Roadhouse Album Review: Hear Miss Bix “Bring It” on this excellent outing

Miss Bix — “Bring It” — Blue Heart Records

Well. This is embarrassing.

Here’s an album from a few months ago that I failed to write about. I’m not sure just how I overlooked this little gem of a session, but I did, and now I’ll try to make it right.

Singer/songwriter Miss Bix, or Leslie Letven Bixler, has crafted 13 wonderfully bluesy, jazzy, intimately engaging songs that grace this album. She gets some help from a talented group of musicians and fellow singers to make this a thoroughly enjoyable outing — her second devoted to the blues, in its infinitely varied human forms. Her first effort was the 2017 Delta-influenced, “We Don’t Own The Blues.”

Just so you know, Bixler is not a novice. She has been writing, performing and recording for decades; her earliest efforts focused on smooth jazz, under the name Leslie Letven — the influences of which you can hear throughout this effort.

This set kicks of nicely with a gently chugging shuffle, “Ain’t No Such Thing,” and then shifts into a bluesy “You’ve Got the Nerve,” both enhanced by sinuous guitar.

They are followed by my very favorite track, the splendidly lyrical “Cocktail Hour,” a soft, jazzy exercise in the unbearable lightness of being musically enchanting. If I may be permitted a musical digression, the song and its luminous vocal touch evoked fond memories of Blossom Dearie (c’mon, someone of you must remember her!) with a touch of Ricky Lee Jones and a hint of that great little Michel Franks song, “Popsicle Toes.” I can’t easily explain all that, but it’s my blog and my digression, so. . . .

That is all very nicely followed with the countrified “Trail of Tears,” with some tasty slide work to accentuate the vocals.

Next is the winsome, lovelorn “The Girl You Adore,” which I would pair with “Cocktail Hour” as another late-night tonic for the blues, especially when fueled by the appropriate late-night beverage (I suggest bourbon, but if a cup of tea is your cup of tea. . . .)

A few other favorite highlights include the honky-tonk flavored “Daddy Why,” with co-author Tiffany Pollack sharing the vocals; “Cheer Up Sallie Mae,” with a lyrical acoustic guitar intro moving into a full band backing with a sharp electric solo midway; “You Better Believe It,” with a deep blues feeling; and the haunting closer, “Movin’ On,” a solo acoustic anthem. There’s a lot more to hear, and it’s all excellently done.

This is a very fine album from Miss Bix, filled with honest songwriting, gorgeous vocals and crisp musical backup, all of which deserves your undivided attention.

Here’s a video of “Cocktail Hour”

Track List:

It’s time to vote in this year’s Blues Blast Music Awards poll

Blues Blast Magazine is ready for you to vote for the best in blues.

The magazine is offering its 15th year of awards in various blues categories, with final selection done by popular vote. The nominees are selected using a group of blues music industry professionals, including music critics, journalists, festival promoters, music venue managers, producers and musicians.

You have until Aug. 19 to vote on the mag’s website. Voting is free and open to anyone, but you can only vote once. If you’re not a subscriber, you are automatically signed up to receive the free online mag when you vote. They’ll want your email address to do all this, but hey, if you’re on the web, doesn’t everybody already know what it is?

Here are the nominees:

Contemporary Blues Album
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram – 662
Anthony Geraci – Blues Called My Name
Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters – Mercy Me
Tommy Castro – A Bluesman Came To Town
Altered Five Blues Band – Holler If You Hear Me
Carolyn Wonderland – Tempting Fate
Dave Weld & The Imperial Flames – Nightwalk

Traditional Blues Album
Diunna Greenleaf – I Ain’t Playin’
Duke Robillard – They Called it Rhythm and Blues
Kenny Neal – Straight From The Heart
Sue Foley – Pinky’s Blues
Louisiana Red & Bob Corritore – Tell Me ‘Bout It
Bob Stroger & The Headcutters – That’s My Name

Soul Blues Album
Sugaray Rayford – In Too Deep
The Love Light Orchestra – Leave The Light On
Wee Willie Walker & Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra – Not In My Lifetime
Trudy Lynn – Golden Girl
Zac Harmon – Long As I Got My Guitar
Robbin Kapsalis and Vintage#18 – Soul Shaker

