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

By Marty Gunther

Red Hot ‘n Blues Reviews for August 2023

Monster Mike Welch – Nothing But Time

Gulf Coast Records

Since emerging as a teenaged member of Sugar Ray & the Bluetones, Boston-based Monster Mike Welch has proven himself to be a fret master beyond compare, and he takes his guitar and vocal skills to even greater heights with this disc, which teams him with both producer Kid Andersen and Mike Zito’s Gulf Coast imprint.

A masterful, must-have set of modern, West Side Chicago-infused blues, it’s a welcome return to the studio. The lineup includes Andersen on guitar and keys, Rick Estrin on harp, a full horn section and much more.

Welch’s most recent release was Right Place, Right Time, his partnership with the late singer Mike Ledbetter, which captured BMA traditional blues album of the year honors in 2018. Nothing But Time is bound to capture multiple awards and nominations as well.

Searing and slick throughout, dive deep into “Walking to You Baby,” “If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day,” “I’ve Got Nothing But Time,” “I Me Mine,” “I Ain’t Saying,” “Time to Move,” “Losing Every Battle,” “Hard to Get Along With,” “Jump for Joy,” “Ten Years Ago” and “Afraid of My Own Tears.”

Lady J Huston – Groove Me Baby

Earwig Music EWR-4980

The longtime queen of the blues in Las Vegas, St. Louis native Lady J Huston has toured the world since the ‘70s, having served as horn player, section and musical director for Albert King, Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer Johnnie Johnson and others. But she finally makes her debut as a headliner with this stellar, funky collection of nine originals and three covers.

Lady J possesses a fiery, in-your-face alto voice and she accompanies herself on trumpet and flugelhorn with backing from more than 30 musicians, including the 18-piece Jazz Edge Orchestra. The lively set that was recorded in the suburbs of her St. Louis hometown, where she spent her childhood as a dancer and singer behind her mother -- jazz, gospel and blues great Loyce Pickens.

Top tracks include “Your Call,” “I Want a Man Like That,” “Corona, You Make Me Sick,” “Groove Me Baby,” “Messin’ Around in Da Bayou,” “500 Pounds Good Gizzay,” “Mean Stud Lover’s Blues” and a live version of the Etta James classic, “At Last.”

Mick Kolassa – Wooden Music

Endless Blues Records MK072023

As the title infers, tunesmith Mick Kolassa goes acoustic with his latest CD, infusing wry humor and sweet licks in partnership with producer/guitarist Jeff Jensen and his usual collection of top Memphis talent. It strikes a positive chord throughout as it delivers original tunes that bridge the ups and downs of the human experience.

Guest stars include Libby Rae Watson, Tas Cru, Doug MacLeod and Bob Corritore, and – as usual -- Mick’s donating 100 per cent of the net proceeds of this one to his favorite Blues Foundation programs: the HART Fund, which benefits musicians facing hard times, and Generation Blues, which encourages youngsters to pursue the music.

You’ll dig “Educated by the Blues,” “Sugar in Your Grits,” “Baby Took a Limo to Memphis,” “If I Told You,” “Memphis Wood,” “If Life Was Fair,” “One Hit Wonder” and “Gas Station Sushi.”

The Nick Moss Band Featuring Dennis Gruenling – Get Your Back into It

Alligator Records ALCD 5013

With world-class talent at every position, the Nick Moss Band featuring Dennis Gruenling serve up a treat each time they step into the studio. And they outdo themselves with their latest disc, which includes a tidal wave of originals that find common ground between traditional Chicago blues and fresh jump and swing numbers that would have fit perfectly in café society clubs in the ‘40s and ‘50s.

Composed of Moss and Gruenling on guitar, harp and vocals with Rodrigo Mantovani on bass, Taylor Streiff on keys and 21-year-old newcomer Pierce Downer on drums, the quintet produce a sound far larger than their manpower suggests. They’re augmented by guest appearances by Brother John Kattke on organ and Sax Gordon Beadle blowing horns.

Choice cuts run deep, including “The Bait in the Snare,” “Get Your Back into It,” “Living in Heartache,” “It Shocks Me Out,” “Out of the Woods,” “Choose Wisely,” “Your Bark Is Worse Than Your Bite,” “Losing Ground,” “Bones’ Cantina,” “The Solution” and “Scratch ‘n’ Sniff.”

Bobby Greenshoes Parker – (Just Can’t) Tell Her No

Topsy & Explosive Records TR-EXP 23001

It’s been more than a decade since Tulsa-based guitarist/songwriter Bobby Greenshoes Parker has released a solo CD, but give a listen to this ten-track, all-original treasure and you’ll be scratching your head in wonder why it’s taken so long. It’s a funky set infused with clever lyrics and Southwestern grooves that pack a bite.

