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

By Marty Gunther

Buddy Guy – The Blues Don’t Lie

RCA Records

Buddy Guy’s been striking gold consistently since teaming with producer/percussionist Tom Hambridge for the first time in 2008, winning three Grammys and a fourth nomination. And the 86-year-old treasure should strike the motherload again and add another statuette to his trophy case with this hourlong, 16-song pleaser.

Recorded in Nashville and backed by several Music City talents, Buddy’s at the absolute top of the game on guitar and vocals throughout this intimate, soothing stunner, which features guest appearances from Mavis Staples, Elvis Costello, James Taylor, Bobby Rush, Jason Isbell and Wendy Moten.

The autobiographical “I Let My Guitar Do the Talking” sets the tone to open. Other choice cuts include “Blues Don’t Lie,” “The World Needs Love,” “We Go Back,” “Follow the Money,” “What’s Wrong with That,” “House Party,” “Back Door Scratchin’,” “Rabbit Blood,” “Last Call” and a solo acoustic take on Slim Harpo’s “I’m a King Bee.”

Annika Chambers & Paul DesLauriers – Good Trouble

VizzTone Label Group VT-BL005

Stars in their own right and life partners, too, Houston-born soul-blues powerhouse Annika Chambers and Canadian-bred blues-rock firebrand Paul DesLauriers abandon their usual comfort zones and join forces for the first time to speak out against social injustice through a smoking-hot mix of clever originals and timely covers.

Conceived as “pandemic therapy,” the newlyweds – one a two-time BMA female soul artist of the year, the other a two-time Maple Blues entertainer of the year honoree – team with former IBC winner JP Soars on second guitar and drummer Chris Peet in a set recorded at Peet’s studio in South Florida, where they all reside.

Aggressive and pleasingly consistent from the jump, give a listen to “You’ve Got to Believe,” “Stand Up,” “Isn’t It a Pity,” “Need Your Love So Bad,” “We’ve Got the Blues,” “Money’s Funny,” “Mississippi Queen” and “I Need No Power.”

Steve Hill – Dear Illusion

No Label Records NLR122

One of the most accomplished singer-songwriters North of the Border, Steve Hill has been working as a one-man band for most of the past decade but works in full-band format and simply blazes on this disc, which celebrates his 25th year as a performer.

Recorded just prior to the pandemic and originally scheduled for release when the world shut down, Hill handles bass, mandolin and harp here, too, with backing from The Devil Horns and seven-time British Blues Awards drummer-of-the-Year Wayne Proctor, who mixed and mastered the set.

Blues-rock at its best, you’ll enjoy “All About the Love,” “Keep It Together,” “Everything You Got,” “Dear Illusion,” “Don’t Let the Truth Get in the Way (of a Good Story),” “So It Goes,” “She Gives Lessons in Blues” and “Until the Next Time.”

Vanessa Collier – Live at Power Station

Phenix Fire Records

The reigning BMA contemporary female artist of the year and a two-time horn player honoree, too, Vanessa Collier shows why she’s one of the most popular acts on the blues scene today with this searing 70-minute set, which was captured live at Power House Studios in New York City just prior to last year’s awards.

A giant on the saxophone who graduated from Berklee College of Music less than a decade ago and doubles here on resonator guitar, Vanessa penned seven of the the ten tracks and puts her own, modern touch on familiar covers by Ann Peebles, Chris Smither and Bono, too.

If you love your blues with the heat on high, you’ll adore “The Run Around,” “Whiskey and Women,” “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” “Sweatin’ Like a Pig, Singin’ Like an Angel,” “When It Don’t Come Easy,” “Icarus,” “Tongue Tied” and “Two Parts Sugar, One Part Lime.”

Matt Lomeo – When You Call

Self-produced CD

Harp player Matt Lomeo debuted as a festival performer in his native New York at age 10 in 1999 and is a veteran of the Memphis and L.A. blues scenes, but finally makes his debut as a front man with this all-original, 13-tune set of contemporary blues and roots.

Now based in L.A., Matt possesses a honeyed voice and musical sensibilities colored by his love of Junior Wells, George “Harmonica” Smith, Frank Sinatra, Elvis and Marvin Gaye. A clever, soulful lyricist, too, he’s joined with a lineup that includes Teresa James and sidemen from the Eric Burdon and J.J. Cale bands, including by Grammy-nominee Terry Wilson who produced.

Lomeo’s runs on the reeds shine on “One More 1&1” to open. Give a listen to the Latin-tinged “Unsentimental You,” “She Was the Best,” “When You Call,” “Got a New Woman,” “Take the Boulevard,” “Why Do I Cry” and “Took My Bar and Left Me.”

