Blues Bytes

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January 2010

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Percy Sledge

Kellie Rucker

Delta Moon

Patrick Vining Band

Stevie Cochran

Little Joe McLerran

David Ducharme-Jones


Perry SledgeThe sound of soul meets the blues could easily be the title of this surprising CD. Percy Sledge was one of the great soul voices of the 1960s when he produced the huge hit “When A Man Loves A Woman,” amongst other things. Now here he is with a blues CD, My Old Friend The Blues (Blues Boulevard Rcords), and it makes me wonder if he should maybe have been a blues singer all along. If not, then certainly the grounding in soul music has stood him in good stead for a re-launch as a blues singer. He did bring out Blue Night in 1994, but it wasn’t really a blues album.

This album leans towards soul (more in the backing than the vocals), so it’s more soul-blues than pure blues, but it’s still an excellent CD. The voice is still there after 40 years.

The album opens with “Shining Through The Rain,” and this track gives the listener a good feel for what’s to come – and next, things slow down with a nice ballad, “Lonely Hobo Lullaby.” Track three, “24-7-365,” is up-tempo soul – plain and simple – but what a good track it is nevertheless! It takes you right back to the '60s Atlantic soul era.

Track five, “Misty Morning,” is the bluesiest track on the CD, closely followed by track seven, “Big Blue Diamond,” which put me in mind of Fats Domino with its tinkling piano and brass backing, and track eight, the title track “My Old Friend The Blues,” a lovely ballad, and maybe the best track on the CD.

There’s a great mix of music on this CD and it shouldn’t be dismissed just because it isn’t pure blues – anyone who was a fan of Percy Sledge way back when, or who was a fan of '60s soul music will love it, and anyone with an appreciation of a great voice will love it to. Absolutely superb late night listening!

--- Terry Clear

Kellie RuckerThis is the first time that I’ve heard of Kellie Rucker, and I don’t know why that is. Blues Is Blues (Blues Boulevard Records) is her fourth album, and listening to it makes me want to get the three that I’ve missed! This is a woman who is an accomplished song writer, vocalist and harmonica player – how many women with the same talents are there in the blues world?

Kellie originally hails from Oklahoma, but made her way gradually to Southern California, via Connecticut, Denver, Texas, Virginia and Florida – not necessarily in that order! She obviously has a wide range of influences in her music, some of them probably from the people that she’s played with, or played on the same bill with – people like B.B. King, Albert Collins, Little Feat, ZZ Top, etc., etc.

The first thing that hit me when I listened to this CD was the song writing; it put me in mind of Bonnie Raitt without being a copy of her type of material. Then the vocals impressed – this is a strong voice. It wasn’t until I read the liner notes that I realized that she is also the harp player! Even more impressed!

According to the liner notes, there’s only one track out of a total of 13 that she didn’t have a hand in writing, and there isn’t a bad one amongst them. I think I’d be hard to convince that she had a hand in writing “Rollin’ & Tumblin’,“ but I love the arrangement!

The CD opens with the strong, moody “Mississippi Rain” – well-written, possibly auto-biographical, superb harmonica and a great backing band with Jon Butcher laying down some excellent guitar. Personally, I don’t think she could have picked a better opening track.

The tempo ups a little for the rocking “Wild Wild West” before slowing down to walking pace for the title track “Blues Is Blues” – a good pick for the title track. “Nothing To Lose” takes it back up a bit and runs into the compulsive listening “You’re Leaving me,” certainly one of the best tracks on the album. The band take a more gentle trip with “In The Meantime” – and talking of the band, the lineup changes throughout the album, but it’s very difficult to pick out who is the best; suffice it to say that they’re all damn good!

“Life Of Crime” is a slow number, with a good beat and intriguing lyrics, J.J. Holiday contributing some great Southern flavour with the slide guitar, and then WOW! Billy Holiday steps in with the slow jazzy “Love and War” and takes your ears by surprise!

“Church Of Texas” is slow, acoustic, full of atmosphere and it caught my attention to the full. It’s followed by a real foot-tapper that could have been written by Bob Dylan in his blues period, “Talk To Me,” which shows off Kellie’s smoky voice to perfection. Three more tracks take you to the end of the album, the slow “Kiss Me” (sexy as hell), “Rollin’ & Tumblin’,“ and the slow ballad “Had We Not” which finishes off the CD.

