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/

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.

What's on Serial May 23rd 2005

What's On @ PS Blues 05232005Monday, May 23, 2005
What’s On at Pacific Street Blues?
Volume # 4

Artist: Precious Bryant
Title: The Truth
Rating: Very Good

This is not the sort of album I would normally ‘do for.’ It’s very basic and stripped down. Usually these sorts of albums are by post-modern blues interpreters who’s interest in more about preserving the artform than taking it forward. While that’s an honorable albeit somewhat fiscally challenging effort, those kinds of records usually fall short in a mass of clichés and endless ‘honking.’ Not so with Precious Bryant. This is a beautiful full on blues in the “purist” sense that we could possible expect in the 21st century. No pretenses. No stupid nicknames. No hype. Just pure blues based on simple songs that occasionally breakaway from the redundancy of the 12 bar blues. If you’re a “purists” or someone that just wants a fresh but honest blues sound – this is a brilliant album that just like a ripen orange is bursting with juicy flavor.

Artist: Bobby Patterson
Title: Soul of the Man
Rating: Niche

I love good soul. I especially dig Otis Redding and the other giants on the Stax, Muscle Shoals, Hi recordings. While I don’t think anyone could ever touch Otis, I do enjoy well-performed music in this genre. This compilation by Bobby Patterson is an excellent compliment to someone who’s collection is already well stocked with the masters (Aretha Franklin !) With a super funky beat, pumpin’ horns, and a series of slow melting grooves, this album is a sugary concoction of beautiful, authentic, soul music. So why wear your old records out? Try something new that I promise will rekindle your ancient urge to wear polyester leisure suits and pop-in cake cutter combs. Sweet!

Artist: Chris Beard
Title: Live Wire
Rating: Very Good

Until I heard this record it never dawned on me that the late, great Luther Allison has spawned a sub-genre of Midwest electric blues guitar players. As a 4th generation player Chris Beard has continued to grow the genre and balance the fine line between rote blues and high powered rock n’ roll. Beard’s band includes his smokin’ guitar and a very funky horn section that can R-O-C-K! This is a very high-powered live album with excellent songs, superb performances, and terrific presentation & pacing. I really like this album. Often live albums, especially within the blues genre, are pipe-line fillers that bands use to sell to intoxicated fans off the stage. If this record is an indication of Chris Beard’s live shows then fans intoxicated with the blues must be the norm. As within any “rock” genre the difference between a “good” band and a “great” band is always the drummer: Buddy Honeycutt is the drummer on this album and he propels the band through songs like a Navy Ice Cutter. Significantly Beard manages to pull off a strong album without having to resort to use of tired overplayed covers. There’ll be no ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ on this piece… thank gawd.

PWF season 2

Playing With Fire - update 05/16/2005Monday, May 16, 2005

If FREE is the best, then the only thing that could be better is FREE and GOOD. This year’s 2nd annual Playing with Fire concert series promises to be an improvement over last year’s award-winning event.


In America, “too much is enough,” and that adage holds true with this year’s event. Not only are there seven free concerts (two more than last year), there is also a new four show Friday Blues series. That makes 11 concerts in all!

Last year’s inaugural season was initiated by local businessman Jeff Davis. “Jeff approached me about helping do ONE show in the Old Market: that quickly grew into five shows” says Homer’s President Rick Galusha. “With 11 shows this year he’s really worn out his welcome!” jokes Galusha. “I grew up with a ‘60’s idealism” says Davis. “We really wanted to create an environment for the community to come together, share in some exceptional music and do it all for free. Omaha’s is a happening community and I wanted to be a part of that. And I wanted share my love of music with all my new best friends.”

