Saturday, January 20, 2018

Something New and The White Roach

I think I've mentioned before that I've stepped away from writing reviews in regards to blues releases. Just couldn't keep up with the number of cds that folks began sending me. I got really behind when my blog went wonky on me and just don't do it any longer. I don't buy recordings like I once did, but I do grab something every once in a blue moon. Since we've had a couple of those during the past year I thought that I share the few new blues that are in my hands now. Not reviews as such, just some passing thoughts.

First off, I have to mention a fantastic little record shop on Magazine Street called The White Roach. My daughter lives a few blocks away and my son-in-law turned me onto the place. The gal who runs the place has a great stock of vinyl, some rare and some new, including blues and lots of stuff from the Fat Possum catalog. I have a great deal of what she has, but always walk out with something. The last trip this last fall, I walked in and she was spinning a Magic Sam record. This woman knows the way to my soul.

Anyway--I spotted a double album entitled 4GDB. Sounded like a rap album or something. Closer inspection told me it featured some of the best danged blues guitarist in the state of Texas. I'm very familiar with Alan Haynes, Bert Wills, and Derek O'Brien. Not so much with John Inmon, until I researched the fact that he was a founding member of Jerry Jeff Walker's Lost Gonzo Band and had played with everybody who's anybody in Texas. Wills is a Gulf Coast treasure from the Galveston area and Haynes has been tearing it up for years for in every blues bar in the state. Of course, any blues fan worth his salt knows about O'Brien's stint as guitarist in Antone's house band from the git go, and they are bound to have blues albums featuring his tasty blues guitar.

I grabbed it, and when I paid The White Roach lady asked me whether I was familiar with Bert Wills. Told her yes indeed, had a few of his recordings. She said that she once did his online promotion for awhile, which I thought was quite cool. Sooo....

4GDB--A wonderful album full of those marvelous guitarist slinging and stinging the blues. Some acoustic, some rarely covered covers and a few originals. All four guitarists bring something to the table and the menu prime blues. Don't know how easy it'll be to get ahold of this, but it'll be worth the search. The White Roach solved that one for me.

Sonny Landreth Recorded Live In Lafayette--While at The White Roach, I spotted Sonny Landreth's new one. I'd seen him play a show a few years ago and the slide guitar wizard blew me away. I picked it up, put it back, picked it up and put it back. Kinda regretted not picking it up. My wife and daughter went shopping later and asked if I needed anything. Jokingly told them that if they passed by The White Roach, picked up Sonny Landreth's album. They did it. And didn't put it back.

It showcases just what a master slide guitarist Sonny Landreth is. The double album features and acoustic set, chock full of blues with some zydeco and Louisiana swamp music thrown down. The second disc features his electric set. Some more blues and some of the other worldly slide that only Landreth can conjure up. Mojo hand gone wild. Fantastic release and it's been nominated for a well deserved Grammy. So, you can find this one.

Johnny Nicholas and Friends Too Many Bad Habits--My wife went over to The Bugle Boy in LaGrange to see Johnny play awhile back. I've mentioned that great listening room here before. I've been a fan of Johnny's since he recorded with Big Walter Horton for Blind Pig way back in the day, and I told him so. He released Too Many Bad Habits at around the same time in the late '70s and it sort of disappeared. He told me that he had gained possession of what Blind Pig had in their vaults and that a slew of unreleased stuff he did with Walter was among the masters and to keep my eyes out for his planned remastered release. My ears perked up at unreleased Big Walter. He was woefully under recorded. So, when Too Many Bad Habits hit the market I had to, you know, get it in my hands. The first disc is a straight up re-issue of the original disc with lots of fine picking by Johnny and friends, including Asleep At The Wheel's front man, Ray Benson and the legendary Johnny Shines. Johnny played a number of years with Benson's band. Big Walter is featured on a number of cuts bouncing his fat harp tone off Shine's lead guitar.

Disc two is where the unreleased stuff appears with Shines and Walter, along with Boogie Woogie Read on piano, laying down the back in the alley blues as only the veterans could do. Walter sings on a few of the tracks, letting his harp do most of the talking. Nicolas' vocals drip blues blood all over this two disc set. Well worth the price of admission. Got this one and the following one through Blue Beat Music. If Charlie ain't got it, it can't be got.

