Texas-born Sugaray began his musical career before the age of seven singing and playing the drums in church. His gospel influence can be heard and felt in his music. Rayford’s phrasing is intimate and conversational, with a powerful, sexy, & soulful voice.

He is a 2020 Grammy Nominated artist, BMA Award-winning, Texas soul-blues singer and actor. His performances are legendary and full of energy and passion, and when he belts out a song you not only hear it, but you feel it too.

Here he gives us his Top 10 favourite blues tracks and a little insight into why each one is special to him.

1- Son House – Death Letter

This song has always meant everything to me, it literally reminds me of the time when I found out about my mother and grandmother’s deaths.

2 – ZZ Hill – Down Home Blues

This was the first blues song I ever really heard.

3 – Little Milton – Walkin’ The Back Streets and Crying

It’s the playing and emotion in this song, it is the Everest of the blues.

4 – Lightning Hopkins – Got To Move Your Baby

Because I’m from Texas, home of the greatest Bluesman of all time.

5 – Mississippi John Hurt – Candyman

I was introduced to his music while I was doing my first play and I fell immediately in love with it.

6 – Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland – I Wouldn’t Treat a Dog (The Way You Treated Me)

Mr Bland sings from the heart and the song and the way the band played has always intrigued me! It is so southern soul-blues.

7 – Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland – Dust Got Into Daddy’s Eyes

Because my brother introduced this song to me just a couple of years ago and I love it.

8 – Little Milton – Grits And Groceries

Because Little Milton‘s approach to the song was fearless and his arrangement makes your entire body move.

9 – Denise LaSalle – Steal The Queen

It’s Denise LaSalle, do I need to say anymore?

10 – Clarence Gatemouth Brown – Depression Blues

Gatemouth Brown is probably one of the greatest musicians to come out of the Texas Louisiana area, the blues, jazz, soul or swing he mastered them all.

Sugaray Rayford was awarded Soul Blues Male Artist Of The Year at the Blues Music Awards in Memphis in 2019.

For more info on Sugaray Rayford’s music, tours etc please click here.

 

 

The post SUGARAY RAYFORD’s Top 10 Blues appeared first on Blues Matters Magazine.

There’s actually some overlap between blues and punk. For example, hill country blues, especially as practiced by artists like R.L. Burnside, has a wild, unpredictable energy, largely based upon raw performances that feel like classic punk rock. But it’s much harder for proficient instrumentalists to tap into that vibe, because once there’s a certain degree of musical skill, performances start to feel more prepared. But a band like Cream, at their best, brought punk to blues, and you can now add Albert Castiglia to that very short list of punk-blues virtuosos, with Wild and Free, a live show capturing the talented singer and guitarist at the height of his astoundingly rocking powers.

Taken from a show in Boca Raton, Florida, Castiglia pilots his band through 11 tracks that crackle with blues emotion and rock electricity. It’s especially shocking given Boca is the same town where my grandmother lives (I suddenly understand why my birthday checks haven’t increased in a while; I think she’s been spending money on shows). But if she happened to miss this one, she’s in luck, since it’s a perfectly documented performance.

The album kicks off with “Big Dog.” Organ and bass battle each other for control of the track while Castiglia’s guitar uses it as an opportunity to scamper around the tune like that aforementioned canine off its too-short leash. The band doesn’t build to anything. Instead, they just start at full climax, making you feel like you’ve been dropped into the middle of a race to the death. Castiglia’s guitar bends and wails but is never shrill. And his tone is pure stubble, in the best possible way. His rhythm tone is percussive, making every track groove that much harder when he’s not soloing. It feels like the chaos might shake the track apart, but it all holds together. Most live albums end on a track with this kind of fervor and Castiglia is leading off with it.

The band keeps the barely-controlled entropy going for two more songs before finally slowing things down with “Heavy,” off of Castiglia’s accurately-titled 2019 album, Masterpiece. The track is a power ballad that lets you hear just how beautiful a soloist Castiglia can be as he sews jazz and even a tiny bit of metal into his guitar work. His voice is also in fine form, sounding worn and gruff, like a classic blues artist. And then, following this brief slow-up, he’s right back to top speed with “Get Your Ass in the Van,” which is a cross between Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Pride and Joy” and Elmore James’ classic “Dust My Broom.” And here too, the tone is impossibly scratchy, but also just as impossible to resist.

Wild and Free is everything a great live album should be: relentless emotion executed to perfection, yet not too perfectly. Castiglia is an exciting, underrated musician. Masterpiece was an excellent blues rock album, but hearing many of those same songs performed live, they’re even better than the original studio cuts. The album is long, clocking in at well over an hour, but it flies by. There’s lots of jamming and soloing, but it never feels self-serving or dull. Instead, like Cream in their prime, Wild and Free presents ridiculously talented musicians hardly able to contain their abilities within the confines of a song. By the time it’s over, you’ll be out of breath but also probably ready to dive right back into the album.

