Friday, December 24, 2010

Time Slips On By

I went out on the proverbial limb last month when I proclaimed that this release by Rich DelGrosso and Jonn Del Toro Richardson oughta be a great one. Now that I have the CD in hand, I can back that up with...this is a great set of fine blues. Time Slips On By represents exactly what I love about the blues; tasteful instrumentation, heartfelt lyrics and solid vocals. It must be  the 'Del' that's a part each of their names that make them such a nice match for each other's vibe. They come at the blues from different directions, like Laurel did with Hardy in comedy, and just like the comedic pair, the blend of their talents makes for a marvelous performance.

They split the songwriting credits pretty evenly on the fourteen cuts offered here, with a couple of collaborations--one of which kicks off Time Slips On By, grooving on an infectious boogie with DelGrosso's mandolin getting the party going. Del Toro Richardson jumps in and helps drive the rhythm with his Silvertone twanging the thang. DelGrosso is a large man and his gruff, low down voice fits him and his Baby Do Wrong perfectly. When he sings, he is the blues. He and Del Toro swap leads back of forth and then in unison (as they do throughout the disc), and then they ride the groove into the Southeast Texas sunset.

The title cut, written by Del Toro R, yanks the mood into a completely opposite direction as the jumping, jiving opener...and it's an epiphany for me to hear just what a fit Del Toro R's vocals are for the soul/blues style. This song reminds me a great deal of the type of stuff that brother's Syl and Jimmy Johnson would get going when they collaborated. The vocals are solid soul, while the guitar licks are stone cold blues. Producer Mark 'Kaz' Kazanoff and his Texas Horns (w/John Mills & Al Gomez) swell up that vintage type of tonal pallette effectively, but it's the sweet vocals that really put the soulful spin on it. What you won't hear in the soul/blues genre is mandolin being picked in and around the flow of such a song, but DelGrosso sure does make it work well; along with a couple of finely picked solos.

I know that I haven't mentioned that this ain't no blues harp album, which is somewhat a departure from the usual here (not always, though). My good buddy, Sonny Boy Terry, does light up DelGrosso's Mandolin Man with fine, fine high end harp work and low end thump on this shufflling tale about Yank Rachell. The lyrics also revolve autobiographically around DelGrosso's explaining why and how such a large man came to play the smallest stringed instrument made. As far as the how, he states that it's all in my touch/ask my baby about that. Sonny Boy also helps put DelGrosso's She's Sweet smack dab into the down-in-the-alley blues with that fatbacked tone of his.

Del Toro R's Katalin epitomizes the blues of the Gulf Coast so well that you can smell the salt in the air while listening to the tune. Also it's helped along by the fact that Katalin hails from Pearland, Texas and Joel Guzman's accordion flavors the gumbo mix. DelGrosso squeezes out some nice slide licks to intro the song along side Del Toro R's chunky rhythmic chords and slips along fine and dandy throughout the cut. Del Toro R's sharp note attacks meshes well with DelGrosso's weaving slide.

Even though the liner notes state that DelGrosso's Shotgun Blues in Yank Rachell inspired, Del Toro R's guitar and The Texas Horns puts the song onto Texas turf. The opening chorus had me imagining Albert Collins pickin' and grinnin' with a couple of saxes and a trumpet driving the tune in a Houston direction. It just has that funky blues groove that the 'Iceman' perfected so well. Del Toro R's doesn't copped Collins here, but being the Houston cat that he is, those stylistic chops just sometimes fly out , but then he'll take off into a differently blues zone from his own lick vocabulary.

Where's Laura is an instrumental that takes a left turn into more of a jazzy territory. I'm not a guitar gear type of guy, but my thought is that Del Toro R is pushing his sound through an octave pedal in order to achieve the watery tone that effectively set the mood. DelGrosso proves that he can make that old 'taterbug' get a jazz groove on and they let Gomez rip a trumpet solo.

If I caught Summertime Is Here on the radio and didn't know better, I definitely would think that David Hildago was singing the song with his Los Lobos compadres. My feelings is that Jonn Del Toro Richardson is touching base with his roots on this one. Again, Guzman's accordion really helps with the setting of the tune, along with Del Grosso's fleet mandolin picking. I could almost see the barbeque smoke drifting through the air as the song eased along.

Then Robert Cray jumps to mind once Del Toro R opens his mouth on The Real Deal and picks his guitar notes out on his fretboard. Did I mention that the man can do the soul blues thing? Yeah, he proves once again that he can sing it and sing it well. DelGrosso stretches out with some fine picking mid-song. You know, I have some of Yank Rachell and Johnny Young's stuff, but Del Grosso has taken the blues mandolin to a different level than those two--I'm way more of a fan of that little thing now.

He really wounds up the 'taterbug' on Good Rockin' Johnny, which I assume is an instrumental honoring Johnny Young. He and Del Toro R banter licks to a fro for a rollicking good time with mighty fine string bending and it sounds like they are jamming on Chicago's southside.

Del Toro R shifts his vocal timbre into blues mode on Baby Please, which impresses the heck out of me. I'd have never pegged the guy singing Time Slips By and Baby Please to be the same person. He may not have the same range as John Nemeth, but he does shed stylistic moods just as well. It's this I-IV-V, twelve bar pattern that hook me on the blues in the first place and these two guys seem to be in their element when they wade off into one and commence to sharing licks. This is fitting finale for Time Slips By and sums up the interplay between two great musicians. So, save some of that Christmas money for one of the best releases of 2011--due out on January 18.
Check 'em out here: and

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Texas y'all.

P.S.--Thought I'd give a shout out to promoter Mark Pucci, who sent me this disc along with fine releases by Joanne Shaw Taylor and Jim Byrnes. I'm really digging on the Byrnes' Everywhere West right now. Did I mention that Jonn Del Toro Richardson is one of my favorite guitarists and has been since his Cactus Moon jams. Well, he is.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ty Curtis Band

Never heard of these guys until a cut came on B.B. King's Bluesville satellite radio station and I just had to find out who the harp player might be. He's Hank Shreve and plays with the Ty Curtis Band and they hail from the Pacific Northwest. Man, there sure seems to be an abundance of toneful harpmen from that part of the world. I don't post a whole lot of vids, but I had to share this one from the International Blues Challenge finals a year or so ago. They placed second.  Music starts at the 1:39 mark.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Grammy Blues

Somewhere along the line I lost interest in the Grammy Awards. Maybe it was the year that I saw Jethro Tull nominated in the Heavy Metal category. Or maybe it was the year that Michael Jackson's glove dominated ALL the categories. I do always check out the blues nominees to see if the Grammy folks have any common sense about what is what. They never cease to amaze me, but I guess they try. Here's the 2011 lineup:

Best Traditional Blues Album

1. James Cotton - Giant!
2. Cyndi Lauper - Memphis Blues
3. Charlie Musselwhite - The Well
4. Pinetop Perkins & Willie "Big Eyes" Smith - Joined At the Hip
5. Jimmie Vaughan - Play Blues, Ballads, & Favorites

Best Contemporary Blues Album
1. Solomon Burke - Nothing's Impossible
2. Dr. John - Tribal
3. Buddy Guy - Living Proof
4. Bettye LaVette - Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook
5. Kenny Wayne Shepherd with Bryan Lee, Buddy Flett, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, and Hubert Sumlin - Live In Chicago

Cyndi Lauper! What the hell! Sorry, there were just waaay to many fantastic traditional blues albums released to throw down the girl just wanting to have fun in the category. I applaud her for doing the blues thang, but not for a Grammy. Not for a blues Grammy. I'll pull for my harp buddies, Musselwhite or Cotton to grab this one.

I also don't think that Dr. John nor Bettye LaVette belong on the Contemporary blues list. Again, waaay too many "real" blues licks were put down on those recording devices to choose these two efforts. Both great artists (as is Lauper), but neither album fits the genre. Never was a big fan, but since Solomon Burke passed away recently, he'd get my sympathy vote--and the man could sing the blues.

AND, I guess another reason that I quit paying much attention to the Grammy is that I recognized fewer and fewer names each time out, BUT--what the heck is going on here:

1. Eric Clapton-Run Back To Your Side
2. Paul McCartney-Helter Skelter
3. Robert Plant-Silver Rider
4. Neil Young-Angry World
5. John Mayer-Crossroads

HEY, what happened? I know all these geezers (even John Mayer's playing a pre-war blues tune). Must mean that Rock is an ancient genre or something, huh? I dunno. Quite puzzled. THEN there's this:
Jeff Beck's name is all over the place for best instrumental, best rock duo or group, best rock album (along with Neil Young's LeNoise). And then again, there's the Robert Plant album's inclusion in the Best Americana Album slot. Well, I guess if the Brit can sing the blues, then he can sing Americana too--whatever that may be. He's up against Willie, so I don't think he'll win it. They do have The Black Keys thrown into a couple of categories, so I'll pull for those young pups.

