With his long-time drummer and creative partner Matt Briggs, Zack Walther reassembles his eponymous band to release The Westerner, an LP comprised of 10 songs (seven of them new) in the Texas-steeped sound of blues-country rock. Mike Atkins (keys, bass, vocals) joins the duo along with a number of other musicians, creating a diverse set of tightly composed tunes that—with the exception of one five-minute song—all range from three to four minutes in length. Recorded at Briggs’s studio, the tandem incorporate a bevy of instruments and vary their voicings in such a way that no two songs sound the same. They also demonstrate a great grasp of the importance of space and nuance in music, and thus avoid the common pitfalls of oversaturation and overproduction.

The instrumentation is excellent, even if technical virtuosity rarely displayed. There is a sense that it is present, but eschewed in favor of featuring the dual foci of Walther’s soulful voice and his direct, but witty lyrics. The album is about songs, not pageantry. Harmonies and backing vocals abound, both from the core members of the band and backing singers. There isn’t one track in the set where Walther’s voice is alone, and the backing singers are usually lending a hand.

Leading with the single “D F W,” the band hints at their goal of providing an authentic listening experience by opening the song with amplifier noise, and heading directly into the main guitar-riff that is joined by a tight, unison synth harmony. The nifty pairing underpins a clever retelling of a tryst. It is easily accessible with simple, but great backing vocals. “What Kind of Man” haunts with chopping piano and deeply reverberated guitar that imbues the more traditional number with an eerie, swampy feeling. One of the album’s best, it showcases Walther’s vocal abilities and cuts through with a heavily distorted, albeit brief guitar solo.

Beginning with the backing vocals, “Payin’ for It Now” shifts into a synth sequence that ping-pongs in stereo. Set against unadorned piano, it makes for a dynamic contrast that works with the hard-worn blues tale, told through Walther’s rangy vocals. “I’m Going Out of Your Mind,” besides a clever title and main lyric, features the grooviest, most danceable bass line of the collection, a funky rhodes piano solo, courtesy of Adkins, and a great chorus progression.

“Bad Girl” and “Casualty,” while not standouts, are solid tracks that are similar in their straightforward blues approach, excellent vocals and worthy instrumental interludes. “Meet in The Middle,” an upbeat duet, gets some credit for being tonally different than other songs on the album, but unfortunately falls flat. The band’s cover of “Hold On, I’m Comin’” follows, and succeeds as the other risky attempt of the set. Carried by a deep organ hum, a fiery harmonica solo and Briggs’s uniquely sparse drumming, it has just enough variation from the original without being overdone. The country-gospel inspired “Bailey’s Light,” focuses on great vocal arrangements and finishes on a high note.

On first listening, The Westerner might appear no better or worse than any other of the many, quality Texas-rock attempts. However, a closer look reveals an album that jumps from traditional blues to country-rock, includes some soul, gospel, and isn’t afraid to try some new, unique instrumental pairings. Zack Walther Band shows ambition and creativity in their songs, and with the exception of one tune, delivers on them all. It’s a set that is serious at times, fun at others, and a great listen overall.

The Review: 8/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– What Kind of Man
– Payin’ for It Now
– I’m Going Out of Your Mind
– Bailey’s Light

The Big Hit

– Payin’ for It Now

Review by Willie Witten

Buy the album: Amazon | Amazon UK

Album Review for Joe Brown – 60th Anniversary Box Set – Released via Absolute/Universal Records.

Joe Brown is a hugely important, significant musician in the UK, having worked at the very top of the musical world for over sixty years, gaining countless plaudits and in general being viewed very much a musician’s musician. As a youngster, Brown worked alongside the likes of Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochrane, Johnny Cash, Dion, the Beatles and Del Shannon, successfully forging a place for himself in a newly exploding rock’n’roll world. Already a chart-topping hit artist by 1962, Brown set the bar for many who followed.

Now, after a near-lifetime recording and touring, Brown has released a truly remarkable six-disc compilation celebration set that comes with a hard-back book outlining the guy’s history, experience and personal musical legacy.

