Reviews

Michael Falzarano: i got blues for ya

Michael Falzarano i got blues for ya.jpeg

Submitted by Iain Patience

Falzarano is one of those largely overlooked US guitarists with a pedigree that should give him a strong profile and following. Probably best known for his work with Hot Tuna frontman Jorma Kaukonen, he also played with the near -legendary New Riders Of The Purple Sage and is little short of a master of US roots music. This is a major blues/roots American sideman with an effortless touch and an astonishing ability and background.

'I Got Blues For Ya' was first released over a year ago but is only now being actively pushed and promoted across the Pond. It's a twelve-track treat, featuring Falzarano's unfaltering fretwork, soulful guitar chops and sly, absorbing vocals.

With a background and grounding as a sideman to Jorma Kaukonen it comes as no surprise to find some Rev Gary Davis included in the mix and Falzarano's cover of one his most commonly covered and haunting numbers 'Death Don't Have No Mercy' is a standout track here, together with the attention grabbing, rolling boogie of 'Snake Box Boogie.'

This album clearly shows why Falzarano has remained at the top of the blues-roots sideman tree in his native USA but leaves me wondering why he still, somehow or other, manages to maintain a low, below the radar profile elsewhere.

www.michaelfalzarano.com

Iain Patience

Glen Hornblast: Once In A Blue Moon

Glen Hornblast Once In a Blue Moon.jpg

Submitted by Don Graham

If you like your songs to be real, vocals to be honest and production clean and crisp the you need to have Glen Hornblast’s Once In A blue Moon in your collection.

The CD is a mix of Glen's best songs that he’s written over the last three decades. The mood and subject of the songs come from the folk music background of Glen from gritty  blues to to heartbreakin’ country songs. Glen’s voice sits comfortably in the tracks and his effortless delivery is full of the depth and emotion of the tunes. “Mary” is a personal favourite. The story of a homeless woman who’s “only crime was being poor.” Great song. "Freedom Train" gets down to it in a tale of the Underground Railroad that was created after a trip to the Memphis Martin Luther King Museum.“True Blue Forever”, “River” and “Loretta” are a few other  picks on this 12 song offering.

Leeroy Stagger Dream It All Away

Leeroy Stagger Dream It All Away.jpg

Submitted by Don Graham

A little Steve Earle, a little John Prine, a little Bruce Springsteen and whole lot of his own heart and soul make up Canadian alt/country/folk/rock minstrel Leeroy Stagger’s music.

His new album, Dream It All Away, on Rebeltone Records, is an up close and personal look at the struggles, triumphs and soul of Leeroy Stagger. The 10 song CD, his 10th in a 12 year career, is the best work Stagger has done to date and he has an extensive body of work to compare it to.

In Leeroy’s words “The birth of my son unexpectedly dredged up childhood stuff I hadn’t dealt with. I was in the middle of a record deal that was supposed to be a dream come true but wasn’t. I started to dismantle my music career. I fell down the rabbit hole into a major depression. When I started to come out of my fog I found my story; faith and struggle, birth and rebirth, love and darkness. And the result is this album, “Dream It All Away.”

The album was produced by Russell Broom in Calgary and Lethbridge, and features drummer Pat Seward who has worked with Bryan Adams and Odds and bassist Mike Lent who has backed up k.d.lang and Jann Arden.

Tia McGraff: Crazy Beautiful

Tia McGrath Crazy Beautiful.jpg

Submitted by Don Graham

Every time I get to review a Tia McGraff album it’s always the same feeling. ‘this is the best one yet” and Crazy Beautiful is no different. This album IS the best yet from Tia and her musical and life partner Tommy Parnham. There is no doubt that Tia is one of Americana’s gifted singer songwriters and Tommy is a gifted musician and producer. . Crazy Beautiful was recorded in Austin, Texas Nashville, Tennessee, and Southern Ontario in Canada. The album features Grammy Award winning  musicians Cindy Cashdollar, Dave Sanger,  from Asleep At The Wheel ,Tommy Harden who played with Reba, Dave Labruyere from  John Mayer’s band  and also involved were  Juno and Grammy award winning engineers Nick Blagona and Rick DeLellis. Crazy Beautiful was  mixed and master by Nick Blagona and produced by Tommy Parham, with all songs written by  Tia McGraff and Tommy Parham.

