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/

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Putumayo's tasty Christmas albums

Title: A Jazz & Blues Christmas
Title: New Orleans Christmas

Label: Putumayo
Writer: Rick Galusha

Long know for their colorful covers and faux-ethnic artwork covers, the Putumayo Recording label is a leading record label for compiling world music artists together onto an album that is both interesting and often entertaining. In 2006 they Putumayo released an album of Christmas songs fashioned out of the New Orleans genre. This year (2008) they are back with an equally interesting foray entitled, “A Jazz & Blues Christmas.” As a pairing these are the only Christmas albums to get repeated listening on my turntable this time of year.

Often Christmas and Holiday albums are rehashed efforts to modify traditional carols which, for me, are limited and lack freshness. How many versions of “Jingle Bells” can the average human withstand? Now I get to eat my own words as Ray Charles version of ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ is a marvelous interpretation from Florida’s street savvy master of soul – it is at once languid, bluesy, horn driven and captivating. Also featured are mainstay artists such as B. B. King, Charlie Brown, Ellis Marsalis and the New Birth Brass Band.

Thankfully Putumayo uses it strength in the market to introduce new artists with interesting additions the roots Christmas category. As a fan of roots music in nearly all of its genres there is a sassy quid pro quo when the performing act, Randy Greer and Ignasi Terraza Trio, perform, ‘Wrap Yourself in a Christmas Package.’ To find a Christmas album that is entertaining and seasonal is a rare gem.

These are two diamonds to consider for your December festival making.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Rick Fowler Back on My Good Foot album

Artist: Rick Fowler
Title: Back on My Good Foot
Writer: Rick Galusha

Rick Fowler’s latest album, ‘Back on My Good Foot’ is a well performed album. Fowler’s voice compliments the style and his high energy playing is tasteful and not over-bearing. He can play: he can sing… but like so many twang-bar kings, Fowler’s apparent weakness is his songwriting. From the opening bass lines of, ‘Infected with the Blues’ Fowler delves into blues clichés including; preachers, crossroads, devils and demons. It shows that being a very good guitar playing does not make you a songwriter.

On, ‘Running from the Truth’ Fowler tries his hand at political commentary, taking a cynical stance towards our two party-system while offering no solutions; simply bitching. I can’t cite the source but, “Democracy is an absolutely terrible government – but it the best form of government on the planet.” In many ways cynicism is a cop out and makes for bad lyrical filler.

This is a fan’s album. It is very well played and arranged. The best track on the record is a cover of the Savoy Brown tune, ‘Hellbound Train’ where Fowler stretches out and showcases his chops. As a sideman Fowler has an impressive list of friends and employers. Occasionally a vanity project is a diamond in the rough but, ‘Back on My Good Foot’ is not cutting any new ground here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gary Moore - Bad for You Baby

Artist: Gary Moore
Title: Bad for You Baby
Writer: Rick Galusha

Irish Bluesrocker Gary Moore is no newcomer to the idiom. Before there was a Sebastian Bach, Moore and Phil Lynott formed ‘Skid Row’ in the early 70’s. Shortly after that Lynott would leave to form Thin Lizzy and Moore would maintain a dalliance with Lynott until Phil‘s death in 1986. As a young man Moore took guitar lessons from Peter Green – founder of the Fleetwood Mac Blues Band. When Green opted out of the music industry he bequeathed his famed Les Paul to the young Belfast player. In 1995 Moore would pay homage to Green with the critically acclaimed album, ‘Blues for Greeny’ where Moore covered Green’s music; using the slow blues technique of Green to launch an album of rapid fire solos and meandering wondrous fret work.

While Green’s influence on Moore is apparent, equally obvious is Moore’s fascination with B. B. King and his perchance of holding a single note for numerous measures and making the tones and shadings fill the recording. Over the stretch of his four decades of recording, Moore has sharpened his tasty albeit up-tempo ax slinging that is sure to attract fans of Joe Bonamassa, Mato Nanji or Jeff Beck. And while song writing is historically a short coming for wunder-players, Moore’s vocals compliment his style and his albums historically have included a mix of covers and self-penned tunes with strong melody lines. Moore relies on blues textures and structure as he creates a sound that is easy to embrace and yet full of depth.

Moore’s latest album, Bad for you Baby, is a plain good record. Admittedly, his version of the blues, while widely embraced, is not aligned with most critics and other assorted purists. However, for the Everyman in each of us – this is an album with depth and variance that includes languid ballads like, ‘Trouble Ain’t Far Behind’ and the screaming guitars of ‘Umbrella Man.’ Moore’s covers two Muddy Waters songs, ‘Walkin’ Through the Park’ and ‘Someday Baby.’ He also follows Johnny Winter lead by covering J.B. Lenoir’s, ‘Mojo Boogie’ as well as Al Kooper’s Blood, Sweat & Tears era, ‘I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know.’ Denver’s Otis Taylor pays back the favour by appearing on Moore’s album by playing his African banjo on the track, ‘Preacher Man Blues.’

Fans of the afore mentioned Joe Bonamassa, Jeff Beck and Mato Nanji(Indigenous) will enjoy Moore’s romp through the blues genre; his tender emoting notes and fiery finger fretted runs. Radio hosts might look at the smokin’ ‘Umbrella Man’ or the slow and emotive, ‘Did You Ever Feel Lonely?’

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Joe Bonamassa - Live from Nowhere

Artist: Joe Bonamassa
Title: Live from Nowhere

Within today’s contemporary blues scene there is an audience that loves a hot guitar player. Some bemoan the act; some adore it. The latest two disc album by Joe Bonamassa is a showcase for the New Yorker axman. There are few players today with the depth in their trick bag that Bonamassa brings to the table. And while simply rolling out impressive lick after lick can make for a tedious listening experience, Bonamassa balances the fine line between serving the song and musical masturbation. Today, it seems the guitar gods of our youth are now either dead or over 60 and matted with gray hair. Clearly Bonamassa has the chops to vie for similar recognition and the poo-poo’s certain to follow such a suggestion are based upon little more than jealousy and a lack of scope.

In addition to being able to write a good song, or at least co-write one, Bonamassa has a well developed history of rock’s finest players and tributes them throughout this latest effort. In the melody ‘Django/Just Got Paid’ Joe throws in licks from a myriad of artists including Peter Frampton and Jimmy Page. On the same disc the live version of his track, ‘Asking Around for You,’ a contemporary blues-rock classic, is instantly recognizable for its ethos of B. B. King; who took the teenage Joe under his wing. So one has to ask, why this rock player is considered by many to be a “blues artist?” For no other reason than that is where his audience can be found and if fans vote with their dollars – Bonamassa is an unheralded upstart that is earning his respect one venue and one fan at a time.

Throughout this live album Bonamassa swings between serving the song and taking off on fret board adventures that may not appeal to all blues fans. Included are some earlier classics including, ‘Woke Up Dreaming’ and a too short version of, ‘If Heartaches were Nickels.” Also included is his now trademark show stopper, “A New Day Yesterday/ Starship Trooper/Wurm’ (covers of songs by Jethro Tull and Yes).

In all this is a radio ready album for shows and fans that derive from a classic rock background and dabble in the blues for sonic familiarity and access to the new artists that, for whatever reason, today’s radio ignores. The track, ‘India/ Mountain Time’ is as strong a blues-rock ballad as rock radio could possibly hope to discover- but in order to discover music one needs to be a leader (and a listener) rather than a pollster and, well, perhaps the absence of Bonamassa of the radio today is a reflection of why pertinent rock radio died in a Wisconsin helicopter crash nearly two decades ago.

So why isn’t this album given a higher rating than eight? ‘Live from Nowhere’ is an album seeped in the blues ala Humble Pie, Led Zeppelin and Rory Gallagher; however, to the “Blues” establishment this is not a “Blues” record…none-the-less it is an easy fit to most ears with soaring solos, tasty keyboard interplay and blistering rushes of bravado. What only time will tell is if this album will cross over into, ‘a dear friend’ that is played for its warmth as much as its songs and solos. “Feel the wind blow, feel the time flow, and I’ll be there when the morning comes.’

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Indigenous revive career with 'Broken Lands'


While rock music is awash with bands comprised of siblings the South Dakota band Indigenous cut a swath in the bluesrock genre for ethnic bands like Los Lonely Boys and the Homemade Jamz Blues Band. During the past decade Indigenous has struggled to live up to its initial promise; struggling to find a voice since the ’98 release of, ‘Things We Do.’ In the succeeding ten years, through three subsequent albums and two CD-EPs, Mato Nanji, the sole remaining founding member, has parted company with his siblings, changed management and allowed his promising career to nearly fall apart. The fans disappointment has been palatable. With the August release of ‘Broken Lands’ the promise sensed on their 1995 release, ‘Awake’ has been fulfilled.

As the son of noted Indian Rights pioneer Greg Zephier, Mato Nanji has been silent on this legacy…until now. When Zephier died of natural causes in 1999 Jackson Browne played at the memorial Indigenous Jam concert. Zephier honored his son by giving him the native name of America’s first Civic Rights leader Standing Bear. Greg raised his son to be sober, principled and to admire the music of Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Albert King and eventually Stevie Ray Vaughan. All are lessons Nanji took to heart.

The band’s previous album, ‘Chasing the Sun’ dealt with the trauma of breaking up a band comprised of family members. The release of his latest effort, Broken Lands, shows Nanji using the Draconian nightmare of growing up on an impoverished reservation, being invisible to most Americans, to sing the blues…the real blues. On the song, ‘Place I Know’ Mato remembers a community raped by alcoholism and drug abuse when he sings, “I hear a baby crying in the night, with no mother in sight. Walking down the street with no shoes on their feet…You take all you can, in this place I know.” For this writer, contemporary blues have never been more real; more apparent or more genuine. The subsequent instrumental break shows the “ancient art” of guitar weaving between Nanji and the band’s other guitarist Kris Lager that is captivating and panoramic..

On ‘All I Want to See” the band brings back the textures of a prominent acoustic guitar so righteously used on the title track of their ’98 radio embraced album, ‘Things We Do.’ By the seventh track of ‘Broken Lands’ the band has downshifted into the albums most radio friendly track, ‘Just Can’t Hide’ where the band uses crisp melody lines against (more!) cowbell to accelerate the album’s energy a notch above the normative. Gone are the atonal groove tracks of previous records and back are melody lines intertwined with blues textures and subtle but biting lyric lines.

Guitar hackers will relish at the interplay between Nanji and Lager but it is organist Jeremiah Weir’s background playing that seems to push and prod the album with gentle textures and polite nods ala’ the Allman Brothers or The Derek Trucks Band. John Fairchild on drums and A.C. Wright on bass round-out Nanji’s touring band that is road tight and solid on a foundation that was born on the windswept high plains of Nebraska. There are six radio friendly tracks on this album including the jumping, ‘Make a Change,’ a Black Crowes style, “It’s Alright With Me” and the Hendrix textured, ‘Should I Stay.” Not to be confused with an Eric Clapton track of the same name, ‘Let It Rain’ simmers into a full blown rock tune that is comfortable – drawing the listener into the album. Nanji repeatedly leans into the wind with guitar solos that build the song and ends soon enough.