Brown is known for his close personal relationship with many UK greats including the late, ex-Beatle guitarist George Harrison. This compilation includes a number of cuts taken from his work with Harrison and also features Brown’s offerings from the late 1950s through to the most recent past and the present.

Kicking off as skiffle player in 1950s Britain, Brown moved quickly into the nascent rock world with absolute ease, a move that quite literally made him nothing short of an overnight sensation in Europe.  Often known as a ‘cheeky Cockney,’ Brown flirted with both television and movie life but always with limited success and returning to his work as a musician. A genuinely remarkably talented guitarist, he is equally at ease with ukulele, banjo or mandolin, and a voice that ripples and rasps in turns.

Not an inexpensive CD collection, the Joe Brown 60th Anniversary boxed set is a wonderfully worthy selection of great, outstanding music from a truly great, outstanding musician featuring Brown’s take on rock, blues, country, Americana and roots music. This should make a perfect seasonal gift choice for fine music lovers everywhere.

Album Review by Iain Patience.

 

 

The post JOE BROWN 60th Anniversary Box Set appeared first on Blues Matters Magazine.

Alligator Records artists Shemekia Copeland and Christone “Kingfish” Ingram will join blues icon Buddy Guy in an all-star concert event as he celebrates his Austin City Limits Hall Of Fame induction. PBS Television will nationally broadcast the program on Saturday, December 28. Viewers should check their local listings for times and channels.

The show was filmed at ACL Live at The Moody Theater in downtown Austin, Texas in October. Guy, along with Shawn Colvin and Lyle Lovett, were honored. Additional guests include Jackson Browne, Jimmie Vaughan, Bruce Hornsby, Sarah Jarosz and Willis Alan Ramsey. The program’s host is Robert Earl Keen.

Guy’s astounding career spans over fifty years with just as many albums released. Career highlights include the 2015 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, eight Grammy Awards, thirty-seven Blues Music Awards, twenty-three W.C. Handy Awards, the Kennedy Center Honor, Billboard Music Awards’ Century Award, Presidential National Medal of Arts, induction into the Blues Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to name a few.

At 82 years young, Guy proves unstoppable as he continues to record and tour around the world. One of the last of his generation of blues musicians, the singer and guitarist is undeniably one of the most influential axemen of the twentieth century, impacting Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Keith Richards and more.

Born in Lettsworth, Louisiana, Guy moved to Chicago in 1957 and became a session guitar player for Chess Records. After a string of successful duo albums with harmonica player Junior Wells, Guy struck out on his own and has dominated the blues landscape ever since.

The blues titan recently released his eighteenth solo LP in 2018, the Grammy Award-winning The Blues is Alive and Well. Guy has made three headlining appearances on Austin City Limits, in 1991, 1998 and 2018, and guested with John Mayer in 2003.

No stranger to the Hall of Fame, the blues great performed in tribute to inaugural inductees Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble in 2014.

Award-winning blues, R&B and Americana vocalist Shemekia Copeland has toured worldwide for over 20 years. Her most recent album, America’s Child, (the eighth of her career) was named the #1 blues album of 2018 by MOJO magazine. The album is a courageous and fiery statement of purpose and a major step forward for the singer whose musical consciousness continues to expand as her star continues to rise. Copeland is currently working on a new album set for 2020 release.

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, the head-turning 20-year-old blues guitarist and vocalist from Clarksdale, Mississippi, is currently touring behind his Grammy-nominated debut album, Kingfish, on Alligator Records. MOJO magazine named the release the #1 Blues Album of 2019. He has opened shows for Guy, Vampire Weekend and Jason Isbel. In January 2020, he will embark on his second headlining tour, entitled Fish Grease 2: A Juke Joint Tour. According to Guy, “Kingfish is the next explosion of the blues.”

Austin City Limits Hall of Fame 2019: Buddy Guy from Austin City Limits on Vimeo.

