Search Results for ‘Muddy Waters’

Muddy Waters – The Complete Aristocrat & Chess Singles A’s & B’s, 1947-62

Muddy Waters - The Complete Aristocrat & Chess Singles A's & B's, 1947-62

Title: The Complete Aristocrat & Chess Singles A’s & B’s, 1947-62

Artist: Muddy Waters

Label: Acrobat Music

Catalog No.: ACQCD7072

Formats: 4-CD set, MP3

Release date: April 15, 2014


Muddy Waters’ role in the evolution of blues music cannot be over-stated.  His seminal influence is distilled and chronicled in these four CDs, which include all of his singles (78’s and 45’s) released by the Chess brothers’ companies from 1947 through 1962.  Though audio quality varies, this set is worth the low price if you don’t already own copies of these songs.

Born McKinley Morganfield, Muddy Waters learned to play blues from Son House, and his music was directly descended from Charley (Charlie) Patton, Son House and Robert Johnson (another Son House student).  In his early sides, for Leonard Chess’s Aristocrat Records, Waters played an electrified version of the sparse country blues he learned on the Mississippi Delta. Often accompanied only by an acoustic bass, played slap-style, Waters’ strong voice and confident slide guitar are the featured sounds.  His lyrics are variations of the same rural blues themes he took north to Chicago.  His first song to gain traction, “I Can’t Be Satisfied,” was the A-side of his second Aristocrat single, released in 1948. “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” parts 1 and 2, released in 1949, is also in the minimalist, electrified-country style.

In 1950, harmonica ace Little Walter Jacobs joined Waters’ recording band, adding a gritty and sometimes manic element to Muddy’s evolving and more urbanized sound.  With Little Walter, Waters’ guitar amp was louder and the men sometimes cut back and forth with talk-vocals.  The instrumental hit “Evan’s Shuffle (Ebony Boogie),” recorded in October 1950, pointed where blues music was headed in Chicago.  The tempo was faster, the playing was fiercer, and Walter’s harmonica solo was in a whole different range than older-style blues.

Another key sideman was guitarist Jimmy Rogers, who first recorded with Waters in 1952.  At the same time Rogers joined the Chess sessions, drums became a permanent fixture, and the style now commonly called electric blues was born.  This was a far cry from Robert Johnson (or Son House, or Muddy Waters) bottle-necking an acoustic guitar at a Delta house party.  This was loud, fast and intense, city blues for city people, tunes that leapt out of jukebox speakers and drowned out barroom chatter.  Add in songs written by the slyly sophisticated Willie Dixon, and Muddy Waters got on the path he followed more or less for the rest of his career. Classics like “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man,” “I’m Ready” and “Mannish Boy” were recorded in this mid-50’s period.

But wait, this only covers the first half of the collection.  There is much more to enjoy, because those Willie Dixon tunes are almost all classics, still covered by blues bands big and small all over the world, every day.  This is the blues canon, pure and simple, influencing all blues, rock, soul and other related music from those long-ago sessions forward.  The classic “You Shook Me” is near the end of this chronological (by release number) collection.

Alas, these CDs do not offer the best sound quality. You get what you pay for, because they are priced far below recent deluxe box sets from Chess’s current owner, Universal Music (for instance the lavish Howlin’ Wolf box set I reviewed last year). This material is out of copyright in the UK, where Acrobat Music is based. So the producers could gather up CD rips, old records and other sources to cobble together their compilation. At least that’s what it sounds like they did. Levels vary, digital processing artifacts abound, groove distortion from old 45’s and 78’s is clearly audible at times. But, as testament to the power of his music, Muddy Waters shines through.  It’s easy to listen beyond the audio issues and let the music do its work.  And again, at this price, it’s hard to expect much else.

To the producers’ credit, there’s a decent booklet essay (perhaps taking harsher than necessary hindsight swipes at the Chess brothers) and a discography of sorts, cribbed from “The Complete Muddy Waters Discography” by Phil Wright and Fred Rathwell.

As bargain-priced not-by-the-owner compilations go, this one is definitely a winner.  Hopefully, it will inspire UMG to go back to their vaults and put out the complete Muddy Waters Chess catalog with shiny new remastering and better documentation. In any case, fans of the electric blues will get hours of enjoyment from these four CDs, and have some extra beer money left in their pocket.

Reviewed by Tom Fine

View review April 2nd, 2014

Muddy Waters / The Rolling Stones – Checkerboard Lounge: Live Chicago 1981

Title: Checkerboard Lounge: Live Chicago 1981

Artist: Muddy Waters/The Rolling Stones

Label: Eagle Vision

Format: DVD

Release date: July 10, 2012



Throughout their career, the Rolling Stones have been upstaged again and again, and usually to comic effect. Keith Richards describes following James Brown for the live tapping of the TAMI show in 1964 as the band’s worst career mistake. The band refused to release footage from their televised 1968 concert The Rolling Stones Circus, feeling themselves outshone by The Who. Keith Richards and Chuck Berry famously butted heads on stage at the taping of the 1986 Hail! Hail! Rock’n’Roll concert. And had they not been so drunk, their 1981 improvised performance with Muddy Waters at Chicago’s legendary Checkerboard Lounge, would have given the Rolling Stones pause to reflect on their ability to share the spotlight with Mr. Mighty Mississippi. But the performance was not a total train wreck. The Rolling Stones (playing the part of the Rolling Stones) simply strut on, almost obliviously, through their defeat.

In Eagle Vision’s new release of the concert footage, the Rolling Stones, who named themselves after Muddy Water’s 1950 classic “Rollin’ Stone,” prove themselves ever the prodigal son to the father of Chicago blues, and if one has their eye steadily trained on Muddy Waters, the Rolling Stones, in all their coked-out glitz, offer a good foil to Muddy, tempered, tasteful, and expertly commanding. The epitome of blues machismo.

After Muddy Waters takes the stage—*It’s start time!*—he greets the crowd but has a momentarily lapse of memory and keens the floor to remind himself what city he’s in, evidence of a demanding touring schedule and the dizziness of life on the road. But when the words South Side Chicago finally catch up to him, a look of relief passes over his face. If only in memory, this place is home.

He breaks into “You Don’t Have to Go,” and immediately establishes his credentials, treating the loose sinews of a mid-tempo blues shuffle with the sturdiness of his voice and lynchpin guitar licks. “Country Boy,” in which Muddy showcases his electric-slide fingering, alone is worth the price of admission. Like bacon fat sizzling on a skillet, clanging machinery, a wailing baby, an enamored woman, Muddy’s electric guitar rings the blood out of every note, and stands in huge contrast to the dry guitar pyrotechnics of his backing band’s lead guitarist. Muddy’s wild facial ticks and expressions during his guitar solos add to the sense that Muddy is performing an act of sorcery over his stringed plank of wood.

In “Baby Please Don’t Go,” Muddy shows beyond a shadow of a doubt where rock’n’roll came from, and like a historical re-enactment of the British Invasion, the Rolling Stones’ entourage bust in on the scene in full party mode, model girlfriends in tow. Muddy invites them to the stage but tells them, with only the most congenial hint of irony, not to rush their drinking rituals.

As the Rolling Stones become Muddy’s stage band, Richards and Wood fall right into Muddy’s languorous groove. But Jagger, obviously not used to sharing the limelight, looks like a ventriloquist dummy next to Waters, smiling too much and too often and trying too hard and at the same time not enough to impress. On the foot heels of The Blues Brothers feature film, Mick Jagger, dressed in a polyester soccer jersey, reminds us what happened to the blues in the ’80s: gross parody.

But the Stones also muddy the waters in a good way. Richards’ licks on “Mannish Boy” reveal him to be a true acolyte of Muddy’s electric church, and the Rolling Stones certainly add presence to “Champagne and Reefer,” a slow-cooked jam on the pleasures of excess, featuring a hilarious freestyle from Jagger and powerhouse vocals from Muddy that prove that he is for all time the man, spelled M-A-N.

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Reviewed by Betsy Shepherd

View review October 1st, 2012

Russ Green – City Soul



Title: City Soul

Artist: Russ Green

Label: Cleopatra

Formats: CD, Digital

Release Date: June 8, 2018


City Soul, harmonica player and vocalist Russ Green’s debut album, pays tribute to the Windy City and the many musicians who have shaped its signature sound. Born and raised on the west side of Chicago, Green didn’t realize his musical aspirations until adulthood. After purchasing a harmonica in an attempt to recreate the sounds of Jimi Hendrix, Green was mentored by two of Chicago’s legendary harmonica players, Sugar Blue and Billy Branch, and his blues career took off from there.

City Soul is composed of 10 tracks co-produced by Green and Sam Clayton that feature musicians from around Chicago. The bluesy opening track, “First Thing Smokin’” is inspired by the sounds of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. Other tracks, like “Lint In My Pocket,” are more funk-inspired, while Green’s duo with guitarist Vince Agwada is reminiscent of modern blues rock. “The Edge,” a nod to Green’s fascination with Jimi Hendrix, includes a swirling psychedelic harmonica intro that precedes a funky rock track.

Although City Soul is his debut album, Russ Green is already an accomplished blues musician, having been featured on the renowned Chicago Blues Harmonica Project and having performed at numerous blues festivals across the country. This is just the beginning of the Chicago native’s journey as a blues harmonica player.

Reviewed by Chloe McCormick

View review August 2nd, 2018

Lurrie Bell & The Bell Dynasty – Tribute to Carey Bell

Title: Tribute To Carey Bell

Artist: Lurrie Bell & The Bell Dynasty

Label: Delmark

Formats: CD, Digital

Release Date: May 18, 2018


Released before Father’s Day—that special time in June set aside for men we call dad, father or pops—the Bell household’s man of honor is Carey Bell. The late blues harpist moved to Chicago the decade after Little Walter and Chess legend Muddy Waters, and went on to play with both as well as many other Chicago blues legends. What better way to pay homage to dad, especially a man the stature of Carey, then with a new album by Lurrie Bell & The Bell Dynasty titled Tribute To Carrey Bell. Paying the tribute is Carey’s son Lurrie (vocals, guitar) and the other siblings—Tyson (bass), Steve (harmonica), and James (drums, vocals). And wait, Charlie Musselwhite and Billy Branch get in on the fun too. Delmark Records picked up Carey for his 1969 debut, Carey Bell’s Blues Harp, so it’s fitting they releasing this special project.  

The blues is and always will be about storytelling. The first track, “Gone To Main Street,” is all about that “All Yeah” feeling. When you listen closely, you may hear references to The Doors’ “Road House Blues”—I kid you not. “I Got To Go” switches it up, and by that I mean the tempo. “So Hard To Leave You Alone” is a slow tune and again, a great story being told. “You’re my midnight dream, my all day stint,” Lurrie Bell spills his guts and you feel it. It’s the blues baby! Billy Branch takes over on “Carey Bell Was a Friend of Mine,” explaining his love for this man, both on and off the stage.

I never heard of Carey Bell before this, but Tribute To Carey Bell made me a fan. Though he left us well over ten years ago, his memory will live as long as the Bell family dynasty has something to say.