Lester Butler featuring 13 Live @ Tamines 1997--Got this one because my wife kept bugging me about what I wanted for Christmas. Butler's live King King with his band The Red Devils has been one of my favorite live albums ever. His follow up featuring a new band lineup called 13 was a great one also. Then he died. That was it and very few examples of what he left behind surfaced, so when this one did, you know, I had to get it. It not exactly on the level of King King, which was wonderfully produced by Rick Ruben, but it's darned close. The dynamic harp playing rips and roars, along with Butler's tortured vocals and a  step is not lost with Alex Schulz in the guitar chair. There's too little Lester Butler out there, so this one with fill the bill until someone steps forward with something else.

Kim Wilson Blues and Boogie Vol. 1--Hell, it's Kim Wilson blowing and singing the blues. 'Nuff said. Another one of those 'what do you want for Christmas' thangs. This is Wilson getting back to his roots covering blues tunes he's been wanting to release for quite some time. He throws downs a few originals with a hand picked group of the best blues musicians on the West Coast. Might be the last recordings that we'll here from the stupendous keyboard man, Barrelhouse Chuck. This is my Kim Wilson. I've always loved The Fabulous Thunderbirds, but as of late, Wilson has been into his R&B and Soul bag, and, well, that just ain't my bag, but bring on the fat back blues harp sucking that Wilson mastered a long, long time ago and I'm in heaven. 'Nuff for now.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Harp Train 10 Update

Thought that while my blog seems to have straightened it's wonky posting problems I'd update my Lone Wolf Harp Train 10 amplifier experiences since a reader or two posted comments on the original post (search for Harp Train 10 for that one).

Last time out, I mentioned that I substituted the 12ax7 preamp tube for a 12ay7 to lower the gain just a bit and give the amp more headroom and be able to crank it a bit more. A blog reader asked about that swap and I'm repeating some of my answer. It came in especially useful at a frequent outdoor jam I participated in and at which the stage volume began to rise considerably each time out. The 12ay7 changed the tone somewhat, but not in a bad way and the HT10 held it's own. Eventually, I chained my Kalamazoo 1 into the mix using the Lone Wolf Terminator pedal for extra punch. I ran my Lone Wolf Reverb through one amp and my Lone Wolf Delay through the other. Eventually, a dude with an overkill sound system began setting up and miking up all the participants. My instructions were to lower the volume on my rig, so I used just the HT10 with the Balls knob and Loudness knob both just a notch above 3. That is what this post is all about.

I found that if I turned the HT10 Balls knob and Loudness knob below 3, the fine tone of the amp dropped out to dull. Not really a problem until I brought the amp to my regular gig at a small venue. My bandmates insisted that I needed to turn down below 3 and the tone was just not cutting it. I did stick my Lone Wolf Harp Break in front of the amp and recovered a decent tone--somewhat.

Listening to a FB clip by the fantastic Australian harp master, Ian Collard, solved my problem. In the clip (pretty sure it was a Little Walter number), he's practicing with his new lineup for his group, Collard Greens and Gravy. First thing I noticed is that he's blowing through his HT10 sitting on a shelf directly behind his head and getting a fabulous tone (of course, a lot of that is from Ian himself). I commented on the post asking whether or not he was playing a first generation HT10 and whether or not it was stock. He answered that it was stock (with the 12ax7 tube) and that he had the Balls knob and Loudness barely cracked. And that he had both his Lone Wolf Reverb and Delay pedals in line. So, if I had left things as was I would not have had the low volume tone loss. Once I swapped the 12ax7 back in, I discovered that, indeed, a nice tone could be achieved at low volume. And barely above 1 on both knobs proved to be perfect for the venue and a perfect blend with my bandmates. Of course, I had to stick my reverb and delay pedal in front just to emulate (or get somewhere close) to what I heard that Ian was putting out.

