Roadhouse Album Review: Douglas Avery puts a lifetime of creativity into his excellent first album “Take My Rider”

Douglas Avery — “Take My Rider” — Greenwave Music

A few days ago, I realized that I had let another new album that I enjoyed slip through the cracks between the Roadhouse floorboards. Someday I’ll get them fixed.

So, my apologies to Douglas Avery for this delay in writing about his inspired debut album, “Take My Rider.”

Avery seems to be a very talented multitasker, since he has also earned substantial props as a surfer and as a photographer. This first album of finely tuned mostly original blues also shows him to be a creative songwriter and first-rate practitioner of the Mississippi saxophone.

All of this began in the 1960s, when Avery turned his childhood musical interests into a passion for the LA jazz scene.

The ’70s found him learning the blues harp, but also riding a new wave as a surfer and a stellar surf photographer, which led to a career as an internationally known fashion and sports photographer.

Those musical talents kept simmering, and finally, in 2019, after encouragement from fellow musicians, Avery pulled together the music and bandmates to make this album happen. Those mates include Carl Sonny Leyland on piano, Franck Goldwasser on guitar and Johnny Morgan on drums. A horn section of Aaron Liddard, saxophone; Jerome Harper, trombone; and Simon Finch, trumpet, adds a musical texture that complements Avery’s highly personal style. Avery even released the session on his own GreenWave record label.

But after all of that, what about the music?

It’s simply great. Avery knows how to create an evocative lyric, how to work his vocals, and how to add some greasy harp for just the right flavor.

The session opens with a steady rolling shuffle, “Bad Luck Blues,” an uptempo Billy Boy Arnold cover. The title track is next — a lyrical step into the dark side of the blues fueled by traditional guitar licks, snaky harp and an ominous vocal turn.

“Malibu Burnin'” takes a hook from recent fiery events and turns it into tough percussive blues with “ashes fallin’ like rain,” and “Just Keep Loving Her” is a jaunty, harp-fueled cover of the Little Walter tune. “Jelly Jelly” creates a delicious acoustic serving from the timeless menu of blues “jelly” lyrics. “Blind Owl Boogie” romps with harp and guitar challenging each other; “How Long Can This Last” rocks hard over a chorus of sharp horns, and a too-brief “Leaving Trunk” is just Avery caressing his harp with understated passion.

Avery takes a funky turn with some chromatic harp on “Good To Me;” Carl Sonny Leyland’s rollicking piano drives John Mayall’s “Sonny Boy, Blow!” with the urgency of a locomotive barreling down the tracks, and “Safety First” chugs along with horns, piano and harp as the hard-driving wheels. “Riding With The Devil” is another boogie on down to the moody blues, with a gorgeous acoustic guitar introduction.

The album wraps with the final two cuts offering a major shift in style and mood: The jazzy instrumental (with Avery’s spoken benediction) “Green Wave” features Avery waxing lyrically on flute, and the closer is some love and hope in the form of a lyrical ballad, “Looking Over A Rainbow,” with Avery romanticizing over Leyland’s elegant piano.

Douglas Avery is one of those rare musicians who creates a style and mood all his own and fulfills that vision in his music. “Take My Rider” is a splendid first album filled with finely crafted music that’s obviously been aged like good whiskey and served very neat. Give this one a careful listen. And let’s hope there’s more to come.

Here’s a thoughtful interview with Douglas Avery on the Michael Limnios Blues Network 

Here’s a video of “Take My Rider”:

01. Bad Luck Blues (4:34)
02. Take My Rider (5:13)
03. Malibu Burnin’ (4:15)
04. Just Keep Lovin’ Her (2:01)
05. Jelly, Jelly (5:00)
06. Blind Owl Boogie (3:13)
07. How Long Can This Last? (6:03)
08. Leaving Trunk (1:59)
09. Good to Me (4:30)
10. Sonny Boy, Blow! (4:35)
11. Safety First (4:50)
12. Riding with the Devil (6:46)
13. Green Wave (3:38)
14. Looking over a Rainbow (6:03)

Roadhouse News: Here are the 2023 Grammy winners in blues and related categories

The Grammys don’t all happen late at night. Many of the awards are announced early, and that includes the blues and some related categories. Here are those nominees and winners (winners in bold).

Read more about the Grammys here.

