Fenton Robinson Somebody Loan Me a Dime Alligator Records
A Cool & Classy 50 Year Old Blues Album That Sounds Like It Was Recorded Last Week.
As is my won’t; I hadn’t read the Press Release until I was playing this album for the third time; and when I did I was stopped dead in my tracks …. as I had no idea that it was a Re-Release and …. even allowing for some 21st Century re-mastering; there’s absolutely nothing in the production or the way Robinson sings or plays guitar that sounds like it could be nigh on 50 years old! Apparently SOMEBODY LOAN ME A DIME was the fifth ever release on this now esteemed label and came about after Alligator head honcho Bruce Iglauer saw Fenton Robinson at Pepper’s Lounge on the South Side of Chicago and instantly felt that this virtually unknown player was perfect for what he had in mind for his new label. As has often been the case; Iglauer was right! The sumptuous title track, Somebody Loan Me a Dime opens the album and sets the scene for what is about to follow; fluid guitar playing, a rich and velvety vocal, a band that sounds like the members were born to play the Blues and a bunch of songs that sound like they come from the heart of a man who has had his heart broken a thousand times; but keeps bouncing back. If I’m honest I have never heard of Fenton Robinson; so when I first played the album; tracks like You Don’t Know What Love Is, Gotta Wake Up and The Getaway made me think that this ‘young’ guitar slinger had obviously been influenced by Robert Cray, Joe Louis Walker and Keb’ Mo … but it turns out, they must have been influenced by Robinson; not just in the way they play guitar but the way they all write songs too. Robinson plays Chicago Blues like virtually no one else; maybe you can hear a bit of BB King in Directly From My Heart to You; but that’s no problem at all to these ears. I want to keep shouting “I can’t believe this album is half a century old!” but need to restrain myself; it is …. but won’t feel that way to 99% of the people who buy it in 2023. The only thing that hasn’t been much of a surprise is the soulfulness in Robinson’s singing and writing; as most of the Chicago Bluesmen of that time were playing both genres quite naturally; and that comes to the fore on the enigmatic Going To Chicago and Checking On My Woman where he sounds like a young Smokey Robinson fronting Albert Collins’ touring band. Speaking of Bluesmen who may have been influenced by Fenton Robinson; check out Texas Flood; a re-make of a Larry Collins single that Robinson had played guitar on; but I can imagine a young Stevie Ray Vaughan listening to this on repeat in his bedroom. This album has been an exceptional voyage of discovery for me; and two songs in particular have struck me as Gold; the sick and sultry Country Girl which sent a shiver down my back the first time I played it; and the song that follows it, Gotta Wake Up, which is as edgy as Fenton Robinson gets alongside a brass section that is so subtle you forget it’s there; but the song would be nothing without its glorious interjections alongside some of the most majestic guitar playing I’ve heard in years … and I’ve heard a lot. I’ve got nothing else to say apart from, if you like any of the players I’ve namechecked you are going to love this album ’til your dying day.
When Fenton Robinson passed away on November 25, 1997, the blues world lost one of its truly exceptional artists.
Well Crafted Electric Blues That Has Matured Like a Fine Wine.
