Emanuel Casablanca BLOOD ON MY HANDS

Emanuel Casablanca
Blood on my Hands 
Kings County Records

Bloody Hell! A Lavish Debut From a Most Talented, Generous, Prolific and Sanguinic New Bluesman

The late great Townes Van Zandt once said, “There are two kinds of music. The Blues, and Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.” Emmanuel Casablanca’s debut LP, Blood on my Hands, sure as hell ain’t the latter.  

Brooklyn NY-based guitarist, singer & songwriter Casablanca brandishes his formidable talents for the first time as a front man, solo artist and bandleader with this impressive 16-track collection that draws sustenance from the thirsty roots of the fertile, rich soil of American Music.

At first glance, Blood on my Hands is literally drenched in blood. 
Tracks titled “Afraid of Blood,” “In Blood,” “Blood on my Hands,” “Bloodshot Eyes,” “Thicker Than Blood,” “Devil’s Blood” and “Blood Money” all penetrate to the core.
All heart.
The source. It is, at once, obvious that this record is ALIVE. 

Ancestry, lineage, line, bloodline, descent, parentage, family, house, dynasty, birth, extraction, derivation, origin, genealogy, heritage, breeding, stock, strain, pedigree, roots, kinship……All synonyms for BLOOD. Literally, life. The perfect metaphor for The Blues.

Steeped in tradition and flowing through deep layers of emotion, The Blues is a pulse.
A rhythm.
“Like A Pulse,” the fourth track on the record is the most organic, acoustic feeling in the collection.  This song reminds us that Emmanuel Casablanca can change up the feel but still remain in a groove that evokes profound feelings of loss and impassioned turmoil thanks to the intense, earnest guest vocals of Kat Riggins.

“Sunday Talks” grabbed me by the throat and held on. 
It feels like Jimi and highlights a less traditional blues groove while touching on the repetition of a gospel hymn with lush B3 organ and fuzz guitar, conjuring a psychedelic spell and pushing the listener head-on into an oncoming train with the next track, “Thicker Than Blood.” 
A wide-open refrain and guitar hook that wraps itself around your ears with throbbing, kick-ass drums.

“Anna Lee” is a welcome friend in the middle of the record that demonstrates Emmanuel’s ability to drip honey from his voice and tip his hat to his elders. The addition of the saxophone by Jimmy Carpenter swings this tune into a super-sweet and sonic space.

“Testify” jumps like a demon and “Devils Blood” drives like an angry hammer too.  Both songs are excellent examples of Casablanca’s abilities to musically convey hunger and yearning. 

“Blood Money” feels straight from the 70’s and packs a punch in a way that I might envision a more “metal” vibe to a Curtis Mayfield tune, which I must say, feels exciting. 

The last four tracks are less traditional and weave more texture via guitar distortion culminating in the heavy, driving vibe of “Rotten Pockets.” 
This track drags us through the mud and ends the record with the sound of thunder, the same way the record begins, signaling to the listener that Emmanuel Casablanca is about to take us on a journey through a storm.
An explosive  torrent and outpouring of musical cloudburst that runs in his veins and pours from his heart on this lavish debut from a most talented, generous, prolific and sanguinic new artist. 

*Emily and I agree that this is very much Emmanuel Casablanca’s album; but as you will see there are some stunning guests on here too …….

  1. Afraid of Blood
  2. In Blood (featuring Paul Gilbert)
  3. Blood On My Hands (featuring Eric Gales)
  4. Like A Pulse (featuring Kat Riggins & Sanga of The Valley)
  5. Bloodshot Eyes (featuring Albert Castiglia)
  6. Nashville (featuring Felix Slim)
  7. Sunday Talks
  8. Thicker Than Blood
  9. Anna Lee (featuring Jimmy Carpenter)
  10. Testify (featuring Brother Dave)
  11. Devil’s Blood (featuring Felix Slim)
  12. Blood Money
  13. Fantasies 
  14. My Nerves
  15. Shaky Tables
  16. Rottenpockets

Review by Emily Duff
Released 19th August 2022
https://www.emanuelcasablanca.com/
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Kirk Fletcher HEARTACHE BY THE POUND

