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Marty Gunther’s Red, Hot ’n Blues Music Reviews - June 2024

By Marty Gunther


Red Hot ‘n Blues Reviews for June 2024

 

Toronzo Cannon – Shut Up & Play!

Alligator Records AL50203

Toronzo Cannon has seen it all. After spending a lifetime behind the wheel of a Chicago Transit Authority bus traversing the mean streets of the Windy City, he finally started devoting  himself full time to his music a couple of years ago. He’s always used that experience to populate his albums with wry observations about life in general, but never more potently than on this CD.


The lefthanded guitarist simply smokes here as he delivers a ground-roots view of life in America today, speaking the truth with backing from his excellent band, which includes Brian Quinn on bass, Cole DeGenova on keys and Jason “Jroc” Edwards and Phillip “Dante” Burgess, Jr. on drums. And guest harp player Matthew Skoller and makes an appearance, too.


Contemporary blues at its best, you’ll dig “I Can’t Fix the World,” “I Hate Love,” “Had to Go Through It to Get to It,” “Something to Do Man,” “Message to My Daughter,” “Guilty,” “Got Me by the Short Hairs,” “If I’m Always Wrong” and “Shut Up and Play.”

 

Misty Blues – Silver Lining

Guitar One Records

Led by the dynamic alto Gina Coleman, who doubles on cigar-box guitar, Misty Blues includes several of the top musicians in the Northeast and has been making a name for itself out of Williamstown, Mass., for the past 25 years. And they simply cook on their latest CD, their own special brand of horn-drenched, jazz-infused blues.


An autobiographical effort that features lush arrangements, deep lyrics and several guest artists, this disc will strike home for anyone who’s experienced the ups and downs of a lifetime of work, whether it’s on the job or on stage.


Give a spin to “Seduction by Blues,” “Silver Lining,” “The Upper Hand,” “Sofrito My Blues,” “How Will I,” “That’s My Cross,” “Nothing in Vain,” “Chasing Gold” and “Blues Never Ends.”

 

Eric Bibb – Live at the Scala Theatre Stockholm

Stony Plain Records SPCD1487

There’s no finer showman and acoustic guitarist in the world than blues troubadour Eric Bibb.  The perennial Grammy and BMA nominee is at the top of his game on this sweet, intimate album, which was captured in front of an enthusiastic audience in a small-group setting in Sweden in 2022.


A follow-up to his Ridin’ CD, which was a finalist in this year’s BMAs, Eric selected several of the best tunes from his extensive catalog for this one. He’s backed by several exceptional Scandinavian talents, all of whom do their leader proud. If this doesn’t put a smile on your face, nothing will!


You’ll enjoy “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad,” “Silver Spoon,” “Along the Way,” “Things is ‘Bout Comin’ My Way,” “Rosewood,” “Whole World’s Got the Blues,” “River Blues,” “500 Miles” and “Mole in the Ground.”

 

Deb Ryder – Live and Havin’ Fun

VizzTone Label Group SWMAF-27

Veteran vocalist Deb Ryder has been singing the blues since joining her dad on stage at age five, and the Los Angeles-based powerhouse holds nothing back in this all-original, 14-track set. Only the sixth CD in a career that includes extensive work in TV, film and commercials, she’ll have you grooving in the aisles here.


Produced by bassist hubby Ric Ryder, Deb’s backing unit includes guitarists Albert Lee and Johnny Lee Schell and keyboard master Jim Pugh along with guest appearances from Big Llou Johnson, former IBC winner Joey Delgado, Joe Sublett, Artur Menezes and others.


Put on your dancing shoes and get down to “Fun Never Hurt No One,” “Enjoy the Ride,” “Temporary Insanity,” “You Might Just Get Lucky,” “Goodbye Baby,” “Guilty as Sin,” “I’m Coming Home,” “Prisoner of War,” “Any Bottle” and “Blues Is All I Got.”

 

T Bear – The Way of the World

Quarto Valley Records

Born Richard Gerstein in New York City and known as Richard T. Bear in the ‘70s for his propensity for wearing large, furry coats, T Bear served as Carly Simon’s road manager and then scored gold with the disco hit, “Sunshine Hotel.” But he turned his back on music for 30-plus years before re-emerging with New Bear Tracks in 2020. Every song of this all-original set is worthy of multiple spins.


T Bear’s warm voice, relaxed delivery and keyboard playing will grab you from the jump. He sings from the heart in partnership with drummer Tony Braunegal, guitarist Laurence Juber and bassists Reggie McBride, Hutch Hutchinson and Ricky Cortez.