On ‘Eyes of a Child’ Nanji contrasts his childhood to those of his own children when he sings of his home life with wife, co-writer and vocalist Leah Nanji when he says,“You taught me what I need to know. Living with no envy and loving all around, Finding your voice with each little sound. Gaining strength from the arms that embrace you; Never worry about the troubles that may face you. Teaching others life is a gift. With every smile you will get your wish.”

Fans have waiting a long time to hear this album. As with any band there have been disappointments. To those of us that have trudged out to see the band over the past ten difficult years – ‘Broken Lands’ is a masterpiece. Nanji has stepped up with an album of songs that will bind fans back to a band that has finally found its voice…a voice with a message that matters.

Perhaps Nanji is speaking to listeners when he sings, “Still remember all the things we had together…Can you hear me calling you. Can you feel me missing you? I know I was lost before…now you’re all I’m looking for” from the album’s track, ‘Still Remember.’ Broken Lands comes out August 19th on Vanguard Records.

Monday, June 30, 2008

album review: Kelly Hunt Mercy

Artist: Kelly Hunt
Title: Mercy
Writer: Rick Galusha
Rating: 7

If the South has Marcia Ball – then the Midwest has Kelly Hunt. Originating in Kansas City, Hunt has a storied career built by hard work and seemingly endless touring. While recognized by many, Hunt’s career seems to just shy of the level playing field that many national label artists muster. None-the-less this piano player continues to deliver solid albums.

Kelly Hunt’s piano focused sound blends a rough edged tavern blues with a contemporary melded blues that can initially be indistinct. The sounds and the textures are immediately recognizable, and there are plenty of “blue notes,” brought together with a less evident melody line but a strong groove. Most of the modern blues community will immediately be at ease with Hunt’s sound.

“They told her two girls could not make a life. This is wrong. Get up, find you a man and be a wife. Oh but when their eyes met they knew it was right. They had no choice but to follow this life. And their love was so big, all heaven broke loose. Their love was so big it made it stone truth.” And thus begins the third track, “Love” on Hunt’s album, ‘Mercy.’ While musicians have historically held a liberal bias, one wonders in the day of 24 hour news if music will continue to be a source for intellectual discourse or merely become a clanging gong of politically correct mind numbing. Clearly there are those who advocate the “shut up and sing” mentality while the oft kicked Constitution guarantees the singer a voice in the public square. When an artist chooses to employ a topical political issue in their art, and step into that public discourse, they open themselves up to criticism that can go beyond their art and focus’ on their content.

Personally I am less drawn to random topical issues being thrown amid recordings. Yes, I recognize an artist’s right to compose and preach but I also recognize my lack of appreciation of society’s seemingly endless polar tugs. I also have a personal desire to seek “just” entertainment for my money and my time. There are artists you come to expect political messages from such as Billy Bragg, Steve Earle, Neil Young, Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen but at what point can you draw the line? I suppose at the ‘on/off’ button for you CD player. I skipped the last Springsteen tour; not because I necessarily disagreed with his bantering messages but because I didn’t want to have to pay to hear them. Call me a curmudgeon.

On the title track Hunt and band perform a haunting and beautiful ballad focused on a soft piano line emphasized by Hunt’s vocal lines. The singer advocates for personal mercy for herself and others. It is a wonderful and moving piece that should appeal to radio. In all this is a good, not great, album of songs by a hard working Midwestern barroom talent with aspirations to become a national artist. Hunt’s voice varies between Aretha Franklin in her prime and a modern Etta James’. The songs are above average but failed to fully capture this listener’s ear…although most listeners would find varying levels of enjoyment in this collection of songs.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Album Review, Blues Divine, That's What It Takes

Artist: Blues Divine
Title: That’s What It Takes
Writer: Rick Galusha

Kentucky born guitarist Phillip Franchini debuts his blues chops on the 2006 recording, ‘Blues Divine’ (available on CDBaby.com) Now residing in Southern California, according to the net, Franchini has also released the Flamenco/ Classical album, ‘Paleo’ under the moniker Phillipo Franchini after spending numerous years overseas. Regardless of his musical meanderings Franchini is a competent player with a polished pallet for arrangements and smooth vocal lines. His distinctive voice is warm and, wonder of wonders, he can carry a tune.

Throughout the Blues Divine album Franchini displays a wide range of musical styles while maintaining a comfortable sound that most blues fans will immediately warm to. From the up-tempo and radio friendly horn driven Little Milton style, ‘Other Men’s Crimes’ to a more traditional ‘Delta One’ Franchini seems comfortable moving about the blues spectrum with ease. Joined by Albert Lee and David Grishom, Franchini’s band includes a horn section that repeatedly graces with album with strong lines and good arrangements. Back-up vocalists C.C. White and Raquel Allegra add great depth and texture to Franchini’s able vocals.

This is a very smooth and readily digestible album of contemporary blues with strong melody lines and slick arrangements. I have to imagine that Franchini’s blues are right up the alley and in the pocket for non-Purists blues music fans that want to widen their scope to include new and skilled artists. I would speculate Blues Divine is to modern blues what the Doobie Brothers were to rock n’ roll; competent, perhaps too slick for critics but very popular, very skilled song writers that moved easily within the more commercial arenas with his easy to grasp arrangements and emoted lyrics. I would readily recommend this album to those blues fans looking for a bit more melody and a lot less twang-bar driven jamming.

Album Review: Ricky Gene Hall and the Goods

Artist: Ricky Gene Hall and The Goods
Title: (self titled)
Writer: Rick Galusha

I love a wailin’ guitar. Sure, there are times with the atonal sledgehammer droning of some players gets beyond the annoying nuisance stage; however, Ricky Gene Hall’s self titled third album is a solid guitar-driven rock blues record. Born in Kentucky Hall’s family drove the “Hillbilly Highway” to Ohio where Hall resides and tours today. A regional artist Hall’s underplayed guitar licks fully support his strong vocals and the power trio backing from bassist Tom Martin and drummer Rocky Evans. This is a strong outing that most contemporary blues fans are going to eat up. The band is adept and plays the song rather than throwing scales and solos at the listener without chance for respite.

While Hall’s chops are perfunctory and his songwriting is more melodic that most of his contemporaries, his playing is perhaps a bit too safe and lacks the gritty flare that often distinguishes art from commerce. A majority of listeners could care less about critical appeasement and this is a very strong record for them- instantly recognizable and easily digested. Hall’s ultra-smooth vocals and the band’s tasty playing is nothing less than wonderful. Hall’s guitar tone is rich and full. Ricky Gene Hall’s album includes appropriate covers such as Little Milton’s, ‘That’s What Love Will Make You Do,’ Taj Mahal’s ‘Blues Ain’t Nothin’ and the old standard, ‘It Hurts Me Too.’ The band writes five of the albums thirteen tracks with the arching ballad, ‘Rather Hear a Lie’ being the record’s radio friendly track. Other songwriters include; Isaac Hayes & David Porter (Stax), Percy Mayfield, and Louis Jordan.

Album Review: Mississippi Mudsharks, Train Rolls On

Artist: Mississippi Mudsharks
Title: Train Rolls On
Writer: Rick Galusha

This is a band that cuts from the cloth of Walter Trout and Molly Hatchet. With gruff vocals that nary’ between a bark and a growl ala’ Jim Dandy Mangrum (Black Oak Arkansas) the band crusades through an albums worth of tracks. Guitarist Scotty ‘Mad Dog’ Blinn plays licks reminiscent of Kiss’ Ace Frehley while bass player “Big” Mike Lars hammers away with flair.

With all the gusto of Motorhead behind them the Mississippi Mudsharks wail, twist and turn as the album hits high speed tempos. These guys are the absolute dumpster divers of West Coast blues kitsch…in other words they may not be a band for most listeners. However ‘The Mudsharks’ have repeatedly won the San Diego markets award for Best Blues Album of the Year including three times in the 90’s and again in 2006. With their heavy handed blues that leans towards ZZ Top on Meth ala’ Nashville Pussy, the blues is a genre that seems to welcome all comers, and this is a band that will push even the most lenient of envelopes. So to lift a line from Rod Stewart off the latest Faces boxset album, “God bless [their] socks!”

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Delta Highway, The Devil Had a Woman

Artist: Delta Highway
Title: The Devil Had a Woman
Writer: Rick Galusha

Musical genres are little more than marketing tools to help people piece together what a band or compact disc is probably going to sound like. An indicator if you like. As the Major Label systems continues to shrink more and more artists are looking for a musical home. Subsequently more and more acts are falling into the blues category, not because they are playing anything close to the call-call-response of a 12 bar rotation but because the blues audience is big, has money and is generally less and less discerning. I think its great because the tie that binds is blues but the definition is getting wider and wider. Unlike the rock genre, which has fractured into tens of thousands of micro-niches, the blues continues to be an embracing genre that clings to the forefathers but essentially accepts nearly anything that chooses to call itself blues. As a cocksure John Travolta said in the film ‘Broken Arrow,’ “Ain’t it cool!”

With the release of their new album, ‘The Devil Had a Woman,’ the Memphis based band, Delta Highway sets aside any debate on what genre they belong to. This is pure contemporary blues firmly rooted in the traditional American artform. Unlike many roots blues bands however Delta Highway reaches out to the modern listener with fragrant hints of stronger melody lines and more apparent tunesmithing. The band is founded on the relationship of twenty-nine year old vocalist and harmonica player Brandon Santini and thirty-one year old guitarist Justin Sulek. Santini and Sulek are backed by industry stalwarts Tom Louis on bass and Keven Eddy on drums. Together the band has the sounds and textures of the Blues-Greats but utilize modern aspects including the modified vocal line, “The Devil had a woman looked a lot like you” in the title track. In addition, this band “pockets-in-the-groove” better than less experienced bands seem to capture on their albums.

Santini’s vocals are richer than most and are draped with careful harmonica backing lines for added depth and texture. This band underplays appropriately allowing Santini’s harp line, such as on the opening of ‘Feelin’ Bad’ to fully introduce the song without being pushed or overshadowed by pesky guitars or over-used drums. They embrace the song and use their skills to keep the listener focused as the song’s energy builds to a simmering height. There’s no hurry and there’s no rush. Tasty.

The fourth track on the album, “We Got a Thang Goin’ On” starts off with a heavy tilt towards the Rolling Stone’s 1978’s track, ‘Miss You’ including a possibly unintended refrain from Sugar Blue’s harmonica lick that the Stone’s used so effectively in their foray into disco…but make no mistake, Delta Highway’s take is seeped and dirty and won’t be mistaken for disco in your lifetime. The use of an organ in the song only adds to the energy which Santini’s harp solo sets against.

