalition hit the stage running. Mathus doesn't have what I would call a "Mathus" sound, a hook or a riff, and that really works strongly to his artistic advantage but he does have recognizable brush strokes. Something that an art collector uses to discern a masterpiece from a copy. Primarily an introspective story teller and a philosopher, Mathus uses different colors from his musical paint box to get just the right feel for each song. These are some of the songs from last night's set. Dirty Hustling, a funky street rocker flavored by a dash funky guitar (think JG Watson or WW Washington). It gets you right down in the street where it's happening. Using the style of the track, I mean really crafting the track to it's subject matter, makes it so much more effective. I Wanna Be Your Satellite retains a rocking country sound but more like Canadian band, the Byrds. You aren't really conscious as you are listening but Mathus is taking you on a journey and he is controlling not only the mental picture with his words but smoothly crafts his own vocal style as well as the texture and style of the backing music to create the perfect ambiance. The title track from Mathus' newest release
Dark Night Of The Soul is a perfect example where his vocals are almost the sound of a man in pain. Mathus and crew take this track to rock on with serious intention. One of my all time favorite Mathus songs, Who'll Sop My Gravy raises some philosophical questions but with that sense of humor that you will see gleaming through much of Mathus work. Taking the texture of this track down to it's lowest denominator, pure rural country folk music with that special Louisiana blues twist, Mathus is able to pull the listener into the earthy feel of the track and then slowly slides a funky beat under their seat. Tennessee Walker Mare is presented as a country ballad and the delivery is perfect. Let me make this clear. Listening to regular music is like watching regular tv. Listening to Jimbo Mathus perfect his craft is like watching in 4k (Ultra High Definition). He creates the stage, he sets the plot, he creates the background music, he shoots the bad guy! Casey Caught The Cannonball is a really entertaining tale with twists and turns. Delivered with a "The Band" like feel with a bit of easy country funk and a dash of fun. Shines Like A Diamond is a country rocker with a stiff bite and a nod to Van Morrison. There is a common thread that runs through all of Mathus music and that is honesty in music, a sincere belief that what he is doing is right and a genuine desire to write the best music possible in hopes that someone may actually get where he's coming from. It is clearly apparent from watching Mathus on stage and from talking with him briefly after the show that he is genuinely grateful to have people listening to his music, to be playing what he wants and to be gaining an audience without compromising his efforts. I see few performers on stage performing with such commitment and devotion. Mathus is a guitar wielding powerhouse on stage but is a humble and kind man face to face. Along with a few songwriters that you could count on one hand, Mathus is one of the premier unsung songwriters of today. I remember seeing Jeff Beck in clubs this small not a long time ago and with the kind of show Mathus puts on, you better see him while you can.

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”