I've played with the same guys now at much larger venues and outdoors a couple of times. The key there has been that our lead guitarist knows how to mike us all up properly and I needn't push the amp above 3 on both knobs hear myself

Bottom line is that Randy Landry and company over at Lone Wolf knew what they wanted out of their amp. I'm just one of those guys that likes to tinker around with amps and things, but I'll likely keep the 12ax7 in place...until I don't. 'Nuff for now.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

28th Annual Blues For Food Festival

It's that time of year again. A gathering of some of the most fabulous Houston blues musicians stinging it and slinging it for a marvelous cause--the 28th Annual Blues For Food drive. BOOYAH!

Please join us Sunday, November 12th at the Shakespeare Pub for the 28th Annual Blues For Food Festival and celebration featuring the largest collection of Houston blues artists on one stage of the year!
A special hand crafted Keith Alan Courson Cigar Box Guitar honoring the late beloved Texas Johnny Brown with auctioned off with all proceeds going to the Houston Food Bank with a special focus on those who have been hurt from the Harvey flooding.
Blues for Food event on Sunday November 12th at the Shakespeare Pub. All proceeds benefit the Houston Food Bank.Brought to you by Keith Alan Guitars, The Hart Foundation, KPFT 90.1, The Houston Food Bank, The Houston Blues Society and The Shakespeare Pub. PLEASE SHARE! THIS IS A MUST ATTEND EVENT FOR ALL LOVERS OF GREAT BLUES!
We have also added an important new twist to our annual Blues For Food Drive. A representative from the Hart Fund will be on hand to do basic blood pressure testing etc for any musician who wants to get checked out. The Blues Foundation out of Memphis has in recent years established the HART fund (Handy Artists Relief Trust) for blues musicians and their families in financial need due to a broad range of health concerns. The fund provides for accost, chronic and preventive medical and dental care as well as funeral and burial expenses. Blues For Food organizers feel this is a a great way to increase awareness for blues musicians who may need assistance while also letting blues fans know where they can assist in helping blues musicians in need. For more information about the HART Fund visit

Monday, June 12, 2017

Ain't No One Like Paul Oscher

Trekked over to The Bugle Boy in La Grange once again to witness a legend of the blues once again lay down some of that Old School, down in the alley, gut bucket blues that very few choose to do any longer. Paul Oscher plays nothin' but....and he'll tell you that that's only what he knows how to play. It's more that skin deep with Oscher. He's lived the life since taking up with Muddy Waters back in the late 60s and he's still got it going on. I'm not going to go through his bio and all that stuff because it can be read first hand on his revamped website here

I've been meaning to make if over to C-Boys in Austin, where Oscher conducts a happy hour blues blast every Thursday, since the last time he visited The Bugle Boy. Just thinking about hitting Austin traffic that time of day raises my blood pressure, which I don't need. The last time Oscher kicked butt at The Bugle Boy, he was doing his one man band thang. He did not disappoint then and he danged sure didn't disappoint this past Saturday night when he brought drummer Wes Starr and bass player Randy Glines with him for a trio gig. Wes Starr has played with EVERBODY in the state of Texas and is on countless blues recordings, so I will not attempt a list of such. I will say that he has been traveling around with Mark Hummel, Anson Funderburgh, and Little Charlie Baty with their Golden State Lone Star Revue. Anyway, Oscher brought the an 'A' list with him this time. Glines has been a go to bass dude around Austin for quite some time. His main gig for a long time was with the late, great Jimmy LaFave. Anyway, the gig cooked from the time this rhythm section sat down and banged out an introduction piece that brought Oscher to the stage.

Once seated, technical glitches arose around his wireless mic rig attached to his harmonica rack that sent a signal to his vintage Premier amplifier. The glitch sound. His young roady valiantly attempted to get it going, to no avail. They tried a number of things that would not work, until someone in the audience said, 'Just plug into the second channel of your guitar amp'. Oscher was reluctant to blow harp into the Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, not trusting it's tone for harp. He did it though and once again it proved to me that great harp tone lies not within the speakers of an amp, but within the body cage of the man. His fat, low down, greasy tone blasted out of an amp that I would consider a poor choice for amplified harmonica. There was no dialing in, just plug and play. He was quite perturbed that his reverb/delay rig wasn't operational either. Not to worry. His tone rocked. At intermission, he  was very apologetic for the tech issues and didn't feel the sound was optimal. I assured him, as a blues harp aficionado, that his tone was absolutely killer. I know of no harp rack players who can suck the blues out of a harp like Oscher can. At the last gig when I visited with him, Oscher pointed to his chest and said, 'This is where I get my tone' and that's where it came from last Saturday, because his equipment had let him down.

