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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 Catfood Records. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Catfood Records. Show all posts

Monday, September 19, 2022

Catfood Records artist: Derrick Procell - Hello Mojo! - New Release Review

 


I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Hello Mojo!, from Derrick Procell, and it's a solid contemporary blues release. Opening with Skin In The Game, Derrick Procell who covers lead vocal does a real nice job, supported by featuring Zac Harmon on guitar, Johnny McGhee on guitar, Richy Puga on drums, Dan Ferguson on keys, Bob Tenchard on bass, and a full horn section of Andy Roman on tenor and alto sax, Nick Flood on baritone and tenor sax, Mike Middleton on trumpet and Frank Otero on trombone. Strong opener. On Broken Promise with it's Latin rhythm, Procell adds in some real nice harmonica lead, sounding influenced by Lee Oscar. With backing vocal by Sueann Carwell, Meredith Colby and Jessica Ivey, this has a smooth radio styling. Baby I'm Lost, with it's cool rhythm has a cool, relaxed feel. Procell on lead and harmonica with his rich backing vocalists and with the addition of Munyungo Jackson on percussion makes for another cool radio track. The Kinks' Who'll Be The Next In Line gets a real rearrangement with a swing and horns. Procell really puts his signature on it with great vocals, bluesy guitar riffs by McGhee and with a full horn backing, it's my favorite track on the release. Wrapping the release is ballad, Bittersweet Memory featuring Procell upfront on vocal and with almost gospel like richness between Ferguson and Ivey, Colby and Carwell. Otero, Middleton Flood and Roman add that extra dimension on horns making this a super closer. 


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Friday, September 6, 2019

Catfood Records artist: Zac Harmon - Mississippi BarBQ - New release Review

I just had the opportunity to review the newest release, Mississippi BarBQ, by Zac Harmon and it's a cool contemporary blues release. Opening with Gypsy Road, a R&B style blues number with Harmon's trademark silky smooth vocals and stinging guitar work, he's got another winner. Backed by Bob Trenchard on bass, Richy Puga on drums, Johnny McGhee on guitar, Dan Ferguson on keys, Mike Middleton on trumpet, Andy Roman on sax, Nick Flood on sax and Drake Domingue on trombone, this is a solid opener. Blues rocker, Smoke and Mirrors has a cool hook, punctuated by slick guitar riffs and nice backing vocals by Janelle Thompson, Shakara Weston, SueAnn Carwell and Corey Carmichael. Crossing over to a smooth soul radio groove and title track, Mississippi BarBQ, Harmon really lays it back nice and easy. Backing vocals by Thompson, Weston, Carwell and Carmichael and a sweet melodic guitar solo by Harmon make this an ideal radio track. One of my favorite tracks on the release is up tempo shuffle, Honey Pleez with Corey Carmichael on keys, Chris Gipson on bass, Ralph Forrest on drums and Texas Slim on rhythm guitar. BB King flavored, Sunday Morning After Saturday Night has really cool guitar styling by Texas Slim in answer to Harmon's lead vocals and punchy horn accents work nicely with the organ styling of Ferguson. Another R&B style track, Since You Been gone has a great melody and cool backing instrumentation. Harmon's melodic soloing over the tight bottom of Gipson and Forrest make it another strong radio candidate. Wrapping the release is Knocking On Heaven's Door with a real soulful/gospel treatment. Harmon really digs in vocally making this my favorite track on the release. Super closer. 

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Catfood Records artist: Sandy Carroll - Blues & Angels - New Release Review

I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Blues & Angels, from Sandy Carroll and it's got something special. Opening with Soak Me In The Spirit, a gospel soaked shuffle, Carroll has lead vocal backed by Rick Steff on keys, Steve Potts on drums, David Smith on bass and Will MacFarlane on guitar. Soulful ballad, Wrapped In An Angel, has a really nice melody, with Mark Narmore on keys, Smith on bass, Potts on drums and MacFarlane on guitars. Sassy shuffle, Mama Don't Like It is one of my favorite tracks with a cool shuffle feel clean bluesy riff by MacFarlane and some of Carroll's best vocals on the release. Funky, Headin' Home is another of my favorite tracks with snappy drum work by Mario Dawson, bass by George Moye and featuring Bernard Allison on guitar. Very cool. Wrapping the release is ballad, Mississippi Me featuring only her vocal and Narmore on piano. A fitting closer for a nice release. 

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Friday, December 7, 2018

Catfood Records artist: Dave Keller - Every Soul's A Star - New Release Review

I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Every Soul's A Star, from Dave Keller and it's a solid R&B entry. Opening with Don't Let Them Take Your Joy, a poppy R&B track, Dave Keller leads a super band on vocal and guitar with excellent backing from Bob Trenchard on bass, Johnny McGhee on guitar, Dan Ferguson on keys, Richy Puga on drums, Mike Middleton on trumpet and Nick Flood on sax. Solid opener. On title track, Every Soul's A Star, a warm horn intro leads the way for Keller's soulful vocals and nice backing vocals by Janelle Thompson and Shakara Weston. Digging down into the funk, Ronnie Shannon's Baby, I Love You has a great sound. I really love Aretha's version of this, but I really like this one as well with a slower, more powerful bottom and bluesy guitar riffs. Very cool. Another solid R&B track, Freedom Is Ours is another solid vocal track which benefits nicely from the horn work of Middleton and Flood. Up-tempo, It's All In Your Eyes, has a great melody with just the right organ underpinning supporting super vocals and effortless guitar soloing by Keller. Soul track, When Are You Gonna Cry is one of my release favorites with a particularly memorable melody, strong vocals by Keller and nicely phrased guitar riffs and horn punctuation punching the track up. Wrapping the release is Ain't Giving In with a fusion of funk and R&B with a strong melody and balanced vocals and horns, with snappy percussion. Very nice. 

