Wednesday, October 30, 2013

This N That

My Howling Mountain Blues manuscript has been signed, sealed and delivered to my publisher. Hopefully, it'll meet with approval and will see the light of day some time in 2014. My wife broke with tradition, took a peek at it, and put her editing eye to it before I sent it off this time. Helped a ton! She thinks it's the best of the three featuring my crime fighting bluesmen. I think I mentioned that I sent my blues harp men, Mitty and Pete, down to Belize to back up hotshot guitarist, Wyatt 'Earp' Ringold at a blues festival. Of course, blues and trouble always follow Mitty and Pete, so they got to deal with more that reeds going flat on their harmonicas. 

Just got my copy of Blues Music Magazine in the mail today. Their inaugural issue. Don't know if anyone here subscribes to blues magazines, but if you subscribed to Blues Revue, then you know that this has simply taken its place. I originally subscribed back when it was a newsprint mag. That was quite some time ago. At some point the Vizztone entertainment group and MojoWax had some kind of partnership deal, and part of that was the Blues Revue magazine. Not sure of the reasons for parting of company, but the magazine is now produce by MojoWax Media under the new name. Hope it survives the change.

I may have gone overboard with my blues subscription habits over the years. At one time I had accounts with Living Blues, Blues Revue, Blues Access, and American Harmonica Newsmagazine. The latter of the two are dead and gone, which I lament terribly because I wrote articles for both of those. Blues Access published my article on Sam Myers, which I was particularly proud of, having several long telephone conversations with him when he lived in Dallas. I can tell people that I wrote it, but there is not physical proof any longer; other than my copy of the magazine. I interviewed everyone from Gary Primich to Fingers Taylor to Sonny Boy Terry for the harp mag.

Now, back to the current copy of Blues Music Magazine. I haven't had a chance to read through it, but it's nice to see an article about Anson Funderburgh. I sat with both he and Sam at a club for a nice chat and sat up the initial interview contacts. Anson is about as down to earth as a person can get. Also, they profile Ruthie Foster in this issue. She's got to be one of the most fabulous singer/songwriters on the scene today. It takes me back to when she was just getting her career path going and the appearances that she made at the Navasota Blues Festival (the festival dedicated to Mance Lipscomb's memory). She never failed to whomp the crowd into submission with her stupendous vocals. She WAS the highlight for several years before the rest of the world caught on to her. 

Now, excuse me while I open the pages of my blues magazine and ponder what my next novel should be all about. 'Nuff for now.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Rip Snorter


Rip snorting! Yeah, I guess that's the best way to describe Steve Krase's new release, Some Day. Pretty good way to describe the way he attacks the harmonica also. He hits these songs with his blues harp in much the same way that a middle linebacker smacks into a running back, with a full on smash. Some Day, though, is not the standard blues program tackled by most musicians with a mouth full of harp. Most of these songs seriously rock.

Even Bobby Charles' "Why Are People Like That", which I identify mostly with the Muddy Waters' version, and which kicks off the album with a bang shangle lang, takes the tempo and jacks it up way more than a notch or two, and it commences the rip snorting with Krase's harp runs leading the way. His vocals take on a rough, gruff, roaring tone that fits the song well, and that seems to be a knack that Krase has the ability to do. Shift shape his vocals to match each tune's individuality. Actually, I would have pegged a different vocalist on some of the songs because a variety of personas emerge with each tune. And guitarist James Henry comes out smoking to set the stage for what he'll bring to the table. Houston treasure, Eric Demmer, throws down an immaculate sax break and stays around to add his punctuation throughout the disc.

Brother David Krase's guitar opens "Put The Cokane Down"(one of the five songs written by him) with some nicely picked blues notes dueting with a bent note harmonica groove and then Eugene "Spare Time" Murray's bass and Mark Dufrene's drum kit pick it up and drive the shuffling rhythm. Can't say enough about Spare Time's contribution to the overall vibe of the proceedings. He's one of the all time best blues playing bass players in Houston, but, oh, can he rock the house. Yes sir, he can. Henry breaks out the slide to get things wound up and Krase has the harp screaming for mercy along the way.

If I had to put this band in a bag, it would be in the same duffel as the J. Geils Band. They play the blues, but they rock, and I'm pretty sure that they've always been a major influence on Krase's development. He absolutely slips into Peter Wolf's vocal skin on that band's "Jealous Love". He has the vocal nuances down pat, even slipping up into those high registers that trademark so many J. Geils'
songs. There are very few blues/rock bands that interest me, but J. Geils rocked with an irrisitable groove. Same here. They get the groove going, riding the rails laid down by the aforementioned rhythm section along with Demmer's sax bellowing a stupendous honking solo.

Spare Time and Defrene gets the party rolling on another one of David K's numbers, "Goin' Down For The Last Time". It owes a debt to the Freddy King rocker "Going Down", but closer kin to the Jeff Beck version. Thumping bass and driving drums drive this rocking. rollicking tune about lost love. Henry pulls out all the stops and spits out lickity split fire from the fretboard. Krase takes it home by torturing the low end of his harp.