Buddy Guy

Austin City Limits

PBS

Shemekia Copeland

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

*Feature image courtesy of Austin City Limits

There’s Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald. And then there’s Jolie Holland, the present day éminence grise of the jazz-folk-blues vein whose voice so exquisitely demarcates the difference between solid gold and Pinchbeck alloy. The singer/songwriter will be reissuing her first full-length studio album, Escondida, as a limited edition vinyl-only release on January 31st to commemorate its 15th anniversary. Pressed on 140-gram vinyl for optimal audio quality, Escondida will come as two 45RPM LPs.  

“It’s been really interesting just looking back. I often think about everything that’s changed in the music industry, how that record was made,” Jolie tells me in response to being asked how she felt about 15 years gone by. In the age of Spotify, she must be proud to release vinyl on her own label imprint, Cinquefoil Records. “Yeah, which is cool. My friends helped me set up crowdfunding on my own website, so it’s really in my own hands.” 

How is fundraising going for the pressing? I ask her. “I’m about 16,000 in the hole to just create everything that I’ve made now. It’s expensive to make records. I set the first goal as 20,000. It doesn’t really describe even the amount of work that’s already been done. But in terms of a crowdfunding campaign, it’s going well. It’s over a third funded at this point. It’s been interesting learning how to do all this. I’ve never had to be on social media this much, but I’m doing it every single day.” Admittedly incredulous of social media’s utility, Jolie also jokes that she feels silly using hashtags. 

“My cousin works in healthcare, and she works for this massive aids healthcare provider that comes out of really revolutionary organizing. They started out just being kind of scrappy aids hospice organization in the ‘90s, and now they’re the world’s largest healthcare provider for aids. They do all this other stuff to try to protect their clients and the community. They’re doing all this work around making drugs affordable and working on housing. Because they can treat somebody, but if they’re going out on the street then what’s the point? She’s pushing 70 now, and she’s been with this organization since the early ‘90s. It’s so interesting hearing how she talks about mass communication and mobilizing large groups of people and how that’s happened and how that’s changed. But she’s really not impressed with social media. She’s like, ‘The people who are on Twitter think everyone is on Twitter, and the world is not all on Twitter.’ But now I’m on Twitter,” she laughs. 

A year before Escondida was released, after having ended up in San Francisco, she established her core trio and recorded a series of demos in friends’ houses and garages. The recordings were never intended for public consumption. But copies were passed along, word got around. Next thing you know, an album as thin on the ground as Catalpa was put on the shortlist of Anti- labelmates Tom Waits and Nick Cave. Waits persuaded his label to sign her at a time when she didn’t have a distributor and could only sell the homemade demos at shows. 

The supernova success of Escondida was unprecedented; her journey to that point was spent on the fringes of society, ostracized by family for her emerging sexuality. For years she merely survived, bivouacking wherever she could, legal or not: in a house built on the back of a pickup truck, in a shack by a swamp in Louisiana, and in a tipi behind a wilderness boundary. She and her dumpster-diving compatriots knew how to subsist on just enough food and many pages of Leaves of Grass read aloud to one another. She didn’t know the life of having material things at her disposal. 

“And it wasn’t of interest to me. And then the people who I played with were people who were also interested in that nakedness of sound. That was this really beautiful jazz drummer I played with, Dave Mihaly. Brian was less of a willing partner. Actually, he got out of music almost immediately after that record was made. Now he’s a therapist.”

She continues. “I think a lot of people who were professional musicians at that time, who were my age, had grown up with computers and were — and had grown up with money — so they had gear. They were into processing their vocals. For me, it was just all about the present magic trick of live sound. I was never in a position to fetishize gear or get into expensive sound.”

Escondida, meaning hidden, is not so if it makes its way into the right hands. The modesty of the production, as a matter of fact, reveals an unvarnished, soul-baring beauty. “It’s probably quieter than other studio recordings, so maybe it sounds more intimate. I strived for a similar connection through the music on every record. But it was very sparse.”

How has Jolie’s music evolved over time? “I feel like I’m more in touch with my voice now. I think I used to have this ethos of wanting to keep a southern accent in the music, just because I wanted to be honest. Because there were a lot of people around me at the time that had fake British accents. So, that was kind of a reaction against that. I remember the first time I heard Jay Farrar sing, and I was so inspired by his natural accent.” I mentioned Lucinda Williams as another voice not contrived and that which cannot be imitated. “I love her. She’s got such a great delivery,” she agrees.