Crazy Beautiful is the title of the album as well as a track on the CD but could be referring to the quality of the songs, the clean production, the “ voice like liquid honey” vocals or just the lead singer. All are applicable.

This is the album Tia and Tommy were born to make should be a major breakthrough for them.  The opening track “What a Heart Must Do is pop/.country tune, radio friendly in sound and lyric. Well done.

The Darkness: Last of Our Kind

The Darkness Last of Our Kind.jpg

Submitted by Lenny Stoute

It was easy to make fun of The Darkness when they debuted in 2003, with Justin Hawkins' over the top semi-operatic vocals drawing all kinds of outlandish comparisons, one fave being 'John Cleese doing Freddy Mercury ' and 'the reincarnation of Spinal Tap.'  The chuckles died down when Permission to Land, went straight up to number two in the UK charts upon its release on 7 July 2003, before going to number one and staying there for four weeks, eventually going on to sell 1.5 million copies in the UK. What followed was the classic rock'n'roll path to fame and then down the other side, with albums two and three not hitting with as much impact, and Justin Hawkins departure for a stint in rehab after which he left the band.

That was then and this is 2015 and even though they recently went through three drummers in a year, Last of Our Kind brims with the swagger, confidence and clever songwriting which marked their early music. The Darkness were never shy about wearing their influences on their sleeves so consequently you get yer AC/DC power riffage, (“Open Fire”, “Mudslide”), Queen-ly anthems (“Mighty Wings”, “Roaring Waters”), some Metallica flavor (“Barbarian”), some woozy Stones-y blues rock (“Wheels Of The Machine”, “Hammer & Tongs”) and Aerosmith would be proud to call the stomping 'Mudslide' their own.

Ron Korb Asia Beauty

Ron Korb Asia Beauty.jpg

Submitted by Don Graham

Canadian flutist Ron Korb has travelled around the world collecting bamboo and various ethnic indigenous flutes. Reflecting Celtic, Asian, classical, jazz and Latin influences, his music embodies the diverse cultures, traditions and experiences of his travels.

Korb has kept his reputation as the master of Asian flutes in good standing with his latest effort “Asia Beauty”.  This new offering is confirmation on every level, beginning with the packaging, a digi-book CD cover filled  with incredible photography and  stunning music to soothe and seduce the spirit.

The album contains nineteen tracks and three bonus tracks, about  twenty  performers, and an array of different  of instruments flutes, erhu, guqin, guzheng, harp, piano, violin, African kalimba, drums and accordion.

“Asia Beauty” starts with the alluring Hanoi Café, which alerts the listener into knowing that this album will provide an interesting and moving journey.

The following tracks 2 right through to 8 are based on Korb’s own Jade Dragon Flute and The House of Five Beauties tales with The Journey Begins starting things off featuring a duet with Korb on flute and long-time friend and collaborator Donald Quan on piano introducing us to the House of Five Beauties.

Alabama Shakes Sound & Color

Alabama Shakes Sound and Color.jpg

Submitted by Lenny Stoute

They don't get more cranked up than Brittany Howard, a comfortably built former postal worker who brings major muscle to her intense vocalising. When the   lady and her Athens, Alabama band Alabama Shakes turned out debut album Boys & Girls in 2012, the world went 'Whoa' for the front-porch geetar slinging , casual confidence of players at home in a lot of styles and the instant appeal of familiar-sounding songs such as Hold On, a creature of soulful swamp rock, with a craw full of garage gravel and voodoo blues.

Three years later they're still muchly that in the aesthetics but on Sound & Color there's so much, much more to work with. F'r instance, while Howard's been previously compared to such as Etta James and Janis Joplin, Howard's shift here is towards  Curtis Mayfield, Prince, Marvin Gaye and Erykah Badu.

The song , Future People, encapsulates many of the changes defining the current state of Alabama Shakes. It rides on two very different  guitar lines from Howard and Heath Fogg  and when Howard breaks out the vocals, it isn't the usual powerhouse belt but a falsetto croon which takes us through this tale of meeting dearly departed friends and family as spirit guides. Then its chorus time and a chest thumping funky bass line arrives for one more changeup.

