Roadhouse Album Review: Angela Strehli deals a winning hand with “Ace of Blues,” her first album in 17 years

Angela Strehli — “Ace of Blues” — Antone’s Records

It only took Angela Strehli about 17 years to follow up her last album (“Blue Highway” from 2005), but thankfully she decided that at 76, she was too young to retire from the world of music.

The result is this fine, bluesy album of songs by artists who inspired her long and impressive musical career.

Why now? Here’s how Strehli explained it in an interview with the “Texas Standard”:

My dear husband, Bob Brown, looked at me and said, shortly after my last birthday, “Look, don’t you think it is time for you to make a record? I think your fans would like to hear from you after 16 years,” or whatever it was at the time. So I didn’t have a comeback for that. And I started thinking, and I said, “Well, I don’t have any original material.” But that’s when Bob came up with the concept of tipping my hat to the people who had inspired me by doing one of their songs that was not well-known by people so that they would be hearing something fresh.”

And it’s exactly that. Fresh. Sparkling. All thoroughly enjoyable. Strehli’s vocals still work magic with the lyrics, backed by musicians who know just how to highlight those vocals.

The songs may not all be exactly well known, but they are mother’s milk to blues fans. And an excellent remembrance of the Lubbock, Texas, native’s ability to turn any song into her own.

The session opens with the fine Bobby “Blue” Bland song, “Two Steps from the Blues,” a wistful ballad, beautifully rendered. That’s followed by a swinging reading of the old R&B-type number, “Person to Person,” recorded by many, but first, I believe, by Mildred Anderson.

“Ace of Spades” follows, a crackling classic by O.V. Wright tune, with some verses added to provide a little personal history of how Strehli came to be known as “Ace” in her years at Austin’s Antone’s, the blues club that she co-founded. And whose record label has been revived for this album, and one hopes, similarly fine future efforts.

“I Love The Life I Live” is tough little philosophic blues by the great and prolific Willie Dixon, as slyly recorded by Mose Allison. “You Never Can Tell” is the festive rocker with joyous piano by Chuck Berry about a teen-age wedding (featuring one of my all-time favorite lyrics, “…the coolerator was crammed with TV dinners and Ginger Ale…”).

“Gambler’s Blues” is a stinging guitar-first take on B.B. King’s version, with a fine guitar lead-in and solo midway. Another great blues is Strehli’s version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Howlin’ For My Darling.” Then there’s her soulful take on Otis Clay’s “Trying To Live My Life Without You,” followed by a deep-throated version of Jimmy Reed’s “Take Out Some Insurance.” The final covers are Little Milton’s punchy “More and More,” and the rousing gospel of Dorothy Love Coates’ “I Wouldn’t Mind Dying.”

The set concludes with Strehli’s original “SRV,” a tearful tribute to the great Stevie Ray Vaughan, whose friend she became in her Austin years.

The entire album is also a fitting tribute to Angela Strehli’s contributions to and influence on the Texas blues scene during her years reigning as the queen of the scene at Antone’s. But it’s more than just memories. It’s damn good music. Like fine wine or good whiskey, it just gets better (I prefer the whiskey, neat please!).

Here’s “I Wouldn’t Mind Dying”:

Just for fun, here’s a look at Angela in her early years, with Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan:

“Ace of Blues” Track list:

Two Steps From The Blues
Person To Person
Ace Of Spades
I Love The Life I Live
You Never Can Tell
Gambler’s Blues
Howlin’ For My Darling
Trying To Live My Life Without You
Take Out Some Insurance
More And More
I Wouldn’t Mind Dying

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