Saturday, April 28, 2018

Steve Krase is Just Waitin'

Steve Krase is not stranger to this blog. He's a good friend, a great singer/song writer, blues harp musician and record producer. I've reviewed several of his releases and a few from his record label, Connor Ray Music. He's got new one coming up and this is the official release info from Mark Pucci Media.

HOUSTON, TX – World-class harmonica player Steve Krase expands his blues music into new territory on his fourth CD, Just Waitin’, coming June 15 on Connor Ray Music. Produced by Rock Romano (who also played bass and sang backing vocals), Just Waitin’ features Steve Krase (vocals and harmonica), backed by a solid cast of additional notables, including David Carter (guitars and backing vocals); Tamara Williams (drums, percussion and backing vocals); James Gilmer (percussion); Brian Jack (accordion); Mike Vee (rubboard); and Kenan Ozdemir (lead guitar). 
Steve Krase will celebrate the new album with a special CD pre-release show at Houston’s famed Big Easy Club on Friday, May 18th (5731 Kirby Dr., Houston), where he’ll be joined by several special guests including the legendary singer Trudy Lynn, plus James Gilmer on percussion and Brian Jack on accordion. “I’m so pleased to be showcasing our new CD at one of the finest Blues Clubs in the world, Houston's Big Easy,” says Krase. “This is a new band, a new sound, and I'm excited to roll it out.”

Just Waitin’ spends much time within the blues world, with songs from Howlin’ Wolf and Big Walter Price, among others; but also traverses beyond that into roots and Americana styles, with a song on the new disc from Hank Williams (“Settin’ the Woods on Fire”) and even a Zydeco –flavored take on the theme from the “Beverly Hillbillies” TV show (“The Ballad of Jed Clampett”).
In the liner notes for Just Waitin’, Krase sends a big shout out to all the musicians, production personnel and fans for their work and support. “Thanks to all the great musicians that I am lucky enough to have in my corner,” he says, “especially to my band: David Carter, Tamara Williams and most notably to Rock Romano, who pulled triple duty as bassist, producer and sound engineer on this recording, in addition to penning three of the songs. Special thanks also to Trudy Lynn, who continues to amaze me with her talent and from whom I continue to learn. Very special thanks to the clubs that continue to support live music and KPFT Houston radio for all of their support  Finally, I want to thank all of the people that contributed money to assist the Houston Blues musicians in need after Hurricane Harvey.”
Said producer/bassist Rock Romano about the recording sessions: “Steve really delivered on this CD; great song selections delivered with dynamic heart-felt vocals along with his unique and powerful harmonica style.” And special guest James Gilmer, longtime percussionist for Lyle Lovett, added, “I love this project! It’s like Magic Dick and Peter Wolf meet Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter!”

Just Waitin’ Track Listing

1)  Settin' the Woods on Fire  
2)  I Don't Mind     
3)  Just Waitin' on My Brand New Baby
4)  Irene Irene    
5)  The Ballad of Jed Clampett  
6)  All in the Mood  
7)  Dirty Dirty  
8)  Blame It All On Love 
9)  Nobody Loves Me 
10) My Baby Walked Off         

Mark Wenner's Blues Warriors

Here's the official press release from Mark Pucci Media for one of my all time, old time favorite blues harp players. I have an LP of Mark's self-titled debut that finds itself on rotation frequently. Glad to see he's back with a focus on the blues. 

WASHINGTON, DC – Mark Wenner, founder and leader of beloved roots band The Nighthawks, announces a June 15 date for the self-titled debut CD of Mark Wenner’s Blues Warriors on EllerSoul Records. Joining Wenner (vocals, harmonica) in the band are fellow Nighthawks mate Mark Stutso (drums, vocals), as well as Clarence “The Bluesman” Turner (guitar, vocals), Zach Sweeney (guitar) and Steve Wolf (upright bass). 

Produced by Wenner and recorded earlier this year, Mark Wenner’s Blues Warriors showcases the tight-knit band’s foray into many facets of the blues, embracing influences from Chicago, New Orleans and Mississippi. The disc’s 12 tracks include two instrumentals, where the band gets to strut its collective stuff on the Paul Williams chestnut, “The Hucklebuck,” as well as the original, “Just Like Jimmy,” an homage to the legendary Jimmy Reed. Just like most of the Nighthawks albums of recent vintage, Wenner tosses in another salute to Elvis Presley with a blues-ified version of his classic, “Teddy Bear.”

