Rick Galusha's Pacific St. Blues and Americana

Since inception (1989), Pacific St. Blues & Americana strives to be a discerning voice helping roots fans sift through the mountains of music released every year. We are not for everyone; we want to engage active, critical listeners that hear beyond d'jour. Interviews include: Johnny Winter, Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones), Jerry Wexler, Tommy Shannon & Chris Layton, B.B. King, Dr. John, Robin Trower, Robben Ford, Mato Nanji, Joe Bonamassa, Harry Manx, Sue Foley, Marshall Chess, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Louvin, Kim Richey, Radney Foster, Eric Johnson, David Clayton Thomas, Al Kooper, Phil Chen (Wired, Blow By Blow), Ian McLagan, Art Neville, Southside Johnny, Miami Steve Van Zant, Nils Lofgren, Bruce Iglauer, Charlie Musselwhite, Studebaker John, Chris Duarte, Smokin' Joe Kubeck, Hamilton Loomis, Peter Karp, Roomful of Blues, James Harman, Hadden Sayers, Malford Milligan, Melvin Taylor, Otis Taylor, Dave Alvin, Coco Montoya, Jimmy Thackery, Marsha Ball, Maria Muldaur, Shelby Lynne, Magic Dick & J. Geils, Lil' Milton, BuddyGuy, Aynsley Lister, Matt Schofield, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Guy Clark, Joe Ely, James Cotton, Robin & Jesse Davey, Hugh Coltman (Hoax), Sean Kelly (Samples), John Entwistle (The Who), Mark Olson (Jayhawks), Walter Wolfman Washington, Anthony Gomes, Bob Malone, Chubby Carrier, Buckwheat Zydeco, Murali Coryell, David Jacob Strain, DeAnna Bogart, Michael Lee Firkins, Guy Davis, Jason Ricci, John Doe, Little Feat, Matt Woods, MikeZito, Peter Buffett, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Corky Siegel, Todd Park Mohr, Watermelon Slim, Magic Slim, Corey Harris,- - - - - - ------------------------Radio archives: http://www.kiwrblues.podomatic.com/. Playlists: http://www.omahablues.com/ Reviews featured in http://www.blueswax.com/. Email: KIWRblues@gmail.com Live online; Sundays 9 a.m. (-6 GMT) http://www.897theriver.com/

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

One Perspective: 2011, A Year in the Blues

One Perspective: 2011, A Year in the Blues

Like seemingly everything else, with the blues; the more it changes the more it stays the same. The on-going stigma of adding to the blues versus preserving the art form is in full force. Despite the anchor of history and the rigidity of the familiar, the albums which received the most airplay on Pacific St. Blues and Americana this year includes;

1. Tab Benoit, Medicine
2. Tedeschi – Trucks Band, Revelator
3. Quintus McCormick Blues Band, Put it on me! (True soul meets Chicago Blues)
4. Roy Gaines and his Orchestra, Tuxedo Blues
5. Robin Trower, the playful heart, and (His best effort since ‘Bridge of Sighs’
6. Damon Fowler, Devil Got His Way

Blues song of 2011; Hadden Sayers, ‘Back to the Blues’ (featuring duet w/ Ruthie Foster)

Runner Up;
1. Roy Trevino, ‘Sin Ella’
2. Smoove & Turrell, ‘Hard Work’
3. Robin Trower, ‘Find Me’

Eye on the Horizon;
1. Gary Clark Jr.
2. Trombone Shorty
3. Russ Tippins Band,
4. Roy Trevino

Unsigned bands of significant note;
1. Smoove and Turrell, Eccentric Audio – New millennium Northern Soul (England)
2. Jim Stapley, Live – Paul Rogers (Free/ Bad Company) fronts Humble Pie (Steve Marriott / Peter Frampton)
3. Mitch Gettman, Worn
4. The Poorboys – (self titled) – “Englishicana” at its finest (Americana with a melody.)