This is a very strong album from a band that has established itself in the blues friendly Mecca market of Memphis. Guitarist Sulek can rip’em off and lay’em down with tasty aplomb but without becoming the dominate force in the song; quickly moving back into the background. This is a band that prides itself on delivering “pure blues.” Clearly the band knows their history and their newest album, ‘The Devil Had a Woman” is an excellent vehicle for blues purists as well as more open minded blues listeners. More traditional radio programmers might spin the fifth track, ‘Got to Be On My Way’ while more free-form jocks find that, ‘We Got a Thang Goin’ On,’ with its Classic Rock reflection, something their listeners will enjoy.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Frank Carillo and the Bandoleros 'Someday'

Artist: Frank Carillo and the Bandoleros
Album: Someday

Writer: Rick Galusha

There was a time when rock records were marketed as rock records. Due to demographic shift and the dearth of choice on commercial radio, rock records by artists over the age of 40 are now marketed to a blues audience. The latest album by Frank Carillo and the Bandoleros is titled, ‘Someday.’ Much like The Michael Stanley Band, Joe Grushecky’s Iron City Rockers or perhaps Nils Lofgren, Carillo is a niche artist within the rock genre that, if you happen to “get it,” you love their music. If you “miss the train” however you are probably oblivious to their work.

Frank Caillo has that ageless summer voice that calls you back to a hot summer nights and a dashboard radios. Carillo’s previous album, “Bad Out There’ was a solid outing that included a tribute track to the late James ‘Jimmy’ Dewar who sang with the Robin Trower Band. For more than three decades Carillo has been the bridesmaid – always on the cusp of a larger audience. After departing Humble Pie, Peter Frampton invited Carillo to play on his next two solo efforts including; Frampton’s ‘Camel’ and ‘Winds of Change.’ Shortly after that, while using the Rolling Stones equipment, Carillo’s band hung-out with Led Zeppelin who were recording, ‘Houses of the Holy’ across the hall. In 1978 Carillo has his first major label deal which included Yvonne Elliman who was enjoying success in Eric Clapton’s band and her lead role in the smash hit, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar.’ And so it goes, ever so close.

Once again, Carillo has released a very strong record that most pre-Nirvana rock and many roots fans will appreciate. On his website, http://www.frankcarillo.com listeners can preview the current and previous solo effort in their entirety; I suggest trying the third track, ‘Lucky (If you can breath). The songs are strong but lack the charisma associated with a statured artist. The arrangements and recordings are pristine and carefully considered. So what’s the deal? The Bandoleros can play and Carillo has an exceptional rock n’ roll voice (ala’ Paul Rogers or Sammy Hagar minus the usual howls and braggadocio). In today’s music environment “good” is no longer good enough – weak skilled record label wonks and radio industry wannabes want easy marketing, model like looks and sexually charged misfits that can be easily manipulated. Well none of those things exist on this album. If ever there was a record where the music did the talking Frank Carillo and The Bandoleros, ‘Someday’ is that record. No – on first listen you’re not going to “get it.” Perhaps by the fourth time through the absolute pure enjoyment of this record, of Carillo’s voice will settle in and then, like me, you’ll become entrapped by an album and an artist that “has it” even if today’s fractured industry fails to fully grasp something is beyond the low laying fruit of mass commercialism. This is a diamond in the rough and don’t ever expect The Bandoleros to become a significant draw – they are a niche of exquisite flavor. Get it – it’s good!

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Informants - Stiletto Angel 'horn driven blues'

Artist: The Informants
Title: Stiletto Angel
Writer: Rick Galusha

Denver based band, ‘The Informants’ are a sonically full-range band that puts the piano and horns right up front with vocalist Kerry Pastine for a rich mix of Louis Jordan meets Roomful of Blues fun-time blues that are irresistible, at times sexy and exceptionally well arranged. This is a recording of a band that took time to conceive an album as opposed to the regular collection of songs thrown together. When it comes to the history of recorded music these guys ‘get it’ and understand how to take a bit from the past, add a bit from the present and come up with something familiar yet fresh.

No doubt about it, this album wraps around the “sultry” and able vocals of Kerry Pastine.

On the title track singer Pastine uses full-throated approach that swings with a Chuck Berry sass against a pulsating band in high gear. Strategically placed pauses with a taste of Angelia Strehli vocal lines leads the band through a high gear tune of a woman clearly in control of the next sexual conquest who, “just hasn’t gone wrong” yet.

‘Tears of a Heartache’ is a slow burning track that sounds like something Otis Redding would have sung. Rather than punching through the next break the bands, stops, holds and waits for the next chorus to present itself in with a simmering broken hearted line.

The Informants have a rich mix of soulful guitar, lulling horns and a fine, fine vocalist. This is not a record that slips easily into a genre other than to say that roots music fans will readily embrace this album and those that got into the ‘jump blues’ craze of the late 90’s will readily appreciate this well made record.

‘Let’s Roll’ is your thumping blues ala’ Exene meets John Doe (‘X’) in a rich duet that is crafted to add something special to the genre. It is easy to see The Informants performing this track at next year’s ‘Keeping the Blues Alive’ presentation. A terrific album that stands up repeated listening in the car or on the home stereo.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sweden's Slidin' Slim and "One Man Riot"

Artist: Slidin’ Slim
Title: One Man Riot

Writer: Rick Galusha

In vein that crosses the music and playing of Watermelon Slim with the marketing chutzpah of The Black Keys, the latest release by Swedish born and bred, ‘Slidin’ Slim,’ entitled, “One Man Riot” is a respectable release from an artist who is most incongruous to the sound. You see, while the sound is well replicated of a steel body Blues slide guitar, “Slim” is young, white and Swedish. But his album is neither cliché ridden nor trite. It takes some listens but its fun and much like the highly regarded releases by that Oklahoma trash hauler Watermelon Slim – it does preserve a sound that is the antithesis of commercial and does so in a way that is, well, fun.

On the second track, ‘Devil in Disguise” Slim creates a sonic curtain to sing against using a unique picking to create an impression of mystery and danger. Quite literally this could be a Watermelon Slim album…except that it isn’t. Even the vocal accents are similar.

This isn’t an album that most people are going to run out and pick up. It too similar to Watermelon Slim; however, if given exposure it’s a good solid effort that fills a highly niched genre. Like most “white” players this record is easy to listen to and has a lyrical sort of pop sensibility to it: rather than the harsh cutting ‘delta sound’ of early recordings.

For sometime Sweden has been putting together nice blues based albums including serving as a recording base for Eric Bibb and others. If you’re interested in getting a feel for the blues outside of these United States this may well be an excellent example. Other than sales off the stage or due to some expatriate interest, I can’t see this album seeing much domestic success albeit a very solid record by a talented up n’ comer.

Miscellenous Thoughts about technology and websites

Tech Column 2

While it’s self evident, it hadn’t dawned on me until recently that consumers of digital information are highly niched and want to be able to buffer, or hold, information until they are ready to process it. Traditional mass media vehicles such as newspapers, television and radio are learning how to set aside their content for later consumption. Buffering is an aspect of convenience that consumers have come to expect. For nearly twenty years I have hosted a three hour blues/ Americana radio program. By ‘podcasting’ Pacific Street Blues at www.podomatic.com listeners can tune in whenever they want as well as download the podcast for increased portability. No longer are consumers necessarily tied to the radio for a specific program at a specific time. It’s the same with newspapers. While the Omaha World Herald requires you to register in order to get full access to their content, The Wall Street Journal, for example, require readers to pay a fee for full access to their content. I recently signed up for access to ‘The Newcastle Evening Chronicle” on-line newspaper to read about events and stories in faraway Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. That they are able to get nearly $15 a month is incredible. So I get what I want, when I want it – interesting.

Another example of fantastic technology is a website, ‘www.tuned.mobi.com.’ Interestingly I haven’t been able to get the site to come up on anything other than a cellular telephone. The PC version is http://www.radiofeeds.co.uk/pda/ . This site allows listeners to tune into radio stations throughout the English speaking world including; Ireland, The United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. Admittedly there’s no longer any special with listening to radio throughout the world on the internet. Between ‘towered’ radio and internet only radio there are literally tens of thousands of choices. BUT, driving to work this morning I listened to Shannonside Northern Radio from Roscommon, Ireland (about midway between Dublin and Galway). The good news is that commercial Irish radio is as mundane as commercial American radio although news briefs on the lottery, a lorry wreck and Mrs. Fitzgerald’s broken fence was interesting. More so than music programming, I find call-in or talk radio the most interesting.

While not for everyone, another awesome music site for fan’s of rock music golden period is www.WolfgangsVault.com. The site is home to legendary rock promoter’s Bill Graham’s legacy and host live tapes from concerts he promoted as well as many of the now nearly mythical ‘King Biscuit Flower Hour’ series and a country music series called, ‘Silver Eagle.’ This is truly an amazing site which includes ‘Bitches Brew’ era recordings from Mile Davis, Led Zeppelin shows from 1969, Lou Reed concerts from ’73 to ’86, Vintage era Pink Floyd and more. There are interviews as well as original articles from ‘Cream Magazine’ as well as contemporary articles on today’s music. Listener’s are required to register and downloads of select concerts are also available. From obscure Yardbirds recordings to the band Kansas live at Omaha’s Civic Auditorium (July 21, 1982) – this site is a gold mine for musical exploration. There are rare and authorized merchandise, links to EBay auctions and an adjunct to look-up pending concert dates. This site has limited ability to broadcast on cellphones.

Wolfgang’s Vault now includes a vanguard music site called, ‘Daytrotter.’ In addition to editorial content regarding modern bands the site includes more than 800 songs that can be streamed or downloaded for use on your PC or portable listening device. The music you want, when you want it and at a price that’s hard to argue with (free).

What’s clear in all this is that using ‘free’ music as bait to build on-line traffic is not going to wane anytime in the near future. Much like the demise of CDs, one wonders if giving away music is wise. As CD stores have learned, if the perceived value of solid goods is eroded, if music becomes a commodity, then the value of “music” plummets. The increased niche listening habits coupled with the lowered perceived value seems to be spurring local music hubs.

Listen to the Pacific Street Blues podcast

Since 1989, twenty years ago, Pacific Street Blues has been broadcasting in the Omaha, Nebraska market.

Yeah, its a blues based radio program but we play Americana and other respectable forms of roots music as well as the sporadic archival Classic Rock track.

PS Blues is not for "purists" per se' but I reckon most folks over the age of 30 will enjoy it.
Your thoughts and input are appreciated at KIWRBlues@gmail.com.

Here's the link....