“This band is actually a blues band,” says Wenner, addressing comparisons to the ‘Hawks. “The Nighthawks are a blues and roots-rock band. This band, with upright bass, is more authentic, old school and swinging. It’s closer to the Cash Box Kings than J. Geils; a whole different animal.”

The Blues Warriors have been active for several years and playing shows in and around the Washington, DC, area. They’re set to play two DC-area festivals in June: Takoma Park Jazz Fest and Silver Spring Blues Fest. The band will also open for The Nighthawks at the Ramshead on May 13 and will play for the Baltimore Blues Society picnic on Labor Day weekend. 

Wenner explains how the band’s personnel and recording came about. “About 20 years ago, The Nighthawks played a concert in The Netherlands to kick off a pub-crawl style festival, and I saw a listing for Clarence "The Bluesman" Turner FROM WASHINGTON, DC! I thought I was on top of the DC blues scene, yet I didn't know this young man, so I made a point of catching his set. Clarence knew all the guitar tricks and put on a hell of a show. What really impressed me was how DEEP his blues were. I waited to meet him, and he turned out to be a nice guy and a real gentleman. Although he came up playing bass in the Go Go scene, he had grown up in a house full of blues, both recorded and live. He went on he became quite visible in the thriving Washington blues world and a favorite of the DC Blues Society. He was the obvious choice for a collaborator in a traditional blues band.

“One of the primary factors in such a band had to be upright bass, as opposed to the electric. Steve Wolf, who subbed in the Nighthawks for several tours in the ‘80s, had become a world- class upright player with experience in jazz as well time with the Washington wonder of many styles, Danny Gatton.

“Nighthawks drummer Mark Stutso was also recruited to form a swinging, shuffling rhythm section. To match Clarence, we looked at the young guns playing blues guitar. Zach Sweeney, who I had played with when he was too young to come to the blues jams without his parents, had returned to the area after some serious road experience with Wayne Hancock, was back  and playing blues, rockabilly and honky tonk all over town. We got him. 

“Squeezing gigs in between Nighthawks tours and everyone's busy schedules, we developed a swinging old school sound that demanded to be recorded. We found a sympathetic ear at Ambient Studio in Laurel, MD with Ray Tilkins, and had a lot of fun making this disc. I think the joy shows through in the tracks.”

The songs (with comments from Mark Wenner):
1) “Diamonds at Your Feet”- Clarence comes out swinging on a not-overly-covered Muddy Waters tune that features Little Walter-style chromatic harp.
2) “Teddy Bear” - Although the concept was pretty pure blues, I just couldn't help taking an unlikely piece from one of my favorite blues singers and giving it the Warriors' feel.
3) “Rock a While” - Not a well-known Joe Turner piece, Clarence says his parents played this one over and over in their house.
4) “Checkin' Up on My Baby” - Sonny Boy or Jr. Wells? We opted for Junior's version, bringing us into the early ‘60s when Buddy Guy was using James Brown grooves in the Chicago Blues guitar sound.
5) “Just to Be with You” - Clarence gets low down with more Muddy.
6) “King Bee” - Slim Harpo's tune was one of the first blues melodies I learned in the ‘60s and one of the first blues albums I bought. I got to play with Slim and Lightnin' Slim in New York shortly before they both passed.
7) “It’s My Own Fault” - Although Mark Stutso has sung this song in many bands, including Jimmy Thackery's, Tab Benoit's and Jason Ricci's, this is the first studio capture of his magnificent take on the B.B. King classic.
8) “Hello Josephine” - This version of Fats Domino's tune is based on the Terry Garland arrangement I played on. Chuck Berry meets Fats. I'm using the 12-hole Sonny Boy style big Marine Band. Blues Police Beware: There is a little Hillbilly in harmony. 
9) “Trust My Baby” - Unrehearsed one take of a harmonica show-off Sonny Boy Williamson piece.
10) “The Hucklebuck” Zach and Steve get to a chance to really strut their stuff. 
11) “Just Like Jimmy” - An “original” one take, on the spot, creation in honor of my first harmonica hero, Jimmy Reed.
12) “Dust My Broom” - Clarence's favorite “get hot” tune, less guitar and more harmonica driven than the usual and it just plain rocks. 

This press release is courtesy of Mark Pucci Media.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Something New and The White Roach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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