THE CD REVIEWS OFFER BLUES SHOW BOB'S PERSONAL OPINION OF RELEASES
GLAS IS CLASS! No doubt about it - Glas is a class act. A trio of very talented musicians, Glas provide a superb blend of experience and youth. Dave John, currently taking bass and vocal duties, is a long-time lead guitarist of some note. To stand aside in favour of 22 year-old James Oliver demonstrates his confidence in the skills of the younger man. And his faith is well placed. Dave and drummer, Huw Hannan, create a solid and exciting platform of sound to which James adds a fleet-fingered layer - assuredly, explosively and sometimes electrifyingly. Their live show is always dynamic and provides enough energy to heat and light a small village. But what of their debut album 'From The Blues To Your Shoes'? Does it live up to expectations?
Yes it does. Absolutely. The album offers several self-penned songs to which all band members have contributed together with their rather individual take on a few Blues and Rock classics. There is nothing formulaic about their own compositions a couple of which redefine the genre. Stand-out tracks for me are 'Revenge Freak' and 'She's Long Gone' both of which offer something fresh and inspired with their unusual arrangements. Glas put their own unique stamp on a couple of Robert Johnson/Elmore James songs alongside such rockers as 'Sea Cruise' and 'Shake, Rattle and Roll.' Dave is no respecter of phrasing conventions, selecting his own vocal pathways, and this adds to the individuality - and indeed the allure - of this album. As you may gather, I'm a fan of Glas and I recommend that you try them too.
MORE CD REVIEWS COMING SOON
THE JOHN O’LEARY BAND – TWO FOR THE SHOW
Here’s an album (well two, actually) giving a harp-led history of the British Blues movement from its infancy in the 1960’s right up to the present day. John O’Leary was, of course, a founder member of Savoy Brown; a band that bounced the weary old American Blues back across the Atlantic rejuvenated , taking the form from juke-joint to stadium. Savoy Brown weren’t the only ones - there were the Yardbirds, Rolling Stones and later Led Zeppelin amongst a host of other British worthies. Whilst most of us claim our moment in this sunlight of memory by narrating the bands we saw gigging at this time, John O’Leary was actually involved in the revolution. Not just involved but at the forefront. For this, we must pay huge respect as we must for his subsequent catalogue of work. So, what of this double-CD release? There is a studio CD ‘Sins’ including John O’Leary’s take on a number of standards as well as a personal retrospective – including Savoy Brown’s ‘I’m Tired’ which has always been a favourite of mine. The second CD is a Live recording from legendary ‘Mr. Kyps’ in Poole, Dorset. The collection amply demonstrates that John has lost none of his enthusiasm for playing and creating new arrangements. In the hands of The John O’Leary Band the musical form clearly shows its roots whilst demonstrating just how far it has evolved. This is a worthy addition to anyone’s CD shelves.
MICK SIMPSON – HARD ROAD
There’s something for everyone in this CD which offers a wide range of musical styles and genres and maybe one needs to examine Mick Simpson’s history to determine why... Tour guitarist with Elkie Brooks, later Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings too, collaborator with John Parr of St. Elmo’s Fire, playing guest at B. B. King’s 80th birthday celebration in New York in addition to spots alongside Gary Moore and Snowy White. So, a fairly diverse musical experience which is reflected within this selection which travels from boogie to Bengal. It is a guitar-fest, without question. But there is more than that. Throughout, there is evidence of a thoughtful songwriter conveying his experiences, his worries and his general take on life and society. And musically it’s enjoyable. .. which is why I’m recommending it.
THE CAT – FRANK WHITE BAND
Apparently this project began life as an original material album but has finished comprising mainly covers. Frank explains, ‘ They had to be songs I could do, but done in a different way from the originals.’ And they certainly are! Frank White has a gruffness to his voice which adds a dimension of its own particularly to the songs culled from the 1950’s and 60’s when vocals were generally as silicone smooth as the day’s Brylcreemed hairstyles. The arrangements are adventurous, particularly on ‘Love Letters’ which might be unrecognisable but for the lyrics, and the experimentation with barrel house piano and winsome harmonica are appealing. The first track ‘Who’s Been Talking’ reflects the mood experienced at the end of a love affair. The girl is gone, vocals and guitar reflect the sadness and desolation of the moment. Then the keyboards kick in with an increase in pace and an exuberance a la ‘I’ll get along better without you’ before plummeting back into the depths of depression. Maybe I’m reading too many nuances into this??? Puzzlingly the guitar features as the lead instrument only on the first track but the piano takes over very effectively. Elsewhere on the album, I think that this version of Mess of Blues is about the best I’ve heard and Sam Cooke’s ‘You Send Me’ – well, in the parlance of the period – it sends me. This is a great album. See if it sends you too.