Blues come-back records of 2011;
1. Hadden Sayers, Hard Dollar
2. Johnny Winter, Roots
3. Savoy Brown, Voodoo Moon

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

album review: Cindy Bullens, 'Howling Trains and Barking Dogs'

Artist: Cindy Bullens
Title: Howling Trains and Barking Dogs

In the end there are only two kinds of music; good music and bad music. Cindy Bullens’ new album, ‘Howling Trains and Barking Dogs’ is good music. Admittedly it is not a blues album; however, it is roots music and the audience’s crossover. While assigning labels can be off-setting, most listeners would slot New England singer-songwriter Cindy Bullens as an Americana artist. Her new album, ‘Howling Trains and Barking Dogs’ is packed with radio friendly songs including a duet with friend and collaborator Radney Foster on, ‘Labor of Love.’

Bullens career stretches back to singing in Elton John’s band. Her two Grammy nominations came early in her recording career including a nod as one of three singers for the soundtrack, ‘Grease.’ Throughout her career Bullens has attracted high caliber partnerships including work with; Bonnie Raitt, Delbert McClinton, John Hiatt, Lucinda Williams and Rodney Crowell. Her songs have been recorded by numerous acts including; The Dixie Chicks, Irma Thomas and Sarah Brown.

Guests on Bullens new album include Al Anderson(NRBQ), Radney Foster and Wendy Waldman. Noted songwriter Bill Lloyd (whose new reunion album with Radney Foster is also excellent) co-wrote the track, ‘In a Perfect World.’

Whereas many albums have a few good songs, Howling Trains unfolds with strong melodies, tactful playing which serves the song and meaningful lyrics. For blues programmers the track, ‘I Didn’t Know,’ with the strong piano playing of Bob Colwell should fit most shows. The ballad, ‘Everywhere and Nowhere’ with its strong Rosanne Cash sound, is heartfelt and makes a nice tonal color break. It is hard to imagine that any listener with, “wide-tastes” would not thoroughly enjoy this release.

Friday, May 20, 2011

album review: Hadden Sayers, 'Hard Dollar'

Artist: Hadden Sayers
Title: Hard Dollar

In the words of uber-rock band manager Derek Sutton (Styx, Robin Trower), “98% of people listen to music with their eyes.” When it comes to music today and slotting a new release, the targeted audience demographic trumps the music in the grooves. So while this album by Hadden Sayers’ may not be strictly “blues,” albeit using blues textures and instrumentation, the album is marketed, in part, to the blues-roots audience and THAT makes it a ‘blues record.’ Now, don’t get me wrong, there are blues tracks including a strong contender for any legitimate ‘blues duet of the year’ list; however, Sayers uses the breadth of styles found in Texas to fully explore his muse. I suppose a proactive music fans knows that there are two kinds of music; good music and bad music. ‘Hard Dollar’ is good music.

It’s a considerable accolade when the daily newspaper of Texas’ live music hub, The Austin Statesman’ refers to Hadden Sayers’ as, “Houston’s best all-round guitarist.” But it wasn’t always that way. After a stretch of good records culminating is the superb, ‘Supersonic ,’ Sayers’ career nose-dived amid a move to Ohio, the death of a family member, record deals gone awry and a dearth in the music industry. However when noted blues artist and fellow Texan Ruthie Foster called looking for a guitarist, it was the spark that Sayers’ career needed. Since that call he has been building momentum.

Sayers’ latest album, ‘Hard Dollar’ opens with a travelogue track ala’ the standard, “Route 66” or the Rolling Stones “Rip This Joint.” While there is more than six months left in the year, Sayers’ duet with Ruthie Foster is a solid contender for any critics “Blues Duet of the Year” lists. This song is brilliant.

