By Marty Gunther
Shemekia Copeland – Done Come Too Far
Shemekia Copeland has evolved into a potent voice for social justice across her past two albums and she serves up another powder keg of raw emotion on her latest effort, mixing strong political statements about America’s past, present and future while incorporating a dash of good humor, too.
Produced in Nashville by Will Kimbrough who handled her previous chart-toppers, America’s Child and Uncivil War, she’s joined by lineup that includes Sonny Landreth, Cedric Burnside and Charles Hodges. It includes nine originals penned by Kimbrough and John Hahn that dovetail perfectly with covers from Shemekia’s dad, Johnny Copeland, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Susan Werner.
“Too Far to Be Gone” opens with a history lesson before “Pink Turns Red,” “The Talk” and “Gullah Geechie” turn up the heat. Other must listens include “Fried Catfish and Blues,” “Done Come Too Far,” “Fell in Love with a Honky,” “The Dolls Are Sleeping,” “Dumb It Down” and “Nobody But You.”
Dylan Triplett – Who Is This?
VizzTone Label Group VT-NNF01
Possessing 4½-octave range and an explosive delivery to boot, 21-year-old St. Louis native Dylan Triplett teams with Grammy-winning bassist/producer Larry Fulcher for his debut album, which should launch him into the stratosphere in both the blues and traditional soul worlds.
A performer since age nine, Triplett’s joined here by Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Sean McDonald, Johnny Lee Schell, Dr. Wayne Goins and others on guitar and a full horn section in addition to two other giants we’ve lost in recent times: jazz great Montez Coleman on drums and Mike Finnigan on keys. They deliver five originals with five well-reinvented covers.
Be the first in your crowd to discover this talent and give a listen to “Barnyard Blues,” “Who Is He (and What Is He to You?),” “Brand New Day…Same Old Blues,” “Dance of Love,” “I’ll Be There Waiting,” Marvin Gaye’s “That’s the Way Love Is” and Miles Davis’ “All Blues.”
Silent Partners – Changing Times
Little Village Foundation LVF 1051
Composed of drummer Tony Coleman and bassist Russell Jackson -- two of the most revered sidemen in the business -- and B.B. King All Star Band guitarist Jonathan Ellison, Silent Partners join forces for the first time for this a searing, skin-tight set of contemporary blues.
A trio who’ve spent a combined 50 years in support of B.B., Albert King, Bobby Blue Bland, Johnnie Taylor, Otis Clay, Denise LaSalle and others, they all deliver vocals and never waste a beat across nine originals and a single cover of The Crusaders’ “Never Make a Move Too Soon,” on which Coleman recounts being recruited into B.B.’s band.
Beginning with “Ain’t No Right Way to Do Wrong,” you’ll be rockin’ steadily throughout. Other pleasers include “Post Traumatic Blues Syndrome,” “Dancin’ Shoes,” “Proving Ground,” “Good to Myself” and “Beale Street Shuffle.”
Deborah Bonham & Peter Bullick – Bonham-Bullick
Quarto Valley Records
A pair of blues-rock stars in the United Kingdom, singer Deborah Bonham and guitarist Peter Bullick have toured and recorded with Paul Rodgers, Robert Plant, Steve Marriott and others but join team here to put their own stamp on 13 mostly obscure tunes culled from the catalogs of O.V. Wright, Albert King, Ann Peebles and a few current performers, too.
Anchored by Deborah’s honeyed vocals and Peter’s rock-solid fretwork, this multi-layered disc features contributions from Bonham and Rodgers’ touring bands and augmented by guest appearances from John Baggott and Marco Giovino (Robert Plant), Paul Rogers (The Waterboys) and John Hogg (Magpie’s Salute).
Polished, well-modulated blues with a definite rock edge, give a listen to “See You Again,” “Can’t You See What You’re Doing to Me,” “Trouble Blues,” “I’ll Get Along,” “When It Don’t Come Easy,” “What Did I Do Wrong,” “It Ain’t Easy” and “The Changeling.”
Henry Gray – Shake a Hand: Louisiana Swamp Blues Vol. 8
Wolf Records CD 120.634
Piano player Henry Gray left us in 2020 at age 95 after a career that included stints in the Howlin’ Wolf Band, as a session player for Chess and a fixture in swamp blues before becoming a star in his own right in his later years. He’s at the absolute top of his game on this CD, a compilation of live recordings that were recorded across Europe but have remained out of earshot since the mid-‘90s.
Possessing a powerful left hand and a delicate touch with his right, Henry studied under Big Maceo Merriweather, one of the first giants of the 88s in the ‘40s, and his attack cuts like a razor in mixed-band settings captured with local groups in England, Northern Ireland, Norway and France.
