Saturday, July 23, 2011


My crime novel, featuring the blues harp playing duo Mitty Andersen and Pete Bolden, is living and breathing life once more. After being orphaned by my last publisher, who called it quits, River Bottom Blues has found a new home at Authors' Niche I've been on the prowl since last March searching for a publisher who had the same enthusiasm for my manuscript as my last one and AN certainly rose to the occasion. Even though I know signing up with an outfit that is brand spanking new has it's risks, when a publisher offers really nice, sincere compliments about my writing and then goes on to say how much they love the blues, well then, they get me leaning in their direction. Any publisher who asks me if I've heard of Mojo Buford is all right in my book.

What helped seal the deal, though, was a request from the publisher for a phone conversation in order to discuss what I may be getting into with Authors' Niche; such as their publishing philosophies and business model, and what they will do and won't do. This took place before I signed a contract and was sure a nice personal touch. Never talked to a publisher before and I've had two other conversations since signing a contract a couple of weeks ago. They've convinced me that they are hell bent on getting things right in this wicked publishing industry, and that they have faith in River Bottom Blues and Richard Bush. I'm putting my faith into these nice folks over there also and I believe in them. A short bio and book blurb has already been published at their website and production will commence soon. So...stay tuned for the debut of River Bottom Blues.
contact: richardbush at authorsniche. com

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Suddenly Everything Got Fuzzy

Knowing that I've spent hours on end delving into the inner workings of my harp amps to tweak and modify them, my son asked me if I'd build an octave fuzz pedal with him for his guitar. There seemed to be a few more tones that Jimi Hendrix got on some of his stuff that he wanted to emulate a little closer. I told him that we could look around for a kit maybe and go from there. We found one at Their kit sold for $68 plus shipping, which seemed like a lot, but then we priced manufactured octave fuzz pedals and they ran $230 and up. In that case, I told him, a kit makes sense. So we ordered one and they impressively sent it out the day ordered and it arrived per UPS a week later.

We spent the better part of yesterday sticking and stabbing the ol' soldering iron to tiny resistors, capacitors, transistors, the tiny circuit board. It was touch and go (literally) throughout the entire process. There is so little room to negotiate the tip of the iron around the pcb without fear of melting down an adjacent component or the board itself. Of course, there is always that printed instruction or two that assumed that we knew exactly what they are instructing, but didn't. So we had to assume. Most of it was clear and concise for us virgin pedal do it yourselfers. Since it is a diy kit, they guarantee nothing as far as it working once the sticking and stabbing are done. That's fair enough though.

Once I soldered a few resistors down, I turned things over to him and he got the hang of it pretty quickly. It's that or destroy the product. He found the experience very tedious and very intense. Wrack his nerves a bit, I'd say. I'd take over only when we hit one of those tight shoe spots and he wanted me to ruin things instead of him.

We had to wait until this a.m. to crank it up, and lo and behold it worked beautifully. Now he can get the octave fuzzy thing going on and he nailed the Hendrix tone that he sought. He said that the fuzz has a much better tone than the manufactured model that I bought him a couple of Christmas' ago. Bonding this pedal together gave us a bonding together experience that should last awhile---'til he hears some other tone that won't come from his guitar and thinks that we should do it all over again. Me, I prefer the nasty ol' blues played with a guitar chord straight to the amp. Someday that'll impress him just as much. 'Nuff for now.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Great Acoustic Blues Show

Dang! I tried to get this posted earlier this week, but my blogger account kept giving me the "NO SERVICE" message. Gotta thank the Houston Blues Society for zapping me, and reminding me, with the information about Sunday's great showcase of acoustic blues presented by KPFT 90.1's Blues Hound and performed at KPFT's Backyard. The world renowned Doug Macleod will be grinning and picking along with Houstonians The Mighty Org and John Egan. They can all bring it on. Macleod writes a column for Blues Revue magazine that I never fail to read, especially his tales of playing with George "Harmonica" Smith and Pee Wee Crayton back in the day.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Greg Izor & The Box Kickers

I don't know why it's taken me so long to get my hands on some of Greg Izor's harp playing. The first time I heard his blowing was on satellite radio's BB King's Bluesville. A song popped up with that greasy fat amplified blues harp blasting and I had to find out who was blowing. I've totally forgotten the name of the band that he was playing with, but I looked them up back then long enough to find out that it was Greg Izor. I had all intentions of tracking him down, but life got in the way and I forgot to follow up. My loss, but not any longer, since he kindly sent me a copy of I Was Wrong. The cover has a picture of Izor cupping a bullet mic that covers the bottom third of his face. Whenever I see a CD cover with such, my first thought is "Okay, now back it up with your blowing". Greg Izor lives up to that photo.

