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which leads into some glorious slide-work from the Maestro that will live in the memory long after the album has been replaced by his next release.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
A Modern Twist on Classic Blues From Chicago and London But Straight Out of Belfast.
Never mind being entitle REVELATOR this album has been something of a revelation this week. If you don’t live in Northern Ireland you are unlikely to have heard of The 2.19 or its constituent parts; but it’s quite obvious from the first track Revelator, that the band is made up of road wise musicians who play what they love; and love what they play ….. Blues Rock with the emphasis on Blues; which isn’t always the case with bands these days. Made up of a bunch of friends who have played in a myriad of other bands over the years which means The 2.19 certainly know how to play the Blues of the Chicago and British variety with comfort and class. Probably only destined to be sold at gigs, this album actually holds some truly diamond encrusted tracks that could easily have graced albums by the Superstars that came out of the British Blues Boom in the late 60’s; yet somehow don’t sound dated at all. While most Blues Rock albums I receive these days are really Heavy Rockers paying lip service to what we know as the Blues, The 2.19 seem to spark off a variety of influences from the last 50 years to create a sound that is actually quite distinctive and very varied. While REVELATOR kicks off with a short series of electric Blues; they quickly through a curve ball inclusion of some cool acoustic tracks, that recall memories of first hearing Led Zeppelin and Free; with No Time to Bleed, All Kinds of Evil and the jaunty One Way Ride being outstanding for a band with no record label behind them. Like all bands since time immemorial, The 2.19 revolve around the singer and here Chris Chalmers has some pitch perfect leathery vocals; but twin guitarists Paul Wilkinson and Ady Young show their combined class on the slow and sleazy pair of All Kinds of Evil and Bad Blood; which will send a shiver down your back. No Blues band is worth the name without a great back line on drums and bass; and here Monty Sneddon and Marty Young provide a subtle yet powerful backdrop for the songs to develop and Cummings to lead the line valiantly, no matter how slow or fast the song is. Plus, no Blues album is complete without some soulful harmonica; and here the occasional inclusion of Andrei Marinescu on said instrument really adds a touch of class that I wasn’t expecting. Personally I love the way the band use light and shade, not just in the songs themselves but the order in which they come on the album, which will no doubt make for a great night out when they finally get to play this album in its entirety on stage. For my choice of Favourite Track it’s a toss up between the slow burning Led Zeppelin/Big Bill Broonzy hybrid Black Dog Moan and the album closer Old Days Coming Back, which tips its hat into John Martyn and the forgotten slower side of Free territory; plus the grizzled and almost demonic vocals at the end are pure Alex Harvey, who I always loved. While I’ve mentioned their obvious influences here; be in no doubt The 2.19 are very much a shiny new band in their own rite; and while their combined ages probably preclude them from World Domination; there’s a very lucrative Festival circuit around Europe that can only benefit from their inclusion.