Rock Blues Album
Tinsley Ellis – Devil May Care
Beth Hart – A Tribute To Led Zeppelin
Eric Gales – Crown
Levee Town – Trying to Keep my Head Above Water
Big Al & the Heavyweights – Love One Another
Chickenbone Slim – Serve It To Me Hot

Acoustic Blues Album
Eric Bibb – Dear America
Corey Harris – The Insurrection Blues
Hector Anchondo – Let Loose Those Chains
Catfish Keith – Land of the Sky
Big Creek Slim & Rodrigo Mantovani- Stone In My Heart
Tas Cru – Broke Down Busted Up

Live Blues Recording
Rodd Bland and the Members Only Band – Live on Beale Street
Hurricane Ruth – Hurricane Ruth Live at 3rd and Lindsley
The BC Combo – The Garage Sessions
Ann Peebles and The Hi Rhythm Section – Live In Memphis
Peer Gynt – Live In Hell
The James Harman Band – Sparks Flying Live In 1992

Historical Or Vintage Recording
Mark Hummel Presents East Bay Blues Vaults 1976-1988
Paul Oscher – Rough Stuff
Lowell Fulson with Jeff Dale & The Blue Wave Band – Lowell Fulson Live!
Big Jack Johnson – Stripped Down in Memphis
Bob Corritore & Friends – Down Home Blues Revue
Dave Specter – Six String Soul

New Artist Debut Album
Hogtown Allstars – Hog Wild
Memphissippi Sounds – Welcome To The Land
Malcolm Wells and the Two Timers – Hollerin’ Out Loud
Horojo Trio – Set The Record
John Winkler – Juke’s Blues
Buckmiller Schwager Band – To Memphis and Back

Blues Band
The Love Light Orchestra
Tommy Castro & The Painkillers
Altered Five Blues Band
Wee Willie Walker & Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra
Kilborn Alley Blues Band

Male Blues Artist
Sugaray Rayford
John Németh
Eric Gales
Tommy Castro
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
Tinsley Ellis

Female Blues Artist
Diunna Greenleeaf
Sue Foley
Carolyn Wonderland
Vaneese Thomas
Beth Hart
Trudy Lynn

Sean Costello Rising Star Award
Gabe Stillman
Ben Levin
Jose Ramirez
Memphissippi Sounds
Robbin Kapsalis and Vintage#18
Kat Riggins

Producer Of The Year
Tom Hambridge
Kid Andersen
Tony Braunagel
Mike Zito
Jim Gaines
Eric Corne

Electric Guitarist Of The Year
Eric Gales
Ronnie Earl
Duke Robillard
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
Chris Cain
Albert Castiglia

Acoustic Guitarist Of The Year
Doug MacLeod
Eric Bibb
Guy Davis
Hector Anchondo
Catfish Keith
Corey Harris

Slide Guitarist Of The Year
Sonny Landreth
Derek Trucks
Gabe Stillman
Dave Weld
Michael van Merwyk
Catfish Keith

Bass Guitarist Of The Year
Bob Stroger
Rodrigo Mantovani
Danielle Nicole
Willie J. Campbell
Scot Sutherland
Jerry Jemmott

Keyboard Player Of The Year
Anthony Geraci
Kenny “Blues Boss Wayne
Ben Levin
Jim Pugh
Victor Wainwright
Kevin McKendree

Percussionist Of The Year
Derrick D’Mar Martin
Tom Hambridge
Tony Braunagel
Kenny Smith
Alan Arber
June Core
Cedric Burnside

Harmonica Player Of The Year
Bob Corritore
Jason Ricci
Dennis Gruenling
Kim Wilson
Billy Branch
Pierre Lacocque

Horn Player Of The Year
Jimmy Carpenter
Vanessa Collier
Marc Franklin
Vince Salerno
Doug Woolverton
Terry Hanck

Vocalist Of The Year
John Németh
Sugaray Rayford
Diunna Greenleaf
Beth Hart
Vanesse Thomas

Roadhouse Public Service: The Living Blues awards for 2021

Here are the results of the 29th annual Living Blues awards for 2021.

