Doug MacLeod is, simply put, one of the best at what he does — a masterful storyteller and an elegant picker and singer of the blues.
This fine little album is just six songs long, but that’s a lot of blues storytelling from MacLeod, who writes all of his own material (with a minor exception on this session).
It also doesn’t seem to be available as a “real” album, but as a collection released Sept. 9 by the Sledgehammer Blues label, found on streaming services. I recently ran across it on my Amazon Prime Music Unlimited service, gave it a listen,
If you’re familiar with his work, these songs will be instantly recognizable. Doug’s style is uniquely and unmistakably his own — from the folksy drama of his lyrics to the eloquence of his acoustic guitar work.
The songs are: The deeply hopeful despair of “Mystery Woman,” and “Come to Find,” “Bring it On Home,” the slyly salacious “One Good Woman,” the wistful “Old Country Road,” and the loving memory-driven “Norfolk County Line.”
Digression: MacLeod’s cover of Willie Dixon’s “Bring It On Home,” is an exception here to his preference for his own songs. But it’s an excellent take on the old Sonny Boy Williamson II version. (Just for the record, and because it’s one of my blues pet peeves, Sonny Boy was actually born Aleck Miller, and later took the name of John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson as his own. I’ve always thought that this was deeply unfair to the real Williamson, as his harp work was prolific and influential.)
But no matter. This is a fine sampling of Doug MacLeod’s literate, painfully honest approach to music. For more, there are many other albums available, and he’ll be sailing and singing on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues cruise next January (#38). See you there.
Sometimes, when you want to hear some blues, you want to hear some blues.
That’s when musicians like harpmeister Bob Corritore and some of his old-school friends come in handy. Corritore has spent decades recording some of the best traditional blues artists, and often pulls those sides from his copious musical vaults to produce excellent albums.
For his latest release, “You Shocked Me,” Corritore put together the best of 12 recording sessions between 2018 and 2022, featuring 10 stalwart blues talents on 17 tracks (Yes, 17 songs on a CD! Too often, CDs don’t have much more music than two sides of an LP).
Corritore underlines the music of all these fine artists with his considerable harp talents, blending magically into every song and style.
The album kicks off with John Primer’s tough “Hiding Place,” with fierce guitar and deep-blue vocals. That’s followed by another scorcher, “Squeeze Me Baby,” from Alabama Mike. The title track follows, a bluesy explosion from a supercharged vocal by Diunna Greanleaf.
Johhny Rawls offers a soulful take on the socially prescient “The World’s In A Bad Situation,” and a couple of softer blues offer a respite from the raw toughness on many tracks: “That Ain’t Enough” by Willie Buck and “Blue Blue Water,” a plaintive slow blues from Oscar Wilson a,re good examples.
One of my favorites is a lyrical play on the “down at the crossroads” and hellhound on my trail” themes: “Back to the Crossroads” from Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry turns it all around as he hunts for relief — “Goin’ back to the crossroads to try to reverse my deal, you can never be happy when hellhounds are on your heels….”
That’s just a handful of the fine tracks included here. There’s more of the same throughout. Gritty blues, soulful vocals, tough music-making all around.
The words “real deal” are overused to the point of being trite — but I think they apply here. If this isn’t a satisfying package of real-deal blues, I don’t know what is.
“The World’s in a bad Situation” by Johnny Rawls:
1 Hiding Place (feat. John Primer) 2 Squeeze Me Baby (feat. Alabama Mike) 3 You Shocked Me (feat. Diunna Greenleaf) 4 The World’s In A Bad Situation (feat. Johnny Rawls) 6 Somebody Stole My Love From Me (feat. Alabama Mike) 7 Blinded (feat. Jimi “Primetime” Smith) 8 Josephine (feat. Sugaray Rayford) 9 Blue Blue Water (feat. Oscar Wilson) 10 Train Fare (feat. Bob Stroger) 11 Don’t Need Your Permission (feat. Francine Reed) 12 That Ain’t Enough (feat. Willie Buck) 13 Soul Food (feat. Jimi “Primetime” Smith) 14 Back To The Crossroads (feat. Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry”) 15 Work To Be Done (feat. Alabama Mike) 16 Sunny Day Friends (feat. Diunna Greenleaf) 17 Blues For Hippies (feat. Alabama Mike)
I’m traveling back in time a couple of months again for another album I don’t want to overlook.
