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The Cube Rating System-

0-Cubes-No redeeming value, may be vulgar, offensive or tasteless

1-Cubes-Not good, essentially a waste of time.

2-Cubes-While not all good music some of the material may be worthwhile.  If in a discount bin you may want it.

 3-Cubes-Good solid music.  Not every song a keeper but almost all are enjoyable.

 4-Cubes-You like every song on the CD a lot.  A song on the CD rates up there with some of your favorite songs of recent memory.  There may be a classic cut on the CD.

5-Cubes-One of the best recordings available.  This will become a classic CD essential to all blues collectors.  Almost all of the songs are rock solid.

BWTB welcomes our new reviewer Ben Cox of Jacksonville, Illinois.  Ben plays harp and has the following interests.  Photography, writing, reading, good movies, Playboy magazine, good whiskey, good wine, records, and genealogy.  Favorite blues musicians are B.B. King, Albert King, Paul Butterfield, Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker, Magic Sam, Otis Rush, Freddie King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Big Joe Turner, Etta James, Robert Johnson, Son House, Kim Wilson, Kilborn Alley Blues Band, Nick Moss & the Flip Tops, Magic Slim, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, John Lee Hooker, Earl Hooker, Charlie Musselwhite, Wynonie Harris, Ray Charles, Tab Benoit, Honeyboy Edwards, Susan Tedeschi, Big Mama Thornton.

Ben Cox On MySpace  You can leave your thoughts and commentary on his reviews with Ben at his MySpace page.

 

 

 

Maurizio Pugno & Sugar Ray Norcia

Look What I Found Out!
Pacific Blues

Run Time: 69:51

4 out of 5 cubes

Bear with me for a moment. I had to do some research on this guy after I heard this CD. Relatively unknown outside of his homeland in Italy and blues fans across Europe, Maurizio Pugno (pronounced POON-yo) has been one of the most well-travelled and well-respected blues and jazz guitarists for over 25 years. Touring with the likes of Sugar Ray, Tad Robinson, and Dave Specter to name a few when they’ve chanced to be on European soil has been Pugno’s calling card as a celebrated accompanist. After a chance meeting backstage at a blues festival in 2004, Pugno and one of the most celebrated vocalists in blues today Sugar Ray Norcia met up and struck up a friendship. After four years, the two decided to get together in a medieval church in Italy and record the fifteen tunes we’ve received here. Ranging from bop jazz, to swing, to soul-blues and Chicago blues, this album really spans the spectrum of great traditional American music. Normally, I’m very hesitant and dare I say a bit prejudice when it comes to foreign folks trying to replicate the earthy and rich tones of great American jazz or even blues for that matter, because Italy is a long way from the grit of Maxwell Street or the Delta.

However, after Pugno’s rich hollow-bodied guitar took off into the first notes of the jazzy-blues of the first track “Opening Act,” conjuring thoughts of T-Bone Walker at times, I was hooked. Then, Sugar Ray Norcia steps in on the horn-driven Roomful of Blues sounding “That Crazy Girl of Mine” and you know everything is going to be alright. Pugno’s Italian cast of musicians won’t be household names to folks but I’ll mention them here because they are quite brilliant, especially the highly-touted organ and piano playing of Alberto Marsico. Follow that up with the Leg Horns, Gio Rossi on drums, Lucio Villani on upright bass, and some guest appearances by Pugno’s old band the Rico Blues Combo and you have quite a combination on some well-seasoned musicians.

From Jimmy Reed’s lumpty lump on “It Must Be You” and “I Love You Baby” accompanied by the great harmonica work of Norcia to the funky soul-blues of “A Mind to Give It Up,” the band and Pugno’s playing offer surprise after surprise. Also, check out the updated big band version of the Muddy Waters’ classic “I Love the Life I Live.” Also, if you aren’t quite convinced of organ man Marsico, you need to check out the aptly-titled gospel-jazz of “The Preacher” and you won’t have to look further.
Like I said earlier, if you are a little hesitant about seeing an unknown foreign guy, here’s where you put those aside and go with it. Norcia is well worth it and Pugno will convince you, too that sometimes, even if being far removed from the source of the music, one can still manage to pour good tasteful and heartfelt style and emotion into it.

