Jackie Brown Band – Life’s A Party 

Milwaukee’s Jackie Brown is honing her talents and it is very obvious with her new release. The six new tracks and remixed versions of her debut EP display some seriously entertaining music, toeing the country/rock line, but with much more depth. The title track is a hard-punching rocker melded with touches of reggae and hip-hop, definitely backing up the song’s title. “Crae Crae” has a nice folksy groove with a subtle potency, and “Time Wasted” cuts loose with a funky, country-blues grit. Jackie can handle ballads with emotive grace, as she does in the powerful “With Out You.” I previously stated that Jackie’s robust, bluesy voice reminds me somewhat of Bonnie Raitt, and while I still feel that way, she has so many vocal pyrotechnics with stunning control that are undeniably in her own style. The songwriting is sharp both lyrically and musically, and the veteran Cream City players in the band are top notch. Jackie is still young, and if her early works are any indication, she is definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with. – MW
JackieBrownBand

 

Sara Petite – Road Less Traveled

Many male purveyors of country music are getting back to their roots lately, and if the latest release by San Diego’s Sara Petite is any indication, the women in country music have something to say about their roots, too. The fun and sassy title track gets the party started and it doesn’t end throughout the twelve tracks. Sara is like an encyclopedia of classic country styles, as she flows effortlessly from the haunting west Texas groove of “Blackbird” and the hooky pop edged “It Was Just A Kiss” to the emotive ballad “Getting Over You.” “Monkey On My Back” starts off with a traditional swing style before kicking into a high-octane honky-tonk foot-stomper. Sara has no problems letting the talented players on this CD showcase their capabilities, particularly in the over-nine-minute jam fueled “Sweet Pea Patch” – yes, you heard that right, a NINE MINUTE country song, but it really kicks throughout! Not lost at all is Sara’s knack for great storytelling that is both homey and thought-provoking. Check out tunes like “Patchwork Quilt” and “Good 2 B Me” if you want to really experience her talents in this regard. Sara is a Plains tornado of fresh air in the country scene and  lovers of any era of country really need to check her out.  – MW
SaraPetite

 

Mark McKinney – World In Between

Mark McKinney – World In Between
Mark McKinney has been slugging it out in the Texas country music scene for years. With this his fifth recording, he proves he can duke it out with anything Nashville has to offer. He shows his meddle by staying away from the typified sound, and obviously putting his heart and soul into his music. He is a storyteller first and foremost, following the trails blazed years ago by Waylon, Willie, and Johnny, eventually resurrected by Chris Stapleton and others. His music does have a certain catchiness, but is also a bit edgy and walks that Americana/country barbed-wire tight rope with musical poise. Songs like the snappy “Bacon & Eggs,” potent ballad “Yours,” and heartland grooving “Monday” showcase the various subtle edges of of his songwriting envelope, pushed adeptly to present his heart-felt, intelligent stories. McKinney exhibits excellent vocal pitch and control throughout, not trying to do anything that may detract from the words, but still catching your ear with the emotive timbres. A track like “Rainy Day Monday” is a good showcase of his vocal capabilities. Mark McKinney could be another of those (yes, I know it sounds cliche), but another of those storytellers that offers Nashville an opportunity to travel back to the good old days when the music had more of a raw feel to it, before everything became so glossy and corporatized. – MW
markmckinney

 

Capsule Reviews by Mark E. Waterbury

Dave Fields – Unleashed
FMI Records
Highly regarded blues guitarist Dave Fields rips loose a masterful collection of live tracks, originals, and cover songs in this excellent release. Dave’s arsenal of talents is on full display here, from the jazzy licks of “Anticipating You” to the gut-busting barrelhouse romp of “My Mama’s Got The Blues” to his explosively unique take on “Hey Joe.” Featuring a who’s who of talented musical partners in crime, this is a must if you are a fan of Dave’s, and a phenomenal introduction if you have not experienced his guitar and vocal prowess yet. 
davefields

