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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 True North Records. Show all posts
Showing posts with label True North Records. Show all posts

Friday, January 13, 2023

True North Records artist: Crystal Shawanda - Midnight Blues - New Release Review

 I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Midnight Blues, from Crystal Shawanda, and it's a strong R&B flavored blues release. Opening with title track, Midnight Blues, Crystal Shawanda brings her soulful vocal style to a radio oriented track with a solid melody, with Dave Roe on bass, Dwayne Strobel on guitar, and Peter Keys and Jesse O'Brian on keys and Pete Abbot on drums. Rumpshaker is a soulful track with a strong bass line by Roe and nice harmonica contributions by Steve Marriner. Why Do I Love You is a really super ballad with strong vocal harmonies by Angela Hurt, Zhaawande Strobel Nd Dewayne Strobel. Hold Me has a R&B rhythm and really has a great groove. Shawanda's vocals are powerful and backing vocals are just right with strong piano and drum support by Keys and Becket. Very cool. Wrapping the release is Walk With The Moon, with a sweet melody and ballad formation. With glistening keyboard work, rich guitar chords and a melodic guitar solo, a solid closer. 

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Monday, June 14, 2021

True North Records release: A Sweet Relief Tribute to Joey Spampinato - New Release Review


I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release (June 25, 2021), A Sweet Relief Tribute to Joey Spampinato, NRBQ founding member and writer of all of the tracks on thie release. Opening with blues rocker,You Can't Hide, by Al Anderson on lead vocal and guitar, with Carl Minor on acoustic guitar, David Dorn on keys, Steve Mackey on bass, and Evan Hutchings on drums. Energetic opener. Los Lobos contributes Every Boy and Girl, with David Hildago on guitar, accordion and vocal, Steve Berlin on sax, Vince Hidalgo on bass and David Hildago Jr on drums. Pop tune, How Can I Make You Love Me, is performed by She and Him with Zooey Deschanel on vocal and M. Ward on guitar and keys. The Minus 5 brings us Don't She Look Good in a slightly punky rockabilly style. Scott McCaughey on guitar, piano, organ, percussion and vocal with Mike Mills on bass, Peter Buck on guitar, and Joe Adragna on drums and with a really cool guitar solo by Dave Depper. I really like Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale's work on How Will I Know. Simple guitar and drum accompaniment under nicely blended the vocal duet is the ticket. Bonnie Raitt's take on Green Lights is electrifying with Scott Ligon on guitar, Terry Adams on clavinet, Casey McMcDonough on bass, John Perrin on drums and wild slide work and lead vocal by Raitt. Excellent! Robbie Fulks does a stright up country work on Chores keeping it fun with Val McCallum on guitar and backing vocal, Davey Faragher on bass and backing vocal and Pete Thomas on drums in support of Fulks on guitar and lead vocal. Very cool. The Nils set out a real straight rocker with edge in That's Alright with Carlos Soria on bass and vocal, Mark Donato on guitar and vocal, Phil Psarakos on guitar, Emilien Catalano on drums, Peter Work on harmonica and featuring Chris Spedding on lead guitar a cool ass kicker. Wrapping the release is Kami Lyle with Joey Spampinato on First Crush. This track is quite cool with a simple Brazilian feel. Kami's vocals backed by her own piano and trumpet, and Joey Spampinato on guitar, bass and vocal is an excellent closer for this ecclectic release.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

True North Records artist: Crystal Shawanda - Church House Blues - New Release Review`

I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Church House Blues, from Crystal Shawanda and it's an interesting mix of pop, R&B and blues. Opening with title track, Church House Blues, Crystal Shawanda is upfront with her powerhouse voice with Louis Winfield on drums, Dave Roe on bass, Dewayne Strobel on guitar, Peter Keyes on keys, Dana Robbins and Miqui Guittierez on sax. Bluesy ballad, Evil Memory has a really nice feel with melodic guitar soloing and strong vocals by Shawanda. Blues rocker, Rather Be Alone has a real nice sway, emphasized by precisely placed guitar accents and warm organ. Hey Love has an early 60's rock rhythm and possibly the strongest track on the release with warm vocal backing by the McCrary Sisters, Angela Hurt, KG Green, and Quisha Wint. Bigger Than The Blues is definitely the radio track on the release with it's strong melody, solid vocal lead and concise guitar solo making it the ideal track. Wrapping the release is country blues flavored, New Orleans Is Sinking with an electric guitar vamp and wailing harmonica by Stephen Hanner under the chant like wailing of Shawanda. This is a cool closer for solid release. 