The Review: 9.5/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Heavy
– Get Your Ass in the Van
– Too Much Seconal
– I Tried to Tell Ya
– Big Dog

The Big Hit

– Big Dog

Review by Steven Ovadia

Buy the album: Amazon | Amazon UK

New Jersey-based Oria Aspen burst onto the music scene just under a decade ago with her sensational debut album, Yellow Paint, an eclectic mixture of original pop/rock songs, soul/jazz vibes, and ballads. Her versatility is evident in the sensational cover of the Louis Armstrong classic, “What A Wonderful World,” beautifully sung as a duet with soul man Southside Johnny. The album received rave reviews as critics applauded both the musical qualities and the courage of a 17-year-old prepared to share her intensely personal journey on the hard road to adulthood. Despite periods of ill health, Oria has continued performing, mainly with her father (renowned guitarist Glenn Alexander), either as a duo or as vocalist with his band Glenn Alexander & Shadowland.

The good news is that Oria is back on the scene as a solo recording artist with “Wannabe,” a blockbuster of a single reflecting the maturity and confidence of a young woman who, in the true blues tradition, has experienced bad times but has the strength to come through them. Such is the power of music. To paraphrase John Lee Hooker, music is the healer when you are down, “all over the world, it can heal me, it can heal you.”

“Wannabe” starts with somber piano accompaniment reflecting Oria’s poignant lyrics, “As I sat down my body turned to stone / I’m lonely and I’m broken, I’m a long way from home.” The song builds gradually to a breathtaking crescendo created by the whole, perfectly balanced ensemble, interspersed with glorious interludes of light and shade rolling like waves. Soaring above this beautifully arranged backing music are Oria’s powerful and passionate vocals, impeccably phrased and with a sense of drama — as if she was singing from a Broadway stage. Her voice has a slightly husky edge and country feel, adding to Oria’s unique and intriguing sound. There is hope expressed in the words: “People can get you down sometimes but in the end / You’ve just gotta stay true to you.” The final climactic chorus communicates her emotions and negative thoughts when she was a teenager, the angst and despair palpable and almost unbearable by the end of the song: “I wanna be be a pretty girl but I’m not sure how to make it through / I wanna be a skinny girl, I wanna be like you.” 

“Wannabe” is a memorable and compelling song which hooks the listener in and won’t let go, the words and melody becoming embedded in the psyche for a long time afterwards.

Oria explains: “This song has been in the works for a long time. I wrote this song when I was 17 and in the middle of an eating disorder. I noticed that society tended to care more about the lives and problems of those who were thin and good looking, and believed myself to be unworthy of people caring because I was not what society wanted. Now at age 25, I got the opportunity to record this song after sitting on it for quite some time. Every lyric in the song still feels close to home, and I still deal with the same body image issues that I addressed in the song, just not to such an extreme extent anymore.”

Self-confessed wannabe Oria Aspen has the talent, originality and that special ingredient needed to be whatever she wants to be in the world of music. It is important to support artists who bare their souls with this degree of sincerity, so that others in similar circumstances do not feel alone but know that there is a friend and kindred spirit out there to help share the pain and to offer hope.

“Wannabe” is distributed by DistroKid from March 16th and available on iTunes, Medianet, Spotify and Deezer.

LYRICS:

I woke up this morning, I got out of bed

The rain poured down on my cold and ugly head

As I sat down my body turned to stone

I’m lonely and I’m broken, I’m a – a long way from home

Someday I wanna be a pretty girl but I’m not sure how to make it through

Someday I wanna be a skinny girl, I wanna be just like you

I tried my hardest to shine like the stars

But I fell flat and got lost in the dark

It’s these kinds of things that make me stronger in the end

I wish I was happy but I can’t even pretend

Someday I wanna be a pretty girl but I’m not sure how to make it through

Someday I wanna be a skinny girl, I wanna be just like you

Oh, people can get you down sometimes but in the end

You’ve just gotta stay true to you, and

People can tell you that you’re never good enough

But in the end you’re the only one who decides what you do

I wanna be a pretty girl but I’m not sure how to make it through

I wanna be a skinny girl, I wanna be like you

I wanna be a pretty girl but I’m not sure how to make it through

I wanna be a skinny girl, I wanna be like you, like you

Glenn Alexander and Oria Aspen (photo credit: Phyllis McQuillan)

INTERVIEW WITH ORIA ASPEN

Hi Oria, how is life for you at the moment? Are you in the middle of a lockdown?

My life is pretty boring at the moment. I’m not on total lockdown, but there are certain hours that we can leave the house, and certain hours that we must be inside. I haven’t been having too hard a time with this change as I’m an introvert and usually stick to myself at home anyways. The only thing that’s really bumming me out about this situation, other than of course the fact that people are dying, is not being able to perform.

Congratulations on your new single which is very personal and emotional. Tell us about the recording of the track and the musicians you worked with in the studio. 

It’s crazy, because when you’re recording, sometimes you don’t even get to see the other musicians. For this song, that was the case; I recorded the basic piano and vocals, and then sent the song out so that other musicians could lay their talent down on it. They recorded their tracks, and then we sent it off to be mixed and mastered. I love doing recordings this way, because nobody is breathing down the musicians’ backs telling them what to do. Each musician gets to let their talent run wild, and if anything needs tweaking, they fix minor details. The song really becomes all of ours as it changes with each instrument and effect which is really cool, and sometimes doesn’t happen when the musicians are all in one studio together telling each other what to play. Sometimes being all together can pull in exactly what is wanted, and when a specific sound is in mind, is often necessary. I enjoy that process greatly; however, for this song I wanted to work more loosely to create a sound that belongs to us all rather than to only the person or people controlling the atmosphere in the studio.

