Blues Rock Review was founded in 2010 and launched full time in May, 2011. Based in the United States with writers across the globe, our purpose is to promote the top acts in the Blues Rock genre. At Blues Rock Review, you will find reviews, interviews, videos, and more about the best in Blues Rock.
Having never been to Memphis, I guess it’s difficult to define the music from there. But as Memphis is in the title of this CD, it is clearly a source of inspiration for Cru. The rest of his band, including Bob Purdy on bass, Dick Earl Ericksen on harmonica, Andy Rudy on piano, and Guy Nirelli on organ, are equally committed to putting forward some sincere and no-nonsense blues for the people. Cru grew up influenced by the music produced at Sun Records and he has transferred that seamlessly into his songwriting. Memphis Song brings us a dozen original songs that touch on nearly every genre associated with the city.
“Heal My Soul” is a raucous opener with a nod to Gospel. The band is tight with the combination of Cru’s guitar and Dick Earl Ericksen’s down home harmonica is spot on. The hairs stood up on my neck for the title track, with award winning Victor Wainwright, Pat Harrington and Mary Ann Casale guesting on piano and slide guitar and acoustic guitar/backing vocals respectively. “Give a Little Up” features Casale and Cru sharing the lead vocals with Ericksen blowing harp for some interesting punctuation to their vocals; good bit of funk going on here. “One Eyed Jack” continues the funk theme, along with some dirty harp and organ complementing Cru’s impassioned vocals. “Queen of Hearts” is a slow-walking and sultry lament. Clocking in a shade over six minutes, the song’s feel develops into a slow jam and has Cru at his most deliberate and tasteful. The shimmy comes back, in the form of fat and thick organ tone on “Don’t Lie to that Woman” where Cru shares another bad boy story about a girl better than he deserves. “Don’t Lie to That Woman” is a jazzy and mid-tempo swing cut with some well done acoustic guitar finger picking. There’s a great vibe going on, a great foot tapper. The album closes strong with two superb shuffle blues tracks, “Feel So Good” and “Can’t Get Over The Blues” a reminder, if needed, of what a great band you’ve been listening to.
In conclusion, Memphis Song is a great CD from seasoned musicians, knowing not to over elaborate with just the right amount of playing. Certainly gives me the urge to visit Memphis!
The Review: 8/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Heal My Soul
– Memphis Song
– Have A Drink
– Queen Of Hearts
– I Feel So Good
The Big Hit
– Heal My Soul
Tas Cru - Heal My Soul (Official Music Video) - YouTube
Music festivals have been going on since 1959 when the Newport Jazz and Folk festivals first began. By the end of the 1960s gigantic, eclectic music festivals were common place with landmark festivals like 1967’s “Monterey Pop,” 1968’s Miami Pop” and 1969’s “Woodstock.” The first festivals were a showcase for the roots that pop music was born out of in the form of blues, folk and gospel. Seminal artists like Mississippi John Hurt, Sun House, Bukka White, Odetta, Pete Seger, Cisco Houston and John Lee Hooker, who were featured along with new acts like Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, the “Butterfield Blues Band,” and Bob Dylan to name some.
Since that time festivals have evolved and multiplied just like the myriad of music genres that they represent. The blues genre is one of the most popular musical forms that inspires countless festivals around the world. One of the largest in the USA is the Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, Oregon, which has been taking place annually since 1987, when John Lee Hooker headlined. This July 4th marked the thirty-first year that the festival took place over a four day period with nearly 150 different acts appearing on four different stages. Then there were after hour venues and even a two hour blues cruise on the Portland Spirit featuring a half dozen acts as it sails on the Willamette River. All the proceed go to support the “Oregon Food Bank.”
This year the festival began on Wednesday, July 4 with the Robert Randolph and the Family Band and ended Saturday, July 7 with George Thorogood and the Destroyers. Most blues novices won’t be aware of the significance of that choice of acts to open and close the show. Blues music dances between the sacred and the profane, dark and light, ying and yang, good and evil, the two paths or whatever you want to call it. Randolph’s act is church based representing the sacred, while Thorogood’s stage persona is one of the bad boy criminal type representing the profane.