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Monday, September 10, 2018

"Every Soul's a Star" on New Dave Keller CD, Due from Catfood Records on October 19





Every Soul’s a Star on New Dave Keller CD, Due from Catfood Records on October 19



Label Debut CD Produced by Grammy-Winner

Jim Gaines



EL PASO, TX – Catfood Records announces the October 19 release of Every Soul’s a Star, the label debut from acclaimed soul/blues singer and guitarist Dave Keller. Produced by Grammy-winner Jim Gaines (Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Luther Allison) and recorded at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas, Every Soul’s a Star showcases 10 original songs, plus a scintillating cover of the Aretha Franklin classic, “Baby, I Love You.”



Keller’s soulful vocals are beautifully supported by The Rays, which includes not only legendary Motown guitarist Johnny McGee, but also Bob Trenchard – bass; Dan Ferguson - Hammond B3, Wurlitzer, keyboards; Richy Puga – drums; Mike Middleton – trumpet; Nick Flood - tenor and baritone sax, plus the heavenly voices of Janelle Thompson and Shakara Weston - background vocals; and Christopher Serrano – percussion.



Catfood label head Bob Trenchard calls Dave Keller, “The most-talented songwriter I've ever worked with,” and it was he who suggested Jim Gaines to produce the new project.



“This record, for me, is about honoring the star in each person,” Dave Keller says. “The songs are about both love and heartbreak, of course, but also speak about the beauty in each of us, as unique individuals and as people standing up together. This record feels like my strongest yet. I felt more at ease singing than I've ever felt in the studio. That comfort helped me sing more dynamically than I've ever sung before on record.”



Every Soul’s a Star is also the first time Keller had the chance to work with the Catfood Records “house band,” The Rays, comprised of all superb musicians with a boatload of experience backing up many of the label’s artists on record, including Blues Music Award-winner Johnny Rawls.



“What really impressed me about The Rays was how much heart they put into this record,” Keller declares. “They've played on tons of records, and they could easily have just done it as a paint-by-numbers affair. I love how everyone put so much of themselves into the record. I could tell that they really dug the songs, and really cared about doing them justice. I love how you can hear all their individual ideas on the record, and feel their personalities, their souls, and yet everything is in service to the songs.



“It was a special treat working with Johnny McGhee, who has played guitar on countless great soul albums. He started out as a kid – only 12 years old – touring with The Five Stairsteps, and ended up in the band LTD. To each of my songs, Johnny brought the coolest, most beautiful little soul licks. He has an amazing ability to find just the right licks and riffs that pull the song together into something perfect.”



Keller is equally effusive in his praise of producer Jim Gaines. “Jim Gaines is a magician. He really listened to my songs, really got into the meaning of the lyrics, and was able to help me and the band bring them alive with the most heart possible. He's an expert at making songs really shine. I felt blessed to get to work with him.”



Keller also has a special place in his heart for Johnny Rawls, who introduced him to Catfood Records owner and bassist Bob Trenchard about five years ago at the Blues Music Awards. “Bob and I had a conversation then about making a record together, but it took ‘til now for the time to be just right,” he recalls. “As my friend the late deep soul singer Mighty Sam McClain used to say, ‘It may not come when you want it, but it always comes right on time.’”



Recording in Texas was a new cultural experience for Keller, a native New Englander. “Working at Sonic Ranch was really fun. I'd never been to west Texas, so it was a real adventure for me. From the kindness of the ladies who made us breakfast and lunch every day, to the heat – 105 degrees the day I arrived -- to the giant Tarantula Hawks (a kind of wasp) that hovered in the bushes outside the studio. All the little details inspired me and energized me.”



About Dave Keller



Dave Keller is an award-winning, triple-threat: an outstanding singer, an intense guitarist and a talented songwriter. Fueled by his love of deep Southern soul and blues, his performances ring out with passion, integrity, and an ability to break down the barriers between performer and audience.



Ever since renowned guitarist Ronnie Earl chose Dave Keller to sing on his album Living In The Light, Keller's star has been on the rise. In just a few short years, Keller has been nominated for a Blues Music Award for Best Soul/Blues Album, won the International Blues Challenge Best Self-Released CD Award, and been chosen for Downbeat's Best Recordings of the Year.



A bit of a late bloomer, Keller grew up in Massachusetts, loving music, but not picking up guitar until age 16, and not singing in his first band until age 20. But blessed with mentors including deep soul singer Mighty Sam McClain, mystical soul guitarist Robert Ward, acoustic blues master Paul Rishell and soul/blues man Johnny Rawls, Keller made up for lost time.



Relocating to icy Vermont in 1993, Keller found fertile ground to grow his audience, and has become a household name there. Famous for his live-wire shows, Keller can often be found fifty feet out in the crowd, teasing fiery licks from his trusty Stratocaster and singing off-mike as the audience sings along.



Not one to rest on his laurels, Keller has been expanding his base beyond New England these past few years, performing at some of the biggest festivals in the East, including the North Atlantic Blues Festival, the PA Blues Fest, and the Discover Jazz Festival. He has also performed at the Blues Music Awards ceremony twice, accompanying Ronnie Earl, and Johnny Rawls (with whom Keller frequently tours).

