When COVID-19 disrupted Dirty Honey‘s plans to return to Australia to record new music with legendary producer Nick DiDia, frontman Marc LaBelle concocted an idea to make use of the unexpected downtime: Suitcase Sessions.

“I’ve always wanted to shoot videos out in nature, in non-traditional locations, and have a high-quality recording rig that was small enough to fit in a suitcase,” LaBelle explained.

Unafraid to defy the innocuous music trends of today, the seemingly out-of-nowhere Dirty Honey, featuring LaBelle/vocals, John Notto/guitar, Justin Smolian/bass, and Corey Coverstone/drums, has proven in just one year that their reinvention of rock n’ roll is so close to heaven yet so far from God.

 

In November 2018, the Los Angeles-based rock band was completely unknown, recording its self-titled debut EP in Australia. The band launched on the scene by opening for heavy hitting legends Guns N’ Roses, Slash, and The Who and stunning audiences at major outdoor summer festivals including Sonic Temple, Heavy Montreal, Rocklahoma, Louder Than Life, Exit 111, and Welcome to Rockville. The strength of the band’s live show paved the way to dive straight into 2020 with a string of sold-out headline shows around the country.

The band debuted their first session on March 30: a stripped-down version of “Heartbreaker” in front of a stunning stretch of mountains in Lone Pine, CA, a location synonymous as the backdrop for the most celebrated Westerns filmed since the 1920s.

“I’ve taken my motorcycle up to Lone Pine for a couple of years now, so I know the area really well,” LaBelle explained. “‘Heartbreaker’ was written on an acoustic guitar, so there was something special about performing it acoustically with those snow-covered Sierra Nevada peaks in the distance.”

The band also saw their second single, “Rolling 7s,” explode into the Top Five at U.S. Rock Radio. “Rolling 7s” follows the band’s debut single into the upper echelons of the U.S. and Canadian Rock Charts, coming in at #5 this week. “When I’m Gone” made record industry history last Fall when it because the first track by an unsigned artist to go all the way to #1 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Chart.

Check out the video for “Heartbreaker,” (directed by “Rolling 7s” Director Scott Fleishman).

Dirty Honey

*Feature image courtesy of Dirty Honey

James Byfield (BKA Blind Lemon Pledge) is San Francisco’s “top dog” acoustic blues dude. Well, not just blues but jazz, pop, soul, and all the other fruits that come from the blues roots. His upcoming release, Goin’ Home on the Ofeh label goes back to those roots. Way back.

Pledge has released 7 albums since 2008, but Goin’ Home returns to the spark that started him on his musical journey. It’s a whittled-down collection of 2 original songs and 10 covers all done with just guitar, stand-up bass (provided by Peter Grenell) and vocals. Now when I said he goes way back, I mean it.

The very first track is what gave the album its name. “I Feel Like Going Home,” was originally recorded by Alan Lomax when Muddy Waters was still a sharecropper on the Stovall Plantation. It’s as Delta as it gets, with Pledge’s sorrowful slide and imploring vocals.

“Fever” is done the dark, simple way Little Willie John did it, not the polished way Peggy Lee and myriad other artists recorded it. Just 2 chords is all it is, and all it needs. He pays tribute to Walter Davis with the slow-burning “Come Back Baby,” and JJ Cale with the country blues slide and quiet harmonies of “Crazy Mama.”

Pledge goes even further back in the American Blues Songbook with Tommy Johnson’s “Big Road Blues,” although he did up the tempo a bit. Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain,” is given great treatment, combining finger-picking and slide. Johnson’s mourning voice can’t be replicated and Pledge doesn’t try, rather making it his own with some powerful vocals that get the point across quite nicely.

There is also a nice nod to the San Francisco scene with “I Know You Rider,” a traditional blues tune that was a favorite cover by artists including Joan Baez, the Kingston Trio, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and Hot Tuna. Pledge does justice to the 60s era versions.

Of the 2 originals, “Sweet Celine,” is a nice country flavored romantic tune, while “Sugar Rush” is a bawdy tune filled with ragtime finger-picking and double entendre. Both fit nicely nestled among the classic covers of Goin’ Home.