From a Seedy and Sultry Place Somewhere off Beale Street
This album arrived alongside 5 or 6 others a few weeks ago; and while it went straight into my laptop; it’s pretty much sat dormant until yesterday ….. possibly because of the title, ONE LOUDER, which made me presume it was on the ‘rockier’ side of the Blues spectrum. Actually nothing could be further from the truth; as the Gospel tinged opening song A Long Hard Way oozes right from the opening notes as Sister Gina and just her Resonator guitar brings up each individual note from the very bottom of her Soul. They do crank things up a tad on Track #2, Freight Car, which features some scintillating guitar work from guest Justin Johnson; and then over the next 9 songs too, which are all right up my very own personal Blues Street. As I played the album for the third time last night; it was no surprise to find that Misty Blues have released 10 previous albums and toured virtually non-stop for a couple of decades; which all goes to create a groove that glides between styles with consummate ease and great self-confidence. While this album will sit proudly in any music collection; it’s fair to say it’s not the Blues by Numbers; these are songs that show that the writer can initially misdirect the listener; leaving them sitting in wonderment when they hear Birch Tree or Hit You Back, too and later when keyboardist Benny Kohn sings Do My Thing (which he also wrote) we are taken to a seedy and sultry place somewhere off Beale Street for a blissful few minutes. When Seal of Fate first came out of the office speakers; I had to stop what I was doing as I could swear that there was an accordion in the backing; and sure enough, alongside some Professor Longhair influenced piano; there really is some some swinging ‘squeeze-box’ courtesy David Vittione that gives this superb song an edge I’d never have expected on a Bluesy album. Although a very cold day; the Winter sun was shining last Saturday and that made This Life We Live and the scorching I’m a Grinder really came to life in a way I’d normally associate with my Sharron Jones albums. While this is very much a ‘band album;’ like everyone from the Beatles to the Miracles, the first thing you hear and eventually associate them with is the singer; and Misty Blues have a doozy in Gina Coleman; which brings me to my Favourite Track here. It could easily have been the low down and dirty duet between Gina and Big Llou Johnson, How The Blues Feels, which which sent a shiver down my back as the two purr back and forth while Aaron Dean’s sax and Seth Fleischman’s guitar squeal and moan to give this sexy ode plenty of extra oomph …. as if it needed it; but there’s another song that actually edges that into second place …… The finale, Take a Long Ride, which features Joe Louis Walker on guitar and vocals; but instead of hogging the limelight; he is actually overshadowed by Gina and a rip-roaring combination of Araon Dean’s sax (again) and Benny Kohn’s immense keyboard playing throughout ….. and the song itself, sure ain’t too shabby either. Albums like this are the reason I set up the site and try to keep it as up to date as possible ….. bringing you music that you’re unlikely to find in magazines or their websites …… this is the type of album you’re unlikely to stumble on in ASDA or Walmart; this only comes by a recommendation or after a friend suggested you see them live; then it will become your #1 Album of the Year …. and years to follow.
There’s So Much to Like Here Covering The Whole Spectrum of Electric Blues
Alligator Records is still one of a handful of labels out there that keeps on releasing; at the very least ‘interesting’ music but mostly very high very quality stuff from their fabulous rosta. Although I’ve bought a few of their CD’s over the years, it’s only been recently that I’ve been on their mailing list for reviewing purposes; otherwise I may well have missed out on this cracking album. Ellis has been on the Alligator label since 1988 yet I didn’t even recognise his name before sliding the silver disc into the office hi-fi. Thirty seconds into opening track One Less Reason and I knew that I was onto a certified ‘winner;’ as Tinsley Ellis has a rough and silky voice and plays guitar in a liquid gold fashion; somewhere between BB King and Joe Bonamassa and his songwriting and storytelling is so ‘believable.’ Devil May Care is one of those few albums that works on several levels; in the car I cranked it up to 9 one night after a particularly awful shift at work; and last week I played it to mellow out while filling in some complicated forms ….. and both suited my moods equally as well. If we take for granted that Ellis is a phenomenal guitarist (he is!) and his majestic voice is so well suited to to the Blues you’d think he should be a much bigger star than he is …. I will concentrate on his songs; as that’s what ultimately makes the difference between success and failure. Ellis never strays too far from the ‘relationship’ mode of writing; but this is The Blues after all so that’s as less a surprise as it’s expected; with the claustrophobic One Last Time and the crackling Beat The Devil coming from opposite extremes of the Blues spectrum but sitting perfectly well like well behaved siblings. For a man on his 20th Album in 24 years; it’s fascinating to realise that he can still find new ways to describe the many aspects of being in love, without ever repeating himself; which comes to the fore during Just Like Rain, Right Down The Drain and the sweltering 28 Days too. There’s so much to like here apart from just Ellis’s vocals and guitar playing; the arrangements and interplay between his guitar playing and Kevin McKendree’s assortment of keyboards has to be heard to be believed; then there’s the classy drums and bass of Steve Mackey and Lynn Williams who drive the beat from start to breathless finish. Speaking, as I was of the different styles of play here; my two Favourite Songs are also from Polar opposites of the spectrums; the finale Slow Train to Hell sounds like a great lost BB King track resurrected by Albert Collins or Buddy Guy; but it’s not ….. it’s just another one of the 200+ songs Tinsley wrote during the the various lockdowns in the last couple of years. The other is Funkalicious ride called JuJu and is something of a cornerstone for the whole album as it shimmers and shakes like no other; but is also the centrifugal force that everything else sparks off ….. and I bloody love it. I had to do a double-take the first night I heard Higher Ground; as I thought it could be a re-arranged version of the Stevie Wonder classic; but it’s not even though it sounds like it’s not a million miles away in content and context; as Ellis and McKendree trade notes in the background like a gang shootout in the rough part of town. Both the strength and perceived weakness of DEVIL MAY CARE for me is that I don’t have the time (or finances!) to delve into Tinsley Ellis’s back catalogue; much as I feel I want to …. such is the effect this album has had and is having on me.
