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Marty Gunther’s Red, Hot ’n Blues Music Reviews - February 2023

By Marty Gunther

Eddie 9V – Capricorn

Ruf Records RUF 1301

As a youth growing up in Atlanta, Brooks Mason – aka Eddie 9V – loved the music emanating from the Capricorn Records studios 80 miles to the south in Macon and dreamed about recording there one day. He finally lives out his dream with this sensationally soulful CD, his second release on Germany’s Ruf imprint.

A vocalist/guitarist with old-school sensibilities, Eddie’s only 26 years old but already proving himself to be a giant in the soul-blues world. One listen to this passionate 11-track set and you’ll understand why critics hold him in the same light as fellow Atlantan and his former childhood idol Sean Costello, who received five BMA nominations and won two Blues Blast Music Awards prior to his passing at age 28.

Run – don’t walk – to pick up this one, and give a listen to “Beg Borrow and Steal,” “Yella Alligator,” “’Bout to Make Me Leave Home,” “Are We Through,” “How Long,” “It’s Going Down,” “Tryin’ to Get By,” “Missouri” and “I’m Lonely.”

Johnny Nicholas Presents: The Moon & the Stars – a Tribute to Moon Mullican

Valcour Records VAL-CD-0054-55

One of the most exciting and agile two-fisted piano player/vocalists who ever lived, Moon Mullican (1909-67) has often been overlooked in the modern era despite being a giant who played at the intersection of blues, country, Western swing and more. Fortunately, however, his music gets to shine once more thanks to this project, which was conceived by Johnny Nicholas, who was a key figure in the New England blues scene before becoming front man for Asleep at the Wheel.

Toe-tapping and danceable throughout, this one features a rotating roster of stars, including Marcia Ball, Linda Gail Lewis, Floyd Domino, Los Texmaniacs, Peter Rowan, Augie Meyers, Steve Riley, Earl P. Ball, Danny Levin and Nicholas along with younger talents Kelli Jones, Katie Shore, Emily Gimble and Tif Lamson with backing from former Roomful of Blues horn player Greg Piccolo, Scrappy Jud Newcomb, Trey Boudreaux and more.

Twenty tunes culled from Mullican’s catalog with too many high points to list, it’s a must-listen production guaranteed to garner awards when the year runs out.

Maurizio Gnola Glielmo – Beggars & Liars

Appaloosa Records AP 252-2

A Milan native who’s played major stages across Europe since the early ‘90s, Maurizio Glielmo is one of the most important members of the Italian blues scene, and the guitarist hasn’t lost a step in this tasty set of steady-driving, perfectly modulated blues-rock.

The front man of Gnola Blues Band, a unit that recorded Red Bone Woman with Atlanta blues queen Sandra Hall in 2007, Maurizio sings in perfectly unaccented English and doubles on dobro here, delivering stylish single-note runs atop fluid rhythm from several longtime collaborators.

You’ll enjoy “Ain’t No Place to Go,” “No Way Outta Here,” “Evil Eye,” “Baby’s Gonna Kick,” “Something Is Changing,” “I Got Hurt,” “Stay With Me” and a cover of the Dan Penn classic “You Left the Water Running.”

The Ron Kraemer Trio – Sarasota Swing

Self-produced CD

Do you love retro blues infused with a heaping helping of jazz? If you do, The Florida-based Ron Kraemer Trio (joined by the Nashville Cats) hits the right chord for folks who love the sounds that emanated from upscale nightclubs in the ‘50s and ‘60s. They turn back the clock in style with this all-new collection of instrumentals.

Backed by Gregg Germony on upright bass and Michael Finley on brushes, Kraemer – a former fixture in New Jersey -- swings from the hip on guitar and joins forces with Music City-based Reggie Murray , who is a double threat on tenor sax and B3 organ.

Classy and polished throughout, they open with a tip of the cap to John Coltrane with “Junior Steps.” You’ll be toasting with your martinis and Manhattans to “Siesta Afternoon,” “The Craw,” “At the Blasé Café,” “Bo Knows,” “Fred’s Bop,” “Gone Gulfing,” “Hampton Roads” and “Who’s Knockin’?”

Erja Lyytinen – Waiting for the Daylight

Tuohi Records

Helsinki-based Erja Lyytinen has been hailed by Guitar Player magazine as one of the ten instrumentalists keeping the blues alive for future generations, and she’s a former European Blues Awards fret master of the year winner, too. But she takes her talents to even greater heights here with her 12th studio album.

Usually displaying fiery attack on slide, Erja displays new tricks and techniques in this blazing set of originals that explores her life during the coronavirus crisis. Self-produced and recorded in Finland, it’s an emotion-packed roller-coaster of emotion that announces her rebirth after a year in seclusion.

In-your-face from the jump and definitely not your grandfather’s brand of blues-rock, lend an ear to “Bad Seed,” “Run Away,” “Waiting for the Daylight,” “Diamonds on the Road,” “You Talk Dirty,” “Love Bites” and “The End of Music.”