How is ‘Wannabe’ being received by family, friends and more widely?

My friends all love the song, and my parents do as well. I am currently trying to get it out there, because I know that body image is something many people struggle with, and that this song can be very relatable for so many people.

Let’s get back to your childhood and your early life in New Jersey, when did you start getting interested in music and learning to play an instrument?

Ever since I was a very small child, I have loved music. With my dad being a musician, I had opportunities at a very young age to learn everything I could about music, and I gladly did just that. I began writing melodies before I could write words, and began studying piano and flute before the age of eight. I am extremely lucky, as music is my passion, and my father, who now plays guitar with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, had everything I needed to explore that passion.

Your father is a renowned musician, how much did he influence your choices and overall musical development? 

So much! I have always looked up to my father as a level of talent I’d like to achieve. I loved music from infancy, but would never have had the means to pursue it if it weren’t for my father. At age thirteen I explained that I had written a few songs that I would like to record, and within a few weeks we were in the studio recording the beginning of my first album, Yellow Paint. After three years of work it was released, and I was addicted to writing and recording my music. Sadly however, mental health can be hard to maintain, and I ended up having to take many years off from music due to poor mental health. I am happy now to be back and feeling better; I am looking forward to recording more music, and “Wannabe” is only the beginning.

Can you remember the first record you ever bought yourself?

I bought a Demi Lovato record in my teens. I’m not sure it was my first, but I loved it. I always loved the soul in her voice and hadn’t heard that in a white girl before. Getting her record gave me hope that it was possible to be an awkward little white girl with a lot of soul. After this I found Amy Winehouse and was floored.

I hear that you are a fan of the great Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong. Who were your other main influences and what did you learn from them?

I love Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Etta James, Nina Simone, and just about any other jazz and blues singer I can get my hands on. I love Ray Charles, and went to see him as a kid (I cried tears of joy). James Brown was also a huge influence of mine, and I was lucky enough to meet him after attending his amazing concert which was unbelievable. I have so many favorites, but my main influence has always been Ella Fitzgerald. Even though I’ve never been able to come close to the vocal sound she gets, I try to incorporate the little things that she does that I am capable of learning and executing. Of course I loved Amy Winehouse, and enjoyed her covers and originals quite a bit. As a teen I loved Miley Cyrus’ country pop type sound as well, and wanted to combine that country-ish feel with the soul of blues singers.

I have been listening to your highly acclaimed Yellow Paint album which is very special and I love its variety. How did the opportunity come about and what difference did its success make to you as a teenager finding your way in the world?

I had written a few songs, and showed them to my dad; he asked me if I would like to record them, and I said “of course”. There was originally not supposed to be an album, and I was supposed to record a few songs to burn CD’s for my family and friends. After about the third song, we realized that they were sounding better than we had imagined, and so we decided to record a whole album with other melodies and lyrics that I was writing along with my dad’s badass guitar skills; suddenly, we were sending it off to other musicians, and getting great results.

You are an excellent songwriter. Can you talk us through the process of writing a song and how lyrics and tunes come about?

I generally start the writing process with a single thought that comes to my head, something that I feel needs to be heard, or maybe something I’m having trouble dealing with. I usually write that single thought down, and depending on what kind of mood I’m in I either write more lyrics or let that thought sit there until I have a place for it. Once I have written a few lyrics I think about what I want the melody to sound like. Chords are always the last thing I put down as I like to have a set melody and lyrics to know just how bright or dark sounding the song needs to be. When putting chords to melodies I pick what fits the emotion, and if I’m ever stuck I can always pick my dad’s brain for his amazing musical theory skills to get the perfect-sounding chord.

Do you have a particular song you have written which is your favorite?

My favorite song I have written has not been released yet, so keep your eyes peeled for that. My favorite song that has been released, however, is “Party Song” from the Yellow Paint album. This song brings me back to a time when I thought I was the coolest s**t to hit the toilet bowl (teenagers, am I right?), and I was ready to cause mischief anywhere I could. Listening to it now makes me laugh, but I love the feel of it, and how my dad got to exercise his rock guitar chops on it.

I have enjoyed watching your most recent performances on YouTube, several as duets with your dad. These must have been quite an experience for you.

Whenever I can, I try to get someone to record our performances on my phone, or their phone, a video camera, anything. I do this because it is such an experience that I want to remember. Playing music with my dad while we’re in good health mentally and physically is something that I don’t want to ever forget, so I try to get it recorded as much as possible; sometimes I put the videos on YouTube. Lately I’ve been using YouTube almost like a cloud; it’s a website where I can put my recorded videos to go back on them and reminisce, not to mention there’s the added benefit of others being able to view your videos as well.

Who are the best musicians you have shared a stage with and why?

This is tough, because I share the stage with really talented people on a regular basis. Some of my favorite people I have shared a stage with however, are the New York Horns, Southside Johnny, Dave LaRue, Van Romaine, and of course, my dad. All the members of the New York Horns are really nice people so I always love not only being on stage with them, but hanging backstage as well getting to pick their seasoned brains. Van Romaine and Dave Larue kindly let me sit in with L.A.X., who play with my dad; I loved that experience and had a ball. Obviously, Southside Johnny is always a treat to be on stage with, and it makes me look forward to our pig roast in more ways than one. I love getting to be on stage with him for a few songs while supporting a great cause and eating great food.

