Capsule Review by Mark E. Waterbury

Kings & Associates – Tales of a Rich Girl
There are artists in other countries that understand American blues. Australia’s Kings & Associates not only understand it; they live, breathe, and play it very well. They take some unique twists and turns into R&B and very rootsy retro feelings, and have both a male and female vocalist who seethe pure emotion whether crooning the ballads or letting loose with the more rocking tracks. We know folks down under can rock. They can really rock the blues as well if this band is any indication.


The Jimmys – Live From Transylvania at Sighisoara Blues Festival

The Jimmys – Live From Transylvania at Sighisoara Blues Festival
Brown Cow Productions – BCP004
One of Wisconsin’s favorite blues sons Jimmy Voegeli takes his band way across the pond to the land of spooky castles and caped fiends. No fear here whatsoever as The Jimmys’ music will turn any would-be vampire into a dancing blues-lover. Hitting their stride with the jazzier side of blues featuring a robust horn section, magic on the piano, furious guitar riffs and snappy rhythms, this is one of the liveliest live albums I have heard in while. It is easy to picture Jimmy and his cohorts letting loose as you listen, playing an enjoyable mix of their original favorites and some well-chosen covers. Just take a listen to songs like “Love Will Find A Way,” “Cold Woman” and “Lose That Woman,” and I defy you not to start dancing or, at the very least, furiously tap your feet. And, yes, there are some heartfelt ballads to be heard as well – particularly “Lonesome Whistle Blues” where Jimmy really unleashes his vocal soul, graced by his work on the Hammond and amazing trombone riffs by Darren Sterud. The Jimmys hit all the right notes from the somber to happy ends of the blues spectrum. And if you have not seen them perform before, then this CD is a very good substitute. – MW


Hard Swimmin’ Fish – True Believer

Hard Swimmin’ Fish – True Believer 
Virginia’s Hard Swimmin’ Fish have become one of the most dependably entertaining and intriguing modern blues acts around. The music is gritty, sweaty, with a live feeling harkening of tube amps, weather-worn guitars and wooden floors that bounce with each beat. Perhaps one of the most ear-opening facet to their music is their uncanny prowess and blending strong roots with modern songwriting quirks, avoiding the all-to-common modern blues trap of coattail riding. From nasty jump to driving funk, brash rocking to mournful ballads, this band pours every ounce of their soul into these songs. The musicianship is both tight talent-wise, also exuding a looseness that makes you feel like you have a bunch of great players hanging out in a smoke-filled club for a jam session. While the lyrics lean a bit towards typical blues subjects, they do catch your attention both with their honesty and the range of vocal emotions conveying them. To boil it down, the CD/lead track title pretty much says a lot about this band’s philosophy. If you are not a true believer after listening to this CD, you had better see if you still have a pulse. – MW


Tinsley Ellis – Red Clay Soul

Tinsley Ellis – Red Clay Soul
Heatfixer Music – HFM1013
One of Georgia’s favorite music sons Tinsley Ellis always seems to give us something a bit different, without compromising the fact of him being one of the best blues rockers around. The Atlanta native does not disappoint in either facet with his latest effort. As the title indicates, there seems to be a bit more touch of R&B and soul in this latest effort, even though the disc launches with a tried and true smoking blues jam “All I Think About.” Songs like “Callin’” and “Hungry Women Blues” have a deeply street-smart feel to them. There is a touch of influential flavorings from fellow Georgia musicians The Allman Brothers, particularly in the rollicking boogie of “Givin’ You Up.”  Tinsley also adds a subtle Santana-like Latin influence to “Estero Noche.” Despite the bit of a different feel here compared to some of his more rocking CDs, he still does not let up on the emotion one iota or shy away from reminding us what the blues is all about. When he sears the final song “The Bottle, The Book or the Gun” into your soul,  your satisfaction level should be high as Tinsley is a master at enticing you to not merely listen to his music, but to truly feel and experience it.  – MW


Walter Trout – Alive In Amsterdam

Walter Trout – Alive In Amsterdam 
Provogue – PRD-7492-3
Perhaps the toughest aspect of Walter Trout’s brush with death and long road to recovery was being able to get back to unleashing his musical passions from stages across the globe. Walter has always been a consummate road warrior, playing numerous dates every year in stages ranging from tiny clubs to massive festivals. “Alive In Amsterdam,” recorded on his first tour after his recovery in one of his favorite stomping grounds sounds like he has not lost any of his energy or passion as he absolutely lights the stage on fire. His long set…enough to fill two discs is laden with songs from his first post-recovery recording “Battle Scars,” as well as favorites from deep into his catalogue. While he really tears loose from the start with rockers like “Help Me” and “I’m Back,” you really get drawn fully in with the searing ballad “Say Goodbye To The Blues” where Walter tributes the late B.B.King. The “King” gets a further tribute with a wild version of “Rick Me Baby” featuring Walter dueling with his son Jon, an obviously talented protege. Walter’s back-up band of bassist Johnny Griparic, keyboardist Sammy Avila, and drummer Michael Leasure are as red hot as ever, with extra flavor added to a couple songs by former Sleeze Beez/The Moon vocalist Andrew Elt. When the final strains of “The Love That We Once New” fade into the Amsterdam night, it seems to fall a bit short to merely say that Walter Trout is back. It’s like he never left, was never near death, and was not lying in the hospital too weak to move sometimes. He did go, however, through those experiences, channeled it into his music, reminding us all again of what the blues are all about. Walter Trout has lived and breathed it more then many people have, and when he picks up his guitar, steps to the mic, and tells us all about it, look out!  – MW