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Thursday, July 11, 2019






To say that Canadian musician Leeroy Stagger’s life journey has followed a strange path would be a bit of an understatement. 17 years as a singer-songwriter and 10 years sober, with two kids, a home in Lethbridge, Alberta, and a world-class recording studio to go with it, he’s far removed from the hard-living twenty-something who started on this musical path.

On September 13th, Leeroy Stagger invites us to be a part of his journey with the release of his new album and book, Strange Path, through True North Records. And today marks the release of the video for the glam-rock blissed out first single, “Strange Attractor.” Directed by Brock Davis Mitchell, the video draws inspiration from films like The Favorite and Marie Antoinette, and weaves an experimental narrative with shocking bursts of color. Watch video here

The name Strange Path applies as much to Leeroy’s unexpected route from the British Columbia punk scene to southern-Alberta singer songwriter as it does to the album’s own evolution. Following from 2017’s Love Versus, itself a creative re-emergence after a years-long fog of anxiety and depression, Strange Path is the end result of a triple-album’s worth of scrapped demos, and a spirit-reviving retreat inwards. It’s also Stagger’s most ambitious and philosophical creation yet, a veritable self-help book pulled from a lifetime of struggling towards the light and brimming with the hard-won joy at the heart of his recent renaissance. It’s an album full of sharp hooks and sharper insight, and the first single “Strange Attractor”’ rides that line right to the end. 

“Nothing is permanent when you really stop and think,” says Leeroy. “The home we live in, the car we drive, the children we raise, the art we make and the skin that we’re in. It’s not forever, it’s barely real, and that’s ok to me because I’ve been shown the truth of it all. In seeing that it’s not that big of a deal, this has shown me how beautiful it all is. It’s precious, impermanent and beautiful. “Strange Attractor”’ is about the unseen nature of impermanence and the sacredness of the life we live.”

In making Strange Path, Leeroy surrounded himself with some of the best players in the business, including drummer Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Elliot Smith, Los Lobos), longtime collaborator Tyson Maiko, Paul Rigby (Neko Case, Garth Hudson, Jakob Dylan), Ryland Moranz and Michael Ayotte. The album was mixed by five time Grammy winner Ryan Freeland (Ray LaMontagne, Bonnie Raitt, Rodney Crowell) and Brad Barr of The Barr Brothers shared producer’s chair with Leeroy on four of the eleven tracks. 

When it comes out on September 13th, Strange Path will be the 2nd album that Leeroy Stagger has released in 2019. Released on May 17th, Me and the Mountain is a companion piece to Strange Path, an Americana-influenced counterpart to Strange Path’s contemporary sound. Written during a 3-week singer-songwriter residency at the Banff Centre, Me and the Mountain is the album that Leeroy chose not to abandon. 

Leeroy Stagger and his musicians will tour to support Strange Path throughout North America and Internationally; see below for the full tour schedule. Strange Path will be available on Spotify, Apple Music/iTunes and other digital retailers and streaming services on September 13th. For more information, please visit:


July 12 - Calgary, AB - King Eddy (Stampede Show)