PLAYING WITH FIRE information:

There are five Saturday shows, a Sunday show, and a Friday show. Two of the shows (July 16th & September 11th) consist of three national recording acts. The seven shows will be held at Lewis & Clark Landing Park; right on the banks of the Missouri River between the new Qwest Center and the river (345 Riverfront Drive). Like last year absolutely no outside food or beverages will be allowed in the park. “These concerts are free because of the sales of concessions and sponsorships.” Says Davis. “We make certain that prices for food and beverages are very reasonable, so no one gets gouged. We want families to be able to afford to come.” So help keep this series free by bringing a BIG appetite! Gates open at 4:00 p.m.(except for the Sunday show on September 11th when they open at noon) and music begins about an hour later.
Playing with Fire requests that concert attendees bring a can of food or two for donation to the Omaha Food Bank, and to keep with the spirit of the event in giving back to the community. FREE PARKING: Due to a special agreement with Gallup University and Metro Area Transit, PWF is able to offer FREE parking just north of Lewis & Clark Landing, along Riverfront Drive, at the Gallup University campus. For a mere $1 per rider (50 cents each way: buy a roundtrip ticket when you park your car) MAT will shuttle guests between the parking lots and the parks. This area is for shuttle riders only. According to Galusha, “There’s been a concern with parking and we wanted to make it as easy as possible this year. Gallup’s help with parking certainly will relieve some of that pressure. ” To avoid park congestion, the quickest access to the Gallup parking lot is to take Cumings Street EAST toward the airport. Cumings will turn into Abbot Drive. Take Abbot Drive to North 6th Street and turn South onto Gallup Drive. With a commitment to help establish Omaha’s musical future, The Blues Society of Omaha’s ‘Blues Kids’ will open some of the shows with a short set that is certain to improve over the five month span of this series. BSO Kids Band coordinator Doug Backer is an enthusiastic supporter of his pupils. “The kids are really excited and ready to put on a great show.” The BSO Kids will also be circulating throughout the audience selling raffle tickets to help them raise money for lessons, instruments, and travel. Russo’s Music has donated guitars for the raffle: winners will get to go backstage, meet that evening's bands, and get their guitar signed. This event could not happen without the support of the Blues Society of Omaha. “We knew this was an event that will grow into a real showcase for Omaha. We’re glad to be a part of it.” says the BSO’s Dan Griffin.

Saturday, June 4 Bernard Allison: Recording with father (blues legend Luther Allison) at 13, Bernard got a job just out of high school touring with Koko Taylor. In 2003, the Prague Post called Allison, “a dedicated touring musician, and his live shows are reputed to be incendiary and geared toward a wide array of listeners.” (2004 Artist)www.bernardallison.com

Melvin Taylor: Influenced by B.B. King, Albert King and Jimi Hendrix, Taylor worked in clubs by the age of 12. Since the 1980s he, along with former members of his first band, The Transistors, toured Europe and opened shows for B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Santana and George Benson. He then formed his own band, The Slack Band, and in 1995 recorded the best-selling album in Evidence Records catalog, Melvin Taylor & the Slack Band.

Blues Messengers: Dedicated to preserving authentic blues, this Lincoln-based band features the blistering guitar work of Joe Manthey and Shawn Holt, the son of Chicago blues legend, Magic Slim. www.bluesmessengers.com

Saturday, July 16 Curtis Salgado: His vocals shined at such an early age, his kindergarten teacher declared it by pinning a note about his singing prowess to his clothes. He began his band in the early 1970s, then spent a 6-year stint in Robert Cray's band, including performing on Cray's debut album. Salgado appeared on NPR's Mountain Stage and his last CD, Activated, gained a W.C. Handy nomination for "Soul Blues Album of the Year." His newest, Strong Suspicion, showcases Salgodo’s vocal talent and honed harmonica skills.www.curtissalgado.com

Fathead: The Canada-based band has garnered rave reviews worldwide, and member John Mays recently scored Canadian male vocalist of the year. The group's 1998 release, Blues Weather, won a Juno Award (the Canadian Grammy) for "Blues Recording of the Year." The single, First Class Riff-Raff off their 2000 follow-up, Where's Your Head At? won the 2002 Canadian Indie Award and was nominated for a Juno. Fathead’s stellar songwriting, soul-drenched melodies and ensemble playing is not-to-be-missed.www.fathead.biz

Walter Trout and the Radicals: So popular in Europe that in a BBC poll, Trout was voted the sixth best guitarist of all time right behind Jimmy Page, and ahead of Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jeff Beck. The Los Angeles Times describes Trout as “a torrential gladiator guitar player – a kind the term ‘guitar hero’ was coined to describe.” (2004 Artist) www.waltertrout.comSaturday,