Krase gets the deep harp tones welling up from deep inside on another brother cut and title tune, Some Day. Robert Lewis "Pee Wee" Stephens' keyboard swirls throughout the song and is instrumental in providing the somber mood of the song. Pee Wee's another legend from Houston's blues scene, and it great to hear is contribution to this disc. David K's rhythm guitar and Krase's harp chords are the force that moves this song; about some day finding the mother that long ago abandoned ship.

"She Does It Right" is a cover of the British pub/punk/blues band Dr. Feelgood. That band slung it out in all it's pub rock glory back in the 80s. Krase transforms it into a slow, jazzy late night thang with Demmer's sax contributing to that feel with Henry pulling out some sweet, restrained notes. Krase's vocals join the transformation with deep, understated inflections.

Back in the day, there were two bands that I travelled to Houston to hear more frequently than anyone else; Jerry Lightfoot and the Essentials and Sonny Boy Terry's band (I actually first heard Sonny Boy Terry blow blues harp as a sideman in Lightfoot's band). Personnel in the Essentials changed from time to time, but it solidified behind the aforementioned Spare Time Murray, Pee Wee Stephens, and Krase. Lightfoot's contribution to the Houston blues seen was immense, up until he moved off to Austin searching for a different musical climate. Sadly, he passed away a few years ago. Krase and company pay tribute to the fiery guitarist with the Henry penned instrumental, "Texistential Blues". They've captured the essence of what Lightfoot was all about in less than three minutes, and have done a danged good job of doing it. Henry's guitar comes out smoking and rocks the skin off the blues, with Spare Time and pitch drummer Don Swanson knocking the hell out of the bottom end in much the same way that I witnessed Lightfoot doing likewise many a night.

They segue right into a whomping jam on "Down The Line" with Krase's lip shredding harp runs following the train rhythm booming from Spare Time and Defrene. The jam heads for the ozone with Henry doing his Duane Allmanish best to wound his slide up and down the scales and Krase quoting a bit of "Low Rider".

They get another J. Geils' ("Did You No Wrong") number smashing, crashing, jumping, pumping, and thumping. Krase's vocals once again nail it on the head, and when Defrene joins in on backing vocals the song swings into the stratosphere, accompanied by more sweeping slide guitar by Henry. No one has ever placed the mouth harp into a rock groove like Magic Dick, but Krase does him proud and comes danged close.

Won't find many blues harp fellows sticking their notes into a song by the Violent Femmes, but Krase spends one minute and thirty three seconds instrumentally covering "Blister In The Sun" anchored only by son Gavin's bass lines and drummer Carl Owens poundings until the song slides into a bonafide punkish rocker from David K's pen again, called "I'm A Rocker". It comes out screaming with Krase shooting rapid harp runs from one end of the harp to the other and he keep the pedal to proverbial metal. Can you say garage band rock? Krase can, and he twists his vocal knobs to dial in a harsh roar. Henry slams down rhythm guitar to augment the phrenic pace set by the band.

David K opens his song, "When The Levee Breaks", about hope, salvation, and redemption with rhythmic guitar chords that chime throughout the tune. Krase lays aside his harmonica and just sings the sweet lyrics from his brother's imagination. Henry's slide and backing vocals from Defrene and Tommie Lee Bradley move the song atmospherically, lifting it with a gospel feel, swinging low.

Some Day showcases the versatility of Steve Krase and the band with which he has surrounded himself and also the songwriting skills of his brother David Krase. It's steeped in blues, but moves and shifts in and out and around it, and keeps a groove going with a rip snorting blues harp leading the way. Check it out for yourself at www.cdbaby.com and peak take a peek at www.stevekrase.com 'Nuff for now.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sometimes It's The Little Things

Spent a wonderful evening signing and discussing The Devil's Blues at the premier mystery book store, Murder By The Book in Houston. The manager, John Kwiatkowski, made it a Texas writer's theme night by grouping me with George Wier and Reavis Wortham. George signed/discussed his collaboration with Milton T. Burton, Long Fall From Heaven and Reavis touted the latest in his Red River Mystery series, The Right Side of Wrong. I truly enjoyed the presentations by these two great writers, steeped as they are in Texas lore. More than that, it was great to escape from my little cubby hole and meet up with other writers. Always good to pick the brains of others toiling away in the silence of their writing chairs.

Meeting and greeting people who actually read and show up to listen to what I have to say and then purchase a book is absolutely stupendous. Of course, I played a little blues harp to kick things off for me (mentioned that so it would fit into the blog better). The strangest and most wonderful part of the evening began while I sat eating a meal at a restaurant down the street prior to the signing. A lady whom I didn't recognize at first sat down at the table next to me and said, "Ricky Bush?" That did it. She lived down the street from me and we grew up together. Hadn't seen her in over 35 years. She had seen the announcement for the signing in the Houston Chronicle and insisted that her 33 year old son go to the signing with her. He suggested the restaurant. We caught up beautifully during the course of the meal. Strange indeed, but it highlighted the entire evening for me. That, plus a dear friend traveled the same route to Houston as myself to accompany her Murder By The Book aficionado sister to the signing.

So, to me, it's always the little things such as these that keeps me keeping on.