If you’re a fan of traditional blues piano, you’ll adore “Shake a Hand,” “How Long,” “All in My Sleep,” “Down Home Blues,” “It Hurts Me Too,” “I’m a Lucky Man,” “How Can You Do It,” “Good Bye Baby” and interesting takes on tunes culled from Little Richard, Wolf, Memphis Minnie and more.
The Strongman Blues Remedy – Vol. 1
Stony Plain Records SPCD1462
A collective that features several of the most important blues artists in Canada, Strongman Blues Remedy serves up a mix of shuffles, swamp, ballads and more on their debut CD, an upbeat, all-original set that will put a spring in your step and a smile on your face, too.
Led by multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Steve Strongman, this JUNO- and Maple Blues Award-winning aggregation features the voices of Dawn Tyler Watson, Crystal Shawanda, Steve Marriner and Harrison Kennedy with backing from Jesse O’Brien (keys), Dave King (drums) and Alec Fraser (bass).
The heat’s on high from the “Hard Luck” opener. Other pleasers include “Swansong,” “Fine Young Man,” “I Don’t Miss You,” “Tell Me I’m Wrong,” “Getting’ Stoned,” “True to Me” and “Love Comin’ Down.”
Delbert McClinton – Outdated Emotion
Hot Shot Records/Forty Below HSR003
Four-time Grammy winner Delbert McClinton retired from touring last year, but celebrates the heroes of his youth with this 16-track pleaser, which was recorded at the height of COVID-19 while he was isolating in producer Kevin McKendree’s Rock House Studio in Franklin, Tenn.
Captured in multiple configurations composed of world-class musicians, Delbert delivers five originals that fit perfectly with a cross-section of Americana, country and R&B numbers culled from Jimmy Reed, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Hank Williams, Lloyd Price and more.
Grab your honey and cut a rug to the self-penned “Two Step Too,” “Connecticut Blues,” “Sweet Talkin’ Man” and “Money Honey” and hot takes on “Stagger Lee,” “Settin’ the Woods on Fire,” “One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer,” “Ain’t That Lovin’ You,” “Jambalaya” and “I Ain’t Got You.”
Zero – Naught Again
Omnivore Recordings OVDG-479
A ‘80s supergroup formed in San Francisco by former Heart of Gold bandmates Steve Kimock and Greg Anton, Zero released nine acclaimed albums before disbanding a decade ago. Once known for their own brand of psychedelic jazz-rock, they deliver some of the classiest, blues- and jazz-infused music you’ll hear – something that’s apparent from the jump of this 88-minute set.
Culled from two live performances in the early ‘90s, the lineup includes Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter and keyboard player Vince Welnick, Jerry Garcia Band bassist John Kahn, Quicksilver Messenger Service guitarist John Cipollina and keyboard players Nicky Hopkins (Rolling Stones, The Who) and Pete Sears (Jefferson Starship).
Think this is nothing more than a rock jam band? You’re in for a shock! A soulful, azure mix of extended instrumentals and original vocals, dial in “Cole’s Law,” “Hangers,” “End of the World Blues,” “Gregg’s Eggs,” “Tear Tags Off Mattresses,” “Roll Me Over” and “Roll Me After.”
Derrick Procell – Hello Mojo!
Catfood Records CFR-032
A Milwaukee-born, Chicago-based blues belter/multi-instrumentalist who’s been featured in dozens of major advertising campaigns, Derrick Procell teams with producer-guitarist Zac Harmon for the first time and pours out his soul on this CD, just the second full-length album in his 40-year career.
A double threat on piano and harp, Derrick wrote nine of the ten tracks, some with longtime partner Terry Abrahamson, who penned hits for Muddy Waters, and others with Catfood honcho Bob Trenchard, the bassist who leads the outstanding Catfood studio band, The Rays.
Procell’s powerful baritone blows the doors off on the opener, “Skin in the Game.” Other pleasers include “Hello Mojo!,” “The Contender,” “A Tall Glass of You,” “Color of an Angel,” “Baby I’m Lost” and “Bittersweet Memory.”
David Lumsden – Rooted in the Blues
The former lead guitarist for Illinois-based blues-rocker Hurricane Ruth, David Lumsden launched a solo career in 2018 with the well-received CD, Hues of Blues, and continues his ascendency with this disc, ten tunes that mix shuffles, boogies, pop and more and pay tribute to the era in which guitar heroes dominated the airwaves.
Lumsden’s six-string attack comes with a sting. He’s backed by a five-piece unit that includes Ian Buchmann on horns and Tim Bahn on keys, and Reggie Britton, his former partner in the band Black Magic Johnson, guest stars on vocals for one cut.
The set kicks off with Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater’s “I Wouldn’t Lay My Guitar Down” before the original instrumental, “Runaway (Blues Train).” Other quality listens include the self-penned “Ruthless Boogie,” the ballad “Your Memory,” “Hooked on Something,” “Josie” and Bob Dylan’s “Everything Is Broken.”