It was impossible to see everybody, unless you only watched half the act and ran to another stage to catch half that act. Sometimes we did that and other times we just sat in one place for the entire show. The idea was to enjoy the experience and record the result. We arrived on Thursday afternoon to see Johnny Rawls on the South stage singing “Did Lucy get juicy way down in Georgia?” Then on the Front Porch stage the “Bayou Boyz” announced at 4:20 PM that they were deliberately singing “Let’s Get Stoned.” McKinley Moore fronted a soul band in the 1960’s tradition and even performed “There Goes My Baby” by Ben E. King and the Drifters and “Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding.
Beth Hart performs at the Waterfront Blues Festival.
The first time that I saw Kid Ramos was when he was playing lead guitar for the “Fabulous Thunderbirds” after Jimmie Vaughan left in the late 1990s. This time he was playing his unique style of slide guitar, influenced by Chicago’s Hound Dog Taylor with Mitch Kashmar. Beth Hart played with an intensity that transcends the sacred and the profane as she lays her soul bare “Broken and Ugly” all the way to “Hello California.” The “Dirty Revival” preceded the New Orleans based “Revivalists” who rocked the house in a style reminiscent to “The Band.” and closed the second night.
Day three began with Seth Walker playing his brand of down home country rock on the South stage with “Kelly’s Lot” immediately following on the North stage with Kelly Z exuberantly fronting her hard rocking blues band that included festival music coordinator Peter Dammann for a few songs in one of his multiple appearances playing with the bands.
“Sister Mercy” a gospel blues act hit the South Brewery stage with the intensity of a Pentecostal church service with a 6 person mini choir accompanying lead singer April Brown and her kick ass band, as they performed everything from “Cry Me a River” to Santana’s “Oye Como Va.” Pacific Northwest, legendary blues harmonica/vocalist, Curtis Salgado and his band raised high heaven with songs like “Low Down Dirty Shame.” Louisiana native Marc Broussard played and sang his funky blues rock churning out a metallic sounding version of “Lonely Night In Georgia.” “The Mavericks” hailed from Miami and lead singer/guitarist Raul Malo has been fronting the band since the 1980s. they played a brand of Tex/Mex rock & roll similar to that of Los Lobos or Los Lonely Boys, ranging from Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou” to a Jimi Hendrix inspired guitar performance segueing into Mariachi music with lead accordion.
Saturday was the last day of the festival and the temperature continued to hit the 80s making it perfect weather the entire week. David Vest is a piano player originally from Alabama, who hit the blues big time in Portland, Oregon in 1999 when he released a solo album and played with the Paul deLay band. The rest of the day was made up of the Cajun sounds of Dexter Ardoin & “Creole Ramblers,” the hybrid gospel of “Ranky Tanky” and the rocking rhythm & blues of the “Polyrythmics.” Ruthie Foster took the stage as a gospel blues trio playing electric guitar instead of an acoustic with drums and bass accompanying her. She sang songs inspired by Bobby Blue Bland along with Memphis Minnie and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, carrying on the gospel tradition like a younger version of Mavis Staples. “The Motet” was a hard driving horn driven seven piece band from Denver, Colorado.
George Thorogood performs at the Waterfront Blues Festival.
The night and festival culminated in the performance of George Thorogood and the “Destroyers,” who took the stage by storm as a voice announced their entrance as if it were a big time wrestling match. Thorogood took center stage as he started his set with “Ain’t Coming Home Tonight” and ran through his greatest hits playing raging slide guitar. Thorogood is one of a handful of successful blues rock musicians that have made a career of keeping traditional blues alive by producing covers of original blues and early rock & roll compositions that sound current, the same way that the “Rolling Stones,” “Canned Heat” and Led “Zeppelin” did. He performed everything from John Lee Hooker’s “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Bee” to his own alcohol inspired “I Drink Alone,” while he stood center stage doing some amazing guitar work with his tongue hanging out. The night ended with “Bad to the Bone and had Thorogood bringing down the house with a raging blues rock guitar solo in the spirit of Hound Dog Taylor that faded into the ether.
Jimi Hendrix – There isn’t another name as iconic. Metallica, Motorhead, Prince and the Pretenders have all stated that they wouldn’t have had the careers they’ve had if it wasn’t for Hendrix. What makes this man so legendary and why does he remain relevant, still to this day?
His unique sound
Hendrix most well-known live performance took place at the Woodstock Festival in 1970. He headlined the final day where his iconic adaptation of the ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ blew the audience away with his unique style, utilizing feedback and distortion. This was an anti-war message, at the time of the USA’s involvement in the Vietnam War, notorious with the peace movement in the era. Hendrix was an advocate of self-expression and individuality, and his music represented freedom.