P.S.--I've got a CD by Houston blues harp ace, Steve Krase on the way to my mailbox. I'll do my dangnest to get a review posted up after a listen or two and get back to getting back. 'Nuff for now.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Kickin' It With The Box Kickers


It's been a couple of years since I reviewed Greg Izor and The Box Kickers first release, I Was Wrong. Since then, Greg has been on a roll, touring the country and many parts of Europe. He's headed back overseas for a summer tour as I type this, with stops in the Canary Islands, Spain, Italy and Norway.

Back home in Austin, Izor has admirably filled a void left after the passing of Gary Primich. Much like Primich, Izor has a palette on which he splashes color from other genres kin to, but slightly outside of the blues; all while blowing superb harmonica notes. I think that some labeled Primich's last recordings as Americana, I guess since the Grammys lumped Blues into that category, but all of Primich's albums had that musical extension applied. Primich's influence most certainly has seeped into Izor's musical vision, but he definitely brought some of that with him after living in New Orleans and mentoring under Jumpin' Johnny Sansone, who mashes up and slings the same type of musical gumbo. 

A strong suit of Close To Home is Izor's songwriting. The twelve self-penned tunes here offer ample examples of a man who is a keen observer of the life that has swirled around him. I'll stick him on the same level as my favorite songsmith, James Harman, when it comes to that. I sure don't know how autobiographical these cuts are, because I don't know if he's ever had trouble collecting money from deadbeat friends on "Get My Money", if he's been unemployed and run out of whiskey when his lover runs out on "Can't Get It Right", if he's been in prison and having trouble with doing "Straight Time", if his love is stronger than a monkey grip on "What's It Gonna Take", if he shot pool with his friend "Broadway Joe", or if he's been in the military on "G.I. Blues", but he spins some mighty fine believable stories. And that's what his songs are; well crafted, well told stories.

Izor's vocal chops aren't of the octave ranging type, but his singing style is very effective. He's gets these small nuances going that produces enough tonal variety to keep things interesting, much in the same way that Doug Sahm got his songs across. On the bonafide blues numbers he puts across a sense of urgency when shouting that he wants his money on the shuffling blues, "Get My Money", doom and gloom drip and seep from his lips on the lowdown, slowdown, "Broadway Joe", he soars a bit as he tells stories, sad and true, on "The Rub", and he even sounds a bit like James Harman on "Hooper Street". I can hear the heartbreak in his voice as he sings  I lost everything when I lost that woman of mine on on "Can't Get It Right". He gets downright twangy on "Straight Time", "What's It Going To Take", and "Call Me Lonesome", which mixes up a little country western and R&B together. Speaking of Doug Sahm, to my ears he evokes Sahm's cohort, Augie Myers, on these cuts. 

Izor is a badass harmonica player and can throw down with the best of 'em (I've seen his high energy life shows), but he doesn't set out to prove that on his recordings. His harp is always in service of the song and not a riff-a-rama fest. He does come out smokin' on the opening cut with some greasy amplification on "Get My Money" and struts out some nice solo licks, but then he backs off with simple, deeply drawn chromatic chords to open and then close out the gutbucket "Can't Get It Right". Most of the song is filled with some nice single guitar notes from one of his two note slinging Box Kickers, Mike Keller or Willie Pipkin. One of them also dominates the twangy "Straight Time" also. Izor does display his chromatic chops on the instrumental, "Three-eyed Tiger", which sounds as if the tune would be at home in bar in Spain with a couple of Flamenco dancers tapping out the rhythm. He does the same on another instrumental, "Close To Home", but puts the chromatic through it's lowdown blues pace. His chromatic also sets up the lost love story, "The Rub", and some mighty fine big chords lends to the moodiness of the tale. of I'd venture to say that Sansone probably had a lot to do with Izor's excellent attack on the big harp.

His acoustic harp skills are on display on "Call Me Lonesome", "What's It Gonna Take", and "Hooper Street". On the first two, he waits until mid-song to stick his harp into the mix, tossing out some great octave and upper register runs into "What's It Gonna Take", and nice single note runs on "Call Me Lonesome". Sonny Williamson II style licks drive "Hooper Street" down into the alley. He hangs around the low end of the harp to provide the doomy, gloomy "Broadway Joe" with the amplified doom and gloom tone the song calls for. He effectively uses just a few deeply drawn notes through his harp mic to drag this song into the depths of sadness.

He places no harp into "From Hello" nor "G.I. Blues". The former would most certainly get the "two stepping" dancers out onto a barroom floor. The ballad has that greasy Louisiana swampy feel to it with a few countryish guitar licks and crashing cymbals from Jason Corbiere. The latter has some finely picked blues licks dominating throughout the tale of serving until the fightings done.

Of course The Box Kickers represents one of the best backing bands that a harp player could possibly recruit. Mike Keller plays with the band whenever he's off the road with that other harp guy, Kim Wilson and his T-Birds. He and Willie Pipkin are like red beans and rice. There is no indication as to when one is taking a solo, but when they aren't, their rhythm guitar backs the other as good as any example that I can think up. Corbiere and Corey Keller split equal time at the drum set on these twelve cuts and both steer the ship when they do. Oh, and the bass player? I'd run out of ink if I attempt to run down the number of blues bands for which Ronnie James has thumped his instrument.