Check Maurizio Pugno out on Myspace at   http://www.myspace.com/mauriziopugno or at Pacific Blues. The album is only available for purchase at Pacific Blues or from his page.

Four Cubes Out Of Five

 

Ty Curtis Band

Stubborn Mind

Self-produced

Run Time: 45:15

Do you remember the initial recordings of Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jonny Lang? Do you remember how hungry and how much mainstream crowds embraced them? Ty Curtis and his band of young fellows help me to remember that time. Curtis’ Stratocaster coupled with his baby-faced voice hearkens to what contemporary blues and traditional rock (or as we sometimes call blues-rock). The album was also chosen to go to Memphis for Best Self-Produced Release this year. Recorded last year when the band had only been together for about a year and with two of the members being all of 19 years old, they have a solid base from which to jump to a long, fruitful career.

The album presents mostly rock infused guitar chops that come straight out of any blues-rockers standard playing list. However, give the kid a break, he wrote most of the songs himself, so I give him a solid B for being original. The first track is about as much blues as you’ll get on the album from a traditional point of view, hearkening to the Texas shuffles made popular with the Fabulous Thunderbirds. The song, entitled “Come On” has some decent harp chops by Jeff Grechney over top of some of Curtis’ most tasteful straight-ahead playing on the album coupled with the slow-blues on “What Kind of Fool.”

Curtis has a little way to go vocally. He’s young and sounds like it. I don’t hear the nuance yet that some of the more seasoned guys have. To put it in perspective, I don’t like Jonny Lang or Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s vocals either. Curtis, though has some great rock guitar stylings conjuring thoughts of Johnny Winter, Robin Trower, and Rick Derringer at times. He’s definitely has a blues base surrounding him and, as stated before has a great spring board to leap from and learn form. The song that best fits Curtis vocally is the rock-like “No She Don’t,” leaning on the ballad side a bit.

Curtis and Company has already had a line-up change since this release, as Grechney has went on and the incomparable Hank Shreve has been added on harmonica. With undoubtedly a bit more of traditional blues infused into his recorded work and then adding the rock edge, a la Buddy Guy, Curtis will definitely be a head turner on the national scene. Give him time, he’s only 19 and has plenty of blues to sing and live ahead of him.

Visit Ty Curtis on the web at his website: http://tycurtisband.com/ or on MySpace. This album is also available from Pacific Blues.

3 Cubes Out Of Five

 

Catherine Russell

Sentimental Streak

World Village

Run  Time 47.05

Do you miss gals like Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Alberta Hunter, and Lena Horne? I know it’s a large comparison to make and some pretty huge shoes to fill but Catherine Russell comes pretty darn close to all these ladies. Blending swing, jazz, ragtime, and blues, Russell’s voice is golden, pure, and any other adjective you can add to compliment this young lady from New York.
Her lineage is quite astounding and no surprise. She’s the daughter of the famed Luis Russell who was Louis Armstrong’s long time band leader and arranger. Her mother Carline Ray, is a world-reknowned and superbly educated bassist. Catherine herself has some accolades, too. She’s toured the world with some of the big names in the music industry, including Paul Simon, David Bowie, Cyndi Lauper, Jackson Browne, Rosanne Cash, Steely Dan to name a few. This her eponymous second release on the World Village label is a pure delight in its sound quality and purity of origin. Russell’s voice soars far and above a lot of ladies who label themselves jazz singers these days. And when she wants to, she can give you some heartfelt big band blues that almost makes you want to cry.
Most of the source music comes from her father that Catherine admits to in the liner notes that she really started to discover a few years ago after Doc Cheatham’s passing in New Orleans. You can’t really tell it, but it seems like she’s been singing these songs for years. Try out the sassy and almost sexually-explicit but not lyrics that she turns with force and sultry power on Bessie Smith’s “Kitchen Man” or Alberta Hunter’s “My Old Daddy’s Got A Brand New Way To Love.” Lena Horne’s “Thrill Me” also flies above the accompaniment. The song that really soars above and beyond for me is the jazzy-blues of the only original on the disc from Russell’s own pen called “Luci.” Stretching out to 5:02, it’s the longest track on the disc and gives the 4-piece band behind her led by Brian Mitchell on piano and Larry Campbell on guitar to space out and show us the improv that jazz fans know and love.
If you are a jazz fan or a fan of some blues-influenced jazz, this disc is for you. If you are a pure music fan, than this is one of the best chill out albums I’ve heard since Norah Jones Come Away With Me from a few years back. Russell’s a rising talent and is bound to jump into the spotlight very soon. She’s a woman to be reckoned with and should be on any music fan’s radar.

