Posted in Uncategorized

Eddie 9V – Way Down the Alley

by Rhetta Akamatsu

Many of us have been craving live music these days when we can’t safely gather, so it is lovely to hear Way Down the Alley. Close your eyes and imagine you are at Atlanta’s famous Blind Willie’s Blues Club, where it was recorded, listening to Eddie 9V (pronounced 9 Volt) lay down a blistering set of authentic blues with his excellent band. Even the “technical difficulties” early in the set are fun!

Eddie is only on his 20’s, the same age Robert Johnson and other icons were when they started, but like them, he has already been playing and performing under other names for years, and most of the audience have been fans of this man and his band members for a long time. And this recording surely shows why.

Whether it’s his own original music, like “Left My Soul in Memphis” and “Lo-Fi Love,” or classics like “Look Over Yonder Wall” and “Catfish Blues,” Eddie 9V deliver them perfectly. His deep love for this music shines through.

As for the band. Eddie himself is a strong guitarist, capable of delivering those fierce solos so necessary in live blues. The rest of the band (Lane Kelly on bass, Colin Dean on drums, Chad Mason on keyboards, and Jackson Allen on harmonica are tight and exciting. Chad Mason really shines on this album and Jackson Allen was a wonderful treat.his harmonica loving heart.

Eddie 9V always delivers, and this time he does it again. You will feel like you are there, having a great time and falling in love with the sound of this band!

Posted in blues, Music, Uncategorized

2020 BLUES MUSIC AWARD WINNERS

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This year’s Blues Music Awards were different, but proved that no pandemic is going to stop the music! The awards were presented in a virtual ceremony Sunday, May 3rd in a virtual ceremony. If you missed it, you can still see it on the Blues Music Foundation’s YouTube channel!

2020 BLUES MUSIC AWARD WINNERS

BB King Entertainer of the Year

Sugaray Rayford

Album of the Year

Kingfish, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

Band of the Year

The Nick Moss Band feat. Dennis Gruenling

Song of the Year

“Lucky Guy,” written by Nick Moss

Best Emerging Artist Album

Kingfish, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

Acoustic Blues Album

This Guitar and Tonight, Bob Margolin

Acoustic Blues Artist

Doug MacLeod

Blues Rock Album

Masterpiece, Albert Castiglia

Blues Rock Artist

Eric Gales

Contemporary Blues Album

Kingfish, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

Contemporary Blues Female Artist

Shemekia Copeland

Contemporary Blues Male Artist

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

Historical Blues Album

Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records – Definitive Collection, Earwig Music

Soul Blues Album

Sitting on Top of the Blues, Bobby Rush

Soul Blues Female Artist

Bettye LaVette

Soul Blues Male Artist

Sugaray Rayford

Traditional Blues Album

Lucky Guy!, The Nick Moss Band Featuring Dennis Gruenling

Traditional Blues Female Artist

Sue Foley

Traditional Blues Male Artist

Jimmie Vaughan

Instrumentalist Bass

Michael “Mudcat” Ward

Instrumentalist Drums

Cedric Burnside

Instrumentalist Guitar

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

Instrumentalist Harmonica

Rick Estrin

Instrumentalist Horn

Vanessa Collier

Instrumentalist Piano

Victor Wainwright

Instrumentalist Vocals

Mavis Staples

Congratulations to all these marvelous winners! I especially wish to congratulate Bobby Rush and any other fellow Covid-19 survivors on the list and hope to see you all live someday soon!

Posted in blues

Mark Telesca Higher Vibrations

Mark Telesca has a new solo acoustic blues album, Higher Vibrations, out, and it is a smooth-sailing winner. With a total of 16  songs, 9 of which are originals while the other 7 are pre- WWII blues songs, the whole album fits together perfectly. Mark is a skilled finger-picker and an amazing storyteller, and he knows how to get every ounce of feeling out of a song.

Take his own “99 Years” or “Black Dress,” the first two songs on the CD and thus setting the mood for the whole thing beautifully. You are immediately reminded of how powerful acoustic guitar and vocal can be, all by themselves! After all, many of the early greats, as represented in the covers, performed just this way. Listen to “Come On In My Kitchen” and “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning” and you clearly hear Telesca’s excellent renditions as well as the echoes of those who came before him.

Another song to pay close attention is “Papa’s on the Housetop,” a raucous number written by pianist Leroy Carr in 1930. This version is a lot sparer than most I have heard, but it works this way!

There’s not a note or a vocal second in this album that is not just what it should be. Telesca is obviously enjoying himself and you will too. He has a wonderful ability to connect with his audience. This is a great listen any time, whether alone or with company.