This is one hell of a CD.

--- Terry Clear

Delta MoonI reviewed the last Delta Moon CD (Howling At The Southern Moon) in December 2008, so a full year has passed since then. I said at the time that I expected to hear more from this band, and here it is, the prophesy has come true with their latest, Hellbound Train (Blues Boulevard Records)!

The band has changed its lineup, and if anything this CD is more bluesy than the last one. Again, most of the tracks are written, or co-written, by Tom Gray – the exception being Fred McDowell’s “You Got To Move.”

The CD opens with the title track “Hellbound Train.” a medium tempo shuffle that gets your attention immediately with its catchy lyrics and slide guitar – the rest of the band supporting Tom Gray to the full. The other members, by the way, are Mark Johnson (also appeared on the last CD) on guitar and banjo, Franher Joseph on the bass, and Darren Stanley playing the drums.

Track two is a little slower, a story about a girl in hotel room 429, and that’s what it’s called, "Room 429, then comes “Lonely,” one of my two favourite tracks on the album. It reminds me a little of some of the better ZZ Top material; it has a great feel to it with a driving beat.

Track four, “Get Gone,” showcases Mark Johnson’s six string banjo, giving the song a lovely country blues taste, and it slides into “True Love Lies” whilst getting the beat going.

Fred McDowell’s “You Got To Move” is up next, and it’s one of the best cover versions of the song that I’ve heard for a long time – delicious slide guitar and simple backing. I’m guessing that Fred McDowell must have been an important influence on the band as the last CD also contained one of his tracks.

Then comes my other favourite track, “Stuck In Carolina.” Slow Southern blues with something about it that I can’t identify, but it holds me and makes me want to play the track over and over. Tempo lifts with “Ain’t No Train,” a real foot tapping track that I like more each time that I play it!

The next couple of tracks alternate rhythms and tempos, and lead into the final track of the album, “Plantation Song,” a song about how things were in Dixie.

A very good follow up to Howling At The Southern Moon.

--- Terry Clear

Patrick ViningBlues Boulevard Records has been playing Father Christmas this month, as they sent me a package of six CDs!!

Here’s another of the package, The Patrick Vining Band, featuring Mike Bourne, with Atlanta Boogie. The album has a total of ten tracks, six of them written by Patrick Vining and Mike Bourne (the guitarist on this CD).

The covers are tracks by Jimmy Rogers and Jimmy Witherspoon, and there are two tracks written by Tommy Brown, who also provides the vocals on the title track, “Atlanta Boogie.”

The style of the album is mainly rockabilly blues, and it transports you back to the 1950s when jump blues was morphing into Rock ‘n Roll, and you could certainly jive to a lot of these tracks. The Jimmy Witherspoon track, “Money’s Getting Cheaper,” is a marvel with excellent organ work provided by Matt Wauchope.

Track eight, “Late At Night,” is a lovely slow blues, and it shows just what this band can do – pure late night blues with honky tonk piano, great vocals and wonderful atmosphere – by far the best track on the CD, although the following track, the blues boogie “Man Of Clay,” comes a very close second.

The album finishes with the Jimmy Rogers song “Last Meal,” a track made to make you smile with its story of a condemned man asking for the most complicated last meal that he can think of, because he can’t be executed until he’s had that last meal.

I have to say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to this CD – there’s so many different aspects to it.

--- Terry Clear

Tino GonzalezChicago born Tino Gonzales brings out his tenth CD, Funky Tortillas (Blues Boulevard Recoreds), and it continues to show the many influences in his music. These influences started in Chicago with jazz, blues and soul, and he added Spanish, Gypsy, Arabic and African influences as he made his musical way around Europe. There’s evidence here of Stevie Ray Vaughan, and possibly his brother Jimmy,

The album contains a lot of different styles and tempos, although the up-tempo numbers are the ones that appeal to me the most as well as tracks like “How Lucky Are We?,” “I Ain’t Gonna Pray,” and “Da Boy Can Play.”