Monday, December 9, 2013

Me And The Devil - Rainer Ptacek

Remembering Rainer Ptacek 1951 - 1997 by Fred Mills

Humans seem to have a genetic predisposition towards the marking of anniversaries, either on formal, outward terms (celebrations, vigils, family gatherings, etc.) or on subtler, more subliminal - but no less meaningful - levels. Each year around this time I find myself going through the latter process as I mark once again the death of a gifted, visionary artist who was also a friend and an inspiration to me. And in the music he created and in the life examples that, as a citizen and a family man, he set, I continue to draw inspiration from him more than a decade after his death. Today, November 12, brings the anniversary of the passing of Rainer Ptacek (1951 - 1997), a Tucson-based singer-songwriter who was a bluesman by genre but also a roots innovator by any measure - and one serious motherfucker of a slide guitar player. Maybe the best I've ever seen. With his soulful vocals and unerring instinct on when to rock it out and when to let his muse dance delicately in the ether, unquestionably the most instinctual, pure musician I've ever seen, too. Over the years Rainer worked and recorded with Giant Sand (whose Howe Gelb was one of his closest friends), ZZ Top, Robert Plant, Emmylou Harris, the Grid and Los Lobos, not to mention scores of Arizona musicians. A measure of the love and respect Rainer commanded can be found in the 1997 tribute album The Inner Flame, which features covers of Rainer songs performed by Harris, Plant & Jimmy Page, Evan Dando, Victoria Williams & Mark Olson, PJ Harvey, Madeleine Peyroux, Bill Janovitz, Jonathan Richman and others (Rainer himself appears on several of the tracks). Rainer was born in East Germany, but his family fled in 1953, eventually settling in Chicago in 1956. As a teenager he formed the usual British Invasion-influenced combos of the day, smitten like most other '60s teens by the Beatles. Years later, in an interview on Tucson's KXCI-FM, he would recall that the first record he bought was "Hello Mary Lou" by Ricky Nelson and the first concert he attended was most likely Iron Butterfly; combined with a firsthand exposure to the blues giants that played regularly around Chicago, Rainer's musical apprenticeship, clearly, was nothing if not diverse. In the '70s he landed in Tucson and quickly became a favorite among local audiences for his emotionally vivid lyrics, his high, keening vocals and his near-otherworldly style of slide guitar. His national and international profile commenced rising around the time he founded Giant Sandworms with Howe Gelb; despite the fact that the group's physical legacy includes but a pair of seven-inch records, to this day critics and collectors in far away places still speak of those singles in reverent tones, citing them as early examples of the area's vaunted desert rock sound. When Gelb temporarily moved the band to New York, Rainer chose to stay in Tucson. Before too long, in addition to his regular solo gigging, he formed Das Combo, a kind of mutant roots/power blues trio. The impact that the group's debut Barefoot Rock With... Rainer and Das Combo wielded was not negligible, despite it originally being released only in Britain. Vacationing in London in 1985, I was hanging out one afternoon with some record label people and the publisher of Bucketful Of Brains magazine when someone pulled out a copy of the album and asked me if I was familiar with the band, me being from the U.S. and all that. No, I wasn't, I told them. "This Tucson guy is incredible," they advised me, with utmost severity. "One of the best guitarists in your entire country." It's interesting that Rainer, like his pal Gelb and Giant Sand, was always more appreciated in England and Europe than in the States. With the exception of one album, all Rainer's music was issued, initially at least, on overseas labels. What might potentially have been a significant ticket to fame - a series of tunes he recorded with Robert Plant, who was a big fan of his - came out as UK-only Plant singles B-sides in 1993. A timely mid '90s collaboration with British ambient techno outfit The Grid, a mesmerizing instrumental CD titled Nocturnes, appeared on a German label. Just the same, Rainer was never lacking for fans in the U.S. (see the above note about the tribute album). The Billy Gibbons connection makes for an interesting story. Sometime in the late '80s Gibbons happened to drop by Tucson club Nino's after a ZZ Top concert; Das Combo was performing, and taken by Rainer's unique slide guitar style, Gibbons sent a note up via one of his bodyguards that he'd like to meet the musician. A few years later Gibbons invited Rainer to record with him, and the results eventually appeared in '93 on Rainer's The Texas Tapes - minus any Gibbons sleeve credits. Apparently something in Gibbons' contract prevented his name being listed on any outside credits, and Rainer always honored that. It's always been a source of great amusement around Tucson that Rainer would never let himself be pinned down by the Gibbons question, at least not for the public record, and he consistently danced around the matter. As he told me once during an interview when I asked him could I finally put in print what everyone already knew, "You can write, 'It has been said that Rainer recorded with members of ZZ Top...' and that will not be untrue. Because that has been said!" I can still see the mischievous smile on his face as he said that. ..................... I met Rainer not long after moving to Arizona in 1992, and I was fortunate enough to see him play in various formats, from solo acoustic to electric power trio to gigs with Giant Sand. A story I've often enjoyed telling is about the time I saw Rainer and that group at Tucson's Club Congress one night: midway into a long, gale force jam, as Rainer and