Make sure you listen for the album’s closer, “Little Black Train.” A Gospel hymn dating back to the 19th Century, Pledge and company perform it with simple vocal harmonies and a tambourine that made us feel good all over.

If you’re suffering from a lack of acoustic, down-home blues, Goin’ Home is your prescription.

Blind Lemon Pledge

*Feature image Facebook

Ruth Patterson (photo credit: Darran Moore)

The impact of coronavirus on musicians worldwide is significant, as featured recently in American Blues Scene. Ruth Patterson, founding member and lead singer/multi-instrumentalist of Holy Moly & The Crackers, gives insights into the challenges faced when the touring stops. Ruth takes immunosuppressant drugs for her arthritis and following medical advice will be in self-isolation for the next 12 weeks. A fortnight ago, as the band raced home after their European Tour was suddenly canceled, she wrote the following about how, as many people stare down the barrel of similar quarantine measures, lessons can be learned from the disabled community. 

As a disabled touring artist, me and my bandmates’ careers have had our fair share of disasters but the new coronavirus pandemic has taken it to a whole new level. Like many bands, it has destroyed our immediate future and there is an increasing uncertainty in what lies ahead. Last week our 6-week European tour was dramatically cut short only 2 weeks in. As the borders suddenly began shutting, we faced a 20-hour van race back home to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, avoiding as much contact with people as physically possible. It is tragic for us, but as I scroll social media for updates and see how many others face the same gloomy predicament, it occurs to me how irrationally stable I feel about the situation. Yes – I hate to be out of work, to disappoint our fans and to have a tour, that took months of planning, grind to a halt (and let’s not even get started on the grim financial implications). But I don’t feel quite the same panic as everyone else. And it’s something that I see across the disabled community: we are just quietly carrying on as normal. 

As the rest of the world goes into crisis about how they’ll cope with cancelling social occasions, working from home, living frugally for a while as they self-isolate themselves, the disabled community is perhaps more resilient. We suffer set-backs and disappointment in our lives often on a daily basis, with a wide array of challenges: having to take time off work; unexpectedly having to muster up money for new mobility aids with no other option available; often living on very low income and somehow having to make it all work. Living with a chronic illness and disabilities means we have to constantly adapt and learn to be positive and productive in the face of chaos. We just carry on. It is business as usual for us.

I was diagnosed with severe arthritis when I was 15 and then with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) at 21, and I have been a wheelchair user since.  I take immunosuppressant injections, which have led to a number of serious illnesses due to my compromised immune system. Let me be clear, this is not a pity party. I don’t feel sad about any of this.  If anything, these experiences have given me super powers.  Like anyone on immune suppressants with chronic illnesses/disabilities, we know how to take care of ourselves better than most. But we also know how to empathise and support others in our community. We survive months of bed rest and hospitalisations whilst managing to keep our heads above water. We got this. If anything, non-disabled buddies who are really feeling the uncertainty, stress and anxiety might now need our help and skills on how to cope. 

In the current climate us immune-suppressed warriors, along with older people, are significantly more at risk and it’s something which all people need to recognise. Look out for your chronically ill/disabled family, friends and acquaintances. Listen carefully when we ask for help and make sure you’re aware of what not to do if you’re visiting someone with a compromised immune system. But don’t pity, don’t patronise, don’t ostracise us. We’re probably the most resilient people you know right now and we can teach you a thing or two on how to weather this storm. We’re all in this together so let’s be kind and build some bridges to last into the future.

From a career perspective, to make matters worse, Ruth had been appointed Artist In Residence at the prestigious Sage Gateshead concert venue, using her residency to work on a solo project around her experiences as a disabled frontwoman. This was due to culminate in the writing and production of a debut album and first solo performance at Sage Gateshead in June, the latter now postponed. Not to be deterred by either isolation or disappointment, Patterson is moving forward with her usual tenacity and creativity, starting with a live solo performance from her living room.

This session, Live From the Living Room, was streamed live to a venue in Italy on 21st March via Facebook from the home of Ruth Patterson in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. It was viewed by an estimated 7000 people worldwide — one of the biggest audiences to watch a debut solo performance.

