Reviews

Brothers Brown: Dusty Road

Brothers Brown Dusty Road.jpeg

Submitted by Iain Patience

The Brothers Brown is a hard-rocking, blues four piece led by two Grammy-winning frontmen, both named Paul Brown. Despite the potential for confusion here, the music is loud and clear, begging attention from the first searing note to the last. Make no mistake, this is band that knows how to move and then some.

'Dusty Road' is a debut release from a four-piece band with immediate and evident quality, talent, class and style. There's a shining confidence to the music here and an understanding of just what it takes to make the grade in the hard music business. All tracks are self-penned and the Brothers Brown already have enough material squirreled away for another, follow-up, sophomore release in the future.

With members' roots falling between Nashville and LA for the most part, the range of genres covered here includes straight rock, R&B, through blues, jazz and even hints of Americana. While both Paul Browns have picked up Grammys for their work as producers, guitarists and keyboardists in the past, the rest of the band have also been equally and impressively busy with bassist David Santos working with Billy Joel, Elton John, John Fogerty and others, while drummer Peter Young has toured with Loretta Lynn, The Burrito Brothers and others.

CW Ayon: Enough To Be Proud

Cw Ayon Enough To Be Proud.jpg

Submitted By Iain Patience

This is an 11-track album drawing strongly and positively on the renowned blues music of the Mississippi hills. CW, or Cooper, Ayon is a part-Cherokee native American from New Mexico who wields a guitar with purpose while beating out a rhythm with his free feet on drum and cymbal – a one-man band of some note and compleity with a wayward and deceptively simple guitar style that more than hints at his musical pedigree and love of the Deep South blues tradition.

The overall feel of this recording is decidedly acoustic while the actual fretwork leans to the light, soulful electric playing style of late – period pickers like Texas wizard   Lightnin’ Hopkins, albeit hitting it here as a one-man-band!

The one-man-band format seems to be going through something of a rebirth at the moment, gaining new fans and popularity with a new wave of music lovers.

Ayon is quickly establishing himself as an international master of the style and Enough To Be Proud is a mighty fine addition to that particular musical cannon.

A style that relies heavily of necessity on open guitar tunings, this album is a splendid example of just how good  well-worn tradition can be when played with passion and spirit.

www.cwayon.com

Red Dirt Skinners Behind The Wheel

Red Dirt Skinners Behind The Wheel.jpg

Submitted by Iain Patience

The fourth studio album from the Red Dirt Skinners, an English husband and wife duo featuring Rob Skinner on guitar and his partner Sarah on Soprano Sax, is a welcome addition to the bands catalogue. Strong on harmony and driving, rhythmic fretwork from Rob, the whole project is driven forward by Sarah’s searing sax playing and innate sense of musical freedom.

The collection of nine self-written songs serves well to highlight the couple’s ability and a growing confidence evidenced in the maturity of the writing and the music itself. Genres and musical boundaries are pushed aside with a refreshing ease. Switching effortlessly from blues and jazz undertones to Americana and modern-country, the Skinners wheel and deal as they change tempo, pace and styles at almost every turn. This is not a band for die-hard, stuck in the groove, traditionalists.

With a lengthy forthcoming tour of Canada about to kick-off (March 25th) the Skinners are making their second trip to Canada and revel in the adrenalin-fuelled challenge of live performance. The only outfit in the UK to have picked up national awards in both blues and country music categories, the Red Dirt Skinners are a genuinely, sparkling and refreshing antidote to the world of musical blandness. The opening, title track is an excellent, rolling, lyrical number that is virtually guaranteed to keep you tuned in for the remainder of the ride. Highly recommended.

www.reddirtskinners.com

Matt Andersen: Honest Man

Matt Andersen Honest Man.jpeg

Submitted by Iain Patience

Matt Andersen comes from Canada. He plays blues and soul music with class and confidence. His guitar-work is solid, soulful and tasty. Honest Man is an excellent album with bags of style and pizzaz, featuring ten self-written tracks that showcase the guy's artistry and emotion to full extent. What more is needed?