August 13David Gogo: Ten years after being nominated for best new solo artist at the 1995 Juno Awards, this British Columbia-based Canadian just won the 2005 Maple Blues Award for "Guitarist of the Year." Gogo recently released his seventh album Vibe, which features guest artists like guitarist Jeff Healey and John Capek. The Victoria Times Colonist recently quoted Gogo discussing the music he makes. "I don't like to be a paint-by-numbers blues guy. I like to make things exciting." www.davidgogo.org

Dave Hole: This Australian slide guitarist with an "over-the-top" style of playing has drawn raves from audiences as well as international publications. Billboard wrote, "Slide guitar fanatics will have their brains blown out by this Australian fret-melter…Remarkably inventive, technically unusual overhand slide work…Prepare to hear your jaw hitting the floor." Hole has 7 studio albums and delivered ferocious live shows on 10 world tours.www.davehole.com

Tres Equis: Local band, Tres Equis, have toured the globe in support of national recording artists. Lead guitarist, Storm, won national notoriety with his dynamic style several years ago by winning Atlantic Records' "Play it Like Jimmy" contest. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Jimmy Page selected Storm as having the best recorded cover rendition of one of Page's guitar solos.

Friday, September 9Malford Milligan: This blues/soul singer gained national acclaim with his band, Storyville. Recorded on more than 30 albums, he performed three times on "Austin City Limits" and appeared on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." Texas Monthly Magazine said, "(He) may be the next great soul singer…his tenor resonance and barking delivery invite comparisons with Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, and when he's onstage, you can't take your eyes off him!"www.malfordmilligan.com

Tony Vega Band: Blues Access Magazine hails Vega as "a gifted Texas guitarist that demonstrates an ability to play varying styles with equal skill. He has a compelling, razor-sharp guitar style." Don 'T-Bone' Erickson, founding editor of Blueswax e-zine says the newest CD, Tastes Like Love, "serves notice that the band is a force that cannot be denied…one of my favorite albums of 2004…”www.tonyvegaband.com

Dave Nevling: Vocalist, harp player and songwriter, Nevling won the Real Blues 2002 award for Best Texas Blues Harmonica player. Nevling's Blues Kats band features talented artists--guitarist, Adam Burchfield, Jeff Parmenter on bass, Bob Armour on drums and Brad Dawson on the organ. Southwest Blues magazine calls the band's latest album Heady Brew, "…an awesome CD" with "a remarkable group of songs held together with great grooves and catchy lyrics."www.davenevling.com

Saturday, September 10 Dawn Tyler Watson (Dawn Tyler Blues Project): At 13 she played guitar as a seasoned performer and mastered many styles. Dubbed the "Queen of the Blues in Montreal" by the Journal de Montreal, Blues Review magazine raves, "Dawn Tyler Watson takes flexible vocals and a ton of stage presence and applies it all to songs with jazz, funk and pop shadings without ever losing her blues center."www.dawntylerwatson.com

Sue Foley: Honored with her first Juno Award in 2000 for Love Comin' Down”, she has since received a record-setting 14 Maple Blues Awards since 1999, in the categories of Songwriter, Guitarist Recording, Entertainer and Vocalist of the Year. Her recent CD, Where the Action Is, gained the first-ever W.C. Handy award nomination for a Canadian female artist. www.suefoley.com

Sarah Benck and the Robbers: Benck’s recent song, "Tidal Wave" gained national attention from becoming the national YMCA's theme song. Her web site boasts, "After hearing Benck play live, you can't help but agree that music fits Sarah like Cinderella's slipper."www.sarahbenck.comSunday,

September 11The Campbell Brothers: Raised in the "sacred steel" style, a rare music tradition rooted in the African-American Holiness-Pentacostal church, they schooled the popular pedal-steel guitar player, Robert Randolph. The Campbell Brothers combine the church repertoire with the growling, wailing, singing and swinging voice of the steel guitar. Living Blues boasts "…different from anything you've ever heard…essential listening for anyone interested in blues guitar."www.campbellbrothers.com

Dawn Tyler Blues Project; (see September 10th)

Heidi Joy: Operatically trained, Joy began her music career in 1995 and initiated her Holiday Joy concerts in 2000, playing in Nebraska and at a U.S. Naval Base in Guam. www.heidijoy.com

“FRIDAY BLUES” series.