I first became aware of Holland’s voice in 2006 when listening to an album called Cold as the Clay, which had been released that year by Bad Religion frontman Greg Graffin as his second solo album and first folk album. When I say aware of her voice, I suppose I mean in the most literal sense, as the voice a perfect octave above Greg’s induced a sudden and unexpected frisson coming out of my speakers for the first time. 

“Thank you so much. That was really cool working on that. He asked me in, and I met him for the first time in the studio. But yeah, that was amazing. I’ve thought about making a gospel record. I would want to do gospel blues. His music is so direct, and I feel like that’s one of the things he gets from that.”

For other albums, it seems she had muses — Neil Young for Pints of Blood, Townes Van Zandt and Dylan for Wildflower Blues — but for Escondida she tells me, “Probably each song has specific influences.” Like Blind Willie McTell. “I love him. I quote him on that song, ‘Do You?’ “

Holland has been known to say the truth of the Torah is in the telling, to which she applies to the nature of live performance. She explains that it’s not necessarily the individual songs that connect you to an audience so much as the presence of both the artist in their performance and the audience in their presence entirely.

“I don’t think the song is the thing that does it. It’s more about being present in your performance. And it’s interesting; you would think the more popular songs would do that more. But often, your most popular work is the thing that people can pay attention to the least. I encountered that when I was playing a show with Samantha Parton. We played a show in Vancouver, where the Be Good Tanyas started, and it was like — the Be Good Tanyas were a little bit more Canadian popular because of the Canadian content laws. So the people who were there were a little more mainstream audience. They were so bad. They were talking the whole time. It was a place to be seen. It was a thing to do instead of this is music we care about and we’re here to listen. The more popular songs are not necessarily the songs that people are going to listen to more.”

“Sascha,” the opening torch track on Escondida, augurs well — with her voice as a whole instrument — a delivery as mellifluous as a Chet Baker trumpet solo. “Old-Fashioned Morphine” is a portmanteau, two-chord blend of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Wade in the Water” and the gospel standard “Old-Fashioned Religion.” The intro to “Tiny Idyll/Little Missy is the first song Jolie ever wrote around the age of 5 on a Jaymar toy piano. They happened to have a Jaymar at the studio, so that is what you hear. 

The free-form jazz and ragtime blues atmospherics of Escondida have much to do with how the album turned out, but there is one song in particular, “Goodbye California,” that stands out a little more to me. While set to Norteño cadences, the inflection with which she carries out her vowels pulls me in the same way an old country song does. I confess to her that I relate everything to George Jones, as if having some kind of undiagnosed mental disorder. And like a George Jones song, “Goodbye California” is distinctive in its originality and singing style. 

Relievably, she humors me: “I love that. George Jones is amazing. I really do think that I use my vowels in a similar way to him. He’s all about tone. And in order to make tone, sometimes you kind of distort your words.” She even asked me if I’d read the article that’s been circulating about George Jones being a better singer than Billie Holiday. “Of course he was,” she avows. “She only had 11 notes, Billie Holiday, but she did know how to use them.” 

The crowdfunding campaign features some unique rewards for each tier of support, such as test pressings, the Lunatic Tarot deck by Stefan Jecusco, and the 1947 Epiphone guitar she played on tour for Escondida. 

“So, there’s the crowdfunding levels and then there’s the Escondida-themed merch. The merch and the crowdfunding are two separate sources. The reason I did that is because I don’t wear T-shirts, and I assume that a lot of people don’t want a pile of merchandise. I was looking at other people’s crowdfunding campaigns and it was like, here’s this level and you get eight items. Some people don’t care about tote bags. So, I wanted to make it more like a choose your own adventure situation. One of the levels is pick an item of merch and these other things come with it. I wanted it to be more open.”