MIND GAMES – PAUL LAMB & THE KINGSNAKES
An album, by definition, is a showcase and Mind Games is exactly that. This is what Paul Lamb & The King Snakes do and this CD confirms that actually they do it exceptionally well. What can be said about these guys? They’ve been at it for ever and are by now as much a national treasure as the Victoria & Albert Museum or Nelson’s Column and probably worth more than the country’s stocks of gold bullion. This CD is a jolly romp which oozes confidence. The music says it all.
There are more asides than a Shakesperean comedy as Paul shares vocal duties, as ever, with Chad Strentz who again contributes to the songwriting. A mix of their own material and their take on the traditional, the whole is executed exactly as one would expect from this established ensemble. Ryan Lamb, Pauls’ son, seems to have earned his spurs in the family business and is now making his presence felt rather more than in the past with his guitar licks and chops. There couldn’t be a better place to start a study of British Blues music - and by extension, research the roots - than this CD. And for existing fans of the music, you don’t need me to tell you it’s a must buy!
ZED HEAD - MORTAL MAN This is Texas Blues/Rock. No frills. No pretensions. It’s as authentic as it gets. If you like Texas Blues/Rock as much as I do, you’ll get this CD. ‘Nuff said – Ed.
SOUTH NEW YORK – MICHAEL LOUIS BAND
Very south New York as an earlier reviewer has pointed out. There are a plethora of styles within this collection including a fabulously funky instrumental in ‘Cause of Us.’ The whole is underpinned by some seriously effective guitar and slide guitar work; Michael Louis’ vocals hit plateaus - always seeming to be straining to reach new peaks and never quite getting there and this is one of the many charms of this album. It’s truly a joy to listen to.
THE ROAD THAT YOU BELIEVE IN - FRAN MCGILLIVRAY & MIKE BURKE
If you’re an absolute dyed-in-the-wool Blues purist, you might have some reservations about this CD which is certainly on the ‘folkier’ side of the spectrum in places. Put aside your reservations!
I’ve followed this pair (and their expanded personae ‘So Long Angel’) for several years now and have always found their straightforward style a delight. This latest offering is no exception - accomplished playing underpins Fran’s sensitive vocal delivery. There is an integrity about their delivery of each song which resonates throughout the album. The duo put their own arrangements on a few traditional songs as well as offering nine of their own compositions. As if that weren’t enough to tempt you to purchase, as a bonus, the cover photo was taken by a man who is about to emerge as a musicians’ photographer extraordinaire – a chap named Dave Arcari who also plays a bit of music apparently! This album is definitely finger-pickin’ good!
SAMANTHA FISH/CASSIE TAYLOR/DANI WILDE - GIRLS WITH GUITARS
This CD provides so much more than the title suggests. There are some truly engaging songs on the collaboration. The Blues Caravan has become a regular part of RUF’s ’getting the music out there’ philosophy in recent years. It always includes three of their artists and this trip, there’s a seasoned performer in the shape of Dani Wilde who’s been this way before. One of the most exciting young artists to emerge from the UK in recent years, but already a veteran, Dani is joined here by two Americans; Cassie Taylor (more of her below) and Samantha Fish. Each contributes their own songs played alongside a couple of ensemble pieces. Produced by Ecelcto-Groove recording artist, Mike Zito, and featuring his slide guitar work, there are lots of differing dynamics reflecting the differing styles of the performers and I believe that they are helping to expand the horizons of Blues/Rock music. I enjoyed the album on first play, more so on second play and now I’m totally addicted.
CASSIE TAYLOR - BLUE
A part of the RUF Blues Caravan (above) Cassie Taylor has Blues antecedants which could not be bettered. Daughter of Otis Taylor with whom she’s amassed many credits - touring and recording -this is her first solo recording. And she has proved that she is a fine performer even without the influence of her father. As well as vocals, Cassie plays bass and piano and her performance is complemented by the lazy harp work of Steve Marriner. This is the perfect album for a romantic night in. It’s unhurried, poignant, tuneful and atmospheric. Cassie Taylor is a class act.