The four “Friday Blues” shows will be held at outdoors at Downtown Blues bar (1512 Howard St. These shows are also free and the sales of concessions help to pay the bills. Gates open at 5:00 p.m. There is no on-site parking but plenty of on-street parking WEST of the Old Market area including a parking garage at 14th & Harney. Downtown Blues' shows will include bands playing outside in the parking lot, as well as Sarah Benck and the Robbers playing the break for each of the four shows.

According to Homer’s Vice President and local radio host Mike Fratt, “Sarah’s status within Omaha’s music community has been rising quickly and this is a good chance for people that normally might not get to see Sarah perform see a terrific local talent on the verge of exploding onto the next level of live music.”

Friday, June 3, 2005 Joanna Connor Guitar World magazine calls her "one red hot and blue mama." Combining funk, rock and world beat, Connor's soulful voice and guitar mastery brings audiences to their feet. Sharing the stage with Buddy Guy, Robert Cray and Los Lobos, Living Blues raves she is "a slide guitarist of ferocious intensity." www.dmamusic.org/joannaconnor

Friday, July 15, 2005 Eric Sardinas Known to “ignite his guitar and walk amidst the flames,” Sardinas has played since age six. About his opening for B.B. King in the House of Blues, the Las Vegas Sun wrote, “His wicked stage presence, combined with his fiery attack on the electrified dobro had the capacity crowd literally screaming.” (2004 Artist)www.ericsardinas.com

Friday, August 12, 2005 Hadden SayersBorn and raised Texan, Hadden Sayers started his own band in 1993, became drawn to the blues in 1996, and has performed, played or jammed with the likes of Kenny Wayne Shepherd, The Neville Brothers, Susan Tedeschi, Double Trouble, Los Lobos, Ian Moore and many others. The Kansas City Pitch Weekly says the press, "doesn't quite explain Sayers' scorching guitar and bluesy, rockin', take-no-prisoners songwriting touch…Wear long sleeves, this band burns!"www.haddensayers.com

Album Review Bruce Springsteen's Devil and Dust

Bruce Springsteen - Devils & Dust Monday, April 25, 2005

Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Title: Devils & Dust
Rating: Niche

There are moments when “rock” music can be as significant an artform as other more recognized mediums such as painting, dance, or a Classical piece. Few “pop” artists are able to transcend their confines to create a sonic mindscape where words and music come together to create series of mental images that other forms of art are accredited with.

It’s been twenty-one years since Springsteen’s, ‘Born in the USA’ ruled the airwaves. Since his massive commercial bonanza Springsteen has calmly down shifted his career.

In many ways Springsteen has nurtured two careers; one with the E-Street Band and a series of solo & acoustic recordings. His first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, a wordsmith extravaganza, straddles the middle ground between these two careers. In a strange duality Springsteen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum sans’ E Street Band in ’99 although clearly his biggest successes have been with the band.

Devils & Dust is the third in the series of studio acoustic albums: Nebraska (’82), [Unplugged (’92)], Ghost of Tom Joad (’96) and now Devils & Dust. Generally critics have lauded most offerings by Springsteen. While Nebraska is widely appreciated, his acoustic albums have been dark and ponderous. Devils & Dust is more Steinbeck and less Little Richard.

I like Springsteen and I purchased this album in the new Dual Disc format; one side is a compact disc, the other side is a DVD that features four videos as well as the full album. Consequently the Dual Disc format allows the recording to be played on CD, DVD or CD Rom (computer) players. So it is convenient. This format allows the artist an expanded medium in which to communicate their art; music, album jacket art, and now video(s). The Dual Disc also allows the artist flexibility to include live, behind the scenes, and interview video. So the ability to communicate the art and concept is greatly expanded. The five videos included are; Devils & Dust, Long Time Comin’ Reno, All I’m Thinkin’ About, and Matamoros Banks. All the videos are shot in the same setting and resonate of ‘The Grapes of Wrath’… an empty 40’s ish house with bare walls, blistering wallpaper, and wooden floors.

