Capsule Reviews by Mark E. Waterbury

Joyann Parker & Sweet Tea – On The Rocks
Women can also rock the blues and Minnesota;s Joyann Parker absolutely knocks the blues out of the park. With a ear-catching, emotive voice with the duskiness of Melissa Etheridge and bawdiness of Bonnie Bramlett, she scorches the mic weather on full-blown blues rockers or passionate ballads. The musical styles are like a blues encyclopedia, with crisp songwriting and plenty of serious musical chops. This lady’s music can achieve a powerful grasp on you. – MW

Benny Turner – When She’s Gone
Nola Blue – NBl002
There must have been a lot of musical talent in this family. The brother of legend Freddie King, Benny Turner is not trying to reinvent the blues. He just plays and sings pure blues very, very well. Sometimes, that is to be appreciated, and Benny is a true artisan who is sticking to what he knows best, but can still creates original sounding songs that are comforting and enjoyable. He feels the blues. One listen and you will feel it, too, in a most wonderful way.  – MW

Jason Vivone & the Billy Bats – The Avenue

Jason Vivone & the Billy Bats   – The Avenue
KC bluesman Jason Vivone is a storyteller extraordinaire, telling tales that can make you laugh or cry, sing along or sit and think. Perhaps is is too simplistic though to call him a “bluesman” as he definitely pushes the blues envelope not just beyond the traditional boundaries, but beyond many traditional offshoots as well. His music backdrops are eclectic – he is unafraid to break away from any blues purist ideology and twist the music into his own signature version of it. The tongue-in-cheek Bo Diddley beat strewn opener “The Vivone Song (Pronounced Viv O Nee) gives you a good first glimpse of the journey you are about to embark on. Songs like the rollicking “Kansas City Blues”  and ballad “Calendar” come closer to true blues styles, but even they have some internal eccentricities. The title track is a haunting, deeply moss-covered dirge with an eerie potency. “Train Musta Jumped The Track” is a wild ride with a catchy, mid tempo groove. This music would be cutting edge no matter what genre it is in, and it is particularly so considering how finicky many fans of the blues can be. You can definitely find the blues here – you just have to take a twisted path to get there.Trust me, you will enjoy the journey. – MW


The Skylarks

The Skylarks 
L.A.’s The Skylarks produce thought-provoking but also feel good music that seems like it draws more influence from the Heartland. Blending Americana with a rock vibe in a comforting midground between Mellencamp and the Bodeans and just the right essence of glam-pop edginess, they have a knack for creating music that has a subtly rollicking intensity without having to be loud or brash. Take snappy rockers such as “Our Own Enemy” or “Almost Feel the Breeze” as good examples, where you can tap your toes to the infectious grooves but still immerse yourself in the wonderful vocal harmonies and intriguing stories. Songs like “Sheer Bliss For Me” and “Just One Of The Crew” have a sly atmospheric touch meshing delectably with the hookieness of the music vibe. The ambient country tinged “No One Else But Me” shows a slightly mellower but emotively intense side to the band. The players are all talented and know their places – that is, no one goes off on ego-stroking passages. Instead. they showcase their talents on how well everything comes together. This is their fourth release and if they have not received more recognition before, they deserve it as this CD shows a band comfortable with its sound, mature in its capabilities, and brimming with passion to create great tunes. – MW


Mick Rhodes and the Hard Eight – Paradise City

Mick Rhodes and the Hard Eight – Paradise City
Hot Tramp Records – HTR006
Mick Rhodes cut his teeth in the L.A. punk scene, and you can feel subtle pieces of those influences in the music here. He likes straight up rock, too, and with further journeys into country and folk, he has obviously a wide taste in music. He is a master at weaving those various influences together into highly enjoyable tunes. “Married Girls” launches the CD with a sort of Elvis Costello hanging out in the Heartland feel. Songs like “Since You” and “Keep It Simple” are smoking rockers, the former straight ahead and Springsteen-esque, the latter being a more hooky punk-edged romp. “Don’t Remind Me” feels like it wafted out of a smoky west Texas honky-tonk, while “Whisky Girl” is power blues at its best. Along with his songwriting eccentricities, Mick writes catchy and often subtly humorous lyrics, spinning interesting tales. Backed by some excellent musicianship, this sophomore CD should wake up more people to this creator of music that is both fun and intriguing. – MW


Bruce Gibson – Moments In Between

Bruce Gibson – Moments In Between
Coming from the music rich area of north Georgia, Bruce Gibson obviously draws from a deep pool of influences to create music that is both melodically and lyrically comforting and intriguing. With a soulful voice that is a touch Petty, a waft of Dylan warble, and just the right dose of a Darius Rucker kick,  Bruce weaves interesting tales that fit wonderfully with the vehicles he drives them with. He launches the CD with the brooding ballad “Small Hotel” which starts mellow, but unleashes deft touches of intensity that ratchets up the emotions. “Light Of Day” is a folksy ditty that shows further depths of Bruce’s vocal capabilities. The music is far from the quiet side of singer/songwriting as songs like “Know What I Know” and “Soldier On” prove that Bruce can rock out with a subtle edge when he wants to as well. The bawdy blues of “Sonny Liston” and bare-bones folk of “Love Is Grand” show further songcrafting explorations. “My Way Home” is a stand out track bursting with emotion and featuring a duet with Tara Simon. Enlisting some very  solid players to flesh out the sound, Bruce seems very adept at taking his various styles and channeling a signature feel into them. This is a very ear-opening effort – high on the listenability and enjoyment scale.  – MW