Grainne Duffy’s career still baffles me; she released her first album; OUT OF THE DARK in 2007, and has released albums every couple of years since; gradually evolving the styles of Blues she plays and most importantly ‘never recording the same record twice’, she’s toured Europe constantly and America too ; yet is never spoken of in the same tones as her contempories, both male and female. I first encountered Grainne in 2012 at the SummerTyne Festival in Gateshead, when even if you discounted her ‘Irish Roots’ reminded me of Rory Gallagher’s original trio Taste; when she played a blistering set during a 5 o’clock spot on a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon; which takes some doing, believe me. Back to today and this release. The album opens with the tragically beautiful Well, Well, Well which finds Grainne in fine voice in front of a ‘tight band’ and her own methanol fuelled guitar playing. The title track, Dirt Woman Blues follows; and the mood drops dramatically with Ms Duffy entering Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac territory and standing shoulder to shoulder in class with one of the world’s most underrated and undervalued guitarists; much like Grainne herself. I doubt I’m alone here; but what I like; nay … love about Grainne Dufy’s records is that no matter what; she still resolutely plays the Blues. Even when the pace and volume picks up on Yes I Am or Sweet Liberation; you know you are listening to Blues-rock; and not Rock Music masquerading as The Blues; and there is a big difference between both genres. While I know Grainne as a classy guitarist in her very own right one thing I want to highlight here; is that on this record a lot of the lead guitar was by Marc Ford- ex- The Black Crowes and also by Grainne’s husband Paul Sherry too As the years have gone by I’ve been impressed by the way Grainne Duffy has embraced the slower and more intimate avenues that The Blues can take too; as her voice; which carries the weight of experience is perfect for heartbreakers like Rise Above and the world weary wisdom of Hold Onto You. The album closes with a smouldering ballad called Killycrum, which is a direction I’d never have expected the younger Grainne Duffy to ever attempt; but she has and it will leave you with a flutter in the heart area and a soft smile on your lips. It’s a given that her guitar playing; after all these years is exemplary, but it’s unfair to compare her to any of the greats she has studied over the years; as she has developed a style very much of her own and, at least at RMHQ is instantly recognisable. The title track was an obvious contender to be my Favourite Track here; but today; after three weeks of regular if intermittent plays; the Americana influenced (?) What’s It Going To Be and the fluid guitar playing that underscores the majestic Running Back To You probably surpass it; and with my eyes closed and with a pin in-between my fingers, I’m plumping for What’s It Going To Be; as the winner …. but VAR might over rule that in an hour! Grainne Duffy is maturing and evolving like a fine wine; and it pains me to say this; is still waiting for that smidgen of ‘good luck’ to get her talent noticed by the Blues loving world at large.
Andy Fairweather Low Flang Dang Last Music Company
Grown Up Pop Music Full of Danceable Melodies, Uber-hooks and Monster Riffs.
When I was about 14 I once bought an LP which had Amen Corner on one side and The Small Faces on the other and as my Record Collection was in its infancy, I played the Hell out of it! Never a huge singles collector I also bought Andy Fairweather Low’s 45, Wide Eyed and Legless; and that’s probably where our paths ceased to cross until now. In between I’ve seen him countless times as the gunslinger beside many household names in the music business; where he can play rhythm guitar as well as the best of them; and when necessary step back into the shadows to play ‘invisible lead guitar’ when the Star still can’t play guitar and sing at the same time (guesses on a postcard to the usual address). Which all brings us to Flang Dang, Andy’s 12th or so album in a career dating back nearly 60 years! Fairweather Low comes at you straight out of the gates with Waiting On The Up; a neat and tidy song about ‘still waiting for success’ which I presume to be ‘tongue in cheek’ and the poppy gait reminds me of any or all Nick Lowe songs; but with the addition of Andy’s distinctive vocals which haven’t changed a tiny bit since the mid 60’s. Sometimes when I review albums I feel obliged to dance around the commerciality of what’s on offer; but here Andy Fairweather Low goes out of his way to create massive melodies that are eminently danceable and add them to uber-hooks and monster riffs on songs that need to be listened to as there are stories in there that will appeal to grown ups the world over. Track #2 99 Ways is a perfect example as he sings of 99 Ways to ‘get it wrong’ and ‘only one way to get it right’ which is a great metaphor for life; in my humble opinion. As I’ve alluded to; not all music we buy and listen to has to be ‘serious’ and ‘worthy’ …. don’t get me wrong; I’m a Music Snob and revel in such albums that sometimes need Poirot or Vera to unravel the mysteries therein; but sometimes I just crave music that is ….. fun, fun, fun; albeit with an occasional ‘message’ tucked away inside the lyrics; which is where Keep Your Faith, Looking Down and probably the dark around the edges, Somebody Wants My Soul come into play; yet you can still shimmy to them while doing the ironing (trust me on this *wink*). Another oddity here is the way Andy Fairweather Low slips and slides seamlessly between genres without jarring styles; which is why the Skiffle beat of Too Many Friends still works although juxtaposed between the punchy swing of Keep Your Faith and the Bluebeat/Lovers Rock melody that pervades through Looking Down and all sound like close relations courtesy of Andy Fairweather Low’s singing. I wish I had the vocabulary to describe Andy Fairweather Low’s singing style; but everything I try to use sounds ‘wrong’ and ‘critical’ …. so let’s go with ‘distinctive’ which it most certainly is; and really comes to the fore on the soulful Dark of Midnight and album closer, a melancholic shuffle called The End Of All Roads, which will bring a salty tear to the corner of your eye if you’re not careful. Hmmmm ….. where to go for a Favourite Song; it’ll come as no surprise that Ska 67 is a prime contender, as it neatly mixes a traditional chunky riff with some guitar based melody which could be from the first Specials album and bizarrely Andy actually sounds authentic as sings like he was an Alpha Boys School alumni! But; there’s another song that captured my attention the first day I played the album, and yesterday found myself subconsciously turning the volume up, in the car …. which must mean ‘something’ and that was Got Me a Party which shuffles along like a steam train; and the irony laden story itself typifies the ‘fun, fun, fun’ spirit of the whole album … so (for today anyway) this is my Favourite Song.