July 19 - Fort MacLeod, AB - South Country Fair

Aug 3-5 - Canmore, AB - Canmore Folk Festival

Aug 29 - Mount Stewart, PEI - Trailside Cafe

Aug 30 - Halifax, NS - Halifax Urban Folk Festival

Aug 31 - Montreal, QC - Petit Campus

Sept 1 - Wentworth-Nord, QC - Rickks Room

Sept 5 - Marlboro, NY - The Falcon

Sept 6 - New York, NY - TBC

Sept 7 - Rhinebeck, NY - House Concert

Sept 9 - Woodstock, NY - TBC

Sept 10 - Syracuse, NY - House Concert

Sept 11 - Burnstown, ON - Neat Coffee Shop

Sept 12 - Toronto, ON - The Horseshoe

Sept 13 - Ottawa, ON - The Rainbow

Sept 14 - Lethbridge, AB - Lethbridge College

Oct 11 - Santa Monica, CA - McCabe’s

Oct 12 - Los Angeles, CA - TBC

Oct 15 - San Francisco, CA - Hotel Utah

Oct 16 - Sacramento, CA - Feist Wines

Oct 17 - Portland, OR - White Eagle Saloon

Oct 18 - Vancouver, BC - The Fox Theatre

Oct 19 - Victoria, BC - TBC

Oct 21 - Parksville, BC - Bayside Resort


RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 13th, 2019 (True North Records)

01.  Mother

02.  Deeper Well

03.  Breaking News 

04.  Strange Attractor

05.  Nobody Alive Gets Out Of Here

06.  Jesus And Buddha

07.  These Things

08.  Hey Hey! (For Gord)

09. Leonard Cohen is Dead

10.  Get Ourselves To Love

11.  The Light

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Legendary Singer-Songwriter Bruce Cockburn Showcases His Acoustic Guitar Technique on New Instrumental CD, "Crowing Ignites," Coming September 20 on True North Records, Supported by 40+ Date North American Tour

Legendary Singer-Songwriter Bruce Cockburn Showcases His Acoustic Guitar Technique on New Instrumental CD,

Crowing Ignites, Coming September 20 on True North Records, Supported by 40+ Date North American Tour

WATERDOWN, ON – True North Records announces a September 20 world-wide release date for Crowing Ignites, the new all-instrumental CD from legendary Canadian (now based in San Francisco) singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn. 

Crowing Ignites was produced, recorded and mixed by Colin Linden, and recorded at the Firehouse in San Francisco. It showcases 11 all-original compositions by Cockburn, who plays acoustic guitar throughout, backed by a stellar cast of sympathetic musicians. Cockburn will support the new disc’s release with a summer/fall tour schedule throughout the United States and Canada. 

In 2005, Bruce Cockburn released Speechless, a collection of instrumental tracks that shone the spotlight on the singer-songwriter’s exceptional acoustic guitar playing. The album earned Cockburn a Canadian Folk Music Award for Best Instrumentalist and underscored his stature as one of the world’s premier pickers.

Already, The New York Times had credited Cockburn with having “the hardest-working right thumb in show business,” adding that he “materializes chords and modal filigrees while his thumb provides the music’s pulse and its foundation—at once a deep Celtic drone and the throb of a vigilant conscience.” Acoustic Guitar magazine was similarly laudatory in citing Cockburn’s guitar prowess, placing him in the prestigious company of legends like AndrĂ©s Segovia, Bill Frisell, Django Reinhardt and Mississippi John Hurt.

Now, with the intriguingly titled Crowing Ignites, Cockburn has released another dazzling instrumental album that will further cement his reputation as both an exceptional composer and a picker with few peers. Unlike Speechless, which included mostly previously recorded tracks, the latest album—Cockburn’s 34th—features 11 brand new compositions. Although there’s not a single word spoken or sung, it’s as eloquent and expressive as any of the Canadian Hall of Famer’s lyric-laden albums. As his long-time producer, Colin Linden, puts it, “It’s amazing how much Bruce can say without saying anything.”

The album’s title is a literal translation of the Latin motto, “Accendit Cantu,” featured on the Cockburn family crest. Although a little puzzling, Cockburn liked the feeling it conveyed: “Energetic, blunt, Scottish as can be.” The album’s other nod to Cockburn’s Scottish heritage is heard on “Pibroch: The Wind in the Valley,” in which his guitar’s droning bass strings and melodic grace notes sound eerily like a Highland bagpipe. “I’ve always loved pibroch, or classic bagpipe music,” says Cockburn. “It seems to be in my blood. Makes me want to sip whiskey out of a sea shell on some rocky headland!”

