Roadhouse Album Review: Dave Keyes and his keys sparkle on “Rhythm Blues & Boogie”

Dave Keyes — “Rhythm Blues & Boogie — Blue Heart Records

I’ve always been a fool for fine piano music — blues, boogie and otherwise.

Which why this tasty new album by veteran keyboard whiz Dave Keyes hits all the right notes. (And yes, Keyes is his name as well as his game.)

His bio will give you a few facts:

New York City native keyboardist, singer and songwriter Dave Keyes is a 30-year veteran of the blues, roots, and Americana music scene. The three-time Blues Music Award nominee, who has released six highly acclaimed albums under his own name, was named the “Best Unsigned Artist” by Keyboard magazine

His music will tell you much more.

Keyes adds world-weary vocals to tireless piano stylings that rock, romp, boogie and sometimes pianissimo their way through a set of mostly originals (plus one cover) with considerable feeling for music just keeps moving right along.

The album kicks off with “Shake Shake Shake,” a rollicking invitation to dance your way onto the floor where the music flows, highlighted by a spirited sax solo, followed by “That’s What The Blues Are For,” a bouncy blues with liquid guitar work. “Blues and Boogie” is next, a romp through some of each.

Next is a little gem with just Keyes and his keys on the plaintive Wille Nelson chestnut, “Funny How Time Slips Away,” filled with just the right amount of heartache and melancholy; a late-night ode to lost love.

Then he bounces back with “Ain’t Doing That No More,” soaring along with a rhythmic taste of New Orleans second-line flavor; followed by “Ain’t Going Down,” a tough, percussive anthem of survival.

Then it’s time for a bombastic boogie-woogie instrumental on “WBGO Boogie,” titled after a Newark jazz and blues radio station. He romps, he stomps, his left hand driving a right hand that knows exactly what it’s doing. “Not Fighting Anymore” carries Latin rhythms into and out of a relationship struggle.

“Invisible Man” is a loping lament about finding a woman — “your mind is taking orders that your body can’t fill” — aided by the incomparable Doug MacLeod on acoustic guitar with a little vocal advice.

It all wraps up nicely in the anthem-like “7 O’clock Somewhere,” a romping tribute to front-line workers driven hard by Keyes’ piano and stinging guitar.

This a fine, fun album full of Dave Keyes’ sparkling piano and sharp vocals. Plus great music from his bandmates. What more can a music lover ask?

Here’s a video of “That’s What The Blues Are For”:

Track List, Credits & Musicians:

Roadhouse News: Here are the 2023 Grammy nominees in the two blues categories

The Grammy awards do not exactly cover the full spectrum of blues music, having just two specific categories, but the nominees give the music a certain mainstream perspective.

Best Traditional Blues Album

For albums containing greater than 50% playing time of new vocal or instrumental traditional blues recordings.

  • Heavy Load Blues
    Gov’t Mule
  • The Blues Don’t Lie
    Buddy Guy
  • Get On Board
    Taj Mahal & Ry Cooder
  • The Sun Is Shining Down
    John Mayall
  • Mississippi Son
    Charlie Musselwhite

Best Contemporary Blues Album

For albums containing greater than 50% playing time of new vocal or instrumental contemporary blues recordings.

  • Done Come Too Far
    Shemekia Copeland
  • Crown
    Eric Gales
  • Bloodline Maintenance
    Ben Harper
  • Set Sail
    North Mississippi Allstars
  • Brother Johnny
    Edgar Winter

Roadhouse Album Review: Billy Price presents very soulful “50+ Years of Soul” — while baring his own

Billy Price — 50+ Years of Soul — Get Hip Recordings

Billy Price may well be one of the best-kept secrets in soul music, unless you live in the Pittsburgh-Washington D.C. music axis or happen to be one of his many appreciative fans in Europe.

Since I’m from the Pittsburgh area, I’ve known Billy Price, and watched him perform, for many of the 50+ years in the title of this excellent career retrospective.