Thanks for listening...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Album Review Blue House's Shake Your Butt

Blue House & Sgt PepperThursday, November 10, 2005

Artist: Blue House
Title: Shake Your Butt

Over the past decade Blue House has become one of the area’s most popular live music acts. From my perspective much of this is due to the incessant marketing efforts of band leader, drummer, and vocalist Joe Putjender. However, it would remiss to discount the musicians in the band as being anything other than quite, quite good. Blue House is a polished horn-driven, pop-music, R n’ B six piece band that, on their latest album Shake Your Butt, appear to be exploring musical textures beyond the confines that generally restricts bands with less talented members. This is their fourth album and while the very nature of their genre prevents them from becoming a national touring act they are, nonetheless, exciting, tasty soloists, and dadgumit just plain fun!

On the track, “Sweet Jelly” or on, “du schoene tanzer” (beautiful dancer) the band spreads it wings and ventures into beautiful sound-scapes. Not to forgo, “who brought’em to the dance” they contrast these new sonic efforts with their traditional styles; boppin’ dance tunes and the now obligatory cheesy-schtick. Especially corny are the songs, suspiciously inspired by the band’s close relationship with KEZO FM powerhouse morning team Todd & Tyler, “Jenna’s Got a Harley” and “Shake Your Butt.” (*)

Blue House pays a proper homage to the late great John Lee Hooker, who made a career out of ripping off his own musical catalogue, with the not even vaguely disguised rip off Hooker’s “Boom Boom” on the song, “dog pound”... which includes a tasty interplay between saxophone players Stan Harper, Scott Vicroy, Joel Edwards and guitarist Wink. Not surprisingly the drums are up front and snappy as vocalist Putjender growls out his best Howlin’ Wolf imitation though much of the recording. And much like the Rollin’ Stones it often appears that the guitar reinforces the drive of Putjender’s drum with sharp chords and sassy solos.

Overall, this is a very strong album that stands up to repeated listening and worth your precious ear time.

In a recent conversation with Putjender we discussed using this talented vehicle to push the limits of local recordings by exploring well outside of the established ‘Blue House’ sound. Personally I hope they choose to take a musical left curve. On, ‘Shake Your Butt’ the band shows all the indications of having the ability to explore: this band has the ability to create a musical piece of art that few, if any, other local bands could produce. While I don’t intend to denigrate the band by making an overtly ridiculous comparison, I suggest that this band should consider making the equivalent of THEIR Sgt. Pepper’s album next.


(*) Speaking of Todd & Tyler, while their Pro-gambling, anti-Republican, anti-Nebraska football, redneck-philosophizing antagonistic routine can predicitably drone on, (love'ya guys!) our community owes a great deal to these two yobs. Instead of sitting comfortably in the catbird seat as the area’s top rated radio program, and complacency is the soup d’jour for commercial radio, Todd n' Tyler offer the power of their bully pulpit to promote local & traveling musicians to reach a massive audience that is otherwise out of reach and out of budget. These guys are 100% Pro-Omaha and they deserve our respect and gratitude for choosing to ‘put up’ and not ‘shut up.’ Specifically, Journal Broadcasting in general is leading the charge to tie back to local musical talent and, from these 'Tired Eyes' their efforts have not gone unnoticed nor unappreciated.

Album Review Susan Tedeschi's Hope & Desire

Blues Album of 2005Thursday, October 27, 2005

Artist: Susan Tedeschi
Album: Hope & Desire
Rating: Exceptional

It's not like me to gush over a new album; however, the latest effort by Bostonian Susan Tedeschi deserves that rare praise. Her latest album, Hope & Desire, is "all that and more." According to her official website, "Hope and Desire, Tedeschi's fourth album (actually it's her fifth) and her first for Verve Forecast...She puts a soulful, unmistakably personal spin on a heartfelt set of songs drawn from such diverse sources as Ray Charles ("Tired of My Tears"), the Rolling Stones ("You Got the Silver"), Bob Dylan ("Lord Protect My Child"), Aretha Franklin ("Share Your Love with Me"), Donny Hathaway ("Magnificent Sanctuary Band") and Fontella Bass ("Soul of A Man")" as well as "Security" by Otis Redding.

After her initial release on the Oarfin label, the self distribute, Better Days, Tedeschi was featured on the cover of Blues Revue magazine as an unsigned artist. A bold move for an unknown artist; however, album after album Tedeschi has delivered a vibrant interpretation of modern electric blues. While the physican comparisons to Bonnie Raitt are inevitable (redheaded female blues guitar player), Tedeschi's songwriting is inadequately noted in a genre where songs are so often the missing link of artistry. Recently the New West record label released a DVD/CD companion piece of Tedeschi as a part of their 'Live in Austin' series. While possibly not as electrifying a performer as most blues-rock fans might want, her cover of Stevie Wonder's, "Loves in Need of Love Today" is a show stopper.

Tedeschi's newest has all the makings of being this year's most significant blues release. Susan Tedeschi is setting a foundation to be one of this generations finest modern electric blues performer with the missing link being her ability to cross over from the blues niche to the much wider rock spectrum. Her music contain melody lines that are more complicated than the standard I, IV, V chord progression of most blues and consequently her songs are more likely to stay with you upon repeated listening. The third song on the album, Bob Dylan's, "Lord Protect My Child" is haunting and beautiful. To date four offers have been made for her to play the Omaha market; which she has yet to do. I understand being a new mom with a husband that also travels (Derek Trucks - solo / Allman Brothers). Anymore Omaha's track record as a great live music town is well established and it's time that Tedeschi's management woke up.

Joe Bonamassa Interview/ Article

Joe Bonamssa interview - October '05Saturday, October 08, 2005

"The Finest in Rockin' Electric Blues"The Joe Bonamassa Group

Thursday, October 13th
Scottish Rites Hall ( An Intimiate Orpheum Style setting )20th & Douglas - -
Free parking SOUTH of the Hall

with - - - -
The Kris Lager Band & friends - featuring;
Matt Whipkey (Anonymous American)
Sarah Benck (and the Robbers)
Andrew Bailey (Jazz Holes)
Heidi Joy, and
Rollin' Brian Leichner


Mention names like Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin or Jeff Beck and you’re talking about the great blues-rock acts of the ‘60’s. Each of these English acts relied on turn-of-the-century American blues artists like Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and later on B. B. King. As Omaha’s music scene becomes a national magnet more up & coming national acts are finding the Welcome mat is out for them too. When The Joe Bonamassa Group headlined for thousands at the ‘05 Playing With Fire concert series he’d already developed a core that embraced the young blues-rocker sensation from upstate New York. By the time Bonamassa played his first area show, opening for B.B. King at Westfair in 2003 (at the age of 23), he’d already been guesting with BB on Kings tours for well over a decade.

Bonamassa’s career began at the age of 14 with Capitol Records band Bloodline. “I record that album when I was 15; it was a month before I got my drivers license. The band consisted of Waylon Kreiger, the son of The Doors Robbie Kreiger (guitar), the son of the original bass player for the Allman Brothers Berry Oakley Jr. and Aaron Davis - son of the great Miles Davis. I was enrolled in two schools at the time of my high school graduation; a school for kids in entertainment and my home town school. I had the option of getting a diploma from my home town High School so that morning we rolled up in the tour bus, I walked out, some people had thought I’d dropped out, but I got my diploma, got back on and drove to the next gig. We were playing all over the world. I didn’t have most of the childhood experiences that most kids have but I traded them for something that was pretty unique.”

When asked about coming back Bonamassa says, “I am so looking forward to getting back to Omaha. It’s been over a year! We had to go out with ‘The King’ (B.B. King) this summer: we had to pay homage to the King. I sat in with him a couple of nights ago, on the last night of the tour, and I’ll tell you what, that man sings so powerfully, he’s always in great spirits, always plays great, always very cordial to his band and to us: that night he had 75 - 80 people on the bus. That’s a testament to how appreciative he is of his fans.” King’s album, ‘Live at the Regal” is one of Bonamassa desert island discs. “Live at the Regal is my favorite album: I just had to wait for my vocal ability to catch up before I was going to record something by B. B. (King). It took awhile. My albums, ‘Blues Deluxe’ and ‘Had to Cry Today’ were back-to-back albums that are the most cohesive albums I have”

So when is the next record coming? “We start recording at the end of November and plan to have it out in March ‘06. But before that we’re going to release a DVD that we did at ‘Rock Palace’ (The Austin City Limits of Europe) in Germany.” It will be the second DVD and sixth album. “We recorded a live show and got the DVD back a month ago. We were watching it and we were blown away by it:. There were only 300 people at the (sold out) show in a tiny room: it’s very intimate. But for the next album I’d like to pull out the old rolodex of famous friends to see who is available and get them on the new album. On the last two albums people were just starting to get to know us and I think this next one will be, boom, here’s who we are and I thing people are going to really dig on it.”

The band can’t help but get better and better. “We’re out about 200 - 240 days a years. Crowds are starting to get bigger and more people are discovering us. It’s all beginning to happen for us, especially in Europe. We did over 100 shows this summer alone!” say Bonamassa. “We have a very loyal fan base and those folks have been talking. The word of mouth is beginning to spread. We usually do about 1000 people a night on our own in theatres and ‘everybody knows my name’ now, it’s very cool.”

Don’t you find that the blues audience tends to be older and seem reluctant to give new young artists a chance? “There’s a group of us out there Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jonny Lang, North Mississippi All Stars, Derek Trucks, Mato (of Indigenous) and a few others; a bunch of great, young players out there now.” Is the problem radio? “A lot of the blues mainstream radio who believe that blues-rock is not really blues, but it is. If you listen to B.B. King he’s got a ton of blues-rock songs in there. We did a song last year, ‘Never Make Your Move Too Soon’ which is a rock track with B.B. singing on it. I think the problem is there’s a sort of a battle being underscored between purists and people that want to see the music sorta morph & change. You’re not going to master the Masters; there’s only one Muddy Waters and one Robert Johnson but it’s okay to try and take all those influences and put them together and make something of your own. I mean Clapton did it in the ‘60’s, the Rolling Stones, Zeppelin, Paul Kossoff (Free / Backstreet Crawler), Jethro Tull, Jeff Beck. They all did something cool and it was based on the I, IV, V chord progression. It’s the blues.” When you play live you delve into some archival classic rock licks in the middle of an extended solo. “Yeah, we play everything from (Jethro) Tull to Starship Trooper from Yes. And it’s kinda weird, in the middle of a blues show, but I’m a firm believer that anyone that likes the blues remembers Yes. They went and saw King Crimson and it’s some of the stuff that I love too. We try to mix it up so it’s never the same changes over and over again. We never want the audience saying ‘I’ve heard this’ for the first three songs and then the next eight are the same-old, same-old. I always want people to be challenged and surprised by what we give’em in a live show.