Danged fine recording by a danged fine harmonica man and a danged fine band. Can't ask for more than that. Greg Izor has definitely established himself as one of the best in the business and adds to the legacy of fine harp men who jumped started their careers from an Austin launch pad. Close To Home will sit close to home next to my stereo for some time to come. Check out www.gregizor.com for info about where to buy and find out when he's coming to town (after he gets back from Europe).







Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Old News Blues


This whole post is relatively old news, which means it ain't news. I will start with the newest by mentioning Rick Estrin winning the award in the Best Harmonica category at the Blues Music Awards back in May against some might powerful competition. He also snagged a nomination for The B.B. King Entertainer of the year, which he certainly deserved to win also. I've never seen the winner, Curtis Salgado, play a live set, but he must put a whale of a show to beat out what Estrin brings to the stage. Certainly, with all the health battles that Salgado has faced (and is still facing), he dang sure deserves the nod there. Rick Estrin and The Nightcats received a nomination, but were beat out for Best Band honors by the Tedeschi Trucks band, and Kid Andersen (Estrin's guitar slinging partner) was trumped by Derek Trucks for Best Guitarist. Not the way I think it should have gone, but I guess a somewhat youth movement moved the voters. At the end of it all, though, I think that Rick Estrin and The Nightcats have perched themselves back on the plateau that they reached when his co-conspirator, Little Charlie, led the band with him.

What is news, since it ain't happened yet, is that Rick Estrin and The Nightcats will return to Houston's Dan Electro's Guitar Bar on June 22. Great news, I'd say, since they'll be within driving distance of my Ford pickup. The H Town Jukes, some friends of mine, will open the show, so that'll be a treat also. Looking forward to seeing the bad boy of the blues again. That's what my wife called him after I took her to see him years back and hearing some of his lyrical double entendres. "He's a bad boy" says she.

Back to the old news. I almost hung my head, but didn't, when I pulled my copy of One Wrong Turn out of its cubby hole and realized that I've had the darn thing almost a year and never got around to jotting down a review of some sort here on the blog. I'm sure that everyone with a passing interest in blues harmonica has had it almost as long as I have and have spun its wheels off since then. If not, then their interest in blues harmonica was just that--a passing interest, because this one deserves a spot in their blues rotation. Still can't believe I didn't pass along my opinion last year, but since I didn't I'll throw down something short and sweet.

One Wrong Turn picks up where Twisted left off with Estrin and crew establishing themselves as a band setting out to establish their Nightcats groove, not in opposition to the Little Charlie era, but with a stamp that says this is Rick's crew now. Of course, Estrin's witty observations of life as he knows it are on full display on every song. It's even rubbed off on drummer J. Hansen's song smithing, which fits nicely in the Estrin camp when he sings "You Ain't The Boss Of Me". His relentless beat drives this rocker and Kid Andersen rips the heart out of it. He also does the dog bark on the opener D.O.G. When Estrin's not lauding or lamenting over those of the female persuasion, he takes the dastardly deeds of male members of society. Here he sings Sniffin' 'round, sneakin' where you don't belong/Just huntin' for a spot to bury your bone/You're just a DOG.

And speaking of old news, Estrin does just that on "Old News". He does his superb Rice Miller acoustic best while talking about staying confused as he trots through life and as he says Yeah, but that's old news. He's always nailed down Sonny Williamson II's timbre, tone and attack and tends to give a nod to the master on most every album he's played upon, and while he can spit out the book of Chi-town style amplified at will, he's moved way beyond anything remotely slavish to that mode of doing his business with his harp. Beginning with the release of Twisted, I think that he began to develop a Rick Estrin mode of playing amplified blues harp that'll be as readily identifiable as his own, much in the same way that us harp players recognize a Sonny Boy or James Cotton style. I'll be darned if I can describe all the different tonal shifts that he get going with his harp in his mouth. He goes from wide open, full chord blasts with double stops torching his amp speakers to superbly bent slip sliding single notes with nary a cliched note. He yanks out some great chromatic bombs on 'Lucky You", on which he just wishes he had the luck of someone else.

Of course, I'm preaching to the choir here as far as Estrin's harp skills go, but if you only know him from the Little Charlie era, then you owe it to yourself to experience the signature sound that he's developing. If you don't know him from the Little Charlie era, then you've missed a one of a kind blues band at work. Iconic, I'd venture to say. And, I have to assume that there are those who aren't familiar with Rick Estrin's body of work. I had to chuckle when I read a One Wrong Turn review on Amazon that read "This is a guy with a great future". Well, this reviewer needs to work his way back to 1989s Big Break and should definitely stop off and enjoy Estrin's On The Harp Side aimed to appease blues harp fans with a program of covers representing some of the finest traditional blues songs ever written.

Same for the Nightcats. Back in the day, they were never a twelve bar shuffling groove blues band and they darned sure ain't now. They certainly play the blues while they mess with the timing, the rhythms, and the beats on the songs, sticking in a bit of jazz or roots rocking along the way. J. Hansen and Lorenzo Farrell are no small part of the overall sound that the band achieves. Besides playing bass, Farrell is also adept at swirling some organ and piano in the mix, which is highlighted on "Zonin'" with a great sax break by Terry Hanck and wild guitar leads from Kid Andersen. I think Farrell and Hansen deserved their own nominations at those blues awards for what they bring to this band.