AND, if they'd feature at least half of those blues artists, I'd tune into the show. They won't, but you can better Cyndi Lauper will be knockin' out some Rollin' and Tumblin' on prime time. Maybe she'll have Musselwhite in tow again. Let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Have a Greasy Christmas

Just spotted these over at Bluebeat Music's website. They've got to be a hoot 'n a half. I'd say if they can't get a Christmas party rockin', then nothing will.

Kid Andersen & Friends- Christmas At Greaseland- RED VOLUME

[ Greaseland1225 ]

Star studded Christmas spectacular!!!!!! featuring RICK ESTRIN- PAUL OSCHER- SID MORRIS- RUSTY ZINN & LISA LEU ANDERSEN...................

1. Rudolph The Funky Reindee
2. Santa Claus (w/ RICK ESTRIN)
3. Norwegian Christmas Medley
4. IN The Barn Sits Santa With His Christmas Porridge
5. Precious Lord Take My Hand (w/ LISA LEU ANDERSEN)
6. Silent Muddy Night (w/ RICK ESTRIN)
7. Run Run Rudolph
8. Sad Sad Christmas (w/ PAUL OSCHER)
9. Cristo Redentor
10. Introduction
11. Akevitt Boogie

Kid Andersen & Friends- Christmas At Greaseland-

[ Greaseland1224 ]

A star studded Christmas spectacular!!!!! SPECIAL GUESTS- ELVIN BISHOP- RICK ESTRIN- JOHN NEMETH- MARK HUMMEL & RUSTY ZINN................

1. Santas Messing With The Kid (w/ Rusty Zinn- Elvin Bishop & Mark Hummel)
2. Merry Christmas Baby
3. Enebaerblues (w/ Terry Hanck)
4. Deilig Er Jorden
5. O Jul Med Din Gled
6. Whiskey Head Buddies (w/ Elvin Bishop)
7. Jingle Bells
8. Christmas Tears (W/ John Nemeth)
9. Santa Claus Is Coming To Play (w/ Terry Hanck)
10. Oh Holy Night

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Jimmy 'T-99' Nelson Scholarship Fundraiser

Here's another fine blues show for a great fundraising event hosted by the Houston Blues Society. No one was more respected in the blues community than Jimmy 'T-99' Nelson and is more repected today than Texas Johnny Brown.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Some Texans Really Suck At The Blues

Hah! Most of the time when exclaiming the virtues of a talented blues harmonica player, most of us will say something like, "Man! You can really blow that thang!" In response, most will not answer the compliment with, "Well, technically, I suck on the thang...more than blow." They're not going to get into a treatise on playing "cross harp" or second position, which means that most of the notes needed to get that soulful tone will have to be inhaled and played with before they exhale anything back out the blow hole. I'm not going to expound upon it either. Just wanted to explain the sucky title and spit out a list of some Texans who suck at the blues (harp), because lots of folks get the idea that Texas bluesmen are all guitar slingers. Some of these suckers are really well known, some not, some play strictly blues, some not, some were born here, some not, some have moved to a foreign state, some not...but they've all devoted a good portion of their lives to sucking on that thang and Texas figures into the mix somewhere down the line. And, many on this list influenced me to suck at it also.

1. Kim Wilson--yeah, I know. He wasn't born here and may not live here any longer, but I cut my teeth on the blues that he sucked on at clubs like, The LaCucuracha and Rome Inn in Austin with the The Fabulous Thunderbirds. NOBODY sucks like he does.

2. Gary Primich--sadly, no longer with us, but he had Little Walter's genius for innovating ways to suck more variety out of those ten holes.

3. Sonny Boy Terry--been sucking it up in the big H-Town for a long enough time to be THE BLUES in Houston. He's sort of a legendary Gulf Coast Blues groover now.

4. Paul Orta--he may spend more time in Europe than his native Port Arthur, but to me,  he was doing the  'real deal', authentic Chicago style, nasty ol' amped up sucking in Texas before anyone else. He had Little Walter, Big Walter, and the Sonny Boy Williamson stuff down pat back in the '70s.

5. Sam Myers--yeah, I know  he's from Mississippi, but he spent his years playing with Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets living and jammin' in Big D. The Deacon of the Delta lived closer to the Trinity River than the Mississippi River for a long period of time before passing on.

6. Billy Bizor--long gone and forgotten by some, but remembered by most Houston blues fans. He sucked some kind of rollicking stuff back in the day.

7. Jukeboy Bonner--no one related to his Houston environment like Weldon 'Jukeboy' Bonner. He told it like it was when he sang about staying off Lyons Avenue. Born in Bellville, Texas, he kept a lot of those country roots when he moved to the bright lights of the big city.

8. Darrell Nulisch--preceded Sam Myers as Anson Funderburgh's singer/sucker. He's in the same company with Kim Wilson, Tad Robinson and John Nemeth who have the vocal chops to swing effortlessly from hard core gutbucket blues through R&B and soul blues to match their exquisite harp sucking.

9. Dave Nevling--sucks some great tone with great technique while also channelin' that Gulf Coast vibe that rubbed off from his internship with Bert Wills.

10. Tommy 'Big Daddy Gumbo' Dardar--put him, Sonny Boy Terry and Dave Nevlingd in the same room, sucking on harp reeds and nobody'd have to explain what I mean about Texas Gulf Coast Blues--you'll smell like crab boil and red beans & rice before you leave. He's celebrating his 60th b-day at The Big Easy Friday. Might be a good way to work off a little turkey.

11. Christian Dozzler--yeah, I know he's from Austria, but DFW has been his home base for a long time and he's played with just about everyone up yonder in North Texas. Plays a lot of keyboard with others, but he can suck it up darned good when called upon and when leading his own band.

12. Hash Brown--one of Dozzler's running buddies. Guitar's his main axe, but he pulls the harpoon from his bandana plenty of times and gets down on  it.

13. Steve Krase--was Jerry Lightfoot's sidekick, touches on Magic Dick's rockin' style...not many bluesmen can pull off covering Uriah Heep in their shows.

14. Randy McAllister--one of those dudes that can do a little bit of it all. Sing his butt off while banging a snare while sucking a blues harp up yonder around DFW.

15. Stephen Schneider--mild mannered professor by day, badass harp sucker by night. Straightened out more blues jams around Houston than anyone I know. Plus he's got licks on a Grammy winning blues album. Learned everything I know about harp amps and tongue blocking from the Professor.

16. Larry Bernal--Sonny Boy Terry prodigy who's doing his mentor proud by gettin' her down with the HTown Jukes.

17. Gary Sapone--watched him suck notes while holding a harp mic upside down at a Houston area HOOT seminar (Harmonica Organization Of Texas). The fat tone came out right-side up though.

18. Tom McClendon--runs The Big Easy Pleasure and Social Club in Houston. One of Texas' finest blues joints. He gets it going at his weekly jams.

19. Hamilton Loomis--been doing it way before he was old enough to enter a bar. Way talented multi-instrumentalist and his vacuum cleaner microphone holder really gets the sucking action going. Another product of Sonny Boy Terry's school of harp instruction.

20. Rob Roy Parnell--not gonna mention that he's Lee Roy's little brother. I know he's proud of that, but Rob Roy's his own man with his own thang. One heck of a singer, songwriter and harp sucker.

21. Walter T. Higgs--followed Clifford Antone from Port Arthur at some point. He's puts on a wild and woolly show.

22. Ted Roddy--doesn't matter whether he was leading Teddy and The Talltops, The Tearjoint Troubadours or Teddy and the Hitkickers, this Austin cat can swing honky tonk, rockabilly, rock'n'roll, or blues. Does a kick-butt annual Tribute to Elvis.

Sure I know that this is far from a definitive list of blues suckers from deep in the heart of Texas. I know for a fact, that as I type and as you read, someone's sucking up the blues right now in Port Arthur, Corpus, San Antone, McAllen, Lufkin, Amarillo, Alpine and all points in between. There are HOOT communities all over the place and I guarantee  that they all have members that'll knock your socks off with their sucking. They just might not venture very far to prove it, or desire to do so. Bottom line--that I thought I'd put some Texas cats on a blue harp list.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rich DelGrosso/Jonn Del Toro Richardson

This is gonna be a good 'un. I first got wind of these two collaborating back when Sonny Boy Terry ask if I wanted to travel up to Austin and hang out while he added a few harmonica licks to their recording session. I didn't make it, but I sure ain't missing out when this disc, Time Slips On By, is released on January 18, 2011.

Now, if you haven't heard Rich DelGrosso or Jonn Del Toro Richardson, then be darned sure for a New Year's resolution that making up for that is on the list. Jonn turned my ear back in the day when I showed up a jam session that he ran. He immediately impressed me, playing blues guitar the way that I think it should be played. Of course, he's impressed plenty of others along the way. DelGrosso's Outta My Business blew me away with his blues mandolin in the traditon of Yank Rachell and Johnny Young. No one picks that 'taterbug' like he does. I'll be back with more on these two aces when this release is released.