Kirk Fletcher
Heartache By The Pound
Ogierea Records

Late Night Listening For Lovers Everywhere, From The Soulful End of The Blues Spectrum

In recent years the company who sent me this album have been sending more and more albums that Bluesy; but more notably Loud and Rocky; so this album sat on the desk unplayed and unloved for a couple of weeks.
Then after farming out the albums for the team to review there it was, looking up at me like Little Orphan Annie. So, into the office CD player it went ….. and within a minute I felt like I was having an epiphany of the musical kind!
That first song; Shine a Light On Love has more than a hint of both BB and Albert King about it for me to take it back to the start and hunt out the headphones so as not to be disturbed.
MAN ….. OH MAN!
Kirk Fletcher has a voice like worn velvet and his guitar playing is pure liquid gold ….. just like the two Kings I mentioned earlier; and when the female backing singers cut in I was whisked back the days when the Old Grey Whistle Test would throw a random song like this into their weekly TV programme and change my world forever.
It turns out that this is the LA native’s seventh album and the Muscle Shoals production is all over it like a rash; with songs like The Night’s Calling You, Wrong Kind of Love and the title track Heartache By The Pound couldn’t have been recorded anywhere else; plus the pick of the litter session musicians aren’t here by accident either.
These songs are very much from the Soulful end of the Blues spectrum and destined for late night listening when either you’ve just fallen in love or broken a relationship; such is the cleverness in Fletcher’s writing; as many songs here can be interpreted in several ways …… listen carefully to the slinky Night By Myself or Wrong Kind of Love and tell me which they are; a ‘falling in love song’ or a ‘breakup song’.
On the other hand I Can’t Find No Love sounds exactly what you’d expect; it’s a Tearjerker Deluxe; and the type of 45 that teenage girls would wear out playing over and over and over again in their bedrooms. (I’m out of touch…. does that still happen with downloads and Spotify?)
There are so many singers I can compare Kirk Fletchers’ vocals too; but what’s the point? He sounds like his larynx is soaked in honey and the way he delivers his words you believe 100% that he means what he’s singing …. not least on another tearjerker; Hope For Us which may be a love song about a significant other or more likely; a love song for the world we find ourselves in in 2022 ….. and is sure to be the closer at his gigs.
That leaves two very different songs for me to choose my Favourite between; and again I can picture being a young man and hearing both on the radio and simply ‘having to buy them ASAP‘ ……. the powerful Afraid to Die, Too Scared to Live is very much a song ‘of our times’ and has the hallmark of a man who has lived the words in the story (which I’m not going to spoil… but the title tells you a lot).
The other is the most uptempo song here and a veritable Soul Stomper; the type we’d associate with Otis Redding at his best; but Wildcat Tamer is a Tarheel Slim song from 1959 that I’ve never heard before and deserves this funky makeover.
I seem to have spent the last few weeks listening to a lot of folky singer-songwriters with the occasional Alt. Country band thrown in for good measure; but Kirk Fletcher and HEARTACHE BY THE POUND has been a real antidote and been my ‘go to album’ at the end of the day ….. and I think it could be for you to.

Released July 29th 2022
http://kirkfletcherband.com/

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Kat Riggins PROGENY

Kat Riggins
Progeny
Gulf Coast Records

Contemporary Soul That Rocks Until The Blues Squeezes Out.

This is a bit of an oddity as the first time I played PROGENY I struggled to get my head around it; as it’s a completely new direction for Kat Riggins; then I closed my mind to what I ‘thought’ she should sound like; and as if by magic; the songs entered not just my Soul but my heart too.
The next step; as usual to finally read the Press Release ….. AHA!
This is Ms. Riggins’ second album on Gulf Coast Records, home of its founder Mike Zito who not only shows what a thoughtful producer he is; but has assembled a stellar cast of his friends to support Kat Riggins amazing voice and her incisive songs too.
What concerned my initially was the crunchy guitars that play a major part throughout; and start with opening track Walk On; but given time the combination works a treat; with Kat now treading a fine line between Nu-Soul and Blues Rock …. that works a lot better than you’d expect.
The fire and brimstone in that song is summed up in a couple of lines:
Places to go
People to see
I just can’t keep still
So let me walk on!
I’m gonna claim my spot
and take my seat,
I might throw my weight around;
Because the kitchen aint never too hot for me
Baby my time is now!”

