By Marty Gunther
Bob Corritore & Friends – Spider in My Stew
SWMAF/VizzTone Label Group
After releasing three albums from his vault at the Rhythm Room in Phoenix, AZ., recently, harmonica ace Bob Corritore turns the clock forward on this one, teaming with great, current vocalists to deliver a set of tunes that deal with the darker side of romance.
The roster includes Diunna Greenleaf, Johnny Rawls, Sugaray Rayford, Shy and Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry, Francine Reed, Alabama Mike, Oscar Wilson of the Cash Box Kings, John Primer, Lurrie Bell and Willie Buck, all of whom are at the absolute top of their game. They’re backed by an all-star lineup that includes Johnny Main and the 44s, Bob Stroger, Bob Margolin and a host of others.
An album sure to be in awards consideration in the coming months, Wilson powers out of the gate with “Tennessee Woman.” Some of the other choice cuts include Rayford’s “Big Mama’s Soul Food,” Greenleaf’s “Don’t Mess with the Messer,” Bell’s “Spider in My Stew,” Reed’s “Why Am I Treated So Bad” and Alabama Mike’s “Look Out,” but everything here is a standout.
The Hitman Blues Band – Not My Circus, Not My Monkey
Fronted by Russell “Hitman” Alexander whose dad is famed jazz vibist Ray Alexander, Hitman Blues Band is an eight-piece powerhouse that’s been heating up the night in the New York metropolitan area for the past 20 years, performing blistering sets that keep you moving from the jump.
Aided by a four-piece horn section, they deliver an interesting mix of material that includes eight stand-out originals and thoroughly modern reworkings of early hits from pre-War gospel great Blind Willie Johnson and Bob Dylan.
Put on your dancing shoes and get out on the floor for “Not My Circus, Not My Monkey,” the tongue-in-cheek “Buy That Man a Drink,” the ballad “No Place Like Home,” “You Can’t Say No,” “You Don’t Understand,” “Go Down Fighting” and the Johnson standard, “John the Revelator.”
Eddie 9V – Little Black Flies
An electrifying, melismatic vocalist/multi-instrumentalist, Eddie 9V has been making a major name for himself as a retro soul and blues artist since his debut release – self-produced in a trailer in Georgia – caught the world by storm a few years ago. This disc – his first on a major label – is certain to ascend his rising star into the heavens.
Born Brooks Mason and in his mid-20s, Eddie grew up emulating Sean Costello, and he’s a worthy successor to the Peach State talent, although his delivery channels Freddie King on guitar and Buddy Guy or Eddie Hinton on vocals.
Run – don’t walk! – to pick up this one, and give a good listen to “Little Black Flies,” “3 A.M. in Chicago,” “Don’t Come Around This House,” “Reach into Your Heart,” “Columbus Zoo Blues,” “Puttin’ the Kids to Bed,” “Travelin’ Man” and “You Don’t Have to Go.”
Tia Carroll – You Gotta Have It
Little Village Foundation
A fixture in the Northern California music scene for decades, vocalist Tia Carroll has released successful albums in Italy and Brazil, but never produced a studio album in the U.S. until Little Village Foundation teamed her up with Kid Andersen for this rich collection of blues, soul and more.
Possessing a relaxed, sultry contralto voice, Tia’s joined here by a lineup that includes a full horn section, Grammy-winning Little Village honcho Jim Pugh on keys, appearances by Andersen and Brazil’s Igor Prado on guitars and The Sons of the Soul Revivers on backing vocals.
If you’re a fan of traditional, blues-infused soul, you’ll love “Ain’t Nobody Worryin’,” the Carroll originals “Even When I’m Not Alone,” “Leaving Again” and “Movin’ On,” “Our Last Time” and covers of Z.Z. Hill’s “I Need Someone” and the Staple Singers’ “Why Am I Treated So Bad” to close.
The Reverend Shawn Amos – The Cause of it All
Put Together Music
One of the most unique artists in blues and roots, The Reverend Shawn Amos strips down his act on this CD, working in duo format as he covers ten standards in a way they’ve never been treated before, delivering them in the griot tradition of West Africa.
Amos delivers vocals and harp throughout accompanied by his longtime guitarist, Chris “Doctor” Roberts. Both haunting and beautiful, their material comes primarily from the Chicago blues songbook and deals with the vulnerability and isolation we’ve all experienced in recent times.
