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Marty Gunther’s Red, Hot ’n Blues Music Reviews - April 2022

By Marty Gunther

Vince Salerno & Gerald McClendon – Blues from All Points

Pravda Records PR6424

Fresh off his recent Let’s Have a Party CD, a 2022 BMA finalist for soul-blues album of the year, Chicago-based vocalist Gerald “The Soulkeeper” McClendon reunites with longtime partner Vince Salerno for this stellar album, which mirrors the music they’ve been producing together on stage for the past 20 years.

A performer since age four, Gerald’s a passionate, modern-day standard bearer of stylings established in the Windy City, Memphis and Detroit in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Vince doubles on tenor, baritone saxes and harmonica, adding everything from Jr. Walker-style horn runs to Clifton Chenier zydeco to the mix.

If your tastes run to contemporary blues-drenched R&B and more, you’ll enjoy “Hip City,” “Antidote for Love,” “Do Drop In,” “Street Walkin’ Woman,” “Flame to Ash,” a take on John Coltrane’s “Bessie’s Blues,” “Ay-Tete Fee,” “Harpacordia” and “Blues and Trouble.”

Bad Daddy – It’s a Mad Mad Bad Dad World

PieHole Records PRCD003

Guitarist/vocalist Paul “Bad Daddy” Waring teams with fret master/producer Pete Galanis (Omar Coleman, Toronzo Cannon) and top Chicago session musicians for this well-executed mix of blues and blues-rock -- nine deep originals and a single cover, all of which deal with the human condition.

An Oregon native who’s an in-demand yacht designer who splits his time between the Windy City and the Maine coast, Waring possesses a road-weary voice and has a biting, West Side-style touch on the strings. His tunes cover everything from romance to the pain of living in the modern world.

Give a good listen to “Blues at Home,” “Just My Luck,” “Left Me with the Blues,” “Pork Pie Hat,” “The Blues I Can Use,” “These Times,” “Trip on Your Love” and a take on Mighty Sam McClain’s “Where You Been So Long.”

Micki Free – Turquoise Blue

Dark Idol Music

Since his discovery as a teen by KISS front man Gene Simmons, guitarist Micki Free has been delivering some of the hottest blues-rock on the planet, and that’s never been more true than this disc, a 14-song set created at the height of the pandemic with assistance from several other major talents.

A Grammy winner as a member of Shalamar, the R&B group whose “Dancing in the Streets” was featured in Footloose, Micki’s joined by Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Gary Clark Jr., Santana vocalist Andy Vargas, keyboard player Mark “Muggy Doo” Leach (Buddy Miles) and others.

From the opening riffs of “Ridin’ 420” and “Bye 2020,” this one’s definitely not for the faint of heart. Other top cuts include “Heavy Mercy,” “Come Home Big Man,” “World on Fire,” “Heaven or Heroin,” “Woman” and “Blue Memories” as well as a stellar reworking of the sole cover, “All Along the Watchtower.”

Bob Corritore & Friends – Down Home Blues Revue

VizzTone Label Group/SWMAF Records

Arizona-based harp player/record producer Bob Corritore usually mixes solo releases with anthologies of traditional Chicago blues; he delivers something different on this one, his second 2022 release from his vast archives. It’s a collection that primarily features historic artists based on the West Coast and in the Deep South.

Recorded between 1995 and 2012, either in the studio or at The Rhythm Room, Corritore’s club in Phoenix, it features Robert “Bilbo” Walker, Tomcat Courtney, T-Model Ford, Henry Townsend, Smokey Wilson, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Big Jack Johnson and others on lead, and the music they produce delivers a living-room feel.

It’s hard to pick out the best tracks here, but be sure to give a listen to “Rooster Blues,” “Clara May,” “Nothing But the Blues,” “Take a Little Walk with Me,” “My Money Done Run Out,” “Home in Chicago” and “Bluebird Blues.”

Kathy Murray and the Kilowatts – Fully Charged

Blue Heart Records BHR 023

A distinctive vocalist who’s been a fixture in Austin for decades, Kathy Murray and her skintight Kilowatts kick up the voltage and stay deep in the pocket on this pleasing disc, a 14-track serving of Texas blues, swamp pop, country, soul, zydeco and more.

A 2020 Grammy nominee as a songwriter, Kathy wrote all 11 originals in this set, drawing inspiration from themes based on tales from the road, tributes to musical heroes and more. Led by Bill Jones on guitar, the Kilowatts get helping hands from Mark “Kaz” Kazanoff and the Texas Horns and keyboard players Matt Farrell and Lewis Stephens, too.

This one eases out of the gate with “Expense of Love” and “My Mistake.” Dial in “The House That Freddie Built,” “Breakup Breakdown,” “Wash Away the Pain,” “Hard Act to Follow,” “Animal Magnetism” and “Extra Nice.”