What advice would you give to other aspiring young musicians about to embark on their careers?

Don’t listen to people who think that music isn’t a career. You can make anything into a career. Love knitting? Make it your career. Love eating? Make it into your career. Love music? Make it into your career. Anything can eventually become a career if you’re willing to do it as a hobby and have a side job until you gain a fan base/ customer base/ following and can afford to make it into your career.

In this era of music streaming and, in some cases, falling CD sales and diminishing live music venues (especially at this time of international pandemic crisis), what are the main challenges facing musicians?

Musicians are definitely struggling to find ways to make money and showcase our talents right now. We can’t gig at the moment due to the pandemic, and getting together as a group to play is nearly impossible as groups of people are to be kept at a minimum. One good thing about the timing of this pandemic is the existence of the Internet, and how far it has come. Thanks to the Internet, musicians can still stream and play together with the assistance of technology, however, getting new people to tune into our content is getting much harder.

You are an accomplished flautist and pianist, do you still play these instruments?

These days, I mostly use piano as a tool to write songs; I do of course still play though. Flute is always going to be a love of mine, and I’m trying to get back into it more these days. I use my flute skills where they are needed in our jazz gigs, but sadly those have stopped since this crisis started. It’s definitely understandable, and I hope everyone is staying safe, but it is a pretty big bummer not to be able to gig right now.

Do you have any other songs/recordings in the pipeline at the moment?

There is one song that has been recorded that I should be getting ready to release at the end of 2020. In terms of other music, I have a songbook full of ideas and some full songs that I will probably start recording soon. 

What are your musical ambitions for the future?

I try to keep an open mind and not set my sights too high. Something I would really like to do with my music is to get more exposure, radio play on small stations that promote up and coming artists and gain a wider following. I also want to put out more music, which I definitely plan on doing. Another thing that I have wanted to do for a while, and hope to have time for during this shenanigans, is recording an album of jazz standards and other covers with my dad; fans have been asking for it and I definitely don’t want to continue denying them much longer, it feels wrong to make them go to YouTube, or come to a gig to hear us play jazz.

What do you think about the current blues, rock and jazz scene in Britain and the USA?

There’s a lot of talent out there right now, the obvious stuff but also many underground artists that are hard to find. The Internet is very much a double-edged sword in the fact that it can help you promote yourself and gain a following, but there is an algorithm involved, and in this day and age it is over saturated with billions of videos. You often have to do a lot of digging to find what you’re looking for, which can be frustrating, and once you find something you like, it can be hard to find other things that are up your alley. Websites tend to over-promote what is doing well, keeping those who are on top on top, and those who are trying to gain a following in the dark. That being said however, the Internet is a great way to promote yourself if you’re willing to do all the legwork, because you are certainly going to be buried below all the bigger artists when you first start posting.

Do you have a message for American Blues Scene readers?

First, I want to say that I am extremely grateful to you, American Blues Scene, all of the other contributors, readers and listeners for giving many new artists, such as myself a platform and for keeping so much great music alive. I encourage everyone to continue to make the highest level of music possible, be expressive and of course support other music and musicians. We’re all in this together. There is so much music out there and you can always find something that piques your fancy if you’re willing to search. The harder you search, the more likely you are to be the first to know about artists who will be the face of tomorrow, and that just feels cool!

“Somebody is always going through something, but they need somebody else to lean on. People’s grandmothers pass away every day, and they’re significant in their life. So, that story is always going to be a truth in somebody’s life.” – Kevin Burt

Bill Withers – Kevin Burt

Kevin Burt was inspired by Bill Withers who passed away on Monday, March 30th of heart complications. Withers wrote and sang 1970s hits “Lean On Me,” “Lovely Day” and “Ain’t No Sunshine.” He was 81. Withers was an inspiration to Burt, the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge winner in 2018, and often performs Withers’ biggest hit, “Lean on Me.”

Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on

In a 2018 interview Burt told me, “I mean the way that he was able to tell personal stories, things like ‘Grandma’s Hands,’ stories like ‘Lean on Me.’ Those are personal stories to him. They’re songs he wrote about his life and his upbringing. And they were specific to his life and upbringing in his mind, but because of his exposure to his own vulnerability. Because of that exposure, it’s transcended.”

“Lean On Me,” a paean to friendship, was performed at the inaugurations of both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lean on Me” are among Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

“I was blessed with the opportunity to go and meet with Bill Withers a bunch of years ago,” says Burt, “and one of the things he told me that I’ve held onto is truth. He said, ‘Whatever you sing, in order to find that emotional, vulnerable space, think about those individuals you are most vulnerable with.”

Iowa-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Kevin Burt took three awards in the Blues Foundation’s 2018 International Blues Challenge: first place in the Solo/Duo category, The Cigar Box Guitar Award for best guitarist in Solo/Duo category, and the Lee Oskar Award for best harmonica player. His debut album Heartland and Soul took the 2019 BMA Nominee Best Emerging Artist for Debut Album.

Bill Withers

Kevin Burt

Once a generation, a blues artist comes along who not only reminds mainstream audiences how deeply satisfying and emotionally moving the best blues music can be but shakes the genre to its core. With both eyes on the future and the blues in his blood, 20-year-old guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Christone “Kingfish” Ingram is taking the music world by storm with the May 2019 release of his debut album, KINGFISH.