Ruth started by engaging with the virtual audience and expressing her empathy with the Italian contingent over the devastating impact of COVID-19 in that country. Sitting at her upright piano, the confident songstress launched bravely into one of the most renowned tracks of the 1960s, Bob Dylan’s “Ballad Of A Thin Man” from Highway 66 Revisited. Patterson proves to be a brilliant storyteller through her expressive, conversational-style vocal delivery as she adds drama and suspense to Dylan’s lyrics. It takes a consummate performer to select an iconic song from a legend’s back catalogue, and to nail it perfectly which is exactly what happens tonight. Ruth makes it clear that she is still very much part of Holy Moly & The Crackers, and the slow ballad version of “All I Got Is You” from the band’s recent Take A Bite album confirms this intention. Sung solo with gorgeous piano accompaniment, the lyrics seem to take on a new, more personal and emotional meaning that captivates the listener. It was Salem which propelled the band to international fame, the cinematic soundtrack “Cold Comfort Lane” having garnered 1.5 million hits on one music-streaming platform alone. The title track of the album might have a dark theme relating to Salem witch trials, but everything else about it is uplifting. Patterson’s extraordinary vocal range, from the mellifluous to piercing tones complemented by the subtle rhythm changes on the keys, contribute to an upbeat finale. There is a poignancy about including  “Hospital Beds” by Cold War Kids given the mass hospital misery caused by the rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic. However, Ruth always manages to communicate hope and positivity when confronted with tragedy, emphasizing the shared friendship and joy of the song as well as the sadness.

The eagerly anticipated follow-up single premiered in the living room; “Somebody Else” is a heart-wrenching reflection on love and betrayal. Ruth always seems to be in control while baring her soul with amazing courage, conviction and just a hint of vulnerability. This vibe shines throughout a song that encapsulates emotions so deep they become embedded in the listener’s soul. Ruth’s debut single, ‘”I’d Give It All,” is a beautifully crafted love song which starts with attitude rather than sentimentality, the emphatic piano chords a precursor to what she doesn’t want. Not for her “the dozen red rose roses laid at my front door” or the fine wine and dining which “sticks in my throat.” And when it comes to diamonds, “well it might as well be coal.” The strong poetic lyricism of this song is emphasized in the next observation: “And though I know it’s all to please me but the perfume stings / My eyes are not adjusting to the bright lights.” The jazz-inflected vocals set the scene perfectly for the killer line, “You’ve missed the point babe / love is always silent.” While lacking the stringed instruments on the single, there is an innate elegance to this stripped back performance. Patterson’s lyrics soar above the piano chords as her quest to discover the right kind of love, keeping it and never letting go reaches its climax. 

The session ends with the appearance of Ruth’s husband Conrad Bird for a duet: the aptly named “I Will See You Again,” their intense chemistry evident for all to see and hear.

For 45 glorious minutes, collective worries have been forgotten and our weary spirits and heavy hearts lifted. Ruth says her farewell, shares her experience of the loneliness of a long quarantine, reminds us to wash our hands, to do whatever we are asked to in order to save lives, and to stop buying toilet rolls! The screen goes blank and we move forward with a renewed sense of determination to overcome this awful disease.

Two time Grammy winner and member of the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Mike Mattison is back with an exciting second solo album. Afterglow features a delightful blues rock sound with poetic lyrics and lovely melodies that shape the album’s nostalgic feel. The album’s wide range of sounds are a testament to Mattison’s skill as a songwriter. Each song stands out on its own and each is equally enjoyable. 

Mattison starts Afterglow off strong with “Charlie Idaho.” Mattison’s voice perfectly suits the story-telling structure of the song and the details on keys in the back of the track. This song sounds straight off a movie soundtrack for a Western movie with its nostalgic overtone and swaying chorus. The second song on the album is the title track, “Afterglow,” a much more upbeat song that gets you dancing. The melodies for this song are dynamic and the little flourishes on guitar keep the song interesting. Mattison’s vocals adapt to fit the feel good nature of the song, already showing his skillful vocal delivery. Similarly, the song “Kiss You Where You Live” fills your ears with good vibes that make you want to sing. With outstanding lyrics and an energetic drumline, this song’s pacing and control of rhythm are fantastic. In comparison, “On Pontchartrain” is a much more steady song, suiting its soulful, more blues-leaning style. Featuring changing, this song might be the perfect song for an in-concert sing-along. Mattison’s drawl in this song is yet another example of his gift as a vocalist. This can be seen perfectly in the last two songs on the album, “I Really Miss You” and “Got Something for You” which stand in black-and-white contrast, the former being an emotional ballad performed in the higher register and the latter being a gritty foot-tapper with heavier drums and electric guitar. 