Their websites tell the story better that I can so go to: and 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

One More Time For BLUES FOR FOOD

Here's a great promo poster for the November 14 Blues For Food at Shakespeare Pub and a reminder just in case anyone forgot.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Billy B & John P

Authorly things jumped in my path to purchasing more blues music for my birthday last month. One of those Kindle e-readers came my way as a gift and I set about spending b-day money on e-books instead of blues. Nevermind that I haven't read all the papermade books that I bought back in June for Father's Day. Never thought that I'd get into buying more books than blues music, but I guess my thinking is that it'll make me a better writer.

Every once in awhile, during a hiatus from buying blues music, I'll try to remind myself that I have tons of blues music aroung the house, so I'll grab something off the shelf and give it a spin. It'll also remind me that there's some fine musicians that I need to dust off more often. Lots of times it's just a random grab, but this time I went looking for John Primer's The Real Deal because it was my absolute favorite blues release back in--wow, was it really 1995. Can't believe it's been that long ago. What impressed me the most was that the title lived up to it's name--the CD was chock full of stone cold, solid blues played with conviction. It represented John Primer's step up to the majors in terms of recording contracts. The Code Blue label was a subidiary of Atlantic/Warner records, Mike Vernon producing a great bit of those releases.  The fact that Primer had Billy Branch on board whipping up blues harp notes Chi-town style had me listening to the release fairly consistently.

The problem back then was that I reviewed a slew of CDs back during that period, with many being sent to me with expectations of a quick turnaround for the review. My ears were bleeding the blues, so plenty of releases hit rotated through my head, then headed for the 'reviewed' stack. Not The Real Deal, because Primer and Branch played my kind of blues to a tee. It also reminded me just how much I liked Billy Branch's blowing, who I heard for the first time on Johnny Winter's 1990 return to the blues on Guitar Slinger. The man met the challenge of  keeping up with the Great Albino and help ground the album in deep blues. Sittin' and listening to The Real Deal again over the past couple of days also reminded me that I haven't bought anything by either of these guys since then, except on the ensemble cast represented on the YouTube clip here and the CD Chicago Blues: A Living History which I reveiwed last year. These two guys highlighted that double live recording for me.

Primer's newest album is called All Original, because it features, well, Primer originals, but The Real Deal featured half a program of well written tunes in the vein of Magic Slim (his ex-boss) and Willie Dixon. So, even though he forayed into covering other artists, such as the Elmore James tribute, Blue Steel (and by the way, he's a heck of a slide guitarist), he's always had a powerful blues pen. Now, I'm sort of departing from this being a regular review type review. I guess this is more to remind myself (and others), just how potent Primer and Branch were on this release fifteen years back and to remind me that I need some new blues--by both these guys. Heck, I don't even know if it's still available any longer, but I guarantee that it is worth seeking out---and then go do what I'm going to do. Get some of their new stuff, like I plan to do.

As an addendum, since I have Primer on my mind, I heard some really fat, fat toned harp on sat radio's BB King Bluesville being played by Bill Wax. Something I'd never heard before, so I stopped all activities in hopes that Bill called out the artist's name. This guy just flat slipped up on me and the band played some kind of knocked out Chicago style blues. I had to go to to find out that Swississippi Chris Harper had rounded up Jimmy Burns, Bob Stroger, Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith, and John Primer for a foray into that type of blues on Four Aces and a Harp. I'll leave it at that, because that's all the info I have right now--but I plan to investigate (and invest) a lot deeper into the music from this guy. I'll check him out and get back later, but with these guys on board, it's got to be killer.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Blues For Food 'Round The Corner

Here's a re-post as a reminder that a very special afternoon/evening of blues music is fast approaching. I guarantee that you'll not find a better blues show than this it contributes to an very worthy cause. Formatting's still a little screwy, but the message it here.

I'm passing along this e-mail message from Sonny Boy Terry in regards to a fine Blues Party held each year to help stock the Houston Food Bank. This is certainly a smokin' lineup of blues artists giving back to the community for an excellent cause. If you've never been, then go and enjoy some great music while contributing to those less fortunate than ourselves. You'll not likely ever experience such a great collective of musical talent on display in one room anywhere else, unless you've been before and you decide to attend again. Be there. Excuse my formatting-the message didn't translate exactly right, but the message is clear.

Please join us for our 20th annual BLUES FOR FOOD FEST 2010, Houston's

oldest grass roots music festival and charity. Originated by the late blues

singer and KPFT blues deejay, Big Roger Collins back in 1991 when he held

several a year, BLUES FOR FOOD has donated over 160 thousand lbs of food and over 100 thousand dollars to the HOUSTON FOOD BANK. Still going strong and by any estimation BLUES FOR FOOD is now officially a genuine living

historical Houston event held just before each holiday season at Shakespeare Pub. That's right, each year, forty or more blues musicians, Shakespeare Pub, a hundred or so eager volunteers and thousands of donors join forces to keep a tradition alive making a difference in our city.

As the legend of BLUES FOR FOOD grows, to celebrate 20 years AND COUNTING, we felt we needed to up the ante and get bluesier while doing something special for 2010. So TO GO WITH AN ENTIRE DAY OF REAL DEAL HOUSTON BLUES, we asked the incredible Little Joe Washington to perform and co-headline along with blues powerhouse vocalist Diunna Greenleaf and her band BLUES MERCY W/Jonn Richardson on guitar. But that is just the beginning of a fantastic day of blues and goodwill. Yes, Shakespeare Pub is a juke joint in Memorial,but BLUES FOR FOOD is set up like a real all day blues fest taking up just about a whole block. And all the bands come to play like they mean it, bring their A bands and always in showcase fashion. So if you want to have some fun with a heavy dose of the real blues, bring non perishable food items,cash, checks, memorabilia and auction items. Plus we feed you SOME VERY GOOD BBQ too!

The entire day's events are listed below.









1PM Bourbon Street

2PM Don Kesee and the Blues masters (Bellville, TX)

3PM - Erin James and her Bad Habits(Austin)

3:45PM Mojofromopolis

4:30PM Texas Johnny Brown and his Quality Blues Band



6:45PM - Sonny Boy Terry Band

7:30PM John McVey and the Stumble

8:15PM Snit's Dog and Pony Show

9PM - Spare Time Murray and the Honeydrippers WORLD FAMOUS BLUES JAM All
blues musicians welcome on this special night.

www/ www/ CALL SONNY BOY TERRY AT 713.869.7746 or
email at CALL SHAKESPEARE PUB AT 281.497.4625 Details
about volunteer participation forthcoming.
Thanks in advance for everybody's support as we continue this great HOUSTON

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Just a short note to say that I'm excited to see my first ever author interview posted at I appreciate the folks over there allowing me to share the tale of a rookie writer. Starting to feel a bit more like an actual author now. I've just finished wading through the third edits for River Bottom Blues and it's taking shape as an actual book. The publisher's senior board will give it a run through and get it back to me at some point for more read throughs and cover design ideas will be tossed around and..and...some day it'll be published with my name on it. Yahoo!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Kid Andersen's Stories

As my next birthday rapidly approaches I'm reminded that I never did discuss Kid Andersen's music as promised. Well, not promised, but I said I would after witnessing just what he could do with a guitar in Rick Estrin's Nightcats just about a year ago--and after downloading his albums The Dreamer and Greaseland to my iPod. Now, I could claim that I've been too caught up with writing fiction, reading fiction and reading about writing fiction, and that would be sorta true. BUT, I think the real reason is that I've never really been able to get my arms around what it is that Kid Andersen exactly does with the music. Description eludes the man and his music, but he is a novelist. He just tells his American tale in his songs--even though he was born and raised in Norway.

Greaseland has been tagged in the liner notes as being "a concept album describing the life of a broke, disillusioned drunkard musician who loves to have a good time, but is overcome with the blues". Okay, that's it, 'nuff said and it comes real close, but he displays so much more and it's just difficult to put into words. He puts it all into words very well, though, and when he not spinning his story lyrically, which bounces between dark depressive depths to a "party on dude" attitude, he's prancing it out with his guitar. His stories deal with the exciting highs and the resulting hangovers of life both lyrically and instrumentally. He embraces cliches with zesto, but wrings them out with plenty of originality. It's as if he and Kurt Vonnegut collaborated on his verses. Instrumentally, it would be he and EVERYbody who's ever plucked six strings--that's how wide his palette seems to be. Okay, I tried.