Bonamassa was on the DVD about Atlantic Record producer Tom Dowd (Allman Brothers, John Coltrane, Otis Redding, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ray Charles, Derek & the Dominos, Eric Clapton, Cream, Thelonious Monk, Aretha Franklin) “If you listen to Classic Rock radio at all you hear Tom’s work 20X a day. I am so proud that my first solo album, ‘A New Day Yesterday’ was the last full album that Tom ever produced. It was so great to get to know Tom; to be his friend for the last 3 years of his life. He was such a wonderful human being. The people who know Dowd worship him but those that don’t, once they watch his DVD, ‘Tom Down & the Language of Music’ find he was a very interesting man.” As a physicists on the Manhattan Project (the development of the Atomic Bomb) to developing the eight track recording process along with Les Paul. Dowd was instrumental in the development of the modern recording process, R n’B, and Southern Rock. “After Tom’s work on the Manhattan Project he was sworn to secrecy. So when he went back to Columbia University he sat through the classroom lectures knowing that he’d proven much of what was being taught was wrong but he had to get a job somewhere. So he started working in a recording studio as an Asst Engineer for Atlantic Records.”

The Joe Bonamass Group appears in concert, Thursday, October 13th at the Scottish Rites Hall, 20th & Douglas Streets in Omaha. Ticket are avaiable at www.etix.com or Homer's Music Stores. Opening will be the Kris Lager Band & Friends including; Matt Whipkey, Sarah Benck, Andrew Bailey, Heidi Joy, and Rollin' Brian Leichner. Joe Bonamassa with www.Bluezine.com artist of the year in '05. Bonamassa's album. Blues Deluxe was album of year in 2004 for KIWR's Pacific Street Blues' Rick Galusha (who wrote this article).

KIOS' fm Mike Jacobs Celebrates 11 "blue" years on the radio

KIOS Jacobs celebrates 11 blue years

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Mike Jacobs KIOS celebrates 11 years of ‘Blues in the Afternoon. Yes, the blues is still alive and well in Omaha! Over that last eleven years, every Monday except one,(since October 4, 1994), from 2:00 until 3:30 p.m., Mike Jacobs has returned to the same studio where he had earned his High School diploma . Mike goes in to play albums and share his love of an American folk art with listeners throughout most of Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa. “Our (KIOS fm) mission is to encourage student involvement and education (in the broadcasting industry)” says the Jacobs. But when it comes to his love for blues and jazz, “They are going to have to carry me out of here in a casket” say the thirty-nine year old ‘84 graduate of Tech High School (their last graduating class). “I know I never want to give this up.”

After graduating from the Omaha Public School’s broadcasting program Jacob’s attending UNO and was an instrumental voice on the inter-campus station KBLZ. From there Jacobs graduated to commercial radio including a weekend stint at KKCD. These days the man behind “that” voice works full-time with Omaha’s National Public Radio affiliate KIOS (91.5 fm) that is owned and operated by Omaha’s school system. His show, Blues in the Afternoon’ celebrated its eleventh year on Monday, October 3rd.

When asked what he tries to accomplish with the music that gets aired, the youthful middle aged deejay chimes in, “I don’t think the price of CDs is going to come down anytime soon and my show allows fans to hear some of the album before they go out and spend their hard earned money. During the show I try to touch as many blues bases as possible; from R.L. Burnside to Marcia Ball to Kansas City jump and of course our acoustic set. When it makes sense I also try to feature an album so the listener gets a real feel for the album. I suppose I look at an album as a body of art.” It also sounds like relaxed education process so listeners get a chance to keep up with the flood of albums in the market. Chicago based Alligator Records owner Bruce Iglauer recently went on record as saying that Whites are incapable of playing blues. “Oh I don’t know about that. Sure. Yes, anybody can play the blues! Europeans really love the blues, I think (blues) will make in-roads into China over the next ten years. The blues are a global experience and everyone is invited to join in...sometimes whether they want to or not!” laughs Jacobs.

But what about the students? “This is really why we are here. We usually have about a dozen students in the program. I help with production, pronunciation and programming issues. The students are required to create a show about a significant jazz artist that is worthy to air on the station.” Jacobs goes on to discuss that it is important to help kids learn about their culture and feel a sense of pride even if jazz & blues are not what they are listening to at this stage in their lives. Jacobs proudly notes, “We did have one young kid that did a show on (jazz saxophonist) Coleman Hawkins. Afterwards he told me it was some of the best stuff he‘d ever heard; so I got him a list of essential Coleman’s recordings. It was cool to turn a kid onto something great like that.”

“My favorite living blues player is probably Buddy Guy” a contemplative Jacob’s finally says when asked. “But I love the old guard such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Rush and Magic Sam. Right now I am especially enjoying Kansas City’s Jay McShann “ Whether it’s on his blues show or the Wednesday & Friday afternoon Jazz programs Jacobs lends the power KIOS’ audience to local artists. “We’ve had Dave Stryker and Karyn Allison as well as Luigi Waitts, Preston Love, and Jorge Nila on the air live. I’d like to do more of that in the future” says Mike. “Interviews sound better in the studio (than over the telephone).”Local blues artist Kris Lager says, ‘Blues in the Afternoon’ is a show I have to catch every week. Mike’s one of the wells I can go to discover great music... I really love that show.” Jacobs makes it a point to talk about local acts, “I really enjoy Sarah Benck & the Robbers, Matt Whipkey & Anonymous American have a future in front of them and The Tijuana Gigolos - who I saw open for Link Wray at the Zoo Bar. You can really feel the area’s music scene is healthy.”

Like so many blues fans today young Mike Jacobs came to the blues through rock & roll. “I loved the Rolling Stones, Clapton, Allman Brothers, and Janis Joplin. A couple of weeks ago I played ‘Back of My Hand’ off the newest Rolling Stones album. It was an appropriate blues track. I’d read the album credits and see a song was written by C. Burnett. Who’s that?, Oh, Howlin’ Wolf, and off I would go to find about more about this Howlin’ Wolf character. The Stones were great about that.” When asked about the heritage of so-called spotlight programming in Omaha’s radio market Jacob’s lights up, “I can remember working with Steve Sleeper. I was working over-nights and he would come in on Sunday mornings to do his show, ‘Jazz Brunch.’ I remember when Steve was on the original KQ98 (along with Mike Cody, Paxton West, and Kevin Casaria). It was a golden period in radio. Today the playlists (on commercial radio) are so tight and the medium is so competitive that there are a lot of dissatisfied listeners.” Is the ‘art’ of radio is dead? Jacobs thinks for a moment and says, “I can’t say that but there are more and more people looking for vibrant, intelligent alternatives. I try to have a good show that is entertaining. I know when it’s good, all the songs fit together, time flies by and things are just groovin’. And the emails or phone calls come in.”

More and more public radio fills a listener need and keeps an artform out front. “I don’t know that the blues has died. It’s coming back in terms of programming. The Blues Society of Omaha has about 1,000 members now and with the opening of live music venues such as Mick’s Tavern in Benson or Sokol Auditorium you could say the blues is ‘still alive and well’ in Omaha: that rumours of its death have been greatly exaggerated he repeats.”

Album Review Rolling Stones Bigger Band

Rollings Stones MUCH Bigger BangSaturday, September 17, 2005

Artist: The Rolling Stones
Title: The Bigger Bang

Once again the Rolling Stones thumb their noses at the conventional wisdom of the established Anti-Establishment.

When they began in 1962 the Rolling Stones thwarted conventional wisdom by playing American blues rather than the Trad Jazz or Skiffle that was popular with English kids at the time. By juxtaposing their career path against that of the more accepted Beatles during the 60’s the Stones extended the life of their band. With the release of their latest studio effort, The Bigger Bang’ the Rolling Stones have, as best I can figure, 24 studio albums, 8 official live albums, numerous boxset, and (at least) 18 domestic Greatest Hits packages. While the rest of the world was coming off the bliss of Woodstock, in 1969 the Stones suffered through the death of founder Brian Jones (guitar), the murder of a fan (Meredith Hunter), during their free concert at Oakland’s Altamont Speedway (and captured in the film, Gimme Shelter), the eminent firing of manager Allen B. Klein, a shift from “pop” to a rootsy-blues band, and replacement guitar player Mick Taylor. Any one of these could have easily broken up the band; inexplicably the Rolling Stones not only survived but went on to record some of their best known material.

With the 1972 release of, ‘Exile on Main Street’ conventional wisdom trashed the double album.

In 2004 Rolling Stone magazine placed ‘Exile on Main Street’ in the Top Ten best Rock albums.

In 2005 critics besmirch the band who’s youngest member, Ron Wood, is 58 years old. Sixteen years ago, with the 1989 release of their ‘Steel Wheels’ album conventional wisdom joked about the “steel wheelchairs tour.” Yet this same caste of critics praised Muddy Waters, while in his late 60’s for his trilogy of Blue Sky recordings with Johnny Winter. Evidently conventional wisdom says it’s okay for a African American blues act to be active into their seventh decade but Englishmen need to fade away. I’m nor even going to pretend to give an unbias review of the latest Stones album, ‘The Bigger Bang.’ I have featured three tracks on PS Blues for the last month. “Rough Justice” was probably written by Mick Jagger and harkens back to “Sad, Sad, Sad” from the Steel Wheels album. After the lackluster Bridges to Babylon album the band hasn’t rocked this hard in the studio since the release of the irresprisable ‘91 anti-war anthem, “High Wire.” “Back of My Hand” is a blues track and exhibits the Stones in one of their strong suits.

When they released the blues track, “Honest I Do,” for the ‘Hope Floats’ soundtrack, some called for a blues album by the band. In fact lead singer Mick Jagger recorded a serious blues solo album with the band, The Red Devils, although to date it is available only as a bootleg. Finally, “Streets of Love,” is a typical post-86 Jagger ballad ala’ the “Voodoo Lounge” album. With the (struggling) sobriety of guitarist Ronnie Wood it’s clear he’s giving the band a new level of energy by getting them to play songs long forgotten in venues much too small and keeping them on stage.

Throughout their 40+ year career the Stones have successfully ignored conventional wisdom.

The only difference is they are now thumbing their nose at the ‘Established Anti-Establishment’ and may God bless’em for doing so. As Keith said on opening night of the, Bridges to Babylon’ tour, “Any day above ground is a good day.”

Incidentally, conventional wisdom berates the band for the plethora of Greatest Hits packages. Twelve or 66% of their domestic Hits albums came out on the ABKCO label, owned by former manager and industry bad guy Allen B. Klein (company), AFTER the band had left Klein and the Decca label.

So much for conventional wisdom.

Album Review Eric Clapton Back Home

Eric Clapton - Back HomeSaturday, September 17, 2005

Artist: Eric Clapton
Title: Back Home
Rating: Very Good

Multiple Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member Eric Clapton (Eric "Ricky" Patrick Clapp) has been beyond the reach of critics for decades. Although I've never considered myself much of a fan mysteriously I've accumulated a serious collection of his albums. Much like Dylan or Stevie Ray Vaughan, my admiration is based upon the respect I see others pay this talented artist. With a nickname like "god" (in reference to his guitar playing) he can't possibly live up to his reputation. Clapton's post-heroin preference to steer clear of long flashing guitar runs in favour of tasty tone and 'songs' misguides listener's expectations and makes for somewhat lessened concert experiences: I mean why does "Eric Clapton" need guitar slingers like Albert King or Doyle Bramhall Junior in "His" band??? Just like Buddy Guy, seeing Clapton live is an unfulfilling exercise in thinking, "Come on Eric, you take the bloody solo!"