Reviewed by Eddie Bowman

View review July 3rd, 2018

Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite – No Mercy In This Land

no mercy
Title: No Mercy In This Land

Artist: Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite

Label: Anti

Formats: CD, LP, Digital

Release date: March 30 2018


Blues powerhouses Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite return with a new musical collaboration, No Mercy In This Land. Their first album, 2012’s Get Up!, spurred, at least in my mind at the time, comparisons to other blues and jazz artists such as John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. I now realize that while some comparisons are productive, sometimes artists come together to produce the most amazingly creative offerings. Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite are the perfect example of just that.

“When I Go,” the opening track, sets the mood for what to expect on this new album. The song begins with humming! You know what I mean—1930s/1940s, take-me-to-the-river-and-baptize me-in-blues humming. Then, the mesmerizing strumming of a guitar takes over. “I’ll take you when I go,” replies Harper. Talk about musical blues call and response.

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After that moving scene, picture a jukebox in some honky-tonk bar, with patrons who perhaps had one too many, lip synching to the next track, “The Bottle Wins Again.” On “Trust You to Dig My Grave” I can practically hear Muddy Waters weighing in on the action from the Beyond—Harper and Musselwhite really do justice on this one. “Bad Habits” is an up tempo, clap-along jam. Musselwhite and Harper are never quite specific what kind of bad habits they are referring to. You listen. You be the judge of that one.

No Mercy In This Land is excellent work from Harper, and once again, he has found a great compadre in Musselwhite. For this album, and this iconic blues duo, there literally is no comparison.

Reviewed by Eddie Bowman

View review June 1st, 2018

Mud Morganfield – They Call Me Mud

Mud Morgenfield
Title: They Call Me Mud

Artist: Mud Morganfield

Label: Severn Records

Formats: CD, Digital

Release date: March 9, 2018



They Call Me Mud, the newest release from Mud Morganfield, is one of those albums on which a musician seems to truly come into his own. While the legacy of his father, Muddy Waters, shouldn’t—and very possibly can’t—be extracted from Morganfield’s blues MO, this album showcases his own unique style. Morganfield, after all, came of age in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when music had already evolved from his father’s era of jazz and blues into a world where R&B, soul and Motown ruled. Combine his bass experience with Chicago bands of those eras to his already existing blues foundation and you have Morganfield’s own style at work.

A well-established case of Chicago area musicians add some downhome blues touches to Morganfield’s recording, including Billy Flynn on guitar, Studebaker John on harmonica and backing vocals, Sumito Ariyo Ariyoshi on piano, E.G. McDaniel on bass and Melvin “Pookie Stix” Carlisle on drums. Special guests include Billy Branch on harmonica, Mike Wheeler on guitar and Mud’s daughter Lashunda Williams as a vocalist. There’s a horn section featured on several tunes, and Mud himself plays bass on three tracks.


The signature song, “They Call Me Mud,” is one of those songs that really allow the musicians to show what they love to do best, and in Morganfield’s case, that is his vocalized growl which commands immediate attention throughout. “Who’s Fooling Who?” features Studebacker John on harp and Mike Wheeler on guitar going toe-to-toe. Morganfield also pays tribute to his father on the slide guitar blues “Howlin’ Wolf” and the shuffle “Can’t Get No Grindin’,” where all artists take a solo turn at the wheel. Morganfield and his daughter Lashunda provide a moving duet on “Who Loves You,” a song where Morganfield’s R&B inspiration grooves right in. The final selection, “Mud’s Groove,” is a jazzy instrumental enhanced by Bill Branch’s talents on harp, and is a perfect finale.

“I think it’s some of the best work I’ve ever done yet” proclaims Morganfield. “I feel that with the variety of material I have on here, people will get a chance to hear the other sides of my music.” The collection completely lives up to Morganfield’s claim. Regardless of whether you are an R&B, jazz, soul or blues fan, They Call Me Mud has something special and unforgettable for everyone.

Reviewed by Amy Aiyegbusi

View review April 2nd, 2018

March 2018 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during March 2018—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite: No Mercy In This Land (Anti/Epitaph)
Cary Bell: Harpslinger: The 1988 Album Remastered (JSP)
Coffey Anderson: Cowboy Style (digital)
Leadbelly: Masterworks Volumes 1 & 2 (Sunset Blvd.)
Little Freddie King: Fried Rice & Chicken (Orleans)
Muddy Waters: Live At Rockpalast (Made in Germany)
Roosevelt Collie: Exit 16 (GroundUp)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Detroit Rising: A Cosmic Jazz Funk Adventure (Downjazz)
Elaquent: Celebrate Life!
Lexsoul Dancemachine: Sunny Holiday In Lexico (Funk Embassy)
Matt Palmer: Get Lost (digital)
NoMBe: They Might’ve Even Loved Me (TH3RD BRAIN)
Oceans of Slumber: The Banished Heart (Century Media)
On High: Never Die
Young Fathers: Cocoa Sugar (Ninja Tune)
Zig Zag Power Trio: Woodstock Sessions Volume 9 (Woodstock Sessions)

Gospel, Christian Rap, CCM
Brian Courtney Wilson: A Great Work (Motown Gospel)
Jonathan McReynolds: Make Room (eOne)
Snoop Dog: Presents Bible of Love (RCA Inspiration)
Tamesha Pruett-Ray: Beautiful Savior (TPR Music Group)

Adam Hawley: Double Vision (Kalimba Music)
Blue Lab Beats: Xover (All Points)
David Garfield: Jazz outside the Box (Creatchy)
David Liebman & John Stowell: Petite Fleur: The Music Of Sidney Bechet (Origin)
Greg Spero+Spirit Fingers: Spirit Fingers (Shanachie)
Hank Jones: in Copenhagen – Live at Jazzhaus Slukefter 1983 (Storyville)
Ivo Perelman & Matthew Shipp: Oneness (Leo)
Kurt Elling: The Questions (Okeh)
Lao Tizer Band: Songs from the Swinghouse (Lao Tizer Music)
Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6 (Columbia)
Pendletons: Funk Forever (Bastard Jazz)
Salim Washington: Dogon Revisited (Passin’ Thru)
Spirit Fingers: S/T (Shanachie)
Sun Ra: Of Abstract Dreams (Strut)
Terry Pollard: A Detroit Jazz Legend (Fresh Sound)
Victor Gould: Earthlings (Criss Cross)

R&B, Soul
Adrian Daniel: Flawd (digital)
Ady Suleiman: Memories (Pemba)
Alexandra Burke: Truth Is (Decca)
August Greene (Common​, Robert Glasper, Karriem Riggins): S/T (digital)
Barrence Whitfield & The Savages: Dig Everything! – The Early Rounder Albums (Ace)
Barrence Whitfield & the Savages: Soul Flowers of Titan (Bloodshot)
Best of the Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band (Varese Sarabande)
Bettye LaVette: Things Have Changed (Verve)
Bobby V: Electrik (Independent Label Services)
Deva Mahal: Run Deep (Motema)
En Vogue: Electric Café (eOne)
Gizelle Smith: Ruthless Day (Jalapeno)
Jayme Shaye: Detoxic
Larry Crockett & The Funky Cherokees: Drum Love (Chaos)
Leon’s Creation: This Is the Beginning (reissue) (Acid Jazz)
Phyllis Dillon: One Life to Live (Real Gone Music)
PJ Morton: Gumbo Unplugged (Live)
R.LUM.R: Alterimage (PRMD)
Robert Lee Coleman: What’s Left (Music Makers)
Ronnie Wright: a.k.a. Bespeak (digital)
Ruben Studdard: Ruben Sings Luther (Seg Music)
Sister Sledge: An Introduction (Atlantic)
The Vogs: A Change Is Coming (Qsounds Recording)
Various: Eccentric Soul: The Saru Label (Numero Group)
Wilson Meadows: The Facts of Life
Xscape: Here For It (RedZone Ent.)
Z. Hill: That’s It! – The Complete Kent Recordings 1964-1968 (Kent)

Rap, Hip Hop
Apollo Brown & Ghostface Killah: The Brown Tape (Mello Music)
Awate: Happiness (Quite Defiant)
Ball Greezy: Bae Day 2 (digital)
Bishop Nehru: Elevators: Act I & II (digital)
Black Milk: Fever (Mass Appeal)
Brian Fresco: Love Scars (Empire)
Camp Lo: On The Way Uptown & The Get Down Brothers (Vodka & Milk)
Chuck Strangers: Consumers Park (Nature Sounds)
Creek Boyz: 1-11 Mixtape
Don Trip: Christopher (digital)
First Degree The D. E.: Black Bane II, Underestimated Villain (Fahrenheit)
Flipp Dinero: GuaLa See GuaLa (digital)
Fredro Starr: Firestarr 2 (Mad Money)
Herbaliser: Bring Out the Sound (BBE)
Stalin: Avatar (Livewire)
Larry June: You’re Doing Good (digital) (Warner Bros.)
Lil Yachty: Lil Boat 2 (digital)
Lojii: Lofeye (Youngbloods)
Luniz: No Pressure (X-Ray)
Mozzy: Spiritual Conversations – EP (digital) (Empire)
Murs: A Strange Journey Into The Unimaginable (Strange Music)
Nessly: Wildflower (digital) (Republic)
Nym Lo: The Big Horse (digital)
Phonte: No New Is Good News (digital)
Prhyme (Royce 5 9+DJ Premier): PRhyme2 (digital)
Rich Homie Quan: Rich As In Spirit (digital) (Motown)
Rich the Kid: The World is Yours (digital) (Interscope)
Robb Bank$: Molly World (digital) (Empire)
Saint Jhn: Collection 1
Saweetie: High Maintenance (digital) (Warner Bros.)
Showbiz: A-Room Therapy (Ditc)
Sob X Rbe: Gangin (digital)
Sts & Khari Mateen: Better on a Sunday (Steel Wool /Obe)
Tech N9ne: Planet (Strange Music)
Thundercat: Drank (Brainfeeder)
Tory Lanez: Memories Don’t Die (Interscope)
Tra the Truth: Hometown Hero
Tyga: Kyoto (Last Kings Music)
U-God: Venom (Babygrande)
Various: Death Row Chronicles OST (Death Row)
Wale: It’s Complicated EP (MMG/Every Blue Moon)
Wiley: Godfather II
Wu-Lu: N.A.I.S. (Not As It Seems) (digital)
XXXTentacion: ? (Bad Vibes Forever)
YFN Lucci: Ray Ray from Summerhill (Warner Bros.)
Young Hu$tle: Bag Talk (X-Ray)
Yung Bans: Vol. 4 (digital)

Army Gideon: Forsake Not (Uhuru Boys)
Etana: Reggae Forever (Tad’s Record Inc.)
I-Octane: Love & Life (Conquer the Globe)
Romain Virgo: Lovesick (VP)