Robert Hill & Joanne Lediger – Revelation

Self-produced CD

Since its creation, the blues has always walked in lockstep with gospel, and it gets a refreshing makeover in this sprightly set from New York Blues Hall of Fame slide guitarist/vocalist Robert Hill and Joanne Lediger, his longtime singing partner.

Delivered in rich, percussive arrangements in a full-band setting, the duo reinterpret seven familiar traditionals and add a modern touch with the inclusion of four Hill originals that fit seamlessly with the classics, most of which first saw light in the dawning of the blues.

The fresh material – “Jesus by the Riverside,” “Pay One Way or Another,” “A Devil’s Fool” and “Preacher’s Blues” – shines along with refreshingly different takes on “John the Revelator,” “Way Down in the Hole,” “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” “Samson and Delilah” and “Jesus Is on the Mainline.”

Barbara Blue – From the Shoals

BIG Blue Records BBR 12312

The undisputed Queen of Beale Street, Pittsburgh native blues belter Barbara Blue never disappoints when she moves from the stage to the studio, and she reigns supreme here, joining forces with music royalty and producing a knockout set of gritty, contemporary urban blues.

Produced by Grammy winner Jim Gaines at NuttHouse Recording Studio in Muscle Shoals, Ala., this one’s anchored by Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, the most recorded drummer of all time, and a cast that includes Shoals stalwarts Will McFarlane (guitar), Clayton Ivey (keys) and David Hood (bass) along with Davor “Hutch” Hačić, Barbara’s Croatian songwriting partner, on second six-string.

Eleven originals and two covers, tune in to “The Shoals,” “Nutthouse Blues,” “Severed,” “Curse of Beauty,” “Too Far,” “Nothing Lasts Forever,” “Never Stop Loving You,” “Song of the River” and “Trail of Tears.”

Rob ‘Wild Boar’ Moore – Used to Be Wild

Flood Records FL 002

A suburban Chicagoan who played with Johnny Young, George “Wild Child” Butler and John Lee Hooker in his youth, Rob “Wild Boar” Moore spent most of his adult life in Miami as a college instructor by day and front man of his own band at night. But he returns to his roots to team with top Windy City talent for his first CD in 25 years, an often humorous mix of original, contemporary blues.

A pleasant baritone with somewhat limited range, Moore penned nine of the straight-ahead ten tracks. His backing band includes sax player Vince Salerno, is anchored by Hall of Fame drummer Merle “The Perkolator” Perkins (Freddie King, Eddy Clearwater) and bass player Heather Tackett (James “Super Chikan” Johnson’s Fighting Cocks) and horns and keys, too.

Top cuts include “Used to Be Wild,” “There for You,” “Forty-Nine Years Between Kisses,” “Vegetarian Diet,” “Medicare Baby,” “Six Feet Apart,” “Cordless Vacuum Cleaner” and “You Tube Lady.”

Various Artists – Blue Las Vegas Vol. 1

Write Answer Records

Fans descend on Las Vegas in droves each fall for the Big Blues Bender, but the city has plenty of talent to offer away from the Strip, too. If you have any doubt, take a deep dive into this 20-track, 80-minute compilation from the good folks at the Las Vegas Blues Society.

The big names on this one include reining BMA horn player of the year Jimmy Carpenter and ageless keyboard player Leon Blue, but Scott Rhiner & the Moanin’ Blacksnakes, Junior Brantley & the Shuffle-aires, Boyz in the Parking Lot featuring Billy Ray Charles, Monk & the Po’ Boys, Chris Tofield, Trevor & the Swingin’ Johnsons, Carlos Guerrero & Friends and the Vegas Strip Kings are all worth a listen, too.

Don’t miss Leon’s “Blues Bender” and “Slow Dance,” which bookend the set, along with “Hard Lovin’ Woman,” “Bad Case of Love,” “Juke Joint Blues,” “I Treat My Woman,” “Mean Mistreatin’ Mama,” “Temptation,” “My Dog Is Mean,” “Forty Cups of Coffee” and “Pandemonium.”

Diane Blue All-Star Band – Live! At the Fallout Shelter

Regina Royale Records RRCD-22-111

The longtime vocalist in Ronnie Earl’s Broadcasters, Diane Blue is a stylish songstress who can captivate you with a tender ballad one minute and then heat up the room with an uptempo number, too. She’s all class – and a little sass -- throughout this set, which was captured at a nightclub in suburban Boston.

A 2020 BMA nominee for contemporary female artist of the year, this is only Diane’s third solo CD since debuting with Here I Am in 2006. A mostly unhurried collection of seven originals and two covers, she’s backed by Earl organist Dave Limina and percussionist Lorne Entress along with guitarist Chris Vitarello of the Bruce Katz Band. Ronnie sits in on six-string for one track, too.

