Capsule Reviews by Mark E. Waterbury

Angels Sing the Blues
Earwig Music – Earwig CD4972
Culled from a 2007 concert, legendary blues ladies Shirley Johnson, Mary Lane and Liz Mandeville belt it out with a heady mix of grace and bawdiness. From the snappy shuffle of Mary’s version of “Just As Grown As You” to Shirley’s gritty treatment of “Unchain My Heart” and Liz’s Gospel-esque passion on “Angel From Montgomery, there is loads of great music here. With the phenomenal grooves of Johnny Drummer and the Starliters backing them, this is a funky blues lover’s dream. 

Blue Largo – Sing Your Own Song
Formed by a nucleus of guitarist Eric Lieberman and vocalist Alicia Aragon, this act has been around for a number of years and show their maturity and joy in creating music throughout this disc. Weaving in jazz, rock, and even occasional touches of rockabilly and reggae to their bluesy core, the music tends to the more uptempo and fun end of the blues spectrum, while still opening up their hearts on some songs. Some tasty musical interplays between guitars and horns really spice up some of the tunes. 

Chris Yakopcic – The Next Place I Leave
Yako Records – YAKO 701
Dayton, Ohio’s Chris Yakopcic injects a country-fried fervor into his brand of blues, and it works wonderfully on this, his sophomore effort. His guitar talents really highlight the music, as he finger picks and string bends with the best of them. His vocal range is not to be missed either as he caresses each of his well-crafted stories with just the right emotive flavoring. Backed by a swinging rhythm tandem with lyrics touching on subject matter ranging from humorous to heartbreaking, there are strong songs throughout the CD. 

Clarence “The Blues Man” Turner – The Caster Blaster
When your nickname is “The Blues Man,” then your music better back it up. Clarence definitely does that. While staying fairly simple stylistically, Clarence writes intriguing stories and conveys them with honest further and a rich but dusky voice. He adds in just the right touches of delectable guitar licks and his back up players kick in a solid dose of their own chops. Just some good, pure, honest blues here. 

Georgie Bonds – Hit It Hard
Roadhouse Redemption Records
Blues rocker George Bonds continues the rich tradition of the Philly area producing great musical talents. With this his third CD he is anything but a newcomer, if anything there is a maturity in his music normally found in long time veterans. You can never stress enough that you can create great blues music if you really convey your emotions, and he does that with his phenomenal vocal work. The music is as comforting as a visit from an old friend, with enough musical prowess to ratchet up the interest level. 

Hyperbubble – Live in London
Pure Pop For Now People – FOR07
I have found the music from this Texas-based electropop duo to be innovative and refreshing, but I did wonder what they would sound like live. There is some serious energy happening in this concert recording, with some of the more ethereal passages from their studio efforts culled so they can let loose with the more structured songs. The result shows just how talented they are at re-inventing the synthpop wheel and drawing the listener (and in this case from the sounds of it the concert crowd) into their strange but highly enjoyable universe. 

Jimmy Adler – Grease Alley
One of the better modern purveyors of down and dirty blues, Jimmy Adler cuts loose with another killer effort. With a number of talented guests joining him, Jimmy provides some entertaining blues ranging from mellow ballads to full on rockers. The rockabilly edge on some songs accentuated by wicked up-right bass licks kicks in an extra dose of intensity. Jimmy’s vocals and guitar work sparkle as always as he twists and turns through his home spun tales with generous portions of grit and guts. 

Steve Howell and the Mighty Men – Friend Like Me
Out Of The Past Music – OOTP 007
Steve Howell likes his blues rough-hewn and haunting, driving his emotional words home with an acoustic but non-the-less potent exclamation point. A veteran of the Ark-La-Tex scene his experiences in the music rich area pour forth like the Mississippi flowing through a back alley behind a row of juke joints. From the melancholy to the mean and lean, the songs really stick with you, both musically and with the soul-tugging stories they weave. 

The Reverend Shawn Amos – Loves You
Put Together 
The son of cookie magnate Wally “Famous” Amos, this Reverend preaches a brand of blues that deserves its own fame. While the typical blues stylings are somewhat apparent, Shawn is a good enough songwriter to do many different and subtly spectacular things with the music. An undeniable grittiness, robust vocals, killer guitar and harmonica riffs and tasty rhythms help create a blues machine that will drive straight at you, no matter if the song is mellow or rocking. 

Tom Carter – Look Around
This self-produced Atlanta singer/songwriter/mulit-instrumentalist has an undeniable knack for doing something special with various retro styles. When I can hear influences as diverse as Paul Revere & the Raiders, Rush, Tom Petty and the Kinks sneaking out amongst some smartly written tunes, someone has some serious talent here. There are both comforting hooks and a gritty edginess present, fueling the somewhat bluesy but melodic vocal snarl. This music has a feel-good rock vibe with many interesting songwriting eccentricities.