One minute "The Kid" wallows around with The Dirt People and it's most likely because he's feeling lower than dirt at the time. The next minute he's picking a million miles a minute on Mexican Kid!, which revs up the action that only a Dick Dale could only imagine--surf turf with a latin tinge. He'll go back down low and prove his blues guitar mettle on Peter Green's Jumping At Shadows (one of my favs from Fleetwood Mac) and then rip it with a Magic Sam style feeling alright groove on Greaseland Boogie, which basically recounts living the life of easeland at Greaseland where they party hardy without a care nowhere. Ex-employer Charlie Musselwhite even gets in on the preceeding with some of his signature harp licks bouncing around the studio. That's the story morning glory--he'll incite the partying with C'mon Johnny, Let's Hit That Town and then regret doing such on I'm Tired, deadtired, dogtired, too tired--but he'll still go get him a jug of wine to help face the day.

His vocal chops remind me a lot of Charlie Musselwhite's--not much range, but a ton of emotion. The slight gruffness in his voice, barely more than a speaking timbre, fits his songs very well. He sings plenty about women. Singing Jennifer, Jennifer, he warns the gal that "I smoke and I drink and do all the things you hate" and that he's a "bad motherf*&%$ who likes to stay out late". Jennifer just thinks that she knows what awaits her.No need in reminding what Skip James' Devil Got My Woman is all about, just that Kid nails the otherworldly vibe that only Skip James conjured up. Brandy! kicks off like a Freddy King instrumental, but is only declaring the sweetest thing that he ever did see, because when he was feeling low down and dirty, she came by and got him drunk. What a gal pal! He certainly squeezes the joy from his strings, along with some nice blues harp call and response by Richard Gjems.

Along the way, the Kid throws down other drinking tunes like The Bender and his ode to Whiskey!. He has those party tunes cranking with plenty of musical twists and turns--and plenty of times within the same song. Hard to predict where he's going when he gets going. I'd say that some of Junior Watson's idiosyncracies rubbed off on him while tooling around the West Coast. The Kid does issue a caution before all the partying gets rolling on the deep vibed, atmospheric It's Dark In Here. Nice blues harp helps provide an eery mood to the song along with Kid's echoing tones. My hope is that most of his Greaseland story is fictional.

The Dreamer and Greaseland would make perfect companions in a two disc set. Bookends if you will. The Dreamer is more about redemption and optimism. He looking for that better day, but wishing for old values at the same time. There are still songs about drinking Rocket Fuel, but he balances that out with tunes such as A Better Day and Take It Slow. The latter sounds as if he's melding Roy Orbison's Candy Man with Willie Cobbs Don't Love Me with Chuck Berry's Memphis thrown in for good measure and then some Earl Hooker style wah-wah slipped into the mix. The acoustic harp definitely gets the Candy Man thang going on. I love the former for the B.B. King licks that he jabs out and just the solid blues being laid out.  I think his masterpiece, though, has to be Dig The Pain. No, maybe, The Dreamer, I think that The Nightmare...Well, never-the-hell-mind. A bunch of his songs twist my mind. I'm not even going to try to describe the ten minute The Nightmare (No Where To Turn), but I love it and the deep harp licks he lets into the song. Dig The Pain starts out with a great slapped bass rhythm and then he slams it and jams it and fills it full of wicked word play. Some really nice blues harp helps set the tone again. I don't know who is blowing, because these are iPod tunes with no listings for who is who. There is too many tongue blocked notes and slaps for it to be Charlie Musselwhite and I did hear that Mark Hummel played on some it, but regardless, the harp tones are righteous-especially on the nasty solo within The Nightmare.

Serves Me Right To Suffer takes John Lee Hooker and throws down some Buddy Guy tonal slinging along with a bit of Sonny Boy Williamson II in the lyrical mix and match and it is so exquisite. Along the way, some fingerpicked acoustic seeps into the background, then takes the foreground, and then a back seat to some more electric bamm. Danged it, I can't write while this plays. Speaking of mashing styles, take that Buddy Guy style tone and mash it with some Sly Stone and stir in a pinch of Booker T & the MGs and you'll have Soul City.

Okay--that's it! I quit! This exhausted me. Just get Chrisoffer 'Kid' Andersen's stuff and forget you ever read this review. Decide for yourself where the Kid is coming from, but I do know this--the boy can play the guitar. 'Nuff for now.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

RIVER BOTTOM BLUES' Official Acquisition Press Release

I posted about signing my publishing contract for RIVER BOTTOM BLUES back in August, but there's just something a bit more exciting about seeing the official acquisition announcement--especially seeing my name following the word "author". Plus, for the first time, it really feels real (if you know what I mean). I've got to stick in a shout out for my editor, Ti Locke. I do believe that she understands the blues and the tale that I'm telling and working with her has been a pleasure. Well, here's my BSP (blatant self promotion):

Virtual Tales, a privately held publisher of general and genre fiction in print and e-formats, announced the acquisition of the worldwide print and electronic publishing rights for the murder mystery novel RIVER BOTTOM BLUES from noted blues reviewer Richard Bush. Mr. Bush’s articles have highlighted the careers of blues musicians in magazines such as Blues Access, Hittin’ the Note, Southwest Blues and the American Harmonica Newsmagazine. He has written hundreds of reviews of recorded blues music and brings his view of the blues to readers at his blog.

Set in the gritty milieu of the Southeast Texas blues scene, RIVER BOTTOM BLUES tells the story of blues musician Mitty Andersen, who refuses to accept that drugs killed his good friend and fellow blues musician Bobby Tarleton. Bobby’s star-status in the blues world was smoking hot, and Mitty knows that his buddy never touched the stuff. Can Mitty find out what really happened and clear Bobby’s good name?

RIVER BOTTOM BLUES has been assigned to Virtual Tales staff editor Ti Locke of Decatur Island, Washington. Publication in both print and eBook formats is anticipated for the second half of 2011. Interested readers can sign up to preview the first four chapters of RIVER BOTTOM BLUES for free by visiting the Virtual Tales website, or by sending an email request.

Virtual Tales is a privately held partnership founded in 2006 to publish original works of general and genre fiction in multiple formats, including print, eBooks and eSerials. Trade paperbacks are available through, Barnes & Noble and other outlets throughout the world. eBooks are offered in a variety of formats, including MobiPocket, Microsoft Reader, Amazon/Kindle, ePub and PDA-formatted Adobe Reader files. eSerials are delivered through email as Adobe Reader files suitable for reading on a PC, Mac, PDA, e-reader, cell phone or other devices. Virtual Tales is based in Vancouver, Washington, just north of Portland, Oregon on the west coast of the United States.

Heres the official link:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Blues For Food Fest 2010

I'm passing along this e-mail message from Sonny Boy Terry in regards to a fine Blues Party held each year to help stock the Houston Food Bank. This is certainly a smokin' lineup of blues artists giving back to the community for an excellent cause. If you've never been, then go and enjoy some great music while contributing to those less fortunate than ourselves. You'll not likely ever experience such a great collective of musical talent on display in one room anywhere else, unless you've been before and you decide to attend again. Be there. Excuse my formatting-the message didn't translate exactly right, but the message is clear.

Please join us for our 20th annual BLUES FOR FOOD FEST 2010, Houston's
oldest grass roots music festival and charity. Originated by the late blues
singer and KPFT blues deejay, Big Roger Collins back in 1991 when he held
several a year, BLUES FOR FOOD has donated over 160 thousand lbs of food and over 100 thousand dollars to the HOUSTON FOOD BANK. Still going strong and by any estimation BLUES FOR FOOD is now officially a genuine living
historical Houston event held just before each holiday season at Shakespeare Pub. That's right, each year, forty or more blues musicians, Shakespeare Pub, a hundred or so eager volunteers and thousands of donors join forces to keep a tradition alive making a difference in our city.

As the legend of BLUES FOR FOOD grows, to celebrate 20 years AND COUNTING,
we felt we needed to up the ante and get bluesier while doing something
special for 2010. So TO GO WITH AN ENTIRE DAY OF REAL DEAL HOUSTON BLUES, we asked the incredible Little Joe Washington to perform and co-headline along with blues powerhouse vocalist Diunna Greenleaf and her band BLUES MERCY W/Jonn Richardson on guitar. But that is just the beginning of a fantastic day of blues and goodwill. Yes, Shakespeare Pub is a juke joint in Memorial,but BLUES FOR FOOD is set up like a real all day blues fest taking up just about a whole block. And all the bands come to play like they mean it, bring their A bands and always in showcase fashion. So if you want to have some fun with a heavy dose of the real blues, bring non perishable food items,cash, checks, memorabilia and auction items. Plus we feed you SOME VERY GOOD
BBQ too!

The entire day's events are listed below.



1PM Bourbon Street

2PM Don Kesee and the Blues masters (Bellville, TX)

3PM - Erin James and her Bad Habits(Austin)

3:45PM Mojofromopolis

4:30PM Texas Johnny Brown and his Quality Blues Band



6:45PM - Sonny Boy Terry Band

7:30PM John McVey and the Stumble

8:15PM Snit's Dog and Pony Show

9PM - Spare Time Murray and the Honeydrippers WORLD FAMOUS BLUES JAM All
blues musicians welcome on this special night.

www/ www/ CALL SONNY BOY TERRY AT 713.869.7746 or

email at CALL SHAKESPEARE PUB AT 281.497.4625 Details

about volunteer participation forthcoming.