The video pictures reflect the stark bareness of the music and the stories being told. Make no mistake; if you want an album to sing along with, to lift up your spirits, this ain’t it. This album’s 12 songs delve into brief lingering images that are true reflections of a harsher side of life. Appropriately the third track, Reno, includes an “adult” warning as it deals with the explicit transaction between a prostitute and her customer and drags the entire album down. On this recording Springsteen uses many of the non-E-Street Band members from, ’The Rising’ sessions including Producer Brendan O’Brien, Soozie Tyrell and The Nashville String Machine.

In the early ‘70’s the relatively unknown up & coming Springsteen’s career was condemned when he was compared to Bob Dylan. Today comparing a relative unknown songwriter to Dylan is rote but back then it was sacrilege. In retrospect, while most of the last 30+ years of Dylan’s career have been a wasteland, Springsteen remains firmly in control of his career and exercises his right to ‘turn off’ the Springsteen-Machine by releasing albums, such as Devils & Dust, that are tome-like literary works but hardly commercial or uplifting. Devils & Dust is as close to literature as music may be capable of; however, this album deals with images that do not appeal to me. For the die hard Springsteen fan this will be yet another in a long line of well above average to great albums; however, to the average pop music fan, unless The Grapes of Wrath happens to be one of your favorite books, Devils and Dust will probably not be something you’ll enjoy.

For certain this album requires multiple listenings before it begins to show itself and for a niche few it will be well worth the investment.

What's On Serial April 20th 2005

What's On @ PS Blues 05202005Wednesday, April 20, 2005
What’s “on” at Pacific Street Blues?
Vol. 3

Artist: Marcia Ball
Title: Live! Down the Road
Rating: Good

Like many blues progenitors, Marci Ball has her style and she does it very well. If it’s a style that you appreciate then having Ball’s live interpretations of these songs is something you’re going to appreciate. However, if you’re not already a fan then this album is an average outing that will sell well off the stage and poorly in the stores. Let’s not beat around the bush, Ball is quite good and very entertaining live: a charming stylist with a smokin’ band. That said, this effort breaks no new ground and while fans will adore the effort, others will quickly forget it ever came out. Plan on hearing, ‘Down the Road’ for a few months on KIWR’s Pacific Street Blues and make your own decision.

Artist: Jimmy Thackery
Title: Healin’ Ground
Rating: Good

With the release of his umpteenth solo album Jimmy Thackery has his niche in the blues world well carved. A canny good guitar player that can stoke a hot riff I lump Thackery a bit lower down the totem pole of uninspired players along with; B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Jonny Lang. Thackery’s live shows have devolved into rote-recall of distant songs with dull edges and well anchored safety nets. In the past decade he’s moved from a red-hot dynamo as heard on, ‘Empty Arms Motel’ to, well, just another act passing through town eeking out an existence. His latest album, ‘Healin’ Ground’ will get the airplay it deserves (because that’s what people want to hear) but count on this piece passing through the night quickly. I guess I am incredibly disappointed in his vocal performance and, based upon that apparent lack of effort, can’t get past it. Sorry fans. Sorry Jimmy.

Artist: Robbie Fulks
Title: Georgia Hard
Rating: Very Good

A known name that I know little about, Fulks latest effort, ‘Georgia Hard’ is a very good country roots album that is left of Lyle Lovett & George Strait and pushing hard up against Merle Haggard. Fulks’ ability to write a good song and get it recorded with a fresh, inspired sound makes this album unfold nicely. While the songs stall amid this 15 song album (tracks 6, 7, & 8) things quickly rev back up. Once again Fulks’ effort is punished by trying to make too long of an album. As you’ve all heard me rant before, no artist, NO ARTIST, can sustain a career spanning numerous albums that requires an artistic vision the equilivent of double vinyl album release every time. So tune into KIWR’s Pacific Street Blues to hear this album over the next few months and, once again, you decide!

