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
Paul Jones has been one of my favourite singers since my pre-teen years in the 1960’s with Manfred Mann; and even through his solo period before he launched The Blues Band one of my brothers had a solo album of his that I played regularly. So; it was with more than a degree of excitement that I set about listening to this career spanning retrospective. Even though I consider myself a ‘fan’ there’s still more than a few songs here that I either don’t know or have completely forgot over the last 50 years or so. The first of these is opening track; the low down and mean old Blues missive; Without You; but with hindsight it really is as good a way to introduce Paul Jones and his diverse back catalogue as it not only showcases his majestic voice but his mastery of the harmonica too. Personally I’d have liked the tracks to be in chronological order; but that’s a minor point and easily forgiven as the balance is actually nigh on perfect from start to finish. His all too brief stint in Manfred Mann is represented by 5-4-3-2-1; and with not hearing it for decades has been an absolute blast; and I’d forgot how raw it actually was; and just may have been my own introduction to the joys of a well played Harmonica. Of the other songs that I recognised from the first few bars, and essential additions to Paul Jones’ ‘story’ are the original Blues Band song which introduces the members one by one; I’m Your Kingpin (which was a mainstay of just about every bar band I heard in the 1970’s! and the Chicago infused It’s Got To Be The Blues which was another song that sent me down a musical rabbit hole many years ago. Without pretending I know what I’m talking about, there a couple of songs here that are very much ‘of their time’ and the world would keep spinning if The Dog Presides, The Pod That Came Back and Choose Or Cop Out had been missed off here. But there are more than enough diamonds that I’ve re-discovered like the raunchy Suddenly I Like It; the sensual Like Mother Like Daughter and Noah Lewis Blues to more than make up for those three. Treating this retrospective as a Brand New Album makes choosing a Favourite Song a bit easier; as Paul’s ode to Sonny Boy Williamson is exciting beyond belief; and the finale; a sweet ballad, I’ll Be Home Again Tonight shows what a terribly underrated singer Paul Jones has been over the last 60 years.| For the life of my I can’t place the rip-roaring stompers, Living For The Day and It Sure Feels Good; but I know them, yet neither appear to be anywhere in my collection; so I guess they must have impressed themselves on me in a live setting …. and if they has; then they both deserve their place as my Favourite Song here. While this is meant to be a retrospective of his career … NO I’ve Been a Bad, Bad Boy or High Time? Really? I know Paul Jones is a multi Award winning British Blues Icon; but that still doesn’t stop him being underrated and undervalued by the music paying public at large; so it’s not too late for you to buy a copy for yourself and one for a friend who deserves to hear a bundle of fabulous British Blues sung by a Mastercraftsman.
Mick Kolassa I’m Just Getting Started Endless Blues Records
The Blues Comes in Many Shades; and Here We Add a Couple of New Shades To the Palette
This is Mick Kolassa’s 11th album which shows he already knows his way around The Blues, and even a cursory listen here shows what a talented singer and songwriter he is. For some inexplicable reason I’ve always liked a title track to open an album; and that’s what we get here; the autobiographical and slightly tongue in cheek I’M JUST GETTING STARTED, where Mick takes us through every stage of his career from his Daddy giving him advice at the beginning through to him claiming “I’ve got me lots of tricks ain’t no one’s seen yet!” and you’d better believe it, Brothers and Sisters! The thing I like most about this album; and that’s not to say there are any weaknesses; is the way the songs are front and centre. Sadly; in my experience too many Blues artists let the music especially their guitar playing dominate proceedings; and/or fiddling around with the vocals in one way or another; Mick Kolassa on the other hand regularly switches things around to get the best out of his words and stories. Track #2 What Can I do? is a delicious slow burner, about a love affair going nowhere and I likes it a whole lot; especially when his voice drops an octave on the last line of the chorus. I don’t know what to call it; but Kolassa is the opposite of a ‘one trick pony’; as he uses a variety of styles to catch your attention; with the dark and moody Alibis And Lies being a N’Orleans shuffle with a cornet/trumpet slicing through like cut throat razor; and bizarrely (on paper) he follows that with Friday night Dive Bar re-make of Milk Cow Blues called Leavin’ Trunk which is as raw and authentic as