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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!

 

Posted in blues, Music

Tullie Brae – “Revelation”

By Rhetta Akamatsu

tulliebrae RevelationcoverTullie 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.

 

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Photos byTakesi Ken Akamatsu

Posted in blues

The 2019 Blues Music Award Winners

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

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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.

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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

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Peter Karp – Darwin’s, Sandy Springs GA Jan. 25 2019