To say that Oscher can capture a room with his charisma and his tales of playing with the greatest bluesman whoever lived, is an understatement. BUT it is the playing of the blues that he learned from the great bluesmen around him that rocked the house. He played with the real deals and he is the real deal...ain't no pussy footin' around. When he slips his slide across his guitar strings and it sounds so eerily exact to Muddy's wail, when he blows Little Walter's stuff like Juke, or Jimmy Roger's That's Alright, or the myriad of his originals that seep ChiTown authenticity, well, the hair on back of your neck just may stand on end. I can't sit here and tell my readers exactly what he played, because I was in the moment each and every time a note hit the air, or his roughed edged (but unpretentious) vocals filled the room. When Oscher sings about having the blues, there is not doubt that he either does, has, or will have. Stages ooze and drip the blues that Oscher occupies and no one can avoid getting it on them.

I can't say enough about Glines and Starr (who, by the way, had never played with Oscher before). Even as a one man band, Oscher manages to fill a room, but these two guys followed him and chased him down when needed  and gave the stage a lot more wang dang doodle...all night long. The music mushroomed with their help. There certainly could have been a lot more patrons at The Bugle Boy. In my mind someone as legendary and has the stature of Paul Oscher should be a sellout event. There ain't too many folks left who do it like Paul. The right way.

Great show by a great bluesman and his sidekicks. 'Nuff for now.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sweet Home Brenham

My little Texas town of Brenham has been re-inventing itself over the past few years. The downtown area has become more dynamic as a tourist destination. New restaurants have popped up and the live music scene has been hopping.

Venues such as Home Sweet Farm, Brazos Valley Brewery, Roux Street, Deer Road BBQ and 96 West are some of the newer kids on the block offering live music at least once a week. Down the road a piece in Burton, The Whitehorse and the Burton Roadhouse have it pumping. Mobius Cafe, Nathan's BBQ, Shooter's, and Little Mike's have been doing it for awhile. Local musicians such as Sam Murski, Neil Kulhanek, Robert Zientek, Allison Crowson, Rob Moorman, the Amelang Family, Lou Lou Barbour and the Kelms (Charlie, Pat and Peyton) have been stirring the live music pot for quite some time.

Of course, what gets me up and off the couch most often is when some blues gets played up in there. Home Sweet Farm Market has been a go to place for a dose of what I need to hear. They've been featuring a very eclectic lineup since opening a year or so ago, but they bring the blues to the stage very often. They not only feature local blues folks like Ben Laskoskie and Aaron Loesch, but have brought in some very talented Austin and Houston musicians. The downtown businesses plotted out a Sunday Funday for the first Sunday of every month full of music, food and fun. Home Sweet Farm's part in that scenario was Sunday Blues Day with Loesch, Austin's Coming Up Muddy and Houston's The Mighty Org. The Mighty Org has been a favorite of mine for a long time, so it made my day that he trekked in from the big city. His original tunes knocked me out and the man can sing.
The Might Org

I missed the band, Coming Up Muddy, but caught them this past Memorial Day. The band consists of Todd Roth playing acoustic guitar, slide, cigar box guitar, harmonica and vocals. Chel Rich accompanies him on drums and they kicked butt, playing a mix of originals and chestnuts from Son House to Muddy Waters with a rendition of Voodoo Child played on the cigar box. Todd knows his book of blues and plays a rack harmonica as good as anyone I've heard.

Coming Up Muddy

I've played Mobius Cafe with Rob Moorman and Company for a number of years, so they are near and dear to my heart. Long time restauranteur and bass player, Henry de la Garza has assumed ownership and is upping the music ante at the venue. He held down the bottom for us at the last gig and never let Moorman's eclectic set list throw him.