the Blues gets in 2022; and you hardly notice the change in pace at all. I think that may be why I’m liking this album so much; is Kolassa’s ‘authenticity’ throughout; he sounds like he’s either ‘living the songs’ as he sings them, or ‘actually lived the story’ he’s singing about. Prime examples would be the punchy version of John Hiatt’s Real Man, or That Kind of Man and especially the sizzling Take Me Away which won’t leave a dry eye in the house. I’ve played the rambunctious final track How Much Can I Pay You a few times now, trying to unravel what it’s ‘really about’ and I think it’s as simple as being a fun song about a ‘rough old girl’ in a bar that the band are playing, and the type of tongue in cheek, saucy song we associate with Muddy Waters or even Louis Jordan; and it’s an absolute doozy. As I say regularly, there are no obvious singles here; and why should there be with so few outlets for coverage; but that doesn’t stop a couple of songs from standing out like a poppy in a field of golden wheat. First of my options for Favourite track is the slow and intricate Hard Hearted Woman; which features some superb guitar and organ interplay that sounds like a fog that the lyrics cut through like early morning sunshine. Then there’s the funky ass, harmonica drenched Bigger Dreams, which just might be my current ‘signature tune’ and Rick Steff’s piano playing is straight out of the Professor Longhair playbook too. Which brings me to my actual Favourite Song; the stunner Trying Not to Let The Darkness In; which has more or less applied to me a lot in recent years, and will tug at the heartstrings of all so many people who get to hear it; and the construction is quite majestic too. As we all know, the Blues comes in many shades; and Mick Kolassa has created a couple of new shades of his own here and may even be colouring outside of the lines occasionally; but if that is what it takes to create songs like these; who am I to complain?
Todd Sharpville Medication Time Dixie Frog Records
Blues This Intimate, Raw and Classy Doesn’t Come Around Very Often, Cherish it.
Here I go again with an act that’s been treading the musical boards for 30+ years and ….. I’ve never heard of him ….. but should have. As is my won’t; I’d played this album twice in full before casting my eyes over the Press Release and was then left open-mouthed! First of all; I presumed Todd Sharpville was American – he’s not he’s English and this certainly isn’t his first rodeo ….. he’s been a ‘guitar for hire’ for most of those 30 years; rocking up as lead/rhythm guitarist on tours and albums by the great and the good (plus a couple of people I genuinely hadn’t heard of) and releasing a couple of albums along the way too. Add to that mix that the album is produced by Sharpville’s friend, none other than Duke Robillard and his best friend, Larry McCray makes an appearance too. What I wasn’t prepared for was the openness and depth of the songs here; ‘raw’ is a veritable understatement; and with that in mind I had presumed that this was his ‘breakup’ album; it’s not …. as that was apparantly Todd’s confessional divorce album, Diary Of A Drowning Man! This; and when you hear it, is a lot deeper and even rawer as it visits the aftermath of that divorce and the effect losing his children had on Sharpville mentally. Now we know the pedigree of Todd Sharpville and his band of friends; the professionalism and gentleness of touch throughout these songs is a ‘given’ so it’s not worth your time describing how brilliant the guitar work, subtle, sensitive and gut-busting keyboard playing aligned to a rhythm section worthy of the finest studios in the world; now is it. I’m going to concentrate on Todd’s exceptional way with storytelling and the way he uses his rich voice to deliver his words in a way that will screw with your mind; and regularly break your heart. With all of that information now on board; the intensity of opening track Walk Out In The Rain (and what follows) now makes complete sense and leaves you feeling as if you are intruding on a man’s most personal feelings …. but he also manages not just with this song; but God Loves a Loser and the doom laden ballad, Tangled Up In Thought too, to give a voice to the thoughts many of us (men AND women) feel at the worst times in our lives. There’s an intimacy in songs like Silhouettes and the punchy House Rules that made me feel guilty listening so closely; but again many of us hearing these songs will know exactly where the writer is coming from and find themselves unconsciously mouthing the words while fighting back tears. Be under no illusions, even if the subject matter is so dark and personal; this is still very much a Blues Rock album of the finest hue… and yes, the emphasis is on the ROCK side of the Blues, which is a mighty fine thing indeed. As I type this, the rip-roaring R&B of duet with Larry McCray, Brothers From Another