Regular readers of the blog will know that I am not a big fan of pure blues. This because of the often slow tempos and limited lyrical and musical vocabulary. And now arrives the latest album from guitar player and singer Josh Smith, accompanied by a load of musicians from various backgrounds. Without selling all those names short, most important is Monét Owens who sings lead on one track and does a lot of harmonies.
And while I was prepared to not like the album, I must say that there are some things happening that made me a bit of a happy camper; the horn section ads loads of soul, we get riffs awesome solos, hammond organ and some tracks incorporate elements from pop, rock, and even a bit of Steely Dan typed fusion. So a track like Through The Night reminds me a bit of Warren Haynes and is damn tasty. Watching You Go would make Joe Bonamassa proud. And Your Love, with Monét on lead vocals could be mistaken for a classic Motown remake. And the variation goes on; Look No Further has a great groove and a lightness about it that is very attractive.
So there you have it, another album that proves me wrong. Smith is a fantastic guitar player with loads of feel. And his voice is also above average. Couple that with the varied song material, and there should be hordes of people falling for this. And rightly so.
Don’t know about you, but I am not really into blues. I can enjoy it when it gets infused with a healthy dose of rock, but often I find the musical vocabulary pretty limited.
And now Emil & The Ecstatics have landed their new album Rise Again on my desk. It is their fourth, but obviously the first I have been listening to. Going through it a couple of times I noticed a bit of similarity in the singing to Robert Cray. Not bad for a white guy me thinks. Also the guitar sound is not unlike that of Cray. At least to my limited knowledge! Then again, using a strat must be pretty common ha ha. Another thing worth writing about is the regular use of the hammond organ. Being a big fan of the sound of that, it actually makes it more easy for me to get into the album. This edition has the 8 regular tracks plus 3 bonus ones, with 2 of those being live tracks.
Ultimately, even when this genre isn’t something I will listen to often, I think this is done well. The playing is of course there, the songs have enough variation to hold my attention throughout, even when not all ideas sound very original to my ears.
Overall pretty awesome for some Swedish dudes to pull this thing off and sound like the real deal.
Don’t mind listening to Focus, and even better when it is a double album. But wait, it’s a “family” album. Isn’t that supposed to be a kind of best of from Focus and related bands? Well, in this case that is only partly true. Because this is in fact extensive unreleased and new material! On offer are 20 tracks, of which 15 are unreleased, some are alternate versions of the Focus X sessions, solo tracks from current members and tracks from the beginning of the Focus 11 sessions. All wrapped in a cover that can only be from the one and only Roger Dean.
And does that mean that quality is an issue here? Of course not, we are dealing with world class musicians here. They care too much about music to release anything under par. So you will get: 2 songs by Thijs van Leer on flute, over some nature sounds. Very relaxing. 10 Focus songs, all in their usual mix of instrumental and vocal, fusion, blues and or rock. Also 2 songs from drummer Pierre van der Linden, 2 songs by guitarist Menno Gootjes (definitely check Hazel, beautiful), 2 songs by Swung, who are Focus without Thijs and 2 songs by new bassist Udo Pannenkeet, who takes over from Bobby Jacobs. Besides the art work from Dean, another thing of note is that this is released independently on their In And Out Of Focus label! With their status I guess that is not a really bold move, but still.
Anyone familiar with their output can buy this on sight, class us usual.
Another new band whose album has been making many rounds in my CD-player the last weeks. The funny thing is, looking at the band name, the album title or the album art, will probably not give you a clue as to what to expect. Well, here’s where I come in I guess 🙂
The Giant Flying Turtles are a 4 piece band consisting of Calvin Bennet on vocals, upright and electric bass, acoustic guitars and cello, Johnny Young on vocals, piano, keyboards and rhythm guitar, Jim Toscano on drums, percussion and whistle and TJ Jordan on guitar and vocals. There are also some guest on banjo and violin. Looking at that it seems the guys are able to add a lot of colour. And that would be the needle on the head. This album is filled with songs that cover a broad spectrum of genres. Think everything between Rockabilly, Prog rock, Alternative, Americana, Blues, Swing, Bluegrass and Folk. And while some might be put off by that, those would be missing out! Because whatever is the root of a song, these guys are able to convince. The songs have great spirit and energy. And I for one admire a band with the balls to just go out and do what they like. Especially when served so expertly. Of course for me personally the more rocking tracks (check One Of A Kind for instance) are closest to my taste, but I have found every track to be enjoyable and just very well done.
I think a lot of people could fall in love with this, so please have a listen!
First confession is that I am not really very much into blues. Blues rock yes, especially when it rock’s hard, but for me a lot of blues operates with limited musical vocabulary. Second confession is that strictly speaking, this is not a new release, it is a European re-release of an album already released in 2014 in the USA.
But now on to Kirk Fletcher and his Live at the Baked Potato album. When Joe Bonamassa calls you one of the best blues guitarists on the planet, there is no denying that you have something going for ya. Honing his skills with The Fabulous Thunderbirds and touring with the likes of Larry Carlton, Robben Ford and Michael Landau is more proof that the man can play. So while listening to the album, I noticed a few things. Yes, Fletcher is a player with great skill and tone. And still manages to care more about feel than technique, so I bet he flashes that front cover smile a lot when he plays. Second is that there is a lot of extended soloing, not only from him but also from Jeff Babko on organ and rhodes. The rhythm section of Lemar Carter on drums and Calvin Turner or Travis Carlton on bass hold the music together with tight grooves. And while I think the bass could have been a little more prominent in the mix, I really liked the drum sound, very natural. Oh, and last but not least, I think the blues is stretched a bit here, with influences from fusion and soul and a bit of funk. Which makes a tasty dish.