Sprung from the same earth as so many of the Delta blues masters, Kingfish comes bursting out of Clarksdale, Mississippi, just ten miles from the legendary crossroads of Highways 61 and 49. A student of the Delta’s musical history, he is acutely aware of the musicians and the music that emerged from his corner of the world. “I do think I have an old soul, that I’ve been here before,” he says. “I’m moving forward with one foot in the past.”

______________

So through social media – Christone “Kingfish” Ingram just released this sweet, organic video of himself playing his song Hard Times acoustically, while staying safely sheltered at home. He mixes in some photos and a short video of fans who sent him the items to show what they’ve been doing while sheltering. The video makes clear how we are all in this together. This right here is the healing power of the blues.

He’s calling it Hard Times (Shelter-At-Home mix):

This is what he wrote on his FB, Instagram and Twitter pages:

Thanks for all the great photos and videos that you’ve shared. I truly appreciate it. I want to share with you a raw, special video that I pulled together in light of current times. I hope everyone is staying safe & healthy. I also hope you share my confidence that together we all will get through these HARD TIMES.”

For More Info on Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram click here

 

 

The post New KINGFISH Video – Hard Times (Shelter-At-Home mix) appeared first on Blues Matters Magazine.

When Larry Campbell, the GRAMMY-winning producer and longtime collaborator of Levon Helm, says he wants to collaborate – you listen. Just ask Roger Street Friedman, the award-winning, NY-based singer-songwriter, whose “autobiographical, cinematic, blunt, and honest” songwriting has been compared to James Taylor, Randy Newman, and Jackson Browne (The Aquarian). With the release of Rise, the songwriter’s third studio album produced by Campbell, Friedman has crafted nothing less than a true expression – a statement of purpose that resonates as a career milestone – thanks in part to a partnership with Campbell that far exceeded Friedman’s expectations.

Recorded at his home studio in Sea Cliff, NY, Rise features the type of honest, vulnerable songwriting that has won Friedman praise everywhere from USA Today to No Depression – reflective vignettes recalling the singer-songwriter tradition of Marc Cohn and Robbie Robertson, set to a blend of folk-rock, progressive Americana, and soulful R&B. Co-written with a number of Nashville based songwriters, the album’s 12 tracks feature stories so vivid that we feel genuinely inside their characters — whether it’s the Vietnam veteran “takin’ fire from Uncle Sam” upon his return, or the housewife questioning her life in “Over and Over.” There’s an honesty, immediacy, and urgency to Friedman’s singing throughout the album, while the song arrangements are fat-free blends of Americana genre-splicing, from the twang of “Last Train to Babylon” to the rocking punch of “Outcasts of Love,” the Celtic anthemics of the title track and the Jimmy Buffett ebullience of “Tough Crowd.”

When Roger Street Friedman afforded us the opportunity to premiere 3 live videos from the upcoming release, we jumped at it. Originally, these premieres were to be accompanied by “tour diaries” from Friedman. We all know that with touring on hold, that couldn’t be possible. Instead, he’s offering “diaries” about his current experience as it relates to his music and album release.

My last tour from Nashville up to NYC was happening at the beginning of March while the Coronavirus crisis was just coming into the public consciousness. At each date there were still some people shaking hands, although most were beginning to do the elbow bump. Social distancing was not yet in full force, so most of the conversations were within the usual 1-2 feet of personal space! I wasn’t too concerned because the number of reported infections down south was still pretty low, and the gigs were not being cancelled yet, so all was good and the shows at the beginning of the tour were well attended. On the road I was being very careful, opening doors with my sleeve instead of touching surfaces, incessantly washing my hands at the rest areas, and hand sanitizing when I got back into the car. It wasn’t until the second week of the tour, when authorities started to talk about cancelling large gatherings, that I noticed the attendance dwindling, and by the end of the second week that a show was cancelled and it became apparent that live shows were going to be cancelled for at least two weeks… which as we now know, has turned into more like at least 6 months. It will probably be longer, until things start to get back to “normal”. All of our April shows are cancelled, including the record release show on my birthday at “My Father’s Place” that featured special guests Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams! I was really looking forward to that one for my local friends and fans and am incredibly sad that we can’t have that special album release celebration. We are currently looking at rescheduling in the summer but it’s anybody’s guess if shows will be happening by then.

My family and I were aware early on that this was a dangerous virus that would spread exponentially if the country didn’t get on board to stay at home and help “stop the spread.” So we’ve been home, with our two young children, for the last 3 weeks, hunkered down, home schooling, and watching the news with growing horror while the number of cases, and deaths, seem to be exploding, while trying to establish some form of a “normal” routine. It is an emotional roller coaster for all of us… The kids are doing well, although there are frequent, stir-crazy-driven melt-downs. My wife is scared and sad and I’ve gone through the full spectrum, from anger at the slow governmental response and the people who are seemingly oblivious to how serious this situation is (Florida’s beaches come to mind), to sadness for our country and the world as the magnitude of what, and who, we will lose becomes apparent. Our music community has already been impacted dramatically, Jackson Browne reportedly has a mild case while, legendary songwriter John Prine was in critical condition and legendary sideman and producer Larry Campbell, who produced my new album ‘Rise,’ was sick for weeks. We also lost Alan Merrill who wrote “I love Rock And Roll.” He died alone at the hospital while waiting for the test results to come back. In just the past few days we’ve lost Ellis Marsalis, Adam Schlesinger, and Bucky Pizzarelli.