While Cockburn reconnecting with his Gaelic roots is one of Crowing Ignites more surprising elements, there’s plenty else that will delight followers of his adventurous pursuits. Says Linden, who’s been a fan of Cockburn’s for 49 years, has produced 10 of his albums and played on the two before that: “Bruce is always trying new things, and I continue to be fascinated by where he goes musically.”

The album is rich in styles from folk and blues to jazz, all genres Cockburn has previously explored. But there are also deepening excursions into what might be called free-form world music. The hypnotic, kalimba-laden “Seven Daggers” and the trance-inducing “Bells of Gethsemane,” full of Tibetan cymbals, chimes and singing bowls, are highly atmospheric dreamscapes that showcase Cockburn’s world of wonders—and his improvisational gifts on both 12-string and baritone guitars. Each track was wholly created in the makeshift studio he and Linden put together in a converted fire station in Cockburn’s San Francisco neighborhood.

Singing bowls, Cockburn explains, are an endless source of fascination to him, dating back to a trip he took to Kathmandu, as seen in the documentary Return to Nepal. There, Cockburn stumbled on a man selling the small inverted bells sometimes used in Buddhist religious practices and became instantly captivated by their vibrational power. “I had no particular attraction to them as meditation tools or anything,” says Cockburn. “I just thought they had a beautiful sound. After buying half a dozen in Kathmandu and more since, he now has a sizeable collection.

Two tracks on Crowing Ignites had their origins elsewhere. “The Groan,” a bluesy piece with guitar, mandolin and some collective handclapping from a group that includes Cockburn’s seven-year-old daughter, Iona, was something Cockburn composed for a Les Stroud documentary about the aftermath of a school shooting and the healing power of nature. And Cockburn wrote the jazz-tinged “Mt. Lefroy Waltz” for the Group of Seven Guitar Project on an instrument inspired by artist Lauren Harris and custom-made by luthier Linda Manzer. It was originally recorded, with cornet player Ron Miles, bassist Roberto Occhipinti and drummer Gary Craig, for Cockburn’s 2017 album Bone on Bone, but not released until now.

Cockburn doesn’t set out with any particular agenda when composing an instrumental. “It’s more about coming up with an interesting piece,” he says. “Who knows what triggers it—the mood of the day or a dream from the night before. Often the pieces are the result of sitting practicing or fooling around on the guitar. When I find something I like, I work it into a full piece.”

“Bardo Rush,” with its urgent, driving rhythm, came after one such dream, while the contemplative “Easter” and the mournful “April in Memphis” were composed on Easter Sunday and Martin Luther Day respectively. “Blind Willie,” named for one of Cockburn’s blues heroes, Blind Willie Johnson, features a fiery guitar and dobro exchange with Linden (Cockburn has previously recorded Johnson’s “Soul of a Man” on Nothing But a Burning Light). And the idea for the sprightly “Sweetness and Light,” featuring some of Cockburn’s best fingerpicking, developed quickly and its title, he says, became immediately obvious.

Meanwhile, “Angels in the Half Light” is steeped in dark and light colors and conveys ominous shades as well as feelings of hopefulness, seemingly touching on both spiritual and political concerns—hallmarks of Cockburn from day one. “It’s hard for me to imagine what people’s response is going to be to these pieces,” he says. “It’s different from songs with lyrics, where you hope listeners will understand, intellectually and emotionally, what you’re trying to convey. With instrumental stuff, that specificity isn’t there and the meaning is up for grabs. But I’m glad if people find a message in the music.”