Mother is out as a 45RPM single and is perfect for quality radio programming across the world as it’s a ‘love song’ in all but name, and boy does it bounce along like a kangaroo on steroids! Choosing a Favourite Song was never going to be easy; as pretty much every song here has affected me in one way or another in the last couple of weeks; but the slow, sensitive and soulful Medication Time can be heard on three or four very different levels; personally I saw it as a metaphor for a broken love affair; but listen in depth and for Sharpville this must have been the most difficult song to sing as it’s painfully honest about his actual breakdown and time in hospital. Then of course there’s the angry and double feisty re-imagining of Dire Straits Money For Nothing; which features Sugar Ray Norcia ….. yikes! This will be guaranteed to be the last song of every future gig Sharpville ever plays surely? But, with all that in mind I’m actually torn between the last two songs on the album as an either/or …. the 90mph Honky Tonky Red Headed Woman (the Springsteen song btw) is fabulous and something of a ‘refresher’ that life and love goes on; but as I type the swampy ballad; I Don’t Need To Know Your Name, which closes affairs has left me with a tear in my eye and the sax solo has given me a tight knot in my stomach too; which means it’s one helluva song… and very worthy of your time and money. As a reviewer and first and foremost; a music fan discovering this album and the multi-talented Todd Sharpville has been like finding a pearl in an oyster …. Blues This Intimate and Raw Doesn’t Come Around Very Often, Cherish it.
Billy Hector Rock Night in Jersey Ghetto Surf Music
Bodacious Blues Rock That Errs on The Side of R.O.C.K …. But is Only a 5 or 6 on The Richter Scale!
I first uncovered Billy Hector two albums ago with his OLD SCHOOL THANG release in 2015; and if pulling them out of the cupboard for accompaniment on long car drives makes me a fan; then …. I’m a fan! Two things I need to tell you before I go any further; a) Billy used to be Hubert Sumlin’s tour guitarist and b) While this is Blues Rock music that errs on the side of R.O.C.K …. it’s only a 5 or 6 on the Richter Scale; which is all I can cope with these days. The magnificent I Know How To Party gets the show on the metaphorical road; with Billy and cohorts showing the kids how to ‘do it’ both in deed and music. This is followed by the slow burning She Don’t Love Him Anymore, which leads into some glorious slide-work from the Maestro that will live in the memory long after the album has been replaced by his next release. There’s a ‘slick cool’ to many of the songs here; and I’m pleased to tell you that the songs themselves take precedence; and the intricate and even revolutionary at times; fretwork and super-pro backing, take a secondary position; regardless of how good it is …. and it’s Damn Good BTW. Too many ‘famous’ guitarists these days concentrate on guitar fireworks; forgetting that the words in their songs are just as; if not more important than their technical showing off …. which certainly isn’t the case with Billy’s writing on and in Doctor, Doctor and the funkalicious Lazy Man which has a groove so good, Mrs Magpie looked on in disbelief as I boogied around the kitchen to it one night! There also two covers here too; and while I didn’t recognise either, the choices really are exemplary; Hector does to Leadbelly’s Poor Howard what the Cream did to Crossroads 50 years ago; and the other is actually one of my favourite songs here; France Chance which features some genuinely sizzling guitar work and industrial style powerhouse backing from Sim Cain and Wilbo Wright was actually written by Mississippi Joe Callicott in 1967 on a long forgotten album of his own, that sounds nothing at all like this. I have no idea how a musician can hear Folk Songs like these; and then turn the words and melody into pumping Rockers ….. it’s witchcraft methinks! Speaking of Favourite Tracks here, I’ve eventually narrowed it down to three (not including France Chance); with the horn section turned up to 8; the slinky Tell Me What You Want has a big band feel to it, with hints of both BB and Freddie King in there too; then there’s the feisty Ms Martha where Billy not just growls his vocals but makes his Strat growl too! Which only leaves the actual winner; Rockstar Betty, which I fell in love with the first time I played it. More laid back than most songs here; but the bodacious story and supercool refrain; made it an obvious choice, even though the others ran a very close race. I hear quite a few albums ‘like this’ every year, but there’s ‘something special’ about Billy Hector’s way with words and geetar playing that appeals to me over many more ‘famous names’ on the circuit these days ….. and I can only hope against hope that he visits NE UK sometime soon …. as the audience is ready and waiting.