Having said that, there are some excellent pure blues tracks, too. Have a listen to “We All Lose,” “The Last Time” (best track on the CD for me with some of the best piano I’ve heard in a long time on a blues album, courtesy of Christian Rannenberg), “We Gonna Paint The Town Red,” and “Trying To Stop Thinking About You.”

The musicians here are top rate, working well with each other to produce good music. The CD is a first rate follow up to the 2006 Latin Gypsy, and I think it improves on that release by a good margin.

--- Terry Clear

Stevie CochranStevie Cochran has played the Montreux Festival a total of five times, and Live At Montreux (Blues Boulevard Records) is a live recording of his 2003 appearance there. He started putting records out independently in 1981 and is obviously an accomplished song writer and guitarist. He wrote, or co-wrote, 11 out of the 12 tracks on this CD, with the remaining track a very good cover of the Led Zeppelin number “No Quarter,” written by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. For a live album, the sound quality is excellent, crystal clear and well-recorded.

The opening track, “I’ve Got A Dream,” is apparently a track that Stevie Cochran has been playing for a long time, and it’s obvious from this recording that he’s more than comfortable with the song. He makes you think that he’s slowing things down a bit with “Maybe It’s You,” but after the intro the tempo picks up a bit and it turns into a real foot-tapper.

There’s a mix of tempos here, from the ballad “You Amaze Me” to the boogie “Headed For Trouble,” and the changes hold the listener’s attention all the way through.

The songs are well-written and the guitar work is technically excellent, and the album leaves me wanting to track down a gig that Cochran’s playing near me.

--- Terry Clear

Bare Bones Boogie BandBare Bones Boogie Band's self-titled, self-produced disc is the first 2010 CD that I’ve received, and it gets the year off to a flying start. This British band has got their music really tight and the whole band gel together well, with great vocals from Helen Turner, who has progressed enormously since I last heard her sing.

The CD contains ten tracks, six of them written by guitarist Iain Black, and three of these are the opening three tracks of the CD – “Baby, Baby Be Mine,” “Black Cat Strikes Back,” Full Tilt Boogie Man.” The opening track is a mixed tempo number with a great bass line, supplied by Trev Turley, pushing along the drums and guitar of Andy Jones and Iain Black, the whole thing overlaid by the vocals from Helen Turner, sounding like a mid-Atlantic Janis Joplin.

“Black Cat Strikes Back” slows things right down before “Full Tilt Boogie Man” brings the speed back up. Using the three original tracks to open the album was an inspired move as they really confirm the flavour and skill of this band.

A Janis Joplin track follows – “One Good Man” – allowing Helen Turner to really let her hair down and show her vocal range. She has a gritty, gravelly, voice which really suits this slow and moody song, and a couple of tracks later there is a beautiful version of “I’d Rather Go Blind” which gives her another bite of the cherry. It’s really difficult to decide which of these tracks suits her voice better.

The fast paced “Live With Me” is a Mick Jagger/Keith Richards song, that really works well for this band, and it seems to echo the type of material that Iain Black has written.

Bare Bones Boogie Band is a very well-produced CD and deserves to be listened to – have a look at the band’s website at

--- Terry Clear

Little JoeLittle Joe McLerran was the winner at last year’s International Blues Challenge in the Solo/Duo category. He’s been playing the blues since he was nine years old, starting out with performances at the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, Colorado, with his brother Jesse, where they mixed songs from old blues masters like Skip James, Big Bill Broonzy, and Mississippi John Hurt with selections from the catalogs of the Beatles and Bob Marley.

Over time, however, McLerran, now 26, has developed into one of the foremost Piedmont Blues players currently performing. His latest release, which is his fourth overall and third on the Roots Blues Reborn label, is Believe I’ll Make A Change, a wonderful set of Piedmont Blues, plus a few excursions into swing, jazz, and the Mississippi Delta along the way. The disc includes solo performances plus some song featuring his band.

Most of the 13 tracks are covers, including a pair of work songs that bookend the disc (“Ratty Section” and “Mother’s Callin’”). The title track is a mid ’30s song originally done by Casey Bill Weldon that features McLerran and harmonica player Dexter Payne, who also plays sax on a few tracks. “Down At The Village Store” is a lively track originally done by Washboard Sam.