John Ginty feat. Aster Pheonyx – Rockers
American Showplace Music
John Ginty is highly respected for his sublime organ work with artists ranging from the Dixie Chicks to Santana to Robert Randolph. After releasing several solo CDs, he enlisted fellow New Jerseyan Aster Pheonyx for his latest project. They are definitely rockers…with flourishes of blues and funk, but mostly this is a smoking mesh of John’s potent keyboard licks and Aster’s sultry vocals. Even the mellower songs have intensity and the “rockers” flat out blister. Hopefully, these two will decide to do more musical collaborations as the chemistry is positively electric. 
johnginty

Joe Goodkin – Record of Loss
Quell Records – QR-1011
Chicago’s Joe Goodkin is making serious efforts to redefine “singer-songwriter.” With a mesmerizing voice and delectable guitarwork from his uniquely tuned 1960’s era Gibson, Joe clutches at your heart and soul from the first strains. Mostly bare-bones but also full-sounding, the music is hypnotic and entices you to experience his emotive stories. As the middle child of a three EP set, “Record Of Loss” is stunningly beautiful and undeniably real. 
joegoodkin

Peter Karp – Alabama Town
Rose Cottage Records
Veteran singer-songwriter multi-instrumentalist Peter Karp has never forgotten his roots.  His eighth CD takes you back to his home state of Alabama weaving the homespun tales and varied musical styles into a wonderful Americana mosaic. The overall vibe explores various tendrils of the blues, but also wanders into paths of jazz, bounce, country, and good ol’ rock and roll. Featuring many prominent guests including long time cohort Mick Taylor, this CD is a songwriters and blues lovers’ delight.
peterkarp

Kathy and the Kilowatts – Let’s Do This Thing
Lectro Fine Records – 022017
Some musicians from music mecca Austin, TX feel they have to be eclectic for eclecticism’s sake. Kathy Murray draws from her Texas roots, and unleashes a rocking blues machine that is both comforting in its simplicity and ear-catching due to the talent and passion fused into it. Not ground-breaking, but done very well, this music just feels Texas real – as real as a pasture of long horn steers or the star on a Dallas Cowboys helmet. Kathy’s robust vocal croon and the wicked guitar pyrotechnics of her husband Bill “Monster” Jones make music that is entertainment in its purest form. 
kathykilowatts

David M’ore – Passion, Soul & Fire
666449906824
Those three words that mark the third release of Argentina-born blues artist David M’ore are not mere hyperbole. From the first blistering guitar licks and the emotive chortles of his throaty voice, you know he possesses all three. He is also unafraid to be a bit unique with his songwriting, particularly with the microcosmic ten minute “You Said You Love Me” showcasing his deep talent well. David definitely feels “it” – that particular “it” that true masters of the blues always feel, and when he feels “it” he slams the throttles forward and doesn’t let go. 
davidmore

Patty Reese – Let In The Sun
Azalea City Recordings – ACCD-1602
If any place should personify the blues at anytime, it should be Washington DC. Patty Reese though would personify the blues if she lived on the moon, because she obviously lives, breathes, and sweats it. From traditional back porch stompers to rollicking funk-fueled neon-splashed dancers, Patty lets loose, gracing every track with her provocative vocal power and heart-felt storytelling. Her music will grasp you and not let you go from start to finish…but you won’t want to go as all the songs are strong and enjoyable in their own ways. 
pattyreese

 

Capsule Reviews by Mark E. Waterbury

Matthew Curry – Shine On
There is a buzz about this young guitar slinger/vocalist from central Illinois and one listen to this CD and you can tell why. Matthew spits out tube-amp-fueled rock like the Black Crowes and Deep Purple having a bar brawl, but he adds a fresh feel to the retro stylings as well. His soulful vocal wail perfectly compliments his wicked guitar work which flat out smokes throughout this EP. This guy can really rock even on the ballads and buzz may not be a strong enough word…he is this close to roaring!
matthewcurry

Dave Keller – Right Back Atcha
Tastee Tone – TT-3043
Massachusetts vocalist/guitarist Dave Keller is known as a modern blues master, but he proves once again there are more depths to his talents. He also has deep passions for funk and R&B, creating a full sound that still is not overbearing and has a very down home sound to it. His gritty voice and thought-provoking lyrics contribute to the uniqueness of his sound, blending wonderfully with the more comforting hooky vibe. 
davekeller