Lightnin’ Malcolm – Eye of the Storm

Whiskey Bayou Records WSK2002

Carrying forward the Hill Country tradition he learned playing alongside R.L. Burnside, T-Model Ford, Big Jack Johnson and as a member of the North Mississippi Allstars, Lightnin’ Malcolm stretches the boundaries of the music a bit on this hard-driving CD, but don’t fret! The juke-joint feel that it delivers will keep you dancing all night long.

Hypnotic and trance-inducing, Malcolm doubles on lead and rhythm guitar throughout, while infusing a contemporary feel to his usual traditional stylings. He’s backed throughout by drummer Brady Blade, and Tab Benoit (drums) and Dumpstaphunk bassist Tony Hall sit in, too.

The set opens with a plea for divine intervention through “Lord Above” before steady grooves drive “Crawlin’ Baby,” “Eye of the Storm,” “Modern Reminder,” “Latest Devil,” “Lift Us Up,” “Louisiana Breeze,” “Too Many Nights” and “Let’s Get Together.”

Grant Dermody – Behind the Sun

Self-produced CD

A master harp player, Seattle native Grant Dermody delivered a tribute to acoustic Piedmont blues legend John Jackson on his most recent previous CD, but he plugs in and turns up the heat on this one, a 15-cut pleaser that delivers a big tip of the capot to his adopted home, Louisiana.

Now based out of Lafayette, Grant resumes his longtime partnership with four-time Grammy winning guitarist Dirk Powell here in a set that features contributions from accordionist Corey Ledet, bassist Lee Allen Zeno and drummer Gerard St. Julien with additional vocals from Teka Briscoe and Ahyris Nevarre.

A cover of Muddy Waters’ “Trouble No More” adopts a swampy two-four rhythm to open. Other choice, often languorous cuts include “Don’t Boss Me,” “Clotilda’s Got Soul,” “Louisiana Blues,” “Tell Me,” “She Comes Running,” “Time Ain’t Due,” “Mr. Jeff,” “Learn to Treat Me Right” and “So Many Roads.”

Manny Fizzotti – Nobody Understands

RockHattle Music RM038

One of the most stylish guitarists in European blues, London-based Manny Fizzotti is an Italian-born honors graduate from Los Angeles’ prestigious Guitar Institute of Technology, and he delivers a masterclass of technique with this mix of straight-ahead blues, jazz, swing and more on his latest CD.

A pro since the early ‘80s, Manny penned nine of the 12 tracks here, and he joins forces with 2019 BMA harp player of the year Giles Robson and drummer Brendan O’Neill who rose to fame backing Rory Gallagher and now keeps time for Mud Morganfield.

If you like your blues steeped with jazz, you’ll enjoy “Crying Shame,” “Useless,” “Nobody Understands,” “Sliding Away,” “Dodgy Dudes,” “She’s Gone,” “Turn Me On” and covers of the Bobby Troup standard, “Route 66,” and John Coltrane’s “Naima.”

Dave Keyes – Rhythm Blues & Boogie

Blue Heart Records BHR 037

A three-time BMA nominee who’s toured with Popa Chubby on keys for the past decade, native New Yorker Dave Keyes shines like a diamond every time he takes the spotlight on his own. And this disc, which pays tribute to his musical influences, is a rollicking winner on all counts.

This is the sixth solo effort for Dave, who’s pedigree includes long stints with Odetta, David Johansen, Bo Diddley, Sleepy LaBeef and gospel star Marie Knight. Doug MacLeod, Early Times, Chubby and others drop in for guest appearances with Bernard “Pretty” Purdie and Frank Pagano handling percussion.

Consisting of nine originals and one tasty cover, you’re sure to enjoy “Shake Shake Shake,” “That’s What the Blues Are For,” “Blues and Boogie,” “Ain’t Going Down,” “WBGO Boogie,” “Not Fighting Anymore,” “Invisible Man” and “7 O’Clock Somewhere.”

Janice Harrington – 80 Years of International Friendship

Hip & Happy Records

Based in Germany but born in Ohio, vocalist Janice Harrington proves you’re only as old as you feel as she celebrates her 80th birthday with this entertaining album with timeless appeal. A former USO entertainer during the Vietnam War era, she’s sassy, classy and a little bawdy, too, across 67 minutes.

The daughter of a gospel singer, Janice has appeared on TV’s Days of Our Lives and performs with big bands around the world. The 16 songs here are culled from four decades of studio sessions with backing from top-notch Norwegian, Danish, Austrian and German ensembles throughout.

Sometimes bawdy, always blue and always classy, too, you’ll enjoy “Old Age,” “Seven Day a Week Man Blues,” “Wheeler Dealer,” “Too Soon to Tell,” “Mud in His Face,” “Making Plans,” “Mirror Image” and “What a Wonderful World.”