Thanks in advance for everybody's support as we continue this great HOUSTON


Monday, September 20, 2010

Little Walter Video

Here's a link to a Little Walter video that I've never seen before. It certainly shows that the man was still capable of swinging the blues on his harp when many had dismissed him as washed up. Thanks to Hash Brown for post this for a Harp-L discussion post.

Little Walter

Thursday, September 16, 2010

This 'n' That Snippets

Got into a pretty good groove working on my latest crime story and my assigned editor began sending me chapters from River Bottom Blues to get that process rolling, so I thought that I'd better drive by the blog while I had a minute and plop down a few snippets.

My good buddy, blues harp wiz and singer extraordinaire, Rob Roy Parnell gave be a heads up that his wife, Wendy's book was on the market. It's a wonderful children's book inspired by the Joe Ely song, Musta Notta Gotta Lotta Sleep Last Night. Matter of fact, that's the title of the book and it may just be the first Joe Ely song that caught my attention back in the day. Well, anyway, the story follows Buddy Brown's calamity of a school day after his cat, Lucky, keeps him awake all night. She tells the tale in rhyme as Buddy is followed from one mishap to another in a cautionary story of the importance of getting enough sleep eye.
Wendy's brother, Guy Hundere, captures the characters colorfully with his illustrations.

No, I did not buy it for myself. My daughter, Erica, presented us with our first granddaughter this past May. So, when she old enough to be read to by her grandpa, Wendy's book will be one of the first. Click here to order a copy.

Then there's my blues harp buddy from Houston, Sonny Boy Terry, who helped orchestrate that Guinness Book of World's Records harmonica event at the Astros' L.A. Dodger's game on September 10th. Sounds like everyone had a marvelous time, but the Astros decided wait until the 11th inning to lose, and they lost a number of fans along the way---including the number needed to break the records. Oh well, best laid plans. BUT--here's a picture by Jim Pierce documenting Michael Rubin, Ronnie Shellist, Sonny Boy and Gary Allegretto doing the pre-game 'Take Me Out To The Ballgame'.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

10,000 Maniacs? No, Harmonica Players!

Just a short reminder that a group of harmonica loving individuals will attempt to set a Guinness World's Record by getting 10,000 harmonicas playing the blues at Minute Maid Park. Eat your heart out fans of South African soccer, these folks will be blowin REAL music on REAL instruments. There's gonna be fireworks, music, mom, baseball and apple pie (or at least hot dogs) and off course a good ol' fashion whipping of the LA Dodgers by YOUR Houston Astros. Houston blues harp star, Sonny Boy Terry has rounded up a venue across the street for an after game blues jam.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wish List of Blues

Oh, since I've been pre-occupied with things related to my novel being accepted for publication, I haven't had time bite down on the blues lately. Today, I thought that I'd stroll through www and see what might be out there that I may have to have--eventually or tomorrow or whatever. I do believe that the following will contain some butt kicking, fat toned, blues harp blowing:

Big Walter Horton
Blues Harmonica Giant
JSP Records

I've got most everything that this blues giant has recorded, but this box set of 3 cd will put a lot of the music into one place. Can't go wrong with Big Walter.
Junior Wells & The Aces
Live In Boston 1966
Delmark Records

Notice that I'm starting with the blue harp legends. Junior Wells live with the Myers brothers can't be passed up, so I think this just may be another 'must have'. This is during the same time period that his desert island classic, Hoodoo Man Blues was released.

Charlie Musselwhite
The Well
Alligators Records

Charlie was one of the blues harp players that I saw live and in person. He blew me away and continues to do so. I've heard The Well on the radio and it is his well known tale about finding sobriety after hearing the story of 18 month Jessica McClure falling and being trapped in a well pipe in Midland, Texas. Her courage gave him courage and he tells it in song here, which includes a whole program of songs from Charlie's pen.

Mitch Kasmar & The Pontiax
Delta Groove

Way back when, I picked up a copy of Mitch Kasmar's Crazy Mixed Up World and became an immediate fan of the man. The recording covered a slew of Little Walter's songs, but I knew that he had more in him than just cloning the master. My research indicated that he had a previous, well received, recording with his band, The Pontiax. I tried my darnest to get my hands on a copy, but it was totally out of print, so I never did. Now, comes along his current label, the spiffy Delta Groove, who has the wisdom to re-master and re-release this first effort. I'm expecting it to be darned good.

John Nemeth
Name The Day
Blind Pig

John Nemeth frustrates me because I want him to stick his blues harp in his mouth on every tune on every record. He won't do it. Hard to blame him, when the man just might have the best damn vocals for the blues, soul or rhythm & blues. So, he mixes that stuff up and he's so good at it that I love his releases, even though I don't consider myself much of a soul/r&b fan. He just flat bowls you over with his singing. BUT, when he does put harp to mouth...then look the hell out, because the man can blow.

Maybe, when I slow down long enough to buy what may be gems of the blues, I report back with my opinion. In the meantime, don't take my word for it...beat me to it. 'Nuff for now.

Monday, August 23, 2010

River Bottom Blues "LIVES"

Well, it's official. I can actually say that I've begun my second career as a practicing novelist. You know, the same way that I refer to myself as a practicing Catholic. Of course (and those who have hung around with me here long enough know), I've been practicing at the craft for some time. Only now, though, it's for real. My novel, RIVER BOTTOM BLUES, has been offered a contract for publication by a small, but dedicated bunch of folks at Virtual Tales (check out the sidebar or click here). As soon as the editor, assigned by the publisher, contacts me, I'll be practicing my buns off with several rounds of edits and all sorts of tasks preparing the book for the market.

My wife reminded me that I told her soon after we met that I planned to write a book someday. Well, over thirty years later...but, like the cliche (have to learn to avoid those now) goes, "better late than never". So, if the good lord's willing and the creeks don't rise (dang, another cliche), I'll be a published author soon. I'll be back with my progress as it flows through the pipe. 'Nuff for now.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

World's Record Harmonica Blowoff

How 'bout this...10,000 harmonica players blowing blues riffs at a baseball game and setting a Guinness Book World's Record (held in Japan at the moment)while doing it. Hey, and you can be part of it and watch YOUR Houston Astros beat up on the Los Angeles Dodgers on September 10th, 7:05 pm. Hey, and they'll give you a harmonica at the gate to wail away on. Might sound like a bunch of angry hornets turned loose in downtown Houston, ya think? I don't have a heck of a lot of details (other than show up and blow), but I do know that Sonny Boy Terry and a couple of other Houston blues cats with be leading the masses on how to play a down and dirty set of riffs. I also know that the Pocket Full of Soul guys are ramrodding the logistics, so go over to for more details as they come out. While you're there, be sure to get a copy of the greatest harmonica documentary...ever.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Another Man Done Gone

Man, it seems every week brings about bad news for the blues. The bluesmen responsible for igniting my love for the music seem to be leaving us way too frequently this past year. Sometimes I just get the idea that they are as timeless as the music and that they'll always be counting off a shuffle or two out there somewhere. Maybe it's because they keep playing it until the day that they pass on to that better stage. I picked up this sad news from Bob Corritore's newletter where he passed on a Bob Margolin e-mail.

RIP Calvin "Fuzz" Jones, June 9th,1926 - August 9th, 2010. Best known as the longtime bass player of the Muddy Waters Blues Band, Calvin "Fuzz" Jones, a Greenwood, Mississippi native, passed away last night of complications from lung cancer. He was 84. "Fuzz" was the definitive blues bass player, a stirring vocalist, and a wonderful human being. Here is the email that Bob Margolin, his longtime friend, and fellow Muddy alum, wrote this morning:

Calvin “Fuzz” Jones passed away early this morning at Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto in Southaven, Mississippi. His family is making funeral arrangements for Saturday in Mississippi. No more information on that yet, update soon.

Calvin “Fuzz” Jones is best known for the 10 years he played bass in Muddy Waters’ band, about 1970-’80. Previously, he had worked with Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, and Elmore James. He was appreciated for his strong electric bass playing, rocking stage presence, deep Blues singing, and the friendly laugh and smile he had for all.

Calvin had been living in Senatobia, MS for the last few years after decades in the Chicago area. Some of you receiving this e-mail were very kind to help him financially to stay in his apartment when he faced eviction in January. He appreciated that so deeply, understanding fully that the Blues music we all love had brought him your timely help. He had beat lung cancer, and in the late 1990’s he had a large tumor successfully removed from the back of his neck. Apparently the cancer came back in one lung and he developed pneumonia in the other and couldn’t breathe and was rushed to the hospital. He suffered a heart attack there, and though he was stabilized, his heart was weakened and gave out on him for the last time this morning.