You can also support this campaign by purchasing handwritten lyrics, private command performances, coaching for songwriters, and even by having Jolie tell you one of many real ghost stories she’s collected since she was a teenager. She is currently working on a book of these ghost stories with illustrator Tony Millionaire. “I’ll make a physical thing to sell at shows and online. It’ll be fun. I’ve never made books before.” 

The tarot cards designed by Stefan Jecusco were some of the original artwork in Escondida. They are offering the complete Lunatic Tarot deck to the public for the first time with a booklet explaining how to interpret the cards. “One of my best friends made that when he was a teenager, and they’re so brilliant. I was trying to get him to give me more extensive instructions for reading the cards. I was on the phone last night begging him. They’re really funny. The people who made the cards just want you to figure out what it means to you. I’m allowed to tell people in person, but I can’t write extensive instructions, which is hilarious.”

Support the crowdfunding campaign and get awesome Escondida merch here: Escondida 15th Anniversary Vinyl Pressing

2019 is coming to a close and now it’s time to look forward to 2020. Several major albums are scheduled to be released over the course of the next year. Here are the most anticipated albums of 2020 in the world of blues rock.

It had been nearly two years since Walter Trout played in Portland at the Aladdin Theater in March 2017 when he performed to a sold out crowd on Wednesday, December 4, 2019. Since it was the middle of the week and the show started at 8:00 PM people didn’t mind that there was no opening act, so they could get to bed before midnight. Trout opened with “I Can Tell” and followed with “Me, My Guitar and the Blues,” a scorching blues rock guitar driven song that plumbed the depths of despair and ascended into stratospheric ecstasy as Trout attacked his Stratocaster with unrelenting passion.

The next song was “Put It Right Back” from 1995’s Breaking the Rules about Trout’s divorce from his first wife thirty years ago. It was a bring down the house blues rock number. “I’ve been sober for thirty-two years,” Trout declared. After a five year stint with “Canned Heat” John Mayall called one day and asked Trout to come play guitar for him which he did. It was during the peak of Trout’s drug and alcohol abuse years and he got clean and sober while playing with Mayall who patiently put up with him. Trout explained that his mentor was now 86 years old and had just recorded a new album that he was going to promote on a tour next year comprised of 200 one nighters.

He wrote “I Saw Mama Cryin” for his mom after all the violence he witnessed and experienced during his childhood. Trout explained that his step father was an alcoholic that had been a Japanese prisoner during WWII and was tortured. He had what is today called PTSD and treated but back then returning veterans were told to suck it in and be a man. Alcohol was the main drug of escape at the time and it released Walter’s father’s inner demons that manifested themselves violently when he was drunk. Walter and his mom would sneak out one day when he was gone and move to another city to escape. Somehow his step dad would always find them and apologize and make up and then his mom would take him back and it would start all over again. All that pain and suffering percolated until it distilled itself into an explosive guitar driven exploration of the subject.

“Welcome To the Human Race” was from 2008’s The Outsider album and Trout explained the premise of the tune, “over the years I’ve learned that some people love you and some hate you, so welcome to the human race.” The band built up intensity as Trout repeatedly sang “I’ve been loved and I’ve been hated” with great intensity building up as he repeated the refrain “welcome to the human race.”  For “Common Ground” a more laid back Country Blues song, road manager Anthony Grisham was invited out to play acoustic guitar. It was a ballad type song that Trout sang with passion, “here the truth can still be found on common ground. Trout uses every song as an excuse to perform another amazing guitar solo and this was no exception as he wailed to high heaven. He is an amazing human being when you consider that he rose up from his deathbed like Jairus’s daughter and at the age of 67 was performing with the passion and intensity of a man half his age. The crowd was enthusiastic and many of the attendees had been fans for decades which was reflected in the over fifty crowd with a sprinkling of young blues fans.