Fabrizio Poggi – Basement Tapes

Appaloosa Records

One of the foremost proponents of traditional blues in Europe Italy-based harp player Fabrizio fell in love with the music after viewing The Last Waltz concert documentary in the ‘70s, and he pays tribute to The Band and his blues forebears, too, with this deep azure set, which includes guest spots from Guy Davis, Ronnie Earl and Band founder Garth Hudson.

A 2018 Grammy nominee with Davis for Sonny & Brownie’s Last Train, this package is a collection of never-previously-released originals and standards captured for other projects across the past 15 years, all of which are tied together by Fabrizio’s fluid harp runs, and all of them are well worth your ear.

Warm and soothing throughout, give a listen to “Precious Lord,” “Little Red Rooster,” “Midnight Train,” “John the Revelator,” “Your Light,” “Black Coffee,” “Blues for Charlie,” “Boogie for John Lee Hooker,” “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” “I’m on the Road Again” and “Hole in Your Soul.”

Mud Morganfield – Portrait

Delmark Records 876

When you’re the son of blues royalty, fans expect something special each time you step in the studio, and that’s what Mud Morganfield delivers with this disc, his debut recording for Delmark, delivering a joyous combination of old-school Windy City blues and a dash of gospel, too.

The eldest son of Muddy Waters, Mud’s joined here by his dad’s former bandmate Rick Kreher and Billy Flynn on guitars along with bassist E.G. McDaniel, drummer Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, harp players Bob Corritore and Harmonica Hinds and the late Barrelhouse Chuck on keys for a set that includes eight originals that flow smoothly with six well-chosen covers.

Morganfield takes you to church for the autobiographical “Praise Him” to open. Other must-listens include “Son of the Seventh Son,” “Love to Flirt,” “Catfishing,” “Health,” “Loco Motor,” “Money (Can’t Buy Everything),” “Midnight Lover” and “Blues in My Shoes.”

Starlite Campbell Band – Live! 2

Supertone Records STR20-D

Currently based in Portugal, the Starlite Campbell Band doesn’t let the grass grow under their feet for long – something they prove on their latest CD, a powerful set of blues-rock recorded at three different sites in their native UK, where they’ve also lived in six different settings in the past decade.

A husband-wife partnership composed of bassist Suzie Starlite and guitarist/vocalist Simon Campbell, one of the top session guitarists in Britain, the duo keep the heat on high with support from keyboard players Jonny Henderson (Kirk Fletcher) and Christian Madden (Liam Gallagher) along with Steve Gibson (Jack Bruce) on drums.

Full of deep grooves, searing tonality and powerful freeform jams, you’ll enjoy “I Like It Like That,” “Walkin’ Out the Door,” melodies of “Peter Gunn/Shakin’ All Over” and “Brother/I Need a Light,” “Still Got Time to Be My Baby” and “Sex Is the Key.”

Lee O’Nell Blues Gang – This Is Us

Self-produced CD

A four-piece band from the Vosges region of eastern France, the Lee O’Nell Blues Gang are a hard-to-define, eclectic unit that delivers one clever, interesting CD here. Fronted by Gipsy Bacuet on honeyed vocals and keys, this set alternates from hard-edged blues-rock to soft, jazz- and soul-infused blues.

Their second album since forming in 2019, they’re anchored by guitarist Lionel Wernert, who penned all 14 tracks, and features guest appearances from childhood friend and French blues six-string giant Fred Chapellier.

“Come What May,” “As If It Was Enough,” “Be a Man” and “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Happy” burn to open before “Boogie Woogie Broke Down Love” swings relentlessly. And give a listen to “Let the Good Times Roll,” “Of Course,” “You Don’t Know Who I Am” and “Just Need a Prayer.”

Angela Strehli – Ace of Blues

Antone’s/New West Records

One of the most important vocalists in the Texas music scene since the ‘60s, Lubbock native Angela Strehli hasn’t been in the studio very often since teaming with Clifford Antone to co-found his long-running nightclub in Austin. But blues lovers can dance with joy with the release of this CD, her first since Blue Highway in 2005.

Now based in Marin County, Calif., where she and her hubby own the popular nightspot Rancho Nicasio, Angela spent her early years performing with W.C. Clark, Stevie Ray Vaughan and several legendary Chicagoans. Her rich, emotive alto shines here with backing from Mighty Mike Schermer on guitar, Mike Emerson and Jim Pugh on keys among other top talent.

Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Two Steps from the Blues” opens. Other pleasers include “Person to Person,” “I Love the Life I Live,” “You Can Never Tell,” “Trying to Live My Life Without You,” “More and More,” “I Wouldn’t Mind Dying” and “SRV,” her sweet tribute to a long-lost friend.

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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