Reviews

Chris Staig and the Marquee Players The Shack By the Tracks

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Submitted by Don Graham

Every once in a while a CD comes by that is a pleasant surprise and such was the case with Chris Staig and The Marquee Players album “Shack by The Tracks”. This latest of five solo recordings released by Chris is chock full of great tunes and grooves. You’ll hear a little of The Band, Little Feat, some Beatles, Blue Rodeo and even a little eearly Flying Burrito Brothers.

Hannah Aldridge Razor Wire

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Razor Wire is just that. Slicing, sharp lyrics and production from a very fine young, US modern Country-Americana singer-songwriter. Aldridge has a fabulous, crisp and clear voice with bags of strength and soul at its heart.  Most of the ten tracks here are self-written and she is generously backed by a storming studio-crew with all the push and power of the Nashville sound behind her.

At times there's a strident melancholy in some of the compositions, reflections of a darker side of life and a visceral eye for life's tragedies and pain. On others, the rallying cry of redemption and release sparkle brightly, like Aldridge's vital and vibrant voice.

The daughter of a seasoned Muscle Shoals and Nashville veteran songwriter/producer - the late Walt Aldridge, she was virtually born to be a musician. Any other métier would have been unthinkable really. Initially a classically-trained pianist, she took up guitar and studied sound-engineering at University in Tennessee, before turning her attention to the art of writing songs and performance.

Razor Wire is her debut offering and within its bounds she delivers a character full and carnal collection of memorable melodies and lusty lyrics. Clearly a Nashville newcomer to watch out for, Aldridge has the power to surprise and satisfy.

www.hannah-aldridge.com


Laurence Jones What's It Gonna Be

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Submitted by Iain Patience

The latest, third, release from young, hot-shot British rock-bluesman, Laurence Jones is a true cracker. A wonderful album of searing guitar work coupled with some deft lyrics that have a stamp of confidence and maturity about them that simply belie his relatively tender years and must speak volumes of what might yet lie tantalisingly in store for the years ahead.

All eleven tracks are solid, full of positively pounding guitar riffs, runs and licks that echo many of his personal early influences - Walter Trout (whose band he has already played with); old Slowhand Clapton; Albert Collins and Rory Gallaher. There are also shades of Stevie Ray Vaughan there, I'm sure.

Jones featured heavily in last year's blues charts with his own album, 'Temptation' (gathering accolades worldwide) and his participation on German record company Ruf's talent showcase album 'Blues Caravan 2014'. There's no doubt this guy has a warm, wonderful musical future ahead of him, with praise coming from his musical peers, the media and a growing army of global fans.

When you take Jones' lyrics, great fretwork and add a powerful, mature voice to the mix, you end up, as here, with a genuine bit of quality.  On one track he is joined on support vocals by Scot, Sandi Thom, and on another by New York siren, Dana Fuchs. Both lend a strength and purpose to the project. A highly recommended release.

www.laurencejonesmusic.com

Shoutin' Red: Introducing

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Submitted by Iain Patience

'Introducing' is exactly that, an intro to a new kid on the Scandinavian blues block.  From Sweden, Felicia Nielsen, aka Shoutin' Red, is a new, young performer with a debut release that marries traditional 1930’s acoustic blues with a few standard traditional folk songs to provide this 12-track album.

Red is already gaining prominence in the vibrant Swedish blues scene with festival appearances and gigs and with this interestingly, fresh release should also now reach a wider blues audience beyond the Baltic.

Tracks covered include Tom Dickson's 'Labour Blues'; When the Levee Breaks'; 'Hesitation Blues'; Willie McTell's classic 'Statesboro Blues'; 'Millman Blues' from Bily Bird; 'Crazy Blues' by Perry Bradford - a good, strong opener here - and John Hurt's 'Frankie and Albert'.

From the very off it's apparent where the moniker 'Shoutin' originates, as Nielsson's voice hammers out the lyrics alongside some fine, well aimed acoustic guitar-work. At times, the vocal delivery is reminiscent of Rory Block, another fine blues-woman with a strong voice and positive presence.  And while Red's fretwork has yet to reach the heights of Block's picking, there is clearly scope and time for development in that department.

The Dexterous Music of Jay Pollock

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Submitted by Lee Fraser

By reading his social media feeds or listening to his banter, Jay Pollock comes across as that odd guy that nobody really “gets” but everyone likes. He has an off-kilter, astute sense of humour and draws your attention to every day scenarios in a different light. It is as though he somehow occupies an uncommon vantage point, one that lends itself to collecting observations on politics, choices and the future.

Pollock is a young musician with musical roots – his father is a world champion Scottish bagpiper– who keeps himself immersed in the Toronto music scene. He has independently produced quite a unique album, titled “Sunflower”, and had it engineered by Grammy nominee, Jeremy Darby. Recorded with Lowell Whitty, the drummer from the jazz-funk band Heavyweights Brass Band, and the adept and quirky bass player, Ben Huband, this album is a remarkable ensemble effort. Pollock has a talent for stringing together notes and chords that are best highlighted by strong bass lines and melodic percussion.

The song-writing incorporates observations told via imaginative rhyming couplets and inspired plays on words: "Siamese twins have peculiar grins, we're all wondering why they're smiling". The songs range in style; “All Aboard” has a beat reminiscent of a German beer hall, while the bridge of “Mistaken Identity” has the boogie beat of an 80’s disco hit.

Jorma Kaukonen: Ain't In No Hurry

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Submitted by Iain Patience

A new release from Jorma is always welcome and eagerly anticipated by his legion of fans worldwide.  'Ain't In No Hurry' is a typically laid-back bit of work with Kaukonen's trademark, spicy guitar-work and gripping, gritty vocals both working full tilt.