Name a genre of music and there's a strong possibility that Clapton's dabbled in it. Reggae star Bob Marley owed much of international success of his career to two moments; one was opening for Bruce Springsteen at the Bottom Line Club and the second was the chart success of Eric Clapton's cover of Marley's, 'I Shot the Sheriff.' At the dawning of his career Clapton choose to leave the newly leaning pop stylings of the Yardbirds just as their hit, 'For Your Love' was beginning to dominate pop charts on both sides of the Atlantic. (The Yardbirds would later include Jimmy Page & Jeff Beck) Leaving the Yardbirds, (name for famed jazz sax player Charlie 'Yardbird' Parker) for John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Clapton stayed just long enough to record the famed 'Beano' album: so named for the English children's comic book is reading on the albums cover. (Also in the Bluesbreakers with Clapton was John McVie who would eventually hook-up with later period Bluesbreakers Peter Green & Mick Fleetwood to form Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac. In 1969 The Rolling Stones would pull Mick Taylor from the Bluesbreakers to replace Brian Jones). Clapton's career would then tumble through Cream, Blind Faith, Bonnie & Delaney, Derek & the Dominos (featuring American guitar sensation Duane Allman) and recording the guitar solo on, 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' for The Beatles White Album under the name L'Angelo Mysterioso. Clapton would also record under the name X-Sample for the poorly received techno-album, Retail Therapy.

Long before fame took his hand, in his book about the Rolling Stones former band roommate Fred Pheldge claimed that Eric Clapton would sit-in with the Stones as their singer, under the nickname 'Ginger,' when Mick Jagger was pulled away for perform with Alexis Korner: a claim disputed during an interview for PS Blues by former Rolling Stone & band historian Bill Wyman. From his earliest days Clapton's life has faced many hardships including struggles with heroin and alcoholism. Born the illegitimate son of a 16 year old mother, much like actor Jack Nicholson, Clapton was raised to believe that his Grandparents were his parents and that his mother was his sister. In 1990 Clapton would suffer the losses of good friends Colin Smythe, Nigel Brown and Stevie Ray Vaughan, in a helicopter crash after their concert in Apple Valley, Wisconsin. Month's later Clapton's son Conor would fall 49 floors from the balcony of his mother's apartment to his death. In 1992 Clapton's song about his son's death, 'Tears in Heaven, & the album, Unplugged, would capture six Grammy Awards. Eric Clapton has had a lifelong dalliance with the blues. While the 80's saw Clapton recording with an American county flavor, the new millennium, until the release of his newest album, Back Home, saw Clapton recording homage's to blues hero's Robert Johnson and BB King resulting in three albums I would recommend only to die-hard fans.

On his new album, Back Home, a smiling and relaxed pot-bellied Eric Clapton appears in the liner notes with his wife and three young daughters. If strife and torture help artists create memorable art then the scenes of domestic bliss are well placed. Much like the previous two Robert Johnson cover-albums, a full-length album with 5.1 surround sound and DVD are included in the package. Unlike many previous albums, this record is wonderful yet nothing more than pop music. Do not approach this record with any expectations for 'slowhand' as it's merely a lark through the park and yet comfortable like talking to an old friend. The opening 'So Tired' is catchy & uplifting. Anyone that has suffered through the sleepless joy of early child rearing will immediately 'get' the lyrics and the baby crying in the background. Clapton delves back into a loose reggae stance with the single, 'Revolution' and 'Say What You Will.' The band also dabbles with the Philadelphia Soul stylings of '80's Hall & Oats with the at-once radio friendly sound of, 'Love Don't Love Nobody.' As I listened to this song it reminds me of my wife's Lite radio station: listening to a song I remember hating but as the tune draws to a close I realize I know every word. 'Loves Comes to Everyone' with its Little Stevie Winwood keyboard solo and 'Piece of My Heart' are prime radio songs that will define this fall's radio playlists. On the track 'One Day' we hear the band finally lean into the storm with an edgy burn yet a guitar solo that is sufficient and yet hardly magnificent. 'Run Home to Me' is a beautiful lullaby that brought tears to this parent's eyes.

While it's only September, Home Again, is the perfect Christmas gift for that aging Baby Boomer in your life and who knows that person may be you. It's a fine album with brief smatterings of guitar solos. Like Ice Cream, I would recommend playing infrequently as too much of a good thing will quickly lose it's appeal. 'Slowhand' is not covering any new ground with this power-pop release but then he doesn't have to because he is after all 'god.' This is an album you will have a hard time not playing and that most music fans will enjoy for years to come.

Album Reviews; Renee Austin, Shemekia Copeland, Heaven Davis

Austin, Copeland, & Heaven DavisThursday, August 25, 2005

Artist: Renee Austin
Title: Right About Love
Rating: Good

Born in California, raised in Texas, and living in Minneapolis, Renee Austin’s 2003 album, ‘Sweet Talk’ thrust her onto the national scene. Noted for her “five octave” vocal range Austin’s second album is titled, ‘ Right About Love.’ A semi-annual performer in the Eastern Nebraska area Austin’s slowly building an appreciative audience. On her latest album Austin says she is driving towards an Austin (Texas) sound with a guest shot by Delbert McClinton and songs written with Malford Milligan & Tommy Shannon as well as David Grissom. And just like Elvis Presley more than 40 years before her, Austin also covers Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudups, “That’s All Right (with Mama).” She also covers Bobby Gentry’s, “Strangers on a Train.”

Over all this is an album with numerous srong performances and Austin's hard earned fanbase will fully appreciae this record. As a concert souvenir this album will sell well off the stage too. For those looking around for a “blues” album this is probably not a good place to start as the flavor is more R n’ B and AAA music; however, within it’s intended demographic it’s a strong album.

Artist: Shemekia Copeland
Title” The Soul Truth
Rating: Good

There is a book by Arnold Shaw called, “Honkers And Shouters - The Golden Years of Rhythm & Blues.” I can remember reading it and coming to the ephiphany that ‘shouting’ is a genre within the R n’ B category. This includes vocalists such as Etta James or Koko Taylor during the twilight of their careers as their voices waned. Such a deliver style includes a myriad of growls, snorts, and edgy positioning that often wavers off note but is carried-off by the emotional force of the emoter.

On her fourth album, ‘The Soul Truth’ Shemekia Copeland rolls out her best ‘Shouting’ with the help of legendary Stax guitar man (and Blues Brother film star) Steve Cropper and the equally impressive Muscle Shoals Horn section. Other guest appearances include; Dobie Gray, sometime Allman Brother or sometime Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Levell, and Felix Cavaliere. The album relies heavily on the songwriting contributions of Cropper and John Hahn. (Copeland does none of the songwriting.) These are really good songs with a Stax meets Saturday Night Live flavor ala’ punching horn lines and rhythm section up front. Deservedly or not Copeland, daughter of Johnny Clyde Copeland, finds herself in the drivers seat of a highly respected genre of American music with all eyes on her. Deservedly? The label’s tout of Copeland being in the same class as Aretha Franklin is misplaced. Copeland is sassy, industry wise (using Cropper and Dr. John to produce her last two albums) and hard working; however, such a claim is out of bounds.

Artist: Heaven Davis
Title: Steamy
Rating: Very Good

Heaven Davis has no history with the middle class white fans of blues music. Her lack of presence is going to hurt her ability to get fans to pay attention to such an impressive album. Able to sing AND carry a tune, Davis walks through 14 songs including a comedic one she wrote entitled, ‘Sell My Jewelry.’ The second track on the album, ‘Daydreaming ‘Bout You’ has the stylings of a mid-60’s soul song. While the temptation to draw a wider (whiter?) audience is ever present, Davis’ keeps a working class R n’ B sound that is tasty and accomplished. She is clearly comfortable within her own skin. Davis' song, "Regrets" is vintage Glady's Knight and exceptional.

If you enjoy Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” more than Michael Bolton’s then chances are quite strong you are going to immediately “get” Heaven Davis’ sound. Yes, it’s a purists flavor and you know I usually stray far from that restraint but in this case Davis has the goods and delivers them in full.

Album Review Chris Cain's Hall of Shame

Chris CainFriday, August 19, 2005

Artist: Chris Cain
Title: Hall of Shame
Rating: Excellent

Within the broader genre of blues there are sub-categories among them the ‘Robert Johnson school’ which profoundly effected early Rock bands such as the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and the Allman Brothers. Another school are guitarists influenced by B.B King such as Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana and Chris Cain. When I heard that Cain was coming to perform in Omaha I grabbed a couple of CD’s I received over the years at Pacific Street Blues.Cain is a tasty guitar player with a strong tenor voice and an excellent vocabulary of licks and songs. His sound brings together classic Joe Williams vocals fronting B.B. King’s band.

It is fresh, remarkable, and void of trite cliches and gushing tributes.His sixth album, released in 2003, Hall of Shame, is an exceptionally well crafter blues album that uses texture & taste. Hall of Shame is a mellow affair with soaring solos and heartfelt vocals in a classic post 50’s electric blues sound. This is as perfect a “blues” album as you will ever find. Cain’s solos are jazzy crisp runs ala’ early Steely Dan that contribute to the melody line rather than simply fill up space with clutter. Cain will be performing in Omaha on Sunday, August 28th at the Blues Society ofOmaha’s FREE family day at the Anchor Inn. For more details go towww.OmahaBlues.com.
101ers Thursday, August 18, 2005

Artist: The 101ers (Joe Strummer’s pre-Clash band)
Title: Elgin Avenue Breakdown (Revisited)
Rating: Niche / Good (interesting)

Lou Reed wrote it but Joe Strummer had a Rock n’ Roll heart. In the mid ‘70’s After a decade of “artrock” and the dirth of “corporate rock” on America’s FM radio stations, The Sex Pistols kicked open the doors of pop consciousness with an aggressive sound that was basic, fast, and anti-establishment. While the Pistols soon disintegrated, as the leader of one of rock’s great garage bands (The Clash), Strummer & band took England’s “punk” rock movement to the next level and released one of rock’s “great” albums, ‘London Calling.’ Strummer actually joined a band that already consisted of the three other members of what would become The Clash; Mick Jones, Topper Headon & Paul Simonon.

In the film, “Punk: Attitude” Pretenders leader, and now Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame member, Chrissie Hynde documents being a pre-Strummer member of the band that would become The Clash. I can’t remember where I read it but it pretty much summed up the band’s conclusion, “when they turned their Tommy guns on themselves” with Strummer driving Jones out of the band and killing the thing that made the band unique. Before The Clash Strummer was in a band called, The 101ers. The 101ers were a high energy pub-band that survived by covering rock nuggets. Recently the Astralwerks Record label reissued an extended version of the 101ers album, Elgin Avenue Breakdown (Revisited). According to the liner notes, on April 3, 1975 the original Sex Pistols (pre-Sid Vicious) opened for the 101ers and Strummer saw the future. This would lead to the breakup of the 101ers and the form The Clash.