Authentic and Gritty Chicago Blues From a Garage in The English Shires.
As regular readers already know; although I have eclectic taste in music; which is reflected in the variety of music we review here and also play on the Rocking Magpie Radio Show; but my heart lies in The Blues. Not just any old Blues bur preferably the gutsy type that’s associated with the Chicago scene circa q950’s and 60’s …. which where this album came into my life a couple of weeks ago. The accompanying e-mail was a tad self-depreciating and certainly didn’t prepare me for what I was going to hear. Opening track, 7 til Late starts with some intricate cymbal play alongside some neat guitar; but when the quaintly monikered D Sharp’s harmonica kicked in my ears clicked into gear like a Meerkat! While undoubtedly full of Chicago Blues in its DNA this song; and a lot of what follows owes more to the British R&B movement of the 1960’s ….. as singer Hortson Longsail and Martin J; who are the cornerstone of the band create a sound that hints at a lifetime listening to the first Stones, Animals and Them albums as well as the much maligned and greatly missed Pretty Things too. My notes are full of words like ‘powerhouse’, ‘intense’, ‘quality,’ ‘tension’ and ‘expressive’ ….. with all of them applying to Mean Things and Missing You for entirely different reasons. By the way Missing You features the simmering vocals of Miss Estelle Chamberlain too alongside the grizzly Hortson Longsail. Not everything is 100mph; these cats can deliver a haunting ballad with just as much aplomb as the rockers; the intricate Northshore and the sassy Tickfaw Woman being prima facie examples of this particular style of music being alive and well, baby. Apart from the accumulated musicianship here; the most impressive thing is that all 10 songs were written by the band themselves and quality pours out of every vinyl groove. Baring in mind Hard Stairs are from the Latin Quarters of rural Gloucestershire and not Memphis or Chicago; there’s still a raw honesty and authenticity to everything here; not least to the three songs that I’m damned if I can seperate in my quest to be a Favourite Song. Cutie Blues is slow burner full of nifty guitar riffs and solos, allied to some militaristic rimshots and a bass line that will frighten your maiden aunt; while the song about ‘catting about’ will raise smiles across the whole world. The only ‘complaint’ I have is sequencing the heartbreaking and New Orleans drenched sing-along Bury Me so early on the album; I’d have left it to the end where it will have every listener unavoidably on their feet, arms in the air hollering along with the chorus. (It’s already gone into the file marked ‘my funeral songs’). But, there’s one other song here; Seeds, that the writers can be justifiably proud to have written. It may take a couple of plays for it to fully unravel and even then, there’s a very clever twist that I’m not going to spoil for you. Sung from an ironic point of view; and featuring some sharp harmonica playing and searing guitar (from the ‘dirty end’ of the fretboard!) this song about the various troubles regarding immigration we are facing, will leave a huge lump in your throat and some mysterious dust in your eyes. It’s bizarre, but not really a surprise that this band are from Cheltenham, one of the prettiest and poshest towns in England’s rural shires but manage to create some of the dirtiest Blues I’ve heard in year,s yet I’ve never actually heard of them previously …. but now I can’t get enough of them.