Of course, Kid Andersen makes the stew simmer and boil over throughout the entire session. "Broke and Lonesome" is a tour de force from the Kid's fretboard, and if it's the lowdown twelve bar you want, then listen to what he twists through the song. Ya never know which way he's going to head once he sticks his fingers on the strings. Now, I guess there are a few guitarist who could have stepped into the shoes of Little Charlie; Rusty Zinn paired up with Andersen on the aforementioned On The Harp Side and smoked it on down, but I don't think anyone can equal the Kid as the perfect foil for Estrin's vision. Doesn't hurt that he runs Greaseland Studios, which is fast becoming the go to recording facilities on the West Coast.

Ok, I don't think I'm going drag out this old news review any longer than I have. Said I'd keep it shourt and sweet. Sure I could go through each song and gush about the witty lyrics, the outstanding harp licks, guitar licks, and the jump and jive of each, but I feel sure that most readers here know all that by now. I ain't gonna promise, but I darn sure plan to not wait a year to get a review up on the next great thing in the world of blues harp. 'Nuff for now.




Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Random Blues Stew

Just throwing together a random stew of what's simmering on the burners around here.

May 18--The Devil's Blues book signing @ The Twig Book Shop 11am-1pm, 306 Pearl Pkwy, San Antonio, Texas

June 1--The Devil's Blues book signing @ Hasting Book Store 1-3pm, 735 Villa Maria, Bryan, Texas

June 7--Rob Moorman & Company @ Mobius Coffeehouse, w/me on harmonica, Brenham, Texas

July 23--The Devil's Blues book siging @ Murder By The Book 6:30-9pm, 2342 Bissonnet, Houston, Texas

Have to mention that it's about time that Rick Estrin was presented the award for best harmonica player at the  Blues Music Awards. I've been listening to One Wrong Turn for awhile now and haven't written a review yet. Hell, just get it. Then, you can agree or disagree with me when I ooh and ahh when I get around to writing my opinion.

I returned to the Rob Moorman stage with the Kalamazoo amp last week. They agreed that it sounded stupendous and worked well in the mix this time out. The little booger has a great tone. I blew through a Shure bullet with a CR41 element in it and my Dan Echo delay modified for harp. Pretty sweet.

By the way, I sent the bullet to Greg Heumann at Blowsmeaway Mics. He stuck a Switchcraft screwon connector in it to make it work like a champ once more. Also bought one of his volume controls. Highly recommended.

I've been working on my third book featuring those crime fighting bluesmen Mitty Andersen and Pete Bolden. Working title is Howling Mountain Blues and follows them to Belize for a blues festival where they run across a blues fanatic who operates a business he calls Abductions Are Us. I'm somewhere about halfway through with the first draft. Life has been getting in the way and slowing the process down a bit. I'll get her done, though. 'Nuff for now.



Monday, April 29, 2013

Eddie C. Campbell

I previously posted just how much Eddie C. Campbell means to me a couple of times. The first time I ever stepped on a stage and played amplified harmonica was with a stupendous ChiTown blues band that Eddie C brought to Texas back in the day. He graciously invited me up to sit in that night without having a clue as to whether I could play a blues lick or not. A few years ago I took my wife and son to eat lunch at Buddy Guy's Legends during a visit to Chicago. Lurrie Bell and Matthew Skoller were doing an acoustic set and the only other person in the club was Eddie C, who remembered the gig fifteen or so years ago. He invited Lurrie and Matthew over to meet me during their break and told me that he was Lurrie's Godfather. Best lunch break I ever had.

A few months ago Eddie C had a stroke in Germany and is finally making it back to Chicago. He's slowly recovering, but the medical bills have added up substantially. Bob Corritore sent this out in his recent newsletter, so I thought that I'd pass it along.




Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Out of the Comfort Zone

Just trying to get the groove back here. I'm not going to offer up a bunch of lame excuses at to why I've been neglecting the ol' blog, just going to jump in and write a post. Many of my posts on Back In The Day have had to do with my journey with the harmonica. Posted lots of thing about how I got to where I got to with the instrument and the tales relating. This one will be relative to that.

Somewhere about a year ago, a fellow named Rob Moorman contacted me and said that he had a coffee house gig and asked if I'd be willing to add my harmonica to a couple of bluesy tunes during the evening. "I could do that," I told him. I met up with him and fellow guitarist, Raymond Lynch the night before for a little run through.

One tune was a Randy Newman song called "Guilty", by way of Bonnie Raitt, which was indeed bluesy enough and the other was the pretty much a 12 bar groove by Cookie and the Cupcakes' "I've Got You On My Mind". He felt that I could hang with "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" at the end of the show, also.

Now, Rob used to be on the road as a professional musician back in the day. He ramrodded an outfit known as The Silver City Saddle Tramps in Austin during the Cosmic Cowboy wave. His group caught that wave and surfed it throughout the region fairly successfully. At some point, he found Jesus, quit the biz, returned to his hometown, found a traditional occupation, and raised a family of kids (most of whom I taught in high school). This gig would be his first such one in about thirty years or so.

