Reviews

Jack Roberts Harvey Band Devil On A Dirt Road

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Superlatives simply prevail here. Stunning debut album of great blues with strong Americana and gutsy down and dirty Rock tinges from the JRHB. From LA, this hugely talented Californian trio - only a trio, seems unbelievable with this sound - comprises only Tony Jack Grigsby on Bass - the Jack of the band - Jim Roberts on guitar and vocals, and Mike Harvey on Drums.

Material ranges from the old traditional US standard, 'Amazing Grace', here cooked in a refreshingly different slippery, slide sauce, to another nine self-written songs with a great groove going throughout. This is a band that clearly knows its way around the music with a capacity to produce material of enormous quality.

If anything, the most surprising thing about this outfit is probably - why haven't we heard of them before now?! Genuinely amazing debut from a truly talented US band.  Can't wait to hear their next effort. Onward and upwards, I reckon.

Devil On A Dirt Road
Tears In The Dust
Snakebit
Soul Worth Saving
Quicksand
New Day
Alligator Shoe
Anjohnette
Hurricane Road
Amazing Grace

www.jackrobertsharveyband.com

Iain Patience

Trond Olsen Band Mercy

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Submitted by Iain Patience

An absolutely fabulous second album here from the northern reaches of Europe. 'Mercy' is an eleven-track bit of great blues with ten tracks written by band leader-frontman, Trond Olson, and including a cracking cover of Robert Johnston's old classic, 'Come On In My Kitchen', - a hard cut to give a fresh feel - featuring former John Mayall Bluesbreaker sideman Buddy Whittington on guitar.

This is a Norwegian outfit, who clearly know their way around the blues; a follow-up release to Olsen's 2009 debut, 'A New Day Comin', 'Mercy' should win the band blues fans aplenty; full of strong, sensitive, soulful guitar from Olson himself, and always alongside perfect percussion from Morten Bergstrom, Lars Hammerlsand on Keys and Frank Hovland on booming Bass. Vocal credits again lie with Olsen.

Mostly electrically-driven blues in the mix, the album closes with a haunting, nicely pitched acoustic piece from Olsen, 'You'll Be Around'. This is a wonderful discovery, a truly excellent album full of gritty northern blues. Positively rcommended.

www.toblive.com

Bottleneck John All Around Man

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Bottleneck John, aka Johan Eliasson, is a big guy in every way. With a big voice that stretches from his home in the North of Sweden to the Delta and all points in between. he's also a true master of resonator/slide guitar, as this latest release clearly illustrates.

With a few albums already under his belt, Eliasson/Bottlenck John's  'All Around Man' comes from Sweden's highly respected blues label, Opus 3, a recording company often associated with US bluesman Eric Bibb's efforts in recent years.

The fourteen tracks featured here range across the full traditional blues cannon from 'Lonesome Valley', through gospel classic, 'Wade In The Water', to the eponymous title track from the pen of the late Bo Carter, the undisputed master of the 'single entendre'.

Throw in a couple of Tony Joe White and Tom Waits covers and you have an excellent album of traditional acoustic blues played by a stunning Scandinavian guitarist  who really knows how to get down and dirty and boogie.

These days, Scandinavia appears to have a thriving blues sub-culture, with many very fine musicians and artistes playing the bars and clubs of their native lands. Maybe there's something in the water up there, or possibly it's simply the Vodka and Aquavit!

www.bottleneckjohn.com

Red Dirt Skinners Live In Aberdeen

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Submitted by Iain Patience

The fourth release by this interesting, UK award-winning UK duo, Sarah and Rob Skinner, is a 'warts and all' take on a live performance recorded summer 2014 at a gig in a small blues club in Scotland's self-styled oil capital, Aberdeen.

This is not easy to classify, though it's clearly traditional and rootsy for the most part. The music spans many genres. It includes blues, jazz, country, Americana and arguably even pop, with a well conceived and delivered version of David Bowie's old early hit, 'Space Oddity.'

Rob Skinner plays rhythmic, strongly strummed guitar throughout, driving the music along with a fine sense of pace and energy, though at times, I found the guitar a bit thin, possibly due to the mastering, the strings used or the guitar itself. Who knows exactly, though one thing's certain, it's not down to this guy's forceful playing.

The other half of the band, Sarah, shares vocals, writing credits on many tracks and plays a fine soaring and sympathetic Soprano Sax with punch and style. Her jazzy flourishes are enjoyable, slipping in and out of the mix comfortably and confidently.

The fifteen tracks that make up this recording include standards like 'Cornbread, Peas and Black Molasses' from the Americana end of the spectrum, through Bowie's major pop contribution of ole Major Tom to Robert Johnson's classic 'Hot Tamales.'

The Red Dirt Skinners will be touring Canada with dates lined-up in Alberta in Spring2015 and Ontario a few months later,  in Summer 2015.

A very fine album; interesting, varied in tempo and type, worth discovering.

www.reddirtskinners.com

Iain Patience

David Vest: Roadhouse Revelation

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Submitted by Iain Patience

This is a positively rollicking-good album from a Canadian keyboard master. Bluesy in parts, jazzy at times, full of thundering, driving barrel-house keyboard chops and flair, 'Roadhouse Revelation' is just that, a genuine revelation.

All but two of the eleven tracks here were written by Vest, and the arrangements include Vest on Keyboards, Piano and Organ. Throughout, he is sensuously supported by Gary Kendall on Bass, Mike Fitzpatrick on percussion and Teddy Leonard on guitar, who adds some decidedly tasty, tempting licks to the mix.

Hank Wiliams' classic 'Ramblin' Man' is given a sound airing, and Vest's vocals carry all of the the material covered here with comfort, ease,  and bags of oomph when needed.

From the opening chords of 'Freight Train Rolling - a crackling bit of fine rolling, juke-joint piano  - to the closing track, the mellower, 'Pretty Things For Anne', Roadhouse Revelation pulses with feeling and style in equal measure. A very fine bit of work that will have you reaching for the replay button time and time again.

www.davidvest.ca

The Suitcase Brothers A Long Way From Home

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Submitted by Iain Patience

This is a debut recording from a couple of Spanish Brothers, Victor and Santos Puertas. Originally from the Barcelona area, where Harp player, Victor, is still based, guitarist Santos now lives in Texas, where this album was recorded and produced.

With 14 tracks, it's a fine introduction to a new, young outfit with a firm footing in the murky blues world. Tracks include many standards from the likes of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Louis Jordan and JB Lenoir's knock-out, 'Talk To Your Daughter.'

The brothers share the writing credits on many numbers including the closing title track, easily one of the best in the mix.  Overall, this is a solid first effort from a duo that clearly knows their stuff. Two positive US Harp maestros Jerry Portnoy and Paul Oscher - both previously with the legendary Muddy Waters' band back in the day - also guest on a few tracks, bringing well-grounded, soulful experience and confidence to the production.

This is a rollicking bit of thirties-inspired and influenced acoustic ragtime-blues, ranging across Piedmont, Delta and Chicago styles with a rare assurance. An excellent first release, for sure.

www.suitcasebrothers.com


Lisa Lystam Family Band When Money's Runnin' Out

When Money's Running Out Lisa Lystam Family Band.jpeg

Submitted by Iain Patience

Another debut release here, from a new, young kid on the Scandinavian blues block.  And it's a cracker. Eleven tracks, mostly self-penned (or in collaboration with buddies) this first album has a great groove going.

Rocky in parts, always rhythmic and clean and clear, the Harp and guitar work is poised and pure while Lystam's vocals are driving and powerfully delivered. Percussion by Patrik Thelin is perfectly pitched, propelling the whole stew deliciously forward throughout, with some rolling, ringing keyboards and piano included.

This is a fabulous album from a young lady we're bound to hear much more both from and of in future years. The writing is mature and wholesome, as you might expect from a Swede. 'When The Money's Runnin' Out' is one of those offerings that creep up, grow on you, and grow and grow the more it's listened to.  Anyone looking for melodic blues-rock with a fully rounded sound and a fresh feel should give Lisa Lystam a listen.

www.lisalystam.se

Iain Patience

Jim Keaveny Out Of Time

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Keaveny is a young Texas-based American already gathering accolades in his homeland where he has been likened to Townes Van Zandt, Woody Guthrie and even Dylan. Not bad for a relative newcomer. To my mind this album has shades of early John Prine at times. It's one of those discs that simply grow on you; the more you listen, the more there is to enjoy.

“Out Of Time” is Keaveny's fifth self-released recording. It's a fine showcase for a powerful, young and ambitious musical talent and should propel his career nicely forward on a wider stage.

Keaveny describes himself as a country/folk singer. What is evident here is a strong ability as a melodic writer and player with an identifiably Americana background. In short, this is a remarkably good, enjoyable, strong album from a guy due to tour UK and Europe in early 2015. On the basis of this offering, he is certainly a guy to catch if you can.

www.jimkeaveney.com

Iain Patience

Elliott Brood Work and Love

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute

Ten years in and the Men In White remain secure in their position at the very top of the Canuck roots rock heap. A Juno for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year’ll do that for ya. In the US, Mumford & Sons and The National were busy messing with the roots sound, to great critical and commercial acclaim. Against that landscape, when Elliott Brood showed up down there, tour work aplenty was to be had.

From out of the constant touring outside Canada comes Work and Love, a thematic album, rife with reflections on the passing of time and milestone transitions.

Among the latter, the band’s move from their trademark bluegrass altcountry into full on roots rock, cemented by the presence of local guitar god Ian Blurton as producer, which accounts for the trademark wall of screaming guitars all over the album. The banjos, mandolins and acoustics are still in the mix, but not the major ingredients.

Fresh, at times unexpected touches come from stellar guests horn player Michael Louis Johnson, pedal steeler Aaron Goldstein and a one-of from bassist John Dinsmore. As unexpected is how the guys tackle subjects that could make for a miseryfest by dressing the songs in bracing roots rock with no room for feeling sorry about anything.

‘Taken’ is the primest example, lyrically riffing on a lost teenage love on the way to a bleak future, and managing to be both sad and uplifting along the way. Lead off tune ‘Little Ones’ could have drowned in nostalgia for the passing of youth. Instead, the energetic playing and anthemic lyrics ("We should all stay little ones and never be bitter ones”) transform the piece into a battle hymn. “Jigsaw Heart,” teeters on the edge of the so-so until that bigass chorus and massed guitars show up.

Chris Smither Still On The Levee

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Is Chris Smither the cleverest lyricist out there today? Probably, and as this 50 year retrospective double album suggests, he has been for the past half century.

With 25 tracks, each a current, modern reinterpretation of his own original songs, Still On The Levee is a marvellous effort featuring many of his signature songs; Lola, Leave The Light On, No Love Today, Seems So Real, and the rocking Love You Like A Man - famously covered by Bonnie Raitt - are all squeezed into the mix.

Strong on Smither's trademark guitar picking and rhythmic foot stomping shuffle, these fresh arrangements of his huge back-catalogue also include more keyboard covers than is usual, bringing a positively refreshing sound to many of the old familiar tracks.

Smither is hard to categorise. There's always a light blues edge to him while his lyrical skills are intelligent, witty and erudite. Americana roots and country are clearly part of his genetic make-up.  For those yet to meet or hear the man, this splendid album serves as a great introduction to Smither and his music.

www.smither.com

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