Visit Catherine on the net at http://www.catherinerussell.net/

Album is available from all major record venders.

4 Cubes Out Of Five

Lurrie Bell

Let’s Talk About Love

Aria B.G. Records

Run Time: 45:51

4 out of 5 cubes

Imagine taking every great guitar player in blues from the South Side of Chicago and wrapping them all up into one person. This is Lurrie Bell. Having lived the blues simply through his namesake of his father (the late harmonica legend Carey Bell) or through his own triumphs and tragedies, Bell is one of the most respected and well rounded blues guitarists walking the Earth today. This is Bell’s first solo effort after the death of his father and his romantic partner Susan Greenberg, to which the album is aptly dedicated. Refusing to give in to critic pressure and tackle his life in an album, Bell instead harnesses his demon around the neck of his red Gibson guitar and spins tales of love and love lost.

Bell let’s us all know immediately where he’s from with the opening track and title track to the album with a firm bitter taste of a Chicago shuffle with varied approach, showing the influence of his father’s approach to blues (giving us something we’ve heard before but not giving it quite the same way as everyone else). Bell stays at home in Chicago with the first of two Willie Dixon covers with “Earthquake & Hurricane” adding in fellow Chicagoan steeped in tradition Billy Branch, rumbling around Bell’s stinging guitar work. Bell shows us he’s not afraid to step out of Chicago when he steps on the Memphis Soul road with the Pops Staples “Why (Am I Treated So Bad)” adding the Sacred Cousins on background vocals to the funky gospel groove. Bell reminds us of a time when Stax Records flourished with such soul, power, and expression. Bell, however, doesn’t stay out of Chicago too long, adding legend Jimmy Johnson on harmonies for the acoustic, fresh-from-the-Delta “Missing You” from the J.B. Lenoir discography. Bell continues to take us all through the many sidewalks and sides of Chicago’s blues music heritage and doesn’t bore us or offer anything stale. One more point of reference is “Chicago Is Loaded With the Blues.” Johnny Iguana’s piano conjures the soul of Otis Spann with out fully copping his style. Producer Matt Skoller adds some brilliant harp work, unsurprisingly reminding us of Lurrie’s late father. And, with a humble nod, showing us he’s comfortable as a musician that makes his band sound good by stepping back, Bell doesn’t take the first solo in the song instead allowing Skoller to pass the tribute on to Carey Bell seamlessly. Bell’s less is more approach and his ability to step back should be a lesson for all new and even some of the current guitarists on the scene today. To me, it demonstrates Lurrie’s attitude and brilliance to a tee, which cannot be ignored; making this disc one of the best of 2007, a definite sleeper. If you like Chicago blues, this is one of a few remaining road maps out there to pick up and enjoy.

Album is available on every major record outlet or visit Lurrie’s website at www.lurrie.com.