Delightful and blues-infused, tune in to “The Way of the World,” “Sign on the Dotted Line,” “Before the Fall,” “Walter Mitty’s Glasses,” “A Change’ll Do Me Good,” “Your Husband’s Got a Gun,” “This Bird Has Flown,” “Breathe,” “Dinner for One,” “True Romance” and “Red Harvest.”

 

Big Harp George – Cooking with Gas

Blues Mountain Records BMR CD07

Serving up a breath of fresh air in a world dominated by harp players cut out of the Little Walter-Sonny Boy Willamson mold, Big Harp George consistently dazzles on the chromatic, delivering a tasty, unique sound filled with interesting rhythms and runs. Like the title insists, he cooks with gas on this humorous, sometimes thought-provoking CD.


Recorded at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios in the Bay Area, he’s backed by a rhythm section composed of Derrick “D-Mar” Martin, Jerry Jemmott, June Core and Joe Kyle with Kid on guitar, a horn section and background vocals from the Sons of the Soul Revivers, too.


Choice cuts run deep. Don’t miss “Cooking with Gas,” “Cellphone Hater,” “Wine Is My Friend,” “Maceosity,” “Awkward Me,” “What the Missus Misses,” “DIY Mama,” “Paradise Is Burning,” “The Older We Get” and “When I First Held Valerie.”

 

Nick Alexander – Lil Hoochie

BlueBird Talent

The son of Chicago legend Linsey “The Hoochie Man” Alexander, Nick Alexander has worked behind the scenes for his dad for decades but successfully steps into the spotlight for the first time here. It’s a family affair because Nick pays homage to his father by covering several of Linsey’s deserving, but unrecorded R&B-infused material and more.


A dynamic vocalist and guitarist who has one foot in the past and the other in the future, Nick’s joined here by a first-call lineup of Windy City talent, including Roosevelt Purifoy, Jr. on keys, Melvin Carlisle on drums and more.


The fruit doesn’t far from the tree on this one. Give a listen to “Popcorn,” “Moving to the Country,” “Soul Power,” “Mona Lisa Was a Man,” “I Believe in My Soul,” “I’m Tired” and “Make It Funky.”

 

Alastair Greene – Standing Out Loud

Ruf Records RUF 1310

A virtuoso guitarist who worked for years in the Alan Parsons Group and -- most recently -- with Sugaray Rayford, Alastair Greene is finally getting his due as a soloist, and he delivers a powder keg of emotion on his latest CD, taking his rightful place in the forefront of the blues-rock world.


Co-produced and engineered in Nashville by JD Simo, Alastair delivers an original, in-your-face effort that explores his love for early versions of the Rolling Stones and ZZ Top and others. It’s a no-nonsense recording that integrates everything from blues to Southern rock, and it’s not for the faint of heart.


Strap up and enjoy “You Can’t Fool Me,” “Slow Burn,” “Only Do,” “The Last to Cry,” “Trouble Blues,” “Standing Out Loud,” “Rusty Dagger” and “Bullfrog Blues.”

 

Paul Oscher – Live at the Tombs House of Detention

Blues Fidelity Records

An unbelievable triple threat as a guitarist, harp and keyboard player as well as being the first white member of the Muddy Waters Band, New Yorker Paul Oscher succumbed to COVID in 2021, but not before a deathbed request to Blues Fidelity Records that they delve into his extensive archive of tapes for future releases. One listen to this initial effort and you’ll be craving more.


Recorded in the late ‘80s at the Manhattan House of Detention, a.k.a. The Tombs, this disc lacks the polish you’d get from a modern recording, but the music here makes up for any shortcomings. As a bonus, keyboard legend David Maxwell and R&B great Bob Gaddy – two other lost giants – sit in along with vocalist Rose Melody, who teamed with Paul on sessions for Spivey Records in the ‘70s.


An understated treasure, dive into “Off the Wall,” “Blue Midnight,” “Flip, Flop and Fly,” “You’re Still My Baby,” “Honky Tonk Train,” “After Hours,” “Steal Away,” “Silent Night” and “Slideaway.”

 

The Reverend Shawn Amos – Soul Brother No. 1

Immediate Family Records

Since transitioning from being a Grammy-nominated producer and author to a performing artist, the Reverend Shawn Amos has released some of the most interesting music in the blues-roots spectrum. He kicks up the funk here, delivering a powerful message about the difficulties faced by an African-American artist toiling in a world on fire.


The son of cookie magnate Wally “Famous Amos” Otis, Shawn considers this the culmination of a 20-year journey of self-exploration as he reconnected with his roots after growing up a child of divorce with mostly white friends. The lyrics here are as heavy as the beat.


Open your ears to “Revelation,” “Stone Cold Love,” “What It Is to Be Black,” “It’s All Gonna Change (for the Better),” “Soul Brother No. 1,” “Hammer,” “Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey” and “Things Will Be Fine.”