Monday, November 13, 2017

Catfood records artist: James Armstrong - Blues Been Good To Me - New Release Review


I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Blues Been Good To Me, from James Armstrong and it's quite enjoyable. Opening with title track, Blues Been Good To Me, James Armstrong has a great rolling rhythm going leading the way on vocal and guitar. John Kattke on B3 adds a real nice feel joined by Matt Murdick on keys and Darryl Wright on bass. Second Time Around has a nice slide sound by Armstrong and with his smooth vocals and a modified rock beat. Robert Palmer's Addicted To Love gets a cool, loping swing and Armstrong makes it his own, backed by Amy Slack and Kimberlie Helton as well as the horns of Bryan Fritz, Corey Fritz and Kasimu Taylor. Early Grave is a real nice R&B track and has not only a great feel but premium guitar soloing, vocals and additional vocals by Johnny Rawls and Mary Jo Curry. Very nice! Funky, Old Man In The Morning (Young Man At Night) has a great JGW /WWW R&B/blues feel and clever hook making it one of my favorites on the release. Another super track, Change In The Weather, is a somber bluesy ballad. Armstrong not only shines on vocal but his guitar work in soulful and inviting. Very nice. High stepper, Sleeping With A Stranger  has a cool moving bottom and fluid guitar soloing over top. Wrapping the release is Shot Gun Wedding, a bluesy ballad has a real nice feel and Will Jackson's bass line is solid and groovy. Armstrong has put together a great set of tracks here and this is a solid closer for a real nice release. 

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Catfood Records artist: Johnny Rawls - Waiting For The Train - New Release Review

I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Waiting For The Train, from Johnny Rawls and it's solid. Opening with pumped up R&B track, Rain Keep Falling ("Till I'm Free) with Rawls on lead vocals backed by Johnny McGhee on guitar, Bob Trenchard on bass, Richy Puga on drums, Dan Ferguson on keys, and the super horn section of Andy Roman on sax, Mike Middleton on trumpet, Nick Flood on sax and Joel Chavarria on trombone. Las Vegas has a slick groove and tight trumpet accents. Rawls vocals are pure backed by Janelle Thompson and Shakara Weston on vocals. One of my favorite tracks on the release is Bobby Womack's I'm In Love with it's warm melody, smooth guitar solo and nicely blended backing vocals. Bob Dylan's I Shall Be Released gets a fine makeover with smooth lead vocals and beautiful backing vocals over a polished and nicely orchestrated melody. Very nice. We Did It is a bright R&B track with a super feel and a feel that is just right with cool percussion by Jon Olazabal added to the horn mix and tight vocals. Wrapping the release is Stay With Me, a warm bluesy ballad with light electric piano, super lead vocals by Rawls and excellent backing vocals by Thompson and Weston. This is a very nice closer for a cool release.



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Monday, September 11, 2017

"Blues Been Good to Me" Declares James Armstrong on New Catfood Records CD, Coming October 20





Blues Been Good to Me Declares James Armstrong on New Catfood Records CD,
Coming October 20

EL PASO, TX – Catfood Records announces an October 20 release date for Blues Been Good to Me, the new CD from James Armstrong, which he produced with Blues Music Award-winner Johnny Rawls. This is his third album for Catfood, following Blues at the Border (2011) and Guitar Angels (2014).

Recorded primarily at Sawhorse Studios in St. Louis, as well as at associate producer Jim Gaines’ Bessie Blue Studio in Tennessee, Blues Been Good to Me showcases the vocals and guitar of James Armstrong, backed by a hand-picked group of musicians who have played with him on numerous live shows, which made for a very comfortable fit. The band includes Matt Murdick - keyboards, vocals (who has worked with Buddy Guy, John Primer, Little Melton, and Johnny Johnson); Johnny McGhee - rhythm guitar (one of the founding members of LTD and has worked/recorded with Marvin Gaye, Natalie Cole and, George Duke); Andrew Blaze Thomas – drums (who has worked with Billy Branch, Bernard Allison, Anna Popovic and Ronnie Baker Brooks); and Darryl Wright – bass (who has worked with Mavis Staples).

“Whenever I'm working on a new CD, I always like to be extremely prepared,” says James Armstrong about the recording process. “On this project, it didn't turn out that way, which seems like a blessing in hindsight. I was extremely busy when I was writing songs and arranging music for this project. Four months prior to going into record, I played over 70 shows. I had a European Tour in March and did 19 shows in 25 days in different cities, came home for two weeks and worked in the States and then flew to Spain for two weeks playing 12 shows back-to-back in different cities in 14 days.

“When we got into the studio in St. Louis, everyone knew how stressed I was because I didn't feel prepared. Prior to the session, I had sent demos for everyone to hear. Two songs I had to finish writing at the session, ‘Second Time Around’ and ‘Old Man in the Morning,’ but I told myself that I was just going to see what happens. I had asked Johnny Rawls to produce the CD with me, who is a master and a veteran at recording.

“Working with the legendary Jim Gaines as associate producer was a special treat. I recorded all of my guitar and vocals at his studio in Tennessee. Jim really helped me get over some of my fears and limitations from my injury in 1995 which resulted in permanent nerve damage to my left hand. I was able to do things on the guitar I have not been able to do since my injury.”

The 10 tracks on the new disc include a number of originals, as well as exciting covers of songs from Robert Palmer (“Addicted to Love”), and Marvin  Gaye  (“How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You”).