Walter Trout

This is a story song about hepatitis C and my near death, rebirth and rehabilitation to relearn how to walk, talk and play guitar again by starting from scratch and practicing 6 to 7 hours a day for a year to relearn how to play guitar. “There are 18 songs on the Battle Scars album and it was created as therapy in my recovery,” Trout explained how the idea for one of the songs on the album began after he was in bed for 6 months and a beautiful white light appeared as he left his body and experienced bliss as he ascended to where there were light beings that we might call angels beckoning him like Fedallah on the whale to come fly with them. When they asked Trout about whether he wanted to go or not he said that he wanted to stay so he went back to his body and wrote a song for the light beings titled “Fly Away” which turned into another rip snorting wild get down amazing guitar solo. Trout had the audience clapping as keyboardist Teddy ‘Zig Zag’ Andreadis began playing harmonica. Andreadis has played with everyone from Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley to Guns and Roses and Billy Bob Thornton. Trout began singing “the universe all these obstacles in my way” in between Andreadis’s harmonica accompaniment. “Obstacles in My Way” reached back to Trout’s 1997 eponymous album which turned into a harmonica led get down jam.

After Battle Scars Trout explained that he did a record to celebrate being alive with a pantheon of guests, including Sonny Landreth, Joe Bonamassa, John Mayall, Randy Bachman, Jon Trout, John Németh, Joe Louis Walker, Edgar Winter, Eric Gales, Warren Haynes, Robben Ford, Mike Zito, Charlie Musselwhite and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. The 2017 album was titled Were All In This Together and “Gonna Hurt Like Hell” was a song on it with Kenny Wayne Shepherd. When Kenny asked what the song was about, Walter said it was about his insane drug and alcohol filled early days. It’ll feel god for a minute and then it will hurt like hell. Things I did when I was young and now I’m old is the gist of it. Once again Walter Trout demonstrated some phenomenal rocking out guitar playing as he danced across the stage like he had been resurrected thirty years younger with more amazing bring down the house blues rock.

Trout told the band that he was deviating from the set list and was playing a song that he recorded with John Mayall, “a blues with a solid “A” fellows,” he told the band and began playing “The Blues Came Callin’” from the 2014 album of the same name that became his last before he was hospitalized with hepatitis C before eventually receiving a liver transplant. Tour manager Anthony Grisham had a Gretsch electric guitar on this time and proved that he knew how to play it as he dove into the intro until Trout started singing, “last night the blues came calling, I heard it call me by my name.” Then Trout took over on lead and amped it up a couple of notches as he let out some unearthly peals until he turned it over to Andreadis who played keyboard runs reciprocating with the driving bands intense rhythm. At the same time Trout continued to manipulate the sounds coming out of his Stratocaster like a sorcerer conjuring up another dimension.

Trout introduced “Red Sun” by explaining that he got the song from a couple of elderly New York street musicians. Floyd Lee and his partner Joel had never gotten any recognition until Trout recorded their song on his 2019 release, Survivor Blues album. He made sure that Floyd was credited with writing it and now receives publishing royalties from it. Trout said that Floyd will be a 100 and bought a new guitar with his first royalty check.

Walter Trout performs live in Portland, Oregon.

Johnny Griparic did a bass solo for the intro and then all the band members took turns as they did solos on their instruments. Griparic’s bass playing and Michael Leasure’s drumming created a very entertaining rhythm section both sonically and visually as their body language and facial expressions reflected orgasmic pleasure in playing their instruments. Trout introduced band members before they all came forward to take a bow and exited only to come back and do one final number for the encore “Best You Got” from Walter Trout and the Radicals’ 2003 album Relentless. The show ended just before 10:00 PM.

Review by Bob Gersztyn

All Photography by Bob Gersztyn

With all due respect to “Weird Al” Yankovic, who truly deserves our love and respect, the accordion is not widely perceived as a particularly rock and roll instrument. Even The Who couldn’t do much to elevate it with “Squeeze Box,” an ode to the instrument (among other
things) that doesn’t actually feature the titular device. But the accordion can rock as hard as a guitar, which The Revelers establish on At the End of the River, a Cajun pop rock masterpiece.