Stubby Fingers Adds Exquisite Rhythm To His Electric and Eclectic Canadian Blues.
I’ve seen Matt Andersen play ‘live’ five times now; always solo – just him and an acoustic guitar; and he always impresses the Hell out of me, the way such a big man can sing and play that guitar so delicately. His previous albums, while regularly featuring friends and fellow musicians always give the appearance of them being from a solo act. Right from the opening bars of opening track Let It Slide; although it’s distinctively Matt Andersen singing it still sounds like a whole band in full flow. The album follows on a similar drift; with every shade of Blues on offer, plus a hefty dose of Gospel when you’re least expecting it too. A big part of me just wants to shout, “Trust me …. just buy it!” but that’s not really the point of reviewing is it? Even by Matt Andersen’s lofty standards; there are plenty of exceptional musical treasures here that will thrill and surprise longstanding fans and new ones alike. As early as So Low Solo the second track, there’s a funky and sweeping Hammond organ that comes and goes like a Spring fog; while Andersen and his delightful backing singers sound as if this was recorded in a Memphis Tabernacle. The very next song Golden is the type of BB King ‘sound’ that Joe Bonamassa has spent decades trying to replicate; yet Matt casually drops it in to let you get your breath back and prime you for what is to follow. Guitar nerds will be more than happy with this album; but FYI Matt Andersen is very much from the ‘less is more’ school of guitar playing; his solos are measured in seconds rather than minutes; and his songs are all the better for it. I remember seeing Matt Andersen in concert before I’d heard his CD’s; and was stunned how such a huge and hirsute fella could be so delicate in his phrasing and playing; and man ….. can his songs squeeze your heartstrings like a clamp! Here he does that with such grace on Miss Missing You and Only An Island; your family would forgive him if you died of a crumbling heart while listening to these words and that voice. Halfway through the album Matt goes full on Joe Cocker with the punchy and funky-ass What’s On My Mind; and I don’t use that analogy or compliment lightly …. it’s 100% Fabulous with a capital F! As a man who spent 25 years in the ‘shoe trade’ I was intrigued by the title of the final song; Shoes; and while not an ode to my collection of 24 pairs; it’s actually a sweet and almost Celtic love song, courtesy of some velvety and winsome accordion that has me conjuring up images of a potential video set on a creaking and grey harbour somewhere on Canada’s East Coast. To all intents and purposes this is an album you will put on late at night; turn the lights down low and snuggle up with a loved one while you wallow in its beauty … but I have a couple of songs that I’ve particularly fallen in love with; Hands of Time would/could have been a Top 10 Hit across the English speaking world; pre-millennium; but quality and style have gone way out of favour in that market in recent years; so it will be left to the likes of RMHQ and specialist radio shows to promote it …. and if you were to hear it on the car radio, I swear you’d pull over and put the hazard lights on so as to hear it with no distractions. The other is the one I’m choosing as my actual Favourite Song; simply because it’s a bit different from everything else on this particular album and everything Matt has recorded previously. Rollin’ Down The Road has all kinds of musical ingredients in; a swampy Memphis style melody; barrelhouse piano AND organ, shuffling bass & drum combo; sizzling guitar playing and Andersen sliding in and out of the mix better than Van Morrison on a good night …. seriously; what’s not to like? I can’t say if this is Matt Andersen’s ‘best album’ to date; as it’s so very different from everything that’s gone before; and that’s a brave decision for any musician to make at this stage of a career. Personally I think it’s the right decision as he can still tour solo and adapt these songs into that format; but when finances allow he can assemble this bunch of players for occasional concerts that will undoubtedly live in the memory forever.
Connor Selby Connor Selby Provogue/Mascot A Fully Formed Debut Sizzling Blues Album From Essex to Memphis via Dubai.