Nick Moss & the Flip Tops

Play It Til Tomorrow

Blue Bella Records

2 Discs

Disc 1 Run Time: 67:09

Disc 2 Run Time: 52:04

5 out of 5 cubes

“It’s written in the Bible,” Nick Moss historically proclaims on this album of biblical proportions and soon to be of epic status for a band that has hit its full stride. Nick Moss and the Flip Tops first came on the scene at the asking of legendary Jimmy Rogers back in 1999. Since then, with a string of critically acclaimed albums, Moss has become the coveted guitar master of Chicago. After last year’s success and BMA-nominated Live at Chan’s, Moss follows it up with a release far and above any of his work to date (and that’s saying a hell of a lot, because they’re all extremely wonderful) and one of the most anticipated and ground-breaking releases of 2007. Packaged in an unheard of 2 disc set of mostly-all original material, Moss & Co. deliver to the world the Chicago of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Disc 1 delivers Moss and the Tops in their original fashion of the nasty and brutish Chicago sound, with the Freddie King-esque bouncer “Late Night Saint” kicking off the disc to the boiling Jimmy Dawkins’ inspired “Mistakes From the Past.” If I were to close my eyes on “Mistakes,” I and any would be thinking they caught a missing track from Dawkins’ Fast Fingers era. Moss muscles up on several Chicago shuffles and even presents the package-sealer with the instrumental “Grease Fire.” Special guest Eddie Taylor, Jr. adds the knock-out punches on some guest tracks, like the searing first solo on “You Make Me So Angry” and some solid rhythm work a la his father on “Rising Wind.” Not to be denied their just desserts are as billed “The Utility Man” Gerry Hundt who adds some solid guitar, mandolin, and harmonica work sprinkled throughout the disc, the solid rhythm on the skins by Bob Carter and Willie Oshawny who adds some triple threat work on piano, bass, and guitar. Moss even demonstrates some multi-instrumental talent by bringing back the 50’s harmonica-led band sounds with some superb harmonica styling.

Disc 2 isn’t bonus material and its certainly not remastered tracks that are so commonly added to make the buyer want to purchase the CD. No, this second disc is a beast in and of itself. It is not a compliment to Disc 1. It is Nick Moss! This fantastic “Smithsonian Set,” as Nick calls it hearkens to a time when the blues was paving the way for all music that would come after it. It is that late 50s deep Chicago sound harnessed and cradled by the Jimmy Rogers and the Muddy Waters and the Otis Rushs who are the legends and masters that gave us this timeless music. The lyrics speak the hidden truths our society sometimes likes to shelter us from. It births to the world the sorrows and the celebrations of the human spirit. Moss strips away his electric guitar and gives us the acoustic amplified into what may become his landmark to the world. If you aren’t a fan of Moss’ electric work, take a bite out of this one. It is something that both electric and acoustic fans can appreciate, both for nuance and content. This album is worth the price and will never leave your CD player at home or at work. It never tires. It never gets boring. It is a timeless piece of art, that if anyone asked me the question: “What is blues music like today?” I would pick this album out of my collection and tell them that this is it, look no further, and then show them the rest.

Album is available at all major record outlets. Visit Nick on the Internet at: http://www.nickmoss.com or on MySpace at http://www.myspace.com/nickmossandthefliptops  and his own label Blue Bella Records for his and other fine releases: http://www.myspace.com/bluebellarecords  and http://www.bluebellarecords.com.

Stevie Ray Vaughan

Solos, Sessions, & Encores

Epic/Legacy

Running Time: 69:48

3 out of 5 cubes

For most SRV fans, Vaughanabes, and die hards will have most of the stuff either released or unreleased on this 14 tracks of the late virtuoso’s vault. If you bought the SRV box way back when, most of the stuff will have been included. However, for those who don’t quite yet have their Vaughan collection complete, this is a good start.