For you gear guys (or gals), I decided to plug straight into the p.a. with my Astatic crystal mic running through a Lone Wolf Harp Break pedal and a modified for harp Dan Electro Echo pedal. The Harp Break adds a bit of distortion to the mix and the Dan Echo, a little slap back echo. He asked if I could play along with his opening number, John Denver's "Country Roads". Said I'd give it a whirl. What I stuck in there seemed to work well enough and I attempted to step from the stage.

"No, don't go anywhere. You should be able to add something to Merle Haggard's "Silver Wings"," he said. So I did that one also. At that point he would let me leave.

Keep in mind. When the music strays from blues, I get away from my comfort zone. We strayed way away from that zone. We played music by Bob Marley, Neil Diamond, Buddy Holly, Hank Williams, Dave Loggins, Elvis Presley, The Eagles, The Beatles, and even Herman Hermits, with a handful of originals thrown into the mix. To say that I was lost and remained so most of the night would be an under statement. I flew by the seat of my pants and just hung on throughout most the proceedings, and dearly hoped that I wasn't screwing his songs and wonderful voice up too much.

I really thought that I'd exceeded my limitations and was relieved that he and Raymond thought that I'd done just fine. I also felt that "Okay, I made it through a trial by fire, and that that was that." I figured that he learned his lesson and wouldn't ask me to do that again. The next night he sent me a Facebook message asking me if a date suited me for the next gig. "What?" I replied. "You want me to do that again?" "Well, heck yeah, I do. Can you make it or not?" That was a year ago, and the Rob Moorman and Company trio has been doing it once a month since then. We'll be back in action at Mobius Coffeehouse this Friday. I thought that somewhere along the line that I'd hear, "Thanks, but we won't really be needing you any longer", but that hasn't happened.

I still feel way out of my element (the other two guys are outstanding musicians) and I'm still way more comfortable with the blues. It does keep me on my toes, especially when he takes a request from the audience or brings something new to the stage. That happens frequently, but it's all been quite fun.

P.S. on gear--I have experimented from time to time with different stage gear scenarios. One night I brought in my Kalamazoo amp (which is a great blues harp amp), and even though it is low wattage, it prove to be a bit loud for the room, so we turned it down and miked it through the p.a. Turning it down robbed it's tone, so I went back to plugging into the p.a. I've stuck with the Harp Break and Dan Echo, but I've used different mics. I used my Shure 545 stick mic a couple of times, but I missed the volume control that's built into my Astatic. The last gig I tried out my Shure Bullet with a controlled reluctance element that mic whiz Greg Heumann stuck a volume control into, and it worked really well. I think it's more compatible than the Astatic with the straight into p.a. arrangement. Hard to say, since I only do this with the trio once a month, and sometimes Raymond totes in a different p.a. head.

'Nuff for now. Excuse me while I go practice "Three Little Birds".




Friday, March 1, 2013

Read An eBook Week

My publisher is offering 40% off all eBooks they publish for the national Read An eBook week from March 3-9. Details are at this link: Barking Rain Press.

Monday, February 11, 2013

THE DEVIL'S BLUES is LIVE

Those crime fighting bluesmen, Mitty Andersen and Pete Bolden are officially back in action in The Devil's Blues which popped up on Amazon this weekend. The book is the second in my series featuring these two blues harp musicians. Once again, they lay their Marine Bands down long enough to rid the world of a bit more of the evil that finds a way to cross their paths. This time out they are trying to clear the name of a good friend accused of blowing up the congregation of his church and end up in the sights of a wicked paramilitary group aimed at bringing Christianity to its knees. 

The Devil's Blues is available in paperback at Amazon and will roll out on Barnes and Noble and a dozen other sites over the next couple of months. It'll also be offered in all the possible eBook formats. The publisher, Barking Rain Press, has eBooks available now, and they also offer a FREE PDF preview of the first four chapters. 

Once I receive a stash of books, then I'll sell signed copies from here. There will be a "buy now" button in the sidebar, similar to what exists for the predecessor, River Bottom Blues. I dang sure appreciate those of you who ordered that one and will dang sure appreciate being able to fulfill orders for the new adventure. Anyone who still needs a signed copy of River Bottom Blues, it is certainly still available and provides a significant amount of background on the protagonists, but The Devil's Blues stands alone as a story quite well. If Mitty and Pete are your kind of guys, then help me get the word out. 

I'll supply updates as the book reaches more retailers. In the meantime, I'll get another round of CD reviews up and rolling here on the blog. Thanks so much for tuning in...and stay tuned. 'Nuff for now.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Dave Nevling-Sweet Bijou


The first time I heard Dave Nevling play, the tone he produced really impressed me. More than that, though, it was his intonation on the instrument which floored me. I've reviewed his work hear before, and I'm pretty sure that I said something like "he worries the hell out of a note" on the harmonica. I can't come up with a better description of what Nevling does with each hole that he hits than that. He's back doing just that on his latest release, Sweet Bijou. I'm also quite sure that I mentioned back then that if anyone deserves wider recognition beyond his Texas stomping grounds that it is he. This release further solidifies that opinion.