I visited him last Friday afternoon, and he was deeply sedated. I’m glad to have seen him one more time, but he didn’t know I was there. I think he was beyond medical recovery, and that his illness overtook his strength. He was 84 years old, and was enjoying his life as much as possible until very recently. He had a sincere good word for everyone, and his reaction to any kind of health, musical, or financial challenge was his hearty trademark laugh. I asked him how he could laugh so easily when life hurt him, and he said “When you laugh the world laughs with you, when you cry, you cry alone.” He brought us deep Chicago and Mississippi Blues on the bandstand and on recordings, and his Blues and love for his friends, family, and all of us are his legacy.

Sadly, Bob Margolin

Monday, August 9, 2010

H-Town Jukes

H-Town Jukes
Long Time Comin'
80 Proof Records

I been giving the H-Town Juke's Long Time Comin' a spin around the block recently trying to get my arms around it enough to blog about it here. The Jukes were mentioned in my last post, about enjoying their set as the opening blues band for the harp extravaganza. They put down some kind of solid, toneful blues that Saturday and they do so, also, on this debut recording.

The disc opens up with what I think is the strength of the band, their instrumental talent. Even though the tune plays off a generic blues shuffle, Steve Gilbert (guitar) and Larry Bernal (harmonica) provide ample proof right off the bat that they know how the blues goes down. Bernal establishes a less is more approach while coaxing the fat from his reeds and he basically stays within that structure throughout the eleven song program. He has no intention of playing 'lick monkey' with his diatonic. Same can be said for Gilbert, as his first solo demonstrates--he gets in, says what's needed and gets out and keeps it tasty.

Bernal wears his chief blues harp influence on his sleeve, and some of his lick choices, tonality and song selection point directly towards his mentor, Houston blues harp maestro, Sonny Boy Terry. Only those of us that know Terry's work well would be able to pick up on where Bernal leans into his instructor's tonal territory as he demonstrates that he's learn his lessons well. He even covers some of the same ground of his former instructor by doing up Juke Boy Bonner's Time To Say Goodbye, Johnny 'Clyde' Copeland's Texas Party and Silas Hogan's deep and dirty Rats and Roaches. The Jukes establish the greasy vibe needed for these tunes with Bernal and Gilbert swapping some fine solos. The only song reall that suffers by comparison would be Rats and Roaches, because anyone who picks up this disc likely will have heard Sonny Boy Terry's definitive version of this gutbucket blues. Bernal and Gilbert do get some of their bestest, bluesiest, bent up tones and licks going on through it though. They do the same with Bonner's Time To Say Goodbye. Bernal has a pleasant singing voice, devoid of affectation, which works well with this slow stuff, but could he needs to employ a little more dynamics with the uptempo stuff like the aformentioned Texas Party.

These guys seem to really be in their element on the original tunes sprinkled among the covers. I like the rockabilly vibe that upright bass dude Kirk Schaefer and drummer Carl Owens get driving on the Gilbert penned Ain't Nobody Holdin'. The uptempo stuff certainly works best with Gilbert's vocal stylings, and his guitar slinging just sounds fun. Bernal bounces some good rhythm notes and fills around what Gilbert puts down. He creates some nice solo runs, but it seems that the amp distortion may be biting the end of some the notes off on this tune. But hey, I like distorted harp stuff.

Another Gilbert tune, My My My, kicks off and shows off Bernal's acoustic tone and licks,which are nice. Gilbert rips it up Hollywood Fats style and that H-Town rhythm section really gets the groove on. They do the same on Good Time Charlie--Gilbert's playing is lights out, channeling a bit of Chuck Berry. Bernal gets a little more rapid fire lickedy as they get he cylinders firing.

I love the lyrics that Gilbert strung together for Big Big Mouth. One of those tales that you'd associate with someone like Rick Estrin. "You got a big, big mouth/and all your brains is down south" says a mouthful, ya think? Bernal stretches into something closer to his own original ideas with his playing on this 'un. Now, that's what'll move the H-Town Jukes to the next level--put some distance between them and those who pointed the way by doing their own thing and making the covers their own.

Long Time Comin' represents a mighty respectable first release from the H-Town Jukes, but it doesn't quite equal the live show that I witnessed a couple of weekends ago. These guys have a tough blues band that cooks on stage and sometimes it hard to replicate all parts of that in the studio, but that's the way it is most of the time. Sometimes vice versa, but I always prefer the up close and personal live stuff. That said, this cd certainly does Houston blues proud.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Blue Harp Nirvana

Houston harp ace, Sonny Boy Terry, ramrodded one heck of a blues harp day at Dan Electro's Guitar Bar this past Saturday (7/31/10. Outstanding harmonica performances by the HTown Jukes, Dave Nevling, Rob Roy Parnell and Sonny Boy Terry saturated the packed club with all the fat toned blues harp notes that one could possibly ask to hear. Two hours plus of Adam Gussow's clinic on blues harp technique and methods provided the cherry on top of all the sweet stuff. Fantastic afternoon that spilled into the wee hours of the morning, that I'll tell in the pictures that follow (I'm slapping this up as quick as I can, I'll edit later. Forgive me if I blow a name or two or three):

The HTown Jukes (pictured above) opened the festivities with a tight set of tasty blues. They mixed in tunes from the usual suspects along with a few originals. The local band is fronted by Larry Bernal (harp/vocals) and Steve Gilbert (guitar/vocals). Kirk Schafer (standup bass)and Carl Owens (drums) nailed down the bottom end of the rhythm and thumped solid. Larry got some kind of great tones cranking from his Meteor Mini amplifier.

Those who signed up for Adam Gussow's blues harp clinic got their money's worth. The man from Mississippi demonstrated his one man band hill country stomp tune employing his custom made kick drum, explained how important it is to keep a rhythm going while blowing, how to work bends correctly, etc..etc...He invited a brave group of newbies (pictured above)to join him on stage with the challenge that they'd blow a better note when the stepped down. It did work for most of '

After a meal break, patrons (above, top) enjoyed a screening of Pocket Full of Soul, the best harmonica documentary EVER produced. Producers, Todd Slobin and director, Marc Lempert were on hand for discussion and had plenty of DVDs for the masses.

Then Dave Nevling and his Blues Kats (above) got things smoking hot again with his their set of blues done up in with Dave's original blues harp stylings on his original tunes. He blew his Gulf Coast brew through an Astatic mic with a Shure element and the big daddy Meteor amp. The Blues Kats, Tom Bryan (guitar), Joe Campise (drums) and Jeff Parmenter (bass) had the crowd pumped at the end of their 45minutes.

The Houston Blues Society's Boyd Bluestein is pictured above with other volunteer members manning the 'swag' table filled with plenty of t-shirts, cds, posters, etc...from the days events.

The Rob Roy Parnell (above) hit the stage and completely upset the house with his rollicking roadhouse rolling and tumbling blues. The crowd wouldn't let him slow down to catch his breath and he kept up with their demands by mixing his original stuff along with jumping thangs like George 'Harmonica' Smith's "Oop Doopin' Doopin'". He did slow down enough to work in a swampy ballad or two, which really highlighted his superb singing. Sonny Boy Terry's band were pulling house band duties and did an amazing job of pushing and pulling Rob Roy's material. Jonn Richardson put on a blues guitar clinic. Lenny Fatigati(bass)and J.D. Detulio are the best rhythm section this side of the Sabine.

Okay, now Adam Gussow had the task of following two full-steam-ahead blues band with his one man show. By golly gee, he sure as hell pulled it off and had the crowd in his hand in a matter of a song or two. Anyone who can go from raising a ruckus, stomping out an R.L. Burnside, one chord Mississippi Hill Country romp, to a smooth B.B. King and then top it off rockin' with Cream's Sunshine of My Love and their version of Crossroads...well, they're darned sure alright in my book. He cooked it on down with just his harp, Premier/Kay/Harp Gear amp and a custom made kick drum. He proved how well it can be done with the smaller amp combinations.

Then Mr. Houston Blues, Sonny Boy Terry, stepped on stage with the finest blues band in the state. Sonny Boy Terry oozes Texas Gulf Coast Blues out the pore of his skin. This is the blues where Louisiana swamp, Zydeco, Texas swagger and uptown R&B meet up at Holcomb and Dowling and blend into a wonderful blues gumbo unique to the region. He and his bandmates jacked up the ante and blew it on home and left the blues harp fanatics drenched in the vibe that reverberated Dan Electro's. Adam joined in on an fantasbulbulous version of the Stones' Miss You with a twin harp attack harmonizing the coda. Adam nailed Sugar Blues' licks with perfection. The band played outside themselves--especially when Jonn Richardson's ten fingers tortured his guitar strings. Fine finale--yep, it was.