Parker is a frequent collaborator with Pinetop Perkins Foundation co-president/harp player David Bernston, who sits in on two cuts here. Parker’s deep lineup includes keyboard players Danny Timms (Kris Kristofferson) and Walt Richmond (Eric Clapton), bassist Casey Van Beek (The Tractors) and other key cogs in the Oklahoma music scene.

Put on your dancing shoes and give a listen to “Wiggle Room,” “Hopscotch,” “Ooh La Wah La Te,” “It’s Tearing Us Apart,” “Come a Little Closer,” “What Does It Take,” “Jojo Boogie” and “(Just Can’t) Tell Her No.”

Eric Johanson – The Deep and the Dirty

Ruf Records RUF 1305

No stranger to mixing stylings on his CDs, Louisiana-based Eric Johanson cuts new ground on his latest disc, teaming with producer Jesse Drayton (Supersuckers/Rob Zombie) and delivering his most interesting album yet, delivering a unified, all-original message about embracing every breath you take as he switches gears musically throughout.

Ranging from fuzz-toned blues-rock to swamp blues and more and delivered in three-piece format, the beats run deep thanks to Grammy winning drummer Terence Higgins (Warren Haynes/Tab Benoit) and bassist Eric Vogel (Big Sam’s Funky Nation). But the true stars here are Johanson’s rich voice and stellar fretwork.

Crank this one up and dive into “Don’t Hold Back,” “The Deep and the Dirty,” “Undertow,” “Just Like New,” “Familiar Sound,” “Gets Me High,” “Stepping Stone,” “Borrowed Time” and “She Is the Song.”

JW-Jones – Everything Now

Solid Blues Records SBR 0006

Named best guitarist at the 2020 IBCs when his HOROJO Trio captured band-of-the-year honors, JW-Jones has enjoyed a successful solo career North of the Border for decades, and he simply soars with this disc, which was produced and engineered in Austin by fellow Canadian multi-instrumentalist Gordie Johnson of the blues-rock ensemble Big Sugar.

An all-original set infused with intimate lyrics, the roster includes appearances from Jimmie Vaughan, The Texas Horns and a host of other Nashville and Lone Star State talent and is infused with deep, soulful grooves.

Contemporary but with traditional appeal, tune in to “Everything Now,” “Papa’s in the Pen,” “Take Your Time,” “To Tell You the Truth (I Lied),” “It’s Not Raining in L.A.,” “When You Left,” “I Choose You” and “Good to Be True.”

Larry Taylor and the Taylor Family – Generations of Blues: West Side Legacy

Nola Blue Records NBR 024

One of the founders of Chicago blues, Eddie Taylor, Sr. left a legacy far beyond his recordings on Vee-Jay and work with Jimmy Reed. His large, talented family is a Windy City treasure and eldest son Larry began began planning this CD eight years ago as a tribute to his dad on the 100th anniversary of his birth. The long-awaited end result delivers a treat for lovers of the West Side sound.

The lineup includes brothers Eddie, Jr. (who passed in 2019), Tim and Larry along with sisters Brenda and Demetria – all of whom are recording artists in their own right – and a guest appearance from rapper grandson Liljet2x, too. One listen proves beyond a doubt that the groove Eddie, Sr. laid down in the ‘50s is still going strong.

Choice cuts include “She Treats Me Just the Same,” “Take Your Hand Down,” “Bad Girl,” “I Found Out,” “Talk to Your Son,” “Big Town Playboy,” “I Paid My Dues,” “Jump Down American Queen” and “Larry & Eddie, Jr. Groove.”

Mark Telesca – Brand New Day

Mosher St. Records

One of the most beloved musicians in South Florida and a fixture nationally through his work with Mick Kolassa, Mark Telesca has experienced more roadblocks in life in the past few years than anyone should endure, but has handled them head-on with grace and optimism. And he joins forces with some of his closest friends as he sets his sights on a brighter future with this upbeat, intimate CD.

Doubling on six-string and bass, Mark’s a singer with a warm, mid-range voice. His heavyweight lineup includes sax master Jimmy Carpenter and harp giant Jason Ricci, plus IBC-winning guitarist JP Soars in a set recorded in West Palm Beach by Chris Peet, JP’s longtime drummer.

Nine emotion-packed originals and two passionate covers, don’t miss “Big Feet” – which explodes out of the gate, the soulful “Never Can Tell,” “I Pray for You,” “Burning Hell,” “The Way You Move,” “Rain on Me,” “Like a Fool,” “Ain’t Never Gonna Be the Same” and “Brand New Day.”

Billy the Kid and the Regulators – Nice Ain’t Got Me Nothin’

Self-produced CD

Fixtures on the Pennsylvania blues scene for the past two decades, Pittsburgh-based Billy the Kid and the Regulators frequently serve as the opening act for major touring bands, but they’re genuine stars in their own right – something that’s apparent from the opening notes of this impassioned collection of muscular, perfectly modulated blues-rock.