World, Latin
Baloji: 137 Avenue Kaniama (Bella Union)
Busy Twist: Sunny Side EP (Busy Life)
Hailu Mergia: Lala Belu (Awesome Tapes From Africa)
Seun Kuti & Egypt 80: Black Times (Strut)
Sidi Toure: Toubalbero (Thrill Jockey)
Tanga: Reencarnacion (TrebleFive)
Various: Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul & Synth-Boogie in 1980s South Africa (Soundway)
Various: Death In Haiti: Funeral Brass Bands & Sounds from Port Au Prince (Discrepant)

View review April 2nd, 2018

Jimi Hendrix – Both Sides of the Sky



Title: Both Sides of the Sky

Artist: Jimi Hendrix

Label: Sony Legacy

Formats: CD, LP, digital

Release date: March 9, 2018


Both Sides of the Sky, a collection of previously unreleased Jimi Hendrix material, is the third in the series released by Sony Legacy in conjunction with Experience Hendrix; previous collections  included Valleys of Neptune (2010) and People, Hell and Angels (2013). Historically, some posthumously released Hendrix recordings have been moderately disappointing, and at times it was readily apparent why some tracks were not released sooner. However, these Legacy collections have consistently done well at breaking away from this pattern. Both Sides of the Sky adds another quality release to this series. Although there are a couple of tracks on the album that some will deem marginal, a few others are worth the price of admission by themselves. Co-producer Eddie Kramer, the engineer for all of Hendrix’s albums, discusses the new project in this promotional video:

Beginning with a cover of the Muddy Waters standard, “Mannish Boy,” the album gets off to an upbeat start. While technically a cover song, Hendrix only borrowed the lyrics from the original. His version has its own groove, and is easily one of the top tracks on the album. The track that really separates itself from the others, however, is “Hear My Train a Comin’.” Other versions of this song have been released previously, but this rendition features Hendrix in top form as a lead guitar player, providing a textbook example of his signature fuzz guitar tone. In addition, the track features all of the original Jimi Hendrix Experience members, and accentuates just how well his primary band played together. Throughout this seven-and-a-half minute jam, Mitch Mitchell and Jimi Hendrix play off one another rhythmically, providing insight into their familiarity with one another as musicians.

For the student of Jimi Hendrix, some of the selections serve as primary sources for further analysis of his writing process. For example, there is an instrumental version of “Sweet Angel” that is every bit as good as the vocal version that appeared on the first posthumous Hendrix release, Cry of Love (1971). Since the rhythm guitar track is so prominent sans vocals, this new track serves as an example of Hendrix’s unparalleled prowess as a rhythm guitar player.

Another gem is “Cherokee Mist,” recorded during the same period as Electric Ladyland (1968). This song contains an interlude very similar to one that appears on the psychedelic masterpiece “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be),” which many consider to have been Hendrix’s magnum opus. Perhaps this newly released version of “Cherokee Mist” can be viewed as a sketchbook, hinting at parts that may have been adapted for that powerful work.

One of the aspects of this collection that makes it so intriguing is that Hendrix can be heard functioning in a variety of roles. He plays with a variety of personnel over the course of this recording: the original Experience members Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, in addition to members from the Band of Gypsys (1970) album, Buddy Miles and Billy Cox. As a bit of a departure, this album presents Hendrix as the lead guitar player on “Georgia Blues” with Lonnie Youngblood fronting the group on vocals and saxophone. Other tracks of interest include collaborations with Johnny Winter on “Things I Used to Do” and Stephen Stills on both “$20 Fine” and “Woodstock,” which features Hendrix on bass. Interestingly, this version of “Woodstock” was recorded months before Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young recorded their hit rendition of the Joni Mitchell song.

Both Sides of the Sky is an important addition to the Hendrix catalog. It displays Hendrix in a variety of roles—pioneering electric guitarist, skilled songwriter, and psychedelic innovator. As with all Hendrix releases, though, the best tracks leave the listener emotionally conflicted. While his groundbreaking spirit shines throughout this album, we’re left to ponder what might have been had he not died so young. Jimi Hendrix transcended racial barriers and emerged as arguably the most influential electric guitarist of all time. The release of Both Sides of the Sky can only serve to strengthen this argument.

Reviewed by Joel Roberts

View review March 2nd, 2018

The Rolling Stones – On Air

The Rolling Stones

Title: On Air

Artist: The Rolling Stones

Label: Abkco/Polydor/BBC

Formats: CD, LP, digital

Release date: December 1, 2017



Like most British Invasion bands, The Rolling Stones started out covering American music. In the Stones case, there was an immediate affinity for blues, particularly the electric variety from Chicago’s African American musicians. Indeed, the band took its name from a Muddy Waters song. The band also gravitated to the rock ‘n roll artists from Chicago’s Chess Records, particularly Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley.

Unlike most of their peers, the Stones never veered too far from their roots. They completely absorbed the loose style and ironic lyrics of their Chicago influences, and never stopped including cover versions of African American blues, soul and early rock songs on their albums. In fact, their most recent studio album, Blue and Lonesome, is a tribute and return to their blues roots.

Back at the time when the British Invasion bands were forming, the BBC presented hours of live popular music on both radio and TV. Bands like the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Kinks, Zombies and others were able to play in front of a national audience, a hugely expanded stage from the small clubs where they honed their craft. On Air collects the Stones’ BBC performances from 1963-65, with a bonus of restored sound and a nice booklet essay by Richard Havers.

By the time they took to the airwaves, even in 1963, less than a year after forming, the Stones were a tight ensemble. The original band—Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman—had a coherent and shared musical vision and were at ease playing together. They weren’t yet capable of the musical fury needed for some of the songs they were covering, but they tried hard.

The Stones were at their best covering Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, able to use the faster pace of true rock ‘n roll to their advantage. On the slower bluesier material, and also, curiously, on their original tunes, these performances aren’t up to the polish and energy of contemporary studio album tracks. That could be due to the tight schedule and lack of rehearsal time for BBC productions. In any case, the highlights are their covers of Berry’s “Around and Around” and “Carol,” which became staples in the Stones’ live repertoire through the ‘70s and ‘80s; plus Diddley’s “Cops and Robbers,” “Crackin’ Up” and “Mona.” Among the originals, a highlight is the last track on the album, the instrumental “2120 South Michigan Avenue.” The song title pays homage to Chess Records’ studio address. Early highlights in the Stones’ long and storied career were recording sessions at Chess Studio, in 1964 and 65.

Some of this music was previously released as part of a BBC-produced radio documentary, “The Rolling Stones Story.” A red-vinyl promotional LP contained “Cops and Robbers,” “Memphis Tennessee,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Fannie Mae.” The sound quality on that LP was not anywhere as good as this new 2-CD set.

The CD credits “demixing” engineer James Clarke, who also worked sonic miracles with the Beatles’ live performance recordings for Ron Howard’s “Eight Days A Week” documentary and the CD reissue of their Hollywood Bowl concerts. The Abbey Road engineers were able to “demix” (isolate each instrument, clean up the noise around it and put it on a separate digital track), then remix some of these original-mono recordings into stereo. The resulting sound is clear, but there is a “skeletal” feeling to it, like the band has been separated too much, losing some of the energy and cohesion. I would have preferred new mono mixes, with each instrument and vocal “scrubbed” of noise and distortion. The power and synergy of a clean mono mix is unbeatable, especially with this material.

On Air is a must for a Stones fan, because it shows the band outside of the studio in its earliest form, young and hungry and building toward bigger things. For a fan of British Invasion music, the Stones offer a master class in how it’s done. The album also documents some of the Stones’ earliest covers of Black music, which underpinned the transformation of their sound during the 1960s.

Reviewed by Tom Fine

Editor’s Note: We’re featuring this album as part of our ongoing exploration of the Black roots of rock ‘n roll, an initiative begun in 2009 with the conference “Reclaiming the Right to Rock: Black Experiences in Rock Music.”  For further reading we recommend Maureen Mahon’s book, Right to Rock: The Black Rock Coalition and the Cultural Politics of Race (Duke University Press, 2004).

View review March 2nd, 2018

Delta Deep – East Coast Live

Delta Deep

Title: East Coast Live

Artist: Delta Deep

Label: Frontiers Music SRL

Formats: CD/DVD, Vinyl

Release date: January 26, 2018



Delta Deep is an intriguing band from the standpoint of personnel. When members include guitarist Phil Collen from Def Leppard and bassist Robert DeLeo from Stone Temple Pilots, one expects to hear a hard rock band. However, the inclusion of Memphis-born, jazz-trained drummer Forrest Robinson, who has played with musicians ranging from Joe Sample to Victor Wooten, and vocalist Debbi Blackwell-Cook, who has sung background vocals with Michael Bublé and Gregory Hines, expands our expectations. In looking at the collective achievements of the group’s personnel, it is evident why the band’s website proclaims them an “All Star Group.”

Though Delta Deep’s members might have disparate backgrounds, they come together in a seamless fashion on their new CD/DVD release East Coast Live. Fittingly, this blues-influenced rock album includes a cover version of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” one of the defining songs from one of the original heavy, blues-influenced rock bands. Hearing the soulful vocals of Debbi Blackwell-Cook, it becomes readily apparent why this band has been previously described as “Aretha Franklin & Chaka Khan performing with Led Zeppelin.” As for most of the remaining tracks, a better comparison might be Aretha Franklin performing with Van Halen, since the majority have the feel of a hard rock album from the 1980s.

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Though most of the tracks on East Coast Live are bluesy in feel, structurally there are few examples of the 12-bar blues form. The bluesiest songs are the B. B. King standard, “Rock Me Baby,” and the first single from the album, “Bless These Blues.” Musically, the latter song sounds like a high-powered version of “Catfish Blues,” which has been recorded by many musicians, but most notably Muddy Waters and Jimi Hendrix.

“Treat Her Like Candy” is perhaps the most refreshing track, as well as the most soulful. “Shuffle Sweet,” a hard-driving rock tune, brings to mind heavier bands such as King’s X.  The best example of a slow blues song on the album is “Whiskey,” though a close study of the chord changes and form reveals it’s just masquerading as blues. Nevertheless, diehard blues fans will likely appreciate this tune more than any other.

Blues-influenced hard rock is hardly a new development, but the addition of a female vocalist with roots outside of the rock tradition contributes to Delta Deep’s unique flavor. East Coast Live is chock-full of soulful singing, flashy blues guitar licks, and phenomenal drumming—and the fact that it captures a live performance definitely adds to its allure. In short, the album is capable of engaging a broad range of listeners; and even the Stone Temple Pilots and Def Leppard fans that are drawn to this album should be pleasantly surprised.

Reviewed by Joel Roberts


View review February 2nd, 2018

The Isley Brothers and Santana – The Power of Peace

Isley Brothers Sanatana The Power of Peace
Title: The Power of Peace

Artist: The Isley Brothers and Santana

Label: Sony Legacy

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: July 28, 2017


The Power of Peace blends the signature styles of powerhouse performers Carlos Santana and brothers Ron and Ernie Isley into a beautiful tribute to several influential artists whose musical styles range from funk to soul and jazz. Centered on the themes of peace and love, this project is sure to excite listeners as iconic songs are infused with new flavor.