Gelb spewed out riff after riff in a magnificent duel, I swear I saw neon green sparks and trails popping and spiraling in the air above their heads. And it wasn't from the weed and alcohol, either. Another time, watching Rainer perform a solo set in a tiny coffee shop down on Tucson's Fourth Avenue, I was mesmerized by the way his hands floated over the strings and fretboard of his beloved old National Steel. Slide guitar is not an easy technique to master, but Rainer was a master's master, and he'd also designed an ingenious tape loop system years before other slide guitarists thought to try similar things to enhance their solo sound. This was well before the advent of affordable/portable digital samplers. With the resonator on his guitar adding additional tones and harmonics, at times he could sound like four (or more) guitarists at once. I got to know Rainer in bits and pieces-chatting casually at a show, visiting him at his day job to conduct an interview (he repaired guitars down in the basement of a well-Tucson music gear store), swapping music tales at my day job, a local CD shop where he'd frequently drop by to get his record fix. I recall him coming by to see me one day some time after he'd fallen ill for the first time; in 1996 a seizure brought on by a brain tumor had put him in the hospital, and the ensuing chemical/radiation therapy made for a long and no doubt frustrating recovery process. I asked him if he was playing again and writing songs, and he gave me a funny look. "You know, these" - Rainer held up his hands and nodded at them - "know where they want to go. They remember the chords, the notes. The problem is that I still can't remember all of those chords and notes." When the cancer returned, it came after about a year of remission, although thankfully Rainer's musical skills had returned so thoroughly that during that year his creativity reached new peaks. It was early October 1997; I had temporarily left Tucson to take care of family business when I heard the news; I understood it was bad this time. I called him up in Tucson one Saturday afternoon, and there was a note of pleasure in his voice when he learned it was me calling. He talked about his plans to record a slew of new material he'd been writing, told me about all the classical music he'd been enjoying lately and asked me what I'd been listening to. He never once mentioned the illness, and in my awkwardness I didn't know how to bring it up myself. I don't think I had ever talked to someone who knew he was dying, yet there was nothing in what he said or how he said it to suggest that he had any plans other than to keep making music. ..................... A few days after his death a memorial service for Rainer was held at Tucson's ancient San Pedro Chapel, a holy place with marvelous acoustics where Rainer had recorded on numerous occasions. An overflow crowd spilled out the Chapel doors and into the yard as Howe Gelb and local deejay Kidd Squidd offered moving testimonials. Austin singer-songwriter Kris McKay got up and sang a song while backed by Giant Sand, followed by a number from Giant Sand themselves. Wandering around the yard afterwards, I saw a lot of moist eyes. A couple of mounted displays featuring snapshots of Rainer from over the years had been set up in the yard and small knots of people would cluster around them, some gesturing and smiling, others gazing silently. There was Rainer's widow Patti, and I spoke to her and hugged her. Up walked Gelb, and I greeted him too, and as we talked I swear it was the first time I'd ever heard his voice tremble. When someone pointed out Rainer's mom to me, I wondered what it must be like for a mother to lose a son. Unable, for some self-conscious reason, to make myself go over to her, I stood there and silently hoped she understood how much we had loved him. In Arizona each summer the annual monsoon season arrives, and while the rain storms can be frightfully intense, often prompting dangerous flash floods, they still mark a time for rejoicing among natives of this hot, dry, parched place. The rains signal rebirth and life, and there's a certain vibrant, physical quality to the air and to the light after a late afternoon monsoon that you never forget. At times, when I reflect on my 10 years living in the desert, I think about those monsoons, and I think about Rainer also. To me, the two will always be linked. When Rainer left us, the desert shuddered for a moment, took a long deep breath, then began to sing. And what an unbelievable symphony it was. Someone once said that we rarely know what in life we're looking for, but when we find it, we instinctively sense its rightness. For me, my arrival in the desert in the summer of '92, was a coming home to a place I'd only known from books. Over time, I grew to understand that Rainer's music was the heart and soul, the musical essence of and spiritual soundtrack to this sunkissed place. As it always shall be. God bless you Rainer, for that gift. You gave us the most unbelievable symphonies. ..................... True to his word, Rainer had kept working and got a lot of material down on tape up until just a few weeks before his death. Howe Gelb, local archivist Jim Blackwood and Rainer's wife Patti also diligently worked on getting his archives in order. Among the records released posthumously have been Alpaca Lips, recorded in 1996 prior to his first seizure; Live At the Performance Center, a sizzling concert from June of '97; The Farm, culled from among the final recordings he made October 1997; and The Westwood Sessions, material recorded in 1987 with Das Combo. There have also been two compilations to come out in the last few years, 17 Miracles: The Best of Rainer, and the two-CD The Rainer Collection, both of which make excellent introductions to his music.

  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 favorite band!