He gets down with it from the "get go" by opening "Who You Lying To" with a few fat back harp licks that sets the tone for what follows. What caught my ear very quickly, though, was Izor's vocal chops. The man's in great voice throughout this release. One of the drawbacks with a lot of blues harp aces who stretch out into front man territory is the ability to pull it off vocally. Izor can do the do in that category. I place him on a shelf with Mitch Kasmar, Tad Robinson, John Nemeth, and Darrell Nulisch-to name a few contemporaries that can really sing the blues. Speaking of Nulisch, the first time I heard him sing was pre-Sam Myers Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets, and guess what? Izor is now the post-Sam Myers lead man for Anson Funderbugh's group.

Here he leads his Greg Izor & The Box Kickers band through a tough set of predominantly original blues. The Box Kickers feature a couple of guitarists that ring my bell. I've been listening to Mike Keller slinging blues guitar notes since he and his brother Cory walked on stage at Antone's as the Keller Brothers back in the day and floored audiences with their command for the blues at such a young age. Today he's Johnny Moeller's partner in chime with The Fabulous Thunderbirds, as well as laying down some mighty fine stuff  with Izor's band. I first heard guitarist Willie Pipkin at a gig with The South Austin Jug Band, which had threads of bluegrass, country, folk, and blues emanating from the stage. Pipkin was the blues card in the band and when he lit into it, he impressed me. I'd say that he's in his element as a Box Kicker. This duo bends some stone cold blues strings throughout the CD and follow the variety of vibes that Izor lays out for them, whether it's a Louisiana swamp rocker from Izor's native state, like "I Thought It Would Be Me", something country twinged, or gettin' jazzy. On the former he gets his fat chords sounding kinda like a squeeze box that's reminisent of his mentor, Johnny Sansone.

He brings the Texas sound (he's lived in Austin since '06) to the table with the hard shuffling "Stuck In Texas", on which he also whips out some of my favorite deep fried, greasy licks of the CD. Drummer Jason Corbiere and bassman Johnny Bradley drive the bottom all the way from the Colorado River to the Sabine with Keller and Pipkin's rhythm and leads riding the groove. I could venture a guess as to who plays what, but then I could be wrong. It's Izor's harp runs, bends, and whomp that sets this apart from any other Texas shuffle, though.

He throws down the George Jackson/Jimmy Webb penned "Old Friend" to venture off into a country western flavored tune. I'm am guessing that it is Keller's Telecaster that kicks this into the ol' two steppin' territory which reminds me of a sort of "Mathilda" riff. Izor could give quite a few of those radio ready faux cowboys a run for the money with his vocal lines here. This is the only cut withot his harp blowing applied.

The title tune lopes along pleasantly with a couple of harp breaks that takes off like a Little Walter solo with nice runs up and down the comb. "Broken Heart" covers the K.C. Douglas song with some of Izor's baddest lowdown Chicago blues harp tones, as he drags some deep stuff from the low end and bends the reeds for all they are worth. Speaking of Little Walter, "Swiss Krissly" has the master's influence written all over it-think "Off The Wall" as a point of reference, but Izor throws plenty of his own making into the mix.

He breaks out the chromatic harp on "I'm Yours", on which the guitar rhythm approximates Stevie Ray Vaughn's "Empty Arms". Izor gets the big harp pumping out a swinging motif with huge octave runs blasting though his mic. William Clarke ain't got nothing on this Louisiana cat. He does the same for the instrumental, "Turkey Necks", which bops along with an insistent beat and a great guitar lead break from one of those two aforementioned slingers. The chromatic on "Voleur", another instrumental, falls squarely into the jazzier realm and he proves that he knows what the button is for on the instument.

When "Soul Survivor" hit my ears, James Cotton hit my brain, because Izor was yanking some powerful stuff out and emulating the "no holds" blasting that only Cotton is known to produce. Of course, James Cotton recorded this tune written by his piano player at the time, Albert Gianquinto, and with the greatest band that he had ever assembled. Izor covers the song remarkably well and switches over to chromatic for one of the harp breaks.

I'm impressed with Greg Izor's talent and his band and this CD. Greg Izor & The Box Kickers have it going on and deliver all the goods that I look for in a release of blues harp music. Thoroughly enjoyed this, or enjoying it, or will keep enjoying it, or whatever. Worth it. Get it.

So, I'm glad that I've finally caught up somewhat with who Greg Izor is, but getting to watch and listen to him strut this stuff at the Texas Harmonica Festival on July 30 at Dan Electros will be loads better. He's definitely a triple threat with his vocals, blues harp playing, and writing. Check out and check out his youtube vids, but beware--you'll get lost in the music over there. 'Nuff for now.

Texas Harmonica Festival News Flash!

Sonny Boy Terry announced that esteemed blues guitarist, Holland K. Smith will be added to the Texas Harmonica Festival line-up. Smith has been a major talent on the DFW blues scene for a number of years now and will certainly up the ante to an already full deck of blues talent at the event on July 30 at Houston's Dan Electro Guitar Bar. Kudos to Sonny Boy for gettin' him down to the Bayou City.