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.