Yeop; this is a powerful Blues Rocker that will have ladies of all persuasions shouting along and bellowing out “Ain’t that the truth sister!
There’s a sensitive claustrophobic feel to a couple of songs too; as Kat digs deeper than I’ve ever known before; and Mike Zito really adds a special ‘zing’ not just with his guitar; but in the control room too; I’m thinking of the punchy Warriors and Cross the Line; but the more I hear it, the dark ballad Mama could easily be included too.
Kat Riggins’ existing fan base are sure to love this album; but with Zito at the helm and the team at Gulf Coast Records at the helm; there’s plenty hear to crossover into the Blues and Blues Rock territories with Sinking Low and the sassy 40 25 40 being perfect for radio stations in those idioms.
Not everything here has sparks coming off the guitar strings; there are also a couple of stunningly beautiful ballads in here too, with the bittersweet Got To Be God being an absolute heartbreaker of the finest order.
Over the years I’ve know a few Rock acts try to ‘get down wif da kids’ by including a bit of Rap in a song or two; and invariably it doesn’t work; but in the electrifying My City, someone called Busta Free seamlessly slides in and out half way through; and it works a damn sight better than it should (for once!).
While the album itself surprised me; there are plenty of surprises within that surprise to show the diversity that Kat Riggins possesses ….. none more so than right in the middle when Kat delivers a stunning Gospel a cappella Walk With Me Lord only accompanied by twittering birdsong; and when the crunchy guitars of Promised Land; sequenced immediatly afterwards; I can easily imagine the light show and fireworks that would happen in concert.
Another big surprise is the bouncy story of Kat’s family in the jaunty and Honky-Tonky It’s In My Blood, which sounded out of place at one stage; but eventually grew on my so much I regularly find myself singing along to the chorus!
Now; for my Favourite Track I’m torn between two absolute belters; Woahman, which is a cry for womankind the world over and will surely become a cornerstone of any and all gigs in the near future.
As a songwriter I think Kat Riggins surpasses herself with the other of my Favourites; as Espresso is such a clever and thoughtful song, with Kat comparing ‘being in love’ with the “buzz you get from drinking espresso!”
As I say; this is a bit of a change in direction for this fantastic Soul Singer; but not dangerously so as both her voice and her words are well suited to the Rocky backdrop that Mike Zito has created for and with her.

Released 24th June 2022
https://katriggins.com/

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Robert Cray Band at O2 NEWCASTLE CITY HALL