Silky smooth and all class, you’ll be sure to enjoy “I Got a Good Thing,” “Crazy, Hazy, Lazy,” “By My Side,” “Leave Me Alone,” “Take a Look,” “I’m Gonna Get You Back” and “Push on Through.”

Rick Berthod – Tribute to Peter Green: Fleetwood Mac Years

Self-produced CD

It’s no easy feat to replicate the emotive phrases laid down by guitarist Peter Green during his salad days with Fleetwood Mac. But Las Vegas Blues Hall of Famer Rick Berthod is more than capable – something he demonstrates here. He covers ten of the Green’s originals in an unhurried style and cram-packed with fat, stinging notes that would have made the master proud.

The ninth release in Rick’s catalog, he’s backed by several of the musicians featured on the Sin City compilation above, anchored by keyboard player Billy Truitt along with guest appearances from Brantley on keys and vocals and Tofield, Mike Varney, John Zito and Stoney Curtis on guitars.

Groove along to “If You Be My Baby,” “Jumping at Shadows,” “Need Your Love So Bad,” “Oh Well,” “Rattlesnake Shake,” “Stop Messing Around,” “Driftin’” and “Loved Another Woman.”

The Lucky Losers – Standin’ Pat

VizzTone Label Group VT-LL003

The partnership of singer Cathy Lemons and vocalist/harp player Phil Berkowitz, The Lucky Losers have come up winners on all their CDs since joining forces in San Francisco in 2014, and they follow suit with this disc, an all-original album that was produced by Kid Andersen and includes contributions from several top Bay Area musicians.

The duo, who sing in harmony throughout, hit gold with Godless Land, their most recent previous release, which garnered five Independent Music Awards in 2021. With a lineup that includes Andersen, horn players Terry Hanck, Michael Peloquin, Mike Rinta and several others, this one should follow suit.

From the opener, “Pack Up the Bags,” to the closer, Standin’ Pat,” there are no dead spots. Must-listens include “Somewhere in the Middle,” “Rich Strike,” “Try New Orleans,” “You Can’t Lose with a Winning Hand,” “High Two Pair” and “Finish What You Started.”

Mick Kolassa – For the Feral Heart

Endless Blues Records MM112022

Memphis-based Mick Kolassa’s one of the most productive – and giving – folks in the blues, donating all of the net proceeds from his albums to charities operated by the Blues Foundation. In a career that includes electric and acoustic CDs, he cuts new ground here, serving up a Valentine that incorporates elements of jazz, calypso and reggae, too.

Ten originals and two covers, this set’s sensuous and soothing throughout. It features contributions from Mick’s usual band of Bluff City merrymakers, including guitarist/producer Jeff Jensen, keyboard player Rick Steff, bassist Bill Ruffino and other talents.

From the opening riffs of “Running to You” to the closing cover of “As Time Goes By,” this one will definitely brighten your mood. Tune in to “Elegant Angel,” “Feeling Alright,” “I Keep Looking,” “Love in My Size,” “Forever Sometimes,” “Hold On” and “Run Away with Me.”

Seth Rosenbloom – As the Crow Flies

Self-produced CD

One of the most polished guitarists on the scene today, Massachusetts-based Seth Rosenbloom caught critics’ attention with his debut album, Keep on Turning, two years ago and continues his ascendency with this disc, a studio album that drives steadily from the jump with live feel and plenty of bite.

A mix of contemporary blues and totally-in-control blues-rock, Seth joins forces here with top New England talent: keyboard player Bruce Bears and percussionist Mark Teixeira from the Duke Robillard Band, Band of Killers guitarist Ryan Taylor and North Mississippi Allstars bassist Jesse Williams.

Choice cuts include “As the Crow Flies,” “Did You Try to Break My Heart,” “Can’t Trust Your Neighbor,” “I Wish You Could See Me Now,” “Blind Eye,” “Gotta Roll” and “Give Me the Ring Back.”

Malaya Blue – Blue Credentials

Blue Heart Records BHR 032

A distinctive alto based out of Norwich, England, Malaya Blue hit high notes in 2020 when she teamed with former Robert Cray producer/tunesmith Dennis Walker and charted high with the CD Still. Sadly, he left us in 2022 -- but not before teaming with Malaya once again and putting the finishing touches on one final gift for blues lovers everywhere.

Dennis had a hand in writing seven of the 12 unhurried pleasers here along with former IBC winner Joey Delgado. The lineup includes Brett Lucas (Bettye LaVette) on guitar, John McCullough (Van Morrison) on keys, Richard Cousins (Cray) on bass and Sam Kelly (Gary Moore) on drums.

Torch songs abound throughout. Give a listen to “Your Act Has Worn Thin,” “Wrong Kinda Love,” “Oh What a Fool,” “I Can’t Find No Love,” “Curious,” “I’m Having Dreams Again,” “Bring Me Your Sin,” “Howlin’ Mercy” and “Messin’ Around.”

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