So it’s no surprise to me that this 3-CD set packed with 41 delicious songs that span his thankfully ongoing career is full of sweet, satisfying soul music.

It’s not like Price had to work very hard to fill this exemplary set. With the Keystone Rhythm Band, then the Billy Price Band, plus solo projects, he has released 20 albums, CDs, and DVDs. Not to mention the live shows he’s performed over the years.

To give you a brief overview of the man’s credentials: “This Time for Real”, an album with the late Chicago soul singer Otis Clay, received a 2016 Blues Music Award in the category of Best Soul Blues Album of 2015. His 2018 album “Reckoning,” produced by Kid Andersen at Greaseland Studios for Vizztone, was nominated for a 2019 Blues Music Award in the category of Best Soul Blues Album of 2018. His 2019 album “Dog Eat Dog,” also produced by Andersen, was nominated for a 2020 BMA for Best Soul Blues Album of 2019. He was also nominated for a 2020 BMA for Best Male Soul Blues Artist. Oh, and early in his career he recorded as a vocalist with the late and very great guitar wizard Roy Buchanan.

And at this writing, Price is preaching to European audiences while touring with Anthony Geraci the Boston Blues Allstars.

The nature of soul music is that so much great music has already been written and sung, and much of Price’s early works covered the greats — Al Green, O.V. Wright, Bobby “Blue” Bland and more. But that’s just fine. There’s nothing wrong with being an interpreter of great music (there are still hundreds of cover orchestras interpreting Mozart!). And Billy worked hard to fill his bands with crack musicians and arrangements that always honored their source.

The first of the three discs here highlight some of that work, with a sprinkling of original material. Discs two and three sort of reverse that, adding more originals with a sprinkling of covers.

Price’s music ranges from tender to tough, hitting all the nuance in between, matching soulful vocals and ever-sharp horns, a soul music feature that Price has absorbed, polished and makes shine in everything he does.

An excellent microcosm of just how all of this works can be found on track 14 of Disc One. It’s a medley of three great songs, starting off with the Bobby Bland classic, “Cry, Cry, Cry,” moving into a Price original, “BP’s Dream,” then the O.V. Wright chestnut “Eight Men & Four Women,” and finally wrapping it back into “Cry,” all filled with passionate vocals, complete with the soulful pleading and testifying that mark Price’s style.

I’m not gonna write about all of those 41 tracks, except to testify myself about their scope and quality. This an exciting set of music by Billy Price. His vocals preach and plead, his bands crackle with kickass horns and sharp guitar work (some of the sharpest from the late Pittsburgh guitar great Glenn Pavone). Old fans will find great music to revisit, newcomers will just find great music.

Make that great soul music.

If you want to see a complete list of all those song credits, including composers and musicians (they’re not in the excellent CD notes by Price on his musical history), you can enjoy yourself with this comprehensive list from Price’s web site.


Here’s a great live performance of one of the cuts, “It Ain’t a Juke Joint Without the Blues”:

Track list:

Disc 1
1 I Know It’s Your Party (I Just Came Here to Dance) (Live Version)
2 Why Can’t We Be Lovers
3 Lifestyles of the Poor and Unknown
4 This Time I’m Gone for Good
5 When the Lights Came on
6 Absolute Love
7 Nothing Stays the Same Forever
8 This Magic Hour
9 It Ain’t a Juke Joint Without the Blues
10 No Matter How You Turn or Twist It
11 Soul Sailin’
12 You Don’t Exist No More
13 You’ve Got Bad Intentions
14 The Jury of Love: Cry Cry Cry – BP’s Dream – Eight Men & Four Women

Disc 2
1 Real Time
2 Let’s Get Married
3 Free
4 Under the Influence
5 Is It Over?
6 Power of Love – I Didn’t Know the Meaning of Pain (Live Version)
7 My Love Comes Tumbling Down
8 One and One
9 Slipped, Tripped, and Fell in Love
10 The Big Show
11 Since You’ve Gone Again
12 The Hard Hours
13 Something ‘Bout ‘Cha (Live Version) – That’s How It Is (Live Version) – Blind Man
14 39 Steps