More than 40 years since he embarked on his singer-songwriter career, Cockburn continues pushing himself to create—and winning accolades in the process. Most recently, the Order of Canada recipient earned a 2018 Juno Award for Contemporary Roots Album of the Year, for

Bone on Bone, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCAN, the Peoples’ Voice Award from Folk Alliance International and was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2017. Cockburn, who released his memoir, Rumours of Glory, and its similarly titled companion box set the same year, shows no sign of stopping. As his producer-friend Linden says: “Like the great blues players he admires, Bruce just gets better with age.”

                                                                 Bruce Cockburn US Tour Dates

SEPT  7                                                   Sisters, OR                                         Sisters Folk Festival

SEPT  20                                                 Nashville, TN                                    City Winery

SEPT  21                                                 Ferdinand, IN                                   Ferdinand Folk Fest

SEPT  23                                                 Nelsonville, OH                                Stuart Opera House

SEPT  24                                                 Goshen, IN                                        John S Umble Center

SEPT  25                                                 Grand Rapids, MI                            Covenant Arts Center

SEPT  27                                                 Chicago, IL                                         Old Town School

SEPT  28                                                 Chicago, IL                                         Old Town School

SEPT  29                                                 Minneapolis, MN                            Cedar Cultural Center

SEPT  30                                                 Fargo, ND                                           Fargo Theatre

OCT   24                                                 Brooklyn, NY                                     Murmur Theatre

OCT   25                                                 Albany, NY                                         The Egg

OCT   26                                                 Collingswood, NJ                            Scottish Rite Theatre

OCT   27                                                 Washington, DC                              The Birchmere

NOV  10                                                 Seattle, WA                                       Neptune Theatre

NOV  11                                                 Missoula, MT                                    Wilma Theatre

NOV  12                                                 Boise, ID                                             Vac Theatre

NOV  14                                                 Salt Lake City, UT                            State Room

NOV  15                                                 Grand Junction, CO                        Avalon Theatre

NOV  16                                                 Durango, CO                                     Henry Strater Theatre

NOV  17                                                 Boulder, CO                                      Boulder Theatre

NOV  19                                                 Phoenix, AZ                                      MIM

NOV   20                                                Los Angeles, CA                               McCabe’s Guitar Shop

NOV   21                                                Berkeley, CA                                     Freight & Salvage

NOV   22                                                Berkeley, CA                                     Freight & Salvage

Friday, August 17, 2018

True North Records/ New Sun Records artist: Crystal Shawanda - VooDoo Woman - New Release Review

I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, VooDoo Woman, from Crystal Shawanda and it's off the hook. Opening with Willie Dixon's Wang Dang Doodle and Shawanda wastes absolutely no time showing that she means business. With a powerful voice and the greasy slide work of DeWayne Strobel, backed by Stephen Hanner on harp, Dave Roe on bass and Louis Winfield on drums, this track is powerful! Title track, Koko Taylor's VooDoo Woman has a rock edge with crafty harp riffs and a tight bottom. Again, Strobel's slide work had a strong influence on the overall sound supporting Shawanda's powerful vocals. One of my favorites on the release is Big Mama's Hound Dog with a snappy rock edge. Shawanda handles the shift in tempo like an old pro with sure dynamics and Strobel's rock riffs are clean and distinct. A definite high point on the release is Shawanda's cover of Etta James' I'd Rather Go Blind. He voice really lends itself to this particular song and the warm female backing vocals, complimented by Peter Keys on B3 really makes this track sing. Dorothy Moore's ballad, Misty Blue stands strong among the other giants on this track with solid sax work by Dana Robbins. Very nice. Ballad I'll Always Love You shows a more pure, less guttural vocal side of Shawanda and in a more radio focused track featuring writer Tommy Stillwell on guitar. Wrapping the release is acoustic based Blue Train with Strobel on resonator under mostly sole vocal by Shawanda. With just the right touch of backing vocals and a nod to original field songs, this is a solid finisher for a very cool release.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Singer Crystal Shawanda Chases Dreams and Trades Country for Blues on New "VooDoo Woman" CD, Coming September 21 from True North Records

Singer Crystal Shawanda Chases Dreams and Trades Country for Blues on New VooDoo Woman CD, Coming September 21 from True North Records