McLerran does a fine job on a pair of Pre-War Blues classics (Leroy Carr’s “Blues Before Sunrise” and Blind Willie McTell’s “B&O Blues”), and shows off some skillful slide guitar on a sizzling remake of Homesick James’ “Baby Please Set A Date.” He also covers the Delmore Brothers (“Blues Railroad Train”) and tackles the jazz standard, “Duck Yas.”

McLerran’s original compositions are also strong. “She’s Got Somethin’” is a swinging tribute to his wife, “Sargent Sunday” is about the trials and tribulations of policemen, and “Cocktails For Two” is a sparkling number written for his friend Eden Brent.

I continue to be amazed at the number of young artists that are revisiting and revitalizing the glorious blues, jazz, and country songs of the 1930s and ’40s. Little Joe McLerran is one of the best of these young artists and his prodigious talents are on display on Believe I’ll Make A Change.

--- Graham Clarke

Levee TownLevee Town is an up-and-coming band based in Kansas City that specializes in hard-edged traditional blues mixed with rock influences. They’ve made it to the IBC finals two different times (2007 and this year). Their latest self-titled, self-produced release features 14 tracks of some of the hardest-hitting blues/rock you’ll run across.

I’m thinking of making the opening cut, “I’m Not Broke,” my theme song. It’s a fast-paced rockabilly tune with witty lyrics and a blistering solo from guitarist/vocalist Brandon Hudspeth. The shuffle “Three Times” is also a keeper, as is the slow blues “You Mean,” with some smoking harmonica from Jimmie Meade and guitar from Hudspeth. “Broken Jar” has that irresistible Jimmy Reed rhythm going for it, and “Vegas” is a hard rocker that warns of the dangers of gambling fever.

“KC Killa” is a smooth mid-tempo track from bass player Jacque Garoutte, which is completely offset by the manic boogie “Etta,” which follows. “Heartless Is The Winter” is a classic slow-burner featuring Hudspeth and Meade. The disc then closes out with a set of rockers: “Hullabaloo,” “Rock Me Baby,” and “Pressures,” before concluding with a funky instrumental, “Chicken Truck.”

Levee Town consists of Brandon Hudspeth (guitar, baritone, and vocals), Jimmie Meade (harmonica and vocals), Jan Faircloth (drums, percussion, and vocals), and Jacque Garoutte (bass, guitar, and vocals). While all are great musicians in their own right, it’s obvious that Levee Town’s popularity and success is due to their collective efforts as a unit. Their latest effort sports excellent original tunes, great musicianship, and most of all, exuberant performance. Visit their website or check out this disc at CDBaby.

--- Graham Clarke

David GeraldDavid Gerald was born in Detroit, but his Mississippi-born and raised parents loved the blues and R&B, so he grew up listening to the music they loved. As a teenager, he started playing guitar, at first influenced by rock guitarists of the ’80s, but eventually returning to the blues of Albert King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Z. Z. Hill, and B. B. King. Piecing together scraps from old guitars originally, he eventually was able to start performing in local clubs. Due to the difficulties of keeping a band together, he also learned to play bass, keyboards, and drums, and started writing and recording his own songs.

Now in his 40s, Gerald has his own band and performs all over Michigan, playing at numerous festivals and even opening the Triple Threat of Blues show for Bobby Rush and Mel Waiters earlier this year in Jackson, Michigan. He also found time to release his debut album, the self-produced, self-released Hell and Back. The disc contains ten tracks, five self-penned, self-recorded tunes recorded at Gerald’s studio and five covers recorded live with his band (Mike Ruppriecht – keyboards, Bob Bennett – bass, Lou Eurns – drums) at J. Dubs in Riverview, Michigan.

Gerald’s original tunes are excellent and show blues and R&B influences equally. The opener, “My Guitar,” is an autobiographical track that rocks hard, while “How I Feel” sounds like a ’70s R&B tune done to a Texas shuffle. “Postman” is a slow blues about a man who always delivers. The title cut is about a family suffering through hard times, and echoes issues many are going through presently, and “Stay” mixes funk and R&B.