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The album opens with a bang featuring a cover of the Chamber Brothers’ song “Are You Ready.” Layered percussion and drums performed by Santana and his wife Cindy Blackman Santana alongside an intoxicating electric guitar (also by Santana) create a funky and fun soundscape and prepares the listener for a stimulating musical experience. The band maintains this momentum throughout the next two tracks, Swamp Dogg’s “Total Destruction of the Mind” and Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” on which Santana performs riveting electric guitar accompaniment and solos.

The middle of the album changes pace with a group of softer, slower pieces extolling the beauty of romantic love. Cindy Santana sings her sensual new song “I Remember” with playful background support by Ron Isley. Similarly, Isley and his expert use of falsetto is utterly captivating on the ensemble’s cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Gypsy Woman.” The male R&B “quartet” sound that shaped the original version is largely absent as the band employs a classic smooth groove, slower tempo and mixed background voices to transform this song into a mesmerizing, seductive ode to unrequited love. Santana and Isley also shine while performing Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon’s frequently covered hit “I Just Want to Make Love to You.” Santana’s energizing guitar riffs and Isley’s vocal dexterity (including growls, moans, etc.) make this a standout track on the album.

The Power of Peace concludes with songs about social justice and harmony such as Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me (the Ecology)” and Dionne Warwick and Jackie DeShannon’s “What the World Need Now is Love Sweet Love.” Isley sensitively delivers these musical messages while supported by Santana’s earnest and beautifully crafted instrumental accompaniment.

While the musical pairing of The Isley Brothers and Carlos Santana would seem unexpected, this project is the realization of a dream. Santana, who has numerous accolades as an artist, now desires to chart new waters and create music with his longtime favorite musicians including the “incomparable” voice of Ron Isley. Listeners will certainly be glad that some dreams do come true as they are inspired, surprised, and entertained by the fresh music of The Power of Peace.

Reviewed by Raynetta Wiggins


View review August 1st, 2017

Curtis Knight featuring Jimi Hendrix – Live at George’s Club 20

Curtis Knight
Title: Live at George’s Club 20

Artist: Curtis Knight featuring Jimi Hendrix

Label: Dagger

Format: CD, LP

Release date: April 21, 2017


Just in time for Record Store Day on April 21st, Dagger Records has released Curtis Knight featuring Jimi Hendrix – Live At George’s Club 20.  This compilation includes tracks that up to this point have mostly been available as bootlegs for the Jimi Hendrix completist. Dagger’s official release features fully remastered audio and a 10 page liner note booklet with rare photos and insight into Hendrix’s career during this period.

Live At George’s Club 20 includes tracks recorded in 1965 and 1966, which find Hendrix in his rhythm and blues era, then known as Jimmy James—a member of Curtis Knight’s pre-Squire’s band the Lovelites. The songs included here are primarily covers including Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor,” Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar” and Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say.”

Many of the tracks feature Jimi on vocals as well guitar, and it easy to hear hints of the artist he would become just a few years later. Still in his early twenties, Hendrix’s chops were as impressive as you might expect for one of America’s greatest guitar heroes. On “Driving South” he flexes his guitar skills in fantastic fashion as Knight shouts out the names of cities. It’s not hard to imagine a smoky club of dancers responding ecstatically to the storm the band (including bassist Ace Hall, drummer Ditto Edwards, and saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood) had brewed up. Hendrix even includes the playing guitar with his teeth routine that would wow the crowd at the Monterey Pop Festival just a few years later. Many of the recordings also showcase Hendrix’s humor and showmanship as well. For example, “I’m a Man” features Hendrix’s playful singing and lyric swapping during a rendition of the Muddy Waters standard.

While Live At George’s Club 20 is a collection for Hendrix completists, it is still a worthwhile listen for anyone who is interested in deconstructing the notion that Jimi Hendrix “came out of nowhere.”  It was places like Club 20 where he honed his chops on his way to super stardom and this compilation is a great listen.

Reviewed by Levon Williams

View review April 4th, 2017

Corey Henry – Lapeitah

Corey Henry
Title: Lapeitah

Artist: Corey Henry

Label: Louisiana Red Hot Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: September 6, 2016


Corey Henry was raised in the birthplace of jazz—New Orleans’s Treme neighborhood. Inspired by his environment and musical family, Henry started learning trombone at the age of 10, and by age 16 he was hired to play with the Treme Brass Band. Since then, he’s become a vital part of the New Orleans jazz scene, performing with his Little Rascals Brass Band and the nationally touring jam band Galactic. Last September, Henry released his solo debut, Lapeitah, out on Louisiana Red Hot Records. Produced and co-written by Brian J., Lapeitah includes nine originals and one cover that showcase modern New Orleans funk at its finest.

There are a number of guest stars on Lapeitah, including alto saxophonist Greg Thomas (George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic). Thomas plays on the exuberant “Muddy Waters” (below) and the soulful “We Got the Funk,” both of which share vocal choruses straight out of 1970s funk scene. Thomas is also featured on the instrumental “Get Funky,” which displays the connections between jazz and funk in a playful call and response between varying soloists and the rest of the musicians.

The album also features a number of guest vocalists, such as Corey Glover (Living Colour) on an impressive hard rock cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “If 6 Was 9.” Glover’s gritty vocals, which at times dissolve into rock star shrieks, are echoed by the timbre of Henry’s raw, relentless trombone solo. Nowhere is Henry’s New Orleans origin more evident than on the original “Baby C’mon,” featuring vocals by Cole “Ms. Cake” Williams. This funky, upbeat second-line pride song is perfect for Mardi Gras celebrations in Henry’s hometown.

The fusion of jazz and funk makes Lapeitah a joyful, celebratory outpouring of two of New Orleans’ most famous musical cultures. While the songs may sound carefree, the carefully curated songwriting and talent that Corey Henry and Brian J bring to the album prove that Henry is a force to be reckoned with in the New Orleans jazz and funk world.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review February 1st, 2017

November 2016 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during November 2016—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
Howlin’ Wolf: Shake For Me: The Lost FM Broadcast Tapes 1975 (Laser Media)
Little Walter: Boom Boom (Black Knight)
Muddy Waters: Muddy Waters Story  (Maximum Series)
Muddy Waters: Elevate Me Mama  (Black Knight)
Sharon Lewis And Texas Fire: Grown Ass Woman (Delmark)
Willie Clayton: Heart & Soul Reloaded  (Endzone Ent.)

Marion Anderson: Let Freedom Ring (JSP)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Bruno Mars: 24K Magic (Atlantic)
Craig David: Following My Intuition ( Speakerbox/Insanity)
Du-Rites: J-Zone & Pablo Martin Are the Du-Rites (Redefinition)
Harsh Crowd: Better EP
Joan Armatrading: Me Myself I – World Tour Concert (Savoy)
Marvin Whoremonger: Mark III (Now Again)
Nth Power: Live to Be Free (Harmonized Records)
Prince: 4EVER (Warner Bros.)
The Weeknd: Starboy (Republic)
Toro Y Moi: Live from Trona (Carpark)
Various: Keb Darge Presents the Best of Legendary Deep Funk

Gospel, Gospel Rap
Eddie James: Magnify (Dreambridge)
Sho Baraka: The Narrative (Humble Beast Records)
Swanee Quintet: Complete Nashboro Releases 1951-62 (Acrobat)
Tasha Cobbs: One Place Live at Capitol Studios (Motown Gospel)
Various: Gospel Pioneer Reunion (DVD) (Gaither Studios)
VaShawn Mitchell: Secret Place: Live in South Africa (Motown Gospel)

Dizzy Gillespie:  Concert of the Century – A Tribute to Charlie Parker (Justin Time)
Gregory Porter:Live in Berlin (Eagle Rock)
Gregory Porter and Melody Gardot: Jazz Loves Disney (Verve Int’l)
Herbie Hancock: Early Years: Selected Recordings 1961-62 (Acrobat)
Jerome Jennings: The Beast (Iola)
Miles Davis Quintet: Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions (Prestige)
Nat King Cole: How High The Moon: The Lost Tapes (Laser Media)
Roberto Fonseca: ABUC (Impulse)
Wallace Roney: A Place in Time (Highnote)
Yussef Kamaal: Black Focus (Brownswood)

R&B, Soul
94 East Ft. Prince: S/T (Charly)
Aaron Abernathy: Monologue (Aaron Abernathy Music)
Alicia Keys: HERE (RCA)
Bobby Bland: Singles Collection 1951-62 (Acrobat)
Carleen Anderson: Cage Street Memorial – The Pilgrimage  (Freestyle
Chuck Willis: From The Bottom Of My Heart: My Life, My Story, My Songs (Jasmine)
denitia and sene.: love and noir. (Input)
Donna Summer: Ultimate Collection
Emeli Sandé: Long Live The Angels [Deluxe Edition] (Capitol)
Hannah Williams & The Affirmations: Late Nights & Heartbreak (Record Kicks)
Harleighblu X Starkiller: Amorine (Tru Thoughts)
Intruders: Save the Children (expanded ed.) (BBR)
Joe: #MyNameIsJoeThomas
J-Wonn: The Legacy Begins (Music Access Inc.)
Lee Fields & The Expressions: Special Night (Big Crown)
Lula Reed: I’m A Woman (But I Don’t Talk Too Much) (Jasmine)
Melba Moore: Standing Right Here: Anthology Buddah & Epic Years (SoulMusic)
Myles Sanko: Just Being Me (Légère)
Rozetta Johnson: A Woman’s Way (Kent)
Slim Gaillard: Searching For You: The Lost Singles of McVouty (Sunset Blvd.)
Sonny Knight and the Lakers: Sooner or Later (Secret Stash)
Various: One-Der-Ful Collection – Midas Records  (Secret Stash)
Various: Funk the Disco (Ministry of Sound)
Yonrico Scott: Life of a Dreamer (Blue Canoe)

A Tribe Called Quest: We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service  (Epic)
Big Scoob: H.O.G. (Strange Music)
Black Milk & Nat Turner: Sunday Outtakes (Computer Ugly)
Blu & Union Analogtronics: Cheetah in the City (Fat Beats)
Czarface : A Fistful Of Peril  (Silver Age)
DJ Luke Nasty: Highway Music: Stuck in Traffic  (Othaz)
Dubble-Oo: Next Level (Space Age Ent.)
E-40: The D-Boy Diary: Book 1 & 2 (Heavy on the Grind)
Invisibl Skratch Piklz : 13th Floor (Alpha Pup)
Journalist 103: Battle for the Hearts & Minds  (Babygrande)
Lewis Parker: Release the Stress (King Underground)
Mac Dre: Ronald Dregan (Sumo/Thizz Entertainment D50)
Mac Dre: The Genie of the Lamp (Sumo/Thizz Entertainment D50)
Philthy Rich: Hood Rich 4 (Scmmllc / Empire)
Saba: Bucket List Project (digital) (Saba Pivot, LLC)
Sleepdank: Airport Lifestyle (Hands Down Ent.)
Soprano: L’Everest ( Warner Music France)
Swet Shop Boys : Cashmere (Customs)
Tall Black Guy: Let’s Take a Trip (First Word)
The Flying Dutchmen: Foul Weather (Thrice Great)
The Game: 1992 (eOne)
The Kleenrz: Season 2 (NRK)
The Outlawz : Living Legends
Tone Spliff: Pull No Punches (Mind Write Music)
Travis Scott: Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight (Epic)
TreSolid : Applying Pressure (Black Market)
U.G.: Portals (Creative Juices)
Unknown Mizery: Kill the Flowers (Thrice Great)
Various: Latest & Greatest Hip-Hop Anthems (Union Square Music)
Various: BBE20: Attitude, Belief & Determination (BBE)
Vellione: Stranded on the Wire (Livewire)
Wycliff Jean: J’ouver EP
Zeroh: Tinnitus (Hit+Run)
Z-Ro: Legendary (1 Deep Ent.)