Lew Jetton & 61 South Deja Hoodoo Endless Blues Records
Smooth and Silky Classic Blues With a Razor Sharp Contemporary Edge.
Without RMHQ I doubt that I would ever have heard of Lew Jetton & 61 South; but I’ve now got three albums by him/them and my world is all the better for discovering them. While one of my closest friends instantly dismissed this album after three tracks as being ‘nothing new’ ….. which isn’t too far from the truth; but that’s not the point is it? What Lew Jetton and compadres do, is take the Classic Chicago Blues/R&B format and rub it down and then apply their own glossy varnish to create contemporary songs that will appeal to Blues fans of all hues and ages. Starting with the slick and greasy Two Lane Road, Jetton throws down a marker; defying you not to ‘get on down’ with his bodacious take on the classic formula ….. and comes out on top. Track #2, Mexico, with its Rolling Stones ‘riff’; troubles me somewhat; as it’s a Blue Collar tale from the Rust Belt; where the tired and beat down character bemoans his life, now ‘his job has gone down to Mexico and he’s now ‘living off the Government.’ But ….. there are many folk out there that will associate these words with their own lives; in fact I can too ….. as my 25 year career as a succesful Salesman; while ‘not going to Mexico’ …. actually ‘went to the internet‘ as stores across the country disappeared and were replaced by websites with limited overheads. There is also plenty of ‘lightness’ here that counteracts any shade; none more so than Homegrown Tomatoes which has a great ‘chunky’ beat and some fiery harmonica courtesy an original member of 61 South; JD Wilkes of The Legendary Shack Shakers, who appears again on five more tracks; making each one ever more exciting than if he wasn’t there! While not the most prolific of recording artists Jetton has nevertheless been on the gig circuit for 30 years; and that shows in the way he and the band gel on the broody Nighttime Into Daytime and Drinking Again; which could have become parodies in lesser hands. There’s occasionally a smoothness to Jetton’s songwriting that belies his lack of releases over the years; with Keeping Me Awake and Will I Go To Hell both sounding like they’ve been lifted from Grammy Winning albums and superimposed here ….. they’re not; they’re all Lew Jetton originals even the timeless stroll of Sandy Lee! As with all Blues album there’s an abundance of heartbreakers and ‘lost love’ songs here; and again Jetton digs deeper than most to keep your attention on the fabulous I Been Cheated and Waffle House Woman both of which which will leave you with tingles down your back! While there’s some darkness in the actual songs; it’s fair to say that DEJA HOODOO is a fun album from start to finish; when inadvertently you will have a smile in your face; which brings me to the two songs that I’m struggling to decide between for the accolade of Favourite Song; first out of the traps is Who’s Texting You; a very contemporary twist on the age old story of ‘cheating’ in the Blues idiom and something I’m happy to play over and over again; such is the quality on show; which is a similar description of the slow and sultry Tattoo Blues; which comes from the Muddy Waters school of Blues via the Pinetop Perkins Academy; with plenty of emphasis on the barrelhouse piano and JD Wilkes’ amazing harmonica playing, as there is on Jetton’s raspy vocals. I’ve always found it tiresome when friends who wear T-Shirts bearing the image of the Blues Greats try to tell me that “there’s no good music anymore” ….. and dismiss me with a wave of the hand when I mention albums like this peach ….. if only they’d get their collective heads out of the sand and listen Lew Jetton I’m 99.9% sure they’d then buy a T-Shirt to prove their unbounded loyalty!