This is an album ripe with radio friendly blues tracks including, “Lap of Luxury” which is an excursion into minimalism. “All I Want is You” will ‘sell’ to a more traditional blues listenership. Sayers’ YouTube video of the album’s focus track, “Sweet Texas Girl” can be seen at; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIJNU_-VXmw . (It is so nice to see a video that features real women.) There is also a remake of the track, ‘Flat Black Automobile’ which debuted acoustically on the ‘Supersonic ‘album. “Ain’t Comin’ Round No More” has a Willie Dixon composition feel that will strike a chord between Chicago’s Chess Records and contemporary blues. This is a solid comeback album for one of the genre’s finest songwriters. This record will appeal to roots music fans and broadminded blues fans as well as trad-rock and Texas-Jimmie Vaughan fans.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Album Review: Etta James, 'Essential Modern Recordings'

Artist: Etta James
Title: Essential Modern Records Collection

Few would argue that Etta James is less than one of the most significant singers in the blues idiom. Her litany of hits include some of the blues best melody lines including; ‘At Last,’ ‘A Sunday Kind of Love’ and ‘Fool That I Am.’ Within the classic rock format legendary Beaumont belter Janis Joplin includes James’ hit, ‘Tell Mama’ in her repertoire. Born in 1938 in Los Angles to a 14 year old mother and a mix raced couple, Jamesetta Hawkins would begin her career when ‘race records’ or rhythm & blues was giving way to ‘rock n’ roll.’ In 1954 James, as a member of a female singing trio, would respond to the hit, ‘Work with Me Annie’ by Hank Ballard & the Midnighter’s with the track, and subsequent career launching hit, ‘Roll with Me, Henry’ (which was later re-titled, ‘The Wallflower’ in order to “tone down” an overt sexual connotation that “rock and roll” originally referred to.)

On this package, “The Essential Modern Records Collection” predates James Chess Records blues period. Instead, “Miss Peaches” is heard singing rhythm & blues; indicating a clear road map of a sound that would become rock n’ roll. Her embracement of strong melody lines would follow James throughout her career. In many ways this package is an insight that “today’s blues legends” were perhaps more interest in a viable career than the proliferation of the artform we revere today.

This is a wonderful historical package that may exist outside of the interest of most traditional blues fans; however, musicologists will derive great pleasure by hearing the sound that first brought Etta James to the attention of the music listening audience. The track, ‘Tough Lover’ includes the obligator “woooooo” made famous by then label-mate Richard Penniman a/k/a Little Richard. ‘Good Rockin’ Daddy’ is a classic track based upon a post-War jump-blues derivative sound that fellow L.A. based musicians such as Louis Jordan were recording. ‘The Pick Up’ is a track screaming out to be covered in a modern setting. Long known as an instrument that closely resembles the human voice, James interplays with the saxophone stands out as a short recording trend in the mid-50’s.

Programmers might want to use the song, ‘Market Place’ for airplay. Like Chuck Berry’s ‘Havana Moon, ‘ ‘Market Place’ experiments with a Cuban or Samba beat that evolves into a rock n’ roll song including a blistering guitar solo.

This is a fun, brilliant albeit archival album. It’s full fifteen tracks may not be for all listeners; however, this is a credible artist and offers an opportunity to better understand how some come to the blues. The album breaks-up textures, tempos and melody lines that will add to the depth of a wide-reaching radio program.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Album Review: Joe Pitts, Ten Shades of Blue

Artist: Joe Pitts
Title: Ten Shades of Blue

Like most blues fans today, Joe Pitts crew up on a Classic Rock diet of Eric Clapton, Duane Allman and others. If you can say one thing about John Mayall, Cyril Davis and Alexis Korner, it is that their mission to prolong the blues, and serve it back stateside, was successful. Pitt’s album, ‘Ten Shades of Blue’ is an example of one man’s musical journey that would likely never have launched had England not sheltered the art form in the late 50’s and 60’s.

Neither demonstrative not dismissive, Pitts shows he can growl with the best of contemporary blues artists. As the album title suggests, Pitts covers ten artist that were influential to his musical journey. With an overt background in Classic Rock, there are some songs that play more to a rock audience than a blues audience. Water Trout’s heavy handed, ‘Clouds on the Horizon’ is a prime example of Pitts strapping on the electric guitar mantel. Pitts’ cover of Luther Allison’s, “Pain in the Streets” or Eric Gales’, “Freedom from My Demon’s” are showcases for Pitt to expand on this otherwise laconic styling’s.

