At 6:00 PM on September 21st, 2019, MadLife will host the 8th Annual Alzheimer’s Music Fest for a powerful and moving night of performances. The evening will culminate with a headline concert by The Reverend Horton Heat.” Other performers during the day include Gurufish, Ralph Roddenberry, Zangaro, Mikail Peterson and Donna Hopkins. Tickets are $50-$75 and support this great cause!
Billie Williams’ second album, Hell To Pay, shows that she is is a fantastic soul and blues singer, and like many of the best, she is tuned in to the world around her. So whether it’s political issues in “Hell To Pay” and “Ten Million Sisters” or a bad, bad breakup in “Damn,” she speaks her mind. But she and the fantastic bunch of musicians she has assembled can handle other emotions in marvelous musical style as well, never letting one emotion rule for too long.
Things start out with “Damn.” letting her ex know what she thinks with no messing around and no modest language. The next song continues the theme, in the slightly more restrained but no less emotional, piano-driven “Cold November.” Next is the much more conciliatory “Start All Over,” a soulful and rueful account of bad moves.
Next is the bouncy “You,” about a much brighter and better relationship. Then, Williams is back to angry, but this time on a more socio-political scale with “Hell To Pay,” which starts out quiet and builds to a righteous rant, In my opinion, this is the highlight of the album.
“Hour By Hour” then slows the tempo down again and returns to heartbreak in the pure blues of “Hour by Hour.” “Drink From My Cup” offers something else different with a roguish lilt and a honky-tonk piano and some flirty, sexy words. The rollicking organ will alert you to the 60’s sound of “Lost In The Wilderness,” which is a love song despite the Gospel sounding title. It is followed by another one, “My Everything,” but this one has a Stax feel to it.
The wistful “Take These Dreams” returns us to the sad breakup for a ballad this time. Then it’s back to social justice for the anthem, “Ten Million Sisters,” inspired by Williams’ experience of The Women’s March in Washington in 2017. It is, for me, another of the highlight tracks.
Overall, the album is about half dark and half light but whichever half you prefer, the 11 original tunes show that Billie Williams is an artist full of skill and passion. She is one to be aware of.
Atlanta Blues Challenge
Sunday, August 25, 2019
Route 66 Restaurant & Music Venue
6000 Medlock Bridge Parkway,
Johns Creek, GA 30022
The contestants have all applied and we are busy getting ready for another fabulous Atlanta Blues Challenge.
Atlanta Blues Challenge
Sunday, August 25, 2019
Route 66 Restaurant & Music Venue
6000 Medlock Bridge Parkway,
Johns Creek, GA 30022
The Atlanta Blues Challenge is the Atlanta Blues Society’s competition to select our representatives for the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN. This year we have a new venue for our event, Route 66 Restaurant & Music Venue in Johns Creek (Duluth) Georgia. Route 66 is also the signature song of one of Atlanta’s blues legend who we recently lost, Eddie Tigner. and as such, this year’s Challenge will be in honor of Mr. Tigner. To help offset costs of the challenge we will be charging $10 for ABS members and $15 for non-members at the door, cash is preferred in order to speed up the entry process. Food & drink will be available from the venue, there will be plenty of room for everybody and lots of free parking. We have been accepting applications and will have 12 acts competing.
The winners will win the following prize money to help with their trip to Memphis (will be presented to them at our Holiday Party: • Band $750 • Solo/Duo $400 • Youth $300
There will also be a prize of $250 rewarded for People’s Choice which will be determined by voting of the paying patrons at the event. Make sure to get a ballot after you pay at the door. Come on out and root for your favorites and see the best up and coming blues acts in the area.
The Schedule for this year’s Challenge is as follows: We will have some very special raffle items to give away at the Challenge which include: __•_A Three-Night Stay at Luxury New Orleans Condo – $15/ticket or 4 for $50 __•_A “Big Egg” package, worth > $1,000 – $15 per ticket or 4 for $50
The following will be raffled off with our regular raffle tickets: 3 For $5, an arm length for $10: __•_Passes & T-Shirts to the WRFG Labor Day Barbecue, September 2, 2019 __•_VIP Passes to GABBAfest Weekend in Macon, GA, September 20-22, 2019 __•_Cat Head Vodka __•_Assorted Blues Artist CD Packages __•_ABS Merch
Eliza Neals comes out swinging on her new EP, Sweet or Mean! She found a real match when she teamed up with notorious guitarist, vocalist, and producer Ted Horowitz, better known as Poppa Chubby, who can be just as rough and tough as Neals herself can. Poppa Chubby also arranged all six of Neals’ original compositions for the EP.