Armstrong explains the genesis of the two cover songs: “Growing up in California as a teenager I wanted to be Jimi Hendrix. I listened and played a lot of rock 'n' roll. Darryl Wright (bass player on the CD) came to me with this song idea to put in to my live show. After doing it for a while, I realized I wanted to record it. I always enjoy changing certain song formats like rock, country, etc. into my style of the blues.

I've always loved Marvin Gaye's and James Taylor's versions of ‘How Sweet It Is,’ so I decided to speed it up with a swing-shuffle feel. With my country music background, I wanted to add a little country guitar lick in there. Also, I've never heard the song done before with slide guitar.”

Armstrong also reprises a new version of “Sleeping with a Stranger, a song he originally recorded as the title track of his first album for HighTone Records. “I wrote and recorded ‘Sleeping with a Stranger’ for HighTone Records in 1995, and it was the first song I ever had any major success with. I stopped playing it in my live shows for the last ten years but I'm always getting requests to do it. I decided to re-record it. In the early ‘90s I was in a relationship that I was not happy with. One morning, I woke up and there was a poem that she wrote called ‘Sleeping with a Stranger’ on her pillow. I changed a few words, added music and the next thing I knew I had a song.”


James Armstrong will continue touring throughout the summer and fall in support of the new album, and summarizes his feelings about it thusly: “I'm extremely happy with the results of the recording. Blues Been Good to Me is the most exciting recording I've done in years.”

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Singer Johnny Rawls Boards the Soul-Blues Express on New CD, "Waiting for the Train," Coming September 15 from Catfood Records


Singer Johnny Rawls Boards the Soul-Blues Express on New CD, Waiting for the Train, Coming
September 15 from Catfood Records

EL PASO, TX – Catfood Records announces a September 15 release date for Waiting for the Train, the new CD from Blues Music Award-winning singer Johnny Rawls. Produced by multi-Grammy-winning producer Jim Gaines, Waiting for the Train was recorded at the Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas, with additional recording at Bessie Blue Studio in Stantonville, Tennessee. On the new disc, Rawls is backed by his long-standing recording unit, The Rays: Johnny McGhee – guitar; Bob Trenchard – bass; Richy Puga – drums; Dan Ferguson – keyboards; Andy Roman – alto/tenor sax; Mike Middleton – trumpet; Nick Flood – baritone/tenor sax; Joel Chavarria – trombone; with Jon Olazabal – percussion; and backing vocals by Janelle Thompson and Shakara Weston. 

Waiting for the Train features six originals (five co-written by Rawls and one by labelmate James Armstrong and Bob Trenchard), with Johnny adding his own distinctive vocal stamp on songs previously recorded by Wilson Pickett (“I’m in Love”), Bob Dylan (“I Shall Be Released”), Tyrone Davis (“Turning Point”) and Syl Johnson (“We Did It”).

Some background on the players on Waiting for the Train: Jon Olazabal, the percussionist, is a member of popular Southern California band The Dirty Heads, who’ve hit it big headlining festivals and touring coast-to-coast. Background singers Janelle Thompson and Shakara Weston are members of the Neo Soul group S4TG. Johnny McGhee was an L.A. - Motown session player before joining LTD.  Richy Puga, Dan Ferguson, Andy Roman and Bob Trenchard have been together since the group Kay Kay and Rays started 20 years ago. Johnny Rawls is traveling to Europe three times in 2017 and still playing 150 dates a year. His last CD, Tiger in a Cage, reached #1 on the Living Blues Radio Chart and remained at #1 for 14 weeks on the Roots Music Soul Blues Chart. It also made the Downbeat Magazine Critic's Best of the Year Poll list, just as his two previous albums did. 
About Johnny Rawls
Born in the southern Mississippi town of Columbia, and raised in Purvis and Gulfport, Johnny Rawls - while still in high school - was already backing such stars as Z.Z. Hill, Little Johnny Taylor, Joe Tex and The Sweet Inspirations when they toured in his area. In his early 20s, Rawls was hired by the legendary deep soul singer, O.V. Wright, as his band director. After Wright died in 1979, Rawls kept the band together and toured for several years with Little Johnny Taylor and others.

By 1985, Johnny Rawls was touring as a solo artist and had made his first solo recording. In 1994, he recorded the widely acclaimed album, Down to Earth, with L.C. Luckett on the Rooster Blues label. After a second Rooster Blues album with Luckett, Rawls recorded a number of albums for JSP before starting his own label. Rawls first met Catfood Records president Bob Trenchard in 1997 and the two have worked on a number of projects together since then, culminating when he released his first album for the label, No Boundaries, in 2005    

Rawls garnered previous Blues Music Award nominations for his albums Heart and Soul in 2007, and Red Cadillac in 2009. Both Red Cadillac and Ace of Spades were nominated for Album of the Year by Living Blues and his last six albums have all charted top ten on blues charts with Red Cadillac reaching #1 on the Living Blues Radio Play Chart. Ace of Spades hit the #4 spot, remaining in the top 20 for three months. 


