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

By Marty Gunther

Red Hot ‘n Blues Reviews for October 2023

Blackburn Brothers: Soulfunkin’BLUES

Electro-Fi Records E-F 3464

Fourth-generation Canadians who are descendants of Elias Earls, an escaped slave from Kentucky, the Toronto-based Blackburn Brothers pay tribute to their roots while laying down heavy, danceable grooves on their latest CD. It’s a must-listen plea for freedom, unity and more.

Offspring of keyboard player Bobby Dean Blackburn, a legendary figure in the R&B scene North of the Border, the band – Duane on lead vocals and keys, Brooke and Robert on guitar, Cory on drums and Nathan on bass – has been compiling Maple Blues and Juno Awards since emerging in 2010, and this effort may very well be their best yet.

Don’t miss “Bobby’s Blues,” “She’s a Heartbreaker,” “Let the Devil Play,” “Won’t You Let Me Go,” “Sista Rosa,” “Why Do I Do (What I Do),” “Freedom Train,” “Little Sister” and “I Don’t Ever Want to Be Alone.” A winner on all counts!

Chickenbone Slim: Damn Good & Ready

VizzTone Label Group VT-CBS-02

Based out of San Diego and anchored by the sensational Laura Chavez on guitar, Chickenbone Slim & the Biscuits hit the No. 4 spot on Living Blues’ radio charts last year with the album Serve It to Me Hot, and they keep the heat on high with this tasty follow-up set of blues, rockabilly, swing and roots rock.

Slim – aka Larry Teves – penned all 12 tunes here, which are delivered with bite in a style that’s all his own. A tight four-piece ensemble, they’re anchored by former Fabulous Thunderbirds drummer Marty Dotson and the rock-solid 20-year-old Justice Guevera on upright and electric bass. Like their previous effort, this one was captured by Kid Andersen at Greaseland Studios.

Give a listen to “High Ballin’ Train,” “Let’s Go Lindy,” “Drink Me,” “Rather Be Up,” “Damn Good and Ready,” “Deepest Blue,” “Ice in My Whiskey,” “Ty Cobb’s Chiclets” and “I Don’t Want to Talk About It.”

Mighty Mo Rodgers – Memphis Callin’: Soul Music & the American Dream

Self-produced CD

Now in his 80s and based in France, Mighty Mo Rodgers is a classically trained keyboard player who’s known for highly charged lyrics and a deep social conscience, but he switches gears with this set, a silky smooth statement of love for the sound of blues-drenched soul emanating from Memphis.

This is truly an international effort for Mo, who’s the son of a man who owned an important nightclub in East Chicago, Ind. The first seven tunes here were recorded in Italy, France and the U.S. with a lineup that includes Sax Gordon and guitarist Luca Giordano. The remaining four cuts are long-lost treasures captured in Los Angeles for a proposed album in the ‘70s with backing from the full lineup of Booker T. & the MGs – Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn and Willie Hall.

The golden era of soul lives again through “Memphis Callin’,” “Sing for Your Supper,” “Love, Love, Love,” “The Chitlin Circuit,” “If Reincarnation Is True,” “The March,” “San Francisco (You’re a Holiday),” “Indiana (Calls My Name),” “Woman of the Rain” and “Heart Be Still.”

Dom Martin – Buried in the Hail

Forty Below Records FBR036

A stylish guitarist with a warm, smoky voice, Dom Martin exploded onto the European blues scene out of Northern Ireland in 2019. With a trophy case already full of awards on the Continent, he promises to do the same in the U.S. with this intimately powerful disc, his debut effort on the label founded by Eric Corne, the power behind recent works by Joe Louis Walker and Sugaray Rayford.

Delivered in trio format with Dom’s six-string and vocals riding high atop rock-steady rhythm from bassist Ken Graham and drummer Johnny McIlroy and delivered in a style laid down by Rory Gallagher and Van Morrison, this one will have you sitting up from the jump and taking notice.

Every track in this one is chockfull of emotion. You’ll enjoy “Hello in There,” “Daylight I Will Find,” “Belfast Blues,” “Crazy,” “Unhinged,” “The Fall,” “Buried in the Hail,” “Lefty 2 Guns” and “Laid to Rest.”

Jhett Black – Babel

Rumblestump Records

A former underground folk-rocker who taught himself slide guitar behind a chicken coop in New Mexico, Jhett Black possesses a rich, distinctive baritone voice chockful of Southern gothic swagger, something than enabled him to take second place in the solo/duo division of the IBCs in 2022. And he launches Delta blues into places it’s never gone before here.

Jhett’s a multi-instrumentalist who plays in open tuning while accompanying himself on kick drums and foot percussion. Callie Sioux, his wife and former partner in the band Gleewood, adds upright bass and harmonica in a highly improvisational set that includes contributions from several regional musicians.