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

 

Posted in Classic Rock, Music, Uncategorized

Mike Zito: Rock N Roll: A Tribute to Chuck Berry

Mike Zito has done something very special for his 16th album. to be released on Ruf Records November 1. He invited 21 guest ll guitarists, to join him on Rock N Roll: A Tribute to Chuck Berry 111One of the guests is Charles Berry III, Chuck Berry’s grandson. Other guests include Joe Bonamassa, Eric Gales, Walter Trout, Robben Ford, Sonny Landreth, Luther Dickinson, Albert Castiglia, Anders Osborne, Tinsley Ellis, Ally Venable, and other talented folks. Even Alex Skolnick f from Testament and Richard Fortus of Guns ‘n Roses play parts!

The album includes 20 tracks of Berry’s biggest hits and a few less well-known songs, such as “Downbound Train” and Havana Moon.” But for the most part, any Chuck Berry fan will recognize and love every song.

The album was produced by Zito himself at his own Marz Studio. The basic tracks were recorded and then sent to the guest artists, who gleefully added their own parts and sent them back. The whole process took a year, but the results were certainly worth it!  It sounds like one big party.

It all starts out with Charles Berry III playing and singing with Zito on “St. Louis Blues,”, sounding just like his granddad. Then come two major favorites,” Rock and Roll Music “featuring Joanna Connor and a blazing “Jonny B. Goode” with Walter Trout, before Joe Bonamassa absolutely tears up his part on the lesser-known “Wee, Wee Hours.” making it a real album highlight.

Then it’s back to the well-loved “Memphis,” with Anders Osborne and Zito sounding great together before Ryan Perry helps rock out “I Want to Be Your Driver.” “Robbin Ford adds power to the delightful “You Never Can Tell and”Eric Gales helps out on a great version of “Back in the USA”.

“No Particular Place to Go” is such a great song, perfectly suite to Zito and Jeremiah Johnson. Luther Dickenson joins Zito to make “Too Much Monkey Business” sound very Dylan-y while SonnyLandreth adds to the tropical feel of Havana Moon” with its fabulous steel guitar. Next, just hearing that iconic Berry beginning to “Promised Land” is going to make a lot of people smile, and Zito and Tinsley Ellis sound wonderful together and seem to be having such a great time that this one is another feel-good highlight!

“Downbound Train” is lesser-known and unexpected, with its dark tone, so it’s appropriate that it has an unexpected guest, Alex Selnick of thrash metal band Testament provides the perfect accompaniment. Then, Richard Fortus of Guns and Roses proves he can rock out Berry-style on the classic “Maybelline!”

Ally Venable has just the right young blues voice and hot guitar playing for “School Days.” Then, not one but two guests teach a little history with Zito on “Brown Eyed Handsome Man.'” Reelin’ and Rockin;” is a blast with Tommy Castro joining the party with Zito. Next, get ready to “Let it Rock” as Jimmy Vivino, leader of Conan’s house band, guests.

Choosing Albert Castiglia to guest on “thirty Days” was a stroke of genius. The pure joy that shines through as Zito, Castro and a chorus of others perform this song makes it a pleasure , making sure you’re smiling and prepared for the irrepressible “My Ding-a-Ling,” on which Kid Anderson, Zito and the chorus of grown men all sound like extremely talented and gleeful little boys! I defy you not to laugh.

With this album, Mike Zito and his friends do exactly what Chuck Berry did: Deliver an album that wows listeners not by technology but by skill, a lot of laughs, plenty of chances to boogie, and boundless enthusiasm. Chuck would be so proud!

 

Posted in blues, Folk, Jazz, Music, Uncategorized

Snave and The Third Stream – Tin Can Fish House

by Rhetta Akamatsu

In 1957, Gunther Schuller described the Third Stream as a place where jazz and classical music meet halfway. For Snave and the Third Stream, that definition expands. It is where jazz, pop, country, blues, Cajun, folk and rock come together.

And they do merge beautifully on Tin Can Fish House. The name comes from the restaurant in Sandy Springs where it was recorded. The musicians are long-time Atlanta vocalist, guitarist, and flute master David “Snave” Evans and well-known and respected bassist Jon Schwenke, saxophonist Tim Crump and percussionist Will Groth. Lucky for us, all of the songs give the musicians ample room to display their prodigious talents.

Things kick off with the classic “Summertime,” which allows everyone to shine in the long instrumental breaks, while Snave handles the vocals ably. Then, we slide into a Zydeco groove with “Goin’ To New Orleans” which leads into the very jazzy “Little Birdie,” written by Vince Guaraldi for a Peanuts special, which has an especially tasty saxophone and distorted guitar, excellent percussion, and rock steady bass. There is nothing at all wrong with the vocals on this recording; it is just that the music is so spectacular!