BEN PRESTAGE – REAL MUSIC
Is exactly what this is. Prestage weaves his way through a selection of (mainly) traditional favourites putting his very personal stamp on all. Providing vocals and foot drums as well as guitar, dobro and diddley-bow (even providing the cover art for the CD), he is the consummate one-man band. There’s almost a perverse pleasure to note that there is one more track on the CD than is credited on the inside liner proving that this man is not entirely faultless! Due to tour the UK with Ian Siegal this Autumn, Ben Prestage will soon become a well-known name here – this is your chance to get in on the ground floor. If acoustic Blues is your thing, this is definitely your thing.
SPIKEdrivers - SEVEN
This latest offering from probably one of the most popular ensembles on the circuit is predictable. This might seem an insult to most but with the SPIKEdrivers, it means that there is an inherent quality and invention attaching to the whole project. This, their seventh release (hence the pithy title) defines their sound and yet moves it on too. Ben, Constance and Maurice have been together for some years now and one might expect that this would be a tired factory-produced collection from an established ensemble. Quite the contrary! These guys truly enjoy playing together and they experiment constantly with adding new sound, arrangements and percussion to their repertoire. This given of the SPIKEdrivers’ credo instantly manifests itself on any of their work and guarantees a considered freshness to their performance; both live and recorded. This album is a worthy successor to their previous work and a must-have member of any Blues collection.
ERJA LYYTENIN – VORACIOUS LOVE
This CD contrasts starkly with her previous offering ‘Grip Of The Blues.’ Although this too begins in full-on fashion, with riffs and hooks to satisfy all who like their music pacey and rhythmic, it quickly changes pace to become a thoughtful, more evocative creature. This is Erja Lyytenin in a different mood. There are snatches throughout the CD which demonstrate her complete mastery of her instrument and this, perhaps, is what her reputation has been built on. But this is a more consummate product in which her voice – again softer and more compelling - takes the lead on most tracks; in truth, I can’t stop playing it. It truly is a superb album and I would recommend it to all. I know that critics are always offering advice about the commercial possibilities of individual tracks from new albums and I would not feel competent to offer this sort of advice. I can say, however, that the stand out track for me would be ‘I Can’t Fall In Love.’
DANI WILDE – SHINE
So often the follow-up to a superb sophomore CD is looked forward to with eager anticipation and so often there is a sense of disappointment. Not so with this second release from Dani Wilde. For some weird reason, I didn’t really take to the first 20 seconds of the first track on first play and was expecting to be disappointed. By the end of a minute or so, I had experienced a volte-face. Totally. I was hooked. Absolutely. Without overworking the puns, ‘Shine’ is a polished article free of glitz and proof indeed that here is a young talent that has sustainability. This CD, produced by legendary Mike Vernon – seemingly having as many ‘come-backs’ from retirement as Frank Sinatra – is a worthy successor to ‘Heal My Blues.’ Accompanied on a couple of tracks by former Blues Caravan tour-mate, the brilliant Laura Chavez, who puzzlingly remains below the radar despite her enormous skills and technique, Dani has written some class material to place alongside the Jagger/Richards ‘Miss You’ and Dana Gillespie’s ‘Where Blue Begins.’ Make no mistake, this CD guarantees Dani Wilde a great future and RUF Records seem to have hit on a rich seam of Blues/Rock talent.
LARRY MILLER BAND - UNFINISHED BUSINESS
There has been enough media attention paid in recent months to David and Ed Milliband and now the time is right to consider “sound alike” the Larry Miller Band.
This youthful rising star of the British (and European) Blues Rock Scene always gives 100% with his high-energy live performances. At a recent show, I heard someone opine “ ... usually takes people 2 or 3 songs to get up to speed but he was there from the first note!” Can a studio album ever be more than a pale imitation of a live show? Well, “Unfinished Business” is about the best attempt I’ve heard to translate the live experience to CD.
A selection of 9 songs provides a cross-section of songs showcasing Larry’s unique skills – guitar and vocal. There’s even a ballad included; “Covering Me” is a slightly off-key offering which is thoughtfully interesting and in marked contrast to the rest of the selection.
The first track on the album is “Mad Dog” – my advice? – Go fetch!