The emotions run deep here, beginning with Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful.” Other pleasers include “Still a Fool,” “Serves Me Right to Suffer,” “I’m Ready,” “Baby Please Don’t Go,” “Can’t Hold Out Much Longer” and “Little Annie Mae.”
Dave Kalz – Relish
Gulf Coast Records
A founding member of Devon Allman’s Honeytribe, guitarist Dave Kalz has spent 30 years on the road, but steps out under his own name for the first time here, delivering a blistering set of blues-rock and reuniting with Gulf Coast owner Mike Zito, his former bandmate in Anthology, the Allman Brothers tribute band that also included Grammy winner Yonrico Scott and other heavyweights.
Often autobiographical, this album comes across with a gritty feel – not surprising because Katz grew up in St. Louis and relocated to Milwaukee during the pandemic. He penned all 11 cuts backed by his regular band and several guests, including Zito.
Minor-key tunings and flashy fretwork dominate this intense set. Blues-rock fans will enjoy “Relish,” “Werewolf Blues” – a tribute to Vincent Price, “Stone Cold Stuck” – about being stuck at home with COVID-19 during a blizzard, “Route 666,” “Coffee with Muffin” and “Playing the Blues with My Friends.”
Mary Hott with the Carpenter Ants – Devil in the Hills
Singer/songwriter Mary Hott mixes everything from Celtic-style ballads to full-on blues and gospel as she delivers a compelling, bittersweet tribute to the coal miners of her native West Virginia that juggles tragedy and suffering with hope – a major departure from her previous release, which was jazz-infused blues.
This one was co-produced by indie-rock superstar Don Dixon and Michael Lipton, house guitarist at PBS’ Mountain Stage, and features backing from The Carpenter Ants, a gospel/Americana group based out of the state capital.
Subtitled Coal Country Reckoning, if your tastes include blues with old-time country overtones, give a good listen to “They Built a Railroad” – an opening ballad that deals with child labor, the sweet “Annabelle Lee,” “Room of Lost Souls,” “The Spot,” “Rise Up, WV,” “Life’s Railway to Heaven” and a memorable reworking of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”
Mindi Abair – The Best of Mindi Abair
Pretty Good for a Girl Records
Two-time Grammy-winning saxophonist Mindi Abair began her career touring with Aerosmith before becoming a superstar in smooth jazz. But she’s been delivering a heaping helping of class to blues in recent years with band, The Boneshakers. This stellar, 19-track retrospective puts that transition on display in all its glory.
Abair began her recording career in 2000 during breaks from touring with the Backstreet Boys and has never looked back, delivering melismatic vocals as well as world-class horn chops. The album also includes guest appearances from Keb’ Mo’, Booker T. Jones, Joe Bonamassa and Gregg Allman.
If you love jazz and blues, put this one on your must-have list. It’s entertaining from the jump, includes several previously unreleased cuts and is chock full of standout cuts.
Rochelle & the Sidewinders – Something Good
Fronted by honey-voiced alto Rochelle Creone and featuring guitarist Tom Coplen and Jim Trimmier on horns and keys, this high-energy quintet delivers a long-awaited follow-up to their 2016 release, Live in Austin Texas, which was an instant attention-getter.
Based out of the Lone Star State where they’re revered on the bar scene, they produce a sound that combines big-city soul and blues of the ‘60s and ‘70s, but updates it into a package that’s fresh, but familiar and will have you cutting a rug on the dance floor.
The pleasers come hot and heavy from “Good Love,” which opens. Other top-notch tracks include “Rub a Dub,” “Monkey See Monkey Do,” “Raggedy Ann Stomp,” “Happy Boy,” “Take It from the Top,” “I’m on My Way,” “Party Time,” “Blues for the Night,” “Pressure Cooker” and “I Can’t Let You Go.”
Dustin Arbuckle & Matt Woods – Self-Titled
Harp player Dustin Arbuckle and guitarist Matt Woods went old-school with this self-produced CD – a finalist for BMA honors in the acoustic category – as they deliver tunes suitable for the front porch of their homes in the Midwest -- where they’re based – or a Mississippi juke.
A native of Wichita, Kansas., Dustin rose to prominence in the 2000s as one half of Moreland & Arbuckle. He handles most of the vocals and provides percussive, circular riffs on the reeds while Matt, based out of Iowa, delivers a stylish Hill Country and Delta fingerpick and slide guitar.
A genuine old-school toe-tapper, you’ll enjoy “You Got to Know,” “Always Gone,” “V8 Ford,” “Everybody Loves My Baby,” “It Ain’t Stealin’,” “Fairfield” and “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning.”