Walter Trout – Battle Scars

Walter Trout – Battle Scars 
Provogue – PRD-7477-2  
Walter Trout’s fans and the blues world, in general, knows what Walter went through over the past couple years. Walter was nearly at death’s door, in dire need of a new liver. An outpouring of fan support and several successful surgeries and hospital stays later, you had to know that this very passionate musician and songwriter had to be chomping at the bit to get back into the doing what he loved the most. Kicking his first post-recovery CD “Battle Scars” off with “Almost Gone” may have a story itself just in the title, but the way Walter shreds his guitar and belts out his signature throaty croon, you know he is nowhere near gone now. The emotions of the tenacious battle he fought come smoking out of the speakers when you crank up the down and gritty tunes like “Omaha” and “Playin’ Hideaway.” You can nearly feel his pain when he unleashes the soul-snaring “Haunted By The Night,” and the powerfully touching “Please Take Me Home.” Walter takes you on the full emotive roller-coaster, from near hopelessness to the relief of redemption in the bare-bones, acoustic-kissed, intoxicating “Gonna Live Again.” Listening to the sons on “Battle Scars,” you get the feeling there were times when Walter may have been lying in a hospital bed wondering how much time he had left, but was still brewing musical magic somewhere deep inside. Perhaps that helped him to survive until he was able to receive his transplant. Whatever happened in those dark days, Walter is back with a new lease on life, and has returned to giving the whole of his musical self to his fans’ massive relief and…when they listen to his new music, to their total enjoyment as well. – MW


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


JJ Appleton & Jason Ricci – Dirty Memory

JJ Appleton & Jason Ricci – Dirty Memory

Sometimes when you take a simple approach to the blues and add in some seasoned instrumental phenoms, you get something really special. That is exactly what you have on this project featuring blues harpist Jason Ricci (who tributed the late Paul Butterfield in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction), and relative newcomer JJ Appleton on guitar. This is the type of music created when you just let your feelings and talents flow in unadulterated fashion, creating music that is absolute killer. Choosing to record as a duo, the sound is still astonishingly full here thanks to their prodigious talents and JJ’s honestly emotive vocals. Jason and JJ really cut loose with the potent shuffle “Leaning Blues,” swampy groover “At The Wheel,” the hauntingly eerie “Demon Lover,” and a blistering cover of the Blind Willie Johnson classic “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” Another wonderful cover that is a sort of blues-coming-full-circle effort is their take on the Stones’ “Black Limousine.” If you want to see why so many legends (Johnny Winter, Walter Trout, Susan Tedeschi among others) have tapped Jason to blow harp on their projects, check out “Jason Solo.” These guys compliment each other brilliantly, and one can only hope this is not a one time project and will be something they will do again many times in the future. – MW


Buddy Guy – Born To Play Guitar

Buddy Guy – Born To Play Guitar
RCA Records – 88875-12037-2
Sometimes as a reviewer, you have to throw superlatives, hyperbole and cliches out the window. Not that every new CD by a legend is a masterpiece. But when you hear Mr. George “Buddy” Guy pontificate “I’ve got blues running through my veins,” in the eponymous lead track of his latest effort “Born To Play Guitar,” you have absolutely zero doubt that he is telling the Gospel truth. He talks it, walks it, lives it, breathes it, unleashes it from his Strat like the voice of the blues gods. If you doubt me, put on track 2 “Wear You Out” and strap yourself in, because it will do just that. “Back Up Mama” follows with a pure, sweet ballad dripping displaying Buddy’s incredible vocal chops. Buddy enlists many friends on this CD, including Joss Stone with a delectable vocal trip on “(Baby) You Got What It Takes.” When Van Morrison joins Buddy for the emotion dripping “Flesh & Bone” tributing B.B. King, followed by an equally fervent tribute to Muddy Waters, “Come Back Muddy,” if you don’t start misting up or getting a lump in your throat you had better get a hold of an AED post-haste. OK, I know I said you have to throw superlatives, hyperbole and cliches out the window, but I used a few choice ones here. Well, Buddy Guy deserves it. One of blues’ elder spokesmen less than 365 and a wake up from being an octogenarian, Buddy shows no signs of letting up. – MW