Posted in Books, Uncategorized

Book review: Ray Benson: Comin’ Right at Ya, or How a Jewish Yankee Hippie Went Country

Comin Right At Ya, Or How a Jewish Yankee Hippie Went Country

Ray Benson

by Rhetta Akamatsu

As he explains in Comin’ Right At Ya, Ray Benson was indeed born a  Yankee, growing up in Philadelphia, He is also Jewish and was a hippie when he formed Asleep at the Wheel 50 years ago. Yet he fell in love with Bob Wills and Western Swing in the days when young people his age were mainly listening to psychedelic rock and on the verge of disco. Despite all odds, Western Swing, memoir, biography he began his Wills-influenced band and has kept it going through many changes for over 50 years now. The band has lasted through broken dreams and broken relationships,  a slew of record companies and more. They have charted 21 times in  50 years and won 9 Grammy Awards.

How did Asleep at the Wheel survive all these years? Mainly through Benson’s immense charm and willpower. The willingness to nearly starve at times helped too. In the early years, the band moved south and lived in a cabin without heat, electricity or indoor plumbing, playing anywhere they could. They moved constantly and we’re always on the road.

Along the way, Benson and the band made some good friends with other musicians who didn’t care much re much for fitting in. People like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Emmylou Harris, and Dolly Parton among others. He recalls them all fondly here, with the flair of a natural-born storyteller.

These days, Benson is still on the road with Asleep at the Wheel. This book is almost as much fun to read as they are to hear and see. Lucky us! We have the opportunity to do both!

Posted in Celebrity musicians, Uncategorized

Van Morrison Three Chords and the Truth

Van Morrison

Three Chords and the Truth

Van Morrison is a wonder. Three Chords and the Truth is his 41st album and he is 74 years old, and he sounds marvelous!

The album is all straightforward music with no fancy effects. The backing band, including Astral Weeks guitarist Jay Berliner is part of the reason why, and Morrison himself is everywhere, playing guitar, electric piano, and sax.the marvelous backing band and Morrison is everywhere, playing guitar, piano, and saxophone. He wrote all the songs except for “If We Wait For Mountains,” which he co-wrote with lyricist Dan Black.

Morrison sings about his usual topics. Mysticism and the desire for deeper understanding fuel “Dark Night of the Soul.”N ostalgia is the inspiration for “In Search of Grace,” “Early Days,” and “Days Gone By,” a great song for New Year’s. He blasts politics in “Nobody in Charge” and the dark side of stardom with a wonderful assist from Righteous Brother Bill Medley on “Fame Will Eat the Soul.”

The style of the music is a mixture of R ‘n B, gospel, folk, and easy rock. It all flows together, tied by that well-known, effortlessly expressive voice. The man can sing anything and it will just sound like Van Morrison.

This is a fantastic album by a timeless singer-songwriter. It is highly recommended!

Posted in blues, Uncategorized

Eddie 9V Left My Soul In Memphis

Eddie9vEddie 9V, pronounced 9 Volt, is a phenomenon on his own. He is only 23 years old but under a different name he has been playing Atlanta clubs since he was 15 years old. In 2014, he and his brother competed, with their band, in the IBCs. So when you learn that he is only 23 years old, don’t think he is a beginner in the blues! This January, he is headed back to the IBCs to showcase Left My Soul In Memphis as Atlanta’s Best Self-Produced Album.

Not only did Eddie produce the album himself, working hard to produce a lo-fi sound, he also played all the instruments except the keyboards as well as doing all the vocals. The keyboards were provided by Rhett Huffman. Eddie did drums, that searing guitar, bass, and horns, working on mixing and layering in a genuine Georgia shack he turned into a studio. He wanted a vintage sound and he got it, while still filling the album with funk, soul and absolutely authentic blues.

Eddie’s hero is Freddie King and he shows that influence everywhere, including the incredible version of “Yonder’s Wall” that opens the album. Next, we get the strongly STAX influenced “Left My Soul In Memphis,” which also shows the amazing songwriting talents of this young man. Then comes the intense “Bottle and the Blues,” an original with a very traditional subject and some mighty sweet guitar. If you don’t know his story, it is probably hard to comprehend how he could get that good so young, but we train them that way here in Georgia!

“New Orleans” lets the guitar do a lot of talking, while Eddie sounds more world-weary than he ought to be. “Bending With the Kings” is an incredible instrumental tribute to Freddie, Albert, and BB King, and 9V holds his own with all of them.

“Woke Up Sweatin’” is driven by a catchy riff that draws you into the song’s narrative about love and the need for it, and includes some hot piano by Huffman. In “36th &Main” Eddie considers a musician’s common  solution to that problem: He’s going to 36th and Main to find himself a “midnight woman – one who “don’t talk or complain!” Yeah, he plays those horns, in this jazzy, upbeat number.

“Ghosts” has the most country-blues feel, with strong traces of Dylan and Hendrix in the lyrics and pure blues in the guitar. This is a highlight for the great songwriting and evocative singing. “Lo-Fi Love” is the most contemporary and vocally a definite highlight, showing off 9V’s range.

It’s time for some funk with “Don’t Test Me, Baby” and then Eddie wraps it up with some fine picking and strumming and a trip back to “1945 (Cocaine & Rum.)” Remember that he is the only one playing anything on this track!

Eddie 9V is a genius and “Left My Heart in Memphis” should explode him onto the national scene. As long