Mean Old Fireman & The Cruel Engineers Dumpster Fire Self Release
A Bunch of the Coolest Cats in Bluesville Having The Time of Their Lives
Let’s start with the name; ‘Mean Old Fireman& The Cruel Engineers’; the pseudonym of singer-songwriter, and ex-firefighter Ned Bolle; which made me presume this would be a Rock/Indie type band; when he’s actually a grizzled Blues Singer; then of course there is the album cover ….. it’s so bloody awful it actually caught my attention, making me play the disc to ‘see if it was just as bad’ ….. and it certainly isn’t! The adage ‘write about what you know’ comes to fruition on opening track Tour #3; where the singer virtually bares his Soul to the listener; without ever sounding maudlin or twee; this is the real deal kids ….. Bolle sings from the heart and aims his words directly towards your very own heart. I guess most of these songs will also work in a solo format; but as a band offering; which it is …. is a masterstroke, especially the occasional use of saxophone and harmonica, which gives quite a few songs an extra lustre that you don’t expect. This is especially true of McArthur’s Cunning Ruger, when Marty Phillips’ honking on the sax and Bolle’s scintillating slide take the song deep into Beefheart territory. There’s a clever and intriguing mix of covers and originals here; the stark re-make of Stack O’ Lee is reverential and timeless; suiting Ned’s exotioc and beguiling voice almost perfectly. Rocket 88 was arguably the first ever Rock & Roll song; yet hardly ever gets played or covered these days; and these cats do it and its memory a rare justice, with that Phillips’ honking horn and Bolle’s (Jerry Lee meets Dr John influenced) piano make it sound like it was recorded in a dodgy Juke Joint one Saturday night 40 or 50 years ago; not a studio in 2021. Even on a first play, it was apparent that Bolle and his clan are all Blues lovers to the extreme and loved their time in the studio, (reliving their lost youth?); and this is never more apparent than You’re Mind is On Vacation, which can be a bit of a bore at times but here is liberally sprinkled with musical stardust. For a man who has come to songwriting late in life; Ned Bolle can really put a story to music like the best; with the slow and wistful Got No Spoons coming from his time in the Fire Service, while Outrun The Blues is a simple yet rip-roaring ‘everyman’ tale that will have everyone dancing be that on the barroom floor or your own kitchen! In many ways listening to this album has been like a breath of fresh air; as a lot of what I hear on a daily basis can be a bit ‘worthy’ and even ‘tiresome’, no matter how well intentioned; but The Mean Old Fireman sounds like he’s been waiting all his life for this opportunity and is grabbing it with bothy hands; hence three or four songs vying for the accolade of RMHQ Favourite Song. To paraphrase Eric Morecombe; Too Much Alcohol has all the right notes; just in a different order to the version I know from Rory Gallagher and the world is a better place because of this timeless Rhythm and Blues Deluxe arrangement. Then there is the tremendous remake of Robert Parker’s Barefootin’ ……. man! How cool is this version of one of my favourite ever songs? Very, very Cool ….. is the answer. But, there is one other song that I’ve simply fallen in love with; Cold Women (with warm hearts) is as good a song to force feed someone who doesn’t know what Real R&B is. From the subject matter, through Bolle’s honky-tonky piano playing and a swinging band that follows the beat with military precision ….. but somehow making it all sound ‘professionally sloppy’ makes this my absolutely Favourite Song by a gnat’s hair. What else can I tell you? This is the type of band that you’d stumble on playing a bar in the seedy side of Town on a Thursday night; or a tent at the back of the field where some Multi-Platinum; but boring headliner is going through the motions; and you pop your head in and see a bunch of the coolest cats in town having the time of their lives ….. and you get the calling to join in ….. and if you did, you’d never regret it.