I had very little energy for music for the first few weeks, with trying to balance family time, self-care, and figuring out our financial situation, but in the last few days I have found myself in my studio with new music emerging… I can only hope that this catastrophic and cataclysmic event will lead to us coming together as a country, and a world, to create a better future. That is the message of the new album… That we will “Rise” above our petty differences and make choices that lead to peace instead of war, and to environmental sustainability instead of human induced environmental degradation and climate catastrophe. I hope everyone is safe and sound when we get to the other side of this crisis.

Recorded on February 10th in preparation for going out on tour in March, my band – consisting of Jim Toscano (drums and percussion), Matt Schneider (Bass and Vocals) and Steve Uh (Fiddle, Keyboards, Harmonium and Vocals) and I – performed a show/live rehearsal at The Woodshed, a local music school and venue in our home town of Sea Cliff, New York. “Carry Me” is about trying to maintain the connection to home even when you’re far away and features the tasty fiddle chops of Steve Uh.

“Carry Me,” the first single from the forthcoming album Rise out April 24, via Rock Ridge Music, performed live at The Woodshed in Sea Cliff, NY.

Roger Street Friedman

*Feature image photo credit: Drew Reynolds

Each time I write a review of Eliza Neals‘ music, I herald it as her best work yet. That’s because each new project she shares with us IS her best work yet. Washed up on golden grotto beaches in times of rage, is Black Crow Moan. Released digitally today, April 6, via E-H Records, Black Crow Moan will be available in physical form on April 15.

 

The Detroit Diva brings her A-game on Black Crow Moan. She also brings a small army of seasoned and extremely talented musicians to join in. Her special guests on this record are Blues Hall of Famer Joe Louis Walker, and rock guitar virtuoso Derek St. Holmes (Ted Nugent) who also wrote songs for Koko Taylor and Ivan Neville, to name a few. Other artist contributions include Howard Glazer on guitar, Mike Puwal (Kenny Wayne Shepherd, ICP) on guitar and bass, Lenny Bradford (Bo Diddley) on bass, tambourine and backing vocals, Jason Kott (Robert Randolph), John Abraham and Chuck Bartels (Sturgill Simpson) on bass. Bruce Bears (Duke Robillard), and Jim Alfredson (Janiva Magness) add some extra lift on Hammond B3. John Medeiros Jr., Skeeto Valdez (King Konga), Demarcus Sumpter, Jeffrey “Shakey” Fowlkes (Too Slim and the Taildraggers), and Brian Clune keep the clock on drums. Motor City songstress Kymberli Wright (Straight Ahead), and Eliza’s sister Valerie Taylor add soaring backing vocals.

Let’s get to the music. It all kicks off with “Don’t Judge the Blues.” This foot-stomping, hand-clapping attention-getter is Saturday night fish fry meets Sunday morning tent revival. Neals’ gritty, powerful vocals come out strong, accompanied by ass-kicking resonator slide guitar. At one point she sings through a green bullet mic, adding that vintage touch. “Why You Ooglin’ Me?” switches the tempo to a mighty Chicago style slow grind. We catch on quickly that Eliza’s songwriting skills have matured as much as her delivery. All the songs on Black Crow Moan were written (or co-written) by Neals save one, and we’ll discuss that later.

“The Devil Don’t Love You,” co-written by and featuring Joe Louis Walker, is a swanky, funky cautionary tale. It’s an old blues story told in modern, jazzy form, with Walker’s gritty vocals and killer guitar adding that new blues touch. The first moaning we hear on Black Crow Moan comes on “I Can Fly.” A blues-rock ballad of epic proportions, Glazer’s guitar takes second fiddle only to Neals’ lofty voice with Wright and Taylor kicking it up 12 notches. “River is Rising,” comes in with Glazer’s spot-on guitar adding to the haunting lyrics and Eliza’s riveting vocal delivery.

The title track is a soulful, self-examining, call-and-response once again with JLW. The lyrics give us the feeling that Neals had insight to the current state of the world. The isolation, and loneliness and desperation it causes are laid bare. “The solo feeling everyone has right now is like solitary confinement,” she told me. “I think we will connect. We’re all naked in some way.”

It’s not all about the ballads though. On “Run Sugar Run,” Neals piano starts off a song that is pure American rock and roll. It’s Bruce Springsteen meets Billy Joel jamming in a Detroit bar with Puwal sitting in on guitar. The dark story line gives way to good advice from one woman to another. You’ll get it when you hear it.

Derek St. Holmes makes his first appearance on “Never Stray.” A promising love ballad, St. Holmes adds nice, crunchy lead runs. Neals puts a short leash on her usually powerhouse vocal delivery, showing us a softer side. St. Holmes also adds awesome guitar to the only cover song on the album, the Big Mama Thornton classic, “Ball and Chain.” Neals delivers this her own way. Slower and more deliberate than Thornton’s original, but without the primal screams of Janis Joplin’s famous cover. That’s not to say Neals doesn’t deliver. She does, in spades, tearing our hearts out along the way. Singing like a woman possessed, she throws so much of herself into this blues standard that one may think she wrote it herself. I’m not crying. You’re crying. Bravissimo!