Then we take a trip into the blues with the Mose Allison song “Mind on Vacation,” and here the vocals and the sax do shine even while that “wah-wah” guitar takes a fun turn as well. But we can’t leave ballads out of the stream, so next is a beautiful rendition of Little Country Giant’s “Just A Little Bit,” with gentle guitar, tender sax. and some nice harmony on the refrain. The song is perfectly suited to Snave’s plaintive vocal.

Just in case you think things are getting too mellow, they are about to get seriously heavy. Wait till you hear what the band has done to Donovan’s “Season of the Witch!” I am seeing this one finding its way onto many Halloween playlists! It is followed by a blazing version of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.”

This is an excellent collection of songs and styles, beautifully performed. No matter what your taste, you will find a lot to love here. Well done!

 

Posted in blues, Uncategorized

Beverly “Guitar” Watkins is latest in a year of losses to Atlanta blues

She beat cancer twice. She recovered from a heart attack and a stroke. She kept on returning to her music. But in late July, she suffered a second stroke and could not recover. Now, Beverly “Guitar ” Watkins is dead.  She was a ray of joy, a bright light to everyone who saw her perform and a truly talented musician and friend to many. At 80, her spirit has finally gone home.

In April, we lost another of our mentors and friends, Eddie Tigner. Eddie was 92 when he passed. I still think I see him every time we go to Blind Willie’s, where I saw him most often. He was another bright spirit and a talented pianist and singer, with a smile for everyone.

Earlier this month we lost drummer Yonrico Scott at age 63. Yonrico had drummed for a long time with the Derek Trucks Band and then with Royal Southern Brotherhood. He was a prominent member of the blues community in Atlanta and his death was a great loss to us as well.

The sadness we have felt at the loss of Beverly, Eddie, and Yonrico is only a measure of the joy they gave us in their lives. So thank you, Universe, for allowing us their presence in our lives.

If there are other losses I have forgotten, please understand. I am still reeling from the news of Beverly.

rhetta beverly

Me with Beverly, 2014

 

 

 

 

Posted in blues, Music

Sautee Nagoochee Blues Fest Sept. 14, 2019

Saturday we went up in the North Georgia mountains to a community called Sautee Nagoochee for the Sautee Nagoochee Blues Fest. We were pleasantly surprised to be joined there by seven other members of the Atlanta Blues Society (if I counted right.)

We had a fabulous time at the Sautee Nagoochie Center from start to end, despite the summer storm in the middle which forced us all inside.

It all started with the colorful and talented Feed and Seed Marching Band. They are all volunteer musicians who come together when they can, but after years of practice, they know how to play and how to entertain, with men and women sporting flower or flamingo hats and a wild array of clothing. They were wonderful, and some of their members continued to add sparkle throughout the event by dancing and encouraging others to do so because they were obviously having so much fun.

Next, The Andy Johnson Band took the stage. Many of us had seen Andy as part of Royal Johnson until the death of the other founding member forced the name change. The present band did a bang-up job playing over an hour of blues and Southern rock, including a marvelous version of “Georgia On a Fast Train” that seems permanently stuck in my mind.

Next up was The Kerry Hill Band.  It had been some years since we had seen him, and in that time he and the band had gotten even better.  They were excellent, in fact.

After they finished their set, the rain started so the whole crowd was bustled into a big white building that had been laid out for basketball but also had a very nice stage. We saw Markey and Ric of The Markey Blue Ric Latina Project. They are dear friends and fantastic entertainers and we were happy to get a chance to talk to them. But in minutes, the stage was set up and it was time for The Squirrelheads. We were really impressed with how prepared and organized the event staff was.

Some people let the storm scare them away, but there were still many hardy “survivors” and we were well-rewarded. We were not familiar with The Squirrelheads but now we are, and we love them! They play New Orleans-style music, and they had the house rockin’!

After their act, it was time for the Markey Blue- Ric Latina Project. The man next to me had never seen them, and it was a delight to see how blown away he was! We were too, of course, but we make a point to see them whenever they are near so we expect it. He was just discovering for the first time how magical they are! They did a mix of old and new songs and as always, Markey was in constant motion and Ric killed it on guitar. The rest of the band were perfect too, including the new keyboardist (new to us, anyway.) Markey told me that she had only had about 3 hours of sleep before they drove from Nashville, but you surely could not tell it onstage.

By this time, I was very tired, but there was no way I was missing Delta Moon. Just hearing Tom Gray’s rusty voice perked me up and listening to him and Mark Johnson spit out that amazing slide and lap steel guitar sound, ably assisted by the rest of the band, made everything worthwhile. We actually stayed to the very end and got to hear some great news from Markey and Ric and speak to Tom and buy a t-shirt from him. We didn’t have a Delta Moon oddly enough, so we remedied that!

It was a wonderful event, and we enjoyed it outside and inside. Kudos to the organizers and staff and all the performers. We loved you all!