Robert Cray Band
O2 City Hall
Newcastle
Friday 6th May 2022

Unlike many of my peers; I’m not as enthralled with ‘live music’ these days as I should be … and that’s not just a Post-Covid ‘thing;’ as I felt the same way three or more years ago.
To some degrees it’s a health ‘thing’ as I’m no longer able to stand for three or more hours; so the opportunity to not just see Robert Cray and visit the newly revamped City Hall; which was my ‘go to’ venue as a young man was a night that couldn’t be missed.
We were still looking for our seats when the support act appeared on stage and if my eyes didn’t deceive me; it was Welsh duo …. Zervas & Pepper!
Last seen at the SummerTyne Festival 4 or 5 years ago; they immediately seemed a strange choice as support; but the knowledgeable audience instantly fell in love with their style of Laurel Canyon drenched Americana.
Opening with Living In a Small Town that led into the really rather good Silver To Chrome; which had a punchy Folk Rock edge to it.
Without pointing fingers; I think it’s fair to say that the ‘soundman’ didn’t do them any favours tonight; with Paul Zervas rich voice regularly being pushed down in the mix and Kathryn Pepper’s sounding too ‘toppy’ at times ….. thankfully I could see through this and know what great voices they both have …. and when they harmonise; as they do on Look Out Mountain and The Gift; I defy anyone to not be cast their memories back to the halcyon days of Laurel Canyon in all its pomp.
While I recognised a few songs from their Abstract Heart album; they slid in a new song from an imminent album; and the intense White Flag; with its power chords certainly piqued my attention for its release.
As is our won’t we went to the bar at the intermission; and my Brother decided that it must be his ’round’ and ordered two pints of very average and too cold beer in plastic glasses; and nearly had to take an extra tablet when told they would cost £6.75 each!!!!!
Back in the main hall and standing at the front ready to take photos; the band wandered onto the stage in pitch darkness; then on the drummer’s count slid seamlessly into Nothin’ But Love and the scene was set for a fabulous evening of super smooth Soul infused Blues of the highest order.
The first of several surprises was hearing Phone Booth so early in the set; and my notes say ‘full of horny bass lines’ and ‘CooooLLL’ which I still standby those words today.
I can’t list all 20 songs from the set, obviously but we had a delirious mix of Soul Shuffles, majestically moody Blues Ballads and more than enough searing Bluesy Soft Rockers to satisfy even the tardiest of music fans.
After all these years I’d forgot what a great singing voice Robert Cray has; sliding through a range that belies his age on the heartbreakingly sleazy The Things You Do To Me and You Move Me Baby too.
I think of Robert, first and foremost as a guitarist; yet my brother had never heard of him …. strange you might think; but Robert Cray has always flown under the radar …. and suffice to say, Brother Brian was a convert after only three songs.
Speaking of which; in the grand pantheon of Great Blues Guitarists Cray rarely, if ever gets a mention; yet tonight (and not for the first time either) he made his assortment of Fender Stratocasters’, not just weep and cry but scream at times tonight ….. and as for ‘innovative’ …. man; this guy knows no boundaries.
Again; as Brian pointed out afterwards…. this wasn’t just a showcase for the Star; it actually felt like a total band effort; with Les Falconer on drums and Richard Cousins’ ‘less is more’ style of bass playing certainly held everything together like a copper weld; but the legendary (in my head!) Dover Weinberg on Hammond very nearly ‘stole the show’ such was his fabulous playing and ever present smile.
Highlights?
Just so many ….. but a couple of new songs to me really caught my attention; The Shiver was haunting and really showed what an amazing guitar player Cray is; and the playful Roadhouse Blues of Hot featured some extraordinary guitar playing; yet Cray himself is the opposite of flash!
Oh yes!
Right in the middle of the show You Had My Heart; a great song in itself featured some serious tub-thumping from Les Falconer as well as Cray sounding like he was stabbing at the guitar strings while his voice dropped an octave or two …. you had to be there.
With so much to choose from his own back catalogue Robert even gave us an amazing cover of Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland’s slow and intensely sensitive The Soul of a Man in which every single second was filled to the max.
The set was bookended with Cray’s other ‘hit’ …. Right Next Door, which was a bit ‘heavier’ than I’ve heard before, and somehow ….. all the better for that; then they ‘closed the show’ with a no holds barred You Must Believe In Yourself.
Cray and band mates then thanked the crowd and left the stage ……. Bizarrely; after all these years adults around us were wondering out loud whether they would come back for an encore.
REALLY???
Sure enough, after the obligatory minute in the wings … back they came for two stunning songs ; the darkly smoky Forecast Calls (for Pain) and the sultry Time Makes Two with another playful false ending; then to a deserved standing ovation they were gone into the Spring night.

https://robertcray.com/
https://zervasandpepper.com/


Eliza Neals BADDER TO THE BONE

Eliza Neals
Badder To The Bone
E-H Records

A Challenging Move On Through the Dark Shadows of The Blues That Hits All The Right Spots

