Classic Blues Artwork from the 1920’s, Vol. 18

 

Title: Classic Blues Artwork from the 1920’s, vol. 18
Artist: Various
Label: Blues Images
Format: CD + Calendar
Release date: September 8, 2020

 

The Blues Images team strike a resonant chord again this year with their annual blues calendar and CD package. The wall calendar, featuring a historic advertisement for Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Pneumonia Blues” on the cover, displays additional photographs and graphical artwork that help bring to life the classic Pre-War blues classics included on this year’s audio selections. Beautiful photographs of Peg Leg Howell, Bertha Henderson, Ramblin’ Thomas, Victoria Spivey, and Blind Boy Fuller will help pass the months of 2021 as the calendar’s pages are turned, including a stand-out photo of Lead Belly and Martha Promise on their wedding day in the month of July.

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Shemekia Copeland – Uncivil War

 

Title: Uncivil War
Artist: Shemekia Copeland
Label: Alligator
Format: CD, Digital
Release date: October 23, 2020

 

Reigning blues queen Shemekia Copeland delves deep into the divided heart and tarnished soul of America on her latest release, Uncivil War. The follow-up to her 2018 album, America’s Child, Copeland again teams up with Nashville guitarist/producer Will Kimbrough, who casts her signature vocal style into a spellbinding Americana brew. Assisting with this effort is an all-star cast featuring singer-guitarist Jason Isbell, rising young Delta blues guitarist Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, lap steel guitarist Jerry Douglas, bluegrass mandolinist Sam Bush, legendary Stax guitarist Steve Cropper (Booker T. & the M.G.’s), roots guitarists Duane “King of Twang” Eddy and Webb Wilder, plus The Orphan Brigade on background vocals.

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Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne – Go, Just Do It!

 

Title: Go, Just Do It!
Artist: Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne
Label: Stony Plain Music
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: April 1, 2020

 

Usually thought of as a blues musician, Kenny Wayne is too versatile as a player to be bound within any one genre. Now 75 years old, Wayne has been paying his dues for a long time, and that level of experience is evident on Go, Just Do It!  Playing like a seasoned veteran—always playing the right notes, and always in the groove—it is obvious why Wayne has been inducted into the Boogie Woogie Piano Hall of Fame in Cincinnati. On this latest release he is joined by veteran personnel, such as former B. B. King bassist Russell Jackson and a rhythm section rounded out by Joey DiMarco on drums and Yuji Ihara on guitar, both of whom have played with the Canadian act Boogie Patrol. Harmonica ace Sherman “Tank” Doucette plays on “They Call Me the Breeze,” and Wayne is joined by Grammy winner Diane Schuur on a cover of Percy Mayfield’s “You’re in for a Big Surprise.” A horn section consisting of Jerry Cook on sax and Vince Mai on trumpet rounds out some of the other notable personnel on the record.

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Frank Bey – All My Dues Are Paid

 

Title: All My Dues Are Paid 
Artist: Frank Bey 
Label: Nola Blue  
Formats: CD, Digital 
Release date: January 17, 2020  

 

Georgia native Frank Bey’s recent release, All My Dues Are Paid, is another example of how the blues continues to hang on as a viable genre, even in the year 2020. Bey began singing professionally at the age of four with the gospel group the Rising Sons, which including a brother and two cousins. At 17 he opened for Otis Redding. In the early ‘70s he was a member of the radical funk group Moorish Vanguard, who were supposed to record for James Brown’s label, but the deal fell through. Disillusioned with the music business, Bey didn’t sing for another 17 years. Yet he was “rediscovered” by a blues fan who was blown away by the depth and emotional power of Bey’s voice, which led to a late-career resurgence similar to that of the late Sharon Jones. His new album takes on an especially poignant meaning since Bey passed away on June 7th, 2020, from kidney disease.  

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Summer 2020 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during June, July and August 2020 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

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Goldman Thibodeaux and the Lawtell Playboys – La Danse à St. Ann’s

 

Title: La Danse à St. Ann’s 
Artist: Goldman Thibodeaux and the Lawtell Playboys 
Label: Nouveau Electric 
Formats: CD, Digital 
Release date: May 29, 2020 

 

Living legend Goldman Thibodeaux, a mainstay at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for over 20 years, is one of the last musicians performing in the traditional French Creole country style known as “La La.” Now 87-years-old, Thibodeaux’s mixed Cajun-Creole roots reach back to early 20th century Louisiana, when as a young boy he saw the great Amédé Ardoin (1898–1942) perform at a local house party. One of the most revered Creole musicians in Louisiana and an early recording artist, Ardoin’s Afro-Creole accordion style paved the way for zydeco music back in 1920s and inspired Thibodeaux to take up the accordion. By 1966, he was playing with the Lawtell Playboys, a group originally founded in 1946 by Bébé and Eraste Carriere (aka Les Frères Carrière) and kept alive by several generations of family members. Now the leader of the group, Goldman Thibodeaux and the Lawtell Playboys present their latest album, La Danse à St. Ann’s

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May 2020 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during May 2020 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.  