The Revelers are Louisiana-based and Cajun-influenced. But this isn’t straight-up zydeco. The bands folds in a nice helping of swamp pop, the classic Louisiana art form that is itself an amalgamation of zydeco, 50s pop, blues, country, and pretty much anything else that will get people dancing, all through a sonic fog that feels like it blew in off of the bayou. But on top of that, The Revelers swirl in contemporary influences, including ska and klezmer, to create a fun
album that’s more party than record.

The joy of At the End of the River won’t be denied. You don’t need to understand Louisiana music to appreciate this album. One spin and you’ll be hooked. You might not even notice some of the songs are sung in French. Take “While I Am Far From You,” for instance. Or, just to impress readers for a moment, en français, “Pendant je Suis Loin de Toi.” It’s fast, sounding almost like country with the off-beat accents giving the tune an unexpected ska feel. The fiddle slicing through the track, courtesy of Daniel Coolik, will make you want to dance. And the guitar, from Chas Justus, but which sounds uncannily like Mark Knopfler, will make you to step-up your guitar lessons. And perhaps consider some French ones.

“Bonsoir, Petit Monde” is comes within inches of being jazz, with a slow tempo, contemplative guitar and even saxophone breaks. Coolik handles the vocals, with a sad, resonant vocal performance that’s reinforced by his own mournful violin. I have no idea what the song is about, or what the title, “Goodbye, Small World,” means. It’s the one track without a translated title, perhaps because it’s a Cajun traditional song given new music by the band. It’s a beautiful, bluesy track.

“Southside Stomp,” driven by Blake Miller’s accordion, is fast-paced, with a strong zydeco influence and old school rock touches, like rockabilly guitar and 50s sax solos right out of the Junior Walker playbook. It’s the album’s swampiest swamp pop song and if you’re not familiar with the genre, it’s a perfect introduction.

There are no comparables for The Revelers. They’re true to their Cajun roots, but the music has a modern flair. They use instruments like fiddles, saxophone, and accordion, but never sound hokey or corny. Their songs have an edge, but their music is also relaxed and joyful. There’s an emotional depth to the music, but this isn’t blues or soul. Rather, it’s the soulful blues of Louisiana, and not the typical blues we tend to think of. An album like this, exploring uncommon (to many of us) musical styles, should be challenging to listen to. At the End of the River is remarkably easy to enjoy, though. Great music like this bypasses your
brain and goes straight to your heart.

Artist: The Revelers

Title: At the End of the River

Label: Revelers Records

Release Date: November 8, 2019

Running Time: 37:52

The Revelers

The JAB frontman Jam Alker was showcasing his punk-blues aesthetic for major labels on the Chicago club circuit just a handful of years ago. With the world at his fingertips, he swapped his guitar for the needle and disappeared for nearly a decade.

In 2014, the birth of his daughter finally flipped the life or death switch and he began treatment. An arduous journey of detox and song-writing therapy laid the foundation for his debut LP, CONSUME.

Tom Stukel, Terry Byrne, Ryan Herrick, and Alex Piazza—all seasoned, dynamic players —collaborate with Jam on blue-collar thinking-man’s music, delivered with grit and transparency.

The result is the bluesy, post-classic rock, modern sludge rock record CONSUME. With bite-sized versions of Led Zeppelin’s monstrously thick-grooved riffs, the sensibilities of a Black Keys album, and an often-deep southern melody, CONSUME is the darkest feel-good record in years.
The JAB is releasing its first single “Riot” on Dec. 13, 2019, and will be touring throughout 2020 in support of the release of CONSUME out on Feb. 4, 2020.

Of the upcoming single, Jam says, “Riot” is a social conscious alarm clock going off next to society’s bed. It’s a rock n roll call to action in response to the restless discontent and disempowerment so many feel in our society – a response to inequality, addiction, consumerism, violence. “Riot” is The JAB’s mission statement.”

King Solomon Hicks has announced his debut albumHarlem, which will be released on 13th March, 2020 via Provogue, a division of Mascot Label Group.