Disc 3
1 Let’s Go for a Ride
2 Beautiful Feeling
3 Part Time Love
4 Your Time to Cry
5 Can I Change My Mind (Live Version) – Is It Something You’ve Got
6 Don’t Leave Me Starving for Your Love
7 I Can’t Lose the Blues
8 Mine All Mine All Mine (Live Version)
9 Love Ballad
10 Who You’re Working for
11 I Betcha Didn’t Know That
12 Ain’t It Funky Now – Back from the Dead
13 Dangerous Highway

Roadside Album Review: Duwayne Burnside brings the blues back to its roots with “Acoustic Burnside”

Duwayne Burnside — “Acoustic Burnside” — Dolceola Recordings

There is so much new music floating around these days that’s based on the blues, incorporates the blues or updates the blues, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Much of it is inspired, exciting music.

But sometimes, you just want to hear the blues. In this case, the North Mississippi Hill Country blues.

That’s why I love this new album by Duwayne Burnside, son of the late, legendary R.L. Burnside — it’s the blues in raw and primeval form, its roots nurtured in the fertile Mississippi blues soil that Burnside calls home.

It’s just the power of Burnside’s rich, rugged vocals, propelled by his acoustic guitar, exploring vital, classic blues material.

He’s been an exciting electric guitarist for decades, but this is his first new album in 17 years, recorded almost like field recordings in the area around Burnside’s home in Holly Springs, Miss., in 2018 and 2019.

“Although I’ve never stopped playing shows, this album is a rebirth for me,” Burnside says. “It puts me in the game again, but it’s perfect, too, because playing stripped down like this, you can hear this music come right out of my heart because that’s where my daddy put it.”

The album kicks off with the hypnotic messaging of “Going Down South,” “Jumper on the Line” and “Poor Black Mattie,” three of his father’s songs. “When I play them,” he says, “I’m doing my best to show respect and love for him and the music. When I play on acoustic guitar, especially, it goes back even further, because this music started without electricity. I think about all the musicians who came up from the early days, out of the Delta and the hills, and took their music to the big cities and all around the world. It makes me feel like I’m a part of all that history.”

Next, he shows his respect and creativity with his own “She Threw My Clothes Out,” followed by “Alice Mae,” written by R.L. Burnside for Duwayne’s mother. That’s followed by Burnside’s rhythmic version of the very traditional, very classic Robert Johnson song, “Dust My Broom.”

Those are followed by “Meet Me In the City,” “Stay All Night,” an alternative take of “She Threw My Clothes Out,” the Roosevelt Sykes chestnut “44 Blues,” “Bad Bad Pain,” and the album closer, “Lord Have Mercy On Me,” by Burnside’s neighbor Junior Kimbrough, one of the founding fathers of the hill country style.

They all combine to create a unique recording of earthy, gritty blues that’s filled with authentic, soulful music. And that feel requires a shoutout to Pinkie Pulliam on bass and Dan Torigoe on piano, who complete the sound on these sessions.

Torigoe, not incidentally, is the founder of this record label, Dolceola Recordings. He says that his label is “focused on analog field recording of American traditional music, with love and adoration for the great field recorders. I love R.L.’s first recordings made in 1968 by George Mitchell and wanted to make a sort of modern version of it with the current generation. So, while Duwayne is renowned for his solid electric guitar playing with influences from modern blues, the musical tradition of his father and his community is rooted very deep in his body and soul, and we wanted to capture that in a more primitive way.”

And they have done just that, recording the blues the way they were meant to be heard. If you watch the video at the end (I hope you do!), you’ll see Burnside on his front steps with some of that recording equipment, catching the music exactly as its created.

It may indeed be primitive by today’s digital standards, but so is the blues. If you’re a fan, don’t miss this album. If you haven’t been, listen to some of the origins of American popular music.