A well-known trademark of Hendrix was that he played right handed guitars, although he was left handed. What few might know is that he could play both left handed and right handed guitars. Jimi’s father associated being left handed with the devil, so in his youth Hendrix started off as a traditional right-handed player. His approach to flip around and re-string a right handed Fender Stratocaster, created that unique Hendrix-tone, due to the reversed tonality of the pickups and greater control over the knobs and whammy bar.
Impact on music in his time
He had an emotive soulful style that was way ahead of his time. This was a unique blend of RnB and psychedelic rock. He achieved this with guitar techniques such as hammer ons, slur licks and heavy vibrato. Little Wing is a great example of this, with a lyrical guitar solo and soulful increments. Because of his unique style and popularity, he was regarded as one of the most influential guitarists before his death, despite his popularity being at its peak for just four years.
The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton attended the first Jimi Hendrix Experience show in London in 1966. Not only a legend in the rock world, Hendrix also formed a friendship with jazz legend Miles Davis, who claimed Hendrix was the biggest influence behind his album Bitches Brew.
The legacy lives on
Hendrix has in fact made an impact on all rock-based musical genres to come, with guitar heroes like Slash, Prince and Stevie Ray Vaughan naming him the best guitarist of all time.
Today, his almost patented sound is recognized by most people all over the world and his music is often featured in commercials, movies and there is even a Jimi Hendrix slot game that can be played at online casinos.His importance among new generations of musicians ventures out to most guitar based music. John Frusciante, formerly of funk rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers, told Rolling Stone magazine that “Hendrix’s music always sounds so perfect because he’s bending sound, taking care of music in every dimension – where most people think of it in two dimensions, he’s thinking of it in four. I don’t think there’s a better guitar player in history. He’s not something that can be improved on.”
Western Australian Blues Rocker Matty T Wall released his highly anticipated new album Sidewinder on the 2nd of July (coming after 2016’s ‘Blue Skies’). With the help of Stephen Walker on bass, Ric Whittle on drums, and Gordon Cant on keyboards; Matty T Wall’s Sidewinder is blending elements across multiple genres, most notably Blues, Hard Rock, and Pop. Wall’s guitar proficiency seems to be the biggest thing to stand out across the album, like a strong beacon guiding the musical proceedings. Although, his vocals hold plenty of weight too and seem to have improved majorly since the last album.
The album’s attention grabbing opener is “Slideride”. We’ve got a walking bass running at a steady-quick speed, unfailingly stable drums working like a steam engine, snippy-sharp hits of brass just in the right places, and Matty T Wall’s electric slide playing which would leave George Thorogood in the dust.
The title track seemed to have been picked as the first single for the album, and they’ve chose pretty wisely as it oozes a rocking, AC/DC-riffy sound with a very catchy chorus (I found the lyrics stuck in my head, even days afterwards: ‘I’m a sidewinder, I’m a devil rider, oh yeah.’), and a quality bad-ass solo, featuring tremolo picking and pick-tapping hammer-ons.
“Something Beautiful” conveys great strength in Wall’s vocals over most other tracks, especially effective when the guitar lines are playing in unison. And that coda is terrific! The cover of Freddie King’s “Going Down” is the heaviest version of the song I’ve ever heard (in a good way), and it gets quite heavily textured too, building up to the end with a soaring string section and powerful backing vocals.
“Sophia’s Strut” is short and refreshingly stripped back – just over-driven guitar and syncopated percussion and hand claps here. The simple formula gels extremely well, just wish it was longer.
Like any versatile guitarist, Matty T Wall doesn’t show a super-exclusivity to a particular type of guitar. He’s often heard and seen with Les Pauls and mainly showing preference to a vintage-white SG Custom, but on “Walk Out The Door” I sure as hell reckon it’s a Stratocaster (I could be wrong, but if I am I’ll eat a Tube Screamer). The overall progression and riff is reminiscent of SRV and Double Trouble, and the accompanying brass section accents the song in such a way that it’s almost Ska-like (just the brass though, nothing else).
The album ends with “Mississippi Kkkrossroads”, which is honestly a weird track compared to the others. Wall and co have created some kind of hybrid here I can only describe as Ghetto-Metal-Hip Hop. The crunchy guitar and thumpy bass is at the fore, while an acoustic slide guitar ominously plays in the background.