Afterglow offers listeners many rich flavors and is a joy to listen to. No matter the style of song, Mattison is able to make a high quality work of art with his trademark of expert lyricism and powerful melodies. 

The Review: 9/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Charlie Idaho
– Afterglow
– Kiss You Where You Live
– On Pontchartrain 

The Big Hit

– Charlie Idaho 

Review by Sabrina Tian

Buy the album: Amazon | Amazon UK

There’s an assumption that the older a blues artist is, the better they are. Like many assumptions, it’s not foolproof. There are lots of older blues artists who have gotten worse over time as they aged out of their prime. There are also lots of great young blues artists. But because the blues is such a deceptively simple art form, the longer one is immersed in it, the easier it is to understand that the genre is about conveying emotion. The Backtrack Blues Band understands that idea and puts it into action on Your Baby Has Left, their seventh album.

One way to understand the beauty of the blues is through a tale about learning Buddhism. The story explains that beginning students see mountains. Upon studying with a master, they no longer see them. Finally, upon fully grasping the concepts, students once again see mountains. It’s similar to the blues. First, most people try to learn the basics, essentially copying others. Then, many try to change things up, making things their own, but perhaps also no longer creating blues. And finally, if they’re lucky, they return home to classic blues. Tampa Bay’s Backtrack Blues Band have made the journey back to the heart of the source material.

Or, to be more precise, back to the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, because Your Baby Has Left is vintage 60s blues rock. But where those classic bands were in the part of their journey where they were pulling away from the blues, trying to carve their own space, the Backtrack Blues Band successfully brings things back to the original blues artists who inspired everyone. They’re not trying to push the limits of the blues; instead it feels like they’re trying to plug back into it. And they succeed on track after track.

Each cut succeeds for the same reason. It begins with a dynamic rhythm section (Stick Davis on bass, Joe Bencomo on drums, aided by Little Johnny Walter on rhythm guitar and vocals) that keeps things simple and honest, but also high-energy. That frees up singer/harmonica player Sonny Charles and lead guitarist/vocalist Kid Royal to take the lead across songs. Charles has a bluesy, almost bratty voice, with character to spare. His harmonica work veers between rich bursts of sound and surgically precise saxophone-like runs. Royal is an old school blues player who’s able to wring every last bit of soul out of each note, seemingly strangling the blues out of his guitar. He’s not jamming out so much as he’s working out.

The album covers a good amount of stylistic ground across nine tracks, eight of them originals. “Dixie Grill” is an uptown blues featuring the Muscle Shoals Horns that’s an unlikely tribute to Carolina cooking: “When they fix chicken, it’s always fried / They say it’s healthy, I think they lied.” In essence, it’s the world’s hippest commercial. “She Might Get Mad” is a familiar blues lifted by Bruce Katz‘s piano playing, which is pure boogie woogie. Katz’s 2019 solo album, Solo Ride, demonstrated just how talented he is, all by himself, but it’s great hearing him in a band context. Especially this particular band.

American culture assigns a lot of value to breaking rules and being iconoclastic. And those traits have led to some truly amazing music. But there’s also something to be said for mastering constraints and working within them. Your Baby Has Left is fun and exciting because the Backtrack Blues Band is pushing the boundaries of the blues without breaking them. They not only see mountains, they’ll have you seeing them, too.

Artist: Backtrack Blues Band

Title: Your Baby Has Left

Label: VizzTone Label Group

Release Date: April 3, 2020

Running Time: 46:11

Backtrack Blues Band

*Feature image courtesy of VizzTone Label Group

Album Review for Chasin’ The TrainDead Man’s Handle – Released Independently.

The Scottish blues scene is still flourishing with top-notch bands. Here is an example of one of them, the band Chasin’ The Train, who all hail from the Dumfries delta country. This is their debut release and packs a punch, just like their live shows which are not to be missed, very special.