Micke Bjorklof: & Blue Strip Ain't Bad Yet

Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip Ain't Bad Yet.jpeg

Submitted by Iain Patience

A rollickin' rowdy bit of quality blues with a rock edge from Scandinavia, a land with a deep, entrenched love of the music, currently producing some artists, bands and music of real interest. Micke Bjorklof & Blues Strip is a five piece outfit with wailing Harp, tasteful guitar licks and powerful, trenchant vocals from Bjorklof himself. All eleven tracks are penned by band members and work well, as might be expected from a band that has remained unchanged for the better part of twenty years and scooped the award for Best Band at this year's annual Blues Awards competition in their native Finland.

From the band's inception in 1991 as an acoustic blues-rock cover band, Bjorklof and co-founder bassist Seppo Nuolikoski have steadily moved increasingly towards the tempting sound and zing of electric guitar-led work and technology. The result is a band with a rolling, boiling electric sound and a tight, controlled cohesion, and with this release, recorded at Wales' legendary Rockfield Studios and produced by John Porter -  a guy with ten Grammy winning albums below his belt who has worked with Buddy Guy, BB King, Santana, Keb Mo and Taj mahal, among others - they have certainly come of age. Pace and variety blend perfectly here to produce an album of solid quality musicianship and interest. Definitely well worth a listen.

www.mickebjorklof.com

Krossborder Kompilation Vol 2: The Best British Blues

Krossborder Kompilation Vol 2 The Best British Blues.jpeg

Submitted by Iain Patience

At last, a compilation album that genuinely does what it says on the cover: Best of British, indeed.  It's a surprisingly difficult trick to pull off. Just think of how many truly worthwhile compos are out there. In truth, not many. There's always a tendency for these laudable efforts to fall short, include second-rate padding and generally disappoint. Not here. Thankfully, for a change, a genuinely cracking 16-track release absolutely bursting at the seams with top quality local-brewed taste and flavour.

From the opening blast of Jack J Hutchinson on his Les Paul - with the title track to his excellent recent EP release and one that should be played full-tilt - to the closing effort by the Bare Bones Boogie Band, this album rips and snorts its way along, seldom pausing for breathe, let alone relaxing its grip on the listener.

Robin Robertson Blues Band follows hot on Hutchinson's smoking heels, and just when you're likely to think it can't get much better, along comes Gwyn Ashton with stonking 'On The Borderline'.  And then, again, like London buses, you wait forever for one and a whole garage come along together, we're led into the simply superb Harp-work of the great Paul Lamb, here perfectly supported by the stridently sparkling fretwork of Chad Strenz. Even Andy Twyman's tongue in cheek, post punk blues snigger  'I Eat Pot Noodle With A Plastic Fork', nestles neatly in the mix, while Richard Townend's splendid Mighty Bosscats also earn a place with his usual style, passion and stamp of confident genius.

Hank Woji: The Working Life

Hank Woji The Working Life.jpeg

Submitted by Iain Patience

A 13-track album of impassioned acoustic Americana from a Texas-based East Coaster, this marks the third release from a guy with a clear empathy for the troubles and struggles of the working man.

The dedication in the cover with thanks to the late Pete Seeger gives more than a hint of this guys thinking in general. Backed by his big 12-string acoustic guitar picking, The Working Life is a driving, interesting bit of melodic music where every track holds a passionate, albeit often dark, message and yet remains firmly optimistic. This is music with genuine fire in its belly and a message of hope at its core.

'Life comes apart at the seams, when you're living on the edge of the American dream,' Woji says and sings on one self-written track, a demanding appeal for greater equality and wealth distribution in an age of growing alienation and distressing employment opportunities in a seemingly unstoppable and callous global market.
The album closes with the thumping race, pace and power of Bruce Sprinsteen's song, 'The Factory', a track that fits perfectly with the urgent concerned themes contained here.

This is a very fine album of traditional folk-roots music where shades and echoes of sixties liberation campaigns and exploding anger jostle comfortably side by side. Woji is a guy worth catching and The Working Life has considerable merit for lovers of traditional folk-roots-based music.

www.hankwji.com

Iain Patience

Syndicate content