Arkansas denizen Joe Pitts has traveled the world playing the blues. It is a journey that most listeners will be able to easily connect with: covers on this album include songs by Peter Green, Elmore James and Muddy Waters. On the tenth track, John Mayall’s, “The World Keeps on Turning” Pitts uses a resonator; adding texture to the album. The album is an above average full band electric sound in performance and arrangement.

Programmers can pick a cover and rest assured that Pitt’s authentic blues delivery will satiate a blues listenership.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Album Review: The Kilborn Alley Blues Band, Better Off

Artist: Kilborn Alley Blues Band
Title: Better Off Now

This is the quintessential contemporary blues band; white, Middle-American and offering a wide spectrum of tastes and talents. The new album by The Kilborn Alley Blues Band, ‘Better Off Now’ effectively uses historical blues textures, sounds, instruments and themes to deliver a modern blues sound that is familiar, fresh and nearly at once, comfortable.

Nurtured in the traditional a ‘50’s blues environment of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois; KABB cherry picks influences from among the genres finest including; Buddy Guy, B. B. King, Denise LaSalle and others. While the references may not be apparent, what is clear is this band understands the difference between playing a twelve bar and playing some blues. They are seeped and authentic.

While the opening track, “Nothin’ Left to Stimulate” will draw nods of approval and a smirk in a country bitten by a downturn in economics and opportunity, programmers will want to wade much deeper into the albums track listing to find gold. The albums title track, “Better Off” has a Stax R n’ B sensibility. Eric Michaels organ playing on the track, “Tonight” harkens to those halcyon days when blues and R n’ B were played side-by-side in jukeboxes and juke joints across the nation. Joe Asselin’s harmonica on “Keep Me Hangin’ ” provides a traditional Chicago blues track to round out an already strong record.

This is an exceptionally tasty album that opens slowly but is worth the wait. Singer Andrew Duncanson uses a straight-forward style with an appropriate hint of rasp that is especially effective in ballads and extended notes. KABB has been frequently nominated for awards and national recognition; with albums like, ‘Better Off’ it is apparent why critics, radio hosts and venue are paying close attention.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Album Review: Carolina Chocolate Drops, 'Genuine Negro Jig'

Artist: Carolina Chocolate Drops
Title: Genuine Negro Jig

I must’a been living under a rock… In January of this year the Carolina Chocolate Drops (CCD) earned a Grammy Award for their album, ‘Genuine Negro Jig.’ Shortly after winning their Grammy founding member Justin Robinson was replaced by Adam Matta and Hubby Jenkins. The remaining founding members are; Rhiannon Giddens (vocals, banjo, violin) and Dom Flemons (guitar, banjo, vocals). This Durham, North Caroline black string band met through an online community, ‘Black Banjo: Then and Now.’ As a three piece they committed to learning at the knee of 80-something Joe Thompson and his ‘short bow style.’

While an aspect of the blues community is the demand by some to honor the traditional artform, CCD platforms their sound in a pre-electric Piedmont style but updated to a contemporary setting. The result if a wonderful, credible mix of old and new; engaging the listeners of traditional styles yet opening the door to younger, contemporary music fans too. It is simply, brilliant.

Of the albums twelve tracks, half are traditional songs. The band covers Tom Waits, “Trampled Rose.” Singer Rhiannon Giddens echo of Scottish singer Annie Briggs A-Capella version of the British folk

standard ‘Reynadine” is captivating in its depth and simultaneous simplicity. To quote a You-Tube comment, “This is real soul music.” While the album lacks an overt blues track the band relies on Etta Baker, Papa Charlie Jackson, Blu Cantrell, and Ike & Tina Turner for sources. The use of ‘Who Don’t You Do Right’ is credited to ‘Weed Smokers Dream’ by Harlem Hamfats; which many programmers may have recently received on the ‘Rhythm & Blues’ label’s four CD compilation entitled, ‘Rhythm & Blues, 1925 – 1942.

For programmers this album provides a tasty textural break for listeners yet clings to an authentic root in a fashion similar to the explorations of Chris Thomas King, Taj Mahal or Eric Bibb. This album also makes a good transition between an archival acoustic track (Yazoo, Smithsonian, Lomax) and the renderings of a contemporary artist such as Rory Block.