The final track is a guilty pleasure for me. My friend, and former producer/bandmate Shawn Ames wrote a song several years ago called “There’s a Party in My Pants,” that was a crowd favorite at live shows. Neals does something very similar here with “Hey, Take Your Pants Off.” This is a fun shuffle for fun’s sake and is sure to pack any dance floor. It’s the perfect palate cleanser and leaves us the way it should – wanting more.

Black Crow Moan is Eliza Neals’ crowning achievement to date. She took some advice from fellow blues artists, brought in some top flight hired guns, created an album of almost entirely original music, and is making it available at a time we need it most. “This album is going to be more sentimental – a lot of stuff coming from way, way back,” Neals said in a recent interview with Gary Schwind. “I think it’s more heartfelt. More like a confessional. That’s different.”

If Black Crow Moan is a confessional, then bless me Father, for I want to sin again.

Black Crow Moan is available digitally today on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, and Google Play. You can order a signed copy of the CD now, and it will ship mid-April from HERE.

You can also attend the Black Crow Moan Facebook Album Release Party at 7 PM (EDT) tonight.

Eliza Neals

*Feature image HJ

King King has firmly planted itself as one of the best blues rock bands in the world. The band has a revamped lineup and is working on a new studio album due out later this year and recently released a new single titled “I Won’t Fall.” Blues Rock Review caught up with frontman Alan Nimmo to get the details on the upcoming album, how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the band, and more.

How has the new lineup affected the songwriting process for King King?

The change in line-up has been a wonderful success. The contribution from the lads in terms of omg writing and arrangement has been exciting and very fresh. The writing partnership between myself and Jonny Dyke (keyboards) has been a real pleasant surprise and we’ve managed to find a great working formula which has taken things to a new level.

What was the inspiration behind the first single “I Will Not Fall”?

I think the inspiration for our latest single “I Will Not Fall” came from simply being in the music business for a long time and realising that despite my love for what I do and my passion, there are and always will be people who will try and keep you down and take from you what isn’t theirs! You just have to stay strong and true to your convictions and trust in yourself to take whatever is thrown at you and use it as a means to make you stronger!

The new album is due out in 2020. Is there a specific timeline yet in terms of when the album will be released?

We are hoping for an early autumn release around the end of September but as you know with the global crisis that’s going on at the moment with Covid 19 then that could be disrupted so we’ll just have to carry on preparing for it and the rest is out of our hands.

You started up your own record label. What went into that decision?

Well…similar to what I was talking about before… I wanted to stay in control of my own destiny and have the people around me that I trust and have always trusted to have the best interests of King King at heart and help me and the group move forward in a positive direction. It’s a very difficult industry to survive in as a creative person and to be brutally honest… it’s myself, my band members and my dedicated team that I want to benefit from our hard work!

This has been an extremely difficult time for everyone in the world right now. While we don’t have touring right now, how much of a comfort has music been to you?

Well this is a horrendous time for everyone in the world and it’s something that none of us have ever been through but I can see from looking at social media and things like that that people are more and more often turning to music to bring them some relief from the stress and worry. Music Is a great comfort to me and lots of others… that’s plain to see! Imagine a world without music?? That would be a sad world!

Alan Nimmo performs on stage with King King. (Photo: Jon Theobald)

Several musicians have done Facebook live concerts without the ability to have live concerts. Do you have any plans for any sort of live content?

Yes of course! I’ve been practicing a few different songs on my acoustic guitar to film from home and put out there for people to look at and listen to. I think it’s a great idea that lots of bands and artists are doing this for their fans. Once we’re allowed to be in the same room together again we do plan on doing a live stream but unfortunately, it’s become very difficult to do that and the studio that we planned to do the stream from (Morsecode Studios in Glasgow) is closed at the moment but… as soon as we can we’ll get right to it! Our fans are absolutely fantastic and we love and appreciate them so much! I’ve had so many messages from so many of them wishing us well and asking if there’s anything they can do to help us!!! You’ve no idea what that means to me! Words aren’t enough to describe how grateful we are for that!

Has the current situation in the world provided any fuel in terms of creativity for new music?

Of course it has.. if you’re any kind of creative person then a situation like this is always going to provide the inspiration to write about it! Watch this space!!!

Interview by Pete Francis

KING KING RESCHEDULED TOUR DATES

Bexhill De La Warr Pavilion
Friday 16 October 2020

York Grand Opera House
Wednesday 3 February 2021

Manchester Academy
Friday 5 February 2021

Sheffield Leadmill
Saturday 6 February 2021

Cardiff Y Plas
Sunday 7 February 2021

Birmingham Town Hall
Tuesday 9 February 2021

London Electric Ballroom
Saturday 13 February 2021

Salisbury City Hall
Sunday 14 February 2021

Bury St Edmunds The Apex Arts Centre
Tuesday 16 February 2021

Newcastle Boiler Shop
Wednesday 17 February 2021

Glasgow Old Fruitmarket
Thursday 18 February 2021

Every year, the blues rock music scene and the guitar world brings us some great albums to enjoy daily.  2020 has already shown great potential and now we need music more than ever. We might be quarantined inside, but music is still here as the Wink Bingo promo code 2020 offers exclusive bonuses to new customers.

Prove It On Me – Rory Block

Released only days before the end of March, Prove It On Me is the second blues album in Rory Block’s new series – Power Women of Blues. The album celebrates songs from nine ground-breaking female artists in blues, including an original by her. This recording was done by Stony Plain Records and released on 27th March 2020.