There’s an element of guilt attached to this review; as Eliza promoted its release a couple of days ago; for me to make a sarcastic response as I hadn’t received a copy …. to whit she DM’d me immediately stating she’d posted a CD several weeks previously!
Any hoot; a download arrived within the hour so all’s well, that ends well ….. even if was being a bit huffy.
Was my wait worth it?
Hell yes!
Taking a massive leap forward from the BLACK CROW MOAN album, Eliza spreads her talents far and wide; even challenging herself at times across the Blues gamut here; starting with the Diddleyesque United We Stand; which has the hallmarks of a rocking good ‘protest song’ the likes of which most rockers shy away from; but Ms. Neals always wears her heart on her sleeve and damn the consequences.
This is immediately followed by some low down and bittersweet Soulful Blues with the heartwrenching ballad Queen of the Night; which features the subtle touches of Lance Lopez on geetar and Lynard Skynyrd’s Peter Keys on actual ‘keys’ making for an intense love song that comes in just shy of 7 minutes long; but has your attention for every single second.
There’s plenty of power chords and riffs a’plenty throughout; made all the better by Eliza and her co-writer’s strong storytelling; most astutely on King Kong, the Rustic Rocker that is Fuelling Me Up and the emotionally charged and slowed down retake of Queen of The Nile II, which closes the album and like the best gigs; leaves you wanting ‘more… more …. more!’
In between there are some really adventurous moves from Eliza; Lockdown Love is as sexy as it’s sleazy with the lady switching between purrs and growls like a she-cat on heat; leaving the male of the species listening sweating and a little bit scared!
Heathen takes us on yet another left of centre journey as Ms Neals taps into her S.O.U.L on Heathen which finds her hitting notes I had no idea were in her range; but when she hits them; they know they’ve been hit!
As usual I hadn’t read the Press Release or even the tracklisting when I first played this album; so it was probably a minute or so into it that I recognised Can’t Find My Way Home; the Blind Faith missive which has been a personal favourite for 50 years now ….. and while she plays around with the melody and tempo; plus the addition of Lance Lopez’s trademarked dirty geetar licks; makes for a really special version that will impress fans old and new.
This a Blues album; so it’s no surprise to find at least one ‘cheating’ song on it; and here the toe-tapping Hammond melody and guitar riffs camouflage the fear her man should have from ‘this woman done wronged‘ Got a Gun …… which had me going “Oh! Yikes!” the first time I heard the chorus.
For my selection of Favourite Track I initially made a notation next to Fueling Me Up, as it;s a great song with some mighty powerful musicianship all around that keeps you tuned in so as not to miss a note or syllable; but in the last 48 hours I’ve been drawn to the ‘Power Ballad’ Bucket of Tears ….. for no particularly personal reason; just that it’s a ‘grower’ that took my unawares maybe four plays of the album in ….. which impressed me a lot.
Even though her voice is as distinctive as ever; making this a recognisable Eliza Neals album and pleased to tell you it’s a thrilling move on from her last two albums; and hints at some fantastic gigs in the near future.

Released 23rd April 2022
http://elizaneals.com/

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Dan Patlansky BAD SOUL (Single)

Dan Patlansky
Bad Soul (Single)

South African blues rock guitarist Dan Patlansky will release his new single “Bad Soul” and it’s accompanying music video today; Friday March 18th
The single and music video dovetails his upcoming UK tour with his special guest Arielle, which runs from March 31st until April 12th

Tickets available from www.thegigcartel.com 


Southampton, 1865
Thursday 31 March 2022

Norwich, Waterfront Arts
Friday 1 April 2022

Newcastle, The Cluny
Saturday 2 April 2022
 
Glasgow, Òran Mór    
Sunday 3 April 2022

Sheffield, Greystones
Tuesday 5 April 2022
 
Bristol, Exchange
Wednesday 6 April 2022

Leeds, Brudenell
Friday 8 April 2022
 
*Manchester,  Deaf Institute
Saturday 9 April 2022

Leek, Foxlowe Arts
Sunday 10 April 2022
 
London, Garage
Tuesday 12 April 2022 


Kris Barras DEATH VALLEY PARADISE

Kris Barras Band
Death Valley Paradise
Mascot Records

British Blues Rocker Embraces His Unrestrained Darker Anthemic Stompers.

No matter that Death Valley Paradise is a much noisier and heavier weighted soundtrack than I would normally be listening to on an average day, but today this is not one of those days.

From Devon, yet perfectly serving up his own brand of American Blues Rock, Kris Barras has added an extra layer of metal around this, his 4th release.
Knowing that the frontman is an ex MMA/cage fighter was foremost in my mind as the sheer energy unleashed right from the outset knocked me sideways.
This for me conjures up an image of a caged tiger who has been pacing for an eternity and suddenly liberated. It’s a tale of surviving Lockdown frustrations and offloading pent up emotions culminating in this moment, a gigantic invitation for us all to get back out there and simply rock out. I’m in.