 

Beaux Gris Gris & the Apocalypse – Hot Nostalgia Radio

Grow Vision Music & Records

Based out of California but an ensemble composed of artists from both sides of the Atlantic, Beaux Gris Gris & the Apocalypse fuse hard-driving rhythms, blues-rock, Americana and the sounds of the Gulf Coast on their latest CD. It will leave you breathless after a workout on the dance floor.


The group’s led by Louisiana-native vocalist Greta Valenti and British Blues Hall of Fame guitarist Robin Davey, who formerly worked together in the band Well Hung Heart. Hot Nostalgia Radio  serves as a follow-up to their Love & Murder CD, which delivered Top Ten hits across Europe and earned the group No. 13 placement in Classic Rock Magazine’s list of Top 50 albums of the year.


Crank up “Oh Yeah,” “Wild Woman,” “Satisfy Your Queen,” “Middle of the Night,” “Sad When I’m Dancing,” “The Runaway,” “Harder to Breathe,” “Don’t Let Go,” “Penny Paid Rockstar,” “Let’s Ride” and “Mama Cray.”

 

Al Lerman – Country-Fried Blues

Self-produced CD

A frequent nominee for harmonica player of the year in Canada’s Maple Blues Awards, Al Lerman is a stylish guitarist, too, and he goes country style on this CD, primarily playing acoustic. Lerman surrounded himself with a stellar group of musicians and captured this set in multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Bowskill’s studio, which is based in a 130-year-old farmhouse in Coberg, Ont.


Lerman delivers all lead vocals, harp and guitar, too, with Bowskill on mandolin, fiddle and six-string, Alec Frasier on upright bass and guitar, Steve O’Connor on keys and accordion and Chuck Keeping on percussion. They produce a warm sound that’s all blue but imbued with the feel of their surroundings.


Kick back and give a listen to “The Backbug Song,” “Big Bill’s Blues,” “How Much Longer Can a Broken Heart Last,” “Come on in My Kitchen,” “Summer Strollin’,” “Can’t Pin a Colour,” “Lowdown Just the Same,” “Too Bad for You (Too Bad for Me)” and “Last One to Leave the Party.”

 

Ciara Grace – Write It Down

Self-produced CD

                                                      www.ciaragracemusic.com

The daughter of Grammy-winning producer/engineer Glenn Barrett and singer/songwriter mom Lizanne Knott, Ciara Grace hits the streets running with this sensational debut CD. It’s a haunting, original set that contains tunes she penned while still in high school. Bridging blues and roots, it’s full of never-boring arrangements and beats.


Ciara’s already got an international reputation after touring with her mom, and her dad recorded this one at his MorningStar Studios in suburban Philadelphia. It’ll hit a sweet spot no matter your musical taste.


Tune in to “Lost Cause,” “Don’t Love Me Now,” “Write It Down,” “Choices,” “Summer Interlude,” “Lover Dearest,” “Stalker on the Internet,” “Echo” and “Jesus or Elvis.”

 

Hubert Dorigatti – The Nashville Sessions

Appaloosa Records

                                                           www.moutainblues.it

Based out of the Italian Alps, Hubert Dorigatti has proven himself to be one of the foremost practitioners of acoustic and electric blues in Europe in recent years, and he outdoes himself on this short but sweet, all-original EP, which was recorded recently at Blackbird Studio in Nashville.


A pleasant, slightly smoky vocalist who delivers his lyrics in warm, unaccented English, he’s accompanied here by several of Music City’s finest sidemen, including guitarists Rob McNelley and Kenny Greenberg, keyboard player Mike Rojas and a rhythm section composed of drummer Marcus Finnie and bassist Anton Nesbitt.


A must-listen, you’ll enjoy “Low Down,” “Whiskey Drinkin’ Woman,” “You Are My Root,” “Freedom” and “When the Music Is Over,” all of which will have you craving for more.

 

Seth Lee Jones – Tulsa Custom

Horton Records

A native Oklahoman guitarist, vocalist and luthier who works in a power-trio format, Seth Lee Jones possesses a driving, take-no-prisoners playing style that’s all his own. It’s something that enabled him to turn heads with Flathead, his debut studio album, in 2021, and he continues his ascendency with this intense follow-up.


Backed by drummer Bo Hallford and recorded live at bassist Matt Teegarden’s Teegarden Studios in Tulsa, Seth delivers originals from a personal perspective, reworks covers into his own creations and performs in stylings – including 5/4 time – that are rare in the blues world.


Definitely not your grandfather’s music, give a spin to “110,” “All That I Ask,” “Good Dog,” “Mr. Evil,” “Outta My Mind,” “Penny Park,” “Walter” and “Don’t Waste a Thing.”

 

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 Ohio, 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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