Rory’s new album was produced by Rob Davis and Rory Block, presenting her unique take on songs from incredible female songwriters and performers. That includes phenomenal artists like Madlyn Davis, Memphis Minnie, Rosetta Howard, and Arizona Dranes, to name a few.

High Risk, Low Reward – Ryan Perry

Like all blues-rock greats, Ryan Perry is not afraid to tear it apart and start anew. For over a decade, the Mississippi bandleader has created a solid reputation in the phenomenal Homemade Jamz Band, until he decided to pursue a solo career.

In this recording, Perry’s guitar prowess, together with his creative and varied solos drives and adorns the songs, starting with the first title, “Ain’t Afraid to Eat Alone.” There’s also an extended instrumental passage that goes from the album’s first minute to the end, together with a relaxed rhythm set between guitar flourishes.

Rebel Moon Blues – Sass Jordan

Sass Jordan is among the best blues-rock singers of all time, having sold over a million albums worldwide. Throughout her 40 year career, she has constantly touched upon Blues, though this is her first album concentrating solely on this music tradition. According to Jordan, blues has always been a major part of her life, given that she grew up with it.

Stand Up – Whitney Shay

Released on 21st February this year, Stand Up is not only the album title but an order that forces anyone hearing Whitney Shay’s voice to jump on the dance floor. The San Diego phenomenal performer has made a name for drinking, dreaming, and dancing in her soundtracks by adding the punches and peaks of life. According to Shay, her high-energy soulful R&B music makes people feel something deep inside and want to dance.

Heavens to Betsy – Jeremiah Johnson

On this record, Jeremiah Johnson delivered his mission statement with a record that soundtracked the most important moments of his life. According to Jeremiah, he wanted Heavens To Betsy to be something people can listen to while celebrating life with friends. The album was released on 14th February, featuring 12 songs like “White Lightning,” “Tornado,” and “Ecstasy.”

Anna Martyushev

Born in Boston as William Homans III to a blueblood family, Watermelon Slim was destined to be a blues man. The 70-year-old singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist has 14 albums to his credit, dating back to 1973’s Merry Airbrakes. He’s received over 20 Blues Music Award nominations (including 2 this year for Album of the Year and Traditional Blues Album for Church of the Blues). He’s also had previous wins for Album of the Year and Band of the Year. Now he comes to us the way we love to hear him, LIVE, at 2 different clubs in Oklahoma (his home since the late 70s) with Traveling Man.

Slim got his first dose of the blues at age 5 when the family maid would sing him John Lee Hooker songs at their home in Asheville, North Carolina and has held a myriad of jobs that helped development his blues man lifestyle. He is a vehemently anti-war Vietnam veteran and has held jobs as a forklift driver, funeral officiator, watermelon farmer, small-time criminal, newspaper reporter, saw miller, and truck driver. Dissimilarly, Slim also holds two college degrees.

But it’s the stripped-down, classic blues with slide guitar and harmonica, that has made him an icon in the blues music world. Traveling Man puts us front-row center to his live performances with just him, his guitar and harmonica — the way his Delta influence Mississippi John Hurt would want it.

In fact, he performs spot-on covers of Hurt’s “61 Highway Blues,” and “Frisco Line” on Disc 1, recorded live at The Blue Door in Oklahoma City. His other cover songs on this disc include Cat Iron’s “Jimmy Bell” and a requested performance of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightnin’,” which Slim flawlessly segues into Muddy Waters’ “Two Trains Running” for a nearly 12-minute performance.

Slim’s originals on this disc lean toward music he wrote in his truck-driving days. Kicking off with “Blues Freightliner,” he goes into “Truck Driving Songs Never Go Out of Style,” “Scalemaster Blues,” and the self-exploring “300 Miles.” There’s an ode to his label, “Northern Blues,” and the amazing “Last Blues,” but our personal favorite track is the closer, “Holler #4.”

Disc number 2 was recorded live at The Depot in Norman, Oklahoma. All the songs on this disc were written or co-written by Slim, with the exception of the traditional “John Henry.” It is on this disc, with these songs, that Homans hits high gear. It all begins with the funky “Let it Be in Memphis.” Slim’s raw vocals go from a Delta cry to Johnny Cash-esque bass at the drop of a dime.

With nary a trucker song, Slim goes from the Western flavored “Into the Sunset,” to the swanky “Archetypal Blues,” sandwiching the foot-stomping “John Henry” in between. The mournful “Oklahoma Blues” goes into a story about the Crossroads in Mississippi and his co-written “Devil’s Cadillac.” Truly Delta blues at some of its finest from an Oklahoma performer.

The closer on Disc 2 is the 6-minute “Dark Genius.” An interestingly inky political song, the lyrics have John F Kennedy, Anwar Sadat, and Slim himself all drinking from the same dark genius trough.

“This double CD is a snapshot of the real me, straight no chaser,” Slim says. “I hope y’all enjoy it as much as (co-producer) Chris Hardwick and I enjoyed making it.”

A master storyteller, Watermelon Slim enhances his performance with yarns of the past and tales of his own life. If ever there were a modern album that appeases the gods of blues purists, Traveling Man is it.

Watermelon Slim

*Feature image: Lisa Mac