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Alex Dixon – The Real McCoy

 

Title: The Real McCoy 
Artist: Alex Dixon 
Label: Dixon Landing Music 
Formats: CD, LP, Digital 
Release date:  March 24, 2020 

 

If electric Chicago blues is your bag, Alex Dixon’s The Real McCoy offers the real deal. The grandson of Willie Dixon, Alex represents the younger generation of Chicago blues royalty and carries on the family tradition as a talented producer, bassist, and pianist. His family also actively works to preserve the history of the genre in the Windy City through the Blues Heaven Foundation, located in the historic Chess Records building. Sharing his love of this history is precisely what Dixon set out to accomplish with his new project: “We were trying to go for authenticity, and I wanted to showcase some of the things that I learned from my grandfather and make the album I’ve always wanted to do.” Joining Dixon in this endeavor are two blues harpists – Sugar Blue and Steve Bell, son of famed harmonica wizard Cary Bell – and other assisting musicians including Lewis “Big Lew” Powell on vocals, Melvin Taylor and Gino Matteo on guitar, and Alvino Bennett on drums. 

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Bobby Rush – Sitting on Top of the Blues

 

Title: Sitting on Top of the Blues
Artist: Bobby Rush
Label: Deep Rush/dist. Thirty Tigers
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: August 16, 2019

 

An octogenarian and elder statesman of the blues, Bobby Rush shows no signs of slowing down. The self-professed “king of the chitlin’ circuit” is currently riding high from his cameo in the acclaimed film, Dolemite Is My Name, where he performed his original song “I Ain’t Studdin’ Ya,” as well as the release of his latest studio album, Sitting on Top of the Blues.  The album’s title aptly describes Rush’s position as a “bluesman who’s sitting on the top of my game, proud of what I do and proud of who I am.” The eleven tracks, all penned by Rush, also speak to his talents as a master storyteller as he regales us with songs about “how I came up and who did I love.” Continue reading

Altered Five Blues Band – Ten Thousand Watts

 

Title: Ten Thousand Watts
Artist: Altered Five Blues Band
Label: Blind Pig
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: September 6, 2019

 

Milwaukee’s Altered Five Blues Band, led by vocalist Ted Taylor, has been garnering legions of fans since the quintet formed in 2002. On their fifth studio album, Ten Thousand Watts, they generate their own brand of high voltage blues rock across twelve original tracks. The A5’s cohesiveness is immediately evident, a testimony to the band’s seventeen years as a unit and appearances at blues festivals worldwide. In addition to Taylor, band members include guitarist Jeff Schroedl, bassist Mark Solveson, keyboardist Raymond Tevich, and drummer Alan Arber, who joined in 2017. Continue reading

Billy Branch & The Sons of Blues – Roots and Branches: The Songs of Little Walter

 

Title: Roots and Branches: The Songs of Little Walter
Artist: Billy Branch & The Sons of Blues
Label: Alligator
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: July 5, 2019

 

One of the greatest blues harmonica players alive today, the three-time Blues Music Award winner Billy Branch carries on the Chicago blues harp tradition he learned first-hand from legends such as Junior Wells, James Cotton and Willie Dixon. Following up on his 2014 release, Blues Shock, Branch’s latest project reimagines 15 songs written or made famous by another Chicago harp legend, the late great Little Walter Jacobs. Branch is joined by his longtime band, The Sons of Blues, featuring pianist Sumito “Ariyo” Ariyoshi, guitarist Giles Corey, bassist Marvin Little, and drummer Andrew “Blaze” Thomas. Their goal for this project was to go beyond a mere tribute recording, fusing their own contemporary mix of funk, rhythm and blues, and soul into each and every track. Continue reading

Jimmy “Duck” Holmes – Cypress Grove

 

Title: Cypress Grove
Artist: Jimmy “Duck” Holmes
Label: Easy Eye Sound
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: October 18, 2019

 

Mississippi bluesman Jimmy “Duck” Holmes literally grew up in a southern juke joint. His mother and father established the historic Blue Front Café in 1948 in the town of Betonia—ground zero for the minor-tuned, acoustic country blues style made famous by Jack Owens and his predecessor, Skip James. Now a prominent stop on the Mississippi Blues Trail, the Blue Front Café has been run for the past 47 years by Holmes, who can still be heard nearly every weekend singing and playing his acoustic or hollowbody electric guitar. As possibly the last living musician who was weaned on the Bentonia blues style, Holmes aims to keep the tradition alive on his latest album, Cypress Grove. Produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, the project captures classics performed in forward looking renditions that stay true to their roots while bringing a spontaneity into the mix. Backing Holmes is an all-star cast of musicians including Auerbach and Marcus King on guitars, Eric Deaton on bass, and Sam Bacco on drums and percussion. Continue reading