If you pick it up, just skip down to the final track, Sancho, and see that I ain't fibbing. He romps through a Latin tinged instrumental and gets everything he wants out of each hole that crosses his lips and tongue. He immaculately intones deep bends, double stops, flutter tongues, octaves and runs up and down the diatonic. I don't know if he'd call himself a perfectionist or not, but if so, then he's achieved that goal. Then go back a few tracks to Drink You Away for a taste of what he pulls out acoustically. To me, what separates the great players from the also rans is an acoustic tone that proves they don't have to rely on amplification to achieve a fabulous tone. Any weakness in intonation will be revealed with just harp to mouth. This track proves that Nevling has no weaknesses when it comes to pulling notes out of our humble diatonic.

Of course, I'm darned sure not saying that the other tracks aren't just as worthy; they are in spades. Nevling is certainly the proverbial triple threat. He writes great songs (these are all originals), plays the hell out his harp and sings his butt off. I'm quite sure that apprenticing with Gulf Coast legend, Bert Wills, was quite instrumental in helping him get his vocal chops together sufficiently enough to strike out with his own band. He vocals are fine through out, but if you're still skipping around, cue up Night Into Day. It's a marvelous ballad with a vintage vibe that he just slays vocally. I was going to compare it to a classic that it reminded me of, but as I sat down to write, that memory faded away. Actually, I hate doing those comparisons anyway, so forget about it.

A Dave Nevling release is aways about flowing through a variety of moods and modes. Upside is a nasty little number, lyrically as well as tonewise, on which he produces an accordion sound from his harp; I suspect with help from the Lone Wolf Octave pedal that he sticks into this Meteor Mini Meat amplifier. Guitaris Tom Bryan dishes out a fine solo on the tune and plays pretty darned tastefully throughout.

On the title cut, Nevling nails down and absolutely rules the use of hitting octave runs on the swampy song and stays with that Louisiana vibe with a rocking rhythm on Vieux Carre (which I assume is about partying in New Orleans' French Quarter). Lenora reeks of an Otis Rush style (see, I did use a comparison after all) minor keyed blues on which he whips out his skill on the chromatic. He doesn't chime in with the big harp until the five minute mark of the seven minute tune, but he doesn't hold back once he does. Bryan helps get that slow mo groove going with some nice string bending, similar in style to...naw.

He rounds out Josiah, about an innocent man executed, by playing organ to help set the tone. Drummer, Joe Campise and bassman, Jeff Parmenter are instrumental in providing stomping rhythms to lend a bit of seriousness to the song. Nevling pulls some of his deepest, dark tones on this one.

Connie's Cafe and I Need Love are both jumping, rollicking numbers. The former jumps and jives with some rockabilly picking, standup bass playing off the drums, and more expertly delivered octaves, flutter tongued licks (which he's mastered) and note pulls from Nevling. The latter is just some good time rock and roll on which he and Bryan bounce notes off each other. Heck of a tight band that he's leading down the road.

If he's playing third position harp on the opening cut, She's All That, and I think he is, then I'd have to say that it's some of the best harmonica that I've heard using such. If it's not in third, then the playing is deep toned and deep fried and well played anyway.

That's about all I have to say, other than...just get it. I know CD Baby has it available. His previous releases can be found there, also. As a disclaimer, I guess I need to mention that, yes, Dave Nevling is a friend of mine, and that, yes, he offered me a copy. I sent him a copy of River Bottom Blues as a swap. I got the better deal. I know that he'll read my book only once, but I'll listen to Sweet Bijou numerous times.

Friday, January 18, 2013

THE DEVIL'S BLUES PLAYLIST

Just finished up the review of the galley proofs of The Devil's Blues in order to catch the last bits and pieces of any stray typos remaining. Thankfully, there were very few. This also means that publication of the second round of adventures of those crime fighting bluesmen, Mitty and Pete, is soon to follow.

My Barking Rain Press editor, Ti Locke, came up with the idea to include a playlist of youtube vids of all the music that Mitty and Pete play or mention in the book. She tracked down these versions and they'll be clickable in the eBook format. Cool idea. Here's the playlist that can be checked out now. The numbers indicate the chapters in which the songs appear.

Playlist




Ricky Bush has provided this chapter-by-chapter playlist to go along with reading The Devil's Blues. Just click on each song title to hear the song at YouTube.