Mark Hummel – East Bay Blues Vaults 1976-1988

Electro-Fi Records EFI-3461

Mark Hummel regularly travels the world in the company of other top talent in his star-studded revues, but he’s been making music with heavyweights in the San Francisco Bay since the mid-‘70s. This ultra-rare, 22-cut set gives listeners a peek into his early years as it showcases some big names and other artists who deserve far more attention than they received.

A two-time BMA winner and former Grammy nominee, Hummel and his band, the Blues Survivors, are featured on two tracks, but the real stars are the men he accompanies, including Brownie McGhee, Sonny Rhodes, Ron Thompson, Franck Goldwasser – aka Paris Slim – as well as regional favorites Mississippi Johnny Waters, J.J. Malone, Bob Kelton, Cool Papa and more.

Released as a limited edition, don’t delay in picking up this one. There are simply too many choice tunes to list.

Lady A – Satisfyin’

Self-produced CD

Billed as “the hardest working woman in blues, soul, funk and gospel” and the back-to-back honoree as Washington Blues Society vocalist of the year, Seattle-based deejay and educator Anita White – aka Lady A – will raise your spirits as you keep the beat on this disc, the ninth in her catalog.

Produced with longtime bandleader, drummer and songwriting partner John Oliver III and fresh off her recent settlement of her lawsuit with the country superstars who coopted her name, Lady A belts out messages of hope, equality and strength in ten tunes that combine in a cohesive package.

“Whatever {You Do)” implores listeners to seize every opportunity that life presents. Other pleasers include “Satisfyin’,” “Miss Beula Mae’s,” “Big Momma,” “Blues, Soul, Catfish & Fried Wings,” “Brighter Days,” “For the People in the Back” and “Heaven Help Us All.”

Popa Chubby – Emotional Gangster

DixieFrog Music DFGCD 8831-2

Popa Chubby is a one-man wrecking crew on his latest disc. Not only did he pen ten of the 12 tracks, but he played all of the instruments in this set (except for a guest appearance by Jason Ricci on harp) and he produced, recorded and mixed it, too.

It’s a similar format he used with his most recent previous effort, Tin Foil Hat, but the subject matter here is far more upbeat than that one, which was laid down at the height of COVID-19. This time it’s a pleasing mix of in-your-face boasts, wry political statements, sexual innuendo and more.

Chubby’s in total command from the opening strains of “Tonight I’m Gonna Be the Man.” Other wall rattlers and pleasers include “New Way of Walking,” “Equal Opportunity,” “Save the Best for Last,” “Why You Wanna Make War,” “I’m the Dog,” “Doing OK” and “Fly Away.”

Buddy Shute & the Motivators – Bar-B-Que

Self-produced CD

Once a fixture in Memphis and New Orleans, but now based out of the Ozarks, Buddy Shute debuts his latest band, the Motivators, with this percussive mix of nine originals and five covers that deliver the feel of a roadhouse on a good night. The only thing missing is a hangover the following morning.

A former piano player in burlesque houses and guitarist who’s worked with Clarence “Frogman” Henry, John Mooney and Bourbon Street legend Leigh “Li’l Queenie” Harris, Shute shares vocals with fellow Memphis native Brenda Baskin with rock-solid, veteran backing.

Pour a cold one, put on your dancin’ shoes and dial in “Got Love,” “Every Now & Then,” “Bar-B-Que,” “Gonna Jump a Freight Train,” “I Don’t Want to Know,” “Too Much Month (Not Enough Money),” “Think I’ll Give the Blues a Try” and “Can’t Take It with You.”

Steve Shanholtzer – Blues That You Choose

Self-produced CD

A master guitarist who’s based out of Jacksonville, Fla., and flown under the radar since the ‘70s, Steve Shanholtzer frequently headlines six-string workshops but should draw plenty of attention as a performer with this release, his first as a front man in a 50-year career.

A laid-back vocalist, Steve’s recorded with Henrietta Telfair and The Jalapeno Brothers among others and toured North America frequently in groups that opened for the biggest acts in multiple mediums, including Steppenwolf, Three Dog Night, Buckwheat Zydeco and Jimmy Thackery.

Lend an ear to this mellow set. You’ll enjoy “Bloodletters and Bluesmen,” “Make Love Stay,” “Blues That You Choose,” “Tangled,” “Searchin’,” “Be Your Own Man,” “Free Flight” and “Prayer in Open D.”

The WildRoots – The WildRoots Sessions Vol. 2

WildRoots Records CD2022A

Formed by the production team of Hall & Oates bassist Stephen and multi-instrumentalist Patricia Ann Dees and Victor Wainwright, The WildRoots thrilled audiences in the Southeast for a decade prior to becoming the BMA band of the year in 2016. They celebrated that success with a well-received 2021 retrospective, and hit a homerun with this follow-up.