Here’s Duwayne Burnside with “Dust My Broom”:

Track list

  1. Going Down South
  2. See My Jumper Hanging on the Line
  3. Poor Black Mattie
  4. She Threw My Clothes Out
  5. Alice Mae
  6. Dust My Broom
  7. Meet Me in the City
  8. Stay All Night
  9. She Threw My Clothes Out (Alternative Take)
  10. 44 Pistol
  11. Bad Bad Pain
  12. Lord Have Mercy On Me

Roadhouse Album Review: Robert Hill & Joanne Lediger celebrate gospel and blues in their joyous “Revelation”

Robert Hill & Joanne Lediger — “Revelation” — Self release

Blues music in all of its forms has always been intertwined with the music of the church.

Older blues musicians have often told stories about how, as youngsters, they learned that the blues was “the devil’s music,” and encouraged to engage in more sacred musical forms.

Fortunately, they didn’t always follow that advice, and we have been enjoying various takes on the devil’s music for generations.

Some blues musicians found their calling by combining the sacred and the secular in their music, strapping a blues-styled guitar behind a sanctified message. Artists like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Son House, Blind Blake, Rev. Gary Davis, and Blind Willie Johnson (a featured artist here) were blues and gospel performers as well as evangelists. The 1920s blues and hokum singer/songwriter Georgia Tom emerged in the early ’30s as the Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey, who almost single-handedly created modern gospel music, and is sometimes referred to as the “father of gospel music.”

In the ’30s and beyond, gospel and jubilee quartets (Blind Boys of Alabama, Blind Boys of Mississippi, Soul Stirrers) carried the same message, while Tharpe gave gospel music an early rock and roll twist with her electric guitar.

All of this is a long-winded introduction to a fine new album by Robert Hill and Joanne Lediger that offers a contemporary look at gospel blues with six covers of traditional songs, one masterful Tom Wait adaptation, and four originals by Hill. He and Lediger have been performing together for the last fifteen years; Hill a slide wizard and Lediger a passionate vocalist. Hill’s daughter Paulina also joins on vocals.

That’s just the right combination for this fascinating selection of powerful songs. The opener is the dramatic call and response of the traditional “John the Revelator,” first recorded in 1930 by Blind Willie Johnson, and in the ’60s by Son House. Lediger’s intense vocals are backed by the visceral fire of Hill’s National Resophonic guitar.

That’s followed by “Run On,” an almost raucous, guitar-driven religious critique with an R&B flavor, then “Soul of a Man,” from another Johnson recording, with a very soulful vocal turn by Hill, backed by Lediger, in a strikingly passionate version.

That’s followed by a terrific bluesy version of Tom Wait’s “Way Down In the Hole,” with Paulina’s vocals leading Hill’s guitar on a wicked journey. Some of you may remember it as the theme from the excellent HBO series “The Wire.” The show highlighted a different version of the song in each of its five seasons, from 2002-2008.

Two Hill originals follow — “Jesus by the Riverside” and “Pay One Way or Another” — both nicely crafted to fit the classic context of the album. “Pay” is an especially tough, rhythmic creation on how “nobody gets out of this world for free,” driven hard by Ed Alstrom on the Hammond B3.

“Nobody’s Fault But Mine” is another soaring Blind Willie Johnson tune, and “A Devil’s Fool” is another original that shuffles joyously into the blues again, this time using Robert’s vocals and some piano to kick everything along.

There’s still more Johnson coming with “Samson and Delilah,” this time a rocking version with tough Paulina Hill vocals. “Preacher’s Blues” is another Hill original, with foot-stomping rhythm and old-timey feel. “Jesus On The Mainline,” based on the Mississippi Fred McDowell ’50s version, is a fitting closer for this session, as all three vocalists join in a mini-choir version. Once again, Hill’s sublime guitar work lifts this song out of the ordinary and into instant classic status.