What's on Serial April 15, 2005

What's On @ PS Blues 05172005Friday, April 15, 2005
What’s on at Pacific Street Blues? (Vol. No. 2)

Artist: Mem Shannon
Title: I’m from Phunkville
Rating: Very Good
Shannon marketed his first album as the blues cab driver from New Orleans. While his debut album was a worthy effort that occasionally still hits the “turntable” these days, his subsequent albums have been average. Shannon’s new album, “I’m From Phunkville” is an inspired modern blues album. His guitar playing is crisp and aggressive, the songs have non-cliché ridden melody lines, and his vocals are earnest. You know me, I love texture rather than twoXfours and Shannon lays off his playing giving the song room to develop and space to resonate. The packaging is superb. This is a very good modern electric blues album.

Artist: Various
Title: “You See Me Laughin’”
Subtitle: The Last of the Hill Country Bluesmen
Format: DVD
Rating: Great / Niche

Fat Possum Records is one of two or three labels that releases “purist” blues today. I love Alligator and Blind Pig but those are Urban recordings cleaned up for the White Middle Class – NOT that there’s anything wrong with that. On their DVD, ‘You See Me Laughin’ Fat Possum captures the true grit that REAL blues is: pure emotion, heart felt when there’s an absence of “talent.” The DVD features video clips of T-Model Ford and Cedell Davis with a focus on the incredible R. L. Burnside. And like anything that borders on ‘being too cool for the room’ there’s a litany of rock artists that want to add their chic to the project in order to build their own street credibility: so don’t act surprised when U2’s Bona, Jon Spencer’s Blues Explosion or Iggy Pop, ahem, pop-up. For the true-blue Blues fan this is a fantastic piece of entertainment that will sizzle your circuit board; however, for most it’s too deep and too cool. That said, if you’ve read this far you’re probably just the kind of character that would absolutely [adulate] over this DVD!

Artist: Sarah Benck & The Robbers
Title: Suicide Doublewide
Rating: Very Good

I can’t get enough of this band. The focus point of the band is a young Sarah Benck who leads this band through the moves with seeming ease. While I’m the guy least likely to break away for an evening out (young family:family comes first) this band has never failed to create that impression of future possibilities: the songs are there, the live performance is electric, and the band rocks ‘til it hurts. The opening track, Real Friend, is an up-tempo tune that is the featured track on PS Blues these days.

What's On Serial April 12, 2005

What's On @ PS Blues 05122005Tuesday, April 12, 2005
What’s on at Pacific Street Blues?

Time. Time is of the essence. There never seems to be enough time!
Here’s a snapshot of some of the albums you’ll hear this week on PS Blues.

Artist: David Jacobs-Strain
Title: Ocean or a Teardrop
Rating: Excellent

This is the best “blues” title I’ve heard in some time. It took multiple listens for Jacob-Strain’s album to unfold but when it did, IT DID. DJS takes a fresh approach to modern blues in that he plays an acoustic guitar and prefers texture to ‘twang-bar’ doodling. He is also comfortable branching beyond the ‘purist’ restrictions allowing the songs to take him where they may. His guitar playing, with an emphasis on slide, is amazing. The songwriting is refreshing and the actual recording is sharp and clear.

Artist: Tinsley Ellis
Title: The Hard Way
Rating: Very Good

Tinsely Ellis is an artist that has played the markets several times. Clearly he’s a road warrior. Historically I have found his previous albums uninteresting and yet his live show ganders plenty of praise. So it was a pleasant surprise when his latest album exhibited beautiful melodies, appropriate blistering guitar work, and strong vocal lines. This is a fine album by a strong live performer. Very enjoyable!

Artist: Nora Jean Bruso
Title: Going Back to Mississippi
Rating: Good

Bruso’s debut album has all the blistering female vocals of a true Chicago shouter ala’ Shemekia Copeland or Etta James’ latter career work. Bruso hit’s all the appropriate blues bar genres on her album with a stellar slow cooking performance on the 7th track, ‘Don’t You Remember?’ Bruso is coming to town for the Blues Society of Omaha’s debut Blues Crusie (www.omahablues.com) and if her album is any indication, it’s going to be a rockin’ good time!