I am sure that people into blues will dig this, and as it is available from today, you know what to do!
One of the pleasant things of independent music is that it often surprises you. Must be that it takes strong willed musicians to get their craft in the open without backing of a company. Now take the current release from Bill Thurman for instance. I happen to know Bill from a discussion group and have always thought of him as a fiddler (using the word with respect, as that is one hell of an instrument to get some serious tone out of). But on this EP, Bill turns out to be quite the multi instrumentalist. On the list are piano, B3 organ, gut string guitar, acoustic bass, percussion and violin / fiddle. And on top of that, he sings too. And not half bad either. Hallelujah gets a fine and convincing rendition, and Shady Groove will probably light up any square dancing fest. Not than I know anything about that, am just presuming :).
Bill’s vision on the 6 songs (all are traditionals or covers) is fine. In fact, my only point of concern would be the thing needs more songs to showcase all the facets of his many talents. Nice listen!
Blues rock is certainly not a strict USA only affair. As it turns out, even some young white dudes from Germany know a thing or two about it. So please welcome the trio that are the Marius Tilly Band. With Marius being the singer and guitar player and he is supported by Benjamin Opperman on bass and Maximilian Wastl on drums. But they cheated a little and invited some guests for extra guitars and keyboards. All to please us, the listeners!
First song Mr. Mule struck me as a pop song disguised as a medium tempo blues track. And that pop feeling kept creeping up throughout the album. So strictly speaking, this might turn out to be a much to simplistic and commercial album for purists. But that would be a shame, as I think the guys have come up with some excellent ideas anyway. A track like Out Of These Days is beautiful with a smooth bass line and some exquisite strat tones supporting the emotion charged vocals. Speaking of stratocaster, great sound mister Tilly! A track like Sometimes is a lot more bluesy in approach, and in some strange way reminded me of Steely Dan a bit, but that ain´t a bad reference no matter how you look at it.
So there you go, for someone who is not that keen on blues, I found this a pleasure to listen to, probably because of the influences from outside the genre. Give them a try!
There is no way in the world I can keep up with the release schedule of Joe Bonamassa. So I am still behind listening. But really I don´t care much about that as I still find every album to be worthwhile. Don´t know how they do it, but the creative juices keep flowing. And of course Joe has a keen ear for covering the right tracks…
As we are accustomed to, Black Rock ranges from more rock infused tracks, to typical blues workouts. So you could say that he resembles Rory Gallagher in that aspect. Opening with the driving Steal Your Heart Away, which has not only a great haunting chorus (probably due to the high pitched vocal harmony) but also a damn fine beat. But there also some other styles here. Athens To Athens has an acoustic feel to it, probably with a dobro or something like that. The same applies to Baby You Gotta Change Your Mind, although that has a totally different feel, more jazzy. And it is with regret that I say the only track I don´t feel comfortable with is Night Life. Despite BB King guesting and Joe raving about his hero, to me it adds little to earlier versions. That is not saying that it sucks, mind you.
If you have never checked him out, why don´t you? If you liked him before, this will not disappoint.
The output of this man is turning out to be quite unbelievable! If not under his own name, than with Beth Hart or Black Country Communion (whose albums will be featured later). And either on CD (one per year, like clockwork) or DVD. The man is a workaholic!
So today I am gonna write about his 2011 release Dust Bowl. And hey, I am not a true blues head by any means, but Joe is someone I feel comfortable listening to. Not only because of several more rocking tracks (like Dust Bowl or Black Lung Heartache (tasty riff!) ) but also because of the feel in his guitar playing in blues tracks like Slow Train or The Meaning Of The Blues. Joe is a competent singer for this type of stuff, yet he treats us with several guests along the line as well. The mighty John Hiatt joins on Tennessee Plates (great fun track) and the voice of rock and fellow BCC man Glenn Hughes lends his vocal cords to Heartbreaker. In typical Hughes manner. And Vince Gill contributes on Rowena.
So we are treated to another versatile album, from a man who won´t slow down, yet keeps his quality control set to high standards. If you ask me, a better missionary to spread the gospel of the blues is hard to imagine. And still cross over appeal. Great stuff, check it out!
Like probably a lot of people I had heard of Joe Bonamassa before, but as I am not the greatest blues lover in the world, I always hesitated to buy one of his records. But a while back I heard the opening track of this one and was very impressed. So the waiting days are over, I had to have this.
And indeed, that opening title track is a monster. A fierce slow riff on a pounding beat. Great stuff I can listen to all day. Next is a cover of a song most of us will know from British singer Sam Brown, Stop!. This gets the blues treatment here and, despite not being as good as the the opener, is still an enjoyable ditty. So onwards the level of interest keeps changing. But I reckon in time I will appreciate the blues workouts a little more… I am glad to have this and am sure that people who like their blues a little rockier, or their rock a little bluesier, will appreciate this.
By the way, just after releasing a new album, talk is that Joe is participating in a new super group called Black Country Communion, together with Glenn Hughes, Derek Sherinian and Jason Bonham. One to watch out for!
Personal play tips: The Ballad Of John Henry, Story Of A Quarryman, Happier Times.