This album arrived alongside 8 others one day a few weeks ago; and as usual it was immediatly ripped to my hard drive, and then I had a quick listen to the first minute of Track #1 I Can’t Let You Go to make sure the quality was passable. Yippee Why Aye Music Lovers! Originally self released in 2021, which led to Selby being picked up to support Big Leaguers like The Who, and kick start a bill with Pearl Jam, Stereophonics and Johnny Marr in the summer of 2022. Everything was put on hold until I’d played the whole album; and even then I was only removed; kicking and screaming by Mrs Magpie to spend quality time at a supermarket; or else I’d have just kicked back and played it all day! I stand great stead by an album’s opening track; and the fulsome ballad I Can’t Let You Go ticks every box I have, the drum beat is joined by a majestic organ…. then a brass section fill your musical senses….. all before Selby and guitar even enter the fray; and when he does. it’s kick back, relax and listen time! Apart from some Prog I dabbled with in the 1970’s I can’t think of another song that comes in just shy of 7 minutes long that opens an album? And …. the time absolutely flies by; and like everything that follows neither a word or note is wasted. Those of us of a ‘certain vintage’ will play ‘spot the influence’ as the songs come and go; but why should it matter that there are elements of BB King, Peter Green, Eric Clapton and even Joe Bonamassa in the way Connor Selby plays and creates his songs ….. but he does it all in a way that will eventually become his own distinctive signature. It’s all too easy to just immerse yourself in the overall ‘sound’ that Selby creates; but if you listen properly …. and I urge you to do so; his songs are quite exceptional for a young man and his debut album. The delicately beautiful The Man I Ought To Be will ring a tear to a glass eye; whereas the heartbreaking Anyhow with its female harmonies and piano that sounds like it could be Ray Charles playing alongside the acoustic Hear My Prayer, take us to some truly unexpected Bluesy places with the youngster as our guide. There’s even a cover song here from Ray Charles’ back catalogue and I’d wager nobody would know that if you hadn’t read it first and (the bonus track) My Baby Don’t Dig Me virtually sizzles from start to finish. Speaking of the Bonus Tracks that close the album; all four are quite exceptional and show a maturity in his writing; although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with anything that precedes I Shouldn’t Care or Love Letter To The Blues which simply sashays along as the sentiment in his words will have you nodding your head and thinking “Ain’t that the truth Brother Connor!” By the time you reach the sparkling the Hammond drenched, The Deep End which closes business; I swear you will be like me that first day and be desperate to play it all again, just to prove that your ears were right after all. There are certainly a couple of the songs I’ve already mentioned that are contenders for Favourite Track status; but I’m slipping back to two of the earlier tracks to compete for the title …. Track #2, Falling In Love Again is probably the one track that kind of symbolises the album and something I can point you to as a ‘sampler’; beautiful and thoughtful lyrics wrapped up in a blanket of sweet guitar, chunky bass lines, a Hammond of The Gods and girly backing singers worthy of the Stax days! Then there’s Emily; the ‘heaviest’ song here and a ‘dirty love song’ that stands out mostly for the guitar work that compliments Selby’s velvety smooth vocals that draw you in like a siren on the rocks. I feel that I’ve ‘missed out’ over the last three or four years by not knowing about Connor Selby; but obviously the cognoscenti did as he has already been voted “Young Artist of the Year” at the UK Blues Awards for the last three consecutive years (2020, 2021, 2022); and this re-released album will ensure he’s on the Top Table in 2023.