The cover tunes will be familiar to most blues fans and provide a solid representation of Gerald’s live show. “I’ll Play The Blues For You” and “Thrill Is Gone” are tributes to two of Gerald’s major influences, Albert King and B. B. King. “She Caught The Katy” is the old Yank Rachell/Taj Mahal number amped up with horns, and “Cold Shot” and “Red House” are nods to two other Gerald influences, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix.

Gerald’s guitar work is top notch, showing myriad influences, most especially Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan. His vocals are equally impressive. He also shows himself to be a songwriter of considerable talent. The covers on the disc are done with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, but Gerald’s original tunes are actually more interesting. Hopefully, he will give us a few more originals on his next release.

Hell and Back is an excellent debut release, made even more amazing by the fact that David Gerald did most of it single-handed. We’ll be hearing more from him in the future for sure.

--- Graham Clarke

David Ducharme-JonesDavid Ducharme-Jones is one of Austin’s best guitarists. The Iowa native originally relocated to San Francisco to front The Drive, then settled in the Lone Star State and founded the group Rainravens, before embarking on a solo career. His latest release, Weeds (Blissed Out Productions), is a wide-ranging musical journey that not only encompasses the blues, but also jazz-fusion, rock, and R&B. There’s plenty of great music on this disc to please any discriminating guitar fans.

Weeds has ten tracks, half of which are originals, including the lovely opener, “Golden,” features a mellow groove and a smooth vocal by Ducharme-Jones, and “Left Undone” has a rootsy, Americana feel. There are also three instrumentals: “Goodnight Roy B.” is a tribute to the late Roy Buchanan, “Lootin’,” has a loose jam session quality, and the slow groover, “Moving Mountains,” was written by bass player David Evertson.

The diverse set of covers includes a fine reading of J. B. Lenoir’s “Talk To Your Daughter,” somewhat reminiscent of Robben Ford’s late ’80s version, a superb take of Tommy Bolin’s “Savannah Woman,” and Billy Cobham’s “Red Baron.” Another highlight is the funky “Say What You Mean,” which was written by Rob Chaffee, a Des Moines guitarist who served as an influence to Ducharme-Jones, and Al Green’s “I’m A Ram” is a hard-rocker that closes the disc in fine fashion.

Weeds is an excellent listen and has plenty to offer guitar fans, especially those who enjoy fusion as well as blues and R&B. Visit DuCharme-Jones website to find out more about this impressive guitarist.

--- Graham Clarke

Will TuckerSixteen-year-old Will Tucker probably looks like the kid that cuts your yard during the summers, but don’t let looks fool you. The youngster burst onto the Memphis music scene in 2008 and has been playing regular gigs at B. B. King’s Blues Club in the Bluff City, getting the opportunity to play with musicians like Charlie Musselwhite and G. Love & Special Sauce, and even opening for the King of the Blues on three different occasions.

As if that wasn’t heady enough, Tucker now has his own CD, called Stealin’ The Soul (Will Tucker Music), produced by Grammy nominee Paul Speer at Ardent Studios. The disc is made up almost entirely of covers from familiar artists like Muddy Waters (“Walkin’ In The Park”), Albert King (“Born Under A Bad Sign”), and T-Bone Walker (“Stormy Monday”).

The last four songs were recorded during a Will Tucker Band performance at B. B. King’s Blues Club in Memphis. They cover a wide area with songs from Memphis Minnie (“When The Levee Breaks”), Elvis Presley (“Burning Love”), Chuck Berry (“Johnny B. Goode”) and Jimi Hendrix (“Little Wing”).

While these fields have been well-harvested many times before, what’s noteworthy is the passion and grit that Tucker brings to his performances. He doesn’t try to cram every note into every solo, instead playing with tasteful restraint. It’s obvious from his playing that he has a genuine love for the music. Vocally, he does really well with the material. From listening, he sounds like a confident, mature performer. He’s also a budding composer, as he contributed the opening cut, “Your Sacrifice,” showing that even high schoolers get the blues.

All in all, this is a nice debut recording from a remarkable young guitarist. We’ll be hearing more from young Will Tucker on down the line. Stealin’ The Soul gets things off to a fine start.

--- Graham Clarke


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