Best Traditional Blues Album

Heavy Load Blues — Gov’t Mule

The Blues Don’t Lie — Buddy Guy

WINNER: Get on Board — Taj Mahal & Ry Cooder

The Sun Is Shining Down — John Mayall

Mississippi Son — Charlie Musselwhite

Best Contemporary Blues Album

Done Come Too Far — Shemekia Copeland

Crown — Eric Gales

Bloodline Maintenance — Ben Harper

Set Sail — North Mississippi Allstars

WINNER: Brother Johnny — Edgar Winter

Best American Roots Song

“Bright Star” — Anaïs Mitchell

“Forever” — Sheryl Crow

“High and Lonesome” — Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

WINNER: “Just Like That” — Bonnie Raitt

“Prodigal Daughter” — Aoife O’Donovan & Allison Russell

“You and Me on the Rock” — Brandi Carlile feat. Lucius

Best Americana Album

WINNER: In These Silent Days — Brandi Carlile

Things Happen That Way — Dr. John

Good to Be… — Keb’ Mo’

Raise the Roof — Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

Just Like That… — Bonnie Raitt

Best Bluegrass Album

Toward the Fray — The Infamous Stringdusters

Almost Proud — The Del McCoury Band

Calling You From My Mountain — Peter Rowan

WINNER: Crooked Tree — Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway

Get Yourself Outside — Yonder Mountain String Band

Best Folk Album

Spellbound — Judy Collins

WINNER: Revealer — Madison Cunningham

The Light at the End of the Line — Janis Ian

Age of Apathy — Aoife O’Donovan

Hell on Church Street — Punch Brothers

Best Regional Roots Music Album

Full Circle — Sean Ardoin and Kreole Rock and Soul feat. LSU Golden Band from Tigerland

Natalie Noelani — Natalie Ai Kamauu

Halau Hula Keali’i O Nalani (Live at the Getty Center) — Halau Hula Keali’i O Nalani

Lucky Man — Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas

WINNER: Live at the 2022 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival — Ranky Tanky

Roadhouse Album Review: “Moon and the Stars” is a heavenly tribute to the piano wizardry of Moon Mullican

Various Artists — “Moon and the Stars” — Valcour Records

I have to confess that the music of honky-tonk piano wizard Aubrey “Moon” Mullican had not been on my playlist radar until I heard a preview of this excellent tribute album on the radio (yes, you heard that right – radio!).

Specifically, I heard it on my favorite (and pretty much only) radio show, The Rhythm Revival, hosted by the prodigiously musically knowledgeable Rev. Billy C. Wirtz on WMNF in Tampa, Fla.

The Rev was playing songs from this album a few months back, and singing the praises on Mullican, a honky-tonk / hillbilly / bluesy piano magician who, among many other things, was an inspiration for Jerry Lee Lewis.

Well, piano pounders of all stripes have always been a personal weakness. Mullican’s keyboard genius turned out to be no exception.

Mullican (1909-1967) played Western swing, rowdy honky-tonk, Cajun, rock ‘n’ roll, blues, sentimental ballads — sometimes all in one song. He described his eclectic style as “East Texas sock,” (he was born in Polk County), that could “make goddamn beer bottles jump on the tables!” His piano leads the way, but the songs are filled with fiddles, guitars, some accordion, and apparently whatever sound he wanted.

Billy Grammer, a country guitarist who recorded with Mullican, explained that “western swing is nothing but big-band music played on stringed instruments instead of horns.” His music is said to be a bridge between western swing and rockabilly.

Mullican’s song and style and songwriting were more than prolific, they were influential with country/rockers like Lewis and rockers like Chuck Berry (think “Maybelline”). He should have earned a co-writing credit for Hank Williams’ 1952 hit “Jambalaya.” His spirited recordings were seemingly endless — check out this list.

Which kind of brings us to this lively, well-polished gem of a session — more completely titled “Johnny Nicholas Presents Moon and the Stars: A Tribute to Moon Mullican,” — co-producers Joel Savoy (Pine Leaf Boys founder, Savoy Family Cajun Band) and Johnny Nicholas (Big Walter Horton, Asleep at the Wheel) created this double album with group of veterans and lesser-known artists. Nicholas said he became a fan of Mullican’s work in the early 1970s through referrals from Commander Cody and Asleep at the Wheel members.

The sterling vocal cast includes Nicholas, Marcia Ball, Linda Gail Lewis, Augie Meyers, Peter Rowan, Steve Riley, Earl P Ball, Los Texmaniacs, Floyd Domino, and Danny Levin, plus younger artists like Katie Shore, Tif Lamson, Emily Gimble and Kelli Jones. The backing band sparkles with Scrappy Jud Newcomb, Rusty Blake, Chris Maresh, Greg Piccolo, Joel Savoy and Trey Boudreaux.

I’m not gonna comment on every song (there are 20!). But it’s worth noting some standout cuts:

Linda Gail Lewis takes a tough vocal turn on the swinging “I’ll Sail My Ship Alone” and it’s more than worth noting that she is Jerry Lee’s younger sister. Jerry Lee recorded a country-style version in 1958, and Linda Gail cut another on 2015’s “Heartbreak Highway.” Nicholas backs her here with appropriate country-style guitar.