Because she’s been around the Blues scene for 20 years or so; I kind of think of Dana Fuchs as ‘Godmother’ of the female Blues scene. OK, I shouldn’t seperate the ladies from the gentlemen these days; but I can’t help myself …. sorry. Then again; because she’s trod such a varied path with her albums over the years; perhaps I should be comparing and contrasting with the males members of the species? Or I could just tell you about the fabulous music contained within this; her 10th full length album. Normally less dependent on the electric guitar than her contemporaries; Dana kick starts BORROWED TIME with the raunchy Double Down on Wrong; which is full of fizzy electric guitar ….. just to prove my memory wrong! Though the production always keeps her distinctive throaty vocals to the front of the mix …. which is how it should be. Not for the first time; Dana takes us on an emotional rollercoaster; using electric guitars on the uptempo Blues Rockers that will shake your soul; like the funky-ass Star and the full-on righteous Last To Know ; which owes a nod to the guitar playing of the late Johnny Winter if I’m not wrong; although the song is deeply personal to Ms. Fuchs herself. Speaking of ‘personal’ Dana delves really deep into her imagination for the slower and more emotional Blue Mist Road and Nothing You Own; which was ‘inspired by a report about impoverished South Africans in a Cape Town Slum‘ and will bring a tear to a glass eye. Long term fans of hers; and there are plenty, will love the new direction Dana’s writing takes with Curtain Close and Not Another Second, which sort of dabble into the Southern Rock territory I associate with Molly Hatchet and even Black Oak Arkansas if my aged memory doesn’t deceive me. When I first received the album I ‘presumed’ it was going to be a ‘pedal to the metal’ full on ‘rocker’ ….. but Dana really shows her class by following the beautifully gentle Call Me Name, which again shows the diversity in Ms Fuch’s writing for this album; as this tale of two women riding out the Liberian War in a refugee camp, becomes a universal story about love and companionship with the intensely feisty Save Me which is going to be a sure fire winner when played live. I’ve been torn between another Southern Rocker Hard Road and the heartfelt Country Blues of Lonely Lie for my actual Favourite Song; not least because of the harmonica intro and occasional haunting salvos on said instrument as Dana channels both, her inner John Prine AND Bonnie Raitt…. which is why it gets my casting vote. I’m no expert regarding Dana Fuchs’ career so I’m not sure where her fan base will place this in her Top 10 releases; but I will be surprised if history will show it’s in the Top 3 ….. and for me; as the proud owner of only two other of her releases, it’s my Favourite as there’s more than enough to keep me coming back time and time again.