Other great artists who lend their talents on the recording are Dave Keyes on piano and Hammond organ, Chris Gambaro-Vega on bass and John Madieros Jr. on drums. The horn section includes saxophonist Ian Hendrickson-Smith from Jimmy Fallon’s band and Michael Leonhart on trumpet.
But even with all this firepower backing her up, it is Eliza who burns the brightest. While you know you’re in for something special from the first notes of Poppa Chubby’s slide guitar on “Pawn Shop Blues,” it is that barrelhouse voice of Neals’ that grabs you and won’t let go! This is followed by “Blackish Gray,” full-on blues in reality, with more fantastic instrumental work perfectly showcasing Neals’ raw, deeply emotional voice.
Things get confessional on” Bitten By The Blues,” about a “rock ‘n roll girl who’s been bitten by the blues.” It has Poppa Chubby channeling vintage blues-rock gods on guitar and excellent keyboards by Dave Keyes. Then we get the not and humorous “Livin With Yo Mama.” Lordy, how they all do wail!
“Knock, Knock, Knock,” hits the rock side of blues-rock with some really tasty guitar and a less frantic shuffle rhythm for its sly, witty vocal. Then we end up full circle with a rousing roadhouse version of “Pawn Shop Blues,” quite different from the first but just as entertaining.
This EP offers a solid rush of music that is as satisfying as many full albums. If there is a modern successor to Janis Joplin, this may convince you that Eliza Neals is it. If you’re looking for something to get a party started or blast out your car windows, or just dance to with abandon in your living room, Sweet or Mean is what you’re looking for!
Tullie Brae’s album, “Revelation,” is climbing the blues charts, and naturally so. Tullie has been wowing audiences for some years now, and with a new record label and master producer and musician Jeff Jensen wringing every nuance from her incredible voice, this was destined to be an astounding recording.
Add to that Jensen on lead guitar along with his bandmates in Tennessee Redemption Brandon Santini on harmonica, Bill Ruffino on bass and David Greene on drums, plus 11 more great Memphis musicians, and Tullie herself on keyboards as well as vocals and you have an unbeatable mix.
Brae’s voice is mesmerizing and she knows just how to use it, whether for the abrasive blues-rock of The Price of The Blues”, the deep gospel mysticism of “Seven Bridges Road,” or the powerful blues lament of “Mississippi Rain.” Remember as you listen that Brae wrote all of these songs and you will be even more impressed.
After “Mississippi Rain” heavy guitars introduce “Break These Chains,” with Brae’s powerful vocal being supplemented and underscored by Brandon Santini’s expert harmonica. Then comes the beautiful celebration of love and renewal, “New Shoes.”
Brae is a Louisiana preacher’s daughter and she excels at this Hill Country style song about a battle between the Devil and a country preacher, which also features some hot guitar and bass from Jeff Jensen and his band among other guest musicians. Then she returns to more personal battles, the fight to gain her own freedom from a bad relationship in “Ain’t No Good.”
In “Watch Her Move,” the woman has come into her own power, in an electrifying way. “Shine” is a highlight, about being yourself and claiming your own light, with great backing vocals by Susan Marshall and Danielle Hill.
This fantastic album ends with the sweet and sincere song, “Thank You Mom,” which frankly brought this writer to tears.
By herself, Tullie Brae can make a very good album. With the help of Executive Producer Mick Kolassa, producer Jeff Jensen, and these 15 guest musicians, she has created something breathtaking, something to finally let the world hear what Tullie has to offer in a fitting way. This is an album to treasure.