“Pipeliner Blues,” deftly handled by Augie Meyers on vocal, is another Mullican classic. The instrumental “Moonshine Polka” featuring Josh Baca on accordion is yet another facet of the Mullican style. “Seven Nights to Rock” lets Steve Riley on vocals and accordion does just what the title suggests. “Good Deal Lucille” offers some raucous piano plus vocals from Earl P Ball. Marcia Ball livens “Good Times Gonna Roll Again” with her piano and vocals. “Leavin’ You With a Worried Mind” is some pure country from Emily Gimble on piano and vocals with a little bluesy harp from Nicholas.

All of this barely scratches the surface of the many talents of Moon Mullican, his singing, songwriting and piano playing. Listen to this excellent album, look up Mullican himself, and listen to the man who made it all possible. You won’t be disappointed. In fact, you’ll have one helluva good time.

“I’ll Sail My Ship Alone” by Linda Gail Lewis on piano and vocals

Here’s the real deal: Moon Mullican with “I’ll Sail My Ship Alone”

Here is the tracklist. Vol 1 is 1-10, Vol 2 is 11-20:

  1. Good Deal Lucille (J.D. Miller, Al Terry, Bob Theriot)
    Earl P Ball- Piano and Vocal
    Kelli Jones- Tambourine
  2. When Love Dies (Redd Stewart)
    Kelli Jones and Tif Lamson- Vocals
  3. Moonshine Polka (Lou Wayne)
    Max Baca- Bajo Sexto
    Josh Baca- Accordion
    Noel Hernandez- Bass
    Chris Rivera-Drums
  4. I’m Waiting for Ships That Never Come In (Abe Olman, Jack Yellen)
    Peter Rowan- Vocal
    Danny Levin- Piano
    Greg Piccolo- Saxophone
  5. Big Big City (Jerry Foster, Bill Rice)
    Johnny Nicholas- Vocals and Resonator Guitar
  6. I’ll Sail My Ship Alone (L. Mann, M. Burns, H. Bernard, H. Thurston)
    Linda Gail Lewis- Piano and Vocals
    Johnny Nicholas- Electric Guitar
    Trey Boudreaux- Bass
  7. You Don’t Have to Be a Baby to Cry (Terry Shand, Bob Merrill)
    Johnny Nicholas- Vocal and Piano
    Katie Shore and Danny Levin- Fiddles
  8. There’s a Little Bit of Heaven (Moon Mullican, Lou Wayne)
    Katie Shore- Fiddle and Vocals
  9. So Long (Moon Mullican)
    Kelli Jones- Vocal
    Noel Hernandez- Bass
    Joel Savoy- Acoustic Guitar and Percussion
  10. Make Friends (Ed McGraw)
    Johnny Nicholas- Vocal and Piano
    Danny Levin- Piano
  11. Good Times Are Gonna Roll Again (Moon Mullican, Tommy Hill)
    Marcia Ball- Piano and Vocal
    Johnny Nicholas and Katie Shore- Harmony Vocals
    Kelli Jones- Tambourine
    Alex Goodrich- Sousaphone
  12. Leavin You With a Worried Mind (Moon Mullican, Arthur Smith)
    Emily Gimble- Piano and Vocal
    Mike Archer- Bass
    Johnny Nicholas- Harmonica
  13. What Have I Done (Lou Wayne, Morry Burns aka Moon Mullican)
    Katie Shore- Fiddle and Vocals
  14. I was sort of wondering (Moon Mullican, Dusty Ward, Bill Kearns)
    Tif Lamson- Vocal
    Johnny Nicholas- Piano and Vocal
    Kelli Jones- Acoustic Guitar
    Trey Boudreaux- Bass
  15. All I Need is You (Newt Richardson)
    Johnny Nicholas- Vocal and Piano
  16. Pipeliner Blues (Moon Mullican)
    Augie Meyers- Vocal
  17. Downstream (Redd Stewart, Sunny Dull)
    Peter Rowan- Vocals
    Katie Shore- Fiddle and vocals
    Kelli Jones- Vocals
    Joel Savoy- Electric Guitar
    Kelli Jones- Tambourine
  18. Seven Nights to Rock (Buck Trail, Henry Glover, Louis Innis)
    Steve Riley- Accordion and Vocals
    Johnny Nicholas- Piano
    Trey Boudreaux- Bass
    Tif Lamson, Katie Shore, Johnny Nicholas- Gang Vocals
    Joel Savoy- Electric Guitar
  19. Bottom of the Glass (Dick Flood, Eddie Hill)
    Tif Lamson- Vocal
    Kelli Jones- Acoustic Guitar
  20. Don’t Ever Take My Picture Down (Lou Wayne, Morry Burns aka Moon Mullican)
    Johnny Nicholas- Piano and Vocal


Roadhouse Album Review: Barbara Blue is a soulful presence on “From the Shoals”

Barbara Blue — “From the Shoals” — Big Blue Records (Jan. 27 release)

Barbara Blue opens her latest album in typical Barbara Blue fashion — with powerful vocals wrapped up in the tightly crafted music of her backers. She’s not known as the reigning queen of Beale Street for no reason.