Living Blues is one of the premier blues publications, and has been since its U.S. inception in1970, when it was the first American blues magazine.

In its May 2022 issue, the magazine announced its nominees for its 2021 Living Blues Readers’ Poll Awards. Here are the results:

Critics’ Poll

Blues Artist of the Year (Male)         

  • Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

Blues Artist of the Year (Female)

  • Shemekia Copeland

Most Outstanding Blues Singer

  • Sugaray Rayford

Most Outstanding Musician (Guitar)

  • Christone “Kingfish” Ingram 

Most Outstanding Musician (Harmonica) 

  • Charlie Musselwhite

Most Outstanding Musician (Keyboard) 

  • Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne 

Most Outstanding Musician (Bass) 

  • Bob Stroger

Most Outstanding Musician (Drums) 

  • Rodd Bland

Most Outstanding Musician (Horns) 

  • James “Boogaloo” Bolden

Most Outstanding Musician (Other) 

  • Cedric Watson (Accordion)

Best Live Performer

  • Bobby Rush

Comeback Artist of the Year

  • Johnny Tucker

Artist Deserving More Attention

  • Crystal Thomas

Best Blues Albums of 2021

Album of the Year

  • Christone “Kingfish” Ingram – 662 (Alligator)

New Recordings / Contemporary Blues

  • Crystal Thomas – Now Dig This! (Dialtone)

New Recordings / Traditional & Acoustic

  • Eric Bibb – Dear America (Provogue)

New Recordings / Southern Soul

  • Wee Willie Walker & The Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra – Not in My Lifetime (Blue Dot)             

New Recordings / Best Debut

  • Buffalo Nichols – Buffalo Nichols (Fat Possum)

Historical / Pre-war

  • Various Artists – The Matchbox Bluesmaster Series (Matchbox Records)

Historical / Postwar

  • Various Artists – Down Home Blues: Miami, Atlanta & The South Eastern States (Wienerworld)

Blues Book of the Year

  • I Ain’t Studdin’ Ya: My American Blues Story
  • By Bobby Rush with Herb Powell
  • Hachette Books

Producer of the Year: New Recording

  • Tom Hambridge: Christone “Kingfish” Ingram – 662 (Alligator)

Producer of the Year: Historical Recording

  • Tom Vickers: Chicago / The Blues / Today! – (Vanguard)

Readers’ Poll

Blues Artist of the Year (Male)

  • Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

Blues Artist of the Year (Female)

  • Mavis Staples

Most Outstanding Musician (Guitar)

  • Buddy Guy

Most Outstanding Musician (Harmonica)

  • Charlie Musselwhite

Most Outstanding Musician (Keyboard)

  • Marcia Ball

Best Live Performer

  • Buddy Guy

Most Outstanding Blues Singer

  • Mavis Staples

Best Blues Album of 2021 (New Release)

  • Christone “Kingfish” Ingram – 662 (Alligator)

Best Blues Album of 2021 (Historical Recording)

  • Jimmie Vaughan – The Jimmie Vaughan Story (The Last Music Company)

Best Blues Book of 2021

  • King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King
  • By Daniel de Visé
  • Atlantic Monthly Press

Roadhouse Album Review: Sass Jordan delivers with raw and primal “Bitches Blues”

Sass Jordan — “Bitches Blues” — Stony Plain Records

Sass Jordan is a Birminghan, England-born singer/songwriter transplanted to Montreal at an early age, with a penchant for soulful, rootsy music heavy with her trademark gritty vocals.

She’s been recording since 1986, and her first single, “Tell Somebody,” from her 1988 debut album of the same name won the Juno Award for Most Promising Female Vocalist in 1989. An indication of her style and substance can be found in her lead role of Janis Joplin in the off-Broadway hit “Love, Janis” in 2001.

“Bitches Blues” is Jordan’s tenth album, a follow to her first pure blues outing, “Rebel Moon Blues,’ in 2020. It also continues the raw vocal earthiness that marked “Rebel.”