Emily Maguire – Bird Inside a Cage
Saktu Records
Veteran London born singer-songwriter Emily Maguire is a survivor and a storyteller unafraid to bare her soul, creating another feast of stunning music.The lead track “Beautiful” describes her voice perfectly, weaving her tales in various intoxicating fashion, from breathless piano kissed ballads to to edgy pop rock. She slips effortlessly in and out of the edges of various styles holding the listeners’ intrigue from start to finish. 
emilymaguire
 
Dave Vargo – Burning Through
New Jersey singer-songwriter showcases strong songwriting skills on this very listenable debut. While a bit folksy, it also has a solid rock and roll vibe that separates it from many singer-songwriters these days. Dave’s voice has a deft feel for letting loose the proper emotions to fuel his thoughtful words. There is a nice blend of catchy and edgy here, with subtle eccentricities and just the right potency. 
davevargo

 

Capsule Reviews by Mark E. Waterbury

Jason Elmore & Hoodoo Witch – Champaign Velvet
Underworld Indie Records – UND0028
Dallas blues master Jason Elmore blazes out of the speakers with this intense third release. With a great sense for classic blues feeling, but a Stray-Cats like rockabilly raucousness and subtle tilts in other stylistic directions, even the mellower songs have a serious punch to them. Sometimes retro can be overdone, but Jason does it right. You can feel that he has a passion for his roots, and, when he gets into the studio, is more than capable to unleash them in an ear-opening fashion. Great musicianship, interesting lyrics, and strong songwriting abound here.
jasonelmore
AJ Hobbs – Too Much Is Never Enough
Booker Records – Booker001
There continues to be a renaissance of country artists who have strong roots in the outlaw scene of the 60’s and 70’s. AJ Hobbs is one of those artists, and, with his first full-length CD, he reminds us in kick-the-dust-off-your-boots fashion of what non-corporate country sounds like. With just the right touches of bluesiness, swing, and rocking groove, AJ channels his inner David Allan Coe and puts a sometimes wickedly humorous and, at other times, gripping slant on tried and true country subjects. Retro is fresh in country parlance and AJ Hobbs is a fresh as a beer in a cold glass from a newly tapped keg in a honky tonk on paycheck night.
ajhobbs
Bruce Katz Band featuring Chris Vitarello – Out From The Center
American Showplace Music
Bruce Katz continues to shine brightly as one of the best blues keyboardists out there. Adding in deft doses jazz, R&B, rock and traditional and modern stylings, Bruce cuts loose with some seriously enjoyable music. Ranging from uptempo danceable tracks to mellow vibes with many stops in between, there is something here for everyone especially keyboard connoisseurs. Guitar fans will love this with the wonderful fingerwork of Chris Vitarello who lends his gutsy vocal chops to several tracks.
brucekatz
Davy Knowles – Three Miles from Avalon
Wyan Inc. – WYAN002
Born in The Isle Of Man, but now residing in Chi-Town, Davy Knowles knows a thing or two about the Blues. He seems to be more of a rocker with a blues soul at times and that works very well here because you can hear influences as diverse as AC/DC, Uriah Heep, and Pink Floyd sneaking around the edges as he tears lose with his emotive voice and intriguing stories. Excellent guitar and keyboard work combined with a powerful rhythm machine keep this one in the groove throughout the eight tracks.
davyknowles
Liz Mandeville – The Stars Motel
Blue Kitty Music
In the second song on her latest CD, veteran blues diva Liz Mandeville croons “The Blues Is My Boss” in her indomitable dusky, emotive warble. She proves that statement to be reciprocal as she is the boss of some seriously potent music here. Bringing in a great stable of players, she proves once again that classic blues can still be very enjoyable and fresh if you do it very well and do it with unbridled passion. You can hear all of the above in her voice, her words, her songwriting and her playing, and she never lets up with unleashing her passion.
lizmandeville
Sex With Strangers – Discourse
Northern Light Records – NLSW001
Vancouver BC’s Sex With Strangers continues to impress with their latest release. Completely unafraid at flaunting deep influences from the 80’s pop/new wave scene, they turn those influences on their ears with a modern jolt. Slick songwriting and provocative lyrics are masterfully blended with just the right doses of hooks and edginess. This is a talented, passionate band who prove again that even retro bands can still be cutting edge if they create music that is both catchy and intriguing.
sexwithstrangers