Johnny’s 2012 CD, Soul Survivor, garnered him two more Blues Music Award nominations and followed Memphis Still Got Soul (2011), which received three. He’s been nominated numerous times in both the Soul Blues Male Artist and Soul Blues Album categories by The Blues Foundation, and his Ace of Spades CD won the BMA in 2010 as “Soul Blues Album of the Year. In 2014, he was voted Living Blues magazine’s “Male Blues Artist of the Year” and three of his albums have won the Living Blues “Critics' Choice Southern Soul Album of the Year.”  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Catfood Records artist: Johnny Rawls - Tiger In A Cage - New release review

I just received the newest release, Tiger In A Cage, from Johnny Rawls and I really like it. Opening with title track, Tiger In A Cage which has a lot of the characteristics of Curtis Mayfield, smooth with a super groove via Bob Trenchard on bass and an added treat, Mike Middleton playing a loose jazzy trumpet lead. Excellent! Born To The Blues has a more bluesy rolling sound courtesy of the Rays featuring Andy Roman on sax, Middleton on trumpet, Robert Claiborne on trombone and Nick Flood on bari sax. A nice bass groove by Trenchard, slick guitar riffs by Johnny McGhee and tight drums from Richy Puga give this track strong radio appeal. Rawls' vocals throughout this release are very solid and Red Cadillac is no exception. With a cool R&B feel, and Trenchard driving the train, this track is just flat out cool! Every Woman Needs A Working Man has a chugging train feel and McGhee's guitar riffs punctuate the phrasing nicely. Reckless Heart is an easy soul ballad and really nicely features the warmth of Rawls' vocal strength. On Keep It Loose, Rawls cranks the Rays with a cool R&B track. Backing vocals by Arlen, Jessica and Jillian Ivey as wekk as the punchy sound of the Rays horn section charges this track and a tight solo by McGhee ices the cake. Sam Cooke's, Having a Party, has a real nice swing and Rawls sets a super groove. His natural feel, dressed by Ferguson on piano and with warm backing by the Iveys leave a great opportunity for a sweet bone solo by Claiborne. Excellent! Classic soul track, Your Love Is Lifting Me, is high energy and punchy horn work and a nice bass line really set it off. Very nice! Southern Honey finds Eden Brent sharing the lead spot with Rawls and addition of accordion by Ferguson, violin by Tommy Sheen, cello by Norma Martinez and street style percussion by Jon Olazabal gives this track a cajun feel. Lucy has a trademark R&B radio sound with Rawls out front, horns behind and a funky beat. Next up is Mick and Keith's Beast of Burdon. With only the smallest of changes to the arrangement but with a punched up horn backing, this track has a cool feel. Wrapping the release is another Mayfield like track, I Would Be Nothing. One of my favorite tracks on the release, Rawls is smooth as silk with warm backing by the Iveys and keys from Ferguson. Excellent conclusion to a strong soulful release.

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Monday, January 4, 2016

Sandy Carroll Takes a Musical Journey on New CD, "Last Southern Belle," Coming February 19 on Catfood Records




Sandy Carroll Takes a Musical Journey on New CD, Last Southern Belle, Coming February 19 on Catfood Records

Produced by Multi-Grammy-Winner Jim Gaines and Recorded in Tennessee & Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Songs Reflect Carroll’s Experiences as a Southern Woman

EL PASO, TX – Catfood Records announces a February 19, 2016, release date for Last Southern Belle, the new album from celebrated singer/songwriting Sandy Carroll. Produced by Sandy’s husband, multi-Grammy-winner Jim Gaines, Last Southern Belle was recorded primarily at Bessie Blue Studio in West Tennessee, with additional recording done at Nutthouse Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The CD includes backing from a host of all-star musicians, including legendary bassist David Hood, guitarist Will McFarlane and drummer Steve Potts.  Several songs on the new CD were co-written with Mark Narmore who is in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and has penned several big hits (“That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “Moon Over Georgia,” “Like There Ain’t No Yesterday”). 

Sandy Carroll will support the release of Last Southern Belle with a series of shows, including Sunday, February 21, at Huey's Midtown in Memphis (4-7PM) to kick-off the album’s release, with other dates expected to be announced in Nashville, Muscle Shoals and the Midwest. 

“This is the music of a journey: from universal pain and loss (‘Headin’ Out on Empty,’ ‘The Nothing in Your Eyes’) to hope (‘Driving Toward the Sun’) and laughter (‘Tattoo That I Can’t Undo’), but mostly this music is about the South,” Carroll says about the new album’s songs.

“I was a ‘Southern Belle’ in training,” she recalls about her upbringing. “I didn’t know it at the time, of course. I could only see through the eyes of a child. I never graduated to full Southern Belle-hood, but those who did were the women of the ‘50s and early ‘60s - before eyes were opened … before civil rights … before equal rights for women.  It was unhip to be a Southern Belle after that.  There were more important things than matching pearls and beauty pageants. We were on the front lines.

“I saw this through the eyes of a young girl-woman - the shame of the South’s injustice toward an innocent race of people and a nation’s indifference toward gender equality.  Both were simply born that way and it was unfair.”

Sandy Carroll grew up in West Tennessee, and once she left her childhood home to pursue the dream of being a musician and songwriter, her perceptions changed. “For the rest of my life I saw the world through the eyes of a musician,” she remembers. “I saw no color, no sex, no lifestyle - what mattered is if you were GOOD … that is, if you could PLAY.  I have lived a lot of places, traveled and toured, learned and accepted the beautiful differences of human beings.  I was always a proud Southerner. I would defend the good things of the South, the creative, warm, funny traditions (as told in the songs ‘Southland Rules,’ ‘Family Reunion Day’) that are soulful and enlightened.  I had no defense for the bad things; there is none.”