The trio are joined here by 26 other talents, including Reba Russell, Lucky Peterson, Pat Harrington, Nick Black, Billy Livesay, Anthony “Packrat” Thompson, Robert “Tap” Thomas, Todd Sharp, Beth McKee and a host of others to deliver an all-original, 15-tune mixed bag of contemporary and traditional blues, gospel and roots.

A smorgasbord for the ears, dig into “I.O.U.,” “Lazy Little Daisy,” “I Feel Fine,” “That Man of Mine,” “The Threads of Time,” “Sweet Louise,” “Working for My Car Blues,” “WildRoot Boogie,” “Pile of Blues,” “Good Word” and “Ready When the Day Is Done.”

Professor Louie & the Crowmatix – Strike Up the Band

Woodstock Records

An ensemble that’s fronted by one of the most respected keyboard players/engineers/producers in roots and has worked with The Band, Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, Professor Louie & the Crowmatix put their own unique spin on life in a tumultuous world on their latest CD.

Louie – aka Aaron L. Hurwitz – has been touring out of Upstate New York since the ‘60s when not working in the studio with everyone from Dave Brubeck and Jose Feliciano to Buckwheat Zydeco and Rory Block. His lineup features John Platania on guitar and Miss Marie on vocals and the Woodstock Horns.

A classy set, you’ll enjoy “A Thousand Ways to Freedom,” “Workin’ It Out,” “Golden Eagle,” “Good to Be Grateful,” “Tick Tock,” “Chain Shot Cannonball” and “Flaming Ray.”

Hubert Dorigatti – Stop 2021

Appaloosa Records AP 248-2

A singer, songwriter and virtuoso guitarist, Hubert Dorigatti represented Italy in the 2017 International Blues Challenge and joins forces with 2018 Grammy nominee Fabrizio Poggi in a full-band setting here to deliver an eclectic mix of acoustic and electric tunes that swing from the jump.

Based out of the Tyrolian Alps, Dorigatti grew up a trumpet prodigy but turned to the six-string in his teens, attending conservatories in Trento and Vienna. A jazz and rock veteran but a bluesman at heart, this is his third CD in the past five years and first on a major label.

The Hill Country-style “Born with a Silver Spoon” kicks off the action followed by the stripped-down “Walking.” Other must-listens include “Down to Boogie,” the minor-key ballad “When Evil Comes to Town,” “Mr. Nolan,” “Mama Will Do Right,” “Pasadena Shuffle” and “Bound to New Orleans.”

Duke Robillard – They Called It Rhythm & Blues

Stony Plain Records SPCD 1444

There are few folks on the planet who know more about American music than guitar maestro Duke Robillard, and he pays loving tribute to all forms of R&B with this 68-minute treasure, a collection of electric and acoustic blues, jazz, swing and jump that’s aided by several of the biggest names in the business.

In addition to his world-class touring band, the roster includes contributions from John Hammond, Kim Wilson, Sue Foley, Sugar Ray Norcia, Mike Flanigin, ex-Roomful of Blues horn players Doug James, Doug Woolverton and Mark Earley, plus Michelle Willson and Chris Cote, both top vocalists based in Boston.

This CD swings like a metronome throughout, beginning with Chuck Higgins’ 1955 classic, “Here I’m Is.” There are no dead spots through the Duke original, “Swingin’ for Four Bills,” which brings the action to a close. If you love classic, classy blues, this one’s definitely for you!

Big Al & the Heavyweights – Love One Another

VizzTone Label Group VT-BA-01

Based out of New Orleans and a fan favorite across the U.S. since the ‘90s, drummer Big Al Lauro and his Heavyweights join forces with former bandmate Jason Ricci, plus North Mississippi Allstar Luther Dickinson, for this eclectic, hour-long musical roux that deals with the ups and downs of romance. Guitarist/vocalist Marcel Anton helps front the band too. The roster also includes New Orleans Hall of Fame keyboard player Wayne Lohr.

Big Al drummed behind outlaw Texan David Allan Coe in the ‘70s before going on to form the Unknown Blues Band with Warren Haynes.

Love One Another serves up a lot of blues, a little country and a helping of Big Easy funk, too. Tune in to “Love One Another,” “I Need a Fix,” “Guardian Angel,” “It’s Alright with Me,” “What Can I Say,” “I’m Your Man,” “Everybody Needs Somebody” and “Zydeco Love.”

About the Author: The blues came calling for Marty Gunther in the 1960s, when he witnessed Muddy Waters, Mississippi John Hurt, B.B. King and Howlin' Wolf perform at the Newport festivals in his native Rhode Island. A longtime Chicagoan who's now based out of Charlotte, N.C., he's a professional journalist and harp player who studied under Sugar Blue before co-founding the Nucklebusters, a band that's filled clubs in south Florida since the '80s.


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