Andersen's voice is deeply steeped in southern soul and gospel tradition while his lyrics reflect his thoughts on personal relationships, be they good, bad or badder; love, life on the road and political/cultural processes across North America in general. The result is an unusually honest release that sparkles with common-sense, complexity and erudition at almost every turn.

Honest Man is an album that is not only simply very good. It's very good, indeed. A release that should, deservedly on this basis, elevate this guy's profile and provide delight to the rest of us.

Debbie Bond Shoals Sessions Enjoy The Ride

Enjoy The Ride Shoals Sessions Debbie Bond_0.jpg

Submitted by Iain Patience

Often likened to Bonnie Raitt, Alabama blues-lady Debbie Bond’s latest release, ‘Enjoy The Ride’, kicks off strongly with an upbeat, optimistic surge of soul and passion on the title track before shifting a few gears with introspective inner searching reaching out in tracks ‘Start With Love’, the dizzying despair and combative edge of ‘Left Me In The Dark’, and the reflective beauty of ‘Remedy’. Throughout, Bond’s fine fretwork is confident and compelling, carrying the whole mix along with power and purpose. Recorded in Muscle Shoals, with full-on horns and Shoals-sounding quality, ‘Enjoy The Ride’ is easily Bond’s finest effort to date, bursting with sensitivity and a soulful delivery that show heartache and hurt, love and loss will always be winning combinations.

Bond’s previous album, ‘That Thing Called Love’, featured her partner Radiator Rick Asherson on Harp and Keys, and he again figures strongly here. Her love and affection for the late Alabama bluesman Willie King, whom she played with for many years, is also evident with an excellent cover of one of his anthems, ‘I Am The Blues’ included in the mix. Add some quality support guitar flourished from Will McFarlane, (ex-Bonnie Raitt), Spooner Odham on organ, one of the US’s finest sidemen, and you have an album of considerable class, style and quality.

www.debbiebond.com

Benny Turner When She's Gone

When She's Gone Benny Turner.jpeg

Submitted by Iain Patience

This is an excellent album, packed with real quality musicianship, vocals, material and soulful feeling. Turner is not just another bluesman but the brother of the late, legendary Freddie King. With this guy, we have a true bluesman, brought up in the tradition from a family that was positively steeped in the blues. The fourth release from Texan Turner, the ten tracks here include sure-fired soulful vocals and quality bass from Turner with some  subtle support from Muddy's old guitar support sideman player Bob Margolin.

Dr John even puts in a rare appearance on rhythm guitar on one track. Margolin displays his sheer quality and experience with a wonderful slide-based take on Bill Withers' hit standard Ain't No Sunshine, turning it on its head in places. For the past fifty or so years, Turner has been happy to skip the spotlights, working as bandleader for the former widely acclaimed Blues Queen of New Orleans, Marva Wright, (one track, Pity On This Lovesick Fool, features a duet recorded before she passed), and shoring up countless big-name players including a decade or so on bass, performing and touring with his late, elder brother Freddie King. Soul-blues music at its near best, When She's Gone showcases a master at the top of his game.

Jason Vivone & The Billy Bats The Avenue

Jason Vivone & The Billy Bats The Avenue.jpeg

Submitted by Iain Patience

Another contender at this year's International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Jason Vivone & The Billy Bats were there to fly the flag for their home-town of Kansas City. The title is taken from a former Mafiosa retirement street in the burg where Vivone himself pitched up and bought a house back in the 90s.

This eight-track release reflects life and love, despair and hope in equal measures as lived on the Avenue over the years and features a full-blown seven-piece outfit with a soaring sense of humour and an astute eye on the world around them. Most tracks are written by Vivone himself and his slide-guitar work hints at more than a passing nod to the fretwork of former Kansas City resident picker Casey Bill Weldon. Vivone wields his beloved cigar-box guitar with style and clear class here, supported by some neatly pitched electric banjo - an otherwise troubling thought, perhaps - from Ben Hoppes.