But wasn't over yet. Steve 'The Professor' Schneider (above) cranked up 'Fess' Fest Jam as the chief jam-meister by picking up where Sonny Boy's band left off. He and Bob Spence lit into GTF and shook the rafter with the song. Steve's the best harmonica player without a band, who should have a band, in Houston. Wonderful tone. I'd never heard Bob Spence before, but now that I have, I'd say that he's pretty much in the same league. Them boys could blow. Steve allowed me to tag along with him as we ran through the late, great Gary Primich's Dry County. Another good harper named Shane (sorry forgot the last name)swapped licks with us. Sharing the stage with Jonn Richardson, JD Detullio, Steve Gilbert and Steve's girlfriend, Bella Adella, popping the bass strings was truly a treat. Nothing like blowing on a blues song with the pros. was over. For me anyway. I still had an hour and a half drive, so I lit out for the country. But man, what a fine, fine day for the blues.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Count Down

--'Nuff said! Or scroll down for more info.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mark Hummel

Mark Hummel
Electro Fi

One of my go to guys to hear great blues harp tone has always been Mark Hummel. He's one of those cats like Rod Piazza, Kim Wilson, Rick Estrin,RJ Mischo, (and a few others that are on the tip of my tongue, but not at the tip of my typing fingers)who fell under the spell of the sound of the blues harp as teenagers and devoted most of their waking hours (and hours that they shouldn't have been awake) picking out licks by the masters. Now that they've all entering different stages of middle age, they have become the masters that they set out to emulate back in the day. In other words, he and they pretty much have it down pat.

Hummel has superbly showcased his peers on the instruments by releasing a series of his Blues Harmonica Blowouts, dating back to 1993. In between those great discs, he's put out new releases and combed his audio (and in some cases video) archives for stuff that he's never released. Retro-Active combines some of both. He dips back as far as 1995 for a couple of the cuts and includes sessions from 2000, 2005, 2006,and 2009 employing 18 different musicians. Some, such as Charlie Musselwhite, appear on a single tune (Charlie's playing his acoustic guitar and not harp, by the way).

One might think that combining a disc from a myriad of sessions and musicians might prove a little discombobulating, but they would be mistaken. The reason being that there's nary a musician on the disc not steeped in as much blues lore as Mark Hummel. They know what he wants and they deliver. Doesn't hurt that one of my favorite blues guitarists, Rusty Zinn, glues things down on 12 of the 15 cuts, beginning with Funky Way on which he demonstrates his expertise for laying back and playing nothing but rhythm guitar--no lead guitar at all on this tune. Chris Burns' Booker T type organ swirls drive this tune with backing vocal chorus' that echo Hummel's lyrics. The tune exemplifies Zinn's versatility and Hummel's penchant for mixing the vibe up with a tune that's definitely a bit more funky r&b than blues. Good vocal job from him. I wouldn't not have recognized this as being Mark Hummel if it had just popped up on satellite radio. He plays no harp until just a little after the 3 minute mark, but then he rides the song on home with fatback notes and oozing tone.

From there, the disc swings through West Coast Jump on tunes such as Never No More, with a horn section supplied by Johnny Bones (sax) and Lech Wierzynski (trumpet), Little Walter's classic Roller Coaster (which he's covered before), and the deep Delta Mud of the acoustic Can't Be Successful, with the aforementioned Musselwhite picking cotton on the guitar. Hummel can always be counted on to throw down a Rhumba, such as on Highway Rhumba, and adding some tasty third position minor keyed stuff with Steve Freund picking out some Peter Green sort of licks on Before The Beginning. He even shares guitar credits with my new favorite guitar guru, Kid Anderson, (who, by the way, mixed and matched this cd at his Greaseland Studios) on the Jimmy Reed groove of My Baby's So Sweet. There are no song credit notes, so I have little to go on as far as authorship to the songs here. I do love what he does with I'm Shorty, whoever wrote it.

So, what you have here is basically Mark Hummel doing what he's best at doing and doing it well. I could describe the blow by blow lick action, but why? If you've heard Mark Hummel, then you know to expect top notch, quality harp blowing. If you haven't then Retro-Active is a darned good place to start. 'Nuff for now.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Countdown to Texas Blues Harp Fest

Okay, once more with feeling...this should be EVERYTHING that anyone should need to get exited about the Texas Down Home Blues Harmonica Festival.

Texas Down Home Blues Harmonica Festival & Clinic
By Ida Mae McClemore

When people think of blues harmonica, they most likely don’t think of Houston – a blues boomtown that is more known for producing electric guitar innovators like Gatemouth Brown, Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland, Joe Guitar Hughes and especially Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins.

They probably think of Chicago blues, more so because artists like Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Big Walter, James Cotton, Junior Wells lowdown amplified blues harp became synonymous with Chicago’s raw urban electric blues of the post WWII war era. And deservedly so.

But along the Texas gulf coast (including Louisiana) and throughout the state, the blues harmonica has its own unique history. From Bellville, TX and known as the “ghetto poet” Weldon “Juke Boy Bonner’s hard livin’ troubadour sound on harmonica and guitar captured the poverty of Houston’s 5th Ward in the sixties.

Lightnin’ Hopkins’ cousin harmonica Billy Bizor was well documented in the Les Blank documentary The Blues According to Lightnin’. He also participated on several Lightnin’ Hopkins recordings as well as his own exceptional albeit obscure, often nefariously bootlegged solo offerings.

Not to mention famed blues artist Junior Parker sang like Sam Cooke and played a mean harmonica flawlessly blended with the brassy uptown production values during the Duke Peacock Records heyday as the world’s largest blues label, based out of Houston. Another Houston resident and a true world-famous blues legend, Big Mama Thornton played an excellent blues harmonica, making any head cutting contest with her male counterparts one to remember.

In recent years, during the roots music boom in the eighties, white-hot Austin bluesman like The Fabulous Thunderbirds front man Kim Wilson or Gary Primich with The Mannish Boys ruled stages while legend Sam Myers, who was living in Dallas, was knocking blues lovers out with Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets. Harp players and blue-eyed soul singers like Delbert McClinton were performing on Saturday Night Live as Fort Worth natives Darrell Nulisch and Hash Brown were clawing their way to notoriety. All the while, harp cats Tommy Dar Dar, Rich Layton, and Sonny Boy Terry were paying dues in Houston’s massive metroplex.

Texas has a way of adopting most any kind of blues/roots music into its own independent style. In Texas, it’s like we don’t care where you are from, but we prefer you have your own musical path. We’re not culturally isolated so it’s almost as if we encapsulate all that is American music. If you hear a bit of twang in those guitar licks, a groovin’ latin rumba, urban brass on top of a western swing and a Jimmy Reed shuffle spiced up with some Cajun gumbo and howlin’ Mississippi Hoo Doo, you are probably hearing Texas blues.

On Saturday, July 31st at Dan Electro’s Guitar Bar at 1031 E. 24th Street in the Houston Heights. The Down Home Texas Blues Harmonica Festival and Clinic will be born. The event is really about blues with the emphasis on harmonica--a fine, organized event with a healthy dose of local regional and national talent.

It’s an all day harmonica affair beginning at 3PM and going until last call. Tickets are modestly priced. Doors open at 2:30PM. It costs 25 dollars for Adam Gussow’s Modern Blues Harmonica Clinic from 4PM-6PM. You may purchase the whole day for 35 dollars that included Pocket Full of Soul: The Harmonica Documentary and all the featured artists. There is food and drink to purchase on site for those who want to stay all day. It costs 12 dollars for the Texas Blues Harmonica showcase and the movie. You are able to buy tickets online at or at

At 3PM things get started right away with the H-Town Jukes featuring Larry Bernal (former Sonny Boy Terry student and protégé) on the blues harp and vocals. The H-Town Jukes are out there doing it on the Houston scene with a highly recommended sweet new album titled Long Time Comin’. Advertised as an “old school” blues band, expect them to show off great harp tone and traditional Chicago tongue block playing technique.

A modern day bluesman and harmonica guru, the internationally renowned Adam Gussow will then share his wealth of traditional as well as progressive blues harp insights during his two-hour lecture/performance, the Modern Blues Harmonica clinic, which is designed to assist enthusiasts in reaching the next plateau in their quest in mastering the instrument. This is an entirely interactive class for harmonica players, so everyone needs to bring their set of harps. It’s also great entertainment for anyone just wanting to see a true master. Adam will lecture on everything from traditional Hill Country harmonica techniques to contemporary styles such as overblowing, amplification, effects, and microphones. But Adam is not only a wonderfully innovative harmonica player; perhaps from his experience as an English professor at University of Mississippi, he truly knows how to help others understand how to do it and what it takes for someone to reach their goals. What truly brings Adam’s teaching skills to life is his true-life experience performing on the streets and genuine blues passion blended with a professor’s intellect.