With March 2022 being such a busy month for new releases I very nearly missed this out ….. and would have regretted it for years to come. On the day I received it I gave the accompanying Press Release a cursory glance and saw Tim had once published an instructional book for the harmonica entitled “The Talking Harmonica ;”. which made me think immediately that I was going to like whatever the Hell was on offer on the silver CD. My ‘spidey-sense’ was spot on! Gartland hit my sweet spot straight from the opening stanza of Don’t You Mess With My Heart; which starts with a piano/harmonica duet before his grizzled and world weary vocals, accompanied by some gorgeous female harmonies glide in like a warm breeze on an Autumn morning. Man …. oh man, can he play that harp! But there’s so much more to this act than just a single instrument ….. like most everything that follows; this song is Chicago street Blues at its finest; with thoughtful lyrics and an arrangement worthy of a Superstar Act. As a bonafide harmonica lover; I adore Gartland’s unique style; or should that be styles? As he can make this tiny instrument sound soulful and sleazy at times (The Thing About The Truth? Outta Sight, Outta Mind?); and also a rocktastic lead instrument too (Mind Your Own Business? Save Sammy Some?) ….. which very few apart from Charlie Musselwhite can do these days (unless you know different.) What will actually keep this album to the forefront of collections though; is the combination of Gartland’s vocals and his razor sharp lyrics ……. the Honky and Tonky, Cloudy With a Chance of Blues, sounds like a Dr John/Howlin Wolf/Hound Dog Taylor mash-up will get even a wooden leg dancing; and the sultry Love Knocks Once will make you want to grab your partner and slow dance around the kitchen, with the lights turned down low! Choosing a Favourite Song is not the same as saying something is ‘the best in show’ ….. a Favourite is a song that touches you in some weird and mysterious way; which is exactly what the heartbreaker Wish I Could Go Back made me feel the first time I played it; and again this evening …… it’s a sad song (of course) but that piano, guitar, shuffling drum beat and of course Gartland’s trademark harmonica playing all combine to send a shiver down the back and a lightning bolt to the heart! One other thing to mention is that Gartland hails from Nashville; and while we instantly think of Stetson attired Country musicians inhabiting that great city; but there’s an exciting Blues scene there too …. and Tim Gartland must surely be at the fore front. I’m not sure if this is Tim Gartland’s fourth or fifth release; but that matters not a jot because it’s a keeper par excellence and a gateway back into his back pages, if I’m not mistaken. (I’m not!)
The Duke Robillard Band They Called It Rhythm & Blues Stony Plain Records
The Perfect Antidote To All That Troubles Us In 2022.
I guess that without RMHQ I would never have discovered the delights of Duke Robillard; which of course is why we do what we do …… bringing acts that fly under the radar into the public domain … or something like that.
This is his third album in three years and is an absolute blast; the way he takes a bunch of Classic yet little known 50’s/60’s Rhythm & Blues tracks and makes them the perfect antidote to all that troubles us in 2022. The album opens with the fabulous Here I’m Is; which sets the mood with some a rock solid bass; honking sax, sizzling guitars, shuffling drums and; in the first of sic songs with Chris Cote’s expressively sexy vocals on a song about wooing a young lady; imploring her to “here miss baby, won’t you take a chance with me?” Does she weaken? You will have to listen yourself to find out. Next up is a really sassy duet with Sue Foley called No Good Lover; and just may be the response to Here I Am! While many of the songs here are quite sad at their core; Old School R&B like this is always uptempo, danceable and at the very least tongue in cheek; check out Michelle Willson, AKA ‘The Evil Gal on Champagne Mind and Chris Cote again’s Fools Are Getting Scarcer for perfect examples. That said there’s a clever mix slow burners here too, with the slow and sleazy piano led stomper Rambler Blues and Someday After a While showcasing Robillard and Company’s musical skills in every note. Hopefully it won’t be too long before The Duke tours the Blues Festivals across Europe and I will get the chance to here In The Wee Wee Hours, I Can’t Understand It and She’s My Baby in all their effervescent glory which is what live music is all about. The album closes with one of Robillard’s own works; the delightful instrumental Swingin’ For Four Bills and then of course; it’s ‘press repeat’ to hear it all over again! With 18 songs here, no one can complain about not getting ‘value for money’ as every track here is well worth their place, with no filler at all; and there are a couple of really, really special songs that I can’t decide between for the accolade of Favourite Song; the first is the tearjerker of a break-up song; The Things I Forgot To Do which brought back memories of a raw Sam Cooke the way Robillard describes his misery; and the other is actually more of a Country Blues tune than it is Rhythm & Blues; yet still sits in perfectly well; and that’s Homeless Blues which could be best song John Lee Hooker never recorded. As I alluded to at the beginning, I’m new to Duke Robillard so can’t vouch for the majority of his back catalogue; but this and the previous two releases show a Blues Singer-Guitarist that never stands still, and is constantly evolving …… who deserves every accolade going.
CD/Download Released 18th March 2022 Vinyl Released August August 5th 2022