Ovrfwrd- Fantasy Absent Reason

Ovrfwrd- Fantasy Absent Reason
It would be a cop-out to say that the sophomore effort by this Twin Cities-based instrumental prog quartet shows growth, as the prodigious musical talents were obviously already in place. Just the epic sixteen plus minute eponymous opening track is worth the price of admission with a nonstop musical onslaught of key, time signature and overall vibe changes weaved to masterful perfection. Combining retro feelings with a more modern edge, this CD is absolutely brimming with insane chops and intense solos, although they also are adept at throttling back with some mellower melodic passages when it calls for it. While you can feel influences from the likes of Dream Theater, Marillion, Rocket Scientists, and others, these guys have an uncanny ability to find their own signature feel, reaching deep into every minute crevice of that feel to let lose with music that you will want to listen to every single second of. There is a lot happening here, but they still manage to keep the music from sounding too “busy,” avoiding the trap some progsters fall into of being showy for showiness’ sake. They are not shy about showcasing their talents by any means. They just do it in such a way that you will no doubt both appreciate their talents and thoroughly enjoy what they can do with them. – MW


Les Copeland – To Be In Your Company

Les Copeland – To Be In Your Company
Earwig Music – Earwig CD 4970
Les Copeland has only been recording for around five years, but he sounds like he could have been sitting on a front porch on a steamy Clarksdale, MS summer night tearing up his six string and laying out his stories to the rapt attention of his neighbors. Eighteen simple songs; just a man and his guitar and there is nothing here that won’t catch your attention. His guitar work is like the ghosts of both Robert Johnson and Chet Atkins fought for control of his fingers, while his raspy vocal wail ensures you that he has felt every minuscule bit of the stories he tells. Just listen to the way he attacks his guitar on a songs like “Borderline” and then throttles back for a near folky vibe on “Somethin’ Nice and Sweet.” Listening to “Swamp Witch” makes you feel the fog swirling around you as you stand in a cypress bog, while “Moonshiner” is has a lilting musical boogie gracing words of pain and redemption. Whatever emotions and life experiences fueled Les’s songwriting, he has found a stunning way to channel them into absorbing music. – MW


Josh Smith – Over Your Head

Josh Smith – Over Your Head
Modern blues journeyman Josh Smith deserves his due. As a guitarist and vocalist he has the knack of conveying that blues feel, the feel that he really experienced everything he is singing about, everything his guitar is “talking” about. His songwriting seems as if it is being done with a vengeance, because the music smokes like a twenty-alarm forest fire. Featuring a killer rhythm tandem of drummer Lemar Carter and bassist Calvin Turner, Josh capitalizes every letter of the term “power trio.” You can think Zeppelin, Cactus, even King’s X in the way that these three just seem to be very adept and wringing every drop of blood, sweat, emotion, and power out of their instruments. This is evident right from the initial onslaught of the pouncing tiger “How Long.” Josh still shows his more traditional roots in the back alley boogie of “Still Searching” and the west-texas shuffle instrumental of “…And What.” but still manages to find an extra gear with those songs. More notice is being given of Josh’s talents – the fact that Joe Bonamassa and Charlie Musselwhite are among the guests on this CD attest to that. If you still doubt it, just give this a spin. All doubt will be erased and you will be satisfied that it was. – MW


Andy Cohen – Road Be Kind

Andy Cohen – Road Be Kind
Earwig Music – Earwig CD 4969
Andy Cohen has been around a long time and has not run out of stories yet. Nor has he run out of creating the musical expressions to tell his stories. Andy’s music is as organic as it gets – just him and his dusky voice picking his acoustic guitar in a delectable finger-style way that harkens to the great Chet Atkins. Melding folk, blues, country, and a bit of bare-bones rockabilly, Andy is the kind of musician that you just can never tire of listening to as his stories are so infectious, from the heartbreaking to the humorous, from the dark reaches to the bright lights. Weaving that with his guitar work – well, when I made the Chet Atkins comparison I was not being solicitous or hyperbolic – his talent on the six string is stunning. And I can go a step further to put Andy in the lofty perch of comparisons with many of the songwriting greats; his sad songs reminiscent of Townes Van Zandt with his happier ones nodding to Woody Guthrie. If a song like “The Goodnight – Loving Trail” doesn’t tug at your heartstrings, no need to check to see if you have a pulse. Same instructions if you don’t start tapping your toes to “Seaboard Train.” Too many great songs here to talk about them all. Please check this CD out. Andy does plenty of good ol’ talking and picking, and can say far more about his music than I ever could.