It makes perfect sense that this album was inspired by a single song; then broken up into fragments to create the 11 tracks, as this LP deserves to be listened to in the traditional way, from start to finish.
Each song adds a different layer to the web of Kris Barras’s confessional tales of struggles, a procession of individually intense anthems adding a massively darker amplified cloak over his Southern Rock heart.

The opener and first single Dead Horses slaps down this band’s re-invention cards firmly on the table.
It’s taken me just a few listens to fully appreciate what an effective start this is.
The new thundering drums of Billy Hammett launches us into a rush of adrenaline with deeply powerful beefed -up guitar riffs a plenty, vocals defiant and boldly telling the bleakest tale of being imprisoned in a broken relationship.

Right on its tail is Long Gone, picking up the same desperate trail of the doomed relationship. With a raucously pleasing bluesy guitar intro riff marrying perfectly with the trademark fist punching drum beat, I am lost in the drama and as for Kris Barras; there is no holding back the anger inside.

The recent single My Parade effortlessly amplifies the theatrics, the simplicity of the confident, defiantly driven killer chant hook: the drum beat begging to be thrashed out to a large crowd. The message is to choose our battle ground and it’s of little consequence if the forceful lyrics ultimately denies a bit of radio play to a song destined to be a live roof raising smash for years to come.

When we arrive at track #7 there is a half time break in the ring; as it were.
The vulnerable, softer version of the frontman oozes out with Wake Me Up When It’s Over.
This track almost made the top slot for me as it sums up, more than any other, the hell in Death Valley Kris Barras has been livin’ in.
A slower pace but still as striking: heartfelt melancholic vocals, laced with angst but breathtakingly emotional and reeling us in by the time we reach another level of playing with an exceptional and highly charged guitar solo:

Are you stuck in this nightmare
Alone in darkness
And Climbing the walls
Someone wake me up when it’s over
Get me off this rollercoaster
Cause right now it seems my eyes can’t see a better life

As it progresses, we are let into many more rounds of dark secrets throughout this album including the anarchic Who Needs Enemies and the more hopeful Devil You Know which examines how to turn this bleak experience into brave choices at the crossroads of life.

My favourite track purely for today has got to be These Voices.
An exquisitely catchy and manically appealing rock anthem, almost retro in feel and sweeter, more mellow vocals that still have the ability to deliver a cruel blow.
It symbolises the whole band as a unit with Kelpie Mackenzie’s thumping bass and Josiah J. Manning layering the rhythms to create a very polished track with the classic rock n roll abrupt full stop ending that leaves us begging for more. It is also poignant and deeply personal, conveying the inner mental struggles that have been overcome to get to this point.
A true fighter emerging victorious.

Timing can sometimes be everything, perhaps what I like most about this album is that it has the ability to whisk us out of our comfort zone and be transported to that live sweaty mosh pit many have been denied for too long.
They are soon to be let loose on a long-awaited UK wide tour, no stopping their advances but the real power of the Kris Barras Band is that they also enable you to close your eyes and be with them in spirit.

Review Courtesy Anita Joyce
Released 4th March 2022
https://www.krisbarrasband.com/

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Beth Hart A TRIBUTE TO LED ZEPPELIN