After 30 years away from home, Sandy Carroll returned to her childhood rural area to live. “I was stunned to find some things were the same and I was delighted to find that some things were the same,” she says. “The voices of the gospel still ring loud and clear (‘Hallelujah Hill’) and the nearby Shiloh battlefield of the Civil War remains untouched and spiritually haunted (‘The Boys of Shiloh’). However, the dangers of the past lurk underneath the surface (‘Water Run Deep’).  The rest of the world sometime sees the South lumped together like one of those confederate trenches in Shiloh: ignorant, Bible-thumping, racist, illiterate people.  It is Unfair … Unfair.

“I have seen prejudice and dishonor all over this earth. It is not specific to a region south of the Mason-Dixon Line, but the stigma of our past and the myth of the South lives on … some truth but not all truth.

“The Last Southern Belle lived in a generation that was insular and circular. The new Southern Woman (‘Southern Woman’) stands firm in her own power and her own truth. When I was a little girl, I asked my mother ‘Am I pretty?’  She would say, ‘you are pretty enough.’  I hope my soul is pretty enough.  I am working on it.”

About Sandy Carroll

Last Southern Belle is Sandy Carroll’s third album for Catfood Records. Her prior releases, Unnaturally Blonde (2013) and Just as I Am (2011) received international critical acclaim and substantial radio airplay on blues and Americana/country radio stations. In 2012, the single “Romeo and Juliet,” off the Just as I Am CD, stayed on the New Country Indie Chart for three months and reached #5. Also, “Good to be Home” from Unnaturally Blonde made it to #3 on the Country Indie Chart and stayed on the chart for 14 weeks.

Sandy Carroll returned to her Memphis roots in 1983 and spent a year headlining at a local club on historic Beale Street, following several years of performing on the road. Writing and recording the singles, “If You Got It” and “Memphis in May” in 1984, Sandy partnered with Jim Dickinson, NARAS Memphis chapter’s seven-time producer of the year. “Memphis in May” became a regional hit and for several years, the unofficial theme song for the Memphis in May annual festivities.  Sandy performed at the Memphis in May Festival with the Memphis Horns (and special guest Rufus Thomas) and also at the first Beale Street Music Festival.  She sang the national anthem and “Memphis in May” in front of 30,000 people at the Memphis Showboats football game, as well.

A year later, Sandy left for San Francisco to write and record.  After three years on the West Coast and a short stay in the Midwest, Sandy returned to Memphis. In 1989, the legendary Albert King recorded Sandy’s, “If You Got It” which appeared on his final studio album, Red House. She then starting writing songs for her own full-length debut album, Southern Woman, released in 1993.  Following the release, Sandy was invited on a month long tour of the United Kingdom.

Back in the States, Sandy continued promoting Southern Woman by performing at various festivals in the South, including Arts in the Park, Eureka Springs Blues Festival and the Southern Heritage Festival.  She maintained a heavy performing schedule at all of Beale Street’s most prestigious clubs, and one of Sandy’s more unique gigs was writing the Memphis Mad Dog football team theme song, “Mad Dog Boogie,” recorded by Southern-fried soul and blues musician Preston Shannon.

In 1997, the great Luther Allison recorded Sandy’s “Just as I Am” and “It’s a Blues Thing” on his final album, Reckless, which was nominated for a Grammy.  That same year, Sandy recorded and released her Memphis Rain CD, which was honored by the Memphis and Shelby County Film and Music Commission.  She went on to receive a nomination by NARAS’ Memphis chapter for Songwriter of the Year.

Beginning the new millennium with concerts, club and festival performances, Sandy appeared at Muscle Shoals Songwriters, Beale St. Caravan National Radio Show at B.B. Kings, W.C. Handy Festival and the (invitation only) International Songwriters Festival in Orange Beach, Alabama, where she opened for songwriting legends Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham. In 2001, Sandy was filmed by Memphis’ PBS station WKNO, along with great songwriters Keith Sykes, Teenie Hodges, Nancy Apple, Duane Jarvis and Delta Joe Sanders as part of the “In Their Own Voices” concert.  Premiered in 2001, the concert has been syndicated on PBS affiliates nationwide.

Inside Sounds released a CD entitled Memphis Belles: Past, Present & Future in 2002 that featured Sandy along with Ruby Wilson, Cybill Shepherd, Carla Thomas and other Memphis female artists.  In 2007, Sandy released an EP, Rhythm of the Rivers, with five previously-unpublished songs and a reprise of “Bound for Glory.” The localized release featured “The Pickwick Song” popularized in Sandy’s home community. Rhythm of the Rivers showed another side of Sandy’s music and writing, and the songs reflect her love for home – both her Memphis musical heritage and her childhood and present home by the Tennessee River at Pickwick. In 2008, Sandy was awarded her own brass note on Memphis’ historic Beale Street, and in 2010 the note was formally presented and enshrined in front of the Hard Rock CafĂ©.

Sandy Carroll also co-wrote cuts on Catfood Records labelmates Johnny Rawls’ Soul Survivor CD, Barbara Carr’s Keep the Fire Burning, James Armstrong’s Blues at the Border and Daunielle Hill’s self-titled album. Sandy was one of the first inductees into her hometown’s Music Hall of Fame along with famous Memphis DJ, Dewey Phillips in 2013. Sandy was also named a “Memphis Music Emissary” in 2015 in recognition of her contributions to Memphis music. 