Guest Star Guitarist’s A’Plenty …… But This is Very Much the Singers’ Album.
Before his re-emergence onto the scene a couple of years ago I’m not sure what, if anything I thought of Dion DiMucci. If his name cropped up I knew he had been a Pop Star in the 60’s; but that would have been it. But; his 2020 album BLUES WITH FRIENDS changed all that …… what a voice the man has! Following on from that groundbreaking album; Joe Bonamassa, whose label both albums are released on; has assembled another group of legendary; and occasionally up and coming guitarists to pair with Dion and create a seamless bunch of disparate Blues tunes that will Rock your Soul. The party gets started with Bonamassa adding his signature guitar parts to a smouldering song; Take It Back, that Dion adds a certain ‘oomph’ that shouldn’t be possible at his age! The scene is then set for an hour or so of Rocking and Rolling magic. I don’t have enough time to describe every single one of the 14 tracks here; yet it’s also unfair to leave any out ….. which is a dilemma. To some degree I should be able to ignore If You Want to Rock & Roll which features Eric Clapton, Dancing Girl which has the inimitable Mark Knopfler in full flow and the Sonny Landreth track Cryin’ Shame, as you should just presume you know what to expect; but trust me you don’t ….. all three pull out all of the stops; yet are still overshadowed by the singer and the way he ‘owns’ each individual song. While I’d not heard of a couple of acts here that accompany Dion; the pairings are actually quite sublime; Joe Menza is a new name to me; but his liquid gold guitar skills really do compliment the singer on the desperately emotional The Night is Young; and it’s a similar story when G.E Smith adds some electrifying edgy touches to Hey Diddle Diddle earlier. Even with some of the greatest guitarists of my generation taking part, there are still surprises around every corner …… Peter Frampton gives it his best Peter Green impression on the sultry There Was a Time and when Billy Gibbons introduces the singer Dion on the title track The Stomping Ground, it’s fair to say that the result is a musical marriage made in Heaven! Speaking of surprises; who knew that Springsteen could still mine a new seam; yet that’s what happens on the smoky Folky/Blues hybrid Angel in The Alleyways where Patti Scialfa very nearly steals the show. For a Favourite Track I’ve deliberately gone for something less obvious; even though most of what’s gone before would deserve the accolade ….. I’ve narrowed it down to three songs that really were eyeopeners for me; I’ve Got To Get To You feat. Boz Scaggs, Joe Menza & Mike Menza is the most Rock & Roll song here; adding shades of Chuck Berry to the mix when you least expected it; then there’s the only cover song here’ Hendrix’s Red House which pairs Dion with Keb Mo and not for the first or last time had me pining for for a whole album in that style. But; and this hasn’t been easy, plus I’m likely to change my mind tomorrow; but I’m plumping for That’s What the Doctor Said; a reverential and funky-ass ode to Dr. John featuring Steve Conn that grooves and swings like the Great Man at his very, very best and you are going to love it when you hear it. Obviously the inclusion of all of the Guest Star guitarist’s names on the cover isn’t by accident; but please don’t be under any illusions …… this is very much the Singers’ album and full of songs that will stick with you for a long time to come.