This new version of Elgin Avenue Breakdown (Revisited) captures the band’s studio recordings and a handful of live recordings including Slim Harpo’s (ala Exile on Main Street) “Shake Your Hips”, the Rolling Stones’, “Out of Time” and “Lonely Mother’s Son” which would resurface on the seriously rock-worthy self-titled Clash album as “Jail Guitar Doors.” This new version of Elgin Avenue Breakdown captures an excellent local band thrashing about with furious energy and heart felt enthusiasm: it’s everything “rock n’ roll” should be and sadly rarely is. However, this recording does not begin to approach the landmark recordings of The Clash. However, as a snapshot of where the roots of punk rock came from, this album contains excellent historical perspective that rock musicologist or craving Clash fans will surely enjoy. Since Joe Strummer is no longer with us The Clash will never reform and there’s a sadness in that. Modern pop culture has yet to acknowledge Strummer’s contribution: as determined by other’s successfully covering the music of The Clash. “They” did play Omaha in the mid-80’s (by which time Mick Jones had been evicted from the band).

I vaguely recall being told a story that someone in The Firm, reportedly Gary Foster (arguably Omaha’s finest drummer) had written a snide remark about The Clash in the men’s latrine at the original Howard Street Tavern. According to the tale a member of The Clash stumbled onto the rude graffiti and commented on it from the stage during their show. Oh wonder!

Album Review Ry Cooder's Chavez Ravine

Chavez RavineFriday, August 05, 2005

Artist: Ry Cooder
Title: Chavez Ravine
Rating: Niche / Very Good

Born in Southern California in 1947, guitarist Ry Cooder has maintained two recording careers; one in the Rock genre and the other flirting around the World Music genre. As a young man he learned to play on the knee of the Reverend Gary Davis: who’s song, “Cocaine” Jackson Browne recorded for his ‘Running on Empty’ album. One of Cooder’s earliest bands included Taj Mahal and Ed Cassidy (Spirit). This short lived band broke up when a completed album was shelved. Cooder then moved into studio work recording with bands such as Paul Revere & the Raiders. He also recorded on the debut album by Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band as well as guesting with Randy Newman, Little Feat, and Van Dyke Parks (who worked with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys). Prior to the recording the soundtrack to the film, ‘Performance’ (starring Rolling Stone Mick Jagger) Cooder is credited on the Stones’, Sister Morphine’, ‘Love in Vain’ and the heavily bootlegged, ‘Highway Child.’ He also appears on the cultish flims, ‘Memo From Turner’ along with Nicky Hopkins, Stevie Winwood, and Jim Capaldi. A somewhat rare version of Cooder playing a blistering slide guitar over the song, ‘Brown Sugar’ a/k/a Black Pussy (in reference to a particularlily smooth and dark colored Mexican heroin) exists; however, it’s rumoured that a tiff over a riff with Keith Richards caused this version to be shelved

In 1979 Cooder’s album, Bop Til You Drop, was marketed as the first album in which all the tracks were recorded digitally.

In 1992 Cooder joined Nick Lowe, John Hiatt, and long time collaborator Jim Keltner in the band, Little Village, for one album before being disbanded.

In 1997 Cooder regrouped some of Cuba’s finest roots musicians to recorded the first million selling world album, Buena Vista Social Club. The success of BVSC thrust Eliades Ochoa and Ibrahim Ferrer into international limelight and caused numerous labels to follow suit with the release of their own World Music albums.

In 2005 Cooder mined an interest closer to his home with the release on the Nonesuch label, Chavez Ravine. Chavez Ravine was an area in east Los Angeles where poor hispanics lived until the 1950’s when City Planners decided to pave over the neighborhood and plant Dodger Stadium. Like the BVSC album Chavez Ravine includes a wonderful multipage colour booklet with lyrics, photographs, sketches and brief details on the scandal surrounding the reclaimination of Chavez Ravine. The music on the album includes what I assume to be tradtional Hispanic instrumentation with songs written specifically for this album. Nearly all the songs are sung in Spanish and the tyrics are intrepretated in the booklet. It’s a slow languid album with texture and space and, obviously, a heavy south of the border influence. Cooder’s use of numerous vocalists gives the album a sense of testimony from the Ravine’s inhabitants telling their stories.

Today Los Angles appears to be more of a quagmire than a community but this album gives the City of Angels a sense that at one time families lived in neighborhoods where conversations across driveways might have occurred. A similar sense is derived from Dave Alvin’s song, ’Dry River’ on the Blue Blvd album. Given time to unfold this is an exceedingly interest album that grows on the listener. Much like BVSC, Chavez Ravine will open up doors and take the listener to new and exciting auralscapes.

Article & interview with Albert Cummings

Albert CummingsFriday, August 05, 2005

One way or the other Albert Cummings is pounding the floor boards. Hammering away as contracting builder of luxury homes in the Western Massachusetts/ Southern Vermont area or in front of the footlights on blues stages across the country Albert Cummings is a man that knows how to deliver. His first nationally distributed album, 'True to Yourself' on Blind Pig Records has been an immediate lighting rod of accolades reviews or purist pans. "The label feels this album still has legs so we are out trying to build up that national audience" says Cummings.

Like most modern electric blues players Cummings has an appreciation for Hendrix and Stevie Ray. "Everybody wanted to sound like Stevie, not me, I just wanted to cop that feel Jimi was the first but Stevie actually hit the notes better. But like Stevie said, 'I can play it but Jimi wrote it.' " His budding base is going to be more with older rock fans than blues snots; he's got a fiery hot rock guitar sound, the increasingly rare ability to incorporate a tune in his songs, and, as fans of the Playing With Fire concert series fans saw, a stage presence that goes, and goes, and goes. "With most players you can quickly figure out where they hang out on the neck but not Hendrix - it's obvious but he was special and so young."

You learn quickly that most blues acts build a lore around their beginnings; railroad tracks, blues clubs, sneaking in, ancient black teachers. Even his beginnings go against the tired Blues clichés, "I really wasn't interested in the guitar. I'm a fourth generation home builder that grew up loving Bluegrass and playing the five string banjo. It wasn't until I was 28 that I really began to get into the guitar. I saw Stevie at the Orpheum Theatre during the, 'Can't Stand the Weather' tour and that was the end of the banjo." His playing incorporates a high energy, heavy string, Stratocaster sound with a rock n' roll beat and heavy organ influence. Even the themes of his songs tend to avoid worn out stories that other players bring out like a tired crutch. High pitched squeals, ZZ Top-ish bottom ends, and hard luck tales of unrequited love make for an honest faux-suburban blues sound. Yes, its the antithesis of "blues" but it's honest and immediately accessible to anyone that grew up on '70's FM radio.

As Cummings noted when talking about the old masters (Albert King, BB King, Freddie King, Albert Collins & Buddy Guy), "When it comes to the blues, you just can't fake it." And he doesn't: Cummings is clearly more Led Zeppelin than Howlin' Wolf. If there is a linear line for guitar styles with one end being a technical player (Robert Fripp - King Crimson) and the other end being an emotional player (Mato Nanji - Indigenous) Cummings leans hard on playing what's in his heart rather than his head. "There are times when I get so into playing live on stage with the band that I become a member of audience wondering what's coming next. I've literally 'woken-up' at the end of a gig not knowing where I was or what was going on. It's like a trance that transcends anything else." As a local high end builder in Williamstown, Mass., Cummings joined the National Guard in his younger days and trained for Desert Storm. "We were in the armored division: Tanks. We didn't go but it got awful close and we were ready. There's nothing like a Tank!" Cummings is quick to express support for members of today's Armed Forces. So whether it's moving planks of wood, plunking on a wooden guitars or driving tanks through the woods, Cummings is pure middle class America; a self made businessman in pursuit of his musical dream. Yes, his blues is not going to sucker up to snobs but rock fans. the open minded, and modern electric blues fans are going to get "it" right away and as we saw with Cummings Playing With Fire show by the end of the show those fans will be sweaty with big smiles screaming for more. "We play about 100 - 125 shows a year and just got off a tour of the West Coast with B. B. King. It's a constant battle to run the business and be on the road and then we'll play a festival with 7,000 people. Coming off stage you get that shiver and suddenly it all comes back into focus on why we are doing this - it's love baby, love!"

Garage Rock Op-Ed - Fleshtones, Jarvis Humby, The Blues Vans

Garage RockSunday, July 31, 2005

Critically a sonic line exists: PN (PreNirvana) and AN (After Nirvana). After a dirth of hodge, “rock” seems to be cool again; that wonderful sound of energy & exhalation. During the ‘60’s a niche of rock, adored by critics, was born called Garage Rock (GR). GR came about in the ‘60’s when kids, listening to their AM transistor radios, began to emulate the sounds they were hearing. Generally, GR is simple songs that are propelled by heaps of enthusiasm, a dash of talent & finesse, strong keyboard presence, heavy bass, an occasionally harmonica, flailing drums and slashing yet simple guitar riffs. Having rock n’ roll hearts Jim Morrow (The Front), Jim Fleming (The Confidentials), and in some instances Homer’s Manager Charlie Burton are fine local examples of GR.

Recently three GR albums came out that reinvigorated my lumbar - the best of which is;

Artist: Jarvis Humby,
Title: Assume the Position It’s Jarvis Humby,
Rating: Better than Very Good.

Not since the debut album by Jamie Cullem album have I rated an album this highly. Other than it’s basic sound this record has nothing to do with blues. Recorded in the bustling backwaters of Stockton-On-Tees in England this band demonstrates an ample understanding of the history of great rock albums. Throughout the album they tip their hat to the bands that made rock an artform. In their liner notes they thank, “Dylan, Muddy Waters, The Animals, and The MGs” (as in Booker T). The montage on the cover includes a pimply young Keith Richards, a Sgt. Pepper era Ringo Starr & a psychedelic George Harrison, a photo of Who bass player John Entwistle in his Mod London finest, the cover of the Small Faces’ Nut Gone Flake album, and the Grateful Dead’s Mr. Natural cartoon figure. From the onset this bands throws all the furniture in a heap in the corner in order to make room for their powerful, danceable, short songs. On the second track, ‘These Eyes’ Jarvis Humby plays a smokin’ Sitar solo that makes Brian Jones roll over to tell Tschakowsky the news. I adore this album.