Joe Louis Walker Weight of The World Forty Below Records
Sharp and Contemporary Blues With a Soul Filled Heart
Joe Louis Walker is one of those ‘names’ that I recognised, but when I scoped through my collections of albums and downloads found I own nothing of his previous work – sad but true. Right from the ‘git go’ of opening track and titular song Weight Of The World you know you are in the presence of a Mastercraftsman of their Art ….. a really clever and heartfelt ballad about the sadness that is all purveying these days; but wrapped in a velvet blanket of musicians who never waste or miss a note; and in Walker’s vocal delivery …. a voice that will warm your heart at the same time as sending shivers down your back. Walker has a sublime talent in the way he delivers his message throughout; Waking Up The Dead is a prime example; blending African style drumbeats with an ultra-modern; jazz tinged beat that sounds like a minor earthquake as Walker sings as if his life depends on it; but never loses the listener’s attention even for a second. It’s a similar story with Count Your Chickens where the energy playing out behind him would overshadow many another singer; but Joe Louis Walker fights them off with a stellar performance up front and centre. Presumably many of his fan base will buy this to hear his guitar playing; for which he’s rightly famous … and there’s plenty here to please them; although he’s more of the ‘less is more’ school …. but when he does insert a solo ….. WOWZA …. that guitar sounds like it could melt at any moment. Personally I like this album as much as I do because of the songs themselves; even though the construction and arrangements are fabulous throughout; but it really is the stories in the songs that have made me play this over and over again; not least the intense Bed of Roses and It’s a Matter of Time which has hints of Stevie Wonder and Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson in the mix; and that’s no bad thing; is it. Eric Corne’s razor sharp production brings out plenty of nuance too in Don’t Walk Out The Door and perhaps Root Down too; which could easily have been missed in lesser hands. I’m not totally sure where to fit this album in, as while it’s most certainly a Blues Album, but there are more than enough elements of Soul (both urban and raw) that it could easily win prizes in that category too; not least when the judges hear the finale; Got Me Whipped; but then again Scott Milici’s gentle keyboard playing subtly takes this ballad into Jazz territory too. I’ve been really impressed by Walker’s songwriting throughout; but one song in particular Hello, It’s The Blues highlights what a clever and articulate songwriter he is; as he treats us to beautiful conversation between the listener and a Guardian Angel in the guise of The Blues as a talking entity …. don’t worry; it’s a stunning song that my words don’t do justice to … listen and be seriously impressed. Sometimes songs and albums are too clever for their good; but here Joe Louis Walker pushes the boundaries of what we know as Blues and Soul, but stays well within those same lines to give us an ultra-modern album that will impress not just hipsters and the cognoscenti but cynical old Blues Hounds alike.
The 2.19 We Will Get Through This Unsigned/Bandcamp
Timeless Punchy British Style Rhythm and Blues With the Emphasis on The Blues But with Plenty of Rhythm Too.
Bloody serendipity!! On my radio show last week I played a track from the Revelator album and said something about “where are they now?” then three days later this arrived …. come on; is there a Greater Force at work somewhere? Oooohhheeee! Opening track, No Smoke, No Fire starts where The Revelator left off; deep down and durty Blues with a crystalised Rock spine. Singer/guitarist Chris Chalmers sounds like an illegitimate offspring of a one night stand between Stevie Marriott and Maggie Bell, while his guitar playing, alongside drummer Monty Sneddon, guitarist Paul Wilkinson, guitarist Ady Young and bassist Marty Young sound like they’ve been listening to a lot of early Groundhogs. As I said in the Revelator review; I love The Blues and get sent a lot of albums in this vein; but the majority are actually RAWK bands masquerading as Blues Bands; The 2.19 are the real deal though; listen to second track Turn Out the Lights with it’s guitar playing that is so tense it sounds like a coiled spring and when harmonica player Andrei Marinescu swoops in; you’d swear you were back in the Club -a-Go-Go circa 1964, or somewhere sweaty on the outskirts of Memphis only last week! Timeless, my friend …. timeless! I’m sure you will read elsewhere that these songs will be ‘best played live’ …. which may be true; but that takes nothing away from the recorded version here ….. the bodacious Ready To Go will be the perfect soundtrack to a late night car trip to work; or early morning via headphones on a bus; whereas the melody on the Blues lament, Radio Smiles alongside Marinescu’s sultry harp playing will be a ‘go to’ when