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

Vote here for the 44th Blues Music Awards. You must be a member of The Blues Foundation to vote.
Join here or login to your membership account

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

Roadhouse Album Review: Yates McKendree debut sparkles with a drive along “Buchanan Lane”

Yates McKendree — “Buchanan Lane — Qualified Records

It’s always a pleasure to find new talent to write about and recommend for your listening pleasure.

The trouble with describing 21-year-old Yates McKendree as new talent, however, is that he has more than 10 years of professional experience under his belt (or wherever one keeps such experience).

While still in high school, Yates worked as both a player and engineer on projects that included Delbert McClinton and John Hiatt. In January 2020, Yates earned a Grammy for his role as an engineer and a musician on McClinton’s “Tall Dark & Handsome” album.

And before that, he was something of a child prodigy, picking out melodies on piano and organ at home with his father, the very notable, award-winning producer, engineer, and piano man, Kevin McKendree. Eventually, he grew into the piano, organ, drums, guitar and bass. Not to mention singing and songwriting.

We didn’t get to hear most of those musical growth spurts when they happened, but with this fine debut album, we get to discover the range of his talents in one sparkling session.

The session kicks off with the lighthearted, jazzy “Out Crowd,” a Kevin and Yates original instrumental keyboard duet tribute to the Ramsey Lewis hit, “The In Crowd.”

That’s followed by a quickstep toward the blues, with Yates on a sprightly cover of an old B.B. King cut, the Latinesque “Ruby Lee,” with Yates’ stinging guitar. Next, a pair of originals written with Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer Gary Nicholson: “Wise” and “No Justice,” a pair of slow and torchy blues that explore various sides of lost love, especially when it involves fiery guitar solos.

The next batch of songs are classy covers of some classic blues and R&B material: “Brand New Neighborhood” (Fletcher Smith), “Always a First Time” (Earl King), “Papa Ain’t Salty” (T-Bone Walker), “No Reason” (Carmen Davis), “Qualified” (Dr. John), “It Hurts to Love Someone,” with more feisty guitar (Guitar Slim), then back with some elegant keyboard for “Wine, Wine, Wine” (Jimmy Binkley), and “Please Mr. Doctor” (Tampa Red). A swinging original instrumental, the B3-haunted “Voodoo,” tormented by an evil guitar, is the closer.

The excellent musical cast assembled here allows the entire project to float along effortlessly behind Yates’s accomplished vocals, swinging or stinging as needed. That includes Steve Mackey, upright bass; Big Joe Maher, drums; Jim Hoke, sax; Andrew Carney, trumpet; Roland Barber, trombone. Those horns, by the way, add just the right punch, and the appropriate B3 summons up deep, rolling emotions. The McCrary Sisters provide background vocals. Kevin McKendree doubles as engineer and keyboard maestro.

The album title, Buchanan Lane, is the street on which the McKendrees live and learn their art.

Buchanan Lane is also a first-rate first album, filled with the fresh music of an outstanding new talent (if you don’t count his last 15 years or so).

Here’s “No Justice’:


1. Out Crowd (2:45)
2. Ruby Lee (3:45)
3. Wise (3:29)
4. No Justice (4:27)
5. Brand New Neighborhood (2:28)
6. Always A First Time (3:58)
7. Papa Ain’t Salty (2:52)
8. No Reason (2:46)
9. Qualified (4:46)
10. It Hurts To Love Someone Else (3:18)
11. Wine, Wine, Wine (2:49)
12. Please Mr. Doctor (3:56)
13. Voodoo (3:11)

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