Deer Road BBQ has been a barrel of fun since local legend, Sam Murski started a Thursday night jam. Since it is just over the hill from me, I've joined in with my harp more than a time or two. Brickyard Kane featuring Mitch White and guitar wizard Brian Sherer and Sam began swapping out jam nights and those guys can cook. Some fantastic musicians have shown up over the past year.

Anyway--I've run out of steam, so 'Nuff for now.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Oaxacan Kid Goes Live

The Oaxacan Kid hit the Amazon market this past Friday (4/21/17) in e-book format and the paperback version should pop up very soon. Go grab one or the other or both or borrow it from someone who does. I just want it in the hands of readers and I do believe that anyone reading this blog post will find it an enjoyable tale. Leave some feed back here or on Amazon and let me know whether it sucked or rocked or fell somewhere in between.

I have no idea if my crime fighting bluesmen series ran its course or not. It was not an easy decision to leave the adventures of Mitty Andersen and Pete Bolden (my two blues harp blowing protagonists in River Bottom Blues, The Devil's Blues and Howling Mountain Blues) behind and move forward with a stand alone story. Those two characters have been a part of my life for some time now and I'm quite sure that they will re-emerge somewhere down the line. One of the reasons for the move was to attempt to attract an agent this time around and the word seems to be that it's very difficult to get an agent to bite on the fourth book in a series.

Querying the stand alone to agents proved as frustrating as my first attempt with my first book, so I decided just to go back to small press mode. I felt quite sure that my publisher, Barking Rain Press, would agree to a deal, but as I said in the last post, I felt a need to shake things up by submitting to pubs which aimed at the crime fiction market. I researched several such pubs and sent The Oaxacan Kid out on it's mission. Chris McVeigh, chief wrangler of Fahrenheit Press, jumped on the tale first and with enthusiasm, so I wasted no time hopping on board his train. He wasted no time getting my book on the market, so here we go. Sad thing is that two of the pubs I submitted to, and thought highly about, went belly-up. That's another reason I'm beholding to Mr. McVeigh for having faith in my work and making an offer. I been left hanging before when a press folded.

So...I am certainly excited to have a book back out there for my readers to enjoy. Mitty and Pete aren't riding along, but I do think that what Foster Cane gets himself is quite an adventure. Go ahead. Get it. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Oaxacan Kid

On the writing front: My fourth crime novel, The Oaxacan Kid just might be hitting the market by the end of the week. 'Course that depends on the good Lord willing and the creek's not rising. The creeks are rising by the way. It began raining yesterday afternoon and continued through the night. I believe we'll get by without any flooding, but there are some southeast Texas folks that have not been as fortunate. Prayers to them.

Back to The Oaxacan Kid. Chris McVeigh, the publisher of Fahrenheit Press (that's one of their logos above), offered to take on my latest and he's on the verge of unleashing it on the world. I submitted to Fahrenheit Press just to sort of shake things up a bit. It has nothing to do with any kind of dissatisfaction with the publisher of my three crime fighting bluesmen books, Barking Rain Press. I'll always love BRP and owe them a huge debt of gratitude. I just decided to do exactly what I said. Shake things up a bit. So, I sat out looking for a press that focused on the criminal elements of fiction. I ran into Fahrenheit Press and the renegade attitude of Mr. McVeigh and felt somewhat of a kinship with the philosophy adopted by the press. By the time I received an offer of publication, I'd read a couple of books by Fahrenheit authors and was impressed by the talent. Quite possibly by the time anyone gets around to reading this post (since I've neglected it far too long), The Oaxacan Kid will be out there amazing the crime fiction community and kicking butt. Look for it really soon on Amazon and while you are at it grab one of my books in the crime fighting bluesmen series.

Here's a little teaser: Two of his friends are killed, a blues club he’s remodeling burns down, his wife is forced to kill three home intruders, his car is firebombed, and he becomes the target of a Mexican Cartel because of his meddling. It all began because Foster Cane collects old blues recordings, the older the better. It’s a passion that his wife fails to understand and she’s quite amused when he tells her his plans to search an estate sale in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood in Houston. “Couldn’t hurt,” he tells her, and he firmly believes it until he attempts to track down an obscure harmonica player called The Oaxacan Kid.