 

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

thejimmys

Steven Graves – Captain Soul

Steven Graves – Captain Soul
The veteran and versatile California songwriter has created another enjoyable CD brimming with thoughtfully-crafted, hooky songs that feels like a road-trip of American music styles. The snappy “Light Turns To Day” kicks things off with a comforting groove and west-Texas blues infused musical passages. Songs like “Man From A Different Planet” and “Somewhere Somehow” are charged with a Southern rock fuel while you can actually catch the aromas of Bourbon Street during the mournful blues ballad “Walk With Me.” Various flavorings of country, Heartland rock, and even some sly World touches add to the flavorful stew that never fails to tantalize your musical tastebuds. Steven’s band members and the musical guests all are very adept at not doing anything too flashy, but subtly flaunting their musical chops in just the right doses to augment Steven’s vocal work. Steven has one of those voices that can sooth you one minute and drive the point home with fervor the next and he is unafraid to tackle subjects dear to his heart in the words he weaves. This is a Captain who is definitely in command of his musical soul and the results are simply wonderful.  – MW
stevegraves

 

Eric Johnson – ej

Eric Johnson – ej
Provogue Records
After years of stunning the world with with his multi-genre tinged guitar rock records, Eric shows a quieter side with his first acoustic release simply titled, “ej.” I hesitate to use the word “stunning” here because Eric’s talents are very well-respected and it should not stun anyone that, even in an acoustic environment, his musical abilities are still incredible. Just listen to the delectable picking and melodic vocal work of “Wonder” if you need a microcosm of the CD. But don’t miss any of the songs just for the sake of one example because Eric delves deep into his songwriting, playing, and singing talents to produce a CD that is beautifully intriguing. Eric’s fingers also can twinkle the keys wonderfully as piano-graced tracks like “Water Under the Bridge” and “Wrapped In A Cloud” can attest to. Like most Eric Johnson CDs, there are instrumental tracks ranging from the raucous country fried “The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise” to traditional Spanish mastery of “Serinidad.” Eric also does a couple fervent tributes to Simon & Garfunkel with the peppy acoustic guitar take on “Mrs. Robinson” and a haunting piano kissed vocal version of “Scarborough Fair.” Beyond the covers, Eric’s writing is amazing as always with the usual aromatic stew of styles in a stripped down and highly enjoyable format. Even if you are partial to his rocking material, his capabilities and creating bare-bones music at a high range of potency is…I have to say it…truly stunning! – MW
ericjohnson-1

 

Rik Emmett & Resolution 9 – Res 9

Rik Emmett & Resolution 9 – Res 9
Provogue Records
Guitarist/vocalist Rik Emmett has been involved in various solo projects since his departure from Canadian power trio Triumph. If anyone questions Rik has lost his rocker’s edge because he has been involved in more acoustic-oriented recordings and tours for several years, strap in and crank “Res 9” on and you will receive your answer. “Stand Still” flat out roars from your speakers to launch the CD with the force of a dozen Saturn-Vs. “Human Race” is reminiscent of the hooky but potent rocking hits that made Triumph so popular and also features a guest appearance by a guitarist from another “somewhat” famous Canadian trio Alex Lifeson. “I Sing” is an emotive and sonic power ballad featuring the soaring pipes of Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie. Even the mellower songs here have a subtle intensity, and often not-so-subtly crank it up as in the haunting blues-tinged “The Ghost Of Shadow Town.” Lifeson joins again for the prog-fueled opus “End Of The Line” before the CD ends with Triumph bandmate Gil Moore joining in for the bare-bones sweet groove of “Grand Parade.” There is a great mixture of hard-driving rock tunes and mellow vibes throughout the well-written CD and Rik’s musical cohorts in Resolution 9 have serious chops. Vocally, Rik is in excellent form with his range and versatility shining throughout, perhaps most noticeable when comparing the searing lead track with the more croon-like ending track. So yes, Rik is still rocking and doing a few other things that may not be flat-out rock, but are still very ear-opening music. Even if Triumph doesn’t manage to do a full-fledged reunion at some point, you know you will still get reliably excellent music from one of the architects of that great trio. – MW
http://www.rikemmett.com
rikemmett-1