Here is the complete list of Blues Music Award winners (final)
1. Acoustic Album: Journeys to the Heart of the Blues – Joe Louis Walker/Bruce Katz/Giles Robson
2. Acoustic Artist: Rory Block
3. Album: America’s Child – Shemekia Copeland
4. B.B. King Entertainer: Michael Ledbetter
5. Band: Welch-Ledbetter Connection
6. Best Emerging Artist Album: Free – Amanda Fish
7. Blues Rock Album: The Big Bad Blues – Billy F Gibbons
8. Blues Rock Artist: Eric Gales
9. Contemporary Blues Album: America’s Child – Shemekia Copeland
10. Contemporary Blues Female Artist: Danielle Nicole
11. Contemporary Blues Male Artist: Kenny Neal
12. Instrumentalist-Bass: Danielle Nicole
13. Instrumentalist-Drums: Cedric Burnside
14. Instrumentalist-Guitar: Monster Mike Welch
15. Instrumentalist-Harmonica: Dennis Gruenling
16. Instrumentalist-Horn: Vanessa Collier
17. Instrumentalist- Pinetop Perkins Piano Player: Marcia Ball
18. Instrumentalist-Vocals: Michael Ledbetter
19. Song: “No Mercy In This Land” Written By Ben Harper and Performed by Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite
20. Soul Blues Album: I’m Still Around – Johnny Rawls
21. Soul Blues Female Artist: Annika Chambers
22. Soul Blues Male Artist: Sugaray Rayford
23. Traditional Blues Album: The Blues is Alive and Well – Buddy Guy
24. Koko Taylor Award for Traditional Blues Female Artist: Ruthie Foster
25. Traditional Blues Male Artist: Nick Moss
Ally Venable is a powerful young blues singer from Texas with roots that clearly show that proud tradition of blues-rock fostered by Stevie Ray Vaughan, ZZ Top, and so many others. Now, at not yet twenty, Venable is releasing her third album, Texas Honey, produced by fellow Texan Mike Zito, a popular performer himself. And it is sweet!
Zito and guest Eric Gale also join Venable on guitar, while Elijah Owings handles drums and percussion and Bobby Wallace provides the bass. Lews Stephens adds some tasty keyboards. All of this gives Venables’ own awesome guitar and voice a solid background. With each album, she gets even better because she is growing into the blues just by the process of growing up as a touring and recording artist.
The first song on the album, “Nowhere To Run,” opens up with a punchy rhythm and lyrics that walk the line between tough and vulnerable, a recurring motif on this album. “Broken,” for instance, recounts a familiar tale of a bad relationship that went on too long, but you never feel that Venable was just a victim. No, this is a fighter who had to learn when to quit.
“Texas Honey” is a full-throttle statement in which Venable takes her stand and declares both her sweetness and her tenacity. The slow, dragging guitars and percussion on “Blind To Bad Love” heralds the change of mood and pace of this song, on which Mke Zito matches Venable’s guitar prowess and lends background vocals. But the toughness is back full force in the take-no-prisoners “Come and Take It,” on which Ally is assisted by Eric Gale.
It cannot be overstated what a guitar phenomenon Venable is, proving it by playing with other masters like Zito and Gale at such a young age. But when she and her band take on SRV’s “Love Struck Baby” it’s pure joy without any help at all! What a trio!
“One-Sided Misunderstanding” returns Ally lyrically to exploring doubt and confusion I like her fighting songs better, but Zito provides some great slide guitar, and even in this song Venable’s voice declares strength. And the blues warrior returns in full for the rocking, stomping, sneering “White Flag.” This may be my favorite track of hers yet!
With its catchy chorus and reverb-filled guitar solos, “Long Way Home: seems made for radio and should be a crowd-pleaser live. “Runnin’ After You” gets a slightly more country-rock feel while still maintaining its defiant sass. The ending song, a rocking version of the classic “Careless Love,” seems a fitting summation of the lessons this album extols and a great way to show off the skill of everyone involved in this project.
Ally Venable, it seems, has reached a point where her age is barely relevant and has proved herself as an artist with nothing but years of possibility ahead. With her last album, Puppet Show, and now Texas Honey, she has won me over completely
The Blue Ridge Blues and BBQ Festival took place on September 15. What a perfect festival it was! It smelled fantastic, the surroundings were beautiful, and the music was great. What more could you want from a festival? Oh, and the BBQ was delicious!