you’re doing household chores. It’s Chalmers use of words and imagery on songs not just like that one; but the Rocking and Reeling Seven Wonders that raises The 2.19 high above the bar set for 21st Century Blues Bands; and on and in The Reach he and the band go way beyond the call of duty; again hinting at the Groundhogs but with a smattering of Humble Pie and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion too …. especially the funky-ass Hammond riffs that are littered throughout. On the most obvious level, this album ‘sounds great’ ….. mostly because the band aren’t afraid to use a melody and a bouncy beat when it suits; unlike most of their contemporaries who seem to owe more The Damned and Ramones than they do Muddy and Wolf! As I allude to; there are plenty of nods to the past here; and why not use your influences for a greater good; but be under no illusion, when The 2.19 can write songs like the brittle, beautiful and introspective ballad, Broken Harmony Blues which features a stunning duet between Chalmers and Amy Montgomery as well as the swamp infused and Exile on Main St influenced; Hey Carolina and neither come close to being my Favourite Song; you know you must be listening to someone very special indeed. Two songs have constantly drawn me back time and time in the last week ….. the title Best Suit intrigued me; even before I’d played it; as I’m a lover of a suit myself; but in this case the singer tells us that he is wearing his ‘Best Suit’ for an appearance at the courthouse! If I didn’t know, I’d sweat that this was a Muddy Waters or more up to date, Lew Jetton or Paul Lamb song re-jigged; but it ain’t ….. this is straight outta Belfast in 2023! The other song; and probable winner of the Favourite Track is the claustrophobic finale;We Will Get Through This; a much gentler song than everything that has preceded it as the acoustic guitar (with occasional bottleneck) and could be about the ‘greater problems’ facing us all politically and socially; or it may be about a relationship teetering on the brink of a possible closure; or in my care … and that of several other sufferers; far more personal and telling himself that the clouds will disappear soon…. definitely soon. The 2.19 cover a lot of ground here, and for a band stuck on ‘a local circuit’ and ‘waiting for the big break’ …. sound like they are making music that they want to hear themselves and damn the ‘decision makers’; ‘ in their stuffy offices. I agree wholeheartedly with that philosophy, as there definitely is an audience out there just waiting to hear them. These kids are as good as I have heard in the last twenty years or more; and probably as good as most before that too….. Timeless Rhythm and Blues with the emphasis on The Blues but with plenty of Rhythm too.
Rick Berthod Tribute to Peter Green (The Fleetwood Mac Years) Self Release
A Beautiful and Thoughtful Homage to a Forgotten Master Blues Guitarist.
Rick Berthod appears to have been around the American Blues scene forever, playing alongside and/or supporting most of the Legends in a career that has also produced 8 previous albums; and today he finds himself fronting the house band at The House of Blues in Las Vegas. A couple of nights ago I was out with some ex-colleagues; all younger than me and mostly music fans. After a couple of pints I got mischievous; asking “who was the guitarist in Fleetwood Mac?” To a man they agreed on Lindsay Buckingham; and when I asked the follow up; “Not Peter Green?” Their faces were left scrunched up, as they didn’t know who I was talking about …. although they had heard (of) Albatross. Which is why this album is a) an oddity and b) essential listening for the younger generation. OK there probably is a version of the legendary Fleetwood Mac Greatest Hits floating around e-Bay; but Rick Berthod’s song selection and beautiful homage to a Master Guitarist is well worth checking out; and/or giving as a Christmas present. Although the opening track, If You Be My Baby isn’t one of the better known tracks from this period; but the guitar playing is simply ‘liquid gold’ …. no; scrub that ….. ‘liquid platinum’ and it never leaves that trajectory all the way through to the finale Loved Another Woman. The other thing about that opening song; is Berthod’s voice; beautiful yet melancholic and simply aching with the longing that these songs all conjure up. When I was at senior school in the 70’s selecting and then defending your selection of Favourite Guitarist was a key part of the day; and while I was always a Rory Gallagher fan; Peter Green was always a great back up. Coming back to the album and it’s contents; when I first scanned the track list my first thoughts were “does the world need another version of Black Magic Woman?” Well; in this case … yes. Berthod slows it down to a feisty shuffle and after a minute or so you forget that Carlos Santana ever recorded his version; as this is short, sharp and timeless; with a vocal performance worthy of a Chicago speakeasy in the mid 60’s. There a few songs