Although she’s been reigning on Memphis for about 25 years at Silky O’Sullivan’s on Beale, where, Sullivan says, “Barbara Blue can make a glass eye cry.” 

Blue spent ten years before that working Pittsburgh clubs on a regular basis, where I’m pleased to say I enjoyed these powerful pipes myself. And before that, she kickstarted her professional career in Phoenix as a solo artist.

For this album, her thirteenth, she adds a little programming twist by focusing the first two tracks on where she’s recording — the legendary NuttHouse Recording Studio in Muscle Shoals.

“The Shoals” is the funky opener, a tribute to the “powerful magic” of the soulful music that’s been flowing from the Shoals for decades. “Nutthouse Blues” follows, a soulful tribute to the recording studio where Jimmy Nutt now holds the controls. Will McFarlane contributes wicked guitar riffs, and Clayton Ivey pumps tough organ into the mix. And we can’t ignore Bernard “Pretty” Purdie on drums.

Both cuts, of course, feature Blue’s fabulous tsunami of a Voice, rolling over the music. And the Voice never lets up. “Tell Mama” is next, written by Clarence Carter and made famous by Etta James. Blue breathes new life into the classic song.

Then comes the torchy ballad “Steal Away” (the Jimmy Hughes version), as Blue turns on the soul. “Severed” is another soul-drenched plea for “more healing;” then “Curse of Beauty,” a stirring piece with anthem-like chorus. (I should point out here that “Tell Mama” and “Steal Away” are the only two covers in this set — the rest are Blue originals, with her Croatian songwriting partner Davor “Hutch” Hačić (whom she met at 2019’s IBC in Memphis).

“Lost Young Love” is about just that — lost young love. “Slide Man” is a throwback to some classic slide, and some equally classic salacious double-entendre blues. “Too Far” is another gentle ballad, stirred deeply by with a sensuous vocal. “Nothing Lasts Forever” picks up the pace, and adds a little funk to the message “get it while you can.” “I Never Stopped Loving You” is another powerfully warm ballad with its roots in her hometown of Pittsburgh.

The album closes with two haunting tracks: “Song of the River,” a lyrical ode to a “mystical music river of song,” and “Trail of Tears,” a rhythmic track with a tearful Native American theme.

All these styles and this vocal passion represent Barbara Blue at her best. Her dynamic voice and command of a lyric make her a musical presence to be seen and heard. If you’ve never experienced her, check out this fine album. Even if you have, check it out anyway. Barbara Blue is what a masterful singer sounds like.

Just in case you’re not aware, here are just a few of her achievements:

In 2015 Barbara Blue was honored with a Brass note on The Beale Street Walk of Fame. She received the 2011 Emissary of Memphis Music Award. Both the Hard Rock Cafe Memphis, TN (2014) and Pittsburgh, PA (2010) honored her with a Memorabilia Case. She received a 2007 BMA Nomination for Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist. She was nominated for 2019 Independent Blues Music Award “Traditional Female Artist of the Year” and best Traditional CD (2018’s “Fish In Dirty H2O”), and was a 2019 BMA Nominee for  “Female Soul Blues Artist Of The Year”.

Here’s a video of Barbara live singing” Low Down Dirty Dog”:

Track List
1 The Shoals 3:20
2 Nutthouse Blues 7:10
3 Tell Mama 3:22
4 Steal Away 4:04
5 Severed 5:13
6 Curse of Beauty 4:43
7 Lost Young Love 4:40
8 Slide Man 3:15
9 Too Far 7:41
10 Nothing Last Forever 3:09
11 Never Stopped Loving You 5:12
12 Song Of The River 6:42
13 Trail Of Tears 6:25

Roadhouse Album Review: Mississippi MacDonald offers a passionate “Heavy State Loving Blues”

Mississippi MacDonald — “Heavy State Loving Blues” — APM Records (Jan. 27 release)

When I first heard Mississippi MacDonald’s last album. “Do Right, Say Right” (my review here), I was very impressed with this Londoner’s grasp of American blues, his gritty vocals, and his sharp guitar work.

He’d been doing it for a while though (He’s a three-time UK Blues Awards nominee and three-time US Independent Blues Awards nominee), it’s just that “Do Right” was my first listen. My loss, of course. He’s an exciting blues talent.

His latest album, “Heavy State Loving Blues,” continues and amplifies his musical journey with ten more songs carved from the blues roots that MacDonald seems to tap with amazing skill and emotional intensity.

MacDonald’s blues ring with authenticity — quite an achievement considering it’s mostly original music. He’s a powerful, soulful vocalist, and his guitar work is stunningly simple — he lets the music breathe in between the notes.

This album, like the previous, was produced by Phil Dearing, adding Lucy Dearing on backing vocals for a richer sound.

He kicks off this session with “Howlin’ Wolf,” a funky, high-energy shoutout to pretenders in the music world, kind of a bluesy take on “something is happening / and you don’t know what it is / do you, Mister Jones?” heavily fueled by some crackling horns,

The title track is torchy and soulful, with MacDonald’s guitar lines inspiring the vocals, and Dearing’s backup adding emotional punch. “Blind Leading the Blind” is a gritty duet with Vaneese Thomas and her gorgeous Memphis musical attitude.

“Heading South” is more soulful pleading with MacDonald’s stinging guitar in a powerful call-and-response conversation. “(I Ain’t Gonna) Lie No More” follows, a softer but still soul-filled moment. The first cover is O.V. Wright’s “I’ve Been Searching,” with Mac following his horns into another soul-drenched side.

It’s here, for me, with “I’ll Understand,” that MacDonald starts to push the album deeper into the intensity of the blues. His voice aches for the hope of lost love returning, and a guitar solo midway echoes that beautiful pain with primal urgency. A haunting vocal background surrounds it all. Love this song.

Another cover, from Zack Logan, “Trouble Doing the Right Thing,” has a slight country tilt, and lopes along in the blues. “The Devil Wants Repayment” takes us down to the crossroads for what could be a visit from a midnight rider looking for payback.

The fiery closer is “Blues for Albert,” an instrumental with Mac’s spoken interlude explaining how his love of Albert Collins‘ blues first shaped his music. It’s a stinging, heartfelt, six-minute ode to the Master of the Telecaster and shows that MacDonald has absorbed his lessons well. (More about Albert Collins below.)

This is another fine album from the very talented Mississippi MacDonald, who continues to demonstrate his passion for the music and his ability to create authentic blues born from that passion. His songwriting rings true, his vocals are tough and tender, and his elegant guitar work says that he’s learned one of the basics of the blue notes — less indeed can be more.

Here’s a Roadhouse digression with one of my own Albert Collins stories:

Collins appeared fairly often at Mancini’s Lounge in McKees Rocks, a Pittsburgh-area club that featured the blues in the late 1970s and early ’80s while I was still a Pittsburgher. We joked that he sometimes seemed to be the house band (although Muddy Waters put in four appearances in ’80 and ’81!).

Albert would piece together a guitar cord (long before wireless) and roam through the club and out onto the sidewalk. His band, the Icebreakers, featured the soaring sax of A.C. Reed. Albert’s guitar work was always passionate, innovative and exciting to watch.

Here’s a grainy picture I took at one of those shows, and later got autographed. It says “Peace & Love” From Albert Collins. Indeed.

Here’s a video of “(I Ain’t Gonna) Lie No More”:

Track list:

  1. Howlin’ Wolf (04:10)
  2. Heavy State Loving Blues (04:19)
  3. Blind Leading the Blind (04:08)
  4. Heading South (03:07)
  5. (I Ain’t Gonna) Lie No More (04:10)
  6. I’ve Been Searching (03:32)
  7. I’ll Understand (05:17)
  8. Trouble Doing the Right Thing (03:35)
  9. The Devil Wants Repayment (02:55)
  10. Blues for Albert (05:58)

And just for fun, here’s Albert Collins from the time that I remember him, including saxman A.C. Reed in his band:

Roadhouse Album Review: Teresa James & the Rhythm Tramps offer a magical Beatles tour on “With A Little Help From Her Friends”

Teresa James & the Rhythm Tramps — “With A Little Help From Her Friends” — Blue Heart Records (Jan. 20 release)

Did you ever wonder what the Beatles would sound like if they were born and raised in Houston (Texas, of course)? And had a honey-voiced, soulful female lead singer?

Neither did I.

However, this latest album from Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps should finally answer that unasked question.

James, along with husband, producer and bassist, Terry Wilson, has put together a sweet and sassy album of 10 Beatles songs covered with her uniquely flavored vocals and the Tramps’ usual crisp backing.

Joining the band for this effort are keyboardist Kevin McKendree and drummer Richard Millsap, with backing vocals by Lucy Wilson and Nicki Bluhm, and special guest Yates McKendree, son of Kevin.

It’s an impressive lineup for an impressive outing tackling the works of the Fab Four. The results are just as impressive.

Everything kicks off on one of my favorite tracks, “Ticket to Ride,” with James’ vocals punching out a soulful rocking vibe, closing the final few bars by soaring over McKendree’s rollicking piano. Then comes “Taxman,” an unlikely but gorgeous pairing of James’ honeyed tones with a cloud of psychedelic herbal essence floating in the air. You can almost see the light show.

“Don’t Let Me Down” is next, as James turns it into a soul-drenched anthem rich with her pleading vocals. “Happy Just to Dance with You” adds a touch of funkiness to deliver it from pure Beatlemania into a guitar-laced bit of soul.

“Oh Darlin'” (another favorite cut) turns into a searing duet with Yates McKendree’s sharp guitar fueling a lusty vocal burn as James’ voice simply scorches the air. “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away,” originally an acoustic track, stirs in a taste of Motown, putting James in front of soulful backup vocals.

The band turns playful with the joyful “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey,” again adding tough, rhythmic backing. “You Won’t See Me” gives James a smooth vocal turn. “No Reply” adds a little Latin twist, again adding backup vocals for an extra dimension. A brightly swinging “Think For Yourself” wraps it up with the Tramps giving George Harrison’s tune a shuffling, thoughtful musical reappraisal.

“This was so much fun and such a labor of love,” says James. “I have been a Beatles fan since I was a little girl and having known all these songs inside and out for so many years, it was a real challenge to try and capture a bluesier, more Southern vibe but still retain the original spirit of the songs. And because we were doing it basically just for fun, I felt like I could stretch out just a little bit more and be a little looser with it.”

And it all works. This is a thoroughly enjoyable album, whether you’re a Beatles fan or a Teresa James fan. Or both. And I’m a big fan of the sassy, sultry voice of Teresa James. James and the Tramps plus friends don’t just cover these songs; they reimagine them in their own style and shape them into a delightful album that makes the music fresh — it’s just like a magical mystery tour.

Here’s the “Taxman”:


Ticket to Ride
Don’t Let Me Down
Happy Just to Dance With You
Oh Darlin’
You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey
You Won’t See Me
No Reply
Think for Yourself

Roadhouse News: The 2023 Blues Music Award nominees announced

The nominations have been announced for the 2023 Blues Music Awards. Ceremonies to announce the winners will be held May 11 Memphis, presented by The Blues Foundation.

Topping the list of BMA nominees is John Németh, with five nominations, Song of the Year, Traditional Blues Album, Band of the Year, Instrumentalist – Harmonica, and Instrumentalist – Vocals, which he won in 2022.
44th Blues Music Award Nominees

B.B. King Entertainer of the Year
Sugaray Rayford
Tommy Castro
Eric Gales
Bobby Rush
Mr. Sipp (Castro Coleman)

Band of the Year
Anthony Geraci & The Boton Blues Allstars
John Németh and the Blue Dreamers
Rick Estrin and the Nightcats
Southern Avenue
Tedeschi Trucks Band

Song of the Year
Altered Five Blues Band “Great Minds Drink Alike” (Jeff Schroedl)
Buddy Guy “The Blues Don’t Lie” (Tom Hambridge)
Eric Gales “I Want My Crown” (Eric Gales, Joe Bonamassa)
John Németh “The Last Time” (John Németh)
Shemekia Copeland “Too Far to Be Gone” (John Hahn/Will Kimbrough)

Best Emerging Artist Album
Blue Moon Marquee / Scream, Holler & Howl
DaShawn Hickman / Drums, Roots & Steel
Dylan Triplett / Who Is He?
Jose Ramirez / Major League Blues
Yates McKendree / Buchanan Lane

Acoustic Blues Album
Charlie Musselwhite / Mississippi Son
Corey Harris / The Insurrection Blues
Duwayne Burnside / Acoustic Burnside
Harrison Kennedy / Thanks for Tomorrow
Rory Block / Ain’t Nobody Worried

Blues Rock Album
Albert Castiglia / I Got Love
Bernard Allison / Highs & Lows
Colin James / Open Road
Eric Gales / Crown
Tinsley Ellis / Devil May Care

Contemporary Blues Album
Buddy Guy / The Blues Don’t Lie
Diunna Greenleaf / I Ain’t Playin’
Janiva Magness / Hard to Kill
Larry McCray / Blues Without You
Shemekia Copeland / Done Come too Far

Soul Blues Album
Kat Riggins / Progeny
Kirk Fletcher / Heartache by the Pound
Sugaray Rayford / In Too Deep
The Love Light Orchestra / Leave the Light On
Trudy Lynn / Golden Girl

Traditional Blues Album
Kenny Neal / Straight From the Heart
Bob Corritore / Bob Borritore & Friends: You Shocked Me
Duke Robillard / They Called it Rhythm & Blues
John Németh / May Be the Last Time
John Primer / Hard Times

Acoustic Blues Artist
Doug MacLeod
Guy Davis
Harrison Kennedy
Rhiannon Giddens
Rory Block

Blues Rock Artist
Walter Trout
Albert Castiglia
Tommy Castro
Joanne Shaw Taylor
Tinsley Ellis

Contemporary Blues Female Artist
Ruthie Foster
Beth Hart
Janiva Magness
Teresa James
Vanessa Collier

Contemporary Blues Male Artist
Selwyn Birchwood
Chris Cain
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
Ronnie Baker Brooks
Mr. Sipp (Castro Coleman)

Soul Blues Female Artist
Annika Chambers
Trudy Lynn
Thornetta Davis
Kat Riggins
Vaneese Thomas

Soul Blues Male Artist
John Németh
Johnny Rawls
Curtis Salgado
Don Bryant
Billy Price

Traditional Blues Female Artist (Koko Taylor Award)
Dietra Farr
Diunna Greenleaf
Rhiannon Giddens
Rory Block
Sue Foley

Traditional Blues Male Artist
Billy Branch
Duke Robillard
John Primer
Johnny Burgin
Sugar Ray Norcia

Instrumentalist – Bass
Bob Stronger
Danielle Nicole
Larry Fulcher
Michael “Mudcat” Ward
Willie J. Campbell

Instrumentalist – Drums
Chris Layton
Cody Dickinson
Derric D’Mar Martin
Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith
Tony Braunagel

Instrumentalist – Guitar
Chris Cain
Christoffer “Kid” Andersen
Joanna Connor
Kirk Fletcher
Laura Chavez

Instrumentalist – Harmonica
Billy Branch
Bob Corritore
Jason Ricci
John Németh
Dennis Gruenling

Instrumentalist – Horn
Deanna Bogart
Gregg Piccolo
Jimmy Carpenter
Mark Kaz Kazanoff
Sax Gordon Beadle

Instrumentalist – Piano (Pinetop Perkins Piano Player Award)
Anthony Geraci
Ben Levin
Dave Keyes
Jim Pugh
Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne

Instrumentalist – Vocals
Curtis Salgado
Danielle Nicole
Diunna Greenleaf
John Németh
Shemekia Copeland

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A very merry, bluesy holiday (of your choice) from the Roadhouse

It’s time once again to stop and wish everyone a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or a good day of your choice, whatever it may be.

That means I get to share my favorite Christmas song, a YouTube version, which features special animation just for this occasion.

And I also get to offer some holiday libation advice.

I always recommend leaving a little something out for Santa. I find that milk and cookies do little to lift the holiday spirits, so I heartily recommend some bourbon and brownies. And I also recommend not leaving much of them for Santa, if he ever does show up. I’m still waiting.

But maybe you’re a beer person. In that case, I recommend one of the many beers produced specifically with the Christmas season in mind. And since I’m kind of a beer snob, that means a Belgian ale, where they take some of the world’s best beers and offer special holiday versions.

Since one of my favorite Belgians is the darkly delicious St. Bernardus Abt 12, and once again this year I’ve made the brewery’s Christmas Ale my holiday choice. It’s slightly more sprightly than the Abt 12, but still with enough warmth and cheer to accompany some fine seasonal blues.

None of this, of course, means that you are somehow obligated to celebrate the actual Christmas. Enjoy whatever holiday, or day, that you like — enjoy being the key word.

So, a very merry, happy, peaceful version of whatever you want to celebrate.

And here is my favorite Christmas song, “White Christmas,” by the great Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters, with special animation.

Roadhouse Album Review: “The Legendary Typewriter Tape” a magical session between Janis Joplin and Jorma Kaukonen — 58 years in the making

Janis Joplin & Jorma Kaukonen — “The Legendary Typewriter Tape” — Omnivore Recordings

The complete title, which wouldn’t fit in that line above, because my design standards, is more explanatory: “The Legendary Typewriter Tape: 6/25/64 Jorma’s House.”

It’s a very personal look at two artists in the making. Joplin would soon join Big Brother & the Holding Company and go on to be — Janis Joplin.

Kaukonen would go on to join the Jefferson Airplane and then Hot Tuna bands.

This all-too-brief album was the result of the taping by Kaukonen of a rehearsal session between himself and Joplin at his house on Fremont Street in Santa Clara, Calif. — more than half a century ago.

They were both young: Joplin 21; Kaukonen 23. They were in process of becoming the stars they would become in just a few years.

Janis was fascinated by the early women blues singers, and that’s what comes through in the raw, honest simplicity of this music. Even though she didn’t really perform this kind of music later, you can feel how she had already absorbed the blues into her persona.

The songs are a handful of classic, traditional blues: “Trouble in Mind,” “Long Black Train,” “Kansas City Blues,” “Hesitation Blues,” “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” and “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.” There’s a little bit of chatter here and there as they discuss what to play. And the tapping heard occasionally in the background — Kaukonen’s wife Margareta typing a letter — is what gives this session its name, the typewriter tape.

Despite its lack of polish and production, this is the best kind of music. It’s two young performers exploring their possibilities. It’s plain and simple acoustic music, but filled with the complexities of the songs, and you can hear Janis testing her ability to convey their passion. You can hear the formative notes of her later, powerful style.

It’s also the kind of music you should hear even if it comes 58 years too late.

Jorma Kaukonen 2016 interview on the “Typewriter Tape” from KQED.

“Hesitation Blues” from the album:

Track list:

  1. “ARE WE TAPING NOW?” (dialog)
  7. “HOW ‘BOUT THIS?” (dialog)

Roadhouse Album Review: The Hungry Williams band swings with abandon on joyous “Let’s Go!”

The Hungry Williams — “Let’s Go” — Rochelle Records

This swinging little album has been around since September, and every time I’ve played the music, I’ve reminded myself that I needed to write about it.

Obviously, I did not.

But now I am.

Charles “Hungry” Williams was a great New Orleans drummer, and John Carr is a fine Milwaukee drummer. Their two worlds collided in 1995 when Carr heard some old ’50s R&B and got an itch to make some of that music himself.

And when he finally scratched that itch, somewhere around 2015, he had the name ready — The Hungry Williams.

They put together their first album, “Brand New Thing,” in 2019, but Carr still wasn’t satisfied — he still wasn’t hearing that sound on record that he had in his head.

Until he heard a song by the California Honeydrops, with just the right sense of warmth and presence that he wanted. Carr lured the engineer of that sound, Jacob LaCally, to help create what would become the relaxed, swinging and spontaneous vibe of the music on “Let’s Go.”

For the session, Carr assembled a cast of veteran players designed to produce that sound: bassist Mike Sieger, lead vocalist Kelli Gonzalez, former bandmates guitarist/vocalist Joe Vent and keyboardist Jack Stewart. For this album, Carr added Jason Goldsmith on tenor and Casimir Riley on baritone sax.

All of that led to this sprightly album of New Orleans-tinged music that slings around some R&B, a little Latin feel, and best of all, a lot of fun.

It all kicks off with “Mardi Gras Day,” an original by Carr and Gonzalez (released earlier this year in time for that celebration), with a joyous romp featuring a Gonzalez vocal and a terrific second-line trumpet solo by Lech Wierzynski of the Honeydrops.

Stewart wrote the next cut, “Movin’ On,” as tribute to Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew. And most of the band joins Gonzalez on LaVern Baker’s “You’d Better Find Yourself Another Fool.” Then something that harks back to Big Maybelle, “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show.” “Gee Baby” is a New Orleans chestnut originally recorded by the duo Joe & Ann.

“Boss Man” is another NOLA rhythmic Carr/Gonzalez original, horn-laced, with a nod to the other big boss man Jimmy Reed, followed by “Big Mouth Betty,” a Gonzalez original with a light R&B flavor. Then it’s “Oooh Wow” another NOLA classic by Domino’s guitarist, Roy Montrell. Guitarist Joe Vent gives the vocals his touch with some more great horns (they’re actually everywhere on the album – one of its brightest spots).

Gonzalez follows with “Then I’ll Believe” a rousing gospel-flavored song from Martha Carter. Then a strong secular finale from Carr and Gonzalez again, “669 (Across the Street from the Beast),” with the appropriate shoutout to Old Scratch himself, who may well be the man on the sax.

One of the best things I can say about this fine album is that it’s just a hell of a lot of fun. The band snaps, the vocals crackle, and the whole thing just joyously pops. Everything just fits, which is a tribute to Carr’s vision of gathering the cast together in a room and making great for you to enjoy. Which you definitely should.

“Movin’ On,” from the album:

About the songs:

“Mardi Gras Day” A Carr/Gonzalez original
that was originally was released in February,
2022, for the holiday. At the session, Carr
realized the track really needed a trumpet
solo. LaCally knew Lech Wierzynski from the
California Honeydrops. And again, thanks to
the internet, Lech added just the right flavor
of a second line marching down the street.

“Movin’ On” This is a Stewart original that
features the classic strolling Fats Domino
rhythm of countless rock ’n’ roll singles.
Stewart says, “‘Movin’ On’ is my tribute to Fats
and Dave Bartholomew. The band and Jacob
capture that spirit.”

“You’d Better Find Yourself Another Fool”
The Hungries love to sing, and you’ll hear that
in this Lavern Baker number.

“One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show” Who
doesn’t love Big Maybelle? The Hungry
Williams REALLY do. This is one of three songs
of hers in the repertoire.

“Gee Baby” A classic NOLA single, it’s been in
the Hungries’ library since the beginning.

“Boss Man” A Carr/Gonzalez original. Carr
says, “This song came to me in a matter of
minutes. Half an hour later I had a demo to
share with everyone. That never happened to
me before.”

“Big Mouth Betty” A Gonzalez original, she
says, “It isn’t really about any person and
it’s not autobiographical, despite popular
opinion. I just thought it would be fun to tell
a little story.”

“Oooh Wow” A NOLA R&B classic by Fats’s
guitarist, Roy Montrell. This features lead
vocals by Vent.

“Then I’ll Believe” Gospel tinged song from
classic NOLA label Ron Records, this has been
in the book from the very beginning.

“669 (Across the Street from the Beast)”
This was a joint effort from Carr, Gonzalez, and
Vent. At the studio, the plan was to record
long enough for a fade, but once the band got
going, it was too much fun to stop. So, what’s
it like having Satan for a neighbor? You’ll have
to listen to find out