Reggae, Dancehall
Alkaline: New Level Unlocked (Zojak World Wide)
Black Uhuru: Live At Rockpalast (DVD) (Made In Germany Music)
Bunny Wailer: Solomonic Singles 1: Tread Along 1969-1976 (Dubstore)
Bunny Wailer: Solomonic Singles 2: Rise & Shine 1977-1986 (Dubstore)
KutiMangoes: Made in Africa (Tramp)
Max Romeo: Horror Zone (Nu-Roots Records)
No-Maddz: Sly & Robbie Presents No-Maddz  (Nomaddz/Epiphany)
Osunlade: Mix The Vibe-King Street Goes Yoruba  (King Street Sounds)
Patrice: Life’s Blood (Supow Music)
Various: Merritone Rock Steady 1: Shanty Town Curfew 66-67 (Dubstore)
Various: Kuduro Reggaeton Hits 2017
Yabby You: Beware Dub (Expanded ed.) (Pressure Sounds)

Baloji: 64 Bits & Malachite (Bella Union)
Bobo Yeye: Belle Epoque in Upper Volta (3xCD)  (Numero)
Le Tout Puissant Orchestre Poly-Rythmo: Madjafalao  (Because Music)
Noura Mint Seymali : Arbina (Glitterbeat Records)
PeruJazz: Verde Machu Picchu (Vampisoul)
Tiken Jah Fakoly: Racines (Wrasse)

View review December 1st, 2016

Sugar Blue – Voyage

sugar blue voyage

Title: Voyage

Artist: Sugar Blue

Label: MC Records

Formats: CD, Digital

Release date: April 29, 2016


Contemporary blues musician Sugar Blue (a.k.a. James Whiting) has gifted us with his first studio recording in five years. On Voyage, the Grammy Award-winning harmonica virtuoso and vocalist presents 11 original songs, all of which he wrote or co-wrote, plus a great cover of the Ray Charles’ song “Mary Ann.” Backed by a tight band featuring Rico McFarland on guitar, special guests Johnny B. Gayden and Bill Dickens on bass, plus Damiano Della Torre on keyboards and Brady Williams and Michael Weatherspoon on drums, the album reflects their wide ranging musical tastes.

Sugar Blue, who has frequently performed outside of the blues genre—most notably with Frank Zappa, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones—was also influenced by the jazz of Dexter Gordon and the R&B of Stevie Wonder. These influences are apparent on the opening track, “On My Way (Sarah’s Song),” an optimistic song about making a new start that’s dedicated to his daughter. Sugar’s smooth vocals and close harmonies hearken back to early ‘70s pop and R&B, in direct opposition to the standard, gritty delivery of most blues singers.

Sugar’s harmonica makes a grand entrance on “One,” which begins with an extended solo. Though more of a traditional blues song in structure, there’s a definite shift towards jazz in the chorus. The instrumental “Sugar Blue Boogie” is a definite highlight of the album. This fast and furious shuffle demonstrates Sugar and the band’s virtuosity, and they even throw in some countrified guitar picking for good measure. That countrified style continues on “New York City,” featuring Max de Bernardi on guitar, who co-wrote this autobiographical song chronicling Sugar’s life as a Harlem-raised blues musician. Midway through the track Sugar gives shout-outs to those who influenced him along the way: Victoria Spivey, Muddy Waters, Memphis Slim, Louisiana Red, and Willie Dixon.

Sugar recently married bassist Ilaria Lantieri, who also performs on the album and likely inspired the track “Love is in the Air,” which has a tinge of reggae rhythms under a harmonica solo that speaks of love and satisfaction. Eddie Shaw, the legendary sax player from the Howlin’ Wolf band, assists on “Mercedes Blues”—one of the most traditional tracks on the album, along with the humorous “Cyber Blues,” which any listener will relate to. Another stand out track is the jazzy “Life on the Run,” featuring vocalist Maya Azucena and Sonix The Mad Scientist (the two are collaborating on an album scheduled for release later this year, and Sonix performs with Sugar in the group Next Level).  The album closes with “Time,” giving Sugar a final opportunity to unleash his harmonic on several solo interludes, while singing about the need to seize the moment because “time is moving on.”

Voyage is a delightful and very forward looking album, offering a wide range of styles while inviting us along on one man’s journey through the trials, tribulations, love, and joy of life in this world.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review August 1st, 2016

Various Artists – God Don’t Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson

god dont never change songs of blind willie johnson

Title: God Don’t Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson

Artist: Various Artists

Label: Alligator Records

Format: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: February 26, 2016



If you are aware of the history of Chicago Blues than you have likely heard of Alligator Records.  If you are not a connoisseur of the history of Chicago’s blues labels, it is useful to know how this label came to be.

One of the most important early Chicago blues labels was Chess Records, which was  started by two Polish immigrant brothers, Leonard and Phil Chess, in 1950.  The Chess roster featured some of the most important blues acts of the day, including Ike Turner, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Koko Taylor.  In 1969 the brothers sold the label to General Recorded Tape.

In 1971, a 23-year old blues fanatic named Bruce Iglauer started the independent label  Alligator Records, which quickly became a magnet for former members of the Chess stable.  The first artist that Iglauer signed and released on his new label was Hound Dog Taylor & The HouseRockers.  In 2011 Alligator Records celebrated its 40th anniversary, releasing The Alligator Records 40th Anniversary Collection.

Today the label still attracts some of the most innovative contemporary blues artists as well as maintaining a focus on select early blues pioneers, such as Blind Willie Johnson, who was born in 1902.  He was not born blind–one oft-cited story maintains that he lost his sight when his angry stepmother threw lye in his face. In spite of going completely blind, by age 7 Johnson started to teach himself how to play the guitar.   Willie had a strong passion for both blues and gospel music.  After spending some years singing on the streets of Martin, Texas; he moved to Dallas where he met his wife Angeline.  He began his recording career around 1927 and only recorded until 1935.  Johnson died in abject poverty.

On this release, Alligator Records has assembled a well-known host of musicians to interpret some Blind Willie Johnson’s songs.  Some of the outstanding artists featured on this record include Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams, Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi, Cowboy Junkies, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Sinead O’Connor, and Rickie Lee Jones.  In addition to its great roster of musicians, God Don’t Never Change features 18 pages of extensive liner notes, including beautiful photographs and a detailed essay on Johnson’s life by singer-songwriter Michael Corcoran.

Tom Waits’s rendering of the album’s first track “The Soul of a Man” will not disappoint fans of the gravelly-voiced musician, songwriter, and actor. Waits brings in his own deep understanding of blues and gospel music in his minimalist soulful rendition.  Lucinda Williams’s performance on the album’s second track, “It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine” hearkens back to older blues styles, complete with compelling bottleneck slide guitar darting in and around the song’s vocal melody.  One of my personal favorite tracks is “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning,” performed by husband and wife Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi.  This cut features a down-home feel propelled by Truck’s masterful slide playing and fantastic call-and-response between Tedeschi and a group of backing vocalists. The duo’s impassioned performance keeps the very old song fresh. Cowboy Junkies’ performance of “Jesus is Coming Soon” gives the song’s apocalyptic lyrics an appropriately haunting treatment.  This group’s alt-country sensibility plays very well on this song.  “Trouble Will Soon Be Over” offers a moment of transcendence, transporting this reviewer to another place. Sinead O’Connor’s sweet and sensitive vocal treatment of this song gives the its aspirational lyrics an inspiring emotional thrust.

This 11 song album is definitely worth a listen.  While–due in large part to the diversity of the artists interpreting Johnson’s repertoire–there may be a few songs that might not at first blush be your cup of tea, if you listen with an open mind you’ll probably discover some real gems.

Reviewed by Patrick Scott Byrket

View review March 1st, 2016

Blues, Rock and Reggae Box Sets and Limited Editions

bobby rush chicken heads

Title: Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History

Artist: Bobby Rush

Label: Omnivore

Formats: 4-CD Box set, MP3

Release date: November 27, 2015



Legendary blues musician Bobby Rush recently celebrated his 82nd birthday, and his longevity in the industry is now celebrated in this compilation from Omnivore, covering 50 years of his recording career. Though born in Mississippi, Rush is closely associated the Chicago blues scene, where he relocated in the 1950s and performed with the likes of Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, and Howlin’ Wolf. This nicely packaged box set, titled after Rush’s most famous song, begins in 1964 with his early solo recordings and concludes nearly 100 tracks later with songs from his 2004 album FolkFunk, featuring guitarist Alvin Youngblood Hart.

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Rush reinvented himself over the years, remaining relevant to younger generations through collabs with rock, soul, funk and rap artists. In the last decade he’s continued to release albums on a nearly annual basis, while earning a slew of awards and Grammy nominations. Chicken Heads serves as a fine tribute to the versatility of the “Dean of the Blues,” with remastering and audio restoration by Michael Graves, and a 32-page, full-color booklet with liner notes by Bill Dahl.


arthur lee and love the live recordings

Title: Coming Thru To You – The Live Recordings, 1970-2004 

Artist: Arthur Lee & Love

Label: Rockbeat

Format: 4-CD Box set

Release date: November 20, 2015


Over the past year we’ve covered some significant reissues from Arthur Lee & Love, the groundbreaking integrated rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1965 (see our reviews of Black Beauty and the band’s final album, Reel-to-Real). Now Rockbeat Records has assembled a 4-CD box set featuring 61 tracks recorded live over three decades, featuring Love as well as Arthur Lee performing with various backing bands, including several tracks recorded just prior to his death in 2006. We don’t have our hands on a copy of this nicely packaged compilation yet, but it will certainly be added to our collection. However, if you’re not a hardcore fan, we suggest you explore the studio albums first, beginning with Love’s groundbreaking third album from 1967, Forever Changes.


bob marley complete island recordings

Title: The Complete Island Recordings

Artist: Bob Marley

Label: Island/Universal

Formats: 11-LP Box set (standard or collector’s edition)

Release date: September 25th, 2015


One of the most handsomely packaged box sets this season is Bob Marley & The Wailers’ The Complete Island Recordings, released in celebration of Marley’s 70th birthday. Included are the nine studio albums recorded for Island plus two live releases (Live and Babylon By Bus). The numbered “collector’s edition,” which will set you back $650, features eleven 180g vinyl discs packaged in a velvet lined silver metal “zippo lighter” case, with bonus slipmat, photographs, and download code voucher. Since there’s no accompanying book, it’s difficult to justify the high price of the collector’s edition, so if your pockets aren’t quite so deep you might wish to consider the more moderately priced ($235) standard edition. Or wait until the albums are reissued individually (apparently in September 2016).