They are a five-piece band comprising of Tom Cuddihy on lead vocals and guitar. He is joined by Bob “Howlin” Clements on blues harp. Next is Peter Jamieson on bass, keyboards and backing vocals. Rory Nelson provides great licks on guitar and Jason “Moon Drummer” Little on percussion.

image of band chasin the train

Usually, their sets are peppered with cover versions but here are nine self-penned tracks of different musical genres, including blues, some jazzy tones and classic rock throughout. The opener, Beat Up Ford, incorporated a rock and roll style with a nod to Chuck Berry.

FWPB next, (First World Problem Blues) a tongue in cheek take to modern living is very quirky some very good harmonica here and a good groove. Temporary Man starts with a wonderful scything slide guitar lick, and then the song explodes into a real shuffle of a tune, exhibiting the band’s big sound and tight form. Some good guitar solos complement the vocals also, a highlight.

Down Home mellows the tone altogether at least initially, and then the pace quickens. It seems to allude to their home town Dumfries, locals call themselves Doonhamers, and so here is the town’s upcoming anthem, catchy chorus, and fine musicianship.

Whisky Bottle has a good chorus also, good rhythm section here marrying searing harmonica tones. Too Much Sugar has an up-tempo jump jive beat again with fine guitar playing. Exit Wounds is a fantastic slow blues song with a laid back groove here. No Blues opens with a great drum beat, another optimistic tune with a great vibe.

The final track is, Don’t You Lie To Me, a mellow tone to this again showcasing the band at their best. This is a talented band that is full of electrifying rhythm and lots of energy. Certainly, a band to look out for, if you get the chance to see them on stage, catch them.  A great release, diverse sounds and catchy riffs and choruses, what’s not to like!

Album Review by Colin Campbell

For More Info – Chasin’ The Train

 

The post CHASIN THE TRAIN Dead Man’s Handle appeared first on Blues Matters Magazine.

Well the shutters came rattling down as we went to press. Instantly making some of our content this month redundant, but such is life.

With the live music scene closed the artists still need to bring in an income, so if you were going to see an artist during the month (see our gig guide) why not get along to their website and buy a CD or a T-shirt to help keep the funds flowing.
In this month’s magazine we get some background on Mark Flanagan, Hannah Wicklund and Mike Zito all of whom you would have been able to see in the coming month, but I’m sure there will be opportunities again in the future and now you’ll be better informed. There’s some interesting news from Brits in Northern Cyprus where they are starting up a new Festival, lets hope we can get there by June. Shaun keeps blowin’ up a storm with part three of his series on Harmonicas and on this occasion getting the right amp for your sound.
Zoë Schwarz Blue Commotion have a new album, we get the full lowdown and we introduce you to George Jack.
Clearly for the near future Album reviews and radio shows will be the way forward, in addition some artists are organising online festivals, selling music in new ways - personalised streaming of solo shows and new collaborative album projects are starting, all available on social media and internet video channels.
Until next month, keep healthy and enjoy yer blues at home!
Paul Stiles
Editor

Choosing ten tracks from a blues world that is so huge, sprawling and covers so many styles and musical tastes is a virtual impossibility. From Chicago to Delta, acoustic to electric, slide to steel…where to begin, where to end?

I started my own journey coming from the electric end but moved into the world of acoustic as I discovered more and more astonishing music. Looking back, the first true blues musician I saw live was probably John Mayall in Glasgow in the 1960s when Mick Taylor was on guitar, though Lightnin’ Hopkins also played a part in my blues voyage in the early 70s.

1 – Muddy Waters – I’m A King Bee

First place must be Muddy Waters and ‘I’m A King Bee.’ What a track, one that almost everyone knows, loves and has heard – often without knowing just what it is – some time or other in their weary lives.

2 – Mississippi John Hurt – Richland Woman Blues

Mississippi John Hurt. Richland Woman Blues is a towering track, melodic, delightful lyrically, suggestive and bearing all the hallmarks of truly great acoustic blues picking from an absolute master. While John was the master, Maria Muldaur’s wonderful version (from her album, ‘Richland Woman Blues’) featuring 60sSummer In The City’ Loving Spoonful’s John Sebastian on guitar is maybe just the finest version ever recorded.