It’s from a veteran musician (singer, songwriter, harp and piano player) who spent decades creating music for others, and with the launch of his “Why I Choose to Sing the Blues” album in 2016, has returned to remind us of his special talents.
Procell is a soulful, big-voiced singer who knows his way around a lyric (he wrote or co-wrote all the original songs here), surrounded himself with excellent musicians, and turned over the producing pleasures to talented bluesman Zac Harmon, who also calls Catfood Records his musical home, and who contributes tough guitar work.
Not incidentally, Catfood owner and bassist Bob Trenchard wrote three of the songs with Purcell. Four were written with Grammy winner Terry Abrahamson, who’s known for his work with Muddy Waters, and has been Procell’s writing partner for the last 10 years.
The result of all this talent is a very tasty album, filled with exuberant music, even in its more tender moments (“Color of an Angel” and the passionate closer “Bittersweet Memory” are fine examples of that combination).
From the lyrically delicious up-tempo opener, “Skin in the Game,” through the sharp, horn-laced title track and the toughness of “The Contender,” the yearning of Procell-harp led “Broken Promises,” and the slyness of “A Tall Glass of You” (“I’ll have tall glass of you, and leave the bottle…”), this album offers a thoroughly satisfying session filled with soulful vocals, fine-tuned lyricism, and precise musical production that pulls it all together.
Give Derrick Procell a listen. You’ll be glad you did.
More than 10,000 Blues Blast Magazine readers and blues fans voted in the 2022 Blues Blast Music Awards. The winners in the fan voting, with the nominees, are listed below.
Winners are shown in bold.
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
“I recorded this album before my jaw amputation surgery, which took place in late May. It’s called “May Be The Last Time” because I didn’t know then and I still don’t know, if I will ever sing or play again like I used to. I have to say the magic of this performance is beyond this world and maybe the greatest of my life.”— John Németh
John is correct. There is a magic about this album that you can feel in every track. In the passionate vocals, in the sparkling musicality — the joyous spirit of life that infuses the entire session.
It’s ironic that all this musical pleasure is rooted deep in the unfortunate circumstance of a medical condition known as ameloblastoma (a benign but aggressive tumor in the jaw) in John’s Jaw, as he’s whimsically called it in his GoFundMe campaign to help raise funds for treatment. But that’s typical of the blues — music that can turn bad luck into good times.
John makes the opening and title track, “The Last Time,” a personal statement. He reworks the classic gospel tune, already handily reworked by the Staple Singers and the Rolling Stones, as an enthusiastic counterpoint to the poignancy of his predicament.
Elvin Bishop is one of John’s guests here, and they combine on “Rock Bottom,” a Bishop song from 1972. “Sooner or Later” is a Németh original, from his “Memphis Grease” album, and the first taste here of his considerable songwriting skills. “Feeling Good” reaches back to 1966 and J.B. Lenoir with a tough bass line.
Bishop not only contributes another song, 1974’s “Stealin’ Watermelons,” but handles the vocals, perhaps to give John’s Jaw a little rest. “I Found a Love” is a stunningly soulful duet with Willy Jordan and a splendid take on Wilson Pickett’s 1962 chestnut.
One of my favorite tracks, since it is one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite R&B groups, is the salaciously delicious “Sexy Ways,” from Hank Ballard and the Midnighters in 1954.
One of John’s earliest influences was Junior Wells, and his rendition of 1960’s “Come On in This House” is steamy and soulful, with magical harp work. “Elbows on the Wheel” is another John original from “Memphis Grease.” If you listen closely, there’s a throwback reference to “Junior’s Hoodoo Man.”