Chapter

Title

Artist





2

She Moves Me

Muddy Waters





4

Early in the Morning ('bout the Break of Day)

Sonny Boy Williamson II





10

Bring it on Home

Sonny Boy Williamson II







Precious Lord Take My Hand

Thomas Dorsey with Mahalia Jackson







A Change is Gonna Come

Sam Cooke with Otis Redding







I Shall be Released

Bob Dylan





15

Off the Wall

Little Walter







Fields of Gold

Eva Cassidy







Born Under a Bad Sign

Albert King







Baby Please Don't Go

Big Joe Williams





21

Death Letter Blues

Eddie "Son" House





23

The Creeper

James Cotton







Roller Coaster

Little Walter





25

Walter's Boogie

Big Walter Horton





26

Santa’s Messin’ With The Kid

Eddie C. Campbell







Blue Christmas

Elvis Presley







Who's Been Talking

Howlin' Wolf







She Moves Me

Muddy Waters





29

Laundromat Blues

Albert King





31

The Creeper Returns

Little Sonny





38

Spirit in the Sky

Norman Greenbaum







Sympathy for the Devil

Rolling Stones





39

Rollin' & Tumblin'

Muddy Waters





40

Crosscut Saw Blues

Tommy McClennan







Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Too Much Is Not Enough


Let me begin by saying that I lied in my last post. Not about finally getting around to reviewing something to do with the blues, but about the ones that I said were up next for me to waxed poetically about. I put a Christmas Amazon gift card to good use and received this release yesterday and just had to put my spin on it.

This represents Omar Kent Dykes second release paying homage to Jimmy Reed's music. I have the first one, with Jimmy Vaughn on board, called The Jimmy Reed Highway. It's a good 'un, but I bought this one here because of the Disclaimer that Dykes wrote explaining why he would do another batch of Jimmy Reed stuff. The title, Too Much Is Not Enough, explains some of his reasoning, but what sold me was this: "The most important reason to release these songs: they are the last recordings I did with my good friend, Gary Primich. I believe these songs deserve to be shared and appreciated. I am dedicating this CD to the memory and unstoppable talent of Gary Primich." 'Nuff said!

Once I decided that I'd learn the ins and outs of playing the blues harp, Gary Primich was the first professional that I met and witnessed in action way back in the day. I've documented that show somewhere here on the blog, but the bottom line is that he blew me away and I became a fervent fan of his. He passed away way too soon, but left a legacy of the high caliber harmonica recordings behind. I'm beholding to Omar Dykes for sharing these cuts with me.

Primich kicks off the proceedings on the opening cut with his fabulous deep, fat backed amplified tone and weaves all his tricks of the trade into the fills and solo. Too Much is not a Jimmy Reed staple, but takes the same shuffle path as the master. Same thing with the Dykes penned, I Gotta Let You Go, which is stamped with the signature groove. On this one though, Primich lays down his mic and shows off his unbeatable acoustic chops and enviable talent at bending the reeds to produce impeccable tone. Gary Clark Jr., the fast rising star from the Austin music scene, adds some nice slide guitar into the mix. He pops in and out of the core group of veteran blues cats Derek O'Brien (guitar), Ronnie James (upright bass), and Jay Moeller (drums). Barry Bihm throws down on electric bass when they want to get particularly nasty and Jon Hahn takes the drum sticks on a few.

Matter of fact, the only two cuts without Primich's harp (I Ain't Got You/I'm Gonna Ruin You) are from a stripped down trio with Clark doubling on harp and Moeller's drum kicking. His harp playing is effective, but rudimentary, and I suspect may have been included to contrast just how much more powerful Primich is on the instrument.

That Primich power is on full display on Shame, Shame, Shame on which Dykes turns him loose to do his thang. It is high octane stuff with Primich pulling out all the stops with his signature amped up runs, bends, and octave blasts. Same for You Don't Have To Go which Dykes transforms into a driving, whomping Chi-Town shuffle with Clark doing a bit of Elmore James style of slipping and sliding on the guitar frets. High and Lonesome also represents Primich's knack for getting the the deep, gutbucket grooves slamming with exquisite long drawn lonesome tones being pulled from the reeds and demonstrating his mastery of working the mic cupped and uncupped to add tonal variety.

Primich absolute owns Take Out Some Insurance, not exactly with any solos thrown down, but just proving how he can power a rhythmic groove. He helps it shuffle into the ozone, and on the instrumental Roll In Rhumba, he shifts gears to keep the rhumbaling rhumbaling.

Of course, Jimmy Reed's harp work is synonymous with what can be done in first position and the high end of the harmonica. No one, and I mean no one, nails that style better than Gary Primich. The bends, trills, warbles that he produces on those tiny reeds are nothing short of remarkable, and then he'll majectically swoop down for some low end acoustic thump on such tunes as Going To New York and I'm Going To Move To The Outskirts Of Town (again, not a tune associated with Reed).

Keep in mind that Primich is working as a sideman here and nothing is intended as a showcase for his talents. The songs are all less than four minutes long, some less than three, as should be, so he's just adding his licks to provide the songs with what is needed. Someone who is not a blues harp nut might not even notice, but we know what he's putting down.

I'm not meaning to give short shrift to Dykes. I saw beau coup Omar and the Howlers gigs back in the day and always loved his roadhouse rowdiness and his rough and ready vocals, and the man plays a helluva guitar. He knows exactly what he wants and how to get that across in any songs that he tackles, and here, he's tackled the Jimmy Reed grooves and wrestled them to the ground with a cracker jack group of musicians for an outstanding release. Damn right, Omar, Too Much Is Not Enough. And as he says in his liner notes, "If you think I've gone overboard with Jimmy Reed, just wait until I release my Howlin' Wolf and Bo Diddley material". Bring it on Omar Dykes. 'Nuff for now!