Album Review: Neil Young's Greendale

Neil Young's GreendaleMonday, February 28, 2005
Artist: Neil Young
Title: Greendale (DVD & CD)
Rating: Good

Neil Young is one of the few artists that never compromised his art for commerce. Among others in that group I would include Patti Smith. Bruce Springsteen, and Iggy Pop. His latest offering, Greendale, does not rank among the many great albums that Young has put out or participated in over his now four decade career; however, for any fan that has “bought into” Young’s art, it’s a pretty cool piece.

Available on CD and now DVD, Greendale, is a musical drama set in a small California town. With his back-up band Crazy Horse offering their usual haphazard approach to keeping the music simple, Young tells a story of a drugs, murder, the devil, environmental concern and a small town’s dealing with all this excitement.

What makes this story of interest is that Young chose to use his neighbors, employees and friends in the movie/DVD to tell the story. Much like Omaha’s own Jeff Davis and the Playing With Fire concert series, Young evidently reached a point in his life where he wanted to use some of his wealth to create an artistic medium for the fun and the benefit of his community. In, Greendale, Young and friends made a stripped down movie that depicted the story on his album of the same name. So no-name actors perform in front of the amateur film makers: much like his music, Young strips down the art to it’s bare essentials and spins 90 minutes of pure hippy culture entertainment that leaves the viewer with a sense of having participated in something fun.

To compound all this fun Young toured, Greendale, and took many of his neighbor-actors on the road with him: which had to be a gas! At the end of the DVD, included in the “Making of Greendale’ section Young includes concert footage of the tour’s final song, “Be the Rain.” The entire cast is on stage performing the song. Interestingly one of Young’s two sons, both of whom suffer from Cerebral Palsy, is wheeled on stage. For those that have followed Young’s life it’s a touching moment that goes by unheralded. (By-the-way, Young’s album, Trans, (1983?) with it’s synthesized & processed vocals and the heavy use of electronic instruments, is about Young’s effort to communicate with his special needs sons).

Anyway, back to Greendale, it’s not going to win a Grammy next year but it’s encompassing, it’s passionate, and it’s anti-slick n’ polish. I really enjoyed it. Really now, “this note's for you.”

Album Review: Indigneous' Long Way Home

blues views By Rick Galusha

I have been working in retail music since 1978. I was a Classical & Jazz deejay at KVNO while in college and have hosted KIWR's PS Blues for more than 13 years [Sundays from 9 am - Noon at 89.7 fm]. I don't know it all but I think I have a pretty rounded - reality based - hype free opinion. You may agree or you may read this column figuring if I liked it you're going to stay away . . . hey, whatever you want.

Indigenous - Long Way Home
Monday, February 21, 2005

Artist: Indigenous
Title: Long Way Home
Rating: Good (and then some)

One hundred and twenty-six years ago, Chief Standing Bear stood in the then Indian Territories of Oklahoma, on the eve of his historic trek that would bring freedom to all indigenous people of North America, and probably thought that his 500 mile walk in January was a long way home to his native lands near what is now Valentine, Nebraska. Standing Bear’s return home to bury his son would result in a trial in which the decision would end the Indian Reservation system. Although largely forgotten Standing Bear stands as one of the great civil rights leaders of our nation’s history.

This new seven-song album by the band Indigenous shows them trying to reignite their career. Although all the tracks were recorded recently some of the songs were written early while some are new. The opening track, Well You Know, harkens back to the bands last album: the self-titled release on Silvertone Records. Whether due to the absent efforts of the band’s label, the over-powering influences of the Davey Brothers, the departure of their long time manager or numerous family issues, the band’s desire to reach a younger audience with a more modern sound failed to garner significant sales and their career cooled off to room temperature. This song belonged on that album.