here that I either can’t remember or have not heard before; but the sting in the tail that Rattlesnake Shake left me was staggering; and if I’d heard Stop Messing Around in a ‘blind tasting’ I’d have sworn it was from John Mayall’s ‘Beano’ album, featuring the best guitar playing Eric Clapton ever managed. The Peter Green Classics are all here of course; and are all played with loving care and not a note out of place; most notably on the sublime Need Your Love So Bad (with additional Prof Longhairesue piano interludes) and Oh Well; which both benefit from Berthod’s distinctive world weary vocals; which puts a new spin on them; as they now sound like the original youngster, looking back on life in 2022. Albatross is …. well…. Albatross; spellbinding of course; and had to be included, but no one is ever, ever going to compete with Green on his Masterwork, will there? On an album like this I always look for something unexpected as a Favourite Track; and here there are another two songs that I have no memory of and both stopped me dead in my tracks as I tried to do some paperwork. Jumpin’ At Shadows is heartbreakingly beautiful and with hindsight; sounds as if it was written many years after Green left The Mac, as it sounds like a love story to the man himself; and there are times the guitar playing brought tears to my eyes the first time I played it. The other, in the tie; is the majestic Driftin’ … which fits in somewhere between Hank B Marvin, Clapton and Joe Bonamassa in the guitar stakes (remember what I said about ‘liquid platinum’ …. but here it’s the actual song; Blues so dark it’s almost black that I’ve fallen in love with! It’s a Peter Green ‘original’ but I’m pretty damn sure he was immersing himself in BB Kings older albums before writing it. So; my overall thoughts? I like it …. a lot; mostly because of Berthold’s lovely and ‘lived in’ vocals sufficiently different from Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac’s ‘originals’ to make it well worth recommending … esp if you know a young person (under 50 hahaha) who doesn’t know who Peter Green was.
Erja Lyytinen Waiting For the Daylight Touhi Records
Another Huge Step on the Blues Rock Ladder to International Stardom
I grew up listening to a whole lot of Blues Rock; but eventually my tastes evolved and apart from an occasional album that would take me fancy, lost interest as what was billed as Blues Rock was invariably Rock with no discernable Blues anywhere to be seen or heard. In recent years a few younger acts have come along who are putting the Blues before the Rock again; and one of my favourites is Finnish Superstar; Erja Lyytinen. While she can more than match her contempories in the guitar playing stakes; her albums invariably place her singing and the songs up front and centre; which is exactly what I want. This album starts with her recent single, Bad Seed and while it certainly merits being played at 8 or 9; the words in the song are captivating and the chorus is designed for A) Sing alongs in the car and B) Audience interaction at concerts. Next out of the traps is Last Girl ….. and I’ve never heard Erja use her voice this way; hitting notes I didn’t know she can reach …. and the crunchy guitar licks in the background certainly add emphasis to the songs’ ‘message.’ Famed for her ‘slide guitar’ playing; this is to the fore on the ballad Never Really Had You; starting the song and being used intermittently to punctuate a heavy heartbreaker of a Rock Ballad. This is followed by the crunchy guitars and skewed passion of Diamonds on the Road; which builds like a tropical storm until Erja unleashes her inner Hendrix towards the tattered and embattled ending. I don’t know why, as I don’t intimately follow Ms. Lyytinen’s social media presence; but there sounds like a lot of heartbreak is in her life. That’s no real surprise in this particular Musical Genre; but listening repeatedly to Run Away and the quaintly titled Love Bites; they (and others) sound very personal and from the pits of her heart too. For my actual Favourite Track; I’ve been torn between the rather beautiful, and lyrically intense ballad, End of The Music which closes proceedings and leaves the listener wanting ‘more’ …. which is always a good thing. The other; and the title caught my attention long before I’d even played a single track thankfully lives up to the billing …… You Talk Dirty is a real low down and greasy Blues Love song that you wouldn’t be surprised if Beth Hart or Mike Zito picked up on; but I doubt either would pick out the nuances the way Erja does …. and her guitar playing on this 7 minute opus is Blues Rock Deluxe btw. It’s fair to say Erja Lyytinen has dug deep for this album; everything here; especially the songwriting and her impressive guitar playing is more mature than on previous releases and this should be another stepping stone towards the International Stardom she deserves.
Erja Lyytinen – Vocals, Guitars, Violin, Keyboards Harri Taittonen – Keyboards, Hammond Tatu Back – Bass Iiro Laitinen – Drums