Her New Gritty, Soul-Drenched Release Available Via Download Now

TORONTO, ON – True North Records announces a September 21 release date for singer Crystal Shawanda’s new CD, VooDoo Woman. The new album is already available via download at these platforms:


Sometimes, even the most instinctive singers need a little time to find their true voice. Just ask Crystal Shawanda. The celebrated Canadian-born, Nashville-based songwriter and musician has built a decade-long career on her hugely emotive performances, scoring a major label deal, chart hits, critical acclaim, marquee tours and a fervent fan following along the way. She was even the subject of a reality show, “Crystal: Living the Dream” on the CMT television network. Yet it has taken Shawanda until studio album number five — the gritty, soul-drenched, and positively electrifying VooDoo Woman — to pinpoint her essence as a blues singer, even though her previous albums would mostly be filed under country and she has been performing since her teens.

With her country debut album producing a Top 20 radio hit, Top 20 Billboard Country Albums chart status — plus more than 50,000 copies sold in the U.S. — Shawanda couldn’t help but feel out of place within the genre.

“The whole time I was singing Patsy Cline on stage, I was singing Etta James at home,” Shawanda admits.

VooDoo Woman presents a modern take on the blues, capturing the resilience of the human spirit with the intensity and range of a multi-faceted woman whose story is finally being told. “The songs just fell out of me and it was like setting my voice free,” Shawanda confesses. “I can’t help but feel like I’m home, no longer holding back.”

Indeed, that deep veneration of the blues is positively palpable on VooDoo Woman. Witness Shawanda’s thrilling interpretations of Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog” and “Ball and Chain,” Koko Taylor’s “Voodoo Woman,” Dorothy Moore’s “Misty Blue” and Etta James’ "I'd Rather Go Blind,” all gold-star gems in the blues canon demanding equal parts knock-kneed reverence and enormous skill. Shawanda and husband, guitarist/collaborator Dewayne Strobel bring both.

And VooDoo Woman — cut live-off-the-floor in Nashville alongside a boatload of talented guests— is a dazzling mix of “tributes to my heroes who led me to the blues” and previously released originals recut to meet the ever-evolving standards of co-producers Shawanda and Strobel.

“These are all first-take vocals. We didn’t redo anything,” explains Shawanda, who can frequently be found moonlighting, guitar in hand, at Nashville’s famed Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar. “My fans have often said they wished they could feel the energy of the live show on the records. That was a goal for us. Every time I went into the vocal booth, I treated it like a live performance.”

Not surprisingly, the new album kicks it right out of the gate. Scorching opener “Wang Dang Doodle” is a harp-goosed corker penned by blues legend Willie Dixon. The track provides Shawanda’s soaring, sandpapery delivery with maximum momentum.

Elsewhere, as on the candlelit focus track “I’ll Always Love You” written by Larry Grisham and Tommy Stillwell (aka The Beat Daddys and friends/mentors to Shawanda and Strobel), the singer dials down her power to unearth the song’s richly evocative and wholly universal emotion.

“I fell in love with that song, which first appeared on The Whole World’s Got the Blues, but we completely re-recorded it here,” she says. “We didn’t feel we had caught its heart before. After our daughter Zhaawande was born, the song took on a different meaning. I started singing it differently; it was sweeter, more personal. And I recorded that song — and most of this album — with Zhaawande in my arms. So,” she laughs, “that’s probably my favorite song on the album.”

Equally resonant is Shawanda’s reading of the classic “Misty Blue,” elevated to megahit status in 1976 by Dorothy Moore. “You don’t have to add much flash to a song like that,” Shawanda confirms, though she pretty much can’t help but adding flash to every song she tackles.

Notable originals on the new album include the saucy and slowly percolating “Cry Out for More,” a Shawanda/Strobel co-write. “It’s a song about the push and pull of relationships… working through those moments of ‘You drive me crazy… but I’m also crazy about you,’” Shawanda howls. “And because we are husband and wife, we can really put that out there.

