by Rhetta Akamatsu
Seth James has a new album, The Good Life, and it brims with honesty and an overall positive vibe.
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
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!
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.
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
Darwin’s was crowded Friday night. Some people there to celebrate music lover Ellen Hamby’s birthday, others to see Peter Karp, and many for both. A few were not really familiar with Karp, but before he finished his first song, “Gee Chee Gee Chee Wa Wa” everybody was tuned in and with him. Karp is a skilled performer as well as a masterful songwriter and storyteller. He knows how to work an audience. He has a great rockabilly look, but his music does not easily fit genre types. Like other songwriters like Elvis Costello, Dylan r Jackson Browne his songs can rock or they can slither and slide but they always connect emotionally.
This is a man who can take a tragedy, like the time someone burned down his house, and make that into a rollicking rock song. Or he can take a breakup and use it to create a great song about how “that girl will break her own heart.” He can be honest and vulnerable for “The Turning Point” and “Nobody Knows Me” and absolutely snarky for “That’s How I Like It” and make you laugh and like it.
Karp played all these songs and more from his albums The Arson’s Match, Blue Flame, and Alabama Town. He told stories too, like the true tale of his mobe at age 8 from New Jersey to Alabama and the culture shock he suffered. He moved smoothly from guitar to keyboard and intermittently brought that gorgeous guitar out into the audience so everyone could get a good look at him and it.
In sum, this man put on a fantastic show, the kind you go into a club hoping to see. Peter Kapr is already a well-respected name in blues circles and if you aren’t familiar with him, stream the music, buy the albums and go see him perform. It’s like hanging out with a particularly witty friend if your friend travels with a very good set of backing musicians! Highly recommended.
Truett has just released his second EP, Lies and Lightning, and it may just be five songs but hoe happy your ears are going to be!
It all starts with an irresistible drumbeat, provided by Paul Hammer, leading directly into a thicket of wild guitar riffs and somewhat distorted vocals for “Run Me Down” and “Selfish Lover.” What a wild ride, which gentles to a sweet rocking rhythm for the beautiful “Time To Time,”
But don’t be lulled, because next is the dark, intense, heavily reverbed “Fire. Truett excels at these songs that sound barely controlled, but he also excels at aching, tender ballads like “Coldwater Michigan.” The songwriting on these songs is superb.
Altogether, the EP shows Truett’s amazing flexibility and skill not just as the guitar virtuoso he has been from a young age, but now, in his 20’s, as a artist and performer who delivers blues-rock of the highest quality.
Be forewarned: Lies and Lightning will leave you wanting more. It’s a lot of pleasure packed into a few songs. You can always listen again!
Brooks Mason has just put out his first solo EP., “brooks,” and you really should give it a listen. He’s only 22, but many of us around Atlanta have been hearing him play with his brother for years. The music he really loves is straight blues from the 50s and 60s, guys like Howlin’ Wolf and Freddie King. So he made this EP, using vintage recording techniques to get the sounds he wanted. Brooks plays guitar, bass, drums, and horns on this record and sings, and he does it all well.
The result sounds fiercely authentic and from the very first, the guitar riffs on “Yonders Wall” just snap you awake and make you pay attention! From there on, it’s just straight blues through “New Orleans,” where admittedly the sound rises and falls, to “36th & Main,” where the volume is still a bit unpredictable. In fact, that happens throughout the recording, but that is not much of a price to pay for this fierce authenticity. Brooks is paying tribute to the 50s and 6-s blues he loves and he knows exactly what he is doing.
The fourth track is “Whiskey and Wimmen,” which does not sound very convincing. I think Brooks is too young for women and strong drink to have ruined him yet, and he sounds pretty happy about it. Nevertheless, the song is great fun. A great version of “I’m Worried” wraps it all up.
Brooks’ voice is clear and strong enough not to require harmony and his guitar playing is incredible. He has made the EP available for free on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and YouTube, with donations requested. Here is your chance to show your support for a young blues artist, who is also going to entertain and impress you and make you wish for a full 10 or 12 tracks next time!
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!