The 24 year old grew up in Harlem “around a lot of great musicians,” he says. The city is synonymous with vibrancy, art and music ever since the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s. Situated in Manhattan, New York City, that period saw a creative surge sweep the neighbourhood, which included writer and political activist Hubert Harrison, entertainer and civil rights activist Josephine Baker as well as the rise of legendary jazz players such as Duke Ellington who was one of the early performers at the now world famous Cotton Club. The Jazz scene was exploding with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, and Bessie Smith all coming through the city and that was just the tip of the iceberg.  Whilst Harlem has been home to the greats such as Al Pacino, the Marx Brothers, James Reese Europe, George and Ira Gershwin, Arthur Miller, Sammy Davis Jr, Sonny Rollins…the list goes on. There’s something in the water there.

Music runs through the veins of the city, so there was no doubt that the young Hicks, who was only 6 years old when he started playing the guitar, was going to absorb those surroundings. By 13 he was on the stage at the Cotton Club, four times a week, as lead guitarist in the clubs’ 17 piece band and was already playing in legendary venues such as St. Nick’s in Sugar Hill and the iconic Lenox Lounge which Malcolm X had been a patron, and had seen the likes of Miles Davis and John Coltrane grace the stage.

His full debut, Harlem is produced by multiple Grammy Award winner Kirk Yano (Miles Davis, Public Enemy, Mariah Carey), and showcases Hicks as a writer, player and interpreter. Originals such as the roadhouse ready 421 South Main, the gospel shuffle of Have Mercy on Me and the aching instrumental Riverside Drive, he rubs musical elbows with staples such as Everyday I Sing the Blues and It’s Alright, a Latin-tinged take on Blood, Sweat & Tears’ I Love You More Than You Will Ever Know, a funked-up romp through Gary Wright’s Love is Alive and a searing rendition of Sonny Boy Williamson’s Help Me that closes the album.

Hicks has been steeped in music for as long as he can remember. “It’s not like New Orleans, where music is 24 hours a day — but it’s close.” His mother also took him, as a youngster, to local nightspots, “when you’re around good musicians, it gives you that spark — ‘I want to do what you do. I want to hold my own,'” says Hicks. “But being around those types of musicians also taught me to NOT be the fastest guitar player. I wanted to be the one who knew the most riffs and drew on a lot of knowledge so I could play anything, and with anyone.”

He enrolled to the Harlem School of Arts and the prestigious educational program Jazzmobile, and while performing on his home turf, he also expanded to venues such as the Iridium, the Red Rooster, Ashford & Simpson’s Sugar Bar, Terra Blues and more. After high school Hicks began playing in Europe, opening for Jeff Beck and Ringo Starr, playing festivals in Spain and France, as well as at the Cotton Club in Tokyo, and being booked on KISS Kruise V in 2017 and on this year’s Joe Bonamassa Blues Alive at Sea Cruise. He’s shared stages with the likes of Tony Bennett, Beth Hart, George Thorogood & the Destroyers, Mavis Staples, Paul Shaffer and others. He has also performed at the United Nations in New York City, for former Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, former Governor of New York David Paterson and during a New York Knicks game.

Since the 6 year old Solomon picked up the guitar, it has all led to this moment and that certainly shows on Harlem, an 11-song salute to those roots — and how the 24-year-old guitarist and singer has turned them into his own fierce and distinctive style.  “This has been a long time coming,” he says of his first major recording, “but I’m really happy with the sound and the way everybody played. This music is where I come from. It’s really special to be able to record these songs — and really important to get ’em right.”

Hicks and Yano started working on Harlem two years ago, finishing up during late 2019. “It was just about getting my own sound together,” explains Hicks, who was aided by a corps of players that includes members of Soulive, Lettuce, Jack White and Hank William Jr.’s band and others — including Foghat/Savoy Brown veteran Roger Earl “I didn’t want it to be traditional,” he says. “I wanted people to feel like they’re in a juke joint, listening to what the blues sounds like in 2019, my own spin on it.”

Track Listing:

1. Rather Be Blind
2. Every Day I Sing The Blues
3. What The Devil Loves
4. 421 South Main
5. I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know
6. Headed Back To Memphis
7. My Love Is Alive
8. Have Mercy On Me
9. Riverside Drive
10. It’s Alright
11. Help Me