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Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review December 2nd, 2015

Omar Coleman – Born & Raised

omar coleman born and raised

Title: Born & Raised

Artist: Omar Coleman

Label: Delmark

Formats: CD, MP3

Release Date: June 16, 2015



If you have never heard of Omar Coleman before, you are probably not alone. The blueman began playing harmonica at the age of 25 and in a short time was making a name for himself in the blues clubs of Chicago. He officially began his career in the music business in 2010 at the age of 37and has released three albums in that time. However, even before beginning to play his instrument, Coleman had exposure to the best of the blues: he was born and raised in Chicago and grew up listening to the likes of Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, and the great Sam Cooke. These influences have had a profound effect on Coleman and he is an excellent harmonica player and singer. In addition to his solo work, Coleman’s chops have allowed him to share the stage with luminaries such as Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, Ruth Brown, and Robert Randolph.

This album is an example of why blues is one of the most passionate styles of music being played today. These songs deal with lost love, lost opportunities, and things we wish we could do. Born & Raised highlights universal themes of life, love, and desire and would be an excellent starting point for listeners interested in exploring Chicago blues at its best, with the songs covering a variety of tempos and dynamic ranges as various as the song’s subjects.

From the first song to the last this album will take you on a roller coaster ride that you will not want to end. “Tryin’ To Do Right” is a great example of good old Chicago blues. Coleman’s harmonica playing is the first thing listeners will note, followed by his vocals soaring over the arrangement as the song takes the form of a standard blues shuffle. Guitarist Pete Galanis complements Coleman’s playing and singing effectively, with tasteful licks interspersed in the natural spaces a standard blues tune creates. On “Man Like Me” listeners really get to hear the potential of well-played blues harp, and the song’s energy makes it the perfect soundtrack for cruising with the windows rolled down.

“I Was A Fool” provides contrast from the first three fast-moving tracks, with the song’s slow tempo allowing a moment of reflection before Coleman and company hit the gas pedal again for another six numbers of movin’ and groovin’. The album’s eleventh track, “One Request” is another slow blues jam, with a great feel. Galanis’s guitar playing on this cut is reminiscent of some of the great blues masters’, at times calling Eric Clapton’s style to mind. Throughout this album Coleman plays with some of the best less well-known musicians—Coleman and Galanis are joined by Neal O’Hara on piano and organ, Ari Seder on bass, and Marty Binder on drums and percussion.

The album hints at nostalgia for older styles of Chicago blues, and may convince listeners that Chess Records is still alive and well. Don’t let this album pass you by—it would make for an excellent last blast of the summer.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Patrick Byrket

View review October 1st, 2015

Buddy Guy – Born to Play Guitar

buddy guy born to play guitar._AA160_

Title: Born to Play Guitar

Artist: Buddy Guy

Label: RCA

Formats: CD, MP3, Vinyl

Release Date: July 31, 2015



B.B King’s death struck me and many other blues lovers like a ton of bricks, particularly as it served as a bitter reminder that many of the legendary blues singers are aging and passing away. Buddy Guy is one of these aging bluesmen who still maintain an active schedule of recording dates and performances, continuing to maintain his legendary status even as a younger generation of musicians takes the genre’s reins.

Guy’s Born to Play Guitar is the guitarist’s 28th studio album, and is arguably one of the best blues albums released in recent memory. Buddy Guy is a well-documented road warrior, who still performs with the energy of a much younger man, at times outperforming musicians many years (or even decades) his junior. This 14 song collection documents the bluesman’s energy and includes several pleasant surprises, including guest appearances from Van Morrison, Joss Stone, Kim Wilson, and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.

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The titular “Born to Play Guitar” sets the tone for the album, with Guy reminiscing about some of his earliest experiences as a performer. “Wear You out,” featuring Gibbons, showcases two music industry veterans trading licks back and forth, a fruitful collaboration that this reviewer would like to see more of in the future. Kim Wilson, the lead singer for The Fabulous Thunderbirds, plays harmonica on two cuts. Kim is likely one of the best blues singers or harmonica players in the business. For those not already familiar with Wilson’s group, the Born to Play Guitar cuts “Too Late” and “Kiss Me Quick” will likely inspire further investigation into his own back catalog. Other highlights include “(Baby) You Got What it Takes,” a soulful collaboration between Guy and Joss Stone, and “Flesh & Bones,” a moving song by Tom Hambridge, the drummer and producer of Born to Play Guitar, which is dedicated to B.B. King and features a heartfelt duet by Guy and Van Morrison. It is difficult not to recall instances in which Buddy and B.B. collaborated when listening to this heartfelt tribute. The album ends with a tune about another blues legend, Muddy Waters. In “Come Back Muddy,” Buddy reflects on their time together playing the blues circuit, with the song serving as a poignant reminder of another generation of great bluesmen.

While Born to Play Guitar  decidedly focuses on the past at times, Buddy Guy still has much to say with his music—it is safe to say that blues fans hope to have him around for quite a while longer.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Patrick Byrket


View review September 2nd, 2015

July 2015 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during July 2015—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
B.B. King: Complete Recordings 1949-1962 (Enlightenment)
Blinddog Smokin’: High Steppin’
Buddy Guy: Born to Play Guitar (RCA)
Freddie King: Going Down at Onkel Po’s (Rockbeat)
Georgia Tom Dorsey & Big Bill Broonzy: Famous Hokum Boys (JSP)
Muddy Waters Blues Band: Live at Ebbets Field
Otis Rush: Double Trouble: Live in Cambridge 1973 (Rockbeat)
Tampa Red: Dynamite! The Unsung King Of The Blues (Ace)
Various: Texas Blues: Early Blues Masters from the Lonestar State (JSP)
Various: Muddy Waters 100 (MRI)

Redd Foxx: Nasty (Airline)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
American Fangs: Dirty Legs (Best Before)
Benjamin Clementine: At Least For Now (Behind Records / Barclay)
Double Duchess: All Eyes on Me
George Clinton: Chocolate City: London P-Funk Live at Metropolis (Metropolis)
Rock Candy Funk Party: The Groove is King CD + DVD (J&R Adventures)
Felix Da Housecat: Narrative Of Thee Blast Illusion (No Shame)
Kwame Binea Shakedown EP (Pelopos Ent. Group)
Lianne La Havas: Blood (Nonesuch)
P.O.D.: The Awakening (Ume)
ROYAL: Crash EP (Ropeadope)
Sample Answer: Good Boy EP (ACP)
Various: The Sam Records Anthology (Harmless)

Gospel, Gospel Rap, CCM
Anthony Brown & Group Therapy: Everyday Jesus (Tyscot)
CeCe Winans: The Best of; Millennium Collection (Sparrow)
Israel & New Breed: Covered: Alive in Asia DVD (RCA)
Karen Clark Sheard: Destined to Win (eOne)
Madam Edna Gallmon Cooke: Collection 1949-62 (Acrobat)
Mandisa: 3CD Collection (Sparrow)
Mighty Clouds of Joy: Classic 3 (eOne)
Sue Neil: Through the Fire (Rebel Hill Music)
Violinaires: Groovin’ With Jesus (Safety Zone)
Violinaires: You Can All Join In (Safety Zone)

Clarence Williams: Senegalese Stomp (Frog UK)
Curtis Haywood: Smooth Ingredients (Megawave)
Dexter Gordon: 12 Classic Albums: 1947-1962 (box set)
Heads of State: Search for Peace (Smoke Sessions)
Horace Silver: Live at the Half Note (Hi Hat)
Ivo Perelman & Matthew Shipp: Callas (Leo)
James P Johnson: Collection, 1921-1949 (Fabulous)
John Coltrane: Live at Penn State ’63
Lebron: New Era (Trippin & Rhythm)
Miles Davis At Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (Sony Legacy)
Mina Agossi: Fresh (Proper Music)
Robert Cunningham Jr.: Deep Within (Pacific Coast Jazz)
Sangoma Everett Trio: Debi (Naïve)
Sun Ra Arkestra: Babylon Live (In + Out)
Xanadu All-Stars: Xanadu In Africa / Night Flight From Dakar (Elemental Music)
Laura Karpman/Langston Hughes: Ask Your Mama (Avie Records)
Various: Nina Revisited: A Tribute To Nina Simone (RCA)

R&B, Soul
Aaron Parnell Brown: The Tin Man (Expansion)
All-4-One: Twenty+ (AFO Ltd.)
Cadets & Jacks: The Complete Releases 1955-57 (Acrobat)
Crown Heights Affair: Dreaming a Dream: The Best Of (Sanctuary)
James Brown: Tell Me What You’re Gonna Do (Rumble)
Jill Scott: Woman (Atlantic)
Joe Tex: Yum Yum Yum – The Early Years 1955-1962 (Jasmine)
Julian King: Sing for You EP
Marvin Gaye: Recorded Live on Stage (Rumble)
Marvin Gaye: The Concert Anthology (Goldenlane)
Ricky White: Love Zone (Music Access Inc)
Ronnie Jones: Satisfy My Soul: Complete Recordings 1964-1968 (RPM)
Sly & the Family Stone: Live at the Fillmore East October 4th& 5th 1968 (Sony Legacy)
Speedometer: No Turning Back (Freestyle)
Stacy Barthe: Becoming (Motown)
Stephen Bradley: Runaways EP
The Fantastic Four: The Lost Motown Album (Kent)
Tommy Ridgley & Bobby Mitchell: In The Same Old Way (Ace)
Tyrese: The Black Rose (Voltron Recordz)
Various: Dore: L.A. Soul Sides 2 (Kent)
Various: Groove With a Feeling: Sounds of Memphis 1975-1985 (BGP)
Various: The Super Rare Doo Wop Box (Rockbeat)
With Lions: Fast Luck

Rap, Hip Hop
Gunplay: Living Legend (Def Jam)
Kutt Calhoun: Kuttin Loose EP (Black Gold Ent.)
Solomon Childs: Monsters in My Room (Chambermusik)
Capone-N-Noreaga: Lessons (Penalty Ent.)
C-Bo: The Mobfather II (RBC)
Chinx: Welcome To JFK (eOne)
Citizen Kay: Demokracy (Asphalt)
Flo Rida: My House
Ghost Writerz: GWZ All The Way (Tru Thoughts)
Ghostface Killah: Adrian Younge Presents Twelve Reasons To Die II (Linear Labs)
Hopsin: Pound Syndrome (Funk Volume)
Juju Rogers: From the Life of Good-For-Nothing (Jakarta)
Kankick vs DJ Choku: Beat Life (Octave)
Kid Ink: Coast 2 Coast 261 (Ontrack Ent.)
Krept & Konan: The Long Way Home (Def Jam)
Lil C: H-Town Chronic 14 (Oarfin)
Lil C: H-Town Chronic 15 (Oarfin)
L’Orange & Kool Keith: Time? Astonishing! (Mello Music)
Migos: Yung Rich Nation (300 Entertainment)
Motive: D.N.A. (Dopest Nigga Alive) (Dirty Version)
Mr. Criminal: Evolution of a G (Hi Power Ent.)
Noveliss: Toonami Tsunamis EP (Clear Soul Forces)
Papoose: You Can’t Stop Destiny (Honorable)
Public Enemy: Man Plans God Laughs (Spit)
Raz Fresco: Pablo Frescobar (Duck Down)
Slim Thug : Hogg Life: 2 Still Surviving (Hogglife Ent.)
ST 2 Lettaz: Good Day in the Ghetto: Season One (Mishka)
The Pharcyde: Bizare Ride II: The Singles Collection (45 box)
Trae Tha Truth: Tha Truth (ABN)
Various: Hydra: Underground’s Finest (Octave)
Vitamin D: Uninterrupted (Cold Busted)
Young Jeezy: Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 (Def Jam)
SICC ILL: Vicdemic 1234 (Fahrenheit)
TT the Artist: Gimme Yo Love EP (Nina Pop)
Seven Davis Jr: Universes (Ninja Tune)
Various: Jamaica Hip-Hop (Movie Time Dist.)