Clarence Spady – Surrender
Nola Blue Records NB 014
Clarence Spady was on the verge of blues superstardom 25 years ago, earning a W.C. Handy Award nomination for best debut release and following it up with an album that contended for soul-blues honors. He returns to the studio for the first time since 2008 for this understated, unhurried release, which will have you wondering where he’s been for so long.
A New York native who’s been based in Scranton, Pa., for decades, Spady possesses a warm tenor voice and a stylish attack on the six-string. His mix of blues and soul bridges both worlds succinctly, and his original tunes here are both intimate and highly personal.
Do yourself a favor and give a good listen to “If My Life Was a Book,” a tasty cover of Lucky and James Peterson’s “When My Blood Runs Cold,” “K-Man” – a tribute to his late son, “Surrender,” a reinvention of Z.Z. Hill’s “Down Home Blues,” “Addiction Game,” “Jones Falls Expressway” and “Pick Me Up.”
Kurt Allen – Whiskey, Women & Trouble
Based out of Kansas City, Kurt Allen is a blues rocker all true blues fans can love. He delivers a mix of fiery single-note and slide guitar runs on this digital-only album with assistance from a skintight band and full horn section.
A relentless road dog for a decade before the world of music shut down last year, he possesses warm tenor voice. He composed all ten tracks in this set, which ranges from azure-tinged rock to highly danceable funk and soul.
Built atop a heavy rock guitar lead, the opener, “Sweet T,” demonstrates that Allen’s all business. You’ll also enjoy “Watch Your Step,” “How Long,” “Whiskey, Women & Trouble,” “Funkalicious,” “Roadrunner,” “Voodoo Queen” and the rapid-fire “Graveyard Blues.”
Billy Jones & Delta Blues Outlaws – Self-Titled
Delta Blues Records
It’s easy to understand why Billy Jones calls his band the Delta Blues Outlaws: They deliver a combination of thoroughly electric blues with Southern soul overtones, not the acoustic stylings that their name might imply.
Based out of Jacksonville, Arkansas, they’ve been fan favorites on the Mid-South casino circuit for decades with Jones – who’s in his late ‘60s with a string of tasty CDs under multiple other names on European labels -- delivering emotion-packed vocals accented by tasty, unhurried guitar runs.
One listen and you’ll be convinced that Jones deserves far more attention that he receives. Top cuts include “The One You Need,” “Liar,” “Biggest House in Town,” “Chiseled in Stone,” “Ready for Lovin’,” “Marry My Mother-in-Law” and “Don’t Answer the Door.”
Patti Parks – Whole Nother World
Booga Music/VizzTone Label Group
Based out of western New York, Patti Parks burst onto the scene in 2013 with Cheat’n Man, debuting one of the most emotive voices in the blues. After touring internationally, however, she’s been devoting most of her time to nursing. But that changed dramatically after Booga Music label owner Kenny Neal rediscovered her at the IBCs.
Recorded by Kenny at his studio in Baton Rouge, La., this one’s an instant attention-grabber -- a sensational mix of blues, soul and funk that’s great in its own right, but accented by Neal’s guitar and harp throughout. He also shares vocals on one cut, too.
The founder of a program that provides care for high-risk children in drug rehab centers, Patti definitely deserves your ear. Tune in to “I’m Trouble,” “More Than You’ll Ever Know,” the duet “Baby Bee,” “Stickin’ to My Guns,” “I Can’t Think” and “No Means No.”
Franck L. Goldwasser – Going Back to Paris
Mountain Top MTPTOP-0017
A fixture in the Bay Area since immigrating to California from France in 1983, and one of the most stylish jump and blues guitarists on the scene today, Franck L. Goldwasser revisits his early years with this CD. A compilation of music recorded between 1998 and 1999, it remains tasty and current today.
Also known as Paris Slim, Goldwasser’s toured with everyone from Curtis Salgado to Charlie Musselwhite in addition to service time as a member of The Mannish Boys. He’s backed here by several major Bay Area talents, including harmonica legend Gary Smith and guitarist Rusty Zinn.
An album that will appeal to anyone who’s a blues purist, you’ll enjoy “Gonna Move to Texas,” “Love Is Just a Gamble,” “Harp de Triomphe,” “It’s a Sin,” “House Full of Blues,” “That’s What You Do to Me,” “Slim’s Business,” “Four Walls,” “3629 Grove” and “Sixth Avenue Meltdown.”