As usual these days, he's joined by his old buddy from Jefferson Airplane rock-star days, and Hot Tuna Bassman the incomparable Jack Casady together with Tuna Mando-man, Barry Mitterhoff. As a result, there is a clear Tunaesque feel and aim to the album. Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams also feature in the stew to good effect.

Eleven tracks include standards like 'Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out'; Thomas Dorsey's wisecracker, 'The Terrible Operation' and a splendid take on Yip Harburg's classic old perenniel, 'Brother Can You Spare a Dime'.  Woody Guthrie's seldom heard/recorded 'Suffer The Little Children To Come Unto Me' also earns its place. Most of the remainder come from Kaukonen himself.

The theme of the album, explains Kaukonen in the sleeve notes, is his thanks for a relatively peaceful, eventful and affluent musical lifestyle that now spans some fifty-plus years.  Nowadays, he feels relaxed and content, with no need or pressure to rush around or experiment. Like a jigsaw puzzle, his life and music merge as one with tangential support from his oldest and most trusted musical buddies.  This is very much an album of the kind that we've come to admire and expect from a genuine acoustic blues master.

D.A. FOSTER: The Real Thing

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Strangely enough, this is a first album from a ridiculously talented and connected musician, a singer of substance with over three decades music business experience behind him. This immensely solid history brings a remarkably focused, engaging presence to the studio, with great, powerful, balanced soulful vocals together with a Grammy award-winning backing band - The Phantom Blues Band - of exceptional quality for a debut release.

As a bandleader, in his previous musical life in  Connecticut, Foster has worked with countless well-known names including Chuck Berry, Muddy Water, Keith Richards and BB King. Indeed the list is as long as it is impressive. And with this album, it's easy to see why, although hard to understand why it has taken him so long to leap from the backing shadows into the fiery spotlight on his own account.

Foster's voice is smooth, rootsy and absolutely packed with southern soul and simpering,  simmering  quality. This guy and this album are both clearly 'the real thing', a wonderful discovery of huge class and quality. Definitely an album to get your hands on if you like quality modern southern soul music at its very best.

www.dafostermusic.com

Katie Bradley Anchor Baby Sessions

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Submitted by Iain Patience

'Anchor Baby Sessions' is a debut release from a young UK singer-songwriter, Katie Bradley. About half the numbers on the ten-track album are written by Bradley together with guitarist Dudley Ross.  Overall, the mix is very good and this rock-blues launch well worth checking out.

Bradley is a strong, effective singer with a light, positive and confident touch; she is also, something of a rare thing, a female Harp player. Indeed her playing is, like her vocals, also confidently pitched while guitarist Ross provides welcome variety switching between acoustic slide and driving electric fretwork with apparent ease.

Bradley is already fast making a name for herself on the club and festival circuit, in the UK and Europe and with this release she is likely to go from strength to strength for sure.  Tracks include pretty fine covers of 'Little By Little', Rock Me Baby',  'I Got My Mojo Working' and a powerful version of 'I'd Rather Go Blind'.  Two differently honed takes of the self-written 'Long Way From Home' stand out as mature, well-fired pieces.

This is an excellent album of blues-rock standards mixed with new, self-penned material of real quality.  Throughout the album, there's a clear nod to tradition coupled with a clear eye to the future all wrapped and packaged with great musical style and class. The result is a highly recommended new comer.

www.katiebradleyblues.com

Eric Sardinas And Big Motor: Boomerang

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Submitted by David Bowling
Cashbox Magazine

There are thousands of blues artists on the road and in the studio, so it takes an accomplished musician and artist to get noticed. Eric Sardinas and his backing band Big Motor, consisting of bassist Levell Price and drummer Bryan Keeling, are one of those blues bands who have continued to improve and are now on the rise toward the top of their profession. They have now returned with their third album titled Boomerang.

In addition to being a good vocalist and competent songwriter; Sardinas is a unique musician. He performs with an electrified dobro resonator plus steel and acoustic resonators. The sound he is able to create with his unique approach to the blues is different from most of his contemporaries.

His newest album consists of eight original and two cover tunes. The old Elvis song “Trouble” is twisted all out of shape and emerges as an energetic blues piece. Muddy Waters’ “How Many More Years” is a trip back to the Southern Delta.

The eight original compositions are vehicles for his voice and instrumental expertise. “Run Devil Dun,” “Bad Boy Blues,” “Morning Glory,” and the title track are all solid, gritty blues tunes with enough room for some creative solos.

Eric Sardinas continues to improve and evolve. Boomerang is another link in his musical chain.

http://www.ericsardinas.co.uk/

Mark Harrison: The World Outside

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Harrison is one of the new current crop of English bluesmen, busy carving a reputation as a leading-edge writer and guitarist in the bars, clubs and music festivals of Europe and the UK.  All twelve tracks that make up this release were written by Harrison and more than adequately illustrate his mastery of style and subject.

What makes this guy stand out from most of the rest is the simple key element that underpins everything he does: he plays acoustic, generally slide guitar in a traditional style but with his own material which is bang up to date. An interesting mélange that few can pull off with success, Harrison, not only succeeds he positively triumphs.

On this release he is joined by his old buddy Ed Hopwood on drums and vocals, plus a number of other fine backing musicians; the Harp work of Will Greener is particularly  strong and the vocal support from Josienne Clarke, who also doubles up on Tenor Sax, Flute and Piano, is a positively welcome addition.

The twelve tracks here are fine examples of modern blues in the UK today from a guy with his ear to the musical ground coupled with humour and a deft turn of phrase and pacing. Many themes are modern while others reflect an interest in social issues with lively thought.

At times introspective, 'The World Outside' represents a very fine slice of British acoustic blues music from a clearly talented singer-songwriter with a finely balanced sense of self-deprecating wit.

www.markharrisonrootsmusic.com

 

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