Artist: The Blue Vans,
Title: The Art of Rolling,
Rating: Good + / Niche

Hailing from Scandinavia The Blue Vans have delved back into Rock’s Heyday via’ Paul Weller’s Jam to dig up the spirit of Pete Townshend’s Who. This is a band that is full of the swagger of youth. Their lyrics speak of teenage angst, social revolution and all those idealistic things that a young man believes yet an old man knows better. From the cover artwork to the tracks inside this is a high energy GR album that evokes ‘Live At Leeds’ with shorter jams and borderline mayhem. The album’s last song, New Slough’ includes an extended jam that brings the listener onto the stage and into the fold. Without being voyeuristic this is a beautiful album and lacks the pretense that similar “indie” rock titles seems to thrive on. This is simple bash & pop destine to be a hidden gem that a listener takes out once or twice a year and marvels in its pop-art.

Artist: The Fleshtones
Title: Beachhead
Rating: Good / Niche

Sloppy, aggressive, gobs of guitar fuzz and very New York Dolls-ish, The Fleshtones are back: which brings up Mr. Hartsock’s joke (usually associate with Barbara Streisand), “How can we miss you when you won’t go away?” (I am joking!) Always the bridesmaid and never the bride, The ‘Tones have been around for decades and seem to linger on the brink of shooting up to the next level and a larger audience. This is a band that rocks because it’s members probably don’t know what else to do. Their new album, Beachhead, is remarkable in that it’s better than most of their previous efforts and with their label’s (Yep Roc) growing presence in the market it leaves me hopeful that with the apparent resurgence of the GR sound they may bring this band to the forefront. As the title suggests this band may be landing in a spot from which to begin taking over the world! Group chanting, harmonica breaks, heavy guitar riffs, and bowery heartaches this is a band that sounds very East Coast and ripe. It’s hard not to love an underdog. The Fleshtones are never going to be mainstream but then that adds to their mystic.

What's On serial - July 21, 2005

Whats on @ PS Blues 07252005 Friday, July 22, 2005

It seems that summer, more than any other season, can associate fond memories of carefree times with the great music you were listening to at the time; weddings, high school graduations, dating and new drivers licenses.

By accident I’ve stumbled across a couple of ‘pop’ records which evoked that light, lilting sense of summer that I seem to have been missing these past few decades.

Artist: Gabin
Title: Mr. Freedom
Release: August 23rd

Featuring vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater and Edwyn Collins, Gabin is a crisp, poppy record with short, well written tunes and lyrics that have no higher message. This is pure disposable pop music that has entrancing Bossa Nova rythmns, catchy melody lines, non-traditional instrumentation. This is pure fun and quite enjoyable. With only ten tracks on the album you know the artists understand space and brevity!

Because of it’s quirky rythmns and hip sampling entwined with jazzy piano and flute riffs, for whatever reason, I see this album as especially attractive to women. I dunno - like reggae it will make gals move their hips ever so seductively. If you’re looking for something fresh and tasty, something that doesn’t imply angst to understand, something fun, something summery; this is a perfect album to wrap your summer memories around.

Artist: The Greenhornes
Title: East Grand Blues
Rating: Very Good
Release: August 2nd

More than anything this albums smacks of a great hybrid of the Byrds meet the Mama’s & the Papa’s with the occasional Eric Burden (Animals) flair. Pure 60’s sensibilites. Produced by Brendan Benson, the Greenhornes are from Cincinnati and will be touring with The White Stripes this summer. Once again, it’s light & fresh with that Byrds Rickenbacker sound (which they lifted from the Beatles).

The Greenhornes have captured the sound of rock radio when it was young and made it their own. This is a brilliant pop-psychadelic album that has no higher signifance other than your enjoyment. Well written songs that will linger on your mind. The track, ‘Pattern Skies’ is heavily influenced by the Kink’s [‘Set Me Free (Little Girl)].’ If you enjoy Tom Petty, who was clearly influenced by the Byrds, then the Greenhornes are a natural progression of that sound. It’s nice to hear a new band that understands the past and draws from it’s best influences.

What's On serial July 5, 2005

What’s On at Pacific Street Blues
Volume # 8

This week we review two titles that are category definers. Each artist is a ‘purist’ within their genre and, to some degree, defines that genre’s sound today.

Artist: Sean Costello
Title: Sean Costello
Rating: Very Good

Costello first blossomed on the scene as the guitar player in Susan Tedeschi’s band. Unlike Tedeschi, Costello is a touring monster and has played Nebraska several times including this weekends (July 9th & 10th) blues festival on the Metro Community College’s 30th & Fort Street campus. Costello’s sound has progressively become his own on each album with a fine culmination on this self titled release. After three albums Costello has grown beyond the trad-purist into an artist that has put his own stamp on his retro sound. Unlike many traditionalists however Costello has chosen to grow the sound beyond the tight constrictions of “pure blues.” His songs avoid tired clichés and yet sonically appeal to purist blues fans as well as modern blues fans. Unlike his contemporary Jonny Lang, Costello has a firm grip on the development of his style, the ability to write a good song and substance beyond a sharp jaw line and a nice hair cut.

Artist: Eric Johnson
Title: Bloom
Rating: Good++

Eric Johnson has to be among the most talented guitar players in the world. He has defined his own sound and made a living out of being brilliant and incredibly talented. Johnson’s weak link, like most hot-shot guitar players is his song writing. Instead Johnson has created sonic pallets where sound and color mesh in an intense burst of skill and aptitude. Not for everyone, Johnson’s sound is well defined and unquestionably pleasant to listen to; however, you’re not going to walk away humming a tune. Heavy on the instrumentals Johnson’s voice is wispy and angelic. Like most gifted musicians I suspect Johnson struggles with compromises between his art, his skill, and the commercial end of the music business. I really enjoy this guy but there are times when I want to be drawn into the music and leave with a tune in my head that lingers.

What's On serial - June 21, 2005

What's On @ PS Blues 06212005Wednesday, June 22, 2005
What’s on at Pacific Street Blues?
Volume # 7

Artist: Graham Parker
Title: Songs of No Consequence
Rating: Niche

After wandering for seemingly 40 years in the desert Parker has come back with an album full of cynical, caustic observances that only this old punk could muster. While Costello has softened to a squishy middle, Parker remains hungry and mean. Sharp tunes, amazing lyrics such as this from, Bad Chardonnay,

“I’ve got my act together,
Okay it’s only an act,
But it’s served me well for a long, long time.”

Parker legendary pub-rocking band, ‘ The Rumour’ is thing of the past but his new outfit pulls him through. This is a very strong album that old fans can use to reconnect to a great albeit unknown legendary figure.

Artist: Dwight Yoakam
Title: Blame the Vain
Rating: Very Good

Modern country is neutered noise for pin-up artists as disposable used razor blades. For the past 19 years Yoakam has successfully waded through the remnants of county music proud past. Like any artist with a plateful of albums some have been outstanding and some should have been left out standing in a field. Sadly country radio has learned how to make money and consequently completely abandoned the art of music. For Pete’s sake Johnny Cash won a Grammy and still couldn’t get airplay! This is a terrific album that cuts along Yoakam’s Bakersfield (Haggard) roots. The packaging & artwork are outstanding. Yoakam’s cross-genre career has created a new, wider roots audience for country’s next generation of real acts. This is an excellent album.

What's on Serial June 9, 2005

What's On @ PS Blues 06092005Thursday, June 09, 2005
What’s On at Pacific Street Blues – Vol# 6

Artist: Lucinda Williams
Title: Live @ The Fillmore
Rating: Very Good

Lost Highway is a bona fide roots rock label that, generally, puts out albums of substance. Since her early days Lucinda Williams has been a darling of the critics. Her rough and tumble mix of Tom Petty meets Keith Richards brand of Americana roots rock is full of depth, texture and anguish. While we’ve long been ‘dating’ I never really hooked up completely with her music: especially after her clunker, ‘World Without Tears.’ Live at the Fillmore is pure redemption. Her songs seem to blossom completely with her bar-nag vocals fitting the underside of life that her songs so often portray. The only track that could be misconstrued as a hit is, Righteously’ and only the brave would approach this album one song at a time – rather it needs to be approached as a complete work of art. Over time this album will continue to unfold such that a heavy music fan will ‘get it’ while a more casual listener will wonder what they were drinking when they bought this thing!

rtist: Entrance
Title: Wandering Stranger
Rating: Niche

Upon first listen this album could easily be mistaken for an arrogant ‘day tripper’ by a lost indie-shoe-starer (a/k/a Creeker) with a desire to develop credibility by recording a rootsy blend of America mountain music and Led-Zeppelin-folk. The band consists of Guy Blakeslee on guitar & vocals, Paz Lenchartim on Keys & Fiddle (FIDDLE!), and Tommy Rouse on Drums & driver. Blakeslee walks a thin line between an absolutely brilliant aping of Robert Plant and complete hogwash…and yet deep inside there’s an intangible quality that brings me back repeatedly. The more I listen the more I am compelled to their music. I can’t see any commercial appeal with this music but, gosh, it’s really interesting and certainly breaks out of the trite hipness of the singer/songwriter category.

What's on Serial June 1, 2005

Whats on PS Blues 06012005Wednesday, June 01, 2005
What’s On at Pacific Street Blues?
Volume # 5

Artist: Steel Train
Album Title: Twilight Tales From the Prairies of the Sun
Rating: Very Good

More and more the acoustic singer-songwriter ‘sound’ is becoming the soup d’jour of hipness. None-the-less there are bands within that genre that write really good songs and put out good albums. ‘Twilight Tales’ is a most interesting record that incorporates a blend between early Allman Brother’s sense of meandering panoramic songs combined with a not-quite-so-hippy kind of Grateful Dead layered vocals. Steel Train has a passive approach to presenting their songs much like Crosby, Stills, & Nash would do with this early albums; occasionally breaking into a very melodic tune. The more I play this album the more I enjoy it. It’s not yet half way through the year but this is probably a Top Ten 2005 album for me… and certainly a sound outside of what most listeners may have expected from me.

Artist: Corey Harris
Album: Daily Bread
Rating: Very Good

If you need a category to understand him better, Corey Harris is a modern Taj Mahal. Taj is an iconic Musicologist who’s recent career is bent on preserving and presenting the musical ties between early Black American slaves and the native African tribal sounds that later formed ‘The Blues.’ Mahal is quite good at it; however, I sometimes find his historical accuracy tiring. Harris on the other hand also reaches back into this bedrock of the blues and then ties in a strong melodic almost pop sensibility. He also reaches into island sounds to blend in more roots. While Harris’ other albums did not reach out to me, Daily Bread, is a very strong album that has unfolded after repeated listening. I really enjoy this record and I think most PS Blues listeners will too!

Artist: Tab Benoit
Album: Fever for the Bayou
Rating: Good

I have a great affinity for New Orleans rhythm and blues music. This extends to the outlying areas where Zydeco is king. Try as I might, after numerous listenings I simply cannot get this album to open up. To my ears it sounds, at best, like an average blues album: consequently it does nothing for me. Yes, we’re going to air it a couple of times to create awareness but I am saddened. My expectations for Benoit are to rock-it with a rich flavored album – you get none of that here. Tab’s a terrific player and clearly competent but I hear none of that on this release.