Overall, with Sidewinder Matty T Wall is playing the types of music he loves while simultaneously being creative with such a familiar bunch of genres. It’s all pretty fresh sounding stuff; in that it doesn’t really sound like anything I’ve heard at least in the past couple of years, but you can still clearly hear where Wall is pulling inspirations from. He’s making some really cool music and I can only hope he will get some more exposure across the pond, in the world’s biggest Blues and Blues-Rock loving nation; the U.S.A.
For now though if you’re in Australia, Matty T Wall and his band just started a tour to support the new album, with dates in Sydney, Newcastle, and Melbourne among others. So get out there and check him out!
The Review: 8/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Shake It
– Walk Out The Door
The Apocalypse Blues Revue is now streaming “Nobody Rides For Free.” The track is from the group’s upcoming album, The Shape of Blue to Come, available July 20.
“Lyrically, the idea for ‘Nobody Rides For Free ‘was written when we saw a hitchhiker on our first tour (a rare sighting in this day and age), and we started reminiscing about the days when we would hitchhike back in the day without a second thought,” says drummer Shannon Larkin. “The only reason to hitchhike was because you didn’t have a car, so most folks were doing out of necessity, and back then it was the old unspoken rule that some kind of payment would be expected, hence the saying “ass, cash, or grass”.
The Apocalypse Blues Revue - Nobody Rides For Free (The Shape Of Blues To Come) 2018 - YouTube
Take a ride along the banks of the Mississippi River, pull up a stool in any St. Louis blues joint and talk will soon turn to the musician who’s giving the city its soundtrack. Jeremiah Johnson’s towering reputation has been hard-earned. During a two-decade rise, his triumphs have been accompanied by struggles and scars – not to mention the solitude of a life in motion. But those hard knocks have forged him as an artist, and now they feed into Straitjacket: the warts-and-all masterpiece that gives it to you straight. “This album is original American rock ‘n’ blues with southern-fried soul,” explains Johnson. “I just close my eyes and feel the music go through me…”
Few are better-qualified to commentate on modern America’s melting pot of people, cultures and musical genres. As Johnson reminds us in the autobiographical groove of 9th & Russell, the bandleader cut his teeth in St. Louis, then honed his craft in Houston, where he won the Regional Blues Challenge for three years running. But it was the return to home-turf in 2009 that truly planted Johnson’s flag, as he hit the stage at the iconic Hammerstone’s blues bar and spliced the two cities’ musical palettes into his own searing original material.
Since then, there’s been victory in the 2011 St Louis Blues Society Challenge, acclaimed albums including 2014’s Devon Allman-produced Grind and 2016’s genre-hopping Blues Heart Attack – not to mention the Ride The Blues documentary that painted a candid portrait of Johnson’s bitter-sweet rise. “Let’s just say I’ve had my days with drugs and alcohol,” he nods, “and it took me a long time to get a grip on it.” In 2018, Straitjacket wears Johnson’s soul proudly on its sleeve. Produced by St. Louis’s favourite son, Mike Zito, at his Mars studios in Texas, the calibre of the lineup of Frank Bauer (sax/vocals), Benet Schaeffer (drums) and Tom Maloney (bass) demanded that these songs were captured on the floor. “We went for a live feel,” says Johnson. “There are a lot of places I could have played a more perfect solo or sang the lyrics more precisely, but in the end it was perfect left alone. Real, human, breathing, imperfected perfection.”