Haunting and captivating, give a listen to “Roll Out,” “Mama Told Me Not To,” “Babel,” “Gold,” “Eulogy,” “12 Bar Blues Again,” “Devil Ain’t an Only Child,” “Sonic Toxic” and “Going Down.”

Little G Weevil – If I May…

Self-produced CD

One of the top bluesmen in Eastern Europe, Little G Weevil washed dishes on Beale Street in the U.S. when he honed his craft before going on to win the solo/duo competition at the 2013 IBCs. With seven stellar albums to his credit, he cuts new ground with this one, an all-original effort that includes blues-infused jazz, ragtime and swing.

Born Szűcs Gábor and based out of Budapest, Hungary, Little G is a vocalist/songwriter/guitarist of the first order with a delivery that makes him stand out from the crowd. The former BMA and Blues Blast Music Awards nominee is backed here by a tight four-piece ensemble here.

Unique treasures include “Yoga Girl (Hold Me Close),” “Spy Balloon Blues,” “Scam Me, Scam Me Not,” “Doctor Hay,” “Tribal Affairs,” “Tingalingaling (Everybody’s Qualified),” “We Don’t Learn Much” and “I Know Many Ways to Prove My Love.”

Corey Ledet Zydeco: Médikamen

Nouveau Electric Records

Zydeco music doesn’t get the exposure it deserves beyond the Gulf Coast, and there’s no better proponent than Corey Ledet, who’ll have you dancing ‘til you drop with this powerful set. The 12 tunes on this one are delivered Kouri-Vini, a variation of Louisiana Creole spoken by only 5,000 or so folks around the town of Parks, and they’re driven home by intense rhythms and accordion high in the mix.

It's a labor of love that features guest appearances from Kermit Ruffins, Anders Osborne, Grant Dermody and Germaine Jack with backing from Lee Allen Zeno on bass, Cecil Green on keys and laying down a skintight, hypnotic beat.

Get your groove on with “Alon Kouri Laba,” “Gònn Lamézon Démin,” “Kofé T’fé Ça,” “Médikamen,” “M’apé Gònn a Dauphine,” “Mo Konten To Yé Pou Mò,” “Pendan Koronaj,” “Swiv-mò” and “Two-Step a Ben Guiné.”

Popa Chubby and the Beast Band: Live at G. Bluey’s Juke Joint NYC

Gulf Coast Records

New Yorker Popa Chubby bills himself as “The Beast of the East” -- and for good reason. Every time he takes the stage, the blues-rocker delivers a show with the intensity of a category-five hurricane. And that’s exactly what he delivers in this 135-minute set, which soars from the open and will leave you drained at the end.

A road dog with 35 years of wear and tear, Chubby – born Ted Horowitz – is a high-energy, blue-to-the-bone force of nature. He’s backed here by Mike Dimeo (Johnny Winter) on keys with bassist Michael Merritt (Conan O’Brien) and drummer Stefano Guidici holding down the bottom.

Eleven originals and eight diverse covers, choice cuts abound. Give a listen to “Motorcycle Mama,” “Another Ten Years Gone,” “Dirty Lie,” “69 Dollars,” “Dirty Diesel,” “Grown Man Crying Blues,” “It’s a Mighty Hard Road,” “I Can’t See the Light of Day,” “Embee’s Song,” “Steel Horse Serenade,” “Sweat” and “Sympathy for the Devil/Chubby’s Story.”

G and the Doctor – Dat Nola Trip

Self-produced CD

Gloria Turrini and Riccardo Ferrini – aka G and the Doctor – are based out of the Bologna region of Italy, but their hearts are definitely in the Big Easy. And they express their devotion with this delightful, light-and-breezy treat, which mixes blues, swamp pop and more into a tasty roux.

Vocalist Gloria possesses an operatic set of pipes. She sings in perfectly unaccented English as Riccardo accompanies her with a deft, light touch on resonator guitar. They’re augmented by harp player Andy J. Forest, guitarist Roberto Luti, bassist Robert Snow and clarinetist Rosalynn Deroos, all of whom have a rich history in New Orleans, too.

Pour yourself a sazerac or a Creole bloody Mary and enjoy “Not Today Satan,” “You Should Have Known,” “Four Day Creep,” “Not Anymore,” “Dat Dog,” “Without You” and “Let Go and Let God.”

Mizz Lowe – Classy Woman

Self-produced CD

A star in her own right for decades as one of the featured dancers for Bobby Rush, Mizz Lowe – aka Loretta Wilson – proves she’s a rock-solid vocalist, too. Her long-time-in-coming debut CD is a pleasing, all-original mix of blues, Southern soul and taste of rap that’ll keep you on the dance floor.

Produced by Bobby, who co-wrote a few of the numbers and appears as a backup singer or harp player on six of the ten tracks, Mizz Lowe possesses a rich alto. And like Rush, her sexually charged lyrics are a winner on all counts, despite her easy-to-overlook, limited vocal range.