Gussow gained international recognition as one half of the Satan and Adam duo, as they applied their gritty brand of street blues to several highly acclaimed recordings, beginning with Harlem Blues, released in 1991. That experience led to his well received book detailing their musical journey, Mister Satan’s Apprentice. After bit of a break spent nurturing his career as a university professor, Gussow re-emerged on YouTube videos literally going viral with a series of excellent lessons on playing the harmonica. He then created his popular website offering up all things harmonica.

Adam Gussow has picked up gigging more frequently, performing at the Chicago Blues Festival in 2010 as a one man band (which he’ll put on display in a mid-evening set). His involvement in workshops and clinics all over America led to the overwhelming success of his first annual Hill Country Harmonica festival/clinic conducted this past May in Mississippi.

Texas Harp fest producer Sonny Boy Terry said he feels that getting Adam Gussow to come down to Texas and share his wealth of expertise and talent will be a very special treat for blues harmonica fans.

“I learned a lot by attending Adam’s Hill Country Harmonica camp, soaking in everything I could,” Terry said. “Adam is a great harmonica instructor and everyone can gain something from him, regardless of their experience. Plus, he is just flat out entertaining to boot.” Coming from a seasoned blues harmonica professional like Sonny Boy Terry, that is indeed a great testimonial.

Whether it’s harmonica rumbles or guitar competitions, activities like this are for all lovers of their instrument. This event obviously designed for all blues lovers, but these type of shows are great for networking, a chance opportunity to get on stage and perform, learn about new gear, make new friends and just sharing the general camaraderie of all things harmonica.

Following Adam’s clinic, the plan is too take in a short dinner break from 6-7 PM, eating on site or checking out one of the Houston Heights’ superb Mexican restaurants before the evening festivities. So come hungry. This is a great time to ask questions and get to know everyone.

At 7PM, IT’S MOVIE TIME! Pocket Full of Soul: The Harmonica Documentary on a big screen. Can a passion for an instrument that fits in your pocket change lives? See, and better yet, hear for yourself as you explore the myths surrounding the harmonica as never before--in its evolution from toy to bona fide musical instrument--from some of the greatest harmonica players in the world.
PFOS was produced and directed by Houstonians Marc Lempert and Todd Slobin. This great salute to harmonica features Jason Ricci, Huey Lewis, Clint Black, Magic Dick, Mark Hummel, Jon Popper and many others.

Galveston, TX blues harp stalwart, Dave Nevling and the Blues Kats will represent the south coast, kicking off the evening in style for the harmonica showcase lineup. Dave’s been a part of the Gulf Coast blues scene for quite some time, going back to his stints with Bert Wills and Mark May and the Agitators. From there he ventured off on his own in 1997 in order to share his vocal, harp, and writing talents with the rest of the world. A trio of solo recordings reflects the quality of this triple threat bluesman, as he moves from smooth jazzy interludes and Gulf Coast rock to lowdown gutbucket blues, proving his mettle as a solid blues harp technician and a dynamic performer. Dave is a righteous blues harmonica player with a warm amplified tone, a clever songwriter, and a fine singer to go with being a really accessible musician who is always open to answer anyone’s questions about blues or harmonica--in short, a great seasoned blues performer and all around great guy.

Rob Roy Parnell grew up in a musical family, along with his famous older brother Lee Roy Parnell, whom he shared stages with for a number of years as Lee Roy established himself within the country music market. A longtime Austin resident, Parnell regularly performed with Texas artists as diverse as Flaco Jimenez, Waylon Jennings, and Johnny Mueller, Rob Roy blends Texas’ many sounds to create his own version of Texas roadhouse music. And it is the real deal! He swings from rootsy Americana, old-time rock and roll, swampy ballads, to straight-up blues. Parnell never fails to get a joint hopping and bopping when he blows the reeds out of his harp. It’s high time for Rob Roy Parnell to have a higher profile in Houston. What makes Rob Roy Parnell special is he has developed his own thing – his own unique presentation with a gritty Texas landscape as his backdrop to go with all those crazy blues harp chops.

The Sonny Boy Terry Band is the host band and will provide the finale in the last, but certainly not the least, blues harp showcase. Sonny Boy Terry, who is serving double duty on this day as producer and performer, has become synonymous with Houston blues, and after moving to the city for tutelage from legendary veterans, such as Joe Guitar Hughes, Jimmy Dotson, Johnny Copeland, and Jimmy T-99 Nelson, he has definitely stepped into their footprints and become the veteran on the scene. He picked up the challenge to carry the blues torch forward with the same dignity as his predecessors, and his music reflects the rich gumbo of influences that make up blues music from the Texas Gulf Coast and notably Houston. Sonny Boy Terry has two well received and internationally distributed solo albums on the Austin based boutique blues label Doc Blues Records and has played on over twenty albums, including records by Roy Head, Joe Hughes, Calvin Owens, Rich Delgrosso, and Johnny Copeland. Terry continues to gain recognition, showing the worldwide blues community what that was all about when he represented the Houston Blues Society in Memphis at the 2010 International Blues Challenge.

This is the first try on the Texas Harmonica Festival and one thing we do know is a blues jam is altogether fitting and proper--there are many players to want to sit in with a cool band. Helping out as the house rhythm section is past IBC Albert King Award winner Jonn Richardson on guitar and vocals, Lenny Fatigati on bass and JD Ditulio on drums. This is a world class blues band indeed.

Houston blues harmonica doctor Steve “Fess” Schneider will orchestrate the After Midnight Blues Jam to close out the evening, with an open invitation to all blues performers in attendance. It’s a two hour continuous jam, so please make yourself known and get on the list. Bring your own guitar, harps or sticks, as all blues players are welcome, not just harmonica players. There will be seasoned players plus a few newbies chompin’ at the bit to get up on stage. Fess’s even handed approach will help make it fun for everybody until last call.
2PM – Last call.
Complete details can be found at or

ADAM GUSSOW comes at the contemporary blues world with a singular combination of talents--an ability to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. An award-winning scholar and memoirist, associate professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi, Gussow spent more than a decade working the streets of Harlem and the international club and festival circuit with Mississippi-born bluesman Sterling Magee as the duo Satan and Adam. He currently performs with both Satan and Adam (recently reformed as a trio) and the guitarist Charlie Hilbert. According to a reviewer for American Harmonica Newsletter, Gussow's harmonica playing is characterized by "technical mastery and innovative brilliance that comes along but once in a generation." When Satan and Adam were honored with a cover story in Living Blues magazine in 1996, Gussow was, according to editor David Nelson, "the first white blues musician to be so prominently spotlighted in the magazine's 26-year history."
Raised in suburban Congers, NY, educated at Princeton and Columbia, Gussow has an unusual pedigree for a blues performer. in Mister Satan's Apprentice: A Blues Memoir (1998), he credits his career to the mentorship of two older African American bluesmen: Nat Riddles, a Bronx-born harmonica player who had worked with Odetta, Larry Johnson, and others; and Magee, a guitarist-percussionist with whom Gussow teamed up after a chance afternoon jam session on Harlem's 125th Street. As Satan and Adam, Magee and Gussow have released four albums: Harlem Blues (1991), which was nominated for a W. C. Handy Award as "Traditional Blues Album of the Year"; Mother Mojo (1993); Living on the River (1996); and Word On the Street: Harlem Recordings, 1989 (2008). A brief extract of Magee and Gussow performing on 125th Street was included in U2's Rattle & Hum documentary.
Gussow's other musical credits include a stint with the bus-and-truck tour of Big River; several decades as a blues harmonica instructor at The Guitar Study Center in New York and in private practice; and an eight-time coach at Jon Gindick's Blues Harmonica Jam Camps. He's also headlined the Mundharmonika-Live festival in Klingenthal, Germany (2008) and has taught at Blues Week in the UK (2008). Long an advocate for the New York City blues scene, Gussow has jammed and gigged with many of the city's national touring acts, including Shemekia Copeland, The Holmes Brothers, Michael Hill and the Blues Mob, Bill Perry, and Popa Chubby. Most recently, Gussow's ongoing series of instructional videos posted at YouTube--the "dirty-South blues harp channel"--has drawn international acclaim from players and bloggers alike.
In addition to Mister Satan's Apprentice, which received the Keeping the Blues Alive Award for Achievement in Literature from the Blues Foundation in Memphis and is being republished by the University of Minnesota Press in 2009, Gussow is the author of Seems Like Murder Here: Southern Violence and the Blues Tradition (2002), which won the annual C. Hugh Holman Award given by the Society for the Study of Southern Literature as the best book of scholarship in the area, and Journeyman's Road: Modern Blues Lives From Faulkner's Mississippi to Post-9/11 New York (2007). Gussow's essays and reviews have appeared in Southern Cultures, African American Review, Harper's, The Village Voice, American Literature, and many other publications. He is the founder and chair of Blues Today, an annual symposium on the blues held at the University of Mississippi and sponsored by Living Blues magazine.