They’re fronted by Billy Evanochko, a force of nature on both vocals and six-string, with backing from Bob Vallecorsa on keys, Ben Davis on drums and John Bartholomay on bass. Will E Tri guests on harp.

Blazing from the jump and delivering tunes constructed atop a deep groove throughout, some of the highlights include “Nice Ain’t Got Me Nothin’,” “Sweet Honey Child,” “Bullshit Barbie,” “Say What You Wanna,” “Shake That Thang,” “Bang Bang Baby,” “Nasty Habits” and “Ain’t No Fun.”

Hudspeth & Taylor – Ridin’ the Blinds

Self-produced CD

Based out of Kansas City, guitarist Brandon Hudspeth and vocalist/percussionist Jaisson Taylor struck gold in 2019 with Folie a Deux, a CD that was nominated for BMA acoustic album of the year, and they’re destined for more honors with this follow-up, which puts a fresh spin on tunes recorded in the ‘20s and ‘30s but obscured by time.

Using harmonies and phrasings that are still anchored in the past, and might be somewhat foreign to the modern era, the duo take the songs in creative new directions; all of the material takes on new life thanks to Jaisson’s amazing, four-octave range.

Turn back the clock for a while and give a listen to “Poor Boy Long Ways from Home,” “Blues in the Bottle,” “Little Girl in Rome,” “Write Me a Few of Your Lines,” “Lonesome Home Blues,” “Police Dog Blues,” “Run Sinner Run,” “Can’t Be Satisfied” and “Hey Hey.”

Walk That Walk – Big World of Trouble

Self-produced CD

Delivering a mix of classic Detroit and Windy City blues, Walk That Walk have been fixtures on the East Coast since their founding in Boston in 1992. The band simply cooks from the jump on this disc, a welcome follow-up to You Good?!, their 2022 disc that hit the No. 15 spot on national blues charts.

This disc is a homecoming of sorts for the band, which toured in support of both Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry keyboard player Johnnie Johnson in their early years, thanks to a reunion with their original harp player, Nashville-based Tim Gartland, alongside front man Poppa C DeSnyder and his tight ensemble.

Toe-tapping and rock-steady throughout, give a listen to “Roof Got a Hole,” “Big World of Trouble,” “Get Up Get Out,” “See Poppa C,” “Mississippi Jukin’,” “You Can’t Stay Here” and “Good Woman”

The Curse of K.K. Hammond – Death Roll Blues

Self-produced CD

Britain-based Delta blues guitarist/vocalist K.K. Hammond reinvents the traditional artform as she makes her recording debut here. She infuses it with swamp elements as she takes it to places it’s never gone before, creating a startlingly different concept that’ll have you craving more.

Mixed and mastered at Abbey Road Studios in London, K.K. handles almost everything by herself. She penned and recorded all the tunes, created the cover concept and designed the set upon which it was shot, too. Her only assist comes from David Hick (aka David & the Devil) who helps deliver the title track.

Truly different, don’t miss “Death Roll Blues,” “What the Weatherman Done,” “Mr. Apology,” “Bone Collector,” “In the Dirty South,” “Don’t Sell Your Sunshine for a Knife,” “Till Death” and “Memento Mori.”

The LH Express – Painting Stars

Self-produced CD

A 2016 International Blues Challenge semi-finalist and a 2018 nominee in the prestigious Maple Blues Awards, The LH Express return to the studio for the first time in four years with this purposeful release, which delivers hope and optimism in a world plagued with problems.

Led by guitarist/vocalist Lucas Haneman, who shares the mic with the melismatic Megan Laurence, the Ottawa, Ont.-based quartet features Martin Newman on bass and Valera Negovora on drums. They deliver a never-boring, beat-infused mix of blues and blues-rock.

Lift your spirits with “Getaway,” “Not Today,” “Cabin Fever,” “Snapshot,” “Hot Minute,” “When I’m with Her,” “These Walls,” “Rising from the Dead” and “Painting Stars.”

D.K. Harrell – The Right Man

Little Village Foundation LVF 1055

Based out of Ruston, La., D.K. Harrell describes himself as a loner who’s spent his youth poring over YouTube videos, which taught him how to play guitar, relate to audiences and run a band. And, man, did those lessons pay off! He makes his debut with this CD at age 25, and it may be the best blues album you’ll hear this year.

Harrell plays in a style reminiscent of B.B. King, but he’s definitely his own man. He’s confident and mature throughout this all-original set, which was produced by Kid Andersen at Graceland Studios and features a trio of Grammy winners – keyboard player Jim Pugh, bassist Jerry Jemmott and drummer Tony Coleman – and a six-piece horn section, too.

Certain to launch DK into the pinnacle of the blues world, high points include “The Right Man,” “You’re a Queen,” “Get These Blues Out of Me,” “You’d Be Amazed,” “Hello Trouble,” “Honey Ain’t So Sweet,” “Leave It at the Door” and “One for the Road.”

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 Mason, OH, 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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