“Shake Your Hips” is vintage Slim Harpo from 1965, and John gives his voice and harp a workout.
Notice the trend here: John has picked older songs to cover with the classic feel that has been his musical trademark since he stormed out of Boise, Idaho, with his harp and a fine sense of older blues and soul that had been his sweet inspiration.
The closer is “I’ll Be Glad,” another Bishop song with chunky rhythms and a raucous old-timey feel, and a message appropriate for the motivation behind this excellent album: “I’ll be glad when I get my groove back again.”
So yes, John is right. This is a great album. Filled with wonderful music, expertly done by John and the Kid Anderson (who also produced) studio band, plus friends. John’s vocals are their usual potent self, his harp work razor-sharp. If musicians can be loose and tight at the same time, here’s how. It’s also filled with the enthusiasm and spirit generated by fine music.
And yes, I love this album. You should, too. It just may be John’s greatest.
Demetria Taylor — “Doin’ What I’m Supposed to Do” — Delmark
After a tough and slinky guitar intro from Billy Flynn, Demetria Taylor’s voice slides into the bluesy “83 Highway,” written by her father, Eddie Taylor Sr.
It’s just the right opening for this album of covers and originals from Taylor, who moves effortlessly through some blues, funk and R&B styles.
That’s followed by a pair of funkified tunes — “Baby Be Good” and “Bad Girl Day” — by the songwriting duo of guitarist Mike Wheeler and bassist Larry Williams, who created six of the crackling good tracks here.
“Blues Early This Morning” is a swinging duet with multi-talented soulstress Deitra Farr, written by Demetria’s mother, Vera Taylor, who was also a singer/songwriter. “Welfare Blues,” written by Eddie Taylor Jr., drives along in an uptempo blues, followed by the title track, a musical roadmap of her journey into blues with her family heritage. Most of the songs have a rhythmic R&B flavor, and Taylor’s vocals swing joyously along. And she gives tough credit to Magic Sam’s rocking “You Belong to Me” (with a tasty organ solo midway).
Taylor herself contributes two originals, the whimsically delicious romp of “Nursing My Kitty Cat,” and the autobiographical album closer, “Young Gun Taylor,” — “kicking out the rhythm and blues . . . the torch been passed down to me. . . .”
Indeed the musical torch has been passed. Taylor is not only keeping the family blues flame burning, she’s doing it with considerable style, lyrical and musical sensibility. You owe yourself a listen.
Taylor recently received the KoKo Taylor (no relation) “Queen of the Blues” Award in 2022 given by the Jus’ Blues Foundation.
Here’s the title track:
Tracklist 1 “83 Highway” 5:25, Eddie Taylor Sr. 2 “Baby Be Good” 4:23, Mike Wheeler/Larry Williams 3 “Bad Girl Day” 4:01, Mike Wheeler/Larry Williams 4 “Blues Early This Morning” 3:08, Vera Taylor 5 “Welfare Blues” 4:49, Eddie Taylor Jr. 6 “Doin’ What I’m Supposed To Do” 3:40, Mike Wheeler/Larry Williams 7 “Done” 5:49, Mike Wheeler/Larry Williams 8 “I’m Gonna Tell It” 4:27, Mike Wheeler/Larry Williams 9 Nursing My Kitty Cat 4:45, Demetria Taylor 10 “Stay Gone” 3:59, Mike Wheeler/Larry Williams 1 1 “You Belong To Me” 3:11, Samuel Maghett (“Magic Sam”) 12 “Young Gun Taylor” 3:26, Demetria Taylor
Credits Demetria Taylor vocals Deitra Farr vocals (4) Mike Wheeler guitar Billy Flynn guitar (1, 4) Carlos Showers guitar (all except 1, 4) Larry Williams bass Brian James keyboards Melvin Carlisle “Pookie Styx” drums