For more information, visit www.catfoodrecords.com and www.sandycarroll.com

Friday, September 5, 2014

Otis Clay and Johnny Rawls Team Up as "Soul Brothers" for New CD Coming from Catfood Records On October 21


Otis Clay and Johnny Rawls Team Up as Soul Brothers for New CD Coming from Catfood Records On October 21

EL PASO, TX – Catfood Records announces an October 21 release date for Soul Brothers, the new album featuring Blues Hall of Fame singer Otis Clay and Blues Music Award winning vocalist Johnny Rawls for what promises to be one of the musical highlights of the year.

Produced by Johnny Rawls and recorded at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas, Soul Brothers showcases the deep soul/blues veterans at their very best. They’re backed by the solid, in-the-pocket band, The Rays: Richy Puga (drums), Bob Trenchard (bass), Johnny McGhee (guitar), Dan Ferguson (keyboards), Andy Roman (sax), Mike Middleton (trumpet) Robert Claiborne (trombone), Nick Flood (sax) and The Iveys - Arlen, Jessica and Jillian - (background vocals).
Also joining in the sessions was Southern California percussionist Jon Olazabal.

Last year saw Otis Clay join Johnny Rawls as a special guest on three tracks of his multi-Blues-Music-Award-nominated CD, Remembering O.V., which paid tribute to Rawls’ late friend and mentor, O.V. Wright and featured nine songs associated with Wright, plus an original cut, “Blaze of Glory,” that saluted the legendary soul man. Remembering O.V. also won the latest Living Blues Magazine Critics' Poll for “Southern Soul Album of the Year.” 

The 10 tracks on Soul Brothers showcase original songs from Rawls, Clay, Trenchard, Al Basile, Darryl Carter and Jose Hernandez, plus soul-powered takes on a versatile mix of tunes popularized by Dave Mason (“Only You Know and I Know”), Jimmy Ruffin (“What Becomes of the Brokenhearted”), Tyrone Davis (“Turn Back the Hands of Time”) and Kay Kay Greenwade (“Waiting for Dreams”).

Both men are uniquely qualified to sing the gospel of soul music. Johnny Rawls was O.V. Wright’s music director and guitarist back in the 1970s and after his mentor died in 1980 he played a large role in keeping Wright’s band going strong into the 1990s. (They backed and opened for R&B stars like Little Johnny Taylor, Little Milton and Bobby “Blue” Bland). In his own long-established solo career, Rawls continues to draw inspiration from Wright’s Southern soul music, as well as the other greats.

Although he had some early success at other labels, Otis Clay made his bones starting in the early 1970s during his stay at the legendary Hi Records in Memphis, under the tutelage of the great Willie Mitchell, who produced a long string of soul music classics for Clay, including “Trying to Live My Life Without You.” During that time, he also became an international touring star, drawing huge crowds throughout Europe and in Japan, too. He was enshrined in the Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2013, a testament to his ongoing success as a recording artists and touring performer.

While both Otis Clay and Johnny Rawls traveled in the same circles back over 40 years, they never really connected on a personal level for many years. “We really got to know each other well starting about 10 years ago,” says Rawls. “I was a big fan of Otis. Working with O.V. was a wonderful experience, and now getting a chance to work with Otis is even better. We have a lot in common: both of us come from a gospel background. We had a lot of fun recording this album.”  

Clay’s comments echo Rawls’ feelings. “We knew each other before we knew each other,” jokes Otis. “O.V. Wright and I go back to when we were both doing gospel music and our careers were very similar. Johnny absorbed all that great music from O.V and we had such a good time recording these songs. For me, it’s a good feeling to talk to someone like Johnny about names, places and events we’re both familiar with from back in the day. There’s so much that we have in common. And Bob Trenchard is really tuned into all this music and just let us go for it.” 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Catfood Records artist: Daunielle Hill - Daunielle - New Release Review

I just received the newest release (February 18, 2014), Daunielle, from Daunielle Hill and it's quite entertaining. Opening with Runaway Train, a full blown chuggin train with Andy Roman on sax, Mike Middleton on trumpet, Robert Claiborne on trombone and Nick Flood on bari sax. Early Grave is a cool R&B infused track with Johnny McGhee playing great punctual guitar riffs complimenting Hills vocals nicely. Damn Your Eyes has all the soul of the original and is well executed with Will McFarlane on guitar, the great Bob Trenchard on bass and Richy Puga keeping the drums tight. I Got A Voice has more of a pop feel with a driving bass line by Trenchard. McFarlane again steps up on guitar with some cool riffs on guitar. Biloxi has a Latin rhythm driven solid by Puga on drums. A happy go lucky island feel complimented by Ferguson on keys and accordion. Higher and Higher, the R&B standard is given new life here by a springy vocalist in Hill and backing vocals by Big Baby Goodman. Roman, Middleton Claiborne and Flood also add substantially to the overall feel as does the organ work from Ferguson. Fallen Bird, a straight up ballad really gives Hill the opportunity to deliver on vocals and with precision key work from Ferguson, deliver she does. Nobody Cared has a real solid feel and could be one of my favorite tracks on the release. It has a Mayfield groove and great instrumentation giving Hill the floor for a stellar performance. McGhee also gets the opportunity to step forward with some smokin guitar riffs which really highlight a super track. Romeo and Juliet is a definite radio play track with a catchy melody and instant hook. Goodbye Kiss wraps the release with cool guitar riffs in tremelo and horns. Hill does a superb job of vocal execution on this particular track and it is certainly understandable why this is saved for last. Ferguson lays down a nice organ bed that the backing vocals by Reba Russell float over while Hill lays out the lead. Very cool. A nice sax solo from Andy Roman is also a  treat on this track.