The next track, Rest of My Days, first appeared on the band’s ‘Circle’ album. This version of the exceptionally well-written track includes crisp airy acoustic guitar “weaves” that add depth and texture. Were it not for the “play-for-pay” policies adopted by major & regional radio conglomerates this song would be blaring out of every car radio in America by mid-July. Let me say that a different way, were radio station “Music Directors” actually empowered to pick the music they played, and were their consultants not accepting payola for choosing songs by faceless bands that sound like other faceless bands which happen to be quite good at selling useless disposable products to amorphous demographics that remain uncommitted to most things, this song would be a massive hit. It is a “great” song by any standard in the rock idiom.

Awake, the 3rd track on the album has appeared a few times through out the band’s career including their first self produced album, ‘Awake’, and their ‘Live- Blues from the Sky’ album. Awake was written by the sister-drummer Wanbdi: who’s beau Jesse Davey, of the recently signed Interscope Records act, The Davey Brothers, appeared on, produced, co-wrote a track and shot the photographs for this CD-EP (which Mato assures me HE did NOT wear mascara for!). As an aside I would add that Wanbdi has a voracious appetite for literature. Once again this is a very strong track for the band, which fans will enjoy.

The fifth track on the album, Six Feet Down, shows a glimpse of what this band is capable of. Co-written with Jesse Davey, this track has a thick blues base that thematically barks of a modern blues-rock standard. The electric guitar solo is a pure Hendrix; languid, well paced, and tasty. Since the departure of Horse, the band has been ripe for a fourth member. Could it be Jesse Davey? If so, where would that leave the Davey Brothers? Clearly Wanbdi and Jesse are a couple and there appears to be a strong musical repartee between Mato and Davey. The forthcoming release by the Davey Brothers will read volumes into where this young Englishman’s heart, and fingers, is. Is it possible to be in two bands on the cusp of breaking big?

The sixth track, Don’t Let Me Go, co-written by Pte (bass) and Mato (a/k/a Standing Bear) is a manifestation of the band’s split personality. Anchored in Santana & Hendrix, Indigenous’ evolution in sound tend to follow the modern fad of being heavier and murkier with less distinct melody lines or what I would call “aching pastels of showering powerchords” which I find uninspiring.

Last but not least is a live track of what could be considered one of Mato’s two songwriting high points. Things We Do, is a song that ebbs and grows with the band. Things We Do was the name of their first Pachyderm album as well as their contribution track to the 'Honor the Earth' benefit album. At the very least this song is an all too brief look into what Indigenous is capable of. Put ten songs of this caliber together on one album and you have the makings of a significance musical statement. However, Mato is over-taxed and incapable under current circumstances. Mato is the van driver, the lead guitar player, the singer, the songwriter, the liaison with management, and the mouthpiece with media & radio. He’s also the ‘father figure’ within the band as well as a genuine father to his own three children. On all levels this band’s very existence rests more and more on his shoulders. For this band to transcend it’s creative trap Pte and Wanbdi need to step up and assume some of the responsibilities. A true partnerships need to develop between these siblings or they will never be given the mental and emotional break necessary for this band to create an album of music that we can see lies withinTwo of rock’s most significant albums, ‘Revolver’ and ‘Rubber Soul’ by the Beatles were both under 28 minutes long. ‘Long Way Home’ clocks in at 35 minutes. It’s is the perfect length with the perfect price point - under ten dollars. Technology allows today’s bands to record up to 74-minute albums onto one compact disc or a double vinyl album. No wonder fans are disillusioned. I can count on one hand the number of double vinyl albums that were able to maintain an artistic vision of that length. (When Tupac Shakur released a double CD of rap music, the equalivent of four vinyl albums, I had to laugh at the cynical joke being played on innocent music listeners.)

Although the band considers this a stop gap recording while it shops for a new label, I hope their point of reference changes to considering this to be a new marketing technique; two 5 - 7 track EPs a year that are musical diverse and mark the growth of the band’s sound during this transitional period. Two albums a year would keep the product pipeline full and fans engaged. It would also force the creative juices to flow year-round. Indigenous continues to be an act whose goal should be the national stage - selling out 2,500 seat auditoriums across the nation. Refining efforts like ‘Long Way Home’ and a hard, focused, work schedule for the next 36 months should get them back where they belong.