3 – Johnny Shines – Kind Hearted Woman Blues

Johnny Shines. Shines was one of those truly remarkable old bluesmen. A guy who worked the road and played with the blues godfather, Robert Johnson, sadly Johnny often slips below the blues radar for that very reason. But, many would say, Johnny could do it all, and I for one would tend to agree.  Shines lived a bluesman’s life, full of ups and downs, trials and tribulations but always with a hugely, generous warmth and welcome and a talent that is genuinely astonishing. I’ve had the wonderful good fortune to befriend his family and musical buddies in Alabama recently and believe the recently released for the first time live recordings from the Ann Arbour Blues FestivalThe Blues Came Falling Down’ is simply superb. Give  ‘Kind Hearted Woman Blues’ a listen and see what you think.

4 –  Reverend Gary Davis

Reverend Gary Davis. An absolute giant in every way, the blind Harlem street preacher picked guitar like nobody else. His vocal delivery was jaw-dropping and his fretwork incomparable. For me, this is as good as it gets. Almost anything from his album, ‘Harlem Street Singer’ works just dandy.

5 – Blind Willie Johnson – Soul of a Man

An essential in any blues toolkit. A track needing no introduction, recorded by many but never bettered than the original, though Pittsburgh’s Ernie Hawkins comes damn near close.

6 – Fleetwood Mac – Hellhound On My Trail

What can be said that’s not been said about the original line-up? And that amazing album, ‘Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac’ with Green’s guitar on ‘Hellhound’ or ‘Shake Your Moneymaker.’ An absolute must-have release.

7 – Bonnie Raitt – Love You Like A Man

Now Bonnie’s never easy to categorise. Blueslady for sure, she can slip into the rock world with ease. For me, her cover of the wonderful Chris Smither song, ‘Love You Like A Man’ is always a pleasure…and for once, she leaves that slide behind.

8 – Fred McDowell – Good Morning Little Schoolgirl

Fred McDowell was a giant from Como, Mississippi. Thanks to the Stones, he received some recognition before passing in 1972, when they both recorded and credited him for ‘Good Morning Little Schoolgirl.’ And how many of us don’t know and love that same track?

9 – John Mayall

John Mayall. The Godfather of British Blues truly influenced so much of the modern UK blues scene and has made an undeniably enormous impression on the music globally over most of our lifetimes. I guess a track from the revered ‘Beano’ album won’t go amiss – with Clapton making his presence felt – though I personally think John moved way beyond this as his career progressed.

10 – Ry Cooder – Vigilante Man

An odd choice maybe. Ry Cooder and ‘Vigilante Man.’ Not a true blues track, more a modern Americana bit of work. But what a song, lyrics from the legendary US roots giant Woody Guthrie and stunning guitar picking from one of the greatest acoustic slide pickers ever. A combination positively made in heaven.

Today’s list was compiled by our editor at large, Iain Patience, to contact Iain please email editor@bluesmatters.com

 

 

The post IAIN PATIENCE’s Top 10 Blues appeared first on Blues Matters Magazine.

Mike Zito has released a music video for “Don’t Let The World Get You Down.”

“I had been playing with these 3 chords and this title for a month leading up to this life changing event. I knew I liked the simple melody and meaning behind the saying. Little did I know the world would literally change in the next 30 days. When I got home and began my quarantine, this is the first song I wrote and it wrote itself in minutes. I am so proud my son Zach stepped in and created a music video that shares the emotion of this song. I truly hope people will hear the song and follow the advice I have been giving myself Don’t let the world get you down,” said Zito about the track.

Joe Diffie, the hitmaker behind such timeless 90s country songs as “John Deere Green” and “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die)” has sadly passed away today, March 29, due to complications from COVID-19. Diffie’s rep shared the news of the diagnosis on Friday, March 27.

The Grammy winner and Grand Ole Opry member will be remembered for his great vocal range, and for being an unrivaled interpreter of neo-traditional country music.

“Don’t spread my ashes out to sea don’t lay me down to rest / You can put my mind at ease if you fill my last request / Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die.”