Reggae, Dancehall
Bunny Striker Lee: Next Cut! (Pressure Sounds)
Jah Cure: The Cure (VP)
King Jammy: Roots Reality & Sleng Teng (VP)
Tanto Metro & Devonte: Sly & Robbie Present (Taxi Records/Zojak World Wide)
Tyrone Taylor: Totally Tyrone (Tuff Gong)
Various: Feel So Fine: Birth of Jamaican Ska (Future Noise)
Various: Nyacoustic Chants (Zion High)
Various: Don Letts: Dread Meets Punk Rockers Downtown, Vol. 2 (Island)

World, Latin
Ramon Goose and Modou Touré: West African Blues Project
Polyversal Souls: Invisible Joy (Philophon)
Nation Beat & Cha Wa: Carnival Caravan EP (Nation Beat Music)
Toto La Momposina: Tambolero (Real World)


View review August 1st, 2015

J.B. Hutto & His Hawks – Hawk Squat


Title: Hawk Squat

Artist: J.B. Hutto & His Hawks

Label: Delmark

Formats: CD (Deluxe ed.), MP3

Release date: April 14, 2015


In the mid 1960s Joseph Benjamin (J.B.) Hutto played three nights a week at Turner’s Lounge, a rough blues bar at the corner of 39th and Indiana on Chicago’s South Side.  Delmark Records founder Bob Koester describes the place in his booklet forward for this new deluxe reissue of one of his label’s modern blues classics: “Fifty cents would gain you entry and a beer. Not having that dollar charge at the door made Turner’s rowdier than other clubs.”  When Koester and his wife, Sue, first heard Hutto in “’62 or ’63,” the guitarist/singer “lived in Harvey (Illinois) and took public transportation to and from Turner’s Lounge. And he got $5 a night.”

Starting in 1966, Koester tried to capture the raw power of a live Hutto show for a Delmark studio album.  A session recorded at Mother Blues club after hours netted one song on this album, “Hip Shakin,'” which gained enough traction as a single to get Hutto and his band booked on a small West Coast tour.  But, Koester wrote in his original LP liner notes, drummer Frank Kirkland came down with tuberculosis.  When he recovered, Hutto “caught a serious case of pneumonia.”  The end result was that Koester couldn’t get the band back into the studio until 1968.  A May session at Sound Studio and an August session at Chess-owned Ter-Mar Studio netted enough tracks for a classic electric blues album.

Hawk Squat is one of three Delmark albums from the ‘60s now inducted into the Blues Foundation’s Hall of Fame.  The others are Junior Wells’ Hoodoo Man Blues and Magic Sam’s West Side Soul.  For this deluxe reissue of Hutto’s album, Delmark included 6 extra tracks—the previously-unreleased “I’ll Cry Tomorrow” from the Ter-Mar session plus alternate takes of five tunes on the original album.

Hutto was a slide guitar powerhouse.  Like Hound Dog Taylor, he was influenced by Elmore James and Muddy Waters.  His blues was the kind of faster, louder, grittier electric music that appealed to a younger urban crowd in the ‘60s, and ended up being the dominant strain of the 1990s “blues revival.” Koester created an interesting and varied album by paring Hutto and Kirkland with keyboardist Sunnyland Slim and different bassists at each session.  For the Ter-Mar session, Lee Jackson was added on rhythm guitar, Junior Pettis played bass and Sunnyland Slim mostly played electric organ.  For the Sound Studio session, Dave Myers played bass and Koester added tenor saxman Maurice McIntyre, an avant garde jazz player who worked days at Koester’s Jazz Record Mart.

Musically, this album falls somewhere between the rough-edged raw energy of Hound Dog Taylor’s classic live album Beware of the Dog and the polished talent of a late ‘60s Muddy Waters outing.  There’s a ton of blues power, but listen carefully to just how well Hutto, Sunnyland Slim, McIntyre and the rhythm section play together. They never let their enthusiasm and passion make them un-tight. That’s why the album is a classic.

Reviewed by Tom Fine

View review July 1st, 2015

Chuck Berry – The Complete Chess Singles As & Bs 1955-61


Title: The Complete Chess Singles As & Bs 1955-61

Artist: Chuck Berry

Label: Acrobat Music

Formats: 2CD, MP3

Release Date: March 10, 2015


From his first Chess Records release, Chuck Berry tore up the R&B charts. “Maybelline,” released in July 1955, hit #1 on the charts.  Over the next 6 years, Chess issued 25 singles by Berry, and many of them charted, four hitting #1 among R&B hits.

UK-based Acrobat Music has compiled the Chess singles in chronological order, A side then B side. The sound quality varies, but none are unlistenable. The discount price (about $14 for 50 tunes) excuses the cheap-looking package and middling sound quality. The booklet, spared of any fancy layout and with only a handful of stock photos, includes detailed discography info, and a music-centered biographical essay by Paul Watts. Overall, a fine value for rock music fans wanting to fill out the “founding fathers” section in their collection.

Those who know Chuck Berry’s music are probably very familiar with the A sides, so one way to enjoy this set is to load only the B sides into a playlist. There are some surprises. For instance, some of the songs favored by British Invasion rockers like “Too Much Monkey Business” (covered by the Yardbirds and others), “Reelin’ and Rockin'” (Rolling Stones), “Around and Around” (Rolling Stones) and “Memphis Tennessee” (covered by the Rolling Stones in their first demo session) were all B-sides.

Also surprising is the range of styles that Berry was comfortable tackling. Songs like “Havana Moon,” “Hey Pedro” and “Lajuanda” have a Latin flavor and beat whereas “Wee Wee Hours,” “The Downbound Train” and others are blues songs that would work well for Chess stablemates Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf. There are also instrumentals, featuring Berry’s ground-breaking guitar playing as well as several outstanding piano runs by Lafayette Leake.

By taking blues structures and motifs, speeding them up and mixing in R&B, Latin and other influences, Chuck Berry helped invent what came to be called rock music.  This 2CD set offers a listen to the genre under construction, by one of its prime architects.

Reviewed by Tom Fine

View review April 1st, 2015

March Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during March 2015—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
Blind Boy Fuller: Rough Guide To Blind Boy Fuller (World Music Network)
Buster Brown: I’m Going But I’ll Be Back 1959-1962 (Jasmine)
Corey Harris: Live from Turtle Island (Blues Boulevard)
Darius Rucker: Southern Style (Capitol Nashville)
Earl King & Roomfull of Blues: New Orleans Party Classic (Rockbeat)
J.B. Hutto: Bluesmaster – The Lost Tapes (JSP)
Jackie Payne: I Saw The Blues (Blue Dot)
Leo ‘Bud’ Welch: I Don’t Prefer No Blues (Big Legal Mess/Fat Possum)
Muddy Waters: Chess Singles Collection (Not Now)
Otis Taylor: Hey Joe Opus Red Meat (In-Akustik)
Slim Harpo: I’m A King Bee 1957-1961 (Jasmine)
T-Bone Walker: Get These Blues Off Me – As & Bs 1950-1955 (Jasmine)
Various: We’re Sisters Under the Skin-Female Blues & Boogie Woogie 1944-49 (Document)
Various: I’m Pretty Good at It-Country Blues Guitar (Document)
Various: Rough Guide To Unsung Heroes Of Country Blues (World Music Network)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Screamin Jay Hawkins & The Fuzztones : Live 1985 (Cleopatra)
Benjamin Clementine: At Least For Now (Behind Records/Barclay)
Death Grips: The Powers That B (CMG/Harvest/Third World)
O.T. Genasis: CoCo: The Global Remixes (Atlantic)
The Coasters: Magical Favorites (Stardust Records)
Twin Shadow: Eclipse (Warner)
Various: D.C. Go-Go – Sonic Funk from the Chocolate City (Perpetual)

Gospel, Gospel Rap, CCM
21:03: Outsiders (PMG)
Chris Cobbins: August Season (Save the City)
Damien Sneed: Broken To Minister (LeChateau Earl)
Derrick McDuffey: Release The Sound (DMKS Music)
Eshon Burgundy: The Fear of God (Humble Beast)
Fairfield Four: Still Rockin’ My Soul (Fairfield Four Records)
J. Shep: Potential 2 Purpose (Dream Gospel)
Jor’Dan Armstrong: 52 Weeks of Summer (Good Guys Music)
Json: No Filter (Lamp Mode)
Kenny Lewis & One Voice: Way of Escape (eOne)
Kirk Whalum: “Gospel According to Jazz Chapter IV” (Rendezvous)
Marvin Sapp: You Shall Live (RCA Inspiration)
Mccrary Sisters: Let’s Go (MCC)
Mike Real: Mind of Hollis (Clear Sight Music)
Sean C Johnson: Circa 1993 (Fresh Fruits Ent.)
Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Eight Classic Albums (Real Time)
Theory Hazit: The Fall Of Light (Soulspazm Inc.)
First Cathedral Mass Choir: Gospel Music Extravaganza, Vol. 1 (World Class Gospel)
Various: Stellar Awards 30th Anniversary Collection  (Habakkuk Music)

Courtney Pine: Song (The Ballad Book) (Destin-E)
Albert Tootie Heath: Philadelphia Beat (Sunnyside)
Billie Holiday: The Centennial Collection (Legacy)
Candido: Afro Cuban Jazz Sound of Candido (Not Now)
Fats Waller: The Amazing Fats Waller – Then You’ll Remember Me (Solo Art)
Jack DeJohnette: Made in Chicago (ECM)
James Lloyd: Here We Go (Shanachie)
John Coltrane Quintet: So Many Things: European Tour 1961 (Acrobat)
Kevin Eubanks & Stanley Jordan: Duets (Mack Ave.)
Les McCann: Invitation To Openness (expanded ed.) (Omnivore)
Marc Cary: Rhodes Ahead Vol. 2 (Motema Music)
Marcus Miller: Afrodeezia (Blue Note)
Omar Sosa: ilé (Ota)
Ornette Coleman: Beauty Is A Rare Thing (Atlantic)
Rebecca Ferguson: Lady Sings the Blues (Capitol)
Steve Cromity: All My Tomorrows (Cromcake Records)
Steve Turre: Spirit Man (Smoke Sessions)
Uptown Jazz Quartet: Vocal Madness (HouseKat)
Various: Spiritual Jazz Vol. 6 (Jazzman)