The latest album features three originals and five classic covers, ranging from the hard-driving opener, “Still Alive and Well” (Rick Derringer), to the powerful rocking optimism of her original closer, “Change Is Coming.” That’s a mere 27 minutes, but it’s packed with great music highlighted by Jordan’s raspy-tough vocals, surrounded by a terrifically tight backing band, the Champagne Hookers.

Between those two songs is a fine collection: An adventurous reworking of the blues chestnut “Chevrolet” with tough half-whispered vocals and piercing harp work; the original “Even,” a re-imagined version of the song from her 2008 album, “You Get What You Give,” this time with just some stunningly fine barroom piano backing; “Still The World Goes Round,” another original, with a hint of country, highlighted by some enthusiastic group singing; a spare and hypnotic cover of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s classic “You Gotta Move”; the guitar-driven, barroom ambience of Little Feat’s “Sailin’ Shoes,”  and a thoroughly rousing version of Little Milton’s “Ain’t No Big Deal On You.”

The backing band here deserves special mention for its vivid support, whether it’s stinging guitar, passionate harp, or sparkling keyboards. The music perfectly complements Jordan’s ferocious style and the smart song selection. The band is: Guitarists Chris Caddell and Jimmy Reid, drummer Cass Pereira, keyboardist Jesse O’Brien and Steve Marriner on bass and harmonica.

Sass Jordan’s “Bitches Blues” is definitely music worth hearing. Her vocals are sharp and tough, the band a razor-sharp unit, all well-suited to her chosen material.

“Still Alive and Well” from the album

Track Listing:
1. Still Alive and Well 3:37
2. Chevrolet 2:29
3. Even 3:55
4. Still The World Goes Round 4:01
5. You Gotta Move 2:32
6. Sailin Shoes 3:52
7. Ain’t No Big Deal On You 3:30
8. Change Is Coming 3:16

Roadhouse Reminder: The music of Lightnin’ Slim was some of the swamp blues’ finest

It’s time to talk about Otis Verries Hicks.

You may know him better as Lightnin’ Slim, whose laconic vocal and guitar style helped to define the haunting, laid-back rhythms of Louisiana swamp blues in the 1950s. It’s often served with a side of snaky harmonica.

If you know him at all, that is. He’s one of the legions of fine blues players who tends to be largely unknown outside of certain regions, or outside the interests of mainstream blues fans.

Although there is some difference of opinion, Slim seems to have been born Good Pine, La., and moved to Baton Rouge at thirteen. Taught guitar by his older brother Layfield, Slim was playing in bars in Baton Rouge by the late 1940s.

I have to confess that even though I have some of his music in my collection, I hadn’t listened to it for years. And then, while I was listening to some music recently on the radio, as I wrote about a while back — on The Rhythm Revival with the musically precocious and loquacious Rev. Billy C. Wirtz — I heard some Lightnin’ Slim.

So, I dug back into his music. I found a bunch on my streaming service — Amazon Prime Music (no, I don’t get anything for mentioning it!). Slim has a substantial catalogue of his unique music. And it makes it clear that he was one of the best bluesmen of his time — mainly the 1950s, and mainly on the Nashville-based Excello label which specialized in this special, Louisiana-flavored blues.

Slim’s deep rich vocals and hypnotic guitar rhythms are earthy and sinuous, with a sense of urgency driving it all along. He often performed with a harp-playing partner, and one of the most frequent was Moses “Whispering” Smith, another Louisiana-style bluesman.

Slim basically had two careers, one in the 1940s and ’50s, and another in the 1970s, after he was rediscovered in Pontiac, Mich. In the 1950s, he had a number of regional hits, and his “Rooster Blues,” hit the national R&B charts in 1959.

In the ’70s, Slim performed on European tours, in the United Kingdom and at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. He last toured the UK in 1973 with the American Blues Legends package.

If you have never heard him, this might be a good time to grab some of his fine blues. If you have, take a refresher course.

In July 1974, Slim died of stomach cancer in Detroit, Mich. He was 61.

Lightnin’ Slim and Whispering Smith in a 1972 performance: