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.

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.

Iain Patience

David Sinclair Four

David Sinclair Four.jpeg

Submitted by Iain Patience

To me, there are some ringing, raging undertones of the best of punk rolling around in this mix from Londoner David Sinclair, here joined by Maxi Priest, Scottish jazzer Lorna Reid, and supported on a couple of tracks by the wonderful Paul Jones on Harp. I have my personal doubts about labeling this a blues album, however, it still works as a good, solid bit of lyrical modern light blues-rock with positively piercing lyrics and gripping, groaning insight. The musicianship is second-to-none while the ten songs included each tell a story, a vision of heaven or Hell, a metropolitan take on life in the slow-lane, tinged with melancholy, perception and sharp, visceral vision.

Sinclair's fretwork is strident and soulful, varied and victorious, with ripping, rippling riffs that might even make dear ole Keef sit up and take notice. His lyrics are rhythmically mesmerizing, evidence of a genuine love of the power of words and rhyme, dripping with powerful poetic nuance and irridescent influences. This is not an album that will necessarily please lovers of hard-nosed traditional electric blues; there are no BB King-esque licks or Hendrix power-plays here. Instead there's a delightful light touch and an album absolutely jam-packed full of catchy music, subtle lyrics and sheer pleasure. Highly recommended. A fabulous fourth offering from Sinclair.

Sam Broverman Leftover Dreams 100 Years of Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen

Sam Broverman Leftover Dreams.png

Submitted by Sandy Graham

Quote from Sam Broverman’s website: Life is all about the decisions we make. Whether they’re the right ones or the wrong ones, we live with them. Timing, as they say, is everything.

So true. I received this CD a little while ago but the ‘timing’ wasn’t right to give it a listen. Travels to MIDEM, pressing deadlines got in the way until I finally opened it up and put it on the player.

I must explain that I am a huge Sammy Cahn fan so this did originally catch my eye when I saw the title and I wanted to give it the time it deserved as the song titles alone had me from the first read. So let’s begin with the artist:

Billy Price & Otis Clay This Time For Real

Billy Price and Otis Clay This Time for Real.jpeg

Submitted by Iain Patience

Soul music at its best here. As usual, there's nothing to fault with Otis Clay, a genuine voice of southern soul from backwoods Mississippi who learned his craft in the churches, bars and Juke Joints of his native deep south before moving, like many musicians before him, to the northern blues capital, Chicago. Here he refined his craft and became an important and popular soulster.
Price, his partner on this 12-track recording, hails from Pittsburgh on the East Coast.  A long-time fan of Clay and his music, he developed his own impressive vocal delivery and skill in the 1970s as singer and frontman on the road and in the studio with blues guitarist, Roy Buchanan.

The album itself was recorded in Chicago and produced by the great Duke Robillard who also lends his own band for the excellent backing on this release.

This is music grounded in the Gospel tradition of the South but with a modern, searching soul and secularity at its very heart. Robillard's band gives the whole thing a supremely soulful and gripping edge with bags of glorious feeling, understanding and sheer class.

The result of this quality partnership is a wonderful album of enormous quality and deep soul style.

Dan Livingstone & The Griffintown: Jug Addicts

Dan Livingstone & The Griffintown Jug Addicts.jpeg

Submitted by Iain Patience

This is a delicious album full of traditional, acoustic blues music from an American picker now based in French Canada, Montreal. The music comes from a bellowing, billowing Jug Band of the old kind, full of whomping sound, style and love for the music.

The nine tracks cover the usual gamut of acoustic blues from Fred Mc Dowell's 'Write Me A Few Of Your Lines' -  a seldom heard number from one of blues musics true greats - through Blind Blakes 'Chump Man Blues' and 'Black Dog Blues' to the Rev Gary Davis classic 'Death Don't Have No Mercy'. There's even a neat take on John Fahey's wonderful 'Last Steam Engine Train' for lovers of slightly more modern material.

Produced as a studio 'live' take, like many these days, this album does indeed sound like a gang of buddies jamming, grooving and getting down and dirty with the blues music they clearly love. The now rare sound of a jug band backing gives the whole thing a delightfully different, captivating feel and sound.

Dan - aka Doc - Livingstone is a mighty fine guitar picker, with a seemingly natural affinity and empathy with that old-time country-blues. A recommended find, for sure.

Iain Patience

Hot Chip: Why Make Sense

Hot Chip Why Make Sense.jpg

Submitted by Lenny Stoute

That this sixth album from these dance pop darlings references the Talking Heads flick Stop Making Sense is but one of its blatant retroisms. In laying bare the funk and vintage r'n'b that juices the album, Hot Chip impart a kind of freshness to the group's flawless brand of electro pop. In that regard the standout track is 'Easy to Get', whose minimalist production and love of slippery funk guitar and fatback bass, with lots of space for appreciation for each instrument. Top that with an anthemic chorus with the killer chant-along “Fear doesn’t live here anymore!” and you've got your chart toping single.

A strong period signpost, 'Love Is the Future' has a hip hop flavour somewhat referential of the Pharrell Williams and Snoop Dog 2003 hit 'Beautiful' and including an old school rap from De La Soul's Posdnuos. 'Started Right' is another, stripped down bass and backing vocals bringing da funkified groove.

Elsewhere, and in the best way, it's Hot Chip house dance bizniss as usual. As is Alexis Taylor's dance punk lyrics and subject matter. Opener 'Huarache Lights' gets all bro boy about a pair of limited edition Nike trainers, and the joy of going out, while 'Need You Now' is a spooky state of the world account from Taylor lamenting 'Never dreamed I could belong to a state that don’t see right from wrong,' as the synths go swirling along. Then there's the oddly soulful "White Wine and Fried Chicken", a wink at the band's high/low culture aesthetic.

Teresa Hart sky +air

Teresa Hart.jpg

Submitted by Lenny Stoute

Award-winning Toronto musician Teresa Hart's fourth CD sky + air is a thematic follow up to 2014's breakthrough CD I Want Your Fire in its mix of  poprock, r'n'b and chillwave ballads. It's a little more experimental and wile that's to be applauded, it makes for an uneven listen.

Hart says the material is drawn from "rocky relationships and other life-altering experiences" and it shows in the intensity of the vocal delivery and the incisive lyrics. There's an overarching sense of yearning and sadness backed by a rhythm section of hope and fun.

The sweetly melodic 'Hypnotize' gets things off to a fine start, with Hart working the languid seductive end of her range. The jangly guitars and echo chamber vocals give 'California' a monster mash dance party with a sweet hook, while on 'Make Me Wanna Party' the band unleashes a solid rock'n'roll anthem.

'Spectacle' is a sultry slow burning highlight, driven by a pumping bass line with Hart going from smoky bottom end to cat in heat yowl. There's no justice if this doesn't become a strip club hit.

On the other hand, not sold on the remix of 'I Want Your Fire' and not sure that the overblown dirge of the title track was the best aftertaste to leave. On balance, there's more good than not here so go check it.

Black Patti: No Milk No Sugar

Black Patti No Milk No Sugar.jpeg

Submitted by Iain Patience

This is an excellent 12 tracker from a quality German duo.  Oddly enough, Germany seems to be producing some truly interesting pre-war blues acts these days.  Anyone familiar with the work of The Delta Boys, another German duo with a genuine feel and engagement with the music, will have a fair idea of what to expect here. With Mando and acoustic guitar picking and slide work, together with fine Harp in the mix, No Milk No Sugar has a powerful, driving sound that easily belies the fact there are but two guys pouring out the mix onto analog equipment with ribbon mikes and period instruments.

Material ranges from old-style ragtimey pieces and instrumentals to spirituals/gospel numbers and deep South, delta blues. All of it delivered with a sparkling, comfortable ease and style. This is an album that pulses with deep blues emotion and grit. The vocals of the pair, Peter Crow C and Ferdinand Kraemer - aka Mr Jelly Roll, in Germany - combine well and the fretwork of both is always pretty well spot-on. Overall, this album is a great discovery for lovers of traditional acoustic pre-war US blues in general and modern-edge acoustic blues of gripping traditional quality coupled with more than a dash of originality.

I reckon and hope to hear much more of this pair in the near future. A highly recommended bit of cool blues.



Syndicate content