R&B, Soul
Big Popp G: I Believe (Pyramid City)
Bigg Robb: Showtime (Music Access Inc.)
Case: Heaven’s Door (eOne Music)
Fats Domino: Blues Biography (InGrooves)
George Benson: Ultimate Collection (Rhino)
Hank Ballard: Let’s Go Again! – Singles Collection 1960-1962 (Jasmine)
Jagged Edge: Greatest Hits (Cleopatra)
James Brown: I’m Real (expanded ed.) (Funky Town Grooves)
Jeff Bradshaw: Home: One Special Night At The Kimmel Center (Shanachie)
Jodeci: The Past, The Present, The Future (Epic)
Johnny Adams: I Won’t Cry: Complete Ric & Ron Singles 1959-1964 (Ace)
Jonathan Butler: Surrender
Kenya: My Own Skin (Expansion)
King Curtis: Soul Twist: The Best of the Early Sixties (Airline)
Lil Jimmie: She Was Twerking (Music Access Inc)
Main Ingrediant: L.T.D./Black Seeds (Real Gone)
My Midnight Heart: Break EP ; Drown EP (digital)
Notations: Still Here, 1967 – 1973 (Numero)
PJ: Walking Around Pools EP (digital)
Rayven Justice: I Have A Dream (Empire Dist.)
Roy Brown: Payday Jump: The 1949-51 Sessions (Ace)
Sons of Serendip: Sons of Serendip (NIA)
Stephanie Pickett: Greatest Hits (Music Access Inc)
Tyrone Davis: Lets Be Closer Together (expanded edition) (Funky Town Grooves)
Various: Los Angeles Soul: Kent-Modern’s Black Music Legacy (Kent)
Various: Ultra-High Frequencies: The Chicago Party (Numero)
Various: Blaxploitation—6 Classic Funk Soundtracks (UMC)
Various: Empire – Original Soundtrack from Season 1 (Columbia)
Various: All in mind – The Wand Records Story (One Day)
Various: Loose the Funk: Rarities From the Jewel/Paula Vaults (Airline)
Various: Fire/Fury Records Story – Doo Wop Collection (Airline)
Various: The One-derful! Collection: The M-Pac! Label (Secret Stash)
Will Downing: Chocolate Drops (WDP)

Rap, Hip Hop
Big Shug: Triple Ogzus (Brick)
Heems: Eat Pray Thug (Megaforce)
Lil C: H-Town Chronic, Vol. 12 (Oarfin)
Azealia Banks: Broke With Expensive Taste (Prospect Park)
Berner: 20 Lights (Bern One Ent.)
Cannibal Ox: Blade of the Ronin (Ihiphop Dist.)
Chief Keef : Feed the Streets (Black Market)
Da Mafia 6ix: Watch What U Wish . . . (101 Dist.)
Da ‘Unda ‘Dogg: In With The Old Out With The New (Pushin Dope Productions)
Diamond District: March On Washington Redux (Mello Music)
DJ Clent: Last Bus to Lake Park (Duck N Cover)
Freddie Gibbs: Pronto EP (ESGN)
Ghostpoet: Shedding Skin (Play It Again Sam)
G-Unit: The Beast Is G-Unit EP (G-Unit)
J-Diggs & Jacka: Mobb Nation (Thizz Nation/Romp’t Out)
J-Live: His Own Self (Mortier Music)
Juicy J: Coast 2 Coast 250 (Ontrack Ent.)
Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly (Interscope)
Ludacris: Ludaversal (Def Jam)
Malik B And Mr. Green: Unpredictable (Enemy Soil)
Mark Battles & Dizzy Wright: Lost in Reality (Empire Dist.)
Mooch Da Player: The Ghetto Storyboard (Fo’ Way Entertainment)
Nengo Flow: Los Reyes Del Rap (Real G 4 Life)
Pooca Leroy: Mobb Sauce (Music Access Inc)
Priceless Da Roc: Forever California (Empire Dist.)
Project Pat: Mista Don’t Play 2: Everythangs Money (eOne Music)
Rapper Big Pooh: Words Paint Pictures (Mello Music Group)
Rorschack & T.O.N.E-z: Handcuffs (MalLabel)
Skizzy Mars: Red Balloom Project (Artist Partner Group)
Substantial & The Other Guys: The Past EP (HiPNOTT)
Swave Sevah: Son of a One Armed Man (Creative Juices)
The Regiment & Sinitus Tempo: S.O.U.L. (Sound of Us Living) (HiPNOTT)
Various: Mello Music Group Persona (Mello Music)
Various: Lowrider Freedom 2015 (Thump)
Wale: The Album About Nothing (Atlantic Urban)
Webbie: Money Good (Empire Dist.)

Reggae, Dancehall, Calypso
Black Symbol: Black Symbol (Reggae Archive Records)
Blues Busters: The Wonder and Glory of the Blues Busters (Sunrise)
Capital Letters: Wolverhampton (Sugar Shack Records)
Carlene Davis: Dripping Blood (V.P.)
Jimmy Riley: Live It to Know It (Pressure Sounds)
Micah Shemiaiah: Original Dread (Descendant Music)
Rocky Duwani: Branches of the Same Tree  (Cumbancha)
Toian: Retrospect EP (Class One Music)
Various: Ska From the Vaults of Wirl Records (Kingston Sounds)
Various: It’s Jamaica Jump Blues Time: Jamaican Sound System (Fantastic Voyage)

World, Latin
Baba Commandant & the Mandingo Band: Juguya (Sublime Frequencies)
Angelique Kidjo: Sings (429 Records)
Ata Kak: Obaa Sima (Awesome Tapes from Africa)
BKO Quintet: Bamako Today – BKO On Air (Buda Musique)
Carlou D: A New Day (World Village)
Rebel Tumbao:Rebel Tumbao (Sacred Rhythm Music)
Songhoy Blues: Music in Exile (Transgressive)
Studio One Jump Up:Birth of a Sound: Jump-Up Jamaican R&B, Jazz & Early Ska (Soul Jazz)
Various: Next Stop Soweto 4: Zulu Rock, Afro-disco & Mbaqanga 1975-1985 (Strut)
Various: Highlife on the Move (Soundway)
Xavier Rudd & The United Nations: Nanna (Nettwerk)

View review April 1st, 2015

Mississippi Heat – Warning Shot


Title: Warning Shot

Artist: Mississippi Heat

Label: Delmark

Formats: CD, MP3, LP

Release date: September 16, 2014


Though the band’s name might imply blues from deep in the Delta, Mississippi Heat is a Chicago-based outfit led by master harmonica player Pierre Lacocque, who was raised in Brussels and first encountered African American music on the radio. When he was 16, his family relocated to Chicago where Lacocque soon became enraptured with the city’s storied blues tradition. Though his life initially took a different path, he eventually returned to his true passion—playing the blues harp—and formed Mississippi Heat in 1991. Since then, the band has gained recognition for keeping traditional blues alive, playing music that’s  “steeped in Chicago’s golden sounds of the 1950s,” drawing inspiration from the likes of “Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Jimmy Rogers, all the great harp players… Big and Little Walter.”

For their latest venture on Delmark Records, Mississippi Heat offers 14 original tracks by various members of the group plus 2 covers, including Hank William’s “Your Cheatin’ Heart” performed as a swing-boogie with harmonica solo, and a soulful, fuzzed out version of Ruth Brown’s “I Don’t Know,” convincingly sung by Inetta Visor. Inetta also shines on the Calypso-tinged rhumba “Come to Mama” which references Big Walter Horton’s “La Cucaracha,” and on the rollicking title track that also features guitarist Carl Weathersby:

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One of the albums highlights is “Yeah Now Baby,” a perfect combination of Delta blues and modern sensibilities, driven relentlessly by Kenny Smith on drums and Lacocque’s harp, while Michael Dotson’s moaning vocalizations bring it down home. Another is “Recession Blues.” Though the title might call to mind the mournful style of a 1930s acoustic blues lament, instead the track is an upbeat juggernaut displaying the talents of Ruben Alvarez on percussion and Sax Gordon on saxophones, along with plenty of rocking guitar and harmonica licks.  Closing with “Working Man,” Visor and Lacocque provide an effective call and response between vocals and harp, punctuated by Neal O’Hara on keys, Giles Corey and Michael Dotson on guitars, and Brian Quinn on bass.

Warning Shot provides a fresh sound, drawing from traditional blues tropes but with significant twists and turns along the way. By incorporating vintage electric sounds, Latin beats, honking R&B saxophones, and jolts of rock ‘n’ roll, Mississippi Heat achieves an inspiring blend of the old and the new, keeping listeners satisfied with stellar musicianship and arrangements that will have appeal far beyond the traditional blues audience.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review March 3rd, 2015

Louisiana Red – The Sky is Crying


Title: The Sky is Crying

Artist: Louisiana Red

Label: Wolf Records International

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: August 12, 2014



Iverson Minter, more popularly known as Louisiana Red, has been one of the most celebrated and recorded blues musicians since his shining debut album Low Down Back Porch Blues (1963).* Though Red died in 2012, his spirit is kept alive through this posthumous project, The Sky is Crying, which features a collection of songs mostly composed by Red dating as far back as 1964. While several of these selections have been previously recorded, this compilation is unique in that the majority of the material was captured live in concerts in Greece from 1994-2007.The music varies from parsed down intimate pieces with only solo guitar like “Do You Got Balls” to the rocking Chicago blues styled accompaniment heard in “I Done Woke Up” (on which Red plays the “Mississippi saxophone”).  On the opening track, “Too Poor to Die,” Red spins a comical yet sobering tale about being unable to afford the financial burden of death – even the devil wanted his palm “greased.” Here, he employs his electric guitar as a rhythmic storytelling device by selectively weaving common blues refrains throughout the song but also allowing ample space for his words to shine through. He uses a different approach when singing “Early in the Morning,” as he performs a lively call and response with an acoustic slide guitar.  Conversely, on songs like “What is That She Got” (written by Muddy Waters) and “Champagne and Reefer,” he is joined by a band including drums and piano.

Perhaps one of the most distinctive recordings is Red’s cover of “The Sky is Crying” as it includes several traditional Greek instruments like tsambouna (a Greek folk instrument in the bagpipe family) to create the somber texture of the song. Red’s vocal delivery, electric guitar style, and chord progression clearly mark this as blues piece while the Greek and Eastern European instrumentation give voice to the transnational life of both blues and Red, who had resided in Germany since the 1980s.

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This album is a fine testament to the work of Louisiana Red as a seasoned performer and blues icon whose music has touched the lives and ears of listeners all over the world.

* Read more about Louisiana Red in this informative 1996 article by Alan Balfour, which includes a list of recommended recordings.

Reviewed by Raynetta Wiggins

View review January 3rd, 2015

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