Beth Hart
A Tribute to Led Zeppelin
Provogue/Mascot

Blues Rock Queen Pays Homage to Some Groundbreaking Classic Songs

When it comes to choosing albums to review, I keep telling myself not to set myself ‘challenges’ – just choose things I like or at least, will probably like.
Yet, this has been a huge problem for me, as I’m a fan of Beth Hart and pretty much adore all of her albums that I’ve reviewed; but … The Led Zeppelins?
Nah!
Never got them.
I’m old enough to remember their first album being released; which I borrowed from a friend at school as I did with the next three ….. and just didn’t get ‘it;’ of course I appreciate Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones as musicians (Bonham was always overrated btw) …. but them as a band?
Nope ….. not for me.
So; what if anything could Beth Hart bring to the party to change my mind?
Things start with a note for note rendition of Whole Lotta Love; with Beth sounding exactly like Mr Plant …… down to the incredible high notes she hits; and they really do get hit!
It must be 40 years or more since I played the original; so can’t remember if the freaky speaker to speaker mix in the middle sounds is new; but it certainly sounds amazing; just like it would have done to teenagers the world over half a century ago.
I instantly recognised the intro to track #2 Kashmir; and was then pleasantly surprised to hear Beth; now using her own distinctive vocals; put a neat twist on the overtly masculine tale; and to me; makes this journey worth the ticket.
As I’m by no means a Zep fan; there are a couple of songs I didn’t know – The Crunge being the first; and although on the Heavy side, fits Beth’s dark side perfectly; although again, the masculine lyrics sung by a woman are bound to raise an eyebrow or two; even in 2022.
The mystical No Quarter Babe, is another song I’m not aux fait with; but it’s inclusion is perfect for Beth; who strangles every note within an inch of its life; then let’s go just as parody is about to come in ….. but never does.
The finale, The Rain Song is another I can’t remember, and sounds nothing like I remember from my school days; trying to understand why my friends thought Robert Plant was the Second Coming. Here Beth makes it a big production that wouldn’t be out of place on one of her ‘own’ recent albums.
Then; there are The Classics.
Obviously recording a whole album of Led Zeppelin songs was always going to be a brave career move; but including Stairway to Heaven is near madness!
Much like Whole Lotta Love; it’s very nearly a note for note copy of the original; but the kicker is Beth mirrors Plants histrionics without ever copying him; and the Folkie intro here, is rather special the way she interacts with the delicate acoustic guitar.
One of the few Zep songs I openly admit to liking is Black Dog; and to say Beth Hart does it justice is a vast understatement ….. and if she was to use this as an encore song, it will definitely bring the metaphorical house down.
Which only leaves two songs; and probably against my better judgement they are where I’m going for a Favourite Track.
There’s the medley Dancing Days/When The Levee Breaks which is as intriguing as it’s memorable with Beth and Producer Rob Cavallo putting something of her own stamp on two songs incessantly linked withy the Rock Gods that are Led Zeppelin.
The other is another straight up version of the original; but with Beth giving it her all, and a case of ‘right place-right time’ mood wise; Good Times Bad Times wins the accolade of Favourite Track; and even at RMHQ bares repeated plays.
While these songs were all cutting edge back in the day; they all still stand out as groundbreaking but have stood the test of time; and could actually point Beth Hart’s younger parts of her fan base into the direction of the original songs, and perhaps some Zep fans in hers.

Released February 25th 2022
https://www.bethhart.com/

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https://uk.mascotlabelgroup.com/collections/beth-hart



John Mayall THE SUN IS SHINING DOWN

John Mayall
The Sun Is Shining Down
Forty Below Records

After Over Half a Century The Grandee of The Blues Can Still Manage To Surprise The Faithful.

John Mayall is very definitely a Living Legend of, not just the British Blues scene; but world wide too; yet apart from ‘The Beano Album’ I kinda guess 99% of Blues fans couldn’t name another album in his 60 year career.
Which is as much a shame as it’s sad.
I’m in the 1%, as I can name two others; apart from this … his umpteenth release; and a doozy right from the off; with the sizzling and Soulful Hungry and Ready ….. which will have your toes a’tappin and head a’noddin right from the first few bars …. and they won’t stop until the fabulously slinky title track, The Sun Is Shining Down closes proceedings in Mayall’s trademarked fashion.
In between covers a couple of fabulous songs I wasn’t aux fais with; Bernard Allison’s stupendous Chill’s n Thrills, Roosevelt Sykes slow and funky Driving Wheel and Bobby Rush’s I’m As Good As Gone, which features some stunningly cool guitar licks from Buddy Miller alongside Mayall’s leathery and world weary vocals.
After spending the best part of half a century living in the USA Mayall’s ‘sound’ now owes a lot more to Chicago and New York than it does the English Home Counties; and that comes across in not just the previously mentioned tracks; but his own Masterworks Can’t Take No More plus the cool ambiance of Deep Blue Sea and especially the former, when his brass section sound like the Memphis Horns on steroids.
I’d not heard of Tinsley Ellis before last week when I reviewed his own latest album; and here Mayall takes his A Quitter Never Wins and turns it into the type of slow and swoonsome Blues we expect from a mash up of Howlin’ Wolf, Albert King and Little Walter.
Then; there is the slick One Special Lady, which even on an album of this quality still stands head and shoulders above the rest with Mayall’s Hammond B3 holding the piece together like Jimmy Smith or Georgie Fame at their combined height; and ‘that’ guitar isn’t actually a guitar ; it’s Jake Shimabukuro playing an electric ukulele; which is a first for me …. but WOW!
Of course there are some Guest Star guitarists here complimenting not just The Grandee himself; but his #1 guitarist, Carolyn Wonderland too; but this isn’t about them … this is a simply and collectively a John Mayall album in all its and his Glory.
Technically and morally it’s wrong on many levels to be surprised by an album when it comes from someone with a pedigree like John Mayall; but we’ve all spent hard earned cash on releases by similar acts over the years and been left hugely disappointed; but trust me here ….. even if this is your first or fortieth album of his; you too will be surprised by the depth and quality on offer from start to finish …. and it will be a Keeper.