The first track, and one of my favorites from Vaughan’s live recorded catalog “The Sky Is Crying” featuring other guitar giants B.B. King and Albert King along with harmonica legend Paul Butterfield, Vaughan plays some quiet fills along next to his teacher Albert King in the opening of the number, showing that the guitar legend knew when to be heard and seen and when not to. The set unveils a long-time bootlegged 1978 session in Nashville with Vaughan’s then-girlfriend Lou Ann Barton, showing a bare bones style that would later mold into the SRV we all came to know in 1983. The track with Barton on vocals “You Can Have My Husband” is reminiscent of some of the chunk-a-lunk of Stevie’s brother Jimmie with the early portions of the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Another great standout track (oft-bootlegged as well) stemming from the SRV-produced Strike Like Lightning album tour with Lonnie Mack is the diabetic-inducing “Oreo Cookie Blues” in which both teacher and student unleash an onslaught of some nasty guitar fretwork. Another previously unreleased track from 1985’s Saturday Night Live appearance with brother Jimmie, “Change It” demonstrates how Vaughan had come full circle from a backing track on a 1983 David Bowie Top 40 hit (which makes its appearance in this compilation on the final track)to guitar iconoclast in the public eye by the time of his death in 1990. Other mainstays of the Vaughan catalog that have oft been released by never in single disc form is the live with Jeff Beck “Goin Down,” “Pipeline” with Dick Dale, and “Don’t Stop By the Creek, Son” with Johnny Copeland.

Overall, as a historical disc, you can gather much more of Vaughan’s legacy on some previously released sets like the aforementioned box set released in 2000 or the Blues At Sunrise compilation that demonstrated more of Stevie’s traditional leanings and slow blues textures. More of a marketing deal introducing young guitarists to the great Texas blues-rock hero, this disc likely won’t stay in your rotation for very long for lack of stand out recordings. Better still, it is just another collection piece for many in already wonderful catalog.

Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters

Hope Radio

Stony Plain Records

Running Time: 78:15 Live Recording

3.5 out of 5 cubes

and 1/2

One of the most critically acclaimed and educated guitar players that has ever lived continues upon a brilliant path that started over thirty years ago. Ronnie Earl never ceases to amaze with his unequalled tone and knowledge of his instrument. Earl, known for his all instrumental albums, conjures every jazzy-blues vibe that you can possibly think of on his latest effort for Stony Plain called “Hope Radio.”

If you are a Mike Bloomfield, Shuggie Otis, Roy Buchanan, Duke Robillard, or the instrumental side of Stevie Ray Vaughan fan (think “Lenny” and “Riviera Paradise”), or just a plain guitar “head” in general; this album is a must-have in your collection. Stretching out on the slow burn on a Bloomfield-esque “Blues For the West Side” that sounds straight out of the Magic Sam “All Your Love” groove to the nasty grit on “Blues For Otis Rush” for whom the album is dedicated to, Earl and his Broadcasters take no cuts or overdubs from the word go. This album is cut completely live, though from the sound and quality of the recording you couldn’t tell it. Earl even strips the whole band away and gives a solemn tribute to the folks of Louisiana with the acoustic “Katrina Blues.” The musicianship is superb, and with the vocal talent of Earl’s signature red Stratocaster, you’ll have over an hour’s worth of pure mellow-out magic. You’ll actually believe the guitar is talking to you at some points. As I said before, Earl’s ability to play with feeling and with an astute sense of virtuosity without overdoing it is a sign of both his talent and his passion for the music that has carried him through his troubled past.

Earl is a walking testament that music can save someone’s life and this album will most definitely be on tap as one of his pinnacles in his extensive discography.

Visit Ronnie on the web at: http://www.ronnieearl.com/ or at http://www.stonyplainrecords.com/

His records are able to be found at every major record outlet on the Web. Another great album for purchase that encompasses Earl’s early career with Roomful of Blues along with his early solo albums that include guest appearances by Darrell Nulisch, Kim Wilson, and Duke Robillard is called “Heart & Soul: The Best of Ronnie Earl” available on the Shout Factory label.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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