The Groove Krewe – Run to Daylight: Great New Orleans R&B
Sound Business Services
Assembled by producers/tunesmiths Rex Pearce and Dale Murray, The Groove Krewe are a collection of first-call New Orleans session musicians who were assembled to provide support for vocalist/bassist Nick Daniels III. They simply smoke from the jump of this collection of blues-drenched Big Easy funk.
Possessing a powerful pipes, Daniels’ history includes work with Etta James, Allen Toussaint and the Neville Brothers. A member of the popular band, Dumpstaphunk, for the past 16 years, he’s backed by Jonathon “Boogie” Long on guitar, Jason Parfait and Ian Smith on horns and Nelson Blanchard on keys.
Put on your dancin’ shoes for “Run to Daylight,” “That’s New Orleans,” “Have a Party,” “Reach Out,” “I’m Gonna Prove My Love,” “Sweet Situation,” “Where You At in Life” and “Raising Cane on the Bayou” – you’re gonna need ‘em!
Kilborn Alley – Takin’ Time
Run It Back Records
Based out of central Illinois, the Kilborn Alley Blues Band are three-time Blues Music Awards nominees. But despite their acclaim, they consistently fly under the radar. Fronted by vocalist Andrew Duncanson – who was drafted along with Curtis Salgado to fill in for the late Mike Ledbetter on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise -- they shine like a diamond on this high-energy set of contemporary blues and deep-in-the-pocket Southern-fried soul.
Anchored by guitarist Josh Rasner-Stimmel – one of the tastiest fret masters you’ll hear this or any year, this band simply smokes. Renowned harmonica player/instructor Ronnie Shellist guests on three of the 11 original cuts.
The high points include “Do Your Dance,” “Takin’ Time,” “A Gobble a Goo,” “County Line Motel,” “Demonstrate My Love,” “Illinois,” “Lonely Window,” “Introducing Grammy” and “Pusher Grandma.”
Doug MacLeod – A Soul to Claim
Reference Recordings FR-746
Perennial BMA nominee Doug MacLeod returns to the studio for the first time in five years and joins forces with Grammy-winning producer Jim Gaines for this intimate, heartwarming mix of originals that deliver keen social observations and often-humorous lessons about living in a modern world.
Doug breaks from tradition here by delivering a thoroughly contemporary set and drawing inspiration from his new home in Memphis. It’s recorded in both solo-acoustic and full-band electric settings but maintains the same feel that’s made him one of the most beloved bluesmen of his generation.
“A Soul to Claim” deals with beating addiction to open. Other must-listens include “Be What You Is,” “Money Talks,” “Where Are You,” “Smokey Nights and Faded Blues,” “Mud Island Morning,” “Dubb’s Talking Disappointment Blues,” “Somewhere on a Mississippi Highway” and “There Is Always Love.”
Mick Kolassa – I’m Just Getting Started!
Endless Blues Records MMK072022
Now based in Memphis after a lifetime in Michigan and Mississippi, Mick Kolassa has been one of the busiest artists in the world since making his debut in 2014, releasing 11 albums chockful of his own brand of “free-range blues.” He hits another high note with this moveable feast of stylings, all of which are infused with catchy beats and clever, down-to-earth and unpretentious lyrics.
Produced by frequent collaborator/guitarist Jeff Jensen, Mick joins forces with several musicians with deep Bluff City roots, including bassist Dexter Allen, keyboard player Rick Steff, harp player Brandon Santini and a host of others for a mix of straight-ahead blues, soul, gospel and more.
Nine originals and three covers, you’ll dig “I’m Just Getting Started,” “What Can I Do,” “Bigger Dreams,” “That Kind of Man,” “Take Me Away,” “Trying Not to Let the Darkness In,” “Hardhearted Woman” and “How Much Can I Pay You?”
Al Basile – Through with Cool
Sweetspot Records 9946
An eight-time BMA nominee as a singer/songwriter/cornet player, Al Basile endured vocal problems for the past couple of years but bounces back at the top of his game with this thought-provoking, emotion-packed collection of 14 originals that bridge blues, jazz and R&B.
The Rhode Island native teams with guitarist Kid Andersen along with the Duke Robillard Band -- keyboard player Bruce Bears, percussionist Mark Teixeira and Brad Hallen – and a horn section composed of Doug “Mr. Low” James on sax and Jeff “Doc” Chanonhouse on trumpet.
A predominantly unhurried, minor-key set infused with interesting rhythms, you’ll enjoy “Keep on Living,” “My Hero,” “I’m Waiting,” “Two-Legged Mule,” “Take Your Time,” “Couldn’t Live with It,” “We Belong Together,” “Turnabout Is Fair Play,” “You Better Change Your Tune” and “Through with Cool.”