Give a listen to “Honey Tree,” “Classy Woman,” “Easy Baby,” “I Ain’t Givin’ Up My Love,” “Drink Drink,” “Take My Love,” “This Love,” “4-Leaf Clover” and “Christmas Tears.”

Tom Hambridge – Blu Ja Vu

Quarto Valley Records

A four-time Grammy-winning producer/drummer, Tom Hambridge is usually more content working in the background than letting the spotlight shine on himself. But it’s a treat when he does. And this star-laden, all-original set demonstrates why he’s as a strong of a performer as he is in the control room.

The talent runs deep on this one with guest appearances from Buddy Guy, Joe Bonamassa, Josh Smith, the late James Cotton, former Allman Brother Chuck Leavell, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram and a cast of top Nashville musicians, including guitarist Rob McNelley, keyboard player Kevin McKendree and bassist Tommy MacDonald.

Dial in “Ain’t It Just Like Love,” “That’s My Home,” “Wear You Out,” “Blues Don’t Care,” “Automatic,” “Symptoms of Love,” “Brother John Boogie,” “Smarter Than I Was,” “Johnny Winter” and “End of the Line.”

Chris Beard – Pass It on Down

Blue Heart Records BHR 033

Chris Beard is a bluesman who learned the art firsthand from the masters, and he pays tribute to his predecessors while pointing the way to the future in his latest CD. It’s a mix of traditional blues and contemporary stylings that are certain to appeal to the younger generation.

The son of Joe Beard, the guitarist who played a key role in getting first-generation superstar Son House out of retirement prior to his “rediscovery” in 1964, Chris is joined by Kenny Neal, Johnny Rawls, Richard Rodolph, his dad and other stalwarts to deliver eight timely originals and two covers.

Don’t miss the all-electric “Let the Chips Fall,” “Big Girl,” “Pass It on Down,” “House of Shame,” “When Love Comes Knockin’,” “Son I Never Knew,” “Keeps Me Believing,” “Who Do You Think You’re Foolin’” and “Bitter Baby.”

Until the Sun – Enchantment

Self-produced CD

Fronted by vocalist Alyssa Swartz and guitarist Brandon Teskey, Phoenix, Ariz.-based Until the Sun deliver one of the most interesting mix of stylings in the blues today. Formed in 2017, they mix azure tones with Pink Floyd-style psychedelia and jazz and produce a mostly original feast for the ears.

A five-piece unit that also includes Michael Young on keys, Chris Tex on drums and David Raymer on bass, they deliver an unrelenting, high-energy performance in this 14-tune set, their follow-up to their debut release, A Night at the Rhythm Room.

Buckle up and tune in to: “Enchantment Pt. 1,” “Your Well,” “Dancing on the Floor,” “Broken Masterpiece,” “Death in Disguise,” “Animal Within,” “Seek the Sunshine,” “Groovin’,” “Space for Leaving” and “Ghost in the Prayer.”

Jack’s Waterfall – Call Dr. John: American Roots Project II

Roots Rx Records

Led by songwriter/piano player Jack Licitra, a frequent opening act for keyboard legends Pinetop Perkins and Henry Butler, New York-based Jack’s Waterfall are a traditional ensemble with a distinctive New Orleans feel, and they deliver a big tip of the hat to Dr. John on their latest CD, which gets a helping hand from vocalist Maria Muldaur, who sits in on two of the 11 cuts.

Licitra’s a double threat on the 88s and mic, too, because of his pleasant tenor. His steady-flowing backing unit are never overpowering but deep-in-the-pocket as they deliver a good-time feel throughout. Amy Correia shares the mic on two additional cuts, and sax player Michael Blake is featured, too.

Top tracks include “Call Dr. John,” “Piano Players Heaven,” “Big Chief on Holiday,” “Juliet,” “Lift Your Spirit Up,” “Feel Good Music,” “Dog Don’t Bark,” “Brother John” and “I Got You.”

Count Basie Orchestra – Basie Swings the Blues

Candid Records

Count Basie has been gone for almost four decades but his orchestra still swings from the hip. And they’re pretty bluesy, too, as exemplified by this classy disc, which was produced by Scotty Barnhardt and delivers the infectious rhythms the master was known for in this set, along with many of the top azure stars in the world today.

The roster can’t get much deeper than this one with contributions from Shemekia Copeland, Mr. Sipp, Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, Charlie Musselwhite, Keb’ Mo’, Bettye LaVette, Bobby Rush, George Benson and others who add their talents to the mix.

If you love big-band sounds and blues, too, you’ll love “Let’s Have a Good Time,” “Boogie in the Dark,” “I’m a Woman,” “Down Home Blues,” “Stormy Monday,” “The Midnight Hour,” “Just for a Thrill,” “Rock Candy” and more.

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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