Posted in blues, Music, Uncategorized

WRFG BBQ Sept 2, 2019

My husband and I had such a great time at the WRFG Labor Day BBQ, with delicious BBQ from Williamson Bros., wonderful music and the company of many of our friends! We were entertained by Bill Sheffield and Sandra Senn, Eddie  9V, The Larry Griffith Band, this year’s honoree Lil Joe Burton with Albert White and The Atlanta Horns, and Selwyn Birchwood.  They all did an amazing job.! Wish I had time to write a full report, but I don’t/ I just want to acknowledge what a great job all the organizers did as well as all the participants and share the photos with you. And listen to WRFG, either on the radio or on the Internet! Here are photos of the performers and the amazing Park Tavern venue!

Photos by Takesi Ken Akamatsu

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Posted in blues, Music, Uncategorized

Billie Williams – Hell To Pay

by Rhetta Akamatsu

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.

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Tennessee Redemption – “Tennessee Redemption” is Roots and blues Perfection

 

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Before Tennessee Redemption, the album and the band, Jeff Jensen once played in Santini’s band.  Then, Jensen broke off to start his own solo career and then to form the Jeff Jensen Band with bassist Bill Ruffino and drummer David Green. Both Santini and Jensen built successful careers, while their friendship and respect continued to flourish.

Then the time came when Santini and Jensen decided to join forces again. They kept Bill Ruffino and David Green, of course, as it is hard to think of another bassist and drummer so perfect for their kind of music, and with the addition of versatile guitarist Timo Arthur from Santini’s band,  they had a dream team, as you will discover on this new album.

One of the best things about both Jensen and Santini is their ability to make a real connection with listeners, and that is one of the joys of this first self-titled album. The songs are honest and sound authentic, whether you are listening to one of the 8 original songs or the wonderful covers of Little Walter’s “Watch Yourself” and Tom Waits’ “Come On Up To the House.” Add to that the incredible guitar playing of Jensen, who also did a masterful job of producing the album. Then add the harmonica wizardry of Santini, and the solid backing of Arthur, Ruffino, and Green, and you have, in my opinion, the best album of the year.

Green with a slightly bluesier tint. Then the boys take a Southern rock turn on “Back to Tennessee.”

Jensen adds a touch of mysticism and some dark humor to the mix with “Leave My Body.” This bit of darkness is balanced when we go down to the riverside for the uplifting gospel-blues sound of “Souls In The Water.” “See About Me” and “You Don’t Love Me” continue the high standard of songwriting and performance.

The beautiful cover of “Come on Up To My House” fits perfectly into the originals, while “Watch Yourself” is not only creatively covered but allows Santini to show off that gorgeous harmonica in a song that was meant to let a harmonica player really shine.

The album ends with Jensen’s deeply touching acoustic “Going To Mexico,” one of the songs I am most in love with in a body of work I am in love with altogether.

I will admit that until now I thought the Jeff Jensen Band was the perfect blues-rock band. Now I know that all they were missing was a great harmonica and another skillful guitar! Since Santini and Jensen are both excellent vocalists as well and I am convinced the rest of the group can do anything they could ever be asked to do, I am convinced. On this first album, Tennessee Redemption is roots and blues perfection.

This song is not from the album, but is a fantastic look at the whole band!

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Seth James – The Good Life

by Rhetta Akamatsu

Seth James has a new album, The Good Life, and it brims with honesty and an overall positive vibe.

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James was born in Foth Worth, Texas, and grew up on a ranch. He looks like the cowboy he is, but he grew up listening to guys he later shared a stage with, like Percy Sledge, Delbert McClinton, and ZZ Top. You can definitely hear rock, country and soul influences on this album, all fused with the blues.

The first song, “Brother,” is pure blues-rock, with a rocking honky-tonk piano and some really solid advice about the importance of friendship. The nest one is a cheerful strut about working hard for what you want. It leads us to the title track, “The Good Life,” with a country-soul feel about learning what it takes to be happy.

“Little Angel” is a sweet, sweet love song, on which you can strongly hear the Percy Sledge influence. It is a real stand-out track. Next, “Ain’t What You Eat But How You Chew It,” is about finally learning to get over a bad romance. It is followed by a slow, soulful blues about starting over, “From Way Behind.”

Then “The Time I Love You The Most,” is a familiar lesson about how you sometimes have to lose in order to know what you had. It has a very vintage blues-rock sound, similar to early Clapton.

“I’m Coming Home” returns to that soul sound, with great organ enhancing the emotion and fantastic background singers. “Get Outside”  celebrates the healing powers of nature, appropriate advice from a man who grew up in wide-open spaces. Then “Medicine Men” picks up the pace again to tell us “You can’t get something for nothing,” the theme of this album as a whole.

One song that breaks the cheerful feeling of this album is the true but bitter “Third Generation,” aimed at those people who are born to wealth and lose it all through their own lack of effort. It’s a powerful song, which is followed by the pure acoustic blues os “I Am The Storm,” a compelling nod to the forces of nature.

Seth James says a lot in this album of original songs, two of which were co-written with Kevin McKendree, who also produced and mixed the album (“The Good Life,” also with Bob Britt, and “I’m Coming Home.”) With the exception of the last two, which are impressive in their own way, they talk about life lessons without being preachy, because you know he had to learn these lessons himself. The songs are a grand blend of styles and this album is completely enjoyable from start to finish.

Previously posted u in Making A Scene Magazine

 

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Posted in blues, Music, Uncategorized

Eliza Neals – Sweet or Mean

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.

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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!

 

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Eddie Tigner 1926-2019 R.I.P


When a person reaches the age of 91, you know they can’t go on forever, but if you love them, you still hope they will. That is how many Atlanta blues fans felt about Eddie Tigner. And so the news of his death tore a hole in the heart of us all today.

Eddie was a small man with a big smile, sweet and loving toward his fans and, first and foremost, a musician. He began playing piano in the army during WW II and after his discharge, joined one of several groups touring as The Ink Spots, a job that kept him on the road until 1987. After that, he left the road but he never left the music. And it never left him. He played in several groups in Atlanta and was a regular at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. He gained the love and respect of so many over the years.

We will never forget you, Eddie. Not your warmth, not your smile, and not your music. I can hear you in my head playing and singing “Route 66” as I write this. Play on on the other side, sweet soul.

Posted in blues, Music, Uncategorized

Ally Venable is true Texas Honey

 

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