Released January 28th 2022
https://www.johnmayall.com/

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Hollis Brown IN THE AFTERMATH

Hollis Brown
In The Aftermath
Cool Green Recordings

British Blues Album From ’66 Re-Imagined as Alt.Americana for 2022.

Hollis Brown is a Queens, New York Alt./Americana band who have been around for a quite a while now, and once released a tribute album to the Velvet Underground’s 1970 album Loaded.
Keeping with that theme, the band decided to this time tackle the Rolling Stones and their first album of all-original songs, Aftermath, from 1966.
I have yet to hear their variant of Loaded, but do plan to real soon.
The Hollis Brown version of the Stones isn’t perfect, but definitely surpasses most bar-band rave-up versions with their clarity and punch.
Recorded in one single 24-hour session, live in the studio, singer-guitarist Mike Montali, lead guitarist Jonathan Bonilla, bassist Chris Urriola, and drummer Andrew Zehnal stayed focused enough to finish up and get out before they screwed anything up with a too-long and unneeded overdub session.
The mix is part 90’s big drum sound, part 21st Century clarity; making it very smooth with just enough angularness to keep it real.
Foregoing the obligatory sitar on Paint it Black, (One of the Stones’ darker songs —How the hell was this ever a hit in the bright and sunny mid-sixties? But it was!) they make do with heavily chorused guitar and a heavier beat which tells the listener right away that this album is going to rock no matter what.
Stupid Girl keeps it simple, while Under My Thumb takes a few chances that work, mostly through Zehnal’s rolling tom fills and consistent snare and Bonilla’s bent-note solo.
Lady Jane didn’t wow me at first, but on second and third listens I discerned some careful phrasing in Montali’s vocal and nice guitar work by Bonilla.
The band does a great job with the bluesier numbers like Doncha Bother Me and High and Dry, without copying the Stones too much.
They make up for lack of a Keef and a Mick by playing to their bar band roots. I Am Waiting finds the band turning the song on its head with some guitar reminiscent of the Allman Brothers.
The pastiche-sixties numbers like Think and Flight 505 are more routine, but It’s Not Easy sounds like it could have been written and recorded by any Americana band worth their weight in cheap booze; and was my choice for best song here until I heard the closer, Goin’ Home.
This one opens up with a softly strummed tremolo guitar before a Lazy Sunday morning beat transports us to a place where only harmonica fills and rollicking pianos and loose tambourines and overdriven geetars can save your soul.
Seven minutes of this could get tiresome from most bands out there (Including several from 1966, when this album was originally recorded.) but Hollis Brown don’t hold back.
This is the one song here where the band shines outstandingly as though they’ve finally realized that, even in the confines of a studio, they can still find a way to take flight and soar.
You know—turn up the amps, wail … and scream a bit!

Review by the legendary Roy Peak
Release date: February 4 2022
https://www.hollisbrown.com/

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https://www.mascotlabelgroup.com/collections/hollis-brown