We got there after the first band, The Red, White and Blues Band started, but the two songs we heard were well-done. Unfortunately, we only got photos with our more professional camera, which turned out to not be working.
Luckily, I took pictures with my phone of The Tullie Brae Band because, full disclosure, Tullie is a friend. She is such a dynamic performer, songwriter, and vocalist. She always blows me away.
Next was The Rolling Bones Band. They put on an entertaining set. We had not yet realized the problem with the camera, though.
Suddenly, during the break between The Rolling Bones and Cradle, the skies opened up. Rain poured down! An army of umbrellas opened up, but we didn’t have one. My friend Kathy came to the rescue and insisted I use hers. I owe her a favor for that!
It did not rain for long, but it did cause some technical problems, particularly for Cradle, who are a large group, eleven members in all. They soldiered on, though, and delighted the audience with classic rock songs we happily sang along to. It was during their set that we realized the camera was not working and started using my phone exclusively. I got these pictures.
After a short delay, Victor Wainwright and The Train came onstage. The three members of The Tain came out first and did a couple of numbers. At this point, there was no electricity on one side of the stage because of the rain, but they did not let that stop them. They are such a tight group. And then Victor Wainwright came on stage, and The Piano from Savannah proceeded to blow us all away. He played mostly songs from the Victor Wainwright and the Train album and managed to fit quite a lot of magnificent music into a rather brief amount of time allotted to him before the festival ended. But what a fantastic end to the evening.
My friend Alby told me a couple of groups (not Tullie or Victor) annoyed him because they kept attributing songs to the wrong artists. I am not the blues scholar Alby is, but I said I would mention that not every song was done by Little Walter!
Despite that quibble, a good time was had by all! Thanks to Tullie Brae and Jaymie Fallon for the hugs and love and to everyone involved in the festival for a great time! This was our 4th Blue Ridge Festival and it won’t be our last.
Disability notes. It is a challenging venue. There are speed bumps, grassy areas, and railroad tracks. But people are so eager to help! I was in the wheelchair Saturday and Ken was pushing me and if we even wobbled for a second somebody jumped in to help. You can do it if you take it slow, and it is so worth it!
Dirty Memory is as different as possible from Jason Ricci’s Approved By Snakes, so if that is what you are expecting, get it out of your head! Ricci has teamed up with New York City singer/songwriter JJ Appleton to give us something much more laid back. This one is pure blues, ranging from traditional to modern, but always totally acoustic and using just that amazing harmonica, guitar, bass, and vocals. And it is just about perfect.
The chemistry between Ricci and Appleton is obvious from the beginning. The album begins with “Leaning Blues,” with Appleton nailing the vocals while Ricci wails on harp and Appleton’s resonator provides the perfect backbone. Then comes Blind Willie Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” giving the guitar and Appleton’s strong singing a chance to shine, with Ricci adding a charmingly playful harp solo before the end vocal. Ricci starts out “Can’t Believe It’s This Good,” while that resonator dances along with the harp and Appleton delivers the sexy vocal in a blues pop masterpiece that proves you don’t need electricity to rock!
“New Man” features sly lyrics delivered with proper attitude by Appleton with perfectly blended guitar and harp. Ricci really breaks out on the instrumental part and shows why he is a wizard on the harmonica, in my opinion, the best there is. “Jason Solo” is just that, and it is sublime, while “Just Enough” is a cool, rambling number that really illustrates the communication between the singer and the harp player.
Next, “At the Wheel Again” lets Ricci wail while Appleton delivers the vocals with the necessary urgency to match him. Then comes one of the highlights of the album. the Rolling Stones’ “Black Limousine.” Appleton delivers the vocal with plenty of swagger while Ricci’s harp complements his vocal perfectly. There’s some really nice resonator work as well. “Demon Lover” is a hypnotic swampy blues unlike anything else on the album, which leads into the crisp pop-soul of Gary US Bonds’ “It Ain’t No Use.” The album ends with the comfortable “Come On Over, Come On By,” which lets Appleton show his skill with the resonator.
For an acoustic album to work, the musicians have to sound as though they fit together. Jason Ricci and JJ Appleton fit. Aside from that, everything else works as well, with perfect song choices and superb sound quality. This is probably as near a perfect acoustic blues album as you will find this year.