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Friday, January 31, 2014

Catfood Records artist: James Armstrong - Guitar Angels - New release Review

I just received the newest release, Guitar Angels (February 18, 2014) from James Armstrong and its smooth! Opening with a swinging shuffle tune, Grandma's Got A New Friend, Armstrong picks up where he left off on Blues at the Border with clever lyrics and stinging guitar work. Healing Time has a Curtis Mayfield/Wolfman Washington groove with a nice R&B feel and sweet vocals. A total redo of Glenn Frey's Take It To The Limit is actually almost unrecognizable in a good way. This track has a lot of attitude and drummer Rick King adds that drum attitude. With a real nice loping groove Armstrong lays down BB King like riffs and sings one of the coolest covers I've heard in a long time. Guitar Angels is a really nice Mayfield like R&B style ballad. Possibly my favorite track on the release, Armstrong sings in the pocket and Eric Tinsley lays down a nice bass line for Armstrong to solo over. Very nice! Moving To Nashville has a bit of a two step feel with nice slide work from Armstrong. Goodbye Kiss is a straight up ballad with solid vocals and melody. Dan Ferguson carries the basis of the track on keys. Bank Of Love is a hot potato with Rick King laying down a strong drum line. Armstrong really grips the vocal part on this track and with complimentary guitar riffs tears this track up! Another of my favorites on the release. Saturday Night Women has a cool strut to it featuring cool bass lines from Malcolm Gold and perfect rockin key work from George Papageorge. Armstrong has the perfect feel for guitar accent demonstrating it well on this particular track. Johnny Copelan's Blues Ain't Nothin' establishes a terrific groove with Gold again on bass and Warren Grant on drums. Armstrong does a great job of strokin this classic funky blues track. R&B style Runaway Train has the support of a great horn section includingAndy Roman (sax) Mike Middleton (trumpet) and Robert Claiborne (trombone). With a slick funky jog this track hits home. Finishing up the release with the radio version of Guitar Angel, this is a great conclusion to a sweet release. Jimi Hendrix melodies swirl through soul track with blues guitar riffs. Very very nice.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

James Armstrong Talks to "Guitar Angels" on New Catfood Records CD, Coming February 8



James Armstrong Talks to Guitar Angels on New Catfood Records CD, Coming February 8

Follow-Up to His Critically-Acclaimed Label Debut Is His Most-Personal Album to-Date




EL PASO, TX – Catfood Records announces a February 18 release date for Guitar Angels, the latest album from contemporary blues singer/guitarist James Armstrong, and follow-up to his acclaimed label debut, Blues at the Border.

“This new CD bears the stamp of James Armstrong throughout, along with the assistance of his good friend, Michael Ross, as producer,” says Catfood Records head Bob Trenchard. “Various musicians were used in the making of the album and it was recorded at three different studios, but the common thread is James Armstrong’s unique talent on every song. He is a true original in his songwriting, guitar playing and vocals.”

The nine original songs on Guitar Angels are bolstered by the inclusion of two stellar covers: a wonderful re-working of the Eagles hit, “Take It to the Limit,” which he transforms into a bluesy shuffle; and a solid take on Johnny Copeland’s “Blues Ain’t Nothin’.”

“Working with Bob Trenchard of Catfood Records has been a blast,” says James Armstrong about the sessions. “I was delighted after the 2012 release of Blues at the Border that Bob wanted me to do another one so quickly. The songs came from some new ideas, some old ideas and some humorous ones.”

One of the “humorous ones” James refers to is the album’s lead-off track, “Grandma’s Got a New Friend,” a song about how the Baby Boomer approach to aging differs from previous generations. A tune that James has been performing live for many months, it’s become a crowd favorite and was an obvious choice to include on Guitar Angels. Another fan-pleaser is “Saturday Night Women,” which never fails to elicit shouts from club audiences when performed live.

James Armstrong’s approach to the blues and songwriting has always been from a contemporary standpoint that keeps the music relevant without forsaking its roots. To that end, there are several very personal songs that mean a lot to James, but will also resonate with listeners, as well. “Healing Time,” co-written by Armstrong and Michael Ross, deals with the death of Michael’s brother, Norman, who had recently passed away. It’s a moving tribute to a brother who also played guitar with such notables as Ronnie Spector and Irene Cara.

The album’s title track “has been in my head for a few years,” notes Armstrong. Since my injury in 1996, many guitar players, alive and dead, have helped me. I still am unable to bend the third finger on my left hand, or use my little finger, but I attribute some of the reason I’m actually able to play the guitar again to my ‘guitar angels:’ my father, James Armstrong Sr., Mike Ross, Coco Montoya and Joe Louis Walker.”

The incident James refers to was the horrible home invasion attack he suffered in 1996 that left Armstrong without the use of his left hand and arm, including permanent nerve damage. This threatened his career forever, but that thanks to a lot of hard physical rehabilitation, plus the support of friends, fans and the blues community, Armstrong returned to performing and has never looked back.

Born to a jazz guitar-playing father and blues-singing mother, James Armstrong was literally born to play the blues. Raised in Los Angeles, he formed his first band in the seventh grade and by age 17 was already touring the country. He soon became the youngest guitar player ever in Smokey Wilson’s legendary band and was mentored by another legend, Albert Collins. Shortly thereafter he was discovered by HighTone Records co-owner Bruce Bromberg and signed with the label, recording several acclaimed albums for them.

James Armstrong will support the release of Guitar Angels with consistent touring both in North America and overseas. For more information, visit www.jarmblues.com  and www.catfoodrecords.com.