The remainder of the band comprises Matt Bustamante in percussion, drums and backing vocals; Paula Crawford on backing vocals, percussion and guitar; Rick MacIvor again backing vocals, and keyboards, piano and organ; Jeremy Clark on bass, and Joanna Berkebile on percussion and vocals. This is a mighty fine album, a tad quirky in places and at turns but an overall charmer worth discovering.

Jen Lane This Life of Mine

Jen Lane This Life of Mine.jpg

Submitted by Lee Fraser

Jen Lane grew up writing and singing, creativity naturally streaming through her vocal chords and fingers. She had an album released when she was still a teenager. With the release of a fourth album, “For the Night”, momentum was building and the outlook on her future was full steam ahead. But then a fluke accident ripped up the tracks suddenly.

The years following that injury saw Jen in and out of hospital and physiotherapy. There were multiple surgeries and unforeseen effects that straddled her with pain and immobility. While her husband, John Antoniuk, was touring his own albums, Jen was stranded at home, trapped in their Saskatoon home month after month. But as Henry David Thoreau once said, “All misfortune is but a stepping stone to fortune.”

With a bundle of new songs under her arm, Jen sought out an opportunity to record a new album in the US with a desired producer. It didn’t work out, but everything happens for a reason. The stars aligned with the opportunity to record the album with producer John Ellis, who has worked with the likes of Barney Bentall and The Be Good Tanyas.The recording studio was an alpaca farm, in the heart of beautiful British Columbia. The serene surroundings, the workspace designed by a veteran of the scene and accommodations suited to a musician’s lifestyle were all conducive to inspiration and peace of mind. All the best qualities of Jen’s vocal talents are evident on this album, which is surely the result of this locale.

Lucinda Williams The Ghosts Of Highway 20

Lucinda Williams The Ghosts of Highway 20.jpeg

Submitted by Iain Patience

Yet again, Lucinda pulls out all the stops with another double album full to overflowing with her quirky, sly take on life, love, death and virtually everything in between.  Each of her previous two albums seem to have been sideshoots leading up to this offering where she again writes with extraordinary power and vision, depth and assurance, each of the 14 tracks seamlessly earning its place in the evocative and emotional mix.

Ghosts of Highway 20 is simply another ground-breaking bit of grit from a well-worn, care-worn Nashville genius. I, for one, thought she'd inevitably struggle to top her last wonderful offering, Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone. And, it comes as little genuine surprise to find that she has again pulled it off in spades. Never predictable, Williams is always irresistible, thoughtful and ready to take you by the guts, shake you by the nuts when you least expect it. This is clearly a truly great artist sailing steadily, against the tide at times, towards ever-expanding horizons and musical harbours. Ghosts is an album that really deserves enormous success. If you don't yet have this one, get out and grab a copy as soon as possible. This is bound to be one of the best of the year.

www.lucindawilliams.com


Danny Marks: Cities in Blue

Danny Marks Cities in Blue.jpg

Submitted by Lee Fraser

The year 2013 was a year of good fortune for Danny Marks and we, his fans, have been reaping the rewards ever since. The latest reward for our patience has just been released: “Cities in Blue”, the album. “Cities in Blue”, the television series, is an eight-episode series on HiFi featuring both the history and the current scene of eight North American cities or areas with strong blues connections. Danny Marks was approached to host the show and to write a song to accompany each episode of the television series. It was a natural progression to evolve those songs into an album of its own. This compilation of songs is a 35 minute tour of the names, the styles and the guitars of the blues in North America.

This album has a great mixture of magic and content: there are fun little moments that get you smiling the first time you listen, and a richness in the compositions that keeps you listening repeatedly. This is definitely an album that you can put in regular rotation. Danny Marks has assembled the blues royalty of Toronto - Ken Whiteley, Julian Fauth, Alec Fraser, Al Cross, David Rotundo among them – and recorded an album that feels as spontaneous and heartfelt as any one of his live shows. It’s moments like Sherie Marshall’s backup vocals on “Memphis Got Soul” and Chris Whiteley’s trumpet on “Once I Was Crazy” that have the power to give you goose bumps.

Syndicate content