Served raw and searingly honest, these songs examine Johnson’s history, headspace and place in the world. He can be playful, on the title track’s hectic funk-blues complaint to a controlling girlfriend, or the grooving Dirty Mind, about a lover calling up for “a little company” at 2am. But elsewhere, personal moments like Keep On Sailing bleed into the social commentary of Believe In America and Old School. “Keep On Sailing is about realizing the people around you are only there because of the drugs and booze,” he explains. “Believe In America is about seeing people struggling with money and a government that keeps leaving us small people behind – but I also see people who still have faith in this country. Old School is probably the most important song on this record. In my childhood, we got in fights, lessons were learned and we all walked away with our lives. Today, people pull out a gun…”
There might be storm clouds on Straitjacket, but the record ends in a ray of sunshine, as a cover of Alvin Lee’s classic Rock ‘N’ Roll Music To The World sees the band flex their astonishing chemistry and enjoy the ride (“We just cranked it up and let it fly”). The man himself hopes that you will do the same: “I want people to let this record play from the first to the last note, crank it up at a party, zone out while driving or riding through the night on a Harley-Davidson. I want this record to make people feel like throwing it in and going on a trip of emotion…”
There’s a story, perhaps apocryphal, about Albert King being able to palm a small pistol in his giant, Johnny Bench-like hands. This allowed him to slap people while also firing the pistol, making the recipient of the aforementioned slap think they had been shot, rather than merely slapped by a huge hand. True or not, it perfectly describes King’s stinging guitar-playing, which relies on lots of string bending to dramatically change the pitch of notes, creating a sound which can punch through songs like a slap or a gunshot. Or both. Singer/guitarist Artur Menezes, originally of Brazil and now of Los Angeles, is a King disciple who shows his devotion on Keep Pushing, which features plenty of King-inspired moments, with lots of horns and a decidedly rhythm-and-blues groove, over which Menezes executes lots of King-style soloing.
Which brings us to another, perhaps more famous, King disciple, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Vaughan took King’s playing to a whole other level, with wider bends and wilder runs. It was Albert King through the lens of post-Van Halen guitar playing, but with lots of speed, and tone, but also plenty of feel. Menezes is much more faithful to King’s sound, which on the one hand is admirable, but on the other hand, makes things much harder for him, in that he’s competing head-to-head, relatively speaking, with the blues idol King, where Vaughan wisely chose to change the musical terrain. Menezes manages to find some nice moments, though.
For instance, the title track is a blues gallup a la Vaughan’s “Pride and Joy.” However, Menezes wisely goes with a poppy chorus that you’ll have trouble getting out of your head. The guitar work complements the song and his vocals are strong. Menezes’ voice is a real asset, a great rock voice with just the right touch of bluesy impudence. In fact, the album’s best song is successful not just because of solid guitar playing, but because of Menezes vocals. “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” begins jazzy, complete with muted trumpets and sustaining organ. Menezes even borrows the opening lyric of the standard “Misty,” starting things up with “Look at me…” But he keeps the song interesting by moving things to a more upbeat tempo and a funkier beat, then launching into a Allman Brothers-like guitar solo before returning to jazz. The song is weird but also fantastic. Menezes relaxed vocals play a huge part in making the song work.
Menezes is a good guitar player. His style is decidedly out of the Albert King playbook, as well as lots of 1970s classic rock. He’s not flashy, instead always playing in service to the song. His voice is at its best when he’s working with dynamics, moving from quiet to loud and chill to intense. Keep Pushing has some interesting moments for listeners interested in a laid-back, King-inspired blues album.
The Review: 7/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Keep Pushing
– Now’s the Time
– Should Have Never Left
– Can’t Get You Out of My Head
Robert Jon and the Wreck is back with its self-titled album, the group’s third full-length studio release. The album follows 2016’s Good Life Pie, which landed #14 on Blues Rock Review’s top 20 albums list that year. This self-titled effort features eight tracks of the southern blues rock we’ve come to expect from Robert Jon and the Wreck.
The album kicks off with “Old Friend,” a song about moving on from an ex-girlfriend and features a sing-along chorus and some tasty slide guitar from Kristopher Butcher. “Let It Go,” a soul track, follows and features Steve Maggiora on keys. “I Know It’s Wrong” is next and has a great groove with backing vocals from Anesha Rose.
The pace slows down with “Shine On,” which is about moving on from past demons. The beat picks back up on “High Time,” which sees Anesha Rose joining in on vocals again. Next up is “I Got My Eyes On You” followed by the eight plus minute instrumental jam, “Witchcraft.” The album closes with “Forever Isn’t Long Enough,” a love song about that special someone.
Robert Jon and the Wreck delivers another solid effort with its self-titled release. Once again, the band gives us an album filled with great hooks, grooves, and top notch playing. It’s a bit of a mystery why Robert Jon and the Wreck still seems to be flying under the radar, but this band definitely deserves more attention. Robert Jon and the Wreck is right up there with the top bands in modern blues rock.
The Review: 8.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Old Friend
– I Know It’s Wrong
– Shine On
– High Time
The Big Hit
– Old Friend
Robert Jon & The Wreck - "Old Friend" Music Video - YouTube