And that’s typical of the entire album — it’s a joyous effort to polish up some great traditional gospel blues, add some new ones, and produced a smartly crafted set full of lyrical and musical wisdom. The playing and singing are inspired. Don’t be deterred by the “gospel” label. This is not heavy-handed religious music, but music that highlights the intense historical connection between blues and gospel; between the sacred and the secular, and how they both shine when their worlds collide.

It’s all a devil of a good time.


Here’s a 2019 live version of the track “Soul of a Man”:

Tracklist:

Musicians:
Joanne Lediger: vocals
Paulina Hill: vocals
Robert Hill: guitar, vocals, harp, keyboards
Steve Gelfand: bass
Frank Pagano: drums
Ed Alstrom: Hammond B3 on “Pay One Way or Another”

Roadhouse Album Review: Rory Block celebrates women of American song with musical perfection in “Ain’t Nobody Worried”

Rory Block — “Ain’t Nobody Worried” — Stony Plain Records

I’ve seen Rory Block perform many times. I’ve listened to her albums even more. I’ve never ceased to be amazed at her talent.

For decades, she’s been a one-woman force in the preservation of traditional county and acoustic blues music. She’s done that with power and authenticity and an obvious passion for the music she performs. Despite her faithfulness to this great American music, her voice and guitar style are unique and instantly recognizable as her own.

She does all of those things on her latest album, “Ain’t Nobody Worried,” but with a twist. This is the third album in her Power Women of the Blues series, and the first two — “A Woman’s Soul: A Tribute to Bessie Smith” and “Prove It On Me” — were pretty much traditional blues, all expertly done.

This time out, Block pays tribute to more contemporary women of American music, from Mavis Staples to Koko Taylor. Why? As she puts it: “I do these songs because I play the music I love the most.”

All are done with her distinctive acoustic guitar and vocal work. Where she wanted something extra, she recorded additional guitar and percussion herself. And did her own backup vocals.

She opens with a spirited version of the classic Staples Singers gospel-flavored “I’ll Take You There,” then turn sensuously secular with “Midnight Train to Georgia,” the soulful Gladys Knight hit, and then layers her distinctive style onto “My Guy,” the Smokey Robinson opus given wings by Mary Wells.

Then she adds eight more tracks that range from Tracy Chapman’s groundbreaking “Fast Car” to the Etta James masterpiece “I’d Rather Go Blind” to Bonnie Raitt’s glorious “Love Has No Pride” to Koko Taylor’s deeply tough blues, “Cried Like a Baby” to some serious Motown on “Dancing ln The Streets” by Martha and The Vandellas.

Block also includes her own “Lovin’ Whiskey,” the song she says launched her career, plus a cover of “Freight Train,” by the very talented and influential guitarist Elizabeth Cotton.

(You can find the complete track list, with Rory’s comment on how and why she chose each song below the video at the end of the post.)

Those few paragraphs above don’t really do justice to this excellent Rory Block album. You know, “words can’t begin to describe,” and all that. The results are impressively imaginative, highly creative and, best of all, thoroughly enjoyable.

Here’s “Cried Like a Baby”

Track Listing and Comments by Rory Block
“I’ll Take You There” — The Staple Singers (featuring Mavis Staples)
Not much explanation needed. This is one of the all-time great and powerful crossover gospel songs
with an immense rhythm track, graced by the matchless voice of Mavis Staples. Mavis proved that
gospel is a force in pop music. “I’ll Take You There” was the first track we recorded and is the first track
on this CD. It just felt right.

“Midnight Train To Georgia” — Gladys Knight and The Pips
Who can say “Midnight Train to Georgia” wasn’t one of the most soulful songs of its time, and who
didn’t try to learn to sing listening to Gladys Knight’s superlative rich vocals? Who didn’t try to learn
backup vocals and dance moves from the Pips? This song was a must-do, and the second track we
recorded.