“Dewayne and I also wrote ‘Bluetrain’ to show the correlation between the missing and murdered Indigenous women in the north and missing and murdered Black women in the south. It's about finding peace.”

“Trouble,” another blistering original on VooDoo Woman, showcases both Shawanda’s peerless belting and her broader influences. “That song has a bit of a throwback, Tina Turner-feel to it.  It’s about being in love with bad boys,” she says. “It was done so fast and I just love it.

Having grown up a native North American on the Wikwemikong reserve on an island in Ontario, it was there her parents encouraged Crystal to sing, play guitar, and ultimately find her start in country music. It was her oldest brother, however, who introduced her to the blues. “Singing the blues is like letting a bird out of a cage,” she says. “This feels like what I am supposed to be doing. When I sing the blues, I can let loose and really be who I am as a vocalist and song stylist.

“That’s what VooDoo Woman is about,” she adds. “I am so grateful to my country fans for the career they’ve given me. But everybody has new dreams every day and if we don’t chase them, we’ll never figure out who we really are. I hope my country fans find the courage to chase their dreams, too.

VooDoo Woman is a whole new Crystal Shawanda. And when you think about it, blues is the root of everything; country, pop, rock — they all derive from the blues.  Even country led me to the blues. Hank Williams sang ‘Lovesick Blues’ and ‘Long Gone Lonesome Blues.’ Maybe this album is like a mini-education in blues! If that’s how people approach it, well, that’s fine with me.”

Thursday, December 8, 2016

True North Records artist: Colin James - Blue Highways - New Release Review

I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Blue Highway, from Colin James and it's super! Opening with Freddie King's Boogie Funk, James is really ripping with excellent guitar tone and pace. Craig Northey is on rhythm guitar, with Norm Fisher on bass and Pat Steward on drums. Simon Kendall's organ work is tops and Steve Marriner's harp is vital. On Peter Green's Watch Out, James steps up on lead vocal and the pace is just right. Jesse O'Brien is up or organ with Steve Pelletier on bass and Geoff Hicks on drums. James lays down a solid guitar solo and Simon Kendall lays in a nice organ solo as well. Tommy Johnson's Big Road Blues gets a more modern rocking beat with James on vocal and slide. With an almost JJ Cale feel, this track could see a multi channel radio play. Made famous by Freddie King and Jeff Beck, Don Nix's Going Down is up next with a solid blues rocking drive. O'Brien's piano work is tight and James' vocals are clear, paving a broad street for some lightning guitar riffs. Very cool! Retreating into the basics of the blues, Muddy Waters' Gypsy Woman is up next and James shows his basis understanding of the blues on both guitar and vocal holding his own...old style. I particularly like O'Brien's piano riffs on this track as well as Marriner's harp work. Very cool. On Jimmy Rogers, Goin Away, James takes a little bit of an Eric Clapton approach to the track with nice slide work and backing vocals by Chris Caddell and Coleen Rennison. Memphis Slim's Lonesome gets a big swing and James steps up with monster guitar riffs. His vocals are smooth, nicely complimented by O'Brien's piano. One of my favorite tracks on the release is Junior Wells' Hoodoo Man Blues. This track is really tight to the original and James vocals and guitar riffs work nicely, highlighted by the masterful harp work by Marriner. Setting a cool acoustic blues set is Willie Dixon/ Jimmy Reed, Riding in The Moonlight / Mr. Luck. Light and snappy, James holds down acoustic guitar and vocal balanced with Marriner's harp. Very nice. Soulful William Bell track, Don't Miss Your Water gives James a chance to really show off his vocal chords and smooth they are. With simple arpeggiated chords and with horn backing by Jerry Cook and Derry Byrne this track has a super sound. Blind Willie McTell's Ain't Long For Day is up next and of course drawing out a really nice slide solo by James. It is more soulful than bluesy but heartfelt had solid. Very nice. Wrapping the release is Robert Johnson's Last Fair Deal done in standard Piedmont style. With James only on guitar and vocal, he gives the track some acoustic flair but holding true to the blues. A nice little closer to a really nice release.

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