“My Guy” — Mary Wells
Mary Wells nailed this perfectly crafted song by Smokey Robinson, giving it passion, charm, and a wry
sense of humor. I recorded it in the same key as the original, but then was dismayed to find my natural
vocal range was deeper, so I thought about slowing the track or re-recording it. In the end,I sang it in a
somewhat jazzy head voice and went with it. I could have given it a bit of growl in a deeper key, but
maybe it didn’t need growl. After all, it is a spirited and fun song, and I had a great time singing,
especially on the outro.

“Fast Car” — Tracy Chapman
Remember when this song came on the radio and blew our minds? lt was a trendsetter, with a
stereotype busting, cutting edge approach that was almost unheard of at the time. It was, however, (if I
can pat myself on the back), an idea I had always cherished -taking an acoustic song and suddenly
applying an earth shaking drum track when least expected, taking the song, with its emotionally honest
and arresting story, to another level altogether. Tracy was one of the first to really turn this approach
into pure gold.

“Cried Like A Baby” — Koko Taylor
I met Koko Taylor on the road in Germany. I opened for her and her tighter-than-ever band for several
shows on that tour, including a TV show that ended up as a laser disk (remember those)? She dubbed
me `’Little Miss Dynamite,” a name I deeply appreciate and cherish. No one could nail the power of a
sexy full-out blues wail like Koko. On the outro,I ad lib one of my conversations with her, including her
worldly wisdom and advice.

“Love Has No Pride” — Bonnie Raitt
Greenwich Village in the `60s was a hotbed of immense musical talent, with the likes of Bob Dylan living
just two doors away from The Allan Block sandal shop, Joan Baez performing in local venues, Bonnie
Raitt making waves with her heart wrenching blues, and the list goes on and on. My first boyfriend,
Stefan Grossman, was friends with many of the pivotal players in the burgeoning scene. One of his good
friends was a great songwriter and musician named Eric Kaz, who, together with Libby Titus, wrote
“Love Has No Pride.” We always thought it was the best song ever written, performed by Bonnie, the
best singer on earth.

“I’d Rather Go Blind” — Etta James
This song led the way for the concept of this recording, establishing the theme celebrating great women
of song. I just kept saying, “I can’t wait to sing `l’d Rather Go Blind.” This song is one of the most
haunting and moving portrayals of heartbreak ever written, sung by the amazingly gutsy blues voice of a
woman who meant every word she sang. Etta, we got the tissues out.

“Lovin’ Whiskey” — Rory BIock
This is the song I thought no one would care about. This is the song that got me on an airplane. This is
the song that launched my career. This is the song I didn’t want to put on the record. This is the song
that earned me a gold record and has remained my most popular and requested song for over 3
decades. I have heard repeatedly that it’s because it’s about the hidden struggles of the heart, and
knowing we are not alone. More people say that it helped them through the hardest times of their lives
than any other I have written. Murphy’s Law, you never know. Oh yes, great guitar player Bud Rizzo
played the original heart-wrenching solo. I decided to follow it note for note, for better or worse, on my
acoustic version. I also stuck with the original drum pattern that I somehow constructed on one of the
first drum machines ever invented. It made no sense in that it wrapped around so the “one” beat was in
a different place every verse, but it somehow worked… and you know, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

“Dancing ln The Streets” — Martha and The Vandellas
Great song, great performance from Martha and her Vandellas, great groove, solid gold, what’s not to
love? Had to do this one for the pure joy of it.

“You’ve Got A Friend” — Carole King
This song came on the radio in one of the hardest periods of my life. Waking me from a deep sleep in a
state of despair, hearing the vulnerable and unpretentious voice of Carole King made me sit up straight
in bed and say “Maybe I can do this!” lt was a life changing moment. She was the voice of every woman

“Freight Train” — Elizabeth Cotton
This could be the most influential guitar style ever created. Libba Cotton once was Nanny to the Seeger
children, until she was overheard sitting in another room singing this haunting tune. I celebrate her, not
because this song became gold, but because in the most unassuming way, quietly and without a lot of
fanfare, her guitar picking became one of the most influential guitar styles of all times.